Summer of Cinema: Black Widow

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has a strong relevance to Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D, it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film, gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

Dear Reader,

I, like many others have been waiting for this film for over a year. Marvel fans have had some amazing TV shows to keep us entertained in 2021, but when the time came for Black Widow, I had to see the first female Avenger get her due. In some ways, it has been much longer than a year waiting for this film. The friend who organised my group outing has been anticipating since Black Widow’s debut in Iron Man 2 (2010). Natasha Romanoff has always been a mystery. We have seen a little of her back story in the Red Room, training to be an assassin but how did she really become Black Widow and how did she join S.H.I.E.L.D?

I saw this film at a Vue Extreme screening in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, London so I definitely got the full effect. The screen was massive and the audience was packed for a Friday afternoon. I went with a group of friends and mutual friends and despite not everyone being a Marvel geek, we all enjoyed seeing Black Widow get her moment to shine.

There’s so much to dissect within the film including amazing aerial fight sequences, powerful female characters, an unexpected family drama aspect, humorous squabbling and the long awaited Budapest story.

I will start first with the characters. We have met Natasha Romanoff in several Marvel films as different versions of herself. There was Natalie Rushman in Iron Man 2 and her true name, Natalia Alianova Romanova was revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Despite an appearance in eight other Marvel films, Black Widow has always kept her cards close to her chest in terms of her origin story; we have only been given little bits and pieces.

In Black Widow, we find Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the government after the events of Captain America: Civil War. She expertly evades Secretary Ross (William Hurt) and ends up in Norway. She still has her trademark red hair but we know that at some point she will dye it blonde for her appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.

We also learn of Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a Black Widow agent on mission in Morocco. After exposure to a chemical, Yelena wakes up from mind control and goes rogue. Natasha finds her in Budapest and after trying to kill each other, the two remember their past as sisters in America.

Natasha and Yelena were raised as sisters for three years with the Red Guardian – Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz) – a former Widow posing as their parents. The first sequence shows their life together and then suddenly having to leave sleepy Ohio for Russia to train in the Red Room.

When Natasha learns that the Red Room still exists and girls are still being trained as assassins, she agrees to help Yelena take it down. They team up with Alexei and Melina once again who help them find the Red Room. There is a big focus on aerial stunts in this film which is something Marvel loves to dabble in with its flying heroes such as Falcon, Iron Man, Vision and War Machine but we have not seen this so much with Natasha. There is the small airplane sequence where Alexei tries to fend off the police from the wing of the plane; the helicopter jailbreak in Russia with Yelena flying it and Natasha swinging from a cable and of course, the fight sequence when everything falls after the Red Room is blown up.

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has strong relevance in Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D; it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

When Natasha and Yelena sit down for dinner with Alexei and Melina, family dynamics that had been forgotten for 20 years come into play with Melina criticising Natasha’s posture and Alexei telling the women to listen to their ‘mother.’ The humour and banter between the four characters demonstrates the closeness they once shared. They are able to fall back into familiar roles.

An element of the film that fans have been waiting for is the story behind what happened in Budapest with Natasha and Clint Barton. It started as a throwaway line in Avengers (2012) but has become a key part of Natasha’s story. When she finds Yelena in Budapest at a safe house, she recounts meeting Clint and him helping her avoid being recalled to the Red Room. We get details such as hiding in an air duct in the Metro for two days and using the same safe house where Natasha and Yelena meet. This is evidenced by arrow holes in the wall. Natasha mentioned before that Clint was sent to kill her but instead gave her a chance to join a different side. Her accidental killing (or so she thought) of Dreykov’s daughter was her proof that she had separated herself from Dreykov and the Widows.

Overall, this film was entertaining and a welcome return for Marvel at the cinema. It was funnier than I expected whilst still maintaining a serious plot and a worthy adversary to destroy. The aerial stunt at the end was like nothing I had seen in a Marvel outing or elsewhere and was amazing to see on a big screen. If you have been waiting to return to the cinema, definitely make this film your first one back.

I give this film 5/5.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

TV Shows I’ve been watching this month

Hello readers,

As lockdown is easing gradually in the UK and life hopefully will be returning to its pre-pandemic state, cinemas will be opening and production will increase. However, we are not quite there yet and this month I have been mainly watching television programmes that I find comfort in and sticking to old favourites. With real life becoming more exciting soon, maybe my watching habits will as well. The five shows I am going to write about in this post are all ones that have been in my life in some form for a while. For example while WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are new shows they are a continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 23 films that culminated in Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Both of these shows pick up after Endgame and focus on some heroes who have not had their own films.

Shameless US – Netflix

I first became aware of this show around a year ago through a friend. I was introduced through the characters of Ian and Mickey and their ground-breaking relationship. For me they have been a great example of a romance that is not conventional or stereotypically confined by their sexuality. The show as a whole is set in Southside Chicago where every character has to fight for survival.

