New Age, New Strengths, New Weaknesses: Welcome To International Men In Black

Men in Black: International Poster

 

They don’t exist outside of Déjà vu!  They are protecting us I supposedly only one suit that they never take off.  And they have faced more interesting specimens of the galaxy than we can ever imagine. I’m talking about the Men IN Black and they won’t let you remember about all the stuff you may or may not have seen. Welcome to Robbie’s movie reviews and today we are going to be looking at yet another movie hitting the silver screen. Today is the latest iteration of a beloved 90s franchise that has seen it’s ups and downs.  Can the latest installment/reboot find the stride, or are we once again stuck with another rushed production that should have had more time or never existed?  Let’s take a look at:

 

Movie: Men In Black International (2019)

 

Director:

Gary Gray

Writers:

Matt HollowayArt Marcum  | 1 more credit »

Stars:

Chris HemsworthTessa ThompsonKumail Nanjiani

 

LIKES:

  • Decently Paced
  • New Aliens and Designs
  • Nostalgia
  • Simplistic Story
  • Funny
  • Kumail Nanjiani’s character

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • More Aliens
  • Predictable
  • Plot Missing Some Wrap ups
  • Other Acting Is A Little Forced
  • Missing That Natural Humor
  • Underutilized characters
  • Not Campy Enough
  • The Political Messages… again

 

SUMMARY:

A Men In Black Movie is all about being an entertaining spectacle of comedy, story, and latching on to our heroes and finding some moving pieces.  This new installment may not have our favorite agents we started with (in physical form at least), but it holds a few treasured components that kept it entertaining for me.  For one it’s a movie with few slow parts, moving from one component to the next with little time for impasses to really drive character development, but maximize laughs and entertainment. The New aliens and designs are refreshing in the component that they are bringing back the creativeness that brings renewed energy into the series, especially in regards to some of the new criminal aliens who have edge and artistic designs mixed in.  With all the newness you might be fretting that the old feeling has been lost, and to be honest I found some qualities that still remain to be fun and remind you of the older days.  For one there is plenty of nostalgia lining this movie, maybe not in the full integration of other movies have done, but certainly a few nods to the adventures our first band had.  Simplistic story still stays strong as well, with little twists and turns to spin your head or make you think, but not so simplistic to be absolutely stupid or boring, for the most part any way.  The key thing that stays here though is the humor, finding the same formula of modern times by cramming jokes in as many styles as possible.  That variety is good, bringing some dynamic choices to the mix to try and cater to a number of audience members and hopefully leaving you in tears.  Yet the winner for me is Kumail’s character Pawny.  The Middle Eastern actor’s character left me in stitches bringing his usual brand of comedic delivery with well time interruptions that were perfect for me.  In addition the character remains pertinent to the story as well, only having a few times where his manners were forced on me.  An excellent character for this reviewer.

 

Yet for all the good they did for me, the modern reboot of the series has not achieved the goals that the first series did for me. For one thing, more aliens could have been introduced, or even better integrated into the mix.  All the introductions and new designs should have had a little more time to brew to perfection and perhaps be relevant to the inclusion outside of a joke or two. Villains, supporting characters, even the main heroes felt underutilized to me, simplistic shells of main characters that hold secrets, but like the organization remain hidden.  As such, I did not get quite attached to these two new agents like I did K and J, and that leads to a less engaging story for me overall. In regards to the story itself, well that too is sort of lacking.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s got the components famous in this series, but they were not as well put together because of the new approach.  It’s predictable for one thing and leaves little surprise in how things are going to pan out from obvious foreshadowing.  Story elements started being hinted at, but then the plot lines fell flat or remained sort of untied, perhaps in suggesting a future installment. The fact that the characters are not quite as engaging leaves flat pieces to play out, who become more focused on comedy than being a hero.  Most of all, the story is just missing that campiness overall that the 90s made famous and that took away some of the things that made the first trilogy special.  Without that factor, that natural humor was sort of lacking, forced upon me much like the ghostbusters from a couple of years ago.  They almost try too hard for me and at times that obvious digression from the story to make a joke id not impress me as much.  This is especially true with the political humor, once again trying to force emotional surges into the movie to deliver the real-life issues. Sometimes the writing was perfect and well-integrated, but often it fell to deaf ears because it was not needed, potentially left to the interviews and subconscious meetings than anything else.

 

   Overall, the film turned out to be fun and entertaining. The modern twist is far from perfect, but it shows the series can age well with the right guidance and motivation. It still needs balance and shying away from the forced jokes, alongside crafting characters that I actually care about instead of the comedic, political husks I was getting.  Men In Black International though has plenty of old and new blended in and the new little guy Pawny should certainly make up for a number of flaws given his character ironically has more layers than the leading cast.  Due to the special effects, this one lands in the see in theaters territory, so check it out, but in terms of the quality movie overall, you can probably check this one out at home to be honest.  So my scores for the movie are:

 

Action/Adventure/Comedy:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

 

 

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Burning Through Plots To Finish Things Up

Dark Phoenix Poster

 

X-men, a series with so much storytelling and incredible characters that the comic book itself stands alone as one of the greatest franchises to exist in the comic book world.  Yet, the movies have had a rough patch in terms of execution, hitting some highs and some lows in their design and sequences.  So tonight, the last of the franchises before Disney takes over, tries to send it off in the a blaze of glory, focusing on the last saga that is a beacon in the mutant world: The Phoenix.  Can Fox put the shining beacon of power in the right light, or will it be yet another grandiose display of loud sounds?  Robbie K here to bring his observations and help you out with your movie pleasure.  Let’s go!

 

Movie: Dark Phoenix (2019)

 

Director:

Simon Kinberg

Writers:

John Byrne (story “The Dark Phoenix Saga”), Chris Claremont (story “The Dark Phoenix Saga”)  |4 more credits »

Stars:

James McAvoyMichael FassbenderJennifer Lawrence

 

 

LIKES:

Acting

Sophie Turner

Special Effects

The Action/Pace At The End

The Messages

 

DISLIKES:

Quicksilver Not Used

Pace For Much Of The Movie

Rushed Story

Cheesy Story

Lackluster Dramatic Moments

Action Scenes Fairly Short

Under developed Villains

Not Quite The Epic Finish

 

SUMMARY:

Say what you want about the X-Men, but they have picked a heck of a cast to bring into he mutant world.  McAvoy continues to do his part justice, making sure to bring the full fiery emotion that the part requires.  Fassbender and Lawrence do their parts well, but seem to have become the back-burner group for this movie, lost to some simpler writing and a quick dynamic shift to the main character.  Jessica Chastain does her job well, but I can’t say they utilized her to the full potential (more on that later).  No, the real star is Sophie Turner, the mutant with so much power that she’s not quite sure how to handle it.  Turner does the job well in regards to getting the suffering, the uncertainty, and even the hard-edged femme fatale that they wanted.  Her character is decently developed in these aspects and I think Ms. Turner accomplished her tasks well.  To sort of go with the grand power of the mystical icon, X-men had to pull out the special effects and again they accomplished this goal quite well.  Theater shaking sound effects, plenty of colorful and vibrant special forces that scream dark edge comic books.  That utilization accomplishes bringing the fiery force of Phoenix into a spectacle that works well to bring these exotic characters to life.  My highlight comes at the end of the movie when the big action scene happens, fully unleashing the powers of the other X-men and starting to get into the excitement I’ve been waiting for this series to discover again.  Much like the books though, Dark phoenix is ready to deliver the typical messages found in this saga and the ones contained in this movie sort of accomplish this goal.

Yet, much like many movies, this installment still suffers from balance issues and finding its identity in the transcription from comic to screenplay.  For one thing, a fan favorite of Quicksilver is grossly underutilized, the famous scenes that had fans raving, almost being missed completely.  And much like the quickness of the speedster, the movie’s pace suffers as well.  Dark Phoenix is very jargon and argument heavy, with more talk than walk seen so to speak.  So much of the excitement is done in a few snaps of the finer, mostly tuned to dramatic arguments and repetitive plot points than anything else.  The story not only seems rushed, but often very cheesy in its presentation as the classic saga is boiled down to the primal elements that try to speed the “evolution” so quickly it left me filling slightly unfulfilled and unimpressed.  Attempts to interject emotion were lost to predictable foreshadowing and sequences where only a few showed any interest.  Perhaps the action scenes make up for it?  Not really, unlike some of the earlier counterparts, Dark Phoenix’s fights are short lived, more grandiose displays of talking and delivered forced dialogue with only a few impressive moves to tickle the proud political statements, while leaving action junkies like me wanting more.  Perhaps if we had better fleshed out character and villains there would be some antagonist ready to drive the plot and really gives us the gauntlet that the Dark Phoenix saga was aiming for instead of the lacking end game to this genre.

Overall, Dark Phoenix shines as the modern-day movie of girl power and hastily wrapping a floundering series up in a nice bow. It’s not awful thanks to the acting, end scenes and messages, however the story just does not feel like the final installment, but instead like the opening issues of a series that try to whet your appetite.  Had Fox not been bought perhaps the movie would have held a trilogy on its own or at least more time to the story and action.  Yet this epic finish is really one that is best left for him, minus the theater experience of the flashy effects.  My scores for this adaptation of cheesy, grandiose goodness is:

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-fi: 6.5

Movie Overall: 5.0

Joining The Aimless, Action Packed Hunt

The Predator Poster

 

In 1987, a new science fiction icon was established, an apex hunter that proved its merit by tackling the threat of mercenaries led by America’s action star Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Yes, it was Predator, the franchise about alien hunters setting out to… well I guess hunt. Filled with gore, cheesy stories, and interesting technology, the Predator franchise has continued to secure its foothold in science fiction community, continuing to please the super fans in its numerous media. Tonight’s review is on the latest addition to the field, with a gigantic cast, a controversial media story, and what looks to be another special effects fest.  Robbie K is back with another review as he gives his opinions on:

 

Movie: The Predator (2018)

Director:

Shane Black

Writers:

Fred DekkerShane Black

Stars:

Boyd HolbrookTrevante RhodesJacob Tremblay

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting (primarily Olivia Munn and Jacob Tremblay):  It’s a star-studded cast loaded with talent. And this rag tag band of crazy mercenaries feels like a modern assortment of the classic squad. While more diverse than our original group, this squad had enough bite to their acting to make the characters diverse, and the crazy believable as they brought the hammer down.  While I nod my head to all performances, Olivia Munnand Jacob Tremblay were my favorites, their character balanced, involved, and the performances detailed in their respective quirks. 

 

The Special Effects: The evolution of technology means flashier graphics, bigger explosions, and more detailed imaginations coming to life. No surprise, The Predator is back and abusing the heck out of the computer generating images, crafting deadlier, more brutal aliens who are ready to kill in the goriest ways.  Fluid movements, detailed costumes and designs that are brought into beautiful displays, and technology that is the edgiest arsenal we have seen.  These effects are going to immerse you into the hunt, and really drop you into the blood bath that this series has been famous for.

 

The Story (kind of): Okay, it’s not the most basic of the predator stories, and it has sort of diverged from the straightforward kill for thrills that the franchise has bathed in for years.  It attempts to springboard a new connecting arc, that attempts to give a point past the hunt, and parts of it really did work for me as they connect the series.  As such, the series could utilize this new story element to bring with it a new turn of events, it just depends on the execution components.

 

The Comedy: Half the cast is from the comedy genre era, so you were expecting laughs.  The Predator has some nicely timed, clever jokes unleashed like a laser blast from the Predator’s cannon.  References to the first film, famous movie tropes, and some insult comedy go a long way in this film, many of which work to relief the bloody tension that comes with the thriller.

 

The Predator Feel: While not the most traditional of the bunch, The Predator still has much of the same components you love of the series. The Gore, the overkills, and the grandiose displays of gunplay vs. alien technology are there to keep you engaged in the bunch.  It is ridiculous, it is over the top, and brings with it a lot of satisfying Predator goodness that was established back in the 80s.

 

The Action:  I’ve hit the nail on the head multiple times, but I have to say that this installment has the fastest paced and the greatest number of sequences of the film.  The Predator takes many potshots at the action angle, utilizing the chaos to bring about more chaos in an attempt to keep our heart pumping fast.  Some of these fights are off the chain exciting, while others don’t quite live up to the snuff.  Nevertheless, the pace is thrilling to keep you engaged in the film.

 

DISLIKES:

The Sloppy Character Development:  It’s a Predator movie, I know it’s not the point of the series, but this film tried to try to elaborate on the backstories of the group.  Nodding to their attempts at change, if you are going to try to establish characters, do a little more to really get us connected to the group. Should this franchise out, we need a little more sustenance to the group, so that we can actually root for them in the end.  However, Jacob Tremblay did get a good development so kudos to them.

The Grandiose Speeches: We know this series is hard to take seriously when it comes to the dialogue, but this movie did a little too much inspirational preaching for my blood.  It was fun at first, but by the fourth speech, the lines had become stale, the timing inappropriate, and the emphasis/passion of the speech was missing. It was pointless to me at these points.

 

The Over Excessive Cursing: Shocker, I don’t like the haphazard use of the F bomb, but Predator’s lazy writing just kept rocking it from the speakers with no end in sight.  It’s a small dislike, but something that shows writing still has a long way to go in the art of balance.

 

The Story:  While I appreciated the springboard ideas, Predator still has a long way to go to achieve the story it wants.  It offers not so much a challenge, as a very shallow, cut to the point, ridiculous fest that Sci-Fi genre loves, but has started to cross into the eye rolling zones.  As the movie ends, there is potential, but the movie needs to pick a direction to roll, is the main limitation is the film’s inability to decide which plot setting it wants to go.  The Predator just tries to take too many paths, and seems confused as to which one it wants to stick with as it tries to reach new levels of campiness.

The Comedy:  Some of the comedy is great as I mentioned before, however this installment tries too hard at times to get a laugh.  Predator is meant to be indirectly funny, but this one was a little too forced on me that it didn’t see fitting to be in this franchise.  As such, the relentless humor takes away from the movie and leads to some of the mixed reviews that you are reading.  Again, the comedic relief is appreciated when timed, but too much of a good thing usually goes bad.

Sterling K Brown’s Character:  I get it, bad guys are supposed to not be liked, but this particular villain is more obnoxious than threatening/evil.  Again, this comes from incomplete character development and an aimless story idea, but Mr. Brown’s talents were not the best utilized in this film.   I would have liked more development, more threats, and less unyielding taunting that they took the character in.  Not the best antagonist in the series, and certainly not the best film editing techniques with him either.

Quantity vs. Quality Action wise:  As much as I like action, I like scenes where the fighting has impressive choreography, strategy with creativity, and lasts a decent time to make the skirmish worthwhile. The Predator has these moments that I love, but many are short bouts of carnage that seem to be just fillers to extend the movie length and show more special effects.  Quantity is good for pacing, but The Predator needs to focus on quality to really seal the deal for the next installment.  Utilize that suspenseful nature with the technology like the end game, and you’ve got potential to make some of the best fighting scenes in the series.

 

The Classic Predator: From a story aspect, I understand the inclusion, but the trailers really focused on differentiating the two as the selling points.  Sadly, outside of some contributions, the classic model doesn’t do as much as you hope it will.  The focus was more on the super predator and it would have been nice to see more done with the creature that started it all.  Sorry, but the studio needs to make up its mind as to which predators they want to focus on, instead of just creating new ones for the sake of creating new ones.

 

 

The VERDICT: 

Overall, The Predator is a mixed bag of tricks in terms of the quality it brings.  On the one hand it’s got all the science fiction action you could want with the carnage and special effects to maximize the chaos. Like all Predator movies, the fans will enjoy the hunt and the poor extras who try to face this colossal sized creature and it offers some major potential for them to follow up on. However, the movie struggles to find the directions it wants to take, primarily in the story vs. action. Vs comedy and that is where it divides people.  The series needs to research its origins and choose the direction for the next installment, making sure to emphasize quality instead of quantity.  Still, it’s worth a trip to the theater for the special effects alone and will certainly rattle your ear drums with the deafening sounds.

