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.

LISTED Film Previews – July 2011

And so, another summer of massive blockbuster hits is apon us. But for those of you out there who are confused by it all, running around screaming “What, oh what, should I spend my hard-earned moola on to have a good time at the cinema??”, get help. You’re running around screaming to yourself, and it’s not healthy. The people in white will be round shortly to catch you with a giant butterfly net, and I hope for their sake you go quietly. For the rest of us sane people, here’s a short guide to the big films coming your way over the summer months. Enjoy:

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART II (12A) (Dir. David Yates)

The final instalment of the Harry Potter series will bring a close to all of the events from the past seven films in a grand finale which will see The Boy Who Lived confront He Who Must Not Be Named when Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts to destroy Voldemort’s final Horcruxes. Ok, so a majority of the world will already know how it ends by this point considering the popularity of the books, but that doesn’t mean this will be any less of an ending. Even the trailer for Deathly Hallows Part II is full of effects and suspense, and that’s only two-and-a-half minutes long – AND has dragons in it! While the first part may not have had all that much happen up until half an hour from the end, we all have to remember that Deathly Hallows Part I was mostly just a pre-cursor for the events that come together in this one. Do not take this for granted – this will be the ending of an era as far as this franchise goes. While other aspects of the Harry Potter world are being milked for all they’re worth (like The Harry Potter Theme Park), the films will be the beginning and the end of all the hype. As such, anything less than a truly massive, epic, Star Wars-meets-Lord Of The Rings battle to end all battles will just be a disappointment. Even if you lost the plot after the fourth film, Deathly Hallows Part II will hopefully be the ending a generation will remember. Miss it at your own peril! Released July 15th.

CARS 2 (PG) (Dir. John Lasseter/Brad Lewis)

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his pit boss Mater and crew are back for more great Pixar animation after the success of the Cars Toons series. This time round, the gang enter the Race of Champions – a multi-national competition taking them across several different countries. But at the same time Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), an operative from the British Intelligence, wants Lightning to take part in the race to help them uncover a threat to the world’s safety. It’s undisputable how much the Cars series has profited from the merchandising of the toy lines, seconded perhaps only by Toy Story, so it’s easy to see why a sequel got made. But on the flipside the line-up of star voices, the quality of animation and the one-liners from Mater make it hard to dislike Cars 2, so this will likely become another big hit for Pixar. Released July 22nd.

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (12A) (Dir. Michael Bay)

After the laughing stock Revenge of the Fallen made of the franchise, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Dark of the Moon could just be more of the same from Michael Bay – turning what was once a legitimate, classic animation into something that involved characters trying to appeal to the young generation, and failed. Also, it had Megan Fox. The good news? Dark of the Moon looks like it could well have corrected all the mistakes the franchise has made thus far. And it doesn’t have Megan Fox. During the space race between the USSR and the USA, there was a mission to find something that had crashed into the surface of the moon – something not of our world. Now, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his alliance with Optimus Prime and the Autobots will be put to the test against a common enemy – Shockwave. Dark of the Moon promises to delve deeper into the mythos of the toy line, while also developing the human characters relationships at the same time. Also, the sheer size and budget of the effects for this third instalment look like they could dwarf the previous two in comparison, so the fact it’s being released in IMAX 3D as well could make it the visual phenomenon of the year. And it doesn’t have Megan Fox! Check out the latest trailer for just a taste of the huge-scale action that goes on. Released July 1st.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (12A) (Dir. Joe Johnston)

The final piece in the puzzle before The Avengers assemble next year is finally here. After being deemed unfit for military service in World War 2, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) signs up for a top secret military research program and is given the Super Soldier serum. He becomes the armed forces secret weapon – Captain America, The Sentinel of Liberty. In his first mission he has to tackle the Nazi operations of Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), also known as the diabolical Red Skull, who is out to track down an all-powerful Cosmic Cube to throw the balance of power in favour of the Fuhrer. Originally, it looked like Thor would be the top-seller for Marvel this year due to Captain America being set solely against the backdrop of WW2 America (almost like a cross between Superman and Pearl Harbour) and could risk losing some audiences. But after seeing the way Cap throws his stars and stripes shield in 3D, and the fact that Joss Whedon is on board as co-writer before directing The Avengers next year to tie everything together, Captain America: The First Avenger could turn out to be the big hit of the summer for Marvel Studios. Released July 29th.

BEGINNERS (12A) (Dir. Mike Mills)

75 year old Hal (Christopher Plummer) decides after decades of being in the closet to tell his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) that he is gay and has a younger lover but, at the same time, has terminal cancer. Writer/director Mike Mills might well be on to a winner with the premise of this movie and it’s likely to become this year’s breakout hit. It’s a poignant story with lots of interesting characters and development, but with plenty of comedy to balance out the drama at the same time. Plus, you can definitely expect good performances from both Plummer and McGregor as a duo in this! Released July 22nd.

As Published in Listed Magazine an on http://www.listedmagazine.com

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.

LISTED Film Previews – April 2011

Yes, intrepid film explorers, it’s time for another monthly round-up of my previews for the coming month of films. I think April is going to be the start of something very good this year, and is going to start the film juices flowing for easier digestion of the upcoming year. I can also only apologise for the lack of other posts recently, but I assure you, there will be more to come soon! Until that point in the future, wrap your eyelids round these for a while as a snack before the main course:

THOR (12A) (Dir. Kenneth Branagh)

The first (and quite possibly the best) of the big comic-book hero movies of the year comes in the form of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the famous Norse God of Thunder who, after defying his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), gets cast out from Asgard and must live amongst humans on Earth. When he meets the scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), he finds a new reason to defend Earth and retrieves his hammer Mjolnir, the source of his thunder powers. Expect big-time graphics and 3D during the scenes in Asgard and with The Destroyer from one of Marvel Comics biggest hits. And if this film manages to pull in the crowds, imagine how much The Avengers will do next year! Released 15th April.

SUCKER PUNCH (15) (Dir. Zack Snyder)

Snyder’s own original fantasy style vision will hit our screens in his true bombastic fashion. Locked away in a mental institute by her father, a young girl nick-named Baby Doll (Emily Browning) retreats into a Fantasy world with four other girl inmates (including Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie and Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea) of their own creation. But as they regress further into their fantasy world, a plan becomes clear to how they can collect 5 items from the fantasy world which they can use to escape their captors in the real world before it’s too late for all of them. Expect loads of amazing visuals and sexy steam-punk dressed girls battling dragons and other creatures with massive machine guns and suits of armour –a geeks dream come true? Quite possibly! Released 1st April.

SCREAM 4 (18) (Dir. Wes Craven)

The fourth instalment of Wes Craven’s genre-bending comedy-slasher series finally arrives to give a new generation a reason to not answer the phone. Neve Campbell returns as Sydney Prescott, the girl with a dark history who after a decade away returns to the town of Woodsboro. But along with her arrival comes a chain of copy-cat murders from a new Ghostface. Now, after a generation of horror films, the rules have all changed which means anything goes in this game of horror. With a new cast of possible victims including Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin, and with David Arquette and Courtney Cox returning also, who knows who will be the next to go… Released 22nd April.

FAST FIVE (12A) (Dir. Justin Lin)

Clearly, this whole car-porn line of films generates enough money that they can keep making sequels despite how little variation on a storyline there can really be. Still, saying that, Fast Five has been shot with the idea of releasing it in IMAX, so even the most un-car-savvy of us might actually be tempted into seeing some sweet rides race across floor-to-ceiling screens in high definition and 3D. At least this one still has the original cast of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, and with the addition of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, you can bet this will be as explosive as the other Fast and the Furious films. Released 29th April.

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

Iron Man 2 (Contains Spoilers)

The second outing of the metallic hero sees the (nearly) entire cast of the original returning for the next installment in Marvel Studios various projects currently being undergone. I’ll admit that, along with Kick-Ass, Iron Man 2 is my big geeky pleasure of the year (well, until Scott Pilgrim VS The World, that is!) and I’ve been looking forward to this since the last one came out. But, I’ve been wary about films that I’ve gotten overly excited about before (for reference, go find my views on Alice In Wonderland *heaves*), but I’m happy to say that Iron Man 2 didn’t disappoint me!

