Sunday, April 07, 2019

Shazam (2019)

Went to see the latest superhero movie, and was pleasantly surprised.  The mix of drama and comedy works for this film.  It works because our superhero is a 14 year old boy in a hulking big body.  That is the charm of the movie, and it's theme is family, which isn't a bad theme to have.  Shot in Toronto filling in for Philadelphia the filmmakers create a good illusion of the city.  The filmmakers made sure they capture all the iconic Philadelphia landmarks and used them in their process shots.  I'm very skeptical when it comes to substituting cities with other cities because the filmmakers got a better deal in the city they were shooting in, but here it doesn't detract from the fun.

Though I would really like if Pennsylvania get's its act together and offer bigger tax credit to studios and filmmakers.  Don't they know for every dollar spent in the city or town they get like 3 or 4 dollars back?  But I digress.

The film is a fun origin story about a superhero created by magic.  It even references the other DC comic universe such as Badman, and Superman, yet the film stands on its own and you don't have to see the other DC films to enjoy the film.

The filmmakers even poke fun at comic book dramatics such as when the villain gives his speech and out superhero can't hear it because their far away from each other.  Pretty funny and you can see the filmmakers we're having fun.

But what the film hammers home is that the core to ones strength is family.  A family that you create.  A un-traditional family made up of people you care and love, but may not be related.  That's a pretty cool message to say especially in these times where we're all so divisive.  It's like a breath of fresh air, and I have to say that all the actors in this film do a great job in their performances.  Zachary Levi does a remarkable job as Shazam, and he looks and behaves like a 14 year old boy would if he were inside a big mans body.  The results are hilarious.

I ill not talk about the plot.  I hate spoilers, so I just suggest you go see the film and enjoy the moments.  It's a fun film, and one that you can take your family to.  All in all good film, and very entertaining.  Oh! and stay for the credits all the way through.  There are two clips one that sets up a sequel, and the other is a nudge to other superhero movies (wink~wink~nudge~nudge).

And to the filmmakers.  Please film here in Philadelphia when it comes time for the sequel.  It will look so much better I promise.  Let's just hope Pennsylvania gets its act together and pass a tax credit for filmmakers and studios.  Even though it did not detract from the movie it would have been so much cooler and better to see Philadelphia and it's citizens up on screen.  There is a tribute to even Rocky in the film, but being there and showing it in a process shot are two different things.  It's like the film "Moonlight" with Cher.  Shot in Toronto but takes place in New York.  Never works for me and really hurts the film.  Could have been such a better film.

So filmmakers think about that when you make your next film and set it someplace iconic.  Film the story where the story takes place.  Please!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Mama Mia!: Here We Go Again (2018)

So Universal Studios decided to cash in on the original Mama Mia! and try a second go at it with a sequel of sorts.  I really liked the first one.  In fact my entire family loves the film.  We find ourselves singing along to the film, and enjoy watching the film unfold, so why does the sequel partially fail when the original kicks butt every time you watch it?  Easy.  The second film is nothing but a rehash of the first with other people singing the songs.  There are a few new songs in the film, but a lot of the first songs are rehashed and when they are sung it feels like the filmmakers are just trying to elicit emotions you had for the first movie.  It all feels forced.

Now don't get me wrong.  I did succumb to some emotions, but only because that was towards the end of the film.  The death of Meryl Streep's character is handled very emotionally towards the end when Amanda  Seyfried and Meryl Streep's sing a duet together "My Love, My life". The scene will have you misty eyed it did me, so in a way the movie works in eliciting some strong emotions, but what I found as its weakness was that it did not introduce us to what befell Meryl Streep's character.  Her struggle, and the grief that befell Sam (Pierce Brosnan) her husband at the end of the the first film.  Of course that would make the movie a completely different film, but I think it would be a stronger one then the one they have.

We already know how the young Donna met her three paramours, and that she decided that her baby (Sophie) was more important to her then her career.  We all have heard this and yet the sequel plays it all out.  The movie is about loss, and family no matter if they are biologic or not.  Families come in all shapes and sizes, and it is the love for one another that makes each family special.  The duet together cements that feeling.  Daughter (Sophie) honoring her mother by having her child, and building a new family.

Sure it is fun seeing the young Donna played by Lily James.  The young Rosie and Tanya (Alexa Davis, and Jessica Keenan Wynn) are also fantastic, but what if we saw why young Donna decided to give it all up.  Why was she so conflicted.  She was a free spirit, but when confronted with pregnancy she embraces her destiny to have Sophie and leave show business.

There is so much the filmmakers could have done to make this better then the original and give the sequel some meat, but instead it feels like it was crafted by committee.  The studio had the rights to some ABBA songs already so they used them, and added a few more.  It feels repetitive, and almost like you're watching a bad copy of the original.  That's the problem with the film.  Only at the end do we feel how much the loss of Donna is felt, and that Sophie and Donna share similar fates, but are drawn closer by the experience.  For me its too late.  I wanted to see more of the mother and daughter relationship, and how the loss of one affects the other, and yet in the end Sophie comes out triumphant.

Like I said in the end the film turns itself around, and I don't know anyone who won't be touched by the ending.  I just feel that there were moments lost in the film where it could have been more profound then the original . Maybe it would be more of a tear jerker but it would more powerful then the original, and when making a sequel one shoots high because you have a higher mark to reach with your audience.  Here it feels the filmmakers punted the ball.

Cher is fantastic, and her song "Fernando" is a greatest set piece, but the one thing my wife pointed out was that in the first film Meryl Streep's Character Donna tells everyone that her grandmother died, so why does she visit her at the end.  Is it just an excuse to introduce Cher?   Probably so.  Aside from that Cher kills it, and does a great rendition of the ABBA classic.  If nothing go see it for that even though it makes no sense that she appears at the end.  The film could have been so much better, and there are some elements in it where we can see that, but the filmmakers didn't follow through.  The movie is just a shallow copy of the first, and not worth seeing, yet what could have been would be a lot more interesting.  Unfortunately this is not that movie...