Mini-Reviews: CHIPS, The Belko Experiment & Life

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

CHIPS

Director: Dax Shepard

Writer: Dax Shepard

Cast: Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Jessica McNamee, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Richard T. Jones, Jane Kaczmarek, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Justin Chatwin and Maya Rudolph

Synopsis: A rookie officer is teamed with a hardened pro at the California Highway Patrol, though the newbie soon learns his partner is really an undercover Fed investigating a heist that may involve some crooked cops.

 

Loosely based off the popular show from the late 70s, CHIPS ups the ante on the comedy and raunchiness. Basically taking the Jump Street-like tone and making it fit its overtly over-the-top comedy and a very thin plot. Needless to say, this isn’t your parents’ CHiPs.

The film follows Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), reimagined as an ex-motocross rider who is down on his luck, addicted to pain medication from his injuries and trying to repair his broken marriage with his wife (played by Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell) becomes a California Highway Patrol officer. He is then partnered up with undercover FBI agent Castillo (Michael Pena), renamed Francis Llewellyn Poncherello or “Ponch” who goes undercover when a heist involving potential corrupt cops is pulled off. The two have to find a way to work together as the threat becomes more real for the both of them.

As you can see Shepard not only starred in the film, he also wrote and directed the film. I’ve personally never seen a Shepard-directed film, so this was my first exposure to him as both. The humor is a bit over the top, but exactly what you’d expect in a raunchy R-rated comedy. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t so the humor will be something that you are either on board with or not, and if you’re not then you’re in for a long ride.

However, one of the biggest highlights – and probably the main one – is the chemistry between Shepard and Michael Pena. The two start off bickering at each other non-stop but eventually, of course, find a mutual respect. Although, I’ll admit Shepard’s Baker came off as annoying at the first, while Pena is impatience came out as dick-ish. The rest of the cast don’t really standout too much, but do they best they can do with the material their given.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, but other than one scene with Pena and Shepard, he’s really just there. Rosa Salazar plays a cop that may or may not be into Shepard’s Baker, Adam Brody plays Ponch/Castillo’s FBI partner who hates him – for a comedic/reasonable reason – while Isiah Whitlock Jr. plays the head of the FBI division Castillo/Ponch belongs to and constantly is yelling at him. Finally, Kirsten Bell doesn’t do too much to make an impact.

All in all, CHIPS is definitely not for everyone. Its best scenes are way too far apart and its humor is all over the place and sometimes outright offensive. While I wasn’t overly impressed, CHIPS is a passable enough comedy that you won’t hate yourself for watching. Maybe.

CHIPS

3 out of 5

 

 

The Belko Experiment

Director: Greg McLean

Writer: James Gunn

Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Adria Arjona, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Brent Sexton, Owain Yeoman, James Earl, Rusty Schwimmer, Sean Gunn, David Dastmalchian, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry

Synopsis: In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Columbia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

 

The Belko Experiment is, you can say, loosely based on the cult classic Battle Royale where it forces innocent people by mysterious forces to kill each other. The difference in this film is it takes it to an office space in a foreign country, and has a script by James Gunn. So, of course the question becomes does it do anything to keep itself separated from the herd? Somewhat.

The film follows employees of Belko Industries in Bogota, Columbia who are literally locked and sealed in their complex and told through the intercom that they need to kill their follow employees and friends or they will be killed themselves. To prove their point, they have installed “trackers” into their heads when they took the job which ends up actually being explosives. Of course, at first they think it’s a prank, but eventually they find out its real – and they need to kill 30 people or the voice will kill 60 at random.

As you see the set-up is rather simple, and the film doesn’t really waste too much time setting everything up, along with some of the characters. Our main leads are Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) and his girlfriend Leandra (Adria Arjona) who are still in the early stages of their relationship. We then have Tony Goldwyn as the COO in that branch, Barry Norris, who eventually becomes our “villain,” and I put villain in quotes, because obviously good and evil are blurred in these kind of situations and that something that Barry comes to terms with, but Mike struggles with even though he’s pushed by Leandra to come to a decision.

