Ms Marvel: No Normal

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, and her friends face off against the forces of Damage Control and a character I have named Agent Karen, played by Alysia Reiner.

So let’s get the big talking point out of the way first, do I like the fact that Kamala is the MCU’s first mutant? Not really, I am one of the few people who actually like the Inhumans, at least in the comics, and I think that this would have been the best time to have brought them into the fore. However, the author of the original run and creator of Ms Marvel as a character has said that she always wanted Kamala to be a mutant so I guess that it makes sense to make her one here.

Moving on, for the most part I really enjoyed this season finale I thought it was a smart move to focus on tying up emotional arcs rather than trying to shove in a huge CGI fest final battle, we do sort of get one but it is over with pretty quickly. I believe focusing on the characters is far more in-keeping with the type of show this is, which fundamentally is coming of age.

I also liked the fact that Kamala finally got her comics accurate costume and that we got a big time MCU cameo in the post credits, I thought that both things helped to give this finale episode a satisfying sense of payoff.

My two small complaints about this final episode would be that it entirely ignores the Nor dimension for the most part and that it brings back the incredibly bland Damage Control baddies that feel painfully uninteresting, I would have much preferred them to have brought back the Clandestines for one final scrap.

Overall, this series has proven itself to be the best Marvel Disney + show so far.

Pros.

The feeling of satisfaction

The emotions

The costume and the cameo

The teases for the future

Vellani

Cons.

Generic baddies

Ignoring the Nor dimension

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Ms Marvel: Time And Again

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, learns about her family’s history with the Djinn and the Nor dimension.

Despite this being one of the shortest episodes of the season I also thought it was one of the best. I really enjoyed the interpersonal family relationships here, such as between Aisha, played by Mehwish Hayat, and Hasan, played by Fawad Khan, as well as between Kamala and her mother, played by Zenobia Shroff. I thought in the case of the former their love story was incredibly sweet and effecting and in the case of the latter their mother daughter relationship finally felt satisfying as the two come to an understanding.

I thought the ending of the Clandestines, was perhaps a little premature as their final battle with Kamala felt a little rushed. However, I am sure the ending will right this and might even bring them back once again. I am still resolute that the weakest part of this otherwise great TV show is its villains, as they continue to be woefully underdeveloped, but that is par for the course with Marvel Studios productions.

Finally, I just want to once again say what a great job Vellani is doing in the lead role. She radiates charm and genuine enthusiasm throughout and it is almost impossible to not instantly warm to her character, she may be the best new character Marvel has introduced anywhere in the last two phases.

Overall, another strong episode.

Pros.

The history

The relationships

The ending and tease for the finale

Vellani

Cons.

The Clandestines continue to be weak villains    

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Ms Marvel: Destined

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, learns the origin of her powers, and is forced to make some difficult decisions.

I would say this was the worst episode of Ms Marvel yet, which shows how good the rest of the show is as this still isn’t a bad episode just far weaker than the previous two episodes. The reason for my thinking is twofold, firstly I don’t like the new Djinn origin for her powers and would have much preferred they stuck with her being an Inhuman. We knew for a while the show was taking the character in this direction but I was hoping that they would stick the landing with his new origin for her powers and they really don’t. Secondly, the villains of this show are, so far, incredibly poor and written as cliches in almost every possible way. The DODC agent, played by Alysia Reiner feels like a karen and has all the hallmarks of that character type, I hope the series does something more with her as right now she feels downright cartoonish. Moreover, the Clandestine group really highlights the poor writing, as they go from friendly to villainous in the space of about 5 minutes because Kamala won’t help them immediately, this seems like incredibly dumb villain writing as it would make more sense for them to let her have her time to try and gain her trust before using her.

However, despite these issues the episode is not bad and has more than a few redeemable moments.  The entirety of the wedding scene is terrific, all of the characters we have come to know over the past two episodes get to have sweet little moments, and the dance sequence towards the end is one of the most pure and joyous things I have seen out of the MCU in a long while. I also like that Nakia, played by Yasmin Fletcher, now knows about Kamala’s powers as I feel like it will lead to some interesting interactions in the coming episodes between the two of them.

Overall, the villains need improvement otherwise a lot of people are going to say that this is yet another example of Marvel’s villain problem whereby they are all paper thin and forgettable.

Pros.

The wedding scene

Nakia finding out about Kamala’s powers

The ending

Cons.

The villains

The new powers origins  

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Ms. Marvel: Crushed

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, starts to use her powers whilst also crushing on the new boy at school.

This show continues to be excellent.

So many times I criticise films and TV shows for not understanding the youth of today and for not being able to write for it, however, this show proves that it can be done and gives me hope for the future. I really enjoyed all of the teen angst of this episode, and thought that once again Vellani was just excellent in the role.

