Black Panther Review

While watching Thor: Ragnarok, I did fear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was running out of steam, but thankfully, Black Panther proved me wrong. There is still a lot of life and a lot more corners to explore in this world. While the title character may have been introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther works as a standalone film, but thankfully is not yet another origin story.

The story is mostly set in Wakanda, a secretly-technologically-advanced nation of Africa which has always been protected by a “Black Panther”. The current Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has been made the new king of Wakanda after his father’s death, but his reign is challenged by the arrival of a mysterious figure known as “Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan).

Like most Marvel movies, Black Panther is a visual treat, and the futuristic city of Wakanda is a joy to behold. There’s a lot of fun to be had seeing their technology in action and how they are utilised in fight scenes, said fight scenes also being very exciting and fast-paced. What really brings Wakanda alive, however, is its residents.

Boseman again turns in a great performance as Black Panther, creating a hero that while noble and regal, still has a human side to him. This human side is most effectively shown through his interactions with his sister Shuri (Letita Wright), who is a scientist who acts as T’Challa’s Q. She’s a very entertaining character and gets in some good banter with her brother. Sherlock’s Martin Freeman plays a role that is likeable and amusing.

Marvel may have had a history with mediocre villains in the past, but have been trying to remedy that with the likes of Ego and Vulture. Jordan’s Killmonger is another intriguing villain – true, he does gain a Black Panther suit himself but wears it only briefly. Killmonger is not only a threatening villain, but an intriguing, sympathetic character.

Black Panther is another fast-paced, exciting and fun addition to the Marvel library. It certainly gives high hopes for Infinity War.

Advertisements

Top Ten Movies I Reviewed in 2017

10
Logan

A fitting end to the character of Wolverine, at least until his inevitable introduction into the MCU.

9
Better Watch Out

Surprisingly clever film which will make good viewing for those who seek something other than saccharine holiday fare.

8
It

Proof that horror remakes are not always unnecessary, and has a lot of fun with its monster.

7
Split

Thrilling and suspenseful with a surprising and satisfying twist, but worth watching just for McAvoy.

6
Spider-Man Homecoming

While not the best superhero or Marvel-related release this year, this was still enjoyable and had a great performance from Michael Keaton.

5
The Lego Batman Movie

A tonne of fun and a barrel of laughs, it’s strange that a Lego movie is a better 2017 Batman movie than a live-action Justice League.

4
A Monster Calls

Not only has some interesting visuals but a heartfelt story as well.

3
Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was one of the best parts of Batman v Superman and shines even more in the best DCEU film yet (or ever, it might seem).

2
Baby Driver

Hilarious, exciting and makes good use of music.

1
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Speaking of a film that makes good use of music, this is a film you could watch again and again, filled with great comedy, action and even emotion.

 

Better Watch Out Review

What holiday works better for the world of horror then Christmas? You might say Halloween, but that holiday’s a little too obvious. Christmas works well for horror because not only do the usual cheer and festivities make great contrast with blood and terror, the holiday itself has a little sinister side too (see 2015’s Krampus for a film that makes fun use of one of Christmas’ more sinister characters).

It seems every year brings forth a new Christmas horror flick, and so here we have Better Watch Out. Now that does seem a rather generic title for a Christmas-themed horror, bringing to mind the “All Through the House” episode of Tales From the Crypt somewhat, and like that episode, deals with home invasion.

Don’t let that fool you, however. Better Watch Out knows what came before it and subverts the viewers’ familiarity with the genre wonderfully. It’s not unlike Cabin in the Woods in that regard, and like Cabin in the Woods, it’s best to go into this one blind. Thus I don’t really want to go into too much detail with this one, but let me just say Better Watch Out offers great suspense, excellent performances, and a despicable, monstrous villain, and all with a sense of twisted humour.

Some people may like watching nice, heartwarming Christmas movies, but for those who prefer a little bit of gore in their Yuletide flicks, Better Watch Out is a good choice.

The Man Who Invented Christmas Review

There have been so many adaptations of A Christmas Carol over the years that a film about the book’s creation seemed a no-brainer. However, I suppose The Man Who Invented Christmas could be considered a “version” of the classic story itself, as in some ways Charles Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) story mirrors that of Ebenezer Scrooge. The movie isn’t exactly subtle about it either; Dickens is frequently visited by his miserly creation (Christopher Plummer), as well as the four ghosts, most of them made to look like people Dickens has encountered.

Indeed, subtle isn’t the right word to use for The Man Who Invented Christmas. It sadly doesn’t include the famous story about Dickens misreading a grave to come up with his main character’s name, but there is a sequence where Dickens hears a man talk about the “surplus population”, then sees two children resembling Ignorance and Want, then comes across an unmourned death. Scrooge represents Dickens’ dark side, and his redemption means Dickens’ own, which is more or less firmly said in the film’s finale.

That is not to say this makes it a bad film; the original Christmas Carol wasn’t exactly all that subtle itself, after all. The film still manages to be fun and festive, capturing some of the holiday cheer of the original novel. Stevens is a delight to watch as Dickens, and Plummer is a fantastic Scrooge. Like Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, I would like to see him play the role in an actual adaptation, along with Donald Sumpter as Marley, who I would have liked to see more of in this film. The film has some creative ways of bringing the ghosts to life, as it were, like making the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come a gigantic, gangly figure that creaks when it moves.

On a side note, Plummer also appears as King Herod in this year’s The Star and the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries, and voiced Barnaby the crooked man in an animated adaptation of Babes in Toyland, so he’s an actor who’s played Scrooge among other Christmas villains. The only other actor I can think of off-hand who can also boast that is Jim Carrey.

The Man Who Invented Christmas isn’t perfect, but with its fine acting and visuals, it’s a good film if you’re looking for something to get you into the spirit early.

Thor Ragnarok Review

Spoilers may follow

Another day, another Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I fear that when writing this review, I’ll be repeating my reviews of previous entries in this franchise. It’s fun, the characters are well-played and have good dialogue etc. Indeed, while I did find Thor: Ragnarok entertaining and enjoyable, there was still the sense that this universe has almost run its course.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston again do commendable jobs as their respective Norse gods, and Mark Ruffalo is a hilarious highlight, both as a battle-loving Hulk and a confused Bruce Banner. He gets the lion’s share of the most memorable scenes, proving that Hulk is indeed the one when you want to have fun.

There, however, still exists the typical MCU problem of an uninteresting villain, especially annoying given this villain had potential. Hela (Cate Blanchett) is Thor’s older sister and goddess of death, so she could have been an interesting antagonist, but sadly, she just comes off as your typical evil sorceress, the type you’d find in abundance in, well, Disney films.

There is still a lot of fun to be had, and some of the jokes really work well, like utilising “Pure Imagination” of all songs. Yet there still is the sense of “second verse same as the first”, that so much of this has been done before and done better in previous MCU films. It’s a space adventure like this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol II, yet doesn’t have as much heart as that film did. The villain, as said before, isn’t as interesting as the Vulture was in the last MCU film.

So I am recommending you give Thor: Ragnarok a watch; you’ll enjoy yourself, it’s good to watch while munching on a big bag of popcorn. It just feels like something’s missing.

Halloween Review: The Addams Family

What are you planning on doing this Halloween? You may be too old for trick-or-treating, and you may not be in the mood for a party, but the best way to spend Halloween is watching a fun spooky movie or binge-watching a fun spooky TV show. If you want a TV show or a movie to get you in the Halloween mood, you could certainly do worse than The Addams Family.

Based on characters created by Charles Addams for a series of cartoons in The New Yorker, The Addams Family hit TV screens in 1964, running until 1966. The characters were nameless in the cartoons, but the TV show was when they became known as Gomez, Morticia etc. (One suggested name for Pugsley was Puberty, which would later be the name of the Addams’s third child in Addams Family Values). A family with bizarre tastes, living in a Gothic mansion with a torture room playroom, a lion as a pet and a zombie-esque creature as a butler. Yet despite their quirks, the characters remained strangely likeable.

True, there are some elements of the TV show that are pretty dated. When a robot assistant is made for Lurch, the robot is “played” by Forbidden Planet‘s Robbie, and the Addams even have a big B-Movie sci-fi computer. Though an episode featuring said computer – where Gomez runs for mayor – is strangely relevant today, given that Gomez learns in order to defeat a sneaky, underhanded politician, he has to be sneaky and underhanded himself, and people are willing to vote for Gomez because he makes ridiculous promises and politicians are known not to keep promises.

Still, the show is pretty easy to binge, given the zippy pace of most episodes, the simple and easy-to-follow stories and how much they actually managed to get out of the characters. It can be seen as something of a one-joke premise – they’re weird and everyone isn’t – but they’re so well-acted, so many jokes still land. Lisa Loring’s Wednesday isn’t as sardonic as her movie counterpart, but still makes some twisted lines work; a guest jokes that the Addamses might have Satan over for dinner, and Wednesday says ‘No, that was last week’ like it was the most normal thing in the world. John Astin’s Gomez perfectly mixes eccentricities with a romantic and fatherly nature (Astin would reprise the Gomez role twice, once for a Scooby-Doo crossover and again for an animated series based on the movies).

Another highlight is Ted Kassidy as butler Lurch. Lurch was originally a mute character, but Kassidy’s ad-libbed ‘You rang?’ went over so well, Lurch got more lines. Episodes with Lurch as the focus are some of the funniest, with Kassidy doing so much with so few lines. An episode has Gomez and Morticia wanting to sell Lurch’s prized harpsichord to a museum, with Lurch’s response to the plan being ‘I quit.’ Then Gomez and Fester build a new harpsichord for Lurch to have, planning for the delivery men to take the real one on Lurch’s day off. The delivery men arrive a day early and when they explain what they’re here to do, Lurch let’s out a brilliant ‘Betrayed!’

It may be old but the 1964 Addams Family show is still a lot of fun to watch, as are the later movies The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.

Charles Addams’s original cartoons were a little darker than the TV show, and so is 1991’s The Addams Family, actually recreating some of the cartoons, like the Addamses pouring boiling oil on the carol singers at the beginning. The house is a lot more sinister-looking than back in 1964, and even personified, with a gate that acts as a guard dog and books that can conjure up storms. The implication with Thing originally seemed to be he was a creature we only saw part of, but here, he’s an actual disembodied hand.

In this, Fester (who, while Morticia’s uncle in the TV show, is Gomez’s brother here, a change that helps the characters have a greater connection) has been missing for years after a disagreement between him and Gomez. However, a man named Gordon (Christopher Lloyd), who has a stunning resemblance to Fester, shows up at the mansion, pretending to be Fester to help his criminal mother find the Addams fortune. The plot is a rather typical one for a family movie, but it remains interesting, thanks to Lloyd’s performance as both Gordon and Fester.

Another highlight is Christina Ricci as Wednesday, a humorously macabre and quotable character. However, all of the family get their chance to shine, with Morticia reading fairy tales to children and making them think about the pain the villains went through, and Gomez’s inquiry to a call-in show.

The Addams Family is an enjoyable movie, but Addams Family Values is even better. One reason this is is because two of the best actors from the first film – Lloyd and Ricci are given a bit more to do. The film features the birth of a third child in the Addams family – Puberty – and after that, Fester falls for Debbie (Joan Cusack), a Black Widow murderer who wants to kill Fester and take his money, reckoning without his apparent indestructibility. Cusack is another enjoyable performance, a character just as deranged as the Addamses but in a different way.

This also features Wednesday and Pugsley being sent off to summer camp, which is where most of the highlights of the film happen. Of course, carnage happens when they come there, but you better believe the camp deserved it.

So be it movie or TV programme, what better way to spend Halloween than with the ooky, kooky family?

The Snowman Review

While watching The Snowman, I couldn’t help but think about that classic Christmas special of the same name, and how delightful it would be if that were reimagined as a thriller movie. Imagine Raymond Briggs’s wintry hero using his powers of flight to help track down a killer or him being pursued by a detective about a murder he committed over a can of Irn-Bru. I suppose it shows how interesting The Snowman is if it makes me into Homer Simpson and has me paying more attention to a movie in my mind than an actual one.

The Snowman is based on the Jo Nesbo novel of the same name, and features a killer who goes after women in broken families, using snowmen as his calling card. At one point a snowman is made with a woman’s severed head. That may sound silly but it also makes The Snowman seem a more interesting film than it actually is.

It’s not the worst movie ever made, mind, and I’d even hesitate at calling it the worst of the year. It’s just simply too slow-paced and not all that engaging. There’s nothing that hasn’t been done better by other movies or the average episode of Hannibal. It’s supposed to be a game of cat and mouse between killer and detective, but never really picks up speed. It’s hard to be invested in, and halfway through, you’ll lose interest and start daydreaming about The Snowdog of the Baskervilles instead.