Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family’s quiet life is shaken when they’re targeted by Dante (Jason Momoa), the vengeful son of Brazilian drug kingpin Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).
I think we’re at the stage with this franchise that you’ll know whether or not Fast X is for you. The action set pieces are bigger and more ridiculous and unbelievable than ever, characters survive things that they really shouldn’t if real-world logic applied here, and it’s still a lot of fun.
Fast X juggles a lot of characters as the family has gotten bigger over the course of this franchise and there’s new characters too in Tess (Brie Larson), a potentially-shady government agent, and Dante who is out for revenge. The film does suffer a bit by having the family split up for much of the runtime, because it’s the various relationships between these characters that mean just as much as the wild stunts. Having Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) split up especially is a shame as their dynamic has been one of the core ones of this franchise. As Fast X is a part one of two (or potentially three) films, that will presumably be fixed and all the different groups of characters will finally be together again. (more…)
Edgin (Chris Pine), a charming thief, and his band of unlikely allies undertake an epic heist to steal a great treasure including a powerful ancient relic, from Forge (Hugh Grant), a double-crossing political leader, and Sofina (Daisy Head), a dangerous wizard.
I’m not someone who grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, in fact I’ve only played a campaign once an that was during lockdown over Zoom and I had very little clue as to what I was doing. So, when it comes to any references or homages to the game this film might have, I don’t have the knowledge to notice these things so I very much went into Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves as just someone who likes fantasy stories. Plus there’s the fact it was a story about thieves and features heists – two things a love in media.
I enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves a ridiculous amount. The setting is very much a generic fantasy land with taverns, grand castles, and a variety of creatures including dragons. However, it works because the sense familiarity in the setting and genre tropes means the odd differences standout more and having a shorthand on how this fantasy world works means there can be more focus on the characters and the plot. (more…)
1794, Paris and the revolution is in full swing. Camille, the daughter of a revolutionary, leads a group of outcasts as they fight to rescue those unjustly punished from prison before they face the guillotine. There’s Ada, Camille’s lover and wannabe scientist, Guil, an army deserter, and Al, a disgraced aristocrat – together the four of them are the Battalion of the Dead. Their latest rescue mission sees them encounter Olympe, a girl with dark and mysterious powers, and as they try and figure out a way to stay alive, they find themselves caught between the Royalists and the Revolutionaries as both sides want to use Olympe for their own gain.
Dangerous Remedy is the first book in a YA historical fantasy trilogy and boy does it start with a bang. It drops you straight into the action – mid-prison break in fact – and from there the pace, excitement and adventure never really lets up. I read Dangerous Remedy in just a couple of days as it was a really readable book with a lot of action and twists and turns and drama that it leaves you wanting to see what happens next.
I liked the characters a lot though some characters got less focus and some of the relationship dynamics I wasn’t so sure about. Dangerous Remedy is a dual POV story with chapters tending to alternate between Camille and Ava’s perspectives. Naturally this means you see how they both feel about each other but what they say to one another and their actions don’t often tally up with how they feel when you’re in their heads. It doesn’t quite mesh and if I didn’t get their internal thoughts and feelings, I’d sometimes wonder why they were together. Guil is the one in the team I feel we know the least about and he is kind of the character that’d I’d forget about as he doesn’t really have anything that makes him standout. Al, on the other hand, was my favourite as he’s snarky, gay and fluctuates between being a showman and super cagey. (more…)
After Cassie Lang’s (Kathryn Newton) prototype goes awry, she along with her father Scott (Paul Rudd), Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) are pulled into the Quantum Realm and have to rely on each other to find a way back home.
I do have mixed feelings about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as it’s a film I enjoyed when watching it, but then thinking about it in hindsight there’s stuff that really didn’t work for me.
One of those things is the editing – it was really all over the place. Some of the shot choices were weird and the way things were edited together it was often hard to tell where characters were in relation to each other. This was annoying and sometimes confusing in action sequences but it was downright strange in scenes where characters are sitting around a table talking. Some edits were jarring and took me out of scenes that should be really simple to follow.
Ant-Man is known as one of the more comedic characters in the MCU and unlike Thor: Love and Thunder, Quantumania finds the right balance when it comes to humour. No joke is over done and new and quirky characters are some nice, fun light relief and are used well.
As the vast majority of Quantumania takes place in the Quantum Realm special effects and CGI is abundant and for the most part it’s pretty good. Some things do feel flat and the creature designs and environments kind of feel like they’d fit in well in the world of Stars Wars, but other creatures are pretty cool. I think some of the issues are that no doubt the actors filmed a lot of this film on green screens and you could tell as at times a couple of actors were supposed to be looking at something and their reactions were out of sync or they were looking in slightly different directions so their sightlines were off. Again, this may well have been improved with better editing choices.
Besides the general problems that arise being in an unknown world, Scott and his family have to contend with secrets from Janet’s past, which includes Kang (Jonathan Majors). Majors is a really imposing and compelling presence throughout the film and Quantumania does that always helpful thing of building a mythos around someone before you even meet them. Majors really has a sense of gravitas in his performance and even when Kang is talking to other characters in a perfectly reasonable tone it always feels like there is an underlying threat there.
Quantumania straddles the line between being a nice, self-contained story about a family trying to make their way home and setting out the building blocks for the MCU’s next big villain. This also makes the film a bit awkward at times and while Kang is an effective presence in Quantumania, rightly or wrongly he out shines the heroes of this story.
Overall, I did have fun while watching Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania but it’s not without it’s faults. I will say that while I’m not sure how memorable this film will be in terms of the rest of the MCU, at least I enjoyed watching it unlike Thor: Love and Thunder which actively annoyed me as I was watching it. 3/5.
When Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) realises he’s on the last of his nine lives, he sets out to find the mythical Last Wish and restore his nine lives.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has finally been released in the UK and I’m happy to say it was worth the wait. Considering it’s been over ten years since previous Puss in Boots film and the Shrek franchise is one of those things that makes us millennials feel old when they realise how long it’s been since those films were at their peak, it is kind of impressive how great The Last Wish is.
Everything about The Last Wish just works from story and character to the brilliant animation. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse clearly shook up how animated films could be as there’s elements used in The Last Wish that are as dynamic and entertaining as that film as it moves away from the standard late-2000s 3D animation and instead uses impressionistic imagery not seen in this franchise before. The colours pop, the fight sequences are thrilling, and some of the new character designs are fantastic. Special mention goes to the Wolf (Wagner Moura) who is a looming presence as they’re on Puss’s trail, that character is one of the most interesting in design and in character motivation.
The action and adventure is there from the outset as Puss takes on a giant creature to save a town but it’s how The Last Wish tackles Puss’s character arc that was really surprising. He reluctantly teams up with a chihuahua (Harvey Guillén) and his old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and how the friendship between these three develops is great. For a character like Puss whose defining characteristics is his bravery and being a swashbuckling hero, seeing him face up to his mortality and how that can affect how he sees himself was really interesting and sincere.
As Puss searches for the Last Wish, other characters come into play including Goldilocks and the three bears (Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winston, and Samson Kayo), and Jack Horner (John Mulaney) who all have their own reasons for wanting to be the one to get to the Last Wish first. Amazingly all these extra characters still have their own satisfying arcs that aren’t underdeveloped and they way the story brings everyone together to resolve things in a heartfelt way is impressive.
Honestly, I think “impressive” is the word to describe Puss in Boots: The Last Wish because it’s far more entertaining and visually interesting than one ever could’ve thought it’d be. The way it twists fairy tales/nursery rhymes is fun, it has humour and heart throughout, and it’s just a beautiful film to look at with a wonderful story. 5/5.
In the wake of King T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) death, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) must lead the people of Wakanda as they fight to protect their home from outside forces – whether that’s member states of the UN, or the nation of Talokan in the deep depths of the ocean led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta).
It’s pretty much impossible to talk about Wakanda Forever without talking about the passing of Chadwick Boseman and the affect this had on the film. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler incorporated Boseman’s passing into the film and needless to say in the first five minutes I was already getting emotional. This makes Wakanda Forever an almost unique grieving experience. All the characters who knew T’Challa are mourning his passing, and so are the actors playing them, and so are you as you watch this film. It’s easy to imagine that in some of the big emotional scenes, the actors used their grief for their friend and co-worker to fuel their characters grief.
There’s a lot going on in Wakanda Forever with new characters and a new civilisation with a lot of backstory introduced and some aspects were more interesting than others. Martin Freeman’s CIA agent Everett Ross is back and while his character is somewhat integral to moving the plot forward to begin with, it does kind of feel like the film grinds to a halt every time it leaves Wakanda to see what he’s up to in America. Wakanda Forever is close to three hours long and it’s moments like this that makes you feel the runtime.
The whole cast is incredible but Bassett, Huerta and Letitia Wright are truly standouts. Angela Bassett gives a couple of powerful and emotional monologues and the fact that one is almost soft with her contained rage while the other has her pain over flowing just shows how talented she always has been. Plus, the first happens in the UN in front of a majority white audience while the latter happens in the throne room in Wakanda, infront of the other tribal leaders and her people – once again showing how these characters have to be uniquely aware of their race and power even when they’re from one of the most technologically advanced countries in thise universe.
Namor is such an interesting villain – though really he is more of an antihero – and Huerta is just so compelling that your eyes never leave him whenever he’s on screen. His Namor is principled and loyal but on the flipside, he can be very intimidating and, like the first sequence where the people of Talokan attack, almost frightening. Letitia Wright’s Shuri goes through a lot in this film but she’s truly the emotional centre of Wakanda Forever. She’s trying to combine her love and knowledge of science with the realisation that it wasn’t enough to save her brother and if that’s the case how can she protect her people? Her inner turmoil is fascinating and Wright is phenomenal – pretty much every time I felt myself get teary eyed, it was due to her performance.
One of the many things I really appreciated in Wakanda Forever was that it let emotion and drama sit with you. There are jokes or humorous moments in the film – mostly from Winston Duke’s M’Baku who is still an excellent scene-stealer – but they’re used in a way to ease some tension rather than becoming an almost parody of the MCU joke machine as seen in some other MCU movies recently aka Thor: Love and Thunder.
Black Panther won Oscars for Music, Costume, and Production Design and those same Oscar winners are back for Wakanda Forever and I wouldn’t be surprised if they got awards consideration again. Ludwig Göransson’s score has echoes of familiar themes but also plays on the unknown with Talokan, and both Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler make both Wakanda and Talokan feel so alive with their costumes and set design and when it comes to Wakanda, adds to the history and culture we already know. Both Wakanda and Talokan feel so vast and real because of the costumes, sets and props especially as they’ve incorporated African and Indigenous cultures into it all.
Overall Wakanda Forever is a story about grief. How grief is hard and messy and people deal with it in different ways and some ignore grief until it almost consumes them. It still has its action and the Dora Milaje led by Okoye (Danai Gurira) is still awesome and it’s a thrill seeing so many complex and powerful women on screen, working together. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is definitely my favourite MCU film released this year. 4/5.
Now a detective in her own right, Enola Holmes’ (Mille Bobby Brown) detective agency is struggling as she tries to make it out of her older brother Sherlock’s (Henry Cavill) shadow. That is until she gets asked to find a missing girl by her little sister, and soon Enola is entangled in a dangerous conspiracy and her case may even be related to Sherlock’s case and they both will need all the help they can get.
I was a big fan of the first Enola Holmes film and I’m very happy to say the sequel is just as fun and delightful as the original and expands on the characters in an engaging way. In many ways Enola Holmes 2 is incredibly similar to the first film as it may be a different mystery but there’s still the undercurrent of political/feminist themes and the same fourth wall breaking with a wink from Mille Bobby Brown but what this sequel does well is not make these elements seem tired or boring. Look sometimes it’s nice for a sequel to do something vastly different, while other times it’s nice for a sequel to embrace what made the original so entertaining and just do that again. With a lot of Netflix’s action output being stoic, it’s nice that they’re investing in the fun adventures of a plucky young girl in Victorian London.
Mille Bobby Brown continues to shine in Enola Holmes 2 and the referential humour could become grating in lesser hands but with Brown as our lead, she plays Enola as charming and resourceful as ever. Though it is the moments when she is out of her depth, like attending a ball and having to ask young Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) to teach her to dance, that are really interesting as while Enola comes across as self-assured, her independence doesn’t fit into what society deems fit for women and there are some things that she is clueless about.
The mystery itself loses its way a bit in the middle and all the loose ends aren’t tied up particularly neatly but the inclusion of new adversaries – David Thewlis’ Superintendent Grail is fun as it appears that every Holmes has a problem with him, including the matriarch of the family Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) – old friends, and some young romance and rebellion makes it an enjoyable ride.
Having Sherlock involved more in this mystery works without him taking control and pushing Enola out of her own story. He has his own case and while he does help Enola, she helps him too and their awkward personal relationship is more compelling than their working one. Also Cavill’s dry sense of humour as Sherlock while still being very protective of his little sister is brilliant.
I honestly would happily watch Enola and her friends and allies go on many more adventures. A casting choice in a mid-credits scene makes me hopeful that there will be a third film as I need to see more from that person than a cameo. Plus, these films are just fun, lightly feminist, teen girl power escapism and are really enjoyable to watch and we all can use some light, charming fun these days. 4/5.
After surviving the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) become targets of the Capitol as unrest rises in the Districts of Panem. Then when the Quarter Quell is announced, they plus twenty-two other former victors, are forced to return to the arena.
Catching Fire is honestly perfect. It’s one of the best sequels ever and best book to film adaptations. It does exactly what you want from a sequel (even one that’s a bit of a rehash of the original), it builds on the character work done before, increases the stakes and tension, and it leaves you wanting more. Just like when I reread the book, I was amazed that half the film happens before Katniss and Peeta arrive in the arena and you’re never wishing it would hurry up and get to that point. The pacing is truly excellent as the civil unrest throughout Panem in the first half of the film is like an ever-increasing boiling pot of tension, threatening to explode at any moment. Meanwhile the latter half in the arena is tense and exciting as there’s a whole load of new creatures and elements ready to kill Katniss and her potential allies.
Hutcherson’s Peeta and Liam Hemsworth’s Gale are still kind of pushed to the side and like the first film, any thoughts on focussing on a love triangle are soon forgotten as Katniss does what she can to keep herself and those she loves safe. Because that’s the thing throughout the books/films, it’s clear that Katniss does care for both of them but she’s never allowed herself to think of a future where a happily ever after was possible.
The cast is expanded with a whole host of new – or rather former – tributes. Having the competitors being former victors adds an extra edge to this Hunger Games and there’s alliances and friendships that Katniss and Peeta are unaware of. Finnick (Sam Claflin), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Johanna (Jena Malone), Mags (Lynn Cohen) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer) are some of the major players but with everyone having their own agenda it’s hard for Katniss to know who to trust.
Jennifer Lawrence really is fantastic throughout all these films and she’s the backbone to this franchise. The final shot of Catching Fire though is outstanding though. It’s a close up of her Lawrence’s face as Katniss goes through all five stages of grief before staring straight into the camera with a look of fiery determination in her eyes.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is truly an excellent film and is pretty much the gold standard for a YA book to movie adaptation. It’s exciting, heartfelt, and tackles big themes like cruelty and dictatorship in an engaging way. 5/5.
Twenty-nine years after the Black Flame Candle was last lit, two friends Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), accidentally bring back the Sanderson Sisters to modern day Salem and they must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on the world.
I am definitely of the generation that grew up watching Hocus Pocus pretty much every Halloween and I still rewatch it each year, so I was definitely equal parts excited and apprehensive about a sequel to a childhood favourite. Thankfully, I really enjoyed Hocus Pocus 2. It has the charm of the original without overly relying on nostalgia and the same jokes or plot points as the first film.
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy all look like they’re having a blast as Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson. Honestly most of the fun and joy of this film is seeing these three comedic actresses back in these iconic roles and just going for it full throttle. There are a couple of new songs and seeing how the Sanderson Sisters can still be duped by modern technology but they aren’t so naïve as when they first arrived in the 1990s because they do remember the things they saw and learnt then was a nice touch.
Have to give a shoutout to the three young actresses who play younger versions of the Sanderson Sisters at the beginning of the film. Taylor Henderson, Juju Journey Brener, and Nina Kitchen are all brilliant. They each embody the various little quirks each sister has so well that it’s easy to imagine these girls grow up to be the witches we know so well.
The new young heroes are pretty great too. The friendship between Becca, Izzy, and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) is believable and as they’ve grown up in Salem on stories of the Sanderson Sisters, they quickly jump into action rather than have any doubts or disbelief.
Sure, I might be blinded by nostalgia for the original when watching Hocus Pocus 2 but I really did have a good time with it. It’s a fun children’s film and the kind of kids film that adults can enjoy and don’t find any of the jokes or references that annoying. It’s a fun film and a worthy sequel. 4/5.
After revisiting the books for the first time in about a decade it was time to revisit the films – many of which I probably haven’t seen since they were first released.
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games – a fight to the death on live TV until only one victor remains standing. When her younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) is chosen, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) as she and her male counterpart, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives.
From the outset it’s clear the difference between the Capitol and the Districts aka the haves and the have-nots. The Hunger Games opens with two men with brightly coloured hair and vibrant clothes talking about the Games and then cuts to District 12 where a woman screams and everything is bleak and grey.
Even before we get into the arena, the camera work is shaky and frantic. While it works in the arena, encompassing the fear and the adrenalin as the tributes fight to survive and quickly moving away from children’s bloody bodies allowing the imagination to fill in the gaps, in Katniss’s day to day life it feels jarring. I’m not one to feel queasy due to shaky cam, especially not when watching a film on my laptop, but some of the sequences in District 12 did make me feel funny and my eyes hurt due to the camera work.
Some of the most interesting moments in The Hunger Games comes from things we’d never have seen in the book as it was all from Katniss’s point of view. In the film, you get to see the Gamemakers, the people pulling the strings behind the scenes on their holographic screens as they set traps for the young competitors. Again, it goes to show that for people in the Capitol this is just entertainment or just a job but for the tributes it’s the worst time of their life.
I feel like there will be more to comment on performance-wise as the films progress but the likes of Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, and Toby Jones looking like their having a whale of a time. They all play citizens of the Capitol and are used to lives of luxury but Banks manages to ensure that Effie comes across as well-meaning if a bit insensitive as she’s never not on Katniss and Peeta’s side.
Jennifer Lawrence is really does a fantastic job at Katniss. She’s not the most expressive or potentially even likeable character as she’s had to have so much responsibility from a young age but Lawrence makes it work, showing the girl behind Katniss’s stoicism and the moments when she truly lets her emotions out, often when she’s with her sister or Rue (Amandla Stenberg), you truly feel what she’s going through.
Overall, The Hunger Games is a solid, though sometimes a little slow, adaptation and with stellar performances bringing to life such interesting characters it sets the franchise off on a good foot. 4/5.