Logan (Cinema Review)

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15 – 137mins – 2017 – 3D


 

WOLVERINE: THE X GENERATION

13 months ago, Deadpool delighted 20th Century Fox by making a pretty penny at the box office despite being the first superhero blockbuster of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be certified 18. In a profit-minded climate where tentpole releases are skewed towards the money-maximising 12A rating, Deadpool took a risk and it paid off. Perhaps this is why Fox were more supportive of The Wolverine director James Mangold’s grisly-toned concept for the ultimate send-off for the X-Men’s signature star.

… Keep Scuttling!

MARVEL Iron Man: The Gauntlet (Book Review)

Written by: Eoin Colfer

Published in the UK by: Egmont, 27th October 2016

Pages: 273


AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE

From page to screen and back to page again, award-winning Artemis Fowl author – and Ireland’s laureate for children’s literature – Eoin Colfer brings Marvel’s smart aleck comic book superhero to the North shores of his home country in this slick and snappy YA adventure which substitutes the colourful panel art we normally associate with the Iron Man property for zinging dialogue, explosive descriptions and profuse Irish stereotypes (“top of the morning,” leprechauns, Guinness, Riverdancing, “…, so” and U2 are all brought up – seriously).

… Keep Scuttling!

Doctor Strange (Cinema Review)

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12A – 115mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION

“Leave behind everything you thought you knew…”

A career-ending car accident sees astonishing-but-arrogant New York neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Black Mass Cumberbatch) traverse the globe in search of revolutionary and non-traditional healing techniques to cure his damaged hands. In Kathmandu, Nepal he is introduced to The Ancient One (Tilda Trainwreck Swinton), a master of the mystic arts who harnesses the desperate doctor’s spiritual powers to unleash his full potential.

… Keep Scuttling!

X-Men: Apocalypse (Cinema Review)

12A – 144mins – 2016 – 3D


 

MU WORLD ORDER

While I don’t tend to pay too much heed to reviews before I’ve watched a new release, my lackadaisical approach to seeing this sixth Marvel/20th Century Fox X-stalment (NINTH if we are to include the 2 Wolverine spin-offs and Deadpool) has meant that before taking my seat in the cinema yesterday evening I was well aware of the glut of two star write-ups Bryan Singer’s Days of Future Past follow-up has received.

Tying directly into the sting at the end of the previous film, X-Men: Apocalypse opens with a colourful-if-chaotic prologue set in Ancient Egypt, establishing the transferable abilities of premiere cyber-mutant, En Sabah Nur (Oscar “Poe Dameron” Isaac). Beneath my 3D glasses my eyes were struggling to keep up with the tumult of effects and exposition hastily edited together in a headache-induced blur of visual noise.

Not a good start, I thought, and if things stay like this for the following two-hours-and-twenty-minutes I can well understand the backlash… However, once the Stargate-esque opening title sequence concludes and we fast-forward to 1983 (this is the McAvoy rather than the Stewart continuity, in case Wade Wilson was asking), the action settles to a more measured pace, allowing you to appreciate the effort – and expense – put in to the shots.

That’s not to say that the locations settle, for his is still a large-scale, globe-encompassing blockbuster, with Berlin, Poland, Auschwitz, Cairo and New York all featuring in this prequel trilogy closer. Reawakened, Apocalypse – as Sahar Nur now prefers to be known – tours the planet to recruit the deadliest mutants to become his upgrade-enhanced “Four Horseman” and aid the invincible menace in ridding the modern world of the weak and returning Earth to the glory days when he was worshipped.

You could question why an immortal God-like monster with Apocalypse’s immense abilities requires assistants, but by roping in Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Steve Jobs Fassbender) to join his gang, the CG destruction is at least grounded in human drama. The man they used to call Magneto has been in hiding in Poland for the past decade, settling down with a loving wife and daughter in an attempt to put the White House calamity behind him. But when tragedy shatters his domestic bliss, Erik’s rage rises once more.

Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is also haunted by a ghost from his past, with his love for Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne, returning from First Class) and his pain at having to wipe her memory still weighing him down. Time-stopper Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is also back in town on personal business, and Apocalypse really hits its stride when drama and spectacle collide. Speaking of spectacle, this film is at its most awe-inspiring when it lets loose with the violence, and I was surprised to see this still achieve a “12A” rating, as some of the bone-crushing and blood-letting is brutally intense.

Although you could argue that the stakes aren’t exactly as universe-definingly fateful as the film would like you to believe (after all, we know Apocalypse doesn’t succeed in wiping out mankind as we’ve seen 3 films set after these events), there is still much to enjoy and invest in here, with a stand out being a zipping set-piece soundtracked by Sweet Dreams Are Made of These perfectly encapsulating the period and timbre. A cameo from a certain adamantium-enabled man-imal (you know Hugh) is also claw-some, and as superfluous as it is, for continuity’s sake it’s nice to finally see how Professor X lost his locks.

Short of using Cerebro, I’m clueless as to why so many critics have given X-Men: Apocalypse such a rough time – while it is long and its bulging ensemble set-up is busy, it’s also fun, rounded and far from shallow. Yes, it takes an unnecessarily petty pot-shot at The Last Stand (“The third films are always the worst”), but Singer’s confident enough that his saga-stitching threequel is not equally as disappointing. Ignore the critics who want you to believe that it is (no doubt all for the sake of “ironically” utilizing the quote) and make this one X you do give another chance.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

Captain America: Civil War (Cinema Review)

12A – 147mins – 2016


 

WHERE DOES THE BUCK-Y STOP?

Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1998; The Descent and The Cave in 2005; The Prestige and The Illusionist in 2006 – Hollywood has a quirky knack for throwing up two cannily-comparable films at the same time. So it is again in 2016 with the third Captain America adventure arriving just a month after comic-book rival Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice covered spookily similar narrative ground.

It was inevitable, really, what with DC Comics desperate to follow the bankable Marvel mould and set up a Justice League universe akin to the MCU, and with the once frivolous cape ‘n’ cowl genre now mining more cerebral storylines in an effort to bring their politics and pathos in line with their out-of-this-world fights and FX.

Clearly everyone likes a bit of healthy competition, from film studio bigwigs to men in tights. In Civil War, directed once more by the Russo Brothers, the great and the good of Marvel Comics’ superhero cannon are pitted against one another when their position on how they fit into humanity’s system of law is thrown into dispute.

While BvS let the diplomatic dealings quietly die in the background as the spectacle took centre stage, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s CW script does a better job of having the ructious plot run throughout its protracted runtime: should the Avengers with their inhuman abilities and city-flattening technology have the right to freely enter into dangerous and life-threatening situations without government oversight?

The catalyst for this quandary is the frequent infrastructure and collateral damage which follows in the super-team’s wake (we’ve all seen them contentedly chow down on shawarma following the rubble-heavy climax to Avengers Assemble), most recently the accidental bombing of a building in Nigeria as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) et al set about stopping the theft of a biological weapon.

But while iron-suited billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), guilt-ridden over his role in creating Ultron in 2014’s average Avengers sequel, fully supports government sanctions to keep the team inside the law, Steve rejects such restrictions in his ongoing fight for justice. In refusing to sign the bill designated the Sokovia Accords, the Avengers are split and comrades become rivals.

“We’re still friends, right?”

“Depends how hard you hit me.”

Essentially, by breaking free from the Accords and following his own ethical path, Captain America and those that follow him are deemed criminal vigilantes who need to be apprehended. Except you never really get a sense of actual disapproval from either side of the fence. While the Dark Knight was full of solemn snarling in his outrage at Superman’s destructive approach in Dawn of Justice, Civil War still sees the contentious chums bantering and pulling their punches while supposedly fighting tooth and nail for what they believe in.

Picking up on character threads from The First Avenger (2011) and The Winter Soldier (2014), the aged Peggy Carter’s plot is resolved without her being on screen, while H.Y.D.R.A.’s revival of Steve’s old WWII friend “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is the clincher in Steve’s decision to not follow the government act. These elements aside, Civil War always feels more like a sequel to Age of Ultron than it does a third Cap film – it stars a vast, A-list ensemble cast gathered from an already grand 13-film sequence, which is only growing larger with every passing year and box office smash.

This is not the film to start your Marvel journey on! But unlike other epic-lengthed blockbusters with ballooning casts grappling for attention, Civil War never feels unwieldy. It also manages to never lose narrative focus or have needlessly digressive or ponderous dips in the action, keeping you alert and attentive until after the second end credits sequence.

The much-publicised new recruits threaten to steal the show, with the vengeful Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and yet another new Spider-Man (in the form of amiable high school quipper Tom Holland) granted far more screen time than I ever imagined, successfully getting their feet under the Marvel table in a thrilling mid-film airport smackdown. Even more surprising is that it is Iron Man who is dealt the film’s emotional sucker-punch at the crescendo, serving to further push Steve Rogers from the spotlight in his own film.

But such observations are incidental and never detract from either the narrative or the action. On both of those scores, Captain America: Civil War is an out-and-out success, balancing character-shaping story development with sly humour and witty references, sensitive insights, shocking surprises and grand scale, globe-hopping, heart-pumping adventure. It’s not as uniquely uproarious as Deadpool, but it will better reverberate with all demographics. Thor and Hulk will be sorry they missed this wild ride, while DC Comics will be outright jealous.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

Deadpool (Cinema Review)


15 – 108mins – 2016


THE TOXIC-TONGUED AVENGER

Following the damp squib that was last years’ tonally-unstable Fantastic Four reboot, 20th Century Fox have bounced back from their Marvel mire in spectacular fashion courtesy of director Tim Miller’s long-anticipated big screen adaptation of Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld’s super-offensive masked antihero Deadpool.

The mirror image of Chris Evans’ goody two shoes Cap, spurned and disfigured former cancer-suffering mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) dons a mask to become the titular Captain Controversy and wage an un-civil war on mutant-torturing scientist Francis “Ajax” Freeman (Ed The Transporter: Reloaded Skrein) while simultaneously dodging commitment to the X-Men and using them to win the day and save his kidnapped ex (Morena Baccarin).

Refreshingly distinctive and self-aware from the tongue-in-cheek opening credits (which brandish the cast and crew as “asshats”), Deadpool is a whirlwind barrage of distasteful quips, ultra-violence, gratuitous sexualisation and outrageous injuries, contained in a shiny, meta, self-deprecating wrapper (“McAvoy or Stewart? This continuity is so confusing!”).

Prostitutes, cancer-patients, the disfigured, burns victims, the blind – everyone (including the MCU itself) is ripped a new arsehole in screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s rapid-fire potty-mouthed script overflowing with foul-but-funny barbs and witticisms.

And yet…

There’s a cocky charm to it all, to an extent that the barrage of potentially grim insults don’t sting. This is thanks in no small part to Ryan Reynold’s likeability as the self-confessed “testicles with teeth” and he nails this sour superhero second time around, following a non-sequitur appearance in 2009 misstep X-Men Orgins: Wolverine.

Wade Wilson is such a larger-than-life personality that you don’t even mind that the X-Men seen on screen – Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) – are far from household names. Frequent fourth-wall-breaking digs (“You’re waiting for a sting, with a Sam Jackson cameo, but the budget didn’t stretch that far”) also work in the film’s favour.

R-rated in the US, this messy, NSFW shit-storm somehow avoided an “18” in the UK, perhaps due to the O.T.T. comic book nature of even the most gruesome fight sequences and injuries (kebab-skewering, beheadings, wobbly limbs) which stylishly diminishes the grit and replaces it with wit.

Comic book characters trading cloyingly non-diagetic yuks may bring to mind the camp n’ colourful kiddified neon nightmare that is Batman & Robin, but fear ye not, for Deadpool is perfectly-pitched, intelligently scripted and bucketloads of adult-only fun with a real mass appeal and in-your-face soundtrack to match its slick n’ spunky attitude.

Crisp high five!

CR@B Verdict: 5 stars