Tag: joe cornish

The Kid Who Would Be King

The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)
★★★ / ★★★★

On paper, “The Kid Who Would Be King” is corny: a boy who is constantly bulled at school discovers that not only is he a direct lineage of King Arthur of Camelot, he is destined to stop a sorceress (Rebecca Ferguson), imprisoned underground for centuries, from enslaving the entire planet. However, writer-director Joe Cornish consistently finds ways to retool and transform history and mythology in a way that is consistently entertaining. Kid- and family-friendly action-adventures from America could learn a thing or two from this familiar yet refreshing piece of work.

One could feel the writer-director’s love for children right from the get-go. It could have easily been a special and visual effects extravaganza first and foremost, human drama second. Instead, it is the other way around. Notice that despite the incredible developments—meeting an old wizard who is able to transform into a teenager, facing off with an army of fiery skeletons, fighting a dragon—the script always finds an opportunity to pull back and examine friendships, partnerships, relationship with self and family. At the same time, these are never saccharine, simply a natural development of the story. This is a risk because slowing down in the middle of an action-packed journey could prove fatal in less capable hands. Cornish is willing to experiment.

The chosen one is named Alex and he is played with charm and fervor by Louis Ashbourne Serkis. Although the film is largely comic and cheeky, it is correct to cast a performer who can excel in drama because the center of the picture is how Alex relates to those around him: his mother (Denise Gough), his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), bullies-turned-allies Lance and Kate (Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris), and the magical Merlin (Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart). On top of this, the actor must create a character who is impacted by an absence of a father figure. You see, there is plenty to unbox and it is surprising how the work rolls with the punches and continues to move forward without feeling the need to drive a point across using a sledgehammer.

Despite the dazzling CGI, what surprised me most is how Arthur and his knights are painted. In numerous family-oriented movies where the bullied and the bully are required to team up in order to achieve a common goal, once a bond is formed, no matter how tenuous, it is a straight shot to the finish line. Not here.

I was so impressed that Alex and Bedders are constantly challenged by Lance and Kaye for nearly half the picture. The fact that there is a struggle among their team adds another layer of drama. It even has time to bring up the idea that maybe Lance and Kay are the way they are simply because they are older than Alex and Bedders, thus having experienced the world a little more. They do have a point when they claim that the world is far from a nice place. In other words, Arthur’s knights are not robotic allies; the script has ways of reminding us that they have a mind of their own. However, out of the four, I wish that Bedders had been given more opportunities to shine. His “magic tricks,” mainly serving as comic relief, only go so far.

“The Kid Who Would Be King” is the kind of film that most children would be enraptured by. Yes, there are the usual action sequences that keeps the material moving, but more important, I think, are its messages regarding empowerment, particularly during the second half. It is optimistic and it wishes to say that children can make a world of difference. On this topic, it is not subtle nor does it need to be. With so much junk entertainment aimed for kids, this film provides a better alternative.

Attack the Block

Attack the Block (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

When Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is on her way home from work, a group of teenage miscreants, led by Moses (John Boyega), stops her and demands for her phone, purse, and jewelry. As she fearfully hands over her belongings, something from the sky crashes onto a car just a few feet away. At first, they think that what has fallen is a firework considering it is Guy Fawkes Night. Moses looks inside the car.

There is nothing but a big hole on the roof and smoke coming from the vehicle. From a few feet away, though, Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones), and Biggz (Simon Howard) notice a creature hiding in the dark.

Written and directed by Joe Cornish, “Attack the Block,” energetic and entertaining, finds a way for us to care for the young thugs during the backdrop of a possible alien invasion. Each member of the group is given a chance to shine.

Interestingly, Moses, while the most daring, is not the most likable. He hides behind the veneer of toughness as a substitute for the frustration and anger of a barely existing home life. Later, when the muggers and the mugged team up for the sake of survival, Sam is granted a chance to enter Moses’ home. The scene stands out because it provides a possible reason why Moses is always in the streets and committing felonies.

Their neighborhood, or block, is not exactly affluent, but there is no shortage of kind people. The writer-director provides several instances which suggest that being poor does not necessarily equate to one having a propensity to do bad things. When Sam, traumatized by an attack, is seen by an older lady as she walks toward the elevators, Sam is invited to come in, have some tea, and talk about what had happened. I don’t think I have it in me to invite a complete stranger in my home.

The aliens are interesting. There are two types: the first is barely a size of a chair, non-hairy, and almost translucent, while the other is covered with thick black hair, its ravenous teeth glow-in-the-dark, and exhibits gorilla-like bearing. We mostly see the latter and it is creepy that they like to hide behind cars and shadows. Their agility is a threat. Chase sequences almost always involve the teenagers only about two to three feet away from their predators. Combined with its smart use of slow motion, there are times when I felt suspended in the air out of extreme anticipation.

Further, I admired the film’s bravado to actually allow some of the characters to meet their demise–often in a gruesome, bloody ways. It adds to the unpredictability and chaos of what is unfolding before our eyes.

What I was not as impressed with, however, is the way it portrays cops. They are as useless as wet gunpowder. I had a difficult time believing that despite more than a dozen gorilla-like aliens on the loose, not a policeman encounters one.

Moreover, Ron (Nick Frost) and Brewis (Luke Treadaway), devoted fans of cannabis, are greatly underused. They spend most of their time in one room and only conjuring about three barely amusing jokes. What is the harm of making them join the fight?

Although “Attack the Block” has the potential to be much edgier and grittier, it pulsates enough creativity to warrant approbation. Using ice skating shoes to kill an alien was something I had never seen before.

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell), a journalist with an appetite for adventure, recently purchased a model of The Unicorn, an ill-destined 17th century ship built during the reign of Charles II, for a meager price. It was believed to have been carrying a secret cargo when the ship, led by Sir Francis Haddock, was ambushed by greedy pirates. Unaware that there was a scroll hidden in its mast, Tintin left the model unattended and was purloined by the henchmen of Sakharine (Daniel Craig), a mysterious gentleman convinced that the piece of paper held a clue to the location of great treasures. Based on the comic books by Hergé, the film embraced a high-octane energy similar to the “Indiana Jones” series. The way one action sequence led up to another, guided by John Williams’ uplifting and suspenseful score, felt natural and I was impressed to have been lured each time. I was particularly drawn to the Wire Fox Terrier, Tintin’s best companion named Snowy, and the way the camera glided with him when he was compelled to rescue his master from dangerous situations. The comedy entered the equation when, like most dogs, Snowy was tempted by food instead of focusing on the mission at hand. The style of animation was quite astonishing. Battles occurred on land, air, and sea and each offered something unique relative to the challenges presented depending on the environment, our protagonists’ level of fatigue, and the bad guys’ aptitude for violence. Moreover, it was surprisingly confident in presenting certain realities. At one point, a man who knocked on Tintin’s door to warn him of the danger he was about to be thrusted into was bombarded by about a dozen bullets. For an animated film targeted for kids, I felt somewhat uneasy when it showed the man’s ravaged body hitting the floor, leaving clues using his blood, and gasping for his last breath. I admired that the screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish made room for some darkness. It elevated the material from what could have been a silly treasure hunt to something with history and gravity. But unlike the “Indiana Jones” series, the picture, directed by Steven Spielberg, did not have great emotional payoffs. While there were emotional peaks like when Tintin and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), the last descendant of The Unicorn’s captain, struggled to find a way to survive a plane crash, the treasure was exactly as we envisioned. It was too literal and bereft of implications, uncharacteristic of Spielberg’s work. I wanted to be more surprised about the content of the treasure and what it meant not only to acquire it but to keep it. Perchance there was a reason why it remained hidden for so long. After it was revealed, I didn’t feel as though evading bullets, being lost at sea, and almost getting decapitated was worth it. The final scene “The Adventures of Tintin” left more to be desired in a negative way. The journey didn’t feel complete due to a lack of closure. I felt as though the screenwriters wanted to end the story, but they couldn’t find a way to capture the essence in turning the last page of a great adventure.