Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law
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.
Aladdin review : a gorgeous family film
Check out what we thought of the live-action adaptation of the ’92 classic
In a world of remakes, reboots and live-action adaptations, it’s pretty difficult to get excited about Disney merely turning a cartoon into a big screen production – especially with Guy Ritchie at the helm. It’s no secret that there’s been a cloud of negativity circling “Aladdin”, but put those doubts aside, because unlike Ritchie’s “King Arthur”, “Aladdin” is impressive in so many ways.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of Aladdin, the ‘street-rat’ living in Agrabah and stealing to survive life in the village with pet monkey Abu. The 1992 film was an instant classic and a timeless Disney tale with a particularly iconic performance from Robin Williams as Genie. It’s big shoes for Ritchie, who has adapted the animation into a musical fantasy film, with Will Smith as the wisecracking Genie, Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Upon meeting Jasmine on the streets of Agrabah, Aladdin is instantly smitten and vows to win her heart, despite the castle’s highly secured walls in his way.
After Aladdin is caught by guards in the castle, Jafar, the Royal Vizier of Agrabah (Marwan Kenzari) promises to set Aladdin free if he retrieves a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Of course the plan fails and Aladdin and Apu are trapped underground with the Magic Carpet, the lamp – and the Genie that emerges from the lamp, who then promises Aladdin 3 wishes.
The beauty in Ritchie’s “Aladdin” is firmly in the cinematography and big screen production, creating a gorgeous visual of Aladdin’s world and everyone within it. The songs hit all the high notes – excuse the pun – and Scott as Princess Jasmine is the particular standout. Her performance of “Speechless” is the next “Let it Go”, and will give you goosebumps in the beautifully choreographed scene. Massoud is a great choice to play Aladdin; the handsome young actor has a charming smile that reminds us all why Jasmine feels such a connection with the boy who on paper, is not the right choice for her.
Smith as Genie is a surprise knockout, bringing his own style of humour and entertainment to the role that Williams was so famous for. Smith never tries to emulate the ’92 animated genie, but rather introduces himself as his own genre of Genie – for which we should all appreciate. His chemistry with Massoud’s Aladdin is completely on point, and the duo bring some of the biggest laughs of the film. Aladdin’s monkey Apu is a character in himself, a cute little sidekick and says a lot without saying anything – thanks to fantastic CGI.
Jafar was always such a menacing and terrifying villain, and the hunger of his desire to be the most powerful in Agrabah is quite obvious throughout the film. He has the ability to be innocently charming, while plotting domination underneath – the mark of a true villain.
“Aladdin” truly kicks the goals of an incredible family film – it looks gorgeous, the performances are incredible and the narrative is truly heartwarming and enjoyable. Add in a healthy dose of humour and you’ve got yourself one of the most memorable films of the year.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum review : one hell of a wild ride!
John Wick is back with a vengeance in Parabellum
If there’s one thing we know for sure, entering the third chapter of the “John Wick” franchise, it’s that Wick wants to live. We’ve had two films preceding “Parabellum”, both showing that Wick is a man that just never gives up on his quest for revenge, and no matter how good he looks in a suit – he’s not a man you can mess with.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” picks up directly after “Chapter 2”, where Wick (Reeves), and his dog in tow, is running for his life with 1 hour until he’s declared excommunicado, following him breaking the rules and killing High Table member Santino D’Antonio on the grounds of the Continental Hotel. The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), a representative of the High Table, is on the quest to punish those who helped Wick, including Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the Continental Hotel, and crime lord Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who has quite an incredible army of pigeons.
With a $14 million bounty on his head, John Wick is out to survive, and take no mercy on those who dare to fight him. Despite watching their peers get brutally and savagely beaten and murdered around them, they keep going after Wick – presumably thinking that they can be the one to knock him off the perch and go home with a fatter wallet. Meanwhile, Wick seeks out allies from the past, despite their reluctance to help him, in an effort to survive – for reasons we soon find out – and remove the bounty from his head.
