Archive for December, 2018

King of the Seven Seas

Aquaman

Director: James Wan

Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Julie Andrews

DC Comics highly anticipated Aquaman floods onto the cinema circuit in all its technicolour luminescent glory. Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa embodies the role of Aquaman with a muscular charm that clothes the gorgeous actor throughout this odyssey from his origins as the son of a lighthouse keeper and the Queen of Atlantis wonderfully played by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman who channels a blonde sea creature glow reminiscent of Daryl Hannah in Splash, to his showdown with evil younger brother King Orm of Atlantis.

Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna

As Aquaman grows up he learns that there is great turmoil below the seas as his wicked younger half-brother King Orm played with a camp villainy by Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Lakeview Terrace, Little Children) is about to wreak havoc on the surface people.  

Patrick Wilson as King Orm

Luckily Aquaman has the fiery red head Mera wonderfully played by Amber Heard to assist him as they embark on an epic oceanic adventure which takes them from Sicily to the depths of the hidden ocean where he must retrieve the Golden Trident so he can rightfully claim his title as King of the Seven Seas.

Fast and Furious director James Wan directs Aquaman with flamboyance and panache clearly making it an exceptionally lavish and startling superhero film aided by stunning visual effects and fabulous costumes by Kym Barrett.

Willem Dafoe as Vulko

Aquaman is equally well cast with an array of established stars including Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Shadow of a Vampire, Platoon, The Florida Project) as Vulko, Aquaman’s mentor as well as Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays the ferocious Manta out to avenge his father’s death against Arthur Curry aka Aquaman.

The onscreen chemistry between Jason Momoa and Amber Heard sizzles especially during the Sicily sequence and Nicole Kidman adds some maternal reasoning as the gorgeous Queen Atlanna who aims to restore peace between her warring sons as their battle for the supremacy to become Master of the Oceans.

DC Comics did everything right with Aquaman and the neon underwater cities add a gorgeous sparkle to the glow of this superhero universe which has seen the likes of Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman appear. Aquaman can rightfully take his place as one of the stronger and coolest members of the Justice League.

Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus

Audiences should be prepared to embark on a cinematic odyssey complete with menacing sea creatures and a ripped and muscled superhero as they watch a story laced with metaphor about rising pollution which is destroying the earth’s oceans.

This is a socially conscious and relevant superhero film with a very likeable star and no doubt there are plans for a sequel to Aquaman as we all want to see more of the tattooed Jason Momoa.

DC’s Coolest Superhero by Far – AQUAMAN

Aquaman gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and audiences should suspend their disbelief as they get dazzled by the city of Atlantis and the hidden treasures of the seven seas.

West Meets East

Mortal Engines

This Film gets a Rating of 6.5 out of 10 

Director: Christian Rivers

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Ronan Raftery, StephenLang, Patrick Malahide, Colin Salmon

In Mortal Engines, large traction cities such as London (left) hunt down and devour smaller traction towns (right) to strip them of their labor and resources. The film is directed by Christian Rivers, and written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson based on the novel by Philip Reeve.

Mortal Engines is a PeterJackson produced steampunk epic fantasy featuring a large cast of mostly lesserknown actors which sparkles in originality although at times director Christian Rivers directs too simplistically using lots of flashback sequences.

Jihae as outlaw Anna Fang in Mortal Engines. The film is directed by Christian Rivers, and written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson based on the novel by Philip Reeve.

The production design is mesmerizing in Mortal Engines,a story about a dystopian future in which whole cities devour lesser cities ina bid for supremacy and survival on a ravaged planet earth set in the 31stcentury. The main city is a steampunk version of Victorian London complete withSt Paul’s Cathedral and a London Museum with a twisted Gothic design, even showcasing the Screen Age: personal computers and smartphones from a bygone era.

The traction city of London in Mortal Engines. The film is directed by Christian Rivers, and written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson based on the novel by Philip Reeve.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert star Hugo Weaving plays Thaddeaus Valentine an evil London city administrator who feels nothing at eliminating anyone who gets in his way. Robert Sheehan (Geostorm) plays Tom Natsworthy, a reluctant city boy who gets caught up in an adventure when hemeets Hester Shaw played by Hera Hilmar (Anna Karenina, The Fifth Estate) who boards the moving city of London to avenge her mother Pandora’s untimely death.

