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Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

“Sometimes, The Thing You’ve Been Looking For Your Whole Life, Is Right There Beside You All Along…”

Whilst the first Guardians of the Galaxy was perhaps the first entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which expectations were not exactly of the highest order, the finished product was ironically one of the best the franchise has had to offer so far, introducing expertly characterised leading heroes amongst a crowd-pleasing narrative which managed to balance the irregularity and oddness of the source material whilst serving up arguably the best jukebox soundtrack this side of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. With power comes increasing levels of responsibility however and a sequel to the biggest surprise of 2014 was downright inevitable, yet with James Gunn returning as director and the added involvement of iconic screen presences such as Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, Vol. 2 is indeed up there with the most excitable releases of the year and a movie which is lynch-pinned within a period of twelve months in which there are so many superb upcoming movies to look forward to and a year in which Vol. 2 begins the triage of MCU movies which are set to be released over the course of 2017. What we have with Vol. 2 however is a sequel which is indeed as inventive and magical as it’s predecessor, playing all the cards in all the right areas to keep its’ intended audience more than happy, but too a movie which suffers from the issue in which many sequels tend to have, with it not entirely being up to the critical level of the original but still being an excellent new addition into the MCU.

With the added input of Kurt Russell as Ego, the long lost father of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Vol. 2 thrives on the same sense of retro-loving freedom which encompassed the original, nodding its’ head at a wide range of nostalgic avenues alongside yet another successful jukebox soundtrack which ticks off everything from E.L.O to George Harrison across a two-hour plus runtime which does seem a tad too drawn out come the final act. Furthermore, in a similar vein to that of Age of Ultron, Vol. 2 attempts to differ slightly from its’ predecessor by sticking to a driving narrative which comes across as a much darker and melancholic tale, focusing upon a wide range of notions such as the meaning of family alongside a deeper sense of characterisation for each of the leading guardians who individually have enough substantial screen time between them to sway off arguments of favouritism from fans, even when the superbly managed inclusion of Baby Groot manages to steal every scene in which he is involved in. Whilst not setting up anything major in terms of the future of the MCU, Vol. 2 is a substantially entertaining blockbuster which although features arguably a higher dose of comedy than the first, is inevitably not as surprisingly awesome than one indeed hoped for, yet with a core character base in which you could happily spend an entire lifetime with, James Gunn’s second helping of galaxy saving guardians is entertainment galore.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: The Fate of the Furious

“Our Paths Have Crossed Before, Dom. You Just Didn’t Know It. I Think I Need To Remind You Why You Chose To Be Here…”

Franchises, franchises everywhere. Whilst the unexpected is utterly unreliable when it comes to the release of particular films in the current cinematic tidal wave, it does seem that the golden dollar bill sign is precedent as the leading force in the development of modern cinematic treats, evidenced by the return of the ridiculously indestructible Fast and Furious series in the form of The Fate of the Furious, a continuation of the franchise two years on from the previous instalment which managed to take an eye-whooping 1.5 billion dollars at the global box office. Whilst the mountain of eye-rolling snobs sniff at the sight of yet another jumped-up, adrenaline-heavy fluff piece, myself included, there is to some degree a sense of enjoyment watching a series continuing to live on despite stretching out what is a basic plot thread throughout eight films, due primarily to a overly ripe cast which all seem to have bundles of laughs causing endless waves of destruction and chaos with a seemingly blank cheque book at their disposal. As for the franchises latest offering, The Fate of the Furious is a surprisingly dull affair, offering very little originality amongst a tonally bipolar and utterly stupid narrative which aside from a few, minor elements could be regarded as the worst the series has had to offer so far.

Of the good things within Furious 8, Jason Statham absolutely steals every single scene in which he is present, from scenes consisting of a constant battle of words between himself and Dwayne Johnson to a final act in which he massacres a variety of killers whilst attempting to save the life of a incredibly important minor, all the while aboard a seemingly untraceable aircraft, one which is operated by Charlize Theron’s Cipher, a character which unfortunately offers no sense of threat whatsoever despite her attempts to come across all edgy and unhinged by wearing Metallica tees and moulding her hair on the likes of Bob Marley and Gary Oldman’s character in True Romance. The absolute absence of threat is fundamental to the film’s overall flaws, with each of the characters acting and performing in such a superhuman manner that the risk of injury or even death is so minimal that at times the film seemed to sink to the level of the worst the Roger Moore era Bond films had to offer, whilst the truly awful CGI comes across as so lazy and haphazard, particularly when considering the array of practical-based action we have witnessed recently within good examples of the genre such as The Raid and Mad Max: Fury Road. If The Fate of the Furious is indeed the future of the franchise, perhaps it’s time to hang up the cape, but with astronomical ticket sales inevitable, the likelihood of such is as solid as Vin Diesel becoming the next US President. Well, to be fair, that wouldn’t be the worst option right now.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