Shameless centres around the Gallagher family, the same as the UK version which this version is based upon but that is where the similarities stop plot wise. The family is headed by eldest sister, Fiona who is 21 in the first season. She has been raising her siblings since she was young and officially since she was 16 and her mother ran off from the family for good. Next is Lip, short for Philip, the smartest in the family with a high IQ who is 16 in season 1. Then there is Ian who is gay and has set his sights on the military by attending a junior cadet programme. He is 15 in season 1. After Ian comes Debbie, she is determined and is the only one of the Gallagher clan to still love her father. After her is Carl, a reckless kid with his heart in the right place. The youngest Gallagher is Liam, who is a baby in season one and somehow black with two white parents. Frank Gallagher is their father who is more interested in money, drugs and creating social change than his kids.

The show follows their lives and all the ups and downs. Other main characters are Kevin and Veronica who live near the Gallaghers and have formed a close bond with Fiona. Kevin works at the Alibi, the local bar and V works as a nurse at a care home. Other notable characters from season one are Karen and Sheila Jackson who become involved with the Gallaghers and Mickey and Mandy Milkovich. Mandy is Ian’s best friend and he meets Mickey through her.

I am up to Season 8 of the show but all together there are 11 seasons with the final season (11) being shown on television currently. Only 9 are on Netflix but hopefully the newer ones will be added soon. While this show is definitely for adults with lots of swearing, nudity and drugs; there is a lot of heart and every character goes through an amazing journey with hardships and successes.

WandaVision

The first venture for Marvel into television form with Kevin Feige helming the shows. WandaVision follows the story after Endgame as mentioned above. We are introduced to a new agency, S.W.O.R.D who have taken over from S.H.I.E.L.D as the governing body associated with superheroes and the Avengers. A phenomenon occurs when the town of Westview is trapped in a forcefield that no-one can penetrate. At the centre is Wanda Maximoff living as a 1950s housewife with her husband, Vision, who fans will know perished in Infinity War at the hands of Thanos.

Wanda’s life is now in black and white with a cast of friends and co-workers and a laugh track. As her life moves through the decades into the 1960s, 70s and 80s; we learn why Wanda is living out sitcoms from different decades.

What makes this show unique is that WandaVision completely inhabits the techniques and styles of every television decade including the special effects and props of the time. This show is a continuation of Wanda and Vision’s story in the Marvel Universe and we learn more about Wanda’s life pre-Avenger but it is also an homage to the great American sitcoms of the last 70 years.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

This show is also in the Marvel Universe but unlike WandaVision, it is more similar to the Marvel spectacles we are used to from the MCU. The show is being released weekly and only two episodes have been streamed so far but the story is beginning to take shape.

In the show, we see Sam Wilson or ‘Falcon’ and Bucky Barnes or ‘The Winter Soldier’ in the months after Endgame where the world is trying to adjust to half the population suddenly appearing again. Sam is still working for the government as a contractor with his Falcon technology and Bucky has gone down a more solitary path. He lives alone in New York as a newly pardoned contract killer. Apart from his therapy sessions and missions to make his past wrongs right, he doesn’t have much to do with the Avengers.

A new threat appears in the form of Karli Morgenthau and her crew. They are dedicated to making the world how it was before everyone came back. Terror attacks have been threatening the population around the globe so Sam persuades Bucky to team up once again. What really convinces him is the debut of a new Captain America. John Walker is as close to a super soldier as he can be, without the serum but Sam who gave up the shield, definitely does not approve.

Bucky is still attached to his life long friend, Steve Rogers and together Sam and Bucky get back into the action. So far we have had an episode on a back story for both Sam’s family in New Orleans and more of Bucky’s past and a second with some action scenes between the pair. One delight of the series to audiences is the comedy between them. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have had great comic chemistry since their interviews together for Captain America: The Winter Soldier back in 2014 and this series has amped up their natural back and forth to their on screen characters. A particular favourite scene is when Sam and Bucky are made to go through couple’s therapy with Bucky’s therapist.

Another element that I applaud Marvel for showing is race inequality. Sam as a black man gave up the Captain America mantle but then it was given to another white man. There is also a very pivotal scene where Bucky tries talking to another super soldier who was given the serum like him. This man was treated differently to Bucky however as he is black. After this revealing conversation, Sam is questioned by a passing policeman for arguing with Bucky and until Bucky tells the officer that Sam is an Avenger and a hero, Sam faces arrest.

Love, Victor

This show has been out for a while but I am watching it weekly on Disney Plus. It is based on the film Love, Simon that debuted in 2018 which is based on a book by Becky Albertalli. I loved the film of Love, Simon and the representation and awareness it brought to young adult audiences from a major studio. Love, Victor is in the same universe as Love, Simon but picks up the story from another point of view. Victor Salazar has just moved to Creekwood, Atlanta with his family and starts at the school where Simon went. He has some trouble adjusting to a more open and accepting society and trying to work out his own feelings so he messages Simon online for advice. This starts a dialogue between the two which is presented as a voice over from the original actor, Nick Robinson.

While Simon’s story was not easy, he was from a liberal white background whereas Victor’s family are Latino and religious. They also are not as open as Victor would hope so he has trouble even processing his feelings, let alone telling his family. He starts dating a fellow student, Mia and gets along well with her but he has an attraction to his co-worker, Benji who is openly gay and has a boyfriend.

I thought this show was a good twist on the point of view that studios normally show of a supportive and accepting family. Victor’s family is very close but he still fears their reaction. I am up to Episode 7 out of 10 and Season 2 is already confirmed so I will see how Victor’s story plays out.

Taskmaster

This show is one of my favourite game shows on TV as the format is never boring and all the contestants are comedians that I like. The aim of the game is to complete the tasks and then be judged by the Taskmaster to receive a maximum of five points. The winner of each episode gets to take home all the prize tasks. The show is currently on Series 11 and has had two episodes aired.

This series the contestants are Lee Mack, Jamali Maddox, Sarah Kendall, Mike Wozniak and Charlotte Ritchie. Each contestant pre-records their tasks with the help of Alex Horne, the Taskmaster’s Assistant at the Taskmaster house or sometimes on location around the area. The tasks can be creative, fun, tricky, challenging and really put people to the test. Many people complete the tasks in a unique and funny way which makes for great entertainment. The other entertaining part is watching the Taskmaster’s reaction in the studio and see the contestants plead their case for points.

This show does not need to be seen in order and I would recommend starting from series 4 or 5 as that is when the show really hits its stride.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Venom and Johnny English Strikes Again Review

Hello readers,

I know that this is my first post in over a month but due to going back to university, I haven’t been to the cinema that much. A couple of weeks ago, I did however see the highly anticipated anti-hero film Venom and the third instalment of the Johnny English films. I remember seeing the second one in the cinema when I was 12 so I thought it would only be right to see this one in the cinema too.

Venom

Tom Hardy in Venom (2018)

This new anti-hero film has changed the game for the superhero genre. Eddie Brock a journalist whose life goes downhill after investigating a laboratory trying to harness the power of symbiotes. He accidentally joins with an alien called Venom and gains immense skills and strength.

Set in San Francisco made a refreshing change from the Avengers setting of New York. The humanisation of Venom talking through Eddie adds a comedy element to the film. Tom Hardy plays the ‘bad boy’ character very well as was evident in Legend (2015) but his resistance to Venom killing and hurting people shows that Eddie does have heart. He also tries working with Venom instead of rejecting him completely.

Many critics wrote off the film but as a fan of Marvel and comic book films, I really enjoyed it. It had the right amount of action, comedy, special effects, rebellion against evil corporations and romance. As the superhero genre had really taken off in the past few years, perhaps critics are getting annoyed at reviewing films that won’t win any high profile awards.

I liked the romance between Eddie and Anne, it added a softness to a pretty intense film. When she leaves Eddie, it truly breaks his heart and is motive for his revenge on Carlton Drake’s empire.

Overall I think this film is great for any Tom Hardy or superhero movie fans but not one to watch if you like something clever. 4/5.

Cast:

Tom Hardy (Inception) as Eddie Brock / Venom

Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) as Anne Weying

Riz Ahmed (Rogue One) as Carlton Drake / Riot

Scott Haze (Child of God) as Security Chief Roland Treece

Jenny Slate (Zootropolis) as Dr. Dora Skirth

Peggy Lu (Awkward) as Mrs Chen

Johnny English Strikes Again

Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

The third instalment of the Johnny English trilogy picks up years later when Johnny has retired from the world of espionage to become a geography teacher. He however has not taught his students much geography. The film starts with Mr English teaching all his young students how to be a spy.

When all the identities of all the MI7 agents are revealed to the public, the Prime Minister reluctantly recruits English to investigate. Reunited with his sidekick Bough, English travels to the South of France to find the source of the hackers.

Meanwhile, tech genius Jason is proposing an update for the British Government’s systems but is actually the bad guy and is trying to disable the country’s internet.

Johnny English of course would not be complete without laugh out loud gags and scenarios. Some of the best ones in this film include English setting a French restaurant on fire attempting to cook prawns, dancing for a whole night non stop, using virtual reality and accidentally throwing someone off an open top bus and wearing a full knight’s armour.

Rowan Atkinson is hilarious as always and the addition of Emma Thompson as the Prime Minister means their scenes together are comedy gold.

Overall a great family film with a laugh a minute. Comedy films don’t really include much slapstick and visual gags anymore so a reminder of the old days is welcome with Johnny English.

Cast:

Rowan Atkinson (Bean) as Johnny English

Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) as Ophelia

Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility) as Prime Minister

Jake Lacy (Carol) as Jason

Ben Miller (Paddington 2) as Bough

Adam James (Doctor Foster) as Pegasus

Other films I have enjoyed recently are American Animals (2018) starring Evan Peters, Heathers (1989) starring Winona Ryder, The Social Network (2010) starring Jesse Eisenberg and BlacKkKlansman (2018) starring John David Washington.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

10 Years of Marvel: Infinity War Review and My Favourite Marvel Films

Hello readers,

I know Infinity War came out a while ago but as I want to do a post full of spoilers I was waiting until hopefully most people have seen it.

In this post, I’m going to talk about the last 10 years of Marvel and how I became a fan.

Infinity War

Image result for infinity war poster

This is the film that took 10 years and 18 films to make. The culmination of the Marvel story. I went to see the film on the opening night and really enjoyed it. Not only was it a great story full of twists and turns, it had shocking and funny parts as well. One minute, I was close to crying, the next laughing.

Some audiences and critics tend to dismiss comic book / superhero films but they are actually full of difficult themes: death, loss of loved ones, relationship struggles, betrayal, loss of identity, depression and of course, the villains.

Infinity War is essentially all the Marvel characters coming together to stop Thanos who is trying to collect all the Infinity Stones and destroy the universe. Sounds simple, but the interactions between The Avengers, Guardians and Doctor Strange add new dimensions to the story we haven’t seen before. Who knew Rocket and Thor would get along so well, or Shuri and Banner?

Tony Stark meeting Doctor Strange and Star Lord were some of my favourite moments along with Okoye, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch working together in the end battle.

The personal battle Banner had with the Hulk was a funny on going joke as was the conflict between Thor and Star-Lord.

The most shocking moments for me were Loki’s sudden death, Gamora being thrown off the cliff and Vision’s revival and second death by Thanos and of course when half of them disappeared.

My theory is that they are all in an alternate dimension and will all return safe and sound. I also hope that Gamora returns but I don’t have high hopes for Loki or Vision.

The cast is very long so I will just list the top 20 or so characters below:

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/ Iron Man
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk
  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America / Nomad
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Josh Brolin as Thanos
  • Don Cheadle as James Rhodes / Rhodey / War Machine
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man
  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther
  • Chris Pratt as Peter Quill / Star-Lord
  • Zoe Saldana as Gamora
  • Paul Bettany as Vision
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki
  • Karen Gillan as Nebula
  • Letitia Wright as Shuri
  • Danai Gurira as Okoye
  • Dave Bautista as Drax
  • Pom Klementieff as Mantis
  • Benedict Wong as Wong
  • Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket
  • Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot

I give Infinity War 5/5.

My Favourite Marvel Films

Here are my top Marvel films, a couple of them I have only seen a few times as they are quite new, such as Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok but the others I have seen about four or five times and I think they are all amazing films.

The first Marvel film I saw was Iron Man around age 13. I was in awe of Robert Downey Jr. and his character, Tony Stark. I immediately loved the film. The second one was even better. I then branched out into the Avengers, Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I eventually watched every Marvel film and since Captain America: Civil War I have seen every new film in the cinema. Before Marvel Studios, I had seen the original X-Men trilogy and loved those too.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2 (2010)

This film has many great things about it: Formula 1, War Machine, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell and of course, Robert Downey Jr. I think the plot is good to follow, shows how people can become villains at the hand of heroes and why mankind deserves saving. It is also a film I watch if I need cheering up or a good laugh.

The main cast are

  • Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark / Iron Man
  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
  • Don Cheadle as James Rhodes / Rhodey / War Machine
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman / Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
  • Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
  • Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
  • Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
  • Paul Bettany as the voice of JARVIS

Overall I give Iron Man 2 5/5.

Captain America: Civil War

Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Paul Bettany, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, and Sebastian Stan in Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Many people said that this film feels like an Avengers film as most of the Avengers are featured but the core focus is on Captain America trying to protect his friend Bucky Barnes so I feel that it is right to call this a Captain America film.

I think the best lines go to Hawkeye in this one such as ‘I’ve been retired five minutes’ ; ‘I was gonna take the kids water skiing’.

Paul Rudd is also a stand out as Ant-Man especially when he meets Team Cap.

This film is more about politics than the Avengers films as were the other two Captain America films. The Government gets involved with detaining Bucky and wants the Avengers to sign the Accords to only ‘avenge’ when the UN says so.

The villain of the film, Helmut Zemo whose family were killed in Sokovia (in the last Avengers film in 2015) is trying to reactivate the Winter Soldier as revenge, an emotion we can all relate to.

The scene where it is revealed that Bucky as the Winter Soldier killed Tony’s parents was heart-breaking and the subsequent fight where Steve then gives up his shield feels very much like the end of the Avengers.

Peggy Carter’s funeral, an essential plot point, also struck a chord with me as a fan of the Agent Carter series and the first Captain America film.

In this film, we first meet Black Panther and Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short)

I like the drama and action scenes in this film with many amazing stunts and fights and also comic timing by Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner, Tom Holland, Anthony Mackie and the others.

