Tag: Benedict Cumberbatch

The Grinch

grinchIn a cinematic version of hanging your Christmas decorations out too early, The Grinch begs the question of why we need a Christmas story in November, let alone one from the well rinsed Dr. Seuss pantheon. But here we have it.

Directors Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (Eddie’s Life Coach) have pieced together a feel-good film that puts a spotlight on Christmas cheer. Residents of the snowy town of Whoville have decided to turn up their Christmas festivities to eleven.  Enter that ol’ killjoy, the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch), to cast the shadow of his lowing brow upon the town’s unbridled optimism. We all know the Grinch’s drill; loner, outcast, grumpy, and Whoville’s seasonal exuberance proves to be one curly ribbon too many. He is, however, not quite the curmudgeon we’ve become accustomed to in previous films.  In fact, when he  complained of rampant consumerism I began to be sympathetic to his plight. His mission to steal the town’s joy (ie. their Christmas presents) sees him, along with his trusty dog Max, embarking on an evening of “righteous” thievery that has far-reaching consequences.

On the surface, the film offers plenty of plucky family entertainment. It has a noble message, and even takes the time to paint the Grinch’s backstory. Visually it’s full of lively action, the animation is snappy and the pallet is bright and attractive. However, Michael LeSieur’s (You Me and Dupree) pallid writing hasn’t done this film any favours. More should’ve been made of the talent on offer and despite Cumberbatch squeezing what he can from the bland screenplay, it remains a story that that lacks depth and wit.  

That said, there are a couple of highlights worth noting; Mr. Bricklebaum’s (Kenan Thompson) infectious enthusiasm delivers a few chuckles and the film’s vibrant visuals will no doubt delight the young’uns. But ultimately The Grinch feels like you’ve received one of those practical Christmas presents destined for the sock drawer; soft, dull and lacking in imaginative spark.  Bah humbug. 

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

Avengers: Infinity War

avengersinfinityI’m unapologetically lukewarm about the superhero genre having long suffered the much-maligned superhero fatigue.  And while many fans will bemoan such critics and explain how the superhero genre differs little (in quantity) from other celebrated genres, I must highlight one notable difference; the dreaded word “universe”.  Attach that word to a large grouping of open-ended narrative arcs and it’s a recipe for trouble.

Rather than the episodic nature of other genres, the superhero genre has, for some reason, decided to create giant cross-pollinated mythologies of characters who share the same “universe”—every so often tying them up in one big tentpole movie.

Beholden to Marvel’s “universe” Avengers: Infinity War tries its hardest to corral its many denizens into narrative alignment. You can almost hear the cogs turning as each hero is conveyer-belted onto the screen and plugged back into the Marvel “universe” system.  Despite such difficulties, directors Joe and Anthony Russo have done an admirable job of wrangling it all together.

Understandably, the plot is fairly shallow in order to fit in the numerous heroes and villains. The infighting of previous Marvel films is largely forgotten as the Avengers are all forced to contend with a larger, outside threat: Thanos (Josh Brolin), an enormous, galaxy-trotting warlord who believes the universe would be better off if half of the population was exterminated. His genocidal plans depend on obtaining all six Infinity Stones, their combined power would allow him to reduce life in the universe by half with the literal snap of his fingers.

The action is predictable, with plenty of the usual punchsplosions, collapsing walls, and CGI overload that we’ve become accustomed to. But thankfully the fight sequences aren’t too long … there simply isn’t time for them.  Curiously, a by-product of accommodating an enormous cast seems to be the reduction of tedious fight sequences. However, character development also takes a back seat—a mere luxury squeezed as small as Antman’s undies (who ironically isn’t in this film).  What’s left, however, is Marvel’s intoxicatingly funny brand of humour which keeps pace with the film’s sheer kinetic momentum and culminates in a bold and risky ending (of which my lips are sealed).

Fair to say, I was not expecting much and had to muster all my super-reviewing powers of critical impartiality.  And although Avengers: Infinity War is far from perfect, the result was better than I had anticipated and should satisfy even lukewarm superhero fans.

See more of my NZME reviews here.