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Black Widow

First appearing in 1964 and created by Marvel comics supremo Stan Lee, ‘Black Widow’ has had an interesting comic book history. Initially a villain, she turned to the side of virtue to become a romantic interest for Daredevil. The former Russian agent then became an ally of Captain America as well as The Avengers. The Marvel heroine has easily leaped onto the big screen, a popular addition to the Marvel cinematic universe. She now has her own movie, with ‘Black Widow’ a stirring showcase for her energetic talents.

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson), also known as Black Widow, is on a mission to find answers. Haunted by her past, her quest leads her to the mysterious Red Room. An agency of spies, she reunites with sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) and father Alexei (David Harbour) Uncovering a global conspiracy, Natasha finds herself facing unexpected foes with only her wits and deadly skills able to help her.

Directed by Cate Shortland, ‘Black Widow’ is a solid instalment in the never-ending Marvel cinematic universe. Although it occasionally irritates in having to remember what happened in previous Marvel films, ‘Black Widow’ mostly stands on its own feet. When it does it works very well, full of over the top action and always colourful visuals. It helps the story is good too as Natasha partakes in an unusual family reunion of sorts while saving the world. Unlike the complexity of other Marvel instalments, ‘Black Widow’ has an easier to follow script and a smaller ensemble allowing for more authentic characterisation.

For a film filled with spies, ‘Black Widow’ takes a leaf out of similar spy yarns. Most specifically it takes its cue from the James Bond films with its grandiose sweep and globe trotting effectively mirroring 007’s adventures. It has the same sense of stylish fun with some interesting twists. As with any secret agent tale nothing is what it seems. Shortland ensures you’re always kept wondering what happens next in between well executed stunt sequences. Marvel knows how to make these type of films by now but manage to make ‘Black Widow’ stand out.

‘Black Widow’ is a consistently entertaining and engaging flick sure to please fans. Marvel have barely put a foot wrong with their cinematic works, always reinventing characters to maintain interest. ‘Black Widow’ is no exception and in these strange times, a bit of over the top escapism isn’t an unwelcome prospect.

Rating out of 10: 7

CURRENTLY SCREENING IN CINEMAS AND AVAILABLE FOR RENT ON DISNEY+

Let Them All Talk

Like any artist, Steven Soderbergh knows how to paint his canvas. Having directed several hit movies, he knows how to draw the best out of actors. Those he assembles have appreciated his more authentic style while still delivering crowd-pleasing stories. Although more low-key than previous work, ‘Let Them All Talk’ benefits from a talented cast. With mostly improvised dialogue and using as much natural lighting as possible, ‘Let Them All Talk’ is another refreshing change for a director continually painting with different cinematic brushes.

Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) is a prize winning author travelling on the Queen Mary cruise ship to England. Journeying to receive another award, she brings along close friends Roberta (Candice Bergen) and Susan (Dianne Wiest). Also joining them is Alice’s nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges). During the journey the way past and present revelations make the trip one that will never quickly forgotten.

Soderbergh delivers another excellent movie. Walking the tightrope between experimental film-making and traditionally crafted story-telling, ‘Let Them All Talk’ is consistently engaging. Much of that is due to the always watchable performers. You can’t go wrong with Streep, Bergen and Wiest in the same movie, with all apparently working on the film for little money. The smartly written script and a free cruise would have been star attractions. Their characters are expertly interwoven in the film’s main theme of communication and how too much or the lack thereof can affect lives.

The very simple story moves at a brisk pace, always maintaining interest. ‘Let Them All Talk’ benefits from the unusual cinematography, with natural light making events feel more realistic. It’s also a good advert for the Queen Mary, as its luxurious confines stands witness to the ladies’ personal dramas.

Not much else can be said for ‘Let Them All Talk’. Soderberg delivers another interesting and engrossing movie. It’s a fine addition to his eclectic catalogue of commercial films laced with an independent film-making style. The release of his new movies are always worth the wait, as his latest proves his directorial skills remain undimmed.

Rating out of 10: 8

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TO RENT ON AMAZON PRIME.