Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol. 2

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, and more.

Directed by: James Gunn Written by: James Gunn Based on the Marvel Comics by: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Cinematography by: Henry Braham Music by: Tyler Bates

Premise: After finishing a job for the Sovereign, the Guardian’s find themselves in trouble when Rocket filches some of the goods they were paid to protect. Saved by a stranger, the group meets Ego, Peter’s father. But the Sovereign are not about to let the Guardians’ transgression remain unpunished. They hire others to do the work. And as Peter finally embraces the fact he’s found his father, Gamora realizes something about Ego is not quite right. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of lovely and strong performances from all members of the cast. All the weird and sometimes clashing personalities are fun to watch. Several emotional scenes were beautifully carried out by all parties. Michael Rooker deserves added attention for his intense and emotional conversation with Rocket – and for pulling off a metallic 50’s hairdo with style! 😛

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: There were lots of great effects and visuals in the film. Mantis’s antenna and her bug like eyes were so well done, you never doubted she looked like that.

All the Sovereign people were gold from head to foot, and it looked natural. Their throne room, gadgets, and remote controlled ships looked great. And the giant tentacle monster? Awesome!

Ego’s palace was gorgeous. His ship and the molding platform were lovely. The moment reconstructions in the egg like receptacles were neat and loved that they had a different texture than everything else. There were several body repair sequences, and these were fab! The view of Ego from orbit said it all.

The big fight on Ego’s planet was spectacular. And kudos on making Kurt Russel look young and long-haired once more! He looked great! 🙂

3)  Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: On several levels, the plot for vol. 2 is a lot darker than the original film. The main point of this one is discovery. Discovery of self, of what’s been there all along, of things you never knew you possessed, and fear of acknowledging emotional needs. Every single character has a revelation of one form or another. Many are not ones they are happy to find out about, even as they bring a sense of growth, depth or even a bit of peace to their souls.

There are a ton of wonderful little moments. The opening section ties directly back to the beginning of the first film as well as the end. Adorable!

Several major items that have shaped Peter’s life are made clear. Things are not always as we assume.

I did think some of the action was less believable this time around. While our heroes are intrepid and hearty, some of this went way beyond. Almost like overcompensating for the darkness and going too far with the size of the action. This took away rather than added to the film.

As always, be sure to sit through the credits. Not only is the cool backdrop of a record album ala Jefferson Starship entertaining, so are the “I am Groot” word plays, and the multiple extra scene snippets! 🙂

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Most of the stunts are CGI-assisted, but no less fun. Some of the gags were taken to a much higher level than the last film, which stretched believability quite far. Still impressive to watch though. 😛

5) Music – Total Thumbs Up: While all the great 80’s music and visual 50’s music homage was fun, I was a little disappointed that they used those almost exclusively rather than more music by Tyler Bates. Some of this they made up with the neat, nostalgic treatment of the original theme by the Steepers in “Guardians Inferno.” Very disco and reminiscent of Meco and their cool renditions of Star Wars music and other popular science fiction soundtracks of the time.

Conclusion: While not as good as the first, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is still worth a watch. Darkness and discovery, as well as lots of humor, awaits!

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again!)

 

Movie Review – The Circle

The Circle

The Circle

 

Starring: Emma Watson, Ellar Coltrane, Glenne Headly, Bill Paxton, Karen Gillan, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Mamoudou Athie, Patton Oswalt, and more.

Directed by: James Ponsoldt Screenplay by: James Ponsoldt and Dave Eggers Based on the Novel by: Dave Eggers Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique Music by: Danny Elfman

Premise: Thanks to a friend, Mae gets a chance to interview at the prestigious company The Circle. A social media giant, The Circle is pushing for 100% transparency across the world. As Mae embraces the culture of her new employers, she begins to see that total transparency can cut two ways. Her willingness to share all inadvertently affects others around her in negative ways. Are the company’s and her own ideas going too far? (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: A lot of new and familiar faces appear in this film. Emma Watson does a great job as Mae. Her suffering and helplessness with regards to her father’s illness really came across. Her open-eyed eagerness to embrace the ideals of the company, even as she scoffs at some of the directions they are heading in, were very well done. Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt were slick as the company’s leaders. Karen Gillan as Mae’s friend Annie brought several angles to the tale as well as a lot of energy. John Boyega as Ty proves yet again that you can be alone in a crowd and not just when you’re by yourself. 😛 Major kudos to Bill Paxton and his portrayal of someone with MS.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The film had tons of subtle special effects. The cool compound for The Circle when viewed as a whole. The user interfaces for the different pieces of software. The frames around the visuals to make the scene look as if it were being viewed through a camera. And let’s not forget all the neat pop-ups on the screen as you’d see on your phone screen. A lot of the comments were fun all on their own. (Some a little freaky too!) 😛

The section with the kayak in the dark, the fog, and the ship came out very well. The medical software was cool as well.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: This type of story can go terribly wrong, but luckily they treated it right. Both sides of the question were evenly weighed. Thus allowing the audience to see the pros and the cons rather than the film just picking a side and making the movie preachy or heavy handed. As with all power, the question that must always be asked is “who watches the watchers?”. Anything powerful enough to make a difference always runs the risk of being abused. The film is quite thought provoking.

4) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of lovely cinematography, especially of the Bay and The Circle compound. Tons of different sites in California were used to create the illusion of The Circle. There were some beautiful beach shots for our intro to one of the men controlling the company.

Conclusion: Good, thought provoking film. Both sides are shown evenly, leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Movie Review – The Fate of the Furious

The Fate of the Furious

The Fate of the Furious

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Kristofer Hivju, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, and more.

Directed by: F. Gary Gray Written by: Chris Morgan Based on characters created by: Gary Scott Thompson Cinematography by: Stephen F. Windon Music by: Brian Tyler

Premise: During his honeymoon in Cuba, Dom gets trapped by a mysterious woman. She’s picked him specifically. And she’s made sure to get something which will force him to choose to do things her way. First on her to-do list, get Dom to betray his family – that which he holds most dear. As the group tries to figure out why Dom has gone rogue, they get rounded up by Nobody. They want them to help find Dom but to also aid in putting a stop to Cipher’s plans. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Charlize Theron as Cipher was multi-layered and fun (in an evil, despicable way that is :P). Very much enjoyed watching her taunt Dom and act like she has all the answers; even as we see her struggling to understand how he can feel the things he feels. And looking a little jealous. Like I said – fun! Jason Stratham and Dwayne Johnson as Deckard and Hobbs look to have the most fun in the film. The in-joke/subliminal advertising for Moana was rather cute. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez speak volumes with glances. There’s lots of witty banter and fun. Good job all!

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: As we’ve come to expect from the F&F series, there’s a ton of special effects of all kinds. We’ve got engines catching on fire, crashes galore, subs, tanks, planes, explosions, and more!

They did some cool stuff with the sub and the iced over lake. And the torpedoes? Sweet!

The “rain” in Manhattan was fabulous! The whole Manhattan section was divine. The fight on the plane was also super. Bullet holes galore. Add in Stratham and the “package,” and you’re in for a whole lot of fun! (So unexpected and yet so awesome! lol. My most favorite part of the film.)

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: Science and physics always take a back seat in these movies. This time is no exception. EMP doesn’t mean the same to these guys as it does to everyone else. lol. And though they cut away from the scene, there’s still no way for that sub to get in the water! They do make it all look good, though!

Even though it may hide their hands and faces, you do not go out onto the icefields in Russia without appropriate gear! Oh, you touched that bar with your bare hand outside in sub freezing temps? You just left a layer of skin stuck there. 😛 Sometimes I do wish they’d try a little harder to cover the easier things.

Definite kudos on the little hints dropped here and there as to how Dom might not be quite as subdued as Cipher thinks he is. They do a replay to show the audience what they missed and a little more. So you won’t miss anything, even if you do. 😛 I did like how they wove in a lot of people and history from the other films back into the plot.

No real surprises in the plot, but still fun. Just watching all the insane destruction is half the entertainment. Add in some lovely fights, and voila!

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: There are a ton of gags! Between the fire, the ice, the bullets, the car and people chases, the hand-to-hand and the close weapons combat, the department was kept incredibly busy. Add in a little CGI, and the bar got raised a ton!

I have to mention that the fight at the prison was all levels of fun. A chase within a breakout, within a free for all. Nice!

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of interesting sites in the film. Iceland, Cuba, Ohio, Georgia, New York, Germany, even a glacier! And the way they incorporate the names into the landscape is a nice trick. Some lovely spanning views of all the exotic places.

Conclusion: The Fate of the Furious is fast and crazy and full of more cars and stunts than ever. It’s enough to fill any action junkie’s want list. 🙂 Leave the laws of physics at the door, and strap in for a wild ride.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

 

Movie Review – Power Rangers

Power Rangers

Power Rangers

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Cody Kearsley, and more.

