Monday, 29 April 2019

Movie Review - Avengers: Endgame

With a remarkable and previously unheard of $1.2 billion worldwide global debut, this year's Avengers: Endgame proves once again just how popular the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become since its inception with Iron Man back in 2008. Countless new box office records are set as soon as the film is welcomed into cinemas and many more are certainly on the way; it's clear this finale to the largest franchise in the history of film is making a huge impact across the world at a brisk pace. Does this insane net profit reflect on genuine quality? Most would say so, and I'm one of them.

Endgame of course won't bring the truck sized franchise that is the MCU to a permanent conclusion; instead, it acts as a finale to the primary storyline focusing on the Avengers since they gradually began to assemble over a decade ago now. Carrying on from Infinity War, those who survived the destruction Thanos (Josh Brolin) finally unleashed after gathering the six Infinity Stones must unite to restore balance to the ruined world; whilst simply moving on may seem the easy path to peace for some, the long term damage still remains, and it's clear in the end that action must be taken to bring true justice.

Avengers: Endgame does essentially need to bring forth a time travel plot of sorts in order to advance its story; most may have speculated such a thing considering how Infinity War ended with Thanos achieving his goals and defeating the Avengers in quite a sinister manner. The way it conveys this plot is thankfully creatively executed, linking back to storylines established in previous MCU films and building upon the mythology in a manner that doesn't feel too contrived. What follows with this is a gripping ensemble adventure as the most iconic heroes in Marvel's history tackle a number of unique challenges that cleverly link back to previous MCU films in the process; it's clear a lot of thought was put into establishing this as a true finale to this phase of the franchise.

Endgame's runtime is amusingly a topic of much discussion; at 181 minutes, it's easily the longest Marvel film to date and one of the longest superhero films ever, and even brings forth numerous recommendations from fans of the most ideal moments to rush to the loo if necessary. Yeah. Regardless, this runtime for the most part works without too much sluggish pacing; perhaps it's the first hour that hosts some of the film's weaker moments, such as repetitive humour which in turn leads to some awkward tonal shifts. Whilst it's great that Endgame never goes down an overly depressing and dark route in terms of its overall tone, perhaps there's times where said goofy (though to be fair very funny) humour doesn't quite know when to step aside; a common issue with many MCU films I've noticed to be honest.

The outstanding cast give it their all and of course deliver superb results as is expected; Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, the lot, and especially of course Josh Brolin as Thanos, arguably one of the best villains in Marvel history, once again spectacularly brought to life on screen via outstanding motion capture effects. It goes without saying that Endgame is a visual marvel (sorry) throughout; I'd be here all day listing individual visual praises, so all that has to be said is that it's as aesthetically resplendent as one would expect and more, and when these rich visuals, superb performances, as well as an exceptional score by Alan Silvestri are blended together during the film's many set pieces, they themselves become some of the best you'll ever see in a modern action film. As a whole, with all these aforementioned praises, it's certainly fair to say Endgame is one of the MCU's strongest instalments, and a fine conclusion to another of its epic storylines.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Movie Review - Dumbo

Yet another of Disney's many live action remakes arrives in the form of Dumbo, though this time round we have a finished product that differs in many ways from its animated counterpart; consequently, one might want to consider it a new story partially inspired by Disney's 1940 classic. In Tim Burton's newest production, you won't find any mice specialising in one to one coaching, storks delivering newborn baby elephants, and certainly not any racially offensive singing crows smoking enormous cigars. Instead, we have story of a financially struggling circus and a family living and working within it enduring their own hard times, all taking place following the first World War.

Of course, our eponymous elephant is indeed in here somewhere. Colin Farrell stars as Holt Farrier, an amputated war veteran and widower. The travelling circus he works within and returns to following army service is also home to his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins); the circus itself finds itself in a state of financial decline, but following the birth of a newborn elephant with strangely oversized ears, takes an interesting turn that nobody involved could have anticipated.

