As far as I've been reading so far, this is one of those titles I love reviewing so much because audiences are seemingly split right down the middle on it. A split opinion on a movie like this will always make me look deeper into it for some reason. I have to get where both sides are coming from. I haven't exactly deep-dived on it here, but it's enough to see articles with titles like "Jordan Peele's Worst Movie?" and a healthy Rotten Tomato average of 75.5%. For the record, 'Us' averages at 76.5% and 'Get Out' at 92%.
So... it could still be considered his weakest, but it's still a good movie. In the end, it still works out to have a strong underlying social message to it. Also, it's always important to keep in mind that this is the third in an unofficial trilogy. We'll call it the "Peele Horror Trilogy" (bearing in mind there could be more on the way). I say this because, odds are, by a third movie, no matter what you're making, the magic of that original movie has officially worn a bit thin. There are very few examples of third movies that are the best of a trilogy. They exist, but I'll bet you can only think of a few examples. But the bottom line is, I still really think Peele's fans should give this a shot.
Getting to the point now, we open the movie with a very confusing scene involving a chimpanzee attack on the set of an old American sitcom. As with good storytelling, this does come into play later in the film, but I'm also not gonna sit here and spoil what Peele came up with in the end. Then we cut to a ranch where owner Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) trains horses for movies. He runs the ranch along with his dedicated son, Otis Jr; better known as "OJ" (Daniel Kaluuya) and not quite as dedicated daughter, Emerald; better known as "Em" (Keke Palmer), who would rather seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. All is well until, inexplicably, debris starts falling from the sky, which really kicks the movie off.
Before the Haywoods know it, they discover a UFO in their area that seems to be causing mayhem wherever it goes, sucking up farm animals and messing up all sorts of electricity. It's not long until OJ and Em get themselves a security system to try to track the UFO. But, while they receive the help of techie Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and the older, more experienced "Antlers" Holst (Michael Wincott) they find out that their UFO hunt is a lot more than they bargained for. I won't say anything specific about the big reveal, but I have to give it up to Jordan Peele for his original concept! But when all said and done, you're probably wondering what the actual underlying social theme of the movie is.
For a very brief and simple refresher, 'Get Out' looked at the horrors of slavery, using the "Mad Scientist" storyline ('Human Centipede', 'Tusk'). 'Us' was basically a look at our own human nature and the duality within ourselves, essentially told as a "Home Invasion" story ('The Purge', 'The Strangers'). This one is largely about (as far as I can tell) mankind's obsession with not only technology as it advances - and not necessarily the best parts of it. As far as the type of horror, this is a little looser as it's pretty simply a UFO horror of which there are many examples. But I do find it interesting that the chimp attack scene takes place in 1998; right around the peak of the 90s alien/UFO/'X-Files' obsession. I'm probably overthinking the idea, but it's neat to think that Peele may have made this as a sort of throwback as well.
Back to the movie's theme about technology though, without spoiling anything, a lot of the danger throughout the film comes from simply looking at it. That leads me to think that the obvious message here is about how we rely on these advancing technologies so much that they're slowly sucking our lives away. It makes me think of the humans in 'WALL-E' who basically live in floating chairs that can do anything for them. There's also a lot to be said about the respect of living creatures here, which further makes me think that it's not only about our technological obsessions but about respecting said technology as well.
Anyway, all that has been my own takeaway from the film, but I'm curious to see if others take quite as much away. For me, it worked really well as straight-up horror as well. I've always had a bit of a thing about UFOs, aliens and the like after watching 'Fire in the Sky' when I was maybe 11 or 12. And while I give Peele major kudos for what he came up with here, a lot of that kudos has to do with the fact that some scenes here made me genuinely squirm. He manages to push you to the edge of your seat here a few times, and as far as I'm concerned, I might personally put this one above 'Us'. Although 'Get Out' definitely still holds that top position, I have been entertained by all three of Jordan Peele's directorial works, and I sincerely hope I get to see more!
Some of my friends can vouch for this, but my cinematic experience with said friends was bad enough that we each got free movie passes from it. We were constantly distracted by children running around and going "BA-BA-BA" and such, and yeah, it was irritatingly distracting. I therefore didn't quite get the experience I should have, but luckily for me, my hopes weren't exactly high anyway.
In case any of my readers don't remember, I wasn't too nice about 'JW: Fallen Kingdom', and so much of it had to do with the way it ended. Now, just because I sort of have to spoil the ending of that in order to get into this, I'm gonna say that if you care at all, you may as well back out now, because this is big spoiler territory from everything else, as it's a culmination of the 'Jurassic' generations. Once again, Hollywood says "this is the last one", to which I say "yeah right". If there's one thing I've learned about sequels, it's that the "end" is never the "end" if there's box office money to be had.
Anyway, 'Fallen Kingdom' ends with young Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon); a clone (a whole other story) releasing a whole whack of imprisoned dinosaurs into the world because "they're alive". One of the dumbest movie endings in my humble opinion. But (and I even say this in my review), I knew pretty quickly that the road was paved for a new title soon enough. The resulting film is 'JW: Dominion', and I have to admit that I may have liked it a touch better than 'Fallen Kingdom'... a bit! This is mostly because my expectations were low, even if Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) make a comeback to feed my fandom. I mean, that's what got me into my seat, so call me a "sucker".
This one takes place about four years after the last one, and as we all know at this point, dinosaurs are living among the human race. As one probably expects, it's not exactly 'The Flintstones', but certain creative (if far-fetched, but hey, this is a 'Jurassic' film) ideas are put into place, but it's mentioned really quickly that the human race isn't exactly surviving. So once again, way to go Maisie. In the meantime, Biosyn Genetics has been granted permission to create a dino sanctuary in Italy's Dolomite Mountains. There, they continue a bunch of their complicated research. Biosyn also wants to get their hands on Maisie for research purposes.
In the meantime, Maisie lives with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who still works with the Dinosaur Protection Group, and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who now works as a dinosaur wrangler, relocating stray dinosaurs. Long story short, Maisie is eventually located and kidnapped, along with the asexually produced Beta - baby to everyone's favourite raptor, Blue. As the trailer shows, Owen promises to get her back for Blue. As for Sattler and Grant, well, Sattler researches swarms of gigantic locusts who are eating crops that Biosyn isn't planting and Grant is there to help. And Malcolm? Well, he works for Biosyn, but soon finds out some hard truths about their experiments, causing him to want to expose CEO, Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) - the guy from the first film who gets Dennis Nedry to collect the samples.
For yours truly, there was enough fun to this that included some of our old favourite dinosaurs. The T-Rex comes along for another wrestling match against a something and a whatsit, we have Blue to fulfill the raptor aspect, and even one of my old favourites, the Dilophosaurus makes a comeback in a very fitting way. My praise for the film lies in bringing back certain aspects and characters, but my biggest criticism is, not even in the story-telling, but wondering what the hell all these dinosaurs are supposed to be. I haven't heard of more than probably half of the dinos in this, so not every scene was exciting so much as me going "huh?" Like Macolm says in the trailer "why do they always need to go bigger?" (seriously, every 'Jurassic' movie is guilty of it, except maybe 'Lost World', where the T-rex is still the big baddie).
I think this is fine for those who are into the whole 'Jurassic' thing. These have pretty well become another 'Fast' franchise that has audiences going in for a fun time rather than some kind of Oscar-seeker of a flick. I can't say I blame them. Every one of these films, for me, has something fun going on in it. But half the fun of these is pointing out how ridiculous things can get. I mean (in the trailer), why is that one guy casually riding a scooter when a T-Rex just snatches him off of it? We have to take these with a grain of salt, and I think my acceptance of that allowed me to enjoy this just a touch more than the last one. BUT... it's still pretty bad.
To kick this one off, I should probably mention that my knowledge of Stephen King is still pretty green. Most of my exposure has been from films; many of which are apparently "bad" adaptations of his books. As far as his books go, I'm still just a noob, having polished off a grand total of two. 'Firestarter', however, is one King property that I haven't looked into in any way. Never read the book, and never saw the '84 Drew Barrymore movie. So you'll be getting a pretty honest review for this from yours truly as a big first-timer!
I enjoy the idea of this. It's that often overlooked concept of taking something like superpowers and giving it a horrific twist. The thing is, even if we look at his books, 'Carrie' predates this, and even King himself has admitted to wondering if 'Firestarter' was too much like 'Carrie'. Speaking for myself, I definitely see the similarities, and would personally claim 'Carrie' to be the better all-around horror story. But the differences between the two stories are enough that I think it's a "pick your poison" situation. 'Carrie' is a great tale of revenge and might make for better horror, but this is something much more along the lines of 'New Mutants' where it has more to do with how scary and dangerous it is to even have such power.
It all starts with a flashback to baby Charlene "Charlie" McGee spontaneously setting her bedroom on fire, essentially illustrating what we're dealing with here. Through the opening credits, we learn that Charlie's parents, Andy McGee (Zac Efron) and Vicky Tomlinson (Sydney Lemmon) were a part of an experiment in which they were injected with a drug known as Lot-6. This results in Andy gaining telepathy and Vicky gaining telekinesis. Of course, this, in turn, explains right away what baby Charlie is all about. We then come to the present day where we meet Charlie as an 11-year-old girl (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) who is struggling in school.
As Charlie is getting bullied at school, she finds keeping her abilities hidden to be a constant struggle. Eventually, an incident at school does get the ball rolling, however, and we find ourselves in a very similar plot to 'Stranger Things' (and yes, it's confirmed the Duffer Bros. took inspiration from this story). In other words, this is generally about a bunch of bad people trying to get their hands on Charlie for their own personal weapon-making gain. Meanwhile, Andy and Vicky struggle to try to hide her from these people. So, perhaps my recent 'Stranger Things' binge also took a little something away from this. It also sort of suggests that this was a cash-in attempt on the studio's part, dropped right before Season 4 of 'Stranger Things' kicked off.
It's a hard task for me to review this one as any sort of comparison, as this has literally been my introduction to this story. However, just speaking objectively, I might suggest this to be mildly entertaining, but still kind of pointless. Of all of the Stephen King titles to relaunch at this point, I wouldn't have thought 'Firestarter' would be on the list of priorities. But being that I'm still a noob, I guess I really don't know what King fans are truly asking for out there. As it stands, it does still feel ill-timed - especially when we kind of know people will be clamouring for 'Stranger Things' a little harder. Hopefully the next attempt at a Stephen King redo will come out a little more thrilling.
Over the years, Roland Emmerich has often been seen by many to be a sort of "other Michael Bay". In order to enjoy his works, you have to take them with a grain of salt, throw reality out the window, and whatever you do, don't question a damn thing. It's pure fantasy with the box office in mind, and you're there for a theatrical thrill ride. So (a lot like with Bay), I will often come out of an Emmerich movie saying something like "that was stupid, but it was fun".
Somehow or another though, I left this with the idea that I had just been drastically insulted, but not sure if I was supposed to feel that way. I won't spoil anything but the "big reveal" to this movie is... REALLY out there - so much so that I couldn't even call it fun. The film honestly almost felt like a message to take conspiracy theorists seriously, and in this day and age, that's not a great message to try to convey. But again, I'm not sure if this was supposed to happen. What if Emmerich was secretly saying "see how dumb this is?" But then, if he was, he just made some money rather underhandedly.
The film opens during a Space Shuttle mission to repair a satellite. Bantering back and forth are astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry), and they are interrupted by a weird, black, swarming mass that ends up killing one of their crewmates. After a long investigation, Harper is ultimately fired with his unbelievable explanation, and NASA blames the fate of the crewmember on human error. As for Fowler, she was incapacitated during the swarm attack, so doesn't have much of a frame of reference for anything.
Ten years later, we meet our conspiracy theorist, K.C. Houseman (John Bradley). His theories kind of have to be seen to be believed, so I won't reveal them here. But his theories ultimately lead him to stealing an opportunity to use a research telescope that isn't well guarded at all. Here, he notices that the Moon's orbit is off course, and it seems to be heading towards Earth. Eventually, he goes public with it, after a down-on-his-luck Harper refuses to listen to his ramblings. But then, NASA discovers this abnormality on their own, and it all leads to "let's send a crew up to the Moon to stop it from crashing into Earth as well as find out what this weird swarm is all about".
There's not a whole hell of a lot more to it without spoilers, but once things really get going, the film just gets weirder, and weirder, and weirder. It's another one that's trying to combine a bunch of different movies, but to no real avail. In fact, it's been dubbed by a few to be the most recent "so bad, it's good" movie because it's just THAT crazy. There's so much in here that feels like it was written by a teenager, and though my plot description may seem weak, that really IS basically all there is to it.
Even though there's plenty of stuff that looks pretty cool here, it's not nearly enough to save anything. I would highly recommend saving the theatrical viewing and just waiting for home release on this one, even if you happen to be an Emmerich fan. For yours truly, this is probably his weakest movie. I didn't leave this one saying it was "dumb fun", it was just plain "dumb", and it's hard for me to give it the benefit of the doubt. This goes beyond his average disaster flick, and gets almost too bizarre, even for him. This is one I might suggest watching with a room full of friends though, as you rip on everything wrong with it - especially if you have some friends who know a thing or two about the Moon!
When it comes to the 'Matrix' series, I must confess to be one of the many audience members who fell into a state of confusion by the end of it all. This is a series I didn't get as attached to as my peers, other than the first film, released in 1999, which still stands alone as a GREAT film. I also enjoyed 'The Animatrix' for its overall style and imagination, but otherwise, there have been several other fantasy/sci-fi series I hold far above this one.
Having said that, going into this, I was indifferent. My overall opinion upon seeing the trailer was that of feeling, yet again, "too little too late", but mixed with "altogether unnecessary". And I should probably be clear that I'm altogether unclear on a lot of what happened throughout the film, although I think I have the general idea. The thing is, I haven't watched ANY of the 'Matrix' movies in well over a decade, so there's a lot that I've forgotten. One of these days, I may revisit all of this with some sort of special, but for now, I have to go by my thoughts as a born-again-noob.
Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) has created a series of three 'Matrix' video games that he bases on things like visions and dreams; leftovers from when he was Neo. Part of this includes a woman he runs into at a local coffee shop named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), whom he bases his game character of Trinity on. He sees a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) who prescribes him blue pills, but eventually stops taking them, making these visions start to get a bit out of hand.
Meanwhile, the confusion starts when a girl named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) discovers a "modal" (pronounced "mode-all") that's running an old code in a loops, reenacting the time Trinity found Neo in the first movie. A modal, by the way, is a "programming sandbox" created to develop characters; one of these is a new Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and, I guess in some ways, long story short, the original story is played out again with a few alterations. Forgive me for how undetailed the description of the film is, but once again, I'm not entirely sure I got it.
For me, this was just another 'Matrix' addition that doesn't really need to be there, as the first 'Matrix' is still a great stand-alone film, and I stand by that. That's not to say that the others are just trash, in my opinion. I think it's just another case of them not really being for me... or I'm just too damn slow to pick up on what they're putting down, but that's fine. This is one I know for a fact I'm not alone on. With all that said, however, I can still see 'Matrix' fans really liking this. I will give it credit for sticking with style, and it's definitely another case of the film's eye candy overshadowing... basically everything else.
I still might consider this the weakest of the bunch, however. It's honestly a coin-flip between this a 'Revolutions', but the biggest things about this include the film coming into an era where I feel like we're kind of over 'The Matrix'. Keanu is John Wick now, not so much Neo, and his performance (which I might blame on the direction) here is kind of brutal. It's almost more like he embraced his stereotype of being his classic character Ted, but stiffer. Nothing against the man. It's just that I'd much sooner see him do a 'John Wick 4' than a 'Matrix 4'. But that's just me and my opinion. I think others could still like this more than I do; but I will suggest one should go in with low expectations. Hopefully it plays on your nostalgia more than it did mine.
It has been said several times before, but 1984's 'Ghostbusters' is what I consider to be my favourite film of all time. So there's going to be quite a lot for me to get through and express with this review. First, I will go through on a critical standpoint, as I can see a lot of reason that the critics aren't as keen as the fans. Then, I will go through as a fan, and eventually draw my conclusion. There's a lot to unpack here, so let's just start with our basic plot.
The film opens 30-someodd years after the events of 'Ghostbusters II'. I don't want to say too much about how the film opens, as to me, it was one of the more intriguing parts of the movie. But we do eventually meet Egon Spengler's estranged family; daughter, Callie (Carrie Coon), and grandkids, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). While Trevor is a bit more what one would consider a "normal" teenager, Phoebe largely takes after her grandfather - not only in the ways of science, but she has his dry sense of humour and general attitude as well.
They find out that Egon is no longer with us (just like in real life, may he rest in peace), and further find out that the only inheritance he left them was a creepy old farm house in the middle of a quaint little town called Summerville - home to the Shandor mining operations. One may remember the mention of Ivo Shandor in the '84 movie - an architect, and head of the cult of Gozer. Well, again, not to spoil anything, but there's definitely a reason that this old farmhouse is located where it is.
Phoebe ends up taking a summer science course, "taught" by seismologist, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), whose method of teaching is basically to throw on a horror movie for the kids who don't wanna be there. Phoebe also meets "Podcast" (Logan Kim), who quickly becomes her lab partner, and kudos to the movie for not forming a romantic relationship here! Podcast is sort of the Venkman-like comedy relief here, and does a pretty good job of it. I can't deny getting a few genuine chuckles from the kid. Although Phoebe gave me the biggest laugh with a certain joke she tells about a hamster and a cigarette (you might already know it. It's terrible but hilarious.)
In the meantime, Trevor meets a waitress named Lucky (Celeste O'Connor), and gets a job at her diner in an attempt to get to know her better. The two kids slowly reveal their discoveries around the house, giving us great shivers of nostalgia. While Phoebe finds a PKE meter and, eventually, a proton pack, Trevor finds Ecto-1. Eventually, it all comes together, and the kids find themselves in the midst of Gozer's potential big comeback. Can they keep Gozer at bay? But more importantly, where are the guys!?
Now, critically, I can tell you right off the bat some of the problems with this film. Whether you agree to them being "problems" is totally up to you, but just to recognize where critics are coming from, I'm gonna play devil's advocate here. For starters, it's extremely nostalgic, and loaded with easter eggs for us hardcore fans. Some are subtle, like a Nestle Crunch bar found in Egon's flight suit pocket, referencing the moment Venkman gives it to him in the beginning of the '84 film. Others, almost cringeworthy. The way the line "who ya gonna call?" is brought into play here is honestly kind of ridiculous, and borders on a bad Dad joke. One might even say this is the 'Force Awakens' of 'Ghostbusters' movies.
Now, with all that said, as a die hard fan, none of this was actually that big of a problem for me. I had to consider certain things, especially with the famous line. It's really not like the first two movies didn't have moments like that. What about in '2' when they do the "Do, Ray, Egon" gag? And the first one? You can't honestly tell me the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man isn't corny as all hell. That's kind of what makes it all work though. So there's a part of me that might feel incomplete without a nice chunk of cheese. And as far as the nostalgia goes, I feel like that's absolutely necessary here - at least to a certain extent.
'Ghostbusters' fans have been waiting for this "Ghostbusters 3" for a very long time, and it's already technically happened twice, but also technically hasn't. At one point, the video game was actually considered your 'GB3', complete with the proper voices, and taking place earlier on. One might also say the same for the '16 film, but I'd never consider that a sequel of any sort, simply due to the fact that the original cast returns to play cameos, and other characters. This is about as "true" as a 'GB3' has ever really been (although I honestly think the game was more what we were looking for).
This wait has been so long that I can't really deny that there was a part of this that felt "too little, too late". But with that said, I certainly enjoyed the film quite a lot. Being that the '84 film IS my favourite, it's not about to be dethroned by any further GB material because of what it means to me. 'Ghostbusters' was lightning in a bottle that cannot be recaptured quite as well, so I already knew I wasn't going to be as blown away as I may have hoped. But I will say that this does provide an almost perfect love letter to those original movies - namely the first. There's no reason for a 'Ghostbusters' fan NOT to enjoy it, in my opinion. But just know that it won't be as special as that original movie.
Let me just start this one off by saying that I went into this relatively clueless as to what was what when it came to the whole 'Dune' thing. I was introduced to 'Dune' completely backwards by playing the strategy game for my PC before even realizing that it was once a movie (extremely loosely) based on an original book of the same name. I did eventually try the David Lynch movie, but I never did make it through, and it never quite made it onto my "cult" radar. This is just me, but I thought it was about as dry as the desert it took place in. So when this came around, my reaction to the trailer was less than enthusiastic.
However, there were a few things about the trailer that grasped my curiosity. First and foremost, the scope of things made it look like the next epic waiting to happen. Then there were things like the cast, taking from just about anything else that exists on an epic scale; actors from Marvel, DC, 'Star Wars', and all lead by a young Oscar bait actor. As uninterested as I may have felt, there were those few things that managed to stroke my curiosity enough to check it out. All in all, I would say things went pretty much as I predicted. This is a good blend of things, but it does take a little while to get going.
Taking place 22,000 years into the future, the main setting of the film is planet Arrakis; a desert planet which plays host to the one and only source of "spice" in the universe. Spice makes interstellar travel possible, and boosts human vitality, so it's pretty valuable stuff. Arrakis is currently ruled by House Harkonnen; the "bad guys", and Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) of House Atreides; the "good guys", to attempt to replace the Harkonnen with the Atreides as the planet's head rulers. While apprehensive, Leto does see political advantages in controlling the spice planet, but there may be something more sinister to this strategy than meets the eye.
Duke Leto's concubine, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is part of a sisterhood that bears uncanny abilities called the Bene Gesserit who tell her to have a daughter, who would one say become a very big deal. She has a son instead, however, named Paul (Timothée Chalamet), who is nevertheless trained by Leto's aides, Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) in different skills and disciplines. Paul ends up having some pretty haunting visions of the future, usually consisting of a mysterious girl with bright blue eyes we eventually know as Chani (Zendaya) and taking place on Arrakis where all sorts of unfortunate violence is ready to happen (at least according to his visions).
A lot of it ends up being about Paul being forced into a destiny that will involve him ultimately having to face his fears despite the visions he has. I also very much see it as a cautionary tale about war over supply and demand; generally comparing the spice to, quite simply, oil. However, the film explores other everyday avenues as well, and gives us a good visual of how things could get. It also touches on politics, religion, technology, and the human condition. While this still isn't completely up my alley, largely due to its pacing and somewhat blasé atmosphere (this is just personal), I have to give it credit for being what could be a pretty realistic future for humankind (especially considering how far into the future it takes place). Everything it shows us could be seen as metaphorical for our everyday here on present-day Earth.
This is yet another case of a film ultimately gaining my respect, and it certainly has the potential to grown on my through several viewings. But with that said, I'm not sure that this one was entirely for me. It's a very hard one to rate, because for as uninterested as I could get through it, I can't help but credit it for not only what I already have, but also being what appears to be a relatively faithful adaptation (again, I have no idea), coming out in two parts. And it does do a pretty great job of leaving us on that cliffhanger by the end. I'm certainly going to give this one another chance sometime down the line though, because there's that part of me that wants to be more interested than I am - it's almost like it's just missing a little something, but I can't place exactly what that something is.
