Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Far from Home – Film Review

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L Jackson, Cobie Smoulders, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon

Director: Jon Watts

Synopsis: Following on from the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker is preparing to go on a school trip with his friends around Europe. However, in a world that will never be the same again, a new threat is lurking in the form of the mysterious Elementals…

Review: After twenty-two films and an utterly incredible journey, the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminated in Avengers: Endgame, a film that has changed the MCU forever more. However, even after all that drama and heartbreak, the MCU is not slowing down. Previously, after their flagship Avengers ensemble showdowns, Marvel turned to the smallest hero in their roster, namely Ant-Man. Now though,  it’s up to everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man to pick up the pieces in the wake of the earth-shattering events of that climatic battle with the Mad Titan Thanos.

In the months since that intense battle, Peter is in an extremely tough spot, having lost his friend and mentor Tony Stark. On top of that he is trying to balance school life with his superhero web-slinging duties. With an upcoming school trip to Europe, Peter hopes that will take his mind off things and allow him to live a normal life. However, whilst he is off seeing the sights of Europe and trying to tell his crush MJ (Zendaya) how he really feels about her, a terrifying new threat emerges in the form of the Elementals. Whilst simultaneously, a mysterious new force in the form of Quentin Beck (AKA Mysterio) emerges, who claims to be from an alternate dimension.

“Karen, activate stealth mode….”

This is his fifth outing as everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, and Tom Holland proves once again that this is the perfect role for him, as he turns in another excellent performance . He’s got the bravado that a hero should have, but he’s still a lovable, if slightly awkward, dork. Though she had a relatively minor role in Homecoming, Zendaya’s MJ has a lot more screen time, given that she is now the subject of Peter’s affections, and the duo have solid chemistry. Similarly, the bromance between Peter and Ned is as strong as ever. Indeed, all of the class from Angourie Rice’s Betty to Tony Revelori’s Flash Thompson, have a lot more to do, likewise for the ever-reliable Happy Hogan.

Given how many Spider-Man films that have graced the big screen, it’s clear that director Jon Watts is aiming to broaden the horizons of Spider-Man. We have almost never seen him venture outside of the Big Apple, so to see him spin his webs around the globe is an extremely refreshing change. As these ominous Elementals threaten to wreak havoc on our world, which is where Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio comes into the picture. Mysterio by name, mysterious by nature as on first glance he seems like the kind of hero to fill the void that was left by Tony Stark, but that is just scratching the surface. When you get an actor of Gyllenhaal’s talents, it can only be a positive, and Gyllenhaal excels in this very intriguing role.

The screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, carries over the John Hughes esque high school comedy vibe from Homecoming, and the jokes remain witty and hilarious. With each movie that Marvel has made since they were able to incorporate him into the MCU, they have taken the character in directions that haven’t been attempted before, especially with a truly mind-bending, and awesome, third act. In a post Iron Man/Captain America MCU, Marvel will need heroes to step to fill that void as we move into Phase 4, and in everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, you have a hero who is more than capable of taking on that mantle.

Closing out Phase Three of the MCU, Far From Home is another fast paced, entertaining, globe trotting adventure that cements Tom Holland’s status as the best live action Spider-Man we’ve had to date.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Image is property of Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation and Marvel Entertainment

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Film Review

Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn
Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber

Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman

Synopsis: When teenager Miles Morales gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes the hero known as Spider-Man, he begins to discover he isn’t the only individual with these abilities out in the world…

Review: When you think of the hero Spider-Man, and his alter ego, there is usually one name that comes to mind, Peter Parker. After all, his story is one that has been told once or twice in Hollywood in the last decade or so. Yet he is not the only one to have these powers, and the responsibility that comes with it, as there have been numerous other instances of other people like Peter donning the mask and becoming the web-crawling hero. Now,  these other heroes have finally been given their moment in the spotlight.

Though Peter does show up here, the MVP in this tale of Spider-Man is Miles Morales (Moore), a teenager who is not entirely happy with his life after being transferred to a brand new, school. Though while out and about in New York City,  he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and starts to experience things he can’t explain. However, while all this is happening, a nefarious plan by the dastardly Kingpin that involves the opening up of other dimensions, brings several other web-crawlers into play, all from different dimensions. Together these Spider-people must work together to prevent Kingpin from unleash irreparable damage to this dimension and all the dimensions beyond.

Multiple spider senses be tingling…

In terms of the visuals, it’s so unique in comparison to any of the adventures of Peter Parker that we have seen prior. The animation is astonishing in its terms of the colour palette and how vivid it is. It feels like someone took the pages of the comic book itself and translated it onto the big screen, and the results are marvellous. Though the animation is so high paced and stylistic it can be a little jarring upon first glance, once you get used to it, it’s extremely innovative and fits perfectly with the fast paced, high energy style of the film.

Moore leads the way in what is a ridiculously stacked and super super talented voice cast. He injects Miles with that vibrant youthful energy, whilst at the same time still acting like a teenager who’s very unsure of himself. The camaraderie between Miles and all of his fellow Spider-People especially Peter (Johnson) and Gwen (Steinfeld) is especially wonderful. Though without question, the biggest scene stealer of them all is Nicholas Cage as the witty and hilarious Spider-Noir, an absolute genius piece of casting. With so many spidery people in play, the film runs the risk of losing its focus but it strikes that balance superbly well.  Brian Tyree Henry and Mahershala Ali lend their talents to Miles’s father and uncle respectively, and Liev Schrieber gives Kingpin a suitably intimidating presence.

Given that the superhero genre has arguably never been more popular than what it is right now, it is hard to make a film that stands out from the crowd, but Into the Spider-Verse is exactly that. Familiar in terms of Spider-Man films that came before it though it may be, it is undoubtedly a wonderful breath of fresh air. A film that the genre has has been crying out for a film like this to reinvigorate itself. The world of superheroes on the big screen has been introduced to Miles Morales at long last, and with this innovative style of animation, there’s an endless web of possibilities to swing towards.

Meticulously animated combined with a wonderful story and a superb array of colourful and amusing characters, an invigorating breath of fresh air for the superhero genre.

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

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

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Image is property of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

Incredibles 2 – Film Review

Cast:  Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: With the world still distrustful of superheroes,  Elastigirl is recruited in a secret mission in order to win back the public’s trust, all the while Mr Incredible must manage their super-powered children.

Review: Cast your minds back to 2004, a time before superhero films were billion dollar cinematic universe juggernauts, cropping up here there and everywhere. like they do today. As such when the first Incredibles film debuted, it was released in a market nowhere near as competitive as it is today. Therefore how do you ensure that you stand out from the crowd?  For returning writer/director Brad Bird, the answer is, stick to your guns.

Given the amount of time that has passed between the two movies being released, that a similar amount of time would have passed in the lives of the Parrs, thus putting a new  on the tale of this family. However, this this film dives straight back in, picking up pretty much almost immediately where the last film left off, with the family facing off against the dastardly Underminer.

All the while despite their heroism, superheroes are still illegal putting them in a tricky predicament. This is until a chance to win back the faith of the public opens itself up to Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). All the while Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson) must look after their 3 children, a task that is the trickiest of tests even for a superhero Dad. Teenage daughter temper tantrums, problems with homework, and a baby whose powers are frighteningly, but at the same time, hilariously unpredictable.

The real strength of this film lies in its action sequences, which are just as enthralling as those of its predecessor. What’s more, given that her role the first time around was not as front and centre as her husband. Seeing Elastigirl taking the lead role, is undeniably awesome to see. In the void that was left behind by Syndrome, the villain here is one who goes by the name of the Screenslaver, intensely critical of humanity’s incessant screen addiction. This is certainly an interesting plot thread but it is disappointingly not explored to the extent that you would have liked the film too, and given the sheer quality of a villain like Syndrome, the antagonist here is nowhere near as compelling as Syndrome was. Furthermore their motivations are a bit flimsy, and the direction they go in can be spotted from a mile off.

The film’s pacing is a little sluggish at times, but when the action is going down, it is extremely entertaining. Given Brad Bird made a Mission Impossible film, in between his Incredible endeavours, there is a strong MI vibe present here, and all the better for it. On top of that, with the central theme of the importance of the family definitely reinforced once again, it neatly ties itself in with the first film. There is no emotional gut punch that previous Pixar efforts such as Inside Out or Coco provided.

However, it more than makes up for that dearth of emotional drama. Given that the first film is regarded by many as being one of Pixar’s finest works, topping that was never going to be easy for Bird, but after such a long wait he delivers a sequel, that while is not as incredible as its predecessor, comes mighty damn close.

A long time in the making, but worth the wait to see this super family back in action, delivering superb action scenes and a great barrel of laughs along the way courtesy of baby Jack-Jack. Incredible by name, incredible by nature.