Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome balance of comedy, flirtation and a sense of righteous justice. And at the centre, Gal Gadot is a hugely engaging hero with a refreshing moral clarity to her actions. So even if the movie dissolves into the usual murky digital mayhem in its final act, there's a bright light at the centre that holds us in its grip.
While the Great War rages in Europe, life carries on as usual on the secret island home of the Amazons, where Diana (Gadot) has been raised by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and trained by her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright). When American spy Steve (Chris Pine) crash-lands there, Diana quickly agrees to return with him to war-torn Europe, track down God of War Aries and put an end to the fighting for good. Awed by her fighting prowess and skimpy outfit, Steve agrees to take her. They return to London to confront a smug politician (David Thewlis) and assemble a team so they can return to the front on a mission to take down the nefarious German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his chemical weapons scientist Maru (Elena Anaya). But Diana is still looking for Aries.
Director Patty Jenkins tells this story like an old-fashioned war epic, following a rag-tag group of good guys as they go through a series of battles on their way to the big confrontation. Along the way, there's plenty of comedy banter, dark emotion and even some lusty romance. Putting a woman at the centre of the action gives the movie a strongly resonant slant, especially because she's surrounded by men who always underestimate her.
Continue reading: Wonder Woman Review
DC Comics' villains team up for an overcrowded action movie that never quite finds its tone. Writer-director David Ayer takes a serious approach to an absurd premise, while the actors inject sparks of bitter humour. But with a thin plot and characters that are only superficially developed, the film struggles to grab hold of the audience. At least there's plenty of whizzy action mayhem.
With everyone worried that the next Superman might turn out to be a terrorist, government agent Amanda (Viola Davis) has a crazy idea to turn the most violent criminals in prison into an elite black ops team. These include gruff marksman Deadshot (Will Smith), mentally unstable sexpot Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), archaeologist-turned-enchantress June (Cara Delevingne), Aussie killer Boomerang (Courtney), fire-maker Diablo (Jay Hernandez), swordswoman Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and man-monster Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Each of these psychos has a personal weakness Amanda and team leader Rick (Joel Kinnaman) plan to leverage to keep them under control. Meanwhile, Harley's main squeeze Joker (Jared Leto) is trying to help her escape. Oh, and a meta-human wants to decimate humanity.
Ayer introduces each character with his or her own mini-montage, including snippets of back-story and cameos from the likes of Batman (Ben Affleck). These flashbacks continue throughout the movie, stirring emotion into various characters' decision-making processes. But that's about it as far as depth goes, and the script never imagines anything more original than pining after a lost love, missing a child or feeling guilty about past mistakes. While this adds a bit of interest, it never generates any proper connections, either between the characters or with the audience.
Continue reading: Suicide Squad Review
Based on the iconic strategy game, this fantasy battle epic will appeal mainly to either the gamers themselves or audiences that love wildly detailed fantasy worlds. Everyone else will probably feel a bit lost when faced with the stream of confusing names, spells and magical phenomena that fill every scene. It looks terrific, and is directed with plenty of energy and personality. But it feels both overcrowded and superficial.
With their home world Draenor dying, the orcs need to travel through a portal to the human realm Azeroth to find more life force to steal. One orc chieftan, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), is having doubts about this murderous plan, and thinks peace with humans might be a better option. His rival chief Blackhand (Clancy Brown) and the cackling orc shaman Gul-dan (Daniel Wu) disagree, and set a massacre in motion. Preparing for the attack, human King Llane (Dominic Cooper) turns for help to his top knight Lothar (Travis Fimmel), sorcerer Medivh (Ben Foster) and apprentice wizard Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). Then they meet outcast half-caste Garona (Paula Patton), and she offers another way to take on the invaders.
For the uninitiated, the elaborate mythology is so detailed that it blurs together into something rather incomprehensible. Director Duncan Jones doesn't have time to explain everything, so he charges ahead and just lets the dialogue overflow with references that may or may not be needed to work out what's happening. The film leaps from one strikingly staged battle to another, all cleverly designed to mix digital animation with gothic costumes. It looks pretty amazing in 3D, but the only characters who emerge with any depth are Durotan and Garona, nicely played by Kebbell and Patton under mounds of effects, makeup, fur and teeth.
Continue reading: Warcraft Review
After 2013's beefy Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder goes even bigger and darker with this sequel, cross-pollenating Clark Kent's story with flashbacks to the origins of Bruce Wayne and his Dark Knight alter-ego. The problem is that the film is so big and loud that it can't help but feel bloated, especially since so much of what's on screen feels rather vacuous. But it looks amazing and is relentlessly gripping.
After a Bat-origin prologue, the story kicks off with the climactic battle from Man of Steel as seen from the perspective of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), watching his city being destroyed by Superman (Henry Cavill). This further fuels the rage that began when his parents were murdered. And that fire is stoked by the mischievous millionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Meanwhile, Superman/Clark is struggling with how the world is revering him as a god, which is straining his relationship with intrepid reporter Lois (Amy Adams). As these very different vigilante heros head toward a climactic confrontation, Luthor is up to something seriously nefarious. And the ensuing chaos brings another hero into the open, Wonder Woman Diana Prince (Gal Gadot).
While the various plot threads are fascinating, and Snyder maintains a snappy pace, the overall story centres on the fact that Affleck's prickly, bitter Bruce is easily manipulated into doing terrible things, which makes him rather unlikeable. And Cavill's fundamentally good Clark isn't much easier to identify with. Both are also oddly constrained by their costumes and bulked-up physicalities, which leave them unable to move properly. This allows the side characters to steal the show: Adams adds emotion and passion, Eisenberg provides the nutty nastiness, Irons is hilariously cynical as Bruce's butler Alfred, and Fishburne is all bluster as Lois' editor. But in the end, the film belongs to the gorgeous, clear-headed Gadot, instantly making her stand-alone movie the most anticipated superhero project on the horizon.
Continue reading: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice Review
David O. Russell deploys his deranged genius to explore the real events behind Abscam, cleverly focussing on the inter-relationships rather than the details of the elaborate sting operation. So under the wild 1970s hair and costumes, we have a series of characters who are never very likeable but are still hugely engaging. Which makes this one of the most prickly, exhilarating movies of the year.
As the opening caption says, "Some of this actually happened". It's set in 1978 New York, where lowlife conman Irving (Bale) is making a decent living with his girlfriend Sydney (Adams). Although his wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) knows something is up. Things get even more complicated when Irving and Sydney are cornered by FBI agent Richie (Cooper) and forced to co-operate in a complex scam to entrap mobsters and dirty politicians, including the likeable Mayor Polito (Renner), with whom Irving strikes up a friendship. As things develop, the sting continually threatens to spin crazily out of control. And Irving starts to worry that Sydney is getting far too close to Richie.
Intriguingly, even as the story gets more and more insane, Russell keeps the story grounded in the characters and the way they interact with each other. So their shifting relationships, power struggles and internal jealousies take centre stage, blurring the details of the undercover operation into the background. This may annoy viewers who want clear insight into Abscam, but it makes the movie much more involving. And it gives the actors a lot to work with. Each of them delivers a powerhouse performance that blends the character's distinct physicality with a complex inner life.
Continue reading: American Hustle Review
Superman gets the Dark Knight treatment, as Christopher Nolan offers a much grittier, more intensely personal look at the biggest superhero of them all. It's a flawed film that feels far too violent for its own good, but the pungent story holds us in its grip all the way through, cleverly weaving the character's back-story into a series of emotive flashbacks along with massively thrilling action sequences. And along the way there are resonant ethical dilemmas, family issues and pointed political drama.
Some 30 years ago, scientist Jor-El (Crowe) packed his infant son Kal-El into a pod and sent him to Earth to escape certain doom as the planet Krypton imploded after centuries of ecological abuse. This enrages the viciously tenacious General Zod (Shannon) who spends three decades searching for the child. Meanwhile, Kal-El (Cavill) was raised as Clark in Smallville, Kansas, by the Kents (Lane and Costner), who taught him to keep his powers in check. But when he activates a downed Kryptonian ship, he alerts Zod to his whereabouts. And just as nosey journalist Lois Lane (Adams) learns Clark's secret, Zod arrives to launch a full-on attack.
This is a film about internal conflicts, and everyone has to face up to their own desires and responsibilities. Even Zod, whose dedication to his people means that he is willing to wipe out humanity in order to recreate Krypton on Earth. So Kal-El is caught between protecting his adopted planet and being loyal to his birth species. Lois is struggling with keeping a big secret or reporting the news. All of this provides plenty of gristle for the actors to chew on, even if the dilemmas aren't actually that difficult. And even though they sometimes seem consumed by the elaborate sets and costumes.
Continue reading: Man Of Steel Review
The cast and crew of 'Man Of Steel' are interviewed about the making of the movie, the modernisation of the story and the ethics and emotions behind Superman as a character. Among them are producer Charles Roven, director Zack Snyder and lead actor Henry Cavill.
It's eight years later, and Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) has allowed the press to create a myth that Batman was a villain. Badly injured, Bruce Wayne (Bale) has become a recluse, tended to by his butler Alfred (Caine). Then a new baddie arrives: Bane (Hardy) is part of the League of Shadows, trained by Bruce's old nemesis Ra's al Ghul (Neeson) to purge the world of human decadence. So Bruce turns to Wayne company boss Lucius (Freeman) to get back in fighting shape, deciding to trust a slippery cat burglar (Hathaway) and a rookie cop (Gordon-Levitt).
Continue reading: The Dark Knight Rises Review
After 12 years murdering men, women and children in the Crusades, Behman (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) have a crisis of conscience and desert the army. They end up in a remote town, where they agree to escort an accused witch (Foy) to a distant monastery that has the only incantation that can destroy her and halt the Black Death. They're accompanied by a resolute priest (Moore) and his sidekick (Thomsen), then joined by an altar boy (Sheehan) determined to become a knight. Of course the journey is fraught with surprises.
Continue reading: Season Of The Witch Review
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