Archive for November, 2017

We knew it was only a matter of time. This week we got exclusive Vanity Fair character portraits and yesterday Spider-Man himself unveiled the first teaser poster for Infinity War. Now we have the trailer.

The long promised, yet little seen, Thanos has finally arrived on Earth and it is going to take the planet’s mightiest heroes to defeat him. The stakes have never been higher, nor the excitement from comic/MCU fans. The footage on display paints a clear picture of what Infinity War is going to be about and what we glimpse is fantastic.

Best parts of the trailer? Well how can one not be excited at the idea of the Guardians and Thor teaming up? I love the look of Spider-Man’s new suit and basically any shots of people running towards one another to do battle. Which we get. Will anyone die? Eh, maybe? Thing is, with these sort of films it doesn’t really matter because in case you didn’t know death means not a whole lot in comic books. Someone can always come back from the dead. Just ask Jean Grey. It doesn’t bother me so much either. The film being good is what is most important and of that I have little doubt.

Avengers: Infinity War is directed by Captain America: Civil War duo the Russo brothers and stars (almost) everyone who has been in an MCU movie to date. Look for it in cinemas May 2018.

The Punisher (No spoilers)

Posted: November 27, 2017 in Comics, TV
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The last time viewers saw Frank Castle AKA The Punisher he was on the run and presumed dead. Introduced into the MCU during the second season of Daredevil, Frank’s tale was one of tragedy and brutality. An ex-soldier who found himself caught up in a government conspiracy, Frank would see his family brutally murdered, himself narrowly escaping assassination by those he trusted. Now, starring in his own show, Frank sets out to make those responsible for the murder of his family and the deadly conspiracy pay with their lives. Along the way making certain those responsible don’t simply die but die hard.

Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Wolf of Wall Street) is outstanding as Frank Castle/The Punisher. Soon as he came on screen in Daredevil fans knew it was only a matter of time before he would get a solo series. It pleases me to say The Punisher is not just good, no, it’s one of the best MCU titles to date. Up there, for me, with Daredevil season one.

The action in The Punisher is brutal. Frank (and those who he fights against) are stone cold killers and this is reflected in the violence shown on screen. The show is not for the faint of heart. The overall plot is good, it’s to the point – The Punisher wants revenge – but the sub plots that fill in the rest of the show are not just interesting they are (sadly) very topical in todays climate in relation to gun control and home grown terror. These aspects are handled with care and don’t paint a simple black and white picture. The writing is excellent and therefore the show feels like it has somthing to say.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Girls) as David Lieberman ties in directly with Frank as a man whose family could go the way of Frank’s. He and Frank have great chemistry. The two working together to bring about justice and not always agreeing. Each wanting the same outcome but by, at times, different means. Ben Barnes is an acting revelation as Frank’s old army pal Billy Russo. Russo came out of the army, like Frank, but followed a different path. Barnes does wonderful work in the role and creates a complex character that serves the plot in a important way. There’s strong support too from Amber Rose Revah as Homeland Agent Madani and Jaime Ray Newman as Lieberman’s estranged wife.

Drawbacks? Little stuff really. The look of the show is not removed from the other Netflix MCU titles. I get it. A consistant visual theme makes sense and The Punisher does go a ways to get more down and gritty but beyond the violence it feels like the other shows for better or worse, I guess depending on your opinion of Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. The subplot involving Lieberman’s family felt like it got more attention than was warranted. As the show goes on that reasoning becomes clear though, yet I was getting a bit bored with that stuff. Stick with it though if you feel the same.

The Punisher is a fantastically brutal show and tone wise it’s easily the most mature show Marvel has put out. If you didn’t see Daredevil season two then don’t worry because The Punisher provides all of the info you need within it’s first few episodes. You will not feel like you have missed any major plot points and can enjoy the series. I really enjoyed it and I hope we get a second (and third!) season.

The Punisher is now available on Netflix.

 

Super Metroid

Posted: November 24, 2017 in Video Games
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When I started Hella Movies it was always my intention to cover 90’s video games along with movies. Although I own an original SNES I found the cartridge price for classic games to be beyond a joke and so my hands were tied in relation to what I had available to review. Thanks to Nintendo and the SNES Mini that is no longer the case and what better game to kick start this passion once more than Super Metroid!

