Rogue One vs The Last Jedi

 

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I could end this review simply stating: everything The Last Jedi does wrong, Rogue One gets right. I mean, it’s no secret that I gave The Last Jedi a banana peel in my mini review (and if it is, *surprise*, even if that was in no way surprising). Also unsurprisingly, I don’t want to spend all my precious time dwelling on a movie I didn’t like- buuut the thing is when I was watching Rogue One I couldn’t stop comparing the two movies. Because in every area that TLJ was deficient, Rogue One restored my faith in Star Wars (well, in the sense that I’ll happily go back and watch the originals, at this stage I’ll pay money not to see the new ones 😉).

Let’s start with the fact that Rogue One MIRACULOUSLY had compelling characters. I know, what a *crazy, out-there concept*. Somehow, the writers figured out that giving Jin a solid backstory and reasons for doing things would actually make me care about her 😉. One of the most frustrating things about TLJ is that it could’ve been half decent- if they hadn’t forgotten to fill us in on all the whys and wherefores and skipped straight to “subverting expectations”. In order for that to even work, you’ve got to start with the basics building blocks of characterisation. You’ve got to give them motivations and fixed personality traits. I mean, it’s the bare minimum expectation when it comes to stories: it should all make sense internally. Sadly, in TLJ characters acted with so much inconsistency it made my head spin. Doing this for Rogue One made for a far more satisfying adventure.

Funnily enough, this movie also recognised the need for characters to have different roles, making them fulfil different purposes in the story. Putting my sarcasm aside- I have to *explode with rage* for a second that in both Force Awakens and TLJ this wasn’t seen as a crucial part of storytelling, cos Rey had to kick-all-the-butts. Making Rey *all the characters* is the perfect way to create a Mary Sue- and a good way to alienate a large proportion of your audience. Far more entertaining is to do what Rogue One did: have a pilot, a rogue, a fighter and a sort of jedi. All of whom bounced off each other dramatically and organically grew together. Wowee, the main characters actually get character arcs and it works!

Paying close attention character development is the least of it though. Not only does Rogue One avoid all the little flaws that made TLJ so unbearable, it also managed to create an interesting narrative. There’s actual tension and real conflict- and not just “because the plot demands it”. There’s none of that contrived drama where the commander and subordinate bicker constantly over the need to have a plan vs let’s just wing it (JK I secretly have a plan all along). Add some genuinely *scary* villains to counterbalance the hero’s aims and you have a plot! Together with real stakes and a moving conclusion, you have an actual movie. The sole downside of Rogue One is that (obviously) if you know the original trilogy, you will guess every plot point before it happens. That said, I was predictably a blubbering mess by the end, so clearly the sense of inevitability doesn’t get in the way of its tragic delivery. If anything, it only heightened my foreboding (I would like to do an experiment and show this to someone that’s never seen Star Wars before though- I reckon it would destroy them emotionally *evil laughs*).

After seeing Rogue One, I can understand why fans are divided about these movies. Rogue One fans just wanted to see a well-structured story with fun characterisation; TLJ folk wanted something totally different. And I get that. But I would argue, Rogue One did it better, even in this regard. Yes, Rogue One is standard sci fi fare… and yet, it’s also moving, visually stunning and had a bold ending. Relying on strong storytelling principles, I was transported to a galaxy far, far away. And that tragic twist meant the story not only played the game, but did something out of this world. That’s why there’s a clear winner here. I hereby take my banana peel for The Last Jedi…

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And raise it 5 bananas…

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With that, all that’s left to say is: May the Fourth Be With You!

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So, have you seen either of these movies? What did you think of them? Did you have a preference? Let me know in the comments!

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Fantastic Beasts and Where It Went Off the Rails…

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*With spoilers*

Well, look at me being late to the party as usual. By now, if you’re at all interested in Crimes of Grindelwald, you’ll probably be aware that a lot of people have been saying that this movie was a mess. They say it was poorly structured and pointless- and they’re totally, unequivocally, inarguably right- buuut… I was surprised to find I still enjoyed it. Perhaps this was fuelled by my nostalgia, perhaps it was because I had such low expectations going in- but honestly I think this film does have a fair number of qualities to make the viewing experience a good time:

Compelling characters- check tick box

Stunning visuals- check tick box

Great story- ehh not so much… cross box clipart

I will freely admit that there were interesting parts to the story to keep me engaged- mostly stemming from the fact that the characters work well. This is particularly true of Leta Lestrange and Newt Scamander, who I love, and who demonstrate that not all heroes have to be sword-wielding Gryffindors (though a little more Ravenclaw love in these movies wouldn’t go amiss 😉). I also particularly liked the way Crimes of Grindelwald examined Leta’s view of herself as evil. And as someone that’s spent a long time asking for subtler villains, I can say I sort of got my wish… but more on that in a second. Cos before I go ahead and say anything else, I want to give this movie 3/5 bananas:

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are we the baddies nazisNow you have proof I didn’t hate this movie- let’s go ahead and see why it’s such a monstrous muddle. We can start where I left off: with the baddies. Once again, Rowling has embraced the Nazi metaphor- because no one else in history was evil like the Nazis. While the imagery is strong, I do think Rowling’s view of Nazis comes across as a little confused. There’s supposed to be this scary implication that Grindelwald’s followers hid behind “we’re better than that” slogans and were allegedly claiming to be pro-freedom. Problem is, Nazis were openly for state control and beating people up for being on the wrong side before they got into power. They also weren’t hiding their genocidal tendencies as people like to believe. So, no, people saying they’re pro-freedom is not code for Nazism and does not have the sinister undertones this implies. And while I’ve been begging for better villains, there is such a thing as being too subtle.

