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Ah Spawn, we all know and love this McFarlane creation don't we. The ex-assassin back from the dead as a demonic hellspawn (from hell) armed to the teeth with weapons and with a living suit that is able to metamorphosis into virtually anything that is required at any given moment...handy. His world is dangerous, dark, grimy, violent, savage, chaotic, vicious and bloodthirsty. He has battled thugs, drug dealers, pedophiles, murderers, the KKK and various creatures from the bowels of hell.
If there is any comicbook character that is definitely not for young kids then this is it. Could this comicbook character be anymore badass? the material screams out for a solid ultra violent adult movie adaptation. How could anyone even consider the notion of making a PG-13 out of this graphic splatter fest! ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!..bahaha!..haha...hehe...ahem...oh.
I quite liked this despite many problems with the movie. Unfortunately this characters outing has aged badly showing some horrendous early CGI effects which will shock you. The visuals are generally decent at times, like the comic its very dark, gothic and grim, but its also very obviously filmed on sets and looks a bit fake. Sure the cold night rain comes down in sheets whilst the mist swirls as Spawn leaps around in his fantastic looking living suit...but you need more than that. The other fantasy based creatures are also well created, Clown especially...very dark, humorous and quite chilling. Leguizamo played him brilliantly swinging from reasonably placid too nasty, vicious and perverted in the bat of an eyelid. Best thing about the film easily, kudos.
The Violator is also pretty cool looking in a life size model form yet like a lot of the film the CGI version is pretty lame and ruins it. CGI is a problem with this film as its drenched in it, almost everything is CGI and frankly not much is any good. Jesus Christ even the opening credits are rendered in hokey-ass looking CGI! you can tell back in 97 CGI was the new toy.
On the whole the CGI ranges from excellent on Spawns cape, to poor videogame type visuals on most other things. Hell being the worst with a terrible looking Malebolgia and very plain unexciting looking backdrops, it looks like a student created it at home. The whole thing is very amateurish looking these days it really is, heck even back in the day it didn't come across that well. What's laughable if you look closely is all the legions of Hellspawns are clearly on some kind of animated loop as they all do the same action in the background! Its so obviously the same actor replicated a gazillion times, seriously poor.
The best CGI is probably the work done on Spawn's mask, apart from his cape that is. The small sequences where we see his living suit/mask slide and form over his burnt face is still pretty slick even to this day. Sure his eyes look a bit too big and green but on the whole his mask does look the business. The fact its wet really gives it a living vibe, as though its pulsating, its one of things that does work in this movie.
The acting is hammy with a slight serious edge, but in general its very cheesy. Sheen chews up the scenery and seems to enjoy himself whilst Jai White seems to be going for broke possibly after more comicbook roles. Clearly not expecting much here but this is suppose to be a dark violent franchise, lets try and be somewhat realistic and less camp huh. This film yearns to be harder and more violent (like the comic, what a waste), it is dark brooding and Crow-like for sure but its so watered down its quite painful.
Despite that there is this uneasy feeling throughout where you're not too sure which way the film wants to go. Is it really for a wider audience? is it maybe more for adults? certain scenes seem quite risky and close to the bone but then at the same time its all so docile with no real visible violence or blood, realistic or otherwise. It gives the film an unbalanced feel because its lost somewhere in the middle which will leave both sides of the equation not enjoying the film. Like other similar comicbook franchises they must decide which way they wanna take it, its gotta be for kids or not, simple as that.
Despite that it does have a certain charm which appeals to me, its dark Batman-esque world with hellish creatures and brooding anti heroes still manages to be enjoyable. Spawn being a very likeable character, Wynn is also suitably creepy and Bishop is changed to a female for some reason but pretty hot with some nice gun/blade action. Add some relatively decent action sequences which are kinda fun in a tame kinda way and you can almost get some enjoyment outta this. At least there's a solid thumping soundtrack to be had.
