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The Lion King (2019)
A visually appealing, albeit pointless remake that adds almost nothing new
The Lion King 2019 is a CGI photorealistic adaptation of the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens, The Jungle Book), it is a visually appealing, albeit pointless remake that adds almost nothing new.
In the African savannah, Simba (voiced by JD McCrary), a young lion prince, eagerly waits until the day he takes over as king from his father Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones). One day, Mufasa is murdered by his jealous younger brother Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor), forcing Simba to flee his kingdom or face a similar fate. After covering a great distance, Simba meets a meerkat and warthog duo named Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen respectively), who take him in and teach him their carefree lifestyle. Eventually, Simba learns that he must take responsibility and reclaim his rightful place as king from his wicked uncle.
While it does showcase some nice use of colour and cinematography, The Lion King 2019 offers little else worth recommending over its animated counterpart. The story is the same as the original, the songs remain unchanged, and even most of the dialogue is word-for-word identical. At best, director Jon Favreau is merely a conductor of someone else's symphony, a far cry from his work on 2016's The Jungle Book, which took risks and felt refreshingly new. In addition to this, the photorealistic CGI often had the film at a disadvantage as it fails to convey any real emotion from the animals. In the 1994 film, the animal characters were able to look a variety of different emotions due to the artistic freedom of it being animated as a cartoon, whereas in this film, each animal looks stoic whenever they're supposed to be sad or angry. Overall, to the small percentage of those who haven't seen the original, this film may be alright, however, all others should stick with the 1994 classic instead.
I rate it 6/10
I Am Mother (2019)
An interesting film that successfully keeps the audience guessing until the very end
I Am Mother is a sci-fi drama film directed by Grant Sputore. Starring Hilary Swank, Clara Rugaard, and featuring the voice of Rose Byrne, it is an interesting film that successfully keeps the audience guessing until the very end.
After a mass extinction wipes out all of humanity, a robot known as "Mother" (voiced by Rose Byrne) raises a baby girl from an embryo in a hidden high-tech bunker for the purposes of repopulating the Earth. Many years later, the baby girl, referred to as "Daughter" (Clara Rugaard), is now a teenager and has since formed a bond with Mother. One day, a mysterious human woman (Hilary Swank) arrives at the bunker bearing frightening news of the outside world, threatening the close relationship between Mother and Daughter.
While it does tread familiar territory at times, I Am Mother manages to rise above this with an intriguing premise and believable performances to help things along nicely. The film constantly presents its audience with a moral dilemma - Should we trust technology that is programmed to never make a mistake? Or should we always embrace human reasoning regardless of any flaws? Thanks to this ultimatum, the film is never boring and it adds a great deal of suspense to the plot. Newcomer Grant Sputore has proven himself a capable director, moving the story along at just the right pace and creating this enigmatic atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic world. I look forward to any future projects he may be involved in. Rose Byrne is great as the voice of Mother, a surrogate parental figure with seemingly suspicious motives, somewhat echoing 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000, but it is Danish actress Clara Rugaard who shines the most as Daughter, naive of the outside world but intelligent enough to understand basic human morality. Hilary Swank is also worth noting as the unnamed woman. It's a shame we don't see much of her on screen anymore, despite her two-time Oscar winning talent. This film will likely be overlooked in favour of more action focused blockbusters but it is certainly worth viewing on its current home at Netflix.
I rate it 8/10
Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
A fitting epilogue to the Infinity Saga
Spider-Man: Far From Home is the sequel to 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming and the twenty-third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once again starring Tom Holland in the lead role, it is a solid final entry in the MCU's Phase 3 and a fitting epilogue to the Infinity Saga.
Shortly after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his high school friends leave for a two week trip to Europe. Upon arriving in Venice, Peter and his friends encounter huge elemental monsters bent on destroying everything. Donning his Spider-Man costume, Peter attempts to stop these new threats by himself when suddenly a strange man in a supersuit named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) shows up to take matters into his own hands.
As enjoyable and faced paced as ever, Spider-Man: Far From Home is perhaps the most unconventional Spider-Man film to date, unafraid to take risks where necessary. This film follows suit with its predecessor, giving the villains believable backstories and grounding them more in reality, which in turn makes their motives more fun to watch. Even though Endgame left big shoes to fill, Far From Home pulls off several moments of heroism that makes the audience cheer for Peter Parker every step of the way, much in the vein of the other Avengers. Tom Holland is still superb as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, proving he is the best live action actor for this dual role, but Jake Gyllenhaal steals the show as Quentin Beck/Mysterio. Even Zendaya, whom I wasn't a big fan of in Homecoming, had some great scenes as MJ. Be sure to stay back after the credits for two important bonus scenes that appear to set the stage for Phase 4.
