Fisherman’s Friends

Posted: April 18, 2019 in Film reviews
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Directed by Chris Foggin. Starring Daniel Mays, James Purefoy and Tuppence Middleton.

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When jaded music exec Danny (Mays) accompanies his friends on a stag weekend Cornwall, the group chance upon an acapella male singing group composed of fisherman living in the scenic village of Port Isaac. The group sing sea shanties and May’s boss, Troy (Noel Clarke sporting a slightly odd accent) convinces Danny that the group could be a hit, and leaves him behind in Port Isaac to sign them up.

Little realising that Troy is playing a prank, Danny begins to try and woo the group, called the Fisherman’s Friends, but this doesn’t prove easy, especially when one of their number, Jim (Purefoy) is a cantankerous sort who distrusts outsiders. Danny perseveres and takes up residence in the bed and breakfast run by Jim’s daughter Alwyn (Middleton).

Initially disdainful of village life, Danny grows fond of Port Isaac and Alwyn, but can he get the girl and make Fisherman’s Friends a hit against all the odds?

Well, what do you think?

At the beginning the film happily informs you that this is based on a true story, and it is, up to a point, although quite a bit of artistic licence has been taken because as far as I can tell there were no burned out record execs involved, but hey it said based on, right.

Fisherman’s Friends can be viewed as a heart-warming tale of adversity and unlikely success, or as a cynical and cheesy attempt to cash in on a heart-warming tale of adversity and unlikely success, and how you react to the film might depend on which side of the fence you fall. For me I think the film, at times, manages to be both. It’s machine tooled to tug your heartstrings, and successful city boy learns to appreciate a simpler life is hardly an original story, nor is band of ordinary blokes become a success (just replace the sea shanties with brass bands or male stripping) and yet somehow Fisherman’s Friends enchanted me more than it annoyed me.

Maybe it’s a good cast, solid direction, a decent script and great locations, or maybe it just caught me on the right day, but I liked it.

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Mays makes for a slightly unlikely romantic lead, but he does dodgy wide-boy and befuddled man child equally well, and his romance with Alwyn feels natural. Middleton sells the stubborn single mum to a tee, even if you sort of wish she’d been given a bit more to do, but she has nice interplay with both Mays and Purefoy, and really in many ways Purefoy is the star of the show as the grizzled and grumpy alpha male of the Fisherman’s Friends. The rest of the cast are good and the actual Fisherman’s Friends all cameo which lends authenticity to the musical numbers.

Yes it’s predictable, yes it jettisons realism in favour of noble Cornish stereotypes, and yes it’s probably a touch too long—it does drag a little which given the running time is a little worrying—with a few scenes that could have easily been trimmed, but it’s heart’s in the right place, its cast are engaging and it made me laugh far more than I expected it to.

I just have one question…

What should we do with the drunken sailor?

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Shazam!

Posted: April 17, 2019 in Film reviews
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Directed by David F. Sandberg. Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer.

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When he was a small child, 14 year old Billy Batson (Angel) got separated from his mother at the fair and he’s been searching for her ever since, running away from countless foster homes and using all manner of dubious methods to try and track his mom down.

After a run in with the police he’s placed in a group foster home run by former foster kids Victor and Rosa (The Walking Dead’s Cooper Adams and Marta Milans). He initially balks at the family atmosphere, but does make friends with Freddy (Grazer) a disabled boy who’s the same age as him.

After a run in with some bullies at school, Billy escapes on the subway, but finds himself yanked into another world where an aged magician named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) on the verge of dying confers magical powers on Billy. He’s been searching for a worthy champion for many years, but he has no more time to search.

After saying the wizard’s name Billy is transformed into an adult superhero version of himself (Levi) complete with hokey costume. Back in the real world Billy learns he can switch between forms simply by uttering the word “Shazam!” and once he confides in Freddy the two begin to have fun with the fact that not only does Billy have super powers now, but he’s also an adult which might be even more useful to a couple of teenage boys.

The trouble is, Billy isn’t the only super powered guy in town, Doctor Thaddeus Sivana (Strong) failed Shazam’s tests when he was a boy and has coveted the wizard’s power ever since. Now, imbued with the power of the seven deadly sins in demonic form, he want’s Billy’s power, and he’ll do anything to get it. Can Billy justify Shazam’s faith in him?

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It feels like DC have been playing catchup with Marvel in the film stakes for years, and whilst Man of Steel was ok, and Wonder Woman genuinely good, they’ve produced some absolute stinkers (I’m looking at you Suicide Squad)  and some overly pretentious, bloated “epics” featuring Batman and Superman. So when it was announced that their latest superhero film was going to be Shazam!, there was a slight suspicion the powers that be at DC might have gone nuts.

Or maybe they’ve come to their senses, because Shazam! Is a joyous hoot from start to finish, with a smart script, great performances and genuine heart. I probably haven’t had this much sheer fun at the cinema since Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle came out.

In so many ways this film is a throwback to a bygone era. It might not be set in the 1980s, but be under no illusions, this is a film that could have quite easily been made in that decade. There’s flashes of The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and, most obviously, Big (watch out for a lovely little homage to that film) plus the Philadelphia setting lends itself to some Rocky homages too.

In some respects it’s amazing it works, the premise is as hokey as the titular hero’s costume (I say titular but he’s never actually referred to as Shazam, and fun fact, back in ye olden days he was actually Captain Marvel) and this could have gone off the rails in so many ways. Make the kids younger and it would have been even sillier, make them older and too much teen angst would have got in the way, but in targeting that 14/15 year old not quite on the cusp of adulthood sweet spot, director Sandberg and screenwriter Henry Gayden have created a story that appeals to all ages.

As Billy’s adult alter ego Levi is of course the star of the show, channelling his inner man  child to accurately portray how a teenage boy might well act upon finding himself in a super ripped adult body that comes complete with a suite of super powers, but he never overdoes things—again you can see how certain actors might have ruined the part.

As his foil, Strong is smart enough to know just how much scenery to chew whilst still allowing Dr Sivana to be a larger than life nemesis.

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Really though, it’s the child actors who make this. As Billy, Angel shows true pathos as a boy damaged by his abandonment, desperate to belong but too proud to let himself become part of any new family when he’s still searching for his birth mother. The real standout though is Grazer as the smart and sassy kid who could effortlessly step into a film like Goonies and look right at home. A comic book nerd who’s living with a disability he’s enraptured with his new super powered buddy, but this also means he begins to become disillusioned with him. Grazer’s greatest strength however is that he seamlessly partners up with both Angel and Levi, selling the illusion that they’re the same person.

The script is sharp and smart without ever feeling the need to be too adult, in many ways this film is closer in tone to Deadpool than anything else, if you extracted most of the swearing and violence of course. Which isn’t to say Shazam! never ventures into darker places, it just doesn’t hang around too long when it does.

I’ve heard some complaints that the film is too long, but I didn’t find it so. Maybe the final showdown goes on a tad too long, and threatens to get a little too preposterous, but I’m clutching at straws to find fault with this film. Laugh out loud funny, with a great cast and excitement aplenty this may not give us anything startlingly new, it may not be deep and meaningful, it isn’t the best film of the year, and it may play a little like it was written in 1987, but for sheer unapologetic enjoyment this is 10 out of 10.

Role on Shazam!2…

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Goldfinger (1964)

Posted: April 5, 2019 in James Bond
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And so we’re onto the third Bond film. Worth noting that back then they made three of them in less time than there’s currently been between Spectre and Bond #25…

But I digress. Time for 007 to take on a simple smuggling case that turns out to involve plans for the worlds greatest bank robbery, well, maybe not a robbery…

Ask a cross section of Bond fans, be they rabid or occasional, to name their top three Bond films and chances are Goldfinger will probably feature in a large number of rankings. To this day it’s an iconic film, the epitome of the franchise, but is it actually any good?

To be honest it’d been a few years since I’d seen it in its entirety, and I’d got it into my head that it was a film that wasn’t nearly as good as its reputation suggested.

How wrong can a guy be?

Sure it has a few creaky moments, and one altogether distasteful element, but I’ll get onto that. For now let’s just say that it is iconic, a film that laid the groundwork of much that was to follow, and however good Dr No and From Russia With Love were, this is the film that cemented Bond as a powerhouse, and it introduced elements that resonate to this day.

In many ways it’s the very antithesis of FRWL, sure we’re not in the realms of hollowed out volcanos just yet, but Goldfinger isn’t remotely the gritty spy thriller FRWL was, it’s more fantastical then what came before, but a tad more grounded than what might follow.

Goldfinger’s pre-title sequence is a doozy, and it set the bar really high in terms of a miniature movie in its own right. Bond infiltrates a secret base, blows it up, gets the girl, gets betrayed by the girl, kills an assassin and even has time for a pithy one liner, all in less time that it took Daniel Craig to walk to a hotel in the pre title sequence of Spectre. That Connery plays it with effortless cool is the icing on the cake. Frankly there are possibly whole Bond films less exciting than Goldfinger’s pre-title sequence is.

Not that what follows is dull, although you might be forgiven for remembering the film being more action packed than it is, and pacing wise there’s nothing formulaic about this Bond film, for starters 007 spends pretty much half the film as Goldfinger’s prisoner, which I’m pretty sure isn’t something we’ve seen since (though rumours suggest Bond #25 may try and emulate this.)

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“Make Gold Great Again!”

Ah, Auric Goldfinger, the titular villain is larger than life in every sense of the word. In many ways  something of a buffoon, a cheating blowhard in love with the sound of his own voice, and once you throw the love of gold and golf into the equation it’s disturbing how reminiscent he is of a certain American President. And yet, despite this, he’s also quite clearly very dangerous, and not a fool either, and whilst you can credit Michael Collin’s dubbing for part of the appeal, it’s  Gert Fröbe’s physicality and mannerisms that really sell the character. He also has a natty line in bestowing imaginative ends on his enemies. See poor Mr Solo (nice little Bond-Fleming-Man from U.N.C.L.E in-joke there) crushed in the scrapyard, or one of the most iconic deaths meted out in the entire franchise, when Shirley Eaton’s poor Jill Masterson pays the price for betraying Goldfinger by winding up suffocated under a coat of gold paint. Whether that would actually kill you hardly matters, the image was seared into history, to such an extend that the producers tried, with far less success, to emulate it in 2008 by covering Gemma Arterton in oil. And of course, Jill’s sister, Tilly meets a grisly end courtesy of Odd Job’s steel rimmed hat (sad that Tania Mallet died just a few days ago).

And whilst Goldfinger doesn’t actually kill James, he comes pretty close, and his method has a delicious irony to it. Let’s be honest, Connery strapped to a metal bed as a laser beam creeps ever closer to his family jewels is almost as memorable as poor Jill’s golden death. Much like when he was facing certain death in FRWL Connery sweats fear, again he’s desperate, trying anything he can to escape. Goldfinger isn’t interested, and as exchanges go there’s few better in the franchise than “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.”

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But then Bond wriggles his way out of ending up a Damien Hirst sculpture by mentioning Operation Grand Slam. Goldfinger, correctly, intuits that Bond merely overheard the phrase and has no idea what it means, but can he afford to take the chance? The Chinese agent working with Goldfinger (and yes that is Burt Kwouk) clearly feels they need to keep him alive. Yes, it might seem ridiculous that Goldfinger chooses not to kill Bond, but watching the film again it’s clearly a shrewd move. With Bond still very much alive, 008 won’t be despatched to investigate, especially with Felix Leiter (three films in and onto our second Felix) foolishly believing Bond has everything under control, in reality it’s Goldfinger who has the situation firmly under control, or at least he thinks he does.

He hasn’t counted on 007’s sheer animal magnetism however…oh dear.

Let’s talk about Pussy.

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In so many ways Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore is the best Bond girl to date, and unless memory really doesn’t serve me well, will remain so until another star of the Avengers arrives on the scene in 1969 (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

You could argue she isn’t as drop dead beautiful as Andress or Bianchi, but she’s still gorgeous and, more importantly, she has presence, she can act, and the character has agency, well, up to a point. Pussy is Goldfinger’s trusted ally, a woman who’s formed her own flying circus composed entirely of sexy women pilots (you don’t think she might prefer women to blokes do you?) she’s also got no time for 007’s bullshit.

Until she does.

Whilst it isn’t as explicit as it may be in the book that Pussy is a lesbian, it’s clearly inferred. Even if she isn’t gay, Bond effectively forcing himself on her is distasteful enough, that his seduction “straightens” her out just makes things so much worse, and it’s a shame that this has to serve as the reason she betrays Goldfinger, rather than Bond appealing to her better nature. There’s a certain amount of misogyny I can tolerate in the franchise, this moment crosses the line.

For whatever reason, Pussy betrays Goldfinger (cats are notoriously fickle) and his plan to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox comes unglued.

It’s interesting to note how uninvolved Bond is in all of this, he isn’t even able to defuse the atomic bomb in the end, he has to rely on one of Felix’s men. He does get revenge for both Jill and Tilly however, by killing Oddjob.

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I take my hat off you you, sir

Ah, Oddjob, another high flyer in the pantheon of henchmen. Weightlifter come wrestler Harold Sakata might be near mute, but he’s a powerful presence, with an unmistakable silhouette—in fact the first time we see him it’s only his shadow—and whether he’s throwing his deadly hat, or crushing golf balls with his bare hands, he’s a dangerous foe, at least until 007 electrocutes him; not so fun fact, Sakata burned his hand during that scene, yet refused to let go, what a pro.

We’re in less exotic climes this time, with much of the film taking place in England and Kentucky, with a stop off in scenic Switzerland, and at times there’s a leisurely pace to the film, and not in a bad way. Can you imagine a modern Bond film spending so long on a game of golf? Can you imagine a modern Bond even playing golf?

Ken Adams outdoes himself yet again with the set design, be it Goldfinger’s Kentuckian lair, or Fort Knox itself, and whilst the franchise dallied with gadgets in the last film, here we get a clear sign of what’s to come with the tricked out Aston Martin DB5; machine guns, oil slicks, scythes, rotating number plates, oh and it also comes with an ejector seat. “You must be joking,” says Bond in Q’s lab.

Hah this is nothing, wait till we give you an invisible car…

One final fun fact before I hit my conclusion, the devious dancer in the pre-title sequence was also Kerim Bey’s mistress!

Goldfinger isn’t perfect, Bond is a little inert at times, and a few things don’t quite hang together (why would Goldfinger explain his plan to rob Fort Knox in so much detail to the Mafia guys when he’s about to murder them?) And of course, there’s the scene in the barn.

But despite its flaws it’s a rightfully iconic film that embodies pretty much everything about the franchise. A great pre-title sequence, a wonderful villain with an equally memorable henchman, a diabolical, and slightly left field, plot, the first Bond girl who’s more than two dimensional, a gadget laden Aston Martin, Sean Connery at the top of his game ( and he really is great in this) and I nearly forgot, one of the best damn title songs of them all sung by my dad’s favourite singer, Miss Shirley Bassey!

I know I’ve thrown the ‘I’ word around a lot, but damn it’s well earned here. A top-notch Bond film.

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Us

Posted: March 31, 2019 in Film reviews, horror, science fiction
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Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker.

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In 1986 Adelaide Thomas holidays in Santa Cruz with her parents. One evening she wanders away from the boardwalk and enters a hall of mirrors where she encounters her doppelgänger. The experience is so traumatising that for a time she becomes mute and has to undergo therapy.

In the present-day Adelaide (Nyong’o) returns to Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Duke) daughter Zora (Wright Joseph) and son Jason (Alex). Adelaide is nervous, still haunted by events that happened as a child, but she tries to put these aside and enjoy the trip. Once there they meet up with their friends Kitty and Josh (Moss and Heidecker) and their twin daughters.

When Jason gets lost on the beach Adelaide panics. That night she explains to Gabe about her childhood trauma. He’s convinced that all she saw was her own reflection, but then the children tell them there’s a family standing in the driveway. It soon becomes clear that the family in the driveway are their doppelgängers, and they’re very, very angry…

 

In 2017 Peele’s Get Out took everyone by surprise, a smart satire that was made for peanuts yet made millions. It was Peele’s directorial debut and it immediately cemented his reputation as both a writer and director. It was clear he’d have no trouble securing the green light for any kind of follow up he wanted, and people were eager to see what he’d do next, certainly I was. I had a few issues with Get Out, it was smidgen too funny in places underscoring the dread, but on the whole it was great; original and with something to say about race.

us-movie-1553126874.jpgSad to say therefore that I came out of Us a little disappointed. If Get Out was a taut, clever film that mostly balanced scares and laughs, Us is a sprawling mess that often veers too far towards comedy and was rarely as creepy as it could have been, worst than this though, where Get Out had a great central idea and ran with it, Us feels too much like Peele has thrown as many ideas as he can against a wall, and whilst some of them stick, too many slide down to the floor.

One can’t fault the cast however, and each of them is excellent in dual roles, especially Nyong’o and Wright Joseph, with Nyong’o doing most of the heavy lifting as the leader of the ‘Tethered’. She’s superb, and they really do feel like different people, a loving mother and a malevolent attacker.

Some of the funniest moments in Get Out came courtesy of Lil Rel Howery’s TSA agent Rod, and in Us, Winston Duke takes on a similar role. He’s very funny, of course its debatable whether he should be quite as funny as he is, and that’s part of the problem with the film, because at times its so funny that it does kind of undercut the tension. Take the moment the family start comparing kill scores for example. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you need that in horror, it’s just here it’s all very broad, and much like Rod in Get Out, at times it feels like Gabe is in a different film.

As a side note if they ever decide to gender swap the Joker, Elisabeth Moss has to be considered!

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Peele has a good eye, and there’s some good imagery at work here, lots of reflections and use of shadows to reinforce the notion of duality, he directs humour very well and he does direct some creepy moments; that said it says something when probably the creepiest moment in the film is in the first ten minutes when young Adelaide visits the hall of mirrors. Peele can also clearly write well, his dialogue and characterisations feel real. The problem is the plot, and whilst it’s a curious thing to say, this is a film that gives us too much information, but at the same time too little. Peele’s said he has a whole mythology created for the world of the Tethered, and this clearly shows, but in trying to show off some of this mythology, whilst maintaining an air of mystery, the film falls between two stools.

There’s some disturbing imagery on view in the world of the Tethered, but by showing it Peele prompts more questions that he then provides answers for (where do the jumpsuits and scissors come from, how can people survive just on rabbit, how do the Tethered know exactly where to find their above ground doubles?) and the longer the film goes on the more preposterous it becomes and the more you have to suspend your disbelief. Suspending disbelief is something I do quite well, I’m a sci-fi/horror fan so it comes with the territory, but Peele demands too much and the final act really did have me saying “seriously?” That said one of the central twists is nicely done and does work.

jordan-peele-us-movie-first-trailer-01-320x180It is intriguing, and Peele does clearly have something to say about the American underclass rising up—and it’s surely no surprise that they wear red, there’s a clear allusion to Trump supporters here, and Us also means US, but whilst this might have worked well as a 45 minute Twilight Zone style episode (and I’m still looking forward to Peele’s TZ reboot) that gets in and out before you have time to consider the ramifications, at almost two hours this film gives you far too much time to think and notice plot holes.

I didn’t hate it, and I will watch it again, knowing what kind of film it is going in might mean it goes up in my estimation, but on first viewing it’s ok but nothing special. There could have been a creepier, tauter film here. Less is more, but in the case of Us I’m afraid More is less.

 

By Nick Clark Windo

s-l300In the near future, everyone is connected to the Feed, a near constant link to both the internet and everyone else’s thoughts and feelings. In this world Tom and Kate struggle to retain some sense of themselves, opting to go ‘slow’ on occasion by turning off the Feed. When a world-wide cataclysm hits however, everyone’s connection to the Feed is severed. In this new, harsh post-apocalyptic world Tom and Kate, plus their daughter Bea, struggle to survive, but even in a world of famine and disease, plagued by bandits, there is an even greater threat out there. Just why does everyone have to be watched as they sleep?

 If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I love a good post-apocalyptic tale (hell I’ve written two post-apocalyptic novels, City of Caves and Darker Times) so this novel intrigued me when I spotted it in the book shop, and I just had to buy it.

It’s a curious read, and it would be harsh to say I didn’t enjoy it, and it certainly kept me hooked to the end, but by the same token I found it flickered between being really interesting, and incredibly mundane.

The central premise is fantastic, most of us today would struggle to survive without the trappings of technology, and Windo turns this up to 11 by envisaging a world even more reliant on the internet than ours, and then taking it away from them, and the notion of people having to learn things they never really knew, just accessed, is intriguing, but even more fascinating is the addition of a more insidious threat, and a curious invasion that was behind the collapse of civilisation. There’s also a killer twist at one point which certainly took me by surprise.

I think the trouble is that outside of the window dressing, Windo doesn’t quite know what story he wants to tell, and for too much of the page count what we’re left with is characters trudging from one location to another, camping out, feasting on berries, and talking, they do a lot of talking, which would be fine if it was always interesting, but too often the book’s just a bit turgid.

And whilst the setting is fantastic, this is a double-edged sword because it separates us from the characters. It’s like writing an opening chapter set in the Star Trek universe, then destroying the Federation, it’s hard to understand what people have lost when we can’t necessarily relate to it. Similarly it took me a while to realise the book is set in England (at least I’m pretty sure it’s England). I’m not sure whether muddying the waters as the location was a deliberate choice to appeal to as wide a market as possible, but again it serves only to distance the reader from the story. Similarly Tom, and especially Kate, seem little more than ciphers. The most interesting character, Sylene, who we meet later on is perhaps the most fully rounded person in the book.

Like I say, the premise and twist are worth the price of admission alone, and there’s a nice hint of something akin to Wool about the world, I just wish the story hadn’t been quite so bleak, and quite so meandering. You could have chopped 50/100 pages out and not really damaged the story.

Tentatively recommended.

Tempo

Posted: March 21, 2019 in Free fiction, Published fiction
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Just a quick note that my time and space bending sci-fi thriller Tempo is free to download for the next 5 days. Remember you don’t need an expensive Kindle to read it, there’s a free Kindle app you can use on a phone, tablet or computer 🙂

If you do download and read a copy all I ask is that you consider adding a short review, they really do help!

UK link

US link

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Captain Marvel

Posted: March 19, 2019 in Film reviews
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Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg and Jude Law.

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Far from Earth, on the Kree home world of Hela, Starforce member Vers (Larson) struggles with curious visions of her past, she also struggles to control the special abilities she possesses. Her mentor Yon-Rogg (Law) tries to help her channel this power.

During a mission to rescue an undercover operative Vers is captured by Skulls, shapeshifting aliens who are the sworn enemy of the Kree. The Skrull leader Talos (Mendelsohn) subjects Vers to a memory probe, dredging up memories of a woman named Dr. Wendy Lawson (Benning). Vers escapes from her captors and steals a fighter. She flies to the nearest planet, which turns out to be Earth. Fearing Earth will be infiltrated by Skrulls, Vers attempts to stop Talos and his soldiers, and in the process runs into SHIELD agents Nick Fury (Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Gregg). When Vers and Fury team up, the trail to Dr. Wendy Lawson also leads to a missing air force pilot named Carol Danvers, who looks a lot like Vers…

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And so, more than a decade after the Marvel Cinematic Universe got started, we finally get a female led Marvel superhero film. Sadly it isn’t a Black Widow film, but hey, maybe one day. Not for the first time in recent years, Captain Marvel arrives with a whole heap of online trash talk, in the same way the Ghostbusters reboot and Wonder Woman did, and it’s a shame some men can’t accept a woman in a title role but hey, quality usually wins out, as it did with Wonder Woman, and already Captain Marvel seems to be a huge hit. Nice going misogynists!

Captain Marvel arrives in the slot that last year gave us Black Panther, and whilst I don’t think it’s as good as Black Panther, it’s still a hugely enjoyable film from a stable that, lets be honest, rarely slips up these days. Unlike Black Panther, Captain Marvel isn’t an epic tale, it’s something altogether more personal, but that’s no bad thing, and it’s nice that Marvel are shaking things up a little, let’s be honest, we’re going to have plenty of city smashing come Avengers Endgame.

The film has an important message about female empowerment, but also has something to say about refugees, and it’s nice when a film surprises you, and in several respects Captain Marvel did. Are the girl power elements a trifle heavy handed at times, maybe, or maybe that’s just how I saw it as a bloke, did they ever overshadow the story, or my enjoyment? Not at all, in fact No Doubt’s I’m Just a Girl playing over a fight scene just made it more impressive.

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Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)Anyone who’s seen Larson in anything knows how good an actress she is, but she’s also embraced the physicality of the role, training for nine months and it shows, and her performance is interesting because Danvers isn’t some unrealistically perfect character, she’s flawed. Larson seems to be channelling more than a hint of Tom Cruise circa Top Gun, and much like Maverick, Danvers is something of a renegade, a fly by the sear of your pants, impetuous, fools rush in kind of character, and occasionally she’s a little annoying, but in a good way; it proves she’s real.

The Top Gun comparisons don’t end there of course, given there’s a cat named Goose who damn near steals the film!

Jackson’s been playing Nick Fury for a while now, but it must be challenging having to play a character who’s 25 years younger! The de-aging effects used on Jackson (and Gregg) are eerily good. There was a moment, when both men first show up, when it seemed jarring, but frankly after a minute or two I forgot I wasn’t just watching Samuel L Jackson circa 1995, and Jackson gives one of his most engaging performances for quite some time. This Nick Fury’s a lot of fun, and Jackson and Larson bounce off each other so well that you’d sign up for another buddy movie in a flash.

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Mendelsohn is also very good, Talos has a lot of the film’s finnier moments, and it’s credit to Mendelsohn that he imbues Talos with so much character, not always easy under so much latex (just ask Christopher Eccleston). It’s nice to see Benning in a dual role, and Law is impressively stoic. As Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau, Lashana Lynch is good value, and injects much needed humanity into the film, because she’s the one we can relate to. There’s also Hounsou and Pace reprising their roles from the first Guardians of the Galaxy films, and of course as a fan of Marvel Agents of SHIELD it’s always nice to see Clark Gregg, even if his de-aging never seems quite as convincing as Jackson’s.

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The special effects are top notch, and the film’s very funny, with Larson, Jackson, Mendelsohn and, er, the cat getting most of the funny stuff. Where it falls down somewhat is in the plot. There’s a lot jammed into the film, especially in the opening scenes where we’re in space, dealing with aliens with crazy names. This can work, just see Guardians of the Galaxy, but for me, this part of the film struggled. Luckily Danvers is soon on Earth and her buddy/buddy romp with Jackson can get started.

The 90s setting is overdone on occasion, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with pagers and painfully slow computers, and the 90s soundtrack is very nicely put together.

If I have a problem with Captain Marvel it’s the same issue I have with most incredibly powerful superheroes (see also Superman) in that once she embraces her gifts near the end she seems a little too powerful, but that’s just me, I prefer my heroes more vulnerable (Spidey, Bats, Black Widow etc) I’m also hoping Marvel haven’t chosen now to spring her on us just so she can thwart Thanos in a month’s time.

All in all, this maybe isn’t quite the classic some are claiming it to be, but that doesn’t stop it being a hugely enjoyable romp, featuring characters I can’t wait to see more of.

Goose is gonna be in Avengers Endgame, right?

Oh, and stay right to the end of the credits. It’s a throwaway joke but still a very funny one.

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