The action sequences, while impressive, tend to play out a little like a live-action Call of Duty battle scene after a while, probably lasting a little too long and implementing all those clichés the game-lovers will recognize: enemies descending on you from all angles, setting the dogs to rip-tear-bust, and throwing smoke grenades into empty rooms. It’s slightly reminiscent of “The Matrix” in that action scenes tend to drag and are a little bit of an overkill. That said, the action is addictive as hell and pretty bloody gruesome. Safe to say, “Parabellum” is not for the feint-hearted. If you’re squeamish about knives penetrating an entire human head, this may not be the film for you.
There’s something insanely awkward about the way Keanu Reeves walks – if a little pigeon toed – but still manages to effortlessly defend and attack in awesome style. He flicks his hair like he’s straight out of “Point Break” (or is it more “Bill and Ted”?), but John Wick has a style about him we all just want to imitate – perhaps it’s the way he fights round the world and never takes off his suit and tie. Respect for that kind of commitment, straight up.
As action films go, you’ll get more than your money’s worth with “Parabellum”. It’s a really well done action flick and incredibly directed by Chad Stahelski – his strengths clearly lie in the action choreograph arena. Mark Dacascos as Zero, the head assassin is a true stand out in “Parabellum”, providing some humour amongst the blood, guts and fighting. Fishburne also impresses as the underground crime lord, with his alliances more aligned with his pigeon friends than the people around him.
“Parabellum” is one hell of a wild ride – and one you won’t want to miss on the big screen for the visual (and audio) spectacle you’re about to experience. It’s a completely bonkers and good-time entertaining film, and without a doubt one of the standout feature films in 2019.
The Hustle review : uninspiring and unfunny
Bit of a waste of a remake, really
Every now and then, a remake gets made and it kicks all the goals, delivering a fresh take of humour and clever dialogue. This isn’t that movie. It’s hard to understand why Hollywood are mixing up old films, but I imagine the only answer comes in the form of a pay day.
When you’ve got a classic film like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with a top cast of Steve Martin and Michael Caine – it begs the question: why bother remaking it? The typical Hollywood twist comes in the gender switch, but apart from that this film is a straight-up copy-and-paste of the 1988 comedy. With a few millennial and female-centric jokes thrown in instead, of course.
Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway are the two main ladies in “The Hustle”, as they scam and thieve their way through the wallets of their chosen victims – and engage in a bit of a turf war when Lonnie (Wilson) encroaches upon France, which happens to be Josephine’s (Hathaway) home town (yes, French accent and all). The ladies set their sights on an American app-developer Thomas (Alex Sharp), and decide to attempt to rob him in their own unique way, making it a wager between the two.
Also confusing, and somewhat vexing, is the tagline used for this film. “Giving dirty rotten men a run for their money” – it’s interesting when literally none of the victims they target could be considered “dirty rotten”. They’re just people going about their lives. Lonnie’s whole game has to do with being rejected…. for catfishing….which she seems to find unfair and tell-all about men these days. I’m sorry, scriptwriters, but this makes no sense.
Wilson is really what “The Hustle” is using for the humourous quips, which unfortunately relies heavily (pun not intended) on fat jokes – I lost count after about 10 of them. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the funny bits – and even those are fairly stock-standard slapstick jokes, which worked better with Steve Martin.
On a whole, “The Hustle” is uninspiring, unfunny and just plain boring. The only thing going for it is a reasonable run time, giving you enough time to fit in a stiff drink following so you can forget it and get a good sleep. Having said that, “The Hustle” is completely forgettable, so don’t stress about lying awake thinking about it all night.
So what’s good about it? Look, you may get a few chuckles out of Wilson. Hathaway wears too much makeup and it’s a little bit distracting, and as a result isn’t as funny. But if you want a great heist film, with twists and turns and genuine humour – watch “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” instead.
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