Film Review: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (USA 2018) ***1/2

Ralph Breaks the Internet Poster
Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph”, Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

Writers:

Phil Johnston (screenplay by), Pamela Ribon (screenplay by) | 5 more credits »

One can observe more and more formulaic flow in the Disney movies.  Even for their December Christmas animated features, one year features a male and the next a female young protagonist.  This year sees a young female (as it is the lady’s turn) but she dabbles in stuff that more males would be interested in – car racing.   Her character, Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman, who recently got her Hollywood Walk of Fame) is however, in a video game and her best friend is WRECK-IT RALPH (John. C. Reilly), who in this film breaks the internet.  Her dream is to win races.  The film questions the importance of friendship against chasing ones dreams.  No prizes for guessing the answer!

The film begins with something quite different.  While a lot of scripts begin with  some dream that needs to be reached from poverty, this story begins with Ralph and Vanellope having the perfect life.  They enjoy what there doing, are best friends and want nothing to change.  The film questions this status quo.

The setting is six years after the events of the first film (also in real time as the last RALPH movie was 2012).  The steering wheel controller on the Sugar Rush arcade game console breaks, forcing Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) to unplug the machine.  Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz evacuate all of the Sugar Rush residents to other games before it is shut down, placing the racers in the care of Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun.  Ralph and Vanellope then use the arcade’s new connection to the Internet to go looking for a replacement steering wheel.

The script uses fully all the quirks that can be found in the internet.  Those who are unfamiliar (maybe none in today’s audiences) will find a few things strange but the filmmakers make the solid assumption that everyone is aware of the concept of viruses, search engines and social platforms.  A few new internet characters like eBoy and  Mr. Knowsmore ( the man who knows everything in charge of a search engine) sprite up the list of characters.

The film also contains a few totally entertaining imaginative numbers like the tap dancing on the car hoods and the animated Busby Berkeley sequences.  The film’s funniest segment is Ralph’s visit to the virus Master, Double Dan (Alfred Molina in his British accent) and told never to look at his little brother, which of course, he cannot help but do, while making comments about him all the while.

John C. Reilly has an unmistakable voice and one can only expect him to do his goofy, sympathetic tones, especially in the scenes where he is pleading for Vanellope’s friendship.

Two lively songs ‘Zero’ and ‘Place Called Slaughter Race’ enliven he festivities.  (There are also a few songs in the other December Disney animated features).

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET is no FROZEN, TOY STORY or COCO.  But it does have its moments and its inventiveness.  The most inventive of these involve the coming together at the film’s end of all the past animated movie characters (the Disney Princess lineup with The Muppets, Star Wars, Disney Animation, Marvel Comics, and Pixar characters)

together.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX71_Jcm4po

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Film Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE (USA 2017) ***

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Justice League Poster
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

Director:

Zack Snyder

Writers:

Chris Terrio (screenplay by), Joss Whedon (screenplay by)  »

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE is the d.c. comics team of superheroes (conceived by Gardner Fox and first appearing in the 1960 comic) who join together to battle super villains. The seven original members were Superman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  These members rotate and have also included lesser known action heroes like Atom and Plastic Man.

In JUSTICE LEAGUE the film, the league is made up of the leader, Batman (Ben Affleck) , Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa)and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) formed to honour Superman (Henry Cavill) after his death.

The story takes place months after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where Superman dies.  As the world mourns Superman’s death, the Justice League is formed by Batman to face the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf (an unrecognizable Ciaran Hinds) and his army of Parademons, who are on the hunt for three Mother Boxes on Earth.

Considering the (critically not commercially) disaster of all the films so far in the D.C. extended universe excepting WONDER WOMAN, director Snyder plays his film safe so it cannot be crucially panned.  The story is left simple and straight forward so nothing can go wrong.  Batman forms the league, the league fights the villain and wins and the film ends.  The mood is kept relatively serious with humour in the form of a few punch lines thrown in periodically.  Of all the superheroes, Wonder Woman has the most screen time and jokes about her sexiness (kept non-feminist) plentiful.

Of the new superheroes, Ezra Miller (WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN) puts in some fresh life as The Flash with his cute schoolboy looks and humour.  In the other hand,  Cyborh turns out pretty boring, as he complains of his super powers half the time.  Aquaman has little screen time, perhaps the filmmakers just whetting audience’s appetite for the new upcoming AQUAMAN film by James Wan.

The dialogue ranges from good to plain awful.   Good: When Batman is asked of his superpowers, his reply is :I am rich and wealthy.”  The awful:  words to Wonder Woman: “You smell good” followed by  “I have smelt you before.”  But one should expect better writing for a $300 million blockbuster.

The fight scenes at the end are executed with the expected pyrotechnics (nothing really stands out) that likely cost a big bundle.  Of the $300 million, $25 million went into 2 month of re-shoots and into the post-production digital removal of Cavill’s moustache which he had to sport for his MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 6 role.

At a massive cost of $300 million, the film should make a profit considering the success of the other films in the D.C. extended universe and the huge fan base.  Never mind if the film critically bombs.  Anyway, Warner Bros. has already had a swell year with hits like IT, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE and of course, WONDER WOMAN.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cxixDgHUYw

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Film Review: WONDER WOMAN (USA 2017)

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wonder woman.jpgBefore she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

Director: Patty Jenkins
Writers: Allan Heinberg (screenplay), Zack Snyder (story by)
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston,
David Thewlis

Not to be confused with the two other WONDER WOMAN films made in 2009 and 2014, this updated expensive $149 million film has been marketed well and is one of the most anticipated films this summer.

Gal Gadot is WONDER WOMAN though the term WONDER WOMAN is never used even once in the film. She is known as Diana. The character played by Gadot, and reasonably well by her, combining sexiness and a certain ferocity was first introduced to excited audiences in BATMAN V. SUPERMAN. She gained 17 lbs. of muscle while training in martial arts for the role. Now audiences can see her for a full 140 minutes or so.

Diana first appears as a little girl fiercely intent on becoming a fighter much to the chagrin of her mother, the queen (Connie Nielson). Diana’s aunt who is also the general (Robin Wright) trains her eventually to become the warrior with special gifts destined to save the world as it is written in the Book of the Gods. The film’s voiceover informs that Diana is made from clay by the God Zeus and she must destroy the evil Ares before mankind is destroyed. As such this bevy of beauties appropriately named Amazons live on a Greek-like paradise island till a World War plane crashes into the waters nearby with the pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) saved by Diana. How the two worlds collided is never fully explained.

With the world of the Gods brought into the human realm, the film grows more interesting. Diana is drawn into fight against the Germans in WW1. The trouble with all this is that Diana, Trevor and a assorted troupe of fighters kill Germans one by one to save innocent people as well as allied soldiers. This is a very simplistic look of things as German soldiers killed are people too. The script does attempt to discuss this problem but not too convincingly. Diana is shown to be naive as to the human world, with humour thrown in whenever possible.

For a $149 million production, there are as expected, lots of special effects and pyro-technics. In addition, there are a lot of sexy fighting (but ridiculous) poses by Diana.

The film contains three villains as if one is not enough. David Thewlis plays the main one, The God of War Ares in human form. The other two villains are more comical than sinister, two Germans, one a female doctor, humorously named Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) with a disfigured face and the other a sinister German General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) who will stop at nothing to win the war.

Business wise, WONDER WOMAN cost $149 million to make, thus requiring to gross at least $460 million worldwide to break even. The estimate for the opening domestic weekend is $100 million so it likely will bring Warner Bros. a tidy profit.

The fourth film of the DC Comic Universe after SUPERMAN, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD, WONDER WOMAN is the best of the lot with a good combination of action and tongue-in-cheek humour. But that is not saying much considering how awful the first 3 were.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSB4wGIdDwo

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Movie Review: CRIMINAL, 2016. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner

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criminal.jpgCRIMINAL (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Ariel Vromen

Starring: Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Michael Pitt

Action films about the lead character with the past erased make good money at the box office. Examples are THE BOURNE IDENTITY, Liam Neeson’s UNKNOWN and last week’s recently released HARDCORE HENRY. CRIMINAL though not identical in concept, plays along the same lines with the lead character having to piece together a new identity.

Based on a script by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, the film takes the amnesia plot up a few notches. It is an international story dealing with Americans, British, Russians and a Dutchman. The film contains countless London sights in the first 15 minutes, making audiences wonder if the London Tourist Board is subsidizing this film. There are shots of Bank Tube Station, the Thames, Albert Hall, the docklands, Big Ben and the Overground Tube to make the film look more modern.

The film opens with a chase involving CIA agent Ben Pope (Ryan Reynolds). Pope is caught half way through his assignment and killed. His brain needs to be implanted into someone else for the mission to be completed successfully. Or the world will be destroyed. It really does not matter how ridiculous the plot is as director Ariel Vromen (THE ICEMAN) has proven that he can make anything credible and exciting. So, a wanted imprisoned criminal Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner in super-gruff mode) with zero conscience but meets the surgical criteria is implanted with Pope’s memories by Dr. Frank (Tommy Lee Jones) under command of no-nonsense British chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman).

For an action thriller drama, the action segments are handled efficiently, particularly the car chase involving the British police car pile up n the highway and the brief underwater scenes.

The film is aided with an impressive cast that includes no less than the new Wonder Woman, French actress Gal Gadot as Pope’s wife, Brit Oldman and Americans Costner., Jones, Reynolds and the long time unseen Michael Pitt as the Dutchman.

Though I do enjoy a bit of violence in movies, I am not one to condone it. CRIMINAL is exceptionally violent, evident in scenes like the electric torture at the film’s start, the bloodied photo of one of Jericho’s victims the brain surgery and the segment where Jericho beats a number of people up to get food and nab a van. Tools used in fights also include a hammer.

Though there is ample opportunity for the script to moralize, the script thankfully stays aways from it. Jericho is a man with no conscience, a killing machine who is given a chance to have feelings after being implanted with Pope’s memories. Once Jericho begins to feel, he is torn for example between saving one life – Pope’s daughter against sacrificing hers to save many, many more. The main villain has the purpose of creating a software wormhole i order to destroy all the governments in the world as he believes every government is corrupt and that conglomerates rule the world all for money. There is some truth in the villain’s way of thinking and the script leaves it for the audience to debate the issue in their own minds.

CRIMINAL is a good action drama, a good blend between drama and action with not too much ridiculous discontinuous action scenes as in recent films like BATMAN V SUPERMAN and HARDCORE HENRY. For this reason alone, CRIMINAL is a compelling and rather entertaining time-waster.

 

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Movie Review: BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016) #BatmanvSuperman

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batmansupermanBATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (USA 2016)

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot

Review by Gilbert Seah

Before the film starts at the press/promo screening of BATMAN V Superman, director Zack Snyder appears on screen practically begging the audience not to give away plot points and spoilers to the rest of the world in order for them to enjoy the film. True to word, there are a lot of spoilers that could be revealed but this latest multi-million dollar effort is so bad that no spoiler could have made the film any worse.

Snyder makes no qualms at reminding the audience that he directed the Spartan film 300. At the film start, after Bruce Wayne rushes into the dust from the rumble of a fallen skyscraper, a lone horse is seen on the screen. 3/4 through of the movie, a cop and a horse is again shown on the screen. Of course lots of muscled bodies like the Spartans in 300 are on display throughout the film.

One can tell that a movie is bad from its continuity. The car chase segment makes no sense whatsoever. The reason for the chase is zero. When it takes place, there are lots of overturned other vehicles, lots of explosions but the scenes could have be taken out of 4 different streets for all that matters. The editing is awful and continuity is non-existent.

At the promo/press screening the executive introducing the film touted the imax technology involved in the making of the film. 40% more images can be seen in the imax version. But in the in the imax version that I saw, only the last sequence and the Batman Superman fight was in full imax top to bottom presentation.

