Film Review: BUMBLEBEE (USA 2018)

Bumblebee Poster
On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.

Director:

Travis Knight

Writers:

Christina Hodson (screenplay by), Christina Hodson(story by)

BUMBLE BEE is a transformer character, who is the main lead in the 6th instalment of the TRANSFORMERS film franchise.  The 6th film, entitled BUMBLEBEE is also saves as the prequel to the 2006 film THE TRANSFORMERS set in the 80’s.

The film begins in the world of Cybertron.  The audience is immediately immersed in a battle scene.  The heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Ciullen), are on the verge of losing their war with their enemies, the evil Decepticons, and make preparations to flee the planet.  The Decepticons ambush them during the evacuation, and Optimus sends young scout B-127 (voice of Dylan O’Brien) to Earth to set up a base of operations where the Autobots can regroup.  How does the audience know what is going on?  By one line of dialogue in Optimus Prime’s communication with B-127.

So, B-127 reaches Earth alone in 1987, crash-landing in California and disrupting a training exercise being conducted by Sector 7, a secret government agency that monitors extraterrestrial activity on Earth.  S7 lieutenant Jack Burns (John Cena) presumes him a hostile invader and attacks, driving B-127 into the forest, where he is then ambushed by the Decepticon Blitzwing.  When B-127 refuses to disclose Optimus’s whereabouts, Blitzwing spitefully tears out his vocal processors and damages his memory core. B-127 manages to destroy Blitzwing before collapsing from his wounds. Before entering stasis, B-127 scans and transforms into a nearby 1967 Volkswagen Beetle.

B-127 as the V. Beetle is discovered by a girl, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld, best remembered as the teen in the Coen Brothers’ TRUE GRIT) who nurses him back to health, nicknaming him Bumblebee  The Deceptiocons trace Bumblebee resulting in a climatic battle at the end of the film.

For a TRANSFORMER instalment, the theory of louder and bigger do not apply here.  The action scenes are minimal with more attention paid to the story of Charlie’s family on Earth.  Unfortunately it is a dull and cliched story.  Charlie’s father has passed on and mother, Sally (Pamela Adlon) has remarried.  Charlie does not get along with Ortis (Jason Drucker) her younger brother and her stepfather.  She goes loggerheads with her mother as well, wanting her freedom.  There is nothing remotely interesting in this family drama and the script does to make any attempt to try to make anything interesting or different either.  The family drama eats into the action segments in the 2-hour running time, resulting in less action than the other TRANSFORMER films in the franchise.  The 80’s setting is created by filling the soundtrack with 80’s tunes with a few 80’s props here and there.

The climatic battle is between Bumblebee and his two predators and it does not a genius to guess who will prevail.  The film has many glaring loose ends.  With Bumblebee near its death, Bumblebee is suddenly restored to full straight without much explanation.  How did Optimus Prime land on earth at the very end to speak to Bumblebee?

The silly romantic subplot between Charlie’s neighbour, Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is an annoying distraction.  Films these days always need to put in an inter-racial relationship for political correctness, that have become too obvious.  Lendborg Jr. is neither funny, charming or smart, unlike Jason Druker who plays Cahrlie’s brother Ortis, Drucker stealing every scene he is in.  The other actor that takes everything with a pinch of salt is John Cena.  John Ortis as the goofy Dr. Powell puts in a bit of life into the story.

With the slant of this latest Transformer movie to the female gender, (the script was also written by Christina Hodson, one wonders whether the male fans will still stay loyal to the series.    The boy and his dog tale has deteriorated into a girl an her ‘bot’ tale.  BUMBLEBEE is in competition with a dozen or so big Christmas openings.  It is anyone’s guess how it will do.  

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcwmDAYt22k

Film Review: BLOCKERS (USA 2018)

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Blockers Poster
Trailer

The title and film poster are a reference to cock blocking (the rooster icon is put on top of the film title BLOCKERS in the poster).  But the film is just entitled in one word – BLOCKERS.   I first heard of the term cock blocker in London.  The term is referred to as the guy who stands for the one to prevent a good looking gay guy from being picked up by a not-so-good looking guy.  The cock blocker usually says he is the good looking guy’s boyfriend or partner.  In the film the blockers are the parents (2 fathers and a mother) trying their best to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on Prom night.

Despite what one might think is a premise for lots of high-jinx comedy, the film is surprisingly short of laugh-out loud laughs.  Director Kay Cannon wrote all three of the PITCH PERFECT films and as one can expect, a lot of the humour is physical.  The funniest of these is the ass chugging contest – but the idea is funnier than its execution.

A lot of jokes fall flat.  The running joke of bulked up Mitchell (Michael Cena) getting teary-eyed not only does not cut it, but used way too often.  The FAST AND FURIOUS joke is pitiful.  Adult parents are treated as bumbling idiots while the teens are supposed to be the wise ones who make all the right decisions and have the correct emotions.

But despite the relatively innocent title, the film turns out quite raunchy since it is co-produced by Masters of Mischief, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.  But more raunchy than funny, unfortunately.  Example are the naked sex scenes and the raunchy sex experiments of Mitchell’s ex and new boyfriend that are not that funny, not even the squeezing of Hunter’s balls.   More laughs are generated from the sly comments and smirk of one of the daughter’s dates, Connor (newcomer Miles Robbins). The film also suffers from having to go through the same incident three times, since there are three daughters and three parents.  Mitchell finds Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) having sex and has to deal with it.  Then, the audience has through a similar tiresome routine with the other two.

The tired script also goes through cliched territory of mother missing the daughter going away for college more than daughter missing the mother.  

Of the three parents, Hunter, played by Ike Barinholtz (he was the loud laughing clown in NEIGHBOURS 2) comes through as the funniest.  Reason is that he is the wildest card in the pack and given more free reign to do crazy things.  Leslie Mann could have been funnier, but not given much to do but to complain and worry.

The film most boring parts are the ones with the three daughters bonding.  One also wonders why their dates at the prom did not abandon them as they talk to each other more than to their dates.  There are a few, genuinely funny moments like the Korean student’s break dancing that always ends in disaster.  But these are few and far between.

The film aims at being politically current by having mixed couples like Mitchell and his wife and ex-wife with one of the daughters turning out to be gay.  But the comedy disappoints.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMDVa4yoCWw

 

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FERDINAND (USA 2017) ***

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Ferdinand Poster
Trailer

After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure.

Director:

Carlos Saldanha

Writers:

Munro Leaf (based on the book by), Robert Lawson (based on the book by) |6 more credits »

 

FERDINAND, the bull charges into theatres just a few weeks after Pixar’s COCO.  FERDINAND is no COCO but it makes its mark, based on the ever poplar book with more humour and laughs than COCO.

FERDINAND is a CGI animated feature based on the classic 1936 Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson book.  The Lawson drawings have been translated to more than 60 languages including the 1938 Disney featurette.  Ferdinand loves flowers not fighting but finds himself in a bull training camp, the Casa del Toros where he escapes to a farm and is brought up by little Nina (Lily Day) who loves her little bull.  The little bull is not little forever, and grow into a huge monster of an animal, now also possessing the voice of towering John Cena.

The trouble (or fun, depending how one wants to look at it) starts when Ferdnand is prevented from going to the Festival of Flowers, which the flower loving bull cannot resists.  Nina is forced to tell him to stay home though Ferdinand thinks she still wants him to go.  Ferdinand ends up convincing himself (in many funny ways) that to go is the right thing to do.  He gets stung a bee, roars in pain and scare the townsfolk leading to his capture.  He is forced to go into fighting again, this tie against the famous bullfighter El Primero (Miguel Angel Silvestre).

Ferdinand plans his escape.  His sidekick and assistant is a buck-tooth hyper talking goat called Lupe (Kate KcKinnon) together with three comical hedgehogs, appropriately named Uno, Dos and Cuartro (Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs ad Gabriel Iglesias).

