Friday, July 21, 2017

Star Trek Beyond

***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 Enterprise doesn't even bother with infinity, they just go to the beyond part.



Star Trek Beyond – 4 out of 5

I’m going to preface this review by saying I’m a Star Wars guy and not really a Star Trek fan.  I find it odd that, within geek culture, we have to divide ourselves into camps and endlessly debate which one is better.  I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with Trek, I’m just not a fan of it because it doesn’t capture my imagination the way it does its fans.  I don’t hate it, I don’t think people that like it are “wrong,” and I don’t obnoxiously think that my opinion of it is the “right” one.  That being said, I am a fan of this movie's timeline that has been established.  I find them to be great sci-fi fun mixed with some excellent popcorn action.  How does Star Trek Beyond, the third in this series, compare to the others?  Fairly well, actually!

Look at that thing, all boldly going and stuff.

To think, I used to not like this guy.  What a fool I was.
After finding his mission on the USS Enterprise to be unfulfilling, Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pines) puts in for a promotion and to have Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) take his place.  However, after the crew decides to answer a distress call, the ship is attacked and crippled by a man named Krall (Idris Elba) and the crew is left alone on a derelict planet.  Kirk soon learns that Krall is in possession of a dangerous weapon and the man plans on using it against the Federation.  Now, with the help of the alien fighter; Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), (who has also been marooned on the same planet as the crew) Kirk must find a way to escape and stop the madman.

Sofia Boutella always plays the coolest characters...and may that continue!

One thing about this latest adventure of the crew of the Enterprise is it never really feels like a movie quality mission but rather something you’d see on the show over the course of a several episode arc.  Now, that sounds like a bad thing but it’s far from it.  The thing I really enjoyed about it is that this story feels like it was just part of their mission.  It begins with Kirk getting bored with the things he is doing and maybe wanting to move on and then they go on what is believed to be just another part of this mundane journey and they are slammed headlong into saving the day.  The whole film feels like you are just thrown into the daily mix of routines that goes on for the crew and were lucky enough to witness them at their best.  The story never inflates itself with delusions of grandeur or tries to come off like overly cinematic.  It comes off like a filler film but it’s a fun one that delivers on a solid adventure with a very threatening antagonist.

"We're fine, this will buff right out!"

Oh yeah, and this movie mentions that this timeline's
Sulu is gay.  The fanboy reactions was exactly as
you would predict them to take that.
Another segment of the story this film does very well is character development.  Alongside the mission to stop Krall, we get to learn a little more about our characters and it's delivered in a very organic feeling way and not in a forced "let's stop the flow for development purposes" way.  We get to see Kirk learn his devotion to the mission all over again, we watch as the relationship between Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock grows and has some rockiness, and much more.  There’s even a fantastic arc for the villain Krall as we learn about his mysterious past and why he is so desperate for revenge.  Finally, I really liked how cool Jaylah was.  All of this really makes the characters even more endearing and that much more fun to watch.  And speaking of fun, I swear Karl Urban gets more and more amusing as Doctor McCoy with every movie.

I'll be honest, out of context, this image looks like Bones is crawling out of
an alien toilet.

Other elements, such as the action and performances, are top notch.  All the actors in the film are continuing to provide charm with the characters they are portraying and making the whole crew an enjoyable band.  Additionally, with its great special effects, the film really delivers on some exciting action scenes.  For example, when the Enterprise is being ripped to shreds by Krall’s fleet of ships, it looks absolutely stunning!  Even the final conflict with Krall is very engaging and very satisfying.  One thing that is worth nothing about the action is the film uses Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in order to solve one of its main conflicts.  I know that sounds weird and that’s because it is.  When it first began, I found myself chuckling at the idea of it because it comes off super silly and kinda forced but, as the action unfolds, I found myself being sucked into the madness of it and kinda enjoying it.

Idris Elba, a man seemingly incapable of not being completely awesome
at all times.

Star Trek Beyond is a mighty fine continuation of the previous two films and delivers on a great premise and entertaining and exciting action.  It’s sad that, because of his passing, this is the final film for Anton Yelchin as Chekov (he was so fun as him) and we won’t get to see him portray the character again but it’s still a very fun film.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Big Sick

***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 big sick is what you're going to get after the big chill.



The Big Sick – 5 out of 5

I really enjoy Kumail Nanjiani.  I think the guy is funny in everything he is in.  Whether it’s his role in Silicon Valley or the small roles where he shows up for a short period of time in various comedies, the guy can deliver and he is very memorable.  Hell, he was one of the only funny parts about Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, in my opinion.  When I heard that he and his wife; Emily V. Gordon, had co-written a movie about how they met and how their relationship evolved, I was instantly sold on the idea and wanted to see it.  Even after it was produced, sold to a distributor, and was ready to get its theatrical release I was ready to watch it and I didn’t even bother to watch a trailer.  I’m just such a fan of the guy that I didn’t need anything beyond the concept and his involvement to sell me on The Big Sick.

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
She's a cute, bubbly girl and he's an Uber driver...what a cliche!

Chicago stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is just going through his life trying to make it in the world of comedy while his parents try to get him into an arranged marriage, per their culture and against what he wants.  One day, while performing at a show, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) and the two hit it off and find themselves falling for one another.  However, after Kumail refuses to come clean about his parents arranged marriage setups and the fact he hasn’t told them about her, Emily leaves.  Soon after, she finds herself in a coma and Kumail stumbles his way in to be with her every day and, along the way, forms a bond with her parents; Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano).

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
I'll just take a second here to state that Hunter and Romano were divine
in this film.

Romcoms can be kinda…dumb.  I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys them but when you look at them through a fine enough lens, they all look very silly.  This is totally true of all genres of films but the romantic comedy never really showcases love or relationships in any real sense.  They are to love as what porn is to sex.  Sometimes, a film comes a long that shows love and the hardships of a relationship in a very realistic light (usually this comes in the form of an indie film) and that’s one of the things The Big Sick does better than a majority of the other films in this genre.  The entire film feels like you are watching a real couple, a real family, and, most of all, real people dealing with the hardships and the ups and downs of love and what it can do to two people when one is lying and one is dying.  (Yes, that rhyme was intentional and I will gladly sell it so it ends up on the Blu-Ray packaging.)

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
Also put on the packaging, "I liked his sweater."

                                                                Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
This film is so sweet that I gushed just watching them
grocery shop together.
What made this film so captivating is how real everything about it felt.  Granted, this film is essentially an adaptation of the real life events that Nanjiani and Gordon went through but what transpired across the screen never felt emphasized or enhanced, it just felt genuine.  Add in realistic dialogue, natural chemistry between the entire cast and down-to-earth acting and it made for a feature that felt warm and inviting as well as charming, dramatic, emotional, and fun.  I will admit there were some times that had trouble nailing the grounded feel of it, however.  For example, as much as I love Nanjiani, there were times were he couldn’t quite narrow down the performance during some minor dramatic scenes (but these moments were very rare) and there were times that the interactions between the comedians felt too “Judd Apatow-ish.”  They didn’t feel like real comedians cracking wise at each other but, instead, were just doing the never ending insult gags that is basically 50% of all Apatow’s films (which kinda makes sense since he had a hand in this).  Ultimately, however, these drawbacks were incredibly minor and didn’t really destroy the entertainment value or take me out of the flow of the story or heart of it.

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
There were a lot of very amusing moments with Anupam Kher and
Zenobia Shroff as Kumail's parents.  This film presents parents quite
excellently.

There really are no drawbacks to The Big Sick.  The cast is fantastic and really creates charming and interesting characters, the story is fantastic as it develops these two main characters and we watch as conflict exists between their personalities and cultures, and the film is capable of being both heart-warmingly dramatic, and emotional and charmingly funny.  Never does the plot slow down or drag as we watch Kumail and Emily’s parents deal with the situation they find themselves in and everything builds at such a great pace.  Then, when the final moments of the film arrive, you are treated to an absolutely beautiful and genuinely sweet ending that would make the most mainstream romantic comedies kick a nearby stone at their feet out of jealousy.  Nanjiani and Gordon adapted their story so well and director Michael Showalter presented it absolutely perfectly.  Overall, this movie is as close to perfection as a romcom can get.

War for the Planet of the Apes

***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 said, War for the Planet of the Apes, huh, good god ya'll...what is it good for?



War for the Planet of the Apes – 5 out of 5

I love the camp of the original Planet of the Apes films (and the less I acknowledge the existence of Tim Burton’s one the better) but this new rebooted franchise is just amazing!  I absolutely love it and it feels like with every passing film they seem to get better.  Look, I have room in my heart for both of the series but right now I’m going to talk about the latest release; War for the Planet of the Apes, and it is awesome!

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
Caesar's look of disappointment when someone ate his lunch out of the
communal fridge.

Some time after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is trying to live a peaceful life in the forests with the rest of his highly intelligent ape clan.  However, after an attack from a military group called Alpha Omega, led by a madly driven Colonel (Woody Harrelson), against their camp, Caesar is forced to undergo a mission of revenge with his clan seeks a land that promises them freedom and their own society.  Along the way, Caesar learns that the world that they know is changing more rapidly and dramatically than they realized and nothing will ever be the same.

                                                                                                           20th Century Fox
Accessories makes the man...like sunglasses or a giant gorilla.

Like I stated earlier, I do enjoy the old sci-fi fun that is the original series but this new franchise is really doing it for me.  The darker twists the story takes combined with its emphasis on the emotional drama and its state-of-the-art special effects and motion capture work makes for a film that feels so amazingly authentic and captivating.  They really show the depth that science fiction and storytelling can go.  With every passing film, I find myself becoming more engrossed with the universe they exist in and this one might be my favorite one yet.   

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
The real heroes of this film are the horses...for being able to carry that
massive orangutan and the huge gorilla.

Co-writer and director Matt Reeves (I’m excited to see what he brings to the table with Batman) expanded on his work in the previous film and evolved the world exponentially well.  The way he used this film to continue Caesar’s tale and also get us closer to the world that will be the Planet of the Apes is nothing short of amazing to experience.  Even more impressive is how Reeves never rushed any development the film was taking.  Everything about the story builds and evolves at its own needed pace but it never made the plot feel like it was dragging or like the film had varying paces—the whole thing felt like it ebbed and flowed at all the right parts and it made the story even more compelling.  Then, all of this built to a fantastic reward of some incredible action in the final act.   

                                                                                                           20th Century Fox
Sure, if this was three humans it would be cool but being apes makes
it was more epic.


However, this part is only a fraction of why this story is incredible because he also majestically paints a beautifully tragic and terrifically hopeful tale that is just overflowing with heart, emotion, and drama.  You find yourself invested in the survival of the apes, appalled by the behavior of the humans, and entranced with the burden of leadership and the wounds of heartbreak that Caesar carries around with him.  With a rousing score by Michael Gracchino that highlights and enhances the drama and action, the end result is a film that is both visually stunning but deeply satisfying on an emotional level.  I won’t lie, this film had me tearing up on several occasions.  Of course, the film isn’t only just heaviness as there is a fair share of light-hearted moments that are very amusing and can arrive and assist without feeling they are taking away from the serious tone.  For example, Steven Zahn joins the cast as Bad Ape—an ape Caesar and the crew stumble upon and learn that the evolution of apes is spreading across the world—and he provides a lot of fun but isn’t causing a chaotic shift in tone.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
I really liked Bad Ape...both because he's funny and was played by
Steve Zahn.

Another element that this franchise is known for is the way it uses motion-capture animation to bring their apes to life.  There is a charm to the marks with the wonky mouths from the old days but this rebooted franchise is really bringing the realism.  With the master of mo-cap as the lead once again, War actually feels like it has even better special effects—which is pretty impressive considering how the other films are just insanely well done.  It was so easy to get lost in the detail of the apes—the way their eyes moved, the flow of their fur, the skin tones and facial expression.  There was never a period where they felt like they were created in a computer.  They all looked so amazingly real and it only worked to enhance the dramatic and emotional tone that Reeves crafted.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
This little human edition is a big hint of things to come with this franchise.

The final thing that really ties the film together is the performances.  Some people will look at mo-cap characters and say they’re just made in a computer and the actor is only giving them a voice but when you really absorb what a master like Andy Serkis is doing you can see that’s a gross over-simplification that feels entirely wrong.  Yes, a team of animators is making the character look real but the actor is giving them soul and their performance is captured in that collection of pixels and one’s and zero’s.  What you’re seeing may be rendered in a computer but it’s still given life by the actors.  It also goes without saying that the flesh and blood cast—Woody Harrelson and Amiah Miller as the mute girl Nova that orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) takes in—is all doing their job as amazingly as the mo-cap cast.

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
Is there a movie that Woody Harrelson sucks in?  The answer is 'no.'

Did I find any drawbacks or anything that didn’t work about War for the Planet of the Apes?  Absolutely not.  The storytelling, the action, the drama, the special effects—everything about this film worked for what it had to be and it delivered with a truly stunning film.  There were some fantastic developments to the mythology that kept it from being a filler film and it culminated in an ending that was both emotional and hopeful.  It’s strange to call a film about apes talking over the world of man “beautiful” but that’s exactly what this film is.