Thursday, May 30, 2019

Film Review - Rocketman (2019)

Rocketman is directed by Dexter Fletcher who also directed Eddie the Eagle in 2016 and is produced by Matthew Vaughn and concerns Sir Elton John (Taron Egerton) and his rise to fame as a pop star as well as the downsides of that life as well as in his personal one.

I was really excited for Rocketman mainly because I love Sir Elton’s music and also last years Bohemian Rhapsody which Mr Fletcher had to step in and finish that film after Bryan Singer was fired from it in late 2017 was a movie I really had a great time at plus I had loved the trailers for this movie so could it live its life like a Candle in the Wind or would it be proof that indeed Sad Songs Say So Much.

Well happily this was a case of the latter as this movie is terrific fun on the big screen and firstly I have to start with Mr Fletcher’s direction as he does a great job here as he did on Eddie the Eagle where he brings a briskness and a looseness to the proceedings that makes the overall filmmaking here seem effortless and the musical sequences ranging from Wednesday Night’s-sorry-Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting to Rocketman to Crocodile Rock so much fun and it makes you want to get up out of your cinema seat and start singing and dancing along like in the film though you probably shouldn’t but at least you can still get your pretend mic-sorry-water bottle at least.

Also Mr Egerton is great as Sir Elton, he captures the pain, the anguish, the diva, the vocals and the larger than life personality of the man very well and he does a great job with the songs as well, Jamie Bell is also good as Bernie Taupin as is Richard Madden as John Reid while Stephen Graham pretty much channels Ray Winstone as Dick James.

If I have a minor quibble with the film (and its really only a minor one in the grand scheme of things) its that some of the second half with the drinking, coke sniffing, pill popping and overall self destructive behaviour kind of grated with me but not to the extent that it derails the entire film like it did last year with A Star is Born and also Bryce Dallas Howard is terrible in this, she does this really cartoonish British accent which just really got on my nerves after a while.

And so that was Rocketman and you can Feel the Love Tonight with this movie from me as I had a great time watching it, it looks and sounds great on the big screen and you should go and see it with a cinema crowd as it is WELL worth it, 4 out of 5.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Film Review - Aladdin (2019)

Aladdin is a live action version of the 1992 animated classic and this time Guy Ritchie takes the directors chair and co-writes the script with John August, the story takes place in Agrabah where a young street rat named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) meets the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) but only a prince can marry a princess and with the help of the Genie of the Lamp (Will Smith) he hopes to win her hands though the evil Vizir Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) also desires the Lamp for his own purposes.

I have loved the original Aladdin since I was a boy back in 1994 which is when it came out on Video here in Australia, it was arguably the one film above all that did the most to shape my already developing love of movies and mould it into something tangible and meaningful, it is a movie I have also come back to multiple times over the years as I grew older and into adulthood and when I bought my 4K TV last year I put the Blu-Ray of Aladdin on to test the colours on it and it soared with flying colours.

I’ve also come to learn about the making of that original film itself from the original treatment done in 1988 by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken which had a full suite of songs and the bones of what would become the final film sadly completed after Howard’s passing in 1991 and I went into this new Aladdin fearing the genuine worst as the trailers had been abysmal showing shoddy effects, a director in Mr Ritchie looking out of his depth in directing visual effects and barely showing us the new cast inheriting these wonderful characters, how could this not end up in total failure?

Well surprisingly this does not end up in total failure but it is also not a very good film either, the main reason for this I feel surprisingly is Will Smith as the new Genie, he doesn’t try to redo what the late great Robin Williams did with the role (which is one of the greatest supporting actor performances of any movie ever) but channels some of his own Fresh Prince of Bel Air charm to the role that for the most part works and when he was just Will in an outfit and not Blue I thought it was pretty fun and I enjoyed that part of the film.

However this movie overall is a total mess and firstly I have to talk about the script and it is a real mess, it tries to pad out certain sections of the film while completely ignoring other sections the latter of which tended to be those crucial character building block moments that were so good in the original film beit Jafar’s quest for the Cave of Wonders, Aladdin and Jasmine bonding over their life circumstances, Al and Genie’s friendship and Jafar and Iago’s twisted partnership those elements just feel brushed aside and as a result you find it hard to connect with any of the characters in this new version.

Speaking of them both Ms Scott and Mr Massoud are good young actors and they try their absolute best with what they’ve been handed but they just cannot hold a candle (or a lamp even) to what Scott Weinger and Linda Larkin did in the original film, their versions of the characters had depth to them, a sense of confidence, a shared connection despite their very different lives and you could see why one would fall for the other Aladdin for Jasmine’s free spirit, her beauty and her take no nonsense personality and Jasmine for Aladdin’s charm, humour and that sense that he will love her no matter what.

But the one thing that did worry me the most about this new version was how it would handle Jafar as Jonathan Freeman was so good in that role the stage show basically went and brought him back to reprise the role for that show but here Mr Kenzari is pathetic, woeful and weak as all Smeg rolled into one, he does NOTHING to make this character work and it just feels like the script decided to turn him from an intimidating Vizir/Sorcerer into a buffoon who feels like a joke and after how good Thanos was in Avengers: Endgame this feels even more disappointing.

And I know I have said this so many times people have become so bored of hearing it their wanting to rip their own ears off so they don’t have to hear it anymore but having a strong villain in these kinds of genre films matters, they are so vital to this type of narrative that to me it can make or break your film again go back to Thanos in Infinity War and Endgame his writing and Josh Brolin’s performance were so good and so glued to that 2 parter that I don’t think they would’ve been anywhere near as successful without him and Disney used to pride itself on their villains:

- The original Jafar
- Scar in the Lion King
- Ursula
- The Wicked Queen
- Maleficent
- The Wicked Stepmother
- Gaston

I could go on of course but I’ll stop there and its just so sad that this crucial cog of storytelling seems to just be treated as an afterthought and that has to change.

And so that was the new Aladdin and look its not a bad movie not at all but its not very good either and I just wanted to watch the original movie again after I got home from seeing this new version after all as Thanos says “Where did that bring you? Back to Me” 1.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Film Review - Top End Wedding (2019)

Top End Wedding stars Miranda Tapsell as Lauren a young Indigenous girl who is due to marry her fiancée Ned (Gwilym Lee) but she wants to get married in the top end of the Northern Territory but when her mother has gone missing, Lauren is determined to go and find her so both of her parents can walk her down the aisle.

Top End Wedding was a movie I saw when I wasn’t feeling too good and it did a lot to really lift my spirits up, this is a very nice and romantic movie that really charmed me and won me over, firstly I have to talk about Ms Tapsell she is very likeable with her winning smile, innate charisma and likeable personality that really won me over.

And also I liked seeing Mr Lee again after he played Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody so well many were convinced he looked a whole lot like a young Brian May but here he trades the boofy Brian May hair for a shorter cut and a beard and he was pretty good here as well even if sometimes some of the casting of international actors in Australian films can be hit and miss at times.

And also the film is funny there were numerous references to Die Hard that really made me laugh as did other jokes throughout the film and I can be hit and miss on comedies even though I enjoy going to them from time to time and also the movie made me see why people go to Darwin and the Top End in the Winter months here in the Southern state of Victoria.

The film does a great job really showing off that part of the country with the traditions of indigenous culture and the landscapes and it makes you want to go there to avoid the rain, the wind and the cold of the winter here in Victoria and South Australia which is where I saw the film.

And so that was Top End Wedding a film that will put a smile on your face, give you a good time and make you want to visit Darwin during the Winter months and it was definitely a nice surprise in what has been a pretty bleh year in movies so far, 3 out of 5.

Film Review - John Wick Chapter 3 (2019)

John Wick Chapter 3 takes place after John Wick Chapter 2 and sees Mr Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run after the end of Chapter 2 where a $14,000,000 bounty was placed on him and he was branded Ex-Communicado after killing a man on the grounds of the Continental Hotel but Mr Wick isn’t known as Baba Yaga for a reason and he won’t stop until he’s cleared of it.

