GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS

Long Live The King

Director
Michael Dougherty

Starring
Vera Farmiga
Millie Bobby Brown
Kyle Chandler
Charles Dance



Set five years after the events of Godzilla, the monster hunting agency Monarch are under public scrutiny for their knowledge of the existence of giant creatures dubbed “titans.” Paleobiologist Dr Emma Russell [Farmiga] is working closely with Monarch on sonar technology to potentially control or subdue monsters. While Emma is working on a new discovery in China, an eco-terrorist organisation, run by ex-military Colonel, Alan Jonah [Dance], storms the Monarch facility and abducts both Emma and her daughter Madison [Brown]. In order to help track the terrorist’s actions, Emma’s estranged husband Mark [Chandler] is brought on board as Jonah and his agenda are revealed.

From the outset, I was quite surprised and impressed at how the pacing wastes no time and rushes along to get straight to the monsters. But this elation quickly faded as the narrative maintains this gait throughout and never eases up to appreciate what’s unfolding. Scrambling from set-piece to set-piece, neglecting the very monsters they sold so heavily in the marketing. See, a lot of critics will dub this film repetitive, cluttered and suffering from too many monsters and on one level, I can entirely understand that but if anything, this movie actually suffers from too few monster bouts and those we get have some genuinely standout moments but even these are littered with stupid or odd directorial decisions but I will expand on that more a little later.

A film of this nature if very much driven by the production design and effect work; all of which, I’m happy to report, are commendable. Bear McCreary’s score is nowhere near as good as Alexandre Desplat’s in the last instalment or even Henry Jackman’s in Kong: Skull Island – both of which emulated a 60s/70s monster pic aural landscape – but by building on the Showa era themes and leitmotifs, it is certainly a rather strong effort. The overall sound design is also great, I missed the guttural Godzilla roar established in 2014 but this is a minor gripe considering the level of talent that has been employed. In a similar way to Aquaman, I was also very impressed at the selection of beautiful, slower wide shots and tableaus peppered throughout the film that felt like the kind of concept art that sells the film but rarely makes it to the final cut. But these pretty and haunting moments also serve to highlight how disappointing the mucky-CGI close-ups can be and while the majority is easy enough to follow, it fails to really convey the scale. Something I wholly applaud Gareth Edwards for doing in 2014 was keeping the view of the monsters from a human perspective, highlighting how helpless we are against these towering behemoths. This sequel largely maintains that but the choice to shoot the fights as if they were regular sized humans wading around a set left the action feeling generic at times and strangely consequence free; which, incidentally, is also what happened in Pacific Rim: Uprising. We lose a sense of terror and wonder and lean into campy Power Rangers visuals; granted, this could be an intentional callback to the older releases but I didn’t feel this landed particularly well. But if I’m honest, that’s always been Godzilla’s problem. The first few instalments strike fear but the series will always devolve into Godzilla recast as a saviour not an agent of balance and we get into more brow-furrowing territory and the human element grows increasingly obsolete.

With the most recent Godzilla releases (including Toho’s Shin Godzilla), there has been a step away from atomic and nuclear fear to one of climate change and human eradication through ecological disaster. The progression of this notion in King Of The Monsters is that our efforts to control and domesticate these forces will always end in folly – specifically releasing Ghidorah then acting surprised when it establishes itself as the alpha species and enacts its own agenda. I, for one, wholly welcome this and have never really understood the complaint that these modern incarnations have been preachy as these features have always been message heavy films with a parallel human component that features sparring opinions, the inefficiency of excessive bureaucracy and crazy technology that man shouldn’t meddle with.

Staying with that point for a moment, the human side of these things frequently gets a bashing. From the marketing, people want to see big stompy kaiju monsters wrestle each other to the ground but the human characters are the ones we spend the majority of the film with. The cast here is a pleasant mix of ethnicity and gender in positions of power and prominence across the board; again, something I fully champion and relish seeing on film. But the characters themselves are furnished with simplistic motivations and remarkably moronic decisions that none of them are especially likeable. And then there’s the dialogue. I’ll readily admit that the lines and their respective deliveries are typical for the genre but even by this standard, anything said aloud is incredibly painful; I’m quietly confident I heard lazy inserts such as, “you better take a look at this” five or six times. Making it worse, there is a strange imbalance across the casting with certain individuals being dispatched rather unceremoniously while others are clothed in immense plot armour that protects them from the most absurd scenarios. In one case, taking a team to land a helicopter to search for one person at the literal feet of the climactic battle between two gargantuan beasts is frankly fucking stupid. But one of the more unusual elements to the cast is that I’m not entirely sure I could point to a single individual and identify them as the lead character. None of the actors massively underperform or standout, everyone simply acts serviceably. One could argue this is because Godzilla is the lead or that the ensemble works so well as a whole that the group services as the driving force but I think those statements may be giving this movie too much credit. In actuality, I think this is just largely a by-product of a jumbled story and messy script with underdeveloped arcs and flip-flopping priorities.

Due to its reduction from a semi-grounded piece, King Of The Monsters is somehow dumber than its predecessor but by the same logic it is also arguably more fun. With that in mind, there will be those who will watch this film and have a blast from start to finish, watching titanic creatures battle it out for supremacy. For me, I am conflicted and this film will join the long line of Godzilla continuations that I somewhat enjoy but can never truly appreciate because that vital fear is lost, substituted for mindless, almost consequence free action.


Release Date:
31st May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
Maybe it’s saying something to the nature of how we process “fake news” and the desensitisation of audiences but when a news reporter is glibly explaining that things are looking pretty bad right now, with zero emotion in her voice, you feel someone should have shown the actors footage of journalists reporting on actual disasters because at that point in the movie the fucking US Capitol was on fire! You’d think that would have people just a little worked up.

Notable Characters:
I was going to talk about Charles Dance and the fact he’s a rather interesting individual with unique motivations is looked over quite a lot but instead, I’m highlighting the more memorable Bradley Whitford for being unabashedly Bradley Whitford and quipping his arse off from start to finish. He was incredibly menacing in Get Out but he’s ride sincere and sarcastic so perfectly that his performance feels effortless. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t give him much to work with but his delivery of even mundane lines elevates proceedings.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’ve seen human nature first hand and I’m here to tell you it doesn’t get any better. It gets worse”

In A Few Words:
“In an effort to homogenise properties closer and closer to a standard tone for Legendary’s monsterverse, Godzilla feels lost in a silly, sometimes fun, romp that ultimately fails to impress”

Total Score:

2/5

ROCKETMAN

Based On A True Fantasy

Director
Dexter Fletcher

Starring
Taron Egerton
Jamie Bell
Bryce Dallas Howard
Richard Madden



The story opens in the early 80s with Elton John [Egerton] checking himself into rehab and regaling the story of young Reggie Dwight to fellow addicts. He recounts being able to play music by ear from a very early age but that his abilities as a musical prodigy were never really supported by his mother [Howard] or father [Steven Mackintosh]. As he grew up, he played backing piano for a few American soul bands on tour but was unable to really write his own music due to an inability to pen lyrics. Bucking up the courage to approach a label, Dwight adopts the new name Elton John and is paired with lyricist Bernie Taupin [Bell] and the two churn out hit after hit. Shortly after this, John comes out to Bernie but is saddened when Bernie does not reciprocate. Despite this initial friction, the two are sent to America and John’s career takes off.

The initial teaser trailer for Rocketman closed with the poster tagline: based on a true fantasy. A lot of these liners tend to boil down to fairly unimaginative marketing but there is an air of accuracy to this statement because while the narrative follows the extremely tired, standard biopic structure, it is only part biopic, with the other part being a musical. In truth, we’ve heard this story a thousand times but this shift in perspective and making the music a reflective expression of the subject’s life works wonders and reinvigorates what could have been a rather dreary paint-by-numbers affair. The overall tone is therefore both extravagant and lavish as well as quite isolated and simple, giving us something relatively unique. Furthermore, the choice to avoid a family friendly PG-13/12a rating was a smart move, allowing the script and performances to actively address the drinking, drugs and sex without resorting to mere coy implication. Having said that, nothing is ever too graphic, choosing instead to lean in to the theatricality of the musical element and producing a trippy, heightened vibe that thankfully never feels out of place. Admittedly, those looking for a straightforward narrative will likely find this jarring and if you’re not sold by the end of the opening sequence, this film makes few attempts to ease or placate.

Like many biographical pieces, this is a long film, running at just over two hours but the pacing works extremely well partly because the cinematography, editing and time-skipping transitions are all perfectly in-line with the manic theatrical format. Which is a decision I can only assume was Fletcher’s but even if it wasn’t, his direction is simply superb; fresh, flamboyant and confident, it’s clear this man has a real handle on the medium and deserves plenty of opportunities to flex these muscles. As a side point, there remains a great debate over how much of Bohemian Rhapsody was actually directed by Bryan Singer but while Fletcher may have been called in to capture two weeks of footage to save that feature, when working from start-to-finish, he really proves that he would have made a substantially better release of Mercury’s story than what we ended up with. But I digress.

The respective hair, costume, make-up and production design teams have worked absolute miracles recreating Elton’s evolving wardrobe and look, gleefully running side-by-side comparisons during the credit sequence to highlight the absurdity of what Elton John was getting away with on stage and the painstaking accuracy and attention to detail involved in recreating it all. But none of that would have gotten the film anywhere without an extremely charismatic lead. Cue Taron Edgerton. Initially one may assume “the kid from Kingsman” is an unusual choice but he embodies John with supreme ease, capturing the rage, the insecurities and the raw, frustrated talent skilfully (also, he kind of had a bit of a dry-run audition in Sing albeit in gorilla form). He carries himself well singing Elton’s biggest hits and though his voice isn’t exactly the same, his twist on the tracks is a welcome treat. To my mind, one of the key accomplishments here is managing to carrying the pageantry of this tragicomedy without tilting too far into eye-rolling melodrama or irreverent farce, which would have been so very easy for a lesser-skilled actor.

With this kind of genre piece, the supporting roles are always a bit of a mixed bag, especially when central performance is such a strong, attention-pulling lead character. Few are particularly standout and even fewer drag the film down with their miscasting or capability. From Elton’s childhood we have some interesting players: Howard is cold and unrelenting in her dismissal of her son, as is Mackintosh as John’s father but they never get to scene-stealing territory or disappointing to the point of distraction. There’s nothing especially vindictive or malicious about them, they’re simply not supportive. But in a way, this makes them all the more relatable for an audience, neither of them beat or neglected Elton (not by the conventions of the period) but they are spiteful in their dismissal of him and that is something that cuts surprisingly deep. If anything, the film’s real villain is Elton’s producer John Reid [Madden] who is controlling and disrespectful – but whether it was Madden’s performance or the naivety of the lead character, there was no twist here, no sign that Reid ever really had Elton’s interests at heart outside of personal gain. He was simply played as a fairly sneering, calculating individual and there was never any doubt that it wouldn’t all end up unpleasantly.

I can’t really comment on the events of Elton John’s real life but this kind of film, released with the blessing and involvement of the man himself while he’s still alive and unafraid of airing undesirable truths, is an incredibly positive move to transparency. As an artist, he owes the public nothing but offering up something that is wall-to-wall swearing and avarice to highlight what the life is like without veering into an overly romanticised fantasy is commendable and something that should be imitated. All we need now is to figure out a way to illustrate the hazards of music and stardom without the copy and paste linear structure, although Rocketman comes damned close.


Release Date:
24th May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
The standard biopic trope is to build to some formative concert or tour but in a perfect example of this film both bucking the trend and indulging in the formula, the bookend scenes culminate to a recreation of the music video for I’m Still Standing. It’s an interesting choice and effectively acts in the same way as the big final number but with everything that has been shown on screen for the previous two hours, the lyrics resonate rather well.

Notable Characters:
Again, another example of the film getting it perfectly right and curiously misfiring is Jamie Bell. Bell is great in this movie and presents a nice parallel to Elton’s extravagance and self destruction but he is also the man behind the words of the songs that people know. Sure, this is Rocketman, story of the man behind the piano, lost in a world of addiction and debauchery but he’s arguably only one half of the puzzle. Taupin is so very overlooked by this movie that it’s almost obtuse using the lyrics to illustrate parts of John’s life – which I appreciate is in direct contrast to what I wrote not one paragraph prior.

Highlighted Quote:
“You’ve gotta kill the man you were born to be, to become the person you want to be”

In A Few Words:
“Covering the excess, the drama and the songs in a unique way, Rocketman is everything Bohemian Rhapsody wishes it could be”

Total Score:

4/5

ALADDIN

A Rags To Wishes Story

Director
Guy Ritchie

Starring
Will Smith
Mena Massoud
Naomi Scott
Marwan Kenzari
Navid Negahban




Set several hundred years ago, in the ancient kingdom of Agrabah, we are introduced to Aladdin [Massoud], a young street urchin who survives thanks to his quick-wits, fast fingers and sharp tongue. One day in the marketplace, Aladdin meets Princess Jasmine [Scott], who has disguised herself to walk among the common folk and keeps her true identity a secret from the young man. When trying to see the princess again, Aladdin is arrested by the Sultan’s vizier, Jafar [Kenzari] who offers him a chance at redemption by descending into the cave of wonders, deep in the desert, to retrieve an oil lamp. Aladdin becomes trapped in the cave but discovers a genie [Smith] living inside the lamp, who explains he will grant his new master three wishes.

The only appeal these Disney live-action remakes offer is a familiar story through a different prism; for the studio it’s a safe bet and for the audiences, it’s comfortable. In all honesty, that’s been Disney’s modus operandi since day one; take a familiar fairy tale rooted in core values and spin a yarn from it that will entertain their target four quadrants and generate a shit-tonne of merchandise sales. These have ranged from alternate takes, such as Maleficent and Dumbo, where a different perspective has been shown or largely reinventing the story, to fairly straight-laced shot-for-shot adaptations like Beauty And The Beast and for the most part, these movies have generated an insane amount of money for Disney but stagnated their output by recycling and cannibalising their own properties. Aladdin is, for a great many people, one of the top three best Disney animated features and fundamentally this iteration was always going to be at a disadvantage and fighting an uphill battle.

From the outset, it’s clear that a great deal of time, attention and effort has gone into crafting a detailed visually lush setting. Drawing on so many cultures from India to Morocco, we are shown a vast melting pot kingdom similar to the standard vague medieval Europe that Disney calls on for its western adaptations. The costumes, hair and makeup are all spectacularly rich and vibrant as is the production design employed to shape the city of Agrabah. Having said that, maintaining the bright and colourful quasi-cartoony tone does leave a lot of the movie feeling a little too polished, failing to give that realistic lived-in quality.

Another key factor of this release is the musical set-pieces. It is extremely difficult to grade the songs because they are a rehash of what has come before (and arguably some of Disney’s finest tracks) and while the new entries are perfectly serviceable, they are competing against decades of nostalgia and familiarity, coming off a bit Eurovision-y at times. That being said, Alan Menken has returned to build a charming mix of older methods and modern flare that gives the score a nice rounded presence. But sticking with the songs for a moment, we have to address how they are presented visually. Ritchie’s direction has always been a bit of a mixed bag, veering from incredibly creative and innovative shots to generic repackaged tropes. This comes out most notably during the musical numbers where some of the lines are delivered seemingly to no one or without impact. As silly and potentially petty as this example may sound let’s take an example. During the One Jump Ahead number, Aladdin turns and sings, “let’s not be too hasty’ while ascending a flight of stairs. In the animated version, he is surrounded by guards and backed into a corner, whereas in this live-action version it doesn’t become immediately apparent that he hasn’t got away and is still being pursued; the villains are off-screen and he’s kinda warbling to no one in particular. Small things like this really impact how well these musical interludes are incorporated into the story. Having said that, the execution and choreography for many of the standalone dance sequences are very impressive and pleasingly handled.

Really there are only three performances to talk about: Jasmine, Genie and Jafar. Giving Jasmine actual agency reflects contemporary sensibilities, in the same way that the 90s animated Jasmine was very outspoken and reflected the social progression of that specific era. I feel Scott is a very capable actress and enjoyed her in the underrated Power Rangers, she is also giving one of the best all-round performances in this story. She is earnest, driven, empathetic and intelligent, while also displaying that young naivety that allows the audience to connect with her. On the other end of the spectrum, the Genie is larger than life and sits somewhat outside of the more grounded realism of the human characters. Will Smith is as charismatic and charming as he always is and makes this role very much his own; not the manic-paced, impression-quipping ball of energy that Robin Williams was, nor the big, bombastic, drag-inspired, fourth-wall breaking performance that the Broadway/West End musical cultivated but a pleasing middle ground that very much plays to his strengths. Which brings us to Jafar – easily the weakest thing about this movie. The performance would have been arguably fine if it weren’t for the range of hissing, shrieking, growling and arrogant tones that Jonathan Freeman gave us. Giving us a glimpse of Jafar’s past, that he has worked his way up from the slums to the highest position outside of inherited nobility, is nice but criminally underused. Alan Tudyk helps elevate the vizier’s persona with a subtly malicious Iago that is very different from Gilbert Gottfried’s pitch and intensity but a solid companion for this more subdued Jafar

The opportunity was here to create something bigger, more ambitious and more spellbinding but a lot of the time, what we end up with feels inferior to a nearly thirty year old cartoon (without sounding too diminutive). Just as a brief example, at the close of the animated movie, Aladdin is almost crushed by a giant rolling tower in a frozen tundra, Jafar transforms into an enormous serpent, Jasmine is trapped in an hourglass filling with sand and the stakes feel important and lasting. All this film really shows us is a few guards being arrested, a parrot morphing into a sort-of-roc and principal characters being raised off the ground in a very loosely defined glowing energy field. And that is the ultimate problem with this feature, lack of mind-blowing, awe-inspiring vision. There is such a wealth of mythological and cultural influence to draw on but Aladdin failed to capitalise on any of it, choosing to comfortably recreate the beats of the original but without ever really escaping its shadow.


Release Date:
24th May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m a sucker for the opening song Arabian Nights. I genuinely love it and the elegant, exotic tones resonate for me and genuinely set the mood in the same way that Maurice Jarre’s Lawrence Of Arabia score immediately captivates the imagination and transports you to a different land. It is a wonderful example of music constructing an environment before one is ever truly seen. This variant, however, is not without its flaws; not because of the song itself but because of what we are being shown at the same time. This sequence is used here to establish so much, under the distinct impression that you are already more than familiar with the original animated film. Subsequently, this devolves into a rush job that demonstrates some of the scale of this locale but not enough of the wonder and mystery to it all. If anything, the film’s opening sets the scene for everything else that follows.

Notable Characters:
I enjoyed that the Sultan [Negahban] is less of a simpering, doddering old man, as he was in 1992. Instead he is simply an over-protective father with the best intentions for his daughter. It also helps to reiterate Jasmine’s relatable frustrations rather than convincing an audience to accept the will and authority of a bit of a man-child.

Highlighted Quote:
“Steal an apple and you’re a thief. Steal a kingdom and you’re a statesman”

In A Few Words:
“A very middle of the road, mixed bag recreation that never truly justifies its own existence”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #237

[19 May 2019]


Winning Team:
My Crazy Ex Machina
Genre – Caleb and Ava attempt a reconciliation.. it does not go well

Runners Up:
The Iron Giants
Genre – A group of well-oiled dancers short circuit into the future and start a dance revolution
The Cinematrix: Rise Of The Reboots
Genre – Humanity is enslaved by machines that force them to make the same few movies over and over
Street Shiter X
Genre – Action


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of Arthur Curry’s superhero persona in Aquaman?
AQUAMAN
2. What is the title of sequel to Finding Nemo?
FINDING DORY
3. Who played the lead role of Jackie Kennedy in 2016’s Jackie?
NATALIE PORTMAN
4. What is the title of the film about the making of The Room, starring James and Dave Franco?
THE DISASTER ARTIST
5. How many Ocean’s films have been made to date (excluding the 1960 original)?
FOUR
6. Which Men In Black film featured Josh Brolin?
MEN IN BLACK III
7. What was the title of the first Transformers spin-off, released December 2018?
BUMBLEBEE
8. Which sport is depicted in I, Tonya?
FIGURE SKATING / ICE SKATING
9. Who voices the lead role in the Hotel Transylvania films?
ADAM SANDLER
10. What is the name of the 80s western starring Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips and Charlie Sheen?
YOUNG GUNS


ROUND II: Filming [Robot Leads]
1. What is the name of the robotic Godzilla that appeared from outer space in 1974? Robozilla? Godzilla 2.0? Mechagodzilla?
MECHAGODZILLA
2. How many Short Circuit films have been made to date? 2? 3? 4?
TWO
3. Ex Machina was released in which year? 2013? 2015? 2017?
2015
4. Which character does not appear in Avengers: Age Of Ultron? Baron Von Strucker? Prof Erik Selvig? General Thaddeus Ross?
GENERAL THADDEUS ROSS
5. The following quote is from which film, “Skynet knew it was losing, so it tried to rig the game. It sent a machine back to the time before the war”? Terminator 2: Judgment Day? Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines? Terminator Genisys?
TERMINATOR GENISYS
6. Who directed Wall-E? Brad Bird? Pete Docter? Andrew Stanton?
ANDREW STANTON
7. Which animation studio produced 2005’s Robots? 20th Century Fox Animation? Universal’s Illumination Entertainment? DreamWorks Animation?
20TH CENTURY FOX ANIMATION
8. What do Frank and his robot steal to impress Jennifer in Robot & Frank? A copy of Don Quixote? A sapphire necklace? Her ex-husband’s car?
A COPY OF DON QUIXOTE
9. The Iron Giant is set in which year? 1947? 1957? 1967?
1957
10. I, Robot did not require any reshoots. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Andrew Garfield appeared in which film?
LIONS FOR LAMBS
2. In 101 Dalmatians what does Pongo’s owner, Roger, do for a living?
SONGWRITER
3. Who directed the 2016 adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fences?
DENZEL WASHINGTON
4. Which natural disaster forces Paddington to make his way to London?
EARTHQUAKE
5. What is the name of the council of assassins in the John Wick films?
THE HIGH TABLE
6. The following is the poster tagline for which Martin Scorsese film, “Nobody knows Rupert Pupkin but after 1130 tonight, no one will ever forget him”?
THE KING OF COMEDY
7. What is the name of Wade Watts’ avatar in Ready Player One?
PARZIVAL
8. Who composed the score for Alien?
JERRY GOLDSMITH
9. What is the eponymous animal in the Jordan Peele/Keegan-Michael Key comedy Keanu?
CAT
10. In The Town, we see two separate bank robberies. What type of masks are used in each respective robbery? (one point per correct answer)
SKULLS / NUNS


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the title of the 2002 film in which Al Pacino portrays a director who uses a digital actress to complete his film and then tries to keep up the pretence that she is a real person? S1mone? H3l3n? Eve?
S1MONE
2. Control is the name of British Intelligence in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but what is its informal nickname? The Circus? The Farm? The Shop?
THE CIRCUS
3. Of the seven books, how many Chronicles Of Narnia films have been made to date? 3? 4? 5?
THREE
4. The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn was released in which year? 1946? 1951? 1959?
1951
5. The Untouchables is predominantly set in which city? New York? Chicago? Los Angeles?
CHICAGO
6. The following quote is from which film, “We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible”? Deepwater Horizon? Interstellar? Invictus?
INTERSTELLAR
7. How many characters appear on the “line-up” poster in Trainspotting? 5? 6? 7?
FIVE
8. What gives Ted’s true identity away to Kate in Sicario? A tattoo? A wristband? A marked banknote?
A WRISTBAND (used by the cartel to bind wads of cash)
9. What is the name of the villain in Basil The Great Mouse Detective? Ratula? Ratiarty? Ratigan?
RATIGAN
10. Isle Of Dogs is the highest grossing PG-13 animated movie. True or False?
FALSE (The Simpsons Movie is at $527mil)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Coffee And Cigarettes / American Gangster / Due Date / The Man With The Iron Fists
Poster: Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai
Actor: RZA


POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU

It’s Time For A World Class Detective

Director
Rob Letterman

Starring
Justice Smith
Kathryn Newton
Bill Nighy
Ryan Reynolds



Set in a world where Pokemon and humans co-exist, we are introduced to Tim Goodman [Smith], a young insurance salesman who turned his back on the world of Pokemon due to the death of his mother and absence of his father, Harry – a detective working in the sprawling metropolis of Ryme City. Tim’s fairly mundane existence is disrupted when he learns that his father has died during an investigation. Tim heads to Ryme City to collect the personal effects of his estranged father but is drawn into the investigation when he meets Lucy Stevens [Newton], a click-bait-columnist who dreams of investigative journalism and a Pikachu in a deerstalker who Tim can understand verbatim.

The first thing to acknowledge is that while this movie generates a fair amount of lore (and rather interestingly seems to tie-in with the original animated series canon) it doesn’t devote a great deal of time to dryly expositing about what Pokemon are. Subsequently, those familiar with the property will get significantly more out of the film than those who are newly initiated but there is still plenty of charm and abounding cuteness for the casual viewer. A lot of this comes down to the fact that this movie is relatively a straightforward fun romp that revels in the playground it is afforded. More than that, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu captures that same magic present in the various games of world-building, creating something an audience would want to belong to – akin to franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter, etc – and starts conversations among fans about what Pokemon would be their companion, what job they would like to do in this universe, which Pokemon they would like to see represented in future instalments. Admittedly, this level of fanaticism has always been present and has eked out further into the public consciousness over the last twenty years through games, shows and recently the mobile app, Pokemon Go but the leap into multi-million dollar filmmaking has the power to not only invigorate the established fan base but to cast a wider net of support and interest in the property. So even before we discuss the merits of the film itself, it’s already done its job acting as one big advert for the licence.

Leaving the branding talk for a moment, this is a very technically sound feature. The initial reaction was mixed but unsurprising, owing to the attempt to make photo-realistic incarnations of fictional creatures. One of the smartest moves by the production team was shooting on film and utilising a combination of puppetry and CGI to create something eerily realistic; replicating the methods of the first Jurassic Park film. All the detailed, layered and bustling shots illustrate that clear care, attention and respect for the source material has been taken but when we are introduced to a creature outside of the central cast, there can be a significant dose of uncanny-valley wavering that spoils the illusion. An example of this would be the colossal Torterra set-piece which starts on a mind-blowing scale before resolving itself extremely quickly and proves the entire sequence was little more than an excuse for CGI action without actual consequence. In addition to the visuals, the audio work performs admirably, the sound design and mixing are pleasant and Henry Jackman’s score being a mix of video game inspired themes and genre-expected orchestral tones offers a welcome balance.

