Jonathan Evans

Review Godzilla: king of monsters by Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Well, this is an interesting franchise that’s been started. Godzilla from 2014 was a very bad movie, however Kong: Skull Island was a cinematic highlight for me, so now we have the sequel to Godzilla that will lead to the two iconic monsters clashing. It does away with Gareth Edwards and brings in Michael Dougherty, how does all this fair?

Our entrance into this movie is a young girl named Maddison (Millie Bobby Brown), whose mother Emma (Vera Farmiga) is a scientist that is studying an enormous larva, suddenly renegade soldiers burst into their facility to awaken or steal the larva, it hatches and Maddison and Emma are taken. Cutting then to Maddison’s father Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) who’s also a scientist (that’s convenient!) is brought in by Monarch, the high-tech organization that specializes in dealing with these giant monsters or kaiju.

Of course, it isn’t long before the main player shows up, Godzilla himself. When you are dealing with one of the most iconic pop culture figures, a cultural landmark and who is essentially a force of nature within your movie you’d better do them justice. He isn’t redesigned from the 2014 version though he has apparently grown a few extra feet making him a nice even four hundred feet high. He has a simple silhouette that makes him instantly distinguishable and when we get close we can see loads of little details that I’m sure the C.G.I. team worked very hard on. He is mostly filmed from low angles and moves very slow adding gravity to him. This is an honorable and appropriate presentation of him.

Along with Godzilla, we are also treated with a few other classic monsters from the lore. We have Mothra who is (as the name would imply) a large moth-like creature who’s always been humanity’s defender, Rodan a giant pterodactyl essentially, and finally, there is Ghidorah Godzillas most popular and staple arch-nemesis, a dragon with three heads and able to breathe lightning.

The focus of this movie is in the right place. We are here for the monsters, they are what are on the poster and who the movie is named after. Really we need the humans to inject some, well humanity and to string along the fights and their actions, maybe even give the good ones a helping hand or a point in the right direction. focus on the monsters, with humans along for the ride.

There are some choices that are made, which I always fail to understand that for you to take a movies subject matter seriously, you need to have predominantly dark colors with a bleaker image throughout. I do understand that an element of Kaiju movies are about dealing with a natural disaster but even then you have a giant lizard that shoots out fire, it is only so serious you can take that before the filmmakers look like the silly one for trying to convince us this is serious. This movie much more earnestly embraces it’s fantastical and overblown concept and gives us vivid colors for each of the main kaiju, Godzilla is blue, Ghidora is yellow and Rhodan is red. This works to make the image onscreen vibrant but also when the monsters clash so do the colors and so you can much more easily register who is who.

Again in the last movie they adopted a documentary feel to the camera work, this isn’t a found footage movie so why they decided to frame these two giant monsters biting and clawing each other in such a low-grade way still strikes me as a poor choice. This movie goes in the opposite direction again, deciding to be very Hollywood with their depictions, they frame the monsters with epic majesty. Low angles and well-composed.

If you are to see this movie see it on the big screen. Every movie should be seen on the big screen, there isn’t a movie that benefits from a smaller screen less sharp and reduced sound, but this is a special case. This movie is about big images and sounds, in order for you to absorb the scale of these mighty creatures and hear all the music and sound effects the movie theater is the place to see it. I would hope that’s where you are seeing most of your movies but if not then do and if you plan to see this one, make sure it’s on the biggest screen you can find.

Another nice touch is that they use the classic monster theme’s from the original series of movies. Now if you watched the movie and were unfamiliar with the classic series then it wouldn’t mean anything to you,  that’s ok. But fans always like to be rewarded and recognized in some way and this is a way of doing it. Plus they are just good, distinctive tracks so why not utilize them?

This is not a deep movie. I can’t really tell you what this is about below its surface. Plus there are plot elements that either don’t make any sense or are just left dangling in the wind by the time the movies over. But it is entertaining and it took every bad creative decision from the previous movie, turned left and now we have a much more enjoyable, easier to see movie.

So what we have is a movie that’s the third part of this cinematic franchise and doesn’t require you to see the previous two, these movies are generous with not being heavily continuity focused. It is a great improvement over Godzilla though it lacks the panache and memorabilia of Kong. Though in terms of paying respect and doing justice to these monsters it does indeed do its job. you won’t need to see the previous two movies in this franchise, nor any other Kaiju movie and it could indeed turn you into a fan.

Review Tolkien by Jonathan Evans

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

With a lot of the great artist, you can look into their lives and find a key moment or time in their lives that greatly affected them and can be found throughout their work. H.P. Lovecraft’s father was put in a mental asylum, Akira Kurosawa was witness to the mass of dead bodies in the Great Kanto Earthquake, and Alfred Hitchcock was traumatised at a young age when his mother told a policeman to put him in a jail cell for an afternoon.

Not all artists need an origin story like this but many do have a key incident in their lives that can be found within their work. Tolkien tells the story of the man that would reshape the Fantasy genre and make one of the biggest impacts on literature and what events shaped him to be able to write them.

