*NEW* BLACK PANTHER REVIEW *NEW*

Not in my top 3 Marvel but a good watch all the same.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider (Michael B. Jordan) who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

Overhyped, maybe? Overrated . . . Now that’s pushing it.

As much as I commended Tom Holland’s scene stealing Spidey cameo in Captain America: Civil War, there was another actor I was looking forward to getting the full feature treatment.

And that was Chadwick Boseman.

He was brilliant. A charismatic presence that managed to make that seemingly silly cat costume look bad ass.

I loved how director Ryan Coogler and co introduced the team and explored T’Challa’s origins without making it seem like another origin movie. The dynamic set and a brief history of the mysterious Wakanda providing a context. No messing about.

Unfortunately not being a comic book fan, I didn’t realise the real source of T’Challa’s powers.

It skimmed over the events of Civil War for those who might not be as keen with their Marvel movies (But then why would you be watching this one?). Quickly establishing what T’Challa has been up to.

The cultural element certainly made this stand out or else BP would have been like any other Marvel film. The other world visuals were like something out of The Lion King.

Breathtaking. That GIF really doesn’t do it justice. The futuristic cityscape of Wakanda was a feast for the eyes. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography was sublime. Aided by an impressive soundtrack featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd.

I really couldn’t fault the cast.

I have to commend the women in the film. Lupita Nyong’o was excellent as Nakia. An activist desperate to save the world and not fall into tradition, despite her feelings for the prince. She had great chemistry with Boseman and made that inevitable romance much more bearable.

Leticia Wright (Humans) was entertaining as the excitable techy sis. Her initial encounters with her brother were a little too cheesy BUT she won me over. Especially when she got to play with all her new toys.

The gadgets were impressive. From BP’s ultra-strong body armour to the virtual controlled car simulation that delivered some action packed set pieces.

Angela Bassett’s turn as Ramonda left little to be desired. Anyone could have played her. BUT she was nowhere near as disappointing as Forest Whitaker’s contribution to the mix. Just when I thought his supporting turn in Rogue One was bad . . . Sheesh.

Michionne from The Walking Dead was the scene stealer for me. Dania Gurira was brilliant. Her fight sequences packed a punch and her stern demeanour delivered the odd chuckle as T’Challa’s long suffering bodyguard Okoye.

The best Marvel villain?

Not for me. But Michael B. Jordan was a domineering presence (Seriously the dude was hench) and you did feel for his anguish once we learned a little more of his backstory. He even managed to make a ridiculous name like Killmonger seem menacing.

He chewed up every scene he was in. A worthy adversary to the newly appointed King.

I was disappointed at Daniel Kaluuya’s small role. I expected the Get Out star to have more of a presence. The Oscar nominee did his best BUT it just wasn’t enough.

I was more impressed with Andy Serkis. He lapped up the role with aplomb. A total maniac with his South African accent pinned down. Martin Freeman didn’t do too badly but I felt his part was a cameo that overstayed its welcome. The longer he stayed, the more awkward he stuck out.

BUT thankfully there was one inevitable gratuitous cameo that will never overstay its welcome. Hint, hint.

It was engaging, action packed and full of heart BUT by the closing act, the CGI felt as rushed as the finale. After all the build-up, things seemed to run out of steam and got a little chaotic.

From the hype, I expected a little more. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still exhilarating to watch BUT I couldn’t help but laugh when Mecha rhinos erupted into the already overcrowded battlefield. The effects got a little messy with the eclectic mix of colours clashing and things coming to a ridiculous close.

Marvel have mastered a winning formula; a perfect balance of humour, action and character and despite BP’s stumbles, it was still a solid entry and I look forward to more adventures in Wakanda.

It goes without saying (BUT I’m saying it anyway); please stay for the credits. There are TWO teasers if people are hungry for some Infinity War teasers.

3/5

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*NEW* THE JUNGLE BOOK REVIEW *NEW*

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Ooh-bee-do, oh-bee-do I wouldn’t see this if I were you-ooooo.

