Posts Tagged ‘Film reviews’

Rocketman

Posted: June 1, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Dexter Fletcher. Starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden and Bryce Dallas Howard.

rocketman-taron-egerton-1558777275

Crippled by a morass of addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping!) Elton John (Egerton) checks himself into rehab and looks back on the events that have brought him to this point, from his childhood (when he was still Reginald Dwight) as a boy with cold parents, his father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) and his mother Sheila (Howard), where he first showed an aptitude for the piano, to the formation of a song writing duo with Bernie Taupin (Bell) and his troubled relationship with music producer John Reid (Madden). Despite his success Elton has to keep his sexuality a secret, which puts more pressure on him. As he spirals down into drug fuelled depression can he find salvation?

 

There’s a curious sense of déjà vu in many respects when it comes to Rocketman. An unconventional looking rock star who has to hide his true sexuality, a man incredibly successful yet perhaps doomed to a life of loneliness, a world of excess; drugs, sex, booze etc. A manipulative lover/manager who takes advantage of our hero, and the true friends he comes to realise he needs after all.

So far so Bohemian Rhapsody (throw in the fact that Madden’s character features in BR too, and that Fletcher finished off the directing on the Freddie Mercury biopic and you’ve pretty much got a full house) yet curiously these films are chalk and cheese in every other respect once you scratch beneath the surface. While BR was a pretty straightforward biography of Mercury, Rocketman is something altogether more, if you’ll pardon the pun, mercurial. It’s hard to say for sure but it feels like with this film Fletcher had far more freedom, which is odd in some respects given the subject of this film is still very much alive and involved in the production, but this isn’t some vanity project, or at least if it is it’s quite clearly of the warts and all variety, because Elton doesn’t necessarily come out of it as a virtuous hero, quite the reverse. Yes he’s manipulated, and yes he’s forced to live a lie, but he’s also something of a dick, and he freely admits it when he gleefully tells his rehab group that he’s been a C***T

Central to the film is the casting. Curious to consider that, originally and many moons ago, Justin Timberlake was in line to play the part, but that does make a bit more sense than Tom Hardy who was attached more recently. I like Hardy, but I can’t see him as Elton John.

Egerton on the other hand is perfect. He looks the part, and he bloody acts the socks off the part but, maybe more importantly, he sings the part too, so really, if Remi Malek got an Oscar and mimed, shouldn’t Taron be up for a statuette himself next year? He’s got a great voice, and he plays the two sides to Elton perfectly (the brash showman and the lonely, insecure man behind the huge glasses). From wowing them on stage, to crying his eyes out alone, Egerton is never less than perfect.

rocketman-paramountpictures-920x584.png

But the casting is spot on throughout. As Elton’s long-time collaborator Taupin, Bell is astonishing, even more so given of the three male leads he’s the most understated. That Bell makes the impression he does despite sharing the screen with two men who get to chew the scenery tells you all you need to know about his acting ability. Apparently Barbara Broccoli has considered him for Bond—now I can see why (though he’s probably not tall enough).

On the subject of Bond let’s talk Madden. It’s weird but when the Bodyguard was on so many people were suggesting he could be 007, but I didn’t see it. Oh, lordy I see it now. Odd given in the Bodyguard he was a straight close protection officer, and here he’s a gay music producer, but he owns the screen, displaying more presence than I’ve seen from him before. With dark hair and smart suits he prowls the screen, a dangerous, incredibly masculine predator. John Reid is not a nice man, but Madden keeps it just the right side of moustache twirling. I hope Barbara was watching!

Rocketman-Taron-Egerton-Richard-Madden

Which brings us to the fourth major cast member. Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mum. I spent the whole film wondering where I knew her from, then I saw her name come up at the end and had a genuine “No Freaking Way!” moment. As with the three leads Howard is perfect, and you wouldn’t know she wasn’t British. She also, in some respects, has the hardest job because of all the characters she has to play the widest range in terms of her age, and she does it well. She also manages to make an unlikeable character at least somewhat empathetic. She might be cold, but she isn’t inhuman.

ROCKETMAN

Special mention for national treasure Gemma Jones as Elton’s loving gran, and Stephen Graham as foul mouthed empresario Dick James.

Fletcher’s direction is excellent, and the film plays like a musical at times, with characters bursting into song and the sudden appearance of a troupe of dancers. This melding of the real and the fantastical works wonderfully, and is probably the perfect evocation of the duality of Elton John’s life.

I’ve probably never considered myself a huge John fan, but it’s only when you hear the songs that you realise, oh he did that one, and that one, and that one…and even the tunes I didn’t recognise I liked.

On the story side it’s hard to know what is true and what, perhaps, is exaggeration, but this is clearly no whitewash at the end of the day, despite John and husband Furnish’s presence behind the scenes.

Funny, sad, joyous, colourful, dramatic; this is a gem of a film that’s meticulously directed and wonderfully acted. I liked, and still like Bohemian Rhapsody, but Rocketman blows it out of the water on every single level.

taron.png

Advertisements

Directed by: Chad Stahelski. Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston and Ian McShane.

