Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Turtle head

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

The Turtles were probably the first friends I had as a kid. I was obsessed with all things Turtular and watched the cartoon and the ’90s movie religiously. Too many people regard this as another Bay revival of an ’80s property. It’s important to note that Michael Bay didn’t direct this and was one of three producers on the film, but the Bay connection is still there. It was marketed as such and purposefully looks like a Bay film, complete with blue lens flares and the like, so there’s that. I remember all the characters and basic plot points from childhood and still have a genuine affection for them. It’s definitely nostalgic for me and reminds me of a time before the world decided to stomp me flat and take money from my wallet at every opportunity. Having said that, I’m not a blinkered fanboy, ignoring all shortcomings in favour of a hit of pure history. What all of this boils down to is that yes, I’m nearly 30 and I went to see a probably terrible kids’ film on purpose. Shut up.

“You live, you die, you fight as brothers. Remember, nothing is as strong as family.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2K14  focuses on April O’Neil (Megan Fox), a struggling journalist who wants a shot at reporting deeper news than simple fluff pieces. She investigates the recent rise in crime attributed to the Foot gang and during her sneaking around, witnesses a strange vigilante stopping a Foot crime. After more digging, she finds that there’s four of these vigilantes and they just happen to be talking Juvenile, Genetically-Altered, Martial Arts Reptiles named after great Renaissance artists. They team up with cameraman Vernon (Will Arnett) when it transpires that the city is under threat by a man in a robot samurai suit who calls himself “The Shredder” and billionaire totally-a-bad-guy-from-the-off Eric Sacks (William Fichtner). I’m really not sure why they thought that this was the best way to proceed with reintroducing the Turtles to younger audiences.

The premise is inherently ridiculous, but the film seems to want to ground it and play it off as semi-realistic, which is baffling. The Foot Clan aren’t ninjas, they’re just dudes with guns. Shredder isn’t just a guy with a silly purple cape and sharp metal accessories, he’s a guy in an advanced robot suit with knives upon knives on it. The plot seems to be Standard Superhero Plot #4723A, with the Turtles license bent and snapped to fit the story. A lot of it reminded me of the hacktastic Amazing Spider-Man, right down to the ultimate evil plot of gassing New York from atop a tall building and featuring a big radio tower falling as the end action sequence. The plot is lazy as shit and relies on coincidence as its main way of explaining why stuff happens. Guess how the Turtles become ninjas. Splinter finds a book on ninjutsu in the sewer, complete with step-by-step instructions. Fuck you whoever wrote that. I know it’s all ridiculous, but that’s so dumb, even for this. Know how they do it in the far superior ’90s film? Splinter is a ninja master’s pet who watches him train for hours a day and starts mimicking him. Yes, that’s a different kind of stupid, but it makes more sense for the character. Also the decision to give April a personal stake in the Turtles’ creation by having them be her pets from when she was a kid is just the kind of terrible decision films of this ilk make. Here’s a secret, giving a character like that personal ties to whatever’s going on doesn’t make the drama any more involving. It’s a hackneyed device that always shows up your film for the empty experience it is. The writing wants to be a bit smart, self-aware and witty but it often falls flat. I’d be a filthy liar if I said I didn’t chuckle at some of the gags though.

Cast wise, it’s not terrible. Megan Fox is actually pretty tolerable as April O’Neil. I expected her to be the worst thing ever, but turns out if you do stuff enough, you get better. It’s a shame we had to pay and sit through her acting classes beforehand though. Will Arnett is decent enough, but misused. Same with William Fichtner, who can play creepy dudes in his sleep, but is not given much to work with here. The Turtles’ voices are fine. Johnny Knoxville is an odd choice as Leonardo- the straight-talking leader. Surely he’d be more suited for Michelangelo, considering his Jackass background? Also, Christ knows what kind of voice Tony Shaloub gives Splinter. It’s kind of Japanese, but not really. Fucking distracting. As you can see from the poster above, the Turtles designs are horrible. I get that they’re going for a more realistic turtle design, but since when does realism have anything to do with TMNT? Splinter also looks straight-up bad.

The film doesn’t know who it wants to appeal to and tries to appeal to both kids and jaded, rose-tinted bespectacled adults like yours truly. As is often the case, it ends up falling inbetween and appealing to nobody. Tonally it’s all over the place. The film has some surprisingly brutal fighting in it, especially in one part where Splinter gets proper fucked up by Shredder. However, in the same film you have the Turtles acting all goofy and a fart joke or two. It just doesn’t gel. The action is slightly more decipherable than your standard Bayformers flick, but still isn’t particularly good. It’s all just a pixelfuck with by-the-numbers slow motion bits to show you the apparently super-awesome bits. A little restraint would have been nice.

So, is there anything good? Well, despite the heavily compromised characters, I still liked the Turtles’ dynamic. Leonardo is still the leader, Raphael is the tough one who wants to go solo, Donatello is the nerdy one and Michelangelo is the wacky one. Despite the godawful script, there are still little glimpses of their personalities and it still sort of works. There’s one moment in an elevator between fights where Mikey starts beatboxing and the rest of the Turtles join in. It’s a fun little moment and the film needed way more of these to have any chance of being good. I will say that it’s nowhere near as offensive as the Transformers films, which is a relief. I’m not sure I could have handled another morally bankrupt, racist and sexist piece of shite masquerading as childrens’ entertainment, especially one that meant the world to me as a child.

“Four turtles… one’s fighting a robot samurai. Why not?”

So yeah, this TMNT is pretty much the worst version of the story that’s been done. No effort has been made to make anything other than a brand-recognition title in the hope of making money from any remaining goodwill the property has with adults and capitalising on the new-ish Nickelodeon cartoon. Don’t worry though- a sequel is already in development. Fucking sigh.


Mirror, mirror on the waAAAARGH

Oculus (2014)

Hopes really weren’t high for this one. I mean, a horror film about an evil mirror produced by WWE Studios? Yeah, I think my debit card’s washing its hair that night. In the months since its cinema release, I’d heard surprisingly positive murmurings about Oculus. As it’s that time of year and I need a token horror review, this fit the bill perfectly.

“Couldn’t find any decent lines from the film.”

