Director: Brad Peyton
When your only real and necessary goal is to be better than San Andreas, you’ve succeeded in placing the bar so low that almost anything you produce will be a stunning hit by comparison. And I’m only knocking San Andreas slightly; it was an entertaining disaster flick, though not even close to a commendable disasterpiece. Rampage only had to be marginally better, only needed a slightly better script, only had to cast slightly better actors to work alongside the natural charisma that is The Rock, in order for us to stand and applaud. I’d say it got about halfway over the line it was aiming to cross before falling limply on its side and passing out, which is just another way to say that Brad fixed some problems from he and Dwayne’s other attempts, but not all, not by a long shot. Rampage is still problem-ridden, and yet still a good time; this genre is frustrating if only because audiences are programmed to enjoy the destruction, I just wish the destroyers would do a better job.
Davis Okoye is a primatologist in San Diego working with gorillas, some of which he saved directly from the poachers traps. Animals are his passion, and he finds that he has a difficult time relating to people; how they lie, how they ruin, how afraid they are, how quick to anger. His best friend is an alpha male named George, who he rescued as a baby, and who he can talk with though a series of signs. When a corporate experiment in space goes haywire and destroys its station, some of its pieces crash back down to Earth, one of them right in George’s enclosure. Suddenly, this peaceful creature is now an aggressive monster, one that is growing in size every hour. Davis and a disgraced scientist, Dr. Kate Caldwell, will have to figure out what changed George, how many other animals might be affected across the country, who is to blame for the technology, and how to stop them from destroying America’s cities in their ever-blossoming rage.
I played Rampage as a kid; it was one of my favorite NES games. My sister and I would rent it from the local store, play for hours, and then we’d have to leave it on all night, because at that time there wasn’t a save function. When we got back on the system in the morning, it would be red-hot and buzzing badly, but we’d finish the game, take over the U.S., and feel pretty accomplished. She was always Lizzy, I was George, so this movie speaks to that kid in me, that nostalgic piece that will always remember the good times I had with this game. The film version does a great job of recalling the destruction and the chaos surrounding the game play; climbing buildings, punching holes in them for no reason, stomping tanks, dodging airplanes, crashing down with the rubble. I even spotted the arcade version in the office of the villain, so good on the filmmakers for letting me relive a sliver of my childhood.
Now for the movie, which is basically so bad it’s good. San Andreas was cheesy and unbelievable; Rampage is more fake, which makes it more fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terribly simple and ridiculous plot filled with some of the worst dialogue you’ll ever hear, but it’s also full of goofy moments and pure mayhem that make the experience of watching worth the time. Some of the worst lines were saved for Malin Akerman, who was the cunning head of the evil corporation. She and all of her words were so bad you’d think George wrote them; I would swear that someone was sabotaging her career, but I’ve already seen her in enough to know that her talent level has done that itself. The Rock was cool, as always, he was a good hero, he and George worked together as characters, and, again, the plot was so silly and easy and linear that it kinda worked. Buildings fall, Chicago is attacked by a crocodile, people are eaten; not a bad way to spend an evening, especially if you are a fan of the original content and are ready to root for a little absurdity.
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Release: August 10th, 2018
I’m totally on board for a giant shark movie that isn’t a SyFy original, but this might be pushing it. The title is terrible, Jason Statham ruins any credibility, and the whole thing looks like a big joke. Still, I do want to see people get eaten up, I did sit through multiple Sharknado movies, maybe this won’t be so bad. If it was on my TV, I wouldn’t not watch it.
Director: John Krasinski
There are few actors more difficult to pull away from their roles than John Krasinski. Daniel Radcliffe comes to mind, he simply is Harry Potter, and John Krasinski will never not be Jim Halpert, no matter what he does or where he goes. But that doesn’t stop them from moving on and it shouldn’t stop us as audience members from doing the same, no matter how hard that can be. Radcliffe has turned into a fine actor, and Krasinski has the potential to be a great writer/director, if we can only allow his comedic roots to stay buried. The first and only real feature he wrote was Promised Land, the first and only real feature he directed was The Hollars, neither did well, but he’s back to try putting on both hats, and the result is much different this time; A Quiet Place is the horror hit of the year.
In the near future, an unknown and unknowable species will take control of the planet, an animal that is nearly indestructible and hunts its prey by the smallest sound. Humans will live on the fringes in fear, making no noise and trying to stay alive. The Abbott family has a small farm complete with everything they need, they walk into town to forage once in a while, they catch fish for meat, but mostly they keep safe by keeping to their house and keeping silent. A terrible tragedy about a year ago haunts them still, but they try to continue with their lives, as the father creates a device to aid his deaf daughter’s hearing and the mother prepares for the birth of her fourth child. But as pleasant as one day can seem, this isn’t a utopia, and lives can be lost in the blink of an eye.
Not only did Krasinski write and direct, he also starred in this film, and he was an executive producer as well. That’s a lot of work and a lot of pressure, especially to heap on someone who doesn’t have much meaningful experience past The Office. I don’t mean to say that Krasinski is a talentless amateur, of course not, but he isn’t Daniel Day-Lewis or Martin Scorcese; in this film he attempts to be them plus many others, to work many jobs at once. But he was never alone, and perhaps that’s where he was smartest. He had co-writers, his wife Emily Blunt plays his character’s wife, Michael Bay even helped out producing and you can feel that whenever a creature attacks. Krasinski follows Jordan Peele into battle, turning our expectations on their heads, creating a low-budget horror flick with a deep meaning that we won’t quickly forget.
We need to expand our idea of horror, because the genre is making a statement, with films every year that quietly squirm their way to the tops of so many lists, proving that scaring and impacting don’t have to reside in separate movies. A Quiet Place is fairly frightening, the tiniest bit gruesome, but nothing like the monster movie model you might immediately imagine; it takes the fear to another level, to a place that’s much more personal. Parents might even find it difficult to watch, the situation is so intense, so upsetting, so impossibly realistic in a metaphoric sense. The story is well written, Blunt is a strong mother figure, the kids are actually good, and the film is super short. The action takes place mostly in one place and over a small span of time, the characters barely speak, and we don’t meet hardly anyone else; that such a simple script and plot could work so well might be more shocking than the fact that it was Krasinski of all people who pulled it off. This film will put you on edge and keep you there, which is just another reason it is definitely a must-see.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green
Release: June 1st, 2018
Don’t watch this Red Band trailer unless you’re ready to see some heads exploding and arms breaking in half; you’ve been warned. It’s gruesome, it’s wild, it’s bizarre, but I wonder how good it’ll actually be. It’s like a horror/sci-fi/John Wick hybrid, and I think that could work, in theory. In reality, a lot would have to go right, but I think there’s reason to give this film a chance.
Director: Ivan Sen
I don’t think ‘Outback Noir’ is a thing, but it should be, because I’ve seen a lot of gritty, grimy, excellent Australian flicks that fit the description, and I think it could be my favorite genre, if it existed. This looks like another solid addition to the collection, and I’m excited to see it.
Category : DVD Review
Director: Gabe Klinger
Anton Yelchin’s death was less a tragedy and more a robbery; something was taken from us that we’ll never get back. I don’t mean to sound possessive over a person, nor do I want to diminish what his family went through personally, but I think for many of us that’s how it felt, like someone had stolen something special that we hadn’t even had a real chance to cherish yet. Yelchin was a tremendous young actor who was just stepping into his prime; we should have been able to enjoy him for years and years to come. Now that he’s gone, what we get are his classic roles and his final performances, one of the most adult coming in the indie drama Porto, a romance set in a foreign country that’s not near as good as its lead actor’s legacy.
This is the story of Jake and Mati, a couple brought together by fate and destined to only be together a short time. Jake is an untethered young man searching for meaning in a mixed up world. His parents are diplomats, he’s been all over the world, he’s worked every type of job, but he’s never found the one thing that makes him contented. He sees himself as normal and boring, a regular person doing regular things, not anything special that the universe will take notice of. Mati is a French woman traveling for a university program, and she’s fallen in love with the freedom that such a life brings her. She doesn’t want to be tied down by the typical, wants to experience all there is to experience, wants to have lived when she dies.
Jake and Mati meet in Porto, Portugal, and the chance encounter changes their lives. They see each other first at a dig site where Jake has only worked for two days and Mati is helping with research, they see each other again at the metro, and then once more in a cafe. It’s fate perhaps, or very unlikely chance, so they introduce themselves and take a walk through the city at night, eventually making their way to Mati’s apartment. There, they will fall in love, or at least fall into one another in a way they never have before, producing a moment in time that will stick with them both forever. But when the morning comes, when real life comes crashing back into place, what will it all have meant, and what has it really changed?
This is perhaps Anton’s most adult role and one of his very last, so it’s important to remember it so that we can remember him. He always carried such an earnest likability into every film he appeared, creating characters that were partly what was written and partly just himself. Tom Hanks does the same thing, every role he plays holds a little bit of the actual guy, and Anton could have been that kind of performer. It’s awful that he’s gone, awful for anyone who ever knew him, and it’s apparent how much he was loved by the time filmmakers take to say goodbye to him in their films. I think his friends and coworkers will be making art ‘For Anton’ for years to come, and I also think he deserves it.
Yelchin is the highlight of Porto, but nothing else really shines. Lucie Lucas plays Mati well, but it’s a very cold character, someone we never really get to know, despite the best efforts of the director. She remains an enigma, Jack becomes a tortured character, and it’s difficult to like either of them by the end. The film holds an extremely strong Before Sunrise feeling, it’s obviously being referenced, with a little more sex and angst, a little less happiness and hope. It’s really a depressing story, told darkly and strangely until it becomes quite difficult to enjoy. The plot is chopped up and mixed, we get different points of view of the same encounters, the whole idea becomes clunky; there is strong intention here, there is a strong lead, but the resulting feature is rather weak.
Video – With aspect ratios of 2.35:1 and 1.37:1 (1920x1080p), and using Aaton Xterà, Arricam LT, Arricam ST, Arriflex 16 SR, Arriflex 416, and Canon AZ 814 cameras, the video of this Blu-ray is definitely interesting, if not exactly mind-blowing. Different formats and different cameras are used to represent different memories and to set the stage for different scenes, so the film is very visual in its delivery of defining moments, it’s just not a trick that outshines the movie itself.
Audio – The disc was done in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, with an option of DTS HD Master Audio 2.0. Audio commentary by director Gabe Klinger can be accessed in this menu. And subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Spanish, and French. The dialogue is mostly in English, but also features French and Portuguese, so that’s cool, and there’s a solid soundtrack backing the action.
Extras – There are quite a few extras on the Blu-ray, more than usually come with an indie film like this. Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater is a documentary by Gabe Klinger, a bonus film that runs 70 minutes. Making a Documentary is a look at this process. Outtakes give you more insight into Porto. A Portuguese News Report adds some color. There is Super 8 Footage for those looking for more. And lastly, a trailer for the film.
Rent It. This film is only an hour and fifteen minutes long, so you won’t have to sit through an epic movie to hear the story of this couple, and that short run might be the best idea the filmmakers had. I don’t mean to say that Porto isn’t worth any time, but I imagine that the longer it ran the less I would enjoy it. It’s a heavy story, a sad look at fleeting love, and it was done in a unique style that grows very old very fast. I don’t like seeing the same moment from different characters’ viewpoints; that’s a used trick, and it wasn’t needed here. If they really were taking inspiration from Before Sunrise, they should have kept it as simple as that film did, allowed the actors to do all the storytelling themselves. The video was intriguing, the audio was nice, there are lots of extras, so the technical aspects actually held there own, but unfortunately the film itself wasn’t special enough to warrant high praise.
Director: Joss Whedon
Serenity is the followup film to the cancelled TV series Firefly, which became a cult classic after it was taken off the air. They had to do something to put a bow on the story that so many enjoyed, even if it was too late to bring back the show that so many loved. It was a great concept and a perfect cast; I think it just took too long to come together and for some reason audiences were hesitant to buy in. If you actually watch the entire 14 episodes, I’m not sure how you can withhold your love; it’s a plot that really sucks you in with a cast of actors who wouldn’t go on to do anything else, but who work together for some inexplicable reason here. Serenity gives us a bit of closure, and for that I will always appreciate it, even if it isn’t the best stand-alone flick.
The crew of Serenity is still on the run, dodging the Alliance, picking up odd jobs, trying to stay alive. But while on a distant planet, River is triggered by a subliminal message, and what happens next is shocking. Apparently whatever those scientists did to her brain when she was a captive turned her into the ultimate weapon. She can fight anyone, as well as basically read minds, so she’s both a danger to everyone she meets and something that needs to be kept away from Alliance hands. Mal and his crew will keep River alive and free, but the cost is that they are hounded by a violent Operative, a man who will stop at nothing to take the girl back, including murdering anyone who steps in his way.
The movie is much more kung fu fighting than the show, which is a little odd to watch, but also understandable. Whedon was trying to be cool, it was what was in style, he wanted to end with a bang; I can forgive the excess of kicks & punches. The real reason to watch is the same reason we watched the show; the characters are just so adorable. You want Kaylee and Simon to hook up, you want Inara to confess her love for Mal, you want to find out just what is inside River’s brain. The film doles out answers and kills off a couple characters; it does exactly what it needs to in order to shut the door. If you enjoyed the show you’ll be entertained by the movie; just know that the style is a little more action-packed and typical, but it still giving fans what they want.