Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Aladdin (2019)

Image is property of Disney

Aladdin (2019) – Film Review

Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen

Director: Guy Ritchie

Synopsis: A live action retelling of the 1992 animated classic in which a street urchin is sent by a nefarious vizier to retrieve a magical lamp that contains an all powerful genie…

Review: In many ways, it feels like someone at Disney was almost given the powers of a magical genie themselves. One of their wishes would have been to make the studio lots of money, simply by remaking all their animated back catalogue. Hence, the Disney live action remake train magic carpet has now flown its way to the world of Agrabah and to the story of everyone’s favourite kind hearted street urchin.

With their first live action adaptation this year, Disney was forced into making a few significant alterations. Here though, they have taken the decision not to tamper with things too much. We meet Aladdin (Massoud) an orphaned street urchin who routinely steals items to get by. Though when he meets the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Scott) he falls head over heels in love and strives to win her heart. All the while the villainous Jafar (Kenzari) sends Aladdin to capture a magical lamp in which an all powerful genie will grant its master these wishes three, which Jafar plans to use for nefarious purposes.

Of all the directors in the world Disney could have hired to direct a live action Aladdin film, Guy Ritchie right away feels like an odd choice. The direction Ritchie takes is so unremarkable that it feels like almost anyone could have directed this film and no one would be any the wiser. Stylistically, there’s no risks taken, it’s all very colourful, but nothing stands out. It’s all very unremarkable, which, like with Dumbo feels like a mistake, as there could have been an opportunity to utilise the director’s talents to give these live action films a voice of their own and to really justify their existence. Otherwise, it just feels like the sole purpose of these live action remakes is to just make the studio money.

He might have been the source of much ridicule and scorn in the build up to the film’s release, but to his credit Will Smith actually does a decent job in the role of the Genie. Though Robin Williams’s take on the character will always be iconic, Smith’s efforts to make the character his own are valiant. He’s by far and away the main source of laughter in the film as he tries to get Aladdin to be a suitable match for Princess Jasmine. Though he is basically playing himself, he’s, by far and away, the main source of laughter in the film. Naomi Scott holds her own as Princess Jasmine as she makes an effort to assert herself from the constraints that the society places on women. Though, her chemistry with Massoud’s Aladdin isn’t the best and unfortunately Massoud doesn’t have the charisma required to be a leading man, likewise for Kenzari’s portrayal of Jafar, who is just extremely one dimensional and bland.

The dialogue can feel a little bit wooden at times. There is a decent attempt made to recreate the wonderful songs of the original, and though they are well done, they just don’t live up to the quality of the music that the animated film captured. No expense was spared when it came to the production design, nor the costumes as both are lavish but unfortunately this is just isn’t enough to breathe new life into this story. You could have all the wishes in the world but not even the most powerful of genies would be able to prevent this live action remake from failing to live live up to its animated predecessor.

Splendid production design and costumes, and the Genie was thankfully not the horror story we feared it would be, but a poor villain and some stilted dialogue ensure that this is not a whole new world you’ll want to revisit any time soon.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Thunder Road Pictures

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – Film Review

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston

Director: Chad Stahelski

Synopsis: With a $14million bounty now on his head after breaking Continental rules, John Wick is on the run with nowhere to go, and in the crosshairs of every hit-man and woman in the world….

Review: There’s a moment early on in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum where a character seethes at John Wick for the hell his actions have wrought, “all of this for what?! Because of a puppy?!” “It wasn’t just a puppy,” Wick retorts back. The aforementioned “this” refers to the carnage that has followed since a bunch of ill-judged thugs killed the dog bequeathed to John Wick upon the death of his wife. An event that sent the legendary hitman on a furious rampage of revenge. After said rampage ended, a commitment to a contract once again landed Wick in another spot of bother, and now all hell is about to break loose.