I still wonder what could of been, what it could of achieved had it been made for adults as it should of been. Visually its pleasing if you like this kind of thing (in general), there is just enough comicbook sleaze here to get your teeth into and it still beats 'Ghost Rider' any day of the week.
Again its another title that doesn't really come across too well for me, is there a reason behind this? I'm guessing there must be because on its own it sounds a bit weak honesty. So back in 1976 (two years before I was created) there were these two F1 drivers. James Hunt a good looking, blonde haired, blue eyed aristocratic British playboy type, and Niki Lauda, a dark curly haired not too good looking Austrian. This is a biographical about their roots in racing and mainly the 1976 F1 season which was a face-off between the two, never mind the rest of the field, it was all about these two.
It all kicks off in the UK in Crystal Palace Park, South London where both men are are already at each others throats in F3 racing. This is where we meet up with both drivers and find out what cliched caricatures they really are. This is a true story yet its amazing how comicbook-esque these blokes were, complete polar opposites. Hunt is good looking with his flowing blonde locks, he's brash, arrogant, always up for a bit of fisticuffs plus he smoked and drank, a complete wildcard. On the other hand Lauda was the stereotypical cold, calculating, precise Germanic opponent that could easily be seen as the Dick Dastardly of the story. Seriously you couldn't have written it any better really, the only similarity was the fact both men came from wealthy backgrounds so you don't have the rags to riches tale here.
We follow the duo as they both enter F1, Hunt with via his small racing team Hesketh and Lauda buying his way in eventually joining Ferrari. After a brief problem trying to enter the 76 F1 season when Hesketh closes down due to no sponsor and Hunt having to join McLaren...the heat is on. The season plays out race by race (almost) with both drivers virtually neck and neck (kinda) to its climatic finale and of course including the horrendous accident that Lauda suffered in Nurburgring.
I will be honest right off the bat here, I have no interest in F1 or anything similar to that, although I am a bit of a car man, but mainly Japanese super saloons. So I went into this expecting to be rather bored, how wrong could I have been! The onscreen chemistry between Hemsworth and Bruhl is crackling, every time they bump into each other I was sucked into their world, I wanted to know more yet I don't know why. Its not like I understood everything they were talking about, I'm not a petrolhead, but it was all so exciting and dare I say...manly. I mean seriously...Hunt was a man's man, a true roguish daredevil and its infectious, Hemsworth just about portrays that trait well enough to make you wanna leap into an F1 car and blaze away. Although from what I've read it seems the movie has tamed this larger than life personality down a tad, plus his voice was off the mark alas. I kinda think Hemsworth may have gotten his part down to the fact he is simply blonde and a hot ticket right now in all honesty, something inside me thinks if they had looked a bit harder and used an unknown it might have been better.
I also must give major kudos to Bruhl for his portrayal as Lauder, the perfect foil to Hunt. I loved how Bruhl did seem to capture Lauda's voice, that stout proper Germanic accent with a slight lisp, very impressive and hard work I'm sure. Bruhl also looked very much like the real deal with his curly hair and the infamous slightly protruding front teeth of Lauda. Its really amazing how similar he looks to the man himself, it really sets the tone and mood for the movie.
What really impresses is the movies visuals, right from the start in 1970 everything is faithfully recreated with real cars used throughout. Its really something to see all the old outfits, advertisements, company logos, racing strips and colours, vehicles, track details and of course the classic F1 cars. I fully remember seeing F1 cars with cigarette advertising liveries on them, the old red and white Marlboro, the all black and gold John Player Special, then of course all the classic petrol/oil logos like Shell, Mobil and Elf etc...a real blast from the past and very much enjoyed. On top of that the race sequences were highly engaging and thoroughly exhilarating (I didn't know who won what so even better), everything looked really authentic, really realistic and very well produced, I can't fault anything.
