Sunday, 23 September 2018

Movie Review - The Predator (2018)

homages or outright parody.  But it has trouble reigniting its fandom due to varying degrees in quality and execution of its film depictions.  How does the 2018 version stack with its predated incarnations?

  Sniper McKenna encounters a Predator in the field and involves his family in a dangerous hunt.

   Shane Black is the director and one of the writers of this flick and his signature style shows in the snappy banter and quick cuts.  This makes for an enjoyable ride with hilarious interplay and exciting editing.  The characters stand out with set traits and verbal wit.  An odd inclusion would be the kid factor, somehow changing the tone to something less than purely mature.  The lighter feel is even more evident with the eventual canine angle.

  While the violence and sexual bits mean that the film isn't aimed for kids, there is a definite direction going for a wider appeal.  This film is more fun and more accessible, not afraid to take itself too seriously, unlike previous iterations.  The atmosphere is definitely not heavily based on fear and suspense but on action and humor.  The attacks are even juxtaposed with a short school setting and on a cheery Halloween.

  As mentioned before, the characters are literal characters.  The band of heroes are saddled with personality quirks and, well, defects.  Even the child and eventual dog have mental issues.  This may be a technique to help the individuals distinguish themselves or have a quick connection with the audience via automatic sympathy.  Olivia Munn as the science liaison is obviously for gender consideration, even including a stripping scene.  She is, as modern paradigm dictates, independent and empowered and quite competent, really.

   There is a problem with the lighting.  Even though most of the conflagration takes place in the evening and in naturally darkened areas, proper lighting would have cleared up hard to follow sequences.  The erratic editing also lead to some confusing sections such as the sudden decapitations and head explosions.  Perhaps there's parts left on the cutting room floor, such as a missing soldier's probable death at the vocal recognition exit.

   New information, or more accurately clarifications with the mythos such as the Predator naming and their reasons for hunting humans are expounded on.  Callbacks and references are dropped,  such as the 'chopper' line and all the dates of earlier encounters.  The new revelations may or may not be accepted by die hard fans but it's already made canon by this 2018 outing.  A little more polish could have elevated this film to an instant classic but it's enjoyable for newcomers looking for action and adventure and exposure to the Predator's presence.  Hopefully there will be more flicks down the line as this one should hit cult status.

Movie Review - Wheely

   There was a time when film studios would make movies with the same theme and release them at a competitive time slot.  Giant asteroids with a deep impact to trigger Armageddon.  The buggy life of ants.  But sometimes, it's just a plain carbon copy. Emphasis on car.

   Wheely is a failed racer who gets involved with carnapping syndicate as he tries to get back into the running.

   This is a Malaysian project but it doesn't try to hide its... inspiration.  Really, the design is already a given.  Why it waited so long, well, who knows?  The main character is a racer, his new close friend is a bucktoothed oddball, there's a rival and a lady car...

  The beginning of the film is sort of the same, with racing involved.  At least the plot shifts gears to a carnapping action, adventure.  A possibly deep point here is that, considering the denizens, is this a parallel on just stealing vehicles or actual slavery?  It's something to consider, if it's just auto parts piracy or the actual, er, forced escorting as the crime the film is trying to portray.  As this is a children's film, the latter theme would be a subtle implementation.
  
   The CGI isn't up to the quality competitive studios release of late but at least Malaysia is trying to develop their animation industry.  There is an off putting factor with sound effects that intrude at points that are suppose to be humorous but seem amateurish.  Kartun the film company that made Wheely could have aimed higher but at least they tried.

Movie Review - The Nun

   I hadn't really expected The Conjuring series to be able to branch out into so many spin off films.  Is it another effect of the shared movieverse phenomenon?  I knew I was in for a scare but I didn't realize what kind of scare The Nun was actually bringing to the table.

  A suicide brings miracle hunters to a convent to investigate holy or unholy occurrences.  They encounter an evil presence disguised as the titular Nun.

   There's several types of horror.  There's the ones that get under your skin, usually the psychological ones, and there's the almost fun thrillers, mostly aimed for the teenagers looking for a good time.  The Nun somehow falls into the second category.  Even with the religious trappings, it devolves into an exercise of pulling all the cheap and not-so-cheap tricks out of the Bible of horror techniques.  Shadows, mirrors, smoke, figures playing hide and seek, voices, not-statues, misdirection, jump scares... it's practically all there.  The music is particularly effective in building up the coming reveals.  And that's what makes it fun for fright fans.  Expectations are expected and met.

  While the anticipation is a huge success, sometimes, the payoff isn't a big a reward.  Take a still of the Nun's freaky face or the flashback of the priest's personal haunt and you get a ridiculous shot.  Without the background shock sound effect, it kinda looks like something to laugh at.  But I suppose it's good to be able to mentally throw off most of the nightmare fuel imagery afterwards. 

  The tone also shifts at the last act.  After the dread is past and then info dump is over, the feeling is more of righteousness and action.  Even the priest acknowledges this.  The newbie nun's demeanor switches to match the new atmosphere of almost adventure.  It doesn't help that the suave-ish co-star takes a quipping, leading man's heroic role all of a sudden.  Or does it help?

   Because what we get afterwards is an exciting and thrilling escapade that is quite enjoyable as opposed to a serious, religious Excorcist vibe.  Every suspenseful moment in the first two acts gets gasps and shouts at a gleeful level instead of true deep-seated horror.  And that's absolutely fine for thrillseekers.  Bring a date with you for this pre-October frightfest so you can share the terror.  If you're a fan of being jumped at over being spooked, you and your partner will enjoy screaming and can laugh it off afterwards.  Purist may say otherwise but, 'nun'theless, The Nun is, an excellent near-Halloween offering.  Bar'nun'.


Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Movie Review - Hotel Transylvania 3 : A Monster Vacation


   I'm a fan of Genndy Tartakovsky since his Dexter's Laboratory days (and some of Samurai Jack) so animated work from him is always great.  It's Adam Sandler I can't stand.  Hotel Transylvania proves that with its third outing, it's more than just a temporary vacation.  It might actually be a permanent fixture, even if it has gone overboard.

   Dracula takes a vacation with his family and friends on the high seas.  But there's danger in the depths and love for sail.

   Genndy's animation is smooth sailing all the way.  He borrows more from the classic Looney Tunes over modern styles.  There's hidden homages if you know where to look (think opera and lovelorn stink).  More than once though, there's so much going on that the funny keyframes whizz by in a blink.  Possibly fine for the attention deficient but it's a shame to miss the brilliant staging.

   The love story seems like it missed a scene or two of more connection and relatability.  But with the huge cast of supporting characters, each interacting with their partners or each other, perhaps scenes have to be cut for more comedy.  Logically, in film, this wouldn't matter because the Zing means instant attraction and less need for too much introspection and drama.

   Music again, is aimed for adults, something to tide them over when they feel forced to watch a kid flick.  Children would have to be satisfied with the slapstick and silliness.  The mature humor flies over their head, as usual. But this is par the course for this franchise.  While it lacks the true depth and insight of other current CGI films, Hotel Transylvania 3 has not yet overstayed its welcome.  A Monster Vacation is wacky, disposable antics are a still trip and a half.


Movie Review - Crazy Rich Asians


   When you hear the word Asians, it's not exactly Singaporeans that first come to mind.  But this whole film revolves around them and their elite class so those who haven't delved into their lifestyle are in for an eye opening experience.

   Rachel is visiting Singapore for the first time with her boyfriend to attend a wedding. What she didn't know is that Nick's family is extremely wealthy and the upper crust don't take her in quite so readily.

   Is this for real?  I'm sure that movies exaggerate but as possibly the first modern Asian film produced in the US, they would want an accurate portrayal of Singapore.  But the food, the houses, the boat parties, the islands... seriously, this seems too much!  It can't be true... can it?  The title does say crazy rich.  It boggles the mind.  

   The story is not rags-to-riches but the underdog factor is an arc Filipinos would get into.  This isn't all classic Hollywood narrative as there are distinct Asian themes and emotions that are filtered through the US system.  Like, the ladies probably would have been more vicious with the fish or there would have been a secret surprise with the parentage.  This results in something familiar to most (of us) yet altogether new to others (internationally).

   Crazy Rich Asians are insane.  So is the movie. Insane in an excessive way but also enriching in that it spreads the wealth of culture around. 

Friday, 10 August 2018

Movie Review - The Meg

   The title doesn't exactly strike fear into hearts of men but that's if one doesn't realize it's short for Megalodon. If you're wondering what that is, it's staring at you right in the face, ready to bite it off!  This isn't your regular Shark Week.

   An underwater expedition exposes the prehistoric predator to the world!  How can they stop the unstoppable killing and eating machine?

   Yeah, don't go looking for hidden depths in this fishy flick.  This is a straight up monster action movie and makes no apologies about it!  There's scientific jargon but it still boils down to being a  shark hunt / man hunt.  There's thrills, moments of suspense when anyone is near the water, more than just the occasional nibble of humor, skin exposure... it ticks the boxes of a fun summer action movie. Enjoy the boat/sub ride!

   Jason Statham cuts a macho heroic figure in a classic iconic niche.  Li Bingbing gets a lot of time as she is carrying on the new breed of independant heroine.  And she's a single mother to boot.  It doesn't detract in her attractiveness as her daughter is one of the cutest 8 year olds around.  Rainn Wilson contributes to the comedic bits and Masi Oka of Heroes makes an appearance.

  So, does the titular shark look real?  Real enough for today's standards.  Could those things really move that fast?  The waters are shown to be quite cloudily empty and right for surprise attacks.  Seriously, enjoy it for what it is.  Bring a significant other or a bud and have a blast!

  Oh, despite being a Chinese audience grab, Philippines gets a shout out, hehe.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Movie Review - Unfriended : Dark Web


   The original Unfriended was a supernatural horror that kinda follows the modern Asian ghost tropes but this new entry in this hopefully enduring franchise stands alone with a much stronger showcase.

   Mattias has a game night with his friends online on his newly acquired laptop.  They are drawn into the dark web of criminal activity as a circle of kidnappers become aware of them.



   Unfriended follows a relatively new type of 'found footage' format but events happen in real time instead of recorded videos. The voyeuristic approach has not quite been repeated in cinema but it's been used in small games and experimental shorts.  Once the viewer gets used to the more raw, less filtered experience, the urgency and intensity is more pronounced, even without manufactured music in the background.

   The plot is a cautionary tale, not initially started by being careful of internet use.  While the first movie follows a group of immature teens, this set of characters is older yet more relatable and likeable.  This makes the events that occur even more horrifying, especially since such invasive programs might or even actually exist. With the rapid march of technological advancements, it's possible that the invasive cyber stalkings are actually in operation, with the general populace being unaware.

   What results is a suspenseful exercise in being helpless to do anything but watch and react in terror as events unfold.  Get past the initial slice of life introductions and enjoy the watching lives sliced dow in this techno thriller.