Fiction A to Z…. where is possible. Where a boy’s imagination can take root and grow to incredible heights, where a boy’s courage is wind that moves him to discovery, and where your journey begins in this “cinematic flashback” for 1994’s The Pagemaster…
“All the adventure your imagination can hold”
Director: Joe Johnston (live-action) and Pixote (Maurice) Hunt (animated)
Writer: David Casci, David Kirschner, and Ernie Contreras
Starring: Maculay Culkin, Christopher Lloyd, Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, Frank Welker
Run Time: 80 Minutes
Release Date: November 23rd, 1994
Richard Tyler is a timid young boy, who spouts statistics about the possibility of accidents. So much so, he is scared to do anything that might endanger him, like riding his bike, or climbing into his treehouse. While riding his bike home, Richard finds shelter from a storm inside a nearby library, kindly taking in by the librarian Mr. Dewey. While exploring the library’s rotunda, Richard slips and is knocked unconscious. Upon awakening, he is greeted by a wizard named “The Pagemaster” and sets the young boy on a journey through conflicts and events that resemble fictional stories. With the aid of three anthropomorphic talking books (i.e. Horror: a fearful “hunchbook” with a misshapen spine, Adventure: a swashbuckling pirate book, and Fantasy: a sassy / caring fairy tale book), Richard discovers more about himself as he “look to the books” for guidance as the quartet journey to find the exit from the library.
Growing up in the 90s, I remember when this movie came out (I was roughly nine years old when it did). I missed seeing in theaters, but I remember watching every now and again on VHS. Truthfully, I liked it. The Pagemaster was full of child-ish wonder and excitement and definitely had that classic kid’s hero journey (and empowerment) from start to finish; something that I’ve always loved growing up. It’s kind of like The Wizard of Oz meets The NeverEnding Story (in way); focusing on the important of books and reading and hero’s journey (atypical) for a fantasy adventure of discovery. Additionally, I love how the movie utilized the library setting of books and stories (classic ones of the genres) to tell the bulk of the narrative and how the film’s characters journey into the realms, encountering characters from classic literature (i.e. Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde, Captain Ahab, and Long John Silver…just to name a few. It all works for a compelling / entertaining kids movie of finding inner courage and friendship, which is always fundamental trait for characters (and us) to learn. My personal favorite scene is when the group first ventures into the fantasy genre. That whole montage sequence, accompanied by the song “Whatever You Imagine” by Wendy Moten is really enchanting and perhaps one of the most memorable scenes in the entire film. Love that son
The main problem about this movie is that its somewhat scant its notion of traversing through the literary fiction worlds of books (i.e. the genres of horror, adventure, and fantasy). When I was younger, I loved the journey that the characters going on, but I always thought there could’ve been more to the film. The movie stays briefly in horror genre realm, too long in the adventure genre realm, and underutilizes the fantasy genre realm beyond the film’s climax moments. Coinciding with that, I always wanted to see more literary novel cameo appearances from children’s classic novels… something like encountering Dracula or Frankenstein (a deleted scene was planned for this encounter) in the horror genre, Robinson Crusoe or Robin Hood in the adventure genre, or some type of fairy tale princess (i.e. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, etc.) in the fantasy genre. I know that the film’s runtime had to be short, but I always felt like a missed opportunity, which was my biggest pet peeve of the movie.
Another problem is that the film was (and still is) overlooked by many viewers out there. It’s not necessarily a bad movie or anything like that, but it’s definitely one of those movies that didn’t become well-known or memorable as the years passed away. In truth, it’s kind of faded into the background of children’s animated films, which is disappointing. Of course, the year of the film’s release (i.e. 1994) plays a part in that, with Disney’s “renaissance” era of animated feature films reaching its zenith (releasing The Lion King that very same year) and with Pixar releasing Toy Story the following year. Thus, it was a transitional period of animated motion pictures and The Pagemaster, despite its attempts, didn’t have the lasting sustaining power to endure in its theatrical run and not so much within its legacy. Although, there is a sense of nostalgia of rewatching it, especially those who grew up with it.
That being said, the film does employ several recognizable acting talents to play the feature’s characters, including Home Alone child star (at the time) Maculay Culkin as the protagonist character of Richard Tyler and Back to the Future’s star Christopher Lloyd as the wizened librarian Mr. Dewey / the wizard The Pagemaster. Culkin’s youthful talents lend the emotional weight and stereotypical child hero’s journey for the movie and does a good job as Richard Tyler, while Lloyd lends his seasoned gravitas in the sage-like characters of Dewey / Pagemaster. Other noteworthy talents, including Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, and Frank Welker, fill out the rest of the characters and (for the most part) are presented well enough to make them fun and amusing throughout.
The movie was spilt into live-action sequences and cartoon animated sequences, with the animated piece taking centerstage for majority of the film (the live-action sequences basically bookended). The animation was good for its time and it was kind of interesting to see how they rendered Culkin and Lloyd into their cartoon animation personifications (or rather “illustrations”). While the overall animation wasn’t as sharp and crisp as say Disney’s feature film, the movie’s cartoon sequences were represented well-enough to give a distinct look and feel. The climatic ending scene with a dragon was also quite intricately detailed for the feature and was probably the hardest sequence to render (animation-wise). In addition, the film’s jokes, while not always landing probably, do make for some fun literary / book references, with reading pun lines like “You really are a classic” or “How’d you like to curl up with a good book” …. that sort of thing. Also, the music for the film (composed by James Horner) was great and filled with adventurous sounding music of danger and wonderment; perfectly complementing the film’s visual moments.
As a side-note, while the movie did receive a G rating, there are several scary moments in the film and should’ve been rated PG (just a fair warning to some parents out there).
The Pagemaster is a whimsical fantasy adventure that all the makings of a memorable children’s movie endeavor, even though it lacks a balanced storytelling pacing (within the three genres worlds) as well as missing out on some literary fun within its own premise. There’s plenty childhood nostalgia for those growing up in the 90s era with the movie, but the newer generation might find it outdated. In the end, it’s a charming movie that promotes the joy of reading and getting “lost” within the tales therein, which is always a good thing.
Cinematic Flashback Score: 3.9 Out of 5
Fun Note: Actor Christopher Lloyd’s character, Mr. Dewey, is named after the Dewey Decimal System, a system of organizing books in library.
Every hero has a dark side as 20th Century Fox releases the official final trailer for their upcoming superhero film X-Men: Dark Phoenix (or simply known as Dark Phoenix). View trailer below.
The X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.
Dark Phoenix | Final Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX - YouTube
What a surprise. I wasn’t really expecting another trailer for this movie, but it looks like we got one. This new trailer (or rather “final trailer) showcases plenty of new scenes from the movie and shows that the X-Men team might have their hands full in trying to stop Jean. Much like what I said before, I am curious to see this movie (especially since I love the Dark Phoenix saga from both the comics and the 90s animated cartoon) and it will ultimately shape up to be. I’m also curious to see if the advance test screening reviews (which cite the movie has been terrible and bad). One way or another….this movie is the last under 20th Century Fox. Wonder when Disney / Marvel will reboot this franchise? So….we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out.
X: Men: Dark Phoenix (or Dark Phoenix) arrives in theaters on June 7th, 2019
As Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues to provide moviegoers everywhere with its extensive cinematic library of Marvel character superhero adventures, the DCEU is trying to play catch up with its own realm of costumed heroes and superhuman beings. The studio, which falls under the movie studio control of Warner Bros. Pictures, has had a difficult time in producing a successful formula in trying to convey DC Comics of superheroes into cinematic endeavor for moviegoers to enjoy. This is apparently known in the spilt decisions of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the problematic efforts on 2016’s Suicide Squad, and the disappointing presentation of 2017’s Justice League, with most finding these projects (in general terms) not meet to the standards of what was promised. That being said, the DCEU is starting to find its groove, especially after the release of 2017’s Wonder Woman and 2018’s Aquaman; finding both feature films to have their own swagger and appeal that works in both film storytelling and entertainment purpose for audiences. Now, Warner Bros. Pictures (as well as DC Comics) and director Robert F. Sandberg present the latest film in the DCEU with the movie titled Shazam! Does this newest superhero offering act as shinning beacon for this shared DC Comics Cinematic universe or is just another “run-of-the-mill” superhero blockbuster that doesn’t work?
Abandoned as a child, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is troublemaker teenager; constantly running away from the foster homes he’s sent as he searches for his biological mother. His latest prank with the cops has put him in the foster care hands of Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rose (Marta Milans) Vasquez, who look after several other foster kids, including Frederick “Freddy” Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a physically disabled smart aleck teen. Unfortunately, Billy doesn’t want to be part of his new family, but after coming to the rescue of Freddy at the hands of school bullying, the wayward youth finds himself in the otherworld of the wizard named “Shazam” (Djimon Hounsou), who’s looking for a “Champion of Eternity” to take command of his powers and continue the noble ways of Shazam, which is a collection of Greek-inspired superpowers. Accepting the mantle, Billy is transformed into a thirtysomething man (Zachary Levi), endowed with incredible powers and superhuman abilities, tasked with figuring out what he’s capable of (assisted by Freddy). As Billy and Freddy begin to explore the powers of Billy’s alter ego of Shazam, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) also seeks the power of Shazam as well, possessed by the powers of the Seven Deadly Sins and driven by destiny he was denied long ago.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
It’s very easy to point out that the differences between the MCU and DCEU have been. It’s basically night and day type of experience, with one studio finding its rhythm (albeit formulaic in some regards) yet proving to be effective, while the other struggles to find its stride. Yes, I’ll admit that I did like Man of Steel (probably one of the select few who did) as well as Wonder Woman (love actress Gal Gadot as Diana Prince) and Aquaman (the sheer epic scope of the feature is amazing), but the DCEU has been problematic with their other release (i.e. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Justice League). Those features, while promising with plenty of superhero nuances and inherit hype from its pre-release marketing, didn’t exactly match up to what many (including myself) expected, which is reflected upon the feedback from moviegoers and the “behind the scenes” shake up of the franchise, leaving the continuation of the DCEU in a somewhat ambiguous limbo state, which is in contrast to the how the MCU is presenting its feature films. To me, it’s kind of interesting in comparing the two, but with the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, I have feeling that the DCEU is heading in the right direction.
This brings me back to talking about Shazam!, the latest and seventh entry from the DCEU cinematic universe. I’ll be quite honest, I really didn’t know much about Shazam….in the ways and means of the comic book world. Of course, I knew he existed as I’ve seeing him appear in other DC comics mediums and entertainment media facets, but personally haven’t read any of his comic books nor heard a ton about, so I really didn’t know what to expect from the character and / or any assumption of what to see in his big-screen debut. I remember I got my first taste of what to expect from the movie when the first trailer was released at San Diego’s Comic-Con 2018 and (to be quite honest) I wasn’t that impressed with it. What I mean is that it looked at bit…silly, which (as many know) is quite a very different direction from the norm within the DCEU. Sure, Suicide Squad was cheeky and had its off-beat humor and Aquaman had its large-than-life cheesy dialogue, but never something like how Shazam! was gonna be presented. I just wasn’t super impressed with, especially coming after the epic tale in Wonder Woman and the grandiose scope and scale in Aquaman. Shazam! just seemed like an odd choice for the studio to do. Still, I was semi-intrigued to see this movie, but my expectations were a bit low (it’s true). So, I went to see it….and what did I think of it? Well, to be honest, I found it to be quite amusing. While I wasn’t exactly “blown away” by it, Shazam! still succeeds in being an overall solid (and humorous) take on both the superhero genre and for the DCEU. It’s not exactly the sharpest cinematic superhero to come across, but its something that the blockbuster film genre needs.
Shazam! is directed by David F. Sandberg, whose previous director several shorts films as well several feature films like Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation. Given that both Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation were more suspenseful / horror motion picture endeavors, Sandberg makes his third directorial film not only his most ambitious project to date, but also his most lighthearted feature movie to date as well; making Shazam! the easiest to digest / view for entertainment purpose by all. Of course, Sandberg certainly does make his mark on the superhero movie genre, which has become the flagship blockbuster moniker on movie releases for many years. In truth, Shazam! represents a certain breath of “fresh air” into the cinematic world of superhero, offering up a more simplistic and fun adventure tale, which is kind of good thing. Considering on many superhero movies nowadays have become either more intricate and grounded or expansive and darker, Shazam! finds a “happy medium” in just dancing the beat to its own drum. To be honest, Sandberg actually makes Shazam! feels reminiscent classic 80s film of juvenile youths that get caught up in a grand adventure and must band together with others to stop an impending evil (i.e. something akin to a Spielberg 80s film or like 1985’s Goonies). Of course, given its efforts in trying to be different, Sandberg does make Shazam! a more humorous take on the superhero, finding a lot of the movie’s jokes and gags to be on point and never falter. Some might produce a chuckle or two, while others might produce big laughs. Regardless, the humorous vibe of the feature definitely works and Sandberg keeps the comical timing light and fun and never DOA. The juxtaposition to that is how the movie handles a few big dramatic scenes that actually do work and really drive home towards Billy Baston’s journey, especially considering his journey to find his real mother.
Working alongside Sandberg is Henry Gayden, who penned the film’s script as well as the story with Darren Lemke. Together, Gayden and Lemke’s screenplay for Shazam! works within the narrative context they want to tell; demonstrating the classic superhero origin tale for a modern age of moviegoers, especially with a teenager protagonist character rather than a young adult (20 or something age range) reluctant character that goes from “zero to hero”. As with the overall tone of the movie, the story narration is relatively simplistic; stripped down to the bare necessities for a comic superhero endeavor and, while that might sound like a bit of a negative remark, it’s actually kind of good thing. Why? Well, if you look at DCEU’s past releases like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Justice League, those particular movies all had a lot of their “narrative” plate (i.e. introducing main characters, multiple story threads, and ton of connecting meta references that ties all the features together). Thankfully, Shazam! doesn’t do that. Of course, the movie is set within the same cinematic world of Batman, Superman, Aquaman, and the rest of the DC characters and does do a little bit of world building (i.e. the seven wizards and the Seven Deadly sins, etc.), but the film’s story / script doesn’t get bogged too much on trying to make those connections or doesn’t go out of its way to make the film part of a large superhero world. Basically, the movie keeps its focus on Billy Batson’s journey and Thaddeus Sivana’s determination for power.
Given the nature of a smaller scale / mid-budget film than past DCEU films, Shazam!’s technical and presentation is rather good and does feel detailed enough to feel both real and surreal; kind of one foot in reality and one foot in the superhero fantastic realm. That’s not to say the feature has CGI visual to utilize in some supernatural effects and costume superhero antics throughout, but Sandberg doesn’t go overboard the visual effects much like what Aquaman did (although Aquaman was a different kind of cinematic beasts to tame against Shazam!). Still, the visual effects in this movie are good and are on par with today’s standard (neither awesome, nor terrible, but still pleasing to look at). I did notice a few sloppy visual once or twice, but it didn’t bother me as much. A lot of the other areas, including set decorations (Shane Vieau), cinematography (Maxime Alexandre), and musical score (Benjamin Wallifisch) are also on point and do feel well-represented in the movie, adding Shazam!’s overall positive column.
Unfortunately, while the movie does offer a lighter and more fun experience in dealing with costumed superheroes, Shazam! does stumble in some areas… most notable in the narration department. What do I mean? Well, while I do praise Gayden and Lemke’s script handing in making the feature fun and something different from other DCEU endeavors, the heart of the problem lies within how movie’s story plays out in a very conventional manner. As I said, it’s a classic superhero origin tale of sort and, within this “golden age” of superhero films, we (as viewers) have seeing plenty of origin stories of ordinary people that undergo some type of transformation into superhuman beings (i.e. “zero to hero”). While its all well and good and has been done many, many times, a film needs something else to bolster the generic storytelling to keep the feature afloat. Shazam! definitely has its humorous and heart in the right place, but its not enough to distract from how formulaic and stereotypical the movie’s narrative is. Thus, the whole film (from beginning to end) feels like a little “been there, done that” within the superhero genre (of which it has been) and just comes contrived and genric at some points.
This also doesn’t help the fact the movie struggles to develop certain sub-plots fully. There’s plenty of ground work in some narrative threads (i.e. Billy’s search for his really mother and the exploration each of his new foster family), but the movie doesn’t seem completely interested in seeing those aspects through. Thus, despite Shazam! being a more a character focused superhero movie (rather than plot based), there are few narrative pieces that don’t work and / or are not fully explored, which is a shame. This is even further made realized when the feature’s runtime is 132 minutes long (two hours and twelve minutes) and certainly feels that long with a lot of things happening here and there. Perhaps trimming the movie down to two hours would’ve been more beneficial for a tighter pacing, which is problematic in a few places throughout the movie. This is most notable in the film’s climax battle scenes, which is a bit elongated and could’ve been easily shortened to fit that two hour runtime mark.
Another negative point (although it’s just a minor one) is that Shazam, despite its lighthearted tone, definitely has a few dark moments in the film. I’m not saying that there are gory or R-rated or anything like that, but these particular scenes are quite obvious and do definitely standout (and for the better), but rather the opposite. It’s understandable as why Sandberg would want to show these dark moments, especially given the fact of his two prior directorial features, but it’s a bit of distraction and doesn’t fully fit into the movie. Another minor negative point that I would make about Shazam! is that it’s not my greatest superhero movie as some are making it out to be. Yes, I agree that’s a rather good and definitely is something different from the expansive / blockbuster, but it’s not as immersive as Man of Steel, or as epic as Wonder Woman, or even as adventurous as Aquaman. The movie definitely has been hyped up for quite sometime as the film’s end result was good (for me), but incredible awesome that I was “blown away” by it. Again, I’m not saying that Shazam! is a bad movie, but it’s not the most perfect superhero movie in the DCEU. At least…. that’s just my opinion as I’m sure some will disagree with me on that.
Collectively, the cast in Shazam! is a rather good one, with every actor and actresses selected to play the film’s characters playing their parts (respectfully) well. While some do have large parts than others (or perhaps could’ve been better developed), there are all well-acted in the feature. At the head of the pack (and perhaps the best / most memorable of the entire feature) is actor Zachary Levi, who plays the Billy Batson’s superhero alter-ego Shazam. Known for his roles in Chuck, Tangled, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Levi is actually what makes Shazam (both the character and the movie) so intriguing and entertaining as the actor is quite adept in being cheeky and humorous, but also displays the right amount dramatic moments that are required to make their character endearing. Levi also handles the teenage / youthful persona of Billy Batson (within a superhero body) quite well, showcasing the juvenile angst that (like I mentioned above) many of us would’ve displayed if we were endowed with superhero abilities. Thus, Levi’s Shazam works fantastically in the movie and he completely makes the character his own.
