Wednesday, 16 July 2014

In Defence of Transformers: Age of Extinction


I’ve got to be honest, with all the negative reviews and bad word of mouth surrounding the fourth Transfomers movie I was expecting the worst. Yet after watching it I’ve got to say I actually enjoyed it the most out of any of the installments.
Transformers-Age-of-Extinction-Poster-Optimus-and-Grimlock

Now, let’s give that some context.

I’ve always had issues with the previous 3 movies, I didn’t expect high art and I’ve always enjoyed the spectacle and the special effects but I’ve hated the stupid humour, Shia Labeouf in the lead, the quirky sector 7 agents, it always pulled me out of the films. Now Transformers: Age of Extinction gets rid of everything I disliked in the franchise and just leaves the bits I enjoyed!

I’m not saying it’s a good film (anyone could pull that argument apart in seconds), it’s overlong, plot threads are introduced that don’t get answered and the over-arching story is very simple yet presented in a very convoluted way. But if you go with the attitude of switching off your brain and just going with it (which I did) it’s a fun movie and you definitely get your money's worth in terms of spectacle.

Now I’ve heard a lot of people not accepting the “just turn your brain off” argument, that we should expect more from these films and I’m here to say really?! We should expect more from a film about transforming alien robots made primarily to sale toys based on an 80s cartoon that was made primarily to sell toys? That seems pretty nuts to me, there’s no point arguing about the finer details. Ultimately what I’m saying is “manage your expectations and be realistic about what this film is and why it exists in the first place.”  

This is not a classic summer blockbuster in the same vein as Jurassic Park, The Dark Knight or even the recently released (and magnificent) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But (and here’s the point!) it’s really not trying to be, so you shouldn’t judge it in the same way – it delivers what it sets out to deliver and being the fourth in a series it’s not like critics or viewers haven’t had any indication of what that is.

So for me it was nice to get more of the stuff I enjoyed and none of stuff I didn’t. Win.


And you’ve got to give Michael Bay props once again for ensuring every dollar spent on his movie is up on screen!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Godzilla (2014) Movie Review

Godzilla is probably one of the best and well-made summer blockbuster movies released in recent memory. I only have one small gripe with the movie and that is the titular monster doesn’t get quite as much screen time as I’d have liked. This is a result of the film following a similar structure to the classic Spielberg  and 70s/80s blockbusters, with the fanatastical elements only being glimpsed at from the humans point of view for the majority of the run time until the end when you get the full reveal. This shows a mature and restrained film-making rarely seen in modern day blockbusters which should be triumphed! It is very much a movie in same vein as say Jaws, Jurassic Park or E.T.

I don’t want to write too much about the story as this would spoil it, but in summary the movie follows a family’s involvement during a realistic take on a natural disaster, it just so happens that the natural disaster is the appearance of a 300ft+ monster. The narrative primarily focuses on the human characters and therefore you generally only see Godzilla when a person makes contact and then it’s from their perspective, which helps sell a more grounded version of events.

From a technical aspect, the film is superb, the story is simple but structured well, the acting is great, the cinematography looks beautiful, the music is impactful and the special effect really are phenomenal. If there’s ever been a film you absolutely must see on the biggest screen you can find its this.

Just to pick up on my one gripe, I feel some audience members may not approve of the relatively low amount of screen time afforded to Godzilla. I understand you want to tease and build up to the reveal, with obscured glimpses and quick cuts, but when you’re an hour and half into the film and you’re still mainly getting shots that hide the majority of the beast it’s a little frustrating. This is really the only thing in my opinion that stops it from being a 10 out of 10.

Godzilla is the strongest of all the 2014 summer blockbusters so far and is highly recommended!

