ALADDIN

A Rags To Wishes Story

Director
Guy Ritchie

Starring
Will Smith
Mena Massoud
Naomi Scott
Marwan Kenzari
Navid Negahban




Set several hundred years ago, in the ancient kingdom of Agrabah, we are introduced to Aladdin [Massoud], a young street urchin who survives thanks to his quick-wits, fast fingers and sharp tongue. One day in the marketplace, Aladdin meets Princess Jasmine [Scott], who has disguised herself to walk among the common folk and keeps her true identity a secret from the young man. When trying to see the princess again, Aladdin is arrested by the Sultan’s vizier, Jafar [Kenzari] who offers him a chance at redemption by descending into the cave of wonders, deep in the desert, to retrieve an oil lamp. Aladdin becomes trapped in the cave but discovers a genie [Smith] living inside the lamp, who explains he will grant his new master three wishes.

The only appeal these Disney live-action remakes offer is a familiar story through a different prism; for the studio it’s a safe bet and for the audiences, it’s comfortable. In all honesty, that’s been Disney’s modus operandi since day one; take a familiar fairy tale rooted in core values and spin a yarn from it that will entertain their target four quadrants and generate a shit-tonne of merchandise sales. These have ranged from alternate takes, such as Maleficent and Dumbo, where a different perspective has been shown or largely reinventing the story, to fairly straight-laced shot-for-shot adaptations like Beauty And The Beast and for the most part, these movies have generated an insane amount of money for Disney but stagnated their output by recycling and cannibalising their own properties. Aladdin is, for a great many people, one of the top three best Disney animated features and fundamentally this iteration was always going to be at a disadvantage and fighting an uphill battle.

From the outset, it’s clear that a great deal of time, attention and effort has gone into crafting a detailed visually lush setting. Drawing on so many cultures from India to Morocco, we are shown a vast melting pot kingdom similar to the standard vague medieval Europe that Disney calls on for its western adaptations. The costumes, hair and makeup are all spectacularly rich and vibrant as is the production design employed to shape the city of Agrabah. Having said that, maintaining the bright and colourful quasi-cartoony tone does leave a lot of the movie feeling a little too polished, failing to give that realistic lived-in quality.

Another key factor of this release is the musical set-pieces. It is extremely difficult to grade the songs because they are a rehash of what has come before (and arguably some of Disney’s finest tracks) and while the new entries are perfectly serviceable, they are competing against decades of nostalgia and familiarity, coming off a bit Eurovision-y at times. That being said, Alan Menken has returned to build a charming mix of older methods and modern flare that gives the score a nice rounded presence. But sticking with the songs for a moment, we have to address how they are presented visually. Ritchie’s direction has always been a bit of a mixed bag, veering from incredibly creative and innovative shots to generic repackaged tropes. This comes out most notably during the musical numbers where some of the lines are delivered seemingly to no one or without impact. As silly and potentially petty as this example may sound let’s take an example. During the One Jump Ahead number, Aladdin turns and sings, “let’s not be too hasty’ while ascending a flight of stairs. In the animated version, he is surrounded by guards and backed into a corner, whereas in this live-action version it doesn’t become immediately apparent that he hasn’t got away and is still being pursued; the villains are off-screen and he’s kinda warbling to no one in particular. Small things like this really impact how well these musical interludes are incorporated into the story. Having said that, the execution and choreography for many of the standalone dance sequences are very impressive and pleasingly handled.

Really there are only three performances to talk about: Jasmine, Genie and Jafar. Giving Jasmine actual agency reflects contemporary sensibilities, in the same way that the 90s animated Jasmine was very outspoken and reflected the social progression of that specific era. I feel Scott is a very capable actress and enjoyed her in the underrated Power Rangers, she is also giving one of the best all-round performances in this story. She is earnest, driven, empathetic and intelligent, while also displaying that young naivety that allows the audience to connect with her. On the other end of the spectrum, the Genie is larger than life and sits somewhat outside of the more grounded realism of the human characters. Will Smith is as charismatic and charming as he always is and makes this role very much his own; not the manic-paced, impression-quipping ball of energy that Robin Williams was, nor the big, bombastic, drag-inspired, fourth-wall breaking performance that the Broadway/West End musical cultivated but a pleasing middle ground that very much plays to his strengths. Which brings us to Jafar – easily the weakest thing about this movie. The performance would have been arguably fine if it weren’t for the range of hissing, shrieking, growling and arrogant tones that Jonathan Freeman gave us. Giving us a glimpse of Jafar’s past, that he has worked his way up from the slums to the highest position outside of inherited nobility, is nice but criminally underused. Alan Tudyk helps elevate the vizier’s persona with a subtly malicious Iago that is very different from Gilbert Gottfried’s pitch and intensity but a solid companion for this more subdued Jafar

The opportunity was here to create something bigger, more ambitious and more spellbinding but a lot of the time, what we end up with feels inferior to a nearly thirty year old cartoon (without sounding too diminutive). Just as a brief example, at the close of the animated movie, Aladdin is almost crushed by a giant rolling tower in a frozen tundra, Jafar transforms into an enormous serpent, Jasmine is trapped in an hourglass filling with sand and the stakes feel important and lasting. All this film really shows us is a few guards being arrested, a parrot morphing into a sort-of-roc and principal characters being raised off the ground in a very loosely defined glowing energy field. And that is the ultimate problem with this feature, lack of mind-blowing, awe-inspiring vision. There is such a wealth of mythological and cultural influence to draw on but Aladdin failed to capitalise on any of it, choosing to comfortably recreate the beats of the original but without ever really escaping its shadow.


Release Date:
24th May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m a sucker for the opening song Arabian Nights. I genuinely love it and the elegant, exotic tones resonate for me and genuinely set the mood in the same way that Maurice Jarre’s Lawrence Of Arabia score immediately captivates the imagination and transports you to a different land. It is a wonderful example of music constructing an environment before one is ever truly seen. This variant, however, is not without its flaws; not because of the song itself but because of what we are being shown at the same time. This sequence is used here to establish so much, under the distinct impression that you are already more than familiar with the original animated film. Subsequently, this devolves into a rush job that demonstrates some of the scale of this locale but not enough of the wonder and mystery to it all. If anything, the film’s opening sets the scene for everything else that follows.

Notable Characters:
I enjoyed that the Sultan [Negahban] is less of a simpering, doddering old man, as he was in 1992. Instead he is simply an over-protective father with the best intentions for his daughter. It also helps to reiterate Jasmine’s relatable frustrations rather than convincing an audience to accept the will and authority of a bit of a man-child.

Highlighted Quote:
“Steal an apple and you’re a thief. Steal a kingdom and you’re a statesman”

In A Few Words:
“A very middle of the road, mixed bag recreation that never truly justifies its own existence”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #237

[19 May 2019]


Winning Team:
My Crazy Ex Machina
Genre – Caleb and Ava attempt a reconciliation.. it does not go well

Runners Up:
The Iron Giants
Genre – A group of well-oiled dancers short circuit into the future and start a dance revolution
The Cinematrix: Rise Of The Reboots
Genre – Humanity is enslaved by machines that force them to make the same few movies over and over
Street Shiter X
Genre – Action


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of Arthur Curry’s superhero persona in Aquaman?
AQUAMAN
2. What is the title of sequel to Finding Nemo?
FINDING DORY
3. Who played the lead role of Jackie Kennedy in 2016’s Jackie?
NATALIE PORTMAN
4. What is the title of the film about the making of The Room, starring James and Dave Franco?
THE DISASTER ARTIST
5. How many Ocean’s films have been made to date (excluding the 1960 original)?
FOUR
6. Which Men In Black film featured Josh Brolin?
MEN IN BLACK III
7. What was the title of the first Transformers spin-off, released December 2018?
BUMBLEBEE
8. Which sport is depicted in I, Tonya?
FIGURE SKATING / ICE SKATING
9. Who voices the lead role in the Hotel Transylvania films?
ADAM SANDLER
10. What is the name of the 80s western starring Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips and Charlie Sheen?
YOUNG GUNS


