Disney are churning out these live-action remakes quicker than a loose meat grinder. And for what? to make a quick buck, whilst tarnishing fans' love for the original it seems. The studio continue their greedy streak hot on the heels of the aimless reimagining of Dumbo earlier this year. Here we have the next Disney classic on the chopping block - or so it seemed ...
When the initial trailer was released this remake was, suffice to say, destroyed thanks to the meme savvy social media users. There was something quite off about the look of the genie - with shoddy CGI, Will Smith's face moved separately to his body - and it didn't go unnoticed. It's as if the movie was under some dark spell, which was about to determine its immediate failure, or perhaps not.
Aladdin really is a diamond in the rough. This pantomime spectacle makes all your wishes come true, flourishing with vibrant colours and zippy action. Whereas Disney remakes are typically devoid of sentiment Aladdin has so much heart - consistently hilarious and even romantic. Guy Richie celebrates Arabian culture in bold and extravagant fashion - giving this glittery adventure a true purpose. Energised with the addition of traditional dances and dresses Richie thinks a little beyond the standard Disney blockbuster template, delivering a bouncy and dazzling piece of representation. Even if the result is ladened with his unbearably choppy editing style; the opening number One Jump Ahead, starts this flashy musical on a fairly dull note, cutting deftly between Aladdin and the trail of mischief left in his wake.
The cave of wonders is flooded with jewels and rubies, but the Genie really is Aladdin's greatest find. Robin Williams left a large lamp to be filled - but Smith brings his own original zany wit to the character, living up to the iconic Williams, although never imitating him. Smith fizzles as the blue sorcerer, boasting brilliant one liners and a side-splitting, ad lib gag about jam that goes on and on. Though initially seemingly wooden, Mena Massoud is cheeky and charming as the riff-raff street rat Aladdin turned Prince Ali - brilliantly capturing the urchin's infectious sense of adventure. Jafar is a serious cause for concern though, Marwan Kenzari's vapid take on the evil Royal Vizier threatens to bore the genie back in the bottle. Happily Naomi Scott wows as a promising new talent - Princess Jasmine is given a progressive modern revamp - with clear-cut ambitions to be Sultan of Agrabah. Sadly though, her new song Speechless feels completely out of tone and spontaneously poppy (despite its valuable message). Richie struggles to film the sequence with the camera awkwardly shifting around the Princess. By contrast Aladdin's musical numbers are consecutively stupefying, Friend Like Me feels like three-thousand volts running through your veins.
Aladdin is as magical as a carpet ride above the streets of Agrabah. With an overwhelming sense of energy Disney have brought back the Arabian Nights with purposeful cultural representation and a knee-slapping sense of fun. Though it may not be a Whole New World - this is easily the finest live-action Disney feat since 2007's Enchanted.
First of all, let me address the fat-bottom sized elephant in the room. In the wake of Bohemian Rhapsody it was revealed that original director Bryan Singer had the mic snatched off him during the filming of Bo Rap due to his Prima Donna style hissy fits on set - clearly the pop star subject became a little too real. Then came Dexter Fletcher, a rising and respected director that Fox sought out to fine tune the filing off-key music biopic. Months later, hot-off the heels of his commercial hit (though never actually credited for it) Fletcher brings us his second pop film, the story of Captain Fantastic himself.
Rocketman blasts expectations into the sequinned cosmos. Emphasising how the pop star has always stood out, Fletcher employs glittery costume design and electrifying musical numbers. Rather poignantly this rainbow biopic is bedazzled with stunning dream sequences that explore Elton's wild and outrageously flamboyant personality, whether he's composing his own orchestra in the comfort of his bedroom or blasting off into the stars. Rocketman is a perfect embodiment of this music legend.
Beyond the glitz and glamour this astro story also reaches great heights whilst having its feet firmly placed on the ground. Whereas the emotionally devoid Bohemian Rhapsody glazed over the crippling affects of drugs as well as Freddie Mercury's devastating battle with AIDS, Rocketman isn't afraid to delve into the darker aspects of Elton John's life. Fletcher doesn't censor key moments; coke is snorted by the second, and the scene where the singer loses his virginity is approached with sensitivity - we genuinely feel the emotional release of this milestone.
All the same what gives the film its sincerity is the applaud worthy performances. Taron Edgerton is no candle in the wind, strapping on his wedged platforms and parading plenty of rose-tinted sunglasses. The young Welsh actor shoots straight for superstardom with this unforgettable tribute. Doing so much more than imitating the singer, Edgerton juggles a wide range of emotions - brilliantly capturing his one-of-a-kind talent and the anxious struggles of coming out as a gay man, and particularly the explosive diva tantrums. Elton's sexuality is approached with knowledge, truth and understanding - Bryce Dallas Howard (who admittedly seems too young to pass as Mrs Dwight) reflects the harsh reality of an unsympathetic parent - her inability to fully embrace her son's alternative lifestyle leads to their troublesome relationship. Through all this Fletcher creates a far more emotionally resonate and non-superficial biopic than his previous offering.
