Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Film Review: "Johnny English Strikes Again" (2018).


"When only the best will do. And no-one else is available." Get ready, Johnny English Strikes Again. This action comedy film directed by David Kerr, written by William Davies, based on the characters by Davies, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade. It is a sequel to Johnny English Reborn and the third instalment in the Johnny English series. The new adventure begins when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English as the Secret Service's last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives head first into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analog methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success.

In May 2017, it was announced that Rowan Atkinson would be reprising the role of Johnny English in the sequel to Johnny English Reborn. Marking Atkinson's first movie trilogy. It's rumoured that this will be the last Johnny English movie and that Atkinson will play the role for the last time after 15 years. In early August 2017, Working Title Films announced that they had begun production and filming with the director David Kerr. Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, and Emma Thompson rounded the cast. Miller reprises his role as Bough from Johnny English (2003). He did appear in Johnny English Reborn, however his scenes were cut. Kurylenko was cast in leading role that would be a spoof of her Bond girl in Quantum of Solace (2008). Thompson was cast in a supporting role, which was kept a secret during production. Which was not revealed until the debut of the theatrical trailer. Principal photography took place in Welham Green, Hertfordshire; Gloucestershire; and the Saint Aygulf beach, Var, France. Like the previous films, the production utilized one of Atkinson's car. This time it's an Aston Martin V8 Vantage classic. In an interview, Atkinson told that he bought the car just six months before shooting, and had the car in mind for the film. In early April 2018, the title was revealed to be Johnny English Strikes Again, with a teaser trailer released the day after.

It stars Atkinson, Miller, Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, and Thompson. The cast may not have given the best performances but it was performances that were hilarious.Atkinson gave another hilarious performance as the "iconic" spy. , Miller like Atkinson, also gave a hilarious performance who always seems to keep English in check most of the time. Kurylenko gave a sleek performance despite her lack of chemistry with Atkinson. Lacy proved to be one of the least threatening villains in the series, despite being a slight improvement on the last one. Finally, Thompson gave a more contrasted performance to Atkinson, despite leaving behind moments of very sardonic humour.

While the film is messy and doesn't make much sense, Johnny English Strikes Again, the third instalment of the franchise, contains enough inspired bits to entertain. Definitely funnier than its predecessor.

Simon says Johnny English Strikes Again receives:



Also, see my review for Johnny English Reborn.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Film Review: "Halloween" (2018).


"Face your fate" with Halloween (2018). This slasher film directed by David Gordon Green, and written by Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride. It is the eleventh installment in the Halloween film series, and a direct sequel to the 1978 film of the same name, while retconing of all previous sequels. It's been 40 years since Laurie Strode survived a vicious attack from crazed killer Michael Myers on Halloween night. Locked up in an institution, Myers manages to escape when his bus transfer goes horribly wrong. Laurie now faces a terrifying showdown when the masked madman returns to Haddonfield - but this time, she's ready for him.

In 2011, a new Halloween movie was in development from Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, as well as well as Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. However, in December 2015, after failing to develop a new Halloween movie in time, Dimension Films lost the production rights for a sequel. Ultimately, the rights reverted back to Miramax. In May 2016, Miramax partnered with Blumhouse Productions to co-finance, with original co-creator John Carpenter to shepherd the film, and with Universal Pictures distributing. In early February 2017, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride were announced as director and co-writers. In mid September, Jamie Lee Curtis announced on Twitter that she would be reprising her role as Laurie Strode for the film. Making this Curtis' fifth portrayal of Laurie Strode after Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), and Halloween: Resurrection (2002). In late December, it was announced that Nick Castle, who had portrayed Michael Myers in the original film, would reprise his role, with actor and stuntman James Jude Courtney set to portray Myers as well. By late July, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Haluk Bilginer, Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees, and Toby Huss rounded out the cast, with Judy Greer and Andi Matichak winning the coveted roles of Laurie's daughter and granddaughter, Karen and Allyson. In October, it was announced that Carpenter would compose the score with his son Cody and his godson Daniel Davies. The film marks the return of Carpenter to composing since Ghost of Mars (2001). Principal photography commenced in mid January 2018, and concluded in mid February, under the working/production title of Uncle Orange. Filming took place in Charleston, South Carolina, lasting twenty-eight days.

The film stars Curtis, Greer, Matichak, Patton, Gardner, Bilginer, Hall, Rees, Huss, and Castle. Robust performances were given by the cast, particularly that of Curtis who returned to the role that defined her career and the Final Girl archetype. Instead of giving us the same Laurie from the first film, Curtis gave us a more prepared, well-armed, and bad-ass version, akin to Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

With Halloween, Green and McBride obviously know the franchise well and they built a film with the properly terrifying Halloween atmosphere through a well-crafted narrative. It's the most effective entry. Perhaps not quite so resonant as the original to which it pays due homage, but it nevertheless breathes the same air.

Simon says Halloween (2018) receives:



Also, see my review for Stronger.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Film Review: "First Man" (2018).


"Experience the impossible journey to the Moon." Experience First Man. This biographical drama film directed by Damien Chazelle, written by Josh Singer, based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. The film looks at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

In early 2003, Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. bought the film rights to Hansen's book. In 2015, Universal and DreamWorks ultimately took up the project. After the release of Whiplash (2014), Damien Chazelle signed onto the film's production that year, and hired Josh Singer to rewrite an existing script. Chazelle wanted to approach this story as a thriller and make the public feel the dangers faced by the astronaut team. In November 2015, Gosling, who starred in Chazelle's La La Land (2016), joined the project to portray Armstrong. In November 2017, Principal photography began in Atlanta and Roswell, Georgia. Chazelle was particularly attached to making his film as authentic as possible. Chazelle, as well as Gosling, visited the Armstrong Air and Space museum in Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio to do research on Armstrong and the Gemini VIII mission. This care for detail was maintained, even with the reproduction of the space capsules and Armstrong's home. For the space capsules, Chazelle and production designer Nathan Crowley agreed that no ship would be enlarged by more than 10%, even if it sacrificed the comfort of the actors. For Armstrong's home, using the original blueprints, the production crew built a replica of it in an empty lot in order to replicate the look of his house. Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren chose to shoot the Moon landing sequence on IMAX 70mm film as opposed to the 16mm and 35mm film the rest of the film was shot on. The sequence was shot in a local rock quarry at night. For the film's score, composer Justin Hurwitz featured various uncommon instruments including the theremin, Moog synthesizer and an Echoplex, which give the score its uniqueness. He also rerecorded a string orchestra being played back through a Leslie rotor cabinet to create special sound effects.

The film stars Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit, and Lukas Haas. The cast gave stellar performances that were acted without pumped-up histrionics. It is because of the ensemble that the film is one hell of a ride from beginning to end.

In recreating the troubled space mission through the eyes of one of the legendary astronauts, First Man pulls no punches: it's a masterfully told drama from director Damien Chazelle, bolstered by an ensemble of solid performances. Chazelle lays off the manipulation to tell the true story of the dangerous 1969 Apollo 11 mission in painstaking and lively detail. It's easily one of the best films of the year. Although, I just wish that it worked better in the biographical drama department. Nonetheless, it's absolutely thrilling.

Simon says First Man receives:



Also, see my review for La La Land.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Film Review: "Bad Times at the El Royale" (2018).


"All Roads Lead Here." This is Bad Times at the El Royale. This neo-noir thriller film written, produced and directed by Drew Goddard. The film is set circa 1968, several strangers, most with a secret to bury, meet by chance at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one night, everyone will show their true colors - before everything goes to hell.

In early March 2017, it was announced that 20th Century Fox had bought Goddard's spec script Bad Times at the El Royale, which he would also direct and produce. The script was sold under total secrecy involving only the eyes and interest of top studio execs. Where the potential buyers has to read it on the spot and then return it when finished. In late August 2017, Jeff Bridges had been cast. That same day, Chris Hemsworth had also been cast, Hemsworth had to lose 25-30 lbs of muscle weight immediately after Avengers: Infinity War (2018) wrapped to star in this film. It was also reported that Tom Holland had passed on a role, and that Beyoncé was being courted for the role. Ultimately, Lewis Pullman won the role from Holland in May, and Cynthia Erivo won the role from Beyoncé. Later in the same month, newcomer Cailee Spaeny was added to the cast. In January 2018, Dakota Johnson and Russell Crowe joined the cast. In February, Jon Hamm (replacing Crowe), Nick Offerman and Mark O'Brien joined the cast. Principal photography on the film began in late January, locations included Vancouver and Burnaby, British Columbia.

The film stars Bridges, Erivo, Johnson, Hamm, Spaeny, Pullman, Offerman, Dolan, Whigham, and Hemsworth. The film doesn't drag because Goddard has stacked the deck with a cast and characters so wild and dangerously exciting that you almost want to slap your own hands for cheering these grimy characters in their sinister pursuits. As for Hemsworth, I think he gives one of the best, if not the best, performance of his career.

Bad Times at the El Royale offers another well-aimed round from Drew Goddard's signature blend of action, humor, and thrills - all while demonstrating an even stronger grip on his filmmaking craft. A high-wire thriller, full of masterfully executed twists, captivating dialogue, and a wildly entertaining narrative that gallops along at a pace to make the hundred-and-forty-one minutes evaporate in an instant. This is Goddard. And it's very entertaining, even when it's entertainingly , which happens a lot in this overlong movie's extended third act. This is a parlour-room epic, an entire ensemble in a single room, a film steeped in its own filminess but at the same time vital, riveting and real. Only Goddard can do this, and he’s done it again. However, the film often feels more like a sadistic stage play than a movie. The film is a lot of things. Boring, of course, isn't one of them. It is not a perfect film but this was damn-near the slow burn masterpiece my inner cinephile deserved.

Simon says Bad Times at the El Royale receives:



Also, see my review for The Cabin in the Woods.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Film Review: "A Star Is Born" (2018).


"Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it... that's a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you'll never know. That's just the truth..." This is the heart and soul of A Star Is BornThis musical romantic drama film produced and directed by Bradley Cooper (in his directorial debut), and written by Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters. It is the fourth remake of the original 1937 film, after the 1954 musical, the 1976 rock musical, and the 2013 Bollywood romance film. The film follows seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers-and falls in love with-struggling artist Ally. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer - until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

In 2011, talks of a remake of A Star Is Born began, with Clint Eastwood attached to direct, Beyoncé set to star, and a Kurt Cobain-inspired script penned by Fetters. For several years, the film lingered in development hell, after Beyoncé's pregnancy. Various actors were approached to co-star, these included; Christian Bale, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Selena Gomez, Kesha, Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato, Janelle Monáe, Rihanna, Shakira, and Esperanza Spalding. In March 2016, Cooper signed on to star and direct, and, in August, Lady Gaga signed on to play the female lead. By May 2017, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Michael Harney, and Dave Chappelle joined the cast. Principal photography began in April, and production was completed over a forty-two-day shoot. Locations included Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and Pyramid Stage of Glastonbury festival. The look of the film was said to be inspired by a Metallica concert Cooper saw when he was sixteen years old. The musical performances were done live as it was Gaga who pushed for this, since she always hated watching movies where the actors were not lip-syncing correctly to the songs. To avoid this and get it right they needed to sing live for the film. This was what caused Cooper to get more extensive vocal training. Many of the songs in the film were written by Lukas Nelson (son of country music singer Willie Nelson) and Lady Gaga, and produced by Mark Ronson.

The film stars Cooper, Lady Gaga, Elliott, Clay, Gavron, Harney, and Chappelle. There's not a single wrong note in any of the performances given by the cast. Cooper gave an amazingly adept, heartfelt performance as the doomed musician. Lady Gaga gives a stellar turn as the young, struggling, aspiring singer, whose tender chemistry with Cooper works entirely. Her fantastic and surprising acting chops shows to the best advantage her already incredible musical talent.

This new rendition of A Star Is Born has the rare distinction of being a superlative remake.

Simon says A Star Is Born (2018) receives:


Monday, 8 October 2018

Film Review: "Venom" (2018).


"Embrace your inner anti-hero" with Venom. This superhero film directed by Ruben Fleischer, written by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is the first film in Sony's Marvel Universe. Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake's experiments, Eddie's body merges with the alien Venom - leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.

Sony first began developing a Venom film after the character made his cinematic debut in Spider-Man 3 (2007). However, the project fell into Development Hell, with various iterations. Shortly after the franchise was rebooted with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), the film was announced once again, though this time within continuity of the Webb series. After the negative reception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) was released, Sony and Marvel decided to once again reboot the franchise and place a Venom spin-off on hold. In March 2016, the project was again revived as a standalone film launching its own franchise, unrelated to Sony and Marvel Studio's new Spider-Man films. A year later, Sony set the film with a October 5, 2018 release date, with Rosenberg and Pinkner penning the script. Adi Shankar and Adam Wingard were both shortlisted to direct before Fleischer was ultimately chosen in May 2017. In the same month, Tom Hardy would star as the titular character. Loosely based on Venom: Lethal Protector and Planet of the Symbiotes, the film is also influenced by the film of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, as well as An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Ghostbusters (1984). By October, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Jenny Slate, and Reid Scott rounded out the cast. Principal photography began in October 2017, in Atlanta, New York City, and San Francisco. Inspired by 20th Century Fox's success with Deadpool (2016) and Logan (2017), the film was initially slated for an R-rating. However, this was changed to a PG-13 much to the chagrin of many fans, in order to allow more possible crossovers.

The film stars Hardy, Williams, Ahmed, Haze, Slate, and Scott. Hardy gave a terrific performance as the titular anti-hero. Despite their best efforts, Williams, Ahmed, Haze, Slate, and Scott's performances were no match for Hardy's, and came off as rather dull due to given very little to properly flesh out their characters and to do.

Though Hardy gives his all, he can't help Venom overcome a cliche-ridden script and familiar narrative. It's an O.K., not great, Marvel movie that tells the early story of the villain-turned-anti-hero, and attempts to make it climax in a perfect coupling with the start of another MCU-style universe. Hardy is capable of carrying even the most ridiculous effort, he singlehandedly makes the film an excellent start to the 2018 Fall season.

Simon says Venom receives:


See my review for Gangster Squad.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Film Review: "The House with a Clock on Its Walls" (2018).


"This house knows what makes you tick." This is The House with a Clock in its Walls. This family fantasy film directed by Eli Roth, adapted by Eric Kripke, based on the 1973 juvenile fiction novel of the same name by John Bellairs. Ten-year-old Lewis goes to live with his oddball uncle in a creaky old house that contains a mysterious `tick tock' noise. He soon learns that Uncle Jonathan and his feisty neighbour, Mrs Zimmerman, are powerful practitioners of the magic arts. When Lewis accidentally awakens the dead, the town's sleepy facade suddenly springs to life, revealing a secret and dangerous world of witches, warlocks and deadly curses.

Though it is the first theatrical adaptation of the novel, it is not the first adaptation. The story was first adapted as a television episode of CBS Library (1979). Screenwriter Eric Kripke was a fan of the book. He has even stated that the novel was the original inspiration of the long running CW television show, Supernatural (2005), which he created. He has also said that he wrote in a few Supernatural "Easter Eggs" as a way of paying tribute. The film marks as the first literary adaptation, the first Gothic family film, as well as the first movie not to be rated R for director Eli Roth. Which he was hired to helm the director's chair after the disastrous development of The Meg, Roth left the project after citing creative differences with Warner Bros. Principal photography on the film began in early October 2017.

The film stars Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, and Lorenza Izzo. The cast gave terrific performances, in particular Black and Blanchett. Both of them fire up a stampede of comic terrors ready made for the film. Sure it's exhausting. But, knowing the film's audience, they let it rip.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls 
boasts more than enough kid-friendly charm from its spooky source material to make up for some slightly scattershot humour and a hurried pace. Nothing about the film is revolutionary, but it's a never-boring trip to a world, where stories and imagination are powerful tools, that just might inspire kids to do the scariest thing of all: pick up a book. The film isn't detached or ironic, nor does it pretend to be something it's not. It's a bonus for fans who pored over the books and it celebrates the fun side of things going bump in the night. It respects the novel you love while having fun with the characters and doing some interesting things with John Bellairs. Can you really ask for anything more than a wonderful celebration of John Bellairs' imagination? The film is not a faithful adaptation of the books, but it is a fun introduction to horror for kids. The film finds that balance, managing to capture not only the charm of Stine's work, but the scares as well, without straying too far in either direction.

Simon says The House with a Clock in Its Walls receives: