The Kid Who Would Be King (2019) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

The Kid Who Would Be King

A Curmudgeon’s Guide 

Director: Joe Cornish
Writer: Joe Cornish
Stars: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart

I hate using the term, “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” a phrase mostly used by grumpy old curmudgeons to express their contempt for anything with mass appeal to generations other than their own. I suppose I am a grumpy old curmudgeon in some ways. Sorry kids, but your music sucks. The latest Metallica album, though? Man, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

But while that adage kept popping into my mind while watching The Kid Who Would Be King, it wasn’t out of longing for the good ol’ days. But in point of fact, the film is quite unlike what generally passes for family entertainment these days. It isn’t animated, nor is it based on a book series, comics character, video game or line of toys. There’s no questionable language, scatological gags, overt slapstick or any other pandering attempt to garner giggles. Though it’s often quite funny, the film earns its laughs through the characters’ interactions and the situations the story puts them in.

Updating the Arthurian legend with modern kids is a great concept. Writer-director Joe Cornish wisely opts to create a straightforward fantasy-adventure, cleverly acknowledging the more familiar elements of King Arthur’s tale while spinning a fresh story of his own. After drawing Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, from a stone at a construction site, 12-year-old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis…yeah, Andy’s kid) is tasked to stop Arthur’s evil half-sister, Morgana, from returning to wreak havoc on the world. After Merlin (Angus Imrie) arrives to gravely inform him what’s at stake, Alex must recruit both friends and enemies to aid him in his quest, which will take them across England.

Despite running two full hours, the film is consistently engaging and fun, with believable characters performed by an able young cast. Though Patrick Stewart shows up as an older version of Merlin and Rebecca Ferguson plays Morgana, the rest of the adults are peripheral characters. Even Merlin is primarily presented as a 16-year-old who assists and advises Alex and his “knights” in their quest to thwart Morgana. None of the characters come across as composites or broadly-drawn caricatures. Even the two bullies of the film are pretty well-rounded.

Though the film starts a little slow, once things get rolling and they begin their quest, The Kid Who Would Be King is a rousing adventure with some great action sequences bolstered by imaginative special effects (Morgana’s army of demons is particularly impressive). The climactic battle at the kids’ school is genuinely thrilling and often pretty damn funny. Like all family films, there’s an underlying message, of course, and considering the tumultuous state of the world right now, the one presented here couldn’t be more timely. A lot of adults could stand to be reminded of it, too.

Best of all, there isn’t a cynical moment in the entire film. Despite the title – a play on Kipling’s unrelated novel – this isn’t so-much a kiddie flick as it is an epic adventure that just happens to be suitable for the entire family. It’s a damn shame we live in a world where this tanks at the box office while The Emoji Movie rakes in millions (oops…I’m letting the curmudgeon in me show again). On the other hand, Willy Wonka and The Iron Giant were initially bombs and now everybody loves them. Maybe The Kid Who Would Be King can find the audience it deserves on home video, too, or else they might not make ‘em like this anymore. Highly recommended for everybody.

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Guardians (2017) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

GUARDIANS

Director: Sarik Andreasyan
Writers: Andrey Gavrilov (screenplay), Sarik Andreasyan (story)
Stars: Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Sebastien Sisak

From Russia comes a superhero story from director Sarik Andreasyan starring Alina Lalina, Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Sébastien Sisek, Valeriya Shkirando and Stanislav Shirin.

This movie overall is fun, cringy, very formulaic and cheesy.  The action kicks off pretty much from the start and let’s up only to toss is some character backstory. The action itself is good, not great.  The CGI is actually pretty good as well, aside from one glaring use which comes in the form of one of our heroes.

With that said, our heroes are 4 modified humans given abilities during the Cold War.  Kseniya (Alina Lalina) is gifted within visibility, Ler (Sébastien Sisek) has control over rocks (an Earthbender if you will), Khan (Sanjar Madi) is the most visual treat, given super speed and then there’s Arsus (Anton Pampushnyy) who can turn into a bear which is where the glaring CGI use and absurd continuity issues come into play.  

Each transformation has his tearing through his clothes but upon reverting to human form, said articles of clothing are present again.  Laughable at most but easily forgettable.

Our villain, August Kuratov (Stanislav Shirin), is a steroid jacked being capable of “talking” to tech hell bent on world domination. Again, formulaic, but it all works.

This isn’t a must view, nor does it really have any replay value but it’s a solid view and has a good bit of potential.

There is a bonus scene after the credits…which made not a bit of sense (or it did within the film and I just missed it) but it’s there and I assume pertains to a potential sequel.  Either way, enjoy

Rated: B

Shazam (2019) Movie Review By The Movie Couple

Shazam

Director: David F. Sandberg
Writers: Henry Gayden (screenplay by), Henry Gayden (story by)
Stars: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel

Movie Couple here!  We saw Shazam! this weekend!  Remember we are just a married couple that loves movies!  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film experts we are not!  Just a quick reminder of our rating system.

Mrs. Movie Couple and I, rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

Shazam the latest in a strong run of comic book movies, known from this point on as CBMs, is the latest in the DCEU or DC comics line of movies.  It follows in the footsteps of Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman (I know I left out Justice League and Suicide Squad, it wasn’t a mistake). Based on the creation of CC Beck in 1939, Shazam features the origin and adventures of Billy Batson, who with the utterance of a magic word, transforms into a super powerful adult version of himself!  Ironically, in the 30’s and for a long time in publication history Billy’s alter ego was called Captain Marvel way before a young woman named Carol was going by that name at Marvel Studios.

Much to the shagrin of many comic book fans on the internet, that is neither here nor there, just an interesting tidbit.  So much like the comic before it, but with a few modern updates, we learn of the orphan Billy, The Wizard Shazam, his foster family and of course Dr Sivanna and the Seven deadly Sins incarnate!  This film stars Zachary Levi as Shazam! (The hero not the Wizard, that can get confusing) Mark Strong as Dr Sivanna, Asher Angel as Billy, Djimon Hounsou as The Wizard and a fantastic cast of child actors as Billy’s foster family (Faithe Herman, Grace Fulton, Jack Dylan Grazer, Ian Chen, and Jovan Armand).  The family all need to be listed because they all are so good!  Directed by David S. Sandberg perhaps best known for his horror flicks.  Surprise, surprise!  So plot be damned, Kid, Magic, Superhero, Super villain, Evil incarnate!  Do I have to tell you more?  We are not here to spoil any plot.  That is all you should need to know going in!  So did we like it?  Say the word and find out!  Shazam!

So here we go!

Mr. Movie Couple:  I had a blast!   The advertisement for this film is pushing the “Big” meets “Superman” angle and there is no debating that is a big (no pun intended) part of the film, but there is so much more than that!  The superhero is the big sell, but this is first and foremost a family film at heart.  And its a great one!  The message of being selfless, and what a family truly is and the many forms it can take are deep and special in this movie.  It conveys it’s message without a sledgehammer and still provides a really good super hero movie at the same time.  The kids are all written and acted perfectly in this film, but the foster parents are also a great movie couple that need to be spoken of as well.  The foster parents are a mixed and diverse couple as are most of the children in the home.  Again, which makes for a really excellent example for all the kids that are going to see his film.  The humour is perfect and not forced, like a certain other superhero movie that will not be named right now.

Zachary Levi absolutely owns the role of the adult Billy.  His expressions and his delivery of his lines are spot on.  His earnest portrayal of Shazam sells this film.  This movie would live or die on his believability as a boy in a man’s body and boy does he hit a homerun!  He was born to play this role!   Mark Strong as Sivanna does what Mark Strong does best, he can play this type of villain in his sleep.  But what separates this character from his many other characters, is the story behind his evil rise.  No spoilers, but he had an amazing opportunity and lost it, and like many of this generation refuses to take responsibility for that loss.  This creates a very apropos bad guy for today’s audience.  The children as I’ve mentioned were perfect!  And I have to give shout outs to Grazer and Herman as Freddy and Darla they really steal the show!  Yes, I loved this film and recommend it with all the strength of Hercules and the power of Zeus!

Mrs. Movie Couple:  She was not as enthused.  At this point, my poor bride is suffering from Superhero overload.  She is starting to see all caped and non caped crusaders blending together and she finds their origin stories all to often to be cut from the same cloth.  She enjoyed the humour and laughed more than she expected to.  She found the kids adorable and loved the family friendly message and setting to be excellent.  She felt Levi was an amazing Shazam (the hero not the wizard, sorry don’t want you confused).   She couldn’t stand Sivanna, she even commented that Mark Strong seemed to be sleepwalking through this and giving his “Stock Bad Guy” performance (her words).   She even felt that Sandberg’s horror background came out a little too much in his creation of the seven deadly sins, so mothers of young children beware.  Overall, she found it fun, but too much of the same for her taste.  She didn’t hate it, but she would not rush out to see it again.

On the way home, I did most of the talking.  Praising the performances and commenting on the Shazam history from comics to the new film.  It was a mostly one sided conversation, LOL.   I give it 6 Bills, the Mrs. gives it 3 Bills, So we give Shazam 4 Bills!  I say take my money!  I can’t wait to go back!  She says Meh.  So we’ll go with an average of Pretty Good!  Money well spent.

So until the next date night, and I’m told it better not be another CBM (Nobody tell her Avengers: Endgame is only weeks away!)  We will see you next time!  Movie Coupe out!

 

Us (2019) Movie Review By Justin Aylward

US

Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss

Jordan Peele’s new film Us is one of the years most highly anticipated cinema releases of the year. After his debut film Get Out frightened audiences as much as it made them think, Peele has been touted as the next big thing in American cinema. Some cinemagoers on social media have even suggested that – wait for it – Peele scales at the heights only reached by the likes of Stanley Kubrick.

The film stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide, a wife and mother to two young children. Adelaide goes on a family vacation with her husband, Gabe, played by Winston Duke, and the children, Zora and Jason. The destination is Santa Cruz, which sounds nice, but not for Adelaide. It was in Santa Cruz as a child when she wandered off at a seaside fairground that she experienced a traumatic event. In a dark hall of mirrors, Adelaide was confronted by her doppelganger, and can’t forget the deadened face that stared right through her. Now after man years she returns to the scene.

Everyone just wants to have fun but Adelaide can’t shake her nerves. She is wary of the beach, won’t take her eyes off her children, and is standoffish towards Gabe. It appears there is something sinister lurking among the driveways and palm trees.

After some scares at the beach with their part-time, wealthy friends, Kitty and Josh, played by Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker, the family tries to settle in for a quiet evening at home. But then they appear, another family just like Adelaide’s, standing silently in the dark driveway. As they move closer, we can see the figures are doppelgangers. They are bedecked in red jumpsuits and stolid, wide-eyed stares and wielding gold scissors.

As things transpire, it is apparent that the doppelgangers – or the tethered – have risen from the sewers to wreak havoc among the surface dwellers. Terror and dancing ensue in equal measure.There is nothing like hype to ignite cynicism and whether or not this new film can be regarded as anything worthy of classic status remains to be seen. For me, the film is admirable in its scope but fails to chime on any of the high notes it tries to hit. The scares just don’t work. When you are employing from your actors creepy stares and spooky voices you know there’s a creative struggle for solid material. This is kid’s stuff. The jokes are cheap and do nothing more than undercut the scant amount of tension Peele manages to conjure up. The film does nothing noteworthy in any of the familiar set-pieces. The home invasion sequences are quite tiresome in that the story seems to get stuck in its own porridge of ideas, none of which Peele can seem to settle on. Do we really need long passages of exposition from the main antagonist in a horror film? I can just imagine the ever-silent Michael Myers shaking his head.

There is one outstanding moment of invention when Adelaide faces off against Red, her doppelganger; needless to say I have never seen ballet movements used in such a combative way. It is a scene that sizzles and sparkles as the duel is intercut with flashbacks of Adelaide on stage, under lights. I also admire the soundtrack that helps to enliven the film in moments when it threatens to flatline. Peele also shows his potent visualistic skills. He certainly knows how to direct a scene and use the camera to great effect.

Alas, the problems exist in the script. Peele has a lot to say but doesn’t know how to disentangle his ideas in a coherent manner. There are a few unforgivable horror tropes such as the creepy child paintings and the night-time home invasion, which has been done better in more modest film such as The Strangers and The Invitation. There are themes of class struggle, privilege, anti-capitalism, and poverty among others. There are also loosely attached Jungian themes of the dark shadow and the underworld when Adelaide plumbs the depths to face her biggest fear.I also get the feeling that some of these ideas are dropped into the film as a dead-end with no route to a solution. In the future I can imagine film fans puzzling through this film in the way horror fans have done with Kubrick’s The Shining. And I think that is just how Jordan Peele would like it. The film threatens to come to life in the final act but falters again with more needless exposition. 

The twist ending – which feels attached as an obligation after Get Out – does not illuminate everything that precedes it, as the best twists do, but instead it just creates more contradictions in the story. In end the film adds up to nothing more than a hollow exercise; an underwhelming story with few genuine thrills and a complicated palette of ideas that submit the viewer into antipathy.

Triple Threat (2019) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

TRIPLE THREAT

Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Writers: Joey O’Bryan, Fangjin Song (Writer)
Stars: Tony Jaa, Tiger Hu Chen, Iko Uwais

Triple Threat is, for the most part, an action lovers dream come true.

Since this is mainly fan service, one could almost say the story is near pointless but for what it is worth, it serves its grand purpose.  A hit goes wrong, revenge is sought, whole lotta lives are cut short and then you’re finally witnessing what you essentially signed up for. Big names in the martial arts action world going at it Hand-to-hand. It’s not the best, but it works. Throughout the film, should you find yourself paying much attention, it won’t be difficult to cringe a bit at some of the dialogue delvered. Again, this movie is pretty much fan service so most of the cliche moments are destined to be present.

Triple Threat is by no means the film it likely could have been say 10yrs ago when the cast had that much more youth to them.  Some of the combat isn’t crisp but the action delivered is brutally enjoyable.  Overall, this is a good time killer and you get a great cast of action stars mixing it up.

Solid thrills, good action

B-

The Movie Experience

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