Sunday, 18 June 2017

Orphan Black (S5E2) - Clutch of Greed (Review)

Orphan Black came roaring back last week with 'The Few Who Dare', season five's premiere episode that felt like a shuffle of the cards before the winning hand was played. It largely focused on aligning characters and streamlining various plot strands, generally laying the foundations for The Final Trip. Clutch of Greed is far more satisfying; on reflection, and after two further watches of last week's episode, it became frustrating that first hour felt more connected to season four, rather than representing a new leaf for season five to turn over and run with - as such, I downgraded last week's A- grade to a B+. Season five firmly asserts its journey again with this second episode.

With Sarah imprisoned at DYAD under the control of Neolution, Rachel offers Sarah an ultimatum: continue as our prisoner with your family in danger or give us access to Kira, in order to research her physiology and continue their plan for the restart of human cloning. With the rest of her family convinced, under duress, that surrendering Kira's biology to Rachel and Neolution is the only way forward, Sarah remains skeptical. Will she allow her daughter's biology to be used by the faction? Meanwhile, a recognisable face resurfaces and the fate of Helena's unborn twins lies in the balance.

Orphan Black starts with a suitably uneasy atmosphere looming, suggesting an intense and unrelenting episode is underway. After livestreams with Alison and Cosima, each as nervous and flinching as the other, it is evident that the sisters are clearly under the thumb of Neolution (and particularly Rachel), one step behind them even after the progress they have made. What excels in this episode is the idea of a power struggle coming into full effect; each of the clones - in particular, Rachel and Sarah at the centre - are mercurial, with this idea of opposing sides manifesting itself throughout the episode. Even after attempting a ceasefire, with rather passionate and convincing speech from Rachel who is desperate to handle Kira's biology in a non-invasive way, the land lies even more uncertain.

The focus of Clutch of Greed lies firmly with Sarah, Rachel and Kira, the power struggle they undergo, with Helena and (a returning) M.K. in a supporting capacity. It is only now, reflecting on the episode, that you remember quite how much ground the 42 minute episode has covered. With Kira inspiring a question mark of her own, that harks back to the early days of season one, it looks increasingly likely that the season will continue down this path and answer the looming questions, with Clutch of Greed introducing some intriguing dynamics to consider for the season ahead.

Sarah and Rachel are the inherent heart and by clashing, with their opposing aims and duelling viewpoints, they are placed as the absolute focus this series. That mirage they try to install earlier in the episode is now looking like an impossible challenge, after Sarah makes a decision that launches a wonderful and unwitting clone swap that illuminates the subtleties and nuance of Maslany's performance once again. All of this is evident in that final, chilling glance Rachel gives to Sarah, suggesting the damage is very much already done...

Helena and Donnie continue to infuse the lighter element into the plot, with their sharp comedic timing a wonderful thing to behold - but this week, they are also handed something a little meatier in the form of advanced thematic theme work. Miracles and paranoia help fuel their subplot, offering some promising hints at future storylines and continue to help humanise Helena after her knife-wielding past. Alison appears to be sidelined again this week, given just one brief scene as she struggles to cope with her missing husband and sister; it has been joyous to see the relationship between Alison and Helena grow and evolve over the course of the series and I hope we have some more moments between them.

 Cosima gets to meet P.T. Westmoreland and life at Revival seems slightly clearer: it is, essentially, one big 'healthy eating' camp. In all seriousness, while I'm not quite enjoying the thought of Cosima being detached from her sisters all season long, her role on the island is filling me with excitement the further we get into her time there. Cynthia Galant, playing Charlotte, is a terrific little actress and her performance her is really strong, coming across as natural and caring. The young actors and actresses on this show are really well cast, and it looks like - matched with Skyler Wexler's outburst as Kira - they'll be having something to sink their teeth in over the season.

And then there's is M.K. The lost soul's illness is worsening and her symptom are increasing in frequency but will now do anything to help the sisters put an end to this. In one of the episode's strongest moments, an almost unparalleled technical accomplishment, one long-take sees Sarah and Mika mill around each other, before Mika is embraced by Sarah and they undertake one of my favourite clones of the series. It cannot help but fill you with so much hope and strength, particularly after seeing the Helsinki-survivor heartbreaking journey since we met her at the start of season four.

