Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Film Review: "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" (2018).


"He's going to need a vacation after this vacation." This is Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. This computer-animated comedy film directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, written by Tartakovsky and Michael McCullers, and produced by Sony Pictures Animation. The monster family embarks on a vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship so Drac can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else's vacation at the hotel. It's smooth sailing for Drac's Pack as the monsters indulge in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on their moon tans. But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis realizes Drac has fallen for the mysterious captain of the ship, Ericka, who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind.

In September 2015, before the release of Hotel Transylvania 2, Sony was "talking about number 3 and moving forward and taking the franchise to the next level." In the same month, Tartakovsky revealed that he would not be returning, due to working on Can You Imagine? Even though the project would later be shelved. Tartakovsky told TheWrap that "two is enough. I have a lot of other ideas, and I kind of have to express them and have them come out." In November 2015, Sony Pictures Animation announced that the third film, under the tentative title of Hotel Transylvania 3. It was also confirmed that Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, and Mel Brooks would return to reprise their roles. In June 2016, Sony and Tartakovsky confirmed that he would be returning for the film, despite previously leaving the series to develop other projects, including the final season of Samurai Jack. According to Tartakovsky, he returned after he got an inspiration from a "miserable" family vacation and major inspiration for the film from the Chevy Chase National Lampoon's Vacation movies as the film would take place aboard a cruise ship. Another idea for the film was to properly introduce Van Helsing. An idea that was dropped from the first film where Johnny was a descendant of Van Helsing, which would have created more conflict between Dracula and Johnny. By early November 2017, the film had been entitled as Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. Despite having a September 21, 2018 release date, the film was pushed forward two months to allow Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018) to take that date, though that film would later be pushed back a month to October 12th the same year.

The film features the voice talents of Sandler, Samberg, Gomez, James, Spade, Buscemi, Key, Shannon, and Brooks, reprising their roles, with new additions Kathryn Hahn and Jim Gaffigan. Despite giving hilarious performances, one can't help but feel that the series has become a rickety skeleton designed for Sandler and company to drop their litany of cornball punchlines and gags.

While Genndy Tartakovsky's animation is top-notch, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation doesn't live up to the first two monster mash.

Simon says Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation receives:


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Film Review: "Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018).


"Real heroes. Not actual size." They are Ant-Man and the Wasp. The superhero film directed by Peyton Reed, written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, with Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari, based on the Marvel Comics characters, and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the sequel to 2015's Ant-Man, and the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

Talks for a sequel began three months after the release of Ant-Man. Reed, Kevin Feige, and Michael Douglas expressed interest in returning for a sequel or prequel. Douglas expressed the desire to have his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones play Janet Van Dyne, and Evangeline Lilly had Michelle Pfeiffer on her wish list to play Janet. Sharon Stone was considered for Janet as well. In October 2015, Marvel Studios confirmed the sequel, titled Ant-Man and the Wasp, with a scheduled release date of July 6, 2018, with Rudd and Lilly returning to reprise their roles. The film was placed in Marvel's packed Phased Three lineup, and subsequently moved the release dates of Black Panther (2018) and Captain Marvel (2019). A month later, Reed was officially returning to direct. In the same month, Adam McKay, one of the original writers, expressed interest in returning. Reed mentioned that pre-production would "probably" start in October 2016, with filming scheduled for early 2017. Two of the original writers, Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer, signed on to write the script along with Rudd, with writing starting "in earnest" in January 2016. In early November 2016, pre-production began. In February 2017, Douglas was confirmed to return. At San Diego Comic-Con 2017, the cast was rounded out with Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Walton Goggins, Judy Greer, Laurence Fishburne, and Pfeiffer. Reed was inspired by the films After Hours (1985), Midnight Run (1988), and What's Up, Doc? (1972) for the look and feel of the film. Filming took place from August to November 2017, at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County, Georgia, as well as Metro Atlanta, San Francisco, Savannah, Georgia, and Hawaii. In June 2017, Reed confirmed that Christophe Beck, the original composer, would return to score the film.

It stars Rudd, Lilly, Peña, Cannavale, Greer, Harris, Dastmalchian, Fortson, and Douglas reprising their roles, with Goggins, John-Kamen, Park, Fishburne, and Pfeiffer. The cast, despite their best efforts, gave comically-insufferable and cliched performances that relied upon one too many cliches and jokes to flesh out their characters. Pfeiffer's screen time as Janet was criminally limited, hopefully it will be extended the next time round.