Set immediately in the wake of the previous film, John has been declared “ex-communicado” from the Continental after he violated one of the unbreakable rules of the Continental, by murdering someone on company grounds. Consequently, the High Table has placed a 14 million dollar open contract on John’s head, that soon has every deadly assassin in the world on his trail. The hunter has become the hunted, but God help anyone that does decide to try their hand at taking down Baba Yaga himself.

Neigh chance that the bad guys are living through this one…

Keanu Reeves has made his name as an action star, and once again, he excels in this role. It is undoubtedly one of the key appeals of these films is to see an action star like him, commit to doing some jaw dropping stunts, whilst also getting to see him kill folks, via any means necessary. In this instance, given that he has quite a few people who are out for his blood in a bid to land that 14million dollar jackpot, it gives returning director Chad Stahelski scope to once again gleefully find ways for Wick to creatively finish off his pursuers. The direction is once again imperious and in a series that has already produced mesmerising action scenes, fights involving dogs, horses and other methods ensure that the bonkers factor has been turned up to eleven.

Alongside Reeves, the familiar presence of Ian McShane’s Winston, is suave as ever. The real scene stealers in this new instalment are the women. Halle Berry, who leapt at the opportunity to be a part of the franchise, plays Sofia, a femme fatale with a connection to Wick’s past. Though she frustratingly doesn’t have a great deal of screen-time, when she is on screen, she damn well makes her presence known. Likewise for Asia Kate Dillion, a cold and ruthless representative of the High Table, who’s there to ensure that John Wick pays the penalty for his actions.  Unfortunately, as the film is so top heavy with action, that the surrounding story lacks the deeply personal element that the first two films had in abundance. As such, the moments in between the enthralling actions scenes where the bullets/knives aren’t raining down on the bad guys, do feel a little tedious.

The lack of real emotional drama gives the other two films the edge over Parabellum. However, in spite of this being not as strong as the other two films, you have got to give the plaudits to Stahelski and the stunt teams of these films. The action scenes have been its big selling point from the very first film, and in this respect, they have consistently delivered. Furthermore, for an actor who is now well into his fifties, you’ve also got to hand it to Reeves for committing himself to the role that has reaffirmed him as one of the best action stars working today. If you want peace, prepare for war, or at least some bloody good action scenes, because that’s what Mr Wick, suited, booted, significantly bloodied and bruised, will give to you.

Packed to the brim with thrilling action scenes, but a significantly weaker story bereft of the emotional drama of the previous films prevents this sequel from firing on all cylinders. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Booksmart (2019)

Image is property of Annapurna Pictures and Gloria Sanchez Productions

Booksmart – Film Review

Cast: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Billie Lourd, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis

Director: Olivia Wilde

Synopsis: Two high school students who’ve shone academically realise they have have missed out on some major high school/teenager shenanigans. On the last night before graduation, they decide to go out of high school with a bang…

Review: In many ways, high school/secondary school is the place where we really start to grow up, the place where we slowly start to make that steady transition from childhood to adulthood. We undertake some important exams that can potentially shape the rest of our lives. Whilst simultaneously, it’s a time when we usually start going out, partying and with any luck, making long lasting friendships and relationships. Some may choose to party too hard, some may get the balance right, and some may work too hard and not party enough.

Best friends Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever) are most definitely the latter. They have spent their time very much concentrated on the academic side of high school with the focus of attaining a place in a top class college. However, as they prepare to graduate, it dawns on them that their focus on their academic work has been so razor sharp, that they have missed out on several years worth of partying and letting their hair down. Desperate to rectify this mistake, they realise that they must use the last night before graduation as their chance to cram as much partying and raucous behaviour into one night as they possibly can.

Look at these pesky up-to-no-good troublemakers….

Putting a refreshing and wholly unique take on the high school sex comedy/drama, is by no means an easy challenge. However, for her directorial debut, Olivia Wilde does exactly that. Having women front and centre, both in front of and behind the camera, definitely plays a massive part in ensuring this film stands out from the crowd. As the leading ladies, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever both give terrific lead performances. These two bounce off each others’ personalities to wonderful and hilarious effect. Their interaction and chemistry on screen is so warm and fuzzy, that they feel like fully fleshed out people. Right from the moment you meet them, they genuinely feel as though they have been friends for years.

