Friday, September 25, 2015

Rev. Ron's Realities: Jurassic World


Greetings friends, family, loyal readers, complete strangers, internet trolls who’ve come to unleash needless hate on me, confused people who stumbled on this while hanging out at the local library and utilizing their free internet and all other sorts of people that are too numerous to mention—in retrospect, I should have just opened this with “Hey gang!”


I would like to welcome you to a new segment on my blog.  I know I normally do movie reviews because that’s the title of the blog but this is the first of two new features that will be either bi-weekly or weekly—depending on the response.  These new segments are meant to provide a continuing outlet for my writing needs and, hopefully, bring you some amusement along the way.


This segment is called Rev. Ron’s Realities and is all about me creating completely fictitious histories to plot points and background characters in various films.  It’s as simple as that.  When I watch a movie and wonder, “Well, how did this part get to this point?” or see a supporting extra and think, “What happened to that character that brought them to where they are now?” I will write up a totally made up scenario to explain it…with a comedic twist.  What’s the second segment coming?  I will be taking questions, theories, speculations and even guest writers doing their own Realities and compile it from readers, fans and friends.  So, if that sounds interesting to you and you wanna get in on that action, email me at RevRonMovies@gmail.com.  But this segment isn’t about that, this is the maiden journey of Rev. Ron’s Realities and I take aim at this summer’s major-est of major blockbusters; Jurassic World.


So, let’s get started!


I had a great time watching Jurassic World.  It was what summer popcorn action films were meant to be but two things weighed on me after I watched it.  Number 1) the sorrow I felt for Blue and Number 2) I really wanted to be a fly on the wall during the boardroom meeting when the deal between Simon Masrani (played by Irrfan Khan) used his company Masrani Corp. to purchase InGen from John Hammond's estate; a move that would ultimately make Hammond's dream of Jurassic Park a reality.

According to the Jurassic Park wiki, Masrani decided to go after InGen after hearing about the work from Dr. Henry Wu.  After the disaster with Dennis Nedry and the failure to open the first park, the whole fiasco in San Diego that lead to a T-rex running rampant and engaging in lazy Godzilla sight gags and the sheer existence of the third film (also John Hammond dying, I guess), InGen was left in financial ruins so Simon Masrani swooped in and bought up the company and the intellectual properties (read that as the dinos).

                                                                                                                     Universal Pictures
"About to buy the fuck out of some dinosaurs!"


But what exactly went down at that meeting?



The Scene…


*Enter current CEO of InGen…who, for this, I’ll name…um…Mike.  Mike is alone in a big boardroom with his many lawyers and his college friend Greg (who came for moral support and the promise of hitting Chipotle after the meeting.  They wait for a good deal of time and Mike finds himself promising to not eat a third donut (they stopped at Krispy Kreme on the way and thought it would be nice to have donuts for Simon and his lawyers).  Just as Mike breaks his promise, Simon and his team of lawyers arrive*

Actual photograph of Mike at the meeting.


Mike:  Mmf-fank oo fwo coming.


Simon:  *Long pause* Excuse me?


Mike:  *Swallows donut* Thank you for coming, Simon.


Simon:  Thank you for having me, Mike.  I’m very excited to make John Hammond’s dream a reality so I would like to get down to business.  *Simon takes a seat and, one-by-one, his lawyers follow…except the last one who finds he is without a chair and decides to stand*


*At this point, Mike begins to nervously sweat and slowly dabs his forehead.*


Mike:  Mr. Masrani, you are offering up a great deal of money that will make me and the rest of the corporate executives rich with this deal to purchase InGen but I have to disagree with your desire to try to get a park up and running.


Simon:  Why?


Mike:  Well…um…we tried it a few times and a lot of people died.


Simon:  Okay…but what if this time…it doesn’t happen?


Mike:  …That’s very optimistic but you need to understand.  A LOT of people died.


Simon:  *Leans forward*  But maybe this time, that won’t happen.


Mike:  Okay…but it could…and probably might.


Simon:  But what if it doesn’t?


Mike:  It probably will.


Simon:  *Leans back in chair*  What would you say if I told you I have a contingency plan?


Mike:  I’d say, “What is this plan?”


Simon:  *Signals his lawyer still standing and the man pulls out a 8x10 photo*  What if I told you that I have the potential to acquire the service of a man who has a sense of humor, is approachably handsome and will, most likely, have his own pack of velociraptors that will run next to him while he’s being super badass and riding a motorcycle?


Mike:  I’d say that sounds awesome and should probably be the main selling point in a movie about this kind of stuff.  Man, I'm just imagining it now!

                                                                                                                     Universal Pictures

Mike:  Yeah, it looks awesome in my head!


Simon:  *Smiles widely*  Well, I found that man.


*Lawyer pushes the 8x10 photo towards Mike and he sees…*


THIS!


Mike:  Oh man.  He seems like such an everyday hero that will definitely appeal to mass audiences and is probably stupidly talented.


Simon:  And he’ll have domesticated raptors.


Mike:  *Throws contract and pen at Simon*  It’s a deal!  We’ll sell you InGen for the agreed amount of four hundred dollars!  Although, in retrospect, I probably should have negotiated for a higher amount.


Simon:  *Signs contract and slides over four 100 dollar bills across the table*  Pleasure doing business with you, Mike.


*Simon quietly leaves the room with his lawyers, followed closely by Mike’s lawyers.  Mike picks up the money and dreams about how totes awesome it will be to see that guy driving around on a motorcycle while his raptors follow*


Greg:  So…are we going to Chipotle?


Mike:  Yes…yes, we are, Greg.



And there you have it!  That’s how I think it went down in this, my very first, Rev Ron’s Realities.  If you enjoyed this and found it amusing, please share and make sure to follow the blog.  Also you can follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) and keep an eye out because I’m going to be creating a Facebook group for my blog for readers to join.  Finally, if you have a Reality you’d like to share or have any questions or other movie-based theories or conspiracies to share, email me at RevRonMovies@gmail.com for the upcoming Q&A segment.  Thanks!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

***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!  Someone do a cooking show parody of this called The Scotch Eggs Trials.




Maze Runner:  The Scorch Trials – 4 out of 5

Ever since college and since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve become more open-minded to various types of films that, in years past, I would have passed by and declared them dumb without giving them a shot.  A younger me would have said all these tween novels about dystopian, post-apocalyptic environments and stories are “beneath me” because I’m not a tween but I’m now all about giving them their fare shake.  Granted, a lot of them I just couldn’t get into and it’s possible that my age plays a factor in that but, regardless, I just can't find the entertainment value in most of them; for example, The Mortal Instruments was just too paint-by-numbers and hit all the predictable marks you’d expect from a cliché tween novel adaptation, Divergent was a little cooler as far as its look goes but, at its core, felt no different than The Mortal Instruments and, even though I didn’t care for the first HungerGames film, I ended up becoming a fan when Catching Fire was put out (and yes, I didn’t care for the first half of Mockingjay but I’m excited as hell for the second part).  I had low expectations for The Maze Runner but found a film that was far more mature and a whole hell of a lot different than your run-of-the-mill tween dystopian story and really got into the movie.  I was actually really excited for The Scorch Trials and my expectations were met with this one!

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
They're playing a very intense game of Red Rover and are waiting to come over.

                                                                                        20th Century Fox
Awwww, look at the little Grievers.
Taking place directly after the first film, it opens with the survivors of the first film; Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Bodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Winston (Alexander Flores), being escorted to a large, fortified complex and being greeted by a mysterious man named Janson (Aiden Gillen).  He promises them protection from the organization that imprisoned them in the Maze; WCKD, but there's something just untrustworthy about him.  Thomas isn’t sold and another kid in the facility named Aris (Jacob Lofland) tells him not all is right and what the two end up discovering chills them to the bone and they flee the compound.  Outside, they discover the horror that is now the world and how it is infested with those infected with the Flare virus.  The group seeks to find an organization that call themselves The Right Arm; a small army that rescues the children who are put in the Mazes.  While being hunted by Janson and his goons, the group meets a man named Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and a young girl Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and, reluctantly, they agree to help them get to The Right Arm.  However, they soon realize that escape may be impossible as WCKD will stop at nothing to get them back and that there’s no one they can trust.

                                                                                                                    20th Century Fox
I'm fairly certain they can trust this kid though...

After seeing this in the theater, I was shocked that the film has been getting mixed reviews from critics and seeing how they compare it to other tween films (something I am totally guilty of at the beginning).  Many have cited that it can’t compare but I can’t help but disagree with that one because the fact that it doesn’t follow the usual formula and takes a darker and far more mature route than the usual “This girl is the chosen one and she falls in love immediately with the man who is training her to live up to her chosen one status” instantly makes this film a franchise that I pay absurdly more attention to than anything else that’s been released in the last few years—hell,  I pay so much more attention to this franchise than other tween fic franchises that I didn’t even realize that the second Divergent film came and went through the theaters.

                                                                                                                    20th Century Fox
There certainly is a lot of shots of them standing together.

The Scorch Trials lives up to its darker atmosphere it crafted in the first film and makes it even bigger as Thomas and the crew have to not only survive a world that is a burning wasteland but survive roaming hordes of zombie-like creatures that have fallen victim from the disease.  Sure, zombies might come off cliché but they’re big right now and, being that I’m a fan, I really liked this element and it may for some genuinely hair-raising and exciting sequences in the film. That is something this film does exceptionally well because the action sequences are incredible and really got my heart-pumping and never any two feel the same.

                                                                                                                     20th Century Fox
Pointless Side Note:  I really wanted Dylan O'Brien to be considered to play the
new Spider-Man.

Once again, the cast in the film is very good and, this time around, we get some new characters that are not only instantly interesting and easy to invest in but played by great actors.  Heck, even this time around it seems that Dylan O’Brien got even better and is really falling into place of being the hero of the film and is living up to the role he has been given on the production.  While I didn’t hate his performance in the first film, I did think it wasn’t completely spectacular either—most of all, I felt it was serviceable for the type of film it was—but this time around I was floored by him.  This time I saw a young actor who really was embodying the hero he was cast in and made the character of Thomas not only a fantastic leader but a noble hero who is bearing the responsibility of protecting those around him and he is killing the role (to use a phrase that comedians use all the time when they bomb on stage).  Adding new actors like Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Aiden Gillen and even surprise roles from Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper and Alan Tudyk was a welcome addition to the franchise and they all really helped bring this world to life and helped craft a sequel that was expanding beyond the wall of the original Maze.  And the fact that they were all doing their roles exceptionally well didn’t hurt at all either.

                                                                                                                       20th Century Fox
Man, Gillen is just really good at playing deceptive and conniving characters.

The only factors that hurt the film were minor in my opinion.  One thing that stands out is the fact that a lot of the group isn’t developed very well and feels like background set dressing (or potential fillers for body bags).  Characters like Frypan, Winston, Aris, Janson and Teresa are often pushed into the background and only utilized as plot devices.  Another thing that stands out is the over-use of shaky cam during some action sequences.  One of the early scenes, when the group first comes in contact with the infected (called Cranks) in an abandoned mall, was a bit hard to watch as the sequence takes place in the dark and the shaky cam was so wild that I had a hard time seeing what the hell was going on.  This is a minor complaint because the rest of the action scenes were far clearer to witness.  Finally, the film does suffer from its long running time—clocking in at over two hours.  While longer running lengths aren’t necessarily a bad thing—the movie was actually only 18 minutes longer than the first one—being the second film in a trilogy means the film is already suffering from the “Where do we end so it’s satisfying but also leaves you hungry for more” factor.  A few times the film feels like it is going to hit the credits but it continues and I started to wonder where exactly are they going to end it.  This is obviously not a deal-breaker at all but it did give the film a slight feel that the director and production were like, “Let’s just go for 5 more minutes and give them one more scene.”