“We Need Someone Who Can Move Like Them, Fight Like Them. It’s Time To Be A Patriot…”

Adding to the long list of sequels which no one really wanted this week is the return of Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, the thrill-seeking sports enthusiast turned spy who uses his extremely silly background to kick some bad guys half to death in an even sillier b-movie esque manner, one which brought with it a wholly forgettable sequel featuring Ice Cube in the lead role with the only meaningful link between the two being the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson. With The Return of Xander Cage therefore, it comes with no surprise whatsoever that this third instalment is utter dross from beginning to end, saved ever so slightly from being a London Has Fallen style hate-fest by not being a film which sets out to offend anyone but instead suffers from a knuckle dragging screenplay which seems to serve no purpose except to inflate the ego of its’ leading star who takes on the challenge of being one of the film’s many producers as an excuse to be at the helm of a movie which will no doubt be regarded as one of the most self-aggrandising releases in recent history.

Although the film does manage to exhale a few cheesy laughs during the course of its’ agonisingly overstayed welcome, the ridiculously generic narrative forces itself along in order for Mr. Diesel to sleep with, flirt with and throw grenades at as many of the female cast as possible, a female cast which of course seems to be entirely populated by Playboy style models who seem to serve no purpose within the movie except to be degrading eye candy. Ironically however, aside from the mass onslaught of female extras, the movie does at least feature some kick-ass female leads in the form of Ruby Rose and Deepika Padukone who when aren’t shooting endless rounds of ammunition into bad guys, sink back into non-existence with sloppy and utterly cliched dialogue. As said previously, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage isn’t exactly a film which sets out to harm anyone, it just really sucks at what it does set out to accomplish from start to finish.

Overall Score: 3/10

Duo Review – Fast and Furious 7 – Too fast?

Pete Fast and Furious movies are one that hold a spot in my heart. It was always fun and entertaining and I’m sure a lot of people agree with me. With the unfortunate death of Paul Walker, development of the film was halted and many presumed the end of an era for the Fast crew. However, with some movie magic, they brought Walker back for one last time. Was it worth it? From a monetary aspect, I’m sure they will do just fine. For me, I’m on the fence. I enjoyed the movie but I spent most of my time picking up on stupid little things.

With the movie franchise moving towards a more realistic approach from cars with 18 gears and an engine to rival a 747, I expected a little more common sense in this instalment. Dropping out of a plane in cars happened, it was tested in WW2, slamming your parachute on while at terminal velocity was not. Its moments like these that can be extreme fun if done correctly, but with it being the majority of the release trailers, it lost that charm in minutes. There are many of these moments that are so incredibly stupid and over done to the point of exhaustion. Hit in the head with a wrench? Get up. Have 30 tonnes of concrete dropped onto the lower half of your body? walk into prison and this sort of whacked out shit goes on and on and on.

So avoiding the blatant WTF’s and moving onto the ‘story’. Once again, we follow Toretto and the gang who have pissed of Owen Shaw’s big brother. He gets angry and is on a man hunt to kill them. Toretto crosses path with some CIA black ops guy to find hacking software that can monitor everyone in the world and give their location for man-hunts. Save the hacker, use the tool. Simple but surprisingly good for a franchise known for its corny one-liners and story. It went in a direction that we couldn’t have expected and for once, had a mix of actual enemies rather than The Rock and drug pedallers.

Fast 7 was shot beautifully and often you couldn’t tell the difference between the CGI versions of Walker although the rest of the CGI looked ripped from the latest top of the line show coming from Syfy. I’d say it was a fitting tribute for him. I’m still trying to come to terms with why the child threw out a Red Porsche toy car. Was it simply coincidence or a dig at the car?

The Fast franchise is always poorly acted and I’m almost sure Vin Diesel cannot whisper. Nothing new there then. So, what are you waiting for, get on down to your local, enjoy mindless entertainment with a half-decent story and help fund the next 18 movies in the franchise. My rating for Fast is 7.

Dan  Before entering viewing mode for the newest film in the overlong Furious franchise, I have always created a check list that gets mentally crossed off during the course of that particular offerings’ runtime, with Furious 7 being no exception. On that list includes, scenes of the camera focusing intensively on rather attractive women wearing barely anything at all. Check. Scenes of cars driving along long, open roads whilst “gangster rap music” plays over the top. Check. Scenes where the law of physics is completely disregarded whether by cars or just humans themselves. Check. You might get the idea that Furious 7 filled my mental check-list completely, yet surprisingly this did not prevent it from being actually quite fun and probably one of the best entries in the Furious series so far.