There is never really a moment where I wasn't completely...for lack of a better word...engaged! Despite Hunt seemingly coming across as the good guy in the story that aspect switches from scene to scene. Sometimes Hunt is clearly the man and Lauda is too much of an obsessed rude dick, thinking of racing as more of a meticulous job. Sometimes you feel for Lauda being the more insecure, less attractive, more lonely guy whilst Hunt is showing off for the cameras being an ass. It totally swings in roundabouts which is interesting but ultimately they both played off each other to raise their games, to get better, they ultimately need each other, and of course neither one is the bad guy. Sure there are some moments that are inaccurate such as Hunt beating up a reporter, but again on the other hand there is much here that is very accurate such as Lauda's near-fatal crash.
So yes I'm going there, its happening, I'm giving this sports biopic a full on perfect score. I totally and utterly recommend this even if you don't follow F1 or even like cars, I don't follow F1 but I found it absolutely riveting. A classy super fast super slick British 'Top Gun' with tyres type flick, corking stuff old chap. Now I await the same excellence for motorcycle world champion Barry Sheene, F1 world champion Nigel Mansell and of course daredevil Evel Knievel.
Have you heard of Errol Flynn? well I should hope so. The title of this film of course refers to his classic 1938 Curtiz directed swashbuckler 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' which he is probably most remembered for. Alas this is not a biographical surrounding those good old days but the last days of his life which he spent in financial difficulties and dogged by accusations of rape due to his relationship with the much younger Beverly Aadland.
Unfortunately old Errol was too much of a ladies man and it got him into trouble, trouble which admittedly he managed to dodge relatively well for the most part. To this day he is still seen as the ultimate swashbuckler, the dashing handsome rogue with a gleaming smile, slick back wavy hair and that period fashionable pencil thin tash. And he was just that for the best part of his career, a leading Hollywood action man, ladies man, a man's man, he smoked and he drank but that was all part of the suave debonair glitzy Hollywood image. In his later years he ran into money troubles due to bad luck in Hollywood, mainly his unfinished movie 'The Story of William Tell'. His particular brand of movies had become old hat as public taste changed after WWII and added to that he was in bad health from excessive drinking and smoking.
Flynn had been accused of rape before in the 40's but was acquitted, none the less this didn't help his movie career and overall image. The relationship with Aadland during in final years only made things worse really despite the fact she loved Flynn and they were seen as a couple. This film picks up at the time of Errol's death when the press were all over the story trying to splatter his highly controversial last affair across the headlines. With Flynn now gone and unable to defend himself the press came down on Aadland digging for a scoop whilst her mother was seen as encouraging the whole affair...for monetary reasons of course. From there we go back a couple years as the story is told in a flashback leading to the current event, an overused concept if you ask me.
We do indeed learn that Aadland's mother was very much a part of her relationship with Flynn, at first very happy and naturally flattered by it all, then realising Flynn's actual intentions but deciding to pretty much ignore it and carry on. Whether everything we see in this film is actually honesty truthful I don't know, I assume facts have been uncovered and the truth is being exposed...in a relatively tame way of course. The film does seem to skim across the surface of reality to be honest, it did feel like large gaps in the affair were left out, purposefully or not I don't know. On one hand this film wants to give an accurate portrayal of a legend but on the other it also felt like they still wanted to keep things pleasant, as if they didn't really want to tarnish this silver screen star because he was so damn likeable. I mean come on, who doesn't love good old Errol and his sword twirling antics.
The story is the main aspect of a movie like this but the cast is possibly even more important, mainly the man to play Errol. Sure if you like Flynn then a film about his life, whether good or bad, is gonna excite you, but how well the lead actor can portray Flynn is probably the most important and interesting factor here. I think it was obvious that Kevin Kline would play this part, many a time in the past I have looked at Kline with his clear well spoken voice and that little tash he often has and thought he is the epitome of a classic old fashioned Hollywood star. I think we can all agree Kline has always had that pompous swashbuckling presence about him and he is perfect as an aged Errol Flynn...visually at least.
