‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ Review

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Eiza Gonzalez, Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis, Lori Pelenise Tuisano and Helen Mirren

Synopsis: Lawman Luke Hobbs and outcast Deckard Shaw form an unlikely alliance when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain threatens the future of humanity.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are multiple post-credit scenes.*

 

A spinoff movie from the Fast & Furious franchise was always going to happen, it was just a question of when. Back when Fast Five came out, rumblings began to give new addition of the franchise, Dwayne Johnson’s DSS agent Luke Hobbs one, but Universal Pictures never pulled the trigger – admittedly, Johnson became a very busy man afterwards. Fast forward to the drama behind The Fate of the Furious, Universal finally gave Hobbs his movie…and they brought along Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw along too – due to the studio liking the chemistry between the two on set.

So now we have two of the biggest action stars in Hollywood in a spinoff of one of the biggest and profitable franchises today, and how do you top that? Get the guy that directed the first John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, David Leitch. Then make it a buddy action comedy, with some sci-fi elements, some laughable insults and, since this is still a movie in the Fast & Furious universe, family.

Hobbs & Shaw has a pretty basic setup, Deckard’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent, and her team try to retrieve a deadly virus codename “Snowflake,” but run into a huge problem in Brixton (Idris Elba), a technology-enhanced agent (read: Black Superman) for a shadow organization that want the virus for nefarious reasons. Hattie ends up injecting herself to get the virus away from Brixton. In the process, she is then labeled a traitor and has to go on the run.

We then jumped forward to seeing Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) finding out about the virus going missing, and the two eventually find out they have to work together – something neither of them want to do. However, they have to put their difference aside, somewhat, when Deckard finds out that Hattie is involved, and that the virus will kill her in three days. It becomes a race to the clock to find a way to get the virus out of Hattie, while also on the run from Brixton.

 

Hobbs & Shaw really is its own thing. There is really no mention to the main series, so you don’t necessarily have to have previous knowledge of the main series, but it would help just a tad. The main focus of the movie is to bring out Hobbs and Shaw’s backstory. Obviously on Shaw’s side, we are introduced to Kirby’s Hattie, who is more than capable of taking care of herself, and yes, Helen Mirren’s mother – named Queenie – returns for about five minutes of screen time.

As for Johnson’s Hobbs, he gets to go home, as the trailers point out. We’re introduced to the Hobbs family, which isn’t the best kind of a relationship, and Hobbs’ daughter Sam returns (played by a different actress in Eliana Sua). The dynamic of the Hobbs family adds another layer to Hobbs, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to how the potential franchise of Hobbs & Shaw goes – Johnson isn’t coming back for Fast & Furious 9 – and if they propel that dynamic in the future.

 

But of course people are going to see Hobbs & Shaw for the action, and oh boy, is there a lot of action in this. While the Fast & Furious movies do go a little over-the-top with the stunts – okay, a lot, whatever – Hobbs & Shaw continues that trend, but now with a sci-fi-ish twist with Brixton (he literally has a bike that COMES TO HIM!). The action also has a nice added touch since you got Leitch behind the camera. Is it the best action in the series? Not really, but it’s damn enjoyable to watch happen when it does.

If the action doesn’t do it for you, then maybe the great chemistry between Johnson and Statham will do it for you. It’s mostly the two throwing jabs at each other, and while some don’t land completely, others should get a genuine laugh out of you, or at least make you laugh cringe. Either way, anytime the two are on screen together, and throwing barbs, you’re in for a good time. That said, I would love to see Johnson and Statham team up again, outside the Fast & Furious franchise.

The rest of the cast have their moments. I mentioned Kirby holds her own as Hattie Shaw, and Mirren is only in it for a bit, but she clearly having fun with the role. So let’s talk about Idris Elba as Brixton. Elba is also clearly having fun playing the villain with superhuman strength and some other technological enhancements. While the whole thing is kind of, admittedly, goofy, Hobbs & Shaw knows what it is, so it fits the world we’re watching. Eiza Gonzalez pops in as Madame M, but she doesn’t really add anything despite how they introduce her, Eddie Marsan has a small role as the scientist that created the “Snowflake” virus, Lori Pelenise Tulsano plays Sefina, Hobbs’ mother who could be a scene stealer for some, and Cliff Curtis plays Jonah, who I wish had some more to do.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Hobbs & Shaw, I’ll admit the movie is just a tad bit too long for its own good. Some of it comes from the surprise cameos the movie was able to pull off, and while the cameos are cool and pretty funny, they kind of overstay their welcome and drag the scenes out.  There is also an element that the movie really should have capitalized on, which is when Hobbs and Shaw basically become wanted men, but the movie pretty much ignores all that which is kind of a shame.

All in all, Hobbs & Shaw is a lot of fun, whether you’re going for the action or for the chemistry/insult-fest between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, or even for “Black Superman” himself Idris Elba, the movie has a little something for everyone.

 

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

3.5 out of 5

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‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’ Review

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Cobie Smulders and Marisa Tomei

Synopsis: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are TWO post-credit scenes.*

 

How do you follow one of the most comic book-y movies of all time that spanned over a decade and over twenty movies? That was the challenge Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures had in front of them when putting together Spider-Man: Far from Home. Not only did they have to follow Avengers: Endgame, but also make a proper sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming that wasn’t just Spider-Man/Peter Parker having to move on from saving the entire universe with The Avengers and his now deceased mentor/father-figure Tony Stark. So did they pull it off? Yes. Yes they did.

Set months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is eager to take a break from the superhero gig, and go on his European school vacation with his friends and tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. Of course, being a superhero and an Avenger now, that isn’t easy. Unbeknownst to Peter and the public, elemental monsters – The Elementials – start to wreck havoc across the globe, which leads him to be recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help fight the threat alongside Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a hero who claims he’s from another dimension, and has first hand experiencing fighting these monsters. Peter now has to handle fighting giant monsters while on vacation and having the responsibility of being the potential new Tony Stark/Iron Man.

One of the troubles of reviewing Far from Home is a good chunk of the great scenes and moments are all spoilers, so I’ll tread lightly going forward. That said, one of the best story elements about these new Spider-Man movies is director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers really have a firm grasp about what makes Peter Parker just that Peter Parker. Peter is still a teenager, and despite being a teenager with superhero abilities, he wants to be that, but is constantly told he needs to step up and be a superhero/Avenger. It’s not that Peter is being ungrateful or that he is ungrateful, he loves being Spider-Man, and wants to help people, but he is still a teenager and wants to hang out with his friends, tell the girl he likes that he likes her and just be normal for five minutes.

The other great thing about the sequel is that it keeps its charm, humor and heart from Homecoming. Holland and Zendaya, who has a lot more to do this time around, have great chemistry together, and pretty perfectly recreate that awkwardness you’d have when you’re around your crush. It’s also nice to see the balance between the more serious moments, like Peter questioning himself, and humorous moments, mostly between Peter and his classmates, are mostly tight enough.

The rest of the cast have their moments, but one of the big highlights is Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck aka Mysterio. Gyllenhaal is obviously having a lot of fun with the role, and whether or not you know anything about the character from the comics, you’ll enjoy what they do with Mysterio here.

All in all, Spider-Man: Far from Home is a ton of fun, and does a lot with what they have. It thankfully doesn’t feel bloated or overstuff, and while it does have its lull moments, the cast and balance of tones keep the film together. Finally, in true Marvel fashion, the post-credit scenes change the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. It will be interesting to see Marvel goes forward with it, and also how it changes the story of Spider-Man. Either way, Far from Home is highly enjoyable and should be watched on the biggest screen you can find it.

Spider-Man: Far from Home

4.5 out of 5

‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Review

Director: Michael Dougherty

Writers: Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Stratharin and Charles Dance

Synopsis: The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collies with Mothra, Rodan and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

The Gareth Edwards-directed Godzilla in 2014 divided many fans over how it handled our beloved giant monster. While many wanted more kaiju action, the slow-build worked for me. So when it was promised that the sequel King of the Monsters would have more giant monster fighting, fans were eager to watch. Then it was announced that we’d be getting three of the most well-known kaiju’s in film history – Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Needless to say, fans flipped and wanted to see all four of these behemoths go at it on the big screen once more. So, does the massive sequel live up to the hype, or does it trip over its gigantic feet?

Picking up years after the first film, “titans” are on the rise and the organization Monarch is on a tight leash with the government, who wants to kills all the titans, where as Monarch thinks that humans and titans can co-exist. This introduces Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a scientist for Monarch, who has built a device called the ORCA to communicate with the titans somehow. However, after Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by eco-terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance), along with the device, Monarch brings in Emma’s estranged husband Mark (Kyle Chandler), who also has experience with the machine, to track everyone down. This puts everyone on track to go face-to-face with the new taints, Rodan, Mothra and the new three-head beast, King Ghidorah, and the only hope for everyone is Godzilla.

Like I mentioned, King of the Monsters gives fans that were not pleased with the 2014 Godzilla – giants monsters beating the crap out of each other. While the sequel does take its time to show off Godzilla himself, once it does, it doesn’t keep him hidden. It shows him in all his glory as he goes toe-to-toe with Ghidorah on multiple occasions. Mothra and Rodan also have their moments, but talking more about them would get into spoiler territory. Needless to say, seeing all of these three together on the big screen with big-budget effects is truly a sight to see – especially if you see it in IMAX like I did.

It’s when we get to the human characters were things get a little iffy. We get our returning characters like Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and Sally Hawkins’ Dr. Vivienne Graham (who thankfully gets a little more to do this time around), who help drive the grand scale of everything that is going on, along with new Monarch characters played by Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch and Ziyi Zhang. We also got our military characters in Aisha Hinds and O’Shea Jackson Jr. who provide some help, but they don’t really have anything real substantial to add other than some quips.

The main human story revolves around the Russell family. Although I won’t get too into it, but the reasoning behind some of their actions don’t make too much sense and kind of goes a bit too far. It’s not against the actors, but more of what was given to them. There are also probably too many characters in the movie for its own good, and even though almost all of them have their moments to shine, their moments come right after a monster battle, so the air kind of gets sucked out of the room a bit. There’s also one character that gets quickly introduced that feels more important than it should, but it’s kind of glossed over that I sat there confused for a second that it took me completely out of the movie.

All in all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers on the monster mayhem that fans will love. While the human characters story muddles and slows things down a bit – and some are not used properly – director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) keeps everything tight enough for audiences to enjoy. The ending also opens up this universe a lot that should be really interesting if done right.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

3.5 out of 5

‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’ Review

Director: Rob Letterman

Writers: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly and Rob Letterman

Cast: Ryan Reynolds (voice), Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy

Synopsis: In a world where people collect Pokemon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I, like many my age – no matter how bad you want to deny it – grew up watching and playing Pokemon. It’s something that, somehow, has remained in nerd culture through new generations and fans still bringing it up. If it wasn’t apparent, when Pokemon GO came out, the thing spread like wildfire and was a craze that I think people wouldn’t happened (do people still play it? Serious question, not bashing). It was because of the GO craze, Warner Bros. and Legendary decided to jump on it and announce they were developing a Pokemon movie, and they were choosing to do the Detective Pikachu route.

I’ll be honest; I wasn’t fully onboard with the idea at first. I thought Hollywood would bastardize one of my childhood favorites with another crappy CGI/live-action hybrid movie that would probably water down what made the property so good and memorable. Then the trailers came out and I was fully onboard. So, did Pokemon Detective Pikachu live up to the expectations the studio put out? Or does the video game curse continue?

Pokemon Detective Pikachu follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a once aspiring Pokemon trainer, who suddenly gets a call informing him that his estranged detective father has been killed in a car crash. While going through his father’s apartment, he runs into a talking Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who claims to be his father’s Pokemon partner, but can’t remember anything since he has amnesia, expect one thing – Tim’s father isn’t dead, but only missing.

The two decide to embark on a journey to find out what happened to Tim’s father, who was on the verge of breaking something huge. Along the way, they helped by Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), an intern at the big news corporation, who has a nose for a good story, who also has her Pokemon, Psyduck, with her at all times. What follows is Pokemon shenanigans, world building, and a mystery buddy-cop film.

