Monday, August 13, 2018

The Meg

Year: 2018
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor

Plot: The crew of an ocean research station are terrorized by a prehistoric shark.

Review: I'm still wondering what everyone's problem was after they watched The Meg. I kept hearing it was a bad movie, or not as fun as they had hoped. Try telling that to the women sitting behind me in the cinema yesterday. They were screaming their heads off.

The Meg is a shark movie, like Jaws, The Shallows, 47 Meters Down and Deep Blue Sea before it. The difference is of course, the size of the shark, which is pretty humongous here. The CGI rendered megalodon is convincing enough and director Jon Turteltaub makes very good use of the shark in executing some thrilling action sequences here. While it does take some time before we actually get to see the shark, once it appears, there is no dull moment left as we get one nail biting sequence after another.

The Meg is not without flaws though. Some of its casting choices are not good. Jason Statham more or less succeeds as the reluctant hero here, but Li Bingbing looks quite awkward in her role, despite her acting having improved since her turn in Resident Evil 5. The rest of the cast fill the usual textbook roles well enough, but Rainn Wilson's overconfident billionaire who's financing the station could have been removed altogether as it feels very extraneous. The entire subplot featuring him trying to kill the shark all by himself didn't feel genuine at all.

On another note, some of the film's quieter moments don't really work. The Meg succeeds when it makes fun of itself but not when they try to make some of the deaths feel impactful. Thankfully, Turteltaub doesn't dwell on these too often and lets the shark do what it does best.

All in all, I enjoyed The Meg more than I thought I would. Is it a dumb shark movie? Yeah it is. But I liked it a lot, and that's what really counts. (7.5/10) 

Monday, August 06, 2018

The First Purge

Year: 2018
Director: Gerard McMurray
Cast: Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Patch Darragh, Marisa Tomei, Rotimi Paul

Plot: The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), who have recently taken over the US government, carries out an experimental Purge night at Staten Island, New York, offering money to anyone who participates. Among those involved are a pair of siblings and a local crime lord.

Review: If you're a fan of the Purge movies and you always wanted to know how it all began, this prequel offers a backstory where Purge night was just an experimental exercise and confined to one place instead of the entire country.

Franchise director and creator James DeMonaco hands over directorial duties to relative newcomer Gerard McMurray while he only writes and produces this time around. As in the previous Purge films, the black community become the victims of the NFFA's attempt to reduce the population and save the economy. It's interesting to note that the doctor who comes up with the experiment (played by Marisa Tomei) isn't exactly on board with the NFFA's methods but realises this much too late, offering a different angle to the whole "white people are all bad" element.

McMurray deserves some credit for executing some well staged action sequences, the best being the final fight where crime lord Dmitri takes on the NFFA assassins sent to purge an apartment block, with hints of Rambo 3 style action. There are also plenty of shootouts, slashings, stabbings and explosions to boot. A particular sequence featuring explosive stuffed animals was particularly hilarious. Unfortunately, McMurray takes too much time in setting up the first act, so the first half of the movie can be a bit tedious to sit through.

The cast does well generally, but the film suffers from a lack of recognizable stars here, save for Tomei. Rotimi Paul deserves praise for his psychotic portrayal of Skeletor, a crazy drug addict with a penchant for violence, even though his character is a bit over the top at times to feel genuine.

In the end, The First Purge is a competent enough film, but offers little more than what we've already seen in other Purge movies. In comparison, Anarchy and Election Year were more compelling overall. (6.5/10) 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Year: 2018
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Kirby

Plot: Ethan Hunt and his team are tasked to retrieve three stolen plutonium cores from a terrorist group associated with Solomon Lane. To do so, they have to exchange the captive Lane for them, but CIA operative Walker, assigned to the team by the CIA director to oversee the mission, complicates matters. Further complicating matters is Ilsa Faust, who gets herself involved in an attempt to tie up her own loose ends.

Review: At some point I wondered if the Mission Impossible franchise was becoming little more than a highlight reel of stunts performed by Tom Cruise. Every film seems to up the ante on what he's willing to do on screen. And after hearing reactions from everyone on social media about this instalment, my hopes were high that this one will knock the ball out of the park.

Well, I don't mean to burst your bubble, but writer/director Christopher McQuarrie provides more quantity than quality in terms of action this time. Don't get me wrong, Fallout is very entertaining, but not the game changer everyone keeps making it out to be. We have car chases, foot chases, a bathroom fight, a HALO stunt and a helicopter sequence, but only the last one felt really fresh for me. 

As for story, it's a mixed bag. The dramatic beats work better this time around as Cruise's Ethan Hunt faces a dilemma in dealing with Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust, who has her own agenda. Their friendship is put to the test here, and I like how McQuarrie plays this one out. What doesn't quite work however is the terrorist plot, which like the first film, takes one twist too many, and the whole Apostles terrorist group angle gets abandoned at the end of the second act.

