RAMPAGE – Review by Case Wright, ALT Title – The Video Game Movie Curse Is Broken by Dwayne’s Awesome Arms!


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I thoroughly enjoyed this film!! Why? Because it’s a Dwayne Johnson movie.  He’s an actor, a brand, and you know what you’re going to get.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Did it have a couple of slow moments?  Yep.  Were the characters, especially the villains, one dimensional or 8-Bit?  Sure.  But, so what? Rampage is fun and sometimes it’s great to take a bath in nostalgia and see some shit blow up.

A Dwayne Johnson movie is really a sub-genre all its very own.  I won’t compare it to other movies.  His movies are also fun because we just like Dwayne Johnson so much as a Man that we feel like he’s a friend.  It becomes reflexive that we hear Dwayne Johnson has a movie out, it’s as if one of our friends just made one.  I told a guy at work that I was going to see a Dwayne Johnson movie, he knew exactly what I meant, and he referred to Dwayne Johnson as a National Treasure.  Yes, we’re now getting married in the fall and are registered at Pottery Barn.

I played Rampage when I was a wee bairn.  In fact, with the help of my friend Robbie, we stayed up all night and destroyed the whole country. Congratulations! I, like every boy in the Y-Generation, was excited for this film.  Sidenote: sorry everyone, Millenials are no more, you’ve been folded into Y, but take heart – “Even children get older, I’m gettin older …too.”

An Evil Corporation, run ostensibly by Ivanka Trump and her Generic Trump brother, create a virus that mutate ordinary animals into genetically spliced super-creatures that run amok.  That’s it- that’s the plot- and like the video game upon which it was based, Rampage the Film is beautifully Wabi Sabi.

The film begins with The Rock who is closed off from people because after seeing their terrible acts in war and poaching, he just can’t let them in. *sniff*  The Rock’s best friend is George- an albino gorilla- who can sign.  Soon, the Trump family look alikes’ experiment accidentally infects George, a wolf, a crocodile, and a partridge in a pear tree. The Partridge Monster doesn’t actually destroy anything, but he blatantly re-gifts Christmas presents; therefore, he’s the worst monster of all because he destroys your self-esteem.

George, the wolf, and crocodile get BIGGER, the government – embodied by Jeffrey Dean Morgan- try to stop the monsters, but can’t.  Jeffrey becomes an ally of The Rock, helping him along the way with helicopter keys, air strikes, and lending him his edger so The Rock can really make his lawn POP for barbecue season.  The Trumps put out a signal to draw the monsters to Chicago, hoping they’ll kill each other off.  The Trumps hope that they’ll be able to take a sample of the monster flesh, replicate it, and sell it to whomever.  It doesn’t go well.  The monsters go nuts.  I’m not going to spoil anything.  Needless to say, the last 40 minutes of the film are amazingly satisfying.

Congratulations! Dwayne you’ve done it! The Video Game Curse is Broken.

 

The Cloverfield Paradox – *Great Spoilers*


 

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It’s Superbowl Sunday!!! Better yet, it’s The Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix.

This movie is 1 part – Event Horizon, 1 Part – The Thing, and 1 Part – Boring.

We begin with a dying earth and pesky scientists have tried to create a free energy machine innnnnnnn spaaaaaaace.  Sounds Legit.

There’s British people talking in traffic and I need closed captioning.  The lady in traffic is apparently an astronaut and “Comm Officer”. However, I can’t understand anything she’s saying; so maybe, communications wasn’t the best fit?!

We’re on the space station and they’re trying to do some particle acceleratin’ …woohoo, but something is amiss. The story is really dragging.

Now, there’s nerds, foozball playing, and awkward conversation.  Are we sure this is a Space Station and not the Google Campus?  I do like that all peoples are represented and they’re all boring.  It’s about time that we embraced that most people are boring and even some Netflix films.

They’re about to turn on their Shepherd Accelerator and …… they are making particles, energy, or s’mores?  Then, the Shepherd overloads.  I’m guessing they forgot to use a surge protector. They get control, but the earth is gone- must’ve left the Earth in their other solar system’s pants.  They’re hurtling into empty space.

The crew is starting to act weird.  The Russian- I’m going to call him Boris – is playing with his face a lot and we’re getting an Event Horizon vibe mostly because JJ Abrams decided to defile the memory of another one of my favorite films.  The steel walls have screaming and they decide to open it….because sure. They reveal a woman fused to wires and the bulkhead who knows the Comm Officer’s name.  It’s pretty gross.  They try to do some ER work on her and she lives.

Meanwhile….Back on Earth. There’s explosions!!!

Back on the station…

The foozball is playing itself and things are disappearing: gyroscopes, worms, and my time.   Boris has a worm creature in his head and it’s doing gross things to his eyeball.  Boris starts talking to himself and the voices in his head ask him to make a 3d printed gun.  Boris pulls the 3d printed gun on crewmates and dies with hundreds of worms shooting out of him.

The lady they found in the bulkhead – Mina – wakes up.  She thinks that she was on the station the whole time.  Mina accuses Schmidt of sabotage.  For scientists, they are unimpressive.  These dopes haven’t figured out that they’re in another dimension?! Did they get their PhDs from University of Phoenix?!  They lock Schmidt up for sabotage and proceed to make bad choices.

Back on earth…. More explosions, but now there are screaming kids.

Back on the station: The ship’s Irish janitor is doing repairs and his arm gets detached.  The ship let’s Schmidt out of the airlock and he’s being chased by the Irishman’s arm.  The arm writes them a letter….really. It tells them to cut Boris’ corpse open.  They find the gyroscope inside Boris.  The comms come back and their current reality is pretty bad.  They watch CNN and learn that they’ve traveled to Another Dimension …. Another Dimension … Don’t … you tell me to smile….Interplanetary.   In this dimension, there’s World War III going on and everybody has goatees.  They decide to turn on the Shepherd machine again and hopefully not attract a herd of sheep as well.

Back on earth, the Comm Officer’s husband has rescued a random kid and went to a bomb shelter.

Back on the Station:  Tam figures out that condensation was messing with their calculations, but then she drowns….somehow.  In the alternate dimension, Eva’s kids are alive.  In the “Good Dimension” Eva apparently installed some bad track lighting and killed everyone, but in this “Evil Dimension” – they’re fine because she used lamps I suppose.  Eva decides to go back to warn her twin not to use track lighting…..ever.  I’ve noticed that they do A LOT of caulking in this movie to exciting music, but it’s still a guy caulking. There’s another malfunction and half the ship explodes.

The crew decides that they need to de-couple the broken part of the station, engendering a long scene of attempted space station repair.  It was really slow AND they had this crazy 8-4pm window to do it.  Then, the captain sacrifices himself to do it because why not?

Eva orders that they turn on the shepherd.  All looks well, but Mina steals the gun and starts shooting.  She needs the “firing key” for some reason.  Presumably, the Shepherd will create energy, but that really makes no sense because it doesn’t create energy as much as derivative B-Movies.  Mina manages to kill Eva in the final scene Aliens style and it’s mildly entertaining.

Schmidt lives and they start the Shepherd again, but first she warns her evil twin not to use Track Lighting and to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch in the 2015 Super Bowl.  They see earth again- the good earth and they have a stable power beam.   Eva’s husband doesnt want them to come back because—-monsters.  Then, as the escape pod enters the atmosphere, we see a monster.  So, they unleashed monsters and NBC’s Whitney.

This was a great bad movie, which is what JJ Abrams can do in his sleep. I would watch this if I had the flu or was in a B-movie place.

Stranger Things S2 Ep 9, The Gate; Alt Title: RE-U-NITED…..


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Cold Open: Reunited and it feels so good….Reunited… Yep, El is back in the arms of Mike whom she’ll rip in half when she catches him cheating with some rando floozy in college. But for now,  Reunited and it feels so good….. Mike is all pissed at Hop and they end up hugging.  Awwww.  El meets Max and doesn’t shake her hand. Max is in a tough spot: on the one hand she has a psycho Carrie-esque whack job who wants to explode her and the other is a terrible trash household. Poor Max.  They believe El can close the gate, but there are 100s of Demagorgans in their way.

Cara Buono is taking a bubble bath and Ted is asleep downstairs.  Ted, you are sad…sad man.  Then, Mullet-Guy arrives and flirts with Cara Buono and I just had flashbacks to my High School years.  They weren’t all bad.

They are planning on taking El to close the gate.  They take E-Will to the cabin to burn the evil out of E-Will.  Later, Steve easily breaks up with Nancy.  Pretty Awesome!

Hop and El do some catching up and Hop explains that he feels like some kind of a black hole, sucking up everything and destroying it – I can relate.  They head into the distance to the Castle…. I mean government facility.  There’s a brief moment where Dustin gets Steve to put the Demagorgan into the fridge because I suppose they want to make stock later…. Pro Tip: Low and Slow with lots of sage!

Steve and the gang decide to head into the caves to enter the lab ….  Well, about Team Steve….. Mullet-Guy arrives and decides to beat up Lucas.  Then, he beats up Steve….A LOT, until Max puts a dart in his neck and Steve remains knocked out on the floor.  Poor Steve.

Joyce, Creeper, and Nancy arrive at the cabin and try to cook the monster out of E-Will.  He gets some black veins and tries to strangle his mom to stop the purification.

The Lab:  El and Hop arrive to do battle.   They find Reiser and he’s dying.  They go down further and arrive at the opening.  Hop goes in and shoots a bunch of Demagorgons.

Meanwhile: Steve leads the way down the caves.  There’s a bit of comic relief and they find the center of the caves and drench it in gasoline and torch it.

It’s all very smash cut!!!

The shadow leaves E-will and goes into the sky.

El and Hop go down into the bowels of the gate and face off against the Shadow Monster.

Dustin meets up with Dart again….Reunited and it feels so good….

El tries again to shut down the shadow monster’s gate, channeling her anger.  El digs deep and focuses her rage.  I would just think of the Seahawks v Patriots….Just give the ball to Marshawn for Pete’s SAKE!!!!!  El wins! We Win! The gate is closed and the shadow monster is dead. Woohoo!

The Lab is all locked up, shut down, and the government got embarrassed by the Bearded Creeper in the Bathrobe…yep that one.

Reiser got Hop a birth certificate for El.  The show ends with a prom of sorts and Creeper is videotaping.  I really hope no one looks on the other tapes. YIPE!

The prom is hopping.  Man, they must have quite the budget! Time After Time plays and Lucas and Max dance.  Dustin gets shot down….A LOT! It’s alright, Dustin. Nancy dances with him.  Hey Dustin, she has pretty low standards lately; you might have a shot.

The parents: Hop and Joyce hug quietly outside reminiscing and grieving the ones they lost.

El and Mike dance to The Police’s stalker song- I’ll be watching you.  Everyone gets kissed, except for Dustin.  The school spins upside down with the Shadow Monster looking down.  Maybe, it’s the Shadow Monster’s turn to be Nancy’s Boyfriend.

So, Gentle Readers….Thus concludes another Stranger Things season.  I’ll keep writing more in 2018 and not just in the fall. This has been a lot of fun and very cathartic for me.  Cheers and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! HAPPY HANUKKAH! And, I’ll even give a good year….this time.

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Stranger Things: S2 Ep 8 – The Mind Flayer Alt Title: Bob, Try Swiping Left


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Cold Open: We’re back in the evil lab and the monsters are coming up to attack. There are three of them and they are breaking through the glass.  It’s very reminiscent of the pilot, but that was good.  Hop and the other lab people are fleeing and getting eaten… a lot.

The monsters cut the power off in the building and Bob the Brain really needs to learn how to Swipe Left.

Max’s parents have arrive and see that Max is gone, whilst Mullet-Guy puts cologne on his junk.  I realize that Mullet-Guy’s dad went to my father’s school of parenting.

The boys are looking for …. something and are arguing. Steve hears something.  Team Steve!  He’s actually interesting this season.  They realize that the Demagorgon went back to the lab.

The evil lab – Reiser, Hop, Joyce and the rest are trapped in the lab and need to reset the computers to unlock the door.  Bob aims to sacrifice himself and reboot the computers with his knowledge of Basic.  Poor Bob.  Bob is down in the basement and it’s mildly entertaining.  He gets the power back on, but it’s still locked.  They are really trying to build some suspense…trying.

Paul Reiser tells them to go and he’ll stay behind and watch their exit.  Jeez, everyone is sacrificing themselves this episode; I wonder if I get to do something heroic in the finale?  Paul guides Bob, but a broom drops and the demagorgon gives chase.  Bob sees Joyce one last time, and then the monsters tear him apart as Joyce watches- helpless to save him.

They make it back to Joyce’s place and she’s a wreck.  They devise a plan to attack the hive mind leader.  My hope is that involves not renewing the show, but season 3 just got greenlit….so I’ll be doing this again.  They decide to put E-Will into a shed … as you do… because that will disorient him and leave E-Will to become susceptible to revealing the Shadow Monster’s weakness…for some reason.

They wake E-Will and has a conniption fit.  Joyce, Creeper, and Mike try to jog E-Will’s memory with a lot of boring stories so that his consciousness will emerge.  Then, they realize E-Will is using Morse Code.  It’s kinda cute and kinda boring- Coring TM.  A phone rings giving up their position.  BUMMER!!! The Demagorgons start to circle the party.  Then, one is thrown into the house …. dead. It’s El!! She’s back from the big city and all punked out.

This episode was like having a fling with an Ex.

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Stranger Things S2 Ep 7 “The Lost Sister”, Alt Title: Peer Pressure


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Cold Open:  El is going into her brain damaged mother’s mind.  She sees the girl who is the same one from episode 1 of this season.  Her aunt tries to get Hop to help see El and it doesn’t work.  El flees to Chicago to track down her “Sister”.  El gets to meet her “sister”. What we get is a show that has sacrificed small-town claustrophobia suspense  for a wider world of boring plot devices.

She meets her sister on the set of every bad 1980s scifi film ever.  I guess the Duffer Brothers also liked a lot of 1980s garbage movies.  This season is like a relationship that has gone bad with hairspray.

“Sister” explains that her ability is to get people to see or not see things.   I wish she could make see season 1 again.  “Sister’s” acting is THE worst and I mean Rico Rodriguez shitty.

El goes to the imbetween and listens to Hop’s call to her, but she gets awoken by Sister who introduces El to her gang.  It really tries to be interesting, but it’s not.  She explains that they track down people from the government Modine program and kill them.  “Sister” works with EL to focus on her anger and El starts moving trains with her mojo.

El helps them hunt down one of the guards from the government and they give her a punk makeover.  El and her new gang knock over a gas station. Kids today….  They track down a guard from the government.  El decides to kill him slowly, but has a change of heart because he says- Martha.  El says, How do you know that name?!!!!  Then, they have a nosh.  JK, He begs for his life and Jane stops Sister from shooting him.  Sister has Evil Modine appear to El and does some manipulating.  El sees Mike panicking and Hop in danger from the previous episode and decides that she has to go back to Hawkins.

Finally, the police show up at their hideout.  I’m really rooting for the cops finish them off, but Sister uses her powers and they don’t.  You really can’t have it all.

El heads back to Hawkings.

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Stranger Things S2 E3 -“The Pollywog”; ALT Title: I Used To Have a Role on Stranger Things


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Cold Open:  Dustin brings the Wee Kaiju into his home.  Really?! Really?! If you think it crosses anyone’s mind that the Wee Kaiju came from the Upside Down, you’d be wrong.  Even though it looks like a Wee Kaiju, Dustin battled the Upside Down, it’s scared of light, and …. I give up.

Hop spends a lot of the episode trying to make amends with El with waffles.  We learn that her captivity has been going on for almost a year and SHE IS BORED.  There are a series of flashbacks of Hop finding her, taking her into his Uncle’s abandoned cabin, and an amazingly sad house cleaning montage.  I love a good montage, but this one made my heart hurt a little.  Hop establishes three rules all that involve El being under house arrest.  So, she breaks out and goes forth into the village below.

Bob tries to coach Will on facing his fears, which would be good, but here in Monsterville, Indiana – it’s very very bad advice. Then, he goes to school.  That’s it.

Mr. Clarke is trying to teach and Dustin busts in bothering everyone and Mr. Clarke tries to roll with it.  Of course, he and Cara Buono are marginalized this season and it is awful.  Dustin shows all the boys and the Red Haired Girl the Wee Kaiju and no one connects it to the Upside Down for like a while.  The Wee Kaiju escapes, they play the gremlins song, and it’s almost watchable.  Will doesn’t want the Red Haired Girl to help and she totally crushes on him.  El watches on and goes all psycho ex-girlfriend and makes her fall off her skateboard.

Will, you should really consider moving far far away and try not to date another Secular Carrie.  

Dustin finds the Wee Kaiju and hides it to keep it safe from the villagers.  Dustin — SHAME!!!!

Hop has a mini-quest and tells Paul Reiser that the rot is emanating from the lab and I guess they should check on it.

Nancy spends a lot of the episode talking about herself.  Then, she decides to spill the beans to Barb’s parents on an unsecured line.  This would be fine except for this: her mom who was all up in her business last season wasn’t even phased that she took Creeper up into her bedroom, with electronic equipment, and during school hours.

Winona also starts to believe Will is seeing a monster.

 

Will goes into the Upside Down, faces the shadow monster, and gets possessed “Supernatural” style.

All in all this season is like a chewed-on jigsaw puzzle- contrived connections and a gushy mess.

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Stranger Things 2, S2 E2, Trick or Treat, Freak; ALT Title: Halfway Happy


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Happy Halloween!!! Stranger Things 2 is in full-swing, but with some new twists like  characters behaving stupidly out of character to move the plot forward.

The episode begins with El saying, “Goodbye Mike.” *sniff*  BUT, she didn’t die after killing the Demimooregorgan! Instead of dying, she went into the Upside Down, escaped, and became feral in the Indiana woods living off squirrels and mugging hunters for their coats.  Really.  So, Yay?

Present day, she’s living with Hop who protects her by raising her in isolation.  She wants to go Trick or Treating.  Hop refuses.  Instead he offers a compromise: he’ll get home early, they’ll eat candy, and watch a movie.  Hop calls this a compromise – Halfway Happy.  With the phrase Halfway Happy, Hop encapsulates the theme of his life, her life, and our experience as viewers: Halfway Happy.

Hop is halfway happy because he gets to be a dad again- Kinda.

El is halfway happy because she doesn’t have to live as a feral monster in the woods, but is isolated from any normal life.

Mike and the boys are halfway happy because they are safe – for now.

We are halfway happy because it’s season 2 and I’m reviewing again!

Here comes the stupid:

Joyce and Hop review Will’s spider beast drawing and are convinced that it’s all in head.  WHY?!  They’ve been to the upside down.  They’ve seen monsters! Why are they incredulous?!  WHY?!

We learn that Madmax’s brother is likely wanted and an asshole.  But, I gotta write- his mullet is EPIC! Points for that!

Hop investigates more rotting pumpkins and loses track of time and misses eating candy with El.  He doesn’t believe Will’s new big bad drawings, but show him some gooey trees and he’s all in baby! I wish there were more to that subplot, but there just wasn’t.

Young Judah Friedlander is really dumb this season.  Did he get a TBI?!  He doesn’t know what words mean like presumptuous and rescues an unidentified whatever (baby demimooregorgan from his trash).  WHY?! He is somewhat popular with Madmax- good on him for that.

We learn that El has honed her skills to go into the black room by using a blindfold and thinking really hard.  Good on her for that.

Will emotes with the same face again this episode as he is harassed and put into the upside down with a shadow monster.  Also, a disappointment because the last big bad was a tangible threat out to “Suck your blood”.

Nancy is going through some growth.  She’s feeling guilty about Barb.  I didn’t think that sociopaths could develop emotions.  But, here we are – Another character that is out of character.  She gets drunk, breaks up with Steve, and gets taken home by Creeper.  The parents never wake even a little, which is out of character for Cara Buono who was up in everyone’s business last season.

I’m starting to think that this season is a transition for the creators who never envisioned this story continuing.  The first season ended like a great Beowolf Epic.  El sacrifices herself and the hope of love for her quest.  Hop goes all into redeem himself as a fallen knight for redemption.  This season, in contrast, falls flat because it doesn’t know where to go.  The monster is dead and this new one lacks suspense because he’s not even corporeal.  The Duffer Brothers might be using this season as transition to figure out a new compelling narrative- at least to think so makes me Halfway Happy.

Happy Halloween!

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