Showing posts with label Action. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Action. Show all posts

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Review: "DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES" Goes Ape Sh*t

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 21 of 2024 (No. 1965) by Leroy Douresseaux

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Running time:  130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language
DIRECTOR:  Matt Reeves
WRITERS:  Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (based upon characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver)
PRODUCERS:  Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Michael Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  William Hoy and Stan Salfas
COMPOSER:  Michael Giacchino
Academy Award nominee

SCI-FI/ACTION/DRAMA/THRILLER

Starring:  Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Toby Kebbell, Nick Thurston, Karin Konoval, and Judy Greer

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a 2014 American science fiction-thriller, action, and drama film directed by Matt Reeves.  It is a direct sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and is also the second installment in the Planet of the Apes reboot film series.

It is the eighth entry in the overall Planet of the Apes film series, which began as an adaptation of the 1963 French science fiction novel, La planète des singes, by Pierre Boulle.  In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, apes and humans are thrown together for the first time in years, and a fragile peace is threatened by mistrust and betrayal.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens ten years after the birth of “The Simian Flu” pandemic (as seen in Rise of the Planet of the Apes).  Deadly to humans, the flu has reduced the worldwide human population, and only 1 in 500 humans (.20 percent) are genetically immune to it.  Human civilization has been destroyed after societal collapse.

There was a large group of apes that were all bestowed with genetically enhanced intelligence by the virus.  They established a colony in the Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco.  Their leader is the chimpanzee, Caesar (Andy Serkis), who protects the colony with his lieutenants.  Among them is the sinister and treacherous bonobo, Koba (Toby Kebbell).

One day, for the first time in years, apes and humans meet.  A group of humans, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), unknowingly enters the apes' territory in search of a hydroelectric dam that could restore power to a rag tag human community living in the ruins of San Francisco.  As level-headed as Malcolm is, there are hotheads among the humans, like their leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), an ex-police officer.  Among the apes, Koba is the hothead, but a fragile peace develops between the two tribes.  However, mistrust and betrayal threaten to plunge both humans and apes in a terrible war for control of the San Francisco area and ultimately, for dominance over the Earth.

I have been a fan of the Planet of the Apes film ever since I saw the original film, Planet of the Apes (1968), back in the day when CBS broadcast it on a regular basis.  Its sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), thrilled and chilled me.  I also enjoyed Tim Burton's 2001 Planet of the Apes, a remake and re-imagining of the original film.

I was skeptical of Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it was first release, but I thoroughly enjoyed it when I first saw it.  I could not believe how exceptionally well made it was.  As we all prepare for the impending release of the franchise's latest film, 2024's Kingdom of the Planets of the Apes, I am going back to watch and review, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a really entertaining film.  Director Matt Reeves has spearheaded a pulpy, post-apocalyptic drama that thrives on inter-tribal conflict.  However, I don't think Dawn's drama is quite as substantive as its predecessor, mainly because this film focuses so much on the apes that, except for Malcolm, the film glosses over the human characters that have the most potential.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a true Planet of the Apes film.  The apes are more important, and the humans exist mainly to cause conflict among the apes.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes's drama was more grounded in reality, and its subplots mattered beyond being fuel to light the flames of conflict.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is very well made and is fun to watch.  Still, I feel like I'm waiting for a bigger and more important film.

7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, May 5, 2024


NOTES:
2015 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, and Erik Winquist)

2015 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination:  “Best Special Visual Effects” (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Erik Winquist, and Daniel Barrett)


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, March 29, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE" is Entertaining, Imaginative and Extraneous

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 of 2024 (No. 1962) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)
Running time: 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for creature violence and action
DIRECTOR:  Adam Wingard
WRITERS:  Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Jeremy Slater; from a story by Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Adam Wingard (based on characters owned by Toho Co., Ltd.)
PRODUCERS:  Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Josh Schaeffer
COMPOSERS:  Tom Holkenborg and Antonio Di Iorio

SCI-FI/FANTASY/ADVENTURE

Starring:  Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen, Rachel House, Ron Smyck, Chantelle Jamieson, Greg Hatton, and Kevin Copeland

SUMMARY OF THE REVIEW:

-- Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is as visually stunning as the two previous MonsterVerse series films, and the monster-fight action is awesome.

-- However, the story is not compelling, and the characters feel like props.  Thus, Godzilla x Kong is really for fans of the series.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a 2024 monster movie and science fiction-fantasy adventure film directed by Adam Wingard.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, this film is the fourth entry in the “MonsterVerse” film series, which began with Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire brings the two ancient titans together in order to fight an ancient, prophesied threat to the surface world.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire opens some time after the defeat of Mechagodzilla (as seen in Godzilla vs. Kong).  In the “Hollow Earth,” Kong is in the process of establishing his territory, which means defeating vicious predators.  Monarch has planted a base in Hollow Earth, Monarch Outpost One, in order to monitor Kong.  That outpost itself is monitored on the surface by a Monarch base in Barbados, which is where Kong expert and Monarch scientist, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), lives with her adopted daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last living member of Skull Island's indigenous tribe, the Iwi.

Jia is deaf and communicates with Kong via sign language.  She has begun experiencing dreams, flashbacks, and hallucinations that seem to be related to a signal emanating from somewhere in the Hollow Earth.  Godzilla, who has been romping across Europe is also sensing that signal, and the King of the Monsters is absorbing energy in preparation for some unknown, coming battle.

Kong explores a sinkhole near his home and discovers an uncharted region hidden within the Hollow Earth.  Exploring it, he finally encounters other giant apes like himself, including an adolescent giant ape.  However, these giant apes are aggressive and apparently serve a mysterious alpha giant ape leader, and this leader controls something that not only endangers the Hollow Earth, but also the surface world.  Only Kong and Godzilla can end this threat, but will the Earth's two greatest Titans join forces or just try to kill each other, again?

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

In preparation for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, I watched and reviewed the previous four films in MonsterVerse series.  They are Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire has a hard act to follow in the previous film, Godzilla vs. Kong, and while the new film is entertaining, it never really establishes the stakes of the conflicts it depicts.  To me, the threat didn't really seem like it would lead to the end of the world.  Godzilla x Kong is loud and proud, a true monster movie built on sensations, muscular CGI, and visually stunning visual special effects.  Godzilla x Kong is big, bigger, BIG, and it probably should be seen on IMAX, but its story is no bigger than a mini-max.

Godzilla x Kong exists because Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Entertainment want it to exist as a product designed to make a lot of money now and to continue contributing to the MonsterVerse revenue stream for some time to come.  It's not that I did not enjoy Godzilla vs. Kong.  I laughed several times, and it did hold my attention.  It is probably the least dark film in the series, but it is also the least important.  Honestly, I think Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire director Adam Wingard made a much more compelling film with his 2011 feature, You're Next, which was made for .007 percent of Godzilla x Kong's budget.  [You're Next's screenplay was written by Wingard's frequent collaborator, writer Simon Barrett, who is also a co-writer on Godzilla x Kong.]