The cast also features the likes of Danny DeVito as circus owner Max Medici, Michael Keaton as the greedy Vandevere, owner of an amusement park who eventually strikes his own business deal with Medici, and Eva Green as Colette Marchant, a charming and experienced trapeze artist employed by Vandevere; this entire cast performs brilliantly, primarily Keaton in his sly yet funny villainous role, though on the other hand it is a shame DeVito is somewhat underused given his inevitable comedic charm. The effects used to bring Dumbo himself to life are as refined as one would expect from a modern blockbuster, particularly one in the hands of Disney, and he finds himself blended seamlessly into the live action world around him. The actors themselves of course deserve praise when it comes to their interactions with Dumbo, bringing forth some heartfelt and similarly funny scenes, well executed considering the character wasn't there to start with, as well as praise toward their performances within the film's several entertaining set pieces.

Dumbo does find itself somewhat flawed when it comes to its storyline, which of course, as previously said, was stirred up dramatically from the animated original to be more fitting for a live action premise and of course to justify a longer run time. But even with this new material, the near two hour length is still a bit much, making the film somewhat repetitive as it goes on and occasionally quite boring as we near the middle. Dumbo as a character is fairly entertaining to watch, certainly funny and the centre of some touching moments once again, but in general isn't overall memorable and regrettably has moments of being slightly annoying; when it comes to repetitive moments, Dumbo's fear of flying is definitely something to mention. This is all in all an entertaining film for the most part, appealing for older and younger audiences, and of course boasting some superb visuals, but it's also a film that needed to focus a bit more on streamlining its narrative into something a bit more focused and much less samey.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Movie Review - Captain Marvel

The forever lucrative MCU introduces its newest character in the form of Captain Marvel; certainly recognizable in comic book history, but perhaps not so much amongst general audiences. Regardless, the latter trait hasn't stopped the film from becoming yet another box office giant for Disney; though one that's been a mixed bag for many when it comes to overall quality, and to be fair for arguably justifiable reasons.

Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as Vers, a member of the Starforce alliance within the Kree Empire, itself stationed on the planet Hala. Though persistently trained to master her strength and superpowers by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers repeatedly suffers from recurring, unexplained nightmares, as well as amnesia when it comes to her own mysterious past. This past begins to unfold and her powers themselves put to the test when she finds herself stranded on Earth, soon teaming up with S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to fight off the shapeshifting Skrulls, the primary enemies of the Kree Empire itself who seek Vers and her knowledge for their own seemingly sinister gain.

Captain Marvel essentially takes us back to the beginning of this series; while of course Captain America's antics within the Second World War were a fair few years prior, this story establishes some key inspirations for the beginning of the Avenger initiative itself, influenced majorly of course by Nick Fury's starring role. It does thankfully have its own narrative depth, to an extent at least, and any outside backstory it does establish, from little touches to certain characters to crucial narrative elements, are nicely done for the most part. But as for the film's own central plot, it is regrettable that things don't always work as well, for it admittedly lacks focus; the characters themselves, outside of Vers and Fury, also lack any real development, which can often lead to many of their key motivations becoming somewhat unclear and poorly conveyed.

Such flaws are most noticeable towards the end of the film when certain twists come into play; it's hard to elaborate on them without spoiling, but while the climax of the story does have good intentions with some of its plot twists, they're just not exceptionally handled. The cast itself is as superb as any Marvel film, with Larson and most definitely Jackson standing out nicely in their central performances, but while much of the supporting talent including Jude Law and certainly Ben Mendelsohn did their best with what they had, their roles ultimately came up a tad short due to forgettable characters; wasted potential at the end of the day. When it comes to action, the film's many vivid and fast paced set pieces forever dazzle, though perhaps lack a bit of tension when you eventually come to realize the evident invincibility of our main hero as she effortlessly slaughters all the moronic baddies without much strain or effort. This doesn't make said set pieces boring in any way, but maybe a little repetitive after a while.

Captain Marvel is definitely funny; but it's occasionally guilty of daft, unwanted, and occasionally irritating gags during scenes that really don't demand them. It has moments of well executed and genuine drama, but this obsession with humour can result in some dramatic tonal shifts; it's a shame this emerges during the climax at times, disrupting some tense and potentially heartfelt moments. Perhaps I do make this film sound pretty poor, but it's a decent superhero experience for the most part. Fun, with great talent on board, and many noble ideas within the overall narrative; its key flaw is just how it doesn't execute many of these ideas in the best possible ways.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Movie Review 200 - How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

My 200th movie review since 2011!

