Mini-Reviews: Mechanic: Resurrection, Pete’s Dragon, & Kubo and the Two Strings

Hey everybody!

So this has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. You know that I do sometimes multiple reviews over the weekend, but I fall behind on my movie watching and I feel like reviewing a week old or sometimes two week old film would be a little late or not worth it since many have already either seen it, or takes away from reviewing the newer films. So instead of doing big reviews, I’ll do these mini-reviews and get right to the nit-and-gritty.

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Mechanic: Resurrection

Director: Dennis Gansel

Writers: Philip Shelby & Tony Mosher

Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh, Sam Hazeldine, and Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis: Arthur Bishop thought he had to put his murderous past behind him when his most formidable foe kidnaps the love of his life. Now he forced to travel the globe to complete three impossible assassinations, and do what he does best, make them look like accidents.

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A sequel to the 2011 remake The Mechanic, Jason Statham returns as Arthur Bishop who is living a new life by himself, until an old friend, and now enemy, Crain (Hazeldine) finds him and wants him to do what Bishop does best: make his assassinations look like accidents. However, Bishop has extra incentive as Crain has Gina (Alba), a woman that has her own story for getting involved between these two, and threatens to kill Gina if Bishop doesn’t complete three different and difficult assassinations.

I don’t think anyone was really up for a sequel to The Mechanic, although it was one of the better string of Statham films for a while. When it comes to Mechanic: Resurrection, I think it was better left off without a sequel. Resurrection wasn’t a bad film, but it certainly wasn’t a worthy sequel that it should have been. In fact, Resurrection doesn’t even feel like a sequel at times, there is only one, maybe two, references to the first film.

Jason Statham does his thing, and is still great at it, but it’s the rest of the cast that falls a little short. Jessica Alba never stands out as much as she probably should have while Michelle Yeoh is wasted here and seemed like they just wanted a big name. Sam Hazeldine does okay as the villain, but we don’t get a ton of screen time with him and his arch with Bishop is really underdeveloped, and I think a flashback or two could have helped to really push the rivalry between Crain and Bishop. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones has maybe ten minutes of screen time, but it looked like he was enjoying his time playing an arms dealer.

All in all, Mechanic: Resurrection has some descent action in the film, but it did feel like a forced sequel. If you enjoy Jason Statham beating the crap out of people than this is the movie for you.

Mechanic: Resurrection

3 out of 5

 

 

Pete’s Dragon

Director: David Lowery

Writers: David Lowery & Toby Halbrooks

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Oona Laurence, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Robert Redford

Synopsis: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend, who just so happens to be a dragon.

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I don’t remember watching the original Pete’s Dragon, but I knew about it. So walking into this remake, I went in with fresh eyes and it was completely worth it. The film follows Pete (Fegley), who has lived in the forest since a small boy after an accident. However, Pete isn’t alone as he has lived with Elliot, a mythical dragon in the small town away from the woods. One day, Pete is discovered by Natalie (Laurence), her father Jack (Bentley), and her soon-to-be stepmother Grace (Howard), who is a park ranger for those woods. When they find him, however, it’s Jack’s brother Gavin (Urban) who thinks something is out in the woods, and soon discovers that he’s right: the problem? It’s Elliot.

Pete’s Dragon surprisingly adds more dramatic and personal stories than you would think from a Disney film and a summer movie season film, but it all completely works so I applaud director David Lowery and his co-writer Toby Halbrooks for doing so. But it is those themes that make the film so great. Pete’s Dragon is all about family and loss but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it, instead it lets its cast do it organically.

The cast is also great, Oakes Fegley is extremely likable as Pete, Bryce Dallas Howard brings the sense of wonderment to the film that it needed and Oona Laurence has her moments in the film and continues to show that she has a great career ahead of her. Karl Urban is the “villain” of the film, but Lowery and Urban do the right thing and don’t make Gavin too extreme of one. Robert Redford as Grace’s father Meacham, plays the only person in town that still believe Elliot is actually real and the dragon of the woods is out there. Finally, Elliot the dragon is so awesome to see. I’m sure if more people watched this, we’d be seeing little kids with Elliot’s plush dolls all around us.

