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By midlandsmovies, Jul 14 2017 07:46AM



Wonder Woman (2017) Dir. Patty Jenkins

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Dir. Jon Watts


Huge superhero franchises are just a thing now. They can be as exciting as a rollercoaster. Or like bad breath, an immediate turn-off. However, in many cases, they sit comfortably like a nice warm cuppa in the summer blockbuster season. Neither a die-hard Marvel or DC fan – like most I just simply enjoy a good film – the two behemoths of the comic (now film) world have released key movies in their complicated production schedule.


After the solid Man of Steel, the abysmal Batman Vs Superman and the misstep of Suicide Squad, DC really needed a hit in order to regain some of the credibility lost from those less-than-satisfying tent-poles. So they’ve taken a chance (which should be hugely applauded) and given Gal Godot the long overdue central role of the infamous female superhero. After 14 films, Marvel STILL haven’t given any woman in their universe a film. Although Brie Larson as Captain Marvel is due soon, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is notably absent from Marvel’s solo film roster.


In short, the narrative shows Wonder Woman (Diana Price) jumping from Themyscira, the island home of an Amazon race of warrior women, to 1918 Europe during the height of the Great War. On her way she saves Chris Pine’s soldier Steve Trevor on her journey to destroy Ares, the god of war, who she believes is the cause of the conflict.


A fresh fish-out-of-water story, the film contains so much of what was missing from DC films so far – humanity, sensitivity, comedy and some characters with motivations you can get behind. Going for simplicity hugely helps the story and director Jenkins (her first film since Monster 14 years ago!) should be massively applauded for ditching the dourness and injecting some overdue fun. At the half way point, as ludicrous as Wonder Woman wearing her full costume in No Man’s Land is, the film already has its tone clearly defined and the audience swept along in its entertainment.


If there was a fault it would be two – albeit small. Firstly, the film suffers from the fact Marvel’s Captain America did the ‘hero in war’ film already so similarities are sadly inevitable. The second is the final battle which has flames (orange) and energy beams (teale) in the obligatory let’s smash everything up mess. Scarily reminiscent of BvS, my eyes rolled at the familiar imagery, which is confusingly edited, and contains the usual over-use of CGI where nothing has much weight. However, more on this later.


Moving on, yet still speaking of the familiar, Marvel has released its new version of the infamous web-slinger. One of the hottest properties out there – maybe only second to Batman and Superman as the most famous superhero (?) – they have done a deal with franchise-owning Sony to finally add Peter Parker to the ever-expanding MCU. His brief appearance in Civil War was a great introduction but with 3 cinematic iterations of the character in just 10 years, can something fresh be brought to the screen?


Well, in the majority, it’s a massive yes! Tom Holland is a hugely likeable Peter Parker and Marvel wisely ditches an origin story (the fact he was bitten by a spider is briefly mentioned once) and focuses on the teenager’s school problems alongside his goals to become an Avenger. Under the tutelage of Tony Stark he’s given the responsibility of a super suit which he struggles to contain in his eagerness to progress. Peter’s ambition jumps from defending the neighbourhood to attempting to stop Michael Keaton’s ‘Vulture’, who is selling alien weaponary he has stolen from previous Avengers’ encounters.


Tying nicely into the MCU but setting out its own individual story, Homecoming (surprisingly) brings enough to the plate to set it aside from the Garfield and Maguire versions. The teen angst is superbly handled, an action sequence atop the Washington Monument was phenomenal (go see this in 3-D and really feel the vertigo) and its jokes come so thick and fast the film veers from superhero action flick to outright pure comedy.


Keaton, who I’ve loved since Batman ’89 (my personal favourite superhero film) is so watchable here he’s already jumped to a close second, behind just Loki, as one of the best MCU villains to date – an area Marvel has been under-achieving at best.


Strangely, its biggest flaw is almost the same as Wonder Woman’s. A final battle sees the Vulture – with flames in the background (orange) – take on Spidey using his damaged mechanical wings (both teale) and here we are again. In a film taking lots of chances, it was a sequence that could have done with a shot of more unique web-slinging action and originality.


That aside, Spider-Man’s first full film in the Marvel world was certainly a surprising success. Was it better than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2? Personally, I think not. Raimi’s unique directorial style and more interesting villain still holds firm but Marvel went VERY close to reassessing its pole position.