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Horror: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

A Mega Sized Shark Film? The Meg Review Trying to Bite Into The Box Office

The Meg Poster

 

 

The shark movie has a huge cult following, and the fan base continues to grow with each delectable, gore filled bite.  So much so, that SyFy channel can’t stop filling their air times with ridiculous films that throw any excuse for mega beasts munching on airheaded characters who look good.  Despite some famous movie sticking out in the television about the prehistoric predator of the deep, the big screen is calling for a film of its own in hopes of drawing crowds back to the welcoming halls of the theater.  Based on the book series I recently saw in Barnes and Noble, the Meg is here to try and entertain.  Yours truly is back to share some thoughts as he reviews:

 

 

Movie: The Meg (2018)

 

Director:

Jon Turteltaub

Writers:

Dean Georgaris (screenplay by),  Jon Hoeber (screenplay by)

Stars:

Jason Statham,  Bingbing Li,  Rainn Wilson

 

 

LIKES:

 

Animation:  CGI companies can make just about anything these days, including a 75 foot shark with a ferocious appetite.  The Meg has some awesome design in bringing the beast to life, capturing the grainy, rough texture of the hide and making its swims delightfully fluid.  This shark moves beautifully in its hunt for humans.

 

The Characters:  Most of these movies fail to bring the full talent of actors out, often resorting to making the characters glamorized fish food that we root to actually be eaten (some exceptions of course).  The Meg though, their cast has more to their mettle, recruiting a bunch of dynamic actors to portray scientists that have a little more to their skill set than looking good.  With this team, I was able to actually invest into the human characters and once more root for the team to find a way to solve the problem.  And while the acting is not Oscar worthy, the dialogue, writing and delivery have been grounded to be enjoyed and not scoffed at.

 

The Story:  Again, most of these films hold very little in terms of quality story, only designed to maximize the blood and kills.  The Meg though, takes a step back to the storytelling roots and actually does a nice job of balancing the kills with a purpose for the carnage.  From how the shark came into the modern world to side stories portraying character flaws, this film had surprising amounts of detail to actually give a reason to the movie. Don’t freak out though, there are still plenty of superficial carnage scenes to tickle your fancy, but for those like me who like balance, this movie gets better props.  In addition, there are some twists to help add some bite to adventure.

 

The Pace; A movie like this can sometimes drag, especially if you hate these types of films and you were dragged in to going by friends.  Again, the Meg succeeds in this journey of keeping the film moving, the adrenaline pumping, and the laughs/carnage keeping pace.  The film has enough action and close shaves to keep you on your toes, which plays to the nature of this genre.

 

The Nostalgia:  The Meg does have a lot of individuality, yet it is also packed with countless references to the shark movies that came before.  The movie has plenty to offer, and the shark movie fans should have no problem picking up the Easter eggs submerged in the Megalodon infested waters.  Nice job adding this layer of fun guys.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Over the top moments: The whole movie is ridiculous, I understand that and will accept it, but even suspending reality goes only so far. A giant shark movie sometimes goes too far and hits those eye rolling moments that sort of diverge from the path of balance it was achieving.  Some of the structural integrity inconsistencies and speed of our humans are a few examples, but hey that’s a shark movie.

 

Plot Holes:  The movie did a nice job of putting a story on board, but the movie does have some gaps that even for the ridiculous tale shouldn’t have been skipped.  It goes with the opening scene more than anything and with it, sort of diverges from the explanation they gave, sort of undermining the semi-logical conclusion they had.  Again, a small dislike, but a noticeable one that is a bit annoying to me.

 

Predictable:  Even worse than the holes and the ridiculous level, comes the predictable plot that this genre suffers from.  The Meg has more obvious foreshadowing than the theme music of Jaws, and with it comes some suspense being tempered away.  While secondary characters are kind of the group to bet on for surviving vs dying, the rest of the cast has their paths blazed from the start.  You’ll be able to predict most of everything, though a few twists managed to spice a few things up.  I’m still looking for that Jaws like quality, but The Meg does get points for trying.

 

The uneven character spacing:  I love Deep Blue Sea, because the characters had narrow misses, epic survival strategies, and the gradual picking off of the groups.  It allows for more suspense, pulling you into the game of cat and mouse, or in this case shark and human.  The Meg started out this way, but then succumbed to munch fest and lost the structured plot to the demands of carnage.  It’s not the worst case I have seen, but it was disappointing to see that build up sort of fizzle out, though I must admit it did happen in the later part of the film so kudos.

 

 

The VERDICT:

            Let’s be honest, The Meg is a ridiculous movie that many will agree is a pure popcorn eating flick.  Surprisingly though, the movie has improved on its storytelling abilities, and finds a balance between the superficial and deeper aspects of the film. Still, the shark movie is very entertaining, with a good pace, suspenseful action, some well-timed laughs, and nostalgia to get you into all the adventures to come.  Yet, the film still suffers from some of the stereotypical faults of this genre, which takes away from the strengths of the movie.  If you are the fan of this genre, then please hit a local theater to check it out, but otherwise hold off until it swims into television/streaming waters.

 

My scores: 

 

Action/Horror/Sci-Fi: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

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

 

War Ready For Action. Needs Repairs For A Story

Pacific Rim Uprising

 

Giant Robots or Giant Monsters, which of the two titans is the better combatant for the silver screen?  That question has continued to test audience members discussion boards as behemoths like King Kong and Godzilla try to usurp the title from Optimus Prime and Megatron.  Tonight’s movie though, doesn’t make you choose, because it combines the two in an epic throw down that will hopefully please both sides of the spectrum.  Pacific Rim Uprising rears back to make some noise this weekend, and yours truly is here to report his findings on the latest silver screen smash to guide your viewing needs.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

Special Effects:  Most will be tired of the CGI haven these movies have become, but yours truly appreciates the work that went into unleashing the havoc.  The design of the new robots gets a round of applause, with sleek angular designs, some new tricks, and a fluid movement that fit well with the Japanese monster movie feel.  Monster wise, the Kaijou aren’t as prominent as the first film, but once breached, the monsters have got their own unique design that is odd, but again fitting in theme, with movements that again work with the pace of the movie.  And of course, all the lights, punches, and collapsing buildings are beautifully brought to life in all their dazzling, speaker rustling greatness. 

 

The Story:  While certainly not the best to grace the screen, the movie’s predictable plot has a few twists and spins on the mix to keep things interesting.  In a movie where smashing and fights are the key, you don’t always get the deepest tale, but it works in explaining what happened in the ten years and the whole grand design of the plot.  Unlike its predecessor, the movie managed to cut off a lot of fat to present this in a neat, less than 2-hour, package.  As such, you have all the elements to put a reason behind the fighting and keep as many characters as involved.

 

The Acting:  Believe it or not, the acting is a step up from other films in this genre.  The main stars of John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, and Cailee Spaeny all work in that dysfunctional family united by challenging times way.  Still, they all manage to bring some power to otherwise simple characters that are semi-engaging to watch.  Of all of them… I think Boyega gets my vote for having the best acting of all, being pushed across all realms to make a balanced character.  As for Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, they are the comedic relief and do it well, but also manage to have some involvement in the story (nice directing) and not trying to sell themselves anyway. 

 

The Action:  I’ve gone through all the stuff you might care about, but let’s face it, this series is more known for its action and that’s what you want.  Well, for this reviewer it a step up compared to the first installment.  Timing the movie, about 70% of the film involved some type of action, a majority involving the metallic behemoths fighting one giant obstruction after another.  The battles have more variety than part 1, managing to help one differentiate one battle from another.  What makes me even happier to report, is that the team listened to reviews and actually utilized their other robots more, instead of dropping them out in five minutes flat.  While still not the greatest utilization of secondary robots, it was miles better for me in the long run, making the last 30 minutes of the movie, an action-packed climax to close the story out.

 

 

DISLIKES:

The Comedy at Times:  The movie is ridiculous, I get it, but the comedy sometimes is a little too ridiculous and distracting from the overall tone of the movie.  A random aside here and there works, but when over utilized as it is in this film, well…then it gets rusty and breaks down.  In addition, there are some asides that felt awkward at the moment they chose to unleash it, jumping in amidst the action scenes when they would have fit in other realms.  These culminations weren’t my favorite use of comedic relief, as I think it crossed into corniness a few times.

 

Shallow Character Development:  Monster movies are seldom about our main characters growing a lot, but we’ve had previous installments capable of achieving this balance.  Pacific Rim Uprising is not one of these movies.  While Boyega’s Jake has a little more complexity in terms of everyone knowing him, the rest of the cast have less depth to them past a few traumatic backstories to garnish them up.  This is highly evidenced in the other pilots outside the main crew who after getting named are reduced to the shadows given the grand complexity of the film.  Uprising proves too busy to invest in its characters, but most may not care as long as they get a good smashing.  Still better than the last few transformers though. 

 

Obsidian Fury:  As cool as the name and design, I had hoped the new bot would have more point to it, but this is again where the movie fails on at least a story level.  The antagonizing robot brings a pretty epic fist fight, but plot wise it felt out of place, a tangent leading down a path that was as cold as the artic frontier it somewhat takes place in.  Yes, there are some purposes it serves, but as the movie’s plot progresses, its relevance became less and less for me, until it was just a convenient distraction.

 

Trailer Syndrome:  One thing this day of advertising is famous for, is revealing too much in shorter movies like this.  Pacific Rim Uprising’s biggest spoiler is that much of that awesome last battle has already been shown in the trailers.  Catch all three of the trailers and you pretty much have pieced 75% of that sequence, with the other 25% feeling very nostalgic/overdramatic.  I had hoped for some more dynamic moments to bypass that syndrome, or less advertising, but I didn’t get my wish again.  So, avoid the trailers and you’ll be okay.

 

The VERDICT:

            Pacific Rim Uprising doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a monster/robot movie.  It gives you the CGI thrills, spills, and chills in terms of design and the sound editing beautifully complements it.  While the story is not the deepest, it works for the most part, allowing plenty of time to cram in the action you oh so wanted to see.  Yet, the movie still has to work on its balance learning to not cram so much into the film and maximize on elements that the movie is going to be known for.  In addition, stop revealing everything in the trailers and it means less elaborate scenes you have to shoot to make up for it.  So, looking for a monster vs. robot’s movie?  Look no further, because this film is a success in terms of the action and big battles that are theater worthy.  As a film as a whole though, the movie still has a lot of repairs to make, before it becomes war ready.  Oh well, we at least have a soundtrack to get you revved up. 

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall:  6.5

 

Annihilates The Mundane Sci-Fi, But …

Annihilation

 

The Science Fiction genre, a group of films that often get wrapped up in other genres that they stray far from the roots established long ago.  A true science fiction, is often a thriller that tests the limits of reality, dives deep into the psyche of the characters, and often brings a fictitious world that we can only dream of to life.  And this weekend, another movie looks to fall into this category and actually belong into it.  Annihilation starring Natalie Portman looks to be a movie that contains many strange elements, wonders, and thrills to warrant a venture into the movie theater again.  What lies in store?  Well Robbie K would be happy to share his thoughts with another review.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

The World Building:  Within Annihilation, lies the anomaly called the Shimmer and within it a world that has been mutated by some unknown force.  As our “heroes” for lack of a better word venture into the gasoline mixed with water looking border, the world contained within is a wonder in itself.  Our world’s natural flora and fauna are bizarrely twisted into these contorted visuals that look natural, beautiful, and a true representation of the genetic crossing that we all studied in school. The world’s scientific art continued to grow only deeper and darker as they traveled further into the void, the animation and creativity being unleashed into the chaotic skew with no limitations.  Some of these creations are stunning in terms of color, while other times they are the things of nightmares, whose movements and designs will leave you huddled in your chair. 

 

Science Fiction Thrills:  In addition to the world itself, Annihilation is all about the true Sci-Fi adventure.  An unending suspense hovers over the air, the tension always mounting at what lies within the glades of this weird dimension.  The mystery of what is causing this continues to build across the course of the movie, as well as if our heroes will make it to find the answer.  Annihilation’s threats do exist outside, but even more dire is the psychological warfare the Shimmer plays on our girls.  Disturbing imagery is only one assault to their psyches, as they are pushed from all fronts to confront whatever it is eating them inside.  And in addition to bringing suspense, the characters get some major development, shelling out their background information and helping them adapt to the ever-changing world around them.  This culmination is very entertaining and truly worthy of the sci-fi mantle in terms of plot.

 

Deep:  A good science fiction movie makes you think, and Annihilation has got you covered in this element as well.  As you try to solve the mystery of the movie and the fantastic twists that get thrown in, you’ll find deeper meanings behind the actions of the movie.  Many of these are head scratchers, trying to figure out just what the Shimmer is doing.  While not as complex as Arrival or Matrix, Annihilation still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to bend your mind and get you trying to process all the weird information it throws at you.  As you process this, you may uncover deeper, morale dilemmas, horror filled thoughts of the future, and even the fragility of order are all up for questions.  This artistic flare is certainly a score booster, though fair warning that these deeper meanings are also disturbing at times too.

 

DISLIKES:

Savage/Disturbing:  With a title like Annihilation, one needs to be ready for darker undertones and source material.  However, this movie goes down a very graphic path that was able to penetrate my desensitized shell.  Found footage reveals some rather violent outcomes for previous teams, with little to no censorship of details that are capable of causing some to lose their lunch.  The savage nature of the beasts and the violence held within just about everything in this film throws no punches, again choosing to display the gory details that fail to dampen. 

 

Flashbacks:  The flashbacks are certainly for character development and some of them set the story up nicely for the bombs to be dropped.  Others however, are unnecessary details that did little other than show the suffering we already knew she held and expand the run time.  Complete as it was, I didn’t quite pick up on the significance of some of these wasted scenes and could have held better storytelling elements to help build the suspense.  Not all of these have to be eliminated, but editing could have used some tightening up to make everything more relevant.

 

Deeper supporting characters:  The movie is primarily about Natalie Portman, shocker there, and at the start it showed some promise that the other members of her team would be more integral to the mission.  Yet, things decrease fairly fast to where the other characters soon become rushed plot lines, trinkets to tax Leah (Portman)’s conscience and further push the psyche limitations of everyone.  Had they given some better relationships, a little more teamwork, and integration of all characters, perhaps then we would have had even stronger development and thrills to enjoy.

 

The Weird Ending: You know that feeling you get when after the big wait the ending turns out to be something you didn’t/or maybe never wanted to expect?  Well Annihilation was kind of like that for me.  The twist at the end was great, bringing relevance to some of the flashbacks, and really blowing your mind.  However, the entity itself is not quite as awe-inspiring or terrifying to say the least.  The source of the trouble is abstract, creepy, and very hard on the ears as it tries to communicate in sounds you have heard in the trailers. This final scene is super prolonged, and quite uncomfortable at times to watch as this dance of perverted awkwardness commences. Is it unique?  Yes, but it still didn’t quite match what I wanted.  And for those who don’t like abstract thinking and deciphering the conclusion yourself, hate to break it to you, but you won’t get all the explanations you might be looking for.  Yeah, it’s weird.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Annihilation may have looked weird, and it’s true it is an odd spectacle to behold to the general audience.  However, it is a true sci fi thriller in meaning, thought provoking, stunts, and world building, to the level that fans of the genre will be pleased with what the studio brought out to you. It’s weaknesses for me come in it went a little too far down the weird pathway, going too savage and abstract to provide a clear picture at times.  The use of flashbacks was stylish at times but overdone as it sacrificed the chances for other characters to get some more time on the screen.  Still, if you are looking for that dark, story that makes you scratch your head, then Annihilation is the movie for you to check out.  For those who qualify, this movie is worth a trip to the theater, but for others kip this as long as you can to avoid disturbing those with sensitive constitutions. 

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Drama/Fantasy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0