Directed by:  Dean Israelite Screenplay by: John Gatins Story by: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney, and Kieran Mulroney Cinematography by: Matthew J. Lloyd Music by: Brian Tyler

Premise: Five teenagers end up in the same place when one of them uncovers a hidden artifact near an old mine. Veritable strangers to one another, they unite as they try to escape the area. Finding themselves unharmed after an accident, they get back together to try to figure out what has happened to them. That’s when they discover an old evil is about to destroy their town, their country, their planet. Unless they can figure out how to tap the powers they never asked for. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Dacre Montgomery does a nice job as Jason. His insecurity, avoidance, and hidden anger as he deals with his accident and the repercussions of his prank gone wrong were well done. Naomi Scott showed some talent as Kimberly. Her pain and the hidden aspects of her secret, and her need to be better, coming across well. RJ Cyler did a great job as Billy. Socially awkward, but super smart, he ends up becoming the heart of the group. Ludi Lin as Zack was a two-sided coin of crazy and deep grief. Becky G. as Trini was a lot of fun, as her character found herself drawn into the group despite herself. Elizabeth Banks does evil Rita with flair and fun.

Though all the Rangers do appear to struggle with the acting during the big combat sequence. Robot fighting angst is probably not a class in acting school. 😛

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: It was the special effects I saw in the previews that made me want to see the film. 🙂 There were lots of neat and cool effects throughout the movie.

The beginning of the film is set in a prehistoric era and looked impressive. The battlefield, the alien rangers, and red ranger’s solution were pretty spiffy.

Our introduction to Jason went places he and the audience weren’t expecting. The crash and the view from inside the truck were pretty amazing. He’s lucky to be alive! lol. (The few bits of shaky cam luckily did not linger long!)

The Wall was one of the coolest effects in the film. I loved the spaceship and Alpha 5. Cooler still was how they got to the ship in the first place.

The morphing was pretty cool as well. Rita’s change and the making of her scepter/lance looked awesome. Goldar was fabulous! He was so fluid! The sequence where Rita reconstitutes him is pretty darn cool. Yay big budgets! lol.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: Sentai series have been super popular in Japan. Some say the first five-member team originated with the anime series Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman in the 70’s. Saban took some of the more popular live-action sentai series from the 80’s, spliced in American’s for the non-costumed parts and Saban’s Power Rangers were born! While I have enjoyed several sentai series, the Americanized versions never did much for me. But on seeing the previews for this film, I got interested in seeing what they’d do with a feature film. The fact it looked like they did backstories on the characters also intrigued me.

Mind you; I didn’t go in thinking it would be anything but fun, action, and fluff. And I wasn’t wrong. But they did try to add some depth and let us get to know the characters bit by bit. The slow melding of the group was decently done.

Major kudos for showing us the alien who were the original power rangers and even having an alien language. And though drawn together, we still saw friction in the characters as they struggle to make sense of what they’ve been dumped into and whether they want any part of it. Also, points for proving that cars can’t always outrun the train. 😛

I do wish they’d done more with Rita Repulsa. Elizabeth Banks seemed to have had too much fun playing her. lol.

There’s a bit in the end for the fans, some hint of things to come. I am sure there were probably a lot of bits having to do with former Power Ranger series, but they were lost on me. Other than a few obvious ones from the sentai genre in general – like tons of disposable minions and major fights always happening at quarries. 😛

Still, from what I saw, I think fans of the original US shows will be pleased with how the movie came out.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Between the first car crash and then the van crash, the stunt guys were giving their all! The training fights and later the powered fights were pretty decent. They multi-vehicle fights weren’t as good. They should have let the stunt team help with those. 😛

Conclusion: Fun fluff film with neat special effects. Fans of the Power Rangers and Japanese sentai shows should find a lot to like. The fact they take the time to introduce the team members will go a long way to making the experience more fulfilling for those new to this genre of film.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Movie Review – Logan

Logan

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, and more.

Directed by: James Mangold Story by: James Mangold Screenplay by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green Cinematography by: John Mathieson Music by: Marco Beltrami

Premise: It is the year 2029. Mutants are no longer born, the weird mutation died out. Logan and Xavier are old, and neither are in good health. Everything they’ve lived through seems meaningless now. So when a woman approaches Logan professing to need his help, he’s not interested. He’s got other things to worry about. But she’s not about to let this go. (Rated R)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Wolverine. This is an older, more pessimistic Logan. Hugh Jackman does an incredible job. He gives an excellent performance throughout. You feel his aches and pains, he’s so good! 🙂

Patrick Stewart also reprises his role as Charles Xavier. Though ill, Charles still does his best for his remaining student. Patrick brings all the light and comedic moments to the tale. And he does it so very well! Watching the two of them go back and forth was a lot of fun.

Dafne Keen as Laura is a treat. Not only does she have the Wolverine glare down, but she’s also full of little surprises. Boyd Holbrook as Pierce is unexpectedly multifaceted. Though, his prosthetic hand kept trying to steal his spotlight. 😛

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of nice and subtle special effects in this film. Two of the effects stuck with me.

The first is the awesome work on Logan’s abused body. One look at his face, his shoulders, and arms and you know this is a man who has suffered pain. When you see ooze coming from where his blades previously cut the skin, you know he’s in trouble. And when you see his wounds at the clinic – eek!

The second is Pierce’s mechanical hand. You would swear it was his true appendage. There’s a scene where it’s disconnected from the socket. Then he plugs it back in and twirls a small screwdriver. It is such a seamless move that it sells its reality to the audience, even though it truly isn’t real.

Laura’s blades and Wolverine’s were great. Xavier’s unintended attacks, and the paralysis and other problems it invoked, made for a super cool scene in the city.

Oh and Logan’s limo? Priceless! Though it loses the fight with the fence, it makes up for that by bringing it along and using it as a weapon! Sweet!

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: When you first realize Wolverine is not well, many fans will be wanting to know why. How could this be? Wolverine is a mutant, and his mutation is regeneration/healing. Oh, it’s not a problem with the plot. There is an answer. And you’ll have to wait for it! But if you’re not paying attention, you might miss it. So when the scientist talks towards the end of the film in the woods, pay attention! It won’t make immediate sense to connect it to Logan and what’s wrong with him, but if you give it some thought, you’ll see that they are. I have to say, the whole idea of it was brilliant! (High fructose corn syrup is the devil! I knew it! Bwahahaha!)

The general plot is straightforward, with several points being obvious in their direction. But then, when you least expect it, you get a little surprise pop up here and there, throwing in some new angle, some new bit of fun.

There are a lot of piled layers to the film as well. Regret, guilt, debts, family, reality vs. fantasy, putting one foot in front of the other out of sheer stubbornness. Living each day for a dream that’s out of reach just to make it through another day.

Tons and tons of touching moments. I did find it ironic how Canada is mentioned as a place of safety when for Logan it had been anything but. 😛 Callisto as a man was also a bit of a surprise. I didn’t read the Laura arc in comics so I can’t make any comments on that, but I did enjoy it! (I’m a sucker for well-done angst.) 😛

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: This is a film with Wolverine, so a ton of stunts is definitely an expectation, and you won’t be disappointed. Tons of hand to hand combat. Watching Wolverine and Laura go at it together is a sight to behold. And all the people involved in Xavier’s unintended attack were fab!

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: From the neat hideaway in Mexico to the location of Eden, the farm, and more – they all looked great. The sunset behind the caravan looking for Laura was breathtaking. Some nice view of mountains, tundras, and more. Visually satisfying stuff!

6) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: I enjoyed the care they took with some of the clothing used in the film. Especially with regards to Laura. Mean, tough exterior, yet she showed a softer, girlier side with some of her random choices in eyewear and clothing. It was adorable and added an unexpected layer to her personality. Xavier putting on the hat he buys was such a cute moment!

One the makeup side, all the work on Hugh Jackman was fabulous! It screams out even more so when we meet an unexpected participant. Made for a striking contrast.

Conclusion: Logan was a fun and emotional film. Tons of action and more. Some typical moments but lots of non-typical as well. There’s also a Deadpool intro before the main movie. Disturbing and too funny all at the same time. lol.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Movie Review – The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery, Peter Chelsom, and more.

Directed by: Peter Chelsom Screenplay by: Allan Loeb Story by: Stewart Schill, Richard Barton Lewis, and Allan Loeb Cinematography by: Barry Peterson Music by: Andrew Lockington

Premise: An accidental pregnancy discovered after the launch of a mission to Mars, becomes a secret to avoid scandal and the withdrawal of funding. Sixteen years later, Gardner’s existence is still a secret. But when he finally gets a hold of his mother’s belongings in storage, he longs to follow the clues she left and see his father, if only for a moment. So when he has the opportunity to go to Earth, he escapes the facility to meet his only friend on Earth and track down his missing parent. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Asa Butterfield does a marvelous job as Gardner. His wonder at seeing what Earth has to offer is infectious. Britt Robertson as the thick skinned Tulsa was perfect. It was fun watching her well placed and shored up emotional walls slowly come tumbling down. Gary Oldman as Nathaniel Shepherd was poignant as a man who’d lost sight of what the dream was about. Carla Gugino gave depth to the awakening of Kendra Wyndham’s feelings and realizations about her charge.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The film begins before Gardner is born, so we see the actual launch of the mission to Mars. The take off sequence looked great. The views of Mars and later Earth from orbit were fantastic.

Since the story is set several years in our future, there were lots of little technical upgrades to everyday life. The crystal/glass computers looked super cool. Centaur, the robot on Mars, looked like something a kid would make. The kick me sign on the back of his head was hilarious and also reminiscent of the cool SF film called “Moon.”

