Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The BFG

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! A big friendly giant is great and all but what about Andre the Giant?  Now, that's a giant!



The BFG – 4 out of 5

I am completely unfamiliar with the Roald Dahl book that The BFG is based on so when I hear the title, my mind instantly goes to that specific weapon in Doom.  Now, the title means Big Friendly Giant so when some people hear the acronym BFG, they might think Big F#@king Giant.  Anyway, when I saw the trailer for this Steven Spielberg directed feature, I was blown away with the promise it held and I thought it looked like a nice, heartwarming feature.  Well, I finally got around to seeing it and it definitely delivers.

Plot Twist:  The giant is normal size and the girl is really small!

Little Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an orphan in England that one night accidentally sees a giant (Mark Rylance) walking the streets.  The giant, scared she’ll tell the world of his existence, kidnaps her and takes her to Giant Country.  Despite her pleas, the giant refuses to let her leave because there are ones outside that are far bigger than him lead by one called Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) who will eat her up in one bite.  Sophie soon learns that the giant has no malice in his heart for her and the two quickly become friends—she even nicknames him BFG for Big Friendly Giant.  BFG shows her a world of wonder but the threat from Fleshlumpeater is never far behind and it’s not long before these two unlikely friends have to come up with a plan to stop these evil giants once and for all.

This is art, my friends.  Airbrush that on the side of a van!

Just when you thought the fart joke had run its
course...
Disney’s The BFG (or would it be Disney’s Roald Dahl’s The BFG?) is an incredibly sweet, heartwarming movie.  The story has the right blend of being charming, amusing, sweet, and it even throws in a dash of dark with the threat the larger giants hold.  It combines all these elements under a cohesive tone that never feels like it is jumping from one element to the next.  The only issue I had with the story is the fact the conflict within it is resolved just a wee bit too easily for my tastes but, at its core, this is a children’s film so this really isn’t a complaint that killed the film’s entire entertainment value.

Fleshlumpeater looks like he might have a Dropkick Murphys cover band.

Another element that really struck me was the performances.  Mark Rylance is incredibly endearing as BFG and it was really hard to not be completely charmed by his na├»ve worldview.  Additionally, Jermaine Clement does a fantastic job providing the voice for the main giant antagonist but the strongest performance in the whole film for me was Ruby Barnhill.  From the very first moment we see Sophie in action, we see that Barnhill has some real acting chops and she really captured the independent and fiery spirit of the character.  Even more impressive is how she is acting effortlessly among computer generated creations—a feat even some more seasoned actors have problems with.

I hope she has a fruitful career.

The final thing about this film that I really enjoyed—was actually quite blown away by, I should say—is the special effects.  For starters, the sense of scale the movie creates is quite awesome but the motion-capture and animation used to bring the giants to life was completely amazing.  The design of them looked fantastic but the life-like body and facial movements were next level stuff that really helped sell the reality of the film.  This combination also allowed for the actors’ performances to shine through and it helped showcase the charm and warmth that Rylance projected as BFG.

Or maybe computers had nothing to do with this and Mark Rylance just
went through some crazy operations to make him a giant.  I don't know.

As I mentioned earlier, the only drawback I had for The BFG is that the conflict is resolved stupidly easy but, beyond that, the film is a fairly pleasant one.  The cast is fantastic, the special effects are incredible, the humor is good natured, and the story is sweet and fun.  It has all the makings of a film that’s perfect for families to watch on movie night.

For you Doctor Who fans, you might recognize Penelope Wilton as the Queen.
She went from being the Prime Minister to Queen.  Not too shabby.

 

Alien: Covenant

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Ah yes, the franchise with creatures that have phallic-looking heads literally born from rape.  Everything about these movies are terrifying.



Alien:  Covenant – 2 out of 5

There’s no denying the cultural importance of the Alien franchise.  Sure, most of the sequels are passable at best but that first film and the action packed second one with the Marines are classics.  Then there’s the actual design of the xenomorphs.  The sexual assault overtones and the darkness represented in their design by H.R. Giger is a Freudian nightmare that made for some truly memorable movie monsters.  Well, the man who started it all, Ridley Scott, is back for another installment of the prequel trilogy that explains where the xenomorphs came from and how we got to the film where we see Ripley having to fight one while in her underwear (it’s like that nightmare where you go to school naked but way, way worse!).  It turns out that you still can’t scream in space in Alien:  Covenant but this time it’s more of a scream of boredom.

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
The symbolism was never subtle in this franchise.

