Wonder Woman Review

IMG_0365I was worried when Gal Gadot was initially cast as Wonder Woman. I was never a huge fan of the character or anything, but I didn’t want a character as important as Wonder Woman to go the way of Catwoman.

 

Batman Vs Superman completely changed my mind. Gal was easily the best thing in the film and she was only in it for ten minutes.

 

So, I was really looking forward to seeing Wonder Woman, but there was a little concern too. Would DC screw it up? No. No they didn’t.

 

We’ll get the bad out of the way because it’s a short list.

 

  1. It’s too long. Probably by twenty-minutes, if that.
  2. The main bad guy is obvious from the second he opens his mouth, and he’s a little dull. The actor playing him is brilliant, but I would have liked him to be a bit more than the motivations he had. Not awful by any means.
  3. The other bad guy’s entire character is essentially to be creepy and weird. Superhero films do not have good bad guys as a rule.
  4. Some of the supporting characters are there to just make up the numbers, and don’t really get a lot of interesting screen time.
  5. Some of the CGI is a little weird.

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Right, bad things over. Now to the good.

 

Gal Gadot is perfect in every way as Wonder Woman, and made the part her own. The scenes where she realises what war really is are wonderfully acted. If they want Gal to make 2 or 3 Wonder Woman films, then I’m more than happy with that.

 

Chris Pine is wonderful as Steve Trevor, and his relationship with Diana is one of the driving forces of the film. He plays a charming man with ease, but in this case one with more than a little sorrow and pain in his past.

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Robin Wright was fantastic as General Antiope, and I wish she’d have had more screen time. An interesting character, and a badass fighter.

 

To be fair, everyone was at the very least good, and in most cases excellent. Saïd Taghmaoui was particularly interesting as Sameer, and got some good scenes throughout the film.

 

The action was brilliant. For the most part, it was just a joy to watch, and Gal Gadot really did an excellent job of looking like someone who would kick your ass if the situation arose. A special mention goes out to the No Man’s Land scene, which was utterly magnificent.

 

I don’t want to make this a long review, so I’ll end it with this. Wonder Woman is exciting, interesting, well acted, and a lot of fun. It’s not only the best female led superhero film by a mile, and the best DC film since Dark Knight, it’s also probably in the top three opening films for a new superhero franchise. It’s up there with Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy in term of just how brilliantly they brought the characters to life. If they build on this, they could have something truly special on their hands.

 

If you were worried that DC would screw it up, don’t be. Go see this film. It’s fantastic.

Scorched Shadows Release Date

People wanted to know when the new Hellequin book, Scorched Shadows is out.

 

17th October 2017.

 

Here are some links so you can go take a look. There’s no cover, or synopsis up yet, although they’ll be there soon enough.

 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

Also, if you’re in the USA, the rest of the Hellequin books are still only $1.50 each. Seems like a good a time as any to catch up before the final Hellequin book is out. Click the picture to go to the sale.

 

Joined all 4

 

 

Hellequin Sale

So, it’s possible that in the next week or so I’ll have details about when Hellequin book 7, Scorched Shadows is going to be out.

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In the meantime, all six Hellequin books are only $1.50 each. Here’s the link to go take a look: Hellequin Sale

 

 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review

Guy Richie is a director who I find to be quite hit and miss. I enjoyed Lock Stock, back when it first came out, I liked the two Sherlock films quite a bit, and really liked Man From U.N.C.L.E, but everything else has left me cold. That said, as anyone who’s read my books will know, I’m a big fan of the Arthurian story, and I figured it was worth a go.

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The first thing is that this doesn’t really stick closely to any Arthurian story, which is fine. There’s no Merlin, although he is mentioned, no knights, and no Mordred apart from a brief moment. Again, that’s fine. If you’re going to tell a story, you might as well make it your own and put your own stamp on it. But if you’re going to this film to watch a re-telling of Arthur’s story in a close way to the original, you’ll be disappointed.

First of all the good stuff. It’s fun, it’s kinetic, there’s always stuff happening, and it’s entertaining. I had no problems at all with the silliness in this film, it’s not meant to be a serious drama about one man’s attempt to deal with a past he doesn’t want. It’s about Arthur hitting people. Lots of people, in fact. Sometimes with a sword, and sometimes with his fists, and if that’s what you’re looking for, then this film will probably fit the bill.

Some of the battle shots at the beginning are impressive, although that does lead into a negative of the simple fact that some of the green screen cgi stuff is bad. The film uses a lot of cgi toward the end of the film to show magic in use, and it just looks weird and badly done.

The actors do a decent enough job. Charlie Hunnam is pretty good as a street thug version of Arthur, and Djimon Hounsou played the sage, angry older male role model part well too. No one is going to be winning any oscars or anything, but they do the job.

