In this episode of The Popcorn Conspiracy Dave Griffiths and Kyle McGrath take a look at Queen And Slim.
Summary: Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, go on an journey to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him.
Australian Cinema Release Date: TBA
Thailand Cinema Release Date: TBA
Australian Home Entertainment Release Date: 1st May 2020
Country: United States
Director: Dan Scanlon
Screenwriter: Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin
Cast: Kyle Bornheimer (Wilden Lightfoot (Dad)(voice)), Grey Griffin (Dewdrop (voice)), Tom Holland (Ian Lightfoot (voice)), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Laurel Lightfoot (voice)), Chris Pratt (Barley Lightfoot (voice)), George Psarras (Officer Avel (voice)), John Ratzenberger (Construction Worker Fenwick (voice)), Mel Rodriguez (Colt Bronco (voice)), Octavia Spencer (The Manticore (voice)), Tracey Ullman (Grecklin (voice)), Wilmer Valderrama (Gaxton (voice)), Lena Waithe (Officer Spector (voice)), Ali Wong (Officer Gore (voice))
Running Time: 102 mins
Classification: PG (Australia) TBC (Thailand)
Dave Griffiths’ Onward Review:
Twelve months ago if you asked any film fan if they were excited about any animation films that were set to be released the answer most likely would have been a resounding ‘no.’ Hollywood was getting slammed from pillar to post because it felt that the animated films that it was producing where all mirror images of each other or just another instalment in what were becoming tired franchises.
Even the animation leaders Pixar were not immune from the backlash with many believing that films like Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2 were inferior films in what had once been brilliant film universes. The question seemed to be ‘why can’t Hollywood be making animated movies with the creativity being shown by their Asian counterparts?’
Well it seems like the Hollywood filmmakers were listening. Earlier this year we had the surprisingly creative Spies In Disguise starring Will Smith and Tom Holland and now Pixar has just released one of the most intriguing films of the year – the very creative Onward which again stars Tom Holland (Spider-Man: From Far Home) this time alongside his Marvel universe co-star Chris Pratt (Guardians Of The Galaxy).
Together they voice Ian (Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Pratt). Two teenage elf brothers growing up in a land that resembles The Shire from Lord Of The Rings but also contains all the modern day suburban comforts that you and I are used to in everyday life. It is those modern day comforts that have led to serious issues though for the inhabitants of the land that the Lightfoot’s call home. Technology means that the ancient magic of the wizards of that has been long forgotten, while characters like pixies and fairies have even forgotten what their wings are for.
Some people live in hope though. Barley preciously lives the lives of his ancestors through this dungeon and dragons style role-playing games while at the same time trying to look after Ian and their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus – The Seinfeld) who was left a widow after the death of her husband shortly after the birth of Ian.
The two boys have always wondered what their father may have been like but nothing prepares them for what happens on Ian’s sixteenth birthday when Laurel gives them a gift their father had prepared before he passed away. The staff that he leaves them tells them he was in fact a wizard and the spell that goes with it allows them the opportunity to bring their father back for a day. However, when Ian only manages to bring back half of their father (his legs) he is forced to team up with Barley to go on an odyssey that will see them have to revert back to the ways of their ancestors before them.
Onward is like nothing Pixar has ever created before. Director/screenwriter Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) has delved deep into his creative bank to create what could be loosely described as a ‘stoner’ film for families. While the film’s plot does at times feel a little light on you can’t help but fall in love with it as it introduces you to characters and a world that you simply just want to know more about.
While they are elves most audience members will find themselves drawn to Ian and Barley from the very beginning. There is something so natural about Ian – a young boy who feels that part of his identity is missing because he never knew his father and Barley – an almost lost teenager who society frowns up because of the energy that he puts into his faithful van and his path of discovering the lost arts of those that came before him.
As a filmmaker Scanlon doesn’t allow Onward to become a lazy film because of its supernatural elements either. No amount of great visual effects can ever make up for the connection that an audience can get from well-rounded characters. Here that connection is made straight away and throughout the film Scanlon plays on that garnishing suspense from putting the loved characters in peril while also allowing a more emotionally touching side of the film to shine through as the characters learn some valuable morals revolving around what they are going through as a family. Scanlon also weaves some true comedic moments into the film with some great sequences featuring Ian and Barley’s battle with the biker pixies and their distrust of their mother’s boyfriend Officer Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez – Little Miss Sunshine).
Perhaps the biggest weakness of Onward is the fact that Scanlon at times seems to make the brother’s quests just a little too easy to overcome, something that seems to be highlighted even more so due to the fact that the world the boys live in is so interesting that you can’t help but feel you want to see more of it and know more about it.
Still at the end of the day this is the kind of animated film that audiences have been waiting for. To be honest it is kind of unexpected that Pixar would deliver a film that seems to have a Gothic edge while embracing the quirkiness of a film like Planet 51, but they have and it works wonderfully well. Many asked for more creativity when it comes to the kind of animated films that we are singing in cinemas and if a film is like Onward is anything to go back it looks like that request has well and truly be delivered. Onward is the kind of film that can be enjoyed by family members of all ages – so sit back and enjoy a little bit of Pixar magic.
Kyle McGrath’s Onward Review
Average Subculture Rating:
Other Subculture Entertainment Onward Reviews:
Our Onward review that appeared in ‘The Phuket News’ can be read at this link – https://www.thephuketnews.com/onward-puts-animated-movies-back-on-track-75875.php
Summary: Ray Garrison, an elite soldier who was killed in battle, is brought back to life by an advanced technology that gives him the ability of super human strength and fast healing. With his new abilities, he goes after the man who killed his wife, or at least, who he believes killed his wife. He soon comes to learn that not everything he learns can be trusted. The true question is: Can he even trust himself?
Australian Cinema Release Date: 1st March 2020
Thailand Cinema Release Date: TBA
Australian Home Entertainment Release Date: 7th April 2020
Country: United States, China
Director: Dave Wilson
Screenwriter: Jeff Wadlow, Eric Heisserer, Kevin VanHanhook (comic book), Bob Layton (comic book), Don Perlin (comic book)
Cast: Siddharth Dhananjay (Eric), Vin Diesel (Ray Garrison/Bloodshot), Eiza Gonzalez (KT), Alex Hernandez (Tibbs), Sam Heughan (Jimmy Dalton), Johannes Haukur Johannosson (Nick Baris), Toby Kebbell (Martin Axe), Lamorne Morris (Wilfred Wigans), Guy Pearce (Dr. Emil Harting), Talulah Riley (Gina Garrison)
Running Time: 109 mins
Classification: M (Australia) TBA (Thailand)
Dave Griffiths’ Bloodshot Review:
Actor Vin Diesel has become a super-star off the back of the Fast & Furious, XXX and Riddick franchises but over recent years he has rarely strayed from either, perhaps preferring to sticking to what he knows best. That is what makes Bloodshot such an interesting prospect. Arguably, one of the world’s biggest action stars rarely branching out to start something new, and something that from the look of the trailer looks interesting enough to take a chance on.
Based on the popular Valiant Comics series Bloodshot the film centres on Special Forces soldier Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel – The Fast & The Furious) who after returning from a mission is kidnapped and murdered alongside his wife, Gina Garrison (Talulah Riley – Inception).
He then wakes up in the laboratory of Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce – Memento) having being re-animated and turned into a super-soldier. While Harting marvels at his creation he quickly adds him to his team of super soldiers but while working with team leader Katie (Elza Gonzalez – Alita: Battle Angel) he suddenly has flashbacks and decides to seek revenge for what has happened. But what is real and what is a figment of his imagination… that is what he has to find out.
That is actually one of the joys of watching Bloodshot. The film has so many twists and turns that it is impossible to ever work out what is going to happen next. With a brilliant screenplay from Jeff Wadlow (Truth Or Dare) and Eric Heisserer (Arrival) the line between the truth and fiction and is often tested and the audience is left in the dark to what is really happening in just the same way the characters are. The result is a film that contains such a suspense element that it lifts the storyline well above what most films in the action genre can ever achieve.
When it comes to the action genre there is something uniquely intelligent about Bloodshot. The screenplay is suspenseful and thought-provoking while director Dave Wilson (Love, Death & Robots) is a smart enough director to actually keep the action to a level that actually makes the story seem more believable. The fact that Wilson is a first time director is almost unbelievable as he handles this film with the expertise of a seasoned director with the experience of Steven Spielberg. Wilson creates some pretty impressive action sequences, including a sequence in a tunnel that does more than show that he is a director with a big future ahead of him
The only side of the film that lets it down slightly is the fact that after the film delivers its big twist that turns everything on its head, which happens about halfway through the film; it feels like the film then loses its greatest source of suspense. From then on the film seems to become a simple good versus evil storyline that is purely kept interesting by the fact that by that time the audience have become invested in the characters – especially Ray and Katie.
Because of that we should thank goodness that this is one action film that has bothered to put some effort into characterisation, but that can’t be said for all the characters we find here. While the screenplay does give us a pretty good notion of who characters like Ray and Katie are it falls dangerously with the ‘villains’ who become one dimensional and very comic-book like – the kinds of characters that we have seen in films thousands of times in the past.
The result of that also sees up and down performances by the main actors as well. The biggest loser here is Guy Pearce whose talents seem to be completely wasted as he plays a characterless villain who would have been more at home in a video game. On the flipside my biggest fear going into this film was that I would not be able to not see Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto or Xander Cage. Luckily though, the characterisation that the screenplay allows for Ray the film does actually allow Vin Diesel the opportunity to test his acting chops while also delivering so awesome action sequences. He is also well supported by Eiza Gonzelez who grouped with her performances in Baby Driver and Alita: Battle Angel is showing Hollywood why she is one of the biggest stars on the rise.