An important element that should be talked about with any bio picture, do you need to know about the person or their work before going in? I believe if the movie is of any true merit then no, you shouldn’t have to be in the know before entering the movie theatre, a movie should be able to stand on its own without homework beforehand. That said, the people that do know about the person’s life and work will probably find themselves more at home and able to fill in the blanks and connect when certain words are said. But a good bio should please the fans and be just as engaging for someone who knows nothing about it (and if it really does its job, it’ll turn them into fans).

Opening the movie is our main character in one of the worst places during one of the worst times, the trenches during the First World War. We see him in the midst of a fever while bombs are going off, bullets are flying and muds splattering around him, but he tells his ward that he needs to get closer to the action to find his friend, he needs to make sure he’s alright. We then are taken back, to when the man was a boy and enjoyed time in the forest playing with his brother, reading and making up stories.

Due to the death of their mother, they are sent to a special school because of the benefit of a patron. While there young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is clearly greatly intelligent, well versed in literature and very comfortable with a book in front of him (as well as able to speak Latin and other languages). While at this school he gathers three friends, Geoffery (Anthony Boyle), Robert (Patrick Gibson) and Christopher (Tom Glyn-Carney). Together they form a friendship built on the appreciation of the arts and dedicate themselves to changing the world through art, each with their respective field, literature, music, poem, painting, and music.

Nicholas Holt himself is responsible for bringing this wonderful portrayal to life, the script gives him plenty to sink his teeth into but a good script can only help an actor so much. Holt is able to hone in on the characters passion for words and language and the way he observes beauty in the world and is entranced by it but is also compelled to tell stories that make the character come alive. There’s also some joking around and tender emotional moments in there for texture than make it a fully realised performance of a character.

Nicholas Hoult in the film TOLKIEN. Photo by David Appleby. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

if you know Tolkeins work or have at least seen The Lord of The Rings movies then you can probably grasp those stories are about humble people that start off in a simple place and enjoy the simple things. Then some great evil comes to threaten everything and they are thrown into a world of looming evil, of fire and mud. This contrast is present here in the movie, from a rich world of cake, tea, and art to a shaking unstable landscape that seems to have abandoned hope and civilization. What Tolkein and this movie does is take the two and link them for we understand the scale that humanity is capable of.

An element that would usually be the weakest element of another movie is the romance part of the narrative. Tolkien had a wife that he spent his life with and I’m sure it was a perfectly happy marriage. But with these movies, it seems like they need to throw that in there to make sure the movie checks all the boxes. Action? Check! Drama? Check! Song? Check! Romance? Check! But there is one here and it flourishes! It’s a wonderful layering in the movie, the character and enjoyable experience in its own right. This works because a) the characters were written with things in common and b) the actors themselves (Lily Collins) have chemistry together so they elevate the material of the script to something that you engage with. Furthermore, this is not a standard fairy-tale told on tracks, these people have similar interests as well as disagree and have arguments, like real people. Do I see it as being tagged on later in development? Yes, but they also made it work. 

Biopics are in no short supply these days but few of them really know what story they are telling, just a collage of events from the subjects life stitched together and we are pushed through it. This movie knows what it wants to say “Where did this great writer who changed a genre get his inspiration?” We learn and understand the man and are moved by it. This is a movie that looks on a mans life and knows where to focus itself.

Review Pokemon: detective pikachu By Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Pokemon is a phenomenon. I am old enough to have been there and remember the beginning of the whole thing, originally starting at a count of one-hundred and fifty Pokemon and the show and video games continuing so they cooked up more Pokemon to interact with and sell the toys. Though I have to admit that I’ve grown out of it many people (a lot of my friends included) never did and is still a tenacious hobby. It’s a solid formula for a long-lasting franchise, a world that is inhabited by unique creatures that have also become the world’s obsession, they are used to perform battles that gain the trainer a reputation. It keeps them moving by going to different locations, has a clear goal, a target to focus and work towards and has the collectible angle with all those Pokemon.

But for a simple, done-in-one narrative, is a little difficult, because this franchise doesn’t lend itself to that form of storytelling very well. Oh, there have been movies, I saw the first one in cinemas too. They just aren’t what you would call complete or even focused narratives. You MUST be a fan to watch and enjoy them because they give you no exposition.

Fun Fact: Pokemon translates to “Pocket Monster.”

Well, now we have this movie. An original English speaking version of the franchise. This has a bit of a challenge because it drops us into a world where the Pokemon are well-established part of the world. When you have a character and introduce them to a strange world you can have helpful exposition that explains to the character and us the audience what everything is and how it works, it is a much greater challenge to convey the way the world works through the character going about their lives (for examples of this see Blade Runner and Mad Mad: Fury Road). But anyway Pokemon exist in this world and have for a long time, one young man named Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) who is actually rather uninterested in Pokemon and wants to focus on his future career as an insurance salesman, he and his father Harry are estranged but one day he gets a message that Harry is dead and must come to Rhyme City and sort out his affairs.

When he gets there we are treated to a vibrant movie location. One like Blade Runner, or Rintaros Metropolis or Zootropolis. Of high building, bright colorful advertisements and of course the Pokemon that makeup just as much of the population as the humans. They walk around with them and even play parts for its function. Like some that must direct traffic and others are chefs. At night it becomes a place of deep blacks, smoke where the streets and room are lit by colorful neon lights. This did not need to be this good looking, but it is!

