SpiderMan Far From Home Review

I’m Back and so is Marvel, just a few short months after they released the mammoth that was Avengers: Endgame we have the return of Spiderman. Fresh from his exploits there, he is back and desperate to go on a school trip and have a break from the superhero life for his summer vacation with his school friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it turns out that quite a lot could go awry for Tony Stark’s protege, and indeed it does. The events that we see are hard to go into without spoilers, but I found the movie compelling throughout the whole run time, although there is a clear point in the film where things kick up a gear. This film is half about Peter Parker, half about Spiderman, but instead of feeling disjointed, i felt it really worked well showing the two sides of Peters life that he struggles to balance in every incarnation of the character.

I will start with the obvious for a Marvel flick now, the action. They nail it again, and even though the earlier fights feel a bit odd and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is given a number of cooler moments than Spidey. I didn’t mind too much, as I enjoyed everything about Mysterio in this film (more on that in a sec), but I did feel Spiderman felt a little under-powered. It is explained through the film why he might seem that way, but I wanted more from the early scenes.

In the latter part of the film the action picks up and goes to another level. Peaking at the end of the second act. I have loved these two characters, Spiderman and Mysterio, for a long time, and seeing them playing out the scene they do genuinely had my jaw dropped in disbelief. The film sets everything up in such a way that everything that happens feels feasible, something I never thought I would say about Mysterio. He has always been the one Spiderman villain i couldn’t see how they would ever get him into a movie. But my god did they nail it.

The look and the skill set of Mysterio is one thing, but getting an actor as talented as Jake Gyllenhaal to portray Quentin Beck is a masterstroke. The character’s arc is surprising, and I loved the way the film played him. It was a departure from what I expected in many ways, whilst also being exactly what I wanted. I will say no more as I can only imagine how fun this film is if you have no idea what to expect from Mysterio.

Now that the action and spectacular stuff has been talked about, I can get into the real shining light in this film. Tom Holland is unequivocally the greatest Peter Parker we have ever had on the silver screen, but a big part of that is the chemistry he shares with his supporting cast. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Zendaya as MJ, Tony Revolori as Flash all return from Homecoming, with a few new members of the group, most notably Angourie Rice as Betty Brant. They all really sell the idea of them being a group of friends, and provide some amazing comedic moments alongside their teacher Mr.Harrington played by Martin Starr.

The stars though are Tom Holland and Zendaya, who share chemistry that neither of their characters know quite how to deal with. This leads to some really genuine feeling moments of awkwardness that we can all relate to when we think back on our teenage years. I really hope as the franchise continues we see these characters grow together and deliver on the potential they have to replace, and arguably outshine, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as the power couple of the MCU.

Those two are absent from the movie, but playing a key role is Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. He was there, acting and directing at the start of the Marvel Universe in Phase 1, and here he is at the end of phase 3. How they managed to film his parts in this film whilst he is also busy directing the Lion King, which comes out in two weeks time is an absolute marvel in scheduling. He was a distant contact for Peter in Homecoming, but now he has stepped up to be much more of a caring Uncle to peter, perhaps too caring in some ways. He and Peter share a scene which should have felt like a cheesy, too obvious wink at the camera, but the pair act the hell out of the scene and it earns it place as one of my favourite quiet moments in the entire MCU.

So there we have it, every MCU film we know of has now been released, and for the first time ever, we don’t know what lies ahead. The 2 after credits scenes hint at some things, but nothing obvious. Spiderman Far From Home feels like Marvel showboating. Showing off their Cinematic Universe with a wink and a nod, whilst also giving us a really fun teen comedy and delivering some of the most memorable moments we have had so far. Marvel is a movie machine, and Far From Home is another great film to add to the list.

Good: Spiderman, Peter Parker, Chemistry with the entire cast, an astounding action sequence, and two great after credits scenes.

Bad: Well at this point if the MCU isn’t for you, steer well clear. Also you will need to do your homework and see Endgame and probably Captain Marvel to understand everything in this film. Although you don’t have to see Endgame 5 times over like I did.

9/10 – Mysterio is in this film. Go see it.

Rocketman Review

Last year we got Queen, this year we get Elton John. Taron Egerton takes on the role, allegedly handpicked by Elton John himself. Could he follow in the footsteps of Remi Malek and smash this out of the park. Dexter Fletcher, the uncredited director of parts of Bohemian Rhapsody, and after what he did with that film, I was excited to see what he could do with this story. 

That is the end of the Bo-Rap comparisons for now, as I don’t want to discredit the film by just comparing it to another movie. Elton John’s story is one I knew of vaguely, but none of the details were clear to me. The film shows the pure talent of the musician, but also dives in deep to the core of the man. We see the highs and the lows, and it doesn’t pull any punches.

Getting the right actor to be Elton was always going to be the element that would make or break this film, and I have to say that Taron Egerton absolutely smashes this role. He becomes Elton for the duration of the film, and he shows he can carry a film and deliver on the emotional moments that are scattered through the film. On top of that, he has the voice and physical ability to carry off all the singing and dancing this film throws at him.

That brings me to the most fun element of Rocketman, the music. I went in expecting some of the biggest hits and a few concert recreations, but that is not what Rocketman delivers. This is a full-on musical, just with world famous songs that are positioned at the perfect times to fit the story. If you watched the film with no idea of Elton John or his music, you could easily think the music was created originally for this film. “Saturday Night Alright for Fighting” to “Your Song”, a big handful of Elton’s best-known music is served up.

The music punctuates key scenes, and for me worked at its best when it functioned as the exclamation point on key scenes. The other interesting use that may not work for everyone, is the use of his songs to stop the audience dwelling on any of the lower moments. We see Elton hit rock bottom, the lowest he could go, and it leads into a rendition of the title song. The way the song is filmed and performed, it worked perfectly for me and kept the movie from feeling too heavy at any time.

So far, it’s all been about Elton in this review, but whilst he is of course the main character, we do get some really good work from the supporting cast. His mum played by Bryce Dallas Howard is excellent as is his co-writer and best friend Bernie, played by Jamie Bell. Both have key roles in the film and share the stage with Egerton without ever outshining him, although I am not sure that would have been possible in this film.

The other major character in the film is John Reid, Elton’s manager and lover. He is played by Richard Madden, who does well in the role but the character itself is the main flaw in the film for me. Whilst the music numbers are fantastical and dreamlike, all the character moments between them felt real. As the film progresses John Reid goes from slightly manipulative to being full on moustache twirling evil. I felt he became a bit too cartoonish by the end of the film and that is a real shame as that is pretty much the only element of this film I didn’t enjoy.

Rocketman delivers on the potential the story has and is an incredibly fun time in the cinema. A brilliant performance by Egerton, that for me outdoes even Remi Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, is one of many reasons to go and see this film. Unless you hate Elton John’s music, you will have a great time watching this.

Good:  Taron Egerton’s performance may be the best in 2019, Musical numbers that will have your feet tapping and a smile on your face and will leave you with a new appreciation for Elton John.

Bad: I found one character a bit too over the top evil, and that is the only real knock I can have. Oh and no Circle of Life. Come on.

9.5/10 – Leaves you feeling like a little kid. 

 

 

Us Review

After flirting for a couple of months now I think it’s time to talk about Us. I just feel like our relationship is ready to go to the next level and if that is something you’re interested in lets talk. If not, here is a review of the new movie from Get Out director Jordan Peele. 

My apologies for that terrible joke of an intro.

So Us’ looks like a really interesting film with several elements that intrigue me. I am not really a horror guy, and I will go into why as I review this. Jordan Peele’s first effort with Get Out is one of my top rated horror/thrillers I have ever seen. Therefore going into this I was excited to see how Peele followed up his breakout success.

From the trailers Us looks like a straight up horror, but in reality it’s a lot more of an amalgamation of different types of films. Primarily it is a horror film and those beats are the parts that I don’t particularly think did much for the film. The horror genre frustrates me when it relies on the protagonists making nonsensical decisions, and there was several moments in Get Out that really had me asking “Why on earth would anyone do this?”. That is my biggest gripe with Horror as a genre, as it takes me out of the film when you know the only motivation the character had for their actions is because it had to happen to serve the story.

For me the actions of the characters should inform the story, not the other way round. Of course the film would have been a lot shorter and much less dramatic had the characters just driven off, but I think that is down to the writers to come up with a more compelling, realistic version that feels natural for why characters choose to do things.

That element aside though, I think Us does a lot right. The slasher/action elements are fun, and we don’t ever get to the torture porn realm I was kind of nervous we might get to when scissors are being brought out left right and centre. The tension is palpable when the action kicks in, even if the slightly comedic tone that kicks in halfway through the movie does destroy some of that. That comedic note is supplied by Winston Duke, who plays an upbeat dad, and one who somehow doesn’t get too flustered by any of the events happening. He sees some horrific stuff, and kind of takes it in his stride, much easier than the rest of the family.