Cards on the table, back when a lot of my peers were so eager to see Venom show up in a Raimi movie, I thought that was pushing things. I knew and enjoyed the character from various comic book reads, the '94 animated series (which, in my opinion, STILL does the best Venom story overall), and the PS1 'Spider-Man' game that no one seems to remember for some reason. Familiarity was there, but knowing Spidey's rouges gallery, there was a LOT to go through. So for me, Venom was cool, but I didn't NEED to see him in a movie as a one-off villain. Bottom line, turn to the '94 cartoon for the best version (aside from comics).
Anyway, when it came to the 2018 film, I rolled with it and accepted it for the fun, albeit dark comedy that it was. I even reviewed it for my 2018 Halloween Special, because it totally had that Halloween vibe to it - almost horrific, but silly enough not to be. I gave a a 3/5, considered it a guilty pleasure and moved on, wondering what the future would hold with that stinger involving Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) and his clown hair. The answer came in a couple of forms - first and foremost being this continuing story that I enjoyed just about as much as the original. However, due to a stinger scene that I will not spoil here, more questions were answered as to even further films in this series. As a result, indeed, I did like this one a bit more (but not solely based on that).
We open back in 1996, where we meet a young Cletus Kasady (Jack Bandeira) communicating back and forth through holding cells with Frances Barrison, AKA Shriek (Naomie Harris); his love interest. It's unmentioned in the film, but some may recognize her as being a mutant from the comics, and... well, that's all I'm gonna say about that. I'll just say that her appearance on top of the mid-credit stinger and a couple of other curious details do help push this one up for me in quality as opposed to the first. Anyway, long story short, we see Shriek's powers at work as she attempts to escape from a team trying to take her to a facility, led by officer Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham) but is ultimately unsuccessful, and separated from Cletus.
In the present, Mulligan contacts Eddie Brock - still bonded with Venom (Tom Hardy) - to speak with Kasady, who he interviewed a year prior. Kasady offers him all of the information he can offer on his crimes in exchange for a favour, otherwise he ends up on death row. This, of course, eventually leads to a little piece of Venom bonding with Cletus to create our favourite symbiotic psychopath, Carnage, who helps Cletus with his search for his lost love. Meanwhile, there's a secondary plot involving Eddie's ex-fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) and her engagement to Dr. Dan Lewis (Reid Scott) which kind of does the 'Spider-Man 2' in that so much of it has to do with his secret life interfering too much with his normal one.
Now, for as much as I love the casting of Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, I think it's safe to say that Woody Harrelson is the one who really steals the show here as Cletus Kasady/Carnage. For yours truly, this was always a weird case. I saw Cletus a lot like a Joker-type psychopath, and therefore if he was ever cast in a movie, there's some flexibility depending on how you want to interpret the character. Eddie, on the other hand, wasn't so flexible. He needed specifics, and our experience with 'Spider-Man 3' really showed us that when we collectively gasped "Topher Grace!?" But damn, Harrelson sets the bar here. This is one of those cases where I feel if he's to be recast in the future (as Joker has been so many times) it would be a very tough act to follow.
On top of Harrelson's acting skills, I also really just love the way things look in these movies. Venom already always looked great, but what they do with Carnage here was just awesome. There's a big final fight where they show you all the crazy stuff Carnage can do, as Cletus has no problem with letting his symbiote take the wheel. So in case you haven't picked up on it, Carnage is what makes this movie worth watching more than anything. Otherwise, Eddie's relationship with Venom continues to be strained, and ultimately comedic, we see the return of Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu), and one can get a few good laughs from Venom playing off his hatred of "Dr. Dan". All in all, I feel pretty much the same as I did with the first one, but I did appreciate Cletus/Carnage just enough that this is a "High 3"
Some of my readers may recall how much I loved 'A Quiet Place'. Long story short, I made it one of my favourite movies of 2018. It did such a great job with building intensity, kept me on the edge of my seat, and provided a perfect example of how sometimes less is more when it came to horror. The scariness didn't lie in the creatures themselves, so much as the stress that comes from having to hide quietly in order to survive.
For a brief recap (along with some potential spoilers), the film centers on a family who are in the midst of some sort of monstrous invasion. The creatures they end up having to hide from and avoid hunt their prey by sound, so the idea is to have to stay quiet in order to stay alive. It doesn't help, however that wife and mother, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant, daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, and son, Marcus (Noah Jupe) is basically afraid of his own shadow. All the while their provider and protector is husband and father, Lee (John Krasinski). Again, spoiler alert (but without revealing how), we lose Lee, leaving Evelyn, Regan and Marcus on their own with a newborn baby.
This one picks up immediately where the last one leaves off, but not without an intro telling us just how this all began. We don't really get any answers though, other than knowing they came from the sky. The family of now three and a half sets out on a journey here, looking for other survivors, now that Evelyn can handle a gun, and more importantly, Regan's discovery. She learns that using her hearing aid at a high frequency is an effective distraction to use against these creatures - even more effective if amplified. On their mission, however, Marcus ends up critically injured and the family is somewhat rescued by their former neighbour and friend, Emmett (Cillian Murphy).
Emmett gives them shelter for the night, but somewhat cowardly insists they leave in the morning. During their stay, they tune a radio into clear music, suggesting there must be survivors out there somewhere. This prompts Regan to head off on her own, despite Marcus' objections, using her hearing aid as her main defence. Soon enough, Evelyn sends Emmett out after her while she heads out to look for supplies at the old pharmacy. The intensity of the film has a little more to do with the family being divided, and what can happen in a short amount of time. Can Regan find survivors with Emmett? Will Evelyn be able to fare on her own? Can Marcus take care of the baby with a bad injury? It just kind of adds up.
I'll keep this simple enough. It's a very worthy sequel to its predecessor, and this would make for a pretty great back-to-back feature. My only real nitpick about it is that things end on a very similar note as the first film, but involving different characters. Having said that, it's also a way to develop these characters, and it does leave room for what could be a pretty exciting third film (if that will eventually happen). I further appreciate how this one relied on the separation of the family, which adds a twist of dread to what we already know is going on. Otherwise, the movie is well-acted, well-written, and just as perfectly atmospheric as the first film. As far as horror/thrillers go, these are definitely a couple of my personal favourites.
Here we have one of the 2020 titles that has been pushed back time and time again that I've pretty much been chomping at the bit for since first seeing a trailer back in late 2019. This seemed to have a concept that was right up my alley, featured Ryan Reynolds in the lead (because who doesn't love the guy?), and looked like it offered some pretty awesome visual effects, along with a gaming easter egg or two. Little did I know, however, that the trailer only scratched the surface on what this movie was all about. Most of what's awesome about this movie isn't actually seen in its trailers.
What we know before going into the movie is that it features a Non-Playable Character (or NPC) named Guy (Reynolds) existing in an open-world, online game called 'Free City'. He works as a bank teller with his best friend, a security guard named Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), blissfully unaware that his life exists within a video game as he goes through the same bank heist routine day in, day out, to the point where it's just part of his day. He begins to deviate from his programming, however, when he runs into user "Molotov Girl" who he claims is the "girl of his dreams". This leads to him eventually stealing a user's sunglasses (users have sunglasses, NPCs do not) and developing a mind of his own, with the ability to see the gamer's display.
Meanwhile, in the real world, we learn that 'Free City' is a famous game whose code was actually stolen from a game called 'Life Itself', created by our two real-world leads, Walter "Keys" McKey (Joe Keery) and Millie Rusk (Jodie Comer). Keys finds himself actually working for Soonami, the company that stole his work and defends things with the impression their creation is still famous, even though it went another route. Millie, however, isn't so forgiving as she spends time playing 'Free City' in search of hints of proof that their code was stolen by Soonami's head developer, the eccentric Antwan (Taika Waititi). She spends her time in the game as "Molotov Girl", and soon enough, without spoling too much, we learn what the connection is between the now self-aware Guy (who takes the time to level up his character and become super famous as "Blue Shirt Guy"), and the pair of 'Life Itself' developers.
