Rampage

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 4:00 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures
Profanity: About a dozen bad words
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended peril and action-style violence with chases, explosions, guns, bombs, monsters, many human and animal characters injured and killed, some graphic and disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: April 13, 2018
Date Released to DVD: July 16, 2018
Copyright New Line Cinema 2018

Pay attention, my friends, this one is a little bit tricky. In his last movie, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson played an avatar in a movie about a video game. In Rampage, he plays a human in a movie based on a video game, though in the video game, big in arcades in the 1980’s, it was the animals who were the avatars, and your task as player was to help them destroy the city while Johnson’s human character in the film is there to protect it.

Still with me?

Well, maybe “human” does not adequately describe Johnson’s character, the primatologist/Special Forces veteran Davis Okoye, the essence of movie hero, always ready with his fists or a quip or both at the same time. And, you know, he looks like The Rock.

Okoye works at a San Diego animal preserve, where he is especially close to an albino gorilla named George. They communicate via sign language. And it’s all downright Edenic until George is hit with spray from one of three canisters of gene-altering material that “edit” his DNA to make him grow to King Kong size and make him furious, aggressive, and destructive.

With the help of the beautiful scientist who developed the gene-editing juice, hoping to help humanity and not in any way aware that the evil corporation she was working for was planning to weaponize it. Naomie Harris plays Dr. Kate Caldwell, and Jake Lacy and Malin Akerman are the oh-so-evil brother and sister who run the corporation. Well, she’s evil; he’s way over his head. Then there’s Joe Manganiello as a mercenary hired by the evil sister, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a FBI official with a Southern accent, and a walloping lot of CGI as the three monsters — those two other canisters — Okoye has to find a way to stop.

If they ever give out an Oscar for efficiency of set-up, this movie is a contender. It quickly assigns an attribute to each character and lets us know immediately what the stakes are in every scene. Director Brad Peyton (“San Andreas,” also starring Johnson) knows we’re here for the action, and spends just enough time between scenes of shootouts, explosions, and chases to remind us why we should care what happens to the characters. Manganiello’s character has a big scar on his face, so we know he’s tough. The evil sister says, “There’s a reason we were doing these experiments in space and it wasn’t for the betterment of humanity,” just to make it clear that she is the bad guy. In case we missed it the first time, when her hapless brother says, “You can’t liquidate all your problems,” she snaps back, “Agree to disagree.”

And Dr. Kate lies to her boss on the phone, so we know that she is not a rule follower. Plus, we glimpse a photo in her apartment showing her hugging a cancer patient, so we know she is nice and probably bereaved. Morgan’s FBI character has a seen-it-all, heard-it-all look but a bit of a twinkle in his eye. And a homing device has the three giant, hungry, and very hostile animals going full-speed to Chicago.

Does any of it make sense? Not really. Do we care? Not really. Just don’t think too hard about how long it would take for debris to fall from space, what condition it might be in, or how long it would take an antidote to work. This is a movie based on an arcade game, and it is much better than most game-based films.

In part that is because the game was from the 80’s and didn’t really have a storyline, so there was no risk of being too faithful or not faithful enough, and in part because it never takes itself too seriously. It takes the stunts and action seriously, though. There’s a wow of a plane crash and some good moments in the midst of a massive destruction of Chicago’s Loop. And George (motion capture actor Jason Liles) is, if not realistic, believable. Johnson is right in his sweet spot here, and so are we, with a popcorn treat to kick off the summer season.

Parents should know that this film includes extended peril and action-style violence with chases, explosions, guns, bombs, monsters, many human and animal characters injured and killed, some graphic and disturbing images, some strong language, and some crude humor.

Family discussion: Who should make the rules about genetic experimentation? Who in this film follows orders and who does not? Why did Davis say he was not a “people person?”

If you like this, try: “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Transformers”

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Action/Adventure Based on a video game DVD/Blu-Ray

Trailer: I’ll See You in My Dreams with Blythe Danner

Posted on April 10, 2015 at 8:00 am

Blythe Danner is the American equivalent to Helen Mirren — endlessly elegant, witty, radiant. I can’t wait to see this film, which shares its name with the Gus Kahn song and the biopic about Gus Kahn starring Danny Thomas and Doris Day.

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Romance Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Wanderlust

Posted on February 24, 2012 at 8:07 am

It is painful to watch Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, who were superb together in “The Object of My Affection,” try to make the most from the fourth-rate Judd Apatow gross-out comedy “Wanderlust.”  It wastes a situation filled with comic potential as we have seen in films like “Lost in America,” forgoing sharp satire for lazy jokes even Beavis and Butthead would find beneath them.  Unless you think that seeing a bunch of saggy naked old people running or a doorless bathroom is hilarious, stay away.

Rudd plays George, a Wall Street guy married to Linda (Aniston), a film-maker who hopes to sell her new documentary about penguins to HBO.  They have just spent all their money buying a “mini-loft,” a microscopic studio apartment with a Murphy bed.  Linda Lavin makes a welcome appearance as their realtor, her impeccably dry delivery making even a raunchy line sound crisp.  George’s firm collapses and Aniston’s film is rejected for being too depressing (they can’t come up with a better joke than a film about penguin testicular cancer? and HBO saying they might be interested if it had vampires?), they have to leave New York for Atlanta, where George’s brother has promised him a job.  The movie’s best scene is the sharply edited driving montage, as George and Linda alternate being sad and angry with the inevitable road trip sing-along to the Doobie Brothers.

George’s brother Rick (co-screenwriter Ken Marino) is a loudmouth vulgarian who lives in a hideously sterile McMansion with his substance-addled wife Marisa (Michaela Watkins, who was a hilarious Hoda Kotb on “SNL”).  It isn’t enough that Rick is crass and obnoxious.  He has to be in the port-a-potty business.  George and Linda can’t stand it, and decide to return to the place where they spent the night on the drive down, an “intentional community” run by a charismatic leader named Seth (Justin Theroux).  Everything seems idyllic, filled with peace, harmony, and sharing.  Linda is very happy, even after the “tea” they give her in the Truth Circle causes her to hallucinate that she can fly.  But George starts to feel vulnerable and jealous, especially when the sharing extends to having sex with other partners.

The film-makers did much better with Rudd’s “Role Models,” which had a central sweetness and benefited from a storyline that had the adults more immature than the children and a rousing KISS-inspired RPG finale.  This movie’s jokes are as tired and saggy as its aging nudists.  It is painful to see talented performers Watkins, Lauren Ambrose (radiantly beautiful as an ur-mother-to-be), Alan Alda (as the community’s founder), and Kathryn Hahn (who was wonderful with Rudd in “How Will I Know”) trying so hard to make the dismal script funny.  Idiotic low points include a childbirth scene, Rudd’s attempts to psych himself up for his first non-marital sexual encounter, a topless protest against casino developers (calm down, boys, Aniston is pixilated), and plot developments that make no sense whatsoever.  It would be fatal to the movie that even the slackest attempts at characterization are jettisoned to flail at some inconsistent comic possibility if the movie wasn’t already DOA.

(more…)

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