This is only a minor nitpicky issue though, particularly when taken with the fact that I do think the line “the greater good” is sufficiently shiver-inducing. What will be more troubling to general movie-goers is the way mystery and plot twists are handled. Holding this up against HP’s/Agatha Christie’s standard, it falls short. Largely because in those mysteries, the clues are such that everything can be worked out, even if it’s challenging to do so. Take the Sirius Black Easter eggs from chapter 1 of the Philosopher Stone. You get so many hints early in the series that tell you *exactly* where it’s going. It doesn’t mean you can work it out (like RAB) but that when it all comes together you have that OHHH moment (like Snape’s story). Here, the twists feel cheap, because there’s no way of knowing where it’s going before you get there. For instance, this plot point:

Leta’s brother is dead, we’re told he’s dead, except maybe he’s Credence… oh no way he’s definitely dead because Leta switched him with another random boy on the boat.

dumbledore confused.gifNothing has actually changed in terms of the original information and we’ve got no clues as to who Credence is from that snippet and the audience *shrugs its shoulders*. When it is revealed that Credence is Aurelius Dumbledore, it feels even lousier. There are only two clues for this- that aren’t really clues at all: the talk of a phoenix earlier in the movie (which feels more like a movie tie-in) and Dumbledore talking about Credence needing a sibling (which only stands to reinforce the Credence Lestrange theory at that stage). These really just point to it not being a Grindelwald lie, rather than feeling like earned hints at a larger plot. More importantly, in my view, it contradicts existing canon- you know, where Dumby allegedly told Harry everything?! If this whole brother thing was so integral to that story, how come he never came up?! And couldn’t he have had a joke at Rita Skeeter’s expense, something along the lines of “that incompetent bint didn’t even know about my secret brother!” Ultimately, this feels like an inferior way to connect the two series and is something I will never be fully on board with. It’s such a curveball that I’ve found myself embracing ridiculous theories- not only to make sense of it but also cos these theories would at least make for an entertainingly bonkers story.

mcgonagall confusedSpeaking of ridiculous things that can only be made sense of with bad theories- WHAT THE HELL IS MCGONAGALL DOING IN THIS MOVIE!?!? And don’t try to say this is possible when a) it contradicts the fact that she says *in the books* she’s been teaching at Hogwarts 39 years. Now it doesn’t take a genius to calculate that HP was written in the 90s and that this is the 20s- so THIS DOESN’T ADD UP- GAH!) and b) they deliberately went to lengths to remove her age on Pottermore to cover up this error. The only theory that can make sense of this blunder is time turners- and we all know how well that works in HP fanfic *coughs* Cursed Child *coughs cough*. My personal opinion is that this is lazy retconning from Rowling- ie “McGonagall was over a hundred all along”. Naturally my response is ughhhh. This, together with making Dumbledore teach defence against the dark arts, is just a lazy addition that didn’t need to be there. Especially since it’s designed to make fans all fuzzy and warm inside… but will likely only succeed in driving us to *oblivate* this detail from our too-well-versed in Potterlore memories.

And, yes, this may seem petty, but the reason this is so frustrating is cos for the most part this film seems designed just for real fans. My sister didn’t know what was going on half the time and my mum gave up. I had to keep filling them in. And that’s with the confusion caused by *all of the above*. What’s ridiculous is that some of the deleted scenes can make sense of the story- eg how Credence came back, what Credence’s relationship with Nagini was etc. This is most likely due to the modern trend of trying to force movies to fit run time- regardless of content- and it’s such a huge mistake when it comes at the cost of coherent storytelling. The original opening was vital information- DON’T CUT IT! (cut one of the less important, rambly chase scenes or something)

hermione bitch pleasePossibly *the worst* new addition, however, is the magical gizmo that means Dumby and Grindlewald can’t fight. The original version- and what JK implied- was that Dumbledore didn’t want to fight because he didn’t want to find out who killed Ariana. Plus had some conflicted feelings about it cos he used to be “friends” with Grindelwald. While this change can make sense of how Ariana was killed by accident, this doesn’t make up for the fact that this ruins a meaningful, moving element of the original series. Really, it doesn’t make sense to me to trample on what already existed in order to make this sub-par movie.

Forgive me if this review’s been all over the place- the truth is it’s hard to discuss a sloppy structure in a linear fashion. I hope there’s more rising action in this post than there was in the movie 😉 Again, I’d like to reiterate I had fun watching this, but that doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to its faults. And honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if this series is dead in the water.

So- dare I ask- what did you think of this film? Do you agree with any of my points or am I being a bit harsh? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: Marvel Phase 3

monkey at the marvel movies

Alrighty then- I guess this is my last session of being a Marvel fangirl (…for now 😉). You know the drill now- I get dressed up and there will be spoilers. And since this is such an explosive part of the story, let’s start this with a *bang* shall we? (cos heads up: I have a lot of controversial opinions coming up)

captain america civil war

Captain America: Civil War– yeahhh there’s no easy way to say this- this wasn’t exactly what I wanted. All the reviews told me that “it’s so hard to pick a side” and “both of them have a point”… and I didn’t think that at all. I was *freedom* and #teamCap all the way. I know a lot of people like this movie, cos they say it’s nuanced, but I just thought Stark was wrong and that was that. I think after all the trouble Stark caused in Age of Ultron, he could have taken a step back, rather than screwing everyone else over for his mistakes and robbing them of their rights. Also, again I’m on the POOR BUCKY train. And I ain’t ever getting off. Again, I get that people see why Stark is angry with the Cap/Bucky- but IT’S NOT HIS FAULT (and maybe if Tony got his head out of his arse he’d see that) (oh gosh I’m gonna have all the Iron Men coming after me for that, aren’t I?) So yeah, I’m still a tad frustrated with this movie. I think I expected wayyy too much out of this one, thinking there would be some serious debate, and it didn’t deliver. One massive plus though was the introduction of Holland’s Spiderman 😀 And it does set up plenty for Infinity War and that’s not a bad thing.

3½/5 bananas

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Spider Man: Homecoming– I’ve gotta admit, cos the Spiderman market is so oversaturated of late, this was one of the movies I was least keen to see… and it ended up being one of the best! Go figure 😉 But who’s complaining? This was a great Spiderman story. From the moment that Marvel logo rolled in, I realised Spiderman had come home. Thankfully, there were no origin stories, no campy villains. This was just pure fun. Finally, finally Spiderman felt like a proper kid. It did feel a little choppy with the opening and I wasn’t crazy about how wrapped up it was with Tony Stark. I probably could have done without it being quite so high tech (even if I get why it was used). However, it was cool that he created the web himself, like in the comics. And omg Stan Lee telling off Spidy was hilarious. It’s genuinely the funniest rendition of Spidy I’ve seen. The characters were also superb- both MJ and Peter were so cute. And it really ends on a high- especially with that end credit scene where May finds out! I even loved Donald Glover’s small role. Basically, there’s an awful lot to love about this movie!

4½/5 bananas

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black panther

Black Panther– this movie was clearly a labour of love- and I loved it for that! From the beautiful aesthetic to the way the soundtrack blended with the setting, this movie came together in a charming way. Some people have been saying that it’s typical superhero fare- and that’s true- yet that’s all I’ve ever wanted from my superhero films. The opening was intriguing and set up for some surprisingly deep drama. I liked how it reflected real world issues, dipped its toes into some dark waters, yet didn’t become overshadowed by these themes. Instead, the focus of the movie was on taking the mantle of the father and trying to be better. All of this tied in so well with the villain- who was both relevant and unhinged enough to be entertaining. I especially loved how it presented the “monsters of our making” idea. For me, this went beyond being a simple action flick. The tension and emotions were all on point. I was moved by the lovable characters and on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I’m happy to say Black Panther more than lived up to expectations. In fact, I’d go as far as to say the (slightly unpopular opinion) that I enjoyed it more than Infinity War… though we’ll get to more on that in a minute. *This* is how you do a superhero movie!

5/5 bananas

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guardians of the galaxy vol 2

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2– first off: I LOVED the villain in this movie. I know a lot of people don’t think this is as good as the first one… but I think it’s better. The journey is so personal. And it’s ridiculously emotional. What’s clever about these movies is how they consistently add the family drama element to this saga. Not only does it explore the found family element so well, it also makes me more invested in the characters and ties in spectacularly with Infinity War (…more on that soon I promise…). All of this coupled with the fact it’s packed with funny, cute, emotional moments meant this was an out of this world experience!

5/5 bananas

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doctor strange

Doctor Strange– this was very average for a Marvel movie, but an interesting start. Personally, I found Doctor Strange an okay character- not too enthralling, not too dull. I think my main takeaway was that he’s a poor man’s Tony Stark- slightly egotistical, allegedly very special. And I say allegedly cos aside from being a proven surgeon, there isn’t actually an explanation as to *why* he’s so special. It’s (rather frustratingly) repeated throughout the plot, there’s no explanation for his magical talent. Is it his intellect? Determination? Random natural selection? I just wanted to be given something. Ultimately, there was enough to this movie that I didn’t have a bad time while watching it, yet it failed to blow me away. The villain was meh, however, I do kinda want to see more of this character to get to the heart of what makes him tick.