The rest of the cast is fine, but they only have small moments and it’s easy to sometimes remember who’s alive and not. John C. McGinley is easily the second villain in the film, and one that you see coming from the beginning, Sean Gunn has a small but somewhat funny comic relief role, Melonie Diaz plays new worker at Belko, Dany Wilkins, who feels like she could play a big role, but doesn’t really. Finally David Dastmalchian and Michael Rooker play technicians who try to find a way out their own way.

A movie like this will always make us, the viewer, decide what we’d do in a situation like this. The film also doesn’t hold back on the violence, because besides the explosives going off that literally blow the back of someone’s head, once the free-for-all starts, it doesn’t let up. It’s a dark, brutal and grizzly outlook of everything. So if gore isn’t your thing, you should probably pass on this.

All in all, The Belko Experiment isn’t anything new to this particular sub-genre. While the cast does fine with what they’re given, we already know that most of these characters are going to die, so we probably hold off on making a strong connection to any of them, which is in some ways a negative aspect for the film. However, if you want to watch a bloodbath in an office, then this is your film.

The Belko Experiment

3 out of 5

 

 

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare and Ryan Reynolds

Synopsis: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

 

One of the things I dislike about sci-fi space films with something mysterious onboard a spaceship is that it immediately gets compares to Alien. Which I guess is fair, but also not for whatever the film is because you have that thought in your mind and will not judge whatever film that is fairly. So the moment the first trailer for Life came out, everyone said it was Alien ripoff, or if you wanted to believe the crazy fan theory, a secret Venom prequel (it isn’t by the way). While Life is a genre changer, it is a pretty great tension filled thriller that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

The film follows the astronauts on the International Space Station that have discovered organic life from a sample recovered from Mars. The crew includes a CDC representative Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), doctor and long time inhabitant of the ISS David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), pilot Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) and captain Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya). Once they get the organism and study it, they discover that its, as Hugh puts it, “all muscle, all brain” they end up nicknaming Calvin, based off a contest on Earth. Of course, Calvin breaks frees and starts causing chaos on the ship.

Life immediately makes it known how tense this movie will be putting us inside the ship as the crew attempt to grab a probe that has Calvin in it. It never really lets up until right before the last attempt to kill Calvin where characters talk about why they came to space. It’s a good scene, but it takes some of the (no pun intended) air out of the film.

But, what makes Life great is the cast. You can clearly see they all had a great time working together, as they all have great chemistry together and their characters are fleshed out enough to make us care of them once Calvin starts moving around the ISS. Speaking of Calvin, the design of Calvin is pretty interesting and one that I would love to see more of. However, when it comes to his – its? – movement it is pretty scary to imagine that thing coming at you, especially considering how smart it really is.

All in all, Life isn’t a game changer to the subgenre, but it is a tension filled ride from start to finish that has a great cast and a formidable and scary villain.

Life

4 out of 5

March Movie Release

Hello there!

Can you believe it’s March already? Anyway, besides it being my birth month(!) there are some great films coming out in March that we can look forward to. Also, a large amount of limited releases to some big films, so let’s start shall we?

 

3rd

Limited Release: Table 19

Ex-maid of honor Eloise (Anna Kendrick) – having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text – decides to attend the wedding anyway only to find herself seated with 5 “random” guests at the dreaded Table 19. The rest of the cast includes Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolori, Stephen Merchant and Lisa Kudrow.

 

Limited Release: Headshot

Iko Uwais returns to his ass-kicking ways in this new action drama that sees him play a man who washes ashore with no memories after a serious head injury. As he tries to move on with the help of the doctor that helped (Chelsea Islan), his past comes back to haunt him and he must not only regain his memories, but fight back. I got the chance to see this last year at the Chicago International Film Festival, and while the film has some tonal shift problems, no one is watching this for the drama parts, they are watching for the highly entertaining and kick-ass fight scenes. Also the film has a little The Raid 2 reunion as Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman appear. Also in the film is Sunny Pang.

 

The Shack (Drama – Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Netter Productions)

Based on the novel by William Paul Young, the film follows a grieving man (Sam Worthington) who receives a mysterious, personal invitation to meet with God at a place called “the Shack.” The film continues the trend of religious films getting a limelight, and with a cast like this and a powerful trailer, I don’t see this film falling on the wayside. The film also stars Radha Mitchell, Tim McGraw, Ryan Robbins and Octavia Spencer.

 

Before I Fall (Mystery Drama – Open Road Films, Awesomeness Films, Jon Shestack Productions)

Based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, February 12th is just another day in Sam’s (Zoey Deutch) charmed life until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over one inexplicable week, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she’s in danger of losing. The Groundhog Day with teenagers mystery angle may be enough to get some people in theaters, but I don’t think I’m sold on it. The film also stars Halston Sage, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris, Alyssa Lynch, Logan Miller and Jennifer Beals.

 

Logan (Action Adventure – 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Donners’ Company)

In the near future, a weary Wolverine (Hugh Jackman’s last performance) cares for an ailing Professor X (potentially Patrick Stewart’s last performance) in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant in Laura Kinney aka X-23 (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces. The film has done nothing but impress fans and media outlets – who saw over 40-plus minutes of the film – so now that we get to see the whole film, I can’t wait to see how they close out this big run for Jackman. Logan also stars Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Doris Morgado, and Elizabeth Rodriguez.

 

 

10th

Limited Release: Raw (Horror)

When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her. The French film has been making waves at film festivals and those lucky enough to see it, and based off the trailers, I can see why.

 

Kong: Skull Island (Action Adventure – Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures)

King Kong is back! The film follows a team going to uncharted territory, mainly, Skull Island where they encounter a myth – and king of the island: King Kong. The film looks absolutely great, and I can’t wait to see how they handle this new King Kong. Kong: Skull Island has an impressive cast of Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Jason Mitchell, Tian Jing, John C. Reilly, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

 

17th

U.S. Release: T2: Trainspotting

Danny Boyle gets the band back together for the sequel to the cult following film Trainspotting. The film see the crew come back for some more misadventures.

 

The Belko Experiment (Action Thriller – High Top Releasing, BH Tilt, Orion Pictures, MGM, The Safran Company)

Written by James Gunn, in a twisted social experiment, a group of 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogata, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed. The film looks absolutely crazy, and with the Battle Royal and Office Space comparisons floating around, it sounds like we’re in for a fun ride. Josh Brener, Michael Rooker, Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr., Sean Gunn, John C. McGinley, and David Dastmalchian also star.

 

Beauty and the Beast (Musical Fantasy – Walt Disney Pictures, Mandeville Films)

An adaptation of the classic fairy-tale about a Belle (Emma Watson) who falls in love with a cursed and monstrous prince (Dan Stevens). This film has some major shoes to fill. Major. The animated to a lot of people, including myself, is a classic so hopefully it’s at least half-way descent. The film also stars Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Josh Gad, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Sline, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

 

 

24th

Limited Release: Wilson (Comedy Drama)

Based on a the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, who also scripts the film, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first film. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines, Laura Dern and Margo Martindale.

 

Life (Sci-Fi Thriller – Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Skydance Media)

An international space crew discovers life on Mars. However, on their way back home the crew is put in danger from said lifeform. It should be interesting to see the film handles the material, but with a cast like this, I can’t imagine this being bad. At least one can hope. Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

 

CHiPs (Action Comedy – Warner Bros., Primate Pictures)

Directed and written by Dax Shepard, the adventures of two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, Jon Baker (Shepard) and Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherllo (Michael Pena), as they make their rounds on the freeways of Los Angeles. There are already people saying this isn’t the CHiPs they grew up with, but the trailer makes the film look like a lot of fun to be honest. I wasn’t looking really forward to it, and I’m still not completely sold, but at least I’m looking forward to seeing what it could lead to. The film also stars Rosa Salazar, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Jessica McNamee, Justin Chatwin and Vincent D’Onofrio.

 

Power Rangers (Action Sci-Fi Fantasy – Lionsgate, Saban Entertainment)

Based on the popular 90s show, a group of high-school kids are chosen to protect the world from an ancient evil with their new found super abilities. Look let’s face it, this has the chance of being cheesy as hell, but that’s kind of the point of Power Rangers, so that complaint won’t work. And honestly, the trailers so far have been pretty great – says the childhood fan in me. The film stars Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Dacre Montgomery, singer Becky G., and Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa.

 

31st

The Boss Baby (Animation – 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks Animation)

Based on the book by Maria Frazee, a suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co. I’m not too excited about the film, it hasn’t really grabbed me, although I’m sure there will be an audience. The voice cast includes Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and ViviAnna Yee.

 

Step Sisters (Comedy – Broad Green Pictures, Los Angeles Media Fund)

An African American sorority girl resorts to desperate measures to get into a top law school. The film stars Megalyn Echikunwoke, Eden Sher, Alessandra Torresani, Gage Golightly, and Matt McGorry.

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Biography Drama – Focus Features, LD Entertainment, Scion Films)

Based on the book by Diane Ackerman, the film tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the Nazi invasion. The trailer looks powerful, but I hesitate only because it looks like the trailer gave a bit too much away. The film also stars Daniel Bruhl, Michael McElhatton, Anna Rust, and Iddo Goldberg.

 

Ghost in the Shell (Action Crime – Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks SKG)

Based off the popular anime film, a cyborg policewoman (Scarlett Johansson) attempts to bring down a nefarious computer hacker (Michael Pitt). The trailers have set a pretty good sense of the tone, and since I have no real connection to the anime, I think it looks pretty good. The film also stars Pilou Asbeek, Michael Wincott, and Takeshi Kitano.

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘Rings’ Review

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Director: F. Javier Gutierrez

Writers: David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman

Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, and Vincent D’Onofrio

Synopsis: A young woman finds herself on the receiving end of a terrifying curse that threatens to take her life in 7 days.

 

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

 

When the American remake of Ringu came out in 2002, the film found an instant following because of the overall creep and disturbing factor. Of course, the mythology of the film was enough to grab you and pull you: you watch a creepy VHS tape, you then get a phone call with a voice telling you seven days and then you die. The Ring started the horror film remake craze – for better or worse – and became a cult favorite. Now, after all these years – and its sequel – Rings has been released and while usually the wait it worthwhile, it was not the case for this.

After an interesting opening involving an airplane, Rings jumps to our main characters. We start with professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki), who along with one of his students, Skye (Aimee Teegarden), finds an old VCR and take it home. Gabriel eventually discovers a tape is stuck inside and continues to watch it – of course us the audience knows what it is: Samara’s tape. We then jump to Julia (Matilda Lutz) and her off to college boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe), who are saying their last goodbyes. After a few weeks, Holt isn’t returning any of Julia’s messages, but she gets a weird message from Skye. Julia takes it upon herself to go find Holt and finds out Holt has gotten himself involved in something he shouldn’t have. What follows is Julia eventually watching the video and discovering a new threat that changes everything we know about the mythical tape that kills you after seven days.

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So after the long wait, and the delay – the film was supposed to come out last year: twice – Rings doesn’t really live up to the wait, and to the promise the film tries to convince you of at the beginning of the film. There’s a rather odd new concept introduced to the film that is spearhead by Galecki’s Gabriel that is somewhat makes sense after two films, but one that I kind of wish we had more time with. Galecki also does his best to not make it come off as cheesy, which it easily could have.

When it comes to the other cast members, I don’t know if it has anything to do with them or the script, but every other thing came off as bland. They do have their moments, but the lack of real emotion at times hurts a lot of the scenes they’re in. Lutz’s character Julia has a “sub-plot” that is mentioned and never mentioned again, ever. I assume it was to show us what kind of person she is, and it somewhat pays off later, but they could have gone without mentioning the little tidbit at the beginning. Alex Roe as Holt feels like he has the same expression on his face the whole time, and Aimee Teegarden, who only has a small amount of screen time is actually really good, and I wish she could have been in it more.

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Galecki, like I mentioned, does the best he can with what he’s given, and actually looks like he gives a damn. Vincent D’Onofrio pops in as a blind character that knows about Samara and tries to veer Julia and Holt away from whatever they think they have a lead on. D’Onofrio might actually be the best character in the film, but stumbles near the end. Finally, Bonnie Morgan plays Samara, who actually did uncredited work on The Ring 2 as Samara (the crawling up the well scene). Sadly, Samara isn’t in the film nearly enough as she should be. Sure the film is about Julia trying to once again figure out why this video is so damn dangerous, but we should see Samara a lot more than we should.

The film itself also leaves a lot to be desired. I kept my expectations low, like I always do, but even more so for Rings merely because it honestly didn’t look that great. The film does have some creepy moments, but lacks the real sense of dread and disturbing factor the first film had, which made it so damn great. Rings doesn’t have any real sense of urgency, which seems kind of dumb to say considering, you know, you’ve been told you have seven days to live. Moreover, Rings often times is rather boring when it’s trying to build up its mythology.

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All in all, despite some cool shots Rings is not worth the long wait. The film doesn’t do anything to really further the mythology of the killer video. Sure they add a new concept, but it’s never really established enough to make it worthwhile.

Rings

1.5 out of 5

‘The Magnificent Seven’ Review

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writers: Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennet, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, and Matt Bomer

Synopsis: Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.

 

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

 

Based on the classic Western of the same name, that was based on the classic film by acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa Seven Samurai, Antoine Fuqua brings is take to The Magnificent Seven with his own star-studded cast and great visuals of his own. I’ll be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this – and yes, I’ve seen the originals – but of course I actually don’t mind remakes and knee-jerkingly reject them just at the thought of it. So, was my excitement worth it? Or does it have to take a long walk into the sunset with my head down? Let’s load up our horse and find out.

The Magnificent Seven starts off by showing just what kind of person the heroes would be going through. The town of Rose Creek are being taken over by a mining corporation run by Bartholomew Bouge (Sarsgaard) who wants the townspeople to sell him their land, but when he shoots the husband of Emma Cullen (Bennett) – played by Matt Boomer – she goes to find men to help her and townspeople take back their town. She eventually finds and recruits bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington), who in turn brings in gambler and playboy Josh Farraday (Pratt) to help him bring in the best people to give the town a shot. The two haul in famed sharpshooter Goodnight Robincheaux (Hawke) and his knife-wielding partner Billy Rocks (Lee), an outlaw named Vasquez (Garcia-Rulfo), tracker Jack Horne (D’Onofrio) and Comanche Native American named Red Harvest (Sensmeier). All seven of them get together to protect the town, even with odds stacked against them. What follows is a grand – or magnificent? – finale that will make any Western fan happy.

(l to r) Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee star in Columbia Pictures' THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

(l to r) Vincent D’Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee 

I know I watched the originals, but let’s focus on the Western here, but it was a while ago so I can’t remember too much of it. However, I do know Fuqua’s version is different in its own way, and makes sense for the story he’s trying to tell. I know many won’t, and don’t like the idea of a Magnificent Seven remake – even though it itself is a remake, but whatever – but the film is a lot of fun, and completely worthwhile for new fans or old fans.

The cast is what makes the remake really worthwhile. Washington has worked with Fuqua three times now, and continues to show the duo have a lot of fun together and are great together. Chris Pratt’s Faraday looks like he’s enjoying poking fun at his fellow cast members and being a bit of a playboy, but he does have a sense of pride and duty once everything goes down. Peter Sarsgaard’s Bogue doesn’t have enough screen time as he probably should, which is saying something considering the film is a bit over two hours. Haley Bennett’s Emma Cullen gets a lot of screen time at the beginning, but blends into the background as the film moves forward.

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Ethan Hawke’s Goodnight has an interesting arc, although it takes a while for it to really come up and it kind of just slides away. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne is a tracker that gets compared to a bear a lot, Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks is the calm and collective one, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s Vasquez has a nice little rivalry with Faraday, and Martin Sensmeier’s Red Harvest has his moments.

Some, and even I’ll agree with some of it, will say the group gets together is too fast and there isn’t enough conflict between them. Especially since we hear that Jack Horne has killed a lot of Native Americans, and while their interactions with Red Harvest are minimal they never come off as standoffish but slight jabbing. It’s nice dynamic – all the characters have them – but it’s something that I know people will bring up. There are some other things that are never fully developed, but for the most part the film doesn’t suffer that much from it.

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The action is top notch and the final shootout is a sight to see. There is a lot going on in the scene, but you always know where you are and can follow the action throughout. It’s also pretty satisfying considering the film builds up to it for half the film. It also helps that the final shootout is great since right before the ending the film loses some steam and slows down.

All in all, The Magnificent Seven is a great, fun ride of a film. The cast is great and the final shootout is a great time. While the film may not be perfect in terms of some pacing issues and not going fleshing out some details, it is a worthwhile remake to a remake of a remake.

The Magnificent Seven

4 out of 5

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‘Jurassic World’ Review

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Dir: Colin Trevorrow

Writer(s): Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, Vincent D’Onofrio, BD Wong, Lauren Lapkus and Irrfan Khan

Synopsis: Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.

 

 

 

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

 

 

It’s been around twenty years – in real life – since we first saw the original Jurassic Park hit theaters. The movie pushed the boundaries and arguably rejuvenated the industry in terms of special effects and animatronics. The first film holds a special place in many people’s hearts, including mine, so when Jurassic World was announced, it had many of us skeptical about how this new movie would hold up against the original that had great moments and characters. Well, guess what, Jurassic World is a great sequel to the original and does have great moments and some good characters.

 

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Because the saying “learn from your mistakes” apparently doesn’t exist in this world, Jurassic Park, now called Jurassic World has been open for a few years now on the same island, Isla Nublar, where the events of the first film took place. John Hammond’s dream of a theme parked filled with real life dinosaurs has come to fruition thanks to industry billionaire Masrani (Khan), who wanted to carry Hammond’s wish. The park is run by Claire (Howard) who is under a microscope to get the park’s numbers up. Cue the new genetically mutated, hybrid dinosaur: Indominous Rex, bigger, faster, and of course, more deadly.

 

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That’s not Claire’s only problem, she also has her nephew’s Zach (Robinson) and Gray (Simpkins) coming to visit for the week. Gray is thrilled to be there and wants to visit everything possible, while Zach rather be elsewhere and not babysit his younger brother. The other storyline is raptor trainer and ex-Navy solider, Owen (Pratt) who sees not just his raptors, but all dinosaurs as something that should be respected and that they are animals living in a different time, and are not theme park attractions that can be controlled. He also has his problems with InGen worker Hoskins (D’Onofrio), who thinks Owen’s raptors can be used for something more.

 

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There is a lot of moving parts in Jurassic World, and some of them work really well while others fall flat or are underdeveloped or underwhelming. Of course the idea of creating extinct animals could be seen as a noble one or, like in this case, an easy way to make a ton of money, but dinosaurs? I mean come on. So who do we have to thank for the dinosaurs in Jurassic World? Well none other than the only returning character from the original film, Dr. Henry Wu (Wong). He also was the one that design the Indominous Rex for the park to spike audiences and sponsors interest. Then it breaks out and sets off a chain of events that lead to all out chaos that echoes what has happened in the past. It’s almost one of the running themes in the series, that greed and maybe even hubris overtake our rational side of thinking. Because seriously, making a new dinosaur? Really? Especially how the Indominous Rex is so damn terrifying. It’s big, fast, and doesn’t care what is in its way. The Indominous Rex is a great addition to the dinosaur villains.

 

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But, and this is something that is also bought up in the movie, is our (general public) need for more our downfall. Director Colin Trevorrow is almost making fun of the public’s need for more as all throughout the park are noticeable and big name brands, making Jurassic World not just a speculate, but also a marketing darling.

 

The other theme is relationships, and Jurassic World goes back to its roots and gives us two great younger leads opposite two great adult leads. The relationship between the two brothers feels genuine and Robinson and Simpkins play well off each other. The relationship could have gone a little deeper, because there is a potential for it. As for Claire and Owen, they have an interesting one. They went on a date that was memorable for the reason you wouldn’t think. The two are exact opposites of each other and it works at the beginning, but once things go, well, Jurassic Park-y the both of them realize they need to work together, which leads to a somewhat forced romantic arch. I say somewhat because it comes and goes and isn’t in our face so much like others we’ve seen.

 

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Now, to the thing I know everyone will complain about: the CGI. Yes, Jurassic World’s dinosaurs are mostly CGI. Some of it looks absolutely great and it works for what they are trying to do and makes sense why they would go the CG route, and it’s not because it’s easier. It’s not a complete departure for the series. The first Jurassic Park did have animatronics and touched them up with CGI to make the dinosaurs look even better than they already did. Luckily, there is an animatronic dinosaur in the movie and it is a great scene at that. I don’t want to go too much into the scene, but the scene will bring you back to the first movie.

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Speaking of that, Jurassic World isn’t a reboot, it is a continuation to the series. However, it doesn’t try to forget what came before it. It embraces it and not going pays respect, but pays homage and stays a bit within the spirit of the first movie. The good thing is that it doesn’t do it to rehash the ideas or even say “hey, look at it!” Jurassic World is its own thing, but it reminds us that we’re all fans and Trevorrow is remember what made this series and first movie so special.

 

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Going back to the cast, it is the cast that makes Jurassic World also work. Pratt isn’t a goofy character, not that his character doesn’t throw in a few witty one-liners, he’s probably the most serious character we’ve seen him in a while. Bryce Dallas Howard is a great female character that learns the errors in her ways and has a nice character development moment. Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus appear as control room workers that have great character moments and are pretty much the default comedic reliefs. BD Wong finally gets worthwhile big screen time (his character in Jurassic Park book is more of strong supporting character), but his character coming back isn’t fully developed which is a shame.

 

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When it comes to the “weak” (I say weak for the lack of a better word at the moment) cast members, it may surprise you that Vincent D’Onofrio is one of them. His character’s motivations automatically make him the human villain, but the way his character presents himself is sometimes a bit too much or a way a character in that kind of position shouldn’t really be acting like. Omar Sy, who plays Owen’s friend, gets the short end of the stick and doesn’t get a lot to do, so we really can’t blame him. Judy Greer’s short appearance as Claire’s sister and Zach and Gray’s mom is interesting to watch, but considering he literally has about three scenes, I can’t put her high up on the list.

 

All in all, Jurassic World pays respect and captures the spirit the first movie and if you’re a true fan of the series you’ll catch the homages and cool Easter Eggs thrown in there. There are fantastic moments in this and I couldn’t believe that a movie could make me feel like a kid again, even if it was for a minute. Does the entire movie work? No, some things are left open and just pushed to the side, but you can almost forgive them after experience all the great moments. Jurassic World is a ton of fun, and isn’t that what’s most important in a summer movie? I think so.

 

Jurassic World

4.5 out of 5

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‘Run All Night’ Review

Run All Night

Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer(s): Brad Ingelsby

Cast: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Common, Vincent D’Onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez, and Bruce McGill

Synopsis: Mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike, whose life is in danger, or his longtime best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire, who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son.

 

 

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

 

 

We have grown accustom to seeing Liam Neeson kick major ass and shoot people in the last few years. I know that sounds like there is a “but” coming, but I assure you, I love watching Neeson beat the crap out of people half his age as much as the next person. The nice thing though is that Neeson tries to bring something – if he can – new to every role. In Run All Night, he does it again and we better enjoy it if Neeson’s claim about hanging up his action film boots in the next couple of years is true. If they are, Run All Night will be one of the great ones we can look back on.

 

Run All Night follows aging hitman Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) – once known as the Gravedigger – who is a bit down on his luck, a drunk, and is forced to taking some handouts from his best friend, and mob boss, Shawn Maguire (Harris) and Shawn’s son Danny (Holbrook). As you have seen in every ad for the film, Jimmy ends up shooting Danny when he was going to shoot Jimmy’s son, Michael (Kinnaman), for reasons I’ll leave out of the review, and after the events they are put on Shawn’s hit-list. The estranged father and son must outrun Shawn’s men, the cops, and a hitman named Price (Common).

 

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Overall the story is simple, but it does have some layers to it which is welcomed because otherwise it wouldn’t be as good as it was. The film takes a bit to get moving, but it serves to set up the relationship between Jimmy and Shawn, which is one of the strongest components of the film. However, director Jaume Collet-Serra fumbles other aspects of the film that either slows the film down or some really questionable decisions that can irritate you.

 

Collet-Serra tries to make New York City its own character in the film, but at the same time makes it feel cheesy. When there is going to be a new scene, the camera zooms out and makes a CGI transition to the new location where it will zoom in. That kind of thing works better in a video game and not in a film. I don’t want it to sound nitpicky, but it is does feel out of place here and distracting, the good thing is it doesn’t happen every time.

 

The action is fine, Neeson changes up his usual fist fights for shootouts, expect for a bathroom brawl. The set-pieces work well enough, although Collet-Serra messes around with the editing at moments that make it hard to know what’s going on or see the action. The highlight of the film is definitely an early car chase and a burning building action sequence.

 

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As for the actors, Neeson as Jimmy is always reliable and is again here, although he will probably play his least sympathetic character here for some. Jimmy does love his son, even though Michael wants nothing to do with him. He also doesn’t want his son to end up like him and constantly tells him not to fire a gun. Joel Kinnaman does okay as Jimmy’s son Michael. Kinnaman balances some lack of sympathy for Jimmy and danger as he is being chased down by every hitman and cop in the city.

 

Ed Harris as Shawn is great and it’s kind of a shame he’s not in it more, but his scenes with Neeson are the best scenes in the film. They play well off each other and you can really scenes the friendship, brotherhood, and history they convey in those scenes. Common pops in as hitman Andrew Price, who is this unstoppable force in his very limited scene role. Common has shown he’s a good actor in the right role, but anyone could have played this role really even though he handles himself well.

 

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The rest of the cast is filled out by Boyd Holbrook who plays Danny, who has a significant amount a screen time before he bites the dust. Bruce McGill plays Shawn’s right hand man and even though McGill is a great actor he is heavily underused, to the point that I think he only has a few lines of dialogue. Genesis Rodriguez plays Michael’s wife Gabriela who doesn’t really add much to the story and finally, Vincent D’Onofrio plays Detective Harding, who is trying to get Jimmy to confess to his crimes and make a deal with him. There is also a cameo appearance by a well-known actor that really comes out of nowhere and I was left wondering why there weren’t more scenes with him in the film.

 

All in all, Run All Night stumbles a bit when it slows down, but when it comes the action and the cast, it is a great time to watch.

 

 

Run all Night

4 out of 5