“We’ve Been Compromised, With Every Citizen At This Planet At Risk. Trust No One…”
With the catalogue of blockbusters appearing on the big screen post-Avengers: Endgame so far this year not exactly managing to hit the same levels of excellence in any way shape or form whatsoever, with the likes of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and X-Men: Dark Phoenix failing to win over both critics and the box office alike, one of Hollywood’s most rusty cinematic franchises is strangely brought back to life in the form of Men in Black: International in a last-ditch attempt to save the day for cinema chains across the world. With the original Men in Black from 1997 still too darn entertaining to be regarded as a guilty pleasure, with a typically sarcastic Tommy Lee Jones and a Will Smith in full-on Fresh Prince-era brilliance resulting in a cinematic partnership for the ages, the subsequent sequel and threequel failed to ignite similar levels of excellence, resulting in sheer bemusement when rumours of a fourth entry was on the way, and with the latest chapter this time being directed by F. Gary Gray, whose work on the excellent, Straight Outta Compton, has somewhat been overshadowed after the not-so excellent, The Fate of the Furious, it’s fair to say that International isn’t the most anticipated movie of the year thus far.
With the usual acting suspects dropped in favour of Thor and Valkyrie themselves, it’s fair to say that the likeable pairing of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson (Avengers: Endgame) is one of the only good things about International, a lifeless, run-of-the-mill, cash-grab which sees Thompson as Molly Wright, a wide-eyed, alien-obsessed dreamer whose experience of the titular darkly attired agents as a young child results in her soon joining up herself and working alongside Hemsworth’s suitably cocky and annoyingly charming, Henry, in order to, you guessed it, save the world against an alien threat known as the hive. With cringe-inducing dialogue, poor storytelling and an over-reliance on forgettable special effects, Gray’s movie prefers the art of nonsensical explosions over a decent plot and whilst the inclusion of Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) as the voice of a clingy, cutesy egg-shaped alien adds a much needed level of comedic spice, International is annoyingly both a gigantic waste of time and talent, adding itself rather nicely to the collection of half-baked summer blockbusters thus far. Neurolyse me now.
Overall Score: 4/10
“The Country Is In A State Of Complete Chaos And The Universe Sends Me You…”
Winning the award for least anticipated sequel of the year, Johnny English Strikes Again sees the return of Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling British secret agent following on from his first appearance on screen in 2003 and its’ sequel, Johnny English Reborn in 2011. Directed by Northern Irish big-screen debutante, David Kerr, the third installment of the spy spoof franchise is ninety minutes of pretty much what you would expect from a Johnny English movie, offering PG friendly slapstick comedy within a selection of sketches which are marginally worked around the thinnest of narratives which sees English hooked back into the payroll of MI7 after every single serving secret agent’s identity across the globe is revealed by an unknown, tech savvy hacker. Whilst most critics will undeniably head into Strikes Again fully aware of the certainty that the next Citizen Kane won’t exactly be waiting for them inside, the real litmus test for Kerr’s movie resides in the way in which it manages to work to its’ strengths, and whilst Strikes Again fails to offer anything fresh or interesting to the catalogue of spy-spoof comedies, Atkinson’s undeniable smirk-inducing talent results in a movie preferably best watched when either drunk or with highly energetic friends. Or even both.
With a high proportion of the funniest set pieces readily available within the movie’s trailer, ranging from a diabolical attempt at utilising cutting edge virtual reality to the complete and utter destruction of a classy, world renowned yacht, Strikes Again does manage to capatalise on Atkinson’s hilarious slapstick persona to a somewhat effective degree, and with the film’s best gag undeniably an elongated riff on a similar comedic routine seen in Jon S. Baird’s 2013 black comedy, Filth, in which English feels the effect of adrenaline enhancing drugs, it’s hard to prevent smiles being cracked even when you know the film as whole is absolute tosh. With the enigmatic presence of Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) chewing the scenery as the opinionated, wine-dependant British Prime Minister, the more the movie remembers it has to at least follow some sort of plot is when it ultimately crumbles to pieces, with Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Jake Lacy (Rampage) managing to supply performances both instantly forgettable and agonisingly dull, and whilst it’s quite sanctimonious to hate on a film not exactly aiming for anyone other than a child-friendly audience, Strikes Again manages to be neither good nor bad, just ridiculous nonsense.
