Review – Venom (2018)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Reid Scott, Scott Haze

Venom

The tagline that adorns the marketing materials for Ruben Fleischer’s Venom reads: “The world has enough superheroes.” This is because Sony’s latest comic book blockbuster is built around… a villain (gasp). Venom has been a fan-favourite since the mid-1980s when he was introduced into the Spider-Man comics (making him one of the collection of Marvel characters that Sony retains the screen rights to thanks to their Spider-Man deal). However, by telling the story of a villain without their corresponding hero, Venom has little narrative choice but to try and transform this villain into a hero, albeit one of the anti- variety. Continue reading

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Review – Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chiu

Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Cheng, Remy Hii, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi

Crazy Rich Asians

John M. Chu’s romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, adapted from the bestselling novel by Kevin Kwan, starts with a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte: “Let China sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.” If the incredible box office reception of the film is anything to go by it would appear that finally targeting the Asian diaspora – as the first Hollywood film to boast an all-Asian cast and director since Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club in 1993 – has the potential to shake Hollywood.  Continue reading

Review – Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan

MI Fallout

There was a time when the Mission: Impossible franchise appeared to be running a clear third behind James Bond and the Bourne films when it came to big budget, spy action-thrillers. But not anymore. With its sixth instalment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the franchise thumbs its nose at both the law of diminishing returns and questions about how long Tom Cruise can keep doing this to produce a rollicking picture which continues its upwards trajectory and easily trumps the most recent instalments in those other franchises. Continue reading

Review – BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Director: Spike Lee

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, Jasper Pääkkönen, Topher Grace, Paul Walter Hauser, Corey Hawkins, Harry Belafonte, Alec Baldwin

Blackkklansman

It has been almost thirty years since Spike Lee burst into the public consciousness with Do the Right Thing. In a year when the Academy gave Best Picture to Driving Miss Daisy’s comparatively trite take on race, Do the Right Thing was a cinematic primal scream, offering an uncompromising and profound look at the African American experience. Since then, Lee has somewhat unfairly born the burden of being considered the cinematic spokesperson of the African American community, with this political lens often overshadowing the aesthetic appreciation of his work. He hasn’t enjoyed the standing of some of his contemporaries in recent years and his work has varied in quality. But when faced with the madness of Trump’s America, the bat signal went up in the sky and Lee responded, returning to his sparkling best with BlacKkKlansman. Continue reading

Review – The Breaker Upperers (2018)

Directors: Madeleine Sami & Jackie van Beek

Starring: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola, Ana Scotney, Rima Te Wiata

Breaker Upperers

There must be something in the water in New Zealand. Over the last decade, this small nation has provided the world with some of the big and small screen’s most inventive and interesting comedic voices. There is a sincerity and a self-effacing quality that belies a true sharpness which has been distinctive in the work comedians like Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords, Rhys Darby (Short Poppies) and, of course, writer director Taika Waititi (Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok), which has seen all of them leave their mark. You can now add to that group Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, the writers, directors and stars of The Breaker Upperers. Continue reading

Review – Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Abby Ryder Forsten, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Tip ’T.I.’ Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer, Randall Park, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale

Ant-Man and the Wasp

If Marvel Studios are going to release franchise instalments at the frequency they do – twenty superhero movies in ten years, five in the last 18 months – they can’t stick to the traditional blockbuster strategy of trying to outdo themselves with each film, of constantly striving to raise the bar with bigger stories and more extreme spectacles. Such an approach would be unsustainable, not to mention exhausting for fans. Instead, they opt for variety and modulation. Of scale, of tone, of stakes. The Ant-Man series is, fittingly, the smallest scale of the various strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is some canny forethought from Kevin Feige’s team to offer up Ant-Man and the Wasp as a modest, low-stakes breather for superhero movie fans after the epic Avengers: Infinity War. Continue reading

Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Geraldine Chapman, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum

Jurassic World

“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?” The question, posed by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise, seems to be addressed as much to the audience as it is to her returning co-protagonist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). For many, it takes our mind back twenty-five years, to that beautifully constructed moment in Jurassic Park. The camera tracking in on the stunned face of Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in the back seat of the jeep. He stands up, taking off his glasses, reaching down to turn the head of Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) so that she can see what he is seeing. Her mouth drops open. And then, as John Williams’ iconic score swells, we see it: a giant brachiosaur walking up the hill beside them, rising up on its hind legs to eat some leaves from the top of a tree. It was a cinematic moment that was as breathtakingly awe-inspiring for those sitting in the theatres watching as it was or the characters living it on screen. We had never seen anything like it before. The diminishing returns for the Jurassic Park franchise since that first film has been in large part due to the inability to recapture that moment and to replicate that audience experience. Continue reading