Pacific Rim Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Pacific Rim Uprising is the melodramatic, half competent sequel of Pacific Rim. Once again the title has almost nothing to do with the plot of gigantic monsters fighting massive man-made machine counterparts. Stunning visually, humorless (although not without trying), and altogether as forgettable as its characters. I found Pacific Rim Uprising to be needless and without any entertaining value with the exception of the graphic design and CGI.

 

The first thing I need to say about this film is that I came in knowing what to expect. The story is an almost childlike premise of hilariously large monsters and robots fighting each other, held together by mostly forgettable and flat characters who have one or two distinct traits but lack any actual depth. I don’t know if this is because so much of the film is devoted to action sequences or if the writing is just stale and reeked as if it had come from an assembly line. The movie runs 111 minutes and perhaps I’m expecting too much from a film that is clearly devoted to exceptionally produced CGI robots and monsters clashing across cities and landscapes alike. And that concludes everything good I have to say about Pacific Rim. In Actuality I do appreciate the attempt at an original story told during a sequel. Most sequels attempt to ride the coattails of what made the original successful and while Uprising is no different I felt there was at least some creativity in how the two movies tied together plot wise. While the visuals hold up in spectacular fashion the same cannot be said for the sound. Usually I don’t have much to say regarding sound design unless I am struck by a particular score, however the sound in the movie from start to finish was grainy, hollow, and poorly mixed with the exception of scenes exclusive to dialogue between a few characters. Being so devoted to over the top action sequences, one would think the proper mixing of sound effects, to dialogue, to the punching yet synth like soundtrack would be something an audience aren’t supposed to notice because it’s seamless. Instead I found myself highly distracted and put off from the moment I noticed it until the credits. In conclusion I found myself feeling almost pity at the ad-libbed humor dotting the film’s dialogue in what I have come to expect from any major block buster. I appreciated the attempt at the lighter hearted interactions between characters but can’t help the fact that every single joke fell flat for me. Maybe it’s John Boyega’s inability to act or seem natural without coming off as campy and slapstick. Personally I blame the writing.

 

1/4 Stars

DUDE: Review

DUDE

DUDE is a coming of age tale revolving around 4 girls in their senior year of high school. The story is one that’s center theme is one of loss. Loss of your friends, your lovers, and your familiarity before entering a bigger more complex universe. While the first half or so fell flat to me, the dialogue, emotional engagement, and cinematography seemingly improved throughout the length of the film.

 

DUDE begins with the titular girlfriends enjoying the prom of their junior year, the death of Thomas, a boyfriend/brother of the two main characters brings us a skip in time to the actual start of the plot, roughly 3 weeks before the anniversary of his death and the end of their high school career. The film is paced reasonably well, moving organically from one plot point to the next. However, early on in the film I couldn’t help but cringe at the writer’s attempt to mimic young, millennial sounding slang. This film does take place on the west coast however so maybe I’m out of my depth in terms of what the youth sounds like in California or if the absurd glorification of minor’s drug use is true to form. The humor fell flat to me, in part I suspect because it relies on female gross out humor (including quite possibly the most out of place masturbation scene I’ve ever witnessed). This doesn’t strike me as an excuse however, snappy and clever writing can make up for something I don’t empathize with directly (insert Bridesmaids). Towards beginning of the second half of the film I stopped wishing it was over and felt genuine engagement towards the emotional fate of the characters. The dialogue is actually well written when it doesn’t involve awkward colloquialisms that could have been cut entirely. The film really shines when it is focusing on character driven drama based dialogue and set pieces. There is an overwhelming representation of green in this film. From the consistent references to marijuana, the clothing, the set pieces, and the backdrop of many shots are a bright contrast of green against more subdued & muted colors. I don’t think this has any symbolic meaning necessarily, however it is a pleasing visual tone and I thought it was worth mentioning for its consistency. DUDE begins as a chore to watch, but slowly transitions into an emotionally engaging, meaningful take on the distressing experience of growing up.

 

2 ½ Stars

Avengers: Infinity War

 

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers Infinity War is the Pinnacle culmination of the Marvel Expanded universe series of movies, typically I find these films to be somewhat done out as the plots are usually low risk, spectacle filled action sequences intermingled with character development here and there. Infinity War breaks the mold a bit due to its entirely unique set pieces, refreshing plot decisions and seamless interaction among over 40 characters.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

This movie is not in any way a stand-alone film. I am well acquainted with the marvel franchise and therefore wasn’t plagued by being contextually lost, and I can’t really recommend the movie to anyone who would be. The pace of this film is fast and tight, there are too many large events going on with multiple groups of characters that there isn’t time for re-introductions or any real character development with the exception of our main villain. And a welcome development it is. Too many super hero archetype films have a villain whose sole motivation for being bad is to facilitate a conflict with the hero and forward the plot. Thanos on the other hand has a chilling conviction towards the elimination of life in order to control a universal overpopulation problem, one that was afflicted and impacted him as a youth on his home planet. That same home planet serves as one of the many unique set pieces our array of characters divide up to explore and engage in. The fact that they developed a competent plot that gives so many unique players a legitimate role without things feeling cluttered or pointless is really an achievement in and of itself. The writing is snappy and enjoyable as is typical of the films in this franchise and seeing characters interact with each other has always been some of Marvel Studio’s best dialogue. The movie climax’s with a stereotypical culmination of heroes and their attempt to stop the primary antagonist, but ends with an extremely bleak outlook as Thanos succeeds in obtaining the six infinity stones (plot Macguffin) and completes his goal of wiping out half of the universe’s intelligent life. Extras, and heroes fade into ash before the audience and while I’m sure children around the country had teary eyes on their way home from the theatre the refreshing risk marvel took with this is undercut a little by the fact that these actors are all contractually obligated to more films, meaning the end truly isn’t the end for some, if not most of them. This is a minor contrived grievance in an otherwise seamless movie. Enjoyable from start to finish and does not feel its length.

 

3 ½ stars

Moon: Review

Moon

Moon is a near future science fiction drama that evokes a strong sense of isolation, loneliness, fear and transition. Oscar award winner Sam Rockwell is Sam Bell, an astronaut hired by a distant corporate enterprise to be the sole engineer stationed at their lunar base. Nearing the end of his 3 year contract Sam reflects on the memory of his life on earth and how his time in space has affected him and those he cares about. A pervasive and haunting score compliment the stellar performance given by Rockwell, whose range of character and lucidity make for a wonderful performance.

Perplexing and dynamic, Moon presents a unique method of pitting the multiple characters Rockwell can play against and off of each other. Our sole character (with the exception of Kevin Spacey as GERTY, a modern contrast to 2001 Space Oddessy’s Hal 9000) feels like someone with a soul rather than an emulation of emotion, and thankfully such is the case. This film is slow moving and character driven, and if that pacing still keeps you engaged then the payoff is satisfying. With a run time of only 97 minutes it’s just the length where you feel comfortable starting it lying in bed without fear that you won’t finish. What this movie is not is ecstatic. It is not explosive nor particularly frightening. The overarching uncertainty of the film might tread the borders of psychological thriller but, overall the tone stays true to a character driven science fiction story.  And that is what this movie is really about. Uncertainty. We the viewer through the eyes of Sam Bell uncover more about the lunar station, the status of Sam’s forlorn home and as truths are revealed the less certain you become. This isn’t to say that the plot is needlessly confusing (Insert: The Cloverfield Paradox). The film’s pacing is below average in rate but every scene has a purpose and intent of moving the plot forward towards a more important mystery than the last. It’s difficult to write about some of the more dramatic emotions this movie exerts without spoiling the reveals that cause them. That being said the films score (Clint Mansell: Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) evicts a level of tension and loneliness without being overbearing or distracting (Insert Dunkirk). Every film has its problems and this one is no different. I found the ending to be a somewhat haphazard attempt at a resolution for an otherwise bleak and uncertain future. Regardless of this minor misstep which might just be a personal difference in taste Moon stands tall in the sci-fi genre for its originality alone.

 

3/4 stars

Death Note: Review

Death Note

Death Note is a grim yet almost slapstick final destination type murder porn with a unique twist. Light Turner a vindictive yet seemingly well intentioned high school student comes across the death note, a black notepad that possesses the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in it. Tonally jarring, wicked visual effects, and hit or miss dialogue somehow left me oddly charmed by the live action adaption of the original anime

 

It’s not difficult to assume my viewing of Death Note the anime affected my reception of Death Note the Netflix movie. However, whether or not my bias skewed my thoughts of movie negatively or positively is still up to debate. Perhaps by the end of writing this review I will have figured that out. Regardless, the film from a technical standpoint is well produced. The actors for the most part do the best they can with the dialogue which ranges from authentic feeling to downright unrealistic. Willem Dafoe’s ominous presence felt underutilized as simply a mouth for exposition. The movie has a pretty obvious thematic backdrop of contrasting black & white that runs with the plot itself, that being the moral grey area of killing criminals outside the law. Camera angles are shot at intentionally contradictory angles and even the character outfits seem to be at odds with each other. I mentioned final destination in my thesis because the film elicits very much the same murder porn type visceral death sequences throughout the movie, however I was pleasantly surprised at the tonal shift the film takes roughly 1/3 of the way through. Vindication against a murdered parent and bullies of the world transcends to an all-out god complex that while isn’t entirely original, felt true to the source material, and the better direction for the movie to take. Conflict arises organically and doesn’t feel crammed into the overarching plot. The climax of the film and ambiguous ending for some may feel unsatisfying but to me was a deserved finish. Paced like a greyhound given Xanax plot set pieces change in seriousness dramatically quick to the point of being jarring. In one sequence the importance of our characters situation moves from disastrous to nonchalant and back to disastrous in minutes. Regardless of the films credited successes I found myself drawn out of it, checking my watch expecting a conclusion that was still 45 minutes away. Although lacking any forthright emotion and struggling to find a coherent pace I found myself consistently entertained and weirdly charmed, laughing somewhat maniacally at the absurdity of it. I don’t know what that says about me or this film but I appreciated the ride despite its glaring flaws.

 

2/4 stars