Tag Archives: PG-13

Review: The Fate of the Furious

fate poster
via Coming Soon

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

PG-13 / 136 mins.

Action / Crime / Thriller

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson

Director: F. Gary Gray


Things are changing in the world of the Fast and the Furious.

Paul Walker has passed away due to a tragic car accident, meaning his character Brian is not returning in future installments.  The stakes continue to rise as Dom and his crew get their selves wrapped up in global conflict.  Dom has turned on his family!?  Things are certainly changing as the street-racing-turned-blockbuster-action-franchise returns with its eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious.  Even though Fate serves up a delightfully fun and silly experience its beginning to feel like there is an onset of series fatigue.

Of course, this is a natural for a series that has been around for sixteen years.

fate 1
via Universal Pictures

In the franchise’s eighth ride, directed for the first time by F. Gary Gray, Dom (Vin Diesel) is placed under the grasp of an international terrorist who goes by the name of Cipher (Charlize Theron).  She meets up with the former street racer in Cuba and all it takes is a single photograph for Dom to change sides, supposedly betraying his “family” in the process.  This is the narrative hook that has been captivating fans of the series up until its release.  It is an outlandish premise, and at times unbelievable, but the reasons for his “betrayal” are satisfying and make sense.  In fact, this is probably the most coherent plot the series has offered in a while.  What is even more satisfying is the secret plan that Dom formulates while working for the other side and the way in which it all turns out in the end.  It is a ton of fun and there is some fan service that will make any Fast fan giddy with excitement.

Charlize Theron’s Cipher is one of my favorite villains this franchise has seen.  She is equal parts cunning and ruthless.  She does some pretty messed up things during the movie’s run time and you will end up hating her by the end.  Past villains in the series have been hit or miss, but I am confident when I say that Cipher cements herself at the top.  Unfortunately, the worst part about her character is that we do not see enough of her in action.  She spends the lion share of her time in the movie aboard her plane within the confines of her headquarters.  She is rarely on the ground getting her hands dirty and we certainly never see her behind the wheel.  Charlize Theron is an actress who is going to be starring in the action-thriller Atomic Blonde (who’s trailer we see before the movie) so it is quite a shame that she never throws a punch or swings a kick.

fate 2
via The Hollywood Reporter

Despite Dom and Cipher being the centerpiece of this movie’s plot, it is the other characters that make this movie such a delight.  Dwayne Johnson reprises his role as the super-cop Hobbs.  He has a ton of great moments and this movie would not have been the movie it is without his presence.  What is most entertaining is his relationship with Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham.  The two despise each other (which is understandable) so when forced to work together, things get interesting.  Jason Statham is one of my favorite parts about this movie.  He is a fusion of humor and seriousness and he plays both parts amazingly.  The fact that the team is totally cool with him despite his murder of Han in cold blood is a little weird, but the movie does a respectable job at making him a redeemable character, especially during a laugh-out-load scene involving a plane gunfight towards the end.  Then there is Roman, Tyrese Gibson’s character.  Did you think there was not enough Roman in previous installments?  If you said yes, then you are in for a treat.  Roman reprises his role as the comic relief and his character is constantly a joy.  Every line he mutters made me laugh.  Just wait for the Barents Sea scene…it is tough to not laugh.

The rest of the cast is fine.  Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is now happily back with Dom.  Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are still the hackers of the group.  Kurt Russell makes a return as Mr. Nobody, along with series newcomer Scott Eastwood, who plays the “little nobody.”  His character did not do much for me.  I am sure he is going to be in future movies, so good for him.  He has some funny moments but he ultimately seems like a boring stand-in for Paul Walker’s character.

fate 3
via iMDB

The action sequences in Fate come from the same brand of ridiculous that the Fast movies have become famous for, but they pale in comparison to previous movies.  There are only so many things you can do with cars, which is the inevitable problem with a series like this running for so long.  It is hard to top set-piece moments like the aircraft scene in Fast 6 and the skyscraper jumps from Furious 7, but Fate still has its fair share of crazy action moments.  There is a zombie car sequence in New York which is essentially Day Z but with cars and the submarine chase that has been heavily featured in the trailers offers some insane excitement.  Reality is constantly thrown out the window and the approach to some of these situations can be laughable, but that is what makes these movies so special.  I am not here to question the physical plausibility of such scenes.  I am here to eat popcorn, turn off my mind, and enjoy the blockbuster action in front of me.  That is something these movies tackle perfectly.

