2018 | DIRECTOR. PEYTON REED | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
The latest chapter in the ever-expanding MCU, the eighth instalment of Phase 3 and the 20th overall title (exhausting… right? ehem), is Ant-Man and the Wasp, a direct sequel to Ant-Man, which is in fact my favourite Marvel film to date. That first movie bucked the trend and offered a fresh take on the superhero genre, providing a family-friendly adventure full of action, special effects and laughs. It threw back to movies like Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Dollman and Innerspace, and with a concept as ludicrous as an ant-sized superhero, the movie was as frivolous as it was clever. Suffice it to say, expectations were high for this sequel, and it would take a well-considered script to equal what came before it.
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2018 | DIRECTOR. BRETT DONOWHO | REVIEW BY SHAUN CRAWFORD.
When a young bride-to-be (Melissa Bolona) is abducted on her hens-night celebration, the bride-groom (Ashton Holmes), and his two brothers (Cole Hauser and Shawn Ashmore), former marines, wage war on the traffickers to get her back.
Hauser is no stranger to gun-play and does fine as the battle-scarred soldier looking for a war to wage but Willis is a disappointment, having an obvious double fill in for the shots where he couldn’t be toshed showing up on set.
If AoV does anything right it doesn’t rush the character stuff in the set-up even if it doesn’t give the same graces to the originality quota. Sure, we’ve seen it all before and it’s largely telegraphed but the effort doesn’t go unnoticed and nobody can say It isn’t tight. At a brief 85-minutes it rockets along with little time for diversion - or nuance - and for the most part it’s serviceable for what it is but it’s not a date film and it ain’t gonna make anybodies top 10 list.
2018 | DIR. J.A. BAYONA | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
Picking up 3-years after the events of Jurassic World, which saw hundreds of theme park visitors ripped to shreds by a menagerie of prehistoric creatures, Fallen Kingdom depicts a society where dinosaurs and humans co-exist (separated by an ocean) and follows a growing social movement to save the creatures from a second-extinction when their island home is threatened by an active volcano. Of course the logical conclusion is simple... no good can come from saving them, let them die.
Much (exactly) like the events of the second instalment, The Lost World, a group of specialists are sent in to examine the creatures, and in this case relocate them to a new sanctuary. Their mission is commissioned by Sir Benjamin Lockwood (John Hammond's former research and business partner) and when they arrive on the island they are beaten to the punch by mercenaries, funded by Lockwood's scheming personal executor, Eli Mills. Cut to the volcano erupting in glorious fashion, dinosaurs freaking out and rampaging, humans running and screaming, and a handful of creatures being shipped to the mainland as live stock for a black market auction (in a top secret bunker beneath the Lockwood estate).
And so there we have it. A stupid and incoherent creature feature that attempts to recalibrate the ongoing narrative by showcasing weaponised cloning (I realised that was a component of the previous film), hybrid oddities and a perplexing private estate setting.
I am an unabashed fan of the series and have seen all of the previous instalments more times than I care to remember, and yet despite my affection for the franchise I cannot comprehend what it has become. That's not to say that I don't understand the storyline, but rather I don't see the progression as being logical, beneficial or integral to Micheal Crichton's original vision, or Steven Spielberg's flawless adaptation. I regarded 2015's Jurassic World with fondness and considered it to be a well measured and respectable revival of the series, and so it is all the more disappointing that they would carry on in such a mundane way.
Perhaps the studio misunderstands the fanbase and they assume that movie-goers simply want maximum dino carnage. Sure, that may have been the case while the concept was still novel, but now that we're up to the fifth instalment I think it's safer to assume that the audience wants a reasonable amount of pseudo science and logic to usher the narrative along. And what is most frustrating of all is that the story provides endless opportunities to explore deeper themes and concepts (such as deep sea exploration) but opts for the simplistic approach... roar, chomp, kill... and repeat.
With a fantastic production design, a marvellous marriage of practical and digital effects, and a strong performance from lead actor Chris Pratt, the film has its strengths. Yet all of the merits are stomped into mud by a sloppy sense of chaos and schizophrenic direction. That once believable universe created over 20 years ago on the basis of an “it could happen” concept, has descended into an unimaginable fantasy with zero realism and a dumb crossing of genres. Suffice to say it is a truly awful film... just awful.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is the second instalment in the revival trilogy, and with the finale revealing the concept for the next chapter, there remains a slither of hope yet. But that hope should not be taken for granted, and should the studio fuck up they will risk killing the franchise entirely and losing a legion of loyal fans. This is it Universal... your final chance!
2017 | DIR. ROLFE KANEFSKY | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
Telling the story of a group of revellers on a bus headed for the Burning Man festival in Nevada, the movie has them run into a depraved Satanic cult, and sees them flayed, dismembered and exposed to an assortment of creatively gruesome rituals. What ensues is an abundance of titties (of all shapes and sizes), talking severed heads, and every possible excuse to amp up the horror. Snakes and spiders galore, entrails and heavy metal music... PARTY BUS TO HELL is the definition of exploitation.
Watching the movie alone at home cannot possibly have the same impact as watching the movie with a cinema full of frenzied genre fans. And while my experience was by way of a media screener, I have experienced enough genre films with audiences to imagine how fun this one would have been in the right environment. Kanefsky's direction is frivolous and satirical, as he applies a kitchen-sink-n-all attitude.
Tara Reid serves as the headline attraction (and executive produces), with very little screen time. She gives the movie its draw card – if you consider her as such – but doesn't have much purpose. Her scenes are isolated (no doubt shot over the course of one day... two at the most) with the rest of the cast being put through the ringer. Fans of the calibre of gore being pumped out by Troma over the past decade (Poultrygiest, Return to Nuke'Em High) will be the ones who latch on to PARTY BUS TO HELL, and when the film descends into its orgy of hardcore sex and violence, they might just cream their pants.
This movie has no pretensions, and it makes no apologies. It will have its haters, and is destined to be critically maligned... but when the genre and target audience is taken in to account there is no denying that PART BUS TO HELL is fucking insane. It is a no-holds barred demonstration of excess, and an unadulterated gorfest, and when push comes to shove it delivers a shit-tonne of fun. I just wish I could have seen it with an audience of equally insane movie goers.
2018 | DIR. GARY ROSS | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
The film opens up in identical fashion to Ocean's Eleven, with Danny's younger sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) dressed in orange prison garb and facing a parole hearing. She sweet talks her way out the door and back into her life of crime, and within the blink of an eye she assembles a team of 7 skilled women to pull off the biggest jewellery heist in history. Along the way we are treated to occasional cameos from past players, as well as a who's who of Hollywood talent.
The word serviceable was coined for films like this, and with a ridiculously flaccid plot, the film's success rests squarely on the shoulders of its cast. It is by no means a great movie, but it is a superior one to the previous two entries, and with confident performances from all of the women – notably Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter – it feels much closer to a rightful sequel than either Twelve or Thirteen did. And for that I am grateful.
Original director Steven Soderbergh stepped down for this latest entry, making room for Gary Ross (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) and with that switch comes a more polished product, boasting a more frivolous attitude. The all-star male cast of the earlier films has been replaced with an equally lavish line-up of actresses in addition to Bullock, Blanchett and Bonham Carter. They include Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rhianna, Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling. This incredible casting leaves little room for naysayers and armchair critics who feel that the “female angle” is stupid, and by the time the end credits roll the whole controversy surrounding the gender-reversal is reduced to piss in bathwater.
The film beams with confidence from all directions. The women conquer the screen with attitude and tenaciousness, while Ross's direction makes no apologies. It fronts its critics head-on and does its darnedest to set itself apart... and perhaps this is its Achilles' heel. So much energy is put into creating confident and interesting characters that very little effort was put into crafting a decent plot. The heist itself is simple enough, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Without time for substantial character development (fair enough) we have to take it on face value that these women are highly skilled criminals... We are given very little to support this, despite them utilising far-fetched and highly technical gadgets and a lap top. And so with a “trust us” attitude, the film relies on the audiences' suspension of disbelief, more so than the first film did.
The highlights of OCEAN'S 8 are the snappy editing, accompanied by an infectious soundtrack, and a surprisingly restrained performance from James Corden as an unshakeable insurance investigator. His time on camera brought balance to an otherwise laborious turn of events, and with those amazing women getting up to all kinds of mischief, the movie makes its shortcomings easy to overlook.
Far be it from perfect, but far be it from bad. OCEAN'S 8 may not be necessary, but it is certainly the best of the sequels. It embodies the spirit of Soderbergh's films and carries the legacy forward nicely. And despite it being – more or less – a retread of the first story - I was able to ignore most of its flaws nevertheless and enjoyed what it had to offer. It's a fun movie, no doubt about it.