3/5 bananas

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thor ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok– unpopular opinion: I wasn’t crazy about this movie. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m just super fussy with movies- cos everyone loved this movie, and I just didn’t. The tone and subject matter were endlessly jarring. I kept getting muddled about what I was supposed to be feeling in a lot of really intense action end-of-the-world scenes that were played for shits and giggles. A lot of the jokes didn’t land for me- it was too weird to take the subject matter of Ragnarok, with all its emotionally hard-hitting elements, and slam it into a buddy-comedy vibe. There’s an outstanding review for this movie over on Re-enchantment of the World, where they get into a lot more detail about why this doesn’t totally work- but one thing that they brought up that I will mention is how it was funny, but weightless. I think that about sums it up. There could have been *a lot* more substance to this movie. As much as it occasionally made me laugh, I came out of this feeling disappointed and empty (I do like the soundtrack though).

2½/5 bananas

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avengers infinity war

Avengers: Infinity War– it’s probably pretty clear to you from all these reviews that I’ve become a little obsessed with this movie. I can’t help but mention it in virtually every other review. It’s a testament to the power of this movie. So let it be said, for the record, that I really liked Infinity War… but it felt like half a movie. I feel like I’m reserving judgement on it until I see how it ends. Months after I watched it and I’m still uncertain about some elements. It does blend the multiple storylines pretty well, but a lot of the ideas for defeating Thanos seemed jumbled together. There’s simply so much going on and a lot of it is too inconclusive for me to make my mind up about it. That said, this has some emotional punch. I mean… wow. I can’t believe they went there. Most of my favourites ended up dead. For that alone, it’s going to be remembered as a landmark movie. And it’s definitely got me looking up all the fan theory videos and wondering who made the worst decision (I’m going with Peter- yeah Thor had the chance to win and failed, but obviously the real fault lies with Peter losing his head… though can you blame him? He’s only human- let’s hope he redeems himself in the next movie). Of course, I really loved the fact this was very much about Thanos- he’s such a domineering character. Even if I still can’t make total sense of his logic (I mean, the population will continue to grow and resources will continue to diminish… so surely it makes more sense to focus your effort on increasing resources?) I liked that this focused on his sense of family and loss. It was super well done. My only issue that remains is I don’t think I can judge this as a standalone movie… please don’t snap me out of existence for saying as much 😉

4½/5 bananas

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… although my opinion on this movie is subject to change…

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Ant-Man and the Wasp– Yeesh- this one really allows us to see the accords in action and I KNEW I WAS RIGHT. It sucks so much. At the risk of returning to my rant at the start, Stark was wrong, he made a Frankenstein-style error and then decided to rectify that by punishing all of humanity. It makes sense that he had the arrogance to play god and then thought that he could rectify his mistakes by being an authoritarian… BUT GAHFJFJJKND WHAT A DOUCHESCHNOZZLE!!! So, back to the movie. Iron Man has forced a bunch of (more or less) innocent people on the run and made the best father ever have to hide out in his house. Much like the first one, I loved the shrinking tech in this film- they do it in such a fun way. The villain had a personal connection to the story- alas also pretty forgettable. This was definitely what I’d class as an entertaining romp of a movie… until that end credit scene- when HOLY HELL we see what’s at stake for Infinity War! (yes, it had to go back to that again 😉) If you do like Marvel movies, I can safely say this is enjoyable and a great place for me to end these reviews 😀

4/5 bananas

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Alrighty then- I know I’ve gone against the grain on a couple of these- so I’m curious to know: do you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts on Marvel Phase 3? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: Marvel Phase 2

 

monkey at the marvel movies

Okey dokey I’m back- as promised- with phase two of my Marvel mini reviews. I’ve donned my superhero getup again and I’m ready for action! Again, spoiler warning- though really you should know I’m gonna spoil it- you’ve had enough time to watch them by now 😉

iron man 3

Iron Man 3– the great thing about this film is it really sets up the idea we create our own demons– which is a clear theme for phase 2. The flashbacks are okay in this one- the only problem being that they set up a very clear “misdirection” with a super obvious villain. I did really like that this features a less sure Tony Stark and that there’s a real sense of character development- lacking in Iron Man’s last instalment. It’s especially great that there’s a double meaning to the idea that Iron Man creates his own enemies. BUT there’s no way around the fact that I loathe the plot twist- taking a sinister-seeming villain and swapping it out for a lacklustre loser? GAH! Not good. In fact, this very stupid, dumb, not-smart shift might be one of the worst in the whole Marvel cinematic universe. I also feel like it *has to* be a plothole that no one has figured out the Mandarin is a fake- when he’s literally just chilling in a mansion in the US. With plenty of people coming in and out to deliver him whatever he wants. Pure nonsense. Add to that the villain’s motivation is weak (dude, if someone doesn’t meet you on a rooftop on New Year’s Eve, don’t you think there could be a million explanations?) Plus, the barrel of monkeys was just silly (and offensive to us monkeys 😉). In the end, I’m a little torn on this one, cos there’s definitely upsides to this movie and it’s vital to the series… but I didn’t actually enjoy it all that much.

2½/5 bananas

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thor the dark world

Thor: The Dark World– or as I like to call it- Loki 3 😉 And yeah, I keep thinking of Loki as the main star in all the movies he’s in, cos he’s often the most interesting character, with the best arcs. Especially cos, sadly, Thor doesn’t have a very good arc in this one. In fact, my favourite part he had in the movie was in Loki’s death scene… which makes me just sound like a Loki fangirl again- I can’t help it!! By far the worst part in this was how dull and impersonal the villains were. It does make sense that this movie is important for the MCU- especially with regards to the infinity stones- it’s just a shame it wasn’t explored in a more interesting way. That said, I did largely enjoy this movie- it’s not great, it’ll never go down as one of the better Marvel movies, but I think it’s entertaining (even seeing some London landmarks get destroyed… I’ll admit just about killed me when they smashed up Wren’s masterpieces!). Naturally, I also liked the captain’s cameo in this one!

3½/5 bananas

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captain america the winter soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier– I rewatched this one the most recently… and I have the least to say about it. I just got too absorbed in it to write notes. This is one of my favourites of every movie they’ve put out. Obviously, I knew the twists going in, and yet they still wowed me. I still felt the emotional punch. And I will admit, it made me cry (again)- cos POOR BUCKY!! I also really like the espionage element and how central Black Widow is to the plot. It really expands and develops on the themes of friendship- which I think are so integral to Cap’s character. Heroes- real heroes- like him make me all warm and fuzzy inside. As cheesy as it sounds, they’re a symbol for hope and justice- and that’s what I want in my superhero movies.

5/5 bananas

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guardians of the galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy– what an entertaining movie! I mean, everyone knows it is, so I’m kinda stating the obvious. I will admit, when I first watched this, I thought it was a tad overhyped, cos everyone and their mother told me it was *the best* superhero film ever. And in my opinion, it’s not that… it’s a hella lot of fun though! I love the comedy in this one and even the silly villain works in this kind of film. In fact, it’s thanks to him playing the straight man that the dance off for the universe works so well (easily the best bit of the movie). And somehow it manages to have emotional depth as well- particularly when it introduces the conflict between the daughters of Thanos. This was solid on the rewatch and I’ll happily give it another whirl soon. Plus, the fact it has an awesome soundtrack doesn’t hurt!

4½/5 bananas

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Avengers: Age of Ultron– I never liked this movie as much as the first Avengers. Annnd to be honest, my opinion hasn’t changed. It’s just okay. There’s not much about this that makes me excited. I did think Ultron’s voice is great. Also, seeing people’s weaknesses and faults was a great part of the movie- thanks to the fantastic inclusion/portrayal of the Scarlet Witch. Sadly though, the story didn’t feel cohesive enough for me. While I liked the quiet scene in the middle, I think it adds to that fragmentary feel to the whole piece. Despite all the explosions and destruction, I often felt distant from the stakes. I was pretty frustrated with the fact this brought in new characters just to kill them off- I feel it could’ve been more impactful if I’d had a chance to get to know them. In the end, this felt like just another sentient-robot-tries-to-destroy-the-world story- not a bad tale, yet one that I’ve come across a few too many times. I wish I enjoyed this movie as much as I want to:

3/5 bananas

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ant man

Ant Man– I will admit I had such low expectations for this… that said, this is a movie that fortunately doesn’t take itself too seriously- and ended up being awesome because of that! The style is vibrant and had a lot of laugh out loud moments. This movie definitely shows how Marvel has got its successful formula down. I also liked Hope as a character and Rudd was *fab*. Of course, I knew who the villain was the second I saw him, however he fulfilled his role sufficiently so I had no real complaints… until it was revealed he was a part of hydra (really?!) That unnecessary detail aside, I appreciated the other curveballs the story threw at me and thought there was great deal of excellent setup for the next movie… which you can hear about next time!

4/5 bananas

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Okay, I know there are probably a few more contentious points in this volume, so it’s with somewhat more trepidation that I ask: do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here? Let me have it in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: Marvel Phase 1

monkey at the marvel movies

I’ve always been a fan of superhero movies- from the old Christopher Reeve Superman to the Toby Maguire Spiderman (which I snuck into the cinema to see, cos I wasn’t quite 12 #whatarebel 😉). So obviously the last decade of Marvel films has been fun. I’d like to say that I kept up with all the exciting developments and stayed on track with all the releases… buuut that wouldn’t be strictly true. Let’s be real though: men in spandex can always coax me back 😉 (that sounds so much worse than I intended lol!) That’s why over the course of the last 9 months I’ve been *finally* catching up and rewatching all the Marvel movies (technically speaking I didn’t havae to rewatch the old ones, but hey, that just goes to show what a motivated monkey can do when they set their mind to something 😉). Which brings me to today- since Infinity War is just around the corner (and I don’t want all my aimless movie watching to be for nothing) I’ve decided that once a week for three weeks, I’ll pick up Cap’s shield and whizz through reviews for each phase. Enjoy!

(oh and *spoilers* of course- these films have been out for ages)

(also if I get the order slightly wrong according to the timeline… I don’t care)

(I’ll stop using brackets now I swear! onto the reviews!)

iron man

Iron Man– let’s get this party started with hunk of metal! I have to point out the obvious: Downey Jr is amazing in this role. He is a huge part of why this was a massive success- and consequently why Marvel was able to get this massive project off the ground. It’s a clever story too. Yes, we may be familiar with a lot of the now-typically-Marvel techniques of misdirection and framing- but no matter how many times I’ve seen this film, I still find it absorbing. All the components work so well, it’s emotional and there’s a *huge* amount of foreshadowing for Avengers 2 and even Civil War. It’s so cool to watch it back now and think “I know where that’s heading”. I’m not going to say this is a personal favourite- but it’s a great movie.

4½/5 bananas

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Captain America: The First Avenger– okay confession time: I am #TeamCap all the way. I will save you time accusing me of bias- I AM BIASED. And a huge amount of that is thanks to this first movie- cos I *love* it. The framing is fantastic, the plot is simple but effective and there is plenty of tension. This is thanks to having a really solid villain- a guy that is both too evil for Hitler and matches the hero in strength. I also love Bucky (aww poor Bucky!) and am forever moved by the emotional ending- it gets me every time! This is a story of real sacrifice and heroics- and is basically one of the reasons I got into this genre in the first place. There is another movie by DC (that shall go unnamed) which does try to do all of these things again- but I can safely say, having watched this more times than is healthy, Marvel did it better #sorrynotsorry

5/5 bananas

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incredible hulk

The Incredible Hulk– yes, I even watched this one, cos I am just that committed. No, it is not a good movie. It does have kinda cool visual effects and I love Edward Norton… However my love for him can only stretch so far- and as good as his acting is, giving real psychological depth to the character, the movie is boring because of these diversions. And what little there is in terms of plot makes next to no sense, because I can’t make head or tail of his motivations or plan (at one point he wants to prove to his daughter the hulk is dangerous by getting him to hulk out… therefore putting his daughter in danger?!) Ultimately, I just didn’t enjoy this one. The Stan Lee cameo is brilliant and I liked the end credit scene though.

2/5 bananas

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Iron Man 2– this is one I’m also not crazy about. I like the opening, the introduction of Black Widow and the end credit scene is a treat… Everything else is not great. Pepper does wayyy too much screaming. This one has to win the award for the most annoying villain (actually I think Iron Man might collectively have the worst villain). No one talks like a person in this movie either. And there’s not much character growth, making this feel unnecessary. Oh and the ending was godawful. This is turning into a list of complaints, so I’m gonna say I liked the link to the Thor movie and just move on from this messy movie.

2½/5 bananas

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thor

Thor– or as I like to call it, Loki 1 😉 I’ll be the first to admit, this is not an incredible movie. That said, I’ve always enjoyed it. Maybe it’s cos I’m okay with campy fantasy-style settings or more likely it’s cos I think there’s actually some real depth in some of the characterisation. Most notably, Loki’s arc is fascinating- since it all begins with a lie/half-truth that he could be king… which Odin knew full well wasn’t a real possibility. All the actors really pull their weight in this movie- it has a star cast and it shows. That said, Thor’s friends are a bit boring at times and there’s a lack of chemistry in the Thor/Jane relationship. Because of that, Thor’s transformation into a hero isn’t easy to buy. Other than that, there’s a couple of technical issues with the structure- such as the use of too many frames at the beginning and they’re not all employed well. If you’re not focusing too much on that though, I reckon most people can have a good time with this movie. So here’s my first (of many) unpopular opinions:

4/5 bananas

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avengers

Avengers Assemble– this movie rocks! From that tune dropping at the start and the opening credits rolling in, I always feel excited to see this movie. It’s pretty much the movie that will determine whether you’re gonna get into these movies or not. Sure, it’s not perfect- but it’s damn good fun! It’s a simple story, packed with humour and lovable characters (I’m still rooting for Cap). I really like how this allows so many characters from Fury to Black Widow to shine. Of course Loki is great value as a villain too- even if his plan is flawed (I mean, I get that he’s trying to infiltrate their base and make them fight each other… but he’s got an alien invasion coming anyway and they weren’t a team before that point so *not a great plan*). I do kinda get why Loki, who revels in chaos, would come up with a plan like that though. As much as he postures, he’s not so keen on actually leading, rather on stoking the flames… And being able to get into this about the character is one of the reasons it’s so great: there’s so much depth here! Even with a large cast, there seems to be plenty of room for the characters to develop (except for Hulk- I still don’t understand the whole “always angry” thing- what does that mean?!) As much as I like Loki, my favourite part is when Hawkeye outsmarts him and Hulk SMASH! While this movie falls into the category of summer blockbuster, I still believe there’s something groundbreaking in the way Whedon was able to bring such an ensemble together and balance emotion with entertainment. Well worth the rewatch:

4½/5 bananas

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So what are your thoughts on these movies? Are you a fan of Marvel? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: Another Roundup!

