Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review by Sherwin Claridge

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Spoiler warning…

Now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into action and is the third big-screen incarnation of the Spider-Man character in the modern era. Spider-Man: Homecoming is directed by Jon Watts and stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau. 

Homecoming picks up directly after the events of the Avengers (2012) movie where Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, unveils an organised underground criminal ring headed by Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture, while trying to juggle his superhero self-discovery with hormones, girls and high-school academia.

Director Jon Watts successfully manages to tell Peter Parker’s coming-of-age story in a grounded and personal way while placing it in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside the likes of Iron Man. Tom Holland shines as Spidey and the charming teen making tough decisions under the cruel-to-be-kind guidance of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Used sparingly, RDJ’s presence not only adds the father-figure element but also reaffirms that Spider-Man has returned to Marvel, so to speak, and come home. The supporting cast is also excellent with comic relief coming from the extremely likable nerdy best friend Jacob Batalon’s Ned and an Aunt May by Marisa Tomei that makes a refreshing change.

Cinematic Marvel villains are often criticised for lacking character but Homecoming manages to buck the trend and add significant depth to Vulture’s character motivations which evolves dramatically in the last third of the movie when we realise he is the father of Liz, Peter’s love interest. Also, I loved Vulture’s aviation-inspired character design with its searing green eyes and deadly sharp mechanised wings and couldn’t wait to see more in its glory on the big-screen.

Initially, I was unsure how this version of Spider-Man relies heavily on the suit Tony Stark gives him as a consequence of Captain America: Civil War (2016). Peter has a lot of gadgets at his disposal which gets him out of a lot of sticky situations and ultimately lifts some tension. There is a lack of the classic ‘spider-sense’ ability too, which I’m dubbing ‘SenseGate’. But, I enjoyed how Tony decides to take the suit away from him, which happens later in the movie than I expected, and Parker’s character grows because of it.

I also would have liked to see a little bit more from the intriguing and funny Michelle, who turns out to be the new MJ.  I hope she will be fleshed out more in the sequels and maybe get a Spidey suit of her own?

The Verdict

Spider-Man: Homecoming manages to shake up the formula but still retain most of the familiar aspects and remind us why Spider-Man is the most beloved comic book character ever. The movie is extremely fun, colourful and full of action and is without a doubt an entertaining ride. The biggest compliment I can give is, that while fitting snuggly into a bigger universe the film successfully works and stands on its own.

4 Stars

Dear Me... by Sherwin Claridge

Dear Me,

You’re 18 years old and you are embarking on your dream to play in a band and become a rock star because you picked up a guitar one day and thought ‘bloody hell, I’m having this’…

Unfortunately, ol’ buddy ol’ pal, it doesn’t quite happen. Not yet any way. All is not lost because you made it to 30 (just about).

In Arctic Monkey’s fashion you want to title a song called ‘You Don’t Know You're In It Until You’re Out Of It’, and you’re even contemplating being trendy and removing all the vowels so it would be called “Y DNT KNW YR N T NTL YR T F T”. However, I’m pretty sure 'Y' is a semivowel so removing that would just make it incomprehensible, right? I guess, that’s the life lesson here. Not vowels and consonants but the realisation you’ve done some amazing things and met some amazing people so don’t take for granted everything you have accomplished.

You’ve played to thousands of people, have your music played through the halls of Abbey Road, Fearne Cotton retweeted you, NME wrote you up, played on TV, you’re on Spotify, BBC6, had your face on a T-shirt, and a freakin’ Sex Pistol has opened up for you. Some of these have been over-exaggerated for effect...

But you go on a European tour in 2012 across the UK, France and Spain, organised by you and your friends, Kike, Flo and Adam and you look back fondly on it. I close my eyes and I’m on a beach in Bezier knocking a ball around and getting sand up everywhere. I’m in a Spanish desert surrounded by cacti eating camembert for lunch. It’s 2am, stranded in Dover, it’s the Queen’s Jubilee with 500 other passengers trying to get to Calais. It’s your third gig in Madrid and I’m about to throw up Calamari on stage. Singing “we could be lovers” on a dark side street to the small gathering crowd while waiting for Anne the Sharan to park up.

