Connect with us

Film Reviews

Captain Marvel review : Female empowerment as Brie Larson shines

A cheerier pause from the usual more-serious superhero fare

K.T Simpson

Published

on

Director:

Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Cast:

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

Run time:

124 mins

Rating:

The first Marvel movie to star and be co-directed by a woman, “Captain Marvel” effectively and understandably makes sure to tick all the boxes when it comes to trumpeting female empowerment and equality but at its core is a feverishly fun ticket to a circus that spurs nothing smiles under its big top.

A prequel to all of the Marvel movies from the past decade, “Captain Marvel” has a plot that seemingly has two purposes : to tell the origin yarn of Carol Danvers, a pilot who ended up with powers, which she later brings to Earth to help save humanity, and also to connect some of the dots and answer some of the lingering questions over from the earlier Marvel films.

We meet Starforce member Vers (as she knows herself to be) in the 90s, backed by an appropriate soundtrack, and a mentor in Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) who trains her to control her abilities. During an mission in which the Skrulls are attacking Kree, Vers is kidnapped and probed for her memory. She escapes, lands on Earth through a Blockbuster Video (a familiar sight back in the ’90s… maybe not so much now), and meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury and Phil Coulson.

To be my completely honest self here, it is here that I resembled Confused Nick:

My ability to follow the menagerie of storylines probably has got to do with my lack of thorough knowledge into the Marvel universe and comic books, so if you come in with a base understanding of these things then you’ll be ahead of the pack straight up.

Where I do suddenly become fixed on the screen is when the kitty cat Goose comes in, but moreso Jackson’s interaction with said kitty was just too cute for words.

Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room”), in a welcome change of pace from the heavier fare she’s been courted for in recent years, provides an almost child-like mischievousness and smirkish spunk to a part that might otherwise had been played far more solemnly by someone whose funny bone hasn’t been lubed in a while. Sure, Larson’s skills as an actress provides a great anchor for the weightier more emotional moments, but this is her chance to shine as the kind of rib-tickling adventure hero Sly Stallone and Harrison Ford played in the ‘80s.

Samuel L. Jackson, reprising his Nick Fury character, but 25 years earlier (complete with stunning de-age tech) and with more naivety and less knowhow, is clearly relishing the chance to not only add some fun back into a character known for being pretty solemn but also poke a little fun at the man too.

As with all Marvel films, there’s a solid ensemble here – Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law and Clark Gregg, reprising his Agent Phil Coulson from the earlier films – but it’s an imaginative production designer and the punchy, fun action-adventure sequences that deserves just as high billing.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s “Captain Marvel” is unarguably Marvel’s most poppy, less solemn DCP in quite time. And with the majority of google news alerts in recent times producing frowns, it couldn’t come sooner.

Like James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, the template is driven largely by oodles of era-appropriate music (in this case, everyone from No Doubt to Nirvana), lots of smart-alec (almost Schwarzenegger-style) quips, and a plethora of pop-culture references and visual throwbacks to the Clinton-days. Rather appropriately, it plays like a film from the mid ‘90s.

In much the same way “Galaxy” and “Thor Ragnarok” were a cheerier pause from the usual more-serious superhero fare, our dual director’s seems hellbent on simply giving audiences a smile. Sure, there’s an A to B plot to take care of (granted, it’s not much – and as I mentioned, a bit all over the place) but the thin libretto disappears into the background of a chorus of comedy, masking most noticeable holes or unevenness it might possess. From the scene-stealing cat ‘Goose’, a straight-shooting chameleon alien (Ben Mendelsohn, having a ball) and the welcome return to screen of a Blockbuster video store – used to great effect – it’s almost demanded that that you don’t sprout even one “Infinity War”-like forehead wrinkle while sitting through this swiftly paced, jovial throwback and fix on the amusements in front of you.

If it weren’t for all the space-set dog fights and hallway combatant, much of “Captain Marvel” might otherwise be considered a comedy. And if that was the intention, then it’s one of the highest caliber.

Film Reviews

Hobbs & Shaw review : Big, dumb, action porn

setting your brain to cruise control is the optimum way of enjoying “Hobbs and Shaw.”

Jeremy Werner

Published

on

At this point, all that’s missing from the “Fast and the Furious” franchise is a TV show, Saturday morning cartoon, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and breakfast cereal. The unexpected Universal Pictures franchise has its first spin-off, giving the two men who helped rejuvenate the series their own side adventure. Luke Hobbs’ (Johnson) affable character pairs naturally with the rough around the edges Deckard Shaw (Statham). The two have spent the last two movies at each other’s throats in a jokingly, sometimes serious, manner. So it’s a little disappointing to see them relatively toothless and hollowed out in “Hobbs & Shaw”.

Their characters remain the same, but we spend a little too much time with them, making these godlike characters a bit more human. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but having them play into the long steady “family” trope of this franchise feels disingenuous. The two feel more like ancillary characters that were created to offset the eye-rolling “we’re all family” dynamic that Vin Diesel’s character has yammered on about for years. Seeing Hobbs and Shaw degraded to that level may play to the franchise’s hardcore fanbase, but not for the casual fan like me who enjoys these movies as mindless eye candy. Also, there’s only so many times we can hear Hobbs and Shaw verbally get out the measuring sticks for their manhood.

As for the story, it’s somewhat interesting, building off of “The Fate of the Furious.” The bad guy of this film, Brixton Lore (Elba), works for a secret dark web syndicate known as Etheon. Lore is part man, part android, to the point where I’m glad Hobbs name drops “The Terminator.” Lore is on the hunt for a virus that could be weaponized to eliminate the “weak” parts of the human population, i.e. mass extinction for the betterment of humanity. But before Lore can get his superhuman mitts on it, an MI6 agent injects herself with it so that Etheon can’t obtain it. Of course, who that MI6 agent is, is a twist. I won’t spoil it, but you should be able to figure out who it is before it’s revealed, if you’re operating your brain at a primitive level.

Putting aside my opening salvo, I think this movie is still enjoyable because of how absurd it is, like when Hobbs tackles assailants scaling down the side of skyscraper and landing without a scratch on top of an SUV several stories below. My qualm is that the action pieces never really reach the highs that we’ve seen before in this franchise, specifically when Justin Lin and James Wan were behind the camera. Director David Leitch gives the duo plenty of fun settings to blow-up and chase sequences for audiences to ogle at, but none of them quite have that spectacular oomph that we’ve come to know and love. Even some of the lesser movies of this franchise have that memorable moment of Herculean feats or car acrobatics, but this one didn’t quite land one. Luckily the film stops short of dragging to the two and a half hour mark, so you don’t begin to get sore in your seat from its CGI fireworks.

“Hobbs & Shaw” delivers enough mindless fun, ludicrous fight and action sequences, and wink-at-the-camera cameos to put a smile on even the curmudgeonliest of viewers. While it sometimes lacks in those aforementioned categories, it never feels unnecessary, especially since it’s a franchise stuffed with preposterous reasoning and farcical realism; Common sense be damned. Just like the rest of the franchise, “Hobbs & Shaw” doesn’t benefit from the viewer attempting to apply any kind of logic. Once you flip that switch on, you can’t unflip it. So setting your brain to cruise control is the optimum way of enjoying “Hobbs and Shaw.” Enjoy it for what it is, big, dumb action porn.

Continue Reading

Film Reviews

Once Upon a Time….in Hollywood review : an instant classic; gorgeous love-letter

Tarantino kicks another goal in this nostalgic and intelligent flick

K.T Simpson

Published

on

Every time Quentin Tarantino releases a new film, it comes complete with a fanfare of clever marketing, city-dominating billboards, and hype from fans and the industry alike. It’s almost unbelievable that the man only has 8 other films under his belt, and that each one is an instant classic. “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” fits firmly into this category.

In the vein of “Inglorious Basterds”, Tarantino has re-written history in a film that poses the question “what if?”. The result is a gripping story that actually has you enjoying every second of the 2hr 40min runtime – a standard in QT films – as well as giving you a little bit of encouragement to seek out the true story behind what happened 50 years ago.

The narrative surrounds fictitious characters: actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (turned assistant) Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) – both of whom have made a living within the Western films. The two previously worked together on a TV program called “Bounty Law”, which to be honest I totally wish was real, and they have seen a decline in both the industry and consequently their careers since the show wrapped up. Dalton lives next door to up-and-coming actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), and while Dalton has never met the duo, he dreams of the day he can attend a garden party to acquaint himself with Polanski and open up a new world of opportunities for him and Booth. Booth’s life is a lot more modest, and is a direct comment on where his career is going – living in a trailer behind a drive-in theatre with his dog, and eating whatever canned food he can find in the cupboard.

While the story “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” is disguised as the Manson Family murders with a twist, is also a tale of (as the title would suggest) Hollywood and the struggles of ‘making it big’ in a world of glitz and glamour. Those in the industry will particularly enjoy this side of the story, as even though it is set in the 60s, the elements still remain relevant. It’s a really interesting comment on the world of film, and Hollywood in general. The flick also is heavy on nostalgia, with both the ugly and beautiful sides of the decade shining through gorgeously.

The film is littered with big names, but it’s Pitt as Cliff Booth that is the true standout here. During the time when Booth visits the commune housing the Manson ‘family’, it’s a who’s who of the industry, but it’s Pitt’s performance that really helps the scene hit a home run. Of course he’s a veteran of Hollywood so none of it comes as a surprise, but Pitt shows us exactly why he’s cast in roles like these. The chemistry between him and DiCaprio is palpable, and their friendship is believable to be cemented well beyond the bounds of just work-based.

Tarantino’s unique filmmaking techniques are prominent in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”, so fans of the director’s work won’t be disappointed in the typically noir tone of the flick. It’s an instant classic, and completely gripping from beginning to end, never hitting a dull note. His vision of the ‘60s is inspired, and the resulting story created from that time is the same. All this results in a poignant love-letter to the decade, but also to Sharon Tate – and up-and-coming talent who’s life ended much too soon.

Continue Reading

Film Reviews

Midsommar review : Unsettling, brilliant nightmare

Jeremy Werner on the new horror film starring Florence Pugh

Jeremy Werner

Published

on

I don’t use superlatives a lot in my reviews, but I think it’s fitting this time because “Midsommar” has one of the most unsettling and gripping openings to a horror film I’ve ever seen. The movie begins on a snowy night in the states with Dani (Pugh), frantically trying to get a hold of her parents after a trouble set of texts from her bipolar sister stating that the darkness is too much, along with remarks about their parents. Compounding the issue is Dani’s boyfriend, Christian (Reynor), who seems disinterested in her concern about her sister, and why her parents aren’t picking up their phone. In fact, we find out, he’s at the bar getting drunk with friends, mulling over a potential break-up with Dani, instead of showing a single shred of worry. Christian is about to pull the trigger on their nearly four year long relationship when he gets a phone call from Dani. As soon as he answers, we hear the most horrifying cries of agony. Dani learns that her sister has taken her own life, and the lives of their parents, via carbon monoxide poisoning.

Cutting ahead to the summer, their relationship is still strained, Christian is still distant, and Dani is still dealing with grief. Escapism, for both, comes in the form of Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), one of Christian’s Swedish friends. Pelle is inviting Christian and their mutual friends, Josh (Harper) and Mark (William Poulter) to Pelle’s small village of Halsingland. They’ll be privy to a true once in a lifetime event, a festival that’s only held once every 90 years. Despite this village’s knowledge of the outside world and how advanced we’ve become, the people of Halsingland hold on to some incredibly archaic, brutal and terrifying beliefs that’ll slowly unfold over the course of a few days.

Unlike Director Ari Aster’s last film, “Hereditary,” nearly all of “Midsommar” is in the bright light of day, as the rural village sits nearly at the top of Scandinavia, so the sun, if ever this of year, doesn’t ever set below the horizon for the time that our characters are there. So much of the film’s horror doesn’t even happen in the cloak of darkness. The terror of the unknown, the secrets that this village holds, what their plans are, and what’s behind every closed door, happens in the optimistic shine of daylight. If anything, the moments in the dark are a part of a dream-like sequence or in the midst of a heavy dusk when the characters are lurking about the village, when they shouldn’t be.

The Americans in this movie should know better since the village is one constant red flag after another, but the slow boil of the plot plays into Aster’s hands as he’s given enough time to establish why each character remains there despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that says, “Run.” Josh is an anthropology student, looking to do his dissertation on the little researched village of Halsingland, shrugging off morbid rituals as cultural differences. Mark is a stereotypical horndog, thinking a lot more with his second, believing that a European excursion will get him high and laid. He’s half right. Dani seems aimless and lost in the world after the death of her entire family at the beginning, still pondering how she could ever move forward. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, Christian, whose seemingly non-commital to everything, is genuinely indifferent to danger. In fact, having any sense of self-preservation in these kinds of movies gets you killed first. Two ancillary characters, who were also invited to the village by Swedish friend from England, are the first to sound the alarm, but they soon disappear.

Maybe it’s because I watched “Hereditary” and knew that Aster loved sprinkling his movie with copious amounts of breadcrumbs, but I didn’t find myself completely shocked about the things that eventually transpired, nor was I shocked by the various, gruesome revelations that stacked on top of one another. That being said, I’m sure there are dozens of breadcrumbs that I missed because Aster is meticulous. Nothing seen in this film is incidental or by accident, it all serves a purpose towards the film’s numerous themes and subject matter. As to what this movie is about, that’s a lot to unpack. I’m certain that a movie as thematically open-ended as this is sure to leave a different, long lasting impact on viewers. That might mean that there is inherently no wrong way to interpret this, but only Aster is privy to how to correctly take it all in.

Since Aster had made this film deeply personal, “Midsommar” is most certainly a contemplation of death, literally and figuratively. One could muse that Dani seems unable to let her relationship with Christian die. Even though she mentions to a friend at the beginning of the movie that she suspects Christian is ready to dump her. She seems indecisive about confronting him, while sub-consciously knowing that it should come to an end. Even as they both walk like zombies through their relationship, Dani shows another layer to this toxicity, a fear. Despite taking a leap by going to a strange country, strange village and take part in their strange customs, she holds on to this belief that letting go of what’s she become accustomed to is the end, when it’s not. It’s odd finding that nugget of commonality in humanity amongst the gore and paganism. As for Christian, the movie does a fantastic job making the audience care less and less about what happens to him, showing over and over again that he’s emotionally detached from his friends and the world because he’s inherently selfish. Dani pines for a sense of unity, while Christian views people as a means to an end. In that regard, their individual fates are fitting.

It’s hard not to compare “Midsommar” and “Hereditary,” even though they’re drastically different in several categories. For example, “Hereditary” was a horror grounded in Satanism and the paranormal, whereas “Midsommar” is horror grounded in heathen ideology and violent ceremonies, without the use of supernatural forces. However both require a great deal of effort by its cast to read and act out these bizarro scenes with the utmost, straightest of faces. It’s hard to spot a flaw in any of the performances, with Pugh being the standout here as her character deals with so much emotional turmoil. One standout bit of acting by her is the opening scene where she mourns. In my line of work, I’ve had to edit clips of mothers at the scene of a homicide, sobbing loudly through the most tragic of griefs as they find out that their child is dead. Pugh captures that bone chilling wail flawlessly and it should cut into anyone.

“Midsommar” is an unsettling nightmare, showing unflinching carnage, all while smiling back at you. Aster’s sophomore effort will certainly be criticized by the mainstream audiences for being heartlessly malicious, crass, and boring, as evidenced by the handful of people that walked out of my screening at the first sign of violence in the film. I, like others, will be endlessly picking it apart in my mind, discussing it with others who’ve watched it and reading the insurmountable online articles by cinephiles attempting to do the same. I have yet to say a negative thing about this movie, which would usually necessitate a higher rating than the one I’m giving it, but this is an instance, much like “Climax” from earlier this year, where a second viewing would help me solidify my opinion on this film, and whether or not I’d rank it higher. My only hesitancy with “Midsommar” is its rewatchability, mainly because I didn’t find “Hereditary” as enjoyable the second time, nor would I ever want to watch it again. Like some high-concept films, enough time has to pass for a viewer to rewatch, analyze and appreciate during a second time, as opposed to a Hollywood blockbuster. I’m also fully aware that’s a critical cop out my end. However, “Midsommar” may be that, once every few years, trip to the museum, where you need a healthy amount of time to mull over and appreciate the art for what it is.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Latest Stories

At the Movies

Moviehole Videos

Like us?

Get Moviehole News Updates!

Enter your email address to subscribe to Moviehole and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Exclusives!

Watch

Hot