Trying To Build To New Heights, But Only Climbs So High

Skyscraper Poster

 

Disaster movies and action kind of go hand in hand, but seldom does it involve more than trying to dodge whatever artificial natural disaster the Hollywood directors deem up.  Today’s movie review focuses on a film that tries to blur the lines between the two a little better, in what will hopefully be a new twist on the action/disaster movie frontier.  Utilizing the popular leading man of Dwayne Johnsonto carry the movie, there seems to be hope that this Die-Hard copier can potentially bring enough bucks in to get the attention of the modern era.  Does it work? Robbie K here to bring you yet another review this time on:

 

Movie: Skyscraper (2018)

 

Director:

Rawson Marshall Thurber

Writer:

Rawson Marshall Thurber

Stars:

Dwayne Johnson,  Neve Campbell,  Pablo Schreiber

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Special Effects: The leading point of the movie is the impressive display of CGI in this movie.  Perhaps a little corny at times, the movie really invested well in high definition sound to rattle the theater as the chaos of the crime unfolds. Excessive computer-generated images are the key to bringing the inferno to life, but is still beautiful rendered to design a building that will only be fiction for a short while.  The world crafting gets kudos for me, and will hopefully impress you as well.

 

The Realism:  Despite there being some fiction behind this movie, it is a little more grounded to the real world than one might expect.  The “Pearl” is a building that will soon exist, a setting that is perfect to craft a surprisingly detailed plot.  As the scheme continues to evolve, the realism continues to remain in check, finding kinks in the plot and having to adapt. In addition, even the action keeps things believable, where if a character takes a hit, they actually suffer in terms of performance.  All of this adds to suspense of the film and engaged to this adapted plot.

 

Character Involvement: A movie with as many characters always has me worried about how much involvement they have in the plot.  Die Hard did it correctly as each character had their place and contributions that actually mattered, and fortunately this copy did the same thing.  Most of the characters act as their piece to the puzzle, keeping them integrated into the plot for the entirety of the film and doing a decent job of tying up all loose ends.  Even more so, the characters are designed to cover a wide variety of ages, ethnicities, and genre lovers.

 

Good Pace:  The movie movies quickly, gets the suspense going, and does little to try to slow things down.  For guys like me, the movie rocks in terms of few slow parts and keeps the intensity amped up to a level of ten and that just makes for a fun movie in my opinion.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Lack of Beginning: The pace may be good in terms of excitement, but I am with many of my friends in that plot development is also key. Skyscraper’s beginning is almost nonexistent, all the set up skipped over to get to the action and drop any chance of escaping the predictable plot line off the ledge within 15 minutes. Any chance at suspense build up is practically gone and the story actually takes a hit because of that. If you’re not in for the story, then you will glaze over this, but for those looking for a little bit of both worlds don’t expect much of an opening.

 

The Plot Gaps:  For a building that secure and advanced, you would think there would be more contingency plans than the one they had here.  This gap is just one example of the stretches and details you have to ignore to fully enjoy the movie.  In addition, there are feats of strength, stamina, and physics defying moves that are also a little cheesy for the fans who love those extremes.  As these gaps happen, the movie moves quickly to try and forget about them, but still the movie could have used some refining at points.

 

The Jumps:  This was advertised immensely in the trailers and marketing, but the film has that extreme jump that we have grown accustomed to. Yet the movie took that concept and milked it for all its worth.  Skyscraper tries to pay homage to Die Hard in many ways, and while it fits into the grand scheme of the movie, the film goes a little overboard with the gimmicks. All the sacrificing brings that bang for your buck, but in terms of story it’s only okay for me.

 

The Villains Development: I’ll give them props, they have made a better villain than many movies have as of late in the form of Botha (Roland Møller). And while this one of the better villains, it still needed more work in his character development.  Comparing to its inspiration source, the villain started giving us some deeper levels, but then it tapered out and he went back to the generic villain.  A little more insight and integration could have done wonders to expand the tale even more.  Even his side kicks and team held promise, but again they too were overshadowed by the protagonist’s tale, screen time, and jumps.

 

The Action:  Did it fit with the tale?  Yes.  Was it realistic?  Yes. Was it exciting?  Depends.  Skyscraper’s battles are decently coordinate, but much of this lacks the bite that other movies have had.  They are quickly executed, very simplistic, and sometimes a bit overdone in my opinion, but this movie’s feeling of trying to survive the manmade disaster I guess takes precedence over the gun fight.  Not the worst action, but definitely room for improvement.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Skyscraper is an example of impressive movie theater worthy special effects, and surprisingly stays on the realistic qualities these franchises often ignore.  I give it applause for integration of characters, and Johnson doing a fabulous job leading the film.  Still the movie is a diluted piece compared to the movie it copies so much of and therefore needed some amping up in terms of story, villain development and action. Perhaps a little less jumping and a little more time could have given this tale the needed oomph to rock it into higher scores.  Still the effects do render it a good theater film, but if you don’t want this kind of movie… save it until you get home. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime/Drama: 7.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

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The Road To El Soldado: Paved With Details, Character Development, and Edge

Sicario: Day of the Soldado Poster

 

Sequels come and sequels come, and tonight is no different as the Sicario saga continues with yet another movie to its franchise.  After an interesting start, the trailers painted this one much more on the action side as renegade cops go to fight against the cartels of Mexico.  Did the dark seedy underbelly unleash into Die Hard like antics, or did it take another path.  Robbie K is back with another movie review as he tackles:

 

Movie: Sicario: The Day of Soldado (2018)

 

Director:

Stefano Sollima

Writer:

Taylor Sheridan

Stars:

Benicio Del Toro,  Josh Brolin,  Isabela Moner

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Darkness:  A movie like this requires pushing the limits of comfort and Sicario saga dives right back into the seedy underbelly to accomplish this goal.  The dark atmosphere of the movie opens it up for a lot of twists and turns, and keep one guessing what will happen next to our band of “heroes”.  In terms of character development, the movie’s edge cuts away the safety barriers to reveal deeper avenues to cut down to discover more about our players.

 

The Story:  Sicario has been primarily focused on exploring more into the characters than the situation itself and it continues this trend in spades.  Del Toro’s character takes most of the stage, but Moner and Brolin get ample screen time alongside a few other secondary characters to connect this Tex-Mex soap opera cast together.  Pay attention to the deeper arcs, and you will find stories that should hopefully grip into you and pull you in. 

 

The Realism: Hollywood magic is fairly absent in this movie, as Sicario does its best to keep reality grounded into its mix. No major flashy, orchestra infused sequences that shake the screens and speakers.  It’s just straight up exploration and survival in the Mexican desert, and the savage symbolism it provides.  Even when things get a little more exciting, the fights feel like a military skirmish instead of a choreographed battle that guys like me love. 

 

The Acting:  By far, the acting is the solid point of this movie. A balanced demonstration of rugged military edge with terror is all mixed into this film and they play it beautifully.  Brolin doesn’t veer much from his rugged, singular emotion, but it works in regards to the character he is chosen to portray (military leader in charge of dirty work). Moner has the cartel princess down, snobby and fierce, yet vulnerable and capable of crumbling when the world is shaken.  No surprise, it’s Del Toro who kind of wins the acting nomination this round.  Still filled with candor and a reserved fighting force that is ready to strike and accomplish the goals set by the program. Yet, the side once gone, starts to rear its head, and helps establishes deeper character bonds to help things out. All the acting accomplishes the goal of bringing the characters to life perfect for this character centric film series.

 

The Justice:  There are plenty of moments where that justice we wish would happen… actually happen and these moments plain out rock.  I can’t say much more than that so let’s move on to the dislikes.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Pace:  The movie isn’t quite as fast as its predecessor, and that can be taxing depending on how late your viewing starts.  It works to explain the details and tie up loose ends, therefore taking up time to try and connect all the dots.  Sadly, that pace, without the full excitement, does not lead to the most exciting film of the night, and you may be fighting sleep or boredom.

 

Jargon/Politically Heavy: The movie’s talking parts have some deeper story elements, but it is mostly focused on the strategy and political warfare that the drug busting operation is.  You’ll need to keep your wits sharp, your ears turned on, and your attention fully paid or you might just get confused about all the players’ parts in this film.

 

Some stretches:  The movie’s complicated and convoluted execution sometimes has to stretch a few things to get to its goal.  Sometimes it’s turning the blind eye to ignorance, and sometimes it’s the rapid change of character, but Soldado’s road is bumpy with these ignorant moments or sudden changes.  Not awful, and not too much of a stretch, but still something you would have liked to see covered in.

 

Story Elements Dropped: The movie is about bringing terrorists across the border, at least that is the excuse to start this whole mess. So perhaps you would expect more of this factor to come in, but that wasn’t the case as this element disappeared. As the webs of deception, backstabbing, and hidden agendas start to entangle together, these plots points start to become shortened and sometimes quickly resolving.  Needed a little more wrap up and integration for my tastes, but perhaps number three will take the cake.

 

More Action:  The trailer sold me on the loose cannon cops going after the dark masters of the illegal smuggling business and that was what I wanted.  Yet, while realistic the sequences were surprisingly low key, very short lived, and often quite one-dimensional.  Why this was the case?  I don’t know the answer, but I longed for a little more bite to help liven up the scenes and break up the mundane, text heavy dialogue.  So, let’s get that bite back please and add a little magic to the mix to get things stoked up again.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, Sicario is a solid installment in the Crime/Thriller genre.  It continues the trend of focusing on the characters, trying to extend their lives and keep the program alive and relevant.  Those looking for the realism and planning components to deceptive operations will absolutely love this movie and the layers that it has established.  Yet, the movie still does not meet the speed requirements that the trailers established, nor the action components.  It has the potential to set up for a great sequel, but you need to be ready for a more grounded movie to be entertained.  Good for kids?  Not at all, not only due to the darker themes, but the pacing is not going to work.  Worth a trip to the theater?  If you want a deeper, character centric plot yes, but wait for next week when a new round of blockbusters start. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime/Drama: 7.5

 

Movie Overall: 6.0

Wanted Luxury And Got Decent: Checking In For A One Night Stay

Hotel Artemis Poster

            What does crime, medicine, and dramas all have in common? Well outside of certain episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy, not much to be honest.  However, today those three genres mix together to bring you another movie that will hopefully bring with it some suspense, a little creativity, and some originality that Hollywood needs.  Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review and today we review:

 

Movie: Hotel Artemis

 

Director:

Drew Pearce

Writer:

Drew Pearce

Stars:

Jodie Foster,  Sofia Boutella,  Dave Bautista

 

LIKES:

 

  • Acting
  • Character Dynamics
  • Sofia Boutella and Sterling Brown’s Characters
  • Realistic Setting
  • Action Scene

 

Summary:  Hotel Artemis is a movie largely dependent on its characters, which fortunately are brought to life by the fantastic talents of the various cast members recruited for the project.  Leading roles by Foster, Boutella  and Sterling K. Brownare by far the most in depth and worthy of billing, but even the supporting characters like Bautista and Charlie Daywho bring their usual styles to the mix to alleviate some of the more somber moments.

As the actors bring it to life, the character dynamics start to awaken, establishing the realm of crime in the near-future LA and just how fickle trust can be in the underworld.  Those dynamics by far are the driving force of the movie, trying to help figure out how each of the pawns are connected and what will drive them in this high stakes hospital.  Perhaps it’s the setting itself that forces this evolution of characters, as the dingy oasis from the riot outsides places numerous pressure on the group.  As the outside world grows wilder (documented by occasional news blurbs), the characters are forced to interact and face their own dilemmas.  It’s a well-done drama that doesn’t pull any punches in the 2 hour run time so that it may establish so much.

I mentioned in pre-reviews that this movie looked to have some action to further spur the story on and for the most part… that is not the case.  Yet, there is one action scene in particular led by the sexy assassin herself, that is just epic, tense, and a great fit into the story that feels pertinent to the tale as a whole.  I wished there was more of these moments, but that wasn’t the direction they wanted to go.

 

DiSLIKES:

  • Slow at times
  • Charlie Day/Quinto Rants
  • Underutilization of characters/actors
  • More Action
  • Darker Violence
  • Background flops

 

Like some of the more popular dramas on television, Hotel Artemis’ drama is all about try to build tension through the characters and have politics, emotional fervor, and affairs be the selling point. This takes time to adequately develop, and given all the convoluted ties in this movie, it means a pace that isn’t quite adrenaline fueled. Hotel Artemis has its slow points, that easily could have been tightened to reduce the run time or potentially add some more tension/urgency to the mix.  Had there been more action to speed it up, the pace may not have been as much of a low point for me, but I fought sleep a couple of times.

In addition, a few of the directions that the characters were taken were not my favorite renditions I wanted to see.  Primarily in Quinto and Day’s characters, these players in Artemis’ game are more annoying than engaging, leaving me disappointed with the little contribution they played.  Day just rants and curses like someone hopped on coffee, Red Bull, and methamphetamine, while Quinto is just a big baby.  Not quite as fitting given the other portrayals of the crime gang.  Even worse, a few of the characters are super left out, reduced to a few, unmemorable lines or weak character ploys to get to the climax faster.  Jeff Goldblum’s character was one of these guys, and my fears of too many characters came true.

Which brings me to perhaps my biggest dislike of the film, the rushed background stories and flops.  The Nurse’s story is one of the heavy hitters, mysterious and emotionally charged, you expect it to be the epicenter of the movie.  And while it was a key connector, much of the backstory was not that impressive, alliterated, and lacking any major surprise/mind blowing component.  When the big revelation comes… you almost miss the clues and by this point I was done with all the planning, I needed the climactic finish.  Fortunately Nice and Waikiki’s tale had a little more to it, but even then it was only a superficial scratch to what lied below.  All the potential was kind of flown over, therefore this was the disappointment factor for me.

 

 

The VERDICT: 

 

            Hotel Artemis is weird and dark, no doubt about it, and truth be told it is a crime/drama with characters that are the central pillar to the story.  Despite a fantastic cast acting their brains out and a character centric plot, Artemis’s main flaws come from not having enough time to fully utilize everyone they wanted, and it resulted in plot teasers that could be expanded on in the future (perhaps in a sequel no doubt).  Such complications were only exacerbated by the slower pace, that begs for more suspense, tension, and action to bring it to life.  Truth be told, this could have been better done as a television series than a solo movie, given them hours to further map out the conspiracy web. Overall, not worth the trip to the theater to be honest, but worth the rent if you are into the alternative Sci-Fi/crime scene.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime/Thriller:  7.0

Movie Overall 6.0

 

Point Yourself In A Different Direction

Action Point Poster

 

In the “golden era” of television, there was a variety of shows that served to entertain, teach, and all out shock the audience. While sitcoms, cartoons, and the soap operas reigned supreme, there were a few shows out there trying to make their mark.  One of these was Jackass, a show that was all about taking the wildest, stupidest dares and making them a reality.  Despite all the self-harm, destruction, and lack of logic, this show thrived and led to Knoxville producing a number of movies to support his endeavors.  After some hiatus, the master of stunts and ridiculousness is back again in the form of another of a stunt palooza.  Robbie K, here to provide insight into the latest silver screen, as we review:

 

Movie: Action Point

 

Director:

Tim Kirkby

Writers:

John Altschuler (screenplay by),  Dave Krinsky (screenplay by)

Stars:

Johnny Knoxville,  Brigette Lundy-Paine,  Susan Yeagley

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute Motives at times: Among the ridiculous stunts, alcoholism, and dirty humor, there lies a soft, chewy center of family bonding and love. Action Point helps display the hardships of parenting, and in some cases grandparenting, which will speak to many and perhaps demonstrate the importance of balance and understanding.  It’s a small lesson embedded in the seas of ridiculous stunts, but decently presented to say the least.

 

Stunts:  You can say what you want about how illogical it is to harm one’s self for a laugh, but I give credit to Knoxville for still doing his own stunts.  Despite being almost 50, he took point in all the injuring scenes and sequences, some of which could easily break a hip, or a neck.  His youthful gang is starting to inherit the mantle, but the directors still has a few tricks up his sleeve to bring a laugh.

 

Fast Pace/Short Run Time: Editing is always impressive to me and Knoxville achieves his desired goal in a short amount of time.  Action Point has cut out a lot of fluff, bringing pertinent shots, plot points, and balance between past and present while maximizing the disaster at hand.  While you might feel gipped out of a movie for not being at least 90 minutes long, to have the movie feel complete in the short time gets mad props from me, which doesn’t happen that often.

 

The Bear:  I’m not talking the mascot, but the actual animal that is in the movie.  Knoxville’s crew got a bear involved in the movie, and his scenes are humorous to me, primarily when they start harnessing its unique skills for their own promotions. Nevertheless, have a laugh at the impressive performance from a non-English speaking cast member.

 

DISLIKES:

Little Story:  I’m a story guy and no surprise, the movie has little to no story outside a paper-thin plot to ground the stunts to.  While this is to be expected in this type of movie, as a reviewer I have to look at all components for my review and Knoxville’s team fails on this level for me.  Yes, there is some slight character development in the leads, but not much to warrant giving two thumbs up.

 

Stale Stupidity: Knoxville may get kudos for tackling his self-harm adventure head first, but subjecting himself to the illogical torture gets old after a while.  The constant slapstick crashes, pranks, and running into stuff purposefully gets old after a while.  Outside of a few scenes, including the bear parts, the movies repetitive comedic focus lost its touch very quickly, resulting in a rather bland attempt at laughs.  Most of the audience in my group seemed to have the same reaction as well, so don’t expect masterpiece here.

 

Over the Line:  It wouldn’t be Knoxville without crossing the line, but there were some major moments that I certainly did not enjoy. Seeing dogs get it on, rather heated sex scene, animal cruelty, and continuous abuse of alcohol are not the things that make a great movie for me.  While small in number, the team maximized these moments and not in a classy way at all.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Action Point doesn’t sell you short on what the trailers promised.  It’s a ridiculous ride of Knoxville’s usual repertoire of skits with a little cuteness/sincerity thrown in to sweeten the deal. While I understand this is the point of all his works though, the movie doesn’t have enough gusto, uniqueness, or creativity to warrant a theater visit.  Action Point would have served better as an extended TV special or Netflix series. In addition, it may not turn out as funny as you might expect, mostly because of either the inappropriate moments or the stale comedic slapstick (much of which was ruined by the trailers). Overall, I suggest skipping this one and trying something else in the silver screen. 

 

My scores:

 

Comedy:  5.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

Dead On Sequel

Deadpool 2

 

Deadpool movies are so hard to review.  It’s not because their super complex, thought provoking, or even artistic symbolism, but it’s more due to the fact of balancing ridiculous antics with serious hero quality.  With the first movie being a breath of fresh air to the massively stuffed superhero movie genre, the sequel had a lot to live up to for pleasing the fanbase once more.  After one of the most amazing advertisement campaigns to date, did this movie break the fourth wall of entertainment once again?  Robbie K here to do his best to help you with your movie viewing pleasures. Let’s go!

 

Movie: Deadpool 2

 

Director:

David Leitch

Writers:

Rhett Reese,  Paul Wernick  | 3 more credits »

Stars:

Josh Brolin,  Ryan Reynolds,  Morena Baccarin

 

 

 

LIKES:

Acting:  Given all of Ryan Reynolds ups and downs, the young actor shines so well in the reboot version of Deadpool.  His sass from previous comedy stunts (like Two Guys and A Girl) mixed with his physique/delivery of superhero, leads to a well-developed lead who carries the movie heavily on his costume equipped shoulders.  Brolin comes in again as the villain, bringing his grit to a less CGI rendered height that works well to offset the hyper, ADHD like energy of Deadpool and with it comes great comedic banter.  Much of the supporting cast nails their roles well too, capable of dropping lines and rocking CGI stunts.

 

Domino: Of all of these though, Domino was my favorite character.  In the age of rising female heroes, Domino is a well-developed character who brings so much to the weird table this film sets.  Zazie Beetzreally shines in this movie as a female partner in crime to counter the crazy of Deadpool.  A great character who has a quirky power, this “lucky” girl brings bite to fight Deadpool’s humor, decent skills with a weapon, and surprisingly some enlightened looks at life that bring some zing to the movie. This character was a fantastic addition to the movie that should help expand the audience.

 

Story: A Deadpool comic is often not the most developed in the story department, and given the direction of the cinema… one never knows how a sequel story will end up. Happily, I can report that this sequel did a nice job in the story department, managing to bring a decent plot that helps our characters evolve yet sticking close to the humor vibe of the movie.  It’s nice to see a ridiculous character grow, but still stick to the core qualities and Deadpool 2 did a much better job than I could imagine.

 

Special Effects:  Deadpool’s ridiculous stunts means needing to find some way to make the impossible, possible on the screen. Hat’s off, or in this case masks off, to the department who made all the bouts, mutants, and futuristic technology come roaring to full force to immerse you into the action. Speaking of which,

 

Action: The action of Deadpool 2 is a mixed bag for me, but there are plenty of components that worked well with me.  At the front line, are a number of bouts that have that chaotic, adrenaline fueled themes to it, mixed with snarky comments and unrelenting jokes that keep things fun, exciting, and a great opener. Seeing the moves, they choreographed/crafted, showed promise for some epic finales to come, always a good idea to cast the net and get them caught up early right. More on that later.

 

ComedyIn truth, the strongest weapon in Deadpool’s arsenal is the comedy that this film is drenched in, and by drenched I mean caught in a deluge.  This sequel picks up where the last left off and with it comes a cornucopia of styles all hectically crashing together in a giant abstract masterpiece. Nothing is safe from Deadpool’s adulteration, as the red garmented maniac brings vulgarity, ridiculous finishes, pokes at stories, comics, movies (including the franchise itself), and of course slapstick that transitions to so much more.  I kept laughing my head off in this movie and loved the writing, cleverness, and of course mid-credit scene that victoriously finishes the movie off and delivers the answer to the wishes and prayers of the fan base.  So, so good.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Over the top moments: Deadpool I know is all about breaking the 4thwall on just about everything he can.  And certainly, in this installment, the writers did their best to break that mold as often and intense as possible.  Given the laxer ratings, Deadpool 2 shows no qualms with crossing the line. Primarily the cursing, Deadpool 2 doesn’t know when to quit in terms of vulgar cursing and certainly goes down inappropriate avenues I didn’t particularly enjoy.  A minor one at best, be warned that anything is possible with a mad mercenary.

 

Comedic Stints Go on and on: Like this review, Deadpool’s comedic banter sometimes treks on for too long.  Those liking to see two smart alecks duke it out in a battle of insults, fake outs, and sarcasm for minutes on end will be delighted with the writing of this movie.  I admit I did like it at first, but near the end this ploy had soon started to wrinkle like Wade’s face.

 

Action: While I certainly liked the action for much of the movie, I can’t help but admit I was a little disappointed as well.  Sure, the humor is awesome, the inappropriate battle moves fit well, and it felt like a Deadpool sequence come to life with little to no punches pulled.  Yet, I’m still spoiled on some of Marvel’s glorious cinema wars and had hoped we’d get some match ups to give them a run for its money.  The epic climactic fight didn’t quite have the on the edge, clap in your seat, scream in excitement epic fights that the trailers had hinted at. Those moments were fly-overs in an extended montage.

 

Predictable:  My buddy is right in saying that the movie certainly goes a different route than presented in the trailers.  However,… the movie (perhaps as a stunt itself), dropped too many hints to lead you down the path to the answers that awaited.  I was able to figure out all the twists with ease, and not have my mind blown as I thought it would.  Another small dislike, but hey got to be honest at times.

 

Character use:  The trailers promoted the heck out of X-Force, making sure that we got our eye fill on just about every angle of Deadpool’s own team to rival the goody two shoes X-men.  And while the characters got their time to shine in comedy moves, their overall contribution to the film was cheated out in my opinion.  Maybe that’s what the comics have done, or perhaps it was a brilliant comedic ploy.  However, don’t promote characters so heavily if you are going to dilute them so much. Even his fellow mutants from Xavier’s got a bit of underplay, another example of too many pieces leading to sacrifices being required to not make the film too long.

 

The Verdict:

 

            Truth is… I loved Deadpool 2 and while I had some issues, (which are pickiness of course), the movie accomplishes the goals of being a comedic spoof of superhumans that brings that bite to eat we hungered for.  It’s fast paced, it’s witty, and it still keeps the story going on a level I didn’t expect and this provides the breath of fresh air again that the first one did. Still, it’s not a perfect movie for me and I still hope to get some more action and character usage in the next installment should Disney not limit Fox’s creativity on it.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Absolutely, though be warned that the movie is not designed for younger audience members, those with weak constitutions to blood, violence, and vulgarity, or those not ready to step over the abyss into craziness.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Comedy: 9.0

Movie Overall: 8.5

 

A Rampage of CGI, Comedy, and Over The Top Moments

Rampage

 

`           Video game movies have a steady record of failing to meet expectations placed on them by the gaming community.  Yet this year alone, two video game franchises have been unleashed on the screen with decent success and quality.  Perhaps, this is the start of a video game movie renaissance, but in the world of movie magic, you never know what lies behind the community.  So naturally I’m back in the trenches to provide to you another review as I cover:

 

Movie: Rampage

Director:

Brad Peyton

 

 

Writers:

Ryan Engle and(Carlton Cuse

 

Stars:

Dwayne Johnson,  Naomie Harris,  Malin Akerman

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  In a movie about giant monsters going on a rampage, it’s up to the actors to try and put on a performance to make us believe they are nearly destroyed by these artificial creations. Fortunately, the Rock is able to deliver his magic again, not the best performance mind you, but believable enough to craft a relationship with the artificial monkey.  Naomie Harris isn’t too bad either, capable of expressing fear at the possible end of the world, but not so much past those components.  Akerman has the vicious corporate tyrant face down, and the ice-cold stare of a woman perturbed with the hand fate dealt in her science experience, though flops at the end to maintain that edge.  Finally, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a champion at bringing comedic spark to the mix, a sarcastic modern day cowboy whose mannerism and wide smile will craft a more charming version of Negan.

 

The Comedy:  With Dwayne Johnson, you can always expect the film to have some comedy, and no surprise…Rampage delivers on this.  Sure, the concept of the movie itself is hilarious enough, and even the acting/writing can be unintentionally comedic to leave you chuckling.  However, the intended comedy comes primarily from the one liners packed into Johnson and Morgan’s lines. Their rapier delivery is sharp, well-timed, and has just enough emphasis to maximize the sting these insults and lines bring.  Throw in some of the vaudeville with George the CGI monkey that is cute, yet edgy, and you get some surprising laughs that you might not be expecting.

 

The Graphics/Special Effects:  No surprise, a movie about CGI behemoths needs good computer work and Rampage delivers on these hand over fist.  Smooth animation, well-crafted realism, and some originality help bring these monsters to life on the big screen in a way that leave many with mouths agape.  These titans of terror, have fantastic sound editing to go along with their visual prowess that brings everything together to unleash the full might of these beasts.  As for the carnage itself, the special effects department delivers on this as well, combining pyrotechnics and manmade visuals to craft their visual representation of the classic arcade game.  The effects themselves pay much homage to the platform they were built upon and in the last 40 minutes of the film, one will feel as if they have dived into that classic game.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Cheesiness: Despite the concept itself being a major stretch, the movie had hopes for making the most out of it.  They did to a level, but there were a lot of components that were still too ridiculous or forced to bare. Some of this includes the way the dialogue was delivered, the random plot elements thrown in, and even some of the chaos itself dropped a little over the top for me and my friends. And because of this stretch of the imagination, other components suffer such as the story, speaking of which.

 

The Story: Okay it’s based on a video game that had thread thin plot to being with, but that’s no excuse to improve upon things in this day and age.  Improvements were made to an extent, but the story lacks a lot of sustenance that could have helped craft a more engaging story.  The character background information is minimal at best, built enough to provide introductions and some sense of internal conflict, but lacking in other departments to really make dynamic characters to grasp onto. Even worse, the pace of the movie is off, emphasizing how weak the story is at times and making it drag as it attempts to build up tension for the climax at the end when the hammer finally drops.  Had these elements been tinkered with, perhaps we would have been more engrossed in the movie.

 

More Action:  You’ve stuck it out through the ridiculous plot, been teased by the small, and often pointless skirmishes, and you’ve gotten through the lacking characters.  Now it’s time for the epic battle, right?  Wrong.  Rampage’s end game starts out so promising as the video game spectacle of army vs. beast unfolds in epic quality with the theater rattling in high amplitude sound.  Then it kind of fizzles out, focusing on the human component for nearly fifteen minutes with no sign of the beasts.  Had this part been more thought out, intricate, and exciting itself this would have worked, but since this wasn’t the case it failed.  When the beasts begin battling each other, this too needed more thought put into it to bring some originality and creativity to the battling behemoths.  Given all the prep work for it, my friends and I were disappointed to not have more gusto behind this clash of the titans.

 

The VERDICT: Rampage turned out better than I had expected, but the film still had much more to bring to the table to deliver on the expected promise of action.  Comedy, acting and graphics were spot on in this big budget special effects piece, however they needed to use this budget to add more to the grand bout of carnage and fury.  A lackluster story that succumbs to cheesiness and mundane tactics, Rampage needed to dig deeper to unlock the primitive energy locked up within.  Perhaps a sequel will improve upon it and they will put more action into the next installment, but for now it’s an okay starting point.  Should you see it in theaters?  For the effects lone yes, but this guy recommends holding out for some other spectacles coming in the near future.

 

My scores are:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

 

Ready For Action, Visuals, Nostalgia

Ready Player One

 

Robbie K back with another review and tonight it is on movie I have been looking forward to for a very long time.  The latest book gone pop culture, tonight’s film is all about the references (and merchandising) as the world seeks out an adequate video game movie to come to life.  So, let’s get started with a slight alteration to the style, as I review:

 

Title: Ready Player One

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer:  Zak Penn

Original Author: Ernest Cline

Starring: Tye Sheridan,  Olivia Cooke,  Ben Mendelsohn

 

 

LIKES:

Acting:  Let’s get this like out of the way (as most won’t care).  The cast of this highly CGI world is on point in regards to making their characters come to life.  Sheridan in particular does a lot of the heavy lifting, balancing the geek, leader, and vulnerable roles all into a nice admirable package.  Cooke has the edgy, heroic nature down, a virtual Wonder Woman who combines brain and skills to deliver the sassy goods to the group. These two have wonderful chemistry together, two leaders who incite a rebellion of imagination, accomplishing it with grace that many young actors fail to deliver.  Ben Mendelsohn makes a good villain as well, a corporate wannabe who has only the eyes for cash and lacks the brains to go with the brash. 

 

World Creating/Visuals:  No surprise here, Spielberg’s team invested a lot of time bringing the world to life.  Ready Player One’s visuals are stunning, taking the imagination of Cline’s book and making it pop to life on screen.  The various planets all have dynamic visuals to bring each one to life, with exciting, pristine villas grounded by the rugged battlefields of volcanoes.  The real world of a future dystopian society is nicely created with their settings and with direction meshes well with our heroes’ journey through the cyberspace.  And as for the characters themselves, the team managed to recreate the various pop culture references in fantastic design but adding its own twist to correlate with the movie.  The heroes have that video game feel, immersing you further into the virtual reality setting as if you were part of the rebellion.

 

The Action:  The trailers promised action, and by George did it deliver… on most of the movie.  Ready Player One starts strong with some action-packed sequences where racing and FPS/Third Person battles reign supreme.  The theater shakes with the intensity and brings a promise that the rest of the movie is going to be just as fun.  The rest of the sequences semi-deliver on this promise, primarily the final battle that has some incredible parts.  Nonetheless, Spielberg’s department did a bang-up job bringing the rush that video games bring, primarily the selling point for seeing it in the theater. 

 

The Nostalgia/Reference Hunting:  However, the biggest selling point for me was the thrill of hunting down all the cultural Easter eggs/icons that they paid a fortune to portray. My eyes were busy seeking everything crammed in this movie, trying to see which 80’s icons made the cut.  While 80% are video game references, you’ll find various movie, television, and song references shading the oasis, most cleverly brought in to bring life to the scenes in a meaningful way.  I’ll admit, the replay value of this movie comes in trying to track down everything hidden, like the Easter egg prize they are all seeking.  The key demographic of this movie is going to be the fans, nerds, and gamers, as their eager eyes will enjoy seeing their favorites come together to battle the corrupt evil at hand. 

 

 

DISLIKES:

The Lack of Challenge:  Let’s get this settled, the movie is not the book, and to be fair a movie about the actions of the book might have been duller to the general audience.  However, the movie could have taken a page for challenging puzzles and cultural integration, because it didn’t quite execute this component as well.  Most of the quests for the key were diluted compared to brainteasing nightmares of the novel, that could have involved more research and diving than what we got.  In addition, some of the solutions were a little more like backdoor cheats than true solutions to the impasses at hand.

Character Development:  I agree again with my fellow reviewers that the character development suffered a bit as well.  Parzival and Art3mis get some decent backstories and growth, but the other characters are sort of thrown into the movie like hamburgers on a flat top.  They have those moments that sizzle, only to quickly become fully cooked and dropped back into the background.  Even worse, the legendary skills that were boasted in the book/movie are not really delivered for our supporting cast, such a shame really.  Not the worst character use, but also not what I had expected.

 

More Action: Surprise, surprise, Robbie wants more action.  Ready Player One’s scenes are incredible at times, almost as if we have visors on our heads and living the game.  The problem for me is… they were too short at times and didn’t feel complete for me.  I didn’t feel this too much until near the middle of the movie when the film hit a slow snag and could have used one or two battles to liven it up.  However, the biggest thing I wanted, was seeing the millions of dollars of references used more than the fleeting glances we got.  The moves done were cool but watching Parzival and crew work together with the iconic game crew rather than background noise would have been nice.

 

I-ROk:  This character wasn’t utilized much in the book, so seeing him mentioned in the credits was a surprise. Sadly, they didn’t do much with this character, to the point where he was almost not needed.  The gaming community knows about epic hunters, villains, and rogues, but this movie failed to deliver on those grounds, instead getting a sarcastic flop.  While the main villain was expected to be a rather incompetent jerk, his prized mercenary should have had a little more bite to back things up.  Perhaps then the epic climax might have worked a little better, well that and maybe foregoing the van chase at the end… that wasn’t needed as much.

 

The VERDICT: 

 

            Ready Player One the movie is not the book, and the purists who want that book to real life are going to be disappointed with the changes that were made to liven it up.  However, Spielberg’s take on the film works in regards to action, visuals, and giving us the ultimate finder book of geek references.  While the story needed some more wit and character development, the main tweaks needed to be using more of their merchandizing, more of their characters, and pushing their villains to be more.  Had these elements been more explored, it would have given this movie more of the finesse it was looking for.  Still, this adventure deserves a theater run given the special effects. 

 

My scores are:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.5