John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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The burden for filmmakers in bringing the Incredible Hulk to the big screen is the character's checkered history. The beloved 1970s TV series and its three sluggish spin-off made-for-television movies are elevated with nostalgia, and Ang Lee's 2003 overlong, melodramatic, visual spectacle remains a sore spot for fans of the comic book genre.
Linked to 2008's 'Iron Man', Louis Leterrier's 'The Incredible Hulk' is not only far superior to any of the character's previous big and small screen incarnations, but it is an altogether masterstroke in this sort of storytelling. What Zak Penn's screenplay and star Edward Norton's uncredited contributions achieve is a taut narrative that encompasses and successfully balances elements of superhero, chase, thriller, romance, and action genre tropes with confidence.
Beginning with a brave choice of surmising Bruce Banner/the Hulk's origin in a stirring opening title sequence (and referring back to it later for those who may not have completely understood it), no time is wasted in meeting our tormented protagonist. Characters are gradually introduced as he seeks to cure his gamma ray-induced condition, but we instantly know the status of these interpersonal relationships because we have already met these key players within the first few minutes.
Furthermore, the stakes intensify as the film progresses, allowing more characters to develop as distinctive good guys and bad. But, of course, things are not always that simple and the reluctantly aggressive Banner is juxtaposed against those who elect belligerence at will. There's also a love story at the heart of the film between Banner and his antagonist's daughter, Elizabeth Ross, that is both tender and tragic. The success of 'The Incredible Hulk' rides on its characters. Through Penn's script and Leterrier's conscious directorial choices, Norton and Liv Tyler perfectly portray a couple fighting against numerous forces to be together. It is lovely seeing their relationship unfold, so much so that we are invested in them to a degree that when the third act goes into overdrive, we believe it all.
Of course, Norton is unsurprisingly exceptional as Bruce Banner/Hulk and Tyler is consistently wonderful, but there's also solid turns from Tim Roth and William Hurt as our antagonists who are the driving force behind the tension of the narrative. The chase and action sequences do not disappoint and are enhanced by John Wright, Rick Shaine, and Vincent Tabaillon slick editing, as well as Craig Armstrong's score and Peter Menzies Jr.'s beautiful cinematography.
Under-performing at the box office upon release and still unappreciated today, make no mistake about it, 'The Incredible Hulk' is a pretty incredible genre picture.
‘Christine' has all the hallmarks of what we expect from a Stephen King narrative: a youth takes revenge against their bullies with the aid of a supernatural force (think ‘Carrie'). There is also a sympathetic, popular, and handsome boy cheering for our underdog in some way (still think ‘Carrie'). This familiarity, of course, does not work against ‘Christine' in any way.
And on paper, the bestselling author and ‘Halloween' (1978) director John Carpenter make an unconquerable combination to tell a scary story. But this big screen adaptation of King's novel falls a little short of expectations.
Do not be mistaken, Carpenter is a skilled filmmaker but the first half of the piece, which sets up the dynamics of our young cast at school, home, etc, is far more taut, engaging, and confidently made than what follows. This is a shame because this is where the film should deliver what it promises. And ‘Christine' almost makes it! There's some finely executed thrills and the special effects featuring the car's rejuvenation are outstanding. But there are some pacing issues and the subtle, tense build-up shifts gear into flashes of melodrama as the plot unfolds.
Christine is by no means a write-off; it is an entertaining and well-produced tale that has a bevy of fine talent who will be familiar to pop culture enthusiasts. Ketih Gordon (‘Jaws 2') is relatable as bullied protagonist Arnie, John Stockwell (‘Top Gun') soaks up the screen as best friend Dennis, and Alexandra Paul (TV's ‘Baywatch') makes a fine impression as new girl Leigh. Supporting players include Robert Prosky (‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch'), Roberts Blossom (‘Home Alone'), Kelly Preston (‘SpaceCamp', ‘Jerry McGuire'), Steven Tash (1984's ‘Ghostbusters'), Stuart Charno (‘Friday the 13th Part 2'), Malcolm Danare (‘Heaven Help Us', 1998's ‘Godzilla'), and the prolific Harry Dean Stanton (‘The Godfather Part II', ‘Alien', ‘The Avengers'…).
Carpenter's film is well-worth watching for fans of any of the cast and crew, if not the genre itself, but don't expect ‘Christine' to make it to the finish line with as much pristine as it starts.
The vicious murder of actress Sharon Tate, her unborn son, and her friends at the hands of sociopath Charles Manson's "family" is one of the most notorious and disturbing crimes to occur in Hollywood. Because of this, it is ingrained in popular culture as much as it is in American criminal history. And herein lies the problem with John R. Leonetti's home invasion chiller.