Everything tolerable about Ant-Man, a mere three years ago, has vanished with its sequel. In its place, Ant-Man and the Wasp has substituted noise, cliches, multiple villains, irrelevant stunts, misguided story lines, and insufferable jokes. It isn't as tolerable as its predecessor.

Simon says Ant-Man and the Wasp receives:


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Film Review: "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" (2018).


"'No Rules this time" Gear up for Sicario: Day of the Soldado. This action thriller film directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan. It is the sequel to 2015's Sicario. The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

"Soldado MF /Sol.'Da.Do/. (Dia do Soldado) used to describe a Latin-American soldier; In Spanish and Portuguese, Soldado means Soldier." In September 2015, after the release of Sicario, Lionsgate commissioned a sequel centering on Benecio del Toro's character, Alejandro Gillick, with a script penned by Sheridan, and Denis Villeneuve initially set to direct. However, due to scheduling conflicts with Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Villeneuve could not return to direct. Jeremy Saulnier was considered to replace Villeneuve, but declined due to scheduling conflicts with Hold the Dark (2018). In April 2016, the producers said del Toro, Josh Brolin and Emily Blunt would return. However, in November 2016, del Toro and Brolin were confirmed, but Blunt was no longer attached. By Early June 2016, Sollima was hired to direct what was now titled Soldado. In late October, Lionsgate lost the distribution rights from Black Label Media after a disagreement. Ultimately, Columbia Pictures won the rights. By January 2017, Catherine Keener, Isabela Moner, David Castaneda, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jeffrey Donovan, Elijah Rodriguez, Matthew Modine and Ian Bohen joined the cast. Principal photography began in early November 2016 in New Mexico. After Jóhann Jóhannsson's death in February 2018, Hildur Guðnadóttir took over as composer, after collaborating with Jóhannsson on the first film as cello soloist.

The film features del Toro, Brolin, and Donovan reprising their roles, with Moner, Garcia-Rulfo, and Keener. The cast, both old and new, gave intense performances that takes their characters into new and uncertain territories. Del Toro gives it his all and turns in another stellar performance as the enigmatic Mexican attorney-turned-hitman. Along with del Toro is the morally-ambiguous Brolin, who seems to have taken somewhat of a backseat given his character's place in the story, and thus has made it less interesting.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado didn't seem quite so lively, quite so fresh, or quite so intellectually interesting as its predecessor. The film is composed of situations, not plots. The fact that this film is constructed to endorse the exercise of murderers, to emphasize killer bravado and generate glee in frantic manifestations of war is, to my mind, a sharp indictment of it as so-called entertainment today. The film is not great film-making. But it is fun enough. Don't miss it. This is to say, don't miss it if you can still get the least bit of fun out of muted action and politically-cliched drama with its melodramatization and exaggeration on America's desperate war on cartels with morally-ambiguous and sinister characters on both sides driven to a grand, gritty, illogical and improbable point.

Simon says Sicario: Day of the Soldado receives:


Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Film Review: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" (2018).


"The park is gone." Welcome to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. This science fiction adventure film directed by J. A. Bayona, written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, and based on the characters by Michael Crichton. It is the sequel to Jurassic World (2015), and the fifth instalment of the Jurassic Park film series. When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.

In April 2014, before the release of Jurassic World, Trevorrow announced that sequels had been discussed. Trevorrow said Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard might reprise their roles for the next few films, and said he would direct the film if asked. However, in May 2015, Trevorrow announced that he would not direct another film in the series. In early June, Trevorrow met with producer Frank Marshall and Universal Studios to discuss a sequel. Later that month, Trevorrow and Connolly devised the basic story during a road trip that they took immediately after the release of Jurassic World. In late July, Universal announced that a fifth film had been scheduled for a June 22 2018 release date, with a script written by Trevorrow and Connolly, and with Pratt and Howard set to reprise their roles. In mid April 2016, J. A. Bayona was announced as the film's director. In September, Bayona confirmed that the film would be the second chapter in a planned Jurassic World trilogy, and compared the film to Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). By April 2017, Toby Jones, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, B. D. Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon, and Jeff Goldblum rounded out the cast. Filming began in late February, and wrapped in July, with Hawaii and the United Kingdom as locations. Filming lasted for 134 days, and was shot under the code name Ancient Futures. The film was shot with Arri Alexa 65 cameras, and in CinemaScope. The film features more dinosaurs than any previous film in the series, as Bayona wanted to include several new dinosaurs not previously seen in earlier films. The film also features more animatronic dinosaurs than any previous sequel, which were more technologically advanced than in the previous films. Neal Scanlan served as the film's creature effects creative supervisor, while Vickery and Alex Wuttke served as visual effects supervisors. Scanlan worked on the animatronic dinosaurs, while Vickery and Wuttke created CGI versions of the dinosaurs with their ILM team. 

