June movie reviews: a guide for parents

A school holiday favourite: Hotel Transylvania 3 - A Monster Vacation.
A school holiday favourite: Hotel Transylvania 3 - A Monster Vacation. 

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: A MONSTER VACATION (PG)

Released: June 28.

Story: Third in the animated Hollywood series about a hotel run by monsters. When daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) takes dad Dracula (Adam Sandler) on a cruise, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Invisible Man and other friends tag along. But Captain Ericka Van Helsing (Kathryn Hahn) has a secret plan to kill Drac.

Language: Holy Moly! No swearing.

Romance: Kisses, marriage themes. Drac swipes for love on monster app 'Zingr'.

Violence: Chases, falls, death threats, shootings – and that's all in the first five minutes.

Ages:  

3 – 6: Colourful monsters will thrill older kids but endless 'kill' references are a downer.

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7 – 12: A slobbering pet and farts drew laughs at a Sunday morning (paid) audience preview. But viewer response seemed otherwise muted, maybe due to the few child-led scenes and fixation on adult romance. Get Drac and his family back to the hotel.

13-plus: This is actually more suitable for dating-minded teens – if they want to pay for a forgettable sequel.

Adult Compatibility: The animation is efficient and some images (fur, water) even outstanding. But this mostly feels like a soulless, noisy, Monsters, Inc. imitation. The voice cast is starry but bland-sounding. Only the pop soundtrack will perk up adult chaperones.

Critic's rating: 6/10

If your little one is a big Hotel Transylvania fan, you should check out Novotel hotels over the next couple of months as the chain collaborates with Sony Pictures to celebrate the release of the movie. Between July 1 and September 30, Novotel hotels across the country will be decorated in Hotel Transylvania theme. Some families will even be lucky enough to stay in a Hotel Transylvania themed guest room and selected hotels will also offer kids a Hotel Transylvania 3 welcome gift pack which includes selfie sticks, mini figurines, movie tickets to Hotel Transylvania, activity sets and movie posters. For details visit: www.novotel.com

INCREDIBLES 2 (PG)

Released: June 14.

Story: Sequel to the 2004 animated hit. When superheroes are outlawed, Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) must quit saving people, much to the disgust of teenage daughter Violet and son Dash. Then a new villain strikes, just as Baby Jack-Jack develops amazing – and amazingly lethal – powers.

Language: One swear word.

Romance: A kiss.

Violence: Chases, fights, electrocution, fires, explosions, deaths.

Ages:  

3 – 6: Jack-Jack softens this action comedy but 118 minutes of noise could weary even older kids. And the accompanying short Bao, about a Chinese mother who makes a baby out of dough, is problematic. A creepy moment could result in what parents dread: a high-pitched wail from pint-sized viewers of "What happened to him, Mum?"

7 – 12: Best audience for an appealing gimmick (the family that saves the world together stays together). Thumbs up for plenty of child-led action and gadgets, especially Elastigirl's superbike. Bonuses include a top voice cast; Samuel L Jackson returns as Frozone.

13-plus: Fast-paced and colourful; fashion designer Edna "No capes!" Mode again steals the show. But a subplot about a rich brother and sister feels cluttered; key female characters are distressingly similarly-shaped.

Adult Compatibility: Competent entertainment or the sequel nobody asked for?

Critic's rating: 7/10

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (M)

Released: June 21.

Story: Latest in the rampaging dinosaur series. When an erupting volcano threatens the Isla Nublar dino-sanctuary, former couple Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) reunite – for work. Accompanied by a young paleo-veterinarian (Daniella Pineda), a young systems analyst (Justice Smith) and a gungho soldier (Ted Levine), they try to rescue the animals. But capturing a T-Rex – and super-smart raptor Blue – won't be easy. Directed by J A Bayona (A Monster Calls).

Language: Twelve swear words.

Romance: A kiss.

Violence: Crashes, bites, fights, shootings, deaths.

Ages:  

3 – 6: Detailed effects make these toothy beasts super-scary.

7 – 12: There's some child-led action, with a millionaire's inquisitive granddaughter, but the second half is house-bound. Much running around in cramped basements will make most kids yearn for large-scale Nublar landscapes.

13-plus: Older teens at one preview seemed transfixed by the dinosaur-driven hide-and-seek suspense. However, this 128 minute movie is a horror mish-mash with over-the-top late-entry plot twists. The sequel-friendly ending is annoying; sketchy characters are nearly robotic. Guardians of the Galaxy star Pratt charms but even he occasionally looks to be on auto-pilot.

Adult Compatibility: The plot has the depth of a theme park. Best moments come in affectionate nods to the 1993 original.

Critic's rating: 6/10

TAG (M)

Released: June 14.

Story: Comedy action based on a true story. For 30 years, five childhood friends have regularly reunited to play an elaborate version of chasing game 'tag'. That involves not just running and hunting but amusing disguises. However, four of the pals (Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson) are sick of losing to fiendishly fit, super-smart Jerry (Jeremy Renner). They plan to ambush Jerry – at his wedding.

Language: Non-stop.

Romance: Kisses, sexual references, sex scene.

Violence: Fights, falls, chases.

Ages:  

3 – 6: Too much salty language.

7 – 12: Ditto, although they'll be fascinated by the idea of grown-ups spending time (and money) on this playground game.

13-plus: You're it! Best tag-ees are older male teen fans of The Hangover's Helms and The Bourne Legacy's Renner. Rashida Jones and a potty-mouthed Isla Fisher lend a hand but this is a boys-led game. The result is energetic, unpredictable and likeable, thanks to the cast's obvious rapport. Stay for a funny end-credits song and photos of the real friends.

Adult Compatibility: What upgrades this from merely gimmicky slapstick is seemingly genuine screen friendship. Action man Renner also brings Bourne-ish dedication to the fight scenes, toughening up the entire film.

Critic's rating: 7/10

HEREDITARY (MA)

Released: June 7.

Story: American psychological horror film. Artist Annie (Toni Collette), husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and their teenage son (Alex Wolff) are not especially saddened by the death of Annie's reclusive, controlling mother. But young teen daughter (Milly Shapiro) begins having disturbing visions. When Annie attends a séance, the results are traumatic.

Language: Nineteen swear words.

Romance: Brief sexual references, nudity; a kiss.

Violence: Falls, blows, car crash, decapitation, burning bodies, deaths. Drug use.

Ages:  

3 – 6:  Absolutely not.

7 – 12: Ditto.

13-plus: Older teens who enjoyed A Quiet Place will find this even more intense: except for nervous laughter and shrieks, one preview audience was totally silent for the entire 127 minutes. Time spent on the set-up and terrific actors mean this family feels real even in extreme situations. Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle star Wolff is genuinely appealing; female viewers will sympathise with both daughter and mum. You know a film has scored when an everyday sound (like tongue-clicking) makes the whole cinema jump.

Adult Compatibility: This running time is long for a horror flick but doesn't feel like it. Byrne's understated approach pays off – you'll be waiting to see if his Dad erupts. Some creeping camera shots feel melodramatic but the directing, photography and music score are otherwise subtle.

Critic's rating: 9/10

I KILL GIANTS (PG)

Released: May 31 (selected cinemas).

Story: American coming-of-age fantasy drama based on Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura's graphic novel. Tween Barbara (Madison Wolfe) is convinced her small coastal town is threatened by giants. While Barbara prepares for invasion, her older sister (Imogen Poots), a new friend (Sydney Wade) and a concerned psychologist (Zoe Saldana) all try to help.

Language: Twenty-one swear words.

Romance: None.

Violence: Threats, blows, bullying, a scary storm, death themes.

Ages:  

3 – 6: Too moody for them.

7 – 12: Older kids are the best audience for what is a female version of the 2016 English fantasy drama A Monster Calls. This too entwines everyday fears (absent parents, vicious schoolyard bullies) with striking, other-worldly visuals. The cast is excellent; The Conjuring 2 star Wolfe is as talented as a young Reese Witherspoon. Girl viewers will appreciate having a hammer-wielding heroine who is (allowed to be) as adventurous as the boys. But promoting this as 'from the producers of Harry Potter' could be misleading for boy viewers who will feel left out; young males at one screening seemed restless until the battle really began.

13-plus: Best for young teens.

Adult Compatibility: Danish director Anders Walter's apparent genuine interest in his female characters helps a now-familiar plot.

Critic's rating: 8/10  

OCEAN'S 8 (M)

Released: June 7.

Story: Redo of the American 2001 con-man comedy. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) exits jail planning a revenge heist. She'll steal a fabulous diamond necklace at the famous Met Gala Ball, co-hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Deb and best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) recruit a super-hacker (Rihanna), an erratically brilliant fashion designer (Helena Bonham-Carter), an expert pick-pocket (Awkafina), a savvy dealer in stolen goods (Sarah Paulson) and a jewel-expert (Mindy Kaling). Too easy…?!!!

Language: Fifteen swear words.

Romance: Passionate kisses.

Violence: Only a bad encounter with tainted soup.

Ages:

3 – 6: No.

7 – 12: No.

13-plus: Game on! A frothy romp is perfect for winter: think non-stop glamourous clothes, locations and cameos (Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian and Wintour herself). Few of the support actors get much screen time; the pace is often elastic, the film sometimes overcast. However, Bullock and Blanchett (in the 2001 George Clooney and Brad Pitt roles) are great screen besties; Anne Hathaway effortlessly amusing as a temperamental actor. This achieves one of the highest Bechdel Test scores of the decade.

Adult Compatibility: Although Clooney and Pitt don't cameo, male viewers should still have fun. The soundtrack with Amy Winehouse, Charles Aznavour and relaxed jazz riffs is also tops.

Critic's rating: 8/10

UPGRADE (MA)

Released: June 14.

Story: Australian-made American-set futuristic thriller. When mechanic Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife visit reclusive inventor Eron (Harriet Gilbertson), the drive home turns to violent. Eron offers now-paralysed Grey the chance to walk again, and pursue his wife's killers, by using bio-mechanical chips which turn him into a fighting machine.

Language: Twenty-eight swear words.

Romance: Passionate kisses.

Violence: Blows, fights, car crashes, stabbings, electrocution and tasering, shootings, deaths.

Ages:

3 – 6: No way.

7 – 12: Ditto.

13-plus: A stylish surprise (for older teens) from director-writer Leigh Whannell. The co-creator of the Saw horror franchise mostly tones down the gore to focus on action suspense. The fights are ninja-styled homages to The Matrix; the synthesizer score, vicious thugs and gloomy urban surroundings nod to Heat, Blade Runner and Escape From New York. American Prometheus actor Marshall-Green channels Mad Max: Fury Road star Tom Hardy to deliver an action man with charisma. It's a male-dominated film but Betty Gabriel is shrewd as the cop on the case.    

Adult Compatibility: Kudos for shooting this in Melbourne. Yes, the one-idea plot and many interiors feel like an extended Black Mirror tele-episode. Luckily, tight editing keeps the story moving while a competent car chase helps fill the big screen.

Critic's rating: 7/10

BELLE & SEBASTIAN 3: FRIENDS FOR LIFE (PG)

Released: June 28.

Story: Third in the French series about a mountain boy and his smart sheepdog. It's 1948: motherless 12 year old Sebastian (series regular Félix Bossuet) has big problems: his dad has re-married and wants to move to Canada; Belle's former owner suddenly appears and wants Belle back – and her three puppies. Based on the 1960s French television series; in French with simple subtitles.

Language: Two swear words.

Romance: A wedding.

Violence: Gun use, knife threats, a punch, a chase. Running-away-from-home themes. Death references.

Ages:  

3 – 6: Older kids should have no trouble with classic dog-napping adventure, especially with those adorable furry white puppies. However, parents should note Belle's nasty owner is a truly menacing villain.

7 – 12: Girls and boys will cheer Sebastian and Belle's teamwork, especially when running away turns out to be tougher than Sebastian thought. Bonuses in the advance print reviewed here include stunning mountain scenery, 90 minutes of brisk action and those puppies.       

13-plus: "Too babyish, Mum!" say younger teens (but secretly enjoy).

Adult Compatibility: Good, thanks to Tchéky Karyo, who's back as foster-granddad César. And of course this is catnip (!!) for dog-lovers.

Critic's rating: 8/10