ROUND II: Filming [Robot Leads]
1. What is the name of the robotic Godzilla that appeared from outer space in 1974? Robozilla? Godzilla 2.0? Mechagodzilla?
MECHAGODZILLA
2. How many Short Circuit films have been made to date? 2? 3? 4?
TWO
3. Ex Machina was released in which year? 2013? 2015? 2017?
2015
4. Which character does not appear in Avengers: Age Of Ultron? Baron Von Strucker? Prof Erik Selvig? General Thaddeus Ross?
GENERAL THADDEUS ROSS
5. The following quote is from which film, “Skynet knew it was losing, so it tried to rig the game. It sent a machine back to the time before the war”? Terminator 2: Judgment Day? Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines? Terminator Genisys?
TERMINATOR GENISYS
6. Who directed Wall-E? Brad Bird? Pete Docter? Andrew Stanton?
ANDREW STANTON
7. Which animation studio produced 2005’s Robots? 20th Century Fox Animation? Universal’s Illumination Entertainment? DreamWorks Animation?
20TH CENTURY FOX ANIMATION
8. What do Frank and his robot steal to impress Jennifer in Robot & Frank? A copy of Don Quixote? A sapphire necklace? Her ex-husband’s car?
A COPY OF DON QUIXOTE
9. The Iron Giant is set in which year? 1947? 1957? 1967?
1957
10. I, Robot did not require any reshoots. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Andrew Garfield appeared in which film?
LIONS FOR LAMBS
2. In 101 Dalmatians what does Pongo’s owner, Roger, do for a living?
SONGWRITER
3. Who directed the 2016 adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fences?
DENZEL WASHINGTON
4. Which natural disaster forces Paddington to make his way to London?
EARTHQUAKE
5. What is the name of the council of assassins in the John Wick films?
THE HIGH TABLE
6. The following is the poster tagline for which Martin Scorsese film, “Nobody knows Rupert Pupkin but after 1130 tonight, no one will ever forget him”?
THE KING OF COMEDY
7. What is the name of Wade Watts’ avatar in Ready Player One?
PARZIVAL
8. Who composed the score for Alien?
JERRY GOLDSMITH
9. What is the eponymous animal in the Jordan Peele/Keegan-Michael Key comedy Keanu?
CAT
10. In The Town, we see two separate bank robberies. What type of masks are used in each respective robbery? (one point per correct answer)
SKULLS / NUNS


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the title of the 2002 film in which Al Pacino portrays a director who uses a digital actress to complete his film and then tries to keep up the pretence that she is a real person? S1mone? H3l3n? Eve?
S1MONE
2. Control is the name of British Intelligence in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but what is its informal nickname? The Circus? The Farm? The Shop?
THE CIRCUS
3. Of the seven books, how many Chronicles Of Narnia films have been made to date? 3? 4? 5?
THREE
4. The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn was released in which year? 1946? 1951? 1959?
1951
5. The Untouchables is predominantly set in which city? New York? Chicago? Los Angeles?
CHICAGO
6. The following quote is from which film, “We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible”? Deepwater Horizon? Interstellar? Invictus?
INTERSTELLAR
7. How many characters appear on the “line-up” poster in Trainspotting? 5? 6? 7?
FIVE
8. What gives Ted’s true identity away to Kate in Sicario? A tattoo? A wristband? A marked banknote?
A WRISTBAND (used by the cartel to bind wads of cash)
9. What is the name of the villain in Basil The Great Mouse Detective? Ratula? Ratiarty? Ratigan?
RATIGAN
10. Isle Of Dogs is the highest grossing PG-13 animated movie. True or False?
FALSE (The Simpsons Movie is at $527mil)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Coffee And Cigarettes / American Gangster / Due Date / The Man With The Iron Fists
Poster: Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai
Actor: RZA


POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU

It’s Time For A World Class Detective

Director
Rob Letterman

Starring
Justice Smith
Kathryn Newton
Bill Nighy
Ryan Reynolds



Set in a world where Pokemon and humans co-exist, we are introduced to Tim Goodman [Smith], a young insurance salesman who turned his back on the world of Pokemon due to the death of his mother and absence of his father, Harry – a detective working in the sprawling metropolis of Ryme City. Tim’s fairly mundane existence is disrupted when he learns that his father has died during an investigation. Tim heads to Ryme City to collect the personal effects of his estranged father but is drawn into the investigation when he meets Lucy Stevens [Newton], a click-bait-columnist who dreams of investigative journalism and a Pikachu in a deerstalker who Tim can understand verbatim.

The first thing to acknowledge is that while this movie generates a fair amount of lore (and rather interestingly seems to tie-in with the original animated series canon) it doesn’t devote a great deal of time to dryly expositing about what Pokemon are. Subsequently, those familiar with the property will get significantly more out of the film than those who are newly initiated but there is still plenty of charm and abounding cuteness for the casual viewer. A lot of this comes down to the fact that this movie is relatively a straightforward fun romp that revels in the playground it is afforded. More than that, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu captures that same magic present in the various games of world-building, creating something an audience would want to belong to – akin to franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter, etc – and starts conversations among fans about what Pokemon would be their companion, what job they would like to do in this universe, which Pokemon they would like to see represented in future instalments. Admittedly, this level of fanaticism has always been present and has eked out further into the public consciousness over the last twenty years through games, shows and recently the mobile app, Pokemon Go but the leap into multi-million dollar filmmaking has the power to not only invigorate the established fan base but to cast a wider net of support and interest in the property. So even before we discuss the merits of the film itself, it’s already done its job acting as one big advert for the licence.

Leaving the branding talk for a moment, this is a very technically sound feature. The initial reaction was mixed but unsurprising, owing to the attempt to make photo-realistic incarnations of fictional creatures. One of the smartest moves by the production team was shooting on film and utilising a combination of puppetry and CGI to create something eerily realistic; replicating the methods of the first Jurassic Park film. All the detailed, layered and bustling shots illustrate that clear care, attention and respect for the source material has been taken but when we are introduced to a creature outside of the central cast, there can be a significant dose of uncanny-valley wavering that spoils the illusion. An example of this would be the colossal Torterra set-piece which starts on a mind-blowing scale before resolving itself extremely quickly and proves the entire sequence was little more than an excuse for CGI action without actual consequence. In addition to the visuals, the audio work performs admirably, the sound design and mixing are pleasant and Henry Jackman’s score being a mix of video game inspired themes and genre-expected orchestral tones offers a welcome balance.

Detective Pikachu walks a fine line between trying to be dark, gritty and grounded at the same time as fun, light, colourful and cartoony; a dichotomy that will conjure a lot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? parallels for older viewers. In an essence, the film simultaneously treats the content seriously but is aware that kids are the primary demographic so avoids taking itself too seriously and this is a key difference. The film never condescends or talks down to its target audience; there is a distinct absence of dance numbers and pop culture references (excluding the central conceit) and feels more like an 80s/90s family feature than the post-Shrek formula we have seen repeated ad nauseam. This level of pseudo-maturity has allowed the writers to slip in some references to contemporary issues of equality, feminism, integrity of news and the environment, which in of itself is fantastic, but as they are delivered wholly without subtlety, the messages feel a little stunted and disposable; much like the 80s cartoon sign-offs instructing children to avoid the perils of drugs. As a counterpoint, despite the various progressive messages, the story heavily relies on the tired trope of a disabled villain, which is a tragic and easily avoidable misstep.

Keeping the narrative character-focused, the usual Pokemon Trainer trekking through the landscape, finding various creatures before entering a tournament story and, subsequently, a larger scale is missing but this probably helped make the film more palatable for newly initiated. At the same time, the movie attempts to sample this in the underground fight club scene and hoping for a positive reaction to this, will likely build on it in future (especially as it has been at the forefront of a significant portion of the marketing). One aspect I have avoided discussing up until this point is the characters and that is because they are fairly simple and frankly dumb. Far from stilted, the performances aren’t as terrible as some would make out but they are certainly one of the weakest elements. Tim’s story is very vanilla and Smith’s portrayal of him is just as flat as his character in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Kathryn Newton as plucky up-and-coming reporter Lucy Stevens is much more interesting and feels very much like a video game NPC brought to life but as much as she displays a degree of skill and competence in her role, the plot does tend to unfold for the leads quite conveniently and without any lasting ramifications. But again, this is something present in films like ET, The Goonies and Flight Of The Navigator and clearly something being heavily emulated for nostalgia purposes, relying on a combination of charm, nostalgia and fantasy to see you through to the close.

**spoilers abound throughout this paragraph**
As much as I enjoyed this film, it has a plethora of problems, most notably the entire third act which is horribly cliché and uneven. The big reveal that Howard is actually the central antagonist was obvious very early on, as was the method of defeating him, thanks to some uninspired dialogue from Howard himself stating that he can transfer his consciousness to Mewtwo while leaving his body vulnerable and unguarded. It’s the kind of quick fix that is remarkably lazy and has no place in modern cinema for an audience of any age. And this simplicity is a truly double-edged sword, allowing for a light approachable fun feature but generating huge plot holes and stale exchanges. The aforementioned charm cannot supplant this insufficient depth, leading to a rather flat but strangely satisfying conclusion despite the heavily signposted twists. What’s more, the ending seemingly shuts out a direct copy and paste sequel by establishing that the status quo would not remain. I found this a genuinely interesting move and one that could highlight the potential future direction the studio could take the franchise in.

The bar for video game adaptations has been incredibly low and while Detective Pikachu makes many of the same mistakes committed by every other attempt (incorporating the flaws from the source material and alienating newcomers) it somehow manages to come out standing, having earned enough respect from all swathes of demographics to warrant returning to this property but owing to how the film ends, it will be interesting to see if we will see a genre-shift or if this magic can even be captured for a second time.


Release Date:
10th May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m going to briefly highlight the Mr Mime scene for two simple reasons. Firstly Mr Mime was the source of a lot of flak in the trailers due to the outrage about the Pokemon skin textures. When finally watching this on a big screen, any fears or concerns I had were allayed; sure it’s a little unsettling and weird but it’s a four foot mime creature, nothing about it is conventional. Secondly, part of the film walking that line between cute and dark is in this scene. Tim and Pikachu interrogate Mr Mime for information and a handful of mime gags ensue, mostly telling our heroes to get lost. But then things take a weird turn when Tim mimes dowsing the creature in gasoline and lighting several matches. Especially as the joke ends with, what I can only assume, is a dead Mr Mime, whose belief in the improv sends him into a psychosomatic cardiac arrest.

Notable Characters:
This is a little tricky as I nobody stood out as decidedly impressive or an impediment to the film as a whole; there were definite areas for improvement but nothing ruined the experience. I felt Ken Watanabe was criminally underused and Nighy was limited by his chair but the biggest head-scratch is Ryan Reynolds. He is absolutely serviceable as Pikachu and by the end of the film, it’s very clear why he was chosen but I still don’t think there was anything specific about Reynolds’ performance that was unique to him and, as much as I want to resist writing this, ultimately felt like a studio/producer’s note about the success of Deadpool.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s not news if it can’t be verified”

In A Few Words:
“An upbeat, energetic and competent adaptation that understands its core audience while providing enough light-hearted entertainment for the uninitiated”

Total Score:

3/5

BOOKSMART

Getting Straight A’s. Giving Zero F’s.

Director
Olivia Wilde

Starring
Kaitlyn Dever
Beanie Feldstein



The day before their high school graduation, Amy [Dever] and Molly [Feldstein] learn that all their dedication and hard work, which has given them reputations as pretentious and aloof, has been in vain as their fellow students have also gotten into ivy league universities despite outwardly partying, slacking off in class and showing little interest in further education. This sparks a crisis for Molly who feels they have wasted their time and abandons their pre-determined evening celebrations to attend a popular jock’s house party and live as stereotypical teenagers.

When it comes to analysing comedies, the writing and performances are (understandably) at the forefront of reviews and opinions. One thing that is often overlooked is the technical acumen on display and Booksmart is a prime example because while it merits a significant amount of praise for its creative elements, the sound design, camera work, editing and direction are all magnificently vibrant, energetic and captivating. More than that, Wilde has managed to create a time capsule release, akin to the works of John Hughes, steeped in the politics and social landscapes/pressures facing the youth of 2019 while retaining a timeless relatability for older audience members.

Over the last decade, many films have tried to imitate the energy and zeal of Superbad, setting two high school best friends on a final hurrah odyssey that tests their relationship but ultimately strengthens it with the assurance that even though they may change, these moments will be with them forever. Almost all of these imitators have fallen flat, conveying little more than the shock factor without any actual impactful or lasting weight. Present in this feature is the perfect combination of outrageous teenage comedic antics and a rather mature emotional core that resonates throughout. At the same time, Booksmart also subtly subverts several genre expectations and feels fresh due to the perspective shift. In truth, society, reflected through cinema, has always given young males a free pass; the content of Stand By Me would be difficult to imagine with an all-female cast solely due to the difference in coming-of-age experiences between genders – or so we would be lead to believe. Of course a film like Stand By Me could be written with an all-female cast, the only difference would be a wealth of additions that would need to be included to illustrate the increased pressure that young women face. A simple example of this is when Amy and Molly are trying to ascertain the location of Nick’s party and realise that a local pizza parlour has completed a large delivery and would likely know the whereabouts. Fashioning their hair into makeshift masks, they break into the back of the pizza delivery man’s car and make their demands. Immediately, he gives a wake-up call by explaining that they have willingly entered a stranger’s car, unarmed (while he has a gun), and he could easily drive them onto the interstate and abduct them with little resistance. As they get the information and depart the car, he calls over his shoulder “Don’t trust people! Oh my god!” It’s such a simple interaction but one that highlights things would almost never be considered in a male-led feature. If we take Superbad, for example, Seth and Evan’s lives are in jeopardy so frequently but we rarely worry about it because they’re male and we assume nothing too awful will happen, whereas the reality for young women is different – as obvious as that may sound.

At the centre of this movie is the duo of Dever and Feldstein that are a magnificent find; the timing and chemistry are genuinely astounding, feeling both sincere and free from superficiality. On top of the whip-smart dialogue present in the script, the delivery and physical comedy display a confidence and capability which shows promise that these actors will go on to have very successful careers. I would also add that so many of the characters and situations are extraordinarily relatable on so many levels. From the students who have worked hard only to discover that others appear to be coasting by, the further revelation that everyone is dealing with their own insecurities and issues and that the adults barely have their own lives figured out. The principal moonlighting as a Lyft driver is a standard commentary on underpaid teaching positions but Amy and Molly’s favourite teacher stating that she felt she didn’t experience enough radical, life-changing things as a teenager so went off-the-rails by over-compensating in her 20s and regretted so much of it, cut wonderfully deep for me. Another stellar move is taking the key lesson from the conclusion of Mean Girls, illustrating these kids not necessarily turning on one another but generating unusual alliances due to the common ground of adolescent tribulations. More so than that, this film manages to recreate the warzone of high school without including intentionally malicious individuals; the worst we get is highly opinionated, self-absorbed kids who are trying to figure out who they are – which is one of the most accurate representations of teenage life. The film is not without antagonistic individuals but this villainless high school film is an art-form and a welcome treat.

In spite of all the above gushing, the film isn’t perfect. The events depicted provoke little fallout and follows the same path as most teen comedies, even a character getting arrested is given a rather fantastical resolution, enforcing the movie’s overall consequence-free, feel good tone. What’s more, aside from the female and LGBT perspective, the actual plot doesn’t really offer anything new. The standard archetypal characters are present, the only difference is that the bully/villain angle is played down or explained. But if I’m honest, this could be said of most genre pieces; you don’t need to reinvent pasta for a good pasta dish, you just need the right accoutrements.


Release Date:
24th May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are plenty of fantastic scenes to highlight but the opening five minutes are spectacular. Molly sits cross-legged on her bedroom floor, listening to a motivational tape, reinforcing the notion that she is truly better than others because she is giving 110%. Amy then picks her up and they spend an excessive amount of time dancing outside Molly’s house. It’s honestly fantastic and indicated to me, so very early on, that this film was going to be noteworthy.

Notable Characters:
Gigi (played by Billie Lourd) is a strange medley. On the one hand, she represents the classic stoner character who seemingly appears wherever the plot requires her, connected to everyone and blessed with insight; essentially an otherworldly spirit guide. On the other hand, she’s also a spoilt rich girl in desperate need for validation and attention. Again, two archetypes that don’t often gel but Lourd brings this wealthy insecure oddball to life superbly.

Highlighted Quote:
“Excuse me madam, are you judging people’s sexual preferences? Because you fuck a panda every night”

In A Few Words:
“Sharp, witty and endearing, Booksmart deserves to become a classic”

Total Score:

4/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #236

[05 May 2019]


Winning Team:
Wyld Stallions (sponsored by OCP and Skynet)
Genre – Whether you’re dancing with wolves or silencing lambs, this corporate merger aims to draw first blood in bringing history’s future today.. but it’s not set

Runners Up:
The Galaxy Is On Orion’s Belt
Genre – A friendly alien puts a chocolate bar on a cat’s collar
He’s Not Orion, He’s A Very Naughty Boy
Genre – A desperate attempt to think of a team name because we are all super tired
The Great Orion Mix-Up
Genre – Orion Reynolds and Orion Gosling keep betting confused for each other
No Points Can Be Found On Orion’s Belt
Genre – Sci-fi (straight to VHS)


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the title of the first sequel to Rush Hour?
RUSH HOUR 2
2. Emma Watson starred in the live action adaptation of which Disney film?
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
3. What is the name of Wayne’s best friend and co-host in Wayne’s World?
GARTH ALGAR
4. Jurassic Park was released in which year?
1993
5. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman starred together in which film?
LEON
6. Who plays Jenny in Forrest Gump?
ROBIN WRIGHT
7. Which film was first read out as the 2017 best picture academy award winner before the correct winner, Moonlight, was announced?
LA LA LAND
8. How many children does Robin Williams and Sally Field have in Mrs Doubtfire?
THREE
9. What is the title of the 1993 film in which Harrison Ford is falsely accused of his wife’s murder and escapes custody?
THE FUGITIVE
10. Groundhog Day takes place in which month?
FEBRUARY


ROUND II: Filming [Orion Pictures]
1. The Terminator was released in which year? 1981? 1984? 1989?
1984
2. Who played the title role in Arthur? Dudley Moore? Dustin Hoffman? Billy Crystal?
DUDLEY MOORE
3. What is the name of the company that funds the RoboCop project in the film of the same name? MBA? WYC? OCP?
OCP (Omni Consumer Products)
4. Which of the following did not play one of the Three Amigos in the 1986 film of the same name? Martin Short? Chevy Chase? Gene Wilder?
GENE WILDER
5. Amadeus is told in flashback from the perspective of which composer? Giuseppe Bonoo? Franz Joseph Haydn? Antonio Salieri?
ANTONIO SALIERI
6. Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack and Oliver Platt starred in which film? Radio Days? Married To The Mob? Love Field?
MARRIED TO THE MOB
7. The following quote is from which film, “He was insubordinate, cowardly and insubordinate. He frightened the men. I did not put the fear there, he did. So he will be lashed and we will go around the horn.”? Master And Commander? In The Heart Of The Sea? The Bounty?
THE BOUNTY
8. Only one of the Rambo films was distributed by Orion. Which one was it? First Blood? Rambo III? Rambo (2008)?
FIRST BLOOD (R2 Tristar R4 Lionsgate)
9. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a remake of which David Niven, Marlon Brando film? Separate Tables? King, Queen, Knave? Bedtime Story?
BEDTIME STORY
10. Orion’s highest grossing picture was The Silence Of The Lambs with $424 million dollars. True or False?
FALSE (Dances With Wolves made $424mil followed by The Silence Of The Lambs with $272mil)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What are the titles of the six Paranormal Activity films? (one point per correct answer)
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY / PA2 / PA3 / PA4 / PA: THE MARKED ONES / PA THE GHOST DIMENSION
2. Disney’s The Sword In The Stone was released in which year?
1963
3. Adjusted for inflation, what is the highest grossing film of all time at $3.7 billion?
GONE WITH THE WIND
4. Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell appeared in which two films? (one point per correct answer)
OLD SCHOOL / ANCHORMAN
5. Which actors voiced the lead roles in 2000’s The Road To El Dorado? (one point per correct answer)
KEVIN KLINE / KENNETH BRANAGH
6. Who is the only actor to date to have three Oscars in the Best Leading Male Performance category? [bonus point for naming the only actor to receive four best lead Oscars]
DANIEL DAY LEWIS [Katherine Hepburn]
7. Who directed The Goonies?
RICHARD DONNER
8. Which actor appeared in Better Off Dead, Identity, Being John Malkovich and The Grifters?
JOHN CUSACK
9. The following quote is from which film, “That is good, for believing what you do. We will confer upon you a rare gift these days – a martyr’s death”?
THE WICKER MAN
10. 1978’s The First Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, was directed by the author of the novel of the same name. What was his name?
MICHAEL CRICHTON


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following young adult novels has yet to receive a live-action cinematic adaptation? How I Live Now (Meg Rosoff)? The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)? The Carnival At Bray (Jessie Ann Foley)?
THE CARNIVAL AT BRAY
2. Aguirre: The Wrath Of God, Goodbye Lenin, M, Wings Of Desire and The White Ribbon are films from which country? Germany? Austria? Poland?
GERMANY
3. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, what colour is Cameron’s father’s car? Black? Red? White?
RED
4. In Clash Of The Titans, who creates the golden owl Bubo? Athena? Hephaestus? Hermes?
HEPHAESTUS
5. Which of the following 2005 films earned the most at the box office? Batman Begins? Mr & Mrs Smith? Charlie And The Chocolate Factory?
MR & MRS SMITH $478mil (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory $474mil, Batman Begins $374mil)
6. What are Captain Miller’s last words in Saving Private Ryan? Earn it? Angels on our shoulders? I’m alright?
EARN IT
7. What is the name of Robert Redford’s character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Alexander Pierce? Jasper Sitwell? Brock Rumlow?
ALEXANDER PIERCE
8. Straw Dogs was released in which year? 1971? 1979? 1983?
1971
9. In Event Horizon, the titular space ship disappears for seven years and reappears orbiting which planet? Jupiter? Neptune? Pluto?
NEPTUNE
10. The Last Samurai made more at the box office in Japan than America. True or False?
TRUE (JP $119mil, US $111mil)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Gone In 60 Seconds / Lost In Translation / Cold Mountain / Public Enemies
Poster: Lost Highway
Actor: Giovanni Ribisi


AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Directors
Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

Starring
Chris Evans
Robert Downey Jr
Chris Hemsworth
Scarlett Johansson
Mark Ruffalo
Jeremy Renner
Josh Brolin



**I would have thought this obvious but literally everything about this review is a spoiler and as such, this review is primarily for those who have already seen the movie**

After the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark [Downey Jr] and Nebula [Karen Gillen] are adrift in space but rescued by Captain Marvel [Brie Larson] and brought back to Earth. There, the surviving Avengers locate a signal on a distant planet and discover that Thanos is alone, having used the infinity stones again to destroy the infinity stones. With their plan to simply reverse the effect of the gauntlet ruined, Thor [Hemsworth], lashes out and beheads the Titan. The story then jumps ahead five years and illustrates mankind’s efforts to move on in the wake of the loss of half of all life. The Avengers are dispatched both globally and galactically to act as an unofficial police force. Through random circumstance, Scott Lang [Paul Rudd], whom everyone thought dead, is released from the quantum realm and introduces the idea that quantum physics can be deployed to navigate time and undo Thanos’ actions. Thus a grand scheme is hatched to travel back in time and recover all of the infinity stones to reverse the damage wrought upon the universe.

One of the first things that needs to be addressed is that Endgame has the unenviable task of being a second instalment. More than that, it is the follow-up to a film that got to step away from the standard formula, break the rules and leave its audience hanging in a state of uncertainty. This film had to not only course correct back to the expected but do it in a manner that felt somehow satisfying to the majority of viewers without feeling like a complete retcon. In truth, this movie could never live up to everyone’s expectations, the best it could do was deliver something simultaneously nostalgic, subversive and bombastic – which I believe it did stunningly. Having said that, that statement comes with a lot of caveats.

From the trailers alone, the notion of a time skip and time travel were somehow inevitable and despite what could be construed as a fairly slow-burn first hour, it felt like no time was wasted getting straight to these conceits. But as I said, there was an inevitability to the regressive, self-exploratory nature and a weight of legacy to this feature despite the fact that, ultimately, very little actually happens (I will contradict this exact point later but I stand by it). Oddly enough, both Avengers and Infinity War did the same thing; while achieving something hitherto unimaginable, the core narrative developments were relatively straightforward and could be broken down into a handful of key plot points. But introducing something like time travel to a universe creates a lot of headaches for a standalone tale let alone the direction of a franchise as the question will continually arise: why don’t they just use time travel to fix this new problem? On top fo that, Endgame also sets up its own rules for time travel and then seemingly breaks them – a cardinal sin of story-telling. Certain outcomes are not possible through time travel, others ostensibly are and the only overriding sense of which prevails is dictated by which is more convenient for the plot at that moment in time. Having said that, I would stand by my tried and tested adage that we don’t care that Terminator 2 can’t work because it’s so very, very entertaining and Endgame is no different.

Something that may not be apparent upon first viewing is how well Marvel have balanced character development with spectacle; despite being something they repeatedly exercise in their features. If we take Tony Stark, for example, the catalyst that drives his arc is choosing to potentially lose the peace he has found in defeat or live with the guilt of simply not trying to rectify his failings. What it is to be a hero, what it is to be a father, many of these things may be initially lost on an audience but the script is smart enough to condense it down into three or four lines that will really resonate with fans: “I love you 3000” “I am Iron Man” and “You can rest now Tony.” That’s it. His whole arc in this movie. This is what I stand to lose, this is my choice, this is my destiny. Which is a logic that can be applied to the six central Avengers and the truth is that so many of the core characters have these deeply personal moments but a few may become initially lost in the first viewing. Things like Black Widow’s [Johansson] death, for another example, may feel rushed over, solely because the narrative urgency dictates the pacing. But when we think about Natasha’s role as “the man on the wall” (as Fury once said in the comics), her attempts to bring Clint back into the fold, her sacrifice and finally her almost secondary funeral with only Barton and Wanda in attendance, it says a lot to the nature of her presence on the team as a spy who keeps everyone at arm’s length. Each of the OG members of the Avengers team transitions from individually-motivated hero to saviour, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of humanity. In other words, the film achieves wondrous things with character development and catharsis but by offering so much of it, the nuance is lost, like eating spoonfuls of assorted herbs and spices without a main dish – sure I can kind of taste them all but it’s frankly overwhelming and difficult to appreciate.

If we put the old guard to one side for a second, we end up with the Captain Marvel problem. Carol Danvers is extremely overpowered and is absent for almost the entire film. Sure, it’s explained fairly, highlighting that the Earth isn’t the centre of the universe but she was not only massively under-utilised but also a bit devoid of the personality cultivated in her standalone feature (but I think this is probably down to the filming schedule – I wouldn’t be surprised if her scenes here were shot before anything on Captain Marvel). By devoting such a substantial amount of time to the original core group (as a milestone and a send off), new blood are left a little neglected and curiously, a little obsolete. I understand there will be plenty of time to explore them in greater detail in the coming years and the next 20+ Marvel films but this lack of screen time afforded to individual components felt like an imbalance.

It’s also worth noting that Endgame is a brilliant technical achievement. The amount of exciting and competent visual effects is staggering and the level of production design and recreation involved in revisiting old sets during the time travel sequences is impressive. I still feel one of the standout accomplishments is the level of emotion, physicality and weight of presence behind the motion capture of Josh Brolin as Thanos. Interestingly, with so many periods and settings visited, Alan Silvestri is given quite a lot to play with. He works in the major character themes and instrumentation as well as the dour funereal tones we experienced in Infinity War but also gives us a taste of some levity with the jazz-infused heist music, especially when breaking into the SHIELD facility in 1970. But for every soaring motif, there is a slew of admittedly generic ambient tones that fit the visuals but are far from memorable, averaging out to a functional but fairly uninspired score.

Incidentally, as a rather odd comparison, YouTube board game enthusiasts, Shut Up And Sit Down, reviewed one of the largest, most expansive and indulgent board games (Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition) by stating for all of its merits and all their love of it, it is incredibly stupid. That’s how I feel about Endgame. I am, at this point, a devotee to the MCU; I’m here for release-day screenings and the next decade of stories. I think the whole franchise is a wonder and even when it is misfiring, it’s performing spectacularly. Its interconnectivity and episodic nature is as much a pro as it is a con, the possibilities are vast and the accomplishments to date, undeniable. But if I take a step back from that love, I can quite happily admit that this 22 part saga is a bloated, calculable mound of fatuity and pretension. Yet this is, first and foremost, a celebration; a cavalcade of fan-service. It is as emotional as you are invested. If you are fairly indifferent, you’re not going to suddenly care any more now but if you have an ounce of dedication or investment in this sprawling story or its legion cast, you can’t help but get sucked into the mad glory of its soap opera tropes. The three hours passes reasonably and then we enter into a bit of a Return Of The King multiple endings situation that is more a passing of the torch than an all-out conclusion. Which is probably because Endgame is somehow bigger than a single narrative, it’s a chapter of a larger entity – subsequently it will leave a bitter taste in some viewer’s mouths but the actualisation of the feat remains. It didn’t do what everyone wanted but it did what it was supposed to. It drew a line and allowed this steamrolling behemoth to rest on its laurels for just a moment and proudly announce, “Like it or not, we have done the impossible. And we will do it again. And again.”


Release Date:
25th April 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
During the colossal final showdown between Thanos’ vast army and Earth’s finest, there is a moment when an ensemble of female heroes mount an all-out assault. It makes no sense in a sense of battle logistics but who honestly gives a shit? My wife felt this was a bit forced but it’s about time images like this are forced onto our screen. The fact that the audience could tell the film was making a point to gather its female combatants into a single melee is testament to its importance, specifically we shouldn’t notice, it should be the norm by now and we’re still far from it. And if this is the direction Marvel is taking blockbusters, more power to them. As a second highlighted scene, during the credits time is given to the key players of the entire franchise and there is a genuine rising in one’s chest as Endgame pulls a Star Trek: VI – The Undiscovered Country with the actors silhouettes and signatures acknowledging the significance this cast and these movies have had on the industry.

Notable Characters:
The evolution of Thor from dour to pure comedic relief has been an interesting one. When looking back on Thor’s best moments, people tend to highlight the fish-out-of-water mirth or giddy irreverence, yet the shift in personality was one of the main complaints made about Thor: Ragnarok. I feel the representation of Thor will be a very divisive one here too but for a plethora of reasons. In Iron Man 3, Stark is racked with PTSD at the prospect of his own insignificance and the mounting intergalactic forces that could threaten the Earth. It’s given a very serious treatment and shines a light on mental health. It also appears briefly again when Stark returns to Earth and has genuine difficulty coping with his brushes with death and the monumental inability to prevent the worst from happening. When travelling back to the events of Thor: The Dark World (with some painfully shoe-horned leftover Natalie Portman footage) Thor experiences the same thing and sinks into denial, depression and insecurity but the difference is, it’s played for comedy. Something about it didn’t feel entirely right, especially as the last meaningful interaction between Rocket and Thor was in Infinity War with Thor putting on a brave face and Hemsworth giving a surprisingly impressive and emotive performance. As stated, Thor may be one of the more divisive components, with some loving the performance and others hating it but the fact he’s (probably) being tied into a future Guardians Of The Galaxy release is a work of pure genius.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s time travel.. either all of it is a joke or none of it is”

In A Few Words:
“A magnificent abundance of movie that stumbles only under the weight of its own excess”

Total Score:

4/5

HELLBOY

Legendary AF

Director
Neil Marshall

Starring
David Harbour
Milla Jovovich
Ian McShane



The film opens by introducing us to dark sorceress Nimue [Jovovich] who unleashes a plague on England until she is eviscerated by King Arthur and her body buried across the land. The story then jumps ahead to the present day and we meet Hellboy [Harbour], a powerful, cynical, red demon hybrid named Anung Un Rama who files down his horns to better fit in with humanity. And this is where the synopsis gets tricky. From here we flit about between the BPRD (an agency keeping paranormal threats at bay), the secretive Osiris Club hunting giants, a man-pig-fairy searching for Nimue’s body parts, a medium who has a history with Hellboy and M11 agent Ben Daimio [Daniel Dae Kim] who is concealing a terrible secret… which is hardly hidden considering it’s used in all the trailers and from his scarring and constant serum injections alone, is apparent he has some sort of transformative power; but I digress. Hellboy receives instruction from his adoptive father, Professor Bruttenholm [McShane], that if Nimue is to rise again, it would mean the end of the world and only Hellboy can avert such a fate.

The existence of Del Toro’s< a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167190">Hellboy films is a major issue for this movie. As with all reboots, one assumes that from a pre-production perspective, discussions must have been had about how to approach the story considering the cinematic and published versions are well known to the key demographic but a non-entity to cinema audiences at large. The conclusion they reached was for the plot to gloss over many origin aspects, making the assumption that you are either familiar with what came before or as an attempt to capture that episodic vignette structure of the comics but either way, it leaves the pacing and character arcs feeling disjointed and erratic.

