Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Double Down

***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!  I could do the hacky pun review quip and say, "Don't gamble your time with Double Down," but that's dumb.

Double Down – 0 out of 5

I like to consider myself a connoisseur of bad movies.  Thanks to discovering Mystery Science Theater 3000 when it came out (and how awesome is it that it's coming back?  Very awesome) and the fact that I was raised to be a movie nut by my father, I’ve developed a taste for schlocky films.  B-movie premises, bad acting and piss-poor production became the fine cheeses of the movie world that I would regularly seek out.  However, there are a lot of bad movies out there and I am only one man and just can’t see them all.  Thankfully, however, I have friends who will tell me when one has slipped past my radar.  My buddy Chris over at The Robot’s Pajamas (a website I like to contribute to and you should check out because it’s awesome) told me about a film called Double Down and asked me to review it there (which I did and you can check out here) but this movie was so epically bad that I had to go into more detail here on my site…if only to keep my sanity.

The battery life on his laptops are fucking fantastic in this film!

The possible target of the attack, a stock footage
shot of Las Vegas.
According to IMDb, Double Down is about a terrorist attack on Las Vegas and a brilliant secret agent (played by the man who made it; Neil Breen) who takes control of the city and the attack as he “fights with his fits of overwhelming depression and obsessions with love and death.” However, if you actually took the time to watch this mess of a film, you’d have no frickin’ clue what the film was actually about because it is just a meandering mess.  What I was able to gather, Double Down is about a Richard Gere stunt double that is a spy in his down time and doesn’t quite understand morals and ethics.  Sometime after his fiancee is murder while they were skinny dipping in their pool, he decides to work for any and every government willing to pay him the big bucks because he is the greatest hacker/bio-weapons expert/spy/maybe terrorist the world has ever seen.  One day, he is asked to shut down Las Vegas for two months by some unknown people for some unknown reasons.  In-between his wandering around the desert, eating tuna out of the can, possibly having the ability to cure cancer with some Fool’s Gold, owning an invisibility shield and other mindless ramblings this character named Aaron Brand goes on about, he does some very unclear things to get some sort of attack going and then, with ten minutes left in the film, decides to try and stop it. (Don’t you dare cry about Spoilers because, as I’ll explain, the story will NOT be the reason to watch this film.)

He has an unfortunate story of a gerbil stunt double.

Often when I watch movies, I have a notebook nearby to take notes for the blog or other sites I’m writing for.  With Double Down, I took four pages of notes and one of the most reoccurring setences I jotted down was “What the hell is going on in this film?”  This movie is a horrendous mess but it’s not really surprising when you learn how the film came about.  The man who made this film has no history with film making and made a bunch of money in Las Vegas and decided that he would use that money to make a film that would support his ego—in a similar way Tommy Wiseau made The Room or James Nguyen with Birdemic.  What follows is a feature that has no sense of plot, story, character, conflict, intrigue or even the basics of lighting, acting, camera work, sound, music and editing.  In replace of all that, you have a main character played by the financier and a character treatment that is all about feeding his own ego.  I’m not kidding, this movie is basically an hour and a half of his character saying how awesome and talented he is.

I'm a bit surprised we don't hear about how he's an award winning sleeper in this film.

Shit, Breen’s even remote understanding or even whether or not he’s actually seen a movie has to be called into question as he clearly misunderstood one of the most basic rules of storytelling and decides that this film is entirely “Tell, Don’t Show.”  I’m not kidding when I say the first 20 minutes of the film is all B-roll of Breen in the desert set to narration about how badass his character is and, during this entire time, there isn’t a single hint to what the story is going to be.  All you learn is that he is "totes amazeballs" at his job and he is super in love with his dead fiancee.  It’s at this 20 minute mark that the story kinda/sort/almost starts but the narration of the film never, ever leaves.  Breen won’t show you what is happening but will just explain it to you…and even then, what is happening makes no sense because all the narration wants to talk about is the adoration he feels for his dead lover.

How to properly stand when you refuse to do a nude scene for your friend's shitty

Whoa! This dude is clearly the master of stealth.  That
person will never notice the thick white powder you
put on their arm!
What’s truly ridiculous about this story—and there’s a lot of ridiculous shit going on here (like how Breen clearly thinks he is writing some truly deep musings about a Post-9/11 society)—but it’s truly a spectacle to watch how Breen thinks important details to the main point of conflict (the supposed terrorist attack on Las Vegas) are okay to leave out of the script but it's absolutely vital for the viewer to know that his character of lives off tuna in a can (there’s even a whole scene watching him eat and spilling on himself for some reason).  Or there’s the ridiculous part where Aaron Brand rubs a tourist with a biological agent that, as he puts it, kills on contact but, literally a second later, informs us that that man will be dead in about 5 minutes.  That’s not quite killing on contact, is it?  I thought you were the best spy/agent/terrorist/desert wander in the business?!?  In all honesty, this film felt like Breen rented some cameras, filmed a fuck-ton of B-roll out in the desert outside of Vegas, got his hands on a lot (and I mean A LOT) of stock footage and edited that stuff together and then used narration to try and make a story out of it all.  That’s the only thing I could come up with because I can’t believe someone edited it together and said, “Yep, that makes sense.”

The tuna was never mentioned if it was dolphin-free or not.  That seems like a big
detail to gloss over.  It was important enough to tell us he eats it...and is probably
the best eater of canned tuna in the world but was it dolphin-safe?

And here's Breen's money shot.  There's no doubt
in my mind that he thought he just filmed the deepest,
most momentous visual in all of cinema with
this one.

Double Down is just a truly horrendous film that is more a monument to one man’s clearly uncontrollable ego than it is even remotely a coherent story.  I could write about this one forever because there is so much bad going on here—like how flubbed lines were left in the film or how Breen’s reaction of his fiancee getting assassinated sounds more like a mild orgasm than a sound of pain.  Also there's how Brand can apparently hack anything with two satellite dishes, 3 flip phones and a couple of laptops that are clearly never turned on or the whole thing with the Fool’s Gold or just the general bad acting or how there’s no real characters in the film or who the antagonist and protagonists are—but it is in this disastrous mess that makes the film somewhat entertaining to watch.  Unlike other Awesomely Bad Movies like The Room, Troll 2 and Birdemic, the fun factor of this film doesn’t come from the bad acting and shitty dialogue (because, sadly, the majority of what’s said is done by Breen and you barely see other characters in the story) but rather just from the nightmare of a slop-pile this film is.  Ultimately, however, it makes the feature a double edged sword and it makes this insanely hard to watch.  It’s terrible and it’s a great unintentional comedy but, unlike other films that are prime for a night of pizza, booze and riffing the night away with your buddies on the couch, this one is so hard to sit through that maybe it only warrants a one-time viewing…but, at the very least, it is a funny one-time viewing.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

***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!  I don't need drugs because the high this film gave me is incredible!

Star Wars:  The Force Awakens – 5 out of 5

I’ve been a lifelong Star Wars fan since I was barely able to develop conscious memories.  The first home video I remember watching was the original; A New Hope, and the first film I can remember seeing in the theaters was Return of the Jedi.  I played with all the toys, read all the books in the now-defunct Expanded Universe and read all the comics from Marvel’s old run and Dark Horses’ tremendous work after that.  I played every video game and will even admit that, while I didn’t enjoy everything about them, I am a fan of the prequels.  My body has Star Wars-themed tattoos all over my body including the Mandalorians’ mythosaur skull and symbols from the Sith, Jedi and Black Sun.  My parents, whether by accident or on purpose, set me on a path to be a serious geek for the Star Wars universe and I own toys and collectibles for it, been to a few conventions on it and have geeked out over shaking hands with Peter Mayhem.  When Disney purchased the property from George Lucas three years back and announced that they would make more films, I flipped with excitement.  That excitement reached a boiling point for the seventh episode in the mythology with The Force Awakens.  My expectations were high but I walked in with no doubts that I was going to be entertained.  I was completely wrong…it was even better than what I hoped for!