Detective Pikachu walks a fine line between trying to be dark, gritty and grounded at the same time as fun, light, colourful and cartoony; a dichotomy that will conjure a lot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? parallels for older viewers. In an essence, the film simultaneously treats the content seriously but is aware that kids are the primary demographic so avoids taking itself too seriously and this is a key difference. The film never condescends or talks down to its target audience; there is a distinct absence of dance numbers and pop culture references (excluding the central conceit) and feels more like an 80s/90s family feature than the post-Shrek formula we have seen repeated ad nauseam. This level of pseudo-maturity has allowed the writers to slip in some references to contemporary issues of equality, feminism, integrity of news and the environment, which in of itself is fantastic, but as they are delivered wholly without subtlety, the messages feel a little stunted and disposable; much like the 80s cartoon sign-offs instructing children to avoid the perils of drugs. As a counterpoint, despite the various progressive messages, the story heavily relies on the tired trope of a disabled villain, which is a tragic and easily avoidable misstep.

Keeping the narrative character-focused, the usual Pokemon Trainer trekking through the landscape, finding various creatures before entering a tournament story and, subsequently, a larger scale is missing but this probably helped make the film more palatable for newly initiated. At the same time, the movie attempts to sample this in the underground fight club scene and hoping for a positive reaction to this, will likely build on it in future (especially as it has been at the forefront of a significant portion of the marketing). One aspect I have avoided discussing up until this point is the characters and that is because they are fairly simple and frankly dumb. Far from stilted, the performances aren’t as terrible as some would make out but they are certainly one of the weakest elements. Tim’s story is very vanilla and Smith’s portrayal of him is just as flat as his character in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Kathryn Newton as plucky up-and-coming reporter Lucy Stevens is much more interesting and feels very much like a video game NPC brought to life but as much as she displays a degree of skill and competence in her role, the plot does tend to unfold for the leads quite conveniently and without any lasting ramifications. But again, this is something present in films like ET, The Goonies and Flight Of The Navigator and clearly something being heavily emulated for nostalgia purposes, relying on a combination of charm, nostalgia and fantasy to see you through to the close.

**spoilers abound throughout this paragraph**
As much as I enjoyed this film, it has a plethora of problems, most notably the entire third act which is horribly cliché and uneven. The big reveal that Howard is actually the central antagonist was obvious very early on, as was the method of defeating him, thanks to some uninspired dialogue from Howard himself stating that he can transfer his consciousness to Mewtwo while leaving his body vulnerable and unguarded. It’s the kind of quick fix that is remarkably lazy and has no place in modern cinema for an audience of any age. And this simplicity is a truly double-edged sword, allowing for a light approachable fun feature but generating huge plot holes and stale exchanges. The aforementioned charm cannot supplant this insufficient depth, leading to a rather flat but strangely satisfying conclusion despite the heavily signposted twists. What’s more, the ending seemingly shuts out a direct copy and paste sequel by establishing that the status quo would not remain. I found this a genuinely interesting move and one that could highlight the potential future direction the studio could take the franchise in.

The bar for video game adaptations has been incredibly low and while Detective Pikachu makes many of the same mistakes committed by every other attempt (incorporating the flaws from the source material and alienating newcomers) it somehow manages to come out standing, having earned enough respect from all swathes of demographics to warrant returning to this property but owing to how the film ends, it will be interesting to see if we will see a genre-shift or if this magic can even be captured for a second time.


Release Date:
10th May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m going to briefly highlight the Mr Mime scene for two simple reasons. Firstly Mr Mime was the source of a lot of flak in the trailers due to the outrage about the Pokemon skin textures. When finally watching this on a big screen, any fears or concerns I had were allayed; sure it’s a little unsettling and weird but it’s a four foot mime creature, nothing about it is conventional. Secondly, part of the film walking that line between cute and dark is in this scene. Tim and Pikachu interrogate Mr Mime for information and a handful of mime gags ensue, mostly telling our heroes to get lost. But then things take a weird turn when Tim mimes dowsing the creature in gasoline and lighting several matches. Especially as the joke ends with, what I can only assume, is a dead Mr Mime, whose belief in the improv sends him into a psychosomatic cardiac arrest.

Notable Characters:
This is a little tricky as I nobody stood out as decidedly impressive or an impediment to the film as a whole; there were definite areas for improvement but nothing ruined the experience. I felt Ken Watanabe was criminally underused and Nighy was limited by his chair but the biggest head-scratch is Ryan Reynolds. He is absolutely serviceable as Pikachu and by the end of the film, it’s very clear why he was chosen but I still don’t think there was anything specific about Reynolds’ performance that was unique to him and, as much as I want to resist writing this, ultimately felt like a studio/producer’s note about the success of Deadpool.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s not news if it can’t be verified”

In A Few Words:
“An upbeat, energetic and competent adaptation that understands its core audience while providing enough light-hearted entertainment for the uninitiated”

Total Score:

3/5

BOOKSMART

Getting Straight A’s. Giving Zero F’s.

Director
Olivia Wilde

Starring
Kaitlyn Dever
Beanie Feldstein



The day before their high school graduation, Amy [Dever] and Molly [Feldstein] learn that all their dedication and hard work, which has given them reputations as pretentious and aloof, has been in vain as their fellow students have also gotten into ivy league universities despite outwardly partying, slacking off in class and showing little interest in further education. This sparks a crisis for Molly who feels they have wasted their time and abandons their pre-determined evening celebrations to attend a popular jock’s house party and live as stereotypical teenagers.

When it comes to analysing comedies, the writing and performances are (understandably) at the forefront of reviews and opinions. One thing that is often overlooked is the technical acumen on display and Booksmart is a prime example because while it merits a significant amount of praise for its creative elements, the sound design, camera work, editing and direction are all magnificently vibrant, energetic and captivating. More than that, Wilde has managed to create a time capsule release, akin to the works of John Hughes, steeped in the politics and social landscapes/pressures facing the youth of 2019 while retaining a timeless relatability for older audience members.

Over the last decade, many films have tried to imitate the energy and zeal of Superbad, setting two high school best friends on a final hurrah odyssey that tests their relationship but ultimately strengthens it with the assurance that even though they may change, these moments will be with them forever. Almost all of these imitators have fallen flat, conveying little more than the shock factor without any actual impactful or lasting weight. Present in this feature is the perfect combination of outrageous teenage comedic antics and a rather mature emotional core that resonates throughout. At the same time, Booksmart also subtly subverts several genre expectations and feels fresh due to the perspective shift. In truth, society, reflected through cinema, has always given young males a free pass; the content of Stand By Me would be difficult to imagine with an all-female cast solely due to the difference in coming-of-age experiences between genders – or so we would be lead to believe. Of course a film like Stand By Me could be written with an all-female cast, the only difference would be a wealth of additions that would need to be included to illustrate the increased pressure that young women face. A simple example of this is when Amy and Molly are trying to ascertain the location of Nick’s party and realise that a local pizza parlour has completed a large delivery and would likely know the whereabouts. Fashioning their hair into makeshift masks, they break into the back of the pizza delivery man’s car and make their demands. Immediately, he gives a wake-up call by explaining that they have willingly entered a stranger’s car, unarmed (while he has a gun), and he could easily drive them onto the interstate and abduct them with little resistance. As they get the information and depart the car, he calls over his shoulder “Don’t trust people! Oh my god!” It’s such a simple interaction but one that highlights things would almost never be considered in a male-led feature. If we take Superbad, for example, Seth and Evan’s lives are in jeopardy so frequently but we rarely worry about it because they’re male and we assume nothing too awful will happen, whereas the reality for young women is different – as obvious as that may sound.

At the centre of this movie is the duo of Dever and Feldstein that are a magnificent find; the timing and chemistry are genuinely astounding, feeling both sincere and free from superficiality. On top of the whip-smart dialogue present in the script, the delivery and physical comedy display a confidence and capability which shows promise that these actors will go on to have very successful careers. I would also add that so many of the characters and situations are extraordinarily relatable on so many levels. From the students who have worked hard only to discover that others appear to be coasting by, the further revelation that everyone is dealing with their own insecurities and issues and that the adults barely have their own lives figured out. The principal moonlighting as a Lyft driver is a standard commentary on underpaid teaching positions but Amy and Molly’s favourite teacher stating that she felt she didn’t experience enough radical, life-changing things as a teenager so went off-the-rails by over-compensating in her 20s and regretted so much of it, cut wonderfully deep for me. Another stellar move is taking the key lesson from the conclusion of Mean Girls, illustrating these kids not necessarily turning on one another but generating unusual alliances due to the common ground of adolescent tribulations. More so than that, this film manages to recreate the warzone of high school without including intentionally malicious individuals; the worst we get is highly opinionated, self-absorbed kids who are trying to figure out who they are – which is one of the most accurate representations of teenage life. The film is not without antagonistic individuals but this villainless high school film is an art-form and a welcome treat.

In spite of all the above gushing, the film isn’t perfect. The events depicted provoke little fallout and follows the same path as most teen comedies, even a character getting arrested is given a rather fantastical resolution, enforcing the movie’s overall consequence-free, feel good tone. What’s more, aside from the female and LGBT perspective, the actual plot doesn’t really offer anything new. The standard archetypal characters are present, the only difference is that the bully/villain angle is played down or explained. But if I’m honest, this could be said of most genre pieces; you don’t need to reinvent pasta for a good pasta dish, you just need the right accoutrements.


Release Date:
24th May 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are plenty of fantastic scenes to highlight but the opening five minutes are spectacular. Molly sits cross-legged on her bedroom floor, listening to a motivational tape, reinforcing the notion that she is truly better than others because she is giving 110%. Amy then picks her up and they spend an excessive amount of time dancing outside Molly’s house. It’s honestly fantastic and indicated to me, so very early on, that this film was going to be noteworthy.

Notable Characters:
Gigi (played by Billie Lourd) is a strange medley. On the one hand, she represents the classic stoner character who seemingly appears wherever the plot requires her, connected to everyone and blessed with insight; essentially an otherworldly spirit guide. On the other hand, she’s also a spoilt rich girl in desperate need for validation and attention. Again, two archetypes that don’t often gel but Lourd brings this wealthy insecure oddball to life superbly.