Without reciting the entire film and everything that happened in each scene, Iron Man 2 had everything that it needed in there. There was a point when fans and critics worried about it suffering from the Spider-Man 3 disease of having too many bad guys come into the mix, but the way it was executed meant that it didn’t suffer at all. Mickey Rourke was basically a slightly Russian Mickey Rourke throughout this, but he is in the bad guy spotlight in this film. Everything that occurs is because of him, and Sam Rockwell playing Justin Hammer is merely a means to how Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko/Whiplash is able to conduct all these things that happen throughout the film (even though the character of Ivan Vanko was actually Crimson Dynamo in the original story, as Whiplash was only ever Whiplash). Which is why it works so well that he first appears and has a face off with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man so early in the film. It means that they can break up the storyline of the film that much more with fight scenes earlier on, which means there isn’t any lengthy scenes of expositional nothingness… like with Spider-Man 3…

Then, of course, there is the constant undercurrent of Stark slowly (and pretty ironically) being poisoned by the Arc Reactor in his chest that he invented to keep himself alive, which then leads to his midlife depression and alcoholism which was famously tackled in the comics for some time. The ONLY bad thing I have to say about Iron Man 2 is that when he discovers a way to create a new kind of reactor to replace his that won’t kill him anymore, and will be even more efficient than his other one, he has to create a new element in order to do it and this happens a little to easily. BUT, having said that, this is entirely justified in the simple fact that he is Tony Stark, and if he can create a suit of armour that flies at over Mach 5 speeds and fires lasers, then why wouldn’t this be possible too? The only qualm over this is the fact that he had to go through the process of finding a hidden design for this in a model city his Father made in order to invent such a thing.

It does have to be said, however, that arguably one of the most impressive bits of the movie is the Suitcase Armour he uses during the first fight with Whiplash. It’s a little thing from the comics that some of the more die-hard fans might recognise and appreciate, and Jon Favreau and the writers did well to work it into the film. However, what I wasn’t much of a fan of was how Mickey Rourke made Whiplash look a bit more like someone who got lost on their way to an S&M gathering at the start. Luckily, this is rectified at the end when he turns up in an admittedly too-close-to-Iron Man-looking armour himself at the end, but is very much closer to how he should look – like more of a badass!

Whilst it’s a bit of a shame that Terrence Howard decided not to return for the second film, Don Cheadle does a very good job of stepping into his shoes as James Rhodes, who steps up to the plate as War Machine in this film. And he does a great job too – there’s I personally thought that Terrence Howard might have done differently apart from maybe bringing a bit more “cool” to the role. But considering that Rhodey is a captain in the Air Force, it’s tough to be too laid back in that position! Other new characters include the previously mentioned Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer (who, admittedly, does become a little annoying after a while…) and the amazingly sexy-looking Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov/Black Widow, who obviously did a lot of training for her role and will most likely appear in more Iron Man/Marvel films in the future because of this.

As the film moves on, it becomes more and more obvious over the links to future Marvel/Avengers-related films as Samuel L. Jackson has lengthy appearances as Nick Fury in Iron Man 2 and mentions more and more the notion of grouping together The Avengers. Almost as a joke, Stark gets handed a partially dismantled shield of Captain America to prop up some machinery he is working on in his workplace. The biggest of these, however, is rewarded to those patient enough to stay until after the credits when we are treated to a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative travelling to a dig site in the middle of the desert – a dig site where they have found Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor. So, at least now we know which film to look forward to for next year, don’t we?

Overall, apart from some slightly slow areas and perhaps not being as consistently impressive as the first one, Iron Man 2 definitely ticked all the boxes that I expected it to – it had some very entertaining action sequences, new characters, a storyline with enough taken from the comics to please fans and enough things left to tie up that they’ll make another one (which is rumoured to be a crossover with a second/third Hulk movie), and some huge geek-out moments that will keep me interested until next year’s ones!

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