Tim goes to his dad’s precinct and sees his dad’s old partner and then goes to his dad’s apartment. There he looks over the rooms and the bed he made for Tim for when he’d visit but never did when he hears movement in the other room. In there he finds a Pikachu, the most iconic and recognizable of all Pokemon but not only this, he can understand the Pokemon and vice-versa. All other Pokemon usually can only say one word, whatever species (or is it breed?) they are, that’s important to know if you didn’t already.

The most grating part of the movie is Pikachu and all the lines he has. Ryan Renolds and his success clearly gave him carte blanche to say all the lines he could think of behind the microphone and the filmmakers put as many of them in as they could in the hopes the audience would eat ’em up. To be fair some are funny, but many of them aren’t and are just him throwing whatever improvised lines he came up with on the day of recording, in one scene when they enter a character’s room and they start speaking to them Pikachu literally says the basics of what the character is speaking. This doesn’t need to be here, but it is and most of the lines are a drag in the narrative.

This is a live action movie and so the Pokemon are inserted through C.G.I. Because of this, they need to be more realistically rendered. This is the right decision but also a challenge. The Pokemon have a wide range of designs but they have never overelaborated on them, they can easily be identified by their silohette and color combination. So from a design perspective they are solid but in bringing them into the real world more that poses a challenge. Luckily they abide by the mentality of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” they take the original character designs and stay true to them and just give them added textures like fur and skin so you buy them in the real sets they have.

Back to it. Tim and Pikachu are both very surprised that they can understand each other but after the initial shock wears off we learn that Pikachu has lost his memories and believes that Tim’s father’s death was no accident. So we have a mystery, a location and an odd-couple duo of boy and Pokemon to lead us through many different avenues of this city where one clue leads them to another location and suspect which takes them to another clue and so on and so on. As a mystery movie, this is a rather solid script, most things play a function and nothing is cheaply thrown in, but well established beforehand.

However when the movie was all done with and even while it was playing out it never really elevated with me. It was just another Noir mystery movie that looked good and was populated with Pokemon. It isn’t particularly mean spirited or shallow but it basically says that you should be a part of this hobby because if you’re not then you are unfulfilled. Which I suppose was, of course, it’s the main goal, this movie wasn’t made to get people to stop playing Pokemon. But it is, from its visuals, to script a solid movie.

Review The Curse of La Llorona by Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

This is a movie that is competent on the mechanics of it’s genre but lacking in originality. Though a substandard script can be elevated through true effort in the other elements.

The Curse of La Llorona is about a ghost from long ago that was scorned and now torments the living by praying upon families. Her latest victim is the Garcia family. Anna is a single mother who’s also a social worker, when she checks in on one of her clients that has locked her two boys in a closets and violently attacks her when she inquires whats inside she is taken away. All this seems like the perfectly sane thing to do but this is a horror movie so not all is as it seems, the boys are killed and Anna has inadvertently caught the attention of La Llorona, so begins the proses of denying, researching, surviving and then exercising the ghost, or they all die, it’s gotta be one or the other.

Everyone here is a fine actor but the biggest one is Linda Cardenelli as Anna. She has to do a lot in this movie and she does them all very well. But one thing she excels at is being scared and brave at the same time. There is one moment early on where La Llorona pays her and her family a visit and she is terrified that this spectre has suddenly appeared, she grabs a baseball bat and warns the spirit away, she is clearly terrified but also ready to defend her home and her family. These are two heavy emotions that are difficult to convey effectively by themselves and to balance the two of them at the same time deserves great praise. Which has been paid.

La Llorona herself is a suitable monster movie. She wears a white wedding dress which the production designers have kept in-mind so she pops within her surroundings and gives a distinguishable silhouette. She also comes with grey, veiny skin that is revealed in close-ups that adds a disturbing element.

I have to admit that I wasn’t scared during this movie. It got my heart pumping a few times but that’s just because something really loud suddenly happens when there was a long stretch of quiet. That isn’t scary, if someone sounded a horn while you were quietly reading a book would that be scary? No, it would just be something unexpected. These jump scare tactics and they only really work for one viewing. When you see it again you know when the thing will go “Boo!” and you’re not really engaged and just seeing the events unfold.

Though to be fair, like slapstick there is an art to jump scares, they both require understanding and delivery of setup, passing and delivery. Someone is going about an activity, the camera follows them and also conveys something else within their environment that will be important later on, a sound or movements thats a little out of the ordinary gets the characters attention, they observe or investigate and when they are reaching or walking towards it there are a good few moments of silence, at this point the thing will either go “Boo!” now or it will be fine, defusing the situation only to have the thing go “Boo!” from behind them.

Whenever you make a story about something supernatural the story isn’t really or shouldn’t be about the supernatural element. The supernatural serves as a metaphor for the deeper human fear. This one is about the fear of harm being done to your children and your house being broken into.

Throughout this movie you buy that the characters are scared. This is the right decision, if we are to be along for the ride with these characters then they need to feel things and we see them and empathise with them engage with that. If theres is some kind of a threat and the characters don’t take it seriously, be it a monster or some kind of disaster then we as an audience won’t.

This is a horror movie that isn’t really scary but it does know it’s craft, has a heart and has a truly endearing performance in Linda Cardenelli. It’s good for one watch but sometimes a good enough first watch is enough to be satisfied and get your moneys worth.

Review Greta by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There are some movies that have a killer pitch, ones where at the end they completely pull the rug from under the audiences’ feet and are built on that (for example Psycho). Others, where it changes the perspective of the narrative, like from the villains perspective or a side character. And then, there are others still that have a fairly standard script by all accounts and through solid directing and acting are able to be a little more.

Greta is a movie about a young girl named Frances McCullen in New York that, out of the kindness of her own heart, returns a handbag to its owner, an elderly woman named Greta. Through this, we learn a few things about the other and see the beginning of a friendship that benefits each member and helps themselves. There’s already a nice contrast by the two of them being very different ages. This could be a perfectly effective comedy or drama if it were not for one night when Frances is having dinner at Greta’s place and discovers a drawer full of identical handbags. From there she quickly gets out as fast and calmly as she can but this is not the end. This is where the real movie begins.

There are some subtle hints as to the deeper nature going on within the rest of the narrative and some lines of dialogue that when they are further investigated throughout the movie are revealed to be some sinister stuff. Though to be honest (maybe because I saw the trailer), I knew most of the things that were going to happen, if you walked into this movie completely unknowing at the start then you might be fooled and the shift will be a true surprise for you. But you don’t judge a painting or a photograph of their content, you judge it on how they are framed and the techniques that went into them.

Chloe Grace Moretz as Frances does a truly solid job. She needs to sell herself as this simple, girl who only means well as well as having her own emotional baggage. But it is in the sequences of panic and fear that she excels, when she is meant to be it is vividly painted on her face crystal clear.

Like Kathy Bates in Misery Isabelle Huppert’s performance as Greta will be the main talking point of this movie and is indeed it’s greatest feat. She is able to shift from one mood to the other, sometimes so very fast and suddenly that it is very scary, and those sudden shifts put you on edge because you know that she can turn within an instant.

Why is it that when someone does something nice in a horror movie they always get punished? I understand it when the bullies and horrible people in these movies get eaten by the monster or get dealt terrible fates but there are those times when a nice person does a selfless thing and that buys them a ticket into a crazy world of pain. I doubt there’ll be any Samaritans emerging from seeing this movie.

Director Neil Jordan has built his career on making niche pieces of work. Like A Company of Wolves and Interview with A Vampire. Very unique premises for movies and dipping their toe a little in the horror genre as well as plenty of serving of the surreal. This is one of his more grounded works, nothing fantastical or supernatural going on, but he is able to crystal clearly frame and passes a scene. And sometimes that’s all you need.

Horror is like any genre really, your needs to press the right button within you. Comedy needs to make you laugh, action is supposed to get the blood pumping, drama to engage you with the characters’ trials and tribulations. Horror is meant to scare you, but all of them are also meant to move you as well, that is what separates the masterful from the mundane. Just having something shocking or unpleasant may be enough for a first showing but not so much after that. I quote Guillermo Del Toro on what he said about horror “Inside every horror movie I love, there is a poem.” I believe that means there needs to be something true within the work, these are two people that find themselves alone in a city and are looking for a connection, but one takes that longing and turns it ugly. But having that solid truth at its centre helps of focus and stabilise the movie as a whole.

This is a meat and potatoes horror movie that is minimal with its production but expert in execution. Its deep truth carries over to the acting, passing, sound and end result. A great movie, probably not, but something that is more than a simple scream.R

Review Avengers: endgame by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Closing my review for Avengers: Age of Ultron I wrote: “Superhero movies have never been better, this movie now shows that they’ve also never been bigger.” That was back in 2015 which seems so long ago and I, nor do I think anyone (except perhaps Kevin Feige) could have predicted the mass scale that would make that movie seem humble by comparison. Through everything that it accomplishes and also fails to do one thing is irrefutable, Avengers: Endgame is one of the biggest endeavors as well as the hugest movie ever executed.

To properly set the stage I must now spoil the events of Infinity War. You have been warned (though why would you be seeing this movie if you aren’t up to date or have at least seen Infinity War?). The events of the last movie had the big bad villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) go on a quest throughout the galaxy to acquire six Infinity Stones, when he had gathered all of them within his gauntlet he could fulfill his ambitions of erasing half the population of the universe with a snap of his fingers. He gathered them all, and he did wipe out half the universe, reducing them to dust in the wind. Now here we are, our heroes utterly defeated and the villain completed his goal. This was essentially the Empire Strikes Back of the story, almost a cliche to say but it holds true. The last movie was were the bad guys were unrelenting and for the battle, they won. But the war is not over and so we are here, where the forces of good regather themselves, the bad guys have established themselves as a threat, our heroes have a tough fight to regain victory.

