Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Action Point

***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! Based on a true story...kinda.




Action Point – 2 out of 5

I’m an unapologetic fan of Johnny Knoxville and the entire Jackass crew (well, not Bam Margera, he’s not my cup of tea).  It’s easy to write off what these guys did as “stupid humor” because, well, what they did was insanely dangerous and incredibly dumb but there was this strange fearless quality about the whole product that I engaged with and found hysterical—sure, the laughs were usually in-between bouts of sympathy pain but the laughs were there.  Since then, I’ve watch Knoxville in all forms of entertainment he’s taken—whether they included bodily harm or not.  I was pretty excited to see him doing his usual shenanigans all over again with Action Point and my hopes for it were pretty high.  Sadly, it didn’t live up to the exact product I was hoping for.

Knoxville can still do this at the age of 47.  I'm ten years younger than him and
if I stub my toe I'm done for the day.

Quality father/daughter time.
While babysitting his granddaughter, Deshawn Chico “D.C.” Carver (Knoxville) tells her the tale of Action Point.  When he was younger, he owned what was considered the most dangerous amusement park in the country.  The rides were rickety, the staff was usually intoxicated or untrained and the whole vibe of the place screamed injuries galore.  As his estranged daughter Boogie (Eleanore Worthington Cox) comes to visit, a competing park opens and threatens the survival of Action Point.  As he attempts to reconcile his relationship with his daughter, D.C. decides to lean into the bad reputation of the park and go for broke with a place that truly has no limits.

Fire hose streams to the crotch probably should have been a limit, I think.

Loosely based on the real-life insanity of the park of the same name, the film had some potential and is not without its fair share of moments.  It’s still amazing/incredible/horrifying to see Knoxville still decimate his body with nutso crazy stunts and these moments are genuinely amusing.  However, the thing that held this movie bad is some of the performances and the overall narrative and plot.

We've all had that little voice in the back of our minds telling us to crotch-punch
a theme park mascot.

"I can't hear you.  My corn dog is getting terrible
reception."
While, for the most part, the performances are serviceable and never out-right bad, there’s no denying that some of the performances are not the strongest.  Not to call out Jackass alumni Chris Pontius directly but some of his scenes weren’t exactly the best.  He has genuinely great and humorous moments but he also has a lot of questionable reactions in many scenes.  However, I will say that I really enjoyed Knoxville in the film.  While he isn’t giving a commanding performance that will be recorded in the history books, he does show he has the chops to be a decent actor when the call is made.

He should have stuck to his strengths...like wearing tearaway pants and partying.

The real killer for this film is how it can’t quite get the balance right for its narrative structure.  Essentially, the film is telling a story and throwing in Jackass-style stunts.  It’s the same formula that was used in Bad Grandpa.  However, too often the story moments just feel like they were loosely chained to the stunts and never does anything truly feel connected.  It ends up making the story parts boring and distracting and ultimately gives the whole product a feeling like the whole thing was just thrown together at the last minute after some stunts were filmed.

My back needed aspirin just looking at this scene.

Action Point has moments of enjoyment but it’s wrapped up in a messy package that feels slapped together.  Too often the fun parts are sandwiched between boring sequences that often feel like they exist only out of obligation and it made for a viewing experience that often felt like homework.  I really wanted to like this one more but ultimately was fairly unimpressed with it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Life of the Party

***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'm the opposite of the life of a party.  I'm literally the death of a party.  The fun time stops when I arrive.



Life of the Party – 2 out of 5

I really like Melissa McCarthy.  I think she’s incredibly funny and endlessly charming.  When she is in a film, her presence alone convinces me to see the feature.  Sometimes it results in a great and very funny movie (yes, I liked the Ghostbusters reboot, haters) and sometimes it’s not as great as the film could be.  I really wanted to like Life of the Party but ultimately found this one to be a kinda forgettable comedy that does mean well but just can’t provide the goods.

Chris Parnell is in this film.  That man is treasure.

