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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The Imitation Game (2014) Review

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The Imitation Game (2014)

Directed by Morten Tyldum

Starring:
Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Knightley
Matthew Goode
Rory Kinnear
Charles Dance
Mark Strong

Running time: 114 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Imitation Game is based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who helped solve the Enigma code during the Second World War and was later prosecuted for his homosexuality.

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My Opinion:

Okay, then – I’ve watched another Oscar nominee for Best Picture. I’ll say right away that these “historical drama” types of films aren’t really my thing. But, unlike American Sniper or The Grand Budapest Hotel (screw those!), I still had an interest in watching this one. I knew next to nothing about Alan Turing or his code-breaking or WWII (seriously – I hate history) before watching this film. Actually, I still don’t know much about WWII… Vietnam movies are usually better. Better soundtracks, too.

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Anyway! I had no idea that Alan Turing really received no recognition for his accomplishments in helping to win WWII & that everything had been kept a secret for so many years afterwards. I knew about his homosexuality & horrible punishment but didn’t realize JUST how appallingly he was treated. So that’s the thanks he got after all he did?! Seriously – he should have told everyone to go f*#k themselves! Well, I guess it’s good he didn’t.

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This movie is good but I don’t think it’s great. I can’t see it winning Best Picture. I’d heard that they really glossed over the homosexuality & chemical castration thing but that’s not true at all – they did touch on it plenty. In a way, though, I find that the more interesting story so would have liked even more exploration of that. However, I understand why the main focus was more on the breaking of the Enigma code and I suppose that IS really interesting but I can barely even do a simple crossword puzzle or add two numbers together without a calculator so a lot of that was lost on me. I found the story of Alan Turing himself more fascinating than the machine he created and I don’t think the movie quite did enough to show us his life outside of the time he spent trying to break the Enigma code, other than showing us a little bit of one important relationship early in his life. I don’t know – maybe not a lot is known? Like I said, I don’t really know anything about him beyond what I just saw in this film.

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As for the performances, Benedict Cumberbatch is very good. I think he does a good job making a very awkward and almost unlikable character sympathetic, especially in the later parts of the film. I think there’s too much competition in the Best Actor category this year so it’s unlikely he’ll win but it’s a well deserved nomination. Keira Knightley is good, I guess, at once again being Keira Knightley. Yeah, I don’t like her or her style of acting so I’m probably being unfair. She’s just always “Keira Knightley” to me in every role she’s in. She won’t win an Oscar for this but she’s fine playing the “pretty smart girl”. Oh! Tywin Lannister is in this! And the creepy uncle from Stoker. And the guy who was quite good in Kingsman: The Secret Service & reminds me of Stanley Tucci. Oh yeah – and a guy from the first episode of Black Mirror that has scarred me for life to the point that I’d really rather never see the guy in anything ever again! They’re all decent enough but Cumberbatch is by far the best thing about the movie.

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Summary:

The Imitation Game tells two fascinating stories: the solving of the Enigma code during WWII as well as the persecution of homosexuals in England’s history. It doesn’t really get as in-depth with either of these stories as it could, though, so it’s probably worth reading about Alan Turing if you want to know more than what you’ll find out from this movie. I don’t feel like I know that much more than I did before watching this but it’s a great story that needed to be told many years ago and, from a film fan’s perspective, it’s worth watching for Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance.

My Rating: 7/10

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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Review

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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn

Based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons

Starring:
Colin Firth
Samuel L Jackson
Mark Strong
Taron Egerton
Michael Caine
Sofia Boutella
Sophie Cookson
Mark Hamill

Running time: 129 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

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My Opinion:

I’ve gone to a bunch of Oscar nominated movies so far this year (Birdman, Foxcatcher, Whiplash…). I could have gone to The Theory Of Everything yesterday but decided I needed a break from all that worthiness and went to Kingsman: The Secret Service instead. It certainly doesn’t take itself seriously and was a lot more fun than all those Oscar nominated ones. I’d rank Whiplash above Kingsman but I certainly enjoyed it more than than Foxcatcher or Birdman. Yes! I rank everything I watch HERE. Doesn’t everyone do that?! šŸ˜‰

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Kingsman is from director/writer team Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman. They also gave us the delightful Stardust (did I just use the word “delightful”?), Layer Cake & X-Men: First Class. Oh yeah, and Kick-Ass. I freaking hate Kick-Ass! So they’ve once again adapted a comic book by Mark Millar. I won’t even begin to pretend I know anything about The Secret Service comic book so this review is based only on the movie. Anyway – Vaughn & Goldman’s movies are quite varied. Which one is Kingsman the most similar to? You all probably know by now that it’s Kick-Ass crossed with James Bond (I also hate James Bond!). Yet… It works. I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the excessive violence. And, yes, this thing is violent! Wow. I’m a wuss but the gore was more “comedic” than gross and some of the deaths were fantastic (especially a finale toward the end – brilliant). Oh, Vaughn is also married to Claudia Schiffer. Schwing! She’s a babe. How did he manage that??

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They’ve done a fantastic job casting this movie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Colin Firth but he’s PERFECT in this – I loved him. Michael Caine is a pretty obvious choice for his role but it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing his character. Samuel L Jackson is his usual over-the-top self but, hey, that’s what we all love about him! I also really liked newcomer Taron Egerton as the young council estate troublemaker Colin Firth takes under his wing – I can see him being in many more films after this one. It’s also good having two decent female characters – Sophie Cookson as one of the “kingsman” recruits and Sofia Boutella as the kick ass super villain sidekick with deadly blades for lower legs. Oh! And a great cameo from Mark Hamill, who was apparently named in the comic book so I’m sure fans of the comic book liked seeing him in this.

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This movie is obviously a spoof on the James Bond/spy thriller movie but it’s a great, violently action-packed spy thriller itself with a wonderful sense of humor that doesn’t stoop to an Austin Powers level of stupid comedy (hmm – that’s the second Mike Myers reference in this review). The main villain and evil plot are ridiculously fun and I loved the training of the young new recruits in order to hire the next “kingsman”. They even almost managed to make this movie non-sexist, unlike the Bond films. That is, until the “end”. Literally. (You’ll get what I mean, Mike). šŸ˜‰

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Summary:

I thought Kingsman: The Secret Service was bloody good fun. Fans of Kick-Ass and/or James Bond will love it as will, apparently, people like me who hate both of those! Just be warned that it may be more violent than you’re expecting so maybe don’t take your grandparents to it. It’s a good “buddy” flick or date movie with a girl who’s happy to watch a fun & violent action movie (I think there are more of us girls like this than you realize). Seriously – give me THIS Colin Firth over the one in those obnoxious Bridget Jones movies any day. And, yes – a guy in a tailored suit is sexy.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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**Scene After Credits?: Why do people rush out the SECOND the credits roll?? Anyway, if you do that you’ll miss the extra scene that’s only about ten seconds or so into the credits so it’s worth staying for that. You don’t have to stay until the very end, though, if you really have to pee. šŸ™‚

Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013) Review

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Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013)

Directed by Manuel Sicilia

Starring Voice Actors:
Freddie Highmore
Antonio Banderas
James Cosmo
Charles Dance
Tamsin Egerton
Rupert Everett
Barry Humphries
Alfred Molina
Mark Strong
David Walliams
Julie Walters
Olivia Williams
Saoirse Ronan

Running time: 96 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

Justin (Freddie Highmore) lives in a kingdom where bureaucrats rule and knights have been ousted. His dream is to be become one of the Knights of Valour, like his grandfather was, but his father Reginald (Alfred Molina), the chief counsel to the Queen (Olivia Williams), wants his son to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer.

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My Opinion:

I’ll make this quick & simple: This isn’t exactly a great film but, hey, it’s for kids. It’s not actually THAT bad, though, considering it wasn’t made by Pixar or Disney or even the inferior (well, what I see as inferior) Dreamworks.

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I think kids will enjoy this one. I myself actually enjoyed it a bit more than this year’s Epic, which looked prettier but had a story that was somewhat too complex for the younger kids and had forgettable characters. Justin of course has lessons to teach the audience, just like most kids’ films: Work hard, stand up for what you believe in, and bitchy self-absorbed girls never get the knight in shining armor (well, it would be nice if that last bit were true in real life as well).

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Oh! And you must have a knight who looks like Sean Connery if you’re going to make a movie about knights.

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Boys will probably like this one more than girls (especially if they liked How To Train Your Dragon) because of all the knights and a little bit of fighting with some baddies and Justin going through training to become a knight (the training with the elder knights was by far the best bit of the film). But there’s also a good, feisty female character that girls (and their mothers) will approve of. (You don’t think she’ll actually hook up with Justin by any chance, do you?!) šŸ˜‰

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So, anyway – Justin And The Knights Of Valour isn’t going to change the world but it’s not the worst movie you’ll ever have to sit through with your kid. It has a solid enough story and few strong characters and the usual “teaching of values” with a bit of silly comic relief. Whatever. It’s better than I was expecting, at least.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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I just wanted to get this quickie review out of the way so that I can focus on finishing my review for Rush in the next couple days. Because that film was fantastic!!! šŸ™‚