Oculus tells the story of Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites). Since he was convicted of murder as a child, Tim has spent his life in a mental hospital. We join Tim as he’s released on the eve of his 21st birthday after being deemed sane and no longer a threat to himself or others. He goes to stay with his sister Kaylie, who has been obsessing over the event, convinced that Tim’s not to blame for what happened. She believes it all has something to do with an antique mirror known as the “Lasser Glass” which may or may not have the ability to possess, distort reality and mess with peoples’ minds. Kaylie has hatched a plan to not only record the supernatural qualities of the mirror and prove Tim’s innocence, but to finally destroy it. All fine and dandy, but her plan involves direct confrontation of the mirror and the demons within.

Acting is solid across the board. Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff are the standouts, but the kids playing the young Tim and Kaylie are great. Brenton Thwaites is decent, but I think my lack of interest in his character dragged him down. Kaylie is an unusually interesting lead. She’s deeply flawed and neurotic which informs her various well thought out backups and precautions when taking on the Lasser Glass. All of Kaylie’s assorted rigs are great setups for supernatural shit to come. Due to the reality warping nature of the beast, there are various timers to snap them out of any mirror-induced hallucinations as well as a final failsafe in the form of a rigged anchor on an automatic timer ready to swing into the mirror and shatter the glass bastard if all goes wrong. These are fantastic elements and it’s fun to see how devious the mirror can be in circumventing these measures. Crucially, they all feel like an extension of Kaylie’s (completely justified) fear of the mirror and it’s unnerving to see them and her slowly broken down. Tim is a different story. I just couldn’t warm to him. He’s a boring non-entity. I should totally be on his side, from empathy if nothing else. It’s clear there’s some supernatural shenanigans afoot and it’s looking unlikely he’s to blame. So why didn’t I care at all? I think it’s because they don’t give him enough to do and it’s usually up to Kaylie to swoop in and save the scene by being interesting. I get that he’s a damaged, passive character, but give me something.

Whilst it looks like any other shiny contemporary horror film, Oculus skilfully avoids most of the dumb beartraps most modern horrors stumble into. There’s a real backlash against jump scares and now seems as good as time as any to stick my oar in. I have no problem with jump scares if they’re earned (Alien and Rec. come to mind), however most films don’t even come close to deserving them. They set up some vaguely tense scene, drop out the music and then bam!- an orchestral screech and some fast motion. I’m a complicated man, not a machine. I want some fucking foreplay. Anyway, I talk about this because Oculus is purposely very light on the jump scares and focuses more on atmosphere building and psychological spookiness. It all adds to a creeping sense of dread and legitimises the ludicrous concept of a killer mirror. The film is well constructed and basically takes place in one location seen from two different time periods, with frequent flashbacks to the Russells as kids. The first half of the film does some admittedly creepy and creative stuff. The way the mirror messes with people is great and whilst not overtly scary, provides some disturbing and uneasy scenes. Much like the characters, you’ll be questioning what’s real and what isn’t and it all hits a much deeper part of the brain than goretastic deaths and superficial jumpy moments can. I was more involved because I actually liked at least 50% of the leads. I understood where they were coming from and wanted them to succeed. Things like characters, plot and motivations are kept simple and efficient in an era of filmmaking that seems to be hellbent on telling clusterfucked stories populated by bland characters. This is probably the biggest and sharpest trap Oculus avoids and I was heartened by it.

Oculus started to lose its way for me towards the end. Instead of capitalising on the goodwill and general unease it legitimately earned during the first two acts, it devolves into a more conventional and predictable spookfest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a film killer and it certainly doesn’t negate its previous good work, but it’s just disappointingly usual for a film that had such an effective start. It’s like it lost confidence in what it was doing and decided to lean heavily on the standard tropes of the genre. I get that it all needs to build to something, but to spunk most of the atmosphere away in favour of more overt blah horror is a mistake.

“Fuck it, no-one reads these anyway.”

I enjoyed Oculus quite a bit. It’s slickly directed and contains some slow, dread-ratcheting stuff that sadly is still a rarity in contemporary horror. It’s a lot subtler than I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise. Whilst I appreciated the solid characterisation and the atmosphere, I think I liked it more for what it didn’t do, rather than for what it did. I realise that probably sounds like the ultimate back-handed compliment, but it isn’t intended as such. Anyway, Happy Halloween, you spooky bastards.

Gone Girl


Trouble and strife

Gone Girl (2014)


It’s not often that I recommend that you don’t read my reviews, but I kinda have to in this case. So, if you’re planning to see it and haven’t yet, I suggest you do just that, close this review and go in blind. A lot of the film’s entertainment value is from the twisty-turny plot and various revelations and it’s unfair to the film to discuss in any great detail. I’m going to endeavour to be as vague as I can, but it’s tough to review a film where the meaty stuff is on the spoilery side of the tracks. So, if you’re mental enough to be waiting on my dumb opinion before you go and see stuff, take my hearty recommendation of the film and piss off to the multiplex. For the rest of you, here’s what I done thought about David Fincher’s latest:

“You ever hear the expression the simplest answer is often the correct one?”

“Actually, I have never found that to be true.”

Gone Girl tells the story of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) who returns home to find his furniture askew and, more importantly, his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), missing. Amy is semi-famous thanks to a well-known children’s book series, written by her parents, being based on her. The missing persons case soon turns into a murder enquiry. Thanks to the media’s vulture-like obsession with real life drama which is in turn exacerbated by Amy’s claim to fame, Nick’s life turns into a media circus with public opinion soon turning against him and considering him guilty despite his protests of innocence.

And that right there is about as much as I can tell you and we’re not even a third of a way through the film. Having not read Gillian Flynn’s book, I can certainly see why so many people have had their noses buried in it since it came out a few years ago. With the constant rug pulls and blindsides, I can appreciate that it must be a proper page-turner. The cast are excellent. Ben Affleck gives an understated but effective performance as Nick. He seems like the perfect person to play this part and at times it felt the film was playing on the actor’s own (pre- recent Oscar winning Benaissance) portrayal in the media. Many of the complaints I heard about him signing on to play Batman was the fact that he seemed like a smug, pretty boy arsehole (Jesus, those last three words are going to get me a lot of disappointed hits). Well, that’s the public’s opinion of Nick. He’s raked across the coals by the media and vicious current affairs commentary by the detestable, but all-too-real Fox News host-a-like Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) and presented with this new narrative, the public sour on the initial empathy they felt for him.  It’s some smart stuntcasting and a part that Da Fleck could bring a wealth of personal experience to. Rosamund Pike. Well. This may be a career-shaping performance for her. Up until this point, I’ve only seen her as a plummy-voiced, eye-rolling foil to action dudes, be it in the rubbish Bond flick Die Another Day or more recently in Jack Reacher. This shows a whole new side (several sides, actually) to her and by Christ, is she good. Worth recommending the film for her alone. The rest of the cast are also top notch. Carrie Coon, playing Nick’s sister Margo is brilliant, giving us a very real-feeling supportive sibling. Neil Patrick Harris shows up as an ex of Amy’s and does a lot with what he’s given. Kim Dickens plays a no-nonsense Detective and knocks it out of the park. Even Tyler Perry, who normally dons a grey wig and a fat suit to play grandmother with attitude Madea, puts in an impressive turn as the media savvy defence lawyer Tanner Bolt.