 

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Oh boy I have some controversial opinions to share today… so in honour of one of the movies on here I’ve split the reviews into likes and dislikes (or salty and sweet 😉 ) How about we jump into the movies I wasn’t so crazy about first, shall we?

guernsey literary

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society– well the good thing about this movie is if you haven’t read the book, you can after watching this film, cos they’re two separate entities. My main contention is that the main character is not the same character as the book. I don’t know why so many strong female heroines from books are translated into “seen and not heard” types in movies (though I can guess a few reasons). It’s like they took all her personality traits and flattened them into her saying that Anne Bronte was “ahead of her time” (someone was looking for feminist brownie points). The way I’d describe Juliet from the book is vivacious, headstrong and decisive. Here she’s a shadow of that character- whose main role in the movie (spoilers) is to say yes to an engagement she never agrees to in the book, so that she can break her word later. Making the character more flaky *is not* an improvement. Other than my serious frustration in this department, I felt the movie lacked tension. There were a couple of components from the book which really could have been utilised to create that here. Also, I recognise that translating the letter element from the book to screen would have been tricky- yet (as you’ll see from other movies on this list) stylised elements can truly elevate a film and it was a missed opportunity to not do that here. What saved this movie for me was a couple of outstanding performances- especially from Tom Courtney and Penelope Wilton (every time the latter was on screen I ended up in tears). The child that played Kit was also truly sensational. In fairness, this isn’t the worst book to movie adaptation out there- but I adored the book and this could have been so, so much better.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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walle

WallE– wow what a pessimistic view of humanity. I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with this movie too. I’d had it hyped for years in my head- which I didn’t worry too much about cos Pixar films usually live up to expectations. This was obviously a message movie- and that’s not such a terrible thing- but the delivery was a little off. Personally, I think things like humanity floating off into space and turning into War-of-the-Worlds-style-Martians seems a bit silly- especially when you consider that along with the rise of laziness, there’s also an increase in fitness fanaticism. And yes, I know it’s a kid’s movie (I’ll agree the robots are cute and it’s mostly enjoyable), but since it delves into the sci fi region, I couldn’t help but compare it to other things in the genre. For me, Pixar’s foray into this area left a lot to be desired. Let’s see how they did with the sequel to one of my favourite properties…

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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incredibles 2

Incredibles 2– yeahhh I wasn’t happy with this either. Not only did it regurgitate the original- but it also took out the satire! Which makes it a bad remake. It’s quite disappointing after such a long wait. The plot felt unsatisfying from beginning to end- particularly as it reversed all the character growth from the first movie. It did make me laugh though and (with a few tweaks) could have been titled Jack Jack Attack 2 and then I’d have enjoyed it. Sadly, there were just too many unconnected strands and the story was lacklustre at best.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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mamma mia 2

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again– this is here just so you can all see the full range of my capacity to be a grumpus 😉 It’s hard to determine whether I shouldn’t have watched this or if this movie shouldn’t exist. Probably both. There’s no two ways about it: the story sucks. It’s a rehash of the first movie- only even more ridiculously contrived. The music is (mostly) still good- though for the most part you’d benefit a lot more from listening to the old tracks (*why on earth* they chose another person with a grating voice to play younger Pierce Brosnan is beyond me!)  I guess it’s good fun seeing Cher singing Fernando- though surely you can just watch a clip of that?

Rating: 1/5 bananas

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Gosh I’ve gotten salty here…

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Let’s move onto the movies I got more out of:
amelie

Amelie– it took me *years* to watch this movie- while this is considered a classic, I’d also met enough people that didn’t like it. And to be honest, I get why. This is film of likes and dislikes. Naturally, I had my own likes and dislikes for it:

Likes:

The intricate little tales of every person Amelie meets.

How funny it could be at times.

A lot of the motifs.

The romance!

Dislikes:

There were some icky elements (like Amelie’s conception) I could have done without…

And that’s it! Initially I was on the fence about the stylised element to the movie- but by the end I thought it worked really well. Ultimement, je l’ai aimé (and that’s all the bad French you’re getting!).

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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the firm

The Firm– while not a perfect movie, it is a really entertaining thriller. It does stall at times, so the pacing isn’t always perfect, however by the end I was utterly gripped (so much so I missed some police drama going on outside my window… #LondonLife). The music in particular works to add tension and fits the dramatic tone. Definitely recommend if you’re into this genre!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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citizen kane

Citizen Kane– atmospheric and artistically shot, I don’t know what I could say about this *fabulous* film that hasn’t been said already. What a story! It’s so simply a mystery- and yet it is told in such a way that there are layers upon layers of complexity here. I loved how it told the story over and over again in different ways- returning to the beginning of the movie by the end. Every little detail adds to the movie- the echoes, the use of space, the endless corridors. It’s a visual masterpiece. It’s psychologically fascinating piece. The acting is sublime- you can see the actors thinking and emotionally manipulating the scene. I became obsessed with finding the answers and couldn’t have been more satisfied with the ending! Definitely watch this movie if you want to find out who is Rosebud? And more importantly- why does it matter?

