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

Tangled (2010)

tangled
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Tangled – Film Review

Cast:  Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy

Directors: Byron Howard and Nathan Greno

Synopsis: Rapunzel is a princess with extraordinary long hair who has been abducted by an evil witch, and raised in a tower, forbidden to go outside. Until one day she defies this rule, and experiences the world for the very first time.

Review: Whenever you sit yourself down for an animated film from Disney Animation Studios, you usually know what you’re in for. Musical numbers, great animation, and some well developed characters that you just want to root for, as well as an antagonist to boo and hiss it, as if you were at a pantomime. For their 48th animated adventure, check, check, check and check! Disney is well known for its princess stories, but what sets this princess apart is her remarkably long hair, that has magical healing powers. The ensuing adventure is familiar-ish territory, princess meets handsome man and they go on an adventure. Is this a problem? No, not at all, because it’s the usual magical brilliance that you expect from Disney.

Originally set to be called Rapunzel, but wisely changed to be the more gender neutral Tangled. The film focuses, as you might expect on the character of Rapunzel, the rather long haired princess in question. Taken from her biological parents shortly after she’s born by an evil witch, who uses her magical hair to stay youthful and beautiful. She is kept locked in a tower by said evil witch who has Rapunzel believe she is her actual mother. Until the mysterious and narcissistic Flynn (Levi) comes along and the opportunity presents itself for Rapunzel to leave her confinement and the chance for her to see something she has been dying to see ever since she was a child. Despite Flynn’s preening of sorts, he’s a man who clearly loves himself, but before long you will find yourself rooting for him as he joins Rapunzel on their adventure, with the usual combination of musical moments and emotional moments with characters you are absolutely invested in, from Rapunzel to Maximus, a horse who is quite the badass, and has quite the appetite for apples.

The chemistry between Rapunzel and Flynn is very strong and well realised, with the voice work from Moore and Levi excellent in bringing these characters to life. With Rapunzel, she her many locks of magical hair and lots of character despite spending, well pretty much her entire adult life confined to her tower. Flynn is of course the handsome, mischievous crook, who she uses as an opportunity to break free of her confinement. Both characters go on an emotional journey and their character development is very strong and excellently realises. With Disney you almost expect great music and they provide this once again with some superb tunes. Also well developed in her evil ways is Mother Gothel who has a few moments where she takes centre stage, and Murphy brings her to life tremendously well.

No one really does Princess films quite like Walt Disney Animation Studios, and here they produced another super hit to add to their remarkable collection of stellar animated films. With each Prince4ss film they tackle, the studio always manages to hit all the familiar tropes, that they have become well know for. However, they all manage to be wholly original and unique in many ways. In this instance, magical hair, a badass horses, great music, likable characters and oh yeah, beating up intruders with frying pans. What more could you ask for in a Disney movie?

The Mouse House brings the magic again with  its fiftieth motion picture, with a great story, terrific music and characters you genuinely have a connection with.

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