sci-fi

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is loving being Spider-Man though he does feel guilty about continuing his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as he feels he’ll only put her in danger. That danger soon arrives in the form of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and as Peter tries to deal with this new threat while still coming to terms with the secrets of his parent’s past, his best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York.

Watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 now, knowing this was Andrew Garfield’s last outing at the titular character and the filmmakers/studio never brought to screen the Sinister Six they spent a chunk of this film setting up, is a very funny and kind of a sad experience.

Because by the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 you can’t help but feel it’s an extended set up for what never came. There are so many plots in this film and if a few were cut out or even shortened it might have made a more cohesive film and the plots left might’ve been more effective. In the end, there’s a lot of things that felt pointless and repetitive.

Speaking of repetitive, the on and off again romance between Peter and Gwen got old very quickly. While yes, they’re supposed to be awkward teens in love they just kept going over the same arguments about why they should or shouldn’t be together. Garfield and Stone still have great chemistry but there’s only so many times you can watch two people have the same argument or talk at cross-purposes.

Another aspect that felt pointless and dull was all the stuff about Peter’s parents – or rather his father, his poor mum certainly got shafted. There was one minor detail revealed once Peter learns more about his dad but it’s more of a “Oh that’s cool” thing rather than having any major narrative impact. Otherwise, anything to do with his dad seems to say Oscorp is bad – something which was already pretty clear from the first film. In The Amazing Spider-Man you learnt that Peter’s dad didn’t want his research getting into the wrong hands and in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it just rams that point home again.

Electro is a pretty decent villain. His looks and powers are interesting though (like another character) his decent into villainy felt far too quick, especially because of where he started. Before he got his powers, he was a nerdy guy who was a pushover and idolised Spider-Man so seeing him first of all be scared and overwhelmed by what was happening to him felt true to character. How he changed from loving Spider-Man to hating him so quickly felt more out of place.

Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is still one of the best we’ve seen on screen. He’s confident, cracking jokes and poking fun at the bad guys, but the problem is that the attitude bleeds into his Peter Parker. While his Peter Parker is clearly more intelligent than the Maguire version (always like the scenes where Peter is doing experiments to improve his web shooters) he doesn’t seem as awkward, quiet and nerdy.

Surprisingly considering how little screentime and decent character development he had, I once again both really liked and felt sorry for Harry Osborn. Though, I probably would’ve liked his arc a lot more if it was given more time and his decent into villainy wasn’t shoehorned into the end of the film. Also, having Peter and Harry be childhood friends reconnecting is a neat way of getting him back into Peter’s life but there’s only really one scene where you see them bonding and acting like friends before Harry starts to want something from Peter. Cutting out some of the will they/won’t they stuff with Peter and Gwen to give us more scenes of Harry and Peter could’ve helped all three of those characters.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just has too much going on and now there was never a third film in this series the flaws seem even more obvious. It’s messy when trying to juggle all these plot threads and while many of the Spidey scenes are great fun and action-packed, there’s a bit of a videogame quality to them due to the CGI.

I’ll end this on a positive, I did like the score by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger, Junkie XL, Johnny Marr, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro. Electro’s theme especially was eerie with the whispers underscoring the techno and it really suited the character. 2/5.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

After getting bitten by a genetically-engineered spider, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds himself with amazing new abilities. As Peter begins to look into the secrets of his father’s (Campbell Scott) past, he meets Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) whose own life-altering research turns him into something dangerous.

The Amazing Spider-Man sure had a lot to live up to in comparison to the (first two) Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. It’s hard to not compare the two but I’ll try my best. The Amazing Spider-Man does have some of the same narrative beats but it’s impossible not to when you’re adapting the origin story of a character who has been around for decades.

Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a different kind of nerdy kid compared to Tobey Maguire’s Peter. Because, as 21 Jump Street showed, what’s nerdy and cool changes over time. Things Peter may get picked on now is not what he’d get picked on ten years ago. Side note: the Tom Holland films continue this trend of what makes Peter nerdy/unpopular.

Peter is quiet and smart and a little awkward and when he suddenly gets superpowers, he is definitely not responsible with them to begin with. He has some power now and uses that to make him feel better and even embarrass those who used to bully him. You get to see Peter change and grow and he’s definitely more of an angsty teen and it’s totally un but is just as understandable why. The fact he feels abandoned by his parents (though naturally the focus is on his father) is a big part of this Peter’s personality. He is desperate for answers does some reckless things to get them.

Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is Peter’s love interest and the two of them are actually quite sweet and work well together. She’s smart and a bit awkward too but it just as smart as Peter, if not more so. Stone and Garfield have great chemistry and it’s nice for the romantic lead to know of Peter’s secret identity from the outset. Having that dynamic means that she can help him when he’s Spider-Man as well as when he’s Peter Parker.

It does feel like The Amazing Spider-Man has a wasted opportunity with the villain. Dr Connors/the Lizard is sort of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario but Dr Connors never gets enough character development for you to really care about him. He’s a guy in a lab coat and as the focus is more on Peter and his dad’s connection to Dr Connors’ research, you never really get to see more of him than the scientist part of his life.

Overall, the action sequences are pretty great and the moment in finale with building cranes is a nice touch of the support Spidey has from New Yorkers – because this Spider-Man has been on the job for a far shorter time when he has his big final battle than Maguire’s Spider-Man had in his first film.

Personally, I find The Amazing Spider-Man good but not outstanding or thrilling like most of the Raimi films were upon rewatch. I think my main problem with this film (and from the little I remember of it; I have a feeling it’ll be a bigger problem in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is the focus on Peter’s dad and the secrets he had. While I admire them putting a different spin on the story (and maybe in the comics Peter’s dad was a man of mystery, I don’t know) it kinda makes Peter Parker/Spider-Man not so much of the focus of his own story anymore. Also, while I understood why Peter was acting as he was when avoiding his grief, I didn’t particularly like him then, and I never got as attached to him (or any of the other characters) as quickly as I did with the Raimi version – but then again, maybe that is nostalgia talking. 3/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

I remembered very little of Spider-Man 3 going into it and what I did know/remember was more the general consensus of it rather than how I felt about it myself. Watching it now, about 15 years since I last saw it in its entirety, I can certainly say that Spider-Man 3 is a bit of a mess. There are some great action sequences and character moments but it’s all bogged down by trying to juggle too many characters.

Was Spider-Man 3 the origins of the “too many villains” flaw? Because I definitely feel like removing one of the villains and tweaking the script here and there would have solved a lot of the film’s problems. By having three villains as well as a lot of relationship drama between Peter (Tobey Maguire) and MJ (Kirsten Dunst) not enough time is really spent on any of them to flesh them out. Well Harry Osborn’s (James Franco) arc mostly works but that’s down to two prior films worth of character work.

Peter and MJ were having issues long before “Venom” became involved in Peter’s life so if that plot/villain was scrapped then there’d still be a lot of the conflict between the two of them and then more time could have been spent on the other villains – Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Harry Osborn’s descent into becoming the New Goblin as he’s called in this film. Peter and MJ are having issues because for the first time their fortunes are reversed.

In previous films Peter has been the loser, struggling to hold a job and be Spider-Man at the same time while MJ has been the popular, successful Broadway star with confidence in who she is and her dreams. In Spider-Man 3 you have a Peter Parker who is totally comfortable with his dual life and enjoys being Spider-Man and in some ways because of that becomes oblivious to MJ’s struggles. MJ on the other hand is now the one with a struggling career and is having knocks to her confidence at every turn, even by Peter though it’s not intentional on his part.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read over the years that it was studio interference that meant “Venom” had to be included in Spider-Man 3 but so much of the conflict that the symbiote exacerbated was already there, it just made Peter an asshole rather than a clueless idiot when it came to people in his life he’s supposed to care about.

The CGI in Spider-Man 3 is noticeably worse than in the previous two films. Scenes where Spider-Man is swinging through the city look weird and Spider-Man looks like a computer-generated character, all plasticky and not real. Also, maybe sand monsters never look great on camera as some of those sequences reminded me of The Mummy and not necessarily in a good way – a film with almost ten years-worth of special effects advancement shouldn’t look as good as and sometimes worse than a film from the 1990s.

The sequence where Harry first attacks Peter is pretty good though and is a personal highlight of the film. The way there’s longer shots and the camera swoops around following the two of them as they fly/swing through the city is genuinely engaging.

