Don’t Look Up

Every end of the world movie I adore gives almost no detail as to what will end the world. These movies are more about watching the characters deal with their own existence in the face of a shared extinction. Don’t Look Up spends the entire film talking about the fact that the world is going to end, and barely scratches the surface of the characters. I was hoping for something closer to Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and instead we got Mars Attacks.

Don’t Look Up starts with Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) discovering a new comet, which becomes a celebratory event for the observation centre. The celebration ends abruptly as Dr. Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) calculates the size and trek the comet will take towards Earth. Within hours the two are flown to the White House after the revelation that the comet will become a world ending event on impact. President Orlean (Meryl Streep) refuses to take action after hearing the facts as she is more concerned about re-election. So Kate and Dr. Mindy take it upon themselves to get the news out to the media. Roadblock after roadblock, it’s a fight to be heard so action can be taken throughout the movie and essentially the rest of the film.

Kate and Dr. Mindy are the only characters that share any relatable qualities, as everyone else is purely a satire of the role they are playing. It leaves no surprises and doesn’t play as well as I think it’s supposed to. With every one of these roles filled by star power and over the top acting it seemingly resembles Mars Attacks. By the end every character shows so little intelligence, you may wonder if they’re even worth saving.

In the end, Don’t Look Up is just another film about the government not listening, it’s just the stakes are higher in this one. The characters spend the film shouting to be heard, but we just want to know what they are thinking. It’s fine and forgettable after you see it. It would have been good if the material was thought provoking enough to carry conversations about it long after the film, alas it won’t.

Robert Ring

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

Ten years after the first Hotel Transylvania we have a fourth and (for now) final instalment. In terms of animated franchises, I have enjoyed this one. For children it’s an animated adventure with monsters, and for adults it’s a parody of the Universal Monster movies. I absolutely chuckle to the jokes that poke fun at holes in each monster everyone has always taken for granted.

Unlike the previous films, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is skipping theatres and is available right now on Amazon Prime Video. This must have cost Amazon a lot, considering the last film grossed over $500 million at the box office. As a new parent this was a good move for both parties as parents are more afraid to take their children out into public during the pandemic which ebbs and flows. You won’t see this happen with Minions 2 however, as that first film grossed over $1 billion at the box office and they’re waiting to recreate that once more.

Transformania once again is about Dracula’s coming to terms with moving on. And this time it’s about him retiring and passing on the hotel to his daughter Mavis, and son-in-law Johnny. Dracula being afraid of the hotel turning into a chaotic “surfer dude” paradise reverses his decision and tells Johnny that it simply cannot happen because Johnny is not a monster. Now we come to the Transformania part of the movie where Johnny succeeds in finding a way to turn into a monster. The device for turning into a monster can also turn monsters into humans. Dracula and most of the Transylvania gang find themselves turned into humans. For what was simple to become human, becomes a quest to reverse.

The transforming gimmick was a great way at making some of the retreading plots feel fresh this time around. The anchor of these films has always been Adam Sandler voicing Dracula, yet you wouldn’t know that he was absent from this film, as well as Kevin James. If it was because of contract disputes he was easy to replace as Sandler has always played Dracula with a somewhat parody voice of Dracula, so it never felt original to begin with. Besides everyone has always used that Dracula voice at every costume party.

Overall Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is another solid entry in the franchise. It doesn’t give a satisfactory end to the franchise as a whole, but who is to say another one won’t be made in a few more years. It’s worth the watch with your family on the weekend for the price of an Amazon Prime Video subscription and they even have the older entries on the service too.

Happy watching,

Robert Ring

The Host (2006)

Monster movies don’t usually work for me because they are missing the human element, that’s not the case for this one.

The Host surrounds a dysfunctional family that love and care for one another, and while it is a monster movie, the monster creates suspense and plays an important part as the antagonist to the plot. The prelude shows a United States scientist ordering his assistant to empty a mass of toxic chemicals into the Han River and this mutates into a (fish?) monster. Next, the family is introduced, with the laughable Park Gang-Doo, played by Kang-ho Song, as the key protagonist. His first encounter with the monster results in the kidnapping of his daughter and the hunt to find her is what brings his family together. The government holds the family in containment to avoid spreading a said, “virus” that they have from being in close proximity to the monster. The director, Joon-ho Bong is not afraid to kill key characters to create tension, as half of the family we follow become prey to the monster. This monster movie has a bit of a political agenda when it comes to the prelude, which I could see as a complaint against the United States. It could be seen as such by the one American character that will take the easier route that essentially makes mistakes, and in this case destruction in the form of a monster, he accidentally creates. This may just be them throwing the long-standing joke of western monster films showing creatures birthed in Asia.

The film works best as a comedy and hits every note perfectly while also transitioning to jump-scares with ease. The Host did a lot of what Oldboy did commercially. It is not a better film, however, it is still of high quality and with that in mind, it proves that South Korea can make multiple hits that reach international success too. To date, The Host is one of the highest grossing South Korean films. It was at the attention of Hollywood very quickly after it was released, as it had not only become the highest grossing film of its time but also reinstating that South Korea has been diverse and creative with their films. It was also a popcorn type hit for international viewers and was immediately acquired for Hollywood rights soon after release, however, there is still no news on a remake. There was a sequel in the works for a while and there was even some test footage available online, yet sadly I think we won’t be getting it although I do hold out hope for a Hollywood version one day.

I really love this film and I think the CGI still holds up remarkably well. Check it out if you like comedy-horror.

Robert Ring

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The Peanuts Movie

Most people are well aware of the character Snoopy over say Charlie Brown or the rest of the gang from Peanuts, however this movie will change that. This animated film brings the feel of the original comic script to the big screen with a fresh coat of paint and an artistic style perfect for these characters. The plot surrounds Charlie Brown as he deals with what he believes is a social inadequacy of himself in all manners of life and how he can overcome his setbacks to appeal to the new girl in school. While the story is centred around Charlie Brown, we are given some of the most rich and exciting characters that all interact perfectly together, they really are an ensemble cast of characters. From Peppermint Patty to Pigpen, you will fall in love with every one of them. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Snoopy didn’t steal the show, nor any character for that matter. Snoopy is given a few segments which occupy his fantasy’s and they are very creative as he pursues the Red Baron with his big red dog house.

The Peanuts movie is an instant classic and is sure to win your heart. It’s the best animated film in my opinion since Toy Story 3 and I really hope it wins the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

5/5 – Stars for The Peanuts Movie

Robert Ring

Vacation

The Vacation franchise now stars Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) as he takes his own family on his childhood trip to Walley World. The original, National Lampoon’s Vacation is still one of those great stand out comedies that we find ourselves watching every couple of years. This new vacation takes components of the original franchise, but fails to find its own signature. What we get in this film is a balls out Vacation film that is more of a parody on what came before it over anything else.

The plot is straight forward as all road trip films are: Rusty decides to change up the rut his family is in by taking up a road trip just like his father Clark did to Walley World. Along the way they meet quirky characters and give nods to the original as you can see here in this red band trailer.

The character development is almost abysmal and when the script calls for the characters to change it feels forced. Ed Helms feels like he tries to play the overly positive Clark Griswold that Chevy Chase perfected, though without any character development, Helms’ character is lacklustre. With all this being said the original was written by John Hughes and he just captured characters perfectly, so how can you really compare them to this one. Most of the jokes are either hit or miss. The jokes that miss are usually ones involving potty humour. The quirky characters played by Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day are probably the highlights for me, especially Charlie Day. I still enjoyed myself with all the negatives aside, it just means I cannot recommend this film to anyone looking for a good movie.

2.5/5 – Stars

Robert Ring

The Graduate

Where do you start when talking about, The Graduate?

Well—the movie is known most of all for the quote, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me,” but this movie is so much more than the seduction of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). First off, Benjamin has just completed his college education and now he is filled with the pressure of achieving great things. He appears to have been a straight ace student in college, so there was a lot he sacrificed in achieving that. Now that Benjamin finally had finished college he saw the world with an existential eye and wondered about his place in it. This leads Benjamin to be seduced by Mrs. Robinson as a way of finding himself, by the prospect of not having to please anyone other than himself. The secret and adulterous relationship he has with Mrs. Robinson matures him into an individual who can think and do what he likes. Everything becomes unsettled when he is forced to go on a date with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine, which he plans to sabotage until he falls for her. Mrs. Robinson tells Elaine that Benjamin raped her and is sent away to college. Benjamin from here on is determined to get Elaine back and tries to right his wrongs.

Each character in the graduate is not given much of a backstory to go on, but we get a good idea of them from the pacing and the framing within the movie. I think The Graduate is a lot like an independent film because of this and there were so many scenes that felt experimental, yet worked, to perfectly weave the narrative. The soundtrack for The Graduate, by Simon and Garfunkel may in fact be one of the most perfect soundtracks ever made. Dustin Hoffman shines in this role and the on screen back and forth with Anne Bancroft is perfect.

I think the themes within The Graduate have more meaning in todays society than they did at the time of its release, and because of this I don’t think the movie is dated. You should check out The Graduate if you’ve never seen it. I love this movie and I watch it yearly.

The Graduate is a classic not to be missed.

4.5/5 – Stars for The Graduate

Robert Ring

Trainwreck

Initially, I was going to see Fantastic Four in theatres this week and then the reviews came out.. oh boy did it get trashed on. No Fantastic Four, no worries because I can now tell you that Trainwreck is easily my favourite comedy of the year so far and you should see it!

The story begins with a young Amy (Schumer), being told by her father the subject of his divorce with her mother through the use of her doll and he goes into the details of his extramarital affairs with other women in one of the funniest conversations you’ll see in the film. Fast forward to Amy in her thirties and she is with a new partner nightly believing as her father put it, “monogamy isn’t realistic.” She is a journalist in her day job for a celebrity fluff magazine that leads her to interview the love interest Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). It’s a quirky beginning for the two and it leads her to stop seeing the literal John Cena in her life and of his ilk. It’s a straightforward romantic comedy that we’ve come to know from director Judd Apatow, but it’s the journey and the vulgar jokes we see along the way that make it ok. Watching Amy go through guys is great, she leads them every time while they have no choice but to follow. Additionally at the heart of the film is the relationship with her father as he is not an easy man to be acquainted with and she also sees herself as an extension of him. Bill Hader is a good opposite to Amy. John Cena and Lebron James surprisingly steal every scene they’re in.

I hope you like Amy Schumer because after this break out role we will be seeing a lot of her in the next few years. She is a star and she even wrote the screenplay for this film, so here’s hoping she brings us plenty more laughs on the big screen.

All around this movie is great!

4/5 Stars for Trainwreck

Robert Ring

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The worst is knowing how close it was to something marvellous.

This was actually one of my most highly anticipated movies before its release. Back then if I was really anticipating something, I would find as much stuff I could on it. Today I keep myself away from it, so I can totally be taken by the experience of the first viewing. When the behind the scenes videos first hit, well I was very impressed. It looked exactly how I imagined it would.

Like the title foretells, this movie follows a series of unfortunate events. The story revolves around three siblings, the Bauderlaires, who are orphaned after their parents perish in a terrible fire. They are then under the entrusted care of a family friend, Mr. Poe, to find a suitable relative for them. The closest relative he can find for the children is Count Olaf. Now Count Olaf is evil. Why would he take in the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny? They have a great family fortune of course! One Count Olaf makes a mission to get. After slipping up in an attempt to have them killed, Mr. Poe takes the children from him and sends them to a different relative. From here on Count Olaf, being an actor by trade, follows the children. He is like the opposite of Buggs Bunny. Instead of running.. he is chasing. Like Buggs, we can always see right through his awful disguises, as can the Baudelaires. The Baudelaires are always dismissed of their accusations about the Count however. Narrating the Baudelaires story, is the fictional character Lemony Snicket, impeccably played by Jude Law.

(Center) Count Olaf (JIM CARREY) is a mysterious Uncle who suddenly shows up to care for his niece Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning) and his nephew, Klaus Baudelaire (Liam Aiken) in DreamWorks Pictures' LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS.

(Center) Count Olaf (JIM CARREY) is a mysterious Uncle who suddenly shows up to care for his niece Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning) and his nephew, Klaus Baudelaire (Liam Aiken) in DreamWorks Pictures’ LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS.

As a film it’s a bit too fast paced, it should be expected, pressing the first three books into a single feature film. Thats not the serious fault. For me it’s the secondary characters who we see very little of when they are each rich characters, but are underused greatly. A large portion of the film seemed to be experimental, it didn’t know if it should be a comedy at times or dramatic. There were also subtle leads to a sequel, which seemed to have fizzled.

Jim Carrey can look the part of anyone, he is a man that can embody a hundred different characters easily, the perfect person to play Count Olaf. He like everyone in this film looked as I imagined they would, except Billy Connely. He is a short man in the book. Even still, everyone looks the part of the film. Jim Carrey as much as I love him, spoils his character, trying at every chance for comedy. Which is how this film differs greatly from the book. The tone is deathly darker. The set design and cinematography is amazing, breathtaking from book to screen. The look and feel of this film is where it shines.

I absolutely loathed this film when I left the cinema, I wished I could have unseen it. My reaction was based on the lack of story they told, from the books to the screen. Which didn’t bother me nearly as much as it did when they stuck the end of the first book after the end of the third. Watching it a second time around these things don’t really bother me anymore. I like the film. I can even understand why they did a lot of things the way they did. I still will never be able to watch it without feeling at least a little underwhelmed, seeing how close they came to the vision within the books.

Netflix is currently producing the books into a series and I hope they reboot the whole thing. This film is decent, but the books are leagues above it and therefore read them.

3/5 – Stars for A Series of Unfortunate Events

Robert Ring

Nightcrawler

Directed by Dan Gilroy

Starring

Jake Gyllenhaal – Louis Bloom

Riz Ahmed – Rick

Rene Russo – Nina Romina

Bill Paxton – Joe Loder

Louis Bloom is a go getter with the intelligence and perseverance that will ensure his success and if at first he doesn’t succeed he will overstep the ethical means to get the results. Jake Gyllenhaal has never been better and if you thought he played a creepy character in Donnie Darko, Louis Bloom is on a whole other level. There is still a likability to Louis and you want him to succeed in his endeavours, but a darkness that steers forth from time to time holds you back and question whether you like him or you dislike him. Louis begins as a petty thief from stealing copper wire to bicycles while looking for a legitimate job. After he comes across a road accident he sees a camera crew reporting on an accident and sets his sights on being a freelance cameraman for a news broadcast station. Louis gets cringe worthy footage and the barriers he is willing to cross will make you feel uneasy and tense as we see there is nothing he won’t do.

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Nightcrawler is completely dramatised, but the insight you get behind the scenes of a general news broadcast will forever change the way you can watch primetime news. It can be cutthroat with each competing station trying to get a viewership by making a narrative from a crime scene that is one thing, but edited in a way to make you feel unsafe in your own community.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in this film is so good that a majority of critics think he was snubbed from an oscar nomination last year, and personally I think he was the best performance out of all the nominees. The performances from the entire cast are great, they are just overshadowed, and I would almost say that it was the best performance we’ve seen from Ahmed, Russo, and Paxton to date as well. Nightcrawler is a must watch and what I believe to be the best film of last year.

4.5/5 – Stars for Nightcrawler

Robert Ring

Gone Girl

On the day of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne’s (Rosamund Pike) fifth wedding anniversary, Amy, or “Amazing Amy”, as her parents proclaim in the series of books they have made about her throughout her life disappears. Nick comes home to find the house ajar and it’s contents turned upside down. Where is Amy? What happened? Nick and Amy are two people who as Amy’s diary entry denotes as the perfect couple. Nick begins trying to solve the clues along with the police and look into the fanatics/stalkers of Amy’s fictional book character while also looking into the possibility of Nick himself being a suspect. I’ve read the book and it may still be my favourite book of all time and the movie transferred over without any faults. The mystery had me thinking one thing and feeling a certain way for the two lovers, halfway through those ideas and feelings twisted upside down as I learned more about the events that surround Amy’s disappearance. There isn’t much more that can be said about the plot without giving away one of the best mystery films we’ve seen in recent years.

The cast is solid. Ben Affleck as Nick is great, however his performance is overshadowed by Rosamund Pike who looked like she would win the Oscar this year until Juliane Moore just hit it out of the park with Still Alice that little bit more. The cinematography is beautiful throughout and it creates a dark atmosphere in the community where anything can happen. David Fincher was the perfect choice to bring an adaptation of Gone Girl to the screen without losing any of its tone and he makes it his own. If you’ve read the book I think you will love this one, and if you haven’t go in without knowing any more.

Gone Girl is a must see and you will even find yourself yelling at the characters!

4/5 – Stars for Gone Girl

Robert Ring