Tag Archives: Asher Angel

Four’s a Crowd


by Rachel Willis

After a deadly virus strikes, a trio of women turn their home into a sanctuary, cut off from the outside and safe in director Alec Tibaldi’s film, Lazareth.

As years pass in this virus-plagued world, we watch Lee (Ashley Judd) and her nieces Maeve (Sarah Pidgeon) and Imogen (Katie Douglas) carve out rituals and chores to keep themselves going. With a truck that somehow still works, Lee makes trips into town for supplies, but as she warns the girls, things in town are bad.

There is a lot of information given in a small amount of time that stretches the thin cord of belief. After so many years, it’s hard to accept there are certain items still available. However, it’s interesting to see how these three women work together to maintain their fragile existence. As the film progresses, we get answers to several questions, but some things remain vague.

The two sisters, Maeve and Imogen, are the film’s strongest characters. Having little experience of the world prior to the pandemic, they rely on their aunt to keep them safe. Most of what they believe is taken on faith.

It seems as though writer/director Alec Tibaldi expects much of the same from the audience. It’s never clear what Lee’s motivations are. When Maeve’s eyes are open to various truths, her choices are unfathomable. Imogen never has much chance to develop as more than “girl smitten with new boy,” which, to be fair, isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility as she’s a teenage girl who’s never met a boy before.

The boy in question, Owen (Asher Angel), quickly threatens to upend Lee’s fragile world. The tightrope Lee has been walking threatens to fall from under her.

There is some tension after Owen arrives, but it’s never quite enough to make us fearful for our trio of survivors. We also don’t spend enough time getting to know who they are to care what happens to them, and the characters do things that contradict what we think we know of them.

If done well, these surprises can keep audience off balance, but when done poorly, it’s another thorn in a viewer’s side. Lazareth is an island surrounded by thorns, never giving anyone a chance to learn much of anything.


Shazam! Fury of the Gods

by Hope Madden

Filmmaker David F. Sandberg followed up the surprise horror hit Lights Out with a step into the Conjuring franchise, helming 2017’s Annabelle: Creation. And then in 2019 he took a sharp left turn to deliver the triumphantly adolescent superhero gem, Shazam!

This he followed with a literally four-hour film of himself flipping off the camera, titled I Flip You Off for Four Hours. I swear to God. And then back for the Shazam! sequel, Fury of the Gods.

Since he last saved the world and shared his superpowers with his foster siblings, Billy Batson has gotten clingy. Controlling, even. He’s about to turn 18 and age out of the foster system, and deep down, he’s afraid he’s going to lose his family.

Plus, there are these angry gods who want their power back, a power stolen from them by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and given away to a bunch of dumbass kids (Billy and those siblings).

Helen Mirren is a god. (I always expected as much.) And while the film suffers from the kind of superficial storytelling and sequel bloat that often plagues the second episode in a franchise, she’s glorious.

She’s also funny and badass – an excellent addition to the series. She’s joined by Lucy Liu as the angrier of the gods to look out for.

And even though there are multiple villains, the real problem is the multiple heroes and their multiple alter egos. Billy (Asher Angel) has five siblings, each of whom is now a hero, so that’s twelve characters to track. Plus mom and dad. Though the cast, Sandberg and screenwriters Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan offer clever shorthand characterizations, the result feels too slight.

Zachary Levi continues to shine, delivering the same infectious, boyish good nature that made the original such a charmer. And Sandberg’s direction continues to favor wonder over action, although the action continues to impress – not wow, but impress.

The result is a perfectly entertaining, thoroughly good natured opportunity to see Helen Mirren beat the tar out of some kids.

Word Up or Nerd Up


by George Wolf

To paraphrase a classic segment from the old Letterman show: Can a guy in a supersuit get into a strip club?

Easily, which is pretty exciting for the teenage boy inside the super man inside the suit. And it’s just one example of the irreverent vibe Shazam! rides to bring home one of the most fun origin stories in recent memory.

The teenage boy is Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who’s just been placed in the latest of a string of foster homes. Just as he’s getting to know his foster family, including the superhero-crazed Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer from IT, impressive again), Billy is chosen to replace the aging Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) as protector of the Realms, bringing a youthful energy that will ensure the Seven Deadly Sin-Monsters cannot assume Earthly forms.

The super-villainous Dr. Thaddeus Silva (Mark Strong, gloriously slimy) does not approve, and vows to defeat the new Shazam (Zachary Levi) and assume all his powers.

So it’s on!

But first, Billy and Freddy have to find out just what superpowers are brought on by saying that magic word, which sets up a series of amusing tests and is the springboard for getting to know this grown up superboy while he mulls over possible super names.

“Thundercrack?” “No! That sounds like a butt thing.”

If you’re thinking Big (and the film acknowledges that you are with a cute homage), you’re right on. Writer Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) fills the script with action, humor, heart and spunk, while director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) keeps things lively and engaging with plenty of impressive visual pop.

The entire cast is wonderfully diverse and consistently winning, and a few corny moments aside, makes the feels on friendship, family and responsibility land nearly as flush as the winking riffs on superhero tropes.

There really isn’t much Shazam! doesn’t deliver (okay, maybe it delivers a slightly bloated running time that includes two post-credits stingers), and as fast as you can say the magic word, DC has the best film in its universe since Bale was the Bat.