comedy

REVIEW: Chi-Raq (2015)

Fed up with the violence on the streets of her city due to the rivalry between the Spartans led by her boyfriend Demetrius (Nick Cannon) and the Trojans led by Cyclops (Wesley Snipes), Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) rallies the Spartans’ and the Trojans’ lovers to withhold sex until there is peace.

Directed by Spike Lee, Chi-Raq is a modern-day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. Whether because of its ancient Greek play roots, or because it’s a musical, the dialogue in Chi-raq has a rhythm to it and often rhymes. In terms of dialogue it reminds me of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet in a way, but Chi-Raq is still its own unique thing.

Chi-Raq offers commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement, with names of real people who have been murdered being mentioned throughout, and Americas’ obsession with guns in general. While all the characters are affected by gun violence in some way, it is Jennifer Hudson’s Irene who is at the centre of it all when her young child is killed. She’s in mourning but with the help of Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack) she takes part in their own protest against the killing of innocent bystanders.

Besides the broader social commentary, Chi-Raq also has some brilliant female characters and shows off the power of solidarity between women which was fantastic. The heart and soul of Chi-Raq is Lysistrata. She’s funny, strong and determined. She unifies people in a way that no one could’ve expected and Teyonah Parris is magnificent.

Everything about Chi-Raq is big and bold and very stylish. The music and songs are catchy, and the dance routines are often over the top but everything about it works so well. It’s message is obvious but it also manages to be a film that’s fun and full of characters with depth.

Chi-Raq is striking and as about as subtle as a brick to the face but with some incredible performances, especially by its female leads, it’s a funny yet powerful film. 5/5.

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REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War but soon he’s roped into helping Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) and her father Hank (Michael Douglas) who are attempting to travel to the Quantum realm in the hope to find her mother still alive.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a visually dynamic film. It has fun with the whole concept of people shrinking and growing, and to make things different compared to the first film, it also has cars and even buildings shrinking to tiny sizes. The fights are innovative, and having Hope become the Wasp is great as she has wings and blasters, making her fights just that bit different to Ant-Man’s.

After the intensity of Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is just a good action-comedy. Like the first Ant-Man film, Ant-Man and the Wasp has small-scale and personal stakes. Hope and Hank are desperate to find their lost mother and wife, Scott just wants to be a good dad to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), and even the main villain Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) doesn’t have world-domination intentions, and instead has a personal stake in the Quantum realm technology Hank Pym has created.

It’s the brilliant chemistry from its cast that makes Ant-Man and the Wasp so much fun and enjoyable. The banter between Scott, Hope and Hank is great and the way they all work together, however reluctantly to begin with, is fun to watch. Scott’s ex-criminal friends Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.) bring the jokes, with Peña stealing just about every scene he’s in. There is almost an abundance of characters. FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is almost constantly watching Scott, and businessman Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) want the technology Hope and Hank have been building. There’s a lot of people after our main trio and one has to think that the film could’ve probably lost one antagonist and not lost much in the way of the actual plot.

Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t ground-breaking but it’s fun. The many different types of familial relationships are what is at the films core and the action sequences are always entertaining. It’s just the sort of easy-watch summer superhero film you need after Infinity War. 4/5.

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

As Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepares to open the hotel on a Greek island like her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) always dreamed of doing, she learns about how her mother as a young woman (Lily James) discovered the island and found love and heartache along the way.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the sequel to the hit 2008 film Mamma Mia! and it manages to be a sequel and a prequel at the same time. Nearly the entire cast of the original film are back, and their chemistry is just as good all these years later. There’s some fun editions too with Andy Garcia as the hotel manager and Cher as Sophie’s grandmother. The young cast all do a fantastic job of bringing their own take to the characters we already know. Lily James has big boots to fill with Donna, but she is great as a young Donna who is fun, adventurous and loving. The moment when she starts singing “Mamma Mia!” when she’s broken hearted but then turns it into a moment of strength and joy is infectious.

The songs here are a mixture of the well-known ABBA songs, a lot of which were naturally featured in the first film, and some lesser-known B-sides but they were no less enjoyable. There’s a combination of sad songs and the toe tapping feel-good songs that will have you dancing in your seat. The songs, the drama and the characters all come together to make Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just as entertaining as the first film.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a love letter to the relationship between Sophie and Donna. They have such a wonderful mother/daughter relationship and this film manages to make you cry over them. It’s beautiful to have this relationship being the heart of the film, and the story works so well because both characters don’t have to be on screen for you to see how much they mean to one another.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is also very funny. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters are scene-stealers as Donna’s best friends Tanya and Rosie, and their younger counterparts Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies are also brilliantly funny.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a film that plays with all your emotions. It’s surprisingly sad and touching at times but overall it is a funny and joyful film that makes you forget that the real world isn’t all blue skies and dance numbers for the moment. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Meddler (2015)

Marnie (Susan Sarandon) doesn’t know what to do with herself after her husband dies so she moves closer to her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne) and soon befriends Lori’s friends and tries to fully intergrate herself into Lori’s life.

The Meddler is about grief. It’s been over a year since her husband died but Marnie misses him terribly and suddenly has way more money than she knows what to do with thanks to his life insurance payout. She becomes overly generous because of that, paying for her daughter’s friend Jillian’s (Cecily Strong) wedding and buying expensive gifts for just about anyone she meets. She even befriends Apple store worker Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael), convincing him to take night classes and then even driving him to and from them.

The problem with Marnie is I did not like her. I understand why she is being so interfering and clingy as it’s because she’s still grieving and is focussing on everyone around her instead of thinking about her dead husband but that still didn’t stop me from wanting to throttle her. While Lori obviously still loves her mother, even though she annoys her a lot of the time, as a viewer I had no fond feelings for her at all.

The Meddler is heartfelt and sometimes funny too. The performances are all great and Sarandon is a standout but that wasn’t enough to get me to look past how much I disliked Marnie. Unfortunately my dislike of Marnie had a knock on affect and made me dislike the film itself. 2/5.

REVIEW: Deadpool 2 (2018)

Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is living life to its fullest by killing a load of bad guys and being in love with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). But when time traveller Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives with one aim – kill young mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) – Deadpool must bring together a superpowered team to stop him.

Deadpool 2 is the anticipated sequel of the surprise hit of 2016, and this sequel is just as fun, outrageous and violent as the first film. There’s a bigger scope (and budget) here and for the most part it pulls it off. The special effects do get a little ropey towards the end of the film, it’s almost as if they filmmakers had bigger aspirations than their budget, but the action sequences and fights are still well-shot and exciting. The surprising thing about Deadpool 2 is that it has a lot of heart and, for the most part, knows when to have those serious moments.

The new characters in this film are great. While it takes a while for Cable to make his entrance (and once he does he goes away again for a little while) he is captivating every time he’s on screen. He’s a total, almost unstoppable badass and his interactions with Deadpool are great. The fight sequence in a prison is brutal.

Probably the stand-out new character in Deadpool 2 is Domino (Zazie Beetz). Her superpower is being lucky and the sequences that show off that power are incredible. It’s not just herself who is lucky, her luck affects things around her so watching her fight is so much fun.

It’s the interactions between Deadpool and all these new, and old, characters that stand out to me. While the first film was great, it was naturally solely focused on Deadpool, but this time having him surrounded by a team leads to many great character moments that are often hilarious. This is still very much Deadpool’s film, he’s just got some great back up.

Deadpool 2 is most definitely still a comedy and there’s jokes and fourth-wall breaks flying almost constantly. Personal my favourite jokes are the self-referential ones to the X-Men films and superhero films and characters in general – there’s a Hawkeye-related one-liner that I found myself laughing at very loudly even though Hawkeye is my favourite Marvel character.

Deadpool 2 is bigger than the first film, and possibly even better (though it’s been a while since I’ve seen it). It’s funny, action-packed and introduces some great characters that I’d love to see more of. I’m planning to get my hands on as many comics featuring Domino as possible. Oh, and there’s a couple of mid-credits scenes too that are brilliant so make sure you stick around for them! 4/5.

REVIEW: The Terminal (2004)

When there’s a military coup in his home country while he’s flying to America, Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is forced to take up temporary residence in JFK’s terminal building as he is not allowed to set foot on American soil.

The Terminal is a really sweet heart-warming film that grows on you as the story progresses. It’s tough to see Viktor struggle because he has a limited grasp of English and doesn’t understand what customers agent Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) is telling him about his country. When Viktor sees the news for the first time your heart-breaks for him and it continues to break for him as he struggles to survive in the terminal building with no money and no food.

Over time Viktor begins to make friends with various airport staff including Enrique (Diego Luna) who works in catering, baggage handler Mulroy (Chi McBride) and cleaner Gupta (Kumar Pallana). How his friendship, and English skills, grow over the course of the film is lovely. Because Viktor is such a fixture in the terminal building, pretty much everyone who works there, in the shops, in the food court and in security, get to know him.

An unlikely friendship, and even romance, blossoms between Viktor and air stewardess Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). There’s some crossed-wires as Amelia doesn’t understand that he actually lives in the airport, even though he never really lies to her.

Viktor’s story is like that of the American Dream – or at least what the American dream should be. He always displays a kindness and compassion towards others and in turn receives help and respect and brings out the best in those he encounters.

The Terminal may not be considered one of director Steven Spielberg’s best or most memorable films, but it’s a lovely film about people, relationships and doing what you believe is right. It’s film that balances comedy and drama very well and it’s just a wonderful film. 4/5.

REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

My original review of Thor: Ragnarok from October 2017 is here.

Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) but he must find a way to escape and return to Asgard, where Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is set to takeover.

Thor: Ragnarok is a weird and wonderful comedy superhero film. It’s bright and colourful, with wacky characters, costumes and settings. It’s very different to the previous Thor films which can be a little jarring but once you accept that it’s showing a different side to these characters, it’s a fun ride.

It’s the characters and their interactions that makes Thor: Ragnarok. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back and once again you’re not entirely sure if he can be trusted, but through his conversations with Thor you see a different side to their relationship. There’s so many moments in this film where you can see their history and how they really are brothers who have grown up together. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a hard-drinking scavenger and a really interesting new character. Her banter with Thor, and playfulness with the Hulk are unexpected but great. When Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk (and also Bruce Banner when he makes an appearance) are together, or any combinations of thereof, their chemistry is clear to see.

The action sequences are a lot of fun and exciting. Seeing Thor and Hulk battle is a real joy to watch while the battle for Asgard between Thor, his companions and Hela is one of the best third acts in a Marvel movie. It’s funny, compelling and has a fair few unexpected moments.

There are some uneven moments in Thor: Ragnarok when it comes to balancing the comedy with the drama. Mostly it works, but a couple of times a joke undercuts the emotion of a scene when is a shame.

Thor: Ragnarok is a lot of fun. It’s bizarre but still manages to have some of the best character development we’ve seen for Thor for ages. It also has more serious themes like colonialism and refugees, while still being very funny. 4/5.