Okay, it wasn’t as bad as that feeble pun. BUT now I have your attention. Disney take a trip back to the jungle with mixed results.

After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and free spirited bear, Baloo (Bill Murray).

I was hardly surprised when I heard that Disney were going to reboot the classics. A sign of the times that even the best were running out of ideas. However, I really enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s lavish adaptation of Cinderella (What?). If the rest of the classics could deliver the same standard then my doubts would happily be washed away.

BUT not even this perfectly cast and visually stunning little reboot could take on the king of the jungle that was the original. It was certainly watchable and (at times) even enjoyable BUT something somewhere along the line was missing.

The rapid and incredibly disorienting opening didn’t get things going for me as Sethi jumped from one badly CGI’d tree to another. Desperately praying for the sequence to stop.

Sethi delivered an impressive debut and captured Mowgli perfectly. He couldn’t look any more like his Disney counterpart if he tried. His whining and insufferable commentary did grate against me in parts BUT that always did with the original.

I liked how writer Justin Marks shook up the story structure. It was a breath of fresh air. NOT all of it worked BUT a change nonetheless. A lot more time was spent with Mowgli and the wolf pack. It gave more depth and allowed a better connection between Mowgli and his “mother” Raksha (Lupita Nyong-o/Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

BUT maybe a little too much time was spent on that dynamic. Things perked up when the feral feline Sher Khan appeared. I was on the fence with Elba’s initial introduction BUT he killed it by the fiery finale. His gravelly undertones bringing the sinister CGI monster to life.

The animation and detail on the animals were superb. The jungle was captured in all its colourful glory. The watering hole sequence was a sight to behold.

The rest of the story pretty much followed along the same lines as the classic. It’s easy for me to make comparisons between Disney movies when I never read the original source material from Rudyard Kipling.

Kingsley was everything I expected. A perfect Baghera. He wasn’t in it enough. Scarlett Johansson nailed Kaar. Her strangely alluring and seductive voice doing justice to the role. She even managed to keep the “Trust in Me” rift. Didn’t quite go into the song which was a shame.

It was always going to be a tough act to follow the iconic Phil Harris. The voice that heralded several Disney favourites; O’Malley the alley cat, Little John and (of course) Baloo the bear. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bill Murray to give it a crack. He was hilarious. Even if his grumbling may have reminded me of another another animated favourite. A certain fur-bag that loved lasagna.

The pace did test in times and the whole thing was a little too cheesy for my liking. BUT what did I expect from a family film? And even more so, a Disney one? As much as I got a little smile out of hearing Murray sing ‘Bare Necessities’, it almost didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

I couldn’t believe that Christopher Walken was voicing the King-Kong sized King Louie. The monkey mafioso angle was a different touch. His singing was a little hooo-oooo-ooooorrendous. BUT fair play to the chap for giving it a go.

It was easygoing fun BUT for every little change, I felt a little piece of the charm that made the original such a classic melt away. There were no Beatle-esque vultures. No elephant soldier marches. Just a load of pretentious guff about the elephants being the Gods of the jungle. Really?

The man village angle barely scraped the surface. If anything, it wasn’t needed. It was only brought into the mix for “the red flower”. Sher Khan’s real agenda. The power to make fire. It certainly delivered a strong environmental message about the damage of wildfires and the woes of man on nature BUT it just wasn’t enough.

To be honest, I had the same gripes with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake. When I have little sprogs of my own, I wouldn’t want them to watch the Michael Jacko/Johnny Depp reboot, I’d grab the Gene Wilder classic any day of the week. If you asked me the same question about the Jungle Book, I’d still be reaching for that animated 1967 classic.

Don’t get me wrong. It killed the time. There was fun to be had and you will certainly keep the little ‘uns at bay. Depending on big a Disney fan you are will probably determine how much you’ll love this.

BUT for a me, it’s a 3/5

*NEW* STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW *NEW*

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Was the force strong with this one? Was this the sequel I was looking for?

In a nutshell, hype help it did NOT.