In 2104, the crew of the Covenant transports thousands of colonists and embryos to the planet Origae-6 but after an accident messes with the ship, they stumble upon a transmission from a nearby habitable planet.  Acting on the command of acting Captain Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), it’s decided that they will take the detour to examine the planet and try to locate the source of the transmission.  Despite objections by the crew’s terraforming expert; Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterston), the team sets out to uncover this new mystery that has stumbled into their path.  Pretty soon, the team learns that this mystery involves the Prometheus, a ship that disappeared several years earlier, and on that vessel carried a secret in the form of a horrifying creature that brings with it death.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
I'm sure he'll be fine.

I enjoy the Alien films quite a bit.  Even when they are at their worst (like the vs Predator films, Resurrection and Prometheus—which I openly admit I did enjoy) I still find some level of entertainment with them.  It goes without saying that I was pretty excited for this one—and really dug the idea of Danny McBride having a role in it (love that guy!).  Well, I caught it this weekend at the theater for a matinee and, I’m sad to say, it wasn’t worth the 13 dollars to see a showing of it and it should have been something I rented from Redbox or even waited to see when it aired edited on Syfy.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
"Yes, this is, in theory, a habitable planet so I don't see a single reason why
we should enter the environment with some sort of protective suits.  It's not like
there will be viruses or other type of microscopic threats."

I will admit that there are some really great things going on in the film that didn’t completely kill the feature for me.  I really loved the set and costume design because it felt true to the already established Alien universe.  The performances are great—to an extent but I’ll get to that later.  Finally, the story as a concept is a fairly cool one that offers up a lot of promise (although, it does leave me wondering how on earth they are going to be able to tie it to the original film without it looking lazy).  The problems that come have entirely to do with how the story is executed and it was done so in a way that made for a really bland, ho-hum, and even out-right boring feature.

                                                                                                           20th Century Fox
Not even the presence of a Jedi could rescue this film.

One thing this film desperately needed was further development of the characters.  I realized that the studio released a “prologue” clip online in the months leading up to its release but you shouldn’t have to release a clip in order to establish characters and their motivations and personalities.  As the film stood (without the prologue clip), we learn basically nothing about these people other than they are a crew on a colonization mission and they’re all married (and weirdly only refer to their spouses by their titles of “husband” or “wife”).  Even the film’s hero Branson is given almost nothing to identify her as anything that should stand out.  I can’t even recall any character being referred to by name with the exception of Danny McBride’s character Tennessee.   

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
I'll throw this out there, McBride really felt perfect for his role.


                                                                              20th Century Fox
Every time Crudup speaks, I keep expecting him to
mention how certain things are priceless and for
everything else there's Mastercard.
Without any development, these characters are just faceless nobodies who all feel like they are expendable at any minute and I was unable to get invested in any of the turmoil and conflict they were subjected to.  I’ll overlook that the entire setup of their problems come from really, really bad judgment on their part when they travel to an unknown planet if it meant that I would have gotten some insight into the inner workings of the people in the story.  Honestly, say what you will about the bad decision making seen in Prometheus but the set-up in this one shows some really horrendous decision making.  This lack of development also had an adverse effect on the acting.  While no one in the film is giving a bad performance, it was difficult to really invest in what the actors are putting out there because the characters are so dimensionless and lack any real and palpable depth.

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
I appreciate how this franchise likes to have female protagonists but
you gotta at least develop them a little bit.

Ridley Scott stated that this film was intended to bring the franchise back to its horror roots and, while the potential is there, it wasn’t very successful at accomplishing that.  The setting, the lighting, and, of course, the creature all are ingredients that have the reality to translate into horror (there is a historic precedent for it and we’ve seen work) but while the atmosphere is primed and ready for this there never are any thrills or tension done.   In fact, it was hard to really figure out what type of tone this film was going for.   Limitations such as budget and a bad costume resorted to the horror tension being created in the first film but with those limitations are gone thanks to special effects and a large budget.  What we are left with is a film that leaves nothing to the imagination.  The xenomorph’s attacks (and the attacks of the new alien we see in the film) are telegraphed too obviously that it kills all shock and surprise and it makes the death scenes more about just getting some gore in rather than getting some horror in—and, to be honest, I wasn’t even that impressed with the blood and guts.  That element felt very mundane to me (man, have I become that burned out with gore in movies?).

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
I'm sure he'll be fine.
 
The final element that really killed Covenant for me is the weak ending.  In theory, the ending isn’t terrible but in execution it is a bit silly and really easy to see coming.  However, the biggest problem I have with the ending is how it will eventually tie back to the beginning of the film that started it all and how the Nostromo finds the shipwrecked vessel of the Engineers with all the eggs onboard.  Obviously, it will get resolved but this ending has me fearing it will be done so in a way that might be silly, lazy or incredibly contrived.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
With all my complaints, the xenomorphs are still really cool monsters.