Another complaint I have with the movie is its recycled gags and plot points that it comes to.  Hobbs gives a stern speech in the beginning but it is revealed that he is giving said speech to a girls’ soccer team.  Roman and Tej are still vying for the admiration of Ramsey.  Those are just two examples.  Of course, this is a symptom of series fatigue.  The series’ writers are falling back on the same tricks that they have pulled in past movies, which is a little concerning.  The movie switches things up by placing Dom on the villain’s side, but with two more movies left, the writers are starting to run out of places to go.  The Fate of the Furious is a very familiar feeling movie, but maybe it is starting to become a little too familiar.  This familiarity does not just stop at gags and plot points.  The movie falls into a lot of similar tropes that have been common for the series.  This is not necessarily a terrible thing considering how great the past three movies have been, but this sort of laziness is not going to fly for much longer.

fate 4
via Dark Horizons

Despite inklings of fatigue, The Fate of the Furious still manages to take viewers on a thrill ride, offering a lot of dumb, silly action.  If you are coming into this series fresh without any knowledge of the previous movies, your mileage may vary with this movie but if you have been a ride-or-die fan since day 1, you will find a ton to love with this movie.  With a ninth and tenth installment imminent, I am eager for this franchise’s future.  I am hoping it sets up for a strong finish.

fate score

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Review: Power Rangers

power rangers poster
via IGN

Power Rangers (2017)

PG-13 / 124 mins.

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler

Director: Dean Israelite


I like to have fun at the movies.  There is a place for more complex and deeper stories, but a big fun, dumb action movie acts as tasty junk food from time to time.  The reboot of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, simply titled Power Rangers, is that type of movie for me.  It is a ton of fun and the cheesy b-tier action sequences will keep a grin on your face from beginning to end.

power rangers 1
Photo by Kimberley French

Am I the biggest Power Rangers fan?  Definitely not.  In fact, I do not have the same affinity that some have for the beloved Saturday morning TV show.  I have watched the show a couple of times in my youth, but it was not something that I truly cared for.  I understand the show on a basic level, but never went out of my way to dig deeper.  Because of this, my expectations for the movie were at an absolute minimum.  I also had a couple of beers before the feature, so this might have attributed to my liking of this movie.  Let’s face it…beer can help make a lot of things better.

One of my favorite things from the movie, as well as one of my biggest issues, are the characters.  The five unlikely rangers include Jason (Dacre Montgomery) as the Red Ranger, Kimberly (Naomi Scott) as the Pink Ranger, Billy (RJ Cyler) as the Blue Ranger, Zack (Ludi Lin) as the Black Ranger, and Trini (Becky G.) as the Yellow Ranger.  The cast gels well together and they are all really likable.  They are quippy and humorous, especially Billy, who often steals the spotlight.  What makes his character even better is the fact that he is on the spectrum.  Most movies are hit or miss with their depictions of characters on the spectrum, but Power Rangers actually nails it and produces a fantastic character.  Despite how likable this crew is, almost all over their backstories and character moments are botched.  The first half of the movie, the weaker half, mostly serves to introduce the characters and their backstories.  It plays like a glorified YA novel.  There were a lot of character moments, besides Billy’s, that just felt flat on their face and could not get back up. Becky G’s character missed the mark. Zack’s story? Ehh…. Kimberley’s backstory? Kind of unimportant…and the same goes for Jason’s. I just could not get behind their stories. They were either poorly written or just plain uninteresting.

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Photo by Kimberley French

But what about the other characters?  Bryan Cranston voices Zordon, the Ranger’s mentor in their endeavors.  There is also Alpha 5, Zordon’s trusty robotic assistant, who is voiced by Bill Hader.  The two do a great job with their respective performances, especially Hader who serves up some of the movie’s more humorous moments.  The final notable character in this band of 90’s cartoon characters is Rita Repulsa, played by Elizabeth Banks.  She acts as the main villain in the movie, and god bless her for it.  Elizabeth’s character ranges from serious to tacky, hamming it up for the majority of the movie.  I really liked her performance and thought it brought along its fair share of laughs, but I might have preferred her character to take a more serous tone, especially during the movie’s final act.  I thought some scenes lost their intended tone because of her.