Firstly, the film is completely bonkers. It did a good job in reminding me how fun it is to cause absolute carnage on rampages on GTAV, with the latter stages of the film seemingly being just that, with unlimited amounts of collateral damage to buildings, cars, ambulances, civilians, drones, all being displayed on screen whilst simultaneously having the time to show The Raid style hand-to-hand fights, and a battle sequence taken straight out of Street Fighter. And I loved it. It has been a long time since a film has been so completely ludicrous that you forget the major plot holes and chances to say, “he wouldn’t survive that”, and just let it ride on, destroying completely everything in its’ path.

In terms of criticism, the film is way too long and easily could have removed the sequence in which the team head off to Abu Dhabi, which seemingly was only there to showcase the Lykan Hypersport, which in itself to be fair, kind of symbolises the entire film. It’s ridiculous (I mean you can get diamonds in the headlights), it’s unbelievably quick (240mph), but is also a wonder to behold. The film also concludes in a fitting tribute to the late Paul Walker, and I think I can say honestly say, who would have been thrilled with the finished product. Peace out. 7/10

Overall Score: 7/10

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Review – SPOILERS

GOTG 1As some of you may have already noticed, I was a little worried about Guardians of the Galaxy. The trailers made it feel as if it was more of a comedy rather than a gritty and action packed thrill ride like Winter Soldier was. Having not read the comics, I can’t compare them to the film version so had little understanding of the world I was about to enter. Upon watching the movie, I’m elated. The movie has very few issues and those that exist are mere in the grand scheme of things.

If you’re like myself, you’ve never read the Marvel comic book series about the Guardians of the Galaxy. “In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.” – IMDB. Ronan’s desire for this orb is to give it to Thanos (Josh Brolin) who we see at the very end of The Avengers movie. Once Ronan (Lee Pace) delivers the orb to Thanos, the deal is that Thanos will destroy Ronan’s enemy planet. However, not everything goes to plan when Star Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals the orb and lands a bounty on his head, thus drawing the attention of a pair of bounty hunters, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) and Ronan’s supervisor – supplied by Thanos – Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Eventually the group end up together in prison and learn of the true power of the orb and try to shut down Ronan for good with the help of another prisoner, Drax (Dave Bautista) they embark on an adventure to vanquish this foe. In true Marvel fashion, the ending is absolutely incredible. Things turn quickly and we really don’t know how it’ll pan out with such a devastating blow. In reality, the basis of the movie is very reminiscent of the recent Thor movie just with a few little tweaks but stands very much on its own.

As with every Marvel film, capturing the right actor for the role is very important. Being able to act is usually a good start. Chris Pratt is a man I’ve never really come into contact with apart from his vocal contribution to the Lego movie and a host of Parks and Recs memes that cycle round like the Tour de France. Taking his comedy background and general stature into consideration, I personally couldn’t see a better man playing him. Quill was a fun character who still lived in the past with his tape player trucking on further than the half-life of a prostitute in the Ripper era. Dancing his way through life since the day he was taken from Earth, he is very much “a player”. With Zoe Saldana’s track record, acting is no worry. Being the colour of Kermit the Frog, you would suspect it to be quite unflattering (Just wait until you see the bright pink folk, you’ll see what I mean) but she doesn’t look bad. The 3rd live actor is Bautista. With his WWE/F past, acting isn’t really is his forte even though a lot of it is faked. However, in this, I actually liked Bautista. Sure he was the blunt instrument but the character was practically written for him. A giant tattooed alien with anger issues, little emotion and a love for action has Bautista written all over it. Now to the 2 vocal additions to the group, Rocket and Groot. GOTG 3For Rocket, Bradley Cooper was actually a really good fit. The trailers did little justice but he does a damn fine job at conveying the emotions of a raccoon that doesn’t have many facial expression. My issue lie with Groot. An awesome character whose vocabulary only includes 4 words. With his limited vocab, he is like a pet and is adored by many. The problem is Vin Diesel. Very rarely could you distinctly hear his voice and its such a huge waste of money when someone could easily replicate it without the price tag. But as ever, the investment in him as a brand is what is most likely the reason he was selected for the role. Alongside the issue of the use of a brand rather than a more efficient actor, I felt that the character development was a little dry. With 5 characters sharing the screen I can see that being difficult but the only real character development is shouted between each other when characters are emotional or angry. The lack of the normal bonding between characters meant that we still don’t know much about any of the characters we follow apart from the basics. Quill’s mum died and he was abducted by aliens the same day, Gamora is the “daughter” of Thanos who killed her real family, Drax’s family was killed by Ronan, Rocket is a genetic experiment and Groot is a tree. A talking, walking tree. Yet there is a huge cast of actors also supporting the movie such as the Walking Dead’s Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker).