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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And that’s a wrap! Have you seen any of these movies? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Was Wonder Woman Wonderful?

wonder woman

Well, *unpopular opinion alert*, no it wasn’t. In fact, if this book had a special ability, I’d say it was in the power to send me to sleep. Before I get into all the reasons why I thought this was super dull, I do want to add that I don’t see this book as a reflection of the author and nor does it affect the respect I have for Bardugo in general.

That said, there was literally nothing I liked about this book. To me, it was a cheap cash grab attempt to jump on the superhero bandwagon. It was sadly a waste of Bardugo’s talent, with writing that was surprisingly lacklustre and missing the author’s usual flair. If it had been any other name slapped on the cover, I wouldn’t have known the difference.

The plot was tremendously predictable, cliché and uninteresting. I wouldn’t say this is thanks to it doing things wrong, it simply doesn’t do much right. There were, happily, some good throwaway lines about Spartan myths just being Athenian propaganda- yet there are better books on Greek myths that are far more engaging. Indeed, there are also far superior superhero stories. A lot of this felt like the 70s Superman movies with constant “what are you?”s- which isn’t a terrible thing in and of itself, it just added to that unoriginal vibe.

Unfortunately this wasn’t helped by the flat, cardboard cut-out characters, who were impossible to connect to. In another instance of trying to milk the reader for all they’re worth, the book feature the stereotypical STRONG women characters. Alas, I’m past the point of being easily sold on the kickass woman + female friendship = banking a pay check formula. It’s simply not enough for me anymore since everyone and their mother is doing it- which maybe we should see as progress, instead of getting mad at me in the comments for not being on board 😉 Frankly, Diana was a stereotypical Mary Sue: impossibly strong and with the only weakness of being too compassionate (which turns out to be her greatest strength *surprise surprise*). Alia was supposed to be smart, yet I never saw any evidence for that and quickly grew bored of her.

And the villain- man, that was in equal parts disappointingly obvious and lousy. Frankly, that was the LAST STRAW for me. Until that “reveal” I was gonna give it 2 bananas, but after that I could only spare…

1/5 bananas

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Evidently that left a lot to be desired- but I wasn’t done with Wonder Woman yet and decided to *finally* watch the movie everyone’s been raving about as the only decent DC film this decade. So how did that measure up?

Wonder Woman_(2017_film)

Eh- it was okay. Better than the book (though that’s not hard)- but still not anything compared to the Marvel movies (there I said it). To me, it was a poor (wo)man’s Captain America/Thor- though not as good in exploring the concepts of myths and war.

Now believe me, I get that the mythology has to be revamped for the comics, but C’MON the background of this story was Lucifer vs God- this is straight out of the Bible not Greek mythology. Which feels like a waste and meant it failed to bring anything spectacular or *new* to the story.

There were ups and downs to this. The plot was okay, with some emotional moments, but soooo predictable. Gal Godot put in an entertaining performance, the cinematography was especially strong, yet the soundtrack was not utilised properly (it kinda came and went at random intervals). Worst of all, there were I kept joking were “pause for ideological commentary” that ruined the pacing and took me out of the movie.

wonderwomanNone of this was helped by the fact that Wonder Woman Mary Sue had no character arc. Oh, sorry, I can’t see her as an actual character, because, AGAIN SHE IS PERFECT AND HAS NO FLAWS. She’s a little bit of a fish out of water, but in the end, that’s just a surface level issue that doesn’t get in the way. Having her be so overpowered for me removed any tension and meant she had no room for improvement. To be charitable to the story, the mc doesn’t have to have an arc and you could say she inspires the people around her. Except this wasn’t satisfying to me, given the fact some of her mistakes were detrimental and simply brushed under the rug. For instance, *spoilers ahead* when she stops to save a village, she doesn’t care that this interferes with their covert op AND blames everyone else when its blown up anyway, EVEN THOUGH she was the one to make the detour and slow down the mission (also she has no idea how to be a spy). The problem here isn’t that she makes mistakes- it’s that they’re played off as everyone else’s fault (again, Mary Sue can’t have flaws, that’d be sexist!). Plus, even if she’s wrong about who Ares is, it doesn’t matter because she’s basically right in the end. This not only stops her from learning and developing as a character, but also means she’s a terrible teacher figure, and any development of other characters feels unearned. Consequently, when Steve sacrifices himself, it doesn’t feel like it’s because Wonder Woman taught him something. And it also seems illogical that Diana uses that moment as inspiration, since she’s already internalised the idea that humanity is basically good.

Overall, I felt this had some funny aspects and kept me mildly entertained, but I still thought it was massively overrated.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Alright- dare I ask- what do you think of Wonder Woman? Love, hate or meh? Let me know in the comments!