MATTEO DALL'OMBRA

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There Is A New Wizard In Town

October 26th, 2016
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Yesterday night I had the opportunity to go and watch a preview screening of Doctor Strange, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As always, I have some thoughts.

First of all, let me start by saying that I personally knew who Strange was in the Marvel comic universe, but I’ve never read too many of his stories. I went into the cinema with an open mind and before entering I decided to forget everything I thought I knew.

Having said that, I’ve found the movie overall very enjoyable, especially if you consider that this movie is an origin story, and we all know how bad those can be.

The pace of the first half is quite good and it allow the viewer to get comfortable with who Strange is and especially how is mind and ego work together. This is especially important to then understand the transformation he’s going to go through later on in the movie.

Speaking of transformation, I absolutely loved how Cumberbatch portrayed Strange. Of all the Avengers, he is definitely the one as actor that looks almost identical to his paper doppelgänger. Being an MCU entry, attention to details for the costume is a given and once again the wardrobe department doesn’t disappoint. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation perfectly conveys the essence of this character and despite being mostly made in CGI, the few scenes where it’s real are an examples of how this movie succeed on its attention to details.

Now to the lesser good part of the movie. I didn’t find the enemy particularly threatening in this movie. I almost feel it wasn’t needed at all, or at least it doesn’t add too much on the whole narrative. The reason why it’s needed is to transform the Doctor into an Avenger, rather than being just a selfish man on a personal quest. The only reason why Strange gets into the Mystic Arts is to heal his own body and not to save the Universe from the Dark Dimension. Every hero needs a kick in the beginning to realise their powers should be used for the greater good, but of all the kicks seen so far, this was probably the weaker of all.

Also, I think the movie doesn’t really use Kaecilius (Strange Nemesis in the comic) and Mads Mikkelsen performance to great effect. He’s supposedly the bad guy, but he’s also a very forgettable bad guy. So much so that I don’t even think he’s the real intended baddie here1. He as Strange gets trapped in a bigger world, but unlike the Doctor he’s not able to use it to his advantage.

Few final honourable mentions.

  1. Tilda Swinton does a great job portraying the controversy of being The Ancient One. Great delivery on all her lines, making for a perfect spiritual guide for Strange.
  2. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo doesn’t get too much love throughout the movie, always being shown as “The Weird One”, only to reveal his true nature at the very last second, giving more meaning to the overall performance.
  3. The writers on the movie. Dialogues are great and being a MCU movie there’s always a underlying level of light comedy that contributes to the tone and pace of the movie to great effect. Also, this does differentiate a bit the Doctor Strange movie character from his comic book cousin, being more lighthearted and less of a a*****e.
  4. The CGI, used here to great effect, it’s not overwhelming but actually enhance the Mystical Arts and makes you trip quite hard.

All in all a very enjoyable movie, which add another great Avenger to the roster. The Infinity War is going to be so awesome.

Now…If only I could learn to refill my drinks so easily…


  1. Remember not to leave your seat until the lights turn on in the cinema if you want to test my theory. 

My Hot Take On The Suicide Squad

August 30th, 2016
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Yes…yes…I know, I’m very late to the party, but I finally went to see Suicide Squad last night, and as always I have something to say about it.

Let’s start with the budget. I finally understood why this movie had to make so much money to break even from the initial investment. One word: soundtrack. The music in this movie is definitely a major component, almost another member of the cast, but it must have been quite expensive to license. Especially during the first half, when each character is introduced, every member of the squad get to have his/her own personal song1.

As I said, the best part of it, it’s not just the music per se, but the way in which a specific track is juxtaposed to the images on the screen. It very well conveys their characteristic and help amplify the personalities of the members of the Suicide Squad.

The movie itself follows a pretty standard plot line:

A. Humans discover alien/metahuman powers
B. Humans try to control them
C. The alien/metahuman power rebels against humans
D. Humans enlist team with superhuman abilities to kill/destroy/enslave the rogue alien/metahuman power
E. The superhuman team wins
F. Humanity survives

Stop me if you have seen this plot line already. In recent years it has become pretty much the default archetype for comic book movies, each with their own slightly different take, but all ultimately can be boiled down to the outline above.

In this specific take on the plot line, the initial mess is created while Humans are trying to protect themselves against new alien/superhumans threats after the demise of Superman in the previous chapter of the DC Cinematic Universe, the equally critically-bashed Batman v Superman. Compared to that, Suicide Squad comes out on top if you ask me.

Batman v Superman has many problems, but the biggest is portraying the characters for what they are not2. Suicide Squad has certainly the problem of introducing way too many figures in a very short period of time. Sometimes way to short to even question the usefulness of the appearance3. What I like about the ensemble is the fact that is clear they are mercenaries with the only objective to comply to the government request in order to gain something at the end. So even the critics that said the cast doesn’t interact well seems without foundation to me. They don’t interact because their characters don’t like to interact with anybody else. From their personal introductions it’s clearly explained how they all are usually working alone.

The only exception to this is Harley Quinn. We learn her origin story and we know how close she is with the Joker. So it’s not surprising that in her craziness she’s the only one giving apparently trying to create ties with the other members of the band. Also I’d like to give a shoutout to Margot Robbie. Her Harley Quinn is absolutely great and the highlight of the group in this movie. Of all the performances hers is the most believable, distantly followed by Will Smith and his Deadshot.

On the villain side of things, I like how the enchantress was portrayed by Cara Delevingne. Mostly the CGI on her was really good as she didn’t have that many lines over the movie. It won’t go down in history as the best villain of all times, but surely she’s not the worst we’ve ever seen.

Before closing, let’s spend few words on four characters that left a mark on the movie for good or bad.

The Joker: Jared Leto does an sub-par job with this character. He doesn’t come across as strong as he should and I felt like many of the visual clues about him and his henchmen were a plagiarised version of the ones seen in Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

Amanda Waller: she’s the one coming up with the ideas of the Task Force X. I liked a lot how Viola David portrayed the character, being true to her comic book origin: tough, zero-compromises, very much always in control even when things go south quite badly.

Rick Flag: he’s the tough military guy in charge of guiding the Task Force X on the field. He does an ok job with it, but I was never fully convinced by Joel Kinnaman’s acting. He never seemed well integrated into the movie as all the other characters.

The Flash: I left the worst for last. Since The Flash is set to appear in the upcoming Justice League movie, it seemed appropriate to the director David Ayer to have him doing a 5 seconds cameo while catching the baddie Boomerang. Of course there’s nothing we can say about the performance, but there’s plenty we can say about how The Flash will look like. It’s all wrong. Like completely wrong. First, he looks like he has a mechanical suit. When I saw him he reminded me of a light version of the Iron Man suit, and we all know that that’s not what The Flash wears. But most importantly his light streak was blue! Yes you read it right, the light streak was blue! Since when that’s a thing? The light is only yellow-orange. Red is the Reverse Flash and blue is Zoom. They still have time to change this, and I really hope they do, because otherwise The Flash will be doomed before even trying to get our approval4.

So, what’s my final judgement on this movie? It’s definitely better than Batman v Superman thanks to the slightly lighter tone; better than the portrayal given by the critics; still nowhere near the level of polishing achieved by the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

6/10

  1. Almost as if we were witnessing the entrance of difference wrestlers in a WWE arena. 
  2. Batman killing people like if it was normal for him. 
  3. Sorry Slipknot fans. 
  4. I’m not even sure if the Ezra Miller version on the big screen will be able to rival the Grant Gustin version curretly on the CW TV network. 

Captain America: Civil War

May 9th, 2016
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Last night I went to see the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War.

Let me get this out of the way immediately: this is the best Marvel movie to date. Simple as that. Now let’s see why this is.

Of course this post will contain some spoilers here and there, so only read it if you have watched the movie already!

We knew from all the trailers and videos that this would have been basically an Avengers movies as all the heroes (except from Thor and the Hulk), were going to be together. We also knew we were going to see some new heroes, in the form of Black Panther and Spiderman. So the big question was: how all these people are going to interact with each other without the movie feeling too overcrowded?

Well, the Russo’s brothers definitely pulled off a great treat for the Marvel’s fan!

In Civil War the main story line is about the US Government trying to regulate the action of all those super heroes, creating a sort of super U.N. task force. Not everyone likes the ideas and this will ended up splitting the Avengers in two side, Captain American vs. Iron Man; hence the Civil War.

In addition to this, we still get the Winter Soldier plot and this will also contribute in creating more distance between the two main heroes, with the full revelation of who killed Tony Stark’s parents.

And, to make things even more complicated, we see Black Panthers having beef with the Bucky until almost the end of the movie as he gets trapped in the main twist as all the other Avengers.

Despite all the underlining drama, the movie still has plenty of space for comedy, which is this case is brilliantly delivered by the two main cameos of the movie: Ant-Man and Spiderman.

The two are affiliated with different teams. Ant-Man gets recruited by Hawkeye for Team Cap, while Peter Parker is recruited directly by Tony Stark for Team Iron Man. Of the two, Spiderman is the one that comes through as the funnier of the twos, being brilliantly portraied by Tom Holland. Thanks to his references to real world movies and his seemingly genuine surprise and excitment for all the things super heroes, Spiderman/Parker manages to make the movie feel closer to you as the audience.

It also worth noticing how Marvel already managed to create a better Spiderman in this 10 minutes cameo that what Sony has been able to do in 15 years of so of trying. We knew the shortness of the appearance was mostly due to the to production houses getting a late rights agreement; but despite everything this was still a solid performance and a great ad for next year standalone Spiderman re-introduction: Homecoming.

Civil War is also able to deliver some great dialogues that really makes you feel involved in the ideological fight between the two sides and it makes it really difficult for the audience to actually pick a side. Even the heroes themselves are having troubles picking sides. If the movie poster clearly separates the Avengers right down the middle, the more the story proceeds, the more that line gets blurred and they start to mix again, ultimately being truthful to their own character and historical relationships.

I’m certainly glad Thor and the Hulk were not in this fight. Thor being a God from another planet wouldn’t have not fit really well in this very Earthly dilemma. On the other side instead, the Hulk doesn’t posses the “finesse” needed to participates in such a fight. Hulk smashes as we know. Hulk doesn’t read a 200 pages treaty.

Finally, the movie closes leaving us with only a partial closure and as always tends a hand forward to the future chapters in the story. Steve Rogers is hiding in Wakanda with his new friend Black Panther, putting the Winter Soldier to sleep (literally under ice), but he also tends a reaching hand toward Tony Stark in the form of a comically old flip-phone and the post it: I know you’re mad and this is crazy, but call me maybe?1.

Speaking of the feature, we then see the second post-credit scene in which we go back to Queens in NY, to see how Peter Parker is dealing with the post-symptoms of his first big fight and we also see the spider symbol make its first appearance, remarking the fact that a new Spidey is finally in town.

Overall, as I said at the very beginning, this is a great Marvel movie, arguably the best in the series so far. Speaking of series, this movie of course slot inside the wider arc of the MCU but it also does a good job at standing as its own movie and story. If you’ve seen all the others movie it helps, but if you hadn’t, you won’t feel lost. Which is always good.

If you want to get more of Civil War, I would suggest you listen to the latest The Incomparable podcast, which does a great job at recapping the movie.

7.5/10

  1. I do apologise for this, but it was too good of a pun to let it go! 

Star Wars Special: C-3PO

April 14th, 2016
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Ever wandered why C-3P0 appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a bright red arm the first time we see him?

Well, now we finally get to know that! As teased by J.J. Abrams in the Secrets of the Force Awakens documentary, a special Marvel comic has just been released to tell us the story behind the red limb.

In a surprisingly moving and maybe uncharacteristic story, we travel with C-3P0 and friends, along a very dangerous road. I don’t want to say much more, to avoid spoiling any surprises, but it’s a nice take on the nature of droids and their man-made consciousness; a rare behind the scene at what’s going on inside a protocol droid’s circuitry.

You can get it right now on comiXology for £ 2.99 (Or any fine comic book store). A no-brainer insta-buy if you ask me!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Early Impressions)

December 22nd, 2015
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I cannot really guarantee a full spoiler-free piece, so only read this after you’ve seen the movie!

There’s been an Awakening. Have you felt it?

I’ve seen The Force Awakens three times by now, and I’m on my way to see it a fourth time. I’ve listened to the special episode of The Incomparable about it. I think it’s time for me to say a couple of things about it.

Let’s start with the basics. This IS a proper Star Wars movie. Forget all the nonsense of the prequels, all the politics and the trade commissions. With the Force Awakens we are going back to the root of what made the original Star Wars a global success: it’s funny, it’s clever and the chemistry between the characters is absolutely great.

Probably the best part of this movie is how well the new generation mixes and takes over from the old guard. Good guys and bad guys in the same way, we have an organic ensemble that actually works!

The Force Awakens also does a good job in bringing new and diverse role models for the new and younger generation of viewers. With Rey, we have a strong female lead who’s not afraid of all the challenges coming her way, actually she embraces them way better than her male counterpart Finn.

One of the major complaints that I heard related to this movie is its plot. I admit it. If you are looking for a new ground-braking, mind-blowing story, this movie will disappoint you. In my opinion this is actually a good thing. The job of the Force Awakens is to re-open a book that we closed after Return of The Jedi. It has to bring us back into a galaxy far far away. Its sense of familiarity is what makes this movie so appealing.

Having to introduce a full new cast was the job of this movie. Episodes VIII and IX will be the ones where the plot can advance to uncharted territories. For a 135 minutes movie there’s a lot to digest and not being distracted by the underlying story gives the viewer a chance to become familiar with old and new faces in a more intimate way.

But don’t worry, there’s much to enjoy plot-wise even if at first is seems so familiar.

One special mention has to go to Harrison Ford. His Han Solo character is the one that carries most of the film forward. I don’t know how, but he manages to be even funnier than in the original trilogy and in practice he’s the real bridge between old and new.

The Force Awakens reopens a lots of doors in the story of the Skywalker family and doesn’t close many of those, leaving room for the other two chapters in the story to explore the depth of conflict between the Light and the Dark Side of the Force.

Speaking of which, another mention goes to Adam Driver and his Kylo Ren character. He’s the bad guy, yes but it’s not at all what Darth Vader used to be. He’s his follower and his figure clearly draws inspiration from Vader, but his future doesn’t seem to be as clear as he would like it to be. Being an agent of chaos, but also feeling the call of the Light will make for a very interesting character development. We’ll see what happen once his training is finally complete.

All things considered, The Force Awakens is an example of why JJ Abrams is such a good director. In this movie there’s something for everyone. New fans, old fans and yes even for the haters! As a big fan of the original trilogy I felt right back when we left our heroes in the forest of Endor. I couldn’t have personally asked for much more from this movie and as I said before I can’t wait for 2017 to learn where our favourite Galaxy is heading toward.

May The Force Be With You.

9.5/10

SPECTRE

October 27th, 2015

Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

Last night I went to the cinema for the premiere of the latest James Bond movie: SPECTRE. I had mixed feelings going in, I came out with an even greater mix. Let me talk you through some of those mixes.

Since the beginning, SPECTRE was billed as the natural sequel of Skyfall and, in my opinion, the closing act for Daniel Craig as 0071. If you look at it under that light, it actually delivers something of a good closure.

In some ways SPECTRE also plays as a love letter to the Bond universe in more general terms. There are many elements from past movies which are brought together, with Sam Mendes squeezing the eye in our direction as a way of saying see what I’ve done there?!

The underlying story seems to be the biggest problem here. Because there isn’t one. It picks up the event of Skyfall, but it simply close those events, without moving the story forward again. This for me is another sing on Craig’s departure. Yes we get to see an new villain in Christoph Waltz’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld. But he’s not really new. It’s like Bond. A different face to fit under a common umbrella.

Speaking of the bad guy, rumours initially said that Blofeld wasn’t going to be Blofeld. Turns out that’s exactly who he is. Down to the scar and yes, of course, the white cat. If they can keep the right for the SPECTRE brand, they could probably keep using Waltz as a bridge from the “old” Bond to the “new” Bond2, giving us and the MI6 a common enemy to revive the 00 programme. They just need to give him a real long-term plan. In SPECTRE we get to know why Blofeld is obsessed with Bond, but we never get to know which is his end game, since the plan that he set in motion doesn’t really make any sense3. Also, the plan itself is vaguely reminiscent of Tomorrow Never Dies, which is probably not what you want to shoot for.

Since we are on the bad guys paragraph, it’s worth mentioning the other two baddies. Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx. Where have I seen this character before?…oh yes of course: hi Jaws! Big, bad, unstoppable, basically mute and a bit dumb. In SPECTRE his only word is “shit”, just before flying off a train. The impact on the movie: sub-zero cold.

But probably the award for the worst bad guy in a James Bond movie has to go to C. C is the head of the new global security order backed by Blofeld who tries his best to dismiss M,Q and Bond. Let’s play the game again: where have I seen this guy before?…I know: this is James Moriarty! C is played by Andrew Scott who in the BBC’ Sherlock plays Professor Moriarty. I really like this actor and the way in which he portrays the bad guy in Sherlock. The problem here is that C is exactly the same as Moriarty. There are no attempts at differentiating the two. I don’t know if this was a deliberate choice, but at least they could’ve changed the color of his suite and the style of his facial hair.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Bond movie without other two elements: cars and women. As you may imagine at this point, I have something to say about both.

Let’s start with cars. There are few. But they are beautiful. The new Bond ride is the incredible Aston Martin DB10. It is pure joy to the eye. Unfortunately, it’s not a car you’ll ever be able to buy, because it’s only a concept specifically designed for this movie. If you want to see the car in action outside the movie itself (it only does a very short cameo unfortunately), you should watch this video where Marek Reichman (Chief Creative Office of Aston Martin) stops by Jay Leno’s Garage to showcase the car. They go into the details of the car design and they also go out for a test drive. Lucky guy that Leno!

The other car is the equally amazing Jaguar C-X75. This car is driven by Mr. Hinx while he’s chasing James for the streets of Rome. Make sure to watch the behind the scene video to see how Williams Advanced Engineering did their magic to modify the car for the chase scene.

The action between the two cars is a good mix of beautifully crafted machines, heavenly noises and a bit of humor. It goes on for a while, probably a bit too much, but we are in a Bond movie and the cars are playing the co-protagonist role, so we need to let them breathe.

Now it’s time to talk about the most controversial part of the movie: women. For SPECTRE we have two very equally talented and beautiful women: the Italian Monica Bellucci and the French Léa Seydoux. I was very happy when I saw the cast announcement and I was even happier after the comments from Monica Bellucci where she clearly said that the two ladies were not going to play the stereotypical Bond-Girl part. To be fair the premises were there. Unfortunately they very quickly disappeared.

Monica Bellucci has a very limited time on screen. She plays the wife of one of SPECTRE’s top lieutenant (the one that gets killed in the opening scene). In the big picture of the plot she’s basically a bate that is used to lure Bond into Rome to first meet his nemesis. We see her at the funeral, we see her drinking poolside, ready to die. Bond buys her some time and give her some protection after she give away more information on where to find the SPECTRE gathering in Rome. Then? Sex. Then? Goodbye.

The encounter is classy. The setting is as mature as she is. We probably didn’t need the sex, but he’s Bond and we are in the first half an hour of the movie and we were lacking some action.

The sex that we definitely didn’t need is the one with Léa Seydoux.

She plays the distant daughter of another ex-member of SPECTRE, Mr. White. She starts as a very strong written character, capable of whit standing the seemingly un-resistible Bond-effect. She also half responsible for the death of Mr. Hinx by saving the day and saving Bond. With him out of the picture and still a long train journey ahead. What should we do now?. Sex is Bond answer. What should we do now?. That is probably the single dumbest and totally unnecessary line ever written for a female character ever. There was no need for that scene. They could’ve simply cut to them leaving the train (as they actually do after the red-light scene). It’s a complete giveaway and it also undermines the strength of her character. Luckily that’s the only close-encounter shown in the movie. Possibly the others are left to our imagination, helped by the good chemistry on screen, and the joint exit at the very end.

Nothing is lost fortunately, because in the end she will be the saviour of Bond’ soul, stopping his hand and seemingly freeing from a world of lies, violence and self-destruction.

I’m sure you’ll come out of the theatre with many questions in your head and hope for the future of this great big screen franchise as I did. I was happy I went to see SPECTRE. Despite all my complaints it does a good job in keeping the the Bond myth strong and alive for the future.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll have an ice cold Heineken.


  1. I know Daniel Craig was originally contracted for 5 movies and SPECTRE is only number 4, but there are plenty of sings of his possible departure from the character. 
  2. Bond will return is the message left at the end of the credits. 
  3. You can of course make some good assumptions, but at least Javier Bardem is Skyfall had a clear path ahead. 

The VFX Of The Martian

October 6th, 2015

Ian Failes, reporting for fxguide

In this article, brought together from interviews by Mike Seymour and Ian Failes, fxguide delves into the effects work with the key players, including Stammers who was the overall visual effects supervisor and aided on the production by VFX shoot supervisor Matt Sloan. MPC handled Mars surface shots, Framestore worked on the space sequences and The Senate was responsible for NASA scenes and earth-bound shots. Previs was delivered by Argon, with The Third Floor contributing techvis and simulcam solutions. Territory Studio produced hundreds of on-set monitor animations for playback. ILM, Atomic Arts and Milk VFX also came on board to complete the film’s visual effects.

An incredible in-depth analysis of the wizardry behind the spectacular effects of The Martian. Combine this article with the video I posted the other day, and you now know more about The Martian that you probably wish you had.

Writing’s On The Wall

September 25th, 2015
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Today marks the release of the theme song for the upcoming James Bond movie SPECTRE. Recorded by Sam Smith, the song just dropped on the main streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and company.

 

I just had a listen to it.

 

The first listen is always the most difficult one. My first reaction is that this song doesn’t sound like a Bond song. There are few factors that contributes to my assessment.

 

First, Sam Smith’ style is very peculiar, you either like or you don’t, I don’t think there’s much middle ground. Secondly, is setting a very specific mood. You can always tell a lot from a Bond theme song and this one is a confirmation that a cycle is coming to a close1.

 

Have a listen for yourself and let me know what you think.

 

Full disclosure: I still prefer Adele’s take on 007.


  1. The end of Daniel Craig as James Bond.