As I did last time I feel I have to go through the list of all the characters we have. Others will appear later in the movie so for now, let’s just deal with the ones we get within the first thirty minutes. Iron-Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the latest member Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). There are other that come into the movie later and some that make a brief appearance but for the main plot of the movie, this is who we have.

For the rest of the plot going forward I will forego a detailed description, a lot of this movies appeal on the initial watch is the shock of what is revealed and how the characters go forth. But after the first act out heroes are in disarray and they eventually come up with a plan, the path this takes them down allows them to proceed with their goals while also reflect on what has come before as well as invites the audience to do so. This struck me more as pandering slightly, it came off more as overtly winking at the audience rather than letting the plot unfold in any kind of natural way.

Surprisingly, the weakest element of the movie is its comedy. MARVEL has done such a good job with their comedic elements in other movies before, from Guardians of the Galaxy, to Ant-Man and others where they are either comedically focused or insert comedy within the dialogue and narrative we’ve gotten some great laughs out of these movies. Even in ones as serious and dark as Civil War and Infinity War they were still able to skillfully insert a pun to pepper the mood with some banter and levity. But here, after these heroes have been dealt such a devastating blow, and for the start, it plays it very bleak comes as too much of a contrast.

What I was worried about going into this movie was the annulment of stakes. The whole universe was dealt a devastating blow previous and now they obviously seek to undo it, which makes sense because they are heroes, but narratively it means that there is no stakes and everythings hunky dory again. Such a thing would render all emotional we felt previously to mean nothing. Well, again not spoiling anything, this movie still comes with its stakes and gravity to its situation. There are still things on the line and the heroes know that and are willing to make that decision (that’s what makes them heroes).

As if Infinity War was impossible enough to appreciate without having seen the previous movies this one is especially so. There are so many characters and references being thrown at you that you will not be able to care without having seen their story leading up to this. You’ll be taken out of it and more be asking “Who’s that?” “What are they talking about?” “Ow I recognise them, never saw the movie though.”This is more like tuning into the series finale of a long-running television show rather than seeing a complete story begin and end on its own merits, but I guess that’s just where we are now, this is the state of things in this franchise inclined world we are currently living in. To be fair nearly all the characters on screen have had development in other movies so it’s not as if the work has been put in. It’s not like Ready Player One where they just show you a bunch of pop culture figures, smash them together and expect you to feel something for them.

These movies have grown at an unprecedented scale in terms of having a completely realized cinematic universe. The number of characters that they have realized from their comic book source material and their ability to overlap and make appearances in other movies creating a truly realized environment should not happen. It should have crumbled before it ever really got started. Yet here we are, nearing thirty movies and over ten years and the number of characters has continued to expand and the audience is not getting tired.

Writing this screenplay is not a mammoth task, it is more like a freight shipping mammoths. Taking on the duty is, once again, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. This pair has written all the Captain America movies and Infinity War previously. They make tight screenplays that have characters convey much about them with only a few lines of dialog. They are also versatile enough to write for multiple tones, be they serious, comedic, suspenseful and even tender.

The idea that such a feat as this to even conceive, let alone pull off is a challenge, to say the least, and being that it was made in the first place is a triumph, that does not get done by lazy people. But the fact that it stands so tall and so proud and though not without it’s shaky parts does indeed serve as a testament to this writing and directing team.

Even then, a movie doesn’t just get made with just it’s directors and screenwriters, the crew and post-production team are essential in getting the movie filmed and then creating the special effects rendered. But I want to highlight the role of the Line Producer, a Line Producer is responsible for calculating the budget of a feature and overseeing the day to day progress of filming. According to IMDB, this movies was Nicholas Simon, high praise because the organization and determination required to get all these actors schedule to line up and makes sure everything goes on track is a true feat.

While with some of the other movies that I would name as my favorite, I would acknowledge their flaws but with so much going on and the level of confidence and skill in executing it bringing up the flaws would just be pedantic. This movie, not so much. It has definite, obvious flaws and I was aware of them while the movie was playing and they stare back at me when I reflect on it. In comparison of this movie as a whole Infinity War is the more focused and defined out of the two of them. This one is more self-indulgent and could use some trimming, mostly with some of their jokes. Infinity War opened with Thanos, followed him through it and ended with him, it opened with one character and we delve into their viewpoint and follow their struggles to attain their goals. This movie starts out with a group of people and it’s essentially a story to avenge (convenient being the name of their team), then there’s a padding of some surreal humor, now the movies turned into a heist, and entering the final act is a battle. This is much more mangled experience.

Though it must be said that when the final thirty to forty minutes play out it was some of the most pulse-pounding, audience-pleasing, and moving moments I have had for the ten years I’ve been a loyal audience. I am the one who has put in the time and effort and being paid off, I know that means a lot of other people will be unable to enjoy it on the same level but at this point it should be clear that you have to be a fan to go to a movie with dozens of characters on the poster.

Could any movie reach the scale of this movie again? True much of it is computer generated imagery but that certainly requires a lot of work too. Will there ever come a time when there is another cinematic universe that takes over ten years to reach this crescendo? To be popular enough to keep going for ten years? To amass a cast and audience big enough for a story that goes to this many locations, and has such variations of imagery? I don’t know, but I do know this movie works. It went for everything, stumbled a bit but certainly stuck the landing.