I rate it 8/10
A fun, sweet-natured film that truly does bring to light how much impact The Beatles have left on the world
Yesterday is a fantasy comedy written by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually). Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Trainspotting), it is a lighthearted romp brought to life by some great music and acting performances.
Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling musician from a small town in England whose dreams of making it big are beginning to fade. One night, the entire world experiences a twelve second blackout and during this time Jack is struck by a bus and is later hospitalised. Upon being discharged, Jack is astonished to discover that he is now the only person on Earth who remembers The Beatles and their music. Using this to his advantage, Jack starts passing off Beatles songs as his own to assist him in becoming the famous rockstar he always wanted to be.
Even though it doesn't quite achieve the satirical edge it hopes for, Yesterday is still a fun, sweet-natured film that truly does bring to light how much impact The Beatles have left on the world, whether we realise it or not. The film has a distinctly British flavour and it's unlikely it will appeal to international audiences, where some of the more subtle eccentricities may go right over their heads. The overall premise is similar to the 2006 TV series "Life On Mars", where the main character is hit by a vehicle and transported to an alternate timeline, although this film is considerably more comedic in tone. Danny Boyle seems like an odd choice of director for a film like this, but he does a pretty good job carrying this unorthodox subject matter the whole way through. All of The Beatles songs featured are used perfectly during the film's big musical moments, and are expertly performed by newcomer Himesh Patel in the lead role. Surprisingly, a supporting appearance from Ed Sheeran of all people provided some of the film's funniest moments, as he proves to have solid comic timing. While not a must-see on the big screen, this film would certainly be worth a watch upon home release.
I rate it 7/10
A well-intended, yet muddled look at the acclaimed author's legacy
Tolkien is a biopic about the early life of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy/The Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien. Starring Nicholas Hoult in the lead role, it is a well-intended, yet muddled look at the acclaimed author's legacy.
As a young man, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) befriends a group of three outcasts at school who help him to find his place in the world and support him in his creative endeavours. Over time, John meets Edith Bratt (Lily Collins), a young pianist with whom he falls in love and becomes his muse. Eventually, however, World War I breaks out and John is sent off to fight in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme, separating him from some of his friends and the love of his life.
Despite a solid premise, Tolkien ultimately struggles to elevate its intriguing subject matter above merely being another outcast author. The film chooses to omit important details about Tolkien, such as his strong Christian faith influencing his writings, instead opting for a more fantasy driven approach. In addition to this, the pacing is painfully slow most of the time, showcasing some of the least interesting aspects of what inspired Tolkien to write his novels in the first place. With that said, the film is at least nice to look at thanks to some creative cinematography during Tolkien's musings and Nicholas Hoult's well-acted performance in the title role. It's a shame that so much overall effort was put in to producing so little of interest.
I rate it 6/10
Toy Story 4 (2019)
A sequel that I never knew we needed, but am definitely glad was made
Toy Story 4 is the fourth film in the Toy Story series and Pixar's 21st film overall. Directed by Pixar storyboard artist Josh Cooley and featuring the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, it is a sequel that I never knew we needed, but am definitely glad was made.
Two years after the events of Toy Story 3, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen), and the rest of Andy's former toys have adjusted to their new lives with their current owner Bonnie. However, over time, Bonnie has neglected playing with Woody in favour of the other toys, and this causes him to reminisce over his old friend Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), who was sold off to a mysterious buyer several years ago. One day, Bonnie brings home a new toy she made out of a plastic spork named Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), who believes that being played with is not his purpose but instead is merely "trash". After Forky and the rest of the toys are taken on a roadtrip with Bonnie and her family, Forky runs away and it is up to Woody to find him before Bonnie discovers he is lost.
As heartfelt as its predecessors, Toy Story 4 is one of the greatest unexpected sequels ever conceived and adds so much more to its already long lasting legacy. Just because the toys' time with Andy is over, does not mean that there aren't any more stories to be expanded upon. Anybody who thought Toy Story 3 could not be topped with its touching ending needs to think again. This ending was so poignant that it reportedly reduced Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to tears while they were recording for Woody and Buzz, respectively, and it is easy to see why after watching. The vocal performances of these two veterans certainly hasn't dulled over the past 24 years and they sound as lively as ever, alongside newcomers to the series. This film also features the vocal talents of comedians Key & Peele as the hilarious stuffed toy duo Ducky and Bunny, who provide some great comic relief, as well as Keanu Reeves voicing Duke Caboom, a toy Canadian stuntman struggling with his own personal insecurities. In addition to all this, the beautiful animation and use of colour truly shines this time around and it shows how far Pixar have come since their feature film debut with the original Toy Story back in 1995. Will there be a Toy Story 5 in the near future? As this film has proven, we just may end up needing one after all.
