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So How Good is Dragon Ball Super: Broly? (Movie Review)

As much as I respect Akira Toriyama, I was worried when I heard he was writing the next Dragon Ball film. Four years ago, he made his screenwriting debut with Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F. What should’ve been a glorious return for one of anime’s greatest villains was a glorified disaster – horribly paced, overpacked with action, and anticlimactic. His friends at Toei Animation sought to make up for it with Dragon Ball Super, the new series that began as a retelling of the films Battle of Gods and Resurrection F before telling its own stories. Now that the series has come to an end, Toriyama & Co. have given us a new film: the eagerly awaited Dragon Ball Super: Broly. Released on Blu-ray & DVD in May, it’s the third film Toriyama has supervised and the second one he’s written. He and his crew meant to take the lessons they learned in the past four years and do another iconic villain justice. Keep reading to find out if they succeeded – and as always, beware of spoilers!

Broly begins forty-five years in the series’ past, on the Saiyans’ home planet. King Vegeta III (our Vegeta’s father) discovers a Saiyan child with latent abilities that exceed his son’s immensely. Jealous and fearful of the child’s potential, the King banishes him to a hostile world then abandons the child’s father after a failed rescue attempt. Years later, their home planet is destroyed leaving only a handful of the Saiyans alive. We then move to the present day – after the events of Super – to find Goku and Vegeta fresh out of the Tournament of Power… and already seeking their next big challenge! It comes sooner than they think when their old enemy Frieza, newly resurrected after the tournament, comes to Earth to wish upon the Dragon Balls. This time, though, he doesn’t plan on fighting – Frieza has rebuilt his army and brought along two new recruits to do the fighting for him. To Goku and Vegeta’s surprise, the newcomers are Saiyans: the exile Paragus and his grown-up son Broly! The pair have spent their entire lives in isolation training, and now Paragus wants to take revenge on King Vegeta by having his own son fight the Prince of All Saiyans. Paragus thinks it will be an easy win – but he has little idea how powerful Broly really is. And no one, not even Broly himself, knows what terrible power he’s about to unleash.

I had a hard time getting my act together for this review, so I’ll start by saying this: if you hated Resurrection F, you need to see Broly. Everything about it is a huge improvement over the last film, from the writing to the battle scenes we’ve all come to expect. However, the first thing you’ll notice is the animation – it’s smoother, faster, and more fluid than ever before! That’s because Toei Animation formed a new team of animators to make the film. The lead animator is Naohiro Shintani, a Dragon Ball newcomer, and instead of staying with the art style we’ve gotten used to over the years, he gave it a complete overhaul. The screenshots I’ve picked don’t do it justice – the film looks so good in motion, it puts the finale of Battle of Gods to shame! Some of you may be upset that, once again, the film combines 2D animation with CGI. However, under Shintani’s wing, they blend together much better this time. In Resurrection F the CG characters were easy to spot, but even the most attentive viewers will have a hard time picking them out now. The trademark fights are improved too; unlike the clashes of yesteryear, the bouts in Broly use everchanging camera angles to give each punch, kick and blast extra impact. In a single shot, the view can change from a bird’s eye view to a closeup to a first-person perspective in the blink of an eye. Some viewers may find the action harder to follow, but the fast and furious camerawork makes it more intense than any fight yet seen in Dragon Ball. To top it all, they’re accompanied by a catchy soundtrack by Norihito Sumitomo and Daichi Miura.

Of course, there’s more to like about Broly besides what we expect – in a change from past Dragon Ball films, the character building is surprisingly strong. Instead of bombarding us with cameos, the film spends a good deal of time establishing the new characters. It’s especially good for Broly, the film’s star, who’s been given a makeover for his cinematic return. If you’ve been a fan of Dragon Ball since the 90s, you might remember him as the Legendary Super Saiyan from the classic DBZ films. Back then, he was little more than a madman who threatened Goku’s family… all because Goku cried incessantly as a baby. The new Broly is much deeper; a gifted child shunned by his own people and forced to become a fighter. Unlike most Saiyans, he’d rather make friends with you than beat you to a pulp – sadly, his father would have none of it. Paragus is so obsessed with revenge, he goes to horrible lengths to train Broly to get it. He even uses a shock collar to keep Broly in line, like an attack dog! Thankfully, not everyone treats Broly so harshly. The two Saiyans are rescued by two members of Frieza’s army: the non-combatant Lemo and thieving cutie-pie Cheelai. You wouldn’t expect someone from the Frieza Force to be nice, but these two come to see the best in Broly and do their best to bring it out. Lemo & Cheelai make Broly far more likeable than his original self… but he’s no less dangerous. When the gloves come off, he’s every bit as powerful as he was in the past – and unlike Frieza in 2015, this Broly gives our heroes a hell of a fight to the very end. Both fans and newcomers will come to love him by the film’s end; and you’ll be pleased to know that he’s now canon!

From the opening scenes, it’s clear that Toriyama & co. have raised their game since Resurrection F. Although Broly moves at a fast pace, it’s more even than the last film and doesn’t rush from one fight to the next. In fact, it spends its first forty minutes developing characters old and new – and if you’ve followed Dragon Ball since the beginning, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll see. In the opening act, we get a glimpse of the family lives of King Vegeta, Paragus, and Goku’s father Bardock. And far from being single-minded killers, as we were led to believe, they’re all loving parents! It’s quite the game changer, but fans will appreciate this as it makes the Saiyans’ fate more heartbreaking; and newcomers will love it because it shows them exactly who to root for. The last two films were weighed down by a huge cast, but Broly keeps the cameos to a minimum. No one is seen or mentioned unless they have a part to play, keeping our attention squarely on Goku, Vegeta & Broly. The film’s also more accessible due to its tone; even at its most intense, Broly isn’t afraid to have a laugh. Some of its funniest moments come in the battles with Broly, and they come out of nowhere in the best possible way! And don’t worry if you haven’t seen Super to the end; the film makes clever use of rapid-fire flashbacks to fill you in on the essentials. At the least, you only need to have seen Battle of Gods and Resurrection F to fully enjoy Broly. If this is your first taste of Dragon Ball, however, you’re still in for a treat.

If Resurrection F is Dragon Ball’s equivalent of Thor: The Dark World, Broly is its Ragnarok – a rich, refined, and rip-roaringly fun film for fans and newcomers alike! If you’ve seen it already, share your thoughts in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter!

Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked From Worst To Best (August 2019 Edition)

It's been two years since Avengers 2.5, aka Captain America: Civil War and the third Avengers film, Infinity War is here. As we bask in the joy that is Thanos actually doing something more than just sitting in a chair for six years, surely everyone has thought of watching all 19 Marvel cinematic universe films again and ranking them from worst to best? No? Well one (awesome) saddo

The 5 Best Films of 2019 So Far (Jan-Jun)

Films have been looking good as a whole in the first half of 2019, despite a couple of recent blunders which dampened our spirits (*cough* X-Men Dark Phoenix *cough*). Although certain franchises have been making massive, well-deserved returns, others are just starting out with original titles that have the potential to become so much more. Whilst we've entered the foray of Summer blockbusters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Movie Review)

It's been five years since Godzilla - the debut film of Legendary's new Monsterverse - returned the atomic giant to our cinema screens. Taking into account our criticisms of the first film (the main one being that it focused too much on the human characters), writers made it a mission to make the sequel more of an ensemble piece: blending a more balanced mix of monsters and humans into the story

A Brief Guide to Dune (and the Upcoming Movies)

Two years ago in November, my father died. He had suffered from a chronic illness for years until, finally, succumbing to it just before I’d planned to move out. I was given a choice: delay the move until after my dad’s funeral or see it through and mourn him when the time came. I saw it through and moved to Brighton two days later, with my aunt’s help. On the way down, I read a book about a young man who had also lost his father. He too was starting a new life, but everything else about him – his background, the cause of his father’s death, and his new home – couldn’t have been more different. His name was Paul Atreides. And the book was Dune.