As was said, part of the story is the end. This movie is an end to many things, but not these movies, and one of the most important parts of life is taking the next step. The MARVEL world will certainly never be the same again and the movie world now has a new standard for budget and mass cast of characters.R

Review Fisherman’s Friends by Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

“Man from the big city that is a big shot ends up in a small town where he meets salt of the earth people and doesn’t really get them, he discovered potential to sign the local musical band, but they are not interested because they don’t do it for the money just for fun and love of the music, while he signs them he learns that there is more to life than being a big shot and comes round to their simple but purer ways. City people are shallow and terrible while the real people that are of true substance are in the countryside and have roots and history. This is the movie if you are interested in being surprised then turn around now and seek something else.”

Hmm, thats really it, but I guess I should elaborate more.

Fisherman’s Friends is one of those movies that does not get by on it’s screenplay or technical feats, but through the acting and personality of the characters. On these two things it does succeed but I feel there are some major detracting factors that need to be talked about. 

Some London friends get together for one of their bachelor weekends, the main character Danny (Daniel Mays) is one of them. They go to Cornwall for a fun time, while there they spot a performance of the local band comprised of local fisherman and life guards. They sing a Sea Shanty, a type of work song that are very old and tell stories, not like todays music or what they play in the big city thats all electronic and not about anything.

The way that the people in the city are framed is like modern dressing, up to the minute talking business people that are obsessed with whatever is fashionable and are shallow, etc. etc. People that live and are successful in a city have to work very hard, it may not be the same kind of manual work in the country but it is work, true some come from privileged backgrounds so they have it easier but they are the minority and success is still not guaranteed.

The overall message of this movie seems to be that having roots in one place and legacy builds character, to that I say why not travel? Traveling gives you a sense of how big the world is and expand your mentality to other peoples way of life. Not this movie though, it seems to think that you are born in one place and you set up there for life and you and your descendants must do the same, keep that up for six generations and you’ll become a solid person. Granted it does break out of some of these ideals but it holds pretty true to it for most of the run time.

Almost every line in this is predictable. Literally, within the first thirty minutes, I was able to predict what was basically going to be said and sometimes word for word what came out of the characters mouths.

But even with all this said as the third act rolled around I must say that I found that the people had started to grow on me. They do have their charm and personality and along the way, they do get in a few jokes that are winners while even a few tender emotional moments that do indeed strike deep.

There are just about no surprises in this movie but some handsome cinematography, a few winning moments of humour and of course very good music and you have something that is worth a watch. I just wish they would have tried doing something new with the plot or at least thrown in some unconventional dialogue instead of the most conventional.R

Review Hellboy (2019) by Jonathan Evans

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Remakes and reboots are a bit of a tricky subject for reviews. Reviews themselves should be relative not absolute but you still need to take into account better or worse movies within the genre or subject matter. We have a new Hellboy movie that is not a continuation or has any involvement from what Guillermo Del Toro started back in 2004 when it must also be noted there were far fewer Superhero movies. A movie that carries the same name as the original has to stay true to the spirit and tone of what it is adapting or remaking while still distinguishing itself. It’s a delicate act, but some have done it right.

What helps Hellboy be distinct is Hellboy himself. He has an obvious, distinct visual to him but also his mentality, he is essentially a blue-collar Superhero. He wants to do the job in as short a period as possible, then kicks back and watch the latest sports game and enjoy a beer. When he goes in and investigates and it turns out there’s a monster his thoughts are “Ah hell, this is gonna take a bunch more hours.” One of the strongest elements of this movie was the casting of David Harbour, he comes with a deep voice, dry humor and a nonchalant attitude that fits for the character and this world. 

Anyway, the movie kicks off with an opening voice monologue spoken by the character Trevour Bruttenholm (Ian McShane). About the old days in King Arthurs time when an evil witch Vivian Nimue (Mia Jovovich) was about to unleash demons upon the land but was betrayed by her own witches and King Arthur impales her and cut her into pieces, but she does not die, so each of her body parts is sent far away to be hidden. While this is playing out it is in black and white except for anything that is red and a few swear words are thrown in. It sets up the movie as a whole well, some sort of cool stuff, a bunch of violence and a few swear words in the mix in an attempt to be cool.

Apart from Harbour, McShane and a few others in the background, these are bad actors. Well, not so much as they are bad but these are bad performances. I’ve seen some of these actors in other things and know they’re capable, but they do not do their best work here. Their line delivery is flat and unenthusiastic. Perhaps this is a case of the director not spending enough time with them, or they were uninvested in the material I don’t know and at this point, it doesn’t matter, we have two actors doing a good job and the rest just don’t care. 

Speaking of line delivery something went wrong with recording during filming or during ADR because we can hear all the actors reading their lines crystal clear. You would think that this would be good but there’s no leveling going on. If a character is in a close-up or far away it’s still like they are right next to us and rings of artificiality. Maybe if they had some supernatural, all-powerful specter on screen speaking then there would be a reason for this but for every character, it is one of those finer details of post-production that goes a long way if you do a good job on, which they haven’t.