What's arguably Dreamworks Animation's most acclaimed series from a critical standpoint now comes to a conclusion with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World; a story following on one year from the events of its predecessor where the dragon riders of Berk, lead by Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), continue to search, fight for, and free dragons across the seas. Inevitable collateral damage from such a large scale quest eventually expands it into another; one to seek out the mythical Hidden World, a place of harmony and secrecy, where dragons can forever be safe from the persistent hatred of mankind.

The Hidden World is beautifully animated; that's the standard praise that one always starts with. Such technical prowess is to be expected from modern day Dreamworks, and with a refined art style to support this technical splendour, the final on screen visuals deliver without fault. Accompanying this is of course another rich score from the acclaimed John Powell; one that fluently combines rich new compositions alongside superb throwbacks to recognisable themes established throughout the series.

There's really no flaws with The Hidden World on an aesthetic level; when it comes to storytelling, things are also fairly solid. Considering this is the conclusion to the trilogy, the film certainly succeeds in delivering a satisfying ending to the overall narrative; not a generic happy ending, nor one that's overly depressing in an attempt to be original and excessively complex. In fact, it's a unique blend of both, strange as that may sound, and further bolstered by the fact that it's far from predictable. It's a conclusion that's heartfelt and well executed, and one that clearly had some decent thought put into it.

But what's a shame is the emotional integrity of the ending isn't consistent throughout the overall narrative. Moments when the film really demands a more serious tone are occasionally shunted aside in favour of somewhat juvenile humour and repetitive jokes, which renders some potentially powerful moments incredibly unsatisfying and certain supporting characters rather irritating. This is a funny script, but it's a shame it favoured this occasionally silly approach during moments where it could've been a lot deeper and potentially darker; this is especially apparent during some of its set pieces and climactic scenarios. The set pieces on offer are still exciting and fun, and of course still need their fair share of humour, but there are times when such humour is once again a tad overbaked.

Arguably The Hidden World's most impressive traits, aside from its aforementioned aesthetic achievements and well executed ending, lie within these relatively exciting (if occasionally somewhat forgettable) action sequences, the impressive lead vocal performances, primarily Baruchel reprising his role as Hiccup, as well as an element to its narrative featuring the lead dragon Toothless developing a charming relationship with another dragon of his kind; one we find is crucial to later parts of the story. Our key antagonist, dragon hunter Grimmel, is a fairly bland villain with little backstory and cliché motives, but he has a few exciting moments and is brought to life by a solid performance by F. Murray Abraham. For the most part, The Hidden World is a fun animated finale to a great series, just one that's weakened by some bland (and occasionally annoying) supporting characters and jarring tonal shifts.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Movie Review - The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The original Lego Movie was a surprisingly unique animated hit that surprised critics and audiences alike back in 2014; not a cinematic attempt to milk the beyond renowned construction toys in a cheap and uninspired manner but one using their appeal to its advantage to tell a surprisingly well thought out narrative with a solid blend of heart and humour. A sequel was thus more than welcome, while I won't claim to be as won over as many, it certainly remains once again a decent mixture of familiar themes and family friendly laughs. 

Five years following the events of the first film, the world of Bricksburg has been left a post apocalyptic wasteland following the attacks of Duplo invaders, caused by confrontation over the real world Lego set between siblings Finn (Jason Sand) and Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). Ultimately, these attacks leads to the abduction of multiple Bricksburg citizens, including Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett), forcing rookie Master Builder Emmett Brickowski (Chris Pratt) on a quest to rescue them from the Duplo army before it's too late.

If you've seen glimpses of any of the movies within this franchise thus far, then you'll know it goes without saying this main sequel is a winner in the visual department without question; not only beautifully rendered, but also adopting a charming style of animation that's reminiscent to stop motion, which of course truly works for the central premise. The animated world of Lego is also blended with the occasional intervention of live action scenarios which depict their influence on the world itself; a clever a concept just as it was in the original, though one that does admittedly get a bit too excessive and farfetched this time round, primarily as we reach the film's climax.