Both films then prove to be hugely satisfying and have course-corrected their respective franchises as needed. Both are surprising in all the best ways – Wonder Woman’s feminine focus and more subtle story shows DC can get audiences emotionally involved and Spider-Man proves that Marvel can bring something new and fresh to an over-exposed character. Super!


7.5/10 Wonder Woman


8/10 Spider-Man: Homecoming


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 6 2017 04:26PM


Local filmmaker ready to take you to another world


With the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming in the Summer of 2017, interest in the web-slinging superhero is at an all-time high. After a deal that saw Spidey enter the MCU from a property owned by Sony, fans are anticipating a great first adventure during the blockbuster season.


However, the biggest fan might just be right here in the Midlands as Leicester filmmaker Joey Lever is set to launch his own fan-film based around the infamous New Yorker. Now we’re “tingling” with excitement, we swing by to find out more about the ambitious production.


In early 2017, Joey Lever won a Midlands Movies Award for his sound mixing work on his film Paper Plane which began a successful start to a year that looks set to explode for the local filmmaker.


His new superhero fan film is Spider-Man: Another World and it is in fact part of a larger shared universe he has created with fellow fans. Taking an idea from Marvel themselves, Lever has named it "The strand of web, web series" which includes 3 films and one short.


DiGitiLhEaRt & PavillionArts are the studios who have invested in his vision and Joey’s new project has also seen him working with many of the region’s most talented creatives, including Gatling Gun Productions who also hail from Leicestershire.


With the trailer just launched in June (see YouTube video above) Joey Lever says “We are so excited to hear what [fans] think about it as this been such an amazing experience to step back into the shoes of Peter Parker. This time trying to make a fan film that is different and we are so proud of the outcome”.


Also supporting the production is comic book artist Marc Ducrow who has designed the film’s poster.



Updating via the movie's Facebook page, Joey goes on to add, “As a child I was always fascinated by the idea to tell stories in different ways. I spent many years growing up drawing, acting out little sequences I thought up before bedtime. This blossomed into my love of film making. Every film you see of mine will be made with my heart and soul”.

Based in Leicester, Joey is a self-taught freelance filmmaker & cinematographer and has been lucky enough to work internationally on projects in the USA, South America, Australia and Germany


As well as writing and directing Lever himself stars in the action-drama alongside local talent Jak Lionel Beasley, Lauren Baxter, Gill Broderick, Wade James Keeling and Carley Lightfoot.


We'll be keeping a close eye on the film's development as it comes to launch and follow the movie's updates on the official pages below.

https://www.facebook.com/SpiderManLC


http://www.joeylever.com

By midlandsmovies, Nov 15 2015 07:09PM

Aside from the Midlands area, when I go on vacation I love to visit local attractions and nothing gives me more pleasure than going to see places that are featured in famous movies. With my previous holiday blogs covering Madrid, Italy and California I was very excited to be heading back to the good ol’ USA for a trip to New York, Chicago and the surrounding area.


For all the movie photos from the USA please click here


I landed at JFK airport tired but excited on October 29th (the day after our Shaun of the Dead screening) and, still drained from that late night, I put my lack of energy to one side to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the Big Apple. This was my third visit in as many years so I had seen some of the most famous destinations before, but I always get a flush of excitement when I see some of the icons of this big city. On my first full day there I walked around Manhattan for over 6 hours catching all kinds of sights and with the November weather being unusually mild, I even managed to spend some time in my t-shirt as the sun beat down.


I was staying with my good friend at an apartment on Wall Street which immediately linked to my favourite film of 2014, The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo Di Caprio, whilst later as I was walking around I even spotted a Steve Madden shop – the real–life shoe company that DiCaprio’s fraudulent banker floats on the stock exchange. Speaking of which, just 200 yards up the road was the real life stock exchange which Bane (Tom Hardy) terrorises in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Nolan’s Batman franchise was a running theme of the trip as the second half would be spent in The Windy City, Chicago, where much more of those movies were filmed. Rises also contains shots of “Gotham’s” bridges collapsing which have been clearly influenced by the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges of New York city as Bane and his gang attempt to cut the citizens off from the rest of the world.


On my walkabout I also came across the fire station from Ghostbusters (1984) as well the Museum of the Native American which was the location of the painting of Vigo for that film’s sequel. After an accident in the building which resulted in me cutting my head, it seemed that the museum still has some bad vibes. Has anyone checked for a river of slime underneath again?