Overall Score: 5/10
“Think Of The One Thing That You’ve Always Wanted. See It In Your Mind’s Eye And Feel It In Your Heart…”
As per the norm of a well-spent 1990’s childhood, Disney movies were indeed the go-to method of escapism for a younger version of myself in which films like The Lion King and Fantasia were at the forefront of what was all and sacred in the world at that specific moment in time, and whilst the original 1991 animated Disney classic adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s famous fairy tale wasn’t exactly the top of my list of favourite animations as a young child, Beauty and the Beast has always been arguably one of the most iconic Disney movies to have ever been released, due mainly to the even more iconic soundtrack which even to this day is immediately quotable and enviously recognisable. Following on from the one-two success of both 2015’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s adaptation of The Jungle Book, this year’s Disney remake is indeed the famous tale of beauty and beast, this time portrayed by Emma Watson and Legion’s Dan Stevens respectively whilst being helmed by director Bill Condon whose previous directorial credits include the good, (Mr. Holmes) the bad, (Candyman 2) and the ugly (Twilight: Breaking Dawn), and whilst this latest version of the classic tale shines brightly in a wide range of different areas, the lack of originality and complete absence of threat reduce it to a movie which is solid but not exactly spectacular.
Whilst last year’s The Jungle Book was a movie which although was aware of the classic songs which encompassed the original Disney classic animation, it too was a film which instead of just rehashing them into a live-action scenario, developed and alternated them enough to both seem wholly organic yet still held a warm sense of appeal for those who loved the original so dearly. With Beauty and the Beast however, Condon’s decision to simply cordon the classic songs into his own adaptation does ultimately seem a slight cop out alongside a narrative which note-for-note follows the blueprint of the 1991 animation without ever having the nerve to swerve off-course and offer something utterly different. In the leading role of Belle, Emma Watson does ultimately seem the correct choice for the part, with her innocent and natural beaming sense of joy the epitome of a Disney princess’s genetic makeup yet the real fun of the movie is to be had with Luke Evan’s Gaston, the egotistic and arrogant killer who makes it his life’s duty to take Belle’s hand in marriage. Whilst the cast is impressive and the effects are magical in places, this adaptation of the famous tale is indeed beaming with beauty but ultimately lacking in substantial bite.
Overall Score: 6/10
Mary Poppins is a character that will stay with many of us for the rest of our lives and will be remembered for many years to come. A tale of a wondrous nanny with magical abilities and a loving heart cemented it’s place in many hearts and minds, even when it was just a book! Saving Mr. Banks details the creation of Mary Poppins and P.L. Travers’ aversion to it’s filming without her specific sign off.
Going into the theatre, the trailer didn’t look all that, but considering I have a soft spot for anything vintage or Disney orientated, I looked forward to exploring the workings and production of a story that was a staple in my childhood. The opening scene of the iconic Disney castle logo was the 1960’s version and kept it’s grainy 30mm film aspect and was an incredible gorgeous but subtle piece even before the movie starts, almost as if it’s taking it’s hat off, bowing in respect to the past.
Jumping into the movie, we follow 2 time lines. The first is obviously the 1960’s era that depicts Travers’ struggles and the weeks she spent in California working on the film. Our second time line is Travers as a young girl in Australia that depicts a life vastly different to her current lifestyle. The stories merge intermittently throughout to give context to certain scenes and motivations. They also help illustrate Travers’ attitudes and aversion to change. The merging of the lines is perfectly done. Nothing is harsh on the eye and you don’t get dropped into another scene that opens up another avenue, it seamlessly blends together. Even though the stories follow the same character, the pieces are juxtaposed against each other. While one starts off happy, it deteriorates while the other flourishes the longer it goes on.
Many scenes are dotted throughout the movie that are just perfect. There is no doubt about it. A mix of the exuberant colours, great acting and a brilliant script that really resonates. A particular favourite was when Travers’ was leaving the US. Through the time she spent there, a personal driver was assigned to drive her where ever she chose. Ralph (Paul Giamatti) was his name. Blissfully unaware to who he was driving about, he would talk about the beauty of life in LA and his disabled daughter. Just before Travers leaves, Ralph found out from his daughter about her and asked for a signature. The ensuing conversation is a real tear-jerker and still stays with me even when I saw it weeks ago.
With a huge cast of actors and many recognisable faces, we understand their abilities. Fortunately, they manage to maintain a high standard of acting that doesn’t diminish. I was extremely surprised to see Colin Farrell appear. I didn’t expect to see so many people. Farrell also has experience as an alcoholic, so jumping into the boots of one isn’t much different to what he used to do. Not being a huge fan of him, I do have to say that he played the role with dignity and portrays Travers Goff as a wonderful human being struck by something difficult to control. Obviously, Tom Hanks is Walt Disney and I really enjoyed his performance, even though I’m hearing complaints about his southern accent. Personally, I have no idea what they are grinding at but otherwise all the acting was superb.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had real trouble trying to find something wrong with the movie. I didn’t want to sit here a praise it endlessly without something to pick on. The only thing I can think of is that I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Disney. Not just the theme park but a little more into the background of Walt. Seeing I’ve run out of things to say, I believe that this movie is worth a good 9/10. Mary Poppins is brilliant story that has influenced countless generations and the premise to delve into it was a great idea while seamlessly blending two time lines into one.