Lovers of original fantasy will admire Mortal Engines, although director Christian Rivers could have edited the film in parts to keep it below two hours. 

(from left) Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) aboard the airship Jenny Haniver in Mortal Engines. The film is directed by Christian Rivers, and written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson based on the novel by Philip Reeve.

The action sequences are fantastic and despite the flashback scenes, Mortal Engines does keep the viewer engaged and will definitely be perfect for a holiday movie outing although its overall effect is not as overwhelming as one would expect.

(from left) Hugo Weaving as Thaddeus Valentine, Robert Sheehan as Tom Natsworthy and Leila George as Katherine Valentine in Mortal Engines. The film is directed by Christian Rivers, and written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson based on the novel by Philip Reeve.

What didn’t work in the film was having so many lesser known actors starring in a film which desperately needed some balancing star power to give the film some gravitas especially as a counterpoint to Hugo Weaving’s megalomaniac character Valentine who is intent on annihilating a static Oriental city in the East.

Mortal Engines gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and while is modestly enjoyable, it’s not a brilliant film despite its original dystopian theme.

Dollar Signs and Empty Promises

Widows

Director: Steve McQueen

Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Carrie Coon, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Brian Tyree Henry, Garrett Dillahunt, Cynthia Erivo

In a labyrinth tale which at times is difficult to follow, 12 Years a Slave and Shame director Steve McQueen weaves a tangled web in the contemporary Chicago crime drama Widows featuring an outstanding ensemble cast including a brilliant Viola Davis, Oscar winner for Fences, Oscar nominees Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as a ruthless hitman, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) as a pushy Polish mother along with Oscar winner Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies) as Colin Farrell’s hectic father Tom Mulligan.

What sets Widows apart is that McQueen frames the film as a gritty more complex version of Oceans 8 with pivotal roles for Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki (The Tale) and Michelle Rodriguez as three widowed woman who decided to band together and conspire to do a heist to rob from alderman Mulligan played by Colin Farrell who is in a turf war with his contestant a rising African-American politician Jamal Manning played by Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis).

Daniel Kaluuya plays the insanely evil and vindictive younger brother Jatemme Manning who feels nothing as he tortures a snitch in a wheelchair or makes victims sing before executing them at point blank range.

Director Steve McQueen frames every shot with a keen eye for detail especially the excellent scenes with Viola Davis as she comes to terms with her husband and thief Harry Rawlings explosive demise, shot in a series of intimate flashbacks scenes made more poignant that action star Liam Neeson plays the street savvy thief Rawlings.

What Widows does offer is a sophisticated treatment of contemporary American race relations, inner city corruption, poverty and crime of which there is plenty in this film.

McQueen lets certain scenes linger too long while allowing others to be cut so short that their explosive nature is electrifying. Where he is excels is at is controlling this massive and diverse ensemble cast.

Veteran star Robert Duvall has a fairly major role as the paternal Trumpesque figure Tom Mulligan who is trying to retain his family’s supremacy in the political environment despite his son Jack’s dubious double dealing whose only achievement is offering dollar signs and empty promises.

Equally refreshing is to see Fast and Furious star Michelle Rodriguez in a more substantial role as she battles to keep her family together after her Latino husband Carlos, a briefly seen cameo by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo perishes in Rawling’s heist that goes terribly wrong.

Widows gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and has a massive twist which should keep audiences riveted in a sprawling crime drama held together by superb acting. Highly recommended viewing.

The Ultimate Performer

Bohemian Rhapsody

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Aiden Gillen, Mike Myers, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Aaron McCusker

What The Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer’s semi biopic about Freddie Mercury Bohemian Rhapsody lacks in shock value, rising star Egyptian American actor Rami Malek makes up for in sheer acting talent. Malek’s superb performance of Freddie Mercury holds the entire fantastical film about one of the 20th century’s greatest rock bands Queen together.

Bohemian Rhapsody taken from Queen’s six minute rock opera which catapulted them to international superstardom is a fascinating portrayal of the rise and decline of the most outrageous and notorious lead singers in music history – a sort of 1980’s version of Jim Morrison of The Doors fame.

