Captain Marvel – Review

We’ve been heavily anticipating Captain Marvel since they announced the hero’s involvement in The Avengers series. When we saw her insignia flash on Nick Fury’s pager as he faded to dust, we were fully prepared to dive into a whole new superhero origin story. Now she’s here and she is burning bright in every sense of the world.

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Set in 1995, Captain Marvel revolves around Kree soldier in training Vers, who is part of an elite Starforce on the planet Hala and has no memory beyond her six years on the planet. The alien-race of Kree are fighting a war against shape-shifting Skrull army. When Vers is taken hostage, the Skrulls unlock memories from her life before. Throw a daring escape, Vers is sent to Earth alongside a handful of Skrulls. To stop the alien-race invading Earth, Vers pairs up with SHIELD agent Nick Fury and may unlock the very secrets to her being…Could she be Carol Danvers?

Captain Marvel is a pretty good thrill ride. However, unlike Black Panthers new take on a solo outing (where he has been an established character, working on his own separate family issues,) this is an origin outing and therefore suffers from trying to establish a character already part of a grand-scale story.  The film lacks any connection during the beginning which means you aren’t completely invested in Carol “Vers” Danvers. It isn’t until she is jettisoned to Earth and she meets Fury that she opens up and becomes a more intriguing character with serious stakes in the mission.

Brie Larson is always brilliant – and here is no different – but Carol is an amnesiac hero from start to beginning and the grandeur elements of the story engulf the character, losing her from time to time. Whilst Larson does get to the heart of Carol, and she is the bright, smiley spirit within the film, Captain Marvel overwhelms her with on-the-nose empowering messages and nineties nostalgia. This is best exampled when a big fight sequence is set to No Doubt’s I’m Just A Girl. Yes, it’s enjoyable, but also oddly jarring too. It’s great to have a female-led superhero film from Marvel but it’s not good to sound off about it every five minutes.

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This may sound like a negative review. It’s true that Captain Marvel is flawed but it isn’t more flawed than say Captain America: The First Avenger or Doctor Strange’s opening act. It hits every Marvel checkbox from the witty-lines to a somewhat weak enemy.

Positively, Captain Marvel is a lot of fun. From bombastic battles and Carol unlocking her powers  to Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson’s BFF relationship, Captain Marvel delivers a lot of super-charged energy. Ben Mendolsohn is a terrific supporting character who has, perhaps, a better arc than our leading character whilst Lashana Lynch anchors the film with more emotion. The soundtrack is brilliant too – making anyone millennial cheer.

Captain Marvel is good – great when you consider that it has a cat called Goose which at one point gets called a Flerken – but it’s not as strong as some movies that have come before it.

Captain Marvel is out Friday 8th March 

Ray and Liz – Review

First features always have smatterings of something deeply personal. Desiree Akhavan explored her New York life in Appropriate Behaviour whilst  Bo Burhnam injected his own sense of self into Eighth Grade. Filmmakers always input their souls into their films but for a first feature, it always seems more poignant – closer to the director’s reality.

For Richard Billingham, his debut Ray & Liz truly puts a picture of his life on the big screen in a complex, brooding, and utterly beautiful way.

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Ray & Liz is based onon a video artwork of photographer Billingham, as well as a book collection called Ray’s a Laugh. Billingham puts his own experiences of life in Birmingham on the big screen. The film starts off with an aged alcoholic Ray stumbling around his own flat, drinking home-brew and chain-smoking. At different times, Ray looks back at his life with the volatile Liz, their children Richard and Jason, and the world of 1970s Birmingham.

Ray & Liz is such an impacting slice of British life. The film is so detailed in its craft and really awakens this authentic period setting. . As director Richard Billingham brings the stories of his own life onto the big screen, it feels so much as though we’ve stepped into this picturesque world. As exquisite as it maybe in cinematography, and shots, Billingham imbues the background with a lot of background. It’s so distinct and detailed in the drab dirtiness of near-poverty that one familiar with that life would practically be able to smell the cheap hairspray or damp.

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Billingham deals with his own life story in such an intimate way. His tragic ode to his family doesn’t feel embittered or angered. Instead, this bleak depiction of his childhood, scattered with odd humour, has an ingrained empathy for his neglectful parents. Played by the impressive Ella Smith and the formidable Justin Salinger , their selfish and scheming behaviour is tangible throughout. The caustic manner in the way they are lends itself to the gloomy and problematic way of life for them and their children. Yet Billingham is wary to not put blame on his parents. Instead, through snippets about his uncle or brother or even himself, the director shows that this is just life as it was. Or, even, life as it is for people maligned to the outskirts of society.

Actually, this is a story about people who are society; folk scraping by on dole and redundancy money, frittering way the pennies for alcohol or begging others it by hounding and hassling. As their children attempt to find warmth in other homes, the titular pair scrounge for cigarettes on the underpass or walk their bunnies in the park without really questioning where their children have been. The films impoverished family are gloriously realised on the big screen; in all their scathing sorrow.

The earnestness on display in Billingham’s Ray & Liz is impacting. An ever-lasting ode to family life that bears it’s bruises and scars for all to see. An intimate display of despair that moves with a spirit and a soul, this poignant cinematic poetry is definitely one to see.

Ray and Liz is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

6 Drool-Worthy Pancake Scenes

We’re delivering some whooping platefuls of floury, sugary lemony treats. That’s right, despite technically being a religious holiday to show the  true spirit of sacrifice, we are more excited about round treats. In our addled states as human beings, we took  Shrove Tuesday to scoff as much as you can before staving off sweets for forty days
 (ha ha ha – no).

So for Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day or whatever excuse you need to devour  floury sugary goodness tonight, let’s celebrate with looking at the best pancake scenes in cinema.

Honourable Mentions:  Michael Douglas’ breakfast heist in Falling Down

Elf (2003)

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Elf quickly came into our hearts and launched Will Ferrell into superstardom alongside his Anchorman role. The film is now part of our Christmas diet as we munch away on the sugary sweet scenes verse the sardonic society of modern day New York.  The story revolves around a human baby brought up in Santa’s Workshop by a group of squeaky voiced elves. Unfortunately, when Buddy grows up to be an adult, he no longer fits in with all that he knows – figuratively and metaphorically – he finds his real dad. So technically no pancakes are involved in Buddy’s meal but there is syrup which is a pancakes best friend. Buddy puts them it on everything. EVERYTHING. From pancakes to spaghetti, syrup is Buddy’s go to sickly sweet condiment.

And ours too Buddy. Ours too.

Practical Magic (1998)

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Pancakes and witches- we have such a soft spot for this nineties spell-binding movie. Starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, the film revolves around two sisters who happen to be witches. Trying to cover up a crime they’ve committed, Kidman’s Gillian concocts a syrup to drive away a handsome sheriff investigating the crime. He also has eyes for Sally and can flip pancakes just like she’d wished for as a child. Soon her children start to realise that he may be the perfect man for their mother – can they stop Gillian’s magical sauce? A sweet scene with cactus shaped pancakes!

Matilda (1996)

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This is a scene long before our beloved bookwork hero discovers she has powers; a fact that makes it all the better. She is roughly about five in this scene but is often abandoned by her family and left to fend for herself (because her family are pretty much the worst.) With that hanging over her, Matilda learnt to take care of herself very quickly and one of the things she learnt was how to make pancakes. Nom. With an epic soundtrack that always delightfully appears in nineties movies (Send Me On My way by Rusted Foot), Matilda makes some scrumdiddliumptious snacks for herself all while reading the newspaper and feeding her brain with knowledge.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

In this undated handout image courtesy Miramax and provided by the Library of Congress , Vincent, played by John Travolta, left, dismisses Jules’, played by Samuel L. Jackson, plan to "walk the earth," in a scene from the 1994 Quentin Tarrantino film, "Pulp Fiction." The library is inducting 25 films, including "Pulp Fiction," into the National Film Registry to be preserved for their cultural, historical or cinematic significance. (AP Photo/Library of Congress, Courtesy of Miramax)

Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar Winning screenplay for this movie sees a bend in time for the gangs in Los Angeles. Revolving mainly around Jules and Vincent, this broken narrative flits through deaths only to bring them back again. However, in this iconic scene, after blowing the brains off an informant (accidentally, I might add) the pair rest up in a Diner Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of bacon, while munching on pancakes and eggs, the conversation between them soon turns philosophical (as is in Tarantino-land) However, Pumpkin and Honey from before seize the restaurant causing and epic final stand-off.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Cult classic from the Coen Brothers is a wonderful masterpiece that has set off it’s own religion in parts of the globe. Centring on Jeff Bridges’ character The Dude, it is a case of mistaken identity that disrupts his laid back lifestyle of weed, white Russians and bowling. The main villains of the show are German nihilists lead by Peter Stormare. Believing The Dude to be a millionaire whose wife they have kidnapped, they rest after destroying his home and blackmailing the real rich guy (with the severed toe of his wife). Only, as they order famous Lingonberry pancakes, a camera pans down on the only woman there to find that she is actually the one without her baby toe. Dig in, guys!

Uncle Buck (1990)

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If  you think pancakes in movies then this is probably the scene that is going to jump into your head. John Candy stars as the titular character, a gambling man who is called up to the big boy leagues when his brother asks him to babysit his kids. And boy, does he make a mess out of it. But when it comes to pancakes, it’s a different story. Much different from the previous scene where MacCaulay Culkin innocent exclaims “he’s cooking garbage!” Uncle Buck finally puts on his adult breeches to deliver a birthday for Miles that is unlike any other. And what better way to celebrate than with a massive doze of pancakes. And by massive, we mean Buck makes bigger than your child sized pancakes drizzled in ice cream, chocolate sauce and more.


Happy Pancake Day!