Gone Girl is meant to be enjoyed like a rollercoaster ride. The ups, downs and sharp turns are all part of it and so I’m steering well clear of those. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave me much left to focus on since I’m a story guy and I usually work the narrative ribs. What I can say is that the screenplay (also written by Gillian Flynn) is sharp and full of black comedy. This may be one of the most darkly comic films I’ve seen. David Fincher’s direction is masterful, although intentionally muted compared to his more show-offy films like The Social Network or Panic Room. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are pretty much my favourite composers now. Their subtle but unsettling electronic score is perfect for this film.

“What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”

So yeah, hope you’ve enjoyed this non-review. I intend to do a full-on redux review around the time it comes to DVD. Go and see it.

300: Rise of an Empire

I’m back after a bit of a hiatus. I haven’t been to the cinema in ages because this time of year seems to be a dumping ground for shit no-one wants to see. So anyway, I decided to review Rise of an Empire to get me back into the swing of things before tackling things like Gone Girl and whatever treats the final few months of 2014 throws up.

 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Did 300 need a sequel? No, but in this world of brand recognition if something makes money, chances are they’ll wangle some way to make a follow-up regardless of whether or not there is any story juice left in the carton. Case in point, Rise of an Empire. Based on Frank Miller’s as yet unreleased comic Xerxes, this film acts as a prequel, a sidequel and a sequel to the original film. Pointless? Ultimately yes, but that’s not to say it is completely without merit.

“Today we will dance across the backs of dead Greeks!”

Rise of an Empire tells the story of Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) an Athenian General who, 10 years prior to Leonidas’ heroic defeat, killed the then-king Darius with a single arrow to the heart. Darius’ final words to his son, Xerxes, is that “only the gods could defeat the Greeks”. Xerxes is then manipulated by Artemesia (Eva Green), who twists the king’s last words from a message about the futility of war to a laying down of a guantlet, leading Xerxes to become a “God King” via supernatural means.  10 years later, Artemesia and Xerxes are still hellbent on crushing the Greek rebellion and so Themistocles must lead a hastily assembled army to try and face off against overwhelming odds. The main thrust of the plot is solid enough, concentrating on the historic battles of Marathon and Salamis, although the constant flashbacks and flashforwards muddy up what should be a simple tale. Sullivan Stapleton is fine as Themistocles, although the film has a big Gerard Butler shaped hole that Sullivan struggles to fill. It’s not his fault, however, as the writing is slapdash and not particularly interested in giving him any real depth. Eva Green is the film’s saving grace. Artemesia is fascinating. She’s a proper ladybastard who connives, manipulates and schemes her way into commanding the Persian forces. Green manages to rise above the terrible dialogue and walks away with the film tucked under one arm.

I think my main problem with Rise of an Empire is how desperate it seems to tie itself to the original film rather than concentrating on telling its own story. Yes, Leonidas and the 300’s defeat was meant to inspire and prove that you could make a God bleed, but the film can’t stop itself from trying to legitimise itself as a sequel. Themistocles visits Sparta before, during and after Leonidas’ demise and no real plot relevant stuff happens. Both Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) and Dilios (David Wenham) return, but it all feels concessionary. There’s one visit to Sparta where Themistocles happens to pop by when Leonidas and his men have just nipped out to see the Oracle which ends up being unintentionally funny. Plus, there’s one awful callback line to the infamous “this is Sparta” messenger kicking that made me physically cringe so hard I swear I heard a couple of my ribs crack.

Not being directed by Zack Snyder, the film’s visuals struggle too. 10 minutes into the film, something felt off. Turns out Snyder’s way with the camera is a tough style to imitate. On the surface it’s all there- slow motion shots of blood being spilled, endless “cool” and dynamic shots of stuff, but director Noam Murro doesn’t have the natural flair for it that Snyder does. Some sequences, like a massive battle at sea, look quite pedestrian and normal despite all the slow motion and dynamic camera movements. Don’t get me wrong, the film looks fine and there are some cool moments but on the whole it’s missing a certain something. I’ve always said that Snyder has a great eye for visuals and Rise of an Empire proves this. The film feels like a 300 imitator. It reminded me of the Spartacus TV series, albeit with a much bigger budget.

The writing is another problem. The dialogue is so clunky and unmemorable that I would struggle to recall any actual spoken lines, apart from the awful callback mentioned above. The original 300 is rather misunderstood as the film contains a lot of laconic phrases (well, the Spartans invented them after all) and actual quotations from history. Exchanges like the one where the Spartans are told that the Persian arrows will “blot out the sun” and Stelios replies that they “will fight in the shade” are paraphrased, but true to what actually happened. Rise of an Empire has none of that and the spoken dialogue is just bad, through and through. As far as the script, it pulls the same shit as Rob Zombie did with his Halloween remake. It humanises the monsters. Both Xerxes and Artemesia have tragic backstories and it gets tough to really hate them as proper baddies. I’m all for complex villains, but in a film like this, tragic backstories should be kept to a minimum. Also, I got sick to the back teeth of hearing the Greeks talk about “freedom”. I know it’s a magical American buzzword to get the audience to root for #TeamGreece but still.

“Better we show them we chose to die on our feet, rather than live on our knees!”

Despite all this complaining, I actually ended up enjoying Rise of an Empire. Partly due to Eva Green’s performance and partly because at my core, I’m still a dumb meathead action guy. The battles are exciting and huge in scale and it kept me entertained. I think it speaks rather highly of the film that in spite of the glaring flaws, it still manages to be decent. When stacked up next to the original, it pales in comparison, but as its own thing, it just about works.

