Marvel vs DC vs Fox: 2016 so far…

This week has seen the release of the 13th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War, which looks set to be another huge hit for the comic book behemoth. Due to the fact that its movies crack a billion quite regularly now (The Avengers, Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3), Marvel certainly leads the pack. Neither DC nor Fox have managed to break the $1 billion ceiling yet. Along with the third installment of the Captain America franchise, 2016 has already seen the release of Fox’s R-rated hit Deadpool and DC’s two big-hitters face off in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The comic-book movie war is well underway. Let’s take a look at who’s winning thus far, and what else is in store in 2016.

Marvel

Cap

Marvel has had a five year head start on DC and has utilised it to near-perfection. Since Iron Man in 2008, the company has barely put a foot wrong. A few movies here and there may not have hit the mark, but overall, Marvel has set the precedent. As with the other two companies, Marvel are releasing two movies this year. The first was Captain America: Civil War, which was by far the best of the comic-book movies released thus far this year. It may have lulled at certain moments in the middle, but each and every fight scene was spectacular, and the juggling of characters was done incredibly well. Every well-known character got their time to shine, new heroes were introduced in amazing ways, and yet still the focus remained on the primary relationship of Cap, Iron Man and Bucky. It was a mammoth task to pull off, and yet the Russo brothers (at the helm for the second time after the Winter Soldier) hit a homerun.

Mystical-Strange-005-EW_0

In November Marvel shifts gears and releases the unique Doctor Strange. The first trailer offered a glimpse of what is to come, and although there are hints of the Marvel formula about it, Strange seems like the biggest gamble thus far. An arrogant surgeon who, in the comics, has a brutal car accident due to drink-driving, and then becomes an all-powerful sorcerer seems well, strange, even for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have been illusions to magic, with Scarlet Witch being the most obvious example, but this movie will have that and so much more – multiple planes of existence and of course Tilda Swinton’s sexless ancient being. If there is one team that can pull it off though, it is Marvel. When it’s seemed like a step too far for them thus far, they’ve knocked it out of the park (see: Guardians of the Galaxy). Expect Doctor Strange to be no different.

Performance in 2016 thus far: 9/10.
Excitement for what’s to come in 2016: 8/10.

 

DC

Bat

DC have been playing catch-up to their biggest rivals, which has led them to attempt a reverse-Avengers. Whilst Marvel slowly built up to their super team up in 2012’s blockbuster the Avengers by virtue of five stand-alone movies, DC have jumped head-first into a first on-screen meeting of their three biggest properties: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. This movie, Batman v Superman, was built on the back of the divisive Man of Steel (2013), and will be followed by Suicide Squad, a standalone Wonder Woman film, and then Justice League Part 1, before Aquaman and the Flash finally get their own standalone movies. Whilst Marvel has declared “Here are the ingredients, and we’ve made this cake,” DC has said “Here’s the cake, and now let’s find these ingredients.” All this is not to say DC is going to fail in its plan. It makes sense to distinguish itself from its biggest competitor, and try and forge its own path. The issue thus far has been that the movies have not been particularly good. Man of Steel was a fine film, but it was never intended to be the first building block in a new universe. As for Batman v Superman, there were multiple problems, too many to go into right now in fact. Perhaps the main issue though was its preoccupation with the future of the franchise instead of the present. Too often the film cut away to moments that will no doubt pay off a number of films down the line, which left the general audience completely confused. Whilst Marvel hints subtly at other characters to come in the future (Stephen Strange being mentioned briefly in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Anyone?), DC blasts down the door, and screams “Here are all our characters, coming 2017!” In the rush, DC forgot to make the actual film all that interesting, and while Ben Affleck and arguably Gal Gadot steal the show, the rest are left to wallow in a darkly depressing, convoluted plot that ultimately goes nowhere.