Speaking of the climax, that in general is where the story itself loses some traction, developing clever twists just as the original film did but then using some strange contrivances in order to make these twists come to fruition; the initial revelations have their impact, but the eventual explanations behind them leaves them rather bizarre. The story as a whole is fairly entertaining, overcoming many of its weaker traits thanks to its consistently witty and approachable humour, charming cast of characters, and the refined vocal performances used to bring said characters to life, namely the efforts Chris Pratt as our key protagonist Emmett, and especially Tiffany Haddish as new antagonist Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi. Ultimately, The Lego Movie 2 is funny and heartfelt, but while its narrative has lots of potential, the execution doesn't quite feel as inspired as it potentially could be; ultimately, many audiences won't be bothered by this, but it ended up leaving me a tad bored and bemused at sporadic moments.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Most Anticipated Films of 2019

I didn't find myself truly interested in many of the films 2018 had to offer; the coming twelve months certainly look more interesting without a doubt. Not just in terms of great films on offer, but generally interesting ones; ones that may be terrible, but will still leave a lasting impression, and spark much debate among audiences. Of course you can already see one that I'm referring to just below, so let's just begin...

#5 - Sonic the Hedgehog

Indeed, an unusual choice to have on my list considering virtually nothing about this film so far looks compelling; of course, all we've seen is an official poster which depicted Sonic in a very awkward posture as well as other leaked images that only spawned more mockery and controversy. Who knows. Either way, at this stage I have little to no confidence about this film; however, with all this ongoing controversy surrounding the many leaks and countless rumours, I'm left interested to see more as it moves further through production, and then very curious over the final outcome.

If I'm honest, if the leaked, though apparently fake, image of Sonic's final design was real, I thought it was half decent considering it was translating such a cartoony design to live action, though it seems it has since been confirmed as fake. This film may likely remain sat here at #5 when I end up doing my eventual retrospect list, but again, whilst I'm not currently expecting an amazing outcome, I remain interested in how it'll turn out considering all the ongoing controversy; it'll certainly be a strange one, that's for sure.

US Release: November 8
UK Release: December 26

#4 - Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The next stage of Monsterverse kicks off with an ensemble bust up which brings together Godzilla and many of Toho's most iconic monsters including Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, certainly one of the most renowned. Many will recall the 2014 Godzilla film's most criticised aspect being a lack of action; perhaps its most infamous trait was cutting away when it seemed like an exciting set piece was about to kick off, which some saw as a way of building up suspense for the epic finale, and others as just an unnecessary annoyance. After watching the trailers for King of the Monsters, it'd be quite remarkable if similar controversy was once again achieved; certainly it seems like we have an exciting and chaotic blockbuster on the way, and while the trailers haven't left me hugely interested in any of the key characters so far, they've certainly left me more than interested to see more of this reimagined lineup of monsters duke it out in a (hopefully) high stakes narrative.

US + UK Release: May 31

#3 - It: Chapter Two

The 2017 adaptation of one of Stephen King's most renowned novels certainly creeped me out more than its 1990 television adaptation; it was undeniably the performance of Bill Skarsgård as the eponymous villain in its primary form as Pennywise the Dancing Clown that stood out as one of the film's strongest merits, and so I certainly greet a sequel with open arms. Adapting the novel into two parts thankfully has a genuine benefit towards the storyline instead of being another forced studio method to squeeze further profit from valuable source material; we now found ourselves venturing into the second portion of the novel's plot which takes place in the 1980s, our main characters now young adults, facing the villainous creature as it returns to haunt them once more.

A strong cast including the likes of James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader are brought in to portray the roles of the primary characters as adults this time round; while little has been shown about the film thus far, my love for the original alone is enough to make it one of my most anticipated of the year. Let's hope now upcoming marketing material doesn't instantly put me off...