Detective Pikachu’s staying power is going to be interesting to see. On one hand, the movie is jam packed with Easter Eggs for the hardcore fans, to the point that you may need to watch it twice to catch some of them. On the other, non-fans will maybe have at least a little bit of a hard time with the world they are thrown into. Because, director Rob Letterman wastes no time filling the screen with Pokemon. Once we get pass the cold opening and Tim’s introduction, which shows him trying to catch a Cubone after being forced by a friend, we go straight into Ryme City.

Ryme City is the creation of Bill Nighy’s Howard Clifford, a city where Pokemon and humans coexist together. The Pokemon fill the city streets and hold jobs like everyone else. It’s here where most of the Pokemon are shown, and I’m sure fans will have a field day trying to name them all. It’s also not filled with generation one Pokemon, there were Pokemon there I didn’t even know or recognize. Dare I say, it’s almost Who Framed Roger Rabbit-esque in its story and format, and Blade Runner in terms of visual look for the first half of the movie.

All that said, Detective Pikachu can’t just thrive on the Pokemon, it is trying to tell a story. Smith’s Tim is charismatic enough to push the story along and his chemistry with Reynolds’ voiced Pikachu keeps the movie going until the credits roll. Newton’s Lucy is a hard buy at first, as her character seems to be pulled from the old noir films – which the film does try to be for the most part – but then becomes the ambitious news reporter, even though she’s really an unpaid intern, by trying to break the case along with Tim, Pikachu and her Psyduck.

Of course, the highlight of the cast and the movie is Ryan Reynolds as the talking Pikachu. Reynolds is always reliable for witty, crisp delivered one-liners, and he brings that with Pikachu, and while he’s not foul-mouthed like Deadpool – although Reynolds said there are R-rated outtakes enough a movie – Reynolds’ Pikachu genuinely funny. Plus, the chemistry he has time Smith, despite the live-action and human interaction differences, is fantastic.

All the fun aside, Detective Pikachu does have some faults that keep it from being a good movie to a great movie. The movie’s story gets a little too ridiculous for its own good in the third act, and despite some cool Pokemon action, it doesn’t really justify the direction of the story, although you might be able to guess where it was headed at some point. Of course, there is the big one – do you need to know anything about Pokemon to enjoy the movie? Sort of. Knowing little things about the world could be helpful in some moments and situations while watching the events unfold, but not knowing them should affect your enjoyment.

Then there are the tonal shifts. The first ten, fifteen minutes of the movie is pretty much a drama with Tim dealing with the loss of his father, but then Pikachu is introduced and the movie becomes a comedy. But then Tim’s story comes back and the movie stops everything to have a drama beat, and then go right back to comedy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the movie missteps on balancing the two sometimes. To get a little nit-picky, despite the amazing designs of the all the Pokemon, and how amazingly truthful they are, there some times with they look just a tad bit wonky, again, nit-picky.

All in all, Pokemon Detective Pikachu is a fun entertaining movie that you’ll enjoy whether or not you know anything about the Pokemon lore or franchise. The story is a little flimsy by the end, but it’s the core cast of Justice Smith’s Tim, Kathryn Newton’s Lucy and Ryan Reynolds’ Pikachu that will keep you invested from beginning to end. Pika Pika.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

4 out of 5

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Spoiler Review/Thoughts

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Cast: Everybody…I’m not writing them all out.

Synopsis: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War, the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.

*Reviewer Note: This post WILL HAVE SPOILERS. It won’t be a full-blown review, but will have review elements. This is more of a free-flown thought post about everything. If it feels disjointed, I’m sorry.*

 

11 years and twenty-two movies has all led to this. Marvel and the Russo brothers have impressively weaved everything together for their endgame. From the moment we saw Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury coming out of the shadows to tell Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark that he’s now part of a bigger world, fans have been eager to see where all this was going to lead. Whether you were a comic book fan or not, Marvel and everyone involved behind-the-scenes made sure to make you, and keep you, invested in these characters, and make you care for these characters from beginning to end. In this case, keep you and make you invested in their final journey – well, at least for a few of them.

Avengers: Endgame will probably surprise some people. Because despite being a “comic book movie,” the first act of the movie – after the first ten minutes – is more of a drama, and one that focus of loss. We’re not use to seeing heroes lose, and even if they do, their turnaround happens later on. Instead, Antony and Joe Russo have the characters dealing with their losses and trying to on, but as Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers says, “most people move, but we don’t.” It’s not just a line, we see it on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha as she’s trying to make sure the world doesn’t go completely lawless, and looks like she’s become a Nick Fury-esque leader, but the weight of it has gotten to her, especially when she hears about Jeremy Renner’s Clint has been doing since “The Snap” (I know it’s called something else, but we’re calling it The Snap).

Speaking of Clint, the movie opens with him dealing with The Snap all by himself, and it  almost makes sense why he would go down the road he’s chosen – for the comic book fans, they never all him Ronin. Then he has to deal with losing Natasha to get the Soul Stone – which I’ll get to in a little bit. Clint takes the punches and keeps going, and while it’s easy to hate or rag on the character, Clint is a valuable member of The Avengers, and it’s shown here as he’s basically the test dummy for going into the Quantum Realm, and getting the new Gauntlet into the playing field at the end.

Others who have great drama moments is Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, who escapes the Quantum Realm when the machine – I forgot the name – is turned on (by the rat?) and he comes out in a post-Snap world. He walks the streets of San Francisco seeing the aftermath and the slow realization of what happened, and the horror of seeing him searching for his daughter Cassie’s name, only to see his own name. Plus, yes, the reunion of him and Cassie is, probably, the first tear-jearking scene of the movie – for me.

Then there’s Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, oh I’m sorry, I mean FAT Thor. The effects of losing everything, and thinking it was his fault, because he didn’t aim for the head, is played throughout the film and it makes sense. Everything Thor has been through in the franchise has lead to him being one of the strongest Avengers, even if it’s said for laughs half the time, so having him be that close to end all of it and failing all the same is going to take its toll. Although, playing what essentially is PTSD a little bit jokey is questionable, it make sense that Thor would be the way he is. That said, I also love this scenes with Rene Russo’s returning Frigga.

Finally, we have Tony and Steve. The two still have some heat at the beginning due to the events of Civil War, but when the chips are down they know they need each other. Tony, and Karen Gillan’s Nebula, being rescued from space by Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel was expected, but seeing Tony with muscle loss and calling out Steve at the beginning is hard to watch. We’ve seen Tony in situations that he can get out of or even manage to barely get out of, but seeing Tony like this – a broken man – is something we’ve never really seen before, and it’s so effective, which makes his arc by the end

As for Steve, his ending just makes sense. Steve going back to the past to return the Infinity Stones, and then staying there to become old with Haley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is the ending that almost every fan wanted. Steve was always a man out of time, and the constant reminders of Peggy throughout the whole Captain America series, and here in Endgame it made sense he would stay and live his life with the love of his life. It also puts Chris Evans out of his contract, and a fitting end at that.

Now, let’s get to some of the grips. Because despite what some non-comic book fans think, we fans can be critical of the movies – well some of us. One of the main things everyone was talking about was the length of the movie. In many ways, it didn’t matter in the end because the movie doesn’t really feel long at all. The pacing, for the most part, is great. Endgame does slow down a bit when it comes to small scenes like when Thanos finds out about Nebula, and some of the double Nebula and Gamora scenes kind of slow things down, but other than, the pacing is fine.

Arguably, you can say Endgame returns to Marvel’s villain “problem.” Josh Brolin’s Thanos screen time is reduced tremendously from Infinity War, resulting in him not even appearing until about halfway, maybe even little more than halfway, through the movie. Granted, Infinity War was really a Thanos story, and Endgame was more about our heroes dealing with he’s done and trying to reverse it with their “Time Heist” it still would have been nice to get a little more Thanos – even if it was the past Thanos.

Now, let’s talk about fan service. Some will probably see Avengers: Endgame as huge fan service, and you know what, in some regard, yes Avengers: Endgame has a lot of fan service. But, the way I see the fan service in the film is that it’s done right. It’s not too heavy handed, which is saying something since the final battle scene is basically the most comic booky thing you can ever see or imagine a comic book movie doing. That said, the final battle scene is everything these movies have been building up to if you really think about it, so I can’t really blame the movie or call it real fan service if this was the direction they were going to go with.

Yes, the final battle scene, even leading up to it, had moments fans have been waiting for. Captain America lifting Mjolnir and using it, every major hero you can think of showing up for the battle – even having all the women team up – and Captain America finally saying “Avengers Assemble.” That said, is that a bad thing? Does it take away from your enjoyment of the film? To go extreme, should it not have been in the movie at all? Sometimes fandoms can be a fickle thing.

Finally, the time travel. Look, time travel in movies is always a tricky thing, and once you start explaining it, someone else is going to come in and tell you how you’re wrong. Does the changes they made affect the timeline? Yeah, probably. Does it matter for your enjoyment of the future films? Probably not, unless they bring it up. It’s not really a pass we should give the film, but I think for this, I’m going to let it pass because “Back to the Future is bullshit.”

All in all, Avengers: Endgame was, to me, a perfect sendoff and end to a franchise that’s been going strong – with a few stumbles sure – for over eleven years and twenty-plus films. Character arcs were wrapped up, hints of future in the franchise and emotional moments all over the place.

Avengers: Endgame

4 out of 5

‘Captain Marvel’ Review

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Writers: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Djimon Hounsou, Rune Temte, Algenis Perez-Soto, Jude Law and Annette Bening

Synopsis: Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review. There are also two post-credit scenes.*

 

Marvel’s twenty-first film in their ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe finally has their first female-led superhero film. Not only that, it is a prequel to the whole MCU showing the events before we met Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in Iron Man, the MCU’s first film – although timeline wise, Captain America is still the first (for now), but let’s move pass that. So how does the pseudo-origin story of Captain Marvel fair? Let’s find out.

Captain Marvel follows “Vers” (Brie Larson), a member of the Kree Starforce, whose main purpose is to stop the shape-shifting alien race Skrulls, who they are in war with. While on a mission to recover someone with important information with her team, led by mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), they’re ambushed and Vers is eventually set crash lading to Earth in 1995. On the run from the Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), Vers teams up with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to search for Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) a scientist whose work could end the Kree-Skrull war, but also holds the key to Vers’ past – a past she can’t remember since being on the Kree home plant Hala for six years.

Captain Marvel is interesting on a lot of fronts because on one end, the movie is an origin film for the character, who some people may not know. On top of that, Captain Marvel’s origin and history has changed every now and then, and the movie takes bits from the top main three origins of the character. On the other end, “Vers” already has her powers and knows how to use them, so the story just dives right into the action. That said, there are things that could have been touched on a little more in Vers’ story once she finds out who she really is. There is where the movie falls into some pitfalls and essentially makes Carol Danvers a somewhat less interesting person. It’s not Brie Larson’s fault, it’s the script that doesn’t really let the moments breathe the way it should.

Speaking of Larson, she handles this massive role with ease. Larson brings the right amount of everything a scene and the role requires. She’s equal parts funny, quick-witted and take no crap attitude, but also has enough believability to her that we’re rooting for you until the end. Her chemistry with some of the cast also keeps the movie going, more specifically, with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. The two bounce off each other extremely well, and it’s with Fury that Carol Danvers comes out, but it’s through other characters that we find out who she is, and not herself finding out who she is. That said, I do want to mention that the de-aging effect used on Jackson – and Clark Gregg’s returning Agent Coulson – is particularly seamless, that it’s damn impressive and it never really falters. Which unfortunately can’t be said for the end of the movie where some of the CGI looks a little too wonky, but I’ll take that as inexperience from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who have mostly done low to mid-budget independent movies.

The only other character that Larson really bounces off of is Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau, Carol’s best friend from her days in Air Force, who has a daughter that also tells Carol who she was before she disappeared from Earth and ended up with the Kree. The rest of the supporting cast is fine, but a lot of them don’t get enough screen time although Captain Marvel belongs to Brie Larson. Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg isn’t in the movie enough to really grasp an idea about him, while Ben Mendelsohn’s Skrull leader Talos has a lot more to do with the story than you think, and also touches on a big comic storyline. Annette Bening’s Doctor character also plays a huge role in the movie, but it’s basically a long cameo.

Speaking of cameos, Lee Pace’s Ronan returns in a nothing role, along with Djimon Hounsou’s Korath. Sure Korath is in the Starfleet Force, but the whole team doesn’t really do too much, which is shame since this could have been a cool new team to have set up in the universe. It’s also a waste of Gemma Chan’s Minn-Erva.

Of course, Captain Marvel has had its outcry of blind negatively lately from people who can’t take seeing a female superhero on screen in her own movie. Or because they think the movie will pass along a feminist message. Honestly, either one is really dumb especially considering that the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is very interesting and has some great comic stories. If you honestly give in to these ideas, then how about you actually watch the movie first to form an articulate and meaningful contribution. Is there a message? Probably, and yeah, but it’s not like it takes away from the movie or stops and says “LOOK AT THIS MESSAGE OOO.”

All in all, Captain Marvel is another good addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Brie Larson owns the role of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and her chemistry with the seamless de-aged Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury keeps the movie up and running. Yes, the movie has flaws, but not enough to really say the movie is bad or the worst movie in the Cinematic Universe. Also, Goose the cat.

Captain Marvel

4 out of 5

‘Fighting with My Family’ Review

Director: Stephen Merchant

Writer: Stephen Merchant

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost, Lena Headey and Dwayne Johnson

Synopsis: A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the true story of WWE superstar Paige, real name Saraya-Jade Bevis, Stephen Merchant and producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took inspiration from Paige’s real life and the documentary series about Paige’s family to make Fighting with My Family. Being a wrestling nerd myself, I have been looking forward to this since it was announced, and hearing the good word of mouth, I was fully ready to really enjoy the film. That said, whether or not you know Paige’s story or not, you’ll walk out appreciating the journey.

The film follows Saraya (Florence Pugh) and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) Knight who have been training as professional wrestlers since they were kids by their wrestling parents Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey). Their dream? Going to the WWE, and eventually they get a call to try-out for them, and head to WWE’s developmental program, NXT. However, when Saraya is chosen over Zak, Saraya goes to Orlando to begin her training and Zak has to stay behind to figure out what do now that his dream can no longer be achieved. Paige’s underdog story then begins through trials and tribulations.

Fighting with My Family has your basic underdog sports formula we’ve seen before, expect this time it’s done through pro wrestling. Paige wrestles – pun intended – with being different around the other potential contenders, dealing with the drama with her brother and eventually reaching the dream she wanted in the grandest way possible. This isn’t necessarily a negative toward the film, considering it is what you expect in this kind of story, but it is just a bit of a shame that Merchant went the formulaic route.

That goes double considering Paige’s story is much more than what we get onscreen. Again, being a wrestling nerd and knowing her story, it was a shame to see some things taken out or completely ignored. Of course, that’s not to say that everything in the movie is a lie. It is still Saraya’s story, but having her just be dropped into the crazy world of the WWE is far from what happened.

Regardless of all that, Fighting with My Family is still very good, and most of that comes from the cast. Merchant puts the weight of the movie squarely on Pugh’s shoulders and she carries it with ease. She’s able to bring everything the story requires from the drama, to the humor to even some for the ring work she was allowed to do. Jack Lowden as Zak is equally great, and the chemistry he and Pugh have is fantastic, and makes the two easily believable and easy to root for that we become almost immediately invested in both of their journeys.

Supporting role wise, I wish we had seen a little more of both Nick Frost and Lena Headey. They’re in it enough for the story the film is trying to tell, but still having those two in your movie, and not having them in it a little more is a bit of a bummer. Vince Vaughn’s Hutch Morgan – a combination of different people like Norman Smiley, Dr. Tom Prichard and Bill DeMott, at least according to Paige – balances the line between a hard-nosed, nonsense coach and giving Saraya enough to motivate her, but still being a hardass. Finally, for those worried that Dwayne Johnson would overtake the film, don’t worry, he’s only in about three or four scenes, and we’ve seen most of them in the trailers and TV ads.

All in all, Fighting with My Family is an underdog story we’ve seen before but in a different sport that most people have either fallen out of love with or still follow to this day. That said, Stephen Merchant’s direction and balance of drama and humor is spot on, plus the cast keep you invested from start to finish.

Fighting with My Family

3.5 out of 5