Category Archives: Film

Big Screen, Silver Screen, Talkies. Whatever you want to call it, we love it.

Reaction Time: Ant-Man

By Sara Da Silva

We all had our initial doubts, but Ant-Man certainly measured up.

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a cat burglar recently released from prison, who catches the attention of scientist Hank Pym. Pym is forced to conceal his work into organic miniaturization from his ex-protégé Darren Cross, who is trying to invent something similar. Armed with the super-suit that allows for the ability to shrink in scale but maintain human strength, Scott is called upon to help Pym and his daughter defeat Cross.

The casting of Paul Rudd as Ant-Man signalled to the viewers immediately that it would take more of a comical route, as opposed to a serious and dark path. He certainly did not fail us there. My appreciation for Paul Rudd as an actor skyrocketed after watching Ant-Man on Friday. But of course the film would be nowhere without the hilarious writings of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. Although, they could have gone further and added even more comedic sequences but it’ll do. It’ll do nicely.

This movie had everything: a hilarious protagonist, an unbelievably hot and badass female lead, unexpected comedy gold from Luis, played by Michael Peña, and countless MCU Easter eggs. Including: Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, Mitchell Carson, the Avengers and their new facility, Hydra, and of course our beloved Stan Lee. That’s more than enough Easter eggs to make any Marvel fan squeal with excitement.

Now, let’s talk about those end credit scenes.

The first scene showed Hank Pym gifting his daughter, Hope, with a never-before-scene suit. Ant-Man is the only confirmed Marvel movie that will star Evangeline Lilly, but we’re hopeful that we might see a cameo of the Wasp in future Marvel movies, maybe Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War.

The post-credit scene threw me into a complete fit of excitement. My love for Captain America knows no bounds, so when Cap and Bucky appeared I may have slightly lost it. The scene, if you missed it, started off with Cap and Falcon revealing that they’ve found Bucky Barnes. Falcon suggests calling Tony Stark but Steve immediately shuts down that idea, saying that no one else can be trusted (hinting at the rift between Cap and Tony in Civil War). But there is one superhero that can be trusted: Ant-Man. Yes, that’s right, Ant-Man will be making an appearance in Civil War and I am over the moon.

Civil War is next up on the Marvel roster so start getting pumped. Bring on 2016.

Four Documentaries to watch on Netflix

By Sara Da Silva

Finishing university and moving back home could only mean one thing: Netflix. I’ve been on a bit of a documentary binge recently and there are some truly great documentaries on Netflix. So, here’s a list of a few of my personal favourites.

1. Blackfish

This documentary, which was dairected by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, focuses on the captivity of orca whales in SeaWorld. More specifically, it looks at Tilikum, an orca who was involved in the deaths of three individuals. This eye-opening documentary gives us a behind the scenes look into the awful conditions that the whales face in captivity. After watching this documentary you will never want to visit SeaWorld who, of course, completely denied all allegations made against them. You might even be inspired.

2. Catfish

Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, who you probably know from the MTV show Catfish, was involved in his very own catfishing. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman directed this documentary, which followed Nev’s online relationship with Megan. They later discover that Megan wasn’t who she appeared to be. I won’t give you too many spoilers because this is something you’d want to watch for yourself. There have been critics who have claimed that Catfish is a fake documentary as they question why the filmmakers would obsessively document a seemingly ordinary online relationship. Despite all these allegations, the documentary is still very interesting, so much so that MTV gave them their very own television show.

3. Bridegroom

This documentary will most likely break your heart and leave you angry at the world. You have been warned. It follows the story of Shane Bitney Crone and his same-sex partner, Thomas Lee Bridegroom, who died following an accident. After Bridegroom’s death, Crone was deprived of any legal protection and even threatened and ordered not to attend the funeral. The documentary provides an intense look into the on-going debate over the legal rights of same-sex couples. While this documentary might leave you filled with overwhelming emotion, it’s something that needs to be shared.

4. Craiglist Joe

In order to get over the heartbreak felt while watching Bridegroom, why not watch Craiglist Joe. It is very uplifting and shows the good side to humanity, an aspect that is seldom found in documentaries. Let me first say that that he’s braver than I’ll ever be. This documentary follows Joseph Garner’s travels across the United States as he relies completely on the kindness of strangers on Craigslist. With only a laptop, a cell phone, a toothbrush and the clothes on his back, Garner embarked on a potentially stupid, but nonetheless bold, adventure.

So sit back, avoid all the things that need doing, and go watch some Netflix. The possibilities are endless.

The Watch List: Tucker and Dale Vs Evil

By Joe Strange

I don’t usually go in for Horror movies, especially ones that aren’t set on the Nostromo starring Sigourney Weaver, but what I do like are films that take a genre, or an idea, and turn it on its head.

It’s one of the reasons I loved 2012’s Cabin in the Woods, a witty, gruesome commentary on modern horror movie tropes, but it turns out there was another cabin based film that was doing exactly that two years prior; Tucker and Dale Vs Evil.

Written and Directed by Eli Craig, who, in all honesty, isn’t known for much more than the failed Zombieland TV pilot, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is the story of a cabin in the woods, two hill billies and a group of college students.

The twist? This story is told from the perspective of the hill billies, Tucker and Dale. See, they’re not so different to us; they have relationship issues, they get judged by others on their appearance and they just want a nice vacation away so that they can fix up a cabin they got for a steal. (probably because it was the setting for a series of gruesome murders… BUT THAT’S BESIDES THE POINT).

Actually, it’s not, the fact that the cabin hasn’t been cleared out by its previous tenant (who was probably the antagonist in another horror movie) is one of the many huge misunderstandings that drives the film’s plot.

The drama is caused by the college teen’s presumptions of the red necks, who, I can’t say this enough, are just great guys, Tyler Labine’s (Reaper) Dale in particular is charming; he’s kind of a savant; remembering things he’s heard or read with ease, but just not so great with people. On the other hand Tucker, (played by Firefly’s Alan Tudyk) is the people person of the two, he cares dearly for Dale, but there’s some jealousy there.

The college kids are victims of horror movies, not in the way that they’ve been sliced and diced by a masked killer, but in that they’ve seen far too many of them; they see a pair of rednecks with power tools and dirty clothes and think the worst, scrambling to fill the roles that they think have been written for them by Hollywood.

The one truly sane character is that of 30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden, who plays a psychology student who sees the need for the two groups to communicate when things get heated. She’s the voice of reason in the madness, insisting that it’s all a misunderstanding, but some sides of both parties being so blinded by their misconceptions (and, in one case, savage mutilation) that they can’t listen, until it’s all too late.

Tucker and Dale isn’t just an entertaining satire of the genre, it’s also very funny; the script and physical comedy shines through with the main characters having both touching and hilarious moments.

At 89 minutes it’s not long, but it’s entertaining for those who like interesting takes on age old conventions, with a decent cast and a story that’s full of humour and satire as well as tension and action.


Reappraising Attack of the Clones

Having been binging on Star Wars: The Clone Wars recently I decided to rewatch a film I haven’t properly sat down to watch in almost half a decade: Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, a film that just last week I said was bad. Turns out time has been kind to Attack of the Clones (henceforth AotC), or I have gone mad, quite possibly the latter.

A couple of months ago I rewatched The Phantom Menace because it happened to be on my DVR and I was in the mood for some Podracing action. Now this was a film I watched numerous times on VHS, so I was very much surprised to notice subtle differences in this version that happened to be on TV at some point, which I assume is the same as the Blu-ray versions. Firstly the HD quality helps bring it up to date (although Phantom Menace was cautious with its use of CG), but George Lucas’ meddling resulted in a some minor additions to the Senate as well as a slightly extended Podracing section. These are changes I was very happy about.

Now because AotC is not a film that I’ve watched many times I really can’t comment on whether anything has been added or not, but what really stood out was that Lucasfilm had put in considerable effort to polish up the CG. It is by no means perfect, but now looks more like the typical limitations of using physical actors on top of green screen (or blue screen in the case of Star Wars). There was one scene in a diner featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi and an old acquaintance of his, Dex (Dexter Jettster), that I would always bring up whenever there was a discussion about the prequels and the use of CG, as no matter how much I may defend Phantom Menace, the character model of Dex was dreadful! Obi-Wan may as well have been talking to the tennis ball that Ewan McGregor was likely actually talking at. Thankfully now Dex has been fleshed out with a much more convincing character model. No longer dragging me out of the experience, except for the fact that I couldn’t get over how happy I was they fixed this scene.

When I started watching AotC, and after the giddiness that one gets during the opening crawl of text, I found myself surprisingly gripped by the first few scenes involving the attempted assassination attempts on Padmé Amidala. This first section of the film is possibly the strongest as the film struggles to keep up the same tension or intrigued (also helped by the fact that, despite being a literal global city, Coruscant is an interesting location). The scenes on Naboo are forgettable except for how tedious they are for having to poorly explain Anakin’s feelings for Padmé. After having left Tatooine, which involved a big rise in dark side points for Anakin, they arrive on Geonosis and bumble their rescue of Obi-Wan. In the events that follow for the first time we are shown the full force of the Clone army, followed by the surprising revelation of Yoda’s adept lightsaber skills fighting off against Count Dooku.

The film does end strong, with Count Dooku passing the plans for the Death Star to Darth Sidious, and an impressive shot of the thousands of clones marching off to fight in the Clone Wars. Even the final scene with Anakin and Padmé following their wedding is fitting considering how, along with the presence of R2-D2 and C3PO, is reminiscent of the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. All of these are accompanied perfectly by the excellent score by John Williams, who has managed to create great new themes for the prequels, whilst expertly interweaving the themes from the original trilogy.

However, despite my reappraisal of Attack of the Clones, it is still the “worst” film of the series, but that’s all. It is not the abomination to the cinema that many people think it is (or the entirety of the prequel trilogy for that matter). I admit that having been watching The Clone Wars may have helped, but with the necessary changes made to the CG, even with the sometimes mediocre acting (although who am I to call out someone’s acting), Attack of the Clones is a worthy film, and more importantly a worthy Star Wars film.


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5 Ways to Make Captain America Civil War Not Terrible

By Joe Strange

Alright guys, Age of Ultron is over, move on, it’s time to get this gravy train rolling again.

So we’ve all seen the second outing for the Avengers at least 5 times by now, it’s time to turn to the next instalment in the MCU.

What? No, I’m not going to talk about Ant-man, damnit I keep forgetting that film is out in a few months. No, today I’m talking Captain America Civil War.

More importantly, what Marvel can do to make Civil War the amazing comic book event that we’ve all been dreaming of since the studio announced it and not, you know, terrible. So with that in mind, here are 5 things that will make Civil War really great. Or not, it might make it suck, but maybe not.


*Also, spoiler warning for Age of Ultron in number 5*

5: Cast Martin Freeman.

Freeman’s hugely popular, he’s funny, talented and would fit really well in with the cinemati- What? He got cast yesterday? NEVER MIND, START AGAIN.

5 (again): Focus on the effects of the ‘war’ at a personal level, and not just the fight between Cap and Ironman.

One of the stand out things of the Civil War story is the Reed Richards sub plot; basically, throughout the entire story Reed is so focussed on helping Tony with his crazy hair brained schemes that he begins to neglect his family (which is worsened once Johnny Storm is attacked and hospitalised) causing a lot of friction between him and his wife Sue (The Invisible Woman, can turn invisible, is a woman. It’s all there in the name).

While at first I found myself put off by the weird relationship story in my ‘superhero beatdown event’, it’s actually something the film can learn a lot from; by showing the everyday relationships that are torn apart by the conflict, we get a much more personal and relatable story, which is what we need when dealing with super powered people.

Obviously this can’t be the Fantastic Four family, but it doesn’t even have to be relationships of the romantic nature, when you think about the great friendship between Steve Rogers and Black Widow (or even Black Widow and Hawkeye) you can see how effective a focus on the way two people so close can be torn apart is in telling a more grounded story.

4: Introduce new characters, but make sure you develop them.

One of the complaints about Age of Ultron was that the new characters that were introduced (Scarlett Witch in particular) weren’t given enough time to grow in the eyes of the audience.

The plan with Civil War is to not only introduce Spiderman, but Black Panther as well (as well as rumblings of introducing Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) into the fold too.) This will be the first outing for all three characters and to join a developed roster (which will no doubt be given a lot of screen time as it is,) they’ll need a bit more character development than Hawkeye yelling at them about how he kind of hates his job.

Now to really give the gravitas of the event that Civil War should be, there needs to be a slew of new heroes to recruit to either side, I’m not saying all of these need the sort of development that say, Hawkeye got in Age of Ultron, but if the characters that are caught up in this conflict are 2 dimensional and we find ourselves not caring about them, it’s going to take away a whole lot of lovin’ on our part, meaning that we’ll only care about the big few, and that completely voids number 5, so if this happens, it’s like Marvel never even read this article.

You hear that Marvel? I’ll bloody know!

3) Make any allegiance changes a big deal.

There’s a fair bit of side switching in Civil War, as each side makes mistakes, heroes move to the other’s camp. What this does in the story is gets the audience to question the side they’re currently backing; ‘if these heroes close to the situation change their minds, surely I could too’, and it shouldn’t be any different in the film.

The big reveal of Spiderman’s identity in the comic won’t hold as much weight in the film since this will be the first we’ll be seeing of the wall crawler, but Spiderman is the audiences ‘in’ to the story, he’s the one with the most notable side change, and if we don’t get a big focus for every switch we should definitely get one that makes us genuinely question both sides’ values they way Spidey’s did.

Really each time a hero changes sides it should feel warranted and not contrived. The audience should feel relieved when that character moves away from the side that just, say, accidentally killed a giant using a cyborg god clone. But soon they should worry that they may have made the wrong choice. It should be a rollercoaster, because at the end of the day, both sides have really valid points.

Which leads me to…

2) Don’t make either side obviously the right one.

This one’s a little difficult, with the film being a Captain America film, the obvious thing would be to make Cap’s side the one that the audience wants to win (in the comic, however, it doesn’t quite happen that way). But Marvel have a great chance to tell a story about greying morals and questionable decisions; all too often comic book movies eventually amount to ‘good guys win because they’re the good guys’. Well in this story, everyone’s a good guy to some extent (even the murdering spies), so let’s not paint one side with the ‘antagonist brush’, it’d be an insult to story telling to do so.

People should leave the cinema having questioned their siding at least 3 times, and not everyone should start off on the same side, friends should be arguing about who was right, it should have couples debating over whether what Stark did was acceptable, about whether Steve was being an idiot.

I want this film to break up relationships is what I’m saying.

5) Have Steve Rogers and Tony Stark be on the alternate side to the comics.

When the idea of Civil War was announced, it made perfect sense to have Steve on the resistance side; he’d just dealt with Hydra being SHIELD, his greatest enemy was the organisation he was working for; he was in no place to trust authority, and with Ultron on the horizon it made sense that Tony would be feeling remorse for the events of releasing an AI onto the world, and begin to feel accountable for his actions, and the actions of the super community in general.

Only, with the ending of Age of Ultron we see Tony drive off into the sunset, and Steve assembling a new team of Avengers, clearly with the idea of doing things the right way, with full disclosure and no secret AI development schemes.

We’ve also seen that Tony is reluctant to work with the government (it took a drunken Ironman fistfight to get him to give up one of his suits to his best friend, let alone the authorities) and so him backing the super hero registration act (or accountability act, if that’s the angle they end up going) seems a little off, especially since he’s probably the most suspicious of these sorts of things.

Of course, it might be that now Tony has some down time he’ll have de-paranoided, and it makes sense for Captain America to be the one to go off radar (he’s friends with Fury and Bucky, who are both underground).

So really, that one could go either way, but the comic Tony Stark and Robert Downy Stark are quite different, with the latter more likely to give the government the finger before being all ‘SECRET AVENGERS ASSEMBLE’.

So that’s that, what do you think? What do you guys think would make Civil War better? Do you agree with the above points, leave a comment below!

Here’s the Thing; There’s a Reason Behind Marvel’s Lacklustre Villains

By Joe Strange

Age of Ultron is out everywhere now folks! Now that America has finally caught up with us all, the rest of the world can finally talk about all the things we wanted to discuss this time last week.

What? It’s only been a day and I can’t talk spoilers yet? Oh fine.

I’ll just talk about how awesome Ultron is then…

Here’s the thing; Marvel has caught a lot of flak for having less-than-brilliant villains in the past, especially in phase 2: Killian was kind of vanilla in Ironman 3, and we won’t even mention what they chose to do to the Mandarin. In Thor The Dark World Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith was generic as could be, he was just an angry elf with abandonment issues. Even Guardians of the Galaxy, one of the best Marvel films to date, had a really lacklustre villain in Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) who acted like a spoilt child with anger management issues, you want to destroy Nova for what reason Ronan? Actually, I don’t care, because this tree can friggin’ talk.

So how does a studio with villains as bland as ‘angry pale leader’ and ‘angry blue leader’ also manage to pull out villains as great and relatable as Loki, or as terrifyingly hilarious as Ultron?

With Loki and Thor, the brothers were two parts of a whole; working off of each other as allies, and turning into enemies as the relationship was strained due to Thor’s rise to power and Loki’s belief that he should have been the true ruler of Asgard. This isn’t a relationship based on hate, as is many in the universe (Killian despises Tony for abandoning him, Malekith hated everything that wasn’t him, I think? He just wanted that ether to… get it into the plot I guess). There is a real relationship here, and when the brothers begin to part there’s not just anger, but a sense of betrayal. You feel connected to Loki, because Thor doesn’t start his journey as that great a guy, he’s arrogant and cocky, but while Loki lusts after power, Thor eventually earns his place, redeeming himself in the eyes of the audience, and while Thor takes the path of redemption, Loki goes off of the deep end. Quite literally.

Of course it helps that Tom Hiddleston is an incredible talent, and that Loki is a great character with whom the writers can do an awful lot with.

Compare this family feud with the Kree-Nova dispute in Guardians of the Galaxy: we don’t see any of this conflict, we’re told about it. We are, however, shown that Ronan is a fundamentalist, and that he’s consorting with the undesirables that we saw in the Avengers. The difference between Thor and Guardians, however, is quite simple; in Thor the main point of conflict in the film was the relationship between the brothers, whereas the entire point of Guardians was to throw this team together, they didn’t need a complex villain, they needed a common enemy, because there was conflict enough within the group.

Ironman 3 was looked upon less than favourably by a lot of people (Not me though, I’ll defend Shane Black till the end of days,) most notably for the mistreatment of one of the most iconic villains in Ironman’s rogues gallery, as well as for the… ‘meh’-ness of Aldrich Killian. Yes, they should have saved The Mandarin for another time, but the real opposing force in Ironman 3 isn’t Killian or the Extremis project, it’s Tony’s coping with his own shortcomings. It’s a film about battling inner demons, which is why a fellow from Tony’s past isn’t that bad a shout to kick off the plot.

At least, it wouldn’t have been if he hadn’t claimed to have been behind the whole damn thing and, while we’re at it, what the hell was with the fire breath? Is he a dragon? No? Then get it out of here.

When you look at Malekith’s role in The Dark World he’s little more than a McGuffin transporter. No one watched The Dark World for the leader of the Dark Elves, they watched it for the further development of the relationship between Thor and Loki and the shared universe that they’d invested in. Malekith is not a great villain, it’s true, but any amazingly developed antagonist would have detracted from the real driving force behind the film; Thor and Loki.

And woe betide anyone who gets in the way of the fans and Loki.

Which is where I think Marvel struck gold in using Loki as the main antagonist for the Avengers; here is a villain we already care about, that we have some sympathy for, and a team of people we need to see work together. By combining the two we get a film with some great character development and a great villain that the audience feels that they know just as well as the protagonists.

We see the reverse of this in Age of Ultron; we have an established team, we see from the opening scene that these characters are comfortable with each other and are still, at their core, the characters we last saw in their respective instalments, the development side of this is with Ultron; a villain who is every bit as snarky and clever as Tony Stark, but would never admit to being anything like his creator. We see Ultron’s literal growth through the film, his evolution from simple (or not so, as it might be) AI to a determined, power crazed lunatic, kind of like a certain man of Iron if he had dropped off of the deep end like Loki.

It’s Ultron’s view on the world, and more importantly, of the established team, that makes him an engaging villain, in the same way that it was our understanding of Loki and his view of himself that makes him a good villain in the Avengers. On the small screen; Wilson Fisk works as a good foil to Daredevil as they’re polar opposites, they both have the same aim, to make Hell’s Kitchen more tolerable, but their methods are completely different.

So, to wrap up, while Marvel’s villains might not always be the greatest, it seems to be that when they are slightly lacking, it’s so the film can shift its focus to more than just the good vs evil conflict. The best villains are the ones that interact with the protagonists on a personal level, and who we have a connection with, whether it be from previous films, in the case of Loki, or through shared characteristics as we see with Ultron.

Now, it’d be nice for film makers to begin to trust audiences with both a complex villain and a higher message that doesn’t rely on the main point of conflict to convey that message, but we have to remember that films are really quite short, and sometimes you have to make compromises.

But, yes, less furious entitled men of various shades and more complex, relatable shades of grey in our villains please and thankyou.


Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe Too Big?

By Joe Strange

The year is 2017, (I don’t know how, maybe time travel, you grabbed that time gem or something) and on the Marvel slate this year is the sequel to a film that stars a raccoon and a tree, yet another Spiderman reboot and the third Thor entry, and that’s just on the big screen.

In other mediums you’ve already had four seasons of Agents of SHIELD (ABC), two seasons of Daredevil (Netflix), as well as a series Agent Carter (ABC), Luke Cage, AKA Jessica Jones and at some point around this time you’ll have Iron Fist and the Defenders (All on Netflix) to binge on.

On top of all of that we’ve also maybe seen the Hunter/Bobbi Morse spin off from ABC that will feature the two Agents of SHIELD characters in lead roles, as well as the John Ridley reinvention of an existing Marvel property, also in ties with ABC.

By the end of 2017, a year and a half away, all of this plus the five Marvel One Shots and dozens of tie in comics, amounts to seventeen feature films, four television shows and five Netflix originals, some of which have multiple seasons.

That’s a buttload of stuff to watch, but I suppose it keeps Coffee Time News ticking over doesn’t it?

What I want to talk about (now that I’ve got the counting out of the way) is whether or not Marvel is going a little overboard with its cinematic universe.

Back in 2014 it was easy to follow; we had the films for everyone, Agents of SHIELD for those who liked a weekly dose of the MCU and the one shots for a bit of short fun, as well as the comics for those who were really committed, but it’s looking like one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest strength; interconnected serial story telling, could also be its down fall.

Think of the impact that Captain America The Winter Soldier had on the first season of the Agents of SHIELD. Here’s a film that absolutely turned the world of a TV series upside down, which assumed that the viewers of the show had already seen the film, which wouldn’t really have been an issue, but it’s worth noting that the episode that recognised the events of the film aired the same week as the Winter Soldier‘s release. So if for some reason you couldn’t get to the cinema in the opening week but kept up with the show, then bamn, that’s the twist of the film ruined for you. Sorry about that.

Now imagine if every instance of a big crossover or repercussion was this volatile. Did you watch all of Luke Cage in one week? (Umm, yes, we probably did) well I hope so because there’s a huge spoiler for it in this week’s Adventures of Hunter and Bobbi (that’s what we imagine it’s being called). Oh and did you manage to watch Doctor Strange? No? Well tough because he’s about to make waves in the world of Iron Fist.

Now I realise that I’m exaggerating quite a bit, and Marvel has a good habit now of making their cross over mentions to a minimum, Daredevil was a great example of simple references that helped incorporate the show into the universe without over doing it, but with more shows and properties to keep track of how long will they be able to keep it up?

Not everyone can watch all of Daredevil in 3 days, not everyone can get to an opening night screening of the latest MCU film, a lot of people don’t have enough time to keep up to date with all of the series, especially if the two ABC spin offs run simultaneously besides Agents of SHIELD or one another. It’s a danger that Marvel has to take into account as they ride this freight train of a franchise.

Don’t get me wrong, I really admire the scope of this project, this multi-media universe that is so accessible and rich, but as it gets bigger, the chance of it imploding under its own hubris grows as well.

It’s something that I really like about the DC universes; The Flash and Arrow run side by side, but even when they cross over (as some characters visit the other city or the like) they never give too much away, as I found out when I realised that I was a week behind on Arrow and watched the Flash episode in which they visited Starling City and nearly pooped my pants because I was afraid of spoilers.

It was fine, I made it to the loo in time and the show was very spoiler free.

Not only this but, as we’ve been told time and time again, the television universe of DC is absolutely separate from the film universe that includes the Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice. Which means that if you can’t seem to get into the adventures of Oliver Queen or Barry Allen, you need not worry about not catching something in the upcoming Batman Vs Superman.

It might all be fine, Marvel’s Universe may grow and grow and become more powerful than you could possibly imagine, and I’d be happily proven wrong, but there’s always the chance that we’re overcome with characters, story lines and lore that make keeping up with the MCU a chore.

Likewise, the introduction of the DC spin off Legends and Supergirl (if the latter has the rumoured connection) could cause that universe to fall into a downward spiral, or it could make it all the richer, we just don’t know.

For now, all we can do is hope that our shows stay entertaining, our worlds rich and our actors in the studio’s good books, because I don’t want to even think of the raucous that recasting beloved in-universe characters would cause.

Spoiler Free Reaction Time: The Avengers Age of Ultron

By Joe Strange

I do not envy Joss Whedon and the rest of the team behind The Avengers Age of Ultron, they had no small task on their hands, not only to top Avengers Assemble, but also to maintain the great level of quality that we’ve seen in the second phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

But the question is, do they do it? Is Age of Ultron better than Avengers Assemble? The short answer is… probably? Maybe?

The first Avengers was a huge deal; never before had so many characters that lead their own films been thrown together in such a fantastic way. But that was the first Avengers movie, you may notice that Age of Ultron is not.

Instead of the giddy excitement of seeing our heroes coming together for the first time, Age of Ultron leads with a well established team on a routine mission. What we see is a group of people comfortable with one another, talking and joking casually as they attack a fortified castle, whether it be Captain America scolding Tony for bad language, or Black Widow sweetly thanking the Hulk for tearing apart a bunker.

It’s a bit of a shock, and the first battle seems a little strange because of it. It all seems a little ‘planned’, but on reflection it’s just testament to how well this team works together now that they’ve been through the crucible of an alien invasion.

By the end of the battle though, it seems comfortable and right, and it’s a great set up for the Avengers’ evolution from the first film, it’s full of some great action pieces, funny quips and shout outs to the first film.

But while all seems good, there are other players on the field; the Maximoff twins (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson). After their first encounter during the assault Maria Hill sums them up perfectly; ‘he’s fast and she’s weird’. These ‘enhanced’ twins hold a personal grudge against Tony Stark, and by extension, the Avengers, and that’s where the film kicks off; by working off of Stark’s fear of failure, they set in motion the discover of the advanced AI that would become Ultron,

So, Ultron, really the biggest talking point of the film, does he live up to the hype that Whedon has been building since the announcement? Actually, he totally does.

James Spader plays a great line between terrifying genius and petulant child who just wants to get his way by any means necessary, add this one to the thankfully growing list of brilliant Marvel villains.  Ultron starts off naive but assertive, and only grows in confidence and conviction from there. As a peace keeping program, he deduces that the Avengers are the figurehead of violence and war, which isn’t hard to spot; Tony’s an ex weapons dealer, Thor is the god of thunder, Captain America was bred for war, Hawkeye and Blackwidow are trained assassins and the Hulk? Well he’s the Hulk.

To this end he enlists the Maximoff twins to help tear the Avengers apart and to help complete his mission of world peace. Which works, for a time; the twins, overcome with their hatred of Stark, are more than happy to help, with Scarlett Witch (Olsen) shining as a force to reckoned with (also that weirdly janky scene where she backs through a door is really odd and awesome) preying on all of the Avengers’ worse fears, besides one who’s had enough of that mind game crap. Scarlett Witch is a great boon to the plot, countering Ultron’s sheer force with trickery, while Quicksilver (Taylor-Johnson) adds a bit of a humour and attitude to the trio, with an immediate rivalry appearing between the speedster and Hawkeye. Quicksilver is far from just comic relief, however, as he has some of the heavier scenes in the film, and his relationship with his sister is incredibly touching; there’s genuine care and concern for one another here.

We’ve been told again and again that this is a darker story than The Avengers, and that’s certainly true. It’s far from gritty and moody, but it deals with more of the consequences of the main character’s actions across the board, with the turmoil that appears between some of the team really weighting the scenes down. Not that it’s bad, we can’t all have fun and games the entire time, and the film does a great job of developing the entire roster of characters, which is incredibly impressive considering the size of that line up.

These things, as well as a more threatening antagonist, possibly make the film less re-watchable than the previous, but its story is great, with there being less ‘what a coincidence’ moments than many films tackling this sort of scope, and it’s a more dynamic story than the first. Because of the more serious tone, the comic relief moments really stand out, and it’s in this where you see Joss’s mark; tension builds and builds, but then a joke brings you back to earth, and the greater the tension, the better the joke.

I’ve mentioned the growth of the Avengers since we last saw them all together, and each one goes through their own arcs that are self contained but also work well into the previous entries as well as future films.

Speaking of future films, we learn a little more about the infinity gems, and the state and stakes of the universe in the third act, which is another step in the set up to the Infinity Wars.

You may note that I’ve not mentioned the Vision as of yet, and this being a spoiler free review, I won’t delve too deep into the character, but he’s freaking fantastic. Paul Bettany does a great job as the character, bringing a patient gravitas to the role, while also having that familiar charm of Jarvis, who he’s played since Iron Man, really Vision’s reveal is one of the highlights of the film.

We also see quite a few cameos from previous instalments, War Machine and Falcon return for a party, Selvig returns to help out Thor and we get a few mentions of Jane Foster and Pepper Potts, even if they don’t appear.

Really, I don’t need to tell you to go and watch Avengers Age of Ultron, the chances are that if you’re on Axby you’re most likely a fan of the MCU anyway, and you’ll go and see it without me telling you to. So I’ll say this instead; it’s an incredibly good film, with the great writing and action that we’ve come to expect, but don’t go into it thinking it’s as light hearted as the Avengers. It’s a different beast, it’s the next step in Marvel’s Evolution, it’s heavier and more poignant, but still fun and entertaining at its core.

The Watch List: Batman: Gotham Knight

By Joe Strange

Batman is by and large the most popular DC superhero; he’s not overpowered and ridiculous like Superman and many of the other cosmic scale DC heroes, and while he, like Green Arrow, is based somewhat off of a famous figure (Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest detective) he doesn’t patrol his city in a deer stalking and pipe.

I know, Green Arrow doesn’t wear that silly green hat so much any more, still wears a hood though. and he’s one bad wash away from being little pink riding hood.

Batman is human. Sure, he’s a billionaire, close combat master and a tactical genius, but he’s still human. He’s also a complete badass and the goddamn Batman. He also has some of the most iconic villains in comics, which makes his conflicts even better.

Anyway, it’s because of the Bat’s popularity that this week’s Watch List is the 2008 animated anthology Batman: Gotham Knight.

Sitting pretty at an hour and a quarter, it’s a really short collection of stories about Batman, and the myth and legend surrounding him, as well as some more insight into the character of Bruce Wayne.

The collection was originally meant to be set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and though it’s not canon, the atmosphere of the stories is very inkeeping with that of the Nolanverse, even if some stories do approach some of the less realistic villains like Killer Croc, (Side Note: how cool would it have been to see Nolan’s take on Croc?)

Each of the six stories is done in a different art style, those who have seen the Animatrix will know what to expect on that front, but there is some consistency, the voice of Batman is constant throughout, Kevin Conroy does an excellent job as both Mr Wayne and Batman, and each tackles a different side of the Batman.

The first, Have I got a Story for you? is possibly my favourite, it follows four kids, three of which all had a separate encounter with Batman that day, the twist is that they each see him differently, one as a shadow creature, able to disappear at will, one as a combat robot and one as a hideous Man-bat. This one really focuses on the mystery surrounding Batman, and helps to give a more civilian interpretation of the vigilante, as well as having fun with kids’ habit of over exaggerating for effect.

Crossfire is next, this one is told from the point of view of two of Gotham City’s finest. We’ve no reason to believe that these two cops are crooked, and they’ve been picked by Gordon to be in the MCU (Major Crimes Unity, not Marvel Cinematic Universe). The two officers have differing views on the Batman, one sees him as a force for good, while the other only sees him as a vigilante, who should be helping in more orthadox ways. When the two cops get caught in a gang war, and are saved by the Batman, the latter sees him as a hero, and Batman is comforted, saying that he can see why Gordon picked them to be close to him.

Next up is Field Test, this is the first one that deals with Batman personally; after a brainwave Lucius Fox gives Bruce a strong electromagnet, capable of repelling bullets to an extent. After an incident with a bystander, Bruce announces that he’s willing to put his life on the line, but only his, and hands the device back. It shows off how seriously Bats takes his mission, especially his no kill rule, at a huge risk to himself.

In Darkness Dwells is a familiar-ish story that focusses on fear toxin and the like, a Cardinal is abducted from church Batman pursues the kidnapper into the sewers where he happens across Killer Croc who’s been afflicted by Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Batman defeats him but is affected by the toxin himself, we then see him struggling against that to complete his mission. It’s a more straight forward story, and in my opinion, not one of the best in the collection.

Working Through Pain is particularly good one for those who are fans of Batman’s humanity. Following on from In Darkness Dwells, Batman has a run in with a crazed gunman in the sewers, who shoots Batman out of terror. The subsequent story reflects on Batman’s training to understand and control pain, while he travelled the world. It’s a great look at how Batman became the controlled master of will he is in the present.

The final story is Deadshot, and is, unsurprisingly about the appearance of the infamous assassin. This one, as well as being a great action piece, questions the reasons why Bruce is the Batman, and what his purpose truly is.

The best thing about Gotham Knight is the brevity, each story is 10-15 minutes each, so if you don’t get on with one, it’s not much of a loss. The short stories are very similar to single issue comics, and make for great, broken up viewing, I myself watched the film in four different sittings.

Basically, if you like Batman, and would like to experience more of the Dark Knight, as well as seeing some really cool and interesting art styles and some great stories, it’s definitely worth a watch.

Marvel, Stop Giving Us Age of Ultron Trailers

By Joe Strange

Last week we got a pair of TV spots for Avengers Age of Ultron; I was cashing up a till at work when someone came up and told me. I, of course, freaked out and we watched it twice, maybe three times. It doesn’t matter, I watched it a lot.

It wasn’t until after we’d gotten back to work when I was overcome with sense of dread. We were over a month away from the release of Age of Ultron, and I realised that in the next four weeks we’re going to be seeing a lot of promotional material for the film, and the TV Spots had already shown us even more stuff than we’d seen in the trailers previously.

Now last night this international TV Spot appeared, it’s only brief and it’s little more than what we’ve seen already, but it’s just another example of the increased frequency that we’re getting this material.

Up until now, I’ve praised the trailer editors for their work on the Age of Ultron teasers; they’ve not shown us too much. Instead of throwing out every little scene and all the big set pieces in a clear narrative like many trailers do, the promotional material thus far have been sparing in new footage, sticking to the same set pieces in each new trailer, with different voice-overs or the occasional added shot.

What this does, for me at least, is keeps me intrigued; trailers are always a double edged sword for people like me who read way, way, too far into the things that we’re interested in. We want to see more, but the more we see, the less we experience in the cinema.

What the work for Age of Ultron has done is keep everything exciting, while not giving away big plot points or ideas (at least, not anything that’s obvious). Which, for a film that I’m sure will have twists and turns a-plenty, is really important. More so with a fan-base so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, because fans will always look for references and easter eggs in superhero films.

My worry is that in the coming weeks we’ll be seeing a lot more promotional spots and the like, which, in an attempt to drum up excitement (like this film actually needs it), may show us a little more than we actually should see.

It’s a worry that I don’t think is without standing, so many films have been spoiled just from the trailers; Termintor 2 showed us the biggest twist in the series (in that Arnie’s character was actually a good guy), and the number of modern blockbusters that give away an awful lot in the promotional run is ridiculous: Taken, Transformers, The Hobbit, Hunger Games are all guilty of this.

And I’ve not forgotten Marvel films. Remember back in 2012 when The Avengers trailer showed Hulk catching Ironman, a scene that happens literally in the last 15 minutes? How many of you were waiting for that to happen?

But Marvel films have gotten better, Guardians of the Galaxy was a great example of a film that kept most of its third act under wraps, and The Winter Soldier kept its Hydra twist well under the radar. And it’s looking promising for Age of Ultron, for one main reason.


Some of you will have heard of Vision, those of you who haven’t, I won’t say much more than he’s a result of the creation of Ultron, and is a big character in the comics.

He’s also Age of Ultron’s best kept secret (that we know of). The announcement of Vision in an Ultron story line wasn’t a shock, but it was good news, and up until very recently images and art of the character have been scarce, bordering on non-existent, until the most recent trailer, that ended with him ‘powering up’.

I urge Marvel not to show us any more of Vision. He should be a mystery that casual viewers go to the cinema to solve, and he should be the robotic bait to bring fans in. Show us too much and you make the mystery you’ve veiled him in all for naught.

The most recent international TV spot mentioned above has kept to the previous formula, showing us a little more of the scenes we’ve already seen and keeping camera shy Vision exactly that; away from the screen, and this character banner manages to keep him away too.

So Marvel, if you’re reading this, which I know you are, obviously, please dial back on the trailers, the teasers and the spots. Your franchise is its own super-powered snowball, if you are going to throw more promotional stuff our way, keep it to the formula you’ve got, show us very little more than what we’ve seen, and for Odin’s sake, don’t show us any more Vision.


Thanks for reading guys, if you enjoyed this article then take a look around the site where we’ve got plenty of other discussions and articles which are far less rant-y than this one and by authors far better looking than me. We’ve also got a couple of comic series to feast your eyes on, so check those out too.

And if you’d like to add to the conversation, comment below, or, if you’d really like to add your voice to Axby’s, check out our ‘Get Involved‘ page.

Stay Excellent, 

Joe Strange, Editor/Sort-of-idiot