Jonathan Evans

Review Glass By Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

As I said recently, it’s never too late to make a sequel. One of the movies to cemented writer-director  M. Night Shyamalan as an auteur in the early 2000s was Unbreakable, a spin on the Superhero origin, told in a refreshing, unique way. Now, nineteen years later we’ve been given the second movie and here is the finale.

Spoiler warning ahead for those that have yet to see Unbreakable or Split.

Basically, people are born with Superpowers, like the X-Men they re just born and they have special abilities, strength, speed, agility etc. But they are somewhat subtle and very few people are even aware that these people exist or that they themselves even possess powers. But they exist and some are aware of their unique nature and use them.

James MacAvoy is the man with over twenty-three different split personalities within him (they call themselves The Horde), some of them only have a few lines while others return more frequently, the one to pay attention to is “The Beast” one of great strength and agility. Samuel L. Jackson is Elijah Prince, a genius who suffers from a condition that renders his bones extremely brittle and easy to break, which earned him the nickname “Mr. Glass” which he also adopted as his villain alter ego and the title for this movie, however he is also a mastermind with intelligence that is beyond exceptional. Bruce Willis is back as David Dunn the unbreakable man who early on in the movie the press have titled “The Observer” he cannot be injured, has exceptional strength and can even read peoples sins by touching them, however, he has a weakness, water. He doesn’t really have much to do in this movie beyond looking sad and standing stoically.

Each of them come with their own supporting character. Dunn has his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) that has supported him in his vigilante career since first discovering them and provides him intelligence via headset. Elijah has his loving mother (Charlayne Woodard) that has always believed he was special and had a big destiny. Then there’s Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the kidnap victim of The Horde from Split but is more fascinated and sympathetic to the man with all the different personalities within his head.

Due to his actions that are revealed at the end of Unbreakable Elijah has been placed in a psychiatric hospital for the past nineteen years. But while The Beast is about to make victims out of a group of young girls a battle breaks out between him and Dunn whose been patrolling the streets keeping the neighborhood safe, it’s to a standstill because they are taken in by a Doctor Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulsen), that takes them to the same clinic Elijah has been residing in.

Now all three of them are in the same mental hospital and the doctor is convinced that they all suffer from a type of delusion of grandeur and their feats of superpowers can be logically explained away. I didn’t buy it for one second, I’d seen the previous two movies, I’d seen the trailer where they clearly display inhuman abilities so these scenes didn’t work, nor do I think they’d really work on anyone else. Even for someone that hasn’t seen the previous two movies or the trailer we already see feats of strength that are beyond human abilities, so this section just doesn’t work.

Shamalyan has taken one of the most infamous career dives in history, when he started he was considered to be one of the most exciting writer/directors working in the industry, but eventually, he started turning out obvious, nonsensical and clearly indulgent products. Recently with the movie The Visit and previously Split he seems to be getting back on track. I don’t rate either of the two previously mentioned movies very highly but they were definitely much more solid than his previous outings.

This movie is filled with “smart” characters, characters that have high I.Q. but in this, you must ask the question “Can a writer write a character smarter than themselves?” A writer can write dialog that can be reasearched and have the character know all this information off the top of their heads but what about the way they use it? If it doesnt work in the movies logic or even in any logic then it doesnt matter and you see the failing of the writer because they’ve created an equation that doesnt add up. Another faily is that the reaveals are portrayed as great feats so there is a lack of modesty which sours the expereice because you dont buy it while the filmmaker is bigging themselves up.

One of the most mind-boggling elements of the movie that you have to swallow is that comic book in of themselves tell the stories of these super people. How exactly I’m not really sure, it’s is never explained. Do the creators know deep down about the existence of these super people? I that their power? Is it something about the medium itself that prophesies them?

The movie is undeniably unpredictable. There is the classic twist that Shamalyan is known for and it’s a pretty good one here, and it gets near the end and it’s not done with it’s reveals, this is a movie that has a whole plot to fill it, instead of relying on the action. However, while I was surprised during it I wasn’t awed. Unpredictable does not equal good, there I was watching the fate of these characters, some of which have existed for nearly twenty years and it was just disappointing. All I really felt was that I didnt see it coming and even if I did I didnt like it.

As an alternative flavor for the abundance of Superhero movies we have to choose from these days this movie is anything but paint by numbers, as the conclusion to a movie that started in 1996 and we have been waiting for for over twenty years it pulls some things that are just a let down, as an analysis of myth, comic books and society itself it thinks it’s profound while just being complicated. Though, like an M. Knight Shamalyan movie, this is probably his best movie since…well since Unbreakable. Starting with The Visit he has slowly reassembled himself as a filmmaker and credit has to be given to progress.

Review Bumblebee by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

The Transformers movies are more popular and worse than we deserve or could have predicted. Who could have guessed that we would be five movies into a film series that require over two hundred million dollars a piece to make and say absolutely nothing? They have become the bain of many critics summer season and still rake in a generous profit so this means they won’t stop getting made.

Now it has reached the point that all long-lasting, popular franchise reach, branching out. The main story is no longer enough so there need to be movies about the other characters to fill in the time between the main installments. Like with the MARVEL movies or Star Wars. So we have the popular supporting character Bumblebee that we know was on Earth for some time before the events of the first movie so that seems like a good enough place to build something.

As soon as the movie opens we see things that we have never seen before within these movies, a battle between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons…OK, we’ve actually seen that a lot but this takes place on the home planet of Cybertron. Already this movie opens uniquely, with fresh visuals. Also, the Transformers look more like themselves than they ever have within these movies. In Michael Bay’s movies, they were cluttered, with too many moving parts and most of them were grey so you couldn’t easily distinguish which giant robot was which. Here they are composed of simpler shapes, have a distinctive silhouette, and have their own color so you can easily register one from another. This is a good start. The Autobots are loosing and the leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) orders a retreat, they do so and he gives orders to his second in command B-127 (Dylan O’Brien) to go to Earth and send the signal when it is safe for them.

Upon arriving on Earth they get the attention of a military platoon lead by Jack Burns, played by pro wrestler John Cena. A chase and shootout happen along with another Decepticon that followed, in the fight B-127’s voice box gets destroyed talking away his ability to speak. He stumbles and takes the form of a yellow Beatle Volkswaggon.

Sometime later (1987) we are introduced to a young girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). She wakes up to her eighteenth birthday, she gets a flowery helmet from her mother and a book about being positive from her stepfather. She would prefer a car of her own because that means independence. She tries to fix a car that she and her dad would work on a lot when he was alive but never to success. One day while browsing the local garage she works at she finds an abandoned yellow Beatles Volkwagon, the owner allows her to take it home as her birthday present. This particular car is, of course, B-127. The truth is revealed pretty quickly and because he is unable to articulate words he’s only able to produce synthetic buzzing sounds, Charlie says “You sound like a little bumblebee” so this is what she calls him.

Charlie likes to listen to music, which also becomes the soundtrack for the movie and is spirited. She has wants and is selfish, but is also a teenager so it’s forgiven. Steinfeld plays her with fun and poignancy when it comes to the emotional moments. John Cena pulls off the hard as nails and snarky Military Lieutenant with great ease, he has the believable physicality which lends him authority and has a sharp stare which is intimidating but he is also able to balance it with some dry humor. He also has probably the best line in the whole franchise “I mean they call themselves Decepticons, no one thinks that’s suspicious?”

Behind the camera, as the director is Travis Knight, whose only other directing credit is Laika’s Kubo of the Two Strings but served as producer and animator on Laika’s two previous movies (The Boxtrolls and Paranorman) as well as an animator so he knows his way around the filmmaking process. He brings what he learned through his time in animation taught him, a disciplined, clear mentality towards storytelling, ability to craft likable characters and some hard-hitting emotional moments. Animation takes a lot of effort to pull off right so the pre-production prosses is very long and meticulous, you need to plan and revise much more than traditional live-action movies and be sure that almost every frame is clear. Knight brings this mentality towards this movie and what we have is a well-crafted, slick experience.

Bee is the lightweight compared to the other Transformers so he hits them in their joints which are the most vulnerable places to strike and uses his weight to flip them. This adds personality and logical grounding to the fights. As well as this Bee has a shy body language, he’s never been in a human house before and isn’t there to do wrong so he’s nervous and can easily break things, this is a personality and the effects team and storytellers have fun with his transforming abilities i.e. using it to get through a door, only transforming one piece of his body at a time. This is more fun and creativity than we’ve gotten in five whole movies.

On Bumblebees trail, however, are Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) two Decepticons that know if they find him they find Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) leader of the Autobots. They are also able to transform into both land vehicles and aircraft which I thought was against the rules of Transformers no point about being nitpicky about details like this. So some of this movie’s appeal is what I liked about Ant-Man, it is a lower scale movie, still with stakes but nothing that will end with the firey, apocalyptian destruction of a city and a few neighbourhoods along the way. If the world is always at stake and a city is always toppled then we grow numb to it. So this movie, very wisely, drawn back on the destruction porn and makes it about the characters and merely peppers it wish the crashing and the smashing. Making a much more even and enjoyable experience.

When it comes to long-lasting established characters that are passed down from one creative to the next, like Sherlock Homes, Superheroes or Shakespeare you will get various degrees of quality products. But these characters and this franchise have existed from over thirty to eighty to even hundreds of years, clearly, they are not broken and have something that keeps them alive. Under Bay, Transformers has almost become a dirty word, one that signifies ludicrous characters, offensive stereotypes, and indulgence in C.G.I. destruction. But there is clearly something enduring about these characters and this concept, they’re not broken, merely mishandled.

Bumblebee is the best Transformers movie and is better than it deserves to be considering its company. It is fun, creative, sharp and clear. It is the best movie to have Transformers in it since the original in 1986.

Review The Favourite By Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

If you take the beautiful visual asthetic from Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon and populate it with the jumping madness of Terry Gilliam characters with a few pinches of sharply worded dialog from other pieces, then you might get the closest thing to a grasp on The Favourite.

There’s something about historical dramas that are based on real people with beautifully crafted costumes, make-up and painterly composed shots that make you think that you are in for a quiet time with plenty of manners. This mentality is probably why the movie is so striking in the first place. Because though it takes place within a palace, has queens and high social standing people, this is a story of ego, treachery and deplorable that is just as shocking now as it would have been them.