Cast wise, nearly everyone is on point. Cruise, Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Sean Harris all nail their roles, with Harris doing a good job despite the fact that Solomon Lane is a rather two dimensional villain. The weak link here is Henry Cavill as Walker, who excels in the action sequences (he's Superman after all) but is inferior in the acting department. He's clearly trying, but he just doesn't have the depth to play this character convincingly.

In the end, Mission: Impossible Fallout isn't as superb as I expected it to be. I liked it a lot, but for me, it isn't the best of the series. Ghost Protocol is still my favorite. (7.5/10)

Monday, July 16, 2018


Year: 2018
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Byron Mann, Hannah Quinlivan

Plot: After losing his leg in a hostage situation gone wrong, FBI Hostage Rescue agent Will Sawyer is now a security consultant, recently hired by the owner of The Pearl, the tallest skyscraper in the world, located in Hong Kong. When terrorists lock down the building and start a fire, Will has to find a way to rescue his family who are trapped inside.

Review: From the moment the marketing for this film began, everyone labelled Skyscraper as a Die Hard or Towering Inferno clone. Personally I don't mind a popcorn film like Skyscraper revisiting familiar elements from those films mentioned if it achieves its objective in giving me solid entertainment. To that end, Skyscraper delivers.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who directed star Dwayne Johnson in Central Intelligence, and directs mostly comedies, delivers a serviceable action movie that, although goes through the motions of checking all the boxes as far as thrillers go, still manages to give quite a few heart stopping moments and kick ass sequences. Having Johnson, the biggest star in Hollywood right now on board certainly helps as well.

Johnson succeeds in playing the role of an FBI guy turned everyman, who exchanges his gun for MacGyver style tactics in taking down the baddies. Having him sport a prosthetic leg doesn't hurt either. Neve Campbell might not be convincing enough in the role of Will's wife, but she excels in playing a tough mother trying to protect her kids. Chin Han is solid enough as Zhao, owner of The Pearl who is the main target of the terrorists, while Roland Moller is alright as lead villain Botha, who isn't colorful enough to be memorable unfortunately.

The film's action sequences are pretty good, with Johnson's death defying jump from a neighboring crane as seen in the trailers being the highlight. While Thurber delivers plenty of thrills, the plot itself is rather predictable and offers very little in terms of genuine surprises.

My advice to you is this: if you want to just sit back and enjoy a summer popcorn flick, Skyscraper is perfect for you. Just don't go in there expecting a top ten film of the year. (7/10)

Monday, July 09, 2018

Ant-Man And The Wasp

Year: 2018
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne

Plot: Hank Pym and his daughter Hope Van Dyne attempt to bring back Hope's mother Janet from the quantum realm, but they need Scott Lang, who's unfortunately under house arrest after the events of Civil War. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman named Ghost, who has ties to Hank's past, tries to sabotage their secret project.

Review: The first Ant-Man was a very underrated film, even within the MCU. When fans think of the best entries in the MCU, they'd usually name the first Avengers movie, Winter Soldier or Guardians Of The Galaxy films. But Ant-Man, a relatively low key entry, tends to get overlooked. Personally I loved it, mostly thanks to Paul Rudd's charm, honesty and comedic timing, as well as Michael Douglas' portrayal of Hank Pym.

In this sequel, a milestone due to The Wasp, a female hero finally getting credited in the title, Evangeline Lilly gets to be a true equal to Rudd as Hope aka Wasp, sharing just as much screen time as him, and being involved in more action sequences this time around. Lilly certainly excels in kicking ass and becomes a formidable partner to Rudd. 

As far as story goes, this sequel focuses less on Scott's attempt to be a good dad to his little girl (though the scenes between them here are well executed) and more about him helping Hank and Hope get Janet back. There's a couple of subplots here, one involving the FBI trying to catch Scott in the act of breaking house arrest, the other being a black market tech dealer played by Walton Goggins trying to steal Hank Pym's tech. The former subplot is good enough to generate some humour, but the latter not so much, as Goggins, despite being the secondary villain here, is not much of a threat, and serves his purpose of giving Lang's buddies (once again played by Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian and T.I.) someone to fight. 

Everyone in the cast puts in good work, especially Rudd, Lilly and Douglas, as well as Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet. Laurence Fishburne gets too little to do though as Pym's ex partner, while Pena shines yet again as the comic relief. While Hannah John-Kamen puts in a spirited performance as Ghost, she isn't quite a memorable villain, more like Kaecilius than Loki, or as a reviewer quoted: a female Winter Soldier.

Director Peyton Reed does not let up on the action as he stages plenty of sequences that require Scott and Hope to shrink and enlarge back and forth to beat the bad guys, which makes for some very cool action not seen in other MCU movies. Lilly's Wasp in particular, gets to shine in a cool kitchen fight sequence.

Overall, despite a couple of weak villains and a slightly messy second act, Ant-Man And The Wasp is a pretty good sequel that measures up to its predecessor. (8/10)

P.S.: Stay for the post credit scenes, the first one is the best one.  


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