Another strange thing about this film is that the characters all feel unnecessary.  Kaylee Hottle's Jia is very important to Godzilla x Kong's narrative, but Jia often feels like a prop.  Dan Stevens' Trapper is a generic character, played by Stevens with generic verve.  I liked Brian Tyree Henry's Bernie Hayes in Godzilla vs. Kong, but here, he feels too frantic and forced.  I get that Hayes is comic relief, but has become too much comic relief.  Hayes is utterly wasted here – half chatterbox, half-on-the-edge-of-being-substantial.

I pushed Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire from my mind as soon as I got up from my seat in the theater.  Still, fans of the MonsterVerse films will likely really enjoy it.

B
6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA VS. KONG" Rocks 'n' Roars

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 of 2024 (No. 1961) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language
DIRECTOR:  Adam Wingard
WRITERS:  Terry Rossio and Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields; from a story by Max Borenstein and Eric Pearson (based on characters owned by Toho Co., Ltd.)
PRODUCERS:  Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Josh Schaeffer
COMPOSER:  Tom Holkenborg

SCI-FI/FANTASY/ADVENTURE

Starring:  Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Bryan Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Lance Reddick, Kaylee Hottle, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Ronny Chieng, Demian Bichir, and Kyle Chandler

Godzilla vs. Kong is a 2021 monster movie and science fiction-fantasy adventure film directed by Adam Wingard.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, this film is the fourth entry in the “MonsterVerse” film series, which began with Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla vs. Kong finally brings about the long awaited confrontation between Godzilla and Kong.

Godzilla vs. Kong opens three years after the dragon-like extraterrestrial King Ghidorah awakened the monstrous “Titans” around the world before being defeated by Godzilla.  On Skull Island, Monarch has imprisoned Kong within a game preserve that is covered by a giant dome where they monitor him.  Skull Island has been taken over by the storm that previously kept it hidden from the world.  Kong has befriended Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the island's last native human and the young adopted daughter of Kong expert, Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall).  Jia is deaf and communicates with Kong via sign language.

Across the world, at Apex Cybernetics in Pensacola, Florida, CEO Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) is up to something sinister, and that has drawn the attention of Godzilla, who reappears after three years and attacks the facility.  That doesn't stop Simmons, who travels to Denham University of Theoretical Science in Philadelphia, in order to recruit former Monarch scientist, Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), to lead a mission into the legendary “Hollow Earth,” which is Lind's area of expertise.  But the mission needs Kong, and that's where Ilene and her daughter, Jia, come in.

Meanwhile, Bernie Hayes (Bryan Tyree Henry), an Apex Cybernetics employee and a Titan conspiracy podcast host, is investigating Apex's activities.  Hayes finds a kindred spirit in Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), daughter of Monarch scientist, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), who is also suspicious of Apex.  With her friend, Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison), in tow, Millie joins Bernie on an adventure that will take them halfway across the world to where Apex is hiding its most sinister secret, one that is tied to the mission into the Hollow Earth and its secrets.

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

The fifth film in the MonsterVerse series, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, is due to be released March 29, 2023, so I have decided to watch and review the previous four films:  Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and 2021's Godzilla vs. Kong (which is the subject of this review).

Godzilla vs. Kong is, thus far, the best of the “MonsterVerse” films.  Each film is its own thing, although they are all monster movies.  Godzilla 2014 is a science fiction mystery film.  Kong: Skull Island is a lost world story, thoroughly wrapped in pseudo-science and weird fiction.  Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a VFX-slick, CGI-fuel-injected, modernized take on the original 1950s, Japanese Gojira/Godzilla films.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the monster movie as an old school science fiction-fantasy action-adventure film that has been all gussied up with CGI and dazzling, glowing, supernatural special effects.  I could feel the science fiction mood through Tom Holkenborg's score which reminded me of Daft Punk's glorious score for Tron: Legacy (2010).  Godzilla vs. Kong's “Hollow Earth” subplot is the film Fantastic Voyage (1966) wishes it could have been.  Godzilla vs. Kong is wall-to-wall adventure.  It is a sci-fi travelogue from one end of the Earth to the other, whether it is breathlessly racing from Florida to Hong Kong for a mecha showdown or plunging into a mind-bending journey inside the deepest reaches of the planet.

As for the confrontation between Godzilla and Kong: the first one in this film is an impossible battle that is a work of genius on the part of everyone involved.  What is more shocking is that the second confrontation, which occurs in the film's last act, is even better and even more eye-popping.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the ultimate monster showdown spectacle.  I was not able to turn away from it, and a day after seeing it, I'm still buzzing from it as I write this review.  Godzilla vs. Kong is peak “MonsterVerse,” and I pity the films in the series that come after it.

A
8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, March 27, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, March 22, 2024

Review: "GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE" is Lukewarm

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 of 2024 (No. 1960) by Leroy Douresseaux

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024)
Running time:  115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references
DIRECTOR:  Gil Kenan
WRITERS:  Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman (based on the film, Ghost Busters, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and directed by Ivan Reitman)
PRODUCERS:  Jason Reitman, Jason Blumenfeld, and Ivan Reitman
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Eric Steelberg
EDITORS:  Nathan Orloff and Shane Reid
COMPOSER:  Dario Marianelli

FANTASY/COMEDY/ACTION/MYSTERY

Starring:  Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Celeste O'Connor, Ernie Hudson, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Emily Alyn Lind, James Acaster, Dan Ackroyd, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Bill Murray

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a 2024 supernatural comedy, action and mystery film from director Gil Kenan.  It is the fifth entry in the Ghostbusters film franchise, and it is the third sequel to the original film, 1984's Ghost Busters (now known as “Ghostbusters”).  In Frozen Empire, the old and new Ghostbusters must take on an evil force unleashed from an ancient artifact.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire opens in New York City in 1904 where a group of fireman enters a hotel suite and finds an entire party frozen solid in the middle of an extremely hot summer.  In the present day, Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon) and her two children, son, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and daughter, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), have moved from Summerville, Oklahoma to New York City, with Phoebe's former summer school teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), in tow.  The four live in the old Ghostbusters' NYC firehouse that had been maintained by original Ghostbuster, Dr. Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson).

Now, Phoebe, Trevor, Callie, and Gary are the active Ghostbusters, but a particular Ghostbusting case leads to significant damage in the city.  That brings them to the attention of the mayor and leads to Phoebe being forced out of the Ghostbusters because she is underage at 15-years-old.  But the world of the supernatural does not stop because of the human world's concerns.

Original Ghostbuster, Dr. Raymond “Ray” Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), has come into possession of a peculiar artifact, which he turns over to Winston Zeddemore's top-secret research lab.  Meanwhile, Phoebe, sidelined as a Ghostbuster, is trying to find her place in the world of the Ghostbusters.  Then, Garraka, an ancient god, is freed.  He wants to gather all the ghosts ever captured by the Ghostbusters and turn them into his personal army as he brings about a new ice age.  Despite her troubles, Phoebe will have to figure out how to stop the ancient evil that is Garraka before it's too late.

I was a huge fan of the original Ghostbusters films, Ghostbusters (1984) and its sequel, Ghostbusters II (1989).  I enjoyed Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), and I thought that film's teen characters, siblings Phoebe and Trevor, and their friends, Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky Domingo (Celeste O'Connor), made a great foundation for the new Ghostbusters.

Thus, I was surprised to see Phoebe and Trevor playing Ghostbusters with the adults, their mother, Callie, and their quasi-stepfather, Gary.  Honestly, I find Carrie Coon's Callie and Paul Rudd's Gary to be extraneous here.  I have no interest in their characters beyond what they did in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  In fact, this film has too many characters.  Bill Murray's Dr. Peter Venkman, Annie Potts' Janine Melnitz, and William Atherton's Mayor Walter Peck are also mostly irrelevant.  Pretty much everything these characters do could have been passed off to other characters or deleted because it wasn't important enough to clutter up the narrative.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire spends much of its first half meandering around assorted relationship dysfunction, including one involving a ghost.  Then, the film rushes to a forced satisfactory conclusion that wastes a truly scary monster in Garraka.  I am glad that Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore has a substantial part in this film, especially because Hudson spent the first two films fighting off Columbia Pictures' executives and Ghostbusters cast mates who were determined to sideline his character.

As a franchise, Ghostbusters needs to move on from its past or just die.  The young characters:  Phoebe and Trevor Spengler, Podcast, and Lucky Domingo are the franchise's present and true future.  When this Ghostbusters film focuses on them, it feels alive and is fun.  When it doesn't, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is frozen and freezer-burned.

[This film has one mid-credits scene.]

5 out of 10
C+
★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, March 22, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, March 21, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS" Does Too Much

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 15 of 2024 (No. 1959) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Running time: 132 minutes (2 hours, 12 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language
DIRECTOR:  Michael Dougherty
WRITERS:  Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields; from a story by Max Borenstein and Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields (based on characters owned by Toho Co., Ltd.)
PRODUCERS:  Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Lawrence Sher (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Bob Ducsay, Roger Barton, and Richard Pearson
COMPOSER:  Bear McCreary

SCI-FI/ACTION/MILITARY

Starring:  Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., David Strathairn, Anthony Ramos, Elizabeth Faith Ludlow, CCH Pounder, and Joe Morton

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a 2019 monster movie and action film directed by Michael Dougherty.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, this film is the third entry in the “MonsterVerse” film series, which began with Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla: King of the Monsters pits the monster-monitoring agency, Monarch, against a legendary monster, and the only hope for the world is the missing Godzilla.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens five years after the events depicted in Godzilla (2014).  The world is now aware of the existence of giant monsters called “Titans.”  Monarch is the U.S. government agency that monitors and studies the Titans (which it once called “MUTOs” or “massive unidentified terrestrial organisms).  It has bases (bunkers) around the world where its scientists struggle to find a way in which humanity and the Titans can share the planet.

In a bunker located in the Rainforest of Xishuangbanna in China's Yunnan Province, Monarch scientist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) has developed a device, called “ORCA,” that can emit frequencies that can attract Titans or alter their behavior.  However, her research has attracted the attention of Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), a former British military officer turned eco-terrorist, who wants control of ORCA.  He kidnaps Emma and her daughter, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown).

Monarch scientists, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), approach Emma's estranged husband and Madison's father, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), to help track down Emma, Jonah, and ORCA.  However, Jonah has already forced Emma to use ORCA to awaken the legendary “Monster Zero,” the three-headed dragon known as King Ghidorah.  Now, Serizawa must convince the U.S. government and military that the only Titan capable of stopping Ghidorah is “Gojira,” a.k.a. “Godzilla.”  But where is Godzilla?  Also, where do newly awakened Titans, “Mothra” and “Rodan,” stand in this battle royale of monsters?

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

The fifth film in the MonsterVerse series, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, is due to be released sometime in March 2023, so I have decided to watch and review the previous four films:  Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters (which is the subject of this review), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the ultimate giant monster smack-down.  With the wizardry of digital VFX and supernatural CGI, King of the Monsters is a monster mash infused with visual splendor.  This movie is non-stop action, practically from the start.  It is so much an action movie that if you could cut it, King of the Monsters would bleed fire and brimstone.  To add the craziness, each new monster reveal is mind-blowing and even mind-bending...

...but after about 75 minutes, Godzilla: King of the Monsters wore me down.  The writers and actors have fashioned a cast that has almost twenty characters with dramatic potential.  The Russell family subplot about the loss the son, Andrew, is only used to sell dysfunctional family contrivances, which is a shame.  The monster movie theatrics get bigger and bigger with each minute of this story, but the drama and story shrink with each minute until they are flimsy like wet toilet paper.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is as exciting as any other blockbuster.  Few, if any, monster movies will ever be as epic as it is when it comes to big monster fights.  Few monster movies will ever be as gorgeous as it is in terms of cinematography, special effects, production values, and visuals.  This is “cinema of sensations” writ large and out of control, and that's a shame.  Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a monster of a movie, but I wish its human element was just as awesome.

[This film has one scene after the end credits.]

B
6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, March 21, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

---------------------------




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Amazon wants me to inform/remind you that any affiliate links found on this page are PAID ADS, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on affiliate links like this, MOVIES PAGE, and BUY something(s).


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Review: "MEG 2: THE TRENCH" is Truly Megilicious

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 of 2024 (No. 1957) by Leroy Douresseaux

Meg 2: The Trench (2023)
Running time:  116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for action/violence, some bloody images, language and brief suggestive material
DIRECTOR:  Ben Wheatley
WRITERS:  Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber; from a screen story by Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber (based on the novel by Steve Alten)
PRODUCERS:  Belle Avery and Lorenzo di Bonaventura
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Haris Zambarloukos (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Jonathan Amos
COMPOSER:  Harry Gregson-Williams

SCI-FI/HORROR/ACTION

Starring:  Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Cliff Curtis, Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris Mencheta, Skyler Samuels, Melissanthi Mahut, Whoopie Van Raam, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Felix Mayr, Ivy Tsui, and Sienna Guillory

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SUMMARY OF THE REVIEW:

Meg 2: The Trench offers the same fun as the original film, The Meg (2018), but with all new monsters, villains, and action.

Jason Statham's Jonas Taylor does not dominate the new film as he did in the first, but Statham is still at his action-movie best.

I like Meg 2: The Trench enough that I want a third film... as soon as possible.

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Meg 2: The Trench is a 2023 science fiction, horror, and action film directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Jason Statham.  The movie is a direct sequel to the 2018 film, The MegMeg 2: The Trench finds a research team fending off giant sharks and also the murderous criminals behind a malevolent mining operation in some of the greatest depths of “the Trench.”

Meg 2: The Trench opens several years after the events of the first film.  Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), the diver who specializes in deep sea search and rescue, has been involved in fighting environmental crimes on the ocean.  He is also helping the underwater research facility, Mana One, in exploring a further deep part of the Mariana Trench where the Megalodon of the original film was discovered.

Following the death of Suyin Zhang (which is not show onscreen), Jonas has been raising her teenage daughter, now 14-year-old Meiying (Sophia Cai), alongside her uncle and Suyin's brother, Jiuming Zhang (Jing Wu).  Jiuming has acquired his father's company, X-Pletandum Technologies, alongside wealthy financier, Hillary Driscoll (Sienna Guillory).  Jiuming has also been studying an 80 ft (24 m) female Meg called Haiqi, who was discovered as a pup and trained by Jiuming, but who has been acting erratically of late.

Jonas returns to Mana One where he and the survivors of the first Meg disaster, Mac (Cliff Curtis), Mana One operations manager, and DJ (Page Kennedy), a Mana One engineer, join Jiuming's latest project.  He wants to explore more of the Mariana Trench, unaware that here are more Megs and also now human danger with which to contend.  Can Jonas save the day, again?

The first film, The Meg, is loosely based on Steve Alten's 1997 novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror.  Meg 2: The Trench is based on Alten's 1999 novel, The Trench, one of six sequels to the original novel, with a seventh due in 2024 or 2025.  I have enjoyed the two films so much that I am considering reading, at least, some of the novels.

I gave The Meg a grade of “C+,” but in the years since I first saw it, I have come to love it.  It is one of my favorite films, and now I would give it a “B+.”  Meg 2: The Trench starts off slowly, but the film really kicks into gear when the story returns to Mana One, the central setting of the first film.  The Trench is not a retread, as most of the action set pieces are new.  There are a few references to the first film, but the writers of the original film return to offer new jump-scares, new monsters, and an added number of awful humans.

Meg 2: The Trench gives Jason Statham's Jonas Taylor the chance to show off his martial art fighting skills, which he did not do in the first film.  In fact, one of the other returning characters gets to kick some butt, and the sequel actually gives several characters their own set pieces so that they can shine.

Meg 2 isn't great cinema, but it is a great time at the movies.  It is upgraded, campy monster movie fun that will have you swept up, dear readers, if you are willing to be swept up.  I had a blast watching it, and I heartily recommend it to fans of the first film.  Meg 2: The Trench makes me hope we get to see more Megs and more Trench in a third film.

B+
7 out of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, February 10, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA" 2014 is Still Awesome

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 7 of 2024 (No. 1951) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla (2014)
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, three minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
DIRECTOR:  Gareth Edwards
WRITERS:  Max Borenstein; from a story by Dave Callaham
PRODUCERS:  Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Seamus McGarvey (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Bob Ducsay
COMPOSER:  Alexandre Desplat

SCI-FI/ACTION/MILITARY/THRILLER

Starring:  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Carson Bolde, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Richard T. Jones, and Victor Rasuk

Godzilla is a 2014 science fiction-monster film and military thriller directed by Gareth Edwards.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, the movie was the first in the “MonsterVerse” film series, and it is a reboot of Toho Co., Ltd.'s Godzilla film franchise.  Godzilla 2014 focuses on the reappearance of monstrous creatures that have the power to destroy human civilization, but one of them may be humanity's only hope for survival.

Godzilla opens in 1999Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), two scientists from “Project Monarch,” are investigating the skeleton of a monstrous creature that was unearthed in the Philippines.  Meanwhile, in Janjira, Japan, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), the supervisor at the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant, prepares for another day of work with his wife, Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche).  Something odd has been happening in and around the power plant, and before the day is over, the plant will collapse due to what seems to be an earthquake.  It is an incident that will leave Joe Brody broken and haunted.

Fifteen years later, Lt. Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a U.S. Navy EOD officer (United States Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal).  The son of Joe and Sandra, Ford has moved on with his life and is now on-leave in San Francisco with his wife, Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen), a nurse, and their son, Sam (Carson Bolde).  However, Ford is forced to return to Japan when he learns that his father has been detained for trespassing in Janjira's quarantine zone (Q zone).  Joe is determined to find the cause of the meltdown 15 years ago at the Janjira power plant.  Ford thinks his father is crazy and does not believe anything he tells him.

However, what Ford is about to witness will introduce him to the world of the MUTO (massive unidentified terrestrial organism).  One such MUTO has the power to disrupt human civilization by emitting an intense electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and now, it's headed for the United States.  Monarch's Dr. Serizawa believes that the only thing that can stop the MUTO is an ancient alpha predator he calls “Gojira.”  But Gojira is also a MUTO...

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

The fifth film in the MonsterVerse series, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, is due to be released sometime in March, so I have decided to watch and review the previous four films:  Godzilla (which is the subject of this review), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).  I have previously seen Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, but I have not previously reviewed them.

I watched parts of Godzilla 2014 more times than I can remember over the last decade.  It is a fascinating American “kaiju” film.  “Kaiju” is a Japanese sub-genre of science fiction that features giants monsters, and the term can also be used to refer to the giant monsters themselves.  Godzilla 2014 is very well directed by Englishmen, Gareth Edwards, who first came to notice because of his excellent 2010 film, Monsters, and later gained notoriety as the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).  Edwards is a natural when it comes to big monsters and big monster conspiracies and threats.

The film includes some good performances, although Bryan Cranston is the real standout with his intense, heartbreaking turn as Joe Brody.  Elisabeth Olsen as Elle Brody is sidelined and wasted, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson gamely plays Lt. Ford Brody as the film's ostensible lead, who is more dragged along by the film's action than leading it.

What makes this modern Godzilla film exceptional to me is the work of the technicians, artisans, and crew that don't always get credit for making a film work.  Godzilla's camera work, the lighting, the film editing, the film score, the visual effects, the sound editing and mixing combine to create a film that is successful in what it conveys.  What this film is pushing to us is a deep and abiding sense of mystery.  It is in the shadows that hides the monsters and incredible battles.  It is in the mood altering and heartbeat pacing score by the great Alexandre Desplat.

The mystery is in the sound and in the silence.  It is in the flitting light and frequent flares and in the subtle film editing that hides itself while controlling the film's pace and mood.  Godzilla's technical skill is the art of cinematic craftsmanship coming together, and that is best exemplified in the beautiful, breathtaking “Halo drop” sequence.

