Benedict Cumberbatch to play Doctor Strange

So Marvel are finally in end talks as to who is going to play the amazing sorcerer supreme: Doctor Steven Strange. It is going to be none other than charming, British, velvity-toned Benedict Cumberbatch. Many of you may remember him from his previous role as the villainous Khan in 2013s Star Trek: Into Darkness or in his modern day Sherlock Holmes portrayal in BBC’s Sherlock.

Now that Marvel have introduced their main characters for the Avengers team, and have also given most of them a second and third film to develop their personalities, they can begin to bring forward the lesser known individuals who also fought along side these caped-crusaders in the original comics. Arguably, some of the best avengers are still yet to be introduced, one of which is Doctor Strange, who is a skilled neurosurgeon and practising magician, and has saved the world on more than one occasion.

At the moment the Doctor Strange film is looking at a 2016 release date. Marvel are also getting ready to unveil more of their best avengers: Ant-Man in 2015 and the animal like Black Panther from Wakanda. The Black Panther film however is still quite far off, with its release possibly being in 2017, along with Black Widow’s solo film which could be in the same year.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Matt Reeves directed sequel to the prequel of one of the most famous sci-fi movie franchises of all time sits firmly in its place on the film time-line.

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In 2011 the Rupert Wyatt directed Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released, and before viewing the film I was rather sceptical as to how a prequel could live up to the 1968 Charlton Heston original. As it turned out, the film was really enjoyable and actually did a great job at showing how the downfall of humanity and the rise of the apes was our fault entirely. So it was obvious that a sequel to this film would raise some eyebrows. But all the fears of the 8th film in franchise ruining it will have been put to rest, as it followed on the story so well and mankind still came out as the ones to blame. Which to me is the whole underlining plot behind the films.

It has been 10 years since the events in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Gen-Sys’ ALZ-113 virus has killed off the vast majority of the human race. With only a few pockets of survivors remaining alive. Lead ape Ceaser and his clan of intelligent apes – including the apes that helped Ceaser escape in the previous film: Maurice and Rocket – are where we left them last time, in the wooded areas outside of San Francisco. They have evolved, are learning to make a life for themselves and most can now talk. The apes think the humans to be extinct, and the humans don’t even know the apes exist, so you can imagine their surprise when the humans run into them whilst trying to turn a dam on for power.

Although turned away at first, Malcolm and his family return to plead with Ceaser to let them do their work, due to their colony being low on power and food. Although he agrees to let them, tensions are high as the decision does not sit well with some of the apes. With unpredictable characters on both species, Dreyfus for the humans and Koba for the apes, it seems just a matter of time before the war for planet Earth will begin.

Gary Oldman gives an impressive performance once again as the kill-anything-to-stay-alive Dreyfus, although his part is small compared to some of the other characters. The fact that he is not actually on-screen as much as Malcolm and his family or even the apes for that matter, but still gives a portrayal that sticks in your mind shows just how great of an actor he is. Personal favourite Jason Clarke (Malcolm) leads the human side of the scuffle as he attempts to show Ceaser that the two species can live in harmony. He forces the audience to sympathise with the humans once again; even if this is all their fault. Clarke’s talents have been evident in many films over recent years – Zero Dark Thirty/Public Enemies/Lawless – and every performance has been stellar. But of course the person who really steals the show in Andy Serkis as the apes alpha-male Ceaser. His compassion for the humans mixed in with his strength and attitude to do anything for his family and ape-kind make him the perfect character. You can sympathise with him, even when he’s at his most angry and aggressive. Most of Ceaser’s apes have grown up either being gawked at or tested on by humans so therefore have learnt to hate them. Ceaser however grew up with a loving family, and because of that saw the kindness that humans are capable of. His character shows this, as although apes are the superior species to him he still cares for the humans. This caring nature keeps the audience on his side even when he is angry, because he never lashes out or loses control unless it is needed. All he wants is for there to be peace.