The main cast for this film is similar to Infinity War but with a few missing:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon
  • Don Cheadle as James Rhodes / Rhodey / War Machine
  • Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye
  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther
  • Paul Bettany as Vision
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang /Ant-Man
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man
  • Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter / Agent 13
  • Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo

I give Captain America: Civil War 5/5.

Black Panther

Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Isaach De Bankolé, Martin Freeman, Michael B. Jordan, Andy Serkis, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya, and Letitia Wright in Black Panther (2018)

I have already talked in depth about this film over on my Cannes blog post last week but here I will mention some of my favourite parts.

The scene and car chase sequence in South Korea was amazing and also had some great lines, especially by Okoye and Shuri.

The introduction of Erik at the art gallery was clever and shone a light on racism.

The reveal that T’Chaka killed his own brother and left Erik in Oakland was very shocking and added a new dimension to the story.

Some favourite lines are ‘What are those!’ by Shuri; ‘If you say one more word I’ll feed you to my children… I’m kidding, we’re vegetarians’ by M’Baku; ‘Is this Wakanda?, No it’s Kansas’ by Shuri; ‘Guns… So primitive!’ by Okoye; ‘Does she speak English?’ ‘When she wants to’ by Okoye; ‘Nakia… hi’ ‘You froze’ by T’Challa and Okoye.

The cast are listed below:

  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther
  • Michael B. Jordan as Erik Stevens / Killmonger
  • Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
  • Danai Gurira as Okoye
  • Letita Wright as Shuri
  • Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi
  • Winston Duke as M’Baku
  • Martin Freeman as Everett Ross
  • Angela Bassett as Ramonda
  • Forest Whitaker as Zuri
  • Sterling K. Brown as N’Jobu
  • Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue

I give Black Panther 5/5.

Thor: Ragnarok

Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, and Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The third in the Thor series, Thor: Ragnarok directed by Taika Waititi is one of the funniest Marvel films so far. There are so many little jokes paired with physical comedy and facial expressions from the cast that had me laughing out loud in the cinema. It is a refreshing new take on Thor and the comic book genre.

Chris Hemsworth who plays the protagonist Thor, stated that he was doubtful of doing a third Thor film until he read Waititi’s script. Thor was given a funny side, jokes were made by him and not just at his expense. The film still had a villain, Hela: Thor and Loki’s secret sister and darker themes such as betrayal, grief, depression, death but the comic timing and humour that Waititi injected into the film kept it light and entertaining for audiences.

Favourite parts of mine are Hulk and Thor’s interaction “Hulk like fire. Thor like water”; the ‘Get Help’ plan “A classic”, “I still hate it. It’s humiliating”, “Not for me, it’s not” and “This team of yours got a name?” “Yeah, it’s called the … uh… Revengers!”

Two hilarious characters that are new to the Marvel franchise in this film are the Grandmaster played brilliantly by Jeff Goldblum and Korg, a creature made out of rocks voiced by the director himself.

The surprise appearance of Doctor Strange as Thor and Loki look for Odin on Earth made a great scene.

The cast for Thor Ragnarok are:

  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki
  • Cate Blanchett as Hela
  • Mark Ruffalo as  Bruce Banner / Hulk
  • Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
  • Idris Elba as Heimdall
  • Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster
  • Karl Urban as Skurge
  • Anthony Hopkins as Odin
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange
  • Taika Waititi as Korg (voice)
  • Rachel House as Topaz

I give Thor: Ragnarok 5/5.

The Avengers

The Avengers (2012)

The first group film, the Avengers remains one of my favourites even though the Marvel storyline has moved on significantly with Infinity War. The first outing of the six original Avengers contains key bonding moments between the six and Nick Fury. We also see the first major disaster on Earth that the Avengers fight as a team.

The actors and characters seem so young and innocent to me, the only thing they have to worry about is Loki and the Chitauri. However, Thanos is briefly introduced a plot point that won’t be answered for another six years.

This is also the introduction of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Hulk: I think he does a great job and his character develops from a timid scientist to a fighter in Infinity War.

The Avengers don’t gel together right away, Iron Man and Thor’s fight at the beginning is one example as is Tony and Steve’s constant arguing. They do however come together to fight the enemy: the aliens.

Some of the best lines are “Have a care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother!” “He killed 80 people in two days” “He’s adopted”

“What’s the stat, Rogers?” “It seems to be powered by some sort of electricity!” “…well, you’re not wrong”

“This is just like Budapest all over again” “You and I remember Budapest very differently”

Essentially this is first film we see the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes working together as a team and trusting each other.

The main cast are:

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man
  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
  • Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki
  • Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
  • Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
  • Paul Bettany as Jarvis (voice)

I give the Avengers 4/5.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Sebastian Stan in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

To many people this is one of the best Marvel films to date. It has a different tone to the other films. Captain America becomes a fugitive and is on the run from SHIELD, the organisation that helped him find his feet in the 21st century. He works with fellow Avenger, Natasha Romanoff and new recruit, Sam Wilson to defeat the Winter Soldier and Hydra who have infiltrated SHIELD. The film has a strong undercover spy thriller vibe which is unique to other Marvel movies.