Special effects do not make a movie but they are needed so you believe something is really there. These are terrible special effects. Whatever digital company did these effects are not up to scratch, they are poorly rendered and obviously artificial that this whole movie could be mistaken for coming out in the early two-thousands. There are a few effects where they linger on them for a long time so you can get a good long look at it as if they were proud of it, but it reeks of fake.  Even then some of this could be forgiven if you cared about the people/demons that were within the scene, but we don’t, it’s the worst kind of narrative, where you aren’t invested, nothing clever is happening and so it’s just stuff happening on-screen.

Editing is one of the most essential elements of movie making. It is what defines it from theater or literature. It is the art of taking the raw footage and carving it into something defined and with shape. Timing the cuts right and sometimes not cutting so you can let the actor’s expressions really sink in and to mood resonate. This is neither of those. What has come with the fast format of digital is the ability to cut willy-nilly and go crazy without thought or reason. The editing within this movie is a mess, they cut and cut not because one thing leads to another but because they want to keep the audience paying attention and think that by editing it within a blender is the way to do that. this isn’t cutting the footage, it’s hacking at it so now you just have a mess.

If you are going to compare this movie to Del Toro’s movie then Del Toro is the winner. If you let this movie stand on its own then it still isn’t very good.  It is still unique amongst the now much more crowded competition of Superhero movies but even then they are of a much higher quality.

Review Missing Link by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Laika likes to be grand, go ambitious and portray the unconventional. They latch onto stories about characters that don’t quite fit in and meet other such outsides and plots that take them to unique places. They also are not content with doing what they know they can do, each time they want to be challenged with their craft and artistry in some way. So here is their next feature, Missing Link, a story about an odd pairing if ever there was one and all the other trails and characters they meet along to way for them to reach their goal.

From the opening, we get a firm understanding of who the main character is and what kind of adventure we are in for. We open on a footprint of a large creature, then it wipes to a skinny boot print then the camera glides above the water of a lake to a little boat, it rises up to a fancy tea set being poured and then up to the man having it, he complains that it’s gotten a bit cold. His assistant apologizes but sets things up for capturing evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. The creature does appear, with the encouragement of bagpipes, and proceeds to eat the assistant and dive down, but through some bold adventuring by the gentleman, he saves his assistant, however, the camera which would have captured proof of the monster gets smashed.

This gentleman is Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), an explorer of the strange, unique and often dangerous. Which leads to his latest assistant quitting. While browsing through his pile of mail he finds one crudely written letter saying that if they follow their directions then he will find proof of the legendary Sasquatch.

He goes to the Gentlemen Explorers Club that is filled with stuffy, pompous, thickly mustached, or bearded or sideburned old men in black and white suits that gather around a fireplace and a reminisce about how they shot an animal or killed some foreign people. They have no interest in granting Frist membership because he is unconventional and he always failed to bring back proof of his oddities. So a wager is made, if he can bring back proof this time then he will be granted membership,

Within this scene, you can see Laikas talent for not just animation but comedy. This scene serves as pure exposition, needed to spell out his motivation and what will be the goals going forward. These scenes are usually the dullest and slowest parts of any movie unless they are done right. While these men are standing around talking they really on unique character movement, visuals and fun inserts of comedy that keep us looking and listening. This is something essential yet you’d be surprised at how many movies have these scenes and put nothing unique or even fun in it to keep you interested.

When he arrives at the specified location and does indeed find the Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis), however, he is most surprised to find out that he is able to speak, English! Rather well and also that he was the one who wrote him the letter. The Sasquatch is all alone in the forest, which is being diminished by trees being cut down, and believes that he has relatives in the snowy mountains, the yetis! Frost agrees to help him reach his relatives if he gives him proof of his existence so he can join the Gentelmens Explorers Club. However the sasquatch needs a name, Frost suggests Mr. Link which is also humorous because it’s like missing link, the sasquatch doesn’t get it.

Mr. Link has very little experience with people or interactions of any kind. He takes things at face value and is very literal so he needs tuirns of frazes explained to him and if asked to do something he literally does it. Take one scene when he is passes a rope and a grappling hook and asked to “Throw this over the wall” he does, all of it in one go. This is the main type of jokes we get from him and you eventually get wise to it and they become the weakenst part of the movie. 

While traveling they realize they’ll need a map of the Himalayas, luckily Frost knows where to find one. Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) has it, her and Frost were a couple years ago but he was more interested in his adventures and so she married his best friend. As you would expect his just showing up after not being in contact after years and only doing so to get a map that her late husband died for does not go over well. But they desperately need it so they come back in the night to steal it, she isn’t happy of course but she also realizes she hasn’t been living her life, so this duo becomes a trio.

