Category Archives: Adventure

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) Review

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Avatar The Way of Water

Time: 192 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Sam Worthington as Jake Sully
Zoe Saldaña as Neytiri
Sigourney Weaver as Kiri
Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch
Kate Winslet as Ronal
Cliff Curtis as Tonowari
Director: James Cameron

Jake Sully and Neytiri have formed a family and are doing everything to stay together. However, they must leave their home and explore the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.

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I have to admit, I was one of the many people who didn’t love the first Avatar upon its release, the visuals and effects were certainly revolutionary, but didn’t have much love for it beyond that. I was also one of the many who were sceptical on the many upcoming sequels, which seemed to be taking forever to come out. However, as it gradually approached the movie’s release, my interest started to increase. After seeing most of the modern blockbusters from the past 5 years, it’ll be refreshing to see one that has this much craft and care put into it. Not only that, but I also rewatched the first Avatar for the first time in a decade and I appreciated it a lot more, even beyond its technical strengths. So I went into The Way of Water open minded and it turned out even better than I was expecting.

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As with the first Avatar, the story is simple, but it helps to convey the world and characters, and particularly benefits from James Cameron’s great visual storytelling. The Way of Water felt truly epic, the worldbuilding continues to excel and I was incredibly immersed. Cameron clearly has a passion for this world with the level of detail on display. It distinguishes itself from the first movie, instead of just staying in the same location, it expands on it and explores some new territory. Much of the themes from the first movie return in the sequel, namely anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, but also with more added elements, family being prominent most of all. The movie focusses on the family of Jake Sully and Neytiri and their children; the bond between the family members felt incredibly natural and believable. Despite the scale of the film, it feels very intimate as it focuses on these characters. There is so much heart and sincerity, truly magical with strong heart and soul. The emotion feels authentic and rich, an highlight being the scenes involving the whales. There is real sincerity to this movie, which I think most blockbusters nowadays are sorely lacking in. The middle hour is surprisingly quiet and lacking in conflict, but I enjoyed it for that. Much of it consists of the kids learning about their new setting and learning about the water, and honestly I could watch hours of that. Then the film culminates in a lengthy, but action filled and satisfying third act. The Way of Water is a long movie at over 3 hours in length, you definitely feel this, but in a good way, and I was never bored.  

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Whereas the first movie was mainly Jake’s story, The Way of Water is more of an ensemble piece. As a result, some characters are utilised and focused on more than others. Nonetheless, everyone is great. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana return to the roles of Jake Sully and Neytiri. While I thought Worthington worked well enough in the first movie, I thought he notably improved in the sequel, and was genuinely great at conveying where Jake is currently at. Saldana wasn’t used as much in the film, but she is still good and particularly shines in the last hour of the film. The new cast which includes Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet also give solid performances in their parts. However, the biggest surprise was most of all the younger cast, mainly the actors who play Jake and Neytiri’s children, who were great and believable.

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Among the cast, there were two standouts to me. Sigourney Weaver plays a teenage Avatar named Kiri and the casting is definitely odd, for the obvious age difference as well as the fact that Weaver’s character Grace in the first film died. However, it makes sense in the film, especially with how Kiri relates to Grace. Her performance is great, and she was one of the most interesting characters in the film. Stephen Lang’s Colonel Quaritch was the main villain in the first Avatar; he wasn’t a very complex character by any means, but he was nonetheless effective for his role, and Lang’s performance was key in making it work. Quaritch died at the end of the first movie, but the film did find a way to get him to return. Mild spoilers (it’s shown early on), but he finds himself in an Avatar body and returns to go after Jake Sully and his family. Lang as always is effortlessly entertaining and scene-chewing, but both the performance and character are even better here. Not only is he more menacing, ruthless and dangerous in Way of the Water, but is more complex and human (ironically). This is a genuine improvement of a character, and I was interested in whatever was happening with his storyline.   

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Avatar: The Way of Water is yet another technical achievement from James Cameron. While some could just say that its just good visuals and appealing to the eye, the powerful technology helps to convey the story as well as it does. Unsurprisingly it is a visual marvel, Cameron has revolutionized visuals just like what he did in the first movie. The effects are on a whole other level, realistic looking with plenty of details, and it helps to immerse you in this setting. Some of the most impressive aspects are the water effects, which are fantastic. The action is entertaining, well captured and choreographed, and the third act is particularly a thrill to watch. The score from Simon Franglen is great and is very much in line with James Newton Howard’s score for the first movie.

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Avatar: The Way of Water is spectacular, beautiful, and epic yet intimate, with great performances, immersive and rich worldbuilding, a simple but compelling story, and outstanding effects. It’s a technical achievement, a great sequel that builds on the original, and one of the best movies of 2022. There was a lot to take in, so I’d need to see it again to check it I have any problems with it. But for now, I’ll just say that it’s worth watching in cinemas for the visuals and technology alone, even though I found the movie great on the whole. The 13-year wait turned out to be well worth it. James Cameron is clearly invested in this story and characters and I’m on board to watch however many sequels he wants to make. Hopefully it won’t have to take too long for Avatar 3 to come out.

The Book of Boba Fett (2021) TV Review

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The Book of Boba Fett

Cast:
Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett
Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand
Pedro Pascal as Din Djarin/The Mandalorian
Matt Berry as the voice of 8D8
Jennifer Beals as Garsa Fwip
Carey Jones as Krrsantan
Sophie Thatcher as Drash
Jordan Bolger as Skad
Creator: Jon Favreau

On the sands of Tatooine, bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand navigate the Galaxy’s underworld and fight for Jabba the Hutt’s old territory.

