Film Nut Reviews

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Tag: Film Review (page 1 of 30)

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

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Relies on Comedy Over Story

The long-awaited sequel to the 2014 hit The Lego Movie has finally arrived, but The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part follows the original’s formula too closely to be a meaningful update. With a similar story structure, the new twists aren’t nearly as impactful as the first film’s and are predictable. However, the fantastic animation and comedy bring the entertainment value. You will still find yourself laughing constantly, which is the biggest success of the film. The Lego Movie 2 is another good family film in the Lego franchise.

The Lego Movie 2 starts where the first one ended before moving the action ahead five years to catch up to present day. Construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), and friends have been trying to survive the constant invasions by Lego Duplo-built creatures for the past few years. A new adventure begins when the mysterious General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) arrives and kidnaps Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Benny (Charlie Day), and MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), leaving Emmet alone to save the day. On his way to save his friends from the possible evil Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), pronounced as “Whatever I Wanna Be,” Emmet teams up with space hero Rex Dangervest, who is also voiced by Pratt and is a compilation of the various characters Pratt has previously portrayed.

The main plot is much weaker and simpler than The Lego Movie and relies mainly on the voices of Pratt, Banks, Arnett, and Haddish to keep things moving. Almost all of the original voice actors returned for the sequel, but they all have smaller background roles with the exceptions of Pratt, Banks, and Arnett. Instead of having a more ensemble feel, The Lego Movie 2 heavily features a few main characters doused with cameos from others, including the scene-stealing Superman (Channing Tatum) and Green Lantern (Jonah Hill). All of the voice performances are memorable, with Arnett being the standout once again. His take on Batman is absolute perfection.

The film also features quite a few unnecessary songs that seem to be included as a means of trying to duplicate the success of “Everything is Awesome” from the original. None of the songs are as catchy this time around, but the lyrics are brilliant. Rather than paying attention to the colorful randomness on the screen during the oddly placed musical numbers, listen to what the characters are saying because there are plenty of great jokes mixed into each song. Some of the best comedy actually occurs within the songs, so, as annoying as they are, they wind up working well.

There are two obvious strengths of The Lego Movie 2: humor and animation. Writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have proven yet again that they are comedic geniuses with their witty script. The way that they infuse puns and meta jokes into the film with perfect timing is fantastic. It is also great that Lord and Miller were allowed to use tons of jokes to make fun of other Warner Bros. properties, as some studios aren’t keen on creating comedy about their own films. As in all of the other Lego films, the entire animation team deserves a round of applause for bringing Legos to life. The amount of detail in this film is incredible, especially when it is all Lego-based. As someone who still enjoys playing with Legos, I find this film really fun to watch. I really liked how much emotion the animators create on the faces of each character with the limitations of the real bricks having printed faces.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is great fun for the whole family to enjoy. There’s plenty of humor for adults, and the story is told in a way that kids will easily understand. The message behind the film is sweet and makes perfect sense given the original, even if it is predictable. Even if it isn’t a masterpiece in the plot department, The Lego Movie 2 is still fun to watch and has enough comedy to keep you interested.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

M. Night Shyamalan’s Superhero Trilogy Culminates with Glass

Anyone who has seen one of M. Night Shyamalan’s films knows to expect big twists that seemingly come out of thin air. However, no one expected his 2016 horror epic Split to be the sequel to his 2000 fan-favorite drama Unbreakable and part of a larger, secret trilogy of films that ultimately comes to a head in Glass. Shyamalan’s latest outing brings his shared superhero universe together for a truly great conclusion to the story he started telling nineteen years ago. While some of the twists are predictable, Glass manages to be a suspenseful psychological thriller for both the characters and the audience.

Glass revolves around the six returning main characters from the other two films and one new character, who stirs up trouble for the group. It is important to note that Glass takes place three weeks after the events of Split. The film starts with David Dunn/The Overseer (Bruce Willis) attempting to track down Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Beast (James McAvoy), who has taken another set of teenage girls hostage. David and Kevin wind up joining David’s nemesis, Elijah Price/Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), in a mental institution under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (new cast member Sarah Paulson), who believes that the three superpowered individuals are suffering from delusions that make them think they are more than human.

Staple’s tactics don’t fare well with each character’s sidekick. Joseph Dunn (Spencer Treat Clark), Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Mrs. Price (Charlayne Woodard) show up to the facility to voice their displeasure with the superhumans’ situation. It is particularly great that all three of these actors returned for Glass, as having the original actors from Unbreakable adds a layer of authenticity to the new story. Granted, the sidekicks play a lesser role this time around, which is a bit of a letdown. Staple, in a way, becomes the needle that threads the narrative together, as the other six characters and the audience go through the same journey of discussing what it means to be more than human. The film tends to contradict itself by making valid points for the existence of superheroes and heightened abilities being a self-made delusion to protect the mind from a tragic past.

Shyamalan’s script is full of suspense, allowing the slower parts of the film to remaining interesting. The best part about Glass is its ability to make you think and second guess what you know about this shared universe. Just like all his other films, Shyamalan includes several twists that aren’t revealed until the proper moment. Some of the twists are predictable, while some are surprising. I really enjoyed the ending of the film because it both sets the stage for a potential sequel/continuation of the shared universe and allows the audience to decide for themselves what happens next. It’s the perfect open ending.

One of the best aspects of the film is the symbolism and use of color. It was very apparent that color played a big role in Unbreakable, yet the use of color in Split was a bit more subtle and winds up making more sense as you watch Glass. Color is easily the most important part of the film because it tells you exactly what you need to know. You should quickly notice that David and Joseph, Kevin and Casey, and Elijah and Mrs. Price all wear matching color schemes that represent their identities. Without giving too much away, the usage of color is absolutely brilliant to the point that color acts as another character in the story. One great example of color symbolism is Casey’s yellow and purple checkered sweater that she wears when the Beast and Mr. Glass are teamed up.

Glass wouldn’t be great without McAvoy’s brilliant acting. McAvoy’s Kevin suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) and has twenty four different alters that range from perpetually nine-year-old Hedwig to proper British lady Patricia. McAvoy portrays all twenty four characters to perfection and is absolutely wonderful to watch. He is immensely talented, which is evident in the scenes where he changes alters several times in one take without the camera ever panning away. I wish McAvoy would get more praise for the work he has done in both Split and Glass because he is great. Paulson is also excellent in her role and is perfectly cast. She has more screen time than anticipated, which is a happy surprise.

If you have seen Glass and find yourself wondering why the titular character isn’t the lead, then you probably haven’t fully grasped the meaning of each character. Mr. Glass plays the same role in both Unbreakable and Glass: he remains a formidable foe who plays his role from the shadows. In fact, Glass sort of plays out like a long magic trick in that the closer you look, the less you will actually see. It’s a genius way to structure a film. Shyamalan has made yet another intriguing and entertaining film.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Mary Poppins Returns is Magical

Some stories are timeless and never lose their magic. Mary Poppins Returns can be included in that category, as it is as whimsically wonderful as the Julie Andrews-led original. The sequel doesn’t miss a beat from its 54-year-old predecessor and is the perfect film for all ages. The best way to describe Mary Poppins Returns is to simply say it is fun to watch.

This new film takes place 25 years after the events of Mary Poppins, with Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) grown up and dealing with life’s struggles. Michael is in desperate need of help after a tumultuous year that leaves him raising his three young children by himself and on the brink of losing the famed Banks family home. Enter Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who returns to once again help the Banks children and play nanny to the youngest members of the family. The underlying story of Michael and Jane searching frantically to find the document of ownership for shares in the bank to use as payment for the house does tend to drag the film down. It slows down the pace and adds unnecessary time to the already lengthy runtime.

However, the moments with Mary Poppins teaching the kids valuable life lessons through magical adventures and toe-tapping songs are fantastic. New sidekick, and lamplighter, Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is also along for the ride and helps give the film that peppy flare that Dick Van Dyke added to the original. The visual effects and classic 2D animation help make all of the scenes special and will put a huge smile on your face. The effects are pretty great and bring the quirky screenplay to life. The cinematography beautifully captures the wonderfully designed sets and fantastic song-and-dance numbers. Some of the sequences are so well shot and performed that you might find yourself thinking that Mary Poppins Returns is similar to watching a Broadway show.

This film would not be great without Emily Blunt in the titular role. Blunt’s excellent performance and interpretation of Mary Poppins makes the film. Everything about her performance is spectacular. Blunt’s, well, bluntness in portraying Mary Poppins works as a perfect foil to Miranda’s super cheery disposition. They make a great pair in and out of musical numbers. Miranda gives a very good performance as well and gets many moments to show off his many talents. Both Blunt and Miranda show off their voices in the wonderfully written songs. The score and songs are very indicative of the original film without relying on, or using, the old music.

While there are some slow moments throughout, Mary Poppins Returns is an overall triumph and great sequel. This film could easily have not lived up to the original, but it exceeds all expectations. Van Dyke’s cameo also brings the story full circle and adds another magical moment to a great film. Making another Mary Poppins film could not have been easy, so I have a huge amount of respect for all involved. The joy and happiness that Mary Poppins Returns brings makes it a great movie to see this holiday season.

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

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