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Posts Tagged ‘Aquaman’

2018 is over, in the final month I saw twelve movies at the cinema bringing my total for the year to 126.  For the final time of the year we crown the movie of the month, here are the contenders:

Disobedience – Following the dead of her farther, a highly regarded rabbi, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns home to London from New York.  While some of the Orthodox Jewish community welcome her return, others are less welcoming.  When she reconnects with childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams) it becomes clear why she left.  Based on Naomi Alderman’s début novel of the same name, Disobedience is a beautiful exercise in subtlety and understatement.  Set within a community I little to nothing about, it comes across as the most honest, and realistic film I have seen all year, it helps that the performances were sensational.Disobedience

Green Book – Based on a true story; a mildly racist working-class Italian-American doorman (Viggo Mortensen) takes a job as the driver of an African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour of venues American South in the 1960’s. No cliché is left underused, there are no surprises in the plot, the characters are caricature, and not a great deal happens.  None of this matters, as the film is warm and funny, the performances are Oscar worthy, what should be cringingly sentimental turns out to be nothing short of delightful.GreenBook

Creed II – Or Rocky 4.5.  Now heavyweight champion of the world, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), takes on the s Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Apollo Creed in the fight depicted in Rocky IV.  Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are both back, the latter being poorly served by the script.  Although it fails to reach the heights of the best in the franchise, the way Creed did, it is an enjoyable and uplifting story.Creed II

Tulip Fever –  A romantic drama of misadventure and misunderstanding told against the backdrop of the Tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam.  The film has sat on the shelf for several years, a look at the producers behind the film may explain why.  Or it could just be because the movie is average at best. Alicia Vikander, Holliday Grainger, and Christoph Waltz are all good.  Tom Hollander, Dane DeHaan, and Jack O’Connell are all guilty of overacting.Tulip Fever

The Old Man and the Gun – A “mostly true” story (so a caption tells us), Aging bank robber Forrest (Robert Redford) is in the middle of crime spree, some committed alone, others with Waller and Teddy (Tom Waits, Danny Glover), al committed without violence or even a raised voice.  Along the way he meets the delightful Jewel (Sissy Spacek).  All the time Detective Hunt (Casey Affleck) is on his trail.  A charming film told with a deliberate pace that director David Lowery seems to have mastered more so than any other filmmaker.  Reported to be Robert Redford’s last movie before he retires from acting, if this is true, it’s a worthy end to a great career.The Old Man and the Gun

Beautiful Boy – Timothée Chalamet plays Nic Sheff, Steve Carell               plays his farhter David in a film adapted from books written by both men describing Nic’s fight with addiction.  Both actors are fantastic with Carell slightly edging it for me.  The story is well told with a great use of time-shift that is never confusing.  The English language début of director Felix van Groeningen isn’t as heartbreaking as his earlier film The Broken Circle Breakdown, but it is just as compelling.Beautiful Boy

Mortal Engines – Yet another high concept dystopian sci-fi based on a popular YA series of books.  This time, we have mobile cities roaming across the wastelands of the globe capturing and consuming the recourses of other smaller towns and cities in what they refer to as Municipal Darwinism.  I won’t spoil the plot that unfolds within this story, least to say it involves a young couple who start on opposing sides.  Newcomer Hera Hilmar is a compelling lead Hester Shaw, Robert Sheehan is less convincing as the co-lead.  Jihae, Hugo Weaving, and Stephen Lang all provide good support.  The world building is good, if not believable.  The look of the film is good, and the story zips along nicely.  The characters are relatively well realised, although a couple of supporting players look like most of their story is on the cutting room floor.  One of the reasons the story works, as is often the case with stories of the type; the heroes are filled with self doubt, and the villains think they are heroes.  The allergy for the destructive, and self-destructive nature of capitalism isn’t subtle, but it is surprisingly effective.  An enjoyable if disposable blockbuster with an ending so clearly influenced by another film, it should be called Mortal Engines episode IV A New Hope!Mortal Engines

Aquaman – After the events of The Justice League, we learn the origin  Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa).  He (and the audience) soon discover that he is heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, but there is the small matter of his evil half brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson).  Aquaman should have been the Justice League’s equivalent to Thor, the preposterous but fun member of the team, the character played totally straight the more silly things get.  In a way it achieves this in justice league to a certain extent, but it lacked the fun and charisma of Thor.  But given his own movie he fares better.  The visuals are spectacular, Jason Momoa has fun with the part, and is well supported by Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, and Willem Dafoe.  Very silly and not as good as Wonder Woman (or even a middle ranking MCU movie), but the most fun the DCU has been to date.Aquaman