As for actor Asher Angel (Andi Mack and Driven to Dance), who plays the teenage protagonist character of Billy Batson, he certainly does a good job in the role; handling the movie’s youthful moments within his teenage hero character, who is thrusted into a being a superhero. Naturally, Levi’s portrayal of Billy (in the Shazam persona) beats out Angel’s portrayal of the character (in terms of likeability, screen-time, and entertainment views), but Angel’s performance is still a solid one and one that plays to the film’s positive strengths.
In more secondary roles are the members that make of Billy’s foster family, with the most memorable and largely supporting role is in the character of Frederick “Freddy” Freeman, Billy Baston’s foster sibling who quickly forms a friendship with and who is played by young actor Jack Dylan Grazer (IT and My, Myself, and I). While he’s only a supporting character, Grazer certainly does his part quite well (definitely the best of the younger cast) as he hits all the right tones and beats for his character of Freddy…be it energetic superhero enthusiast, goofy teen, or even heartfelt dramatic moments. Plus, the movie also benefits that Grazer has great on-screen chemistry with both Levi and Angel, which makes his relationship with Billy / Shazam all the more worth watching, especially in some of the verbal dialogue banter between the two. The other foster siblings, including actor Ian Chen (Fresh Off the Boat and Grey’s Anatomy) as the video game obsessed / hacker enthusiast Eugene Choi, actor Jovan Armand (The Middle and Shameless) as the shy / quiet teen Pedro Pena, actress Grace Fulton (Annabelle: Creation..
In the literary world, author Stephen King has been considered to be the “master of horror”; cultivating a steady collection of novels that expanded upon that ideas of that moniker name as well as producing a variety of fictional worlds in the suspense, supernatural, and dark fantasy realm. It’s no wonder that Hollywood would eventually approach the bestselling author in adapting some of his literary work or collaborating with him on several projects meant for the both the big and small screen. Of course, this list consists of several recognizable titles, including 1986’s Stand by Me (based on the “The Body), 1994’s Shawshank Redemption (based on novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption), and 1980’s The Shinning (based on the novel of the same name) just to name a few. Following the recent trends of Hollywood of remakes, several adaptations of King’s works have undergone these updated cinematic translations in way to reshape and / or reimagine what’s been before and present it underneath a new filmmaking guise. This is most notable 2017’s IT (based on King’s 1986 novel and originally made as a 1990 as a TV movie) and actually garnished both critical and box office success during its theatrical run, with a continuation feature film (i.e. IT: Chapter Two) planned for a release in latter half of 2019. Now, Paramount Pictures and directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmeyer present the latest attempt in reimagining one of Stephen King’s most terrifying novel with Pet Sematary; a remake of the 1989 film of the same name. Does this is movie finds its place amongst its moviegoing audience or is it just another pointless remake from Hollywood?
Trying to get away from the hustle and bustle life of Boston, Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) has relocated his family to rural area of Ludow, Maine, hoping to give his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and his children Ellie Jete Laurence) and Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) a fresh start in a quieter town. While Louis tries to settle into his new job as a local doctor physician, Ellie makes a friendship connection with Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), their elderly next-door neighbor who delights in the family’s attention and warmth. Jud is also the one who shows the Creed family the town’s dark secret that lies in the woods beyond the home; revealing the existence of a pet cemetery (misspelled “pet sematary”) where locals come to bury their dead animals. However, when tragedy strikes the Creed family, Jud attempts to helps Louis by revealing the darkly secretive truth about what lies beyond the pet cemetery; revealing an ancient burial ground with the power to resurrect the dead, but comes at a terrible cost…. leaning heavily on the expression of “sometimes…. dead is better”.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I’ve stated in my reviews for The Dark Tower and IT, I’ve worked at a bookstore for several years now and I’ve actually never read any of Stephen King’s works (I know…. sad, but true). However, I know of his reputation as author and I can see people like read his wide range of novels as well as being considered the “master of horror”. Perhaps my best reference to King’s works would be to his cinematic adaptations, with movies like Stand by Me, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, The Shinning, and Carrie being some of my prime examples of being introduced to the author’s tales. Recently, I’ve seeing several of his other works, including my reviews for The Dark Tower (one of the worst adaptations of King’s work) and 2017’s IT (one of my personal favorite of King’s adaptations). In the case of IT, it showed that cinematic remake is possible to surpass the original and that moviegoer audiences are willingly to accept a remake of King’s work; made noticeable by the success that 2017’s IT received.
Naturally, this brings me around to talking about my review for Pet Sematary, a 2019 remake of the 1989 feature film and a second film adaptation of King’s famous novel. As I stated above, working at a bookstore I knew of the King’s Pet Sematary and a little bit of the story by reading the novel’s back cover summary blurb a few times. However (again), I never read the book personally, but heard good things about it people who have read it. Who knows…. maybe one day I’ll read the book. Anyway…I remember hearing about that Pet Sematary was gonna get a 2019 remake and heard of both Clarke and Lithgow were gonna be attached to the project. The film’s movie trailers, which I saw a few times when I saw either PG-13 / R rated movies at my local theater, kind of intrigued me, especially since I really liked the recent remake of IT. At the time, I do remember hearing about the 1989 film of the same name, which was directed by Mary Lambert and starred actor Dale Midkiff, actor Fred Gwynne, and actress Denise Crosby, but (like the novel) I never watched it. So, I did go into watching this new version of Pet Sematary with very limited knowledge of the movie…. save for the back-cover summary on King’s paperback novel. What did I think of it? Well, I actually liked it. While it’s not exactly the quintessential horror film of late from either Hollywood or from King’s adaptations, 2019’s Pet Sematary still works as an interesting and methodically creepy horror endeavor that’s well-put together and effective works for within the context it wants to tell and present. It’s not as exciting / riveting scary as 2017’s IT, but it nowhere nearly as disappointing as 2017’s The Dark Tower.
As a side-note, I did see the 1989 version of Pet Sematary that night after I saw the 2019 version. So, I will make some comparison between the two films in my review. In truth, both iterations of Pet Sematary have their merits and downfalls (as I’ll be listing a few in my review). I guess its really in the “eye of the beholder” ….to determine which one is the superior version.
2019’s Pet Sematary is directed by both Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmeyer; both of which have worked on several projects together (as directors), including Absence, Starry Eyes, and Identical Dead Sisters. Given their background, which is compromised of mostly small projects, Kölsch and Widmeyer makes Pet Sematary their biggest and most ambitious film project to tackle. Thankfully (for the most part), duo directors succeed in presenting a feature that’s intriguing from start to finish that carries core narrative that King created in his novels. Kölsch and Widmeyer keeps the feature ominous throughout, creating a sense of fear, foreboding, and overall dreariness to the film; leading events to a horrifically creepy third act that definitely feels like a something a Stephen King narration would build to. Its at this particular is where the movie true does shine and where horror fans will love by creating some brutal sequences that will squirm in your seat (wherever your viewing this movie) and will definitely keep you on edge as these particular events unfold. Even the film’s lead to that point is also good (a few bumps here and there, but I’ll mention that below), effectively creating a sense of mystery and unsettledness as the movie’s characters come to a realization of their actions (or non-actions) of what befalls them. This clearly demonstrated by the actual Pet Sematary, which Kölsch and Widmeyer make a somewhat character unto itself, feeding on people’s fear and desire as if luring them to do unspeakable things that normally would go against their better judgement.
The film’s script, which was penned by Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler, tackles in translating / updating King’s story for a new cinematic feature film that will entice moviegoers to partake in this new iteration of Pet Sematary. There’s big thing that the script changes that might give fans of novel something to get upset about, but I’ll mention that one below. Suffice to say, the movie is actually good and better than most horror movies that have come out as is this mostly due to source material from Stephen King. The script handling also allows the film’s narrative to delves a bit deeper into the some of King’s Pet Sematary story, discussing the ideas of death and what happens after (i.e. a person soul going to heaven or some ethereal / spiritual place or does the body lay decomposing in the ground and nothing more). It’s definitely a questionable debate between science and religion that has been going on for countless years amongst different groups and I think the movie’s mentioning of it works for what the context of the narrative of Pet Sematary. The 1989 film touches briefly upon it, but I think the 2019 version gives this suggestion more depth to the topical discussion as well as Louis’s plight in the story (a man of science goes against his educated reasoning to play god and goes against the laws of nature).
In terms technical and presentation, Pet Sematary is actually a very well-made film that definitely benefits with from the updated techniques of today’s filmmaking. The one aspect that truly does stand out is the cinematography done by Laurie Rose, who provides some excellent cinematic work and usage of camera angles and creative mood lightning to make the movie creepy and unsettling when it needs to be, especially ones that involve the pet sematary. Coinciding with that is the actually production and set designs by Todd Cherniawsky, Léa-Valérie Létourneau, and Ann Smart is rather good, which is made noticeable in the actually presentation of the pet sematary sequences, which look downright cool and creepy at the same time, which is much better represented than the 1989 film (that looks more like a flower garden burial cemetery rather than something malevolent and unsettling). Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Christopher Young, is rather good and definitely adds to either both the film’s tension and / or the creepy mood in various sequences throughout the feature. Suffice to say…even if you don’t like this new 2019 remake of Pet Sematary, you just simply can’t deny that the film is actually shot and presented in a well-made fashion.
There are a few problems that this 2019 version of Pet Sematary can’t overcome, with some scrutinizing these blemishes more so than others. Perhaps many fans of either King’s novel and of the 1989 film will definitely notice the somewhat big change in the story (as revealed in the film’s second movie trailer) revolving around the two Creed children (Ellie and Gage) and what becomes of them as the tales progresses. Of course, this change from the source material might irk some fans / purist out there (especially those who grew up reading King’s famous novel), but the overall change (to me at least) is fine (at least to me it is). Like many “page to screen” adaptations out there, some changes (be it big or small) are bound to happen and are commonplace in order to stand on its own merits (away from previous iterations and from its source material) and to be slightly different. As to why the decision was made? Again, it was probably done to be different to give something “new” to this 2019 version in a small unexpected way. At the end of the day, however, it’s really a tossup as to this big change in the 2019 version as some viewers will like it, while others will call foul on it (crucially hating the feature because of it).
Still, I do have to complain that the movie’s trailer revealed this particular moment and sort of “ruined” the shock and awe of what Kölsch and Widmeyer wanted. It’s kind of like what happened with 2015’s Terminator Genisys (another movie that starred actor Jason Clarke), which presented the “big twist reveal” during the film’s movie trailer and somewhat blew the air out (sort of speak) of when its actually presented in the movie. So why was the big change in Pet Sematary revealed in the trailer? Hard to say, but I think it actually ruined the “impact” it had on actually watching the film unfold naturally. Even I, who (at the time of watching this movie) knew nothing of King’s Pet Sematary story (beyond its namesake), found the reveal to be a bit underwhelming as I saw it in the film’s trailer, which did deflate my expectations for the movie.
Another problem that the movie faces is in its pacing. For better or worse, Pet Sematary is relatively short motion picture with only having a runtime of one hour and forty-one minutes long (i.e. 101 minutes), which is roughly about the same runtime of a standard comedy film and / or animated feature. One would expect that the film’s short length would be beneficial as the movie wouldn’t be bloated and very streamlined to get the point. However, this somewhat backfires in several parts of Pet Sematary, most notably in the first half of the film. The entire first act (and also first part of the second act as well) feels a bit underwhelming; setting the stage (setting, characters, plot, etc.) for the narrative and overall premise of the film. Yes, its essential for a movie to establish such a primary piece of a feature film, but it handles in a somewhat bland way, which makes this portion of Pet Sematary have pacing issues (making the film longer than what its actually is) and slightly boring. There is plenty of atmospheric creepiness and few horror moments within the first half (probably the reason why the show a lot of the Rachel’s past with her sister Zelda during this part of the movie), but it definitely drags and leaves a lot of the more interesting / big horror moments until the latter half of the film.
In addition, there’s also a problem in handling the character development. Certain aspects of character builds and understanding are vague and its kind of hard to piece together psychology depth and realization, which is the crucial to the plot since there is only a handful of character that the movie ultimately follows (i.e. not a whole lot of supporting players). Even the 1989 film did handle some of the character developments and plot backstory better than this version (probably mostly due to Stephen King handling the movie’s screenplay)...
In 2017, Blumhouse Productions, a filmmaking studio that commonly produces horror style feature films, found critical and monetary success that year with their releases of Spilt and Get Out; both of which gained positive reviews from critics and moviegoers alike. In amongst those two popular releases, the studio also released the movie Happy Death Day; a small film that played upon the events of a young college girl who keeps on dying on her birthday; reliving the days events as she must try to find out who her killer is. While the film might lack notoriety from its cast / star power, Happy Death Day was met with generally positive reviews from its viewers, with many calling it a sort of “Groundhog Day meets Scream” vibe endeavor as well as producing a small (yet sizeable) return at the box office of $61 million against its production budget of $9 million. Now, two years later after it’s release, Universal Pictures (as well as Blumhouse Productions) and returning director Christopher Landon present the sequel to Happy Death Day with the movie Happy Death Day 2U. Is the second chapter in this horror slasher comedy worth seeing it or is it just a redundant and derivate theatrical piece of the first film?
Picking up the day after the events of the first film, college students Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) and Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) have only just begun to enjoy their newly formed romantic relationship with each other; having solve the mystery of Tree’s killer and the perplexing “time loop” of reliving the days events over and over again. Suddenly, Carter’s roommate Ryan Phan (Phil Vu) comes walking into their dorm room, claiming he’s reliving the same day over again after being murdered by a mysterious person in a mask of the campus’ mascot (i.e. a giant baby). Tree and Carter immediately realize that Ryan is now trapped in the same time loop as Tree was, but with no idea why or how it came to be. However, Ryan might have answer as he and his fellow classmates Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre Sarah Yarkin) have been working a secretive science experiment that (inadvertently) trapped Tree in a time loop and has now done the same to Ryan. Wanting to “close the loop”, the group turns on the machine again in attempt to fix everything. Unfortunately, it results in Tree becoming once again trapped in the same time loop as before, but now is in a parallel dimension (thanks to Ryan’s machine going haywire). Now, trapped in an alternative reality from her own, Tree must figure out what is different from her reality and unmask a different killer on the loose before returning to the present in order to break the paradoxical timeline cycle once again.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
It’s been interesting to see Blumhouse Productions growing these past few years. As some of you readers know, I’m not much of a horror movie fan (don’t dislike them, but not my cinematic “cup of tea”), but they have developed some moderate to effective horror feature films. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, 2017 was a good year for them, especially with their releases of both Spilt and Get Out (I preferred Spilt over Get Out…. but that’s just as well). I do remember seeing Happy Death Day during that year, but I wasn’t on plan on seeing it (I was asked too see it for another website I do review for). So…I decided to check it out and do a review for it. For what its worth, the movie was good as it was better than what I thought it was gonna be, especially with its silly witty and humor and its “Groundhog Day” premise, but it did have its fair share of problems. Suffice to say, it was okay movie that served its purpose and (like I said) did manage to become a moderate hit with moviegoers.
Of course, this brings me back to talking about Happy Death Day 2U, a 2019 movie that acts a sequel to the 2017 feature film. As mentioned in the above paragraph, I thought that Happy Death Day was sort of a “one and done” endeavor that was a moderate hit. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the movie trailer for a sequel to Happy Death Day. To be honest, I really didn’t hear much about the announcement of the film online or any type of “buzz” for that matter…just the movie trailer and I kind of surprised and little perplexed by it. I mean…what could they do with a second installment…have another time loop paradox again for the character of Tree to go through. It all just seemed like a quick “cash and grab” from the studios, so I really didn’t put much enthusiasm in wanting to see Happy Death Day 2U. However, as I want to continue to broaden my movie going horizons, I decided to see the movie a few weeks after it got released in theaters. Plus, a co-worker friend from work wanted to go see it, so I went to go see it with him. However, I fell a little bit behind in my movie reviews, so I’ve been playing “catch up”, which is why I’m doing my review for Happy Death Day 2U a little later than usually. So, what did I think of it? Well, to be honest, I actually liked it (more so than the first one). While there are something that the film can’t overcome, Happy Death Day 2U is a funnier / sillier take on its own dark comedy “Groundhog Day” premise, doubling down on its self-aware for a amusing story of alternative timeline realties. It doesn’t necessarily break the mold of the genre (or storytelling for that matter), but this sequel is both fun and entertaining; making for a “killer” paradoxical next chapter in the Happy Death Day franchise.
Returning to the director’s chair for Happy Death Day 2U is director Christopher Landon, who previous did the first Happy Death Day as well as other projects such as The Marked Ones and several of the Paranormal Activity movies (Paranormal Activity 2,3, and 4). Given the fact that he directed the first film, Landon does seem like suitable perfect choice for helming a sequel project of this nature, especially since it draws heavily from the previous installment. Like before, Landon finds a “happy medium” in balancing the movie’s comedic humor with its dark slasher / horror moments. Yes, it’s still a little strange to see the marriage of comedy and horror slasher come together, but Landon seems to make it work for this endeavor and it does certainly show that in this particular film. Like a lot of sequels, Landon makes Happy Death Day 2U somewhat self-aware (or rather more self-aware) of its silly / perplexing premise of time loops and reliving the days events over and over again. A film’s self-awareness can sometimes be a “double edge” sword, with sometimes the idea backfiring on its own awareness. Thankfully, that’s not the case in Happy Death Day 2U, with Landon doubling down on the features fun / silly premise and does so in manner that ultimately works. In addition, Landon, who also pens the film’s script, makes the film have an amusing idea of a parallel / alternative timeline reality; finding the character of Tree discovering what’s different from her own reality. It’s not exactly the most original idea (as it done many times before), but it works and does provide something interesting to play out in this comedy horror premise of time loops and uncovering a masked killer. Plus, like before, Landon does delve into a few dramatic beats within Tree’s journey, with Happy Death Day 2U uncovering one particular catalyst of which she (Tree) must make a hard decision upon (as its something we all would do if the choice was given to us). All in all, if you liked the first Happy Death Day, then you’ll definitely like this next entry as it somewhat improves upon the ideas and tone for a more comedic / self-aware motion picture endeavor than the previous installment.
As presentation goes, Happy Death Day 2U feels very much the same as its predecessor. That’s not to say that its bad or anything like that, but the movie doesn’t really go to elaborate set designs and lay out or any exotic location in order to tell its story. Still, the production of the feature’s background setting (and overall “look and feel”) feels genuine within the context of the narrative; utilizing the college campus grounds (inner halls, dorms, classrooms, etc.) for the film’s setting. In a nutshell, the production designs, set decorations, film editing, cinematography in Happy Death Day 2U meets the filmmaking industry standards for similar motion picture endeavor; neither really great nor terribly bad…. it’s somewhere in-between and (in this case) that’s good thing.
Despite the movie improving upon the previous feature, Happy Death Day 2U still has some wonky bumps and hiccups that hold the film back from being a true slam dunk endeavor (in either both horror or comedy). Perhaps one particular reason is the simple fact that the movie really didn’t need to be in the first place. Granted, the first Happy Death Day was fun and its gimmicky “Groundhog Day” premise did work for what the movie wanted to tell, especially within its dark comedy nuances of Tree dying several times throughout the feature. Thus (as mentioned above), Happy Death Day was an adequate “one and done” type of motion picture and really wasn’t expecting a follow-up. This, of course, goes back to this sequel, which seems a little redundant in producing continuation story to the 2017 movie. Yes, I do like Happy Death Day 2U better than the first one, but it all just seems a bit unnecessary (to say the least) as to make a second installment and to try and build a franchise of this concept. Like a lot of horror movies out there, the studios churn out sequels in order to build upon the success and this is made prevalent with Happy Death Day movies, especially since they relatively low production budget / cost. In short, Happy Death Day 2U definitely works within its context, but its really not something that was in high demand and just seems, more or less,
Coinciding with notion, Happy Death Day 2U does feel slightly derivate in its overall narrative structure and progression. Naturally, this is something I assumed that Landon faced with developing the screenplay and tries to “change things up” when crafting the script for a sequel to Happy Death Day. That being said, there’s just some about the movie’s genetic narrative make-up that has plenty of “déjà vu” in how it all plays out, with plot / story beats playing in a very similar fashion to how they were done before with a few minor altercations / changes made within the alternative reality timeline. Again, this is to be expected (at least it was for me), so I really didn’t really bother me as much.
What did bother me the most was the more introduction to the scientific technobabble that the feature presents in this sequel… most notably with Ryan’s quantum reactor project. I know that this sounds like a minor quibble complaint, but it just seems sillier (more so than the actual time loop paradox) and just comes off as a bit “left field” idea. I understand what Landon was trying to do and tries to give more of a credence to it, but the whole quantum reactor thing seems way too farfetched takes the story (already surreal as it is) to an unnecessary sci-fi aspect.
In terms of the cast, Happy Death Day 2U sees a lot (if not all) of the first film’s character return for this sequel endeavor, with literally all the actors and actresses that portrayed them in the 2017 movie reprising their roles. Returning at the head of the group is actress Jessica Rothe as the film’s main protagonist character of Theresa “Tree” Gelbman. Like before, Rothe, known for her roles in Mary + Jane, The Tribe, and La La Land, once again gives the best performance of the movie, certainly carrying the weight of the sequel’s story (main narrative thread) on her shoulders by displaying the various range of emotions for each particular scene (i.e. mean, sassy, comical, scared, sincere, frustrated, etc.). It’s kind of assuming to see Rothe’s Tree react to everything once again and is definitely the best equipped for a role like this, especially its dark humor wit. Like before, Tree’s character arc isn’t the most original one out there (and has done several times over), but Rothe still manages to make the most of the role, giving exactly what the movie calls for (and needs) and continues to make her portrayal of Tree Gelbman her best performance of her career (at least in my opinion). As before, actor Israel Broussard (Flipped and The Bling Ring) is the next memorable / best performance of the film as Carter Davis, a fellow college student that is now Tree’s boyfriend (at least in her world). Similar to Rothe, Broussard easily slides back into the role of Carter; continuing to pull off a fairly good job in selling his portrayal of the character as the sweet / endearing archetype that helps / care Tree with her time loop paradoxical plight once again. Like I mentioned in my review for Happy Death Day, the love story between Tree and Carter isn’t exactly the most compelling, but both Rothe and Broussard have (at the very least) good on-screen chemistry with each other.
Beyond the characters of Tree and Carter, the character of Ryan Phan, who was Carter’s roommate from the first Happy Death Day and who was portrayed by actor Phi Vu (Pitch Perfect 2 and Logan) makes a return in this sequel endeavor with a much larger part to play than it the previous movie. I was actually surprised to see him in larger supporting role in the movie, but his inclusion in how the Landon tries to “jumble things around” in this sequel actually works….and it is a welcomed one. Along with Vu’s Phan larger role, there are a few new characters that are attached to the project as well, including actress Sarah Yarkin (Foursome and American Horror Story) as Phan’s friend Andrea ‘Dre’ Morgan, actor Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi and Million Dollar Arm) as Phan’s friend Samar Ghosh, and actor Steve Zissis (Jeff, Who Lives at Home and Togetherness) as the college’s Dean Roger Bronson. There is one other new additionally character, but to mention this particular character (even the name of the actor / actresses) would spoil the feature’s twist in the storyline. Suffice to say, it’s an interesting to see this character in the sequel and does play an important part of Tree’s narrative journey in Happy Death Day 2U.
The rest of the cast are many familiar faces from the first film, but with different variations slightly altered from the original personas that we (and Tree) knew of. This includes actress Ruby Modine (Shameless and Central Park) as Tree’s roommate Lori Spengler, actress Rachel Matthew (Happy Death Day) as Tree’s sorority sister Danielle Bouseman, actor Charlie Aitken (The Knick and Frontier) as Dr. Gregory Butler, actor Caleb Spillyards (The Astronaut Wives Club and Anyone) as Tree’s crush / stalker Tim Bauer, and actor Jason Bayle (Trumbo and The Big Short) as Tree’s father David Gelbman. Collectively, it was kind of fun to see all these characters return for this sequel and to see them in a little bit of a different light from how they portrayed in the first film. Like before, some have bigger roles than others, but the group makes the most of their screen-time, especially Matthew’s Danielle who definitely is the big scene stealer in her parts.
Lastly, be sure to check out a little fun Easter Egg scene during the film’s mid-credits sequences; hinting at a possible third installment of the Happy Death Day franchise. Even if that never happens, it still left an amusing smile on my face at a potential next entry for Tree and the gang are possible gonna get into (definitely a zany premise).
Death has a killer comeback! It’s déjà vu all over again as time cycle loop day comes back to haunt Tree Gelbman in the new movie Happy Death Day 2U. Director Christopher Landon’s latest film sees the return of the cinematic story he began back in 2017, fueling the feature with great..
Every saga comes to an end as Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilms release the official teaser trailer for the highly anticipated film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. View trailer below.
The Rise of Skywalker is set one year after events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It is the end of the Skywalker saga.
Star Wars: Episode IX – Teaser - YouTube
Hmmm…… very interesting. While this new trilogy saga in the Star Wars franchise definitely has its fanbase spilt, I’m curious to see how this new movie will play out. Definitely looks interesting, showcasing footage that give any moviegoers curious to see the feature. There’s a lot of questions to be answer….like is Luke really dead? Who are Rey’s parents? Will Rey defeat Kylo Ren? Will we ever see the Knights of Ren? Hopefully, this movie will answer all those questions. Oh yeah…..that evil cackling laugh at the end. Definitely sounds like the Emperor. I’m very curious to know how he will fit into this movie (presumably the “behind the scenes” bad guy, which would fit….him being the main antagonist villain of the entire Star Wars episode saga). Altogether….I’m very excited and really intrigued how The Rise of Skywalker will ultimately close out this saga.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is to be released on December 20th, 2019
Welcome to the very first of Jason’s “Cinematic” Flashback!
I decided I wanted to do something a little different from in-depth reviews that I normally do and something that jives with classic social media moniker of “Throwback Thursday” that a lot people do. So, with my blog dedicated to movies, I decided to review older film titles, which are presented in a more abbreviated / abridged review (sort of a min-review) of these respective tiles. In short…. these reviews are gonna “short and sweet”. Don’t worry….I’ll still be doing my full in-depth reviews for my current movies. I just thought of a change of pace from the “usually”. For these “Cinematic Flashback” I’ll be reviewing movies that had been released prior to 2013, which is when I first started this movie blog. As for what type of movies or film genre…. anything goes.
So, without further ado, here is my first “cinematic flashback”!!!
THE NEVERENDING STORY (1984)
“A boy who needs a finds a world that needs a hero in a land beyond imagination!”
Director: Wolfgang PetersonWriter: Wolfgang Peterson and Dieter GeisslerStarring: Noah, Hathaway, Barrett Oliver, Tami Stonach, and Thomas HillRunning Time: 94 MinutesRelease Date: July 20th, 1984Rated: PG
Bastian is a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprietor reveals an ancient story-book to him, which he is warned can be dangerous. Shortly after, he “borrows” the book and begins to read it in the school attic where he reads of the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction. Following the adventurous story of a young warrior named Atreyu, who goes in search of way to save Fantasia’s ruler (the Child-like Empress) and the dark entity force known as “The Nothing”, Bastian soon begins to realize that this no mere book he’s reading.
This is one movie that I’ll never forget and still have fond memories of it. To be honest, I actually saw the second film (i.e. 1991’s The NeverEnding story II: The Next Chapter) first before seeing this one. However, in comparison to that one and the abysmal third installment (1994’s The NeverEnding Story III: Escape from Fantasia) the original 1984 film is vastly superior in both an entertainment value and in compelling storytelling. There’s just something about this movie and literally stands the test of time and why it is still a beloved 80s movie.
Based on the book of the same name by author German author Michael Ende, The Never-Ending Story takes the first half of Ende’s book, presenting an imaginative that’s brimming with a fantasy movie of the 80s, reflecting upon the fairy tale-like setting of Fantasia and the narrative structure of the film. It was definitely filled with a lot of what embodies of an 80s movie, with plenty of colorful fantasy characters, including giant Rock Biter, a colossal ancient turtle, a scientist gnome, and a “luck dragon” named Falkor (that provide a lot of humor and heart throughout) as well as some darker moments (i.e. the scene with Gmork) and sadder ones (what befalls Atreyu’s horse Artax in the Swamp of Sadness). Seriously….that scene is like one of the most saddest scenes I’ve seeing in movies from my childhood. Definitely scared me for life (and I think it did for a lot of viewers out there). What’s more impressive I found while watching this movie is the underling message that the feature has, toiling with the idea of imagination and how many youths out there are discarding it, which implies to the death of imagination and the creation the dark ominous entity “The Nothing” that seeks to destroy Fantasia in the process. As a side-note, Ende never really liked this film adaptation and refused to put his name during the movie’s opening credits. However, he is credited (very briefly) during the feature’s end credits.
Collectively, the acting talents involved on this project were fine. None of them truly stood out as neither really terrible and incredible awesome. That being said, actors Noah Hathaway and Barret Oliver, who acted as the film’s two main characters (i.e. Atreyu and Bastian), do make-up the bulk of the film’s narration more emotional dramatic points and do sell those parts solidly (again, the whole Swamp of Sadness scene). Plus, while the film’s musical score is rather good (filled with 80s synthesizer melodies and cues), the movie’s theme song titled “The NeverEnding Story” (performed by Limahl) is perhaps the most memorable with catchy lyrics.
Given the fantasy landscape of Fantasia and its wide array of fantastical creatures therein, the visual effects are what you would except from an 80s fantasy adventure, consisting of small- and large-scale models, puppetry, and the usage of blue screen. It may be considered “dated” by today’s standards, but that’s kind of part of the charm of the movie (at least I think so). Although, it would be interesting to see how this film would like (with advancements in filmmaking and computer visuals) if it was remade in today’s world.
In the end, The NeverEnding Story is a perfect example of kids’ 80’s fantasy movies that plenty of nostalgia of a child’s adventure, toils with the idea of growing up, and echoing themes (as a friendly reminder) of the power of imagination and to never stop using it.
CINEMATIC FLASHBACK SCORE: 4.4 OUT 5
Fun Note: The original Auryn prop for this film now hangs in an enclosed glass display in Steven Spielberg’s office.
The king….has returned as Walt Disney Studios and director Jon Faverau release the new official trailer for their upcoming live-action film The Lion King. View trailer below.
The Lion King tells the story of Simba, a young lion who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands; however, after Simba’s uncle Scar (Mufasa’s jealous younger brother), murders Mufasa, Simba is manipulated into thinking he was responsible and flees into exile. Upon maturation living with two wastrels, Simba is given some valuable perspective from his childhood friend, Nala, and his shaman, Rafiki, before returning to challenge Scar to end his tyranny and take his place in the Circle of Life as the rightful King.
The Lion King Official Trailer - YouTube
Wow….definitely got goosebumps while watching that. As to expected, this new trailer showcases plenty of new footage from 2019’s The Lion King, with our look at this movie version of Scar as well as a few other iconic moments from the Disney classic. There has been some debate on whether this movie will be good or will it just play upon the childhood nostalgia for those who grew up with the original 1994 animated film. Still, regardless of that notion, this live-action remake of The Lion King surely does look both amazing and promising at the same time. Can’t wait to see it….. The Lion King roars into theaters on July 19th, 2019
Over the past thirty years, the stylish cartoon tales of Japanese anime has all been a popular genre for many; findings this animated realm appealing with its variety of stories to tell. Given the plethora of different styles of anime (ranging from feature films to TV series), it comes as no surprise that Hollywood has taking an interest in these Japanese cartoons; pulling from their source material (in some capacity) to be repurposed and / or presented in a new live-action cinematic light for moviegoers. Sometimes movies have drawn inspiration from the genre (as a whole) in piecing together influence motifs and nuances from various anime projects, including 2013’s Pacific Rim (taking from the 90s TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion), 1998’s Dark City (taking from the 1988 film Akira), and 2010’s Inception (taking from 2006’s Paprika). Other times the movies (or TV shows) have taken the anime property and tried to reimagine them under the guise of a direct story adaptation, including 2017’s Ghost in the Shell (taking from the 1995 film of the same name) and 2015’s Death Note (taking from the 2006 TV show of the same name). Now, 20th Century Fox (as well as Lightstorm Entertainment) and director Robert Rodriguez present the latest Hollywood blockbuster endeavor that takes inspiration from anime with the feature film Alita: Battle Angel, a film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga (Japanese graphic novel) titled Battle Angel Alita. Does this motion picture find its appeal with its visually sci-fi aesthetics or does it flounder underneath its source material and overall high expectations?
Set in the distant future of the 23rd Century, the Earth has changed, faced with the aftermath of a cataclysmic event titled “The Fall” and much more harsh and shattered existence of living. While scouting the junkyard metropolis of Iron City, a cybernetics and trash while the utopia and luxurious sky city of Zalem hovers overhead, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers a discarded robotic body in the scraps waste; using his expertise knowledge to rebuild the bot to create Alita (Rosa Salazar), a cyborg with a metallic shell and the brain of a teenage girl. While her sentient mind is intact, Alita has amnesia, unsure of her life before, but is happy to find a home with Ido, who fills his fatherly needs after a broken relationship with fellow genius Dr. Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), who’s now allied herself with Vector (Mahershala Ali), a powerful underworld figure who has “connections” to Zalem. With the aid of Hugo (Keean Johnson), a friendly young man who takes a shine to the naïve cyborg, Alita learns to navigate in her dangerous surroundings of Hunter-Warriors, bounty hunters who keep a metallic order amongst the community, and the violent excitement of the popular game of Motorball. However, fragments of Alita’s past begin to surface within her, uncovering who she really is and how much of a danger (and desire) she is Zalem.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As much as I love cinematic narratives from both TV shows and movies, I still do love to watch some Japanese anime feature film and TV series on occasions. Yes, I did grow up watching a few in my young adolescent years (i.e. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z to name a few), while I expanded more into the genre during my teenage years. I was more into the TV series shows than the feature films, but my appreciation for the anime was palpable (I was more into the fantasy and the sci-fi mecha ones mostly). I did eventually grow out of it as I began to watch more live-action TV shows, but anime (as a whole) is something that I do like and continue to do so with a few projects here and there. Of course (being a fan of movies in general), I’ve seeing (and heard) several big / prominent Hollywood films that have taken inspiration from anime works as well as seeing several adaptations of projects over the years…most recently with 2017’s Ghost in the Shell (a movie that I liked, but still kind of preferred the original 1995 anime movie).
This brings me back to talking about Alita: Battle Angel, a 2019 sci-fi theatrical motion picture that’s based on the popular Japanese manga series. A few years ago, I do remember hearing about a cinematic representation was in the works for the manga series and that director James Cameron was gonna be attached to the project (in some shape or form). I also remember hearing some of the cast members being attached to the film (i.e. Ali, Connelly, Waltz), which definitely intrigued me…. since I like all those acting talents. Like many, I do remember seeing the film’s first trailer when I saw Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi back during the end of 2017 and definitely was curious to see this movie when it came out in summer of 2018. r, the film was (unexpectedly) pushed back with a new release date set for December of 2018. Still, I was getting more excited to see the movie as new movie trailers as I went to the movies every week and (most of the time) saw it. Unfortunately, Alita: Battle Angel was again delayed a second time, being pushed back until February 2019. I assume this was due to the film’s December release date, which was being released alongside several other movies (i.e. Aquaman, Bumblebee, Second Act, and Welcome to Marwen). Thus, it is understandable as to why that the studios decided to move Alita: Battle Angel a few months back…. where the feature would have a better chance of producing bigger numbers at the box office (away from numerous competitors). So, February of 2019 finally arrived I finally got the chance to see Alita: Battle Angel. Unfortunately, I fell a little bit behind on my reviews, so I held off on doing my review for this movie a few weeks after its theatrical release. Now, I finally have the chance to share with you (my readers) my thoughts on the movie. So…what did I think of it? Well, Alita: Battle Angel was definitely a visual spectacle and had its entertainment value, but felt incomplete and struggles under the weight of its source material. There’s definitely a movie worth watching, but its prolonged delay to its release (and its overall hype) aren’t exactly on par with what’s actually presented.
As stated, director James Cameron was planning on directing Alita: Battle Angel (many years ago), spending more than a decade “mulling” over how to approach Kishiro’s popular manga series for a more “American” Hollywood audience. However, as time passed, the visual filmmaker pushed the project aside and eventually moved onto producing his ground-breaking visual / ambitious project titled Avatar (and the long-awaited sequels that are soon to released in the years to coming). Thus, in Cameron’s absence, the directorial duties for Alita: Battle Angel were passed onto writer / producer / director Robert Rodriguez, whose previous directorial works includes From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City, and Spy Kids. Given a wide range of his directorial works (ranging from kid-friendly to more dark comic book dramas), Rodriguez seems to find a “happy medium” when it comes to Battle Angel; finding the director’s talents utilizes to make the popular manga series a blockbuster affair with plenty of visual appeal and big-screen cinematics throughout. In that regard, Rodriguez succeeds in making Battle Angel a visually appealing blockbuster fanfare that will surely delight any fan of the sci-fi variety. As to be expected, the feature is definitely an ambitious project, dealing with its Japanese manga source material by Kishiro and certainly does feel like…. reimagine the story of a big-screen endeavor that’s brimming with common usage / nuances that are commonly found in modern-day tales of dystopian futures and clashing of class / society. This ultimately plays into the film’s script, which was penned by James Cameron as well as Laeta Kalogridis, which sees the titular character of Alita discovering her new surroundings (i.e. learning the ways of society) as well discovering about herself. It’s a classic hero’s journey of discovery and awareness that certainly does work (for the most part). Plus, it’s also great that both the script and Rodriguez’s vision of the film makes the character of Alita a strong / badass character, who is easily one of the big positive highlights of the movie (more on that below). Basically, if you’re looking for a big-budgeted feature as well as strong female protagonist characters…. you’ll definitely find something in this film.
As to be expected, the overall technical presentation of Battle Angel is quite impressive and is definitely a fantastic visual appealing motion picture that’s worth of any big budgeted summer blockbuster. All the technical achievements are pretty fantastic to see and they perform throughout the movie; seeing plenty of intricate details of body movement, facial expressions, and various landscapes. This is most apparent in the film’s setting of seeing the variety of locations of Iron City (and its surroundings areas) come alive in the backdrop. Additionally, the visual aspect is mostly enjoyable when the feature’s action kicks in…most notably during all the motorball sequences or several encounters that Alita has with various Hunter-Warrior bounty hunters. All of this makes for some great CGI eye candy that Battle Angel has to offer and is definitely something for fans and moviegoers who are looking for a sci-fi spectacle. Thus, I do have to give credit the visual effects team for their detailed work on the film as well as the movie’s cinematographer Bill Pope for producing many various dramatic camera shots that lend credence to the cinematics that Rodriguez wants to tell. All the others presentation feature staples, including production designs, set decorations, and costume designs are also good as well, elevating the film’s overall “look and feel” throughout. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Junkie XL is rather good and definitely adds to all the sci-fi cinematic grandeur that the feature boast and within all scene nuances (be it big / flashy moments or soft / personal ones).
Unfortunately, Battle Angel isn’t exactly the absolute perfect sci-fi movie that was promised it to be, with several problems that the feature faces and can not overcome. Perhaps the ones that’s most prevalent one (of the movie) is the actually story…. or rather the how the story is presented. As mentioned above, the screenplay was done by Cameron and Kalogridis, has all the classic narrative tropes of seeing a hero’s origin story, but it all feels derivate to a certain degree. That’s not saying that it’s still fun to see how it all happens (and come together in the end), but it feels like many other sci-fi epics have done the same thing and with better cinematic storytelling handling. A crucial part of this criticism comes from how much story is actually crammed into Battle Angel’s narrative. With a runtime of 122 minutes (two hours and two minutes), the movie isn’t necessary long in the ways and means of its length, but the script definitely has way too much narrative / plot to unpack through the feature. This can be clearly seeing in Alita’s journey throughout the course of Battle Angel, following her from curious youth of the world, to Hunter-Warrior, to Motorball participant, to uncovering the truth of the past, and so on. It’s all well and good and do make for a story to be told, but there’s so much ground to cover that it all just feels “crammed”; making a two-hour runtime feel much longer.
Adding to that notion is the simple fact (because of this) that Battle Angel’s pacing is off; moving quickly through certain events and plot / key developments, while also overstaying / overstating certain story beats throughout. Due to this, not enough time is devoted to every single narrative thread that Cameron and Kalogridis want to tell as Rodriguez makes the feature run its course with cut down iteration of the bare essential story elements of the script. Of course, the movie would’ve been three hours (or longer) if Rodriguez expanded upon everything that the script asked for in Battle Angel, but I think that one or two sub-plot elements could’ve been eliminated from the final screenplay to make the film more “streamlined” version. Even simplistic cinematic narrative stuff such as character developments and world-building (of which there’s plenty in the movie to explore) never gets fully fleshed out, especially concerning the floating utopia city of Zalem and the character of Nova. Thus, despite the visual flair that the movie has going for it, the story of Battle Angel comes off as a little “too much” as well as “not much; a perplexing duality of cinematic undertaking.
This, of course, leads into another problem that I felt that Battle Angel, which was how incomplete the feature feels. To be sure, there’s plenty of mystery to the film’s overall narrative arc (i.e. seeing the mystery behind Alita’s past and how she controls her abilities), which is to be further explained (and brought to light) by the possibilities of future sequel installments. Unfortunately, as it has been proven from several recent potential franchise endeavors of late, unless the movie has already been proven to sell (i.e. Harry Potter, Star Wars, or the MCU), creating a movie franchise is hard thing to sell, especially since the coveted “tag” for a series of feature films isn’t really guaranteed. This is the exact case with Battle Angel, which certainly does have the potential to continue further (and that’s some I would like to see), but the movie itself feels incomplete and doesn’t even offer that much of a satisfying ending. It’s like watching Peter Jackson’s first LOTR movie (The Fellowship of the Ring) with the notion that the other two entries in Tolkien’s trilogy might or might not get a cinematic adaptation treatment; leaving viewers left with an unfinished / unresolved story. In a nutshell, Battle Angel fells part of a longer story that may never be released, with its potential future continuation in a rather limbo stance.
Over the past several years, Jordan Peele has definitely been making a name for himself on both the big and small screen. While he started in small roles on shows like MADtv, Childrens Hospital, and Fargo, Peele gained some notoriety when he started on the sketch comedy TV show Key & Peele, which aired on the channel Comedy Central. Running for five seasons, the show gained the comedic pairing of Peele (and actor Keegan-Michael Key), which eventually leading them to making a comedic feature film titled Keanu in 2016; a film that received mixed reviews, but praised Key and Peel’s witty banter / on-screen chemistry. In 2017, Peele made the jump from actor to motion picture director, directing his first film with the movie Get Out, a suspenseful / horror movie of an African American man (played by actor Daniel Kaluuya) who uncovers a dark / disturbing secret when he meets the family of his white girlfriend. Surprisingly, Peele’s Get Out was met with critical praise from critics and moviegoers, with many praising the feature’s story, script, and satire / social commentary message. Furthermore, Get Out, which was made for only $4.5 million, cultivated over $250 million at the box office and also celebrated several award nominations during the award season, including winning Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Now, two years after the release of Get Out, actor / director Jordan Peele (and Universal Pictures) releases his second directorial feature film with the movie titled Us. Is Peele’s sophomore film worth the hype or is it just mediocre one?
Escaping their busy lives and looking for a little / well-deserved vacation, the Wilson family, which includes Gabe (Winston Duke), his wife Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), and their two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), making their “getaway” at Adelaide’s childhood home. Visiting the nearby beach community of Santa Cruz for some “fun in the sun”, the Wilson family settles in, but Adelaide remains on edge, sensing something wrong with the destination. In truth, she is haunted by past memories of her childhood (circa 1986), when she was separated from her parents, finding her way into a spooky fun house. Disturbed by the resurfaced moments from her past, Adelaide seeks to leave, only find the way out blocked one night by a family of identical doppelgangers or rather “tethered” versions of themselves, with Red (Nyong’o), Abraham (Duke), Umbrae (Joseph), and Pluto (Alex), who appear on their doorstep. This sudden appearance of these “look alikes” sets in motion a night of survival in the community, unraveling the events that have led up to this moment as the Wilson family faces these “tethered” doppelgangers and learn of the horrifying secrets that their mirrored selves desire.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Like I said in the opening paragraph, Jordan Peele has definitely made a name for himself these past few years. Personally, I remember seeing a few episodes of Key & Peele a couple of times; finding the pair’s overall chemistry great and how they produced laughs. Then I saw Keanu and, while I didn’t review the movie (my bad), I thought it had a few laughs within a somewhat mediocre motion picture. I kind of find it interesting that Key decided to purse more of acting career (appearing in more supporting roles in movies), while Peele decided to try his hand in directing. Of course, I’m talking about his movie Get Out, which (like I mentioned above) garnished quite a lot of positive reviews from both critics and viewers alike. I did miss seeing this movie in theaters, but I did rent it when it was released on home release. However, while a great majority loved it, I thought it was good, but nothing really spectacular. I’m not knocking Peele’s directing ability, which was really good for a first-timer of a full-length motion picture, as well as the cast and the social commentary message that was presented, but I just felt the film was a little bit overhyped and was a complete masterpiece has some were making it out to be. Regardless of why I thought, however, Get Out was definitely a big hit with its viewers and definitely made a statement with Peele’s directing ability.