             **Don’t worry…there won’t be any spoilers here**

                                                          Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
I want a BB-8.  No, not the smartphone controlled one
but a full size, fully autonomous one.
30 years has passed since the Rebellion destroyed the second Death Star.  From the ashes of the evil Emperor, a new order has risen and threatens the new Republic.  To combat these forces, the Resistance is formed but to help stop the First Order once and for all, they need the help of a powerful old ally.  Their greatest fighter pilot; Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is sent to retrieve a map to help locate this man but the evil user of the dark side; Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), uses his forces to stop him and take the information for himself and deliver it to General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the all powerful Supreme Leader Snoke.  However, Poe hid the information in the little (and freakin’ adorable) droid; BB-8.  The droid ends up befriending a struggling junker on the planet of Jakku named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and a runaway stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega).  Together, they team with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) in order to get the information to General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and the rest of the Resistance before Ren and the First Order use their superweapon to destroy all that oppose them.

                                                                                        Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Boyega seems like a cool guy.  I think we should be best friends.

I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for Episode VII since they released the first photo of the table read.  Since then, I’ve watched every trailer and TV spot they released and read all the new canon books and comics released (and I have to say that every book Marvel has done with this now official expanded stories is gold and I don’t miss the Expanded Universe).  Money and timing prevented me from seeing the film the day before and on the release date but after soaking in all the glory with my eyeballs (that were wide as plates the whole running length) the wait proved to be worth it.

                                                                                         Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Dude...Marvel, Captain Phasma needs her own series.  Please, please, please!

The Force Awakens is, to put it simply, amazing!  The film made me laugh, it made me cry on several occasions but, most of all, it transported me back to when I was a kid and my mom and dad would throw an old VHS copy of Episode IV into the VCR.  J.J. Abrams visuals and the story that he helped craft was the perfect mix of honoring the adventures Han, Leia, Chewie and Luke took back in 1977 and paving a new road for new journeys with the likes of Poe, Rey and Finn…and, of course, BB-8.  In a world of cynicism and jaded pessimistic world views, The Force Awakens made me remember what it was like to first see the galaxy far, far away and filled me with joy and the child-like sense of wonder.  The fairy tale-esque vibe that Lucas created almost forty years ago was all here and it made for an incredible theater experience.

                                                                                        Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
At one point, every single one of these troopers hit their heads on a door.

                                                          Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
What happens if Ren sneezes in that helmet?
The visuals are gorgeous and every second is filled with the familiar whimsy and eccentricities that we’ve come to expect from this reality.  The action is fast-paced and exciting.  Whether it’s battles with blasters or screaming TIE fighters in dogfights with X-wings, the action supplied is more than satisfying and griping.  The returning old characters filled me with nostalgia and the new characters were all intriguing and fun.  I can’t wait to learn more about the likes of Kylo Ren, Rey and Finn in supplemental books and comics and to see more of them in the upcoming episodes.  The performances from everyone from the returning favorites like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher to the new faces like Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and the more digital features given life to by performers like Lupita Myong’o and the incredible Andy Serkis were rad and I really lost myself in their characters.  John Williams’ score, as expected, is exactly as it should be, complimenting and enhancing every scene and making them more emotional and important. And, finally, the mixing of practical and digital effects was seamless and simply magical.

                                                                                        Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Yes, Chewie and Han, you're home.  And so am It because that's what The Force Awakens felt like.

Even though I am a super obsessed Star Wars fan, I tried to be as objective as possible while experiencing the film so that I can admit if there was anything I didn’t enjoy.  Heck, I will admit that I wasn’t a fan of Hayden Christensen’s performance and I didn’t like Jar Jar in the prequels but I couldn’t find any real faults in The Force Awakens.  Granted, there were a few lines of dialogue that felt a tad awkward but there was only a line or two and, in the grand scheme of emotional scenes and epic space action, this was a drop in the bucket that was barely even noticeable.  Hell, I’ll even admit that there’s one point in the story that dragged but this was only for a few minutes and is just another drop that is barely noticeable among the rest of the amazing qualities this film threw at me moment after moment.

                                                                                        Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The Force is strong in this movie!

                                                           Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Play this for the full effect with this visual.
Maybe I sound like an overzealous fan that is only focusing on the positive but Star Wars:  The Force Awakens is what a Star Wars movie is suppose to be.  The story may feel like it was told before but it got that right blend of being familiar and new at the same time but it also did a great job of setting up this new trilogy and ending on the right point of being satisfying and leaving me salivating for the next one.  Additionally, the film is truly very fun because of genuinely funny scenes, cool new characters and its stellar action.  The film also has some awesome cameos littered throughout the film that only enhances the viewing experience to something more than just an exciting film.  Finally, unlike the prequels, this film just felt like it belonged in this established universe.  I’m not saying that Episodes I-III don’t feel like Star Wars films but there visuals were so drastically different than what was seen in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  I’m not saying the prequels don’t feel like Star Wars films—far from it—but Episode VII feels like it is the natural progression from Episode VI.

                                                                                         Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
I know it's a weird thing to get excited about but inter-atmosphere dogfighting is awesome!

I went into Star Wars:  The Force Awakens with high hopes and had those hopes met and exceeded.  I knew that when Disney purchased the property that the series would be in good hands because The Mouse, for all his flaws, knows his audience and knows how to give them what they want and, alongside J. J. and his team, they delivered something incredible.  My excitement level is just as insane for Episode VIII as it was for this one but, at the very least, I get to see Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story next year.  Now, the real question is:  How many times am I going to see this one in the theaters?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Terminator Genisys

***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!  So, he really wasn't lying when he said he'd be back.

Terminator Genisys – 3 out of 5

In a world where knee-jerk reactions of hatred and outrage are things that are considered normal behavior (but only for things like movies, reboots and casting non-white actors to play comic book characters that are usually depicted as Hitler’s wet dream—if you dare get pissed about things like sexism, racism or rape culture, you’re then assaulted by the people bitching about female Ghostbusters and guys who really hate women having opinions on video games and are told that you are just whiners and offended by everything), anyway, everyone was quick to start throwing hate at the new installment to the Terminator franchise when it was announced it was going to happen..  Meanwhile, I watched the trailer and said, “Sure, I’ll watch it.”  I keep forgetting that I’m supposed to just instantly hate everything.  I’ll guess I’ll never truly belong on the internet because I tend to reserve extreme opinions until I actually witness the product.  Anyway, after days of judgment, machines doing their rising thing and some salvation given to us by Batman’s gravel voice, Arnie is back in Terminator Sega Genisys.

So...the machines just couldn't invent a self-driving truck?  Google did it.

The endless time loop war!
In 2029, the savior of the human race John “When will this fucking machine war end” Connor (Jason Clarke) launches his major assault in the attempt to stop Skynet from ruling the planet.  Like we’ve seen, the machines sent back a T-800 series model to kill Sarah Conner in the past in order to stop the Resistance from being created since Sarah is John’s mother.  In an effort to protect both his mommy and his creation, John sends his father; Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time with the mission to stop the T-800 and to protect Sarah…and also to protect his privates because they have to do baby-making things.  However, things take quite a turn compared to the last time we saw Kyle’s journey through time and he witnesses a new machine attack John.  Now, somehow, the timeline has changed and Kyle’s mission isn’t what it was going to be.  He arrives and finds Sarah (Emilia Clarke) is already a badass and trying to stop Skynet from going live and nuking the world.  Now, together, Sarah and Kyle—alongside a T-800 that was send back to protect her when she was a child and she now lovingly refers to as Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger)—use a cobbled together time machine to transport themselves to 2017 in order to stop Skynet—which is disguising itself as a worldwide operating system called “Genisys.”  The mission seems straightforward enough until they run into John and learn he is no longer the hero he once was destined to be.

Holy shit!  That is cool.

I won’t say I walked into this one with high hopes.  The first film is awesome and created something completely unheard of in the world of sci-fi when it came out and the sequel was one of those few films that was, in my opinion, actually better than its predecessor and instantly became a classic action film that still holds up today.  The third film wasn’t the best thing I’ve seen, in my opinion, but there were some cool parts to it and, despite my really hoping for something dark, gritty and exciting with Salvation, I found the fourth one to be ├╝ber-disappointing.  So, naturally, I wasn’t foaming at the mouth for Genisys…buuuut, I will honestly say that seeing the first trailer had me interested at the idea of a new alternate timeline, some sweet looking action, a return of Arnold in his prime form and a plot twist that realistically shouldn’t have been in the trailer but really showed how this film can be different from the others and a possible game-changer.

The shot so cool, they have to put it in every freaking movie!

There’s a lot of flaws holding this addition to the franchise down and keeping it from being on the same level and becoming an instant classic like the first two films but the film does have enough working for it that it’s fairly decent.  The film’s opening feels like it is right out of the 2nd film and manages to craft the same tone—something completely unseen in Salvation…a film that felt like all the Terminator elements were added on later in order to shoe-horn it into the franchise.  The computer effects are fantastically good and absolutely breathtaking at points.  The action has some really cool fight scenes between the machines and some killer big action pieces that are amazingly exciting and unique.  And, finally, the new time travel components may work against the film by making the timelines in this franchise very convoluted but it also sets this film apart from the rest of the films and doesn’t feel like just another “let’s send another, different robot back in time to kill John” story.  

Way, way, way better than CG Auhnold in Salvation.

Seriously, great CG but they can't get decent makeup
effects?  That looks like it was done from an off-the-shelf
makeup set from a Halloween Express.
Additionally, many members of the film’s cast really helped this film flow and be more entertaining than I thought it was going to end up.  Jason Clarke is pretty cool as John Connor—even though this is once again a new actor playing John and they are once again playing the character completely different than everyone else did (also, those facial scars they added to him looked super fake and were very distracting).  J.K. Simmons is here and playing a very fun character who recognizes Sarah and Kyle in 2017 from when he was a young officer being saved by Kyle when he traveled back to the 80s.  Emilia Clarke does a great job of filling Linda Hamilton’s boots as Sarah Connor and Arnold, as usual in this franchise, steals the show as the now older T-800 model Pops.

J.K. Simmons is awesome in everything he does.  Please, please, please, PLEASE have
him come back as J. Jonah in the MCU.

She does kinda look like Hamilton, I'll say that.
However, for all the good the film has, it still has a lot of flaws that hurt it and really stopped it from feeling like an adequate addition and something that belongs in the same league as the first and T2.  For example, the movie overdoes the nods and winks to the previous films and it quickly stops feeling like homages to what came before it and fun bits of nostalgia and quickly just feels like this franchise is just endlessly repeating itself and actively going against trying to pave new ground.  Some of the action scenes that are more bullets flying-based feel mediocre and pretty standard action movie stuff that doesn’t really stand out.  There’s some truly awful jokes—like one involving the Cops theme (but that one was at least saved by Arnie) and there is absolutely no chemistry between Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke.  This part really hurts the film because the relationship that develops between Kyle and Sarah in the first film felt so natural and in this, due to the absence of chemistry and some bad writing (and a really bad performance), the relationship feels wholly unnatural and extremely forced.

Arnie just makes this stupid shit work.

Seriously, Smith brought nothing to this role that any
hungry actor with no career couldn't have done.
Finally, one of the worst parts about this film is the performance of Jai Courtney.  There were other members of the cast that had some issues like having an actor like Matt Smith, who just came off a very iconic role, play a character that, realistically, could have been played by anyone because Smith really didn’t bring anything of note to the part.  Additionally, Emilia Clarke’s delivery of lines occasionally is super cheesy and she never truly feels like the Sarah Connor we know (but a different timeline kinda explains that one away).  However, at the core, she still has a gooey, caramel center that is the Connor we’ve see.  Courtney, on the other hand, lacks this and never once feels like he is Kyle Reese.  It’s bad enough that his performance is very bland and flat but the fact he never, ever comes close to being the character that Michael Biehn made famous in the first film feels very tragic and a wasted opportunity from the production.  This very boring and uninteresting performance from Courtney only made the piss-poor developed and lazily forced relationship between Kyle and Sarah only look worse by the time the film was over.

I'd hate to post blame on a film on one person but, seriously, Courtney was just
that bland in this film.

I won’t go as far as to say that Terminator Genisys is bad or a waste of time.  It’s definitely more entertaining than Salvation but I think I would say it’s about equal to the third film—it’s not great but it has its moments (amusingly enough that this film actually retcons the existence of those two films).  The film definitely had some potential it was striving for and, even though it suffers from a moment or two of really lazy writing, the film was pretty ambitious.  Heck, even James Cameron gave the film his approval and has labeled it his “official” third film in the franchise—he basically told Rise of the Machines and Salvation to go fuck themselves.  Genisys is, without a doubt, serviceable in its entertainment and Arnold is all kinds of fun in his role but, at the end of it all, it’s still another just functioning sequel added to this franchise’s already growing list of only functioning sequels.

Fun Fact:  That's the original T-1000 Robert Patrick on the left there making a quick