It’s a shame there isn’t an oscar category for scenery chewing—which should really be the Rickman Award—because Jude Law would be a serious contender. He really should have grown a large moustache just so he could twirl it a few times. He was evil, but in that way where you’re not entirely sure how anyone as stupid as him managed to get into a position of power. I never took Jude as a threat, neither mentally or physically. He was just sort of there, but power-crazed sorcerer is as good an idea as any other, I just wish he’d been given something a bit more interesting to play with.

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Aidan Gillen extends his use of frankly baffling accents with one that seems to change halfway through sentences. It’s a bit… off-putting. Other than that, he’s pretty good.

Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey is wonderful, and by far and away the best thing in the film. She plays The Mage. Yes, that’s her actual name, subtle this film is not. But she does a lot with a part that mostly asks her to just look creepy and weird.

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A big problem I have with the film is the use of women. Women in this film fall into three categories. They are murdered, abused, or kidnapped. I can’t think of a single woman with actual dialog who doesn’t fall into one of those categories. In fact, one woman is kept around for the entire bloody film just so she can die. And you know she’s going to die from the second you see her. She has no personality, no reason to be, except that her death is useful, I don’t even know the name of the character.

The action also needs a mention. Sometimes it’s very good, and then they try to use slow-mo and blur effects and it looks like a really shit rave. Less CGI, more people actually doing stuff would be great. Also, no quick cuts of action scenes, they’re shit and actually hurt the film more than the mockney.

Oh, the mockney. I hated it. It was funny at first, but then after the hundredth time, I wanted to slap Guy Richie and ask him why he hates everyone so much. It didn’t help that not everyone did it, so it was really jarring when they did. But eventually, I just ended up ignoring it. It is a bit strange though.

Also David Beckham. Lovely guy, I’m sure, but don’t let him act again. Please.

This is a ridiculous film. It’s stupid, and over-the-top, and it’s full of stupid people doing stupid things. And kung-fu for some reason (although I really like Tom Wu and want to see more of him if there’s another film), and frankly if you think about any of it for too long it all starts to collapse.

Sat in that cinema, with all of it going on, I had a blast. Yes, it’s stupid. Yes, there should have been more women doing more than just getting killed, punched or kidnapped, yes the slow mo action stuff didn’t quite work, but despite all of that, I had fun.

If you can’t switch off, or you hate stupid films, films where giant unbelievable creatures do unbelievable things, you might not like this film. If you just want to go to the cinema to see a spectacle and have a few laughs. Then this is probably for you. Just don’t start pulling at the threads afterwards.

Ask Me Anything

So, I know I asked for questions for my first AMA a few weeks ago, but now that the book is done, I’ve finally finished it.

Click below to go watch.

AMA Video

Ghost in the Shell – 2017 Review

Yeah, this is probably going to make someone yell at me.

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The original Ghost in the Shell was one of the first anime—along with Ninja Scroll and Wicked City— that really got me interested in anime back in the mid 1990s. In fact I watched it again only yesterday, and it still holds up incredibly well. It spawned a sequel, a TV show; Stand Alone Complex, which is amazing, and another Tv show; Arise, which I haven’t seen yet. In short it’s a classic, and rightly credited with helping to make anime better known to the masses.

If I’m honest, I had little hope for a live-action version made in Hollywood. They’d have the budget, and probably throw good actors at it, but I doubted they’d be able to pull it off.

Then they cast Scarlett Johansson as Major, and that went down like a lead balloon. I don’t really want to get into the whitewashing debate, but I will say this, they should have cast an Asian woman as Major. That’s not really a big surprise, Major is Japanese after all (and I’m not interested in anyone saying “but she doesn’t look Japanese, that’s not a valid argument and you know it), and being Japanese and living in Japan plays a huge part in the original.

The problem was compounded when it came to light that the studio wanted to make Scarlet look more Asian by digitally screwing around. And on top of that, part of the film deals with her being white in the most ham-fisted way they could possibly imagine. I literally facepalmed when it happened. Seriously, Hollywood, if you’re going to take a non-white character and make her white, just change the whole story so it doesn’t remind everyone of the problem for a large part of the film.

Alternatively just hire the right people.

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So, yeah, that wasn’t a great start to a film I had no interest in seeing. But as a fan of the franchise, and also of Takeshi Kitano who’s amazing in everything ever, I decided to go watch it. And it’s good. Actually in parts, it’s really good.

So, the negatives (apart from the above). The villain sucks. He’s just not as interesting as the Puppetmaster, and that leads into the biggest problem with the story in that it’s much more overt about everything that happens. The original had little hints and moments where you weren’t quite sure what to trust. This is a lot more neon signs pointing at the badguy. I prefer the subtly.

The ending falls flat too. It’s just sort of a, “oh is that it?” moment, unlike the original. I know it’s a different take, but it’s just really a bit meh.