The Aristocats

Crazy Old Cat Lady: The Movie

The Aristocats (1970)

It’s strange how the majority of Disney’s ’70s and ’80s output falls by the wayside when brought up in discussion. With a company like Disney, there are very few truly forgotten films, but the 18 year run of animated theatrical releases between The Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid struggle for a place amongst the “proper” classics. To be honest, it’s a quality issue. After Uncle Walt cursed the Jewish faith one last time and turned up his toes, the company staggered about trying to recreate the original Disney magic. The films from this time aren’t bad per se, but they are shallower in terms of heart and ambition. As there seems to be no proper term for this time, I shall refer to it as “The Hollow Era” as I’m sure I’m going to have to refer back to it. Hate to say it, but The Aristocats seems to have kickstarted the tailspin.

“Ladies don’t start fights, but they can finish them!

Pampered cat Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her three kittens live the life of luxury with an old rich Madame (Hermione Baddeley) in 20th century France. Madame Bonfamille draws up her will and having no family, she intends to leave everything to the cats, with the loyal house butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby) to inherit after the cats die. Edgar overhears this and kidnaps the kitties, dumping them in the wilderness to cut out the middlecats and become the sole benefactor to her estate. Duchess and the kittens meet Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris), a streetwise alley cat who endeavours to return the family home. Here’s the thing with The Aristocats– apart from it being a pale facsimile of Lady and the Tramp, none of evolves past Duchess’ desire to get home. Homeward Bound had this too, but the characters learned something about themselves and each other. The Aristocats is a series of disconnected sketches featuring new characters and the occasional musical number. Most of it is just scenes that happen sequentially rather than having a reason why scenes are happening. The voice cast are great. Eva Gabor is cool, the richly-voiced Phil Harris does his Baloo schtick again, but it works. Fellow Jungle Book star Sterling Holloway also lends his unique voice to Roquefort, a plucky mouse who is determined to rescue Duchess and co. Scatman Crothers pops up as the jazz-loving Scat Cat, confusingly doing a Louis Armstrong impression to match the character design. Whatever the reason, it’s a whole lot of fun. Let’s not talk about the buck-toothed “me rikey” Siamese cat.

The Aristocats is charming, don’t get me wrong. The animation and art are beautiful. I’ve seen a lot of detractors calling the film rough-looking, but I think it suits. It’s not as clean as previous films, but I like it. Plus, the animation on the animals is fantastic and realistic. The songs are high points too, especially the catchy “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat”. To me, the film seems like a series of vignettes. We have the two dogs Napoleon and Lafayette who don’t impact on the story at all, apart from making it more difficult for Edgar to cover his tracks. The cats then meet two geese Abigail and Amelia, who don’t do much. It goes on like this. The story is dictating what the characters should do, instead of the characters’ decisions driving the story. It’s practically a recipe for ensuring your film has a limit on how much it can appeal and entertain. Plus, when it doubt, the film puts Marie in danger. It’s lazy, basically. That’s not to say these scenes are bad. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of the two dogs (despite Napoleon being voiced by the awesome Pat Buttram), I have a soft spot for the ditzy English maid geese and especially their Uncle Waldo. The Waldo sequence is genuinely funny and features some of the best drunk voice acting you’ve ever heard: 

My main problem with the film is that there’s no real heart to it or lesson to be imparted. Duchess and the kittens don’t learn anything from their big adventure, aside from maybe having their world view broadened. Madame doesn’t learn anything. O’Malley doesn’t learn anything. Nobody does. There’s an undercurrent about the difference between Duchess and O’Malley’s attitudes towards humans, but it’s mostly forgotten about. A lot of ideas in the film are like this. The sheltered kittens have a very specific idea of what an alley cat is, but aren’t surprised by O’Malley and like him from the get-go. They float an idea and then just drop it. It’s frustrating because there’s evidently some top quality work gone into making it, it’s just disappointingly hollow. A lot of decisions seem arbitrary. For example, why is the film set in Paris? Apart from making sense of Maurice Chevalier’s opening number, there’s nothing about the story that specifically requires a Parisian backdrop.

“Aloha, auf Wiedersehen, bonsoir, sayonara and all those good bye things, baby.”

Despite all this, I still like The Aristocats. As I said, it’s charming and that takes it a long way. Whilst it doesn’t hit the highs of other Disney films, it still has enough energy and playfulness to make it worth a watch.


After noticing that I’d bought rather a lot of Disney films lately, I decided to write about a few of them to plug the gaps between new releases. After the genuinely shocking news of Robin Williams’ untimely death, there seemed to be only one place to start, really.

Robin Williams was, and will remain, a hero of mine, having grown up seeing and enjoying a whole bunch of his films like this one, Jumanji and Mrs. Doubtfire. As I “matured”, I found new admiration for him in classics like Good Morning, Vietnam, The Fisher King and Good Will Hunting as well as some of his more offbeat films like World’s Greatest Dad and Death to Smoochy. He was one of only a rare few who I found just as funny and entertaining as an adult as I did as a stupid kid. I think one of the main reasons for this was the fact that as a performer, the guy was fearless. Whilst most of us lose it when we hit our teens, he maintained a childlike manic energy and an absolute confidence in what he was doing throughout his career, making him engaging no matter what age you were. It seemed fitting to me to rewatch not only a real childhood favourite of mine, but reacquaint myself with what is sure to be one of the longest lasting components of the legacy of a uniquely funny and talented showman.

Aladdin (1992)

After the runaway successes of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, which both marked much needed changes in direction for the company, Disney relaxed and settled on adapting Arabian Nights for their next project, comforted that it didn’t have to bring in Mermaid numbers. What went on behind the scenes of Aladdin is interesting as they had basically completed the script and storyboards before being forced to chuck everything out and start over from scratch when then boss Jeffrey Katzenberg reportedly “hated” what he was shown. With cancellation looming, the team hired Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to punch up the script and trim the fat.

“Welcome to Agrabah. City of mystery, of enchantment…and the finest merchandise this side of the River Jordan! On sale today! Come on down!”

Aladdin tells the story of a young, kind-hearted street urchin (Scott Weinberg) who dreams of more than his life of crime and poverty allows. After he’s used and betrayed by the scheming advisor to the Sultan, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), Aladdin stumbles across an old lamp and frees a magical genie (Robin Williams) who has the ability to grant him three wishes and the opportunity to improve both his stock in life and get closer to the Sultan’s daughter, Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin). The plot is an amalgamation of all sorts of Arabian legends and fables. For the most part, it works. The screenplay is pretty smart in places. It was certainly a lot funnier than previous Disney efforts and I suspect Elliot, Rossio and Williams are the culprits. There’s more of an anarchic feeling to the humour, with several instances of fourth-wall breaking and the Genie’s impressions of people like Jack Nicholson and Rodney Dangerfield. I would argue that in this respect, Aladdin was kind of a trailblazer. A big celebrity voice actor, computer animation (for some background shots and for the intricate design on Carpet) and the generation-spanning humour appealing to both kids and adults etc. It’s the Dreamworks template, basically. Visually, the film’s a stunner. I love the art style. It’s bright and colourful with character designs taking inspiration from American caricaturist Al Hirschfield and his elegant, simple linework. All of these elements add up to something that’s loud, colourful and a lot of fun. I can see why my VHS tape stayed put in the VCR for so long when I was an ankle-biter.

Story wise, it’s pretty solid. A lot of it is about people being true to themselves and various characters’ yearnings to be free of some kind of imprisonment- which is fair enough. The obligatory romance aspect is a bit thin, going through the standard Disney motions until the blah blah…”happily ever after” stuff. It has the same beats you’d expect, right down to a shared song implying mutual love. Having said that, it’s nice that Jasmine isn’t just the unattainable dream girl for our hero to work towards. She wants to be free from her father’s protection and from Draconian laws forcing her to marry within a certain immediate timeframe. Whilst they could have been a bit bolder with Princess Jasmine, it’s cool that she’s the one busting out of the palace, instead of staying put and waiting to be rescued like so many of her royal predecessors in the Disney stable. Linda Larkin does a good job of selling a tough character.  Jonathan Freeman is deliciously evil as Jafar, making for one of the best Disney villains ever. His double act with the raucous parrot Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) is also massively entertaining. Aladdin himself is a bit of a square and looks like a mawkish ’80s sitcom character in fancy dress. He’s fine, I guess, but he’s hardly the most compelling hero we’ve had.

It’s no secret that the film belongs to Robin Williams’ Genie.  I mean, wow. I love the fact that they kept Williams’ improvisational nature when bringing the character to life, especially the opening with the (also Williams voiced) merchant. It’s impossible not to like Genie. The combination of the madcap, unhinged animation and Williams’ constant riffing and changing of voices works incredibly well. Genie’s “Friend Like Me” number encapsulates all of this perfectly and is easily one of my favourite Disney songs.  In fact, all of the music is top quality. Aladdin continued the tradition of having big Broadway-style numbers (arguably) kicked off by The Little Mermaid. Alan Menken takes Howard Ashman and Tim Rice’s clever lyrics and puts them to catchy Arabian flavoured jazzy music and it works beautifully. Whilst it has the modern rep of being saccharine as anything and of being played at thick peoples’ weddings, “A Whole New World” is a great song in the context of the film. It’s lovely. There- I said it.

“Oh, Al. I’m getting kinda fond of you, kid. Not that I wanna pick out curtains or anything.”

So, I can’t really mark Aladdin down on too much. Aladdin is one of the first films I remember seeing at the cinema (the other coincidentally being Ferngully ) and I have watched it countless times since over the years. It’s a cherished early memory of the cinema coupled with a deep childhood affection. I am qualifying my bias here- I couldn’t be further from being objective if I tried. There is no way I can view it as an outsider looking in. Luckily, when rewatching it, I found that I had to forgive very little (some of the character designs are questionable, especially as Aladdin looks nigh-on Caucasian) and was swept along for the ride all over again. I hate to end on a rubbish pun, but I thought of the word and now I can’t get it out of my head- it’s magical.

Guardians of the Galaxy

I am Groot.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t get any less true: it’s crazy to think that back in 2011, Thor was considered a “risk” for Marvel. Two solo films and a billion dollar team up later and the God of Thunder is right at home alongside more “classical” heroes like Iron Man and Captain America. Anyway, the point of all this is that in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy really feels like a proper gamble: a bold step into the whole “cosmic” element to the Marvel universe and a departure from the costumed heroics we’re used to seeing by now. Whilst I have a working knowledge of Marvel stuff, having read Spider-Man comics for years, I must admit I wasn’t too familiar with the Guardians, only having heard of Rocket Raccoon before, so this “going in blind” to a Marvel movie is a new experience for me and one I relished. Anyway, blah blah blah- point being is that the film is awesome and, if you’ll allow me, I’ll endeavour to tell you why.

“Why would you want to save the galaxy?”

“Because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it!”

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was abducted from Earth by aliens at a young age and now lives life as a Ravager, a kind of space pirate. Quill finds a mysterious orb and steals it, unaware that he’s setting wheels in motion that may have huge, and possibly genocidal, consequences. Kree terrorist Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) sends a green-skinned assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after him to retrieve the orb. Unbeknownst to Quill, his boss Yandu (Michael Rooker) has also put a sizeable bounty on his head, leading two bounty hunters, a talking raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a humanoid tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to pursue him. By chance, we also meet Drax (Dave Bautista) a muscled madman with only vengeance against Ronan on his mind. After the group are captured and thrown together, they soon decide to put aside their differences and put a stop to Ronan’s nefarious plans. Sound complicated? It isn’t really. I just wanted to fit in as many of the principal cast as I could and I still missed out Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close and John C. Reilly!. It’s mostly a fast-paced chase for the all-important orb and that’s fine. All the cast are fantastic. Chris Pratt is just teetering on the edge of serious superstardom and watching this, you can tell it’s well deserved. The guy is likeable and charming but can bring the emotional heft when needed. Peter Quill (or Star-Lord) is an interesting concept. Being a product of the ’80s, it’s like he’s emulating Han Solo, but not quite pulling it off. Both Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel do stellar voice work as Rocket and Groot, especially Diesel, who does a lot with very few words. Pleasant surprise of the film is pro-wrestler Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer. He gets most of the film’s biggest laughs, usually involving his race’s inability to understand metaphors and his propensity to take everything literally. Bautista plays it perfectly and is a joy to watch. The film does a great job of balancing these big personalities, but some do slip through the net. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora seems to not be given as much attention as the rest of the Guardians. She’s still a solid presence, but I get the feeling a lot of her stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. Big baddie Ronan wasn’t quite as menacing as I’d have liked him to be. He’s no Loki, but he’s no Malekith (the elf guy from Thor: The Dark World who was fucking rubbish) either. He’s more of a Vader to Thanos’ Emperor. Karen Gillan’s Nebula also gets slightly lost in the mix. Let’s hope the sequel does Gillan’s performance justice.