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Normally I wouldn’t be interested in any film or tv show focusing on Boba Fett; despite the character’s popularity I wasn’t that into him. However, I liked Temuera Morrison’s appearance as Fett in The Mandalorian Season 2, so that had me interested in him leading his own show. I went into The Book of Boba Fett open minded and while I enjoyed it, I was left underwhelmed.

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While The Book of Boba Fett was off to a fairly rough start with sluggish pacing, I thought it was a decent exploration of its title character, and it expanded on him in some way. There’s even an episode where it shows Boba Fett spending time with a tribe of Tusken Raiders; it was very interesting and honestly the whole show could’ve focused on that. In fact, the flashbacks ended up being more interesting than the actual present-day storyline focusing on Boba Fett becoming a crime lord. The crime aspect ended up being a wasted opportunity and wasn’t as interesting as it could’ve been. The plot is incredibly uneven with what it chooses to focus on, and as said earlier, the pacing is sluggish. The writing felt undercooked and poorly conceived, almost as if the premise wasn’t enough to carry an entire show. Now for some mild spoilers for the latter part of the series. Episode 5 and 6 primarily centers on The Mandalorian and everything he’s getting up to and while it is interesting especially in contrast to what Boba Fett was doing, it is a notable divergence of the main story. Thing is that they easily could’ve just brought the character in as a notable supporting role for Boba’s show, but there are further developments with Mandalorian and Grogu that basically makes the show essential viewing so you are ready for season 3. So yes, at a point it becomes Mandalorian Season 2.5. Boba Fett isn’t in episode 5, and episode 6 he’s essentially a non speaking cameo. This means that 72% of this show is actually about Boba Fett. Not helping is that episode 6 does some worldbuilding that doesn’t feel relevant to the story of The Mandalorian, so its not even enjoyable on that front. For what its worth though, the finale is entertaining enough just with the action, but by the end the show doesn’t feel satisfying.

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Temuera Morrison plays Boba Fett, and honestly most of my enjoyment of the character comes from his performance. I do have an issue with the character though. There is a deliberate shift in his personality; no longer is he a ruthless bounty hunter, and he’s now an amateur crime lord who intends to rule with respect instead of fear and violence. I’m fine with the development, but it rushes through all of that and it is jarring. Also, much of the source of unintentional comedy in the show is Boba Fett wanting to be a crime lord but not wanting to do any crime and hating crime, almost like he hasn’t had the concept of his job explained to him. Another prominent character is Fennec Shand as played by Ming-Na Wen. She didn’t have much character development in the Mandalorian, but that was easier to look past since she only appeared in a few episodes. However, she doesn’t really do much in the Boba Fett show either. It is like her only purpose here outside of being an ally to Boba Fett is to contrast his now honorable character with her more ruthless bounty hunter. The rest of the supporting characters aren’t particularly interesting to talk about. I can talk about a few spoilerish characters however. Pedro Pascal’s The Mandalorian stole the show when he appeared, as to be expected. Cad Bane is a bounty hunter from many of the animated Star Wars shows and made his live action debut as one of the main villains of the show by the end. His inclusion definitely screams fanservice and won’t be notable to people who aren’t familiar with the character already. However, he was entertaining enough and worked in his scenes with Boba Fett. On a more negative note, The Mandalorian Season 2 ended with CGI Luke Skywalker (which I have many complaints about), and unfortunately he makes a return here in the 6th episode; I pretty much hated all of his scenes. Regardless of whether Mark Hamill had any involvement in the performance or not, he just feels so artificial and lifeless, not helped by the uncanny valley de-aging CGI.

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I found the direction and technical elements to be a bit of a mixed bag. Tatooine is such a dull and tired setting, and it feels empty in all the wrong ways. The Volume may have been revolutionary especially in how it was used in Mandalorian, but its faults are quickly shown in Boba Fett. I think that Episode 5 was by far the best directed of the series (incidentally much of it isn’t on Tatooine). On the whole, the action is rather basic, the editing is messy, and the CGI is hit and miss. On the bright side, Ludwig Göransson returns from The Mandalorian to compose the score for this show, and it is really good as to be expected. Easily the most consistently strong part from the show.  

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I should clarify that I don’t hate The Book of Boba Fett, in fact I enjoyed it. I like some of the performances and characters, it has some good ideas and moments, and overall, I’m glad that I watched it. However, it is easily one of the worst things in Star Wars when it comes to live action movies and shows. As seen by the shift of focus in episode 5, the show was ill conceived from the start, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the writing was rushed. The writing is undercooked, and even much of the technical elements are a mixed bag. If you like the Mandalorian but don’t have an interest in this show, it might be worth watching the last 3 episodes at the very least, so you’re prepared for Season 3. Otherwise you aren’t missing much if you don’t check out the show.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022) Review

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She-Hulk Attorney at Law

Age Rating: 860940[1] 
Cast:
Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters /She-Hulk
Jameela Jamil as Mary MacPherran/Titania
Ginger Gonzaga as Nikki Ramos
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Josh Segarra as Augustus “Pug” Pugliese
Mark Linn-Baker as Morris Walters
Tess Malis Kincaid as Elaine Walters
Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination
Benedict Wong as Wong
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Mallory Book
Jon Bass as Todd Phelps
Rhys Coiro as Donny Blaze
Griffin Matthews as Luke Jacobson
Patti Harrison as Lulu
Steve Coulter as Holden Holliway
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Brandon Stanley as Eugene Patilio/Leap-Frog
Drew Matthews as Dennis Bukowski
Creator: Jessica Gao

Jennifer Walters has a complicated life as a single, 30-something attorney who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk.

