Film Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Also known as: G.I. Joe 2 (working title)
Release Date: March 11th, 2013 (Seoul premiere)
Directed by: John M. Chu
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, D. J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Arnold Vosloo, Walton Goggins, Elodie Yung, Rza, Matt Gerald, James Lew, James Carville (cameo)

Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Skydance Media, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“I came here when I was fourteen, with a life expectancy of thirteen. I was bounced around from home to home until this… became my home. Guys would line up outside that door to fight me. They whooped my skinny ass so much I started to enjoy it. Until one winter, I grew eight inches, gained sixty pounds, punched a guy so hard he couldn’t move his arm to tap out. Then when the Joes came recruiting to the hood, I’d already beaten down half of it. I became a Joe to serve. In the field. So if we’re fighting uphill, we take the hill.” – Roadblock

I really wish this movie would have done much better at the box office because it course corrected in a great way and fixed the mess that was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

On one hand, this is a sequel but on the other hand, it is also a soft reboot. It doesn’t necessarily ignore that the terrible first film exists, it just buries it and moves on. But as awesome as this turned out, for the most part, the damage from the first picture was so severe that this Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis action extravaganza couldn’t save the G.I. Joe franchise on the big screen.

That being said, it still isn’t a perfect G.I. Joe film but it felt like a good bridge between the shit this crawled out of and the great movie that could have followed, based off of what this picture set up for a future story.

To start, Dwayne Johnson was genius casting and this should have been the perfect franchise for him to lead. While he isn’t exactly who I would’ve envisioned for Roadblock, he definitely filled the shoes of leadership after Duke presumably died and General Hawk also presumably died or went on vacation somewhere.

Other than Duke and Snake Eyes, there aren’t any other G.I. Joe members from the first movie present. I’d like to think that maybe some of them would’ve been back in a third film, as none of the actors were necessarily bad, it was just the first movie that was a massive pile of shit.

The film does bring back Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow and Zartan on the Cobra side of the equation and we do get a brief glimpse of Destro but he’s essentially left out of the main plot, in what I would presume means that he would’ve been back in a third film with his Iron Grenadiers in an effort to start a Cobra Civil War, which was a great event in two different G.I. Joe comic book series.

While I could speculate on what the future of this franchise could have been for quite awhile, this is a review of this film and not a wish list for a movie that will never happen.

So getting back to the film, it flows nicely and I like that it was kept pretty grounded and didn’t try to overdo things like its predecessor that tried to be more like Iron Man and Transformers than G.I. Joe.

My only real complaints about the film are the same that I have with most modern big budget blockbusters of recent years. The musical scores are dull and not memorable or iconic, the fight scenes are hard to follow due to super fast edits and shaky cams, and the film’s visual look is boring, sterile and generic. These are all things that could’ve been easily tweaked and would have made this a much better picture.

Now I mostly like the story, other than I’m tired of killer satellites as weapons of mass destruction. This is a trope that has been done to death more times than a beaver has built a dam. Although, I will give the writers props on coming up with a fairly original version of a killer satellite.

Unlike the first movie, I loved the look of the characters, especially Cobra Commander. I don’t know what the fuck he was supposed to be in the first film but he looked like Doctor Satan from House of 1000 Corpses trying to cosplay as Glacier from World Championship Wrestling in the ’90s. Now Cobra Commander looks right. In fact, by the end of the film, he looked fucking perfect.

They also refined the look of Snake Eyes and got rid of his weird rubber lips while making Storm Shadow look more badass. Plus, the introduction of Firefly was great, he looked great and he was played by Ray Stevenson, who is pretty damn great in everything. I was kind of pissed that he got killed but this is a comic book movie and they could easily bring him back if they made a third picture.

For an old school G.I. Joe fan, this is a movie that just felt right. Especially, after the first one was a massive misfire that insulted the fans and confused the normies. It gave me hope because it showed that Hasbro and the studio listened to the fans’ criticisms of the first movie. Less than ten years later, studios just blame fans as being “toxic” while dismissing their criticisms because apparently fans are idiots and studios are run by geniuses that think that failure somehow means success.

In the end, I wish that this would’ve done better and that it would’ve kept the G.I. Joe franchise on the big screen for years to come. Granted, this could’ve easily just gone the route of Transformers and gone right back to being an embarrassing piece of shit.

I guess we’ll never know.

But I also guess we’ll see how Hasbro and the studio handles the material once it is rebooted. Rumor has it that G.I. Joe will be part of a larger connected universe with Transformers, M.A.S.K. and other toy franchises but fuck all that. I just want them to make a good, consistent G.I. Joe movie series before they try to go too big and ruin the whole thing for another generation.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the early days of the original Marvel Comics run, as well as the first two seasons of the ’80s G.I. Joe cartoon.

Film Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Also known as: T3 (promotional abbreviation), York Square (fake working title)
Release Date: June 30th, 2003 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris, Tedi Sarafian
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, Earl Boen, M.C. Gainey, Chris Hardwick, Matt Gerald

Intermedia Films, IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3. Produktions KG, C-2 Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“[raises palm to cashier] Talk to the hand.” – Terminator

I saw this the night it came out, back in 2003. It was a massive disappointment and thus, I’ve never gone back and watched it again until now. But this film is really where the Terminator franchise completely went off the rails and honestly, it has never recovered, except for the too brief television show that ended on a cliffhanger.

Out of all the sequels, I think that this one is the worst. Genisys actually had a worse story but Schwarzenegger was really enjoyable in that one and kind of saved it from being complete and utter shit. In this one, however, his humor and attempts at one-liners are so fucking cringe that it drags a somewhat better story way down into the mud.

For positives, I think there’s really just one: Nick Stahl. I’m not sure what the critical and fan consensus is on his performance as John Connor (I’d assume it’s not good) but I actually thought he did fairly well for having a terrible script to work with and being a last minute replacement for Edward Furlong, who couldn’t return due to his drug abuse issues at the time.

Beyond that, Claire Danes is terrible in this and Kristanna Loken looked great but was so boring she pulls you out of the film.

One could say, “Well, Robert Patrick wasn’t exciting in T2.” But those people would be wrong. Just because an actor has to play an emotional robot of a character, doesn’t mean that they have to be a generic blank slate, tilting their head like a dog that heard a high pitch sound. Patrick in T2 and Schwarzenegger in T1 both knew how to move and how to act in order to come across as a soulless predator. It was in their body language, their facial expressions and the way they hunted their targets. To be fair, I don’t necessarily blame Loken, I blame the director for not seeing this and fine tuning her performance to live up to the standard set before her.

While I like the idea that Armageddon is inevitable, as this film strongly implies throughout the entirety of its story, I want to know why. It never tells us why. It just has Schwarzenegger randomly say, “You just delayed Armageddon; Armageddon is inevitable.” Well, why does he say that or think that? What does he know that makes this a fact? There’s a story there that could’ve enriched the bigger picture here but it’s just a repeated throwaway line that we just have to accept and go, “M’kay, sure… that makes sense.”

The most important thing working against this film isn’t any of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, it’s the fact that this is just really fucking boring. It doesn’t matter that the Terminator uses one-liners that were already out of date by 2003 or that the Loken Terminator doesn’t make a lot of sense and she’s overpowered for the sake of being overpowered. This is just a dreadfully boring piece of shit.

It’s not competent, it feels incredibly generic and there’s nothing in the film that is memorable. There’s no great action sequence that you will care to remember like many of the great sequences from the first two films. I guess the biggest one I remember is the car chase with the crane truck and remote control police cars but I was more annoyed by it than impressed.

The whole film felt as soulless as Loken’s Terminator.

But at least it’s less than two hours.

Side note: I thought the closing moments in the underground bunker were actually kind of good and somewhat chilling.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other shitty Terminator movies that followed.

Film Review: Rampage (2018)

Release Date: April 4th, 2018 (Microsoft Theater premiere)
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Written by: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel
Based on: Rampage by Midway Games
Music by: Andrew Lockington
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Marley Shelton, Matt Gerald

New Line Cinema, Flynn Picture Company, Rickard Pictures, Seven Bucks Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes

Review:

“Like my grandpappy always said, ‘Us assholes gotta stick together.'” – Harvey Russell

I wasn’t sure what to think going into this film. I am a massive fan of kaiju movies and I was a big fan of the Rampage video game when I was dropping quarters into it on the reg back in the ’80s. However, the game didn’t have a plot, really. It was just about playing as one of three monsters: a gorilla, a werewolf or a lizard. The only real purpose was to cause as much destruction as you possibly could: punching buildings into rubble and eating people hanging out of windows.

