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 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.

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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.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Image is property of Warner Animation Group and Lord Miller Productions

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Director: Mike Mitchell

Synopsis: When alien invaders attack the city of Bricksburg, it leaves the city in ruins an several people are abducted, leaving Emmet Brickowski with no choice but to step up and save his friends…

Review: “Everything is awesome,” three simple words, and ones that whenever you heard them back in 2014 transported you to a world of bricks, and tiny yellow men and women, otherwise known as Lego. For decades, these simple bricks have provided children with endless hours of fun. So when a film about these bricks was announced, many assumed it would be a film marketed as a cash grab just to sell more bricks. However, it turned out to be a really witty and extremely entertaining piece of film-making. This is of course is 2014’s The Lego Movie, and yes everything was awesome with that film.

A couple of spin offs have followed in its wake, but now we have a direct sequel that picks up immediately from the first film. Everything seems to be going well until the city of Bricksburg comes under attack from some outer space visitors. Their attack has wreaked havoc on the city, turning it into a desolate wasteland of a very similar ilk to the Mad Max franchise. Years later, and despite the bleak circumstances, Emmet’s positive outlook on life has not diminished. However, that is put to the test when a subsequent attack results in the abduction of among others, Lucy and Batman by a threat from outer space, leaving Emmet with no choice but to rescue the ones he cares about.

Back when it came out, the first film was such a wonderful, innovative breath of fresh air, and extremely entertaining to boot, helmed magnificently by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Though the duo, are now merely on board as writers/producers, t’s clear that their influence comes to the fore and new director Mike Mitchell continues on the trajectory that was set by Miller and Lord. Inevitably, as tends to be the case with sequels, it does mean that it doesn’t feel nearly as fresh or innovative when compared to its predecessor.

The animation and the voice work are once again excellent, with Chris Pratt lending his voice not just to Emmet, but to a fearless warrior named Rex Dangervest, who feels like what would happen if the Lego counterparts of Han Solo and Star Lord had a child. There is an aspect to this story, concerning Tiffany Haddish’s character that could leave some viewers a bit frustrated as it’s a bit superficial, and not very well executed. This isn’t to say that there is nothing substantial as there are some elements, particularly towards the end that are much stronger in terms of the messages they deliver.

However, with plenty of extremely amusing references to some other pop culture properties, it keeps the plot moving along. These will keep the adults entertained, as unfortunately the film unlike its predecessor does feel more aimed at the younger demographics. Furthermore, while “Everything is Awesome” was this insanely infectious piece of delightful pop music that was impossible not to love, this movie’s version of that song is not quite as catchy, or indeed memorable, despite its best effort to be exactly that.

Not as innovative or as witty as its predecessor(s), and the story is hit or miss with its messages. Yet some extremely entertaining pop culture references ensure that this is a mixed, but entertaining, bag of bricks. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Image is property of Dreamworks Animation Studios

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Film Review

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Kit Harington, F. Murray Abraham, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler

Director: Dean DeBlois

Synopsis: Having become the new chief, Hiccup strives to create a utopia for both humanity and their dragons on Berk. However, a new threat emerges which encourages Hiccup to go in search of the previously undiscovered Hidden World…

Review: When it comes to top quality animation, it is hard to compete with the juggernauts that are Disney Animation Studios, and their subsidiary company Pixar, but if there is one company that is giving them a solid run for their money and pushing them hard, then Dreamworks Animation is perhaps that company. Apart from one notorious Ogre and his friends, no franchise better epitomises the excellence of their output over the last few years than the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Set one year after How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup has ascended to the position of chief of Berk and is simultaneously being besieged by questions as to whether he is ready to propose to Astrid. As he is adjusting to his new responsibilities as leader, the island of both people and dragons is becoming more and more populated. Furthermore, a new threat is emerging to the people of Berk in the form of Grimmel, a dastardly figure who will stop at nothing till he has hunted all the dragons down, which naturally puts him on a collision course with Hiccup’s ambition to create a human and dragon utopia.

“Look at the shiny lights….”

One key aspect of this animated franchise is the core relationship between our primary antagonist Hiccup and his relationship with Toothless. Together, these two have been on a remarkable journey, and in Toothless Hiccup has a creature with whom he has experienced a substantial amount of friendship, unity, and as we saw in the last film, devastating heartbreak. For Toothless, the adorable beast that he is, his attention is now on a mysterious new female Light Fury that has arrived on the island, nicknamed a Light Fury by the locals. that Toothless has fallen head over claws for. Hence, putting the pair’s friendship to the ultimate test.

As ever Hiccup is the protagonist you can’t help but fall in love with and just want to root for him, especially when it comes to making that all decision to propose to Astrid, whilst at the same time, doing his utmost to keep his people safe, talk about pressure being on the shoulders of such a young leader! Though he has able support, it can be hard Which brings us to Grimmel (F.Murray Abraham). His terrible plan is certainly one that requires Toothless and Hiccup to take to the skies for one final showdown. Given how how the bar was set by the nefarious Drago from the previous film, Grimmel is certainly dastardly but he doesn’t quite match those standards of uncompromising villainy.

