Cinema City Film Quiz #235

[07 April 2019]

Winning Team:

Runners Up:
Captain Marvel
Doctor Strange
Black Panther
Captain America
Iron Man



ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the title of the first MCU film, released in 2008?
2. What is Spider-Man’s real name?
3. What is the name of Thor’s homeworld?
4. What is the name of the precious metal mined from a meteorite in Wakanda?
5. Who directed The Avengers?
6. What is the subtitle of the first Captain America movie?
7. How many infinity stones are embedded in Thanos’ gauntlet by the end of Avengers: Infinity War?
8. Which Avenger is guarding the old Stark warehouse (turned Avengers storage) in Ant-Man?
9. What is the name of the infinity stone that Doctor Strange wears around his neck?
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?
2. In Iron Man 3, War Machine is rebranded as what? Iron Vanguard? Iron Shield? 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?
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?
5. What is the name of the missile Tony invents and sells in Iron Man? Jordan? Joshua? 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?
7. The reality stone first appears in which film? Thor: The Dark World? The Avengers? Guardians Of The Galaxy?
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?
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?
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)
2. Kaecilius is the villain in which MCU film?
3. What is the name of Bruce Banner’s former girlfriend and General Thaddeus Ross’ daughter in The Incredible Hulk?
4. Which actor replaced Joshua Dallas as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World?
5. What are the names of the two ice cream flavours mentioned in Avengers: Infinity War? (one point per correct answer)
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?
7. The following quote is from which film, “You wear a flag on your chest and think you fight a battle of nations”?
8. What is the name of the company run by Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3?
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?

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?
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?
4. Who breaks Wanda out of the Avengers facility in Captain America: Civil War? Falcon? Hawkeye? Ant-Man?
5. In Ant-Man, Scott Lang is given discs that can shrink or enlarge objects. What colour is used to shrink? Red? Blue? Yellow?
6. At the start of The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner is hiding in which country? Argentina? Brazil? Colombia?
7. Which of the following actors did not appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Gary Sinise? William Hurt? Gary Shandling?
8. What is Valkyrie known as during the majority of Thor: Ragnarok? Scanner 55? Scrapper 142? Scavenger 616?
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?

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

1. “You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!” “And you are an old man and a fool!”
2. “I don’t know if you know this but I don’t speak Russian”
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?”
4. “Smash”
5. “You must be truly desperate”
6. “You’ve come up with some pretty impressive inventions, Tony. War isn’t one of them”
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”
8. “What master do you serve?”
9. “You gotta get better at this part of the job”
10. “If only you’d protected Janet with such ferocity”

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


Just Say The Word

David F Sandberg

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:


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?
2. Who directed the Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings trilogies?
3. What is the full title of the most recent Wizarding World feature?
4. V’s mask in V For Vendetta resembles which historical figure?
5. The following were the poster taglines for which film, “The future belongs to the mad” and “What a lovely day”?
6. Who co-starred alongside Nicolas Cage in The Rock?
7. What colour is Gamora’s skin in Guardians Of The Galaxy?
8. Which Frank Darabont film features Tim Robbins sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit?
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”?
10. Who played the lead role in 1938’s The Adventures Of Robin Hood?

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?
2. Which of the following did not appear in A Beautiful Mind? Christopher Plummer? Ed Harris? Bill Paxton?
3. In Fight Club, what is the name of the group Tyler forms after Fight Club? Project Mayhem? Operation Chaos? Mission Extreme?
4. Atonement is set during which war? World War I? World War II? The Korean War?
5. According to Kint’s story in The Usual Suspects, where is Keyser Soze from? Turkey? Albania? Denmark?
6. How does Dietrichson die in Double Indemnity? Pushed from a train? Strangled in a car? Shot in the bath?
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?
8. Which of the following did not appear in the 2002 wuxia film Hero? Chow Yun-fat? Donnie Yen? Jet Li?
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?
10. Rashomon is credited as the first film that pointed a camera directly at the sun. True or False?

