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.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Film Review - Oceans Eight (2018)

Oceans Eight is the newest entry in the Oceans franchise and this time Danny’s sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) takes centre stage and decides to rob the Met Gala of a very expensive necklace which is also being used by Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) so she assembles a team (Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Rhianna, Awkwafina, Mindy Kaling and Helena Bonham Carter) to pull off the heist.

Oceans Eight was a fun heist film for me and I’ve been a big fan of the 2001 Oceans Eleven film since I saw it on DVD in 2002 and the main reason I had as much fun as I did is because of that central cast of ladies all eight of them play off each other very well and their scenes together really do a lot to elevate Gary Ross’s screenplay (he also directed this movie and the first Hunger Games film) Ms Bullock in particular is a nice replacement for George Clooney and takes over his mantle well.

But the show stealer here is Ms Hathaway with her shallow and bitchy comedic timing and genuinely funny physical comedy just about every scene she was in had me properly laughing out loud in my seat and as someone who has been a big fan of hers for a long time and seen some of the frankly crap movies she has made it is fantastic to see her on such great form here.

If I have a complaint and I do a little bit is that the central heist isn’t as strong as it could have been and given the 2001 Oceans Eleven had a great heist that felt daring and dangerous but also something of a personal feel to it as well as the bigger picture whereas here the personal element doesn’t feel as integral to the storytelling and also a jewellery heist just felt like a bit of a step back for me personally speaking as I felt this new team of con artists deserved a great heist like in the 2001 Oceans Eleven film.

And so that was my review of Oceans Eight a film that despite some storytelling stumbles I had some good fun with and would definitely want a sequel if one comes to pass, 3 out of 5.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Film Review - Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the newest Star Wars movie directed by Ron Howard who took over from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who were fired from the film with 3 weeks remaining on their schedule.

The story here concerns young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and his upbringing on Correlia, his meeting Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and how he got the Millennium Falcon and going on a big heist for a local Gangster (Paul Bettany.)

Solo is a fun ride and Howard is clearly having a great time getting to direct a Star Wars film (he directed Willow for George Lucas in 1988 and was in American Graffitti for George) and he brings an energetic sense of direction to the scenes and crafts some fun action along the way plus there is some really beautiful cinematography by Bradford Young with its many wide shots and landscapes Young is definitely one of the most underappreciated cinematographers working today.

And the performances for the most part are good Ehrenreich is solid as Han even if at times I just kept thinking of Harrison Ford Glover does a brilliant mimic of Billy Dee Williams’s Lando from Empire and Jedi but gets so little screen time he doesn’t get a chance to shine all that much, Emilia Clarke is okay as Qi’ra but doesn’t really stand out in the role and both Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany are wasted in their roles Harrelson just comes across as grumpy and out of place while Bettany again gets so little to do it feels like a cameo.

And this is where the movie falls way short: Its screenplay frankly it isn’t much of one and as much fun as it is to see young Han and young Lando and their backstory it doesn’t feel special it just feels like 2 hour fan fiction like Rogue One in 2016 did “Here’s all this stuff in a movie that you’ve imagined in your minds for 40 years” and when you see it on film executed in a way that it feels very bland it takes some of the mystery away and it also doesn’t help that many of the new characters here are so boring and generic that you don’t really care that much about them.

And also what is missing is the character of Jabba the Hutt who was so memorable in Return of the Jedi after being teased so well in Star Wars and Empire having him in this movie could have solved the problem of not having a major villain ala Terry Benedict in Oceans Eleven to help anchor the story plus it would have given far more dramatic weight to the storytelling because we have that investment in Jabba and his gang of Bounty Hunters (“We don’t need that Scum”) and would believe they could have Han and Chewie on the run but we didn’t get that and the film suffers as a result.

And so that was Solo: A Star Wars Story a very disappointing Star Wars movie that hurts because a Star Wars movie like an Avengers movie should be something special and in a year when Infinity War made an Avengers movie special again this kind of warmed up second rate leftovers just isn’t good enough in a franchise where its original 3 movies redefined movie history and say what people will about the Last Jedi and Rian Johnson’s work on it at least he did take some risks even if he didn’t execute them as well as he could have, 1.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Film Review - Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool 2 continues on from the first Deadpool but this time David Leitch steps into the directors chair replacing Tim Miller Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself back in trouble once again as a young boy named Russell (Julian Dennison) is targeted by a time traveller named Cable (Josh Brolin) so the chase is on and the quips are not too far behind.

Deadpool 2 is sadly not a very good sequel at all and the comparison I would make is Robocop 2 from 1990 where it had a different and more serious direction but the tone of the film feels very off and at times it becomes very nasty and young Mr Dennison is the biggest reminder of that comparison for me his performance here feels so fowl mouthed and so nasty at times that I hated watching him in the movie and I did think of Hob (Gabriel Damon) in Robocop 2.

This ties into my second biggest problem and that is the storytelling here is a big mess with Deadpool and the X-Force, the storyline with Russell and the storyline with Cable being big storylines in their own right and not one of them comes together in either a satisfying or cohesive way as it feels like 2 separate scripts (one being about X-Force and the other about Cable/Russell) being smashed together in a printer and neither of them is explored well enough to make work and again Robocop 2 had this problem of a messy storyline.

And this last point again like Robocop 2 (I know I know its getting a bit much but I’ll stop here) the more straight laced and serious minded tone makes the action sequences feel more violent than they did in the first Deadpool film and after a while I just got sick of it and at least Robocop 2 had a great end battle sequence with the two robots whereas here the action just became a jumbled mess that without a story hook to make me care just left me bored.

But the biggest problem I had above all else with this movie was Ryan Reynolds now I liked him a fair amount in the first Deadpool film but Tim Miller was smart enough to know when to reel him in and moderate his improvising whereas here he endlessly mugs for the camera the entire film and talks so much that he sounds more like a bad knockoff of Iago from Aladdin and after a while I just said to myself “WILL YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT UP” and it just felt like a trip down the time tunnel to the bad old days of these films where they became little more than glorified star vehicles.

As for Mr Brolin as Cable well I was very disappointed here probably most of all because he gets such little screen time and so few scenes of dialogue now maybe this is due to his Thanos schedule but I wish he was in it more and lastly the comedy just didn’t make me laugh this time the gags were too on the nose and the references got a little tiresome.

And so that was Deadpool 2 a sequel that I hated frankly and it feels worse when a bad sequel comes after we get a great one like Paddington 2 but if you’re a fan of the first film I still feel you should go and see it and make up your own mind, 1 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Film Review - Breath (2018)

Breath is based off of the novel by Tim Winton who also helped write this screenplay adaptation and Simon Baker co writes, stars and directs this adaptation as Sando a surfer in 1970’s Australia who ends up befriending 2 young boys with a keen eye for adventure (Brock Fitzgerald and Ben Spence) but Sando’s wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki) is not so keen for these young boys to be around so much.

Breath is a bit of a mixed bag that overall I found to be a pretty meh movie the more I began to think about it but in terms of the positives I did like of the scenic direction Mr Baker did with those big swelling waves, windy beaches and shots of under water swells those scenes had a slightly lyrical and strangely compelling feel to them.

Mainly because they had very little dialogue and that’s where this movie goes wrong the screenplay is all over the place bouncing from one storyline to the next in a very scrappy way at one point Simon Baker’s character is teaching them to surf then he disappears for a big chunk of the film one of the boys gets into surfing then doesn’t and after a while the film started to bore me a little bit as I didn’t find myself all that interested in any of the characters or the overall storytelling.

The best thing about this movie by far is Elizabeth Debicki who once again exudes sexiness as this late 60s early 70s flower child who also hides a terrible tragic incident and her sense of isolation and loneliness comes through in every scene she has she really does a lot to lift those scenes into something engaging and worthwhile and I was reminded of what an utterly captivating and charismatic actress she can be when given something to work with as she felt wasted in Guardians Volume 2 and the Man from UNCLE.

And so that was Breath which has a great performance by Ms Debicki and some nice scenery but a scattershot screenplay with boring characters, 2 out of 5.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

From Zero to Hero

Recently I rewatched Disney’s Aladdin from 1992/93 a film that save for the Star Wars Trilogy has probably done the most to shape my love of movies in the way that I have it now.

Needless to say that I fell in love with the film all over again and its my favorite Disney film as I feel it blends all the elements that Disney is so well known for:

- Its memorable villains (and how ironic it is that Marvel Studios ends up with this particular studio which is so well known for its villains and yet Marvel has consistently dropped the ball in that regard)

- Great songs (this movie was sadly the last film to have involvement from Howard Ashman who passed away during the development of the film and his loss is still so sad to this day as he was a gifted lyricist and storyteller who understood how Disney worked and how musicals worked and how to blend the two seamlessly a blend that when he was gone just didn’t work as well)

- Fun side characters (Iago came to mind when I, Tonya came up recently during its awards run)

And finally Robin Williams giving us probably his signature role as well as one of the best supporting acts in any movie as the Genie of the Lamp.

But when thinking about that film I also began to think about the other films in that period of Disney animation in the 1990s and from 1989 to 1995 there was this incredible resurgence of animation as a genre with not only Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King but also the Simpsons and Batman the Animated Series on TV these projects above all doing so much to destroy the sentiment from the 80s that animation was little more than a kids genre and what programs there were most likely just glorified advertisements for the toy lines that came with it.

But there is one film now with all of that out of the way that I want to talk about a film in this group that I feel is underrated and deserves a bit more attention and that film is 1997’s Hercules.

This was the third directorial effort from John Musker and Ron Clements following their huge hits Aladdin and the Little Mermaid and arguably these were the guys that did a lot to make that animation renaissance happen along with Ashman and Alan Menken and like those films there is a great use of music by Alan Menken and a light hearted and breezy tone where humour is well utilised unlike Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame where the comedy felt like it got in the way of the more serious storytelling those 2 films tried to tell.

But there are 2 main reasons I feel this film is overlooked:

- Firstly this was Musker and Clements using Greek mythology to basically do a Superhero movie and there is a very strong influence of Richard Donner’s Superman work all throughout the film in that:

-- Hercules is cast out of his home and must give the people of his adopted home a light to show them the way

-- Hercules communicates with his real father via other means

-- The Titans who were banished into a mysterious zone is very similar to General Zod and his allies being banished into the Phantom Zone

-- Megara is very Lois Lane like with the sarcastic attitude concealing a more sympathetic centre

-- And lastly Hercules’s love for Meg much like Superman’s love for Lois causes him to lose it against the villain

- And secondly there is simply fantastic voice work by James Woods as Hades and he is the main reason I rate this movie as highly as I do because every scene he is in in this movie he lifts the whole thing up to a 15 with his inspired vocal performance.

And you can tell while watching him in the role that he is having the time of his life performing it with this manic energy that changes gears on a dime to sleazy and smarmy to serious and angry and the characters animation by Nik Ranieri who also did Lumiere on Beauty and the Beast nicely matches the vocal work with the fire in the characters design changing according to his mood and while Woods has done a lot of stuff over the years to me he will always be Hades.

This movie was also for me personally one I had to wait quite a while to see as its release year 1997 was one where a lot happened and any chance to see it in cinemas never came to pass but when I heard on the Radio in January 1998 that it was coming soon to Video I got really excited and I can still remember that day.

The day where I had that tape in my hot little hands and I couldn’t wait to finally watch it and I more or less sequestered myself off to a room with a VCR and watched it in peace.

And so that was my column on not only Hercules but also my thinking about that period of Disney Animation in the 1990s which was not the original intent but the two managed to come together really well so I did it that way.

Film Review - All the Presidents Men (1976)

All the Presidents Men is based off of the true story and book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein played here by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman who are assigned to investigate the Watergate break in and it could possibly lead to President Richard Nixon but they will soon know how deep that story goes.

I was inspired to check out this movie after watching the Post by Steven Spielberg earlier this year and I really responded to that film for its story and for making me think of the period I spent with ABC South East SA doing reviews for them that coming to an end a month earlier so with that I kept learning about All the Presidents Men and my desire for a great journalistic movie pretty much led me to here.

And I was not disappointed in the slightest about it as its terrific director Alan Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman approach this story which is very familiar to most given we know how it ends but the way they do is that its like a murder mystery and a detective story combined with the journalism side where those offices act like the police station at times and again like the Post at times I did think of my wonderful Radio friends.

The film also has 2 dynamic performances at the centre of it all as well Redford and Hoffman have incredible chemistry and at times I thought that they might have improvised some of their riffs together and though at times Hoffman talks a little too fast to understand him you find yourself completely engrossed in their investigation and where it will lead.

Oh and there are some fun cameos to be had as well.

And so that was my review of All the Presidents Men a film that I really responded to and is pretty much the gold standard of journalistic films though given who sits in the WH at the moment they’ll be making similar films about this time period and it could well be challenged, 4 and a half out of 5.