6/29/16

KUNG FU PANDA 3 - REVIEW


After the success of the last two Kung Fu Panda movies, a third instalment was inevitable and the first two being as good as they were, the pressure was on for Dreamworks to not mess things up with a soulless cash-in.

The good news is that Kung Fu Panda 3 is definitely not that and is actually a very decent, worthy second sequel. This time, Po (Jack Black) is tasked by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to teach his team mates Kung Fu but, of course, that soon backfires. Meanwhile, evil yak Kai (J.K. Simmons) comes back from the spirit world with the goal of taking the "Chi" from every Kung Fu master in the land. He goes on a rampage just as Po's long lost father  Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) shows up to take Po back to the panda village and show him the ways of the pandas. Both plots eventually meet and, once again, Po will have to learn a bunch of valuable lessons to defeat the villain and become the master he was destined to become.

It's a busy sequel and, in lesser hands, it could have easily been a mess but it works. That said, new threat Kai fails to match how good Gary Oldman's Lord Shen was in the last movie despite some impressive fight sequences and the whole thing is rather predictable and, by extension, slightly underwhelming. From the moment Po shows up at the panda village it's blindingly obvious what will follow so don't be too surprised if your mind wanders a little during the second half of the film. There needed to be more shocks and surprises, some clever twists and turns to keep things interesting. As it stands, the characters are likeable enough and the action is colourful enough to keep everyone entertained but the youngest viewers will probably enjoy the film more than others.

The voice cast is, as ever, star-studded and the two main new additions do a terrific job but it's James Hong, as Po's adoptive father, who steals the show as Mr Ping's jealousy towards Po's relationship with his newfound other father is the source of most laughs. The likes of Jackie Chan, David Cross and Lucy Liu feel a little wasted as they barely get lines and cramming in loads of Angelina Jolie's kids to voice young pandas doesn't add anything to the movie besides more pointless, annoying characters.

While Kung Fu Panda 3 is easily the weakest and most forgettable of the three films, it remains an enjoyable visual treat (especially in 3D) with enough fun moments to keep kids and adults amused throughout.

Fair follow-up.

6/13/16

THE BIG REWIND: FAIL HYDRA - PODCAST


In this 68th episode of The Big Rewind, we review X-Men Apocalypsetalk about Doc SavageX-Men and Nick Fury: Agent Of SHIELD.




Email us here if you have any questions, requests or contributions: bigrewindpodcast@gmail.com

Or simply comment below :)

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TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS - REVIEW


Critics may not have quite embraced the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie reboot but it nevertheless had enough Turtle Power to guarantee this sequel which sees our heroes in a half shell take on more larger-than-life baddies.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows makes a genuine attempt to bring to life familiar characters from the comics and cartoons, which is very refreshing. By playing the classic theme song during the end credits and introducing the likes of Bebop & Rocksteady, Krang, Casey Jones and Baxter Stockman, this movie certainly earns some big fan points. Some of these characters had never made it to the big screen so there's definitely something to be said about finally doing that for those nostalgic about the source material. If only the Transformers movies cared this much. The plot of this film sees Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) influence Shredder, who has escaped from prison, to open a portal through which the Technodrome could come through. In the hope of destroying the turtles, The Shredder (Brian Tee) also uses purple ooze to create dimwitted mutants Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus).

The story sounds simple enough but this movie manages to make it look incredibly hard by throwing in countless unnecessary scenes and subplots including an entire sequence set in Brazil which could have easily been cut out despite the fact it includes the biggest and best-looking action scenes. Will Arnett overstays his welcome in this sequel as, with the newly introduced Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) already helping out April, there's really no need for him. Speaking of April O'Neil, once again Megan Fox butchers the role mercilessly clearly giving the part no thought past "Am I pouting enough in this scene?". In fact, she is given a lot more screen-time in this film and whenever she's talking, it's very tempting to just dash out of the theatre. She IS this franchise's Jar Jar Binks and replacing her with... an actress would improve those movies greatly.

Hint hint, Mr Bay.

Now to give the film some credit, the special effects, the action scenes and the 3D are all well done: you can tell this is an expensive blockbuster and the CGI is effective throughout. Out Of The Shadows is a far sillier, dumber film than the first and the whole thing gets pretty tiresome pretty quickly. The script is convoluted and it's packed with awful one-liners and jokes, the film itself throws pointless cameos your way every five minutes (basketball players, supermodels) because Michael Bay is producing this, don't you know? The Shredder is reduced to a moronic side character and he doesn't even wear his armour for most of the film and Tyler Perry's performance as Baxter Stockman is just bizarre and unfunny. The whole film is messily shot with the camera constantly moving and spinning, which can make the action sequences confusing at times and one would like to see a respected actress like Laura Linney stick to far better indie films, for her sake.

It may not be the worst thing you'll see at the cinema this year but TMNT: Out Of The Shadows is a strong contender for the dumbest. Most new additions work but Fox, Arnett and Shredder constantly drag the film down. There's some welcome fan service in this movie but one wishes that more effort had been put into actually making the darn thing because, as it stands, the CGI characters make the human characters look fake and that's... frightening.

One for forgiving turtle fans only.

6/11/16

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE - REVIEW


After a sequel to The Punisher could not get off the ground, studios finally decided to reboot the Marvel franchise with Punisher: War Zone. Ray Stevenson would replace Thomas Jane as the iconic anti-hero.

While the 2004 film was a mild success at the box-office, it wasn't exactly the definitive Punisher movie as it lacked a certain edge and emphasis on action, something War Zone willingly delivers. Pushing the violence and gore up to 11, this reboot really tried to outclass both prior movies in terms of sheer brutality and, indeed, that mission was quickly accomplished. This Punisher is not for the faint of heart and critics back in 2008 were probably not expecting such a big difference in tone although anyone who knows the character and the comics knows he usually reduces bad guys to mush. The film sees Frank Castle lose a friend during a shoot-out with mobsters. He then takes out the leader by crushing him in a spinning pile of glass bottles but he somehow survives and plots his revenge as the disfigured Jigsaw (Dominic West), with the help of his mad brother James aka "Loony Bin Jim" (Doug Hutchison).

Stevenson may look a bit different than most representations of The Punisher with his slicked back hair and turtle necked bullet-proof jacket but his portrayal of Castle is appropriate: violent, moody yet human and well-meaning. Gone are the annoying sidekicks from the last movie, instead we get Wayne Knight as Microchip, Castle's tech-savvy assistant, and he's far more likeable. West is admittedly pretty cartoonish as Jigsaw and he almost turns into a Dick Tracy villain at times but he's also very entertaining and adds some welcome dark humour to a movie that would have otherwise been much too bloody and serious. He's certainly a hundred times more fun and more of a threat than John Travolta's character in the last film.

Don't believe Punisher: War Zone's bad rep: this is a slick, blood-soaked action movie throwback with a lot going for it and it's still the best Punisher movie to date by far. It's very much aimed at an adult audience so don't expect a PG-13 take on the skull T-shirt-wearing character but anyone who enjoys seeing Frank Castle take down bad guys in the harshest ways possible then this is the movie for you.

Surprisingly good.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS - VLOG 10/06/16


I talk a bit about Disney's new live-action sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass.

6/10/16

BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM - REVIEW


Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm was the only film based on Batman: The Animated Series to be shown in theatres and, despite receiving critical appraise back in 1993, its rushed release meant it was a flop. It would eventually gain a cult following on home video, though.

The film sees Batman (Kevin Conroy, as ever) encounter a mysterious new vigilante called The Phantasm who has been settling scores with various mobsters around Gotham City. It's also something of a prequel as we learn more about how Bruce Wayne became Batman, his relationship with old flame Andrea Beaumont (voiced by Dana Delany) and The Joker's (Mark Hamill) involvement in The Phantasm's revenge mission. This is a tense, melodramatic, layered Batman story every bit as dark and stylish as the best episodes of The Animated Series. The look of Gotham keeps that retro, Tim Burton-esque feel and the whole thing is like a 1940's film noir romance with lots of action and a fascinating mystery thrown in.

The Phantasm is an interesting, cool-looking new villain who acts like a dark mirrored version of Batman and the big reveal at the end of the film is thankfully far less gimmicky than the one in Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman, which mostly just came off as forced. This is a better film than the latter altogether as familiar characters are fleshed out and new ones are made three-dimensional effortlessly. The film packs an unexpected emotional punch at times when you see Bruce Wayne genuinely struggle with wanting to live a normal life and becoming Gotham City's saviour but the film is also a lot of fun thanks to Hamill's excellent Joker and the really well put-together action scenes. Also look out for Abe Vigoda's shady turn as ageing mobster Salvatore Valestra.

Mask Of The Phantasm may not be too flashy or particularly cinematic but it's further proof that The Animated Series were a masterpiece: moody visuals, first class writing, iconic characters, classy score. This feature is easily the best of the three that were released based on the show and Batman fans should enjoy every minute of it.

Phantastic.

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