All in all, Pete’s Dragon is a fantastic film that should be seen by everyone. It has a great message and flows beautifully.

Pete’s Dragon

5 out of 5

 

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

Director: Travis Knight

Writers: Marc Halmes & Chris Butler

Voice Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Brenda Vaccaro, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei, and Ralph Fiennes

Synopsis: A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

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It’s hard to believe that Kubo and the Two Strings is only Laika Entertainment fourth film, but considering their films are so complex and intricate it makes sense. That is what makes their films so different and fun to watch because you know the years of hard work that goes into them.

The film follows Kubo (Parkinson), a one-eyed boy who lives with his sickly mother in a small town. Along with his magical guitar that allows him to control his origami creations tells stories about his legendary father Hanzo to the townspeople before the sun goes down due to his mother’s rules. However, Kubo doesn’t make it back in time one day and is attacked by The Sisters (Mara), who have been sent by The Moon King (Fiennes) for Kubo’s other eye. When his mother realizes what is happening she uses the last bit of her power to send Kubo away and bring a totem of his to life in Monkey (Theron) to protect him on his journey to find his father’s armor to defeat The Moon King. Along the way, they meet Beetle (McConaughey), a cursed soldier who used to work with Kubo’s father. He takes it upon himself to help Monkey and Kubo on their journey.

I absolutely loved this film in every way possible. There’s a lot more to the story I’m telling you because I want you to experience the story yourself first. I will say the production design is perfect and the score fits perfectly with the film that makes the experience so much better to watch. Kubo also continues Laika’s tradition of handling some darker themes of storytelling – The Sisters are a bit terrifying – but in a way that younger audiences can still enjoy and not feel too scared. However, the film also has a ton of humor to offset it if you’re worried about that.

All in all, I will say that you should go watch Kubo and the Two Strings. It has everything you can ask for and it’s a beautiful film to look at and experience. There is a character moment, and even story moment, late in the film that misses the mark just a bit but I enjoyed everything else about the film so much I could forgive the film for it. Lastly, there is an awesome and beautiful cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor that plays during the end credits that I highly recommend you check out.

Kubo and the Two Strings

5 out of 5

‘San Andreas’ Review

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Dir: Brad Peyton

Writer(s): Carlton Cuse (Story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes, Will Yun Lee and Paul Giamatti

Synopsis: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter.

 

 

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

 

 

There is something about disaster movies that we all love. Maybe because disaster movies are almost, and arguably, the ultimate form of escapism we have in movies today. Add in one of the biggest names in Hollywood in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and you are bound to have a damn fine entertaining movie. San Andreas is that movie, of course not without its faults and its unfortunate timing, after the earthquake in Nepal. Thankfully, the studio and crew made sure the movie’s promotional material have links to places where you can help with any natural disaster.

 

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a L.A.F.D Search and Rescue pilot who has a great reputation of saves. Even though he’s great at his job, he is currently on the brink of divorce with his Emma (Gugino) after an accident that caused them to break away from each other. Ray however is also ready to go on a trip with his daughter, Blake (Daddario) before a massive earthquake hits and has to go on duty. Blake then heads to San Francisco with her Emma’s new boyfriend Daniel Riddick (Gruffudd), a big time architect. There she meets Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and his little brother Ollie (Parkinson) when another earthquake hits the city. Meanwhile, a Cal Tech seismologist Lawrence (Giamatti), and his team find out what is causing the earthquakes – and even when they can possibly hit – and tries to warn everyone on what is coming.

 

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San Andreas is arguably the most summer popcorn movie you can have. It’s one of those movies where you can just sit down, watch, and not have a care in the world. Does it stand against other big disasters films like The Day After Tomorrow, Volcano, or 2012? Not entirely, but it does have some great moments that will make you invest in the characters and what’s going on. Finally, will it make you an earthquake expert survivor in case the San Andreas Fault actually happens to go off? Sort of.

