Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Men In Black: International (2019) - Movie Review

There are a lot of different forms of bad movie out there. Some are obvious, some take time before the true problems come forward, and some start out as good ideas that, for one reason or another, sour into what becomes the final product. I’ve no doubt covered all three of these varieties in past reviews, and as much as outright, unmistakable shite can be quite painful to sit through, it’s the latter that always ends up feeling the worst: The movies where I can see something much better buried underneath.

Knowing the patchy history of the Men In Black films, this latest entry failing to perform shouldn’t be much surprise, given we have one solid film (1), one mediocre film (2) and one that people mostly didn’t like if they even cared to remember it existed (3). But all the same, this kind of compromised art still hurts to witness for one’s self.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Toy Story 4 (2019) - Movie Review

I’ve been somewhat dreading this one. Not because I have any doubt about the latest iteration of the franchise that pointed the way forward for CGI-animated cinema, or that Disney/Pixar in its current postmodern phase isn’t capable of delivering. It’s more because, as I got into last year, Toy Story 3 is a very important film for me. It’s the film that served as a paradigm shift in how I viewed media meant for children from that point on, making me realise that the age-old excuse of ‘it’s just for kids’ is nothing more than the catchcry of lazy filmmakers.

In order for this film to measure up to that, it would have to pull an artistic feat that I doubt even Disney/Pixar is capable of. There’s no way this could be yet another improvement on the franchise’s kid-friendly existentialism; all it could do is be another good addition, in my eyes at least, and that’s thankfully what we get here.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Red Joan (2019) - Movie Review

Communism on film has been around for as long as film itself. The Soviet propaganda machine, in particular the works of Sergei Eisenstein, helped pioneer filmmaking techniques that have become commonplace across the globe. Hell, if we’re talking honestly, Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera is one of the most important films in the history of the medium, and it too wielded communist iconography to make its statements about the potential of cinema.

I bring all this up partly so that those with knee jerk reactions to anything regarding socialism can safely skip this and save themselves some self-induced headaches. But also because, knowing the ideology’s connections to the art form, it’s rather disappointing that a modern film could depict that same ideology in quite possibly the dullest fashion possible.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (2019) - Movie Review

There’s a certain thought pattern among critical circles that children’s films basically exist to promote everything except themselves. From tie-in merchandise to video games to character-specific spin-offs to TV shows, once a studio knows that a given property has got the attention of kids, they will milk it for all it’s worth. Illumination Entertainment is no stranger to this, if the still-prevalent Minions are any indication, but their latest feature feels like a plain-faced attempt at that kind of franchise enhancement. The way they go about this, though, leaves a bit to be desired.

Comparing any modern animated film to the DisneyToon sequel factory would usually serve as one of the gravest insults possible, but here, it’s kind of unavoidable. The plot in this under-90-minute flick feels similar to Atlantis: Milo’s Return, as if three smaller pilot episodes for a series were stitched together to make a singular feature. The plots in this instance involve Max and Duke getting into trouble on a farm, Gidget encountering the apartment of a crazy cat lady, and ‘Captain’ Snowball saving an animal from a travelling Russian circus.

The acting overall is fine, with Max this time around being voiced by Patton Oswalt because having an admitted sex offender voicing something that children cuddle up with would’ve sent off all kinds of red flags, but it’s nothing all that noteworthy. Same for the animation, which pretty much abandons the first film’s Merrie Melodies style for something a bit more standard. I got more than a few Nut Job flashbacks while watching it, although this is definitely less annoying to sit through. Even with the presence of Kevin 'Why is he still here?' Hart.

It taps into familiar territory from the first film as far as humour, sticking to the animal psychology behind how house pets behave. However, that part ends up diminished in comparison to the frequent attempts at kid crazy antics. I’d be disappointed by this if the attempts at crazy didn’t pan out more times than not. Kung-fu bunny rabbits, knife-throwing monkeys, a train chase sequence, not to mention the basic weirdness of a tiger running around New York with all these house pets.

There’s some mild lip service to using the animals as proxies for parents (something that gets spelled right the hell out at one point, so deducted points on that one), but ultimately, this is just another pleasant but harmless and inoffensive distraction. While the first film managed to skate by on those grounds, if this series is going to be a recurring thing, they’ll need to come up with something more for the next go-around. Or, more preferably, they could just bite the bullet and make this into a TV show; I can guarantee that the people who still watch cute animal videos on YouTube will be into it. Hell, judging by the end credits, the filmmakers themselves seem all too aware of that.

Monday, 10 June 2019

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) - Movie Review

In the history of the Fox-helmed X-Men films, this particular entry is an important one. Mostly because, now that Disney owns the entertainment sector of Fox, this is the last film this franchise will produce until Feig and company integrate the mutants into the MCU proper. Even though Logan basically served as the thematic conclusion for this series, this is where it officially ends (save for New Mutants, but that project has been held back for so long now, it’s anyone’s guess if we’ll ever actually see it).

But there’s also something else that gives this film importance, namely writer and first-time director Simon Kinberg’s reason for making it. He tried before to bring the story of the all-powerful Phoenix to the big screen through his work on The Last Stand, but since most audiences didn’t care much for it, he wanted to try again and get it right this time. As I got into at the start of this year, I have a fondness for cinematic redemption stories like that, ones where creatives look at past mistakes and seek to rectify them; doubly so since it’s a filmmaker correcting their own mistake in this instance. However, no matter which way you slice it, the background importance placed on this just doesn’t translate into the finished product. Like… at all.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Rocketman (2019) - Movie Review

This is the kind of film that, for as long as it has languished in production limbo, came together through a collection of cosmic synchronicities. From producer Matthew Vaughn’s connecting with Elton John on the set of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, to director and fellow Ritchie collaborator Dexter Fletcher’s experiences batting clean-up for Bryan Singer on Bohemian Rhapsody, right down to Taron Egerton getting a shot of portraying one of Britain’s greatest musical talents as a result of having already done his music justice as part of Illumination Entertainment’s Sing.

It’s the kind of background info that ends up fuelling the hype behind this particular feature, as this is the kind of film that only comes about through pretty much everything being exactly where they need to be. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s damn near close.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (2019) - Movie Review

Imagine a disused wrestling ring. One that has been left abandoned for so long that anthills have formed on the foam-padded floor. The ants have made it their home… but something happens. All of a sudden, the stage lights turn on. The rumbling of the audience is heard as they take their seats. Gladiators take to the stage to throw down and see who is the true champion. All while the ants can do nothing but stand and watch as the place that was once their home is ravaged by creatures beyond their comprehension. Now stop imagining, because this is exactly what watching Godzilla: King Of The Monsters feels like.