Saturday, 30 April 2016

Captain America: Civil War (12A)

So, what were you hoping from here then? More action? Bigger bangs? Bit of the ol' Spidey?

Or were you expecting something more akin to The Winter Soldier, where a more political plot rode roughshod over the more traditional comic book fight scenes?

If you answered yes to the first question, you're in. This is the film for you!

If you answered yes to the second question, you're in. This is the film for you!

And in a simple moment of flippancy, you have all that's right and wrong with the latest Captain America instalment.

There is, to put it mildly, a lot going on.

In terms of where this all fits in with what's gone before, we pick up the action post-Age Of Ultron - yet the shadow of Winter Soldier and the first Avengers outing looms large.

After a slight whoopsie while on a mission overseas, the new Avengers (in film terms, not to be confused with the book bunch) find themselves in the spotlight and under pressure to conform to political masters.

Meanwhile, Mr Baddy is hellbent on revenge and wants to make people pay for things what they did when trying to save the world.

In essence, it's two very different films, mashed together. And not edited.

Which is cool if you don't mind wondering where three hours of your life went...

Visually and tonally as well, Civil War feels like two films in one.

And amazingly, none of this is a criticism.

Because, even hours after watching Civil War, it's stayed with me. And the only reason I'm not watching it again right now is I had to write this.

I was asked by a friend (yes, I do, but just the one) after I left the screening where I would place Civil War - was it up there with Guardians Of The Galaxy or Ant Man?

Yes, I think it is, but it's a very different film.

Both of those were huge amounts of fun, and while CW (shush, I get bored easily) has its lighter moments it is a much, much darker film by the end.

So let's look at the plus points, of which there are many.

The whole cast are on top form, the quips - when they appear - are sharp and quippy, the central Cap v Stark motif is gripping and there are a few surprises.

(Well, if you've stayed away from all the preview hype there are.)

Its running time, amazingly, doesn't drag and while I doubt you'd lose anything by shaving 20 minutes off it doesn't feel overblown.

But it's not perfect.

The early fight scenes are almost a blur as Anthony and Joe Russo try to jam as many of your fingers as possible into every available socket.

Then there's the graphics telling you we are in LONDON or BERLIN.

Subtlety was out of the office when that decision was made. In fact those captions are so intrusive they almost ruined the film.

Fortunately they piss off after a while and we can all relax and just get on with things.

The problem at the heart of CW is just how many characters and plot devices the team are trying to get in.

Already signed up for the next two Avengers films, it feels like the Russo boys are practicing to be as good as Joss Whedon was first time around.

And then something happens.

As the sides start to get drawn up, as the divisions and reasons behind them become clearer, the film calms down a bit and the drama and tension are allowed to creep forth and take hold of you.

And they do.

To the point that the ending almost sneaks up on you, as the climatic battle becomes infused with emotion.

It was at this point I was glad I knew there were two post-credit thingies, because I was genuinely in no rush to leave my seat such was the impact of the closing half hour.

Civil War is not perfect. It's overly ambitious and at times unnecessarily complicated.

But despite this, it entertains and grips in equal measure while showing Zack Snyder how you do something big without screwing it up.

If Marvel can maintain this level, DC might as well stick to the small screen...

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Demolition (15)

The great thing about the Odeon's Screen Unseen events is that you get to play a guessing game - they post clues online, and we the film fans get to guess which film is being previewed.

Then they post the film's name online by accident and everyone gets pissed off.

It's quite the laugh riot.

This week, people were trying to guess Demolition. I've no idea what the clues were, but if people did guess it I'd be amazed because this film is all over the place you'd need an intimate knowledge of the cast to get anywhere close.

Yet, amazingly, it's not a terrible film.

Granted it was helped by there being a trailer for Everybody Wants Some beforehand (which looks set to give Boyhood a run for its money), but for a film with no coherent narrative and only one emotionally engaging character it's not that bad.

The plot, such as it is, centres on Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis - a man slowly unravelling after his wife dies in a car crash.

Or not. Depending on your point of view.

On the night she dies a vending machine fails to vend some peanut M&Ms, leading Davis to write an overly-detailed letter to the company concerned.

Followed by several more.

The letters lead Naomi Watts' Karen to break the ethical code of all customer servicers and make contact out of hours.

From here, an unlikely relationship is formed.

Well, it would, wouldn't it.