John-Wick-4-Parabellum-Ending-Explained

Former assassin John Wick has been declared excommunicado by the shadowy criminal organisation known as the High Table. On the run he has one hour before every hitman in the city, if not the world, is after the $14 million dollar bounty on his head, and this time his friends Winston (McShane) and Charon (Reddick) can’t help him, and nor can the Bowery King (Fishburne). With only his wits and his skills to rely on John travels from New York to Casablanca, and seeks grudging assistance from the mysterious Director (Huston) and Sofia (Berry) another former assassin who’s now running her own Continental hotel in Morocco. Meanwhile the Adjudicator (Dillon) exacts justice from those who’ve foolishly aided John in his actions.

Can John stay alive long enough to reach the one man who might be able to call the High Table off, and if he does, will he be willing the pay the price of forgiveness?

john-wick-3-parabellum-keanu-reeves-halle-berry-2

I’ve probably said this before, but when word of the original John Wick leaked people weren’t overly excited, so the notion that we’re now into the third instalment of a franchise that seems as unstoppable as Wick himself, with likely a fourth on the way, is amusing. But then John Wick was so good there had to be a sequel, and when the world that was created was expanded in the second film, a film that ended on a cliff-hanger, a third instalment was always on the cards.

And they say films named after their characters can’t be successful.

Parabellum is an exquisitely shot, balletically choreographed action film filled with interesting characters, let down only by a slight hint of repetitiveness, because there are only so many fights you can see before they all start to blend into one another, and though the makers of the film seem endlessly inventive when it comes to devising new ways for Wick to kill people (and the stable and library fights are a delight) in the end there are too many interchangeable skirmishes with guys in back alleys here.

That said the penultimate fight (between two assailants) in the Continental hotel is so good it’s practically worth the price of admission on its own, although it does kinda dilute the final mano-a-mano.

One of the things that’s always lifted these films above the average action fare is the wonderful world of the High Table and the Continental existing parallel with our own, like a kind of exceedingly violent Harry Potter universe, with payment in gold coins, and markers exchanged for favours, and an intriguing array of people (though sometimes you have to wonder if maybe everyone’s on the High Table pay-packet). Having had the cast expanded in the last film, here we get Huston vamping it up to eleven as a Roma gang boss/artistic director at a very extreme ballet/wrestling school, and Berry as a female Wick, complete with a canine fixation and a natty talent for killing an exceptional number of people as easily as you or I might prune some roses.

In particular Berry shines here. I’ve not always been her greatest fan, and I don’t think she was a great Bond Girl, but Sofia’s so awesome that I wouldn’t be averse to a spin off.

john-wick-3-parabellum-keanu-reeves-halle-berry-3.jpg

It’s nice to see Reddick get more to do than just stand behind a desk here, and McShane is always a joy to watch. We don’t get much of Fishburne but maybe that’ll change in 4. Dacascos’ fanboy admiration of Wick elevates what could have been a stock bad guy role, and Dillon is wonderfully aloof as the adjudicator.

Plot wise the film isn’t very inventive, with the story existing on rails; John goes to Point A so he can then go to Point B and then back to Point A, but I guess plot was never the selling point of the franchise so much as watching Keanu despatch a whole lot of bad guys. There is the addition of a lot of humour this time, even if you do feel slightly guilty for laughing as various people are horribly maimed/killed!

The choreography and cinematography are where the film really shines, although again the neon lit finale does feel a tad repetitive of the second film.

This film is still a step above the standard action fare. It’s Funny, action packed and gorgeous to look it, but I really hope they try and do something a little different in 4 rather than sticking to the formula of 2 and 3, because there is a law of diminishing returns here. More please, but also, maybe, less?

On a final note, given one of the baddies in the original film was Theon from Game of Thrones, it was amusing to see another GoT alumni show up! Always nice to see a former stalwart of British TV doing well for himself, and this is a film featuring two of them!

John-Wick-chapter-3

 

Avengers: Endgame

Posted: April 29, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by:  Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson.

Okay, let’s be very clear here, it’s my intention to make the following review as spoiler free as possible but obviously I may reveal snippets (nothing major) that you didn’t know, and I will talk about Infinity War, so if you want to remain completely spoiler free why not check back after seeing it.

avengers-endgame-group-shot

So here we are. More than ten years since Robert Downey Jr. first donned the mantle of Iron Man, with 21 films leading up to this one. That’s a heck of a lead in to a finale. Forget Return of the Jedi, you can even forget 007 given Marvel have given us almost as many films in 11 years as the Bond franchise has in 57. There was a heck of a lot riding on this, not least after last year’s Infinity War saw Earth’s* greatest heroes (* not all from Earth) battle Thanos and lose, allowing him to snap his fingers and eliminate half the population of the Universe.

It was one hell of a cliff-hanger, and people have spent the last year speculating how Thanos’ act will be undone, I mean it has to be undone, right? Spider-Man’s got a film coming out soon, so he has to come back, doesn’t he?