Now, I don’t want it to sound like I completely hated Alien:  Covenant because I didn’t.  I saw the potential and promise that it held but was, sadly, unimpressed and kinda bored with the final results.  From a storytelling perspective, I like the pace it offered because the whole time it felt like it was building to something (sadly, it didn’t).  The performance from Michael Fassbender is absolutely outstanding and the rest of the cast is doing fairly well with the terribly underdeveloped characters they were given.  Finally, the special effects for the aliens are very good.  Unfortunately, these elements just couldn’t save a film that felt like it was both incomplete and squandering its time and potential.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Yes, I played the soundtrack to this movie while I typed this.  And that would be the answer if you, the reader, asked, "Did you listen to the film's soundtrack while you typed this review?"



Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 5 out of 5


When Marvel Studios unleashed Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 they were taking a huge risk.  While comic readers like myself have the potential to be familiar with the characters, the mass audiences didn’t.  Everyone and their mother have some sort of knowledge of who guys like Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America are but there are even comic fans who know nothing about Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon and Groot.  However, thanks to a great cast, fun story and the genius that is James Gunn, the film would go on to be one of the biggest highlights throughout the entire MCU and, remains today, my personal favorite in the franchise.  Needless to say, I was SUPER excited to see Gunn’s follow up with Vol. 2.  Did this next adventure live up to its predecessor or did it succumb to the usual shortcomings we see in sequels?  As you can tell by the score, this one delivered!

                                                                                                              Marvel Studios
The gang's all here!


The Guardians are back and after they “accidentally” upset the Sovereign race when Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals some priceless batteries from them, they stumble upon a man named Ego (Kurt Russell).  This Ego is a mysterious man who claims to be both a Celestial (a near god-like ancient race) and Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father.  While Ego wants to bring Star-Lord into his world, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) must deal with her psychotic sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax (Dave Bautista) makes friends with Ego’s unique assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and the Ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker) is dispatched by the Sovereign in order to collect the Guardians for the crimes that has transpired.  However, it’s soon realized that all may not be what it seems with this new insight to Star-Lord’s past…

                                                                                                                Marvel Studio
Kurt Russell is so damn talented but what makes me jealous of him is his
stupidly fantastic head of hair.


The first film is an outrageous space adventure that shows what levels of comedy were capable in an action-packed comic book adaptation.  This time around the humor feels amped up, the action is bigger, and there’s even a great deal of heart coming along for the ride.  Yes, the first film had its touching moments (like who could forget Peter Quill seeing his mom after he touched the Infinity Stone?) but GotGV2 really pours in some real heart and makes excellent use of its themes of what it means to be a family and parentage.  James Gunn really shows what an amazing craftsman he is as he showcases a perfect balance of humor, heart and action and there’s never a single moment where one is overpowering the other.

                                                                                                             Marvel Studios
I would also like to point out that Dave Bautista has some amazing
comedic timing as Drax!


Like last time, the cast in this film is incredible and their chemistry has only become tighter.  New additions to the cast, like Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell and even a small role filled by Sly Stallone are done exceptionally and every actor brings their character to life terrifically.  This undeniable chemistry only enhances Gunn’s writing and presentation as it makes the gags and jokes funnier and the tender moments even sweeter.

                                                                                                              Marvel Studios
Seeing Baby Groot (still voiced by Vin Diesel) cry instantly breaks my heart.


My only real drawback I found in the film was a lack of an apparent antagonist for much of the beginning of the film.  Yes, the Sovereign plays a big role but they did feel like First Act baddies who are just around to set up the action while the main villain didn’t really have their presence felt for what felt like a long time.  Ultimately, this complaint is incredibly minor because once the villain is established and begins their plan of action it was easy to forget that I questioned who or what the Guardians were going to be fighting a little bit earlier in the film.

                                                                                                              Marvel Studios
Chris Pratt is seriously my inspiration.  He goes from being a chubby funny
dude to a fit funny dude that women love.  I need that transformation in my life.


                                                                                  Marvel Studios
I don't want to meet the person that doesn't love
Baby Groot.
The overall experience I had with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was incredibly positive and this James Gunn masterpiece once again showed me why we still go to movie theaters and how much fun the trips can be.  With great characters, a fantastic story filled with heart and comedy, a tremendous cast, awesome special effects and very exhilarating action, this latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a non-stop thrill ride of laughs, some tears, and adrenaline with every single moment delivered to by a soundtrack of fantastic classic rock that sets the mood and tone perfectly.  James Gunn does it again and leads a talented cast and crew through a fantastic film that I plan on seeing several more times in the theater and watching endless once it arrives on Blu-ray.