After her husband divorces her and leaves her for another woman, Deanne (McCarthy) is left on her own and struggling to find her way.  With her daughter; Maddie (Molly Gordon), freshly dropped off at college, she decides now is as good as time as any to go back to school and finish her education.  However, she soon learns that school isn’t what she remembered it being and is now struggling to fit in with her daughter and her daughter’s friends and finding love with a much younger man.

Ha, her mom loves her.  What a nerd!

The premise to Life of the Party is pretty simplistic but has the potential for hilarity.  Additionally, it has a great cast.  Finally, the tone of it is on the more lighthearted, more innocent side and doesn’t go for the more outrageous or adult tone that it could go.  It has all the ingredients and this film should have been a decent movie but it just failed to resonate with me.

Just looking at them and you can tell they are the antagonistic girls of the story.

The film is never really doing anything particularly wrong.  The story is solid and has a great pace, the actors are all given great performances and the humor isn’t particularly bad in any sense of the word.  Overall, the film just didn’t capture my attention.  There are plenty of times where I giggled at the feature, I found McCarthy incredibly charming like I always do and genuinely enjoyed the developing relationship between her character and the character of Jack (played by Luke Benward).  However, all the enjoyment I got from these elements just weren’t at high enough levels to make this a winner in my book.  It’s serviceable and never boring but not the greatest example of a comedy lead by the delightful Melissa McCarthy.

If this was an 80s college comedy, there would be a lot of sexual assault happening
and the film would act like it is okay.  Seriously, re-watch those movies and
try not to feel absolutely gross as you do.

Life of the Party, at its most basic level, is serviceable.  It’s never boring and its humor isn’t cringe-inducing but it’s never attention-grabbing or uproariously hilarious either.  The humor is fine in concept but too often felt like it was too good natured and like it was playing it safe rather than going for the laugh.  It’s carried mostly by a great cast and Melissa McCarthy’s undeniable charm but it lacks that certain spark to make the film standout like some of the other work that McCarthy has been involved with.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

***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'm sad there was no Dino Royal Rumble like in the last film.



Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom – 3 out of 5

I was obsessed with Michael Crichton in my junior high and high school years.  I read all his books, sought out every movie that was adapted from his novels and must have read Jurassic Park at least three times (that really doesn't sound like a lot but considering I don't re-read a lot of books it does say a lot).  His science fiction works spoke to me but none more than Jurassic Park.  The idea of a park where dinosaurs were cloned?!?  Insert the Fry from Futurama meme that declares you should take all my money.  The movie was amazing and, I’ll admit, I’ve enjoyed every sequel since (although, nowhere to the degree of the OG).  I wanted to see the latest in the new trilogy; Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom, when it was out in theaters but didn’t get to.  So, I made a gamble and blind bought in when it was released on Blu-ray.  I don’t feel like I completely wasted my money but I sure don’t feel like I got my money’s worth.

Behold! The best thing in this movie! 
(That's not a dig at the film.  Jeff Goldblum is just that great.)

Baby Blue somehow makes this whole movie
worth it.
After the events of the last film, the theme park/dino zoo; Jurassic World, lies in ruin and the dinosaurs have taken over the island.  However, the dormant volcano the attraction was built upon is ready to blow and the lives of the extinct animals hang in the balance.  John Hammond’s former partner; Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), and his aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), enlists Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to help relocate the creatures; in particular, the Velociraptor Blue.  With the help of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former park technician named Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), a paleo-veterinarian named Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and a team of mercenaries hired by Mills and led by a big game hunter named Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine), Claire returns to the island but soon learns that ulterior motives are at play and they are betrayed.  It seems that Mills is working with a former Jurassic Park scientist and is looking to sell the dinosaurs on the black market; including a new genetically created monstrosity called the Indoraptor.

"I'm a recycled plot point!"