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I heard about the upcoming show based on the Marvel character She-Hulk. I’m not too familiar with the character beyond the fact that she is a lawyer, Bruce Banner’s cousin, and also has Hulk abilities. Tatiana Maslany’s casting as the title character did have my interest despite having some doubts from seeing the trailers. Overall, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a very mixed bag. There are some good performances, mainly with Maslany as the title character, and it has some good moments. However, it is let down by the messy and confused writing, and humour that mostly misses (especially with its meta-aspects).

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One thing I can praise She-Hulk for is the fact that it actually utilised its TV structure. With the exception of WandaVision, all the live action MCU shows feel like stories that could’ve served as individual films, but were instead stretched out into 6 episodes. Regardless of the quality, it is good that the show treats itself as an actual tv show. The writing is easily the worst part of the show and lets everything done. She Hulk aims to be a comedy first and foremost, so it’s a shame that the comedy itself is very hit or miss. I’ve seen worse comedy but there are so many painful moments where it doesn’t work at all. A notable element is that they have Jennifer/She Hulk talk directly to the audience and breaking the fourth wall as she makes comments about the situation and talks specifically to the audience. It is definitely going for 4th wall breaking similar to Fleabag, but doesn’t pull it off nearly as well. Even if you put aside the comedy, the rest of the writing isn’t good either. The plotlines are not interesting, even those that had some real potential such as Jennifer Walters becoming She-Hulk while in the shadow of her established cousin ultimately doesn’t amount to much. This show is 9 episodes long and while the length of each episode is between 30-40 minutes, it feels like a chore watching most of them. There is just no drive in the show, and you don’t feel like much has actually progressed. I find the low stakes approach refreshing compared to all the typical end of the world stakes stories, but even with the more personal approach, it is hard to care about what’s happening. While I do appreciate the tone being consistently comedic instead of jumping between comedy and drama, I couldn’t take most things that happened seriously. This show is also a painful case of being written by people who are chronically online (funny considering that it makes fun of chronically online people). Whether it be the dialogue, characters or the ‘satire’, it really takes you out of it. Obviously, there are people who already hate the show because they are sexist, and so the show predicted things correctly and pre-emptively makes fun of those people. There is a plotline that focusses on this, but it isn’t that great. If anything, it feels like it was ticking the box so that they can say that they acknowledged it. One of the more interesting aspects of the show going into it was the courtroom aspect considering that Jennifer is a lawyer, however that aspect disappointed. It ended up being laughable and more unintentionally funny than intentionally funny. Leading up to its release, the showrunner admitted that they couldn’t write procedural legal drama and just gave up, it certainly showed here.

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That’s not to say that the show is bad all the way through, there are some episodes that work better than others. Episode 8 includes Daredevil and was the highlight of the show. He was an enjoyable character to watch but he wasn’t the sole reason why the episode worked. After watching it, I was actually starting to feel good about the show. Then the finale happened, which really sticks out as having some of my biggest issues after watching. The specifics of the finale episode involve spoilers, so I’ll avoid going into too much depth. What I will say is that it gets further meta than it was before and effectively makes fun of the way that the show is ending and particularly the way most MCU stories end. The joke can be simplified to “this conclusion its building too is dumb isn’t it? Well that’s the joke, we wrote it to be dumb and we are in on the joke”. The truth is that if they did continue with their plotlines without the meta twist, it would’ve been an underwhelming finale. However, this feels felt like a cop out by making fun of a possible finale that they wrote themselves into in the first place. Despite the silliness of the show, ironically, I think that it was too serious for it to work. For as silly as these plotlines were, you nonetheless paid attention to them, but they don’t get any form of resolution. It attempts to ‘satirise’ the MCU and despite my criticisms with the franchise on the whole, I don’t endorse any of the Marvel products doing this. It would inevitably come across as hollow, it doesn’t help with how smug it felt. I heard some say that the last episode saved it for them, but it was what sank the show for me and made me feel like I wasted my time.

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Tatiana Maslany who plays the title character of Jennifer Walters/She Hulk and she’s probably the best part of the whole show. The writing for her character can be annoying, but Maslany is trying and she brought more to the role and show than they deserved. There are also some appearances from some familiar Marvel characters. Benedict Wong returns as fan favourite character Wong and is entertaining, even if the show manages to find a way to make him feel overused. Charlie Cox was also fun to watch, with him reprising his role of Matt Murdock/Daredevil. The tonal difference between his appearance here and the original Netflix show is stark, and some of his dialogue is a bit too cheesy. Nonetheless, I thought that he worked for this show. He shares such wonderful chemistry with Maslany that by the end I wanted a whole show focussing on the two. Tim Roth also returns as Emil Blonsky/Abomination who has clearly changed a lot since his villainous role in The Incredible Hulk nearly 15 years ago. To his credit, Roth is at least having a lot of fun with the part here and that went some way to make him enjoyable. However, it is very confusing what the writers were even doing with the character when you look at the way they end his story in episode 9. As expected, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk makes a few appearances in the show and ever since Thor: Ragnarok, the character has been getting worse and worse with every movie or show he stars in. She-Hulk is no exception, and while Ruffalo is a good actor, I was thankful whenever Hulk wasn’t on screen. Beyond them, the rest of the characters are average and it’s hard to like any of them. With the writing and dialogue, no one feels like or talks like a real person. The villains are also terrible, and while I get that you’re not supposed to find them to be a serious threat, they still could’ve been handled better.

