Shazam! (2019) Review

Shazam! (2019)

Directed by David F. Sandberg

Based on Characters from DC Comics

Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM. – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the grown-up superhero Shazam.

My Opinion:

I’ll keep this short since I’m scared to review this after seeing death threats on Twitter when people have given this a negative review. Yikes. But I have to keep my promise to myself to at least review the films that I see in the cinema. My anal retentiveness wins out over potential harassment from trolls!

I enjoyed Shazam. Shazam!, I mean. I’m not using that exclamation mark every time – it’s annoying. This film was an odd one, though, and the tone was all over the place. I’m not saying that the whole “lighthearted combined with dark & evil” thing doesn’t work sometimes (it works in Deadpool) but it was a bit too jarring in Shazam. This is partly due to it being promoted as a somewhat family-friendly superhero movie whereas Deadpool, with its higher rating, made it very obvious that kids shouldn’t watch it.

I wanted to like this film more as there were parts that I thought were really funny and the characters (well, the good guys) were so damn likable and very well-developed as far as superhero movies go. I loved them. A special shout-out especially to the adorable Faithe Herman as Darla & a strong performance from Jack Dylan Grazer, who was also great in the fantastic It. Kids are so good in films nowadays. Remember the 70’s & 80’s when child acting usually sucked? Why was that?! I’ll be honest – I think the above characters as well as the other foster kids & their foster parents are what really made this film as they gave the movie some heart. Without them, the movie would feel too cruel and dark. Zachary Levi & Asher Angel were also very good (and very funny) as our main hero but they needed these other characters to round-out the main character and to make us care about him. How much does Asher look like Arya Stark, though?! It was very distracting once I realized.


Now for the bad… Mark Strong gives the villain his all but the character feels like every other baddie we’ve seen in these superhero films. To be fair, a lot of this is due to my own personal superhero movie fatigue. I enjoy them when they’re good but this isn’t my favorite genre and I want to see more than just superheroes and sequels in the cinema. And, as I said, the movie goes a little too dark with his character. I’m not saying dark is bad. I love dark when done right. Hell, if I had to pick a favorite “comic book” movie, I’d choose The Crow. I freaking love that film. But The Crow sure as shit isn’t a family film. There’s no lightness and certainly no adorable little girl named Darla.

Okay – I was going to keep this short! Well, I did enjoy Shazam. It has some very strong good-guy characters and I loved how well they worked together in this film. You care about them. That’s not something that all superhero movies are able to achieve with their characters. The “light” bits also felt a little like something we don’t see in EVERY SINGLE SUPERHERO MOVIE. So I did very much appreciate that and I had some good laughs during the movie. However, that positive is undone slightly by the too-generic and too-dark baddie. Which is a shame. Just be aware of the warnings before you take kids who are a little too young to this one. As always, it depends on each individual kid and if you think they can handle the violence. I tend to read the parent’s guide before films such as these (which does suck when trying to avoid spoilers!).

My Rating: 7/10

Are there scenes after the credits? Yes. One scene during the credits and a more lighthearted one at the very end. Worth staying for if you’re a DC fan but the first one had no meaning to me…

Oh fuck it. I’ll just say it. Honesty is my best (& worst) quality. I preferred Wonder Woman and possibly even Aquaman. I’m in trouble now! I also preferred Captain Marvel. Oh man – I’m in so much trouble now!!!

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Captain Marvel (2019) Review

Captain Marvel (2019)

Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Based on Captain Marvel by Stan Lee & Gene Colan & Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas & Gene Colan

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in 1995, the story follows Danvers as she becomes Captain Marvel after Earth is caught in the center of a galactic conflict between two alien worlds.

My Opinion:

I’m short on time & haven’t even done my February Roundup post of movies I’ve watched but figured I better say a little something about Captain Marvel. After all the weird controversy and all the whining and all the sad losers down-voting it online before even seeing it, I didn’t know what the hell to expect. I’ve really enjoyed all the Marvel films although I’d never call them personal favorites and I feel that they’re all the same story and follow the same formula. I’d happily live without more superhero movies for a while. However, the Marvel ones are thoroughly entertaining and have a fun sense of humor that I appreciate (they’re popcorn movies – superhero films should be fun!).

Anyway, I thought I’d do a quick review of Captain Marvel since it’s had such unfair treatment and I wanted another positive review out there in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and, dare I say, I liked it even more than several other MCU films. I thought it was actually stronger as far as story & character development than some of the other standalone origin films (it’s way more fun than Thor, for example, as much as I lust over Hemsworth). I’ve added Captain Marvel to My Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranking (HERE). I’m still on a high after seeing it so, yes, I may have it a little too far up the list but it’ll be obvious that my favorite movies are the “funny” ones and I’m happy to say that Captain Marvel has way more humor than I was expecting. Pretty ironic after all the “why can’t she smile on the poster?” idiocy, huh? Samuel L. Jackson was especially hilarious (I adore that badass motherfucker) and it was a delight seeing him with Larson: Their real-life friendship gives them a great on-screen chemistry.

Wait. No. Goose was the most humorous character! Who the hell doesn’t love Goose after seeing this movie?

Is Captain Marvel a perfect film? No. Does it break Marvel’s formulaic superhero mold? No, other than its superhero lead being female. The movie does drag at the start but I feel the same about most other origin films. I thought they could’ve done much more with the characters played by Bening, Law & even Lashana Lynch as they were very underdeveloped. The young girl was sweet – I’d like to see more of her if they were to ever do another film (Oops – I just Googled her character! We’re likely to see her…).


Larson was really good in this role so I’m happy she’s proven everyone wrong (not that haters would ever admit it). I’ll be honest & say that I wasn’t sure of the casting choice either as she’s so good in serious dramas such as Room & Short Term 12 and I couldn’t picture her as a superhero. And as I said earlier, the Larson/Jackson duo was great. Seeing SO much of Nick Fury was fantastic. It’s about time! I loved him and the de-aging thing was scary good.

Will this movie be speaking to me more, though, since I’m female and was a similar age in 1995 so of course loved the references and the music? Probably. (No Doubt! Garbage! Hole! Blockbuster!!). So what? We all like different things and this movie won’t speak to everyone in the same way. I get that. But to trash it (without even seeing it) makes no sense to me. There’s a bit of “girl power” stuff but it’s not over-the-top or annoying (there’s actually a good message about never giving up, which is a message for everyone). In fact, this film is far less “political” than a lot of other superhero films. It’s a typical MCU film but actually more fun than a lot of them. And as for DC, I actually sort of enjoyed Captain Marvel as an overall film a little more than Wonder Woman. Sorry! I do think Wonder Woman is a stronger character. I’m a total sucker for the Eighties more than the Nineties, though, so I’ll probably prefer the next Wonder Woman. Give me 80’s music over 90’s! It feels a little sexist to compare the two but it’s hard to not make a comparison. Both these female-led films are really good examples of the superhero genre and are undeserving of backlash. But I honestly don’t give a shit when it comes to the genders of a film’s stars: I just want a good, entertaining movie. That’s what I got.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Stan Lee Cameo: First of all, there’s a lovely Stan Lee tribute at the start of the film which I’m sure has left everyone very teary-eyed. Then his cameo, fairly early in the film, was easily one of my favorites (and so adorably 90’s!). They even made a very small change to this cameo after his death, which made it even more meaningful (you can read about it HERE but it’s obviously a spoiler).

