Wonder Woman- Spoilers within

wonder woman

The Good
Gal Gadot makes a fine Diana Prince and I will never turn down watching Chris Pine and David Thewlis grace the silver screen. Chris Pine’s Steve Rogers Trevor is charming, the right side of flawed hero and has enough balls to know when a woman is best for the job.generals

 

Seeing Robin Wright join Carrie Fisher in her cinematic evolution to General is a delightful high point and, once again, reminds me that there is always something better to wish for than being a princess. While her screen time is fleeting, Wright makes a positive impact for exposition, character development and world setting.

The humor, for about 20 minutes, is a nice touch. Yes, it does rely heavily on the gender tropes, but it was a short respite from the heavy slog.

I was delighted at the true cultural representation of soldiers fighting for Britain in the war. Gone is the all white troops, replaced with a much more realistic melting pot. My heart melted when I spied what appeared to be a Sikh regiment on the King’s Cross platform. (Side note, Finally a US funded film that does not divert all the action to America and taking all the credit for the success of the war)

The Bad
I’m bored of the origin story narrative. Two movies in one; Iron Man, Batman and others all do the same. Build the backstory; one that’s rich with its own possibilities, to rip it from us in the second act. Wonder Woman falls into the same trap. I love seeing Diana as a child in a world of Amazons, frustrated at the boundaries set by her mother. However, you know it’s a plot device and it’s all lip service making the film feel bloated and almost episodic. While I equally dislike films that feel like a setup to wishful sequels, I would have liked to have seen this as two distinct movies; wouldn’t harm to have more Robin Wright either.

It seems a little too obvious to say that I wasn’t a fan of the villain. Aside from rug pulling, big bad switcheroo in the final act I just didn’t quite feel like I had a true villain to hate. Could be because of it’s setting; who could live up to the real villain of WWII. My biggest issue is that there’s a female bad, but there’s nothing there. It seems a little too much like they’re fighting a metaphor so the resolve feels a little anti-climatic.

The Ugly
Firstly, the CGI is appalling. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year and even on a low budget, two decades ago, the highschooler and her Scoobies made the fight sequences look much better. The long shots don’t work; when Wonder Woman jumps, when she faces off with sergeant Tom, Dick or Harry and when there is an unnecessary pan and scan of the Amazon training. It’s all too amateurish, cartoonish and frustrating. Bring the audience up close and personal and you remove the need for cringe-worthy graphics.

Finally, it is the fact that this film is one of our first female centric superhero movies that has caused my greatest irk with Wonder Woman. I already have my role models; Ripley, Leia, Hermione, Buttercup and, hell, even Eleven is a better representation of a strong female character in a male dominated world. I am all down for feminism (yup, I used the dirty word) however, I like when it doesn’t try so hard.

Issue one: Diana is not like me or you, she’s a bloody demi-god. How can I see her as someone to bring about equality when she is still something ‘other’. Diana is all well and good to point out the unfairness in a society at war, but she’s essentially a Mary Sue with her inexplicably gained knowledge of every language under the sun and living in a world where her sex is dominant. Secondly, she is an Amazon. Amazons have historically been represented as something almost anti-feminist; their man loathing is highlighted when the island is under siege. Even Pine’s Steve is almost expired without conversing with him. Which leads me smoothly to…

Issue two: Is personal. My idea of feminism is not positive discrimination. It is not putting men down and putting women on top. For me, it’s about equality. Which is why I’m incredibly offended about the treatment of Ewan Bremmer’s Sharpshooter Charlie. He joins the cause despite his alcoholism, brought about by PTSD. It could have been an amazing story arc for the Scotsman.
Diana, upon arriving at the front, refuses to listen to everyone’s advice and proceeds reclaim territory from the Axis powers. Steve et al follow suit and they find themselves fighting within the confines of a village square. There’s a shooter in the bell tower and Charlie has him in his sight. But his PTSD seems to get the best of him and it’s about to be a character driven moment. Except, its not. Woman Woman apparently hasn’t had her fill of enemy kills and in another atrocious CGI moment, Hulk-jumps the bell tower, emasculating Charlie in the process. I would have been fine with it, had Charlie had an opportunity in the final act to overcome his PTSD, but he doesn’t. He’s brought down simply for the cinematography.

I think I’ve very close to being done with the comic book universes. They need to hand me a Buffy or Xena on a plate pretty sharpish because try-hards are not washing with me.

 

The OA: Episode 3 *spoilers-*

New episode, very new feel. Most of the time was spent in Haps prison in tonight’s episode with two very small interludes to push the present narrative along.

