Thursday, July 19, 2018

Film Review - Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018)

Mamma Mia Here we Go Again is the sequel to 2008’s Mamma Mia and Amanda Seyfried returns as Sophie who has her difficulties with her partner Sky (Dominic Cooper) and decides to finish her mothers hotel in Greece which has her fathers (Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Pierce Brosnan) come back as well as her grandmother played by Cher come and see the grand reopening while Lily James plays her mother Donna in flashbacks.

Mamma Mia 2 is good fun and that comes down to the great soundtrack on display here there is plenty of singing and dancing (thankfully Pierce Brosnan does little to no singing here) combining both songs from the Broadway Show and plenty of those classic ABBA songs that will have you tapping your feet in the seat and in some cases wanting to sing along.

As for the performances well their fine Ms Seyfried does very well here and its always nice to see Andy Garcia even if he has turned into Terry Benedict from Oceans Eleven in a movie plus Brosnan, Firth and Skarsgard plus Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner and Jeremy Irvine are great likenesses for their younger selves.

But the show stealer here is Lily James who is captivating as the young Donna this free spirit wanting to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life in this paradise part of the world we know as Greece where anything seems possible and her love, passion and charm shine so brightly here that it is easy to see why these 3 men fell in love with her the way that they did Ms James is easily one of the best young actresses of her generation and she shows why here.

And so that was Mamma Mia 2 and its nice harmless fun that made me smile and want to sing ABBA songs and Lily James is very very good here, 3 out of 5.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Film Review - Midnight Oil 1984 (2018)

Midnight Oil 1984 is a documentary about the band Midnight Oil in 1984 and the launch of their album Red Plains on the Sunset and meanwhile its front man Peter Garrett decides to run for the Nuclear Disarmament Party in the General Election that year in Australia.

Midnight Oil 1984 is a very good documentary for these 2 reasons:

- Firstly the archival footage presented here is remarkable over 20,000 feet of 16mm film was recorded during that period and to see all of it presented in this way is terrific with the old concert clips, the sweat pouring off Peter’s head, the energy on the stage, the crowds getting into it and even seeing some of the news conferences and interviews and show clips was fantastic for a historical type person like myself.

- And secondly its great to hear that music be it songs like Power and the Passion, Beds are Burnings, Short Memory among others it makes you want to tap your feet along to it and in some cases sing along and it also made me think about art vs politics and whether the two trains should meet and this was a case where the art and the politics do mesh together very very well and that yes at times art can be political but if its done well then there should be no problems at all.

But I do have a criticism about this documentary and that is as good as the vintage footage is there is a bad habit of cutting back to contemporary interviews with the band members and those that worked with them at that time and it pulled me out of the experience of watching the doco especially when other documentaries like Senna and Waking Sleeping Beauty got around this very easily by just having the interviews be voice over on the older footage.

And I wish that approach had been taken here as it would’ve worked a lot better and allowed you to be truly immersed in the 1984 footage without having to be taken out of it just to watch an interview clip from 30 odd years later.

And so that was Midnight Oil 1984 a very good documentary that save for the interview clips did a great job telling its story and toe tapping along to their songs, 3 out of 5.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Film Review - Ant Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant Man and the Wasp is the 20th Marvel Studios production and the first film to come after April’s Avengers: Infinity War but this movie takes place before that film and after 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest for his actions during that film meanwhile Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) may have found a way to retrieve their mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm but others like Ghost (Hannah John Kamen) want the Quantum technology for themselves.

Ant Man and the Wasp works best when it focuses on the personal story of Scott, Hope and Hank trying to bring Janet home as that story was the most interesting to me as it felt focused, had a clear sense of direction and worked with returning director Peyton Reed’s skill in directing actors and comedy moments as Paul Rudd in particular is a real delight in this movie getting many of the films best comedic moments as he plays it mostly straight and takes it in stride whereas the rest of the humour worked okay but mostly just felt like the film pressing stop so it can play a comedy routine.

As for the effects well now that Marvel Studios is willing to spend more than 50 cents in every dollar on its special effects we get a much better look at the Quantum Realm this time and it looks really good on a big cinema screen and there are some great miniaturization and giant man effects this time and Reed does these scenes okay but it really isn’t his strength and as great as it was to see the Quantum Realm it feels like he’s doing those scenes because he has to so it can be used next year as rumoured in Avengers 4.