The introduction of Sam Wilson helps show Steve Rogers as a leader, Sam follows Steve on every command and it shows how experienced Steve and Natasha really are.

They also uncover an enemy Steve fought 70 years ago and foes who they thought were on their side. Overall a very entertaining film.

Some of the best lines include “41st floor! 41st!” “It’s not like they put the floor numbers on the outside of the building”

“It was not my first kiss since 1945. I’m 95; I’m not dead”

“Where did Captain America learn to steal a car?” “Nazi Germany. And we’re borrowing. Get your feet off the dash”

The excellent cast for this film are:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
  • Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon
  • Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / the Winter Soldier
  • Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill
  • Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow
  • Maximilano Hernández as Jasper Sitwell
  • Emily VanCamp as Kate / Agent 13
  • Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter

I give Captain America: The Winter Soldier 5/5.

Thanks for reading and here’s to another 10 years of Marvel!

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

Cannes Film Festival 2018: My Experience

Hello readers,

Today I will talking about my time at the Cannes Film Festival a few weeks ago. It was an honour and a pleasure to go and my friends and I had a marvellous experience.

We all had the Cannes Cinephiles passes which didn’t let us in to many films but I managed to see a dozen or so, some of which I will be reviewing below as well as the festival as a whole.

Cannes Film Festival:

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The festival itself was a amazing experience. Luckily we had great weather until the last two days where it rained very hard and I didn’t have an umbrella. The promenade where the festival was held was easy to navigate and there were many souvenir shops and kiosks selling reasonably priced food. The atmosphere was really lively and many people just came to walk around or hang out on the beach, soaking in the sun. Everyone I encountered was really friendly and helpful and I met some really interesting people in the film industry. The bars and food places were very expensive so we tended to eat in our apartment but the places we did go were very good quality.

The buildings and theatres where the films were screened are very spacious and great places to watch films. The Grand Theatre Lumiere was the biggest theatre and where the most prestigious films and premieres were held. I was lucky enough to go to a few films in this theatre and it was breathtaking. The Salle Buñuel was also a lovely 400 seat theatre where I saw other films.

If you ever get a chance as a filmmaker to go to Cannes Film Festival I would highly recommend it. The only downside was the fact that my pass didn’t let me in to as much as I thought it would when I applied to go.

I give the Cannes Film Festival as a whole 4/5.

Le Grand Bain (Sink or Swim):

One of my favourite films, I saw this film in the Grand Theatre Lumiere and it was really touching. It was about a man struggling with depression in his 40s and trying not to disappoint his wife and kids. On a whim he joins a male synchronised swim team and finds a reason to live again. Although there are some tough themes in this film such as mental illness, there are many comedy elements and I left the film feeling uplifted. Essentially, it’s about working as a team and finding joy in unexpected places.

It is in French but I didn’t find it too hard to follow along with the subtitles. The director, Gilles Lellouche, who is also an actor, had a great style and really focused on the back stories of all the characters which made me sympathise with them more.

The main cast are Mathieu Amalric (Barbara, Tournée) who plays the protagonist, Bertrand; Jean-Hugues Anglade (Betty Blue, Nikita); Leïla Bekhti (Paris, je t’aime; A Prophet); Guillaume Canet (The Beach, Rock’n Roll); Virginie Efira (Elle, Victoria); Philippe Katerine (The Truth About Charlie, Opium).

I give Le Grand Bain 5/5.

Leto:

Leto (2018)

This film that I also saw in the Grand Theatre Lumiere had a very different feel from Le Grand Bain but I really enjoyed it. It was also the first film I saw at the festival. The story depicted 1980s rock bands in Russia, based on the wife of a successful musician. It was shown in black and white which really enhanced the sad points of the film.

Communism at the time didn’t allow people to play rock music so the bands played at a club set up by the main character, Mayk (pronounced ‘Mike’). The audience was small compared to rock bands of the time in Europe and America but they were all enjoying the shows enthusiastically.

The director, Kirill Serebrennikov, used lots of close ups and at some points had a camera crew filming the band and their entourage. The only colour shots were footage of the camera.

The music of the film really helped tell the story, and the titular song written by the real Viktor Tsoy, Leto was my favourite.

The characters listened to American and European rock such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Blondie. The songs the bands played on stage were great rock music and showed the emotions of the characters.

This was also one of my favourite films and as a fan of 80s rock music it really appealed to me. Even if you aren’t a fan of this genre of music, the story alone is full of emotion and tells the age old tale of love and loss.

The main stars are Teo Yoo (Equals, Day Night Day Night) as Viktor Tsoy, a young musician being coached by Mayk; Irina Starshenbaum (Attraction, Ice) as Natasha whose memoirs the film was based upon and Roman Bilyk in his first acting role as Mayk.