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As was said before, one of the main reasons Rise of the Planet of the Apes was so good was because of how it concluded. The apes didn’t want any violence, just to be left in peace, and due to humanity’s own creation of the MLZ-113 virus they ended up killing themselves off. That was the reason it was so good, because the apes weren’t violent, mankind ended from what will probably happen in reality, their own doing. So naturally when watching the trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes it was a rather worrying thought that it was going to be ruined by having the apes fight the remaining humans for no reason whatsoever, except for power. Thankfully, this was not the case, and for reasons which will not be revealed because of spoilers, the only time the apes fight is when they have to.

This is a film which, as the title suggests, is trying to show how the apes have evolved since the first one, and how they will become the dominant species on planet Earth. This made the film so much different from what it seemed it was going to be about, we are treated to what the apes have created for themselves and how much they have built and advanced since the fall of the humans. They also show, in some respects, how they are the smarter species; violence, power and electricity are not an issue for them, all they want is peace.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has kept the franchise alive, and all round is a mournful film. In the sense that we see the humans stupidity and the apes loss.

Godzilla

Gareth Edwards returns to the monster genre to bring us the king.

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In ancient times, giant creatures known as Kaiju roamed the earth, feeding on the radiation. But when the levels began to drop, the monsters went deeper into the earth to continue living. In 1999 a mine is discovered with the remains of one of these monsters, and two eggs. One unbroken and one that has hatched. After a series of devastating earthquakes brought a power-plant in Japan to rubble, 15 years later Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is determined to prove that it was not a natural disaster, and rather something that is alive. An idea that is unfortunately true for Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson who is eager to get back to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and child in San Francisco, but constantly seems to run into the monsters. After several creatures called M.U.T.Os (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object) begin to emerge and destroy anything in their path, the military believe there is only one solution to the problem…blowing the s**t out of them. But Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) has another idea, to let nature do what it does best and have a superior creature go on the hunt. The one and only ‘king of the monsters’…Godzilla.

Although we have seen this story line a thousand times before in sci-fi films – not necessarily on the big screen. An unearthed creature that time has forgotten or that has been accidentally created by man runs amok, and the army attempt to shoot what ever they can at it. All the while a crazy scientist is warning them about the dangers. We have seen this before in films such as: Tarantula, Them! or The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. However Gareth Edwards somehow makes it work in away that makes the genre seem so fresh and original, like something we have never seen before.

The way that he does this is by using the audience’s anticipation so well, by revving it up to 11 before we even see the ‘king’. It is about halfway through the film until you get a glimpse of Godzilla in all his glory, and that keeps you gripped and eager. There are a lot of other monsters in the Godzilla franchise, such as: Mothra, Gigan and King Ghidorah. So fights are quite common, this film keeps you so enticed and ready to see the monsters square up against each other that when it finally delivers you aren’t disappointed.

Apart from the incredible picture, what was also a great improvement for a film such as this was the character portrayals; mainly Bryan Cranston’s. After the conclusion of Breaking Bad it would appear that Walter White still wants audiences to know that he can bring it; and he can. With only a short role that sticks in your head throughout the entire film. Another role that stuck out was that of Dr. Serizawa by Ken Watanabe, although he doesn’t exactly steal the show, it’s hard to picture any other Japanese actor in that role, despite the constant crazy expressions he give through the film.

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Let’s face it, the 1998 Roland Emmerich Godzilla reboot didn’t do a lot for the franchise, as it barely resembled Ishiro Honda’s 1954 version at all. However this new instalment takes fans back to the original look of Godzilla, and does the original justice. We get the scarred skin, the stubby legs and that incredible roar which we have been waiting for ever since word came out of Hollywood about this remake. Instead of just being shown as some dinosaur out of time or nuclear experiment gone wrong, Godzilla is shown as a force of nature that is not to be reckoned with. We can’t control nature no matter how much we try, and that is what he represents in this film. Sort of a return to normality, and restoring balance to the Earth from a time long forgotten.

