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Despite the popularity of Jason Voorhees, it's ironic that by far the best film of the franchise is the one in which he barely features; although it hasn't aged particularly well, it is engaging and suspenseful, and the reveal of the killer at the end is a real stinger! I feel like it's a real shame that the franchise suffered so much from poor writing and subpar acting in the subsequent entries, because despite Jason being an iconic horror villain by this point, Friday the 13th films have generally been fairly dull in comparison with the original. If you're a fan of the genre, this is definitely one to watch, just perhaps don't bother with the sequels unless mindless violence and uneven narratives are your thing.
The big selling point of this movie for me is the conflict between the two primary antagonists (or protagonists, depending on how you look at it). Freddie is 100% the one pulling the strings, as he so often does with aplomb, but once he loses control of Jason that's when s**t really starts to go down. Some of the acting from the main cast is pretty awful, though that may also be down to some rather lacklustre writing, and there's a distinct lack of originality, however the final battle between Freddie and Jason is one hell of a payoff. There are moments of genuine tension and suspense, albeit most of the kills are pretty predictable and uninventive, and Robert Englund as ever is chilling as Freddie, with his signature underlying dark sense of humour adding a distinct edge to the performance, and Jason is, well...Jason, the dude is an absolute unit, and it's always fascinating to witness the various attempts to keeping him subdued. If you're a fan of both villains then this will likely keep you engaged, though as is often the case with crossovers like this, it will struggle to appeal to anyone who isn't a die hard fan of either franchise, similar to Alien vs. Predator or King King vs. Godzilla; as a standalone movie it really does leave a lot to be desired, but that's not to say it doesn't have its genuinely fun and compelling moments, it just isn't necessarily a classic of the genre.
I confess I had never heard of this particular branch of the Marvel family tree prior to the release of this film, as I feel was the case with many casual observers and non-comic book readers, but my goodness did they make their mark on the MCU in style; after a fairly inconsistent start to the second phase of movies, with Cap 2 the standout following the solid yet unspectacular Iron Man 3, and the dull as dishwater Thor: The Dark World, the first cinematic outing of the Guardians of the Galaxy was a massive breath of fresh air, and provided us with a glimpse of how vast the Marvel universe truly is. Everything about how this film looks is utterly breathtaking, all of the shots in space have a distinct colour palate and a vibrancy that contrasts with some of the darker, more unsettling locations such as Knowhere and Morag; and the CGI for both Rocket and Groot amongst other characters is absolutely breathtaking, I mean I keep having to remind myself that Rocket isn't a live action character, that's how good his mocap is, in addition to Bradley Cooper's amazing vocal performance, Rocket is just one of those characters that completely blows your mind. The rest of the primary cast are all absolutely brilliant, Chris Pratt was the perfect choice for the goofy, cocky, yet oddly charming Starlord, and never has an actor managed to do so much with such little source material as Vin Diesel, the dude portrayed a whole range of emotions by uttering only 5 words for the entire film, that's some talent right there! The standout for me though has to be Dave Bautista, I'm always happy to see someone from a non-acting background give it a crack, however to not only perform well, but look completely at home alongside well established performers like Pratt, Saldana and Cooper is simply astonishing. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson proved it can be done, and Dave Bautista solidified the notion that pro-wrestlers can also be damn good actors given the right characters to work with. My only complaint about this film is that I think it's a shame that Ronan couldn't have made further appearances, as I did really like him as a villain, he's menacing and intimidating, yet when you compare him with Thanos he truly was just a boy playing a man's game, in spite of his immense power; I would have loved to have seen him develop more as a character, because often you don't get to see much character development in villains, which can make them forgettable and one-dimensional. That slight quibble aside though, this was actually the first Marvel film I ever saw, and it absolutely drew me into the whole franchise, it was only once I decided to watch everything in order from the first Iron Man that it made proper sense to me, however I don't think you necessarily need to have context in order to enjoy it, as all of the information you need is spelled out fairly comprehensively. That's not to say there aren't certain elements that make more sense as a whole if you have been following the MCU carefully up until that point, but I didn't feel lost in terms of following the plot, largely because it was a fresh new branch of the franchise, and it didn't feel like a continuation of prior material in the same way The Avengers or CA: Winter Soldier did. Guardians is one of those films that you can keep coming back to as a standalone even if you aren't making your way through the franchise from start to finish, personally I always find it difficult ranking these films because there are so many good entries, but I will say that for me it's in my top 5.
Whilst it deserves plaudits for being truer to the source material than its 1971 predecessor, for me this attempt to bring the Roald Dahl classic into the 21st century, rather than elevating the tale to new heights, fell flat on its back. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Willy Wonka was creepy and unnecessarily juvenile, and in spite of the original film's inaccuracies, I would take the charming, enigmatic portrayal by Gene Wilder over Depp's bumbling weirdo persona any day. And given that the focus is seemingly meant to be refocussed on the titular Charlie, his relevance seems rather diminished once he attains the golden ticket, with much of the focus on Wonka being a bit of a creepy weirdo, and the other four kids basically being horribly unpleasant individuals with parents who don't really seem to care all that much; and yes I understand that's the whole point of their characters, but it just feels like Tim Burton is shoving this fact in our faces far more than Mel Stuart ever did. Although the writing left a lot to be desired, the majority of the actors on display did do the very best with what they had to work with, Helena Bonham Carter always excels even in poorly written films, and the kids were all highly competent for their young ages. The big positive for me in this film is its visuals, the costume designer rightfully received an Academy Award nomination, with the VFX team receiving a BAFTA nod, it's just such a shame that it feels very much style over substance, as on the surface it is a very aesthetically pleasing film, just a shame there couldn't have been more care and attention given towards the filling inside this bread, the uneven narrative, poor script writing, and just the absolute worst choice to play Willy Wonka sadly drop this film down into the remainder bin.