Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom second trailer

After the first trailer for the unauthorized sequel to "Jurassic World," I thought I had it all figured out. It was going to be some kind of rescue mission movie because of a volcano on the island. I thought that was going to be the story. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard running around a dinosaur island trying to save them.

After this second trailer, that's clearly not the whole story.

This is going to sound bat-shit insane. But the original idea for "Jurassic Park 4" was going to be about a mercenary going to the island to steal some DNA to give it to a shady corporation that has been designing humanoid miniature dinosaurs who could talk and shoot guns. The said mercenary would then lead a team of these humanoid miniature dinosaurs and they would save children and kill drug dealers. Yes, that was literally the story idea for "Jurassic Park 4." Can you even imagine it? I don't know if that idea would have worked, but a piece of me really, really wish it got made. You can find script reviews and production concept art for the idea if you dig in on the internet hard enough.

I bring that up because it looks like they are borrowing some of the ideas from that idea for "Jurassic Park 4" and incorporating it into "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." There's a shady organization and they are creating these killer dinosaurs for...well, whatever reason. Sure, there are no dinosaurs carrying guns and looking like us quite yet. But, is that on the horizon? Who knows. "Jurassic World" was more of the same, and I am hoping for a new revitalization to the franchise.


Review: "Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay" is the Suicide Squad movie we deserve

I've been saying it for years, whenever DC wants to hand the DCEU over to the people in charge of their animated movies, the world will be a better place.

In 2016, I was expecting "Suicide Squad" to be great. Even though I thought "Batman vs. Superman" was a letdown, I figured they couldn't screw "Suicide Squad" up. They got David Ayers to direct, and he was the king of gritty crime movies. For a concept involving a group of supervillains being forced by the government to go on covert missions or die, well, that's a concept that Ayers should have excelled in. There are about a thousand different excuses as to why "Suicide Squad" wasn't that great, but one of the big reasons is that Warner Brothers refused to give Ayers the leeway and freedom he needed to allow the movie to shine.

DC Animation made one Suicide Squad movie, but while it was super cool, it was mainly a Batman movie in disguise. With "Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay" the team is front and center. There are no special guests to guide us through the movie. Its all about the team. And while these bad guys have been assembled for the greater good. They are still bad guys, through and through. I think the Ayers movie went a little too out the way to make villains heroic, as if that could actually happen. The bad guys in this movie stay evil, even though they are forced to do good things, even though they are forced to work together. It was quite unexpected.

The movie follows Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost and newcomers Copperhead and Bronze Tiger. They are required to retrieve a male stripper named Steel Maxum, who apparently has something important that Amanda Waller wants. Which is also being pursued by some of DC's most powerful villains, including Professor Zoom and Vandal Savage. The team must get to Maxum before the other villains can. Everyone is selfish. Everyone is dangerous. Anyone can betray someone at any time, for any reason. It's a fairy suspenseful story, and the team gets the most fun out of it.

I feel like I am preaching to the choir at this point, but DC animation is where its at!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Incredibles 2 Second Trailer

I think its safe to say that "The Incredibles" is without a doubt, my favorite Pixar movie.

Yes, I am a superhero fanatic, so that certainly helps. But I really loved how clever the approach to the superhero genre that Brad Bird made. There was certainly a set-up for sequels, but I never felt like I needed a sequel, Brad Bird did so well the first time around that I didn't know if he could even come close to outdoing himself.

Then a decade passed. Then more than a decade passed. I figured a sequel was out of reach. Brad Bird was doing a host of different things. None of the sequels, other than the "Toy Story" sequels, that Pixar has made have been very good, so I thought maybe it was good to leave good-enough alone. But alas, in 2018, "Incredibles 2" is coming. Looking deeper into the movie, it looks like more of the same. Except different...




Just seems to me that this is going to be the exact same story from the first film, but with Mrs. Incredible front and center. But who knows. Brad Bird is a very smart, clever filmmaker. Maybe he's got something we aren't expecting up his sleeve. Here's to hoping. I'd love two "Incredibles" movies that are both brilliant.