Godzilla's sense of mystery keeps the film from coming across like lowbrow, popcorn entertainment, which was the fate of director Roland Emmerich's 1998 film, Godzilla.  Godzilla 2014's characters are in the dark almost as much as the audience is.  By maintaining a sense of mystery, the film's narrative could convince me that humanity may be on the precipice of extinction, and it did.  I highly recommend the MonsterVerse Godzilla, and I'll keep watching it.

A
8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Saturday, February 10, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Review: Prime Video's "ROLE PLAY" Offers an Odd Couple

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 of 2024 (No. 1948) by Leroy Douresseaux

Role Play (2024)
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Thomas Vincent
WRITER:  Seth Owen
PRODUCERS:  Kaley Cuoco, Alex Heinenman, and Andrew Rona
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Maxime Alexandre (ASC)
EDITOR:  Gareth C. Scales
COMPOSER:  Rael Jones

ACTION/THRILLER/COMEDY

Starring:  Kaley Cuoco, David Oyelowo, Connie Nielsen, Rudi Dharmalingam, Lucia Aliu, Regan Bryan-Gudgeon, Jade-Eleena Dregorius, Stephanie Levi-John, and Bill Nighy

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SUMMARY OF THE REVIEW:

--Role Play is somewhat similar to the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), which was a big-budget action-comedy.  Role Play is a smaller scale action-thriller with darker, edgier humor.

--Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo are an odd pairing, and for at least half of this film, they seem miscast in their roles.

--Role Play is an average, entertaining film that is better suited for Prime Video than it is for the big screens of a local movie theater.  Still, the last half hour of the film really intensifies.

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Role Play is a 2024 action-thriller and black comedy film from director Thomas Vincent.  The film is an Amazon “Prime Original” that began streaming on “Prime Video” January 12, 2024.  Role Play focuses on an assassin whose secret life intrudes on her life as a suburban wife and mother.

Role Play introduces Emma Brackett (Kaley Cuoco).  She is married to Dave Brackett (David Oyelowo) and is now the mother to his son from his first marriage, Wyatt (Regan Bryan-Gudgeon), and is mother to the daughter, Caroline (Lucia Aliu), she had with Dave.  Emma and Dave have been married seven years and are living in New Jersey.  But Emma has forgotten their anniversary because she was busy overseas killing someone and not in Nebraska, as she told her husband.

To make up for forgetting their anniversary, Emma suggests that they spice things up by engaging in some romantic role play at “the Royal Grand” hotel in New York City.  The fun, however, is interrupted by Robert “Bob” Kitterman (Bill Nighy), who is actually a rival assassin out to claim a bounty placed on Emma by her former agency, Sovereign.  Emma is forced to reveal her real self – Anna Peller, professional killer.  Now, her past has returned to reclaim her.

Dear readers, as soon as you read Role Play's synopsis, you will likely think of the hit 2005 film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  Directed by Doug Liman, the action-comedy film stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  They play a bored upper middle class couple, but both are actually assassins working for competing agencies.  One day, they are assigned to kill each other.

Role Play is described as an action-comedy, but it is truthfully an action-thriller and dark comedy.  The film does have a comic undertone; there are some genuinely funny moments; and the film's musical score by Rael Jones is action-comedy pitch perfect.  Role Play, however, features several violent fight scenes and brutal killings, in addition to its offbeat sensibility.

One reason is the casting.  Kaley Cuoco is best known for playing the role of “Penny” on CBS's long-running, former sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory” (2007-19).  I found it a little difficult to picture her as an assassin or professional killer.  David Oyelowo is known for his serious dramatic roles in such films as Red Tails (2012) and Selma (2014), as well as for his role in the recent Paramount+ Western television miniseries, Lawmen: Bass Reeves (2023).  For about the first hour of the film, I did not find him convincing as the clueless suburban husband.

However, once Anna Peller's cover as Emma is blown, Cuoco is forced to give it her all trying to convince the audience that she is a killer, and suddenly sitcom Penny seems quite dark, indeed.  Also, it is then that Oyelowo can drop the hubby routine and become the spousal partner-in-crime.  In the last half hour to 40 minutes of the film, Emma and Dave actually become funnier characters.  Then, Role Play takes on its action-thriller aspects with gusto.

Director Thomas Vincent makes the most of the film's more intense moments, giving Seth Owen's screenplay, which probably had more juice on the printed page, a jolt.  Role Play is the kind of easy-going film that could not make it as a theatrical release, but it makes for an entertaining streaming film, especially once the leads really start to... play their roles.

B-
5 of 10
★★½ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, January 31, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Review: "PREY" is the Best "Predator" Sequel to Date

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 55 of 2023 (No. 1944) by Leroy Douresseaux

Prey (2022)
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong bloody violence
DIRECTOR: Dan Trachtenberg
WRITERS: Patrick Aison; from a story by Patrick Aison and Dan Trachtenberg (based on the characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas)
PRODUCERS: John Davis, Marty Ewing, and Jhane Myers,
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeff Cutter (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Claudia Castello and Angela M. Catanzaro
COMPOSER: Sarah Schachner

SCI-FI/THRILLER

Starring:  Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush, Julian Black Antelope, Stefany Mathias, Bennett Taylor, and Mike Paterson

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REVIEW SUMMARY:
--Prey is by far the best Predator sequel, and it is one of 2022's best films.

--The Canadian landscape where this movie was filmed is an equal character in the story while offering magnificent vistas and breathtaking beauty.

--The first half of the film is a tense suspense thriller that builds a sense of mystery similar to that of the original Predator film.

--The second half of the film is an explosion of brutal violence and heart-stopping duels that leads to a showstopping finale.  I highly-recommend it.
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Prey is a 2022 science fiction thriller film directed by Dan Trachtenberg.  It is the fifth film in the main Predator film franchise, which began with the 1987 film, Predator, and the seventh in the overall franchise (when the “AvP” films are counted).  Prey is a prequel to the four main Predator movies, and it is a direct-to-streaming film that was released as a “Hulu original film.”  Prey is set in the early 18th century and pits a young Comanche woman who wants to prove that she is a warrior by taking on a mysterious creature that slaughters everything in its path.

Prey opens in the Northern Great Plains in September 1719Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche woman, has trained as a healer, but she wants to be a hunter like her older brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers).  To that end, Naru wants to embark on a “kühtaamia,” which requires her to hunt something that is hunting her.

While tracking deer, Naru witnesses strange lights in the sky, which she believes to be a “Thunderbird,” the legendary creature of Native American folklore.  However, the strange lights are actually an alien ship dropping a Predator (Dane DiLiegro), something her people have never encountered.  Now, Naru, Taabe, and their tribe's other hunters must take on a Predator that is the ultimate hunter.  If she cannot defeat the Predator, she will lose her life and her tribe will fall as well.