US + UK Release: September 6

#2 - Toy Story 4

Though 2010's Toy Story 3 appeared to conclude the central story of the series on an emotionally satisfying note, it seems Pixar just couldn't keep their hands away from it, and so nearly another decade later we find ourselves treated to a new installment which brings forth a new story featuring new friends as well as some familiar faces. What's been one of the most anticipated aspects of this new installment is of course the return of Bo Peep, Woody's love interest voiced once again by Annie Potts, who was sadly given away from Andy's toy collection between the second and third films, as a brief heartfelt moment in the latter implied. Whilst it initially seemed like a fourth entry may have been a forced and greedy attempt to keep the series going after it had reached a nice conclusion, the standards of Pixar and the series itself already shows promise; the basic story sounds pleasant, especially with the return of Bo Peep once again, though at this point very little is known about it despite the release being only six months away. There's still more surprises on the way which I'm very keen to see.

US + UK Release: June 21

#1 - The Lion King

Disney's ongoing trend of adapting many of their animated classics into modern live action blockbusters continues to be met with mixed feedback amongst the most dedicated fans; some love the gorgeous new aesthetic approach toward some of the studio's finest works, whilst others see them as lazy cash grabs and signs of the company struggling to think of new ideas. I've not really maintained an overall consensus towards it myself; if the film is good, it's good, and vice versa. Considering The Lion King is my favourite film of all time, I was interested to see how a live action adaptation would turn out, and the trailer itself left me very impressed.

Said trailer primarily focused on the renowned opening scene, though also showed very brief clips of other scenes; as is expected, the visual effects left the biggest impression. The live action adaptation of The Jungle Book from 2016 arguably set new standards for CGI and it seems The Lion King is set to build upon that considering the film has no human characters throughout yet remains live action; I'm keen to see some the film's most dramatic moments with these outstanding modern effects, particularly the renowned wildebeest stampede, which of course was ever so briefly seen in the trailer itself and looked absolutely remarkable in just that tiny glimpse. The cast itself also looks promising; I won't deny feeling nervous over how some will compare to those from the original, namely Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, but there's still potential without a doubt. At least James Earl Jones is of course returning as Mufasa, showing Disney's impressive awareness that nobody is apt to surpass him in the role. Some loyal fans of the original are hostile towards this adaptation, but I'm hungry to see more for sure.

US + UK Release: July 19

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 11 January 2019

Best Five Films of 2018

A new year has begun; numerous other things going on in my life at the moment, as well as a lack of interesting releases, left me visiting the cinema a lot less throughout 2018 compared to previous years, and consequently I found myself struggling to find enough material to compose the usual list of my most hated films before moving on to the most beloved. So, we'll dismiss the need to rank any stinkers, and focus solely on the positives; allow me to present my favourite five films of 2018.

#5 - Avengers: Infinity War

Gargantuan bests at the box office were put in place by the ever growing MCU in 2018, with Black Panther setting domestic records and, as was pretty much expected from the get go, Avengers: Infinity War setting remarkable worldwide records not too long after release. With over $2 billion in global earnings, Infinity War was yet another moneymaking machine in the film industry's largest franchise; my thoughts on said franchise have grown more positive in recent times after a fair few disappointments in the past, and I agree with many that Infinity War was arguably one of the best instalments to grace the series in a long while.

With a truck sized budget, stunning visual effects are to be expected, and it of course doesn't disappointment; thus, we are treated to all sorts of gripping action sequences from start to finish. But we also have a strong story to carry things along, and a notably powerful ending that leaves us eager for the next installment. What nicely supports all this gripping action and surprisingly complex storytelling is of course its incredibly ensemble cast, bringing together countless talent from the biggest MCU hits, all of whom give some of their best performances within the franchise this time round, it has to be said; largely blending humour and genuine emotion effectively. I've previously maintained thoughts that this series should retire fairly soon, but after Infinity War, I'm certainly left keen to see more.

#4 - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Widespread acclaim greeted Into the Spider-Verse upon release, many even branding it the best film the web head has ever appeared in; and to be fair, this praise isn't undeserved. Into the Spider-Verse is a charming and spirited adventure that brings together various incarnations of the eponymous hero into a story that balances humour and genuine emotion in an effective manner. What of course stands out at first glance is the film's unique visuals, combining traditional and computer animation to create a stylised comic book aesthetic, and one that's incredibly delightful to look at throughout.

The film boasts a likeable cast of characters, focusing primarily on protagonist Miles Morales and the main incarnation of Spider-Man, with the various others coming into play further into the story. Everything is nicely balanced and well structured, easy to follow yet full of depth, and performed with some superb vocal work from the incredibly talented cast. For sure, this is one of the finest animated films I've seen in recent times.

#3 - Deadpool 2

Deadpool set remarkably high standards in an admittedly small R rated superhero genre, so much so that a sequel would need a lot of care and attention put into it to seem like more than just a lame cash grab; thankfully, the end result is far from that, and in some cases even a superior effort.

Ryan Reynolds will arguably stand out as one of the film's finest merits, delivering a performance just as funny and stylish as before; the same can be said for the strong supporting cast, namely newcomer Josh Brolin. It's even better when said performances are over a well drafted script, full of witty and smart humour, but also a surprisingly clever narrative that embraces self parody in a unique way and, as is expected from any modern superhero flick, boasts a number of gripping set pieces, brought to life on screen with forever impressive visuals and superb action choreography. Deadpool 2 is of course not for the younger superhero fans, but it certainly remains a great watch through and through.

#2 - A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place stands out as that rare superb horror film that blesses cinema every so often, earning this accolade thanks to its ability to deliver genuine scares and tension, but also thanks to its incredibly engaging storyline that keeps audiences hooked for reasons outside of waiting to be freaked out. Whilst the film doesn't outright dive into the history behind its concept of a world where humanity is on the verge of extinction, it slowly and cleverly unveils it via subtle methods throughout, leaving us keen to see more whilst being haunted by a number of chilling sequences involving the sinister beings responsible for all this destruction.

The film's method of storytelling will seem frustratingly vague to some as it will clever to others, but either way, A Quiet Place is definitely a winner when it comes to a struggling genre. It has its fair share of jump scares, but they're more than just cheap ways to make you wet yourself, with genuinely haunting events unfolding on screen that definitely leave lasting impressions. It's this coupled with an uneasy atmosphere throughout, as well as some fantastic performances and visual design, that makes it one of the best horror films I've certainly seen in a long, long time.

#1 - Mission: Impossible - Fallout

The Mission: Impossible series continues its resurgence of critical acclaim and box office success with Fallout, and when it comes to such acclaim, I was certainly amongst that general consensus. Fallout now stands as my favourite of the series; a series that now seems to get better and better with each new installment. This latest entry delivers once again some of the best set pieces in a modern action film, all beautifully structured throughout; but this is much more than a case of flicking through countless set pieces, with a thin story placed on the back burner to thread them together. No, this is a story that is once again well thought out and extremely compelling, full of engaging twists and brought to life by the efforts of a superb cast, primarily (and obviously) Cruise himself and Henry Cavill as our key antagonist.

As I've said, each new instalment of this series now manages to top the last, and Fallout continues this trend; it's clever, exciting, and superbly acted, and certainly the film I enjoyed the most this year.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE: This post has now been adapted into a video for the gaming channel ProjectFalconPunch, featuring Dan Thomas! Check it out here!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Movie Review - Aquaman

Despite its occasional highlights, the DC Extended Universe has arguably struggled to rival its colossal Marvel counterpart in terms of financial gain and certainly in terms of critical success. Its latest entry Aquaman hasn't exactly been met with universal acclaim, but has bolstered the struggling franchise and won over many audiences at first glance as shown by its remarkable box office receipts thus far. There's fun to be had, but whether or not you will be truly immersed at the end of the day depends if its entertaining visual thrills can mask some evident flaws when it comes to the general development of the characters and the overall story itself.

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is a half Atlantean, half human who lives on the surface world, having been rejected from Atlantis itself due to his half breed nature. Many years later, rebel Atlanteans seek him out and urge him to return, bringing news that he must take his place as the rightful king and challenge his half brother Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson), who plans to bring war to and eventually wipe out the surface world. Orm also co-operates with the malicious pirate David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who seeks vengeance against Arthur for his actions when fending off him and his father from attacking a nuclear submarine not long prior.

Aquaman isn't afraid to embrace the corny atmosphere of its premise; but perhaps this can be a flaw as much as it can be a merit to some. Not every comic book adaptation needs to be a intense and realistic thriller following in the steps of Christopher Nolan's most poetic works but translating the content of the comic books to the big screen requires some effort to help it fit in with a realistic modern world and avoid any inadvertent laughs now and then. Aquaman doesn't always nail this, and feelings of bemusement may consequently stem from some of its aesthetics, costume design especially, and incredibly cheesy writing. How audiences respond to it will generally come down to personal preference, but all I can say is that it's surely hard to at least not chuckle a bit when Black Manta shows up.

The story itself is fairly unfocused and certainly dragged out; but even with its healthy runtime it still struggles to balance out the many characters it insists on cramming into itself. This creates an issue where characters central to the plot often disappear and reappear sporadically, leaving them underdeveloped and uninteresting as a result. Though when it comes to development, perhaps the film does deserve some praise when it comes Aquaman himself, a character portrayed with plenty of wit and severity by Momoa, and one whose backstory is told with the use of cleverly interwoven flashbacks as the main story itself progresses; a technique that ensures the overall pace isn't severely disrupted. This aside, the meat of the story, while not offensively terrible, isn't suitably balanced; and is just boring, to put it more simply.

Aquaman of course boasts some brilliant visuals, something we certainly expect by now from a high budget superhero film. The effects used to compose the underwater kingdom of Atlantis are vivid and rich in detail, and those used to superimpose the actors themselves within this world are equally impressive. While its various set pieces are too often triggered by random explosions that abruptly (and annoyingly) cut off character conversations, they're certainly exciting to watch and once again demonstrate some superb modern visual effects. The film as a whole certainly isn't terrible, and of course has its various entertaining moments and decent lead performances, but just doesn't do a truly good job of trying to develop a half decent storyline and perhaps tone down the silliness throughout, and so we have an overlong and thinly plotted action flick as a result.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Movie Review - Bumblebee

Over the past decade Michael Bay's Transformers film series has generally been naught but a rubbish film making machine, albeit one raking in promising studio profits in the long run. It's this year the series sees its first release met with critical success; Bumblebee has Bay shoved aside from any major creative involvement and instead acting as producer this time round. Remarkably, though perhaps unsurprisingly in a way, the end result is a well executed and genuinely entertaining blockbuster in a franchise full of polar opposites.

Taking place before the 2007 film that kickstarted this series, Bumblebee sees the eponymous hero, initially under his original name B-127, escaping a war ridden planet Cybertron and seeking refuge on Earth under the orders of Autbot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), where he meets and befriends Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a lonely and grief stricken teen struggling to cope in life following the passing of her father. As their friendship prospers, as does trouble around them when B-127 is eventually discovered by villainous Decepticon scouts; who have their own malicious intent to bring the war on Cybertron with them.

Though the first installment to this series wasn't offensively terrible, more mediocre at best, what followed was a whirlwind of noisy action flicks whose remarkable accolades in the special effects department were tragically overwhelmed by their nonsensical storylines, melodramatic performances, and bizarre tonal shifts; it all largely comes down not only to poor scripts but also of course the choppy directing of Michael Bay himself. Bumblebee maintains the remarkable visual effects from the many failures before it but also understands what makes a good story, finding a relatively solid balance of genuine thrills alongside witty humour and emotional resonance throughout; a strong lead performance by Hailee Steinfeld also supports the latter merits nicely.

The core friendship between Charlie Watson and Bumblebee is they key focus of the plot, with the plot involving the Decepticons occurring around them but linking in nicely, never feeling awkwardly pushed aside; the film for the most part finds a decent balance for these two central story elements. Perhaps human naivety is a minor narrative flaw once our eventual antagonists arrive; narrow minded government trust toward these arguably terrifying looking invaders is what ultimately influences the chaotic end climax, which may feel a bit contrived and face palm worthy, but not a huge issue when the majority of the story is so enjoyable. Bumblebee himself is just as entertaining as he's always been even in the worst efforts of this series, perhaps more so this time round, cute and amusing as his relationship with Charlie and his understanding of a new world around him develops and prospers; and of course the tougher side to him emerges when the film's exciting set pieces kick in, all of which are superbly staged and once again crafted with gorgeous visual effects. All these merits make Bumblebee a thoroughly enjoyable action flick from start to finish; it's just a shame it took so long for a genuinely good film to emerge from this series.