Critic’s Rating: 4.0/5

Shazam! Story: Street-smart Billy Batson (Asher Angel) runs away from one foster home to the next, in search of his birth mother. Along the way, he encounters a mysterious wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who gives him the ability to transform into an adult with superpowers (Zachary Levi) by merely saying the word ‘Shazam’.

Shazam! Review: 
From its opening frames, ‘Shazam!’ sets out to address the origin tale pitfalls inherent to the superhero genre. It quickly establishes a comical, yet sensitive tonality which allows the audience to get on-board with an otherwise outlandish premise. Director David F. Sandberg captures the imagination, enthusiasm, and pure glee of a little kid playing with his/ her toys. He maintains an irreverent and exuberant approach throughout. But that sentiment wouldn’t translate if it wasn’t conveyed so well by the cast. Under Sandberg’s direction, they give their characters the right amount of self-awareness without veering too far into camp.

This is especially applicable to Zachary Levi, whose playfulness as the title character never gets old. He’s able to portray a sincere, yet immature adolescent trying to take on the big, bad world and yet, doesn’t know his own limits as a superhero. It also becomes obvious that Billy Batson (Asher Angel) isn’t familiar with how a powered individual works, and that allows superhero nerd Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) to show him the ropes. Some of the best scenes include Shazam discovering his abilities with Freddy, and they’re a joy to behold. Family is the narrative thread that binds the film. Even the villain Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) is forged by how his father and brother treat him as a young boy. That, along with Billy’s search for his birth mother, and his inability to find a home he can fit into, is where the plot finds its footing.

Despite this, the screenplay never falls prey to melodrama, and the usual genre tropes are acknowledged, then promptly downplayed. The stakes are relatively lower than what we’re used to, and yet crucial enough within this film. Even the action set-pieces don’t focus on fight choreography. Instead, those moments are used to further character development. It’s a risky move that does falter slightly towards the finish line, but that’s excused because everything else leading up to it is so much fun. Bolstered by Zachary Levi’s undeniable charm, ‘Shazam!’ embodies the child-like wonder associated with superhero/ comic movies. In a welcome change of pace, it is undoubtedly the lightest and most entertaining entry into the DC roster.


Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5StoryInspired from the 1941 classic Walt Disney animation film with the same name, ‘Dumbo’ is about an endearing baby elephant, who literally finds wings to fly, when he flaps his unusually large ears. The film charts Dumbo’s journey in the quest to find his mother, as he becomes the star attraction of a struggling circus.

Review“Wonder elephant soars to fame,” reads the headline of a newspaper that publishes the story of a flying elephant gliding across the circus tent. That is one of the most exhilarating visuals, which is bound to stay with you much after the film is over. Director Tim Burton’s mastery in creating visual fantasies is once again at display in this simplistic film about emotions that are universal. Set in 1919, every frame of the film captures the essence of what it tries to convey. Burton and his screenplay writer Ehren Kruger stick to the staple Disney tricks in telling a simple yet effective tale that has already been told before. Thankfully, the director manages to get the right amount of restrain from most of his actors. 

As a former circus star and a World War I veteran, Colin Farrell is convincing as Holt Farrier. He brings in the vulnerability of a single parent and a circus star, who is reduced to training the elephants after losing an arm in the war. Veteran actor Danny DeVito (Max Medici) goes a little over-the-top at times, but as the boisterous ringmaster and an owner of a struggling circus, he is allowed to do so. Eva Green sets many a hearts racing with her beauty and grace as the French trapeze artist Colette Marchant. Burton also manages to establish the connection between Dumbo and the two children, who mirror the loss of their own mother, when Dumbo is separated from his. Micheal Keaton in his caricature bad guy act looks menacing and funny, both at the same time..

But the film’s A game clearly lies in its protagonist. The novelty of Dumbo’s flying act doesn’t wear off even when the act itself becomes repetitive. Every time the pachyderm flies, it takes you along with it. The scenes involving the mother elephant are emotionally stirring and will strike a chord with the audience. Film’s visual scale towers above many of its obvious flaws, but doesn’t quite lift it above Burton’s legacy of creating magical realism in the past. While there are problems such as predictability, caricature characters and a sluggish pace, ‘Dumbo’ has its moments. Overall, it’s a harmless family entertainer for children of all ages.