                                                                                                                       20th Century Fox
Remember what I said earlier about how there's a lot of promotional photos of them
standing around?


                                                                                        20th Century Fox
Hang around, guys!  Ha ha...I'm sorry for that one.
I was very entertained and very engaged with Maze Runner:  The Scorch Trials and, can honestly say, this is a franchise I am very much into.  The characters—when developed right—are interesting and easily people you can invest in and feel for, the action is very exciting, the score is grand and emotional, the acting is amazingly good, the world that is established keeps getting feathered out and is a super interesting one to learn about, it digs just deep enough into its mysterious mythos to give you some answers but kept enough of them unanswered to get me salivating for the final film and this one even has some genuinely scary moments with the Cranks.  This film could have easily been a throwaway sequel that is meant to just be a bridge between the opening and the finale but it had all the marks of a great middle film that sees the heroes on the next level of their journey only to make it seem like they’re going to lose it all but then, ultimately, refuse to give up hope.  This film is very much like The Empire Strikes Back (or any other great middle film in a trilogy) as you see Thomas and his friends' world has come crashing down around them but he won’t give up hope and will prevail like the hero he now knows he is.  Dammit, I really like this franchise!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cooties

***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!  Thank you, Cooties, but I already didn't want to be a father.  Having kids as zombies wasn't necessary but, dammit, I appreciate it!



Cooties – 4 out of 5

The zombie genre is one that is not only very popular right now (I’m a huge fan) but it’s also a genre that is very difficult to be unique in.  The market is overwhelmed with carbon copied zombie apocalypse films that all have basically the same feel but with varying degrees of how well the gore effects are and the quality of actors and writers they get to write said characters.  As great as I find The Walking Dead, it could easily become one of the many terrible zombie films that Syfy likes to show if they didn’t have great characters and actors, Greg Nicotero’s team making the blood and guts and a clan of amazingly talented writers crafting the weekly adventures and troubles.  Occasionally, a zombie film comes along that looks familiar enough to belong with all the other zombie films but separatesitself enough that it is doing something fresh and newCooties attempts that with zombified children.


***Disclaimer:  This review may contain some mild spoilers***


Can't Wood just tame the zombies with his piercing and icy-blue eyes?


At this particular point, it's unclear if they are actually
zombie kids or just normal ones.  Each of them want
to take your life away from you in some way...
After a rancid chicken nugget makes its way to an elementary school in the middle of Illinois, a virus spreads through the children that leaves them walking monsters looking to eat the flesh of the living.  Substitute teacher and aspiring writer Clint (Elijah Wood) must team with the rest of the faculty to try and survive this zombie virus that seems to only affect anyone who hasn’t hit puberty yet.  Alongside the macho gym teacher Wade (Rainn Wilson), the peppy and former classmate of Clint’s Lucy (Alison Pill), the uptight Rebekkah (Nasim Pedrad), the timid Tracy (Jack McBrayer) and the socially awkward and all around strange but brilliant Doug (Leigh Whannell), they have to figure out how to get help and make it out alive.

If you don't calm down right now I'm going to back this car up right into your face,
young man!



Cooties, in my opinion, is an extremely fun zombie dark comedy/horror film.  It comes out of the gate running and sets up the chaos very fast without sacrificing establishing who the characters are and what they mean to the story.  This fast pace has gory and borderline offensive comedy coming at you at a feverish frequency and it makes the first half of the film very fun.  Granted, the film does start to slow down and lose a bit of the fun it was having but, in the end, it didn’t ruin the overall enjoyment I was having.

