Movie Review: Captain Marvel

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Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) suits up in Marvel’s Captain Marvel. (Source: Radio Times)

Last year was one helluva year for the MCU. Black Panther was history in the making upon its release. It became the highest-grossing film in the series as well as the highest-grossing film to feature a mostly African-American cast and directed by an African-American filmmaker. Not only that, it became the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture Oscar (but lost to the timely and old-fashioned Green Book). With Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp both ending on cliffhangers, audiences wait in anticipation on what will happen to our superheroes.

Captain Marvel comes into save the day. But first, here’s another film about the origins of the superhero.

Vers (Brie Larson) lives on the planet Hala, and is part of an alien race known as Kree. Suffering from dreams of another life on Earth as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, she is caught in the middle of a war between her race and the Skrulls, who have shapeshifting abilities. Her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) wants Vers to control her emotions carefully. When her pod crash lands inside a Blockbuster video store in Los Angeles in 1995, she joins forces with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to end the alien war before it’s too late.

It’s surprising to hear this movie receiving a mixed reception compared to the previous entries. Yes, it might have the familiar tropes of superhero origin stories of the past. And yes, it’s far from the best and the worst in the series. But–writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half-Nelson, Mississippi Grind) manage to bring in the fun and poignancy into this empowering tale of the means of being human.

Larson electrifies as the titular hero, whose superpowers include super-strength, endurance, stamina, and throwing fireballs with her fists. She has trouble remembering where she came from. Then, she reunites with her old friend Maria (Lashana Lynch), a single mother to 11-year-old Monica (Akira Akbar); looking through old pictures of herself trying to fit the pieces of the puzzles (in one emotional scene). As Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) tells her, “We don’t fight wars, we end them.”

The first act is sluggish than its predecessors. Once Danvers lands on Earth, the pace starts to pick up with its references to ‘90s nostalgia, witty dialogue, dazzling effects, and almost wall-to-wall action. Jackson’s Nick Fury provides plenty of good laughs, especially when he shows his soft side when he encounters a cat named Goose. The rest of the cast is fine although forgettable. Nevertheless, Captain Marvel is still a good time early in the year. Bring on, Avengers: Endgame!

8/10

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Movie Review: Free Fire

 

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A group of people try to buy some guns in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. (Source: IMDb)

A year after the dystopian film High-Rise, director Ben Wheatley teams up with an ensemble cast. Something with a straightforward narrative yet ambitious style. Something featuring characters who have a loud mouth, a quick wit, yet terrible aim. Free Fire is one of those movies where it should have work as a thirty-minute short film than a ninety-minute feature length film. What Mad Max: Fury Road did for the open road, The Breakfast Club for the school, and Gravity for outer space, Free Fire sets entirely at an abandoned warehouse. I wish it captivated me more than it should have.

The year is 1978. Two IRA specialists—Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley)—meet up with Ord (Armie Hammer), Justine (Brie Larson), among others outside a warehouse in Boston. They are trying to settle a deal with buying guns from South African arms dealer Vern (Sharlto Copley) and former Black Panther Martin (Babou Ceesay). Tensions begin to rise between the two groups of people, resulting in a massive shootout.

Wheatley succeeds with bringing the 1970s culture to life. With the crazy hairstyles, sideburns, outfits, and the music ranging from Creedence Clearwater Revival to John Denver. The fast-paced editing of the warehouse shootout makes it seem as if you are in the middle of it all. The amount of violence, profanity and dark humor is almost reminiscent to the films of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese (who is also the executive producer of Free Fire). Every actor is having a blast here (particularly Copley and Hammer stealing the show), shooting it up and exchanging some great dialogue, even going as far as taking part in some dangerous stunts. However, they hardly breathe any life into their characters. By the end, making the audience care less on who gets killed.

While far from being A24’s best film, it’s impossible not to have any fun with Free Fire. However, the tension falters a bit through the second act. The bullets don’t stop flying until it’s over. I can’t listen to John Denver the same way ever again.

2.5/4

Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

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Kong is still king in the latest entry in the MonsterVerse. (Source: IMDb)

It’s been over eighty years since “The Eighth Wonder of the World” made his first appearance. In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, no one had ever seen a movie as ambitious as King Kong. Created through stop-motion effects (by special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien) and giant models, this giant ape became one of the first memorable movie monsters. The classic is still loved by generations of film buffs and filmmakers.

Kong travelled to Japan to fight monsters including Godzilla until settling in America to prove he’s the king. This aspired two remakes featuring Kong. The silly yet decent 1976 Dino De Laurentiis production saw him fall for our female protagonist on the island, but the big difference is he fights on top of the World Trade Center rather than the Empire State Building in both the original and the 2005 remake. The overlong yet marvelous 2005 version, directed by Peter Jackson, became a dream come true for the filmmaker. The 1933 original is what inspired him to make movies in the first place. If the world didn’t have Peter Jackson, we wouldn’t have another movie featuring King Kong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts marks the return for the monster in Kong: Skull Island. This reboots screams the 1970s. The Vietnam War. The Nixon administration. The Peace Corps. Creedence Clearwater Revival. And, most importantly, it pays tribute to Apocalypse Now.

The year is 1973. Bill Randa (John Goodman) hires a diverse team of experts including British Special Forces Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to map out Skull Island. Once they arrive, they encounter various creatures as well as Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded on the island since the end of World War II. He is the perfect guy to ask about the island as a whole. As the team help each other off the island, they encounter the king himself.

As someone who enjoys monster movies, I couldn’t imagine if there would ever be a franchise featuring two of the most memorable monsters in cinema: King Kong and Godzilla. After seeing the 2014 version of Godzilla, I got the feeling of anxiety about the fact of another movie universe. With the MonsterVerse being a thing, it’s an awesome feeling to see a wonderful monster grace the silver screen once again in this day and age. The creatures in Kong: Skull Island easily overshadow the human characters. It’s not to say they are all forgettable.

The movie proves Hiddleston needs to be the next James Bond; he’s got the charisma and the badass fight choreography to pull it all off. Fresh from winning an Oscar for her performance in Room, Brie Larson is becoming one of the best actresses of this generation. She provides the bravery in her role as the photojournalist pushing the gender boundaries of the time. John C. Reilly steals every scene he’s in providing just enough laughs to even out the visually stunning and heart-pumping action.

The 2014 version of Godzilla and the 2005 version of King Kong both follow the roots of Jaws, where it takes an awfully long time to know the main characters before seeing the monster that the audience has been anticipating to see. With Kong: Skull Island, it doesn’t take long at all. The audience is introduced to the team and they are put on a wild ride. Once Kong makes him introduction, he is the biggest ape of them all—ranging about 100 feet tall. He’s aggressive yet defensive about his territory.

While the first act can be a bit rushed and some of the dialogue can be cheesy, there is enough visual beauty to feast the eyes. I can’t wait for Kong and Godzilla go at it in 2020.

3/4

Movie Review: Room

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5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and Ma (Brie Larson) spending time in “Room”

There have been few movies in 2015 that hit me hard. Room (not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau’s cult “classic”) is one of those movies. Going into this movie with almost no expectations, it made the experience so much better for me. Director Lenny Abrahamson creates a raw, suspenseful, humble, and ultimately heartwrenching movie about taking the big step in life. It also features the best performance I’ve ever seen by a child actor (if Jacob Tremblay doesn’t win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, I don’t know who will). Brie Larson has come a long way since starring in Hoot; this is the performance of her career. Without giving away too much, I think I found my favorite movie of 2015.

4/4