Power Rangers takes some time to morph into high gear (sorry…bad pun) but the final act is where it begins to take off.  There are some nostalgic callbacks that will make any Power Rangers super fan giddy with glee and the action that ensues fits perfectly with the show’s attitude.  The final fight includes some great shots and it is especially hard to not get hyped when Kanye West’s “Power” makes its way onto the soundtrack.  It was a full thirty minutes of B-movie action that just made me smile.  Sure it was corny. Sure it was laughable at times.  Sure, I had some beers in me so maybe it was the alcohol talking, but I really enjoyed the final act. There was even a galactic bitch slap that left me dying of laughter in the theater.

power rangers 3
via IMDB

Power Rangers never takes itself too seriously with its lighthearted fare, which might be a negative to non-fans. However, the original series was just as corny, so for the reboot to mimic that style is all the movie really needed. If you’re not a fan of the Power Rangers, then maybe this is not the movie for you. I went into this movie not expecting to be a fan…but I walked out pleasantly surprised. This movie is not winning any Oscars…but it was big, dumb fun…which I need every once in a while.

power rangers score

Review: Lee Daniel’s The Butler

the butler poster
via Cinema Blend

Lee Daniel’s The Butler (2013)

PG-13 / 132 min

Biography / Drama

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo

Director: Lee Daniels


We’re smack dab in the middle of another election season which means one thing, more change is coming to the White House.  No matter how this election turns out, a new president is going to be elected and people will be moving in and out of the White House.  It’s a change that’s relatively constant every four (or eight) years.  I’m willing to bet that the White House is probably the one house in America that has had the most tenants over the course of history.  I’m probably wrong but I’m 80% confident that this is the truth.

The Butler (2013)Forest Whitaker
(Screengrab)
via EW

Change doesn’t affect everything in the White House though.  It’s the behind the scenes crew, the group of individuals that keep America’s oldest and safest house running at tip-top shape, that are the one constant amidst the change.  Perhaps the most notable staff member that the White House has ever had on its team was Eugene Allen, a butler who served under a multitude of presidents over a 34-year span until he retired as head butler in 1986.  He is also the source and inspiration behind Lee Daniel’s The Butler, a historical drama that takes a look at the wildly intriguing life of Cecil Gaines, butler at the White House.

Yes, that’s right, the name of the butler in the movie, played by Forest Whitaker, is named Cecil Gaines.  I’m not sure why they decided to go with that name over Eugene’s actual name, but there’s probably some legitimate reason that makes sense.  I’m sure Eugene or his family probably had something to do with it.  Forest Whitaker was pretty much perfect for this role.  He was stoic and constricted in his mannerisms as he slid right into the body of Cecil.  The man goes through a lot over the tenure of his work and watching the way he acted and reacted to things was one of the best parts of the movie.  There’s few actors I could have seen doing better in this role than Whitaker.

the butler 2
via The Atlantic

The rest of Cecil’s family are also just as delightful, although they don’t reach the same caliber as Whitaker’s performance.  Oprah Winfrey plays Cecil’s loud-mouthed wife Gloria.  Cecil also has two sons, Louis and Charlie, played by David Oyelowo and Elijah Kelly respectively.  Louis is the rebel in the family while Charlie is the good two-shoes of the bunch.  One of the primary spotlights of the movie is centered on Louis as he becomes a big proponent for the black civil rights movement and joins the Black Panthers.  We film switches back and forth between Cecil’s life in the White House and Louis’ life on the streets.  One is working for the power while the other is working against it.  They both ultimately want the same goal, social freedom, but watching the contrast between the two is really cool.

The reality of making a movie about the life of Cecil Gaines, as well as the civil rights movement, is perhaps a little tougher than it seems.  You could create a multi-season TV show about the two, but when you try to cram 30+ years of history into one movie, things get a little crowded.  The film’s pacing is light on its feet and it flies through the years, only stopping here and there for important plot moments.  Lee Daniels had a lot of ground to cover in terms of material and it would have been nice if he honed it down to a more concentrated and smaller portion of history.  The focus of the story moves a little too fast between different time periods making it hard to catch a breath.

Lee Daniels' The Butler

Another way in which the movie faults is with its A-list cast.  It’s funny that I say that.  A-list cast?  Why would that be a bad thing.  Your right, having a top-notch cast is usually something you strive for with a movie but in The Butler’s case, the cast is actually a little distracting.  Over the course of the movie we are introduced to the eight presidents, who range from lesser known actors to the more popular.  The bottom line, they were all gimmicky in their own ways.  Casting the late Robin Williams as president Eisenhower was one example of the questionable casting decisions.  He looked the part but didn’t necessarily fit into the part personality wise.  Instead of saying, “oh look, it’s president Eisenhower!” I said, “oh look, it’s Robin Williams…that’s weird.”  There’s also appearances from the people like Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz that just felt out of place in the movie.

Despite its missteps, Lee Daniel’s The Butler is a well-made period piece.  It tells not only a fascinating story, but an important one that needs to be told.  It also finds ways to be relevant to this day.  (It even has a couple of scenes dedicated to the Obama election) The movie might be a quick and fast crash course on the topic of the civil rights movement, but that only acts as a backdrop for the story at hand, which is the story of Cecil Gaines, a black White House butler during a time of unparalleled change in American history.

THE BUTLER

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

dawn of justice poster
via The Reel Word

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

PG-13 / 151 min

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams

Director: Zack Snyder


Batman v Superman is the worst movie you will see this year…maybe even ever.  The movie will make you hate Batman.  It will make you hate Superman.  It will make you hate Wonder Woman.  It will make you hate the Justice League and everything they stand for.  Oh, and how about that Lex Luthor guy?  Lex Luthor?  More like Lex Goober, am I right?  How did director Zack Snyder let this piece of garbage see the light of day?  It spits in the face of comic fans.  The movie will make you lose faith in comics.  In fact, you might as well take all the comics you own and take them outside and thrown them in your front lawn.  Once you do that, light up a match and throw them on the pile of comics you just threw outside.  Watching your prized collection of comics burn in the Spring sun will probably be more entertaining than Batman v Superman.

dawn of justice 1
via Uproxx

If you have been paying attention to the preemptive reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the above paragraph is a summation of what you will find.  Alright, maybe I’m being a little too harsh but I’m not that far off.  The movie is getting slaughtered by critics.  Currently the movie is sitting pretty at an overripe 30% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.  That isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination.  However, the fan score is a little more generous, sitting at 74% last time I checked.  In summary, the reviews are mixed.  It’s a polarizing movie that suffers from an overhyped promotion and release.  Dawn of Justice is inherently a fun movie to watch.  Who doesn’t want to see DC Comics’ best go at each other?  However, the movie has some drawbacks related to the story as well as the existence of its spoiler-heavy trailers.

Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder (who doesn’t really have a spotless track record when it comes to these types of movies), acts primarily as a story about Batman and Superman and their quests to take down LexCorp’s Lex Luthor.  Secondly, it serves as the springboard for future Justice League movies, introducing us to some of the superheroes that we are going to see.  I would have rather had a movie that just focused on its main objective, but instead it gets a little muddied with the Justice League stuff.  Lack of focus is a common theme as we get a wide collection of different ideas that Snyder just doesn’t seem to execute on.

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The question of whether the world needs a man like Superman, played by Henry Cavill, is brought up as one of the movie’s major themes.  The destruction that he leaves in his “heroic” wake is a concern for Batman, played by Ben Affleck, as well as Gotham and National city.  This idea has some weight behind it.  It’s an idea that could make for a strong movie if handled right.  Unfortunately, the last thirty-forty minutes of the movie, filled with fighting and destruction, kind of negates what Snyder was trying to set up.  This is just an example of the kinds of holes you will find scattered throughout Snyder’s over ambitious plot.  Snyder tries to cram too much stuff into one movie in hopes of creating some megalithic epic.  Instead we get an overcrowded and incoherent plot that left me exhausted instead of exhilarated.

The characterizations of Henry Cavill’s Superman/Clark Kent and Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne are where the movie exceeds.  The two do a great job at playing their respective heroes.  I didn’t know if I was on board with Ben Affleck’s casting at first, but he has grown on me as time has gone on.  Lois Lane, Clark Kent’s coworker/girlfriend at the Daily Planet, played by Amy Adams, does a pretty good job as well.  Unlike past depictions of the character, she is more than just a damsel in distress this time around.  Although she has her moments where she’s in need of the man in the cape, she is her own character that does her own things.  Her relationship with Clark Kent is a little more fleshed out which was nice to see.  She also does her own sleuthing during the middle part of the movie.  This whole aspect of the story seemed unnecessary but at least it made her feel like an integral part of the story.  Finally, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was very promising.  We don’t see her too much in the movie, but some of the movie’s best moments are when she’s on screen.  It gets me excited for her solo movie if nothing else.

dawn of justice 3
via HitFix

A character I did not like at all, and one of the most common criticisms of the movie, is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.  Putting it simply, he just didn’t work for me.  I’m not your biggest DC fan on the block, but I always pictured Lex Luthor to be a more serious and menacing figure.  Jesse Eisenberg captures Luthor’s intelligence, but almost nothing else.  He’s a little too off-the-walls crazy and goofy as if he was trying to mimic the Riddler or the Joker.  Any time Lex popped up in the movie I just couldn’t take him seriously whatsoever, which usually points to a weak villain.  The villain isn’t supposed to be the source of comic relief, at least in my eyes.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing of all is the presence of Dawn of Justice’s trailers prior to the movie’s release.  The trailers just straight up gave away too about what was in store for the movie.  We saw Wonder Woman and Doomsday in the trailers, a publicity move that just doesn’t pay off.  The two were shown in the trailers to get people to flock to the theater, but the two characters would have benefited the movie a lot more if they were big surprise reveals.  Doomsday, the movie’s final villain (it’s not really a spoiler that I say that because hey, it was all in trailer), did not leave a big impression on me.  I can thank the trailers for that.  His presence in the trailers can also lead you to more conclusions about the movie, which I am not going to reveal because they would be spoilers.  However, if you go into the movie with these conclusions drawn up in your head, then prepare for the movie’s final scene to fall a little flat as well.

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Cinematography is where Dawn of Justice excels.  Snyder might not know what he is doing when it comes to the movie’s story and ideas, but the movie is a visual treat.  The fight scenes are beefy and well-shot.  They’re a little slower when compared to the Marvel movies, but they are still fun to watch.  The final fight scene, which spans the movie’s final forty minutes, is a big piece of eye candy.  There are times when it becomes a garbled mess of action, but watching Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fight Doomsday was thrilling and exciting to watch.

As far as Summer blockbusters go, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might disappoint some people.  In a post Nolan Batman trilogy world, we expect a lot more from superhero movies these days.  When compared to the Nolan Trilogy, Dawn of Justice doesn’t have a prayer.  The movie is a dumb fun superhero popcorn movie that has some issues that will polarize fans.  I personally enjoyed myself, but it’s not a movie that I will be itching to go see again.  Dawn of Justice is a movie that tries to do too much.  It’s a movie that crumbles under the weight of expectation, but it doesn’t break.

dawn of justice score

Review: San Andreas

via Tribute
via Tribute

San Andreas (2015)

PG-13 / 114 min

Action / Drama / Thriller

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario

Director: Brad Peyton


The San Andreas Fault line is one of the biggest fault lines of its kind, spanning almost the entire state of California.  The line has been dormant and stable for a while now, with no indication of it going off anytime soon.  But what if it did?  What would happen?  What would you do?  These questions pretty much make up the slogan for San Andreas, a disaster movie about what would happen if the entire San Andreas fault where to rumble.  Spoiler: things go bad very, very quickly.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays himself…nope, I meant Ray, a rescue officer from the Los Angeles Fire Department.  He is currently having some marriage troubles as his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) sends divorce papers to his house.  He also has a daughter named Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who he is very protective of, due to a past incident when he lost his other daughter to a rafting accident.  As everybody goes their separate ways, California starts to tremble as the entire state starts to quake.  Ray manages to get to his wife, but his daughter is trapped in the city after Emma’s boyfriend leaves her to fend for herself.  The general plot premise reminds me of another movie series I’ve seen…is this Taken?  Sadly, this is not a Taken movie, but the movie might as well be if you sub out the earthquake and in its place put in kidnappers.

via Clutch Mag
via Clutch Mag

Blake is not alone for long however, as she picks up to friends that help her get out of an early jam.  Brothers Ben and Ollie (Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson) are quick to her aid.  The newly formed trio stick together for the rest of the movie, with the sole mission of finding high ground for Blake’s dad to find them.  Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson were my favorite additions to the cast as they provided the comic relief and charm in a movie full of dire circumstances and terror.

