Our Friendly Neighborhood Hero. (Spoiler Free Review)

How do you make a hero better? You learn more about him and start to relate to him. A lot of films fall into the trap of the origin film not being enough of a character study to make you really care about them but I’m here to tell you that this one doesn’t fall into that trap at all.

Having recently discussed The Dark Knight with a friend of mine, we both came to the realization that there are no wasted scenes in that film and each one progresses the story forward. This film is the exact same way, between easter eggs and multiple references to different Spider-Man characters you would think that it would be way too crowded and yet, it never feels that way. It doesn’t drag and it doesn’t rush, it’s honestly just a near perfect film.

Tom Holland absolutely steals the entire show and it says a lot that he can maintain scenes with Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton and Marisa Tomei without being overshadowed at any point in time. He manages to nail the contrast between Peter Parker and Spider-Man in a way that few actors could, particularly in a scene where he is trapped and screams for help. When you first see it you start to wonder how he’s the hero until you remember that he’s basically just a kid who’s just trying to learn as he goes. It genuinely felt like he came right off of the page and that’s what makes him the perfect casting for the role.

Michael Keaton is always a great actor in his own right but I never really cared about the Vulture until this movie. He’s not some petty crook that’s easily defeated, no, Peter has to think about it and makes multiple mistakes while trying to stop him. They changed a lot of his storyline to make him more of a sympathetic character and I was glad it never seemed forced like some characters have in previous incarnations.(See: Sandman)

The different side characters such as Ned, Liz, Flash and the rest all play their parts very well. Their roles basically make it feel like it’s a John Hughes movie and it works exceptionally well.

Of course Tony Stark, Happy Hogan and Aunt May are all welcome inclusions as well and they all do just as well as they always do.

I was a little upset about the Donald Glover Cameo, I like what it’s hinting towards but I was hoping for something a bit more in the first film. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in later films.

Overall, it’s a great Spider-Man film which gives us an in-depth look into his characters and gives us a Queens, New York that felt just like another character in it’s own right. I loved everything about this movie and it’s quickly jumped up to one of my favorite films from Marvel Studios.

“It’s about what you believe” Wonder Woman Review(Spoiler Free)

If you didn’t know, this film would’ve had a very special place in my heart no matter what. My mother was one of the biggest wonder woman fans I ever knew and I knew that she would’ve been so excited for this movie. Unfortunately she passed away a little over two years ago but it’s her memory and love that keeps me going and allows me to carry on as a writer. So knowing that, know that everything I’m about to say was me attempting to be critical but also coming from my heart.

Wonder Woman is, without a doubt, the most important superhero movie to come out since The Avengers, and possibly the most important ever. In the same way that the Avengers showed us the power of having multiple stars in one giant franchise coming together to form something great, this one shows us that we can have strong female characters in lead roles. My good friend and I were talking before the film and he said “If they screw up with Batman or Superman, they’ll still try again later. But if they screw up with Diana, we’re not gonna see her again for a while. That’s what makes me nervous.” When he came out of the theater as I was going in, he had tears in his eyes and I knew we were in for a ride.

The basic story is that Diana lives on an Amazonian Island called Themyscira, it’s a beautiful paradise where there are there are only Women. Diana wants to train to be the greatest warrior ever and when a man washes ashore on the run from Germans during World War I, Diana realizes that she can’t stand while innocent lives are being taken.

From there, we get to see Gal Gadot absolutely shine as Wonder Woman throughout the entire film. Taking absolute control of a scene in No Man’s Land that is one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen in a film. Her strength and love just shine off of her in every scene and it’s no wonder why everyone loves her. Her reactions to the horrors of war make you really feel for her, they don’t shy away from the fact that this war hurt millions of lives even without killing them and it’s Diana’s counter of love that makes everything better. Her ability to handle the action as well as the personal character moments make her performance the shining light that we need in modern day films.

Chris Pine does a very good job as Steve Trevor bringing a gravity to his character that sometimes the comics kind of forget about. And he brings out my favorite part of this film : Neither of our heroes needed a big tragedy to push them forward. Now, I’m not taking anything away from Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne or anyone else but I just loved that we had ultimately altruistic people on the screen without anyone questioning why they wanted to do what was right.

Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta and Robin Wright as Antiope both do exceptionally well as the mother and trainer of Diana. Both of them do great as different mentors for the princess and they really carry the opening of the film very well. My only issue is that after about the first 40 minutes or so, we don’t get to see them again but that might change with the sequel.

I personally didn’t have a single complaint about the film but the group I was with did think that the main villain was underwhelming but I personally thought the actor brought forth the gravitas that was needed for the character and I thought it worked well for the storyline. I did agree that the final battle drug just a little bit too long but it wasn’t too bad and honestly that’s a small complaint for a film as good as this. At first I was hesitant about them making Wonder Woman into a period piece but I honestly don’t think they could’ve done any better because it fits so well into the core storyline which I can’t talk about without spoiling too much but just trust me that it works.