Now for the good stuff.

Apart from a few occasions (and they’re really bad), the CGI is excellent. Good job all around there, future Japan is both beautiful, and overwhelming. The dirt and grime of its underbelly is brilliant here. It captured the feel of the original film well.

The music is phenomenal. Just absolutely beautiful stuff from Clint Mansell, and I will definitely be buying the soundtrack when it’s out.

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Takeshi Kitano as Chief Daisuke Aramaki is wonderful. He’s a badass who takes no shit from anyone, while at the same time staying several steps ahead, and that’s exactly what the character is. I could watch Takeshi Kitano in pretty much anything, but his scenes in this almost steal the film.

Michael Pitt is very good too, although not in it much, he does a lot considering he’s mostly CGI.

Pilou Asbæk is brilliant as Batou. It’s a spot on performance. As is Chin Han who plays Togusa, and although at first it was strange that he was much older than in the anime, it really does work well.

Juliette Binoche is great too, and really does make you care about a character who may or may not have the best moral compass.

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So, now to Scarlet. She’s very good. There are occasions, like all films she’s in, where Scarlet plays Scarlet, but for the most part she’s an excellent Major and has the mannerisms and action scenes down perfectly. The action is beautiful too, with some stunning set pieces (and more than almost one frame for frame shot of the original).

So, over all it’s a strange film. It’s very good, very accomplished, and the film flies by, but it’s no where near as good as the original, and Scarlet’s part could have (and should have from my point of view) been played by an Asian woman.

If you can get over that, this is a good film, with some brilliant performances, and incredible visuals. But I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to remake a classic film, you’d best make it better than that classic. And this film simply isn’t good enough to be held up next to the original. It’s very accomplished, and a lot of fun to watch, but the original, and Stand Alone Complex, are considerably better.

I know this might not read like a recommendation, but it is. It’s just a recommendation with a huge asterisk on the bottom. If you like action films, or don’t care about the anime, this is probably for you, but if you hold the anime up as a great film, or the casting bothers you, you’ll probably come away less impressed.

A New Book Deal

 

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Ever since Promise of Wrath came out last year, people have been asking me about book 7.

 

So, after keeping it to myself for the last few months, I’m proud to finally be able to announce that I have signed a 3 book deal with 47North, the first book of which will be Hellequin book 7, Scorched Shadows.

 

The other two books can wait before they’re announced to the world, but needless to say, I’m very excited about what I have coming up in the next few years.

 

As for a release date for Scorched Shadows, stay tuned for that as hopefully I’ll have something to reveal soon.

Logan Review

 

Hugh Jackman has had a bit of a up and down career with regards to playing Wolverine. On the one hand, he was brilliant in X-men, X2, and Days of Future Past, as well as having one of my favourite cameos of all time in First Class. He was also the best thing in Apocalypse. But when it comes to his own films, it’s a different story. Origins is one of the worst films in the genre, and Wolverine was considerably better, but didn’t have the best story, and probably some of the weakest villains in a genre that has a problem with crappy bad-guys.

 

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Logan doesn’t fix the last point. The bad-guys in the film are there to chew scenery and get their faces ripped off. There’s no one there who is more than ‘blonde dude number 2’ or ‘that science guy’, they’re all bad, they’re all idiots, and they all deserve to die for ever thinking they can screw around with Wolverine.

However, it’s a small problem in the scheme of things, because this isn’t a film about the bad-guys and how Wolverine will win. Of course he’ll win, he’s Wolverine. This is a film about Logan, Laura and Charles. This is a film about those three people and the family they become. Everyone else is there either to help bring the family closer together, or get killed when they try to tear it apart.

Hugh Jackman is phenomenal in this film. He’s always been an incredible Wolverine, but this is the film he shines in the most. It’s a broken, beaten man who just wants to sail off into the sunset so he can die in piece, but he can’t because he’s not that kind of man, no matter how much he wants to be.

Patrick Stewart is always amazing. Always. And this film is no exception. It’s a bit weird to hear Professor Xavier tell Logan to fuck off on a regular basis, but after dealing with him for so long, it’s also understandable.

If this is both Hugh and Patrick’s last x-men film, then it’s a brilliant one to leave on.

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Dafne Keen as the young X-23/Laura is a force of nature in the film, and despite spending the majority of it without ever saying a word, manages to convey so many emotions. She’s wonderful throughout the film, mixing extreme levels of violence with the innocence of someone who is still a child, no matter how much awfulness has been done to her. I hope this isn’t her last film as Laura, because she’s great.

Make no mistake, this is a bleak, dark, vicious film. There’s very little levity, there’s almost no jokes, no witty quips, there’s just an unrelenting darkness. And when you think it’s done, they find a whole new level of it. It’s a tearjerker, make no mistake about it, especially if you’ve grown up watching these characters.

It’s sort of the anti-Deadpool. Deadpool was violent, and silly, and funny, and a joy to watch because it knew what it is and it went with it. Logan is violent, and dark, and bleak, and revels in it.

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So, it’s not perfect. The villains are dull and uninspired, the ending can be seen a mile away, and there’s a constant train of thought in your head that says, “ah, they have a moment of happiness, I wonder what horrific thing will happen next.”

The three central performances are key to this film. The action is spectacular, and horrifying in equal measure, but it’s exactly what this film needed. If you have any interest in superhero films, action films, or you just want to see Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart act circles around everyone else in the film, then you should go watch it. This sits alongside the best x-men films. And whoever they get to play Wolverine next (and you know they will), is going to have an exceptionally tough time following on.

Ask Me Anything

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I figured, what with the new book being the last one in the Hellequin Chronicles, and me currently writing it, that I’d do an AMA. Now this won’t be on reddit, because I’m not on reddit, so we’ll do it slightly differently.

So, here’s how it’s going to work. I’m going to let everyone ask me anything they like. And in two weeks (ish), I’m going to make a video and answer all of the questions to the best of my ability.

If you have a question you’d like to ask about me, writing, my books, the Hellequin universe or anything else relevant you can think of, leave a message below this post (or on FB/Twitter etc), and I’ll put them all together and answer them all. I’ll post the video (or the links to it) here and on FB and the like. So, have at it people, ask me those questions you’ve always wanted to know.

 

Star Wars Rogue One: Review

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Rogue One is a very difficult film to review. Taken on it’s own, it’s a bit disjointed and quite possibly one of the most depressing films I’ve seen in a very long time, but as part of a larger narrative, it fills in gaps and shows more about a story we all know. Or at the very least think we know.

 

First things first. I’m a MASSIVE Star Wars fan. I’ve seen the films/played the games/read the books and comics (although not all of them because I actually enjoy reading). So, this film is aimed at me. It really is too, this film is aimed at people who enjoy Star Wars. Anyone coming into it having never seen a Star Wars film before is likely to get pretty lost pretty quickly, but then why not make a film that caters to the fans?

 

It is not a perfect film for a multitude of reasons, but first I’ll talk about what works. Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso is excellent, as is Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. They’re essentially the two leads of the film, and they work well together. Neither are whiter than white heroes, and both have a lot of redemption to work toward. Actually, that’s one of the main themes of the film, at least for the Rebel side. A lot of the heroes need redeeming from their past actions (actions which show the Rebels weren’t above using pretty awful tactics to win).

Apart from the leads you’ve got K-2SO who is just magnificent in every single way. Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe is badass. I’ve loved Donnie’s films for years, and I was actually hoping for even more action scenes just so he could be in them. Jiang Wen as Baze and Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera were both excellent too.

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Unfortunately, the film isn’t without problems. While the story is interesting, and moves along at a good pace, the opening act is a little bit all over the place as they try to show everyone involved. More annoyingly, the middle section just feels like it’s missing a chunk of story. There’s a scene later in the film when Baze calls Jyn Little Sister. There’s no reason for this, and the two didn’t have any heart-to-heart moments or anything, so it just feels like there was a bit cut out.

 

Ben Mendelsohn is very good as Krennic, but he’s not exactly a terrifying villain. He’s essentially an administrator who wants to advance in the Empire. And he’s constantly being out-maneuvererd by Grand Moff Tarkin. Speaking of which, Tarkin is in the film a few times and yes they CGI’d Peter Cushing’s face onto another actors body, and yes it’s a bit weird. There’s just something off about it, like you’re watching what an alien thinks a human should look like. The same with another CGI character later in the film. They both look a little… strange. Not at first glance, but when they move. It’s odd, and while I get why they used those characters, they probably should have gone with another actor for Tarkin.

 

Oh, and Vader is in the film, but not for long. That’s not a spoiler by the way, you’d be daft to think he wouldn’t be in it. They’re pretty good, and both show just how terrifying Vader is. I’d have liked to see more of him to be honest, but that would have screwed with the narrative.

 

The final battle scenes are incredible. In fact all the action scenes are great, but the last 45 minutes is just fantastic.

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So, it’s a little disjointed, and some of the characters don’t actually have a character beyond be badass, but as a whole it’s great, and I loved seeing some Star Wars: Rebels Easter eggs

 

For reference sake, here’s where I’d place Star Wars: Rogue One

 

Empire Strikes Back

Clone Wars TV show

Star Wars: Rebels

A New Hope/ Force Awakens

Rogue One

Return of the Jedi

Revenge of the Sith

500 feet of putrid crap

Phantom Menace (that last fight saves the film)

The Attack of the Clones.

 

So, if you’re a fan of Star Wars, go watch it now. If you’re not, then this isn’t the film to change your mind, even if it is really good.