It Chapter Two Review

While Stephen King’s original It novel would go back and forth between the heroes’ childhoods and adulthoods, both the 1990 and the 2017-19 adaptations are split into two parts and have the first part focussed mainly on the “Losers Club” as children and the second part mainly featuring them as adults. For the earlier 1990 miniseries, the second part was truly a disappointment; the story and characters weren’t as interesting, and it ended not with a bang, but a titter. Even It: Chapter Two seems to know this as, well, remember in the 1990 series when adult Bill wrote a book called The Glowing? If you groaned at that, you’ll groan even more here at a running joke made at the expense of this version of adult Bill (James McAvoy).

One plus It: Chapter Two has over its 1990 predecessor is that it does feel more like a satisfying conclusion to the story. The members of the Losers Club are well-acted and have good chemistry with each other, and Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) puts up more of a fight this time around. Sadly, this does mean that one of the more annoying aspects of the original – constant jumpscares and shaking camera – is more prominent. This is a shame, considering Pennywise is given some creatively disturbing forms here, including something that looks like it escaped from Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy video and a frightening update to one of the most derided aspects of the original It’s ending.

Skarsgard once again crafts a memorable Pennywise, coming across as something that came out of a nightmare, performing each malicious act with a sadistically childlike glee. In fact, appropriately for a movie about a monstrous clown, one of the main strengths of this film is how it juggles humour and horror – a highlight being a scene at the beginning that recalls a scene from Scrooged but in a good way.

So, does It: Chapter Two live up to the first film? Well, again, part two of a two-part It adaptation is the weakest one, as it does often get too noisy and obvious to be really scary. That said, there is still a lot to recommend.


Spiderman Far From Home Review

Spoilers may follow

Endgame may have felt like a grand finale for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if Friday the 13th has taught us anything, it’s that in the world of pop culture, final chapters rarely are. There are more Marvel movies coming out, so when they say “The Guardians of the Galaxy” will return, they mean it. Case in point, we have Spiderman: Far From Home, described as something of an epilogue to Endgame, not to say it’s an unwelcome movie. Indeed, Tom Holland’s hilariously and lovably awkward Peter Parker has been one of the MCU’s highlights, and it’s always good to see more of him.

In Far From Home, Peter Parker and his classmates are touring Europe, which is under attack by what looks like monsters composed of the elements. Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, who is a delight to watch in the role as usual) summons Spiderman to help deal with these monsters, along with a new superhero called Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Now, those familiar with Spiderman’s comics will know that Mysterio is a villain who utilises illusions to stymy Spidey (remember when he was supposed to be played by Bruce Campbell?), so for those viewers it should come as no surprise that the Elemental Monsters are fakes created by him as part of a villainous plan. Said plan is still nicely portrayed and thought-out, even allowing the MCU to have a little fun at its own expense, and one illusionary sequence, calling to mind the Batman Arkham games somewhat, is worth the price of admission alone. Gyllenhaal himself is also delightful, channelling a bit of his Nightcrawler role at times, playing a liar and a manipulator perfectly. In fact, all the roles here are played well, with a highlight being Zendaya as MJ who shines with her cynical sense of humour.

It’s not as spectacular as Endgame, but it’s not supposed to be. Spiderman: Far From Home is an enjoyable summer superhero blockbuster that is worth a watch.

Aladdin Review

It seems that Disney won’t rest until every single animated film in their library has been remade as a live-action feature, no matter how unorthodox it might be. Beauty and the Beast made sense, as while the original film had talking candelabras and teapots, there was still a mystical gothic atmosphere to it and regal visuals that one could imagine carrying over to live action. Dumbo made less sense, as the original film focussed on talking animals and surreal slapstick, and that resulted in a generic bore.

Aladdin is another unusual choice for the live-action treatment. True, the original story has had several live-action films, productions and pantomimes, but this is specifically a remake of the Disney Aladdin, one of the company’s most fast-paced and cartoony films. The 2019 remake tones down a few of the wackier elements of the original, so now we have an Iago that talks less and a stationary Cave of Wonders. This not only makes it feel like something is missing to those who grew up with the original, but makes the cartoonish elements that did remain – like Abu and the Magic Carpet’s anthropomorphism and especially the Genie (Will Smith) in his blue form – feel out of place, which can be distracting.

That said, Aladdin strangely makes the transition to live-action better than the two aforementionded movies. There are less clumsy efforts to explain away the plot holes of the animated predecessor and while it does follow the basic plot of the original, it does feel like its own film with its own feel. Will Smith had some big shoes to fill as the Genie, played previously by the late Robin Williams, but Smith is fun to watch in the role and gets some genuinely humorous lines, rarely repeating jokes from the original. Smith puts his own different-yet-familiar spin on the character. It is a shame, then, that he looks so artificial as a blue spirit (especially since most of the visuals, especially the Magic Carpet, look natural and impressive).

It should hardly be a surprise that 2019’s Aladdin is not as good as its 1992 counterpart, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch, if only out of curiosity’s sake.

Detective Pikachu Review

Detective Pikachu is a movie that intrigues even from the title. While one would expect a live-action Pokemon movie to be a story of a trainer trying to “catch ‘em all”, here we have the closest thing to a film adaptation of The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, with a bit of Zootropolis sprinkled in. In a city where humans and Pokemon live together, 21-year-old Tim (Justice Smith) is looking for the whole story of his father’s death, and is assisted by his father’s Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) who only he could understand. It sounds like the type of joke you’d expect to see on The Critic, but this is an actual movie in actual theaters. What’s more, it works.

Even when the novelty of such an unusual plot for a Pokemon movie wears off, the film still delivers a solid story. Justice Smith plays a very likeable and sympathetic character and while Ryan Reynolds is nowhere near as funny as he was in Deadpool, he is still fun to watch and listen to here. The mystery they find themselves unravelling takes advantage of its bizarre world and the creatures that inhabit it, taking some surprising twists and turns along the way.

The real treat in this movie, however, is seeing the weird and wonderful creatures from the games brought into the real world, and when the Pokemon look great, they really look great, with highlights being a ferocious Charizard, a stressed-out Psyduck and Detective Pikachu himself. It is somewhat distracting how, when Pikachu is interrogating Mr. Mime, the two Pokemon look like they came from different movies, but for the most part, this is a film that will reward long-time Pokemon fans and knows that a lot of the audience will be those who played the games and watched the cartoon as kids.

Avengers: Endgame Review

So what can be said about Avengers: Endgame, while keeping the spoilers to a minimum? Well, if I could sum it up in one word, it would be “satisfying”. It brings the Thanos arc to a fitting and enjoyable conclusion, the characters and their interactions are as engaging and humorous as ever and the ending is sure to make fans of this franchise feel good.

I would go into more detail, but I feel that if I did, I would be repeating myself. I said that Infinity War was like a “Greatest Hits” compilation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s all the more fitting a description for Endgame, and not only because of the time-travel aspect either. A lot of what I said about Infinity War could be said about Endgame, though Endgame does do a better job at juggling its many, many characters due to its longer runtime (though, since it’s less his movie this time round, Thanos has returned to being a generic world-ending antagonist).

That doesn’t mean Endgame doesn’t have any surprises though. Once again, this movie is best viewed going in blind, as it does do some truly interesting and amusing things with the technology and worlds of this universe.

What also makes Endgame worth a watch? Well, there’s the fact that it’s just so much fun. It’s a three-hour flick, but it never feels like it drags on, and this is an universe one would want to spend as much time in as possible. The film moves at a zippy pace, yet it still feels each element was given the right amount of time it needs.

Sadly, Avengers: Endgame isn’t the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie (that honour still goes to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) but it’s still a jolly good thrill ride and is, of course, a satisfying experience.

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.

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.