Overall, this film is just exceptional and gave me a newfound hope for DC Films, I’m not sure if we can save Justice League but hopefully DC and Warner takes a look at what works in here and just runs with it. You need to go see this movie because it’s about as close to perfect for Wonder Woman as you can get.

“Never Break The Chain” Guardians of the Galaxy Review(Spoiler Free)

So I’m going to do this without spoilers…which is going to be difficult because they honestly hadn’t revealed anything in any of the trailer. Which I thought was a very smart move for James Gunn to have control over marketing and showed great care over his work.

Now, I have to admit that the cosmic side of Marvel is one that I’ve never been incredibly knowledgeable on but since the first film I’ve tried to enlighten myself a bit more from time to time. The fan in me was incredibly happy about them building on different aspects of the series by adding in new characters and new elements that I won’t spoil here but they also allowed me to care more about the characters that we had already seen. Characters like Nebula, Yondu and Kraglin not only get more screen time but they also get more involved stories and I genuinely enjoyed learning about them.

This film also allows us to build on the main five characters as well. Rocket, in particular, gets a bigger storyline in this one and it made me love his character even more than I already did. About 20 to 30 minutes into the film, certain characters split up for different reasons and they all get different introspective moments with other characters and it creates a really great storyline where we get to learn more about everyone we’re watching and it’s just done very well. It wouldn’t work as well in any other film but between the charisma of Gunn’s writing and direction and the ever impressive cast it works when it probably shouldn’t. That’s the true strength of this film, the knowledge that any other team would’ve let this movie fall flat but Marvel Studios knows exactly what they’re doing.

I’m gonna counter on the reviews that have said that this film doesn’t have the same magic as the first one because I think it does but in a different way. This isn’t the same Guardians movie because this isn’t our first time seeing them, it’s obviously gonna be very different and I think it works in their favor that they try out new things in this one.

It does have to be said that the entire cast shines in this one, the returning heroes only get better the more we see of them and new characters like Kurt Russell as Ego and Pom Klementieff as Mantis make this even better. Russell is clearly having the time of his life in this role and you can tell that this won’t be the last time we see a talent like Klementieff. I can’t say much more about their roles but just take my word that they’re great.

And of course the soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal. It’s the perfect backdrop to the rest of the film from the opening of “Mr. Blue Sky” to the best usage of “The Chain” that I’ve ever seen.

Overall, this film is not only a perfect representation of the Guardians but even just Superhero films in general. It draws a balance between comedy and drama that many films only hope to come close to.

“Thoughts on The Prey Demo” by Carter McDaniel

 

