“You didn’t ask for reality. You asked for more teeth!” Jurassic World review.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the park with genetically modified dinosaurs! When Steven Spielberg first opened the gates to the awe-inspiring world of Jurassic Park back in 1993, he could probably envision its success overnight. However, he could’ve also predicted the inevitably uninspiring sequels to come.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park had its moments. But even Jeff Goldblum couldn’t save it from its absolutely ridiculous ending that still doesn’t make sense no matter how many times you watch it. Oh and I almost forgot karate gymnast girl who loves to boot Velociraptors through windows. I mean, come on.

Let’s not even get into Jurassic Park III.

But twenty-two years after park creator John Hammond (played by the late, great Richard Attenborough) decided not to endorse Jurassic Park, because you know, the dinosaurs started eating everyone, along stomps Colin Trevorrow’s fourth instalment to the saga, Jurassic World.

(‘Everything is roar-some!’ The Indominus Rex gets ready to chow down.)

Where Hammond’s original park had only a handful of different species of dinosaur, a simple safari style tour and two programmers that controlled the entire Costa Rican island, this new park makes the old one look like a flea circus. Now a fully-fledged theme park with monorails, futuristic cable cars, nifty little self-controlled glass orb thingys and dozens of species of dinosaur, Hammond’s dream has become the new Disneyland.

The film has many a nostalgic pop; Mr DNA, the heavy so they’re expensive night vision goggles, even Dr Wu is back from the original. But Jurassic World’s supreme sentimental moment and one of the best moments of the film, comes after we follow young Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) out onto the balcony of his hotel suite, getting our first proper look at the park. If the combination of sweeping visuals and John Williams’ infamous Jurassic Park theme (slightly modified by Star Trek composer Michael Giacchino) doesn’t give you goosebumps, then you’re dead inside.

Gray and his bigger brother Zach (Nick Robinson), who’s clearly more interested in girls than Gallimimus’, find themselves at the park after their parents send them off to spend some quality time with aunty and park operations manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard).

(Erm…)

Clearly though, normal dinosaurs just aren’t enough for some people, with investors keen to maximise the park’s potential by tampering with dino genetics creating new hybrid species that will really wow visitors and spike attendances.  “They’re dinosaurs. Wow enough,” says Raptor trainer – yes you heard me, Raptor trainer – Owen, played by Chris Pratt, who executes his best Indiana Jones audition yet.

Enter the Indominus Rex. Jurassic World’s big, and I mean big, bad. Of course it escapes and of course they can’t contain it, sending the park into meltdown with thousands of lives, including Claire’s nephews’, in danger.

Obviously Jurassic World is no match for the original. No past, present or future Jurassic film will ever be. Trevorrow knows this and instead of trying to recapture the feel of Spielberg’s classic, The Safety Not Guaranteed director shoots straight for an all-out dino disaster movie. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s pure box office gold. A record breaking $1 billion to be precise. At times it’s a mindless blockbuster; an utterly predictable, CGI blasted gumf. Mostly however, it’s a really fun and enjoyable thrill-ride. Will we see another Jurassic sequel in the near future? A billion dollars says we might.

7/10

“My world is fire. And blood.” Mad Max: Fury Road review.

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron put the pedal to the metal in George Miller’s sequel/reboot Mad Max: Fury Road.

Fast-paced, frenetic and fuelled by an unquenchable thirst for chaos, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is exactly what it says on the tin.

After several years in development dating back to 2001, Miller’s latest foray into the nightmarish, post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, brings Mel Gibson’s incarnation of the revengeful road warrior to an end. Fury Road introduces a new Max played by Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Returns, Bronson). Whether or not this is the same Max from the previous three films is entirely up to you, as Fury Road is as much a reboot as it could be a sequel.

Miller’s fourth film in the series hardly needs an introduction, despite getting one from Hardy’s gravel-voiced Max. Bringing up to speed those who aren’t so savvy in the ways of this nitro-fuelled world of craziness, Fury Road starts as it means to go on – with twisted metal and burning rubber.

Max is taken prisoner by the War Boys, white painted, bald-headed punks, who serve the tyrannical and skull-masked Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Joe’s champion, the robotic armed action-woman Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), leads a mission to collect much-needed fuel for his citadel. But, after Joe discovers Furiosa has secretely smuggled his young, innocent wives out of his lair, he sends his War Boys and surrounding armies (including a flame throwing electric guitar playing person) to hunt her down.

Sound weird? It is.

But how does Max become involved in all this? Nux (Nicholas Hoult), an ambitious young War Boy, uses Max as a ‘blood bag’ (a kind of weird blood transfusion) whilst tearing through the desert in chase of Furiosa.

(Bane has the weirdest holidays! Hardy’s Max isn’t happy playing prisoner.)

Many intensely choreographed and visually stunning action sequences later, Max strikes an unlikely alliance with Theron’s Furiosa and her escapees, helping them free the clutches of Joe along the fury road with his armies in hot pursuit.

This unrelenting piece of cinema form George Miller is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It has a real visceral quality about it, certainly more so than his previous Max outings.

With breath-taking action sequences, ramped up even more by the film’s penchant for practical CGI and in camera stunts, Fury Road is pure adrenaline flowing action. Namibia’s deserts provide the perfect backdrop for this nuclear ravaged world, as clusters of motorised monsters rip through the sand in a blaze of fire and brimstone.

But sadly it’s nothing more.

(Enter guitar playing flamethrower man! Yes, this is a real thing, in real film. Brilliant.)

Hardy’s Max is rather dull and Theron’s Furiosa is well, also rather dull, leading her gang of models through the never ending wasteland of outlandish characters and generic B-movie dialogue. There’s no real story here, even to the characters, which seriously damages the film’s appeal.

To begin with Fury Road doesn’t appear to take itself too seriously. Its cartoonish characters and ridiculously fast paced narrative remind you of Wacky Races – on speed. But as the minutes tick by Fury Road sets out its stool as a one-dimensional, all out action fest.

An undoubtedly surreal experience that has its moments, Fury Road is a disappointing joyride across a desert of what could have been. Max went ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ in his last sequel. Perhaps he should’ve stayed there.

5/10

“I’ll be on your time.” Whiplash review.

Miles Teller and JK Simmons star in the Oscar winning drumming drama Whiplash. 

Whiplash: a sudden, forceful injury usually sustained by a severe jerk to the head. Well, that’s the official definition anyway. Damien Chazelle’s triple Oscar winning film Whiplash, about an aspiring jazz drummer and his oppressive conductor, is a psychological car crash that hits harder than most and stays with you long after its final note.

Miles Teller (21 & Over, The Spectacular Now) plays promising 19-year-old drummer Andrew Nieman, who in his first year of music college, is cherry-picked by studio jazz band conductor Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons).

Excellent in pretty much everything he does, from the cartoonish J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man to the caring but quirky Dad in Juno, Simmons gets serious here as the autocratic and intensely punishing Fletcher.

(JK Simmons has got a mean game face as the intensely overbearing Fletcher)

Exactly on the stroke of the hour, he bursts in through the studio doors like a drill sergeant greeting his jarheads at morning inspection, barking orders in the form of bars, time signatures and tempos. Fletcher owns the room and his time better be the only one.

It’s a deserved Oscar for Simmons in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. The image of Fletcher’s clenched fist appearing over and over again in disapproval of a note out of tune or a fill out of time, is one of utter dread.

The personal attacks are hard to watch, yet Fletcher justifies his cruelty by stating that he is there “to push people beyond what’s expected of them.” His psychological bombardment fuels Andrew’s desire to be one of the great’s like Charlie Parker, but it take its toll on the young man both mentally and physically.

(“Somebody got Ketchup all over the kit! Come on guys!”)

Teller’s performance is just as tight as Simmons’. He plays a driven Andrew with a touch of melancholy, which in turn, builds to an almighty crescendo at the end of film’s second act.

A drummer from the age of 15, Teller did actually play the music his character performs in the film. Broken into chunks and then shot piece by piece, Chazelle and editor Tom Cross (who won an Oscar for his work on the film), made it look as though Teller was actually playing the whole way through, most notably in the film’s glorious climax.

Whiplash isn’t for everybody but, you don’t need to be a lover of jazz to appreciate its layered storytelling, incredible musical performances and first-class acting. And though you may not come back to it with a great fondness, Whiplash demands to be seen, heard and experienced.

8/10

“If you step out that door, you’re an Avenger.” Avengers: Age of Ultron review.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and co. re-assemble to save the world in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Joss Whedon’s Marvel-ous superhero sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, swoops in at a lengthy 2 hours and 21 minutes.  But you know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun, and Age of Ultron is exactly that – fun.

The Avengers are back and well and truly assembled this time around, finding themselves up against a tyrannical artificial intelligence called Ultron (James Spader). Spawned from a programme designed by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) in order to protect the world form all things villain-y, Ultron sets out to destroy The Avengers and re-shape the world as he sees fit.

But hold on a minute! Let’s backtrack slightly. After taking care of Loki and bonding over Schawarma back in Avengers Assemble; Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), all went their separate ways.

Yet, they’ve clearly had time to attend the odd team-building weekend. The film’s grand opening introduces us to the fictional country Sokovia, where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have come to recapture Loki’s sceptre from HYDRA baddie Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann).

(Strike a pose! Earth’s Mightiest plunge into battle)

After disposing of his henchmen with ease, and even posing for a team photo (not literally), the team hit a snag in the form of twins Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Piotr Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a.k.a Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver. (This Quicksilver is not to be confused with X-Men: Days of Future Past’s Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters, which is a completely different incarnation. Your welcome).

The “he’s fast, she’s weird” combo prove a handful, especially when the latter messes with Iron Man’s mind revealing his fear of seeing his friends killed, which in turn, results in Mr Stark creating Ultron.

Despite reports before the film’s release that Age of Ultron was darker than its predecessor, Whedon’s baby still packs a punch in the laughter department. Though its lighter moments mainly arrive in the first half, there’s plenty of them, and the scene where each Avenger attempts to lift Thor’s hammer in order to ‘prove themselves worthy’ will be a favourite of many.

But what about Age of Ultron’s title character? Will he go down as one of comic book movie’s greatest villains? Probably not, no. James Spader’s (Stargate, The Blacklist) mo-capped mechanical monster looks great and even sounds great but, Ultron, like most of Marvel’s villains (apart from Loki), suffers from a rather one dimensional outlook.

(“I’m the Hulkbuster, bitch!” Iron Man limbers up to tackle the Hulk)

However, Ultron does serve as a worthy foe and certainly allows the Marvel cinematic universe to further develop some of its flagship characters like Iron Man and Cap, ahead of next year’s colossal showdown in Captain America: Civil War.

As well the main characters jostling for screen time, some of Avenger’s lesser figures come to the fore here. In the first film it was Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk that stole the show. In Age of Ultron, it’s a rather surprising turn from everybody’s least favourite Avenger, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. This turns out to be a masterstroke from departing director Joss Whedon who isn’t returning for Avengers: Infinity War, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier maestro’s, the Russo brothers, taking over.

Of course, there’s plenty of action to geek out to with story development often playing second fiddle to long, expansive action sequences. ‘But this is The Avengers! We want action!’ And boy, do we get it, especially in the form of Hulk and Iron Man’s ‘Hulkbuster’ going toe-to-toe, levelling an entire building or two.

All in all, Age of Ultron is one of Marvel’s strongest films to date. Although it probably falls short against the likes of last summer’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this action-packed sequel is a thrill-ride from start to finish, and offers just a glimpse of what’s still to come from Marvel Studios. We’ll be watching.

‘Nuff said!

8/10

‘The Zombienator?’ Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in the trailer for zombie drama Maggie.

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Arnie has had to deal with pretty much every kind of bad guy imaginable on screen. Aliens, robots, sea serpents, heck – he’s even going to be fighting a younger version of himself in the new Terminator movie.

But there’s one type of bad guy he hasn’t faced – Zombies, or more specifically, a zombie that’s his own bloody daughter!

Arnold Schwarzengger and Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) star in Maggie, a post-apocalyptic drama/horror about the relationship between a Midwest farmer (Arnie) and his zombie infected daughter (Breslin).

From the trailer and the fact that this indie film was supposed to debut at the Toronto Film Festival last year (Lionsgate bought the rights and pulled it from the roster), Maggie isn’t the type of film you’d normally associate with action geared Arnold.

But at the ripe old age of 67, perhaps we’ll see him in these more serious roles more often – “He’s remaking Conan you know!?” – Oh, well perhaps not.

Maggie is out later this year.

The first Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation trailer flies in.

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Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt in the first full trailer for Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

And after scaling the world’s tallest building last time out in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, the IMF super agent looks to go one better this time – by hanging off the side of a friggin’ plane!

The fifth and potentially last film in the Mission: Impossible series, Ethan Hunt and his IMF team are after the mysterious, and rather dangerous, organisation known as The Syndicate.

But with the IMF now disbanded, Hunt must use any means necessary to uncover the truth about this shady outfit which of course involves gadgets, car chases, explosions and, wait is that a flute-gun?! Impossible!

Directed by Jack Reacher‘s Christopher McQuarrie, the film also stars the returning Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, as well as Alec Baldwin and Rebecca Ferguson.

This message will self-destruct in 5, 4, 3… ah you know the drill.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation is out July 31 (UK).

Star Wars announce first stand alone film ‘Rogue One’ and details on Episode VIII.

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Are you prepared for ultra massive Death Star sized Star Wars news?

Good, because yesterday, via its official website, Star Wars announced the title for its first stand alone spin off film – Rogue One.

Godzilla and Monsters director Gareth Edwards is set to direct, whilst Oscar nominee Chris Weitz (Cinderella, About a Boy, Antz) will pen the script.

We also know our first cast member – Oscar nominee and The Theory of Everything starlet Felicity Jones, as well as the film’s release date; December 16, 2016.

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But wait, what’s that, more news you say!?

With little over nine months until Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Disney bosses also announced yesterday that Star Wars Episode VIII will be written and directed by Rian Johnson.

Known for sci-fi action Looper, and behind the camera for three episodes of Breaking Bad, including “Ozymandias,” which series creator Vince Gilligan hails as being the best installment of the entire show, the talented Johnson will take the baton (although, probably a lightsaber) from Episode VII director J.J. Abrams, who’ll move up to executive producer.

Episode VIII also has a release date; May 26, 2017 – forty years and a day after the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977.

The first of three planned stand alone Star Wars films, plot details and character roles for Rogue One are of course strictly rumour based at this point (a Jar Jar Binks cameo is all but dead in the water), yet its widely considered that it will centre on the Death Star destroying, orange jumpsuit wearing, X-Wing flying Rogue Squadron.

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Early rumblings also suggest that Felicity Jones could in fact be playing Princess Leia, and that the film will be set after the events of Return of the Jedi, and way before The Force Awakens. Pure speculation this is.

If you’ve done the math and worked out the odds (never tell Han Solo though), it means in the next three years we’ll have three brand new Star Wars films to celebrate.

May the force be with them, and us.