There are some things that sadly let down Bloodshot but there is more than enough to make this the perfect film to sat down and watch when you just don’t want to think. So engrossing is the storyline that it does feel like you are watching a television pilot that wants to draw you more into its universe. At the end of the day Bloodshot is well worth watching if you are looking for a good action film to lose yourself in.
Kyle McGrath’s Bloodshot Review:
Average Subculture Rating:
Our Bloodshot review that appeared in ‘The Phuket News’ can be read at this link – https://www.thephuketnews.com/vin-diesel-runs-deep-in-bloodshot-75674.php
This review by David Griffiths also appeared on www.lilithia.net
Has any other actor been impacted as much by the Corona virus pandemic as Vin Diesel? I can rack my brain but can’t think of any. First Diesel had his latest instalment of the Fast & Furious franchise pushed back by twelve months and then his beer of choice took a massive hit because of the Corona name. But both those things really pale into insignificance when you consider what happened to Diesel’s latest release Bloodshot – the unfortunate film due to open the week cinemas closed.
I have a lot of respect for Diesel as an actor. Not because he is one of those actors who has the acting skills to play dramatic roles in between his action juggernauts, but because he is a man who becomes so passionate about a project that he invests not only his money but also his heart and soul into it to make it happen. With Riddick Diesel bought the franchise to make sure it continued and now he is also one of the main producers of the epic Fast & Furious saga so he could keep some creative control over what happens to the characters that he loves so dearly.
It is the same with Bloodshot. A hardened comic book fan himself Diesel was more than aware of the Bloodshot series of comics created by Valiant Comics. Drawn to the series as a fan Diesel then melted my heart by declaring one of the reasons he got behind the film was because his son declared “Daddy, you are Bloodshot” when he was considering playing the role.
I’ll admit I was bought as soon as I heard about this film. One of my favourite action stars in a comic book film that was rumoured to have a pretty gruesome dark side. Then Covid-19 hit and Bloodshot became one of the biggest cinematic causalities of the fallout. With no media screenings on offer I saw the film in a general session on its opening night and there was only myself and one other guy in the cinema – another tragic soul who was willing to risk the impending plague in order to get a Diesel fix.
Now Bloodshot gets a second life in the cinemas and I can only pray that this time it gets a bigger audience because this is one of action film that I have to admit not only worked for me, but impressed me enough that I would love to see the film become a franchise… as long as they can fix up some of the issues I’ll list below.
For those who haven’t read the comics Diesel plays Ray Garrison a soldier who while celebrating his latest successful mission is kidnapped alongside his wife Gina (Talulah Riley – Inception). He then suffers the heart-breaking trauma of watching her murdered in front of him and when he wakes learns that he was also murdered but has been re-animated as a super-solider in a program run by inventive scientist Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce – Memento).
And that is where I will leave the synopsis for Bloodshot because to say anything else would be going into spoiler territory and this is a film that you can’t have spoilt for you. I think the reason that Bloodshot worked so well for me is because I knew nothing about where the story was going to go. As a result I sat there like a kid in a candy store as every twist and turn played out in front of me. Spectacular action aside what impressed me the most about Bloodshot was the suspenseful storyline with twists that I definitely didn’t see coming.
Having said that though there is a major flaw with this film. While Diesel is Bloodshot to a tee Guy Pearce is horribly miscast as Harting. Actually, maybe that is a little unfair because to be honest I am not sure whether he was miscast or whether Pearce could have done something with the character had it had been written as more than just a walking cliché.
That is the strange thing about this film. Bloodshot and KT (Eiza Gonzalez – Alita: Battle Angeli) are brilliantly written and as a result Diesel and Gonzalez shine. Sadly though most other characters are either under-written or are so one-dimensional that the audience has very little interest in them.
As an action film Bloodshot does overcome its flaws with an unpredictable storyline and two leads I felt led the way. Now I simply can’t wait to see if the franchise develops or whether the pandemic has put a dismal finale to it all.
Summary: When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 27th February 2020
Thailand Cinema Release Date: 13th March 2020
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: Australia, United States, Canada, United Kingdom
Director: Leigh Whannell
Screenwriter: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Michael Dorman (Tom Griffin), Harriet Dyer (Emily Kass), Amali Golden (Annie), Benedict Hardie (Marc), Aldis Hodge (James Lanier), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Adrian Griffin), Nick Kici (Taylor), Renee Lim (Doctor Lee), Elisabeth Moss (Cecilia Kass), Storm Reid (Sydney Lanier), Sam Smith (Detective Reckley)
Running Time: 124 mins
Classification: MA15+ (Australia) 18 (Thailand)
Dave Griffiths’ The Invisible Man Review:
There has been a lot of commentary recently about the ‘new breed’ of horror films. The term has been given to films like Midsumma and Hereditary, films that supposedly show that the ‘new breed’ of horror filmmakers who are now ‘woke’ and incorporate social issues into the horror that their characters face.
