Friday, December 27, 2019

Angel Has Fallen

***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!  Does this series have balance issues or possibly an inner ear problem?

Angel Has Fallen – 3 out of 5

After the mighty Olympus has fallen, it set off a domino effect that knocked London to the ground and now it will see the angels fall from the sky.  Angel Has Fallen is the third in the Fallen franchise and it is about as good as the first two.  Meaning that this one is also an okay, middle-of-the-road action film that is decent enough for a one-time watch but not really good enough to become a series that I invest wholly in and watch repeatedly.

President Trumbull:  "Take this candy from my hand."
Banning:  "There's no candy in your hand."
President Trumbull:  "You've passed my test."

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is considering replacing the retiring Secret Service Director David Gentry (Lance Reddick).  Banning is getting older and is starting to suffer from migraines, insomnia and chronic back pain and he thinks it might be time to get a desk job for the sake of himself and his family.  However, while protecting President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) during a fishing trip, a swarm of highly advanced drones attack and kill everyone in the protection detail except Banning and leaves the President in a coma.  The attack is linked back to Banning and he is setup by unseen forces to take the fall.  After escaping from custody, Banning goes on the run from the law in order to try and clear his name but doing so forces him to team with his estranged father; Clay (Nick Nolte).

Put on the yacht rock because it is party time down by the lake!

This franchise has never been one of my favs in the action genre.  Sure, the action in the films are genuinely great and very exciting but their overall products have always had major drawbacks that held them back.  Olympus Has Fallen dragged a lot and London Has Fallen got ridiculously racist.  Both had their great action to them and amazing casts but their drawbacks were so prevalent that it made both films very middle-of-the-road-y.  This one is no better but, thankfully, it isn’t racism killing this one.  Instead, this one feels like a return to the original film and that means a story that drags a lot is responsible for this one not delivering.

Banning shall take on this danger with his trademark smoldering stare!

"I'm in trouble and need help.  Also, I was somehow able
to find a payphone.  Isn't that crazy?!?"
There are some very cool action scenes in Angel Has Fallen.  Hell, the open moments where the central point of conflict is established with the drones attacking the President and the protection detail is absolutely killer!  However, the story slows down terrible in between the moments where the bullets are flying.  The story doesn’t structure its “mystery” very well and it is pretty obvious who is behind this attempt of setting up Banning nor is it taking advantage of this concept and leaning into the more thrilling side of things as Banning tries to clear his name.  Additionally, the idea of Banning having a broken father whom he hasn’t seen since childhood is fine in theory but, in practice, only worked to further slowdown the story.  While Nick Nolte is genuinely good in the role, this sudden backstory of the character of Mike Banning felt extremely needless when you realize the character of Clay kinda/sorta pops in and out of the story with no real substance behind his usage.  In all honesty, the character of the father and the haphazard exploration of this father’s past trauma and how that trauma affected Banning’s developmental and adult years feels tacked on and doesn’t really feel like it belongs in any strong way.

Nolte's character is a broken man living in the woods and is extremely paranoid...
I'll be honest, I just assumed Nolte was playing himself in this one.

Once again, the film has a great cast and Gerard Butler does a great job at leading the charge as the action hero lead.  Morgan Freeman is fantastic as the now President of this franchise, Danny Huston is tremendous even though you know exactly what his character is up to the moment he is introduced and, despite not truly feeling like he belonged in the film to me, Nick Nolte is great as Clay.  The film also has Tim Blake Nelson as the Vice President, Jada Pinkett Smith as an FBI Agent investigating Benning and Lance Reddick as the Secret Service Director.  Despite how the entire franchise not being a runaway action train, this series gets some incredibly talent people to be on its roster and they always do an awesome job.  This one is definitely not an exception in this department.

You can tell by his face that Huston is a good guy.