There is no denying that "Wolves at the Door" is a well-produced film; Michael St. Hilaire's cinematography and Ken Blackwell's taut editing are the picture's strongest points. Also, Leonetti cleverly keeps the villains in shadows, heightening their menace; having spend most of his career as a cinematographer, he is quite competent as a horror director (his previous effort was 2014's "Annabelle"). But some of Leonetti's choices are cringeworthy -- Do we need yet another obvious "lambs to the slaughter" symbol in a horror movie?
The performances, at least, are pretty good, with Elizabeth Henstridge, Adam Campbell, and Miles Fisher particularly solid. Katie Cassidy is less consistent as Ms. Tate, though she does the best with what she has to work with. Where the film suffers most, though, is Gary Dauberman's script, which is more concerned with seat-jumpers than fleshed-out characters.
Because of this, the film feels nothing short of exploitative. Whether you know the story and its real-life principal players well or not, minimal time is given for the young inevitable victims to develop. And while a strong focus on characters are not often the priority for slasher filmmakers, there is an inherent and unavoidable duty of care when presenting a true story. However, the team not only disregards this but are so content to blatantly remove themselves from presenting an accurate recreation of events, that "Wolves at the Door" not only feels disrespectful but down-right disgusting.
The folks at New Line Cinema, whose success is very much owed to the horror genre, should have known better.
The second adaptation of Stephen King's novel was heavily promoted in 2017. The marketing campaign received a mixed reaction from those who grew up terrified of the 1990 miniseries and those who would be exposed to the sadistic, child-devouring Pennywise for the first time. 'IT' had well and truly arrived.
Whether you are a fan of the novel or original adaptation, there is no denying that Andy Muschietti's vision has resulted in what has to be one of the most skillfully constructed, aesthetically stunning horror films produced in the twenty-first century. Chung-hoon Chung's exquisite cinematography gives the viewer a sense of place, from the darkened interiors to the bright small town landscapes; hillsides and rivers are a stark contrast to sewerage tunnels and dilapidated houses.
Furthermore, our Loser protagonists are perfectly cast. Some have extensive screen time and are fleshed out more so than others, but the young cast work well together with strong, natural rapport. Sophia Lillis possesses a gutsy spark as Bev, contrasted quite nicely by Jaeden Lieberher's subtle hero and love interest Bill. Jeremy Ray Taylor does a fine job as new kid Ben while Jack Dylan Grazer steals the show as hypochondriac Eddie. Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, and Chosen Jacobs round out the Losers competently, each with their own backstories and quirks. Nicholas Hamilton is ruthlessly on-point as lead town bully Henry, whose sociopathic intensity would have pushed believability in any other director's hands. Muschietti handles his cast well; most of the adults here are incredibly grotesque, heightening the pressure on the youngsters, who really only have one another. But every character archetype is essentially represented, so there is someone to relate to, cheer on, or boo.
The success of the 'IT', however, rests on the shoulders of the villain. As the malevolent force at the centre of the story, the perfectly cast Bill Skarsgård is flawlessly creepy. His portrayal of the barbarous Pennywise is literally the subject of nightmares, not allowing make-up, costuming, or special effects to do the work, Skarsgård cements himself as one of the greatest movie monsters of all time.
'IT' focuses on the first half of the narrative and this is the film's strength. The element of danger always feels higher when the heroes are innocents, so it remains to be seen if the second chapter in this creepy caper can be as involving. But in the meantime, immerse yourself in 'IT'... and don't float too far away.
The first in a slew of major productions to rip off Steve Spielberg's 'Jaws' (1975), 'Orca' falls short in every department. As its own production and without comparison to history-making masterpieces, however, Michael Anderson's creature feature is a generally entertaining affair.
The film is quick to get straight into the action. And while the continuity of the footage used (natural stock versus artificial "movie magic") is questionable thanks to the differing colour of the water, some nifty camera work and editing make the opening sequences relatively compelling. The first act climaxes with our titular mammal's motivation; the unsettling miscarriage and disposal of his child, followed by the suicide of his mate.
In order to keep things as believable as possible, the story involves scientists and experts providing plenty of information relating to killer whales and therefore predicting and justifying the very concept of the film. However, it does not all quite come together. The main reason is that, even in creature features, it is the people that matter most. Richard Harris's Captain Nolan is too unlikeable to be accessible; his aggressiveness is too prominent, too early on in the piece that the eventual revelation of his empathy for the avenging orca is diluted. Additionally, 'Orca''s story structure may begin with an effective hook, but fails to maintain it with two-dimensional archetypes, an inconsistent pace, and Carol Connors's atrocious ballad 'My Love, We Are One' to round it all off.
But do not be overwhelmed by the film's shortcomings. Even though 'Orca' tries hard and fails to achieve what it sets out to, what it does offer still has some value. Taken in the right spirit, the film can be either fun or tragic. The action works incredibly well and the whale is believable enough to keep the audience invested in its plight. It is also the most likeable and fascinating character here.
Upon initial release, this cult classic was torn to pieces by the critics and saw modest box office returns. Admittedly, 'Orca' is perhaps best enjoyed with a cold beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other.