Lightning struck once with the sleeper hit that was Shazam! But will the sequel be able to capture the same lightning in a different bottle?
With the DC universe being so fragmented (even when individual franchises are supposed to jigsaw together) you really don't know what type of cinematic experience you're going to get - per picture. I'm glad to report that here, that Shazam! Fury Of The Gods stays on track with its predecessor and doesn't pull a Wonder Woman...you know, where the first outing is great, only to be followed by a sequel that made you question if the studio were deliberately trying to sabotage themselves.
When viewing SFOTG you can definitely see that a lot of effort went into the production, every SFX shot has comprehensive detail and all the actors hit their emotional marks to convince us of their motives. However, where SFOTG falls a little flat, is in its wholehearted satisfaction to do nothing original or adventurous with the formula. You'll be watching the movie, making predictions and assumptions as to what is going to happen next or way down the line, then you'll downplay your celluloid premonitions because they are way too obvious...only to be bang on target. And of course, the target is 15 year-old boys and that's why like me you'll probably feel underwhelmed at the attempts at emotional outpourings even though there are epic shenanigans happening all around.
What is also noticeable, is that the original sidekick to Billy Batson (in child form) Freddy Freeman, continues to be way more charismatic than the supposed lead and he also has way more screen time too. In fact, actor Asher Angel who plays Billy Batson can't have anymore time than a collated 12 minutes - I'm sure of it!. Anyway, if you liked the first film, you'll be totally fine with this one, it has it's moments, it ticks all the boxes, but it just won't have you feeling thunderstruck.
CREeD III - The Review
Ding Ding! Round 3! Will Michael B. Jordan be able to maintain and carry the franchise in his role as both director and star in the latest instalment of the biggest boxing franchise in the world? Or will it be a case of lights out before the battle has begun?
With 6 Rocky films and 2 Creed outings, there should be an expectation that we're just going to be seeing the exact 'same' movie in a slightly rejigged order. Well, I'm here to tell you that though there are no major surprises, the combination of a well written script and Michael B. Jordan's directing chops serves to make this film feel fresh - annnnd I will go out on a limb and say that it is the most perfectly balanced Rocky/Creed film in the series. Yes I said it. In fact, if MBJ continues to direct like this, he could become the Clint Eastwood of our time - where he is in good, standout genre films, but has a much better penchant for directing - but hey - it's early days yet.
As with the other Creed films there are no real villains, there are just the rigours of life that lead characters to make certain choices with pugilistic repercussions. Here, the collision course for our two main characters was set from childhood once again making 'the enemy' an altogether different type of foe.
The execution of the entangled relationships is done exceptionally well because it's not only our leads that are in the mix. Yes, Jonathan Majors is 100% committed as Damian Anderson, there is not a flinch or physical gesture that lands by accident in his performance, his character portrayal has been calculated to the dot and in the future he will win an OSCAR. But, the support from Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad and Wood Harris is also essential, they are not just present for casting decoration, they are here to give direction and illuminate the doorways and paths for Adonis to choose or avoid and when he chooses wrong, that's where the cinema lies.
The boxing choreography is the best I've seen in the entire franchise, yep another bold claim and the anime influence and use of narrative concepts never before seen in any Rocky/Creed movie really highlights the emotion of the final fight bringing the past and the present crashing together. At the same time, it is just plain satisfying to see a director pushing the artistry of filming a finale that we have technically seen a million times before and the sharpness but semi-grittiness of the bouts could easily rival that of a good martial arts film.
Don't worry, Creed III doesn't get too avant-garde or stray away from what we want from these movies, but the fact remains - that I haven't got a single complaint it.
Black Panther's second entry marks the end of phase 4 in the MCU, but with so many real life changes happening along the way and a stable of progressive films in the stables, will Wakanda without its hero really be forever, or be relegated to a forgotten status.
Where To Start?
OK, first off - this is not just a remix of the first outing, if you are just expecting more of the same - throw that idea in the bin. This entry is quite a sedate film in comparison and bares very little resemblance to the bravado and optimism of the original. It is also quite a sombre film (for obvious reasons) and though there is some humour, I would go as far as saying that it feels like a project willing to be its own complete entity. The film is not straight from the Disney conveyor belt, there is no ticking of an approved PG-13 checklist and even though the film is a 12A - you will feel the sorrow. I say this; because Doctor Strange's Multiverse Of Madness should have been a much more dread-soaked affair, but I guess the studio put the want of seats being filled before the art of the project. Here I don't think anyone would dare to interfere.
In regards to the action - there is plenty of it, however there is nothing in BP:WF that is pushing the boundaries of fight choreography or action conception, however the reasons for the fight do make the drama impactful. I commend the script and direction for being brave enough to not just regurgitate the tried and tested format, but at the same time, I feel a few peeps may feel they are missing out.
Personally, I liked the film and FYI there is only one post-scene credit which occurs fairly quickly.
On Angela Bassett, just give the woman an OSCAR already - yes for a MARVEL film.
The Batman - Film Review
In the Bat's latest adventure; the caped crusader is more of a moody, Emo clobberer, than a fully realised symbol of justice. But does this new direction add to the lore of the cinematic Batman or sully it?
As soon as a new Batman film is announced, the first pieces of the production puzzle we want completed more than any test that the Riddler could set us are: which actor will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman, who will direct the film and who will Batman face off against? And I think it's safe to say, that when it comes to the choice of director and Batman's nemesis, fans are a little bit more flexible, even lenient on who can occupy these celluloid tenancies. However, in our choice of actor for Batman, we are never quite as optimistic or forgiving with whoever is chosen to take on the role.
In the case of Robert Patterson taking on the mantle of the Gotham defender, I think that the reputation of the Twilight films, rather than Pattison's direct performances in those movies (especially for those who haven't watched any of his following films) may sometimes overshadow what he is actually capable of doing. Just like his fellow Harry Potter Alumni Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter himself) he too has faced audiences that can't get past his big, breakthrough franchise-role that launched him and doubt is almost automatically cast over their calibre and credentials when announced for certain projects. For those who have never really partaken in any of Patterson's other projects beyond Twilight, I think that The Batman is going to be a sufficient enough middle finger to push the lingering spectre of Twilight's Edward Cullen into the abyss. And helping him do this is Director Matt Reeves - who is no stranger to dealing with multi-genric themed projects. Reeves' own cinematic breakout came via his smash hit Cloverfield (2008) which combined the found footage format with a Kaiju action-adventure mystery. Following up in 2010 with a remake of the vampire drama Let The Right One In (2008), he made Let Me In and both the sequels to The Planet Of The Apes. So, on paper - The Batman should be in very good hands...right?
Before you take your seats at the cinema, let me give you at least one heads up; The Batman is comparable to no other Batman film. First of all, it is the most detective-heavy Batman film in the library of big screen caped crusader episodes and when I say "heavy" I mean they have gone back to the fact that crime-fighting requires investigation, footwork and detailed analysis. These parts aren't just thrown in to try and give the film or Batman himself a deeper, more mature credibility, oh no - this is the film.
One of the most important components that I lookout for in any Batman portrayal, is the handling of Bruce Wayne. Michael Keaton's semi-aloof, observant, still waters run deep delivery, to date, has been my favourite expression and that appeared way back in 1989. In Pattinson's depiction, I appreciate his commitment to being a morose, extremely moody, beyond any consolation, forever grieving figure, but I think there was space for a glimmer of something else to provide a little bit of balance to his character. The opportunity is never really taken up until a certain realisation near the end of the 2 hour 56 minute running time.
In this Batman story, Bruce is two years into being the dark knight and though he clearly has skills, moves and tactics - a lot of what gets him through deadly situations is powered by focussed rage. The emotion behind Patterson's kinetic ferocity is fantastic - when he tackles, pursues or punches any villain, you too will feel the mental obsession in his chase and the physical blows as if your own body is involved in the battering. There is a pure emotion behind all of his combat and even the Batmobile is emotionally primed and
pissed-off. It roars like a beast in advance of chasing its prey down and I don't know who is in charge - but someone give the sound designer an award for that roar and let us take an opportunity to raise a glass of gasoline and toast it! What also makes The Batman slightly unique, is that there isn't a focussed dedication to making this solely an action film with dramatic parts, and so when there is action - you really appreciate and take those moments in. I totally enjoyed watching Batman unleash his fury, but also enjoyed watching him take some hits too. This Batman faces danger and situations that he can't fix, which makes the stakes and his jeopardy real. You come to realise more than ever, that Batman is a band aid, doing his best to stop a dam bursting because the officials, the people with the actual power, have no interest in fixing the dam - in fact they may have been the ones putting holes in it. My only complaint, is that in some of the action scenes, there were some extreme close-up shots which took away from being able to see what was happening in the entirety of a sequence and yes, we know that Gotham is supposed to be a dark and moody place, but combine those close-up shots, the frenetic action and a lack of lighting and nobody can see what the hell is going on.
The casting is almost perfect. I imagine that for Paul Dano, he must have gaged that he has a legacy of great villainous performances to follow and so we understand that there is a pressure to create a character that is charismatic and unforgettable. He does well for the most part, but towards the end he could have dialled the levels down from a 10 to an 8. Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman is the heart of the film and it is not easy to balance out all the elements that make-up Selina Kyle. Kravitz gives a grounded performance where she displays pain, emotes angst and exudes sensuality without being placed in the movie to be the love interest or the sex object. However, the performance that I couldn't get over - because it was so damn good, was by Colin Farrell as the Penguin. Gee-Zus! Talk about an actor completely disappearing and now I understand why there is a TV spin-off in the works, because Farrell was that damn good.
Overall, I think that that The Batman is going to divide audiences...at first. In its make-up, we are given a detective, film noir story with all the tropes of that genre which we've not seen before. And so it is best to go in with an open mind and expect something new that doesn't pay a single ode to any other Batman film that has come before it. Oh, and please note this; just like those films of the 1940s, you will be required to pay attention, as a complex tapestry of interconnected threads is woven just like those sometimes convoluted murder mysteries. Clues are only sprinkled along the dot-to-dot journey and they are not that obvious, so engage your own deductive brain and enjoy the process the same way you would, when watching a whodunnit.
The Batman is out March 4th 2022.
TDD, RC & IK talk: