Big meets bigger. You and a guest are invited to an advance screening of RAMPAGE on Monday, 4/9 in Denver! Visit www.wbtickets.com/ViralRampage for a chance to download your complimentary passes. (Passes admit up to 2 while supplies last. Passes do not guarantee admission as theater is overbooked. ARRIVE EARLY.) #RampageMovie in theaters April 13th.
Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a man who keeps people at a distance, shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent, silverback gorilla who has been in his care since birth. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry mutates this gentle ape into a raging creature of enormous size. To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are other similarly altered animals. As these newly created alpha predators tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with a discredited genetic engineer to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.
If you are not a fan of CGI and think that CGI is ruining film, Ready Player One might kill you. At the very least, it will give you an aneurism or a stroke. Possibly both. If so, you deserve it. I am not quite ready to devote my year-end review to all of the incessant whining about the use of CGI in movies, but I am seriously thinking about it. CGI is one of those topics that film snobs love to use as an excuse for hating some movies, right alongside with “there is no more creativity in Hollywood.” Forget about the fact that CGI has allowed us to realize hundreds of movies and tens of thousands of elements within movies that would otherwise be impossible. Could you imagine how stupid Spider-Man would look if all of his web-slinging was done via wire-work? Oh, right, they tried that on Broadway. I rest my case.
My point is if there is one thing Ready Player One has a ton of it is CGI. My greater point is that Ready Player One could not be made without a ton of CGI. Nearly the entire movie takes place in a virtual simulation called the OASIS where anyone can be anything or have anything they want. Want to race through a city in an exact replica of Doctor Brown’s Delorian while dodging a rampaging T-Rex? Want to be seen as a nine-foot tall warlock or the Iron Giant? Want to pilot Mechagodzilla while fighting an army on a planet called Doom? None of that is happening without a lot of help from computers. And if it is, it probably looks terrible.
Be all that you can be.
Having read and loved the book of the same title, I was terrified that the movie was going to be a disappointment. Mostly, because I managed to see multiple previews at other screenings, but also because with great CGI comes great responsibility. Happily, the effects of the movie are fantastic, as well they should be given the $175 million budget of the film, but also because director Steven Spielberg is a genius. Everything felt like it had depth and texture and nothing felt flat. One great example is an early race scene that manages to feel claustrophobic and tense, even though it is happening on open streets and is nothing more than pixels, even for the characters. At no point did I ever feel like the visuals were just throwing ones and zeroes at me in attempt to overwhelm my senses. I even appreciated the 3-D effects, which I normally hate, despite the arms of the cheap 3-D glasses jabbing me in the side of the head.
It was pretty dazzling.
The film also stays fairly faithful to the source material, in no small part aided by the author (Ernest Cline) co-writing the screenplay (with Zak Penn). If you have not read the book (do it now), the main plot is a treasure hunt within the OASIS, a hunt designed by the creator of the OASIS, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Competitors must solve three puzzles (including discovering the location of the puzzles) to obtain three keys, which will unlock an Easter Egg hidden in the OASIS. Whoever finds the Egg gets full control of the OASIS and inherits Halliday’s half-trillion dollar fortune. The details of the puzzles vary between the film and the book, but the structure remains intact.
Naturally, everyone is trying to win the game, but nobody has figured out how to complete the first puzzle. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a.k.a. Parzival is a Gunter – players who spend all of their time hunting for the egg – and also knows virtually everything about Halliday and the things Halliday liked (movies, video games, music, etc.). This knowledge eventually leads him to crack the mystery of the puzzle and put him on the radar of everyone in the world, including Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI) and all-around jerk-off. Sorrento has tasked an army of indentured servants (people who have accrued debt within the OASIS) with winning Hallday’s Egg in order to assume control of the OASIS and monetize the crap out of it. If you are any kind of gamer, even the kind that plays Candy Crush on your iPhone, you would hate this guy because he is the one advocating for inserting ads and incorporating microtransactions into games (think freemium games where there are things you can only get if you pay actual money for, but the game itself is free). He will stop at nothing to win the game, including kidnapping and murder, but excluding actually playing the game himself. In other words, he is the guy who buys a game, then buys the walkthrough guide for the game so he can get to the end without effort. What kind of loser does that?
It’s all just a game.
Along the way, Parzival joins forces with Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), and two other kids (Philip Zhao and Win Morisaki) whose characters are so underdeveloped they are literally just avatars. Together, they try to solve the remainder of the puzzles, but not before Art3mis welcomes Parzival into “the rebellion.” This rebellion Art3mis is referring to is a group of people trying to stop IOI from taking over the OASIS because IOI will wreck the openness/freedom of the OASIS by indebting more people and creating a class structure of the haves and have nots. If you get this from the film, it is only because you read the book, as the film only occasionally mentions such social issues. If there is one criticism I have of this otherwise excellent movie it is that the film has plenty of CGI, but none of the book’s balls.