With a Human Centipede vibe to the episode, it’s not going to be rated high in the list of episodes when it comes to the finale. There’s excellent character development and exposition, but I’m starting to get the feeling I’ve gotten the relationship between the OA and Homer completely wrong. I bloody hope so anyway because their chemistry sucks.

I have a feeling there’s some development of the teacher, Otter I’m now going to call her. They hint at it in this episode and I thought we’d see more. Alas, the episode was dedicated to the larger mystery.

My biggest gripe about this episode is about the allergic reaction. Hap claims, mid gasp, he can’t have tomatoes. Great, but you’ve been buying the food. If you know you’ll react like that, wouldn’t you check the ingredients of the things you buy?!

Then again, the final reveal might explain this away. Unfortunately, I’m discovering that it doesn’t have the momentum to watch more than one episode at a time. You’re falling short of the Stranger Things standard OA!

The OA- Episode Two *spoilers*


Okay, I’m in love. This show is that calm you have when the environment around you is enveloped in a blanket of snow. The slow burn approach compliments the intricately woven mystery of the core characters.

First thing that struck me this epsidoe was the format of the story telling. Instead of the flashback prompted by current events approach, the creative team behind the OA have gone for a Are You Afraid of the Dark? storytelling with refreshing impact. It keeps the story clean and free of convoluted storytelling. Something which I think is needed when dealing with mysteries. Possibly the fundamental flaw that became Lost’s undoing. 

The OA’s story telling is also reminiscent of Jennifer Garner’s Alias. The three part development was something I found tedious at times in a show that ran for 4 seasons without changing the format; it’s cliffhanger endings started to come across as if they didn’t trust the audience to return on his or her own volition. 

However, The OA makes it work and progress the story rather than an audience trap. It’s transition between the past and present is smooth enough that it doesn’t pull you away from the narrative like Alias sometimes did.

This episode’s focus is French and his motivation for joining the group. His life of pressure and manipulation is something I think a number of teens will appreciate. While Buck took a small role in the narrative, a lot was revealed about the now confirmed Trans character. I’m very excited to see where Buck is taken.

Before you know it, we’re delving back into the OA’s past. The build up to the reveal of Jason Isaac’s character was just a tad too much. Unfortunately him being the only household name attached that had not been revealed, it was too obvious. Luckily I was so overwhelmed by the haunting music that I will forever consider The OA’s (character, not show) theme.

What follows is an almost scorpion and the frog final act. Isaac’s is spot on perfect as a man who I predict will take a central role in the upcoming episodes. His charm almost wins the audience over to the point that you forget you kind of already know he’s the bad guy. 

The end is heartbreaking, even if you see it coming. You understand the extent of the entrapment before she does. A chilling thought creeps into my head; sight, or the lack of, presents such a vulnerability that I’d never considered before.

Really hoping to get some wi-fi today so I can continue to watch over the holidays.

 

The OA- Episode One

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Ever since binge watching Stranger Things, I’ve been on the search for its equal. It’s been a tough job and nothing has fitted the bill. I’m currently only one episode in but I’m certain I’ve found something that is coming close.

The show seems relatively timeless, with a nostalgic twang just to keep you on edge. It’s a slow burn to begin with, but it works with the nature of the mystery of the narrative.

Prairie Johnson has been missing for 7 years. After a shock of an opener, she is returned to her adoptive parents to readjust to life after her disappearance. Only, she no longer goes by the name Prairie; instead preferring to be known as The OA. Going from one form of entrapment to another The OA seeks help from Steve Winchell to gain access to the wi-fi from her bedroom. A deal is made and the plot starts to run on its own steam to a very interesting conclusion that will have you begging for the next episode.

The group they rally together, and i’m suspecting will become the core characters for this 8-parter, is rather interesting and I’m excited to see how it pans out. I’m predicting it now; Steve’s teacher played by Phyllis Smith is going to be this series’ equivalent to Barb. By that, I believe she’s going to be beloved, I am not predicting a sticky demise and any justice needed. She’s won me over already and I’m certain I’m not the only one. The final act was so beautifully, artistically done.

Netflix Originals is going from strength to strength and I’m so happy this show is here to bridge the gap between seasons for Stranger Things.  I’m also very thankful for Netflix upping their game and allowing a downloadable platform for some of their material. Alas me having the Iphone7 and no headphones to be able to watch the show out in pubic, relegating it to bedtime viewing.

Stephen King’s IT *spoilers*

Books will not take my usual Good, Bad, Ugly review format. 

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King’s writing style naturally hooks you in. He has an amazing way with words. Unfortunately his storytelling is a little too bloated and slow paced for me. A good edit could bring it down to a digestible 400 pages and produce an excellent, coherent story.

Having started 11.22.63, a book which I was very much hooked on, I was curious about a section that alluded to something familiar. Upon talking to the friend who’d recommended it I had my suspicions confirmed; it was alluding to the event of IT. I was instructed to abandon 11.22.63 and read what, in his opinion, was the superior book. Oh how wrong my dear friend was.

It started well. I’m 100 pages in and really enjoying it; the language and voice are engaging, there’s a lot of characters but I’m still keeping them straight in my head. There was even some cutting edge topics that I was impressed King was tackling in the ‘present day’ section of the narration. Pennywise’s first appearance and victim was chilling and possibly one of my favourite sections of the book.

It quickly started treading water, too many interludes to add what was in my opinion absolutely nothing to the story. I was struggling around the 400 page mark. It was just as I was about to admit defeat when Bev’s 1958 narrative caught my attention and gave the book a saving grace that made me see out the rest of the book. I’ll admit that I let the words wash over me and nothing much from the final 400 pages or so stick in my memory except for Bev’s voyeuristic adventure at the junk yard and the reunion of the loser gang at the Chinese restaurant.

My biggest issue with this book though is its final act. Bev. She is the one and only female protagonist and she appears rounded and relatable; I enjoyed most of her plot and understood her development in the 1985 portion of the tale. However King, in a nonsensical gang bang ‘sacrifice’, turns her into a gratuitous whore. Her suggesting the act does not make it any better nor do I understand the purpose of the act.

I was so disturbed by the book, for all the wrong reasons. So badly that I have yet to return to 11.22.63, nor do I intend to.

Jurassic Park (1993)- PG

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Back in November I went to see my most beloved film in the Royal Albert Hall. I figured reviewing a film I know inside and out would be a good way to dip my toes back into the blogging world.

I first watched this film when I was 8 years old and it very quickly became my comfort movie. If I was unwell, if I couldn’t sleep; there it was like an old friend. I loved this film so much I completed my dissertation around the film and its theme of control.

The Good
It’s hard not to talk about it without bias, but as a blockbuster movie it checks all the boxes. It has pace, bratty children you kind of hope get eaten before the final act and some lines that as soon as they’re uttered, you know they’ll be set out as iconic quotes.
Even now, most of the CGI looks good and I will forever love Nedry’s demise along with the now famous ‘clever girl’

The music is quintessentially John Williams and a piece that complements the action. While the main theme is incredible, it is the section as they arrive to the island that sticks in my mind and floats my heart.

Getting Richard Attenborough out of retirement to play Richard Hammond was a stroke of genius. He has such an eccentricity about him that I can’t help but feel for him as his world collapses. The character that appears on the screen is world’s away from Michael Crichton’s incarnation in his 1991 novel.

Another smart move was to adapt the character of Alan Grant into a a-typical Spielberg leading man; a man who struggles to bond with children, but is resolved by the closing credits. See Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, War of the Worlds and even E.T for others within his body of work.

The Bad
As I’ve grown, I’ve become increasingly irritated by the ‘kitchen’ scene. I just think its a little too…. implausible. I know, I know… it’s a movie about cloned dinosaurs but it’s just a little too comical now to see those terrifying monsters man handling the door like some two man panto horse. I do still enjoy Lex’s ‘cunning’ attempt at confusing the raptor by trapping herself inside the kitchen cupboard. However, it’s not as calculated as I once thought; she looks too scared to be the bad ass I had pinned her as.

I’m also a little saddened by the omission of the last act of the book. There is a complete sub story about the raptors that reads like a directors dream. Okay, snippets make there way into Lost World, but it would have fit perfectly here.

The Ugly
The birds at the end of the movie are not condors! Up until last month, I watched this poignant cut from Alan Grant’s outward gaze to a flock of birds thinking it was a reference to Hammond’s outburst at the dinner scene. It made sense, I loved it.
Alas, I was wrong and it’s just a bunch of pelicans with no relevance to the rest of the movie. I guess that says more about me than the movie though.

Cast- 7
Cinematography- 8
Plot- 6 (missed too many bits from the book)
Pace- 9
Music- 8
Enjoyability- 10

 

Captain America: Civil War (12a)

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The Good
Tony Stark. RDJ is as good as ever and scenes are vastly improved with him on the screen. Whether he is oozing with snarky comebacks, mentoring our newly introduced Peter Parker or showing his regret for events of the past RDJ is able to command everyone’s attention and remind us why the Marvel universe exploded in the first place.

Peter Parker. Once again, Disney powerhouse are proving they can get the casting right and bring beloved characters into the universe without the origin story. I’m not a fan of the web slinger, but I like Tom Holland in the role. He played of Stark and the other Avengers brilliantly and certainly took center stage in the best fight of the film.

The fights and chase sequences were rather good and the globe trotting read like a super charged Bond movie. It worked, on the most part and the car chase was certainly entertaining.

The humour. Some amazing lines coming from all who showed up to fight. Highlights come from Bucky and Falcon’s instant hatred of each other and, as always, Stark doesn’t fail to miss a beat.

The Bad
Too many heroes question the title of the movie for me.

I’m still not certain it was worthy of Rogers’ handle and a little confused as to why it wasn’t an Avengers outing. The thing is, good ol’ Cap doesn’t show the most character development, have the most screen time or even get a true resolution at the end to be the protagonist.

In terms of cast, there was just too many in play for anyone to really hold their own. The Introduction of Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross feels like it should have been a little more poignant than it was and even Paul Rudd struggled to steal the show like I was expecting.

The Ugly
Why must all female characters be surrounded by romance in the Marvel universe? I’m happy they’ve continued on with the Black Widow/Hulk rather than moving her onto someone else, but poor Wanda! Seriously, she had enough development going on in the film; she didn’t need to explore her romantic feelings too.

It’s simply too long. At 2 hours 27 minutes, it’s the longest MCU film and boy, you feel every minute of it. The lulls are punctuated with high octane fight sequences, but it’s simply not enough to keep you engaged for the rest.

Winter Soldier was my favourite MCU movie going in. I was Team Cap. Alas, no longer. Worse still, I’m questioning the longevity of the universe as a whole.

Cast- 7
Cinematography- 5
Plot- 4
Pace- 6
Music- 4
Enjoyability- 6

 

The Jungle Book- PG

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Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he’s ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) comes looking for revenge. Guided by a no-nonsense panther (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear (Bill Murray), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure.

No bad, no ugly… Just Good
Where to start? What a beautiful, charming and incredibly detailed film. It’s well paced and doesn’t skimp on the darkness of the original source material.

The voices are all well picked, but special mention must be given to the talented Bill Murray and Idris Elba. There couldn’t have been any better voices for Balloo and Khan respectively.

Neel Sethi is incredible as Mowgli. The sole human actor against a backdrop of CGI, Sethi is able to engage you to the point you forget he’s acting against nothing. It would be wise for the Oscars to offer a nomination to this incredible talent, solely on his performance alone. He’s of the same age as the Harry Potter clan, showing the same talent of a theatrically trained adult; there should be no question about the nod. There is an added bonus that it could pave a way to resolving the diversity problem.

The music, despite what some reviews, really works. Christopher Walken breaking out into song as King Loui is delightful, Bill Murray’s Bare Neccessities is intregrated into the film seemlessly. I would advise anyone watching the film to check out ‘Trust in Me’ by Scarlett Johansson, but be patient as it appears in the closing credits.

The film is fully of so many amazing moments; from the jungle’s relationship with the elephants to the harrowing yet eventually uplifting journey Mowgli goes on The Jungle Book will be begging for many return viewings.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 9
Plot-8
Pace-8
Music-9
Enjoyability- 9

Fantastic Four- 12A

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Okay. I’m so not okay with this film. I saw the trailer and I was excited. I’ve been following Miles Teller’s body of work since 21 & Over, he so had me on board with this.
Now, my standards were low going into this film, what with it being out for over 2 weeks at this point there was no way to avoid the onslaught of reviews that have been plaguing this production. It would seem this is this year’s Godzilla.

The Good
It ends.

The bad
The film is too slow. I was checking my watch (note watch, not phone. Even with this steaming turd I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite) and it was near on an hour before anyone has powers. We’d had a thorough back story for both Reed (Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) that has no baring on the plot.
Due to this slow burn of a plot, we don’t have a villain until the last 30 minutes and it’s wrapped up so quickly I almost wonder why they had one at all. You’ll know who it is as soon as he’s introduced. I never thought I’d say this, but the Fantastic predecessor handled the origin story much better.
The final scene; It’s cocky and it’s tacky. It assumes there will be a sequel. It’s the one thing I hate about movies; spending so much time setting up the next one, they forget that they have a current audience to win over.

