Tag Archives: David F. Sandberg

Shazam! (2019) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Asher Angel and Zachary Levi as William “Billy” Batson/Shazam
Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana
Jack Dylan Grazer as Frederick “Freddy” Freeman
Djimon Hounsou as Shazam
Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley
Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield
Ian Chen as Eugene Choi
Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña
Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez
Cooper Andrews as Victor Vasquez
Director: David F. Sandberg

We all have a superhero inside of us — it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi). Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do — have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he’ll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) can get his hands on Shazam’s magical abilities.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Shazam was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. While I wasn’t familiar with the comic book character, I’ve liked most of the DCEU thus far, and seeing this very different character introduced to it, as well as its different tone, had me interested to see it. Plus, I liked the cast involved and the trailers were pretty good. I expected a fun comic book movie, and Shazam surpassed my expectations, a surprisingly emotional yet entertaining and heartfelt superhero movie.

There’s a couple of standout things to note right out of the gate. The movie is very much standalone from the rest of the universe, while there are definitely references to other superheroes like Batman and Superman (mostly from Jack Dylan Grazer’s character) and it definitely exists in the DCEU, it doesn’t rely on it too much. Parts of the movie leave room to explore teased characters and aspects for sequels without outright sequel baiting. In fact, I’d say that you don’t need to have seen any of the other DCEU movies to get the full experience with Shazam. Another thing is that despite all the magic involved, it’s a pretty grounded movie. At its core, it’s a coming of age story with a kid having superpowers. Even with the climax with Shazam flying around fighting the villains of the film, none of it feels world ending, the stakes feel a lot more personal. It might also genuinely be one of the best written comic book movies. As you could probably tell from the trailer and the rest of the marketing, it’s a bit of a comedy. However, it’s not a spoof like you’d expect it to be, all the elements are very well balanced in fact. Now while some might be quick to think that this might be just a MCU movie, a non R rated comic book movie with comedy doesn’t inherently mean it’s going to be that. This is not to slam the MCU, but there’s something about the comedy here that was just really great, with all of the comedic beats just really working for me. Make no mistake, it is lighter than the other DCEU movies but at the same time still firmly in this universe. It’s a bit darker and scarier than you think it would be, in a way that served the story. It’s also a surprisingly emotional movie, as often as you probably hear this about movies, at its core the movie is about family and is a lot deeper than you’d expect. Although Shazam seems like a familiar comic book movie, there some surprises that you don’t necessarily expect (especially towards the third act), so definitely go into it not knowing too much about it. And I’m obligated to let you know that there are some credits scenes, the first being a setup for parts of the Shazam sequel (albeit a really weird and obscure one), the other being more comedic.

The cast all played their parts very well. Asher Angel plays Billy Batson, a troubled orphan who would gain the power of Shazam, and he plays his role very well. Zachary Levi is perfect as Shazam, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. He’s definitely a little kid in the body of a full grown man, and is probably even more childish than Batson as the kid, and the difference between the two seemed to be a deliberate choice. The development and character arc of Billy Batson/Shazam was great and was one of the highlights of the movie. Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman stole every scene he was in as one of the foster children that Billy knows and first reveals his Shazam identity to. He plays off of Angel and Levi incredibly well and even has his own character arc. Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand and Faithe Herman as the other foster kids, and the foster parents played by Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans were also good. Djimon Hounsou as the wizard Shazam does well in the few scenes that he’s in. Mark Strong plays the villain of Dr Sivanna and he works pretty well. They set him up and give him clear cut and believable enough motivations but he’s nothing special, there’s not much development he goes through after he’s established. I guess they didn’t want the villain to overshadow Shazam, and a character as major as his primary comic nemesis Black Adam would certainly overshadow him. With that said, he was a threatening antagonist to Shazam and was also pretty ruthless (I mean he really has no problem with killing kids). He also sort of served as a dark parallel to Billy Batson with regard to the backstory and similarities between the two. Strong, who is used to playing plenty of villains by now, make this role even better with his performance and looks like he’s having a ton of fun here.

David F. Sandberg is known for his horror movies with Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation. However like Wan with Aquaman, he made the transition to comic book movies very well. This is a stunning looking movie, and it was made with the budget typically half of most comic book movies, and they achieved a lot with what they had. As I said, it has a grounded feel to it, and the way it was shot certainly helped with it. At the same time when it came to the action sequences, they were filmed really well and were entertaining. Like with Aquaman, Shazam surprisingly has some horror aspects to it. The actual costume of Shazam works well, it could’ve been overly goofy and on the set pictures it really didn’t look good, but they really made that costume work on screen. Most of the visual effects were good, it’s about at the level of most modern blockbusters (with budgets twice the size as Shazam’s), so make of that what you will. The worst of the effects were for the CGI villains (whom I’ll keep vague if you don’t know who they are already), they are honestly look pretty bad at times and a little too goofy (and not in a good way), they look straight out of an average comic book movie from the 2000s and it’s a little distracting.

Shazam is a pleasantly surprising movie, the cast played their roles greatly, its written very well and is a well rounded, heartfelt comic book movie. Even if you’re not a fan of the DCEU thus far, I highly recommend the movie, I think you’ll have a good time with it. I’m looking forward to seeing Shazam appear again, as well as inevitably Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, who we will hopefully be seeing very soon.

Lights Out (2016) Review

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Supernatural themes & violence
Cast
Teresa Palmer as Rebecca
Gabriel Bateman as Martin
Alexander DiPersia as Bret
Billy Burke as Paul
Maria Bello as Sophie
Director: David F. Sandberg

When Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) left home, she thought that her childhood fears were behind her. As a young girl growing up, she was never really sure of what was real when the lights went out at night. Now, her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that jeopardized her safety and sanity. Holding a mysterious attachment to their mother (Maria Bello), a supernatural entity has returned with a vengeance to torment the entire family.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

The thing that originally interested me about this movie was that James Wan produced it, and as we all know, James Wan is quite possibly the best horror director working today at the moment. Now I saw this movie a long time ago, so I won’t have the best memory of the movie. But what I do remember about this movie is that I liked it. It’s quite a simple and straightforward movie, the story was decent, the acting was good, this is mostly a ‘fine’ movie. What makes it worth seeing however is the direction by David F. Sandberg. All things considering, Lights Out is a lot better than most horror films nowadays.

Lights Out isn’t a hugely deep or special horror movie, it’s quite simple in its premise but I’m okay with that. There’s only so much you can put in a 90 minute movie. It flowed pretty well and I wasn’t really bored at any points. The dialogue is okay, nothing spectacular but a little cliché at times. There’s honestly not much to talk about the story but I did like the direction that it went in. The story overall was decent, nothing bad, but nothing particularly great either. It is mostly the execution of the story which makes the movie work so well.

The acting was generally okay from everyone. It’s nothing great but it is good enough, I’m particularly referring to Teresa Palmer and Alexander DiPersia. They are fine but nothing special. There are two great performances in this movie though. One of them is Gabriel Bateman, a child actor who was actually good, also very convincing in his role. The other great performance was Maria Bello as Teresa Palmer’s and Gabriel Bateman’s mother, who was also very impressive and convincing.

The main reason to see this movie is the direction by David F. Sandberg, who seemed to be quite good at horror flicks with the recently realeased Annabelle Creation being surprisingly good as well. The use of shadows was very creative. The scares were quite effective, even if there were some scares (particularly jump scares) which weren’t really effective. Also some scares were more hilarious than actually scary, I’m not sure myself if these scares were intentional or not. But for the most part it works quite well for the movie. It is generally difficult for me to judge scares as I’m barely scared by horror movies.

Lights Out is a solid horror movie which is quite effective in its scares. The acting was decent (at times really good), and the okayish story worked for the movie but it’s the direction by David F. Sandberg that really ties the whole movie together. If you love horror movies, you should check this out sometimes. It’s not one of the best horror films of all time, I’m not even sure I’d call it great but it is probably one of the better horror movies in recent years, but I guess that’s not really saying a lot.

Annabelle: Creation (2017) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and horror
Cast
Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte
Talitha Bateman as Janice
Lulu Wilson as Linda
Anthony LaPaglia as Samuel Mullins
Miranda Otto as Esther Mullins
Director: David F. Sandberg

Former toy maker Sam Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), are happy to welcome a nun and six orphaned girls into their California farmhouse. Years earlier, the couple’s 7-year-old daughter Annabelle died in a tragic car accident. Terror soon strikes when one child sneaks into a forbidden room and finds a seemingly innocent doll that appears to have a life of its own.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I wasn’t really excited for Annabelle Creation. This was a horror prequel to a horror prequel, and the first prequel was Annabelle. Although I hadn’t seen it, I’ve heard nothing but terrible things about it. I had no hype for Annabelle Creation and yet, it was actually pretty good. The story was pretty good, I could care about what was going on, the direction was very good and there were some effective scares.

Annabelle Creation is a solid horror movie, the story is nothing spectacular and there’s honestly not a lot to sat about it but it is good for what it was going for. The runningtime is around an hour and 50 minutes and that was an appropriate time, the pacing was done well and never dragged at any point. Normally, an origin of a horror monster/villain really feels unnecessary and detracts from the character. However, Annabelle’s creation was actually done well, even if it wasn’t necessary. Without spoiling anything it does tie into the original Annabelle at one aspect, so if you haven’t seen the original you will be a little confused (I only know about this from looking it up). There was also another reference that tied into the Conjuring-verse that I loved. With that said, you can still like Annabelle Creation on its own without seeing the original Annabelle, or even The Conjuring movies.

The two lead girls, played by Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson were great. They play friends who are at an orphanage. That aspect with their relationship and chemistry really helped make me care about them and therefore the story, I wasn’t just watching people go through the motions and getting scared. The supporting cast with Stephanie Sigman, Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto were good in the movie. The actresses who play the other girls are fine I guess, but they didn’t receive a whole lot of development or have some character, so they didn’t really leave that much of an impression on me.

David F. Sandberg directed this movie, I liked his work on Lights Out quite a bit and he once again proved himself to be a great director. This film looks great, the cinematography was really solid. Everything from the lighting, to the visual effects and the sound effects are done very well. The scares were quite effective, yes, there are some jump scares but they are done very well when they do happen.

Annabelle Creation is not as good as The Conjuring movies and its not one of the greatest horror movies ever made, but it is a solid horror movie. You don’t necessarily have to have watched the original Annabelle to enjoy this movie, there’s an aspect you may be confused about but that’s it really. With the effective story and direction, Annabelle Creation is one of the most surprising movies of 2017. I find it weird that a Conjuring Cinematic Universe is happening, along with Conjuring 3 there will be a Nun movie and a Crooked Man movie based from characters from Conjuring 2. However with 3 out of their 4 movies being quite good, I’m very curious to see how this will go and I’m on board with whatever direction they take.