I was able to chat with a couple filmmakers from the United Kingdom about their haunted house musical comedy Dearly Departed, which has just wrapped up its festival circuit and is available to watch on Vimeo. My review of the film can be found here.
I talked with them separately but I think both interviews are equally fun! First, I talked with Jess Bartlett who co-wrote, produced and is credited hairstylist on the short film. Second, I talked with Elise Martin who is the director and co-writer of the film and the interview with Elise starts around the 38:50 mark.
You can listen directly below or follow this link to download the audio file/podcast with the two interviews. I’m also hoping to make these interviews a regular thing on my site, so if any independent filmmakers are reading and would like an interview, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Anyway, enjoy the interviews and thanks for listening!
I’ve heard that sometimes, a long wait is good for anticipation. But sometimes, there’s too long of a wait. And with the second episode of my Disney Channel Original Movie podcast, Popcorn Flicks, the wait was definitely too long, as I posted the first episode on March 17th. The first episode can be found here, and like I said there, I run the podcast with my friend Bobby Strate, who I met through the scriptwriting program we attended in Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Part of the reason why it’s taken so long to get this out is because we ended up having to re-record it because the first time we recorded it was just too rough. Since we care about the listeners, we wanted to record it again. On the second episode we review the 2003 Disney Channel Original Movie, “You Wish!” because, like the last film, there’s also a lucky coin in this one.
Luckily, we also enjoyed this film more than the last one. We discuss almost everything about this one so of course there will spoilers. I’d love to hear feedback so you can either leave a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also don’t have a logo yet but we have a little theme song. There’s still a little vulgarity but it’s not as bad as the first episode and again, this isn’t sponsored by or affiliated with Disney in any way. Also, for the next episode there will be a podcast name change and I hope to have the third episode up in a week or so! Thanks for listening.
I’ve added the audio podcast to the post itself, and to download it, just go here and click the three dots and that it will give the option to download it. (By the way, I don’t mean to condescend by explaining how to download it, just thought I’d include those instructions in case.)
Directed by: Michael Dowse. Starring: Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Mia Sorvino. Runtime: 1h 33 min. Released: July 12, 2019.
Six months after detective Vic Manning’s (Dave Bautista) partner Sara Morris (Karen Gillan) dies in the field of duty at the hands of a drug lord named Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais), he finally gets his chance at payback because of a shipment coming in that involves Tedjo.
The only problem is that Manning’s just had laser eye surgery and he can’t see. He has to enlist the help of Uber driver Stu (Kumaill Nanjiani, naturally nicknamed Stuber) to drive him around, which puts Stu into crazy situations. The premise is fine as Vic essentially kidnaps an Uber driver even though all he wants to do is go see his best friend Becca (Betty Gilpin) to tell her how he feels.
The chemistry between Nanjiani and Dave Bautista is the charming part about this film. They’re trapped in this co-dependent relationship for a day since Vic can’t see and Stu is willing to do just about anything for a five-star rating since he’s just been getting bad review after bad review. It’s believable when they fight and it’s somewhat amusing. I also like that the excuse for Vic needing an Uber driver is because of the vision. I thought it just might be simply because he gets his licence suspended – but the type of character Vic is, he wouldn’t let a suspended licence stop him from driving if it means getting Tedjo.
Some action scenes are good in Stuber and some scenes are funny, too, but there is just nothing memorable about this film. The only thing that’s memorably amusing is a male stripper, Felix (Steve Howey) tells Stu that he needs to tell Becca how he feels. The film is just disappointing because it’s only fine and it’s terribly predictable. There’s not a lot you’ll regret watching here, but nothing will wow you, either. Iko Uwais is a highlight because of his fighting skills and his parkour (utilized mostly at the beginning) but the star of The Raid: Redemption is wasted in yet another mediocre American film.
Directed by: Marc Lawrence. Starring: Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Shirley Maclaine. Runtime: 1h 40 min. Released: November 12, 2019.
This review contains spoilers.
When Santa Claus dies, the mantle is handed down to his son Nick Kringle (Bill Hader), but he’s scared to take on the role and runs away to Phoenix. His sister, Noelle Kringle (Anna Kendrick) must track him down and bring him back so they can save Christmas.
Noelle has some solid fish-out-of-water humour as Noelle goes to Phoenix to find her brother, which gives it an Elf vibe and there’s nothing wrong with channeling a great movie. I’m also convinced that Anna Kendrick makes any film better and it’s no different here as she brings such a charm to this film. Kendrick truly embodies Christmas spirit as Noelle, as Noelle herself learns what Christmas is all about. Bill Hader’s also good as her brother Nick, and their chemistry is enjoyable. Like Kendrick, Hader can make any film better. Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine) who helps Noelle is also great acting alongside her.
The story itself is predictable, but to be fair, it would be an honest challenge to find a Christmas film that isn’t predictable. Of course we know by the end that Noelle becomes Santa, but it’s the journey that matters. Some of the moments where everyone but her notices that should be the real Santa are sweet, notably when she speaks to a young girl using sign language though she doesn’t know sign language, as only natural Santa’s have a knowledge of every language. Noelle is a good character in her own right, but Kendrick and her general wholesomeness really makes her come alive.
A problem with the story here is a lack of conflict. The main conflict is getting Nick back to the North Pole so they can save Christmas because of the Christmas deadline. Meanwhile, back at the North Pole, Mrs. Claus (the delightful Julie Hagerty) is stressing because the interim Santa Claus isn’t working out. By the way, Noelle isn’t simply handed the Santa reigns from the start because the role of Santa is “traditionally” played by a man. This interim Santa is their cousin Gabriel Kringle (Billy Eichner) who works in the technology department. He wants to take some of the joy out of Christmas and deliver presents by drone, and he also comes up with an algorithm for the naughty and nice list that only has less than 3,000 “nice” children in the world because all the kids have minor infractions. The film dips its foot into this conflict but it never really feels like it comes into fruition as it’s all talk. The conflict would be nice, though it would have felt like the Toy Santa villain plot in The Santa Clause 2 if it had actually embraced it, and instead feels like filler.
Noelle’s “friendship” interest here is private investigator Jake Hapman (Kingsley Ben-Adir) who helps her find Nick in Phoenix. Her relationship with this man is fine and it’s unclear throughout if it’s platonic or a love interest, or just a friendship based on the spirit of Christmas and helping each other out. Either way, they’re fine together and Noelle’s friendship and kindness to his son Alex (Maceo Smedley) is charming.
Despite its flaws, I think Noelle is a good film as Anna Kendrick’s performance just distracts so well from any shortcomings, and it’s fun throughout, too. It’s also a solid first effort at an original film on the Disney+ service. And in terms of Christmas movies, I don’t know if I’d watch this every year, but Anna Kendrick would sure make me consider it.
Directed by: Fernando Mereilles. Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin. Runtime: 2h 5 min. Released: December 20, 2019.
Behind Vatican walls, the conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) as he aims to step down from the Papacy, and the liberal future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) as they find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.
Blending comedy and drama and strong dialogue from writer Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes is fascinating as it shows Pope Francis’ past life as Jorge Borgoglio (through actor Juan Minujin) as we see his mistakes and his humanitarian efforts, as he tries to improve himself as a person. It’s intriguing learning about his past life, as most of us only know him as Pope Francis.
The film feels like we’re given a tour within the Vatican walls as we get a glimpse into a very human friendship that grows from understanding and compromise. The cinematography (by César Charlone) is immersive as it feels like a documentary crew going through the Vatican.
Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce work so well together and their chemistry is phenomenal, and they create such an interesting story just through their dialogue as they discuss various topics, especially when Borgoglio seeks permission to retire but Benedict won’t let him because he knows he’s his true successor.
They have some great comedic moments in this film, as well, especially when they dance the tango. That’s what their acting feels like – a pair dancing a compelling tango. My only complaint is slow pacing and if anyone isn’t interested in what the characters are talking about, it could get boring. Hopkins and Pryce maintained my interest, though and it’s more entertaining than I thought it would be.
I think this is the poster boy of a good film that would be forgotten in a very strong year for films. There’s a scene in the credits that I don’t consider a spoiler, as Benedict and Francis bond over the 2014 World Cup between Benedict’s home country of Germany and Francis’ home country of Argentina.
This is the funniest scene of the film for me and it shows how funny them just talking and bonding is, and how sharp the dialogue is. That’s also on the great chemistry between the two. Truthfully, The Two Popes is a strong film, but if the whole movie were just the two Popes commentating the 2014 World Cup, that would be a masterpiece.
Directed by: Cecilia Aranovich, Ethan Spaulding. Starring: Frank Welker, Grey Griffin, Matthew Lillard. Runtime: 1h 20 min. Released: September 3, 2019 (video).
Some spoilers follow.
