Voices: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington
Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon was an example of setting your expectations low and coming out pleasantly surprised. The first film proved that the studio could create animated masterpieces and it left audiences across the globe hooked.
However, expectation has never been higher for its sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2, but does it soar to the dizzying heights of its predecessor? Continue reading →
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer
Michael Bay’s Transformers series has received a huge amount of criticism since the first film was released back in 2007, some of it fair, and some of it not. Now, 7 years on and three films later, Bay returns to the helm of one of the biggest movie franchises of all time with Transformers: Age of Extinction, but can it silence his critics? Continue reading →
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Work on Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World is coming along swimmingly, if the filtering through of promo shots is to be believed anyway. We’ve been keeping you up to date with all the latest goings on in update 1 and update 2, and since then there’s been even more information. This update takes a little different approach in that it’s just a slideshow – there’s just too much to see!
From rumours of hybrid dinosaurs, to brand spanking new vehicles, it’s going to be an agonising wait for fans of the series until June next year. A teaser trailer for Jurassic World is expected at Christmas.
Stars: Hugh Jackman, , Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen
Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise comes at the perfect time both for the series and its director.
After last year’s poorly executed Jack the Giant Slayer, Singer needed to come back to home turf and after a string of irritating X-Men films, including the entertaining but soulless X-Men: The Last Stand and the downright offensive Wolverine origins story, it seems the superhero series needed to do the same.
But can a re-partnering 11 years after the brilliant X2 restore the magic of one of Marvel’s best comics?
Partially is the answer here. Singer restores the cinematic flair and sparkle of the series and brings back a lot of old faces but forgets a lot of the fun in the process.
Days of Future Past is set in a dystopian future as a war between mutants and humans continues to rage. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and many other fan favourites return to the series after being absent for some time. We follow these characters as they try to escape the sentinels; an army of robots impressively rendered in CGI designed to kill any mutant on sight, friend or foe.
The only way to stop the war is to send a mutant back to 1973 when the sentinel program was put in motion. Unfortunately, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is the chosen one and remains the lead character throughout the film.
Back in 1973, the mutants from X-Men First Class are blissfully unaware of what lies in store for them, though they still have their own personal battles to deal with.
As the film progresses, it becomes painfully obvious that this is very much a “First Class” era film. James McAvoy’s impressive take on the young Charles Xavier returns, as does Michael Fassbender’s Magneto.
However, only Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique makes a lasting impact amongst the 1973 era mutants. You can see the pain and torment etched onto her face throughout the film and as in The Hunger Games she steals focus from everyone around her. Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage also joins the cast as the film’s primary antagonist Bolivar Trask and is a real joy to watch. His character is understated in every way, but he remains an iconic presence throughout.
However, as impressive as the set pieces and acting performances are, it is in the future where we wish to see more. The ‘classic’ characters are barely given any screen time which is a real shame and the real mutant cost of the war is glossed over entirely. The special effects are genuinely very good. Each of the action sequences is well choreographed and the CGI is great, especially the rendering on the future sentinels which can adapt to seek a mutant’s power – no matter what it is.
Unfortunately, the fun factor is completely lost as Singer ramps up the tension and the death toll. In fact, only one character provides the humour and that is Evan Peters’ portrayal of Quicksilver who is only on screen for 15 minutes.
Overall, X-Men: Days of Future Past is definitely the best film of the series and thankfully does away with the atrocities that have been committed previously in the franchise. However, it feels like Singer was trying so hard to repair his predecessor’s mistakes, he forgot some of the key elements of a Marvel superhero film in the process – this is more DC than Marvel.
The king of the Kaiju, Godzilla, has had a very chequered cinematic history. From the classic original Japanese films to Roland Emmerich’s 1998 disaster, the famous beast hasn’t always been given the respect deserved of such an iconic monster.
Now, 16 years after Emmerich’s critical flop, Monsters director Gareth Edwards resurrects the gargantuan reptile in this year’s reboot, simply titled Godzilla, but is it a return to form?
Yes, is the short answer. From an engaging story to a stellar cast, Edwards recreates the fan favourite with the utmost care and attention, and comes out smelling of roses.
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) stars as Joe Brody, an American nuclear power officer living and working in Japan with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) and their son Ford, just as a nuclear disaster begins. Fast-forward 15 years and a disheveled Joe is trying to find the truth about what happened at the nuclear plant, believing the authorities are trying to hide something from the general public. As his descent into madness continues, a fully grown Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson decides to come to his aid.
What ensues is a great story of father bonding with son as they try to work out exactly what is going on together. Though what they find shocks the globe.
Within the first hour of Godzilla, the titular monster’s appearances are limited to shots of spines poking from the ocean, keeping the audience guessing as to how the creature has been designed by Edwards and his team.
This can become increasingly tiresome as we make do with the film’s primary antagonists MUTO, and as impressive as they are to look at, all we really want to see is Godzilla in all his glory. Though Edwards’ constant teasers are brilliantly varied.
Thankfully after numerous jaw-dropping set pieces ranging from a Japanese nuclear plant to a Hawaiian airport, Godzilla is finally revealed and the result is exceptional.
Gone is the T-Rex on steroids look that Emmerich shoved down our throats in the 1998 monstrosity and in its place is how the beast used to look in the original foreign classics – of course with revolutionary special effects to keep things looking tip-top.
The CGI, of which there is a huge amount, is breath-taking. Godzilla, the MUTO and all of the set pieces are of the highest quality, with no visible lapses whatsoever, and what Edwards does that so many other directors don’t is to keep the story going instead of letting the CGI take over, it never becomes overly loud and obnoxious.
One scene in particular, involving a group of paratroopers infiltrating a desolate San Francisco as Godzilla and the MUTO do battle is probably one of the most beautifully shot and eerily quiet action sequences in cinematic history with one section involving some perfectly positioned Chinese lanterns being the highlight.
A really enjoyable aspect of the film is spotting the homages to previous Godzilla films as well as other monster classics like Jurassic Park. There are many scattered throughout the film.
Moreover, the acting is generally very good. Cranston is sublime and shows what a brilliant actor he is. The character of Joe is the one you care about the most throughout the film. Taylor-Johnson is good, if a little staid as the generic armed forces stereotype.
Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins also star. Unfortunately, a weak link is Ken Watanabe who plays Dr Ishiro Serizawa. His over-the-top and hammy performance begins to grate after an hour of seeing him on screen.
Thankfully though, Godzilla’s inevitable weak points are far outshone by the incredible special effects, interesting story and excellent acting. Bryan Cranston is a real highlight and the beast himself is a wonder to behold.
Gareth Edwards has not only created one of the best monster films ever with some of the most breath-taking shots ever seen on celluloid, he has also whet our appetites for Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World set to be released in June next year – that can only be a good thing.
The disaster movie has always been a genre guaranteed to create incredible box-office returns. If you look at Roland Emmerich’s impressive blockbuster hit 2012, which grossed over $750million, it is clear that destroying well-known landmarks = bums on seats.
However since 2012‘s 2009 release the genre has fallen into a dormant state. Nevertheless, four years later Paul W.S. Anderson attempts to reawaken this box-office behemoth with his take on the tragic true events at Pompeii, but does the film succeed in its task?
Partially is the short answer. Anderson’s first film since 2012′s disaster Resident Evil: Retribution is as cheesy as a Dairylea triangle, but it also has some stunning special effects to give it some life.
Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington stars as Milo, a slave captured by the Romans after they wiped out his entire family. He is taken to a gloriously recreated Pompeii and immediately sets his sights on the very beautiful Lady Cassia, played by a rather dull Emily Browning, who just so happens to be the daughter of the city ruler, Severus. I’m sure you can guess the plot…
What ensues is a cheesy mess of terrible acting and stilted dialogue that jars with the period nature of the film. Only the knowing of what is to come from Mt Vesuvius, which is beautifully rendered in CGI, stops the film from grinding to a halt.
Kiefer Sutherland dons a downright ridiculous English accent for the role of Senator Corvus, the chief antagonist in the film. He is on business in Pompeii to see if trade can be established and investment can be agreed with the great city of Rome – though this plot point gets lost along the way.
Another issue is the true story which Pompeii is based on. The great tale of tragedy and mother nature showing her ruthless side is one we all know – but all we really want to see is the mountain going boom. Unfortunately we must wait whilst Anderson tries his best to make us care about the characters with their sickly back-stories, for which he fails in breathtaking fashion.
Finally after nearly an hour of what feels like a poor-mans Gladiator we are treat to a stunning spectacle, as Mt Vesuvius explodes in rip-roaring style. As the mountain blows and the fireballs rage Anderson once again tries to get us interested in the paper-thin story, thankfully not pushing too hard this time, and he lets the special effects take over.
Historical accuracy is, surprisingly, very good. According to the director, Pompeii was faithfully recreated for the film with aerial shots of the city as it stands today topped up with CGI to show the thriving metropolis we see in the film.
Unfortunately, scientific accuracy takes a back-seat for the sake of high drama, which is the case with many films of this nature. The iconic pyroclastic flow, attributed to killing the majority of Pompeii’s inhabitants due to its huge speed and massive temperatures is slowed right down to ensure the film can last another ten minutes or so – though this is perhaps to be expected.
Overall, Paul W.S. Anderson has created a film which certainly looks the part, but is lacking in so many other areas. Kiefer Sutherland’s villain is completely upstaged by the constant shots of the volcano, which are almost pantomime like in their ‘it’s behind you’ staging, and the rest of the cast are wooden and not particularly likeable.
However, what it lacks in story and acting finesse it makes up in the beautiful special effects and engaging cinematography. It’s worth a watch just to see Pompeii get obliterated – which is probably not a very nice thing to say at all.
Overall: Anderson forgets cracking special effects don’t equal brilliance.
It’s back! It’s been a rather long time since the last edition of the MM Top 5 series, in fact it was in January that we last looked at a topic. Due to time constraints it is with great sadness that I announce the series will now be done on the second Sunday of every month rather than fortnightly like previous editions. Emotions aside, it’s time for a comeback and April’s topic is Disney Songs. But what has made the cut?
5. A Whole New World: 1992
“A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view”
The Song:A Whole New World is a cracking mid-tempo ballad with feel-good lyrics and soaring vocals. Sang by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga back in 1992, it became an instant hit with listeners across the globe even winning an Oscar for its production.
It also managed to top the US charts, making it the first and only time a Disney animation song has managed such a feat. Even more impressive than its award-winning, chart-topping ways is the fact it knocked off the Whitney Houston classic I Will Always Love You which had spent a record-breaking 14 weeks at number one in America.
It had less success here in the UK, but still peaked at number nine in the British singles charts. There have been numerous cover versions of the song due to its popularity, a few of them (Katie Price and Peter Andre) are perhaps best forgotten.
The Film:Aladdinwas Disney’s 31st animated feature and remains one of the studio’s best efforts in the realms of hand-drawn animation. It was also the highest grossing film of 1992, taking over $500million at the global box-office.
Critical praise was also in huge supply. With an average score of 8/10, Aladdin remains one of the best-rated films from the studio and has a huge cult following – the DVD remains in the yearly best-sellers list in the United Kingdom.
Let’s also not forget about the brilliant voice acting from Robin Williams as the Genie. Williams gave Disney one of their most memorable characters and his brilliant performance was filled with brilliantly delivered one-liners. Jonathan Freeman’s efforts as villain Jafar also worked wonders, bringing an almost Darth Vader like quality to the power-hungry Grand Vizier.
The Song:Released after the phenomenal success of the film of the same name, Beauty and the Beast was another Oscar winning Disney song, though critics argued that it was overly sentimental and cheesy. In the film, the song is performed by British actress Angela Lansbury, who played Mrs. Potts in the film, and remains a real highlight.
It’s quiet opening tells a beautiful story and as it moves into the soaring middle-eight, the song really picks up momentum. It is the fragility behind the song which makes its place in this top 5 even more deserving.
Celine Dion released the song as a single alongside US singer Peabo Bryson. Whilst Dion’s version lacked the subtlety of the theatrical release, it made up for it with her stunning vocal performance and slightly different interpretation of the lyrics. Success in the charts was reasonable, with it peaking inside the top ten in the United Kingdom, America and New Zealand, though it missed out on the coveted number one spot which many thought it would have achieved.
The Film: There really is no denying the popularity of Beauty and the Beast, it ranked as the third most successful film of 1991 worldwide, beaten only by big blockbusters Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
With its takings surpassing $420million it showed that Disney was on a winning streak after previous success stories in The Little Mermaid and Oliver & Company. However, it was the story which really set Beauty and the Beast apart from its predecessors. A film about never judging a book by its cover and giving second chances gave it a deeper meaning, one which parents and children alike could look at and enjoy.
It also introduced the world to Disney’s latest princess, Belle. She is a character that has remained in the spotlight even now, over 20 years after the film’s original release.
Its success was again proven in January 2012 when the movie was re-released in 3D, adding even more money to its huge takings.
The Song:Performed by Elton John after The Lion King’s release and with lyrics by the one-and-only Tim Rice, Circle of Life was always destined for great success. The fact it was paired with the 1994 smash-hit The Lion King only added to its brilliance.
The song features beautiful instrumentation throughout and stunning lyrics about life and the way life moves us all forward in our own way – making it a joy to listen to and a frequent addition to Disney CD’s past and present.
It’s commercial success outside the film was much less than analysts expected. Despite the excellent performance of The Lion King, Circle of Life only managed to peak at number 11 in the UK charts and a lowly 18 in the US. It did however hit number three in Canada and number nine in Ireland, where it proved the most profitable.
The Film:The Lion King is Disney’s 32nd effort at hand-drawn animated feature films and remains the one with the biggest following. It’s success is difficult to measure as there are new fans popping up every day. Children and adults flocked to see it in the busy summer season of 1994 where it grossed nearly $800million, making it the second highest grossing film of all time behind Jurassic Park.
Since then, it has been re-released in 3D and added further money to its already massive takings. The Lion King now stands at just shy of $1billion surpassing Jurassic Park and making it the 19th most successful film of all time and also Disney’s second biggest theatrical release behind last year’s Frozen.
It also had acting talent in spades, more so than any other Disney release. With the likes of James Earl Jones, Rowan Atkinson, Jeremy Irons and Matthew Broderick in the voice cast, it had something for everyone and this definitely helped its success.
The Song:Let it Go is definitely one of the songwriters at Disney’s best efforts. It is instantly recognisable as an up-tempo ballad with powerhouse vocals by Idina Menzel or someone completely different if you’re John Travolta.
The typical Disney message about breaking through the pain and the bad in life and making it what you want is present here but in a package that feels ultimately modern and timeless, and who can resist that beautiful piano instrumentation at the beginning – stunning!
Idina Menzel’s version which was used in the film is of course much more theatrical to deal with the requirements of the movie, but Demi Levato’s take is for the people who just want to hear those brilliantly clever lyrics – both of them have their merits.
The reception of Menzel’s version has been unanimously favourable with many critics saying it is the best Disney song ever released and whilst I wouldn’t go that far, I would tend to agree with those who say it deserves to be up there with the very best.
It’s commercial success speaks for itself. Let it Go hit the number one spot in South Korea, number five in the US and number 11 in the United Kingdom, as well as peaking inside the top 40 in thirteen countries – proving what massive appeal the song does have.
The album from the film has also sold over 2.5million copies in the US alone and is the most downloaded soundtrack in history.
The Film:Frozen is a brilliant film and its success is unparalleled for an animated release. On a budget of just $150million, it has taken over $1.1billion at the global box-office and became the sixth highest-grossing film of all time, as well as the second highest film last year, behind Iron Man 3.
It was also notable for being one of the only Disney princess films were the lead character didn’t require a prince to be successful, something which was positively received by parents of the target audience – little girls.
Moreover, Frozen is also exceptional to look at. It is the only film in this list that hasn’t been hand-drawn, but that doesn’t matter as it has all the depth and charm of Disney’s previous animated efforts and then some. The snowy landscapes and beautiful water rendering make it the best looking animated film since How to Train Your Dragon.
“Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon?”
The Song:Another typical Disney ballad with a few key differences which means that Colours of the Windclinches the gold medal from Let it Go in April’s edition of the MM Top 5 series.
A beautiful song which points out that humankind is connected to everything in nature, it presents, rather poetically, the Native American viewpoint that we are all interlinked with all that is on Earth. It also has a strong environmental message which is brilliantly put without it being shoved down our throats.
The instrumentation is also stunning, from xylophones to pianos and even a Native American flute, it all works in harmony which is why it once again won an Academy Award for best song in 1995 meaning that all the songs featured in this list have received that honour.
Recorded by Judy Kuhn for Pocahontas and re-released by Desperate Housewives star Vanessa Williams, Colours of the Wind was reasonably successful, despite it missing out on a top 20 placing in the United Kingdom. It did however peak at number four in the United States.
The Film:Pocahontaswas a Disney film which broke the monotony of having white women in the leading roles. In 1995, audiences were treat to a beautiful film with an emotionally resonant environmental message and a new princess for a new generation of theatre-goers. Pocahontas was a strong, Native American with a heart of gold, whether that was helping protecting the animals who loved her dearly or keeping the forest from being taken over by loggers.
It was also the first animated Disney film to feature the life of a real person, following the legend and folklore of the Native American woman of the same name.
Unfortunately, Pocahontas was poorly received by critics who slammed its bland environmental message, its misrepresentation of the Native American people and its complete lack of fun. Commercial success was much lower than previous efforts from Disney studios with it taking just over $345million globally.
Nevertheless, it is the songs being ranked here and not the film itself and Colours of the Wind is fully deserving of a gold medal in this edition. I look forward to you all coming back in May for another topic!