Shazam!: Film Review

Image result for shazam]

Billed as a good DCEU movie (a rarity let me tell you), 2019s Shazam! is a film about a boy who gains super powers that he can switch on an off by shouting the name “Shazam”. Billy Batson, a foster child who’s proved a nuisance of every kind to the child protection services, is transported to the realm of a wizard, charged with the task of keeping at bay the 7 deadly sins of the world. Upon returning to the world he knows, he finds he has the ability to transform into a much older, much bigger man. Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, and Asher Angel in lead roles, the film was received very warmly and quickly gained the reputation of being one of the most downright fun superhero movies out there.

A reputation well earned. Shazam! was a strange one for me going into it. I’d seen the trailer and chuckled, but the idea seemed so odd and the tone so out of place that I originally made no plan to see it. “DC’s scraping the bottom of the barrel,” was the thought that went through my head. When I did see it, however, my expectations were far superseded.

Shazam! is a fun, funny, heartwarming film, almost detached fully from its super hero label. That feels appropriate, the tone of the film is a lot more childish and and light-hearted than what has come to be the standard in superhero film these days. Marvel films have a pretty good track record with humor, but it’s always in the form of comic relief in moments of solemnity. The tone of this film is intrinsically light, almost playful. There’s an extent to which that takes away from the consequence of the film, there’s definitely an element of Kick-Ass style casualness (except in that movie people straight up die), which, as someone I saw it suggested, made one care less about the larger plot of the film. I personally didn’t agree with that, the tone that could be said to be dwelling on childishness was for me effective in reinforcing what I thought was given more importance (rightly so) than the mythological aspect of it: the family angle. This was a film about foster families, about the bonds people in less than perfect circumstances make with each other and how important it is to be loved, in that situation as much as any. Possibly my favourite characters in the film were Billy’s final foster parents. There’s a lovely ten-minute bit where they strongly establish the relationships and dynamics within that foster family, maybe my favourite bit of the film. A little flaw is that they could have done a much better job establishing more of a relationship between Billy and the rest of the family, with the exception of Freddy. By the end of the film there’s an awkward question to be asked regarding the strength of Billy’s connection to, say, Pedro, which I wish had been avoided, even if by the process of a couple more scenes. It’s forgivable, and I think the idea comes across potently enough, it just could’ve been stronger.

The way they handle more emotional aspects of the film is admirable on the whole, the scene with Billy and his mother in the hallway is a standout moment. Angel (Billy) is good throughout, but some of the other performances are very child-actor-y. Mark Strong and Zachary Levi are very good, but I had a consistency issue with Levi. His kid-in-a-man’s-body is excellent, but I don’t know how far he was playing the same character that Angel was. Strong is, as I mentioned, very good, breathing some life into a character whose villain-plot is good until the scene with the father, after which it’s just boring. The mythology of the seven sins and the wizards in general feels a little incidental and not particularly engaging. There’s one aspect I loved though, not really by way of the mythology but it’s related so I’ll give it the win. When the wizard calls on Billy, it’s for lack of a better option. After years of searching for someone worthy enough to carry on his responsibilities and coming up short, he has to settle for someone who isn’t necessarily pure of heart. I like the idea that represents. I like the idea that someone who is worthy isn’t necessarily pure of heart, in fact, they can’t be. It gives me hope for the idea that we could all be that person if we chose to be.

I haven’t said enough about the comedy. Shazam! is almost first and foremost a comedy. Along with the effervescent Zachary Levi, who can carry a comic scene all by himself, the film has some really intelligent comedy writing. It feels really great to see that kind of writing in the context of a film that has juvenility in its core, I like that those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Make no mistake about it, this is a pretty hilarious film with a light hearted sense of humor (another thing you wouldn’t normally think possible).

All in all, I really liked Shazam!. It’s far from a perfect film, and it’s far from sophisticated, but that’s not the promise of the film. It wasn’t trying to be a higher cinema piece of art, so I don’t measure it by that yardstick. What it ended up being was quite a light hearted appeal to human connection, and, while it was by no means done exceptionally, it was a lot of fun. It feels all kinds of weird to think that they might try to incorporate this into the DCEU, in fact, I kind of wish they don’t even make any sequels to this one. It feels pure enough as a stand-alone, and I really hope DC has the sense not to ruin something good they’ve got.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score –  72/100                                                                                Aryamaan’s Score –

The Front Runner: Film Review

Image result for the front runner

Hugh Jackman’s (or the Jack-Man as I like to call him) latest project took the form of former Presidential candidate Gary Hart biopic titled The Front Runner. Jackman plays Hart as the lead in the film which also stars JK Simmons, Vera Farmiga, and Bill Burr among others. The film is about the true story of a presidential front runner named Gary Hart who led the Democratic Primary race by a 12-point margin. His ideas were revolutionary and his middle name popularity as the primary grew nearer, but his campaign eventually fell to pieces in the space of three weeks after news of an affair he had sank his moral credibility. The film, after it released, was discussed for Oscar recognition; however, it did not end up being nominated for any major awards.

I knew full well before watching this film that I was going to like it. Idealistic politicians, a romantic message, and Hugh Jackman; what could I possibly not like about this film? I was surprised, neither pleasantly nor particularly unpleasantly, by the effect the film had by the time I was done with it. Gary Hart, portrayed in all his likability and charisma, is portrayed in equal part as the flawed individual that he was. Jackman is very, very good as Hart; well cast for one thing, and you can see the amount of research he’s done. There’s a veritable mine of anecdotal information regarding the ways in which Jackman was allowed in to the Harts’ lives in the preparation stage of the film, and you can see that he’s put it to good use. Aside from him I’d say the acting is pretty standard/average. Nothing stands out, with the possible exception of the omnipresent JK Simmons, as anything more than actors acting.

The writing, however, makes up for a lot of the potentially bland performances. While perhaps not groundbreaking, the film has the striding pace demanded of many and most political dramas. Razor sharp turn of phrase and some truly potent, if a little grandiose, monologue writing add up to an engaging and pulsating watch. There exists, however, a painful lack of depth to the lot of it. The film is provoking without a doubt, but one gets the feeling of taking a leisurely dip into some of the issues discussed as opposed to a deep dive. Some would, I’d imagine, find this ponderous. I can see that interpretation, and even empathise with it to some extent, but I feel like the occupation of the big screen and the microphone that comes with it calls for more of a sturdy stance. I like that they never explicitly say whether or not the rumours of the affair were true; that feels in-keeping with the message that Hart projected: That’s not important. Ambiguity in that sphere is almost called for, but I feel like they could have done more for the discussion of the behaviours of the media and the composition of integrity in public office. Obviously they explore that, reasonably well, I might add, but it could be a lot less surface level.

The film certainly does ask questions. As much as they could have gone deeper, the over-arching message is one I absolutely love, and for that reason I do think the more people who watch this film the better. You find yourself furious with the newspaper you read that morning for the behaviours of its counterparts during the events of this film, while at he same time you have to wonder if they have a point. Is having an affair enough to invalidate all the visionary ideas a man has for the leadership of a country? It should come down to which matters more, but the reality is a lot more complicated than that. You find yourself contemplating the question, seeing as it’s being pretty much directly asked, “is Hart a victim or a perpetrator?” The prominence of that question in the film, along with the aforementioned fact that they never really tell you what is and is not true, results in a tug on your heart as you hate the behaviour of the tabloids masquerading as broadsheets.

All in all, a film definitely worth the watch. Jackman’s performance, with the aid of some skilful penmanship, manages to carry for a lot of the film’s ideological shortcomings, and the point they’re making is a potent one. Hart gives a speech, close to if not at the very end of the film, where he as good as breaks the fourth wall to deliver the film’s ultimate warning: If we allow these things to continue, we risk ending up with exactly the leaders we deserve. A thought well worth two hours of your time.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 72/100                                                                       Aryamaan’s Score –

The Front Runner: Film Review

Image result for the front runner

Hugh Jackman’s (or the Jack-Man as I like to call him) latest project took the form of former Presidential candidate Gary Hart biopic titled The Front Runner. Jackman plays Hart as the lead in the film which also stars JK Simmons, Vera Farmiga, and Bill Burr among others. The film is about the true story of a presidential front runner named Gary Hart who led the Democratic Primary race by a 12-point margin. His ideas were revolutionary and his middle name popularity as the primary grew nearer, but his campaign eventually fell to pieces in the space of three weeks after news of an affair he had sank his moral credibility. The film, after it released, was discussed for Oscar recognition; however, it did not end up being nominated for any major awards.

I knew full well before watching this film that I was going to like it. Idealistic politicians, a romantic message, and Hugh Jackman; what could I possibly not like about this film? I was surprised, neither pleasantly nor particularly unpleasantly, by the effect the film had by the time I was done with it. Gary Hart, portrayed in all his likability and charisma, is portrayed in equal part as the flawed individual that he was. Jackman is very, very good as Hart; well cast for one thing, and you can see the amount of research he’s done. There’s a veritable mine of anecdotal information regarding the ways in which Jackman was allowed in to the Harts’ lives in the preparation stage of the film, and you can see that he’s put it to good use. Aside from him I’d say the acting is pretty standard/average. Nothing stands out, with the possible exception of the omnipresent JK Simmons, as anything more than actors acting.

