It’s nigh on impossible to judge Disney’s new Lion King, a film as stupendously impressive as it is colossally lazy. The question of whether it is enjoyable in its own right or simply from the benefit of its predecessor’s memory may well never find resolution in the viewing. While there’s no denying the technical skill underlying the production – which unites computer generated imagery with virtual reality technology so as to take breaths as they have not been taken since Avatar – a derivative script by Jeff Nathanson steals scene after scene from the original, with little room for fresh perspective. The result is less emotionally engaged than before and only just about as rousing.
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Coming seven years after the last, this fourth Men in Black outing is a lot more fun than you’ve heard but no less deprived of necessity or smarts. Beyond the all new ensemble and switched focal location, not so much has changed with the franchise, which once originated with the Malibu/Marvel comic book series of Lowell Cunningham. Inherent cast charisma is still vital in papering over the slacks and cracks that pester the series’ plots and characters, whilst inventive visuals remain valuable in maintaining basic aesthetic engagement. Here, a Phantom Menace tone pervades and Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray kind of gets away it.
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From Michael Dowse, erstwhile director of The F Word, Stuber is more promising than it gives itself credit for. Aside from its likeable leads, the film boasts a bonafide decent conceit. This is the story of an Uber driver – Kumail Nanjiani’s Stu – who finds himself engulfed by the hunt for a slippery underworld drug lord when LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) hitches a ride. Sadly, an early wrong turn in the film’s navigation misses the opportunity. What follows is a trip over reliant on B roads and over extended by roundabouts. It is small mercy that Dowse’s passengers do, at least, seem committed to ensuring a fun ride.
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Unlike the meticulously plotted Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which everything matters and all instalments work towards the established bigger picture, episodes in Warner Bros.’ Conjuring franchise are only ever as significant as the momentary pleasure they exude. Thus, the events of The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona bear no significance in Annabelle Comes Home, third in the porcelain sub series and seventh overall. Heck, even the previous two Annabelle films feel barely relevant with this one. An all too brief turn for Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine Warren makes for a promising start but in their absence the film suffers a bad case of tonal confusion.
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‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ may be best known as the catch phrase of Pokémon collectors across the English-speaking world but it’s equally the attitude of Hollywood to East Asian franchise hits. Following the likes of Ghost in the Shell, and bolstered no doubt by the peculiar recent return of Nintendo’s Pokémon empire to global megastardom, Detective Pikachu finds the franchise translated for the first time to big budget, live action territory. And yet, unlike most video game properties, this one just about survives the transition. How so? The inspired vocal casting of Ryan Reynolds as a spiky, lightning tailed Pikachu has a lot to do with it.
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In spite of its tag, The Captor – known elsewhere as Stockholm – is neither particularly absurd nor notably true. A seventies period piece from Born to be Blue director Robert Budreau, the film explores the origins of Stockholm syndrome with all the psychological depth of a Liam Neeson B-movie. Whilst a failure to commit to either comic bravura or gruelling tension proves to be Budreau’s fundamental flaw, his casting of Ethan Hawke front and centre saves the film from irredeemable middle of the road ineffectuality.
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Only Marvel would follow the blockbuster to end all blockbusters with a lightweight teen vacation flick. The stakes have rarely been lower. The primary concern? Seeing the hero get his girl. What chutzpah to be so old fashioned. It’s audacious as a feat of mechanical regularity above all else. Indeed, give or take the odd surprise, Far From Home is pretty much business as usual. Almost dull even by the initial trick climax. Those hoping for boundaries to be furthered will be disappointed. And yet, this isn’t dull. It’s far from it. If some feel undersold, many more should be pleased to learn that the studio’s still got it – even if ‘it’ has long since felt inessential.
Continue reading Spider-Man: Far From Home | Review