The barn explosion was BIG! A little overdone, but they did do a great job with the wind and smoke to obscure the view from those spying from above. 😛

3) Plot/Story – Neutral: This is one of those films where you don’t want to look too closely at what is being told, or it starts falling apart. Overall, the concept is fun and entertaining, and it even has a couple of twists. The growing relationship between Gardner and Tulsa and their trials are what keeps us interested. Yet the film also took a few corners by omission and some of the science is ignored, so they don’t have to figure out a way to work around it.

The primary driver of the film is how Gardner can’t handle Earth gravity. And they did take the time to introduce a way to help his bones stand up to the higher gravity, which was great. What they ignored is the fact that going into orbit or into space, multiplies the gravity, which would, in turn, kill Gardner outright. They could have used a gel container or even a water tank to help offset some of the effects, but they didn’t use anything at all.

They also ignored some facts with Sarah getting pregnant in the first place. No woman who fought and clawed her way to being the leader of a four-year mission to Mars would then blow it all away by getting pregnant. Birth control would have been the first thing she would have taken care of. To spend so much time and effort to gain her position, she wouldn’t have just thrown it away. (And they never have the decency to tell us what she died of! Argh!)

The same lapse in mentality shows up again when Gardner and Tulsa have a “night” together. As a child in foster care, she would be very aware of the type of situations which might have been the reason she got into the system. I doubt she’d be wanting to make the same error to another child. (And there’s also the fact with Garnder’s health problems, he would have probably died from the act due to the stress on his enlarged heart, but we won’t go there…) 😛

A couple of more nitpicks. 1 – Things Gardner found unfamiliar didn’t quite work. Since he had access to entertainment on Mars, it’s hard to believe he didn’t know what streets were, or horses, even dogs. It would have been more fun for him to know what they were but touching them, smelling them, that part that would have been new and would surprise him. Much like the fun scene at the bus stop in the rain. He knew what it was, but actually experiencing it was something else altogether. We needed more of that! 2 – If Gardner had access to social media/chat rooms – why was Tulsa his only friend? 3 – Communications between Earth and Mars were pretty much instantaneous. Yet nothing was said about how this is possible. Especially since lag times currently run from four to twenty minutes each way!

4) Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: The cinematography on this film was fantastic. The shots are themselves a love story of sorts. One to get the audience to see and fall in love with our planet as much as Gardner does. So many gorgeous shots!

Conclusion: An adorable love story with bits of mystery carried forward by a great cast. As long as you don’t look too closely at the details and science, you’re in for a nice ride.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Movie Review – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, Ruby Rose, William Levy, Rola, Ever Anderson, and more.

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson Cinematography by: Glen MacPherson Music by: Paul Haslinger

Premise: Having survived a trap in Washington, D.C. Alice gets contacted by the Red Queen – Umbrella’s AI Computer. She warns that in 48 hours the three thousand plus humans left on the surface of the planet will be exterminated. Their only hope is for Alice to come back to the Hive to retrieve the antidote for the T-virus. One the Umbrella Corporation has kept hidden from the world. The ultimate secrets are about to be revealed. (Rated  R)

Review:

1) Acting – Thumbs Up: Familiar and new characters fill the cast. Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, and Shawn Roberts reprise their previous roles in the Resident Evil universe. A couple of them get to play more than one. 🙂 Milla Jovovich continues to give Alice some nice layers with what little she’s given to work with. Iain Glen looks to have had a lot of most fun playing multiple roles in this one.

2) Special Effects – Thumbs Up: It’s hard to say if it was due to budget cuts or the direction the group was ordered to follow, but some of the filming choices made a lot of the special effects look cheap or mediocre. Which is a shame, because there were some neat effects in there.

The first creature that attacks Alice is filmed in such a way the audience can’t get a sense of what it look like. All you see is a blurred, giant blob of flesh. Between all the shaky cam and giggling, weaving viewpoints. They did slightly better with the next creature, but even that one the good glimpses seemed doled out rather than consistent.

Great work on the zombies. The ones hung from a bridge and only reacting when the trucks drove beneath them were an awesome detail. There’s one that shows up in the Hive that gave it all he had despite being hung to dry, poor thing. He looked great!

The Hive itself was fab. The recreations of several familiar places and the transformation of others were well done. The evil laser corridor makes a comeback. Bwahaha! The bridge/walkway coming up out of the water was awesome.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Down: Hubby has loved this franchise since day one. I’ve gone and seen all of the films with him. Some have been better than others, yet you don’t tend to expect too much in that department. The action and special effects are what people truly come for, and they usually deliver quite well on that aspect of things.  This time, though, they failed at both. 🙁

The plot was awful. Too much of it was contrived for convenience. No real surprises.