Wait a second...how did he get out of Jigsaw's prison that was that
disgusting bathroom he shared with the Dread Pirate Roberts?


The cast of this film are all doing an exceptional job with their characters and making them both entertaining and all capable of being funny.  Rainn Wilson is clearly the standout in both performance and his character just being stupidly funny.  However, that isn’t to say there isn’t moments from the rest of the cast.  For example, co-writer of the film and the man playing Doug; Leigh Whannell, has some truly hysterical moments when he is first introduced and is trying to ingrain himself into the conversation between Clint, Wade and Lucy and there’s a fantastic scene where he figures out what exactly is attacking the children and Whannell is just playing this role perfectly.  I would have like to see more than just a moment or two where Jack McBrayer is adding to the laughs because he is such a funny man but the scenes he does get to shine in he gets to shine brightly for.

Why would you waste McBrayer?!?  He's a National Treasure!


The only section of the cast and the characters that I felt the film didn’t succeed in was with Jorge Garcia as a drug dealing crossing guard for the school.  While his character ends up playing a mildly important role towards the end, the majority of the time he felt overwhelming unnecessary and his gags about being high on mushrooms while he watched the children take over the playground and eat any adult that came their way felt weak and did little to move the story forward or add to the laugh count.  This is a bit of a shame because Garcia has proven in the past that he can bring a lot to a project and to a character but, in this case, he felt like he just didn’t belong.

Maybe it's just me but I just don't find Hurley from Lost mugging while in a stoned
stupor over zombie kids to be funny.  I'm just picky that way.  If it was Locke mugging...
that would have been a different story.


The only other time the film faltered for me was the moment the film takes the story from being centered on the school to a much larger scale.  At this point, the film no longer feels like an intimate horror/comedy and starts to feel like it is prematurely entering into its own sequel—it literally feels like a second film is started and it began to slow the story down and make the running time start to feel a little longer.  In theory, this change in the Third Act could have come off like a natural development but, at this point, the entire main cast is still alive and the film boldly refuses to do the usual zombie trope and have one of the members of the surviving group bite the dust.  In this sense, the natural story markers that are normally seen in a zombie film are completely absent and it starts to make the film seem longer.  It’s a bold choice to refuse to kill off any members of the core group and I applaud that Cooties went this route and actively decided to give the middle finger to a zombie trope but it makes the story feel a tad awkward and slow down the momentum it had built up so well in the beginning.

Rainn Wilson was so badass in this film.


Finally, I have to applaud Cooties for being as ballsy as it is.  Having children be the film’s antagonists and monsters are nothing new to the horror genre (kids are creepy as fuck, people) but this film takes a step closer to the line and isn’t afraid to show violence happening to kids, having kids commit violence to adults and have adults brutally murder zombified children.  This will no doubt alienate more sensitive viewers but dark comedies have always proven to be an acquired taste and have always been geared to people who have a more unique sense of humor.  To put it another way, you have to be a little morbid or downright fucked up to find this kind of stuff funny and I’m that type of individual.  Dark comedies are my bag, baby, and this one definitely had me rolling.

Look, in a real zombie apocalypse we're going to get kid zombies so
you can't discriminate or hesitate when you need to bash their
dead brains in.


Kids are just walking disease factories.  We all knew
this would happen eventually.
Cooties isn’t for everyone and this isn’t probably going to score well with mainstream audiences or critics.  Granted, the film does falter at points and suffers from having a low body count with the established characters but this actually becomes a gag in the film at several points so even though it may dip with this point it is self-aware enough to make fun of itself for this.  I also may not have enjoyed the seemingly pointless nature of Jorge Garcia’s character and felt the film slows down too greatly as it comes into its Third Act but the film is still darkly hilarious and different enough from every other zombie feature that it stands out and it stands out extremely well.