A lot has been made of the more comedic tone of Guardians in comparison to the more straight-faced Marvel stablemates. When the lights went down in the cinema, I plastered a pre-emptive smile on my face, just to save time for when the laughs started. The film then cold opens on a young Quill, in a hospital at his mother’s deathbed. My face fell. It’s a genuinely moving scene and I soon realised that Guardians may not quite be the lark-about space opera I thought it was. Don’t get me wrong, when the film gets going, it’s a blast, but it has the balls to strive for something deeper than that. Now, I have reservations in telling you this, for fear of some bigger boys coming to my house and beating me up for being a wuss, but I teared up at several points during the film which was unexpected to say the least. Guardians is brave as hell in the way that despite having a CGI raccoon and tree monster as part of the main cast, it never once treats them as two dimensional cartoon characters.They all feel like real people, not just caricatures spouting witty one-liners. It should come as no surprise to fans of The Iron Giant, but the combination of Vin Diesel and some seriously impressive animation manages to make Groot a hugely sympathetic character, despite being limited to three simple words.

The rest of the film is fast, fun and furious. The action is varied and exciting, the attention to detail is awesome and it all adds up to a hugely enjoyable experience. There’s a brilliant prison breakout sequence and some thrilling aerial dogfights that are just delights. I’m trying hard to not spoil specifics, but this is one of the most visually inventive films I’ve seen in a long time. There’s a goddamn planet that is the severed head of a humongous ancient beast, just floating through space. The Collector’s huge collection has some great visual gags and brilliant attention to detail. Every dollar of the budget seems to have been put up on the screen and that’s to be commended. Marvel Studios has learned the lesson that Hollywood in general consistently fails to take on board: if you’re going to hire a talent like James Gunn, Shane Black or Joss Whedon, for fuck’s sake step back at let them do their thing. In the same way Iron Man 3 was undeniably a Shane Black film, Guardians is definitely a Gunn production, complete with his trademark dark humour. The screenplay, co-written by Gunn and Nicole Perlman, is smart as anything and doesn’t feel meddled with. It’s not perfect, as there are some clunky attempts at theming etc, but the very fact that a film with a budget this big, based on characters even the hardcore nerds are only vaguely aware of, has such an uncompromising script is nothing short of miraculous. Also, the soundtrack is amazing.

“Metaphors go over his head”

“NOTHING goes over my head!… My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.”

People who complain of superhero fatigue (dumb people, but entitled to their opinions nonetheless) just won’t have a leg to stand on with this one. It’s a fun space opera that is more sci-fi than anything else. It’s exactly what blockbuster entertainment should be- a fun adventure with characters you can (G)root for. I can’t express this enough- I am now a huge fan of these characters and can’t wait to see where they take them next. The already confirmed eventual meeting of the Avengers and the Guardians has me positively salivating at the prospect. This may just be my new favourite Marvel film. I will have to watch it at least 7 more times before I can be sure. Highly recommended.

The Purge: Anarchy

Grillo is brillo


The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

As you may have guessed by my redux review of the original, The Purge: Anarchy was next on my list. As I said, I liked the idea of The Purge, just got a bit frustrated with the execution. Now it’s Anarchy‘s turn, with its promise to widen the scope of the annual purge and not have it devolve into the same “home invasion” bullshit we’ve all seen countless times before.

“Couldn’t find any quotes.”

Purge night 2023. We join a group of five people all with different motivations but share a common goal: to survive. Frank Grillo plays a mysterious man, armed to the teeth with Purge-ready weapons, as he cruises the empty streets with a very specific target in mind. As he makes his way through the city, he rescues mother and daughter Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul) and the gang soon pick up two new members in the form of desperate couple Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) and on the promise of help to get to his target, Grillo’s stranger must get them across town to safety, which turns out to be no mean feat.

People (myself included) complained that the first Purge was too limited, setting the action in one house. Writer-director James DeMonaco clearly thought so too, so now we see entire areas of the city in Purge mode, with patrolling masked thugs and any number of nasty things happening on the streets. It feels like a proper raising of the stakes and that’s to be commended in the “same but different” world of horror sequels. I actually cared a little more for our bunch of survivors this time round. Grillo is definitely the MVP here, playing well, pretty much The Punisher, complete with mobile arsenal and souped up vehicle. He still affords the character some nice humanising moments however, balancing out the cartoonishly badass bits. Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul are the beating hearts of the film, with a genuinely sympathetic back story involving Eva’s elderly father. Estranged couple Shane and Liz are a bit on the bland side, their purpose to be to get to Shane’s sister to inform her that they’re splitting up. Not sure why a phone call wouldn’t suffice, but whatever. Interesting new element is Michael K. Williams’ Carmelo, an outspoken anti-Purge and anti-New Founding Fathers revolutionary who leads an underground army determined to take the NFFA down. He’s good, but isn’t in it much. I suspect his role will increase in the telegraphed third film where it looks like his forces will meet the government head on.

I used the phrase “horror sequel” in the paragraph above, but I used it as this film being a sequel to a horror, not a continuation of the genre. The Purge: Anarchy isn’t a horror film in the strictest sense. It’s an action thriller with jump scares. This may put you off, but let’s not forget how weak the scare sauce was in the first one. It’s evolved into a B movie and a damn entertaining one at that. That’s not to say there aren’t bits that are unsettling. Many scenes are pretty intense. Anarchy is about escalation. There are motorbike gangs, Gatling gun trucks and any number of psychos prowling the streets and it’s fucking great stuff.  We find out more about the New Founding Fathers, but they remain a scary, shady organisation. As with the first, it’s the details that make it work. Camped out snipers on rooftops, traps laid throughout the streets and gangs roaming to pick up stragglers so that rich people can butcher in the safety of their homes. It doesn’t shy away from political allegory either. I mean, when you have a bearded redneck type, clutching a shotgun and screaming about his rights, you know this isn’t the smartest approach to satire, but at least it’s there in some capacity. Like in the original, there are also parallels with the rich/poor divide, which in this film we get to see from the poorer perspective.