Squad

The rest of 2016 seems slightly brighter for the ‘grittier’ comic-book movie world, as Suicide Squad is released on August 5th. There has been a lot of buzz thus far, thanks mainly to a couple of superb trailers which seem to hint at a darker, more badass version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. So far so good. It’s got a solid cast, and a talented director in David Ayer. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see another director other than Zack Snyder adapt the DC mythos. Affleck’s Batman will also get his second outing, which will no doubt sell those extra few tickets. It won’t hit Marvel numbers (there have only been a handful of movies which have grossed +$400 million having been released in August, GOTG amongst them) but it could finally be the boost DC need to get their universe rolling. Here’s hoping.

Performance in 2016 thus far: 5/10.
Excitement for what’s to come in 2016: 9/10.

 

Fox

Deadpool

Fox always seem like the odd-one-out. They’re the forgotten company. Marvel have Kevin Feige running the show, who knows who DC have (Snyder it seems?), and Fox have… Simon Kinberg. Who? And yet Fox are in many ways superior to their rivals. They were churning out comic-book hits way before the letters MCU ever meant anything to Kevin Feige and co., and have some of the most popular and well-known characters in all of pop culture (Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is arguably on the same level as Superman and Iron Man). Still, despite barely a bum note (The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine), Fox are disregarded without a second thought. Perhaps 2016 is the year that will all change. They’ve certainly started with a bang. After being stuck in development hell for a decade, Fox finally pulled the trigger on an R-rated Deadpool movie, featuring super-fan Ryan Reynolds in the title role. To say it was an unexpected hit would be an understatement. It became the largest grossing R-rated movie ever taking over $760 million at the worldwide box-office. In all honesty, bar some great gags, the movie was only pretty good. The action sequences were fun, and Reynolds gave it his all, but similar to the comics, Deadpool is a character better enjoyed in small slices. That however, will not impact on Fox’s plans, and sensibly they have already greenlit a sequel. A solid start to the year for Fox no doubt about it, as they have a new fan-favourite franchise on their hands, and it’s certainly something different to what Marvel and DC are currently offering.

x-men

Next month, Fox releases their second and final film of the year: X-Men: Apocalypse. It is the final movie in what has been quite frankly the best comic-book movie trilogy thus far. After the collapse of the X-Men empire with the dismal performances of the Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine, Matthew Vaughn stepped in and reinvigorated the franchise with the wonderful prequel film X-Men: First Class, which was swiftly followed up by the returning Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Led by a stellar cast, both movies have been top-of-the-line, and it looks like Apocalypse will follow that trend. Apocalypse is the biggest threat the team have faced thus far, and it looks to be a truly cataclysmic clash. It’s strange that these movies tend to fly under the radar. McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence and co. are perhaps the most talented of all the ensembles, and the juggling of characters is second to none. The movies also cost a pretty penny, with X-Men: DOFP being one of the most expensive films ever made at the time, and they look truly spectacular. Apocalypse looks set to thrill (and hopefully burst the bank) as well as send Fox into a new exciting era.

Performance in 2016 thus far: 6/10.
Excitement for what’s to come in 2016: 9/10.

 

 

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Director Appreciation Week 1: Woody Allen

For the inaugural Director Appreciation Week here at matt’s nerdy life, we decided to focus on perhaps the most prolific of American auteurs, the inimitable Woody Allen. However, instead of trailing through Allen’s back-catalogue to the early seventies, the focus will be upon Allen’s more recent European excursions. Over the past decade or so, the director has zigzagged across Europe from Barcelona to Paris to Rome and finally back to France to visit the beautiful Riviera. In celebration of the upcoming release of the Allen’s 46th film, Cafe Society (trailer below), featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Steve Carrell, we analyse some of his stunning past work.

The line-up is as follows:

Monday 2nd May: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Wednesday 4th May: Midnight in Paris (2011)
Friday 6th May: To Rome with Love (2012)
Sunday 8th May: Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

 

Cafe Society  (2016) Trailer:

Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 1 – The Red Woman REVIEW

*FULL SPOILERS AHEAD*

Last time we were in Westeros we all looked on in horror as Lord Commander Snow was butchered by his own men at the Wall. Since then rumour has been rife whether Jon has indeed bit the dust, or whether he will be resurrected by the Red Woman or by some other method. The title of the first episode of this new season hinted that perhaps such a resurrection would take place. What we got was instead much stranger…

I’m sure nobody saw that coming. Firstly, Jon is very much dead (at least for now) and Ser Davos, along with some other men of the Night’s Watch, have barricaded themselves into a room with Jon’s body. Ser Alliser attempted to lure them out, presumably to murder them, but they are currently at a stalemate. Intriguingly, Melisandre is also hidden away with them, and in the final scene of this week we finally discovered why the episode was named The Red Woman. Having stripped, she then took off her necklace, and looking in the mirror, she became an extremely elderly lady. The transformation was the first big shock of the season, and has already led fans to speculate over its meaning. Perhaps the necklace allows her to give the illusion of youth? There was a shot of her in a bath in Season 4 without the necklace on looking not at all old and creepy, but maybe that was an error. That seems unlikely. In that scene it is only Melisandre and Stannis’ wife Selyse, and The Red Woman explains how she doesn’t need to use tricks for a true believer like Selyse, which could imply that Selyse sees her in her true form, but the viewers do not. It is a tantalising cliff hanger, which certainly takes some attention away from Jon Snow’s death, which can only be a good thing. For that death to overshadow the whole season would negatively impact upon other storylines.

Speaking of the other storylines, this episode jumped back and forth across the lands to check in on a multitude of characters. Sansa and Theon were on the run from Ramsay’s men. This provided a fun, naturally violent set piece, in which Brienne and Podrick (all trained up) rescued the pair. In a world in which torture and misery generally prevail, it was a brief moment of success for the good guys which was no doubt lapped up by fans. Brienne finally saved Sansa after being rejected by her last season, and its certainly interesting to see where the group now end up. There was talk of Sansa running to Castle Black, so perhaps that is their next destination. That would certainly be quite an event.

As for everyone’s other favourite Stark, Arya (sorry Bran), the news was not quite as good. Left blind and homeless after disobeying Jaqen H’ghar and being evicted from the House of Black and White, she was forced to fight his protege and was swiftly defeated. She promised to return the next day, and so it seems like this is Arya’s life for the foreseeable future. After a pretty lacklustre story in Season 4, here’s hoping she gets something more interesting to do this time round. A nice bit of happiness for her at some point wouldn’t go amiss either.

Speaking of a lacklustre story and an absence of joy, Jaime’s rather disappointing trip to Dorne last season to retrieve Princess Myrcella ultimately proved fruitless. He returned home to a miserable Cersei, who spoke of the prophecy that the witch told her in last season’s opener: her three golden haired children would die (somebody guard Tommen). After the misery that Cersei suffered at the end of last season, and since Jaime has completed his turn to the good side, it was difficult not to feel a twinge of sadness for the two of them at losing their only daughter. Then Jaime, embracing Cersei, exclaimed that they would take everything they once had back and more. The Lannisters are coming.

In Dorne, a revolution is underway, making this one episode more exciting that the whole season spent there last time round. Having murdered Myrcella, Nymeria and her Sand Snakes deposed of Doran and his son Trystane in quick succession, ridding Dorne of weak male leaders. Presumably, the Lannisters and the Martells will now go head to head, each having multiple reasons for a thirst for blood. Even if last season was a bit lacklustre, it’s allowed the story to reach this point, and the bad blood has been building up since pretty much the very beginning. If a battle between the two finally commences this season, it will be a long-run story well executed.

Jaime and Cersei may be plotting revenge from King’s Landing, but Tyrion is destined to spend the foreseeable future in Meereen, since a mysterious someone has burned all of the ships in the harbour. With Daenerys gone, Tyrion and Varys are in charge of quelling rebellions and bringing order to the city. We got little development in that area this week, with more questions that answers, but it appears someone is secretly leading the Sons of the Harpy. We also got a glimpse of some followers of the Lord of Light, as well as a frankly quite hilarious baby-eating joke. Yes you read that right. Not much to write home about, and honestly it is difficult at times to care about what happens so far away from the Iron Throne, but hopefully the brilliant buddy-movie quality of Varys and Tyrion will be enough to raise this story.