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The movie’s plot falls apart quickly however, almost as fast as San Francisco itself.  (That pun most definitely intended)  The plot holes are bountiful and plenty as director Brad Peyton takes you on a ride through the cement and rebar wasteland of San Francisco.  How Ray is supposed to find his lone daughter in the crumbling city of San Francisco is just as impossible as it sounds.  But why am I talking about the movie’s story?  I guess the story takes the backburner in a movie like this.  The destruction and visually stunning carnage takes the center stage.

This is unfortunate however, as Ray’s backstory and tender family moments get shadowed by the towering destruction around them.  Ray’s past continually stabs at him throughout the movie with the threat of losing another daughter.  The bonding between him and his wife also makes for some nice moments, despite how cheesy some of these moments where.  Everybody makes it out alive in the end (which really is not a spoiler because come on, it’s the Rock we are talking about here) and those family moments to end the film deserved a little more.

via Variety
via Variety

San Andreas is a visual spectacle despite its flaws in storytelling.  San Francisco is laid to waste by the time the credits roll, and watching the city fall apart was thrilling to watch.  Skyscrapers fell down, entire street blocks were decimated, and a gigantic tidal wave provided the cherry on top of all the destruction.  The movie gave us some intermittent rest and peace to catch our breath, but was quick to give us another walloping before we could get comfortable again.  The movie was relentless and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

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I would like to point out that the movie started off with a girl driving down the highway with Taylor Swift’s “Style” blasting through the speakers.  The lyrics “And when we go crashing down, we come back every time” were heard, which sums up San Andreas in a nutshell if you think about it.  Everybody makes it out alive but the movie still managed to lay on the tense moments time and time again.  Dwayne Johnson pretty much played the same exact character that he has played in almost every other movie, but he was still fun to watch nonetheless.  Despite its numerous flaws, the movie still delivered on one of its biggest promises: mass amounts of earthquake carnage.  It’s worth watching to see San Francisco crumble to the ground, but not much else.

san andreas score

Review: Jurassic World

via Why So Blu
via Why So Blu

Jurassic World (2015)

PG-13 / 124 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins

Director: Colin Trevorrow


One would assume that after the tragic whirlwind of events that took place in the first Jurassic Park movies someone would start to ponder if a gigantic theme park full of man-eating dinosaurs is really a good idea.  Numerous things have gone wrong and a lot of lives were lost during the initial park’s tenure.  Someone apparently did not get the memo and thus, we have Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the popular dino series.  A new park has been opened on Isla Nublar and the guests are coming from all over the world to see the new genetically modified dinosaurs that call the park home.  Nothing can go wrong at all.

What we get with Jurassic World is perhaps the best Jurassic Park sequel to date.  It is hard to topple the marvel that was the original 1993 film, but director Colin Trevorrow and his team have managed to recreate the magic that comes with a park full of thrills.  Early on we even get a nice panning shot of the entire park with the famous Jurassic Park theme song in the background.  What more could you possibly want?

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Story-wise, we are introduced to two kids, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who are sent off to the new park to spend some quality family time with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who also happens to be one of the park’s directors.  Zach is a teenager who has a comic affection for girls (Stereotypical teenager? Yes, yes he is.) and Gray is the younger one who is fascinated with dinosaurs.  The two get to the park only to get swatted away by their aunt who is busier with park business.  With the promise of eventually spending time with her, the two boys are left to their own devices in a park of wonderment.

Meanwhile, Claire is busy with one of the park’s newest attractions, a gigantic genetically-modified dinosaur called Indominus Rex.  Before they know it, the thing essentially backfires on them as it escapes from the paddock, spewing chaos in every direction.  It starts to become a race against time as Claire and her team have to figure out a way to stop their monstrous creation.  She does not venture out alone however, entrusting the knowledge and expertise of Owen McGrady, played by emerging action star Chris Pratt.  A former marine, Owen has a connection to the dinosaurs like none other and he also happens to have keen tracking skills.  These come in handy when Claire realizes that her nephews are in trouble, with the Indominus Rex in their path.

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Jurassic World is best described as a fun summer popcorn movie.  The thrills are many and the amount of “fist-bump” moments are numerous.  In fact, the amount of people that almost jumped out of their seats with excitement during my viewing was kind of surprising.  One aspect that makes this movie different from its predecessors is the way it treats its main dinosaur.  Jurassic World contains all of the tropes that you could find in a monster movie.  In the beginning, we only see bits and pieces of the dino, but by the end, we get to see the full dinosaur in all its beauty.

There were a lot of moments that made me laugh, but not because of their comedic value.  The movie is cheesier than a bowl of macaroni and cheese and the summer blockbuster clichés are scattered all over the movie’s runtime.  The dialogue and interactions between characters can make you shake your head and the romance that the movie tried to shoehorn in was unnecessary.  The relationship between Claire and Owen could have been left out entirely.  The duo are better as business partners than they are soulmates.  We also get some canned emotional moments between Claire and her sister; the two boy’s mother.  The two are on the phone talking about the kids and their mother, when tears start to pour.  It felt really out of place and it would have been better suited for a drama, not an action movie about dinosaurs.

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Perhaps one of the nicest parts of the movie were the couple of callbacks to the original movie.  Whether it was the Jurassic Park shirt worn by one of the control room’s techies or the building that the boys stumble upon that houses a ton of Easter eggs, the movie managed to give older fans a nice little tribute, while still managing to keep things fresh for newer fans of the series.  You do not have to be familiar with the original three films to garner an appreciation for what Jurassic World is.

The box office is already stating that Jurassic World is one of the summer’s biggest hits, with a massive record-breaking opening.  The word of mouth train will only steam on as the movie gains traction in the coming weeks.  Jurassic World, despite the cheesiness, is a whole lot of fun and it breathes new life into a franchise that left a sour taste in the mouths of fans with the third movie.  If you are a fan of intense thrills and big dinosaurs, then Jurassic World is opening its doors for you and calling your name.

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Review: Taken 2

taken 2 posterTaken 2 (2012)

PG-13 / 92 min

Action / Crime / Thriller

Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace

Director: Olivier Megaton


Dating Bryan Mill’s daughter is probably a daunting, and scary, undertaking.  He is a retired CIA agent, who has a particular set of skills that can make anybody’s life hell if he wanted to.  He also has an unbelievable love for his daughter, which causes him to be extremely overprotective, to the point where it starts to become a little weird.

Taken 2 is a ridiculous movie, even more so than Taken.  Imagine a full-size bear rolling around on a beach ball with a party hat on it’s head.  Yeah, that is ridiculous, just like Taken.  Now imagine this same bear on a beach ball with a party hat, except this time he is juggling a set of flaming torches while tightrope walking.  Yes, Taken 2 is more ridiculous than its predecessor.

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The action all starts whenever Lenore (Famke Janssen) and Kim (Maggie Grace) decide to surprise visit Mills (Liam Neeson) while he is in Istanbul for a business trip.  You can only imagine where this is going.  At the same time, the group that Mills heavily destroyed in Taken is out for vengeance, and they know that Mills happens to be in Istanbul.  Rade Serbedzija (Murad Krasniqi), the father of the guy who took Kim in the first movie, is the main guy leading the operation to seek vengeance on Mills.

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One day on their vacation, Mills and Lenore go out on a little date while Kim stays behind to catch up on some relaxation.  While on their date, Mills and Lenore catch on to the group of men trying to kidnap them, and they try to lose them, but it only ends up with them both being taken.  At the hotel, Kim still happens to be in contact with Mills, and he tells her to hide.  She almost gets taken herself, but luckily the gang doesn’t find her.  It’s now her turn to play hero and get her parents out of trouble.

While keeping in contact with Kim, Mills basically walks her through all the steps she needs to take in order for him to find out where he and Lenore have been taken.  It’s only a matter of time when Mills and Kim finally escape together, and they have to finally figure out how to get Lenore.  It’s here that the movie gets insane, once again.

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The thing that is great about Taken 2 is all of the moving pieces that are part of the film.  The plan that Mills conjures up seems much more involved, and much smarter this time around, than his previous plan in the first movie.  There are also a lot more high stakes action in Taken 2.  The whole movie just felt like the stakes where raised, which kept the tension levels pretty high.

However, when a movie becomes so predictable, you can only keep those tension levels high for a certain amount of time.  You know that Mills will somehow find a way to get Lenore back, unscathed and fresh as a spring day.  He’s going to make it look easy, and he is going to utterly devastate anyone who opposes him.  It’s this kind of knowledge that makes any sticky situation that Mills gets himself in seem insignificant.  It’s never a matter of “Will he?”, it’s a matter of “How he will” get himself out of these situations.

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The final scenes in the movie are also a big bummer.  The last movie ended with an intense firefight on a boat.  Taken 2 decided to tone back the conflict, making it much more low-key.  It’s literally just a game of fisticuffs as Mills takes out his final two opponents.  The death of the final man that Mills faces is kinda clever, but also not what I wanted.  I wanted a little more, something a little more climatic.

Taken 2 also bumped up the emotional level as well.  We got a lot more scenes between Mills, Lenore, and Kim, and their efforts to rebuild their family that once was.  Lenore is going through a bad marriage with her new husband and Kim dating a guy.  Mills is trying to fix his relationship with both of them, and he does make some great steps in the right direction.  If I had to feel satisfied with this movie, it would be with their family situation by the end.

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Taken 2 is still a fun movie because of the intense action that Mills gets himself into.  Liam Neeson is a lumbering giant that basically overpowers any body that tries to lay hands on what he cherishes the most; his family.  Taken 2 could have been so much more if it where a smarter movie, but instead we get some dumb thrills that still can bring a smile to anyone’s face.  Taken 3 is on the way, and I can only imagine what they are thinking of next.  Franchise fatigue is in the air, and only Taken 3 can help fix that.

 

 

Review: Dumb & Dumber

dumb and dumber posterDumb & Dumber (1994)

PG-13 / 107 min

Comedy

Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly

Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly


There are may people out there that defend Dumb & Dumber as being one of their favorite comedy classics…and a classic it truly is.  When people think about Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, they often point to Dumb & Dumber as being the movie that made them who they are, probably more so in Jeff Daniels’ case.  The movie has a lot of quirks and wackiness, but it also has it’s fair share of troubles too.

The movie stars Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas and Jeff Daniels as Harry Dune.  The two are best buds, but they are also incredibly stupid.  It’s the dysfunctional relationship between the two that often provides most of the comedy.  The two are piss poor, but they are trying to save enough money to get themselves their own pet store called “I Have Worms.”  Truly a one-of-a-kind name.

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Lloyd, who is a limousine driver, picks up a woman named Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) and takes her to the airport.  It’s love at first sight as Lloyd literally almost faints when he sees her.  He drops her off at the airport and he notices that she leaves a briefcase on the ground before she boards her plane.  Lloyd notices this and tries to rush to return it to her, but ends up flat faced on the ground on the tarmac…with the plane en route to Aspen Colorado.

It’s Lloyd that can’t get her out of his mind, so he decides to convince Harry to go on a cross country road trip to Aspen to return the briefcase to it’s rightful owner, and perhaps get together with her as well.  Harry needs little convincing and boom!  They’re off on a crazy road trip in their weird doggy van.

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It’s unfortunate that the story takes the backseat on the road trip.  It turns out that there are people who were supposed to pick up the briefcase at the airport, but no real explanation why.  It’s probably explained somewhere, but it’s apparent that the story doesn’t really matter in the end.  It’s basically just the device that strings together the countless gags and crazy situations that the duo get themselves into.

The humor doesn’t hold up as well, especially compared to the comedies of late.  Don’t get me wrong, the movie is pretty funny, but the jokes get old after a while.  The movie also has a fascination with “potty humor”, which makes up almost the majority of the gags.  It’s probably Jim Carrey’s signature maniacal expressions that he makes that probably warrant the most laughs.

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The movie made me instantly start to look ahead to Dumb & Dumber To, the long awaited sequel.  It almost seems like the revival is doomed to fail.  Unless they change up the humor and make it more modern, I don’t think it will sit well with the audience of today.  It’s clear that comedy has evolved from the 90’s, and I don’t think most people will pay ten dollars to go see a movie like Dumb & Dumber in theaters.

With that being said, Dumb & Dumber is still an enjoyable experience.  Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels work well together, and the humor, even though it may be outdated, can still put a smile on your face.

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