This is one of the few occasions a recent mainstream film has understood the isolation and struggle of both homosexuality and addiction. But Rocketman is more than a label, it shouldn't be romantanised nor is it a gimmick - Fletcher leaves a trail of stardust for everyone to become inspired by. As all these elements beautifully come together, Rocketman celebrates the value of individuality through one of music's finest performers.
Side note: I would like to point out my friend Greg May. He plays young Elton John's hand double and I believe Rocketman is all the better for it. Watch out because this music prodigy is certainly going places.
Olivia Wilde has made her name through supporting roles in Tron: Legacy (2010) and Her (2014) but now she's hopping on the recent trend of small actor turned indie directors. In a recent interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Wilde mentioned The Big Lebowski as her favourite comedy - explaining how the drug scene in her debut feature was inspired by the Coen Brothers' indescribably off-the-wall romp.
Booksmart looks at two academic superstars Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who have worked hard - without playing hard - their whole school aged lives. Now, on the eve of their high school graduation these best friends try to cram four years of fun into one wild night. Much like its two studious lead characters though, this tame coming-of-age flick stays by the books. Putting herself in the double-knotted shoes of Amy and Molly, Wilde has made effective use of her library card and drawn inspiration from an archive of quirky teen comedies from Superbad (2007) to Easy A (2010). Despite all of this, the result is disappointingly formulaic and generic - with a script that isn't anywhere near as outrageous as it thinks it is.
There are a scattering of oddball characters and situations that make Booksmart an undeniably enjoyable time - the forever fabulous Billie Lourd is off her nut and makes for a hilarious and certainly spontaneous ongoing gag. However, the film is centred around these two sticks in the mud finally letting loose - but they don't really get up to many real shenanigans, more awkward, slightly weird situations. Perhaps that's the whole point of Booksmart - taking the perspective of two introvert characters and scrutinising their struggle to fit in with the popular in-crowd. Nevertheless, it doesn't make the film anymore noteworthy.
The friend dynamic sizzles thanks to Feldstein - a hilarious A-list comedian in the making. Her uniquely loud and hilarious tone - which we've seen trickles of in Bad Neighbours 2 and Lady Bird - is finally brought into the spotlight. Feldstein has a distinct way of delivering lines for maximum comedic effect, she puts her own spin on typically throwaway one liners and Booksmart cements her as an exceptional talent. On the other hand we have Dever - there isn't anything bad about her performance but there's no denying Amy is a boring character. As with the plot, I'm sure this shy bookworm flick is written as Wilde intended - but as recent coming-of-age big hitters have taught us, there has to be an interesting character at the centre otherwise the film lacks a key sense of relatability. So, just as Amy is the plainest Jane of all, Booksmart really doesn't stand out.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
In Hollywood, it's becoming second nature for every major studio to have their own cinematic universe. First we had Disney and the MCU, then Warner Bros and DC, now amongst many other insignificant franchises Warner Bros also deliver their monster movie universe. Not to be confused with their other monster movie universe - Dark Universe - in which they hope to bring classics like Frankenstein back from the dead - but that instantly failed thanks to the atrocity that was Tom Cruise's The Mummy (2017). Anyway, aimless movies aside (or rather not) Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the last movie before King Kong vs Godzilla - that is literally it's only purpose.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a kaju sized headache. Deep in the lab of Warner Bros HQ, Director Michael Dougherty has designed a radioactive hybrid of Independence Day: Resurgence and 2012 - with all the stupidity and irrelevance to boot! The crypto-zoological agency Monarch develop a sonar device which they believe can control the incredible Titans that once ruled the earth. However, when technology fails (of course), all twenty-seven monsters rise from the depths of the planet; the human race hangs in the balance; and Godzilla must prevail.
The only city levelling problem here isn't twenty seven rampant creatures, it's the genuinely pathetic writing. Overcrowded with five different writing credits - King of Monsters' screenplay is as messy and destructive as the showdown between Godzilla and King Ghidorah. The dilaog is so pitiful, during the film Ken Watannabe states "No. I read it in a fortune cookie once. A really long fortune cookie." - do you get it? Because he's Chinese and he said fortune cookie. This level of ignorant and casual stereotyping proves why films like this should be extinct. Later when Rodan explodes out of a dormant volcano ripping a chunk of Mexico to shreds in the process, the military absurdly explain "We've developed a new anti-hydrogen missile" that makes the atomic bomb look like a pin drop.
King of the Monsters gives a whole new meaning to cookie cutter characters. At the core of this creature feature is an extremely insipid torn family plot line between Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobbie Brown. Brown is no longer protected by her Stranger Things cocoon - her debut outside the streaming service is dreadful, crying and moping in her typical one dimentional fashion. Chandler is the most compelling as a father desperate to keep his family in tact, but Farmiga is manipulated by a script that allows characters to completely change their motivations within seconds of the same scene.
There are a handful of stunning colossal visuals: the lightening breathing three-headed dragon King Ghidorah, as well as Mothra's hypnotic light display. All in all, this lazy sequel is just extremely loud. It gets to the point where the city wrecking and intense kaju battles become a bit too much - because if there's one thing this film's taught me is that less is definitely more. Long live the king? More like: Long live the hollow blockbuster.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters:
In 1972 Aretha Franklin went back to her roots to record her gospel album, Amazing Grace, live at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Fascinatingly this concert film was originally scheduled to release the same year, but due to difficulties syncing the audio tracks with the visual print, Warner Bros relegated it to the vault. Now almost fifty years later, following her death in 2018, Franklin's family arranged the film's release.
Amazing Grace puts the star in the star spangled banner. Initially directed by none other than Sydney Pollack (with Alan Elliot applying the finishing touches) this hair-raising documentary has so much soul and energy. The authenticity of the production perfectly captures Mrs Franklin's enormous presence, not that anybody could really contain her glory and gusto.
Franklin's vocals shoot straight through your heart like a silver bullet. Pollack throws you straight into the dripping heat of the swaying church hall, but more importantly demonstrates the unity and spirit her performance brings - something that is indeed cause for celebration. Ultimately, this is a movie all about experience: with lots of shimmy and shake - Amazing Grace flaunts one of america's finest talents. Even if it is just 88 minutes of pure singing...
Does anybody remember that corny 80's comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? No, I don't think anybody does. Alas in the era of deplorable cash grabbing, MGM has given the flick a modern feminist makeover. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as con artists, one low on rent, one worth a million, who team up to take down the men that have done them wrong.
Plenty dirty and rotten but with no true scoundrels in sight - this excruciating reboot will hustle you out of your money. Producing the same sensation as having bleach poured directly into your eyes The Hustle robs you blind. It's unfathomable that this movie actually exists - led by British comedian Chris Addison - I have never seen a film fail so spectacularly when attempting to produce any form of enjoyment. The jokes are so painfully unfunny that you begin to wonder which children's book they swiped them from.
Hathaway is the worst she has ever been here, the Oscar-winning actress adopts this bizarre British accent that is so over-the-top. As for Wilson - she literally plays the exact same role we have seen her in time and time again. These performances, along with the diabolical script makes this one of the most catastrophic movies I've ever seen.
With all that being said, I must draw your attention to the one redeeming feature of The Hustle. My auntie Kristina Anna Hagström is a fantastic artist and MGM had the pleasure of using one of her sculptures in the movie! Kristina has a striking and unique vision, forget the movie and check out her wonderful work:
It's Scotland, in 1994 - the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act has just been passed which declared it illegal to have gatherings around music, wholly or predominately characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats. We follow two teenage boys from different sides of the tracks - Robert (Brain Ferguson) from a middle-class family and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) growing up with violent older brother Les. They risk everything to attend an illegal rave, hoping for the best night of their boring lives.
Beats is a stirring and potent coming-of-age tale. Brian Welsh's exceptional cinematography and stark black and white pallet functions as a bleak backdrop to the boys' dull lives - whilst ironically rejecting the vibrant strobe connotations of the title. Beats truthfully conveys the economic decline and political unease of the period. Welsh takes an extremely unembellished glance at two adolescents who each struggle with their class and social status.
At first his approach is a tad wooden, the family meal in the dinning room feels awkward and staged. Robert comes from a fairly privileged background, his family is preparing to move to a swankier new housing estate. In different circumstances we have Spanner - a reckless but misunderstood joker who lives with his abusive and criminal brother. Welsh beautifully conveys this sense of nature vs nurture - we see Robert uncomfortably stepping outside his sheltered life alongside street wise Spanner who faces prejudice and extreme violence - in one particularly tense scene in which his face his held directly above a burning cooker. Integrally, the dynamic between Robert and Spanner is marvellously authentic.
The only colour on display is when the two take drugs at an illegal rave; mimicking the ultra trippy Jupiter landing scene in 2001 - this moment is immensely disorientating but freeing for the lead characters. A real unexpected gem that came from nowhere.
Beats is an absolute rave.
John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum
The original John Wick was a thrilling success, even if it coasted on its dark style. From David Leitch - who later went on to direct Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 - its bona fide thriller formula was given a fresh coat of paint with inventive choreography and hand to hand combat. We were even more surprised when Chapter 2 came out, and followed - possibly improved - upon its predecessor.
Ammunition restocked, guns reloaded - we cut to our third instalment in the John Wick franchise. After killing a member of the high table - this super-assassin is on the run, with a $14 million bounty on his head. Wick is no longer slick. The bullets jam fatally in the chamber, bringing this sequel to a jolting stop. Returning director Chad Stahelski demonstrates his clear influence as an ex-hollywood stuntman; the choreography starts fairly excitingly but soon turns repetitive and exhausting. It's as if the film has a set list of various stunts which loop for the entire film. Whereas the previous episodes have used carefully composed action sequences to its advantage - Parabellum will make you out of breath due to tiredness rather than excitement. Even the violence becomes ridiculously gratouitous.
