Captain Marvel Review

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Avengers: Endgame hits theaters at the end of April, but for those who can’t wait that long for more Marvel, we have, well, Captain Marvel (and the title character is set to play a big role in Endgame, too).

Another new character added to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and thus we get another origin story movie. Those are getting a bit tiresome now (strange how refreshing 1989’s Batman feels these days given it had its hero’s origin given only a brief flashback in the middle of the film), but thankfully, the origin of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is kept interesting by not portraying it in chronological order, but by having the character slowly pick up its pieces as the film goes on.

It’s a film where nothing is as it seems, and that’s appropriate for a film heavily featuring the Skrulls. The Skrulls have been such a prominent presence in Marvel comics that it’s somewhat surprising it took a decade for them to make a significant appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they are well-portrayed here. Upon first seeing them I feared we would be seeing a return to the dull and plain antagonists of Marvel flicks past (they even resemble the elves of Thor: Dark World) but they proved one of then film’s most intriguing aspects (we do see the return of one of this universe’s more forgettable baddies though).

The film has plenty of interesting elements and good interactions between the characters, but it does feel a little slow and long. Thankfully, the final confrontation between good and evil is fast-paced and fun, with the ending perfectly wrapping up the film while leaving the door open for more stories involving these characters. Larson and Samuel L Jackson are both fantastic in their respective roles, but the best character…well, I don’t want to spoil anything.

And of course, special kudos towards the tribute to Stan Lee at the beginning.

Captain Marvel is hardly the best Marvel film out there, but there’s a lot to like, and the title character is one you’d want to see again.

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Happy Death Day 2 U Review

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If the third film in this series isn’t going to be called Squashed Bananas and Stew, I’m going to be very disappointed.

The original Happy Death Day had a pretty novel idea; the Groundhog Day plot is nothing new, but Happy Death Day kept it interesting by combining it with a murder mystery, where student Tree (Jessica Rothe) is murdered by a masked killer on her birthday, and then relives that same birthday, each death creating a new loop until she solves the case. So too is this the plot of the sequel.

Yes, Happy Death Day 2 U does commit one of the most annoying sins of a sequel: repeating the story of the first because it worked the first time. It also commits a terrible sin of horror movie sequels and explains the bizarre events of the first film. That said, this explanation does add a little wrinkle to the film’s plot that makes it worth a watch.

The film not only pays tribute to Groundhog Day, but has a little of It’s A Wonderful Life too, where Tree is teleported into another dimension and though her boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) is with another woman, Tree is overjoyed to see her mother still alive, which leads to some effectively emotional scenes. Not only does Tree have another mystery to solve, she must also make the difficult decision whether to stay in this new dimension or return to her own.

That plot is pulled off extremely well, mostly thanks to Rothe’s acting. One really feels Tree’s confusion and frustration. That, combined with some excellent jokes and interactions mean that, while Happy Death Day 2 U may feel somewhat repetitive, it is still worth a watch.

Escape Room Review

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Well, Sony last year released a Venom movie without Spider-man. This year, they released a Riddler movie without Batman.

I joke, but when watching Escape Room, one will spend most of the runtime thinking about how similar it is to other movies. Saw is an obvious choice for comparison, but you might also find similarities to The Game, the creepypasta No-End House and even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory given how we have flawed characters tour a bizarre building with rooms and traps catered specifically to them.

That said, sometimes clichés are overused for a reason, and Escape Room does keep one’s interest by creating some interestingly surreal rooms for the characters to solve. Indeed, the main reason to keep watching is to see what twisted backdrop for the puzzles will be coming next. It really does give the sense that the characters have entered a new world without going into overtly supernatural territory.

This rooms would probably be more interesting if the characters trying to escape were. Other than student Zoey (Taylor Russell), I couldn’t really bring myself to care about any of the characters, despite their backstories. A lot of the movie is them conversing and arguing over what the right solution is, and you’d probably have more fun watching someone play a video game. When the mastermind is revealed, it, again, is really nothing you haven’t seen before with characters like Edward Nigma. Escape Room is a decent film, but nothing that hasn’t been done better.

Glass Review

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A major topic of discussion in Glass is the conventions and clichés of the typical superhero story, mostly said by the title character himself (Samuel L Jackson). Well, one thing about a lot of superhero franchises is that while it’s not uncommon that the second movie in the series is as good or better than the first (Batman Returns, The Dark Knight, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II, Deadpool 2) , the third, and sometimes fourth, films are when it all starts to get creaky (The Dark Knight Rises, Superman III and IV, and of course, the Schumacher Batman flicks). Glass, the third entry in a trilogy preceded by Unbreakable and Split, is no exception.

Don’t get me wrong, Glass isn’t really a bad film. In this age where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a big, loud comic book flick, a more low-key superhero movie is welcome. However, like its more light-hearted cousins, Glass suffers from the Law of Diminishing Returns. James McAvoy returns as “The Horde” from Split, and while he does get some good lines, he isn’t as creepy or memorable as he was in his previous film. When he collaborates with Mr. Glass, the latter does bring up the “villain team-up” comic cliché, but that doesn’t stop the alliance from reminding one of the villain team-ups from the aforementioned Schumacher Batmans, more than the film would have liked.

In fact, “good, but not as good as it could have been” is a good way to describe this movie. You’ll be entertained by it, but there’s still the sense there’s something missing. The movie does have an appropriate setting for these characters to unite (a place called “Ravenhill” is sure to have shades of Arkham) but it doesn’t really feel enough is done with it. There is, of course, a twist, but it’s one you’ll probably guess. That said, there is still good in this movie, with Willis, McAvoy and Jackson pulling in good performances and some effective scenes. It’s not Shyamalan’s best but it’s far, far from his worst.

Aquaman Review

Aquaman’s reputation for a good chunk of his comic career was as a punchline. “The power to talk to fish” isn’t as desirable a power as being able to fly or shoot lasers from your eyes, and cartoons and comedians have made sure to remind viewers of that whenever they speak of Aquaman. It is somewhat fitting then, that Aquaman is the funniest entry in the DC Extended Universe. Forget the grimness of Man of Steel and the groanworthy comedy of Suicide Squad, Aquaman is genuinely funny and fun and an utter delight to watch.

Jason Momoa’s Aquaman was one of the few highlights in the mostly-dull Justice League, but here’s where he really gets his chance to shine. He’s clearly having a blast playing this character, showing more personality in one film than Superman showed in three. He always has a humorous line when the situation calls for comic relief, but this does nothing to make him any less sympathetic or likeable. This is probably the most “Marvel-esque” of the DCEU films, and I mean that as a compliment.

A lot of DC’s most recent output has been attempting to showcase how serious and dark Batman and Superman can be, but as Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and The Lego Batman Movie has shown, DC is more enjoyable when it’s embracing the weirdness and absurdity of the past than attempting to ignore it. This film includes fantastical underwater kingdoms, armies made up of nautical monstrosities, and even a locale that calls to mind Doyle’s Lost World and all of them a wonder to behold. This is definitely the biggest visual feast of the DC Universe, with the technologically-advanced city of Atlantis being spectacular and even ethereally beautiful (it even seems that DC has heard all those comments about “why are DC trying to be overly dark and gritty when Marvel has a talking raccoon in their movies”, as Aquaman not only has a octopus playing drums and a reaction shot from a goat, but an entire army of crab people).

The film may be a little too long, and I wouldn’t say it’s as good as Wonder Woman, but Aquaman is still highly recommended for those who want a high-octane, humorous, superhero thrill ride.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Review

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One look at Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will instantly remind one of their earlier Alice in Wonderland and Oz: The Great and Powerful, where the Mouse took classic children’s novels and added armour, swordplay and prophecies to disappointing results. The films boasted excellent, jaw-dropping scenery and some entertaining performances but were ultimately empty and forgettable, with The Nutcracker and the Four Realms being little different.

Nutcracker is slightly better than the aforementioned Alice and Oz, however, especially when it comes to source material. If you’re going to make an epic fantasy out of a children’s favourite, ETA Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King makes more sense than Wonderland and Oz, given that there were battles and grudges in there already (even if the ultimate fight between the two title characters takes place off-screen). Unlike Alice and Oz, Nutcracker is not a sequel or a prequel but a reimagining, so it’s a little easier to judge it on its own rather than against its source material.

That said, fans of the novel may be disappointed in some of the choices made. Mouserinks in the film may steal a key and call upon an army of mice to form a giant mouse, but is not as interesting or memorable as her novel counterpart; the evil mother of the Mouse King who curses a princess with ugliness and made the Nutcracker what he was in the first place. Speaking of the Mouse King, while a giant mouse made up of smaller mice is a good idea, a large, seven-headed monstrous mouse would have been more welcome.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms seems to have several influences other than the novel and the ballet, so you’ll also find a bit of Babes in Toyland, Narnia and even Frankenstein in this film, which sadly make the script feel disjointed and the world feel less real. A shame because, once again, the world created for this film looks marvellous. Despite the film’s title, we only spend a little time in realms other than the sinister “Fourth Realm”, which perfectly captures that cliché that refuses to die: the haunted abandoned amusement park. It is so beautifully sinister it almost justifies the too-close-to-Halloween-for-a-Christmas-film release date.

The cast is a mixed bag. Morgan Freeman was the perfect choice to play Drosselmeyer, but sadly, we do not see much of him. Keira Knightley, in a role that takes influence from Glinda the Good Witch, is a delight to watch, but Mackenzie Foy, playing heroine Clara, sleepwalks through the role, making it hard to care about the story and her adventure.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms provides some entertainment and some interesting, surreal visuals, but don’t expect anything you haven’t seen before.

The Nun Review

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The Nun, the latest film spun off from 2013’s The Conjuring, certainly seems to have an appreciation for the classical elements of the horror genre. Several scenes take place in a fog-shrouded graveyard with constant shots of crows perching, the very place you’d expect Scooby Doo to sneak around in. The opening scene includes a door that leads to a dark abyss, doors opening by themselves, candles going out and upside-down crosses, all the types of things you’d expect to find in a theme park haunted house, and these things only get more frequent as the film continues.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and The Nun could have been a frightening and fun film even with these clichés, but sadly, the clichés are made even more stale by attaching them to a dull and lifeless story that makes an hour and a half seem like an eternity.  The two main characters – priest Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and training nun Irene (Taissa Farmiga) – are played well enough, but there isn’t really anything that interesting about them. Burke is similar to The Exorcist’s Lankester Merrin – an exorcist battling his own demons – but never comes off as engaging nor are the demons he faces as frightening as Pazuzu. The demonic nuns, who bear more than a passing resemblance to Kurt Barlow from the Salem’s Lot miniseries, are more laughable than terrifying.

A good horror film should have you hiding under the seat, hoping the terror will pass and that the main characters will survive. The Conjuring franchise can create a movie like this, as last year’s Annabelle Creation proved, but watching The Nun, you’ll just wish it’ll end.