As the title suggests the film is set in the year 2307 where the Earth is 300 years into a new ice age and all surviving humans live beneath the ground. With next to no genuine man-power to drive the failing society scientists have bio-engineered a humanoid species with a tolerance for subzero temperatures. When one of the humanoids threatens an uprising the humans assemble a team of soldiers to defeat the impending rebellion. What ensues is a fast-paced expedition that pits the heroes against a merciless enemy and an unforgiving environment.
From the get go 2307: A WINTERS DREAM creates a familiar impression and evokes memories of some of cinema's most beloved properties. My mind immediately turned to John Carpenter's THE THING and Ridley Scott's BLADERUNNER, and with its subterranean production design I couldn't help but think of Albert Pyun's ALIEN FROM LA. In fact Pyun's influence seems (to me) to be the strongest of them all. I imagine if it weren't for his poor health Pyun would be making films of this calibre. Its story of rogue humanoids and their post-apocalyptic environment is lifted straight out of the Book-of-Pyun, of which numerous titles can be cited. RADIOACTIVE DREAMS for example, or NEMESIS and KNIGHTS. But I digress...
Joey Curtis's take on a reliable formula is a commendable effort, and despite the hindrance of budget restraints he has crafted a good-looking film that employs a good balance of CGI with practical effects... although some of that CGI leaves much to be desired. The cast are all decent, with the film's co-writer Paul Sidhu serving as the film's lead. The script is dependable but not exceptional, and it walks the three-act structure reasonably well. With so many aforementioned titles influencing the narrative the film hopscotches between genres and tropes. At one moment the characters are pitted against a science-fiction driven environment, and the next moment they are knee-deep in a classic Western setting. These scenic transitions could have easily derailed the story and yet they keep the flow engaging and viscerally arresting.
With a direct-to-video release limiting the film's reach, and a mostly unknown cast curbing its appeal 2307: WINTER'S DREAM will arrive under the radar, and while it may be far from perfect it is a movie that genre fans should check out regardless. There's never enough winter-ravished post-apocalyptic movies as far as I'm concerned.
He meets a beautiful young teacher (Charlotte Le Bon) who is in a relationship with a world renowned American reporter (Christian Bale) and they fall in love following several encounters. When the war reaches Turkey the city is beset by the Ottoman military and all Armenian leaders and intellectuals are rounded up and deported. It isn't long before the Turks launch a ruthless campaign to systemically exterminate the Armenian people.
We watch the whole barbaric atrocity unfold through the eyes of our three protagonists as they desperately fight for survival. Their ordeal sees them suffer incredible losses - as well as capture and escape - as their friends and loved ones are slaughtered before their eyes. It is a harrowing cinematic experience to say the least and it depicts the horrors of genocide in a similarly shocking way to HOTEL RWANDA. With an unflinching focus it is immediately clear that director terry George feels deeply about documenting these crimes of the past and in doing so he contributes to the ever-important annals of history, lest we forget. And with that in mind it is regrettable that he has chosen to follow three entirely fictitious characters.
Perhaps it was a case of not being able to pin-point any particular accounts of survival to warrant a feature-length film (I find that hard to believe) or maybe George felt compelled to heighten the drama with a narrative that he could manipulate... whatever the case might be, I found their personal plight distracting from the greater historical context, and felt cheated by the contrived love story that wove its way throughout the events. The love triangle, as presented, took me back to the schmultzy melodrama of THE ENGLISH PATIENT and impeded what was an otherwise superb piece of filmmaking.
What did resonate with me was the impressive production design and incredible cinematography. With stunning panoramic shots of the setting sun over dune-swept deserts and breathtaking mountainous terrains, the look of the film is epic in its scope and awe-inspiring in its presentation. The tone of the film transitions eloquently from the paradisal urban sprawl of pre-war Turkey to a War ravished hell paved with corpses. The juxtaposition between peace and disharmony is jarring and the film presents us with a confronting moment in history that has, until now, remained relatively undocumented in mainstream film. In terms of documenting an atrocity Terry George has essentially done for the Armenian genocide what Spielberg did for the Jewish holocaust in SCHINDLER'S LIST.
The cast is impressive with Isaac and Bale giving particularly strong turns. Bale is the stronger of the two, although ever so slightly, as he conjures a surly and external performance. His character witnesses the war from a foreign perspective, desperate to inform the outside world of what's happening, whereas Isaac's character falls victim to the hell that's been inflicted upon his people. He endures the barbarity and endures a much more personal character arc. They spend much of the screen time apart and both command their scenes with unwavering strength, and when their paths do cross they share a brilliant and mesmerising dynamic. Le Bon's presence is less convincing with a sense that she is out of her depth, and while she is not “bad” by any means, her character might have been far more engaging if cast differently. A few other notable names cameo throughout the film and help elevate its overall impact above the unfortunate love story.
When it comes to depicting historical atrocities filmmakers have a responsibility to be be honest, and to capture stories as earnestly as possible. Canadian director Atom Egoyan previously explored the Armenian genocide in his 2002 film ARARAT, although he did so from a contemporary and retrospective point of view, and so THE PROMISE is a missed opportunity to truly recapture an important moment in time without fabrication. As a technical achievement THE PROMISE is excellent. As a performance piece is it outstanding. And as a depiction of war it is powerful... but with its unnecessarily contrived melodrama accompanied by needless bookended narration it doesn't quite hit the mark the way films like HOTEL RWANDA, SALVADOR or THE KILLING FIELDS did. And so to summarise THE PROMISE is a very good film, but it could have been a great one!
Set in 2015, co-writer and director Ronnie Thompson's exceptionally stylish film is the true (mostly) story of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Robbery, where four older gentlemen who are pushing retirement took a bank for £200-million and became the stuff of legend, pulling off what was called 'the largest heist in English legal history', it's a story so unbelievable that it was only a matter of time before someone turned it into a film.
Safe-cracker films can be tricky to pull off. After all, we are essentially watching someone break into a door, so how do you keep it lively? Particularly when the events are so recent that the facts are readily available at the touch of a button?
Thompson and co-writers, Ray Bogdanovich and Dean Lines, smartly focus on the 'how' of the robbery. Google will allow you to, pretty quickly, discover the fate of the group, but what is murky in the articles is the thieves methodology and, wisely, that's what ONE LAST HEIST gives us.
There is the obvious nods to the films of Guy Richie (split screens, voice overs, etc) and while their stylistic flourishes can sometimes labor Thompson's film errs on the side of caution, never overusing the tropes and miraculously only relying on them when they work.
Unlike Richie though, OLH is surprisingly tame when it comes to the sort of colourful language and violence that might be expected in British gangster films. Perhaps it's because it's not really a gangster film at its core, but rather a film about some delightful guys (who like a cup of tea and a triangle-cut sandwich for lunch) who just happen to rob safes... It's kinda like the film you'd imagine Richie and Loach would make if they ever met at a truck-stop diner and spun a yarn.
Thompson scored lucky with his cast. Every single player oozes charm and affability. They're gruff and professional without ever losing their warmth and humanity. The kind of guys you'd like to see get away with the job. Mathew Good as XXX, the one fabricated character in the film, is actually the one with the least to do, seemingly falling short of the others amiability in order to purely serve the story. Shame.
ONE LAST HEIST won't be a major home-entertainment release but it is most definitely one you should seek out. Infinitely better than a hundred shitty Nicholas Sparks adaptations.
WONDER WOMAN gets the job done and delivers the substance that DC fans have been frothing for. It serves as an origin story for Diana Prince – an Amazonian princess – who was raised on the hidden island kingdom of Themyscira, isolated from mankind and seemingly impervious to outside influence. When an American fighter pilot (Chris Pine) breaks through the kingdom's protective shield and crashes into the ocean, Diana leaps to his rescue, only to face a German battalion in pursuit. With World War II threatening to destroy their utopia Diana leaves her home to seek and destroy Ares; the God of war, whom she believes will destroy the world if undefeated.
