Sonic the Hedgehog 2
While the previous 'Sonic' movie was something I found fun, albeit a touch cheesy and derivative of other "fish out of water" stories, I had to admit that they still caught something. It carried the charm of Jim Carrey delivering the comedy I remember him best for, a whole bunch of fun easter eggs for Sonic fans, and I think we were all grateful when they altered his look from creepy-looking pincushion to... well, actual Sonic.
2020's 'Sonic', to me, was fun, harmless fun, and I wasn't sitting there saying how badly they screwed things up. This may also, however, be due to an attachment to Sonic I had in my youth. I'd be willing to bet that I would have absolutely loved the film as a kid. But the true nostalgia for Sonic didn't quite kick in until the sequel came along. This is not to say that it swept me off my feet, but I had fun with it, and appreciated that much like with the games, they explored more with characters, and environments, and above all else, pushed the human element to the background.
Taking place eight months after the previous film, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) has been adopted by Tom and Maddie Wachowski (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter, respectively). By night, Sonic has taken to being a vigilante hero for the town of Green Hills. However, he's not exactly good at what he does and gets some Uncle Ben-like advice about his heroism from Tom before he and Maddie head to Hawaii for her sister's wedding. Being pretty much a teen with the house to himself, Sonic has as much fun as he can while the "parents are away", but it's all soon disrupted by Doctor Robotnik (Carrey) and his new "friend", Knuckles (Idris Elba), the Echidna.
Both out for revenge, Robotnik's is obvious, while Knuckles wants to honour his extinct Echidna tribe by finding the legendary Master Emerald, which will allow whoever possesses it to bend reality to their will. Of course, once Robotnik gets hold of this information, he starts a scheme of his own, along with his old assistant, Stone (Lee Majdoub) to help Knuckles find the Emerald and steal it from him. Meanwhile the only help Sonic can really get is from a kid who idolizes him; a two-tailed fox, fully named Miles "Tails" Prower (Colleen O'Shaughnessey). Miles Prower is a fun play on words here and even a part of the character's original history, showing that the writers here did at least a little homework.
The human element, as I mentioned before, gets pushed to the background and consists of a little side story that does eventually come back around to the main plot of the movie in a rather humorous way. But most of the movie is Sonic and Tails vs Robotnik and Knuckles, and it provides the fun that I came to see. While Carrey is still great in his role, for my money, Knuckles was the better character. He's clever and intimidating, yet still pretty dimwitted. He could easily be compared to Drax from 'Guardians of the Galaxy', and the fact that Idris Elba gives his awesome voice to this character just makes it better.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this was that they actually gave us several environments we remember from some of that old-school gameplay. There's Green Hills, sure, but we also get things going up in the sky with Tails' plane, we get to see Sonic use his snowboard, we get an ancient pyramid, we even get to see how bad Sonic is when it comes to water (the only thing missing is the bubble that gives him air). I think I have to say that on the whole, I appreciated this one more as a 'Sonic' movie, but it's still not exactly what I want to see more of, which is Sonic's actual dimension (as seen in the opening of the first movie). Nevertheless, that's a nitpick, and this is still perfectly fun for what it is, even for Sonic fans like me.
Let the record show that as long as there has been any talk of any sort of 'Naughty Dog' movie (aka, the developers of 'Uncharted' and 'The Last of Us', among others), I have been pretty opposed to the idea. When it comes to the 'Uncharted' and 'Last of Us' games, specifically, I hold onto the idea that those games are story-driven enough that they sort of become their own movies.
Now that they've finally done it, were my thoughts warranted? Was this just a crappy money-grab in which the creators said "give them a famous title, but just do basic homework and release whatever"? After all, 'Uncharted' is easily one of my favourite game franchises, that warrants a full play-through once every couple of years or so. And yes, that means we finally have a movie on the 'Arcade' page that I'm reviewing where I can say "I can compare this to the games because I've played them!" With that said, I'll come right out of the gates by saying one is gonna have to treat the film as something somewhat separate from the game series.
The film is meant to be an origin story in which treasure connoisseur/hunters Victor "Sully" Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) and of course, Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) all meet and go on their first big hunt. It all begins as we see young Drake (Tiernan Jones) and his big brother, Sam (Rudy Pankow) going after the authentic map of the Magellan expedition, on display at a nearby museum. However, they are caught in the act and brought back to their orphanage for punishment. Sam gets kicked out, and is about to be sent away, but not before he ditches, leaving Nate with the one and only “Sic Parvis Magna” (essentially "Greatness from Small Beginnings") ring - which any 'Uncharted' fan will know about. From then on, he disappears without a trace, but Nate holds onto hope that they'll meet again.
Several years later, Nate ends up becoming a skilled bartender, and an even more skilled thief, using his charm to his advantage. Soon enough, Sully catches him in the act. But instead of offering Nate any trouble, he offers him a job - which happens to involve the very same map the boys were after in the beginning. Unless it's only a story, the map should be the first piece of a huge, geological puzzle that could very well lead to a pile of gold. Of course, no 'Uncharted' story is complete without opposition. In this case, we have another man after the gold, also knowing some of the clues, Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his skilled henchwoman, Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Once again, it's a race to the treasure story, as to be expected with a title like 'Uncharted'.
I have to say that I went in, wanting to see an 'Uncharted' movie done well, and I more or less got what I wanted. It's tricky because right off the bat, there's some inaccuracy about how Nate and Sully meet. One will also notice just from the trailers that there are plenty of scenes lifted right out of the games, which probably makes one wonder what game it's based on, in particular. Most of the elements it takes are even from 'Uncharted 4', in which Nate's a "retired" guy, almost, but not quite, too old for the treasure hunting game. With that, I think that it all comes down to overthinking.
For those wondering, I would place this (accurate or not) right between the flashback scene of 'Uncharted 3' and the first game. I realize that doesn't help a whole hell of a lot, but it's important to remember that we're looking at these characters as younger versions of themselves. This movie is meant to be a prequel of sorts. However, it seems they are already working towards a sequel for this, so I do get the feeling that we're going to have a whole "different universes" thing going on. Not to the extent that 'Spider-Man' does it now, but something unofficial, like the 'Batman' movies.
The real treat about this particular video game-based movie is that it's the first on several up-and-coming Playstation Studio movies. When I see something like that, I have a bit more faith that they can do things better than some who don't have such a direct hand in it. They even throw a pretty funny cameo in here for the real fans, which you'll know right away when you see. Think something Stan Lee level, but perhaps a bit hammier. Otherwise, I almost feel like the trailer shows you what you're in for, and if you feel like the 'Uncharted' spirit is there, do yourself a favour and check it out.
Video game movies don't have a great history, but they are LONG overdue for the right hands to come along and do them justice. We may be getting something like that with Playstation Studio. I'll admit that the film isn't perfect, and I think that several purists might not take it as well as I did. But everything you want to see in an 'Uncharted' adventure is actually here. It reminded me a lot of 2018's 'Tomb Raider' in that sense. I think it's probably time to give up on the "perfect" video game movie though, and just focus on things like this. If the film had a different title, I would still say it's an "Uncharted Movie". This genre does seem to be getting better, and I hope to see more solid titles along the way!
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
Whether you hate them or love them, one can't really deny the big-screen success of the 'Resident Evil' franchise. Paul W.S. Anderson pretty well drove it into the ground, and a lot of gaming fans had a whole slew of problems with them - not the least of which was the lead character of Alice, who never had anything to do with the games. So, of course, it's time for a reboot! And while this didn't do terribly well critically, I have to say that I still really enjoyed it, and I'm sticking to that.
Even though when it comes to the game franchise, I'm relatively clueless (because tank controls ruined everything forever... and yes, I need to play the remakes), I do have some familiarity with various characters and situations thanks to the book series. It also helps me a GREAT deal to not be a "purist" when it comes to an adaptation. A good comparison to 'Resident Evil' for me would be something like 'The Haunting of Hill House'. There are a few adaptations of that story, using the same characters in very different circumstances, and none of them are actually that bad (although one might argue that about the '99 version). Luckily for me, this gave me the exact same effect that 'Silent Hill' did. I think I'm just gonna start calling it the "Silent Hill" effect.
To define this, basically, I'm able to approach the film as its own movie as opposed to an adaptation that has me searching out all of its faults. I find this works pretty well (although a real 'RE' fan might correct me on this) as a sort of "crash course" in 'Resident Evil' education. For comparison, 'Detective Pikachu' was a good "crash course" for those unfamiliar with 'Pokemon'. As far as I could tell, this was a good blend of the first two games. It uses all of the right characters and doesn't feel the need to bring in someone brand spanking new to everything to be some sort of main character who looks amazing with a red dress and a gigantic gun.