You..

Have…

Life…

Experience.

So, here you are.

You’re more excited about music more than ever. You're writing is the best it’s ever been. You’re embarking on the next stage of your life. You are starting your Masters in Computer Games Technology because deep down you’re really a big fat nerd and you’ve met the woman who you’ll spend the rest of your life with.

The older you get the more you realise to surround yourself with like-minded people that love you and support you. Drop the ones who don’t. Don’t worry too much how you are perceived and be kind and try to inspire people along the way.

Your more handsome self,

Sherwin

 

 

 

The Dark Knight: A Retrospective by Sherwin Claridge

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It is difficult to think back to what the cinematic landscape of superhero movies looked like before The Dark Knight was released in July, 2008. At the time we, as the movie going public, had seen exceptional movies such as X-Men 2, Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins, many great movies but yet to reach the heights of what The Dark Knight was about to accomplish.

Spoilers ahead…

The Dark Knight stars Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman. Christopher Nolan directs with a screenplay penned by himself and brother Jonathan Nolan.

Set a year after Batman Begins the story evolves from a plot conceived by Batman, Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to take down the mob by going after their most valued possession - their money. This in turn attracts the attention of criminal mastermind and an anarchic menace only known as The Joker and thus chaos ensues in the streets of Gotham.

“…Because you were the best of us!”
- Batman

The pace in which this film plays out is enthralling. It unfolds like an investigative thriller with carefully interwoven plot points that always move at a relentless speed. A lot happens in this movie with huge character arcs such as Bruce Wayne and Dent’s demise and the conclusion of Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes’ relationship, hence its 152 minute runtime.

Notable set pieces include the car chase sequence where The Joker pursues Harvey Dent’s police caravan leaving a trail of motorised devastation. Nolan completes that sequence by not only flipping an 18-wheeler truck but more importantly The Joker is captured by a not-so-dead Jim Gordon. However, my personal favourite is the Batman in Hong Kong sequence. From the breathtaking opening shot of Batman gliding off the edge of that building and smashing through the window to the awe-inspiring sky hook moment I held my breath.

Also, The Joker’s lack of morals, compassion and understanding perfectly counterweight Batman’s ideals and beliefs and makes for a tense and thrilling watch as these two DC juggernauts go head to head. One of the wisest things the writers ever did happened in Batman Begins – saving arch nemesis The Joker for the sequel. Begins managed to successfully introduce Bruce Wayne/Batman and his origins into a dark and realistic world in which we could be wholly invested in. The Dark Knight fittingly improves tenfold on its predecessor’s foundations.

“This is what happens when an unstoppable force…meets an immovable object.”
- The Joker

Above all else, after several viewings I was still discovering subtle story points and peeling back the layers of plot The Dark Knight had to offer. As a viewer I had been given the respect by the writers of finding out these plot points on my own rather than having the story given to me on a plate.

To go into specifics, I remember realising that Harvey Dent’s coin at the start of the film is a double headed coin. He comments during the court room scene that: “I make my own luck” because he knows by choosing heads he will win. Later, Dent narrowly misses death from the bomb The Joker detonates scorching one side of his coin. Not only does this notify the viewer this is the moment the coin is converted into heads and tails but also a change in Dent’s physical form, beliefs and motivations.

In the interrogation room scene, The Joker tells Batman the locations of hostages Harvey and Rachel but sinisterly switches them forcing Batman to the wrong address. Even though Batman wanted to save Rachel he inevitably ends up freeing Harvey and leaving the cops cruelly unable to rescue his one true love. The emotion this triggers is unrelenting.

“I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”
- The Joker

The Dark Knight grossed over a billion dollars at the box office, uniquely won Heath Ledger Best Supporting Actor at that year’s Oscars and currently sits comfortably at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. To put quite simply, The Dark Knight set the precedent for comic book movies to follow even until now.

Scroll forward to 2014 and we are in a time where even The Dark Knight’s sequel The Dark Knight Rises could not quite reach the same cinematic accomplishment as its predecessor – a film, however, which is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy laced with amazing action but disappointingly riddled with a misstep too many.

The Dark Knight is littered with little gems such as the ones I have mentioned above and is a great example of when screen writing, direction, action, acting and story cohesively harmonise.

Batman: Arkham Origins Review by Sherwin Claridge

BAO

Batman: Arkham Origins is the latest instalment in the critically acclaimed and incredibly successful Batman Arkham franchise. The world’s greatest detective returns in a prequel to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and 2011’s Batman: Arkham City. This time uber-mobster Black Mask places a 50 million dollar price tag on Batman’s head and in turn attracts eight of the world’s deadliest assassins to Arkham City over the course of one fateful Christmas Eve night. 

Be prepared to fight against a plethora of infamous villainy such as Deathstroke, Killer Croc, Bane, Joker and many more, whilst gliding, bat-clawing and brawling your way across this expansive sandbox world. 

The player begins the campaign playing as a Batman only two years into his career whom is less composed and refined as we are familiar with having only fought against the mob and lower class crooks. Part of the joy as a player was being introduced to these characters and villains that we know and love through Batman’s eyes for the first time. 

The free-flow hand to hand combat and the traversing gameplay mechanics are as solid as ever and an absolute cornerstone of the entire franchise. It is deep and incentivising and rewards you if you play with respect and precise timing and punishes you for button bashing. It is a near perfect system imitated many a time by other games in other franchises. 

Welcomed new additions come in the form of story driven detective mode scenarios in which the player must scrub crime scenes, fast-travel Batwing option for getting around the city and the inclusion of trusted butler and father figure Alfred as your support and guidance based in the newly realised Batcave. Also, the flawless combat has been enhanced with the addition of the shock gloves –  electric fists to help brawl the waves of enemies with ease.

The voice work is exceptional with Roger Craig Smith of Assassin’s Creed Ezio Auditori fame replacing Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Last Of Us’ Troy Baker stepping into Mark Hamill’s shoes as the Joker in an uncanny take of the character.

Even though the boss battles are great and testing, the origins and motivations of the rogues gallery are at times unclear and are not nearly fleshed out enough which leaves the player a little less invested in these encounters. 

Also, the story and gameplay sometimes suffers as a result of ‘Origins’ being a prequel. For example having the Batwing available for fast-travel and also having all the gadgets that were acquired from ‘City’ took me out of the story a little. However, from a game evolutionary stand point it makes sense. 

Verdict 

The elephant in the room here is that development of ‘Origins’ was handed to Warner Brothers Montreal as opposed to Rocksteady who laid the unshakeable foundations in quality established in ‘Asylum’ and ‘City’. The jump from ‘Asylum’ to ‘City’ in terms of vision, scope and gameplay was massive.

Rocksteady has always evolved and elevated subsequent entries. ‘Origins’ is simply not that equivalent leap. It was WB Montreal creating a new story and building on what ground work Rocksteady had laid out before. The combat system is thrilling against plot and characters that I had fun with. 

7/10

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Movie Review by Sherwin Claridge

X-Men: Days Of Future Past is the next instalment in the X-Men franchise to hit movie screens this week. Director Bryan Singer returns as director with a super-stellar cast of Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Halle Barry, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters and Peter Dinklage. The combination of characters from ‘X-Men: First Class’ (2011) and the main characters from the first X-Men Trilogy results in arguably the best cast ever assembled for a comic book movie. Days Of Future Past carefully and cleverly interweaves two plot-narratives that play out in parallel which has the future X-Men send Wolverine back in time to help stop a devastating apocalyptic future-war and save the fate for all mutants.

As the intro credits roll it takes me back to those initial movies Singer directed and it is clear from the offset his mark on the series. Singer was responsible for establishing the X-Men’s cinematic universe with the genre-defining ‘X-Men’ (2000) and incredible follow-up ‘X2’ (2003) and introducing the comic-book movie genre to the mainstream. His direction and vision was definitely missed in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ (2006) and is absolutely welcomed back in DOFP as he shows confidence and flare in the story and action.

X-Men movie fans have been waiting to see action like this! The X-Men have to unite against a menacing foe called Sentinels to which their only objective is to seek out and kill mutants. They are menacing, unrelenting and a fully realised shape shifting evil. You definitely feel an amount of helplessness for the X-Men and makes for great tension.

On the surface we see the plot unfold through Wolverines eyes, however, the real emotional weight emanates from Professor Xavier and Magneto’s tumultuous relationship, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively. Their relationship has friction and history, they always question each other’s morals, motives and ideologies but at the heart of it lies respect and an unconventional friendship that makes for a gripping watch. One of the most emotional scenes in the entire movie involves Xavier and Magneto exchange passionate dialogue upon a private jet that almost ends very abruptly.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique shines with many great fighting action sequences in which she brings physicality and a feral energy. Also, THAT scene with Quicksilver who arguably steals the show was very reminiscent of the opening Nightcrawler sequence of ‘X2’. Expect to see more of him in the next instalment slated for a 2016 release.

The first two acts of this movie had me utterly gripped but tapered off toward the end. In the 70’s X-men storyline I was left a little disappointed, however, the future final battle sequence made up for it with Blink and Colossus truly harnessing their powers to the fullest and doing their thing. Also, I was not completely convinced of the motives of Bolivar Trask, played by Tyrion Lannister himself Peter Dinklage. I understood that he thought he was saving the world by ridding it of mutants but was there something deeper than this?

The Verdict

This is great movie that can proudly stand next to ‘X-Men’ and 'X2’ with a rich and complex storyline that is backed up with amazing action sequences and a superb stellar cast. It is well worth your money at the cinema. I won’t spoil the end but what they have effectively achieved here is rectify the mistakes made in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ and revitalise a franchise that can now go forth into the future with endless possibilities.

 4 Stars

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Movie Review by Sherwin Claridge

Captain America is back on the big screen in another instalment in the incredibly successful Marvel cinematic universe. 

Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers returns as Captain America who must team up with Scarlett Johannson’s Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow and new character The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, to uncover the truth behind the unknown entity The Winter Soldier. 

At the end of 2012’s Marvels Avengers Assemble Steve Rogers became the default strategic leader of the interstellar super-group. This movie picks up as ‘Cap’ continues to find his place in the world but more predominantly who to trust within the super-secret intelligence organisation S.H.E.I.L.D. 

The plot plays out on a spy espionage canvas in which the action can ensue. A definite 70’s throw back with the casting of acting legend Robert Redford and his performance gives a certain amount of gravitas to the movie. 

The Russo Brothers direct flawlessly executed action and intimate up close combat scenes inspired by recent martial arts films such as The Raid. Memorable set pieces include Nick Fury’s jaw-dropping car chase sequence and Captain America’s unrelenting first hand to hand encounter with The Winter Soldier.

The character of Captain America is often criticised for being too straight laced. He is essentially the good guy in every sense of the word but his role here is justified as he is the only one the viewer can really trust. That is one of the main themes of this movie and inevitably turns into an ensemble piece not too dissimilar from Avengers.

I would have like to have seen the story flesh out the Winter Soldier’s origins a bit more but seemed difficult with such a heavy plot driven narrative. However, his motives were clear which certified his place within the story and there was enough emotion and background to leave the viewer satisfied.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier currently stands at a whopping 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and deservedly so. This is definitely worth your money at the box office. It has scope and spectacle, funny moments and character arcs not seen in previous outings. This is one of the best Marvel Movies, if not the best Marvel Movie of the entire series.

5 Stars

One final note, Avengers fans should stick around for the mid credit scene too.