In the aftermath of Thanos’ snap, Earth is a very different place, a sombre planet where millions struggle to put their lives back together. Some of the Avengers had retired (Iron Man, Thor) whilst others struggle to keep things together (Black Widow, War Machine). Steve Rogers (Captain America) meanwhile is running support groups to help those affected by the loss of loved ones.

When one of the heroes thought lost makes a miraculous reappearance however, it seems there might be a way to save almost everyone after all, but it won’t be easy, and it won’t be without cost…

3518194-avengers-endgame-special-look-promo-02

Let’s get this out of the way early. I loved Endgame. Don’t get me wrong, I worried that the obvious reset that was coming might annoy me, but it didn’t, and yes the opening thirty minutes or so are slower than you might expect, but this is important to show us where our heroes are, and to show them grieving, because they lost people too. Once the film slips into high gear however, it barely lets up. Yes it’s three hours long (but it didn’t feel like it) and yes the Russo brothers have to juggle a huge cast, and keep multiple plates spinning at all times (which they do) and yes the mechanics of the plot might prompt a few “but what about?”s (and I think it will) but I can’t imagine anyone who’s a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) won’t love this. Sure, there might be minor annoyances over how certain characters are treated, but on the whole Endgame is a wonderful resolution to a story over ten years in the making.

marvel-avengers-endgame-trailer-2-details-pic3

I’ll get onto the spectacle, but first I want to talk about the actors, because each and every one of them has made these characters their own, and it’s in no small part down to each of them that we care so much about Cap, or Iron Man, or Hulk, or Black Widow, and what Endgame does do, perhaps surprisingly, is give some of these actors some actual acting to undertake, and there’s some lovely stuff, especially from Evans, Downy Jr. and Johansson, and from some characters you might not expect (Karen Gillan’s Nebula gets quite a lot to do here, hurrah!) and I’d like to offer a big shout out to the ever infuriating (in a good way) Chris Hemsworth whose comic timing and ability to send himself up are second to none. Thor alone makes this film watchable.

And despite the sombre tone there is a lot of humour here, as there’s always been in the MCU, but it doesn’t feel out of place, and Hemsworth is ably assisted by Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and Gillan’s dry straight woman/cyborg act, plus a whole heap of others, and it really is amazing to consider just how big the cast of this film in, and there are all manner of cameos of people who’ve made a small or large contribution to the franchise. Some I was probably expecting but some were (very pleasant) surprises.

null

I don’t want to talk about the plot too much, but have to say that the payoffs in this film work, both in the homages to the films that led up to this point and its resolution. Several character arcs reach very logical conclusions here (although there’s one plot point I sincerely hope is undone!) and I’m not necessarily talking about character’s dying. This is a film that makes you laugh and cry, a film that hit me hard once, then twice and then, just when I thought it was done, hit me a third time with the most beautiful of bittersweet endings. It will be very interesting to see where Marvel go from here, but they obviously still have a very strong roster. I do hope we haven’t seen the last of Thanos because yet again Brolin gives us a villain with more depth than most. He is clearly the villain, but yet again he’s also clearly the hero of his own story. The film is a trifle confusing at times, and I think it’ll take a couple of viewings to work out exactly what happens in every plot strand, but if there are plot holes the rest of the film’s so damn enjoyable, I think they can be forgiven!

unnamed

Anyway, that spectacle stuff. For me it’s the characters that really makes this film shine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy all the bangy crashy stuff, and there’s a heck of a lot of that here, scuffles, fights, skirmishes and god almighty battles, and they’re all exciting and none of them go on too long.

The sheer logistics of putting a film like this together are impressive enough, that it manages to also be wonderful into the bargain is nothing short of miraculous. Exciting, funny, touching, this film has everything and manages to be a very heartfelt love letter to the fans.

It’s a Marvel!

static1.squarespace.com

Fisherman’s Friends

Posted: April 18, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Chris Foggin. Starring Daniel Mays, James Purefoy and Tuppence Middleton.

11040078-6814059-image-a-53_1552663589716

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.

153814736-f26ea27c-5f4f-441a-b182-4f3edc7db31f

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?

DfKgV6gW0AAfaPU.jpg

Shazam!

Posted: April 17, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by David F. Sandberg. Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer.

Capture

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?

shazam!-trailer-gq-1

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.

Shazam-Asher-Angel-Birthday-DC.jpg

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…

maxresdefault.jpg

Us

Posted: March 31, 2019 in Film reviews, horror, science fiction
Tags:

Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker.

us_movie_the_tethered_explained.jpg

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!

us_movie_references_jordan_peele_influences.jpg

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.

 

Captain Marvel

Posted: March 19, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

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.

captain-marvel-plane

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…

Captain-Marvel-Mind-Wipe-Kree.jpg

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.

Marvel Studios' CAPTAIN MARVEL
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.

samuel-l-jackson-nick-fury-1552637633

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.

Culture_CaptainMarvel_Skrulls

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.

Marvel(lous)

Capture