“Yeah, I could probably find some, but it’s hot. Fuck you.”

I don’t have many bad things to say about the film. The dialogue is a little sloppy and I could have done with Carmelo’s resistance have had a little more of a presence, but I think that’s about it. It’s hokey and grotty, but it is a B movie after all. I enjoyed it immensely. You can look this film in two ways: 1) it realises the potential of the original’s premise or 2) it’s a damn good Punisher movie that doesn’t feature the “proper” Marvel comic character. I’ve found a new pet franchise to follow. I’m hoping it doesn’t pull a [Rec] (my previous pet horror franchise) on me and go completely off the rails for its third part.

Need for Speed



Need for Speed (2014)

So Need for Speed didn’t exactly bomb, but certainly underperformed when it was released earlier this year. People have put this down to it being a video game adaptation. I can’t really see that logic when Transformers: Age of Extinction (based on a cartoon created to sell toys to kids, lest we forget) can make enough money to buy at least 7 pairs of “Beats by Dre” headphones. It’s odd that games don’t seem to work when adapted for film because the two mediums have been aping each other so much that I’d assumed they would have converged into a singularity by now. Why don’t video game films work? It’s a pertinent question. Sadly, it’s probably because they’re never passion projects, just business opportunities to cash-in on a known brand to the oh-so-important teenage demographic. Nobody on the creative teams for these things cares enough about them or respects the medium.They break the bones of the game to fit their restrictive blockbuster mould and discard potentially great elements because they don’t know what to do with them. This almost always ensures that a grey, generic sludge is produced, only vaguely related to the source material, that understandably pisses off game and film fans alike. Case in point, Need for Speed.

“They took everything from me.”

Two years after Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) was framed for the death of his friend, he is released from prison and immediately sets out for revenge on the true culprit behind the fatal car crash, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). In order to get back at Dino, Marshall needs to qualify for and enter the legendary De Leon race, headed by the mysterious Monarch (Michael Keaton). The one massive flaw in the plan, however, is the fact that Marshall is on parole and forbidden from leaving the state. There’s also the fact that he has a bounty on him, with a supercar promised to whomever manages to stop Marshall and his passenger, Julia (Imogen Poots) from getting to the start line. The film is a basic revenge narrative set in the world of superfast cars, which is fine by me. As a massive Breaking Bad fan it pains me to say this, but Aaron Paul just doesn’t work as the stoic hero they’re going for. I’m not sure whether it’s just a case of miscasting or the script not being meaty enough for Paul to work with. Dominic Cooper does well as the suited slimeball Dino. He’s one of the better villains I’ve seen in a while, but the writing rears its ugly head to make sure he’s only a partial success. Imogen Poots is decent enough, but is definitely slumming it. The oddest performance is Michael Keaton who is somehow hammy and understated at the same time- and not in the good way that might imply. I get a real sense of lack of effort on Keaton’s part, although it definitely doesn’t help that he’s in the same room for the entire film and only very occasionally interacts with any of the cast. He’s a weird, floating presence mostly used to explain any shit they couldn’t be bothered to fit in anywhere else in the film.

I get what Need for Speed is trying to do. It wants to be a throwback to the Steve McQueen era, even going so far as to have Bullitt playing at a drive-in theatre and the soundtrack being modern covers of classics like “Fortunate Son”. It’s a half-hearted attempt to return to that very vague yet oddly specific era of Americana that probably didn’t exist in the first place. It also wants to have a B movie vibe, like some of McQueen’s filmography. This is fine, but it doesn’t really commit to it and these elements barely feature in the rest of the film. Despite what you might think, the film is more of a road movie than anything else, focusing on Tobey and Julia’s race to get to the er… race. The sticking point is that neither character is particularly fleshed out. There are concessions to normal storytelling occasionally, but most of the time it’s like watching two amnesiacs trying to figure out who they are. Same with Tobey’s apparently loveable pit crew. I watched this film a few hours ago as of writing this review and I would struggle to fill a Post-It Note with what I remember about them. All I know is that there’s one call Pete or Petey that is so tediously wide-eyed and innocent he may as well have a bullseye stapled to his forehead. Plus there’s some bullshit about Pete’s “visions” that never convinces in being anything but a cloying, hackneyed addition to the script that doesn’t work in any capacity.

The usual counter-argument to all this is the Transformers argument: “but’s it’s just a dumb action film blah blah blah”. True, it is an action film and yes, you can hardly expect Shakespeare and ruminations on the human condition in a film made to appeal to teenagers who love fast cars and violence. I’m aware of the limitations and am accepting of them (big of me, I know). 2013’s 2 Guns wasn’t going to win any writing awards, but it was solid enough to make the non-shooty bits almost as entertaining as the shootier bits. Need for Speed, on the other hand, is bad through and through. It takes elements like a cross country race whilst pursued by cops and rouge drivers and somehow makes them boring. I found myself forcing to accept some of the weak characters and head-scratching decisions just so I could get to the film’s racing bread and butter. I didn’t care about any of the characters and as such was left numb by it all. The film tries to give the characters depth but fails massively. The introduction of Imogen Poots’ character outlined this for me. So Tobey and Pete et al. have just finished working on a legendary car and are admiring their handiwork. She sidles up, acting all ditzy and asking basic questions like “is it fast?”. They start being rather patronising in response.She soon convinces them to pop the hood and proceeds to expertly list all the components to the surprise of Tobey and Pete. She then gets on her high horse and scolds them for assuming she knew nothing about cars. Thing is, they don’t know her at all. If you’re going to play dumb when meeting new people then the only real assumption they can make about you is that you’re dumb. It reminds me of this comic: click. The film is full of stuff like this and it became harder and harder to forgive as it went on.

I looked up who was responsible for the warcrime of a screenplay and it’s George Gatins, a first time writer who just so happens to be the brother of one of the producers, John Gatins. Don’t you just love Hollywood nepotism? There’s an overabundance of writers out there that could take the basic elements of this and create something really entertaining, but they give it to some rich prick’s brother. Awesome. As for the action, it’s the film’s only saving grace. There’s an impressive commitment to practical stunts and some of the races and crashes are incredibly well done. This is hardly surprising as director Scott Waugh has a long history of stuntwork, so there’s a legitimacy to the action sequences. That’s about it though. The car stuff is decent.