If you can overlook the small matter of a man who didn't even notice his own fridge had been leaking for weeks suddenly pouring out his heart in minute detail to a total stranger, the opening half of the film takes a dark start and really tries to lift your spirits.

There are chuckles, there are actual laughs, and while Gyllenhaal and Watts have all the chemistry of two dry sponges their individual performances are fine.

Gyllenhaal has a knack for playing the emotionally barren, and here he's on fine form. You like Davis, and you even enjoy him taking things apart as he starts to examine what's happened in his life.

His saviour, so to speak, comes in the shape of a young boy (the excellent Judah Lewis), who provides some sense of order and focus to Davis' life.

Not much, granted, but some.

And it's at this point that you realise Demolition is essentially a mash-up of every naval-gazing movie you've been forced to sit through.

Unlikely man-woman thing going on? Tick.

Young child who is unusually mature? Tick.

Insights being gained and metaphors flying around like leaves in the wind? Tick.

It's pretty much got the lot.

But you can't hate it.

Not because it's good - it's not. And not because it has a strong message - because it really doesn't.

But because it means well.

Director Jean-Marc Vallee knows his way around a script (Dallas Buyers Club and Wild will tell you that much), and so can take the tortured threads of Bryan Sipe's script and give them heart and warmth.

It's clear he cares about the story and the characters, which means that while you're trying to work out why any of this is happening you at least do so surrounded by warmth and comfort.

As I may have mentioned, very little makes sense (Is it about depression? Is it about grief? Is it about finding your pack, your tribe, your group? Sure, why not) but for a good hour or so none of that really matters.

Sadly, the last half hour or so let things down a bit.

Things start to drag, points are laboured, things get rebuilt with amazing speed and ease and the final message is delivered with such blunt force (monkeys, that's all I'm saying) you'll likely suffer a concussion.

By rights you should hate this film, but thanks to its lighter touches, a delightful soundtrack and three strong - if disparate - performances, Demolition just about stands up.

It's well made, looks great and is pretty inoffensive - yes, I grant you, when that's a selling point you're struggling, but it's true.

Some, I'm sure, will come out raving about it. Others will wonder why they bothered.

But at least you won't hate it. Probably.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (12A)

Sometimes, there really is no point reviewing a film - people will flock to see it regardless what the critics think, and will only react if a review disagrees with their entrenched views.

Such a film is BvS.

Fans who love it are crying foul and looking for conspiracies because the rest of the world doesn't share their view (NEWSFLASH: Shit happens, grow up). If you like it, does it matter what a critic thinks?

No. It really doesn't. Get out more.

Billed as a sequel to Man Of Steel (which it isn't, it's far more a Batman film), Zak Snyder has again been given the keys to the toy cupboard and told to come up with a mahoosive blockbuster full of smash and bang.

And yet again he's failed.

If you thought Man Of Steel was dull, if you're still trying to work out how he ever got work again after Sucker Punch, BvS offers you no answers.

It will make you want to punch people though.

For almost two-and-a-half hours endless amounts of plot are thrown at the screen, Lois Lane is again a waste of celluloid (not Amy Adams' fault, the script fails her once more), Jesse Eisenberg looks completely lost as Lex Luthor and hints are dropped with the subtlety of neutron bombs as to who the dark-haired beauty might be.

Sitting there watching this, as minutes stretched ahead like days, several questions sprung to mind - not least, who approved this?

No film hits the screen without being tested and re-tested these days, not when this amount of money is being wasted - so how the hell did a film this dull, this badly directed, this badly written, actually make it to the screen?

Henry Cavill is fine as Superman, but his character has no depth so all he can do is look stern.

Ben Affleck, meanwhile, is simply channelling Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns - bringing us an older, wiser, more world-weary Batman.

Which he does well, but it really doesn't fit in a film which just uses dialogue to kill time between big smashy-up set pieces.

The film only really comes to life when Gal Gadot rocks up.

With clear on-screen chemistry with Affleck, Gadot adds a spark to a previously dire piece of leaden tosh.

Frankly she's not in the film enough, but then as she's only around to set up her own film you'd do just as well as to skip this entirely and catch up with her flick next year.

Or, wait for the forthcoming Justice League movie - because essentially all you've watched here is the world's longest trailer.

Speaking of which...

I get that people were excited about this film - Bats and Supes are huge icons of modern popular culture, with fans across the globe.

Sadly, this film does neither justice.

Hopefully, after this, someone will finally stop Snyder making such tedious crap.