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Aquaman (2018) Movie Review By Gerry & Elizabeth Brown (The Movie Couple)

Aquaman

Director: James Wan
Screenwriters: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall
Stars: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman

Ok, so we went out and saw Aquaman!  We will be covering this movie in a basic review style.  We will try hard to stay away from spoilers and just let you know whether the movie was good or not.  If you’re looking for a cinematic breakdown of everything from camera angles, movie score details or Federico Fellini homages, well this ain’t that kind of review.

Mrs. Movie Couple and I, are not trying to impress or dazzle you with our cinema knowledge.  What we will do is simply tell you what we liked, what we hated and what we loved!  You will also get two distinct takes on the film in one review!  Finally we will let you know if it was worth paying a sitter for!  Our final ratings system will 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!

We were both excited to see this as the trailers looked great and we have followed Jason Momoa’s Aquaman through the Justice League film and were looking forward to this release.  Now I know a lot about Aquaman, From old comics, through the New 52 and DC Rebirth.  If any of that rings a bell, then you know from whence I come.  We can smell our own.  Mrs. Movie Couple, now her knowledge of Arthur Curry begins and ends at the Super Friends cartoon.  It can be summed up with the quote “Meanwhile at the Hall Of Justice.”  Nevertheless, we both were eager to see this movie.

James Wan has directed a great looking film with plenty of over the top actions pieces.  He deserves a lot of credit for making Aquaman come to life.  But its not all Sebastian and the gang singing Under The Sea.  Let’s get started. You learn early on just who Arthur Curry is and why he is unique to both Surface Dwellers (Us) and Atlanteans. Again trying to stay spoiler free.  He is indeed conceived in love and a special child.  Although, as in many heroic tropes, he just doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. His origin is handled well and is nearly without tragedy, a surprise in comic book characters unfortunately.   Soon he is thrust into the political world of Atlantis.  A world he knows very little about, nor does he care to.  Alas, fate holds all the cards and he is forced to join the fray as Atlantis is setting its sights on his home, the surface world.  A threat he can not ignore.

Before all that, we see him in action!  Apparently after the events of Justice League, he has begun to help those less fortunate than himself more often than before. He is seen rescuing a Russian submarine from high tech pirates. It is here that he meets who will become his long time arch enemy.  It is a good action sequence with a corny line or two thrown in, but what occurs here is the genesis of the villain Black Manta! If you do not know his origin and what sets him against Aquaman for the rest of his life, you will find it all explained right here and it is handled very well. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II does a great job in the role of Manta!  He doesn’t just chew scenery and twirl an evil mustache, his pain is real and his anger can be felt.

Not all of the enemies Aquaman faces can say the same.  Patrick Wilson, who we both love in most everything else he does, plays the despicable (I chose that word on purpose) villain Ocean Master, nearly channeling Daffy Duck the entire way.  The plot of Ocean Master is typical and poor Patrick doesn’t have much to play with here in my opinion.  Again my previous knowledge of Aquaman and Ocean Master may have gotten in the way, but they have had many interactions on the comic page that out shine what we get here, but I nerdly digress.  Willem DaFoe is serviceable as wise Atlantean advisor Vulko, but even he seems to be sleepwalking through this one. Nicole Kidman as AquaMom was great in my opinion, but the Mrs. found her to be mailing it in.  We both agree that Amber Heard as Mera was the worst.  Sorry, if you’re a huge Amber fan, but she was wooden the entire time!  Despite Mera being an equal to Aquaman in the comic books and a fierce warrior in her own right, the attempt to get that across on film fails on every level.  Heard and Momoa attempt to create a ‘Romancing The Stone’ type back and forth which falls on its face.  They just have ZERO chemistry together.  Jason Momoa makes a great Aquaman.  The Mrs. agrees with me on that,  but the guy really is not a great actor either.  He is carried by nearly everyone he shares the screen with, thank goodness, but when the caliber of actor he is working with is less than stellar (looking at you Amber) you can painfully notice it.  The personality he brings to the part of Aquaman wins you over most of the time and that’s a good thing, because he needs a bit more acting polish.  Which he will get.  If you’ve followed his career up till now, you can see the improvements, but lets just say The Rock and Jason Statham are not losing sleep over him just yet. The movie looks beautiful!  It’s colorful and bright, a change of pace for the DCEU. It looks gorgeous, like a comic book come to life. The underwater scenes and the world of Atlantis are like Wakanda was placed underwater after being crossed with the world of Avatar!

So the final verdict?

Mr. Movie Couple: The movie has great action set pieces and looks amazing!  Momoa’s personality goes very far to rising above the sub par acting, but the movie goes on for way too long (much like this review!) it throws in everything from Ocean Master, Black Manta, The Trench, The Lost World, Atlantean history, and nearly anything anyone ever thought was cool about Aquaman (Yes he even rides a seahorse!)  But at the same time, it never takes the time to make a real connection between Arthur and Mera, nor even explains why Arthur and Mera’s powers are unique and different from other Atlanteans!  Can all Atlanteans lift a submarine?  Talk to fish?  Can all Atlanteans create weapons out of water?  I knew the answer thanks to years of reading comic books, but the Mrs. did not, even after the film was over she couldn’t answer these questions!  As a huge comic reader,  I liked the film despite these misgivings, but wanted it to be even more!  It doesn’t match the success of the Marvel movies, nor does it resonate as well as DCEU’s very own Wonder Woman did.

Mrs. Movie Couple:  She hated it.  Couldn’t wait for it to end were her exact words.  Despite the positives I mentioned, she has had it up to her teeth with comic book brothers (Cousins count she says, while looking straight at Black Panther) fighting over titles, power or love.  Yawn!  The acting of Kidman and Heard drove her crazy!  She would only say the visuals were great and Momoa was OK. She enjoyed the action, but found the romance between Arthur and Mera forced at best and non existent most of the time! Two dead fish were what she actually said. Pun intended. In fact, she never bought AquaMom and Arthur’s dad either. The thought of them was fine, she said, but it never seemed real. It was Meh, bordering on good.

I felt it was money well spent, while she felt the entire evening was a waste of money.  So we average it out to the low end of 3-4. 3 Bills it is!

I’m sure this will upset many. The movie is making bank!  Which makes me happy as a fan of Aquaman, maybe the acting and chemistry can improve in the inevitable sequel.  And a streamlined plot couldn’t hurt as well.  Stay for the mid credits scene  to see where they are heading in the soon to be produced sequel. Mrs. Movie Couple rolls her eyes at the mention of a sequel. She just told me I’m going to see Aquaman 2 by myself. Sigh.

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Aquaman (2018) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Aquaman

Director: James Wan
Screenwriters: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall
Stars: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman

Aquaman has been seen as the poor-cousin of the DC universe for a long time, which is why this movie has been so long coming. Unlike Marvel, DC have gone out of their way to make movies that are dark, often at the expense of making them enjoyable, but this film, like Wonder Woman, seems to be finally conceding that these movies are based on comics and we watch them to be entertained, not depressed.

The film begins in an almost fairytale fashion, with the story of how Aquaman’s mum, a queen of Atlantis, and his dad, a lowly lighthouse keeper came to fall in love and have a little aqua-sprog named Arthur. Nicole Kidman may be de-aged like Michelle Pfeiffer was in Ant-man, but it’s actually really hard to tell. At 51, to my eyes she still looks gorgeous, and when she shows up later with grey hair, apparently older now, I didn’t think her face looked any different, but enough of my BMX Bandits fantasies. She lives with Aquaman’s dad (Temuera Morrison – yes, Jango Fett!) for many years until her past catches up with her and she is forced to return to the ocean to marry someone she doesn’t love for the sake of holding her kingdom together. It’s all based loosely on the legend of King Arthur and I think that adds an extra layer of mythical credibility to the story.

So years later, Mera (Amber Heard) shows up telling us that Aquaman’s half-brother is about to inherit the throne and unless our reluctant, beer-swilling hero comes back, all kinds of bad stuff is going to happen to the underwater kingdom and our world. Cue some ecological messages about how we’re screwing up the oceans and polluting it with plastic, but don’t get discouraged, it isn’t one of those ‘message shoved down your throat’ movies. The eco-agenda is very much in the background, with the remainder of the story being dedicated to Aquaman and Mera heading off on their Excalibur-style search for a mythical trident that can only be wielded by the true king of Atlantis. It’s part Indiana Jones and part Avatar as we move from one colourful CG environment to another following the clues.