I rate it a solid 9/10
Men in Black: International (2019)
A decent yet forgettable outing in this long running set of films.
Men in Black: International is the fourth entry in the Men In Black film series based on the series of comics of the same name. Directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, The Fate of the Furious) and starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, it is a decent yet forgettable outing in this long running set of films.
After stumbling across Men In Black headquarters in New York, Molly (Tessa Thompson) decides to join them in protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe. When it is believed that a mole has infiltrated the organisation, Molly, now known as Agent M, is partnered up with the sly and laid back Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) to find out who this mole could be before it is too late.
While a marginal improvement over the second film in the series, Men In Black: International is but another mediocre sequel that leaves little impression on the viewer. The plot feels lazily cobbled together and it is executed poorly on screen. Director F. Gary Gray does not seem like the right choice to have helmed this film, as he stumbles at balancing the comedy and science fiction elements that have made previous entries so much fun. With that said, the chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson is still undeniable, as was previously seen in Thor: Ragnarok. The quirky banter between the two of them prevents boredom in most scenes. but this is not nearly enough to warrant a recommendation outside of a viewing out of mere curiosity.
I rate it 5.5/10
Dark Phoenix (2019)
Ends this era of comic book films not with a bang, but with a whimper
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the seventh and final film of the 20th Century Fox Marvel X-Men series. Directed by Simon Kinberg, it ends this era of comic book films not with a bang, but with a whimper.
After the X-Men save a group of astronauts from a solar-flare like entity, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops dangerous new powers that corrupt her mind and turn her into a being known as the "Dark Phoenix". With her powers causing her to act out of control, Jean tries to seek help to contain her abilities, while the rest of the X-Men attempt to bring her home.
Despite Jean Grey being one of the most interesting mutants in the entire series, X-Men: Dark Phoenix manages to turn this character study about her into a bleak, depressing bore. There are so many missed opportunities to have made this a brilliant conclusion to the Fox era of Marvel films, like in the vein of Logan, but instead we are given an anti-climactic ending with a repetitive and formulaic plot. In addition to this, unlike previous films, the action scenes were not fun or exciting, and most of them felt phoned in. The one redeeming feature however, is that the acting was solid, especially from Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, who gives the best performance she can with the bland material given to her. Hopefully in new hands at Disney, the X-Men franchise can recover from this mess in future installments.
I rate it 4.5/10
A loud, explosive continuation of the MonsterVerse that delivers just what it promises, both good and bad
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an action film based on the Toho distributed series of monster films and the sequel to the American 2014 Godzilla film. Directed by Michael Dougherty (Krampus), it is a loud, explosive continuation of the MonsterVerse that delivers just what it promises, both good and bad.
Five years after the events of 2014 film, the giant monster Godzilla has been closely tracked by the top secret agency known as "Monarch". From what Monarch has observed, Godzilla has no personal interest in purposely hurting humans and only intends to reaffirm his status as King of the Monsters. However, one day the giant three-headed extraterrestrial monster King Ghidorah is awoken from his frozen tomb in Antarctica and sets out to challenge Godzilla's supremacy in an all out fight to the death. To make matters worse, other ancient monsters reawaken as well, including Mothra the flying insectoid and Rodan the Pteranodon, causing mass destruction around the world. With the ever growing challengers for dominance showing up one by one, Godzilla fights his way through his opponents to try reclaiming his place as King, all the while humanity can only watch on in horror.
As an improvement over its predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is pure fanservice for any hardcore fan of the franchise and provides just enough entertainment for newcomers. One common complaint about the 2014 film was Godzilla's lack of screentime and general slow pace. Thankfully, the filmmakers appear to listened to feedback as this film fixes most of that with its quick over-the-top action scenes and, as a result, it is never boring. Unfortunately, most of the human characters are one-dimensional and forgettable. Most of the time, they are only there for the purposes of exposition or to spout some cliched dialogue ("May God have mercy on us all!"). Despite this, the action is fantastic enough to forgive some of it. Watching these iconic giant beasts fight to the death while causing collateral damage to nearby buildings is still incredibly satisfying to see on the big screen. Audiences must also remember that films like this are made as enjoyable popcorn entertainment and not on an intellectual basis. Personally, I place this film in the "guilty pleasures" category, alongside the likes of Independence Day and Jurassic World. Be sure to stay after the credits for a bonus scene likely related to the upcoming "Godzilla vs. Kong"
I rate it 7/10
A wild depiction of the rock n' roll lifestyle through the eyes of one of the most iconic musicians of all time
Rocketman is a biopic about the life of legendary singer-songwriter Elton John. Starring Taron Egerton in the lead role, it is a wild depiction of the rock n' roll lifestyle through the eyes of one of the most iconic musicians of all time.
Since he was a shy young boy, Reginald Dwight (Taron Egerton) has had a knack for playing piano by ear and decides to enrol at the Royal Academy of Music, a prestigious musical school that he hopes will nurture his talents. While there, Reginald believes he has what it takes to become a singer-songwriter, adopting the stage name "Elton John" and signing an album deal with a major record company. Eventually, Elton John becomes world famous due to his outlandish live performances and catchy songs, making him one of the best selling music artists in history. However, all of this fame and fortune comes at a price, as Elton struggles with drug addiction, depression, the loss of friends, and his own sexuality.
With its clever combination of musical numbers and topical subject matter, Rocketman is a must-see for any Elton John fan young and old. Even though the film does glance over a small amount of the musician's struggles at times, the audience is shown just enough to understand the pain he is feeling as he tries to come to terms with it. Taron Egerton gives a fantastic performance as Elton John, practically on the same level as Rami Malek playing Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody". He perfectly captures that signature flamboyance and visceral energy that made Elton so popular in the first place, while also showing his melancholy side when dealing with his problems off-stage. However, unlike "Bohemian Rhapsody", this film does not water down the lead subject's rockstar lifestyle as we are shown most of his debaucherous acts of sex and drugs, which gives us a better look into why he was trying to nullify his own personal insecurities in the first place. Even to Elton John novices, this is one biopic worth checking out.
I rate it 8/10
A fun live action update of the animated original, despite struggling to justify its existence
Aladdin is a fantasy film based on the 1992 animated Disney film of the same name (itself based on the Middle Eastern folk tale "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp"). Directed by Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes), it is a fun live action update of the animated original, despite struggling to justify its existence.
In the city of Agrabah, Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a good natured street thief, is recruited by the Sultan's Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) to search inside a cave for a mysterious magic lamp. Upon finding the lamp, Aladdin is betrayed by Jafar and is left die when he inadvertently frees the Genie of the Lamp (Will Smith). The eccentric Genie declares Aladdin his new master and tells him that he can grant him three wishes for just about anything, including the social status to marry the Sultan's daughter Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott).
With its catchy music and nice setpieces, the live action Aladdin is a respectful update of the 1992 film, but unfortunately this is not nearly enough. Many years from now, it will be the original animated film people will be intending to see instead of this one. While some live action Disney remakes can bring something new and exciting to the story, such as Dumbo and The Jungle Book, this version of Aladdin does very little that has not been done before. The songs are the same, the plot is the same, and the character motivations are the same. The cast does a reasonable job, with Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, respectively working well together due to their believable chemistry. Will Smith also injects his trademark wittiness and likeability into his performance as the Genie, but never once does he come close to topping the late great Robin Williams. However, Marwan Kenzari seems too young to be playing Jafar, as this role would be better suited to someone closer in age to the Sultan himself, likely around middle age. The one thing I feel this film did somewhat better than the original is the romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. The 1992 version went with the typical "falling in love after one day" trope whereas in this one, the audience can actually feel their love blossoming over time. Aside from that, this remake is inessential for the most part.
I rate it 6.5/10
A twisted deconstruction of superhero origin stories that both surprises and horrifies
Brightburn is a superhero horror film co-produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and directed by David Yarovesky. Starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, and Jackson A. Dunn, it is a twisted deconstruction of superhero origin stories that both surprises and horrifies.
In the town of Brightburn, Kansas, married couple Kyle (David Denman) and Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) are having trouble conceiving a child when a meteor crashes near their house. Upon investigation, the couple discover a baby inside and the two of them decide to adopt him and name him Brandon. Twelve years later, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is going through puberty, when he realises that he has superhuman powers after the meteor containing him speaks to him telepathically with sinister intent. Now aware of his destiny, Brandon decides to use his powers to bring his own dark sense of justice to those around him.
As a familiar take on the genre, Brightburn delivers an interesting look at the idea of an "evil Superman" while also working as an effective horror film in its own right. The film could also be considered a metaphor for the birth of a psychopath, growing up in a world where being different makes them feel like their own method of handling it is to hurt others. This is similar to the found footage film Chronicle, where the main characters have superpowers but decide to use them for their own selfish reasons. The acting is great all round, especially from newcomer Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon, who pulls off the frightening weird kid trope perfectly. However, the one major problem this film has is its short length, clocking in at just 90 minutes. Unfortunately this is hardly enough time to truly take in all of the creepy atmosphere to allow it to sink in as well as it should. It's a shame that this film will likely be brushed aside for other films of this type but hopefully it will gain the cult following it deserves in the future. With that said, this is certainly worth a look for anyone wishing to take a break from the conventional superhero movie.
