By Jon Rutledge
Rampage is the love story from Dwayne Johnson’s days of playing Rampage at the arcade. There is nothing wrong with this because who doesn’t love a giant monster movie? The formula being City plus giant monsters mayhem and spectacular effects. They did not recreate the story of the video game but they did capture its spirit. The story they use makes more sense in a more modern setting, even if it’s a bit dodgy with the science. You have three animals that have been affected by genetically altering canisters of gas that fell to earth from a secret science lab in space because the research being done is highly unethical. (I know, I know, just run with me) One lands in a zoo and affects George an albino gorilla. One in Colorado and affects a gray wolf, and one in the Florida Everglades, affecting a crocodile. The evil corporation trying to gather the data they need from the monsters set off a high-frequency beacon that drives the monsters crazy and draws them to the headquarters.
Of course, The Rock is going to be the star and center of attention but his presences are secondary to the giant monsters. Unlike other films with a mega start, it’s not all about the name on the poster. His supporting cast has done a great job. Naomie Harris (Moonlight, Collateral Beauty) is a scientist who was fired by the evil corporation but is trying to help save the animals. Malin Akerman (Watchmen, 27 Dresses) is the evil head of the company who ran the experiment with her brother, played by Jake Lacy (The Office, Carol). Together, they do a good job at being hated enough to make their just deserts enjoyable. There was a surprise performance from Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, The Losers) as a government agent looking to contain the situation. He always does a good job but this character was not as unsavory as some of his previous roles.
The star of the show is George the CGI gorilla who drives all of the emotional goodwill of the film. It’s his story that is way more compelling than any of the others on the screen. The Rock has to perform some superhuman feats to keep up with his gigantic co-star. Try not looking too closely at the reality of the situation when dealing with a giant monster film besides, it’s a fun ride.
Interesting side note: Remember that horrible director of video game movies? Uwe Boll took offense to Warner Bros. doing a video game movie. In a Deadline Hollywood report, Boll explained in a statement why he is threading legal action. He says the film would “confuse the audience” and it would “shrink” his brand. (I know, I know, just run with me on this.) His trilogy has nothing to do with the video game and it’s hard to imagine his brand getting any smaller. He asserts the film “is one of those typical feel-good, popcorn bullshit movies that the studios use to brainwash America even more!” I understand Boll is unfamiliar with what entertainment is, considering his body of work, but speaking as one of the American sheep, I was entertained, pass the popcorn, please.
The Downfall of Pacific Rim Uprising
By Kavann Tok
In the first Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth and Shape of Water), colossal beasts are known as Kaijus emerge from beneath the Pacific Ocean, which we later discover are entering from an interdimensional portal. An alien race uses them as war machines sent to wreak havoc on our world. Yet humanity strikes back with the use of Jaegers, giant robotic mech suits piloted by two or more people mentally connected through a process called drifting, which helps alleviate the pressure Jaeger pilots endure during combat.
Pacific Rim Uprising picks up where the last story left off, taking place in the aftermath of a Kaiju ravaged world. The next generation rebuilds society, riddled with the bones of Kaijus, gigantic genetically engineered monsters.
In the year 2030, some of the remaining survivors loot Jaeger parts from wrecked robotic suits that are worth a lot of money on the black market. Others learn to build new Jaegers out of scrap parts in order to defeat the Kaijus in the event they return to reclaim Earth.
Pacific Rim Uprising is Steven S. DeKnight’s feature-film directorial debut. This is one of the many reasons why this sequel falls flat in comparison to Guillermo Del Toro’s original vision. Most of the cast is filled with young stars, such as Cailee Spaeny and John Boyega. Characters from the original cast include Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). Even Boyega, who played Finn in recent Star Wars films, couldn’t save this movie from dry dialogue and lack of substance.
The entertainment value suffers a serious case of the mundane, simply made to cash in on the success of its predecessor. There wasn’t enough story development to make this film worthwhile. Considering the youthful ages of the new Jaeger cadets, it often felt more like watching Power Rangers. The special effect sequences were the most exciting moments of the film, and they were few and far between.
The script of Pacific Rim Uprising felt rushed, unfinished and didn’t contain all the pulpy details of the original. A sequel should propel the story forward in an epic fashion. Unfortunately, the pacing of the story felt processed and slow as a snail’s crawl, leaving the viewer with a déjà vu feeling that they’ve somehow seen this all before.