Visually flawless, the movie stands at the pinnacle of finesse that they have dominated for many years. The music is also something that catches the attention. Like Iron Man’s AC/DC soundtrack, Guardians has a whole mix of music from the 60’s ending with Jackson 5’s “I want you back” in an amazing scene that is guaranteed to make anyone smile and laugh. We all know Iron Man movies to be very funny, but never have I seen such an audible response to jokes with eruptions of laughter and momentary gasps.

Defined as one of the greatest Marvel movies to date, I have to agree. The huge successive launch and rave reviews give credit to this claim. With confirmation that there will be a second Guardians of the Galaxy and a potential cross-over with the Avengers (It will have to be the 3rd rumoured for 2018) we may see Thanos eat dust in the 3rd outing of both groups. Albeit predictions, it seems the most logical approach after Age of Ultron. Now we simply have to wait for more information to surface and marvel at this Marvel. 9/10 for Guardians and stands to be the biggest blockbuster this year! Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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Riddick – Quicky Review – SPOILERS –

Riddick 1Hello everyone! Sorry I haven’t done anything in a while. Had a few family problems.

So, yesterday, we went to the release of the brand new Riddick movie. I probably should have watched the previous movies as I can’t really remember them that much and I feel that a little more context about the world would help me understand a little more. Otherwise you can drop in without to much worry. Speaking of dropping in, we start of the movie finding Riddick (Vin Diesel) abandoned on a desolate planet and that is really it. We watch him try and survive for the majority of time until until he needs to escape from impending doom of the planets ecological cycle. Eventually some bounty hunters come and try to catch Riddick, the inevitable fighting ensues and we see the obvious outcome. It’s simple, right? Too simple for my tastes.

The question is, where to start? The movie didn’t really do much for me and didn’t infuse me with excitement, it was linear and didn’t delve into the complexity of living on a hostile planet, on your own. As it is a franchise, it could have been beneficial to have some sort of character development that showed a chink in Riddick’s Armour. You do also sit there predicting the next move, it even hands you these moments on a plate if you were that stupid not to fathom that it would happen.

Visually, the movie is pretty bad. I’m not sure whether it is trying to keep the bad CGI as a trend from the previous ones or that they just turned out poorly. Most of the CGI was vivid, it forced its presence on the screen and screams green screen in many scenes. The set Riddick 3pieces were lacking and looked fake alongside the terrible background CGI which showed the tiny space that they worked with during the filming process. Some of the effects were good, but these were more practical than vast areas and monsters. Firstly, you have the dog that he trains from a pup and ends up becoming his pet. This animal was well done and at points looked real to the touch but upon his predictable death, it loses it. A scene depicts a man being beheaded – de-brained if you will – and they draw out the shot enough for you to watch the top half of his head slide off into a box and see the innards of his skull. A few other bits are much like this and can cause the whole cinema to yelp in disbelief at how grim certain parts are.

Finally, one of the most imperative parts of this movie is the acting. There is a couple of noticeable faces, obviously Vin Diesel, but you also have WWE’s Batista and Jordi Molla. These were the faces that I recognized, even if I did have to Google Batista’s character when I got home. Beginning with the main man, you do wonder why he keeps doing this. Then I look back at the other things he has done and realize that he isn’t a great actor in general and it’s reflected in this piece. He doesn’t take me as the big, violent ruler that he is trying to Riddickportray. Tom Hardy’s abilities and portrayal of Bane would have been a far more beneficial for such a character. As a person, Vin is a badass and grateful for his fame, but when he talks about his acting, I find it a little unbearable. As I don’t watch WWE, Batista is unknown to me, but for the big hulk of a bloke, he played his merc role quite well and fitted his character perfectly. Jordi Molla is an actor I enjoy. He can play the snarling, wicked man with ease. He looks the part of the sly deceitful man and plays the bounty hunter leader brilliantly. A funny man – a little simple at times but brutal in the end. The rest of the players were alright, a little weird at points and the women are comfortable going nude in a 15+ movie.

Overall, I wasn’t best pleased with Riddick. I was expecting a lot more violence and action from him, he isn’t even armed with his notorious weapons and the story just added up against it. Moments came when I found myself going “Oh, really? Why?” on several occasions and the humour didn’t really help those situations. It was a cluster of bad visuals, bad script, terrible plot and lack lustre action. I can’t see myself getting this on DVD even if it’s 0.01p on Amazon next year. This time around, I find myself agreeing with the general consensus on Rotten Tomato, so my overall score is 5/10.