To say that is a new form of filmmaking though is probably a little bit of a misconception as you could possibly argue that horror filmmakers were doing that a long time before it became a Hollywood trend. Early horror films regularly used the ‘horror’ to point out so-called anti-social behaviour. Remember all those slashers where the babysitter got killed because she fooled around with her boyfriend rather than watching the kids? Yep, that was filmmakers making a social commentary about promiscuous teens. Then there were films like Saw and Hostel that graphically look at the impact of greed and lust on society.
On the flip side there were also films like I Spit On Your Gave. Released in 1978 the controversial film showed what happened when a woman decides to get bloody revenge on a group of men that sexually assaulted her. Then in 2014 came James Cullen Bressack’s Pernicious which showed the dire consequences of what happens after three young backpackers disrespect Thai culture while visiting the country.
Most of the films I have just mentioned were pretty hard-hitting, but nothing will prepare you for the psychological horror of Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man. A lo of people will probably write this off as another remake of the famous 1930s film which of course was based on a novel by H.G. Wells. Nothing could be further from the truth though as Whannell takes the basic character of an invisible man and turns it into a menacing villain looking to further torture a woman who has just left him to escape an abusive relationship.
When it comes to the horror genre Whannell is one of the modern day godfathers. As a writer he created the paranormal worlds of franchises like Saw and Insidious, while as he director he also gave us the criminally under-rated Upgrade. With The Invisible Man he introduces us to Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss – The Handmaid’s Tale) a woman trapped in a severely abusive relationship with a psychopathic scientist named Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).
With the help of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer – Love Child) and her good friend Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge – Straight Outta Compton) Cecilia manages to escape the prison that is Adrian’s home. But as she goes into hiding she suddenly finds herself stalked by an entity that she can’t see – an entity that she believes is Adrian. The torture then begins as the ‘invisible man’ sets out to separate her from those she loves and hurt anyone that he feels stands in his way.
What Whannell has done here is take the invisible man character and deliver it to the audience in a way that no filmmaker has ever done before. We thought Hollow Man was spine-cilling but that is child’s play compared to what Whannell does here. The terror that Cecilia is put through by her tormentor mirrors what domestic abuse sufferers go through every day of their lives. The fear of not being able to leave their own home, having family members and friends not believe what is happening to them and of course the awkward legal meetings that they must endure should they chose to report their tormentor. Here those moments are brought to the screen as circumstances force Cecilia and Emily to meet with Adrian’s lawyer – his own brother Tom (Michael Dorman – Daybreakersi).
Whannell allows this film to hit its audience with the subtleness of a sledgehammer. His unique directional style allows the audience to always know where the invisible horror is and as a result they find themselves just as on edge as Cecilia is. As a filmmaker Whannell knows not to bother frightening his audience with jump scares and lame horror sequences instead he will reveal what to the naked eye looks like an empty frame on the screen only to then suddenly have a knife appear and you know that the ‘horror’ is present. It is easy to see that Whannell is a well-versed film fan and he strives to deliver the kinds of movies that he as a viewer would be impressed with as well. What he is created here is psychologically terrifying movie that even Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of.
As is the tradition of Blumhouse produced horror films The Invisible Man allows for some lesser known actors and actresses to shine. Moss shakes off her ‘television actress’ tag with an amazing performance that should deservedly gain some Oscar talk when it comes to the next lot of nominations. As an actress she has to deliver everything from serious dramatic moments talking about her trauma through to fight sequences against a villain she can’t see… that is some pretty physically demanding work right there.
She is also well supported by the dangerously under-rated Michael Dorman who has previously shown his brilliance in films like the chilling Acolytes and vampire flick Daybreakers. Here Dorman plays the menacing lawyer Tom remarkably well and hopefully this gives him more of a profile in Hollywood.
The Invisible Man is a chillingly brilliant horror film that again shows why Leigh Whannell needs to be considered one of the best filmmakers currently going around. The psychological nature of the film takes the horror genre to a whole new level and shows why the term ‘modern day re-telling’ need not always mean a film that is going to be groan-worthy. If you are a serious film lover than please do not write of The Invisible Man as just another popcorn horror film as this is one of the best films that you are likely to see in 2020.
Kyle McGraths’ The Invisible Man Review
Average Subculture Rating:
Other Subculture Entertainment The Invisible Man Reviews:
Our The Invisible Man review that appeared in ‘The Phuket News’ can be read at this link – https://www.thephuketnews.com/invisible-man-stands-out-from-the-crowd-75271.php