Monthly Archives: March 2016

Film Review: Man of Steel

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I think when it comes to reviewing this film, I do first have to mention the absolutely awesome trailer that was used to promote it. Honestly, that trailer was easily one of the very best I’ve ever seen and it did hype up the film for me. Kudos to whoever put that together.

As origin stories go, Superman’s story is one that I’m most familiar with, simply because I’ve been exposed to quite a lot of Superman over the years. I’ve heard the story, and I didn’t hold to much hope that it was going to hold my interest. I was so wrong about that. The opening sequences showing the reasons why Krypton ended up being destroyed was brilliant. I’m not a comic book fan, so I don’t know how much of that came from original source material, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also really loved that the reason why Krypton was destroyed was because everyone had their place and they couldn’t deviate from that place. This then being the very reason behind General Zod’s desire to destroy Earth, to built Krypton anew because protecting it is all he knows, was a great bit of writing to tie together the whole film. It makes Superman into what he is: not human but also not a proper Kryptonian either.

I know some people I’ve talked to about the film find the plot quite slow in places, and that many of the flashback sequences feel like fillers. Personally I’m not that keen on the fight scene in his home town: I thought I was going to be sick when I watched it on the big screen for the first time. I like realistic, but there is realistic and then there are sequences that actually turns your stomach, and that fight scene for me falls into the latter.

For that reason I actually really like the slower scenes as it shows Clark to be a decent person, and his parents to be extraordinary, especially his mother, for raising him as well as they did. Not all children have supernatural powers, and being able to talk a child who is freaking out in a cupboard is hard enough as it is; getting a one to come out who can keep the door shut if he wants is a whole different challenge.

Those family scenes are there because they demonstrate who Clark is as a person, and when combined with the sequences with his real father, they show his potential to be a truly great hero and a decent person. It makes his choice when fighting General Zod all the more horrific, because that is not who he is as a person. He has to make a choice in terms of his ethics, and while he makes the right choice it is at a personal sacrifice.

It is not an outstanding film, but it is really good, and I find Henry Cavill’s performance as Superman one of the most believable of the ones I’ve seen. Well worth a viewing.

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Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

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I have to admit the first time I saw the Dark Knight Rises I wasn’t keen on the film. In truth when I watched it I was bored. I felt like Bane was just a poorer version of The Joker trying to make the world descend into chaos.

On having seen it again though, I do appreciate that it is a good film. It’s better than Batman Begins, but not as a good as The Dark Knight. One of the reasons I don’t think it is as a good is because it relies heavily on what happened in the first two films. You can watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight as stand-alone films and not be confused.

As far as I remember the only references made in the second film to what happens in the first film is a short comment by Alfred about the manor needing to be rebuilt, and Cillian Murphy making a brief cameo, neither of which affects the plot.

If you watched the Dark Knight Rises without having seen the other two films you wouldn’t understand many of the references and the true nature of the villain and their origins wouldn’t have as much of an impact. I was bored because the films just goes over old ground without bringing very many new ideas.

What I do really like about this film though is how many of the secondary characters have a much more prominent role and show that they don’t need to be Batman to be a hero. I know that one of the major criticisms of the film is that there isn’t very much screen time for Batman. Not being a Batman fan this didn’t bother me much, though I will admit I was excited in the same way the older police officer was when Batman gunned down a tunnel on his motorcycle.

This lack of Batman though meant it was easier for Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordan-Levitt to be the heroes in the meanwhile by being decent police officers. One of the things I was never keen on was the level of corruption within the justice system in Gotham: I know it is the reason why the city needs Batman, because he isn’t corruptible, but having to watch Oldman, and in this film Gordan-Levitt as well, struggle trying to be a decent cop just doing their job was tough. Seeing them getting to step up and prove themselves because even Batman wasn’t there any more to save them was well worth it.

So I’m not the biggest fan of the film, and much of that is because it relies far too much on what was good about its predecessors, but it does have some merits, and it is a good end to the Nolan Trilogy.

Film Review:The Dark Knight

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The Dark Knight is easily my favourite film of Nolan’s trilogy. The writing was superb, the acting was superb and the overall quality of the film-making made it an instant classic when it came out at the cinema.

This film is also the only film of the trilogy where I actually like Batman as a character. However it is very much because of the fact he is up against one of my all time favourite villains. When compared to Heath Ledger’s Joker, of course I’m going to sympathise with Batman.

It is something that I have noticed about myself when it comes to DC characters, especially the heroes; I’m not fond of them, but I will watch them eagerly when they are facing a half decent villain. There was nothing just ‘half-decent’ about the Joker in this film either. Reviewing this film as a writer and as a fan , the Joker is the perfect villain.

The Joker is creepy, sadistic, and when it counts he doesn’t hesitate. As Alfred says, he is a man who wants to watch the world burn, and this film is all about the descend into the chaos that he masterminds. Perhaps ‘masterminds’ is the wrong word, as after all he doesn’t actually have a plan, which is probably what makes it even more brilliant.

I don’t think I’ve ever done such an easy review for a film. While I’m not a massive fan of the character Batman, I do love what a good villain can do to upset normal everyday life. There was so much in this film that was good and could be equally as worthy of discussion, but Heath Ledger was what made this film excellent in my opinion so I’m not going to over complicate things. If you’ve never seen the film, his performance in itself is enough of a reason to give it a try.

The Joker

 

Film Review: Batman Begins

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The first film of the Dark Knight Trilogy, ‘Batman Begins’ is my least favourite. I’m not keen on the cinematography and the stylisation of Gotham City, and overall when compared to the other films in the trilogy, the first just doesn’t quite match the quality of the later films.

However, there are some great performances especially from Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, but as none of these actors are playing the main character it is a bit problematic. I’m not a fan of Christian Bale’s Batman, not that I’m a massive fan of Batman to start with, but the dark and husky voice just does nothing for me, except send shivers down my spine akin to fingernails down a chalkboard. Bale as Bruce Wayne is fine, but once he puts on the suit I’m not interested.

Which probably sums up why I’m not a big fan of the film, because the entire point of the film is Bruce Wayne’s journey into the suit. However as a writer, it is this journey, which will bring me back to the film, but only on occasion. In terms of comparing it to the later films, the storyline and the quality of the screenplay is just as good as the rest of the trilogy. I also like the idea of Bruce Wayne becoming what he fears most following a childhood trauma: Bats.

The very best bits of the film are Bruce Wayne’s interactions with Ra’s al Ghul, as he journeys from prison to the realisation that the League of Shadows wants to destroy Gotham City. Liam Neeson was cast perfectly as the villain, delivering an elegant performance. There was nothing showy or over the top about his character, which makes him all the more frighteningly ruthless.

I’m also particularly fond of Cillian Murphy’s performance as the Scarecrow and his sub-plot of trying to destroy Gotham using an hallucinogenic drug. The two plotlines lines of Batman’s origin story and Scarecrow’s plans tie together elegantly, and the lighter relief of Caine and Freeeman’s characters toning down the seriousness of Bruce Wayne does make the film watchable.

So while I’m not a massive fan of the film, in terms of the storyline and the screenplay, what Nolan and the actors tried to do with this film does make it worth watching.

DC Comics

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When it comes to choosing between DC and Marvel, I am very much a Marvel Girl, purely because the X-Men are my favourite superheroes, to the extent I even remember reading some of the comics as a kid (though not which ones). It’s strange that I’ve developed this preference, because in truth I have had a lot more exposure to DC than I ever have to Marvel.

Despite this I’m not actually a massive DC fan, though I do watch the films, but I am just not as attracted to DC as I am to Marvel. I think it might be because I’m not as attracted by the two main superheroes that I’m most familiar with: Batman and Superman.

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I don’t particularly like the character of Batman. I can remember as a child really disliking Batman and even Batman comics on the odd occasion when I caught a quick glance at one. The impression I formed as a kid of Batman was a really dark world where nothing is happy and nice. Now while I know as an adult the world is not as bright and as happy as I thought it was in the naivety of my extreme youth, that initial impression has stayed with me.

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With Superman I have almost the opposite problem, and it is very much because I was introduced to the character via two mediums that gave me a conflicted opinion of the character. The films that I originally saw growing up were the Christopher Reeves films. I have the impression that they were quite serious Superhero films, but my main memory is from the 1978 Superman film where Lois Lane dies. This made a massive impression on me, especially given I’d grown up watching Disney where the ‘princess’ lives happily ever after.

I think what really did it for me though is that Superman fixes the problem by flying around the earth quickly enough to change the spin of the axis and turn back time. Honestly, even as a kid I thought this was pretty stupid. If he did that didn’t that mean he’d just undone his defeat of his enemies, not to mention caused massive tidal waves and tectonic stress (I might not have used the word tectonic as a kid, but something along those lines was mentioned)? I also questioned how doing that would actually turn back time? Needless to say I was dubious about the scientific accuracy of how time travel can be made to happen. Having been raised on Back to the Future, and the power of 1980s supercars, I wasn’t convinced.