The synopsis is simple, and is more or less lifted straight out of the comic books, although I admit that I had low expectations entering into WONDER WOMAN. The promotional marketing painted a very hokey image in my mind and I carried the disappointment of the previous three titles with me. The first 15-minutes of the film take place on the island of Themyscira, where the all-female warrior culture wear the sort of ornamental garments that you'd expect in a show-bag. They look silly and conjured an immediate sense dread. Fortunately their prelude is brief and substantial enough to provide enough subtext to Diana's quest, and from the moment she steps into the 'real' world the film takes on a while new dynamic and assumes ownership of being DC's best entry in the Expanded Universe.
I hesitate to cite Marvel in this review – because I enthusiastically want DC to rise above – however the greatest compliment I can give WONDER WOMAN is that it recalls the same texture and authenticity that the first CAPTAIN AMERICA captured. In fact there are many similarities, with the most notable being its WWII setting and a horrifically disfigured villain. It also sets a similar pace by relying on character development and drama to explore the story, as opposed to saturating the screen with incessant action and ludicrous dialogue. Fans have been calling upon DC to take cues from Marvel's lead, and while I don't disagree with the sentiment, I also think that DC ought to forge their own unique path.... and now that they've (finally) listened to demand, perhaps they can treat it as a stepping board.
The film's greatest strength is Gal Gadot. She assumes the character of Wonder Woman with absolute conviction and actually acts her ass off. Her character is - thus far – the most emotionally rounded and humane of the whole Justice League crew, and her compassion throughout the story is sincere and wonderfully performed. Gadot is relatively unknown and has been ideally cast. She exudes beauty and brawn in equal measure and refuses to be branded with a sex-symbol label. She is a superhero to rival all of her contemporaries and hopefully she will lay the path for more strong female superheroes to follow.
The supporting cast are all fantastic and I'm not able to fault a single one of them. Chris Pine proudly adopts the support role and allows Gadot to kick-ass without cliched sexism or tokenistic gratitudes and there's a sense that he is proud to be part of a game-changing gender-reserved blockbuster. David Thewlis is as brilliant as always and offers a performance packed gleefully full of mystery. Other players include Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Connie Neilson and Ewen Bremner... all of whom add a weight of creditability.
The film's director is Patty Jenkins, whose previous directorial effort was the serial-killer biopic MONSTER. With that film being such a small and modest production in comparison to WONDER WOMAN her appointment was something of a gamble, and I imagine that her sensibility towards the female driven character-study is what landed her this gig. It was a gamble worth taking and I can't imagine any other director doing a better job. She captures an essence and quality in her film that directors Zack Snyder and David Ayer both failed to ensnare in their own entries.
This is an exciting moment for DC. Faith has been restored into a previously flaccid franchise, and hopes are high for what's to come. So far we are four films into the Expanded Universe with five more on the way, as well as a staggering TEN upcoming sequels, prequels and/or spin-offs. The odds aren't good, but lets hope that most of them follow WONDER WOMAN'S lead, and focus on character and story before the saturation overcomes... because enough with the puerile extravagance... just stick to substance.
Adapting her life for film might have seemed like an appealing idea if conjured in a spontaneous burst of inspiration, but when you explore beyond the legend, what’s left is an ordinary life bereft of romance. She was a modest woman who resided on her family’s property and lived a reclusive life. Considered to be free-spirited and emotionally temperamental, she struggled to comprehend the world around her, whereby notions beyond her perception were deflected with hostility and self- loathing. And so, with very little flexibility for a overarching narrative, director Terence Davies (The House Of Mirth) focuses his energy on the characters and has, in turn, created a performance-driven piece that is only as strong as its players… which is very strong in deed.
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In it Foxx plays Nevada PD Detective Vincent Downs, a cop so dirty his colleagues feel the need to shower after conversations with him; you know the kind. Bad dad and shitty husband, devotes too much time to the job. After the dirty cops botch a clandestine heist that yields a surprising 25kgs of cocaine, Downs and his partner become the focus of the buyers and the sellers of the narcotics; son of mob-boss, Novak (Scoot Macnairy) and Luxus casino manager Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney). In retaliation, Downs' 16-year old son is kidnapped until the drugs can be returned and the deal transacted.