Finally, the Mother of Dragons, having been captured by the Dothraki and verbally insulted, was dragged before Khal Moro. After a bit of verbal sparring, in which Daenerys continued to prove herself as one of the most badass characters in the show, her life was spared, but only because, being a widow of a Khal (Drogo), she would be sent to the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, in Vaes Dothrak, to live amongst the other widows. Jorah and Daario are hot on their heels, having found Dany’s ring in the grassland. Surely Jorah will know that if she’s not dead, she’ll have been sent to Vaes Dothrak? What about the dragons? As with everything else, it’s still too early to really tell where this particular thread is going. Still, though, we are into our sixth season, and Dany is nowhere nearer the Iron Throne which she craves. How much longer will we have to wait until she finally crosses the sea to Westeros?

There were hints of other stories such as Margaery still being in prison, and Roose Bolton threatening Ramsay with a different heir, which added up to a truly jam-packed opening episode. Bran has yet to be reintroduced having been absent last season, but you can be sure we’ll see him soon. It was a solid opening, providing fans with many new talking points instead of rehashing the Jon Snow question over and over. This time last year, I was personally disappointed with how the show opened, but I was pleasantly surprised at the enjoyment of this season’ premiere. The stories are more sparsely located than ever before, and it can be jarring at times jumping from one place to the next to visit certain characters, but with the show slowly drawing towards a true finale (two shorter seasons await after this one concludes), no doubt the stories will intertwine once more, battles will be won and lost, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have something to cheer for. Here’s hoping this season builds upon this solid opening.

Verdict: 8.5

 

The Neon Demon Trailer Released

The Neon Demon, Nicholas Winding Refn’s follow-up to the highly divisive Only God Forgives (2013), received its first trailer last night, ahead of its première at the 69th Cannes film festival in May (worldwide release will follow in June). The movie follows Elle Fanning’s Jesse, a young model from a small town, who moves to LA in the hope of cracking the intense world of modelling. The trailer gives glimpses of Winding Refn’s heavily stylistic approach to film-making as well as a clear blend of the gloss and glamour of modelling, along with a seedy, dangerous underbelly. Check it out below.

 

Actor Appreciation Week 1 Review: Drive (2011)

This is regarded by many as the peak of Gosling’s career thus far. Here is a Steve McQueen-esque leading man which he pulls off expertly. Despite the violence, Drive is a love story at heart. In some ways a love story between an actor and director and the European movies of old. In other ways it is a different kind of love story between a man and the experience of driving. However, perhaps surprisingly, this is mainly a conventional love story between a man and a woman. Whilst the title may be Drive, the cars take a back seat so to the speak, with the relationship at the heart of the film pushing the narrative along until its final moments. Gosling’s mysterious protagonist who is referred to as the Driver, works as a stuntman part-time as well as at a garage. He also moonlights as a getaway driver. He meets the charming Irene (Carey Mulligan) and they immediately have an unspoken connection. When her husband returns home from prison, and has debts to pay, the Driver is dragged into a brutal underworld of backstabbing and violence.

Despite the charming leading man good lucks though, Gosling’s Driver carries a dangerous aura and is a master of the piercing gaze. However, he clearly has a soft side when it comes to his neighbour. He is incredibly natural with both Irene and her young son, and watching their friendship grow is genuinely wonderful. The cute half smiles Gosling and Mulligan share light up the screen.

This will understandably go down as both one of Gosling’s and director Nicholas Winding Refn’s best works. There is the setting, the seedy underbelly of LA at night mixed with a very European style creating a wonderful atmosphere that is only augmented by the synthpop music choices. It oozes cool with Gosling even pulling off a cream scorpion-imprinted jacket, which will no doubt be imitated but never duplicated by adoring fans. The amount of iconic scenes in this movie is quite remarkable really. From the white-knuckle ride of the opening getaway to the blood-soaked motel room brawl, it demands to be remembered. Perhaps most famous is the unforgettable, completely heartbreaking elevator sequence, with its juxtaposed shots of a kiss and brutal crazed stomps. That one moment epitomises this movie above all else: touching emotion and vicious violence, framed in an ultra-stylistic atmosphere.

P.S. Any Breaking Ban fanatic will no doubt squeal with delight as Bryan Cranston’s Shannon mentions how the Driver has likely ran away to Belize already.

Suicide Squad Trailer 3 (Blitz Trailer) Breakdown and Analysis

A third trailer was recently released for the next instalment in the DC Extended Universe, Suicide Squad (August 5). Unlike the last DC movie, Batman V Superman, those in charge have released a trailer which provides glimpses of what we can expect without giving too much away. All three trailers thus far have been expertly edited, bumping up the intrigue for this film to fever pitch. After the disappointment of Batman V Superman, Warner Bros and DC will be hoping David Ayer and his all star cast can finally kick-start their movie universe. Here’s hoping.

Immediately, the trailer ties this film to the DC Universe, with an explicit mention of Superman. Later on, there are a number of shots of shots of Batman, and this is probably a good idea, as Batman V Superman is currently in theatres and this will allow casual movie-goers to make the link, and understand Suicide Squad exists in the same universe. Also Batman sells cinema tickets, it’s as simple as that. We witness Batman taking a dive, with an oxygen mask on, into the water below, where Joker’s car is also seen plummeting too later on. Batman carries Harley to the Batmobile, presumably after saving her.

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Whilst Batman is present, from what has been shown, it still seems to be only for that one sequence, where he is chasing Joker’s car. The main focus is of course going to be on the Suicide Squad themselves. Behind Amanda Waller in the White House are six faces – Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, Slipknot and El Diablo. These will make up the team, but this trailer appears to confirm suspicions many have had over the fate of Slipknot. He seems to be trying to escape, as he grapple-guns away leaving two soldiers on their backs. This scene is overplayed with Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag stating that if anyone tries to escape they will be killed. It’s not hard to imagine what happens next… If any more confirmation is needed, Slipknot does not appear in a scene later in the trailer where the helicopter the Squad are travelling in gets shot down.

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We see more comedy from Jai Courtney’s Boomerang as Katana puts her sword to his throat: “You got a boyfriend?” he quips. More incredibly we see him slice a creature’s head off whilst holding a unicorn teddy bear. What is this movie?! His boomerang is also hidden away in one shot, whilst we learn that Will Smith’s Deadshot has ‘I am the Light’ engraved on his weapon, and Harley Quinn has her initials on hers, along with ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ on the barrels.

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Whilst Margot Robbie certainly looks the part as Harley Quinn there’s been questions over her portrayal, as the trailers haven’t exactly shown her as the character known and loved from the comics, especially in this one. However, it is an incredibly pointless exercise to speculate on her performance based on snippets of the movie. She does however, have her famous mallet, which as any comic fan will agree, is pretty fantastic to see.

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One of the faces not on the wall behind Waller in the White House was Cara Delevingne’s June Moon/Enchantress. This further reinforces the rumour that Enchantress will be one of the villains of the movie. We get a shot of the FBI forcing entry into someone’s home, and it looks like mud or blood which is smeared on the wall. They then burst into what looks like a bathroom considering the decor. Is this where Enchantress is holed up, perhaps in the tub? Later on in the trailer, some more of her origin is revealed deep in a cave.

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Joker appears to be talking to Common’s character at one point, who may be the Tattooed Man. He is also rumoured to be the mysterious creature we witnessed in the subway in the previous trailer, and once in this trailer. Finally, we see a crazed Joker with a seemingly half-burned face, who, quite frankly, looks amazing.

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There’s still four months before this movie is released, with it currently in the process of re-shoots, but there’s many reasons to be excited to witness this on the big screen. It looks like a very different type of comic-book movie, which, after some mediocre output in the last few years, may be exactly what fans need.

Actor Appreciation Week 1 Review: The Notebook (2004)

Most would agree that The Notebook was the movie that put Ryan Gosling on the map. In 2004, Gosling had done very little work of note, although he had garnered some acclaim for his work in 2001’s the Believer. This Nicholas Spark’s adaptation helped raise the profile of Gosling tremendously. It’s the most heartwrenching of all of Gosling’s movies, having been designed to be a real tear-jerker. In many ways therefore it’s as cliched as the next romantic movie, with Gosling portraying poor mill-worker Noah, who falls in love with the rich Allie (Rachel McAdams). Despite the routine star-crossed lover storyline, the genuine chemistry of Mcadams and Gosling helps raise this above other moderate successes. It is this, along with some quite gorgeous and now iconic cinematography that have allowed this movie to stand the test of time, and remain in the hearts of many viewers across the world.

Actor Appreciation Week 1 Review: Blue Valentine (2010)

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is at times, a tough watch, simply because of how it does not shy away from the realities of relationships. It follows two narratives, the first being the blossoming relationship between Gosling’s young, mysterious, smooth operator Dean, and Michelle Williams’ caring, intelligent Cindy, and the second being the two’s relationship years down the line. It’s thus a tale about the birth and decline of relationships, and it really hits home hard at times. From the first meet cute, Gosling and Williams have an incredible chemistry, and as an audience we buy into their romance, praying for a happy ending. There are highs and lows, broken dreams and mistakes, which impact in the second narrative, showing just how things can eventually boil over, leaving couples tired of each other. We see happiness and desperation both perfectly rendered on screen. Despite the narrative Cianfrance’s film is not a depressing tale. Sure, it encapsulates the modern marriage with the impact of a child and the petty arguments which feel so real, but it reminds us of the joys of young romance and why we fall in love in the first place. Unlike most other romantic dramas being released today, Blue Valentine rings true, and is thus certainly worth a worth. Maybe just not on a date.

Actor Appreciation Week 1 Review: Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Of all the movies being watched this week, surely Lars and the Real Girl takes the cake as the most bizarre. Gosling has never been an actor to shy away from a risk (2001’s The Believer being a prime example), and here it pays off perfectly. The premise may scare away a few no doubt, as Gosling plays a lonely man who purchases a sex doll who he insists is real and is his girlfriend. His family and friends must adapt to such a drastic situation. In actual fact though, despite the synopsis, it is an incredibly heartwarming film. To begin with the situation is played for laughs, but it quickly develops into a much more impressive (and important) analysis of the delusions of a lonely man, and how those around him help him through it. It’s never depressing though, only uplifting and charming, and never strays anywhere near the uncomfortableness that the title perhaps hints at. That’s certainly due to the performance of Gosling, who only a year before was acclaimed for his role in Half Nelson, and perhaps should have received more recognition for this particular movie than he eventually got. It’s arguably the best performance of his career thus far, bringing a real depth and believability to a character that could’ve very easily been misplayed and simply a joke. It’s simply a joy to watch.

Actor Appreciation Week 1 Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Whilst Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive is seen as a cult classic and rightly so, his more recent collaboration with Gosling received a much more mixed reaction. Perhaps critics and audiences alike expected a spiritual sequel to the bloodsoaked 2011 hit. In some ways it is, with a thirst for explicit violence and the wonderful cinematography. This tale though has a much darker, twisted fantasy to it. The joy of the Gosling/Mulligan relationship of Drive is stripped away almost completely. Instead it is replaced with perversion and at times downright depravity. It’s a tougher watch, but ultimately incredibly rewarding, particularly on repeat viewings. It’s a fascinating, stylised, downright beautiful movie that Winding Refn has etched out, but its reputation as divisive is both understood and deserved.