However, Stahelski does showcase his own gorgeous aesthetic. Whether it's the pouring rain agasint the neon billboards of Times Square or the mystical blue skies and golden sand dunes of Casablanca. Parabellum might just be the most visually entrancing entry in the series. Furthermore, there are some brilliant action scenes: an exillerating motorbike chase and a very creative one-take shoot out which is very remincent of video game style combat. Keanu Reveas is always superb in these types of roles but the same can not be said for his co-stars. Despite having the best gimmick with two man-eating alsatians - Halle Berry's character is dreadful, creating further sucpion as to why the actress is no longer active.
Hopefully this is the closing chapter for the John Wick trilogy. There are some moments of artistic flourish, and Parabellum isn't without its exciting moments - but crucially the sharp editing which has been one of the series' strongest selling points, is wasted here for generic action and superflous violence.
John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum
He lives and breathes! Yes, after a month or so of intense school work and exams HMBW makes a triumphant return. This may or may not be the greatest comeback since The Force Awakens - but I thank you all for hanging on so long. I have seen a plethora of movies since I've been gone and I'm thrilled to finally catch you up on them. So enough of the chinwagging - here is my first in a series of cluster reviews, summarising the ups and downs since Easter...
It has taken a staggering eight months for comedian Bo Burnham's directorial debut to hit UK cinemas. Released in the same weekend as a small film named Avengers: Endgame - Eighth Grade stood quietly in the corner, overshadowed by others - much like our introvert protagonist Kayla Day.
Eighth Grade follows this shy teenager as she tries to survive her disasterous last week of middle school before moving up. Elsie Fisher blossoms as a young wallflower consumed by social media and modern societal expectations. Burnham's tremendous coming-of-age tale is remarkably in touch with the youth of today, as well as his uniquely uncomfortable exploration of teenage girlhood. From practising slobbery wet kisses on your hand, to experimenting with a banana - Eighth Grade realises the struggles girls must face at this age and the lengths they go to in order to gain social acceptance.
Burnham isn't afraid to drop you right in at the deep end, taking his time to present the painfully awkward reality of adolescence. It's endearing yet heartbreaking to see Kayla stutter over a single sentence for about five minuets, to see her father haplessly try to connect with her - but sometimes the scenes drag on a little too long.
Furthermore, the music choices feel quite jarring. Anne Meredith's plunky, electro score stands out but not always in the best way. Whilst it cleverly echoes the snapchat dependent teenager wildlife, sometimes it breaks up the pleasant toe-nail curling flow of the movie. That being said, Eighth Grade has produced a promising new filmmaker who has an eye for the discomfort of human experience, and a young actress who cleverly understands the subtlety of performance.
Tolkien feels as long but no where near as magical as a read of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The family of the legendary author have shunned the movie - and with good reason too. According to Sky News, Tolkien's estate put out a statement saying how they neither "approve of" or "endorse" the Finnish director's movie. To be perfectly honest, Dome Karukosi couldn't have made this extraordinary individual seem more ordinary if he had tried.
A war-time biopic without any enchantment - Tolkien misses everything that makes the mythical author so significant. We see glimmers of his inspiration: a bird shadow cast by a spinning lamp and wicked thorn branches creeping through a moonlit window both hint at the middle earth setting. Sadly Karukosi lapses into a crummy Dead Poets Society-esque drama instead, and isn't helped by Nicholas Holt's incredibly dry performance.
There is no dynamism between the group, even the faint mention of Bilbo Baggins rings more exciting than these bland individuals. Likewise, Holt's relationship with Lily Collins is functional rather than romantic. Swords replaced for pencils, horses exchanged for bikes - Tolkien makes the man behind the magic seem even more improbable.
You could not imagine a more unlikely couple than this - but oh my does Long Shot make this relationship click. Johnathan Levine (from 2017's truly trash Snatched) takes a brilliantly impossible pair who stick two fingers up to the dating algorithm that said they could never make it. In this funny and fresh comedy we see Journalist Fred Flarsky reunite with his now extremely powerful childhood babysitter crush Charlotte Field. During her campaign for the Presidency, Charlotte hires Fred as her speech writer and the two begin to connect.
Sparks fly in this progressive rom-com that gives contemporary politics a run for its money. Playing over one of the film's montages is Bowie's "Modern Love" - and no song could summarise this weirdly charming flick better. Steering away from her typical Atomic Blondness Charlize Theron proves to be a dab hand at comedy, while Seth Rogen delivers probably the most charming performance of his career. But put together though this oddball couple are inseparable. Beyond their marvellous performances Theron and Rogen have a genuine connection, impressively ping ponging off one another comedically. Nevertheless, it takes a while for the jokes to pick up - especially in the first twenty minuets.
Long Shot is certainly a special rom-com. Levine updates the typical genre conventions and expectations of the male and female characters, Theron is depicted as powerful and willing, she holds a great deal of responsibility but shows reasonable vulnerability - wearing the trousers in the relationship, yet Rogen is the one who pursues her. As the film cleverly mentions at one point - it's Pretty Woman but he's Julia Roberts and she's Richard Gere.
Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah mould their screenplay to fit the modern climate - literally. Cleverly criticing a certain president who simply doesn't believe in climate change - Long Shot advocates for environmental preservation through Charlotte's ultra green agenda. This is one of many examples that prove how relevant and important this rom-com is, although it shoots itself in the foot with unnecessarily crude humour - this long shot isn't as impossible as it seems.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
The release of Detective Pikachu is a big deal - not just for fans of the quirky manga but for Japanese pop culture itself. In fact Pokémon's success has been so momentous, many would even argue that the pocket monsters are a key aspect of the country's current identity. Though we've previously seen Ash and the gang in TV shows, games and straight to DVD movies - Detective Pikachu is the first major Pokémon flick.
From Dan Letterman (Monsters vs Aliens and Shark Tale), this story takes place in a world where humans and Pokémon live in harmony. Our hero Tim stumbles upon a talking Pikachu - the two band together to unravel a dark mystery that threatens the tranquility of Ryme City.
A candy-coated mix of Blade Runner and Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Detective Pikachu zaps like a bolt of lightning. This neon-drenched caper shows clear influence from staple sci-fi movies, vibrant street light lurks into the shadows similar to how Ridley Scott plays with artificial lighting in his 1982 masterpiece. I know that's a grand comparison to make - nevertheless Letterman's eye popping visuals intelligently pay homage to previous genre greats. But ultimately this is a detective story, and thanks to a reasonably well constructed script Detective Pikachu is "very twisty". When we reach the third act, things become fairly by the book but overall this wacky comedy will keep you guessing.
One of the biggest concerns with this movie was Ryan Reynolds voicing the yellow fluff ball. Quite simply, he works as Pikachu because he doesn't - the casting choice is so outrageously left field yet so marvellously distinct. As an amnesiac caffine addict, Reynolds brings even more of his Deadpool wit to the table - and suffice to say, he is absolutely hilarious.
Detective Pikachu has this zippy energy that really gives it momentum. There are enough colours and big set pieces to feast your eyes on, as well as a scattering but not an over abundance of your favourite Pokémon. Tim's quest to find his dad is as cute as it needs to be, but perhaps not as cute as the furry detective himself. However, most integrally, it was an amazing experience to see Pokémon fans' collective awe over the film from an outsider's perspective - without a doubt the most pleasant takeaway from this dazzling feast.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu:
"Every journey has an end" - after eleven years, the Infinity saga builds to a grandiose conclusion. Unless you've been living under a rock or hidden away in Wakanda - Avengers: Infinity War pitted earth's mightiest heroes against the mad titan Thanos, but the big twist? they lost and as a result half of the universe dusted away following Thanos's deadly 'Snap'. Now the remaining Avengers, beaten down by their failure, must fight the battle of their lives and do whatever it takes to retrieve the infinity stones and rescue humanity.
With apparently 14,000,650 possible outcomes - Avengers: Endgame is not the singular conclusion that Doctor Strange had us hoping for. Returning directors the Russo Brothers kept everything safely under wraps, letting ambiguity and anticipation build right up until the film's release. However Marvel have seemingly met their greatest dilemma: all of the fan theories that have circulated the internet over the past few years have turned out to be more complex and interesting than the film itself. Whereas Infinity War brilliantly pulled together multiple disparate elements from across the galaxy, Endgame fails to live up to its title, leaving numerous plot holes and unanswered questions.
Clocking in at three hours and one minute, the Russos crumble under the pressure of delivering the superhero epic we had expected. The studio slips into old habits with juvenile humour that completely undercuts the more serious aspects of the narrative, consequently one particular character is made a mockery of for the sake of an ongoing gag that really isn't that funny anyway. Endgame devotes more air time to certain characters over others, emphasising the heavy burden of responsibility. The first and second act put the Avengers in a state of grief and remorse - with the Russos' exploring life on earth after The Snap, spotlighting those who have adjusted and those who simply can't move on. Endgame highlights the idea of duty and the acceptance of failure. As touching as the initial half of the film is, once the team find a way of retrieving the Infinity stones, Endgame gently spirals into mediocre storytelling.
Considering what's at stake the plot feels overly simplistic yet confusing at the same time; it becomes blatantly clear that Endgame is fan service plain and simple, but with that the storyline lacks a sense of urgency. This is a time travel movie but the logic is somewhat skew-whiff. The Quantum Realm plays an integral role in the Avenger's plan, but the Russos neglect the visual complexity and sensitivity of this imaginary science, conveniently leaving it unexplored.
But with twenty two films to their name however, Marvel do have something special and decidedly epic up their sleeve. Following two disappointing hours, Endgame culminates in the greatest, most comic book accurate and visually mind boggling finale in the studios history. At the centre are a handful of extraordinary, pivotal characters. Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans, look past the events of Civil War and put aside their differences for the greater good. Paul Rudd is fantastic as the pint sized hero who holds his own, along with the triumphant Hulk who finally feels understood. However, Endgame owes itself to Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow. Natasha, who has spent decades trying to escape her past, recognises her duty and makes one of the most selfless decisions we've seen a female superhero make.
I saw Iron Man when I was six years old, and seen every MCU movie in cinemas since then. These are more than just films, they are significant parts of people's lives and childhoods. For me, Endgame is not the satisfying finale I was hoping for, thwarted by simplistic story telling, lacking tension and having tediously predictable outcomes. There are amazing moments peppered throughout and the Russos have brilliantly the captured the significance of certain characters, whilst others such as Thanos and Captain Marvel are somewhat sidelined. All that being said, if you're willing to forgive the wobbly logic, plot holes and aggravating creative choices then Endgame might just satisfy your expectations.
A quick introduction for those of you who don't know her, Isabelle Huppert is basically the French Meryl Streep. It's a rare treat to see her in an American project, let alone a corny B-movie. From the man behind art house staples The Company of Wolves, Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, Greta follows a gentle young woman who befriends a lonely widow, who grows increasingly obsessed with her.
Greta is goofy. Neil Jordan burns a floppy disc compilation of cheesy 90's thrillers for his latest movie. Despite a few tense and well shot scenes, Greta's tone is laughably over the top - and quite out of character for Jordan. Frances McHullen, a young waitress living a quiet life in New York City finds an expensive handbag on the Subway. She rummages hopefully to find an address and returns it to the rightful owner - Greta. From here, Jordan emphasises Greta's instant fixation with Frances and her almost compulsive need for a daughter figure. Similarly, Frances is in a vulnerable place. Her mother recently passed away and is (perhaps) subconsciously looking for someone to fill that void in her life. Jordan establishes a cute dynamic between the characters that soon turns pretty cooky.
Chloe Grace Moretz continues to prove her inability to act. Frances is the sickly sweet, girl next door character who is drawn into a Greta's dark agenda - if you're unsure if she's in danger she'll soon let you know with a pathetic gasp or sudden hand over the mouth movement. Moretz overplays the majority of her lines with constant exhaustion in her voice. On the other hand Jordan uses Huppert in a far better way. Although she too overacts some of her dialogue Huppert is perfectly unpredictable as a sweet old lady who is capable of many nasty deeds. Looking past her evil vendetta against Frances, at the centre is a very mentally disturbed individual.
Behind the obvious there are some interesting elements of sound design - Frances' sudden realisation of Greta's game is cut short by the sudden pop of a wine cork, and the terrifying tick of a metronome. Nevertheless the narrative crumbles to pieces in the climax - there is even a subplot concerning Greta's daughter that is tossed aside for the sake of cheap genre thrills.
Greta is cheesier than a cellar or Roquefort. Huppert does her best as the stalker-gawker but is often fighting against Moretz's bland and underwhelming protagonist. Sadly we feel completely unsympathetic towards her character, as she takes this B-movie to a new level of toe-nail curl.
Does a Glaswegian country singer sound odd to you? Well Wild Rose proves that everybody has a dream. Jessie Buckley from 2017's Beast, makes her breakthrough performance as the larger than life Rose-Lynn Harlan. Writer Nichole Taylor and director Thomas Harper create a Scottish variation in the footsteps of the classic A Star is Born story line. Wild Rose sees a plucky young musician dream of leaving her seat beat life and becoming a Nashville star.
This raw and honest tale of motherhood is pitch perfect. Jessie Buckley is an absolute sensation as a naive, reckless and self-centred young woman who must comes to terms with the responsibility of parenthood. Wild Rose poetically demonstrates the sacrifices that a single mother must make, whilst at the same time examining the reality of our hopes and dreams. Buckley encapsulates the difficulty of balancing these two things - we feel the crushing blow of her children's resentment for the countless times she's pushed them aside. Higher up the family tree is Julie Waters as Rose-Lynn's mother Marion - she also fights the same battle but with more experience and battle scars, we feel the emotional weight in one particular scene where Waters must leave the struggling Buckley on her own for the first time since her prison release. You can see the pain in Waters eyes, as the sound of crying grandchildren is cut out by the closing front door.
Wild Rose paints the harsh realities of adult life by day through washed out cinematography in contrast to the glow of saturated stage lights and thick tartan by night. Harper delicately paints the lives that Rose-Lynn hopes for along side the one she's stuck with, as Wild Rose asks her which she believes is most important. Buckley takes our breath away the first time we hear her sing, with lens glare and sunshine memorably creating a silhouette behind her - every aspect of the film's aesthetic feels fittingly natural and homegrown.
Wild Rose is near perfect, however it does seem to go on a tad too long. There are multiple points the film can end but it chooses not to, and as a result whilst the conclusion is still impactful it isn't as polished as the film really deserves. Whist that might seem little churlish, at the end of the day Harper has created a hidden gem of real honesty and beauty.
Laika studios is the unsung hero of animation. As Pixar and Illumination continue to advance with their 3D computer visuals, Laika continue to keep it old-school with their brilliant stop motion figures. As it happens, from Coraline to the Boxtrolls, all of their films have a real edge to them, laced with wit and vibrant visuals. Missing Link follows these previous ventures with Sasquatch sized footsteps. With appearances from Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zack Galifianakis, famed explorer Sir Lionel Frost agrees to help the eponymous Mr Link find his long lost relatives in the valley of Shangri-La.
Missing Link is Laika Studios' Indiana Jones. This globe trotting caper sets our trio of dynamic heroes against a backdrop of exciting set pieces and marvellously orchestrated slapstick. In this heartfelt story about identity, director Chris Butler (who has worked on all of Laika's previous movies) moulds extravagant cinematography with dotty humour, enabling this neither hairy nor scary adventure with its own fabulous style and eccentricity.
We also have Jackman and Galifianakis to thank for this. Sir Lionel Frost is the 19th century British answer to Tony Stark. Blessed with charm and intelligence, this explorer's head is in need of some deflating - if he's not wrestling the Lock Ness monster, he's bathing in the glory of his latest discoveries in the comfort of his study chair. Enter Mr Link, whose endearing innocence and social unawareness leads Sir One-Man-Show to recognise the bigger picture beyond fame and recognition. Mr Link wants to find his cousins - the Yetis - and gain a sense of belonging, whilst Sir Lionel wants to prove the existence of the Big Foot - hoping to gain acceptance from the hoity-toity Royal Society Explorer Committee who gaze down their extra ordinarily long noses at him.
The connection between Frost and Mr Link is more engaging than the narrative, which sometimes stumbles. However there are no major qualms to be had with this light and bright expedition. The excitement levels ramp up in the more action-packed sequences of the film: swinging from snow capped mountain tops, leaping between the corridors of a cruise liner sent through incredibly choppy waters, gunslinging cowboys in saloons, fist fights and more - Missing Link has the lot. Best of all, during these unapologetically fun set pieces, the animation moves with an endearing lack of fluidity, something visually unique that only stop motion has the ability to capture.
Laika add another understated adventure flick to the portfolio, and can be profusely proud of their creation, just as if Mr Link is grinning his large set of teeth right in front of your face.
Oh boy, Hellboy returns bringing fire and fury with him. Repulsing critics, debuting with a 9% score on popular film site Rotten Tomatoes, this reboot to Guillermo Del Toro's 2004 gothic hit has a lot to be desired. Now here's the thing - 1) I hate Rotten Tomatoes, admittedly it gives a rough indication of whether a film is good or not but most people seem to completely misunderstand how it works, thoughtlessly feeding into its toxicity. 2) Hellboy is bad, very bad, but nowhere near as bad as people are saying. There is an infinite number of things to poke holes in, but when all boils down, Hellboy is one of the most bombastic and hilarious cinema experiences of my entire life.
Though a child with a stick of chalk could probably tell a better story than this, the plot follows as so: defeated by King Arthur and buried for centuries, the ruthless Blood Queen returns to annihilate the modern world. Which means it's up to Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence to stop her. Dragged through hell and back, Hellboy is one crazy damnation. The supernatural investigator returns in an off-the-wall, over-the-top reboot with none of the gothic fantasy and eccentricity of Del Toro's original. Lionsgate try to establish their own franchise with absolutely zero consideration for fans of the source material, but this is as bottom barrel as they come in terms of storytelling and screenplay. With corny dialog that provokes a bigger headache than a pair of hefty horns - Hellboy is an incredibly rare feat. For all the crummy qualities the film demonstrates, Neil Marshall produces an unapologetically bonkers and gruesome adventure that is a hell of a time at the multiplex.
First off the bat comes the rumble fist demon Hellboy. Stranger Things David Harbour finally works his way to the big screen in his debut leading role; genuinely brilliant as the grumpy wise crack, Harbour boasts oodles of charisma. Loud and snarky, Hellboy is an engaging presence amongst cookie cutter side characters. Sasha Lane is given an interesting power set, punching souls out of witches, but you simply can't get past her dreadful British accent, and the same can be said for Daniel Dae Kim.
Hellboy contains some exceptional prosthetic work. Harbour is transformed into Hellboy himself, coated in red flesh with sawn off horns, the make-up-department have worked wonders. Along with this, Marshall convincingly fuses supernatural elements into the real world. Hellboy begins with a Mexican vampire wrestling match and it doesn't let up from there, going on to visit Baba Yaga, a child munching witch from Slavic folklore. There are fantastic nightmarish elements; despite all its faults, Marshall certainly puts the "Hell" in "Hellboy".
Then enters Mila Jovovich as Blood Queen Nimue (or we start with just her served head). Combining Suicide Squad's Enchantress with Thor: Ragnarok's Hela - or an more watered down version - Jovovich basically acts as one giant plot device that brings forth the apocalypse. However, don't get excited when I say that, because in Hellboy's terms it means deriving from every third act climax of every superhero movie from the past ten years, with the typical "world cleansing" motive. Nimue isn't a character, she is one branch of a cluttered mind map that is being presented in the pitching room. But hey, at least this finale has giant face ripping hell monsters roaming the streets of London.
In no way does Hellboy deserve to be as enjoyable as it is. However, due to Harbour's magnificent turn as the uncanny de-horned hero, Marshall's latest work isn't a completely lost cause. Offering some of the most ridiculous and repulsive on screen deaths I've ever seen, along with an odd tone that sometimes works when it attempts to be playful - Hellboy is utterly - unfeasibly - ridiculous.
Jonah Hill reminisces over his skater boy days in his magnetic directorial debut Mid90s. A movie that does exactly what it says on the tin, this coming of age drama takes place in - well - the mid 1990s. The semi-autobiographical tale which holds a likeness to Greta Gerwig's recent debut Lady Bird, follows thirteen year old Stevie during his summer break. In the thick of a troubled home life he is befriended by a group of guys outside the Motor Avenue skate shop.
Like a beginner landing his first kick flip, Hill teases at a great deal of tricks to come. This skateboarding story flaunts a magnificent documentary style of filmmaking, the like of which we have seen a lot recently. Nevertheless, Hill permeates his own personal vision in Mid90s, redesigning contemporary techniques with quirky stickers and a fresh set of wheels. There is an interesting mix of humour and emotion with the more dramatic moments cutting you off in the least expected places. The grinding sound of skateboards rolling against coarse concrete almost seems silent compared to the ear-bleeding screams of Stevie's household - Mid90s pinpoints each characters' liberation as they break away from their personal demons. Hill very much emphasises the skater life as a freeing lifestyle, whilst simultaneously marrying that with angsty teen bits.
Stevie's gang - who are clearly far too cool and unrestrained to have a name - lark around on private property, bond in the sun-dappled skate shop, drink and smoke themselves silly, but most importantly they have fun whilst doing it. With gorgeously textured cinematography at play here - Mid90s is a visual gold mine. Shot in 16mm, the film is nostalgic of the camcorder technology that was available in that era.
With new directing talent on the rise also come new stars. Stevie has a lot on his plate and Sunny Suljic carries it off effortlessly; there are a lot of temper tantrums and intense scenes of self-harm that would be tricky for any actor to take on. Suljic is remarkable, underpinning that gradual loss of innocence and the desperation for a normal lifestyle. Katherine Waterson and Lucas Hedges make appearances as Stevie's dysfunctional mother and brother, but it's his skater pals that really shine. Their characters are distinct and reasonably well-rounded, different enough to create an intriguing dynamic for Stevie to learn from.
Hill has infused his so-far career as a comic actor with gritty personal experience, delivering a new and interesting vision for us film fanatics to digest. Mid90s is ridiculously nostalgic with artists like 2Pac and N.W.A comprising the backdrop of this energetic feature. But much more than that, Mid90s is another excellent coming-of-age flick that's definitely out on its own.
It's been a very long time coming but the DC Universe seems to finally be taking shape. Although it will take a while for them to regain critic and fan respect after their embarrassing run of Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League, with Wonder Woman and Aquaman, they definitely seem to be finding their feet. In their second attempt to convert horror directors to the superhero genre - Shazam! finds Light's Out and Annabelle: Creation's David F Sandberg in the chair. Delinquent orphan Billy Batson bounces from foster family to foster family, but after he is unexpectedly chosen by a wizard as his successor, the teenager is able to transform into an adult superhero on uttering the name Shazam.
Sandberg's super homage to 1988's Big lacks that Shazam! factor. Whilst it still sets DC on the right course, their latest adventure isn't as witty as it thinks it is. It's tremendous fun when Sandberg plays with genre conventions and to some extent Shazam! has adapted well to the modern perspective of superheros. This can be seen through the terrific relationship between older Zachary Levi and younger Jack Dylan Grazer. In typical teenage fashion, Billy larks around carelessly with his powers - it's amusing to see Levi channel Tom Hanks' playfulness with a superhero spin. Flossing on camera, blowing up school books and discovering his wide set of abilities at the most random moments - such as discovering his bullet proof constitution during a convenience store robbery.
Credit must also be given to Grazer as best friend/orphan brother Freddy Freeman, who is given undoubtably all the best lines as the smart-ass superhero nerd. Mark Strong is also fantastic here as Dr Minerva, stubborn and bitter from his childhood, plagued by the seven deadly sins and seeking unlimited power after being tempted by evil. Strong is theatrical and thoroughly entertaining, and unlike every villain since the dawn of the DCEU Minerva is fairly well developed despite his end of the world intentions.
It's not that Shazam! is a bad film, it just doesn't feel very special. The emotional elements of this lightening caper are focused and endearing - Sandberg incorporates a poignant message about what it means to be a foster child. Speaking of which - the foster kids are all absolutely brilliant. Yet, Shazam! doesn't spark any real excitement, the action is used sparingly and that's something you don't expect in superhero capers. But the script doesn't zap to its full potential and subsequently the film never gains momentum. Shazam! feels like Billy's first attempt to fly... lots of flapping but never quite getting off the ground.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.