Malek’s tour de force of a performance as the mercurial and super talented Freddie Mercury as he swiftly shrugs off his immigrant persona to embrace the counter culture which swept through British rock music in the 1970’s and 1980’s which originated in the lead singer antics of Sid Vicious of the Punk band The Sex Pistols.

As fame and fortune engulf Queen, the fellow band members are eclipsed by the flamboyant and androgynous performance of Freddie Mercury who is afraid to admit to the world publicly of his real sexuality yet is quite willing to risk all sorts of deviant pleasures under the decadent influence of Irish homosexual companion Paul Prenter wonderfully played  against type by Allen Leech last seen as the Chauffeur in Julian Fellowes hit TV series Downton Abbey.

What director Bryan Singer cleverly avoids is alienating the mainstream audience that will no doubt rush to watch Bohemian Rhapsody by making this rock biopic too risqué but he rather hints at Mercury’s off stage antics especially in London, Rio de Janeiro and Munich. Nothing is going to shock the audience beyond a couple of kissing scenes.

Fortunately, Malek’s performance is not the sort of disturbing viewing generated by the Emmy winning performance of Darren Criss as the gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan in the Ryan Murphy TV series The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

Instead, Rami Malek dazzles as Freddie Mercury in every frame of the film, convincing the audience that Mercury was the ultimate performer. Bohemian Rhapsody’s success belongs to Malek’s electrifying performance.

As Queen becomes phenomenally successful in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s to their tremendous difficulty in not only staying together as a band but also resolving differences with music executives and more significantly keeping the outrageous and utterly flamboyant Freddie Mercury in check.

Bohemian Rhapsody charts the course of a music sensation which broke all conventions and become the innovative chart topping British band. As the film’s narrative heads towards Queen’s sensational performance at the 1985 Live Aid Concert in Wembley Stadium, which broke all audience records, Singer points to the testament of Queen’s continuing popularity even after Mercury’s tragic diagnosis in the midst of the 1980’s AIDS epidemic.

Audiences should prepare for tears and enthusiasm for Queen’s music but most of all, come prepared to be blown away by the sensationally transformative performance of Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury.

Bohemian Rhapsody gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and will definitely score Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.

The French Ministry of Magic

Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Director: David Yates

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Zoe Kravitz, Jude Law, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Kevin Guthrie (Dunkirk), Carmen Ejogo, Callum Turner (Assassin’s Creed, Victor Frankenstein), Alison Sudol, Poppy Corby-Teuch

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows director David Yates who was at the helm of the original stylish Oscar winning Fantastic Beasts film returns to direct the highly anticipated sequel Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald featuring a star studded cast including Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne who reprises his role of the magical creature loving Newt Scamander and Oscar nominee Jude Law as a young and decidedly flamboyant Dumbledore, who makes an audacious cameo.

This time Scamander has to contend with the malignant and mysterious wizard Grindelwald wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Johnny Depp who is determined to upset the delicate balance between the real and magical realms.

Katherine Waterston returns as the elusive Tina Goldstein as does Dan Fogler as Scamander’s faithful American sidekick Jacob Kowalski. Other regulars include Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange and Alison Sodol as Queenie Goldstein along with Ezra Miller as the troubled Credence Barebone who is on a quest to discover his parentage.

Whilst the plot of The Crimes of Grindelwald is as mystifying as Credence’s real identity, Fantastic Beasts 2 is visually impressive particularly in the second half of the film.

Some of the dialogue in the film was stilted, yet Fantastic Beasts like any Franchise film speaks mainly to its fans and those that have religiously followed all the Harry Potter films will be equally satisfied with this exotic sequel set mainly in Paris. The French Ministry of Magic sequence is spectacular and a cinematic highlight.

Whether Fantastic Beasts 2 will garner any attention in the 2019 awards season remains to be seen, although the production design is beautiful, I did find the first half of the film particularly dim or perhaps it was my limited understanding of this convoluted plot which made numerous references to the original Harry Potter films.

If viewers loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, then they will certainly cherish this magnificent sequel especially Johnny Depp as the villainous Grindelwald whose numerous crimes include recruiting Credence for more diabolical mischief…

For purely technical reasons, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

It’s a magical and visually dazzling fantasy film hinting at many sequels in the works. Highly recommending viewing for serious J. K. Rowling fans and those that loved the first Fantastic Beasts.

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December 2018
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