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Fast and Furious 6 – Review – SPOILERS-

fast 6 4Hello all and welcome back to Black Ribbon Reviews! I am back on a regular basis with news, reviews and anything else I can do!

Vin Diesel and Paul walker return to put peddle to the metal and kick some ass with the aid of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Packed with action, violence and extreme situations, this movie really packs a punch and keeps the story flowing effectively. As we are all aware, the Fast and Furious franchise is a huge money maker with many dedicated fans (One being me). If you are not aware, this movie is still before Tokyo Drift and is the last one to prequel it story wise.

Talking of the story, its not extensive. O’Connor and Toretto are called upon by Hobbs to help chase down the tyrant; Owen Shaw. All because Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) miraculously appears after her apparent death. It’s a very simple and linear story with a few twists within to vary it from the rest but it doesn’t stop it from being very weak. Yet who really wants a deep and gritty, action drama flick with cars and the ‘classy’ broads? Exactly. The Fast franchise has their demographic precision engineered, which made it the $3 billion franchise it is today.

Jumping in head first, we are dropped into a race between an Import and some V8 Muscle through the winding landscape at high speed. Yet is it high speed? We follow them and notice the extreme use of the producers fast forward button which ruined the effects of speed and where way to blazay for something which prides itself on driving. The effects role throughout and really pull the movie down.

Can you smell what the rock is cooking? I can, it's a knuckle sandwich with a side order of STFU

Can you smell what the rock is cooking? I can, it’s a knuckle sandwich with a side order of STFU

Many other scenes were also edited similarly which gave a huge chunk of chase scenes a clunky and unprofessional feel. I’m no pro driver, but I’m well aware of what you can do

and get away with. Crashing your $300,000 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird into the crash barrier and flinging Don into the air to catch Letty and conveniently land on a beat up Merc was just way to much. Scenes like this smelt so bad of cheese, I could almost hear Wallace in the background screaming “Cheese Gromit!”. The cheese ball visuals isn’t the end of it. A few lines are placed in which grind on me (I also don’t appreciate the destruction of a mint condition Mustang fastback. Let’s have a moment to remember what it never got to achieve in this film).

Speaking of lines, the actors are generally good. They play simple roles with little character depth until the end which we see Han (Sung Kang) after the loss of his women, Gisele. It got very little screen time but Han’s rage was generally believable and gives us a little context of his suicidal drifting in Tokyo. In contrast, we have Letty, I genuinely think Rodriguez is a bit of a blunt tool when up against the rest and plays the same role across all movies and by now you would expect her to be the best at it, right? The movie has many fight scenes which are creative and fluid in execution, with brutal executions and general badassery. The variation in styles and a scene that juxtaposes Han and Roman to Riley was quite amusing and bits like this certainly made the whole cinema audience giggle or laugh out loud.

fast 6 2(MAJOR SPOILER) Soon after the credits star rolling, we meet Jason Statham in the credit timelapse to Han’s explosive death after a drift went wrong. Jason play Ian Shaw. Owen Shaw’s brother who I can only presume is seeking revenge for the death of his brother and is making a statement by killing Dom’s closest friend. This confirms our next villain and that Jason Statham is appearing!

(MAJOR SPOILER) Soon after the credits star rolling, we meet Jason Statham in the credit timelapse to Han’s explosive death after a drift went wrong. Jason play Ian Shaw. Owen Shaw’s brother who I can only presume is seeking revenge for the death of his brother and is making a statement by killing Dom’s closest friend. This confirms our next villain and that Jason Statham is appearing!

Speaking of villains. What is it with us Brits being the bad guys? The worst part about it, it even picks a few of our social minorities. A black and polish immigrants and black youth are the key here. These groups already get crap from the racist public but don’t ride on that and give the uneducated fools something to stand on. It may just be me looking to deep into it but it never is good to portray it to the mindless folk. However, our consolation prize is that we get it before the US…Again!

Overall, the movie is predominately for a certain group of people. Men. It’s a movie that lacks emotional connection and is simply there for good fun and is great for a Friday night out or after a particularly boring policy exam you had an hour before the movie…

With lack of anything to critically analyse, the fun side of the movie is what I shall be giving a score for. The Fun Factor is 7/10, its outrageous use of cars and the creative minds of the writers (who I can only presume to have been high) really add that little bit of fun and the credit cameo by Jason was truly kick ass.

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