Like I said in my Spider-Man 2 review, I did not expect this revisit to the Raimi trilogy to have me loving Harry Osborn so much but that love is even more prevalent in Spider-Man 3. The ending of Spider-Man 3 is one of the few things I could really remember about this film going into it so when Harry with memory loss called MJ and Peter his best friends and he’d die for them it was just such sad foreshadowing. The three of them love each other so much that even the final scene where MJ and Peter are reunited, it’s not really a grand romantic moment! They don’t kiss, they just hold each other with tears in their eyes as they are the only person who understands the grief they are going through.

While obviously there was never a Spider-Man 4, it would have been interesting to see what this Peter and MJ would’ve been like without Harry. Because the three of them seemed to help each other in different ways and both Peter and MJ got something from their relationship with Harry that they didn’t necessarily get from each other.

Overall Spider-Man 3 is not great but it’s my love of the central trio and their relationship that makes me not hate it as much as some seem to. I guess Spider-Man 3 follows the pattern for me that if there’s characters that I like in a form of media, if I enjoy spending time with those characters the film/TV show around them could be terrible but I wont care too much if what’s happening in the plot doesn’t destroy the characters I love. Though Peter Parker certainly came close to falling down in my estimations a number of times in this film. 3/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 is truly a fantastic film, never mind a fantastic superhero film. Upon rewatch after seeing so many other MCU and DCEU films (some of which I do generally love) it’s easy to see why Spider-Man 2 is still considered to be one of the best examples of a superhero film. It’s fun, the character work great, the “low stakes” relationship drama is just as compelling as the high stakes battles with the villains.

Spider-Man 2 builds on what was laid out in the first film with great success. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to juggle life as Spider-Man while also going to college and holding a job. Meanwhile Harry Osborn (James Franco) is now the head of his father’s company and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has made it as an actor and has a starring role on stage and is dating an astronaut who happens to be J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) son.

The idea of Peter losing his Spider-Man-abilities because he’s torn between two lives is a really interesting one. This is where this Peter Parker having organic webs shooting from his wrists rather than being something he built really works. He has no control as he’s becoming indecisive over what he wants, if he doesn’t want to be Spider-Man, he can’t be Spider-Man. Likewise, you get to see how good a person Peter Parker is even without the suit and the powers. He runs into a burning building to save a little girl because that’s the right thing to do and he can’t walk away. Side note: the moment where the little girl helps pull him up is one of the sweetest things ever.

Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) is a brilliant villain because through one small dinner scene with him, his wife (Donna Murphy), and Peter you get to see the man who likes poetry and loves his wife and science. Having the robotic arms have powerful AI be part of the cause of his descent into villainy is a clever idea. He’s smart, perhaps too smart, and comes up with a failsafe to protect himself but when that fails and he sees the love of his life die in front of him, it’s easy to see how he’d be manipulated by AI that’s smarter than him to solely focus on redoing the experiment no matter the cost.

The action sequences in Spider-Man 2 are still some of the best in the superhero movie genre. They are shot so you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another and the majority of them happen in the daytime so that along with not being too heavily edited means you can see what’s happening. The bank sequence is a lot of fun and is a great prelude to Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s next confrontation. The train sequence is still something that stands out even after over 15 years or more superhero movies. It’s exciting and while it’s a fight between Peter and Doc Ock it’s also a fight for Spider-Man to save the passengers on the train. The New Yorker’s standing up for Spider-Man is something that still gets me in the feels. It shows the good of the average person and how while the Daily Bugle and others may hate Spider-Man, there’s still many who feel like he’s a hero.

One thing I didn’t expect to get from this film was how much I empathised with Harry Osborn. He’s constantly in people’s shadows and no wonder it makes him act out. First it was his father, never living up to his expectations and pleasing him, and then Peter, not being as smart as him or being the one that MJ wants out of the two of them. I’m looking forward to seeing what I make of Spider-Man 3 after not seeing it for so long as there’s so much good groundwork laid in this film for Harry’s arc. He feels lost and desperate after suddenly being thrust into the role of head of Oscorp and then finding out that his best friend is who is (supposedly) to blame for his father’s death. It’s a lot for him and while Harry’s plot is a minor part of Spider-Man 2, James Franco does a great job with what he’s given.

Spider-Man 2 is truly a brilliant film. Even after all this time it’s still the film other Spider-Man films aspire to be as great as. It’s the combination of Peter’s struggles with responsibility and the various relationships in his life, it’s the villain that can be very creepy and almost horrifying at times, and it’s just how there is still humour to be found even though Peter’s life really does suck the majority of the time. 5/5.

REVIEW: Eternals (2021)

The Eternals, a race of immortal and powerful beings, have lived on Earth for centuries. Their mission was to protect its people from creatures called Deviants but when a new danger threatens Earth and its people, they decide to take a stand to protect the place they’ve learnt to call home.

Eternals is the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in some ways it’s different to what has come before, but in others it falls into the general tropes of the MCU. The scope of Eternals is huge and there’s a lot of information to take in about these characters and their history. They are all pretty much demigods with different powers and how they fight together, using those different powers is really fun to watch. And while they are all from the same place originally, they each have experienced different things in their thousands of years on Earth and that along with their general core beliefs make them different to one another.

There are ten Eternals so natural some characters get more development than others but each character gets at least one very cool moment, whether it’s a quiet, dramatic moment or something in a big fight scene. Sersi (Gemma Chan) could be considered the lead in this ensemble cast. She, along with Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sprite (Lia McHugh), is the one who sets out to find the others and bring them all together to stop this new threat. Sersi is a character whose core values are really love and kindness. She’s always liked and cared for the people of Earth even when some of her companions thought them to be not worth saving or a danger to themselves.

A lot of the comedic moments come from Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) and his human valet Karun (Harish Patel). With Karun, he could’ve easily become an annoying comedic side character but the film knows exactly when to use him to its advantage and he actually has a really heartfelt moment which I did not expect. Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos also has some funny moments but his humour is a lot more subtle and dry and having that kind of humour balances out the more typical MCU-type humour which was nice.

The cast and the characters are what made Eternals for me. These characters have all lived different lives but they all still care about one another. They do often seem like a dysfunctional family and no dynamic between two characters is the same. There are friendships or maybe even romantic relationships between various characters that are stronger than between others but that’s true to life in any kind of friendship group or family. It doesn’t make any of the relationships lesser and instead adds something to the various characters motivations. The chemistry between certain actors was great if unexpected – Barry Keoghan’s Druig and Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari were a standout.

The cinematography in Eternals is often stunning and that has to be at least in part due to director Chloé Zhao and her love of natural lighting and filming in real locations. At times this does make the CGI a bit more noticeable when it is used as the blend of the real and computer-generated doesn’t always hit the mark.

Eternals is a bit more of a serious MCU film as it presents lofty ideas and themes about humanity and the value of life of one species vs another. It’s the kind of film where even though you see the worst of humanity, you can also see the best and its potential. But with all these serious discussions, there’s also spectacular fight sequences where it’s really fun to see these characters work together.

There’s a lot to take in, but overall Eternals manages to be an engaging and hopeful story with fun action sequences and a lot of mythology to get your teeth into – and there’s enough in the film itself and its two post-credit scenes to get you interested in a sequel. 4/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man (2002)

As Spider-Man: No Way Home is being released next month and there’s talk of it including multiple universes and characters we’ve seen from past Spider-Man franchises (I watched the first trailer when it was released in August and have done by best to avoid everything Spider-Man-related ever since) I thought it was about time to revisit some of the previous iterations of Spider-Man. I’ve reviewed Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home but I’m pretty sure I’ve never reviewed the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. Plus, I’ve not even seen many of those films in their entirety for years, or in some cases, since the cinema.

As these films are older and are rewatches there may be some vague spoilers in these reviews.

So to kick it off we go back to the beginning and to the Summer of 2002. I was 10 years old when Spider-Man came out and I distinctly remember seeing it in the cinema with my dad, my (much older) sister and her then-boyfriend. I know I enjoyed it then and on rewatch nearly 20 years later I still really enjoy it.

What director Sam Raimi did with Spider-Man is really help lay the blueprint of how brilliant a superhero movie could be. There are a lot of elements at play in this film with the different characters and relationships and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) doesn’t even get into his Spider-Man suit until practically half way through the film. But that doesn’t bother me because the things going on in Peter’s life are just as compelling as any Spidey-related adventure.