9/10

Also, there’s some very clever movie marketing for this movie and eagle eyed viewers will notice there are some key differences between some of the shots in the movies trailer to what is in the final film…

Friday, 11 April 2014

Thoughts On The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Movie Review) - NO SPOILERS

Another summer, another superhero blockbuster I’m unable to decide if I liked or disliked after my first viewing (Iron Man 3 being the prime candidate from last year). I acknowledge that my own high expectations / imagination has a lot to do with this, but by the fact that I opened the review with this sentence you can probably tell I wasn't blown away by The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The first issue is that rather than telling one focused story over a traditional 3 act structure, the film-makers end up telling 3 or 4 stories in bits and pieces and as a result all feel slightly rushed. It’s rare to see a film that’s almost 2 ½ hours and have it feel like an abridged version of a much longer story! There’s definitely no lack of ambition from the film-makers – they've crammed a lot into the movie and I have no idea how the originally planned (but later cut) Mary-Jane scenes would have fit in as well! I really don’t want to bring up the terrible Spider-Man 3 (as ASM2 is definitely a better film) but I get the impression the producers bit off more than they could chew to a certain extent again.

The second issue is the constant tonal shifts of the film – my main critique with the first installment was that the tone was too realistic for a character like Spider-Man. This has been addressed to a certain extent for part 2, however there seems to be a different tone for each type of sequence which can be a bit jarring. The majority of action scenes with Spider-Man are now much more light-hearted, comedic and for lack of a better word “comic-bookey”, however the scenes featuring Peter & Gwen are quite dramatic filled with emotional turmoil, whereas the scenes with Max Dillion / Electro feel like they’d be better placed in a 90s superhero movie (ala Batman Forever and not just because of the Mr Freeze resemblance) and most of Harry Osborne’s scene are extremely sinister. With this all considered, the fact that the emotional gut-punch towards the films climax hits is quite remarkable.

Let also talk about the marketing of this movie – there really has been a lot and it has included so much footage from the film that if you've seen the trailers there are going to be very few surprises for you when you watch the film (except a major one – but if you know you’re Spider-Man lore you’ll probably have already guessed that one by now anyway). Seriously, I wish the marketing of this film had focused solely on Electro and then the inclusion of Green Goblin and Rhino would have been legitimate surprises and probably added to the enjoyment of the film.

I also have to take offence with the inclusion of some key shots in the marketing/trailers. Most franchise films will have a few epilogue scenes at the end of the film once the main story is over that aim to set-up and tease what could happen in future installments. Yet I've never seen these type of scenes used actively to promote the current film – this is very misleading marketing.

As with the first movie there are shots and parts of dialogue used in the trailers that aren't included in the final film… Both films seemed to have suffered from some last minute editing that conflicts with the marketing leading up to the film. The first film was heavily marketed on the “untold story” aspect which never materialised in that film (it sort of gets answered in part 2) and there’s more missing story threads again here. The trailers have been heavily marketed on Harry telling Peter that Oscorp have had their eye on him for some time… Why? Who knows, that scene is not in the final film…

Okay I think that covers my negative thoughts towards the film, now onto the positive!

Firstly Andrew Garfield again delivers a stand-out performance as Spider-Man / Peter Parker solidifying himself as the best movie version in my opinion. Likewise Emma Stone is adorable as Gwen Stacy and the chemistry between both of them leads to some of the strongest scenes in the movie. Dane Dehann is an incredible modernised version of Harry Osborne / The Green Goblin and his acting is stellar. I honestly think the acting from these 3 is so good that it carries the film.

The action / special effects are incredible! Spider-Man swinging through the city has never looked so good and the suit itself even flaps in the wind. There is a more light-hearted nature to these sequence which I think works extremely well for the type of powers Spider-Man has. Electro looks pretty cool when in full on “sparkles” mode (Spidey’s words – not mine) and Spider-Sense bullet-time effect also looks awesome! Green Goblin looks miles better than the Raimi version. I think this is also the first Spider-Man movie, where spidey actually keeps his masked on for duration of the final sequence (hoo-ray!).

It’s really hard to review this film or even give it a score – if you look at the individual elements on their own, the acting, the character relationships, the action, the special effects, everything is really great, yet because of the two main issues; too many narratives and shifting tone it stops it all gluing together into a cohesive whole that you could describe as a great movie!  Therefore I’m going to hold off giving a final score until I’ve seen it a few more times and I've let it all sink in.

I'll update my Amazing Spider-Man 2 review with a score and maybe some more opinions in the coming weeks.

NB - I actually had the same trouble after seeing the first Amazing Spider-Man, see my thoughts on the first installment here.