End Credits Scenes: There are two end credits scenes. The mid-credits scene has me very excited for Endgame (and got a very big reaction from an equally excited audience in my cinema). Don’t miss this scene. There’s also a funny post credits scene that got a lot of laughs from the clued-up people who stuck around (seriously, people – how do you not know by now that there are scenes after the Marvel end credits start rolling?!). Oh – and not only did the mid-credits scene get a huge reaction, all the funny bits in the film got lots of big laughs from my packed audience. So much for the “predictions” that this film would be a flop & that no one wanted to see it…

Number of people using their phones during this movie: Three. STOP LOOKING AT YOUR FUCKING PHONES IN CINEMAS, PEOPLE! It’s a bright fucking screen in a dark fucking room! Do you really think that the eyes of everyone sitting behind you don’t immediately go to your goddamn bright screen when you look at your phone?! SO FUCKING DISTRACTING. So fuck you very much to the woman who ruined the Stan Lee tribute as well as a very important moment of backstory explanation during this film by flashing her stupid phone. *Rant over*

Here’s No Doubt’s Just A Girl. I’ve always loved this song.

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) Review

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Directed by James Gunn


Starring:
Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Dave Bautista
Vin Diesel
Bradley Cooper
Lee Pace
Michael Rooker
Karen Gillan
Djimon Hounsou
John C Reilly
Glenn Close
Benicio del Toro

Running time: 122 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill forms an uneasy alliance with a group of extraterrestrial misfits who are on the run after stealing a coveted orb. (Thank you, Wikipedia – that was very brief!)

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My Opinion:

If I don’t keep this short like I did with Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, I’ll never get around to writing it. I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians Of The Galaxy. A lot. Like with all comic book movies, I have zero knowledge of any of these characters beyond what I’ve seen of them in all these films. As far as “superhero” characters go, I totally bought into these – raccoon & walking tree & all. That’s always what’s most important to me in any film. If I don’t buy into at least one character, it feels like a complete waste of my time. I loved these misfits. Who DOESN’T like a group of loveable misfits? That’s why this movie is such a huge success already.

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Hmm. What else? Groot. I loved Groot! I want my own Groot!!! Chris Pratt & Zoe Saldana were both great. Chris Pratt means nothing to me – No, I’ve not seen this Parks And Recreation thingamabob and I prefer it that way as Peter Quill is all he’ll be to me. Even Bradley Cooper was perfect & he gets on my nerves sometimes. I loved the relationship that formed between these characters.

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Summary:

Guardians Of The Galaxy is just a really really “fun” movie. Yes, I love all the Marvel movies but I really appreciated this slight departure from the seriousness of recent Marvel films. These are comic books! Have some fun! I loved the humor in Guardians Of The Galaxy and think it all worked perfectly. The story was still good, too, and I cared about what would happen to everyone. Maybe it was all a little predictable overall but what movie like this isn’t? This movie made me happy and kept me entertained but also managed to have fantastic characters and genuinely funny moments. Oh – and an awesome soundtrack! This old lady was loving THAT. Bowie! Moonage Daydream, baby! Oh, and of course the scene after the credits… Lol. Stay for that if you want but only those of a certain age will truly appreciate it. I’m of a certain age. πŸ˜‰

So, basically, I pretty much loved this movie. Yep.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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** There are some fantastic alternate posters out there for this movie! The one I used above is by Matt Ferguson. Also love the two below by Matt Needle & Doaly. See links to these posters & more here: io9.

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How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) Review

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How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

Directed by Dean DeBlois

Starring Voice Actors:
Jay Baruchel
Cate Blanchett
Gerard Butler
Craig Ferguson
America Ferrera
Jonah Hill
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
T.J. Miller
Kristen Wiig
Djimon Hounsou
Kit Harington

Production company: DreamWorks Animation

Running time: 102 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film takes place five years after the first film, featuring Hiccup and his friends as young adults. Hiccup discovers a larger conflict brewing between humans and dragons and he finds himself at the center of it.

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My Opinion:

Yesterday, Cara from Silver Screen Serenade reviewed the first How To Train Your Dragon HERE for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge. Thanks again, Cara! (You can also read her review of the sequel HERE. She’s a big fan of these films). πŸ™‚

I enjoyed the first How To Train Your Dragon. I say it way too often and everyone is probably sick of hearing it but I’m a huge Disney and especially Pixar fan and feel that kids films from other studios (such as DreamWorks) never come close to how amazing most of those are for kids as well as for adults. It’s kind of the same with HTTYD 1 & 2 although I do think they’re certainly two of the strongest movies from DreamWorks.

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I won’t get too wordy as I think Cara has done better reviews but I’ll kind of try to review it for those with kids as well as give my own personal opinion. The sequel is pretty dark – both movies are aimed at a higher age than most of the Disney/Pixar stuff anyway but there are a couple things in the sequel that may be upsetting to younger kids. There’s a sad thing that may be very confusing to them & need explaining and there’s one very big, mean dragon that will probably frighten some. As always, it depends on each individual kid (I saw this with a five-year-old who rarely gets scared by a movie and even this one didn’t seem to bother this kid in the slightest). If your kid is very young and easily upset by movies, it’s probably best to wait a couple years on this one.

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One thing I really liked about the sequel was that there are LOADS of dragons compared to the first one. They’re colorful and it was really quite lovely seeing them all flying around. I also really liked there being much more development of the relationship between Hiccup & his father – this was probably the best thing about the movie. There’s also just as much going on in this one between Hiccup and Toothless, who is possibly even more adorable at first in the sequel and has a lot to do later in the film. The addition of a new character worked really well too, I thought. It’s a shame that Astrid and the other kids (well, they’re 20 now) didn’t have as much screen time as I’d have liked (especially Astrid as I think she’s a great female character in a movie aimed more at boys) but they are still in it plenty so I’m not really complaining.

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I think I must not have paid close attention to the first movie as, for half of this one, I thought the twins that look like Nelson (showing my age!) were both boys. The girl twin lusts after strong, manly men in this one and I honestly thought “Wow, that’s pretty cool that a kids film is brave enough to have an openly gay character. Bravo!”. With the Hiccup leg thing as well, I was thinking that DreamWorks are really doing a good job showing kids that there are lots of different types of people and that we’re all equal and all that. Lol! I’m an idiot. Well, maybe it’ll happen someday. And, hey – Kristen Wiig sounds like a boy. Here’s Nelson for you kids under 35:

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See??

Hopefully they get along better than these two:

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I’ll wrap this up now that I’ve admitted to being an idiot.

Summary:

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a very strong sequel and they’re both two of the better (and possibly the best) DreamWorks movies. It’s much darker than the first, however, and younger kids may find a few things confusing and scary. For a kids film, the story gets a little complicated toward the end and I think the simpler story in the first one worked better, especially how it came full circle with what happens to both Toothless & Hiccup. It’s still a good sequel, however, and I liked seeing much more character development for the main characters as well as loads more dragons. Definitely recommended if you’re a fan of the first film but be cautious with younger kids as I think one upsetting scene will be quite difficult to explain to them.

My Rating: 7/10

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Gladiator (2000) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of Raging Fluff. He also reviewed North By Northwest HERE. Thanks so much for the reviews, Niall! πŸ™‚ Now let’s see what he has to say about Gladiator, IMDB rank 63 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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Gladiator (2000)

*Spoilers That Echo In Eternity

What’s it about? Maximus is a Roman general who’s rather good at decimating bands of Goths (the tribe, not the pale waifs who listen to depressing music). Frail old Emperor Marcus Aurelius loves him like a son, which pisses off his actual son, evil Commodus (inventor of the toilet?). Commodus kills Marcus, betrays Maximus, and for good measure kills his wife and child. Maximus escapes, wanders the earth for a bit (you know, like Kane in Kung Fu), then becomes a gladiator – a gladiator who’s very popular with the mob; his fans are Maximaniacs. He makes his way to Rome for the Superbowl World Series Cup Final Bloody Slaughter Championship and plots his revenge.

In a Tagline? It’s Spartacus meets Wrestlemania.

Number of Times Watched? IV or V (see what I did there?)

Verdict? Duos Pollices (Two Thumbs Up)

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, David Hemmings.

