Opening Weekend: Pacific Rim – Uprising

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The time has come for our return to the universe of Jaegers and Kaiju. The west’s take on the giant monster/mech genre has been pretty well received, relatively small dedicated audience aside, and Uprising hopes to keep that trend going. With a loyal fan base, drops of nostalgia, promises of over the top robot on monster fight scenes, and the current hot item that is Star Wars’ John Boyega, the pieces all seem to be in place to do just that.

10 years after the Kaiju War and the events of Pacific Rim, Uprising picks up with our new protagonist Jake Pentecost (Boyega) giving us the run down of life in the world after the sealing of the Breach. Son of legendary war hero Stacker Pentecost, Jake grew up with his father and adopted sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately things don’t always go as planned and after failing in Ranger academy, and being kicked out BY Stacker himself, Jake turns to a life of petty crime and vagrancy. While doing a job with some shady fellows attempting to steal abandoned Jaeger tech from the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, he runs into a rival thief (Cailee Spaeny’s Amara Namani) who is looking to use the tech to complete her own homemade Jaeger. Both plans go south quickly and after their inevitable capture, Mako arrives and gives the two a choice; join the PPDC and the Jaeger program or face prison.

PLOT

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With a Pacific Rim sequel, you should know what you’re walking into. The monsters want to destroy life on Earth, the robots fight the monsters to stop it, roll credits. The trick is to make the ride from point A to point B enjoyable for the audience. That in mind, I can actually say that the main story line for the movie was pretty enjoyable. Aside from the occasional ex machina to help the Jaegers reach their goal, I was genuinely surprised (but simultaneously scratching my head) at the way the antagonists arrived on Earth and how the story tied directly into what we already know from the last film. It provided just enough nostalgia to appease the fans of the first outing without droning on about it, and led to what feels like a satisfying payoff at the end. I’d actually say that the worst part of it all WAS the Jaegers and the fights which come nowhere near holding a candle to the battles of Pac Rim. While the animation was far more fluid and the Jaegers had cool new moves to show off, their designs showed none of the innovation or cool factor of the originals and actually feel really generic. When I think Pacific Rim I have specific things in mind and memories that color my anticipation of a sequel. Uprising, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver on or play to any of it.

CHARACTERS

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There are a lot of old, played out tropes going on throughout the movie that sometimes make it all just feel way too forced. The entire story surrounding Jake is just tired, unbelievable, and uninteresting. The “get back at dad by being nothing like him” shtick is pretty worn out and Uprising does nothing to make it more than cookie cutter character motive. The same can be said about his rivalry with former co-pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) which goes from, “I hate you and you should leave,” to, “I love you unconditionally,” all within the same sentence at times. Conversely, I found Amara to be pretty interesting and would have loved to get more of a story about her and her growing up in the post-Kaiju world. I could, however, do without the literal copy/paste of the story of Ender Wiggin regarding her acceptance into and training in the academy. For a second I thought I went back in time again but it turns out it was just….questionable writing. The same level of interest could be said for the new “bad girl” Liwen Shao (Jing Tian). Her motivations that lead her to creating her life’s work in the film (a drone army of Jaegers to replace PPDC pilots) would have been interesting to have fleshed out or mentioned at all. Instead, all we see is an uptight corporate businesswoman/researcher that will stop at nothing to make sure that it happens for reasons unknown to anyone other than herself. The returning characters, Mako, Newton Geiszler, and Gottlieb, seemingly play minor, “ha! I remember them,” roles aside from one and I guess you can appreciate them coming back to be a part of the story again.

OVERALL

I’m sure for some this goes without saying, but if you liked Pac Rim then you will at least enjoy Uprising. While it doesn’t pack as much punch (literally and figuratively) as the first film, it has enough to keep you interested in the genre at least until the inevitable part 3 or Godzilla 2020. If you’re on the fence about shelling out the cash for a ticket, then I’d say that you won’t be missing TOO much if you do decide to skip it. If you’ve got the time and the money, however, you won’t feel like it’s a waste if you do check it out. It is fun, entertaining, and has its wow moments, so give it a look. Those looking to get into the genre/series that have no experience with either would see their time better spent visiting Pac Rim, Godzilla 2014, or Skull Island instead. Hopefully the vision and feel of the first will be brought back again in the future and we can see the genre moving forward with as much force as it started out with.

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Opening Weekend: Black Panther

MLD-01496_R.JPGOh, Black Panther… Where to begin…

I want to get this out of the way up front and not belabor the process at all. Black Panther is quite possibly one of the most fun, well executed, and exciting films I’ve seen…MAYBE ever. So should you see it? Yes. Should you see it multiple times? Also yes.

Should you see it opening weekend? I mean, I hope you already see the pattern here, but yes. Yes you should.

I think you’re going to be hard pressed to avoid spoilers for this movie for too long because it is a film that completely lives up to the hype and anticipation that has been built for it all these long months. In contrast to the aftermath of The Last Jedi where a coin flip determines if you read a praising or scathing review of it, I believe that the worst you’re going to get with BP is, “the film was very good.” Even people that were getting “burned out” on superhero flicks have said that their flames have been rekindled by Marvel’s latest page-to-screen venture.

For me personally, I haven’t absolutely LOVED a film since 2014. Being the avid (read: rabid) Captain America fan that I am, it’s no surprise that The Winter Soldier, widely praised as Marvel’s current #1 film, is the stick with which I measure all other hero films by. Not only does Black Panther pass this barrier of entry, but to my dismay I even entertained the thought that maybe it was even BETTER than WS. After giving myself a bit of time to digest this new superhero epic (it is most DEFINITELY an epic) I feel that while it is amazing, it wasn’t quite that perfect.

Don’t get me wrong though, the things this movie has going for it definitely make it worth the cost of admission and then some. Everything we were promised in the interviews from the cast and crew, trailers, teasers, and reviews is delivered on. EVERYTHING. It is nothing short of a miracle that in a time where it often feels like Marvel is just going through the motions with its recent offerings (we’re looking at you, 2017…) that they were actually able to seemingly create an all NEW universe within their current one that brings us that explosive feeling of nostalgia and nerd-wish fulfillment again. The movie is an absolute spectacle from start to finish and I know that I am in no way eloquent enough to do it the justice it deserves in a short review like this, but I just have to say SOMETHING. I MUST!

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The film starts off with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning home after the events of Civil War. We are introduced to the absolutely stunning hidden country of Wakanda and the many different peoples therein. The King and his greatest warrior Okoye, (Danai Gurira) the leader of his personal guard the Dora Milaje, make a stop to run a certain errand before arriving before his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). As Wakandan tradition demands, each of the country’s tribes are given the opportunity to fight for the right to take the throne and T’Challa must present himself sans-powers to any would-be challengers. As the story progresses, we find out that T’Challa’s father T’Chaka (John Kani) left behind a dark secret after his death, and that secret comes back to haunt the throne and leave the isolationist nation with some heavy consequences to face.

Throughout the film we are slowly introduced to an entirely new world filled with incredibly fleshed out and developed characters. From M’Baku the Man-Ape (Winston Duke) to W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), and even Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross, everyone plays such an important and well thought out role throughout the story. And Michael B Jordan? Maaaaaaaaaan, this guy! There is a big reason he is being lauded as one of Marvel’s best villains. His performance is definitely a good one, and some even find themselves sympathizing with Killmonger because of it. One of the biggest gripes that I had about the movie is that we got so much of the other characters and were SO very into them and what they were doing that sometimes Boseman’s T’Challa felt like the side character in his own story! That, however, isn’t completely a bad thing. We were already introduced to him and it is important that the other players central to his story were given ample shine as well, and shine they did! Okoye and M’Baku steal EVERY damned scene they were in and I could not get enough of them! Andy Serkis (Klaw) was also a beast, as expected, and did a great job as one of the Tolkien white guys 😀

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While the cinematography was amazing, I’m going to make sure to point you all towards the real star of the film; the soundtrack. Fresh beats, mixed with African-style drums, new and old blending together to mirror the aesthetic of Wakanda’s tech and tradition. There is no way I can put into words how PERFECT this soundtrack is. Sure there was lots of hype around Kendrick Lamar being in charge of the sounds, but holy $#!7 does it deliver! You cannot help but feel the energy pumping out of the speakers and you might even catch yourself moving along with it every once in a while. It knocks, and it knocks HARD.

I want to make sure to not spoil any bits of the film for anyone so I’m going to stop gushing about it now, but I DO want to say that your expectations will be met and or exceeded this weekend. Ryan Coogler delivers yet another home run and this one will be VERY hard for ANYONE to top this year. I said I wouldn’t even be mad if Marvel execs watched Black Panther and said, “ok. Let’s delay Infinity War a bit to make sure that it measures up to this one…” We have a mere 3 month rest until the “pinnacle” of the MCU drops, and I think Black Panther will ride this wave of success all the way up until that day comes.

See you guys in the theater again tomorrow! 😀

Opening Weekend: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

last-jedi-poster-tallDecember has come and we close out 2017 with the film that everyone has been waiting for. More sensational action, Skywalker family drama, and finally an answer to the two biggest questions on everyone’s minds for the past 2 years; who are Rey’s parents and who is Snoke?

Except that…..well, I’ll let you find out for yourself. I mean, I wouldn’t want to take the joy of finding out some of the most important information in the current Star Wars universe away from you now would I? I’m not that kind of guy. 😉

TLJ opens in the midst of an evacuation of the current rebel base as the First Order descends upon them from space. Shades of The Empire Strikes Back enter your mind as the scene is painted with Star Destroyers jumping into the system followed by a Super Star Destroyer (a dreadnought) just as in the opening to the older film. Thankfully we aren’t given another battle on Hoth, however, as I’m sure they got the message about it being a bad idea to “borrow” too much from the first trilogy. Instead, it sets up the theme for the rest of the movie as we see the rebel alliance continuing to take heavy losses in every battle throughout and seemingly coming to an end at last.

In a scene more akin to Spaceballs than Star Wars, we are re-introduced to Poe Dameron doing what he does best; kicking a** in an X-Wing. I thought this was a great way to get us right back into the story and immediately hook us into the universe again. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie didn’t follow suit. What follows is a number of incoherent hero’s journeys for each of our main characters that seemed to be more runtime filler than actual important and meaningful substance. Rey spends a good 30 minutes walking around Luke’s island, seemingly in order to learn some important lesson or pass some test he is putting her through……..but ends up just being Luke walking away from her for 30 minutes. Finn’s 30 minute arc where he chases a Mr. Macguffin through a casino could be COMPLETELY cut from the movie and TLJ would be much stronger for it (sorry, Benicio). While Poe’s character arc and development were genuinely great, I don’t think it can make up for how poor the others were treated with Rey continuing to grow more powerful for absolutely no reason (even more so than TFA) and Finn feeling almost completely irrelevant.

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Thirty seconds of training does not a Jedi make…

I feel disappointed that after taking the time to actually sit and digest this film, I am hard pressed to find many things that I would say make it successful and entertaining. Sure there were little gems here and there like Poe’s arc (again, really good character development imo), Admiral Holdo’s last stand, and Jesus Leia (I loved it. Fight me.), there wasn’t near enough for me to overlook the paper-thin plot threads (and their holes), poor character balance, or genuine, “wtf??” moments (“….it’s salt!”). With such a huge name as Star Wars I would assume that the people in charge would have more respect for the franchise and put more effort into creating a cohesive movie with well interwoven stories but we instead get more of what we didn’t like from the previous outing; rushed protagonist development, terrible villains, and Marvel-esque jokes shoved in at the wrong times. I will give it to them for the Luke/Kylo back story though. While Hamil said he completely disagrees with it I thought it was pretty good and could have been better if they’d been a bit more risky with it.

Come talk to me about it after you see it and we’ll chat 😀

In the end, let’s just be honest here. Everyone….EVERYONE, is going to see this movie regardless of what anyone has to say about it. No amount of reviews, warnings, or expectation setting is going to change a single person’s mind on the matter so it’s almost a, “why bother?” type of scenario to do a write up. I do feel, however, that it is important that people know it’s completely OK to have their own opinions on cultural phenomena such as Star Wars or any other AAA or mega franchise offerings (looks at Thor: Ragnarok) and that’s just fine. Talking about the good AND bad parts of what we like is how we help to make those things better and helps guide the people that produce them towards meeting us halfway.

That said, after sitting and thinking long and hard about TLJ, I have to say I was entertained but not at all impressed. This film was tedious to watch (not because of the runtime) and myself and others found ourselves asking, “why is this still happening?” in parts of the movie. With a Rotten Tomato reviewer score of 95% and an audience score of 54%, there is clearly a disconnect between what people THINK we as general plebs want and what we ACTUALLY want. Hopefully the feedback from this movie is taken into consideration as Episode IX is drafted and we get a closing to this trilogy that we can all be happy about.

3/5 Stars. No more.

P.S. I don’t know who is trying to ship this Finn and Rose thing, but get that sh*t out of here immediately. No one wants that. No one. Finn x Rey 5ever.

Movie Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

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Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds together in a buddy cop semi-rom com with splashes of Salma Hayek to add to the comedic effect? Was it good? Shiiiiiiiiit! What do you think, muthafucka?! 😀

I don’t normally go for the “turn your brain off” variety of movie, but every once in a while it’s nice to just go along for the ride. You get exactly what you think you’re going to get in an action movie starring these two behemoths. The Reynolds style of incessantly quippy smart-assery paired with the more subtle, indirect comedic styling Jackson brings to his films makes for a truly fun-filled road trip through Europe.

The movie begins with a bit of exposition, introducing us to our self-proclaimed “AAA rated protection agent” Michael Bryce (Reynolds). Well, former AAA rated protection agent… Trying to reclaim his prestige, Bryce is still taking on the job of protecting high-value assassination targets in hopes that he can restore his former status and get back to driving his oft-referenced Jaguar that he so loves. Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) on the other hand, is on the other end of the spectrum. A former contract killer and counter to Bryce, Kincaid is spending the rest of his days behind bars for the assassinations of over 150 people (or 250, easy). The problem, however, is that Kincaid has information vital to convicting Belarusian dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), of genocide and the ICC needs Darius’ sworn testimony at the Hague in order to remove Dukhovich from power. After a botched attempt to transport Kincaid by Interpol, it falls upon a rookie inspector, Elodie Yung’s Amelia Roussel, and her former lover, Bryce, to get him there.

Now, let’s be serious for a second. We all know EXACTLY how this movie is going to end, spoilers or not. Getting there, however, is something I didn’t expect to be as fun as it was. Reynolds and Jackson are great apart, naturally, but I wondered if they were going to be able to share the screen. When they do end up coming together, however, they’re even better. The way that their characters play off of each other, Bryce always so serious and over-protective while Kincaid is always so carefree and aloof, makes for some entertaining screen chemistry that is everything you’d hoped it would be. Throw in the cameos of Hayek’s over-the-top Sonia Kincaid and the movie comes out being a non-stop laugh riot. ON TOP of all of this hilarity, we even get to see Kincaid giving Bryce romantic advice throughout their time together as he tries to win back the girl of his dreams. I can’t honestly think of any person that would expect anything else but incessant laughter from this thing, but it doesn’t hurt to write it out either.

I could praise a ton of things about this movie, but it’s not without its share of faults. The sometimes cartoonish punishment that the characters are subjected to can really make you reel back and think about whether they want to be taken seriously or not. Sure it’s for comedic effect, and it works, but at times it was just a bit too much for me and was way too distracting. The duo was basically channeling their inner superhero and their apparent invulnerability makes it hard to care about what’s happening around them. I also feel that an actor the caliber of Gary Oldman wasn’t really used to his potential in his role. The few scenes that he was in were alright, but Dukhovich was so “tame” that anyone could have been cast for the part and done the same job. Additionally, I’ve gotta ask that these film studios find a better way to deal with gun fights in a better way than just turning the Stormtrooper Aim dial up to 13 so they can get more bullets flying all over the place. When main characters are making 5 perfect headshots in a row with only 5 bullets and hired goons can’t even GRAZE anyone with 50 automatic rifles pointed directly at an uncovered target then there is definitely something left to be desired.

In the end it’s not a masterpiece of course (who thought it would be?) but it is a nice breath of fresh air. As of late Hollywood’s offerings have been so charged (politically, racially, by gender, etc.) that it’s nice to just say F*#^ it and have a little fun. This will definitely recharge your movie-going batteries and give you a nice reprieve if you’ve just come off something serious like Detroit (or are getting ready to go into it). Go in, have a seat, switch off that old grey matter, and let yourself enjoy this comedic train wreck as intended.

…….Muthafucka.

30 Day Challenge – Day 27 – A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

Topic – What are your thoughts on pictures?

We live in the age of technology. Any and everything is connected to any and everyone at all times. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it isn’t always a good thing. In today’s world there is a camera on EVERYTHING. Even on clothes hangers in dressing rooms!

When it comes to pictures, I see the importance of keeping things around for memories and posterity, but there is also a bit of danger to them.

With so many people taking so many pictures all the time, people are finding it harder to live in the moment. Additionally, we find ourselves looking back on how great things were instead of thinking about how good then can be in the future because we have evidence of the good things that happened already. We have to have faith in those to come.

And let’s not even get started on selfies…

I used to be pretty neutral on pictures until I, ironically, saw one that changed my mind.

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Here, all of these people are at some event, staring into their phones to make sure that they capture whatever is happening correctly. Sometimes, they even ignore the thing happening beyond the screen entirely and watch a live event on their phone even when it is right in front of their faces. The old lady, however, is taking it all in herself. She isn’t worried about trying to capture the moment, she’s merely living it.

Today we live our lives picture to picture instead of moment to moment. If there is no record of it, it somehow loses significance. I even fell into this last weekend when I went to visit a historical site and was more worried about capturing everything I saw than I was in actually learning about and discovering things there.

I think that while it is ok for us to be connected to tech, we need to really look at how much it affects our lives and if there are areas we can pull back in. Next place I go I’m going to limit myself to a certain number of pictures to force myself to be more selective and to be more in-the-moment. We’ll see how it works out.

What are your thoughts on pictures nowadays? Do we take too many? Are you a shutterbug yourself?

30 Day Challenge – Day 26 – If Only I’d Have Known…

Topic – What is something you miss from your childhood?

I don’t really miss anything from my childhood, but there are two things that I really took for granted that I wish I would have access to now.

First is my bikes and the ability to ride them. Nowadays, I have never wanted a bike more in my life. In the countries that I choose to live in, bikes are everywhere and they make your life incredibly convenient in every way. They also help you stay in great shape, so those of you that hate cardio can just swap in riding your bike around every once in a while instead of driving and you’re set! Now, I’m far too big to fit on any bike in existence and I absolutely hate it. I have wanted a bike so bad as it would help traveling around on adventures but unfortunately it’s not up to me… When I was young I had every opportunity and I always pushed it off. Now that I don’t have the chance, I wish for nothing more…

Second is my ability to play and read music. MAN did I think being in band was lame af when I was a kid. I got into it just because it was a class in school and I thought it would impress some girl that I liked. It did, but as soon as I got bored with all of that I dropped it fast. Music is always on my mind, songs are in my head, and there are things that I can never access because I no longer have the ability to express myself in that medium. Plus, I used to play clarinet for about a year or 2 in middle school. Had I known that in the future I would be living in Albania, the LAND of clarinets, I would have never stopped. Now it feels like there are parts of me that I will never be in touch with again because I don’t know how to make the things I imagine come to life…

What is something you miss from your childhood? Can you get it back, or is it gone forever?

30 Day Challenge – Day 25 – Oooh, I Love The Way You Love Me!

Topic – What are 10 ways to win your heart?

This damned challenge has too many love-focused topics for my taste… But whatever… I’m a simple guy, really. It doesn’t take much to win my heart. KEEPING it is the part that requires more effort.

But that’s not today’s topic.

So, here are 10 ways to win my heart ❤ :-*

1. Approach me – The absolute best way to my heart is for you to approach me and not wait for me to make the first move. I’m tired of having to be the person to say something and I am pretty uninterested in people that blindly adhere to gender norms. Tell me you like me and that’ll definitely get your foot in the door.

2. Feed me – Typical answer, yeah, but I LOVE food. I literally travel to different places in the world based on what foods they have and nothing else. I have quite an addiction to food and if you can cook (or at least go places and eat interesting things with me) then we’re square.

3. Be a dork – I am into every nerdy/dorky/geeky thing in one way or another, but I always seem to attract girls that want nothing to do with the things I like. It would be quite a welcomed change to have someone with similar interests interested in me.

4. Enjoy travel – Even if it’s just to different cities, traveling is what energizes me. If you’re a homebody, that’s completely fine, but you have to be able to come places with me even if it’s not your thing. Actually suggesting destinations would be quite the bonus 😀

5. Be clingy – Most (read: all) guys hate this, but not me. My love language is physical, and proximity to me whenever possible is what makes me the happiest. Now, don’t confuse clingy with jealous or paranoid like most people do. I just want someone that wants to hang on me all the time, not analyze every nonexistent problem.

6. Have a goal – Nothing makes perfectly good relationships fail faster than an idle girl. With too much time on your hands then all sorts of things are dreamed up that bring unnecessary tension to the party. No one likes that guy, so I personally think that a person should have her own goals and be working on them, basically having a life outside of our little sphere. I’m always happy to help people find what that is for them too.

7. A kind heart – A sure way to get me to stop liking you is by being cold, rude, or otherwise confrontational to people with little to no provocation. Be someone that gives helpful criticism, volunteer with me, talk with others when they’re having a hard time and need someone there for them. There is enough hate in the world, and we don’t need to add to it.

8. Honesty – I’m REALLY good at telling when people are lying, hiding something, avoiding something, etc etc. Don’t do it. The only way I open up to you is if you do so to me. You want to get to my heart quickly, be open with me and keep it real. No bs.

9. Be open to new experiences – It’s really frustrating to be with someone that refuses to try new things 100% of the time. Sure, if you don’t want to eat half of the weird shit I eat or something like that, that’s fine. But if you NEVER want to do ANYTHING that’s new to you it’ll get old quick. Get out of your comfort zone to meet me halfway.

10. Be tiny and/or have an accent – Kind of a throwaway because I’ve run out of fluff to say, but this is one of those instant hooks for me. Yes, it’s petty and superficial… Sue me. I have my weaknesses too, ok?! > : O

What are a few ways to win your heart. What will win you over immediately?