The writing, however, makes up for a lot of the potentially bland performances. While perhaps not groundbreaking, the film has the striding pace demanded of many and most political dramas. Razor sharp turn of phrase and some truly potent, if a little grandiose, monologue writing add up to an engaging and pulsating watch. There exists, however, a painful lack of depth to the lot of it. The film is provoking without a doubt, but one gets the feeling of taking a leisurely dip into some of the issues discussed as opposed to a deep dive. Some would, I’d imagine, find this ponderous. I can see that interpretation, and even empathise with it to some extent, but I feel like the occupation of the big screen and the microphone that comes with it calls for more of a sturdy stance. I like that they never explicitly say whether or not the rumours of the affair were true; that feels in-keeping with the message that Hart projected: That’s not important. Ambiguity in that sphere is almost called for, but I feel like they could have done more for the discussion of the behaviours of the media and the composition of integrity in public office. Obviously they explore that, reasonably well, I might add, but it could be a lot less surface level.

The film certainly does ask questions. As much as they could have gone deeper, the over-arching message is one I absolutely love, and for that reason I do think the more people who watch this film the better. You find yourself furious with the newspaper you read that morning for the behaviours of its counterparts during the events of this film, while at he same time you have to wonder if they have a point. Is having an affair enough to invalidate all the visionary ideas a man has for the leadership of a country? It should come down to which matters more, but the reality is a lot more complicated than that. You find yourself contemplating the question, seeing as it’s being pretty much directly asked, “is Hart a victim or a perpetrator?” The prominence of that question in the film, along with the aforementioned fact that they never really tell you what is and is not true, results in a tug on your heart as you hate the behaviour of the tabloids masquerading as broadsheets.

All in all, a film definitely worth the watch. Jackman’s performance, with the aid of some skilful penmanship, manages to carry for a lot of the film’s ideological shortcomings, and the point they’re making is a potent one. Hart gives a speech, close to if not at the very end of the film, where he as good as breaks the fourth wall to deliver the film’s ultimate warning: If we allow these things to continue, we risk ending up with exactly the leaders we deserve. A thought well worth two hours of your time.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 72/100                                                                       Aryamaan’s Score –

Scott Pilgrim vs The World:Film Review

Image result for scott pilgrim vs the world

A cult classic of as many cults as there are, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a comedy meets action meets fantasy film. Casually sporting one of the greatest casts of all time, including Michael Sera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Anna Kendrick, Allison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, and more, the film is directed by the reputed Edgar Wright, known best for 2017s Baby Driver and the Cornetto Trilogy. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World follows the story of Scott Pilgrim as he tries to date the elusive Ramona Flowers. Before he can do that, however, he must defeat her 7 evil exes.

I’m very confused. Right off the bat, this is a weird movie that requires a LOT of acquired taste to really enjoy. There’s an element of style over substance about it (my nemesis) and the humour is decidedly unusual. I laughed during the film, hard too (vegan part. You best believe I’m talking about the vegan part), but even for me a lot of the jokes were just odd. I’m trying to decide if I find Michael Sera’s style of awkward humour funny and endearing or pissing off. It differs moment to moment, sometimes he’s hilarious, but for the most part I personally just find it meh. Some of the humour is really really clever though, characters like Michael Comeau, a minor character who doesn’t have an unfunny line in the film, are beautiful to the extent that I almost wish we’d seen more of him and less of the intentionally stumbling and spluttering Sera. While some of it was laugh-out-loud funny, a lot of it just fell out weirdly. Some of the puns, though probably intentional in their tragedy, are painful. Not only that, but the bits where everything suddenly turns into a video game? Weird. Please stop.

The action isn’t actually terrible, but it feels so out of place. I can see a universe where it might appeal to someone, but it isn’t mine. The image of Michael Sera doing Smash Bros-style combos would be hilarious at first if you weren’t busy checking your blood for cocaine concentration, and that moment goes away pretty quickly. The camera work is actually really impressive if you think about it, but you’re so busy confused as hell that the clever transitions and genius subtleties are completely missed: had my brother not pointed them out after the fact lord knows I’d never have noticed if I saw the film a hundred times. There are moments when the attention to detail is noticeable and not strange at the same time (when people die, a pile of coins in the distinct shape of a body lie where they used to be. That’s a lot of effort for what is an inherently small thing), but they are less often than they ought to be.

All of the above considered, though, I actually really enjoyed the last twenty minutes or so. Frankly, until that point, I was looking pretty regularly at my watch waiting for this thing to end. I think I’d give more of a damn if they built Scott and Ramona’s relationship as a thing worth fighting for, but for all intents and purposes this thing was a fling (why it even got that far I don’t understand). Despite the stale development of that relationship, however, I have to admit that the last twenty minutes are a little too entertaining not to enjoy. Maybe it had something to do with the realisation that the thing was almost over, but I did genuinely find the last twenty minutes funny, not weird, and even potent in certain situations. I don’t know if it’s enough to save the film in my eyes, but it was something and that’s not nothing.

I should clarify, because it might not be clear: I did not hate this movie. The fact is this is a very niche, unusual film that just isn’t for everyone. I found a lot of it funny, but I found just as much and more of it weird. That might be you too, or it might your thing and if it is then this film is for you, it just definitely wasn’t for me.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score –  54/100                                                                          Aryamaan’s Score – 51/100