Movie Review: Aquaman (2018)

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Plot: Arthur Curry, the human-born heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, goes on a quest to prevent a war between the worlds of ocean and land.

April is such an exciting month! Avengers Endgame AND Game of Thrones! Yup, I’ve seen the first episode, and it was good, I just can’t see myself reviewing per episode on here. Since I am SO ready for Endgame, I thought I would do a quick post on the only superhero movie I have seen that I haven’t put on here yet, Aquaman (although not even in the same universe, ha).

I saw this in the cinema in December 2018. It got some good reviews and reached the billion dollar club (The club which is not so elite anymore, but anyway). Some people thought this was a great film, and that’s okay. For me it was merely decent and while better than some of the other DC flicks, it still left much to be desired.

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I love Jason Momoa – he’s marketable, funny, beautiful and impressively big. I am not convinced he’s the best actor on the planet, but at this stage he doesn’t need to be. He chooses this big and gruff roles because it actually looks like that is who he is as a person. He does fine with Stephen Curry, and even though there are moments where he isn’t utterly convincing, he does remain one entertaining man. And even if he was terrible, you still get to see a really big and attractive man wet and built for two hours and 22 minutes. The love story between him and Mera (Amber Heard) felt really forced and unnecessary. A couple of superhero films have done really well by now without some romantic entanglement, and I think this would have survived without that as well.

Nicole Kidman plays Arthur Curry’s mom and the Queen of Atlantis. She’s named Atlanna, just so that no one gets confused who she really is. It’s a role far beneath her acting abilities and she navigates the sea without much issue. If you can believe that she mothered Momoa’s genetics, you can believe anything.

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Patrick Wilson plays Curry’s half-brother King Orm. He’s a terrible leader in this movie and also has dealing with the pirates Curry tackles in the beginning of the film. Other than Wilson’s deeply upsetting hairstyle, he does a decent (if one layered) villain. This is a nice setup for a second movie to begin with, which I am sure after a billion dollars no one will hesitate to commit to.

At the core, this origin story is nothing new. The release was well timed, in time for the relaxed holiday viewers. The last battle will leave you feeling exhausted because it is just so stupid and long. It’s really not that bad, just cheesy and silly. I definitely won’t commit to a second viewing, but that isn’t because of the quality – I rarely feel that superhero movies need to be watched twice.

Rating: 6/10

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Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

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Plot: The story of the legendary rock band Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, leading up to their famous performance at Live Aid (1985)

Wow. I went to see this in cinema in December and never got around to reviewing it. It simply needs a spot on this blog because even though I never got around to posting a top 10 films for 2018, this would have ranked high up.

Let’s focus a few seconds on the performance that made this film – Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury. Malek has always embraced oddball roles with vigor and has no trouble taking on a human legend full of eccentricity like Mercury. The two sides of Mercury is explored – his crazy media and onstage persona and him as a loner and intensely private. Malek handles both with aplomb. He switches seamlessly between the two sides of Mercury and seems truly lost in his performances on stage.  I doubt anyone else could have given such a convincing performance. He deserved his Oscar, and he deserves all the praise being thrown his way for his work.

I liked that the movie focused on the band and how they developed, grew and thrived to become one of the greatest bands of all time. It could have gone without a few fabrications, such as a breakup by the band. I know there was some uproar online about the numerous factual inaccuracies in the film, but Bohemian Rhapsody is still one of the strongest films to walk out of 2018.

The other performances are stellar as well, although I would have enjoyed more time with the other band members on screen. I still don’t accept that Gwilym Lee portrayed Brian May – he looks so much like the real deal in the film that I won’t accept that they didn’t just dye the real Brian May’s hair brown again. Anyway, he obviously does a convincing job to portray the amazing guitarist. Joseph Mazello plays John Deacon and Ben Hardy Roger Taylor, and I think the only thing that could have made the movie better was more in-band conversations. Lucy Boynton plays Mercury’s female love interest Mary Austin, and yup, you guessed it, a fine job too. Allen Leech plays a villainous manager that corrupts Mercury and derails his life, and it was quite upsetting seeing my favorite Tom Branson behaving in such a manner.

I have been a Queen fan for a big part of my life. Their music is just so alive and interesting and original. I probably sound so much older than what I am when I say that they just don’t produce music like this anymore – the originality seems to have gone down the drain in lieu for bum shorts and gangster lyrics. It was an amazing to listen to all the songs in cinema and know every single word. There is also the incredible Live Aid performance reenacted in the movie, which made me re-watch the actual performance countless times.

Freddy Mercury succumbed to aids-related illness in 1991. His death continues to be one of the greatest losses in the music industry, with such an incredible talent gone forever. With the medical advancements we currently enjoy, he could have fought the progression of the disease for many years and continued to thrive. This film manages to capture the genius and essence of who he was. If you haven’t sat down to watch this yet, I really suggest you do.

Rating: 8/10

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Movie Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

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Plot: Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

I’m trying to start this review with some really sharp comment, something more verbose than “This is a poor, poor film”. As I can’t come up with something quite yet, you can take that as a start to this review and take it to heart. The remake crazy continues because apparently originality has been slaughtered. What sacred franchise hasn’t been touched? So unnecessary, yet movie houses are desperate to cash in on that nostalgic feeling, yet somehow still too lazy to develop proper scripts.

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Tomb Raider is no different. Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons and Evan Daugherty thinks their movie watchers are remarkably stupid (judging by my fellow audience members, they weren’t all that wrong). Visual and verbal clues are everywhere. Lara is forced to verbalize all her thoughts, because the audience couldn’t pick it up for themselves apparently. Clues are left everywhere – such as “Watch me” on the obviously placed video camera her dad left in his den. I also happen to think Lara isn’t nearly as bright as we must believe. She refuses to access her father’s fortune before she sets off to the island she is supposed to stay away from, yet sells her most valued possession to access to embark upon her mission. She travels with a drunken Chinese sailor (Daniel Wu) in a broken down boat because logic. They are both immediately captured when they wash out on the coast by madman fanatic Matthias Vogel (Walton Goggins). He at least provides a legitimate face to the devious company setting out to disrupt the world. Things naturally escalate and with many improbable events that would certainly have caused death to any normal person, there is a final explosion and escalation and a setup for an additional film.

I, quite obviously, didn’t like it. It was agony and I was itching to just walk out of cinema. It even seemed like that new Pacific Rim film, which looks like a Michael Bay extravaganza (though not directed by him at all), would have been a better choice. I do admire Alicia Vikander – she’s ripped for this role and performs admirably in the various obstacles set out for her, but she’s actually just way too talented to have to suffer through such substandard writing.

Although the film had some merits, I will most certainly not think back fondly or attempt to watch a second installment, which is bound to happen as the film is doing surprisingly okay in the markets.

Rating: 5/10

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)

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Plot: T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

I remember sitting down to watch Wonder Woman last year – the nerves and anticipation and hope that a film about my kind finally being a superhero would be great. How fantastic was the notion that someone like me could change the world? How empowering it was! As I watched Diana Prince ignore male orders and march onto a battlefield because her heart dictated her to,  and I finally felt vindicated for having my own share of protectiveness towards those I hold dear.

And finally, in 2018, we have come to a place where black people can finally celebrate the same feat. Black Panther is fantastic. I am not black, but I am South-African, and sitting in the cinema with black people and feeling their joy with this film was uplifting and very emotional. T’Challa isn’t a sidekick, he isn’t the bad guy, he is a man of royal blood. He doesn’t have to find his riches, he is rich. Wakanda is, as some have rightly said, both a view of how Africa might have been without colonialism and a celebration of retaining your culture will thriving in a modern technological world. Black Panther does not skirt around issues, it faces it head on. Slavery and the destruction of a continent is frequently referenced, as well as the deeply moral question of why Wakanda did not intervene to help their neighbors when they had unlimited power to do so. Well, to me Wakanda had the correct intuition, and I can only wish the entire continent could have seen the danger and protected itself against pillaging.

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Chadwick Boseman is an exceptional Black Panther. T’Challa is a good mix of culture, regal blood, love, humor, wisdom, kindness and some fantastic fighting skills. He was born to be King, and his nature dictates him to be a kind and just one for his people. Other tribe leaders, especially W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya’s, in wonderful South-African traditional clothes), Mbaku (Winston Duke) have issues with some of his choices, and this especially creates discord between W’Kabi and T’Challa when T’Challa fails to bring Klaue (truly excellent Andy Serkis) to Wakanda to account for his crimes against the Wakandan people.

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Michael B. Jordan impressed me immensely. I haven’t seen too much from him, and I really did not know how excellent an actor he is. As Erik Stevens the warmonger and the thorn in T’Challa’s side, he is both heart breaking and terrifying. He would have been like T’Challa if a great crime hadn’t been committed against him, and his crimes are heinous enough to have you wince but his memories are painful enough to make you weep for him. He was a strong villain, perhaps one of the stronger ones in Marvel, and I really enjoyed him.

There is a lot of humor too, especially delivered by Shuri (Letitia Wight). The movie has genuinely funny moments and the audience was in stitches as it found its crowd. Even Mbaku has some funny moments, and his humor mixes surprisingly well with his warrior attitude.

It would be very unfair to not mention the outstanding female cast as well. Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira are fierce female warriors, sworn to protect Wakanda. They have great moments together, and their chase through South Korea is especially fine to watch. Shuri is a smart and sassy young woman, and she is a technological spearhead for Wakanda, highlighting the importance of girls in technology in style. Angela Basset as the Queen Mother is regal and beautiful, and her care for her children and nation are evident to see.

South Africa had a phenomenal week last week. The fall of the Gupta empire and Jacob Zuma, the rise of Cyril Ramaphosa and the first SONA in years that didn’t result in a screaming match made South-Africans happier than I’ve seen them in a decade. The optimism in the streets could only be even more enhanced by seeing South-African faces in this film, South-African traditional wear and Xhosa being used as the Wakandan language.

I was worried that Black Panther wouldn’t be good – I really wanted it to be, if only to prove to the butthead racists on the internet that inclusion is necessary and can yield as good results as the standard white washed, male domineered films we generally get. Black Panther is GREAT, and is an excellent start to the superhero year. The cast and director and Marvel should all be congratulated for their excellent work in this film – it is something to be proud of!

Rating: 8.5/10

Movie Review: The Maze Runner: Death Cure (2018)

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Plot: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Contains minor spoilers

I have experienced a rather good start to the year with new releases. I am still not over the wonderful The Greatest Showman (2018), and I am still listening to its’ soundtrack every single day. I can’t wait to purchase the DVD and show it to everyone I know, so that they too can be as happy as I. It also provided a pitfall for The Death Cure – could anything impress me after I was so ridiculously happy?

Well, The Death Cure didn’t make me as happy (two tonally different films as there ever was), but it did entertain me. The opening sequence, the lead culprit in the massive time delay of the film when Dylan O’Brien was seriously injured on set, is exciting and intense. I also really appreciate a film where the main characters can actually shoot and is not just randomly shooting into thin air – all the actors can be applauded for holding a gun in a manner that shows they’ve had some training.

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The relationship between Thomas (O’Brien) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), is still as tight as ever. They are in this together, and the two actors themselves share a great chemistry on set. I like Newt, he’s such a sarcastic character full of pithy remarks. I still absolutely loathe Theresa – who doesn’t, and even her final attempts at redemption couldn’t convince me to find actual time for her. He doesn’t deserve Thomas or his compassion, and I completed related to my fellow movie goer when he passionately yelled “Can this bitch just die?!” in cinema – although good sir, do not refer to women as bitches, please.

I will perhaps always hate Aiden Gillen (perhaps unfairly). He also plays a devious bastard in The Death Cure, and this does not help him in terms of affection. He is able to play a weak man really well. He meets his fate in The Death Cure in a much more brutal and enjoyable fashion than in Game of Thrones.

The film has a solid progression, and although it did start to feel long I wasn’t terrible irritated by that. There was a stage at about halfway through the film where I wondered how on earth they were planning to wrap things up in the time they had left, but they managed.

Granted that I really didn’t like the second one (I am still not sure what went on there), this film turned out remarkably well. The Death Cure is not perfect – I felt that half of the female stars had no acting power, and they are, as always, very underrepresented. I always enjoy a dystopian setting that turns out to be some clinical trial drama – that is essentially what Divergent and The Maze Runner boils down to – what ethical values are governments willing to forsake of their people when faced with a massive viral disaster? This is my food man. However, it should be noted that the rights of a patient will never be compromised for the advancement of science, thank you very much.

Overall, The Death Cure did just fine as my second film for this year. That guy with the hollowed out cheeks and funky attitude was proper badass and had an epic moment or two. Eyebrows returning – he looks like he waxed his eyebrows, and I still think it must be a challenged to be permanently surprised. I’ve never read these books, so I can’t compare it to the source material, but as a dystopian film it works well and rounds of the series just fine.

Rating: 7/10

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman (2018)

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Plot: Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

I’m speedily typing this out before I don’t finish again and then couldn’t be bothered to save my draft – yes, I did that three times. The Greatest Showman is a great way to start 2018. I really enjoyed this uplifting, beautiful and gorgeously crafted film and I was legitimately upset when it finished – I wanted more and still want more. A quick look into PT Barnum’s actual life is enough to tell you that this film isn’t a true depiction of his life. He seems to have been a driven and successful businessman, surely nice, but not the outstanding charm that Hugh Jackman brings to this movie. How charming is he? How excellent does he sing and dance? It is beautiful. Michelle Williams is also stunning in this role, I’ve never before quite liked her quite this much. She is a motherly presence and her scenes with the two daughters are beautiful and playful. Then there is Zac Efron, who seems the most comfortable in life when he can be artistic – every film of his where he’s actually been good in is some sort of musical. He’s charming and dazzling, and uses his expressive eyes to lure you into his love for Anne (Zendaya), the flexible and gorgeous trapeze artist who has had one too many rich person sneer at her. The love story wasn’t necessary, but it was still sweet.

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In a time where people out of the norm is under attack, The Greatest Showman takes a clear line in defense with its’ celebration of the strange and unusual, showing they have a place in this world and deserves respect. The townspeople who so vehemently opposes PT Barnum’s circus is perhaps just a bit of social commentary on the current residing office in a whole lot of countries. They don’t understand, so they hate. Yet the circus becomes a tight little group, and not even Barnum’s sudden lack of interest in them when he spots Jenny Lind (Rebecca Fergusson) can stop them from remaining tightly knit. Fergusson did not do her own singing and merely acted the role, but she was utterly convincing as the up and coming Lind, who (if you look at Jackman in that red jacket you would too) develops a massive infatuation on Barnum, seeing their similar upbringings and struggles as an important link. Tragic strikes Barnum in multiple ways and he’s left with a damaged marriage and a tattered circus, but since this movie is all about happiness he rebuilds both quickly.

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Is it idealistic? Yes. Is it highly improbably that Barnum was such a nice man? Definitely. However, the colors and choreography, combined with the acting, singing and wonderful set design, makes The Greatest Showman one of the most enjoyable films I have ever seen. It’s a bit early in the year to declare a film a favorite of the year (and also I’ve literally only seen one 2018 release yet), but if we measure only in pure enjoyment then I doubt anything will beat The Greatest Showman this year for me.

Rating: 9/10