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 – Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island

Kong Skull Island

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Will Brittain, Miyavi, and more.

Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts Screenplay by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly Story by: John Gatins Cinematography by: Larry Fong Music by: Henry Jackman

Premise: In 1973, just as the Vietnam War ended, a researcher convinces a senator to allow his team to go with a survey group to a newly discovered island. The helicopter squad assigned to take them there gets a nasty surprise when they drop seismic testing bombs in the jungle. The destruction brings forth a creature worse than any enemy they’ve fought before. Getting off the island will be much harder than getting in. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of great performances from the cast! Tom Hiddleston is a man stuck between worlds as James Conrad. Samuel L. Jackson plays Preston Packard – an Ahab looking for his white whale (aka giant gorilla) nemesis. Brie Larson was both spunky and full of feeling as photographer Mason Weaver. John C. Reilly was a hoot as Hank Marlow.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Saw this in 3D but wish we’d been able to see it in IMAX 3D. Some truly phenomenal backgrounds mixed with special effects. The giant auroras around the island at night were amazing.

The outside view of the perpetual storm around Skull Island was very reminiscent of “Star Trek the Motion Picture.” Once they go inside the cloud, the “wow” factor went way up. The entire ride was amazing! Fabulous images with the off colored lightining~!

Kong looked great. The scars from previous fights were a great touch. They did a terrific job with all the creatures – the dangerous and the non-dangerous ones. 🙂

There are tons of explosions, machine guns, gas, rifle fire, napalm, and more. The scenes when the group first meets Kong were fabulous. You do not willingly mess with a giant gorilla, people!

3) Story – Thumbs Up: The entire film seemed to be not only a giant monster movie but one paying homage to all sorts of other films. Think “Apocalypse Now” meets “Moby Dick” with a dash of “Enemy Mine” and “African Queen.” They even throw in bits from the Millenium Falcon’s hyperdrive malfunction and the storm around Voyager from Star Trek. In-jokes abound!

The big theme of the film is soul consuming obsession. Bill Randa’s obsession got them to the island, Packard’s is what almost gets all of them killed. The hubris of man knows no bounds. It’s your fault if you start blowing things up, and the locals take steps to show you they aren’t happy about it. Duh! And you should never assume monsters are stupid! (These sure weren’t!) Not if you want to survive or make your sacrifice mean anything. 😛

Lots of light moments, which help diffuse some of the tension. It was used well to show the bonds between and the differences of some of the characters. They spent the time to let us get to know them a little, which is ideal for making the audience care about them and not wanting them to getting killed. Plenty of faceless ones to get ground up, though, so expect a high body count.

Aside from the impromptu scares to make you jump, the plot is pretty straight forward. Lots of mayhem, monsters, and fights to keep everyone entertained, though.

SUPER IMPORTANT –  You must sit through ALL the credits! When you see the black screen – do not move! There is more! Wait…for…it! 🙂

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Most of the gags are CGI based, but still look darn cool. The main actors still get whipped around, thrown, attacked, and more so there was plenty of work to go around. 😛

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Filmed in Hawaii, Vietnam, and Australia, we get a ton of fun sites and beautiful photography. Add in some of the cool effects for the aurora or a giant gorilla standing in the middle of signature backgrounds, and you’ve got a visual winner. 🙂

Conclusion: If you like giant monster films, action, explosions, and craziness, wrapped around a simple frame this movie won’t disappoint. Good “just for fun” fodder.

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

 

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)

 

Movie Review – Rogue One

Rogue One

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Ben Daniels, Guy Henry, Ingvild Deila, and more.

Directed by: Gareth Edwards Story by: John Knoll and Gary Whitta Screenplay by: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas Cinematography by: Greig Fraser Music by: Michael Giacchino

Premise: A cargo pilot defects from the Empire, claiming to have information about a weapon which can destroy worlds. The pilot falls into the hands of an ostracized militant faction of the Rebels. To try to get the information, the main group of Rebels track down the daughter of the man the information came from. She also happens to who knows the head of the faction holding the pilot. So the main group is hoping to use her for an introduction with the splinter faction and mend fences. Jyn has been hiding her true identity for most of her life, her father torn from her and her mentor leaving her behind years before. But when she does this one favor for the Rebellion, she starts seeing there is much out there she had no idea about. And that what the Empire is planning is bigger and more horrifying than she ever imagined.

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: The cast is a fun and quirky set of characters. At first, it seems they won’t fit together, but they end up meshing very well. Felicity Jones was fun to watch as Jyn Erso. The character has built a thick, protective shell around herself. Felicity does a wonderful job of showing it slowly cracking and eventually falling away. Diego Luna as Cassian Andor also did a great job. Having done unspeakable things in the name of freedom, he too finds his shell cracking as he’s made to deal with Jyn. Alan Tudyk was awesome as K-2SO. Not only for nice bits of levity but also for some truly poignant moments. Riz Ahmed brought a lot on as Bohdi Rook. The poor pilot goes through so much just to try to do the right thing. Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were a fun duo that added some extra fun layers to the team.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The special effects team did a superb job. The devastation from just a small blast from the Death Star was jaw dropping. The multiple views of it from the ground and from space were amazing.

They brought back all the old favorite ships and machines as well as several new ones. Loved seeing the main dish being placed on the Death Star – made for a nice backdrop to the conversation between Tarkin and Krennic.

But what was truly impressive work from the department, a lot of people won’t even realize is happening. And that is the work they did with Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila to recreate the characters of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. It was both eerie and amazing on how well the CGI and the new actors meshed together to bring back these characters of almost forty years ago from when the original Star Wars Episode IV first came out. (Peter Cushing passed in 1994 and Carrie Fisher is much older now than she was back then. :P)

A lot of the locations were recreated and made to look as we’d seen them before. Others were brand new. We even finally get an awesome tropical beach location! (Best outpost to be assigned as a trooper ever!)

Darth Vader’s Sith temple was also quite cool looking. The only planet location in the film they did not disclose. lol.

Tons of shooting, explosions, pistols, rifles, bombs, and more! But for the first time ever – no lightsabers! *gasp*

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: The Good – A lot better thought out than The Force Awakens! So, yay for that! Lots of good bits and homage/in-jokes in the film from other Star Wars films. They went to a lot of trouble to replicate places and things as we’d seen them in the original set of movies. Bringing in Tarkin and making him part of the whole thing was awesome. Adding K-2SO was genius. Mouthy robots are in lately. lol.

Layered characters with thought out motivations. They pulled at the heart strings in several places. I thought it hilarious that after going through all the trouble to make it so Han Solo didn’t shoot first, they turned around and gave us Cassian Andor. The first scene with him definitely left no doubts as to who did what.

Like Titanic, we pretty much know how this will end, but it was worth watching it happen. And the way they tie the end of the film to the beginning of Episode IV was great. (Aside from the nitpicks below.)

The Bad – There wasn’t much. And for most people, it won’t make a difference. But I must do my duty. 😛 (We watched Episode IV right after so I did a double check!) Mon Mothma did not make an appearance until Episode VI, but she was the main focus person at Yavin 4 in this prequel. They also had a character that sounded and looked like Admiral Ackbar, which didn’t make sense particularly in the large battle. (*Warning – Spoilers!*) Worse, the transmission was not a beamed transmission to one location, but one sent wide to all ships in the area. So how is it that some of the rebel ships escaped but we still only had one copy of the data? What…? If I somehow missed something explaining this, let me know!

One last nitpick. This is a big galaxy. There are bound to be wide variations in clothing styles and home architecture. But you’ll note a lot of the costumes are familiar, pilfered from different areas of the first three films. While some are expected, especially since they are recreating some of the locations, it didn’t make sense everywhere. Where it worked the least, in my opinion, was the humid planet where Jyn’s father has hiding. Subterranean houses in this environment would be terribly risky. And do they not believe in rain gear in that world?

One bit I thought cute and not cute was an obtuse bit of homage. In the original Star Wars, Lucas based the characters of R2D2 and 3CPO on two side characters in the Japanese film “The Hidden Fortress” by Akira Kurosawa with actor Toshiro Mifune. In turn, this new film has a scene with the character Baze Malbus that was very reminiscent of another Akira Kurosawa film. Heck, in the scene, you’d swear the actor Wen Jiang looked just like Toshiro Mifune! (Or I have too wild of an imagination? :P) But doing it didn’t feel quite right?

Overall, though, it was a good film! Yay!

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up:  Tons of explosions also means loads of stunt work. Rebels and Storm troopers are blown about all over the place. Throw in some excellent staff combat by Chirrut Imwe and the stunt people were kept quite busy. 😛

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: I was very pleased to note they didn’t use the same cheat they did with “The Force Awakens” concerning locations. They actually went out of their way to find a new look for several of the new worlds. For the planets already known, they did a great job bringing back the same look and feel as they’d had previously.  So yay for trying to prove all worlds in the vast galaxy aren’t all the same!

6) Music – Total Thumbs Up: I’ve read that this is the first Star Wars film without a John William’s score. Michael Giacchino took the reins of this one. And while creating several new tracks, they also kept some of the old ones. A nice way to mesh the two sets. Giacchino also kept the spirit of the style created for this franchise, so it was in good hands.

Conclusion: Rogue One has some minor flaws, but overall it beat the pants out of The Force Awakens. 😛 Great addition to the franchise!

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

Movie Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, and more.

Directed by: David Yates Written by: J. K. Rowling Cinematography by: Philippe Rousselot Music by: James Newton Howard (Main Theme by: John Williams)

Premise: A socially awkward wizard from Brittain comes to New York on an errand. Unbeknownst to him, there is a lot of unrest in the city as various unexplained phenomena have the citizens growing ever more alarmed. This, in turn, has raised tensions amongst the wizarding world as they fear they’ll be exposed to the no-mags (muggles) – something that could very well lead them to war. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Eddie Redmayne was adorable as Newt Scamander. Despite his awkwardness around people, it’s fun watching him get pulled out of his shell by a most unexpected acquaintance – the muggle Kowalski. Dan Fogler does a great job as Kowalski. The audience shares his wonder and awe as he’s shown the secrets of the wizarding world. Watching his relationship shift and change with Newt, Queenie, and the animals is a lot of fun. And he’ll steal your heart when you’re not looking. Katherine Waterston as Tina did a great job as well. Her focus shifts and changes as she follows her heart despite all she’s done to do the exact opposite. Alison Sudol as Quennie added a lot of charm and a smile with a ton of wattage. Colin Farrell was slick and oily as the head Auror Graves.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The special effects for the film were lovely. All the creatures were fascinating, and several tried to steal the show. 🙂 Lots of creativity went into them. Some resembled familiar animals while others were different from anything seen before.

The inside of Newt’s suitcase was a wonder all by itself. Somewhat like the owner, a shabby exterior holding endless wonders within.

Several cool sequences of repair magic. The cooking scene in Tina and Queenie’s apartment was super neat and warm.

The rebuilt New York of the late 20’s looked fantastic. And expect even more once you go into the wizards’ government building!

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: The film contains all the things we’ve come to know and love about J.K. Rowling’s universe. Loveable underdog characters, sinister plots, hidden social commentary.

The film explores multiple themes. The disappointing second child, social awkwardness, being taken advantage of, getting condemned without being heard or understood, and more.

A ton of red herrings and several surprises abound. Watching the chaos and funny antics by Newt’s charges are half the fun.

4) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Awesome work on all the locations real and imagined. Beautiful shots of the city, underground areas, central park and more. I loved the recreation of the New York Zoo. The shots inside the wizarding building were also quite amazing. The varied fake worlds inside Newt’s suitcase, even more so.

5) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: The hair styles, the clothes were all very 20’s. Great job with the look and feel. The makeup work on Credence Barebone and Grindelwald were very apt and creepy as well. 😛

Conclusion: Fantastic Beasts and Where They Come From is a great addition to the Harry Potter Universe. Strong enough to stand on its own as well. Very enjoyable.

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

 

I would also highly recommend the movie “Arrival” – got super dizzy from a bad case of sinus so didn’t get to post a review! Great SF!