Angel Has Fallen, sadly, gets kinda boring kinda often and it feels longer than it needs to be.  Considering the storyline, the tone should have had a thriller aspect working in concert with its action but, instead, just felt like a flat action film where I never once felt like Banning was in any true danger.  Add in a subplot about an estranged father and the only real thing this film had going for it was an amazing cast and some decent action.  Unfortunately, as an overall product, it falls in-line with the rest of the franchise and comes off like a serviceable, middle-of-the-road action feature.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

London Has Fallen

***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!  London has fallen and it can't get back up.

London Has Fallen – 3 out of 5

I watched Olympus Has Fallen back in 2013 and found it to be okay.  It had some cool action and I liked the cast but found that a lot of it dragged.  I initially didn’t bother to check out its sequel; London Has Fallen, but now that a third film entered into its franchise with Angel Has Fallen (so much falling), I thought I would give this one a shot and then check out the latest one.  Like the first one, I found this one to be okay.

Defending the President with his smoldering stare.

After the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom dies suddenly, world leaders converge on London in order to attend his funeral.  The President of the United States; Benjamin Asher, is arriving with the Director of the Secret Service (Angela Bassett) and one of the agency’s top men; Mike Banning (Gerard Butler).  However, as they arrive, a massive terrorist assault is orchestrated by a man named Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) and his son Kamran (Waleed Zuaiter), all in the name of retaliation after a drone strike killed most of their family.  Now Banning must get the President to safety because, if he fails and the terrorists capture him, they will execute the leader of the US and broadcast it live.

"Sir, we will get you out of here even if it kills each and every single one of us!"

London Has Fallen definitely improves on the big issue I had with the initial film and that is the pacing is very good.  The film moves fast but never too fast and very seldom does it have any points of lag.  It doesn’t take long to establish the film’s central point of conflict and, from there, it just moves along without feeling like it is wasting any time or adding any unnecessary fluff.  Sadly, this will become an issue due to the film’s biggest drawback but I’ll get to that in a moment.

"Oops, sorry!  I was just trying to knock you off the car, not squish you.  You're a bad
guy, right?  I just want to make sure."

Damn you, movie!  Damn you for having exposed rebar during
the final fight and not having the antagonist get impaled
on them.
The biggest drawback this feature has is…well…it gets kinda racist.  Feeling like an action feature that is stuck in the 90s, this 2016 feature has a Pakistani arms dealer as the terrorist—because the default setting for a terrorist when it comes to lazy writing and to racists is that anyone from the Middle East and South Asian areas of the globe and have brown skin are all terrorists.  This is pretty problematic to watch because, first off, your hero is a white man and it gets super cringe-y watching a white man almost gleefully murdering a load of Pakistanis (and at one points even finds torturing them to be “fun”) and, secondly, the film establishes that this is a retaliation for a drone strike where the U.S. killed innocent civilians and family members of Aamir Barkawi.  Yes, Barkawi is an arms dealer and a terrorists but not everyone killed in that drone strike was.  Now, the film could have actually taken a very mature response to this idea and explored how the U.S. constantly and consistently misuses and abuses their military might and they could explored how this event was of their own doing but, nope, the film doesn’t bother.  London Has Fallen even goes a step further in ignoring this idea and ends with another drone strike that, very obviously, killed even more innocent civilians.  This element smells so badly of jingoistic intend and the ‘murica mentality that you could have sworn it was directed by Clint Eastwood.

We did this and they are mad due to all the deaths at the hands of a shitty looking
CG explosion.

I won’t lie and say that this xenophobia is something that can be overlooked because it is so blatant and so stupidly casual that it was impossible to ignore.  Sure, I can overlook the hacking single gay joke this film needlessly throws in the mix but the underlying racism was a little harder.  Thankfully, the film doesn’t go full Fox News Viewer/Trump Supporter racist and we don’t have to hear Banning's character dropping racial slurs as he stabbin’ and shootin’.  Additionally, I don’t want to sound like this film isn’t without its merits because the action is legitimately great and super exciting.  Finally, the cast is great and I really enjoyed the chemistry between Butler and Eckhart.

"Can I come back in now?  I promise I'll be good."

London Has Fallen has some issues, there is no doubt about that.  The laziness of the antagonists and the underlying problematic elements it brings is impossible to overlook for me and did have an impact on my score.  Still, with that being said, I did find the action to be very well constructed and the cast is filled with great people all giving tremendous and entertaining performances.  There is a push and pull to this film and, had the xenophobia been eliminated or even if the whole concept that America is partially to blame for the central conflict was examined (even partially), this film might have ended up a touch better and resulted in a higher score from me.  It has its problems but it has its wins too and, ultimately, landed right in the middle.

It Chapter Two

***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!  Pennywise informed me that I'll float because I'm so fat.  That Pennywise is a real jerk.

It Chapter Two – 4 out of 5

I never cared for the It miniseries that came out in the 90s.  While I genuinely enjoyed Tim Curry as the evil clown Pennywise, I thought the entire thing was more giggle-inducing than fright-finding.  When the story was readapted into a film, I saw it and absolutely loved it.  I thought it was terrifying as hell!  Sadly, I was in the hospital when It Chapter Two came out and wasn’t able to hit the theater to see it.  It recently hit the home market on DVD and Blu-ray and, since I loved the first one so much that I bought it on Blu-ray, I decided to do a blind buy and pick up the sequel despite not seeing it before.  It’s always a gamble but I rationalized the purchase by saying that since I bought the first one I should buy this one to complete the set.  Well, I checked it out immediately after the purchase and, I gotta say, it’s pretty damn good!

I wonder if incels idolize and hero worship this clown...

Derry has a VERY large Chinese restaurant.
One that, I'm assuming, lights up the night sky in the small town.
Almost three decades after the Losers Club defeated the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the murders of children start again and it seems the monster has returned.  The only member who has remained behind in Derry, Maine; Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), calls on the rest of the Losers; Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Ritchie Tozier (Bill Hader), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), and Stanley Uris (Andy Bean), and asks them to come back to help him finally stop the beast.  However, the fear of returning proves to be too much for Stanley and he commits suicide.  Now the rest of the group must face their fears and return to the place they once called home in order to confront something they hoped they’d never see again.  They soon learn, sadly, that all isn’t as it seems and the monster Pennywise is a creature unlike anything they could have possibly imagined.

"Losers Club...Assemble!"

He's thinking about it...
He's thinking about peeing down that storm drain.
There’s a lot working in It Chapter Two’s favor and only a limited number of things holding it back.  One of the first things that struck me was how much it truly feels like a continuation as the tone, atmosphere and, most importantly, the characters all feel consistent with the initial film.  Sometimes sequels can be off-putting as they feel disjointed or disconnected from what came before.  Sure, sometimes a different tone or atmosphere can be a welcome changed but, in this case, staying true to the working formula from the first film was the right decision and really made this story feel more like a true continuation and further development rather than a typical sequel.  Another reason this element worked so well was due to the performances of the players taking on the roles of the adult members of The Losers Club.

She has the look of kicking a clown's ass in her eyes!

This feels like as good as time as any to recommend
Barry on HBO.  Another property where Hader
is amazing in.
The young players were so amazing as individuals and as a unit in the first film.  Their natural chemistry and charisma made it very easy to get invested in them and watch them on their terrifying journey and battle against Pennywise.  For this new story, the production seems to have found the perfect cast to play the older characters.  Not only from an appearance standpoint but also from a talent and a standpoint where the chemistry previously seen is repeated.  Everyone feels like a grownup version of their younger counterpoints and the performances they bring are incredible.  Special mention has to be made to Bill Hader who was so captivating to watch as the older Ritchie.  Hader never ceases to amaze me with the range he has as an actor.  I would also like to mention that I had a love/hate relationship with Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom.  My acting starts and stop in the Midwest so I didn’t actual believe I could have magically gotten the role but, dammit, I would have loved to have played Ben because I related to that kid so much.  Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up to be fit and handsome so there is no way I would have worked for the part.  The story would have looked like the years were even worse to Ben and he got really fat and ugly.  I did at least get to play Ben in a show the sketch group I’m in wrote.  So, I guess there’s that.  But in all seriousness, Jay Ryan was really great in his role.  Even though his handsome face made me irrationally angry.

Ben Hanscom...more like, Ben Handsome!  Amirite?!?

Once again, Bill Skarsgård is so terrific as Pennywise.  And by terrific, I mean terrifying.  He is amazing at being super creepy and wholly unsettling.  Being a scary ghoul in an entertainment product can sometimes be a difficult path to cross because it is insanely easy to just look silly.  The production can light you in the best possible way and the score can set the mood perfectly but a performance can undo a mood so easily and you can find yourself giggling at the monster rather than finding it horrific.  Skarsgård is extremely good at finding the right levels he needs to bring Pennywise for the right scenes and it makes for every moment he is on camera to be a very unnerving and horrifying experience.

The nerve of this film.  Making our most beloved entertainers; clowns, an object
of terror and horror.

While I really enjoyed the overall product that is It Chapter Two, there were some drawbacks that I felt held it back from the greatness that the first one had.  The drawbacks come in the form of its running length and some wonky CG effects.  The film sits at nearly three hours long and that is a hefty length for a horror film (although to label this as straight horror is a disservice because the film is very emotional, humorous and dramatic too).  The story never really drags and overall the pacing works but I can’t help but feel like it could have been tightened up at least a little.  Finally, the film uses some de-aging effects on the young cast because they aged a little faster than expected over the course of finishing the first film and starting up production on this one.  For the most part you don’t notice it but there definitely were small moments here and there where you could catch how artificial their faces felt and it was a touch distracting.  Some might also argue that the CG used on the monster effects for Pennywise in certain scenes were a touch goofy but I, on the other hand, wasn’t affected by this because it sorta felt in character to who and what Pennywise is so this never came off as a drawback.

It doesn't happen often but, when it does, the de-aging feels weird.

It was a little strange when Stephen King's cameo appearance
ended with him saying, "Hail to the King" and then looking
directly into the camera and winking.
It Chapter Two is a pretty impressive conclusion to the story of Pennywise versus The Losers.  I was impressed with the tone and atmosphere and really liked how director Andy Muschietti was able to blend genres so well.  The film was able to be scary and creep me out but it also made me laugh thanks to perfectly timed comedic beats and it was capable of making me feel for the characters (I identify with Ben too much and kinda hate it—especially, the specific way Pennywise taunts him), not to mention the way it made me cry and empathized with their collected trauma.  Most importantly, I liked the new character attributes this adaptation brought in with certain characters and was incredibly impressed with how it was able to stay true to the core of Pennywise’s origin without making me laugh like the miniseries did.  Yes, the film has some sketchy CG and the length is definitely too long for a feature that has most of itself in the horror genre but, as an overall product, I was very impressed with it and didn’t regret blind buying it.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

***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!  The Force will be with you...always.

Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker – 5 out of 5

I became a life-long Star Wars fan from the moment my parents showed me A New Hope on VHS when I was just a wee little youngling.  I was an obsessed fan from the get-go and have done everything I can to consume every single bit of Star Wars media I could get my hands on.  Star Wars (like the MCU) has my unconditional love and the property would have to work extremely hard for me to not find enjoyment within it—so, it goes without saying that I’m not a toxic fan who likes to complain or find fault with everything that comes out for the galaxy far, far away.  I’m not a misogynist or racist so I don’t get stupidly mad that this new trilogy had strong female characters or a black man as one of the leads.  I’m not a nostalgic man so I don’t fall into its toxic trap and get pissed because Disney decided to continue making films and thereby somehow robbing me of some sort of perverse perceived ownership of the original films, and I’m not one of those fans who say they love the product but never says a positive word about the property and endlessly nitpicks the features to death.  No, I just have this pure love for the franchise and was incredibly excited to see The Rise of Skywalker and see the saga of the Skywalkers come to its conclusion.  It should be no surprise but it really delivered for me.

                                                                                                   Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Well, the First Order is doing jack to fix the galactic traffic issues.

Once believed to be dead, a mysterious broadcast sent across the galaxy reveals that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is still alive and promises the Supreme Leader of the First Order; Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the means to end the war against The Resistance and bring the galaxy back to the dark side.  Resistance fighter Rey (Daisy Ridley) abandons her training with Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and teams up with her friends; ace fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), former stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), the loyal Wookiee Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and the fussy protocol droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), to try and get to the bottom of this mystery and stop both the First Order and Emperor Palpatine’s shocking return.  However, they soon learn that their journey will be more difficult than they could ever possibly imagine.

                                                                                                   Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Yeah, I won't lie, I cried every time I saw Carrie Fisher on the screen.

                                                                   Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
"Look at me...I'm the Emperor now!"
The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t really feel like a conclusion to this nine episode epic but rather another exciting journey in this vibrant and fun universe.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the stories of Star Wars is going to continue with new movies, shows on Disney+ and in the world of books and comics so to have Episode IX end in a way that doesn’t feel like a total and all-encompassing conclusion is nice. Overall, the film is the right blend of fun and exciting and complete with a terrific blend of emotional and dramatic.  I’m not stranger to crying or having a visceral emotional reaction to films (and as I get older, I seem to cry easier to stories—or maybe I’m just more open and in-touch with my emotions because I’m working out all the toxic masculinity traits out of myself) and this film really hit me right in the feels (do kids still say that?).  The story made me laugh a lot (C-3PO has some absolutely hysterical moments), the action and visuals left me in complete and utter awe, and it made me cry very often.

                                                                                                    Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Force sensitive staring contests.

This final installment of Disney’s new trilogy sees director J.J. Abrams return to finish off what he started with The Force Awakens.  Abrams return is a bit of a mixed bag as his visuals are striking and fit very well into the franchise but his story definitely has some short comings that are blended with some truly great things.  The story sees the return of some familiar faces like Billy Dee Williams as Lando and introduces some new characters like Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss, Naomi Ackie as Jannah and Richard E. Grant as General Pryde for the First Order.  All of these new faces are performed well but the development of their characters can sometimes be lacking but, overall, are great and feel very organic.  The film also has some pacing issues as it bounces back and forth from moving way too fast to a more moderate and reasonable pace.  However, my biggest drawback of the film was the overwhelming sense of fan service to the more toxic members of the fandom and Abrams coming off like he is actively trying to undo the work Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi.

                                                                                   Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
You can't say the bad guys don't learn because at least they didn't go with
a Death Star or Death Star-like weapon this time.

I know The Last Jedi caused a huge uproar in the Star Wars fandom—bigger even than the existence of the prequels and Jar Jar Binks (although, Disney’s purchase and their audacity to have films with female leads and a diverse cast has allowed these fans to suddenly love the prequels).  For the record, I enjoy the prequels (you can see me talk about them in my series It’s Not All Bad…) and I really, really, really liked The Last Jedi.  I couldn’t help but think Abrams was doing everything he could to try and retcon The Last Jedi and act like this trilogy is only his films.  This is most noticeable when we see the prominent character from TLJ; Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), seemingly left out of the story and reduced to a background character, Rey’s linage being changed in an effort for Abrams’ story to feel like it belongs in the now defunct Expanded Universe, and small lines and moments here and there that feel like he is almost definitely throwing shade and giving the middle finger to Rian Johnson.  I found these moments to be childish at best and loathsome at worst because they are not just “Eff You’s” to a film I legitimately found great and did a tremendous job pushing the narrative of Star Wars into territories that Abrams clearly isn’t brave enough to venture but it is also fan service to some of the most vile and loudest members of the fandom.  