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The other medium where I encountered Superman, was the 90s TV series ‘Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’. I wasn’t all that old when this was released and my main impression of the show was that it was good, light enough for my parents to let me watch, and nothing to take too seriously. I never really got into Smallville, so my impressions of Superman comes from what I thought of him as a young kid.

To me Superman is a bit of fun and contrasted with Batman, who is dark and grim, I never really gelled with the DC World. I wasn’t aware the two characters were connected together as I was growing up; one of them was someone too serious for me, and the other was someone that I never took seriously. Those were my first impressions of those two heroes, and no matter how much new material I get exposed to, and how many new TV shows or films DC makes, I will always struggle to get rid of those initial impressions.

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The thing is with DC though, I know that it can be brilliant. I’ve never been able to watch ‘Arrow’ after I attempted to watch the pilot of the show, which is honestly one of the worst hours of TV I’ve ever tried to endure, but I do know the show after that pilot is very good. My problem is the Green Arrow is too much like Batman for me to be able to connect with him. I’ve also never seriously sat down and seen ‘The Flash’, though the few moments of it I’ve caught does make me think I’d like it. I have hopes for ‘The Legends of Tomorrow’, which via some keen trailer plugging by my other half, does strike me as a DC show I’d actually sit down and watch.

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The only DC TV show that I’ve seen is ‘Supergirl’, because I was instantly attracted to watching a show about a super hero where the lead is a woman, who talks with other women about things other than boys (at least most of the time.) From what has been released of Supergirl Series one so far I’m quite happy about where they are going with the character and the messages it can send out to young girls out there about what it means to try and identify yourself as a strong woman of the 21st Century.

It is exciting, and from what I know of where DC on going with its films I’m generally very excited about what they are planning, namely because I feel as if DC has listened where Marvel has not, and they are making/have made a Wonder Woman film. A Hollywood blockbuster about a superhero, and they have cast a female lead; trust me I read it a few times and watched the trailer more than once to convince myself it was real.

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The Marvel Fandom has been crying out for a Black Widow film for years, and those requests have fallen on seemingly deaf ears. I think there was debate for a while about DC not believing the world wanted a female lead, but DC have decided to ‘take the risk’ and are just doing it. (Trust me Marvel, a Black Widow film would work, I even have ideas of what it could be about, and I’d quite happily write it for you.)

And it is this ‘risk’ that has made me pay more attention to my preferences between Marvel and DC. Marvel have had a long term plan with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I’m interested in seeing where it is going, but I’m not the only one to have been watching. DC have been watching as well, and have plans of their own to create a large scale film franchise. They have Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel to build upon, and the upcoming Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice looks set to begin what could be DC’s takeover of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has set up for them.

And in my opinion DC could have up their sleeve something that Marvel hasn’t produced many of over the years; decent, long lasting villains. The upcoming Suicide Squad looks like it’s going to show Marvel’s anti-hero Deadpool what proper bad guys are all about. While my impressions of Batman and Superman may have been tainted by early childhood impressions, my grown up experience tells me one think: DC villains are the absolute best.

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They are dangerous, they are proper threats and they are not disposable villains like what Marvel have made over the years. I have an appreciation for the Red Skull; I adore Loki and his trickster ways; Ultron was a bit different as an AI threat; and Thanos is being set up as Marvel’s ultimate bad guy, but DC has the likes of the Joker, Lex Luther and General Zod. None of these villains are easily defeated by the heroes; there is always a cost, and the pat on the back doesn’t come as readily as it does for Marvel heroes. DC can go deeper than Marvel can when it comes to creating darker villains and more complex heroes.

As much as I love Marvel and their films will always draw me to the cinema, DC’s darker side is going to pull me in as well. Given I have a soft spot for the likes of the complex characters like Loki, DCs better selection of complex heroes and properly bad-ass villains might turn me into a DC Girl after all.

 

The Liebster Award: Take Two

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So firstly thank you to ‘A Sky of Books and Movies’ for nominating me for the Liebster Award. I’m really glad I get to go through this process again following my previous nomination from Kelly at ‘thebookshelfblog’.

Here are my answers to the questions set for me.

  1. Do you prefer a shower or a bath?

Shower – I find baths really boring.

  1. Have you ever met a famous actor or actress?

Never meet an actor, but I have met Jimmy Carr who is a well-known comedian in Great Britain.

  1. Do you consider yourself a talented dancer?

I generally dance on my own, which probably answers that question for you. I love to dance, and I have a good sense of rhythm, but that doesn’t necessarily result in ‘good’ dancing.

  1. Have you ever skinny dipped before?

No, and I love swimming, but I really don’t fancy this at all.

  1. What is your birthstone?

Garnet

  1. What movie, no matter how many times you watch it, makes you cry?

I don’t cry much in films, and if I do I must emotionally blank the experience.  I’ve only seen the Imitation Game once, but I suspect that film will make me cry over and over again.

  1. Who is your favourite youtube channel?

Definitely Screen Junkies – I love their Honest Trailers.

  1. Are you a person who sleeps for a long time or rises early?

Depends on the day and what I’m doing.

  1. What is your favourite holiday?

Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, because it is one whole year until it is Christmas again. I’m a Scrooge, and I will ‘bah humbug’ with pride. That and Boxing Day Leftovers is the best meal of the year.

  1. Are you a horror movie fan?

No, not at all. They are just not my cup of tea. I’ll watch most things, (though nothing with zombies) but horror films are a no-no for me.

  1. And finally, describe what you think of my blog.

I love ‘A Sky of Books and Movies’ reviews, I like reading what other people thing about films and books, and the layout of the blog makes it really easy to find older reviews.

I nominate the following blogs for the Liebster Award.

Cinetatic

Unsolicited Two Cents

A not so jaded life

Amourdreamer

Film and TV Nerd

Questions for my Nominees

  1. If you could only read one genre for the rest of your life, what genre would you choose?
  2. What is your favourite book and why?
  3. Which writer inspires you the most?
  4. What was the first book you ever read?
  5. Who is your favourite character from any book, movie, tv show etc. and why?
  6. What is your favourite literary/poetic quote?
  7. What’s your favourite movie?
  8. Which book/poem/tv show/movie do you wish you’d written?
  9. Ebook, audiobook, hardcover or paperback?
  10. Beyond blogging, what other hobbies do you have?
  11. Tell me a random fact about you!

#throwbackthursday – St Patrick’s Day

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I have mixed feelings about St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never really got into going out and drinking Guinness on the day (though I do love having an occasional tipple of Guinness).  My strongest memories of St. Patrick’s Day come from childhood, in particular St.Patrick’s Day about 20 years ago.

I was living in Roanoke, Virginia at the time and I was used to going to school in America by this point. I had got over most of the culture shock of having moved from Britain. I was young and I was adaptable. I wasn’t particularly sturdy though when I woke up one morning, I found that my pet gerbil had died.

I don’t think it was St. Patrick’s Day precisely as it must have been the weekend closest to the date. I’d got up to watch cartoons when I made the discovery, but I strongly associate that memory with St. Patrick because later that day we went to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

At the time I wasn’t really aware of what St. Patrick’s Day was for and why it was celebrated. I knew it was associated with Ireland, but not knowing any Irish people it never really registered with me as a child. Until of course I saw a parade in the centre of a small city in America celebrating their pride in their heritage by walking down a street and displaying it for all to see.

It was another culture shock for me, because apart from the Easter Parade and Remembrance Day Parade in the small market town of Hedon where I grew up (neither of which are times of celebration, in fact quite the opposite) I had never really seen such a spectacle before. We’re not really proud in Britain of our history, even though we have so much more to celebrate than the US.

In fact, when it came to my heritage in America I was bullied because I’m English, not Irish or Scottish. For the time I spent in America I felt discouraged because I wasn’t of Celtic origin, but English; the enemy as students were told in history class. I was teased mercilessly for it, and it took me a long while to get over it, especially when I moved back to Britain and got teased for being an American (oh the irony).

It is the source of my mixed feelings, because I was never allowed to feel by my peers that my heritage was something to be proud of displaying. My other very strong associations with that day because of my pet probably hasn’t helped, but thinking back to that day now that I’m less emotionally charged and a lot more secure in my own identity, my memories of St. Patrick’s day are honestly fantastic and those Americans I saw having so much pride in their heritage rather puts the tradition of just going to the pub for a pint to shame. It also put my bullies to shame for not being able to comprehend that I had a heritage of my own, and they made me feel awful for wanting to identify myself with it.