The whole thing has an air of The Mummy remake to it; taking a fan-favourite series, stripping all the fun out of it, adding a darker tone, utilising a very generic attack on London and ultimately producing something that fails to please critics or audiences. As with The Mummy (and the whole misfiring of Universal’s premature Dark Universe), Hellboy feels like the studio’s fingerprints are deeply impressed into every facet. The pacing is terrible, causing the narrative to race and rush along manically, the action is edited to an amazingly sloppy degree and the CGI is extremely ropey at times, ranging from atmospheric (like Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged house stepping out of the fog) to laughably bad (without spoiling too much, a mucusy spectral vision of a dead character at the end of the film). I also felt the song cues were badly selected and while Benjamin Wallfisch is a very adroit composer, capable of creating wonderfully creepy mood-setting pieces (A Cure For Wellness comes to mind), the thematic stings felt intrusive and unnecessarily bombastic. Which is actually a pretty good comparative metric for the entire creative process this film undertook; overly aggressive in its execution of the “r-rated” toy box contents, deploying lazy uses of swearing, gore, violence and a handful of other sophomoric tropes – all of which you become desensitised to quite quickly. All of which is made more baffling when you take into account that Neil Marshall is far from a bad director, producing two genuinely great films in Dog Soldiers and The Descent.

With the technical aspects being so irregular, it’s almost impressive that the only constant from start to finish is how poor the script work is, bordering on insultingly dumb. The core elements of what make a Hellboy story are there, rich folk-lore inspirations, conspiracies, demons, secret societies and ancient orders but they are largely present in name only and heavily weighed down by a mire of clean, sometimes nonsensical resolutions and humour that misses the mark seemingly every time. Evident from the first teaser trailer, the dialogue is painful and ill-fitting for the casting choices made. Harbour is relegated to tired, hammy jokes and awkward quips, Jovovich is assigned the unenviable to task of expositing with every scene, Dae Kim feels like he’s building to a tonal crescendo that never arrives and Stephen Graham is supposed to just swear constantly “Fuckin’ Hellboy! I fucking hate that fucker!” I have no problem with swearing but it loses meaning when utilised without gravitas or meaning. On top of that, Hellboy himself boils down to little more than a pawn and lacks a lot of agency, which I will be the first to admit, is something present in every iteration of the character but the execution is usually so charming and convincing that we not only accept this flaw but embrace it as an inherent personality quirk. Dialogue and interactions aside, there’s also the driving force of the plot and the feeble developments and coincidences that push the plot clumsily from one point to another. At no point did I feel an actual sense of tension or urgency because some last-minute quick fix would present itself. The standard plot development of placing a long-sought McGuffin under the lead’s nose the whole time can be applied cleverly but when boons are haphazardly slapped directly in the hero’s path, it becomes evident that little time, attention or thought has gone into constructing a discerning or coherent tale.

There are a handful of positive elements that genuinely save this release from being a miserable wreck. First up we have the entire Baba Yaga scene, which is atmospheric, a nice hybrid of practical and digital effects, is both creepy and surreally funny, as well as fitting the source material and folk lore. This scene also acts as a reminder that the production design, sets, props and costume work are all very impressive and commendable, inheriting a lot of the elements that acted as the backbone for the (visual) success of the other Hellboy films. In terms of performances, we also have a handful that somehow shine a little despite what they’ve been given (like Dwayne Johnson in mediocre action films). Specifically, Harbour and Jovovich are easily the best things about this movie, with Harbour proving himself a fantastic choice to take the torch from Ron Perlman and Jovovich wading through the dense dialogue to conjure a threatening and believable villain. Then we have Ian McShane who barks and growls his way through every scene and does a terrific job of it but remains a terrible fit for Bruttenholm.

With extensive interference, lack of clear vision and given less less money than the 2004 film, it’s evident that this movie never had much of a chance. More than that, it highlights that to take a project like this forward, you need an exceptional amount of love for the components that make up the source material and the trust of the studio to create a unique vision without obstruction or burden. But as this film will no doubt fail hideously, I can’t see this property being resurrected any time soon.


Release Date:
12th April 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
The finale is terribly anticlimactic. Nimue summons colossal ancient monsters to run rampant through London but Hellboy commits one simple act and they disappear as quickly as they arrived. I will happily admit that is also the plot of the 2004 Hellboy film but it had the good sense to still give us a stowaway that broke through that prompted a pleasing final showdown. This film does not. Giant beings appear, gratuitous violence ensues and then they are gone, all within a ten minute window. It’s a combination of lack of fiscal support, the aforementioned dull writing and the marketing campaign giving everything away in the trailers.

Notable Characters:
Thomas Haden Church makes a brief appearance as BPRD regular, Lobster Johnson; a pulpy ridiculous throwback to classic comic characters. There isn’t a great deal to the performance but his presence in a flashback is one that reminds us of the fun, zany world Mike Mignola created and what this film could have easily been.

Highlighted Quote:
“They have replaced swords with singing competitions”

In A Few Words:
“A shocking misfire that is “saved” solely due to the hard work of the practical effects and production design teams”

Total Score:

1/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #235

[07 April 2019]


Winning Team:
Groot

Runners Up:
Hawkeye
Captain Marvel
Doctor Strange
Black Panther
Captain America
Spider-Man
Thor
Iron Man

IMG_20190407_230100_136

IMG_20190407_230100_133


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the title of the first MCU film, released in 2008?
IRON MAN
2. What is Spider-Man’s real name?
PETER PARKER
3. What is the name of Thor’s homeworld?
ASGARD
4. What is the name of the precious metal mined from a meteorite in Wakanda?
VIBRANIUM
5. Who directed The Avengers?
JOSS WHEDON
6. What is the subtitle of the first Captain America movie?
THE FIRST AVENGER
7. How many infinity stones are embedded in Thanos’ gauntlet by the end of Avengers: Infinity War?
SIX
8. Which Avenger is guarding the old Stark warehouse (turned Avengers storage) in Ant-Man?
SAM WILSON / FALCON
9. What is the name of the infinity stone that Doctor Strange wears around his neck?
THE EYE OF AGAMOTTO
10. What is the name of the intergalactic police force that protect Xandar and other worlds in Guardians Of The Galaxy? [bonus point for naming the actress who plays Irani Rael, their leader]
NOVA CORPS [Glenn Close]


ROUND II: Filming
1. Which actor received top-billing on the theatrical poster for The Avengers? Chris Evans? Samuel L Jackson? Robert Downey Jr?
ROBERT DOWNEY JR
2. In Iron Man 3, War Machine is rebranded as what? Iron Vanguard? Iron Shield? Iron Patriot?
IRON PATRIOT
3. What is the name of the project that Bill Foster and Hank Pym worked on, as referenced in Ant-Man And The Wasp? Talos? Giganto? Goliath?
GOLIATH
4. In Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which character said the following quote, “I’m sick of watching people pay for our mistakes”? Tony Stark? Bruce Banner? Steve Rogers?
STEVE ROGERS
5. What is the name of the missile Tony invents and sells in Iron Man? Jordan? Joshua? Jericho?
JERICHO
6. What is the name of the SHIELD/Hydra group, led by Rumlow, that hunts Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? STRIKE? HAMMER? SWORD?
STRIKE
7. The reality stone first appears in which film? Thor: The Dark World? The Avengers? Guardians Of The Galaxy?
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
8. Which of the following does Baby Groot not bring back when looking for the fin to break Rocket and Yondu out of the Ravager’s brig? Badge? Toe? Desk?
BADGE
9. Mickey Rourke’s character in Iron Man 2 is a combination of two Marvel villains. Which of the following is not one of them? Crimson Dynamo? Omega Red? Whiplash?
OMEGA RED
10. The punk with the boombox in Spider-Man: Homecoming is the same actor who played the punk with a boombox in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. True or False?
TRUE (writer, producer, director and visual effects artist Kirk Thatcher)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. To date, seven MCU films have made over one billion dollars. Name them (one point per correct answer)
$2B AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR / $1.5B AVENGERS / $1.4B AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON / $1.3 BLACK PANTHER / $1.2B IRON MAN 3 / $1.1B CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR / $1B CAPTAIN MARVEL
2. Kaecilius is the villain in which MCU film?
DOCTOR STRANGE
3. What is the name of Bruce Banner’s former girlfriend and General Thaddeus Ross’ daughter in The Incredible Hulk?
BETTY
4. Which actor replaced Joshua Dallas as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World?
ZACHARY LEVI
5. What are the names of the two ice cream flavours mentioned in Avengers: Infinity War? (one point per correct answer)
STARK RAVING HAZELNUTS / HUNKA-HULKA BURNING FUDGE
6. When fighting his father at the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Quill takes on the form of which video game character?
PAC-MAN
7. The following quote is from which film, “You wear a flag on your chest and think you fight a battle of nations”?
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
8. What is the name of the company run by Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3?
AIM / ADVANCED IDEA MECHANICS
9. Which actor voices Surtur in Thor: Ragnarok? [bonus point for naming the actor who provided the motion capture]
CLANCY BROWN [Taika Waititi]
10. Who directed Ant-Man And The Wasp?
PEYTON REED


