FILM REVIEW: SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 (2022)

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Sonic: Let’s talk about your new outfit: it’s like Professor X meets Mr Monopoly.

Director: Jeff Fowler

Writers: Pat Casey, Josh Miller, John Whittington

Starring: Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally with Idris Elba as the voice of Knuckles and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic

Synopsis: Dr Robotnik returns to Earth with a new ally intent on revenge and in pursuit of a new ultimate power.

What happens if you mix the films Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze with Batman Forever and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, you get Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the fun but kinda crazy sequel to the biggest hit of 2020, Sonic the Hedgehog. Would Sonic the Hedgehog still have been the biggest hit of 2020 if cinemas didn’t close down shortly after due to the covid-19 pandemic? Who knows? It doesn’t matter because at the time the film was a big hit and everyone seemed to enjoy it for its playful harmless fun. The sequel picks up directly after the original with Jim Carrey’s Dr Robotnik stuck on a Mushroom Planet trying to get back to Earth to get revenge on Sonic. As he creates a portal to Earth, he meets Knuckles the Echidna, a red anthropomorphic short-beaked echidna whose father was one of the Echidna’s who killed Sonic’s mother figure, Longclaw, before she sent Sonic to Earth in the original film. Knuckles has a history as a soldier intent on fighting Sonic. Now that I write this, Knuckles isn’t given much of a back story as to why he wants to get Sonic just that his is. He teams up with Dr Robotnik to travel to Earth and find the Green Emerald a plot device which will give the bad guys ultimate power. This is taken directly from the video game and will be a fun easter egg for the fans. Knuckles is a great new character which Idris Elba voices with charm and dutiful service. He makes a great foe for Sonic who in the first film was pretty much undefeatable. Knuckles is powerful like Sonic, but instead of being super-fast he is super-strong.

The film also picks up directly after the original with Sonic living with Tom and Maddie Wachowski (returning players James Marsden and Tika Sumpter) as their foster son…? Tom gives Sonic fatherly advice on a fishing trip as he prepares to leave him alone as he and his wife need to attend the wedding of Maddie’s sister, Natasha (played by the hilarious Natasha Rothwell, returning from the original) in Hawaii. As they leave, Sonic enjoys the empty house by hanging out with the family dog and dancing around making the house a mess. Tails, an anthropomorphic two-tailed fox, is a fan of Sonic from another planet who comes to help Sonic when Dr Robotnik and Knuckles arrive to ruin his home alone time. The film, like the first, goes on to become a buddy road trip comedy adventure with Sonic and Tails becoming close friends (just like in the video game). The character designs are cute and work seamlessly in the live action setting.

The film is pretty similar to the first film with it being a constant clash of a Jim Carrey comedy routine and an adventure fantasy with Sonic and Tails. Also included is a bizarre wedding side plot for the human characters to enjoy some screen time which is absolutely bonkers.

Like the first film this is pretty inoffensive family fun which you can enjoy over the school holidays or a lazy Saturday afternoon. Sonic is a fun character and the new additions of Knuckles and Tails make it differentiate from the original. At times it seems overstuffed but it is a solid sequel which deserves its success.

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Rating: B-

FILM REVIEW: SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (2020)

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Sonic the Hedgehog: Your egg drones are impressive, Eggman! But face it, you’ll never catch me!

Dr. Robotnik: Confidence… a fool’s substitute for intelligence!

Director: Jeff Fowler

Writers: Pat Casey, Josh Miller

Starring: Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic

Synopsis: Sonic is an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog who has transported to Earth and makes friends with a local Police Officer, while a mad Scientist tries to capture him.

The last film I watched pre-pandemic in the cinemas. What a time, I had no idea that this would be the last movie I watched in the cinema for a whole year! Well actually that’s not true I did end up seeing Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984. However this is about Sonic the Hedgehog – the movie! The iconic video game character, rival to Nintendo’s Mario Brothers. As a child I had a Sega Master System (not a Nintendo) I’m not sure why I got Sega I don’t remember deciding. Sonic the Hedgehog was one of my first video games I played all the time. Eventually I got Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (with Tails) on the next Sega machine – Sega Mega Drive. I kept up with the following sequels as time went on. Sonic was one of my favorite characters growing up. As a kid I always imagined a live action film with an animated version of him in it. During the early nineties this idea wasn’t unheard of. The hit film Who Framed Roger Rabbit was able to blend animation with live action seamlessly and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a television cartoon had a popular live action film. Even Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros had a live action film. They should have made a Sonic film in the nineties everyone would have loved it. However here we are now twenty years later and Sonic finally has a film. In early 2020 it was a weird time for Sonic the Hedgehog to appear in a live action film because Sega hadn’t produced a popular video game with Sonic the Hedgehog in it since the nineties. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Playstation 2, and Microsoft’s Xbox in the early 2000’s, meant the end for Sega as a console manufacturer and in 2001 the company became a games developer for other platforms, including their former rivals, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Several games featuring Sonic would pop up time after time but none of them had the mass popularity of the nineties Sega Mega Drive games. Characters such as Mario and Link were able to continue in their popularity into 2020 thanks to Nintendo being able to keep up with Playstation and Xbox. I admit I am now a Nintendo Switch addict and Mario and Link have taken over as my favourite video game characters. However, I will forever have fond memories of playing hours of Sonic as a kid and it was a treat to take my daughter to see him on the big screen even though she played Mario with me and didn’t really know who Sonic was.

