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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

Image result for fantastic beasts and where to find them poster

Save JJ Abrams and Star Wars: The Force Awakens I don’t think any director or film has had such a weight on their shoulders or such ardent fans to please. To say Fantastic Beasts had a lot to live up to would be an understatement. The Potter books and films have changed the world. Returning Potter Director David Yates had a task and a half on his hands, so too did JK Rowling who takes script writing reins here (and for the subsequent four installments).

And did they pull it off?

No doubt.

The familiar Potter soundtrack plays as the Warner Bros logo hovers forward through dark clouds… The opening sequence is slightly ambiguous, giving way to the familiar montage of Daily Prophet headlines about a dark wizard. But not the dark wizard we’re all familiar with. Grindelwald takes over bad-guy duties from Voldemort for this franchise and even though he doesn’t yet take centre stage, his menacing presence conjures some solid atmosphere.

Atmosphere is what David Yates does best, and the foreboding he brought to the final four Potter films is evident from the first few seconds of Fantastic Beasts. But Yates also brought style and awe to his Potter films and he doesn’t hold back on either with Fantastic Beasts. Every scene is rich in detail, most of which isn’t spotted until second or third viewings. The 1920’s New York setting is a big change from the epic landscapes and castle corridors of Hogwarts that we’re used to, but it’s just as compelling and makes Rowling’s world seem that much more real and sprawling.

Eddie Redmayne had a tough responsibility too, taking over protagonist duties from Harry, Ron and Hermione and having to carry what is essentially an origin story for the Fantasic Beasts series. Redmayne himself can’t be faulted. Newt Scamander is awkward, bumbling, avoiding eye contact and generally rubbing people up the wrong way, more Sherlock Holmes than Harry Potter. But at times Scamander doesn’t feel like the protagonist, mostly going along with what is happening rather than forwarding the plot. The other actors and their characters suffer the same, taking a step back so the world-building, plot and set-up can all be handled. The characters will be fleshed out in the next installment, but for now they’re not as compelling as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Where Rowling’s script does excel is in how contemporary it’s morals are. There are more than a few allusions to the divisions of today’s society, the prejudices and political turmoil and despite it’s period setting, Fantastic Beasts is never old-fashioned.

For all its awesome special effects and spectacle, slick directing and great acting, Fantastic Beasts is not perfect. Rowling’s script is sharp when it comes to dialogue, but a bit thin in story. The first film was always going to be more about set-up than story, and it is the case here. A slow first half and a slump in the middle throw the pacing off, and there is never a clear main plot to invest in. Gathering up the escaped Fantastic Beasts offers plenty of chances for great set pieces (Scamander’s imitation of a mating ritual, a chase sequence in a department store among a memorable dozen) but it isn’t strong enough to be the bones of a film. The various other sub-plots are interesting but, can at times feel all over the place and until the final, massively impressive, climax Fantastic Beasts is as scatterbrained as it’s main character.

But in that impressive climax, with a twist that I didn’t see coming and which I defy anyone to guess beforehand, and Yates’ pitch-perfect directing, the stunning CGI and photography, Fantastic Beasts does deliver a prequel worthy of the Potter films. Fans will be grinning at foreshadowings and at the mere joy of being back in the Wizarding World and newcomers may be a little confused but will find plenty of enjoyment.

Fantastic Beasts is not perfect, but neither were any of the Potter films. It had a tough task of setting up a world, story and characters, and overall… it pulled it off and promises great things for future installments.


Have you seen Fantastic Beasts yet? What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptions I’m Looking Forward To

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish


1 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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The plot of the Beasts movies doesn’t sound interesting yet, but more Potter (at least sort of) movies (3 of them) is cool with me. Seeing more of the Wizarding World will be interesting and the already impressive cast is growing. 

2 – The 5th Wave

Reading the book is almost like watching a movie at times–Yancey knows how to write action. This series took an unexpected turn in the second book, so it will be cool to see how it translates to screen. The first trailer wasn’t mind-blowing, but I’m still looking forward to it. 

3 – Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Tim Burton is probably the only director for this book to movie adaption, and hopefully he can make the movie as creepy and fast-paced as the book should have been. It will be interesting to see if the movie is better than the book. I enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s, but it had more potential. 

4 – Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The reviews are already coming in for Mockingjay Part 2, and they’re mostly positive. Part 1 was a bit slow and not much happened. But everything ends in this second part so it should be action-packed from beginning to end. 

5 – Lockwood & Co. – The Screaming Staircase

Warner Bros. have optioned the rights to Jonathan Stroud’s book, but the rights to the Bartimeaus trilogy were also optioned and nothing happened. Hopefully, things will be different with Lockwood and the movie will happen. It would make an awesome, action-packed film series. 

6 – Red Rising

Universal have optioned this one, and Marc Forster (World War Z) is signed on to direct. With plenty of action and an epic setting, this could be a huge movie. But it seems every movie set on Mars (save The Martian) has been a flop at the box office: John Carter being the biggest, despite how wicked it is. 

7 – The Martian

The Martian is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and one of my favourite books of all time. The movie had been out a while, but I haven’t seen it yet. From the trailers Ridley Scott nails the scope and action and Matt Damon has Watney’s humor down pat. 

8 – The Maze Runner: Death Cure

I’m not a big fan of the book, but if the success of the first two movies are anything to go by, The Death Cure should be pretty good. Scorch Trials needed more plot, but everything has to be wrapped up in the last movie so it should be WICKED (is good).

9 – Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Some weren’t happy with Cruise as Reacher, but he nailed the character in the first movie. Never Go Back is the one Reacher book I haven’t read yet, and I’m holding off so the plot of the movie is unexpected. 

10 – His Dark Materials (BBC TV show)

I (and not many others) enjoyed the movie adaption of the Northern Lights. It wasn’t a great adaption, but it was an epic movie in it’s own right. The BBC have recently bought the rights for the whole series. TV seems a better way to adapt the books, so this could be good. 

Extras: Steven Spielberg’s adaption of The BFG by Roald Dahl, Narnia: The Silver Chair, Vicious by V.E. Schwab.


Anyone else looking forward to one or more of these, or a different one? Feel free to add a link in a comment to your TTT so I can check them out…

Jurassic World Review

Jurassic World Review

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fourteen years since Jurassic Park 3, and 22 years since Spielberg’s original masterpiece. Jurassic Park is my favourite movie of all time, and probably always will be

I’ve been waiting for Jurassic World (Jurassic Park 4 until it had an official title) since the last sequel was released. Jurassic 3 was a decent movie. The dinosaurs were awesome and Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler came back. But Jurassic 3 didn’t have what the first and second movies did. Something was missing. Maybe it was because Spielberg wasn’t directing. So I was a bit uneasy about how Jurassic World would turn out when I heard a one-movie director (Colin Trevorrow would be at the helm, and not Spielberg.

I’ve been waiting for Jurassic World for 14 years, hoping it would deliver…

And it does–mostly. Once I stopped comparing it to the first movie, which Jurassic World never had a chance of rivaling, I enjoyed the movie a lot more. It’s a solid, action-packed sequel that improves on 3, almost improves on 2, and is worthy of the original.

The story isn’t all that original. It’s almost a replica of the first movie. Only this time around the Park is fully functioning. It has been for years, and like the idiots humans tend to be, we have gotten board of dinosaurs. “No one’s impressed by dinosaurs anymore,” says Claire Harding, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character–who is in charge of running the park. So to up the interest in the Park, they go ahead and give Ian Malcolm the satisfaction of being right again. “They were so busy wondering if they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should,” he says in the first movie. And here, they didn’t stop to think again, when they create a hybrid dinosaur… and it get’s out…

But the Indominous rex isn’t just a dinosaur–it’s several dinosaurs, and a few other things too. It’s fast, smart, bloodthirsty. And it’s pretty damn scary.

The story is the weakest aspect of Jurassic World, but everything else works well. The dinosaurs still look awesome, and there are plenty of them, even if there is too much CGI and not enough practical effects at some points. The first movie worked so well because the dinosaurs were there, really there. They were robots. But this time around, save a few close up shots, every dinosaur is CGI. That takes something from the movie. But the effects look epic, and there is no shortage of them.

The dinosaurs have more character than the actual characters, but Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard make a good pair of main characters. Pratt isn’t all that different from Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, but he’s different enough in Jurassic World that Owen is a character we can root for. The two brothers are decent characters, and reflect Tim and Lex from the first movie.

The action is full-on, and some of the set pieces are awesome. Colin Trevorrow, an indie director, handles everything like an expert. He might not have Spielberg’s eye for detail and memorable shots, but there are some epic moments to make Jurassic World stand out.

It would have been cool to see more than just one of the old character’s returning–Doctor Wu gets a decent part in the sub-plot– but the new cast are solid enough to make the film stand up. The new cast includes the velociraptors. I was worried from the trailers that the movie would turn them into something that they’re not. These dinosaurs were vicious and intelligent, and the trailers played that down. But the raptors are still what they were in the other movies, and another familiar dinosaur gets a good solid part to play in the film’s climax.

Hearing John Williams original soundtrack (adapted and expanded by Michael Giacchino) on the arrival to Jurassic World was like re-living my childhood, and all the years afterward of re-watching Jurassic Park (lost count long ago of how many times I’ve seen the first movie). And watching Jurassic World, after I stopped comparing it to the original, was a pretty satisfying experience. It is a worthy sequel. The dinosaurs still come thick and fast, like the action. The pace is relentless, the set pieces are gripping…

Jurassic World isn’t perfect. The story could be stronger, there’s too much CGI at times, Giacchino’s soundtrack doesn’t come close to John Williams’s… But it’s a great movie, and as a die-hard Jurassic Park fan, I can highly recommend it.

Rating: 4/5


Has anyone else seen Jurassic World? What did you think? Are you a big fan of the original, do you think Jurassic World is a worthy sequel?

Avengers Age of Ultron movie Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron review

10 (11)/10

Sequels to movies are like sequels to books. Sometimes they’re not as good. Sometimes they’re just as good. And sometimes they’re better.

Joss Whedon had a crazy task on his hands with bettering The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for those of us in the UK). It was a tough ask to deliver a sequel that could top the epicness of The Avengers. But… Whedon and the team managed it—and then some.

Age of Ultron doesn’t just rival its predecessor, it knocks it out of the park and keeps on knocking it out of the atmosphere. It’s that good.

Age of Ultron is a different movie to The Avengers, the team are already assembled, they know each other, and the opening sequence as they break into a fortress to retrieve (don’t worry, no spoilers here)… Whedon makes sure we know that the Avengers are now a fully working team. And that is the core of the movie. How do the Avengers work together. The plot has many more strands than the first movie. There is more going on (which is set up for the next instalment). But the main focus of the story is the Avengers working together, and how they hold up when someone is trying to break them apart from the inside.

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As well as that Whedon delivers another ‘earth at stake’ scale disaster with Ultron at its centre. Is Ultron a villain worthy to rival Loki? Hard to say, but Ultron is definitely a worthy adversary. And with James Spader’s awesome voice-work and motion capture behind the CGI, Ultron isn’t just a robot.

Like in The Avengers, Whedon balances the Avengers well, giving each of them separate stories, but allotting them (mostly) equal screen time. Hawkeye and Black Widow get a more solid story this time around, and through new additions to the cast (Quicksilver and his sister the Scarlet Witch) we get to find out (again, no spoilers in how) more about the Avengers past… maybe even their futures…

Whedon’s trademark humour is on fine from once again, and all of the characters, even minor ones (and the villains) get more than one witty one-liner. The plot is much more complex than in The Avengers, the world, story, characters all feel more solid. More strands are introduced and the movie feels much more substantial than the Avengers (which had a solid plot too, which tells you how good Age of Ultron’s plot is). Things are resolved, and things are left unanswered, ready for the next (two-parter) instalment, Infinity War.

The CGI is as high-quality as with all Marvel movies, but while there explosions and fight sequences aplenty, the CGI is mixed with enough real sets and physical effects to not be distracting. Whedon’s direction is all but faultless. There’s no choppy editing to make action sequences impossible to understand and the pace is relentless when it needs to be and a little steadier when the story is about the characters. And for a story about the potential annihilation of Earth, Whedon (on script duty as well as directing) makes sure the characters are the focus of the movie.

Overall, Age of Ultron is possible the best Marvel movie so far. Everything we’ve come to expect is present and correct: action, pace, humour, explosions—but Whedon and the team inject enough originality and make this different enough from The Avengers that it never feels like we’re watching the first movie with a few bits added. The only, tiny, fault is the soundtrack. The main Avengers theme that ran through the first movie and made action sequences more gripping isn’t used enough this time around. I didn’t leave the cinema humming the theme tune like I did last time—but I did leave with a huge grin on my face and feeling pretty damn satisfied.

Avengers Age of Ultron is out now in the UK, and hits cinemas May 1st in the US.

Interstellar Movie Review

Interstellar Review


interstellarThis was impressive on DVD, but it would have been epic on another scale I’d  in 3D at the cinema.

Christopher Nolan’s films always make you think—even the Dark Knight trilogy was much smarter than superhero movies usually are. You’re guaranteed to leave the cinema looking at something differently or wondering if something impossible might actually be possible. Memento did it. Inception did it (and messed with you head at the same time) and I think it’s safe to say Interstellar did it, too.

Interstellar is the kind of movie that makes you look at things in a whole other way once you’ve seen it. But I think calling it a movie is an understatement. It’s more of an experience. And a crazy, mind-boggling one.

At almost three hours, Interstellar is long, but it didn’t feel that way watching it. I wasn’t all that conscious of how much time was passing, because the film pulls you in in the first few minutes. Nolan spends long enough developing the characters before the action kicks in and things move to space—and beyond. For a film that is asking the audience to accept and figure out some wild theories, it’s surprisingly believable.  The technology of the spaceships and the alien planets etc. are all realistic. Nolan’s trademark sweeping shots of impressive landscapes are present here, and despite how bleak this film is, it’s never anything less than compelling. Maybe Nolan could have included some more diverse planets, where there would have been some great opportunities to explore crazy worlds like Pandora.4912d657713c1a0a7025d7dd539a8396d77d5adb But this movie isn’t meant to be Avatar. Maybe Nolan wasn’t even trying to make a blockbuster. This film is more subtle than that. There are some gripping action set pieces—a huge tidal wave makes for a white-knuckle sequence—but it’s not an action movie.

Sometimes the science-speak might confuse people—It did me a few times—but co-writers Johnathan and Chris Nolan make sure it’s understandable enough that you’re not scratching your head the whole time. There are some surprising and smart twists in the plot, even if not all the questions set up here are answered. But that only makes you think about the movie more when it’s over. I’m still thinking about it, probably will be for the rest of the week, maybe even longer.

Mcconaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain are on top form throughout and the rest of the prettyinterstellar_movie_still_2 small cast also deliver fine performances. Mackenzie Foy gives a great performance as the young version of Jessica Chastain’s Murphy. Hans Zimmer’s score is stirring and epic, perfectly suited to the scope of this movie, as it is for pretty much every movie he scores.

Overall, this is a damn impressive film that doesn’t shy away from asking tough questions, but never bewilders enough that it pulls you out of the experience. It makes you think about something other than Earth and what might be out there.

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt,” says Mcconaughey’s character Cooper. It couldn’t be more true after watching this movie.

Highly, highly recommended.

What did everyone else think of Interstellar, and what other movies have made you think or see something differently?

Series or Stand Alone?

Series or Stand Alone?

I’m asking this question in regards to books, movies.

Which is better, a series of books/movies or stand alones? No cliffhangers, or cliffhangers?10491065_10152521102786558_6318007250642602741_n

I think it’s down to the writer, the plot, the characters and the story. I don’t think it’s a good idea to milk a story for all it’s worth just for monetary reasons (the way they’re splitting a lot of the final movie adaptions of books into two, or even three parts). If this happens the story can feel stretched. Like Bilbo says ‘I feel thin, stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.’ A story can feel thin if it’s stretched over too many books. A good example of this is the Divergent series. I’m a fan of the first book. It had a solid story and some gripping action. But it felt incomplete. More of a set up. If there’d been less time spent focusing on the romance and training, the series could easily have been two books. But then there’s the argument that time spent developing character would be reduced. I’m not sure I agree with that. Divergent had enough character development, and Insurgent had the meat of the three book series’ story arc that two books would have worked. Allegiant felt a little pointless–very well written… But not a lot happened and the third book suffered because of it—thousands of fans and many critics agreed.

But some series do need to be two, three, four+ books. Harry Potter is a prime example. Rowling created a colossal world in the Potter books, and confining that and Harry’s story to three or four books wouldn’t have done it justice. The world needed seven books to be fleshed out (though Rowling managed it in the first book alone. More proof of her unparalleled world-building skills) and we needed to see Harry grow up for the resolutions in the final book to impact the way they do. So in the case of Potter, a series, and a pretty long one, was justified. Necessary even.

A series that has been stretched out to over a dozen books (twenty when the latest is released in September) is the Jack Reacher series. But this again, can be justified. The Reacher books connect, but they are by no means a must-read-from-the-very-beginning-to-understand type of series. You can pick up the eight, third or eleventh Reacher book and slide into the story and get to know Reacher without having had any clue who he was before. This kind of series, again, can be justified.

The Hunger Games is a series I’m not sure about. It’s common practice, since the Huger Games, for YA series to be trilogies. But with the Hunger Games I’m not sure if it needed three books or not. On the one hand, the three books, like with Potter, allow the world and characters to develop fully. Two books may not have been enough. Despite the second book, Catching Fire, being my favourite of the series, I’m not sure it was entirely necessary. It’s a bit of a carbon-copy of the first book, and the plot doesn’t move along all that much. If the ending of the second book had been worked into the ending of the first book, then Catching Fire could almost have been omitted, and Mockingjay could have become the second and final book.

InsurgentFinalMoviePosterIn regards to the film adaptions of The Hunger Games, the splitting of Mockingjay into two movies is undoubtedly for monetary reasons. Mockingjay Part 1 felt incomplete, without plot, and if it hadn’t been a couple of hours long, it could have been the first forty minutes of a movie. The Hobbit didn’t feel this way. Each film had a solid plot, and each film felt justified. As did the splitting of Deathly Hallows. The battle of Hogwarts needed an entire film, there is no question. Looking to the future, the decision to split Allegiant into two films is one that can’t be called anything other than a cash-grab. There is nowhere near enough story in Allegiant to justify splitting it into two movies. And the movies will likely—Part 1 more so—suffer because of it. I might be jumping the gun in saying that, but from the evidence of Mockingjay Part 1—which was still a great movie—splitting a book into two when the story is more suited to one movie, is hard to see as anything other than an attempt by a movie studio to milk more money from something successful.

Many fans will look forward to spending more time with characters, in the worlds they read about in books. And I’m one of them. I’ve got no problem spending more time in Middle-Earth and The Wizarding World, or seeing Katniss take down President Snow. But sometimes, it’s good to look at it from a non-fan’s point of view. Is it necessary? Does it weaken the film/book?

I prefer book series to stand alone stories most of the time. I like to get invested in a world and a set of characters, to follow them through several books. And sometimes the world and the characters are solid enough that you forget there’s little in the way of story or point in the series being a series. Sometimes it’s the opposite and Bilbo’s words come to mind.

But which do you prefer? Series or stand alone?

What to look forward to in 2015 (the rest of it anyway)

2015 is a big year in all aspects. I’m graduating from Uni, I achieved one of my goals and signed with a literary agent, and this year is also packed with some great movies, TV shows and books. A few of the things I’m looking forward to in the coming months are included here.

MOVIES

Jurassic World (June 2015)

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Jurassic Park is my favourite move of all time. Will probably hold that spot for the rest of my life. And since 2001 (hard to believe it’s 14 years) when Jurassic Park 3 came out, I’ve been waiting for the fourth entry in the dino franchise. Now it’s here—nearly here. I was disappointed to hear none of the original cast would be back, but Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are two great actors and Spielberg is serving as producer so hopefully things should turn out great. Though I doubt it’ll match the original, Jurassic World’s trailer promises epic things. I hope that turns out to be true.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (April 2015)

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Joss Whedon made arguably one of the best superhero movies of all time with The Avengers. Topping it was always going to be nigh on impossible. But from the awesome trailers. Age of Ultron looks like it’s going to deliver the goods. The Marvel formula may be becoming a little be too familiar, but when it’s this action-packed, it’s hard to care.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (December 2015)

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I’m not a big Star Wars fan. I haven’t seen any of the originals, have only seen Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith in terms of the prequel trilogy. But I’m a big fan of JJ Abrams and the Star Trek reboots, and from the recent teaser trailer, The Force Awakens looks like it’s going to be epic. This movie should please fans and bring in a whole new generation of new ones. The shot of the hooded figure staggering through the woods, the light-sabre with the cross-piece flickering to life gave me chills, so I’ll definitely be checking The Force Awakens when it hits screens in December.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (November 2015)

I’m a big fan of the Hunger Games movies and books. The first move and Catching Fire were action-packed and very good adaptions of the books. Mockingjay part 1 felt like filler, and while it was entertaining, it should have been a single movie. Despite that, Part 2 has saved most of the action from the book and it should be an explosive and epic finale for the series. Though finale may not be correct, because Lionsgate are rumoured to be looking into ways to remain in the Hunger Games universe for more movies.

Spectre (October 2015)

Skyfall was one of the best Bond movies of all time, and Craig is growing on me as Bond. I grew up with Pierce Bronsnan and his movies will always be my favourite, but Craig’s always deliver plenty of action, stunning Bond girls and gripping stories. And the secrecy around Spectre and recent location footage promise great things for the death-cheating agent’s 24th outing.

Mission: Impossible 5 (July 2015)

Ghost Protocol, the fourth movie in the M:I series was definitely the best of the lot, and delivered some epic set pieces. So Ethan Hunt and co’s latest has a lot of work to do to top its predecessor. Hopefully we’ll get plenty of action, and more crazy stunts from Cruise when the action hits in July.

Crimson Peak, Fantastic Four and Ant-Man are three others to look out for this year. I have mixed feeling about Ant-Man, but Del Toro’s films are always great so Crimson Peak looks set it be scary and brilliant. Fantastic Four’s trailer could’ve done with a little humour—it looked too serious—but that too looks pretty promising.

TV

Games of Thrones season 5

If you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, do, even if you’re not a fantasy fan, even if you haven’t read the books. Thrones delivers on every level. Each episode is movie-quality. Season 5 should be just as epic, if not more so than every season before it. Unfortunately, Thrones is something I have to wait for the DVD, because I’m tight and don’t want to pay for Sky.

Agents of Shield Season 2 Part 2

I don’t know why TV networks split TV shows in half, but they do, and we have to wait months between halves of a season. And when it’s as good as Marvel’s Agents of Shield’s much improved second season, it’s a hard wait. Season 1 got awesome in the last few episodes of the first season, and the second had built and built on that. With more ties to the Marvel movie universe, this series should live for years to come.

CSI: Cyber

Another CSI spin off? Count me in. I’m not a fan of Horatio-let-me-take-my-shades-off-and-turn-my-head-at-a-weird-angle and CSI Miami, but Mac and the gang in New York City always delivered cases as gripping as the original CSI. And with the original still going strong—though not as strong as when Grissom or Langston were at the helm—CSI Cyber could be a worthy addition to the CSI universe. Based on the pilot, things look good.

Supernatural season 10

Not many shows can last 10 seasons (eleven now with the recent news of a renewal) and not just stay strong, but get stronger. But Supernatural pulls it off with ease. Sam and Dean are like old buddies, and each episode always delivers plenty of action, pace and scares. Like Game of Thrones, I have to wait for this on DVD, but it’s always worth the wait. As Dean would say, “Awesome!”

Castle and Elementary round off the list off shows coming back for another season that I’m looking forward to, and Wayward Pines is one of the new shows I’m really looking forward to—but will probably have to wait for on DVD. A show produced, written and directed by M Night Shyamalan, director of the Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable. How could this be anything but awesome?

BOOKS

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

This goes straight to the top of the list because the first two books in the YA high fantasy trilogy were epic, un-put-downable and two of the best books I’ve ever read. The third book has a lot to live up to, and hopefully, no-doubt, Abercrombie will deliver.

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Mr. Mercedes was Stephen King’s first real, hard crime novel, and he pulled it off like he’d been writing them for years. Mr. Mercedes was gripping, creepy and fast-paced. Hopefully the sequel will deliver on everything its predecessor will.

The last Star (5th Wave) by Rick Yancey

The first two books in Rick Yancey’s sci-fi trilogy weren’t always perfect, but they both delivered plenty of action, pace and sharp writing. The third and final book in the series has the monumental task of tying up everything from the first two books, and expanding on the huge plot twist Yancey pulled in book 2, The Infinite Sea.

Make Me by Lee Child

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Reacher’s back in September with his 20th adventure, and Child can always be relied on to deliver, action, wit, pace and solid writing. If you haven’t started this series, or have only read one or two, I urge you to start from the beginning. The Reacher series has some of the best books ever written and Child is a great writer.

There are dozens more books, too many to list here, being released in 2015.

Drop a comment below with the stuff you’re looking forward to, or the stuff you’re not. 

Marvel or DC?

Marvel or DC? Tough question? Maybe, maybe not. 

There’s no doubt I’m a huge Marvel fan. I’m not a comic reader, but I can re-watch the movies and TV shows over and over. I usually see a Marvel movie the day it comes out, and get it on DVD as soon as it’s released. I write to the soundtracks and have named several characters in my writing after characters from the Marvel universe. No doubt about it. giphy (3)I’m a big fan of Marvel. DC… They’ve got a lot of competition with Marvel. DC tends to be hit or miss, whereas the Marvel movies of the past decade have been almost all hits— with both critics and in terms of box-office grosses. It’s true, Chris Nolan’s Dark Night trilogy raked in over well over $2 billion at the box office. And they are great, great films. Man of Steel did well at the box office, but not so well with the critics. Green Lantern flopped, despite not being a bad film. Smallville was a huge hit and ran for 10 seasons. But DC are still trying to catch up with Marvel.

To date, the Marvel movies (movies that fall into the Marvel cinematic universe) have collated over $7 billion at the box office. That isn’t counting the X-Men movies or the Spiderman movies. Both of which are owned by Fox and Sony respectively. Marvel also fare better (Nolan’s Batman movies aside) with critics and audiences.

So what is DC doing wrong?

Maybe they’re not embracing the comic book essence as much as Marvel is. DC movies seem to be sombre, not lacking in humour but certainly short of it when compared to Marvel. They also seem disjointed, whereas Marvel have built an entire giphy (4)world for the dozens of heroes and villains that populate their universe. A problem which DC are rushing to solve. With the sequel to Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, closing in, and a Justice League movie in the works, DC have clearly seen the benefits of a single universe and are rushing to catch up. I’m unsure if they’ll be successful. Whedon got it right on the money with The Avengers, giving the heroes enough screen time each that it felt like they were a team. Will DC be able to pull off something similar, or… better? I can’t even guess. Affleck could make a pretty good Batman, and Henry Cavill wasn’t a bad Superman. But DC needs to take a harder look at Marvel, at more than just the single universe. What makes Marvel so successful is how much they embrace the comics they are based on. They’re not always solemn and drained of colour (cough—Superman), they’re packed with humour (Guardians of the Galaxy) and they’re never overlong, over serious, and never boring. DC needs to lighten up. For a movie about a guy who can fly and shoot lasers from his eyes, Superman took itself very seriously. DC needs to loosen up, look harder at the comics their movies are based on and take a leaf from Marvel’s book.

Marvel isn’t perfect. Not even in the eyes of a big fan. While most of the movies are well plotted, they all climax in pretty much the exact same way. A face off with the villain. The formula works, but how long will it continue to work? It has to be said for DC that they do things a little differently. Each of Nolan’s Batman movies was very different from the its predecessor. And unlike most Marvel movies, I couldn’t predict what was going to happen at the end of each one.

The decision between Marvel agiphy (5)nd DC will always be an easy one for me. Marvel wins hands down. You come out of a cinema after a Marvel movie with a grin on your face, humming the soundtrack and planning your next trip for a re-watch. Will Marvel always hold the crown, or will DC’s upcoming movies take it?

What do you think? Are you a bigger fan of Marvel or of DC, and why?

Guardians of the Galaxy movie review

This review might be a little disjointed, because i’m still playing scenes from the movie over in my head and laughing to myself. There aren’t all that many movies that do that, but Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely one of them. It was hard to believe that any other Marvel movie could come close to besting Avengers. Captain America Winter Solider was brilliant, but it didn’t quite push Avengers off that high podium. Thor Dark World was epic, but it didn’t come close. And then i saw Guardians of the Galaxy last night, and i’m still undecided on whether it’s the best Marvel movie yet. It certainly gives Joss Whedon’s near-flawless Marvel mash-up a run for it’s money. But both movies have things the other doesn’t.
One thing you can rely on when you go into a cinema to watch a Marvel movie. And that is a good time. And debut Marvel director James Gunn delivers ten-fold on giving cinema-goers a good time. Guardians is action-packed, hilarious, superbly directed and has an awesome cast. It has more quotable lines than all the existing Marvel movies put together, and the smile i had on my face from the first few minutes of the film stayed there all the way to the credits and then all the way home. I’m still laughing at the memory of some of the scenes.
The cast couldn’t have been better put-together in any universe. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista and Bradley Cooper all bring their own to their parts and it’s hard to imagine they could have done a better job. The same could be said for Gunn’s directing job. His comedy background shines through every minute, but his handling of the action was on a level with some of the best.
The plot may be familiar, and the finale a re-tread of every other Marvel movie, but when the build up is this impressive it really does not matter. Guardians of the Galaxy is hilarious, fast-paced, expertly-directed and has the best cast of a Marvel movie so far. I defy anyone not to be entertained. Yes, it’s silly, but how could anything with a talking raccoon not be?
See it if you already haven’t, and if you have, see it again.
Make sure you stick around after the movie ends, to see Groot do something you’ll be laughing at for days after.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire review

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Up until yesterday, my favourite movie of the year (to be released in cinemas, and that i have seen) was Thor: The Dark World. But that all changed last night when i saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Unlike a lot of people i, in some ways, preferred the movie the the book (though don’t get me wrong, i am a huge fan of the books). The movie toned down the annoying focus on clothes and makeup that bogged down the first half of the book for me. It was an action packed, gripping and intense movie that did full justice to the book and had very few flaws. And so, it was with high expectations, dangerously high in fact, that i sat down and waited for Catching Fire to start. After the usual, annoying half hour of ads the lights dimmed and the movie started. It opens with a sweeping view of a bleak, snowy forest. And then we meet back up with Katniss, doing what she does best: hunting. 

From that moment that pace is pretty much relentless. Yes, there is a slow build to start as we follow Katniss and Peeta on their victory tour through the districts. It is in this first hour or so that Francis Lawrence delivers much of the hard hitting scenes. I won’t reveal anything but we get to see just how corrupt and dangerous Panem really is and how ruthless President Snow is. Then, once the games start it is full on action right up until the credits. Many were worried that previous director Gary Ross’s departure would be felt, but, as far as i’m concerned, it didn’t even cross my mind while watching the movie. In fact, new director Francis Lawrence pales the first movie and delivers something awesome. His skill at both action and emotion elevate this film from the first and he doesn’t feel the need to shake and jerk the camera around every couple of seconds as Ross did and the movie is all the more gripping for it. The new arena is brilliantly imagined: dangerous and lethal and the action that takes place there is visceral and breath snatching. The special effects have been taken up a notch and the scenes involving the threats in the arena (monkeys, poison fog, etc) are intense and engrossing as a result. 

As far as the performances go, Jennifer Lawrence proves she deserves her Oscar and cements the fact that she was born to play Katniss and that no one else could do a better job than her. It is impossible not to root for Katniss. Other stand out performances come, once again, from Woody Harrelsen as Hamitch, Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Elizabeth Banks as Effie. Newcomers Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee and Jena Malone as Johanna Mason deliver brilliant performances and the rest of the cast are equally praise worthy too.  

At two and a half hours it is undeniably a long film, but i was at no point bored. Those two and a half hours raced past and by the time the credits role you have barely had a chance to catch your breath and register the cliffhanger ending. Catching Fire truly is a master class in film making and it’s hard to find anything that wrong with it. The dialogue is snappy and sharply written, the action is unyielding, there is a real sense of tension and danger and the actors couldn’t have put any more into the performances. 

Now all we have to do is wait for Mockingjay part 1 and then part 2. And until then, i may just re-read the books, watch the first movie again or go watch Catching Fire for a second time. 

If you haven’t see it, what are you waiting for, go now!

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