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Shazam! review : DC’s guiding light

DC’s latest packs a punch!

K.T Simpson

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Director:

David F. Sandberg

Cast:

Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou

Run time:

132 mins

Rating:

In the uncertain world of DC, it’s “Shazam!” that is the light that guides our path, as we are introduced to a superhero who is a man of the people – and one we wish to share our “finest beers” with. The long-gestating flick got David F. Sandberg on board to direct in 2017, and the former Black Adam Dwayne Johnson to produce. Star Zachary Levi has previously said “the idea is that it’s gonna feel like the movie “Big”, but with super powers” – and to be honest I couldn’t think of a better way to describe the film.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a troubled 14-year old, who after losing his mum at a fair as a young boy has bounced from foster home to foster home ever since. Throughout the years he has never given up the quest to find his mother, and his latest attempt to find her lands him in hot water with the Police- and into a new foster home. The new family seem promising, and though stand-offish, Billy finds himself in a group of other kids who need some extra love – including Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), who quickly becomes his best friend at school and home.

Meanwhile the ancient wizard Shazam is on the quest to find “the one”, a new champion to take over his job of protecting the world against the Seven Deadly Sins. The new champion must be pure of heart, and many people have been rejected from the job. One such reject is Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who came face-to-face with Shazam as a young boy, and has spent his life searching for a way to get back in front of the Wizard for another shot at becoming the one.

It is then that Billy gets a shot at the throne, and after meeting with Shazam, putting a hand on his staff (absolutely nothing suss), and yelling “Shazam!”, Batson takes on the job as the superhero, in the form of the much more built Zachary Levi. Billy and Freddy discover that yelling “Shazam!” can take him back and forth between boy and superhero, and they also work together to work out the subtleties of his new super-powers.

Between learning to fly, taking full advantage of the lightning coming out of his hands and the super strength he’s acquired, the new Champion of Eternity finds himself embroiled in a battle with Thaddeus, who still seeks the powers of Shazam, while unleashing his own new powers – which involve releasing the Seven Deadly Sins into the world again.

“Shazam!” is a fun and hilarious journey from beginning to end, and is truly unique in its tone – which it sets, and sticks to, for the entirety of the film. Levi is a true stand out as Shazam, playing a 14-year old in the body of a 30-something-year-old man. That’s not to take away from the other half of this hero, with Angel portraying a young boy who is trying to find his feet in the world while lacking the support of an immediate family.

The film is a rarity in that it never tries to achieve too much, and while the runtime pushes 2 hours, you’d be hard-pressed to find any unnecessary footage. There are scenes that have you gripping your seat, but others that will see you laughing out loud at some genuinely clever dialogue. The subplot surrounding the concept of family is heartwarming and a true testament that family doesn’t always have to be blood – you can find them in a foster home and a group of unlikely characters that find something to bond over.

Film Reviews

Avengers : Endgame review : a masterpiece designed for the fans

An epic battle to end all battles

K.T Simpson

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One year after “Avengers: Infinity War” and it’s all culminating into one big epic end – aptly named “Avengers: Endgame”. Of course being a film set firmly within a superhero narrative, nothing is really “the end” so I wouldn’t shed too many tears, Marvel fans – there is plenty more Avengers to come, with “Spider-man: Far From Home” coming in July and the standalone “Black Widow” film upcoming with Scarlett Johansson as the protagonist. Producer Kevin Feige has noted that he considers “Far From Home” the ‘end’ of the third faze of the MCU, rather than “Endgame”, but regardless – one thing we can expect from “Endgame” is one giant battle to end all battles.

It’s nearly impossible to describe the plot of “Endgame” without giving away all the surprises, so I won’t. We all know what happened at the end of “Infinity War”, and in “Endgame” the leftover Avengers seek to right the wrongs and the chaos that Thanos creates after collecting all 6 Infinity Stones. With 50% of the world’s population wiped out, which includes a large chunk of the Avengers and their families, the team embrace time travel to essentially turn back the clock and return the world to its original state and its inhabitants back where they belong.

What follows is an entertaining thrill ride of surprises, “Back to the Future” jokes a-plenty and a killer soundtrack that is reminiscent of said film: and when you see the credits roll and Alan Silvesrti’s name come up, it all comes together nicely. If you think it’ll be all doom and gloom, given the subtext of the entire narrative, you’d be wrong – with the script full of humorous quips that are perfectly timed and the best way to crack a smile after half your favourite superheroes were reduced to dust in “Infinity War”.

Dead or alive, you’ll see all characters in this time-heist flick, which is really a film purely for the fans. It’s the superhero of all superhero films, and a terrific nod to the 21 Marvel movies that preceded it. It promises goosebumps, fistbumps and all other kinds of bumps that you’ll expect from an epic like “The Avengers”.

If you want a “Braveheart” style battle, you got it. If you’re after some clever pop culture references, take a big serving of that too. Furthermore, if you’re a big comic book nerd and just want a decent fix of superhero delight, “Avengers: Endgame” will deliver that as well. Oh, and if you want an appearance from the late and great Stan Lee – you will not be disappointed. But are you ever?!

