Saturday, 29 March 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger is here and Marvel have finally turned what many people consider to be a 'lame' superhero into a total badass! I did enjoy the first film but felt that the final act was a bit rushed in order to get Cap to where he should be in The Avengers, the film that made him cool, but it is The Winter Soldier that proves Captain America isn't lame in the slightest! Read on to find out my verdict on the film as a whole, and as usual this review will be SPOILER FREE.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier revolves around Steve Rodgers struggling to embrace his new role in the world and who he can trust in it. At the same time he also faces a new threat from old history, a soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

The action is one of the best things about this film and it kicks off pretty quickly. Cap has a new style of fighting and it is brutal but also very, very cool. His iconic shield is used a lot more, and his strength is shown off a lot more during the film proving the fact that he is in fact a superhero and not just a slightly stronger guy. His new suit is also very cool and the whole design of the characters, old and new like The Falcon, is pretty much perfect in this modern day re-imagining of the comic books.

The acting is all solid and Chris Evans owns it as Steve Rodgers, along with Scarlett Johansson who surprisingly did not annoy me at all with her portrayal of Black Widow, unlike with previous appearances of her character that I have not always enjoyed. Samuel L Jackson IS Nick Fury,there is no denying it and newcomers Robert Redford and Anthony Mackie are also great additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A change of directors for this film, The Winter Soldier was directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. They have done a perfect job of turning the film into an interesting and intriguing action flick that juggles around an ensemble of characters, almost perfectly, into new territory tonally and thematically for Phase 2 of the Marvel Universe. The writing is also great and has the best balance of seriousness and comedy since The Avengers. The only problem with it being that there were a lot of cliched 'saved at the last second' moments and the biggest flaw of any Marvel film, that there never seems to be too much peril. As I have mentioned before though, I think this is something that could definitely change in Age of Ultron.

My biggest gripe of the film would be the amount of screen time that the Winter Soldier character actually gets. If you have ever been interested in comics then you most likely know who the soviet agent is and know that it creates a pretty powerful storyline. Now there is no denying that he is a more memorable villain then Malekith was in Thor: The Dark World but I would have liked to have seen a lot more of him! My other gripe is with Maria Hill who occasionally just pops up in this film, I have come to terms that she most likely will never be exactly like her character in the comics, but I would have either cut her from this film or given her more to do thnn what she was given.

I have seen a lot of people criticise this film for a lack of character arc for Captain America, but I believe that if you were to change any part of what the super soldier is all about then he is no longer Captain America, that's the whole point of his character, he is and always will be a good man.

The film is a lot of fun and has a lot of great moments and very cool set pieces. The story sets up some big changes to the Marvel Universe and it is great being able to see big events from the comics be brought to life on the big screen. There are twists and turns galore, some predictable, others not as much and thankfully nothing as infuriating Iron Man 3. Keep an eye/ear out for all references including one of the best ever to Pulp Fiction, and as always make sure you stay for the post credits stinger! Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not just the best of phase 2 so far but is also one of Marvel's best films to date. I am giving it a rating of 4/5.

What did you think of the film? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssss! The Muppets are back and better than ever, or are they? After 2011's brilliant reboot to the franchise the Muppets return for a sequel, where this time they go on a world tour. The only problem is that they are being scammed by the evil frog Constantine who replaces Kermit and hilarity ensues.

I loved the previous film, it was brilliantly created in a way that brought a fresh new take on the Muppets as well as being nostalgic to the past popularity of the franchise. The second film, although great, seems to be missing that certain care and affection that I felt Jason Segel brought to the film that he wrote and starred in. The sequel doesn't feel fully like a cash grab but there are aspects of the previous film that don't seem to have resonated as much in this one. The Muppets however are very self aware and even they announce in their opening song that 'the sequel is never quite as good'.

Unfortunately Jason Segel and Amy Adams didn't return for the sequel and that does leave a bit of hole for this film. However the new players include Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey and they each do great in their roles as do the whole lot of cameos that take place constantly throughout the film. It's always great to see actors and celebrities not take themselves too seriously.

A lot of the film sees Kermit trapped at a gulag in Siberia and although these scenes are some of the best in the film, it doesn't help the fact that a part of The Muppets is missing when he is not with them. His doppelganger, Constantine, however provides some of the best laughs with his awful impersonation of the famous frog.

Returning behind the scenes is composer Brett McKenzie. His work on the last film won him an Oscar and the songs on Muppets Most Wanted are just as brilliant this time round as they were last but never really touching the heights of the excellent 'Man or Muppet'.

The best thing about Muppets Most Wanted is its humour. It's stupid and bonkers and it knows it. I don't think I stopped smiling throughout the whole film. It's very self aware and constantly referencing to different films making it a film students dream, especially when they reference The Seventh Seal in their opening song. It's just brilliantly stupid and even when the story starts to slow the laughs never do.

It had a lot to live up to after it's previous film and although it doesn't get it fully right there is enough here to satisfy a big Muppets fan like me. I have no doubt that I will be watching this film multiple times because it's too much fun not to. I am rating Muppets Most Wanted a 3/5.

What did you think of Muppets Most Wanted? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is the Marmite of the film industry, you either love him or hate him. I have loved some of his films like Rushmore and The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou but I was never a big fan of others such as The Royal Tenenbaums. I love the fact that Wes Anderson sticks to his guns and all his films feel wholly original but with his own unique style kept throughout. And once again Anderson has not given up what seems to work for him with his latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel which I can safely say is one of my favourite of his films.

The film follows the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his more trusted friend. The film is a whole lot of fun and after its setting up of the story and its characters in the first act it turns into a hilariously brilliant adventure/heist/mystery film that runs at full speed without ever slowing down.

Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave H the flamboyant concierge. The casting of Fiennes is perfect and he really holds the film together, I can't imagine anyone else playing the character as brilliantly as he did, he is hilariously funny and over the top but with side to him that makes you care for him as much as his lobby boy does, also played brilliantly by Tony Revolori for the majority of the film. The pair together are a great comedy duo and really make this film something special whilst bringing a new take on the bromance that many films are trying to achieve these days. Supporting the pair are a bunch of the usual Anderson regulars as well a few new fresh faces.

The quirky and eccentric style of Anderson still remains without ever seeming to be toned down, however this may be more accessible for any newcomers to his work as the film is a lot more fun that some of his previous films and takes a lot of generic conventions of hollywood films whilst putting his own odd auteur twist on them, that being said it still is very odd, but in a good way.

The film looks great and with a lot of it being shot in real locations, with some of them looking too good to be true! I wanted to visit many of the locations shot at as they just looked like something you would find on a post card. Andersons use of practical effects still remain and really bring that arty creative feel to the film as well as his new unique take on the setting of time as the three time periods in the film are filmed in three different aspect ratios.

Although well structured for the most part, the film can be a little confusing to start off with, especially with its story within a story within a story concept. And although largely funny there are a few jokes that fall a bit flat. These few flaws do nothing to diminish the amount of fun and enjoyment you are going to get out of this film that really is a great piece of entertaining art and escapism. Anderson yet again brings a film full of charm and originality to the cinema that is a great alternative to your usual popcorn  flick. I am giving The Grand Budapest Hotel a rating of 4/5. I highly recommend trying to catch this film before it leaves the big screen.

Did you like The Grand Budapest Hotel? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!