The film makes it easy for newcomers to become familiar with Sonic and most children will get a kick out of his fun, free-spirited attitude. He’s a child as the film opens who lives on another planet with a talking Owl named Longclaw who is like a mother figure for Sonic. Although in the video game Sonic collected rings to increase his power and lives, in the film rings are used to travel to different planets (eventually they are used to teleport anywhere). Sonic’s home planet is under threat and Longclaw gets Sonic to teleport to Earth before she is killed by Echidna-type characters. (Similar to the opening of Superman). The film’s opening is beautiful to look at and a great adaptation of the game, especially the opening level of Green Hills. The characters are designed in CGI and look fantastic. They mix with the live action world realistically. Early in production a trailer went out with a different design for Sonic and audiences were so mad on social media that Paramount had to delay the release to update the design.
As Sonic lands on Earth he grows up in Green Hills, Montana on his own in a quiet, sleepy town that has zero crime and apparently two police officers. One of the Police Officer’s is Tom Wachowski (played by the vanilla James Marsden). Tom is married to the beautiful Maddie played by Tika Sumpter, who has fun with her minor role. Sonic is a fun loving, very fast anthropomorphic blue Hedgehog, however growing up alone has left him lonely and longing for friendship and connection. As he watches kids play baseball, he tells himself he is okay living on his own. That night he plays on an empty court and begins running so fast in anger that he causes an electromagnetic pulse which causes a massive power outage across his town. This gets the attention of the two police officers (the other Officer Wade is played by the hilarious Adam Pally from the excellent sitcom Happy Endings) Tom Wachowski has just been offered a new job in San Francisco and at the time he is packing to leave the town. Wade is completely useless as a Police Officer and calls Tom in a panic. While this is happening Sonic hides in Tom’s garage and they both accidently meet in shock. What follows is a road trip comedy or more of a father-son relationship that anchors the narrative. Sonic needs to leave Earth to a Mushroom Planet because he fears he may get taken by the Government for his powers. Tom agrees to take him to San Francisco where he left his rings which will take him to that planet. Did I mention Jim Carrey is in this…?

For fans of the video game, you will remember Sonic’s nemesis, the fat, bald and loud, Dr Eggman Robotnik, who would use robots and spaceships to attack Sonic at the end of each level. In the film he is played by Jim Carrey (who is completely unleashed) as a highly intelligent and arrogant Scientist who wants to find Sonic and harness his powers. If you are a fan of Jim Carrey from his Ace Ventura, The Mask and Liar, Liar performances you will enjoy his addition to the film. If you don’t then I tell you now do not watch this film! Carrey is completely unhinged in the role bringing his brand of humour to next level altitudes (pardon the pun). As a nineties kid I am a fan of Carrey’s comedic roles and I have to admit I enjoyed his performance in the film. The film overall becomes a mix of Jim Carrey performing a comedy routine and a buddy/adventure comedy with Sonic and Tom.

The film is harmless fun for the family to watch on a lazy afternoon or Saturday night. There is nothing here to offend (unless you hate Jim Carrey). The humour is aimed at both adults and children so everyone should have a fun time. The film works even for non-fans of Sonic as he is a great character for kids being funny, fast and generally inoffensive as a quick witted teenage boy. My daughter enjoyed it despite never playing a Sonic game. I think the film works as a mix of comedy, adventure and fantasy. Everything you would want from a film based on a video game and it’s probably one of the best made video game films (which isn’t a far stretch). I’ll even go out and get a new Sonic video game to have some gameplay nostalgia.

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B+

FILM REVIEW: SCREAM (2022)

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Wes Hicks: [suspecting Dewey as the killer] You got stabbed a billion times, got dumped by your famous wife, and crawled into a bottle. I think it’s safe to say you’re on the suspect list.
Dewey Riley: Well, maybe you’re the killer. Because that cut deep.

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Writers: James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega

Synopsis: 25 years after the original brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer dons the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past.

Scream is not a remake of Scream (1996) but it is actually Scream 5, picking up years after Scream 4 and continuing the story of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette). As the film opens, just like the original, we are introduced to a young girl who is alone at night, chilling out, getting ready to watch a movie when the phone rings. The sinister voice from the previous Scream films responds creepily “Hello Tara”. Tara Carpenter (a nod to horror director John Carpenter) answers innocently “Hello” they begin to chat about movies and how the state of horror films has changed since the last entry in 2011. As the previous films the film opens with a killer stalking a young girl on the phone until she figures out the killer is in the house. This opening scene is done masterfully by new directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett taking over the legendary Wes Craven (RIP).

We are soon introduced to a new batch of characters that will become suspects or murder victims as the new killer stalks them all. As most recent sequels to franchises we are getting a “requel” or “lega-sequel” where the original characters return but make way for new characters to take over (ala Star Wars, Jurassic World, Creed). The new characters include Sam Carpenter (played by the stunning Melissa Barrera from In The Heights) who is the victims older sister with a few dark secrets of her own. Her boyfriend Richie (played by Jack Quaid) who is a newbie to horror films and is enjoying the ride. Amber (played by the devilish Mickey Madison from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Tara’s best friend, who proves to be a tough foe for the ghost faced killer. Also there are Tara’s other friends, Wes (played by Dylan Minnette from Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why) and twins Mindy and Chad (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding, in reality unrelated). All of these characters pose as suspects or victims as the film goes through the standard horror tropes that we’ve come to gotten used to in a Scream film.

