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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

See, now this is how you do it!

This review is also up at Channel 24.

(No spoilers ahead. Certainly not if you've seen the trailers)

What it's about

After a mission goes horribly wrong, the Avengers are confronted with a new resolution signed by most of the world's countries that would put them at the control of the United Nations. With Captain America and Iron Man already on opposite sides as to whether to go along with the will of the UN or not, tensions reach a boiling point with the return of the Winter Soldier: a dangerous killer and Cap's oldest friend.

What we thought

It's hard not to compare Captain America: Civil War with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, both because of the fact that the two feature similar themes and that they both revolve around a showdown between their respective universe's biggest heroes, battling it out for the soul of (super)heroism. They're also both nearly two-and-a-half hours long and are the linchpins on which a great many other sequels and spin-offs revolve.

Here's the thing, though, even mentioning the two films in the same sentence seems like a hideous insult to Marvel's latest – and best – film because, while Batman V Superman was a flat-out terrible movie that fundamentally betrayed everything great about the iconic heroes at its center, Civil War is a masterclass in blockbuster filmmaking that uses the “shared universe” of Marvel Studio's dozen-odd films and at least as many characters to create a truly compelling character-driven narrative that is as organic as it is nuanced as it is believable.

Based very, very loosely off Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's comic book of the same name (with more from Ed Brubaker's Captain America run thrown in for good measure), Civil War eschews much of the Marvel formula – when not brilliantly undermining it outright – by turning its attention to weightier and more intimate matters as our heroes come to blows over their roles as, well, superheroes. Brilliantly, the fact that superheroes don't exist in the real world doesn't actually change both the intellectual and emotional heft of the film's central conflict.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April Roundup

I've fallen somewhat behind what with paying work and what have you taking up my time so here are some quick thoughts about the films released over the last few weeks - including this past Friday! Heyo!

10 Cloverfield Lane. The studio didn't feel like showing this to most critics so I - gasp! - had to pay to see it. I honestly have no idea why the studio was so skittish, though, because this was a pretty terrific debut feature from first-time director, Dan Trachtenberg. Bolstered by three extremely strong performances from literally the only three people in the film (not including voices on radios and phones), John Gallagher Jr. and, most especially, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, this "distant blood relative" of Cloverfield fortunately drops that film's shaky-cam found-gfootage gimmick for something much more claustrophobic and stripped down. It's terrifically tense stuff that jumps between different genres with incredible grace and ease (I know some disagree, but they're clearly wrong), constantly playing with the audience expectations and comfort levels along the way. And, no, the fact that it has ties to Cloverfield is not the spoiler that you might expect it to be. (8/10)

Macbeth. A visually stunning but borderline incomprehensible retelling of one of the most famous works of fiction ever. The actors are good but the decision to bury those timeless words under questionable sound mixing and an overly "method" way of acting means (read: mumbling) that it does precisely the opposite of what a good Shakespeare adaptation should. It's pretty boring too, which doesn't exactly help matters either. (4/10)

Eddie the Eagle. I can't quite bring myself to give this an objectively higher score, as it is, when you get right down to it, extremely predictable, overly familiar and more than a little corny but Dexter Fletcher follows up his terrifically entertaining jukebox musical, Sunshine on Leith, with something that is even more effortlessly enjoyable. A true-life underdog story that takes place at the same Olympics that the Jamaican bobsled team made famous in the thoroughly wonderful Cool Runnings, it's actually pretty similar - if not quite as good - as that modern cult classic; with ski jumping, Hugh Jackman and Britain taking the place of bobsledding, John Candy and Jamaica respectively. Whatever, I kind of loved it - even if the critic part of my brain has its honestly quite fair objections. Feel free to add a couple of points for sheer enjoyment, though. (7/10)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Forest

Completely forgot to post this.

Not that it matters much. Everything about the Forest is forgettable so why shouldn't this be.

This review has also been up at Channel 24 for a few days. 

And, yes, there are some much more interesting movies up for review coming up - even if just in capsule form.

What it's about

Sara Price heads off to Japan to look for her twin sister, Jess, who was last seen entering the notorious “Suicide Forest”.

What we thought

Tapping into a real-world phenomenon like Japan's infamous suicide forest, Aokigahara (though actually shot in a forest in Serbia, apparently), which, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't featured in an American horror film before, should be almost enough to give the Forest an edge over most modern day horror movies. Sadly, though it's not without one or two vaguely creepy moments, the film constantly falls foul of the same trappings that have put the genre into such disrepair over the last decade or so.

It's all here: the quiet-quiet-BANG jump scares, the intrusive score that blares every time something paranormal appears on screen (effectively the horror equivalent of a laugh-track) and that final shot that is literally the same in seemingly every single horror movie released these days. It's incredibly lazy stuff from newbie director, Jason Zada, and his team of similarly fresh-faced writers that comes across as way more jaded and cynical than a debut feature film really should.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Z for Zacharia

A for Average.

And, um, ignore the byline, the review up at Channel 24 is actually by me, not Gabi. 

What's it about

After a cataclysmic event wipes out humanity, a young woman and two men try to pick up the pieces of a fallen world as the last known survivors. It's not long, however, before tensions mount and complicated romances build.

What we thought

Named after the last of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Z for Zachariah is an intriguing mix of religion, romance and visions of humanity's end, played out first as an uneasy domestic drama before turning into a PG-13 psycho-sexual thriller. It would be nice to say that it all works but, sadly, for all of its ambitions, it never really comes together.

I haven't read the Robert O'Brien novel on which it is based, but it does seem like the chief flaw of the film is that it makes a rather strange departure from its source in what must be some sort of bid for fans of YA dystopian fiction and gooey vampire novels.

Specifically, Caleb, the character played by Chris Pine, does not appear in the book, which is a two-hander between Margot Robbie's Ann Burden and Chiwetel Ejiofor's John Loomis. He appears quite late in the story and, however much I usually like Chris Pine, his character both distracts from the central relationship, which is apparently quite a bit more complicated and nastier in the novel, and moves the film in a very unwelcome direction.