Spider-Man sets up the relationship/potential love triangle between Peter, his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) and the girl he’s been in love with forever Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) so well. You get why Peter and Harry are friends even though they come from completely different worlds and you get why Mary Jane would be attracted to both Peter and Harry. All three of them have believable relationships with one another.

Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is one of those instances of perfect casting. Ever since I saw him in Speed 2: Cruise Control Dafoe has been able to freak me out with just his eyes – he can put so much intensity/craziness in his eyes it’s almost concerning. How the Green Goblin toys with Peter is so good. He believes he knows what makes Spider-Man tick and once he figures out who Spider-Man is he’s even more certain of it. The scenes where it’s just Norman Osborn talking to the Green Goblin, either via the mask or a mirror are just captivating. They’re unsettling and show so much of the two sides of this character. Because really, while Norman Osborn may have pushed his son and his staff, he was also someone who wanted to succeed in their business ventures and wasn’t necessarily an inherently cruel person until he became the Green Goblin.

Some of the CGI may now look a bit dated but on the whole the action set pieces really hold up. The attack on the parade is fun with how Spider-Man bounces on the giant balloons and how he goes between fighting Green Goblin to rescuing bystanders shows what kind of a hero he is. The hand-to-hand fights with Green Goblin are pretty brutal and Peter Parker sure goes through a lot in this film. All the fight and action sequences are well shot and choregraphed and you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another.

I have to mention J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson – an actor who made the role his own that there was no way he could be played by anyone else in any of the other Spider-Man franchises. J. Jonah Jameson is loud and brash but he’s also quick-witted and all the scenes at the Daily Bugle are funny because of him and his various underlings. What really stood out to me (because I’d completely forgotten about it) is that that when he’s being threatened by the Green Goblin who wants to know who takes Spider-Man’s picture, James lies. He says he doesn’t know and they’re sent in the mail. He might be a mean and rude boss but it shows he does care about Peter Parker and the rest of his staff. He has a moral backbone and won’t sell out his staff. It’s little moments like that in Spider-Man that make a lot of the character work stand out.

Spider-Man is a very entertaining superhero film and is truly one of the great origin stories. It’s filled with drama and action and so many believable characters. Seeing Spider-Man swing through New York still looks fantastic and when that Spider-Man theme by Danny Elfman kicks in it’s hard not to get goosebumps. 5/5.

REVIEW: Dune (2021)

After his family, the House of Atreides, is called to take ownership of the planet Arrakis, Paul (Timothée Chalamet) becomes entangled in the war for the most valuable resource in the galaxy.

I read Dune by Frank Herbert a few years ago and saw the 1984 film version earlier this year so I did have some background knowledge going into this latest adaptation which is a good thing as Dune as a story is still incredibly dense with political intrigue and various people and families being important.

Dune is indeed absolutely stunning to look at. There’s no denying that director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser have put together a fantastic looking film that really emphasises the scope of this story and makes all space craft look huge and tangible. The size of ships and rooms in cities may mean there’s a lot of space but the way things are shot and how the tension builds between some characters means that there’s often a claustrophobic feel to things too. Everything is so vast but as there’s so many things out there looking to harm Paul and those he cares about – huge sand worms and other Houses included – that it feels like there’s a threat from every corner.

The huge score from Hans Zimmer also contributes to this. It often compliments the shots on screen but some of the musical choices (I’m talking about the bagpipes) does feel a bit out of place. Though House of Atreides and Arrakis each have a distinct theme which is always nice to hear and it’s always nice to hear echoes of music throughout a film.

Dune has a huge and talented cast and some (Zendaya and Javier Bardem) are not in it much at all but they all do give great performances. Chalamet does a fine job being pretty much the centre of the whole thing but the two standouts were Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother Lady Jessica and Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, one of Duke Leto’s (Oscar Isaac) right-hand men. Ferguson captures the many sides of Jessica brilliantly. She’s composed and skilled while also barely containing her terror in one key scene. Before even Paul or you as the viewer know what he’s about to face you are on edge thanks to her performance. On the other end of the scale, you have Jason Momoa. While Ferguson is restrained, Momoa is exuberant in all situations, even battles. Every time Jason Momoa comes on screen it’s like the film got a shot of adrenalin. He is charismatic and charming and Momoa seems like he’s just having a great time being a space warrior who also manages to befriend everyone. Duncan Idaho is like a mentor to Paul and their dynamic is great and he’s such an affable character that it’s hard not to enjoy his presence whenever he’s on screen.

