James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson
What are some of the best non-DC/Marvel superhero films? That’s when folks would throw out movies like “The Crow” or “The Rocketeer.” But what about truly original superhero films, ones not based on comics? That’s when you really get down to the nitty gritty of films that hold their own against CGI-filled blockbusters. Before “Unbreakable,” there was “Darkman” and “The Toxic Avenger.” But unlike the latter, “Unbreakable” has spurred some worthy sequels.
It’s been discussed online for nearly two decades that director M. Night Shyamalan had always intended for “Unbreakable” to inevitably be a trilogy. The question remained even after the release of “Split,” a trilogy about what or who? So does “Glass” fulfill what fans were told, a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy? Or does it pull a Disney and create the possibility of more sequels? Luckily Samuel L. Jackson’s character doesn’t reveal himself to be Nick Fury all along.
Much to the surprise of fans, the throwdown between David Dunn (Willis) and Kevin Crumb as the Beast (McAvoy) happens fairly early on as Dunn is tracking down some kidnapped cheerleaders, the latest in a string other kidnappings and vicious murders in Philadelphia. Police are hot on both their trails though and arrest both before they can spar for too long. Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), is at the scene along with authorities because she wants to study the two for their delusions of grandeur, believing that comic book culture is behind their perceived abilities. Also in custody, and sitting down with Dunn and Crumb for some bizarre group therapy, is Mr. Glass (Jackson). Dr. Staple’s hope is to convince the trio that their super strength and super intelligence isn’t what it seems.
While sometimes clunky, everything that feels out of place or misguided eventually comes together in the third act. When everything is said and done, David Dunn (probably because of the salary Bruce Willis commands), seems to be more of a side character in this film. But it’s also not necessarily about the origins of Mr. Glass. We already got that in “Unbreakable.” The movie does have him play a key role, revealing why the film is inevitably named after him. But a good chunk of story outside the trio’s therapy sessions is Mr. Glass and Crumb’s multiple personalities scheming, talking and acting. It’s in these scenes that audiences are treated to every individual inhabiting David’s head. Acting wise, nothing’s quite as impressive or entertaining as McAvoy’s scenery chewing, but other side characters from the previous films provide some emotional weight as they make their way in throughout the film, building towards the climax.
It feels a little long, and is as the longest film in the trilogy, mainly because Shyamalan unfortunately falls back onto some poor storytelling mechanics that we’ve seen before with some of his weaker films. He tends to over explain plot points by showing and telling the audience what’s happening. It can feel a little condescending since the film is built around the idea that you’ve seen the previous two films and that you should be smarter than the average moviegoer. I would usually chalk it up to a talking head at the studio, but this is something Shyamalan has done in films like “The Happening” or “The Village.” Luckily he doesn’t do it ad nauseam.
“Glass” doesn’t subvert superhero tropes or makes any kind of new critiques of the genre, but it manages to manipulate viewer’s emotions and expectations enough to where everything genuinely feels original. The action is filmed in a way where our imagination, instead of computers, fills the void. Even the simplest things that Dunn or Crumb do, feel grand because of the lives they’re saving and taking. Because they’re not throwing each other into buildings like Superman and General Zod, but instead slowly bending steel or taking their time to punch down metal doors, the story feels more grounded in reality. It helps that every character is morally flawed. The good and evil on display blend together to elicit sympathy and disgust.
“Glass” ends up being the weakest of the three films, but it’s still an entertaining finale. Some might be turned off by how it all ends, but I applaud the bowtie. While most directors would have left the door open, just in case the box office receipts warranted a sequel, Shyamalan promptly wrote “Glass” as a final chapter to this superhero story. It feels complete, without the need to tell us anymore or asking us to sit through another chapter, something most superhero movies these days don’t know how to do.
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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