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On a technical level, She Hulk isn’t impressive at all. Most scenes are shot and directed competently enough, but the visuals are very bland. That’s even before we get to the scenes involving CGI and this show really contains some of the worst visual effects in the MCU. As seen in the trailers, the effects on She Hulk looks bad, and even looks like its unfinished at points. That being said, I did get used to the CGI, either that or I had found more significant issues with the show.

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She Hulk: Attorney at Law joins Thor Love and Thunder as the worst entries in the MCU. The concept and character certainly had potential, but it didn’t really work on the whole. Tatiana Maslany’s performance elevated some of the writing, a few of the characters were fun, and the show had its moments. However, the subpar writing lets the entire show down, leading to a rather average if watchable viewing experience. If you are still really into the MCU then you might find some enjoyment here. However, if your interest in the franchise is waning by this point, I doubt it’ll bring your enthusiasm back.

Prey (2022) Review

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Prey

Time: 99 Minutes
Cast:
Amber Midthunder as Naru
Dakota Beavers as Taabe
Dane DiLiegro as the Predator
Michelle Thrush as Aruka
Julian Black Antelope as Chief Kehetu
Stormee Kipp as Wasape
Bennett Taylor as Raphael Adolini
Director: Dan Trachtenberg

A skilled Comanche warrior protects her tribe from a highly evolved alien predator that hunts humans for sport, fighting against wilderness, dangerous colonisers and this mysterious creature to keep her people safe.

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The Predator sequels tried to change things up with every instalment following the action hit from 1987. Predator 2 places the Predator in Los Angeles, Predators had all forms of human killers dropped onto an alien planet and hunted by the titular aliens, and The Predator made some misguided decisions as it attempted to build some sort of cinematic universe which went nowhere. However now we are getting a new instalment with the most unique approach, abandoning the 20th and 21st centuries altogether, and setting the movie back in the 18th century, focussing on a Comanche warrior fighting a single Predator. This premise already had my interest and it delivered. It really deserved to be on the big screen instead of dumped on a streaming services like Hulu and Disney+.

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The story is very simple and straightforward. It strips down all the heavy lore that was present in the other Predator movies, makes it character focused, was a thrilling experience. You’re right there with the main character as she’s trying to go up against this powerful and deadly alien. The plot isn’t surprising, you’ve seen this kind of story before. However, the approach to the story made it succeed and make it feel fresh. The setting helps, much of it is relatively grounded. There aren’t any modern human weaponry, the only guns are the ones in the 18th century. I really liked the Comanche focus in the story too. It has a brisk runtime at about an hour and 40 minutes, and I think it works. It paces itself well, taking its time as the protagonist slowly understands how this alien operates. While it avoids having close ties to the other Predator movies, there is a couple unnecessary references and lines to the original, and they came across as jarring and forced. Something that will be immediately out of place is the fact that most of the dialogue from the Comanche characters are in English. However, I did hear afterwards that there is a Comanche dub option to make it more immersive in its cultural and historical representation, so it may be worth checking out that version.

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The actors all play their parts very well, but the highlight is Amber Midthunder, who is phenomenal and believable as the lead character Naru. Much of the movie is told from her perspective and you are invested in her, helped by Midthunder conveying a lot without need to say much. Naru is also well written and she goes through an interesting and engaging journey.

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10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg did a fantastic job with Prey. He manages to keep a horror feeling throughout; there is a real sense of dread, and it never feels safe. It has a gorgeous setting, the landscapes are showcased well by the amazing cinematography, and the lighting looks very natural. The action was good, well-choreographed and does feature some brutal kills (as expected given the franchise it’s in). Most of the CGI works but it can be a little inconsistent at points, especially when it comes to the blood. The predator itself was great; the design is unique, primal and very intimidating. Finally, Prey is accompanied excellently by Sarah Schachner’s score which really adds to the tone and mood of the film.

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Prey is a lean, brutal and effective action thriller, greatly directed, and excellently performed by Amber Midthunder. It’s a refreshing entry in the Predator franchise, and the best film in the series since the original. Even if you haven’t watched the first movie, I think you could watch Prey without any problems. I appreciate how fresh this movie feels and I wouldn’t be against seeing other Predator movies set in different time periods and locations in the way that Prey handled it.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) Review

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Black Panther Wakanda Forever

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Letitia Wright as Shuri
Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
Danai Gurira as Okoye
Winston Duke as M’Baku
Florence Kasumba as Ayo
Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams
Michaela Coel as Aneka
Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor
Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Angela Bassett as Ramonda
Director: Ryan Coogler

Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with Nakia and Everett Ross to forge a new path for their beloved kingdom.

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I was losing interest in the MCU since Phase 4’s start, there was only a few movies that I was curious about: one of those movies was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.  The biggest challenge it had was that it was dealing with the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman (who played Black Panther/T’Challa). It had a lot to handle, but I think they pulled it off.