To compound the problem, Internal Affairs agents Bryant and Dennison (Michelle Monahan and David Harbour respectively) have begun investigating, thanks to the presence of government issued ammunition at the heist scene, and instantly the filthy Downs has become the prime suspect. The fall-out (and everyone involved) collide in Rubino's casino over the course of one night while everyone tries to get their shit straight before Daddy Novak shows up and whips everyone's ass.
Think SNAKE EYES meets CRANK with neither the wit of the former nor the velocity of the latter.
In an age where the police thriller has been elevated to almost an art-form, no thanks to talents like Michael Mann and David Ayer, SLEEPLESS wants so badly to play with the big-boys and be Vegas Vice, what with all its crisp neon lights and deep focus into the Nevada night sky, it's gruff, dirty police and sharp-suited criminals, but while it looks the part thanks to Romanian director of photography, Mihai Malaimare, SLEEPLESS' biggest letdown is Andrea Berloff's derivative script, which is a crying shame given her last effort - Mel Gibson's BLOOD FATHER - was a lean, mean mother-fucking machine!
Too much of SLEEPLESS is recycled and derivative to make it worth the while of the more than capable cast. We've seen it all before and we've seen it better. We've seen the visuals, the archetypes, the combat, the gunplay, the plot twists all before. Foxx does well with the physical requirements, handling the fisticuffs as well as he does the odd scene of familial softness. Monahan does her best in as the largely thankless expositional mouth-piece, grissling her way through the cynical, one-note IA role. It is refreshing, however, to see a tough female cop that doesn't rely on hyperbole in order to convey toughness.
Ultimately SLEEPLESS biggest problem is that it has no big problems. It's a fine film. Its not a great film and it's not horrible film. It's just a fine film...
Set in 1979, against the backdrop of Santa Barbara boarding house, Annette Bening plays Dorothea, the owner of the house and a progressive single mother who struggles to raise her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). When her liberal approach to parenting fails to connect with him she enlists the help of two younger women living in the building; Abbie (Greta Gerwig) a 20-something photographer who is recovering from cervical cancer, and Julie (Elle Fanning), Jamie's confused and promiscuous best friend. Dorothea asks them to enlighten Jamie and when their influences on him become too liberal (even to her standards) she finds herself faced with her own personal demons while struggling to cut the apron strings of their mother/son relationship.
There is something immediately personal about 20th CENTURY WOMEN and it is not surprising to learn that the film is semi-autobiographical. The overarching narrative, while at times bewildering, is told with conviction and the characters are given their own invaluable backstories, giving the story depth and complexity. The strength of Mill's writing lies in his familiarity with the era and his casual pacing of the plot. He has placed his characters in an era where he seems comfortable, and with a well-placed soundtrack and a retro-centric ambience he explores the coiled relationships with earnestness and good humour.
Annette Bening's performance as Dorothea is quite possibly the best of her career. She invests in the character with all that she's got and adopts mannerisms and traits that we haven't seen from her before. Mills capitalises on the vulnerability within her expression with well-placed close ups and a lingering camera, and with an equal measure of experience and nativity Bening takes Dorothea on a journey of self discovery which progresses as she lives vicariously through the lives of others.
Her co-stars are excellent too and make for one of the year's most dynamic ensembles. Lucas Jade Zumann gives a wonderfully understated performance as the film's focal character, Jamie. I spent the entire film watching him while trying to place his face. I knew him from something I had seen recently and I was sure he was good in whatever that was. It wasn't until I got home from the cinema that I realised that he had played Gilbert Blythe in the recent Netflix series ANNE WITH AN E (a praise-worthy adaptation of Anne of Green Gables). These two performances couldn't be any more contrasting, nor any better. His turn in 20th CENTURY WOMEN is effortless and as equally vulnerable as Benings... and given that his character is the focal point of the story it irritates me that Mills chose a title that solely draws attention away from this crux.
Elle Fanning gives another exceptional performance as the dispositioned best friend who struggles to express herself and has a desperate need for nurture. With this film adding to a line up of titles including THE NEON DEMON, TRUMBO and LIVE BY NIGHT Fanning is fast becoming one of the most impressive female actors of her generation. In fact her demeanour as Julie in 20th CENTURY WOMEN had me recalling her performance in Francis Ford Coppola's 2011 film TWIXT. It was a poorly received horror film that failed to make an impression (although I enjoyed it) but it also showcased her undeniable talent and foreshadowed the sort of performer she would become. In many ways her sunken and melancholic demeanour in that film has found its way into this one.
Greta Gerwig lends solid support as the recovering cancer survivor who has yet to fully process the weight of her ordeal. She seeks solace in fantasy and adheres to the rise of feminism, and Gerwig's performance is both tenacious and vulnerable. She turns to a fellow housemate, William (Billy Crudup) for comfort. He is a mysterious gentleman drifter who is ever present and willing to impart friendly advice when sought. Crudup play the role with the reliable composure that he instills in most of his characters. He is great, as always.
20th CENTURY WOMEN is Mike Mill's best work to date, and it oozes sincerity. His script is smart, heartfelt and very funny – and deserving of its 2016 Oscar nomination. Think of a less-melodramatic Cameron Crowe film and you will have an understanding of what to expect. Let me reaffirm that the title sorely misrepresents the film, and even though it does makes sense in relating to certain themes of the story, it certainly doesn't encapsulate the greater narrative. This is a highlight of the year for me so far and I cannot recommend it enough.
It is an immediate wink to the audience, and a signal that we’re in for a facetious and deliberate satire. What follows is 2 hours of unapologetic ridicule, mindless action and relentless comedy.
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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a renewed effort to create a blockbuster franchise from the classic story – a feat that failed when Antoine Fuqua teamed up with Clive Owen in 2004. With the global fandom of Game of Thrones reaching dizzy heights, it was no surprise that the producers of King Arthur would seek to capitalise on the audience’s hunger for sword-and-sorcery, but also a precarious wager for them considering the mixed responses to films like Gods of Egypt and Warcraft. To compound the risk, they chose Guy Ritchie to direct, based – presumably – on his approach to the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Given his style as an auteur, this film could have gone either way.
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BEWARE! THE BLOB was directed by Larry Hagman (yes, of I Dream of Jeanie and Dallas fame) and his involvement in such a low-budget independent film is just as perplexing as the film itself. The story goes that he lived next door to the producer of the original and had never seen the '58 film starring Steve McQueen. When the producer showed him the film Hagman said that he could get lots of his friends together for free (because they would all want to be blobbed) and that he would direct it. Lets suppose that he had energy to burn and needed to “spaz out” a little, because it's the only explanation.
And so what he created was a film unlike any other. It isn't a sequel at all, but rather a re-imaging. It adheres to the basic premise of the previous flick but injects a heavy dose of camp, which masquerades as satire. Furthermore, his direction was strangely surreal whereby he flirted with absurdism and lunacy. Take the opening title sequence for example; the film opens with an upbeat piece of music as a kitten frolics amongst long grass. It has no purpose aside from disorientating the viewer and it makes no sense. And yet that confusion is where much of the film's charm lies.
Yes it's a bad film. It's a terrible film! But it's so damn fun. Hagman precedes each of his death sequences with insanely stupid set-ups, such as a husband camping in his lounge room while watching the original '58 movie, or a fat nude Russian man running down the highway... or a barber who refers to himself as a 'hair sculptor' and charges $400 per sculpt... and then splat, THE BLOB ATTACKS! It's total insanity! So insane that it could even be passed off as an art film.
The cast is inconsequential with a heap of Hagman's mates popping up for a scene or two. Some of them include Gerrit Graham, Dick Van Pattern, Cindy Williams, Sid Haig and Burgess Meredith, amongst others. And I could have sworn that I caught a glimpse of Paul Williams in there too.
Suffice to say that BEWARE! THE BLOB is a mixed bag of talent and mayhem. A stupid and ludicrous venture with no obvious redemption. As I already mentioned, there is definitely an element of charm, and it's the kind of schlock that you can enjoy with a puerile frame of mind. If you embrace the absurdism them you'll have a stack of fun but as far as sequels go in general (and creature-features for that matter) it is an absolute turd. No wonder Hagman never directed again.
Ridley Scott’s attempt to provide subtext to the series has, so far, seems to have proven to be a misguided ego trip, one that steered the series far from its original concept. His obsession with exploring the origins of the Xenomorph species (the Aliens) has ultimately tarnished the franchise and proven to be an exercise in style over substance. Needless to say, I did not enjoy his latest entry, the second Alien prequel, Alien: Covenant.
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Based on an acclaimed stage show by Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman, the film depicts the intense psychological exchange between three people in an isolated country-house. On a cold, stormy night in an unknown location, a stranger knocks on the door of Paula and Gerardo Escobar’s (Weaver & Wilson) home. The stranger is Dr Roberto Miranda (Kingsley), whose car has broken down nearby. The Escobars invite him in, offering him a meal and a seat beside their fireplace. As the pleasantries transpire, Paula begins to withdraw, starting to suspect that Dr Miranda is in fact the very same man who tortured and raped her 15-years prior. What unfolds is an intense night of confrontation as the characters lock horns; Paula fervid for revenge and Miranda in a desperate plight of innocence.
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Then his modestly budgeted Boston-set private eye directorial debut dropped and not only was it very good, it was arguably a modern American crime classic. A morality tale that was as much about the city it was set in as it was about a missing girl and was typical of the kind of deep emotional complexities scribe Denis Lahane is famed for.
It's no surprise then, that here, in LIVE BY NIGHT, Affleck's fourth film as writer-director should also have its source with Lahane once again although it's more closely aligned with his second film THE TOWN.
In it the Square-Jawed One plays Joe Coughlin, a small-time Boston gangster and son of Police Chief Tom (Brendan Gleeson) who makes it his business to stay in the middle of the warring Irish and Italian factions that rule his town. But when Irish head-honcho Albert White (Robert Glennister) discovers Benny-Boy is banging his girl (Sienna Miller) he makes everybody's life miserable, forcing Joe in to bed with the Italians who ship him off to run their bootleg operations in Tampa where he must seize control, forge business relations, battle the Ku-Klux Klan and make a play for minor politics.
'Sprawling epic' is an overstatement but LIVE BY NIGHT's two-hour plus running time never feels stretched. It's thickly plotted but it never feels crowded. It's got remarkable breathing space and Affleck changes gears seamlessly, jarring us with explosive violence one minute and then soft intimate tear-jerky moments the next. It's also a treat to see Affleck make reaches as a director. LIVE BY NIGHT may not be the thematic juggernaut that GBG was, nor does Joe have the richness of the characters in THE TOWN, but it is certainly his most richly crafted film. Even if it does do everything you expect it to, it does them well.
This is an homage to the pulpy, hard boiled gangster tales of old replete with sharp dialogue, sharper suits and Tommy-guns. Jess Gonchor's production design is textured and elegant and is the real star of the show. It's prohibition-era aesthetic stretches from snow-covered Boston bank robberies all the way to the sun-soaked glades and speakeasies of the Florida Keys. Everything feels timely and functional, used and worn, utilitarian.
Close behind Gonchor is cinematographer Robert Richardson, hot off the back of Tarantino's famed HATEFUL EIGHT shoot, here dipping his toe again into the kind of territory he revels in; period-set, violent dramas.
So, then, not a jaw-meet-floor experience, but certainly better than the recent Kevin James release, which begs the question why did it disappear without a trace? Could it be that audiences were bored of this kind of content? Overexposure killed it before it arrived? In and out of its theatrical run in Australia in 14-days and in turn losing Universal Studios $75-million.
Five seasons of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, Michael Mann's PUBLIC ENEMIES and Hillcoat's LAWLESS have a lot to answer for. It's a shame because LBN is sensual, visceral, violent, tender and romantic. It's not as instantly classic as GBG, but hands down better than the overwrought ARGO, it's a shame it flopped as badly as it did because it really deserves more of an audience.
Thanks to TEEN WOLF's popularity with the 80's teen audience an inevitable sequel was made two years later. And like some other sequels of the era it was given the classic “Too” moniker, in lieu of the traditional “2” (refer to SPLASH TOO, THE JERK TOO). With Michael J Fox soaring the heights of Hollywood the film was recast with a young Jason Bateman who, like Fox, had come straight from the world of television sit-com. With Bateman's father serving as the movie's producer he was an obvious choice, and a good one.
In the film Bateman plays Todd Howard – cousin to Scott (Fox) – who arrives at a new college campus on a full sports scholarship. Despite not having a sporting bone in his body he is registered to the wrestling team, following the recommendation of a teacher who taught his cousin, and discovers that his family's Lycanthrope lineage gives him super-human abilities. And so there's a new Teen Wolf in town and no one bats an eyelid. In fact no one so much as flinches when Todd transforms into a werewolf for the first time. A girl looks at him and says “oh, you're a dog!” while another girl reassures him “Everything will be fine”... how's that for tolerance, huh? Todd also earns himself a superstar status and takes the college by storm.
TEEN WOLF TOO is an inferior sequel in many ways, most notably due to a lacklustre script and an uninspired story. It repeats the formula of its predecessor but fails to re-capture the spirit. Obviously these are important qualities that the movie abandons, but all is not lost thanks to the quality of the production design and the enthusiastic performances. Despite being made for video (with a limited theatrical run in some places) the film maintains the aesthetic of the first instalment, which makes for a seamless continuation and Bateman makes for a suitable substitute for Fox, despite his on-screen presence being less energetic. He's also supported by James Hampton and Mark Holton (reprising their roles) as well as Stuart Fratkin assuming the role of Stiles and John Astin as the college dean.
The way I look at it TEEN WOLF TOO was made to be seen when you've suffered from TEEN WOLF ONE fatigue. The first movie is an undeniable classic (take note Millennials) which demands repeat viewing... but sometimes you can over do it and TEEN WOLF TOO is the alleviation you need. It's the sequel that is by no means an equal, but is – nevertheless - a supplement that maintains the dietary intake . And for added trivia, a third instalment was written only to be reshaped into a stand-alone movie called TEEN WITCH (a trilogy would have been cool).
Disregard the fact that Hallström's first English-language film was ABBA: THE MOVIE in 1977 (although that is an awesome notch to have) and consider that his contributions to cinema have included films such as WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES and THE SHIPPING NEWS. Furthermore he is no stranger to melodrama with titles like CHOCOLAT, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMIN and HATCHI: A DOG'S TALE... amongst others. And so while A DOG'S PURPOSE may be an indulgent exercise in schmaltz, it is nevertheless classy brand of schmaltz. Haters be damned. This is a delightful film.
Josh Gad plays the voice of Bailey, dog who ponders his own existence after his first life is cut short as a puppy. He is born again as a golden retriever and adopted by a young family, where he and the son become inseparable for the duration of his long and happy life. When he dies of old age Bailey is born again as a German Shepherd police dog and as the film unfolds he journeys through several lives until he finds his way home to where it all began and realises his purpose. You needn't consider that to be a spoiler, because lets face it... films like this are generally presumable.
What sets A DOG'S PURPOSE apart from the countless other cutesy dog flicks is it's humour and its charm. By having the dog's inner-thoughts narrate the story, the film not only adopts the format of the book from which it was adapted, but it also presents a relatable sense of humour that all dog owners will identify with. From adorable misunderstandings to sincere and heartfelt affections the film embraces its sentimentality without being hokey or mindless.
Gosh Gad's voice work is nicely restrained (thank God) and aside from a few idiosyncrasies most unsuspecting viewers will be oblivious to his presence... he gives Bailey a well-measured balance of fun, innocence and sincerity without relying on his usual over-the-top brand of low-brow humour. The rest of the cast play second-fiddle to Gad's lead and they include KJ Apa (hot from his lead role in RIVERDALE), John Ortiz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Peggy Lipton and Dennis Quaid. Despite being the obvious draw-card name Quaid's role is contained in the final act. His is a relatively minor role, and yet it is the most profound.
If you're a sucker for tear-jerking animal films then A DOG'S PURPOSE is a cut above the rest. And while you may have tissues on stand-by for an inevitable finale, it might be a good idea to pack more, because this cheeky movie hits you with that heart-thumper over, and over, and over again (in a good way). Cynics be damned, because this film makes no apologies for laying on the schmaltz. You know what to expect before you see it and so if you're inclined to hate, see something else instead.