OK so its not gonna be easy to try and replicate that slight Aussie twang but at least Kline has a good voice to start with, problem is his performance is kinda hammy. That's not all his fault of course as the dialog is pretty darn hokey at times, trying to recapture Flynn's charming ways and of course the time period. Its not a bad performance per say but it just seems more like a parody at times, he has the smiles, grins, leers and winks down to a tee but after a time it feels kinda creepy, its all he has, all he can do, and it feels more like a spoof. Sarandon as Aadland's mother is solid but tends to come across as a twitching wacko murderer just waiting to explode at any moment, like a character out of a Stephen King novel. Lastly Dakota Fanning as the all important Beverly Aadland is probably the best thing here, she looks the part and you can really feel her emotional dilemma, maybe even relate to it, but despite the fact the plot is all about her it seems underwritten for the character.
To look at you'd think this was a TV movie frankly, it doesn't feel like a big production movie which was clearly trying to be an Oscar contender. Visually it looks fine with good authenticity abundant...the vintage cars, interior decor, outfits of the time etc...but it doesn't blow you away, its nothing special, nothing you haven't seen before. Heck 'The Wonder Years' actually looked better than this at times. I did like the tiny shots of 50's New York, real footage boosted with a dab of CGI I think and colour enhancement which looked nice.
The problem with this film is the fact they tend to gloss over the fact that Flynn did in fact rape Aadland when they first met, apparently. Yes she fell in love with him over time and they became a couple but that doesn't really ignore the fact that the movie is saying Flynn did force himself on Aadland, which in turn makes you think he probably did it previously to others. Of course times were different, attitudes were different and you can't really get around that but there should have been some recognition of what happened. The film makes it out to be Flynn merely seducing her with his flashy smile and charms, a simple little bump at the start of their relationship.
The film can't decide whether it wants to be a brutally honest direct biopic or a soft and cuddly love letter to a screen legend. In the end they seem to show what really happened (apparently) but don't take it seriously, there is more of a sentimental vibe going on yet at the same time the film isn't really a happy one. For the most part its mainly about Aadland's mother pushing her daughter into the arms of a very rich and famous aging movie star (ignoring the age issue) so she can reap the benefits. Its a jumbled piece that starts off OK but soon deteriorates into a pretty sad downhearted affair that ends on a dejected note.
A fourth sequel in the Madagascar franchise technically but as you can see its a spin-off about those quirky penguins. I guess this was a logical move because lets be honest the main characters in that franchise were a bit annoying and had been milked pretty good. Using these little guys for an all out comedic adventure makes sense yet at the same time it does feel like a desperate move to me. Oddly enough this movie is apparently unrelated to the kids TV series of the same name, and that series was also unrelated to the movie franchise also, kinda makes me ask why and how!
There aren't too many directions this kids movie could of taken in all honesty. The main four characters are a sneaky highly organised team of espionage types...in a cute n funny way...so naturally this means another Bond-esque espionage type adventure (ugh!). Yes that's right, we haven't quite had enough of that genre so hey lets do it some more with penguins, hey how unoriginal could it possibly be??
So there's this octopus right, and he's been the centre of attention in his home zoo for a long time, that is until the penguins turn up and steal his thunder. All of a sudden everybody loves the penguins and Dave the octopus (yes that's right Dave) is kicked to the curb. He is sent off to other zoos where the same thing happens over and over. Eventually Dave gets fed up with this and decides he wants revenge on all penguin kind (in the zoos), so he disguises himself as a human (yes that's right) and sets to work on a secret formula that turns all penguins into green mutant zombie penguins. Only the main four hero penguins can stop him...with a little help from another highly organised team of animal espionage operatives that include a grey wolf, a snowy owl, a polar bear and a harp seal.
Yeah OK this is a kids movie and its complete fluff sure, but this plot is so utterly inane its...um laughable. Since when would an octopus be a zoos main attraction, and you're telling me all these zoos didn't have penguins for such long periods, one of the most common animals in a zoo along with elephants. The octopus is called Dave...Dave!! he disguises himself as a human and has an army of little octopi henchmen...really. What exactly is the point of his plan? to make all penguins ugly mutants and...? then maybe he'll be the centre of attention again...until another creature comes along and steals his thunder. Did there really need to be another group of animal spies? Because now you have the highly generic cliched idea of the penguins being the inefficient clumsy team that get by on pure luck alongside the really slick cool team that are a very professional no nonsense operation with real skills. Its a standard 101 comedy plot concept people! couldn't you stretch any further than that?!
Yes I know I'm being all kinds of a bad sport by ripping into this children's movie but it just bugs me. They churn out these cookie cutter animation flicks with little care or concern to actual quality, they literately seem to think that using an A-list cast of stars for the voices will somehow make things all better. Yes eggs Benedict Cumberland pie is in this because its the trendy thing to do right now, cast him in everything, who cares. What's that you say...John Malkovich is voicing the octopus villain Dave...well gee that makes all the difference doesn't it.
Everything about this movie is utterly bog standard with little to no imagination involved whatsoever. Yet another espionage parody with the same damn characters over and over, the same adventure, the same gadgets, the same thrills and spills, yet another hip hop music track over the end credits (facepalm!), the same everything!!! Its like they just thought to use the slightly more popular characters from the Madagascar franchise and try to milk them dry with their own franchise that's actually pretty much the same shit as the Madagascar films...oh wait, that's exactly what they've done. I admit the only thing that is remotely enjoyable here are the four penguins and their slapstick tomfoolery, albeit only two of them are actually any good. Tom McGrath as the leader Skipper is easily the best thing here with his Zapp Brannigan-like voice whilst the brains of team Kowalski comes in second.
Its all about on par with the other Madagascar movies and its annoying menagerie of characters, and just as daft. I have moaned about silly things yes and I know the movie is completely off the wall and isn't suppose to make a lick of sense, but I think that route can really be a mistake at times. I find it much funnier when you take a fantasy concept like this and merge it within grounded reality like 'Toy Story' so there are actual realistic laws to abide by. When its just a free fall of silliness it doesn't always work, some originality helps too of course. The bright colourful visuals will keep kids entertained I'm sure but the frantic lunacy and horribly overused cliched ideas will bore most adults I think, and no Benedict Cumberbatch doesn't make this any better.
The one problem that instantly popped out at me when this movie came about was the fact that it seemed way too soon after the original trilogy and 'Origins' for something that almost felt like a reboot. Yes it was a prequel to everything that had come before but with a new cast line up it all seemed like a new vision and game plan for the future, especially after 'Last Stand' and 'Origins' had disappointed. Was that it for the older cast members? were we destined for teenage X-Men movies? it did feel like a big risk at the time, I'm still surprised it worked out to be honest.
As I'm sure anyone can guess the plot revolves round the early days of both Magneto and Xavier and the creation of the brotherhood of mutants, the X-Men. We see how various characters meet, choose their names and eventually join forces against an evil mutant called Sebastian Shaw who wants to kick start world war III so mutant kind can ascend as the dominant race. So once again its the same spiel accept instead of Magneto trying his luck its Shaw with his little band of naughty spawns. Of course this being a prequel its all set way back in the 60's which plays heavily on the fear factor of a normal vanilla society against people that are viewed as different (spot the semi-hidden meaning).
The era of the movie does help greatly as it adds a fresh new flavour to the proceedings, a kind of old fashioned James Bond vibe. This is pretty evident in the way the main villain Shaw seems to be this smooth talking well dressed wealthy rogue that has his own luxurious submarine, oh and he has a sexy female and two freaky male henchmen in tow (Oddjob eat your heart out). But its the 60's setting that obviously gives that classic Connery Bond vibe and to be honest I think its being created well. Have to point out that the fact this submarine can receive a perfect black and white TV transmission seems pretty laughable, remember its the 60's. Hell TV reception was pretty crappy when I was a kid in the 80's!