The film had some really high octane action sequences, and once again, there are more than a few scenes that are just a visual treat for the eyes. However, it does downplay the action in favour of considerably more emotional stakes. An admirable choice to make, though it doesn’t quite match up to the lofty standards set by the previous instalments. However, fans of this franchise can rest assured that if this is the last time that this series takes flight, Dreamworks has produced a series that is up there with the likes of Toy Story as one of the finest animated trilogies ever made.

Third films in franchises so often disappoint, and while The Hidden World doesn’t quite soar to those wonderful heights set by the previous instalments, it is without doubt, a worthy conclusion to the franchise.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox

Alita: Battle Angel – Film Review

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Keean Johnson

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Synopsis: Set in the 26th century,  a compassionate doctor finds an abandoned cyborg whom he names Alita (Salazar). Upon reawakening, Alita with no recollection or memories of her previous life, goes in search of answers…

Review: If you’re looking for a big name film-maker to get an ambitious project off the ground, James Cameron is not a bad choice to turn to. For here is a director who boasts the two highest grossing films of all time in his repertoire, as well as being the one of the two brains behind the Terminator franchise. But even with the involvement of such a talent as Cameron, and director Robert Rodriguez, sometimes, it just not enough to save the project.

After humanity has been seriously affected by a deadly war, Dr Dyson Ido (Waltz) finds the remains of a female cyborg in a scrapyard, brings her body back to his lab and restores her to life. However, Alita with no memory of who she was in her previous life, is determined to get some answers. Right away the film throws the audience head first into the thick of what is evidently a planet that has clearly been effected heavily by war. Yet the screenplay, penned by Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, doesn’t really provide any context for the preceding war that has seemingly crippled this society. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of the dialogue feels very stilted.

As the main character, Alita is certainly a likeable protagonist that you want to root for, even if the CGI on her is a little jarring to begin with. You want her to find out the answers that she’s seeking and it is extremely entertaining to watch her throw down against some of the slimy, nefarious people that inhabit this world. But of course, they had to add a romance into the mixture with Alita falling for Hugo (Keean Johnson). It’s functional to the plot as he helps Alita acclimatise to the new world she is discovering but, there’s not a great deal of chemistry between the two of them, and while not as laughable as some of the romantic dialogue that the Star Wars prequels served up, it’s still pretty cringey.

The rest of the cast are also functional at best, which is extremely frustrating when you have Oscar winning talents like Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali. It just feels like their considerable talents are wasted on what could have been a much better script. What’s more, the motivations/purposes of some characters for doing what they’re doing are extremely vague, with scope clearly being left for future instalments. The CGI on the whole is very hit or miss, sometimes it looks really impressive, and there are other instances where it looks extremely cheap. This is problematic for a big budget blockbuster, especially since Cameron’s Avatar, a film that came out a decade ago, showed the world what CGI could accomplish.

For what is clearly striving to be a film that is trying to be its own franchise, it tries so hard to set up a sequel that it negates telling a worthwhile story to begin with. There are some entertaining scenes but again, there’s nothing here that really stands out to differentiate it from the plethora of films in this genre, that have been far more memorable. For any film that spends a long time stuck in development hell, it always feels like the odds are against it. Despite the best efforts of all concerned to bring this property to the big screen, and even with such star power, both in front of and behind the camera, this is a classic case of style over substance.

One cannot fault the ambition, but even with a solid lead performance from Salazar, the extremely corny dialogue and a rather messy plot just cannot save this film from its place on the scrapheap.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2019)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Film Review

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant

Director: Marielle Heller

Synopsis: When biographer Lee Israel’s (McCarthy) work dries up, she discovers some personal documents and manages to make an extortionate amount of money by forging these documents…

Review: For certain actors, they can be well known for a certain type of role that they tend to play quite a lot, they run a risk of getting typecast in that particular roleYet, every so often an actor breaks that typecast. This is certainly applicable for Melissa McCarthy, who has so often played roles of a similar ilk to her vulgar but extremely hilarious turn in Bridesmaids. Yet, for this considerably more dramatic role, it’s quite the transformative change for her, and it might just be the best performance of her career.

It is 1991 and Lee Israel’s life and career has hit a dead end, having found herself out of a job and new opportunities are becoming increasingly very hard to come by. Furthermore, she has very few acquaintances to share her life with. It is all rather gloomy until, quite by chance, she finds some unique personal artefacts of celebrities that she forges to her advantage. In doing this, she earns a substantial amount of money, and through these acts of forgery, she runs across fellow outcast Jack Hock (Grant), who aids her in these acts of deception.

