Aquaman (2018)

aquaman poster

If I say this is one of the best DC movies to date, to be honest that’s not necessarily high praise. Still, it is praise: this was daft fun, if a bit messy.

We’ve met Aquaman aka Arthur Curry (really? Hmm) aka Jason Momoa, in a slightly pointless role in  Justice League (2017). Here he gets centre stage, and we get a little bit of an origin story (mother = Queen of Atlantis, father = human) and a suspiciously Black Panther-reminiscent tale of sibling rivalry, hidden kingdoms, and lots of fighting.

We also get a lot of CGI. Well, duh – I don’t suppose giant seahorse mounts or trained war sharks are easy to find o_O But, there is a loss of something tangible when your sets are underwater green screen, however amazing some of them look, and a loss of dignity and gravatas when your cast are floating around with drifting hair. I think there’s a reason watery movies generally don’t do very well.

Still, Jason Momoa is refreshingly irreverent – a DC character/movie with a sense of humour, whatever next?! He’s thrust into a war to save ‘the surface’ from a ticked-off Atlantian empire, and to be fair I’m not sure they’re that wrong. Hmm.

The supporting cast, from Patrick Wilson (channeling Julian Sands with that hair!) to Amber Heard were all a little poe-faced and stilted for my liking, and to be honest I found it hard to care about any of them. And that is perhaps where DC fail to live up to Marvel’s success. So yes, one of the better DC offerings. Make of that what you will.

Released: 12th December 2018
Viewed: 29th December 2018
Running time: 143 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7/10

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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

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

ant man and wasp poster

Ant-Man (2015) was a bit of an oddity in the Marvel ‘MCU’ juggernaut. Following the very well-received Winter Soldier and the surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy, and as we were waiting for Civil War, Marvel had a bit of a bum note with the less-than-excellent Age of Ultron. For the next release to be the new, largely unknown character of Ant-Man was something of a risk, and the film’s lighthearted tone and apparent disconnect from the rest of the series made it a little hard to love.

Looking back, however, Ant-Man is a fun movie that benefits from being rather stand-alone. The sequel picks up after the closing sting, where Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne character announces “It’s about damn time!” to her Wasp outfit – and, indeed, about damn time for a female character to be named in the title of a Marvel movie! o_O

I didn’t realise it at the time, but I think one of the reasons Ant-Man doesn’t quite work is that the story being told isn’t wholly that of the main character, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), but of the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) – certainly, as pointed out in this excellent article for writers, the protagonist is set against Pym, leaving Lang as a bit of a hanger on in his own movie. With this sequel, that dynamic doesn’t really change, and once again we get a movie where the narrative is a collection of things that sort of happen around the main character, that he gets involved with, but overall aren’t really about him.

That said, there are some really good bits here: Paul Rudd is cute and funny. Evangeline Lilly is fantastically kick-ass. The supporting cast are all excellent. The sense of humour is strong, particularly with the shrinking/expanding technology and Michael Peña’s fantastic Luis.

Overall this is a lot of fun in different bits, but never going to be all that memorable.

Released: 2nd August 2018
Viewed: 11th August 2018
Running time: 118 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7.5/10

Lucifer (season 1)

lucifer poster

Once upon a time a little graphic novel series, Sandman, told of the Lord of Hell, Lucifer Morningstar, growing bored of the job and deciding to decamp to Los Angeles – where else?! He opens up a nightclub and sets about living life to the full, encouraging the mortals around him to do the same.

Neil Gaimain’s story was picked up by Mike Carey, and Lucifer got his own spin-off comics – which have now been adapted for the small screen, but with the same irreverent humour and sympathy-for-the-devil tone that would probably have my granny rolling in her grave. Ahem!

So… after a shootout at Lux, his nightclub, Lucifer ends up consulting for the police department. He’s soon rather obsessed with Detective Chloe Decker – possibly the one person on earth who seems immune to his plentiful charms. But talking of immunity, how is Lucifer’s power, and his invulnerability, going to be affected by a prolonged stay in the mortal realm?

I’m a bit late to the party with this one, seeing as it was squirrelled away on a less-than-handy broadcaster. Still, better late than never – except for the bit where, after three series, they’ve only gone and cancelled this! Is it still worth watching? Hell, yes! 🙂

I absolutely love the story here. It’s dark and funny and not as blasphemous as some might think (ymmv). More, the intrigue levels are kept high – I practically bounced off the sofa at the big cliff-hanger statement setting up season 2!

Tom Ellis does wonderfully as the sardonic, not-quite-slimey-somehow title character, utterly clueless as to why he can’t walk through life doing and getting what – or who! – he wants. The fish out of water schtick works really well when your outsider character is a fallen angel with the power to make people blurt out their deepest, darkest desires…! His relationship with the detective is so-so, but his experience with therapy (yes, really!) is a hoot, and his faithful demon, Mazekeen, is absolutely kick-ass and I love her a lot!

Best of all, perhaps, is the way that Lucifer is so upfront about who and what he is and watching all the humans around him try to turn into into something else – metaphor, delusion, etc. Waiting for the penny to drop for some of them is the least of what’s keeping me watching, but watching I am! More!! #SaveLucifer all the way!

First broadcast: 2015
Series: 3
Episodes: 13 @ ~42 mins each

My rating: 9/10

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool2 poster

I frickin’ loved Deadpool (2016) so of course I was a little worried that the sequel could only disappoint. But thankfully following a successful movie isn’t always just a money-making exercise these days, and with a team that loves the source material as much as any of the fans we’re in safe hands here.

It’s hard to say too much about it without giving away plot points, but safe to say that we’re still breaking the fourth wall, subjected to a barrage of swearing (including a use of the c-word that surprised (but not shocked, it’s just a word, people!) me a little in a 15), and treated to more gore than Marvel’s entire output to date – good! 🙂

What I love so much about these movies is that they are ‘proper’ superhero action movies, while at the same time utterly poking fun at superhero movies in general – one fav line: “You’re so dark are you sure you’re not from the DC universe?” 🙂 And anything else they can think of to poke fun at, let’s face it – I’d need to trawl the ‘net or watch this about six times (tempting…!) to get all the references, I think! Top of the hit list is Ryan Reynolds himself, from previous performances to just him as an actor, and likewise Josh Brolin’s turns in the Goonies and last week’s (!) Infinity War.

Amongst the mayhem and jokes, however, there’s also quite a moving story about family and friendships. It almost hits harder when things happen, as you’re not expecting it between the laughs and blood splatter.

I won’t say this is perfect, but dang I am struggling to pinpoint any actual faults. It’s pretty much everything I could have wanted from a Deadpool sequel, and part of me hopes there are about sixty more to come 🙂

So remember… #WadeWilsonDemandsYourSisterSorryStupidAutocorrectSilence especially during the FIVE post-credit scenes (but not shoved all the way at the end, so you don’t have to sit too long) 😀

Released: 15th May 2018
Viewed: 17th May 2018
Running time: 119 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 9/10

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avenger Infinity War poster

Well. Here we are. Ten years of Marvel ‘MCU’ movies, ten years since Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) told the world “I am Iron Man” and turned the comic book to screen adaptation from a bit of a hit-and-miss affair to a roaring juggernaut of fan favourites.

The word ‘fan’ is kind of important there. While there have been movies in that last decade of output that non-fans could enjoy, or take or leave, this is one that absolutely requires you to be fully along for the whole ride and most if not all of the 18 (!) movies that lead up to this point. Or, as I put it leaving the cinema: “I loved that, but it’s not one for non-fans.”

Infinity War ties together plot threads from several of the movies. The big baddy, Thanos, has shown up in several previous installments, but finally steps fully forward here. He’s on the hunt for all six of the Infinity Stones, elemental gems that were (so it goes) created in the Big Bang and control fundamental aspects of the universe. We’ve met five of them in previous movies, from the Tesseract (housing the Space Stone) in Thor to the Time Stone wielded in Doctor Strange. Combining all six will give Thanos the power to… well. Anything, quite frankly!

So, grab your popcorn and settle in for a fast-paced 2½ hours of action with the usual bit of Marvel humour, but also a lot of darkness – and, about three quarters of a plot. Because yes, there is a second part of this story coming next year!

There’s no gentle intro to anything here – as stated, there are 18 other movies of ‘introduction’ – which is obviously a massive downside for some. I didn’t mind: this isn’t a stand-alone by any stretch, it’s the culmination (or the start of it, at least!) of a lot of other strands, a bit of a season finale kind of piece.

There are also a LOT of characters to jam in here, and you could suggest that none of them get a great deal of time or development – see previous comments, though. For me, the best bit was the interactions between characters from some very tonally different MCU movies: Thor meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy, Stark meeting Strange, and so forth. True to form, some of the best laugh out loud moments happen with these culture clashes.

It’s not perfect. It’s absolutely frantic in pace. But, as a fan (can I say that enough?!), that just makes me want to see it again and again, to fully absorb some of what’s flashing past on the screen – if my nerves can stand it! And, of course, to get the answers to a rather cliff-hanger-y ending o_O

Released: 26th April 2018
Viewed: 28th April 2018
Running time: 149 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 8/10