Tag Archives: Elizabeth Banks

Brightburn (2019) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Brightburn Review

Director: David Yarovesky
Screenwriters: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn
Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn

OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one. A spaceship crashlands in Kansas. A farmer and his wife investigate and find a baby inside. Since the couple are childless and have been trying everything to become parents, they decide to keep the boy and raise him as their own. The comparisons with Superman’s origin story are no coincidence, because this film posits a very interesting question; what if, despite loving parents and all the corn-fed wisdom in the world, Superman had turned out bad?

Unlike Clark Kent, young Brandon Breyer’s (Jackson A. Dunn) powers don’t manifest until his twelfth birthday (aliens obviously knew the exact date he was going to land on Earth and use the same calendar as we do) and then the straight-A student and all-round nice kid starts to change. It’s a very creepy concept to explore what puberty with superpowers would be like in the wrong hands. Brandon’s attraction to a classmate leaves her creeped out and terrified of him as he quickly crosses that line between infatuated kid and violent stalker. His parents do their best to support him and keep him on the straight and narrow, but the voices whispering in Brandon’s head seem to have much more influence.

What follows is closer to a slasher movie than a superhero movie, with some of the goriest injuries and kills I’ve seen on-screen for quite a while. Brandon soon realises he’s ‘superior’ to everyone else and doesn’t have to do what anyone tells him. Elizabeth Banks plays his mother and gives a great performance. She’s one of those moms who’ll say: ‘My kid wouldn’t do that’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A line earlier in the film tells us her own parents had already written her off by that age, and she’s determined not to do the same. Brandon’s dad is more level-headed about what his adopted son is becoming, but he’s unable to stop him, despite increasingly desperate measures.

Brightburn isn’t officially part of the DCU; there’s no comic or graphic novel that this is based on, but I think the film-makers are hoping he will become an honorary member. During the closing credits there are oblique references to Aquaman and Wonder Woman, which suggests that Brightburn does exist in this same world. This movie does something that even Marvel haven’t attempted (yet) and given us a full film devoted to a bad guy’s origin story. It’s not one for the kids though; it’s got its fair share of F-bombs and the deaths are really visceral.

The other thing that separates it from the majority of superhero movies is the budget. Brightburn only cost $6M and at the time of writing this the box office figures collected two days after release show it had already taken $17M. That’s not big money for a superhero film, but with this low budget it’s already well in the black, so I hope that means a sequel will get green-lit quickly.

I like this premise and I really enjoyed Brightburn. It’s a nice twist to explore after years of superheroes who are committed to doing the right thing, and I think there’s a lot more mileage to be had out of this idea. If they take the time to develop this character properly, DC might have a supervillain worthy of bringing the gang together again for if they ever attempt another Justice League type movie.

 

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Brightburn (2019) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

Brightburn Review

Director: David Yarovesky
Writers: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn
Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see Superman completely high off Red Kryptonite?  Of course, we all have and thanks to Brightburn, we get a pleasantly good look at what NOT having an emotional tie to humanity can do to a overpowered being.

Let’s be very clear, this is absolutely a predictable film from start to finish but none of that takes away from the outcome.  When the Breyers (Banks/Denman) try for some time to conceive a child, prayers are sent from above when Brandon (Dunn) drops in on their farm one night.  They raise him as their own over the next 12 years of his life assuming all is well until one night “home” begins to call to Brandon. Now if you’ve seen just about any Superman film then you know the origin well.  Instead of accepting the task of heroics though, simply flip that script to taking over the world and you’re good to go.

Brightburn is a great, gory thriller, some emphasis on the gore.  It’s been some time since a mainstream film delivered brutality to the screen and you’re really never let down much once Brandon turns.  As he playfully stalks his prey, the hits come hard an swift.  You want to feel bad for some but really, any fan of superhero films has likely been waiting for this level of darkness and will cheer on every bleak moment delivered.

Simply put, Brightburn is no prestigious award winner but it’s a lot of fun and well worth the time.  Gather up a group and watch it together.  Enjoy

B+

The Happytime Murders (2018) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

The Happytime Murders

Director: Brian Henson
Writers: Todd Berger (screenplay by), Todd Berger (story by)
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Bill Barretta, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph

The Happytime Murders reminded me so much of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in many ways. Instead of “Toons” being the second class citizens of the world, it is the puppets who are disrespected and when the cast of a ’90s puppet TV show begin to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet Phil Philips (Barretta) takes on the case.

Released in late Summer 2018 the movie was already receiving bad publicity as the Sesame Workshop sued the team behind The Happytime Murders for the tagline, “No sesame. All street,” claiming that the film tarnished their reputation. Interestingly the lawsuit was rejected by the courts and soon after, the studio issued a statement, saying they were very pleased that the ruling reinforced what the studios intention was from the very beginning and that was to honour the heritage and memory of The Jim Henson Company’s previous creations while making a clear distinction between any Muppets or Sesame Street characters and the new world Brian Henson and team created. Personally I feel the tag line was pretty weak to begin with and wasn’t worth the hassle of a law suit.

The storyline is a classic whodunnit template and I think this is probably the only negative I had with the film. The plot was a little predictable and the so-called twist you could see a mile off. Now I have that out the way I can honestly say that I actually enjoyed most of the film. Melissa McCarthy’s performance as Detective Connie Edwards, a former police partner of Philips is great. McCarthy in her mannerisms and delivery remind me so much of John Goodman. Edwards is very similar to Philips in beliefs and police protocol. I think the chemistry worked when both former partners were at loggerheads with each other the most. The in-house fighting and line delivery made me laugh and I don’t mind admitting that.

Voicing Phil Philips was Bill Barretta. A veteran voice actor who has a long line and history with a lot of Jim Henson made productions. I’ll be honest and say although I was a massive “The Muppet Show” fan growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s I didn’t care too much for the cinematic exploits of the Muppet gang and the name Bill Barretta wasn’t that familiar with me. Hey we didn’t have IMDb back in the day to check the cast to see who voiced who. Barretta is terrific as the ex-Cop. Grumpy, bitter and carrying a massive chip on his shoulder towards his ex-partner Edwards was good to watch. 

The Happytime Murders is a technically successful movie. Back in the day of the muppets or to be fair most puppetry on TV we had to accept our favourite characters had to be behind a desk and we only saw the top half of their body. Throw into that, we could clearly see the rods controlling their arms. It didn’t bother us watching them entertain but that was then and this is now. The film boasts some very clever techniques in making us believe puppets live amongst us. We witness them crossing the road, walking down the street, eating in restaurants. It’s all here and shot beautifully. The tone of the film is also a plus point. The humour is evidently adult orientated and possibly in the same vain as Ted or Team America. Very close to the bone humour and at times very surreal but always funny. The characters whether puppets or human connect well and this is another element of the film that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Put it this way, if the puppets weren’t so obviously puppets you would forget that they aren’t real to begin with. 

Brian Henson as Director will probably feel a little disappointed in the audiences reaction and feedback to this film in regards to plot. There is no hiding from it. The fact is you can carry a film with great acting from a good cast and enjoy the delights of the technical aspects to a degree, but if the storyline is weak then people aren’t going to connect with it or for that matter go back to it time and time again. Overall I wasn’t going into the film with high expectations. I liked most of what I witnessed in comedy, performance and visuals but felt the filmmakers missed a trick by not investing too much in the story. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t recommend giving it a watch. In fact I think it has enough in it for a one off enjoyable experience. Recommend.

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

PITCH PERFECT 2

Director: Elizabeth Banks
Writers: Kay Cannon, Mickey Rapkin (based on the book by)
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld

Plot:  After a humiliating commando performance at The Kennedy Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.
Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics  66%    Audience  64%

Why I watched it: I was pleasantly  surprised by the first one, I really enjoyed it.  My two daughters loved it and really wanted to see the sequel, I do think for all three of us the singing and the music were strong selling points.

Thoughts: I really don’t think these films are musicals even though yes there’s singing in it.  It’s more of a competition movie. Don’t really know if we needed a sequel, have to say they’re milking this by turning it into a franchise.

What I like: The high point in this film like the first one is the singing, good voices nice picks of songs and the feel and tone is upbeat and fun.  The film gets by on good will, this is not a mean spirited movie, it’s a lark.

The characters and the actors are the selling point here, the plot is secondary.  Now you can tell they’re going off the first film as we get more Rebel Wilson in this one, she’s a strong presence and she is very funny.  Anna Kendrick is once again the glue for the film, she doesn’t get that much to do and her arc isn’t very big but she can sing and once again she’s likeable and that’s huge for the film.

The set pieces, the songs, are very good the last two are done very well and there the reasons the films work, big songs and also the thing is produced well.  I liked that the “bad guys” here get a lot of time to show how good they are, it raises the stakes, they’re a very good group and sound great.

What I didn’t like: The plot is paper thin, I won’t give it a pass but the film knows what it is, just wished more thought went into the whole thing other than the songs.
‪Hailee Steinfeld is the big add here and I get it, she sings and is an actor but she adds almost nothing here and takes a big cast and makes it bigger.  The real problem here is the cast is so big people are going to get short changed, Skylar Astin who is likeable and a good singer has a couple of singing moments but gets stuck in the boyfriend role.  They do try sub-plots but they don’t go anywhere interesting.  ‬
The humour in this one isn’t as strong as the first one, they go for way too many easy jokes.  The film isn’t as clever and it makes sense the first one seemed more original and it’s hard for a sequel to be that.  The film uses the actors strong singing talents but sadly not their acting talents, good actors don’t have much to work with here.

Final Thoughts: It’s not as good as the first one, I know not a shock, but it’s a fun film and it does deliver on what it promises and if this carries any weight my daughters loved this movie, it was the songs.

Rating: 6/10

Love & Mercy (2014) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

LOVE AND MERCY

Director: Bill Pohlad
Writers: Oren Moverman, Michael A. Lerner (as Michael Alan Lerner)
Stars: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti

Love & Mercy is the story of Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s struggles with mental anxieties and his psychotic decline during his most creative period creating his masterpiece “Pet Sounds” and another project that wouldn’t see light of day to its full potential until the year 2004. The movie is set during his rise to fame in the 1960’s and the escape from his controlling therapist Dr. Eugene Landy during the 1980’s.

I always had an admiration for the “Hits” of The Beach Boys growing up but admittedly I was more of a Beatles fan and never really appreciated the album “Pet Sounds” as a complete entity. The Beach Boys up to the release of Rubber Soul by The Beatles where classed as a typical American surfing pretty boy group that sang about Surfing and California Girls and at one stage managed by the Wilson brothers Father who had already pigeonholed them into the genre for a safe bet and guaranteed income for the band. That all changed at least for Brian Wilson who was blown away by Rubber Soul and inspired him to create a musical collage that each song would be linked in some fashion to the next song.

It is no secret that Wilson had physical symptoms of depression after years of physical and mental abuse from his father and disapproval of his musical direction from fellow band mate and cousin Mike Love, Paul Dano portrays Brian Wilson in the 1960’s and resembles exudes the look of young Wilson perfectly. He learned how to play piano for the role and in some keys scenes in the development of “God Only Knows”, and sings much of the music in the film perfectly.

Dano has the lion share of this period of Wilson’s life but playing the 1980’s version is John Cusack who looks less like Brian Wilson but in my opinion portrays an even more complex version of him battling his demons and expressing how difficult and challenging it is for Wilson to escape his mental anguish and rebuild his life with future wife Melinda Ledbetter portrayed by Elizabeth Banks.

Banks to be fair departs her more well known comedic film roles, and as Melinda Ledbetter, shows her strength and respect for the man she loves through actions and subtle expressions. Ledbetter is the key to Wilson’s sanity and hope and without her strength I’m not sure Brian Wilson would have saw out the 1980’s if this movie is anything to go by. Their first meeting is a rather strange and awkward one in Wilson wanting to buy a car from her showroom. I don’t think I’ve seen Cusack as intense in a role…well ever.

Playing Dr Eugene Landy is the brilliant Paul Giamatti who strangely has almost a cartoon like role in the film as Wilson’s therapist. He really portrays the role almost as a pantomime villain but by all accounts and from what I have read was a close portrayal of a manipulative, violent and controlling person over Wilson’s life. Giamatti really steals all of his scenes and creates an intensity within the storyline.

I felt Director Bill Pohlad did well to capture both periods of Wilson’s life from two different actors without it becoming unbelievable or disjointed. I have seen this done before and failed in a movie called “The Best of Me (2014) in no matter how good a storyline is or how good the direction is, if you miscast the story will fail. Don’t get me wrong for the first 5 minutes of screen time in the 1980’s I was concerned with the casting of Cusack but his performance carried the movie in this period thankfully. Pohlad also let the audience into the studio to see some of the classics being constructed by Wilson and surprisingly to me a bunch of session musicians who albeit where the best at what they do. Interesting as well was showing some of the petty squabbles between Wilson and his cousin Love and Love’s disapproval of some of Brian’s musical choices.

In Summary, If I was to nitpick was the Director not covering the 1970’s in which I have read since watching this movie where as a tumultuous period in which he spent 3 years in his bed suffering depression and drug addiction. Perhaps Pohlad didn’t want to indulge too much in this period for theme and pacing issues (who knows) nevertheless “Love & Mercy” is a fascinating insight into one of the brilliant minds of the 20th Century and is written beautifully with some top class acting on board. If you are a fan of The Beach Boys you will be reminded of the struggles of Brian Wilson, but if you are a casual fan like me you will enjoy, be enlightened and become a slightly more of a fan of the album “Pet Sounds” Highly Recommend.