John Wick Chapter 3 is an improvement on Chapter 2 but like Chapter 2 is still not as good a movie as Chapter 1 was.

Firstly the action scenes in this movie are breathtaking, the opening one in the library had me grinning and clapping in my seat not to mention there’s one with a horse, with 2 vicious dogs, a small arsenal of weapons, swords on motorcycles and shots to the head at point blank range and all of it is done so well that you don’t find yourself bored with any of it at all I certainly was.

And also more like Chapter 1 and less like Chapter 2, this 3rd Chapter had more of a story to it which really continued to hold my interest in the film outside of the action scenes as Wick goes on the run and tries to find what help he can to clear his name and I really liked the pursuit feel of the main story combined with the action scenes.

As for the performances well Keanu once again shows that this role has really brought out the best in him and at age 55 he’s still kicking all kinds of bottom in the stunts and action department (I can’t wait to see him in Bill and Ted 3 next year) while I also enjoyed seeing Halle Berry and Angelica Huston in their small roles while Ian McShane and Lance Reddick continue to do a lot with their small roles and I’ve enjoyed watching the both of them in all 3 films.

And lastly before I get into the negatives this is a gorgeous looking movie with this cinematography and production design, the look of the criminal underworld with its old style theatres, lavish hotels and Ken Adam esque conference rooms is beautiful to look at and the night photography is really nice as well, this will be a great title on 4K later this year.

But no movie is perfect (well the Star Wars Trilogy is in my eyes but that’s just me) and this movie has a bit of a length problem, it’s a little over 2 hours and by the end of the movie I began to feel the length a little bit and both it and Chapter 2 are in that 120-130 minute length and when compared to the 100 minute or so length of Chapter 1 part of me wishes these 2 sequels had had a similar runtime I would’ve put them more easily on par with Chapter 1.

And so that was John Wick Chapter 3 and its an improvement on Chapter 2 but still falls short of Chapter 1 still it’s a really fun action film that junkies of the genre will have great fun at I sure did, 3 and a half out of 5.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Film Review - Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is a live action Pokemon movie concerning Tim (Justice Smith) who goes to Ryme City a City where humans and Pokemon live in harmony together and he’s gone there to investigate the sudden death of his father Harry but one night while returning home he comes across Harry’s old Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and the two team up to solve the mystery of what happened to Harry.

Detective Pikachu is not a bad movie per se there is a lot in the film that’s fun to watch but it also has a pretty big headache like Psyduck has as well but before I delve more into that I’ll write about what does work.

And that is the world this film creates of Ryme City, the visual world building on display here is terrific you really get swept up in this fictional city and you find yourself spotting all the signs and alleyways and posters on the walls as well as one particular Pokemon that you should avoid at all costs unless your wearing ear muffs and one section in an underground stadium is particularly cool.

The film also tries to develop an intriguing mystery to it concerning some huge aspects to the world of Pokemon and Ryan Reynolds is always good fun to watch and he is clearly having fun voicing Pikachu and doing his Deadpool routine for a younger audience given they couldn’t really go to those movies as their rightly rated MA15+.

But about the Psyduck esque headache the movie has and its in the script, Kathryn Newton’s dialogue first of all is atrocious and she performs it so over the top that every time she came on screen I was put off by how cartoonish she got at times and I am someone who is hungry for serious displays of journalism in film now but this one didn’t work.

And also the script doesn’t really resolve its central mystery very well either, it gets it off to a very promising start and you find yourself following the clues but when all the pieces come together to form the overall jigsaw puzzle I found it a little underwhelming and also this movie desperately needed a much stronger villain to tie it all together and the Pokemon mythos has that sitting there but it doesn’t use it at all and I sorely wish it had used it as the ones that are there are grossly underwhelming.

And this to happen after Thanos had his own 2 parter in the Avengers franchise really makes this feel like a critical hit that cripples this movie.

But I’ll stop there as Detective Pikachu is a fun enough watch but its script issues are of a Psyduck enough headache to hold the film back, 2 and a half out of 5.