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


Space Jam: A New Legacy

‘Looney Tunes’ was a long running Warner Brothers short film animated series starting in 1930. Featuring an array of characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety Bird, the series entertained generations. Many of its catchphrases and cartoons have gone into folklore although their full-length cinematic forays have been few. Last seen in 2003 with the fun ‘Looney Tunes: Back in Action’, they return in this sequel to the 1996 hit, ‘Space Jam’. ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ brings the series to life once again in a mix of live action and fantastical animation as only the Looney Tunes gang can provide.

Basketball champion LeBron James and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) become trapped in a virtual reality world. Run by dastardly A.I Al-G-Rhythm (Don Cheadle), he gives LeBron a chance to save his son. He must win a basketball game against Al’s dangerous avatars, the Goon Squad. LeBron is left with no choice but to recruit the help of the Looney Tunes brigade. Hitting the court alongside Porky Pig, Speedy Gonzalez, as well as Bugs and Daffy, LeBron’s sports skills are sorely tested as he grapples with his eternally crazy co-players.

Whilst ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ is fun, it’s less than it could have been. It may seem churlish to criticize an animated movie aimed at younger viewers, but a film should deliver the goods no matter who it’s made for. One can’t help feel ‘Space Jam 2’ was made by a committee of studio execs desperate to shoehorn as much marketing opportunities as possible. Not only does ‘Space Jam 2’ feature the Looney Tunes brigade, but also every single Warner Brothers character ever made. The appearance of characters from ‘The Matrix’, and even ‘Game of Thrones’ seems inappropriate for a film like this.

When focussing on Bugs Bunny, etc, ‘Space Jam 2’ flies high. It helps LeBron shows some genuine acting skills, unlike previous basketballers turned film stars. Unlike them, LeBron doesn’t embarrass himself and mingles well with his animated co-stars. Cheadle also has fun as the hiss-able baddie, hamming it up for all its worth. The most fun to be had is watching Bunny, Daffy get up to their usual tricks, making one feel you’re catching up with friends you haven’t seen for ages. Their appearance, in between other endless Warner Brothers references, is welcome.

At times ‘Space Jam 2’ feels like a commercial for Warner Brothers properties than a real flick. When the Looney Tunes gangs are allowed to creep into the story, it’s enjoyable, carefully updating their legacy while respecting what’s gone before. It could have been a better reunion with the characters though with the corporate bemouths in control of the Looney Tunes characters the real obstacles they have to overcome.

Rating out of 10: 6