Upon learning that Arkane was developing a new Sci-Fi title, I was immediately interested. Dishonored was my favorite game when it came out in 2012 and is still to this day my favorite single player game. Arkane’s new title Prey while having nothing to do with its predecessor bearing the same name, distinguishes itself with immersive gameplay and a gripping story. I recently had the opportunity to play the first hour of prey as Arkane released the demo to the PlayStation and Xbox stores. The game takes place aboard a space station called Talos 1 which has a very Dead Space feel to it. As for the gameplay mechanics, it brings back what I love about Dishonored, while creating its own identity. Prey presents numerous choices in how to approach every situation. Even though the demo is only supposed to represent the first hour of Prey, I found myself spending far more than that exploring every nook and cranny, finding crafting components, weapons, new enemies to fight, and ways to get around them. While the level of exploration felt very much like Dishonored, Prey sets itself apart by presenting itself less as a stealth game and more like a horror game. The audio cues are very similar of that of Dead Space and the environment bears the same haunting emptiness as Bioshock. The most common embodiment of this horror is the mimic; spider-like alien creatures that can take the form of any object in the game. From a coffee mug, to a table, to a chair to a locker. Any object you walk past could be waiting to kill you. While not available in the demo, later in the game, it is possible for you to take this ability and use it however you see fit, be it turning into a cup to sneak past enemies or turning into a fully operational turret to mow them down. In Prey, you gain new skills by using neuro-mods, devices that directly install new abilities into your brain via a needle to the eye. The demo has a fairly limited selection of these neuro mods since it was restricted to such a small area of the game. The mods that were obtainable include the ability to repair items, the ability to lift heavy objects, or the ability to wield a weapon more effectively. Later in the game you can find alien neuro mods to copy the abilities of nearly any enemy alien you meet.
Spoilers ahead
I didn’t expect Preys story to grab me like it did. While I love Dishonored, I never felt it had a particularly incredible story line. The fact that Prey opens with a twist akin to that of the “would you kindly?” moment from Bioshock had me immediately sold. The game starts with your character, Morgan Yu, waking up in his apartment on his first day at his new job. Morgan puts on his suit, walks outside and greets the maintenance man before taking the elevator to the roof of his apartment building and flying a helicopter to his new job. Upon reaching his new job he meets his brother, Alex, who informs in that there are some first qualifying test before he can begin. Alex warns Morgan that the tests are unconventional in nature. The first test involved Morgan moving boxes out of a circular area as quickly as he could. The second test had Morgan attempt to hide in the room, the only option being to duck behind a chair. And the third test had Morgan cross a room as quickly as possible. The entire time these tests were going on I was confused as to how Arkane could justify shoehorning in such an awkward and out-of-place tutorial. During the tests, however, the scientists comment things like “are you sure you did that right?”, and “no something’s not right here.” Before the final test which is simply answering a few questions to gauge Morgan’s personality. During this test Morgan looks up and sees a scientist drinking coffee. The scientist looks into the cup and says “wait, this is empty. Is this my co-.” before the cup turns into a mimic and kills him in a most gruesome fashion. The room you’re in is filled with gas and Morgan wakes up the next morning… or rather the same Morning. The alarm mentions the same date says he reporting to his first day on the job and that he has to be there by 9 a.m. just like the morning before. Only this time when Morgan stepped outside his apartment he’s greeted by a horribly mutilated maintenance man. Morgan then gets a call saying he needs to get out of his apartment. Naturally I went to the elevator that I went to the first time I played through the scene except the elevator was no longer there, so I went back to Morgan’s apartment and looked for something I could use to escape. I found a wrench, and started looking for something to hit with this Morgan’s apartment has a balcony closed off by a glass sliding door and, since I didn’t know how to open the door I hit it with a wrench. That moment is something I will never forget my gaming career. When the glass shattered, I wasn’t looking out over a balcony but rather a room. A lab of some kind. as I explored more, I found a simulation helicopter rig. I flipped a switch that made it look like my ride over to the job on the first day, and I found a lobby where it looked like my testing had begun. Someone had been keeping Morgan like a lab rat resetting his memory at the end of every day. I never learned why in the demo, but for some reason Morgan’s brother Alex is behind the memory wipe and daily testing. I hope the full game lives up to the expectation it set by opening with such a dramatic twist. For now with my interest thoroughly piqued, I’ll wait with bated breath for the full launch of Arkane’s Prey.

Thoughts on Overwatch : Uprising

When I started Fandom Correspondents as an actual site, my hope was that I could pull together writers that would be a fresh voice on the varying subjects of fandom. I have recently found another one of these voices and I am proud to present his first article for you here.

Like Megan King before him, Carter McDaniel is joining us as a guest writer. Having previously written for PlayStation Insider, Carter’s primary fandom is Video Games and he chose to write about one of the best games out right now.

With its anniversary just around the corner, Overwatch surprised fans with an event not at all tied to a real world event, but rather a significant occurrence within its own world. Following the success of Overwatch’s first PvE event, Junkenstein’s Revenge, it’s no surprise that Blizzard would eventually retread that path. What is surprising is the sheer amount of lore that the new update adds to the game. Any Overwatch fan will tell you that it is a game built on an expertly crafted world consisting of complex characters, significant history, and fascinating events. Overwatch’s Insurrection update brings an unprecedented amount of that history from the comics and animated shorts into the game itself. The crux of the insurrection update is the new arcade mode, Uprising, which relives Tracer’s first mission as an Overwatch cadet. She, along with Mercy, Reinhardt, and Torbjorn are sent by Commander Morrison (aka Soldier 76) to quell a rogue omnic uprising in King’s Row. The uprising mission is a more well-rounded version of Junkenstein’s PvE experience, as it features more elements from the Overwatch’s core game such as capturing a point as well as escorting a payload. Along with this game mode, Blizzard also released a variant mode where you can play as any hero on this mission, as well as a plethora of new skins, sprays, and other unlockable items. The skins released within the event, while not necessarily the most visually stunning we’ve seen, are exciting in their own right, as each of them are steeped in the history of Overwatch’s fantastic world. We get to see a somehow even more bushy-tailed and bright eyed Tracer, as well as a younger, although just as proud Torbjorn. The Blackwatch skins for Genji and McCree give us a glimpse at what life looked like on the grittier, and far less glamourized side of Overwatch (Also, Genji had foot blades during that time, and I’m going to choose to believe it was because he misunderstood McCree’s explanation of spurs.) Of course, I would be remiss not to mention some of the changes to the existing game within the Insurrection update. A capture tracking system has been added to competitive play with the intention of breaking ties and having fewer draws, but only time will tell if this is a fair or even effective measure. A new route has been added on Eichenwalde to make pushing through the first choke point a bit easier for attackers. This change should certainly improve balance and quality of play on the map leading to more fun and interesting strategies. The most exciting permanent change would be Lucio 2.0. Now armed with faster wall riding, more healing, increased damage, and a faster shot speed; this Lucio is an incredibly survivable frontline support powerhouse to be reckoned with. With all these changes, however, there is a catch as Jeff giveth and he taketh away. Lucio’s healing and speed aura are a third of wat they once were, having been reduced from 30 meters to 10 meters. All these changes come together to create a much more active and fun Lucio, while still keeping him viable.
Overall the Insurrection update is a fantastic change for Overwatch. The unlockables are amazing, the story is rich, and the Uprising mode itself is unbelievably fun. My only qualm comes from knowing that as of right now, this is a limited time event, meaning that soon this wonderful PvE mode will be gone. Even if it does leave, I trust that Jeff (praise be) and the rest of the Overwatch team can see how much the community loves this game mode, and will give us a permanent PvE replacement soon

“What it feels like” Logan Review

I just got done watching Logan for the first time and most of my thoughts on the film involve heavy spoilers but I’ll try to refrain from them for the first half or so. I’m going to have a lot of people disagree with me about this film but I will stand by my opinion.

First and foremost, Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar and he should absolutely be considered for it in 2018…even though he won’t be. Him and Patrick Stewart both give out some truly phenomenal performances in their final outing as these characters. These aren’t the Logan and Charles Xavier that we’re used to, no these are hardened versions of themselves that have lived through far too many tragedies in their lives. They’re worth the price of admission just by themselves.

If you didn’t know then X-23 is the primary side character after the first 20 minutes or so. She’s a newer, young mutant which is why it’s so crazy when Logan sees her for the first time. Most people had thought that mutants had become all but extinct until she shows up. It’s a great performance by Dafne Keen, she adds a lot of heart to the character which says a lot because she’s basically just a tiny killing machine throughout the first half of the film which is one of the reasons that the film works and doesn’t work.

The plot of Logan is very linear, and not in the best way. Effectively it’s a bleak road trip from Mexico to North Dakota. Logan is supposed to transport X-23 to a safe haven with Professor X tagging along. It’s a genuine connection between those three characters and that’s what makes the movie succeed. Without them, it’s honestly just go here and fight people, go here and fight people and go here and fight people. Which made me wonder who Wolverine hadn’t killed by the end of the film.

It’s probably the best of the X-Men franchise which has been a struggle since the changes of Days of Future Past but it doesn’t really change anything about the movie besides that you have no idea what’s happened leading up to this.

For the end of the spoiler free stuff, it’s a perfect send off for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. If you’ve followed these characters and grown up with these actors performances like I have then you owe it to yourself to watch it because it’s worth it for them.

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Here’s a giant film poster to help separate the segments!

 

 

 

Alright, so the main reason that I struggle with this film is because of my love for heroes and make no mistake that Logan is very heroic in this film. Now, when I heard that James Mangold was going to have more freedom this time then I knew that it was effectively going to be a tragic biopic about Logan which totally works for me until I realized one major plot point that could possibly effect comic films as a whole.

When he picks up the comic and says : “In the real world, this s@%# doesn’t happen. People die.” I took that as he’s saying that these stories aren’t worth anything unless they’re the hyper-realistic versions. Which just isn’t my preference because I believe that although the world can occasionally be as dark as these films let on I still believe that heroes exist to counterbalance it. Which Logan does in this film multiple times but unfortunately the film often refuses to accept that and instead drives home the message of futility against the darkness.

The death of the happy little family about halfway through the film was just the worst thing that could happen and I’m worried that it sets a tone for future films. My brother put it best when he said that “When they’re at Hawkeye’s house in Avengers : Age Of Ultron you never have a fear that somehow everyone that we’ve just met is about to die but in this film, it can and does happen.” It’s a genuine tragedy but it’s one that is fairly unnecessary unless you were trying to push the agenda of turning all of these comic book films into a watchmen-esque murder fest.

Yes, Logan is a tragic character but because of the X-Men he learns how to become a better person through the love he has for his teammates and I think that Hugh Jackman maintains and understands that but the film doesn’t until right before he dies.

The visual aids of that death scene with the bloody wolverine figure, or the X over the grave signifying him as the final X-Man are all very on the nose saying that these heroes don’t actually get to have a happy ending and I hate that it’s come to that. Especially when your ending is preceded by a beautifully bittersweet death scene which Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen just make you experience every emotion you can at once.

I’m nitpicking quite a bit here but it’s because I’m concerned about what this means for comic films as a whole. My personal hope is that a year from now I can look back on this article and laugh at how silly I was being but I have a fear that I won’t be able to do that. With DC’s films alienating half the fanbase and the fox films losing it’s biggest asset I am concerned that this film is going to have the same effect on comic book films that Unforgiven had on westerns.

Overall : At the end of the day, even for all of my complaints, Logan is still a very well made film that absolutely deserves a viewing if you get the chance. Thank you to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart for all they’ve given us over the last 17 years.

