I didn’t have a normal academic career. I never studied cinema. I learned from life.
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.
Beerfest is a feel-good sports satire from the Broken Lizard comedy group that melds low brow humor with clever allegories of famous sports films, creating a surprisingly witty redemption story. The movie starts with two 1st generation German Americans who travel to Germany to spread their father’s ashes. On this journey, they uncover a long-held family secret and the international beer drinking competition Beerfest.
What ensues is the meat of the comedic bbq where the brothers are building the great American beer drinking team, which consist of five old college buddies, to compete in next years Beerfest competition versus the Germans, who consist of the brother’s half-cousins and half-uncle. The personal stories of the five American team members are all subtle takes on modern sports movie plots. This leads to both hilarious and heartwarming moments, mostly stemming from the team members own redemption stories.
The film editor and director deserve credit for the torrid pace to the editing, which leaves few if any scenes or jokes that inhibiting the progression of the plot. The pacing does create a small issue at the end, as the film ends on a climax. A common trope in sports films but not a terribly welcome one.
Set and character design are incredibly outlandish, which is common from the writing group broken lizard. It fits this film very well as the actors fully embrace how outrageous they look and play the part, especially the Germans. The one glaring video flaw is the CGI is horrible even for 2006. The seldom times CGI is used it’s very distracting. Which makes me wonder why it was even used, but a small complaint about an otherwise sound movie technically.
You’ll finish this movie and walk away glad you watched it, even if it is pretty shlock comedy. Beerfest is a good comedy for the consistent satire melding with a bevy of political and low brow humor, that turns Beerfest into a unique sports film.
Icarus has a scale issue, as the subject material becomes much larger than the movie itself. Yet this is also what makes it so captivating.
The film takes a drastic shift from focusing on Bryan Fogel to focusing on Grigory Rodchenkov about 30 mins in, which leads to uneven pacing and unfinished storylines. We start by following Fogel who is attempting to dope for a bike race, almost all of his personal storylines are left unfinished, which is disappointing. Icarus is redeemed by the breathtaking story uncovered by the filmmakers of a Russian medical director(Rodchenkov) who designed a state-run doping program. Grigory Rodchenkov and Bryan Fogel work to help expose the secrets long held in the Russian anti-doping agency. Rodchenkov’s entire career in anti-doping is put under a microscope, not just by the filmmakers but at the time by the world. This attention on Rodchenkov makes the documentary feel more like a geopolitical thriller than a sports documentary. This political intrigue keeps the movie entertaining, as some more technical scenes tend to make the documentary drag a bit. My biggest gripe other than the biking storyline being left out to dry is that the middle of the movie just isn’t as interesting as the beginning or end causing me to become slightly disengaged. But thankfully the ending snapped me back to attention.
Even with its flaws as a film, Icarus is an occasionally thrilling and always informative dive into the world of sports doping. A must see for any serious sports fan interested in doping or anyone interested in the inner workings of the Russian Government.
For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.
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
Anyone who’s made film and knows about the cinema has a lifelong love affair with the experience. You never stop learning about film.