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Tag: Comic Book

Editorials

The Best Action Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 14, 2019
The Best Action Films of the Decade

With 2020 approaching many are currently reflecting on all the positive points of the past decade. Today I’m doing the same, as I list the best action movies of each year from 2010-2019.

These films were picked based on their creativity, the impact of the action and how well the story complimented the action. And because there were so man good action films this decade I will be including honourable mentions for you to also watch. Without further ado, let’s begin.


2010: Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

With an interesting story about implanting ideas into someone’s mind while having to battle through not only the subject’s mental defences but your own baggage as well as incredibly staged action sequences like the rotating hallway fight and using minimal CGI, Inception is a true sci-fi action masterpiece.

HM: Kick-Ass & 13 Assassins.

The Rotating Hallway fight (Inception)

2011: The Raid (dir. Gareth Evans)

After a swat team is ambushed in an apartment complex the survivors must reach and arrest the kingpin before his henchmen kill them. From this simple premise, The Raid quickly ratchets up the tension as we are never sure who will escape alive. And the action sequences use of flowing choreography, camerawork and editing turn the film into a remarkable ballet of violence.

HM: Captain America: The First Avenger & X-men: First Class.

The Hallway Fight (The Raid)

2012: Dredd (dir. Peter Travis)

Similar to The Raid, Dredd finds two judges (police officers who are judge, jury, and executioner) Dredd (Karl Urban) and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), trapped in a skyscraper, having to fight their way to the kingpin to escape. However, Dredd keeps The Raid’s tension while also injecting a healthy dose of comic book action. With bloody violence, great world-building, beautiful slow-motion usage and endearing characters, Dredd, packs a punch despite its small stature.

HM: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises & Skyfall.

Slow-motion break-in (Dredd)

2013: Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

While the premise is far-fetched (the remnants of humanity are trapped on a perpetually running world-spanning train after a climate crisis), Snowpiercer’s story about humanity in microcosm and fight scenes are very affecting. The skirmishes are protracted and merciless, combined with the claustrophobic setting and masterful editing, Snowpiercer will keep you riveted till the end.  

HM: The Worlds End & Elysium.

The train massacre (Snowpiercer)

2014: The Raid 2 (dir. Gareth Evans)

After surviving the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais) must infiltrate the mob and bring them down from inside. From there this sequel improves on everything great about the original. With more impressive choreography, more brutal violence; even more memorable characters, all wrapped around a fantastic story of family and loyalty. The Raid 2 is my favourite action film of the decade.

HM: Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rama vs Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man (The Raid 2)

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)

Mad Max: Fury Road puts all other 2015 action movies to shame, with an effectively slight story about Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) helping a band of women escape an oppressive patriarch; spectacular vehicle stunts. By the movie’s end, you’ll feel exhausted by the relentless action. Impressed by the practical stunts and special effects. And moved by characters like Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult). High octane action at its finest.

HM: Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron & Sicario.

Driving back to the Citadel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

2016: Captain America: Civil War (dir. Joe Russo)

Civil War is the highlight of the MCU. The story grounds the conflict in each heroes’ hopes and fears, examining them and playing them against each other expertly. Every character is relatable, making the fights more impactful. And each action sequence is creative. From the opening robbery to the final 2 on 1. Marvel has made many good films, but none topped the impact of Civil War.

HM: Deadpool.

Part 1 of the Airport Fight (Captain America: Civil War)

2017: Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Depicting the titular WWII evacuation from three perspectives: the soldiers trapped at Dunkirk waiting for rescue, the civilians coming to evacuate the soldiers and the airmen covering them from above, Dunkirk’s tension becomes almost unbearable as we hope the soldiers escape in time. The use of practical effects, incredible sound editing, and Hans Zimmer’s tense score make the film effective and harrowing.

HM: Baby Driver.

