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


Rampage-Movie-

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.

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Sabotage, The Raid 2, John Wick, Fury


2014 had it’s share of very good action films and here are four that I was particularly drawn to. While the film themselves were of varying degrees of quality in terms of storytelling. These 4 films all had one thing that I enjoyed despite their films’ flaws. They all had action scenes that I thought were quite excellent.

You have gritty present-day action thriller, an operatic gangster epic, a revenge thriller and a war film. One stars an aging action star back from playing politician. Another a foreign film whose filmmaker and star have set the bar for all action films for years to come. Then there’s the stunt coordinators and 2nd unit directors finally making their mark with their first feature-length film. Lastly, a war film that brings the brutality of World War II tank warfare to the forefront.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

Trailer: Magic Mike XXL (Teaser)


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I will be the first to admit that Soderbergh’s journey into the world of male strippers wasn’t on my radar when it was first announced and even when it finally premiered. Then again I don’t think I was the core audience.

Now, Lisa Marie did go see Magic Mike and to say that she enjoyed it would be an understatement. Her brief (no pun intended) but succinct review of the film could be summed up by it’s introduction:

“After me and my BFF Evelyn saw Magic Mike, I hopped on twitter and I tweeted, “Memo to single guys.  Go hang out around the theater when Magic Mike gets out.  You will get laid!”  Yes, Magic Mike is that type of film…”

So, we’re now three years removed from Soderbergh’s film. A sequel has been filmed and ready to be unleashed on the millions out there waiting to get back to the world of Magic Mike. While Soderbergh doesn’t return as director (he does go behind the camera as the sequel’s cinematographer and editor) the sequel does get Gregory Jacobs in the director’s chair. He was first asst. director during the first film and a frequent collaborator with Soderbergh (he pretty much has been Soderbergh’s asst. director in all his films).

Will Lisa Marie enjoy this sequel or will she return with a reaction of “seen it before” ennui? We’ll find out in a couple months.

Magic Mike XXL unveils for all this July 1, 2015.

Review: True Blood 7.1 “Jesus Gonna Be Here”


Sookie

I have to start out this review of the 7th season premiere of True Blood with an explanation and an apology.

I always like to think that I can write a good review regardless of what else might be going on in my life.  If I took a break from writing every time that I felt less than great, I certainly would not have ever reviewed Black Swan or The Perfect Teacher.  Sometimes, you just have to take your medicine and get things done.  That said, I should let you know that summer has just begun down here in Texas.  Pollen is everywhere and I have spent today battling my allergies.  I am definitely under the weather as I write this review and I apologize if that has effected my ability to properly consider tonight’s episode.

However, for the season premiere of a show that’s known for its complex storylines and huge cast, it doesn’t really seem like there’s much to analyze about what happened tonight.

Don’t get me wrong.  True Blood has always been an uneven show.  For every great episode of True Blood, there’s also a mediocre one.  For every brilliantly drawn and acted character (like Kristin Bauer van Straten’s Pam), there’s been characters who have never quite reached their potential but yet remain in the cast.  For every storyline that worked, there will be memories of Bill getting possessed by Lillith.

In the past, mediocre episodes or creative misfires did not worry me.  I accepted them as being just a part of what happens with all long-running television shows.  I accepted the occasional bad because I knew that the good would be great and I always knew that there was a chance that any creative miscalculations would be corrected in a future season.

However, we’ve now reached a point where there are no more future seasons.  This is it!  Season seven has ten episodes and then True Blood — as a television series — is over.  Rumor has it that there will be a Broadway musical and I’m certainly looking forward to it eventually showing up on the community theater circuit because I really do think that I’d be a natural for it.  But, until then, these final 10 episodes are all that we have left and True Blood — being True Blood — has a lot of storylines that it needs to somehow resolve so that viewers like me don’t feel like we’ve spent the last 7 seasons being set up for an anticlimax.

After all, we don’t want True Blood to end up like Dexter.

That’s why I can’t simply laugh off a mediocre or uneventful episode now.  As I sat through tonight’s premiere, a part of me was thinking that things were moving slowly because the show is setting up the foundation for a proper and satisfying finale.  However, another part of me wanted to scream, “HELLO — WE’VE ONLY GOT 10 EPISODES LEFT!  THESE HAVE TO COUNT!”

And I will admit — though this may have been the headache talking — I did end up hissing at the screen, “Where.  The.  Hell.  Is.  Erik!?”  As we all remember from last season’s finale, Erik was last seen naked on a mountain, bursting into flame as the sun shined down on him.  The important thing, however, is that we never saw Erik explode into red goo.  I chose to believe that Erik is still alive and, apparently, Pam agrees with me because tonight’s episode found Pam in Morocco searching for Erik.  There really weren’t enough scenes featuring Pam but I was happy for what we got of her.  Pam’s snarkiness always brings True Blood to life.  Hopefully, Erik will show up next week.

As for everyone else:

Tonight’s premiere began where season 6 ended.  A group of infected vampires attacked a human-vampire mixer at Bellfluer’s.  During the attack (which was well-filmed but still a bit too chaotic for its own good), vampire Tara is apparently killed and Holly and Arlene are kidnapped by the infected vampires.  Sam, who is now the mayor, orders that all the humans go home with an uninfected vampire, the idea being that the human will feed his vampire in return for protection.  Nobody is really happy with the arrangement and, as quickly becomes apparent, everyone blames Sookie.  What people don’t consider is that Sookie can hear their accusatory thoughts.  At the end of the episode, she goes to church and tells everyone off.  So, it looks like Sookie is once again frustrated with living in Bon Temps and thinking about saying goodbye to all of the drama and going off on her own.  Then again, that’s pretty much what always happens to Sookie.

(Sookie, incidentally, is now in a relationship with Alcide and good for her!  I still have a feeling that she’ll end the show with Sam but when you’ve been through everything that Sookie has, you’ve earned the right to spend a few nights with Alcide.)

Meanwhile, Sheriff Andy and Bill spent the episode looking for the kidnapped humans and I have to say that Andy has actually turned into a badass, even getting to save Bill from a group of human vigilantes.  However, Andy assures Bill that, even if there are temporarily allies, Andy still hates Bill and every other vampire.

Jessica, meanwhile, is stuck outside of Andy’s house, protecting Adelyn.  Despite the fact that Andy ordered his daughter not to invite Jessica inside, Adelyn does allow Jessica to enter to escape both the rising sun and to thank her for protecting her from a random vampire who wanted to drink Adelyn’s blood.  Once inside the house, Jessica nearly attacks Adelyn but manages to stop herself.

And finally, Jason has sex with his vampire girlfriend.  It’s not an episode of True Blood unless Jason is having sex with his vampire girlfriend.

I always enjoy watching True Blood and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with tonight’s premiere, which seemed to move slowly and, oddly for True Blood, didn’t really seem to be too concerned with moving any of the show’s dozen or so storylines forward.  Hopefully, future episodes will pick up the pace because, after all, we’ve only got nine more left and they have to count!

And, hopefully, Erik will return.

Soon.

Trailer: Sabotage (Red Band)


Sabotage

Since Arnold Schwarzenneger left the California governor’s office and politics he’s gone back to doing what he was good at (or at least good at during the 80’s and 90’s). His first couple of films since getting back in front of the camera has been average at best (though I must say that Last Stand was pretty fun).

Now, we have him back in another film, but this time around one that’s a very hard, gritty R-rating that he hasn’t done since ever. He’s always had rated-R films, but they had a certain fun tone to them. With David Ayer’s Sabotage it looks like Schwarzenneger is trying to flex his hardcore bones. It’s definitely a surprise to hear him curse like a sailor during the red band trailer.

Sabotage is set for a March 28, 2014, release date.

Review: True Blood 6.10 “Radioactive”


True Blood

Eric better not be dead!

A lot happened on tonight’s sixth season finale of True Blood.  Along with wrapping up Warlow and Billith’s storylines, it also set up what’s presumably going to be season 7’s major storyline.  A lot of strange things have happened over the past two seasons of True Blood and tonight’s finale promised both a return to normalcy and a new beginning.