I guess it does have one ball.
One of the highlights of the book is the way that Cline was able to focus on social issues through the lens of the OASIS like income disparity, class separation, and the inability of poorer classes to improve their standing in life. Whenever the film seems to be ready to make some real social commentary, it shies away from the conversation and distracts the viewer with action and adventure. For example, book-Parzival talks about how it is nearly impossible for him to compete for Halliday’s prize because he does not have money to pay for transit to other worlds. Like with our freemium games, real money is used to purchase power-ups and Parzival has no real money. By finding the first key first, he gains instant fame and earns money through endorsements, allowing him to better compete, but also that a poor guy suddenly has lots of cash. The book explores how money opens doors and effects people and makes the reader think about that with regards to people in the lower classes. I am not saying the film should go deep-diving into social commentary, but those elements were key in developing Parzival and his character arc in the book, and film-Parzival was noticeably shallower. But, then Parzival and Art3mis get into a shootout while dancing in a zero-G club and deep thoughts are forgotten.
Good luck affording that (in the book).
Having said that, it was refreshing to see Spielberg jump back into directing a big, fun, blockbuster flick and knock it out of the park. His handling of the CGI was near perfect (and props to all of his effects folks and cinematographers). Perhaps the most fun thing is that the movie is stuffed full of pop-culture references from the late 1970s to now (reportedly, acquiring licensing for all of it took years) and all of them are fun and well incorporated. My personal favorite is a small one from a movie called Krull and if my brother had been with me, we would have high-fived over it (if you spot it, please, please comment as proof that more than two people have seen Krull). We also would have high-fived about the CGI because this movie would have sucked without it. If you still hate CGI after this film, I will still call you an ambulance because you deserve it.
Rating: Do not ask for any money back and spend more for the book.
Opens: April 6, 2018
Cast: Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Indira Viswanathan, Gideon Adlan
Directed by: Kay Cannon
When three parents discover their daughters’ pact to lose their virginity at prom, they launch a covert one-night operation to stop the teens from sealing the deal. Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This Is 40), Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors, Suicide Squad) and John Cena (Trainwreck, Sisters) star in Blockers, the directorial debut of Kay Cannon (writer of the Pitch Perfect series).
The comedy is produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver, under their Point Grey Pictures banner (Neighbors, This Is the End), alongside Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar series) and DMG Entertainment’s Chris Fenton (47 Ronin).
Good Universe’s Nathan Kahane and Joseph Drake (Don’t Breathe, Juno) executive produce with Chris Cowles (Collide) of DMG, as well as Josh Fagen, Dave Stassen and Jonathan McCoy. The film is written by brothers Brian & Jim Kehoe, Hurwitz & Schlossberg and Eben Russell.
Do you want to see A QUIET PLACE before it hits theaters? Well click on the http://www.gofobo.com/XragF54856 for your chance to download an admit-two pass for an advance screening on Monday, April 2nd at 7:00PM in Denver! Seats in the theater are first-come, first-serve so PLEASE ARRIVE EARLY! A QUIET PLACE opens everywhere on April 6th!
Coming out of Pacific Rim: Uprising, there were plenty of moviegoers that enjoyed the film and that is cool. There is plenty of room in our lives for big, loud, popcorn flicks like Pacific Rim: Uprising. I, myself, enjoyed the hell out of Pacific Rim and gave it a gigantic pass on many aspects of it that were really weak. But then those same moviegoers said Uprising was much better than the first film and much more fun. Wait – hold on a minute, I must have misunderstood. *Checks notes* – Yep. That is what they said. *Sighs* Uprising may be enjoyable, but it is not nearly as good or entertaining as its predecessor. T
his is why we can’t have nice things.
I am no fan of Guillermo del Toro, but I believe Pacific Rim is the best movie he has made. And, yes, that includes the hilariously overrated The Shape of Water. As I stated in my review of Pacific Rim, it hit all the marks that a summer blockbuster needed to hit. It delivered on its promise of lots of robot-on-monster fight scenes, it had a very simple plot dressed in fun nonsense, someone gives a big motivating speech when all seems lost, the comic relief was both funny and well-timed, the characters were all endearing or likeable, and it delivered on its promise of lots of robot-on-monster fight scenes. Yes, I had to say that twice; there was that much action. Uprising falls well short of Pacific Rim on almost every one of those components, though to be fair, somehow manages to not completely suck while doing it. Just mostly suck.
Have you been practicing your big speech?
(Big Dumb SPOILER ALERT for a Big Dumb movie)
Uprising takes place ten years after the events of the first film, introducing us to our main character, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of one of war hero Stacker Pentecost. Jake is currently living as a thief who specializes in acquiring old jaeger technology. During a run into a decommissioned jaeger factory, he comes across a teenaged Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), who beats him to a valuable jaeger part. He tracks her to her hideout where he discovers she has built her own (very small) jaeger. They are soon discovered by the cops and have a quick chase scene where they are eventually captured by a real jaeger. This entire sequence exists solely to establish and develop our two main characters and explain how they end up at jaeger pilot training school (not to mention hang a blazing neon sign on the small jaeger saying “THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR LATER”). It is very paint-by-numbers, which is fine for a popcorn flick, but then the movie decides to forget almost everything it established.
Jake is never asked to use any of his street skills, in fact, quite the opposite. He is forced to become an instructor to a bunch of adolescent jaeger pilot trainees and team up with square-jawed, by-the-books pilot, Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) as Nate’s co-pilot. In fact, by the end, Jake will even give the big motivation speech (which was anything but motivational) while wearing his uniform straight. Meanwhile, Amara tries to fit in with the others, but one trainee girl has it out for Amara because she doesn’t think Amara earned her spot there. At no point are her skills at building jaegers ever put to use on screen, but instead just mentioned again late in the film as a throwaway line to explain how they suddenly have four working jaegers one day after pretty much everything was destroyed by evil jaegers (we’ll get to them in a second). When I said paint-by-numbers, I meant one color and two numbers. Three, at most.
You’ll have to trust me when I say I already repaired a whole squadron.
The reason I found this movie so lackluster is because it spends the vast majority of its running time telling us about stuff rather than showing it to us. Considering this movie’s entire purpose in life is visuals, it should have had maybe ten percent as much dialogue as it actually gave. For example, oodles of dialogue are spent telling us how Jake had some sort of falling out as a jaeger pilot prior to ending up on the streets. Rather than showing us the falling out at the beginning of the film, we get a quick exchange where he just spells out it to Amara. And another where he and Nate kind of talk about it. And another where – you get the point. For another example, the script instructs Amara to tick off the names of all of the jaegers as she sees them upon first arrival at the training base, rather than revealing them organically during missions or fight scenes. I realize that the world of Pacific Rim is fantastical enough to require an extra spoonful of exposition, but Uprising piles it on by the quart.
The rest of the movie is a convoluted mess of corporate greed, rogue jaegers, and red herrings trying desperately to tie itself together into a coherent plot by the Precursors (the trans-dimensional beings who sent the kaijus – giant monsters – to Earth in the first film) to terraform Earth (their goal from the first film as well). The primary success of the first film was showing us giant robots fighting us giant monsters, so the four (FOUR!!) writers of this film decided to replace the monsters with other robots because five (FIVE!!) Transformers movies wasn’t enough. I am not exaggerating; there is just one scene featuring a giant robot vs a giant fleshy monster and, by then, I forgot we were watching a Pacific Rim sequel.
If it looks like a Transformer and sounds like a Transformer…
(Side note: some people will argue the semantics of the rogue robots being more than just robots, but the fight scenes are still just robots fighting other robots.)
On the character side, you would be forgiven if you couldn’t remember the name of any character beyond Jake and Amara, and I’d forgive you if you forgot Jake and Amara’s names as well. With the exception of those two and Nate, none of the other pilots are memorable. For that matter, you should be asking where the hell were all the grown-up pilots in this film. Then, there is the corporate executive (Jing Tian) who is cold, calculated, and power hungry when her hair is tied up, but comes to the rescue after letting her hair down (seriously, her hair does this). Finally, there is Dr. Geiszler (Charlie Day), the comic relief of movie one (along with Burn Gorman as his buddy), but who is chewed up and spit out as a really bad version of an Austin Powers villain this time around. And, he doesn’t even get to do comedy, which might have saved the character as a villain. Come to think of it, nobody got to do comedy, though you would have thought this movie was funny by the way the person behind me in the theater was cackling at anything and everything even resembling a joke, including a robot flipping the bird to a vanquished opponent (never funny).
The strangest thing about watching this film is that I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t care about anything happening in the film. The screenplay made no attempt to develop any characters beyond cliches and most of them didn’t even get that much. The jaegers were okay, I guess, but the bright color palate of this film took away all of the ominous and dark feel from the first film (a consequence of newbie Steven DeKnight directing this film rather than del Toro), giving it a Care Bears kind of feeling. Plus, only the main jaeger (Gipsy Danger – the one with the glowy orange chest) is in the vast majority of the film, the climax being the only scene where all four jaegers from the movie poster are seen fighting. Come on – which writer(s) sharted out that miss? I wasn’t even all that bothered by Eastwood’s performance coming out as stiff as his jaw. On the bright side, none of the robots were racist, had genitalia, or tried to hump Megan Fox and for that, we can be thankful.
Rating: Ask for all but a dollar back, but consider that dollar thoughtfully.