It’s funny. I owned Super Metroid back in the 90’s. I had the BIG box version that came with the game and the guide. I loved it. Back then you could tell it was special and it was destined for greatness. Cut to the release of the PlaySation in ’96 and this idiot trading in his SNES and all his classic games. Like I said I was an idiot.

What I did not realise then but I do now is how late into the SNES life cycle Super Metroid came out. It was ’94. For some reason I always remembered it being an earlier game on the system but it was more like just over halfway through the system’s life cycle. That may have played a role in the series and it’s stop/start sense of delviery over the years. Only now have Nintendo saw fit to revisit the franchise as it has never sold as well, despite being adored as much, as Mario and Zelda.

Super Metroid is side scrolling action game. The player takes on the role of Samus Aran who is a kick ass female bounty hunter. Space pirates have stolen a metroid (which is bad) and it’s up to you to follow them to a distant planet and track them down! The begining of the game is boss, like something out of an 80’s horror movie, it seemingly starts where the last game left off and you think your mission is over and then BAM! There’s this attack at the base, all fully playable for the most part, and the new game kicks off. At this stage in my releationship with videogames I had never seen anything like this. My young dumb mind was blown.

The aim of the game is simple and there in lies it’s true power. The player must navigate several large maze like areas that make up the world with next to no clues on where to go first and what to do. Such is the beauty of Super Metroid. The more you explore the more of the world map is revealed to you via the mini map displayed on the screen. Ever heard of a game nick named “Metroidvania” ? Well you have this game to thank for that.

Each envrionment, while different from one another and offering visual variety, is jam packed with deadly enemies and hazards for the player to overcome. The way in which that is achived is through finding power ups which allow Samus access to more weapons, abilities and health. Exploration leads to rewards, as do boss encounters which always prove a challange without becoming ridiculous. The game controls beautifully for the most part (hang your head in shame wall jump mechanics) and it’s real handy being able to run and shoot in any direction a threat should arise.

The atmosphere of the game is incredible, packed with detail (the game being one of the biggest on the SNES at the time) and it has an amazing soundtrack. It’s a beautiful game that still looks and plays great today, more than twenty years after it’s release. Most people have played this game and fallen head over heels in love with it. So to those folks I need not champion it, but let’s say you haven’t played this but have heard of it’s legacy? If that is the case then do yourself a favour and seek it out. Either via the SNES mini or the Nintendo Virtual Console service, should you happen to own a compatable machine. Super Metroid really is one of the best video games ever made and one which a lot of developers could only hope to re-create today.

 

 

 

Hey guys. Radio silence. I know. It has been a busy past week in reality, away from Hella Movies! What better way to return than with the hysterical first trailer for Deadpool 2! This came out last week but as I said I’m just getting around to it now.

This trailer is beyond funny. Would you expect anything less from Deadpool though? I appreciate the brief glimpse of footage from the actual movie. In which we get to see a host of familiar and new faces from the sequel.

Hopefully the change in director won’t effect the sequel and we have another great film on our hands. Deadpool 2 is directed by David Leitch, who directed John Wick and Atomic Blonde. So at least we know the film will deliver on the action. With the same writers and (most of) the same cast coming back I’m confident Deadpool 2 will deliver. We’ll find out next summer.

 

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At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finds himself in a world he doesn’t recognize. In the sequel, Captain American: The Winter Soldier, Rogers has ajusted to the twenty first century but learns that sadly, for the safety of the world, some things never change. The deadly Hydra is still a threat and are about to launch their most devastating assault on freedom yet. Said threat coming from the least likely of places. Adding fuel to the inferno of chaos is a ghost from Rogers past, a deadly assassin of myth-like status and one who will stop at nothing to eliminate his targets.

Anthony and Joe Russo,  known for TV’s Community, make their MCU directorial debut with The Winter Soldier. The duo made a big impact with this movie, directing with style, confidence and (through collaborating with a world class stunt team) put on film some of the best action sequences you are likey to have seen. No hype. From white knuckle car chases, ground to air combat and close quarters. In my review for the first film I said the action is great and easy to follow. In The Winter Soldier the action HURTS. It’s darker, more kinetic and on a totally different level. That is because The Winter Soldier is a different kind of film.

The first movie was a celebration of Captain America, his era and his comic book legacy. The Winter Soldier is a film that continues that celebration. This time mixing it with the political thriller/spy genre. For better and for worse. While The Winter Soldier’s plot is more mature (hate to use that term as I don’t feel the previous movie was silly or immature) I found it to be, at times, needlessly dense. There is a lot to take in, twists, turns and a request for the audience to pay attention. Add to that a wave of characters, each with their own agendas and it shows great ambition but at roughly two and a half hours the film is long! It doesn’t drag. The pace is great but it just makes you work in between the brilliant. Nothing wrong with that but by the end when all the cards are on the table the plot is really straight forward and I felt like the film could have been stronger if it had shaved even twenty minutes off the running time.

Chris Evans is brilliant in this film. He puts everying into the role of Rogers/Captain America.  He is joined on his mission this time out by Black Widow and Nick Fury. Scarlett Johansson revealing a harder edge to her mysterious Black Window character. Jackson’s Nick Fury has quite a lot to do in the film besides show up for a cameo and that was boss to see. I’d love to see Fury take on more prominent roles in these movies.

Newcomers Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo and Emily VanCamp are welcome additions to the MCU. Mackie is very good as Sam Wilson. Falcon has some of the best and impressive action scenes in the film. Both Hayley Atwell and Sebastian Stan return from the first film as Peggy Carter and Bucky Barnes. Atwell as Carter has a heartbreaking reunion with Rogers and it’s a shame they couldn’t find a way of keeping Peggy young and action ready like a certain other face from Rogers’ past. Stan does terrific work in The Winter Soldier. In a lot of ways the film rested on his shoulders and without his commitment to the role the film may not have worked.

A lot of people list Captain America: The Winter Soldier as their favourite MCU addition. No counter point from me. This is a brilliant film and one that’s  directed the hell out of. Is it my favourite out of the MCU? I would say no. It’s a bit too dense and just a tad overlong but those are tiny issues. It will no doubt stand the test of time and be shown as one of the best examples of what a awesome comic book movie looks like for years to come.

 

 

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Posted: November 13, 2017 in Movies
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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials picks up immediately after the events of the first film. The surviving Gladers, led by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), quickly realise that their rescue from the maze is just the start of a much larger nightmare. What awaits them is a planet that is ravaged by disease, people who have become monsters and the constant pursuit of WICKED. The later stopping at nothing to recapture the Gladers. WICKED’s aim is to use the blood of the Gladers, as they are immune to the disease, to create a cure for the deadly Flare virus that has laid waste to most of the planet.

Director Wes Ball, having made his debut with The Maze Runner, returns to helm the sequel. Ball has an eye for visuals. Often times, throughout the first film and this one, I felt he’d captured exactly what I imagined the world of the Maze Runner series to look like. Thankfully Ball is not simply all about how things look. The Scorch Trials is directed well, time spent on character development, expanding the world of the films in a big way and putting some cool action on screen. Personally I enjoyed the books more than The Hunger Games, for example, I felt The Maze Runner series was more original. That line of thought carrries over, I’m happy to say (so far), to the movies too.

There are two sequences, action scenes I guess, in this film that feel like they belong in a horror movie. Not due to the gore or that but the look and feel of them. I appreciated the willingness Ball had to go all out and not pull back in those scenes. It was something I didn’t think would work as well as it does and it gives The Scorch Trials another shade that helped to remove it enough from the first movie.

This sequel also has more twists and turns. One of which is major and fans of the book will know it. Said character’s choice to do what they do is a bold move that raises the stakes for everyone moving forward and it’s done real well in the film. Actually, Scorch Trials the film, has more twists and turns than the book and I don’t know how fans of the book will feel about some of those. This fan didn’t really see why they were added, espechially when you get to the end of the movie and the plot is stil pretty much on track to follow through into Death Cure, which will be the thrid and final movie in the series. Unless the filmamkers have decided to alter the entire last act of the series?

All in all The Scorch Trials is a worthy sequel to The Maze Runner. In some ways I think it’s a better movie. More exciting, better action and higher stakes. If you’re a die hard fan of the books you could be left cold in some ways. The cast all do great and now, at this stage, I’m quite excited to see what Wes Ball is capable of once he “escapes” The Mazer Runner series. I don’t mean that as shade towards this series. Ball is an growing talent and I want to see what is next for him. Hopefully he nails The Death Cure and allows The Maze Runner series to close out strong.

 

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Last night Lucasfilm delighted fans with the news that Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson is set to oversee a brand new Star Wars trilogy.

Official details are slim right now. Understandable when you factor in that we still have two movies left in the current trilogy. That means I wouldn’t expect the first chapter of this new adventure until at least 2020.

What is known is this new trilogy, which Rian will direct and write at least one (maybe all three?) of,  will be set in a different part of the galaxy and will be it’s own unique story.

If this means breaking away from the Skywalkers and what we have come to know so far with Star Wars then I think it’s great news. I love the Skywalker saga. I love the worlds we know and love but I’m ready to go into the unknown. I can’t think of a better captain for that task than Johnson. How though, when I haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet? Easy. I saw Looper and that movie is more than enough to put one’s faith in this guy.

But that’s not all! You know Disney are starting their own streaming service in 2019, or thereabouts, well, it’s going to have it’s own (and the first) LIVE ACTION Star Wars television series.  Guys. Gals. Star Wars. We’ve never had it so good right? What a great time to be a fan.

Gerald’s Game (No spoilers)

Posted: November 8, 2017 in Movies
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Writer and director Mike Flanagan has, over the past few years, quickly made a name for himself in the horror genre. His filmograpthy, to date, is super strong. Oculus, Hush, Before I Wake and Ouija: Origin of Evil were all critical hits. His latest film is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel (2017 seems to be the year of King adaptations) Gerald’s Game.

Carla Cugino and Bruce Greenwood star in the film as Jessie and Gerald Burlingame, a married couple, who hope to spice up their marriage during a weekend getaway. Gerald thinks one way to do so is to handcuff his wife to their bed and engage in some (horrid) roleplay. Unfortunatley for Gerald events take a deadly turn and now Jessie is trapped, exposed and utterly alone. Or so she thinks.

One of the hooks of the film is will Jessie be able to free herself from the bed and cuffs or will she persish from lack of food, water or some other horrorfic fate? The other portions of the film deal with her increasingly fractured psyche (who wouldn’t loose their mind?) and a childhood secret that is pitch black. Oh and did I mention there is a wild dog that is hungry and other threates that may or may not be real?

The film belongs, without a doubt, to Carla Cugino, an actress who never puts in a bad performence but who has, arguably, not had as much oppertunity to lead a movie as others. As Jessie, Cugino is amazing and may just put in the performence of her career. Greenwood works well with Cugino and it is crazy to see E.T.’s Henry Thomas in a totally shocking role but one that shows the actor has talent and should work more. Thomas has had a comeback over the past several years, I don’t think the actor bows to the whole Hollywood thing, so it’s good to see his range being recognized by directors like Flanagan.

Flanagan shoots the hell out of Gerald’s Game. Throughout the film various filters are used to create some stunning and haunting shots. As Flanagan has proven he is able, at this stage in his career, to nail the horror elements of the genre and that is just what he does here. The gore, unknown nosies in the darkness, fears imagined or otherwise and the sheer horror of humanity and what it is capable of. Sometimes humans can be the greatest monsters of all and with that said I should say that Gerald’s Game is not just some horror flick, it dives into some very serious and heavy subjects.

I have read a lot of books by Stephen King but not Gerald’s Game. A few weeks ago I wrote in my review for It how I felt it was up there with the best of the Stephen King adaptations. Thanks to director Mike Flanagan and his incredible cast and crew I think I can safely say that Gerald’s Game can join the ‘Best of Stephen King’ club as far as movie adaptations go. I can not wait to see what Mike Flanagan brings us next.

Gerald’s Game is available to stream now on Netflix.

 

Hatchet II

Posted: November 6, 2017 in Movies
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Hatchet 2 exploded with gore onto cinema screens in 2010. The anticipation for this sequel was off the chart within the horror community. Sending the buzz into overdrive, for better or worse (depending on your taste), was the news the ratings board of America had decided not to issue a rating for the film. That told fans that the kills or content of the sequel was extreme. As if you could get any more extreme than Hatchet? Well Hatchet 2 wanted to explore that idea.

Adam Green, returning once again as writer and director loves the world he’s created and his twisted, gross, funny and outright horror filled sense of style is back too. Hatchet 2 picks up immediately where Hatchet left off (a great throw back to slasher sequels of old that I loved). Hatchet’s final girl Marybeth Dunstan (a solid Danielle Harris, taking over the role from Hatchet’s Tamara Feldman) is determined to kill slasher ghoul Victor Crowley (the amaze Kane Hodder) once and for all. To do so she teams up with tour operator Reverend Zombie (an awesome Tony Todd), her uncle Bob (horror legend Tom Holland) and a team of mercenaries. This shit is like Aliens! This time it’s war and all that. Obviously everyone gets more than they bargained for once they venture back into Crowley’s swamp and the gore spillage goes into overdrive.

What’s good is the pace of the film, the kills and the performences. The kills are fun and a reason why most would return for more but as they become more outlandish the effect wears off some. It’s the suspense that’s missing, Crowley just appears in the middle of scenes and SPALT whoever was there is now dead. There’s little build up. I missed that. Thankfully, at just under one and a half hours, Hatchet 2 doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and by the time the final confrontations (yep, a few characters have scores to settle this time out) roll around you’re invested in who, if anyone, will make it out of the swamp alive. That’s down to the commited performences from the cast who give it their all and are clearly having a blast!

I felt like the first Hatchet was the real deal. A fun, fresh and memorable slasher that would stand the test of time. Hatchet 2 is a mixed bag for me.

The whole unrated aspect of the film probably has more to do with one graphic kill scene. You won’t miss it. I thought it felt out of place and frankly like it was included for the sole purpose to shock. It’s a shame because the rest of the film is okay. The cast is packed with horror icons and you’re following characters from the first film so are invested in them and if they can make out yet again. From what Green has said the production faced budget issues and that shows from time to time in the lack of locations and in some of the kill scenes. On the other hand Green revealed getting the film made the way he wanted meant sacrafices had to be made.

Hatchet 2 is a good, if not great, addition to the franchise and with Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street in limbo it’s good to see some filmmakers still have love for slasher movies. Hacthet 3, thankfully, would go on to course correct some of the issues in this sequel.

 

Thor: Ragnarok (No spoilers)

Posted: November 3, 2017 in Movies
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Taika Waititi, along with his great cast and crew, has given a gift to the MCU and to audiences the world over. Thor: Ragnarok, or Thor 3 if you like, is a fantastic slice of comic book action and adventure with a whole ton of 80’s style.

Picking up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), after the events of Age of Ultron, the two MIA Avengers find themselves flung across the galaxy. Trapped on a distant planet, and forced to take part in gladiator like battles, the two must overcome their unsteady relationship and get back to Asgard, Thor’s planet, in order to stop Ragnarok. A legend that fortells the destruction of Asgard. Meanwhile Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, has her sights set on Asgard and will destroy anyone who gets in her way!

That is a real condensed summary of the plot of the film. There’s a ton more going on, with brand new characters such as Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) bringing a whole ton of fun, attitude and vital plot points to the movie. Along with the returning Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who has, what I think, is the best outing yet in the MCU. It took me a while to warm to Loki as a character in the earlier MCU movies but he is fantastic in Ragnarok. Everyone is great.

The film’s biggest star is the writing and direction. Along with the art direction. Seriously this film looks incredible. Colourful, out of this world and yeah, cosmic! The script is hysterical. Even small conversational interactions between the characters have great gags. Not that the whole film is a laugh a second, there’s some dark turns, yet (and this could be a criticisim I guess) you don’t care as much as you should, in some cases, because the whole movie is so entertaining! On the action side of things Waititi shows he has no problem fitting into that arena. The action is big, the kind you want in a film on this scale and it’s shot really well.

The original soundtrack, the films score, is boss. Seriously if you’re into 80’s music give this soundtrack, by Mark Mothersbaugh, a listen.

Thor: Ragnarok is, once again, a home run for Marvel. What a time to be alive for comic book fans!