The Wolverine (2013)

The Wolverine (2013)

Some franchises die when they hit a blip in the road. And by die, I of course mean “get rebooted”. From scratch – new actors, same plots. It’s a shame, as sometimes you can just have a bad spell, which can be amended and made up for in future releases. However, that’s not Hollywood’s current modus operandi when it comes to films. It doesn’t make the money, or doesn’t go down well with fans? Can it and reboot it some time in the future. Look at Superman Returns, for instance. Fans didn’t like it, critics didn’t like it… end. Then we saw Man of Steel re-occur this year, which itself didn’t perform “as expected” at the box office. It only looks like that’s been saved by audiences’ lust for heroes and the addition of Batman into the mix in 2015. It’s probably this same lust that’s kept another franchise going… well, that and the fact that Fox needs to use these characters or they’ll lose them to Marvel. And these are some big characters… the X-Men. With perhaps one mutant standing above all others: The Wolverine.

The Wolverine (2013)

Now, Wolverine’s not been immune to being in some duds. X-Men: The Last Stand riled fan boys and girls around the world as not being that good. This was followed up with X-Men Origins: Wolverine… a film that was detested even more by the same set of fans. Me? Sure, both films went a little whacky and weird, bastardising plots and characters, but I wouldn’t troll along on some internet forum moaning about them. But Wolverine’s survived… and he’s back in The Wolverine. No mention of X-Men in the title, no mention of “X-Men” in the film… it’s a one man odyssey set in Japan, based on a very famous storyline from the comics.

Okay, so there are some (major) revisions to the comic storyline, but essentially we find ourselves with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in Canada as he comes to terms with what he did in X-Men: The Last Stand (namely, killing Jean Grey / The Phoenix, played by Famke Janssen). He’s still seeing her in his dreams, tempting him to try and do something he knows can cannot do… join her. You see, Wolverine is 200 years old by this point, but thanks to that regenerative ability, cannot die (well, except by drowning, but that’s not been disclosed yet in the movies). We then see Wolverine shipped to Japan to meet an old man he’d saved from the atom bombs being dropped during World War 2. Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) wants to repay Logan by removing his healing ability. Wolverine disagrees, but then gets thrown into a whole Yakuza storyline with him trying to protect Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto).

The Wolverine (2013)

There’s a lot going on in the plot here, but overall… it works. For the most part. One of the problems levied against X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the fact that too many mutants were shoehorned into the plotting for the sake of it. Here the problem is yet again mutant based: Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova)… she’s pointless. She’s apparently hired as a biochemist / geneticist by Yashida to help him out with acquiring Wolverine’s powers. But she’s just a nuisance. Every single plot point pertaining to her could have been dropped and not had the slightest impact on the overall film. And her powers? Well, they just annoyed me.

Viper... Why?

Viper… Why?

Speaking of powers, one of the draws of this film is the promise of Wolverine losing his immortality. Normally, there’s no peril to be had, as you know he can heal from anything. Hell, in the comics he gets ripped in half, chewed up and digested by the Incredible Hulk (in a distopian future where the Hulk’s the head of a redneck clan of Hulks that rules the west coast of the US). But Wolverine heals and slashes his way out of the Hulk’s stomach. But here? Well, we have a very vulnerable Wolverine who CAN be killed. It makes for quite the interesting plot point and one that was pretty different. Sure, we still saw him pop his claws and tear the hell out of Yakuza (with no bloodshed), but he gets injured pretty damn well.

Hugh Jackman has to be admired for the commitment he puts into playing Wolverine, and he clearly loves the part. Physically you’ve got to hand it to Jackman, who at 45 still looks ripped when he plays the part. Indeed, some of the veins in his arms are actually quite sickening at one point – the guy is big. Some criticise the fact that “he’s not the Wolverine from the comics… he’s too tall, handsome etc.” – screw that. Sure, he’s not AS perfectly cast as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, but he’s damn good and delivers what we’d expect of him again. Sure, we want to see more of a feral, angry Wolverine – we all want that bezerker, but this is a 12 / PG-13 movie… we’re not going to get it.

Hugh Jackman... 45, and still ripped. Impressive work, bub.

Hugh Jackman… 45, and still ripped. Impressive work, bub.

I need to mention the constant recurrence of Famke Janssen in the movie. It’s a bit odd. Remember, X-Men: The Last Stand was released back in 2006… a good while ago. But The Wolverine places great emphasis on continuity. This is great, but also a hindrance. For anyone not familiar with the 2006 film, the appearance of this woman in his dreams is a bit peculiar. All they’ll notice is Janssen‘s cleavage coming on-screen every 20-30 minutes (she’s always in a bra or night-dress… with cleavage on show). Sure, we need to know he feels guilty, but too much reliance was put on this.

But what really bugged me with the movie was the conclusion. The final battles and what happens. Sure, it has a nice little twist to it, but it’s not what I was expecting. It also left me with a massive plot hole that was clearly shown on-screen but never discussed. Without spoiling anything… can someone tell me what Wolverine’s claws are made of now that battle’s over? Bone again? Hmm… I wonder if that’ll be forgotten by the time X-Men: Days of Future Past rolls around. Speaking of which… the mid-credits scene? Definitely worth waiting around for. Possibly the finest mid-credits scene of a superhero movie in quite some time. It’ll leave every X-Men fan buzzing for what’s to come – both the cameos and mentions of certain “Industry” names… Roll on 2014…

The Wolverine does some great service to ol’ Logan and finally gives him a starring role in a film that will overall be enjoyed by many. Having said that, it does have its flaws and struggles to hold a candle to even the weakest of the Marvel stable of films. I applaud its stripped down, character-centric approach and really liked the removal of his abilities for a while. It was still hampered by a lacklustre final showdown (as so many superhero movies do) and odd character inclusions. Still, credit to Jackman and director James Mangold… there’s life in the ol’ kanucklehead yet!

It’s ironic that the one mutant that’s capable of regenerating has yet to been rebooted in movie form. Some six movies on, we still have Hugh Jackman as Wolverine up on the screen. And it’s set to continue with next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past where we see the X-Men: First Class and X-Men: The Last Stand timelines merged with one another. This could FINALLY be the X-Men movie fans have been clamouring for. That, or we’re finally going to see true X-Men reboot… because unfortunately for Fox, they can’t just throw another hero that DOES earn money into the mix like Warner are doing with Superman / Batman… Damn studio politics!

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star

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Comic-Con 2013: Film Round-Up

Comic-Con 2013

Ah, Comic-Con… it’s that time of year again to get excited about being nerdy. What is this time of year you ask? Okay, I guess Comic-Con isn’t quite as well known as something like the Oscars, but it’s becoming increasingly known as the place where some of the world’s biggest movies are launched / previewed to the world. What type of movies? Well, look at the title of the convention will you? It doesn’t take a genius to work it out. Yes, Comic-Con is dedicated to the world of comics, which thanks to films such as Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Avengers actually now dominates the world of movies.

A year ago from now, we put together a preview of what went down at Comic-Con 2012 and highlighted the big films coming out of Marvel and DC’s stables… well, this year we’re doing exactly the same! We’ve collated all the information that was released into one handy little page for y’all to view. We’ll also be offering a bit of depth to these announcements, as we know that you’re not as all nerdy / informed as The Phage. Failing that, look at this YouTube video for some girls in costumes… it’s also pretty funny to boot…

First up, it’s my boys and girls at Marvel. As regulars will no doubt know, this is my favourite publishing house and consequently produces the movies I get most excited about. Sure, we all wish that Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and The Avengers were all held by the same studio and not this fractured mess we have between Sony, Fox and Disney, but hey… the movies look pretty damn sweet! So, let’s have a closer look shall we?

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Comic-Con 2013

I’m picking up with arguably the biggest franchise under the Marvel monicker… The Avengers. You know, the second highest grossing movie of all time? Yeah, that one. Well, its sequel isn’t due until 2015 (I know… an age), but we now have a title. And a title can tell you a lot of things! But I know what you’re thinking… who the hell is Ultron? Well, in the comics, Ultron is a robot engineered by Dr. Hank Pym (he’s Ant-Man by the by… a film scheduled for 2015 too). But the machine goes a bit sentient and decides that it must rid the world of humankind. Through this, we see the machine make its own humanoid machine: The Vision, in order to destroy The Avengers. Basically… lots of robot action.

Ant-Man, Ultron and The Vision... surely all three can't fit?!

Ant-Man, Ultron and The Vision… surely all three can’t fit?!

What are our thoughts on this? It’s interesting, if a little odd considering the chronology of Marvel’s films. There’s going to have to be some serious story deviations considering that Hank Pym / Ant-Man won’t be introduced until AFTER The Avengers: Rise of Ultron in the Edgar Wright-helmed film. Whether they totally retool the story, or bring in Pym in the sequel itself and expand post-Avengers, we’re not sure at the minute. Well, as I was writing this, it’s actually come up in conversation with Joss Whedon! This story arc will not follow the comics… so no Hank Pym in the new Avengers film. We’re getting hints that it’s going to come out of the pre-existing story… So… Tony Stark / Robert Downey Jr. creates Ultron then? I can already hear the fan-boys seething at the deviation, especially following the “events” of Iron Man 3… Maybe he makes Ultron to compensate for his lack of suits? Who knows, but time will tell…

What rumours do we have on this film? Well, Vin Diesel‘s been kicking up a fuss recently, as he does have a role in “a” Marvel film, apparently (although there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors going on here)… could it be in this film? Could he be The Vision? We also have Aaron Taylor-Johnson practically saying he’s Quicksilver in the Joss Whedon-helmed sequel (to go along with another new addition: The Scarlet Witch). Whatever happens, expect Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America to return with some new buddies to bring down a robot… and not Thanos…

Guardians of the Galaxy

Comic-Con 2013

Yes, Thanos was the guy teased at the end of The Avengers in the credits scene. Which scene? This one:

Now, many believed that was a hint to the direction of The Avengers 2… but that’s now totally wrong. Thanos is clearly too big a bad guy to launch into straight away. So… like Ultron… who is Thanos? Thanos is a cosmic entity from the moon of Titan, who’s constantly trying to court Death: his love. He’s a formidable character and is essentially a God, like Thor… but different. In the comics he eradicates all of the Marvel Universe of heroes. He’s pretty aggressive. But it seems Marvel are saving him for a future Avengers sequel. BUT… we know he’s confirmed to appear in James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy

Comic-Con 2013

Yes, this is what I was a little nervous of last year when it was announced. Now though, we have some casting and plotting at the very least. Starring Chris Pratt (Star Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax The Destroyer), plus the CGI-ed Groot (big tree… no-one named yet) and Rocket Raccoon (little raccoon with big gun… again, no-one named yet), it’ll see this team of intergalactic renegades teaming up against a cohort of other intergalactic entities including Lee Pace (Ronan The Accuser), Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Benicio Del Toro (The Collector). God knows how this is all going to play out, as I have zero familiarity with this particular title. Regardless, this is going to Marvel’s most “out there” franchise to date… it’s a space opera with raccoons, trees and super-powerful beings. I’m very keen to see how this plays out… my initial scepticism is fast turning into excitement as August 2014 draws closer…

Thor: The Dark World

Comic-Con 2013

Well, this is a little closer to release than 2014! Yes, Thor will return to our screens in October (for the UK) and November (never mind, USA). Comic-Con showed off some new footage, but we already know essentially what’s going on here with Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor facing off against Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith – a Dark Elf, who’s a pretty nasty character. We’re also seeing the chance of a team up between Thor and Loki to take down Malekith… will it hold? Will it hell. But this should be another top drawer movie now we’ve got rid of the “origins” story of Thor. Straight into the action? Yes please.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Comic-Con 2013

Similarly, we’ve dispensed with Captain America’s (Chris Evans) origin story now, so we can plod on with his narrative in Captain America: The Winter Solider in April 2014. What’s the story here? The titular Winter Soldier is a big clue. Remember the train scene from Captain America: The First Avenger? Where Bucky falls out of the train into oblivion somewhere in the frozen waste? Yeah… he’s not dead. He’s back with a metallic arm and a grudge against Captain America. Comic-Con got a first glimpse of the action here with a reveal of Bucky’s Winter Solider garb. Once again, we’re excited for it… although as with Thor, there’s not that much to explain here. We’re all familiar with the main characters. And these two? They’re hardly new announcements!

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Comic-Con 2013

Now we jump away from Marvel Studios / Disney to Fox’s Marvel movies… yeah, it’s going to get confusing. X-Men: Days of Future Past will pick up chronologically after this week’s The Wolverine, which itself comes after X-Men: The Last Stand. However, we’re going to see a melding of time lines to bring in the cast of X-Men: First Class. Yeah… we’re getting trippy here. The original storyline in the comics revolves around a future where mutants are hunted down relentlessly by Sentinels (large, anti-mutant robots at the behest of humankind). So, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page in X-Men: The Last Stand, and here) sends her consciousness back in time to alert her former-self to the threat that’s coming to try and stop the future. In the animated series, we saw Bishop head back in time (rugged black guy from the future, M scar on his face, loved wearing a red bandanna around his neck) to stop an assassination… and Bishop is cast in this movie…

The surprise of the day... all X-Men in attendance!

The surprise of the day… all X-Men in attendance!

But what did we find out this weekend? Well, who do you think’s getting sent back? Yes, it’s Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine… the poster boy for Fox’s X-Men franchise. So, we’ll see the old cast of the X-Men (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry etc.) and the new cast (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence etc.) in the same film. This could either be a very special movie, or a very flawed one. We’re optimistic here. It’s ambitious… but if it works? Wow… it’ll be good!

X-Force

Comic-Con 2013

A quick mention of this here… as it wasn’t officially announced, but we got confirmation that a script was being put together for X-Force. Now, who the HELL are these guys? They’re an X-Men off-shoot of mutants who’re a bit more cavalier in their attitude and fighting. We couldn’t possibly guess who’ll feature in this team though, as it’s a constant revolving door, much like The Avengers. We could see Wolverine, Cable (Cyclops and Jean Grey’s son… from the future), X-23 (Wolverine’s female clone), Deadpool (not the abomination from X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Archangel and a whole host of others. Although a load of those need their own backstories setting up. Especially Archangel… who was last seen with big fluffy angel wings as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand, instead of the blue-skinned, metallic-winged guy known as Archangel… we’ll see how this develops. IF it develops…

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Comic-Con 2013

I wish Sony had gone with a more inspirational title for this movie instead of just bolting a “2” to the end of it! But this is what we get I guess. Here, we’re following up from the original The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield as the titular hero. But this time, instead of Rhys Ifans‘ Lizard, we see him up against Jamie Foxx‘s Electro, Paul Giamatti‘s Rhino and potentially Chris Cooper‘s Norman Osborn / Green Goblin… well, it’s certainly a busy time for Spidey! Whether it suffers from villain overload, we’re going to find out, but again… I’m optimistic. I was underwhelmed with the original Amazing Spider-Man, as I thought it was too soon for a reboot. But the teasers released for Foxx‘s Electro? And the footage aired at Comic-Con? We could be in for a treat. Electro could be a great villain, unlike the ones we’ve seen before… Check the clip for the reveal…

Man of Steel 2 / Superman vs. Batman / World’s Finest

Comic-Con 2013

This was perhaps the biggest shock of Comic-Con that no-one really saw coming, and for once… it wasn’t from Marvel. We knew a sequel to the recently released Man of Steel would be inevitable… but few could have predicted this. Zack Snyder waltzed onto the stage to announce that the next instalment would feature both Superman AND Batman… a rebooted Batman, free of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale. Want something else? They’re going to be at each other’s throats. Wow. And again… Wow. I’m not even a DC fan, but this is impressive news. No-one has any specifics yet, except for the fact we’re going to see the return of Henry Cavill and the cast of Man of Steel and that it’s going to drop in 2015… It seems that year’s hotting up now… with The Avengers: Age of Ultron and now Man of Steel 2 hitting in the same summer… ALONG with Ant-Man at some point too. Sheesh… it’s going to be a busy one!

And we can’t wait…

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)

Metals… there seems to be a lot of emphasis on them in films nowadays. Not that there are films out there about smelting and how steel alloys are crafted, but you can’t help but notice how the combination of metals and humans has made some serious money in the past few years. OK, this is a really odd and tenuous link / introduction to the review, but you get my point surely? Robert Downey Jr.‘s Iron Man and all of his related films have been a major earner in Hollywood. A major earner. They’ve taken comic book movies to the next level and showed the immense drawing power of these films. So what happens when you upgrade your iron? How about we put some steel into the mix? And switch from Marvel to DC? And add Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder into the mix? Let’s see how Man of Steel stacks up shall we?

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel is of course the story of Superman. The superhero that flies, shoots heat lasers, has x-ray vision, is super strong, is near invincible etc. etc. This is one of the main reasons I’ve never had any affection towards him from a comic book fan’s perspective. He’s just got too many damn powers. And his weakness? Kryptonite… an asset that everyone seems to have in his world. I won’t lie; I’ve never read a single page or panel of a Superman comic, so this review isn’t coming at you from a fanboy perspective. What do you think this is? A Marvel film review!? Nor can I attest to being a fan of Christopher Reeve‘s outings as Superman. If I’m honest, the closest I’ve got to this franchise was Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. Yeah, I admitted it. What of it?!

Regardless, this movie has been touted as gritty and grounded; due in no small part to the success of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman franchise. This also explains his involvement as an Executive Producer on this movie. Couple that with Zack Snyder and you should have something to marvel at. I must admit, I was dubious of Snyder being given the gig, as I’ve been less than impressed with him since 300. Watchmen was okay, and Sucker Punch? Well, let’s not speak of it. But I’ll hand it to him… Man of Steel is good. Very good…

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel is the reboot the series has been yelling out for. It tells the obligatory origin story, but in a refreshing way. We see little Kal-El (Henry Cavill) on Krypton being sent away by his parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) as they aim to let him thrive off on Earth before Krypton implodes / he’s taken by the marauding General Zod (Michael Shannon). We skip a load of years and see his life with Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent. What’s refreshing is that his life is filled in through flashbacks throughout the film, which allows the central plot to progress (him coming to terms with his powers, discovering the hero inside, yadda yadda) whilst also colouring in the background. I liked it.

The story is quite straight forward in many ways, and is probably a bit cliché / has been done before. But what really sold Man of Steel to me was the sheer calibre of the acting on show. Everyone is pulling their weight and then some. Let’s, naturally, focus on Clark / Kal-El / Superman himself: Henry Cavill. This guy is perfect for the role – from his astoundingly broad-chested physique to his mannerisms and relatability. I was totally sold on Cavill‘s performance and can’t wait to see him return. My next favourites in the movie? Easily Costner and Crowe. I’m a big Russell Crowe fan, and once again he showed his acting chops off really well, as did Costner; giving one of his best performances in years. There wasn’t a single weak link in the line-up of main actors here. That’s hard to achieve!

Man of Steel (2013)

As I mentioned earlier, the flaws with the film – for me – were the plotting (fairly obvious) and sometimes very dry tone. I’m not expecting Iron Man-esque laugh out loud moments, but it was the inclusion of two or three obvious spoken jokes that had me cringing. They fell so flat and left me feeling awkward. Some have bemoaned the lengthy running time, but I’ll disagree with them; I thought it worked well at its current length. Sure, there was probably one fight too many in the middle section, but I was entertained and that’s what matters with comic book movies isn’t it? On that note, I also felt the climax of the movie – the “big bad event” was fitting and felt suitably menacing. I’d argue it was a far bigger threat than The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers could muster. It’s nice to feel a true threat… even if you had no doubt about the ultimate outcome!

Man of Steel (2013)

Also, I need to mention just how it looked… fantastic. Snyder does have a flair for filming beautiful looking scenes and Man of Steel doesn’t disappoint. I felt the sheer scale of his universe and felt drawn into it entirely. As I say, I can’t wait for the already announced Man of Steel 2… although I hope it’s not called that!

Man of Steel is the Superman movie fans have been roaring out for for years since the weak Superman Returns. Finally, arguably the most famous superhero of all time has a film to be proud of. The reason this film works so well is the way in which it’s an origin story, but told in a nicely succinct way, and the sheer calibre of acting talent on show. Cavill is the perfect Superman and his supporting cast are all firing on all cylinders. Although the film’s not perfect, and arguably not as fun as Marvel’s current stable of characters, it bodes well for the future of the franchise.

So who wins out of steel and iron? Although steel is actually the superior metal, there’s no competition here in the fact that Iron Man is superior to Man of Steel. But it’s close. And you could argue that they’re incomparable owing to radically different tonality. Whilst one is stern, one is jokey. Can you imagine Robert Downey Jr. as Superman though? Can you? Now that’s something to think about…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

Thirteen of the Best for 2013

Gaze into the Phage's Ball...

Gaze into the Phage’s Ball…

Happy New Year one and all! We’ve all managed to survive the armageddon and hopefully survived the welcoming in of 2013 last night. So now you have just one question on your lips about the year ahead right? What are the best films of 2013! No? You’re telling me you want to know if you’ll get that promotion / girl / boy / revenge? Well, I’m afraid I’m just going to answer the query about some of the biggest films to come in 2013. Last week we had a retrospective look back at 2012 with the 1st Annual Phagee Awards and now, like Janus – the namesake of January, we’re going to look forward to what’s to come. So I’ve picked thirteen films for 2013 that should be on your radar. Whilst I hope they’re all going to be hits… I can guarantee they’ll be an interesting watch, for better – or worse.

1) 14th February: A Good Day To Die Hard

2013 Die Hard 5

Yes, Bruce Willis will once again be donning a dirty vest and reprising his role as the unluckiest man in the world: John McClane. We cannot wait for this film. Film Phage are massive fans of the others in the franchise, so we’re eager to see what happens in the fifth. Sure, Die Hard 4 can’t hold a candle to Die Hard: With A Vengeance, but it was still great fun and we’re hoping for more of the same. The only worry? Having John McClane Jr. (aka Jack McClane, aka Jai Courtney) running around with him. Whilst we’re sure Courtney will do an admirable job… we still wish it was Tom Hardy in that role. We can dream right?

2) 27th March: Trance

2013 Trance

This one’s coming in low and hard, because I don’t think many people even know that Danny Boyle‘s latest film will be hitting cinemas in the Spring. This is the guy that brought you Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours to name but four of his eclectic movies. Whilst he’s not released too many details, we know it has James McAvoy at its lead and deals with art, ripping off gangsters and hypnosis, which leads to a reality-bending story where you don’t know what’s real from what’s resulting from the trance. It all sounds ludicrously trippy and we’re looking forward to having our minds warped.

3) 12th April: Oblivion

2013 Oblivion

Whilst nerdy gamers worldwide may be rejoicing in the premise of a live action retelling of the Oblivion video game, that’s not the case. No, this is a post-apocalyptic film starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. Whilst Cruise has been known to produce a dud once every so often, he’s a pretty bankable actor and only commits to promising films. This film puts Cruise as an engineer who returns to a war-ravaged Earth (we’ve been at war with aliens) and discovers a secret that turns the whole war on its head. Sure, Cruise has dabbled with aliens in the less-than-well-received War of the Worlds, but we’re excited by this. It has great potential.

4) 26th April: Iron Man 3

2013 Iron Man 3

Don’t tell me you couldn’t see this making my list? We’re massive Marvel fans at Film Phage and can’t wait for Robert Downey Jr. to don the red and yellow suit once more. Whilst it’s great to have Sir Ben Kingsley as a menacing Mandarin, we’re also very curious about Guy Pearce‘s role. If it’s true to the Extremis comic-book storyline then his character should have a nice meaty role. Pearce has impressed us in 2012 with his slimey performance in Lawless and we couldn’t help but like him in Lockout too. This could potentially be Downey Jr.‘s last outing as Iron Man in his own dedicated film, so we’re hoping that if it is – he goes out with a bang! We also get this a week before the US… which makes it even better.

5) 24th May: The Hangover Part III

2013 Hangover Part 3

The Hangover was a breath of fresh air for the comedy film world. It was rude, bombastic and totally absurd… it was great. So when Part II reared its head in 2011… well, we were all a bit disappointed. It was near enough a copy-and-paste of its predecessor. However, The Hangover Part III is promising to turn the concept on its head, with the guys (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) coming to the aid of Zach Galifianakis‘ Alan. At least, that’s what the rumours are indicating… we’ll see for sure come May.

6) 7th June: After Earth

2013 After Earth

When Will Smith releases a film, the world raises its head and takes notice. He, like Cruise, has released some dud movies, but he’s another incredibly bankable actor and generally has a fantastic number of releases under his belt. In After Earth we see him reunited on-screen with his son Jaden Smith, which is great… but isn’t the reason we’re excited about this. The film also marks the return of M. Night Shyamalan to the director’s chair some 3 years after the disaster that was The Last Airbender. All we really know is that it sees Big Willy crash land on a planet that’s not been inhabited by humans for 1000 years. We just hope that “the twist” isn’t that he’s time travelled and this IS Earth… A bit like Planet of the Apes, but without the damn dirty apes.

7) 14th June: Man of Steel

2013 Man of Steel

Although Batman’s done and dusted, Christopher Nolan‘s dabbling with the DC superheroes isn’t over. With Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, and Nolan as producer, we see the return of Superman. Whilst the trailers have been suitably vague, we’re excited to see what they’ll do with this franchise. Could it be the next Green Lantern, or will he be the new Dark Knight… or a Light Knight. With laser eyes, who can fly… and spin the world backwards. How they manage to ground such a ludicrously powerful hero will be interesting. Because as we know, all Hollywood cares about nowadays is making heroes “gritty” and “realistic”. We’ve high hopes for Henry Cavill though – he certainly looks the part, and with the main villain touted as Zod (another superpowered guy), we’re expecting fireworks.

8) 21st June: World War Z

2013 World War Z

This could be fantastic… but it could also be awful… This film worries us and excites us in equal measures. I’m a massive fan of Max Brooks’ original book by the same name. It’s utterly fantastic. But the Brad Pitt-led film deviates heavily from the concept of the book (an oral retelling of a war against a plague that turns people into zombies – told by the survivors). Instead, this film opts to follow Pitt -who works for the UN, during an onslaught in Pittsburgh. The trailer looks a bit of a mess, with the zombies somehow forming a tidal wave – they move like a liquid. An odd choice. I’d rather we saw the runners from 28 Days Later… but we’ll see how this turns out. We’re curious, to say the least.

9) 12th July: Monsters University

2013 Monsters University

Finally we get the follow up to 2001’s Monsters Inc., which is one of my favourite animated movies. We’re hoping that Monsters University goes beyond what was done back then and creates a truly funny and imaginative film. The original gang is back, so we can look forward to seeing Sully (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) in their University of Fear days. We know that they weren’t necessarily friends back then, so it’ll be an interesting plot. Let’s just hope the sequel / prequel is at least as good as the original so that it doesn’t sully (ha – that’s his name!) what was a great original film.

10) 26th July: The Wolverine

2013 The Wolverine

The most popular X-Man reappears on-screen this year – once again courtesy of Hugh Jackman. This one should be interesting. Apparently it’s going to skip over X-Men Origins: Wolverine and actually pick up from where X-Men: The Last Stand left off. Very interesting. Incidentally, it’s set in Japan and sees Logan coping with his losses and dealing with his life. Naturally, he’s going to have to pop those claws too to deal with some samurais. We’re also intrigued to see whether this somehow links in with 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which should feature Wolverine quite prominently. Hugh Jackman‘s signed on for it, so we shall see…

11) 20th September: Elysium

2013 Elysium

This is probably our most anticipated film on the list. Why? Because we’re seeing Neil Blomkamp returning as the writer and director. Who’s he? Only the guy behind District 9 – one of our favourite films. We’re still waiting on District 10 though – get on it Neil – we want to know what happened to Wikus! Why else should this be great? 1) the actors: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley, 2) the story: rich folks live on a spacecraft, poor folks live on the wrecked Earth… and Matt Damon‘s going to equalise it! We’re very, very excited.

12) ??th October: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

2013 Sin City 2 A Dame To Kill For

2005’s Sin City was a beautiful piece of cinema. In every sense. It was pulpy, gritty and looked sublime. It was Robert Rodriguez at his best, adapting a great Max Miller story. Can he do it twice? Well we’ve got a hell of a lot of the cast back for events that are set just before the original film. That means Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Michael Madsen, Clive Owen etc. It’s a shame Bruce Willis doesn’t figure in this story, as his character was great. But hey – if we’ve got more of Mickey Rourke‘s Marv back up there smashing things, then we’re happy. It also features some bizarre cameos… Lady Gaga anyone?

13) 30th October: Thor: The Dark World

2013 Thor The Dark World

Rounding out our list of the thirteen most anticipated films is everyone’s favourite Norse God: Thor. Yes, Chris Hemsworth will be back at his ripped best and fighting a new evil… one that isn’t just Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki again! Hurrah! This time we’ll see him squaring off against Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith in what should be a refreshing new angle – not all God vs. God again, or Thor landing on Earth in the middle of nowhere doing his best impression of Crocodile Dundee… minus “y’call that a knife?” routine. Oh, and again… UK beats the US release by one week. We may have lost the battle for Wreck-It Ralph, but we’ve not lost the war yet my friends.

And that’s it – just a selection of thirteen of our picks of films to watch in 2013. We’ve not even touched on the new Fast & The Furious movie, which again has Dwayne Johnson in it, so it should be pretty good. Then there’s Gangster Squad, the eventual release of Wreck-It Ralph, and Spielberg‘s Robopocalypse. But hey – it’s thirteen films for 2013… I’ll do more films next year. Probably fourteen. If the world doesn’t end this year either.

Comic-Con 2012 Film Round-Up

Comic-Con… An event that used to be regarded as the time of year when pale, socially awkward creatures would gown up as their favourite science fiction character, brave the Californian sun, and make their pilgrimage to meet the stars of thatshowyou’veneverheardof and itwasbiginthe80’s. You need look no further than that barometer of public opinion, The Simpsons, to see how these events were seen… Remember the baying hordes asking Lucy “Xena” Lawless the most absurd and nerdy questions in a scene from 1999’s Treehouse of Horror X? Or for those less familiar with the intricacies of the series, you’re surely aware of Comic Book Guy, the rotund, sarcastic and single comic book shop owner? Well, fill a hall with people of this calibre and that’s how this event was rightly or wrongly seen back in yesteryear. No more.

Jump forward a decade and Comic-Con is firmly marked on every film enthusiast’s, entertainment magazine’s and large film studio’s calender next to the award ceremonies. Why? Well, it’s not to catch a glimpse of some of the phenomenal Cosplay costumes, but to hear about the latest announcements on the current darlings of Hollywood: the comic book movie… and this year was exceptional.

Ant-Man: Coming soon to a cereal bowl near you!

The  “House of M” (Marvel), coupled with the “House of Mouse” (Disney) really brought the goods this year; probably their best outing since the entire cast of Avengers Assemble was erm… assembled on-stage at the 2010 expo. It really is telling of how far Comic-Con has come in recent years that Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle – two of Hollywood’s leading men – were in attendance. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take this sequentially as opposed to tackling this with the reckless chronological abandonment of Quentin Tarantino.

Proceedings were kicked off with the confirmation that Edgar Wright‘s Ant-Man will indeed see the light of day. Yes, that’s right – that little punk from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids has harnessed Rick Moranis’ awesome shrink gun powers and become a superhero. Ok, I jest… in fact, that little kid grew up and became, well, no-one. Last film? 1992’s Honey, I Blew Up The Kid. Not all film roles are kind to you. Funny that these two films perfectly encompass Ant-Man‘s eventual powers: the ability to shrink to the size of ants (and control them) and become gigantic. Though if Wright puts him in a bowl of Cheerio’s at some point we’ll know where the inspiration came from. Kidding aside, every comic fan worth his/her salt knows that the introduction of this hero into Marvel‘s cinematic Universe could spark some very exciting film plots down the line… Tickle this Phage excited.

Next up, we’ve got Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. – a man who needs no introduction, but this doesn’t stop him giving himself one courtesy of Luther Vandross. If this man wasn’t so damn charismatic, talented and infectious you’d want to tell him to come off the pompous juice every now and again. Downey (himself / Iron Man), Cheadle (James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine), Shane Black (director) and Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan / exec. producer) of course were on hand to show off footage from the Iron Man 3 film. As The Phage is a bit wet behind the ears and not based in California, we weren’t there to explain the footage to you, but needless to say it sounds fantastic. Notably, it was confirmed that Ben Kingsley will indeed be the Mandarin, although I think the only people unaware of this casting are those that are holed up in bunkers awaiting the nuclear fallout caused by the Millennium Bug to clear in 2023, or you know, they have a life that’s not based on the internet… It’ll be nice to see Kingsley flexing his serious acting chops again after whatever The Dictator was. Due in May 2013 (April for the UK), this is sure to be one to mark on the calender.

In a back-to-back onslaught, the final announcements from the Marvel stable caught some off-guard for polarising reasons. Firstly, the good. We find that the uniquely named Thor 2 and Captain America 2 have been morphed into Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Although the Thor title has left some room for ambiguity in what’s to come in November 2013, ol’ Cap’ doesn’t. Expect the return of Bucky Barnes, who was last seen falling off a train in an Arctic looking Germany, in 2014.

Oops, there goes the neighbourhood! That, or Marvel’s current run of form.

Now, I like to think of myself as a bit of a comic book fan (see The Amazing Spider-Man review), but the confirmation that Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t just some ludicrous rumour was… well, imagine the feeling you’d get if you’d just woken up in an alternate reality where Keanu Reeves doesn’t act like a soulless robot from the planet “Woody Woody Wood Wood” and Justin Bieber now fronts Napalm Death… Sure, it might seem like a pleasant surprise on the surface, but it’s just odd. So with Marvel soon introducing an intergalactic Peace Corps led by a talking raccoon, we can expect the “grounded” take on superheroes to evaporate quicker than that punk from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids‘ career. Here at the Phage, we can see the connection clarifying the *Avengers spoiler* Thanos appearance in Avengers Assemble, but do we really crave these heroes…? “They may be the ones the Marvel Cinematic Universe deserves, but not the ones it needs right now…  Because they’re not known heroes. They’re unknown guardians, watchful protectors… a difficult sell to the public.” Speaking of which…   

Ok, DC didn’t launch in with a Batman quote, nor clips from the imminent The Dark Knight Rises… Nor does it need them as that particular hype machine is in danger of exploding amid reports it could topple  Avengers Assemble‘s opening weekend take and that negative reviewers are being cyber-lynched left, right and centre.

Man of Steel. Not shown practising Blue Steel. Just moody.

No, DC had but one film to show for what is arguably their poster boy: Superman, with Man of Steel. Both Henry Cavill (Clark Kent / Superman) and director Zack Snyder (thankfully at a normal frame rate) were on hand to show off some footage and answer fans’ questions. Once again, The Phage was overlooked for a press pass, so no in-person viewing (this will have to wait for The Dark Knight Rises trailers), but the main thing we learn is that yes, General Zod is the villain. Yes, that’s right – the same villain from Superman II back in 1980. Hopefully they’ve updated the General’s fashion sense since then; although they say the 80’s are back in fashion again so maybe he’ll still be sporting some high rise black trousers. Reports on the frames-per-second of Snyder‘s Superman are still pending. Expect to see the return of the other guy who sports red and blue in June 2013. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be an origin story…

I wish there was more to balance out the weighting of Marvel vs. DC Comics in this report, but DC doesn’t have that many burning franchises, aside from Superman and Batman, who’s soon to be retired and rebooted following Chris Nolan‘s trilogy. Rumours abound about a Justice League movie (like the Avengers’ ensemble cast), as well as a Green Lantern reboot (yes, just 2 years after the original), but nothing concrete has been announced.

There really was something for every comic book movie fan at Comic-Con this year. The Phage won’t dip into the reams of other announcements regarding non-film franchises such as The Walking Dead, but needless to say it stood out in so many areas.

So whether you’re a fan of men flying around wearing a cape, Norse Gods with washboard-like ab’s, or talking racoons from space, there was something to get excited about.

And there’s always next year for “that punk” from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids to make his unexpected and unneeded return to the silver screen…

“Bring back Nick!” Campaign 2012