Published in 1965, Dune is the first in a series of bestselling sci-fi novels by Frank Herbert. It follows Paul, heir of the Great House Atreides, as he moves with his family to the planet Arrakis (a.k.a. Dune). It’s a desert world branded the most barren place in the universe, yet it’s the only source of the most treasured drug in the universe: the “spice” melange. The drug prolongs life, enhances mental abilities, and makes space travel possible. Whoever controls the spice controls the universe – and that makes Arrakis a prize to kill for. At the order of Galactic Emperor Shaddam IV, House Atreides move to Arrakis to take control from their hated rivals, the Harkonnens. However, the Baron Vladimir – head of the Harkonnen family – plans to wipe out the Atreides and take Arrakis back. With a traitor’s help, Paul’s father is killed, and his forces are scattered. Only Paul and his mother, the concubine Jessica, escape into the planet’s southern regions. The Harkonnens leave them for dead, but Paul and Jessica find help from an unexpected source: the Fremen; a community of desert people who suffered under the Harkonnens. The Fremen have a prophecy that a messiah, Muad’dib, will come from off-planet to free them and turn Arrakis from a desert planet into a lush, green paradise. Paul and Jessica exploit the prophecy, presenting himself as Muad’dib to win the Fremen over. With their help, they plan to take revenge on the Harkonnens – but there’s a price to pay for the Fremen’s allegiance… and more to their enemy’s plans than the Atreides expect.

It’s hard to describe Dune in just a few words. Arthur C. Clarke called it the sci-fi equivalent of The Lord of the Rings, while Denis Villeneuve thinks of it as Star Wars for adults. However, neither description is spot-on. Dune’s universe is just as intricate as Middle-earth, but it’s not your typical story of good vs. evil; and although it has a lot in common with Star Wars, it was published twelve years before the world met Luke Skywalker. Some of you may be surprised to hear that it shares elements with another popular series: royal houses at war with each other; organisations plotting behind their backs; clashes between politics and religion; and a seat of power everyone and their brother wants. If you pictured Game of Thrones in space, you're on the right track. The violence, language and sex are milder, but that’s forgivable since Herbert wrote Dune long before George R. R. Martin wrote A Game of Thrones. And Herbert left quite the legacy – in 1966 Dune won the first Hugo & Nebula book awards, and today it’s the bestselling sci-fi novel of all time! Five sequels followed it, and after Herbert died in 1986, his son Brian took charge of the franchise. Brian wrote another two sequels from his father’s notes, and eleven prequels with acclaimed writer Kevin J. Anderson. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s now an executive producer of an upcoming film adaptation of Dune (we’ll come back to it later).

Dune has many themes and stories to tell, but at its heart it’s about a boy fighting to make a name for himself in a new, harsh world. In his journey, Paul Atreides learns from many people – and his two most important teachers are the Bene Gesserit and the Fremen. The Bene Gesserit (BG for short) are a sisterhood that aims to control human breeding and create a superbeing with their unique skills and more. Paul’s mum Jessica was a BG Lady, but she defied their orders by giving birth to him and teaching him in the BG way. A BG student can control every muscle and nerve in their body, allowing them to think and act faster than the average person. They can resist poisons, suppress their instincts, and deduce a person’s character from the very smallest clues. By taking spice, they can see the future – and a select few can even tap into ancestral memories through large doses. The BG’s skills have limits, of course, but they remain vital to Paul’s survival on Arrakis. Later in the book, he finds new teachers in the Fremen; the blue-eyed natives of his new home. To survive in the deserts, the Fremen conserve all the water they can. They wear stillsuits to reclaim body moisture, distil water from the dead, and even use water as money among their tribes. They train themselves to fight from infancy, and even their women are fearsome! The Fremen have to be tough because they face death wherever they go – from the heat, the Harkonnens… and enormous sandworms. Sandworms are the top predators of Arrakis, armed with crystalline teeth and tempers that would make the Graboids from Tremors squirm! However, instead of hunting them, the Fremen have learned to live with them. How they do it is a lesson both Paul and you will learn in reading the book – and it’s just the beginning.

If you’d rather watch a screen adaptation, I have some good news and bad news. First, the bad: there are only two right now and they both have their flaws. The first is David Lynch’s 1984 film starring Kyle MacLachlan. It has an all-star cast, unique visuals, and a rocking soundtrack… but little else to justify its cult classic status. Lynch wrote and directed the film, but sadly, he hadn't read the book nor was he interested in sci-fi. The result was a two-hour film that suffered from horrible pacing, incessant voiceovers, and characters radically different from Herbert's creations. It was a commercial and critical failure, and Lynch disavowed the film upon its release. His producers made an extended cut without his permission and, incredibly, it turned out worse than Lynch’s version. We wouldn’t get a decent adaptation until sixteen years later. In 2000 the Sci-fi Channel (known today as SyFy) produced its own version of Dune, written and directed by John Harrison. Frank Herbert’s Dune was made to be truer to the novel than Lynch’s film and, to that end, it was made into three feature-length episodes. The series was held back by a low budget and some clunky, expository dialogue… but it fared better than Lynch’s film and remains the most successful adaptation of Dune to date. It won two Emmy awards for its special effects and cinematography, and its success led to a superior follow-up, Children of Dune, starring James McAvoy. Both series were released on DVD, but sadly, they’re both out of print. If you find copies of them in good condition, I suggest you get them immediately. For now, they’re the best way to experience Dune if you don’t have the time to read the books.

Now, for the good news… three years ago, Legendary Pictures bought the film and TV rights to the Dune franchise – and they just started work on a new film! Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) is directing the film, and he’s called together a cast including Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, and Stellan Skarsgard to name a few. They started filming in March in Hungary, and video diaries by Chalamet and Brolin have revealed they’ll be filming in Jordan too. There’ll also be talent from Game of Thrones involved – Jason Momoa has joined the cast, and Dothraki linguist David J. Peterson is creating languages for the new film. We don’t know yet how long it’s going to be, but Villeneuve plans to make the film in two parts; a smart choice given the sheer length of the novel. The two-film approach has worked well for Harry Potter, It, and the Avengers, so this writer hopes it will do just as well for Dune. The first part will be released by Warner Bros. on November 20th 2020, so keep an eye out for further features and a review nearer the time. Until then, keep you knife arms free – and your shields at full charge!

What Made Game of Thrones Season 8 So Disappointing?

Disclaimer: Game of Thrones Season 8 spoilers will follow!

The long night finally arrived. After taking a year off in 2018, Game of Thrones returned to conclude the story which began eight years ago (or longer, if you’re a fan of the novels). The show captured the minds of millions of viewers, becoming a cultural phenomenon over its running, with online theories and unimaginable hype engulfing the internet. It was impossible to avoid, the fear of spoilers lurking around every corner, forcing some viewers in the UK at least to get up in the middle of the night to watch each episode as it airs. So, with this unreal expectation, were creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss ever going to be able to satisfy all fans?

Following the events of the seventh season, everything has changed in Westeros. The Night King (Vladimír Furdík) has broken through the wall, and now in the possession of one of Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) dragons, is marching his army south towards Winterfell. The Stark and Targaryen armies have teamed up ready to do battle against the immense evil heading their way, whilst Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is bulking up her army back in Kings Landing. Season eight crams a lot into its six-episode run, including the battle against the Night King; the destruction of Kings Landing; and finally, the decision as to who should sit on the Iron Throne.

With the story set up for an intense ending, it’s a real shame that most of the plot feels rushed. The build-up that has been present in the previous seasons appears to be absent for many key plot points here, with events taking place and concluding in an astonishingly fast time. Where previously a character of the stature of the Night King would take more than a few episodes to defeat (as well as taking a few of our beloved characters with him), he is defeated within an hour of his first appearance in season eight. Whilst it could be argued that we’ve seen many scenes featuring the Night King and his army in prior seasons, you can’t help but feel that they are disposed of far too quickly. This is a threat that has loomed over the realms of men for over a thousand years, and yet after it, most of our main cast is still standing. It all feels a bit un-Game of Thrones and unfortunately takes away from the incredible ending of the episode.

Not only does the plot feel rushed, but also most of the character development we’ve come to expect from the series vanishes in season eight. Such an incredibly talented cast feels wasted, with the connection to the characters we’ve enjoyed in previous seasons feeling a little blurred. One of the biggest tragedies is in how Daenerys’ character is treated. Despite having control of the city, and the surrender of the Lannister forces, Dany goes against all her beliefs and erupts pure horror onto the innocent people of Kings Landing. Yes, the loss of Missandei, two dragons and many of her close allies can explain the sudden turn. But such a monumental twist in Daenerys’ character deserved to have more time to breathe, to really play on the audience’s mind. More time was needed to allow the brilliant Emilia Clarke to showcase the mental decline of the character. Thankfully some characters, such as Tyrion, are still allowed time to entertain us with their wit; however, more screen time to develop characters would have made for a much more satisfying season.

As the episodes went by, it became more and more clear that our favourite characters were going to survive against impossible odds. The shock factor had gone, with moments such as Ned Stark’s execution and The Red Wedding simply not being there. This becomes clear during the battle of Winterfell, where despite facing thousands of the dead, only a few major deaths happen. And when major deaths do finally arrive, I was left feeling empty. I wasn’t shocked when Cersei and Jamie were crushed under the Red Keep, or when Jamie defeated Euron Greyjoy. I was surprised by my lack of feeling when Jon made the difficult decision to kill Daenerys. These are moments that should have carried a lot more weight and be given time to play on our minds. We’ve followed these characters for many years, with them becoming a huge part of our lives (see how many people have been naming their kids after Thrones characters). To see them suffer life-changing moments, and for them then to be brushed over onto the next main plot point, feels like a real shame.

Game of Thrones has often felt like a riddle, with every little detail and plot point amounting to some greater cause or event. Take Jon Snow (once again portrayed wonderfully by Kit Harrington): from leaving the comfort of Winterfell to join the Nights Watch; uniting the Wildlings; to then dying (and returning from the dead), everything felt like it had a purpose. It’s odd then, that in the final season, many of the plot points which have been built up over the last few seasons felt pointless. Jon Snow being Targaryen doesn’t really impact the overall plot, as Daenerys would likely still have gone mad in the end anyway. Despite the characters’ heritage, he ends up cast aside back at the wall (which now has no purpose due to the White Walkers being eliminated), with all his achievements seemingly ignored. Bran being the three-eyed raven suffers a similar issue, where aside from seeing that the wall has been smashed, didn’t really add anything to the story. Cersei getting the Golden Army again was completely useless, with the whole army wiped out in a matter of seconds. The only plot point I felt truly carried much purpose was with Arya, whose assassin training helped her to overcome the Night King (something which is astonishingly overlooked in the final three episodes). It all just feels so unsatisfactory, something I never expected to feel from a show that has always felt so clever and unpredictable.

Despite being the worst of all of the Game of Thrones seasons, there are still things to appreciate for long-time fans. This is still the world of Westeros you’ve been sucked into over the past eight years, and being a part of the world still feels great. There are still meaningful moments here, despite the feeling of the story being rushed. The long-awaited battle between The Hound and The Mountain is bloody and brutal, bringing a close to the rivalry which has stood between the two siblings throughout the entire series. Sansa becomes the Queen in the North, taking all the pain endured throughout her story and using it to become powerful and strong. Brienne of Tarth becomes the first female knight in Westeros, whilst Jon Snow gets his reunion with Ghost. For all of its problems, Game of Thrones has many heart-warming moments certain to bring a smile to long-time fans of the series. It’s just unfortunate there aren’t more of them.

Game of Thrones must also be appreciated for the success it’s had over its nine-year run. Records have been smashed, with record numbers of viewers tuning in to see how the story ends. The bar for CGI in TV has been raised, with a near-cinematic quality being displayed, something which helped make the show feel that little bit more believable and engaging. Scenes such as the heart-breaking moment where Drogon discovers his mother has been murdered, or Jon’s heart-warming reunion with Dire Wolf Ghost, feel that much more engaging thanks to the effects on display.

Whilst all things must come to an end, what feels most painful is the fact that the show is ending with a highly disappointing season, full of rushed plot points and unsatisfying moments. It’s a show which has unfortunately lost its way, and for the first time in the Thrones series, I feel no urge to go back and re-watch. Whatever the reason for the change, be it the lack of source material due to the books not being completed, or the decision to cram the remainder of the series into a mere six episodes, the series as a whole should not be tarnished because of this. It’s a real shame that the story ends in predictable fashion, with an almost too happy ending that feels out of place. Whilst we’ll always be left wondering what could have been (until the books are released, that is), I’m thankful to everyone involved in the series: it’s been one hell of a ride.

Steven Universe: the Show that's Not Afraid to Feel

So, as usual, I’m late to the party – six years late, to be exact. Steven Universe debuted in 2013, and I’ll admit that, on my first try watching it a few years ago, I bailed before the end of the first episode. Why, I couldn’t say – it’s fair to say that the early seasons weren’t received as well as the later seasons. The show was still finding its feet and I didn’t want to

Pet Sematary is Far from Purrfect (2019 Movie Review)

Stephen King's works have been a part of our world for 45 years. His iconic novels and the cinematic adaptations that followed helped pave the way for the horror genre we love today. But what happens when one of his book-to-film works gets released to a saturated modern day horror market? Following 2017's IT being a critical and financial juggernaut, Pet Sematary falters to live up to the high expectations set for an adaptation of a work by such a highly respected author.

Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family move into their new suburban home in the small, (definitely not) creepy town of Ludlow, Maine. Things seem normal for around five seconds before the family spot a group of children donning nightmare-fuel animal masks, as they wheel a deceased dog into the forest behind the Creed's new home.
Their walking exposition device of a neighbour, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), explains that what they've just witnessed is part of a town tradition: kids bury their dead critters in the irritatingly misspelled Pet Sematary. Soon after, Jud befriends the Creed daughter, Ellie, feeling great pity for her following the death of the family's beloved cat. Jud tells Louis of a burial ground beyond the regular Pet Sematary. A burial ground that brings back those that are buried in it.

If you're the type who watches horror films constantly wondering when the next scary thing is going to jump out at you, all whilst wondering where the plot is headed, you're going to be entertained. The story is disturbing all of the way through - not like the recent horrors you've seen in the last few years that incorporate elements of comedy into their scripts - the writing and tone is built on the same blocks of despair and misery that you grew up associating the genre with. The film's presentation matches well with this: being dipped in a delightful mixture of menacing, dirty, horror aesthetic.
Following Church the cat's resurrection, a creepy story that leads to an eerie climax follows. This is where Pet Sematary's biggest flaw comes to light: the majority of this creepy story is basically just build-up. The main plot is brought forward by a series of jump scares, including a few startling claw scratches from a permanently angry and wet looking cat. For the film's second act, the only element keeping you engaged is easily predicting when the next one is going to hit you, making for a lessened impact if you decide to watch it again.
Rachel, the Creed mother, has her own explored little backstory which may as well just be a horror film in itself. A series of childhood flashbacks take you to her childhood where her sister suffered with spinal meningitis, treating you to a small segments of beautifully terrifying gore, making it a shame when you realise it isn't even the main plot.

Despite being merely the obligatory old man in a horror, John Lithgow as Jud is without a doubt the best part of the film. He brings forward the same menacing charisma that made him give great performances as Churchill in The Crown and the best villain in Dexter. It's a shame looking at the lead, Jason Clarke, by comparison. He's a solid B- for every role he does, being a bit of an every-man without anything interesting going for him. Clarke does step up in moments where the emotional intensity really does reach boiling point, but it feels clear that many other actors could've pulled off a better job.

Pet Sematary is the standard horror film package you'll look for when you're in the mood for the eerie and scary, but not if you're looking for a grade-A selection. As you wonder what jump scare shenanigans the zombie cat is going to get up to next, Pet Sematary's already fired its only shot, that is if you haven't already got the big twist spoilt by the trailer. If you ever give it another go when it inevitably gets added to Netflix within the next year, it most likely will be something to keep you going in the background whilst you're scrolling for memes. 


Alt:Mag's Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (2019 Edition)

On November 18th 2018, beloved comic book writer Stan Lee lost his fight with pneumonia. He was the figurehead of Marvel Comics and created many of today’s most famous superheroes including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk. In the light of his death – and the upcoming release of the film Avengers: Endgame – I decided to revisit a feature I first wrote for Alt:Mag when Infinity War was released. This is a primer for newcomers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the bestselling film franchise based on Lee’s creations. If you read last year’s feature, feel free to skip to the end for a revised viewing order including all the films in Phase 3. If you haven’t, then read on. It’s time to suit up.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU for short) is the most successful superhero film franchise of all time. It was started by Marvel itself, who formed their own studio to produce films that not only did their characters justice but brought them all together in a shared universe. As a result, each superhero’s stories aren’t self-contained. Like seasons in a TV series, the MCU’s films are split into groups called “phases”. Each phase follows a storyline that develops over the course of several films, moving from one hero to the next until they come together for a climax. Because of this, you can’t treat a single hero’s films as a separate series – for example, you can’t watch all of Iron Man’s films then move on to Captain America’s. In most cases, it’s best to watch the films in the order they were released. There are exceptions, though, which I’ll talk about later. All the films include additional scenes during the credits, which set up future storylines and hint at the film(s) you should see next. Some don’t come until after the credits, but they’re a trademark of the MCU – and always worth the wait. Of course, you can always fast-forward to them at home if you’re strapped for time.

When Marvel released its first MCU films (2008’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk), I was a naïve secondary school student who only cared for two of its heroes: Spider-Man and the Hulk. I didn’t take my first real look at the franchise until six years later, when I saw Thor and Avengers Assemble at university. That was when I became aware of the films’ success – and their two main strengths. For ten years the MCU has taken audiences around the world and beyond to many weird and wonderful places, from the mythical realm of Asgard to the farthest reaches of the universe. Their sheer variety, and the way these settings are brought together, have earned worldwide acclaim. However, they wouldn’t be half as amazing without their inhabitants. Unlike the recent DC films, the MCU introduces its heroes one film at a time, allowing you to get to know them in more detail. You’ll learn about their lives, their relationships, and the personal struggles they each face when they’re not out saving the world. If you take away their suits and superpowers, they aren’t that different from you or I. Every one of them has something you can relate to: Tony Stark/Iron Man wants to feel secure in life; Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, wants to do right by his family; Bruce Banner/Hulk must learn to live with a life-changing condition; and Peter Parker/Spidey wants to prove himself to the big guy. Each hero has their own needs and desires and, as it is with real people, they change over time. Their enemies are given the same treatment as well. You might see something of yourself in Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother. You may connect with Adrian Toomes, the Vulture, who does whatever it takes to support his family. You might even relate to Thanos, the so-called “Mad Titan”, who endures incredible loss in pursuit of his life goals. Not all the villains are so well-developed, but whatever your background, you’re bound to find someone to relate to whether they’re good or evil. And they’re played by an all-star cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, and Samuel L. Jackson. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for Stan the Man – he appears in every film and even filmed a cameo for Avengers: Endgame before he died!

With Endgame's release, there are now a staggering twenty-two films in the MCU. Endgame will be the last film in phase three and the finale of all the films before it – now known collectively as the Infinity Saga. The first two phases follow a clear order, but the films in phase three are less linear, allowing viewers to find an order to watch them in that best suits them. Here’s a list of them all in the order I’d recommend to newcomers.

Phase One

1. Iron Man (2008)
2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
4. Thor (2011)
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
6. Avengers Assemble (2012)

Phase Two

1. Iron Man 3 (2013)
2. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
6. Ant-Man (2015)

Phase Three

1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
2. Black Panther (2018)
3. Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
5. Doctor Strange (2016)
6. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
7. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
8. Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018)
9. Captain Marvel (2019)
10. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

If you’d like to know what happens between the films, there are comics, short films, and TV series that fill in the gaps – but you don’t need to check them out to enjoy the films. Some of you might want to stop at Endgame due to the sheer number of films we have now – myself included – but if you’re still hungry for more after Thanos’ swan song, you’re in luck. Marvel are planning more films for the future including Spider-Man: Far from Home and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Whether they’ll follow the phase structure made famous by past films remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: Marvel Studios aren’t going to stop anytime soon!

Avengers: Endgame will open in UK cinemas April 25th. Are you going to see it? Thinking of playing catch-up before you do? Leave a comment below and sound off on Facebook and Twitter, and tell us where you are in the MCU now!

Fighting With My Family: a Worthy Tribute to Paige? (Movie Review)

If you’re a fan of the WWE, it’s highly likely you would have heard of Paige. Following her success in NXT, Paige became the youngest ever Divas Champion at the age of 21. She then helped shape the women’s revolution, which changed the way the female division is viewed. In quite a short period of time, Paige’s successes are quite remarkable. Fighting with My Family is a brand new biopic based on Paige’s journey to the WWE, featuring a true story consisting of dreams, family feuds, and a splash of comedy.

Paige (real name Saraya-Jade Bevis) gets her first in-ring experience at age 13, being thrown into a wrestling match at the family-run business WAW (World Association of Wrestling). Despite not being interested in competing, she quickly learns to love the thrill of wrestling, and it is obvious that a lot of talent lies within. Fast forward to age 18, and along with brother Zak (Jack Lowden) and her parents, Paige helps to train people in the local area in wrestling, as well as putting on shows for WAW. It’s here that the opportunity of a lifetime arrives: a shot at the WWE. When only Paige is selected to go to NXT, a destroyed Zak turns his back on his sister, leaving her lonely and isolated whilst training in Florida. Struggling to fit in, we witness Paige go through some tough mental and physical battles, and a lot of self-doubt. “Be the best you” says The Rock, when Paige and brother Zak ask for advice on how to steal the show, and this is a theme which carries throughout the film. When Paige takes this in full stride, we get to enjoy some inspiring, uplifting moments, all the way up to her debut on Monday Night Raw in April 2014.

