Film Nut Reviews

Reviews from one film nut to another

Tag: Action (page 1 of 11)

Captain Marvel Flies High

The long-awaited first female-led Marvel film is here, and Captain Marvel is certainly worth the wait. Carol Danvers’ origin, and powers, may seem like one of the harder stories to believe, yet it is one of the most authentic, realistic stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. The writing allows Carol and her powers to seem natural and will get you emotionally hooked quickly. Captain Marvel works brilliantly as a stand-alone film and a connector to the rest of the MCU that acts as a bow on top of the past eleven years of films.

Whether you are a Marvel fan or not, Captain Marvel is for everyone. One of the better storytelling tools in the film is its ability to satisfy existing fans while being a wonderful entry point to the franchise for first-timers. It does help if you have seen the earlier MCU films, including Guardians of the Galaxy, and watch ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to the returning characters and a big surprise in the last act of the film. However, the film also explains who everyone is and doesn’t expect you to have prior knowledge of the MCU. Everything is explained in a way that doesn’t seem gimmicky to fans and will satisfy the new viewers’ questions.

Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) origin tale is also perfect for all ages and genders. Captain Marvel is the story of a woman coming to terms with her past, present, and future, who uses her strengths to become the hero she is meant to be. Carol is snarky, sassy, brash, sarcastic, and never apologetic for doing what she thinks is right. Larson commands the screen at all times and gives a great performance. She humanizes the character is a way that lets Carol be very relatable.

The character is a perfect example of female empowerment. This film couldn’t have come out at a better time and will give women of all ages someone to look up to for many years to come. Carol’s journey is similar way to Stephen Strange’s in Doctor Strange, as she has to earn the full potential of her photon-based powers. The film slowly builds anticipation for Carol finding her inner potential, and the moment that she finally embraces herself and her powers is amazing. Her abilities are pretty spectacular, and I found myself with my mouth hanging open as she shows off the full extent of her powers for the first time. She may be the most powerful being in all of the MCU’s galaxies.

Larson is the focal point of the film and keeps the audience entertained from start to finish. She does a great job going head-to-head with Samuel L. Jackson (as Nick Fury), Ben Mendelsohn (as Skrull leader Talos), and Jude Law (Kree soldier Yon-Rogg). She keeps these great actors on their toes in every scene and never lets the focus get pulled away from Carol. Jackson is as good as ever as a younger Fury (the film takes place in 1995), who helps add the signature Marvel charm and humor with the help of scene-stealing Goose the cat. It was also nice to see Mendelsohn take a break from his typical super serious style and show a softer, more comedic side. The entire ensemble does a great job of both acting and supporting Larson.

Without spoiling anything, Captain Marvel has a few surprise turns, along with some predictable ones. The film connects to the greater MCU in unexpected ways and may have started to show what part of Marvel’s Phase 4 might look like story-wise. There are plenty of characters in this film that could easily return and have a future in the MCU, like young Monica (Akira Akbar). Seeing the titular character come into her own and take control of any situation thrown at her is a wonderful ride, made even better by being Marvel’s first non-sexualized on-screen female character. It is clear that Carol is a huge part of the MCU’s future. Start embracing her now because Captain Marvel will be going higher, further, faster for years to come.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Script Woes Plague Bumblebee

The Transformers franchise has been rocky for many years, partly due to the abysmal films starring Mark Wahlberg. The first prequel looks to capitalize on a fan-favorite character and bring the series back into the good graces of critics and fans alike. Expectations are pretty low for Bumblebee, which is why it is getting more brownie points than it deserves. Bumblebee manages to create more plot holes than it fills in the greater Transformers timeline and ruin its sweet human-robot relationship with what might be the worst screenplay in the whole franchise. At its core, Bumblebee tries too hard to impress and doesn’t quite live up to the fun of the original three films. However, it is a huge step forward from both Age of Extinction and The Last Knight.

Bumblebee brings us back to the 1980s to showcase the turning point of the war on Cybertron and the titular hero’s first encounters with humans on Earth. The opening of the film is strong, as it is great to finally see the much-mentioned Cybertron war that ultimately led to the Autobots descending on Earth for refuge from the Decepticons. Unfortunately, the film’s opening moments are its best in terms of action, and everything sort of goes downhill from there. There are many questions about Bumblebee that audiences have been waiting to see answered and moments like how Bumblebee lost his voice are lackluster, mainly due to bad writing.

The best parts of Bumblebee are the shared moments between Bumblebee and his new human companion/owner, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). Charlie and Bumblebee’s relationship is just as special the bond Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has with the Autobot in the first three films. When the two of them are alone, the film is great. Steinfeld does a great job of balancing the proper emotions of the immediate bond. However, all of the other human characters are utterly useless and are simply on the screen to fill space. Charlie’s parents, new sidekick/probable lover Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), and the entire United States military, including Agent Burns (John Cena), have no place in this film. They add nothing to the plot, waste a bunch of time, and are poorly written.

The script is the biggest issue of the film. The only characters that are fleshed out and actually work are Charlie and Bumblebee. The rest of the humans feel out of place and actually manage to bring down the quality of each scene they blunder their way in to. The dialogue in Bumblebee is some of the worst writing that I have heard in a film this year. Most of Charlie’s dialogue is decent, but the other characters say the laziest written lines. Poor John Cena is given yet another ridiculously terrible character to play without any chance of showing whether or not he can actually act. His lines in particular are rough to listen to, though he does have one great line that will make you laugh.

Other than bad characterization and lazy writing, the script tries to change the tone of the series to be more humorous. In my opinion, 90% of the humor fails miserably and doesn’t land the way it is intended. It is obvious that the screenplay tries very hard to be a comedy, but the story isn’t funny and doesn’t leave much room for humor. Forced comedy is the worst, especially when thrown out by the terrible background characters. The Decepticons don’t play a big enough role in the film either, which is a real shame. Even though we don’t know much about the two Decepticons in Bumblebee, and I’m pretty sure only one mentioned its name over the course of the whole film, they are pretty bad ass and didn’t get enough time to shine. Also, the fact that they are the first triple-changing Transformers introduced in the franchise is a huge bonus.

The Transformers series has always heavily relied on action scenes to fill up runtime and give audiences a reason to keep coming back. Bumblebee cuts way down on the action to showcase more of a dramatic story, which was a bummer. The action scenes are too short and don’t contain enough bang for your buck. There is one thing that Bumblebee knocks out of the park: the new looks of the Transformers. Each Transformer looks like they walked straight out of original 1980’s animated series. Changing the style of each robot was the best move the filmmakers could have made because it helps Bumblebee be more authentic to the era and give audiences a bit of sorely needed nostalgia.

Bumblebee has its ups and downs. The high points are any scene in which just Charlie and Bumblebee are together. The low points are pretty much everything else. If the film could have stuck to its strength and cut the rest of the characters out, it would have been a fantastic movie. It’s unfortunate that the script drags Bumblebee down because it has its emotional moments and is really fun to watch at times. If I were to grade this film, I wouldn’t give it any higher than a B-. However, Bumblebee is definitely a positive turn for the franchise and proves that it can climb out of the deep hole it dug with the previous two films.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Magic Galore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Harry Potter fans, rejoice! The second installment of the Fantastic Beasts series is finally here, and while the story doesn’t necessarily expand much from the first film, it is still a fun Wizarding World experience. Most of the film’s run time is dedicated to introducing a slew of new characters and their backgrounds rather than focusing on moving the story forward. The last half hour should have been the first half of the film to drive the plot, as that’s really when the story development beings. However, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is visually beautiful to watch, brings in a lot of Harry Potter lore, and ends with a great twist.

This film seems to be a fifty-fifty toss up for audiences and critics: you will either love it or hate it. There are merits to both perspectives, as Fantastic Beasts is a fun ride that allows you to reenter the beloved Wizarding World. At this point in the series, it appears that the franchise is leaning more towards these films being Harry Potter prequels that are simply filling in gaps from the original movies/books rather than creating a new, standalone plot. I’m hoping that Fantastic Beasts will become its own entity again in the upcoming sequels. It’s nice to finally meet characters that we have all heard of and to see new wizarding communities, but there needs to be a distinct separation between Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter if the former is to survive the test of time.

The best way that Fantastic Beasts can come out of its predecessor’s shadow is to utilize central villain Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) as much as possible. First, no matter how you feel about him personally, Depp is the perfect choice to play Grindelwald. His performance in this film is great and adds a new level of what it means to be a revolutionary in the Wizarding World. Second, Grindelwald is a very interesting character and isn’t just the typical villain. The reason for his current conquest is rooted much deeper than the typical power struggle. He is a very different villain than Harry Potter’s Voldemort and will be a wonderful foil for the younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). While there’s a lot of history with Grindelwald still to be played out, this film doesn’t warrant the subtitle The Crimes of Grindelwald. He actually doesn’t commit many crimes this time around, and it would have been more fitting for the film to be called something like The Return of Grindelwald or The Rise of Grindelwald.

Another reason why Grindelwald needs to be heavily featured in the Fantastic Beasts films is that it is unrealistic to rely on main character Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to carry the story of all five films. Newt is an unwilling hero who doesn’t want to be involved in anything that is going on. He accidently got caught up in the action of the first film and is practically forced to make a move in this one, even though he really doesn’t do much. Newt’s strengths are much different than Harry Potter’s, and the two characters need to be treated differently. Switching the focus to the Grindelwald-Dumbledore relationship would be much more interesting, especially when the two actors are excellent. I was a little unsure of Jude Law being cast as a younger Dumbledore, but he knocks his brief appearances out of the park. He perfectly embodies Dumbledore and is one of the highlights of the film. Considering how much Dumbledore means to the characters and the viewers, he needs to be featured a lot more in the upcoming films.

The biggest issue with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the plot holes in the script. Characters come and go as they please with no rhyme or reason, with some up and disappearing randomly. There isn’t much of a story to follow, and most of the script focuses on trying to convince both the viewers and the characters that Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is a member of the infamous Lastrange family. Credence’s development throughout the series should prove to be extremely interesting and significant in the way that it will impact the future of the Wizarding World. There are also too many background characters introduced, which turns the franchise from a group of four battling against two villains to a large ensemble film. We lose the wonderful scenes with Newt, Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob (Dan Fogler) all together, but any combination of them on screen together shows their great chemistry. The four of them are a great group, just like Harry Potter had the perfect central trio, and need to be more of a focus. However, the additions of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), Newt’s older brother, are also great. These two were cast well and definitely help the story grow.

The visuals are the best part of the film and are as breathtaking as ever. All of the Wizarding World films have done a great job of making magic look real, but this film seems like it hit the next level. Everything is so bright, colorful, and vibrant. The CGI is pretty flawless and brings magic to life. The set design in every scene is also fantastic and so full of detail. The one thing missing from the film was more creatures. The series is called Fantastic Beasts, but there were way fewer creatures in this one compared to the first film. However, Niffler and Pickett manage to continue to steal scenes and prove that they are excellent creations, and the addition of several adorable baby Nifflers needs to get more attention going forward.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will surely excite most Wizarding World fans. It is enjoyable to watch if you can sit back, turn off your brain, and enjoy the show. If you start to think too much about what is happening, then you will probably end up not having a good time. Hopefully the next Fantastic Beasts film will be more plot-driven and separate itself as its own entity again. Personally, any trip to the Wizarding World is an adventure to me, and I’m not giving up on loving Fantastic Beasts.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Girl in the Spider’s Web Bests Original

Gone are the flashy Hollywood cast, overly long runtime, and slow-burn drama that embodied director David Fincher’s 2011 version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Seven years passed, and two books were skipped, before the next film adaption of best-selling Millennium series hit theaters. The Girl in the Spider’s Web, which is the fourth book in the series, serves as a solid sequel to Dragon Tattoo and reboots the Sony-MGM franchise. Spider’s Web is an action-crime thriller that substitutes the nudity in the original for adventure sequences that put titular character Lisbeth Salander front and center.

The nice thing about Spider’s Web is that it reintroduces viewers into the world of Millennium and attracts new audiences by not needing to know the events of Dragon Tattoo beforehand. Computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, now played by Claire Foy and Swedish native Sverrir Gudnason respectively, are forced into action when a mystery terrorist group steals an already-stolen computer program that controls missile launches across the globe from Lisbeth. Unlike Dragon TattooSpider’s Web puts Mikael in the background to allow Foy to shine as Lisbeth. The missing backstory on the main character that didn’t appear in Dragon Tattoo helps give Lisbeth more depth in Spider’s Web.

Foy does a nice job of taking over the reins from Rooney Mara and doesn’t miss a beat in copying the surly hacker’s vibe. In a little over a year, Foy has proven that she can act in any genre from period drama films and TV (First Man and The Crown) to horror (Unsane) and now action. I did like the casting of Gudnason to replace Daniel Craig because Gudnason brings more authenticity to the Swedish adaptation. Sylvia Hoeks joins the cast as Lisbeth’s sister, Camilla, which would have had a better impact if this wasn’t the first film to feature her. The main cast is rounded out by Lakeith Stanfield as an NSA agent with some very helpful skills.

Spider’s Web is an entertaining thriller and could set the stage for an interesting film franchise. However, unless the film starts to catch fire internationally, this reboot will be short lived due to its low first weekend box office haul. While I’ll admit that I don’t know a ton about the Millennium series, I did enjoy Spider’s Web a lot more than Dragon Tattoo and could understand what the actors were saying this time around thanks to less fake accents. One thing is for sure: whether Lisbeth Salander’s story continues to play out on the big screen or not, Foy has a bright future in the industry.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Bad Times at the El Royale is a Showcase of Great Filmmaking

It’s a great feeling when you go see a film and enjoy it way more than you expected. Bad Times at the El Royale may appear to be a kooky film, but it is a real joy ride to watch. The premise of seven strangers, all with something to hide, meeting up for one crazy night at a run-down hotel with a very dark past should be enough to draw you in. If not, look no further than the fantastic talent that makes up the ensemble. Writer/director Drew Goddard puts some of his most brilliant work on display with El Royale.

Goddard made a lot of great choices in his writing and directing. First and foremost, the style of this film cleverly keeps you engaged and wanting to know more at every twist and turn. The film plays out by showing events from each of the character’s perspectives. The chapter format works brilliantly and adds a lot of suspense to the already heavy script. The format also allows each actor to get their time to shine while fleshing out the important backstory of their respective character. Instead of dumping a ton of exposition at the beginning of the film, Goddard spreads the details out from the start until the very end, creating some deep characters.

The pacing is brilliant and goes from slow burn to crazy action in the blink of an eye. Another great aspect of the film is Goddard’s directing. I don’t think a lot of people realize how well directed El Royale is. Each shot is framed perfectly and in a way to show exactly what you need to see at each moment. With a story that is ever-changing, the directing had to be good to keep the audience entertained. Not only is his directing great, Goddard also delivers yet another well-writen script. He is fantastic at knowing when to add the perfect bit of comedy to lighten the mood and then drop another serious bomb on the characters. Goddard has obviously proved himself before, as he wrote The Martian and executive produces/produced The Good Place, Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s The Defenders, and Lost.

Making the El Royale a period piece also adds to the punch the film packs. From the costumes to the really fantastic set design, El Royale looks amazing. The cinematography and directing are also to thank for a great look. And who can forget the perfect ensemble? Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Lewis Pullman, Cailee Spaeny, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth provide all sorts of hijinks and fun. All seven members of the ensemble play well off of each other and show off some great acting chops, especially Bridges and Hemsworth. They all make their characters incredibly interesting and do a great job of showing how everyone can skirt the line of good and bad.

All in all, Goddard has made a really great film that probably isn’t getting enough recognition. Putting a twist on the thriller genre is not an easy task, and Bad Times at the El Royale is a great example of a genre-bending film. I could see this film becoming a cult hit one day, and I hope that filmmaking professors show this film to students to see what good directing and writing really looks like. Without giving anything away, this film has some truly crazy moments and a really great, long scene that ends the film with a bang. Bad Time at the El Royale is highly entertaining and is one of the better pieces of filmmaking to recently be released.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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