It was bad enough that the audience gets thrown into the deep end with little explanation. (And with information that doesn’t match info previously given in other films!) Then we’re “told” Alice survived a trap in D.C. but got to see none of it. New characters are thrown at us, but the audience is given no time to get to know them. Yet we’re expected to care when they die…

Alice has 48 hours to get the antidote and save humanity. Yet the story has the characters waste hours upon hours preparing for a coming attack on the human “stronghold” rather than just go to the Hive to save what little of the human race is left. Instead, Alice leaves herself two measly hours to break into and infiltrate a giant underground facility and find the elusive antidote. One that could be locked up anywhere in the facility and not easily accessible. Right…

Wesker’s job is to keep people out of the Hive. He knows Alice is coming. He and Isaacs keep talking about doing lockdowns and having all the security primed. So what does he do? He keeps the giant door leading into the hive WIDE OPEN! Even taking into account the supposed “power grid issues” he still had plenty of time to close the thing but doesn’t. (What’s hilarious about the super convenient “power grid issues” is that if they truly had rolling power outages, all of the people in the cryo tubes would be DEAD!)

Don’t get me started on how the “power grid issues” get used to make convenient problems for the infiltrators. Ugh.

As if the plot issues weren’t bad enough, they ruined most of the action shots with shaky cam, blinking lights, wobbly angles and any excuse to not get a good clear shot of the action. Made no sense. You’d get one impressive bit of fighting, then a ton of jerky crap you couldn’t keep track of. *sigh*

4) Stunts – Thumbs Up: Lots of stunts and neatly choreographed battle scenes. But they too suffered from the horrible shaky cam, wobbly angles, and strobe light effects. Boo! It was frustrating to get something super cool and then something almost unrecognizable. Double boo!

5) Music – Total Thumbs Up: The one bright spot of the movie was the music. Paul Haslinger’s “A Force so Evil” track which is used as the film opens got the blood flowing and built a growing sense of excitement. Too bad the plot and bad filming couldn’t follow through on what he created with the score.

Conclusion: The final installment in the “Resident Evil” saga will not leave a good impression overall. Bad plots might be expected in films like these, but when they muck with the action, they’ve drained what little fun could be had at all.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Better for Matinee.)

Movie Review for Underworld: Blood Wars

Underworld

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance, James Faulkner, Peter Anderson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, and more.

Directed by: Anna Foerster Screenplay by: Cory Goodman Story by: Kyle Ward and Cory Goodman Based on Characters Created by: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, and Danny McBride Cinematography by: Karl Walter Lindenlaub Music by: Michael Wandmacher

Premise: Having lost her lover, daughter, and family, Selene feels she has no reason for living. Hunted by both werewolves and vampires as they seek her daughter for her blood, they won’t believe her when she tells them she doesn’t know where she is. Meanwhile, a new leader has risen amongst the werewolves. One whose been able to unite all the tribes and successfully destroyed a number of vampire covens. This could be the ultimate battle for both species. And Selene is once more stuck in the middle of it, whether she wants to be or not. (Rated R)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as the vampire Selene. Her dark, poignant looks are as sharp as ever. Theo James also returns as David. A young vampire Selene saved in the last film, he stands by her side whether she wants his help or not. Lara Pulver is pure gold as the manipulative Semira. Charles Dance and James Faulkner bring their strong presences into the cast giving it some weight.

2) Special Effects – Thumbs Up: A lot of effects fill the film. Most are quite nice. Several considerably gory.

The outside area of the northern stronghold, especially the frozen waterfall, was fabulous. The obfuscate skills from the north flowed quite well. And the vampire cocoons were a neat concept.

I couldn’t remember from the previous films, but it seems that the werewolves in this franchise get less and less hairy with each movie. Hairless werewolves look less like werewolves and more like muscle heavy people with long muzzles. The vampires too seemed less than they should. They either had elongated teeth all the time or not at all.

3) Plot/Story – Neutral: At a mere 91 minutes, there’s not much time for any real story development. Complications and backgrounds are served at breakneck speeds with no time to savor or absorb them. Character development is minimal. Lots of new enemies that just seem like more of the same because they’re not given any real time to prove they’re in any way different from the rest.

To increase the blood and carnage, both the werewolves and the vampires seem to lose a lot of their powers. Their sense of enhanced smell, strength, and more. A lot of wounds that should repair themselves in moments don’t heal at all. (Not every blade would have poison on it.) The touch of the sun and the UV bullets now kill instantaneously. Selene and Varga’s cage match showed potential for cool combat skills the vampires never once use on their werewolf enemies.