As if this political power struggle wasn’t enough to deal with, Aquaman also has to contend with Black Manta; a human villain with his own axe to grind with our fishy hero. From the way they announce his name with a very ominous music cue, I’m guessing he’s some kind of classic baddie in the Aquaman world, but I’d never heard of him. He does give us some spectacular action scenes, though I was reminded of that old Raymond Chandler quote: ‘If you think your story’s getting slow, have someone run into the room with a gun.’ I think that’s Black Manta’s main purpose in this film, but the action scenes are very well executed and deliver some original beats and innovative fights.

I’ll admit I knew very little about Aquaman before this movie. Apart from his participation in the woeful Justice League movie and a few references in The Big Bang Theory I was coming to this character completely fresh and I really enjoyed this movie. The film’s main strength is Mamoa’s performance. Even when he’s brooding and drunk, he’s still likable and a fun hero to spend time with. I haven’t seen a lot of Amber Heard’s other work, but she’s fine as his treasure hunt partner and eventual love interest.

This movie works because James Wan knows what it is. There’s a shot of an octopus playing drums and sharks with frikkin’ lasers on their heads! That really tells you all you need to know. He’s making a live-action cartoon and it works much better than most of its DC predecessors because it isn’t taking itself too seriously. There is certainly drama when there needs to be drama, but there are also moments of levity and frivolity that films like Batman Vs. Superman were sorely missing. The backstory and the slowly evolving love story, something missing from Man of Steel, help us empathise with character and actually care about him when he’s in danger. My only minor quibble is the same one I had with the Wonder Woman movie – the final fight goes on a bit too long, but I can live with that.

Like Iron Man back in 2008, which no one thought would be a hit and was seen as Marvel scraping the bottom of their barrel, Aquaman may just be the underdog breakout hit DC have been waiting for. It may have taken them a while and they’ve learned hard lessons along the way, but it looks like DC are finally starting to deliver quality films.

Before I Go To Sleep (2014) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

Director: Rowan Joffe
Writers: Rowan Joffe, S.J. Watson (based on the novel by)
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong 

Plot:  A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.

Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes

Rotten tomatoes score: Critics 36%   Audience 40%

Why I watched it: I almost didn’t, the reviews were bad and the trailer looked boring and a tad silly but I decided to give it a chance mainly because of the cast and the fact that it had a short running time.

Random thoughts: I have to admit I’m not the biggest Nicole Kidman fan,I liked her early work and now she just doesn’t interest me don’t get me wrong a good actress but her choices of roles leave me cold.  I’m a huge Mark Strong fan and I wish he could find that breakout role and also break the stereotypes he keeps playing.

What I liked: Going in I knew this was a Memento knockoff and was prepared to just shake my head but I will say this they handle the gimmick well and I will give credit where credit is due Nicole Kidman is very good here, it’s a showy part but also a tough one, every time she wakes up she’s a blank slate and this good have been silly but Kidman does give it weight and she does give a very nuanced performance.  She’s the main reason to watch this film. Now I won’t go into spoilers but it’s tricky cause this film is all about the twists and turns and on that level I liked it cause I didn’t know where it was going and some of the twists were pretty good, it got me a few times.

I pretty much knew that someone was lying and it would end up as the whole this is not what it seems bit.  I think one thing the film did well was the casting cause you have Strong who always plays the bad guys and Firth who is charming and always the good guy but since this film wants you to guess what is going on both actors get to play type and against it. The one thing that I thought was different is that Kidman finds out some hard truths about herself and yes she finds out more than she wanted to know.  The film does move pretty well after the first twenty minutes of set up and the film does build tension and does so right to the very end.

What I didn’t like: First things firsts the film is a tad silly and really over the top with some of the twists and you do have to suspend your disbelief hard on this one.  Some of the twists are cool but really make little sense.

Also there is a lot of violence against women here, well against Kidman she gets battered and it was very uncomfortable, I think they pushed a bit to far with it.  Now I also thought they made one character so evil and so deranged that you didn’t believe what came first cause no way they didn’t show their true selves before.

Final thoughts: I actually liked this film more than I thought, yes it has flaws but it sucked me in and I actually invested in the characters, to me this was an old time potboiler didn’t make a lot of sense but it was well acted and compelling.

Rating: 6/10

Lion (2016) Movie Review by Kevan McLaughlin

LION

Director: Garth Davis
Writers: Saroo Brierley (adapted from the book “A Long Way Home” by), Luke Davies (screenplay)
Stars: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara

Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman both deliver heartbreaking performances in a story that beats you to the ground and keep on kicking before embracing you warmly.

Saroo is a happy little 5 year old living in abject poverty in a poor area of India in the 1980s. He has his doting mother who works hard to provide a meagre existence and his older brother Guddu who is his protector, teacher and partner in crime.

When Saroo follows his brother to work Guddu tells him to wait outside for him to finish. Saroo awakes on a bench and, slightly disorientated, goes to look for Guddu. He climbs into a stationary train and falls asleep again. When he wakes up he’s very far from his mother and brother, isolated in a locked train carriage, bolting further and further away from his home.

Saroo, travelling alone for several days, arrives in Calcutta. He’s unable to speak Bengali, no one around him can understand his Hindi dialect and the ticket attendant at the station doesn’t recognise Saroo’s village he gives as “Ginestlay”. He also blends in seamlessly with the hundreds of other poor, starving homeless children in the city, with whom he spends the night, sleeping on cardboard.

Saroo is given some hope in the form of a kindly woman who takes him back to her apartment and tells him a man will come in the morning to take him to his mother. Saroo, not trusting the situation, runs away and continues to sleep rough for the next few weeks. When peering through a restaurant window imitating a customer eating soup, the curious and charmed man takes Saroo to the police who can’t trace his family and haven’t heard of Ginestlay.

The indomitable little boy is placed in an orphanage and after three months, Mrs Sood (who cares for the children in the orphanage) tells him that an advert was placed in a popular newspaper about Saroo’s situation and there have been no responses. However, he learns that a couple from Australia want to adopt him and Mrs Sood sets about teaching him English and western table etiquette.

Sue and John Brierly (Kidman and Wenham, respectively) take Saroo into their home in Tasmania, enamoured by his bright, beautiful nature. They adore the little boy and he feels the warmth and compassion he’s been missing for months. Sue and John adopt another boy from India, Mantosh. He too is embraced by his new parents and his new brother welcomes the recent addition to his new life. But Mantosh suffers from excruciating mental problems and is prone to regular bouts of violent self harm, hinting at a previous tormented life in India.

The now adult Saroo is in Melbourne, studying hotel management and meets Lucy (Mara), a confident and enthusiastic American. At a friends dinner party he reveals he was born in India, that he’s adopted and tells his tragic story. His friends encourage him to try Google Earth to locate his village. His relationship with Lucy develops at the same time he actively searches the internet every night trying to find his way home. The impossibility of devoting every spare minute he has to finding Ginestlay while Lucy looks on helplessly proves to be too much and she leaves him, convinced he has to find his home over them being together.

Saroo has been keeping his relentless searching for Ginestlay a secret from Sue and John as he doesn’t want them to think he’s been ungrateful for the life they’ve given him and Mantosh, coupled with his belief that his adopted parents got a raw deal when they adopted the boys. The adult Mantosh still has

bouts of rage and has developed substance abuse problems, while Saroo is constantly lost in a world that isn’t his. Sue tells him they adopted the boys, not because they couldn’t have children, because she and John chose to raise children from impoverished lives as they needed their love. That was one of the reasons she fell in love with John.

Dev Patel delivers a wonderfully empathetic performance, realising the duality the role requires. Saroo is a boy the belongs to, and paradoxically feels lost, in two worlds. Patel’s subtlety in delivering a conflicting viewpoint is beyond admirable.

Nicole Kidman is terrific in this film. The key, again here, is subtlety. Sue is a wonderfully warm and loving woman but, like Kidman’s performance, has to show restraint with such a sensitive subject. Kidman delicately plays our heartstrings and it’s such a lovely thing to witness.

Garth Davis delivers a film that’s seemingly a little uneven but, through the use of flashbacks, fantasy sequences and long, lingering shots of Saroo trying to make sense of his world, gives us a thoroughly balanced, well made bit of cinema. With such subject matter, it would be extraordinarily easy to serve up mawkish melodrama instead of the touching true story of Lion.

Cinematographer Greig Fraser makes fantastic use of an abundance of natural low-hanging light, capturing the shadows of Saroo’s past. In the fantasy sequences, his use of light again make it pop with hope and anguish.

Lion is a thoroughly entertaining and heart-wrenching film with an abundance of wonderful nuances from a cast more than capable of delivering gentle, faint strokes to their craft.