Lowden and Pugh as brother-sister duo Zak and Paige

Florence Pugh is incredible as Paige, blending into the role perfectly, with even the iconic scream sounding like the real deal. As part of her journey to the WWE, Paige battles loneliness and struggles to fit in, scenes which Pugh portrays brilliantly. This is a brutal world where a dream can be killed in an instant, with every move under intense scrutiny. Paige is an incredibly likeable character and watching her become more and more isolated and depressed is heart-breaking and tough to watch. Pugh’s ability to master both intense and comedic scenes should not be understated, as we see in some of the more uplifting scenes. Paige’s relationship with Vince Vaughn’s WWE trainer Hutch Morgan is a particular highlight, featuring both highs and lows. Quick-witted jabs between the two score a laugh from the audience, whilst some of the more tender moments allow Paige to open up to the human side of Hutch.

Pugh fits the role of Paige perfectly.

A mixture of young talent and some familiar faces complete the rest of the cast, with big names including Nick Frost, Lena Headey and Vince Vaughn featuring. Producer Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson also has a couple of scenes in the film, due to his involvement in Paige’s WWE journey. The Rock broke the news to the real Paige that she would be making her WWE debut in 2014 on the following nights Monday Night RAW, and had been aware of the Bevis family since seeing a documentary focused on them in 2012. The debut would fall the night after WrestleMania, WWE’s biggest annual event, and Paige would win her first title there. It’s brilliant to see a scene of such importance re-enacted in the film, featuring the man who delivered the news himself. There are even a couple of WWE cameos in the film, such as Sheamus and the Big Show backstage, all of which help add to the authentic feel of the movie and are real fan-pleasing moments.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson has an important part in Paige's story

Writer and director Stephen Merchant deserves a lot of credit for the way he showcases the gruelling pain that people involved in wrestling must endure. Wrestlers are shown being thrown around, taking a bowling ball in the groin, and even being thrown onto a canvas covered in pins. Yes, this gets a few gasps in the cinema, but this is exactly what wrestlers must put their body through many times a week, all in the name of entertainment. Similar to a stage play, each person must hit every move perfectly, engage with the crowd, and always be on top form. The pain is all real, and Merchant must be commended for getting this across to cinema viewers. “It’s all fake isn’t it” is a line muttered near the start of the movie. Not at all.

But alongside this, Merchant has added a coat of comedy to the movie, one which helps make the film feel very light-hearted and a joy to watch. Whilst never overshadowing the important emotional scenes, the comedy adds to the story and is genuinely funny. The dynamic amongst the Bevis family is hilarious, with a family meal featuring Zak’s girlfriends’ parents a highlight. When dad Ricky is ordered to put a shirt on for the meal, he suitably wears a Norwich City football shirt. One of the locals Paige is training on how to perform headlocks is ordered to do push-ups for “having a stiffy”. And the Rock dropping in an insult about Vin Diesel is just perfect, all of which makes Fighting with My Family a really fun ride.

Lena Headey and Nick Frost are hilarious as parents Julia and Ricky

Having an interest in WWE prior to watching Fighting with My Family, I found myself engrossed and wanting more. The movie ends following Paige’s WWE RAW debut, where she claimed the Divas Championship. Whilst the credits reference Paige’s achievements following this night, an epilogue featuring Pugh re-enacting the events in the following years would have been great to see. Clips alongside the credits of the real Paige are a nice touch in place of this, however. There are also some minor deviations as to how Paige won the title in real life, although I feel that these actually benefit the movie by adding to the suspense.

Paige in 2014 (top) and Florence Pugh as Paige in Fighting with My Family

Fighting with My Family is one of the most enjoyable films of the year so far, and one which I cannot wait to experience again. Merchant has successfully crafted an accessible film, one which is uplifting and at times very relatable. Sure, fans of the WWE and Paige will likely take away more from the film. The moments will have a greater meaning, knowing the success Paige had in helping progress the WWE forward. But like Rocky, this is an underdog story, full of inspirational moments, featuring an important message of being yourself. With all the positive changes going on in the WWE at this moment as a result of Paige’s involvement in the women’s revolution, there is no better time to experience her story.

Overall Score: 9/10

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