This was a fine example of a movie that not only gave me what I wanted to see, but offered more, and the more it offered, the more things about the movie made sense. I went into this thinking it was going to be some fun, mindless, Ryan Reynolds action with some solid comedy. However, when the film is all over, you do manage to see things on a somewhat deeper level than you probably thought you were going to experience. In its own way, the film is actually kind of beautiful, and does a good job of exploring how a self-aware NPC may think, work, etc. I enjoy the fact that when he starts levelling up, he does it very quickly, as it's very likely that his familiarity with the inner workings of the game far exceed the average users.
If I was to mish-mash this together, comparing it to other movies, it's almost like taking 'Ready Player One', 'Scott Pigrim' and throwing them in a blender with 'Eternal Sunshine' and something like 'Inception'. There's a very dream-like quality to things here, but it does a good job at giving us the balance between what's going on in the real world vs what's going on in the game. In some ways, the main character of the film isn't even Guy so much as its Keys and everything he has to put up with in the real world, with Millie acting as the "messenger" in and out of the game. I loved the way everything came together; not necessarily predictable, and when it's all said and done, I was happy about the way things went.
This has a great fun factor to it, and all sorts of easter eggs to keep an eye out for. I'm a sucker for a film where you have to pay attention to the plot but there's so much going on in the background that one might very well miss. It's not like 'Ready Player One' where it's literally everywhere, but it's generally subtly done, and you'll catch a few neat things like the less obvious Mega Man's Mega Buster, or the more obvious Portal Gun (which isn't exactly the same, but we all know what it's supposed to be). It does happen one time where Disney force feeds us some Avengers/Star Wars material, but even that makes for a pretty solid visual gag, so the complaint is there but very minimal. All in all, this is absolutely one of my favourite movies of 2021, and I can't wait to see it again to try to pick up on some more subtle easter eggs!
Ever since 'The Avengers' was announced, several studios attempted their own universes, most of the time jumping the gun completely and falling on their asses. Warner Bros' DC Universe rushed itself with 'Batman v Superman' as only its second film, and the "Dark Universe" assumed it was good to go with just one movie; 'The Mummy' no one asked for; now known as one of Universal Studios' biggest blunders. I mean, at least DC still has its loyal fanbase. Things seemed the new equivalent of book series adaptations - everyone once wanted to be the new 'Harry Potter'.
When you get right down to it, adapting a universe into film is very much a roll of the dice. It all teeters on that first film and whether or not its successful enough to allow you to keep going. Sometimes those dice give you snake eyes, but sometimes you can roll that lucky seven and succeed. In the case of the new movie "Universes", for my money, one that does a good job is what has become known as the MonsterVerse (not to be confused with the Dark Universe). It's nothing I would ever call perfect, but between 'Godzilla', 'Kong: Skull Island' and 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' I have always found myself entertained. I would swiftly become a Kong fan with it being my favourite of the three. But the 'Godzilla' films certainly weren't without a certain charm. I could always have fun with them.
'Godzilla vs Kong' takes place five years after the events of 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters'. We see Kong exploring what appears to be his natural habitat, but it's quickly revealed that he's been captured, and is being monitored by Monarch in a special facility. Within this facility, Kong has befriended a deaf girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who speaks to him using sign language. She would be the girl from the now famous "pointing" scene in the accompanying image. With her, is her adopted mother and Kong expert, Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) who fears that if Kong is ever released or escapes, Godzilla will come after him, defending his title as King of the Monsters.
Speaking of Godzilla, now seen by the people as a friend (despite a lot of destruction), he comes to shore at Pensacola, FL to cause more destruction as he attacks an Apex Cybernetics facility. While people wonder what's gotten into Godzilla, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) goes to her friend Josh (Julian Dennison) for help in investigating why Godzilla attacked, knowing it wasn't an act of random violence. The two get further help from podcasting conspiracy theorist, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), who's pretty much here to play his version of Doug E. Doug from 'Eight-Legged Freaks'. It will eventually all lead to a big reveal that seems somewhat obvious from the get-go, but it's still REALLY cool when it does happen.
Back to Kong, a guy named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) comes onto the scene as an expert on Hollow Earth (the hidden homeworld of all Titans). He is called into action by Apex CEO, Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir), who believes Hollow Earth contains a particular power source. This power source will allow them to give life to a weapon that can defend the public from Godzilla if he attacks unprovoked again. Once onto the scene, Lind soon recruits Ilene, Kong and Jia to find and explore Hollow Earth, but unknown to the recruits are Lind's plans to find this power source. Along the way, of course, Kong and Godzilla to become aware of each other, and the film of course delivers on its promise of a Clash of Titans.
The one thing this movie does that the others don't do quite as well is leave the movie to the monsters, and things associated with them. "Too much human" happens to be a thing in a lot of these types of movies, pushing the star attraction to the background. Hell, in the first 'Godzilla', he's barely even in it until the end. They always get a little better, but because this was 'Godzilla vs Kong', the filmmakers thankfully don't hold back a damn thing. One thing I admire about the film is that they do go all out because they fully understand what this is, and what fans are there to see. You know what you're watching is dumb, fun action that goes back to the 60s. Even the Hollow Earth concept is lifted right out of 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'; a book published in the late 1800s.
If you really want to get into various criticisms of the film, I found it often moved too fast, and became a touch incomprehensible at times. On top of that, the destruction and death these two cause is off the charts while we humans also stupidly kill ourselves by flying too damn close and often crashing our fighter jets. For some reason, however, given the way the film is presented and understanding that it's cheesy in and of itself, the titans just kind of get a pass for such things. It's almost like having a sex crazed couple with little to no personality in a horror movie; you know what's gonna happen, but the film feels incomplete without it. If you can just have fun with this, it delivers on what it says it is while giving more. Don't take this too seriously - it's not meant to be.
I have to admit that while things have been fun for the most part, the time-loop movie seems to be becoming a bit of a cliche. While everyone and their mother loves 'Groundhog Day' as a sort of feel-good time-loop movie, others like to take the trend of the same day beginning again after death; most prevalent in my mind being 'The Edge of Tomorrow' and 'Happy Death Day'. This one adds a bit of a video game twist to things, however, and becomes another fairly solid video game movie that isn't actually a video game movie. While it remains a bit cliche in its execution, I can't deny the over-the-top fun factor this film still has.
As the film opens, we get an inner monologue from ex Delta Force soldier, Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) who gives us about 17-minutes worth of exposition. He takes us through his repeated day, as several people try to kill him while mentioning that he often slips up and has to do it all over again. Much like several times of practice with any video game, he eventually gets it all down, but I have to appreciate that the film takes slight human error into account - for example, at one point he simply stubs his toe, allowing for just enough distraction for someone to shoot him. While it's a long time before the story really gets going, it's still a fun sequence, and I can't deny a few laughs. In this time, the film lets you know what it is, and the idea of not taking it seriously is almost instantaneous.
On his 48th attempt to survive this day, Roy attempts to call his estranged wife, Jemma Welles (Naomi Watts), but the phone is instead picked up by Dynow Labs' head of defense, Col. Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson) who informs him that Jemma is dead due to an accident. Roy knows that the time loop he's stuck in is tied to Jemma in some way, due to a strange visit they had the day before he got himself trapped. He then spends the time formulating a revenge plot, while getting answers to his questions slowly revealed to him with each trial and error attempt. Some of these answers could spell out the end of the world if Roy doesn't come through.
Things are fairly basic here, and not much comes as a surprise while you're watching it. But if you're a dude looking for a fun action movie with a dark sense of humor and a whole lot of violence, this could be right up your alley. As many like to put it, including myself, this is straight up "dude porn" in that regard. It's just your average balls-to-the-wall action flick that will allow you to throw your brain out the window for a couple of hours, and revel in the shoot-em-up gore that we all find so satisfying after a really bad day. Again, it does it all with a dark sense of humor as well. Although, I will admit that there's a line or two here that might make one cringe and think it awkward - especially when delivered by Mel Gibson at one particular point. You will know it when you hear it.