“Built On Hope” Rogue One Review(Spoiler Free)

This film is going to be very difficult to do spoiler free but I believe I can do it fairly well.

A lot of times spin-offs will be depicted as a cheap cash grab for a studio and a lot of times they’d be right but this one, this one was something different. It’s a prequel that only inhances the following films and does so in a beautifully elegant way.

First and Foremost, the film is done like no other Star Wars film prior to it. It has no opening scrawl, it shows the main title like you would see any other blockbuster movie and it takes place over 15 years which is the first time that Star Wars has ever done that in a single film. That right there changes everything because this is a film that you need to be paying close attention to, most of the film has very quick but important exposition that if you don’t catch it you could be lost. From the very first shot, when we see a young Jyn and her family, we find out that her father and Krennic worked together years ago. This is only given to us in a few throw away lines but they work almost seamlessly into the storyline. The stage is set as what is truly a war-torn galaxy and make no mistake this is not a happy Star Wars film, it has a very dark tone with some small bits of comedy but it’s honestly a war film with blasters and starships.

Now if anyone else did this then it wouldn’t have worked but fortunately the guiding hands of Gareth Edwards and Disney have led this film in a perfect direction. For the fans who wanted something that felt different, but were frustrated when Force Awakens was basically an homage to everything that came before, this one delivers on every front. (For the record, I still love Force Awakens and I still believe that they did that so VIII can be something brand new.)

The battles are some of the best in the series and it’s done so well because of how they’re filmed. Cinematography is great but it’s the sound design that gets the nod from me. There’s a point early on in the film where it’s a skirmish in the streets and the music is building and building until the first grenade goes off and then all you hear is blasters, explosions and screams. They did a great job of really giving that full effect of a warzone in this film. They do this a few different times throughout the film and it helps to make the film as great as it is.

You can tell that this film is from someone who truly loves Star Wars because it doesn’t come off as trying to be too dark and it doesn’t come off as cheesy while doing it, instead we just get something that feels very real. Most of the characters don’t have a lot of screen time but they have just enough for us to get to know them. We want these characters to succeed before the end and that’s what truly counts to me as a fan. You can have the best plot in the world but if you don’t have great characters then what’s the point?

One of the main reasons that these characters work so well is because of the war setting. We’ve got defectors, war-weary veterans, someone who doesn’t want to get involved and idiotic generals, It’s perfect!

Beginning with the villains, Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic is stunningly good. He’s ambitious and powerful and most of all, evil. Everything he does is about controlling the galaxy through fear and in that way he makes the perfect imperial.

Vader has limited screen time but when he’s there he is utterly terrifying. This is a purely dark version of the character that has no family ties and no distractions. He is powerful beyond measure and menacing in even the simplest movements.

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor does a great job of portraying the fact that he’s fought this war for a long time. I like that they totally separated him from Poe or Han and made him into a solid soldier who’s willing to do some dark things if he has to for the rebellion. That aspect was only overdone on one occasion which proves how good he and the movie is because honestly that’s one of only two major flaws in this film but we’ll get more on that later.

Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe was a scene stealer because he’s basically a blind force ninja. He doesn’t have many force abilities beyond an acute perception to the world around him which is how he’s able to fight and even shoot a specialized blaster but it’s is trust in the force that makes him such an excellent part of the film. To see someone else with that much hope and belief in a film that is almost devoid of it makes him great.

Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus acts primarily as the muscle of the film and Chirrut’s protector. He does a really solid job in this film of having very few lines but portraying everything you need to know about him.

Alan Tudyk as K-2SO is one of the greatest characters they’ve done. He’s a reprogrammed Imperial Security Droid security with a healthy amount of sarcasm tossed in. He maintains the comedic relief throughout most of the film and does so in a very believable way. He’s loyal to Cassian no matter what and is, in many ways, one of the most human characters in the film.

Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook was really surprising to me. Going in, I just thought he was going to be a bonus character but he’s such a great character in his own right. He’s constantly looking for a way to make things right and you can really feel that he wants to change things for the better.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso is a fantastic lead but many people are trying to compare her to the brilliant performance by Daisy Ridley last year and honestly you just can’t do that. Jyn comes into her own as a character throughout the course of the film but she is genuinely one of the focal points of this film and the series as a whole, her involvement in pushing the rebellion forward is one of the best parts of the films and it leads me to my final point.

But before that final point, I have to give some major props to the CGI team because the special effects of the battle are incredibly well done but there’s a few other surprises that they managed to keep hidden until the film comes out that are absolutely brilliant but I won’t spoil that here.

Now my final point is what I didn’t like about the movie but I will defend the filmmakers choices in a bit cause I’ve had time to think about it. Forrest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera just isn’t good, he’s over the top and pretty much does nothing to progress the storyline that couldn’t be done by any other character. The other rebel leaders are all idiots and cowards except for Jimmy Smits and Genevieve O’Reilly reprising their prequel roles as Bail Organa and Mon Mothma. Most of their choices make no sense and there is no reason for their commands to Cassian on Eadu.(See? Told you we’d come back to this) But is there a point to that? This entire film is setting up Episode IV and if there’s a better way of doing it besides showing us how much we need Luke, Leia and Han then I haven’t seen it.

Overall this film was great and I highly recommend it to any Star Wars fan.

I said before that it’s largely devoid of hope but that’s because we know that it’s coming. We know what happens next and we know that it happens because it was Built on Hope.

“Just to Watch the Snow” Dr. Strange Review.(Spoiler Free)

Dr. Strange is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios. It’s got A-list actors, solid screenwriting and visual effects that can challenge any other studio. Is it without it’s faults though? Unfortunately, not quite.

This film begins by showing us an action sequence that sets the stage for the rest of the film by with wild set changes and different effects that really make this film stand out from any of the previous ones. There’s multiple points where the world basically turns into a giant kaleidoscope that is constantly changing which is honestly one of the more enthralling sequences that they’ve done since the start of the MCU.

Marvel has perfected the Origin story with films like this, Ant-Man and Iron Man.  Seeing Stephen Strange change from the arrogant Neurosurgeon to the Master of Mystic Arts was just a perfect transition and I loved that the ending of the film doesn’t leave you feeling like it’s done, Dr. Strange still has a lot of character growth and I like that instead of cramming everything in the first one we get to see just enough for the origin and the rest will be shown over future films…which are set up perfectly in the two after credit scenes. A lot of people will say that the story is a bit too linear for their taste but it never felt like more of the same for me. It is a story about a man becoming a hero and learning how to stop the villain but it’s done in a new way that was very refreshing to me and I think it will be to a lot of people.

Benedict Cumberbatch shines as the Doctor. He’s a man that you wouldn’t normally root for due to his shortcomings but you quickly fall in love with him after you see how he changes over the course of the film. His changes from an emotional and mental level happen primarily due to the efforts of The Ancient One who is wonderfully performed by Tilda Swinton. Her interactions with Strange are clearly the highlights of the film, particularly when they’re together on the astral plane towards the end of the film. It’s at this point that you realize how far Strange has come as a character and I don’t think it would’ve worked as well if it had been anybody besides Cumberbatch and Swinton.

They’re joined by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, a contemporary for Strange after he joins with them at Kamar Taj. Ejiofor delivers a solid performance here and it’s to be expected from this oscar-caliber star. In fact, one of the few issues I have with this film is that it needed a bit more of him but there’s always time for him in the sequels.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, A sorcerer who has defected from the Ancient One’s teachings and begun to seek out an opportunity to gain more power elsewhere. Mikkelsen does very well in this role, but he remains downplayed throughout much of the film and that’s really my main issue with this film : the villain is good, could be great. I know I’m a little nit-picky but that’s the point of the review.

Last but not least Benedict Wong plays Wong, who is the stoic librarian. Unfortunately, talking more about his character would spoil some of the films better scenes but just know that he, the cloak of levitation and any scene involving the astral plane are all scene stealers that will surely go down as some of Marvel’s best moments.

Once Upon A Review : Snow White

My friends, one of the things I wanted this site to become was a place for people to come and post their own writings and thoughts. This segment is the first part of that. Megan King came to me a while ago with the idea of covering more of the Disney films. I love everything Disney but from a news/journalistic perspective I typically lean more towards the Marvel and Star Wars side of that spectrum. Megan, being my stubborn and resilient friend sent me an email with an entire article on Snow White and an entire plan for a series of reviews. Thus, Once Upon A Review was born. She plans on taking us on a trip through Disney history and that begins with Snow White. So, without further ado, I present: Once Upon A Review

-Vance

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)

  • The first Disney princess
  • Walt Disney company’s first full-length cel animated feature film, meaning each frame was hand-drawn
  • Cast-
    • Adriana Caselotti (Snow White)
      • Only ever notably played Snow White
      • First woman to be named a Disney Legend for her voice acting, awarded in 1994.
    • Lucille La Verne (Evil Queen Grimhilde)
    • Harry Stockwell (Prince Ferdinand)
    • Roy Atwell (Doc)
    • Pinto Colvig (Grumpy & Sleepy)
    • Otis Harlan (Happy)
    • Scotty Mattraw (Bashful)
    • Billy Gilbert (Sneezy)
    • Eddie Collins (Dopey)
    • Moroni Olsen (The Magic Mirror)
    • Stuart Buchanan (Humbert the Huntsman)

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the first full-length feature film from the Walt Disney Company, and was the first-ever cel animated film ever in motion picture history. Prior productions had been limited to Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony shorts. Snow White had a budget of $250,000 – ten times the budget that a Disney short required. Compare that to Walt Disney’s latest Disney Princess movie, The Princess and the Frog, which had a budget of $105 million.

Coming into this movie, I try to keep an open mind and let all my old prejudices fall behind- like how I’ve always thought Snow White’s voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard. The basic elements between Walt Disney’s version and the Brother’s Grimm remain intact- the princess & the queen with her magic mirror, the huntsman and the dwarves, and the queen’s jealousy and disguise, the apple, the glass casket, and the prince who loves her.

However, there are notable differences. The Walt Disney version involves much more magic and superstitions. The Queen in the movie involves herself in black magic, which is not mentioned in the original story, and rather than use many disguises she only needs one. The Prince appears in the beginning of the movie while Snow White is cleaning the castle rather than appearing in the end to carry away the glass coffin, setting the cinematic tone for princess stories and love at first sight.

While watching this movie, I can’t help but think about how, despite Snow White being a classic Disney movie, there are many things within the movie that are outdated and certainly can’t be a good influence for children today. The Queen being preoccupied with her vanity to the point of being more than willing to murder her stepdaughter in order to secure her attractive supremacy isn’t a message that is healthy to today’s children, specifically those who idolize princesses. Snow White intrudes into an unknown house, making herself at home without regard for the owners’ wishes, despite her good intentions. Then there are the comments, observations and general nonsense that comes from Grumpy that are drenched in male chauvinism. And perhaps it’s just me, but I also felt that Snow White’s face was remarkably inexpressive. She seemed to wear one facial expression almost the entire movie, due to the lack of detailing on her face. There is only so much one can do with the basics and some rather overwhelming spots of blush, I suppose.

Midway through the movie we get a deeper look into the dwarves’ lives, and we learn more about how their dynamic works. We see the group singing and dancing and generally having a grand old time before coming to blows over a solitary pillow. Honestly, I’d probably come to blows over a pillow, too. About the same time, the Queen discovers the huntsman’s betrayal, and we see her jealousy and hate transform her into an ugly old woman, and see how the pursuit of her need to be the fairest in the land ultimately leads to her demise. I have to say, I find the Queen as the old woman much more entertaining than her Queenly self. She seems to really get into the character of being someone else, and a certain ghastly joy comes over her as she sets out to kill off the competition.

Overall, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves deserves it’s place among the Disney classics, and Snow White herself her spot among the official Disney princess lineup. It’s a classic that every kid should see at least once in their lifetime, if nothing else but for the experience of it.

 

Now let me tell you how I really feel, now that I’m done being objective. This movie has fantastic scenery. You don’t get this kind of detail work in today’s animation. It really is a lost art, something that is simplified today, which is a crying shame. As far as the characters goes- the Evil Queen and Snow White herself have about as much character development as glass, meaning it’s really transparent and not a lot to it. The Evil Queen is a crazy jealous witch (literally), and Snow White is a teenage ninny who thinks that the world will be okay as long as she has her Prince. The huntsman and the dwarves have way more character development to them. The huntsman is a conflicted individual, having love for the princess but filial duty to his Queen. The dwarves, as well, are a more complicated sort, showing a broad range of emotions as they deal with Her Royal Highness, Princess Home Intruder. Seriously, who just barges into a home because a bunch of animals tells them it’s okay? Yes, I realize I’m talking about a fairy tale character here, but it’s no wonder the Evil Queen got to her in the end if she’s taking advice from woodland creatures.

Moving on. I loathe Snow White’s voice. It’s something that canines have absolutely no problem hearing, and in fact- maybe that’s why the animals could understand her; because she was speaking at a decibel that no actual human speaks at. The idea that one can meet her True Love and it be love at first sight, and have that seamlessly be a “and they lived happily ever after” ending is ridiculous. It’s also a topic that has been touched on several times in the last decade by Disney movies- Enchanted, Brave, and Frozen all discussing these subjects. I also want to note that the Queen’s name is Grimhilde and the Huntsman’s name is Humbert. I just want you to let that sink in for a minute.

Snow White does have some catchy songs, however. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung “Hi ho, Hi ho” while en route to work. I also enjoyed how well the Disney crew dedicated themselves to giving the movie a distinctly Germanic look for the dwarves’ house, from the style of the house itself, to the furnishings and décor to the objects used inside the house during the duration of the movie. And while I think Snow White is overall a big wuss, she did have the gumption to boss the dwarves around a few times. I did have a “you go girl, you give those dwarves some rules” moment. I also think her Prince Ferdinand is probably the weakest among the Disney princes, and he seems to be more of an afterthought to this movie than anything… as if the crew went, “oh yeah, how are we supposed to end this… it has to have an ending… true loves’ kiss sounds great. Let’s throw in Prince Ferdinand for that. Oh, and let’s never say his name in the movie.” Good job. *insert sarcasm here*

Overall, I’m not a huge fan of this movie. I’d give this a 6/10 rating. I found the art of it to be better than most of the actual movie itself, and Grumpy to be irritatingly chauvinistic. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put a fiery little female-hating man into a kids’ movie? Someone who evidently thinks that the definition of gender roles and what is accepted behavior for men and women (and between the sexes) would change. The first half of this movie could hardly hold my attention, and the second half was only held by a dwarf dance party and the Evil Queen letting her evil glee out as she trotted her merry way along to go whack her stepdaughter. This is definitely one of those movies that I could only watch maybe once a year. Tops. And if my kids beg to watch it.

-Happily ever yours, Megan King

“A Great Swell Of Pity” X-Men : Apocalypse Review

Spoiler Warning, if that sort of thing upsets you.

 

I absolutely love the X-Men, they were the first group of characters that I really followed in the comics. I loved the idea of them being outcasts and being hated by the people that they protect. These are ideas that resonate within all of us at some point in our lives, which is why the X-Men remain so popular. Their film history has ranged from phenomenal to 2 of my least favorite comic book films of all time(X-Men : The Last Stand and X-Men Origins : Wolverine) This film falls somewhere in the middle because on the good side you have powerful performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. The primary problem being that this might be their last X-Men Film which leads to the bad side and that is the fact that they don’t have much of a series without those three. Apocalypse as a character is terribly written and he looks laughably bad by 2016 standards. I feel bad for SImon Kinberg(The Writer) in the sense that he probably had the beginnings of the script written when he saw Age Of Ultron last year, took it to Bryan Singer(The Director) and they kept trying to come up with ways that Apocalypse wouldn’t end up being a discount Ultron but they just couldn’t manage it. His main plan is that, using Magneto’s ability to control the metal in the earth, he’s going to cause tidal waves and anyone who survives will be stronger and he will rule over them. Just let that plan sink in for a bit before you move onto the next paragraph.

Oscar Isaac does the best he can with that script, he delivers these speeches well but they don’t hold any weight because Apocalypse is pretty useless in this movie. His power set is basically Sylar from Heroes when it comes down to it, he transfers his consciousness from body to body and gains their mutant abilities afterwards, I wasn’t a huge fan of that but then three huge thoughts crossed my mind that made me hate that subplot even more

  • If he can gain their powers after transferring into them then why does he need Horsemen? Let’s face it Angel, Psylocke and Storm all would’ve taken that deal in this movie because they’re just weak-minded pawns. Magneto would’ve been a bit difficult but you could fight them and force it on him like he tries to do with Xavier.
  • If he has control over inorganic matter, which he clearly shows us multiple times, then why does he need Magneto to cause tidal waves?
  • If you can sense the power within these mutants then why are you not choosing the girl with the power of the Phoenix Force?

Apocalypse left me with a lot of questions about his intelligence, maybe he should’ve transferred into a mutant whose power was logical cognitive abilities…Eh? Eh? Ah what do you know from funny. But seriously, no one can ever complain about MCU villains ever again because even if they weren’t overtly threatening then you can at least say that they were more interesting than Apocalypse and I never had problems with their logic.

Psylocke, Angel and Storm are just shadows of who they should’ve been but they’re nothing more than Henchmen.(particularly Psylocke.)

I like Nightcrawler, Jean and Cyclops. Cyclops is still annoying, Nightcrawler is pretty spot on and Jean is great except for one key part : Jean Grey just murders Angel. There’s no way around it. I struggle with that because Jean is so typically the one that is trying to sustain human life unless it’s absolutely necessary…like when she kills Apocalypse but Angel was technically just misguided like Storm who is welcomed into the X-Men without anyone mentioning the whole helping destroy the world thing.

Caliban’s kind of in this movie. He can sense mutants but for some reason he can’t sense Apocalypse. I’m just questioning where Kinberg and Singer got their information about these characters especially when Singer had banned comics from the sets of his films. Can we please get Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman back?

Fox needs to come to terms with something terrifying: it’s not 2000 anymore. This film would’ve been considered the pinnacle of Comic book films if we hadn’t seen The Dark Knight trilogy or anything Marvel Studios has put out. To many people 17 years isn’t a long time but in the world of comics and film it is. We need to adapt and write stronger stories and actually build our characters instead of just showing them to us, you can tell me that the girl with the white mohawk was Storm all day long but I can assure you that it wasn’t. We have advanced beyond the world of just seeing things and have progressed into wanting to know more about who these characters are and until Fox realizes that then they’ll only make a profit based off of people being hopeful that when they go they’ll see a better X-Men film.

Overall, the film is worth the price of admission for Fassbender’s performance as Magneto. There’s a few things that they get right that are so good but there’s a lot of bad in this movie.