But where this film really falls over is its villains and after Josh Brolin was so very very good as Almighty Thanos in Infinity War Marvel Studios once again drops the ball with its villains and while Ms Kamen does a good job as Ghost she just felt like a bad person that had to be there because these movies need a bad person to fight the heroes and every time she came on screen I just kept thinking “Piss Off Ghost” from Thor: Ragnarok last year.

And once again Walton Goggins is left with an under developed villain to work with and it really bothers me as he was great in the Hateful Eight in 2016 and since then he’s been wasted both here and in Tomb Raider and if he had been the main villain and the corporate intrigue had been better developed instead of giving a lot of that time to Ghost then this movie might have worked better I feel.

And so that was Ant Man and the Wasp and its okay but its not one of Marvel Studios best movies and really only exists to fill that Civil War-Infinity War gap and introduce the Quantum Realm to the audience for Avengers 4 but it has some good effects and humour from Paul Rudd and a great mid credits scene so it is worth seeing, 2 out of 5.

Film Review - Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)

Sicario: Day of the Soldado is the sequel to 2015’s Sicario but only writer Taylor Sheridan and Actors Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro return for this second film and the story this time sees the US wanting to start a Drug War in Mexico so Brolin and Del Toro team up to make that happen but something goes wrong and the 2 go their separate ways.

Sicario 2 is sadly not a very good sequel in fact it’s a bit of a mess but before I go into that I want to go into what I did like and that is its action set pieces as they were well filmed and had lots of tasty blood in them and almost every action film these days doesn’t have a lot of blood in it because well that gets you an R rating instead of a PG-13 rating and that’s bad because a PG-13 rating means the biggest audience possible but here there was plenty of blood on display that made me very happy.

For to quote Bram Stoker’s Dracula “The Blood is the Life.”

That out of the way this sequel does not work for one clear reason: Its storytelling in the first film the character played by Emily Blunt was our eyes and ears into this dark and murky world of drugs and violence whereas here Brolin and Del Toro go their separate ways for most of the movie and their stories lack a focus and a through line to keep them together and it feels like you are watching 2 separate movies mashed together into the one and after a while I got pretty bored of both of them and just wanted the movie to be over.

And so that was Sicario: Day of the Soldado and its really in the running for the worst movie of 2018 for me as despite its bloody violence its storytelling is a mess and I just got bored of it all and wanted it to be over but as Thanos would say it’s a small price to pay for good sequels like Incredibles 2, 1 out of 5.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Film Review - Game Night (2018)

Game Night stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as Max and Annie a married couple who host a regular game night with their friends (Larmorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury and Billy Magnussen soon to be seen in the live action Aladdin) but when Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) shows up wanting to change proceedings he finds himself kidnapped and the race is on to find him and solve the mystery with the clues he’s left in his wake.

Game Night is great fun and it succeeds both as a comedy and as an action caper in the style of the Grand Theft Auto games in fact some of the camera angles during some of the car chase scenes reminded me of when I play GTA Five and I’m in a high speed chase with the cops and the caper side is a lot of fun with plentiful clues and twists and turns a plenty that had me smiling in a big way.

And as for the comedy side it is very funny and I laughed quite a bit and thankfully we are spared the endless scenes of the actors sitting and/or standing around improvising and golf clapping each other instead we get plenty of fun gag moments that are great fun to watch Mr Bateman and Ms McAdams have a great biplay chemistry going on together and McAdams in particular is delightful stealing many of the best comedy moments that had me laughing properly every time she did one of them.

The other standout here is Kyle Chandler and like Ms McAdams has been an underrated actor for some years now but here he gets a nice meaty role to sink his teeth into and he does not disappoint and as for the action set pieces they are nicely directed and good fun to watch as you don’t know what to really expect from them.

And so that was Game Night probably the best comedy I’ve seen in a good long while and it works both as a caper and as a comedy, I highly recommend this one, 3 and a half out of 5.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Film Review - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom continues on from 2015’s Jurassic World and this time the island of Isla Nublar is erupting so Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return to help save the remaining Dinosaurs from the island but when an evil millionaire (Rafe Spall) decides he wants to sell them to competing world powers the race is on again to stop another genetic hybrid: The Indoraptor and from the Dino’s from being sold as living weapons.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is well made and entertaining enough and that’s mainly due to director JA Bayona taking the reins instead of Colin Trevorrow who did write the script with his writing partner Derek Connelly he brings a level of artistic sophistication that has not been seen since Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park in 1993 and there are a number of shots clearly designed to up the filmmaking quality like we saw in the original film.

The film also has some fun dinosaur chase and eating sequences as well even if they aren’t as tense or effective as the ones we saw in the original Jurassic Park.

But as for that script I mentioned it is sadly the biggest weak spot of this sequel as it is a bit of a mess on the one hand it is a rescue mission to save a species from extinction and on the other it tries to revive the themes of the original movie about Man playing God and trying to engineer not only the return of a species but also trying to weaponize it for combat and the two just don’t mesh together without a unifying vision to tie it all together.

And there is one other objection I had to this movie and it’s the way that Bryce Dallas Howard is treated in this movie almost the entire time Owen (Chris’s character) has a bad tendency to talk down a little bit towards her and behave in this master/servant kind of a way the kind of dialogue that is “Get this, get that, carry my bags” way and I’m sure in the script it didn’t sound that way but in the movie with the kind of delivery Pratt gives it has a very bad feeling to it and I love Bryce as an actress and she deserved better.

And so does a Jurassic movie I feel as much like Solo: A Star Wars Story to see it become just another franchise to be milked to extinction after 65,000,000 years is very saddening as Jurassic Park was not only Steven Spielberg at the height of his power but a film that was full of wonder and danger but also genuinely broke new ground and had something to say about Man Playing God with Science and like the Star Wars Trilogy became a movie that people pass onto their children and to see it become another run of the mill franchise is very disheartening.

And so that was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom a by and large fun and entertaining movie that doesn’t feel special nor does it have a great script and so it gets a 2 out of 5 from me.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Film Review - The Incredibles 2 (2018)

Incredibles 2 is the newest Pixar Animation and the long awaited sequel to the 2004 Incredibles written and directed by Brad Bird this time Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) looks after his 3 kids Violet, Dash and Jack Jack after Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) takes a new job with the head of Devtech who might be able to help them turn around the legal status of heroes so they can use their powers again but when a new villain called the Screenslayer appears the heroes have to suit up once again to stop him.

Incredibles 2 is a fun sequel and one I definitely enjoyed watching in the cinema first off the film hasn’t missed a beat visually since the first film in 2004 you wouldn’t know it was 14 years between the 2 films and the mix of retro deco style and computer animation was very appealing on a nicely sized cinema screen and the film also has some very nice action scenes and displays of super powers that is rarely seen in live action unless you have a large budget like Avengers Infinity War to properly display them.

What also works is the character dynamics and it is great to hear Ms Hunter and Mr Nelson back in those original roles same with Violet, Jack Jack and Dash as well as Mr Jackson as Frozone who thankfully gets a little bit more to do here than in the first film plus it is very nice to see Edna Mode come back and have a fun cameo.

All that said I wish the storytelling here was a little better not to say that it’s bad not at all but given the 14 year wait and the infinite number of possibilities that could have been done the overall story feels a little small in scale and like Finding Dory in 2016 it just feels a little bit samey the family is still the same heroes being illegal is still the same and the children are still the same and I wish there was a bit more change in terms of those situations and that their story had more at stake.

Then again when one of the biggest films of the year concerns the fate of the universe and an all powerful Mad Titan then there’s a distinct possibility that what comes next could well be a little underwhelming.

Last but not least there is a short before this movie called Bao about a Chinese woman and her son and it’s a very nice short about that particular bond and it was very nice to see Pixar doing another short again as I always look forward to seeing those in front of their films and I missed having one before Coco last year.

And so that was Incredibles 2 and it’s a nice sequel with nice visual design and character moments and a good villain but I wanted something a little more to justify the 14 year gap but alas we got what we got and it’s a nice movie and a fun sequel but that’s about it, 2 and a half out of 5.