--- UPDATED IMPRESSIONS ---

Well what a difference a couple of weeks, a second viewing and re-adjusted expectations can make.

In my review for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I wrote how although all the individual elements were great I was unsure whether I would describe the film as a whole as good. I think this was a result of the marketing for the movie and my own imagination. With all big blockbuster movies that I’m really excited for I generally need to see them twice before I can give my final opinion, as the first time I see the film I think I review it against my own expectations rather than viewing the film on its own merits.

So with that in mind, I’ve got to say I absolutely loved The Amazing Spider-Man 2 the second time round! So much so that I’d actually say it’s my favourite of all 5 movies (don’t get me wrong the Sam Raimi Spider-Man 2 is still the strongest movie overall but I’ve never been a huge fan of Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker). Everything just seem to fit the second time, the tonal shifts didn’t fill as drastic, the action still looks spectacular and the acting from the three leads is still top-notch.

Though I’ve got to say the relationship between Peter and Gwen really makes the film, which without going in to spoilers concerns me for future instalments as this isnt likely to be a part of them… Read into that what you will.

Anyway most of my thoughts from the original review still stand, so I wont write much more just that I really enjoyed it and it’s recommended to any Spidey fan.


8.5/10

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Raid 2 - Movie Review

Wow. It literally blows my mind how they made The Raid 2 without any of the stuntmen being killed or seriously injured, the fight scene are incredibly visceral and brutal, and even as an audience member leave you gasping for breath. These sequences are what you go to see the movie for and they’re amongst some of the best ever committed to film.
The Raids 2 is very different to its predecessor, the original film used a simple concept as the foundation of its story and delivered a fast paced (no fat) experience over an exhilarating 90 minutes, which essentially occurred all in one location in real-time. The sequel tells a much grander story involving multiple characters/gangs/families, in a variety of places over the course of several years with a running time of 2 and half hours plus. Despite this, the two films feel very much part of the same series and I think this is primarily down to how the action/fight sequences are filmed. Even though the story is on a larger scale, the fights tend to still involve close-quarters combat in confined spaces which echo the majority of hallway sequences of the first film. And my god are these fights incredible, even more so seeing they’re all done for real with no CGI or wire-work to enhance them!

Some of the stand-out sequences involve a full-on prison riot, hammer-girl in a train carriage, a car chase that gives The Matrix Reloaded a run for its money and the climatic show-down in a restaurant kitchen. I’ve listed four sequences here, however I think there are probably 12 or more all of which raise for bar for action and martial arts.

The story and acting are all great, and despite being a foreign language film its relatively easy to keep up with the story – seriously don’t let the fact that the film is subtitled put you off going to see it. It’ll probably be one of best action films you’ll see all year.

Overall I’d say this is a worthy follow-up to probably the best action movie this decade, although it’s a bit bloated compared to its predecessor The Raid 2 still delivers exhilarating action and is great viewing experience. Highly recommended.

9/10

In addition to writing original content for MoviePush, I link to a lot of articles all over the web through my twitter @rossbishop mainly focused on movie marketing. If you’re interested and like to keep up to date, please follow me.
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Monday, 31 March 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Movie Review)

Captain America: The Winter Solider is technically the best Marvel movie to date. The story is well crafted with a three act structure that feels like the original vision from script to screen has altered very little in the film-making process.
It’s the first Marvel movie that truly works as a standalone film but also masterfully acts as a direct sequel to both Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers whilst also setting up future films. It has a great story, great characters and great action – it’s a really great film and it feels like Marvel are taking the comic book characters seriously again (unlike Iron Man 3).

However, saying all that, I think I probably enjoyed Thor: The Dark World and The Avengers more on a first viewing. Both of those films I came out of the cinema over-excited saying to myself “that was absolutely amazing movie – I have to see it again now!”, whereas with The Winter Solider my thoughts were “that was a really solid great film.”  I think my expectations have something to do with it, there has been a lot of pre-hype about The Winter Solider being the best Marvel movie to date – and I 100% agree that “technically” it is – I just didn’t come out of cinema buzzing with excitement like I did with Thor and Avengers. I hope that makes sense…

I apologise for the last paragraph, as it sounds like a bit of downer when there is absolutely nothing wrong with the film. The acting is all great and Chris Evans again proves he is perfect for titular role, together with the supporting case all delivering strong performances. The action and especially the fight scenes are the best in any Marvel film to date (and actually a lot more grounded than CGI heavy previous entries). Some really brutal fights and shoot-outs make this probably the most violent of the series (just minus any blood to keep it kid-friendly of course…).

