In recent years, my relationship with the Star Wars franchise in its entirety has been in flux. Whether it be the disappointments of Episode VII: The Force Awakens or some of the recent novels like A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller or Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, I haven’t been enamoured of the franchise at all. There have been stand-outs such as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith and James Luceno’s Tarkin, but there haven’t been many. And I won’t even get into the new comics from Marvel since most of them are retreading the area already covered extensively under Dark Horse and I don’t have much interest in them. However, when Rogue One was announced as a stand-alone movie in the franchise, and a prequel to the original Star Wars no less, I was excited because it was going to focus on almost entirely new characters and present us with something that we hadn’t really seen before on such a major platform.
Cue this past Thursday when the movie finally released. The trailers had built up a lot of hype for me, who was desperately looking for something to cheer for after the failings of The Force Awakens. Yes, the story would go over some material from Dark Horse and what some of the earlier video games had covered, but it was still mostly uncharted territory. Additionally, the period of the Galactic Empire’s dominance of the galaxy is one of the most fascinating periods in Star Wars lore, and I was totally ready for this movie. It looked to have a really awesome cast with some great promised cameos and I was all-in. And you know what, the movie didn’t disappoint. It was almost everything that I wanted from The Force Awakens but never got, and then some.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers from the movie, especially the ending, so read at your own risk.
If you grew up in the 80s and 90s then you were at the forefront of the big boom in the video game industry when it comes to Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games. There were some downright amazing games in those days in this genre, particularly Age of Empires, WarCraft, StarCraft, Command & Conquer, Homeworld and countless others. The mid-to-late 90s were a great time to be an RTS fan. Many of these games left a lasting impression on me, having to do with both story and gameplay, and I remember them all fondly. If there are two games here that particularly struck a chord with me however, those are WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness and the original Homeworld, and I’ve been a fan of both ever since I got my first copies of either, about 18 years for the former and 15 for the latter. Good lord, I feel old now.
My interest and fascination WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness eventually led to me becoming a near-die-hard World of WarCraft player, and I was absolutely stoked when news came out that the series would be getting a movie franchise. And that in itself has been a long, long journey. After many false starts, Warcraft: The Beginning is finally here and it is a movie that absolutely captures the heart and soul of the 22-year old franchise. One big caveat for any WarCraft fan is that the movie plays fast and loose with the established lore, and that there are some significant changes made for the cinematic audience, but if you look beyond that, then you see something that just totally fits the aesthetics of the overall franchise.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers for the movie, WarCraft: Orcs & Humans, and some of the concurrent novels, both old and new. Proceed at your own peril.
Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is the second movie in the Captain America series, is very much the best movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man and The Avengers come very close, but The Winter Soldier is a well-balanced mix of action and intrigue that superhero movies in general would do well to emulate. And it gets even better in comparison with its predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger, which was a very lackluster and subdued affair with a boring villain and a boring plot. As such, the studio’s latest, Captain America: Civil War had a lot to live up too, and while it didn’t disappoint, it also left much to be desired.
Captain America: Civil War builds forward from the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron from last year, and takes the overall story of the MCU forward in a plot that sees conflicts develop between the team members, conflicts that were hinted at in The Avengers and which are now magnified from several angles. As a pure action movie, Civil War does not fail to entertain and is right on point. But as an adaptation of the infamous Civil War storyline from the comics, it is unsuccessful and unsatisfactory.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers for the movie and even some for the original comics the movie is adapted from, so read at your own peril.
Starting in the early Spring of 2012 with The Hunger Games, we’ve seen a new sensation in Hollywood, the adaptation of post-apocalyptic dystopian YA fiction, or thereabouts. It is the same kind of wave that happened in the wake of the incredible success of the Twilight movie adaptations, and as then, many such movies have come and gone with little in the way of any significant success. The Hunger Games made a star of its lead Jennifer Lawrence and the entire crew came back last year with Catching Fire, the sequel that really turned some heads and while it revisited some of the same concepts as its predecessor, the movie also promised a whole lot more, especially a war with the Capitol and President Snow.
This year’s Mockingjay Part 1 is the penultimate movie in the franchise. In a departure from the previous movies, it is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, though the adaptation is split into two movies, a decision I’m perfectly fine with, given the quality of the franchise. In this movie, we see how the rebellion against the Capitol really takes off as Katniss and the heretofore missing District 13 come together to oppose President Snow and the people of the Capitol and wage a war of intense propaganda. And in the middle of it all, the characters remain the focus as ever and we see some truly great scenes as the writers and the director explore what it is to live in this particular world, from both sides.
Tom Cruise is no stranger to action movies, and certainly not to science-fiction action movies, having done quite a few of them in his time, the latest up until a few weeks back being Oblivion, which was… tedious. I certainly didn’t like it, but Tom Cruise is a fairly decent actor, so he kind of gets a pass on that. When Edge of Tomorrow was announced last year, I was actually quite excited about it, especially since the trailer portrayed actress Emily Blunt in such a positive light, but I was wary of Cruise’s SF action after Oblivion and so when the movie came out, I was wary of all the hype it was getting.
I suppose that, in retrospect, I really should have had more faith in both Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, and certainly in a military SF movie like Edge of Tomorrow. Thing is, I went in with somewhat low expectations that were tempered by all the positive buzz I heard about the movie post-released, so I suppose that I was somewhat hyped for it, going in. And it proved to be really good. I enjoyed both Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in it, with great cameos by Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. The premise itself is a bit thin on the ground, but the execution is pretty damn good and visually the movie is excellent as well.
Most people are no doubt familiar with the 90’s version of Godzilla, with the film of the same name that starred Mathew Broderick in the main role with the human interest story focusing on a scientist and his run-in with the “King of Monsters”. I remember watching that movie several times as a kid. I thought it was pretty cool in those days. But when I moved to college in 2005 and started watching movies a lot more regularly, I began to see that the movie didn’t hold up so well, and once I started reading stuff about Godzilla, I realised that the movie was rather disappointing in its portrayal of of “Gojira“.
When the new movie was announced, I was rather excited, because it felt as if we would be getting a more faithful portrayal of the titular character and that this would cleave to some of the earliest portrayals as well. My excitement had more to do however with the expectation that the movie would simply be better than the 90s version, and in that I certainly wasn’t disappointed at all. The human interest story is still there of course,
Note:A major spoiler from roughly 30-40 minutes of play-time is mentioned in the review and this is the main story of the movie.
When The Amazing Spider-Man came out in 2012, opinions were polarised, largely because many people thought that it was far too soon for a reboot of the friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler, and I agree that it kind of was. But with a new direction that promised to atone for the mistakes of the trilogy, I was very excited for the movie. And I loved it. Andrew Garfield made a really great Peter Parker and captured the best of the character. And then there was Gwen Stacy, Spidey’s original girlfriend. She rocked that movie. With lots of mysteries, lots of action, and a great overall story, The Amazing Spider-Man stands for me as one of the best superhero movies to date.
And now we have The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the sequel, and this movie had me even more excited than I was for the first movie. Because we were getting another villain new to the Spidey movies in the form of Elektro and Jamie Foxx promised to be a great Elektro. But not only that, we also had Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin and Paul Giamatti as Rhino. The movie promised to be great, but there was a concern that it would fall under the weight of so many supervillains. Well, the reality is quite different indeed and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 proved that it was a better movie than its predecessor, which was already pretty damn good.
By 2011, the world of superhero movies was undergoing a dramatic transformation. Following on the success of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Marvel Studios had finally announced its plan for a shared movie universe by then, and we were getting two installments that same year, the first Thor and the first Captain America movies, all of which were to lead in to the first ever Avengers movie the year after. 2011 also saw the release of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: First Class, marking a resurgence in that franchise that is resulting in X-Men: Days of Future Past this year and in X-Men: Apocalypse in a couple more years. Marvel comics characters were enjoying unprecedented popularity, largely thanks to Marvel Studios’ own attempts, and it a great thing for the industry, to see superhero movies finally get a measure of respectability and mainstream approval. All the Marvel that had come before since the first X-Men movie and all the contributions by the various DC films (and others), were finally paying off.
But, Captain America: The First Avenger wasn’t as great a success as its makers had expected. The film made just short of $400 million on the box office, although it had a budget of a mere $65 million. What it did though , was perfectly setup the follow-up movie, Avengers, and that was a major success for everyone involved. Shedding his bad boy image as Johnny Storm from Fox Studios’ Fantastic Four franchise, Chris Evans was reincarnated as the Sentinel of Liberty and he delivered one of his best performances to date.
And now, almost three years later, we have the second Captain America movie, and this one is heck of a lot better than its predecessor in all respects. It has much better acting from everyone involved, whether we talk heroes or villains. It has much better visuals (at almost three times the budget of the first movie, overall!). It has a much better story. And it does some really, really crazy things. This is pretty much the kind of movie I expected to see on the big screen, if said movie is subtitled The Winter Soldier.
After the incredible success of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight franchise and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games franchise in recent years, Hollywood has gone crazy with Young Adult adaptations that feature female characters in the lead, or original movies geared to that crowd. Many movies have come and gone, such as the adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s first Mortal Instruments novel City of Bones or Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy novel. There are others of course, many of them, but these two adaptations stand as two of the biggest box office failures, the latter more so since it failed to break even the $10 million mark. And now we have the adaptation to Veronica Roth’s Divergent, the first in a trilogy.
Divergent is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world where we glimpse a very small slice of humanity, living in Chicago with the city walled off from the rest of the world, ostensibly because of some kind of monsters or some such. This small slice of humanity has divided itself into five different factions, based on their work priorities and once children reach a certain age, they are placed into one of these actions, either by choice or through a… test. What follows should be clear enough I hope. As such premises go, Divergent is mildly interesting. But the story doesn’t hold water, and the acting is also quite sub-par, meaning that the final result and my verdict is a big zero.
In various reviews and editorials over the last couple years I have mentioned how much I am a G.I.Joe fan, going back like seventeen years or so now. I used to love playing with the action figures, and watching the cartoons, and they were a huge part of my childhood. When I first heard of an actual live-action G.I.Joe movie, I was pretty excited, because I really, really wanted to see all those characters come alive on the big screen. But after seeing the movie, I could not have been more disappointed. It was a terrible movie that was barely any good at all.
And then last year we had the sequel, which had already been delayed for several months. I was cautious about it, hoping against hope that it would turn out to be a better movie than its predecessor. The trailers certainly looked halfway decent. But once again, the reality went completely south of my expectations. If you ask me which was the worst movie of the year, it was definitely G.I.Joe: Retaliation.
Note: This review contains spoilers for both G.I.Joe movies.
The Die Hard films can be a bit hit and miss, especially of late. The original movies are fairly decent, the new ones not so much. Last year, we got to see the fifth film in the franchise and its the worst of them all to date. As I said in my review of it last year, even the fourth film was quite a bit better than this. This one is just a regurgitation of the kind of things that made the previous movies good, but executed poorly.
A Good Day To Die Hard, apart from a ridiculously long name, is just not the kind of action movie I want to see, especially not one with Bruce Willis’ acting power behind it, which suffered here in fact. When the material is bad, not even one of the world’s best actors can do much about it.