Warcraft (2016)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Firstly I want to apologise for seemingly having abandoned my blog. I have not. I am not a wuss. I can do this shit. It’s just that work and events have enabled me from both watching films and writing about them so it’s been kind of slow. Luckily, with one massive solo marathon in the cinema and tiring its employees with the ‘oh god she still hasn’t left’ I am almost caught up with recent cinema events and I can give my blog a fresh new start.

So yes. World of Warcraft. warcraft4The big gamerverse film that had the possibility of breaking the barriers between videogames and cinema and make something that is actually worth watching. Since my entire knowledge of World of Warcraft is based on that one episode from South Park, I am not one of the enthusiasts that left the cinema with a hard on and I can only speak from film experience and truthfully, Warcraft had a lot to work on. Sorry, warriors.

So Warcraft starts from the very beginning, when humans and orcs were still living peacefully apart from each other in other worlds. The orcs are not in a great position since pretty much all good stuff has been drained from their world, so the oldest and ugliest of them all, Gul’dan, works his magic with a power called the Fel and leads them through a portal to the human worlds where they could all live happily again.  The humans, of course, aren’t very fond of the idea and start prepping for battle with special forces Lothar, your average sassy hero, Khadgar, a mage-in-puberty and Medivh, the protector who does a great job at it by hiding far away. While they gather to fight, things in the Orcs camp are also not easy, where clan leader Durotan starts to question the intentions of Gul’dan and tries to find his own path.

Again, I should state that I know pretty much nothing about the actual game World of Warcraft. It’s one of the biggest games in the world and it has thousands of fans, who all could not wait for a film version of their fave pastime activity. It’s a pretty obvious move of the makers to put in all these little references and things that make the fans feel exciting feels. It’s just a big shame that these things do not really get across to the general cinema audience. Probably about 75 percent of the fun in the film is related to actual game stuff, making it pretty hard for nongamers to be in on the gags. If you then look at the things in cinema perspective, you will honestly not find that much special. Cliché is the word you’re looking for. Nine and a half out of ten things are predictable, there’s a brooding but still lively enough to be sassy hero with a sad background story (his wife died, what a shocker), a son who’s just trying to make daddy proud, the ambitious but inexperienced teen whose silly little mistakes are (questionable) comedy gold… let’s not even begin about the whopping number of 3 whole women in the entire film (4 if you count that one chick that carries a chest with Lothar who is obviously there to increase the female quota), of which the most important one walks around in a skin tight bikini and who out of the human/orc mix is just enough woman to be true fap-material. We’ve seen it all; it’s not surprising anymore, just a little irritating. A big hit like this could have met its expectations a little better on the cinematic front.

warcraft5Animation and action wise, Warcraft is pretty great. The big rough landscapes look amazing and, admirably,  not even fake. Even the city of Stormwind, which contains impossible towers and almost cutesie medieval houses, looks pretty great from the overview perspectives. The CGI in the characters is pretty epic too, the orcs look scary as shit and although Gul’dan still
has a huge videogame-look to him he is a cool sight to behold. The battles are grotesque and spectacular and I haven’t felt that much love for a griffin since Harry Potter. I’m not that big on fighter games but scenes like that could possibly persuade me to start liking them anyway.  Now if the rest would have matched the quality of the visuals, it might have gotten more of my stars.

I get it, guys. I’d also be hella excited if they made a film of Animal Crossing or the first Harry Potter pc game (wait.) so I’m not here to diminish the flames in your hearts. The truth is that looking solely from a cinematic perspective, Warcraft isn’t very special. There’s clichés after clichés after clichés, which gets a little tiring after a while and is something that even great visuals can’t fix. Making a film for the fans is a good idea, no doubt about that, but you’d think they’d try to make it a little more accessible for the general audience like they’ve been promoting. For me, the videogame curse hasn’t been broken, but with the increasing love for videogames in the world it is only a matter of time before a true hero comes along and sweeps us all off our gamer-feet.

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

 

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A good magician never reveals his secrets. So what do we do? Make a film about revealing magicians secrets! Fair enough, the performances in Now You See Me are spectacular and don’t have the average ‘is this your card?’ level, but the sequel does not quite own up to the original. Is it the tricks? Is it the showmanship? Or is it Daniel Radcliffe playing a mean Harry Potter? Let’s find out. Now You See Me 2 will make you feel amazed by illusionists, but has a few less surprises than intended.

