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

Cinema City Film Quiz #234

[24 March 2019]


Winning Team:
Memento’s Club
Genre – Men meet in bar basements, put Mentos in Diet Coke but quickly forget the mess

Runners Up:
A Bootiful Mind
Genre – Bernard Matthews controls people’s minds with turkey.. or does he?
This Team Name Is Best [Citation Needed]
Genre – Lies! All lies!
The Rashomen!
Genre – A tale told in three differing ways by your humble droog narrators, oh my sisters and brothers
Street Shiter XIV
Genre – Franchise feature
The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down
Genre – A movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty and if its speed dropped, it would explode!
We Can Reliably Finish, Not Reliably Place
Genre – Comedy of errors
Lord Of The Party Rings
Genre – Michael Flatley based pornography


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Who directed John Carpenter’s The Thing?
JOHN CARPENTER
2. Who directed the Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings trilogies?
PETER JACKSON
3. What is the full title of the most recent Wizarding World feature?
FANTASTIC BEASTS: The CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
4. V’s mask in V For Vendetta resembles which historical figure?
GUY FAWKES
5. The following were the poster taglines for which film, “The future belongs to the mad” and “What a lovely day”?
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
6. Who co-starred alongside Nicolas Cage in The Rock?
SEAN CONNERY
7. What colour is Gamora’s skin in Guardians Of The Galaxy?
GREEN
8. Which Frank Darabont film features Tim Robbins sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit?
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
9. The following quote is from which film, “If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled, for you are in Elysium and you’re already dead. Brothers, what we do in life, echoes in eternity”?
GLADIATOR
10. Who played the lead role in 1938’s The Adventures Of Robin Hood?
ERROL FLYNN


ROUND II: Filming [Unreliable Narrators]
1. “Du musst Caligari werden/you must become Caligari” was the poster tagline for which silent film? Nosferatu? Schatten? The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari?
THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI
2. Which of the following did not appear in A Beautiful Mind? Christopher Plummer? Ed Harris? Bill Paxton?
BILL PAXTON
3. In Fight Club, what is the name of the group Tyler forms after Fight Club? Project Mayhem? Operation Chaos? Mission Extreme?
PROJECT MAYHEM
4. Atonement is set during which war? World War I? World War II? The Korean War?
WORLD WAR II
5. According to Kint’s story in The Usual Suspects, where is Keyser Soze from? Turkey? Albania? Denmark?
TURKEY
6. How does Dietrichson die in Double Indemnity? Pushed from a train? Strangled in a car? Shot in the bath?
STRANGLED IN A CAR
7. The following quote is from which film, “This is a mental institution for the criminally insane. Usual isn’t a big part of our day”? The Perks Of Being A Wallflower? Shutter Island? Sucker Punch?
SHUTTER ISLAND
8. Which of the following did not appear in the 2002 wuxia film Hero? Chow Yun-fat? Donnie Yen? Jet Li?
CHOW YUN-FAT
9. In I, Tonya, what is the name of the skating move that Tonya Harding is the first female athlete to perform in competition? Two triple Axel jumps? A quadruple Salchow jump? Three double Euler jumps?
TWO TRIPLE AXEL JUMPS
10. Rashomon is credited as the first film that pointed a camera directly at the sun. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The upcoming Dark Phoenix will be Fox’s nth X-Men title?
TWELFTH (X, X2, X3, X-Origins, X-First Class, Wolverine, X-DOFP, Deadpool, X-Apocalypse, Logan, DP2)
2. The following quote is from which film, “I foresee you will become a much wiser man than I”?
STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE
3. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”?
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
4. What is the name of Ian Holm’s character in Alien?
ASH
5. In Toy Story 2, Al’s Toy Barn has TV adverts with Al McWhiggin dressed as what?
CHICKEN
6. How many times has Graham Greene’s The Quiet American been adapted for cinema?
TWO (1958 / 2002)
7. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride was released in which year?
2005
8. Which two actors played the lead roles in 2014’s The Theory Of Everything? (one point per correct answer)
EDDIE REDMAYNE / FELICITY JONES
9. Jeff Bridges has been nominated for seven acting Oscars but has only won one – in which movie?
CRAZY HEART
10. Which 2012 film starred Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon?
THIS MEANS WAR


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Excluding the upcoming Aladdin, how many films has Guy Ritchie directed to date? 7? 9? 11?
NINE (Lock Stock, Snatch, Swept Away, Revolver, RocknRolla, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock 2, Man From UNCLE, King Arthur)
2. What does Indio use during duels in For A Few Dollars More? A pocket watch? A shard of mirror? An empty can?
A POCKET WATCH
3. Argo is set in which year? 1965? 1979? 1983?
1979
4. How many directors were credited on 1962’s The Longest Day? 3? 4? 5?
THREE (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki to cover the British/French, American and German scenes)
5. M Night Shyamalan has written two films that he did not direct. Which of the following isn’t one of them? She’s All That? Stuart Little? Galaxy Quest?
GALAXY QUEST
6. The majority of Lilo & Stitch is set on which Hawaiian island? Kaua’i? Maui? Ni’ihau?
KAUA’I
7. What colour is Ricky Bobby’s car in Talladega Nights? Red? White? Blue?
WHITE
8. What was Edge Of Tomorrow renamed as when it went to DVD/Blu-Ray? Battle Angel? Live Die Repeat? All You Need Is Kill?
LIVE DIE REPEAT
9. In An Officer And A Gentleman, Zack Mayo is an officer candidate for which military service? Navy? Airforce? Army?
NAVY
10. Hans Zimmer composed the respective scores for all the Pirates Of The Caribbean films. True or False?
FALSE (Dead Men Tell No Tales / Salazar’s Revenge was composed by Geoff Zanelli)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Point Break / Little Buddha / Much Ado About Nothing / The Matrix: Reloaded
Poster: My Own Private Idaho
Actor: Keanu Reeves


US

Watch Yourself

Director
Jordan Peele

Starring
Lupita Nyong’o
Winston Duke
Shahadi Wright Joseph
Evan Alex



Us opens with a prologue sequence set in 1986, detailing Adelaide Wilson at a carnival with her parents before she wanders off and gets lost in a hall of mirrors attraction. Her experience is initially unclear but it left her traumatised. In the present day, an adult Adelaide [Nyong’o] (along with her husband Gabe [Duke] and kids Zora [Wright Joseph] and Jason [Alex]) are visiting her family’s beach house in Santa Cruz where the incident took place. Adelaide is apprehensive but tries to make an effort for her family. The evening of the first night, a family of doppelgangers assault the Wilsons.

As with, Get Out, the production design and aesthetic of this feature is pretty special. From the disarmingly simple and relatable presentation to the subtle use of mirrors, reflections, mimicry, twins and duplicated imagery to hit home the constant feeling of off-kilter symmetry. In addition, there is also a pleasant, novel use of the beach as an unsettling location – an open, wide and brightly lit area that is rather atypical for this genre (as previously/perfectly utilised in Jaws). Then we have the sound design, which is hitting all the genre standards with eerie ambience and jump scares galore but more than that, the use of language and communication is marvellous and the score is something else entirely. Michael Abels’ work on Get Out highlighted him as a very talented individual but his choral, percussive score accented with some truly haunting cello components is spellbinding. Description can’t do it justice but Pas De Deux (used in my highlighted scene) is frankly entrancing and should go down as one of the great cinematic horror scores.

On top of the visual and audial elements firing on all cylinders, the co-ordination of body doubles and visual effects is beautiful, ensuring that at no point do we question that there were doubles of the actors on screen. Furthermore, the unsettling performances themselves are wonderfully engrossing and transformative; an exceptional awareness of physicality and movement. The family gel magnificently, their menial daily complaints feel very real and the chemistry is marvellous. More than that, the performances as the tethered, the family’s alternates, addresses issues of entitlement and forced connectivity in an interesting way, through the whimsical exploration of the homes and lives of the surface-dwellers over the invaders.

**major spoilers throughout this paragraph**
For all its groundwork, without a clever or satisfying denouement Us wouldn’t work. More than that, it would become like War Of The Worlds which is made up of great scenes and praiseworthy performances but the entire feature is undercut by a rushed and disappointing finale (combination of the simplicity of HG Well’s ending for a modern audience and the utter lack of consequence). I believe Us succeeds brilliantly but only just. The alternate family turn up quite early in the story and it becomes apparent quite quickly that this story is going to unspool and escalate further than something like Halloween that only fully ramps up the tension in the final act. This reminded me of something like The Cabin In The Woods which evolves midway through beyond its initial premise. But that’s part of the problem because the logistics of the tethered is incredibly difficult to get your head around. We don’t need to know the specificities of what these creatures are but the extent and scale with which they are used (seemingly one for every American, simply living in underground facilities) poses so many questions. But the reason I feel this gets a pass is because it isn’t at all important. The experience outweighs the logic and while it may fall apart under any scrutiny or pressure, what horror film doesn’t? The truth is, the unique imagery sells this film and will ensure its longevity. The fact I have no idea how these beings can exist as exact semi-symbiotic replicas is an irrelevance when compared to the lasting imagery that will stick with me for years to come.

On a deeper level, this film also tries to juggle quite a lot of layered symbolism surrounding class, race, division, entitlement, vengeance, retribution, abuse, neglect and sins of the past. The majority of which is channelled well while others feel a little lost and underdeveloped but the analysis of the psychology of vengeance and how one can lose their humanity or how another can evolve to discover theirs is fantastic. Peele has proven himself quite deft with simple, straightforward concepts that cut to the root of you, which is why I genuinely feel he will continue to produce outstanding cinema but more importantly (on a bit of a tangent) that he is quite possibly the finest choice to helm the new The Twilight Zone series. As for his feature films, I think it would be genuinely difficult for him to make a bad one.


Release Date:
22nd March 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers**
One of the most standout sequences in this entire movie is a beautifully shot dance/fight sequence between Adelaide and her alternate. The cinematography, editing, choreography, editing and musical accompaniment all flow exceptionally well and following the immediate revelation of what the tethered are (or at least, what they are believed to be), it is a wonderful harmonising of sound and vision to create something engrossing and captivating.

Notable Characters:
There has never been any doubt that Lupita Nyong’o is an astonishingly talented actor. She has proved herself time and again and the dual roles she portrays in this feature merely confirm it. So much animosity, fear, hatred and dread are packed behind her eyes and the way she sits, moves and carries herself as both the characters of Adelaide and Red is amazing to the degree that it is extremely difficult to picture anyone else who could be better suited for this role. And that’s before we address the developments in the final moments of the film which make me want to go back and analyse the clues like Adelaide eating strawberries while her family eat junk food, abstains from alcohol and openly admits she doesn’t do well with talking. Brilliant.

Highlighted Quote:
“Once upon a time there was a girl and the girl had a shadow”

In A Few Words:
“A lush and captivating feature that suffers only from an issue of maybe too many concepts at work but it’s not nearly enough to tarnish what is an incredible film”

Total Score:

4/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #233

[10 March 2019]


Winning Team:
Rogue One Eye
Genre – A cannibalistic viking story

Runners Up:
It’s A Mads, Mads, Mads, Mads Mikkelsen
Genre – Comedy caper where every single role is played by Mads Mikkelsen
Mads Max: Beyond The Casino
Genre – Mads Mikkelsen spends two hours convincing people he has appeared in films other than Casino Royale
Bowthorpe Rising
Genre – Action comedy
Street Shiter VIII
Genre – Action


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe collaboration A Good Year is an adaptation of which novel?
A GOOD YEAR
2. Who plays the lead role in the Meet The Parents series?
BEN STILLER
3. The following quote is from which film, “You’ve gotta ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk”?
DIRTY HARRY
4. What colour are the white roses in Alice In Wonderland painted?
RED
5. Michael Gambon played the role of Dumbledore in how many films?
SIX
6. Which two actors have played the role of Max Rockatansky on screen? (one point per correct answer)
MEL GIBSON / TOM HARDY
7. Donnie Darko was released in which year?
2001
8. Who directed The Abyss?
JAMES CAMERON
9. Who played the role of Will Scarlett in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves?
CHRISTIAN SLATER
10. Daniel LaRusso is the lead character in which 80s trilogy?
THE KARATE KID


ROUND II: Filming [Mads Mikkelsen]
1. Who played the title role in 2004’s King Arthur? Clive Owen? Russell Crowe? Viggo Mortensen?
CLIVE OWEN
2. Casino Royale was released in which year? 2003? 2006? 2009?
2006
3. Which Rogue One character said the following quote, “You have made time an ally of the Rebellion. I suggest we solve both problems simultaneously with an immediate test of the weapon”? Director Orson Krennic? Grand Moff Tarkin? Darth Vader?
GRAND MOFF TARKIN
4. Which instalment of the Pusher trilogy did not feature Mads Mikkelsen? Pusher? Pusher II? Pusher 3?
PUSHER 3
5. Liam Neeson played the role of Zeus in 2010’s Clash Of The Titans, who played the same role in the 1981 original? Kirk Douglas? Peter Ustinov? Laurence Olivier?
LAURENCE OLIVIER
6. Mads Mikkelsen appeared in the Danish dub for two Pixar films. Which of the following wasn’t one of them? Monsters Inc? A Bug’s Life? Cars?
A BUG’S LIFE
7. In the opening sequence of Paul W S Anderson’s The Three Musketeers, the musketeers and Milady de Winter are stealing plans for what? Submarines? Airships? Tanks?
AIRSHIPS
8. How many Sanctums make up the shield that protects Earth from magical threats in Doctor Strange? 3? 4? 5? [bonus points for naming the cities they reside in]
THREE [New York, London, Hong Kong]
9. In Danish film, The Hunt, Lucas’ girlfriend Nadja is from Russia. What language do they speak to each other in? French? German? English?
ENGLISH
10. Mads Mikkelsen has no dialogue throughout Valhalla Rising. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What are the names of the three villainous roles played by David Warner in Tron? (one point per correct answer)
ED DILLINGER / SARK / MASTER CONTROL PROGRAM
2. Flatliners was released in which year? [bonus point for naming the release year of the remake]
1990 [2017]
3. What is the name of the Disney princess in Enchanted?
GISELLE
4. To date, Dagobah has appeared in how many Star Wars films?
TWO (Empire and Jedi but deleted scene from Revenge Of The Sith doesn’t count)
5. Ross Webster is the villain in which 80s superhero film?
SUPERMAN III
6. Who directed The Wrestler?
DARREN ARONOFSKY
7. The following quote is from which film, “I don’t blame people for their mistakes but I do ask that they pay for them”?
JURASSIC PARK
8. What is the name of the Nicolas Cage film in which he plays a corrupt detective who witnesses the assassination of the US Defence Secretary?
SNAKE EYES
9. In Men In Black, the Arquillian battleship fires a warning shot at the arctic and explains the MIB has a galactic standard week to return the galaxy. How long is a galactic standard week when converted to Earth time?
ONE HOUR
10. Which film featured Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Elizabeth Banks and Naomi Scott?
POWER RANGERS


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which member of Dutch’s team is the first to die in Predator? Poncho? Blain? Hawkins?
HAWKINS
2. In All The President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein work for which newspaper? The Boston Globe? The New York Times? The Washington Post?
THE WASHINGTON POST
3. Who worked as cinematographer on Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Shawshank Redemption, The Village and Sicario? Roger Deakins? Conrad L Hall? Janusz Kaminski?
ROGER DEAKINS
4. What was the title of the last major release put out on VHS? Hidalgo? A History Of Violence? Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King?
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
5. Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Michelle Pfeiffer and Raoul Julia starred together in which film? The Best Of Times? Tequila Sunrise? Silkwood?
TEQUILA SUNRISE
6. Last Man Standing and A Fistful Of Dollars are remakes of which film? Kagemusha? Ikiru? Yojimbo?
YOJIMBO
7. White Heat, Angels With Dirty Faces and The Public Enemy all featured which actor? Humphrey Bogart? Edward G Robinson? James Cagney?
JAMES CAGNEY
8. Julia Roberts has been nominated for four Oscars, which film did she win one for? Steel Magnolias? Pretty Woman? Erin Brockovich? [bonus point for naming the fourth film she was nominated for]
ERIN BROCKOVICH [August: Osage County]
9. Which actor has appeared most frequently in Quentin Tarantino films (excluding the stunt work of Zoe Bell)? Samuel L Jackson? Tim Roth? Bruce Dern?
SAMUEL L JACKSON (six times to date)
10. Laurence Fishburne was only 14 when he auditioned for his role in Apocalypse Now but lied saying he was 17. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Chinatown / Blade Runner / The Day The Earth Stood Still / Big Trouble In Little China
Poster: The Art Of War
Actor: James Hong


CAPTAIN MARVEL

Higher Further Faster

Director
Anna Boden
Ryan Fleck

Starring
Brie Larson
Samuel L Jackson
Ben Mendelsohn
Jude Law
Annette Bening



Captain Marvel opens in 1995 on the alien world of Hala. We are introduced to Vers [Larson], a Kree warrior being trained by her superior, Yon-Rogg [Law] to suppress her emotions in order to become a better fighter but as she is suffering from amnesia, is desperate to uncover who she is. Sent on a mission to extract an undercover operative, we learn about the Kree’s war with the shape-shifting alien race, the Skrulls. The mission is an ambush and Vers is taken hostage and has her memory probed, revealing glimpses of a history on Earth. Vers escapes the Skrull ship and falls to Earth, where she meets SHIELD agent, Nick Fury [Jackson].

If anything can be said to sell this movie, it will be the chemistry between the cast. Seeing Larson and Jackson interacting at the Oscars it was very quickly apparent that they have great rapport and this comes across wonderfully throughout this movie. Fury is less jaded than we’ve seen before, making him more charismatic and fun while Vers’ fish-out-of-water cocky fighter pilot spunk gets her in and out of a lot of trouble. By the way, before we go any further, this may be considered a spoiler but Vers is indeed from Earth and her name is Carol Danvers. I just wanted to get that out of the way so you don’t get confused if I jump back and forth between Vers, Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel. Ok, moving on.

In each of the Marvel origin stories, the characters have grown, evolved and improved through group interactions; this is one of Marvel’s strongest assets. When people rank their favourite MCU films, it’s very rare that a standalone will be highest, it’s usually a medley piece as seen in a sequel, which is less bogged down with origin mythology and established comic book lore and finds traction and its place in the larger narrative universe. Case in point, Captain America is my favourite MCU character but in his first film I will quite happily admit that Steve Rogers is a fairly two dimensional unwavering pillar of moral fortitude. There isn’t much of an arc for him and he remains a flawless stalwart of truth and justice from start to end. If that film were to be released now, it would be eviscerated. But when analysing Carol’s place in this saga, we need to address who she stands to replace. If Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were the original Avengers trinity, then Doctor Strange and Black Panther are their replacements, along with Captain Marvel as the Thor substitute; becoming the overpowered cosmic hothead. And while that’s great, it’s worth pointing out that for a lot of audience members, Thor only got really good by his fifth appearance. It’s also incredibly difficult to gauge the personality of a character in an amnesia piece but I think Carol was a fun inclusion with a lot of potential for growth and exploration; very different from the comic version but that’s not a bad thing.

**If I’m honest, most of the review will pretty much be spoiler-laden from hereon out, so you may want to skip ahead to the final paragraph**
Stepping away from the lead, one of the most interesting elements is the role of the bad guys and I don’t mean the Skrulls (I’ll get back to that later), I mean the true villains of the piece. The double-punch of the Kree’s artificial intelligence ruler, Supreme Intelligence [Bening], who adopts the form of an individual you respect and Carol’s commanding officer, Yon-Rogg. These characters are keenly placed to illustrate both a society that limits individuals, constantly reiterating that they need to be something they aren’t and threatening to take away power that is given, even when this isn’t the case. To be blunt, Supreme Intelligence is every institution that has denied a sect of society the ability to prosper and then expects gratitude when offering a recycled piecemeal morsel back. While Yon-Rogg shines a subtle light on the nature of abusive controlling relationships, lying to an individual while gas-lighting and rewriting the past to keep their partner weak, submissive and compliant. My original highlighted quote was “if toast is cut diagonally I can’t eat it” but the conclusion of the Yon-Rogg fight is so spectacular, how could I highlight anything else? And the truth is, these sorts of characters aren’t going to particularly resonate with a lot of people, specifically because they either haven’t been in that position, haven’t had many frank conversations about these traits or worse still, are those individuals. I’m talking about white males. And I genuinely feel this is why a lot of the backlash about this film being disappointing may stem from; that unrelatability. Oh and speaking of Supreme Intelligence, I don’t care that Mar-Vell is a woman. Don’t care in the slightest. Sure, he’s a big part of the Marvel comics lore but it would add little to this movie to be bogged down with even more sprawling backstory.

Being a prequel period piece, Captain Marvel somehow feels a little less like the Marvel films we’ve seen of late. In an essence, it seems more fleshed out and like a contained standalone with well-rounded and developed side characters and villains – something the MCU often struggles with. The supports in particular are incredibly noteworthy. From things like setting up future heroes like Monica Rambeau to the open-ended fate of characters like Talos, who could return in future instalments. Speaking of which, let’s talk about the complexity of war and the strange allies and bedfellows it can generate. In the comics, the Skrulls are straight-up evil, they were first traders then conquering explorers and finally, when they met the Kree, portrayed as little more than conquest hungry, deceptive killers. This film complicates the narrative a little and adds some nuance and complexity to both sides; which is true of any conflict. But the Skrulls being different from their comic counterpart may be received like the changes to the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Personally, I really liked it, this isn’t to say the comic standard won’t one day be shown, in the same way the “real” Mandarin can be used in a future release, we are given an open-ended, fairly unexplored establishment which doesn’t clearly cut good and bad. Even Talos says, “this is war, my hands are filthy from it too.” Who is to say that these wise-cracking charming Skrulls are going to be representative of the entire race, maybe over the 20+ years between the events of Captain Marvel and the present day, there won’t be a shift to an eventual Secret Invasion style plot where disenfranchised and bitter Skrulls launch an attack on Earth. Who knows? The point is, it isn’t black and white and that is appreciated.

As with every Marvel release (and if I’m honest, every major contemporary blockbuster), the computer generated imagery utilised throughout veers from seamless to plasticy. If we step away from the failings for a second, it’s worth noting that some of the more subtle, practically unseen VFX standing head and shoulders above some of the more bombastic efforts. Specifically the de-ageing of Fury. I’ve maintained that what Disney and Marvel have been doing with this combination of make-up and CGI tweaking has been frankly breathtaking but to push this for a central supporting role for an entire feature is incredibly bold and it pays off so well because you forget that it is even an effect at all. I was also very impressed with the audio elements (not enough is ever said about the sound design in these movies) and while the song choices were fun and nostalgia-driven, they unfortunately take precedent over Pinar Toprak’s original score. This wasn’t so much a problem with something like Guardians Of The Galaxy because that movie had a very distinct and memorable main theme but here the genuinely grand synth and brass combination work felt pretty incidental and downplayed. Which is disappointing because it conjured an interesting hybrid of the soundscape of Thor, Captain America and Mass Effect with some wailing 90s guitars for good measure. I’ll also add that while I found the pacing to be acceptable, neither dragging nor rushing through at any point, the editing during the action was pretty erratic and clumsy but the final space battle wrapped up far too quickly. I understand that this movie was going for a character development close with Carol quite literally standing up to her captors but much like Wonder Woman the actual final fight is just too rushed and neatly resolved.

Overall Captain Marvel is a solid film with a really strong heart that suffers from a few small problems but nothing that hasn’t appeared in any other Marvel origin story. I have absolutely no doubt that once Carol has been introduced into the ever-expanding stable of MCU characters she will flourish but for the missteps this movie takes, they aren’t enough to hold back the future dynamic shift that is coming.


Release Date:
8th February 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
Even from the trailer it was always going to be this scene. There’s something chilling about being shown an individual at several stages of their life being pushed to the ground and having the temerity to rise to their feet and face not only the challenge but the slings, arrows and consequences. It’s arguably the movie’s most powerful moment and should hit you like a punch to the gut. As a sign of strength, resilience and determination it is a representation of what should be the defining qualities of our species. Hyperbolic? Maybe but I think it warrants it.

Notable Characters:
**more spoilers**
So, it’s still incredibly stupid that nobody knows about SHIELD in Iron Man, to the point they haven’t even figured out a good way to introduce themselves other than the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division to Fury being able to flash his badge in the 90s and every security guard recognising its authority. But that’s retconning. At this point and with this big a franchise, stuff like that is frankly unavoidable at times, so fuck it. But we should talk about Fury. Before the Avengers happened, there was widespread discussion about what kind of releases we could expect and one that was bounced around a lot was a SHIELD/Nick Fury film and while that never came to pass, this is likely the closest we’ll get to see Nick Fury, super spy, the guy whose secrets have secrets in action.. and I was far from disappointed. I also love that some of those secrets are protecting his ego and the line from Winter Soldier about “the last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye” has shifted in tone somewhat. But then we circle back to that retconning and the idea of what Fury is. In Avengers, Fury explains to the proto-avengers that weapons were being built to counteract Asgardians, that since Thor arrived on Earth it has become apparent that mankind is “hopelessly, hilariously outgunned.” With the events that take place in this movie, a fair few people will take umbrage with this, believing it contradicts what has already been established. But the depressing truth is that’s because gatekeepers like to think they know everything about a character and are surprised (and strangely hurt) when that confidence is “betrayed” should evidence to the contrary surface. Same thing happened with The Last Jedi – I know this character inside out, this is what he would do. Then we are shown the character ending up in the predicted place but via a different route and that angers certain fans. To avoid rambling any further, I will simply say that this was a nice exploration of the Fury character that humanises him and puts a grounded perspective on the man he becomes and why he has chosen to a) keep certain truths to himself and b) that he has allowed the semi-fabricated legend surrounding his persona to thrive because it benefits him; the Frank Urquhart logic of “you might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Highlighted Quote:
“I have nothing to prove to you”

In A Few Words:
“A flawed but entertaining introduction to what promises to be a very interesting MCU hero”

Total Score:

4/5