The film comes to us from director Joe Carnahan who also did 'The A-Team' and 'Smokin' Aces'. So to say that this is a dumb action movie that's perfectly enjoyable just for the fun of it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. It's currently available for rent for a decent, non-gouging price online, and I'd actually highly recommend it for anyone looking for such a film. One could almost watch this in place of whatever games they are playing on their PS5's (if, God willing, they managed to get their hands on one). It's a movie to have fun with, not take seriously, and just enjoy the thrill.
The 'X-Men' movies, much like my reviews, are very hit-or-miss (hey, I can own up to it). 'New Mutants', despite a damn near three year wait, is no exception. Yes, it was really that long. Just look at the post date on this 'New Mutants' teaser trailer. After all that, and all my looking forward to what could have been a really cool horror movie with superpowers, I'm sad to say that what we got was actually pretty underwhelming. I expected it to become a new favorite, but I'd generally lump it in with the 'X-Men' titles that are just "okay".
If you want me to rank all 12 of the previous, I'd probably say, from top to bottom: 'First Class', 'Deadpool', 'Logan', 'X-Men United', 'Deadpool 2, 'X-Men', 'Days of Future Past', 'The Wolverine', 'The Last Stand' 'Dark Phoenix', 'Apocalypse', 'Origins: Wolverine'. 'New Mutants', I'm gonna sandwich somewhere between 'Days of Future Past' and 'The Wolverine' - so just one down from right smack-dab in the middle of everything. I still really like the concept of what this could have been as opposed to what it ended up being, so it's a little bit of a let-down. What could have shown the side of kids who are terrified of their mutant ability turned into something... well, similar, but not quite what I'd hoped for.
We are introduced to Dani Moonstar, as her Native American village is being attacked by some force her father claims to be a tornado. She becomes the soul survivor of the incident, but after being knocked out by something unseen, she awakens in a horror movie set of a hospital, run by a Dr. Cecelia Reyes. Reyes requests that Dani stay at the hospital to keep her safe, so they can study her and figure out what her mutant abilities are. As it turns out, the facility is there to house new mutants (boom, title drop) who may be a danger to not only others, but themselves, and the idea is to gain control over what could be lethal abilities before being sent out into the world. I really like that concept, and it's even mentioned in the movie that sometimes most unfortunately, killing or hurting people is just a part of having these uncanny abilities. Chances are, as one is discovering one's Mutant ability, someone will get in harms way.
Within the hospital, she meets a handful of other mutants, and together they form the Mutant Breakfast Club. Sam Guthrie ("Cannonball" - Charlie Heaton) who can fly at jet speed, Roberto da Costa ("Sunspot" - Henry Zaga) with the ability to manipulate solar power, Illyana Rasputin ("Magik" - Anya Taylor-Joy) has inter-dimensional sorcery abilities, and Rahne Sinclair ("Wolfsbane" - Maisie Williams) who can plain and simply transform into a wolf, and has a keen interest in befriending the new girl. They learn together that they are all there for being associated with some sort of tragedy in their past, having something to do with their powers - but I won't say much more, as that's some of what adds to the horror aspect of the film - some of it, admittedly rather disturbing.
While the team, other than maybe Illyana, believe they are there to get their powers focused and under control so they can one day join the X-Men, but the big question the film dangles above your head is, are they? This is, after all, considered a kind of horror movie. Right away, one has a hard time imagining that it's gonna end happily, and I'll just get it out of the way, as soon as you see the set-up of everything, it's relatively obvious what the twist is gonna be. This causes the movie to lose some points. Hell, you can probably tell what's gonna happen just based on the trailers. However, I will give it some credit for having a very cool climax, and a whole other twist I didn't quite see coming. So there IS a balance, of sorts.
It covers some intriguing ground for an 'X-Men' movie, having less to do with being viewed as "different" in society, but more to do with how these powers have left a mental scar. It shows that not every power can be viewed as an "awesome gift", when indeed, it's more of a nightmare to manage it. Truth be told, I may manage to enjoy this a touch more than others who are actually fans of the comic series. I went to see it with one such friend, and sure enough, he did point out some flaws and changes that were made. I knew nothing about this 'X-Men' team going in, only that they existed, and even to me the movie was just okay. I might just recommend waiting for home release to check it out, if you're curious, because there's not a whole lot of it that begs to be seen on a big screen.
Right out of the gate, this is a film that demands re-watch value for no other reason than to be able to wrap your head around what's going on. In truth, I think I got the essential gist of things, but I do find this to be probably Christopher Nolan's most confusing film. I was good with 'Inception', teetered a little bit with 'Interstellar', but this kinda broke me. That said, I feel like it would be something I could catch on to upon the second or maybe even third viewing.
I would like to see it again at some point, and all of the potential is there for me to really like it. I just need to pay closer attention to things as it's one of those "blink and you miss it" kind of movies, so I'll do my best with giving you the basic plot. However, if you want to go in as blind as I was (did anyone going into this really and truly know what it was about?) I might suggest zipping down to the rating. I'm not gonna give away any spoilers, but I can't tell you what the movie's about without going into some plot details either. Anyway, wish me luck, and if I'm off on anything, feel free to correct me.
The film opens with an undercover SWAT operation at an opera house, where an unnamed CIA agent referred to only as "The Protagonist" (John David Washington) soon finds out he's being tested for something bigger (hello, 'Inception'). This leads him to an organization known as "Tenet", where he learns about inverted objects that can move backwards through time, the object in question being a bullet. This technology has the potential to cause World War III through time.
With the aid of Neil (Robert Pattinson), the Protagonist is eventually lead to Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh); a man who can communicate with the future through a cool turnstile kind of contraption. This is about where the film starts to lose me. Part of it has to do with Sator's estranged wife, Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), who is blackmailed by Sator, keeping her from seeing her son by using a forged painting she once sold him. As far as the rest of the film goes, it gets complicated, and you have to pay really close attention, or else review it half-assedly. I really do want to see it again so I can at least attempt to pick up whatever pieces I'm missing.
A few things that stood out for me included a lot of the originality we so commonly get from Christopher Nolan. If I say too much, I'll just start spoiling things, but the way time going backwards vs time going forwards is worked into this movie is beautifully done, and it makes for some really cool special effects that are probably as basic as running film in reverse. But it once again proves that Chris Nolan does not need big flashy CG, or even 3D, to send you on a visual effects fueled thrill ride. He's one of the more uncommon directors who understand that practical effects and simple tricks of the camera CAN be enough.
I'd like to add that the acting is all around solid as well, and this goes doubly for Robert Pattinson, who is about to be The Batman and has people on edge who still associate him with a sparkly vampire. It's a good one to check out for his acting skills if you wanna see something a little less under the radar than 'Good Time'. The guy is good at what he does, and he fits into the Nolan-verse quite nicely. Of course, everyone is good here, though. John David Washington is very likable here, playing a good mix of the cocky hero, but also the hero who knows exactly what he's doing. He's an actor who is gonna go places. His last big role was for 'BlacKkKlansman', which was a critical hit, and now he's got a Nolan movie to tack onto his resume.
This is a film that's doing well due to Christopher Nolan's good name, and the originality he puts behind his projects. Again, I'm not sure anyone truly knew what they were in for, opening weekend. It seemed to be one of those surprise films, and the trailer didn't give us a whole lot to go by, other than some cool visuals. It was a pleasant surprise, at that. The whole time I kept thinking to myself how much I'm gonna need to see it again to really figure it all out, but it most definitely has the potential to grow on me. 'Inception' will always be my highest ranked of his films (yes, even over 'Dark Knight'), but if you're a Nolan fan, and can follow things well, it's well-worth checking out on the big screen if at all possible - just BE SAFE! In the real world, we have no turnstile contraptions that can reverse time.