However our original favourites Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers and Dewey soon get pulled back into the mystery, with Dewey getting the most interesting screen time. David Arquette excels in his role as Dewey, the simple minded cop, who has been facing this type of killer for too long. The characters all team up eventually to stop the killer and work out why someone is doing this on the anniversary of the films first batch of murders.

Fans of the Scream franchise will find plenty to enjoy in this entry. This is solid sequel which corrects the mistakes of the previous entry and opens up the series to new characters and stories. The new characters aren’t as entertaining as those in Scream 4 however they are well-acted and Melissa Barrera makes a strong new scream queen.

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Rating: B+

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE – FILM FRANCHISE RANKING 2018

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(Updated October 2018)

20. Thor: The Dark World
Pretty much a repeat of the first Thor but worse. Instead of Thor battling in space he again returns to earth to swoon over Natalie Portman. Forgettable villain and Loki is wasted in the film. No one looks like they are even trying. At least they got it right the third time around.
D-

19. Thor (2011)
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston deliver good performances as brothers Thor and Loki. But the rest is pretty boring and clichéd. When we should have been given an epic fantasy we got a fish out of water comedy. Asgard was beautifully designed however we are only there for a quarter of the film and we are left in deserted Texas for the rest of the film. Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins, and Idris Elba deserve better. One of the weaker entries in the Marvel Universe.
D+

18. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
I actually liked Edward Norton as the Hulk. I don’t think he was given a chance to shine in this film. He is one of my favourite actors check out Primal Fear, American History X, and Fight Club. He did a good job however the film feels dated perhaps it’s the special effects or just the bare bones plot. I enjoyed the action in the opening scenes reminiscent of the Jason Bourne films or Fast & Furious 5 when they’re in Rio. The sequence in the University is also a great showcase for the Hulk’s true powers. It’s a good entry in the series but seems to now been forgotten since Mark Ruffalo took over as the Hulk in the Avengers.
C-

17. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Still love Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man and enjoyed Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. I also actually enjoyed Mickey Rourke as Whiplash and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. However the film got bogged down with too many setups to future films and seemed a bit aimless. Should have been a stronger sequel to the first-rate original.
C

16. Ant-Man (2016)
Pretty small entry (pun intended) entry in the Marvel Universe. Paul Rudd is great as Scott Lang/Ant-Man with his usual style of laid back humour. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are fine but the stand out is definitely Michael Pena as his con man buddy. Great visuals when he shrinks. Another generic villain. Would’ve loved to see Edgar Wright’s version. Fun entry but definitely in the lower end of the MCU
B-

15. Doctor Strange (2016)
Enjoyable and trippy entry in the MCU. With dashes of Inception and Batman Begins. Benedict Cumberbatch is good as Steven Strange. Overall pretty formulaic origin story though.
B

14. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Underrated entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr is still great as Tony Stark/Iron Man. I love how he has to depend on his wits instead of his suit to solve the crime. Also his chemistry with the little boy really shines. I love Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin and the twist that follows. Also the first Christmas Marvel film. Great action and great performances all around.
B-

13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Enjoyable sequel to the original smash hit. Delves deeper into each characters past and also introduces new enjoyable characters. Lots of daddy issues in this film. Soundtrack and action scenes are great too. Cast is awesome. Very funny and entertaining but doesn’t surpass the original for me.
B-

12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Excellent opening scene featuring great action and fun banter between our favourite team. Also another classic scene is the crew having a chill out party all attempting to lift Thor’s hammer. 🔨 I love James Spader as the titular villain Ultron. However overall it is rather long, formulaic and relies too much on sub-plots to play out in future films.
B-

11. Ant-Man & the Wasp
Another fun adventure with Ant-Man! Great creative action sequences with the micro hero going from large to tiny and the film explored all the possibilities with that concept. Evangeline Lilly also kicked ass as the Wasp creating another bad ass Marvel hero after Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Great sympathetic villain with Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost. The supporting cast were also brilliant again with Michael Pena, Randall Park, Walton Goggins and the cute Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie, Scott Lang’s daughter. MCU knocked it out of the park in 2018.
B+

10. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Really funny third entry in the Thor series. I love the 80s cheesy fantasy vibe. Chris Hemsworth leans into his comedy side we saw from Ghostbusters and SNL. Tessa Thompson is great. The real standout is Korg voiced by director Taika Waititi. Great action and visuals. I was very surprised by this entry.
B+

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Tom Holland is great as the new Spider-Man and I love the 80s high school romantic comedy vibe. Michael Keaton is an excellent villain and Marissa Tomei is cute as Aunt May. The action scenes are pretty average. However I still really enjoyed this one.
B+

8. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers in space! Epic action from start to finish. Lots of surprises and real heart. The consistent fun banter between our heroes is still present and Thanos makes an excellent villain. However I was left wanting more. Seems like the first in a trilogy. Extremely reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings with multiple character arcs, the epic scope and large scale battle sequences.
B+

7. Iron Man (2008)
The introduction to the Marvel Universe. Again perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr as the cocky, sleazy billionaire Tony Stark who loses his heart but gains a soul. Jon Favreau crafted a unique origin story for a character honestly I barely knew about. When I was a kid I was raised on Spider-Man and Batman comics. However Favreau took all the tropes of the 90s comic book films and created something very special and timely dealing with the still at the time war in the Middle East. This was an origin story which was different – quirky, funny, action packed and still had heart. Great introduction to this universe.
A

6. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is perfect casting. He brings a physicality and nobility I can’t see any other actor bringing to this role. I also love the supporting cast of Sebastian Stan, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell. I love the WW11 setting and this is a great introduction to my favourite onscreen Marvel character.
A

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Great film. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista turn in excellent performances and Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are awesome as the voices of Rocket Racoon and Groot respectively. Really fun space adventure in the groove of the original Star Wars.
A

4. Avengers (2012)
Great ensemble team movie getting the band together. Captain America, Thor, Loki, Iron Man, Black Widow and especially Mark Ruffalo as the new Hulk all knock it out of the park. Great action and funny quips from beginning to end. I miss Joss Whedon’s sensibilities in the Marvel Universe. This was the first true beginning of the Marvel we know today.
A

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Previously my favourite Marvel film. So many epic action sequences including the elevator fight, the car chases and the opening. However it is the chemistry between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. Then Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie. However especially Chris Evans and his long time friend turned enemy Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier. The Russo Brothers really surprised everyone with their realistic direction and staging of each scene. Chris Evans is perfect in this film as the stoic and noble Captain America.
A+

2. Black Panther (2018)
Strong Marvel film with a diverse cast and a whole new aesthetic to the formulaic Marvel mode which has grown over the years. This is bold, daring and gives the African Americans a true hero to see on screen instead of another white actor named Chris. Only since Blade has their been a strong black superhero lead (not counting Luke Cage on Netflix). Top acting from Chadwick Boseman and especially Michael B. Jordan as the conflicted villain. Brilliant direction from Ryan Coogler (Creed) and beautiful production design. The special effects and action sequences could have been better however the characters and plot overcome those quibbles. Excellent Marvel film and could be the best film of 2018.
A+

1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
My favourite entry in the Marvel Universe thus far. Excellent performances from everyone in the cast especially Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Brilliant action sequences from start to finish and the Airport face off is possibly the best sequence in all of the films. Excellent introductions to Black Panther and Spider-Man (3.0). The Russo Brothers deliver on every level. Also plenty of twists which really changes the characters and their dynamics for future films. Excellent film!
A+

FILM TRILOGY REVIEW: SCREAM (1996 – 2000)

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Ghostface: What’s your favourite scary movie?

Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Kevin Williamson, Ehren Kruger

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy and Liev Schreiber

Synopsis: The Scream trilogy deals with Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who is stalked by a serial killer dressed up in a Ghostface costume. Each film deals with the mystery of who the killer could be.

Scream was released in 1996 when the horror genre was in its last days. Franchises such as A Nightmare on Elm St, Friday the 13th and Halloween had exhausted their sequels and no one was showing up any more to see generic teen victims get slashed up by Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Until Scream came out and reinvigorated the horror genre by taking a look back at the genre through the eyes of all too aware film loving screenwriter and an iconic horror director. Scream was a huge success and opened the way for many more horror films to follow in the late 90s until the torture porn era began in the early 2000s.

The original Scream is the best of the series with a great concept and characters. It is a dissection of the horror genre by the master horror director Wes Craven. Craven was an academic and often lent into the meta side of horror with his previous film New Nightmare which was a meta-commentary on his own classic A Nightmare on Elm St. In Scream he used the conventions of horror and put them into the reality of film geeks of the 90s. It was a new and interesting way of approaching horror and it paid off ostensibly.

The opening scene with Drew Barrymore is perfect horror. Craven’s best directed scene in the series (or perhaps ever…). He ratchets up the tension with each piece of dialogue and movement. With Drew Barrymore playfully flirting on the phone talking about horror movies playing with her kitchen knives and making popcorn. It quickly turns dark and all these elements become horror set pieces and her death is gruesome. Craven sets the tone for the film and the series in this opening. It’s mix of humour and horror. Kevin Williamson’s script is also perfect as he references horror classics as well as mixing teen curiosity. The film then moves into a more conventional story of a teen getting stalked by a serial killer. Williamson plays with the genres conventions as well as mixing in film references and the 90’s fascination with violence in the media with shades of the OJ trial with the TV journalist Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) chasing the story.

Neve Campbell as the lead Sidney Prescott is charming but a bit too broody at times which is common for a Wes Craven lead female. The real highlight is Jamie Kennedy as Randy who introduced the film geek to the mainstream. His film references and attitude brought audiences to the video stores to discover horror classics themselves. The plot deals with Sidney trying to fight off the serial killer while dealing with her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and her two friends Tatum (Rose McGowan) and Stu (Matthew Lillard). We are also introduced to the ambitious journalist Gale Weathers. Courtney Cox as Gale who brings a lot of attitude and energy to this film and its sequels. There is also David Arquette as Deputy Dewey he’s a fun oddball character who you grow to love through the series. His innocence as a young wannabe detective is fun and goofy which is needed in the overly tense scenes.

Craven mixes horror and comedy well. He uses blood and gore extensively as he has in his past horror films and he lets his actors make fun of the ironic situation they are in as they dissect the genre conventions of horror films and the film itself. Craven has always used violence as a metaphor for something else here he uses it to make fun of horror films in general with their over the top violence especially his own series A Nightmare on Elm Street. I like the murder mystery element to the film as well. I remember the first time seeing all of these films was the thrill of working out “who” is the killer. The ending drags on a bit and borders on ridiculous as the killers are revealed and Sidney survives another day.

Scream 2 is similar to the original with sharp witty dialogue as in the first film and filled with horror references from the 80s however this time they concentrate more on horror sequels. This is a rare horror sequel that succeeds in character and plot. It takes the best of the original and improves on it by leaning more on Jamie Kennedy’s Randy for film references and Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott is stronger and more aware than the original. Courtney Cox and David Arquette return and deliver more of the same they weren’t the most interesting characters in the original but their presence is welcome and ties the films together. The opening with Jada Pinkett Smith isn’t as good as the originals opening but still interesting by setting it in a cinema. Sidney is again surrounded by disposable friends who are acted by late 90s TV stars such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell and Laurie Metcalf. Wes Craven is still at the top of his game here by upping the murders and gore which make it overall more fun, but not as original as the first.

Scream 3 leans more into the representation of the media depicting real life crimes and shadows today’s obsession with true crime films and television shows like American Crime Story and Making a Murderer. In the 90s and early 2000s true crime was very mainstream in pop culture with the OJ trial and Versace murders on 24 hour news cycles. Scream always looked at the media’s relationship with violence especially in horror movies and as Scream 2 looked at horror film sequels and their conventions, Scream 3 looks more at the audiences obsession with true crime and making a horror film. It still has an ironic and playful tone by looking at itself as a vision of Hollywood’s obsession with violence and the people who wish to be famous by becoming monsters themselves. It also has a stab (pun intended) at itself by having the actors in the film Stab 3 begin to get murdered and Lance Henriksen makes a spot on Wes Craven.

The dialogue isn’t as good as the previous entries and the film overall is structured more as a thriller instead of a film commentary on horror. Perhaps because it wasn’t written by Kevin Williamson who had a sharp way of writing film references and horror conventions. The death scenes aren’t as clever as the previous films either. Especially the opening which was very underwhelming after the excellent openings of the previous two films. There are some good concepts with the killer going after the actors from the film being made and the characters dealing with their doppelgangers especially Gail with Parker Posey. Also the concept of going back to the beginning to discover Sidney’s mothers acting past was interesting. There is some comedy with Parker Posey and Patrick Warbuton (Puddy from Seinfeld) as her celebrity bodyguard however the comedy isn’t as clever as the first two.

Courtney Cox is pretty good in this entry. Her energy from the previous films are a welcome as opposed to Neve Campbell’s PTSD stricken Sidney who is pretty terrible in this film and the scenes of her interacting with her ghost mother are laughable. Craven could have given it a Hitchcock/Psycho vibe and should have done better with the material. However the videotape of Randy discussing the rules of film trilogies is again spot on as are all of his rules from each film. Let’s go through them…

Scream
Rules to successfully survive a horror movie:
1. You may not survive the movie if you have sex.
2. You may not survive the movie if you drink or do drugs.
3. You may not survive the movie if you say “I’ll be right back”, “Hello?” or “Who’s there?”

Scream 2
Rules to successfully survive a horror movie sequel:
1. The body count is always bigger.
2. The death scenes are always much more elaborate, with more blood and gore.
3. Randy starts to describe the third rule: “If you want your films to become a successful franchise, never, ever…’ before being interrupted by Dewey. However, the film’s original teaser trailer featured an extended version of the rules scene which reveals that originally the third rule was supposed to be “Never, ever, under any circumstances assume the killer is dead.” This referenced Randy’s last line in the first Scream which stated that a killer always comes back to life for one last scare.
The lack of a third rule in the film’s final cut was a deliberate in-joke by the crew, referencing the fact that it is impossible to ensure that a horror franchise will be successful.

Scream 3
Rules to successfully survive the last chapter of a horror movie trilogy:
1. “You’ve got a killer who’s gonna be superhuman. Stabbing him won’t work, shooting him won’t work. Basically in the third one, you gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up.”
2. “Anyone, including the main character, can die. This means you, Sid.”
3. “The past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest! Any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you.”
Although, in the first few drafts, there was a fourth rule: “Never be alone” but was taken out because Gale immediately goes off alone afterwards.

Scream 3 is unfortunately the lowest in the trilogy but it is still an enjoyable ride if you have come to empathise with these characters. The Scream trilogy is a highlight in modern horror franchises and is a great analysis of the horror genre overall.

SCREAM (1996) A
SCREAM 2 (1997) A-
SCREAM 3 (2000) B-

Notes;
– Jay and Silent Bob cameo in this film. It also has a Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back feeling with the film centered on the production of a film based on the characters in the film “It’s very meta” as one character suggests. Check out my Kevin Smith Retrospective for more

https://hqmoviereviews.wordpress.com/category/kevin-smith-retrospective/

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (2001)

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Holden: If the buzz is any indicator, that movie’s gonna make some huge bank.
Jay: What buzz?
Holden: The Internet buzz.
Jay: What the fuck is the Internet?
Holden: The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Will Ferrell, George Carlin, Seann William Scott, Jon Stewart, Judd Nelson, Tracey Morgan, Diedrich Bader and Chris Rock

Synopsis: The comic “Bluntman and Chronic” is based on real-life stoners Jay and Silent Bob, so when they get no profit from a big-screen adaptation, they set out to wreck the movie.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is Kevin Smith’s fifth directed film and his best straight up comedy. Instead of mixing drama and comedy with Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma he chooses to let his two characters Jay and Silent Bob take the lead on a road trip comedy filled with excellent comedic supporting characters. He succeeds in his comedic tone and in jokes for fans of his previous films. Unlike Mallrats which used potty humour throughout this works better as Smith’s film making skills have grown. After the successful Dogma he chose to use an excellent comedic supporting cast to make his plot and dialogue work unlike in his early films when he didn’t have the resources.