The film stars Pratt, Howard, Wong, and Goldblum, reprising their roles, with Spall, Smith, Pineda, Cromwell, Jones, Levine, Sermon, and Chaplin. Unlike the dinosaurs themselves, the cast were not able to demonstrate the visible signs of realism as they were bound by plot conventions and action formulas.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom demonstrates how much the franchise has lost its magic, and how difficult it can be to put together a truly compelling sequel.

Simon says Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom receives:

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Film Review: "Incredibles 2" (2018).



It's "back to work" for the Parr family in Incredibles 2. This computer-animated superhero film written and directed by Brad Bird, and produced by Pixar Animation Studios. It is the sequel to 2004's The Incredibles. Everyone’s favourite family of superheroes is back - but this time Helen is in the spotlight, leaving Bob at home with Violet and Dash to navigate the day-to-day heroics of "normal" life. It’s a tough transition for everyone, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack’s emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone must find a way to work together again - which is easier said than done, even when they’re all Incredible.

Over the years, Bird expressed an interest in making a sequel to The Incredibles. But stated that he would only do a sequel if he could come up with a story that was just as good as, or better than, its predecessor. In March 2014, it was finally confirmed, by Disney CEO/chairman Bob Iger at the Disney shareholder meeting, that a sequel was in the works. Around April 2015, Bird started the script, and said that it would be his next film after Tomorrowland (2015). Bird faced multiple challenges crafting the film, the biggest of all was finding a way to distinguish the film from other films and television shows within the superhero genre since the first film's release. By July 2017, original cast members Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell and Samuel L. Jackson would return to reprise their roles. By January 2018, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, Isabella Rossellini, and Jonathan Banks rounded out the cast. For the film, Milner took over voicing Dash, as the character's original voice actor Spencer Fox's voice had deepened since the first film. While Banks voiced Rick Dicker, after the character's original voice actor, Bud Luckey, retired in 2014, and died in 2018. In 2015, Bird confirmed that Michael Giacchino would return to compose the score. Giacchino began work on it around May 2017. Originally scheduled for a June 21 2019 release date, Pixar swapped its release date with Toy Story 4's June 15 2018 due to this film being completed ahead of schedule, whilst the other film was lagging in production.

The film stars Nelson, Hunter, Vowell, Jackson, and Bird, reprising their roles, with newcomers Milner, Odenkirk, Keener, Bush, and Banks. The cast, both old and new, delivered entertaining performances that captured the heroics of its predecessor, and more than the slew of modern superhero movies leaping into theatres.

I always thought there should be a sequel to The Incredibles. Finally it's here, and we are pretty happy. For me, Incredibles 2 was just as an emotional experience as the first film. Instead of essentially remaking an earlier film and deeming it a sequel, the creative team, led by director Brad Bird, delves deeper into their characters and world, while retaining the fun spirit of the original film.

Simon says Incredibles 2 receives:



See my review for Tomorrowland at http://ss-film.blogspot.com/2015/05/film-review-tomorrowland-2015.html

See my review for Finding Dory at http://ss-film.blogspot.com/2016/06/film-review-finding-dory-2016.html

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Film Review: "Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2018).


"Never tell him the odds" in Solo: A Star Wars Story. This space opera Western film directed by Ron Howard, written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, based on the character Han Solo created by George Lucas. It is the second Star Wars anthology films following 2016's Rogue One. Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission - the Millennium Falcon.