The story opens in 1708 and Britain is in the middle of a war with France, Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) reigns and is none too interested in the minute details of the war or even ruling the country, more about having hot chocolate (which upsets her stomach), playing with her seventeen rabbits and building a castle for her dear Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Sarah is best friends with Queen Anne and has her ear and those with the queen’s ear has her power. She uses this to extend the war with France and make other manipulations like raising the local tax rate. Opposing many of Sarah’s decisions is Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult), the Earl of Oxford.

Arriving however is Abigail (Emma Stone), a lady whose father lost the family fortune and lost her in a bet so she is down on luck and is seeking employment as the help in the palace. She and Sarah are distant cousins so she gets a position in the kitchen.

It is then revealed that the relationship between Anne and Sarah is not strictly platonic, but they do go to bed with each other. Abigail learns this and seeks a way to climb back to a position of power, by becoming the queens new favorite (hence the title). She makes allegiances with Harley and pays the queen flattering complements unlike Sarah that is entirely honest with her when her new makeup makes her look like a badger or denies her hot chocolate.

The setting is politics and power, therefore the characters use their words like swords. There are eloquent back and forths between characters that impulse ruin for the other or powerful allegiances to be made and sometimes when the other is obviously defeated they simply blatantly swear into the others face.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has a reputation of being bold, masterful as well as delightfully insane. He made a name for himself in 2009 with Dogtooth about a family where they keep the children separated from the rest of the world and then went on to gather critical acclaim through The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I have actually never seen one of his movies before but have been aware of him. This was both a surprise as well as everything I was expecting by what I had learned about him.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan utilizes wide angle lenses to capture as much of the characters and the set in all it’s detail, along with this are a few atmospheric slow panning shots, scenes lit by fire or candlelight that invoke Barry Lyndon and a few times where the fish-eye lens is utilized to make the whole image appear warped.

History is filled with wonderful stories about people in a position of power rose to it or kept it through deceptive and cutthroat means. But history is history and a movie is a movie and can always do with a little bit of embellishing to spice it up. The Favourite takes the names and positions from actual history and fills in the blank spaces with what if’s that only an insane person would conceive. To be sure Lanthimos is insane, however, he is also brilliant.

Review Mary Poppins Returns by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

Apparently, it’s never too late to make a sequel. Anchorman 2 came out a decade after it’s initial release, Incredibles 2 fourteen, Mad Max: Fury Road thirty and now here’s Mary Poppins Returns fifty-four years after the original movie came out. I’d say better late than never but Mary Poppins wasn’t the kind of movie where you thought about what came next, it seemed pretty well wrapped up. But here we are.

Though it’s been fifty-four years since the release of the original movie it takes place about twenty years later. The original Banks children have all grown up, Michael (Ben Wishaw) is living in the old house, Jane (Emily Mortimer) has a place in the city but visits regularly. Michael himself has three children Annabel (Pixie Davis), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson), his wife that has passed on so he’s a single parent that has a lot to deal with, adding to everything he’s missed out on the last three payments of the mortgage which means the house will be repossessed, however, they do have stock in the bank which could save them, but they cannot find it, so they have one week and the search is on.

With this very tense time, the children go fly a kite out in the park. They get it in the air with the help of Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) the local lamplighter but a big gust a wind sends it flying off. Luckily there’s a nanny in the clouds that catches it. So here again, on Cherry Lane, Mary Poppins is the nanny to the Banks children.

Emily Blunt takes up the umbrella and fills the shoes of Julie Andrews as the magical nanny, this is no easy task. The image of Disney’s original Mary Poppins is pretty much ingrained into the public subconscious. From the colors, her posture, voice etc. We all know it in one form or another. Emily Blunt more takes on the bullet points of the character and makes it her own. She has the same stance and is perfectly postured and finely spoken but isn’t mimicking Julie Andrews. This way the performance is organic while still being recognizable as the character we know. Even her costume is different, she has a hat, scarf and velvet coat but they’re different, more colorful, she still looks like Mary Poppins but her own version of the character.

There are segments of the movie where Mary Poppins takes the children to do some seemingly mundane activity and they become grand, fantastical excursions. One particular one where she takes them inside a vase and they are brought into an animated world. 2D animation isn’t done much these days (sadly) but when it comes to Disney they are still the best at it. We get a big, loud and proud musical hall segment. The designs are more sleek and modernized than the original movies and the live action actors eyelines match with their animated co-stars which makes the whole segment more convincing. A nice touch to this is that the conflict that occurs within the bowl parallels the conflict in the real world. This is a good touch because it makes the excursions more meaningful rather than just time-fillers.

The song is written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman with Richard M. Sherman serving as a consultant. Lyrically they have done some fine work with some of the slickest rhymes you will find in a musical in some time. Though while the songs were playing I had a fun time when I walked away I found that I couldn’t remember one, except for two. “Lovely London Skies” (which opens and closes the movie) and “Can You Imagin That” where Mary Poppins takes the children on a fantastic experience in the bath.

Director Rob Marshall, who also directed Chicago, seems to be built to direct movie musicals. He has the right sense of camera choreography as well as when there are intricate dance movements happening either slow it down or lock it down so there’s not too much movement going on and the screen does not become a blur.

Mary Poppins doesn’t fly down when everything is all going swimmingly, she arrives when there are some serious problems brewing. People probably remember the songs and the dancing and laughs more than anything in the previous movie and they’re not wrong to remember them, they’re wonderful moments, but the core of the story comes from a person that arrives when things are going bad and used magical things to teach us basic lessons. The movie knows that and isn’t afraid to layer itself with heavier moments.

Is this another one of the great movie musicals? I don’t think so, but who really knows, maybe time will prove me wrong. What it is is bright, energetic, confident and more than charming with some nicely handled delicate moments.

 

Review Aquaman by Jonathan Evans.

(3 / 5)

Of all the Superhero movies to come out in recent years I don’t think there is one I can point to where it’s appeal mainly goes to its star. To be fair there are co-stars and costume department and the director and the writers but without the special magic of Jason Momoa, who takes the concept of the character and fits it to his liking this movie would probably be dead in the water (pun intended!).

Opening the movie is a prologue of a man by the name of Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) runs a lighthouse and during one dark and stormy night, he sees a woman washed up onshore and un-conscience. He takes her inside and tends to her wounds, she is Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) who is the princess of Atlantis and has fled because of an arranged marriage. But this beautiful woman from a distant land, falls for this man of a different world and for a time love thrives and they have a son together named Arthur, but she has responsibilities and so her people come to take her back, leaving Thomas to raise Arthur alone.

Years later a submarine is being boarded by pirates, they take the ship but it’s hit by something, not a creature, or a missile, but a man. For his introduction, you will have a smile on your face. Jason Momoa is such a larger than life character that is so happy to be onscreen that his joy is sent through the screen and right into you. He looks good with his top off (which happens a lot), moves with swagger and confidence and is either given or writes his own witty repartee which is even accompanied with a few notes of an electric guitar (a fun peppering of fun for the audience).

Joining Arthur is Mera (Amber Heard) a red-headed Atlantian that comes from a noble house and tries to bring Arthur to Atlantis to restore order, he wants very little to do with it but tidal waves keep damaging the shoreline so he’s in for the ride. Mera has special…magic? Where she is capable of controlling the water itself. Heard and Momoa has good chemistry with witty banter that they sharply bounce off each other.

Director James Wan is most well versed in the horror genre, with movies like Saw, The Conjuring and Insidious under his belt but also directed Furious 7 so he’s also cut his teeth on mainstream blockbusters. He channels more of his Furious 7 muscles here though there two moments when he gets to flex those horror skills of his. He has good control of his camera, knowing when to move it and when it should stay still and there are a few neat wipes used within it (though they are just for flash). He and cinematographer Don Burges even make use of the underwater segments with allowing the camera to drift in a fully around, above and below the characters.

Setting the movie primarily underwater, for the most part, helps give the movie a unique look from the other Superhero movies. Atlantis itself is as a city is impressive visual realization with lights that strobe-like cuttlefish and other deep sea creatures and the building take the shape of shells, fins and the bones of marine life. As well as that there are many other locations that we are given because of how the plot is laid out.

This whole movie has a getup and go, waste to time mentality. This is to its detriment because we never get a few precious moments to absorb what’s been said, as soon as something has been explained Arthur gets up and goes to the place or fight someone (though he does seem to be that type of character). Same for other scenes with other characters, we are in a location and they spout their dialog at a fast passe and as soon they are don’t then the other talks and the scene immediately ends.

This is essentially a treasure hunt movie. With artifacts that need to be found and clues hidden in different locations around the world and one thing leading to another. These types of movies, like Indiana Jones, are good for keeping the characters and plot moving and allowing for different locations and action set pieces.

With all the incredible progress that’s been made with computer animation in recent years, it’s a shame that this movie looks so artificial. here are times when we are meant to be within a ship or an undersea castle of sorts or even have our heroes up against a creature from the deep and you will never believe it’s really there. Adding to it are very unconvincing capes that flow up and down and they are like flags of artificiality (I also have no ideas why you would need a cape underwater).

Music is used to heighten the emotion of the scene playing on-screen. Depending on the scene or on the tone of the movie itself it can be loud and aggressive or delicate and nuanced. Sometimes as well no music should be played and the image and the quiet are all we need. But during moments in this movie composer Rupert Gregson-Williams is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Especially during the second act where every emotion the characters express is accompanied by a tune, all dramatic images come with a BOOM and one moment where something dramatic is happening on-screen it comes with choir music. Such blatantly obvious as well as obnoxious use of music don’t enhance but obstruct and make us aware of how the creators want us to view the movie.

Under Zack Snyders creative reign these movies have had a washed out or, murky, dark look to them. All the color is faded down and black is not used as a contrast but dominated the frame, accompanied by browns, bronze, and variations of grey with only a few other shades being allowed in, it is a very unappealing thing to look at. Here we get vivid, lush colors as well and a few darker setting for contrast. Each character has their own main color so they can be easily distinguished from another and pop-out against the environment.