I’m sitting here eating some of those Betty Crocker’s fruit flavored Scooby Snacks (not a sponsor). I’m 25 yet still have the snack preferences of an elementary school child, but that’s beside the point. I decided it would be an appropriate time to review Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island. A direct sequel to the 1998 film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, this has the Mystery Gang coming out of retirement to investigate a mystery on the familiar zombie-infested island.
That’s my first problem with the film, the fact that they’ve “retired.” It opens with a montage of our gang chasing a bunch of villains as if in a last hurrah and then it’s revealed Fred has sold the Mystery Machine (for some reason). I haven’t been following the current television shows for Scooby-Doo so I don’t know if it’s canon that Mystery Inc. has closed up shop, but in this film, it comes out of nowhere with zero explanation. Scooby (Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) make Fred (also Welker), Daphne (Grey Griffin) and Velma (Kate Micucci) promise not to solve any mysteries for the foreseeable future because they’ve like, had it, man! Enough of that spooky stuff, they just want to watch horror movies where the monsters are fake.
When they win a trip to Zombie Island from an Elvira marathon show, we realize that most of the group don’t know how to live without sleuthing. Shaggy and Scooby will always have their food (and by the way, all the food in this film still looks delicious), but Velma only has her sleuthing. It’s also annoying when Shaggy and Scooby are attacked by zombies and they all think there’s a rational explanation for it because they can’t investigate the mystery. It’s convoluted and irritating, but the film becomes okay when Shaggy and Scooby release them from their promise and let them investigate the strange happenings and why they were invited to the island.
Then, we realize why they had the whole convoluted thing about them not being able to investigate the mystery – because there’s not enough story in this film and there’s not much of a mystery. They literally have to kill about 35 minutes here so they can get it to feature length. If they were allowed to investigate from the get go, Velma would have solved this “unsolved mystery” (as she calls it on her blog) in about 10 minutes.
A note about the voice cast: I like the cast and how it’s adapted over the years, like now that Frank Welker is voicing Scooby as well as Fred. Matthew Lillard voicing Shaggy in animated projects since 2010 is a stroke of brilliance because he really embodied Shaggy in the live-action films (Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed). Of course, I also like Grey Griffin as Daphne, as she’s voiced her in feature films since my personal favourite Scooby film, Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. My only complaint is Kate Micucci. I like her as an actress, and though she’s voiced the character since 2015, I’m still getting used to her. Her voice fits the character, but her voice is just so distinct I still hear too much Micucci and not just Velma.
Anyway, Return to Zombie Island still does have a couple clever moments. The classic Scooby chase scene where they go from room to room will always be funny. The film’s also clever in a character name that would be a spoiler, but that is with Alan, played by John Michael Higgins (and this casting is solid). I think the best joke is when Fred is recapping the first film and Shaggy is just shouting, “We know, man, we were there!” It’s helpful exposition for those who might forget the first film, and it’s a good meta joke, but even recapping it so blandly takes away some of the joy of the first film.
The original is one of my favourite Scooby movies and I love these movies, and this one is just rough to watch and feels lifeless. By the end of it I didn’t care to hear anyone call our gang meddling kids because the story isn’t interesting. Its biggest problem is just breaking that sacred formula of investigating a mystery and getting called meddling kids, as the random introduction of them retiring just takes away my enjoyment. The formula’s still there, it’s just buried under a lot of Scooby Snacks.
I’m excited to share my first self-produced podcast for my website, called Filmcraziest Presents: Popcorn Flicks. The podcast will be a review show about Disney Channel Original Movies. I love Disney Channel Original Movies and they have a lot of nostalgia for me (I did a bunch last October during the Halloween month, so hopefully I’ll talk about all of those on the podcast in time). I’ve always wanted to start a podcast on DCOM’s and I finally tricked someone into doing it with me and that’s my good friend Bobby Strate, who I met through my scriptwriting program.
We’re two awkward guys discussing the film, so hopefully it’s entertaining. I decided to make the pilot episode the 2001 DCOM The Luck of the Irish since today is St. Patrick’s Day (I’m posting this at 9 p.m., so it’s still St. Patrick’s Day for a couple hours more).
I realized after we reviewed it that it’s probably the most offensive way you could celebrate Irish culture, and we talk about that during the podcast. We discuss its stereotypes (where all Irish people are leprechauns), its unbelievable premise and how it could be stronger with its villains, and the laws of physics in basketball during the movie.
I’d love to hear any feedback! I don’t have much of a budget yet for a logo or a theme song, so hopefully by next episode I’ll have those. Also, to let everyone know, there’s vulgarity so this podcast is definitely not sponsored or affiliated with Disney in any way. We also spoil everything. Without further adieu, here’s the link to where you can listen:
(May 1 Update: You can listen on Soundcloud here or you can listen directly below or download the podcast here on my website, where you’ll get an option to download it by clicking the three dots.)
Directed by: Jill Culton, Todd Wilderman (co-director). Starring: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor. Runtime: 1h 37 min. Released: September 27, 2019.
When a Yeti (endearingly called Everest) in Japan escapes captivity, he ends up on the apartment building of Yi (Chloe Bennet). They can’t stay put for long as a wealthy businessman named Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and British zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) want their Yeti back. Everest escapes and brings Yi with him – as well as her neighbours, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and his younger cousin Peng (Albert Tsai), who tag along on an adventure to bring him back home to Mount Everest.
Abominable is an entertaining animated film that maintains a sense of wonder for most of its runtime, especially when the characters set out for Everest, thanks to its settings and visually stunning animation. It’s also so creative how Everest can change nature around him and how he can manipulate it. It adds to the film’s mythology of yetis and those are my favourite scenes.
The story is also emotionally sound as Yi has lost her Dad and it’s nice watching her find her sense of family and adventure again. It’s especially moving when she wants to find her love of music again as she carries around her father’s violin. The film is just charming throughout with some lovely scenes, even if there’s nothing truly special about its A to B storyline that is very similar to Laika Studio’s Missing Link.
The comparisons are hard to avoid but I think they are both strong films in their own ways. This has a stronger emotional story but Missing Link has a lot of smart humour. I couldn’t really choose which one I like better because I like them about the same. A couple years ago I would have said Abominable because I just like this style of animation better, but I’ve started to enjoy stop-motion animation since Kubo and the Two Strings.
I also just really like this film’s screenplay by director Jill Culton. It’s smart and emotionally compelling and some of the creativity in the adventure is great. I like that the yeti is basically a child, too, as it creates some childish humour that just works. The voice acting is good here, especially Chloe Bennet as Yi. The villains are weak here as they get a bit annoying by the end of it, and that’s my main complaint. This film’s about the adventure and the film’s sense of adventure is charming throughout and I think that makes this well worth the watch.
Directed by: Jeff Howler. Starring: James Mardsen, Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey. Runtime: 1h 39 min. Released: February 14, 2020.
A small-town police officer, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) wants to move to San Francisco with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Before meeting her there, he crosses paths with a fast, blue hedgehog from another world, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz), on the run from an evil scientist, Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Robotnik is handled well, a technology genius who wants to capture Sonic to further advance his technology. He’s a delightfully weird character who thinks every human is stupid and is convinced his technology is the future. When he’s introduced, there’s a great out-of-context moment where Robotnik says, “Check out what came out of MY egg sac!” and he shows us his fleet of drones. Jim Carrey finds the perfect balance for Robotnik, playing to his sense of superiority – especially when he bosses around assistant Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) – while still being hilarious and weird.
It’s fun watching Carrey play a villain. It’s also fun seeing Jim Carrey be Jim Carrey again, tapping into his earlier manic roles and it feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen him have this much fun. The craziness isn’t always vintage Carrey (think something closer to Liar Liar in consistency), but there’s a scene in his evil lab where Robotnik dances to the Poppy Family’s “Where Evil Grows” and it’s his funniest scene here.
A bit more about the plot, while Sonic tries to escape Robotnik, he uses Tom’s garage to try to escape to another world with one of his golden rings – he just has to throw it on the ground, step in it, and he’s gone. Before he can run, he’s tranquilized by Tom – since he’s shocked there’s a talking blue hedgehog in his garage.
Sonic drops the bag of his golden rings into a portal which lands on a building in San Francisco, so the film turns into a road trip trying to get those rings back so Sonic can leave and Earth would be safe. The camaraderie between Sonic and Tom is fun to watch, and I like their dynamic. As for Sonic, the CGI looks great, especially after the character was re-designed after that initial trailer last April.
Acting-wise, Ben Schwartz has fun voicing Sonic, and Marsden is fine as Tom. We’re mainly here for Sonic and Jim Carrey, but Marsden is along for the ride and he plays it fine. As far as Marsden sharing the screen with CGI animals goes, this looks smoother than in 2011’s Hop when he shared the screen with the Easter Bunny. Marsden at least does more than Tika Sumpter, and the only interesting thing I remember her doing is supporting Tom’s decision to take a job in San Francisco.
