Ranking Marvel’s Cinematic Universe

After watching Avengers: Infinity War last year I began to look at all of Marvel’s and sat down with my Wife Heather and good friend Rowan for a chilled out night to shoot the breeze. After a bit of general chit chat the conversation soon turned to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). We all had a slightly different opinion about Infinity War and this lead us to discuss where we would rank it in terms of all the MCU releases so far. (I smell a blog idea!) So the three of us got to work and tried to hash out our ultimate ranking with a bit of democratic voting and only a few debates. Here is our ranking from 20th all the way to 1st. Enjoy! (After watching Captain marvel this week it has now been added to the rankings!)

 

 20. Thor: The Dark World

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More like Snore: The Dull World, see what I did there haha…..moving on. Sequels always come with added pressure when the original was a success and this was the case after Thor was released in 2011. Fans couldn’t wait for the next instalment of Marvel’s take on Norse mythology but unfortunately we were left with a plodding and just plain boring by the numbers film.

 

 19. Iron Man 2

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It was a toss up between 19th and 18th place to be honest. With the success of Iron Man in 2008 it was amazing that the same winning team brought us this dire sequel which lacked any real convincing story. With a script that was improvised while filming it is clear that Director John Favreau and co really made a big mistake as Iron Man 2 was panned by fans and critics alike.

 

18. The Incredible Hulk

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Marvel were able to add another quality lead actor in 2010’s The Incredible Hulk in the form Of Edward Norton. However it just didn’t work, Norton a fine actor in his own regard just couldn’t produce a likeable and believable Bruce Banner. Success would be found later when Mark Ruffalo made the role his own in the years to come.

 

17. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

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Another film that suffered from the curse of the second film, Guardians Vol.2 lacked any real depth in story and tried too hard to recreate the same humour and set pieces that made the first so enjoyable. With some pointless and down right dodgy cameos added into the mix, Guardians Vol.2 just couldn’t find the magic it needed to work.

 

 16. Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor’s conveniently l forgotten evil sister comes back to wreak confused havoc on Asgard. The third outing of the God of Thunder relied too heavily on cheap humour and gags rather than a strong story. Once is enough to see this one as after the jokes stop being funny there isn’t too much left here to delve into at any level.

 

 15. Dr Strange

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Fans waited a long time to see The Sorcerer Supreme finally come to life in the MCU and in 2016 they got their wish. Benedict Cumberbatch took on the role of Dr Stephen Strange and did an admirable job in spite of an average screenplay and a very much tired superhero movie formula. A worthy attempt.

 

14. Ant-Man and the Wasp

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The second outing for Ant-Man follows Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne (The Wasp) as they search for Dr Hank’s Pym’s wife who lost in a sub atomic existence since 1987. This time out the material isn’t as slick or engaging. A very thin and less than exciting plot don’t allow this film to hit the heights of it’s predecessor.

 

13. Captain Marvel

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A long awaited film for sure, Captain Marvel was an enjoyable enough film that just struggled to break through the barrier of being rather average. This origin story is nothing we haven’t seen countless times before but the Sci-Fi focus allows the film to break away from the majority of the other Marvel origin films. Too many forgettable moments and characters hold Captain marvel back and prevent it from moving up any further on this list.

 

12. Iron Man 3

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Iron Man 3 took a different direction to it’s predecessors and shook up the villain formula by adding a very comical and surprising twist than what had been touted in pre-release build up. It paid off and the franchise returned to form and delivered a very enjoyable film that highlighted the change in Tony Stark’s character.

 

 11. Spider-Man: Homecoming

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This was the third different film incarnation of one of the most popular and successful Marvel heroes of all-time. Released to tie in with MCU story ark, Spider-Man: Homecoming follows Peter Parker finding his feet as Spider-Man (Tom Holland) whilst trying to cope with the usual issues and problems as a high school student as well as coming face to face with villain Michael Keaton.

