Posts tagged "super hero"

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” A teen’s dream, but just another super hero film for the rest of us

June 27th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Spider-Man: Far From Home” A teen’s dream, but just another super hero film for the rest of us”

The never-ending onslaught of super hero films continues with the sequel to Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man with “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” This teen-geared film finds Peter Parker (Holland) preparing to go on a school trip to Europe as he dreams of telling MJ (Zendaya) how he truly feels about her. It’s a grand romantic plan, but of course, there is evil to be fought and that pesky leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) just can’t let a kid be a kid for a summer. Donning his Spider-Man suit, the young boy must fill the shoes of his beloved hero, Iron Man and save the world.

Ultimately, this is just another formulaic super hero film, but it does have its unique appeal as the film pays homage to those heroes that were lost in battle. The concept of those who disappeared only to return is referred to as the 5 year “Blip” and the consequences are wonderfully creative as you laugh out loud. The film also capitalizes wonderfully on that awkward first-love or first crush in high school as both Peter and his comedic sidekick Ned (Jacob Batalon) navigate those choppy and unpredictable waters.

There are new threats that develop in the world as the evil Elementals begin to wreak havoc in every country. Fury looks to the young Spider-Man to help lead in this fight to save the world from imminent doom, but his reticence proves that he’s not quite ready for the big league. Thankfully, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps in to help and we see Peter’s longing for that father-figure in his life. The first half of the film, thanks to comedy, dialogue, and the introduction of this new character, is great fun, but the remaining half of the film plummets into predictable chase and fight scenes overloaded with visually boggling CGI. The story also blatantly attempts to make several social statements about our world today, particularly in the realm of media, but these, like the fight scenes, are very heavy handed. There’s no subtlety here. What started out as cute, very funny, charming, and even novel, developed into exactly what every other film in this genre typically is…a big fight scene with good versus evil, lulling us into a light slumber.

The cast of characters makes the most of the script and they truly shine in the first half. Holland is supremely comfortable as the awkward teen charged with tasks only a man should be able to carry. It’s this internalized struggle which he conveys with humor that makes Peter Parker a super hero for young fans to relate to as well as emulate. Of course, that love interest with the smart, independent, and striking MJ gives the story a boost of adrenaline, but it’s Batalon’s portrayal of Ned that brings us the extra charge of levity in this story. His timing and reactions are brilliant with unexpected dialogue that will have you roaring. Jackson has honed his role as Fury, to no surprise, and Gyllenhaal is well-suited for playing Mysterio. He’s passionate and creates a believable character, no matter the situation.

With these elements shining in the film, it feels that a different writer took over the reigns for the second half of the film, losing the pacing and charming comedic edge. Of course, this is based on a graphic novel and the artistry in creating alternative realities is quite impressive, but it’s not enough to maintain a high interest level or carry the storyline. Perhaps it’s the 2 hour and 9 minute running time that taxed my attention span, wanting the editing staff to cut about 30 minutes.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home,” even with its charming subplot of teen love and angst, is just another super hero movie in a world where I need Captain No More to save me from seeing another film in this genre. Teens will love it as will those who are invested in this universe, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

2 Stars

“Avengers: Endgame” Is a dynamic, dramatic, and hilarious film worth all 181 minutes

April 24th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Avengers: Endgame” Is a dynamic, dramatic, and hilarious film worth all 181 minutes”

“Avengers: Endgame” is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year as the answers to all the fans’ questions come into clear focus and the super hero worlds not only overlap, but collide in surprising ways. It’s an all-star arena filled with “marvel”ous characters in a fight for life, humanity, and the future of the world and the universe. (Don’t worry–no spoilers ahead!)

The evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) possesses all the Infinity Stones making him the most powerful being in the universe. And with that power, he has cursed the world, culling the population by 50%. “Endgame” picks up exactly where “Infinity War” left off and it’s an affective beginning as we see Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) with his loving family enjoying their time together only to be turned to dust. The impact of this emotionally loaded initial scene is unexpectedly shocking and not only are we hooked, we care about and relate to this family and Hawkeye’s devastation. And then the opening credits begin to roll.

Fast forward to 5 years later and the catastrophic results of Thanos’ work is more than evident— cities are in a state of shambles, but the oceans and natural environment are beginning to balance once again. The remaining super hero allies band together in what seems to be a losing battle to right this sinking ship and not a spark of hope is detected among them…until an Avenger thought to be dead, resurfaces. And this is where the fun begins!

From the depths of an emotionally heavy load, we are immediately bouyed into hilarious one-liners, side notes, and quick-paced dialogue and antics to remind us why we love comic books. Without giving one surprise away (I fear losing friends if I do), “Endgame” ranks up in the comedy hierarchy with the hilarity of stand alone super hero films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ironman.” With references to some of our favorite films of the last 40 years and costuming that transforms these heroes into unexpected yet disturbingly funny renditions of themselves, for most of the 3 hour 1 minute (yes, you read that correctly) running time, it’s a captivatingly intriguing and funny film while it still creates an entertainingly entangled story to wrap your head around.

The story truly needed most of that 3 hour time period in order to create the thorough and emotionally dynamic storyline, although the last 30 minutes could have been edited quite a bit as the CGI begins to feel a bit mundane. (But that’s my issue with every super hero film.) I must admit that it’s a complicated story that intellectually makes sense as it delves into the waters of our environment and the cost of humanity and our memories. It is these memories that make us human and compassionate; an element that adheres us to one another. The writers cover all their bases, leaving no possible stone unturned, pulling you into their vortex of logic and reason while they connect you to the characters. Every past story is covered in well-balanced detail and of course, we have the directors and actors to thank for bringing such textured performances to those words on the page.

Watching this all-star cast in their respective roles feels like a family reunion, everyone knowing each other like family, the good and the bad. They love one another and have their squabbles, only to have each others’ backs when they need to. They are family. There’s a comfort in seeing this relaxed and familiar camaraderie even during times of dire situations and it is this interaction among and between the characters that not only propels the story, but engages us. We have become an invested part of this family.

“Endgame” showcases female empowerment, too, as we watch them rise to any challenge, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and these women shine. To single out any particular female super hero would be to spoil the film, so I won’t. Suffice it to say, the it’s a male-female gender balanced film.

This is also a visually powerful film. The action is impressive as are the special effects and while this is what makes fans of this genre happy, it’s the levity that Ironman, Thor, Rocket, Ant Man and Quill bring to the table. When Robert Downey, Jr. Paul Rudd, and Chris Hemsworth interact, you have a comedy team that could make the Queen of England belly laugh. All three of these actors have the comedic timing and pacing to get the most from their lines and scenes, but when the dramatic elements are needed, they are at the ready, adding just the right touch and never doing so in a heavy-handed way.

“Avengers: Endgame” was a wonderful surprise, filling almost each and every minute with excitement, drama, humor and visually interesting and entertaining intrigue. While the 3 hour running time was a bit long, needing a 10-minute edit, that’s not a huge detractor from the film. It’s a strong story, great acting and directing, and a wonderfully well-balanced film on every level. If you’ve seen all of the Marvel movies, and this truly is a must to get full enjoyment from “Endgame,” the film is perfect escapism and an all ‘round good time. (No need to stay after the credits roll.)

4 Stars

SHAZAM! is one of a kind

March 23rd, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “SHAZAM! is one of a kind”

SHAZAM! Another super hero movie? Do we really need one? The answer, in this case, is a resounding YES! The DC Universe got this one right. “Shazam,” starring Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Asher Angel, is written by Henry Gayden and directed by David F. Sandberg and this team creates an immediately engaging, funny, sweet, and sometimes scary story about life as we enter a world where good and evil fight hand to hand or sometimes lightning bolt to lightning bolt combat. “Shazam!” is exactly what a super hero movie is supposed to be—fun and complete entertaining escapism.

The story is loosely based on the original comic book series by C.C. Beck and all you comic book aficionados will have great joy in identifying the Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film, but for those of us who are clueless about the genre, Gayden more than adequately lays the foundation for the story of Billy Batson (Angel) aka Shazam (Levi).

We begin in 1974, winter in Upstate New York, where a father and his two sons are driving the country snow-filled back roads to grandfather’s house when Thad, Magic 8 Ball in hand, is suddenly in the presence of The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who is searching for a pure soul to take his place in protecting the world from the 7 evils locked away in stone surrounding him. Failing the test, Thad is shot back into reality and a nearly tragic accident. It’s a jarring beginning to a film, but it lays a firm foundation and by no means is the overall tone for the film.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and we meet the young Billy who is separated from his mother. In a loss at finding her, Billy is placed in foster homes, one after another. He’s a delinquent constantly in search of his mother, hoping she has been doing the same. Placed in yet another foster home filled with an eclectic mix of kids, Billy makes no attempt to fit in, but he finds himself in front of The Wizard, reluctantly accepting his powers and this is where the fun begins as this 14 year-old transforms back and forth into a man with incredible powers, but still has the mentality of a boy.

Billy befriends his disabled foster brother who is a geeky expert on all things super hero. Together they test Billy’s new-found powers as his discovery of his new self lands him in hilarious situations, preparing him for his ultimate and yet unknown nemesis.

“Shazam!” takes us all back in time to our youth reminding us of how bullies wreak havoc and the social awkwardness of being a kid. Additionally, it creates a loving tone accentuating the importance of family and what that really means.

Angel and Grazer are magical together on screen typifying two polar opposites, but both with bold personalities that immediately connect you. Angel creates a hardened exterior with a heart of gold and we watch this young boy grow. He’s funny and energetic with an innocence of childhood yet this broken heart of his casts a shadow on his every move. This young actor has a bright future ahead of him proving that he can already find a way to create depth in what could have been a very superficial performance. Grazer equals Angel’s performance, embodying a boy with more hurdles to jump over than most of us can imagine. His quick wit and style of speech brings a sense of compassion and understanding to his character as you forget about his disability…something his character can never do.

While Angel and Glazer shine, it’s Levi’s ingenious efforts that are truly striking as he makes us believe he’s actually a 14 year old kid beneath that chiseled adult exterior. The genius doesn’t stop there as he is a gifted comedian, having fun and highlighting his timing and physically comedic attributes.

In fact, the entire cast of kids in the foster home, Mary (Grace Fulton), Eugene (Ian Chen), Pedro (Jovan Armand) and Darla (Faithe Herman) are simply marvelous, but it is Faithe who steals every scene she’s in. To describe her as adorable is an understatement and her need to hug everyone elicits an audible sigh from the audience whenever she says a word.

“Shazam!” is what a comic book movie should be—funny, charming, heartfelt, and just a good story told really well. Even the too long final fight scene that is in every comic book film doesn’t take itself so seriously (a cue upon which other super hero movies should use) so that flaw can be forgiven at least a bit. This is a laugh out loud funny movie that, as Levi said in a recent screening here in Chicago, may require ear muffs (PG-13), it’s a movie the entire family can enjoy! (Check out the video from that screening on YouTube HERE

3 1/2 Stars

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