This movie does not have one but three villains from the Aquaman mythos. Primarily there is Ocean Master (whose title they find a way of saying out loud and not sounding ridiculous) Arthurs half Brother that want the throne for himself as well as to declare war on the surface. Black Manta, a deep-sea pirate that is geared with special Atlantian technology that gives him an edge in the fights. It’s a testament to the costume people that they took the original design of the large helmet and made it look good in the movie when by all means it should be hilarious. Finally, there’s The Trench, a race of water-breathers that live in the deepest darkest part of the ocean and have become savage. They are the most recent installment in the comics and are really just Piranha men though are a definite threat. Anyone of these villains is enough to provide fuel for one movie and all three are here, none of them is throwaway and get their moments, it’s just another example of the main problem with the movie, it’s rushed and cluttered.

In terms of DC movies, this is a much better step forward with recent debacles like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. It is not as strong as Wonder Woman and in terms of a Superhero facing a different culture, this is no Black Panther. Though it is still an everyone is doing an admiral job is all their departments, but the special spice is it’s star Jason Momoa that is able to take it on his broad shoulders and elevate it.

 

Review Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse by Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

Within this current Superhero renaissance that we are experiencing Spider-Man is the one that has seen the most iterations. Since his cinematic debut in 2002 (directed by Sam Rami, starring Tobey McGuire) there have been two other live-action interpretations as well as three animated shows. Superheroes are meant to be handed to other creative teams and have other actors give their interpretation for a new audience. But within one generation we are now very aware of how malleable these characters are, especially Spider-Man.

This movie is all about accepting that malleable. About how you can have the same character and shoot them through a prism and see all the wonderful spectrums they can cast. We are introduced to our Spider-Man (Chris Pine), he tells the story we all know, he was bitten by a radioactive spider, gained superpowers, his Uncle Ben was shot, with great power comes great responsibility and for the last ten years, he has been your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

Living his life in the city as well is a young boy named Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), he is entering a special school which he feels he doesn’t belong in however his cop dad (Brian Tyree Henry) insists on it. Miles isn’t having a fun time but likes to kick back with his uncle Davis (Mahershala Ali) and one day while wandering around New York’s underground Miles gets bitten by a mysterious spider. The next day his body begins to go through changes (not puberty), he is sticking to walls and can sense incoming danger. He goes back to the underground to investigate and while there comes across a battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, he attempts to shut down some giant sci-fi machine but it goes boom and Spider-Man is crushed and dies under the debris. This is the end of the hero and Miles is left with questions, while visiting Peter Parker’s grave he’s visited someone else, Peter Parker!

Yes, that machine was a portal to other, alternative universes where another Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) has crossed over. He is more of a self-pitying screwup than the one that perished but Miles certainly lacks experience so this looks like a student mentor set-up to me.

Of all the other Superhero movies this is the one that literally looks like a comic book come to life. There are numerous movies that have adapted and taken visual cues from the source material but this one, due to it being animation literally looks like the characters were drawn and were printed with ink on paper. This comes from neat touches like having their shadows be represented by lines, or printing spots and even speech text and sound effect words appearing on-screen. Adding to this they cut down on the frame rate to make the characters movement blockier, a similar effect was used in The LEGO Movie (makes sense because Phil Lord and Chris Miller serve as story developers).

This is a graphic heavy world told through the perspective of a bi-racial character living in Brooklyn, so it only comments the vision that the soundtrack reflects that. Daniel Pemberton serves as the main composer while Post Malone and Swae Lee also contribute original songs to the movie. It is fast and upbeat and compliments the intensity of the story and tone.

Being that we are dealing with characters whose defining ability is to stick to surfaces and maneuver them we get some fun playing with that shifting of perspective. The camera doesn’t stay upright like what a regular person would, it follows the Spider-Men and when they walk along a wall then the camera adjusts for them and the surroundings look as if they are shifting. It is a refreshing and fun way of conveying wall-crawling.

Along with this other Peter, there are still more Spider-Men. There is Gwen Stacey as Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (Kimiko Elizabeth Glenn) a Japanese, Anime inspired little girl that pilots a robot suit that has the soul of her father in it, Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage) from the nineteen thirties and exists in Black & White, finally there’s Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney) a cartoon pig that is probably the least serious out of the gang, also my favorite.

Along with their different design they are drawn differently, have a unique style of animation from one another and each has their own characteristics. Spider-Gwen is like a graceful dancer with fluid leg movements and able to stand on the tips of her toes. Peni, typical of anime, has her expressions change within one frame and have symbols flash on her forehead, Spider-Ham moves like an old Fleisher or Looney Tunes cartoon, with a bounce in his walk, stretchable limbs and even able to hovers slightly.

You have to roll with the continuity. Don’t want an in-depth understanding of every character and their history. See there is a character named Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) and understand he is the bad guy that hates Spider-Man. See someone in a crazy costume and just accept that this is Superheroes and they are everywhere. This movie moves too fast and throws too much at you for it to be smoothly explained.

Of course though with every story to really work it needs its center. There is a lot going on in this movie but it is always Miles story about how he is able to rise up to this legacy and responsibility. As well as that even beyond the fights is the interaction between all the different Spider-People and Miles family and friends. As long as you have a core and stay true to it you can layer it as much as you want.

We have been served a great amount of-of movies of the Superhero genre in the last ten years, but before that, they had already endured for over sixty years. They are able to do so because stories about good and evil are constant and they allow for fantastical imagery and ideas. As well as that each character has their core and is able to be handed to different people and adjust for their interpretation and adapt for a different time. We have seen so many different Superhero tales, from the dark grittiness of LOGAN, the mad colorful comedy of Guardians of the Galaxy to the epic scale of Avengers: Infinity War. This is a tale of a great enduring character and the genre itself and why they will endure forever.

 

Review Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

Werner Herzog, the great German director, once said that “We must not avert our eyes” he was talking about getting up and out into the world and looking at what is popular because that says something about what the people want, be it stupid, abstract, misogynistic, violent etc. The internet has absolutely allowed people to embellish in their base instincts and shows what the people want in some sense. Whether this was something the filmmakers had in mind while making this movie I cannot say but it stems from the same mentality.

We pick up the story where first Wreck-It Ralph movie left off. Ralph (John C. Reily) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are sentient gaming characters that live their lives being played by unsuspecting humans and during the night they travel to other arcade consoles and partake in what they have to offer. They do this every night for the past six years. Ralph being the incredibly simple character he revels in having his best friend by his side and fun activities to keep them occupied, Vanellope, on the other hand, is growing bored with the repetition and would welcome something new. Luckily…

One day there is something new installed in the arcade, a WiFi box, at first the other gaming characters decide not to mess with it but one day the steering wheel on Sugar Rush (Vanellope’s game) breaks and a replacement can be bought on eBay but at an expensive price. So our hero’s quest begins!

The WiFi is connected and into the internet, they go. While being initially flung in we see all the familiar names and logo’s, Google, eBay, Twitter, Snapchat (easy to see how this movie got funded). The landscape of the internet itself is like a sleek city with each website being represented as a building. Everyone that logs on is represented as a simple human with a square head and navigates the city, there is plenty of high-speed transportation to get them from one site to another.

They then come across on an online racing game that is much more extreme than Sugar Rush and is populated by some more intense drivers. Head of the gang is Shank (Gal Gadot), one of the purest embodiments of cool you will ever find, with a leather jacket, always beautiful hair and a smirk that tells you she is always in charge. She points them in the direction of making online videos to get money to buy the steering wheel. This then leads them to a video website (clearly meant to be YouTube) that is overseen by a programme named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) a blue, snappy go-getter that brings a lot of energy to her scenes and has a different costume for each of her scenes.

Being that there are all kinds of different websites and different users for different purposes it only makes sense to incorporate various animation and design styles. We have characters that log on for gaming and they are simple designs that are jittery in their movements, advertisers that take the form of street hustlers, and an assortment of other creepy things. It is a testament to not only the talent of the animation capabilities working at Disney but also the variety of the ability to portray such a variety of designs and styles.

I guess I can’t really call this a complete review without acknowledging the giant tiara in the room. There is a segment where Venellope goes the Disney website and along with seeing a few other familiar characters, MARVEL and Star Wars she enters a room with all the Disney Princesses’s. All the voice actors that are still alive to voice them return for their few lines, they all get an even amount of screen time and lines so no favorites will be shortchanged. For the ones that were originally 2D animated have been converted to 3D, I think they look fine. This is not a throwaway gag and does serve a purpose to the movie. All of this considered I was pretty helpless throughout and loved it.

Ultimately though this movie is about the bond of friendship between Ralph and Vanellope and moving forward. Friendships can be the same in some elements but things have to change because otherwise, they will inevitably become stagnant.

This is a sequel that expands on the scale of the first movie greatly and pushes the characters forward while doing it. It is very clever in its visualization of navigating the internet and using the elements of that platform for plot points and some characters. Though you will not be greatly changed in your use for the internet itself after watching, it does acknowledge the good, bad, and plain stupid elements of it. It has what made the first a really good watch and just makes it a bigger serving.

 

Review Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by Jonathan Evans

(2 / 5)

So this franchise train is happening whether anyone likes it or not. Some fans of this world will be along for the ride no matter what and they are legion so like the last movie it will undoubtedly due well financially. Let’s proceed.

Fantastic Beasts isn’t a bad concept and even then a seemingly bad concept can be elevated with great writing and craft. A character loves creatures and wants to understand and document them, being that this is a world of magic they are creatures with special designs and abilities. This could be charming, simple fun, yet for some reason, there must be a big bad and an overly complex plot throughout.

So in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, it was revealed that one of the characters was Grindelwald, a powerful wizard that seeks to elevate the wizards from their hiding. He was imprisoned in the last movie and when this one opens he escapes, obviously. Playing him is Johnny Depp and this is the best performance from him in a while, recently in his career, he’s been gliding by with simply being quirky and not really giving much to his characters that made his name. He doesn’t have a lot of screentime here (odd being that his character’s name is in the title) and what he does I don’t believe will cement him as one of the great villains of movie history, but he is much more on-point. Gracefully moves and poses like a superstar, with a sleek British accent making him a mix of charming and sinister. Along the course of the movie, he is responsible for a few deaths that cement him as a legitimate threat.

Like in the last movie we have Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, the gentle soul that is awkward around human beings but is truly at peace in the company of his magical creatures. This will probably be the character Redmayne will be most remembered for and being that he had another movie to practice he has made this role his. As soon as he is introduced he is quietly sitting by himself but begins to play with his pet stick creature, this moment of charm is what is most enduring about the character and these movies, pity the plot must butt in.

Credence, some kind of special wizard (I don’t know, I still don’t understand it from the last movie) is still alive and must be hunted down and killed. Also, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who has regained his memories from them being erased from the last movie is also back on the scene. So two big emotional impacts from the last movie meant nothing. Also, Newt has realized that he loves Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), this barely adds too much because with everything else going on their relationship has barely any time. The point is, everything is happening in Paris, so that is everyone gotta be.

Already the form of this franchise has become clear. Each movie will take place in an iconic city of a different country. This is to break the franchise out of the narrow view it has set up previously with just the school of Hogwarts based in England. It’s not a bad way to go about it, it allows for variations with the imagery, having different cultures and keeps the characters moving.

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, the gentle soul that is awkward around human beings but is truly at peace in the company of his magical creatures. This will probably be the character Redmayne will be most remembered for and being that he had another movie to practice he has made this role his.

Like in the last movie it is the beast themselves that are the real stars of the show. They vary in all kinds of shapes and sizes with unique movements and quirks. Some are majestic, others are cute and will most likely make great toys while others are frightening. The actors themselves do a convincing job of seeming like they’re interacting with these C.G.I. creations that aren’t really there in front of them.

It must be pointed out that the people working on the visuals for these movies are some of the best in the business. From the costumes, the sets, props and digital animation there is so much effort and care put into all the stitching of the clothes, the details in each wizards distinctive wand and the numerous digital animations they have to create, these people are great craftsmen.

However, while the movie was playing out and we saw all these special effects and at one point a vertical and rotating library I was thinking “So what.”It felt like a case of the tail wagging the dog, rather than the image be built on a point or lyrical meaning it just seems like someone in one of their departments said “Hey wouldn’t this be cool!” and they decided to incorporate it into the movie.

Near the end, the main detriment of the last movie happens again, in which they come out and hit you with a revelation that comes out of nowhere. While it was playing out I did not understand it at all, I was so confused. I understand going into it and understand what comes of it, but the in’s and outs of the details were a complete blur. Characters you don’t know get named fast in a complicated series of events that is like an entire Agatha Christie novel told to us within the course of three minutes. When it was done I felt like the movie stopped, slapped me in the face with needless complexity, then carried on its merry way.

In terms of a tone that runs through the movie and plot structuring with things being set up and coming back or a visual that pay off later this is a more solid movie than the first, so maybe by the end of these five movies, we will have a really good experience on our hands. It is still troubled but less so.

Another glaring problem with this franchise, which is much more obvious now that other familiar characters from the Harry Potter franchise are introduced is that the outcome of all the drama is already known. We know Dumbledore (Jude Law) wins and is alive and well at the end, Grindelwald loses, so why are we here?

Well, the first movie had its charm and was competent in the mechanics of filmmaking and had great artists to bring the world to life, but light tones of Newt and Kowalski shenanigans mixed with the dark unpleasant and complex elements also going on made it a confused package. This time around more is fixed and the tone is consistent. Though a few improvements on a not very good product don’t make a very good product, just a lesser mess.

 

 

Review The Girl in the Spiders Web by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

The cases of Lisbeth Slander, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, are not for the faint of heart or the for people that lack the ability to pay attention to the details happening on-screen. They are sharp, modern Gothic thrillers that never go easy on the characters and won’t let leave you feeling too optimistic by the end. As soon as this movie starts there is images and visual hints for the rest of the story at hand, two sisters playing chess together and a spider crawls out from under one of the pieces, their father calls them into his room and he pats some kind of machine, the sister Lisbeth takes her sister by the hand and runs away. On the edge of a balcony, the sister goes back to her father while Lisbeth takes the chance of falling out of a balcony and into the snow.

Then kicks off a wild opening sequence that incorporates key imagery of the movie and launches us into present time. It is unique, memorable and effective.

Filling the big black boots of Lisbeth Salander is Claire Foy. She fit into the leather jacket and trousers well while being given an appropriate punky head of hair. Foy’s true strength comes through when the character says hardly anything, many times in the movie she must process information, or listen intently or clearly be pushing her emotions down.

One day she gets a new assignment from a rich man named Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), he has created a programme called Firefall which is capable of giving whoever has it full control of any missiles in the world. This, of course, was a terrible idea and only now does he regret making such a thing (say nothing of that this is something out of a Saturday morning cartoon idea). So Lizbeth has another case on her hands.

Lizbeth successfully takes Firefall and a special National Security Agent, Edwin Needham (LaKeith Stanfield), whose priority it is now on Lizbeth’s trail. One night while she is quietly bathing she hears a rummaging and men in masks are in her place and they take the laptop with Firefall and set her place aflame. Being that all this is happening there is, of course, a story here and investigating needs doing so in comes Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), her lover/partner from the previous stories and head of Millenium Magazine. Along with all these players, there is the crime syndicate called The Spiders with a figure that has a very important connection to Lisbeth’s past.

The original Millenium Trilogy was published posthumously from the author Steig Larsson but alas an endearing character and success mean that nothing is really sacred so the books were continued with different authors. I actually cannot attest to the quality of the book because I have not read them. However, the question is raised about being true to style, characters voice, and message.  This is a world of victimized women, brutality, information is true power and there are either bittersweet or certainly no happy endings.

Being the established tone of this world director Fede Alvarez was a good choice to take the reigns as director. With his remake of Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe, he is a creator that has a talent for creating haunting images and visceral experiences. These are Gothic tales, where moments from the past carry over to the present and such such images must be striking and say something about the story, I won’t describe them, you will see them and understand. Also, there are more than a few visceral encounters throughout and you feel the impact of the punches and bullet shots, with the use of a shaky camera that always knows what to focus on and sharp sound design, hearing every tightening rope, gasping breath and shattering glass.

The whole stories construction is well built. Characters have their own voice, serve their purpose as players in a game, yet you still believe they are real people, there are a MacGuffin and plenty of twists and turns throughout. Though there are just a few times when things play too neatly for Lisbeth and the concept of Firefall is not the most feasible.

Heightening most of the scenes is the score by Roque Banos. He invokes Bernard Herman’s score in Psycho with mostly strings played fast to produce a shrieking effect. Other times he brings in drums to emphasize the rhythm and time sensitivity of the scene at hand.

This world and these characters have become like Sherlock Holmes, Zatoichi, James Bond or Batman. Where it is fertile landscape for stories, though they are distinct and the characters are defined but also malleable enough for other actors, writers, and directors to come in and give their interpretation of the world.

If you are a fan of any of the other movies then this one will also appeal to you. If you care for hard-hitting spy thriller then this one will check all the boxes also. If are a fan of both of those but also care for deeper subject matter in terms of characters and why they do what they do then this one, again is for you, if not then pass on by when you buy your ticket, but if so get right on it!

 

 

Review Overlord by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

Nazis are great, easy villains. They have a simple, distinct name, have an iconic look and logo so can be easily visually recognized as well as overenunciated accents. Plus they obviously committed such atrocities that they lend themselves to any deplorable situation, whether it be factual or some fantastical, made up scenario. This movie is the latter.

Overlord is not a movie like Apocalypse Now, Paths of Glory or Platoon where you come away from it with a unique view of war as well as the human condition. No, it is like running the gauntlet of video game levels where characters are simple, the explanation is minimal and about the experience. From boss fight, the sneaking around to full-on shooters this is like a really cool video game you won’t get to play but is still really cool to watch.

Little time is wasted, as soon as the movie starts we are in a plane filled with paratrooper ready to be dropped into their mission. Said mission is to destroy a radio tower, in France, that is blocking communication for American soldiers which makes it difficult. Bullets start popping up from below them so now it’s time to jump out.

On the ground, some survive the journey down and others don’t. Who we do have is Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) one who is possible too gentle a soul to face the harshness of this war, Captain Ford a very experienced, no-nonsense soldier that has a Kurt Russell swagger about him (convenient because he is his son), Tibbet (John Magaro) a wisecracking sniper that is by no means sensitive or an optimist, Chase (Ian De Caestecker) a photographer, Dawson (Jacob Anderson) that wants to write a book about all his experiences after the war and Rosenfield (Dominic Applewhite) Boyce’s friend.

During the course of the movie characters die, I don’t mean the Nazi’s themselves or some random character that was introduced for a minute then gets their brains blown out, I mean the core group that we get introduced to. We get to know them, they have their characteristics and some happen at different points in the movie. These people aren’t invincible and it adds to the action because now we know there are in fact stakes. I consider myself to be wise to the usual way conventional movies playout and there were some surprises to me so there may be some for you too.

When we get under the radio base we learn that there is much more going on that blocking signals. They are using some hidden element and using it to raise the dead. Yes, that’s right, Zombies! In fact Nazi Zombies! But not the Romero dumb, slow walking ones, these seem to remain intelligent but are driven mad because of the heat and are imbued with great strength, feel no pain and are no easily killed at all (then again what zombies are?).

This is stylized action and depictions of the war. The explosions are VERY loud and the soldiers don’t ever seem to suffer the consequences of being rather near an explosion (except the ones that die). Also whenever someone is shot there is half a bucket of blood that is thrown out from the other side. It’s not at the level of a Tarantino movie, but it’s near it, most likely inspired by it.

During the sequence where – sneaks into the base, I realized that the camera was just following him around and the story was being told through visuals. This is the movies Hitchcock scene, usually, these kinds of movies don’t have much faith in their audience to keep their attention beyond gunfights and yelling dialog, but in this scene, it shuts up and embraces the cinematic, visual storytelling element of cinema. This isn’t necessarily a great scene, but it is much more than what I would have expected.

When all is over the war is still going on and some characters survive which opens it up for a sequel which will most likely happen