                                                                  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
At least Abrams didn't push Boyega out of the story...but he was a creation of Abrams
so I guess he won't sacrifice his creations for the appeasement of shitty fans.

Honoring the wishes of sexist and racist fanboys who were mad because a woman of Vietnamese descent was in the film and were so incessant with their toxic rage that they bullied her off of social media is one-part cowardice and mostly Abrams telling these shitty fans that they are justified in their pointless rage and telling them he is their ally.  So, while I love the film, there are parts where Abrams is just servicing the nostalgic and toxic fans and doing very little to advance the universe.  However, this ends up strangely mirroring the original trilogy as The Empire Strikes Back is the nearly unanimously loved and a favorited film in that trilogy and here J.J. comes along and basically is doing his own A New Hope and Return of the Jedi with The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker and it results in me finding the middle film; The Last Jedi, to be my favorite in the same way The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite in the original trilogy.  

                                                                                     Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Poe Dameron is on his way to steal your girl and your guy!

I know the last paragraph sounds very, very harsh and makes sound like I didn’t like this film but nothing can be further from the truth.  I have no problems with fan service.  In fact, when done right, I really enjoy fan service and the end result can be fun.  Take for example The Mandalorian; one of the many things (many, many things) that show does right is fan service.  It is a capable of showcasing fan service that is fun and doesn’t come off like toxic nostalgia or like it is satisfying to the lowest common denominator.  Despite my criticism of J.J. catering to the worst fans and coming off like he isn’t a team player and refuses to “Yes and…” Rian’s Johnson’s amazing work, I still found The Rise of Skywalker to be a fun, entertaining, and exciting film. 

                                                                                    Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
I hope that lightsaber is rustproofed.

The performances are fantastic and I loved how the cast was able to find that right balance of humor and drama—not to mention, it was very clear they all were having a great time.  The action set pieces were very exciting.  The exploration of new abilities in the Force were super cool and hold a lot of promise for future Force users in the franchise.  Finally, I really enjoyed seeing familiar faces and voices return as The Rise of Skywalker shows what a truly cohesive canon Disney is creating.  Not to be all Spoiler-y but this feature has elements from the comics and television shows, as well as the other films, that come into play and seeing this all come together and show that the Star Wars galaxy is one truly cohesive form rather than how it was with George Lucas—where the only things canon were the films and The Clone Wars and the EU was in a limbo where they were canon to the fans but ignored by Lucas himself.

                                                                                   Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Lando is back and with soooo many more capes!

Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker may spend its time reinventing the wheel and trying to be J.J. Abrams version of Return of the Jedi and Abrams does feel like he’s being a touch unfair and even a bit conceded in his efforts to undermine The Last Jedi but I still really enjoyed the overall product.  The story has some great action, killer visuals, fun new worlds and races, terrific humor and very tender, sweet, and emotional moments.  It had me laughing, crying and it floored me with how cool it can be.  It is a decent closure to the nine film epic but a fantastic entryway for the endless potential the future of this property holds.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Anna and the Apocalypse

***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 zombie dark comedy/drama musical?  I think the zombie well is officially drained.

Anna and the Apocalypse – 2 out of 5

In my review of The Dead Don’t Die (which you can read right here), I stated that I might be burned out on the zombie genre.  I felt I needed a break because there is an overload of really crummy zombie movies in existence and only a very, very small amount in the world that are actually decent and provide legitimate entertainment—not just laughing at how bad they are.  When I read about Anna and the Apocalypse, I was intrigued because it was a holiday-themed zombie feature from the UK that was also a musical and a bit of a dark comedy.  That seems like a lot but it did make it sound interesting.  Sadly, I should have remembered how another criticism I had about The Dead Don’t Die and that was the fact it was trying to mash up too many genres.  Well, I sat down with Anna and, let’s just say, the novelty wore off very quickly for me.

Is it a requirement for most zombie dark comedies to have the gag of the main character
being completely oblivious to the zombie mayhem going on around them?

Anna Shepherd (Ella Hunt) is about to graduate from school and is trying to decide what her future is going to be.  Her father (Mark Benton) wants her to go to a university but she wants to travel a bit.  Meanwhile, her friends are all facing their own dilemmas with their futures, their love lives, and dealing with their authoritarian Vice Principal Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye).  However, things are about to get even harder as zombies rise from the dead and start feasting on the living.  Now Anna and her friends need to escape the city and make it out of this predicament alive—and also there will be signing!

"Oh no!  There's blood coming out of the blood covered zombie after we knocked
its block off!"

Anna and the Apocalypse is a unique idea but one that just couldn’t sustain itself for long periods of time for me.  While I openly admit that I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, the fact this film had this particular element wasn’t really what killed it for me.  Honestly, the songs are really well made and have amazing choreographed dance numbers to them but they are a part of a long list of chaotic tone shifts that added to the ultimate undoing of this film.  Like many projects that try to be many things blended into one, this film just didn’t feel like it was mixing them all together very well and the whole project felt like I was watching different edits of the same central concept, conflict, and story being randomly edited together.

Who would have thought that a plastic candy cane decoration would be so resilient
when it comes to killing zombies?

The film begins as a comedy and lets the darkness of the genre of comedy envelope the product once the zombies get involved.  This is fine.  I’ll even overlook the fact that the humor is pretty basic and even lifted from other zombie-based dark comedies.  However, the film then spends the remainder of the production jumping from dark comedy to musical to drama and never do these tones blend or mesh very well.  Instead, it is just jarring and chaotic shifts as you go from dark comedy to very serious songs that don’t match the scene that led up to it.  Then the film tries to get very dramatic completely out of nowhere and decides to abandon the dark humor beginnings.  The biggest issue with this shift is the evolution to drama didn’t feel organic and just feels like the story suddenly hit the brakes and took a left hand turn.  This constantly shifting tone and poorly blended genres made for an experience that was hard to get invested in and be entertained by.

I would make a reference to a musical here but I know nothing about musicals so... about that Cats things, eh?

Oh no.  Whatever shall we do to get around the seven
zombies that are totally blocking our path?
One element that really killed this story’s shift into drama was the budget.  You can tell the budget wasn’t very large due to the quantity of zombies in sequences.  The film tries really, really, really hard to convince you the characters are in complete and utter peril where there is no less than a dozen zombies sparsely scattered and nearly a hundred feet away.  Too often this sequence would hit and the characters would bunch together and act like there was no way out.  Considering the film shows you that a man was able to crush a zombie’s skull using two very tiny watermelon and that there are several living kills that are caused by people casually backing up into the small horde of zombies, you can’t convince me that 15 zombies barely moving 200 feet away with an acre of open space on both sides of them equals doom.  If the constant chaotic shift in tones weren’t enough to keep me from getting invested in this film, the weakly crafted thrills and nonexistent peril were definitely enough to stop me from enjoying this one and is another argument for giving up entirely on the zombie genre.

I wasn't lying when I said a character armed themselves with watermelons. 

While I found the attempts at peril to do more to highlight the film’s budget rather than result in thrills, Anna and the Apocalypse doesn’t come off like one of the low-budget zombie features that are only good for a laugh.  The film does have issues with blending all the things it wants to be but the cast is doing a great job and the music is amazing.  The problem is, much like The Dead Don’t Die, the film tries to be too many things and it can’t quite make it all work in a seamless fashion.  Attempting this route also shows just how oversaturated the subgenre is.  There are so many uninspired and cliché zombie movies in existence that creators almost seem forced to try and cram as much fluff into them and to stretch them into other genres in order to stand out in the crowd (or horde, since we are talking zombies).  Sadly, getting these genres to work together isn’t very easy and this film proves it.