One of the best things about this film was the picture and effects, some of the shots were just magnificent to watch. Even when the monsters – who looked incredible – weren’t on-screen it was just great to sit there and marvel at the eye-pleasing shots.

What Gareth Edwards does so well for the film – in the same way that Anthony and Joe Russo did for Captain America: The Winter Soldier – is to not cram the audience’s face with tons of CGI effects straight away and through most of the film. By doing this it adds realism to the picture, and when we are finally exposed to the CGI monsters we haven’t seen enough to be bored, like we were in Transformers. There were a few criticisms which only people who will have seen the film will understand, concerning the US army and their ridiculous plans, but nothing that would ruin the film. After all you are watching a film about giant monsters fighting, so you have to open up your mind a little bit.

Gareth Edwards has come a long way since his directorial film début of ‘Monsters’ in 2010, and he has done justice to the 1954 Godzilla in this blockbuster that has already announced a sequel.

Here’s hoping for ‘Destroy All Monsters’.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The witty web-slinging masked vigilante returns in a sequel that will have fan-boys trembling with excitement.

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Life hasn’t exactly been easy for Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield); first his parents are murdered (which is delved into much more), and then his uncle Ben is gunned down in the street by a criminal. Thankfully though he has the amazing abilities of a spider that help him to get through the day as he saves civilians in New York City. Although things appear to be looking up for the wall-crawler, Peter is still trying to deal with the death of Captain Stacy (his girlfriend’s father), and the promise that he made him in the first film. But pondering over the question of whether he should cut all ties to Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is not the only thing on Spidey’s mind, as a whole host of super-villains are emerging into his world. In an unfortunate twist of fate, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) – a nobody who just wants people to notice him – is turned into Electro; an unstable monster that can control electricity and has found a new hatred for Spider-Man. Figuring out his love life and fighting crime might only be part of the threats that Peter is going to face, as his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) comes into the picture, and is on a mission to prove that his father’s last words about him being a failure were wrong.

Although I was weary going into a new Spider-Man franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, it is definitely clear with the sequel that director Marc Webb is the man for the job. He has cranked everything up a notch from the first film, and not even things that needed to be done, but make the film so much better because they have been. As well as the picture quality, the effects and visuals are just on another level from the previous Spider-Man films; they make the entire movie seem more realistic and it pulls you into the film a lot further.

Along with this, the film improves on Spidey’s costume a little bit further, by adding the classic wide eye pieces to his mask, rather than the thin ones which have been used in every film to date. There was just something about this film that gripped you from start to finish, and made the almost 3 hour running time fly by. From the scenes that depict Peter’s everyday life, to the incredible action sequences, it all slotted together so well and will have you thinking ‘this is a great super-hero movie’.

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Of course with the new editions to the villain side of things – which includes Paul Giamatti as Rhino – there has to be the actors to play them, and the portrayals were dead on. Jamie Foxx’s depiction of the pissed-off-at-society Electro really makes you feel the rage, hatred and electricity that is flowing through his veins. The character of Electro has been re-imagined for the film; instead of a high school student who parades around in his green and yellow spandex when turned into a villain, he is now a grown man who works for Oscorp and his persona as Electro is now a blue-glowing horror that will have your nerves going wild. As both the shy Max Dillon and the enraged Electro he pulls off a stunning performance. This time round the character of Harry Osborn is given to us by the talented young Dane DeHaan, an actor who has been rising on the Hollywood radar ever since his breakthrough role in 2012’s Chronicle. His talents continue to shine as he plays the distraught son who needs to make his father (Chris Cooper) eat his final words and find a cure for a hereditary disease which they suffer from. Unfortunately in doing so he becomes the Green Goblin, once again a very scary one I might add. DeHaan’s role as both Harry and the Goblin are memorable, especially the latter, that chilling evil face will stick in your mind for weeks after viewing the film.

For all of you comic book fans out there, you will have noticed many little Easter eggs throughout the film. But for those of you unfamiliar with the Marvel universe, here are a few things you might have missed. First of all it seems quite possible that, in my opinion, one of the greatest team-ups may actually happen. I’m referring to Spider-Man and Black Cat, as we’re introduced to the character of Felicia Hardy (Felictiy Jones) in the form of Harry Osborn’s assistant. However that is not the only future characters we may have been introduced to. Max Dillon’s boss – Alistair Smythe – (B. J. Novak), if the writers decide to go down this route, is the son of Spencer Smythe, who is the inventor of the Spider-Slayers which are out to catch Spider Man. Probably the biggest hint at what is to come next though is the shady character seen in the end credits scene of the first film, and throughout a lot of this one. He is thought to be The Gentleman, a villain who assembles the super-villain team The Sinister Six; and as we have already heard that this is a route that the films will be going down, it is quite likely that he is him. Plus the fact that we see Doctor Octopus’ arms and Vulture’s wings at Oscorp, and part of the film being set in the Ravencroft institute where many of the villains may already be, is making this theory a reality.

Where Sam Raimi failed in adding too many villains to the story line (Green Goblin, Venom, Sandman), in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man Marc Webb has succeeded and made it work so well.

The future for the Spider-Man franchise is looking bright.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The first avenger returns in his second solo film; which sees the red, white and blue covered crusader take on much more than the Nazi Regime.

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Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has never really had a moment to think after he was unfrozen and then straight away thrust into battling for the fate of the Earth in The Avengers. So now Captain America is trying to adjust to the lifestyle of 21st century society. Once again working for Nick Fury and Alexander Pierce (portrayed by the talented Robert Redford),and teaming up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); the pair continue to complete missions for S.H.I.E.L.D in the hope that they can bring freedom to the planet. However, now that S.H.I.E.L.D have the technology to determine crime before it happens, Captain America begins to question the very organisation he works for. His trust in his superiors are the least of his problems though, as an undercover plan emerges that is much greater than anything he could have imagined. On top of that the introduction of a super-human assassin known only as The Winter Soldier, proves to be quite the competition for ‘Cap’; and makes his task of completing his mission even tougher.

What has been continuously noticeable about Marvel heroes who receive their own film, is that in their first movie their story will be introduced to the audience. But in their second outing the viewers get to see a more in-depth look at the characters themselves. As with Thor’s second film ‘Thor: The Dark World’, where we got a better picture of his history and actually how close he was to his brother Loki. In the Captain’s sequel the audience once again receives this treatment in the form of an old friend from his past making a return; without giving too much away this revival forces a few tear-jerking moments.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is on a completely different level than any other Marvel film that has come before it, simply because it has a much more mature and grown-up underlining plot behind it. By adding a villainous character such as The Winter Soldier – a killer who has helped shape all chaos of the past century – it makes the film touch on terrorist themes; hence making it more realistic and close to home. Unlike in previous films such as Captain America (2011) with the magic of the Tesseract, Avengers Assemble (2012) with the alien Chitauri army and Thor (2011) which basically had an all round space theme, this movie is made more realistic by using everyday threats that we face in the real world. Sure the technology is a little far-fetched at times, but it is much more real-life than what we have seen in previous Marvel films; and that is what makes it stand out from the rest.

As the phases of the Avengers films carry on, we are, with every film, introduced to more and more of the caped crusaders; and this film gave us one of my favourites, ‘Falcon’ (Anthony Mackie). It is great that the directors – Anthony and Joe Russo – decided to include Falcon (also known as Sam Wilson) into this instalment as him and the Captain constantly team up in the comic books. One of the great aspects of these new Marvel films is how the writers are adapting the heroes for a more up-to-date audience; and Falcon is an example of that. Instead of him wearing his classic brown-winged spandex and him having telepathic bird powers, he has been toned down to having robotic metal wings which attach like a jet-pack, that he used when he was fighting in Iraq. In the next pictures of the phases we can hope to see – apart from Ant-Man who is getting his own film – Black Panther (the African-fighting vigilante), Doctor Strange (the Earth’s most powerful sorcerer) and The Vision (an android who is created by the robotic menace Ultron.

