Friday, 21 February 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (Movie Review)


Video games rarely ever translate very well onto the big screen. This is why we've been left with duds like Super Mario Bros. and Alone in the Dark over the years. Even the more successful adaptations like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider are severely lacking in their story departments, relegating such movies to nothing more than mindless popcorn fare. So of course, my expectations were very much lowered going into Sonic the Hedgehog, which probably explains why I'd come out of it pleasantly surprised.

Based on the Sega video game series, the movie tells the story of the titular speedster (voiced by Ben Schwartz), who as it turns out is actually an alien that was forced off his homeworld and now lives in isolation in the sleepy town of Green Hills, Montana. Tired of living in loneliness, the blue hedgehog unknowingly lets off an energy signal while running laps in frustration at a baseball field. This prompts the US government to send in one of their top scientists, the nefarious Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), to trace the source of the anomaly. Now Sonic must seek the help of the town Sheriff (James Marsden) in order to escape capture.

If you by any chance happen to follow movie news, then you must've heard about the backlash received by Paramount Studios following their reveal of the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog. The public outcry was so bad that the studio was forced to delay the film's release from its November 2019 release date to February 14th. This was to allow its animators enough time to completely redesign the title character, which looked nothing like the video game mascot its fans had grown up loving.

Well, it turns out that was a great move on the studio's part, because not only is Sonic the Hedgehog the current highest opening video game adaptation, it is also a pretty okay movie. Emphasis on the okay, since the film itself is geared towards kids and fans of the game, and doesn't try to do much to subvert or elevate itself from its source material. Not that it has to, since no one should be going into the movie expecting some high drama or a thought-provoking storyline. The main highlight in my opinion is Jim Carrey's take on the Sonic villian, Dr. Robotnik, a performance that harkens to his Ace Ventura days. The story is also quite serviceable and surprisingly heartfelt, which is more than we can say about the typical video game adaptation.

In case you haven't guessed it already, there is quite a bit of enjoyment to be had with Sonic the Hedgehog. It was fun and had a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and the theater full of kids I saw it with seemed to have enjoyed it quite a lot. It might not be one of the best films out there at the moment, but as far as video game adaptations go, the movie can be considered a somewhat decent one.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Birds of Prey (Movie Review)


Anyone that saw the 2016 DCEU supervillain team-up movie, Suicide Squad, would remember that Margot Robbie had more or less stolen the show as Harley Quinn. So it came as no surprise when she was singled out to receive the standalone movie treatment. Fast forward some 4 years and that standalone movie finally arrives, but in the form of another supervillain team-up, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn).

After a very emotional breakup with the Gotham City Clown Prince of Crime (that is, Jared Leto's Joker for those of you keeping track), Harley Quinn begins the painful process of moving on with her life, and she does this by destroying the place where she'd proven her allegiance to the Joker, Ace Chemicals, and adopting a pet Hyena she names Bruce Wayne. The former act however signals to the city's criminal underground that the power couple were no longer together, which prompts all of the criminals she had wronged in the past to start coming after her.

This includes Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a very eccentric criminal boss with a tendency to peel off the faces of his enemies. But when a precious diamond in the possession of his personal enforcer, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), gets stolen by a young girl named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Harley convinces them to let her help them retrieve the diamond. Roman agrees and gives her 24 hours to do so, but to make things interesting, he also puts out a half-a-million-dollars bounty on the girl, prompting other criminals to come into the fray.

The DCEU has had some significant success of recent with movies like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam, and I am pleased to report that Birds of Prey is already poised to continue that winning streak. It is hands-down one of the most violent comic book movies we have gotten till date, wearing its R-rating on its sleeve. It also fully embraces what made Harley Quinn so great in Suicide Squad, and runs with it. The fact that it has some of the most eye-popping and straight-up bonkers action sequences this side of John Wick is just another achievement.

Birds of Prey is the Suicide Squad we should have gotten in 2016. But unlike that movie that was all style but with very little substance, it starts with a promise of delivering a quirky comic book movie like none before, and manages to follow through and stick the landing. It is that rare film where the trailers were nowhere as good as the actual movie itself. This is probably why I had gone into it with some cautious optimism, and I came out of it pleasantly surprised as a result.

Friday, 17 January 2020

1917 (Movie Review)


So I finally got around to seeing 1917, the World War I epic directed by Sam Mendes. This is mainly because our local film exhibitors had once again elected not to show it, despite the movie receiving a wide release in the US last weekend (it originally received a limited release on the 25th of December). The film has been getting a lot of buzz this movie awards seasons, and is in fact the current frontrunner to take home Best Picture at next month's Academy Awards, and for very good reason.

Set in war-torn France during the peak of the First World War, 1917 tells the story of two British soldiers, Schofield (George McKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), who must cross into enemy lines in order to deliver a message that could save the lives of 1,600 fellow soldiers. Those soldiers have been led to believe that they have the Germans on the run, when in fact their retreat is an elaborate plan by the German forces to draw them in for a devastating ambush. Both men must go above and beyond as they race against time in a mission that seems doomed from the start.

The first thing that immediately sets 1917 apart from other war movies (or other films in general) is its breathtaking cinematography. The entire movie is presented as one single take, ensuring that we the viewers are constantly in the thick of the action, with the camera weaving through trenches and buildings with an almost impossible fluidity. There is one particular scene where the two soldiers witness a distant dogfight taking place up in the air, that ends with one of the planes crashing towards them; it was just one of many shots that exemplifies the brilliant camerawork and effects in the movie.

Also worthy of note is the movie's score, which goes from somber to rousing and back again as the on-screen action demands. Then the whole thing is held together by some of the best editing I have seen in recent years, effectively masking the cuts between takes to perpetuate that sense of immersion the single-take camerawork is going for.

1917 is a film that is every bit deserving of all the praise and accolades it has received thus far. It is a movie that goes from effectively capturing the tension and horrors of war in one scene, then shows the quaintness of the world being affected by all that bloodshed in another. It is a technical marvel that accomplishes that almost impossible balancing act through careful pacing and tightly-choreographed action, and it would surely go down in history as one of the great film accomplishments of our time.

Monday, 6 January 2020

My Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies for 2020

Happy New Year, everyone. Hope we all had a swell holiday and are glad to be back to the hustle and grind of everyday life. This is historically that time of year when I set my goals and resolutions for the new year, but since this blog has evolved over the years to have a much heavier focus on movies and movie reviews, I'll be keeping with that trend and doing a top 10 list of my most anticipated movies instead. So without further ado, here are the movies I am most looking forward to in 2020:

A Quiet Place: Part II



My favorite movie from 2018 is getting a sequel, so needless to say, I have nothing but high hopes for this one. The movie looks like it would be serving as both a prequel and a sequel to the first movie, at least judging by the trailer above. I am still pained that the first film didn't get a theatrical release over here in Nigeria, so here's hoping that the asshats that run our local cinemas get their shit together this time around.

Mulan



Disney's current modus operandi remains remaking their classic animated films in live action, and Mulan is the next film from the stable to be getting this treatment. This version appears to be shedding most (if not all) of the fantastical elements from the original though, in favor of a more historical retelling of the tale, and is in fact being billed as a war drama. So don't expect to see any talking dragons or musical numbers, both of which appear to have been replaced with some sleek-looking martial arts.

No Time to Die



Daniel Craig's final outing as James Bond comes this year in the form of the 25th film in the franchise, No Time to Die. It is hard to believe he has been playing the character for close to 14 years now, twice as long as Pierce Brosnan's tenure as the character. Those initial protests we all had when he was originally cast seem decidedly foolish now, but I still can't help but wonder who would be taking up the mantle next, and what direction the series as a whole might be heading into.

The New Mutants



Well, it looks like 2020 would be the year that we finally get to see The New Mutants. This is of course after multiple delays, and the movie seemingly getting lost somewhere between the Disney-Fox merger. Originally billed as the first bonafide horror film in the X-Men universe, the film has since undergone reshoots after being acquired by Disney. Here's hoping that the finished product manages to stick the landing.

Black Widow



Marvel Studios might have ended its 22-movie Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame last year, but that doesn't mean we have seen all the stories it has to tell from that time period. Set two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Black Widow promises to fill out more of the secret agent turned Avenger's backstory in her home country of Russia. And who knows, we might finally get to find out what happened between her and Clint Barton in Budapest.

Wonder Woman 1984



Wonder Woman 1984 is the second of the two planned DCEU movies releasing in 2020. Patty Jenkins returns to direct, but she is not the only one making a return apparently, as Chris Pine would also be reprising his role as Steve Trevor, the Amazonian's doomed love interest from the first movie. Don't ask me how that is possible because I am just as clueless as you are, but nonetheless eager to find out. The film swaps the dull greys of the previous film's World War I setting for a bright and colorful 1980s aesthetic, and the right kind of killer 80s tunes to back it up. Let's just hope it doesn't turn out to be all style and no substance.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife



As much as I tried to enjoy the 2016 all-female reboot of Ghostbusters, it was glaringly obvious that the movie paled in comparison to the high benchmark already set by the original two films. Thankfully, Ghostbusters: Afterlife looks like the massive course correction that the franchise needs right now. And by course correction I am referring to the mere fact that the movie's trailer doesn't even seem to acknowledge the existence of that other movie.

Tenet



I was lucky enough to catch the 6-minute trailer for Christopher Nolan's Tenet when I'd gone back to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in IMAX. And boy was it a beauty to behold, with the director's flair for tension and conflict on full display. Granted, I barely knew what exactly it was that we were looking at, as the trailer seemed to drop viewers right into the very middle of the film. But therein lies the reason why I am stoked to see the film, if only to find out what is up with all the crazy backwards time looping.

Venom II




Admittedly, I wasn't the biggest proponent of the first Venom movie, even though I did enjoy Tom Hardy's portrayal of Eddie Brock and the titular symbiote, and the chemistry between the two. This time around they'll be facing off against fellow symbiote, Carnage, who was portrayed in the first movie by Woody Harrelson in a post-credit scene. And with rumors of a potential Tom Holland Spider-Man cameo, there is every reason to be excited.

Dune



Capping off the 2020 blockbuster release calendar is director Denis Villeneuve's take on the Frank Herbert science fiction saga, Dune. Set on the desert planet of Arrakis, the story would trace the trials of House Atreides as they attempt to forge a lasting dynasty on the titular world. It features an ensemble cast that includes Timothée Chalamat, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya and Jason Momoa. We are yet to get a teaser trailer, but the film already seems poised for success based on talent involved, timing and premise alone.


And there you have it, film fans, my 10 most anticipated movies for 2020. I wonder how many of these would actually make it to my list of favorite movies by the end of the year. Only time would tell I guess. It is worth noting that these are not the only movies I would be going to see or reviewing in 2020; for a full list of movies currently on my radar for the year, you can check out this post by Movie Facts over on Instagram.

Friday, 27 December 2019

2019 in Review: Looking Back

My week-long 2019 in Review series of posts comes to an end today, but for the benefit of those just joining in, here is a quick recap. The series was started on Monday with a rundown of my favorite video games released during the year. This was followed by a rundown of my favorite TV shows on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I highlighted my favorite songs. And yesterday, I revealed my favorite movies. Today, we'll be looking back at some of the news and events that made the most impact this past year.


The United Kingdom's desire to leave the European Union really came to a head this past year. The British Exit, or Brexit as it is more popularly referred to, was a major talking point for the UK media all year long, as the UK government failed to come to an agreement over the terms of the exit, leading to multiple delays. All that would eventually result in the resignation of Theresa May as the Conservative Party leader, following several votes of no-confidence, and the appointment of Boris Johnson as the new prime minister. The country is currently set to leave the EU in early 2020 and I am here wondering, could Nigeria be allowed to take its place?