The two kids are played by two talented child actors. I don’t know what has sparked the recent trend of child actors being really good, but these follow in the footsteps of the Stranger Things cast in being endearing, whilst also playing their twisted doppelgänger counterparts just as well. To take on the dual sided roles they are given here is a real show of talent and I hope these kids stick in the industry and continue to grow.

The family is all good in their roles but head and shoulders above everyone is Lupita Nyong’o. She has been excellent in all of her work to date, and continues to shine here. Easily portraying the creepiest member of the doppelgänger family, she also hits it out of the park as the haunted mother whose traumatic childhood weighs heavy on the film’s plot. Seeing her as the villain really made me wish Star Wars didn’t waste her as the orange Maz Kanata, as she’d have been an incredible Sith. Although I guess that could still happen… Please do it Disney CEO Bob Iger, I know you’re reading this.

As I mentioned earlier with the comedic shift, the tone doesn’t shift and stay there. Throughout the film the tone evolves, and this is where director Jordan Peele shows his skill. The film doesn’t feel out-of-place as a horror, a slasher, a horror comedy, or a thrilling chase film. Everything is blended well and that takes a lot of filmmaking skill, it’s a trick that Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw didn’t manage to pull off as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Us is a pretty entertaining, very well acted movie that, for me, was let down by the horror elements. Each character has a moment where they fall into a horror cliché which to me just doesn’t work. I think big fans of the Horror genre will get a real kick out of this, but those choices kind of wasted what I think is a very intriguing premise. The Doppelganger’s origin is something I would have loved to have been shown more of, but that would have changed the film into a thriller/mystery and probably led to the horror elements melting away. Us is decent, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Good: Excellent performances all round, intriguing premise and some good characters that could withstand the tonal shifts.

Bad: Horror elements just fell completely flat for me, and characters make choices that nobody would ever make.

6/10 – Horror fans will love it a lot, I am not a horror fan.

What We Do In The Shadows (2014) Review

What We Do In The Shadows is a 2014 mockumentary directed and starring Thor Ragnarok director Taika Waititi.  It was mentioned a lot during the press events for Thor Ragnarok and touted as a big reason he got given the Thor Ragnarok chair. I went back and watched to see if the film holds up. 

Shadows is essentially Taika Waititi’s sense of humour put onto film. The comedic style of Thor Ragnarok is clear to see, with the documentary style serving as a great framing device for the New Zealand native’s excellent writing. Him and co-writer Jemaine Clement also star in the film, and whilst the acting is nothing special, their comedic sense gets them by and their timing is great throughout.

The film is unabashedly weird, and it may be a little too odd for some audience members. The weirdness is contrasted by the realistic lens that Shadows is shot with, the camera work and effects complimenting each other to keep you engaged with the film. Some of the camera work is really clever, and shows how a lack of budget can be worked with to create some really great moments that a larger budget would have solved with throwing money at a special effects team. I like seeing films do this stuff, and really appreciate the ingenuity required to make a low-budget film look this good.

The jokes have a pretty high success rate, although there were a few duds for me. Sometimes the jokes are a little forced, but that’s really in the minority. For the most part I at least smiled to myself and a couple of times I laughed out loud. This is Waititi’s humour at its raw,  unfiltered. Ragnarok showed us his refined, sharpened wit and his writing has only improved over the last few years. What We Do In The Shadows has some really well written jokes and set ups that pay off in entertaining ways, and that ability to find something entertaining in nearly all situations is one of the reasons Marvel went after the filmmaker.

Mock documentary films rarely move the needle for me, as I find it hard to connect with the characters and the jokes sometimes feel a bit forced. However, as I learnt shows like The US Office and Parks and Recreation, when they’re executed well, they’re brilliant. What we do in the shadows is the first film I have watched that really got me invested since the uniquely flavoured Borat in 2006. This film isn’t nearly as politically incorrect (nothing really is compared to Borat) but it does the same job of introducing outlandish characters and putting them in funny situations.

I haven’t watch Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakhstani parody for a long time, but I can’t imagine it holds up terribly well today. What We Do In The Shadows does hold up from 5 years ago, and I think it has the right ingredients to stand the test of time. What is certain is that Taika Waititi is on the up, with clear improvements in his directorial skills as well as his writing from this to Thor Ragnarok. All that means I can’t wait to see what comes next from the Kiwi, and I hope he can stay on this trajectory.

Good: Brilliant writing, outlandish and fun characters, Stu is a great guy, and the filmmaking skills used to get the most out of the budget are great.

Bad: The acting isn’t the best, and there are a few flat jokes. May be a bit weird for some audiences.

8/10 – What Will Taika Do Next?

