Sunday, March 24, 2019
Billy Batson is a streetwise 14-year-old who can magically transform into the adult superhero Shazam simply by shouting out one word. His newfound powers soon get put to the test when he squares off against the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana.
Director: David Sandberg
Cast: Zachary Levi. Mark Strong, Grace Fulton, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou
Release Date: April 5, 2019
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Runtime: 2 h 12 min
Shazam! is a fun family friendly superhero film that works on multiple levels but first and foremost it’s fun. David Sandberg directs his film with a breezy good natured feel while mashing up Big and Superman. Throw in a solid bit of heart and themes about family and you have a superhero film that’s sure to make multiple members of the family happy. Shazam! is at it’s best when Zachary Levi and his goofy charm appears on screen. When Levi was originally announced as the title character it did seem like an odd choice at first glance but it works incredibly well. Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer share solid chemistry and put in solid performances so the film rarely lags when Shazam! isn’t on screen. Mark Strong can do the villain thing in his sleep and here doing yeoman’s work, his character isn’t really all that layered so it’s not terribly memorable. Shazam! is the kind of fun light hearted superhero movie that’s just fun to watch, a slight trim to the runtime would have helped it a bit because some sequences seem to go on for no reason. Still it’s the kind of origin film that strikes a strong balance of introducing a new character but keeping it fun.
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Genres: Horror, Thriller
Rated R for some violence and disturbing images
Runtime: 1h 56 min
Us, Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort, is hard to classify as a horror film. Much like Get Out, it’s a film that’s never particularly scary even though it’s filed into the horror genre. That’s not to say that the film isn’t well done, it’s a fun thrill ride, but it’s just not a horror film. Once we move past that point, again much like Get Out, it works best as an interesting Twilight Zone type film. Peele’s references to other better horror films are sporadically throughout with some being more explicit while others are implicit. On its own merits, the film moves at a fast pace playing out much like a rollercoaster ride where once it gets going it never stops. Ultimately, even with all the references, Us ends up feeling much more like George A. Romero criminally underseen 1973 film The Crazies. Peele delivers some beautifully composed shots and sequences that are sure to leave an impression but at the center of it all is Lupita Nyong’o. Nyongo’o duel performance is the oil that makes this engine go here; she does wonderful work throughout even though you are left wanting more of her as her doppelganger. The supporting cast is just as strong with Winston Duke showing some strong comedic chops. I do wish we’d gotten a tad bit more of Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker who make the most of their limited screen time. On it’s whole, the film is a fun ride even though it seems to find it’s last second reveal much more mind blowing that it actually is.
For the second week running, Netflix made me a better offer than the cinema, so, thanks to that and the flu, I spent yesterday morning in bed with the Motley Crue biopic The Dirt.
A little note about spoilers: I generally try to stay reasonably spoiler-free; however, I won't hesitate to reference actual events of decades past. If you are unfamiliar with Motley Crue and don't want to know the story until you've watched this movie, please refrain from reading until you've done so.
The Dirt and the book on which it is based are Motley Crue as seen by Motley Crue. Told from the first-person point of view of each band member in turn, the movie breaks the fourth wall and even gives wink-wink acknowledgements of liberties taken with the truth, but it never really rises above four men whose psychological development stopped about the age of 16 trying to show the world how badass they are. That being said, if you have the stomach for people behaving in the most vulgar ways you can imagine...well...it makes for some damn funny stories. When the movie is self-aware enough to recognize its own ridiculousness, it's a lot of fun, backed by some great Crue tunes; however, bad acting and worse wigs make the tale's low points a rougher go, with neither the script nor performers having the skill to handle them. The movie depicts the car accident that claimed the life of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley and the death of Vince Neil's daughter Skylar in too much visual detail; in more deft hands the emotional impact could have been felt minus images of a cold, grey child in a hospital bed or the film's most jovial character expiring in a mangled sports car. John Corabi, a talented artist who made some decent music with Motley Crue in Neil's absence, unfairly gets the Yoko treatment here, but my dear Razzle is portrayed just as I remember him: fun, lovable, and perhaps a little too easily entertained. An afterthought about "regrets" in the closing voiceover feels like a bit of an apology to anyone the band may have hurt over the years, either directly or by extension. Ultimately, The Dirt plays as the story of four "brothers," who, despite epic highs and crushing lows, remained by one another's sides until the band finally called it a day on New Year's Eve, 2015. (Note: The Crue did record four new songs for this movie.)
The Dirt clocks in at 107 minutes and is rated TVMA for language, nudity and sexual situations, cigarette and drug use, and some violence.
The Dirt is an objectively bad film on almost every level; however, if you're a Motley Crue fan and/or you're nostalgic for the time period of the band's heyday, you're likely to enjoy it anyway.
I tick both of those boxes, and I'd watch it again. Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Dirt gets five.
Fangirl points: The Dirt's end credits include clips from Motley Crue's mid-80s home video, which I watched until it wouldn't play anymore.
"Hi, we're Christmas!" Also, forgive the poor quality, but this is the only image I ever wanted for this review!
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Former Special Forces operatives reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers, these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for themselves instead of the country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal
March 6, 2019
Genres: Action, Adventure, Crime
Rated R for violence and language throughout
Runtime: 2h 2 min
Triple Frontier is an engaging and well acted film that’s far better than it should be. The plot is simple enough and you can see where things are going from the get go. A few surprises here and there keep things interesting but J.C. Chandor and the cast make it all watch able throughout. J.C. Chandor directs the action confidently and delivers some impressively tense sequences that really make an impact. Ben Affleck leads the cast and brings some real depth to his character. Sadly, the script doesn’t delve enough into his character or any of the others. It’s a shame because each of the cast members is fully committed to their roles and deserved far meatier roles than they were given. As such, it’s an enjoyable and watch able but frustrating at the same time because you can’t shake the feeling there’s a far better film in there somewhere. As is, it’s still a solid throwback to some of the manly 80s and 90s action flicks even if it’s not quite the top tier.