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”?
3. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”?
4. What is the name of Ian Holm’s character in Alien?
5. In Toy Story 2, Al’s Toy Barn has TV adverts with Al McWhiggin dressed as what?
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?
8. Which two actors played the lead roles in 2014’s The Theory Of Everything? (one point per correct answer)
9. Jeff Bridges has been nominated for seven acting Oscars but has only won one – in which movie?
10. Which 2012 film starred Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon?

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?
3. Argo is set in which year? 1965? 1979? 1983?
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?
6. The majority of Lilo & Stitch is set on which Hawaiian island? Kaua’i? Maui? Ni’ihau?
7. What colour is Ricky Bobby’s car in Talladega Nights? Red? White? Blue?
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?
9. In An Officer And A Gentleman, Zack Mayo is an officer candidate for which military service? Navy? Airforce? Army?
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)

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


Watch Yourself

Jordan Peele

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:
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:


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?
2. Who plays the lead role in the Meet The Parents series?
3. The following quote is from which film, “You’ve gotta ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk”?
4. What colour are the white roses in Alice In Wonderland painted?
5. Michael Gambon played the role of Dumbledore in how many films?
6. Which two actors have played the role of Max Rockatansky on screen? (one point per correct answer)
7. Donnie Darko was released in which year?
8. Who directed The Abyss?
9. Who played the role of Will Scarlett in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves?
10. Daniel LaRusso is the lead character in which 80s trilogy?

ROUND II: Filming [Mads Mikkelsen]
1. Who played the title role in 2004’s King Arthur? Clive Owen? Russell Crowe? Viggo Mortensen?
2. Casino Royale was released in which year? 2003? 2006? 2009?
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?
4. Which instalment of the Pusher trilogy did not feature Mads Mikkelsen? Pusher? Pusher II? 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?
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?
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?
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?
10. Mads Mikkelsen has no dialogue throughout Valhalla Rising. True or False?

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)
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?
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?
6. Who directed The Wrestler?
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”?
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?
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?
10. Which film featured Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Elizabeth Banks and Naomi Scott?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which member of Dutch’s team is the first to die in Predator? Poncho? Blain? 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?
3. Who worked as cinematographer on Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Shawshank Redemption, The Village and Sicario? Roger Deakins? Conrad L Hall? Janusz Kaminski?
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?
5. Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Michelle Pfeiffer and Raoul Julia starred together in which film? The Best Of Times? Tequila Sunrise? Silkwood?
6. Last Man Standing and A Fistful Of Dollars are remakes of which film? Kagemusha? Ikiru? Yojimbo?
7. White Heat, Angels With Dirty Faces and The Public Enemy all featured which actor? Humphrey Bogart? Edward G Robinson? 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?

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


Higher Further Faster

Anna Boden
Ryan Fleck

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:


Cinema City Film Quiz #232

[24 February 2019]

Winning Team:
Marvellous Marvel Actors
Genre – All the Marvel actors have a party at Robert’s house. They chat, play games and have fun

Runners Up:
Street Shiter VII
Genre – Comedy
The Raiders Of The Lost Stark
Genre – Action mystery
Goose The Cat From ‘Captain Marvel’
Genre – The only Marvel debut that matters
Galaxy Of The Guardians
Genre – Project cancelled, director sacked
Netflix Cancelled Our Team Name After Disney Bought It
Genre – Netflix original

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the title of the 2004 remake of Alfie starring Jude Law?
2. Alfred Hitchcock was born in which country?
3. Who plays the title role in 2001’s Oceans Eleven? [bonus point for naming the actor who played the same role in the 1960 original]
GEORGE CLOONEY [Frank Sinatra]
4. The following is the poster tagline for which Disney film, “The greatest adventure of all is finding our place in the circle of life?
5. Shaun Of The Dead is set in which city?
6. Which Indiana Jones film features a mine cart chase sequence?
7. Who directed Panic Room?
8. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John appeared together in which film?
9. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone and The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring was released in which year?
10. Who plays the lead role in the Naked Gun films?

