Reel Reviews: Magic and millionaires make movies

By on April 10, 2019


With that magic word, orphaned schoolboy Billy Batson (Asher Angel) turns into a superhero (played by workhorse Zachary Levi, who does his best Brendan Fraser impression, but only slightly better than the real actor). Our boy hero turned super man quickly learns there is more to being a grown up than buying beer, and must fight off the forces of evil led by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”). Sivana desires the primordial power of The Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) whose dying act was to pass that power onto Batson.

The result is a funny, never to be taken seriously, kids movie about a comic book character created in 1939 (and originally named Captain Marvel, just to confuse things).

Okay, so maybe we all just have to realize DC Comics is DC Comics, and they are going to have to thrive on the not-so-serious aspect of films based on comic books. There’s nothing serious about “Shazam!” even though it tries to incorporate DC franchises like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. It’s just a weak, but funny, tale for kids caught in an era where Marvel dominates the market.

Is “Shazam!” good? Well, it was way better than “Justice League.” And as a huge fan of the TV series “The O.C.” it was awesome to see Adam Brody (as the adultified Freddy Shazam — sequel set-up). Speaking of sequel, considering the success of “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix) where kid superheroes live their adult lives, and if “Shazam!” does as well as predicted based on opening night numbers (I’m writing this before the weekend box office was realized), the “Shazam!” 2 movie will get a quick green light.

Though it may look like it, life isn’t just one big party for Moondog (played by Matthew McConaughey) in “The Beach Bum.” Reviewer Michael Upton expresses his general sense of bewilderment about the film with, “I’m not sure why this movie was made.”

‘The Beach Bum’

“It’s like Matthew McConaughey, Jimmy Buffett, and Snoop Dogg smoked a bunch of weed and made a movie.” This is how I described “The Beach Bum” to my wife. She was stunned when I told her this wasn’t an exaggeration; all three superstars are in this chronicle of excess detailing the life of Moondog (McConaughey), a Key West poet living in a drug and alcohol-infused world of carefree merriment.

There’s a too long lead up to the part where Moondog’s wife (Isla Fisher, “The Great Gatsby”) dies — but not before we learn she is having a regular affair with Lingerie (Snoop Dogg) — which forces Moondog to focus on writing a new book in order to receive the benefits of his wife’s estate.

Moondog is no faithful testament himself, as the movie features actresses with “real” names like London Seabreeze (playing Topless Woman #1). Moondog’s manager, Lewis (Jonah Hill), is a modern-day Southern Gent mixed with Yankee opportunist; he gives Moondog advice. The poet half-heartedly checks into rehab where he meets Flicker (Zac Efron), a young man bent on living life hard and fast.

Eventually Moondog writes his book, inherits millions of dollars, torches it all with laughter, debauchery, and booze and the movie ends. This is a true “what in the world” expression-generating movie. I’m not sure why this movie was made. Maybe I should have expected a nonsensical result guised as character study from a director (Harmony Korine) who also brought us movies called “Julien Donkey-Boy” and “Trash Humpers” — neither of which I’ve seen. This is not avant-garde filmmaking; this is someone wasting a lot of money. Don’t waste yours.

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