Is it the best film ever made? No. But it does deliver in the hype we were all promised and is a spectacle more than anything else. The standalone Marvel films have more depth and substance to them, particularly on a character level. But “Endgame” promised the ending of all endings and that’s what you’ll get. Essentially it’s a fan service film, so Marvel fans – sit back and enjoy. “Endgame” delivers strongly on the nostalgia of the Marvel films that were delivered before it, and in a very clever manner. It is here that the film is most impressive, with the throwbacks to what has led them all up to this one final battle against Thanos. It’s a great way to see how it’s all tied together, and each film within the MCU has its part to play.

Though a long movie (3 hours and not a second under), it can be summed up very succinctly : “Endgame” is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s directors Anthony and Joe Russo at their absolute best, and something that will be proudly displayed on their trophy shelf.

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Film Reviews

Penguins review : a film the whole family can enjoy

All together now: awwwwwww

Mike Smith

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I don’t know what it is about penguins that make them so damn cute! Is it the way they walk? The fun they obviously have when they slide across the frozen tundra of the Arctic? The excessive fuzziness of their young? I really don’t know but I’m pretty sure they could do an all-penguin remake of THE EXORCIST, complete with projectile vomiting and self-gratification with a crucifix and people would go “awwwww.” Which is exactly the sound I made many times during a recent screening of “Penguins.”

Steve is an Adelie penguin looking for love. He and the other males in his colony are on a trek to find a mate. But the road to love isn’t easy. Especially when your pals are stealing parts of your nest in order to attract that special gal. And what are you supposed to do when you finally meet her?

A beautifully shot (over an almost three year period) film that manages to be both heart-warming and thrilling, “Penguins” gives the audience the “birds-eye” view of life in Antarctica. And it’s a pretty chilly one. Whether it’s having to walk miles upon miles to find food or teaching your chicks how to play dead when a leopard seal tries to eat them, it’s a hard knock life. Yet, it’s also one full of love and adventure.

Like “March of the Penguins” before it, “Penguins” is a film the entire family can enjoy. Kids will love it for the penguins’ parents for the story. Nature is on full display in this film and it’s one I highly recommend.

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Film Reviews

The Curse of the Weeping Woman review : fails to add any value to the Conjuring universe

Falls short of a decent horror

K.T Simpson

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“The Curse of the Weeping Woman”, known as “The Curse of La Llorona” in other markets, adds to the “Conjuring” franchise by introducing a new horrific entity for us to have nightmares over. In a world full of horror films, it’s becoming more and more rare for any film to stand out as an original addition, so let’s delve into “Weeping Woman” to see if it’s worth seeing…

“The Curse of the Weeping Woman” begins with social worker Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini) confronting a trouble mother who has seemingly been abusing her two young boys. As she gets taken away from her children, the woman pleads that there is more to her story, and blames the ghost of La Llorona – otherwise known as the Weeping Woman – for hurting her children. Unfortunately for Anna, La Llorona targets her children next, and will stop at nothing to take them away.

As Anna digs deeper, she discovers the history of the Weeping Woman in an effort to defeat her and get back to normal life, saving her kids in the process. Anna seeks help from a local priest, Father Perez (Tony Amendola from “Annabelle” – and practically the only tie to the “Conjuring” universe) who has had history dealing with demonic entities, such as that seen in the Annabelle doll.

As a standalone horror flick, “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” would be your typical teen-scarefest, and if you like a good jump scare then you’re in the right place. Where it fails is adding anything of value to the “Conjuring” universe. Its attempt at linking it back is by referencing a few key things from the franchise, but unfortunately it feels like a late script change to give it a reason to be released theatrically. Ultimately, James Wan producing a film within the “Conjuring” universe without directing reeks a lot like INXS without Michael Hutchence – the beats remain the same but there’s nothing that stands out, it merely goes through the motions of your stock-standard horror flick.

Furthermore, “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” is choc-a-block full of horror cliches – furniture flying across the room, doors opening and slamming shut, spirits suddenly appearing in people’s faces and said people being dragged across the room. Not to mention possession and nearly drowning in the bath. Absolutely nothing about this film is an original concept and that’s where it really fails to be any kind of memorable.

As the film nears its climax, it becomes unnecessarily complex as they attempt to defeat the corpse bride – or La Llorona as she’s called. As with any possessed house/person flick, things ramp up very quickly, but the elements involved with facing the spirit head-on are largely complicated, to a degree that just leaves audiences scratching their heads. As a result, the film goes from mildly frightening to just plain boring, as we wait for the end. Referring to the aforementioned clichés, the back third of “Weeping Woman” throws them all into a single scene – which is why it gets so weirdly complicated.

Michael Chaves directs “Weeping Woman”, and in terms of directing style definitely has a unique take. A lot of the frights come from first-person camera view, engaging the audience as if they too were living this nightmare. Chaves is also set to direct “The Conjuring 3”, due out in 2020, so it will be interesting to see how he ties the film in to both this one and the rest of the “Conjuring” franchise.

Look, overall “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” isn’t great. It’s a weird film to shove into “Conjuring” folklore, when it probably would be more successful as a straight-to-VOD teen horror for those looking for just another mindless demonic possession film.

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