The Watchers

The Watchers

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Countdown: 10 Actors Who Have Played Multiple Comic Book Characters On Screen


It was announced yesterday that Josh Brolin has been cast as Cable in the upcoming Deadpool 2 movie. Comic book movie fans will know that Brolin also plays Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Before he played Captain America, Chris Evans also appeared as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in two Fantastic Four movies. Brolin's Deadpool co-star Ryan Reynolds was also Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern movie, while Halle Berry has played both hero and villain as Storm and Catwoman respectively.

So here are ten more actors who have played different comic book characters on screen.

1. Ben Affleck


Before he was the Dark Knight, Affleck was Daredevil in the 2003 big screen version.


2. Angela Bassett


Appearing in Green Lantern as Amanda Waller, Bassett is taking the role of Queen Mother Ramonda in the upcoming Black Panther film.


3. Willem Dafoe


Dafoe played Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films; he will be playing Atlantean advisor Nuidis Vulko in Justice League and Aquaman


4. Laurence Fishburne


Known for playing Perry White in the DC Extended Universe films, Fishburne provides the voice of the titular character in  Fantastic Four: Rise Of The SIlver Surfer.


5. Tommy Lee Jones


From villain to hero: Jones played Harvey Dent/Two-Face in Joel Schumacher's camptastic Batman Forever, before taking the role of Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger


6. Michael B. Jordan


Jordan is one of the few bearable things in Josh Trank's disastrous Fantastic Four reboot; he will appear in Black Panther as the wonderfully named Erik Killmonger.


7. Michael Keaton


From hero to villain: Keaton played the lead role in Tim Burton's two Batman movies, and will play Adrian Toomes/The Vulture in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming


8. Nicole Kidman


Kidman appeared with Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever as Dr. Chase Meridian; she will also play Queen Atlanna in the upcoming Aquaman film.


9. J.K. Simmons


Oscar-winner Simmons will be swapping The Daily Bugle for the Gotham City Police Department, going from playing J. Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films to Commissioner Gordon in Justice League.


10. Terence Stamp


Stamp played General Zod in Superman and Superman II (and also went on to be the voice of Jor-El in Smallville). He also played Elektra's mentor Stick in the 2005 Daredevil spin-off.


Bonus: Sylvester Stallone


Stallone played Judge Dredd in the 1995 film version of the 2000AD comic; he has a small role in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (but the character has not yet been revealed)

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Ghost In The Shell (1995)


Ahead of the release of the live-action remake starring Scarlett Johansson (which opens in the UK at the end of the month), I thought I should watch the original anime that the film is based on. Luckily, it is one of my partner's favourite films so we had a copy to hand.

It's 2029. Cyberisation is now widespread. Criminals are becoming more sophisticated and, as such, a new way must be found to deal with the threat. So Section 9 was set up- a small group of police (with various levels of cyberisation) to help combat crime. Major Motoko Kusanagi is one of the operatives on the team. The Major and the rest of Section 9 come up against a new threat: a powerful hacker known as the Puppet Master, who can literally hack people...

Directed by Mamoru Oshii and written by Kazunori Ito (based on the manga by Masamune Shirow), Ghost In The Shell is widely considered to be one of the seminal works in anime history and, along with Akira (1988) and the films of Studio Ghibli, is responsible for bringing anime into the mainstream in the West.

It packs so much into its relatively slight running time of 83 minutes. It's a political conspiracy thriller. It's high concept science-fiction. It asks deep philosophical questions about what it means to be human and what indeed makes us human.

The Major is a full cyborg- her body is completely synthetic- but is possessed of memory, personality and character. She questions whether, because of her full cybernetic body, she still has any humanity and even questions whether her memories are real or artificial to make her feel more 'human'. When she finally meets the Puppet Master, these existential questions get thrown into full relief. It's an absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking part of the film.