I rate it 7/10
A solid continuation of the title character's story
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is the third entry in the John Wick action thriller series. Once again directed by Chad Stahelski and starring Keanu Reeves in the lead role, it is a solid continuation of the title character's story while adding even more to the world building element set up previously.
Immediately after the events of John Wick: Chapter 2, former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run after killing a member of the High Table at The Continental hotel in Manhattan. With a $14 million bounty now on his head, Wick must find find a way to safely escape New York City, while avoiding death by other assassins from all parts of the world.
As reliably action-packed as it is great to look at, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is so far the best installment of this ever growing franchise which serves to remind us that Keanu Reeves is deserving of his place back in the spotlight. Wick is still the "one man army" force to be reckoned with, and Reeves again adds that trademark nuance to his performance to help things along nicely. However, the film also introduces Halle Berry's character Sofia as a helpful accomplice of Wick, showing that she too may also have potential for an action star comeback. It's a shame she does not feature in the story as much as she should but there is hope she will return in the near future. Like its predecessors, the fight scenes are beautifully shot, owing to director Chad Stahelski's creative use of lighting and cinematography, giving them a noir-like vibe. In addition to this, the film also has some surprisingly funny moments of dark comic relief, which certainly helps ease the tension after some graphic violence. Even though the film does take the predictable route of sequel-baiting, I am definitely on board for any future follow-ups we may having coming our way.
I rate it 8/10
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
A mostly successful western live action adaptation of the popular video game series
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a mystery film based on the Pokémon franchise directed by Rob Letterman (Goosebumps, Gulliver's Travels). Starring Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith, it is a mostly successful western live action adaptation of the popular video game series that is about on par with several online fan films.
After his detective father goes missing in a car accident, former Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) travels to Ryme City, a bustling metropolis where humans and Pokémon live alongside each other, to look for him. Upon arriving at his father's old apartment, Tim is surprised to find a Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) drinking coffee, rummaging through the desks, and most shocking of all, speaking to him in plain English! Tim later learns that this Pikachu once belonged to his father and the two decide to work together to solve the mystery of his whereabouts.
Even though film adaptations of video games are often of poor quality, Pokémon Detective Pikachu manages to transcend this by staying respectful to its source material and never once losing sight of what made the series a worldwide phenomenon in the first place. Perhaps best of all, unlike the anime films, this one actually gives an explanation as to what Pokémon actually are, which broadens the overall appeal to franchise newcomers. The film exudes charm and wonderment, thanks to the convincing CGI used to bring the Pokémon to life on the big screen, particularly that of the adorable fluffy Pikachu. Despite this, the film could have done a much better job with its world building. The audience is only offered but a glimpse of the unique technology and set design, which is not nearly enough to take in the atmosphere of these Pokémon inhabited environments. Hopefully we will see more of this if a sequel is ever greenlit. Justice Smith does a reasonable job as the film's protagonist, even if he feels like a bit of a blank slate at times, but of course it is Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu who shines the most, injecting much of his trademark wit and humour into his performance, almost like a kid-friendly version of Deadpool. While this may not be a must-see on the big screen for any Pokémon novices, this is certainly worth checking out at cinemas for any longtime fans.
I rate it 7/10
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
An interesting collection of stories with varying degrees of entertainment value
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a western musical anthology film written, produced, and directed by The Coen Brothers. Starring the likes of Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, and Tom Waits, it is an interesting collection of stories with varying degrees of entertainment value.
The film is told in six different unrelated stories or "vignettes" set in the Old West. "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is about an infamous singing cowboy (Tim Blake Nelson) who shoots his way through any opposition. "Near Algodones" is about a bank robber (James Franco) who attempts to rob a bank in the middle of nowhere. "Meal Ticket" is about a wandering showman (Liam Neeson) who exhibits a young man with no limbs (Harry Melling) to audiences for money. "All Gold Canyon" is about an elderly prospector (Tom Waits) searching for gold near a river. "The Gal Who Got Rattled" is about a young woman (Zoe Kazan) travelling with a wagon train to Oregon. "The Mortal Remains" is about a pair of bounty hunters (Jonjo O'Neill and Brendan Gleeson) riding in a stagecoach with three other concerned passengers.
Although this is not the first Western the Coen brothers have made (see True Grit and No Country For Old Men), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has so much of their hallmarks and personality that it can be easy to forget the others that preceded them. The first two stories stand out the most, as they brim with the brothers' trademark black humour and gritty stylised violence. In addition to being an anthology, the film is also a musical, and all of the songs help move things along nicely, in particular "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings". Unfortunately, the overall film fizzles out during the final two vignettes. Instead of being fun and quirky, the film departs from this to become unnecessarily bleak, which complicates the pacing and ends up dragging at times. While not everything may have worked out perfectly for this Coen brothers anthology, this is certainly a curious piece of filmmaking that is well worth a watch on Netflix.
