Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Film Review: "The Meg" (2018).


The Meg is "opening wide." This science fiction thriller film directed by Jon Turteltaub, adapted by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber, loosely based on the 1997 book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten. After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot megalodon shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible.

The film rights to the book were initially acquired by Disney's Hollywood Pictures in 1996, initially developing it as a George Clooney vehicle. Tom Wheeler was first hired to adapt the book, but was ultimately rejected by the studio. The studio then hired Jeffrey Boam to pen a new draft, which was also resulted in being rejected. By 1999, development on the project had stalled, and the rights reverted back to Alten, due to Disney getting caught cold feet about competing with Warner's 1999 killer shark pic Deep Blue Sea (1999). By 2005, frustrated at the lack of movement on the project, Alten wrote his own draft which he showed to Nick Nunziata and New Line Cinema. Nunziata and the studio in turn delivered the project to Guillermo del Toro. Which led del Toro to present the project to Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, who then brought on director Jan De Bont to helm the film. Shane Salerno was then hired to pen a new script. However, due to budgetary concerns, the project was once again cancelled. The rights reverted to Alten again, and the film remained in development hell. In 2015, it was announced that the project was eventually greenlit by Warner Bros. with a new script by Dean Georgaris, and with Eli Roth as director. However, Roth left the project due to creative differences, and was replaced by Jon Turteltaub in early 2016. By September, Jason Statham, along with Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Shuya Sophia Cai, and Masi Oka, rounded out the cast. In late October, Principal photography on the film began, and concluded in early January 2017. Locations included West Auckland, New Zealand, and Sanya City, Hainan, China.

The film stars Statham, Li, Wilson, Rose, Chao, Curtis, Cai, and Oka. Like other popcorn monster movies, the film is populated with dumb but fun caricatures of real people who were to face an absurd but extraordinary situation such as trying to hunt down and kill a megalodon. Statham is the cheesiest that he's ever been in the role of Taylor, delivering everything from the "tough-guy" attitude to the cheesy but awesome one-liners.

Aside from a few problems, The Meg is dumb but fun. It might not be Turteltaub's finest two hours, but he managed to build something that gives you great excitement every few minutes. The film is essentially one well-done action sequence after another. It knows its audience, and it knows how to use timing, suspense, and especially surprise to get them going. It's a great popcorn movie, and it's what summer at the cineplex is all about.

Simon says The Meg receives:


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Film Review: "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" (2018).


"Some missions are not a choice." This is Mission: Impossible - Fallout. This action spy film written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. It is the sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series, and the sequel to Rogue Nation (2015). Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.

Talks for a sixth Mission: Impossible film began prior to the release of Rogue Nation in 2015. In November 2015, the film was officially green-lit, with McQuarrie confirming his return as writer and director, as well as producer alongside Cruise, with plans to begin shooting in August 2016. By June 2017, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin were all confirmed to reprise their roles. In the same month, Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett were confirmed to join the cast. Principal photography began in April 2017, and concluded in March 2018. Locations included the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway and the United Arab Emirates. Filming lasted 161 shooting days, a few months of filming was halted due to Cruise's injury with his ankle while performing a stunt in London. In August 2017, he was able to grab onto the other building thanks to a harness strapped onto him, but his ankle fractured upon the impact of the jump. Cruise then got up and attempted to run it off, which was what the scene called for, before he and the crew decided to stop filming. The footage of the stunt used in the film and its trailers just so happened to be the actual injury.

The cast includes Cruise, Rhames, Pegg, Ferguson, Harris, Monaghan and Baldwin, with Cavill and Bassett. The performances given by the cast made this instalment more action-packed than its predecessor. Cruise once again proves he is an action star without equal by uping the ante. But Cavill and Harris proved to be less than memorable or intimidating adversaries, giving wooden and under-utilized performances.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout continues the franchise's thrilling resurgence. Somehow, the franchise keeps topping itself, and this instalment proves to be one of the most entertaining Ethan Hunt adventures. The franchise still has plenty of fight left in it, with no signs of slowing down. However, rather than go full auteur on the formulaic material, McQuarrie instead offers a kind of greatest-hits package: Fallout marries the shifting loyalties of Brian De Palma's original to the kinetic action beats of John Woo's series nadir and the all-set-piece structure of Brad Bird's series zenith, yet adding a less omnipotent villain than the one Philip Seymour Hoffman played in J.J. Abrams' entry. In some ways, it’s the least visually or conceptually distinctive of the five movies, leaning on what's worked before rather than forging its own path. Nonetheless, it's still breathlessly thrilling to the point where all you can do is pick your jaw off your lap and grin at the breathtakingly bananas spectacle you've just witnessed.

Simon says Mission: Impossible - Fallout receives:


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