Ageing hitman Henry Brogan (Will Smith – Aladdin, Suicide Squad) has his sights set on retiring, but as these type of stories go, he agrees to “just one more”. While on this mission, he encounters Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and the two are soon embroiled in a game of cat and mouse with governments, and Junior (also played by Will Smith).
While Gemini Man is directed by Ang Lee, the film pales in comparison to any of his other works, lacking any cinematic shots, editing that feels like a student music video, and just not living up to what anyone would expect.
Gemini Man has very little going for it. One feels inclined to root for the bad guy. The action sequences feel dull, and not because the screen brightness at Ster Kinekor, Cavendish in Cape Town is woefully too dark, but but there is just no exciting action to speak of. An action file that is sorely lacking, where it counts.
Character development, there is none. Each person on screen feels like a template, downplayed to the level of a light hum, instead of an all out action star.
Gemini Man is a film with a bunch of missed opportunity, rather than a satisfying story. One comes away feeling robbed of a few hours of fun. And it almost feels like no one really tried.
The film opens 11 October 2019, in South African cinemas.
In this, the fifth big screen outing of the infamous foe of Batman, we are lured into the world of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) as he spirals toward a character transition, from simple man to crazed merchant of evil.
This is a gritty film, far removed from the likes of previous films starring Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto. While the film is a lot darker than any previous story featuring Joker, there are to a more or lesser degree, aspects of those appearances present. Most notably, the strongest being that of Heath Ledger’s Clown Prince.
Joker follows the inherent personality transition of Arthur Fleck to The Joker, played out through a social commentary on society, and its blatant disregard for those who are different or of a lower status. With many ideas and story aspects being familiar, there are, at the same time, many differences. Starting with Joker’s origin, and including a look at the politics that would come to shape the city, known for its birth of The Dark Knight.
There are many subtle, and not so subtle, influences from both popular and classic culture present in the film. Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times provides both visuals in many scenes and story context to the character of Joker, something that is sure to thrill any film student or lover of the black and white silent films of yesteryear. The references to The King of Comedy as part of a sub-plot to the film, serve both as a homage and exposition to the state of Arthur’s mind, acting as a thermometer for the viewer, allowing one to judge just how far along the road he is from Arthur to Joker, playing out on a live comedy show, presented by Murray Franklin, placing the cherry on the top by being played by Robert De Niero who played Rupert Pupkin in the 1982 film.
Joker is a masterpiece of story layers, character driven by a talented cast. As we delve deeper into the underbelly of Gotham City, lamenting both status and status-quo, allowing the viewer to slip into a mindset of indifference. The film is an engrossing journey, with few pauses allowing for thought or analysis. This is a film that sets out to share a story, and it impresses, greatly. While the violence and subject matter may not be for everyone, it is more certainly a film one must see, and no doubt will be one of the top films in quite some time. Great film, cinematography, acting, character and story – one would seldom want more from a cinematic narrative.
Joker opens in South African cinemas on 4 October 2019
The story we all know, retold with stunning photorealism. With the tragic murder of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones – Rogue One), a young lion prince, Simba (young Simba JD McCrary and older Simba Donald Glover – Solo: A Star Wars Story, Spider-Man: Homecoming), flees the kingdom on the advice of his uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ijiofor – Doctor Strange, Triple 9). Now he must learn the true meaning of responsibility, bravery, his place in the world, and the circle of life.
For those who grew up with the animated version of The Lion King (1994), enough time has passed that one avoids the risk of having a fun childhood memory spoiled. The songs we all know and love are all there, all the characters present, yet we are treated to a new line-up of voices. New voices, that is, apart from the legendary James Earl Jones, playing Mufasa in both films.
While the graphics and detail in this latest incarnation are great, they do pose the problem of disconnecting the viewer from the story. The animals feel more akin to the watching of a nature documentary, with actors reading lines, rather than being connected to the voices and emotion they should contain.
The story remains sound, the music evokes excitement, and there are a good many laughs. But apart from the graphics upgrade, this version of the film comes second to the first outing of the lovable lions. A good try, but falling a little short of the mark.
The Lion King opens 19 July 2019 in South African cinemas.
A story we all know, with memories of a fun animated feature presented years back by Disney. Now on the big screen with a real life performance.
Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a seemingly kind hearted thief happens upon the Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott – Power Rangers) and a dark plot by a power hungry Grand Vizier who wants to use the power of a magic lamp, containing a Genie (Will Smith – Suicide Squad, Concussion). The Genie has the power to grant wishes to whomever holds the lamp, and so begins a battle not only against the evil aspirations of Jafar (Marwan Kenzari – Murder on the Orient Express) but those holding this treasure must also fight against their inner desires, and struggle to use the magic for good, lest they be seduced by greed.
While many might enter the cinema with thoughts of the previous incarnation of this tale, this telling, while remaining true to the story, brings with it its own magic. There are laughs, and thrills, the ever present songs we’ve come to know, and a story to be loved by both young and old.
Aladdin, coming from Disney, does not disappoint. While many would feel there could be but one Genie, Smith brings his own flair to the role, doing justice to the dear memory held by fans. Massoud and Scott bring a palpable chemistry to their complex on-screen relationship. And the setting and sets instil the awe the story is tasked to portray.
A fun, family outing, Aladdin hits it out the park, up to the new heights of its very own magic carpet. The film opens 24 May 2019 in South African cinemas.
After the devastation that was Avengers: Infinity War, and Thanos (Josh Brolin – Everest) wiping out half of all living beings in the universe, everyone is left to mourn and try pick up the pieces. Those of the Avengers that remain must now come together in their darkest hour and try restore order and life.
With ranks fractured, egos hurt, and hearts torn apart, can there be one final stand, and bring to a conclusion twenty two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Who will survive, who remains, who can muster the strength for just one more showdown; all questions that should be answered, but in the Endgame, all bets are off. Anything might happen, and all you know will be turned upside-down as it is a race to restore the universe, save lives, and at long last put an end to one epic adventure.
Avengers: Endgame brings so much together in one film, story, character, plots, emotions, coming full circle after all these years. There is not a single one who could walk away not touched by the journey we have all shared.
A word on length, as the film is just over three hours, and that is wear something comfortable. And keep an ear out for a small easter egg right at the end of the credits.
Be warned too, that still far too many cinemas in South Africa do not have the expertise to actually screen the film at a brightness level that would allow one to see all details. Through many complaints, and requests, this has still not been sorted in a great number of cinemas, so do not waste your money on poor quality projection, and demand you get what you pay such an exorbitant price for.
Avengers: Endgame is one epic film, far funnier that one would think, full of action, thrills, and enough emotion. Most certainly a must see, a part of the Marvel Universe you need to experience, and finally to round off the tales of so many characters we have come to know so well.
Avengers: Endgame opens in South African cinemas 26 April 2019.
While dealing with topics that can both strike a nerve, and insight anger, Blackkklansman gives equal showing to the racial hatred and tensions caused by both The KKK and Black Panthers. The filmmakers have put any political bias aside, and given a straight account of the deeds perpetrated by these groups. However, the film is about an African American detective, and how he takes down a white supremacist group, so the story does follow those events closer.
Coming from a talented cast, and team of filmmakers, Blackkklansman is both a show of talent, and an engrossing story. Director Spike Lee has delivered a story that spans the race and political lines, educating as well as entertaining. It is clear to see why the film garnered multiple award nominations, including the upcoming Oscars.
Being a both a true story, and one again racial hatred, one might have enough political rhetoric and viewing of extremist groups after one sitting, so the desire to watch the film subsequent times would certainly depend on the viewer tolerance to these topics.
Overall, the disc is of an average technical quality. The navigation menu is once again the same cryptic symbols and auto-switching from Next Entertainment, meaning one can not simply pop the disc into a player and walk away to get snacks, as the disc will navigate from sub-menu to main menu, and then autoplay the main feature. Forcing a viewer to do this is pretty poor design, so why they insist on this is something of a mystery.
Poor disc design aside, the main feature is pretty good, and enjoyable.
Blackkklansman is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.
Video is encoded at a medium average bitrate. The disc is a dual layer, and almost completely full, leaving only a small percentage of free space. This would likely also account for why there are so few included bonus features, and why those features are so short.
There are no visible artefacts on-screen, nor any visible colour bleed. Details in darker scenes remain good though.
Viewers should be able to scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.
Audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and encoded at a high average bitrate, with dialogue clear via the centre channel. The soundtrack relies heavily on the front channels, with very little use of the surround channels.
The main menu on the disc has a static background, with poster image and accompanying music. Navigation is comprised of the usual cryptic symbols, and no text labels. Once in a sub-menu, the disc will return the viewer to the main menu after a minute. Once on the main menu, the disc will autoplay the main feature after just under a minute and a half.
The main menu has symbols to play the main feature, chapter selection, bonus features, audio language selection, and subtitle selection. The bonus features sub-menu also has accompanying background music.
The chapter selection sub-menus have four medium, colour, still thubmnails, for a total of twenty chapters. While these are numbered, they are not labelled, meaning that navigating to a particular point in the main feature would require some guesswork, so viewers might be better off using their own hardware or software to bookmark a favourite part of the film, or a place from which to resume viewing.
The bonus feature sub-menu has text links to each of the two included bonus features (detailed below).
The audio soundtrack selection sub-menu has text links to each of the available soundtracks, including English DVS (descriptive video service).
Lastly, the subtitle sub-menu has text links to each of the available subtitle languages, defaulting to no subtitles.
For viewers who might require some assistance decoding the symbols of the main navigation menu, a triangle is to play the main feature, book shape is chapters, asterisk symbol for bonus features, speaker icon for audio soundtrack, and square with lines for the subtitle menu.
A Spike Lee Joint – Some behind the scenes footage, and some commentary by cast and crew, in this very short featurette. This was likely a short television spot before the original release of the film, but does provide a small amount of insight into the film and the making thereof.
Blackkklansman Extended Trailer Featuring Prince’s “Mary Don’t You Weep” – The film’s trailer, with the song by Prince, coming in at about the same length as the aforementioned “A Spike Lee Joint”.
There is also a trailer that autoplays at the beginning of the disc for Tales from the Hood 2, also by Spike Lee.
The disc packaging is the standard DVD jewel case, with a poster on the front. The back has a short synopsis, a listing of bonus features, some stills from the main feature, and the usual technical information and symbols.
There are no package inserts in the case, such as chapter listing.
Based in the same universe as The Conjuring and Annabelle movies, and featuring the demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons – Annabelle: Creation) that scared viewers in The Conjuring 2, The Nun takes us on a trip away from the bustle of the city and suburbia, and to Romania where Father Burke (Demián Bichir – Alien: Covenant) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) have been sent to an old abbey to confront evil, and face their fears.
With Sister Irene not having taken her final vows, and Father Burke unsure of what is to come, the two are lead to the area by Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet – 3 Days to Kill, The Family).
Re-watch value on The Nun is average. It is certainly worth further viewings, especially if one is a fan of The Conjuring Universe. But many of the tense, scary moments would be lost in subsequent sittings. Still a good scare, and some creepy horror to enjoy.
Overall, this is a decent disc technically, with an enjoyable main feature.
The Nun is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.
Video is encoded at a medium average bitrate. With the disc using just over the space provided by one layer, one wonders why the bitrate might not have been increased, or more bonus material added.
There are no visible artefacts on-screen. Colours are vibrant where needed, with no visible colour bleed. Darker scenes, of which there are several, maintain a decent amount of detail.
Viewers with the necessary hardware or software could scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.
Audio is compressed at a high average bitrate, and presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.
Dialogue is clear via the centre channel, with great use made of the surround channels, and LFE channel, especially during the more intense scenes.
There is a decent amount of use made of the surround channels, with discreet effects and ambience.
Navigation is simple, with a static main menu and accompanying music. The background is a poster for the film. There are text links to play the main feature, scene selection, languages, and special features.
The scene selection sub-menus contain six and five medium, colour, still thumbnails each, for a total of eleven chapters. While these are numbered, they are not labelled, meaning that navigation to a specific part of the main feature would require some guesswork. There are also no package inserts with chapter listings included in the packaging.
The languages sub-menu has a text list of audio languages (including English Descriptive Audio), and a text list of subtitle languages (including English for the deaf or hard of hearing).
The special features sub-menu has a solitary text link to the only bonus feature on the disc.
A New Horror Icon – This short featurette gives the viewer a look behind the scenes for some of the film, it introduces to Bonnie Aarons, and provides insight into The Conjuring Universe, and how The Nun fits in. Spoiler alert, so best to watch this after seeing the main feature.
There are no trailers that autoplay at the beginning of the disc.
Packaging for The Nun is a standard DVD jewel case, with poster on the front. The back has a short synopsis of the film, a few stills taken from the main feature, and the usual technical information and logos.
Director Robert Rodriguez and writer / producer James Cameron (Terminator: Genisys) team up to bring us another look into a possible future, a world of amazement, a movie based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series Gunnm. This is the story of Alita (Rosa Salazar – Maze Runner: The Death Cure, CHIPS). She is a deactivated female cyborg, found on the scrapheap by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz – The Legend of Tarzan). But she does not remember anything about her past life, who she is, what she is, or where she comes from. So begins Alita’s quest, in this cyberpunk action film, to learn of her past.
Set in the year 2563, after a terrible war known as “The Fall”, survivors on a devastated Earth all make their way to the sprawling metropolis known as Iron City, situated partly in the shadow of Zalem, a city in the sky. This is a place policed by the Hunter-Warriors, mercenaries who chase down marks for money. And a place where the highly competitive sport of Motorball gives the best player passage to Zalem.
Alita: Battle Angel portrays its story with a wonderful balance of science fiction, action that has choreography akin to ballad, and a story layer about love, acceptance, and family. Yet, just when one things the story is going to sway too far to any one genre, the characters acknowledge the plight of the viewer, and promptly switch gear, at times with much amusement.
Visually, this world of Alita is stunning. From the subtle architectural layout of the city, to the robots, cyborgs, and even Zalem itself. This is certainly best seen on the larger format screen of IMAX, where the 3D visuals can excel, rather than having one squint in the dark at the poor projection of so many other cinemas in South Africa.
While the film is a live action feature, it pays homage to its anime beginnings, with just the most subtle of nods towards the anime look of Alita, its fast paced fight scenes, and subtle lighting colours. A pumping soundtrack rounds off this mix of movie musts, making this a totally immersive, and incredibly enjoyable film. One that will appeal to fans of any of the genres, and those merely looking for a few hours of escape from life in the twenty first century.
For those who shy away from science fiction, hope is not lost. The story is one that many can relate to. The plot is not overly complex, the twists in the tale do not bombard one at a rate too rapid to endure. This is a story of one’s self, finding purpose, and pursuing that with all of one’s being.
A film that is sure to appeal to many audiences, this is one of those that could surely be called a must-see.
Alita: Battle Angel opens 14 February 2019 in South African cinemas.
Having wrapped filming toward the end of November 2018, Showmax’s first original drama, The Girl From St Agnes will premier on Showmax 31 January 2019. Bringing a veritable eight part whodunnit series with a South African flair to the streaming platform.
Starting with the first episode, we are introduced to Lexi (Jane de Wet), drama teacher Kate (Nina Milner), school head Chris (Graham Hopkins), Shane (Tyrone Keogh), and a whole host of other diverse characters attending the prestigious St Agnes school for girls. The episode kicks off with a very South African feel to it, yet soon takes on the tense and dark feel of any murder mystery as things start looking just a little bit too simple for the seemingly open and shut case. We are introduced to several school and community personalities, and it’s not long before one feels that all is not right.
Moving to the second episode, the mood and feel of the show becomes a lot more tense. There is an urgency to uncover the truth. While the show does throw some clues and herrings, at this early stage it would be neigh impossible to start guessing. Anyone could have a secret, anyone could be guilty. Who can be trusted?
The show really does grip the viewer. The production value, talented cast, and engrossing story are sure to have the viewer wanting more. It is probably a good thing that all the episodes will be available for a binge session at the end of the month, lest we are forced to wait like the good old days, where an episode a week was all the story fulfilment allowed, and a quick chat at the water dispenser the next day would tide us over until we could once again be whisked away to this world of intrigue.
Based on the first two episodes, The Girl of St Agnes most certainly looks as if it will shape up to be a guessing game for viewers, providing a good many hours of entertainment, and with a binge session, robbing more than few of us of our sleep.
Look for The Girl from St Agnes, coming soon to Showmax.
More About The Show
“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”
At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.
But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.
The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…
Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.
Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.
Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District 9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (Isidingo), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.
The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.
Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.
“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”
Binge all eight episodes first and only on Showmax from 31 January 2019.
The life story of American politician Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), the man in the United States who never gave much away in an answer, who quietly wielded such power in Washington, and who was to become Vice President to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Poltergeist). He reshaped the country, perhaps the world, and his legacy is felt still to this day.
The film follows Cheney’s life events from college days, to his marriage to wife Lynne (Amy Adams – Justice League, Arrival). Him working with Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell – Despicable Me 3, Minions). This is a no holds barred look at the man, going on the best information available to the filmmakers, as they so colourfully state at the beginning of the film.
From the dramatic perspective, the film is a hard hitting story, made ever more intense due to the reality and nature of the events portrayed. It is, however, tempered with some humour, although sometimes this is a tad dark.
A talented cast, and a well presented story, laid out succinctly and in such a way that is sure to shock even those most dead the political rhetoric. Certainly a film to see, although for most a single viewing is likely to be enough, as one is bombarded with the topic on a daily basis, over many years, in the mainstream media. Deserving of award nominations, Vice is certainly a film that will keep people talking well after the credits roll, and the upcoming awards season passes.
Vice opens 1 February 2019 in South African cinemas.