The Ugly
Kate Mara as Sue Storm and her god awful hair. Reading up on it, it was due to a wig and reshoots. Okay, so she’d not the first to fall fowl of a hair faux pas. However, when Robin Tunney making the Craft in 1997 can do it without anyone detecting the hair on her head is not her own, why do we have such a problem in 2015? It might seem like the Jurassic World shoe-gate all over again, but this annoyed me even more. It messed with continuity; sometimes she had three different hair colours/styles in the one scene. Not cool and it is these little blips lose your audience and make them think you don’t care, or worse hints that you think they’re stupid.
Miles Teller’s Reed. This character is meant to be the leader. He’s meant to be strong; the leader. The whole film is meant to be about the four working as a team. He runs away and we are to believe he’s gone for a year without being caught. I’ll admit, it does give us a nice little view of what is possible with his power, but it doesn’t achieve anything aside from dislike my protagonist. When he does return, Reed is too quickly accepted as the leader. The breach of trust isn’t an issue apparently.

It will be interesting to see if the currently 2017 slated sequel does indeed raise its ugly head.

Cast- 4
Cinematography- 2
Plot- 4
Pace- 2
Music- 4
Enjoyability- 3

Absolutely Anything- 12A

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Absolutely Anything is Bruce Almighty without the charm. It doesn’t know its target audience; too silly for adults, too many ‘fucks’ for it to be a family friendly outing.
Simon Pegg plays Neil; hopeless English teacher given the power to do anything by Python voiced aliens. Pegg can do this role with his eyes closed; the part was made for him. However, as a romantic lead he’d already set the bar high earlier this year in Man Up. Unfortunately the romantic matchmaking doesn’t work as well here.
Some of the cast and plot work really well, particularly Eddie Izzaed and Sanjeev Bhaskar as Pegg’s boss and friend respectively. However, the crazy ex boyfriend of Beckinsale’s Catherine is an irritating sub plot I could have done without.
The late and great Robin Williams takes his swan song here as Neil’s biscuit addict dog, Denis. As always, he is a delight to have on screen. His voice alone is a great and thankful presence on screen.
The tone of the film left me thinking about Hitchiker’s and the comedic element the book and TV show both had that worked so well. With a little more time and effort, this film could have made more comparisons.

Cast- 6
Cinematography- 6
Plot- 5
Pace- 6
Music- 4
Enjoyability- 7

Paper Towns- 12A

Paper-Towns
Paper Towns has an Indie, almost hipster, feel to its cinematography. There’s an attempt to achieve the gravitas of the old school coming of age films however it doesn’t quite get there. It’s plot is a little too clean, without consequence or true jeopardy and does not stand up to any scrutiny.
Margo treats her next door neighbour, Q (Nat Wolff),  to a night of reckless abandon before disappearing. Q finds clues that leads to a road trip with his friends. Nat Wolff is brilliant and a sympathetic character. Margo, however is not. She appears underdeveloped and a little too mythic for an audience to believe that this boy would take this journey. In the end, you can’t help but feel cheated, even if Q doesn’t.
It is quite interesting that while the three main characters (Q, Ben and Radar. Margo doesn’t count. She’s the Chasing Amy of the film) are male, yet it still feels like a chick flick. I like the characters, I like there development, but I can’t help but see them as the boys girls want them to be and not true to life. Which is totally ironic as the book, screenplay and film are all in the creative hands of men,
However, I would love to see both Nat Wolff and Austin Abrams (Ben) take on a remake of Weekend at Bernie’s in a few years time. Or, I could simply make this the prequel head cannon to Larry and Richard’s friendship.

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 8
Plot- 6
Pace- 6
Music- 6
Enjoyability- 7

It’s against the law to shop on a Sunday

Interesting read after walking around the ghost town that is Oslo

Edge of the Arctic

I peered down the shopping street that I live by this morning and found it completely empty. Typically packed with shoppers, Bogstadveien, one of Oslo’s biggest shopping streets, was a ghost town.

That’s because it’s Sunday which in Norway means that everything is closed. Everything. You can’t go to the mall or the bookstore, you can’t even do a proper grocery shop. We spend Saturday afternoons hoarding milk and fortifying our non-perishable food stores as if we’re preparing for the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

I may have dealt with this with a bit more grace had weekday shopping hours not been so equally astounding: shops close at 6pm except Thursday, which is Norway’s big shopping day with stores open until…. (drumroll please)… 7 o’clock.

Bogstadveien Sunday

Grocery stores are open until 10pm six days a week but there’s more to the day-to-day necessities than food – light bulbs, prescription medication, books, furniture…

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