My ratings for each story are as follows: "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" - 9/10 "Near Algodones" - 8/10 "Meal Ticket" - 7/10 "All Gold Canyon" - 8/10 "The Gal Who Got Rattled" - 6.5/10 "The Mortal Remains" - 6/10
I rate the film in its entirety 7.5/10
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
A near-perfect conclusion to the infinity saga and a brilliant culmination of 11 years worth of films
Avengers: Endgame is the fourth Avengers film, the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, and the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by the Russo brothers, it is a near-perfect conclusion to the infinity saga and a brilliant culmination of 11 years worth of films.
Following the events of Avengers: Infinity War, half of life in the universe has been wiped out after the intergalactic dictator Thanos (Josh Brolin) acquired all six infinity stones and snapped his fingers. In the aftermath of this horrific act, the last surviving Avengers bound together to come up with a plan to attempt to undo Thanos' actions whatever the cost may be.
As emotional as it is entertaining, Avengers: Endgame concludes just about everything on a high note while at the same time opening doors to new exciting possibilities. Despite the film's three hour runtime, every minute is used carefully and thanks to the solid direction of the Russo brothers, it is never boring. Each important hero is used to their full extent and the audience is constantly reminded why we have invested so much in their character development after all this time. For anyone who has been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the past 11 years, this will most certainly not disappoint. Unlike previous Marvel films, there are no post credits scene to stay back for.
I rate it a solid 9/10
Misses the mark in every way an action thriller should
Polar is an action thriller based on the webcomic "Polar: Came From the Cold" by Víctor Santos. Starring Mads Mikkelsen in the lead role, it is a poorly-edited, bone-squelching mess of a film that not even its reliable top billed actor can save.
Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen), once the world's most deadly hitman, is preparing for retirement as he approaches the age of 50. Upon finding out a new group of assassins are after him, Duncan postpones his retirement to ready himself for the impending onslaught.
As gratuitous as it is violent, Polar misses the mark in every way an action thriller should. In good films of this genre, like the John Wick series, the violence is stylised and doesn't feel glorified, but in this film it only feels like an edgy attempt at shock value. The film's choppy editing, wavering tone, and poor moments of comic relief make it difficult to take in the atmosphere of certain scenes. For example - in one scene a morbidly obese man is graphically shot dead and shortly afterwards his dead body makes the sound of farting and diarrhoea. Rather than elicit a laugh, it just makes the scene feel awkwardly juvenile. In addition to this, every supporting character, apart from Vanessa Hudgens, was woefully underdeveloped, likely so they could be used as bullet fodder for the film's protagonist. Mad Mikkelsen does his best as the deadly hitman Duncan Vizla but even he can't save the film from all of its obvious flaws. While there are some nice scenes between him and Vanessa Hudgens' character, these don't happen until near the very end and don't feel earned. Also, Little Britain's Matt Lucas is terribly miscast as the film's main antagonist, hamming it up in every scene and never once feeling like a serious threat. This is another Netflix original to avoid if one values their time.
I rate it 3/10
The Highwaymen (2019)
An intriguing film that is often brought down by its frustratingly slow pace
The Highwaymen is a crime film directed by John Lee Hancock (The Founder, Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side) based on the capture of criminals Bonnie and Clyde. Starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, it is an intriguing film that is often brought down by its frustratingly slow pace.
In 1934, the infamous criminal duo Bonnie and Clyde have successfully managed to elude the law throughout various American states for the past two years. After the duo assist in a prison breakout in Texas, Governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates) decides to call ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) out of retirement to capture the two outlaws dead or alive. With assistance from his former partner Benjamin Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson), Hamer is able to closely follow behind thanks to some insider information from the FBI as well as testimony from the pair's family and friends.
Even though the subject matter makes for great cinema, The Highwaymen unfortunately feels bogged down by its tedious pacing and mediocre screenplay. Mainly during the second act, the film drags on for what seems like forever, with an occasional interesting glimpse into the backstories of those involved in Bonnie and Clyde's capture. The audience is shown that despite the frequently glamorised reputation Bonnie and Clyde have achieved, they were still murderous criminals who killed and had others killed that attempted to stop them during their crime sprees. Both Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson have solid chemistry with one another but it's a shame the script does not give the two much memorable dialogue to work with. Thankfully, the very last scene almost makes up for several of the weak creative decisions made earlier in the film.
I rate it 6/10
Pet Sematary (2019)
An effective modern adaptation of Stephen King's famous novel that is mostly superior to the 1989 film
Pet Sematary is a horror film based on the Stephen King story of the same name. Starring Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, it is an effective modern adaptation of King's famous novel that is mostly superior to the 1989 film.
Doctor Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves from Boston to Ludlow, Maine with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and two children Ellie and Gage to a secluded wood side home. Upon settling in, the family discover a small Pet Cemetery (misspelled as "Sematary") on their property after noticing a parade of young children in animal masks travelling there. After the family cat Church is hit by a truck, Louis is told by his neighbour Jud (John Lithgow) to bury Church's body in the "Pet Sematary" and the following morning, turns up alive, albeit, angrier and more dirty.
Suspenseful and creepy, Pet Sematary is a worthy adaptation of Stephen King's novel and is considerably better made than the dated original, which is not saying too much. Despite some cheap jump scares, there are still some solid moments of fear and foreboding horror emanating through the story thanks in part to some of the liberties taken with the source material. The acting can also be considered an improvement, especially from Jason Clarke as Louis and Jeté Laurence as his daughter Ellie. Along with the 2017 remake of IT, this is one of the best Stephen King cinematic adaptations to date.
I rate it 7/10
One of the most ridiculously fun and entertaining superhero films that does not come from Marvel
Shazam! is a superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Starring Zachary Levi in the title role, it is one of the most ridiculously fun and entertaining superhero films in a long time that does not come from Marvel.
In Philadelphia, fourteen-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is taken in by a foster family after another run-in with police while searching for his lost mother. While there, Billy befriends his paraplegic roommate Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) who has affinity for superheroes. One day, Billy is whisked away from a subway by a mysterious wizard who bestows Billy with incredible super powers by yelling the name "Shazam" out loud.
With just the right amount of action and humour, Shazam! is proof that DC is indeed on the correct path and are now healthy competition with Marvel. The film flawlessly weaves its comic relief and heart into every scene with its own distinct flavour, never once feeling as though it is stealing from those before it. This is equalled by the solid action scenes, which thanks to the creative direction of David F. Sandberg, are pure joy to watch. Zachary Levi truly owns the role as Shazam! and his constant switching between him and his younger self played by Asher Angel was brilliantly handled, with clear influence taken from the 1988 Tom Hanks movie "Big". Be sure to stay back after the credits for two bonus scenes.
I rate it a solid 9/10
An entertaining live action update of the 1941 animated classic, despite some missteps
Dumbo is a Disney fantasy film directed by Tim Burton based on the animated feature of the same name. Starring Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, and Eva Green, it is an entertaining live action update of the 1941 animated classic, despite some missteps.
In 1919, Max Medici (Danny DeVito) runs the Medici Bros. Circus, a travelling circus act that is struggling to keep an audience. In an effort to attract more people, Max decides to bring in a newborn elephant with large ears as an act for his show, with Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) acting as his carer. Much to the astonishment of everyone, the young elephant is able to use his large ears to fly around the circus tent right before their eyes. Eventually, the young elephant, now named Dumbo, attracts the attention of greedy entrepreneur V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who decides to buy out the circus act from Max and exploit Dumbo's talents for his own financial gain.
Featuring solid CGI effects and some rather touching moments, Dumbo is a nice reimagining of the original film and thanks in part to Tim Burton's unique vision, it's better in some ways. Just about all of Burton's trademarks are present; the creative set pieces, the quirky characters, and a whimsical Danny Elfman score to top it off. Unfortunately, the film does noticeably drag during the second act, with many supporting characters being shoved aside and forgotten until the climax of the story. The main cast was mostly good, with Colin Farrell (likely here because Johnny Depp wasn't available) being a likeable everyman protagonist and Danny DeVito getting some good laughs in most of his scenes. However, Michael Keaton's talents feel wasted in the villainous role, playing such a typical one-dimensional cartoonish bad guy. Despite all of these shortcomings, Dumbo is still fun show for just about all ages.
I rate it 7/10
Proves that Peele is one of modern cinema's most unique, interesting filmmakers and that Get Out was certainly no fluke
Us is a horror film written, produced, and directed by Jordan Peele (Get Out). Starring Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke, it proves that Peele is one of modern cinema's most unique, interesting filmmakers and that Get Out was certainly no fluke.
33 years after a traumatic childhood incident, Adelaide Thomas (Lupita Nyong'o) travels with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and two children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) to their family holiday house in Santa Cruz, California. Late one night, the family are visited by a group of four people who stand menacingly out front of the driveway. After Gabe fails to make them leave, the four people break into the house and reveal to the family that they are their exact doppelgängers, albeit, wearing red clothes and brandishing large pairs of scissors.
Much like Get Out, Us is a slowburner horror film, relying on building a tense and foreboding atmosphere during the first and second acts, resulting in an explosive conclusion. Similar to how Get Out had flashes of David Lynch influences, Peele's clever use of cinematography and symbolism in Us has strong allusions to the work of Stanley Kubrick, in particular his 1980 film "The Shining". Each of the main cast were terrific playing both their regular characters and their frightening doppelgängers, in particular Lupita Nyong'o. What one can expect next from the brilliant and unique mindset of Jordan Peele is anyone's guess, though I am already on board at this point.
I rate it 8.5/10
Triple Frontier (2019)
A suspenseful story about five friends wanting to pull off one last mission together
Triple Frontier is an action thriller film directed by J. C. Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost, A Most Violent Year). Starring Oscar Isaac and Ben Affleck, it is a suspenseful story about five friends wanting to pull off one last mission together.
In the jungles of Colombia, military adviser Santiago "Pope" Garcia (Oscar Isaac) works hard to extract information about an infamous drug lord named Lorea, who has eluded him for several years. Upon finally discovering Lorea's whereabouts, Pope decides to round up his former army friends Redfly (Ben Affleck), Ironhead (Charlie Hunham), Ben (Garrett Hedlund), and Catfish (Pedro Pascal) to assist him in storming the compound, taking Lorea out, and stealing all of the cash for themselves.
Despite initially setting up as a heist film, Triple Frontier quickly changes into an escape film not long after the first act. However, considering how straight forward the actual heist is, this is perfectly fine as most of the film's drama comes from the group attempting to flee the scene. Both Oscar Isaac and Ben Affleck do a great job in their roles, even though they're unfortunately the only members of the main cast with proper development and arcs. The rest of the group just feel like they're there for the sake of moving the plot along and it never feels like they grow as characters by the end of the film. In spite of its shortcomings, this film is still an enjoyable watch for fans of either heists or your run-of-the-mill action thriller.
I rate it 7/10
Hotel Mumbai (2018)
An intense, unrelenting look at this cowardly act of pure evil and the selfless heroism of those who tried to help
Hotel Mumbai is a crime thriller film based on the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. Starring Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, and Jason Isaacs, it is an intense, unrelenting look at this cowardly act of pure evil and the selfless heroism of those who tried to help.
In late November 2008, a group of ten terrorists arrive in Mumbai, India by a small boat. Upon splitting up, the terrorists travel to various locations around the populated city to massacre as many innocent people as they can. After taking out several civilians in smaller locations, the surviving members of the group meet up at the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel to finish their act of terror. While they shoot their way through the hallways, the hotel's staff put their lives in the line of fire in an attempt to save as many guests as possible.
As unflinching as it is jarring, Hotel Mumbai is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that successfully showcases the heroism of the titular hotel's brave staff members in an earnest, collected manner. Despite the film's two hour runtime, not once is it ever boring thanks to the creative direction of Anthony Maras, who puts his audience right at the forefront of the conflict. The film's violence, while not too graphic, is extremely intense as no one is spared from the terrorist's gunfire, not even small children or the elderly. If one can stomach enough of the bloodshed to appreciate this otherwise well-made movie, then it is certainly worth at least one viewing. However, being that this is not for the faint of heart, viewer discretion is strongly advised
I rate it 8.5/10
Captain Marvel (2019)
An enjoyable origin story and a well-suited lead in to Avengers: Endgame
Captain Marvel is the twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the ninth film in Phase 3. Starring Brie Larson in the title role, it is an enjoyable origin story and a well-suited lead in to Avengers: Endgame.
In 1995, Vers (Brie Larson), a powerful warrior for the Kree Empire, is suffering from nightmarish visions while training to take down the shapeshifting alien species known as the Skrulls, for which the Kree are at war with. During a later conflict, Vers is taken prisoner by the Skrulls but manages to escape to Earth with them in hot pursuit. Upon crashing into a Blockbuster Video, Vers attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who question her about the reason why she has come to Earth in the first place.
With solid action and special effects, Captain Marvel is up to the usual standard of Marvel origin stories and once again continues to run with this winning formula. The fun 90s aesthetic is often played for laughs, such as the fashion, music, and technology of the time, and depending on the generation watching this film, it will either make you laugh or cringe. What stood out the most to me though was the impressive de-ageing of Samuel L. Jackson as the younger Nick Fury. One would swear that the filmmakers used a time machine to bring the young Jackson back with them just for this movie alone. In addition to this, Jackson has great on-screen chemistry with Brie Larson, who does a fine job playing the titular new addition to the MCU cast, even if her character's traits feel somewhat like a retread of the previous cocky-turned-humble heroes (e.g. Tony Stark, Thor). Thankfully, the film does show her in moments of weakness to prove she is not too overpowered and has noticeable flaws like the rest. In spite of all this, I am still not entirely sold on her being the new face of the MCU, as I feel that she still needs time to properly prove herself alongside the other Avengers. As is always the case, be sure to stay after the credits for two bonus scenes, one of which is heavily related to Avengers: Endgame.
I rate it 7.5/10