The story is extremely well put together with twists and turns through-out which climaxes in a way that really changes the landscape for future Marvel movies. I love that it tells a contained story, but so cleverly followed up and integrated plot threads from previous films in the series – most obviously Avengers and the first Captain America but also characters from Marvel one-shots and even Iron Man 2! On the flip it also sets up Avengers: Age of Ultron and even hints at a Doctor Strange movie. This is definitely the movie where Marvel has fully got into the swing of making a standalone film that connects with the whole universe.

So in summary Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an incredibly well-made movie, with great story, characters and action which continues Marvel’s run of delivering the most enjoyable series of blockbusters we’ve seen in recent years.

9/10

In addition to writing original content for MoviePush, I link to a lot of articles all over the web through my twitter @rossbishop mainly focused on movie marketing. If you’re interested and like to keep up to date, please follow me.

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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Ross Bishop's Most Anticipated Movies Of 2014

In movie box office terms, 2014 is very much the calm before the storm as 2015 is shaping up to be an absolutely huge year with most of the biggest franchises releasing a new iteration. However, there’s still reasons to get cinematically excited this year and on that note I thought I’d write up my most anticipated movies of 2014.


The Wolf Of Wall Street
It may already be out in the US and it’s only a few weeks away for us Brits, but this is far and away my most anticipated movie of the year. Leonardo Dicaprio never disappoints and in my opinion is this generations best actor, partnering with Martin Scorsese again for black comedy revolving around the rise and fall of morally corrupt entrepreneur that looks incredibly entertaining. I can’t wait!

The Raid 2: Berendal
The original was probably the best and most intense action movie since Die Hard, now its sequel is expanding the story and taking it out onto the streets. The first two trailers have shown some epic and brutal sequences which I can't wait to see!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
If you ask me who my favourite super-hero is, I’ll either say Batman or Spider-Man as I’ve been an avid fan of both since a young boy, so I’m always excited for a new movie featuring either.

I enjoyed the 2012 spidey re-boot even though it felt unnecessary to retell the origin story and I think the realistic tone quite fit the character’s super powers or the villain they chose (it worked great for Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy and ASM just felt like they were jumping on the band-wagon). However with the origin out of the way, the marketing hinting at a tone more in keeping with the Spider-Man comics, and the world building being set-up count me very excited for part 2.

I have concerns though, the recent revelations that there will be at least 3 villains in this film (Rhino, Electro and Green Goblin) brings back memories of the over-stuffed Spider-Man 3. But hopefull they've learnt from their mistakes and crafted a story that can include all the characters organically.

Captain America: The Winter Solider
There’s no denying Marvel are on a role right now, with Phase 1 complete and every film since (and including) The Avengers being some of the most entertaining times I've had in the cinema, I’m completely on board for Captain America’s second “solo" adventure.

The films first trailer looks incredible and sets the stage for a somewhat more grounded film full of espionage action.

Interstellar
We've seen very little of this movie, the teaser was in every sense of the word just that (containing maybe 10 seconds of actual footage from the film). But the fact that this is an original story from Christopher Nolan automatically get this on the list.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Again, we’ve seen very little footage but Marvel know what they’re doing and I’m very intrigued to see what happens with this galactic superhero team up move.

And that is it, yes in terms of absolutely must see movies for 2014 I’ve only got six at the moment. Don’t get me wrong there are other high profile movies that I want to definitely check out, but at this stage I’m not super hyped for them, anyway just so they’re included the other movies I’m looking forward to in 2014 in no particular order are: -

The Lego Movie
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Godzilla
Edge of Tomorrow
Jupiter Ascending
The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Transcendence


In addition to writing original content for MoviePush, I link to a lot of articles all over the web through my twitter @rossbishop mainly focused on movie marketing. If you’re interested and like to keep up to date, please follow me.

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