The UK wasn't the only one threatening to make an exit this past year, as it was announced in a joint statement by Disney and Sony that Spider-Man would also be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was shortly following the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and his appearance in the hugely popular MCU movie, Avengers: Endgame. The news was due to both companies failing to come to an agreement over the sharing of profits for the character's continued appearance in future movies. Thankfully, Spider-Man fans all over the world had made their displeasure known, prompting the two companies to come up with a new agreement that would ensure that the webslinger was going to remain in the MCU.


Not all fans were as civil as Spider-Man's this past year though. Toxic fan bases are nothing new, but there were some extremely vocal ones in 2019 who were out there making their current hatred for their favorite franchises known. I am talking about everything from Game of Thrones fans petitioning for Season 8 to be remade with "competent" writers, to Pokémon fans complaining about the lack of a National Pokédex in the latest Pokémon games, and of course, the Star Wars fans who believe Rian Johnson had ruined the franchise with his movie, The Last Jedi, and were fully prepared to blindly hate (or love?) The Rise of Skywalker as a result. Take a chill pill, guys. I understand the passion, but we must never forget that these are franchises that we should all be grateful to have in our lives in the first place.


Bringing things back home now, in terms of personal achievements and milestones within the year, there aren't really that many to talk about. I started the year with the goal of seeing at least 25 movies at the cinema, and I ended up seeing over 30, most of which I also wrote a review for. Not bad I guess, considering I had only managed to see half as many the year before. My appreciation of filmmaking is something I've never attempted to hide, and films themselves are something I view as more than mere entertainment. It is an art form, and if the only way I currently have to show support for that art form is by going to watch these movies and giving my critical evaluation of them afterwards, then continue to do so I will.

Another thing I managed to do in 2019 was produce my very first podcast. This is something I've had an interest in for many years now, but never felt I had the content or tools required to pursue. But I had thrown all caution to the wind, and channeled my love for Game of Thrones, which led to my weekly GoT spoiler discussions. A special shout out is in order for my co-host and fellow GoT enthusiast, Princewill from The Drunk Pen, who was always a real champ throughout the whole process. The production might have been barebones and the results not particularly stellar, but none of that can take away the sheer amount of fun we had putting the whole thing together.

Lastly, my fondest memories from 2019 are probably the ones I made during a trip to Dubai back in June. There were so many activities cramped into those 5 short days, and so many sights to see. But what I'll remember most fondly are the new friendships that were forged, friends who I still talk and interact with regularly till today. You know who you are, and I guess this is my way of saying thank you for being there, even when we'd thought we'd ghost each other the moment we got back home.


Happy New Year in advance everyone, and here's hoping that 2020 brings with it more of the things we love in the world, and none of the things we don't.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

2019 in Review: Favorite Movies

Us



Jordan Peele had made one hell of a directorial debut with his 2017 horror satire, Get Out, so of course expectations were high for his followup movie, Us. Marketed as a home invasion thriller with a twist, the movie not only lived up to those expectations, it very well surpassed, thereby cementing his position as one of the very best horror filmmakers in the world today.

Shazam



Fresh off the success of last year's billion-dollar-grossing Aquaman, the DCEU's Shazam is one of their only movies with an actual heart and soul. It works as a family comedy as much as it does a superhero origin story, which just goes to show what can be achieved when their primary concern isn't an overarching narrative and the worldbuilding required for that.

Avengers: Endgame



Event movies don't get much bigger than Avengers: Endgame, the followup to the MCU's immensely popular Avengers: Infinity War. Having the previous movie end the way it had pretty much guaranteed the new one would do one thing: get as many butts in theaters seats come opening weekend. And what an opening it was too, grossing over $1.2 billion worldwide in its first 5 days, before going on to become the highest grossing movie of all time.

Spider-Man: Far From Home



Leave it to the geniuses at Marvel Studios to followup one of the year's biggest releases with a smaller-scale offering, and still make it feel just as essential. But that was precisely what they did with Spider-Man: Far From Home, a movie that offered fans of the MCU their first glimpses at a post-Endgame universe.

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood



Quentin Tarantino remains one of the most talented filmmakers in Hollywood today. And for his ninth feature film, he'd decided to make a film that is as much about an era of filmmaking as it is about the events surrounding the Manson family murders. Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood is a love letter to the Golden Age of cinema, a movie that never ceases to be stunning to look at while paying respect to all that has come before.

Parasite



Speaking of talented filmmakers, Bong Joon-ho might have already proven his flair for the craft with films like Snowpiercer and Okja. But with the release of Parasite, a comparatively down-to-Earth tale that is as much a black comedy as it is social commentary, he has shown his mastery of its finer details as well. The movie is so brilliant in its intensity, so beautiful in its execution, that you'd be hard pressed to find a finer example of what quality filmmaking entails in 2019. Okay. I'll stop gushing now.

Joker



The Clown Prince of Crime finally received an origin story worthy of his large-than-life personality this year in the form of Todd Philip's standalone DC movie, Joker. Joaquin Phoenix has given a career-defining performance that captured the tortured mind of the Batman villian like never before. The fact that the film is also beautifully shot only further elevates its status as one of the very best comic book-based movies ever made.

The Irishman



Martin Scorcese might have caught a bit of heat this year for remarks that made light of the effort that goes into the standard superhero movie, but none of that can detract from the fact that his latest film, The Irishman, is as brilliant as a gangster movie can get. The film is anchored by great performances from heavy hitters, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, and the de-aging technology used to give credence to them as their younger selves simply needs to be seen.

Knives Out



Rian Johnson's Knives Out is about as far away from "a galaxy far, far away" as the director could possibly get, but yet the movie feels just as brilliant as his work in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It is a classic whodunnit with modern sensibilities that features Daniel Craig as one of the most eccentric sleuths to grace the big screen in this day and age. But credit must also be given to the ensemble cast as a whole, and a script that moves at a steady pace while still allowing viewers to piece together all the clues.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker



The Skywalker Sage comes to a somewhat satisfying end in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth film in the highly-beloved franchise. I couldn't possibly have this list of favorite movies without including what was clearly my most anticipated one heading into the year. I've seen it twice already at the cinemas, and had my mind blown by what I saw on both occasions, despite the film's many problems. So that should tell you all you need to know about its inclusion on this list.

And the winner is...

Parasite



I know I said I was done gushing about Parasite, but you'll have to indulge me for another minute here. This movie is bloody brilliant. Scratch that, the movie is about as bloody brilliant as bloody brilliant could get. No other movie had left me floored this past year the way I was after I first saw Parasite and the credits started rolling. It is a movie that says a lot in so little words, relying for the most part on its imagery to get its message across. And what breathtaking imagery it has too.

There is one particular shot that I keep going back to, of the youngest Kim daughter, perched on top of the toilet seat as she uses her bodyweight to hold back the flood waters threatening to gush out of its bowels. Everything from the way the scene was lit, to the framing of the shot, to the practical effects used, just echoes brilliance.

Okay. I'm done gushing for real now. Parasite is not only my favorite movie for 2019. It is also one of the decade's very best.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

2019 in Review: Favorite Songs

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road



Country and rap collide in Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, a song that would become the biggest genre mashup of 2019. The debut single would not only receive a remix featuring country singer, Billy Rae Cyrus, but also eventually go on to top the Billboard Hot 100 charts for 19 consecutive weeks, as well as scoring Grammy nominations for Record of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Juice WRLD - Robbery



Another mashup of genres that was a mainstay on my playlists this year was Juice WRLD's Robbery. The song is built around a haunting piano melody as the late rapper croons about yet another relationship gone awry. It is just one of several gems on his sophomore album, Death Race for Love, and now a part of his legacy following his tragic death after a drug overdose earlier this month.

Billie Eilish - bury a friend



American pop sensation Billie Eilish finally released her highly-anticipated debut album this year, which included instant classics like Bad Guy and All the Good Girls go to Hell. But of all the great songs featured on the album, my favorite one remains Bury a Friend, a track that gives the phrase "monster under the bed" a new meaning as it takes listeners into the darkest recesses of the 18-year-old's twisted mind.

Joeboy - Baby



Few songs were as ubiquitous on Nigerian radio stations and airwaves this past year as Baby by Joeboy. Okay, actually I can name a few, but not many of them could boast of the same kind of instant appeal. The song is so catchy, and the production so smooth, that you just can't help but dance and sing along to its lyrics about getting smitten with someone who seems larger than life itself.

Taylor Swift - You Need to Calm Down



Country singer turned pop star Taylor Swift was back this year with another pop banger, You Need to Calm Down. The earworm served as the second single from her seventh studio album, Lover, and in it she shows her support for the LGBTQ+ community while poking fun at its many detractors and opponents. The song would go on to earn her 9 nominations at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, where it won the overall award for Video of the Year.

Slipknot - Solway Firth



I have been listening to Slipknot for quite sometime now, but 2019 would be the year that I finally considered myself a full-blown maggot, the official term for their fandom. And Solway Firth would be the song that prompted me to take that designation (as well as being the song to introduce me to the bloody and brilliant Amazon series, The Boys). Simply put, I don't believe I had headbanged as hard as I did the first time I heard this raging beast of a song.

blink-182 - Darkside



blink-182 released what was hands down their most emotionally "dark" record till date this past year, so I guess it is only appropriate that they have a song on it titled Darkside. Not to be confused with the side of the Force where Sith lords get their power or the DC comic book villain, the deliriously catchy song is actually about an unrequited love for a Goth chick and a disturbing willingness to follow her to the ends of the Earth.

Post Malone - Circles



I have a confession to make: I have never been a fan of Post Malone. This is despite the fact that he was featured in my list of favorite songs last year in the Tiesto & Dzeko collaboration, Jackie Chan, and he was half responsible for the best cut from the Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse OST, Sunflower. Well, all that changed this year the moment I heard Circles, a song so beautifully rendered and heartbreaking that it sticks with you for countless hours after you hear it.

Bring Me the Horizon - Ludens



Bring Me the Horizon might have pissed off a large portion of their fan base with the release of their pop-focused sixth studio album, Amo, but they've managed to bring a lot of them back into the fold with the unexpected release of Ludens. Featured on the soundtrack to the Hideo Kojima video game, Death Stranding, the electronica-infused song features what is arguably one of the best metal breakdowns witnessed all year, as odd as that sounds.

Goody Grace - Scumbag (feat. blink-182)



I have a YouTube recommendation to thank for discovering the immensely talented Goody Grace this year. The young Canadian singer is yet to release a debut album, but already has a varied collection of songs up on the platform that showcases his broad range of styles. Scumbag currently serves as his potential breakout single, a collaboration with aging rockers blink-182 that harkens back to the good old days of radio-friendly pop rock.

And the winner is...

Slipknot - Solway Firth



It had been 5 solid years since Slipknot had dropped an album. So you should understand when I say We Are Not Your Kind was easily one of the most anticipated musical releases of the year. And what a killer record it was too, an album that stands as not only one of my favorites (or more accurately THE favorite) for the year, but also marks one of their best (if not THE best) in their 20-year career. Solway Firth is a song that showcases the amount of growth the band has undergone in all that time, an album closer that perfectly exemplifies the spirit of experimentation featured on the album, all the while still managing to retain the same hard-hitting edge fans have come to expect.

PS: Merry Christmas everyone.