Aptly, in 1998, we meet Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) who is on her way back to her ruined hometown of Raccoon City with important information to give her brother, Chris (Robbie Amell) about the Umbrella Corporation's experiments. Anyone reading this right now already knows about the major leak that makes a shitload of walking dead, but it's the whole process of their deterioration that's so horrific here. I have to admit that while it's probably pretty inaccurate for the game, it's fantastically creepy for a horror movie. Anyway, ultimately Chris doesn't believe her at first, but soon enough, that changes.
Chris, along with skilled STARS (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) Alpha Team, Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper), Brad Vickers (Nathan Dales) and Richard Aiken (Chad Rook) are all sent to the Spencer Mansion to investigate the disappearance of their Bravo team. Of course, within the mansion, they find all sorts of cool stuff that point at Umbrella's experimentation gone awry. Meanwhile, rookie Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia), police chief Irons (Donal Logue) and Claire end up having to hold the fort at the police station, thus giving us a generous roll-up of the first two games. Bearing in mind that I'm no expert, I feel like I got a REAL 'Resident Evil' movie here as opposed to the action-horror the original 6 amounted to.
There's no doubt in my mind that 'Resident Evil' purists won't be the biggest fans of this. But I really do feel like this is still the video game genre stepping forward as opposed to backward. All of the right elements seemed to be here, but it also doesn't go completely without criticism. If the film has any problem at all, it's that it tries to do too much in a short time, not even reaching two hours in length. It may have been better as two short movies, but I appreciate the effort they put forth in trying to give us a combination film as opposed to stretching it out as far as it can go. Apparently, it was quite successful, so I am curious to see if they will continue this as a whole new (and already kind of better) 'Resident Evil' film series.
So, this is an interesting title that floated completely under the radar between 2021's 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City'. You've probably heard of both of those, but this? Even the game it's based on is pretty obscure - a virtual game meant for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. And when we say the movie is based on the game, it would appear that the basis is extremely loose.
In the game (from research), a medieval town is under attack by a werewolf. Players have to guess which of the townsfolk is the werewolf in disguise, and the format is "Mafia-style" - in other words, those party games where one person is the bad guy, and everyone has to guess who it is. The film seems to be pretty much the same idea (a lot like 'The Thing') for the most part, but plays on the comedy elements of each character as opposed to making things a straight up horror mystery. And honestly - it's good!
Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) has been assigned to the small, fictional town of Beaversfield, where he meets a friendly mail carrier named Cecily Moore (Milana Vayntrub), and they become friends. Many of the rest of the townsfolk are divided about a pipeline that has been proposed by a businessman named Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall), and we meet some of these characters in the forms of Trisha Anderson (Michaela Watkins) and her husband Pete (Michael Chernus), wealthy gay couple Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) and Joaquim Wolfson (Harvey Guillén), general rednecks Gwen (Sarah Burns) and Marcus (George Basil), and Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler), who pretty much keeps to himself.
A blizzard takes out the power of Beaversfield, which makes the residents seek shelter in a lodge owned by the kindly Jeanine Sherman (Catherine Curtin). That night, the oddball group of residents that have been huddled together, start to experience a few strange occurrences, that ultimately puts them up against some sort of unknown creature. Eventually, as the title would suggest, evidence points to the attacker being a werewolf (spoiler alert?), based on the findings of local environmentalist, and pipeline protestor, Dr. Jane Ellis (Rebecca Henderson). So, much of the film is a bit of a "bottle" situation that makes me think 'Night of the Living Dead' mixed with 'The Thing', but comedy is the inherent genre as opposed to suspense, horror, or anything else.
This is another good example of a film that basically knows what it is. This was done for fun more than anything, and I'm actually very happy that I caught it, as it exists between two much bigger titles. Perhaps most surprising of all was that I didn't have to dig to deep, as it currently resides on Netflix (Canada). So, putting the video game aspect of things aside, I might just suggest this as a solid comedy flick that you don't have to think too much about. I feel like we need more video game movies that don't take themselves too seriously. The idea that this was a comedy/horror of sorts lets the viewer know that it's not there for any big reason (awards, money, etc.), and it just wants to have fun with its would-be fans.
This one comes to us from director Josh Ruben - a name synonymous with "College Humour", and first-project writer Mishna Wolff, who I'm definitely keeping an eye on. Wolff's writing here got me laughing pretty genuinely a few times, and I feel like when it comes to direction, the "College Humour" aspect of Ruben is all I really need to point out. I'd like to see these two collaborate on more in the future; especially with titles like these video games that float under the radar. They took the basic concept of the game, put it into the movie, and despite whatever changed, it still works! So, if you have Netflix, I definitely recommend giving it a watch. There's a little giggle in here for just about everyone (even if I am a bit comedy/horror biased).
Mortal Kombat (2021)
When it comes to doing a 'Mortal Kombat' film "right" (in my opinion), you need a few key ingredients to mix into your fatality fudge cake. You'll want a generous helping of blood and gore, a few sprinkles of one-liners from the game, plenty of recognizable fight moves, the appropriate characters, and make the tournament take place in some kind of grand arena. The only thing I felt like I didn't get here, however, was that final ingredient.
The film opens in feudal Japan, where Bi-Han, aka eventual Sub Zero (Joe Taslim), and his Lin Kuei assassins attack their rival ninja clan, Shirai Ryu, including the wife and son of Hanzo Hasashi, aka eventual Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada). Bi-Han emerges from the fight, triumphant, but misses one member of the family; Hanzo's infant daughter. This is when Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) shows up to rescue the child and take her under his protection. As centuries pass, the Hasashi bloodline continues, and eventually falls to Cole Young (Lewis Tan); a former MMA champion, and no one we've ever heard of in any of the games. In my opinion, a somewhat bold move on their part, but an interesting one nonetheless.
Cole, his wife, Allison (Laura Brent), and daughter, Emily (Matilda Kimber), are soon attacked by Sub-Zero, but they are intercepted by Special Forces Major Jackson "Jax" Briggs (Mehcad Brooks). Jax directs the family to Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) who has further information as to why Sub Zero is attacking them. Cole finds out that it all has to do with his birthmark, which turns out to be a mark several people have (including Jax), basically branding them to represent Earth Realm in a major tournament called "Mortal Kombat". Currently, the realm of Outworld is about to take it all, with only Earth to have to get through, so Sonya and Cole set out to find the Earth Realm Temple to prepare for the fight ahead.
The character that is perhaps most worthy to mention through the film is probably Kano (Josh Lawson); a mercenary who Sonya makes a deal with to help them, and who also has a mark. He provides a lot of the comedy relief, but does so with a dark sense of humour that's very fitting for the film. However, I might suggest that most of the characters here are actually a little bland. We eventually come across Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) who add a little something as well, but I have to admit that I found these characters pretty one-note, and there just isn't quite the same charm we got from the '95 version. Call it a guilty pleasure, if you will, but I had a more fun time with the '95 film than I did here. However, this wasn't without its dark charm that lied elsewhere.
For those of us who came here to see good fight scenes, complete with fatalities, we do get a fair share of it. When these fighters fight, it's quite a show, and they do a good job at not sparing us the blood we crave with a movie like this. Having said that, this did a much better job here with gore than the '95 version. So one could say that opinion between the two all depends on what you're looking for. If you want the R-rated blood and cuts, go for this one. If you just wanna have some nostalgic fun, go with "MK 95". They're both in the realm of "just okay", and neither is very mind-blowing, but there's no real reason for me to think they simply can't be enjoyed by fans. At the end of the day, it's 'Mortal Kombat', and it was never to be taken too seriously.
I found that I enjoyed this, but it wasn't without a few things I really didn't like. The thing that stood out the most to me was, I'm sad to say, Sonya's character. She could have been a bit more interesting, but they mostly just use her for reaction shots, and to give exposition about the tournament she's been researching. It didn't help that the camera was constantly flipping over to her for no real reason. One could make a drinking game out of all of the "Sonya reacts" shots. Her reaction is always the same, deadpan look too. To be clear, I don't blame the actress, it seems to be bad direction and bad editing combined with just giving her nothing to do, at least not until the very end, which even then provides no surprise as to where she ends up.
I liked a few of the Easter eggs scattered throughout the movie, and I enjoyed the tail end of it, but things are left wide open for a sequel that I wonder will even come to pass. If it does, it needs to be a bit better than this, perhaps actually taking place in Outworld as opposed to it mostly being characters from Outworld coming to visit us. A few things irked be just the same; for example a fight in the famous "Pit" that does not involve the uppercut/impaling fall. I thought it was a total waste. I might consider that a personal nitpick but WHY have the Pit if you're not going to use it? Anyway, that aside, I think if I had to pick one to be "better", I might just stick to the '95 version, if only because I had more actual fun with it. But hey, if you're more of a gore hound, this might be the better route. All I know is this; at least this wasn't on the level of 'Mortal Kombat: Annihilation'!
Well, I have some good news and some bad news to start this review with. Starting with the bad news, I must beat the dead horse once again by stating that I know pretty much nothing at all about the 'Monster Hunter' games. In fact, I'm so "under a rock" with this, that I'm not sure I'd even heard of it before the release of this film - which I honest to God thought was about to be another 'Resident Evil' movie with the first few glimpses of Milla Jovovich doing actiony stuff. Well, it's not, but being that it's directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, it might as well be.
Now, as for the good news, the idea of me not being familiar with a movie based on a video game franchise ends with this (at least for the time being). I'm sincerely hoping they try to focus more on trying to perfect bigger video game titles. Getting these stories and characters right over the years has been a huge problem, and the way Marvel films have opened up the cinematic world with perfected CG and a good budget backing them, there's no real reason the same can't be done for video game movies. But I digress, as I'm here to once again review this with no real bias about it either way.
The film opens in an interesting world where sailing ships crash over seas of sand. In this world, humankind coexists with a whole whack of monsters of all shapes and sizes (mainly extra large), and we find a Hunter (Tony Jaa); someone trained to hunt and kill monsters, gets separated from his team upon the sudden attack of the Diablos - huge, horned, hungry and subterranean. We also meet the Admiral (Ron Perlman) here, who will make his main appearance much further into the movie and potential spoiler territory. But I will admit that I find Ron Perlman is an actor who always adds a good dash of brutish fun to just about anything he's in.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, U.S. Army Ranger Captain, Natalie Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her team on in search of a missing team of soldiers in the desert. Suddenly, there's a brutal storm that pulls the soldiers through a portal to this monster world, where the team finds themselves face to face with the likes of gigantic creatures, straight out of their nightmares. Eventually, Natalie manages to meet the Hunter, and together they try to navigate this world to get him back to his team, and her back home to Earth. So for the most part, this ends up being a survival movie, and it's not without a bit of imagination, and a LOT of great action.
Once again, I'm incredibly far-separated from the game series, and even Googling seems to offer quite a variety of titles. But the gist of it is that the first game was released in 2004 for PS2, and provides a fantasy/action role-playing experience where you take control of a Hunter and, well, hunt and trap monsters. If anything about that is wrong, feel free to correct it in the comments. But either way, other than 'FFVII', the RPG thing was never really for me, so the idea that I missed out on these isn't entirely shocking. But to think that I hadn't heard of it until this movie release does say a lot about how much I really game (as do all the reviews that say I'm unfamiliar).
For the most part, audiences seemed to turn their back on this one. While I certainly didn't hate it, I can understand a few reasons as to why. First and foremost, the fans of the games (and this will come as no surprise) complain about it being too far apart from the games (a lot like 'Resident Evil'). But on top of that, this is a good example of an action movie that just kind of "goes" right from the beginning with not a whole lot of explanation about things. This is one of those "all style, no substance" movies, in which everything about it looks great, and it can be a fun action ride if you let it be. But if you're looking for anything with mood or even any real feeling other than "HOO-RAH!", you might be out of luck. I had fun with this, but only as eye candy, as Paul W.S. Anderson keeps pulling off. But he DOES need to do better with story, characters, plot, dialogue, and everything else that isn't action.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Growing up, in my tweens, the combination of the Game Gear 'Sonic' games I owned, as well as the animated series (the somewhat darker one, not the goofy, cartoony one) helped fulfill my enjoyment of the early to mid-90's. The cartoon provided good story and characters, who didn't even exist in the games, to tell an environmentally conscious story without rubbing it in our faces. It might be corny by today's standards, but for the time it was great, and for my money, a 'Sonic' movie always should have come from that concept. But we got this instead, which a lot of people are still loving... but is it actually as good as all that?
We start off on Sonic's (Ben Schwartz) home planet, which isn't mentioned by name, but in the cartoon it was known as Mobius. We find that Sonic was born with super speed powers, and the natives of the land (which look like a group of echidnas, [Knuckles]) are constantly after said powers. In his childhood, he's protected by an Owl named Longclaw (Donna Jay Fulks), who as far as I can tell is brand new here. It might irk some, but for me, the cartoon I loved so much did the same thing, so it wasn't that big a deal. During a particularly bad chase, Longclaw uses a ring to send him through a portal to Earth, so he can stay protected, sending a bag of rings with him. And yes, "Warp Rings" were totally a thing, according to Sonic comics.
On Earth, Sonic grows up as a Sasquatch or Loch Ness type creature, hidden from society, and often spotted by one guy the town considers crazy (Frank C. Turner). He suggests that he's living the good life, but this life of hiding has him lonely. As a result, Sonic throws a bit of a tantrum that, in turn, causes a power outage throughout the quaint, little town of Green Hills, Montana. Knowing he caused the outage, Sonic tries hiding in Tom Wachowski's (James Marsden) garage, where he can get off Earth using one of his rings, away from the people who will now be looking for him. Once he's spotted, a panicked Tom shoots Sonic with a tranquilizer dart, Sonic drops a ring that opens a portal to San Francisco, and he drops the rest of his rings through it. Now, they must take a road trip to San Francisco to retrieve Sonic's rings. And in case you're wondering why he doesn't just zoom on over and grab them, it IS explained.
On the way, Sonic and Tom are chased by the sinister Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who the government sees as an eccentric, crazy person, but a genius with crazy-top notch technology. He's sent in to find the source of the power outage, soon realizing that he's not only chasing a blue, alien hedgehog, but chasing his powers as well, which could amp up his technology to overwhelming degrees. It all comes down to being a road trip chase movie, jam-packed with some pretty solid Easter eggs for the fans. The fact that it takes place in "Green Hills" is only the tip of the iceberg.
This clearly takes its cues from Marvel films. On top of the many Easter eggs for fans, there are also closing and mid-credit scenes that leave the path wide open for a sequel, and one scene is lifted straight out of 'Days of Future Past'. You will know it when you see it, if you're familiar. It's that obvious. But it's still a cool scene, so I guess it's only halfway upsetting. I'd say the film's biggest flaw, though, is its sense of humour, which is pretty largely directed at kids. As an example, there's a cheap fart joke just kind of crammed in there. Otherwise, a lot of it falls pretty flat. Though it did get a few genuine giggles from me, nothing made me sit back and say "this is great".
I think that if this would have been released when I was at the peak of my Sonic obsession, I'd have been very into it, bearing in mind that the 90's was also Jim Carrey's peak comedic time. But as for how I see it today, even though it's a fish out of water film, making us wish we could see more of his home planet instead of Earth, there's enough here for the fans. I think it's one of the better video game movies out there, despite some of its flat-falling humour, and the fish out of water cliché. It's actually one I'd recommend for a family viewing nowadays; aimed at kids, but us adults can get a healthy does of nostalgia with it, without it completely going off the rails.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Truth be told, I would consider myself a "non-fan" of Pokémon. Don't get the wrong idea though. I have no problems or issues with Pokémon or anyone who's into it. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that I feel like their fan-base is one of the nicer, less toxic ones, unlike some of the stuff I'm into like 'Star Wars' or 'Game of Thrones', where fans go off like dynamite if something isn't to their liking. I'm sure fans here can do the same, but from my perspective, it's far less noticeable.
When I first saw this, I wanted to experiment and pay close attention as a non-fan to see if I could get anything out of it. And the truth of the matter is, to my surprise, I actually got quite a lot out of it. In fact, this is kind of the perfect Pokémon movie for someone in my shoes. I know just enough for a beginner's pop quiz on the subject, and this does a very good job of not only unveiling their world, but going a direction with it that works for a mass audience.
We're introduced to Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) and his friend, Jack (Karan Soni). Jack is keen on getting Tim back into hunting and training Pokémon, since he gave it up. While trying to catch a Cubone (which we even get a glimpse of a history on with a couple of seconds of dialogue), Tim receives the news that his Father, Harry, was killed in a car accident Cliché. This leads him into Ryme City; a place where Pokémon society and Human society have become integrated , so that he can collect his Father's assets.
Ryme City has an equal rights subtext to it where Pokémon aren't hunted, but work with humankind instead,, and it works very well. Pokémon aren't "pets" here (so to speak) so much as partners. It's neat to see how some of them work too. For example, Squirtles work with the fire department, which makes perfect sense. Anyway, it's here, he eventually meets Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), and is miraculously able to understand him. Pikachu reveals that he has amnesia, and the last thing he remembers was working a case with Harry when the car accident happened. It's further revealed that Harry might very well still be alive, and the film turns into a search for the truth behind that, blended with the investigation of a mysterious gas known only as "R" that makes Pokémon go mad.
The first thing that jumps out to me with this film is the animation style. Although anything I know about Pokémon was learned through a little bit of word of mouth, and about two months worth of playing 'Pokémon Go', these characters were instantly recognizable (at least those I knew about) and looked pretty much exactly as they should. Although Pokémon have always been cute, the animation here makes you wanna reach through the screen and pet them, or cuddle them. Whatever the case may be, they're cute as hell, and Psyduck, was able to give me quite a few genuine chuckles. But it also gets a bit dramatic here and there, marking the film with some genuine heart as opposed to it being just a noisy mess of strange creatures (which it totally could have been).
Other than the awesome animation, comedic and dramatic moments, the big question is "can a non-fan walk away from this movie, still enjoying it?" I'm gonna go ahead and say yes. Even if you know nothing at all about Pokémon, if you just watch and pay attention, you do end up getting a sort of crash-course about the whole deal in the first act of the movie. As the movie goes on, you develop a little tiny bit of an education on some of them as well. For example, going back to the Cubone, I didn't know the skull was supposed to be the head of their dead relative. Or when it comes to Psyduck, I didn't know that he exploded under extreme stress. These may be painfully obvious things to fans, but bear in mind that I'm still pretty much blind to about 80% of it all. I know the very basics of hunting, catching and training, and I can recognize a handful of their faces.
I really don't know for sure how the hardcore fans have taken to this movie since its release. A lot of them seem to overlook this and stick with their hunting. But with that said, and going against the grain of several other reviewers, I might go so far as to say that this film was actually made more for the non-fans, while the regular fans are there more to appreciate a lot of the Easter eggs hidden throughout it. I never actually got lost in this, and everything that was necessary to explain seemed to come through. In the end, I think this is one of the best video game based movies out there. Will fans disagree? Sure. But this a great way for fans to get non-fans to dip their toes into that Pokémon water.
One particular video game movie that floats under the radar, and rightfully so, is the zombie survival team-up flick of 'Dead Trigger'; a movie based on a mobile game of the same name where the player goes through upgrading this and that, playing story missions etc. and progressing things over time. It's a relatively common type of game, but I have a couple of other mobile titles that act like that, which I'd far rather play. However, that's not to suggest the game is bad, i'm just altogether unfamiliar.
In the game, a plague from an unknown source kills billions and transforms others into hideous creatures. The remainders of humanity desperately try to survive the outbreak, while a man named Julian Lassagne creates a colony called the New Hope. He leads this group of survivors, and you play as the protagonist, Kyle, who joins them in the fight. So, once again, we have here a case of the movie taking some liberties, as about the only thing that remains the same is the protagonists name, Kyle.
In the movie, a team of misfits are recruited by the government to fight against the zombie outbreak. Led by soldiers Rockstock (Isaiah Washington) and Kyle Walker (Dolph Lundgren), the team consists of #121212, Chris Norton (Chris Galya), a homeless wanderer; #081274, Samantha Atkins (Luciana Carro), a fighter after a clean record; #021309, Daniel Chen (Justin Chon), a gamer with a zombie bodycount on the mind, his mother being killed by them; #081672, Gerald "G-Dawg" Jefferson (Romeo Miller), a petty thief with a sick mother; and #092613, Naomi Shika (Natali Yura), a girl who seemingly lost her family in the outbreak, and a couple more who end up being rather obviously expendable.
The team must then fight their way through the most mild zombie outbreak you've ever seen in order to locate and retrieve a team of scientists who may very well be sitting on the cure. The plot sounds somewhat average, but truth be told, a lot of it is below average to dumb. There's so much of it that makes absolutely no sense, like various things still going throughout the outbreak. When one thinks about how Covid has effected the world and businesses, it's absolutely ridiculous to imagine that life could go on in certain ways during a zombie outbreak. These zombies are creatures I almost feel sorry for.
When you take 'The Walking Dead', as things progress, zombies become a bit more of a background thing, and not as much of a terrifying threat as they once were. They go from flesh-eating nightmare fuel cannibals to pretty much wild dogs, as we see humanity becoming the real monsters. Now try to imagine this zombie outbreak being contained to how characters see zombies in the last parts of the show. Really, the idea of getting a bunch of misfits to fight in the zombie apocalypse is laughable - but then when you look at these zombies, they're a joke, and indeed, a lot of the deaths here are totally laughable.
However, things aren't quite laughable enough to make this a movie that's so bad it's good. As the movie unfolds, a lot of it is just wondering how they came up with such oddball concepts. Having never played the game, I really don't know about any accuracies. But one thing I do know is that Dead Trigger is a mobile game, and it really does beg the question of whether or not they've run out of ideas. Yes, there's 'Angry Birds', but that was also incredibly trendy. Everyone and their mother knows that title, even if they haven't played it. 'Dead Trigger', however, seems very under the radar (or I've been under a rock), but any way you look at it, it's definitely a strange go-to for a zombie apocalypse movie. Trust me when I say this one ranks near the bottom for both zombie and video game movies.
Back when I reviewed this as a "Now Playing" review, I mentioned that video game movies may finally be finding their footing. It was either that, or expectations for video game movies have become so low that we're starting to realize they might deserve a little bit of slack. It's hard to get a video game movie really "right", but there's still those few that stand out, just because they at least feel like the game. The primary example for me is 'Mortal Kombat'; not perfect, but feels right. This film is no exception, really. It's not the best film, but damned if it doesn't deliver what I came to see. Well, at least within it's last half hour.
The plot behind this one involves an experiment gone awry on a satellite involving a monstrous, mutated rat. In other words, it's obvious that we have some big corporation testing something on animals, and some side effects include some monsterism. A crew member is ordered by her company, Energyne, to retrieve a bunch of canisters that contain the mutagenic pathogen, created by some crazy lady named Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman). The canisters crash land on Earth, and the first is discovered by George (Jason Liles), a rare albino gorilla at the San Diego Wildlife Preserve. He's cared for by Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a man who is also a former US Army Special Forces soldier and a strong part of an anti-poaching unit.
Something from the crashed canister starts to take George over though, making him angry, confused, emotional, and grow very big very quickly. The rest of the underlying story has to do with figuring out how to help George out, and we find out the same old story that Energyne is trying to use the pathogen as a biological weapon rather than the supposed cure for *insert disease here*. So yeah, pretty 'Resident Evil'-ish. It's also kind of preachy about its message to protect wildlife, has some cheesy dialogue, and isn't tremendously acted. So where's the good in it? Well, again, it's in that last half hour.
Personally, I feel that 'Rampage' is another one that has some leeway to it. Here we have a movie based on a game where the whole point IS to play as a monster and wreak havoc on a city, tearing down buildings, eating people, it was awesome times. In that sense, if a movie is made for something like that, then you can expect the unforgiving tearing apart of a city. I dunno how many lives are saved during an evacuation process, but honestly, I was gonna give this movie that much slack anyway. I'd have been more disappointed in NOT seeing it, being that it's what the game offered. It was very much the same idea with 'Tomb Raider' where the last parts of the movie feel enough like the game that it sort of makes up for the otherwise not so grand opening.
This is a movie that isn't at all great if you're looking for substance, but it can be a lot of fun if you're looking for style. For me, it's probably one of the better video game movies out there, if only because... well, it's 'Rampage'. This is an example of a movie you go to in an effort to see destruction, mayhem and things get torn apart, because that's pretty much all the game ever was. In my opinion, the movie did it justice, and even had the right monsters for it. If nothing else, I think this one actually provides a pretty fun ride. Yeah, it's silly, but it's a good time.