The style of the film comes from a process called 'digitally generated animation', a combination of traditional cell animation, computer graphics, and audio which is entered as digital data. Amazingly, the animation still holds up 22 years later; indeed, we watched a section of Oshii's 2008 updated version (Ghost In The Shell 2.0) which featured updated 3D animation, that- by today's standards- looked incredibly dated. Hisao Shirai's cinematography is superb and the music, by Kenji Kawai, is just sublime.

It's definitely worth watching, although it's a film that requires and rewards your full attention.

Tez


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Review: The LEGO Batman Movie (UK Cert U)


There's always a danger when a popular character in an animated movie gets their own spin-off. What can be amusing in small doses may not be so much when extended to a full film. The joke can sometime wear a little thin. Films like The Penguins Of Madagascar and Minions showcase this to greater or lesser degrees. Arguably, Batman was one of the best things about The Lego Movie. So how does he fare having his own movie?

Actually, really well. I loved every minute of The Lego Batman Movie.

From the opening voiceover to the end credits roll, the film is stuffed to the ginnels with humour, charm and energy. The film mercilessly sends up previous incarnations of move Batman (from the 1960s Adam West movie right up to 2016's Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice) but it's done so well and without malice, it's utterly enjoyable.

Will Arnett's voice performance as Batman/Bruce Wayne is just superb. He channels everything you associate with the Dark Knight; the brooding and alone-ness, keeping people at arm's length. The rest of the voice cast are similarly superb, with Michael Cera (an actor I've never been particularly fussed on) giving a lovely turn as Robin/Dick Grayson, the young orphan inadvertently adopted by Bruce at a charity gala who becomes Batman's right-hand man. Rosario Dawson is strong and no-nonsense as new commissioner Barbara Gordon who seeks to clean up Gotham without resorting to brooding vigilantes.

Frankly, if Jeremy Irons wasn't doing such a bang-up job of playing Alfred onscreen, I'd say get Ralph Fiennes in. Based on this performance, he'd be fantastic in the role. Zach Galifianakis (another actor I'm not massively fussed on) is great as The Joker. There's a clever subversion of romantic comedy tropes with the relationship between Batman and The Joker (with Joker particularly crushed that Batman doesn't consider him his 'greatest enemy'). There's also appearances from the vast majority of Batman's classic Rogues' Gallery which will please fans of The Dark Knight.

Just as with The Lego Movie, this film contains appearances from a lot of other franchises and series (including, but not limited to, Harry Potter, The Lord Of The Rings and Doctor Who, which I particularly enjoyed). I would imagine because Lego has the rights to a lot of things because of the Dimensions license, the screenwriters pretty much decided to throw everything and the kitchen sink in. But it works.

I'm not going to overanalyse it. I came out of the cinema absolutely buoyant after seeing The Lego Batman Movie. It made me laugh. A lot. I enjoyed all the references and the Easter Eggs. Definitely one for the DVD shelf.   

Rating: 5 out of 5

Tez

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Review: Arrival (UK Cert 12A)


Twelve spacecraft appear across the globe, speaking an unintelligible language. In the US, the army draft linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to help interpret and communicate with the alien visitors and- on her insistence- take her to Montana so she can communicate with them directly. Alongside theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise begins to speak to the aliens to discover the purpose behind their arrival.

Directed with flair by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners, Incendies), with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer (adapted from a Ted Chiang short story entitled 'Story Of Your Life'), Arrival is a thoughtful, mature slice of sci-fi.

Let's address this right now. Amy Adams' performance was utterly superb and I can see exactly why there were cries of 'snub' when the Oscar nominations were announced. She can most certainly count herself unlucky to have missed out for one of the strongest performances she's ever given. She carries the emotional weight of the film- she is the heart and soul of it- and is just heartbreaking in certain scenes. Louise is fragile, but not weak; compassionate, but not a bleeding-heart; assured, but not arrogant. Another brilliant performance from one of the best actresses of her generation. 

Renner is also strong as the geeky, easy-going Ian. There's a really strong chemistry between Renner and Adams which helps to sell the interactions between Ian and Louise which is always good. Whilst the story is very much focused on Louise as the main character, Renner shines when he's on screen. There's strong support by Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber, who helps recruit Louise in the first place; what could have been a fairly generic, by-the-numbers Army role is lifted by Whitaker's warm and sympathetic performance. There are also nice turns by Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma as an unsympathetic FBI agent and a bellicose Chinese general respectively. 

Technically, the film is very accomplished. The visual effects, from the design of the spacecraft to the design of the aliens and their linguistic symbols, are all superb. The score, by Johann Johannsson, is also sublime. 

The reveal of what the aliens' purpose is will probably make or break the film for you. I personally liked it, and found it interesting, but I can understand why some people might not agree with it. I found it raised some interesting psychological and philosophical questions which have stayed with me long after the film. 

If you like your sci-fi a little more cerebral, a little deeper than standard, then definitely give this a go. Also, don't be put off by the awards hype- it is truly deserving of the accolades it has received.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Tez

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Monday, 27 February 2017

Bill Paxton (1955-2017)



We at The Watchers were very saddened to hear about the unexpected death of Bill Paxton, who passed away on February 25th 2017 following complications for surgery.

In addition to his acting work, Paxton was also a producer, director and writer. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Bill moved to Los Angeles when he was eighteen and found work as a set dresser for Roger Corman's New World Pictures. After some minor roles in films such as Stripes and Taking Tiger Mountain, he made a memorable appearance as the punk leader who harasses Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984)- and pays for it. In 1985, Paxton appeared in the John Hughes classic Weird Science as Wyatt's boorish bullying older brother Chet. 


In 1986, he appeared in another classic sci-fi franchise as Private Hudson in Aliens. Famous for his cry of 'Game over, man! Game over!' (which Paxton claimed he improvised, along with a lot of his dialogue), Hudson is dispatched by one of the aliens towards the end of the film. Four years later, he would complete the death-by-iconic-sci-fi-villain trifecta by appearing in Predator 2 and also being killed off.

His role as vampire Severen in Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark (1987) is one of his most highly-regarded roles as is one of his first leading roles- that of Dale Dixon in the 1992 One False Move. He would go on to play Wyatt Earp's brother Morgan in Tombstone, Simon in True Lies, Fred Haise in Apollo 13 and Bill Harding in Twister. He also played treasure hunter Brock Lovett in Titanic, providing the framing narrative for the film. 


He is quite brilliant as Hank in A Simple Plan, opposite Bridget Fonda and Billy Bob Thornton. He would go on to appear opposite a fifteen-foot mountain gorilla and Charlize Theron in the 1998 Disney film Mighty Joe Young then in the dubiously historically accurate Second World War submarine drama U-571 before making his directorial debut in 2001 with the thriller Frailty (in which he also starred). 

He also appeared in several family friendly films, such as Spy Kids 2: Island Of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and as Jeff Tracy in the 2004 live-action version of Thunderbirds. Later film roles include Haywire, 2 Guns, Edge Of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler. 


In 2006, Paxton took on his first major television role, playing polygamist patriarch Bill Henrickson, living with his three wives, in the HBO show Big Love. The show ran for five seasons and Paxton would be nominated for three Golden Globes for his role. He would also go on to have roles in the first season of Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and was appearing in the TV version of Training Day at the time of his death. 

Director James Cameron was a close friend of Paxton's, directing him several times (in The Terminator, Aliens, True Lies and Titanic), and has paid tribute to Paxton saying:

'He was a good man, a great actor, and a creative dynamo. I hope that amid the gaudy din of Oscar night, people will take a moment to remember this wonderful man, not just for all the hours of joy he brought to us with his vivid screen presence, but for the great human that he was. The world is a lesser place for his passing, and I will profoundly miss him.' 