Tonight penultimate twist (there are two, but the first is clearly the most weighty) may feel heavily foreshadowed but it does not detract from the devastation and shockwave the moment sends rippling through the sisterhood. While not quite as palpable as hoped, the emotion comes in abundance changes a number of the season's dynamics moving forward. The second twist is nowhere near as strong and stirring as the first but the long-game it induced makes things rather intriguing moving forward. I'll admit, I though Paul would be on the other side of the door, miraculously resurrected from season three's explosion...

The tension in the episode is at fever-pitch throughout. It's really well-played and demonstrates the pressure-cooker environment season five will no doubt continue with. As well as because of Maslany's multi-faceted performances, the writers do an excellent job of keeping the episode evolving and exciting; despite my issue with Alison being sidelined somewhat, it is a shock we manage to drop in with her at all when you consider the ground covered by these episodes in general.

5x2's production designers continue to enthralling with their attention to detail and subtle messages; the white, cleansed setting of Rachel's office suggests a distant and coldness, an idea director John Fawcett accentuates. P.T. Westmoreland's home feels skilfully thought out, with hints no doubt lying beneath surface details and we see a fraction more of Revival - a place we will no doubt discover more of. My favourite shot of the entire episode though is the reflection of Sarah in her cell, expertly teasing the central premise of the show - OH MY GOD, THERE IS TWO OF HER - in a wonderful, wonderful way.

Clutch of Greed is the premiere episode we needed last week. It's strong, satisfying, moving and thrilling. While The Few Who Dare was terrific in its own right, it very much felt like a continuation of season four, while this felt like a brand new start for the show, so close to the end of the journey. The cards are clearer and being played now with full effective, with Clutch of Greed springing a devastating blow, a hopeful advancement and new dynamic and legions for the rest of the season to run with. I remain very much hooked.


TTMMVPAAFAMRP (The Tatiana Maslany Most Valuable Player Acting Award for a Multi-Role Performance): M.K. An angel.

Reviews coming weekly...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Mummy (2017) (Review)

It is on rocky ground that Universal Picture's Dark Universe launches, with The Mummy - the first in the cinematic film series hoping to follow in the successful footsteps of the MCU and DCEU, most notably - earning scathing reviews and an uninspiring box office footprint at this early juncture. Tom Cruise takes the lead and bears the weight of the franchise in this first outing, with Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson and Russell Crowe joining him in trying to get the Dark Universe off the ground running. The general consensus is that it is a resounding failure but is it too early to be calling time of death on the entire Universe?

During the New Kingdom era, Princess Ahmanet (Boutella) is stripped of her position as next in line to the throne after her father and his second wife give birth to a son; determined to claim the throne for herself, Ahmanet sells her soul to an Egyptian god who delivers her a dagger to transfer his spirit and murder her entire family. Before she can complete the ritual, she is captured, mummified, buried alive for eternity, surrounded by mercury so she cannot escape. In the present day, Nick Morton (Cruise) stumbles upon her tomb and accidentally unleash her wrath and revenge upon the entire world. Kickstarting a new world of Gods and monsters, The Mummy lays the foundations for the Universe to be built from, very much operating as an origin story for a wider-ranging story.

Is The Mummy a complete failure? No. There are moments here that are enjoyable and it exists in that 'it's fine, I guess' territory that more and more summer blockbusters are seemingly content in residing in. At worst, it feels like a missed opportunity that really derails in the third act, as the script becomes increasing incoherent and set pieces feel stitched together from various drafts with the thinnest, flimsiest of threads. Act one operates on a surprisingly sturdy basis; it sets the wacky, nonsensical tone early on, asserting a uniqueness with its awkward but endearing blend of horror, action and comedy. It really is all over the place, an error which haunts the entire film, but it can be forgiven in the first hour for moving at a relatively sharp pace and continually engaging with decent set pieces and interesting direction from Alex Kurtzman. As a point of comparison, The Mummy is a combination of Inferno and Power Rangers, two less-than-well received pictures from the past twelve months that, while riddled with flaws of their own, each had their strengths by outright owning their zaniness. At least The Mummy fully accepts and embraces its quirkiness.

Cruise and Wallis both deliver solid performances but the chemistry between them is never as palpable as you hope and they struggle to convey the idea that they are both performing at peak potential. Boutella camps it up to full effect, creating a genuinely intimidating monster that deserves its place as the first horror to launch the Dark Universe with. Other than those saving graces, The Mummy is a complete mess. As mentioned, the biggest, most irredeemable flaw is the lame script that struggles to get its own ideas off the ground and eventually resorts to simply stitching together scenes and set pieces to half-heartedly resemble a story, with little in the way of cohesion or tight plotting. It is during the second act and the transition into the third act that the cracks really begin to show, with a distinctively troubling and glaring effort to kick things off with the big finale completely crumbling; everything is drowned out by overwhelming, only passable usage CGI and special effects, with predictable play-out acting as the final nail in the coffin.

Admittedly, a number of the set pieces are quite thrilling, with the Iraq-set heist-like sequence at the beginning of the film exciting and luring you into a false sense of security, the exposition-fuelled flashback wonderfully and engagingly shot and presented, followed by a London-takeover sequence with flying glass and thrilling frenzy in the middle of the film. It is after this point though that everything collapses. Kurtzman does a decent job at trying to retain some of the wacky, messy but unique tone established early on but the complete chaos of the third act destroys his attempt, with the big finale dragging on for far too long, particularly when compared to the surprisingly spritely first and second act.

Also, can we please ban Hollywood films from creating a 'BBC News' mock-up because, in the midst of the often poor CGI and laughable moments, their attempt at our beloved news channel was the scariest of them all.

The Mummy is fine as a trashy piece of summer popcorn cinema but succeeds in doing very little else. While I am not yet ready to call time of death on the cinematic universe - after all, the DCEU have only just delivered a good film, four films into their Universe, in the form of Wonder Woman - this does make the future path a little more murky and uncertain. More so than anything else, The Mummy is completely forgettable and messy, rather than outwardly bad or offensive, with a little in the way of inspiration or cohesion. It has its moments and the first two acts are sturdy enough to extract some enjoyment from - but the third act is pretty close to an unmitigated disaster and deserves to be buried alive like our titular monster.

Summary: The Mummy is a passable, wacky, somewhat enjoyable example of trashy popcorn cinema for its first two-thirds but then descends into complete chaos for its big finale, causing a complete collapse. I'm not calling time of death on the Dark Universe yet, but this is hardly the most secure footing to launch a franchise from.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Orphan Black (S5E1) - The Few Who Dare (Review)

Orphan Black. The Final Trip. After months of waiting - it's here. My favourite television show begins the countdown until the bitter end, with ten episodes ahead of us bound to be overspilling with conspiracy, tension and Alison and Donnie-related hilarity. The Final Trip is underway and in this one, Rachel expects the clones to come to heal as a new day breaks with the future of the clones at its most vulnerable and desperate.

The Few Who Dares picks up just moments from From Dancing Mice to Psychopaths, the fourth season finale, which left each clone at their most vulnerable; Cosima was on the edge of death having just been reunited with long-lost Delphine. She was calculated a cure and looks to Delphine to help finish it; Sarah, bloodied and stabbed, discovers that Rachel is the 'Big Bad' kidnapping Kira and Mrs S, running alone and scared to find Cosima and an escape; Alison and Helena, along with oafish Donnie, are living life off the grid in order to keep them safe, all while Rachel yields the power and colludes with P.T. Westmorland, the decades-old founder of Neolution - a group whose self-directed evolution is responsible for the history of the clones and those all important next steps into the belly of the final season.

As Orphan Black have seemingly mastered, The Few Who Dares affords a good chunk of the hour to each clone, all folding a different element into the mainframe, thus making it a season premiere packed to the rafters of mystery and intrigue, emotion and feeling, power moves and hierarchies and genuine intensity. It's good to have you back Orphan Black - but perhaps not for my nerves.

Unpacking a season premiere - particularly the final season premiere - is a difficult feat. It's a daunting thing to approach (both for the showrunners and writers, and the audience) because it needs to do and represent so much: we need to see something that will sustain the following nine episodes while beginning to demonstrate evidence of the end point coming into fruition. Season 5's launch does it rather well, aligning the pieces for the rest of the season. Rachel is given some of the episode's greatest moments, excellently asserting her villainy and turpitude, with her lengthy speeches inspiring a sense of dread, each as well-crafted and sensationally delivered as the previous. "We here shall drink from the fountain first", she vows towards the close of the premiere, poetically promising a reward - both for the corporation she partially controls and the audience who have witnessed the journey to date.

The Few Who Dares is a lot of that actually: promises. It is not a particularly revolutionary episode and does not always feel like the start of a new season, considering how much it bleeds from season four's finale and that should be respected. At this point, it is a titration; our whole solution is being changed only by small additions at this stage - including the incorporation of 'Revival' into the plot and the Neolution infrastructure - suggesting a solid foundation for the season to operate on going forward. It's a relief to see some restraint into the additions to this season, as the process of wrapping-up fourty-hours worth of content was daunting enough already without an abundance of additions.

The Few Who Dare is a dark episode, really. There's little in the way of lightness (although the fire-cracking combination of Alison, Donnie and Helena injects some of the fun at irregular intervals), with the episode gleefully sinking its teeth into the harder-hitting, grittier questions and concerns. Admittedly, it needs something to alleviate it a little, with these peppered moments failing to come regularly enough to counter-act the heavy narrative and structure; even season four's The Antisocialism of Sex infused lighter notes into an otherwise crippling episode that considered the suicide of two of our clones. While positive that we will reach a more balanced footing as the season progresses and we are afforded a little more time to breathe, the season premiere appears to forgo that in the name of advancing the grittiness of the themes, character dilemmas and wider narrative.

Another slight misfire here was the use of Kevin Hanchard's Art Bell, with his storyline - beyond the need to pressurise Mrs. Hendrix - a little redundant. I do hope they find something more awarding for Art as Hanchard is a terrific actor that deserves the substance. One final issue was the decision to have Donnie sneak away as Alison was in a troubling situation; it didn't feel natural and I fear it may undo the incredible relationship Orphan Black have sculpted for the pair.

We cannot go the whole review without checking in on Tatiana Maslany's performance and, as is to now be expected from the Emmy-award winning actress, she hits it out of the park; to see Sarah, once the strongest, in such a weak and fragile position mentally and physically, is enlightening and presented to us with Sarah's British determination wonderfully. Cosima's puzzlement, alongside our own, features the adorable quirks Maslany brings to the character, making her probably the most relatable - and human - of the entire bunch. This week's newly-created 'The Tatiana Maslany Most Valuable Player Acting Award for a Multi-Role Performance' (or TTMMVPAAFAMRP, henceforth) goes to Rachel and her incredible speeches. Not only does Maslany deliver each and every one with the precision and seething nature atypical of Miss Duncan so effective but props must be awarded to the writer's who make each so chilling and incredible.

John Fawcett, co-runner along Graeme Manson, takes the directorial reigns in this outing and does a strong job of introducing us to the world of Revival and further exploring the Island. We see a number of set pieces on the Island and each are bursting with new details to be taken into account; however, he still manages to make it feel like we are only scratching the surface of the Island, which makes for a very exciting prospect moving forward. The use of lighting this time round is also a point to praise, with some really efficient flourishes contained within the episode; as Orphan Black has evolved, the production design team has really upped its game as a whole and my appreciation goes out to team for managing to keep up with the expansive universe.

In the final moments of The Few Who Dare, Rachel Duncan promises "it's a new day', one where we've stopped chasing our ambitious tail and can finally look ahead at the end-point that has so often shifted alongside the show's general growth in scope and popularity. We're so close to the end of our times with these clones and The Few Who Dare launches it on a confident footing that I hope will only grow more stable as we approach the end of the lines of Sarah, Cosima, Alison, Helena and Rachel.


Reviews coming weekly!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Katy Perry - Witness (2017) (Album Review)

Teenage Dream is probably my favourite ever album; Prism is a solid top 5 entry; One of The Boys is still one of the best debut albums of all time, cracking my top ten. In other words, I often worship the ground Katy Perry and her music walks on. I am one who will furiously maintain that she has not made a bad song (except, maybe, Dressing' Up but no one remembers that anyway and I'll let you try and suggest Spiritual). However, I absolutely can, and certainly will, let you know when she released a bad album. There is no need to do so with Witness though, her fourth studio album, which features more sophistication and maturity than you may have come to expect from the lady who once wore Hershey kisses as a bra and an affinity for whipped cream and gummy bears.