Death from above (Dunkirk (2017))

2018: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (dir. Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman)

The perfect balance of spectacle, personality, and high personal stakes. Into the Spiderverse is an expertly crafted love letter to comic books. With beautiful visuals that are used inventively in action sequences, all anchored by protagonist Miles Morales. Who allows us to feel his wonder, excitement, and fear better than any other spiderman.

HM: Avengers: Infinity War.

Fight at the Parker house (Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse)

2019: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (dir. Chad Stahelski)

Parabellum marks the culmination of everything great about John Wick. The story is full of unique, intriguing characters, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still thoroughly engaging and the grounded, varied, constant action easily beats the overblown spectacle of other films this year.

HM: Avengers: Endgame.

Motorbike Fight (John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum)

So ends my list of the 2010’s best action movies. Be sure to tell me your favourite action movie of the decade in the comments. There have been some great action films this decade, now let’s see what the 2020s have in store.

Also Read: How to Revive a Franchise After Many Years

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Reviews

Review: Shazam!

April 4, 2019
Shazam Movie Screenshot

Comic book characters have been a staple of big Hollywood films for nearly twenty years now. But recently we have seen a growth in obscure and niche (by mainstream standards) comic book properties being used as inspirations for big box office hits. Guardians of the Galaxy, Aquaman and Captain Marvel have all scored big, using obscurer comic figures that many fans never thought would get their time to shine.

And now DC is trying their luck again, with the live-action feature debut of Shazam. But can the hero who was once considered more popular than Superman hit a home run with his first film outing?

The story

The wizard, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) is growing old and is searching for an heir to his powers, to protect the world from the seven avatars of sin. After searching for years, he finally chooses young orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel). Billy is then granted the ability to turn from a teenager into a superpowered adult (Zachary Levi) by saying the word, “Shazam”. But Billy has no interest in being a hero.

Having been abandoned by his mother as a child, Billy has spent most of his life moving from foster home to foster home while looking for her. So naturally, he has a cynical streak that makes him ill-suited for his powers. But when Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) a man rejected by the wizard years before, comes to claim Billy’s powers, Billy must prove he is worthy of them by fighting to protect the innocent and his foster family from Thaddeus’ wrath.

What did I like?

After several years of DC movies being unduly grim and gritty, it’s nice to see them becoming more fun. Although Shazam has dark moments, they feel appropriate. Because the story is about a troubled teenager coming to grips with the world around him. Ultimately though this movie is about family and childish power fantasy, and the script achieves that with gusto.

The empowerment side of the story works well. Billy, of course, begins using his powers to do childish things. Which is very entertaining. But slowly he realises that he must grow up and become responsible or he will become like Thaddeus. Turning the film into a coming of age tale where Billy learns that strength comes from those around you. Time is also dedicated to giving visibility to a spectrum of genders, sexualities and abilities. Before paying them off in an empowering way that many will find satisfying. Coupled with this the movie is incredibly funny, with Pop culture references and over the top childish wackiness ensuring a laugh from most audiences. Some may find the family side of the story clichéd, but it does add another level of emotional investment to the story.

I also really enjoyed the performances. Zachary Levi is of course the standout. Playing a child in an adult’s body can easily become creepy or aggravating. But when watching Levi his energy, enthusiasm, and sincerity capture your attention. He is a joy to watch as he channels his inner child and he easily carries the entire movie. Mark Strong also does good work as Thaddeus. Some may see Thaddeus as just another generic villain but the occasional moment where Strong lets the mask slip revealing something more childlike underneath really does work as a good foil for Levi. And many of the supporting cast also get their time to shine. Special mention goes to Cooper Andrews as Billy’s warm foster father. And Jack Grazer as Freddy whose comedic timing never fails to get a laugh.

What did I not like?

But while I like most of what the film is doing, it’s sometimes a rough ride getting there. On the technical side, the CG used to create the avatars of sin and the action scenes never looks convincing or original. It’s all designs and feats we’ve seen done elsewhere. Thankfully the film does not rely too much on these but when it does it becomes too unreal and generic to engage. Which does become a problem in the third act.

As well as this, the films occasional overreliance on humour undermines the attempt at eliciting emotion from the family storyline. With pathos sacrificed for a joke. And when so much of the film relies on humour there is the risk of alienating the audience if they are not engaged by the jokes. Which did happen a few times with the audience I saw the film with.

Lastly, the film does occasionally slip into the same pitfalls as many other DCEU movies. Some of the acting feels forced and unnatural, particularly Thaddeus’ family and the bully characters. There are also segments that could have been tweaked to make a better impression on the audience. For example, the fight between Billy and the bullies, which doesn’t happen simply because they are hurting Freddy, but because they insult him not having parents which Billy takes personally which makes him seem more selfish than he needs to be. And of course, DC can still think of no other way to end a film than by having a big fight with indiscriminate CGI bad guys. Which is especially disappointing here because the character focused conflict between Billy and Thaddeus is way more interesting than the generic avatars of sin.  

Verdict  

Shazam! is a mixed bag. It is brought down by unconvincing CG villains as well as an occasional overreliance on humour to the detriment of other parts of the narrative. The lack of attention to minor details in the story and occasionally bad acting also drags the film down. But it still feels like a breath of fresh air among modern superhero movies. It is an almost perfect example of what the genre is meant to be, wish fulfilment for little kids. Buoyed by fun performances, a fantastic sense of humour and a script that nicely treads the line between sincere and goofy.

It is impossible not to have a good time with Shazam!. It isn’t a genre redefining masterpiece nor is it an exceptional film, but it’s a damn good version of what it’s trying to be.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Shazam! is in UK cinema on from Friday 5th April.

Shazam! (Official Trailer)
Editorials

With Great Power Comes An Interesting Film

March 2, 2019

There are many films that show a realistic portrayal of life – people living ordinary lives going to work, raising families, just living and while I would argue that those stories can be incredibly interesting I can’t help but being more immediately drawn to less ordinary portrayals. Boyhood and Logan are both great films but one is about an almost unkillable mutant with a metal skeleton and claws and one about the life of a typical boy. One of those stories is instantly more appealing. But putting superpowers in your film is no guarantee of success and it’s a tricky business balancing a cool superpower with something that doesn’t seem ridiculous.

The very interesting Wolverine (inverse.com)

Most of these characters are going to be based on comic books and I want to say right now – many of these characters are brilliant in comic books but it’s just that not every comic book character will work well in a film.

Green Lantern

One of the biggest comic book superheroes is Green Lantern, seriously, he is a big deal yet the film was a critical and commercial failure. There were many reasons for this but we’re talking about superpowers. In brief, Green Lantern can create physical manifestation of anything he can imagine.

Green Lantern (pinterest.com)

On the surface that’s a remarkable superpower with unlimited potential but really was just a CGI mess – the ability to create anything? It’s just too much, too powerful, for powers to be interesting they have to have limits. One of the brilliant things about Logan was that it showed Wolverine wasn’t always going to come back from anything, his healing powers did have their limits. And it didn’t really explore the fantastical or just plain weird places it could go with such a power. As is demonstrated in scenes of Green Lantern when fights break out is this power really more useful than a gun?

The Superfluous X-Men

Part of the problem is once you’ve got more than a few characters, coming up with interesting powers becomes difficult. There are dozens of mutants in the X-Men films and it has it’s fair share of duds. There is Banshee who can scream in a weird way and also can use this to fly somehow. There’s Angel who has incredibly flimsy-looking insect style wings. There’s Quill who can make short spikes stick out of his body. I could go on.

The very cinematic Magneto (metalarcade.net)

Their powers don’t make a great deal of sense; they’re not useful, they’re not plausible and they certainly aren’t cinematic. I could watch Michael Fassbender using his powers for hours – simple to explain, looks good on film and it’s merits are obvious. That’s a superpower you want in a film. To be a mutant with a bad power feels like the cruellest blow of all – yes mutants are a maligned group in society who live in fear but at least Cyclops can shoot lasers out of his eyes.

Money, money, money

Not all superheroes have superpowers and not only is this not a problem it can make the superhero more interesting. There is a classic get out though – money. A fairly common device is the rich superhero (or indeed supervillain), the two most famous being Batman and Ironman. Apparently, there is nothing that can’t be done with enough money – you want to be stronger, faster, tougher? Buy it and don’t let aerodynamics, ballistics, kinetics or any other killjoy science tell you it doesn’t exist or isn’t possible.

Guess what? This sort of thing is expensive (wdsu.coom)

Obviously, you can achieve a lot with money but surely there are limits and finding a superhero who doesn’t have superpowers or money is hard. Kick-Ass is one of the few examples I can think of and Kick-Ass himself is hardly a successful superhero so it seems if you have no powers you better have some money.

The Man of Too Many Powers

So we come to the apex of ridiculous powers, a character that exceeds virtually all others in their powers making no sense whatsoever and ruining the plot of almost any story they become involved in. I am, of course, talking about Superman.

Superman’s powers are amazing and spectacular and therein lies the problem. Every day Superman fights crime and saves people…well, it’s hardly a challenge for him, is it? Superstrength, flight, x-ray vision, super-speed and there’s more…it must be so boring. When Batman fights a mugger with a gun he might die, with Superman it’s not even really a fight. Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor is a billionaire genius and is the underdog in that fight.

The boring, if impressive, Superman (mic.com)

Graphic novel and film classic Watchmen explored the ridiculousness of Superman further with Dr Manhattan standing in for the Man of Steel. The idea being that someone with so much power would inevitably become distant from the normal people around him and perhaps even stop caring. Dr Manhattan even manages to surpass Superman in powers – he can teleport, make multiple versions of himself, become gigantically big, survive on Mars, see the future and just for fun can literally explode people just by thinking about it. Oh and is essentially indestructible with no convenient kryptonite weakness. The clever twist in Watchmen is that the villain doesn’t attack him physically but psychologically, manipulating him into doing what he wants. Of course, Dr. Manhattan is meant to be ridiculously powerful, Superman just kept acquiring more powers in the comics to try and keep it interesting.

The best Superman film, in my opinion, is Superman II and why is that? It has villains who can stand up to the hero. The vast collection of powers they possess make for excellent fight scenes and that’s Superman’s saving grace – they look amazing. The much maligned Superman Returns has an amazing scene of Superman saving a plane and it is a stunning scene. Just watching Christopher Reeve, Brandon Ruth and Henry Cavill use their powers is worth the cinema ticket.

There are still decades of comic book heroes to go through yet but even so you can’t help but feel the well is running pretty dry on interesting superpowers. Captain Marvel is the next big one to be brought to the silver screen and we’ll have to see how her powers are handled. From the sounds of it she’s going to be another pretty powerful superhero, perhaps the most powerful in Marvel have yet brought to film, so will she be silly or spectacular?

Reviews

Review: Venom [Spoiler Free]

October 3, 2018

Comic book movies have been big business this year. Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 are all among the highest grossing films of the year. It’s not surprising therefore that Sony is looking to continue the trend of big comic book hits by making a movie about one of Spiderman’s greatest villains, the alien symbiote, Venom.

Combining the reliability of the Marvel brand with the super anti-heroics of films like Deadpool and Suicide Squad and the box office draw of Tom Hardy. Will this version of Venom be a success or will we all be left pining for the days of Spiderman 3? Let’s look.

The Story

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a reporter with a conscience, always wanting to find the truth. He has a fiancé, Anne (Michelle Williams), a weekly TV show and even a cute cat. But when he asks the head of the life corporation, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the wrong questions he loses everything. A few months later, a scientist from the life corporation comes to him to help expose what Carlton Drake has been doing. But when Eddie enters Drake’s facility, he finds that Drake has been using people as hosts for alien symbiotes, brought back from a life corporation space mission. During the ensuing scuffle, Eddie ends up as host to one of the symbiotes. The symbiote, known as Venom, then uses his body to escape and fight off anyone who opposes him.

What did I like?

Venom has received a lot of bad press but not all of it is deserved. For one thing, many of the actors do a fine job. Tom Hardy holds himself well with what the script asks of him, and his accent is not as off-putting as some people feared it would be. And as Venom he manages to steal the show from under himself as he gives the frightening goliath a good sense of dark comedic timing combined with surprisingly good self-chemistry. Riz Ahmed also continues to impress. His character is not afforded any depth, but he plays his role to the hilt and infuses a lot of gravitas into his scenes.

The action scenes and the effects are also quite well done. The symbiotes natural forms are very gooey and suitably gross and when Venom reveals himself, he is just as imposing and intimidating as fans of the comics would want him to be. The action scenes are also suitably energetic. The motorcycle chase in the middle of the film and the final showdown has some imaginative touches regarding what the symbiotes can do.

And the film works ok as a standalone. Despite the connection to Spiderman being a big part of the character’s history, the screenwriters have fashioned a plot that makes Venom a separate entity from his comic origins. While still showcasing Venom’s trademarks including body morphing, weakness to sounds and his emotional connection to his host. Unfortunately, the negatives of the film outweigh everything else.

What needed improvement?

Hardy said 30-40 minutes of material were cut and it really feels like it. The film’s editing is awful. Some scenes lack any clear payoff. For example, when Eddie is on an island surrounded by guards, hiding up a tree, we transition to a new scene, with no indication of what happened. The film’s pacing also suffers because of the editing. Several scenes race by barely elaborated on, the spaceship opening, and the final villain reveal highlight this offence. Then the brakes are applied for lengthy character discussions and comedic scenes. Which could be forgiven, but many of the characters have no personality.

The actors do their best, but the script gives them nothing to work with. Every character is a blank archetype. Eddie Brock is a boring cardboard cut-out who drones on about doing the right thing but never grows as a person. Aside from learning to be ok with eating people, which he takes to surprisingly quickly. Carlton Drake is a cartoon villain, but the worst offender is Michelle William’s character. Whose only function in the plot is to serve Eddie’s story. A lack of romantic chemistry between the two leads also hurts the proceedings. Even Venom, as fun as he is, has little to no motivation for the things he does. This is not helped by dialogue that comes free with any version of Microsoft Word.

There are other points of annoyance too. The music is flavourless and forgettable. The lack of blood is disappointing for a 15 rated character-driven comic book film. Especially in the wake of Logan. And a lot of the comedy is too broad to make an impact.

The Big Problem

What ultimately condemns Venom is that it does not know what it wants to be. Is it a violent comic book anti-hero movie like Deadpool or Suicide Squad? No. Those movies had characters with big personalities and facets that made you feel for them despite their questionable actions. Venom is boring, glum and populated with stereotypes. Is it trying to be a faithful adaptation of the comic? Potentially. But Spiderman’s absence and the watered down violence will not please hardcore comic fans and the lack of explanation for his powers in this universe and the general ineptitude of the rest of the film will alienate non-fans. Is it just trying to entertain? Maybe. But in an age, where comic book movies have showcased more imaginative and complex stories and have become more than just entertaining distractions, the viewing public deserves better.

Bottom Line

Venom is a great disappointment that wastes its talented stars and potential for an interesting, violent, character-driven storyline. The script is rampant with clichés, stock characters and boring dialogue. Which is not helped by the final product having been edited with a meat cleaver and a lack of understanding about its target audience. If you want a well-acted popcorn film then there are much better films out there.

Verdict: 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)