The film’s story actually did a decent job of explaining the creation of these giant creatures and their physics defying abilities.

For the most part, I really liked this movie. It was ridiculous in the best way possible and a ton of friggin’ fun. This is what a blockbuster should be. It doesn’t have to be scientifically accurate or attempt to be overly serious, it can be a balls to the wall smash’em up festival. And while that formula has worn thin and I’ve been critical of it in the past (*cough, cough Man of Steel), when done right and with an organic purpose, it can still work. It works here.

From a storyline standpoint, this is more engaging than the first Pacific Rim movie. I liked the plot of the second Pacific Rim much better, by the way. Rampage just does a good job with its human characters and also really makes you feel for George, the Rock’s large albino gorilla friend who turns into a menace, only to be cured of his aggression and turn into a hero that teams up with the Rock in taking down the other two monsters: the giant wolf and the giant alligator.

I also love the cast. The Rock, who prefers to just be Dwayne Johnson now but is and will always be The Rock to me, leads the charge but is backed up by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Joe Manganiello and Marley Shelton, the last two being in small roles, unfortunately.

But with The Rock, Morgan and Manganiello together in the same film, there is a testosterone overload that matches the beastly intensity of the three actual beasts in the film. I also loved Malin Akerman as a villainous corporate bitch in this. She was perfect, cold and still looking damn fine. In fact, having her and Morgan in this makes the film a mini Watchmen reunion.

I also really liked the Easter egg of having the old Rampage arcade game in Akerman’s office.

There are some goofy things about the movie. Okay, “some” is an understatement. However, it works for a movie with giant monsters tearing up Chicago and literally toppling the Sears Tower. I’m not going to get nitpicky and bitch too hard but sometimes the dialogue was forced and felt unnatural but this was usually in the moments where The Rock was yelling at green screen. There just seemed to be a disconnect at times, which isn’t the actor’s fault but for some reason certain bits felt off.

The creatures and their physical embellishments all worked for me and the special effects used to bring them to life was well done. I also like that they didn’t make the monsters too big like the Pacific Rim kaiju or the modern versions of Godzilla. The monsters don’t have to tower over the largest buildings, they just need to tower over the humans running away and the military might that confronts them.

Rampage isn’t a great motion picture in the terms of being cinematic art or something that the Academy would see as worthy of their consideration outside of special effects. However, it is a solid popcorn movie. Especially for those of us who can’t get enough modern kaiju films.

And if you are wondering if there is a scene where a monster eats a lady like in the video game, well… you won’t be disappointed. And frankly, it’s an awesome f’n moment.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The 2014 Godzilla remake, Kong: Skull Island and the Pacific Rim movies.

Film Review: Bright (2017)

Release Date: December 13th, 2017 (Regency Village Theater)
Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: Max Landis
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Ike Barinholtz, Margaret Cho, Brad William Henke, Kenneth Choi, Matt Gerald

Overbrook Entertainment, Trigger Warning Entertainment, Grand Electric, Netflix, 118 Minutes

Review:

“This is like a nuclear weapon that grants wishes.” – Nick Jakoby

Any film where Will Smith is the chosen one, is probably guaranteed to suck. But then Netflix original movies are the modern version of direct-to-video schlock. At least, that seems to be the trend over the last year or so.

Also, I’m going to have to be brutally honest with this review because David Ayer is a shit filmmaker. Between this and Suicide Squad, I’d prefer it if the guy just stayed away from a camera unless he’s taking selfies for his profile on Tinder. Then again, I really don’t give a crap about his Tinder or his movies, at this point.

There is one sole bright spot in this entire film and that is the performance of Joel Edgerton. Sadly, he had to play opposite of Smith, who can be a good actor at times but whose hokiness and cheesy delivery can be confusing in a role that requires more grittiness and a hefty helping of testosterone. Smith plays his role like this is Bad Boys III and even when he gets a bit of a harder edge, he’s always got that awful one liner that drags the movie down a few notches.

I don’t blame Smith per se, I blame Ayer for not knowing better. It was his job to dictate the tone of the film and thus, Smith’s execution of the character. Maybe Max Landis’ script was just hard to work with. While it showed promise and had some interesting ideas, the dialogue was mostly terrible, the metaphors for race relations were one dimensional and overall, it was incredibly derivative for something that really should have felt fresh and original. In fact, it mostly just played out like Training Day and End of Watch, two of Ayer’s better films. But really, I think Ayer can only make one kind of film and this is it. It just happens to have orcs and elves thrown in.

Bright is poorly executed in just about every way. It should have been cool and unique but it wasn’t. I guess Netflix already wants to pump out sequels, showing that they don’t really give a shit about the quality of their product anymore. They just need to make as much product as possible to justify rising subscription costs and a mass loss of content that they didn’t create. I’m pretty close to cancelling my subscription, actually.

Bright really is friggin’ terrible. That being said, it has to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. And the results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 3.75/10

TV Review: Daredevil (2015-2018)

Original Run: April 10th, 2015 – current
Created by: Drew Goddard
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Daredevil by Stan Lee, Bill Everett
Music by: John Paesano, Braden Kimball
Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Scott Glenn, Élodie Yung, Stephen Rider, Joanne Whalley, Matt Gerald

ABC Studios, Marvel, DeKnight Productions, Goddard Textiles, Netflix, 26 Episodes (so far), 48-61 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

If you haven’t watched Daredevil at some point over the last week, you have been severely missing out.

Marvel, now teaming up with Netflix, has given hardcore old school comic book fans a television show that they deserve. Being that it is on Netflix and not ABC or some other network, Daredevil has a lot of creative freedom. It also isn’t catered to the younger viewer, which can often times be a pretty tedious and annoying factor in regards to Marvel’s other live-action outings. What we’ve got is something very close to the source material and as dark as the stellar Frank Miller stories were in the early 80s. What we don’t have is a two-plus hour toy commercial accented by Tony Stark witticisms. For the record, I like Tony Stark witticisms but this isn’t the place for them.

Now I am not going to completely fan boy out like most of the people praising this show. It isn’t perfect and could improve in various areas but it is one of the best Marvel adaptations of all-time.

The positives are pretty abundant though.

To start, the tone of the show is perfect. The lighting is amazing, as it conveys the same color palette as the comic book from its most iconic runs. The cast, for the most part, is perfect. And the evolution of Daredevil throughout the first season of this series is very well done. We don’t have a hero that immediately kicks ass and looks invincible. We have a normal guy who is generally a bad ass but still gets his head kicked in a lot. The show just feels more real and more organic than any other live-action comic book property ever has and that in and of itself is a great feat.

The show also benefits by the fact that it isn’t stuffed full of characters and villains. The only real major Daredevil villains that even appear are Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) and Leland Owlsley (a.k.a. the Owl). Kudos on the producers for holding off on Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, Elektra, Mr. Fear and the rest.

Although, the amount of time focusing on the inevitable confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk is pretty drawn out. The pace of the show is a bit slow and lacking energy in areas. I feel like the bulk of everything important could have been covered in six-to-eight episodes. What we’ve got instead is thirteen episodes with too much filler material.

The one performance that I question is Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk. It isn’t bad but there are times where his voice is odd and out of place. I get that the character is written as a sort of fucked up kid turned “kingpin” but at this stage of his life, he should be more sure of himself and confident in his abilities. And I am not saying that he isn’t confident but his bizarre tone just seems out of whack for what the character needs to be. The Kingpin is not some emo child in a fat suit, he is an exacting, ruthless and very motivated evil genius that isn’t intimidated by anything. Maybe that makes him one dimensional but I’d rather have a caricature of pure evil than what we have with this character on the show. Besides, the comic book version of Kingpin has been fleshed out so well over the years that there is a lot to work with without some new and unnecessary spin on the character.

Daredevil is fantastic though. It is worth your time and as an avid reader of Daredevil in the comics, I think that this show truly hits the mark. It can be improved upon but it is a step above everything else Marvel has done thus far.

Rating: 8.25/10