Before going into my thoughts on the album as a body of work, first check my 'few hours in' reaction to each track - all with a rating out of five - and then a 'as it stands' ranking of the tracks, knowing it is subject to a whole lot of change in the coming days/months/years.

Witness is finally here. Let's go...

1. Witness - 5/5

Opening with the collection's best, Witness has the potential to be a super-sized hit on the scale of Firework and Dark Horse. Lyrically and sonically enchanting, it has the makings of a future anthem and feels all-encompassing of the profound, mature and more sophisticated album Perry has given us.

2. Hey Hey Hey - 4/5

Lives in the shadow of Witness a little but Hey Hey Hey has the potential to be a smash. A crowd-pleasing anthem with the typical Katy charm attached, Hey Hey Hey will be something special in a live environment.

3. Roulette - 4/5

Verse number one prevented me from loving it straight away, but as soon as the chorus hits you are swept up with it. There is a lot of love for this one out there so I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was made single number three; I wouldn't complain too much but they're far stronger songs in contention.

4. Swish Swish (featuring Nicki Minaj) - 3.5/5

After loving it on the first few rounds just a few weeks ago, Swish Swish falls a little flat. The lyrics are great, the pairing of Perry and Minaj is incredible and it is enjoyable, but it cannot help but feel somewhat forgettable and lacks the natural charm of either artist.

5. Deja Vu - 4/5

Chained To The Rhythm's disco-infused sister, Deja Vu is really funky. Features a really strong beat and smart, thoughtful lyrics, linking in with the album's themes really effectively. It is likely to grow on me further too.

6. Power - 4.5/5

As empowering as you expect from the title alone, the lyrics are the crowning achievement of this immense song. Deserved to be (and should have already been) a single. Very likely to be a stand-out for many and I can already see the 'I'm a goddess and you know it' tattoos.

7. Mind Maze - 3/5

Vocals and lyrics are decent but Mind Maze feels over-produced and doesn't come together as it should, lacking a cohesion. Album's weakest and while still more than listenable, it is the closest we come to a filler track.

8. Miss You More - 4.5/5

Proving that Katy excels at the ballads, she harnesses the emotion to provide an overwhelming and touching electro-tinged piece. Bound to hold so much meaning for many and features one of my favourite lyrics of the collection; "I miss you more than I loved you".

9. Chained To The Rhythm (featuring Skip Marley) - 4.5/5

Still as fresh as the day it was released, Chained To The Rhythm is smarter than its glossy, pop surface would have you believe. Its subliminal political messages marries in to the luscious visuals in a way only Katy Perry knows how, providing one of the album's (and year's) pop highlights.

10. Tsunami - 4/5

Lyrically and sonically masterful, Tsunami remains continually chilled; you are on edge, expecting a beat change or drop that never arrives and the song benefits from that, forging against your expectations. Will be a favourite for many and will make your yearn for the beach. Could be a summer smash.

11. Bon Appetit (featuring Migos) - 4/5

First of all, you should check out the solo version. Seriously. Does not feel quite at home on the album but still a fun bop that betters with age. Consuming alongside the music video is recommended to engender a greater appreciation for it.

12. Bigger Than Me - 3.5/5

Would probably benefit from a more stripped back production or an acoustic version to showcase the lyrics. Almost as if they have thrown a lot at the track but it doesn't all merge together and work all of the time. Again though, the lyrics are magnificent and could easily grow on me.

13. Save As Draft - 5/5

Powerful and emotionally-charged, Save As Draft is an album highlight; 'I write it, erase it, repeat it, but what good will it do?/To reopen the wound', she asks and everyone's heart breaks. Could be the sequel to the Thinking Of You/The One That Got Away/Unconditionally trio. Stunning.

14. Pendulum - 4/5

Tinged with elements of Roar and possibly the closest to the more mainstream pop KP2 and KP3, Pendulum sweeps you up quickly and doesn't let you go. Bound to be terrific in a live setting and the inclusion of the choir is a fantastic move to heighten the excitement.

15. Into Me You See - 4.5/5

A stunning note to end on and allows the album to beautifully come full circle. Into Me You See carries so much emotion - in a similar vein to Prism's By The Grace of God - and is, lyrically and vocally, a soaring success.

Average score: 4.13/5

Witness > Save As Draft > Chained To The Rhythm > Miss You More > Into Me You See > Power > Tsunami > Bon Appetit > Pendulum > Deja Vu > Hey Hey Hey > Roulette > Bigger Than Me > Swish Swish > Mind Maze

To be updated with deluxe edition tracks

Witness has more of a cohesion sonically than expected; while Teenage Dream, One of the Boys and to an extent, Prism did, Witness does not conjure a world as much as it conjures a feeling and an outlook. Growth and development define the album and it presented Katy Perry at her most mature and sophisticated, thematically, sonically and vocally, while remembering to have fun - which is where the inclusion of Hey Hey Hey, Bon Appetit and Tsunami come into play. The ballads - most notably, Save As Draft, Into Me You See and Miss You More - are standouts and infuse an emotion into the main frame that Katy excels at. Chained To The Rhythm was an excellent lead single to go with and still sounds as fresh in the mix now, months later.

Witness is more than impressive. It's mature and sophisticated but still ultimately fun and fresh, providing us with another showcase of Katy Perry's versatility and strength in the industry. It doesn't have the instant charm of Teenage Dream but features its own strengths that will ensure it is an enduring album in her illuminating folder. Well done Miss Perry; roll on Witness The Tour!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Wonder Woman (2017) (Review)

Wonder Woman has the weight of the (DC) universe on its shoulders. After three misfires, each to varying disastrous degrees, their Cinematic Universe has one last chance to carve out a success and win audiences over in time for Justice League, the upcoming team-up film arriving this November. Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad look to Wonder Woman for salvation and, for the first time in the DCEU's history, has received overwhelming positive reviews from both audiences and critics. Is this a case of too little, too late or can Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkin's film, which is the first ever female-led and female-directed superhero film ever, save the day?

Diana (Gadot), a princess of the Amazons, is trained from a young age to be a unconquerable warrior against a threat they hope they'll never see. Raised in a sheltered paradise that protect the women that reside there from the wrath of Ares, the fallout from a World War I battle finds its way into their haven and introduces them to the conflicts of the outside world. Diana, after saving American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), leaves the safety of her own home in an attempt to stop the threat and fight alongside man in the devastating war. It is here that Diana begins to learn of her full powers and her true destiny as Wonder Woman. Thankfully, Wonder Woman is largely unconnected from the three previous films in the DCEU, crafting an origin story mainly unshackled from conventions - ultimately (and by default) producing the greatest film of the DC Extended Universe to date.

Despite my initial concern, fuelled by how underwhelming her appearance in Dawn of Justice ultimately was, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, winning you over from the very start and superbly embodying everything Wonder Woman is and represents. She is compelling and powerful in the title role, grasping the physical action scenes and comedic moments perfectly; she may not be as strong with the emotive moments but she is effective enough in carrying them through, highlighting a genuine naivety in her understanding of humanity and her natural disposition. My interest in Justice League now rests solely in Wonder Woman's involvement - and that predominantly simmers down to Gadot's star turn here and that is quite compliment to pay. While Diana is firmly the lead, the rest of the cast is packed out with satisfying supporting players; Chris Pine is rather terrific as Steve Trevor, playing a charming and endearing spy who rarely feels intimidated by the strength of Diana - a joy to see; Etta Candy, played by the hilarious Lucy Davis, nails the comedic timing and the petition for her spin-off begins with me. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen, Amazon princesses, both help demonstrate a strength and resilience that wonderfully assert the tone in the film's earlier sequences - I hope to see more of them soon.

Patty Jenkins, shockingly the first female director for a superhero tentpole picture, confidently takes the reigns of the first live-action Wonder Woman film with impressive results. Incredibly versatile, Jenkins has a knack for highlighting the beauty where needed (with some deliciously vibrant shots on the Island in act one) and the brutality when required (bringing to life one of the most satisfying moments, with Diana climbing defiantly on to the battlefield and unleashing her might). Visually, this is the most pleasing DC film to date and Jenkins proclaims her talent through chameleon-like attention to detail and ability to adapt to the various set pieces the film presents us with. Allan Heinberg's screenplay, based on the comic from William Moulton Marston, is well-written and resonant, even with a cluttered final act that does not iron out everything as clearly as hoped, with some slightly uneven pacing issues. It mainly excels because of the smart inclusion of its profound set of themes; feminism is understandably front and centre but it never overwhelms, incorporating it in a smart and thoughtful way that allows the film to standout for all the right reasons, rising above the competition in more ways than one. Smart and sharp, the themes vary in subtlety but they are greatly appreciated, stimulating and well-executed, meaning there is something in this for everyone to admire.

Wonder Woman's production oozes a sophistication and fun, balancing both rather expertly. The costumes are meticulous and glorious, establishing the era and allowing Diane to shine without ever feeling gratuitous in nature; her main combat outfit is genuinely stunning in design and unlike anything seen before. Even when the CGI lets it down (more on that later...), the fight scenes are well-executed and nicely choreographed, avoiding ever feeling clunky or overwhelming, with a slickness with each. Even the chaotic battlefield moment is never overstuffed, placing an intelligible focus on Diana. Whoever scouted the location, amplified by Matthew Jensen's cinematography needs to book my next holiday and in Jenkins' hands looks like a picture-perfect paradise - I just wish we got to explore more of it! Rupert Gregson-Williams composes a terrific score, capturing the appropriate tone for each moment and excellently building up the excitement and intensity when required; the Wonder Woman's Wrath moment, in particular, is instantly iconic and memorable.

While Wonder Woman succeeds on so many levels, it is certainly not withouts its flaws. As with most superhero pictures, a weak villain threatens to undo the hard work placed in the rest of the writing, seemingly appearing from nowhere to accelerate the film to its grand finale. Although played effectively by [redacted], he/she is underwhelming and underdeveloped, ultimately throwing the villain on the stockpile of 'poor superhero characters' made up almost entirely by the baddies. Disappointing further is the poorly rendered CGI, for which there is no excuse. It falls into the Dawn of Justice trap on occasions, generating a whirlwind of CGI that almost engenders a tonal shutdown, particularly in the effect-driven finale saved only by a powerful monologue from WW herself. Act three, in general, needs tightening and trimming down a little. Even the acrobatic movements of the Amazon princesses in act one leaves a lot to be desired and is continually the most glaring flaw. Some may appreciate it but the romance sub-plot felt slightly shoehorned in and more formulaic at times than I would like. That said, Gadot and Pine are as terrific together on screen as they are separate, conjuring a wonderful chemistry that, while disappointing to begin with, coalesce into something far more powerful eventually.

In comparison to Dawn of Justice in particular, Wonder Woman is an absolute masterpiece. In its own right, it is pretty damn good too. It's not perfect by any means but represents a step in the right direction from the DCEU; it is throughly entertaining, empowering and profound, well-acted by Pine and (especially) Gadot, bolstered by skilful direction from Ms Jenkins. While some plot strands are not tied up as definitively as one would have liked, with some genuinely woeful CGI at times, Wonder Woman is one of the strongest blockbusters of the year so far, reminiscent of one of the MCU's best (The First Avenger, of which WW lovingly borrows a few shades). It lodges itself as the DC's best film since The Dark Knight and continue 2017's rather sturdy, abundant year for superheroes - particularly after 2016's terrible crop. Wonder Woman alone has caused a pique in my interest for Justice League and places the franchise on the right track by giving Gal Gadot an origin story away from the dark shadows of what proceeded it. It gives us some of the most inspiring and thrilling superhero scenes of the year - both Diana's monologue at the end of the finale and when she climbs, defiantly, on to the battlefield - cementing itself as a worthy blockbuster this summer season for you to seek out. Beautiful then brutal, smart and sharp and featuring some of the most beautiful production design (and posters!) of the year; Wonder Woman - I salute you.

Summary: Wonder Woman is an entertaining, profound, beautiful and largely successful superhero picture that alleviates the growing concerns that the DCEU is beyond saving. Strength and power define the picture and Gal Gadot gives a terrific performance in the titular role, directed tremendously by Patty Jenkins. Wonder Woman, I salute you.