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:



Also, see my review for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Film Review: "Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle" ("ゴジラ: 決戦機動増殖都市") (2018).


"The last hope of mankind <Mechagodzilla>, is activated" in Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. This Japanese computer-animated science fiction kaiju film directed by Kōbun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita, written by Gen Urobuchi, produced by Toho Animation, and animated by Polygon Pictures. This is the 33rd film in the Godzilla franchise, the 31st Godzilla film produced by Toho, and the second entry in the anime trilogy. It is the sequel to Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017). Haruo and his allies encounter a mysterious aboriginal tribe descended from the humans left behind on Earth 20,000 years ago, and they uncover a mechanized city-sized fortress formed from the long-lost anti-Godzilla weapon called Mechagodzilla.

The second installment in the anime trilogy was announced in a second post-credits scene in the theatrical release of the film revealing the film's Japanese title, poster featuring Mechagodzilla and the film's 2018 release date. The film's Japanese title was revealed as Gojira: Kessen Kidō Zōshoku Toshi (translations varied from Godzilla: Battle Mobile Breeding City to Godzilla: The City Mechanized for the Final Battle), while the English title was later revealed as Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. In March 2018, the film's official website revealed a new poster, plot details, and that singer XAI will return to perform the film's theme song The Sky Falls. The English dub was produced by Post Haste Digital. Takayuki Hattori will return to compose the soundtrack, marking it his fourth Godzilla film score.

This film features Mechagodzilla, Godzilla's mechanical doppelganger that was first introduced in Gojira tai Mekagojira (1974), and made its most recent appearance in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). Mechagodzilla was originally a weapon constructed by alien invaders, but in subsequent films has typically been portrayed as a human-built weapon created to defend the human race from Godzilla and other monsters. This version of Mechagodzilla combines both portrayals, with it being built by the Bilusaludo aliens but with the purpose of defending the Earth from Godzilla. This will be the first Godzilla film to be a sequel to a prior film in the franchise since Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003), which was a direct sequel to Gojira X Mekagojira (2002). All films released since then have been set in brand-new continuities and disregard all previous entries in the franchise.

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle is a dub, empty popcorn movie that delivers on some of its promises, while boasting the best computer-generated animation of any Polygon Pictures movie made up to that point. There are some problems, such as an uninspired script, underdeveloped ideas, a fairly simplistic plot, and character relationships painted in broad strokes. But when all is said and done, I enjoyed it. It's well-made enough that makes for an entertaining hundred minutes. While this movie seems to be aimed at a younger audience, it was still fun. The fight scenes were exciting and though they took up most of the movie, they never dragged on or got boring. A fun enough action film with enough explosions and destruction to satisfy die-hards and casual fans alike.

Simon says Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (ゴジラ: 決戦機動増殖都市) 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:



Also, see my review for Hotel Transylvania 2.

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:



Also, see my reviews for Ant-Man and Avengers: Infinity Wars.

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:



Also, see my review for Sicario.