Before Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, development on a young Han Solo film began in 2012 with George Lucas. Lucas hired Lawrence Kasdan to pen a script, and was later joined by his son, Jonathan just before he left to work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Later, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were hired to helm the film. In January 2016, a shortlist of actors considered for the scruffy-looking nerfherder was revealed to include: Dave Franco, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Miles Teller, Nick Robinson, Leo Howard, Tony Oller, Chandler Riggs, Hunter Parrish, Rami Malek, Landon Liboiron, Ed Westwick, Tom Felton, Joshua Sasse, Logan Lerman, Ansel Elgort, Jack Reynor, Colton Haynes, Max Thieriot, Scott Eastwood, Chris Pratt, Emory Cohen, Taron Egerton, Jack O'Connell, Blake Jenner, and Alden Ehrenreich. Ultimately, Ehrenreich won the role. Lord and Miller said that while they liked a lot of the other actors they read with, they increasingly said, "The first guy we saw was the best for the part." By late July, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton, Joonas Suotamo, and Michael K. Williams rounded out the cast. In February 2017, Principal Photography began, locations included Pinewood Studios in London, England, the Dolomites, Veneto, Italy, and the Canary Islands. In June, shortly before filming was to be completed, Lord and Miller were fired by Lucasfilm due to "creative differences", and a new director was "to be announced soon." Shortly there after, Ron Howard was hired to take over the director's chair over Joe Johnston and Kasdan. In October 2017, production wrapped, and it was reported that Howard had re-shot more than 80% of the film, with Williams' role removed, and Paul Bettany was cast. With an estimated budget of at least $250 million, it is the most expensive Star Wars film ever made.

The film stars Ehrenreich, Harrelson, Clarke, Glover, Newton, Waller-Bridge, Suotamo, and Bettany. The cast gave terrific performances despite riddled with archetypal cliches and predictable character motivations associated with the genre.

Though the cast, including Alden Ehrenreich, give their all, they can't help Solo: A Star Wars Story overcome a cliche-ridden script and a horrendously compromised vision. It's a mediocre Star Wars movie that tells the early story of the titular smuggler and attempts to make it climax in a perfect coupling with the start of the known trilogy.

Simon says Solo: A Star Wars Story receives:



See my review for Inferno at http://ss-film.blogspot.com/2016/10/film-review-inferno-2016.html

See my review for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at http://ss-film.blogspot.com/2016/12/film-review-rogue-one-star-wars-story.html

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Film Review: "Deadpool 2" (2018).


"He's not coming alone" in Deadpool 2. This superhero film directed by David Leitch, written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is the eleventh installment in the X-Men film series, and a direct sequel to Deadpool (2016). After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry's hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the Yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor - finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World's Best Lover.

Plans for a sequel was announced 3 days before the film's release, and were confirmed in February 2016.  The original team of Reynolds, Reese, Wernick, and director Tim Miller were set to return for the sequel. However, in October 2016, Miller left the project due to creative differences with Reynolds. Miller later stated that he left the sequel because he "didn't want to make some stylized movie that was 3 times the budget", and wished to create the same kind of film that made the first one a success. After Miller's departure, Rupert Sanders, Drew Goddard, Magnus Martens, and Leitch were considered by the studio to replace Miller. Ultimately, Leitch was chosen to direct. In the same month, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lizzy Caplan, Kerry Washington, Sienna Miller, Ruby Rose, Mackenzie Davis, Kelly Rohrbach, Eve Hewson, Sofia Boutella, Stephanie Sigman, Sylvia Hoeks, and Janelle Monáe were considered for the role of Domino. Zazie Beetz was ultimately cast, which was met with backlash from fans. In March 2017, an extensive casting search took place for the role of Cable that included Dolph Lundgren, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman, Pierce Brosnan, David Harbour, and Josh Brolin. Brolin was ultimately cast. Filming began in May and concluded in October, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The production wrapped on the same day that X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) wrapped it's production. Originally scheduled to be released on June 1 2018, the release date was pushed forward to May 18 2018.

The film stars Reynolds in the title role, alongside Brolin, Beetz, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, and Jack Kesy. The original cast gave another round of solidly entertaining performances that expands upon the first film, with Reynolds' being the strongest, comical, and surprisingly emotional. The new cast members are a welcome addition who injected new flavour into the already colourful ensemble.

Although the film itself succumbs to overly-outrageous cartoonish antics, Deadpool 2 is one superhero movie that manages to stay true to the original while expanding its universe. It features some larger-than-life action sequences, absurdly comical references and jokes, and new colourful characters.

Simon says Deadpool 2 receives: