‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Review

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Director: Roland Emmerich

Writers: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, and James Vanderbilt

Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Angelababy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Deobia Oparei, John Storey, Nicolas Wright, Travis Tope, Patrick St. Esprit, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Joey King, and Vivica A. Fox

Synopsis: Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind’s new space defense be enough?

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

When Independence Day came out back in 1996, it changed the Summer Blockbuster forever. It changed the way studios thought about making films and made Will Smith an automatic star in Hollywood. Needless to say, Independence Day was a huge hit. While a sequel was in wanted by the studio way back when, it never came because Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin couldn’t crack the story. Fast forward to today, where every studio in Hollywood is trying to create franchise and their own universes, but are always going by the motto, “what old is new again.” Cue Independence Day: Resurgence, and trying to copy what the original did and try to catch some of the nostalgia going around. So, does Resurgence work? Well, sort of.

The film takes place twenty years after the War of 1996, as they call it in the film, and the world leaders have put aside their differences to use the technology from the aliens to better their own world, and create their own advanced technology like weapons, spacecrafts, and defensive bases within the solar system. Of course, everyone knew they might be coming back, but it might be worse than they originally thought when former President Whitmore (Pullman) gets a vision that suggests another alien invasion is coming sooner than we all thought.

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Meanwhile, David Levinson (Goldblum) goes find an old ship that has been mysteriously turned on, and finds out that it has sent out a distress beacon. While this is happening, up on the base on the Moon, former pilot Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) and his flight partner Charlie Miller (Tope) welcome the new flight team that is lead by Dylan Hiller (Usher), the son of Will Smith’s character from the first film that tragically died in-between events of the film, and now carries on his father’s legacy. We also find out that Jake and Dylan have a history together, and also have a common friend in now an adult Patricia Whitmore (Monroe), who works for the new president in President Lanford (Ward). Eventually, Whitmore’s vision comes true and a new mothership comes, which as David puts, it is “definitely bigger than the last one.” What follows is all of our old and new band of heroes coming together to stop this new threat and save the world once again.

At this point, we should all know what we are all walking into with a Roland Emmerich-directed film: Mass Destruction. We get that in Independence Day: Resurgence early on when the new mothership comes to Earth and covers most of the Pacific Ocean, it takes out a couple cities, London and I believe Tokyo or Hong Kong (I wasn’t sure and it wasn’t said). The destruction scene feels similar to what we’ve seen before, I mean, a lot has been done since 1996, and Emmerich has tried to destroy the world a lot sense then too. The ship having its own gravity is a nice twist, but it’s never really bought up again.

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The real focus of the film is the humans, and here is where we have a mixed bag. None of the new characters really stand out, and it’s nothing against them as actors, it’s just that some to most of all the characters arcs are underdeveloped. Then there actors, like Vivica A. Fox, Judd Hirsch and Sela Ward who don’t really do anything of significance at all. Even Bill Pullman takes a bit of a backseat, while Brent Spiner as Dr. Okun is trying a bit too hard to act like he did in the original film, and his return does make some sense, for those wondering how the hell he’s back. The last returning member is Goldblum, whose character is now head of the Space Defense Program, but his character isn’t as fun as he was in the original.

Jessie Usher as Dylan Hiller is okay, but he isn’t Will Smith, not many are, and while that sounds like an insult, I wasn’t trying to say it as a negative thing, but he doesn’t really give off the same charm. Hemsworth feels like he’s really the bigger lead character as Jake Morrison. He’s also got a little more going on than the other characters, but like the other characters isn’t developed enough to make us have any real connection. Maika Monroe, who I have become a real fan of, tries to standout, and while her arc makes a bit more sense, again, it’s underdeveloped and pushed aside for the sack of having more action. The rest of the supporting cast is okay with William Fichtner plays a General, Charlotte Gainsbourg plays someone from David’s past, Deobia Oparei plays a warlord’s son that has a strange connection with President Whitmore, and Dr. Okun. Nicolas Wright plays Floyd Rosenberg, a lawyer of some sort, who is one of the comic reliefs, yes I said one, because the other is Travis Tope’s Charlie Miller, who is friends with Hemsworth’s character.

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While it sounds like I’m bashing Independence Day: Resurgence, I did have some fun watching it, and not in the fun making fun of it while watching, I thoroughly enjoyed a great deal of the movie because let’s face it, none of us were walking into this thing thinking, Oscar winning, grade-A acting, and sophisticated story and plot. No, we walked in to turn our brains off and watch some humans vs. alien’s action.

Is it a mess? Oh hell yes it is. There are things that don’t really make too much sense when you step back and think about. Which again, it’s a sci-fi movie about aliens coming to our planet who we fight back with every nation in the world using weapons we built with their technology, but you know, still. There’s even a questionable use of the flawed de-aging effect, that really didn’t need to be used at all, and to be honest, it took me out film completely. There is an interesting twist in the third act that opens the film up to a sequel, but it’s bought up so late in the film that it loses it’s real effective and just feels like a “hey, we got one more for all of you!”

All in all, Independence Day: Resurgence is dumb fun, which is probably what many expected, but regardless, the film does have its pitfalls that make it go from okay and fun, to it’s alright and fun. The only gripe I have with the film is the ending which is a completely opened ended film that feels a bit cheesy for it’s own good. Small thing, considering the world we live in with Hollywood now, but it doesn’t mean we can let things like that pass.

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Independence Day: Resurgence

3.5 out of 5

‘The Shallows’ Review

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Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer: Anthony Jaswinski

Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Sedona Legge, and Brett Cullen

Synopsis: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about this project I wasn’t really excited for it. The concept didn’t really grab me, and Blake Lively being attached didn’t do anything for me, since I’m not really a Blake Lively fan. However, I thought I’d give it a shot because what the hell. Thankfully, The Shallows is a bit more than its premise and is held together by Lively.

Nancy (Lively) is on her way to a “secret” Mexican beach that her late mother had told her about years before, and where she went before Nancy was born. She is taken there by a local man named Carlos (Jaenada), who have a great back-and-forth before he leaves her on the beach. Nancy takes in the beauty of the beach, even after getting into a rocky talk with her father on a Facetime call, and meets two random surfers out in the ocean. However, right after catching the last wave of her stay, she’s attacked by a shark, injuring her leg and leaving her stranding on a rock with nothing but her wits to survive.

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You can probably tell Lively gets the good majority of the screen time, and she does. Which is why this film would have live or died without her, and Lively does a pretty good damn job. Again, this is coming from a guy that is not a huge Blake Lively fan. Thankfully, Nancy isn’t someone who just goes down without fighting. She has her own way of surviving and sucks up her injuries to get out away from the shark lurking around her. Lively also gives a pretty great monologue in the middle of the film that could have come off as cheesy if the film hadn’t already set up her character and the tone of the film. Not only that, there is a scene that focuses on her during one of the attacks that is not seen, but it still works with the look of horror on her face.

Besides the film being the Blake Lively show, the other thing that makes The Shallows work is the cinematography by Flavio Labiano and the direction by Jaume Collet-Serra really make The Shallows effective. The sense of dread and hopelessness pays off once Nancy is stuck out on the rock. You also always know where you are and how far things are, so you understand why every move Nancy makes matters.

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Now, The Shallows is not a perfect movie by any means. There are some things in the film that could have been more developed or just play out better. There are also some spotty CGI of the Shark, but that’s expected since, you know, sharks. Speaking of the shark, the film’s villain, surprisingly doesn’t get a ton of screen time – outside of ominous birds-eye views and its fin sticking out – until third act, but when it does show up, it’s pretty scary looking. However, the film is actually not that bad considering the loose premise.

All in all, The Shallows is much more effective than you would think. There are some pretty impressive moments and shots, and Blake Lively holds her own and may impress some doubters.

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The Shallows

3.5 out of 5

‘Finding Dory’ Review

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Directors: Andrew Stanton (co-director Angus MacLane)

Writers: Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse (Additional screenplay material by Bob Peterson)

Voice Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Sloane Murray, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton

Synopsis: The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is an end-credits scene.*

 

It’s been about 13 years since Finding Nemo came out and stole most of our hearts with the loveable characters and touching story. While sequel talks were discussed way back then, nothing ever really came about it, until a couple years back when it was announced that Dory would be getting her own story. While many were hesitant and asked if Dory could lead her own movie, and if Finding Nemo needed a sequel, many of us were still okay to see what Pixar could come up with. And if you haven’t learned yet, we should never underestimate Pixar. Ever.

We get a cool little prologue in Finding Dory, as we see a young Dory (voiced by Sloane Murray) with her parents (Levy and Keaton) before she is mysterious by herself and grows up to the Dory we are introduced to in Finding Nemo. From there we jump ahead a year to the present where Dory is now with Marlin (Brooks) and Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence). Suddenly she remembers something about her old home and family, and sets out to find her family. What follows is a grand adventure of Dory traveling through the sea that eventually lands her in marine biology institute where she meets an octopus named Hank (O’Neill), a beluga whale named Bailey (Burrell) and a former whale friend named Destiny (Olson). All the while, Marlin and Nemo try to track her down.

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I’ll be honest, I shared most of the fears that many people had about Finding Dory not being a worthwhile sequel, and potentially following some, if not all, of the same story structure that Nemo did. Although, it does somewhat mirror Nemo, thankfully the team behind the film didn’t fall into that pitfall. The film does enough to separate itself from the first film, but still makes it feel like it is set within the same world.

The film is also a lot funnier than I thought it would be too, but with that, the film also has a lot of heart. Dory is the center piece of the film and has a great journey. She doesn’t spend the film with Marlin or Nemo, instead she spends the majority of it with Hank, and the two characters work so well together. Dory’s story is a great one that will probably hit home with many and is one that will tug on your heartstrings, the only way Pixar can.

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Marlin and Nemo take a backseat this time, but do have a nice arc about their own relationship. Destiny and Bailey also work tremendously together and with Dory, and it’s kind of a shame that they don’t have more screen time. Idris Elba and Dominic West pop up as sea lions that don’t really get enough screen time at all, but are great fun to watch when they are.

All in all, Finding Dory is a prime example of why we should never underestimate Pixar. While the sequel may not be better than the first film in some people’s eyes, it is a worthwhile sequel that fans will like or love.

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Finding Dory

4 out of 5

‘Central Intelligence’ Review

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Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Writers: Rawson Marshall Thurber, David Stassen, and Ike Barinholtz

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul, Tim Griffin, Timothy John Smith, and Thomas Kretschmann

Synopsis: After he reunited with an old school pal through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

When you put two of the most hardest working men in entertainment together in a movie, things could go wrong, or they could go right. Thankfully, those two hardest working men are Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The two, who have never worked together before, come off like they have known each other for years and just now chose to work together, and while the material for the film is a bit thin, the work these two put onscreen is worth the price of admission alone.

Kevin Hart plays Calvin, the former most popular kid in school nicknamed “The Golden Jet” and voted most likely to succeed, hasn’t lived up to that label as he is now an accountant. With his ten year high school reunion coming up, he tells his wife, and high school sweetheart, Maggie (Nicolet), that he’s not going because he doesn’t want to be asked about his job. However, things get complicated when a former high school loser Robbie Weirdicht, now called Bob Stone, comes back into his life by friending him on Facebook. Robbie isn’t the same though as he’s lost a lot – a lot – of weight and has gotten past the embarrassing incident of getting thrown naked in front of the graduating class during a prep rally. Oh, and is now a CIA agent on the run.

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It should be noted that if anyone other than Johnson and Hart were casted, Central Intelligence probably, and would, have not worked at all. It’s the chemistry between these two that make the film so fun and enjoyable to watch. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to believe that this is the first film that Johnson and Hart have worked on because they play off each other so well. Hart is the more straight-laced persona, as he is pretty much the audience’s surrogate, and reacts to all the craziness the way most of us probably would. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get some great lines to rattle off.

Dwayne Johnson plays a pretty different version of himself than we’ve seen. Despite his massive size and ability to take out a room full of guys, Bob has a goofy sense of humor and even acts a like goof most of the time, all while wearing a fanny pack, and treating Calvin like his hero. Again, it’s a different version of Johnson, who we all see as the tough guy, but here Johnson plays a little more to his comedic strengths which is really cool to watch. Hell, he wears a shirt with unicorns on it for crying out loud!

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The movie does go off the tracks a bit when it tries to bring in the spy elements, not because they don’t work, but because the element isn’t that strong. Bob is in the middle of mysterious purchase of codes that can take down the government that puts him in the crosshairs of Agent Pamela Harris (Ryan). Here is where the film tries to add a mystery element, and while it was nice that the film was trying to separate itself from other action comedies that have been coming out, everything leading up to it and the reveal is a bit underwhelming and falls flat.

All in all, Central Intelligence works mainly because of the chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. The two are great together, and I actually can’t wait to see what the duo will do next (besides the Jumanji remake). The film itself does have its flaws, but when Johnson and Hart are onscreen together, it doesn’t really matter. It’s still a great funny and enjoyable ride.

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Central Intelligence

4 out of 5

New Podcast: Helen Mirren Joins Fast 8, Donald Glover Joins Spider-Man: Homecoming & Much More

Hello everybody!
I  didn’t do a podcast last week, as something came up, but I’m back this week with a more relaxed news podcast. But there is still some great news items this week.

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‘The Conjuring 2’ Review

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Director: James Wan

Writers: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan and David Leslie Johnson

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Javier Botet and Bonnie Aarons

Synopsis: Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

James Wan surprised everyone back in 2013 with his surprise summer horror hit film The Conjuring. Based off the case files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the film put Wan back on the map. When it was announced that a sequel would happen, many thought that maybe Wan wouldn’t make an equally good film that The Conjuring was. Well, it turns out, it is, and arguably better than the first.

The Conjuring 2 is based and inspired (as some things were added for the sake of story) by the Warren’s case, the Enfield Poltergeist in London. The case follows single mother of four, Peggy Hodgson (O’Connor), who is just trying to get by. However, when her children in Margaret (Esposito), Johnny (McAuley), Billy (Haigh) and Janet (Wolfe) starts experiencing strange occurrences throughout the house and Janet starts showing signs of demonic possession, Peggy has no choice but to call for help. Enter Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga), who are called in at first to just oversee and report if this is truly a case of demonic activity or a hoax, which many believe it is. Of course, thing progress very fast and dangerously that the Warren’s have no choice but to help and save the family, especially Janet.

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The Conjuring 2 had some big shoes to fill, but thankfully, the film steps up its game and brings a little more scares and ups the creepiness factor from the previous film. Wan has already established himself as a great horror director, but if it wasn’t clear by now, Wan is a great director, period. The way he sets up the shots and brings the story together is done effectively, and his collaboration with cinematographer Don Burgess makes the film feel more eerie than the first. There are a few particular shots that still give me chills just thinking about them, one of them involves an out of focus character.

Wan is also able to make some horror clichés work for him. Like his previous horror films, the jump scares are scattered throughout, but still manage to work and don’t feel like there are forced like other horror films. Also, the dreadful scenes are enhanced by the villains. There is Bill Wilkins (Adrian), the demon scaring the Hodgson family and seemingly possessing Margaret. The Demon Nun (Aaron), which is creepy in name itself, but more creepier in the film I assure you, and one of the standouts The Crooked Man (Botet), who I won’t ruin, and I sure many will think is mostly CGI, but he isn’t.

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Like The Conjuring, the leads may be Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine Warren, but the sequel spends a lot of time with the Hodgson’s that we feel emotionally connected to them and worry for them when things start to go down. However, we do spend most time with Janet, played impressively by Madison Wolfe. Wolfe really owns every scene she’s in and you can feel the dread along with her. Frances O’Connor’s mother character Peggy starts by not believing her children until she sees it herself and will do anything to project her children no matter the cost. Patrick McAuley and Laruen Esposito don’t really get too much screen time, but you can sense that they want will stand by their sister. Finally, Benjamin Haigh, who plays the youngest child Billy, is given a different trait than the others that shows that the family is dealing with their own problems.

Wilson and Farmiga, once again, are fantastic as the Warrens with Farmiga getting more of the meatier material. Lorraine is still struggling to adjust and control her ability to tap into the supernatural, but also trying to live a normal life with her family, which is always at risk with their line of work. Wilson takes a bit of a backseat this time around, but does have his moments to break through.

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All in all, The Conjuring 2 is as effective, if not more, than its predecessor. The cast, more specifically Madison Wolfe, bring life to the dreadful and scary story of the Enfield Poltergeist. Filled with great scary moments and overall terrific cinematography, The Conjuring 2 is worth the watch for horror fans and people that love being scared alike.

The Conjuring 2

4.5 out of 5

‘Warcraft’ Review

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Director: Duncan Jones

Writers: Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt

Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Callum Keith Rennie, Burkely Duffield, and Ryan Robbins.

Synopsis: The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Before I start, I should be noted to everyone: I have never played World of Warcraft. So everything in this review is purely based on what is in the film. I know very little to nothing at all of the games, so I don’t want anyone out there reading this that has played the games to curse me out because I got something wrong.

The film starts by showing us the world of the orcs, which is dying, and a dark mage Gul’dan (Wu), who uses the powerful dark magic called The Fel, has opened a portal to the world of Azeroth. However, the magic and portal isn’t strong enough to bring through all the orcs, so horde lead by Gul’dan, Blackhand (Brown), Durotan (Kebbell), Orgrim (Kazinksy), and others go through to capture humans. The reason being is that Gul’dan needs souls to keep the portal open long enough.

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Meanwhile, a mage-in-training, Khadgar (Schnetzer) has sensed the portal opening and The Fel, so he goes to warn King Llane (Cooper) about the danger soon to come. Llane enlists his brother-in-law and commander of his army Lothar (Fimmel) to stop the orcs from taking over their lands. Lothar does have help in Khadgar, a half-breed named Garona (Patton) and a powerful mage, and guardian of Azeroth, Medivh (Foster). What the humans don’t know is that Durotan fears The Fel and Gul’dan from making things worse and decides that working the humans might be his kinds only hope.

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Now, there is a lot going on in Warcraft, and I do mean, a lot. That’s not necessarily, a bad thing in a movie, but what will make-or-break a movie is if everything works seemingly throughout. Unfortunately, Warcraft stumbles a bit on that. Not every plot point and story works, or when it does it leads to nothing or an underwhelming resolution. Again, not every plot point or story is this way, some of the work. When the film focuses on a linear story and characters, it works in full force.

It’s one of the great things that director Duncan Jones does in the movie. He gives sides, orcs and humans, their fair share of screen time to make us understand both sides of what’s going on, and makes them tick. Durotan gets the better arc, for the main characters of him and Lothar, as the hero orc doing what he thinks is best for his people. It also gives us something so we can sympathize with the orcs, since you know, they’re not real and makes us connect with the CGI characters.

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The human cast is fine, since I can’t really talk about the orc actors since they are all covered in CGI and their voices are distorted, which is fine since I don’t think any of us expect to hear human voices coming out of an orc. That of course doesn’t take away anything from those actors and their performances. And the CGI for the film is pretty great, but the only real orcs that get good screen time is Toby Kebbell’s Durotan (he also plays another small role in the film), who is arguably the most developed and complete character in the whole film. Next to him would be the villain Gul’dan played by Daniel Wu.

Travis Fimmel gives off a cocky but confident warrior that is respected by the others soldiers, which I’ll admit, his cockiness put me off at times. He is given, albeit it felt forced, storyline that pays off at the end. Ben Schnetzer’s Khadgar is one of the cooler human characters and seemed to enjoy his time ranting off spells and has a lot to offer in the film, but doesn’t get to, which is a shame. Paula Patton’s half-breed character Garona doesn’t really pop until the last half of the film where it takes an interesting turn, but we never see the real fallout of it, which is extremely disappointing. Ben Foster as The Guardian/Medivh pops when he shares scenes with Fimmel and Schnetzer. Dominic Cooper’s King Llane and Ruth Negga’s Lady Taria don’t do too much, with the expectation of Cooper during the final act of the film.

Again, I’ve never played the games, so I’m sure there are references and nods to the games or other material that maybe would have helped me be more into the film. This is one of the big things the film was set to face: dealing with non-fans. I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the film that much, but there was enough in the film to make me really enjoy myself while watching.

LEEROY JENKINS!

LEEROY JENKINS!

The only real gripe I have with the film is that it doesn’t feel completed. The film leaves itself way too open for sequel for my liking. It might be picky, considering we now live in a world filled with franchise starters and sequels, but Warcraft takes that to the extreme. It’s bold for Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures to think fans will drive out in droves (or hordes) to watch the adaptation. But, for non-fans or people that don’t know anything about the world or characters, it leaves a bitter taste and feeling.

All in all, Warcraft will hopefully have enough for non-fans of the games to grab on to. The CGI for the orcs is fantastic and Toby Kebbell’s Durotan is the standout of all the characters. The film stumbles trying to control all the plot points and while some work better than others, the film still leaves some story to be desired, and it feels unfinished it some cases.

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Warcraft

3.5 out of 5