Posts Tagged Movies

Movie Mayhem – The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders — 2018; Directed by Brian Henson; Starring Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph and Joel McHalee

The Muppets have been around for a very long time, brightening the moods of both children and adults. The sense of whimsy, education and absurdity that Jim Henson brought to his creation spoke to generations of fans. The kids liked them because they were fuzzy and cute, the adults liked them because there was an underlying maturity to them. But sometime after Henson’s death in 1990, people seemed to lose touch with the Muppets. They were still around, mostly appearing in the retelling of famous stories like A Christmas Carol and Treasure Island (and of course Sesame Street, which will live on forever, as it should), but they slowly became irrelevant. In 2011, the Muppets started to make a comeback with Jason Segel’s The Muppets, and have slowly been earning their stripes back under the leadership of Henson’s son, Brian, who to his credit continues to try new things to reinvigorate the brand. Through his newest venture, Henson Alternative, Henson brings us The Happytime Murders, a seedy look at the dark secrets behind the Muppets who aren’t famous like Kermit the Frog. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Meg

The Meg

The Meg — 2018; Directed by Jon Turteltaub; Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy and Shuya Sophia Cai

What made Jaws so great when it first scared audiences away from beaches (and subsequently made the rest of the series so underwhelming or bad) was that it felt so authentic. It’s been widely documented that Steven Spielberg had major technical problems with the shark during production, limiting its exposure to the audience. This “problem” provided much more tension because we could sense a danger lurking in the depths of the water, but couldn’t see it. Ever since then, filmmakers have tried to replicate that sense of fear to varying degrees of success.

The problem is, as technology evolved and became more accessible, that authenticity devolved. Filmmakers jumped at the chance to use computer effects to create more menacing sharks without the hindrance of technical issues, but in doing so, made them less scary. Not only that, but by focusing so much effort on making the shark more frightening, they stopped caring about the characters, which is another ingredient Spielberg nailed to precision. And when the characters simply become a source for food (and the only goal of the filmmaker is how many people die, and how gruesome their deaths will be), we lose that connection and, thus, our ability to relate to what’s happening. The genre, therefore has either embraced the stupidity of shark attacks or have failed to live up to the promise of being the next Jaws. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped Me — 2018; Directed by Susanna Fogel; Starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan and Gillian Anderson

In small doses, Kate McKinnon can be very funny. On Saturday Night Live, for example, she has a knack for infusing characters with just enough manic energy and quirky characteristics that juxtapose perfectly with her straight-laced counterparts within the same sketch, and with her ability for perfectly-timed, over-the-top expressions, she can both make a sketch work from the beginning or bring life to an otherwise dying sketch. But this works best in four-minute bursts. It doesn’t work as well when she tries to extend this personality over the course of a two hour film. I have yet to see a movie featuring McKinnon where I didn’t find her overly aggressive, annoying and off-putting, mainly because it’s clear this type of extreme shtick is all she knows. This perception doesn’t change with her new film, The Spy Who Dumped Me, where she plays the hyperactive yin to Mila Kunis’s frazzled yang. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

MI Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout — 2018; Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin

In my review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I compared the M:I franchise to the Fast and the Furious franchise, in which the films really found there voice with their fourth installments and haven’t let up on the gas since, each one producing fun, inventive (sometimes wholly outrageous) pieces of entertainment. My viewing of each series followed the same basic trajectory, where the first in the series was just okay, the second worse, prompting me to skip the third altogether (and still have yet to see). When the fourth entry came around, I reluctantly went to see them (Fast & Furious because my friend wanted to see it and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol mainly because of Simon Pegg). To my surprise, both franchises upped the ante and turned what could be considered singular, stand-alone projects into a continuous story where each new entry could stand on its own two feet, but as a whole felt as if they were part of a much bigger world, breathing life into the plots and the action by way of new characters that stuck around beyond their first appearance. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment of the M:I series, it almost feels like the end of an era, wrapping up story threads going back as far as the third film for one last hooray. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Equalizer 2/Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Equalizer-Mamma Mia

The Equalizer 2 — 2018; Directed by Antoine Fuqua; Starring Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders and Pedro Pascal; Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again — 2018l; Directed by Ole Parker; Starring Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan and Christine Barinski