Bumblebee – Set in 1987, about twenty years prior to the events of Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie: Bumblebee arrives San Francisco, a little worse for wear, he finds himself mute and in a scrapyard in the shape of a VW Beatle trying to evade the Decepticons. This is where awkward teenager Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) finds him.  The sequels, to Bay’s first Transformers film were so bad, we forget that the original wasn’t bad.  Bumblebee, is somewhat better than not bad, it’s actually really good.  Steinfeld is charming and funny, but so is her animated co-lead.  The filmmakers aren’t shy in talking about the influence of Steven Spielberg movies, notably ET.  Bay’s pornographic sensibility is nowhere to be seen.  Superficial characters who would have been on the end of Bay’s “male gaze” are relegated to supporting roles and ridiculed.  The final act is far better than you would expect, and the 80’s soundtrack is excellent.Bumblebee

Sorry to Bother You – Set in a dystopian present-day, Cassius’ (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his uncles garage with girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson).  In need on money he takes a job in telesales, and sucks at it until colleague Langston (Danny Glover) teaches him to use his “white voice”.  Musician, activist, and first time director Boots Riley’s movie is full of fantastic ideas and brilliant gags, and observations, unfortunately the execution is a total mess.  The cast are all excellent, and I enjoyed parts of the movie, but I fail to see the masterpiece I was led to expect.Sorry to Bother You

Stan and Ollie:  Towards the end of their career, world famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy toured UK music halls.  Most of the film concentrates on this one brief spell of their careers, but it gives an insight into their relationship and personalities of camera.  Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are both excellent as the duo, Reilly looking the part, more than Coogan but both giving believable performances, for me Coogan is the better of the two.  Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson are also excellent as their wives.  The balance of the film is a little off, with the first half spending too much time recreating the performances.  the behind the sconces relationship is far more interesting.Stan and Ollie

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Like Peter Parker before him, Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a new Spider-Man. At the same time Kingpin opens a portal to other alternate realities, bringing multiple Spider people into Miles’ world. Not an MCU movie, but part of Sony’s own ever more confusing cinematic universe.  Using an ever changing array of animation styles to create a bizarre and bonkers movie that is also amazing fun, and very funny, as well as being full of heart.   The freshest and funniest comic book movie for a very long time.  The voice cast is amazing, Shameik Moore is joined by: Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoë Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, and Chris Pine.Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Die Hard: 30th Anniversary Screening – Towards the end of the 1980’s Die Hard rewrote the book on action movies, how has it aged? The simple answer is very well! It is made with typical 80’s film stock that is a little grainy and muddy looking (not as bad as 70’s, but not as bright or crisp what came before or after), other than that it is very modern. If you saw it for the first time many of the story beats may seem a little clichéd, it isn’t, this is the archetype that everything else copied. A treat to see on the big screen. (not included in competition for movie of the month).Die Hard

First, a special mention for the best new film of the month Roma.  Seen on TV via Netflix, not at the cinema so not eligible.Roma

Disobedience, Green Book, The Old Man and the Gun, and Beautiful Boy, would all make worthy winners.  I considered Bumblebee as it is the movie that surprised me so much.  But the movie of the month is: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse poster.jpg

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  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Not an MCU movie, but part of Sony’s own ever more confusing cinematic universe. Like Peter Parker before him, Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a new Spider-Man. At the same time Kingpin opens a portal to other alternate realities, bringing multiple Spider people into Miles’ world.  Using an ever changing array of animation styles to create a bizarre and bonkers movie that is also amazing fun, and very funny, as well as being full of heart.   The freshest and funniest comic book movie for a very long time.  The voice cast is amazing, Shameik Moore is joined by: Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoë Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, and Chris Pine.220px-Spider-Man_Into_the_Spider-Verse_poster
  2. Black Panther – So much has been said about Black Panther, possibly the most significant is the quality of the villains, Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klae, the over the top moustache twirling comic villain and Michael B. Jordan as the more interesting and nuanced Erik Killmonger (with a name like that, he was never going to be a hero!).  The supporting cast is fantastic, all the characters played by Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, and Daniel Kaluuya were interesting enough that they could have had their own movie. Angela Bassett is sadly underused. Not as original or as fun as Thor Ragnarok, but it certainly has enough going on to please Marvel fans and for those who are new to the series. Importantly, It also works as a standalone film.Black Panther
  3. Avengers: Infinity War – Ten years of Marvel movies have been leading up to this point, the arrival of Thanos, the franchises chosen big, bad. The series so far has introduced so many characters, it would be impossible to service them all. Amazingly the film manages to give everyone (except a few characters left on the sidelines for future use) reasonable screen time without slowing the narrative. The action scenes are fantastic and the character interactions are often devastatingly funny. The problems are with the narrative; I can’t expand on this and keep this spoiler free, beyond saying that it is most likely part of the setup for the next film, a setup that could be satisfying or infuriating. Avengers Infinity War
  4. Deadpool 2 – If you have seen the first film, you will know what to expect. By definition it lacks the originality, but is as funny as the original. The greatest revelation is Zazie Beetz who is excellent as Domino. I wouldn’t mind seeing a third instalment, but also wouldn’t be bothered if this is the last one.Deadpool 2
  5. Aquaman – Aquaman should have been the Justice League’s equivalent to Thor, the preposterous but fun member of the team, the character played totally staight the more silly things get.  In a way it achieves this, but it lacked the fun and charisma of Thor.  But given his own movie he fares better.  The silliest movie on the list, but the most fun (after Spider-Verse).  The visuals are spectacular, Jason Momoa has fun with the part, and is well supported by Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe.Aquaman
  6. Ant-Man and the Wasp – Lighter and more comedic than the rest of the MCU, Ant man is never going to be the best of the franchise but it is always fun.  Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are both excellent in their own right, but have little to no chemistry together.  Walton Goggins is as great as ever, but seems to be in a different movie to everyone else.  Michelle Pfeiffer is underused.  Michael Peña offers his usual comic relief.  Rising star, Hannah John-Kamen provides an interesting and compelling antagonist.  Great comic relief that was much needed after Infinity war.  Marvel Movies tend to come in trilogies, let’s hope the final instalment nails it. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  7. Venom – Venom was poorly served in the terrible Spider-Man 3, in a post Deadpool world, this is the chance to make a funny and fun super(anti)hero movie, it fails.  The plot is a little plodding, the action isn’t a patch on anything Marvel has done in the past decade.  It does however have an ace up its sleeve, Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed, all of whom are always worth watching.  A mid credit scene suggests a sequel, with the origin out of the way, hopefully a second film will live up to the promise.  It failed to live up to its potential and is bottom of this list, but is far from terrible; don’t bother paying for it, but if it crops up on TV watch it. Venom

I promised this year’s comic-book movies ranked from best to worst, as you can see from my comments, none of them are actually bad films, not even Venom.  Before anybody asks where Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, and Incredibles 2 are on my list.  I didn’t see them. 

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A look at the cast of characters for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) reveals all the usual DC suspects: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, The Flash, Perry White.  It’s a similar story with Suicide Squad (2016): Harley Quinn, Batman, The Joker, plus a few less well known (to me at least ) Enchantress, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flagg, Killer Croc, El Diablo, Slipknot.  Then you have the other upcoming DC Universe movies : Wonder Woman (2017), Justice League Part One (2017) & Part Two (2019), The Flash (2018), Aquaman (2018), Shazam ( 2019), Cyborg (2020), Green Lantern (2020).catwoma

So who is missing? Catwoman.  I can understand the reluctance to give her a standalone movie following the unmitigated disaster of the Halle Berry vehicle Catwoman (2004), but surely there must be space this most beloved of characters somewhere within the universe.  Although a tricky character to get right, two films have got it very right.   Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992) and Anne Hathaway in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012).  The brilliance of the two portrayals is twofold; firstly they get both Catwoman and Selina Kyle right; secondly they are completely different to each other making them fight their respective films perfectly.catwoman

Everyone remembers Michelle Pfeiffer PVC catsuit and her fight scenes but some of her best moments are out of the costume, including when she comes back from the dead and meets Bruce Wayne in Max Shreck’s office; or when she is dancing with Bruce Wayne when they both realise who each other is.  The same is true of Anne Hathaway, we first meet her out of costume as a jewel thief and then we get her “there’s a storm coming” speech that features in the trailer, incidentally also whist dancing with Bruce Wayne.  Will there be time for moments like this in a movie with such a large cast of characters as the DC movies seem to be?  However they do it, I can’t imagine a DC Cinamatic Universe without Catwoman, so have to ask the question, is this the one secret they are keeping from us, or are they yet to decide what do with this most tricky of characters?  With a heavy bias towards male characters so far, it is something they need to decide on quickly.Anne Hathaway Catwoman

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With The Dark Knight Rises bringing an end to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy there is a lot of talk about where the character should go from here. It would be naive to think this is the end of Batman on screen. There is too grater appetite from viewers and too much money to be made from the studio point of view for it not to happen.

WARNING this paragraph contains The Dark Knight Rises plot spoilers 

Firstly a little background. You may remember the whole thing about all Marvel characters who couldn’t appear in the Avengers movie because the rights have been licensed to other studios; Fox’s has dibs on Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer while Sony/Columbia have the big money Spider-Man. Batman has no such problem, Time/Warner owns DC Comics giving Warner Brothers exclusive rights to do whatever they wish with the character. The result of this is that the true power lies with the studio. If they want to continue the Nolan universe going with a new director, Joel Schumacher for example, they can. The way The Dark Knight Rises ended leaves great potential for spin-offs. Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is set up to become Robin or even a second Batman, this has endless possibilities. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) came to the Nolan Batverse as an established character with a slinky costume and a shady back-story. This gives her character the option for an origin story as well as a spin-off. And then there is Batman himself, depending on your interpretation of the end of the movie, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) may or may not be alive. If he is alive, he has certainly left Gotham, what will he get up to in a different country. As tantalising as these possibilities are, it is probably best they remain unmade leaving customers wanting more. Fortunately, my understanding is that Christian Bale has said he won’t play Batman for any other director so they will need to change him to. I would like to think the rest of the cast would do the same. So where do we go from here.

But the Nolan Batman universe doesn’t have to end here, there is something that could happen. What is possibly the best Batman story, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns remains un-filmed (an animated version is due out later this year). Did Nolan avoid using the title because he wants to save it for a future movie? Probably not but you never know. They will have to wait at least fifteen years until Christian Bale is approaching his mid fifties, and that is the interesting thing. Christopher Nolan is yet to make a bad film, and more importantly from a studio point of view he is yet to make a flop, but that is a career has lasted just fifteen years to date. Given another fifteen years and another half dozen movies there is no way of knowing what position Nolan will be in and what his motivation will be. We also don’t know if the world climate will be right for a movie like The Dark Knight Returns. With all this in mind I haven’t given up on a new Christopher Nolan Batman movie somewhere around 2027! To keep continuity with the existing movie a rewrite will be required removing Superman from the story, this isn’t as big a problem as you would think. Superman would be replaced by a government sponsored elite team who are sent to take Batman down. And best of all the timing fits, there is enough time between now and then for another actor and director to take on the character before Nolan and Bale return.

Before then there is something else we have to contend with. The Justice League aka the Justice League of America first appeared in comic books in 1960, for those not familiar, it is a sort of DC equivalent to The Avengers. Rumours of a Justice League movie have been around for years but is yet to happen. The big problem; all the other original members (Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter) are all supernatural, superhuman or alien. But the problem goes deeper than that, none of them have appeared in a decent movie for thirty years. The long and short of it, there can be a Justice League movie, but it can not include Christopher Nolan’s Batman. They will also struggle to make it as successful as The Avengers. The sensible thing to do from an artistic point of view would be to make a Justice League movie with its own story, its own cast and its own continuity outside the other movies. If successful it could create its own franchise, if it flops it would do so without harming other franchises.

There is sure to be a reboot, but when and how. Although it seems like longer, there was less than a decade between Batman Begins and Batman & Robin suggesting a reboot could happen as soon as the end of the decade. Or have things been accelerated by the quick reboot of Spider-Man? While I am not suggesting a Joel Schumacher style farce, the tone and style of any reboot has to be dramatically different to Nolan’s vision. This is essential for its own good as well as avoiding the impact on Nolan than way Schumacher’s movies taint the memory of Tim Burton’s movies.

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