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Movie Review: Shazam

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM. – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the grown-up superhero Shazam.

 

 

After almost 20 years in the making, Shazam probably felt like the film that was never going to happen; Since the early 2000s, the project has struggled to come to fruition, but this Spring it became the seventh instalment in the DC Extended Universe with director David F. Sandberg at the helm. According to IMDB, Shazam has grossed over $300 million worldwide so far, a respectable sum in just three weeks.

 

We begin in 1974 in New York, where a young Thaddeus Sivana is in a car with his father and brother. During an argument, Sivana is transported to a temple known as the Rock of Eternity, where he meets Shazam, an ancient wizard looking for a champion to replace him as the last living member of the Council of Seven Wizards. In the search for someone pure of heart, Sivana proves to be tempted by the Eye of Sin displayed in the temple, which has previously proven to be dangerous. As a result, Shazam rejects him back to his own life. In the shock and mania of his experience, the family car is involved in a car crash, leaving his father with life-changing injuries and his brother blaming Young Sivana for the incident.

 

 

In present-day Philadelphia, foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is struggling to settle in his new foster home. He’s trying to find his biological mother who he was separated from at a funfair as a child, so is reluctant to accept his new family’s hospitality. Whilst running from the bullies who attacked his foster brother, Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy ends up on a subway train that takes him to Shazam. In desperation for an heir, he chooses Billy to take his power and his name, transforming the fourteen-year-old into a fully grown man who looks suspiciously like Zachary Levi. With his new persona, Billy and Freddie bond over their love of superheroes to train and experiment with the powers that come with his new name of Shazam.

 

Meanwhile, a now Doctor Sivana (Mark Strong) returns to the Rock of Eternity after a lifetime of research to steal the Eye of Sin, using it to seek revenge on his family and take on Shazam to obtain his power just as any respectable villain would.

 

 

For me, the humour in this genre is not unusual anymore, though it is certainly refreshing for DC as it’s presented in a way that feels natural not only for the characters but also the actors. Levi and Grazer have a great on-screen rapport and have proven in previous roles to both be excellent comedy actors. I hope in particular that fans of action-comedy series Chuck are not disappointed as Levi’s Shazam shares similarity with Chuck’s frantic, yet charming, personality as a tech wiz turned CIA agent.

 

On paper, Shazam doesn’t sound like it could translate to the big screen as well as the rest of it’s DC counterparts, but it’s proven me wrong. It doesn’t offer the serious, dark plots or the edgy characters we’ve come to love from DC, but if anything I think that has worked to Shazam’s advantage.  It’s taken what we loved about Deadpool (especially Deadpool 2) and marketed for a wider audience so that those who find superhero films either too intense or overly complicated will hopefully feel less alienated. It’s not going to suit everyone, but hey, neither did Ben Affleck as Batman.

 

 

The action scenes are strong, which according to Editor Michael Aller, were difficult sequences to work on. The plot twists are not exactly groundbreaking, but no less satisfying to watch.

 

 

I really enjoyed the film and it gets a 9/10 from me.


April 27th, 2019 by Gemma
Posted in General, Movie Review | No Comments »

Netflix TV Review: The Umbrella Academy: Season 1

A disbanded group of superheroes reunites after their adoptive father, who trained them to save the world, dies.

 

 

I will be the first to hold my hands up and say that seeing the trailer to The Umbrella Academy initially left me feeling a bit cold. The opening to the trailer left me expecting a terrible mix of Harry Potter and Slaughterhouse Rulez (the latter being one of the worst films I’ve ever seen). I was proven wrong by several people who personally recommended it to me, plus the improved second half of the trailer sold it for me. Based on the comics books of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, the adaptation was originally planned as a film in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2017 when the project was approved for a television series by Netflix.

 

 

We begin in 1989, when on the 1st October, 43 women from all over the world gave birth, but none of them experienced a pregnancy prior to this day. At the news of this phenomenon, Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), an eccentric billionaire, made it his mission to adopt as many of the babies as he could. In the end, he formed a family of seven children who he raised as an elite group of superheroes. We’re introduced to the siblings in the present day as they discover that their father has died, which is where we quickly learn that his funeral is not only the reunion of the brothers and sisters, but the beginning of many questions for both the characters and the viewer about who he really was and how he died.

 

 

The timeline goes back and forth as we understand the dysfunctional family within The Umbrella Academy from youth to present day, teasing at the individual tales of the people only known to their father by numbers rather than names. One (Luther (Tom Hopper)) has super strength, Two (Diego (David Castañeda)) can control the trajectory of thrown objects, Three (Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman)) can turn lies into reality, Four (Klaus (Robert Sheehan)) can talk to the dead and Five (known as Five or The Boy (Aidan Gallagher)) can time travel. Five’s power is significant to the story and he has foreseen that the end of the world is days away. Six (Ben (Justin H. Min)) is deceased and we know very little about him other than Klaus can still communicate with him beyond the grave. Finally, Seven (Vanya (Ellen Page)) appears to have no power. Her father’s continuous reminders of this and encouraged isolation from her siblings leaves her as a shadow compared to them. Little does she know, that she has more to give than anyone… and more to take way for that matter.

 

 

The casting is strong, featuring familiar faces such as Ellen Page and Tom Hopper to name a few. Other than occasional rusty combat scene, no one disappoints.  Even Mary J. Blige as Cha-cha, an assassin sent to find Number Five is a nice surprise as she proves to be a capable actress in yet another genre.

 

 

At ten episodes, it’s certainly not a big commitment, but in all honesty, I believe the story could have been told in eight or nine if it shortened some of the many flashbacks, such as the tragic life and times of Leonard Peabody and why he’s so invested in Vanya. Having said that, if these things are rushed, maybe we would be left with too many unnecessary questions. The finale was a tad far-fetched (but when was the apocalypse ever anything other than far-fetched?) and I didn’t feel quite as invested in it as I hoped, but it’s still worth watching for the explosive CGI and that punchy soundtrack to pull it all together like any superhero production should. Without completely ruining it for you, season two is certainly an option if Number Five’s got anything to do with it. It would also help if Netflix gives a second season the unconfirmed (but likely) green light.

 

 

Sometimes the superhero genre can be isolating, bringing a world to the screen just for the people that appreciate their comic book origins. It’s totally understandable; the fanbase are some of the most loyal, enthusiastic followers you can find, so they should be valued and shown gratitude with strong storytelling and attention to detail. The Umbrella Academy however is a welcomed exception for people like me, who with minimal experience of comic books, felt included and informed throughout the series. The plot was understandable despite the several branches to it and the general strangeness of the situation they’re in, so if you’re looking for a refreshing take on superheroes that offers a more inclusive approach, The Umbrella Academy might just work for you. It’s not perfect, but the show is about flaws and how despite them, we can overcome, so it’s good enough for me.

 

 

Check out the trailer, see what you think –

 

Umbrella Academy Is a New Class of Superhero Story and a solid 8 out of 10

~Gemma


March 14th, 2019 by Gemma
Posted in General, Movie Review | No Comments »

STREAMING VIDEO REVIEW: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (Netflix)

In 1984, a young programmer begins to question reality as he works to adapt a fantasy novel into a video game.

 

 

Since its Channel 4 debut in 2011, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has become an international success under the wing of Netflix, with every episode providing innovative and controversial content for its loyal audience. Brooker’s latest baby, ‘Bandersnatch’, has been highly anticipated for a long time due to the unusual concept of giving the power of choice to the viewer. The idea that we, the viewer, can influence the outcome of a programme is not a new one; the saturated market of reality TV competitions and talent shows beg us to call and text for your favourite contestant by a public majority. But how can it be possible to have a feature length drama influenced by just you? How can Netflix take a feature only seen in video games and DVD bonus features? Like many, I was desperate to find out.

 

Before touching on the content, it has to be said the concept of interactivity has opened a window of opportunity to streaming services that could take the format and run with it in so many genres. For that, the creators should be commended for pushing boundaries and taking the linear out of television. At release it was widely reported that the decisions could affect the length of the production from between a 40 minute show to a full length, 90 minute film. But let’s get to the content.

 

 

Set in the early 80’s, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) is a talented young programmer who is hired by Tuckersoft boss Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhery) to adapt ‘Bandersnatch’, a choose-your-own-adventure book into a video game to dominate Christmas sales. Despite being under the same roof as famous game creator Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), Stefan rejects any help with programming his masterpiece (or rather, you reject any help) At this point I become suspicious, as after choosing to take help, the story took me to a disappointing rating by a gaming critic on TV, which led me back to the Tuckersoft office with the same choices to accept or reject help.

 

Stefan imprisons himself in his room behind a computer, the walls plastered in scribbly paper. As he takes the complex paths of Bandersnatch and brings it to life, we learn that his irate yet vacant presence is key to the storyline. As he struggles to overcome the difficulties of his glitchy software, he is riddled with guilt for his mother’s passing in a train crash many years prior. His reluctance to leave the house without his toy rabbit delayed his mother’s train journey, hence Stefan’s sense of responsibility for her demise. Stefan attends therapy sessions with Dr R Haynes (Alice Lowe) which you, of course, decide the frequency of the visits.

 

 

The decisions you make from start to finish become more gruesome and at times you wonder how can there be a choice. How am I meant to know if Stefan should jump from Colin’s balcony or whether Colin should do the honor? Is chopping up a body a better idea than burying one? However, each decision seemed less and less impactful as I progressed through the story. Dead-end after dead-end left me feeling deflated by the show and the option to go to the credits became more and more tempting after every wrong decision. If interactive television becomes a more frequent part of streaming services, giving people a choice when there is actually only one viable choice isn’t going to work every time.

 

 

I can be sympathetic to the widely publicised struggles that production faced. There is no denying that creating a nonlinear show must have been a massive uptaking, so it is understandable that delays happen; some of the greatest films are made later than planned, but audiences quickly forgive and forget if the delay is justified. I believe that it would have been worth the wait if Bandersnatch took a bit longer to make. Black Mirror fans may have high expectations, but as I said before, they’re loyal.

 

 

Despite all of the negatives, It’s worth watching for the experience of picking the path for Stefan (despite the choices being…a choice). It’s worth watching for Will Poulter, who in my eyes was the highlight of Bandersnatch, with his confident yet creepy performance. He’s completely underused in the role. Furthermore, the show/film is very polished in true Black Mirror style and the transition between choices in smooth, but the pathways need more than it offers.

 

 

Will I rewatch Bandersnatch? Not yet. I don’t think there’s any satisfaction in playing it over and over to find every outcome at once. Instead, I think coming back to this in the future will bring a greater anticipation for a new outcome that resembles the same feeling of watching it all for the first time. The future of television is definitely here, but it’s got a lot of work to do.

 

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is available to watch (play?!?) on Netflix now!

 

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch Get’s an chosen adventure score of 7 out of 10

~Gemma


January 18th, 2019 by Gemma
Posted in General, Movie Review, Technology | No Comments »

Stan Lee’s Likeness Lawsuit

How much is Stan Lee‘s likeness worth?

 

 

A legend in the world of comic books and an icon in pop culture, Stan Lee is arguably more famous than some of the characters he created in collaboration with several artists, including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created fictional characters including Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, and, with the addition of co-writer Larry Lieber, the characters Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor, so how much is his likeness worth?

 

 

Well based on a lawsuit filed against POW! Entertainment, 1 Billion dollars (USD), Lee claims in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, that the company he co-founded POW! Entertainment, used his name and likeness to close a deal with a Chinese company, the details of which were not disclosed to Lee.

 

 

Lee alleges that the signed document held by POW! CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion, was obtained fraudulently, this document which signs over the rights to Lee’s likeness and the overseeing of his social media presence, Lee claims to have no recollection of the document being read to him and due to his advanced macular degeneration was unable to read it himself.

 

 

This lawsuit isn’t the only one filed by the comic book legend, Lee is also suing his former business manager Jerardo Olivarez who he claims was stealing his blood to sell comic books.

 

With an estimated $50 million USD net worth, Lee isn’t strapped for cash, so neither of these suits appear frivolous, rather they appear like a sad tale of an elderly man being taken advantage of, a sad state of affairs, we’ll need to watch and see how it all turns out.


May 18th, 2018 by TGB_SirhcAndAr0n
Posted in Gaming, General, Movie Review | No Comments »

Movie Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.

 

 

Pacific Rim Uprising is the follow up to Guillermo del Toro’s 2013, giant robots vs giant sea monster epic, however this time around Del Toro isn’t in the director’s chair, with Steven S. DeKnight taking the chair for his debut feature film, and Del Toro staying on as both a Producer and Visual consultant.

 

The choice to allow another director to take over from a visionary such as Del Toro, especially when the new choice has yet to direct a feature film (DeKnight being most well known for his TV series Spartacus), was a bold choice indeed, but it seems to have paid off, the resulting film flowing naturally as a continuation from the first, to the point where most people wouldn’t even notice that the films had different directors.

 

 

For most sequels a lot of people will have the first question, do I need to have seen the previous movie? And the answer for this film is, no, not really – the film does a nice job at covering the important events from the last film in the first few minutes of the opening; and then peppers in a few more exposition lines throughout, mostly using returning characters to help fill in the gaps naturally.

 

Much like the first film the plot of Pacific Rim Uprising, centres on the pilots of giant mechs knows as Jaegers, in their continuing war with giant sea monsters known as Kaiju (from the Japanese phrase “Strange Monsters”), once again the Jaeger program is on the verge of being shut down and needs to prove its mettle against Earth’s giant destructive foes.

 

 

Again much like the first film, the weakest aspect of the film is the human characters, a lot of the actors in the film are given “characteristics” instead of actual characters, however there are marked improvements over the first with the charismatic new lead played by John Boyega, and a varied cast of younger actors, who are cleverly brought into the world of the film, despite not really having anything to do outside of plot related action scenes.

 

Which brings us to the MVP of the series so far, the reason this franchise has become a franchise to begin with, the creativity and visuals, the giant robots and monsters are even more imaginative than the first film, with a large portion of the film dedicated to showcasing all the new tricks the Jaegers have come up with in the past few years, each Jaeger is designed differently enough that they can be easily differentiated from one another, making it easier to tell what’s happening during the fight scenes, which look magnificent, the list of special effects employees during the credits is comically long, but watching the film you can really see where all the man power went, apart from a slightly jarring green screen sometimes, the visual effects are glorious, and the attention to detail is magnificent, each hit showing the weight of the giant adversaries.

 

 

When it comes to giant robots in film, a lot of people will turn to Transformers as the pre-eminent example, (interestingly DeKnight was invited to the Transformers Cinematic Universe writing room before being given the chance to direct Uprising), however the Pacific Rim films owe more of a debt to the world of anime, taking a lot of ideas and style from series like Gundam (which is noted in the credits as their is reference in the background of a set), and Neon Genesis Evangelion, although these series typically have a lot more character work than we see in these films, they also have a far longer running time in order to set up the back stories and develop actual characters.

 

If you are looking for an expertly crafted study of human drama, this is not the movie for you, but if you are looking for genuinely inventive giant action with incredible visual effects, you’d be hard pressed to find a better film, overall Pacific Rim Uprising, is a more than worthy follow up to the first film, building on the lore from the first, adding even more, and setting up an upcoming sequel that sounds like it will be the biggest and most epic one yet.

 

 

A mechtastic 7/10!

~ TGB_SirhcAndAr0n


April 26th, 2018 by TGB_SirhcAndAr0n
Posted in General, Movie Review | No Comments »

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