The final film in Fox’s long-running X-Men franchise*, Dark Phoenix, is hitting cinemas soon. And while I’m a bit behind, it’s still a good excuse to go back and review the various X-Men films.
*And yes, I know there’s also New Mutants, but until its a certainty that that film is actually coming out, then this, for all intents and purposes, is the end.
RELEASED: July 14th 2000 DIRECTED BY: Bryan Singer WRITTEN BY: David Hayter, Tom DeSanto & Bryan Singer PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner & Ralph Winter MUSIC BY: Michael Kamen STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, Ray Park, Tyler Mane & Anna Paquin
In the near future, two outcasts, Wolverine and Rogue, are drawn into the conflict between the heroic X-Men and the villainous Brotherhood, who are fighting to decide the fate of mutants relationship with a human race that hates and fears them.
Looking back at these early films, they’re a far cry from the superheroics we’re used to in the modern day. They seem quite quaint now, both in the scale of their storytelling as well as the way they’re produced. Unlike modern day blockbusters like Endgame, which features space and time-travel and giant purple men, X-Men instead takes time to focus on more human issues and decidedly smaller thrills like basic superpowers and the occasional blue person.
I’ve decided to play through Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu once more, this time with a more varied team and to a more complete degree. But after watching the movie Pokémon: I Choose You, there are some things about the original Pokédex that I feel need updating.
While the movie is predominantly set in Kanto, it clearly is set in a world that includes all the other regions created since the first generation, unlike Let’s Go, which mostly operates in its own bubble. Because of that, some of the Pokémon that appear (or rather, don’t appear) doesn’t really make sense, because later generations have gone on to introduce further evolutions or pre-evolutions of those Pokémon. Furthermore, the fact that you play as new characters (Chase/Elaine) with a new rival (Trace), and can meet the player characters from previous games (Red/Blue/Green) means that this is clearly set some years after, when this increased number of Pokémon would be common knowledge (in-universe).
As such, I’ve decided to go through what the Kanto Pokédex seen in the Let’s Go games should look like, considering where it fits in the timeline:
We’ll get back to John Wick at some point, but for now, a much more pressing matter has come up: the final season of Game of Thrones…
RELEASED: April 14th 2019 – May 19th 2019 SHOWRUNNER: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss WRITTEN BY: Dave Hill, Bryan Cogman, David Benioff & D. B. Weiss DIRECTED BY: David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, David Benioff & D. B. Weiss MUSIC BY: Ramin Djawadi STARRING: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Joe Dempsie, Jacob Anderson, Iain Glen, Hannah Murray, Carice van Houten, Richard Dormer, Ben Crompton, Daniel Portman, Bella Ramsey, Vladimir Furdik, Pilou Asbæk, Anton Lesser, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Gemma Whelan, Tobias Menzies & Lino Facioli
In the final season of Game of Thrones, the Stark forces in the North, led by Jon Snow, Sansa Stark and Arya Stark, come together with the foreign legions of the ‘Mother of Dragons’, Daenerys Targaryen, to fight the Night King and his forces of the Undead in the ‘Great War’.
However, even with abysmal prospects ahead of them, Daenerys still has her eye on travelling south to King’s Landing for the ‘Final War’ against Cersei Lannister, where she hopes to reclaim the Iron Throne for the Targaryens. However, the revelation that Jon Snow is secretly the son of her brother Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna means that she is no longer the one with the greatest claim to the throne…
You’ve probably heard by now, but this season hasn’t gone down all that well with the majority of watchers. The reasons have been discussed online ad nauseam, but I’m going to discuss them again anyway because they’re pretty crucial to reviewing this season.
“People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer, but yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.”
RELEASED: October 24th 2014 DIRECTED BY: Chad Stahelski WRITTEN BY: Derek Kolstad PRODUCED BY: Basil Iwanyk & Erica Lee MUSIC BY: Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Laurence Fishburne, Peter Serafinowicz, Peter Stormare & Franco Nero
Unlike John Wick: Chapter 1, Chapter 2 seems to be just as good as I remember it being. While I will admit that some action sequences are better in the first movie, as a whole, the quality of the second film remains consistently high across all fronts.
For one, the action sequences are more bountiful and varied – you have car action, hand-to-hand action, gunfights, pencil fights, knife fights; the whole shebang. All of it is excellently choreographed, and while there are some action sequences that feel slightly repetitive; I suppose it makes sense that a dedicated assassin would have his go-to movies.
Chapter 2 opens with John Wick finally tracking down his car from the first movie, and finishing off the rest of his Russian rival’s forces. However, after inflicting so much carnage, John gets a visit from an Italian crimelord whom he owes a favour, and who has come to collect now that John is seemingly back in the game. Forced to take on a job he doesn’t want to do – one that will have dire consequences – John must once more take a whole lot of lives so that he can return to retirement.
The main problem with the first film was perhaps the script. Fortunately, the script for Chapter 2 seems to have improved greatly, despite being written by the same man, John Wick creator Derek Kolstad. Here, the dialogue is less awkward and more flowing, and John gets to develop his personality a bit more. The world he inhabits is further fleshed out, and the result is a fascinating and different action film to those that have come before. Whereas Chapter 1 had hints of this, it mostly centred in on the tired ‘practised killer, out for revenge after the death of a loved one’ trope, and while, of course, that can be done right, Chapter 1 just hit the same beats and relied heavily on its action spectacle.
Chapter 2 manages to create its own world that’s worth exploring, with interesting characters and an interesting plot and then heaping Stahelski’s excellent action back on top.
There are some great performances here; Common, I think, being the highlight for me, and Ian McShane’s Winston once again standing above the rest. Reeve’s Wick is less hammy this time around and feels more genuinely burdened as a result.
I’m not sure what exactly has changed here, seeing as Chapter 1 co-director David Leitch wasn’t credited on the first film and didn’t contribute to directorial duties at all on the second film, but his disappearance seems to make all the difference. Furthermore, if you look to his projects post-Wick (Deadpool 2), one can’t help but wonder if he was dragging the project down slightly.
RELEASED: October 24th 2014 DIRECTED BY: Chad Stahelski & David Leitch WRITTEN BY: Derek Kolstad PRODUCED BY: Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Michael Witherill & Eva Longoria MUSIC BY: Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick & Willem Dafoe
John Wick: Chapter 1 is the explosive debut of the John Wick franchise; the third entry of which is in cinemas now. The film follows the titular retired hit-man after some punks steal his car and kill the dog his deceased wife left for him, and he is forced to get back in the game and get his revenge – racking up a sizeable body count in the process.
When I first watched John Wick, I went in with no expectations after randomly picking it up for £3 one morning after work. My positive opinion of it has remained with me ever since and prompted me to go see the second film, which I also enjoyed. With John Wick: Chapter 3 now in cinemas, I sat down to watch the film again for the first time in three years, this time with my action-cynical girlfriend in tow, to see if she would join me at the cinema. The end result, whether that be due to me seeing it through her eyes, or me just taking more of it in, is that this film is perhaps not as good as I’ve been thinking it was for the past few years.
The strength of John Wick comes from the trio of star Keanu Reeves, and the two directors, Chad Stahelski and (the uncredited) David Leitch. When it comes to action, Reeves immerses himself in a role, doing his best to do as many of the stunts as he can, and making sure he’s an expert in whatever action style he’s portraying. Similarly, Stahelski and Leitch are former stuntmen, who have experience working on action films with excellent choreography such as Captain America: Civil War. Here, as they make their directorial debut, you can see them bringing all that excellent stunt knowledge and style to the director’s chair(s), and the result is some beautiful action sequences.
The choreography is immense, and watching Reeves’ John Wick mow through his attackers with his ‘gun fu’ fighting style is gripping and visceral. The locales these fights take place in often make what you’re watching vibrant and alive, and so scenes like ‘the club’ section of the movie really shine and stick with you.
But outside of that, this film is a bit lacking. The story is simple (but admittedly poignant), and the script is not so great. While there are some funny lines, the dialogue is mostly quite weak, with awkward lines and a lot of (as Rachel pointed out) people just saying each other’s names. It’s meant to show that Wick is well known amongst this assassin’s community, and it works, but it also makes you feel like the action is wholly the focus (which it is, pretty much) at the expense of the dialogue. Of course, how well this dialogue comes off is also affected by the actor delivering it. Keanu, in true Keanu style, straddles the line between the amusing, detached assassin, and a hammy mess of a man. Ian McShane, conversely, brings a lot of gravitas to his lines, as he hints at potential set-up for the sequel, while other characters, like Palicki’s Ms Perkins or Nyqvist’s Tarasov, unfortunately, can’t make the weird lines they have to sprout feel genuine. Not necessarily their fault though.
Ultimately, John Wick is a great action spectacle in the first half, full of colourful shots and excellent action, but falls down as soon as you start to look too closely. The excitement also starts to drop off in the third act, as the rather short runtime still somehow seems to drag on.
RELEASED: November 16th 2018 DEVELOPED BY: Game Freak PUBLISHED BY: The Pokémon Company & Nintendo
Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu / Eevee! are remakes of the first generation of Pokémon games, specifically the special edition Pokémon: Yellow, where, instead of getting to choose from a Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle as your starter Pokémon at the beginning of your journey, you are instead given a Pikachu (or Eevee, depending on the version you buy). Similarly, rather than being a straight-up remake, Let’s Go! meshes in some of the gameplay mechanics of the popular Pokémon GO! mobile game, to create a new-user friendly variant of the classic Pokémon games that hoped to capitalise on GO!‘s huge success.
RELEASED: May 10th 2019 DIRECTED BY: Rob Letterman WRITTEN BY: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly, Nicole Perlman & Rob Letterman PRODUCED BY: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Hidenaga Katakami & Don McGowan MUSIC BY: Henry Jackman STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Diplo, Ken Watanabe & Bill Nighy
Twenty-three years after the release of Pokémon Red and Green (/Blue, to western audiences), Pokémon has finally hit our screens as a live-action movie. And unlike the majority of video-game adaptations, it’s pretty darn good!
The film follows former aspiring Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (Smith), as he is forced to venture into Rime City after his father, an ace detective, dies on a case. There, he meets his father’s amnesiac Pokémon partner, Pikachu (Reynolds), who for some unknown reason, Tim can understand. Pikachu is adamant that Tim’s father is actually alive, and so the pair set off the solve the cases of Pikachu’s amnesia and Tim’s dad’s disappearance, both of which are somehow connected to the mysterious genetically engineered Pokémon Mewtwo.
When it comes to making a live-action Pokémon movie, there’s one thing that the creators had to get right – the Pokémon. Which, fortunately, they do. Rime City is rife with Pocket Monsters ranging from those we first met in Red and Blue back in the late nineties, all the way up to appearances from newer creatures who debuted in the Sun and Moon entries just a few years ago.
Fan favourites like Charizard and Greninja get their time in the spotlight, while a wealth of other Pokémon such as Treecko, Pidgeotto and Rattata proliferate the background. The world truly feels alive, and you can totally buy into the harmonious relationship between humans and Pokémon, and how that all works.