Highlighted Quote:
“Excuse me madam, are you judging people’s sexual preferences? Because you fuck a panda every night”

In A Few Words:
“Sharp, witty and endearing, Booksmart deserves to become a classic”

Total Score:

4/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #236

[05 May 2019]


Winning Team:
Wyld Stallions (sponsored by OCP and Skynet)
Genre – Whether you’re dancing with wolves or silencing lambs, this corporate merger aims to draw first blood in bringing history’s future today.. but it’s not set

Runners Up:
The Galaxy Is On Orion’s Belt
Genre – A friendly alien puts a chocolate bar on a cat’s collar
He’s Not Orion, He’s A Very Naughty Boy
Genre – A desperate attempt to think of a team name because we are all super tired
The Great Orion Mix-Up
Genre – Orion Reynolds and Orion Gosling keep betting confused for each other
No Points Can Be Found On Orion’s Belt
Genre – Sci-fi (straight to VHS)


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the title of the first sequel to Rush Hour?
RUSH HOUR 2
2. Emma Watson starred in the live action adaptation of which Disney film?
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
3. What is the name of Wayne’s best friend and co-host in Wayne’s World?
GARTH ALGAR
4. Jurassic Park was released in which year?
1993
5. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman starred together in which film?
LEON
6. Who plays Jenny in Forrest Gump?
ROBIN WRIGHT
7. Which film was first read out as the 2017 best picture academy award winner before the correct winner, Moonlight, was announced?
LA LA LAND
8. How many children does Robin Williams and Sally Field have in Mrs Doubtfire?
THREE
9. What is the title of the 1993 film in which Harrison Ford is falsely accused of his wife’s murder and escapes custody?
THE FUGITIVE
10. Groundhog Day takes place in which month?
FEBRUARY


ROUND II: Filming [Orion Pictures]
1. The Terminator was released in which year? 1981? 1984? 1989?
1984
2. Who played the title role in Arthur? Dudley Moore? Dustin Hoffman? Billy Crystal?
DUDLEY MOORE
3. What is the name of the company that funds the RoboCop project in the film of the same name? MBA? WYC? OCP?
OCP (Omni Consumer Products)
4. Which of the following did not play one of the Three Amigos in the 1986 film of the same name? Martin Short? Chevy Chase? Gene Wilder?
GENE WILDER
5. Amadeus is told in flashback from the perspective of which composer? Giuseppe Bonoo? Franz Joseph Haydn? Antonio Salieri?
ANTONIO SALIERI
6. Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack and Oliver Platt starred in which film? Radio Days? Married To The Mob? Love Field?
MARRIED TO THE MOB
7. The following quote is from which film, “He was insubordinate, cowardly and insubordinate. He frightened the men. I did not put the fear there, he did. So he will be lashed and we will go around the horn.”? Master And Commander? In The Heart Of The Sea? The Bounty?
THE BOUNTY
8. Only one of the Rambo films was distributed by Orion. Which one was it? First Blood? Rambo III? Rambo (2008)?
FIRST BLOOD (R2 Tristar R4 Lionsgate)
9. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a remake of which David Niven, Marlon Brando film? Separate Tables? King, Queen, Knave? Bedtime Story?
BEDTIME STORY
10. Orion’s highest grossing picture was The Silence Of The Lambs with $424 million dollars. True or False?
FALSE (Dances With Wolves made $424mil followed by The Silence Of The Lambs with $272mil)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What are the titles of the six Paranormal Activity films? (one point per correct answer)
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY / PA2 / PA3 / PA4 / PA: THE MARKED ONES / PA THE GHOST DIMENSION
2. Disney’s The Sword In The Stone was released in which year?
1963
3. Adjusted for inflation, what is the highest grossing film of all time at $3.7 billion?
GONE WITH THE WIND
4. Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell appeared in which two films? (one point per correct answer)
OLD SCHOOL / ANCHORMAN
5. Which actors voiced the lead roles in 2000’s The Road To El Dorado? (one point per correct answer)
KEVIN KLINE / KENNETH BRANAGH
6. Who is the only actor to date to have three Oscars in the Best Leading Male Performance category? [bonus point for naming the only actor to receive four best lead Oscars]
DANIEL DAY LEWIS [Katherine Hepburn]
7. Who directed The Goonies?
RICHARD DONNER
8. Which actor appeared in Better Off Dead, Identity, Being John Malkovich and The Grifters?
JOHN CUSACK
9. The following quote is from which film, “That is good, for believing what you do. We will confer upon you a rare gift these days – a martyr’s death”?
THE WICKER MAN
10. 1978’s The First Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, was directed by the author of the novel of the same name. What was his name?
MICHAEL CRICHTON


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following young adult novels has yet to receive a live-action cinematic adaptation? How I Live Now (Meg Rosoff)? The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)? The Carnival At Bray (Jessie Ann Foley)?
THE CARNIVAL AT BRAY
2. Aguirre: The Wrath Of God, Goodbye Lenin, M, Wings Of Desire and The White Ribbon are films from which country? Germany? Austria? Poland?
GERMANY
3. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, what colour is Cameron’s father’s car? Black? Red? White?
RED
4. In Clash Of The Titans, who creates the golden owl Bubo? Athena? Hephaestus? Hermes?
HEPHAESTUS
5. Which of the following 2005 films earned the most at the box office? Batman Begins? Mr & Mrs Smith? Charlie And The Chocolate Factory?
MR & MRS SMITH $478mil (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory $474mil, Batman Begins $374mil)
6. What are Captain Miller’s last words in Saving Private Ryan? Earn it? Angels on our shoulders? I’m alright?
EARN IT
7. What is the name of Robert Redford’s character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Alexander Pierce? Jasper Sitwell? Brock Rumlow?
ALEXANDER PIERCE
8. Straw Dogs was released in which year? 1971? 1979? 1983?
1971
9. In Event Horizon, the titular space ship disappears for seven years and reappears orbiting which planet? Jupiter? Neptune? Pluto?
NEPTUNE
10. The Last Samurai made more at the box office in Japan than America. True or False?
TRUE (JP $119mil, US $111mil)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Gone In 60 Seconds / Lost In Translation / Cold Mountain / Public Enemies
Poster: Lost Highway
Actor: Giovanni Ribisi