The scene of the crime…

Though she comes off as quite the unlikable person, McCarthy is truly excellent in her performance. From the moment we first meet her, it is clear that she is difficult to work with and other people do not like her. These feelings are evidently reciprocal, as Lee clearly prefers the company of animals to people. The screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, adapted from Israel’s own memoir, goes about exploring how Lee intricately created her forgeries in an exciting fashion, whilst at the same time balancing that with Lee trying to build some sort of social connections with a select few people.

One of those few is Richard E Grant’s Jack Hock, who is something of an outcast himself and a recluse like Lee herself, similarly, he’s also a bit of an arsehole and not exactly the most pleasant man, but Grant is uproariously entertaining in this role. There is something heart-warming about watching these two connect despite their mutual difficulties of connecting with people, build a relationship and accomplish these naughty deeds, whilst having a tipple or two in their downtime. However, director Marielle Heller doesn’t shy away from the fact that what Lee is doing is a crime. Which, as various people begin to suspect that they have been deceived, the tension begins to grow as the authorities get involved.

Though the film does suffer from a few pacing issues, there is something about the story of Lee Israel that will be pertinent for that anyone who writes for a living, and equally so for those who dream of writing for a living. Equally so, if anyone has been an outsider, or has experienced difficulties in connecting with people, the struggles that people experience in those sorts of situations can undoubtedly take a heavy toll. And whenever people find themselves in those dark times, it can make people do things that they regret, or in Lee Israel’s case, do things and have the time of your life while doing so.

Simultaneously funny and tragic, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a poignant but fascinating study of one woman’s descent into deception, whilst getting arguably career best performances from both McCarthy and Grant.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

If Beale Street Could Talk (2019)

Image is property of AnnaPurna Pictures and Plan B

If Beale Street Could Talk – Film Review

Cast: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Ed Skrein, Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Dave Franco, Diego Luna
Pedro Pascal

Director: Barry Jenkins

Synopsis: After finding out she is expecting a baby with her partner, a young woman and her family seek to clear her lover’s name after he is arrested for a crime he did not commit…

Review: What do you do when only your second feature length directorial feature wins you an Academy Award for its screenplay, as well as (eventually) the Academy Award for Best Picture? This was the quandary for Barry Jenkins, the writer/director of Moonlight, having been catapulted him into the spotlight by the film’s incredible success. The answer to that question, is to make something that’s cut from a similar cloth as Moonlight, a story that tells a very human, emotional journey.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, we are taken back to 1970s Harlem, where we meet Tish (Layne) and Alfonso (or Fonny as Tish affectionately calls him), two beautiful young people who, having been very close as children, have since become a blossoming couple, seemingly made for one another. However, their romantic bubble is burst when when Fonny is arrested and charged with a horrific crime that Tish insists he is innocent of, and Tish and her family must do whatever they can to clear Fonny of these charges.

On the surface, this would appear to be a simple story about the love that two young people have for each other, and the desperate bid to prove her husband-to-be innocent of the crime he is being accused of. And while it is undeniably beautiful and romantic to watch these two fall in love with each other, much like his work with Moonlight Jenkins’s screenplay goes much deeper than that exploring a variety of themes such as racism, family and the brutal horrors of the justice system that can bring such an unfair injustices to Black communities and devastate these families across America, even when people may be innocent of the crimes they are being accused of.

As the main couple, KiKi Layne and Stephan James are both excellent. Their chemistry is just so honest and authentic that you completely buy them as a couple. You revel in their moments of love and affection for one another, and are equally devastated when they are torn away from one another. As Tish’s mother Sharon, Regina King is just utterly marvellous as she leads the fight to win her prospective son-in-law’s freedom, even in the face of extremely long and difficult odds, and indifference from some members of Fonny’s family to Tish’s plight.

The cinematography from James Laxton is once again sumptuous to look out, even when the circumstances may be extremely bleak, his cinematography shines a hopeful light on the situation of this couple. Nicholas Britell also returns to provide the score, and once again, the work he does to add to the romanticism and by contrast, the heartbreak of this story is remarkable. For those who might have had issues with Moonlight’s pacing, they could well run into some issues again here as Jenkins does take his time to slowly build up Tish and Fonny’s relationship. Though some scenes do feel necessary, others do drag on perhaps for a tad longer than they really need to.

For characters depicted in the 1970s, Jenkins’s characters feel very contemporary and the story and the themes are very topical, but the film never gets preachy with the events depicted on screen. It is above all else, a very sweet story about the love two people have for one another, and the challenge that the human spirit faces when facing the going up against the cruel nature of the world and its institutions, Barry Jenkins has once again crafted something that, in these very emotionally charged times, he has made a film that will speak something to everyone who sees it.

Beautiful and melancholic,sometimes in the same shot, with a fantastic ensemble of well realised characters, Jenkins once again crafts a moving tale of love and hope in the face of terrible adversity.