The film revolves around Jay (Jason Mewes in great comedic form) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) trying to stop a film being made about them based on Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) comic Bluntman and Chronic (from Smith’s previous film Chasing Amy). They are so offended by the fans on the internet bagging the film on the website Poop Shoot (which went on to become a real thing and inspired Smith’s ongoing internet presence. Also could be the genesis of Twitter) that they decide to travel to Hollywood and stop the production. The film then follows them on a road trip and is filled with call backs to Smith’s previous four films including cameos from Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) from Clerks, Brodie (Jason Lee) from Mallrats, Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), Hooper X (Dwight Ewell) and Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) from Chasing Amy. Also other call backs include the Buddy Christ on the Nun’s dashboard and the Mooby’s fast food chain from Dogma.

This is just a fun film throughout and easily re-watchable. I consider it Smith’s best comedy since Clerks. It’s not as uneven as Mallrats and Dogma. The humour works because he sticks to Jay and Silent Bob’s humour and he populates them with great comedy talent such as George Carlin, Seann William Scott, Will Ferrell, Jon Stewart, Judd Nelson, Tracey Morgan, Diedrich Bader and Chris Rock. He also uses actors to send themselves up as absurd versions of themselves including Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck playing absurd versions of themselves. Will Ferrell is really good in this as he was still in his early Saturday Night Live days and proving himself on the big screen.

The climax in the Hollywood studio is a real highlight and shows Smith’s great skill in parody. Especially when he sends up Star Wars, Good Will Hunting and Scream. I love this film even though it is rather indulgent for Kevin Smith to make a film all about characters from his previous films. If you aren’t familiar with Smith’s previous films I’m not sure how you would appreciate this film. However as a fan I loved it.

A

Random Notes;
– Ties to Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Marc Blucas (who played Riley, Buffy’s love interest during Season four) plays the Fred looking character in the Scooby Doo van and Eliza Dushku who played the bad girl Vampire Slayer Faith on Buffy plays the bad girl Sissy part of the CLIT group of girls who are really jewel thieves
– Ties to American Pie with Shannon Elizabeth, Seann William Scott and Jason Biggs
– Kevin Smith-isms; Star Wars style introduction, Jay and Silent Bob’s own film!, Tons of Gay jokes, Scott Mosier cameo, Jay and Silent Bob’s Monkey friend, Film references –including Star Wars, Charlie’s Angels, Entrapment, The Fugitive, Good Will Hunting, Scream, E.T

FILM REVIEW: CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (2018)

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Winnie The Pooh: People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.

Director: Marc Forster

Writer: Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, and Allison Schroeder

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Toby Jones

Synopsis: A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.

Christopher Robin is a charming throwback to one of my childhood favourites, Winnie the Pooh based on the children books by A.A Milne. As a child I loved watching Winnie, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo and Owl get into many adventures with Christopher Robin. It was innocent, simple and fun. This film like Hook (1991) and Alice in Wonderland (2010) shows what happens when your childhood hero grows up into adulthood. Although Christopher Robin was never my favourite part of those stories he was the audience surrogate and represented a child using his imagination and just playing around with his toys. This film of course deals with his loss of innocence and how he has now put work over having fun and especially not giving time to his wife and daughter who desperately seek his attention.

The film opens with a young Christopher Robin enjoying time with Winnie and company which shows their friendships (and perhaps gives some insight for those who aren’t familiar with the Pooh series of books and cartoons). He says goodbye to the gang and thirty years later Christopher is all grown up (played by Ewan McGregor) and is married to Evelyn (played by the brilliant Hayley Atwell who is completely underused) and has a daughter, Madeline (played well by Bronte Carmichael). She is a very obedient child who excels at school and is not quite sure how to have a fun time or play in the backyard as her father did as a child. While his wife and daughter go for a trip back to Sussex, Robin has to stay and work which puts a strain on his relationship with his family. As they leave, Winnie and company magically come back after thirty years.

Once they reappear the film has a lot of fun with the characters and they show Christopher Robin how to recapture his love of fun as a child and reconnect with his family. The film is pretty clichéd however I do love these characters and it was fun to revisit them after all these years. The film wasn’t that successful at the box office so I wonder if it will get a sequel but I could see more adventures with Winnie the Pooh and Madeline in the future. It could be a renaissance for the characters and the franchise. Just like Paddington Bear which has become very successful.

The film is beautifully shot by Matthias Koenigswieser and I enjoyed the character designs. They are very realistic and show a realistic vision of these fluffy toys coming to life. The English settings are beautiful to look at and the voice actors do a magical job of capturing these characters personalities. The film leans into the business side of Christopher Robin’s life a bit too much which slows the movie down and may push the limits for kids under five.

B

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: DOGMA (1999)

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Bethany: Wait a minute. Christ. You know Christ?
Rufus: Knew him? Shit, nigga owes me 12 bucks!

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Synopsis: An abortion clinic worker with a special heritage is called upon to save the existence of humanity from being negated by two renegade angels trying to exploit a loop-hole and reenter Heaven.

Dogma is the fourth directorial effort from Kevin Smith following his Jersey Trilogy of Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy. Dogma actually continues in the same Universe as recurring characters Jay and Silent Bob continue to have adventures.

Dogma is kind of a mix of all Smith’s previous films. There’s the potty humour of Mallrats, the witty dialogue of Clerks and the controversy and independent spirit of Chasing Amy. The film is entertaining for fans of Smith however it does get bogged down by heavy theology based expositional dialogue and a pretty uninteresting protagonist. What saves the film is its excellent cast of supporting players such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. Linda Fiorentino seems miscast as the lead character Bethany. According to the commentary she was difficult to work with.

The film revolves around Bethany a Catholic who has lost her faith in God after losing her husband due to a miscarriage. She still attends church but has no passion for being there. She works at an abortion clinic with Liz (the deadpan Janeane Garofalo) and wonders what her purpose is. She is soon visited by the angel Metatron (hilariously played by Alan Rickman) who sets her on a journey to stop two archangels Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) from entering a Church which is trying to get more people by introducing the Buddy Christ which in turn would prove God doesn’t exist and end the world. She is sceptical at first but everything Metatron says becomes true so she sets on her journey and along the way meets an array of angels and demons including the great Chris Rock as Rufus the thirteenth apostle, Jason Lee as the demonic Azrael, Salma Hayak as the muse Serendipity, and the two prophets Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). All of these supporting characters save the film and have great comical moments. The film plays like a comic book (a trope of Smith) as the protagonist goes on a journey to save the world filled with lovable characters. Especially the introduction scene of Jay and Silent Bob as Comic Book type heroes as they save Bethany from the three Hockey slaying boys/demons and continue throughout the film showing Kevin Smith’s obsession with comic books and turning them into Bluntman & Chronic comic book characters from Chasing Amy. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are excellent as the two arch-angels wreaking wrath on the sinful. The scene where they interrogate a Disney inspired company called Mooby’s featuring men who have all sinned their way to the top strongly reflects the views of these types of men in 2018 especially with the #metoo movement at the moment and the controversy surrounding John Lasseter and Harvey Weinstein (who produced this film!)

At the time the film was very controversial for its depiction of Christianity however Smith who is a Christian said he was only trying to make a fun parody of religion. In the 90’s it seemed Smith wanted the controversy as other independent filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson were being praised for their visions. Smith was somewhere in the middle he was making entertaining dialogue heavy pictures but his visual style was being criticised and he wasn’t having box office success or award love as his peers were. The more people discussed this film the more interest it got. Especially with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck coming off their success of Good Will Hunting and Chris Rock beginning to blow up after his time on SNL and his successful stand up specials. The film was a success making $30 million off a $10 million budget but it isn’t as regarded as Clerks or Chasing Amy. It could have made an interesting new trilogy for Smith because the film seems overstuffed with great characters and strong ideas. Today it could be a great Netflix series. Looking back the controversy wasn’t deserved however for strict Christians there is a lot of blasphemy as Smith says Jesus was black, Joseph and Mary had more kids and Chris Rock as the thirteenth Apostle however if you have a sense of humour you can look over these things.

Dogma isn’t Smith’s best film but I think it is very entertaining and had potential to be something greater. Perhaps with a better director or as a series.

B

Highlights:
– Kevin Smith-isms; Cameos from Brian O’Halloran as the News Reporter, Scott Mosier (Producer), Hockey, Comic Books, the introduction of the Mooby food chain, and Jay and Silent Bob

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997)

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Sean: It’s not your fault

Director: Gus Van Sant

Writers: Matt Damon & Ben Affleck

Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser

Synopsis: Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.

Good Will Hunting is the breakout hit of 1997 for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. These two young actors proved their credibility not only as great actors but also as smart filmmakers. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the script for this film which is smart, witty, emotional and very mature for two young boys from Boston. This isn’t their feature film as Ben Affleck had been working with Kevin Smith (Producer on this film) on Mallrats and Chasing Amy and Matt Damon had some pre-acting work also. However this was the film that put them on the map and also garnered them Academy Awards for Writing (Best Screenplay). Although they both wrote the script the film is Matt Damon’s showpiece. He stars as the protagonist Will Hunting who is a poor orphan boy from Boston working menial jobs who is secretly a genius prodigy.

He is discovered by Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) after he secretly completes a complicated mathematical equation for his students. Will was working as a Janitor at the University and is caught by Lambeau after he notices him working on his whiteboard. Will is happy to just hang out with his best friends including Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Cole Hauser) as they hit bars and work construction jobs. They are all from the same part of town and are as close as brothers. Will doesn’t want to break his bonds with them although he has a secret gift.

After getting into a brawl he is sentenced to prison unless he takes therapy sessions advised by Professor Lambeau. Initially Will isn’t interested in working for the Professor but goes along as he doesn’t want to go to prison. He plays around with different therapists trying to buy time until he reaches 21 and can be free. However Professor Lambeau seeks out an old colleague who he knows can reach out to Will. His old colleague is Sean (played in an Oscar winning performance by the legendary Robin Williams) who connects to Will and knows how to cut around his bullshit. Will eventually gives in and they form a bond which is emotional and heart-warming. Matt Damon and Robin Williams have excellent chemistry and their scenes together escalate this film to a higher status. The film overall is quite slow and follows familiar tropes of a Kevin Smith film. Two best friends, girl trouble, college humour. However with a smart script, delicate direction from director Gus Van Sant and brilliant acting from Matt Damon and Robin Williams this film garnered critical and commercial fame which a Kevin Smith film could not approach (although I find Kevin Smith’s films more entertaining in general.

This is a sophisticated film which put Matt Damon and Ben Affleck into A list stars. It is a little slow but the conclusion pays everything off brilliantly.

A

Highlights:
– Excellent chemistry and performances between Matt Damon and Robin Williams
– Great original script by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
– Matt Damon and Ben Affleck portray two friends very realistically
– Minnie Driver is quite charming
– Robin Williams gives the film a maturity the film is missing in the first half
– Matt Damon and Robin Williams in the “It’s Not Your Fault” scene escalates this film to classic status

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CHASING AMY (1997)

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Silent Bob: So there’s me and Amy, and we’re all inseparable, right? Just big time in love. And then four months down the road, the idiot gear kicks in, and I ask about the ex-boyfriend. Which, as we all know, is a really dumb move. But you know how it is: you don’t wanna know, but you just have to, right? Stupid guy bullshit. So, anyway, she starts telling me about him… how they fell in love, and how they went out for a couple of years, and how they lived together, her mother likes me better, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… and I’m okay. But then she drops the bomb on me, and the bomb is this: it seems that a couple of times, while they were going out, he brought some people to bed with them. Ménage à trois, I believe it’s called. Now this just blows my mind, right? I mean, I am not used to this sort of thing. I mean, I was raised Catholic, for God’s sake.
Jay: Saint Shithead.
[Silent Bob elbows him; Jay motions as if to start a fight]
Silent Bob: Do something.
[to Holden]
Silent Bob: So I’m totally weirded out by this, right? And then I just start blasting her. Like… I don’t know how to deal with what I’m feeling, so I figure the best way is by calling her a slut, right? And tell her she was used. I’m… I’m out for blood. I really wanna hurt this girl. I’m like, “What the fuck is your problem?”, right? And she’s just all calmly trying to tell me, like, it was that time and it was that place and she doesn’t think she should apologize because she doesn’t feel that she’s done anything wrong. I’m like, “Oh, really?” That’s when I look her straight in the eye, I tell her it’s over. I walk.
Jay: Fuckin’ A!
Silent Bob: No, idiot. It was a mistake. I didn’t hate her. I wasn’t disgusted with her. I was afraid. At that moment, I felt small, like… like I’d lacked experience, like I’d never be on her level, like I’d never be enough for her or something like that, you know what I’m saying? But, what I did not get, she didn’t care. She wasn’t looking for that guy anymore. She was… she was looking for me, for the Bob. But, uh, by the time I figure this all out, it was too late, man. She moved on, and all I had to show for it was some foolish pride, which then gave way to regret. She was the girl, I know that now. But I pushed her away. So, I’ve spent every day since then chasing Amy… so to speak.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything’s going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she’s a lesbian.

Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith’s third film and possibly his best. After the hit independent Clerks and the extremely disappointing Mallrats, Smith went back to his indie roots and made a personal, touching and often witty romantic comedy. With shades of Annie Hall, Kevin Smith used his real life relationship with Joey Lauren Adams as the template to make a film that was more than low-brow humour found in his previous film. The film is impressive for its realism of male and female sexuality and dealing with relationships in the 90’s.

The film revolves around Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) two best friends who created the comic book Bluntman and Chronic (based on Jay and Silent Bob). Banky is the Inker and Holden is the writer. They are a good team and have a successful comic book career. That is until Holden meets Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a charming, sexy and fun fellow comic book writer. Holden and Alyssa immediately hit it off although Banky becomes jealous of his best friends new potential love interest. Holden is head over heels immediately and is eager to meet her again when she invites him to a bar. Unfortunately for Holden he soon becomes aware that she is gay. Alyssa notices his disappointment but wants to be his friend and enjoys being with him. After hanging out with each other for a while Holden can’t keep his feelings back anymore and confesses his love for her. Alyssa gives in and they get together. However with her sexual history and Holden’s mainstream idea of love he can’t get over her past and things begin to fall apart.

This is a very touching and heartfelt film and a huge improvement in filmmaking from Smith. Ben Affleck is great in this film. His acting is superb and he really rises to his leading man status of today after his awful role in Mallrats. Joey Lauren Adams is adorable as Alyssa Jones, she’s every comic book lover’s fantasy. She’s sexy, charming, she’s a comic book writer with knowledge of comic book history too. Her voice is also so sexy. It’s too bad she didn’t have a better career after this film. Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams have amazing chemistry and their characters relationship is sweet, charming, realistic and ultimately heartbreaking.

Jason Lee plays a similar character from Mallrats. However he has better chemistry with Ben Affleck than Jeremy London (where is he now?). His scenes with Affleck depict a really strong male friendship that can sometimes become effected by a new girlfriend. Their relationship follows Smith’s familiar tropes of two male protagonists who are best friends (usually man-boys) who don’t understand women; one more sensitive and emotional the other cocky and amusing. However in this film it feels a lot more real and personal than the relationships in Clerks and Mallrats.

The film has other common Kevin Smith tropes including pop culture references including comic books, Star Wars, TV Shows and films. Characters referring to, going to or playing Hockey. Also keeping in the same Universe of Clerks we have a scene at Quick Stop Groceries and a Jay and Silent Bob cameo.

Chasing Amy is a sweet and personal film from Smith which shows a maturity as a filmmaker. Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee also help lift the material with great performances. It is not as funny as his previous films but Smith’s skills with dialogue is still very strong and the plot flows with great twists and turns. This is my favourite film of Smith’s thus far.

A+

Highlights:
– Dwight Ewell as Hooper X a black gay comic writer pretending to be a strong Black Activist, especially his opening scene at a Comic Book Convention.
– The idea of a comic book called Bluntman and Chronic based on Jay and Silent Bob