The filmmakers cannot resist (I doubt no one can) but put Ferdinand the bull in a chain shop.  Yes, an accident waiting to happen.  In that scene, Ferdinand is hiding from his pursuers.  To make it even funnier, there is an old woman with a feather duster dusting the china.  And a bull with huge nostrils?  Another accident to happen, for sure!

Blue Sky Company who makes FERDINAND all made the ICE AGE movies that are too cute for my liking and RIO.   Th squirrel antics of ICE AGE looks similar to the cute bunny sequence in FERDINAND.

The film has many prized comedic set ups among them being the dance off,

(choreography by Carlos Saldanha) with the three horses (Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland).  If not prancing around, they are out-talking everyone else with their Swedish accent right out of an IKEA commercial.

The film contains three original songs but nothing hispanic.

FERDINAND might face stiffer competition with the animated THE STAR, also about goofy animals with the birth of Christ than with COCO.  FERDINAND does come up on top in terms of laughs.

Trailer: https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&p=ferdinand+trailer#id=1&vid=b6f1c0de7b88754d0d9158fd19b83482&action=view

 

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DADDY’S HOME 2 (USA 2017)

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Daddy's Home 2 Poster
Trailer

Brad and Dusty must deal with their intrusive fathers during the holidays.

Director:

Sean Anders

Writers:

Sean AndersBrian Burns (characters)

 

One can tell that there is something wrong with a movie when the movie within a movie turns out to be more interesting than the movie itself.  In DADDY’S HOME 2, the families end up at one point stranded at a suburban cinema where a fake movie MISSILE TOW starring Liam Neeson is playing.  Neeson pays a character (voice only heard) that rescues his family from terrorists at all costs.  That fake film is heard for only a minute or two before director Anders turns the audience back to his nightmare Christmas movie – DADDY’S HOME 2

Moviegoers must have been very naughty during 2017 as Santa has rewarded them already with two awfully bad Christmas comedies – A BAD MOM’ S CHRISTMAS and now DADDY’S HOME 2.  DADDY’S HOME numero uno arrived on Christmas Day 2015 and went on to gross a remarkable $150 million domestically.  Thus arrives number 2 with Paramount hoping to do well again at the box-office.

The first film dealt with step-dad Brad (Will Ferrell) having to deal with his wife’s kids’ real father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) showing up to undo all the values that Brad had instilled in his family.  HOME 2 ups the angst with the arrival of the dads’ dads in the form of Mel Gibson and John Lithgow.  Gibson has had quite the bad press and has been successful behind the camera (HACKSAW RIDGE, PASSION OF THE CHRIST) than in front of it.  Surprisingly, he is the funniest and best of the cast in the film, playing against his true character in life – a macho, gun-totting anti-feminist old goat.

Like all Christmas comedies, the usual disastrous set ups are there – the setting up of the electrical house decorations that go wrong (at least this one is quite elaborately done); the Christmas tree shopping; the snowball fight (not funny at all); the Christmas dinner; the feel good sentiment (it is only the children that count); the breaking of a hard heart (John Cena’s as the biological father of Dusty’s kid).  The worst of all is the film’s climax, which must rank as the corniest set-up of all time that takes place in a cinema theatre during a blackout.  There is a shameless promotion of the good of going to the movies where audiences are encouraged to turn to the next person to greet them.  

A few non Christmas setups are included – the most notable being the bowling segment where one son has the problem of throwing his bowling ball into the gutter.  It is a rather simple setup that turns out to generate only a few laughs, if any pity laughs.  The predictable shoplifting gag does not work either nor the revelation of the notes that Dusty’s girlfriend takes of Brad’s wife that turn out to be good ones.

DADDY’S HOME 2 might work for the undemanding moviegoer.  There were people applauding at he end of the film, but critics can only shrug at this early Christmas enterprise.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8shgJX14HQ

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