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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 21, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 51
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Roma named Best Picture of 2018 by Seattle Film Critics Society
The Seattle Film Critics Society ('SFCS') announced the winners in 19 categories for the 2018 Seattle Film Critics Society Awards on Monday, December 17.

Winning the top prize of Best Picture of the Year was Alfonso Cuarón's Roma, a semi-autobiographical film that follows the life of a live-in housekeeper during a politically turbulent time in Mexico City. Roma also won three other awards, including Best Director.

'In a year of far-ranging, deeply personal films made by many of the industry's most respected filmmakers, Alfonso Cuarón's Roma struck a chord with SFCS members, who found its look, tone, and introspective nature something that spoke to them,' said Seattle Film Critics Society President Mike Ward. 'With the films honored this year, 2018 proves to be a powerful year of representation, the emergence of new voices in the stories being brought to the big screen, and images and moments we will be talking about for years to come.'

The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos' critically acclaimed period comedy, won two awards, including Best Screenplay for Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, and Best Production Design for Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton.

For First Reformed, Ethan Hawke's performance as Reverend Ernst Toller, a man struggling to come to terms with his faith in modern society, earned this year's Best Actor award.

Ryan Coogler's Black Panther won two prizes: Best Costume Design for the visionary work of designer Ruth E. Carter, and Villain of the Year for Michael B. Jordan's memorable portrayal of Erik Killmonger.

Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the sixth film in the action-packed franchise, won awards for Best Editing by Eddie Hamilton and Best Visual Effects by Jody Johnson.

Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade, a personal and heartfelt examination of adolescence, earned the Best Youth Performance award for newcomer Elsie Fisher.

Other winners include: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which won Best Animated Feature; Free Solo, which picked up the prize for Best Documentary Feature; Mandy, honoring the late composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, with the Best Original Score prize, and Widows, which won Best Ensemble Cast.

After formation in the fall of 2016, The Seattle Film Critics Society officially became a non-profit organization in 2017, with a membership consisting of 25 film critics, representing print, broadcast, podcasting, and online film criticism. This year's awards are the third held under the banner of the SFCS, honoring the best films and performances of the year.

The full list of recipients of the 2018 Seattle Film Critics Society Awards are as follows:

THE 2018 SEATTLE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARD WINNERS

BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR


Roma

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón - Roma

BEST ACTOR
Ethan Hawke - First Reformed

BEST ACTRESS
Toni Collette - Hereditary

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
Widows

BEST SCREENPLAY
The Favourite - Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, directors

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Roma - Alfonso Cuarón, director

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Free Solo - Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin, directors

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Roma - Alfonso Cuarón

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Black Panther - Ruth E. Carter

BEST FILM EDITING
Mission: Impossible - Fallout - Eddie Hamilton BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Mandy - Jóhann Jóhannsson

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Favourite - Fiona Crombie (Production Designer); Alice Felton (Set Decoration)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Mission: Impossible - Fallout - Jody Johnson

BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCE
Elsie Fisher - Eighth Grade

VILLAIN OF THE YEAR
Erik Killmonger - Black Panther - portrayed by Michael B. Jordan

Courtesy of Seattle Film Critics Society


Imaginative Into the Spider-Verse an animated triumph
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Now playing


After he is bitten by a radioactive spider while painting a graffiti mural in a suspiciously unused section of subway deep underneath the streets of Brooklyn, teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) starts developing a variety of abilities similar to that of the New York's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Chris Pine). Heading back into the subway to hopefully learn more about what has happened to him, the kid inadvertently stumbles into a secret room where Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), a.k.a. The Kingpin, has constructed a massive supercollider in an attempt to build a bridge across the dimensional plain for his own nefarious reasons. Understanding that this machine could inadvertently create a black hole that could destroy all of Brooklyn, maybe the world, Spider-Man is on the scene battling the Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone) in an attempt to shut it down.

While Spider-Man is successful, he's also lethally wounded. Before succumbing to his wounds he passes on a vital clue to Miles in regards to stopping The Kingpin from attempting to construct this dimensional bridge again. But he's still a kid, and with no one to help instruct him on how to be a superhero or to use his powers he's not sure what it was exactly the heroic web-slinger expected of him. So imagine his surprise when he ends up meeting Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), otherwise also known as Spider-Man, one dark snowy evening. Turns out that when The Kingpin turned on his machine he accidentally zapped this version of the hero out of his own dimension along with a few other wall-crawling vigilantes including Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). They will all join forces to destroy the supercollider, get back to their own dimensions and assist Miles on his journey towards becoming the hero he is destined to become: the one and only friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Confused? I promise all of this makes a heck of a lot more sense as outlined in the stunning, marvelously entertaining animated adventure Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. All this stuff about various dimensional plains and multiple realities, not even Back to the Future scientist Doc Brown could explain it all as clearly and as concisely as this movie does. Phil Lord (21 Jump Street) and Rodney Rothman's (Grudge Match) screenplay takes the various versions of these comic book characters created by the likes of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli and does marvelous things with all of them. They've constructed a superheroic stew that's as tasty as it is filling with the main ingredient being Miles, his coming of age story, and the relationship that blossoms between him and Peter B. Parker as events progress just about perfect.

That last comment is the most important one. Miles Morales is a hero for right now. He's a role model for kids of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities and genders. Lord and Rothman allow him to stand at the center of this tale without shying away from any of the kid's growing insecurities, doubts or questions. They let Miles wonder aloud whether or not he's cut out to be his dimension's new Spider-Man. They allow him to have normal, humdrum disagreements with his parents, overprotective dad Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry), a respected Brooklyn police officer, and nurturing mom Rio (Luna Lauren Velez), a devoted emergency room nurse. He gets into trouble at school, is best friends with his secretive uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) and has an instant crush on the new girl who just transferred into his favorite class. In short, Miles is a regular kid with regular problems who wants to do the right thing whenever possible, and now that he has superpowers and promised a dying Spider-Man to save the city figuring out exactly what that right thing even is becomes more important than ever.

It's all pretty funny, almost all of the gags and jokes hitting the funny bone with regularity, and the action set pieces are all deliriously well staged with an enthusiastic creative imagination that is consistently marvelous. As for the animation, while the herky-jerky, hyper-realistic character movements take a little getting used to, the comic book stylistics directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman and their visually experimental creative team utilize is moderately unique. Most of all, though, the movie is just a heck of a lot of fun, the delirious affectionate charm of it all beyond imagining.

The vocal work across the board is top-notch, Moore, Steinfeld, Cage, Henry, Ali, Schreiber, Lily Tomlin (as Aunt May), Zoë Kravitz (as Mary Jane) and Kathryn Hahn (as a character I'm not going to spoil) all having their fair share of memorable moments where every one of them make their respective mark. There's also a delightful surprise appearance from Oscar Isaac as 'Interesting Person #1,' and I strongly suggest people stay through the credits for the film's stinger just to discover which character he's suddenly popping up as. I also love how reverential (and referential) this adventure is to the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man trilogy, especially parts one and two, while the clever digs the filmmakers take at 2007's concluding third chapter come from a place of love and affection and not one born from derision or hate.

But the best thing about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse remains Miles Morales. The movie injects a sense of freshness and imagination into the popular comic book property, and as good a job as Marvel and Sony have done bringing Peter Parker back to relevance with Spider-Man: Homecoming and the character's appearances in both Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, that's moderately insignificant in comparison to what happens here. There is something new about this adventure that can be traced squarely to the injection of this fresh blood into the proceedings. Miles is a hero anyone and everyone can relate to, making his animated debut a family-friendly present worth heading to the closest theatre to unwrap at any point throughout this holiday season.


Charmingly retrograde Bumblebee more than meets the eye
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

BUMBLEBEE
Now playing


It is 1987, and Californian Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) is about to turn 18. A former diving champion and something of an amateur grease monkey, the resourceful teenager has been unable to get over the death of her father. As such the lines of communication between the young woman and her mother Sally (Pamela Adlon) have been noticeably strained, while her relationship with little brother Otis (Jason Drucker) and stepdad Roy (Lenny Jacobson) isn't doing that great, either. But things are looking up when Charlie's uncle Hank (Len Cariou) gifts his niece an old, barely running yellow Volkswagen Beetle, her delight in owning a functioning vehicle she can likely fix up into something magnificent noticeably palpable.

This is no ordinary Beetle. Turns out this car is really a robot in disguise, an Autobot refugee from the planet Cybertron sent by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to protect the people of Earth from the murderous machinations of the Decepticons. Naming him 'Bumblebee,' it's immediately apparent to Charlie this strange cybernetic being means her no harm. Soon the two are thrown into an otherworldly adventure beyond imagining, the U.S. military sending an elite soldier, Agent Jack Burns (John Cena), to find the robot while a pair of Decepticons, Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux), insert their own particular form of carnage into the proceedings. With the help of smitten neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Charlie will find an inner strength she didn't know existed all the while assisting Bumblebee to become the one thing the alien visitor never thought possible, a hero.

After five hyperbolic adventures, all directed by Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon), ranging in quality from passable to forgettable to unfortunate to just plain terrible, who knew the one thing the Transformers franchise needed to finally set its foot on the right path would be a prequel? Yet that is exactly what happens as it pertains to Bumblebee, this undeniably adorable introduction to one of the series' most popular and enduring characters having a relaxed charm that's delightful. Kubo and the Two Strings auteur Travis Knight makes the leap from stop-motion animation to special effects-filled big budget filmmaking with this piece of pop entertainment, and in the process cements himself as an intriguingly imaginative talent worth keeping an eye on.

It all starts with Christina Hodson's (Shut In, Unforgettable) fun, character-driven script. Recalling classic 1980s sci-fi fantasies like Flight of the Navigator, Explorers, *batteries not included and most unsurprisingly Steven Spielberg's classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the screenwriter makes certain that Charlie is a complex, emotionally multifaceted character worthy of an audience's affection. Her journey is filled with ups, downs, heartaches, joys, failures and successes. She is instantly recognizable and easy to relate to, the sheer euphoric wonder coursing through her veins as she comes to understand Bumblebee as a friend and not a creature to be afraid of instantly palpable and thus makes the remainder of the pair's drive together all the more resonant. It's a lovingly sincere bit of storytelling on Hodson's part, and while she's not exactly rewriting the dramatic rulebook that does not make her narrative any less comforting.

As for Knight, he helms things beautifully. He and cinematographer Enrique Chediak (Deepwater Horizon) have done their homework, their film having a delectable '80s-style élan reminiscent of Dean Cundey's work on Back to the Future or Douglas Slocombe's visual compositions for the first three Indiana Jones adventures. In addition, Paul Rubell's (Collateral) relaxed editing style gives events a sense of affecting immediacy none of the Bay Transformers efforts, not a single one of them, came close to achieving. Together, this trio keeps events grounded in Charlie and Bumblebee's blossoming friendship no matter what hardships or obstacles are thrown their way. This allows the story to have a natural cohesiveness that's authentic, and even when the film finally explodes into a cacophonous battle royale between the lone Autobot and his two Decepticon adversaries the energetic urgency driving their confrontation never overwhelms the distinctly human story Knight's been attempting to tell all along.

The opening pre-credits sequence is pretty rough, scenes of the war ranging on Cybertron with Optimus Prime ordering his Autobots to flee their home right out of the animated television series that began airing in 1984. The closing moment that ties the prequel in with the 2007 entry in the Transformers series is also unnecessary and if anything is just a reminder of the mediocre place Bumblebee's story is unfortunately headed. Also, no matter how good Cena is in the role, no matter how funny some of his line deliveries are and how purposefully retrograde his masculine huffing and puffing might be, almost everything dealing with Agent Jack Burns and the soldiers under his command goes nowhere. It all just sort of feels like an aspect of the narrative that exists because without his presence there'd otherwise be precious few action scenes, and personally I don't feel like that would have been that bad a thing.

But Knight keeps things moving with an ebullient infectiousness that's beguiling. He gives Steinfeld the freedom to craft her character in ways that every member of the audience no matter what their age, gender or background can relate to, the talented actress reminding us all that her Oscar nomination for 2010's True Grit was hardly a fluke. She adds a level of captivating gravitas that's sublime, Charlie a terrific heroine I fell instantly in love with.

I'm not going to overstate my case. Bumblebee isn't some masterpiece we'll be looking back on in the same way we do E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, which it so unabashedly emulates. But that doesn't make this movie any less special or worthwhile. Knight has made an affectionately diverting adventure that will enthrall children and captivate their parents almost in equal measure. It's the kind of picture I would have been head over heels about as a wide-eyed youngster, and as a somewhat cynical adult this is just the type of movie that breaks through that pessimism and reminds me why I love what it is I do with such unadulterated dedication. There's way more than meets the eye going on here, and I for one am blissfully happy about that.


Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Mary Poppins Returns is a magical sequel
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

MARY POPPINS RETURNS
Now playing


Mary Poppins Returns was the one movie in all of 2018 I was terrified to see. My affinity for 1964's Mary Poppins is off the charts. Julie Andrews is so beguiling in the title role she justifiably won an Academy Award for her performance. But the movie is so much more than her and Dick Van Dyke singing and dancing through animated landscapes, having tea parties on the ceiling or stepping in time with a joyful band of energetic chimney sweeps on the rooftops of London. It's also a beautifully plotted character study filled with delicious supporting performances by the likes of David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns that also just happens to be overflowing with a soundtrack featuring some of the best songs Oscar-winning brothers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman ever wrote. It's one of my favorite films and I've probably seen it 30 times, and it's one of the few motion pictures where I'm all but certain I could recite every line of dialogue and sing along with every song with no problem whatsoever.

It's likely not much of a surprise that I was on pins and needles sitting in the theatre waiting for this movie to begin. Thankfully, director Rob Marshall, screenwriter David Magee (working from a story he conceived alongside Marshall and fellow writer John DeLuca), composer Marc Shaiman, lyricist Scott Wittman and the film's all-star cast headlined by Emily Blunt confidently stepping into Andrews' iconic shoes proves to be up to the challenge. While their new film is unlikely to be the same sort of revered classic its predecessor has become over the past five-plus decades that does not make Mary Poppins Returns a misfire. This is a glorious musical-fantasy overflowing in heart, genuine human emotion and eye-popping spectacle. It is a feast for the senses that put a song in my heart and a smile on my face for the duration of its crisply paced 130-minute running time. In short, it's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and that's the biggest word I've ever heard that also precisely fits what I thought about this sequel. It's practically perfect in every way.

It's been 25-years since nanny Mary Poppins (Blunt) last stepped foot in the house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) still lives there along with his three children Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) and now works as a clerk at the same bank his late father helped run not so long ago. Even with his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) frequently popping in to help it's been a struggle for Michael ever since his wife died, and in his grief he's inadvertently forgotten to pay the mortgage on the house for the past three months. As London is in the middle of a massive depression known colloquially as 'The Great Slump' money is understandably tight, and if the two siblings can't figure out what to do it's likely they'll lose their childhood home.

This is why Poppins has returned. Once more she needs to look after the Banks children, and that includes Anabel, John and Georgie as well. She'll stick around until the door opens, but until then she will use her own brand of imagination, magic and smarts to teach a few lessons the two elder Banks appear to have forgotten and the three younger ones could use to learn. With the assistance of lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Poppins will do whatever she can to help Jane and Michael discover the right course of action while at the same time showing the children a world of possibility they never knew existed. They'll all be tripping the light fantastic before you can say, 'Bob's your uncle,' and whether they have to go topsy-turvy in an upside-down workshop or go to the musical theatre while wandering around the edges of a cracked ceramic pot there's no denying this is one adventure none of the Banks are soon to forget.

One of the best things about Mary Poppins Returns is that Shaiman and Wittman are smart enough to not blatantly repeat or recall any of the Sherman brothers' signature tunes from the original. While there is an instrumental callback every once and a while, the new songs are their own individual thing, and while none of them are as immediately catchy as 'Let's Go Fly a Kite, 'Jolly Holiday,' 'A Spoon Full of Sugar' or the Oscar-winning 'Chim-Chim-Cheree' that does not mean they're still not terrific. Blunt's first tune 'Can You Imagine That?' is a joyful show-stopper, Poppins taking the children on an undersea bubble bath tour that also works as a nifty prologue to all that will happen to them, their father and their aunt as the remainder of the story progresses towards conclusion. There's also the delightful 'A Cover Is Not The Book' featuring the return of those goofily polite animated penguins, while the agreeably ridiculous 'Turning Turtle' sung by an almost unrecognizable Meryl Streep is infectiously obnoxious in all the right ways.

Then there is Emily Blunt. While no actress could likely equal the genius that was Julie Andrews in the original, make no mistake Blunt comes pretty darn close to pulling off just that sort of miracle. She's divine, hitting all the right notes (and not just the musical ones) with such pinpoint precision watching her bring this character back to life after a 54-year hiatus is nothing short of miraculous. Her magnetism is never in doubt, Blunt tackling the role with such poised enthusiasm her multifaceted, emotion-rich performance cannot help but be infectious.

Whishaw is also excellent, delivering a far more nuanced and powerfully honest turn as Michael than I admit I was anticipating. In many ways he ends up being the heart and soul of the movie, his realizations as things pertain to his life, career and family richly profound. Mortimer is nearly as lovely in her own right, and if anything the movie could have used more of her, while Colin Firth appears to be having a grand time playing the type of old school Disney villain the likes of Keenan Wynn (The Absent-Minded Professor), Ray Milland (Escape from Witch Mountain) and so many others used to make an entire second career out of portraying once upon a time. As for Dick Van Dyke, I don't want to say too much. While the reason for his reappearance is never a question mark, that does not mean seeing him back on the screen in all his amiable, scene-stealing glory is any less wondrous, and I want audiences to enjoy this return hopefully as much as I did and free of any additional spoilers from me.

If I'm being honest I could have done with a bit less of Miranda. He's just fine as Jack, and much like Van Dyke's Bert in the first film his character's job is to work something like a cross between a Greek Chorus and a narrator as he helps explain what is going on. But it often feels like Miranda is pushing everyone else off the screen, including Blunt, the lamplighter randomly intruding into scenes I would rather have viewed without him being there. Still, the man is a crack song and dance impresario who knows how to put on a show, his spoken-word solo during 'A Cover Is Not The Book' a delicious, subtlety winning homage to what Van Dyke also did during his portion of the 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' number back in the original.

It's probably best to just leave things there. I wasn't sure what I was going to get with Mary Poppins Returns, and as hard as I try to leave all preconceptions at the door before I enter the theatre, the terror I was feeling as I sat down for this screening was unlike anything I've experienced in quite some time. But at the same time the passionate enthusiasm that was also coursing through my veins, my anticipation and excitement to discover what Marshall and his collection of storytellers, artists, actors and animators had in store for me to watch was simply sky high. The sequel lived up to and exceeded just about all of my wildest hopes and fantasies for what it could turn out to be, this nanny's magical spell far too powerful to resist.


Wildly imaginative Aquaman an ocean of superhero insanity
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

AQUAMAN
Now playing


After his success battling Steppenwolf alongside fellow members of the Justice League, half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), known in the press as 'Aquaman,' has begun embracing his status as a hero. Most recently he saved a Russian submarine crew after their vessel was taken over by murderous pirate David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his loving, if equally lethal, father Jesse (Michael Beach), ultimately making the decision to leave the pair to fend for themselves as the sub slowly sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Afterward Arthur retreats back to his lighthouse keeper dad Tom's (Temuera Morrison) favorite New England bar to toss back a few cold ones only to have their family reunion crashed by Atlantean royalty in the shape of the fiery red-haired Princess Mera (Amber Heard). She warns him that his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) is about to declare war on the surface unless his crown is usurped by his older sibling. But Arthur isn't so certain that's a great idea, and even after talking to his childhood teacher Vulko (Willem Dafoe) and learning of his mother Queen Atlanna's (Nicole Kidman) apparent murder because she had the temerity to love his father, the powerful metahuman still isn't convinced he's the one to rule Atlantis. Once he meets Orm, however, and realizes the full genocidal extent of his plans Arthur understands he has no choice but to spring into action, and with Mera's help he'll attempt to become the type of leader and hero citizens both above and below the ocean's surface will be proud to support.

That's only a small snippet of what's going on in James Wan's (The Conjuring, Saw) bizarre, free-wheeling take on the popular DC Comics superhero Aquaman created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris. His movie is exuberantly insane, playfully going for broke as it showcases an eye-popping undersea world unlike anything in a live action motion picture that I've ever seen. It's like Blade Runner, Flash Gordon, Avatar, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Finding Nemo, TRON, The Lord of the Rings, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Untouchables, 'Johnny Quest,' the Brendan Fraser version of The Mummy, Gladiator, Ben-Hur, the Christopher Reeve Superman and a Star Wars prequel all threw their DNA into a blender and this is what they ended up with. Narrative similarities to Marvel's Black Panther notwithstanding (technologically advanced civilization hidden from the rest humanity, two half-brothers battling for the crown sharing mommy and daddy issues, an intelligent woman offering up more than her fair share of able-bodied support), Wan's descent into comic book fantasia is close to incredible, even its frequent missteps overflowing in an infectious giddy fervor that's close to wonderful.

All of that means there's understandably a great deal to process, and the frequently shifting tone can be jarring. But Wan's control over all that happens is iron-clad, and it's somewhat amazing he's able to pull all of this off with such entertaining aplomb. The Russian submarine prologue is suitably stripped-down, the director showcasing Arthur's various abilities with a relaxed ease that rarely calls undue attention to itself. He also isn't afraid to show how his decision to leave the two pirates to escape from the drowning ship on their own effects hero and villain alike. This moment will change Arthur and David forever, and the complexity of this aftermath is one of the more intriguing emotional elements lurking at the center of the film.

Not that the movie ever spends all that much time dwelling on just about any of the various narrative and dramatic complexities that arise over the course of its 143-minute running time. Wan keeps things moving so fast that one moment he has us watching an underwater meeting of rulers where Wilson's King Orm, sitting astride a gigantic armored shark-crocodile-dinosaur thing, converses with Dolph Lundgren's King Nereus who's riding giant militaristic seahorse only in the next second to showcase Arthur and Tom trying to outrun a massive tidal wave with Mera arriving out of nowhere to lend a helping hand when their truck is overturned in the chaos. From there we're whisked off to Atlantis, enjoy a gladiatorial battle between half-brothers above a primordial sea of lava, head into the African deserts in search of a long-lost trident, travel to the Grecian coast in order to experience the return of David Kane after he's taken on the mantle of the destructive Black Manta, end up at the bottom of a mysterious trench overrun with carnivorous flesh-eating sea creatures, step into a lost world where myth and legend collide all before returning back to the outskirts of Atlantean civilization to see if our hero can stop a war while sitting atop an ancient titan that's been waiting for a worthy leader to arise and ask it for its assistance. As I said, it's a lot to take in, and if a viewer were to find themselves lost while trying to make sense of it all I wouldn't exactly be surprised.

Does it all work? Heck no. Is it nonetheless consistently enjoyable? Yes with a capital Y a capital E and a capital S, all three letters followed by a bevy of exclamation points. Wan's visual imagination is boundless, and his delight showcasing all of these different locations, civilizations, creatures and people is undeniable. He allows Momoa to give a suitably larger-than-life performance that befits the character and the universe he lives within perfectly while at the same gifting Heard with one of the best characters of her career. The filmmaker also gives Wilson, Lundgren, Kidman and especially Dafoe a handful of key moments to strut their respective stuff, each actor having at least one signature scene where they get to make the most of their screen time. I was also overjoyed with composer Rupert Gregson-Williams' (Wonder Woman) wildly idiosyncratic score, the music changing style and temperament nearly as frequently as the narrative does.

Look, it isn't all fun and games, and there were certainly instances where I wondered what had to have been going through Wan's head as he stood there on the set setting up his next shot with veteran cinematographer Don Burgess (Forrest Gump). I was also a little disappointed that the Black Manta/David Kane storyline wasn't as fully developed or as emotionally realized as I hoped it was going to be, and while Abdul-Mateen gives a strong performance the lackluster screenwriting as it pertains to his entire subplot doesn't do him any favors.

Even with that said I had a terrific time sitting in the theatre watching the movie play itself out to conclusion. Wan does a great job of handling things, and if it wasn't clear from Justice League that Momoa is the only choice to be portraying Arthur Curry it most certainly is now after watching this. Aquaman is an unhinged undersea thrill ride I enjoyed immensely, and the next time this hero picks up his trident I'll eagerly take that leap into the cinematic ocean in order to see just what injustice he intends to remedy wielding it.


The Dina Martina Christmas Show arrives at ACT Theatre
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Seattle Men's Chorus' 'Jingle All the Way' concert a truly sensational evening
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Blues Chanteuse Nora Michaels to rock Highway 99 Blues Club one last time Friday, Dec. 28
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Seattle Humane - Pets of the Week
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Character-driven Quake a not-so-disastrous sequel
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Eastwood's The Mule a bumpy introspective road trip
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Roma named Best Picture of 2018 by Seattle Film Critics Society
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Imaginative Into the Spider-Verse an animated triumph
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Charmingly retrograde Bumblebee more than meets the eye
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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Mary Poppins Returns is a magical sequel
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