Review: "Love, Simon" is a sincere look at a different kind of high school movie

Love, Simon Review

Last night, as I wrote my review of "Rampage," I mentioned something that I've been saying for awhile now. Hollywood has become obsessed with creating a brand and setting up a tentpole franchise that will literally print the studios money for a good decade. But not only has the business changed in the branding end, but the business has become very politically correct. There are all-women remakes that have been made already, and there are more in the future. There has been controversy every single time the race of a main character is changed. And for some reason, it creates controversy every single time there are gay characters in movies. I've seen several movies that revolved around gay characters, and for some reason most of those movies are smaller, independent releases. Are we really too afraid of seeing gay characters in mainstream movies? Alabama didn't allow "Beauty and The Beast" to show at any of its movie theaters, even though the so-called "gay scene" really wasn't that explicit.

"Love, Simon" is a typical high school at face value. The movie revolves around a guy named Simon. Simon is played by Nick Robinson, and Robinson plays him like a normal kid. He's got his own interests and his own pleasures. He clearly has a good family who loves him. He's got a group a tight friends, and even though he may not be the most popular kid in school, he makes through each day okay. But Simon has a secret, a secret nobody knows. A secret that his family doesn't know about or even his close friends. Simon is gay, he's known he is gay since he was thirteen. He wants his family and his friends to know, but he's struggling how to come out to the people who are most important to him.

If you read that paragraph and have dismissed this review entirely, I feel bad for you. Even though the LGBTQ community is allowed to legally wed in this country, we are still uncomfortable with this community, and we are still especially uncomfortable when it comes to this community being represented in our pop culture. I can tell you that "Love, Simon" feels very much like a new age John Hughes movie, which is the main reason I loved it so much. The movie is funny without being teenage cheesy. The movie is romantic without being sappy. It remembers that these aren't writing weird characters simply because they are played by teenagers. These are just kids going through their own versions of happiness, as well as their own insecurities. The people in "Love, Simon" feel like real people, and if you are going to make a teen romance, you need your teenagers to be feel organic. Nothing that conservatives would consider "gross" happens, and if your so insecure that you can't watch two men kiss without getting squeamish then I guess you'll be skipping this. But this is all in very good taste.

Another reason why this feels like a John Hughes movie is that there is a subplot about Martin (Logan Miller). Martin is a classmate of Simon, and once Simon begins chatting in a closeted gay student forum, Martin accidentally learns Simon's secret. Martin blackmails Simon in order to get to know Simon's friend Abby (Alexandria Shipp) whom he has a crush on. Simon feels like he has no choice but to help him. It's not nearly has antagonistic as it sounds. Martin is one of full-energy, nerdy, hopeless romantics you usually see in high school movies. And the way Martin confesses his feelings to Abby become some of the highlights, simply because they are so shamelessly absurd. I may not agree with everything Martin does in the movie, but Logan Miller does such a good job playing him. 

In fact, performances are really good all around. Jennifer Garner and Josh Durhamel play Simon's parents. Garner plays the typical lovable mother, and Durhamel is the overly-sarcastic father, who is truly blind that his son isn't straight. Which leads to an empathetic crescendo when Simon finally comes out to them mid-movie. Katherine Langford and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. play Leah and Nick, Simon's other two close friends. Leah has secretly had a crush on Simon for a long time, and Nick really wants to date Abby, which Simon has to try and foil for Martin. It's gets really crazy, but there isn't any weird, unnecesary silliness. It feels like something you may have experienced in high school. Where everything happened in broad strokes. When even the smallest thing was either the best thing ever, or the end of the fucking world. "Love, Simon," during its best moments, feels like you are looking into the mirror and seeing your high school self in the reflection. And there were definitely some memories that washed over me as I watching. The lead character may be gay, but the movie still makes you identify with what it was like to be in high school. It conveys every complex emotion of teenagers just merely trying to navigate all of these emotions. 

Oh, and as a huge fan of the band Bleachers, I love, love, LOVE that the film both begins and ends with their music. Well, played.

The film was directed by Greg Berlanti. The guy up until "Love, Simon" is best known for getting "The Flarrowverse" up and running on The CW. I was blown away when I learned that it was Berlanti who directed this movie, since the way the characters move through the film is night and day compared to the Flarrowverse. For how melodramatic The Flarrowverse can be, I was blown away by just how sincere this storyline was and how organically things play out in the film. "Love, Simon" is a movie that is filled with surprises, and if you open your mind to it, you are guaranteed a great time.

FINAL GRADE: A

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: "Rampage" is a rampage, you're either in or your out.

Rampage Review
I don't know if you're interested in seeing "Rampage" or not. If you are, I really hope you know what your getting yourself into. I used to play the video game in which the movie is based on. It's a fairly silly, fairly simple idea to set up. In the video game, you choose your monster. You have three choices between a giant ape named George, a giant wolf named Ralph and a giant reptile named Lizzie. You then go around the world and flip over cars, eat people, and leave a poor town with a beyond-hefty property damage bill. It's an absolutely ridiculous concept, which was why it was so much fun as a video game. I don't know if it would ever be made into a movie.

Here's the thing though, the concept of Hollywood has drastically changed over the years. There are no movie stars driving the business anymore. There was a time when a studio would take a chance on a script, because if they had a movie star at their disposal, they could sell the movie, and it could make money. No studio takes chances on scripts anymore. Every studio has their own brands, because brands sell everything now. And these brands are getting nostalgic. Rampage was a well-known in the 1990's, and so a movie is being made to see if that fan base will follow them. And while I said there are no movie stars left, technically there are, but they are inserted into the branding process too. The Rock could be argued as a movie star, but he sells a certain type of movie at this point. Its the persona that he's built an entire career from. The Rock is just The Rock in all of his movies, and "Rampage" is no different. The Rock is just playing up what he's been doing for years now.

But the persona kinda works for a film like "Rampage." I wouldn't expect an Academy Award worthy script from a film like "Rampage." I would expect moral complexity from it either. There aren't any self-important voice-overs, nor characters finding out some thought-provoking truths. The video game was a bunch of monsters destroying cities, so the movie is going to be giant monsters destroying cities. That's what your going to get from the "Rampage" movies. You will get giant monsters doing giant monster things. The Rock plays Davis Okoye, he's a primatologist, who also happened to work in the military. Just so there can be a scene where he subdues two military guards. He's got a connection to George, an albino ape. There is a mishap in a space station containing genetic alternating material that lands on Earth, getting exposed to George. Who grows in size and in aggression. The material also infects a wolf and a crocodile, and they all end up in Chicago to wreak havoc. Essentially, that's the plot. Sure, Jeffrey Dead Morgan appears, who seemingly brings in his Negan persona from "The Walking Dead." Because it feels like he never left the AMC stage. Malin Ackerman and Jake Lucy play the two most unconvincing human bad guys. Because of course there are human bad guys. Ackerman gets hammy though, so it works in context.

 The thing is, there is lots of set-up, and not as much pay-off as I hoped. This movie should have been filled to brim with carnage. I guess I can give them a few points for taking a stab at character development. Because let's be honest, these movies aren't made for the character development. If it weren't for the cast, this movie would have been on of those direct-to-TV movies you watch at midnight on Saturday on the Syfy channel. The movie spends time developing The Rock, but doesn't spend much time developing many of the other characters. Lots of types in this crew. So I wondered why they even bothered at all.

The big draw is the monster action, and when that is in full gear, I feel you'll be satisfied. I feel if they really wanted to adapt this video game correctly, the animals should have been much bigger, but nevermind. There were many moments that made me think of the times I would play this game with my brother and my friends on my old Nintendo 64. The story line was pretty generic, but that was to be expected. You don't come to a movie like "Rampage" to get wowed by a story, you come to watch monsters blow shit up. That's what happens, monsters run around and blow shit up. There are some wild upgrades to the animals that I didn't remember from the video game, that are crazy here. Like the wolf shoots spikes from his tail. Did that happen in the games? I honestly don't remember, but its crazy here. There is enough carnage at the end that it makes up for the slower "development" parts of the movie.

Time will tell if this ends up being a new brand. But I was a little surprised how much of it worked.

FINAL GRADE: B

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Heroes vs. Villains March Madness. And The Winner Is..

Well this fourth edition of March Madness: Heroes Vs. Villains was full of surprises. Not just because of upsets, because those happen every year. No, the reining champion got knocked off his pedestal. The first three editions of this, Batman was won for the movie heroes. But this year, something happened. Batman was defeated. Only by a mere few votes, but a defeat it is. The winner of this years March Madness: Heroes vs. Villains is...

Yep, we've got a brand new champion. Her name is Shuri, from "Black Panther" fame. Just goes to show that the movie is freaking titan of a creation right now. There is a reason why its shattering so many records right now, and this is just another record it has topped. Good for Shuri, we have a brand new champion.

In the beginning, Shuri ranked seventh among the Movie Heroes. Batman took the first seed as the reining champion, followed by Rey of "Star Wars," Harry Callahan, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and Ferris Bueller ranking higher than her. Not only that, but there was some stiff competition this year featuring Eggsy from "Kingsman: The Secret Service," Moana and even Andy from "The Shawshank Redemption." Not to mention all the competition in the three remaining brackets. It was going to be another crazy year.

As the contestants began to dwindle, Shuri remained very strong, getting past her stiffest competition with a genuine amount of ease. I will even admit something, no matter how big "Black Panther" has been, I didn't expect her to advance past Batman. I mean, he's been the three-time champion of this, going against would could have easily been a "flavor of the week" type character. As "Black Panther" grew in popularity, it was pretty clear that Shuri was going to make a statement, and that she was becoming a real competitor. She only one by a few votes, but she still defeated Batman, to represent the movie heroes in the final four.

The next big battle was against Arya Stark. She represented the TV Heroes last year, and she once again did this year. As popular as "Black Panther" was, could it compete against the juggernaut that is "Game of Thrones?" The answer is clearly a yes, because Shuri advanced over her, still managing to steal enough of the votes in order to get there.

Then, Shuri became the last hero standing, and she was going against the most perfect rival, Erik Killmonger, from the exact same movie as her had rose through the ranks of all the villains on his side of the bracket. It could not have ended up more perfect than this. Again, the voting was slim, because there are many in the world who DON'T consider Erik Killmonger a villain, so I was definitely surprised when Shuri ended up on top. It was incredibly close the last three votes, but Shuri still ended up the victor.

Thanks so much for voting and participating, folks. Your the reason why I decided to come up with these funny, weird match-ups, keep close eyes on the votes, and brainstorm who goes where every year. It takes a lot of work from me, and I don't know if I would go ahead with it unless there was at least one person enjoying it. It looks like many more besides one person is enjoying this, so again, thank you for your participation. We'll see you back here next year!

Review: Joaquin Phoenix electrifies in "You Were Never Really Here"

You Were Never Really Here Review

Joaquin Phoenix is, for a lack of a better word, a character.

He had a promising career when it began, showcased some real muscle as an actor. Then he announced he was going to retire. Then he announced he was going to pursue a career in rap music. Then after roughly a decade, that turned out be a hogwash. Then he released a mockumentary about what he was really doing during his time off. There were awkward interviews. There was an overgrown beard and overgrown hair. It was a remarkably weird time, and I thought he put such a foul taste in people's mouths that he'd never be able to bounce back. But he certainly has. Even if that "mockumentary" never ended up being a hit, he bounced back as if he never did any of that weird stuff he truly did.

"You Were Never Really Here" made a splash at the 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival, even though it was unfinished at the time. It still pulled a win for best director for Lynn Ramsey and best actor for Joaquin Phoenix. This year, its been slowly trickling out to theaters, slowly and slowly in this month alone. Now, everybody will be able to get a look at it. It's well worth checking out too, if I do say so myself.

The world is plentiful with crime movies. It seems like, as far as the crime genre goes, there are no more mysteries left. If you see "You Were Never Really Here," you will probably see lots of stuff you've seen before. There is a man who is haunted by his past. There is corruption within the police department. There are children who are being trafficked for sex. The haunted man goes on a one-man mission to save a particular girl who has a slight attachment too. I feel like this has happened in any group of crime movies you could name, or at the very least something like it. The thing that makes the biggest deal to me are how well its acted and how well the story plays out. There are going to be indulges in this formula for many years to come, so what exactly the filmmakers do with it is key. Director Lynn Ramsey has made something highly entertaining.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe. He is haunted by the cases he worked as an FBI agent. He is haunted by the time he spent serving our country overseas and now he works as practically a private eye for hire, but who beat the crap out of people. He is often hired by rich people to locate and rescue their children. The next big job he takes on is finding the daughter of a United States Senator. He successfully locates the girl, but she is swiftly taken away from him again. He learns that he's operating in a world where nothing is what it seems. He's determined to get the girl he originally rescued to safety and that is precisely what he does.

Joaquin Phoenix is really solid here. The cinematography is gritty and really sets the mood of the movie. There isn't much to it, but the actors give it some enough life for it to count. Check it out if you haven't.

FINAL GRADE: B