Whilst it does make the characters look cheesy the costumes, general hair styles/facial hair and set designs are period perfect with plenty of detail. The later yellow outfits worn by the team are actually a decent retro hybrid of the classic comics and this movie adaptation, they work nicely giving a hint of the traditional colours and style fused with a more modern approach. That modern approach of course being the 1960's so quite a tricky little task but they pulled it off well.
On the whole the effects here are solid but still a tad rough around the edges, there is just something about these X-Men flicks that never looks quite right. Everything looks a lot better than the previous movies sure but it doesn't look genuinely authentic, the X-Men's Blackbird jet looks obviously CGI and the entire action sequence at the end looks obviously CGI throughout. Everything still has that fake plastic look about it whilst the X-Men power effects range from semi-decent (some Magneto tricks) to down right tacky looking (all the young X-Men jiggery-pokery). Same could be said for the makeup and prosthetic work on characters, while some look proper and believable (the more regular looking characters), others do look kinda stupid. I love Azazel as a character but on film he just looks like an iffy makeup job (bit like Nightcrawler did), Beast is also a bit questionable but at least he still has animalistic qualities, Angel was just a crap CGI job and nothing more but I was impressed with Darwin's special touches and his death scene actually (why couldn't he adapt to whatever Shaw feeds him?).
In truth its the younger cast members that let the movie down at times, its sounds corny and cliched but the whole thing does have this Harry Potter-esque feel to it. Expected of course, I mean its a prequel, a prequel of the young X-Men so duh! but I just didn't really like the younger characters, I didn't in the previous movies. Bacon, Fassbender and McAvoy all add a much needed element of class to the film which is sorely lacking from the younger cast. These three main actors save the film with solid straight stoic performances which are believable, the various other character actors and teen stars just seem lost on their own, hence why one of the big stars is usually not far away.
Whilst the movie is a fun time I do have issues as it concluded, the side swapping bugged me. Why does Magneto suddenly decide to go against Xavier at the end? why does Mystique go with Magneto when she clearly loves Beast? why did Angel go with Shaw and betray her friends? and why at the end does almost everyone just go off with Magneto dumping Xavier? At the start when a very young Xavier discovers a very young Mystique in his home, he tells her she can live with him...but he's just a child, did his parents allow that? I also have to ask why Shaw wanted to start a world war when he and his mutant buddies can easily kill humans. Azazel killed a entire base full of armed soldiers single-handedly without getting tired sooooo...why don't they just carry on doing that? Kill all important leaders etc...sure its more work but I get the impression they would enjoy it, meh I guess its quicker with big bombs.
The first half hour is solid stuff with good character building, especially with Lehnsherr/Magneto, and there's a nice little recruitment montage with a neat cameo, always a winning move. The real key to this multilayered plot has to be the real emotion involved and the real interwoven era history which was well handled. Whilst Shaw is just a typical ice cool bad guy we get some proper emotion from Magneto and his crusade for revenge along with some real mutant struggles with Beast and Mystique. Sure we've had this type of thing before but this time it felt a lot more serious, less like an action extravaganza and more adult.
Considering what came before the outlook wasn't great for this...but Vaughn pulled it off. This isn't just some silly summer blockbuster laden with special effects and explosions to fuel the chocolate coated, popcorn stuffed, sugar rush of prepubescent kids. This movie actually has a lot of heart combined with some excellent action that hasn't just been tossed on the screen randomly. The movie is pretty much grounded in reality, the characters are mutants with powers but at the same time they are still vulnerable, still human...to a degree. In short this isn't a simple merchandise machine for toys and this certainly isn't a kids movie, its an actual proper film...with superhero characters. Just don't expect this film to blend in seamlessly with the original trilogy and 'Origins' because the discontinuity from different directors is clear.