There’s a lot in Sonic that’s derivative, like Sonic being lonely and wanting a family. Tom, whose main drive is wanting to save someone, and Sonic, who wants a family, develop a believable friendship that does start to feel like a weird little family. It’s familiar, but screenwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller know how to play the greatest hits of this sub-plot and they do a fine job with it.
Some of their best creativity comes in a scene where Sonic goes so fast he re-arranges things during a bar fight, and it’s like a callback to similar scenes like Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. They made me want a sequel by the end of this, because the credit scenes show how a sequel could up the ante and that has me excited. That’s something I couldn’t say for last year’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
The action in the film is solid, and some of the best action happens when they’re on the road to San Francisco and Robotnik’s drones catch up to them. The humour in Sonic the Hedgehog is largely tailored for children, but some of that humour works for adults, too, and Jim Carrey makes this hilarious.
The film’s entertaining, which can’t really be said about a lot of video game adaptations. I don’t know if it would have been watchable with the original character design of Sonic, but their delay of the film shows they cared about producing something fans would enjoy. Director Jeff Howler achieves making something lite and enjoyable, and Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun film whose pace rarely goes below “gotta go fast.”
Bad Boys for Life. Directed by: Adil and Bilal. Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens. Runtime: 2h 4 min. Released: January 17, 2020.
Bad Boys for Life is a lot of fun and, after this and Bumblebee, proves the best way to reinvigorate a franchise is to remove Michael Bay as director. Who knew?
The new directors here, Adil and Bilall, bring fun action and more importantly a solid story (screenplay by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan) as Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), narcotics cops with the Miami Police Department, don’t investigate narcotics this time. It feels fresh as it goes into a revenge story by someone from Mike’s past, and the film is revenge-fueled from both the villain and hero side.
As they’re older now, the film challenges Mike’s mortality and invincibility in interesting ways. It’s a story about knowing when to quit and because of that Marcus’ concerns feel natural for the plot because there’s a reason to get out of the game right now. In the first two films, the reason was just because Mike was a reckless partner. Mike is still reckless but he learns the importance of reliance, too. It’s a sequel with surprisingly insightful and emotional beats.
I liked the villains here a lot, played by Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio, but I won’t discuss their motives. I’ll just say they’re the franchise’s most interesting villains so far.
Familiar faces besides the main two are back like Reggie (Dennis Greene), Marcus’ daughter’s boyfriend who shows in his acting why he’s only ever had that role (sorry, Reggie) but it’s funny seeing him again. I also love seeing Joe Pantoliano as Captain Howard. Pantoliano gives me as much nostalgia as Mike and Marcus.
It is also intriguing how our Bad Boys join forces with others and that’s in the form of a new unit within the MPD called AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations) which is the new driving out the old.
The crew consists of Mike’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nuñez), and their banter is solid throughout. The youth of this group features Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly, Alexander Ludwig as Dorn (a tech guy with a punch) and Charles Melton as Rafe. They’re a good presence but I don’t think anyone here but Hudgens leaves an impression. It seems to me like they’re going for a 21 Jump Street vibe with their youth and gadgets. They’re a good complementary team to the film and I’d like to see them team up with our Bad Boys in a future installment, but I’m not ready for a spin-off film with them. That’s because Will Smith still kicks ass in the role even at the age of 51.
Martin Lawrence isn’t a big part of the action scenes until the end for story reasons, but he’s great at the end and it’s nice to see that 25 years after the first film, their chemistry still shines. Their banter is great and I’d argue their chemistry is the best it’s been in the franchise. They still don’t see eye to eye, but they’re beginning to compromise.
It is delightful that this premise still works so well because there’s actually a good story and strong directing team to match the great pairing of Smith and Lawrence. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (as Adil and as Bilall)’s directorial style never distracts, and they know how to shoot action. Some editing in action films can be hectic, but the action is shot well here by cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert.
I don’t hate Michael Bay as a director, but his films can be headache-inducing with the style. It’s apparent the franchise doesn’t mean any ill-well against Bay as he plays a Wedding MC in the film, and that’s the best place for him where his directorial style can’t shoot the Bad Boys in the foot. He lets them do the shooting.
Adil and Bilall also make this story work because the direction makes the story feel less cartoonish than the first two films, but it’s still outrageous. It’s awesome that the Bad Boys have found a pair of directors that brings out the best of them: And that’s in terms of story, action, comedy and heart. Bad Boys for Life is the best and most balanced film in the trilogy.