It seems sequel-itis has officially hit theaters this week with not one, not two, but three follow-ups to semi-successful films that most people weren’t hankering for. This comes on the heels of Tom Cruise’s sixth go-around as Ethan Hunt in the Mission:Impossible series and follows a week after the third installment of Hotel Transylvania 3 graced us with its unpleasant summer vacation. I understand that brand recognition can drive sequels, but if that’s the only thing studios are banking on, then they are doing not only the audience, but themselves a disservice. Producing a sequel is one thing; producing a new story with interesting character development within the same world is quite another, and it isn’t hard to see the difference. Where Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, a follow-up ten years in the making, finds a way to feed off of its predecessor while maturing into its own delightful song, The Equalizer 2, the next chapter to the semi-successful 2014 film about a man with a past who anonymously helps those less fortunate, does nothing but set itself on repeat. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — 2018; Directed by J.A. Bayona; Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Justice Smith and Isabella Sermon

There’s been some controversy recently about producers and studios claiming that some movies aren’t made for critics; they’re made for the fans. For me, this claim is just an excuse to produce films without any effort. If critics weren’t fans of film, why would they subject themselves to hours upon hours of their lives watching them? And if studios don’t want to receive bad reviews, they should stop rushing films into production and do what Pixar does and take the time to develop a good, solid story. On the other hand, everyone will bring their own personal experiences with them into a film. Where one person sees a masterpiece, another sees boring tripe. You’re never going to please everyone; all you can really do is make the best possible movie you can and let the chips fall where they may. Somoene’s opinion should never be mocked or ridiculed just because it doesn’t line up with yours. I know not everyone is going to like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the newest entry into the dino-centric franchise. Some will think it’s a retread of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, some won’t be interested in the cast, and some will say it’s nothing more than a cash-grab. And that’s fine. As for me, I enjoy an array of different types of films, and as both a critic and a fan, I thought Fallen Kingdom was a welcome addition to the franchise. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2 — 2018; Directed by Brad Bird; Starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Sophia Bush and Samuel L. Jackson

When The Incredibles first made their way to the big screen in 2004, I really enjoyed it, as I do all Pixar movies, but I didn’t seem to appreciate it the same way I did  films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about it that didn’t quite click. Over the years, though, after several repeat viewings, the film has grown on me more, and I can appreciate what writer/director Brad Bird was able to accomplish. Fourteen years later, Bird returns with Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to his superhero love song. Can it live up to what many fans of the original have been clamoring for? Or has the magic worn off due to the length of time it took to finally get this film off the ground? In many ways, it may be a little of both. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Hotel Artemis

HotelArtemis

Hotel Artemis — 2018; Directed by Drew Pearce; Starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista and Jeff Goldblum

Don’t be fooled by high-caliber casts. When the advertising for a film focuses heavily on the well-known, and in some cases, incredibly talented actors, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a particularly good film. Case in point — Movie 43. This 2013 film boasted about its extremely big names that all came together to have a good laugh. The end result, though, was a disgusting mess of a film that had almost zero laughs, took their premises way too far, and didn’t know what to do with their all-star talent. I can’t say that Hotel Artemis is near as bad as Movie 43, but it spends so much time lamenting over the caliber of its cast, that it completely forgets to give any of the characters or the plot any meaningful substance. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Beast

Beast

Beast — 2018; Directed by Michael Pearce; Starring Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Shannon Tarbet, and Trystan Gravelle

Occasionally, it’s good to cleanse the blockbuster palette with a smaller movie that you’ve never heard of before, never saw a trailer for, and don’t know any of the actors involved. Sometimes, these types of movies can be brilliant pieces of thought-provoking art; other times, they’re mind-numbing snooze-fests. Beast, a British import filmed in and around the UK and distributed across the pond in 2017 (and originally titled Jersey Affair), falls somewhere between these two extremes. It has some very quiet, eloquent moments that keep you invested in the mystery that surrounds the plight of the characters, and yet, because its pace can be a bit on the slow side, and its message so subtle as to become confusing, it’s far more frustrating than exhilarating. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo

Solo: A Star Wars Story — 2018; Directed by Ron Howard; Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Jonnas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover

From the initial announcement that Han Solo was going to be given the standalone treatment, the film has been plagued with problems, both small (common, routine re-shoots) and large (replacing original directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord with iconic filmmaker Ron Howard). This news spurred the fires that the production was troubled and that the final product would be a complete mess. I never believed that; Ron Howard is too smart a filmmaker to let things fall apart under his watch. It’s said that Lord and Miller believed they were making a comedy, and though I respect their vision, I don’t think Han Solo is the right character for that. Yes, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is a sarcastic smart-ass who doesn’t take a whole lot seriously, but to put him at the center of a comedy, I believe, would have turned Han into a joke and diluted the essence of the universe as a whole. Read Full Review

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