LISTED Film Previews – December 2011

This is it!! The final run down of the year, and what a year its been for films! We’ve had a lot of great films come past us this year, and a lot of terrible ones….. and a lot of ones that looked great but turned out to be terrible and ultimately disappointed me to the extent that I cried. Physically cried. Sad isn’t it? Please Hollywood, stop making disappointing films and just do good ones? Thanks, ‘preciate it…

Anyway, after that short distraction, I should probably mention that you can hear more film reviews, news and previews (and other things that rhyme) on May Contain Spoilers – the Film Review show that knew Soylent Green was People all along! You can “Like” our page on Facebook to get all the latest updates, links to our podcast and pictures of our competition prizes, or you can follow us on Twitter using @FilmSpoilers. And for a taste, you can follow this link to listen to the podcast of our show:

http://maycontainspoilers.jellycast.com/podcast/feed/2

But if you came here for Film Previews to get you in the Christmas mood then… well, there aren’t many Christmas movies out this month. Sorry. But instead, I packed this months previews full of some other awesome stuff instead. Just thinking of you, you know. Enjoy!

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (12A) (Dir. Guy Ritchie)

After the surprise break-out hit of the first film, Guy Ritchie brings back the crime-solving duo of Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and Watson (Jude Law) for a second action-packed adventure. In A Game of Shadows, Holmes and Watson are pitted against their fiercest adversary and the only man that ever matched Holmes for intellect – Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Also returning is Rachel McAdams as Adler and a new addition of Noomi Rapace as Sim (which links to another release this month…) as the group go on a chase across Europe to stop Moriarty’s web of murders. If it’s as smart as the first, you can bet A Game of Shadows will be a massive hit across the board in time for the Christmas break. Released December 16th.

THE THING (15) (Dir. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.)

Not actually the re-boot that everyone thought it might be, but instead a prequel to the John Carpenter 1982 original, The Thing stars Mary-Elizabeth Winstead as grad student Kate Lloyd working in an Antarctica research facility that has discovered an alien craft. This discovery not only leads to a confrontation between her and her research professor (Ulrich Thomsen), but a series of grizzly goings-on which explain all the events that lead right up to the opening of the original film. Expect big references to the original and plenty of thrills and flame-throwers. Released December 2nd.

PUSS IN BOOTS (PG) (Dir. Chris Miller)

A somewhat tenuous spin-off from the successful Shrek series, Antonio Banderas returns for the origin story of the scene-stealing feline as he teams up with mastermind Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and Kitty (Salma Hayek) to steal the famed Goose that lays Golden Eggs. If you’re a huge follower of the Shrek series or have kids then it might be worth going to see, but the rest of us might remain cautiously sceptical for now. Released December 9th.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (12A) (Dir. Brad Bird)

Having to compete with the possibly more anticipated Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is no easy feat for Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) fourth outing in the series. Although the M:I series is starting to die out a bit, Ghost Protocol looks like it will be going in a new direction as Hunt’s group must go rogue in order to clear the name of their organisation. Also starring Jeremy Renner before he appears as Hawkeye in The Avengers next year, Ghost Protocol looks to have everything that made the previous films successful, but with a darker edge. Released December 26th.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (15) (Dir. David Fincher)

Gradually becoming a slightly more acceptable American remake than others recently, this version stars Daniel Craig as the journalist Mikael Blomqvist who is aided by wanted computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) in his search for a woman who has been missing for 40 years. Although the original Swedish films were a massive hit this side of the Atlantic, the American remake is still sure to bring in crowds due to its much higher filming budget and big name cast/direction team, so it’s probably worth going to see even if it’s just to compare with the originals. Released December 26th.

As published in Listed Magazine and on http://www.listedmagazine.com.

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Captain America: The First Avenger (May Contain Spoilers)

While there have been a lot of superhero films released in the recent months, normally a lot of which track the “origins” of that superhero and how they eventually become known as the famous whatever-they-are, there are some that do it badly and some that make it work. Captain America: The First Avenger does it in a style that, for once, is entirely unlike others.

Captain America manages to get a mix of a slow-burner of an origins story (rather than everything just “happening” a-la Green Lantern) with immediate pay-offs for other characters.  For instance, Johann Schmidt aka The Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving, who never fails to make an impressive and awesome bad guy, but especially so when he doesn’t have any skin on his face!), head of the HYDRA division of Nazi Germany, has his storyline dropped straight into the start of the film, and there is no explanation behind his character needed which works well as the exposition of his character doesn’t come until later anyway. Whereas, on the flip side, there is a slow burning storyline for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) before eventually becoming Captain America after undergoing the Super Soldier process and surviving, mainly because there is more of a personal story to his growth – Captain America always had a deeper character than some other heroes and that needed to be explained wholly in the film before anything else could move on. It needed to be seen that this Steve Rogers became Captain America for who he is and for his conscience, not just what he could do.

There were many things that I enjoyed seeing in Captain America: The First Avenger that didn’t need to be included but were made part of the overall story anyway. Firstly, there was the way they made Steve Rogers into a propaganda symbol before they actually put him in any kind of war zone, because in reality that is what Captain America started out as. Originally, the idea behind Captain America was used as propaganda to rally American troops and was used as a symbol of patriotism for the USA before it eventually continued on as a superhero comic and as part of The Avengers. Secondly, having Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark (Tony Stark/Iron Man’s dad, if none of you got that reference) as the main techie behind the Super Soldier process and creating some of Cap’s armour and his shield tied everything in the Marvel Universe together nicely, and goes to show how effective Marvel having their own film studios can be when everything comes together like that.

It would have been very easy for director Joe Johnston (of Jurassic Park III fame) Captain America: The First Avenger to totally milk the patriotism potential of a film like this, and turn it into a “Go USA!” kind of film (like Battle: Los Angeles turned out to be) instead of how it actually was by having it as an superhero film set in World War II and perfectly capturing the film noir-style of the era and managing to make it feel genuine rather than forced, and mixed the sci-fi with the historical in a seamless way. Also, the way they managed to make Cap’s suit more like that of the Ultimates series (i.e. a kind of Kevlar armour jacket and helmet rather than the all-in-one suit of yester-year) means that everything seemed more genuine rather than having him run round a warzone in a bright blue and red suit.

Tommy Lee Jones did amazing work starring as Colonel Chester Phillips in charge of the Super Soldier program, and Sebastian Stan was very convincing as Bucky Barnes even though they decided to kill him off in the film where he would otherwise go on to be Captain America’s sidekick. That being said, since Captain America: The First Avenger is mainly being done to tie in with The Avengers next year, there was obviously less time to indulge in Captain America’s WW2 years.

But all of this storyline, for how amazing it was, seems like nothing compared to the final scene of the film and the post-credits teaser. The final act of the film sees Steve Rogers waking up in a seemingly 1940’s hospital before breaking out of its fake walls into a modern day world and realising his situation with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), consequently cutting out the entire scenes of him being found frozen in the ice and being brought into the modern day world as it keeps the first-person knowledge of the film.

SPOILER ALERT: And then there is the post-credits teaser trailer for The Avengers next summer. Starting with Steve Rogers training in a boxing gym and knocking the punching bag off the ceiling, it continues on with brief glimpses of Loki in the S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ and other heroes like Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner, and it would seem he now gets a purple-tinted suit to wear as well) all out in action, with the tagline Some Assembly Required appearing in between the clips. Needless to say, if you’re even a fraction of the geek that I am, you’re bound to be excited about this first glimpse of one of the biggest films of next year.

Essentially, Captain America: The First Avenger does a brilliant job of bringing the final piece of The Avengers puzzle into play, and was surprisingly more interesting as a film for all its set pieces and script writing than Thor turned out to be, and manages to avoid turning the patriotism dial into overload too. Captain America: The First Avenger gets 9 out of 10 for bringing everything in the Marvel Universe together and getting me appropriately excited for The Avengers.

Thor (May Contain Spoilers)

Since the ending clip from Iron Man 2, I’ve been massively anticipating the release of this film, not only as adaptation of one of Marvel Comics’ big-time superheroes but also as a pre-cursor to The Avengers coming out next year.

Taking place over two different worlds, Thor sees the Norse God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) battle his way across both his homeland of Asgard against the Frost Giants, and then across Earth against a seemingly unstoppable force from Asgard, The Destroyer. Being the next in line for the throne of Asgard, Thor becomes cocky and disobedient and leads a fight against the Frost Giants. For his arrogance, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to Earth and takes back the source of his power – his hammer Mjolnir. Stranded on Earth, Thor meets physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who takes him in. Back in Asgard Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has taken over the throne and plans to destroy other worlds, along with his older brother. Thor must learn what it takes to be a hero in order to stop Loki turning The Destroyer on Earth and everything he has grown to love.

When I was a younger, I loved reading about all the different Norse gods and their stories, and that’s partly why I was so excited for Thor coming out rather than Captain America later this year. The great part about this, from a story perspective, is that there’s no need for an “origin” story. He doesn’t become Thor; he just is Thor right from the start thus taking out the whole background story element. The CGI landscape for Asgard is just as huge and intricate as you would expect it to be, which adds a lot to the general visuals of the film. Also, it means the iconic Asgardian armour and helmets they wear don’t seem out of place at all, which was at one point a worry for the producers as they almost dropped the idea in favour of other costumes. As a flipside to this, it’s probably a good thing that not once is “thou art”, “havat thee” or “verily” used, as that would probably be too much for audiences to take seriously!

Obviously, there have to be certain differences from the source material – the Frost Giants for one are done pretty differently as they are normally pictured to be towering mountains of giants, but in Thor they’re more like a tribe of huge, tattooed warriors with control over ice. Both concepts work equally well for their medium, so one doesn’t really seem better than the other. One part Thor could have done without is the flashback to Odin putting the block on Mjolnir as it seemed like a useless point to reinforce by the end of the film, but having a not-so-Hollywood ending made up for it.

Kat Denning’s intern character was obviously put in to represent the young, hipster generation and probably should have grated on me more, but since I actually like Kat Dennings I found it hard to dislike her in Thor that much. Also, as many might agree, had no problems with Jeremy Renner making his first appearance as Hawkeye in the middle, even though he didn’t actually do very much. And yes, as with all Marvel films, there is a bit at the end worth staying for which ties in nicely to Captain America and perhaps even The Avengers.

Thor gets 8 out of 10 for being an epic action film with amazing landscapes and fantasy worlds, and even though it didn’t quite have the same initial impact Iron Man did, it definitely lived up to all my expectations.

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