Now You See Me 2 picks up a year and a half later after the first one. The Horsemen went into hiding, girl Horseman Henley left the group and gets replaced by gory illusionist Lula and the group, including plot twist leader Dylan Rhodes,  is practicing for the big plan of
nowyouseeme2 the Eye. Their big comeback gets ruined when they get kidnapped by Walter Mabry, a snobby billionaire who’s trying to stay off the grid. He tasks them with a near impossible heist for his big plan, which could lead to the exposure of the entire world’s private information. It is up to the Horsemen and their illusionist skills to get free from Mabry’s grip and expose and frame him for the entire world to see.

I’m just going to say it: Now You See Me (the original) was brilliant. Seeing these really cool tricks being done and then shown even more amazingly how they worked was pretty new to me but pretty goddamn awesome. The sequel is a bit more of the same thing. There are some big tricks and some small tricks, ones that all leave you pretty confused but get explained just as quickly so you can snap you’re fingers and be like ‘riiiiight good job on that one’. The little problem with the sequel is that we know what exactly to expect from the techniques of the film, so that there are less surprises for us on how the trick was set up. We almost start looking for things that could be part of it (and finding them, pretty easily) because that’s what we’ve learned from the first one, which is a bit of a shame. It mainly happens during the final trick, which is supposed to be the climax, but it was pretty easy to figure out and in the end not even that spectacularly clever. On the other hand, the scenes where we are already in on the illusion and see them working their magic live are amazing. The build up to their comeback show is truly wonderful (shoutout to the banana) and the heist itself with the playing card throwing is very magical (ha). These scenes kind of balance out what we miss in the other tricks, so we never get too annoyed or bored with the film.

Since the tricks are the biggest part of the film, the plot seems to be kind of written around it. The story gets a little confusing at times, especially regarding Thaddeus Bradley and Dylan Rhodes, and the cooperation with the Eye. We’re obviously supposed to look at
the special moments more than the overall things. The addition of Lizzy Caplan to the cast was a good choice. She has a lot of personality, more than the average token girl of the group, and seems to be a genuine part of the group; although it would have been better if they left out the forced romantic interest between her and Jack. Woody Harrelson plays a double role nowyouseeme22this time, once again as Merritt McKinney and also his twin brother Chase. Merritt is not more spectacular than before but Chase is a very extravagant character and quite a delight to watch. Finally there’s Daniel Radcliffe, who is not super convincing as the villain and acts more like a Harry Potter gone Draco Malfoy, but he tries and it’s quite fun to see him in another major role besides the boy who lived.

Now You See Me 2 sure has its flaws, but the cool magic tricks and executions of it make up for them. The Horsemen that we all loved from the original are back and smart as hell, while we get the joy from a fresh new group member that is fortunately (and almost surprisingly) just as fun as her predecessor. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine may have been a little unnecessary and just there for namedropping, but the storylines of the others are more fun anyway. Fans of the first will surely like this one too, and the general cinema audience themselves will have another good popcorn film for the Saturday night.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

One of the many MCU friendship squads is back! The next gen X-Men’s third instalment promises more new (or old, damn you timelines) characters, more emotional rides and of course the big ultimate baddie of them all; it doesn’t get much bigger than Apocalypse himself, doesn’t it? While the whole ‘this time it is FOR REAL for real’ vibe does not really get across as well as it could have, XM:A does do another good job on the characters and lets a few people shine like they haven’t shined before.

We’re moving through the second half of the 20th century with speed, so for XM:A we have landed in the crazy eighties. Neon colours, backcombed hair and insane electronic tunes have reached the Xavier School for the Gifted, where people have move past the shocking xmenapocalypse3events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, besides the fact that Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is now worshipped as the ultimate hero. The peace ends quickly when the ancient and superpowerful mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rises after thousands of years, and sets out to cleanse the world from its bad ways. When Apocalypse and his four followers (including Magneto) kidnap Xavier for his powers, the other mutants have to quickly master their powers and save the whole world, including their beloved teacher.

What I talked about in Captain America: Civil War was that filmmakers often feel the need to create a bigger villain each film, because a bigger threat is bound to be more spectacular, amiright? XM:A makes a literal use of this, by reaching for the highest bar: Apocalypse, the main dude, a mutant whose power it is to control earth and who keeps on living by infiltrating the body of other mutants while gaining their abilities as well. Despite the intro and a little explanation from FBI lady Moira Mactaggert, there is little explanation about Apocalypse, so he kind of just goes out there and does his thing. He’s not really as scary as they made him out to be which kinds of disempowers the ‘number 1 baddie’ deal. Still, his powers are quite epic and he makes a worthy opponent, especially when it comes to clashing with Xavier. Apart from Apocalypse, the writers didn’t forget Magneto’s little mayhem of 10 years ago. He gets another sad background story to heap up the emotional shitpile that was already inside of him. It’s a little sad to see two nice characters being killed off for the sole purpose of man pain (what else is new, Hollywood) but the relationship it creates between Xavier and Magneto (and the overall group of mutants) is pretty interesting.

What we loved so much about the previous X-Men films, especially DOFP, was seeing the teen mutants working on their powers. It’s a pleasure to see this again in XM:A, where we are introduced to the puberty versions of the original X-Men characters. Sophie Turner plays the young Jean Grey as a more ready-for-action Sansa. Tye Sheridan is a great young xmenapocalypse4Scott Summers and it’s nice to see his character in depth since he was only really a comic relief character in the original series. Also Kodi Smit-McPhee looks like a great Nightcrawler, not just because of the makeup. Other newcomers are the young Storm, Angel and Psylock, but unfortunately they get reduced to mere minions of Apocalypse and we cannot see them shine as much. Fan favourite Quicksilver is also back in a pretty major way, dealing with his relation to Magneto. The outstanding point of DOFP was his slow-motion scene and luckily he gets to do it all over again in XM:A. His slow-motion explosion sequence is brilliant and does justice to a wonderfully played character. All of these mutants’ powers together make for some cool action scenes, especially when fighting each other, so that you will be fulfilled of your superpower needs.

X-Men: Apocalypse, as a true third instalment, is pretty good but not better than its predecessors. Luckily, they are aware of it themselves, with the fourth wall breaking wink to the audience when the teen mutants walk out of the cinema to declare that “everybody knows the third one is always the worst.” Action-wise the film is decent although Apocalypse could have been bigger and scarier to get us frightened. It is made up for by the big ensemble of teen mutants who are dealing with their powers and get their deserving time in the spotlight. They almost overpower the role of Charles Xavier, who in this film only turns bald and has awkward conversations with Moira Mactaggert, and Mystique, who only walks around feeling awkward about her hero status, but it’s a new generation and we need a bit of fresh meat to keep things interesting. Now it’s time to wait for X-Men in the nineties. Quicksilver with white tipped spiked hair? Can’t wait.

The Nice Guys (2016)

Rating: ★★★★☆

There’s something about a squealing Ryan Gosling that I just can’t seem to get out of my mind. I didn’t quite know what to expect from the same guy that did The Notebook and Drive, but once I saw the trailer for The Nice Guys I knew I was really going to like this pretty rude piece of work, even though it’s set in the seventies which is one of my lesser favourite time periods. We are treated to a 2 hour long (great) mess that is both subtle and extravagant  and will leave you wanting more adventures of the completely incapable detective duo Healy and March.

Welcome to the groovy seventies, where we find ourselves in the big city Los Angeles and theniceguys5its underground, party hardy, hedonistic vibes. After porn star Misty Mountains (which ruins my entire perception of The Hobbit) is tragically killed in a car crash, her old aunt claims to have seen her alive and hires terrible private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to help her find her niece. March thinks she was just confused by a girl called Amelia, but when the no nonsense underground investigator Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) comes onto the same trail, it seems there is something more going on with Amelia. Inbetween the alcohol, strippers and disco tunes, the two are forced to work together to uncover a plot that goes deeper than just a silly misunderstanding and reaches as far as the government

The seventies are known for their ridiculous creations, style, sexuality and fashion choices, something that The Nice Guys picks up very nicely. Although we get to see most of the underground world of the disco decade, it never really gets too vulgar or over the top. Even with porn being a much discussed topic, The Nice Guys still gets a sense of class, which is superweird considering the film is actually pretty rude and gory. Even this gore, the amount of violence and dark humour is shown so subtly that you cannot help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Throwing a corpse onto a wedding table, mistaking an acrobat’s ass for a table and preteens trying to flash some older dudes, there are many absurd things to be seen that are made to look pretty normal. The humour is very subtle, the action is plenty and not too much and although the plot gets a little messy sometimes towards the ending, it does not even show that much because the rest of it is just as absurd.

The absolute highlight of The Nice Guys is the relationship between Healy and March. Crowe’s role is nothing new for him, but he plays the grunting, quite Healy with visibly TNG_Day_#34_12122014-131.dngmore joy than many of his other roles. Ryan Gosling on the other hand plays someone completely different. Enormous mess Holland March is one of the most eccentric characters of 2016 and even though he is a humongous ass, there is something really likable about him. His high pitched squeals are sounds you never thought he would make and it’s a shame that he is still best known for The Notebook because March would be a much better point of fame. The two make a ridiculous pair and March’s incompetent investigating skills and constant failed deductions are a fun contrast with Healy’s underground professionalism. It’s a nice new bromance that I’m happy to be welcoming to Hollywood.

