‘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

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‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Review

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Dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Danny Woodburn, Tohoru Masamune, Jeremy Howard, Alan Ritchson, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, and Whoopi Goldberg

Synopsis: Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan

 

 

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

 

 

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had a lot of iterations since they first appeared. From a comic book, to the 80s cartoon and movies, to the new TV shows since the 2000s. No matter how old you are chances are you know who the “heroes in a half-shell” are and what they love. So when it was announced that are favorite turtles would be getting another live-action movie people, obviously, were excited but also cautious. Then it was announced that Michael Bay would be producing and everyone went from excited and cautious to cautious and worried. Then came the “they are going to be aliens” and everyone went into a frenzy. Bay then made some damage control and it died down. Then the turtle pictures came out and boom, back to frenzy. Anyway, this version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a lot of things against it and unfortunately it couldn’t get past it.

 

After an interesting animated beginning, narrated by Splinter (mo-capped by Woodburn and voiced by Tony Shalhoub), giving us the background of The Foot Clan, which in this version are a paramilitary organization that are running rampant in New York City, that are run by The Shredder (Masamune). We are then introduced to younger and hungry Channel 6 News Reporter April O’Neil (Fox) is looking to catch her first break, and she thinks she has found a group of vigilantes attempting to stop the Foot. Of course, she finds out that the vigilantes are four six-foot mutated turtles that happen to be ninjas…and teenagers.

 

Little does April know, she has a connection to the turtles that she apparently forgot about. The connection also connects with businessman Eric Sachs (Fichtner) and April’s father, which feels more like stretch than a good plot point. Sachs turns out to be evil (gasp) and is actually working with Shredder to take out New York in a plan that sort makes no sense (seeing a trend here).

 

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But who cares about April or Sachs right? You’re watching this movie for Leonardo (mo-capped by Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (mo-capped Howard), Michelangelo (mo-capped by Fisher) and Raphael (mo-capped by Ritchson). Their personalities are the same; Leo is the leader, Donny is the smart and inventive one, Michelangelo is the goofball, and Raphael is the rebel. The big difference is how the turtles look. They are larger and physically imposing than previous iterations, which honestly makes them kind of lose their ninja aspect, but maybe that’s being nit-picky. They can literally lift ship containers and thrown them across the room, punch someone halfway across the room, and smash into military trucks completely destroying it.

 

The turtles all have their moments to show off their personalities, with Michelangelo most likely going to be the standout for many. The bond between the brothers is there which is nice to see they at least kept that in there. But when it comes to the other, and equally, important characters in Turtles history in Splinter and Shredder, they seem to fall just a bit short. Splinter is really nothing more than a glorified cameo and Shredder isn’t really the Shredder that we all know and love. Instead of a samurai, we get an upgraded suit that has multiple blades and looks like he’s eight-feet tall.

 

WHY?

WHY?

 

The main human characters are April and Sachs. Megan Fox being cast as April hit a chord with just about everybody and while I still don’t see her as the character she alright as the character. The always reliable William Fitchner plays Sachs, and Fitchner does the best he can with the role that he can. An added plus for fans, Shredders adopted daughter Karai shows up in a nothing role played by Minae Noji.

 

As seen from the promotional material, the movie looks like it has a nice blend of humor, action, and some serious moments. Well, the movie does have some serious moments and action but it lacks the humor. The movie just isn’t really that funny, even the human comic relief in Will Arnett’s cameraman character Vern only has one real funny line. The movie just feels like it’s trying to hard to be funny and some of the jokes are more targeted toward the younger generations, which is fine move for the studio since that’s probably their targeted audience at this point. But they really should remember the original audience.

 

However, one of the huge things that bother me is the imbalance between the tones. It felt like they couldn’t decide on one and just threw three of them in and see what stuck. The original turtles didn’t take themselves too seriously and knew what they were. These turtles though apologize for what they are, Donny even says “when you put it like that, it sounds ridiculous” when April questions what they are and how it sounds. Instead of embracing the concept, they feel a need to apologize? Yeah that, and shouldn’t, fly with anybody. The fight scenes are the worst, and not in terms of being bad fight scenes, but everything about them make it look like so brutal and then they will just go away like nothing brutal happened. Believe me I’m all for a good brutal fight scene but for a movie targeted toward kids, that was probably a bad decision.
The action is descent with standout sequence being the mountain chase that is shown in every commercial promotion, and a fight between Splinter and Shredder which brings more of the emotional weight for the movie.

 

All in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doesn’t have a lot going on. The humor isn’t really there and it does fail to capture some of the what we originally fell in love with. Are the moments that we can see why we feel in love with them? Sure but it doesn’t take away everything else from movie.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

2.5 out of 5

‘The Lone Ranger’ Review

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Dir: Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, Rango)

Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wikinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper and James Badge Dale

Synopsis: Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.

 

*Review Note:This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

The Lone Ranger, an iconic character to the western genre.It’s been a while since the character has graced the big screen and what better way to bring him back than a big budget summer movie. Of course like every movie – and one that involves an iconic character – it has caused much debate amongst reviews. I’m not one to say their all wrong but I can say I see why they don’t like the movie. Some I agree with but others they should really let slide. It is the Summer Movie Season after all, aka the dumb fun movie season.

The movie is essentially an origin film about how a young lawyer John Reid (Hammer) becomes the masked avenger after coming home and then gets deputized by his older brother and model Ranger Dan Reid (Dale) after outlaw Butch Cavendish (Fichtner) escapes and have to go after him. Once out in the open Dan, John and other Texas Rangers are ambushed and all of them are killed by Cavendish and his gang. John, of course, becomes the only survivor and rises from the dead and is told by Tonto (Depp), who has his own reasons for pursuing Cavendish as well, that he is a “spirit walker” one who has seen the other side.The two team up to bring Cavendish down and stop another greater scheme.

The rest of the cast includes railroad tycoon Latham Cole (Wilkinson),a cavalry officer Fuller (Pepper), John’s nephew Danny (Prince), a brothel runner Red (Bonham Carter) and Dan’s widow Rebecca (Wilson). So yes, there are a lot of players in the game. Some, like Bonham Carter’s character could have probably been left since she really has nothing to do. The movie does rest in the hands of, at least in front of the camera, Depp and Hammer. Fichtner’s Butch Cavendish looks pretty terrifying and is he’s definitely a great addition to the cast.

Depp’s Tonto serves as almost a narrator to the whole movie in a way with a concept that some will probably like or not but it does explain why he gets top-bill (besides being the biggest star in the movie). As for his performance it’s really nothing new. His small ticks and mannerism are similar to Jack Sparrow although it never gets the same charm and wit that Sparrow delivers. Hammer’s John/Lone Ranger does the character justice (no pun intended) and you can tell he had fun with the iconic character.

The movie does cross between different tones ranging from serious moments to humor that mostly sticks between John and Tonto and a bit between John and Dan. Then to darker tone moments that revolve around Cavendish which you will know the moment it happens and also feels a bit out of place in a Lone Ranger movie. However, there’s some other stuff that doesn’t fit but Tonto tries to play into the movie.

Like Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s other collaboration on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies,The Lone Ranger is a bit long. I usually don’t mind long movies but the movies pacing is a bit off at times.There will be strong moments like Tonto’s dramatic backstory, which is one of the best and interesting aspects of the movie, and then it will slow down.

Nonetheless, Verbinski does a great job of setting up the set-pieces and the action sequences are pretty great. More particularly the finale were all the characters come together and all revolving, mostly, around trains which does play an important role in the movie.

All in all, The Lone Ranger is not the same Lone Ranger from the old days. It does feel a bit cluttered with all the characters and some are a bit underdeveloped but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It really does have everything a summer movie needs; humor, action, and cool characters.

 
The Lone Ranger

4 out of 5