A lot of the motivations seem concocted and convenient. Without building the characters some of the things they do make no sense. Thomas knows Semira and her techniques, yet ignores what he knows and makes some of what follows hollow. Varga’s explanations for his actions late in the film are completely belied by his previous actions, but no one seems to notice. (And when do you put someone in a room as a prisoner without removing all the weapons? As if this huge place wouldn’t have a set of cells!)

It’s also never good when you repeatedly tell the audience how impossible something is, and yet it’s taken care of easily. Worse, once the vampires realize what has been done, they do nothing to correct the issue and get the benefit of added security instead of being massacred. Oh well.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of hand-to-hand combat. Sword fights, gun fights, and combinations of those and more. The choreography from the battles was overall well done.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: The gorgeous vistas, especially when they go north, almost make up for the plot issues. The shots from the train over the mountains were fantastic! The frozen lake with the northern lights behind them was a beautiful sight. I loved the shots of the frozen waterfall.

6) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: Selene wears her signature corset, leathers, and long coat. Later things get shaken up a little with some contrast changes. All the southern vampires are emo to the max. It made for a huge contrast when we’re introduced to the northern coven. A strange ying and yang effect. I loved the touch of Viking and Valkyrie influence on the northern group, especially for Lena.

Conclusion: If you love watching Selene kick buns, and some gorgeous cinematography, you’ll enjoy the film. Just don’t expect much else.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Better For Matinee)

 

Movie Review – Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Ménochet, Ariane Labed, and more.

Directed by: Justin Kurzel Screenplay by: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage Based on the Video Game Series Created by: Patrick Désilets, Corey May, and Jade Raymond Music by: Jed Kurzel Cinematography by: Adam Arkapaw

Premise: Cal Lynch was sentenced to death for killing a pimp. Except instead of dying, he finds himself in Spain rather than Texas. Due to his DNA, he’s been picked up for a research program. One that taps into his genetic memory. The Institute is using this research not only to study violent behavior but also to find clues as to the whereabouts of the Apple of Eden. A prize that has been pursued by the Templars and the Assassin’s Creed for centuries. The stakes are higher than Cal would ever guess. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Michael Fasbender does a great job with the double role of Cal and his 14th-century ancestor Aguilar. The two characters are polarized in different directions. It’s fun to see the two figuratively and literally face off against each other and what drives them. Marion Cotillard as Sofia was also an interesting character. She’s a brilliant scientist, yet is mostly blind as to what her research is being used for and her father’s real goals. Jeremy Irons is masterful as ever. A charismatic man with giant agendas who doesn’t care who and what he uses to achieve his goals.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of lovely and subtle touches from the special effect’s team. In the game, the eagle is a symbol of the Assassin’s Creed (since it is a bird of prey) and is used in several sequences. For the film, they expanded on this and used the eagle in both the present and the past. I thought it made for a beautiful tie between the two men and a nice sprinkle of mysticism besides.

The recreations of the ancient cities were wonderful. They even made sure to add in the towers and a lot of the look and feel of the original game.

The concept of the Animus, a virtual reality machine used to project the genetic memory of the subject, was altered somewhat to make it more cinematic. Still, I thought it was great! The 3D visual representations as seen by the doctor and techs gave everything a ghostly, haunting quality, while for Cal being in the past was solid reality.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: You get a little backstory on Cal, which serves to help the audience understand him. It’s also used to set up some reveals further on. In general, I felt the plot was pretty straight forward with few surprises. That might also be because I know a little about the franchise. (Got to play the original game years ago – though I didn’t get far. The baud rate on the main character’s white room at the institute was low. So it would make me very dizzy, even though no one was moving!)

Some neat explorations of free will, violence, even faith. There’s even some fun mysticism thrown in for flavor. Magic, technology, God, the audience is left to draw their own conclusions.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: The film has a lot of cool CGI and regular stunt work. Watching the assassins run through the old streets and roofs of Madrid was a lot of fun. Lots of hand-to-hand combat.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: The film was shot in the UK, Malta, and Spain. The flavors of the locations come through in both the past and present. The cinematography throughout was excellent, taking total advantage of the sites. Several scenes are from just behind a flying eagle, and they were gorgeous.

One neat section went from a painting depicting a scene in 1492 to later diving into the location back in time. Lovely!

Conclusion: “Assassin’s Creed” is a fun action film with some history and mysticism thrown in for flavor. While not exactly like the game, it keeps the most important points and makes for a satisfying ride.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Movie Review – Passengers

Passengers

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Julee Cerda, Aurora Perrineau, Andy Garcia, Vince Foster, Kara Flowers, Conor Brophy, and more.