Most of the problems I have with Dune the film are the ones I had in Dune the book. It’s a dense story with a lot of political machinations and moving parts, and a lot of the characters aren’t afforded much depth. Chalamet does a fine job at Paul but the problem lies with the kind of character Paul is, he’s a prophesised saviour-type of character and so while there’s moments where you can see he’s smart or skilled, you never really get to see who he is as a person. It’s difficult to connect with a lot of the characters because there’s so much to take in about each of them, and with many of them it’s their sense of duty or legacy that comes across more than any kind of appealing personality.

Another problem with Dune is that it’s technically part one of the story. This would be less worrying if two things had happened. One, that the second film was confirmed to be happening – at the moment it seems to be dependent on how much money this one makes etc. And two, if this film actually felt like it had a beginning, middle and an end. This film just stops and in some ways a lot seems to have happened, and in others it doesn’t seems to have achieved anything at all. If anything, it feels like it stops hallway through the second act, so there has been a lot of setup but not a lot of resolution. Even films like The Lord of the Rings that are three distinct parts of one overall story each have three clear acts. With Dune you can’t help but feel a bit dissatisfied.

There is no denying the impressive filmmaking that produced Dune. The special effects often look invisible making you believe in these worlds and the technology and people that live in them, and the whole atmosphere of the film is very distinct. The cast are great too but it’s the story structure and the story itself that doesn’t quite stand up to how the film is presented. Maybe if/when we get a Dune Part Two it’ll make this film go up in my estimations. For now, it looks great, but much like the novel I cared little for the story or most of the characters. 3/5.

REVIEW: Boss Level (2021)

Retired Special Forces officer, Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo), is seemingly trapped in a never-ending time loop that restarts as soon as he dies.

I shall start off this review by saying perhaps you shouldn’t read this review. Because Boss Level is one of those films that is truly a delight and perhaps works even better when you know nothing about it. All I knew was that it starred Frank Grillo (an actor I always like) and I’d seen some positive buzz about it on my Twitter feed. But I enjoyed this film enough to want to write about it so do read on if you fancy learning about why Boss Level worked for me.

Boss Level begins by throwing you right into the time loop with Roy. By this point he’s died over 100 times and can predict and counter the moves of his attackers. His dry narration sets the tone of the film and shows just how bored he is of going through the motions. People are trying to kill him and he doesn’t know why and sometimes he doesn’t even care. By starting the story after Roy is used to his predicament, you’re learning about any new occurrences as he does and it adds to the mystery of it all.

Boss Level is also really fun and often funny. The fights, car chases and shootouts are great, and as there’s so much trial and error for Roy as he goes through certain scenarios (the error leading to his death again) you get to see how his skills grow as he learns what works and what doesn’t in a fight. The editing between the different loops as Roy gets further and further before dying is great too. How the film never over explains things and manages to briefly show you the steps Roy has taken since waking up without it ever getting boring is impressive. It trusts the audience to understand the time loop scenario (as there’s been many a time loop film) so if we join Roy in a loop further along, we have a good idea of what he’s already had to do since it’s pretty much the same every time.

The humour comes from Roy’s attitude to this situation he’s in, and from a lot of his deaths. Some are so sudden and unexpected while others he just sighs and waits for it to happen. Frank Grillo’s voice suits the almost wry narration style perfectly and he looks good doing a lot of the fight sequences himself. There are times where the tone gets more sombre, almost naturally there’s a lost love, but Grillo handles those moments well too.

Boss Level is action packed and innovative. The reasoning why Roy is stuck in a time loop is slowly revealed and the action and fights are always entertaining. Boss Level is just a real good time and it’s one of the first new-to-me films I’ve watched in a while that I’ve fully enjoyed and not just thought was simply fine. Honestly, I was starting to think I didn’t know how to like films anymore! 4/5.

REVIEW: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

As Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is set to be released this summer and looks pretty good, I thought I’d revisit the previous two live-action G.I. Joe films.

After their convoy was destroyed in an attempt to steal highly dangerous warheads, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) join an elite military unit comprised of special operatives known as G.I. Joe to help take down the evil organisation that’s after them.

I’ve watched G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra once before and that must be close to ten years ago as I remember recording it off the TV, so while I knew I had watched it, I really couldn’t remember much about it – besides the almost ridiculous cast. Also, I have never read a G.I. Joe comic, seen the cartoon or was even that aware of the action figures – here in the UK Action Man was the military toy I remember as a kid. So, whether or not this film is true to the characters and world of G.I. Joe I have no idea.

Let’s talk about the cast of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. There are a lot of great actors in this film though very few of them give great performances. Channing Tatum appears to be just going through the motions, and both Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols were pretty bland too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is near unrecognisable thanks to his costume and voice performance and Christopher Eccleston seems to be having a whale of a time as a Scottish weapons manufacturer with nefarious schemes. The Mummy alumni Arnold Vosloo and Brendan Fraser also make appearances, Fraser’s being very random and is more of a cameo. It’s like that all these actors don’t quite no where to hit it on the serious to fun scale of their performances so it doesn’t feel very cohesive. Plus, a lot of the characters get little to no backstory or characterisation besides stereotypes like “brash leader” or “tech guy” so it’s hard to get attached to any of them.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra has a lot of CGI-heavy action sequences and makes full use of the budget to show secret bases under the Sahara Desert and the polar ice caps. Some CGI shots look a bit ropey, mostly from the chase sequence in Paris, but on the whole it still looks decent if excessive – that underwater base with the submarine dogfights truly is something.

While the abundance of CGI and explosions gets old quickly, the sword fights between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) stand out. The stunt work is great and while many of the other characters just seem to have super suits or big guns, these two actually have skills and with their backstories entwined, anytime they go toe to toe is a highlight in an otherwise bland action film.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is very silly and mindless. As so many of the characters lack interesting or any characterisation, they aren’t memorable. The only two that aren’t so easily forgotten are Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and part of that is due to the distinctive costuming. Otherwise, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is pretty forgettable and even as you watch it it’s easy to get bored. 2/5.

REVIEW: X-Men: Dark Phoenix

After an accident on a space mission, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) begins to develop powers beyond her control. Her fellow X-Men fight to help her while other forces seek to either destroy or control her.

Oh boy is X-Men: Dark Phoenix a mess. It looks and feels like everyone involved didn’t really care much anymore. For all we know that may have been the case as Disney had bought Fox during the films production or post-production, so it was pretty much presumed that this was likely to be the last X-men film with these characters and actors. The special effects aren’t great, and the makeup and prosthetics are even worse. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is a horrible shade of blue and looks far worse than she did in the previous three films Lawrence played the character in.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg who is better known as a writer and producer. In fact, Dark Phoenix was his directorial debut and it wasn’t particularly well directed to be honest. In action sequences they are either incredibly static and not interesting or they’re more chaotic and you have little idea of the space these characters are fighting in relation to one another.

The characterisation of some of the characters in this film is awful, if they are even given much to do. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) are often side-lined, while Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) loses his dorky innocence and becomes a coldblooded killer, not dissimilar to the mind-controlled version in X2 and it’s incredibly jarring. The biggest character assassination is Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). He is the absolute worst in this film. He’s self-absorbed and almost power-hungry before things go wrong and when you learn of his involvement in Jean’s trauma it makes him look even worse. While Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is hardly doing anything new – trying to live the quiet life but then gets pulled into a conflict – as least Fassbender actually gives a good performance which is more than a lot of his co-workers did.

I’m a big fan of the found family trope (there’s a reason why the Fast and Furious films are some of my favourites) and even how they shoehorned that idea into the climax of this film couldn’t save it for me. Speaking of the climax, it happens on a train and is one of the most visually uninteresting sequences ever.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a sour note to potentially end this X-Men franchise on. The dialogue is bad with some really cringey lines, the plot is barely there and there are so many factions going after Jean that while I believe it to be comic book accurate, the addition of Jessica Chastain’s undeveloped character and compatriots feels unnecessary and there’s enough going on that it might’ve been a better film without them. I’d prefer to watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine than this. 1/5.