Thursday 9 July 2015

ANT-MAN, JURASSIC WORLD, SAN ANDREAS - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - MySummer of 75 versus My Summer of 2015: What a Difference 40 Yearsmakes! Ant-Man also opening night gala at 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONALFILM FESTIVAL in Montreal

What a difference 40 years makes! My Summer of Love in 1975 was replete, as per usual, with going to the movies every single day. My three favourite films that summer also happened to be big box-office hits. JAWS, of course, made history with its humungously wide release (the largest of its kind back in those days) and lineups round the block for every show, for every day. The picture itself was a roller coaster ride (and then some), but it also had a plot, characters, great performances and a morbid sense of humour. LOVE AND DEATH filled smaller specialty houses that summer in all major cities. Woody Allen's hilarious take on Ingmar Bergman and Russian Literature had me rolling in the aisles. Then, of course, the horrifying eye-opener MANDINGO by Richard Fleischer, the movie set against the backdrop of a pre-Civil-War slave-breeding plantation and so brutal and ahead of its time that even now it makes the dull Oscar bait 12 Years a Slave look like a Sunday Picnic. Not only was Mandingo huge (lineups round the block), but it was aimed squarely at - GOD FORBID - adults.
In fact, all three pictures had far wider appeal than any blockbusters released this summer, the sad summer of 2015. Taking inflation into account, 1975's summer pictures had far more bums in seats in far fewer cinemas for longer periods of time than anything supposedly breaking box-office records this summer. Watching my three favourite blockbusters this year (Ant-Man, Jurassic World, San Andreas), all pleasantly entertaining, all very competent, but generally safe for anyone's consumption has proven to be especially disappointing. (I don't really include Mad Max: Fury Road in this list as it's a real movie and far more in keeping with pictures released during my 75 Summer o' Love.) These three films with their superhero, dino and earthquake shenanigans, are ultimately missing the kind of personal voices of filmmakers like Spielberg, Allen and Fleischer. The "Safety" factor with these films (and most movies out of the studios today) is borderline sickening. I can assure you, "Safety" was never an issue in the 70s. The more dangerous the pictures, the better - even those in the mainstream.

Ant-Man (2015)
Dir. Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily, Michael Peña

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This is yet another Marvel Comics Superhero extravaganza, not as awful as the others and relatively inoffensive. In this one, ne'er do well Daddy (Paul Rudd) gets out of the hoosegow and hooks up with old buddy (Michael Peña, as the de rigueur Spanish-American sidekick comedy relief) and agrees to pull a cat burglar job to get enough dough to win his daughter back from his ex-wife. Another ne'er do well Dad (Michael Douglas), an old scientist who abandoned his daughter when his wife died and allowed his assistant to take over his corporation is worried sick that his secret experiments will be discovered and used for nefarious purposes. The two Daddies team up to fight the power and a new superhero is born.

The movie is amiable enough, not without some laughs, a nice light leading man turn by Rudd and Michael Douglas is allowed a few sprightly moments. The direction of the action scenes is better than most of these things, but not once is there a moment where we feel the slightest hint of danger in the proceedings and the picture's denouement is as predictable as ingesting a Big Mac. There's certainly nothing genuinely dark, nasty or cynical in the film which, of course, is always the problem with these things and it's certainly lacking the magnificently manic Looney Tunes hi-jinx Sam Raimi brought to the Spider-Man franchise before the recent and utterly negligible reboots (and it is most certainly bereft of Zack Snyder's breathless visual aplomb and his hilarious destruction of humanity via collateral damage in Man of Steel).

Finally, like all recent superhero pictures, the predictability factor reaches a point where the whole movie starts to become dull and exhausting (though less so than the awful Avengers/Captain America/non-Raimi Spiderman efforts). If anything, Ant-Man comes a bit closer to the first Iron Man and the first hour of Thor, but is lacking those film's occasionally cynical sense of humour.

Safety and competence are the order of the day. Ho-hum.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **½ Two-and-a-half Stars

Jurassic World (2015)
Dir. Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic franchise is interesting on a number of fronts. The first film in the series featured astonishing special effects - so real and tangible that today's reliance upon digital magic seems fake and ugly. Oddly, Spielberg eschewed the grim, grotesque, ultra-violent nastiness of Michael Crichton's novel and he delivered a movie that safely played to anyone and everyone. It was no Jaws. Kids were not eaten, the dinosaurs weren't especially cruel in their torture/decimation of their victims and there was nary a real character amongst the entire all-star cast. How one missed the likes of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw. The Lost World took a lot of heat from critics and audiences for its derivative nature, but frankly, it was an improvement over the dullish Jurassic Park, featuring plenty of feeding frenzies which were closer to the nastiness inherent in the Crichton books and though lacking the genuine edge of Jaws, was still plenty vicious.

There's no viciousness in Jurassic World, save for the fun supporting performance of Vincent D'Onofrio as the park's crazed militaristic director of security. Here director Colin Trevorrow jockeys the camera with relative efficiency as this reboot of the franchise has the park up and running successfully. We get a pleasing leading man by way of the raptor expert and dinosaur trainer (Guardian of the Galaxy's Chris Pratt) and though there are plenty of children to die miserable deaths in the jaws of the romping Dinos, no such kiddie buffets occur.

