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Tomb Raider

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Director:

Roar Uthaug

Cast:

Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas

Run time:

118 mins

Rating:

Diet blockbuster : they’re marketed like a traditional tent pole release, they also tend to look like the 200-million dollar eyegasm releases of the US Summer cinema season, they’re usually clad with a couple of matinee idols and a hefty effects budget, and they’re generally released in the month before that season begins – say March or April (past diet blockbusters might include last year’s “Kong : Skull Island”, and before that, releases like “Godzilla”, “Jack the Giant Slayer” and “John Carter”). Sure, the ingredients aren’t as top-rate as your Spielberg or Marvel blockbuster, but the many spoons of artificial sweetener crammed into said diet blockbuster will usually suffice even the more fussier of cinemagoers. Just excuse the sometimes unpleasant aftertaste of the excessive Sam Jackson one-liners and CGI ships, they tend to repeat on you.

Warner’s “Tomb Raider” was always going to be a lo-cal blockbuster – particularly since it’s the third in a film franchise that, let’s admit it, appealed to cinema goers about as much as adopting a twelfth African child did Brad Pitt at the end of his marriage to the film’s star. Those two films, released by Paramount, and starring Angelina Jolie as a more buxom, more cartoonish take on video game heroine Lara Croft were bottom-of-the-shoe grime smeared across a theater screen. The new “Tomb Raider” – which shares little connection, besides a character with a hefty drawer of short shorts, with the previous films – doesn’t exactly have its work cut out for it, but it also doesn’t come with an audience seething at the gates to see the film. As such, we’ve a modestly budgeted, rather intimidate no-name reboot that’s releasing before all the better stuff does.

But you know what? For its squat budget, lack of a name cast, and slightly tarnished title, “Tomb Raider” can consider itself a success- it’s the little engine that could and does.

Young rebellious Brit Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) lives from paycheck to paycheck, seemingly use to surviving on her own wits and wallet since her father’s mysterious disappearance years before. After she unintentionally stumbles upon a clue that shines more light on Lord Richard Croft’s (Dominic West) hobbies and last known days, the plucky, flexible Lara sets off to Japan where she persuades a sailor (Daniel Wu) to help her find a mysterious island off the coast of Japan. There, supposedly, lies a fabled tomb – her father’s last-known destination. In between battling bad guys (Walter Goggins at his rascally best as their leader), skirting across plain wreckage on waterfalls, dodging bullets through the jungle, and participating in predictable reunions, Lara becomes the ‘Tomb Raider’ we know her best.

Taking its cue from Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins”, which planted the cartoon hero in a real world scenario, one that audiences could empathize with, Director Roar Uthaug‘s “Tomb Raider” takes a more realistic (and more ‘traditional’ looking young woman, who, though beautiful, does look more like the girl-next-door than Jolie did) and grounded approach to the source material (a long-running video game franchise), excising as much of the ridiculous and over-the-top (from the original films) and instead keying in an old school popcorn matinee template that’s more Indiana Jones and Wonder Woman, where the characters seem as important as the well-crafted stunt sequences. Sure, “Tomb Raider” is nowhere near as good as an Indiana Jones or last year’s ”Wonder Woman” – but considering what’s come before, it’s a pleasant surprise.

It’s the effort that’s been put into Uthaug’s reboot that results in such a fun timepasser – from the stuntwork (there’s some amazingly choreographed action sequences and set pieces here), to the casting (The charming Alicia Vikander gives us the first truly realistic and somewhat relatable take on the iconic adventurer. As opposed to Jolie’s take, Vikander’s Croft seems like a real person – she hurts, she cries, she’s flawed, and she doesn’t always know which ways which. If anything, she’s the audience) and the production design (it’s a slick production – the visuals and terrain reminiscent of last year’s “Kong”), the film seems determined not to be another ‘Cradle of Life’.

Sure, the script by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons is full of plot holes, and it’s bogged down at times by a couple of unnecessary yak scenes and a middle act that doesn’t quite deliver on the promises set out by its first (origin stories seem to always suffer from a bit of ‘blah’ in the middle), but for a film most of us had unfairly written off long ago, “Tomb Raider” is one of the surprise packages of the year. Leave your bow and arrow at the door and just enjoy.

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 (Josh Brolin) 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.

The big focus for “Endgame” is the survivors, working together to save their crew and the rest of humanity – Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). The all-star group is only scraping the surface of what’s to come, with each team member bringing something to the table to help locate the infinity stones and fix what Thanos broke.

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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