This, of course, brings me back to talking about the film Us, Jordan Peel’s sophomore directorial feature film. Given the amount of success of critical acclaim from both critics and moviegoers, Peele was poised to direct a second feature film sometime after the release of Get Out, with many eagerly waiting this project. Within time, the internet rumor mill started to churn as plenty of “buzz” surrounding Peele’s newest project (i.e. Us); giving the necessary inherit hype to the feature before even getting released. Of course, when the film’s movie trailer for Us came out, it definitely reconfirmed that notion. As I said, I liked Get Out, but wasn’t super thrilled with like many out there. That being said, I was kind of curious to see how Peele’s Us would turn out to be…. another big hit or a just a mediocre fluke? So, I decided to see during its opening weekend; curious to see if Peele could pull off another big win with his sophomore film. Well, what did I think of it? To be truthful, I liked it more than I did Get Out. While there were few minor problems with the movie, Us is definitely a great endeavor on Peele’s part; showcasing plenty of ideals within a feature film that proves to be fun, creepy, and entertaining. It’s not a true masterpiece, but it shows that Peele’s directorial sense of cinematic storytelling and craftmanship has evolved in his second directed motion picture.
As to be expected, Peele returns to the director’s chair for Us as well as handling the film’s script; proving that the actor turned director is capable of handling the “double duty” role behind the scenes. As mentioned, its clearly (from the get-go) that Peele’s directorial handling has greatly improved from Get Out, making Us a more improved / refined feature film, with Peele’s ability greatly more enhanced. To be quite honest, Peele, given the fact that he is rebooting The Twilight Zone tv shows, makes Us feel like an episode from the strange / bizarre show. What do I mean? Well, Us has that particular nuances and narrative aspect that draw similar attributes…. kind of like “what if” scenario appeal (considering the “tethered” doppelgangers of people). It’s a cool idea and, while it’s not exactly the most original idea to come from a narrative adaptation (be it movie, TV show, or book, etc.), Peele makes it in way that finds its appeal / engaging to watch. This plays an instrumental part of Us’s narrative, especially considering how many other horror movies of late have found the standard plot / story to be conventional for the genre (i.e. possession, demonic spirit, serial killer, etc.).
Coinciding with Peele’s directing ability, the actor / director definitely has keen sense of building up tension, which is a crucial element in horror features. Thankfully, Peele seems adept in that knowledge, providing enough tension / suspense to keep us (the viewers) invested in Us’s story from beginning to end. As for the horror aspect movie, there is plenty horrific moments in Us, but Peele (thankfully) doesn’t go “over the top” with them, keeping them a bit more grounded than some other horror films of late. However, that doesn’t mean that the horror nuances he uses aren’t effective; making Us definitely a creepy film to watch as the tale unfolds, especially a few scenes that will make you “squirm” over. While the movie doesn’t have a pronounce social commentary message like Get Out had, Peele does offer Us a classic idealistic look (both physically and mentally) of a person battling themselves. This can be extrapolated in the fight against the “tethered” doppelganger individuals as well as battlefield of the mind (as seen in the case of Adelaide’s struggling past trauma and her further connection to her doppelganger…Red, who is seeing as the leader of the “tethered” quartet). There’s a sense of duality to it all and Peele certainly does utilize that knowledge when crafting the feature, highlighting some specific moments that call upon the aspect.
Additionally, Peele weaves some subtle thematic elements / messages within this suspenseful horror tale, including post trauma (the lasting effect it has on a person), fragile / fracture mindset, social identities (i.e. privilege versus non privilege), and the common practice of a “nuclear” family unit. While some of these nuances aren’t quite the “main attraction” of Us, it’s still a wholesome endeavor to the narrative screenplay of the feature, which deserves some praise from Peele’s creditability rather than just making a straight forward horror slasher movie.
In terms of presentation, Us is a well-crafted. The movie does have a more grounded setting that other supernatural background setting (again…. the movie isn’t a supernatural horror endeavor), but that doesn’t mean the scenery / setting for the narrative plays a part of the film’s story. Thus, the overall feel of Us has a sort of “one foot” in reality and the other in a surreal cinematic suspenseful horror world. This is made realized by the efforts made up those “behind the scenes” filmmaking team that Peele has assembled, including the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis, the art direction by Cara Brower, and production designs by Ruth De Jong. Lastly, the film’s scored, which was composed by Get Out’s Michael Abels, proves to have an effective musical undertone for Us, including a very spooky chorus chant / singing as well as pieces of unsettling orchestral flourishes of which definitely add in the feature’s overall “creepiness” and tension build-up.
However, like all movies out there, no feature film can go unscathed from drawbacks and criticism and while Peel’s efforts are solid, Us does a few film (at least to me) that hold the movie back from true cinematic greatness. Perhaps my major complaint is that the feature’s main narrative gets a little messy as events keep happening. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the story gets terrible as it remains quite engaging throughout, but the back half of the film (most notable towards the third act) gets a little bit heavily handed in how it handles itself. What do I mean? Well, much like the movie A Quiet Place (another successful and critically acclaim suspenseful horror movie), Us never fully explains certain narrative plot points / device fully. Without spoiling it, Peele gives the immediate story of the film a sort send-off for a conclusion, but there seems to a larger story at play that doesn’t seem to wrap up. This, of course, leads to a possible continuation (i.e. an Us 2) somewhere down the line…. some shape or form…or just simply an ambiguous ending to the narrative. In both cases, it just leaves it all a bit open ended, which can be frustrating to some. Likewise, the handling of some of the big plot twist / reveal moments during the third act come across messy as well, with some vague attempts to explain certain things. To me, there’s one big question that doesn’t get explained and leaves me scratching my head over it (as I’m sure it will for most viewers out there). It’s not a super big deal, but it something that certainly does bother me a bit. Perhaps maybe Peele could’ve used some help in the script handling department? It’s possibility.
Lastly, as a very minor complaint about the movie, I would say that the overall inherit hype for Us doesn’t match what’s actually presented. I’m not saying that the film is bad as it’s quite good and Peele certainly does deliver a terrific film, but I wouldn’t go as far as to saying that it’s a spectacular masterpiece. Peele gets more right than wrong in his sophomore directed movie, but there’s a lot to process and understand more so in this movie than in Get Out. As mentioned above, there definitely a lot of ambiguousness that isn’t fully explained, which does add to the complexity / head scratching aspect of the feature. Again, I’m not saying that isn’t a bad thing, but its definitely one that sticks out when viewing the film. Thus, despite all that, Us isn’t as perfect masterpiece, but its still a solid one that will surely please many out there. However, the movie critic in me can’t overlook the somewhat messy story handling that hampers the film.
Looking past those particular criticism remarks, the cast in Us in a small but effective one; casting some fine actors and actresses (some recognizable from previous projects) to play the film’s various characters. Naturally, the quartet that makes up the Wilson family are the feature’s primary characters that the movie follows; finding each one of them compelling and interesting to watch on-screen. At the head of the pack (and probably considered to be the main lead character of Us) is the character of Adelaide Wilson, the matriarch of the Wilson family, who is played by actress Lupita Nyong’o. Known for her roles in 12 Years a Slave, The Jungle Book, and Black Panther, Nyong’o is definitely the driving force of Us, making Adelaide well-rounded as both a strong character as well as a fragile one, who deals with her personal trauma during her childhood. The movie devotes a lot of time to understanding those particular moments (via flashback sequences), which are place throughout the film, and lend credence to the story that’s unfolding in the present. Nyong’o certainly takes command whenever she’s on screen (whether she’s Adelaide or her “tethered” doppelganger form known as Red) certainly does allow the Oscar-winning actress to showcases her acting talents in the horror genre. In a nutshell, Nyong’o’s performance in Us is fantastic and is definitely the most developed character of the entire feature.
Behind her is actor Winston Duke, who plays the patriarch of the Wilson family Gabe Wilson. While Duke has performed in others projects (i.e. Person of Interests, The Messengers, and Modern Family), many moviegoers out there will know of the actor from his break-out appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War) as the Wakandan Jabari leader M’Baku; bringing a sense of toughness as well as a splash humor to the role. In Us, Duke definitely gets to put on that humorous charm once again as he plays Gabe with a loveable goofiness to him that’s wrap up in the classic dad persona (including corny one-liners). That being said, he still plays a vital part in the movie and definitely is a great character in bringing levity to this otherwise dreary / creepy horror feature. Personally, while Nyong’o is the beating heart of the movie, Duke’s Gabe is my personal favorite character of Us.
Rounding out the Wilson family are the characters of Zora and Jason Wilson, the children of Adelaide and Gabe, who are played by actress Shahadi Wright Joseph (The Lion King and Hairspray Live!) and actor Evan Alex (Mani and Kidding) as Zora and Jason Wilson respectfully. Much like their parents, Zora and Jason make up the younger family unit of the Wilsons; finding each one to have a distinct personality as well as own personal dilemmas that happen to them throughout the course of the..