All we get is the plodding predictability of the new hybrid of dinosaur escaping and Chris Pratt rescuing two fucking kids who deserve to die.

Seriously, who wants to see a movie with Dinosaurs where no children get torn to shreds (a la Jaws or even Joe Dante's hilarious Jaws rip-off Piranha)? If there are going to be bloodthirsty dinosaurs we want to see as many innocent children (and adults) being eaten and crushed as possible.

No such luck, though. We're living in kinder, gentler times where the new generations of movie viewers are the progeny of wimps.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **½ Two-and-a-half Stars

San Andreas (2015)
Dir. Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When the San Andreas fault genuinely wreaks some real havoc, the level of death and destruction is going to be so massive and vicious that I was hoping to see some delightful over-the-top (and, of course, hilarious) carnage in this contemporary disaster film. Given that the picture is directed by the crazed Edward-Gorey-Tim-Burton-influenced Canadian Brad Peyton, I had every reason to suspect the kind of nasty, funny dollops of humour he infused Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island with.

No such luck here. Peyton handles all the derring-do of helicopter rescue man Dwayne Johnson with expert efficiency and effortlessly juggles the melodramatic sub-plot of our hero re-connecting with estranged wife Carla Gugino and rescuing his daughter Alexandra Daddario from certain doom. Yes, we get to see mega-destruction of property, but frankly, the movie is lacking the kind of super-delightful up-close-and-personal deaths of live humans which, of course, one demands from a disaster movie.

A year earlier than my aforementioned Summer of Movie Love, the huge 1974 summer blockbuster was Mark Robson's magnificent Earthquake which not only had lots of gruesome deaths and on-screen body counts, but also featured a 59-year-old Lorne Greene playing 52-year-old Ava Gardner's father and Charlton Heston playing her 50-year-old husband. This insane casting allowed us plenty of time to do the math twixt the carnage and realize that Lorne Greene was about 7-years-old when his wife gave birth to Ava Gardner.

Herein is my disappointment. Peyton's first two Hollywood efforts were chock-full of personal touches and his unique voice that he established in his legendary short film Evelyn The Cutest Evil Dead Girl and What It's Like Being Alone, his madcap Canadian comedy series (all rendered in stop-motion animation) and set in an orphanage full of FREAKS!!! Yes, FREAKS!!!

So here he's doing a disaster movie and I was definitely expecting carnage and insanity to rival that of Earthquake since Peyton is a clear lover of all the right retro stuff. But no, nothing of the sort. Just "The Rock" stalwartly rescuing his goddamn daughter.

Where, pray tell, was the equivalent to the delectably offensive running gag of an alcoholic played by Walter Matthau, giddily surviving the disaster whilst belting back booze as everything crumbled around him? Why, do we see "The Rock" using his steely resolve and expert training to rescue people? Couldn't Peyton have found it in his heart to include a moment a la Earthquake where Lorne Greene ties a hysterical woman to a chair, then lowers her to safety with - I kid you not - PANTYHOSE!!!??? And horror of all horrors - was it not possible to create a role for the legendary George Kennedy (who not only starred in Earthquake, but has the distinction of having starred in all four Airport movies)? Hell, even though Kennedy's 90-years-old and might not have been up to a major role in San Andreas, surely there was an obvious choice here. Given the ridiculously huge amount of CGI in San Andreas, was it not possible to render s digital version of George Kennedy to be "The Rock's" cigar-chomping sidekick?

Ah, the disappointment. The shame. Peyton was the one director with the genuine potential to drag us through the 70s muck of blockbusters from 40-years-ago and instead we get a safe, efficient disaster movie instead.

Whatever is this world coming to?

THE FILM CORNER RATING **½ Two-and-a-half Stars

Full disclosure: Brad Peyton was a student of mine at the Canadian Film Centre. Not long after he was snatched up by Hollywood in 2009, Peyton revealed the following in the National Post:

"[Peyton] credits director in residence John Paizs and producer in residence Greg Klymkiw with being particularly helpful. "I went in with a very distinct idea of what I wanted to do," he says, "and they were supportive of my creative risks. I was handed the strange stuff because I was considered the weirdo in residence."

He laughs, "I was doing Coen brothers homages to Gone With the Wind on a $500 budget in a small room . . . they embraced what I wanted to do and supported me wholly as a creative person." Peyton further paid homage to his old mentor by creating a character for his TV series called "Greg Klymkiw" (an actual stop-motion doll resembling me in every detail, although representing my circus freak days when I was 300 lbs. heavier than I currently am) who shows up as an expert on all things cinema-related to render advice during a filmmaking competition within the orphanage of freaks.

Ah, surely you understand my pain.

Especially the George Kennedy thing.

All three films are in mega-wide-release worldwide. Ant-Man enjoys its premiere as an Opening Night Gala at the 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal. For Times, Tix and Dates Visit the festival website HERE.