I give Leto 5/5

The House that Jack Built:

This film is one of the most disturbing films I have ever. seen It is about five incidents committed by a serial killer with OCD. A big draw for the film is Uma Thurman but she only has a minor role. The serial killer Jack, played by Matt Dillon, has an obsession with killing that he doesn’t want to stop. The film shows many horrific and terrifying scenes in close and graphic detail so definitely only watch if you are over 18 and have a strong stomach for horror. Despite the shocking and twisted scenes depicted in the film, at it’s core, it showed an emotionally unavailable man, trying to build a house and who cannot form any relationships whatsoever.

The cinematography was very well done with beautiful countryside shots interspersed with the more disturbing images. The director, Lars Von Trier, who had a seven year ban from Cannes for jokingly declaring himself a Nazi, has an impressive body of work and has won many prizes at Cannes in the past. When I saw the film at its premiere, as soon as he walked in, he had a standing ovation. The film also received a ten minute standing ovation and sparked a mass walkout by at least 100 people.

The acting in the film was outstanding, especially Matt Dillon. I don’t think I will be able to watch him in anything else without seeing him as the serial killer.

The main cast were Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary, Crash); Bruno Ganz (Downfall, Wings of Desire); Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Vol.1 and 2); Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road, American Honey).

I give The House that Jack Built 3/5

Fahrenheit 451:

I saw this film at it’s midnight premiere and I was lucky enough to see the stars as they walked into the theatre, five feet away from me.

I enjoyed this film and stayed awake until two am watching it, when in some day time films I fell asleep. It played like a young adult adaptation and is a remake of a film based on a popular 1950s book by Ray Bradbury.

It portrays the idea that knowledge is dangerous and all books must be burned. Firemen work to destroy all books and punish those harbouring them. One fireman, Montag working his way to General, begins questioning why he’s burning books after he meets an influential woman.

My only issue with the film was the ending and as I don’t want to spoil it, I will not say why. The cast were good and I liked the graphics and story but there was something missing. I have not seen the original film but a friend said it was one of her favourite films.

The cast of Fahrenheit 451 are Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther) as the hero, Montag; Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Midnight Special) as his boss; Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Clarisse, who shows Montag a new way of living.

I give Fahrenheit 451 a rating of 4/5.

 

Jane Fonda in Five Acts:

This documentary moved me and it was really entertaining. I  like Jane Fonda as an actress and I knew she was an activist in the 1960s and 1970s but I didn’t realise the extent of her life.

The documentary was about two hours long and split into five acts – Henry (her father), Roger (her first husband), Tom (her second husband), Ted (her third husband) and Jane. It told of her beginnings as Henry Fonda’s daughter and her mother’s mental health issues through her three husbands, notable film roles such as Barbarella (1968), Klute (1971), On Golden Pond (1981), her activism and controversy around her. It concludes with her return to acting in 2005 and her unmarried life. Many people from her life, including 2 of her husbands, Paula Weinstein, Robert Redford and Lily Tomlin give their thoughts and opinions about Jane.

It was a very emotional documentary and I cried when it revealed that her mother committed suicide in a mental institution. Now, knowing about Jane Fonda’s whole life, I respect her much more as an actress and human being. I think she is a role model to her own and every generation.

I was also very pleased when Jane Fonda herself made an appearance along with the director Susan Lacy. Jane gave a great speech about being proud of yourself and standing up for others.

I give Jane Fonda in Five Acts 5/5.

Driving Miss Daisy:

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Driving Miss Daisy is a timeless classic from 1989 and was played in the Cannes Classics section. I had never seen it before and I really enjoyed. It had a lovely ending and was a really enjoyable film. I didn’t fall asleep in this one either!

The story tells of a friendship between an old Jewish woman and her black driver set in the South of the US. It starts in the 1950s and spans 25 years. It started as an Off-Broadway play but was adapted to an Academy Award Winning film. The film was nominated for ten Oscars and won four of them – Best Picture, Best Actress – Jessica Tandy, Best Makeup and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The film deals with many themes; racism, ageing, Judaism and anti-semitism, class and many others.

The film stars Jessica Tandy (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe, *batteries not included) as Miss Daisy, Morgan Freeman (Se7en, Invictus), who starred in the original play in the same role as Hoke, Miss Daisy’s driver and friend; Dan Aykroyd (Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters) as Miss Daisy’s well-meaning son.

I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend giving it a watch.

I give Driving Miss Daisy 5/5

Black Panther:

Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Isaach De Bankolé, Martin Freeman, Michael B. Jordan, Andy Serkis, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya, and Letitia Wright in Black Panther (2018)

This film was screened on the beach with an introduction by the director, Ryan Coogler. I am a massive Marvel fan so I had already seen the film when it came out this February. It was great to watch it again and amazing to see Ryan Coogler in person.

For anyone who hasn’t seen Black Panther, it tells the origin story of the comic book hero Black Panther. T’Challa is crowned as the King of Wakanda, a fictional African country that has hidden from the world, after the death of his father, King T’Chaka in a previous Marvel film – Captain America: Civil War (2016). He tackles villain Ulysses Klaue and an American soldier, Erik Killmonger, who turns out not to be who we think he is.

The film is told in typical comic book adaptation way with a good vs. evil vibe but it was also thoroughly enjoyable and a big change for Hollywood as it was the first film to have a budget of over $100 million and feature a predominately black cast. It featured humour especially from Shuri, T’Challa’s tech wiz sister; drama, action, plot twists and some great fight and car chase sequences. The CGI was also breathtaking especially when the real Wakanda is revealed.

The film stars many great Hollywood actors and actresses: Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, Marshall) as T’Challa/Black Panther; Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fantastic Four) as Killmonger; Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Nakia, T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend and undercover spy; Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead, The Visitor) as T’Challa’s bodyguard and friend, Okoye; Letitia Wright (Black Mirror, The Commuter) as Shuri; Winston Duke (Person of Interest, Avengers: Infinity War) as M’Baku, a rival leader of another tribe in Wakanda.

Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock) as Everett Ross, a government agent who joins the fight to help old friend, T’Challa; Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Sicario) W’Kabi, T’Challa’s friend and Okoye’s love interest; Angela Bassett (Strange Days, Olympus Has Fallen) as Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother; Sterling K. Brown (This is Us, Army Wives) as N’Jobu, T’Challa’s uncle; Forest Whitaker ( The Last King of Scotland, Rogue One) as Zuri, T’Challa’s adviser and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as Ulysses Klaue.

I think Black Panther is one of the best Marvel films and I give it 5/5.

Bergman: A Year in a Life:

Bergman: A Year in a Life (2018)

This documentary narrated and directed by Jane Magnusson (Cupcake, The Swimsuit Issue) tells of Ingmar Bergman’s life in the year 1957, the most chaotic of his career. Bergman is a revolutionary Swedish writer-director whose films are masterpieces, telling stories of the human condition. He has been nominated for nine Oscars and won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1971. His many films include: Summer with Monika(1953), Wild Strawberries (1957), The Seventh Seal (1957) (which I saw at Cannes), Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Scenes from a Marriage (1974) and Fanny and Alexander (1982).

The documentary featured archive footage of Bergman on talk shows and photos from 1957. Many people were interviewed for the documentary including Lena Endre, Thorsten Flinck, Elliott Gould, Barbra Streisand, Liv Ullman and Lars Von Trier.

Bergman’s story was very interesting but also tragic. He suffered very painful stomach ulcers his whole life and mental illness which he was often hospitalised for. In recuperation, he wrote many of his films.

I had heard of Bergman before Cannes but this documentary introduced me to his life and I would really like to watch more of his films.

I give Bergman: A Year in a Life 5/5.

Awards:

Grand Prix – BlacKkKlansman

Image result for blackkklansman grand prix cannes 2018

From what I have heard of this film, it deserved to win the Grand Prix. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it but I have seen the trailer and it features some excellent actors and actresses.

Palme d’Or – Shoplifters

Image result for shoplifters cannes 2018

I didn’t see this film either but my friends did and said it was their favourite film. The director, Hirokazu Koreeda is known for his films: Nobody Knows (2004), Still Walking (2008), Like Father, Like Son (2013) and The Third Murder (2017).

What I wish I had seen:

BlacKkKlansman:

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

This film directed by Spike Lee (Malcolm X) and produced by Jordan Peele (Get Out) tells the story of an African-American police officer infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan and managed to become the head of the local chapter.

It stars John David Washington (Malcolm X, Monster) as police officer, Ron Stallworth; Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Logan Lucky) as Flip Zimmerman; Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, That ’70s Show) as David Duke; Laura Harrier (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Last Five Years) as  Patrice and Alec Baldwin (The Departed, It’s Complicated) as Actor.

As it won the Grand Prix this year, I think I will be seeing it in cinemas.

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word:

Pope Francis in Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018)

This documentary on the Pope sounds really interesting especially as it directed by the legend Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire; Paris, Texas).

I did queue for this film but it filled up before I got a seat.

Ryan Coogler and Christopher Nolan masterclass

Image result for ryan coogler cannes 2018

Image result for christopher nolan cannes 2018

I am disappointed that I missed these. My friends went to the Ryan Coogler masterclass and said it was really interesting. They were both very popular.

Solo: A Star Wars Story:

Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Donald Glover, Alden Ehrenreich, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emilia Clarke, and Joonas Suotamo in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

I am not a big Star Wars but I wanted to see this. It tells the Han Solo origin story, however it was screened after we left the festival.

It stars Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!, Stoker) as Han Solo; Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Now You See Me) as Beckett; Emilia Clarke (Me Before You, Game of Thrones) as Qi’ra; Donald Glover (Atlanta, Community) as Lando Calrissian; Thandie Newton (Westworld, 2012) as Val; Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Crashing) as L3-37 and Paul Bettany (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Journey’s End) as Dryden Vos.

It appears to be very popular and I may see it in the cinema.

Thanks for reading this long and overdue post.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