For a film generally remembered as a rather shouty, violent, and gory sword and sandals revenge tale, it is worth noting that Ridley Scott’s Gladiator begins with a shot that wouldn’t be out of place in Little House on the Prairie: a hand moving across a field of wheat. The pastoral image – bathed in gold – will return at the film’s end when the hero is killed. Is it a memory of his beloved farm that he has not seen for many years or a premonition of his death? Is it, in fact, a vision of the Elysian Fields?

Gladiator was bestowed with all sorts of critical and commercial praise when it was released in 2000, and the film was a high watermark for most of those involved. It remains the biggest box-office success of Scott`s career; it marked the beginning of a working relationship between director Scott and actor Russell Crowe; it made Crowe a star and earned him an Oscar; it confirmed Joaquin Phoenix as a fierce talent; it introduced audiences to Djimon Hounsou; and it provided Oliver Reed with one of the best roles he ever had, and was his swansong.

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I have no idea how accurate Gladiator is as history, but I`m not sure I care. I`ve watched it several times and let myself be caught up in its sweep and enjoyed it for what it is. It`s no Spartacus, but it`s a whole lot better than most films of this type, mainly due to the performances and the craft with which it`s put together. Scriptwise, it`s a bit daft: it`s a rather simple tale that perhaps takes itself a little too seriously, and has a protagonist seemingly incapable of smiling (usually a bad thing). In fact, the film really only has one good joke, and it`s a film-trivia inside one: Maximus has the figures of two horses on his breastplate, and he tells young Lucius they are called Scarto and Argentio: that`s Trigger and Silver.

The film chiefly concerns fathers and sons, and much of the dialogue is rather ripe but would earn an A+ at the Hollywood School of Greco-Roman Studies. Luckily, it has actors who know how to nibble at the scenery rather than devour it: take note, Gerard Butler.

As Maximus, the betrayed general turned gladiator, Crowe had to carry most of the film and got most of the attention. I found him less interesting here than in his previous films – watch Romper Stomper and ProofΒ  if you want to see him young and bursting with talent – in spite of the whole “Are you not entertained?” bit. He adopts the plummy voice he would use in other roles when he wishes to sound dignifed, and he falls back on his acting trick of staring into middle distance and frowning (it’s his go-to expression for sorrow, confusion, grief, and despair). Mind you, when he’s hacking off limbs and heads, he has a grand old time of it. He has become such a stodgy old fart these days, it’s worth seeing him here when he was young and in good shape and hungry.

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Phoenix gives the standout performance of the film for me. His Commodus is psychotic, vain, petty, childish, and cruel. Another actor might have played it over the top, but he manages the difficult trick of being a soft-spoken, sexually confused tyrant, and finds the tragedy in the character. Watch how he plays the scene where he kills his father, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), and you can see the self-loathing in his face (the scene is very reminiscent of Roy Batty killing Tyrell in Blade Runner).

And then there is Oliver Reed as Proximo, the former gladiator who buys and then mentors Maximus. Reed was twice -blessed as a young actor in the 1960s; he had a foot in the door by virtue of being the nephew of Carol Reed, and he had an earthy, brutal sexiness at a time when many of his peers were fey. He squandered his talent in booze and many shitty films, but he is magnificent here: he plays the part as an old athlete on the sidelines – a coach who still yearns for the thrill of going on to the pitch (β€œwin the crowd, and you’ll win your freedom”) – and when Reed drops his voice to a whisper, it’s haunting.

The action scenes are very well done, even if the tiger special effects look a bit naff at this point. Hans Zimmer’s score owes a bit of a debt to Gustav Holst, but it’s still one of his best, helped largely by his choice of instruments and by the ethereal voice of Lisa Gerrard.

As with anything by Scott, the film looks incredible, with detail and lighting that other directors seem incapable of. Scott has been criticised often for his poor storytelling, and of being more interested in the surface aesthetics than in any depth of character, but here I think he did a great job of delivering a grand old-style sword and sandals epic.

Niall McArdle

http://www.ragingfluff.wordpress.com

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