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Movie Review: Angel Has Fallen

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is framed for the attempted assassination of the President and must evade his own agency and the FBI as he tries to uncover the real threat.

 

 

Summer 2019 has been a bit of a bust when it comes to new film releases. It’s usually a lacklustre season that’s saved by a big superhero release. However, since that already happened in the Spring with the goliath that was Avengers: Endgame, it’s been a particularly sluggish summer for film.

 

No, I’m not here to tell you that Angel Has Fallen is our glorious saviour of Summer cinema, but for the sake of having something to watch, it makes a nice change from the continuous school holiday screenings of The Lion King and Angry Birds 2.

 

 

A failed assassination attempt on President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) sees Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) as the only surviving staff member at the scene. He wakes up in hospital in cuffs, charged with the attempted murder of the president after copious amounts of evidence point to his involvement in the attack. Banning is determined to prove his innocence, so when his prison van is hijacked, he takes the chance to go on the run to find the truth.

 

I was very sceptical about the third instalment and I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit to judging Butler’s appearance in the trailer. He looks tired, puffy and expressionless, reminding me of Sylvester Stallone in recent years (ok, decades). I was quick to assume he couldn’t cut the mustard anymore. Since watching the film though, his aesthetic is extremely relevant to the storyline as we see Mike as a painkiller popping insomniac pushed to breaking point physically and mentally from start to finish.

 

 

During his travels, he seeks out his estranged father, Clay Banning (Nick Nolte), a reclusive war veteran with a few tricks up his sleeve that probably provided the edge that Mike lacked in this film. Nolte’s rattled Clay resembled the late Albert Finney in Skyfall, which I think is why I warmed to this character as much as Trumbull. Without giving anything away, this guy is badass.

 

 

Angel Has Fallen is what I would call an ‘easy watch’, which may work for some as an action-driven film. On the other hand, it also means that nothing about the plot was fresh or surprising. In fact, I figured out who the main villain was the instant I saw him, which is not usually an observation I get right. Because of that, I struggled to care about anything other than if Morgan Freeman was going to be alright. I mean, he’s an 82-year-old icon pretending to get shot at every five minutes, so who wouldn’t be concerned?

 

 

There were some strong action sequences throughout, but unfortunately, much like predecessor London Has Fallen, the CGI just couldn’t back it up. The explosions towards the end of the film showed a huge weakness (that’s not a spoiler by the way. It’s not an action film without explosions at the end). Then again, according to IMDB, London Has Fallen is the highest-grossing film of the three, so maybe poor effects shouldn’t deter you from giving the latest chapter a chance. To its credit, the drone sequence featured in the trailer is the most original part about the entire film and worth a watch for that.

 

To conclude, Angel Has Fallen is certainly not a waste of time, but maybe not time well spent. Butler delivers an ok performance, but with the likes of Tom Cruise still pulling out stunts at 57 with far more skill, I think Butler’s combat days are numbered. I hope this remains a trilogy because I feel any more additions will just be as forgettable as this one. Thank God for the old boys in this!

 

With that, I give this a 6/10.


September 3rd, 2019 by Gemma
Posted in General, Movie Review | No Comments »

Movie Review: Toy Story 4

When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

 

 

2019 is, without a doubt, a huge year for film. We’ve had the big guns of action so far in ‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’, but one of the most anticipated films of the year comes in the form of Pixar’s Toy Story 4.

 

With a 25 year history, many of us have grown up with the franchise, so while younger generations are barely getting started with the films, millions of kidults are saying a sad goodbye as the 4th instalment brings the tale of Buzz (Tim Allen) and Woody (Tom Hanks) to a close. Admittedly, some audiences queried the point of the 4th film years before release; as Toy Story 3 rounded up pretty well, with Andy handing over his childhood buddies to Bonnie. However, I wasn’t disappointed in Toy Story 4. In fact, my disappointment lies in the fact that it has ended. Although producers have said “never say never”, it doesn’t seem like there are any plans for a fifth instalment.

 

 

Following the intro about what happened to Bo Peep (Annie Potts) in the last film, Bonnie has started school. Struggling to make friends, Bonnie (unknowingly helped by Woody, who feels he doesn’t have a purpose any more- deep) makes a new friend from a spork. Forky is voiced by Tony Hale, famous for the fantastic, noughties hit-show Arrested Development (if we pretend season 4 and 5 didn’t happen). In fact, if the coddled, anxious and naive Buster Bluth was reincarnated, he would come back as talking plastic cutlery for sure. Forky is one of the best new characters we’ve seen since cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) joined the gang. He causes much of the chaos in the film as Woody tries to keep him safe despite frequent attempts to run away and put himself in the trash. Woody’s desperation to be needed is depressing, but integral to the plot and the reason he keeps stopping Forky from ditching Bonnie.

 

 

During a family RV trip, Woody becomes separated from the gang after Forky makes a quick dash from the moving van (as you do). During their trip back to the RV, Woody discovers long-lost Bo Beep’s lamp in the window of a local antique store. Whilst looking for Bo, Woody becomes the prey of a vintage doll, Gaby Gaby (Christina Hendricks), who wants his voice box to fix her faulty one so someone will finally love her. While Gaby Gaby is feeling her Soprano realness in her villainous state, her identical ventriloquist dummy henchmen are the entourage from hell. In truth, they make Annabelle and Chucky look like the cast of Sesame Street. For a kids film, they are surprisingly messed up.

 

 

Throughout the film, there’s a lot of back and forth chases, from Woody avoiding those horrid dummies to Bo saving everybody all the time, whilst Buzz and Jessie trying to stall Bonnie’s parents from leaving the RV camp. There’s a lot going on, drumming out all of the humour and drama that we’ve come to love from the franchise. Lots of new characters all contribute to the story. This includes Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), the daredevil motorcycle stunt doll who crashes better than anyone in the vintage toy market. Call me harsh, but this is the most personality I’ve ever witnessed from Reeves in any role and it works.

 

 

I absolutely loved this film. By the fourth film, most franchises are so terrible that we watch them for a cheap laugh, but Toy Story 4 is just as relevant and funny as ever. It’s kept up with the times, offers morals for the kids, and nostalgia for the rest of us. My only criticism is that most of the original characters get a lot less screen time than before. However, it makes sense to the story and with reliance on archives to voice Mr Potato Head (Don Rickles died in 2017), it would have been a struggle to include him without finding a new actor. How can you replace that voice? Not easily.

 

 

Expect to feel emotionally damaged by the ending, enjoy the endless supply of satisfying Easter eggs and make sure you stay for the credits for more hilarity.

 

It’s 10/10 from me.


July 24th, 2019 by Gemma
Posted in General, Movie Review | No Comments »

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 »

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