I think we can all agree that THE WINTER SOLDIER is one of the very best films Marvel has released so far. There was some pressure on the Russo brothers then to outdo themselves with CIVIL WAR, but let me tell you… they rose to the occasion. A word of warning: I feel the film has been out long enough for me to take a full spoilers approach with this review – don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet.
Yes, this is the third Captain America movie, but I think we all know that we’re dealing with a little more than that here. We’ve known that ever since Robert Downey Jr. signed on to join the cast and it became clear what the premise of CIVIL WAR was going to be: Cap and Iron Man, going head to head, each with their own team of superheroes at their back. Although he is undisputably still the lead, this is not just the continuing story of Steve Rogers, but of all of the Avengers, save for a couple of notable exceptions. It’s a 2,5 hour epic that almost feels bigger than anything Marvel has ever done, even though in other ways this is actually a much more intimate story than we’re used to seeing from them.
This is another long one with a couple spoilers thrown in. Better read it when you have some time and after you’ve seen the film for yourself.
Not often has it been this difficult to judge whether a film is worth watching in the cinema or not. I’ve got a soft spot for most of director Zack Snyder’s output (I even like SUCKER PUNCH) but MAN OF STEEL left me cold. The things I appreciate most about Snyder are his eye for visuals – that feeling you could take any random screenshot from one of his films and it would look good enough to hang on your wall – and his knack for delivering exhilarating, beautifully shot action scenes. Both these qualities were lacking in the Superman reboot from 2013. It felt like Snyder was holding himself back on purpose and trying to be more like Christopher Nolan instead, who was a producer on the film. So instead of high-octane fun we got somber dialogue and grey dreariness. Instead of visually arresting, crystal-clear punch-ups we got ugly, blurry CGI and enough lens flares to give J.J. Abrams an involuntary orgasm. So the promise of a sequel already wasn’t getting me too excited… and then that extended trailer hit in December. It looked even worse than expected. Was this going to be a failure on the level of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2?
Well this one came out of nowhere. Just two months ago there was a single trailer and now here it is, a J.J. Abrams produced maybe-sorta sequel/prequel to CLOVERFIELD? A word of warning before reading this review: it’s full of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film you might wanna steer clear.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is the type of film where most enjoyment is had by not knowing a single thing about it. You don’t wanna know too much about the story, because it’s all about tension and surprises. You don’t wanna know what genre it is, because that could give you hints on what’s coming. You don’t even wanna know how high the budget was, or whether it’s got a PG 13 or an R rating, because that will tell you what they were and weren’t able to put in their film, which can severely lower the impact of certain scenes. And finally, least of all you want to know this thing is called 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE – because that will spoil the entire fucking ending for you.
In Wyoming, USA, a few years after the Civil War, nine strangers hole up in a tavern to seek refuge from a mighty blizzard. Nine, you say? Don’t worry, the title is still accurate because only eight of them are hateful. The other guy is actually quite pleasant. I’d buy him a beer, let him babysit my kids. Maybe not in that order.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT is Tarantino’s second western in a row and, like DJANGO UNCHAINED before it, is unflinching in its portrayal of the racism that was prevalent at the time. Initially the film was conceived as a sequel to DJANGO, but Tarantino decided early on to make it its own thing. He had no use for a moral center as he wanted every single character to be untrustworthy. In that respect his latest film has more in common with RESERVOIR DOGS than it does with DJANGO. It’s a bunch of paranoid people stuck in a room, talking, drinking and occasionally blowing each other’s brains out. It’s a mystery movie. One or more of these guys are not who they say they are, and a whole lot of blood is going to be spilled before the truth is revealed.
Rocky Balboa is back, but he’s no longer fighting wrestlers, dudes with mohawks or giant Russian supermen. This time he’s just here to coach. Maybe that didn’t go so well the first time he tried it (ROCKY V – always remember) but how can you say no when such a likeable young man comes knocking on your door? Especially when his last name sounds so very, very familiar…
What a brilliant idea to bring back the character of Rocky Balboa and have him coach the son of Apollo Creed, his greatest rival. I applaud director Ryan Coogler for having that idea, writing a script around it and convincing Stallone to be a part of it. That can’t have been easy. After all, ROCKY BALBOA was an amazing send-off for the character, directed by the man who played him. Coming back, especially in someone else’s film, meant risking that perfect ending – possibly tainting Rocky’s legacy forever. But Stallone went for it, and I totally understand why. Because there was one last logical step left for his character to take in order to come full circle and complete Rocky’s cinematic journey. That step is CREED.
Everyone’s favorite character from X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE finally gets his own stand-alone film. They did retcon a lot of stuff though; except for a few cute references they ignore pretty much everything that happened in the first film. Must be a blow for all the ORIGINS fans out there…
By now it’s clear that DEADPOOL, the superhero movie Ryan Reynolds has been dying to make for 11 years and which has now finally been released to the public, is a resounding success. While the marketing campaign was a joy and the online buzz seemed to be mostly positive, I don’t think anyone was expecting it to make this much money. After all, this is not the type of big, safe blockbuster that today’s audiences expect their superheroes to appear in. Instead, DEADPOOL is a weird little film, made on a fraction of the budget and proudly wearing its R rating on its sleeve. We get blood, naughty words, men getting ass-fucked with a strap-on – basically all the things you and I love to see in our entertainment, but that movie studios generally consider to be bad for box office.
Happy New Year everybody! Is it too late to say Happy New Year? I thought March was the cut-off point. Anyways, here’s a list of films I enjoyed in 2015*. Beware of SPOILERS; there’s plenty of ’em.
* Just to let you know, there’s a couple titles that might have made the list but that I didn’t get a chance to see yet, like THE HATEFUL EIGHT, CREED and THE REVENANT.
10: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION
Let’s be honest, 2015 was not a great year for films. It did have a lot of potential to be great; I remember looking at the list of upcoming titles early in the year and feeling almost dizzy at the amount of promising stuff. MAD MAX, AGE OF ULTRON, FURIOUS 7, SPECTRE, STAR WARS, the list goes on. Sadly though, almost all of it ended up disappointing me to varying degrees. I think we can all agree that SPECTRE, the most pathetic attempt at a James Bond film since DIE ANOTHER DAY, is easily the worst offender of the bunch. However, when it comes to ROGUE NATION (RT rating of 93%) I seem to be one of only a handful of people willing to call it out on its bullshit.
Sicario is the new film by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who also did PRISONERS a couple years back. That was a gripping thriller that boasted some excellent performances, looked good enough to make you want to lick the screen and, even though it wasn’t particularly explicit, went to some intensely dark places. And you know what? That description also works pretty well for SICARIO.
Emily Blunt plays Kate Macer, an FBI agent working on the border who keeps tripping over dead bodies left by the Mexican cartels. She’s been there for a while but the violence is only getting worse, nothing she does seems to have any impact. Along comes Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a “consultant” who leads a task force that fights back against the cartels. The guy seems a bit shady but he promises Kate that she’ll be able to make a real difference if she joins him, so she does. It’s not a fun ride though. Nobody tells her anything, they just say “Watch and learn,” and she gets roped into doing all kinds of shit without really knowing what’s going on. More and more it starts to seem like these motherfuckers treat rules and regulations the way a yellow curry treats your asshole.
Bond is a big deal for me. I grew up with the franchise, have seen every film many times and have loved every actor that played the part (except for that Aussie dude, obviously, and Roger Moore once he got so old that he couldn’t chase a bad guy without pee running down his leg). As long as they keep making them, I’ll keep adding them to my collection… even if they turn out to be as disappointing as SPECTRE.
I’ll be honest, I already had my doubts about this one. Bringing back Spectre, the classic crime organization run by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, just wasn’t an exciting thought for me. It’s nice they got the rights back and can finally use those properties again, but by now they’d already set up Quantum as an obvious substitute for Spectre. And that’s not an easy thing to sweep under the rug, they made a big deal out of it in the Craig films. “We’ve got people everywhere!” Mr. White exclaimed hysterically at the beginning of QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and indeed Quantum turned out to be so large and powerful that Bond never made a dent in it, let alone figure out who was actually running things. I don’t know about you, but I’d actually become invested in that storyline. I was hoping to see them finish it during Craig’s run, maybe get a satisfying payoff after all that build-up. Yeah, never mind that, says SPECTRE to its befuddled audience. Forget about fucking Quantum, those guys were peanuts, why are we still talking about those losers? Spectre is the real big dog, always has been. To prove it, the film even wheels out Mr. White again to deliver another, even more unstable speech, but this time it’s about Spectre and its shady boss. “He’s everywhere! He’s in your house! He kisses your loved one, he puts your children to bed, he cleans his asshole with your toothbrush and then just puts it back like nothing happened” (paraphrased).
Tom Cruise is one of my all time favorite actors. He’s one of the last proper movie stars that consistently delivers quality films, and even if they’re not so great sometimes, he always does solid work in them. Plus he straps himself to airplanes that are taking off for real, just because he knows it’ll make the scene better. Certifiably insane or not (and anyone who’s into Scientology has got to be exactly that), you gotta respect an actor willing to go this far to improve your movie-going experience.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION is the fifth entry in the franchise, which back in the day would’ve meant it was a guaranteed piece of shit. That’s no longer the case though, not since FAST FIVE rewrote the rules back in 2011. Parts 5 can be awesome now, and both Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie have taken full advantage of that fact by making a film packed with more stunts than three episodes of Full House combined. Obviously Cruise, despite turning 53 this year, does all of them himself, shirtless if necessary (and also when it isn’t). That’s just how he rolls. For this movie alone he did the aforementioned airplane thing, rode a motorbike at crazy speeds without a helmet and, in order to more convincingly portray a character that can hold his breath for six minutes, trained his ass off until he could actually, in real life, hold his breath for six goddamn minutes.