There is little to enjoy in this film – the main problem being that the film is all over the place and all the filmmakers seem more content with the special effects. Comic book fans will be flabbergasted at the way the filmmakers have taken liberties to change what fans deem unchangeable and a staple to the comic book fan base. The main premise for example, would be that if ever anyone would want to see Superman fight Batman? And who would care which one would win? A true comic book fan would cringe every time anyone of the heroes, Superman or Batman was hurt.

The plot of the film involves Superman and Batman questioning each others tactics in order to save the world. The reasons are superfluous and unconvincing. All this leads to a confrontation and fight at the film’s climax.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN is a very dark film no doubt. So was the recent DEADPOOL. But DEADPOOL was smart enough to be funny and tongue-in-cheek while the latter took itself far too seriously.

And there is the question of the villain and a few other loose ends. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an odd one. Eisenberg seems to have sculptured his role from Heath Ledger’s edgy Joker before his death. Esisenberg does what he does best – speaking his lines at a thousand words per minute but in this film, with creepy twitchings. It is not what is expected from classic Lex Luthor. Eisenberg dons his long hair till shaved off bald when in prison. Aquaman and Wonder Woman make their appearances but for no real reason. It seem a total farce and they should have been better totally omitted from the script.

In one segment of the film, a character says that people hate what they do not understand, referring to the suspicion they have of Superman being an alien doing good but causing destruction of the planet. Audiences might hate this film for it is impossible to understand for its purpose or plot.

*****

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Movie Review: TRIPLE 9 (2016) ****

triple_9.jpgTRIPLE 9 (USA/UK 2015) ****
Directed by John Hillocoat

Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Gal Godot, Kate Winset, Aaron Paul, Teresa Palmer, Michael Kenneth Williams

Review by Gilbert Seah

No stranger to violent films, director John Hillcoat’s (LAWLESS, THE ROAD and his best film THE PROPOSITION) latest entry into gangster genre proves himself apt at serious comic book sensibility. TRIPLE 9, the code for ‘officer down’, plays like a ‘real’ serious adult comic book version of DEADPOOL.

It takes a while for the film to settle on its bearings. The script by first time writer, Matt Cook is clever enough not to reveal all the plot points, but keeps the audience always one step behind what is happening. An example is the bank heist. Who are the robbers working for? What is their aim? One point is a bank officer removing a safety deposit box from the vault. As far as I now, it requires two keys, one from the officer and the other from the customer to open a box. It is a good tactic. For example, the audience is aware that one officer is going down, but never sure which one or for what reason. The characters are also individually distinct and eccentric all aided by superlative performances from a eclectic cast.

The key performance comes from Casey Effleck (brother of Ben) who has proven his acting mettle in previous films like THE TOWN. His character is the only uncorrupt one, and the key one that puts the whole story into prospective. The good must always prevail. The script contains a few too many close calls for his character. As for the ambiguous baddies, there are too many too count. Interesting enough, many do good for the wrong reasons. The true baddie appears to be the Russian moll, Irina played by Kate Winslet , complete with Russian accent and is barely recognizable in her makeup.. She is also doing bad for a good reason, to aid her crooked husband escape.

Hillcoat keeps the action and fury fast and furious and nonstop. Be prepared to be glued to your seats! The film alternates between highly charged action and drama sequences. For the action segments, the bank heist at the film’s start is hard to beat. The robbers show no mercy and show they mean business. They do not shout warnings. They fire and beat up the victims, and talk later. All this makes the heist even more gripping. Hillcoat also realizes that the devil is in the details. On the highway, a robber points his rifle at a car, only to have it rammed from behind and the robber moving backwards to avoid being hit. The camerawork is excellent, the best example being the one where the camera pulls back during a car chase showing where each in on the maze of highways in the city.

Hillcoat does not skimp on the violence as evident by showing a bag of bloodied teeth at another point in the film. The characters are always angry, screaming at each other but not without reason. Every character is desperate. Every character is ready to kill.

Stay for the end credits. The 1980’s song ‘Pigs” (called so for obvious reasons) by Cypress Hill is inventive, catchy, hilarious and totally appropriate. The song can also be played on YouTube.