"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.
Stephen King is the master of the pen when it comes to contemporary horror literature - The Shining, Carrie, It and The Green Mile - to name a few of his most celebrated novels and film adaptations. When writing the intentionally misspelled Pet Semetary, King questioned whether the book was "too dark" to publish - and he wasn't scare mongering. Pet Semetary is nasty, bogged down in a world of bleak fantasy that becomes its characters' reality. Dr Louis Creed and his wife Rachel relocate their hectic lives from Boston to the suburbs of Maine. Soon after their arrival they stumble upon a mysterious burial ground where the local kids take their pets after they die, however the Creed family are quickly made aware of the pet semetary's true existence.
Stephen King's horror classic is buried by screenwriters Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler and doesn't come back the same. As the film advertised in its exhausting marketing campaign: sometimes dead is better - although the dumb slogan leaves you scratching your head, questioning when is dead ever better? But in Pet Semetary's case dead is always better. Quite possibly the worst King adaptation to be released in numerous years - Pet Semetary is horrible and extremely distasteful but never counterbalanced by being clever or commendable. I don't mean horrible in the "horror" sense - to be frank, this remake is completely and utterly empty of any genuine fear, but the writers have reworked the famous novel with new twists that cheapen King's original text. As the credits abruptly scroll upwards, I challenge you to not feel any shock or disgust by the provocative ending they decided to go with.
For one, the performances are atrocious - as are the boring characters each actor is given. Jason Clarke leads as Dr Louis Creed - he's extremely one dimensional throughout and seems pretty unconvincing as the man who is tempted by the power the pet semetary poses. Definitely the most interesting aspect of the film is Amy Seimetz as Rachel Creed - haunted by a traumatic childhood with her sister, this sub plot plays quite an important role in the film and actaully works quite nicely. However young Jéte Laurence undercuts any suspenseful or potentially terrifying moments with her toe nail curling turn as daughter Ellie - she neither sells the sweet and innocent nine year old, nor the demonic corpse she comes back from the dead as. It's ironic that the scariest aspect of this cheap reboot is the child acting, and if you were wondering, John Lithgow is absolute pants as a creepy old man, with zero plot relevance.
Towards the third act, the film catostrophically caves in. There is a marvellous underlying theme about the conflict regarding life after death waiting to be exploited, but ultimately - sadly - Pet Semetary makes waste of interesting ideas and spooky set pieces for yet more naff horror beats.
I remember a time when Disney was the most magical thing in the world. Producing films like Cinderella, The Little Mermaid and Mulan; the studio was the first to introduce animation into the mainstream. Going one step further, their reputation only got better as they purchased the state of the art 3D animated studio Pixar in 2006. Even though their animation continues to break boundaries, Disney are becoming transparent with their live action feats... and Dumbo is the best example of their sheer greed. In their latest attempt to cash in on the classics, Dumbo sees dark director Tim Burton return to the company nine years after succeeding with his off the wall take on Alice in Wonderland.
A young elephant is born with oversized ears that enable him to fly, and travelling with his performing friends they soon realise there are dark secrets beyond the big top. Disney soar to a new low with this freak show remake. Dumbo is de-tusked of the grace and tragedy of the 1942 original, crashing straight to the circus floor. Behind the white grease paint and red button noses, you can see Disney smirking with dollar signs in their eyes. It seems there is no magic or imagination left in these live action outings - Beauty and the Beast, Nutcracker and the Four Realms and Christopher Robin to name a few have confirmed that we are no longer being treated as individuals hoping to be inspired, we are just the subjects that turn up to swell the studio coffers.
Dumbo twists Burton's direction so much that his legendary presence is almost entirely absent. There is none of that weird and wonderful creativity, none of that dark and warping world building. His creative influence is missing in a film that is clearly - and tightly - dictated by studio execs. At one point, as the crowd prepares for Dumbo's impossible flying act there is a particular wide shot that reveals a stack of elephant plushys neatly pilled up for children to gape at, but these aren't just any old elephants, these are genuine Dumbo toys currently available for purchase in the Disney store. There is a fine line between product placement and blatant cash grabbing, and Dumbo is an appalling effort by Disney. It's disheartening to see once enchanting films become increasingly more like studio cash cows, rather than stimulating and avant-garde re-imaginings with up to date brush strokes.
Then there's the characters, each of who have about as much personality as the performing mice (who by the way don't talk in this recreation). Eva Green is probably the most engaging as trapeze artist Colette - Colin Farrell plays the insipid war veteran Holt Farrier, and as for Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito, the two are each dumped with over-the-top and hammed up characters and absolutely no other development. Like the film itself, literally every single character in Dumbo is pointless. Tainting the elegant source material with clunky storytelling, forced merchandising, as well as a tagged on message about animal preservation in the last ten minutes, I don't think Disney could sink any lower. That being said, with two more live action remakes penciled in for this summer, who knows what toys they will be promoting next.
He who shall be named here, Ralph Fiennes, directs his third feature. The acclaimed actor and occasional filmmaker has so far based his creative focus on British writers, following his debut contemporary spin on Shakespeare's cut throat classic Coriolanus, Fiennes delivered the BAFTA nominated Dickens biopic The Invisible Woman. A way away from his previous work, taking place in the Cold War, The White Crow tells the true story of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev and his defection to the west.
Fiennes re-choreographs The Red Shoes with all the energy, risk and precision drained out of it. This dry and derivative drama follows a very similar set up to Powell and Pressburger's 1948 classic: young dancer fighting for a place at a prestigious dance school, that also happens to be touring around Europe, with the young protagonist ultimately swallowed up by their ambitions. The White Crow is gorgeously shot but its cinematography is entirely superfluous. Applying grainy film stock and a washed out colour pallet, the film subtly captures the barren and paranoid atmosphere of the Cold War era. Other than that, there is almost no purpose behind said camerawork; multiple angled building shots and repeated takes of Nureyev gazing at classical male statues.
Oleg Ivenko in the lead role of Rudolf Nureyev is so wooden that a severe risk of splinters is in order. The disgruntled ballet dancer pursues his career at Pushkin's distinguished school escaping the clutches of his Russian adversaries, but Ivenko delivers none of the desperation and passion you'd expect from someone in his position. You just don't get any sense of emotion through his monotone delivery. The White Crow cross cuts between the past and the present - which in itself is a pretty tired device within the biographical genre. To signify the changing times, the film's aspect ratio changes dramatically. Often jarring rather than skilful, The White Crow is choppy in comparison to the poised, graceful drama of its subject matter.
Despite the visual style Fiennes doesn't really offer us any real finesse. This latest work has a few interesting elements, its attractive but entirely pointless cinematography being one of them, but Ivenko's expressions are so blank and vacant that there isn't much to salvage from this dance drama with bad posture.
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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.