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Other than the introduced characters and gripping storyline, what makes this one stand out as well, is that the effects and picture quality are just amazing. All Marvel films have had an incredible picture to accompany a great plot – apart from maybe The Incredible Hulk – however The Russo Brothers explained that they wanted to use more practical effects, rather than just load the whole film up with masses of CGI; and it is obvious when watching what an improvement it makes.

As with the conclusion of Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, it is hard to assume where Marvel are going to go next with future Avengers themed films, after viewing this ninth installment to the franchise. As something occurs in the movie that drastically alters what Avengers: Age of Ultron will contain. But the stories have been in good hands so far, and with Joss Whedon and Kevin Feige once again helming the Avengers director and producer chairs, it will surely play out well.

All in all Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a definite step forward in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; with its mature themes and practical effects. Let’s just hope that they continue on this path, and carry on bringing films to the screen that are enjoyed by both comic book fanatics and film lovers alike.

Independence Day 2 Update

Roland Emmerich is known for creating ridiculously over-the-top disaster movies – such as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. However back in the 90s he created – along with a questionable Godzilla remake – a film that should be in most film lovers collections. The 1996 alien invasion film ‘Independence Day’; starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman.

independenceday1Independence Day took its audience on a wild ride, as Captain Steven Hiller and David Levinson attempted to find a weakness for the alien intruders, who were destroying major cities all over the world with their giant laser beams. There were some very epic scenes throughout the film, most were of walls of fire vaporising everything in its path. However the inspirational speech given by president Thomas J. Whitmore and the emotional battle ending, along with Will Smith’s humorous witty portrayal of the army pilot are arguably the best parts of the film.

Here’s the news. We all know that Hollywood loves to remake or create sequels of their most popular films, and now Independence Day – even with the fury of the fans – is also getting this treatment. There is no plot line for the sequel at the moment, however what we do know is that the film’s biggest star, Will Smith, is not returning to play his character; which I’m sure is the reason a lot of audience members saw the original in the first place.

It is quite hard to picture Independence Day without Smith, so how Emmerich plans to make the story work and still keep the fans happy is yet to be seen.

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s success has constantly been going up with every film he releases; and it sky-rocketed after the release of his latest film, Django Unchained.

tarantinoThe director, who primarily uses dialogue and violence as the main aspects in his films, has had a go at many different genres. He’s made a heist film (Reservoir Dogs), two martial arts themed films (Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2), a war film (Inglourious Basterds) and a western (Django Unchained), among others. Every movie has kept audiences gripped to the screen with its lengthy spoken parts and intense action sequences; which generally require buckets of blood.

Just over a year after the release of his last film and Tarantino is already planning for his 9th movie, which I am sure will have a lot of fans excited. However, although I am not disappointed by this, instead of attempted a different genre as he has done is the past, he has stated that he will be making another western.

The film is entitled The Hateful Eight and is not a sequel to Django Unchained. Tarantino’s reasoning for doing another western is because now that he has learnt how to make one, he wants to make another. Inspiration for the film has been taken from John Sturges’ famous western The Magnificent Seven (hence the name), and the film which inspired that; Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (hence the name again).

Production, filming and casting are still a long way off, so not much is known about The Hateful Eight. Although rumours have surfaced that Tarantino has written a part specifically for Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who took leading roles in his previous two films.

quentin-tarantino-christoph-waltz-01Through the years Tarantino has planned films and then quickly dropped the ideas, whether or not he decides to make The Hateful Eight or not I hope something will be in the works from him soon.