Even the Kaijus weren’t as scary this time around. In fact, there’s never any real threat because they have the technology to evacuate an entire city within a few moments. The intended humor fell flat. However, the unintended humor was the display of destruction the Jaegers inflicted on their own city for no apparent reason, almost as much as the Kaijus.All in all, nothing new to see here. Move along.
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony
By Khaleel Herbert
Tyler Perry takes his filmmaking to obsessive lengths with Acrimony.
When the devoted wife, Melinda (Taraji P. Henson), is sent to anger management, she recounts her 18-year love life with ex-husband Robert (Lyriq Bent) that includes sacrifice, doubt, and infidelity. In college, they meet in the rain, (hence, why Mel says she can’t stand the rain). Robert offers to help her with a paper for one of her classes.
When her mother dies, Robert visits her to offer comfort (which turns into a hanky-panky when they’re alone in his RV). Robert tells Mel his dream of making a rechargeable battery that could power cars and houses. He hopes to take the plan to a local company. As Mel falls deeper and deeper in love with Robert, she invests in his dream with the money her mother left her (350 grand). Her older sisters (Jazmyn Simon and Ptosha Storey) advise against it. But through thick and thin, Mel and Robert stay together and tie the knot.
Eighteen years pass. Mel is working two jobs, while Robert is still trying to get his battery off the ground. The company that he kept sending pitches to has a restraining order against him. Since Mel is sterile, they have no children. Tensions rise when Robert runs into Diana (Crystle Stewart) an old flame from college before he got married. Mel has suspicions that he’s cheating on her and as her suspicions deepen, her sanity is pushed to its limits.
Henson plays the hell out of her role. Like Lynn Whitfield’s Brandi in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Melinda has worked hard to support her man. But he still disappoints her and it hurts her heart, especially when she invested all of her money to help him. When things finally go right for Robert, he shares that success with another woman…so Mel wants to get her satisfaction by any means necessary.
Acrimony has a story that keeps you invested. We see Henson talking to the therapist (and we never see the therapist’s face, but we hear her voice) and she tells her story in one big vivid flashback, similar to a technique used in Forrest Gump. There are times in the second act where the story lags. But it picks up by the third act, specifically where Melinda becomes as unhinged as Beyoncé swinging that baseball bat in her “Hold Up” music video. Not even her sisters and best friend can talk her down from the ledge of insanity.
Tyler Perry steps away from Madea’s comical adventures into a dramatic thriller that allows Taraji P. Henson to steal the show and reach her full acting potential, an award-winning performance.
Isle of Dogs Barks up the Right Tree
By Kavann Tok
Isle of Dogs is Wes Anderson’s second animated feature film which he produced, wrote and directed. Anderson is most known for a variety of independent award-winning comedy/drama such as The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Similar to Tim Burton, Anderson has a love for the lost art of stop-motion animation as demonstrated with his first witty animated movie Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Although Isle of Dogs may seem like an adorable children film, some parents may not wish to take their kids to see this one. It’s more of a dark comedy filled with political undertones about dictatorship and the power of government. For all intent purposes, the dog’s dialogue is in English, while all the human characters spoke Japanese. In Megasaki City, Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) decides to exploit an outbreak of a canine flu virus to his advantage, simply because he doesn’t like dogs.
He uses the media as a tool of propaganda, spreading fear that the virus is an epidemic that could spread to humans, merely as an effort to rid the land of all dogs. They are forced to live in a penal colony and in exile on Trash Island. Spots (Liev Schreiber) is the first dog to be sent there who belongs to 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi, the orphaned nephew of Mayor Kobayashi. Consequently, Atari travels to Trash Island in a hijacked plane in hopes to find Spots and bring him back home.
Isle of Dogs animated feature boasts an all-star cast of voice actors with talents such as Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton and many more. Bryan Cranston plays the main top dog named Chief, and Scarlett Johansson plays his love interest, a sweet, well-behaved dog that goes by Nutmeg.
Isle of Dogs is sure to delight Wes Anderson fans, not falling short of his one of a kind, cutting edge satire. Although his movies tend to share a few common denominators such as using many of the same actors, each film is unique and different in its own way. Some may find the story slightly dark in nature, butIsle of Dogs is also filled with moments of hope and inspiration. Ultimately, it’s about a boy’s love for his dog and how far he’s willing to go to get him back. It’s an adventurous journey of newfound friendships that form an alliance to overcome overwhelming odds in hopes to reverse poor decisions made by a governing official. The scenes are beautifully crafted together to represent a dystopian, futuristic Japan and is worth a watch.