Feldstein, who arguably stole the show with a wonderful comedic performance in Lady Bird, maintains that wonderful level of humour in a role that really gives her the chance to shine. She comes across as a bit aloof and snobby to the other students, but there is a warmth and sincerity to her, as well as a brilliant sense of humour.  By contrast, Dever as Amy is a much more withdrawn individual. She carefully chooses the right moments, when she is not with Molly, to come out of her shell.  Both have rich layers to them, so much so that there will almost certainly be people out there who will relate to them in some capacity, whether it be the desire to place emphasis on those hours of studying or being slightly withdrawn when it comes to social interaction, or perhaps even both.

Alongside Wilde in the directors chair, the film’s female team of writers (Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel & Katie Silberman) pen a fantastically witty script full of some truly brilliant jokes that are downright hilarious. There are one or two jokes don’t quite hit their mark, but the rest are just fantastic and extremely unique in terms of the delivery and the punchlines. Try as we might, those high school years are not a constant barrel of laughs, there will be times when some drama unfolds. Wilde’s excellent direction and the sincere performances from every member of this cast, ensure that this is captured in such an honest and authentic manner. It just goes to show that when you do your homework, as the cast and crew most certainly did, that it will pay tremendous dividends. Top marks all around.

Hilarious and heartfelt, with very sincere and genuine performances, a wonderfully refreshing take on the teen drama/coming-of-age comedy. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Long Shot (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate, Good Universe and Point Grey Pictures

Long Shot – Film Review

Cast: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård

Director: Jonathan Levine

Synopsis: As she is preparing her bid for President of the United States, Charlotte Fields (Theron), recruits childhood acquaintance Fred Flarksy (Rogen), an outspoken journalist, as her speechwriter…

Review: In these very politically charged times, to make a film that is very politically orientated is an extremely brave decision to make. It is even more bold to take a genre that you wouldn’t normally associate with politics, like rom-com, and to add a bit of political spice into the mix. The final outcome is an interesting hodgepodge of genres, and while it is not quite a landslide victory, it isn’t too far away.

Fred Flarksy is an outspoken journalist who is down on his luck having just lost his job. As he bids to get back on his feet, he runs into Charlotte Fields, who he once knew as a child. While his life is somewhat in limbo, she is flying high in US politics as the Secretary of State. However, she has her eyes on a much bigger prize and is poised to officially announce her bid for the Presidency. A chance meeting reunites them both, and sensing she can use Fred’s writing skills to pep up her speeches, and boost her ratings, she offers him a job on her official campaign as her speechwriter. Of course, though they don’t seem like the most ideal couple, that doesn’t stop them falling for one another, and an unlikely romance starts to brew between them.

As with any romantic comedy, its primary objectives are to be both romantic and funny, and this film puts an X in both these boxes. Rogen’s background in comedy certainly helps with the comedic aspect as there are plenty of laughs to be found.  As she has proved throughout her career, Theron, is effortlessly watchable as she brings class and sophistication to her performance, a polar opposite to the brash, loudmouth nature of Fred’s personality. However, when the situation requires it, she can also be extremely hilarious as she engages in some amusing shenanigans.

As a pairing, Rogen and Theron certainly seem far from a match made in political heaven, but the chemistry between the two of them is very strong and as the film wears on you completely buy them as a couple and hope to see, in spite of the difficulties of the situation, to make it work between them. Of all the excellent supporting cast, O’Shea Jackson Jr is by far the best of the bunch as Fred’s extremely entertaining, supportive long time best friend. Though it is for the most part extremely entertaining, not all of the jokes hit their targets, as some of them can be extremely cringey.