Critic’s Rating: 4.0/5

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Story: The discovery of a female Light Fury threatens the dragon utopia of Berk, now ruled by Hiccup and Toothless.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Review: Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), along with his Night Fury alpha dragon Toothless, have created a safe haven for rescued dragons. This leads to overpopulation in Berk, so all its inhabitants need to find a bigger and safer place to live. Meanwhile, Toothless is instantly enamoured by the discovery of a female Light Fury which could complicate Hiccup’s search for the mythical ‘Hidden World’.

With two strong entries prior to it, ‘The Hidden World’ could have easily suffered from the ‘trilogy curse’ by botching up its finale. Fortunately, that’s not the case. From the first few frames, it becomes evident that DreamWorks Animation has pushed the envelope with graphics that are astounding. The beautifully rendered vistas and fluid close-quarter action work seamlessly with each other, making the film an immensely gratifying experience in 3D. But the visuals wouldn’t be complete without a compelling storyline. Writer-director Dean DeBlois displays his in-depth understanding of this world and its characters in his third outing at the helm. He takes the tale of Hiccup, Toothless, and their friends to its natural progression, while still managing to keep the storyline fresh, if not entirely unpredictable. 

It also helps that the voice cast is now extremely comfortable with their characters. This shows in some of the filler humour that could be awkward in other circumstances, especially with Valka (Cate Blanchett), but ends up being amusing enough. America Ferrera as Astrid, Jonah Hill as Snoutlout, Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut, and Craig Fergusson as Gobber – all get their moments to shine, though it’s only natural that Jay Baruchel stands out as Hiccup. The weakest character comes in the form of the villain Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), who is yet another dragon trapper with a bone to pick. Nevertheless, the character arcs of Hiccup, and his search for the Hidden World combined with Toothless, who comes into his own as the alpha dragon, drive a strong emotional connect that pays off in the end. This saga began with their relationship, so it’s only fitting that it should conclude with them. ‘How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ is a visually stunning and emotionally satisfying conclusion to a surprisingly well-rounded ‘vikings & dragons’ trilogy that will appeal to various age groups for different reasons.


Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5

Captain Marvel Story: Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when two alien races go to war, with Earth caught in the middle. 

Captain Marvel Review: The first female-led superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been a long time coming. Despite other strong female superheroes who have arguably earned their standalone film (Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Valkyrie), the MCU’s focus on the build-up to ‘Avengers: Endgame’ has reached a fever pitch. So, it only makes sense to introduce Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), or Captain Marvel as a vital piece in the puzzle. When we first meet Danvers, she is a powerful soldier of an alien race known as the Kree. Even though she feels a strong connection to Earth, she is unaware of her identity. During an intergalactic battle, she crashes on Earth, known as C-53, where she encounters Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). She then begins to retrace her memories to her origins.

Brie Larson is convincing enough as Carol Danvers. She isn’t as brooding as the trailers make her out to be; in fact, Danvers shares some of the lighter moments with a pre-eye-patch Nick Fury. Samuel L. Jackson seems to enjoy playing a relatively naïve version of the otherwise surly Fury who quickly learns that everything is not as it seems. Jude Law’s addition to the MCU isn’t exactly memorable, but Ben Mendelsohn particularly stands out. The 90’s tonality, complete with a grunge-era soundtrack is a good look for the MCU, and it lends ample opportunities for humour. Although the script aims at big laughs, it doesn’t always succeed. In fact, real guffaws come from unexpected places. Hint: cat-lovers will be thoroughly delighted with Goose, who arguably turns out to be a real scene-stealer.

There are a few narrative surprises in the script, despite the superhero moments being well intact. But, they come along with a meandering pace that severely drags the film down to a lull during the first act, and somewhere around the middle too. Yes, the plot sets out to establish Carol Danvers as a bonafide bad-ass and thoroughly succeeds in the end. It’s about time Captain Marvel showed up, and the Avengers are a much stronger team with Danvers on their side. This also succeeds in getting you even more excited for ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (as if that was needed). By now, MCU fans know the drill: stick around for the end credits, and you will not be disappointed. Unfortunately, the route it takes encounters some speed bumps, courtesy of the usual superhero origin issues that have troubled the genre.