I have been interested in seeing Prey since I first heard about it, but I wasn't subscribing to Hulu when it debuted, nor do I currently subscribe to it.  However, my friend and collaborator, Carter Allen, an illustrator, concept designer, and comic book creator, sent me a copy of the 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray edition via Amazon.

Now, having seen it, I think it is a shame that Prey did not receive a theatrical release.  It's cinematography captures the beautiful vast forest locations outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where this movie was shot, in a way that should be seen on a big screen.  The landscape is an equal character in the film, even more so than it has been in previous Predator films.  Prey's director, Dan Trachtenberg, uses the landscape to make his film feel real and to have weight and depth and not come across as if it were some kind of action or video game fantasy.

Prey is the best sequel to 1987's Predator, easily surpassing what I think is the previous best sequel, 2010's Predators.  In some ways, the combatants in Prey seem more authentic and the action more visceral than in the first film.  The fights are brutal and up-close-and-personal.  Flesh is slashed and chopped into raw meat, and bodies are pierced, penetrated, and ruptured with artistic precision.  Heads are lopped off, and limbs aren't far behind.  The Predator of Prey does not kill from on high, shooting death rays as the original Predator did.  In Prey, the Predator moves in for the kill in a way that is similar to what Logan/Wolverine did to the mercenaries in the X-Men film, X2 (2003).  Also, the costume and creature design for Prey's Predator is as much horror movie killer as it is sci-fi monster. In some ways, he seems garbed as a super-villain.

Amber Midthunder as Naru and Dakota Beavers as Taabe give outstanding performances.  Their characters are well written, and Patrick Aison's script is ambitious enough to give the actors the opportunity to explore their characters, which they do.  Midthunder is mesmerizing and fierce as Naru, and she makes me care about her journey every step of the way.

I'm surprised.  Prey easily exceeded my expectations.  I hope that future Predator films are as ambitious as this one.  In the meantime, I pray for a sequel to Prey.

9 of 10
A+

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

You can buy a copy of the PREY Blu-ray at AMAZON.

Discover Carter Allen's latest graphic novel, Ectyron vs. Des Moines here.


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Review: First "MORTAL KOMBAT" Film Has Not Lost its Immortal Charm

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 50 of 2023 (No. 1939) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mortal Kombat (1995)
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for non-stop martial arts action and some violence
DIRECTOR:  Paul Anderson
WRITER:  Kevin Droney (based on the video game created by Ed Boon and John Tobias)
PRODUCER:  Lawrence Kasanoff
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  John R. Leonetti (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Martin Hunter
COMPOSER:  George S. Clinton

MARTIAL ARTS/ACTION

Starring:  Robin Shou, Christopher Lambert, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, Trevor Goddard, Chris Casamassa, Francois Petit, Keith H. Cooke, Steven Ho, Gregory McKinney, and the voices of Frank Welker, Ed Boon, and Kevin Michael Richardson

Mortal Kombat is a 1995 martial arts and action fantasy film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.  It is the first film in the Mortal Kombat film franchise, and is based on the video game series, Mortal Kombat, which began in 1992.  Mortal Kombat the movie focuses on three martial artists who find themselves entered into a martial arts tournament that will decide the fate of Earth.

Mortal Kombat opens in the dreams of Liu Kang (Robin Shou), a former Shaolin monk.  Kang dreams of the death of his brother, Chan (Steven Ho), at the hands of Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a powerful sorcerer.  Now, Kang is determined to avenge his brother's death, and to do this, his most enter the tournament, Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat is a martial arts tournament that is held once every generation between the representatives of the realms of Earth and Outworld .  There have been nine previous editions of the tournament, and the realm of Earth has lost all of them.  If the warriors of Earth lose this tenth tournament, the realm of Outworld and its Emperor will invade the realm of Earth.

Although Kang's former comrades in “the Order of Light” are reluctant to have him represent them in the tournament, Lord Rayden (Christopher Lambert), the god of thunder and defender of the realm of Earth, believes Kang is the right choice.  In addition to Kang, Rayden has chosen two other entrants, Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), a movie star who wants to prove that his martial arts skills are legitimate, and Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), an American special forces operative, who is hunting another entrant in Mortal Kombat.  That would be Kano (Trevor Goddard), a criminal allied with Shang Tsung.

Kang, Cage, and Blade travel to Shang Tsung's island where they meet Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto), the Emperor's adopted daughter, who wants to ally with the Earth warriors.  With its strange rules, Tsung's weird warriors, and lurking danger, Mortal Kombat will test the warriors from the realm of Earth to their limits.

I first saw Mortal Kombat when it was initially released to theaters in August 1995.  I liked the movie, but at the time, I was not overwhelmed by it.  I do remember it fondly because I saw it with coworker who was a fellow college student and also a dear friend for many years.  Since then, I have grown fond of Mortal Kombat, and I have wondered why over the years.

The Mortal Kombat video game and subsequent film adaptation are hugely influenced by the legendary Bruce Lee's classic 1973 martial arts film, Enter the Dragon.  There seems to be some kind of mental and dream time connection in my mind and imagination between this first Mortal Kombat film and Enter the Dragon, which is one of my all-time favorite films.  [However, I have only watched the 1997 sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, in its entirety once, and I have not seen the 2021 franchise reboot, Mortal Kombat.]

Mortal Kombat is by no means perfect.  Some of the dialogue is stiff, and is made stiffer by the actors' deliveries, especially in the case of Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade and Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage.  However, the two aren't always bad, and I find them rather likable.  Christopher Lambert is unfortunate as Lord Rayden, I'm sad to say; everything about his character is forced and contrived.  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is over the top and melodramatic as Shang Tsung, but I really dig his performance and his character.  I think there isn't enough of Tagawa's Shang Tsung.

The two best things about Mortal Kombat 1995 are Robin Shou as Liu Kang and the film's soundtrack.  Shou, an underutilized Hong Kong-born actor, is magnetic as Kang, and Shou is the one that makes the film more than just a standard martial arts/action-fantasy film.  Mortal Kombat also features The Immortals' single, “Techno-Syndrome,” with its signature yell of “Mortal Kombat!”  It lifts this movie any time a few strains of it are played, and the music certainly creates a sense of anticipation for me.

So Mortal Kombat is by no means a great film; it may even be a mediocre film.  For me, however, it seems to get better each time I watch it.  I think I hear the opening notes of “Techno-Sydrome” now.  “MORTAL KOMBAT!”

7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Monday, December 4, 2023


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Friday, November 10, 2023

Review: "THE MARVELS" is a Fun-Filled Marvel

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 49 of 2023 (No. 1938) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Marvels (2023)
Running time:  105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action/violence and brief language
DIRECTOR:  Nia DaCosta
WRITERS:  Nia DaCosta, Megan McDonnell, and Elissa Karasik
PRODUCER:  Kevin Feige
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Sean Bobbitt (BSC)
EDITORS:  Catrin Hedström and Evan Schiff
COMPOSER:  Laura Karpman

SUPERHERO/SCI-FI/ACTION with elements of comedy

Starring:  Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Gary Lewis, Park See-joon, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Leila Farzad, Abraham Popoola, Lashana Lynch, and Samuel L. Jackson, Tessa Thompson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Kelsey Grammer

REVIEW SUMMARY:
  • The Marvels is a direct sequel to the film, Captain Marvel (2019), and a continuation of the Disney+ miniseries, “Ms. Marvel” (2022).
  • The story brings Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel together to stop a Kree warrior named Dar-Benn from destroying several worlds in a bid to save the Kree home world, Hala.
  • The film is short and sweet and is also a quirky and weird science fiction superhero film that is similar in tone to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and to the Marvel film, Thor: Ragnarok (2017).
  • The Marvels' plot is a bit scattershot, but the fight and action scenes are highly energetic, resulting in a fun Marvel film full of likable characters.
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The Marvels is a 2023 superhero film directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Marvel Studios.  The film is the 33rd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and is also a direct sequel to 2019's Captain Marvel.  The Marvels is also a continuation of the Disney+/Marvel Studios television miniseries, "Ms. Marvel" (2022).

The film is headlined by the Marvel Comics character, Carol Danvers, who first appeared in the comic book, Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (cover dated: March 1968), and who later became Captain Marvel.  In The Marvels, Captain Marvel gets her powers entangled with two other similarly-powered individuals, forcing the trio to work together to save the universe.

The Marvels opens with a focus on Hala, the capital planet of the Kree Empire.  The collapse of the empire's “Supreme Intelligence” leads to a civil war among the Kree on their home world of Hala.  The result is that the planet is becoming barren as it loses its natural resources and its sun is rapidly going dark.  Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), the new leader of the Kree, retrieves one of two “Quantum Bands.”  She hopes to harness its power and to pair it with her staff, “the Universal Weapon,” as part of her scheme to save Hala.

On Earth, specifically in a home in Jersey City, New Jersey, teenager Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), who is also the superhero, “Ms. Marvel,” is dealing with teenage and family issues.  Kamala also happens to possess the other half of the Quantum Bands.

Meanwhile, above the Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), now residing at the S.A.B.E.R. space station, has detected a “jump point” (which allows for hyperspace travel) anomaly caused by Dar-Benn.  Nick Fury calls in Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), an astronaut who has the ability to manipulate all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, to investigate the jump point anomaly near S.A.B.E.R.

When Monica touches the jump point at the same time as Captain Marvel, it causes a reaction in which Monica, Carol, and Kamala switch places through teleportation.  Now, this reaction brings the three young women together in order to stop Dar-Benn from destroying several worlds in order to save her home world, Hala.  And Kamala thinks that she, Carol, and Monica can best do this as a team, a super-team she names “The Marvels.

In addition to being a sequel to the 2019 film, Captain Marvel, and being a continuation of the Ms. Marvel TV series, The Marvels includes story elements that appear in the Disney+ Marvel Studios miniseries, “WandaVision” (2021) and “Secret Invasion” (2023).  There are also elements from Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).  At this point, I wonder if watching Marvel movies means having to be familiar with what has happened in too many previous films and television series.  There is also a scene that runs in the middle of the end credits that references other movies based on Marvel Comics characters.

Still, I love The Marvels.  I have not subscribed to Disney+, and I only saw the fifth and sixth episodes of the Ms. Marvels miniseries when it was aired on the ABC broadcast network in early September (2023).  I love The Marvels because I can figure out what is going on without having seen everything else it references.  If I really want to know more, I can read Wikipedia summaries of the Disney+ series that I have not seen.

The Marvels is marvelously enjoyable.  It is a science fiction adventure comedy that makes a comedy of physical errors out of every fight.  It's more like Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) than it is like any other Marvel film.  Director Nia DaCosta and her co-writers take time to develop the relationship between Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel.  Also, giving so much time to Kamala family:  her mother, Muneeba Khan (Zenobia Shroff); her father, Yusuf Khan (Mohan Kapur); and her older brother, Aamir Khan (Saagar Shaikh), gives the film a human element that keeps the sci-fi, outer space weirdness of The Marvels from entirely taking over the narrative.  Yes, the plot is a bit scattershot, but The Marvels is kinetic and packs a lot energy in its fight and action scenes.

The Marvels also gives us a lighter, funnier side of Nick Fury, and, the delights of Goose, the cat-like “Flerken” alien is multiplied this time.  Dar-Benn turns out to be one of the more ruthless and interesting of the MCU's recent villains.  And if that isn't enough, The Marvels has one of the MCU's best (if not the best) extra credit scenes.  The Marvels is refreshingly short, and while it is more loose than cohesive, it does remind me of one thing.  Every trip to the world of Marvel Studios' films is an out of this world experience.

[The film includes one extra-credits scenes that takes place during the middle of the credits (mid-credits).]

A
8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, November 10, 2023


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Review: "ENTER THE DRAGON" and Bruce Lee Are Still Kicking Ass 50 Years Later

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 43 of 2023 (No. 1932) by Leroy Douresseaux

Enter the Dragon (1973)
Running time: 102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – R for martial arts violence and brief nudity
DIRECTOR:  Robert Clouse
WRITER:  Michael Allin
PRODUCERS:  Fred Weintraub, Raymond Chow, and Paul Heller
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Gilbert Hubbs (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Kurt Hirschler and George Watters
COMPOSER:  Lalo Schifrin

MARTIAL ARTS/ACTION

Starring:  Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri, Kien Shih, Bob Wall, Angela Mao, Betty Chung, Geoffrey Weeks, Marlene Clark, Peter Archer, Ho Lee Yan, and Bolo Yeung with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yeun Wah

Enter the Dragon is a 1973 martial arts and action film directed by Robert Clouse and starring Bruce Lee (1940-1973).  An international co-production between the United States and Hong Kong, the film debuted one month after Lee's death on July 20, 1973.  Thus, August 19, 1973 was the fiftieth anniversary of the film's American release.  Enter the Dragon focuses on a Shaolin martial artist who travels to an island fortress to compete in a martial arts tournament and to also spy on the tournament's benefactor, a mysterious drug lord.

Enter the Dragon opens on the grounds of a Shaolin temple and introduces Lee (Bruce Lee), a highly proficient martial artist, martial arts instructor, and Shaolin monk.  Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks), a British intelligence agent, approaches Lee about spying on a crime lord and drug kingpin named Han (Shih Kien).  Braithwaite convinces Lee to attend the high-profile martial arts tournament that Han is holding at his private island fortress.  Attending the tournament would be a good cover as Lee has already been invited.  Before he leaves for Han's island, Lee learns that the man who murdered his sister, Su-Lin (Betty Chung), is Oharra (Bob Wall), one of Han's bodyguards.

While traveling to the island, Lee meets two friends who have also been invited to the tournament.  Both are martial artists and Vietnam veterans.  They are Roper (John Saxon), a white man who is deep in debt because of gambling, and Williams (Jim Kelly), a black man with deep ties to the martial arts in his community.

Once on the island, Lee begins to gather evidence of Han's drug trafficking, but Han is no ordinary criminal.  His tournament is no ordinary martial arts tournament, and Lee, Roper, and Williams are about to discover just how dangerous Han and his tournament are. 

Enter the Dragon is considered one of the most influential action films of all time.  The film's success contributed to the mainstream worldwide interest in the martial arts, and it continues to inspire filmmakers and storytellers to this day.  In addition to film, the influence of Enter the Dragon can be seen in television productions, video games, comic books, and Japanese manga (comics) and anime (animation).  It revolutionized the way Asians, Asian-Americans, and even African-Americans are portrayed on screen, especially in action and martial arts films.  The film also had an impact on mixed martial arts (MMA), including on the clothes and uniforms that MMA fighters wear.

Enter the Dragon is obviously a huge influence on the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter video game franchises.  The original Mortal Kombat film, 1995's Mortal Kombat, borrows numerous story elements from Enter the Dragon, so much so that it would not be incorrect to call 1995 film a re-imagining of Enter the Dragon.

Obviously, Bruce Lee is magnetic in this film.  Decades after his passing and the arrival of this film, Lee still seems like a natural born movie star.  In this film, he is both subtle and graceful and over-the-top and explosive as needed, but yet he made space for the rest of the cast to shine.  John Saxon is both world-weary and witty as the underutilized Roper, and Jim Kelley, the first African-American martial arts film star, had enough screen time to turn this into his breakthrough role.

Rich in atmosphere, Enter the Dragon is at times odd and eccentric, and it would have been better served by another ten minutes of storytelling – at least.  However, those last twenty or so minutes of the film were like nothing ever seen in American films at the time, and today, still seem revolutionary.  Here, Lee is a coiled cobra, striking like lighting.  He is both time and lightning in a bottle, unleashing his energy while blowing the minds and expectations of the audience.  Fifty years after its original theatrical release, Enter the Dragon is ageless and timeless, and, while the earthly Bruce Lee is long since gone, the cinematic Bruce Lee is eternally youthful and alive and kicking.

10 of 10

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

You can buy a 50th anniversary 4K copy of ENTER THE DRAGON here at AMAZON.


NOTES:
2004 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Review: "JOHN WICK: Chapter 4" is Too Long, But Keanu is Still Hot

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 42 of 2023 (No. 1931) by Leroy Douresseaux

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)
Running time:  169 minutes (2 hours, 49 minutes)
MPA – R for pervasive strong violence and some language
DIRECTOR:  Chad Stahelski
WRITERS:  Shay Hatten and Michael Finch (based on characters created by Derek Kolstad)
PRODUCERS:  Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dan Lausten (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Nathan Orloff
COMPOSERS:  Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard

ACTION/THRILLER/CRIME

Starring:  Keanu Reeves, Bill Skarsgard, Donnie Yen, Shamier Anderson, Ian McShane, Clancy Brown, Marko Zaror, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Aimée Kwan, George Georgiou, and Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick

John Wick: Chapter 4 is a 2023 action and crime-thriller starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Chad Stahelski.  It is a direct sequel to 2019's John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and is the fourth film in the John Wick film series.  Chapter 4 finds John Wick facing off against a new enemy who has powerful alliances around the world and who can turn John's friends into John enemies.

John Wick: Chapter 4 finds the legendary assassin and hitman, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), hiding in the underground lair of the crime lord known as “The Bowery King” (Laurence Fishburne).  Wick prepares to unleash his revenge against the High Table (the entity that rules the assassins guild) and its current “Elder.”  In response, the High Table tasks one of its members, the Marquis Vincent Bisset de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), to kill John Wick.  The Table gives the Marquis unlimited resources to kill John, and the first thing he does is punish Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the New York Continental hotel, for failing to kill Wick.

The Marquis puts a twenty-million dollar bounty on John Wick's head, and then, enlists Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind, retired High Table assassin, to kill his Wick, who is an old friend of John's.  Despite all the Marquis' machinations, John Wick has devised a plan to defeat him and to be freed of the High Table.  To do that, John will need help from a number of erstwhile friends and allies and also from one strange new friend or enemy, The Tracker a.k.a. “Mr. Nobody” (Shamier Anderson), and his resourceful dog.

I have been a long time fan of actor Keanu Reeves.  I have enjoyed and even loved Reeves in films like the original Point Break (1991) and in The Matrix film trilogy, beginning with The Matrix (1999).

Thus, I was very interested in seeing the original John Wick (2014), but I didn't see it in a theater.  I was interested in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019), but I didn't see those in a theater, either.  I was very interested in seeing John Wick: Chapter 4, but I was put off by its runtime.  So I didn't see it in a movie theater.

Now, I've seen it, and I'm glad I waited.  I would have been pissed to sit in an uncomfortable movie theater seat for almost three hours for the way-too-long John Wick: Chapter 4.  Most of the film's narrative is story padding, and the filmmakers could have easily shaved an hour from this film's runtime without really changing the story.  I will say that Chapter 4 is a beautiful-looking film.  The cinematography, production design, locations, and lighting are museum quality.  Yes, the action and fight scenes are spectacular, but some of them, like the entire “Arc de Triomphe” car chase and fight, went on for far too long – for all their inventiveness.

But I love me some Keanu Reeves, and because he dominates this film, I can enjoy it.  I couldn't stop watching him.  If just about anyone else were the star, I would have stopped watching John Wick: Chapter 4 after an hour.  The supporting cast also helped me enjoy a movie that I basically did not find as enjoyable as the series' previous entries.  I can never get enough of the great Hong Kong actor and martial artist, Donnie Yen, and I'm always down for more Laurence Fishburne.  Shamier Anderson and the dog that is his co-star add some nice new flavors to this series.  Bill Skarsgard is magnetic as the Marquis, and a spoonful of Clancy Brown (as “the Harbinger”) helps the average movie go down.  Also, it was great to see the late Lance Reddick (1962-2023) as Charon one last time.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a fifth John Wick movie down the line, and I won't see it in a theater either – if the runtime is around three hours.  But for John Wick fans, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a must-see for the main reason to see all of them – Keanu Reeves.

6 of 10
B
★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, September 6, 2023


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.

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Amazon wants me to inform you that the affiliate link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the affiliate link below AND buy something(s).