And with all that in mind, my number one reaction to tonight’s finale was this:

ERIC BETTER NOT BE FREAKING DEAD!

Admittedly, when we last saw Eric, things did not look good.

Warlow, having revealed himself to be just as evil as we all knew he was and refusing to allow Sookie to back out of their arranged marriage, was finally killed by Sookie’s grandfather (Rutger Hauer), who, in this best tradition of dues ex machina, managed to pop out of his little prison dimension and drive a stake through Warlow’s heart.  Warlow dissolved into red goo and, with the death of Warlow, all of the vampires who had drank his blood lost their ability to walk in the daylight.

The majority of the show’s vampires were safely inside when this happened.  However, Eric was sunbathing naked in the Swiss Alps and, as he lost his special Warlow powers, he burst into flames.

A collective cry went up on twitter as thousands of Eric fans (present company included) tweeted out a massive: “NOOOOOOOO!  NOT ERIC!”

However, there is hope.  The scene cut away from Eric before we actually saw him explode.  So, maybe Eric managed to bury himself in the show.  Maybe he ran into a nearby cave.  Maybe Lillith reached out and saved Eric’s life.

As far as I’m concerned, until I see definite proof of his true death, Eric lives!

Warlow’s demise occurred about halfway through tonight’s finale.  At that point, season 6 officially ended.  Warlow’s gone.  The vampires can no longer walk in the day.  Bill, having refused to go off with Lillith’s sirens, is finally starting to act like Bill again.  And hopefully, Eric’s not dead.

The second half of the episode felt like a preview for season 7.  We jumped ahead 6 months into the future and we discover the following:

Sookie is living with Alicide.  (You go, girl!)

Sam is now married to annoying Nicole and is mayor of Bon Temps.

Andy is still very protective of his last remaining daughter.

Bill Compton is now a published author.  He’s written a book about his experiences as a God.  In the book, he writes about ripping the Governor’s head off of his body.  He also reveals that Hep V was a creation of the government.

Hep V, meanwhile, has become an epidemic.  Although only vampires are killed by it, the virus can live in humans as well.  Mayor Sam arranges for a human/vampire mixer so that the citizens of Bon Temps can pair up — one human to a vampire.

And while everyone in town gets acquainted, an army of infected vampires shambles towards the gathering like zombies from a George Romero film…

And that’s how season 6 ends.

So, what did everyone think of season 6?  I thought it was one of the better seasons of True Blood and a definite improvement on season 5.  That said, I was definitely happy to see Bill acting like Bill again at the end of tonight’s episode.

Hopefully, Season 7 will start with Eric showing up on Bill’s front porch and saying, “The weirdest thing happened in Switzerland…”

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Unofficial scene count: 45
  • As fun as it was to see all the daywalking vampires happy at the start of tonight’s episode, I’m kinda glad that they lost that power.  I’m not sure how many more scenes of vampires playing volleyball I could take.
  • My first tweet after the end of this episode: “Fuck you, #Newsroom!  I’m too concerned about Eric on #TrueBlood to care about some maniacal news anchor!”
  • Alcide was wearing the word’s worst wig at the start of tonight’s episode.
  • I had forgotten all about that whiny scientist until he showed back up tonight.
  • Again, we never saw Eric explode into red goo.  That’s the important thing.
  • “You don’t want a vampire bride!  You want a faerie vampire bride!”
  • I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing True Blood this season.  I look forward to doing it again next season.  Thanks for reading!

Review: True Blood 6.9 “Life Matters”


True Blood

When the history of True Blood is eventually written, Life Matters will be remembered as the best episode of season 6 and perhaps as one of the best episodes of the entire series.

For a show that has occasionally been a tad too complicated and a bit too dependent on easy snark as opposed to genuine sentiment, tonight’s episode was both focused and sincerely emotional.  If an episode of True Blood could ever make you cry while still making you laugh and occasionally jump, Life Matters is that episode.

Tonight, True Blood was all about death.  While the citizens of Bon Temps gathered to say a final goodbye to Terry, the vampires got their revenge on the humans at Vamp Camp.  The Rev. Newlin finally met his well-deserved demise at the hands of Eric and the sun while Jason came close to murdering Sarah Newlin before finally relenting.

At the end of last week’s episode, Bill and Sookie were standing over Warlow’s drained body.  Well, it turns out that Warlow is not dead.  He’s just weakened.  After Sookie allows him to feed on her, she leaves for Terry’s funeral while Bill heads to Vamp Camp.

The rest of the episode very skillfully cuts back and forth from the powerful emotion of Terry’s funeral and Bill and Eric’s bloody rampage at Vamp Camp.  While those at the funeral speak of the value of celebrating life, Bill, Eric, and the vampires are literally killing every human that they can find.  While Andy and Sam talk about (and we see flashbacks of) the first time they ever met Terry, Bill is killing a human scientist by stomping his face in.  While Sookie gives her eulogy and also outs herself as being a telepath, Eric is releasing all of the female vampires and announcing, “Go forth and kill all the humans!”

Sarah Newlin, realizing that she’s literally one of only two humans left alive at Vamp Camp, climbs up to the top of the roof of the sun room and turns a wheel that opens up the ceiling.  The sun shines down on the vampires below but all of the vampires have now fed on Bill’s blood and are now immune to the sun.

Every vampire except for the Rev. Newlin, of course.

Newlin begs to be allowed to feed on Bill’s blood but none of the other vampires are willing to allow Newlin to get near him.  Finally, Eric grabs Newlin by the throat and holds him in place as the sun shines down on him.  As Sarah watches from above, her ex-husband starts to burn and then explodes into a mess of red goo.  Newlin’s last words are to declare his love for Jason Stackhouse.

As for Jason, he catches Sarah as she tried to flee Vamp Camp and, in a rather uncomfortable scene, holds a gun to Sarah’s face while she begs for her life.  Jason finally allows her to escape, saying that he doesn’t want her blood on his hands.  As hateful a character as Sarah is, I’m glad that Jason didn’t kill her.  Jason may be many things but he’s not a cold-blooded murderer.  That’s one reason why we all love him.

Bill, weakened after having been drained, lies on the floor of the sun room and has a vision of Lillith’s sirens approaching him.  They tell him that it’s time for him to come with Lillith.  Bill says that he’s not ready to go.  Fortunately, Jessica and James find him and James feeds him.

Meanwhile, Terry’s funeral ends with Arlene accepting an American flag from the Marine honor guard and Big John singing “Life Matters.”  A random old lady wonders why there’s so many black people at Terry’s funeral.  That’s just life in Bon Temps.

As the episode ends, Bill and the other vampires are celebrating in the daylight.  However, Pam sees Eric standing some distance away.  Pam tells Eric that he better not leave her.  Eric responds by doing just that, shooting off into the sky and leaving Pam by herself.

Tonight’s episode of True Blood felt almost like a series finale.  As I watched it, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t watching the end of the show or even the end of the season.  Instead, I was watching the 9th episode of a 10-episode season.  There’s one more episode and at least one more season to go before True Blood concludes.

I just hope that Eric comes back.

Random Observations:

  • Considering just how marginal his character often seemed to be in the grand scheme of things, I was a bit surprised at how touching Terry’s funeral truly turned out to be.
  • Still, as a friend of mine pointed out on twitter, dead Terry got more screen time during tonight’s episode than he ever did while he was alive.
  • If an episode of True Blood ever deserved an Emmy for editing, this is the one.
  • How is Season 6 going to end?  Is there more to the Lillith story or will next week’s episode just be about setting things up for season 7?  Your guess is as good as mine.
  • I’m sure that those of you who got this review in your e-mail might be wondering if I really did accidentally type Big Brother instead of True Blood in my initial draft of this post.  Yes, I did.  Whoops.  I also write a daily blog over at the Big Brother Blog.  My mistake was the result of me trying to write reviews of two very different shows at the same time.
  • “I love you, Jason Stackhouse!”