The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an American fantasy adventure film, released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston and written by Ashleigh Powell and Tom McCarthy. It is the retelling of E.T.A Hoffmann’s short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The film stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant and Misty Copeland with Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman.

The film follows Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy), the middle child of an aristocratic family in Victorian era London. Clara feels the odd one out in her family, as she doesn’t share the same interests as her older sister Louise (Ellie Bamber) and her younger brother Fritz (Tom Sweet). The family are also coming to terms with the death of their mother, Marie (Anna Madeley), and Clara finds herself disagreeing with her father (Matthew Macfadyen) as to how they both deal with it.

Whilst attending a Christmas Eve party at the home of Clara’s godfather, the inventor Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), Clara follows a path laid out by both her mother and Drosselmeyer which leads her to the Four Realms.

Once in the Four Realms, Clara soon meets a young Nutcracker soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) and learns that her mother was Queen of the land, making her the Princess. Phillip takes her to the palace of the realms where she is introduced to Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez), the regent of the Realm of Flowers, Shiver (Richard E. Grant), the regent of the Realm of Snowflakes and Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley), the regent of the Realm of Sweets. She is also told that Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), the regent of the Realm of Amusements has been banished for starting a war among the realms. As Clara tries to save the land her mother loved it soon becomes clear that not everything is as it seems and she must find the strength of character to save the Four Realms.

Both Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston share directing credit due to Hallstrom being unavailable for the reshoots but the film doesn’t suffer from this and it all comes together in a story that pays tribute to the original tale whilst adding a new spin on how it portrays Clara and other characters of the Four Realms.

In Hoffman’s story, Marie, is the main character but here she is reimagined as the mother of Clara and portrayed as an inventor as talented as Drosselmeyer. This allows Clara to be portrayed with the same talent as her mother giving Disney the ability to make the female lead more modern.

Foy’s portrayal of Clara is both appealing and engaging and the audience will relate to the character’s need to do the right thing and make her mother proud.

The film is visually compelling with gorgeous costumes, sets and designs and the audience are treated half way through the film to the wonderful Misty Copeland as the gifted ballerina in the Four Realms.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a fun adventure which takes the main character on an empowering journey as she discovers herself and rediscovers the meaning of family!

A Star Is Born

A Star is Born

A Star is Born is an American musical romantic drama film produced and directed by Bradley Cooper and written by Eric Roth, Cooper and Will Fetters. It is a remake of the 1937 film of the same name and stars Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos and Sam Elliott.

The film follows the story of Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a famous country music singer-songwriter who privately battles an alcohol and drug addiction. Following one of his concerts, and in search of a drink, he happens upon a gay bar in the middle of a drag queen show and is surprised when he sees a talented young woman called Ally (Lady Gaga) singing.

Jackson convinces Ally to have a drink with him where the pair quickly form a connection and he invites her to his next performance. Ally is initially reluctant to attend but after some persuading from her best friend Ramon (Anthony Ramos) she accepts but is shocked when she arrives to discover that Jackson has arranged for her to perform one of her owns songs with him on stage.

Her performance goes viral and before she knows it she is skyrocketing to music superstardom as her relationship with Jackson turns into a romantic one. Whilst everything is going well for Ally, Jackson is struggling to battle his demons and the realisation that his time in the spotlight may soon be over.

Stepping behind the camera for the first time, Bradley Cooper’s precise direction along with strong performances from the cast gives us a moving and tear-jerking love story in this third remake of the 1937 film.

Written by Cooper, Will Fetters (The Lucky One) and Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) they succeed in putting a fresh spin on a recycled story without changing the basic structure of the plot. At the heart of the film is the relationships between the characters, whether it be the romance between Jackson and Ally or those with the people around them.

Jackson and Ally’s relationship is the emotional core of the film and this really benefits from the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. Cooper in particular delivers an emotionally rich performance making the character of Jackson a charismatic and sympathetic one despite his self-destructive behaviour.

The film is at its best when it focuses on the drama between the characters and how they deal with their own emotions and traumatic experiences.

There are also stand out performances from the ensemble cast including Sam Elliott as Jackson’s put upon brother and manager and Andrew Dice Clay as Ally’s father Lorenzo, who manages to be funny and touching in equal measure.

The film is further boosted by the memorable original songs and singing by both Cooper (who does really well despite his lack of singing background) and of course Lady Gaga. The film’s concert musical numbers are also visually striking by cinematographer Matthew Libatique.

A Star is Born is a great start to Cooper’s directing career. With its excellent soundtrack and impressive acting this is definitely a must see film!

Christopher Robin

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Christopher Robin is an American fantasy comedy-drama film inspired by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard’s book Winnie the Pooh and is a live-action/CGI adaption of the Disney franchise of the same name. The film is directed by Marc Foster and written by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroedner, from a story by Greg Brooker and Mark Steven Johnson and stars Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Mark Gatiss as well as the voices of Jim Cummings and Brad Garrett.

The film follows the story of Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) who is leaving for boarding school and having to say goodbye to his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood – Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings), a honey-loving plush toy bear, Tigger (Jim Cummings), a toy tiger who loves to bounce on his tail like a spring, Eeyore (Brad Garett), a pessimistic toy donkey who always loses his tail, Piglet (Nick Mohammed), a diminutive toy pig who is afraid of everything, Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), a rabbit who is organised and a vegetable farmer, Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), a kind toy kangaroo, Roo (Sara Sheen), the child of Kanga and Owl (Toby Jones), a wise and jovial owl.

As Christopher grows up he endures the death of family members and the hardship of fighting in World War II, marries Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), has a daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), moves to London and becomes weighted down by his responsibilities of working as an Efficiency Manger for Winslow Luggage.

Often neglecting his family he makes the decision to spend a weekend on holiday with them but is forced to cancel his plans by his boss Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss) who informs him that he must find a way of cutting company costs or else several members of his team will be fired the week after. Not knowing how to find a solution he finds unexpected help from his old friend Winnie The Pooh who arrives in London searching for his friends after losing them in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Director Marc Forster gives us a layered film which mixes charm and wonder beneath a melancholic surface with a strong message at its heart.

McGregor hits exactly the right balance in the way he manages to convey the innocence of Christopher beneath the hardened adult exterior. Whilst his character is a workaholic McGregor plays him in a sympathetic light which makes his story more compelling and relatable.

Christopher’s relationship with his daughter is at the forefront of the film but there is still time to flesh out his relationship with his wife Evelyn and Atwell gives a lovely performance.

The film is not afraid to show the differences between the working class and the privileged few with Gatiss playing the thoughtless and smarmy heir to the Winslow family’s company to great effect.

The CGI designs of Pooh Bear and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood are both cuddly and expressive with their respective voice actors all hitting the right notes especially Cumming’s who shows why he has been voicing Winne the Pooh and Tigger for thirty years.

Christopher Robin is a film which will delight and pull on your heartstrings in equal measure. Its messages will be more appreciated by the older viewer but whatever your age there is something for everyone to enjoy!

Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Ant-Man and the Wasp is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics characters of Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Hope van Dyne/Wasp. It is the sequel to the 2015 film Ant-Man. The film is directed by Peyton Reed from the writing teams of Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, and Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari and stars Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly alongside Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas.

Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War, with Scott (Paul Rudd) close to completing his two year house arrest that was part of the deal to get out of prison after violating the Sokovia Accords by helping Steve Rogers. He has had no connection with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) who have both been on the run from the FBI. In that time they have assembled a lab where they have been building a Quantum Tunnel in attempt to rescue Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). When Scott contacts them as he has received a message from Janet they see this as confirmation that she is alive and turn to him to help them retrieve her.

However, this is easier said than done, as Hank and Hope’s work is not only wanted by criminal Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) but also by the mysterious entity known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Needing additional help they turn to an old associate of Hank’s, Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne).

Throughout, Scott is trying to ensure that he does not sabotage the new life he has built for himself. He has started a security business with his friends Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and has built a better relationship with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forsten), his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). As the mission to rescue Janet becomes more and more dangerous Scott must decide whether he protects his new life or becomes Ant-Man again.

Rudd slips easily back into the role of Scott Lang bringing humour and charm to the role and really shines as the film’s co-lead. This time round Rudd is the co-lead as the film fully introduces Lilly’s Hope as a superhero with as much skill as Ant-Man. Wasp is the first female superhero to co-headline a MCU movie and the film doesn’t disappoint with Hope getting an equal number of action scenes as Scott.

The dynamic between the two characters works really well with Hope acting as the straight man to Scott which helps to balance the film’s comedy against the more serious aspects of the film. Wasp is given additional features to Ant-Man – wings and blasters – which elevates the action sequences above what was seen in the first film. Hope is also the emotional arc of the movie and Lilly is able to carry this off as well as the action parts of the sequel.

Having so many villains in the film though does mean that the supporting cast don’t get a lot of screen time to shine. The standouts are Ghost, Luis and Cassie. The character of Ghost is well-developed with an interesting and different arc to many of Marvel’s villains and Luis has one particular scene which expands on the characters fast-talking nature to great effect. Cassie works as the emotional arc for Scott and there are some nice father-daughter scenes between them which show that he can be both a good father and a superhero.

Ant-Man and the Wasp successfully combines humour, action and compelling drama whilst establishing the characters as heroes that can lead their own franchise.

We will next see Ant-Man and the Wasp in Avengers 4 but whilst it is not known the fate of the franchise there is plenty here to show it deserves another outing!

 

 

Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name and is a sequel to the 2016 film Deadpool. The film is directed by David Leitch from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds with Reynolds starring in the title role alongside Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller and Brianna Hildebrand.

Wade Wilson/Deadpool has to deal with a personal tragedy so teams up with the X-Men as a trainee, studying under the tutelage of Colossus (Stefan Kapicid) with the help of Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and her girlfriend Yukio (Shiori Kutsuna).

When they come across a young mutant by the name of Russell Collins (Julian Dennison), who calls himself Firefist, Wade makes a decision which takes his life in a different direction.

With the arrival of time-travelling mutant Cable (Josh Brolin) who threatens the safety of Russell, Wade with the help of Weasel (T.J. Miller) and Dopinder (Karan Soni) assembles a team of his own. Calling themselves X-Force the team consists of Wade, Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), and the non-mutant Peter (Rob Delaney).

They embark on a mission to save Russell from Cable, but even with a team to back Wade up, will they be able to save Firefist?

Screenwriters Reese and Wernick return to Deadpool 2 this time penning the script with the help of Reynolds. Building on the success of the first film they continue with a strong emotional foundation this time focusing on family and in particular the family that you choose for yourself. There is plenty of Deadpool’s signature humour, fourth wall-breaking quips and meta references to everything from the X-Men universe movies, Marvel Studios’ franchise and the DC Films Universe.

Reynolds slips easily back into the role of Wade Wilson and really flourishes as the fully-fledged Merc with a Mouth. Even with a larger ensemble cast this time round he is still the star of the sequel. From the rest of the cast there are standout turns from Brolin as Cable and Beetz as Domino. Brolin’s Cable works really well as a straight man to Reynold’s Deadpool and Beetz’s Domino whose ‘lucky’ superpower makes her enjoyably invincible. The three characters play off each other well and should serve as a strong foundation to Fox’s X-Force spin-off.

Whilst the sequel maintains Deadpool’s humour it also manages to balance the jokes with fantastic, visually interesting action sequences from Director David Leitch along with compelling drama. The only blip arrives very early on in the film with a jarring incident which will undoubtedly leave some viewers unable to rejoin the sequel’s narrative. This decision is redeemed slightly by one of the end credit scenes which does build off it in an interesting way.

Deadpool 2 is bigger and better than the first film, delivering a more fun and complete movie experience which should please fans of the comic book character and win over those that weren’t that sold on the first film!

Avengers: Infinity War

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Avengers: Infinity War is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers. It is the sequel to 2012’s Avengers Assemble and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and features an ensemble cast which includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Josh Brolin and Chris Pratt.

In order to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin) from killing half the universe, all the heroes must work together to prevent him from finding the remaining Infinity Stones which will complete his Infinity Gauntlet.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) teams up with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to protect the Time Stone.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) bumps into the Guardians of the Galaxy – Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and they work on their own plan to defeat Thanos.

On earth, the remaining Avengers must protect Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Mind Stone, with everyone heading to Wakanda to seek the help of T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Shuri (Letitia Wright), the Dora Milaje and the Jabari army. Standing together against Thanos and his Black Order, Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans). Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) battle the Titan’s outriders.

But will the might of all the Avengers be enough to defeat Thanos?

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are given the difficult task of balancing so many characters whilst developing Thanos beyond his brief appearances in previous films and by in large they achieve their remit.

With a cast this size it was always going to be hard to keep track of them all but the directors weave back and forth between plot threads and set pieces so we are never with any of the characters for too long.

Splitting the heroes into unlikely teams works really well with bickering, bonding and much-needed laughs, though never distracting the audience from the danger they all face.

Thanos is a compelling & interesting villain and almost sympathetic at times with his absolute determination and commitment to achieve his goal. Marvel have gained a reputation of not achieving fully developed villians but if the last two films are anything to go by they are now on the right track.

With so many characters on screen, Avengers: Infinity War does rely on the character development achieved in previous films for the emotional arcs in the story, underlying the fact this really is a film made for the fans.

But it is the final act and the post-credit scene which really makes this film leaving the audience in shock as a chill and a darkness sweeps across the screen raising the stakes for next time.

The Russo brothers have delivered on their promise of bringing the film franchise together to defeat Thanos whilst staying true to the characters that have made the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) so popular.

Thankfully, along with Markus and McFeely they will be back next year with Avengers 4 to bring the first three phases of the MCU to completion!

Black Panther

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Black Panther is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis.

Black Panther picks up right after the events of Captain America: Civil War, as T’Challa prepares to become King of Wakanda after the death of his father King T’Chaka (John Kani). However, no sooner is T’Challa named King, Wakanda’s old enemy, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), breaks into a British museum and steals a rare Wakandan artifact made of Vibranium: a metallic substance of extraterrestrial origin.

The Wakandan’s use Vibranium to develop advanced technology and it holds the secrets to Black Panther’s impenetrable armour and the rare herb that provides him with his superhuman abilities.

T’Challa joins forces with Okoye (Danai Gurira), the head of Blank Panther’s personal bodyguards, and his former girlfriend, now a Wakandan secret agent Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), in order to find Klaue and stop him once and for all.

However, it turns out that Klaue is acting on behalf of a more dangerous enemy, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), a man with a mysterious past who threatens both T’Challa’s reign as King and the future of Wakanda itself.

Director Coogler breathes new life into the familiar Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) plot and characters. He manages to combine many of the best elements of past MCU films – sci-fi, family drama and political thriller as well as examining how Western colonisation and enslavement of Africa continue to have rippling effects today, through the lens of earth-based MCU.

Boseman delivers another good performance as T’Challa/Black Panther but is outshined by Jordan’s Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. Stevens is the most compelling and sympathetic MCU baddie since Loki due to both the writing and an engaging performance by Jordan.

The women in T’Challa’s life in particular Okoye, Nakia and his technical genius younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) are all well developed, with distinct personalities that shine through thanks to the performances behind them. There are too many other supporting players in the film for them all to shine as equally bright but all of the ensemble cast deliver solid performances.

Captivating cinematography, gorgeous tribal costumes, vibrant production design and pulsing score all deliver the goods when it comes to craftsmanship. The action scenes are equally impressive in the first two acts of the film but are less so in the third act as too much CGI is added which loses the emotional quality of earlier scenes.

Black Panther is one of the best MCU films yet and a big moment when it comes to racial and cultural representation. The film combines spectacle with depth of narrative which will entertain both fans and casual moviegoers alike.

Black Panther will leave the audience excited to see what happens next when Thanos comes to Earth and Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War!