It was fun to see Kamala learning more about her powers, it is interesting to note that in the episode they make a point to say how her powers are a product of her and not the bangles, which means her being an Inhuman might still be on the table. I also thought the sequence of her saving the kid was really well done and I liked that it did not go perfectly first time, it feels like good character progression.

Moreover, I thought the scenes with Kamala’s friend Nakia, played by Yasmeen Fletcher, about her Muslim identity and fitting in were really powerful and well written. It also serves to highlight the importance of good well written representation as it can take someone’s innermost thought or struggle and showcase it on screen showing others who might have the same issue that they are not alone.

My one criticism of the episode is that the clearly villainous DODC agent, played by Alysia Reiner, feels incredibly on the nose. I am fine with it if she is just going to be a throw away villain of the early part of the series, but it would really be a disserve to the show if she were to stick around until the end or serve as the shows main villain and she feels like a cliché walking.

Overall, this continues to be one of Marvel’s best TV shows.

Pros.

Vellani

The music

The representation

The teen voice

It is a lot of fun

Cons.

The DODC agent feels almost cartoonishly evil

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Ms. Marvel: Generation Why

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Teenager Kamala Khan, played by Iman Vellani, dreams of breaking away from her strict parents and being like her hero Captain Marvel, sadly that seems like a faraway dream when we first meet her. However, all of that changes when she receives a magical accessory that allows her to have superhuman abilities.

I will open this review by saying two things that need saying before I get into a wider discussion on the episode. Obviously this series should be heralded from bringing in Marvel’s first grouping of Muslim characters, representation is very important and hopefully this show will allow new groups of people to look towards the MCU and see a hero that is like them; and that is a powerful thing. Additionally, my review for this episode and the coming ones in the series will be from someone who is fairly unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel as a character, I have read a few stories featuring her here and there but for the most part I am going in blind.

Now onto the review proper.

I thought that this may be the best episode of any of the Disney + Marvel shows thus far. I really liked the tone and the Edgar Wright esque cinematography and graphic blendings/ transitions, I thought this helped the show to feel fresh and different to both the other Disney + shows as well as the wider MCU.

Moreover, I also really liked the family focus here and thought it was done much better than in Hawkeye. Though I thought having Kamala’s mum, played by Zenobia Shroff, be a low key baddie, or at least an antagonist figure in her life is a little trite and played out, I thought her wider family dynamic was a lot of fun. Furthermore, the family actually felt like a family, whereas with the Bishops in Hawkeye, the mother and daughter felt more like estranged business associates rather than how I personally would view family, though again everyone’s family is different.

I also thought Vellani was terrific and instantly super likeable and warm, she sank into the world and character really well and I am excited to see more from her both in this show and the wider universe.

Overall, I enjoyed this first episode a lot.

Pros.

Vellani

The humour

The visual style

The family dynamics

Giving us a wider look into the MCU

Cons.

The mother daughter stuff felt a little cliché to me

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The Kid Who Would Be King: The School Play Version Of King Arthur

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new retelling of the King Arthur legend.

I am very mixed on this one, on one hand I enjoyed that it felt like a fresh take on the King Arthur legend apart from all the other adaptions of the story, it also had an incredibly distinct British charm and sensibility to it that I thought added a lot to the film. Moreover, it featured Patrick Stewart and I find it hard to not like something with Stewart in it.

However, on the other hand this film lacked any fun or imagination it needed to really come to life. There are some sections in the film that feel imaginative and well-executed perhaps even Harry Potter esque, but then they end and the film replaces them with a long drawn out beige scene in which the film progresses but doesn’t make you feel anything whilst doing so.

Additionally, what may be the greatest crime of this film is that it wastes Rebecca Ferguson in a villain role wherein she is given nothing to do and is kept off-screen for most of the film. This is an incredibly baffling decision as Ferguson is an incredibly strong performer so by not including her the film shoots itself in the foot.

Overall, it has potential but does nothing with it.

Pros.

The British feel to the film

A number of imaginative scenes

Patrick Stewart

Cons.

It doesn’t execute on its potential

It splits into dull

It wastes Rebecca Ferguson

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Metal Lords: Yet Another Film About High School Outcasts Forming A Band

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of high school outcasts form a metal band.

My, my the originality of this film is honestly a little shocking, I am being sarcastic if that wasn’t obvious. How many films before have had this exact same plot, I would find it very hard to say but I would say it is a very large number.

I understand D.B Weiss, yes one of the Game Of Thrones writers who you thought had faded away into infamy, wrote this based on his own personal high school experience but there is so little love or personality here that it just sort of fades into the shadow of other better films like Deathgasm.