March’s relationship with his young daughter is the more endearing but nevertheless funny part of the film. Amazingly, instead of making daughter Holly (Angouri Rice) a liability to the whole thing, she is an equally contributing part of the investigation who never loses the child in her. Even her friends are not just silly little girls but genuinely funny (and honestly a bit fucked up) characters. It’s weird how a fucked up film like this pretty much nails pretty much all its characters in realism. Maybe that says something about us humans as a species.

The Nice Guys is a pretty refreshing, groovy and all around fun action comedy with a soundtrack that gets you swinging. Crowe and Gosling are a great team and Rice only complements that trio. The plot and humour are absurd which is exactly what makes it so great. Honestly, none of this would have worked if it wasn’t set in the seventies, so we should thank the disco vibe for making the Nice Guys so rad. Here’s me hoping for a sequel for the first time. Far out, man!

 

 

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A film that has Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter being weirdos in it? Revolutionary! No but really, it kind of is, now that the new Alice in Wonderland film is not directed by the legendary Tim Burton but by James Bobin. Bobin has previously directed some Ali G episodes and the new Muppets movies, so we could have seen a whole new side of Wonderland in his eyes. Instead, he’s trying his best to follow up the mysteriousness of Burton, but he only just doesn’t come close enough. What’s Wonderland without a sense of wonder?

Alice Through The Looking Glass starts off with the typical narrative of ‘all is well; oh wait, it isn’t’. After Alice’s triumph in Wonderland and her brutal yet awesome rejection attlg6of Hamish’s proposal (get rekt), she has been sailing all over the world for the past 3 years on her father’s ship like a true Kingsleigh. When she gets the chance to enter Underland again, she finds the Hatter mad (more than usual) and ill: he is convinced  that his family, who he thought had died in the attack on their village,  is still alive and he asks her to find them. While Alice realises they cannot be saved in the present, she seeks the help from Time Himself to travel back in time and save the Hatter’s family. On her quest, she finds out more about the history of many of her acquaintances in Wonderland, as well as a little insight about her relationships in the real world.

The great mind of Tim Burton called for a wonderful interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, with it being the right amount of fantastical and mysterious like the 13 year old emo child inside of you would want it. In this sequel, it’s pretty obvious that Bobin is not as creepy-minded as Burton. Most of the new locations we see, like the old village and the backyard of the White Queen’s palace, are very sweet, cute and have a very big Disney feel to it. Given the plot, this is pretty okay; it fits well and we wouldn’t want it to be a bad second hand version of what Burton does.  No, there is something else that doesn’t make the film feel just quite right: ATTLG is extremely plot driven, so much that it outbalances the sense of wonder for everything that is Underland. There are a lot of cool new things to be found: Time’s whole steampunk style is wicked, including his tiny robot minions called seconds, that combined are minutes. The old village looks adorable and pretty and the newly built lair of the Red Queen is really clever. Unfortunately, we hardly get any time to admire these things, because after about 10 seconds of introduction we get sucked right back into the plot and all these lovely things fall into the background. That’s what made the first film so enjoyable: being able to admire and be as amazed by this crazy-ass world as Alice was.

attlg5Same thing goes for the characters: while Time gets the screentime he deserves (Sacha Baron Cohen was wonderful for once), all of Alice’s old friends in Underland just get the forced “you can make ONE joke to signify you’re still here” treatment and even the Hatter could have been more than he is now. Besides, is the Red Queen’s sad background story REALLY that she got accused of eating a cookie? There are some new big names added to the cast, like Richard Armitage as the old King and Andrew Scott as Moriarty Gone Medical School, but their characters get so little screen time it might not even have been worth it. All these things are not necessarily requirements to make the film 10/10, but it all could have been a little more.

Still, the plot of ATTLG is quite enjoyable and once again the visuals are stunning. Even the real world scenes look amazing, although again they could have been explored a little more. Hamish is the personification of a stick-up-your-butt and is played wonderfully by Leo Bill, and Ed Speelers might not do much more than giggle at Alice’s sassy remarks, his pretty face does get a +1 from me.  It might not the way Tim Burton has done it in the original, but on its own it’s a pretty cool film with plenty of adventure and fantasy that still leaves you longing for a magical mirror of your own and a still alive Alan Rickman in the shape of a butterfly. It’s another point for the sequel curse but hey, thinking it could be better than the first one is just one of the six impossible things we think about before breakfast.

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