The world of politics is a very fraught arena right now, and the screenplay from Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling uses that to its advantage. It takes some not-so-subtle digs at certain news organisations, and their CEOs. In addition, it puts the current US political climate under a microscope, analysing a plethora of topics most notably, the intense scrutiny that political candidates, especially female ones can find themselves under. Though it does have plenty of things to say about numerous topics. However, the pacing is not perfect as it does lose its way about half way through the film. There are some familiar rom com tropes, yet the performances of the leading duo ensure that the film has charm and sets it on its way to success in the polls.

 A blend of romance, comedy and politics is an unlikely mesh, but with the backing of the great performances of its leads, Long Shot gets the votes it needs to set it on its way to success.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame – Film Review

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: After half of the galaxy’s population is vanquished by the Mad Titan Thanos,  the Avengers still standing must take their final stand, and do whatever it takes to reverse the terrible damage that has been inflicted upon the universe…

This review will be 100% spoiler free…

Review: It is quite remarkable to think when a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist announced that he is Iron Man, audiences had absolutely no idea of the journey that they were about to go on. As the years went by, piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe assembled itself into this enormous cinematic juggernaut almost unlike anything we had seen in cinematic history. Now, eleven years since Tony Stark uttered those famous words, and the twenty one films that followed afterwards, this journey is now at its end.

Set directly after the events of Infinity War, The Avengers who survived Thanos’s snap are all left completely desolate and broken after failing to stop the Mad Titan succeeding in his aim to bring balance to the world by wiping out half of all life. It’s a completely bleak existence for them all, but when an opportunity to undo the catastrophic damage that Thanos has done to the Universe presents itself, the Avengers take their final stand for a mission that represents the biggest fight of their lives, with literally everything on the line.

Having pulled off a masterfully crafted piece of action cinema, full of stupendous action set pieces with Infinity War, the Russo brothers, and returning writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely go very much in the opposite direction for this sequel. The film, in all of its three hour run time, significantly dials back the action, in favour of more personal, more sombre moments of reflection. It bides its time, exploring the emotions, and the development of these characters. As we watch our heroes contemplating what might have been, whilst simultaneously licking their wounds and dealing with the enormous consequences of Thanos’s actions. It crucially allows the audience to watch these heroes that we have known and loved across this last decade of Marvel films, be in a such a traumatic place, the likes of which we haven’t really seen before in the MCU.

It is quite incredible that in this decade and almost two dozen MCU films that the cast that has been recruited for all these eclectic and colourful characters has been practically flawless across the board, with so many memorable characters that have undoubtedly charmed their way into the hearts of audiences around the world. There isn’t a false note in any of the performances, for this film and for its predecessor, but as the marketing for the film demonstrated, the MVPs here are the original gang of Avengers (Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor.) It’s this group of heroes that first banded together to save the world in the first Avengers film. We as an audience owe so much to these guys for being the awesome bunch of characters that they have been across these movies, and for laying the foundations that this incredible universe has been built upon.

This isn’t to say that some of the newer crop don’t get their moment to shine, because they most certainly do. Furthermore, in these dire circumstances, the film finds its ways to be extremely humorous once again. Though the action is dialled back significantly, it wouldn’t be an Avengers film without some intense action. With that, as they have done for the last three films that were under their expert vision, the Russos continue on that trajectory to again deliver an absolutely jaw dropping sequence, one that hardcore fans of the MCU will undoubtedly enjoy every minute of it.

It is worth re-emphasising the sheer scale of what Marvel has achieved across these films. The work that all of the writers and film-makers, and all of the crews who have worked on these films have done, to make this cinematic universe so successful.  Three phases, twenty two movies, rich and well developed characters, laughter and gags aplenty, and plenty of insane and jaw dropping action sequences, it has all been a fantastic journey to have been on. While the MCU will undoubtedly carry on past this point, part of the journey is the end, and now this iteration has reached its Endgame, and that final outcome is a marvellous and unprecedented achievement that will go down in cinematic history.

A monumental cinematic achievement that delivers the conclusion the legions of MCU fans were hoping for. A triumphant conclusion to one of the most impactful franchises of modern cinema.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hellboy (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment and Millennium Media

Hellboy – Film Review

Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church

Director: Neil Marshall

Synopsis: When an Ancient evil sorceress seeks to establish a dark and terrible dominion over humanity, the task of stopping her falls to the one and only Hellboy…

Review: Reboots are all the rage in Hollywood these days, but when any effort is made to reboot a franchise, it can be a very tricky minefield to negotiate. If done right, there’s potential to win an army of new fans to a franchise. On the other hand, when done badly, it serves as a painful reminder to why sometimes a reboot should never have come to fruition, and instead should have stayed in (development) hell where it belongs.

Having been previously brought to the screen on two occasions by Guillermo del Toro, the opportunity for the visionary director to complete his trilogy never materialised. As a result, we now have a new iteration of the half man, half demon, with David Harbour stepping into the horns, vacated by Ron Perlman. We find ourselves in present day with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) under the stewardship of Professor Bruttenholm (McShane) who, along with Hellboy find themselves in the middle of a supernatural war. The villainous Blood Queen (Jovovich) seeks to subject humanity to the darkness under her tyrannical rule, and of course, the task of stepping up and taking her down, falls to our Demon friend.

“Not even a gun this big can save this shitshow!”

By far and away, the saving (of sorts) grace of this film is David Harbour’s take on Hellboy. He tries his best, through all his red make-up, to be charismatic and humorous. It’s just a shame then than that the film surrounding him is just a complete catastrophe. From the get go, the screenplay is shambolic, with seemingly no thought whatsoever given to structuring it in a coherent manner. We’re introduced to this supernatural conflict, via some exposition of the quite vulgar variety. From there, the plot just zips along from scene to scene with no time to actually work out what is even happening and why. Furthermore, for the overwhelming majority of the dialogue, the delivery is completely atrocious. The writers seemed to have been playing a game of how many times can we say the word “fuck”, with no nuance, or any particular reason why. It becomes very tiresome very quickly, and this is all within the first act of the film!

Harbour’s performance is the best of a very bad bunch, which is frustrating because there are actors here who have proven themselves to be better than this diabolical material, but when the screenplay is this atrocious, that doesn’t help matters. For instance, Ian McShane has proven himself capable in franchises like John Wick, here you can just tell how much he is phoning it in, likewise for Milla Jovovich’s villain who’s as generic as they come, and there’s a monstrous villain with a Liverpudlian accent. It all just makes no sense whatsoever and defies logic how all of it got approved in the first place. Sasha Lane is another talented actor who has proven her talents in other projects. There is intrigue to her character, but when the execution is just so extremely sloppy across the board and there’s next to no development to these characters, you don’t give a salty shit whether they live or die.

There’s various different ways that violence in films can be accomplished, you can go for the aesthetic route (see the works of Quentin Tarantino) or you could do what the filmmakers here do and go horror film-esque gore, with copious amounts of blood and limbs getting severed left, right and centre. They seemingly making the decision to see just how many people they can kill in two hours and in the most gruesome fashions. It’s just gratuitous and serves no purpose to the advancement of the story, and neither does some of the abysmal CGI. Extremely choppy editing, and the action scenes are migraine inducing, which given Neil Marshall’s portfolio, including two masterfully directed episodes of Game of Thrones, leaves so much to be desired.

Everything about this film should serve as a strong reminder studios that if you’re going to take on a reboot, make sure that you do it right, because otherwise the world is going to be filled with more grotesque abominations like this. For fans of this character, there’s always del Toro’s films to fall back on, and based on this monstrosity, it’s a hell of shame that he was never given the chance to complete his trilogy.

 A dreadful, incoherent screenplay combined with ridiculously excessive violence, ensures that this reboot is a mess of satanic proportions that belongs in the deepest depths of cinematic Hell.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dumbo (2019)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Tim Burton Productions

Dumbo – Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Director: Tim Burton

Synopsis: When an elephant in the care of a struggling circus gives birth, the young creature is born with rather large ears. When it’s discovered that he can fly, the circus makes him its newest attraction to turn around its fortunes…

Review: It is very hard not to look at most of these live action re-imaginings of classic animated Disney films of yesteryear as nothing more than cynical cash grabs. For some of these films, you look at them and just think, there is no reason for these films to be remade. However, in the case of Dumbo, since the original film came out over seventy years ago, a remake does seem warranted.  However, with three live action remakes set to grace the big screen this year, Disney is only just getting started, and everyone’s favourite big eared elephant is the first one in its sights.

It is 1919, and Holt (Farrell) has just come home from the First World War, a war that has taken a heavy toll on him. In his absence, his kids Millie (Parker) and Joe (Hobbins) have been enduring a difficult time, with their circus, led by Max Medici (DeVito) really falling on hard times. However an opportunity to revive their ailing fortunes presents itself with the arrival of an adorable young elephant, who happens to be born with unusually large ears. Initially the subject of much derision and ridicule, most notably from Medici, this turns to awe when it’s revealed that this young creatures’s ears give him the ability to fly. This soon attracts the attention of V. A. Vandevere (Keaton), the owner of a much bigger circus/theme park.

Cuteness overload…

Given that humans didn’t feature in the original, and that the original film was just over an hour, Ehren Kruger’s screenplay has to expand on the source material. As such the human characters become the main focus of the film, and not the titular little elephant. Given that they’re the focus of the plot, the screenplay tries to give the humans something substantial to work with, and the results are mixed. DeVito is on reliably entertaining form as Medici, but it’s Holt’s daughter Millie who steals the spotlight as she is the most fleshed out character. She is a very strong willed young woman who has a keen interest in science, as well as taking care of Dumbo and helping him adapt to circus life, alongside her brother.

Parker’s performance shows that she has inherited those acting chops from her mother Thandie Newton. By contrast, none of the other human characters are really given much development, despite some of the stellar names in the cast. Michael Keaton’s character especially feels really out of place, with an accent so peculiar it’s hard to fathom what accent it is or why he’s speaking in that manner. One quick glance at the filmography of Tim Burton, and you would quickly realise that his imagination as a director is as dark and eccentric as they come. With that said, he doesn’t seem to be the most natural choice to bring Dumbo’s story to a new generation. Given the target market of the film, there’s obviously nothing as macabre or as freaky that Burton’s imagination has previously brought to the big screen.

Though, as one might expect with Burton, there are some dark undertones. Yet the direction for the most part feels very safe and doesn’t really take any risks, which feels like a missed opportunity as the scope was there to explore a dark side to the circus. The CGI for Dumbo is really well done and, as you would expect, Dumbo is completely adorable and above all else, in spite of the glittering array of talent in this cast, it’s this sweet little elephant that you find yourself rooting for the most, if only he had that little bit more screen time.

The cast try their hardest, but an indifferent script and the mismatch of tones prevent this live action re-imagining from soaring, but, thanks to the adorable titular elephant, it does get off the ground.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Shazam! (2019)

Image is property of DC Films, Warner Bros and New Line Cinema

Shazam! – Film Review

Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou

Director: David F. Sandberg

Synopsis: In need of someone to inherit his power, an ailing wizard chooses foster kid Billy Batson to be his champion, which gives him the power to become an adult superhero, all he has to do is say “Shazam…”

Review: There’s a good chance that each and every one of us has wished at some point in their lives that they were a superhero. The appeal of superheroes is perhaps at its strongest in our formative years, thus in this era of superhero movie dominance, it is hard to stand out from the crowd. Yet this is precisely what makes this latest film to emerge from the DCEU so intriguing, as it is quite literally a teenager in an adult sized, superhuman body.

Billy Batson (Angel), is the teenager in question, who has had a troubled life being in and out of foster homes, never really properly adapting to it with unanswered questions about certain events that happened in his childhood. However, on one seemingly normal day, his life is turned upside down. After being transported to this mysterious place, he meets a wizard desperately seeking a champion to inherit his remarkable powers. Sensing something in Billy, he grants him his powers, and just by uttering a single word, Billy has the power to become a fully grown adult superhero (Levi) at will, which brings the ominous Dr Sivana (Strong) into the picture.

“Feel the power of the Shiney Shiney lighting bolt!”

With DC’s early misfires now (hopefully) behind them, their focus now seems to be building stories around their individual heroes, as opposed to rushing straight into superhero ensembles. Asher Angel is excellent as Billy, a character who hasn’t had the best luck in life. But he is a character who you can’t help but root for, especially when he gets his powers. When in superhero form, Levi is an absolute delight to watch. Given that he has to essentially act like a kid would, he does so with believable excitement and giddiness that one would have in that situation. Every superhero needs a reliable sidekick and for Billy/Shazam, that honour belongs to his roommate Freddy (Grazer). The budding friendship between Freddy and Billy as they go about discovering the extent of Billy’s powers is just joyous to watch.

After the dour and dreariness of their first few extended Universe outings, the studio definitely seems to have done a complete U-turn in favour of more humour. Henry Gayden’s screenplay is full of terrific wit and jokes, plenty of which dial the cheesiness and silliness factor up to ten. David F Sandberg’s direction continues on the path set by James Wan and Aquaman, as there is a distinct vibrancy and a very colourful palette to the action scenes. To counteract this though, there are one or two quite sinister moments that really push the family friendly vibe the film is going for. Mark Strong, who’s no stranger to playing a villain, does a capable job. He is very much your run-of-the mill bad guy with his nefarious plans. Having said that, though there is a solid attempt to give him a backstory to flesh him out as a villain, some more work could have gone into developing his back story.

After the troubles DC experienced in the early stages of setting up its extended universe, it’s satisfying to see DC take another step in the right direction. The overall goofiness of the story could be a hindrance to some, if done to excess, but thankfully it never becomes overbearing. With the central message about the positive impact that a warm and loving family atmosphere can have being very prevalent, especially in circumstances like foster families. Though this isn’t anything new in a superhero film, Shazam! has found a way to make it feel simultaneously fresh and heart-warming in equal measure.

Delightfully silly, but with plenty of heart and lots of laughter throughout, Shazam! is the clearest indication yet that DC may just have caught lightning in a bottle, and found its spark. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Us (2019)

Image is property of Universal, Monkeypaw Productions and Blumhouse Pictures

Us – Film Review

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss

Director: Jordan Peele

Synopsis: As they relax during a summer vacation, a family’s holiday quickly turns to a nightmare when they receive some unwelcome, and very familiar, looking guests at their home…

Review: For someone who made their name for many years as one half of a very successful comedy duo, Jordan Peele’s career has gone in quite a different direction in recent years. As he has made the transition from comedy, to film-maker pretty seamlessly. After the success of the unnerving and furiously relevant Get Out, which bagged him a much deserved Oscar, Peele is back to terrify audiences once again.

At the centre of this new nightmare is Adelaide (Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Duke), and their two kids Zora (Joseph) and Jason (Alex), setting off for a vacation to their summer home. All appears to be going swimmingly with the family enjoying themselves. Not long after arriving however, the holiday goes a bit awry, when some visitors arrive unannounced. It quickly dawns on them that these people, who bear something of a close resemblance to themselves, have got some sinister motivations. Thus a deeply unnerving ordeal lies in wait, and the family find themselves in a fierce battle to stay alive, a battle literally against themselves.

Like with Get Out, there is a vast amount of subtext and deeper meanings to Peele’s screenplay that are definitely intended to mess with your mind. It’s not quite as politically charged as his previous film, but nevertheless Peele isn’t afraid to get across some dark and disturbing symbolism. He shines a light on humanity, and the human condition, which can be open to a lot of different interpretations, chief among them being is humanity its own worst enemy? This is far more than your typical home invasion film, and Peele’s direction in these intense dramatic scenes is masterful. Even with the haunting score from Michael Abels and Mike Gioulakis’s ominous cinematography, it’s proof if needed that you can make anything scary if you want to. You will never look at red overalls and scissors in the same way ever again.

To be asked play two very different versions of yourself cannot be an easy task for any actor, but it’s a task that every member of this family rises to in spectacular, and haunting fashion. Lupita Nyong’o has proven herself in the past to be a fantastic actress, but here she gives maybe the performance of her career as both she and her doppelganger counterpart are the leaders of their families. After his hilarious turn in Black Panther, Winston Duke is on hand to provide the comedy, and he does so brilliantly. When adding comedy into a horror story, it can be extremely problematic as it can negate the horror elements of the story, but Peele’s background in comedy ensures that the film stays on track.

Despite a mere two films under his belt as a director, Peele has in the last couple of years gone from strength to strength. It’s one thing to make your first film to be eerie, enthralling, extremely well layered and thought provoking in terms of its themes. Yet to follow that up with another equally thematically deep and haunting film is a resounding testament to Peele’s remarkable talents as a writer and a director. Get Out was by no means a fluke, and now audiences, especially fans of the horror genre (and their doppelgangers) have a new name to hail as a horror film-making force to be reckoned with.

 Brilliantly tense performance(s) across the board, especially from Nyong’o, Peele further enhances his reputation as a horror maestro with a suspenseful and thought-provoking sophomore feature.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain Marvel (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Captain MarvelFilm Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Synopsis: Whilst training on the alien homeworld of the Kree, a soldier has flashbacks of what she believes was her past life on Earth. With the threat of an alien invasion, she tries to piece together her memories whilst stopping the incoming attack…

Review: For all the might of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its powerful array of characters, there has been one thing really missing from its roster. While the universe has seen plenty of powerful and inspiring women, it never had a female led film. This has all changed with the introduction of Captain Marvel, and though it has been a long time coming, this heroine makes quite the entrance, and she might just be the most powerful of them all.

Our titular hero is training on an alien planet belonging to the Kree (the race of Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy) with no knowledge of her past. Whilst on a mission, led by Jude Law’s Kree general to retrieve something of critical importance, she becomes caught in the crossfire of a war being waged by two alien species. Through a sequence of events, she arrives on Earth in the 90s, which coincides with one of those hostile alien races infiltrating the planet.

Look into my eyes….

One thing that any superhero film has got to get right is the casting for its main hero, and with an actress of Brie Larson’s immense talents, Marvel once again got their casting spot on. Larson gives Captain Marvel personality and depth, and she is a hero you definitely want to root for. As with any hero, she has moments of vulnerability but, she takes those head on and become the hero, which is just so satisfying. Though he might be de-aged Samuel L Jackson is once again extremely entertaining as Nick Fury. With the film being set before he became the gruff eye-patched badass we know and love, he is able to get out and about and not glare menacingly at people. Also, yes that little ball of fur AKA Goose the Cat is the purrrrrfect (sorry) little companion.

It is extremely positive to see, at long last, a MCU film directed by a woman. Furthermore, Boden and Geneva Robertson-Dworet become only the second and third women to receive writing credits. The screenplay wastes no time putting the audience right in the picture from the word go, but its not without its problems. It does wobble in one or two places, most notably the second act. The pace comes to a sharp halt, as it strives to weave some extremely relevant political subtext into the story. Admirable as this may be, it doesn’t quite flow as seamlessly as it could do. With this being the 21st film in this universe, it is difficult for the filmmakers to make something that really stands out from the rest. There’s nothing on the magnitude of say one Mad Titan snapping his fingers and half the population turning to dust.

However, this isn’t to say that the action Boden and Fleck give us isn’t extremely entertaining. It is exhilarating, especially once we hit the third act and Captain Marvel has acquired her stripes, accompanied by a glorious 90s soundtrack. The arrival of Captain Marvel brings a new dimension to the MCU that opens up an array of possibilities for the future of the franchise, that will hopefully have more female heroes front and centre.

 The familiar formula of MCU films of the past is very much present, but with a terrific lead performance by Larson, Captain Marvel is a very welcome addition to the Marvel roster.