Adrian Greensmith was well cast and does manage to give us a truly haunting performance of a deeply troubled young man who is lashing out at a world that has never shown him any kindness. He and an oddly perfect cameo from Joe Manganiello do help to make the film somewhat more enjoyable, however it simply isn’t enough.

Overall, this is the sort of film that will be promptly forgotten about 10 minutes after watching.

Pros.

Greensmith

Manganiello

Cons.

It is generic

It adds nothing new to the genre

Most of the cast are deeply milquetoast

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Turning Red: No One Fears This Hormone Monster

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young girl, voiced by Rosalie Chiang, confronts her coming womanhood through the form of an ancient curse that turns her into a giant red panda.

I will admit this film was a lot better than I was expecting it to be. In many ways I was expecting something more akin to Wish Dragon, a blatant effort to pander to the Chinese box office with a sprinkling of pro party propaganda forced in, usually as a means to secure a release. However, this film stayed well clear of that and instead stuck to what Pixar do well telling stories about parent-child strife and familial disfunction.

I thought the narrative and message of this film was beautiful, the notion of embracing change and your coming hormones whilst also trying to do right by those you love was conveyed in such an expert way that it would be impossible for you to feel nothing at it. Furthermore, I think it is highly commendable that this film tackled coming of age issues that are often not talked about, especially not in animation, I think it is vital we see more films like this that approach the same old story structures but from different, less-covered, points of view.

My only issue with this film is that there are a few lines that feel quite cringe, these are particularly present in Mei’s, voiced by Chiang, introductory scene. This came off to me as an ageing writers room struggling to write for a youthful modernish voice, luckily as the film goes on this becomes less of an issue.

Overall, a sweet film that reminds us all of the power of Pixar.

Pros.

The message

The emotion

The coming of age journey

The characters

Cons.

A few cringe lines early in the film

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The Tender Bar: An Earnest An Emotional Performance From Ben Affleck Saves The Day

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young boy, played by Daniel Ranieri as a boy and Tye Sheridan as a young man, turns to his surly uncle, played by Ben Affleck, for life advise in place of his absentee father, played by Max Martini.

Not too long ago in a review I was saying about how actors who then become directors don’t usually end up becoming good at it, I even gave George Clooney, the director of this film, as an example and whilst this film doesn’t prove me wrong it does show a nice upswing for Clooney’s filmography and suggests that maybe there is hope for the actor turned director.

That is not to say this film is perfect, it really isn’t. From a structural point of view there aren’t any stakes, things just happen and then it is on to the next thing. I understand it is supposed to be autobiographical to some extent and life isn’t like a film there often aren’t great stakes and battles to be won, but this film’s narrative needed that. As it stands it’s just one thing then the next, happening one after another without any real consequence.

Furthermore, Sheridan was probably the wrong actor to cast for this role as he seems incapable of emoting. Mud was a good film, but Sheridan wasn’t the main focus there, however in everything that has followed wherein he is the lead he seems incredibly one note and like he is pulling the same face throughout regardless of what is happening on screen- this is true here, painfully so.

However, rather surprisingly this film is saved by an incredibly emotional and earnest performance from Ben Affleck. There are several moments in this film where I would say Affleck’s performance is worthy of awards consideration, one that springs to mind is the emotion on his face during his final scene in the film as he watches his nephew, who is basically a son to him, drive away into the sunset: his face is so full of emotion, happiness and sadness, pride and loss it is quite moving. Sadly, it also points out just how poor of a job Sheridan is doing.

Overall, there might be hope for Clooney yet if he keeps working with Affleck.

Pros.

The emotion

Affleck

It was well paced

Cons.

No stakes, things just sort of happen and then are moved on from

Sheridan  

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Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Disney Coming In To Ruin Another Franchise

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new animated take on the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney.

Where to begin on what went wrong with this film.

I think the most obvious place to start is that this film is a carbon copy of the much better live action version, it lifts scenes and lines of dialogue from that film and that just serves to remind you how needless this film really is, it is an animated reskin of a better product that came out just long ago enough for kids today to not remember it.

Speaking of the animation there is something noticeably off with it. I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong, but there is certainly something going wrong with the lighting and the framing of it a lot of the time throughout the film. The animation style itself is fairly ugly, I understand they have chosen it to look closer to the books however it looks cheap and low rent.

The voice cast for the most part is doing their best to mimic the performances from the beloved live action films, and whilst in a few cases the effort is valiant, it never really rises to the occasion and lacks a lot of the charm and the warmth that made the performances in the live action films what they were.

Overall, entirely needless.

Pros.

It is short and if you close your eyes at times it feels like you are watching the live action version.

Cons.

The animation is off

It feels wholly unneeded and unoriginal

It is unfunny

It lacks any charm or warmth

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