Up at the other end of the island, Central Park was where the Tavern on the Green was situated (67 Central Park West) which was used when Louis Tully (a demon-dog avoiding Rick Moranis) cried for help in Ghostbusters. Just across from that is Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment building – referred to as “spook central” – where the final battle against Mr. Stay Puft occurs. Still at Central Park is the bridge the protagonists hide under from Cloverfield (2008) whilst nearer Grand Central Terminal is the Chrysler building, both of which appear in the film as well.


Further downtown is the iconic Flat Iron Building (used as the Daily Bugle’s headquarters in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy) whilst the second film also includes the fantastic action sequence where Spider-Man battles Doctor Octopus on an elevated train. In fact, NYC does not have an elevated train track passing through its skyscrapers so the filmmakers used digital footage of Chicago’s “L” train to get the shots they needed.


After my brief stay in the city that never sleeps, I headed east to meet friends nearer Chicago. Quieter and with a more relaxed atmosphere, my friends lived in Aurora which you may know as the home-town of Wayne and Garth from American comedy Wayne’s World (1992) and its sequel. The city of lights provides the backdrop for their rock antics although much of both films were actually shot in and around Los Angeles – which Myers alludes to again in a fourth wall joke from Austin Powers.


From Aurora, I took a trip up to Woodstock, Illinois - Del Preston: “It rained all morning, and then it cleared up in the afternoon. And that's it... I almost remembered something else, but it's gone”. Actually not the location of the infamous 60s musical love festival but this Woodstock was the small town used in Groundhog Day (1993).


The town’s central square double’s as Gobbler’s Knob which hosts the groundhog ceremony before Bill Murray’s grouchy weather man begins to repeat the same day over and over. As his depression sets in, Murray’s worn out character attempts to commit suicide – one death is from the town’s clock tower – but continues to wake up unharmed back in his hotel bedroom each morning.


The bandstand in the square hosts the main festivities but is also the backdrop for the first snowfall dance between Murray and Andie MacDowell. As we walked around the picturesque town we saw the infamous corner where Murray steps in a puddle trying to avoid Ned Ryerson – who has a burger named after him in a local bar (Bing!) – as well as the cinema where he takes a date dressed up as Clint Eastwood.


Woodstock also played host to the film Trains, Planes & Automobiles (1987) where Steve Martin and John Candy are stopped for speeding in a burned-out car and then the pair are picked up by a truck outside the old courthouse (now the Old Courthouse Arts Center) as well as its more famous doubling as the town of ‘Punxsutawney’.


This lovely town proved to be a calm highlight of my trip between two big cities but it wasn’t too long before I was in my room at the Red Roof Inn in downtown Chicago. The city has been on my ‘must-go’ list for an age and I was thrilled to finally be in this cinematic city. As mentioned before the city’s bridges and industrial ambience was perfect for its stand-in as Gotham. From ‘the narrows’ in Batman Begins (2005) to the Tumbler heading under Lower Wacker Drive (the underground road system), the city’s pier also was the location of the Joker’s hostage heist on the two tourist boats.



Moving to The Dark Knight (2008), me and my friends had drinks and food at the iconic Berghoff Bar which is an historical 100-year old watering hole. This was the location of the scene where Jim Gordon and his team arrest Maroni whilst the nearby Chicago Theatre was used when Harvey attempts to see ballet with Rachel, but is unable to do so after Bruce Wayne takes the entire company on a sunny cruise. Lastly, the unfinished (at the time) Trump Tower was where the final battle took place twixt Batman and the Joker at the film’s climax.


Their earlier bust-up in the street with the BatPod and a big-rig truck occurs at South LaSalle Street with the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the background (which was also the HQ of ‘Wayne Enterprises’ in Batman Begins).




That street is also famous for its appearance in The Untouchables (1987, Brian De Palma) whose fictionalised version of Elliott Ness’s struggles with Al Capone utilised a wide range of Chicago locales. Recreating the Prohibition Era, the movie mostly drops historical accuracy for cops and robbers entertainment. The police HQ is the Rookery Building on South La Salle whilst Costner’s Ness first meets Sean Connery’s “Irish” beat-cop Malone on the pedestrian deck of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The Federal Reserve is also on the same street whist mid-town’s Cultural Center is where De Niro’s Capone pleads his innocence to the media.





The film’s most famous sequence is at the end where a shoot out at the city’s Union Station paid homage to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and is also used at the climax of Man of Steel (2013) for the showdown between Superman and General Zod.




Another film which hugely uses Chicago’s many distinct locations is the 80s High School classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The John Hughes teen comedy has the title character skipping school for an educational and fun day out in the Windy City with his girlfriend Sloane and his put-upon pal Cameron.


The film has many unique local settings including when the friends pass the Flamingo, a huge red structure created by noted American artist Alexander Calder. This 53-foot tall stabile is located in the Federal Plaza in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building and is not far from the Art Institute of Chicago which hosts the city’s impressive art collection. In the film, the trio are fascinated by some legendary pieces including the Portrait of Balzac by Auguste Rodin, Picasso paintings, Marc Chagall’s America Windows and (most famously) A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – an 1884 pointillism work by Georges Seurat.


The film also includes trips to Wrigley Field (home of the city’s Cubs baseball team) and Ferris crashing the annual Von Steuben Day Parade on a float for a musical sequence. The last place I visited from this film was up at the Sears Tower's skydeck (now the Willis Tower) which gives unparalleled 360 degree views of the city from the 103rd floor. Don’t go up if you have vertigo but if you’re feeling brave then take a seat in one of the all-glass boxes which allow visitors to look through the glass floor to the street 1,353 feet (412 m) below!


The final picture in the Art Institute that I recognised was Francis Bacon’s “Figure with Meat” which was the painting Jack Nicholson’s Joker asked Bob the Goon not to destroy in the museum scene in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). Another Batman link!


Outside the Institute is Millennium Park which holds Cloud Gate – a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. It is locally nicknamed The Bean because of its shape and weighs 110 short tons and is used in the film The Break Up (2006) but most will have seen the silver/metallic structure in Duncan’s Jones’ Source Code (2011).



So what else do we have? Well, the gritty streets of the city can be viewed in The Fugitive (1993) as Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble goes on the run after being accused of murdering his wife. Ford rides (and fights) on the “L” train whilst he also visits City Hall which doubles as a prison in his second encounter between himself and Tommy Lee Jones’ U.S. Marshall.


There were sadly many other movie locations that I didn’t get to experience in my tight schedule. From The Blues Brothers, High Fidelity, Adventures in Babysitting, While You Were Sleeping and Public Enemies Chicago’s grimy streets have been used from genres involving gangsters and superheroes to comedy and drama and will no doubt continue to provide the backdrop for independent and Hollywood films for many years to come. If you get the chance to visit any of these locations then both tourists and die-hard movie fans will absolutely be overjoyed and thrilled by the amazing places (both old and new) that these awesome sites serve up.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jan 8 2014 04:31PM

After another fantastic year at Midlands Movies I treated myself to a little jaunt across the Atlantic to see some old friends in the city that never sleeps, New York. With its esteemed history of movie locations I wanted to visit some of my favourite movie settings in the city so over 7 days, headed around the city (mainly by foot by sometimes by subway as the 2013/14 “polar vortex” headed in) and if you ever visit on vacation I can highly recommend the below places for any cinema connoisseur.


As mentioned, I often used my Metro card to travel on the city’s subway which criss-crosses all five boroughs and is an easy and safe way to get around. However, the movies have previously portrayed this transit system as a place of gang warfare or crazy loners as seen in 1979’s cult classic The Warriors, 1990’s Ghost (“Get off my traaaaiiin!”) or even in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video. One of the stops is the city’s main hub at Grand Central Terminal, a huge building and the 6th most visited place in the world (!) which has been seen in Cloverfield (2008) as well as a great scene with disappearing people in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). More recently a large part of the finale of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (2012) is set on the raised part of the road nearby there.


Just a few blocks south is the art deco classic and iconic image of New York, the Empire State Building, which is most famously climbed by King Kong in the 1933 black and white film as well as again in Peter Jackson’s recent remake. Further down past Broadway is another infamous building in the slim-line facade of the Flat Iron Building. This plays the offices of the Daily Bugle in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man movie.


Slightly off the track on the East of Manhattan I wandered down towards the University area where I headed to Washington Square (seen briefly with a monstrous apparition in 80s actionner Ghostbusters) before taking a short walk to a street of shops where I found The Little Lebowski Shop (215 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012 http://www.littlelebowskishop.com) which is the world’s only dedicated “dude” store.


Continuing around the East Village area I stumbled across Tompkins Square – the location where John McLane and Zeus (Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson) have to play a game for the villainous Jeremy Irons “Simon Says” with a couple of water jugs in the third Die hard movie. The park also hosts regular outdoor movie screenings every summer so if you go during the summer months you may be able to catch a film or two!


Slightly further south is Katz’s delicatessen (www.katzsdelicatessen.com) which has been established since 1888 and maintains its tradition of quality food but is beloved for film fans for its “orgasm” booth where Meg Ryan fakes her pleasure across the restaurant table to Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (1989) – “I’ll have what she’s having”.


Another food related place is Joe’s Pizza where Peter Parker is (briefly) employed in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and although I didn’t pop in, the food smelt and looked great and the queue from the shop to outside seemed to suggest the same. Later on in the vacation, my friend who I was visiting worked at a restaurant uptown and to get there we came out of the 72nd Street subway station which also appeared in Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) as the place Simon gives our two protagonists a verbal riddle by phone as well as again appearing in The Warriors (1979).


Although I had been to New York 3 times before and had sampled the main attractions the city had to offer, one place had always eluded me but no more during this visit. I walked a long distance as the temperatures lowered (but that was not going to stop me) to the NYFD Hook and Ladder #8 Fire House. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, it’s from one of my favourite childhood films and may be better known as the Head Quarters to the Ghostbusters as seen in the 1984 film of the same name. The firehouse even has a (slightly faded) Ghostbusters-inspired insignia on the sidewalk outside and was one of those places that “looked just like the movie”.


As I was visiting in Dec/Jan, I was in the city for New Years. Planning to go to a friend’s party at a bar in Brooklyn I got a taste of the chaos in Times Square as I tried in vain to get to her apartment. Over 20 blocks were cordoned off by the police and the detour I had to take was massive as some subway stations were closed as well. The crowds were building and the streets densely packed and it was not even 7pm yet! The neon signs and advertisements of the square itself can be seen (although in a different context) in the deserted/empty scenes in the movies I Am Legend (2007) and Tom Cruise’s dreamy Vanilla Sky (2001). The emptiness of the square in those films contrasted massively to the reality of the tourist packed sidewalks of the holiday season.


I decided to avoid that area for the rest of the trip so over the next few days I went down Fifth Avenue to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, seen in classic sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) where a genetically engineered flying Gremlin is thrown in wet cement before drying on the Cathedral’s roof as an epic gargoyle.


Also on Fifth is the Rockefeller Building. Beneath the imposing height of the main skyscraper is the infamous ice rink with a statue that I found out when I got back is actually Prometheus! The area’s Christmas tree can be seen in Will Ferrell vehicle Elf (2003) as well as the meeting place in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992).


During my first trip to NYC in 2002 I stayed at a hotel on East 57th Street NY 10022 and opposite the hotel was a tall tower which I again saw on this trip and was used for the exterior shots of the Oscorp building in Spider-Man (2002). A few streets away are the Roosevelt Island cable cars which I rode and can also be seen in the same web-slinging movie as Spidey fights off the Green Goblin.


On the Upper East Side later in my trip I hopped off the subway and walked a short distance to the Guggenheim Museum, an iconic and startling looking circular building seen in Will Smith’s first alien encounter in the opening of Men in Black (1997).


Opposite is New York’s huge open green space Central Park which has been seen in everything from Ghostbusters (1984) to Annie Hall (1977) and Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy (1999). A walk through the park from East to West and I ended up at The Museum of Natural History which has the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the back of the building (81st Street, Central Park West) and this unique globe-inside-glass structure was seen in Spider-Man 2 (2004) for the John Jonah Jameson III benefit event.


Post New Year’s Eve and many days into the trip, the city was struck by what the media dubbed “Snowpocalypse” and then was subsequently labelled a “polar vortex” as snow, ice and below freezing temperatures swept the North East of the country. For me it was a cross between the planet Hoth from Star Wars (see a video I filmed here - facebook video) and disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow (2004) where Manhattan gets covered in a thick layer of icy snow such were the shockingly (and shiveringly) low temperatures.


However, on my final few days the snow began to thaw (briefly enough) to get on the Staten Island ferry which takes you out into the water near the Statue of Liberty as seen in Planet of the Apes (1968), Ghostbusters 2 (1989) and Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000). Once back on dry land, a short walk downtown saw me end up on Wall Street which is where Christopher Nolan filmed Bane’s attack on Gotham’s Stock Exchange in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as well as being extensively in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987) and a brief appearance at the end of National Treasure (2004).


On Park Avenue, my last memory of the trip was seeing the famous Met Life Building (formerly Pan Am) which is in Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002) and doubles as the offices of The Daily Planet in Christopher Reeves’ incarnation of Superman (1978).


Not even the cold weather could stop my enjoyment of such a creative, bohemian and cosmopolitan city which is still one of my favourite places on the planet. If you get the chance then I can guarantee you will have a good time seeing iconic buildings and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the busy streets - but if you’re a film fan then there’s even more to marvel and enjoy and you will get an understanding of why New York is so regularly used on the big screen – hopefully you’ll have as much fun as Eddie Murphy does in Coming to America (1988)!


See all my New York pictures in this gallery here - Facebook Gallery


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 30 2013 05:43PM

With the Man of Steel tearing up the box office, the Comic Con announcement that Superman AND Batman will appear in the next DC film together as well as being deep inside Phase 2 of the Marvel Universe, I’m going to take a brief look at my favourite superhero films. A few films like Scott Pilgrim and Wanted (both of which I love) I’ve decided against including as although both from graphic novels and both having protagonists with “powers” they didn’t seem to fit in with the masked crusaders from the rest. They’d both be pretty high up however. Also, honourable mentions to Mystery Men, Captain America, Hellboy 2 & The Rocketeer. That said, commence au festival!


15. Thor (Kenneth Brannagh)

Marvel proved it was willing to take a few chances with its directorial choices as Sir Ken came in and gave a big dose of Shakespearean family feuding to the usual CGI fight-fests and to his credit comes out with one of the more distinct movies from Marvel’s Phase One. Hammer time!


14. Superman (Richard Donner)

We believed a man could fly in the ultimate showcase of actors (Brando, Reeve and Hackman) taking a serious look at the indestructible red pants man, taking us from Krypton to Earth with amazing results. Super dooper!


13. Blade (Stephen Norrington)

With the black jacket, sunglasses, bullet dodging and building leaps, it’s easy to see how The Matrix overshadowed this movie despite their similar style in this dark and gritty 90s vampire-killing classic. It’s got a big bite of action and effects with some unique fighting that sadly fizzled out in the humour-filled sequels. Tasty!


12. Unbreakable (M Night Shyamalan)

His second (and last good) film and the one that many of us are awaiting a sequel for, the director told a slow-burner of a story as a man who doesn’t even believe he has any powers but has to protect his family and the public from a classic villain taken (literally) from comic books. Uniquely told with comic-panel visuals and presented in a down-to-earth realistic way makes the film all the more impressive. Shatter proof.


11. Batman Begins (Chris Nolan)

Nolan sets the bar high with his re-imagining of Batman after the dreadful Joel Schumacher failures with an authentic tale of rich boy going AWOL and then being trained by assassins before returning to his beloved city to do good. With a strong set of actors and some exciting action scenes, Bale’s Batman placed him solely in the real world with very real problems. Bat-tastic!


10. Kick A** (Matthew Vaughn)

Over the top action sequences combined with some hilariously named heroes, all tied together with a self-referential knowing of superhero traits blended to give this film a violent look at a brand new set of characters outside of the usual huge franchises we already know. Cage hasn’t been this good in years and the young protagonists try to balance their growing pains with the torture of street pummels! A cult classic with a sequel due anytime now in July 2013.


9. X-Men (Bryan Singer)

Again, the origin story seems to be the strongest of the bunch as Singer takes the mutant group and brings it into a faithful world setting (or gay allegory as some have suggested) by aligning them with modern day persecution. Amazingly, Singer takes the premise of a child’s cartoon (my first experience) and turns it into an action packed narrative with serious adult themes and where moral discussions lead to genuine and sincere consequences. The film also introduces us to an unforgettable actor/character pairing with Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman. X-cellent.


8. Iron Man (Jon Favreau)

Marvel’s first foray into movie-making may never be topped for some as Robert Downey Jnr plays arrogant billionaire Tony Stark who after a kidnapping uses his company’s technology to create the ultimate military suit. From the playboy with the boy’s toy to the perfect pacing, Iron Man has humour, hurt and tenderness but is mostly a lot of fun with an amazingly recreated CGI suit, great action scenes and set the stage for the future team-up with his avenging pals. A metal marvel. (Just don’t mention Iron Man 2).


7. The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

Pixar moved away from cuddly toys and talking animals in this almost art-deco style story of one family’s superhero problems - from secret identities to the inconveniences of capes, the movie twists the genre conventions, the animation is flawless and the characters well shaped. Throwing in plenty of funnies and nods to other famous superhero powers (ice, stretching, invisibility etc), director Brad Bird even gets in on the action as the voice of costume designer Edna Mole. Nobody does it quite like Pixar.


6. X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn)

After the incredibly disappointing and flawed X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we go back to the beginning for a Cold War narrative as the backdrop to finding out how Xavier and Magneto met, developed their skills and started the school for the gifted in this brilliant prequel/origin story. From the nods to real world events (Cuban missile crisis) to the training montages, the film balances the serious Nazi themes of the opening with a later light-hearted touch as the swinging 60s takes hold. Fassbender is a joy as we watch his downfall during his clashes against Kevin Bacon’s excellent villain. Pure class.


5. The Avengers (Joss Whedon)

The pinnacle of Marvel’s Phase One as we finally got to see Nick Fury’s plans come to fruition during his ploy to assemble the greatest set of heroes on earth to defend against the nefarious Loki (a brilliant Tom Hiddleston) and his alien army of minions. Whedon gives everyone their fare share of screen time and injects a dose of humour and knowing about the proceedings before unleashing Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and finally a decent Hulk onto the city of New York with support from Black Widow and Hawkeye. Action aplenty, lots of laughs and solid storytelling all lead to a brilliant finale that satisfied geeky fans and the passing crowd on its way to a $1billion plus box office. Avenge that!


4. Watchmen (Zack Snyder)

Snyder’s literal interpretation of the infamous graphic novel was a turn off for some but with adult themes in an alternative history and his visual pyrotechnics assaulting the eyes, the film is a faithful re-telling of Moore’s opus. A story of getting older, doing things for the greater good and double-crossing, the film tackled huge themes and has one of the best opening credit sequences of ANY film. From the violent Rorschach who refuses to compromise to the out of shape Night Owl via the omniscient Dr. Manhattan, the brilliantly realised characters show the darker side of the American dream. The joke’s on us as we are forced to confront our own moral standpoint. Very watchable.


3. The Dark Knight (Chris Nolan)

Nolan’s best entry in his trilogy contains Heath Ledger’s astounding take on Batman’s nemesis as he creates havoc in Gotham as the sadistic Joker whilst Bruce comes to terms with losing a loved one alongside the transformation of Harvey Dent to Two-Face. Filled to the brim with classic scenes from the opening heist to the Bat-cycle speeding through city streets, Nolan makes not just a superhero film but an inspired crime saga with immense depth previously unseen in the genre. Virtuoso acting, remarkable stunts and a convincing script resonated with audiences who wanted to follow Bruce’s continuing journey as the watchful protector. Wayne-derful.


2. Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi)

The first film established a solid but uninspiring take on the webbed-wonder but after its success Raimi was allowed to unleash his full directorial flourishes onto the franchise in the form of zooms, whip pans and more Bruce Campbell in this superior sequel. Maguire loses his mojo as Parker tries hard to be both Spidey and boyfriend to MJ whilst Alfred Molina is top drawer as Dr. Octopus, a much improved and far more fun villain than the Green Goblin. With less-cartoony CGI, brilliant action sequences on the elevated train, during the bank robbery and high-up on buildings, Raimi showed he could handle the affectionate closeness between characters whilst wasting no time in slinging in some comedy, mild horror and plenty of fisticuffs as Spiderman comes to terms with what’s important in his life. Go web go!


1. Batman (Tim Burton)

The best of Batman in my eyes with the right balance between fantasy comic book and dark reality with a brooding Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and devilish Jack Nicholson as The Joker in a role he was born to play. Rejuvenating the comic-book movie (after the Superman franchise ended in a damp squib) the film was stylish, sassy (“where does he get those wonderful toys?”) and equal parts insane and serious. Nolan took more from this than anyone cares to admit (see my Bat-blog here on their similarities – click for blog) and Burton focused on the Caped Crusader’s crime and detective background and gave us the origins in well-thought out flashbacks. With a BatMobile for the ages, a solid support cast (Michael Gough as Alfred lasting ALL four of this franchise’s movies) and a gothic design by the late Anton Furst, the simply titled Batman was not only the sum of its parts but much more than that and made the anti-hero not just a campy actor in tights, but a major cultural phenomenon. Good knight my sweet Prince.


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