*ing: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, and Gregory Alan Williams
Directed by David Yarovesky
Tagline: He’s not here to save the world.
A familiar superhero origin story takes a sinister turn in Brightburn, a horror thriller that re-imagines a classic tale through a dark lens. When a spaceship carrying an infant crash-lands on the farm of Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman), the couple adopt the alien baby boy, name him Brandon, and hide the truth about his past.
As Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) turns 12, his dormant spaceship awakens and starts communicating with him, altering his personality and revealing his superhuman abilities. His parents attribute his unruly behaviour to puberty, but as things become more disturbing, those around him start to realize that something is wrong with Brandon.
Directed by David Yarovesky and shaped by the Gunn family - James Gunn served as a producer, while his brother Brian and cousin Mark wrote the screenplay - the movie basically plays with the idea of an evil Superman, exploring what would have happened if Clark Kent had turned out to be a super-villain instead of a superhero. It’s an intriguing premise, and while the storyline isn’t quite as intricate or inventive as one would have hoped, the plot - and a standout performance by Banks - still manages to keep you invested in the fate of its characters and interested in what will transpire till the end.
The titular character isn’t as well-crafted as he could have been. The filmmakers don’t shed enough light on Brandon’s motivation or why he is being given the directive to "take the world". Delving a little deeper into his background could have made the plot more solid. And while this horror film isn’t exactly scary, there are a couple of brutal, gory death scenes that are definitely not for the squeamish.
Ultimately, Brightburn may not be as rewarding as you’d wish, but the project still makes good use of its modest budget and is fascinating enough to merit a viewing.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu***
*ing: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, and Bill Nighy
Directed by Rob Letterman
The Pokemon franchise gets its first live action big screen entry in the shape of Detective Pikachu, a pleasant adventure in a zany fantasy world that is sure to excite fans of its source material. Set in Ryme City - a place where humans and Pokemon live together as equals - the film follows the story of Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a young man whose estranged father, Harry, appears to have died in a car crash. While visiting his dad’s apartment to collect his assets, Tim finds a mysterious vial containing a suspicious gas and then comes across an amnesiac Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who, it turns out, was Harry’s Pokemon partner.
Tim reluctantly teams up with the talking Pikachu to investigate the circumstances around Harry’s disappearance, and - with the help of inquisitive junior reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton) - ends up uncovering a conspiracy that could put the future of the metropolis at risk.
The plot may be a tad convoluted and the villain’s plan is a bit absurd, but despite its missteps, Detective Pikachu still manages to take viewers on an entertaining, amusing journey. The character of Pikachu is downright adorable, and while Ryan Reynolds may not seem like the best choice to voice the character, the casting actually works really well; the actor’s delivery and comedic timing are an absolute asset, and make the proceedings a lot more fun.
As a film, Detective Pikachu has a few issues. Beyond the setting, there isn’t anything particularly creative here, and the basic plot is fairly standard. Plus, there are some pacing problems, and the action is more chaotic than exciting. But the movie does capture the spirit of its bizarre world and manages to be an entertaining summer adventure that shows just why the Pokemon universe is such a fun place to visit.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection