*NEW* WONDER WOMAN REVIEW *NEW*

The best DC movie yet. But is that saying a lot?

Superhero movie of the year? Or overhyped drivel?

Gal Gadot, be still my beating heart.

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot (Chris Pine) crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

The only interesting character in Batman Vs Superman. Bearing in mind; I had no idea who she was or what she was actually doing (and why for that matter?)

Now we finally get some answers. Sort of.

The best DC movie outing but that doesn’t say much.

The opening origin story with young Diana was entertaining enough.

I never read the DC comics and knew only a little of the TV show with Lynda Carter. I don’t remember all this God stuff BUT the writers even managed to make the Lasso of Truth a believable (and lethal) weapon.

The 300 style training montage with the glorious Greek goddesses kept things ticking over as Diana defied her mother’s wishes by training to fight.

Robin Wright (House of Cards) and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) were both underused as Diana’s sparring mother and aunt. One desperate to see Diana reach her potential, the other weary of it.

It was a little cheesy BUT it hit the spot as Diana grew stronger. The truth about her abilities rearing its ugly head just as a WW1 plane crashes into their safe haven. Opening a whole new world for our heroine.

The film was injected with the right balance of humour and heart. Something sorely missed in the other DC efforts . . . So far.

One particular highlight involving Diana, clad with sword and shield, strolling through a department store perplexed at the “battle” attire women wear.

The WW1 setting was a perfect focal point for our heroine. The film delicately handled sexism and politics quite well as Diana demanded to know why women couldn’t fight, vote or speak.

Not bad for a superhero movie.

The 3D was disappointing and hardly worth the ticket price BUT the special effects and action pieces were superb.

The No-Man’s land battle sequence was fantastic.

The chemistry between Gadot and Pine was perfect. A great duo. Steve’s bewilderment and Diana’s defiant (if slightly naive) approach to achieving her objective was the glue that kept this piece together.

The banter and bubbling tension helped drudge the meandering pace (which tragically could have been cut by a good 20 minutes).

I loved the supporting cast. It was great to see Lucy Davis (The Office) back in the limelight. She was hilarious as Steve’s long suffering secretary. Diana’s reaction when she was told the purpose of a secretary was brilliant; “So you’re a slave?”

Of course, Diana and Steve couldn’t achieve their mission alone. They needed a rag tag team of misfits. Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle) was highly comical as Sameer.

I was elated to see ol’ Spud (Ewen Bremner -Trainspotting) as the drunk and disillusioned Charlie.

Eugene Brave Rock was a little weak as the poorly titled Chief. BUT he was nowhere near as weak as the villain.

Danny Huston (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) was dreadfully bland and not quite as sinister as I had hoped. Reduced to popping pills and gurning some serious faces. Shame.

Elena Anaya (The Skin I Live In) drew more chills as Dr Poison (A terrible name!) with her scar and scary mask.

The finale was drawn out. It felt like the Man of Steel; once you’ve seen one super being smash another through set piece after set piece, it soon got a little repetitive.

Plus it rushed to such an abrupt ending that I was left wanting. Good in one sense but bad in another.

The only problem was that from all the hype, I also expected something a little more.

I have nothing against a strong female character taking the helm and to adapt a dated 70s TV show and make some of the sillier aspects into something empowering and less farfetched was a great feat.

BUT the drawn out pace and plot holed story line hindered an exhilarating blockbuster.

I was left asking questions (POTENTIAL SPOILERS, maybe?); if the Amazonian island was shielded away from the world – why was Trevor’s plane the one to break through? Explain the other wars after WW1 if Wonder Woman’s mission was to stop the God of War? What was she doing for the next century? Surely not sitting in a museum?

BUT for all its flaws, WW was still entertaining, engaging (if a little long at the tooth) and DC’s best effort to date.

There might be some hope for them after all.

3.5/5 (Just)

*DON’T SIT THROUGH THE CREDITS – there are NO extras, teasers, NADA*

*NEW* BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE REVIEW *NEW*

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Yawwwnnnnn of Justice. Oh dear. Oh dear. Was it a DC disaster? Or a misunderstood masterpiece?

There’s only one way to find out . . .

Fearing that the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) are left unchecked, Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.

All that hype. All that anticipation. My brother fell asleep in the cinema. People argued with me on how terrible it was. The feeling of disappointment hit me in the gut like a punch from Supes himself.

Yet somehow on second viewing, it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered.

The strong opening delivered everything I hoped. A brooding, dark, tense action packed sequence with stunning visuals and a menacing score from the Mad Max maestro Junkie XL and Hans “Gladiator” Zimmer.

While the credits rolled, we had the quickest recap through Batman’s origins. No matter how many sequels, reboots and remakes; it’s always the same story. I wondered why Snyder grabbed The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Bruce’s parents. A real waste. They didn’t have any more screen time in the Extended Edition!

However, I liked how the writers answered one question straight off the bat that bugged the hell out of me during the Man of Steel finale; “How have Superman and Zod not killed any people with all that destruction?!”

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The answer was simple. They did. The eerily 9/11 vibe to the Man of Steel’s destruction was unsettling as Zod (Michael Shannon – Midnight Special) and Superman ploughed through tower after tower. One of the buildings being none other than Wayne Enterprises.

A haunting image of a bitter Bruce Wayne cradling a child covered in rubble and carnage. Cue the movie title.

A shame that momentum couldn’t be carried on. I wasn’t overly impressed with Man of Steel BUT thought Cavill was brilliant as the man in the red cape. It was long at the tooth and far too serious for its own good. Only lightening up in the closing act.

Bit like this one, really . . .

BvS: Dawn of Justice should have been called Man of Steel 2 ft. Sulky Batman.

I liked the idea. It was just the execution that spoiled things. The whole debate about Superman being a false God and the security risks were all too realistic and the surprisingly bleak and cynical undertone offered a completely different direction to the Avengers.

This should have been a shot out of the ball park with the Watchmen (Very underrated film) director at the helm.

The main issue was the disjointed and incredibly convoluted plot. Amy Adams was completely wasted as Lois Lane. She was sent off on some uninteresting goose chase around the States bugging senators about experimental warfare and some ruse involving African terrorists and Russian gangsters that . . . basically was a shoddy excuse to force our two “heroes” to meet. Either that or fishing around for a spear of Kryptonite. Yup.

And the end result was so tragically predictable.

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Jesse Eisenberg’s (The Social Network) take on Lex Luthor was a mixed bag. I was always #TeamBatman BUT I did enjoy Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s take on Supe’s renowned foe.

BUT Eisenberg just flailed about and waffled insufferable verbal diarrhea. Applying his usual schtick. Instead of taking the opportunity to play a different character. There were moments where he showed potential. An interesting anecdote about Granny’s Peach Tea delivered an unexpected punch line.

Now onto the Dark Knight. Batfleck was superb. He was an excellent Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne. It was going to be tough to follow on from Bale BUT he nailed it. His Batman counterpart followed on from the Bale Bat quite well.

If anything his character had become embittered and disillusioned. Branding his victims with a mark of justice that was pretty much a death sentence. Brutal. Angry with the world. The good men are gone.

“Even you’ve got too old to die young. Not for the lack of trying”. There wasn’t enough Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Desperate for the billionaire to seek something other than vengeance.

“Crime spree in Gotham. Water is wet.” Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) was on fine form as the Daily Planet Editor Perry White. I wanted more of Gal Gadot’s character. The mystery surrounding Diana Prince as she stumbled into Wayne’s dangerous game of chess was much more interesting than anything Luthor could conjure up.

It was at the half way marker where my patience was tested. It didn’t help having one of the most disjointed flash forwards (teasers) thrown into the mix. It didn’t fit in with the film at all. A bold statement by the producers (hoping that more movies will come to explain it) BUT it was completely out of sync with what was going on.

It certainly wouldn’t have made any sense to the DC newbies. I know it was played off as a strange dream sequence that introduced another Justice League member BUT it didn’t work.

“Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”

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The build up, the anticipation, two flippin’ hours of mindless exposition! All for an intense 15 minutes.

The brooding, the stare-offs, the tension. A training montage that could have parodied Rocky IV with ol’ Bruce dragging massive tyres and lifting weights while Kent traipsed around a snowy mountain.

The special effects were fantastic. The minute fight sequence was set up quite well as the Caped Crusader set up an obstacle course for the nearly indestructible son of Krypton.

Cavill and Affleck worked well off each other and made the fractious exchanges much more watchable and entertaining. I just wish they hadn’t spent so much of the film keeping them apart!

And the final 30 minutes offered more of what I expected from the get go. It took itself much less seriously and threw in some needed humour and once Wonder Woman got involved, it was a riot. That score every time she came on though. Talk about overkill with the horns. Jeez.

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Despite my initial disappointment and nitpicking, this wasn’t a complete write-off. It showed promise and offered a completely different direction to the Marvel movies. One that may be darker, broodier and bloodier.

By all means NOT a bad thing. BUT can they work on crafting the characters, a better story and the flipping pace first?!

3/5

*NEW* THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. REVIEW *NEW*

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Slick, cool, funny. Guy Ritchie is back with a bang!

In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill – Man of Steel) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer – The Lone Ranger) participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

I know that this was based on the original TV show BUT I’ve never seen it so I can’t make comparisons on Ritchie and writer Lionel Wigram’s (Sherlock Holmes) adaptation.

The first hour was action packed and reminded me of the spy movies of old. An elongated opening car chase ticked all the boxes (Even if it was hindered by shoddy CGI). It certainly injected the fun back into the spy genre. Now that the Bond films have gone in a darker direction, I felt the corny one liners and light humour was a much needed tonic. Giving the piece a nostalgia feel.

Cavill was fantastic as Solo. The more I watched him steal the show, the more I thought to myself, “Bond”. Despite playing an undercover CIA asset, he would have been a perfect replacement. The looks, the charm and the charisma. But alas, the Justice League has claimed him as the Man of Steel for the foreseeable future.

I loved the dynamic between the trio. They were perfectly cast. The fiery Alicia Vikander playing the reluctant mother to two sparring boys. Cavill and Hammer worked well together and made Solo and Kuryakin’s fractious relationship entertaining as hell. “This is not the Russian way!” It was good to see Hammer excel as ‘The Red Peril’ after the lacklustre Lone Ranger.

The quick witted exchanges and uneasy tension kept me going (Through some of the sillier moments) with the pair constantly trying to get one up on each other at every turn. From their overcompensating gadgets and hotel room bug stand-off to dressing Gaby (Vikander) for her cover -“The shoes won’t match. They don’t need to match”.

Vikander and Hammer had great chemistry as Gaby is reluctantly assigned to Kuryakin as his undercover fiancee. I just wish Vikander’s back story was more interesting. The story line involving her missing scientist father was a little weak. I loved how we only got tidbits of Solo and Hammer’s past.

Jared Harris was wasted in his small supporting role as Solo’s handler Adrian Sanders. He delivered yet another another mangled accent BUT at least this one was better than his Irish rendition in that horrific Poltergeist remake.

However, the second half of the film was where things went wrong. It was very clunky and disjointed. The tone was mismatched and took a much more serious turn that didn’t quite work. A highly macabre scene involving the pair bickering while their suspect was being roasted on an electric chair in the background was too much. Especially after the easygoing pace and playful banter.

And tragically, the pace did get hampered by the plot. And for all its “complexities”; the story was far too predictable. Typical guff involving Nazis and the Cold War. Go, figure! It killed a lot of the fun and momentum that had kept me entertained for 60-odd minutes. The inevitable double bluffing and backstabbing between the team got a little long at the tooth for me.

Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) was wasted as the femme fatale Victoria Vinciguerra. She did her best with the role but was left in the background far too much. Only coming back for the frantic finale.

The same can be said for Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral). God, he’s looking old. He wasn’t in it enough. His renowned bumbling and quick witted exchanges a welcome return; “For a special agent, you’re not having a particularly special day, are you?”.

The finale brought everything back into play and made up for a stumbling middle act with a mad dash explosive climax and (Hardly a spoiler!) it left things open for another. One sequel I would look forward to watching.

If Ritchie and co can just trim the length, get a better baddie then we’ll be good to go. BUT this is still worth a watch if you’re in for the mood for a cool spy caper with a great cast.

3/5

*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a religious cult.

I did expect more from Shannon’s performance. He didn’t impress as much as I hoped. Was a leading role a stretch too far after so many iconic supporting roles (Man of Steel/Boardwalk Empire)? He just wasn’t charismatic enough. I wanted to care for the pair. BUT as the film drudged along, my patience was soon tested.

Thankfully Jeff Nichols didn’t explore too much of Sam Shepard’s (Mud) crazy ranch cult. I was happy NOT to be stuck with that dreary subplot. It felt like a pale imitation of Big Love (A show I would highly recommend). The perception that Alton was a gift from God was different BUT it didn’t really go anywhere.

Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) was wasted in her role. Her character was so weak and one dimensional. There was NO connection or chemistry between her and Shannon (or their characters) and by the time the frenetic finale came to a close, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

NOT even Kylo Ren could save the day. Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) initial introduction was annoying and dull. His communication babble and co-ordinate guff put me into a mini-coma.

It probably didn’t help that he looked like Matt from the hilarious Saturday Night Live Star Wars Undercover Boss skit (Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE). However, Driver’s nerdy shtick soon won me over and was a much needed boost in this increasingly drawn out yarn.

The mystery throughout the first half of the film was the only thing keeping me going. The fact we didn’t know why Alton was special. Why did he have to leave? Who was coming for him? Did he even have powers? Was it a hoax? Mere pandemonium from a bunch of deluded zealots?

All we knew was that he had to wear goggles during the day and stay out of the sunlight. BUT the second half of this sci-fi snooze-fest threw that out of the window with Alton blazing light out of his eyes like Cyclops from X-Men. Pulling satellites out of the sky and babbling in radio frequencies.

Don’t get me wrong, when it (finally) kicked off, there were moments to be had. The special effects were brilliantly executed and the chase sequences soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

BUT I think it would have worked much better if Nichols had played out whether Alton was an alien or not up to the very end. The sci-fi stuff was revealed far too early. Killing a lot of the tension and suspense for me.

I loved the Close Encounters of Third Kind vibe to the piece BUT it was far too patchy. There were only so many sweeping shots from Adam Stone’s beautiful cinematography and brooding scores (from regular Nichols stalwart David Wingo) to keep my interest.

The finale was frantic and baffling BUT ultimately by the closing credits, predictable and disappointing. A bizarre set design, that was supposed to be breathtaking and captivating, looked like something from Tomorrowland.

Nichols left it on a strange climax with more questions. I could see what he was trying to do BUT by the end I really didn’t care. For all the mystery and tension, it couldn’t hide what was a rather weak and tame alien road movie that (despite all the promise) lacked in depth or originality.

It was watchable BUT far too patchy and overhyped. Personally, Mud is still my favourite out of Nichols’ works.

2.5/5