Directed by: Morten Tyldum Written by: Jon Spaihts Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto Music by: Thomas Newman

Premise: The colony ship Avalon is on route to Homestead II. It’s carrying 5,000 passengers and 258 crew all in suspended animation for the 120-year trip. 30 years in, the ship encounters an asteroid field. One of the asteroids is massive enough that it breaks into pieces when hitting the ship’s shields rather than be vaporized. The ship sustains some seemingly minor damage it is able to repair. However, a chip on one of the hibernation pods shorts out, and the passenger is awakened. Something which has never occurred in the history of the company. And something the ship was never programmed to handle. So Jim Preston finds himself alone, with 90 years of the journey still to go. His only companion in a ship of over 5,000 people, a semi-intelligent bartender android. And the ship wasn’t actually able to repair all the damage… And it can only hold out so long. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence did outstanding work in film. They also have great chemistry together. Something that’s crucial since for 95% of the movie they are the only ones carrying it forward. Chris gave real emotional weight to Jim’s problems when he first wakes up alone and later when he battles himself over a major decision. Jennifer Lawrence also runs the gambit once she’s brought awake, and again later when she learns a horrifying truth. Michael Sheen is fabulous. His portrayal of Arthur as the semi-intelligent android and the passenger’s only available outlet was top notch. You could almost see his programming struggling to do more and to understand more than his software could handle. Laurence Fishburne also added a lot as Gus Mancuso. The whole cast was fantastic.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Lots to love with regards to the special effects. The Avalon is a gorgeous ship! Self-repairing, auto maintaining, and so beautiful. A lot of care is taken on scope and view angles. When Jim goes on his first spacewalk, his position feels stationary as everything around him is spinning. In reality, though, the two are swapped. (Don’t watch the surrounding stars for too long as it will make you dizzy!) Tons of lovely attention to detail!

The Dance Dance Revolution type game was hilarious. And all the 3D holograms and interactive systems looked great. The pool area was fab. And what they do with it when gravity fails at one point was awesome.

The gorgeous views of the universe, and especially the gas giant, will make you feel it’s those who are asleep that are missing everything and not those who are awake. A lot of fantastic visuals. Totally worth the 3D price.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: True science fiction is more than just about spaceships, aliens, and weapons. It’s a medium for exploring human behavior, the human condition. “Passengers” definitely explores several levels of both. They also have fun playing with the hubris of corporations and how nature and Murphy’s Law care nothing about it. lol.

The science is, for the most part, solid as well. So that’s a bonus. Though the film does take a few things to unbelievable extremes. The spacesuits in the Avalon are beyond miraculous – heat shield or no heat shield. The autodoc is too, once you get past the pesky restrictions. lol.

The film is a combination of “Silent Running,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “Cast Away,” and more. It’s also a great date movie. These are things to keep in mind as it will probably not resonate with some viewer’s expectations. Hubby and I, however, were quite pleased.

One bit that gets done wrong or is misleading in way too many movies is the act of writing. Aurora is a journalist and a writer. And they show her just speaking out her thoughts and the computer typing them for her on a screen. While that’s all well and good, the part they do not cover is EDITING! You can just jumble stuff down on paper, but NEVER is that the final product. NEVER! You have to go over it, prune it, add to it, change it, make sure it flows, that it makes sense, that it’s legible. Even this movie review is not just typed and posted. Editing happens to it too! Gasp, wheeze, breathe. *Ahem*

The fabulous acting, gorgeous vistas, and well thought out scenarios will help audiences overlook the overstretched items. And some little things did show a lot of thought. At one point we see Jim drawing on the deck for something he’s working on. And he thought it through thoroughly. Many will probably miss it, but what he does is a real achievement, especially since he’s trying to avoid damaging any systems. You’ll know it when you see it.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: From about the middle to the end of the film there are several scenes with stunts. And most look to have been done by the actors! They meshed quite nicely with the CGI of what was going on around them. Great job!

5) Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: I believe that between “Prometheus,” “Avatar,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” that other films’ visual effects and cinematography have a high bar to compete against. “Passengers” works hard to get near the three. The spanning space shots. The views of different parts of the ship. The gas giant, the asteroid field, and more are presented in fabulous ways. There are even some beautiful gas clouds during the end credits that take full advantage of the 3D. Nice!

Make sure to take a good look at the end of the film when the crew awakens and goes into the main concourse! It’s super fast but super cool. And there are so many details it’s hard to take them all in before it goes away!

Conclusion: Whether you go see “Passengers” for date night or for social SF or just the cool visuals, the film is definitely worth it. Add in a little suspension of disbelief at a couple of places, and you’re in for a treat.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)