(Indeed, when introducing the In Memoriam section at the Oscars, a visibly upset Jennifer Aniston paid tribute to Paxton before the official montage began)

Paxton was a versatile, dedicated and talented character actor and he will be missed. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.

Rhys, Matt & Tez
The Watchers

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Awards Season 2017: The 89th Annual Academy Awards


Well, that was quite something. 

There's several things for which this Oscars ceremony will be remembered for, but giving the biggest award of the night to the wrong film will be right up there for years to come. Due to some form of cock-up, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly named La La Land as the Best Picture winner, only to then find out that Moonlight had won it instead! Cue a lot of embarrassment and a very gracious deferral from the producers of La La Land. 



This was the first time in a few years that I was actually able to watch the broadcast live (via Sky Cinema). I thought Jimmy Kimmel was an affable host. Despite his very self-effacing demeanour, the vast majority of his jokes hit (and he was able to admit the ones that didn't). His opening monologue was political without being tubthumping, and I did particularly enjoy his banter with Meryl Streep and the comment that, given the Trump administration, at least the Oscars don't look so racist now. I quite liked the mean tweets section and the stunt with the tour bus mostly worked, if it did drag on a little. 

As you can imagine, several of the speeches were political in nature, some more subtle than others. The most pointed came when the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year was announced. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (who directed The Salesman) was initially unable to attend the event due to the imposed travel ban. When the ban was lifted, he chose to boycott the event and instead sent Iranian engineer Anousheh Ansari to represent him. When The Salesman won, Ansari read a politically charged statement on Farhadi's behalf. 

Other noteworthy happenings from the ceremony: sound mixer Kevin O'Connell won his first Oscar (for Hacksaw Ridge) on his twenty-first nomination; Best Documentary Feature winner O.J.: Made In America is now officially the longest film to win an Oscar (coming in at an impressive 7hrs 47mins); Damien Chazelle is now the youngest Best Director winner at the tender age of 32. 

I wasn't surprised by 'City Of Stars' winning Best Original Song, although I think of the two songs nominated from La La Land I actually prefer 'Audition'. The musical numbers were scattered nicely through the evening, with Justin Timberlake kicking the evening off with a performance of 'Can't Stop The Feeling' then a wonderfully assured performance of 'How Far I'll Go' from Moana, sung by 16-year old Auli'i Cravalho. There was also a very moving In Memoriam section, beautifully accompanied by Sara Bareilles singing 'Both Sides Now' by Joni Mitchell. 

I was also really pleased by the Best Costume Design win for Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, although it still feels very wrong that you can now call Suicide Squad an Oscar-winning film (picking up Best Make-Up and Hairstyling)



As for my predictions... well, 5 out of 6 is alright (especially given the Best Picture farrago). As I said in my predictions, if any film was going to usurp La La Land from Best Picture, it would be Moonlight. All other predictions were correct and I thought Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis and Emma Stone all gave very lovely acceptance speeches. 




Despite the mistake at the end, La La Land was still the runaway winner of the night with six Oscars to its name. Moonlight had three, with Manchester By The Sea and Hacksaw Ridge both winning two. Despite multiple nominations, there was nothing for Lion, Hell Or High Water, Hidden Figures or Jackie

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Below is the full list of winners at the 89th Annual Academy Awards:

Best Motion Picture of the Year: Moonlight

Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester By The Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: The Salesman

Best Cinematography: La La Land

Best Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Production Design: La La Land

Best Costume Design: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Suicide Squad

Best Original Score: La La Land

Best Original Song: 'City Of Stars' (La La Land)

Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Editing: Arrival

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

Best Documentary (Feature): O.J.: Made In America

Best Documentary (Short Subject): The White Helmets

Best Animated Short Film: Piper

Best Live Action Short Film: Sing


Congratulations to all winners!

So that's it. Awards season is over for another year (and what a way to end it too!). As William Makepeace Thackeray says at the very end of Vanity Fair: 'Come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.'

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to bed. It's been something of a long night.

Tez