“*Some other fucking awful line that I can’t be bothered to look up*”

So yeah, Need for Speed isn’t good. It’s boring, terribly written and it made my head hurt. You’d have a hard time convincing me that anyone involved (apart from Paul and Cooper) genuinely wanted to make a good film. Disappointing on many different levels. Not recommended.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Apes together strong. Humans not so much.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Contrary to what Green Day once sang about, I don’t want to be in the minority. Well, not this kind of minority, anyway. The kind where you don’t think something’s as good as everyone else does. I had my first taste of it this year with How to Train Your Dragon 2 where I gave it an average 3 when some people were showering it with perfect scores and hyperbolic buzzword-y, poster-ready endorsements. Posting an honest opinion of disappointment in that climate feels like I’m excluding myself from the massive joy block party where everyone’s high fiving each other over a shared positive experience. Anyway, I bring all this up because DOTPOTA has put me in a similar situation and I don’t know who to punch to make me feel better about it.

“Apes do not want war!”

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up ten years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes and focuses on what has become of man and apekind alike after a lab-bred virus wiped out most of humanity. We rejoin Caesar (mocapped and voiced by Andy Serkis), alpha ape and leader of an entire ape community in the forest. Caesar has a son, named Blue Eyes, and a new arrival on his mind when a group of humans stumble across several apes, setting wheels in motion that lead to huge tension between the two groups. Whilst the designated leaders for each side (The Big C and some bloke named Malcolm (Jason Clarke)), there are members of both species who want to nudge the precarious situation into all-out war between humans and apes. I will say this about Dawn, it’s not afraid to be a blockbuster with brains. There are some really solid ideas in play and motivations are strong and coherent. The motion capture and the effects work by WETA is awesome stuff. Whilst the apes still aren’t 100% convincing, there are moments where you forget that a huge portion of the cast aren’t really there. The ape cast are great. Andy Serkis is just the fucking don at this stuff and his performance as Caesar is fantastic. Toby Kebbell is brilliant as Koba, Caesar’s aggressive second-in-command. Koba is a truly sinister presence and all credit goes to the CGI people and Kebbell’s unhinged performance. Karin Konoval also returns as the fan favourite Maurice the orangutan, which is brilliant news for fans of the loveable flat-faced fella like me. All of the main apes have distinct features and interesting personalities.

Same can’t be said for the humans, unfortunately. Jason Clarke is annoyingly earnest as Malcolm, a “nice guy” with shit-all personality. Not to be mean, but Clarke has no screen presence. I’d honestly forgotten his name was Malcolm about half an hour after leaving the cinema. Not a good sign. It doesn’t help that his family are boring too. His wife is barely part of it and he has some vaguely sad backstory that’s meant to stand in the stead of giving her something to actually do. His teenage son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) rivals him in the no-personality stakes by having only having one defining thing- he draws stuff. That’s it in regards to character. He doodles in a sketchpad. (Cough) Gary Oldman elevates things just by being him, but it all added up to me being impatient to get back to the monkey business.

OK. Like with How to Train Your Dragon 2, I didn’t hate Dawn. However, I still walked away disappointed. Perhaps it’s just the hype generated by my love of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I don’t think so. The writing’s certainly not as sharp, for sure. It’s thematically rich and full of interesting philosophies, but I was ahead of the film every step of the way- a phenomenon not experienced whilst watching Rise. It’s not because I’ve wasted more time watching films than most people either. This is some really basic and generic stuff. I kept wanting to be surprised or for it to display at least a bit of narrative sleight of hand to distract me from the fact that I knew how everything was going to play out. There’s one character, Carver (Kirk Acevedo) who starts everything off by shooting at a young ape. Despite seeming to exist purely to fuck things up and having created conflict out of nothing, Malcolm decides to take him to a disputed hydroelectric dam because “he’s the only one who worked there” or some crap. That’s just clunky writing and contrived as anything. When they decide that he can tag along the second time, it’s obvious that he’s going to cause more trouble. Not because we know the character, but because we know his function to the story. Would it have made any difference if it was one of the other people who shot at the ape? Not at all and that’s what bugs me. I can see the seams rather than being too lost in proceedings. Rise was flawed too, but it spent more time making the characters seem like real people, rather than plot-convenient pawns to slide into place when needed.

It’s frustrating because despite the bland-as-balls subplots, the main thrust of the story works incredibly well. The film is nicely morally ambiguous, with both sides having valid reasons for acting the way they do and avoids providing an easy goodies vs baddies scenario. The building conflict between apes and humans is by far the most interesting thing to me and there are some awesome tension-filled scenes where characters are trying to talk their way out of violence and find a diplomatic solution, which is a lesson that our actual, shitty non ape planet doesn’t seem to be interested in heeding of late. When guns are whipped out, everything gets ten times worse. It’s not all talking though. When the action does occur, it’s expertly done. The sight of a snarling ape dual wielding LMGs whilst riding on horseback is worth the price of admission alone. In fact, Koba steals the show for me. He’s a proper villain (spoilers, but Rise and Dawn make it abundantly clear that his defection was only a matter of time) and he’s in my favourite scene. You may have seen the bit I’m about to talk about in trailers and clips (thanks trailer people, I was almost surprised for a moment) but in one scene Koba is caught by a couple of armed guards and he goes all-out pet ape, posing, rolling around and recreating his favourite scenes from Dunstan Checks In. Whilst they’re caught up in the show, Koba grabs one of their guns and blows them both away. It was fucking brilliant and an easy contender for my now world-famous Scenes of the Year list.

“We’ve been through hell together! We spent four years, FOUR YEARS fighting that virus, and then another four fighting each other! It was chaos!… But you all know what we’re up against! And I want you to know, it’s not just about power! It’s about giving us the hope to rebuild, to reclaim the world we lost!”

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is good, but not great. It’s worth a watch, certainly. I just wasn’t as involved as I was with Rise and too many things kept diverting my attention from the solid choices and amazing effects. The whole thing feels slightly undercooked. I’m fine with the amount of praise it’s getting, especially considering the current blockbuster climate. However, when more than a few are saying it’s better than Rise, I feel completely alienated. I genuinely wish I could join your apetastic Fuck Yes DOTPOTA! party everyone, but I’m going to have to sit this one out. I hope we can catch up at the Guardians of the Galaxy Fuckin’ Rules bash.

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