 

Surprisingly, the best parts of the movie are not the full on destruction of California. In fact the best parts of the movie are the cast members, all lead by Johnson. Johnson doesn’t have to rely on his action chops so much, but more on his dramatic chops which he handles perfectly here. Johnson isn’t a large than life character – of course he is actually larger than life – he is just an ordinary guy. Next to Johnson, Daddario is the next best thing as his resourceful daughter that plays both the role of an strong female character helping Ben and Ollie through the city to get to higher ground so her father can come them, and a bit of a damsel-in-distress with having to really be saved by her father.

 

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Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson brotherly duo work just fine as they have to trek through the city with Daddario’s Blake. Unfortunately there is a forced romance between Ben and Blake, which doesn’t necessarily hurt the movie and it’s in our faces, but it is there. Carla Gugino has her moments to shine, and Ioan Gruffudd’s role could have easily been played by someone else and it wouldn’t have matter that much.

 

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The biggest underused character and actor is Paul Giamatti’s Lawrence. He is basically there to tell us, the audience, what exactly is going on. It doesn’t mean he’s not great in the role, he does the best he can with what he is given. I think what makes it a bit underwhelming is that he has no contact or shares any scenes with Johnson or the rest of the cast. The only connection to Johnson’s character – if you want to call it that – is the reporter, played by Archie Panjabi, who we see in the beginning of the movie with Ray and his team when they rescue a girl from an accident. She also happens to be there with Lawrence and his team as they try to find out what is happening. At the same time however, all of Giamatti’s scenes with his team slow the movie down a bit as they explain how plate tectonics work and what could possibly happen. Only reason I bring it up is because the science in the movie isn’t all that real, just a bit.

 

The science isn’t the only thing wrong with the movie. Some of the CGI during the mayhem has some cool looking moments, but other times it looks a bit cheesy and too cartoony. It doesn’t take you out of the movie completely, but knowing that they actually can’t destroy a city to get what they want, it’s bearable. But, what I believe is a missed opportunity or just a mistake on writer Carlton Cuse’s part, is not having Ray’s team throughout the movie. The team members are played by Colton Haynes, Todd Williams and Matt Gerald. With the expectation of Williams, they only have one scene together. The scene even makes it seem like they are going to be together and go save Blake together, but we never see or hear about them again. It’s a bit of shame, but this leads to the other part of the movie that, apparently, has made a lot of people question Ray’s character. He leaves his duty to go save his family.

 

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Yes, people are questioning Ray’s character because once everything starts to go to hell, he decides to stop where he was going to help others and just help his family. I get why people would be upset about that and see why, but I guess they forgot the part of the movie where he does actually save others people’s lives from getting crushed to death near the end of the movie. Again, I can see that, and to be honest I didn’t even notice that until I read people were pointing it out. Is it “selfish?” I guess, but if you were in the same position, wouldn’t you do probably the same thing?

 

All in all, San Andreas has some great moments in the disaster movie sense and if that doesn’t do it for you (why are you really watching the movie?) it’s bearable to watch because of Johnson and Daddario’s performances. It really is one of those movies you can just sit back and enjoy what’s going on. It isn’t with its faults (pun intended), but it is enjoyable.

 

San Andreas

3 out of 5

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‘Dracula Untold’ Review

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Dir:  Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Paul Kaye, Diarmaid Murtagh, Noah Huntley, and Charles Dance

Synopsis: Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces – whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.

 

 

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

 

 

Dracula is probably, if not, the best known vampire of all time. His story has been told many times in the past and has always been connected to the historical figure Vlad ‘The Impaler.” Dracula Untold is no different. While, I have seen the character of Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure – having to live with immortality and the need to drink blood all the time – director Gary Shore’s movie tries to bring that to the forefront, but the way Shore goes about it was not the best way to go about it. It also doesn’t help that Shore also relies on CGI bats to carry an action scene.

 

The movie starts with a narration telling us that in the 1400s, the Turkish Empire stole young boys to fight in their army. Among them was Vlad (Evans), who become a legendary warrior for killing so many and for impaling them to wooden spikes. When the war ended, he went to live a quiet and peaceful life as Prince Vlad in Transylvania with his wife Mirena (Gadon) and son Ingeras (Parkinson). We then go to the Vlad and his men encountering what is Turkish Scout armor in a river but no sign of the actual men. It turns out that lived in peace with the Turkish Empire but soon a Turkish ruler Mehmed (Cooper) comes to claim the young boys from the castle, including Ingeras.

 

Vlad takes offensive to this and ends up killing the troop sent to collect his son. When he realizes he has sign his people’s safety, he goes to the mountains to make a deal with the Master Vampire (Dance). Vlad wants the power to protect his family and people but the Master Vampire tricks Vlad into drinking his blood to get his powers but with a catch: he has to resist feeding for three days to become mortal again, or stay as a vampire forever.

 

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It’s hard to suspend some disbelief for the movie knowing how it’s going to turn out. And if you think that’s a spoiler than well I’m sorry. However, it’s the journey that counts, and for some parts, Dracula Untold did have some great moments, and I use some very loosely. Like I said earlier, I do see Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure, and the movie does try to play with that. Vlad isn’t a villain, although he has done bad things, he saw them as a way to stop more bad things from happening. All he wants his family to be safe and to live in peace, but is constantly reminded that he has done evil things and as a character says to him “you’ll always have that in you.” So it makes his decision to make a deal with the Master Vampire slightly understandable.

 

The meeting between Vlad and Master Vampire, I think is one of the best scenes in the movie. Despite the small amount of CG involved in the scene, it’s a great back and forth between two great actors in Luke Evans and Charles Dance. The scene involves a lot of mythology and starts to turn the movie into a fantastical territory. I also wish there was a lot more of it and sometimes it did feel a bit rushed but it serves its purpose.

 

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Speaking of the acting, Dracula Untold belongs to Luke Evans. He gives Vlad the perfect amount of humanity to makes feel his suffering, but can also makes us a bit uneasy when he vamps out. Dance, although only having a couple scenes is terrifying as the Master Vampire. Sarah Gadon’s Mirena thankfully isn’t a forgettable character and actually serves some purpose to the story, although I wish she did have some more to do. Unfortunately, the always reliable Dominic Cooper fails as the villain and just shows up from time to time to remind us there is someone that Vlad has to kill.

 

Unfortunately, Dracula Untold does have many missteps. One of them sadly falls into what should, and could have been, a highlight of the movie. It’s when Vlad takes on a big group of soldiers on his own with his newly equipped superhuman powers. Instead we get a massive amount of shaky cam, CGI, and quick moments that really don’t allow you to enjoy it the way you’re supposed to. I don’t mind shaky cam as much as others do but the amount of it in the scene really bothered me. The other issue, even though it’s a small one, is the rules of the vampirism in this world are not established. Vlad seems to be able to go out during the day time, even in an overcast, as long as he doesn’t step into direct sunlight. Silver also bothers them but doesn’t necessary kill them and one character even attempts to use a wooden stack that seems to show some effect. Maybe it’s nitpicky but rules do need to be established.

 

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The movie does have some cool visuals. The CGI bats, which are heavily advertise, are okay but the effect works better when Vlad uses them to disappear and reappear. Some shots look like cool screensavers and costumes are pretty damn impressive. Overall the movie does have a gothic feel and look to it, which is pretty welcomed considering Vlad is being presented as a somewhat dark superhero.

 

All in all, Dracula Untold isn’t a perfect movie but does have very few redeeming qualities to it. It also serves as the first movie in the Universal Monsters shared universe they are setting up. While it doesn’t totally feel like it was a complete setup, it is there. Out of the whole movie Evans and Dance’s cave scene is the best thing about the movie.

 

Dracula Untold

3.5 out of 5