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Wakanda Forever aims to be a sequel to Black Panther and a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and I think it succeeded at both. In fact, there’s a good amount of stuff that surpasses the first movie for me. Like with the first Black Panther, while it is definitely in the MCU, it distances itself from the rest of those worlds and outside characters, it is more focussed on being its own story. There is some MCU worldbuilding for future projects and that can be a little annoying, but it was mostly just distracting at worst. There is some complexity to the story and perhaps it’s a little messy with the amount of stuff it puts in, but I liked what we got. The worldbuilding was solid, I was particularly interested in learning about this new nation of Talokan that was introduced, but I wish there was more of it, we didn’t get to spend that much time there. Although we can predict how it’ll play out, the movie felt like it had actual stakes to it, and has a heartfelt and emotionally charged story. This isn’t a spoiler but the way that they handle T’Challa’s death was well handled. He is established as dead from the beginning, but his presence is felt throughout. Wakanda Forever is just as thematically strong as its predecessor. Fittingly, much of the movie deals with grief, morality and the impact of loss. Much of the MCU’s Phase 4 can be chalked up as to ‘dealing with grief’, but the difference is that Wakanda Forever actually feels genuine. It is also heavily character focused; despite the scale it does feel personal and even allows for some great introspective moments. There is a sombre and mature tone throughout, that said there are also some moments of humour and most of it fits well. Even in the times where the jokes don’t work, they don’t drag the movie down too much or become too distracting like in the other MCU films. There is a mid credits scene and I think it is worth sticking around for. Its more like an extension on the ending and it is fitting for the movie. Something notable is the long runtime which is 2 hours and 40 minutes long, it is slower paced too. Overall I think that it mostly works, but perhaps I might take more issue upon a rewatch. It did feel jam packed with stuff and some parts work better than others. However, I can say for certain that a subplot involving Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross and another side character easily could’ve been cut down. While I saw the point of that storyline, it felt like a detour and out of place from the rest of the movie.

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The absence of Chadwick Boseman is certainly felt. Nonetheless, the cast here do a tremendous job and deliver some great performances. Letitia Wright as Shuri is the closest thing to a lead character in this movie, and gets so much more to do here than her prior appearances. She brought a lot of emotion to her part, especially in the second half. Angela Bassett also delivers a powerful performance as Queen Ramonda. There are some other returning actors including Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke who are also good in their parts, I just wish they had more involvement and scenes. One of the new additions to the cast was Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams/Ironheart. I was admittedly unsure how she would fit into the movie, not to mention there is an upcoming show focussed on her character. It did feel like she was only here to set up that show, but she does actually fit into the plot better than expected despite feeling like a plot device. Thorne is good in her part and delivers on the comedic elements. The villain of the movie is Namora, played by Tenoch Huerta, and he was one of the highlights of the film. Like Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger from the first Black Panther movie, Namor is a powerful, ruthless, yet interesting and understandable villain who steals all the scenes he was in. Definitely one of the best MCU villains yet.

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Ryan Coogler returns to direct the Black Panther sequel and his work is amazing once again. It is beautifully shot, even if its not as visually interesting compared to the first movie. The action is pretty good and an improvement over the first movie’s, even if some are clearly better than others. There is particularly one fight scene that doesn’t have any music playing and its probably the best action scene in the movie, it had genuine tension. The costume, production design and score from Ludwig Göransson is as incredible as the previous movie. As for the CGI, considering much of the recent MCU projects like Thor: Love and Thunder, its pretty good. Of course it had moments of bad looking effects and green screen, particularly in the third act, but at that point I was invested enough in the movie that it didn’t matter too much.

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has its issues, it is a bit overstuffed and not all of it works. On the whole though, it is really good. Considering all the things Coogler and co. had to do following challenging circumstances, they pulled it off. I was invested in the story, the action is decent, and the performances are great, not to mention it is a heartfelt tribute to Chadwick Boseman. It is one of the better MCU films and is by far the best Phase 4 movie.

Ms. Marvel (2022) TV Review

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Ms Marvel

Cast:
Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel
Matt Lintz as Bruno Carrelli
Yasmeen Fletcher as Nakia Bahadir
Zenobia Shroff as Muneeba Khan
Mohan Kapur as Yusuf Khan
Saagar Shaikh as Aamir Khan
Laurel Marsden as Zoe Zimmer
Azhar Usman as Najaf
Rish Shah as Kamran
Arian Moayed as P. Cleary
Alysia Reiner as Sadie Deever
Laith Nakli as Sheikh Abdullah
Nimra Bucha as Najma
Travina Springer as Tyesha Hillman
Adaku Ononogbo as Fariha
Samina Ahmad as Sana
Fawad Khan as Hasan
Mehwish Hayat as Aisha
Farhan Akhtar as Waleed
Aramis Knight as Kareem/Red Dagger
Creator: Harry Bradbeer

Kamala is a superhero fan with an imagination, particularly when it comes to Captain Marvel; Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home, that is until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s looked up to.

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I was not sure about how Ms. Marvel was going to be. With shows like Wandavision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki, Disney+’s Marvel shows focused on characters already in the MCU. Not so much with Ms. Marvel, and I only knew that she was somehow connected with Captain Marvel. Still, I heard some fairly positive things going into it, and it ended up being much better than I expected. In spite of its flaws, its one of the better Marvel shows so far.

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Ms. Marvel starts off on a high note. The first thing you notice is the tone; it is very light hearted, in fact almost like a Disney channel show (especially with the effects) but in some ways it gave it a distinct personality outside of the usual MCU stuff. That’s not to say that MCU has shortage in being lighthearted (in fact that’s where they mostly operate). Still, Ms. Marvel felt different, and had plenty of genuinely fun moments. It also aims to capture the Pakistani-American experience especially with its lead character Kamala Khan, and with that the perspective is different from what we’ve seen from the prior movies and shows. It is a coming-of-age story and focuses on the challenges of high school, while adding upon Kamala discovering that she now has powers, and exploring what she can do with them. Those first couple of episodes were surprisingly good and I liked where it was going. Sadly, the show does lose some steam as the story comes into play. This is most notable in episode 4 where it uses the scenery change to Pakistan to just have a lot of exposition dumped onto Kamala and the audience. As the scale and scope gradually expands, it really loses what I liked so much about its earlier episodes. Despite a strong start, the story isn’t really that good or interesting. It was quite predictable and I found it hard to be invested in what was happening. A big part of this shift is that it loses the enjoyable tone established in the first couple of episodes and becomes just another autopilot Marvel story. The humour is also a bit hit or miss, but I didn’t mind it as much here compared to some other Marvel projects. Thankfully, the finale brings the show back to what I liked about it. While there are larger displays of power, it really brings it back to that heartfelt coming of age story, the high school setting, and the focus on Kamala becoming a hero. All the prior MCU Disney+ shows ended in disappointing ways except for Loki. However, Ms Marvel has the second-best finale of the shows so far. Finally, I’m going to take yet another moment to complain about yet another MCU show being 6 episodes; every MCU show up to now (except for WandaVision) does this and its annoying because it feels like a movie stretched across 6 weeks. They really could’ve moved things around and refined it into a potentially better feature film.

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(L-R): Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan and Matt Lintz as Bruno in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Overall, I think the cast did quite well. The standout to me was Iman Vellani who is perfectly cast as Kamala Kahn/Ms. Marvel. She’s charming, likable and fun to watch, not to mention well written, well-capturing a teenage girl who is a fan of Marvel superheroes and then finds herself becoming one. I also liked the dynamic she has with the rest of her family, and it felt very believable. The central antagonists aren’t very good. While they aren’t the biggest issue with this show, they are so unmemorable that they could end up being some of the worst villains in the MCU.

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The look, feel and style of the show is vibrant and colourful, making it stand out from other Marvel projects. The occasional use of animated sequences was entertaining too. Much of the effects (mainly with Kamala’s powers) looks very goofy, but with its tone it gets away with that. When it doesn’t go for the goofy Disney Channel style and attempts to be more serious however, it does suffer.

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Ms. Marvel is one of the more refreshing Marvel projects I’ve seen. I liked the coming of age/high school focus and approach, I enjoyed the tone, and the cast are generally good, especially Iman Vellani as the title character. There’s also plenty of problems from the villains, to the drop off after the first couple of episodes, to the fact that they easily could’ve made this a 2 hour long movie. However, I think the fact that it does stick the landing at the finale makes it one of the better shows in the MCU.

Enola Holmes 2 (2022) Review

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Enola Holmes 2

Time: 129 Minutes
Cast:
Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes
Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes
David Thewlis as Grail
Louis Partridge as Tewkesbury
Susie Wokoma as Edith
Adeel Akhtar as Lestrade
Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Mira Troy
Helena Bonham Carter as Eudoria Holmes
Director: Harry Bradbeer

Enola Holmes takes on her first case as a detective, but to unravel the mystery of a missing girl, she’ll need some help from friends — and brother Sherlock.

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I enjoyed the first Enola Holmes movie; It wasn’t anything special, but it was fun for what it was. It probably didn’t need a sequel, but a sequel was inevitable nonetheless, and I think it ended up being better than the first movie.

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The story is a familiar mystery as a simple disappearance story but is overall stronger than the first movie (which 2 years later I can’t remember). I wasn’t initially interested in the mystery at first, but I eventually got on board with it as time went on. They also blended in some true history surprisingly well. It also benefits from the fact that it doesn’t get bogged down by having to establish the origin story of its lead character, and so it can just focus on the central mystery. The writing is sharp and the playful nature of the fourth wall breaks make it entertaining. While fourth wall breaks can be hit or miss, the fourth wall breaks probably work here because they are constant throughout the movie. Sometimes the pacing is a bit slow, and it doesn’t help that the movie is really too long at 2 hours and 10 minutes. For me the length is the film’s biggest flaw; it could’ve been cut down by at least 10 minutes.

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Millie Bobby Brown once again leads the movie greatly as the title character, and she’s even more confident here than she was in the previous movie. As entertaining as these movies are, they wouldn’t nearly be as good without MBB, considering that much of the films are riding on her, and she is very much the key strength of both of them. Henry Cavill again makes for a good Sherlock Holmes and perhaps one that is more light hearted than most people are used to seeing on screen. This time he’s more directly involved with the plot and fits in quite well. She’s not in the movie a ton but Helena Bonham Carter is entertaining in her screentime. The villains are more interesting and entertaining than in the first movie; David Thewlis is particularly scene chewing and having fun in his part.

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Harry Bradbeer returns to direct the Enola Holmes sequel and again has done a decent job at directing; nothing special but it works okay. The editing can be a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes it is stylish in a good way, but whenever it comes to the ‘action’ scenes, the cuts are very janky.

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Enola Holmes 2 isn’t a great movie; the mystery isn’t that unique, and it definitely is too long. But I can’t deny that I had lots of fun throughout, especially with the good cast led by Millie Bobby Brown. Netflix seems to want to make this a franchise and there will definitely be another sequel for sure, but I’m honestly up for another Enola Holmes.

Black Adam (2022) Review

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Black Adam

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, horror scenes & content may disturb
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam/Black Adam
Aldis Hodge as Carter Hall/Hawkman
Noah Centineo as Albert “Al” Rothstein/Atom Smasher
Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz
Marwan Kenzari as Ishmael Gregor/Sabbac
Quintessa Swindell as Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone
Mohammed Amer as Karim
Bodhi Sabongui as Amon Tomaz
Pierce Brosnan as Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam was bestowed the almighty powers of the gods. After using these powers for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Nearly 5,000 years have passed, and Black Adam has gone from man to myth to legend. Now free, his unique form of justice, born out of rage, is challenged by modern-day heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone.

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I was somewhat interested in Black Adam. I had been liking the DCEU, but have been losing interest with some more recent decisions. Black Adam looked like it had potential however, it had a cast which included Aldis Hodge and Pierce Brosnan, and was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Additionally, it would be focussing on Black Adam, who’s known as a Shazam villain. Ironically the part I was most sceptical about was the actor who has been attached to play the title character since 2007, Dwayne Johnson. Still, I got around to watching it, and I had fun with it.

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The writing is definitely the weakest part of Black Adam. The plot doesn’t seem to that matter much, and the story itself is overly familiar and dull (especially within the superhero genre). There’s really only one or two moments that you could really spoil in this movie. The opening 20 minutes are pretty rough and dull, from a generic retelling of the legend of Black Adam, to focussing on some human characters trying to find a magic relic. Once Black Adam is awoken the film picks up, and it picks up further when the Justice Society is introduced. There’s a lot of one liners and humour, they fall flat most of the time and are too prevalent in the movie. Funnily enough, the Justice Society was the most interesting part of the movie, and their scenes were a lot of fun. Black Adam’s story definitely had the potential and they put together a decent enough backstory for him, but it almost feels on autopilot and generic. I liked the conflict between Black Adam and the Justice Society but there was some wasted potential there. You quickly lose track of how many times the JS fight Black Adam to stop him from killing people. In fact, the sole point of conflict is that Black Adam kills his enemies, which isn’t as interesting as the movie thinks it is. Because besides him openly killing enemies, Black Adam pretty much acts like every other superhero. So it would’ve been great if they had more of a difference between them, whether it be ideology or methods of protecting. The storyline following the human characters and the villains just wasn’t interesting, particularly with everything surrounding this powerful relic which everyone is after. It just felt like they needed some McGuffin for everyone to chase. The third act is pretty much just full on action, thankfully it succeeds in that department. However it felt like a paint by numbers climax, and the terrible villain deflates it a little. The mid credits scene is definitely worth sticking around for, in some ways it overshadows the rest of the movie.

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I was very sceptical about Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam. Not that I don’t think he can’t act, but in almost everything he acts the same way, and the worst part is that it seems to be a deliberate choice from Johnson. He deliberately plays likable and lighter leads and now he’d be playing an anti-hero/villain with Black Adam, and I didn’t think that he would have it in him. For what its worth, I do think he was better in this role than expected. I do wish that he went a little darker, and he definitely has some obligatory ‘The Rock’ moments. Even if you got a better actor for this however, the performance probably wouldn’t have been that much better than what Johnson did here. I haven’t read any Black Adam stories, but this does seem to be how the character acts, so that’s something at least. The Justice Society was a little less generic and were enjoyable, their powers are fun and it was cool to see them on display. Aldis Hodge and Pierce Brosnan are the standouts as Hawkman and Dr Fate respectively (Brosnan was particularly great casting), whereas Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo are fine as Cyclone and Atom Smasher, but don’t have much screentime or material to work with. The human characters really weren’t anything special, the main kid was a bit annoying. While his acting was a bit rough, it was more that this movie kept forcing a connection between him and Black Adam with all their interactions, by trying to coach him on catchphrases and how to be a hero, etc. The villain in Black Adam however is quite possibly one of the worst comic book movie villains I’ve seen. I get that next to Black Adam and the Justice Society, the villain is not going to be someone too major. However, it literally felt like the villain here was autogenerated, beyond the generic plot, he was a big reason why I just couldn’t care about the stakes.

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Jaume Collet-Serra has made a wide range of movies, from horror films with Orphan and The Shallows, to action movies like The Commuter and Jungle Cruise. He’s clearly made better movies than Black Adam, but his work here is still pretty solid. The visual effects are pretty good, I like the visual style and how the powers were showcased (particularly Dr Fate). The costume designs were also really good. The action scenes are fun, it does aim for Zack Snyder-esque action, though it doesn’t succeed as well. On one hand I do like how fast and powerful Black Adam is, reminiscent of Superman’s speed and power (especially in Man of Steel). However, they overuse the slow motion to a rather cartoonish degree, like they actually were trying to out slow-mo Snyder. Lorne Balfe’s score is a shining point in this movie, especially in the action scenes.

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You can probably watch the trailers for Black Adam and predict exactly the kind of movie that you’ll get here. I’m not sure I would call it a good movie; the script is a mess and doesn’t really take advantage of its potential. Despite the marketing attempting to make the lead character stand out from the other superhero movies by making him an anti-hero, Black Adam is one of the more by the numbers superhero films I’ve seen in recent years. Still, with the entertaining action and some solid performances (mainly from Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge), I enjoyed it.

National Treasure (2004) Review

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National Treasure

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates
Sean Bean as Ian Howe
Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase
Justin Bartha as Riley Poole
Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates
Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky
Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Modern treasure hunters, led by archaeologist Ben Gates, search for a chest of riches rumored to have been stashed away by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during the Revolutionary War. The chest’s whereabouts may lie in secret clues embedded in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and Gates is in a race to find the gold before his enemies do.

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I remember watching National Treasure for the first time, I was quite young at the time, and it was the first film I saw that had Nicolas Cage in it. I enjoyed it but wondered how it would be on rewatch, and whether it would still hold up over a decade and a half later. Thankfully, I think I can say that it does. While its not great, National Treasure is still a lot of fun to watch.

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The story is a fairly interesting and fun adventure with a lot of excitement throughout, helped by the fast pace. You’re right there with the main characters as they make discoveries and solve puzzles in order to unravel the central mystery. As far as adventure movies go, it occasionally meets its aspirations, but could’ve been better. As it is, it’s a solid riff on much better action adventure movies. Its not just limited to the main characters exploring tombs, there’s also a conspiracy aspect, as well as a heist aspect. The history and science are definitely messy and aren’t realistic, but it is an absurd movie overall. One of the things most known about this movie is that a key part involves Nicolas Cage having to steal the Declaration of Independence, and that is gloriously silly as that sounds. Even some of the logic of the plot can be hilarious. Nicolas Cage and Sean Bean start off hunting treasure together, but they separate when Bean wants to steal the Declaration of Independence and Cage doesn’t want to. So when Bean decides to go get it himself, Cage decides to go and steal it first. Thankfully, National Treasure has the right tone, not taking itself too seriously, but not going too overboard and risking becoming a self parody.

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The cast are quite enjoyable. Nicolas Cage made for a charismatic, likable and entertaining lead as Ben Gates. Its definitely not one of his craziest performances in some of his other movies like Face/Off, but he gave his character a lot of energy, and is fun to watch. Diane Kruger is also good, and Justin Bartha is solid as the comic relief with some great comedic timing. There are also other great actors who have parts to play in this, including Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Plummer. Sean Bean is the villain and while the writing for him is nothing special, he does deliver on his part as an antagonist.

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If there’s an aspect of National Treasure that I wished was better, it was the direction. Jon Turteltaub’s work is decent, but it needed something more. The action is relatively fun, there are some good environments sets and designs, and the score from Trevor Rabin is good (especially the catchy main theme). Its just that there’s nothing distinct about this movie on a directing or style level that separates it from other similar movies.

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National Treasure is comparable to The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser, not the best action-adventure movies (i.e. not on the level of Indiana Jones), but nonetheless very entertaining for what it is. It’s a fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously, helped by the solid cast led by Nicolas Cage. If you haven’t seen it already, I think its worth checking out.

The Expendables 2 (2012) Review

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The Expendables 2

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains Violence
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Chuck Norris as Booker
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid
Scott Adkins as Hector
Yu Nan as Maggie
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain
Bruce Willis as Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench
Director: Simon West

All hell breaks loose when Barney, along with his band of old-school mercenaries, sets out on a path of carnage after one of their comrades gets killed during a simple task assigned by Mr Church.

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I rewatched the first Expendables and while I enjoyed it, it was worse than I remembered it being. Afterwards, I wanted to watch the sequel again because I remember it being much better. That proved to be very much the case, The Expendables 2 is a noticeable and immense improvement over the previous movie, and was fun in itself.

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The plot isn’t the best, its very standard for an action movie and doesn’t really matter that much. However, the straightforward nature of the plot was for the best, and it helps that it’s at least coherent and paced well, with never a dull moment. Like its predecessor, The Expendables 2 continues to be a homage to the action movies of the past, and embraces much of its tropes. That being said, the sequel seems to serve better as that. Part of that has to do with the tone, which is way more consistent throughout. Despite many of the ridiculous moments, the first Expendables movie took itself too seriously. It would go from a goofy airplane action scene to a well written and performed but nonetheless out of place emotional monologue from Mickey Rourke. In contrast, The Expendables 2 leans more toward being an over the top blockbuster, and not taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say that there aren’t any dramatic moments, but it works with the rest of the movie much better. Much of the dialogue and humour came across as being very forced in the first movie, this again is improved in the sequel. There are some good one liners and enjoyable references. It does unfortunately has the odd situation where it can overdo it with the meta jokes. There’s particularly an exchange between Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris which make 3 meta jokes in the span of 20 seconds, and in those cases they could’ve dialled it done. Otherwise, it was just on the right level for me.

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Much of the cast from the first movie return and are even better here, including Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Everyone here delivers as you’d expect, though the standout might be Dolph Lundgren. One disappointing aspect of the last movie was that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were in just one scene (though it was one of the highlights of that movie). However, they actually play more notable parts in the movie, we even get to see them involved in the action in the third act and it was great to see. The new additions are good too; Liam Hemsworth plays a new member of the Expendables and while he feels out of place, he serves his purpose well. Nan Yu is also a good addition to the cast, playing a notable part and is alongside the Expendables for much of the film. Chuck Norris appears in a few times for a fun cameo, and it really is credit to this movie that they somehow make the tired Chuck Norris jokes actually funny here. Another aspect that was improved here was the villain. Eric Roberts was quite forgettable in the first movie, this time they got Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the villain, who’s name is literally Vilain. He feels like a worthy antagonist to the main team, and fits perfectly here.

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Sylvester Stallone’s direction of the first movie was fine, but was ultimately lacking. The second movie is a noticeable improvement it with Con Air director Simon West, who does a much better job. From the opening action sequence, you can already tell the difference in the handling. The action is much better, its well shot, better edited (especially for the fight scenes), and it reduces the shaky cam. It still has the problem with the bad looking CGI blood that messily splatters everywhere, but it does look a little better than in the first movie.

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I’ve been constantly stating this point throughout this whole review, but The Expendables 2 really does improve on the first movie in just about every way, and is everything that its predecessor should’ve been. The action, characters, plot, humour and more are just more finely tuned to deliver on its promise of being a throwback to the action movies of the 80s and 90s, I was consistently entertaining from beginning to end. If you are fan of those movies, The Expendables 2 is well worth checking out. You don’t even need to watch the first Expendables, just jump straight into this one.