*NEW* CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR REVIEW *NEW*

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Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr).

The mega Marvel movie franchise have really hit their stride. Gripping, action packed and possibly the best film out of the bunch.

Brilliant. It was good to see all that waiting pay off with subplots resolved, loyalties tested and great performances all round.

*HERE IS YOUR WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!* I DON’T THINK THERE ARE ANY BUT I’M WARNING YOU ALL THE SAME!

I’ve admitted numerous times that I had mixed feelings about the Marvel movies. I didn’t rate The Avengers BUT loved Age of Ultron. Despised the endless Hulk reboots (Even though I enjoyed the Bana version. Whaaattt? I know). Loved the Thor movies. Loved Iron Man 1 and 3. Let’s not talk about Iron Man 2, eh? Felt Captain America was rushed to fit in with the first Avengers.

Thank God for Winter Solider, one of the most underrated and unexpected surprise sequels of the year. I was relieved to hear the Russo brothers was taking the helm again to bring Cap’s third outing to the fold and boy, oh, boy, what a treat!

It would help to watch the Cap movies to really enjoy the little subplots. My little brother had barely seen any of them BUT was still able to fill in the blanks and enjoy this just as much as I did. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely made this easily accessible for the less hardcore Marvel fans while not boring the hell out of the rest of us.

We finally got to explore the background of mysterious Winter Soldier as the opening got straight to business flicking back and forth from the 90s to the present. It was great to see Sebastian Stan (The Martian) take centre stage as the conflicted Bucky as his story line came to a head with Cap’s loyalty tested to the fore. Forcing him to make a choice between his old wartime pal and his Avenger colleague:

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“Sometimes I want to punch in your perfect teeth”.

RDJ delivered a much more sombre turn as Stark. It made a fresh change as the millionaire faced some of his own personal demons as well as battling it out with his closest friends. His fractious relationship with the Cap reaching boiling point as the Avengers face disbandment after a botched mission. Evans nailed it yet again as the Cap.

You could argue that it was always going to be tough to give such a plethora of characters a chance to stand out BUT it didn’t come far off. I could have grumbled at the list of absentees; *cough* Thor *cough* Hulk *cough* Pepper Potts (again) *cough* BUT there was enough going on to make me almost forget about them. Almost.

I know the die hard comic book fans were ripping the small airport battle sequence with their own list of absentees in the mix BUT the fighting sequences were excellent. Well choreographed, fast, furious and intense. The special effects were decent. One particular highlight involving Hawkeye and Ant Man surfing on an arrowhead.

Everyone had their moment to shine. Even the newest addition Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman – Get On Up) impressed in a top heavy cast. They managed to make his slightly silly costume look badass. BUT there was one character that really took the biscuit.

I enjoyed the Maguire-Spiderman movies (Yes, even the third one. What do you mean? What’s wrong with me?) and liked Garfield’s performance BUT hated the reboot. When I heard that Spiderman was being rebooted again (Confirming my reservations about the Garfield efforts), I was annoyed. Really? Is this doomed to fail like the Hulk movies?

Tom Holland (The Impossible) . . . Well done. He may have had the cameo with the most lines BUT he stole the show and captured Spidey to perfection. I am actually looking forward to Homecoming.

I think the only characters that suffered a little and fell into the background was Jarvis/The Vision (Paul Bettany) and War Machine. Cheadle never really had a chance and wasn’t strong enough. Terrence Howard was the man for me. It didn’t help THAT Cheadle’s Rhodes was never really brought into the mix in the other movies.

Marvel have really struck a winning formula while DC continue to splutter (So far). It had a bit of everything and nailed the dynamic perfectly.

The humour was perfectly balanced against some of the more serious moments. It tied in a few loose ends that had bugged me and actually made Emily VanCamp’s (Revenge) role necessary after her lacklustre turn in Winter Soldier.

There were revelations and twists along the way. It was tense, engaging, riveting and, despite the odd niggle and the pace testing its 147 minute length, highly enjoyable. Best film of the year? It’s a strong contender.

And of course . . . persevere through the credits. Yeah, I didn’t think I needed to tell you either.

4/5

300: Rise of an Empire Review

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THIS IS . . . surprisingly watchable and not bad. We seek that day where sequels can surpass their masters. There have been legends. But alas, today is not that day. But don’t worry, it still bears the bare boned brutality, visual brilliance and enough gore and testosterone to cure your blood lust and fill up a swimming pool, well in this case, an ocean, a bloody ocean. I mean look at the picture. Anyway . . .

So what is this legend about, brother? Well, based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of its predecessor, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh oceanic battlefield as Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war against the invading Persian forces led by the God king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and vengeful naval commander, Artemesia (Eva Green).

Cue a watchable bloody battle of a movie in the best sense. The opening 20 minutes flicks back and forth and adds some depth and background to the blinged up, chained, tighty whitey wearing baldy badass that is Xerxes. It’s tough to call this a sequel as such. Rise of an Empire flicks before the infamous 300 battle, plays alongside the infamous battle time frame and then after. A bit like what Saw 4 tried to do. It works well and makes for a change. It zips along, delving into the Millerised Greek mythology chronicling the origins of Xerces and how he transformed from the weedy model looking Santoro to the testosterone pumped, voice changing reincarnation of Yul Bryner. It makes for good viewing and introduces Themistokles quite nicely, with Lena Headey’s somber narration guiding us along.

It does fill in a few gaps that the first left. Well little qualms. This is most notable when Themistokles rushes to Sparta to warn them of Xerves, just after Leonidas gave his response to the messenger. Unfortunately Leonidas is always somewhere else. I was hoping for one Butler cameo. It also worked as a great excuse to throw in some old faces from the original; Lena Headey, David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) and Peter Mensah (TV’s Spartacus). Stapleton makes for a likeable Themistokles and drops his so-so American accent. For those who might have clocked him, yes, he is the American in Strike Back. It’s tough boots for him to fill. Where he looks in the booming conviction (no one can top the sheer volume of Gerard Butler . . . well, Brian Blessed), he carries enough bravado to pull it off. It helps that Themistokles is an interesting character and a clever tactician. It made a change for the action to be taken out to sea and not repeat the 300 ground warfare, which makes for an entertaining battlefield.

However, all the build up and background is soon cast aside for the carnage. The visual effects are brilliant with the typical slow mo shots coming into effect. The blood spatter spraying across the screen does get annoying as it happens for almost every kill and gets a little cartoony. However, some of the kills are creative but it does seem to slow mo stab every soldier and animal. However, that is soon made up with crazy swordplay. The tactical battle sequences make for great viewing. The animation gets a little bit more messy as the film reaches its climax. The real scene stealer of the film is Eva Green, devilishly delightful, demure and demented. Crazy with a blade and a stunner to boot. There’s good chemistry between Green and Stapleton which inevitably leads to a fiery encounter on the battlefield . . . and in the bedroom. Seriously the sex scene. What was going on with that? Raunchy and rough soon climaxes (steady now) into an unintentionally hilarious punch up fist fight of a shag, I say. The cliched camaraderie between Testicles, I mean, Themistokles and his men is predictable and just doesn’t get away with it like the original. Surprise to see Jack O’Connell. He’s starting to show up in every thing, with his prison movie, Starred Up soon to hit the big screen. Shame, his character was a bit naff.

It might lack the cutting edge and tenacity of the original but is still watchable, gory and entertaining enough to kill 90 minutes. Hardly a war classic but not a complete ship wreck. 3 (just) out of 5!

Currently ranks #62 out of 154!