It seems like they went for sheer impressive spectacle with Kubo of the Two Strings and here they want to try out some more subtle things. Not to say that this movie is devoiud of a grand ambition or has scope, far from it, but they want to get smaller details down. Take one scene that takes place on a boat, theres a conversation between Frost and Adelina, it’s goining through some harsh waves so it rocks, while the conversation unfolds the room itsef is swaying ever so gracefully, so the characters have to adjust their footing to balance and furniture slides around, sometimes very slowly others abrubtly. Other times when they have a camera that moves along with the character and shifts angles when they change direction. All of this must be discussed, planned, built, painted and then finally animated, one frame at a time. Or other times when Mr. Link is standing with the wind hitting him and every chunk of his fur blows in the wind.

Laika operates as Disney did in the old days. Art challenges the technology, technology informs the art. They constantly embrace and seek out the odd and fascinating. Like Mr. Link himself there is nothing else like this movie, flaws yes, but why be safe if you can be bold and beautiful.

Review Shazam! by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What world am I living in? If you wound the clock back to 2012 and say that there’s a new DC cinematic universe coming and Batman and Superman will be the disasters but Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and now Shazam! will be the winners of the bunch, I’d have looked at you like you were bonkers. Yet here we are, a movie about a beloved character from the comics that I’d thought would never get his own movie and if he did it would be forced through that dark or complex filter that DC movies seem to put most of their characters through. I am so happy this is not the case and we’ve got what we got.

Side note, this character was referred to as “Captain Marvel” for a long time, but due to legal reasons, it has been changed to Shazam which adds a whole lot of complications to it. I guess obviously if this movie was out and Captain Marvel that would lead to a very confused audience, both in the movie theaters and in the comic stores.

The setting is not of the dark gritty crime-ridden streets of Batman, the high tech science fiction of Superman, the mythological scale of Wonder Woman but a realm of magic, as in true fantasy magic, wizards, words, robes, and staffs. This gives the character and now the movie it’s own unique tone and personality to distinguish itself amongst its competition.

Our tale begins on a dark snowy night where a little boy is in the back of a car and his father is driving and elder brother is in the front.  The elder brother and father clearly get along and care very little for him. But suddenly the little boy is transported to a deep cave with statues and an old man with a long beard, covered in long robes and holding a staff. This old man is a wizard (Djimon Housou) that offers this little boy great power, but the statues (that represent the seven deadly sins) tempt the boy to take an evil eye, this was a test and he has failed so he is cast out. Back to his old, loveless relatives.

We are then taken to years later and a little boy is at a carnival with his mother, trying to win him a toy tiger. She can’t win the tiger but does get him a compass. While walking through the crowd the two get separated, the boy is taken in by the police and his mother never comes for him, he is alone. Skipping again to years later, now present day and the boy has grown up a few years into an early teenager and his name is Bill Batson (Ashner Angel), he’s been in and out of foster homes for years always looking for his mother. Now he is in Philadelphia and put into another home. This one of the Vazquez, who have adopted many foster children. One of which is Freddy (Zack Dylan Grazer) who requires a crutch to walk but certainly never lets that get his spirits down. 

Now in the present, the little boy in the car has grown up to become Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). he has been searching for years for a way to get back into that mysterious realm of the wizard, fortunately for him he has now found it and takes the dark power for himself, unleashing the seven deadly sins from captivity and upon the world. So now we have our villain!

So, in his desperation, Billy Batson is taken to the cave and offered the power f the wizard known as Shazam! The powers are mean to be bestowed on a person with a pure heart but Billy is simply a good enough person. So when he speaks the wizards name a bolt of lightning hits him and he is transformed into a full grown man in his very own super suit, light up logo, cape and everything.

It is the casting of Zachary Levi as Shazam that is the cornerstone for the movie’s success. He is so unashamedly a big kid, from his energy to his broad expressions you believe that there is a child working this adult body. 

This movie takes place in the winter and within the gray streets of a city, but it is the characters clothing that makes them pop. Each character has their main color, Billy is red, Freddy is blue, another is purple, another is green and the villain wears black. This is a color move and a stylized superhero one so naturally, people are color-coordinated.

So now that he has been granted the body of an adult and has superpowers what to do now? Test them out! In a montage set to Queens Don’t Stop Me Now where Billy along with Freddy test out his new body and see what its capable of. This sequence is for the audience to learn what powers Shazam has too as well as a simple serving of fun. These are children that have been handed these amazing abilities, of course, this is how they’d go about it.

This movie knows what it wants to be. It knows that it wants to tell a superhero story from the perspective of a child that isn’t taking this all too seriously so neither are the filmmakers. It knows to insert it’s tongue firmly in its cheek. However, this is probably the movie the be the most emotionally heavy, some filmmakers believe that dark equals emotional, it does not, something does not have to be dark it just needs to mean something of great importance to the characters and for you to be able to connect to it. If it’s all dark then it’s just unpleasant, but with the right amount of balancing between colorful and heavy emotional moments, then you have a truly whole experience.

As a fan of Superman and Batman, I am saddened by them getting poor treatment movies, but they have already had their good treatments and left their cinematic mark. It is time for new characters to get their time in the sun and for people to learn about their unique mythos and characters. I wholeheartedly embrace the renaissance of the underdog superheroes getting the treatment they deserve. This movie is fun, dark, emotional and well crafted, like an Ablin movie at their peak.
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