 

10. Ant-Man

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Ant-Man was a fresh release from Marvel in 2015 by taking a more comic tone throughout the film. A solid cast including Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Pena combined superbly well in Ant-Man’s first outing. Watch out for the sequel coming later this year Ant-Man and the Wasp.

 

9. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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The newly formed intelligence known as Ultron takes physical form and sets about the destruction of humanity in the second Avengers film that doesn’t live up to the first. There are some great additions to the Avengers team in the form of The Vision and Scarlet Witch but the main payoff is the unexpected focus on Hawkeye’s character.

 

8. Black Panther

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After only seeing glimpses of Wakanda’s most fearsome Warrior King in Captain America : Civil War  fans had to wait until 2018 before being treated to a solo outing. Black Panther was well received by fans and critics alike and took the MCU in a different and fresher direction.

 

7.Guardians of the Galaxy

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Director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy brought a blend of adventure, science fiction and comedy together in a wildly entertaining MCU outing. Following Peter Quill ‘Star Lord’ , a human taken from Earth and raise by space pirates, he soon finds himself caught up in an intergalactic hunt for one of the famed Infinity Stones. It was a huge success with many giving the film the moniker of ‘this generation’s Star Wars‘.

 

6. Captain America: Civil War

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Earth’s heroes are on opposite sides as the world’s leading powers call for the Avengers to be held to account for their actions and involvement in Sokovia. This film sees Steve Rodgers ‘Captain America’ and Tony Stark ‘Iron Man’ clash as both men lead their divided comrades against each other. Friendships are tested and broken in this darker MCU outing.

 

5. Captain America: The First Avenger

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Steve Rogers transformation from a skinny kid from the Bronx into the super soldier ‘Captain America’ is the main focus of this film and set against the backdrop of WW2 it is an extremely rewarding watch. Rogers battles against the infamous leader of Hydra , the Red Skull , to put an end to his plans of global domination. It was a great first outing for Captain America and the WW2 setting sets it apart from the majority of the other MCU contributions.

 

4. Avengers: Infinity War

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The Universe’s ‘Big Bad’ Thanos finally brings his might against the Avengers with devastating consequences. The film is a true epic with stunning action and set pieces. The scale of Infinity War is massive but it doesn’t detract from the story. There is loss and confusion as the film sets up what is sure to be an unbelievable finale when Avengers: Endgame is released later this year.

 

3. Captain America : The Winter Soldier

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The Russo brothers were at the helm for the second outing for Captain America who finds himself on the run from his own government after being infiltrated by Hydra. The chemistry between Captain America and Black Widow carry the film and smart plot twists keep the audience engaged throughout.

 

2. Iron Man

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The film that launched the MCU remains one of the strongest and most enjoyable. Robert Downey Jr was the perfect choice for playboy billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark and he plays it with relish and glee. It is the change in character of Tony Stark from carefree weapons mogul to superhero Iron Man that is the driving force of the film and is compelling viewing.

 

1. Avengers: Assemble 

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When we finally got to experience all of our favourite heroes uniting to fend off the invading Asgardian Loki and his army of Chitauri it was a moment that made the hairs stand up on the back of our necks. An incredibly rewarding film that gave many fans the pay off they had all been waiting for. It was an immersive and exciting story that kept audiences gripped until the very end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christopher Robin – The Review

After a bit of a break from reviewing I am back. As a result of seeing a score of rather dull and disappointing films such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Incredibles 2 and The Meg, I was left feeling uninspired and thus discontinued my writing until something again piqued my interest in film.

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It is the family adventure Christopher Robin that has teased me back out into the writing world again and after watching the film I was left with a feeling of great satisfaction after revisiting a story and world that meant much to me during my childhood.  For anyone who doesn’t know, Christopher Robin is based on the world created by the works of A. A. Milne and is inhabited by the renowned and loved Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends Piglet, Tigger, Eyeore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo. Set in the idyllic Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh and his friends share in many adventures with their human companion Christopher Robin.

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This interpretation of A.A. Milne’s work sees the characters of Winnie-the-Pooh join the ranks of the live action remakes that have become the trend in recent times. The story follows Pooh’s great friend Christopher Robin as he leaves the Hundred Acre Wood and begins to forget his magical friends as he grows older. Robin falls in love, serves in the Second World War and begins a family all the while Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends await any sign or news of their dear departed companion with no success.

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It is only when after his dear friends Piglet, Tigger, Eyore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo disappear that Winnie-the-Pooh dares to go into the strange and unfamiliar real world that Christopher Robin now inhabits in order to enlist his help to find them. However, Pooh finds that his one-time close friend is now a very different person than the boy he knew.

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Directed by Marc Foster ( Stranger than Fiction, Finding Neverland) Christopher Robin is a film that relies heavily on sentiment but doesn’t overplay it. The cast of Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael turn in solid performances as the struggling Robin family unit. The voices of  Pooh and Tigger return in the form of Jim Cummings while some new voices including those of Toby Jones, Peter Capaldi and Brad Garrett make up the rest of the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Woods. The film explores the themes of friendship, family, work and emphasises the importance of prioritising the things that truly matter in life. Although there is humour throughout there are moments that will tug at your heartstrings and the film generates great feelings of nostalgia. While it may be a little simple and obvious at times Christopher Robin is a charming family film that will entertain both children and adults alike.

 

3/5

A Jurassic Legacy

When Jurassic World : Fallen Kingdom is released on the 6th June it will be the fifth instalment in the ever popular dinosaur franchise. With this in mind I thought it might be interesting to look back at the legacy of the series and look at what the future might bring audiences.

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This blogger has said it multiple times before that one film in particular inspired my love and passion for films at a young age. The film was of course the magnificent and awe inspiring Jurassic Park which was released in 1993 and based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name. Directed by the phenomenal Steven Spielberg (arguably the greatest director of all-time), Jurassic Park broke the mold in film-making in terms of the advanced special effects that it used. It was the first film to showcase convincing dinosaurs on the big screen through a blend of subtle computer and animatronic effects. This along with a compelling story and interesting and highly likeable characters added to a huge part of the success of the film and the chemistry between Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough really held the piece together. The film itself captivated and wowed audiences on it’s release and went on to gross over $300 million worldwide. Jurassic park became an instant classic spawning toy lines and huge merchandise sales around the globe.

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The success of Jurassic Park led to a sequel which came four years later in the form of The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). This film tried hard to recapture the magic that made the it’s predecessor such a hit but ultimately failed. Even returning director Steven Spielberg couldn’t turn this sequel into the great film that many hoped it would be. Despite making over $600 million at the box office the film was negatively received by fans and critics alike. I think it was a valiant effort by all parties involved with the film but poor casting and a ridiculous plot only served to hamper the film. Both Sam Neill and Laura Dern did not reprise their roles for the sequel but Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough did. Despite having some talented supporting cast members including Julianne Moore the chemistry was nowhere near as engaging.

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A third film was inevitable as the Jurassic Park franchise had been so successful at the box office and Jurassic park 3 opened in theaters in 2001. Definitely the lowest point of the series the film was an utter mess. Despite Sam Neil being aboard this time around there were just so many problems with the film that it was panned and derided by moviegoers. It lacks any real cohesive story and what little story is there is bland and uninteresting. Something different was needed in order to breathe new life into the franchise at this point and what audiences got was a disaster. It felt like a dodgy monster ‘B’ movie from the 1950’s at times and it’s bland and hollow characters failed to inspire any love. Despite the negative response the film still made over $300 million worldwide.

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Audiences were tired and disappointed after the release of the third film and it appeared that Hollywood had decided that moviegoers had had enough of dinosaurs at the box office. It took fourteen years until the highly ‘original’ current crop of movie producers decided to reboot the franchise in 2015 with Jurassic World. The challenge this time around was what time of film to make that would appeal to a new generation of audiences. Film-making had changed a lot since the original back in 1993 with the over reliance of computer generation now a staple in nearly every major Hollywood release.

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Jurassic World was more style over substance and whilst it looked visually impressive their was no heart or soul to the film. Everything had been ramped up a gear in size and scale from the park to the dinosaurs themselves. Jurassic World followed a very similar plot to the first film and it really just felt like an overblown rehash. It isn’t a bad film by any means but it does lack in originality. The overuse of special effects distracts throughout and you never really get a sense that anything is real on the screen at any time. The worst thing about the film are the irritating characters that we are supposed to empathize with and in all honesty would rather see them become Dino-chow. Jurassic World is very much a film that you look back on and see the ingredients for a really good film but it just doesn’t add up. It is a film that splits opinion critically but by box office standards it was an overwhelming success and raked in a staggering $1.6 billion becoming one of the highest grossing films of all-time.

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For me the Jurassic Park franchise has spawned more hits than misses and begs the argument that perhaps it should have begun and ended with the 1993 Spielberg masterpiece. Whatever you may think about the subsequent cinematic releases it is very hard to see an end in sight to this series as every film had made a huge profit at the box office. I don’t know what to expect from the latest outing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom but if I’m being honest I’m not expecting much. I hope that the issues that brought Jurassic World down in my opinion will be addressed but in this cynical age of cinema I will be going in with realistic expectations. Is it time for the Jurassic Park series to become extinct? Only time will tell.

 

 

 

McKellen: Playing the Part – The Review

I have been an Ian McKellen fan for a long time now. He is one of the greatest actors ever to have graced a stage or screen. Now a household name and instantly recognisable to millions worldwide, McKellen: Playing the Part is a film that looks back on a fascinating career and personal life of a living icon.

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My first introduction to Ian McKellen came when In the 1990’s I watched a film starring Alec Baldwin called The Shadow. It was an early comic book adaptation and is very much a love it or hate it film. McKellen played a small supporting role as a scientist kidnapped by the reincarnated Genghis Kahn who is then forced to create a deadly weapon which threatens New York city in the 1930s. It is as daft as it sounds but rather enjoyable.

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As the years rolled on Ian McKellen found greater success in Hollywood through films such as Richard III, Apt Pupil, God’s and Monsters, X-Men and The Lord of the Rings. Despite already having a hugely successful theatre career for decades it was his run of hit films that propelled him to worldwide stardom in his late 50’s.

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I have had the privilege of seeing Sir Ian Mckellen perform on stage when in 2016 my wife Heather and I travelled to London to see him perform alongside another favourite actor of mine Patrick Stewart in the Harold Pinter play : No Man’s Land. It was breathtaking and both actors were superb. It was my first real theatre experience with actors of such a high class and it was amazing to see the difference between stage and film acting.

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It was my good friend Rowan who told me about an upcoming film about Ian McKellen and his career and we booked our tickets to go and see this introspective piece of work. After having seen it I was very impressed. It was an intimate look at the life and personality of a very interesting, inspiring and wonderful talent. The film is shot mainly around an interview with Ian McKellen that was spaced over three days. He discusses his early life growing up in Wigan and the struggle of his sexuality at an early age.

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The film also covers his introduction into theatre and his personal relationships with those he called friends, lovers and family. These stories and recollections are interspersed with great archive footage which makes this piece very moving at times as well as interjecting some humorous elements. It also covers his activist work for Gay rights throughout the 1980’s until the present day and gives us an insight into how McKellen has changed throughout the years. McKellen: Playing the Part is a wonderful film that showcases a supreme talent and human being.

 

5/5

 

Actor Focus – Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster is an actor who helped bring about my love for cinema at a young age. I was first introduced to the work of Jodie Foster when my sister and I watched Bugsy Malone for the first time in the 1990’s. It was an all child cast that told the story of the gangster Bugsy Malone through the form of a musical. My sister and I would watch it frequently and we could sing along with the majority of the songs. It was cheesy, funny and daft at times but we enjoyed it!

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Many years passed and I wouldn’t see another Jodie Foster film until I was around 10 or 11 and a film was shown late one night on BBC 2. The film that I watched that night and mesmerised/ terrified me was The Silence of the Lambs. I was perhaps a tad young to be watching this film as there were very mature and disturbing themes now and again throughout the film but I became transfixed and watched on. It was a combination of Foster’s phenomenal portrayal as FBI agent Clarice Starling and Antony Hopkins’s iconic turn as Hannibal Lecter that mesmerised me the most about this film. It was Foster’s combination of vulnerability and strength that wowed me and many alike.

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Jodie Foster was born Alicia Christian Foster and later adopted her nickname ‘Jodie’. Foster began making commercials at just 2 years of age and made her debut as a fully fledged actor in 1968 in the series Mayberry R.F.D. along with her brother Buddy. Throughout the late 1960s’ and early 1970’s Foster continued to appear in American television series until making the transition into film in 1972.  Foster’s career began to take off in 1976 when in 1976 she received critical acclaim in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver alongside Robert DeNiro . Foster was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as a 12 year old prostitute.

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She won her first Academy Award for best actress for the 1988 film The Accused in which Foster players a young woman who is raped and teams up with her lawyer to prosecute her attackers. Foster would go on to win yet another Academy Ward for Best Actress in the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs which shot her to worldwide stardom. On the back of this success Jodie Foster began her directing career and made Little Man Tate in 1991 and Home for the Holidays in 1995.

Foster would go on to star in both critically and commercially successfully in films during the 1990’s such as Contact and Anna and the King. Foster has had great successes within the last 15 years with the likes of Panic Room and Carnage to name a few. She is a very versatile actress who has played a whole host of varying roles over the course of her career.

If you haven’t seen any Jodie Foster films before or maybe you’ve missed a few then check these films out below:

Panic Room (2002)

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Panic Room is directed by David Fincher and follows Meg Altman (Foster) and daughter Sarah (Kristin Stewart) as they have no choice but to lock themselves in a secure chamber at their home when a group of invaders led by Forest Whitaker appear. It is a superbly tense film throughout that will have you on the edge of your seat. A great cat and mouse thriller.

 

Contact (1997)

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Foster plays Dr Ellie Arroway investigating a possible Alien message from the Vega Star system. As a message is confirmed and it is a race against time to decipher it before shady security operatives and religious fanatics attempt to stop Arroway’s work. Contact is a very interesting and compelling Sci-Fi film.

 

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Simply put, one of the greatest films ever made. It is the film that made Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins global stars. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the story follows young FBI agent Clarice Starling who is tasked with helping solves a recent series of murders by the notorious ‘Buffalo Bill’ killer. Starling must enlist the help of captured serial killer Dr Hannibal Lecter but must navigate the dangers that this presents.

 

The Accused (1988)

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Foster plays Sara Tobias who is brutally raped in a bar while onlookers cheer and shout. She then Teams us with District Attorney Murphy (Kathy McGillis) to bring her attackers to justice. It is an incredibly powerful film that tackles rape culture in a very direct and no hold barred way. Foster is superb and the film is a must watch.

 

The Brave One (2007)

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After being attacked on their way home New York Radio Host Erica Bain (Foster) and her fiancé are badly injured. Fiancé David dies as result of his injuries and Erica seeks revenge on those who committed the attack. A local detective (Terence Howard) vows to help track down the gang and bring peace to Bain’s life.

Jodie Foster has shown over her illustrious career that she can seamlessly move from role to role. She transitioned from actor to director with ease and back again when a role takes her interest. Foster is supremely talented and I look forward to her future work. Jodie Foster will be starring in 2018’s action flick Hotel Artemis later in the year.

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Film Roulette – Blockers

Let me start with a bit of an explanation about what Film Roulette is. My friend Josh and I have decided that every month we are going to just turn up at the cinema without looking to see what’s on and go and see the film that has the closest start time. The idea being that we may go and see something which ordinarily we would not even think about watching. This method will likely offer up many disappointments but it also might uncover some hidden gems. We used to do something similar many years ago when we would ditch school in favour of the cinema in Belfast and watch one or two films instead of studying! Things have turned out well despite our lack of attendance during A-level classes with Josh now working in I.T and myself becoming a teacher.

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We turned up at the local cinema, the Lisburn Omniplex,  where I actually used to work part time when I was 18. We landed there just after 5pm and scanned the cinema listings to see what would be our first Film Roulette Adventure. We avoided film posters, cinema leaflets and trailers being played across the T.V screens and instead just focused on the digital display outside which only showed the film names. The next showing for any film was 5.20pm and it was titled Blockers.

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We had no idea what the film was about or who was in it and we bought our tickets and waited for the film to begin. As it turns out Blockers is an American comedy produced by Seth Rogan, Directed by Kay Cannon and stars Leslie Mann and WWE’s John Cena. The story follows three parents who discover that their teenage daughters have entered into a sex pact to lose their respective virginities on prom night. When it became clear what tone the film was going to take I was less than enthused and prepared for what I was about to witness.

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I have to say that Blockers was far more enjoyable than I thought it was going to be. While some of the comedy doesn’t quite hit the right notes there is enough that does. Josh and I both found ourselves laughing at the sophomoric and gross-out one liners. The story is utter nonsense but it was strangely enjoyable at times and was able to keep our interest for the majority of the 1hr 45m run time. John Cena tries his best in this film but it is clear that he has a long way to go if he is to rival the success of wrestling alumni Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnston’s film career.

While not a comedy classic Blockers is a film that younger cinema-goers will probably enjoy. It is a film that never really goes anywhere and the comedy plateau’s about mid-way through and never really tries to go higher. Would I watch it again? No.

3/5

Film Roulette is an interesting and exciting process which I think that along with my friend Josh, I am going to enjoy.

 

 

 

A Quiet Place – The Review

The premise of this film is unique and very bold. With very little dialogue uttered throughout, A Quiet Place takes a risk that pays off in many ways but not in others. The story follows the Abbott family trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic North America inhabited by creatures who hunt only by sound. The family must remain as quiet as possible in order to avoid detection and instead use sign language. After losing their youngest child to the hellish creatures that now inhabit the area,the Abbotts have adapted to their new way of life and are surviving as best they can.

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Things are about to change for the Abbotts however, as mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is heavily pregnant and the birth of her child is on the horizon. It is up to Father Lee (John Krasinski), children Regan (Millicent Simmons) and Marcus ( Noah Jupe) to prepare their sanctuary for the new arrival and the dangers they will surely face.

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A Quiet Place is a film that strings along the tension from start to finish. We are not told anything about the origins of the nightmare creatures that stalk Northern America or indeed what state the rest of the world is in. I like the mystery that this presents the audience as it leads to a whole range of possibilities that we can make up ourselves.

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I enjoyed a great deal of the film as it explores the bonds and relationships of the Abbotts in interesting ways. There are some genuinely scary moments when the creatures begin to threaten the family home and we are left in a state of utter dread and apprehension. It is only when the film starts to confuse the rules it sets out from the beginning that it looses it’s way a little. I don’t want to say too much on this to avoid spoilers so I will leave it to your own judgement when viewing the film.

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The cast do a decent job in crafting their characters and are very believable as a family unit. There are some plot points that don’t quite add up but A Quiet Place is still an interesting and different take on the post-apocalyptic horror genre. There just feels like there is something missing however and I can’t quite place what it is. The terror and horror never quite reach the heights that you expect and some of the problems the characters face are cliched and predictable.

3/5