Captain Marvel Review

By now we are used to Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and this is the 21st movie in the enormous franchise. Captain Marvel is the first MCU movie to be led by a female character, and only the second superhero movie ever after DC’s Wonder Woman. Could Marvel produce something as good as DC’s best? 

First of all, I have to say I think Brie Larson is a phenomenal actress. She’s a top-tier talent and kudos to Marvel for picking such a talent to play the new face of the MCU, and that is certainly what this movie is setting her up to be. She worked hard to do her own fight scenes and does everything she can with what she was given to do. I don’t like to delve into negatives too quickly, but Captain Marvel runs into an issue I was a little concerned by going in.

The issue is one I like to refer to as “The Superman Problem”. This film starts out with Carol Danvers as a powerful and skilled warrior, and ends with her being an even more powerful and skilled warrior. Superman is an indestructible, undeniable solution to almost every problem. In a similar vein, Captain Marvel felt a little too powerful at times in this film, and she is never really threatened by anything she comes up against (spoilers, she doesn’t die in this film).

The problem this movie has is that this new infallible hero isn’t even given a weakness like Superman’s Kryptonite, she is just a force of nature whose solution to all problems is to shoot beams at the problems. There are superb hero moments, but they don’t feel as earned as in some other films we have seen. Think Spiderman Homecoming, when he’s terrified under the crushed building calling for help, in that moment we saw the vulnerability of Spiderman. Captain Marvel has no vulnerability to speak of in this film.

That being said, the beams she is shooting to solve her problems do look cool, and as we have come to expect in an MCU film, all of the action scenes are well done. The stand out for me being ironically one where her beams of light aren’t there as weapons for her, and she has to show her fighting prowess. The other, more spectacularly shot scene is the one we catch a glimpse of in the trailer, with Carol Danvers flying through space blowing up ships.

Good action is expected by now in these movies, what has kept the MCU going for so long is its excellent character development. Nick Fury, played by a de-aged Samuel L Jackson, is brilliant in this film and this showcases everything we love about the character we have seen countless times to date. He has more screen time here than in any other film, and we learn a few things about him that we didn’t know before. Some of this film could spawn some considerable questions about other films in the MCU, and a few of them directly relate to thing Fury has said in movies we have seen.

The 90’s setting that allows for the creation of plot holes in movies we have already seen is an excellent excuse for a lot of references to 90s culture. We see Troll Dolls, hear Nirvana, and get to witness the inside of a Blockbuster for the first time in years. These references are all nice window dressing, but to be honest this could have been set a few days before infinity war and not much would have changed for this actual movie. That being said, they do bring some nostalgia with them, and that plays into some of the funnier moments. 

Aside from Nick Fury, we have Talos played by Ben Mendelsohn and Yonn-Rog played by Jude Law. Both are excellent actors in their own rights, and Law is really solid in his role. Mendelsohn nearly steals the movie for me though, playing an antagonist with a twist, and someone I really hope we see more of in the MCU going forward. I didn’t expect the turns this movie took, and therefore this film provided some of the most interesting world building to date in the MCU. It’s an odd thing but we seem to be reaching a point where Marvel is aware people know the comics, and are going out of their way to do things that will surprise us. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say I thought there were some really smart storytelling choices made in this film.

What I think is difficult to quantify with these films is why it’s any better than say Dr. Strange, or Black Panther, and honestly I am not sure it is. It’s certainly not down with the likes of Thor: The Dark World, but because of the nature of the MCU it’s almost impossible for this to rank in the top echelons of the MCU given how deep in we are and how many characters we have seen combine. Captain Marvel is a return to a true origin story in the MCU, and one that doesn’t fall into the trappings we have seen in previous first outings. The final fight isn’t against a villain with exactly the same powers (Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Ant Man, Black Panther all spring immediately to mind), and there is no really blatant sequel set up.

This film extends the lore of the MCU in a more natural way then we have witnessed before. It gives us insights into characters we have seen before, but from a time before we knew them, and I am not just talking about Fury. Captain Marvel is yet another good film in the Marvel universe, and it got me even more excited for Avengers Endgame. If that was possible. The first end credits scene made me realise just how desperate I am to see that film. I can’t wait. Only a month and a half away.

Good: Excellent Action, Solid acting all round, MCU continues to expand and some great 90s nostalgia. Goose the Cat is awesome, and the Marvel Logo at the start will make you cry.

Bad: Script felt a little empty in some ways, leading to a mildly underdeveloped hero. Superman Problem needs to be addressed in future movies and I didn’t like how Fury lost his eye (Spoilers I guess…)

7/10 – Carol Danvers joins the MCU, and immediately becomes Thanos’ biggest problem.