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The prologue of Thor is set in which year? 206 BC? 965 AD? 1258 AD?
965 AD
2. What name does Natasha Romanoff go under when first introduced in Iron Man 2? Natalie Roberts? Natalie Rushman Natalie Reed?
NATALIE RUSHMAN
3. What is the name of Djimon Hounsou’s character that appears in both Guardians Of The Galaxy and Captain Marvel? Korath? Att-Lass? Bron-Char?
KORATH
4. Who breaks Wanda out of the Avengers facility in Captain America: Civil War? Falcon? Hawkeye? Ant-Man?
HAWKEYE
5. In Ant-Man, Scott Lang is given discs that can shrink or enlarge objects. What colour is used to shrink? Red? Blue? Yellow?
RED
6. At the start of The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner is hiding in which country? Argentina? Brazil? Colombia?
BRAZIL
7. Which of the following actors did not appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Gary Sinise? William Hurt? Gary Shandling?
WILLIAM HURT
8. What is Valkyrie known as during the majority of Thor: Ragnarok? Scanner 55? Scrapper 142? Scavenger 616?
SCRAPPER 142
9. Black Panther was nominated for seven Oscars. How many did it win? 1? 3? 5?
THREE (best costume design, best original score, best production design)
10. Captain America: Civil War was released in the same year as Captain America’s 75th anniversary, the 10th anniversary of the Civil War comic and Black Panther’s 50th anniversary. True or False?
TRUE


AUDIO ROUND I: Music
1. Black Panther
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians Of The Galaxy
4. Thor: Ragnarok
5. Ant-Man
6. Iron Man 3
7. Doctor Strange
8. Captain Marvel
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
10. The Incredible Hulk


AUDIO ROUND II: Audio Clips
1. “You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!” “And you are an old man and a fool!”
THOR
2. “I don’t know if you know this but I don’t speak Russian”
IRON MAN 2
3. “These items aren’t for sale.” “How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price or did they take it? Like they took everything else?”
BLACK PANTHER
4. “Smash”
THE AVENGERS
5. “You must be truly desperate”
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
6. “You’ve come up with some pretty impressive inventions, Tony. War isn’t one of them”
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
7. “Do you feel that, if you open your mouth, the horrors might never stop? Don’t worry. We only have to talk about one”
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
8. “What master do you serve?”
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
9. “You gotta get better at this part of the job”
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
10. “If only you’d protected Janet with such ferocity”
ANT-MAN


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Avengers / Captain America: Civil War / Iron Man 2 / Thor: Ragnarok
Poster: Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Actor: Clark Gregg


DUMBO

Let Your Imagination Soar

Director
Tim Burton

Starring
Colin Farrell
Nico Parker
Danny DeVito
Michael Keaton
Eva Green



Set shortly after the events of World War I, circus cowboy Holt Farrier [Farrell] returns home to find his wife has died of Spanish flu and the circus on hard times. What’s more, he has lost an arm fighting for his country and can no longer perform to the same level. Worried for the wellbeing of his son Joe [Finley Hobbins] and daughter [Parker], Holt takes whatever job he can get and is put in charge of the elephants by ringmaster Max Medici [DeVito]. After a short time, one of the newly acquired elephants gives birth to a large-eared elephant they name Baby Jumbo. Max is horrified by the freakish ears and is forced to get rid of the elephant’s mother when a show goes badly and the crowd mock the big-eared elephant which is then nicknamed Dumbo. Max is then approached by mogul V A Vandevere [Keaton] and his assistant Colette [Green] when it is discovered that Dumbo can use his wings to fly but while Vandevere claims he can save Max’s circus, he is seemingly solely interested in helping himself.

From the very get-go there is a clear sense that the film is trying so hard but the whole thing is very two dimensional. From the characters to the story itself, attempts seem to have been made to create something new that will reflect contemporary attitudes and sensibilities while capturing the magic of the original. What we end up with is a Dumbo in name only that doesn’t really know what to do with itself after cherry picking a very meagre selection of memorable key moments and padding the remainder with hollow fluff. To add extra frustration, several mixed messages are introduced that fail to resonate. The film breaks its back trying to highlight that Milly is both very creative and scientifically minded but when it comes to the emotional payoff toward the finale (wherein she realises both “the power was in her all along” and she will honour her mother’s memory by throwing away a prized possession passed from mother to daughter before her death) the message amalgamates a handful of clichéd platitudes, hoping the audience won’t notice anything off.

Of the parts salvaged (and others strongly and forcefully ejected – crows, I’m talking about the crows), Dumbo is very much intact. As a CGI creation, the giant-glassy-eyed elephant is incredibly cute and will reduce many audience members to tears. But for all the technical acumen that has gone into bringing this creature to life, there is a distinct lack of soul. Specifically, in the way Dumbo is treated. I appreciate we are being shown a different time and during a post-World War I era, there wasn’t an exceptional amount of mirth to go around but the fact this elephant calf is born with large ears being a point of ridicule makes next to no sense. I never understood the conceit in the cartoon and I don’t understand it here. It’s not as if only we enlightened, woke individuals are able to see past the brutal exterior and see the beauty inside; this is a purposefully created concoction of cuteness. Subsequently, the rather mature villain being fiscal responsibility and evolving social pressures, the film is reduced to using absurdly clichéd and laughably mean villains. Firstly we have Rufus the mean roustabout animal handler who is seemingly only working with animals to abuse them, only for him to be replaced by an even more absurd elephant-skin-boot wearing South African, who sneers and is simply itching for the opportunity to murder the eponymous character.

The “heroic” counterparts are a bit trickier to gauge. We have Holt’s kids and for the most part they are perfectly fine; brave, smart and kind, they are the typical model of how Disney live-action films expect children to be. Holt himself has the opportunity for more complexity and Farrell is extremely capable as a father who clearly loves his children but is adrift in life (he played that exact role rather pleasingly in Saving Mr Banks) but it doesn’t really go anywhere. I don’t know what the overall arc for the character was but he came off as a largely ineffective individual due to his timid nature. Again, this could quite easily be chalked up to PTSD, survivor’s guilt, adjusting to life out of the spotlight and with a disability but the film doesn’t really do enough with it to earn any of that. Eva Green is sort of similar, playing a bit of a hostage but we are never given a strong look into who she is or what brought her to this point, outside of a few throwaway lines of dialogue. That and her accentuating her natural French accent felt like Ewan McGregor in Beauty & The Beast. And finally we have Danny DeVito as ringmaster Max Medici, who redeems himself in the final act but only because he’s Danny DeVito and that man is charming as hell, because the character does very little from start to end that displays a shred of decency.

I must confess, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with these live action remakes. As an artist I feel they are an act of stagnation, a slap in the face for older animation techniques and a blockage for new writers and new ideas. On the other hand, the execution of a great many of these releases has been extremely praiseworthy and I can’t help but enjoy them. Burton’s Alice In Wonderland didn’t impress me but it made one billion at the box office and signalled to Disney that this idea was a winner. So why wouldn’t Burton be a good choice for Dumbo? It’s got a sad lead, parenting issues, circus aesthetics and the potential for wonder and mayhem. The closest we get to the usual Burton flare is Dreamland itself, which transitions the film from flat period feature to bombastic recreation of colourful elements of Vincent, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Big Fish. But this is only really during its introduction and outside of the main tent itself we don’t see a great deal of the attractions, rides and wonder that Burton could conjure up. Made worse for the fact that a great deal of the sets were constructed but muddied down with some truly nasty, blurry, hazy CGI. Maybe they were trying to emulate an old faded photograph, maybe they were trying to present the dizzying world of the circus, whatever the intention, it was lost and what we end up with is a visually disappointing setting, accompanied by a completely forgettable score with only hints of the original soundtrack.

In all honesty, Dumbo is a perfectly serviceable release. For anyone who hasn’t seen the original, it will probably entertain and sell a few stuffed elephant toys. But ultimately it suffers from the fact that nobody was asking for this. It may sound unnecessarily aggressive but Dumbo is no one’s favourite Disney film. Sure, you can enjoy it and have fond memories of watching its standout moments as a child but is it really your favourite Disney film? Unlikely. So other than money, why did anyone think this would be a success in the same year as Disney is releasing live-action adaptations of two of its biggest successes, Aladdin and The Lion King?


Release Date:
29th March 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
A prime example of everything wrong with this film takes place in one scene (that I’m quietly confident they repeat). You may not know the name Michael Buffer but he has made a fortune on television, in movies and at live events for five words: let’s get ready to rumble. It’s his trademark and we are all very familiar with him and it. So during the Dreamland sequence, as Dumbo is to premiere his act, Buffer steps into the ring. As an announcer by trade, he’s actually rather well cast. Oddly, we see Buffer reflected in Dumbo’s eyes but using the same footage so clearly an afterthought as the visual doesn’t actually work properly. But, I give this a pass too. Then finally, he bellows to the crowd, “Let’s get ready for Dumbo.” And I was done. I sat in the dark cinema mouthing “what the absolute fuck!?” over and over.

Notable Characters:
**spoilers in this paragraph**
As upbeat as the ending is, Vandervere is right: the future of the travelling circus is a theme park. This is another fine example of the mixed messages the film gives. Milly is constantly looking to the future, wanting little to do with the circus, wanting to further the advancements of science and her exhibit isn’t very different from that set up in Dreamland (although the Dreamland one is painfully 50s and is just Burton revelling in the time period he favours the most). So for a film talking about going forward, adapting and belonging to something special, it’s odd that the conclusion takes everyone back to square one with a moderate rebranding that ignores the problems facing the circus in the first place. But to stick with Vandervere for a moment, sure he’s a shrewd businessman but comically so, rather than the dually charming and unpleasant Ray Kroc in The Founder or lavishly enthusiastic Barnum in The Greatest Showman, Vandervere is self-serving and thinking of what will work for his business. I’m not trying to defend the clearly unscrupulous villain but the only difference between him and Max is a modicum of remorse and that just makes the writing feel very cheap and rushed.

Highlighted Quote:
“Nobody wants to be alone”

In A Few Words:
“A wholly unremarkable and uninspired remake from a creator who is capable of so much more”

Total Score:

2/5

SHAZAM!

Just Say The Word

Director
David F Sandberg

Starring
Zachary Levi
Asher Angel
Mark Strong
Jack Dylan Grazer



In the mid-70s a young Thaddeus Sivana is summoned and tested by a wizard named Shazam [Djimon Hounsou], found unworthy of his power, Thaddeus is returned to his regular life and in trying to get back to prove himself, causes a car crash that nearly kills his father and brother. In the present day, the adult Thaddeus [Strong] has invested countless funds into gathering information on how to get back to the wizard’s lair with the help of information from fellow unwilling applicants. Finally making progress, Thaddeus confronts the ageing Shazam and unleashes the demonic seven deadly sins to wreak havoc on the earth. At the same time we are introduced to Billy Batson [Angel], an unruly orphan who is searching for his mother but is forced into a foster family. The family themselves are very welcoming but Billy, being a troubled teenager, has no intention of bonding or staying with them. One day after school, Billy is evading an altercation with some particularly sadistic bullies when he finds himself in Shazam’s presence. Desperate, the wizard has little choice but to imbue the young man with his powers, pushing him to his full physical potential whenever Billy speaks the name Shazam, transforming him into a caped adult superhero [Levi].

Before discussing this movie, we need to briefly take stock of the last two decades of superhero films, specifically those released by DC.. more specifically, we need to talk about the looming presence of Batman. Superman dominated most of the 20th century but Batman took the reins as DC’s most marketable film property from the late 80s onward. But Batman is very different from a lot of other DC properties for its dark and sombre tones. This came to a head in the late 90s when the colourful mess that was Batman & Robin hurt the brand and it wasn’t until Nolan’s gritty, grounded reboot, Batman Begins that people started having faith in these releases again. But starting with a Batman title dictated the course the company would take for years and characters like Superman, a beacon of hope, got the flat Superman Returns and the divisive Man Of Steel. WB/DC then doubled down on being the gritty superhero franchise to counter Marvel’s winning whimsical formula and somehow made a Justice League film that made less than their Superman solo film released four years prior. But with films like The Dark Knight being such a fan favourite, it became the standard by which everything that followed was measured against but for a Shazam feature, the only fair comparison is Richard Donner’s Superman and I believe that tonally and as a representation of the comic, this film is a more than worthy successor.

Not only is this feature simple and fun, it feels surprisingly effortless, as if it was always entirely possible for DC to “make a Marvel movie” – which it was, they just wanted to feel different. The first feature that comes to mind is Spider-Man: Homecoming, for the general vibe, mix of humour and action and representation of adolescent wish fulfilment that remembers one of its key demographics is kids. Sure, it may feel a little trite and rote but Shazam revels in what it means to be a hero, leading to some truly entertaining and funny sequences. Everything about this film seems to be a statement about stepping in a new direction – there’s even a child smashing Batman and Superman action figures together, only to witness Shazam fighting Thaddeus outside of his window and drops the iconic characters to the floor, engrossed in what is happening in front of him. The cinematography and production design are incredibly good, both leaning in to the lush colourful costume designs but also bringing the seven deadly sins to life as pretty monstrous creations that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Guillermo Del Toro feature. The threat is real, the horror is real, the magic is dangerous but throughout all of it, there is an overriding sense of mirth and revelry. Of course there are strong themes of family and responsibility but these quiet introspections and analyses of what a superhero is never get in the way of the initial contract between the audience and the storyteller: we are going to show you a superhero doing superhero things.

But a great deal of this success lands at the feet of the cast, who have astounding chemistry. Levi is a magnificent choice as Shazam, given plenty of opportunity to mess around and be remarkably silly, whereas Angel as the younger Billy brings a pleasant amount of heart and maturity to the character and his relatable teenage struggles. On top of that, the diverse cast of supports and extras is equally wonderful, with each of the Marvel family displaying their own distinct personalities and traits. Without the opening sequence adding an entitlement and semi-sympathetic motivation, Mark Strong’s antagonist would be a touch two dimensional but I think there’s just enough there to make him interesting and compelling as a villain riddled with arrogance, entitlement borne of a sense of injustice. Without spoiling the end of the film, I have extremely high hopes for where this cast could go and what is possible.

I will happily admit that I have something of a bias toward this character. I have always felt that the big red cheese was a DC character that felt neglected when it came to reboots and adaptations. All the powers of Superman with all the wise-assery of Spider-Man, it’s a winning combination. But, as with the comics, the stories presented have often been a little flat and while I enjoy this origin tale, it doesn’t do a great deal to forge new ground or territory. One of its few defining traits is the use of Billy’s family but even with this, it still tells a rather predictable, humdrum story. I would also add that one of the areas where DC films excel is the musical scores, crafting stellar and memorable themes but Benjamin Wallfisch doesn’t really hit the right stride, producing something a little forgettable with a big triumphant theme but one that doesn’t really stick with you. Which is genuinely baffling as his work on films like A Cure For Wellness, Blade Runner 2049 and Hidden Figures were extremely impressive.

This film won’t be for everyone. It makes multiple points about wanting to turn a page on the last ten years of bleak, desaturated features and nowhere is that more present than the end credit sequence which is silly, cartoony and reminds us that this film wants to have fun with these heroes, like a kid with access to one of the biggest toy boxes. In a way, Shazam achieves the same progress that Bumblebee made, aware of the limitations and criticisms laid at the feet of its predecessors and tries to counter with something clearly shot, nicely written and well-acted, while still following the exact same formula we have come to expect. And I for one would very much like to see more.


Release Date:
5th April 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
As weird as this may sound, the first thing that leapt to mind when highlighting one standout scene was Billy and Freddy skiving off school. As they try and sneak out they are stopped by a security guard who explains that unless a parent is physically present, they cannot go. At which point Billy sneaks off, transforms into Shazam and returns to claim the kids. The setup is simple but the delivery is what makes it really nice. Adult Billy rambles, saying, “Ah! Here I am to collect my child and other child that just left. You must be that security guard that everyone talks about and respects so much.” But before the compliment can be processed, Freddy magnificently undercuts with, “Nah, that’s the other guy. This one is a dick.” It was just.. really funny.

Notable Characters:
While the supports do a fine job, the symbiotic role of Billy/Shazam by Angel and Levi is too commendable to pass up. All the emotional weight is rested on a young actor who is clearly very capable and the silly indulgence is taken by Levi, who channels the immaturity in a very charismatic way. Having said that, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy interacts with both actors seamlessly and steals so many scenes that he can’t not get a mention.

Highlighted Quote:
“My brother I applaud your choice today. Gold shoes, white cape.. it shouldn’t work but it does!”

In A Few Words:
“Vibrant, upbeat and full of heart, Shazam is a welcome break from the recent spate of morose superhero outings”

Total Score:

5/5