ROUND II: Filming [MCU Actor’s Debut Films]
1. Peter Serafinowicz/Richard Armitage – What is the name of Liam Neeson’s character in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace? Sio Bibble? Nute Gunray? Qui-Gon Jinn?
2. Josh Brolin – The Goonies was released in which year? 1982? 1985? 1987?
3. Natalie Portman – The 1994 Luc Besson film, Leon, was released under what title in the United States? The Killer? The Professional? The Italian?
4. Anthony Mackie – Who directed 8 Mile? Spike Jonze? Stephen Daldry? Curtis Hanson?
5. Carrie Coon – At the start of Gone Girl, Nick comes home to find his wife is missing on the day of which wedding anniversary? 5th 10th 15th?
6. Benedict Cumberbatch – 2003’s To Kill A King is about which monarch? Charles I? George III? Louis XVI?
7. Dominic Cooper – What was the poster tagline for From Hell? Only the legend will survive? These streets belong to Jack? To Detective Abberline?
8. Jennifer Connelly – David Aaronson, played by Robert De Niro in Once Upon A Time In America, goes by what nickname? Clipper? Noodles? Eyes?
9. Mickey Rourke – At the start of Spielberg’s 1941, how do Commander Mitamura and General Von Kleinschmidt arrive in America? Zeppelin? Submarine? Tank?
10. 2009’s Star Trek won the Oscar for best makeup, making it the first Star Trek to win an academy award. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Justin Theroux, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe and Christian Bale all featured in which film?
2. According to T2, where did Mark Renton go after stealing the £16,000 at the end of Trainspotting?
3. What is the name of the high school that Bill and Ted attend in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?
4. Escape 2 Africa and Europe’s Most Wanted are the subtitles of sequels to which film?
5. The American, starring George Clooney, is set in which country (excluding the prologue in Sweden)?
6. The following quote is from which film, “But the worst thing is that me, fatty, sideburns lady and the mutants over at table 9, will never ever find a way to better the situation because we have nothing to offer the opposite sex”?
7. Robby The Robot is a character from which 1956 film?
8. Forrest Gump was released in which year?
9. The Bridge On The River Kwai is set during which military conflict?
10. How many Highlander films have been theatrically released to date (not including the animated film)?
FOUR (Highlander, The Quickening, The Sorcerer, Endgame)

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. In Blade Runner 2049, Deckard is hiding in the radiated remains of which city? New York? Las Vegas? Dallas?
2. In Easy A, the school’s mascot was the blue devil before being changed to what? The woodchuck? The dolphin? The Empire State Building?
THE WOODCHUCK (groundhog)
3. How many actors portrayed elements of Bob Dylan’s life and music in I’m Not There? 6? 8? 10?
SIX (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw)
4. Who provided the narration for 1962’s Lolita? Peter Sellers? Laurence Olivier? James Mason?
5. Which of the following hasn’t played a real US President on film? Alan Rickman? Kevin Costner? Gilbert Gottfried?
KEVIN COSTNER (Gilbert Gottfried – A Million Ways To Die In The West, Alan Rickman – The Butler)
6. Johnny Depp played Raoul Duke in which film? Benny & Joon? Blow? Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas?
7. Jerry Maguire, in the film of the same name, is an agent representing athletes in which sport? American Football? Baseball? Basketball?
8. Who played the role of Shylock in the 2004 adaptation of The Merchant Of Venice? Al Pacino? Dustin Hoffman? Ian McKellen?
9. What is the name of the arcade cabinet game that Ralph lives in, in Wreck-It Ralph? Can Do Ken? Repair Time Randy? Fix-It Felix Jr?
10. Production on No Country For Old Men had to briefly shut down while waiting for a smoke cloud to clear; the cloud itself was caused by pyrotechnics on There Will Be Blood, which was filming in the same area. True or False?