Sometimes it's fun to dabble in international horror styles, as so many other cultures have their own horrors that we may not even think about. The typical young girl specter with black hair covering her face came over here from Japan and gave us a whole new level of supernatural horror that has been used so often, it eventually became an American horror trope. When it comes to Russian horror, unfortunately, I don't really know what's "typical", but it doesn't appear to be sci-fi horror so much as supernatural thrillers. So really, this is a bit of an odd one out. It's also not at all scary.
Set in 1983, two Russian cosmonauts are on an orbital research mission when they experience something horrible they can't explain, on their way back to Earth. The spacecraft malfunctions on its re-entry, and in the process of everything, one of the cosmonauts is violently killed while the other, Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov) remains alive, but in some strange condition. He is taken to a military facility where a young psychiatrist named Dr. Tatyana Kilmova (Oksana Akinshina) is brought in to chat with him about his experiences. Little does she know just what is in store.
Kilmova was brought in under review for her unorthodox approaches to psychiatry. The officer in charge, Colonel Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) recruits her, but doesn't tell her anything about the alien life form that hides within Konstantin, and relies on him as a sort of suit. With that symbiotic relationship, Semiradov wants to find a way to detach the creature from the cosmonaut. But what begins as a scientific study on alien life eventually turns into a horror show when Kilmova learns that most of what she's being told is a lie, and the creature feeds on just a little more than whatever Konstantin gives it.
The film is not without a few moments of genuine discomfort, like watching the alien come out of Konstantin, and there's some pretty decent implied gore (like seeing blood splatter in night vision). But for the life of me, there was nothing that made it a horror movie to me. It's like beating a dead horse, at this point, but once again, a lot is taken from the Alien franchise - namely the alien inhabiting a human body idea. Although I can admit that this one separates itself just enough, as being a research film more than a straight up scare-fest - but that might also be the problem.
Although it has its place, and I wouldn't necessarily direct sci-fi horror fans away from it, I do have to point out that it's largely quite boring. It's a lot of talk, and as soon as something interesting happens, it goes back to that talking. All in all, the chatter greatly outweighs anything of horrific stature, and not once did I feel that morbid excitement I get from other films like it. There's that little part of all of us horror fans who kinda route for the villain. We don't watch 'Friday the 13th' for the characters, we just wanna see what Jason's gonna do to them. This does not come with that. I felt nothing for this alien either way - it could have come or gone, and I genuinely feel the same about the movie as a whole. At the end of the day, it's a forgettable one... even if the creature effects were kinda cool.
For this week, I thought I'd tackle 'Archive' based on a few reasons. For starters, I find these "uncanny valley" movies pretty interesting, especially when it comes down to a plot about what it means to be "alive" or "human". Aside from that, it comes to us from directorial newcomer, Gavin Rothery, and it fascinates me to check out newcomer material, as we don't know what to expect yet. Lastly, it was honestly just more appealing than a lot of the other titles released last week.
I'm a little sad to report that there's not a whole lot of "new" to this movie, and it kinda takes several other titles and mashes them together for its plot. However, with the fact that this is a directorial debut, I do feel the need to be easy on my criticisms. Considering that fact, this whole idea was probably a good place for him to start. To contrast the sad report of "not much new", I can at least give a happy report that I feel like this director has a good chance at making something really awesome. Like, Christopher Nolan awesome. He just has a bit of a ways to go.
As the film opens, we see our lonely lead, George Almore (Theo James) heading into a cold-looking concrete bunker; a decommissioned base, hidden within a snowy forest in Japan. Upon his return, we are introduced to two robots that George built for the company he works for, J1 - a big, clunky work robot, and J2 - a more advanced robot who appears to have feelings.
His comfort away from work is accessing the "Archive"; a program allowing the living to speak to the dead for a while after their initial death, to talk to his recently deceased wife, Jules. As he races against the clock, before she fades away forever, George's third prototype may be his best shot at preserving his wife. This leads to J2 getting a jealous streak, and the company he works for breathing down his neck for uncertain practices. However, if he's successful, he may change what the Archive could mean, forever.
With all that said, one of the better parts of this movie is a twist ending that I didn't see coming - probably the highlight of the whole movie. Otherwise, it's pretty formulaic as we see hints of 'Moon' and 'Ex-Machina' here, along with just about any other sci-fi movie you can think of involving one lone human and some kind of artificial intelligence. That's very fitting for debuting director Gavin Rothery, who once worked on the set of 'Moon' as an effects artist. While it follows a lot of similar concepts to other films, for a first, it really isn't bad.
I can't say anything about this movie necessarily bothered me, with the exception of J2's design looking kinda weird (imagine something like 'Robocop's ED-209, but replace the gun arms with almost normal human arms). That's really just a nitpick on my part. The only other thing I'd say about it is that it's pretty slow-moving, and Theo James doesn't give the most engaging performance to keep you routing for his character. It's not quite as slow as 'Space Odyssey' (that's right, I said it), but I'd even go so far as to say your average 'Star Trek' episode might be a little more entertaining.
There's not a lot of "what is life" stuff to it, as would usually be the case. It's a bit more about a man's desperation to keep his wife around as long as possible. By the end of it all, despite a pretty awesome twist, it ends up just being a sad tale. However, this was Gavin Rothery's first time, so I'm not gonna hold anything against him. Actually, for a first-time, it's really good. But what I keep coming back to is, if Spielberg did this, I can't help but feel I'd be a little more disappointed. That said, I meet this one in the middle. It's a little slow, a little redundant, but it's perfectly passable for a first-timer - one who I hope continues down that path, because there's a lot of potential there.
I must admit that I tend to go against the grain pretty heavily on Vin Deisel movies. To most critics, his movies are just mindless, pointless action that they try so hard to find some kind of meaning in, as if they should be something deeper than they are. In my opinion, however, he's basically our new Schwarzenegger. His movies are the movies to watch with a big bucket of popcorn, when you just wanna toss your mind out the window and have some fun for a couple of hours. And there's nothing wrong with that! This one is no exception to that analogy, so I implore people not to read too deeply into things here, either.
Based on the Valiant Comics of the same name, 'Bloodshot' revolves around Ray Garrison (Diesel), and elite marine soldier who finds himself captured, only to be murdered, along with his wife, Gina (Talulah Riley). Ray is brought back to life by a covert team of scientists, helming an institution called Rising Spirit Tech. They instill in him the uncanny ability to rapidly heal, using nanotechnology. The only catch is that he can't remember anything, aside from very faint and indistinguishable flashes.
Here, he discovers that he's not alone, as he meets several other enhanced individuals. His lead doctor, Emil Harting (Guy Pierce) has a cybernetic arm; the primary that he gets along with, KT (Eiza González) has a special respirator, making her immune to inhalents; Tibbs (Alex Hernandez), an expert marksman who went blind has been fitted with special technology that allows him to see everything; and Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan), who claims to be a member of SEAL Team Six (who took out Bin Laden) who has been fitted with cybernetic legs.
While training, and discovering his new abilities, Garrison eventually chooses to go after who he believes to be his wife's killer, once he manages to remember the final scenes of his former life. But the viewer learns very quickly that there's much more to him, and what these scientists want him for, than meets the eye. The big question through the whole thing is basically "can he ever get it right"? If you watch it, you'll get what I mean by that, but until then I'm choosing to remain a bit cryptic, being that there's quite a few twists and turns that the whole thing takes.
My only real criticisms are that the general ideas behind this one aren't entirely original, and though things looked and felt cool enough, nothing really popped out enough to wow me. In my humble opinion, there's a much better version of this that came out a couple of years ago called 'Upgrade' - a film I often claim to be "the better 'Venom' movie". It has to do with a lot of the same subject matter, and it's a hell of a lot more intense and fun than this. That said, I still can't quite claim this as being "bad" so much as "fun, and perfectly passable".
Aside from other film critics, digging into this one a bit, another big set of critics seem to be fans of the original comics. So I will say that if you have read it through, and you get a lot from it, you may very well be disappointed, as that seems to be the case for the most part. That said, if you're like me, and completely unfamiliar, it's as I said before - a fun action movie with cool effects and not to be read into too deeply.
First, let's just lay down some timeline stuff real quick, because things are starting to get confusing considering all of the time travel and sequels of the 'Terminator' franchise. To put it simply, we're going 'Terminator', 'Judgment Day' and now this. 'Rise of the Machines', 'Salvation' and 'Genisys' now all exist in an alternate timeline, and this is sort of pulling a 'Halloween, 2018' on us.
With that said however, I couldn't compare this movie to much more than I could compare it to 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'. By this, I mean that what we have here is essentially a soft reboot. Plot-wise, it's pretty much a collaboration of the first two films, leaning heavily on 'Judgment Day'. The Sarah Conner of this is now Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), the Terminator sent to hunt her is now a "REV-9" (Gabriel Luna), and the protector is now an enhanced human woman named Grace (Mackenzie Davis). And really, no kidding, it is pretty much the same thing all over again.
For a bit of fan service, however, we also know that the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and classic Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) make a return. While Hamilton does a great job as a casual bad ass here, though, Schwarzenegger is officially playing a "retired" Terminator, living life out in the wilderness, and the whole thing honestly never sat well with me right from the trailer. But the good news is, he's not brought into it so much so that we get annoyed with him representing a sort of goofy fan service. I hate to admit it, but some of it is kinda cringe-inducing.
I also have to admit that I'm not at all a fan of Dani's character, only because she's so incredibly rushed into things. The film never stops to take a moment to get to know her as a person, she's pretty much simply the next target. Hamilton and Davis both completely overshadow her with their performances, and it's enough to make you wonder why you care about Dani at all. In just about any horror movie, one would expect her not to make it because there's no time invested in her.
However, for all the bad, there's still quite a bit of good here. Once again, we have a reverse aging CG process going on here in the beginning of the film (which reaches a decision paralleling 'Alien 3' plot), and it's getting to a point where I might have to say that aging CG is kind of at a plateau now. This year has shown us so much of it, brought up namely in my 'Endgame' and 'Gemini Man' reviews. It's hard to imagine it getting much better. But digressing from that, the overall point here is that the CG is massively impressive, and they aren't stingy on the practical side of things either.
For the action buffs who appreciate these movies more for that than anything else, there's plenty here for you, and a lot of it is perfectly edge-of-your-seat. There's plenty here to be entertained by. But speaking for myself, I can't help but recognize that the franchise is kinda just spinning its wheels now, and at the end of the day, it mostly just feels like familiar territory that is meant to get butts in seats, using the title, and two franchise-heavy actors. Aside from a few things here and there, again this is to 'Terminator 2' as 'Force Awakens' was to 'A New Hope'. It's enjoyable, it's fun and "safe" for the hardcore fans, but it's all just too familiar, and even adds a bit of silliness to the whole thing. While it's one of the more solid sequels, 'Terminator' and 'Judgment Day', i'm fairly certain, will just never be dethroned at this point.
Ang Lee has got to be one of the most interesting directors out there. It seems that for every 'Life of Pi' there's a 'Hulk '03' while movies like 'Taking Woodstock' kinda hover in that "I dunno what I thought" zone. Unfortunately, this was one of the weak titles. But you have to appreciate that when you see Lee's name attached to something, it's like looking inside the mystery box of quality.
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is sent on a mission at the beginning of the film, to assassinate a terrorist on board a bullet train. When he realizes that he very well could have shot a little girl by accident, he finally decides to hang it up, providing us with the classic "I'm retiring" cliche.
Before he knows it, Brogan becomes the target of a very slick operative who can seem to predict his every move. He soon finds out that his hunter is a younger cloned version of himself, and he's launched back into action as, with the help of Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) he attempts to find out who made the clone, and why. At least, that's pretty much what I took from the film. We all know who the big baddie is here right away, too, so there's really no mystery, and I found a lot of the rest of the film kinda confusing.
It would seem that again, this is an example of a film made to show off how good we can do CGI nowadays, with a younger Will Smith in play. If they get things nailed down enough, aged action heroes like Schwarzenegger could make some pretty radical comebacks, and witht he way nostaglia flows these days, I would not be surprised if we saw that in the next couple of years. We can consider this the starting point, as young Willie Style here is in most of the movie, being the action star Will Smith could have been.
All in all though, the movie is just downright stupid. I mentioned confusing, I know, but some of the things they do here, namely in the action sequences, are way too overboard. Like 'Mission: Impossible 2' overboard. There's suspension of reality, but then there's getting right back up after getting your face slapped by the back of a motorcycle, and not much of a scar to show for it. A lot of it was kinda painful to watch.
But I will say this. The film could be passable as a check-your-brain-at-the-door action flick, but there's an ending to this movie that takes you out of it so abruptly that it's totally jarring. I shit you not, the film goes from an action thriller to an episode of 'Fresh Prince' in atmosphere, and it just feels rushed and silly. If it wasn't for that, I might have let this movie pass. But then again, I let too much pass, don't I?
If you wanna see Will Smith in his prime action career, watch a real "check-your-brain" movie called 'Independence Day'. It's not for everyone, but most would agree that one can just have fun with it. This is just kinda weird and unoriginal, and it could have been so much better if it wasn't so focused on the CG Will Smith and how impressive he is. Granted, he is impressive (save that last scene), but that's only part of the reason anyone would see this. I simply wasn't a fan, and I hope Ang Lee can provide us with something from his Oscar-worthy mind next time around.
'Men in Black' has been a sort of steadily sequelled franchise over the years, and altogether interesting. Every time there's a sequel, you don't really find anyone pumped to see it, yet it's still a strong enough name to still put butts in seats.
The downside is that this particular sequel was obviously made to rake in some easy dough. It's generally more of the same, but with some new big names, two of whom exist in the MCU, and it's a pretty much by-the-numbers execution. It's almost like seeing a reboot of the first film.
In 1996 Brooklyn, a young girl named Molly (Mandeiya Flory) witnesses her parents (Inny Clemons and Marcy Harriell) get neuralized by the MIB after the father comes face to face with a strange creature. The MIB decide to not do their job and skip over Molly completely, after told she was "upstairs sleeping", but hey, we wouldn't have a movie otherwise.
Molly, Already interested in the unknown, then dedicates her life to locating and joining the MIB. She kinda represents all the sci-fi buff kids from the mid-90s era (or the 'X-Files' age, if you will). She manages pretty much from the beginning of the film through Agent O (Emma Thompson), upon impressing her by locating the NYC branch.
Transferred to London, Molly becomes Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and ends up teaming up with the now legendary Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). H was made famous for stopping an alien race called "The Hive", along with Agent High T (Liam Neeson). This world-saving event is commemorated with artwork, along with Agents J and K from the first film, saving it from the bug - admittedly, a nice touch.
The case H and M are working, however ends up being much bigger than it initially seems. This time around, the big bad guy looks to be a mole within the MIB, itself, and it looks like the Hive might be coming back for more. But yeah, as a standard 'MIB' movie goes, it's about saving the world again, but with different characters. This time around, however, the new recruit is the straight act, and the veteran is the comedy relief.
Joining them is also a little green chess piece alien thing known only as "Pawny" (Kumail Nanjiani). His civilization (on a chess board) is slaughtered, and he ends up dedicating his services to M, who he believes is a queen of some sort. He's generally there to be that extra nudge of comic relief. Sometimes the jokes hit, sometimes they miss, and all in all the comedy is just kinda "meh" with a few decent laughs.
I find this one to be some sort of blend of the first and second films. As I mentioned before, it's practically a reboot of the first film. But its overall quality is a bit closer to the second, in that it's just more of the same with nothing much new to offer. The third at least had time travel, and Thanos as young Agent K. I'll give it some of its imaginative creature creations, and a few laughs, and a mindless, fun time. I just feel like after so long, this could have been better.