For those of a ‘certain age’, ‘Shazam!’ would be very familiar. A popular staple of Saturday morning TV in the 1970’s, the live-action ‘Shazam!’ series gained a generation of fans. Although its special effects were rubbery as well as the performances, it had a rough charm. The new movie version has a budget the TV show could only have dreamt about. Based on the comic-book which was created in 1939, ‘Shazam!’ is a light-hearted romp with virtuous heroes looking mighty even while wearing spandex.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a teenage orphan living with is foster family in Fawcett City. Travelling home on a train, he is mysteriously transported to another dimension where he meets an ancient wizard who bestows upon him god-like powers. When uttering the wizard’s name – Shazam – Billy turns into the like-named hero (Zachary Levi). His transformation comes just in time as he faces the vile evil of industrialist Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong). Billy/Shazam goes to great lengths to prove his worth as earth’s newest hero in the never-ending battle for justice.

Although it has its problems, ‘Shazam!’ is good fun. Only those with continuously dour dispositions would frown at its antics. Shazam is basically a child trapped in a man’s body learning the hard way the value of loyalty and using his powers for good. Whilst the word ‘journey’ may elicit groans, the screenplay pushes Billy on a road to discovery to be the person he is whilst dealing with various heroics.

The performances are on point with Angel and Levi successfully conveying the same personalities in different bodies. Their co-stars are fine without being particularly memorable. Letting events down is David F. Sandberg’s slack direction and glacial pacing. Too much time is spent on setting up Shazam’s skill developments with the finale taking forever to end. Less is always more as the cliché goes even if the CGI is amazing as ever with the many fight sequences eye-popping in their spectacle.

‘Shazam!’ doesn’t re-invent the superhero wheel and takes too long to tell its tale. As an overview of what has made the character enduring it mostly works. It makes those who grew up watching the TV series feel even more elderly, a power even Shazam didn’t need a wizard to provide.

Rating out of 10: 6

Hotel Mumbai

Since almost the dawn of mankind, terrorism has been an awful constant. Fear and destruction lay in its wake with the lives of those involved forever affected. This century has seen such atrocities increase tenfold with almost daily news reports detailing the carnage. Based on the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ effectively explores how those involved react in these deadly situations and the swathe of anarchy unleashed.

Hemant (Anupam Kher), is a popular chef at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the Indian city of Mumbai. One of his co-workers is waiter Arjun (Dev Patel). Their busy schedule sees them looking after guests such as David (Armie Hammer), his wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), and child. Swiftly their lives are torn apart when terrorists lay siege on the hotel. Events spiral out of control as guests and staff alike must band together to do whatever it takes to protect the threat to their lives.

Directed by Anthony Maras, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is consistently engaging. His direction teases out the emotions and tension perfectly. In any terrorist situation nothing is predictable with death occurring potentially any moment. The fear of such fate drives the people in this story as they struggle against a hurricane of violence and destruction. The script skillfully sets up the scenario on all sides with the intricacies of hotel life dovetailing into the mechanics of terrorist activities.

None of these elements would work without strong performances. ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is filled with them with Patel and others never over-playing their roles. They know they aren’t performing in a turgid daytime soap opera and bring authenticity as the story explores what happens when evil strikes. The Indian filming unearthing the beauty and terror of the locale is used to good effect with the score remembering not to over-arch itself in terms of fake emotional cues.

‘Hotel Mumbai’ is an often disturbing, inspiring and striking reminder of terrorism’s vast reach. The commendable bravery of those who fought back against this is very well realized. It shows how terrorism can never ultimately win if we don’t give up and stand together to ensure such acts are as infrequent as possible.

Rating out of 10: 8