Screenshots: Mulholland Drive / J Edgar / Birdman / Tank Girl
Poster: Ned Kelly
Actor: Naomi Watts

Cinema City Film Quiz #231

[10 February 2019]

Winning Team:
Happy Streep
Genre – Meryl Streep dresses as a penguin, does a tap dance and wins an Oscar

Runners Up:
A Star Is Bored
Genre – Lady Gaga waits in line for 35 minutes outside Grosvenor Fish Bar
We Are Close To Gaga
Genre – Musical drama
Street Shiter VI
Genre – Comedy
No Name
Genre – Give us the Maltesers

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the monster in 1954’s Gojira?
2. The aliens in 1953’s War Of The Worlds are from which planet?
3. What was the title of the first sequel to Jurassic Park?
4. Who plays the lead role in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas?
5. What type of animal is Oliver in Oliver & Company?
6. What is the subtitle of Star Wars: Episode III?
7. Which film did Pixar release in between Brave and Inside Out?

8. Avatar was released in which year?
9. Sam Witwicky is the lead character in which 2007 film?
10. What was Alec Trevelyan’s (played by Sean Bean) double-0 code name in Goldeneye?


ROUND II: Filming [Female Oscar Winners]
1. [Lora Hirschberg – Best Sound Mixing] Inception was released in which year? 2005? 2010? 2015?
2. [Claire Simpson – Best Editing] Who directed Platoon? John McTiernan? Oliver Stone? Francis Ford Coppola?
3. [Suzanne M Benson – Best Visual Effects] What was the poster tagline for Aliens? This time it’s war? This time there’s more? This time we’re sure?
4. [Sofia Coppola – Best Original Screenplay] Where do Bob and Charlotte first meet in Lost In Translation? In the hotel car park? In the hotel swimming pool? In the hotel bar?
5. [Cecelia Hall – Best Sound Editing] In The Hunt For Red October, Sean Connery’s character isn’t actually Russian. Which country was he born in? Estonia? Belarus? Lithuania?
6. [Kathryn Bigelow – Best Director] Which of the following did not appear in The Hurt Locker? Evangeline Lilly? Tessa Thompson? Ralph Fiennes?
7. [Anne Dudley – Best Music/Comedy Score] How many men dance on stage by the end of the act in The Full Monty? 5? 6? 7?
8. [Julia Heron – Best Production Design] The following quote is from which film, “There, boy, is Rome. The might, the majesty, the terror of Rome. There is the power that bestrides the known world like a colossus. No man can withstand Rome, no nation can withstand her”? Spartacus? Gladiator? Ben-Hur?
9. [Ve Neill – Best Make-up] How long are the Maitlands’ expected to stay in their house after their death in Beetlejuice? Fifty years? One hundred twenty five years? Three hundred and sixty years?
10. [Eiko Ishioka – Best Costume] The wedding scene between Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula was performed by an Orthodox minister creating suspicion that Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder could be officially married. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following characters have all been portrayed by which actor, Mark Darcy, Lord Henry Wotton and King George VI?
2. What was the name given to the group of actors who appeared in several coming of age films in the 1980s?
THE BRAT PACK (Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy)
3. Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty starred in which 1972 film?
4. Who directed High Rise, A Field In England and Kill List?
5. The following quote is from which film, “So move. Hey, that’s a good move. I can’t believe it, I’m losing to a rug”?
6. What is the title of the 2000 Ang Lee martial arts film starring Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh?
7. The planet Ego features in which film?
8. Escape From New York was released in which year?
9. What is the title of the only Christopher Nolan directed film that he didn’t also write?
10. Ian McShane, Gary Oldman and JK Simmons respectively voiced the lead villains in which animated franchise?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who directed Four Lions? Charlie Brooker? Chris Morris? Steve Coogan?
2. 2005’s Kinky Boots is set in which town? Lancaster? Northampton? Stafford?
3. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Pray for Michael Sullivan”? The Mission? Road To Perdition? Angel Heart?
4. Persepolis is predominantly set in and focuses on the changing political climate of which country? Jordan? Yemen? Iran?
5. Who many films has Kathryn Bigelow directed? 7? 10? 14?
6. Which of the following films did not feature an uncredited cameo by Bruce Willis? The Rock? The Expendables? Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle?
7. Which of the following did not appear in Black Hawk Down? Joel Edgerton? Tom Hardy? Eric Bana?
8. Which of the following was not directed by Baz Luhrmann? Australia? My Own Private Idaho? Strictly Ballroom?
9. The following quote is from which film, “In the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus observing that a limb may be sacrificed to save a life but a life is never wisely given to save a limb”? Nixon? Zero Dark Thirty? Minority Report?
10. In the credits for Annie Hall, Christopher Walken’s name is misspelled Christopher Wlaken. True or False?


Screenshots: The Bourne Identity / Braveheart / Her / Coriolanus
Poster: Troy
Actor: Brian Cox


An Angel Falls. A Warrior Rises.

Robert Rodriguez

Rosa Salazar
Christoph Waltz
Keean Johnson
Mahershala Ali
Jennifer Connelly

Set in the twenty sixth century, several hundred years after a cataclysmic war, Dr Ido [Waltz] searches through the rubble for discarded cybernetic parts and comes across the upper-torso of a teenage girl with a living human brain. Bringing the parts back to his workshop, Ido hooks her up to a new body and wakes her. The young lady is conscious and aware of the world but has no memory, so Ido names her Alita [Salazar]. After a wealth of exposition, we learn that the world is divided between the floating utopic city of Salem and the brutal realities of Iron City. As Alita tries to remember her past, she meets Hugo [Johnson] and becomes interested in motorball – a violent gladiatorial robotic version of roller derby run by gangster Vector [Ali].

The first thing about this feature that both surprised and truly impressed me was the amount of practical effects and colourful Central American influenced production design. I had fully expected this film to be a wall-to-wall greenscreen nightmare but the constructed sets and locations helped give this world a genuine, lived-in feel and injected a level of detail that most blockbusters tend to sorely lack. But I feel I’ve been down this road before with Ghost In The Shell – another supposedly faithful adaptation with the original creator’s consent and an absolutely stunning visual style and colour palate but so little in terms of a connection with the story, heart and general narrative direction of the source material. In truth, that is the biggest crime these films perpetrate, to take so much world-building potential, pair it with spectacular craftsmanship and lash it to an unimaginative, flimsy script.

I respect James Cameron (acting as writer and producer) and Robert Rodriguez as visual filmmakers who have pushed the medium from both a blockbuster and independent angle. I think they are both truly visionary at times and have created astounding works. But this film brings out the worst in both of them. On the one hand, we have so little of Rodriguez’s personality on show, leaving Alita feeling like a very reined in ordeal. Taking on board Cameron’s script, Rodriguez may not have felt at liberty to go to more bombastic places seen in films like Sin City or Spy Kids and for better or worse, this has left the film feeling a touch flat and unambitious. Then we have Cameron’s script which takes the general idea and setting from the manga and puts one element of that story into central focus. I had a real problem with this but I’ll get onto that in the next paragraph. It’s evident from this movie that Cameron has fallen back on rote setups and fuck-awful dialogue to produce something so very hammy and cliché, rife with stale parental archetypes and a hideously pedestrian love-story. Much like Ready Player One, all the characters are one dimensional, fall into every overused pitfall and the first act conveniently rushes along, introducing characters in the most asinine way that robs the setting of any sort of scale.

A large part of the story is devoted to the barbaric sport, motorball. In the manga, motorball plays a decent role but not to the extent that it does in the film, which hinges so many plot points on the games and the prize awarded to the victors: the opportunity to go up to Salem (apparently the only way one can). In promotional material, Cameron talks about Alita’s arc and journey and then riffs that the motorball sequences are fantastic action set pieces. For a film driven by visual effects, I was hoping these scenes would be the ones that blew me away and they weren’t. Here we have the predominantly green-screen, CGI constructions and as it’s only featured twice, it didn’t live up to the hype, even if the direction and effects were competent. And throughout the whole experience, with the largely forgettable score blaring and an utterly painful commentator delivering some of the most dire dialogue, it hit me that motorball is this film’s pod racing but failed to reach the heights achieved in those sequences.

Stepping away from visual effects, mostly, we need to talk about the performances. Salazar is a genuinely talented individual who emotes passionately, conveying a wonderful level of innocence and a fantastic arc from childhood to young womanhood. Unfortunately, the majority of this is lost under CGI and terrible writing. In addition to this earnest lead performance, bringing to life a violent but strangely relatable analogy for puberty, we have extremely adept and accomplished actors who are pigeon-holed into noticeably superficial parts. Vector quotes Milton believing it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven and that’s pretty much everything we get to know about him, Dr Ido and his former partner Dr Chiren [Connelly] are grieving parents who took two parallel moral paths to cope and Hugo is a punk kid who has genuine feelings for Alita but needs to clean up his hoodlum ways before they catch up with him. It’s all so agonisingly worn out and unoriginal that it’s difficult to care about anyone.

The more I think about it, the more I conclude that the only real positives stem from the manga; the cool concept, the world building, the general design, the central role, etc. It also occurred to me that a lot of the changes made in this live-action version were part of the 1993 OVA Battle Angel. Admittedly, nobody wants to hear “the source material is better.” Of course it is, it almost always is but that’s no excuse for the film to glean the aesthetic while failing to capture what made the original so very entertaining and popular. One could argue that this could easily have been another self-aware surprise like Aquaman but its po-faced melodrama and self-importance left the entire experience remarkably predictable and hackneyed. What’s more, the lack of real conclusion and sequel setup with a hitherto-mute Edward Norton, leaves so much of Alita’s story left under a fog of mystery in the least pleasing way. So many franchise-hungry films have left an opening instalment with a “see you in the sequel moment” that audiences are both wary and sick of. For long-running confirmed series or those with already-shot sequels, these setups mostly work but for the vast majority of abandoned properties, we are left with these hollow, open-ended stories that lack a definitive close.

As a final point, I want to return to James Cameron. When discussing the best living directors, Cameron’s name will crop up because of his industry changing achievements. But since he has been dividing his time between the bottom of the sea and Pandora with some 4 Avatar sequels planned, this film could not be completed by Cameron himself and was handed over to Rodriguez but the truth is that people (both audiences and industry professionals) don’t come to a Cameron production for the story, they come to see how the technology will be pushed decades ahead. They come for the innovation. And most disappointingly, Alita doesn’t exhibit any real innovation. Much like Avatar, the story is questionable, the characters rather straightforward and the action acceptable but unlike the 2009 megahit, the visuals aren’t nearly as spellbinding enough to blind us all to its flaws and weaknesses and what we’re left with is a rather capable but ultimately disappointing release.

Release Date:
8th February 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
A major part of the story is that Alita has no memory of who she is. Fans of anime and manga will recognise this trope as one of the most customary for a character, so I’m not complaining about that, I’m miffed about what was hinted at. The first time Alita gets her first solid flashback is during a fight; the violence triggers a memory of her on the surface of the moon, battling forces under the call-sign 99. It’s very fucking cool. What’s frustrating, however, is the entire backstory of Alita’s origin and her past which is only hinted at, no doubt so it can be slowly explored over a series of potential sequels that we likely never see.

Notable Characters:
Idara Victor plays Nurse Gerhad, who works with Dr Ido. I don’t know if a lot of her role was cut for time or if she had always been this way but there was something standout about a character who was present for the majority of the character building scenes from start to end but only had a line or two. To be fair, these kinds of supports aren’t that uncommon in a blockbuster of this nature but something about her limited dialogue and minimal development really irked me.

Highlighted Quote:
“How you control it, I don’t know. You didn’t come with a manual”

In A Few Words:
“Yet another project that crawled its way out of decades of development hell only to feel like it might not have been worth the wait”

Total Score:



Trust Love All The Way

Barry Jenkins

Kiki Layne
Stephan James

While not told in linear fashion, If Beale Street Could Talk cuts back and forth between two timelines. Throughout one we see the budding relationship between a young black woman, Tish Rivers [Layne] and her boyfriend Fonny Hunt [James] in the 1970s. The other predominantly deals with Fonny’s arrest and incarceration on a falsely accused rape charge with the added complication of Tish’s recent pregnancy.

Some of the greatest romances have been stories of obstructions getting in the way of love, whether war, family feuds, or in this case, systemic racism. Case in point, I’ve seen so many World War II related features that achingly highlight the futility of war by using the backdrop of a young relationship that is marred or nullified by this inescapable but wholly pointless goliath. And for those who have experienced the trials and tribulations of love, this concept of injustice is so painfully relatable – which is why this type of romantic tale has prevailed and proved popular over the centuries. In truth, there have been many versions of this kind of story but not so many that have been filmed and shot so exquisitely.

As an adaptation of a novel, the bulk of the writing praise should go to the source material but without a doubt, there is a level of visual craft that Jenkins and his team bring that really elevate the whole narrative. From James Laxton’s intimate close-up shots, straight down the barrel and unwavering to the audience to the vibrant colour palates of the clothing, which fades as the hardships of realities of adult life take over. To top all that, we are treated to another fine Nicholas Britell score which shifts from period-setting jazz to uneasy tension and intoxicating romantic strings. The whole amalgam highlights how all involved are operating at the top of their game, underpinning the tension and despair with a rising feeling of prevailing hope.

In addition to this emotional spectrum, there is also a purity to what we are shown. Patient and perfectly paced, the leads age throughout so painfully but in a very real and identifiable way. A large part of this is down to the fact that most of the central actors are largely unknown to mainstream cinema and therefore few preconceptions are brought into the film. Both Layne and James carry this film magnificently and the chemistry between them is wonderful and not simply because they are a couple in love but because their various interactions hint at something more; momentary hesitation, insecurity, frustration, coyness – so many factors that make it feel whole and fleshed-out.

These tender performances help emphasise the tragically grounded finale but that grounding is also at the expense of elements from the novel, which has a few darker sections which are set aside to create something beautiful. There will also be audience members who don’t care for the conclusion. Over the years, film has raised us to believe that by the time the story ends, everything will probably be alright or at least have enough of a denouement to guarantee closure. Instead, If Beale Street Could Talk, infuriatingly swerves at the last minute and denies you the fairy tale ending because that isn’t how life works. Usually, I genuinely enjoy those kinds of endings but I know a lot of people watch something like No Country For Old Men or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and feel frustrated by the abrupt finale.

Release Date:
15th February 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
Throughout the story we are treated to a few contained vignettes that feel theatrical in structure, with character entrances and exits while the majority of the scene retains its position in one location. One of the best examples of this is the shifting performances and razor-sharp dialogue in the Rivers’ living room when Tish tells Fonny’s family the news about the pregnancy. The mood fluctuates depending on who has entered or left the scene and the brazen discourse is simultaneously shocking and entrancing.

Notable Characters:
With such a strong and solid cast, it would be quite easy to highlight most of the actors involved but owing to one specific scene wherein Tish’s mother, Sharon (played by Regina King) travels to Puerto Rico and tracks down the woman who has accused Fonny of rape. The scene itself is desperate and disheartening and audiences may expect the scene (and indeed the remainder of the film) to take a certain course but seeing Sharon come so close and fail is frankly crushing.

Highlighted Quote:
“I need to figure out a way to get some bread together and the get the fuck out of this country”

In A Few Words:
“A tragically beautiful love story, singularly told”

Total Score: