Iron Man (2008)

iron man poster

I don’t often go back and review older movies, but with the upcoming release of Avengers: Endgame (squeeeee!) it seemed like an excellent excuse time for a rewatch of my beloved Marvel movies. And, since many of them predate this blog by a number of years, it’s also a good excuse to see how well they hold up.

It’s hard to imagine a time now when the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) wasn’t the juggernaut that it is today: 20 films already released and box office gold, another three due this year and oh yeah, possibly the most anticipated movie of the year with the aforementioned A:E.

Back in 2008, however, Marvel was not exactly swamped with success or cash. They made a relative pittance licensing their comic book properties such as X-Men and Spider-Man to other film studios. The real money would be in making their own. It was a gamble and a half – if their first attempt failed, they’d probably go bust, never mind getting a second chance. So, which world-famous superhero would they bring to the big screen? Iron Man!

*tumbleweed*

Hah, yes: back in 2008 no one had ever heard of ‘Iron Man’ (well, the comic book fans, but much as I love the MCU I was never one of those). I can’t imagine how the pre-production conversions went, from ‘who’ on the character, to ‘you must be kidding – you want to cast a former drug addict and convict as a superhero in a kids movie?!’

And there’s one thing I think worked so well: Marvel was *not* making movies for kids. We had plenty of those, doing so-so business, but some bright spark twigged that adults – many of whom had grown up with these characters – might not want to sit through more teen angst dressed up as burgeoning superpowers (Spider-Man). More, how about we buck the trend for dark, troubled superheros (Batman) or literal god-like aliens desperately trying to hide their real identity (Superman) and go with a ‘real’ person, albeit a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Tony Stark?

It worked – duh – and on a repeat viewing it *still* works. I remember sitting in the cinema blown away with how different this movie was from the Batmans and Supermans I’d grown up with. It was taking itself seriously, but it was chock-full of humour (Dummy the fire extinguishing robot had me in stitches). Robert Downey Jr just *was* Tony Stark – still is! – perfectly suave yet damaged, and omg was he actually *happy* to figure out how to be a superhero? Yup – you could see the glee in his first flight, getting to swat bad guys, and that announcement: “I am Iron Man.”

Iron Man was a joy of a movie, and I still loved it this time ’round – not my second or even fourth viewing, I’m sure 😉 It’s not perfect – what is? – but it is very watchable, and quite frankly hasn’t dated at all. Are we sure this was 11 years ago?! o_O

For kicking off a beloved franchise – although Marvel stumbled a bit with the next few *cough* Hulk *cough* – I was always going to be fond of this. To remind myself that it’s still a very fun, watchable movie is even better.

Released: 2nd May 2008
Viewed: 8th February 2019 (most recently)
Running time: 126 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 8/10

“Perhaps, if you intend to visit other planets, we should improve the exosystems.” (Jarvis to Tony Stark during the first Iron Man suit test run)

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

How to Train Your Dragon 3 poster

The How to Train Your Dragon series has possibly my favourite animated character ever in Toothless the Dragon. His half-dog/cat type behaviour backed up by y’know, fire breathing, is just adorable. The humour in the rest of the set up, from Hiccup the very non-Viking-y brainiac chief’s son, the often dozy dragon riders with all their amusing foibles, not to mention an absolutely fab vocal cast, all make these films very worth watching, whatever your age.

With a third instalment, largely I tend to just hope it won’t tarnish the memory. I wasn’t expecting this to possibly be the best movie of the three!

One strength is how well the story continues with events, rather than just being A.N. Other adventure. We’ve seen Hiccup and Toothless meeting for the first time, we’ve followed the Vikings go from dragon-haters to dragon riders. And we’ve seen Hiccup grow up a little, not least as the mantle of chief is thrust upon him.

It makes sense, from the previous two stories, to open with Berk now a dragon haven but also drawing all the wrong kind of attention from those who still haven’t embraced the new human-dragon partnership model. And so the adventure here starts very logically, with Hiccup looking for a way to protect his new friends – even if that means chasing the impossible trying to find a mythical Hidden World.

I absolutely loved this film, even more than expected. I thought a bit of cute would suit a Friday night, but instead I was deeply moved at some parts, laughed out loud at others, and was overall impressed with the action. This is a fantastic animation, and a nigh-on perfect ending to the trilogy.

Toothless is still very much my favourite 🙂

Released: 1st February 2019
Viewed: 1st February 2019
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 9/10

The Great Wall (2016)

great wall poster

The first trailer I saw for this made it look a bit like historical fiction, which was maybe vaguely interesting. It took much longer for the penny to drop: here be dragons! Why on earth would you not have that front and centre in the trailer?! And suddenly very much my cup of tea…

Turns out they’re not really dragons, but a swarm of nasty critters that feed on humans. This movie postulates that the real reason the Great Wall of China was built was to keep these things away from a – pardon the pun – all you can eat Chinese buffet. Ahem.

However, the story is handed to Matt Damon’s ‘European’ (hmm) mercenary, on the hunt for the semi-mythical ‘black powder’ to take back home. When he stumbles into the secret of the Wall, they neither believe his story or plan to allow him to take tales back to the rest of the world.

There are things to like about this movie. I’ve long been a fan of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Hero (2002), which brought an Eastern flavour to Western audiences, complete with aerial acrobatics and saturated colour palettes. Great Wall picks up on many of these facets, and as faintly ridiculous as they can be here, I did like the richly coloured armour, in shades of red, yellow, blue, and purple. The fight scenes are as impressive as you would expect, too.

However, that’s probably about it. The story is so-so, nothing particularly novel once you get past the intriguing fantasy-myth element. There was a bit of a ‘hmm’ on release about putting a white man front and centre, and while I went in unsure if this was a bit of an over-reaction, it is more than a little insulting that Matt Damon is such the hero, set up to save the day, the entire battalion that spent its life training for this, and the ‘delicate’ female, too.

I haven’t quite put my finger on what the creatures reminded me off – some sci-fi or other – but I’ve definitely seen them in a slightly different format before, so yawn.

Overall, quite the disappointment, alas, especially as I’ve been looking forward to it cropping up on a streaming platform since I missed it at the cinema. It’s not terrible, so by all means fill a boring couple of hours, but go in with much lower expectations than I managed.

Released: 17th February 2017
Viewed: 26th January 2019
Running time: 103 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 5/10

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

into the spider verse poster

Spider-Man has never been my favourite super hero. In fact, it’s probably telling that I own all the Marvel movies except Homecoming. I dunno, maybe it’s the teenage thing, or my lack of love for arachnids, or – probably – that we’ve heard the same story again and again and again: poor Uncle Ben, with great power, yadda yadda.

One of the smartest moves this new movie makes is poking gentle fun at this repetition of the origin story. It also has a fabulous animation style that harks back to the comic books source, and looks amazing. Add in a ton of action, plenty of humour (Peter Porker?!), and plenty of emotion in the story line, and by jove this is the best Spider-Man movie ever! 🙂

When Wilson Fisk – aka the Kingpin – builds a dimensional portal, he plans to bring his dead family through. Of course, things don’t go to plan and instead we end up with multiple Spider-People. From Peter B Parker, a washed-up, older Spider-Man, to Spider-Gwen, a black and white retro Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicholas Cage)… and that pig. And an anime version! My only vague confusion was that we start out in a universe with two Spider-Men: Peter Parker, and the newcomer, Miles Margoles. Miles has issues in his life, sure, but he’s more interesting and less whiny than previous origin-story incarnations, and I liked him as the main character.

Most of all, though, I loved the animation style. It takes a moment to realise that the blurry backgrounds are aping the comic books, but it’s a nicely fresh thing to see on the big screen. It also matches the multi-dimensional madness that the story lands up in.

I might be converted to not being so meh about Spider-Man!

Released: 12th December 2018
Viewed: 28th December 2018
Running time: 117 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 8.5/10

Venom (2018)

venom poster

Investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is having a run of bad luck – losing his job, his girlfriend, and his home – when things take a turn for the worse. Trying to get his revenge on totally-not-Elon-Musk entrepreneur and space nut, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Eddie breaks into a lab that turns out to be holding an alien symbiote – which decides Eddie is just the host it needs.

Venom is a Spiderman villain, and the announcement of this Spider-verse movie without the webslinger always sounded a bit odd. However, that’s one bit of this movie I did like: the focus is on the villain, not the yawn-some conflict with a superhero, meaning the character is far from the usual one-dimensional offering.

And, Tom Hardy is pretty darn good at playing crazy, as he holds conversations with himself and reacts to the voice only he can hear, saying such wonderful things as “Let’s bite off all the heads – pile of bodies, pile of heads.” The CGI is… fine?

Alas, that about ends the things that were particularly good about this movie. When it hit one of the highs, it was very enjoyable – but most of the movie was not at that level. The plot is a bit meh, the baddy is as one-dimensional as a regular superhero villain, and Michelle Williams’ girlfriend role is not good.

I did enjoy this well enough as I watched, but I won’t be looking to see it again. I might hope a sequel could build on the strengths, as this is an interesting way to add to the very very crowded superhero market. But I’m too ‘meh’ about this one to care if they don’t try for a follow up.

Released: 3rd October 2018
Viewed: 26th October 2018
Running time: 112 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 5/10

The Predator (2018)

predator poster

It’s been over 30 years since Arnie first encountered the Predator in the jungle, would you believe? I’m not as huge a fan as some, but director Shane Black (who coincidentally was also the Pred’s first victim in the original!) clearly is, and this movie does a great job at following on with great nods back.

When army sniper Quinn McKenna sees an alien ship land, those in the know would rather send him to the looney bin than risk word getting out. Too late, he’s already sent some evidence home, much to the delight of his Asperger’s-suffering young son. Looking for revenge for his slaughtered team, Quinn gathers the other inmates and goes after the creature, with the help of a biologist called in to explain the strange discovery in the beast’s DNA…

This was a whole lot more fun than it had any real right to be, I think. The nostalgia vibe is strong, adding to the laughs, and it never takes itself too seriously. For daft B-movie gore, this ticks a lot of boxes. However, it does get a bit too frenetic and when the violence comes from the humans rather than the aliens then it feels a bit off at times.

I’m surprised at the number of familiar faces in the cast, too, including Thomas Jane (The Expanse), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, Handmaid’s Tale), and Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones), none of whom have particularly meaty roles but hopefully were having a lot of fun!

Also, the ‘blood splatter’ was rather effective in 4DX… o_O

Released: 12th September 2018
Viewed: 14th September 2018
Running time: 107 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 6/10

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

spy who dumped me poster

When Audrey (Mila Kunis) discovers that her ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux) is actually a CIA spy, she and best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) are soon caught up in a deadly espionage game that leads them all over Europe and through more wacky situations than you could shake a loaded gun at. Who, if anyone, can they trust?

I went into this expecting a daft comedy and I was not disappointed. It’s not a spoof, the spy side is pretty gory and violent, but over that we have our two leads bumbling through in all sorts of humorous ways.

And… that’s about all there is to say about it, to be honest. It’s not deep or meaningful in any way. I adore Kate McKinnon and it’s great that she gets almost a co-lead billing here. I spent too much of the movie wondering where I’d seen spy Sebastian (Sam Heughan) before (he’s Jamie from Outlander, apparently).

I wasn’t rolling about laughing, and there are almost as many winces as chuckles, but actually it worked. Two ‘funs’ up 😉

Released: 22nd August 2018
Viewed: 1st September 2018
Running time: 117 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 6.5/10