It was always going to be tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) BUT it was still an enthralling and promising effort from J.J. Abrams. After the successful Star Trek reboot, I had full confidence in the director to continue George Lucas’ legacy.

As soon as those infamous credits came up, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” and that iconic John Williams score boomed through the surround sound speaker system, this film nerd bellowed a Wookie cry in rejoice.

It was hard NOT to get that buzz and excitement as the plot scrolled up the screen into nothingness. Thankfully, there was no dense mumbo jumbo about taxation. *Cough* Phantom Menace *Cough*

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Don’t worry. I will do my utmost NOT to spoil anything. Promise.

I always went out of my way to avoid getting into the Star Wars films. BUT the force was too strong. I couldn’t resist the score, the characters, the very world that Lucas capitulated.

The humour, the action, the corny exchanges. Thankfully they were all still there. It probably helped that Abrams teamed up with Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Those Ewoks. Man oh man).

The first hour I was hooked. Engrossed. Fantastic special effects. Frenetic energy. Great characters. SOLD.

The introduction of several new faces spiced up the mix. John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Mr Selfridge) were worthy additions and certainly held their own.

Oscar Isaac’s (Ex Machina) Poe wasn’t in this enough. His quick witted one liners reminded me of a young Han Solo. BUT after making an impressionable introduction, he was largely absent. Shame.

Ridley was superb. It was a breath of fresh air to see a female heroine after following Luke and Anakin. She carried the film and was a likeable protagonist. Boyega was very good as troubled trooper Finn. Come a long way from Attack The Block.

We also had a new villain in the form of the mysterious Kylo Ren. Channelling his inner Vader. I was transfixed. That was until the chap took off his helmet. Sorry, Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You). I can see why that Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account exists. His isolated conversation with Vader’s broken helmet was haunting.

Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) also delivered an underrated performance as General Hux. By the end, I was more entranced with him than Ren. Rivalling Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as the creepy underling. His unsettling Hitler-esque speech made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

However, the biggest scene stealer was the adorable android BB-8. Hilarious. I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting to buy one of these little bots. I know I want one.

 

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Of course, the heavily flogged trailers revealed the return of some old faces. It was great to see Han Solo and ol’ Chewie. They were fantastic and haven’t changed a bit. Perfect. Harrison Ford was on fine form. Showing the newbies how it’s done.

Believe it or not, this really will be down to how much of a Star Wars fan you are. Go figure. If you’re anything like me, you would have already had your Star Wars marathon. The Good (Episode V), The Bad (Episode II) and the Ugly (Episode I).

If you haven’t then I would highly recommend that you don’t. As much as Abrams and Kasdan changed a few things, introduced new faces and brought back the old ones, there was only so much you could do with the story arc.

The closing act felt like one enormous retread of Episode IV: A New Hope. Different characters doing the exact same thing with the same end result. Predictable and frankly a little disappointing.

It didn’t help that the pace got increasingly patchy as the film carried on. A drawn out bar sequence with Maz Kanata (voiced brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) certainly didn’t help matters. The force waffle went on too long and I couldn’t help but think of Madge from Benidorm while Kanata spoke. Anybody else see it? Nope?

 

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I knew that Episode VII was going to be a continuation BUT I was still expecting more. Maybe it was a case of hype being a hindrance after setting the bar so high. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vast improvement from Episodes I and II. I know some of you will say, “Well, that wouldn’t take much”.

BUT as much as Abrams and Kasdan tried to create a little mystery around the old faces as we wondered what had happened in 30 years, it was pretty easy to piece together.

Carrie Fisher was wasted in her role as Leia. Gutted. I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andy Serkis’ (The Lord of the Rings) Supreme Leader Snoke was supposed to be.

The pace tested. The plot was disappointing. BUT I was still happy to be taken back to that crazy universe and once I saw a particular piece of space junk take flight, I was beaming from ear to ear.

An enjoyable enough romp and a welcome return for a franchise. BUT if there is to be more, retread old ground we must NOT.

3.5/5 (Just)