Ted Levine basically is playing an evil version of
Pete Postlethwaite's character from The Lost World.
I’m not going to say I didn’t like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom because I did enjoy it but I have to say that it is one of the weaker additions to the franchise—and that says a lot due to the existence of the third film and The Lost World.  In fact, speaking of the second film, Fallen Kingdom (which sounds like a title of a Transformers movie) feels like the production was just trying to redo that film.  The most basic elements of snatching up dinosaurs in the name of greed, having another big game hunter and releasing the creatures into civilized world are all here.  Granted, there are tons of differences that makes it stand out on its own but it’s hard not to compare the two.  It makes me wonder what parallels will be created for the third film in this trilogy and how it will compare to the third film in the last trilogy.

The damn thing is smiling.  Is this a Looney Tunes cartoon?

Fallen Kingdom attempts to make the world of this franchise bigger and bring it beyond the island.  In a sense, I respect that but I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of how the growing mythology is developing and the direction it is going.  Aside from the ending ushering a ton of potential plot issues, the film seems to allowing the series to drift rapidly away from the arguably grounded nature of its initial science fiction story and seems to be aiming the ship towards a more exploitation, B-movie premise arena.  While I’m okay with this in terms of overall entertainment value, this path often feels cheap at times.  

A high-pitch scream for comedic effect in an otherwise
intense sequence...and then he took a pie in the face from the dino.
It was an odd choice to say the least.

This moment may seem cool but they're really just
yelling, "I know you are but what am I?" at each
other.
There are definitely some cool moments in the film, some great laughs along the way and, even with its problems, the ending promises potentially cool new developments in the next film.  I loved how well they mixed the animatronic, practical effects with the computer effects and the performances were great.  I will admit that Chris Pratt kinda/sorta looked like he wasn’t feeling this one at times but, overall, I think everyone was fantastic in the film.  Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom isn’t as ground-breaking or as aesthetically cool as the initial film is and it doesn’t quite have the same fun factor that the last film had.  It’s serviceable and never outright horrible but it sorta falls in line with the awkwardness of the 2nd and 3rd films.

Gnarly, brah!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

***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! In this one there is a post-credit sequence where Joel Osteen shows up and tells them about the Holy Roller initiative.



God’s Not Dead:  A Light in Darkness – 1 out of 5

In the past, I’ve ripped pretty hard on God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2.  A part of it has to do with the fact I’m an atheist and these preachy Christian propaganda movies trigger a mocking reaction in me but the biggest reason I came down hard on them is the victim mentality that the films sell.  The movies put forward a world that far-right Christians truly believe exists—a world where college professors are forcing their students to deny god and that the government is out to regulate their faith—but, in reality, it just isn’t happening.  The way they lean in so hard while actively denying how their religion will create victims by supporting the denial of rights to the LGBTQ+ community, women in general and any Middle Eastern religion is so soaked in hypocrisy it is impossible for me to not openly ridicule this franchise.  It is also in this hypocrisy that the films become accidental comedies that are funny without ever having to be riffed on.  So, in a strange sense, I enjoy these films because the production is so blind to the reality of the world around them and live in this virtual reality that has been crafted by memes that your conservative Aunt shares on Facebook.  With that being said, I was excited to see how the third film; God’s Not Dead:  A Light in Darkness, was going to play out—I mean, the 2nd film had a post-credit sequence, for crying out loud.  Would this film involve an atheist plot to destroy all bibles in the world?  Would the story surround bakeries refusing to bake cakes for straight weddings?  Would it be about a lesbian, transgender Wiccan who is elected to president and declares a Purge Night on all Christians?  No, instead, this film actually ended up being the most grounded and mature film of the franchise and, to be honest, that sorta disappointed me.

Imprisoned for his beliefs...a.k.a. things that conservative aunt I mentioned thinks really
happens and brings it up on Facebook.

After being sent to jail for refusing to turn over his sermons to the government; Reverend Dave Hill (David A. R. White), finds tragedy awaiting him.  After his church is vandalized, a fire breaks out and takes the life of both his friend and fellow reverend; Rev. Jude (Benjamin Onyango), but it also claims the life of the story from the previous film that involved the government trying to regulate the churches (that plot element didn't really pay off).  Now the college campus where the church has belonged to for ages has decided to demolish the building and replace it with a new student center.  Rev. Dave enlists the help of his estranged and non-believing brother; Pearce (John Corbett), and sues the school but his fight and everything he’s lost causes him to question the reasoning for God putting him on this path.

You know...God probably could have stopped that explosion but He seems to
be against that type of thing.

Unlike my reviews of the other two films, this review for A Light in Darkness isn’t one where I’m going to be ripping into how accidentally hilarious all its sanctimonious B.S. is.  Instead, I’m actually going to give some praise to the film.  I know, right?  I’m about to praise a film in a franchise that I’ve mocked in the past and only admit to watching so I can make fun of it.  Now, at this point you are probably wondering why I’m going to praise a film that I only have a 1 out of 5 to and the reason for this is simple:  A Light in Darkness does show that the franchise has matured A LOT but that maturity doesn’t stop the story from being boring.  Basically, the writing has improved tremendously but only when it concerns concept and themes but not when it concerns story development and compelling character arcs.

The "hero" of the first film.  He just has that natural condescending face that
reads like he thinks he's smarter than everyone else.

At first, the film feels like it is once again going the route of having the Big Bad Secular society marginalize the Non-Secular folks as the story revolves around a college campus trying to remove a church from their property.  However, that’s all on the surface and is all superficial.  All the over-the-top victimhood that existed in the first film, all the poor Christians that were being forced to deny their faith by The Man is gone here.  Instead, this film is exploring reconciliation between those of faith and those without faith.  Heck, the entire conflict of the film is resolved by an act of compromise and the moral of the story is one of peace between communities.  While this emphasis made it hard to make fun of the film (which, I openly admit, I desperately wanted to do), it actually impressed me to see how far this franchise has grown.  This is the franchise that had Ray Wise act like the devil as a lawyer, Kevin Sorbo as a college professor instructing his students to deny God or they’ll fail his class and the second film having an atheist have her cancer cured because she found God.  These films have never been ones for subtlety and then the third film comes along with a grounded tale full of nuance…it was a little jarring to say the least but kinda appreciated.

Don't open, dead inside.  God is now throwing zombies at Rev. Dave.
He is really testing the hell out of him this time.

The moment that this is the strongest is with the relationship between Rev. Hill and his brother Pearce.  Pearce’s past involved him on his own journey of faith and ultimately leaving the family when he realized the church isn’t where he wants to be.  A part of me thought the story was going to involve Pearce ultimately realizing he was “wrong” and his brother convincing him to come back to the flock but where his non-believing brother ends up at the end is open to interpretation by the viewer.  That’s a huge step up for this franchise.  Along the way, we have some really great moments between these two and the film is pushing the idea that Pearce isn’t motivated by a love of a deity in order to help his brother but instead by a bond of being a family.  Granted, this idea needed some more development but, based on this series’ history, this is an incredibly grown up attitude to have.

Seriously, I was really surprised how this movie didn't have the brother receive
a miracle so he saw the light.

My feelings on God’s Not Dead:  A Light in Darkness are complicated.  On one hand, I appreciate that the film has shown some maturity with its writing and has grown up a lot when compared to the victimhood mentality of the first films but, on the other hand, I liked the accidental comedy that said victimhood creates.  I wanted to laugh at this one like I did for the previous two but instead just watched a serviceable film that did a decent (but not entirely thorough) exploration of acceptance and brotherhood crossing borders of belief.  The acting is decent, its preachy attitude is at tolerable levels and it surprisingly is never outright boring or dragging with its narrative.  I won’t go as far as to say I liked or enjoyed the film because it’s not very entertaining or enthralling to any substantial degree but I am very impressed with how this franchise has grown up…even if not getting the childish “We’re victims” film that I wanted disappoints me.