Darke Reviews | Hereditary (2018)

Having come from a dysfunctional family dynamic made this movie all the more interesting for me as the story unfolded.

Wait, you want a better lead in than that cold open? Sorry the movie has me going on a “Whiskey tango foxtrot” opening. Ok so this review is obviously late to the train be it hype or damnation, you decide.

I had been hemming and hawing on seeing it until my friend Grim D. Reaper over on MovieCrypt.com gave it the first zero skull review I remember seeing from him in a very long time. As Grim got this Vampire Princess into writing reviews in the first place over 20 years ago I trust his judgement. He and I don’t always see eye to socket, with me being the harsher critic, but I always respect his views. This was enough to turn me away from the film. A week later another dear friend, a true love, and moonlight in my life went the complete other direction on it. She was thrilled with the production and the movie. This left me in an odd spot, two people I trust and value the opinions of have opposite reviews of the film – thus I must see and decide who is right and who is dead. Wait, wrong movie.

From studio A24, which also brought us The VVItch, Ex Machina, and FreeFire; not to mention critical darlings like Lady Bird, Room, and Moonlight; you expect a certain style. This is a studio that has only been around for 5 years and has received 24 Academy Award nominations; and has several wins under its belt. A true indie studio but with a budget they use to make some of the most eclectic sets of films you will find in anyone’s catalogue. It would be dangerous to say they all have a certain vibe as the three mentioned I reviewed couldn’t be more apart in tone, style, or format; yet still there’s something familiar about them that is similar. There is a tight closeness, a sense of risk, and passion behind and on the camera you don’t see in many big budget productions from the major studios. I could tell you there is heart, charm, fear; but you could find those in any studio.

Hereditary does belong amongst the ranks here. You can tell that writer/director Ari Aster had a story in his head and heart he wanted to put on screen. He had a very clear vision on how and what he wanted to shoot which translates to every cell on screen. It is also transparent to me that he is a very talented director who brought out the best performance I have ever seen from Toni Collette. Playing Annie, she is a mother clutching with both fists to try to hold on to a family so damaged by past trauma you have to wonder if there is really anything to save. She is absolutely a powerhouse of acting through the film from sedate to on the edge to well  she covers the ranges. If anything her performance is so bold that it completely overshadows Gabriel Byrne who turns in a very subdued performance as Annie’s husband Steve. This turn down, which I find common in indie films like this where the actors energies are just a bit off from usual; turned down from 11 to a nice 7. It works here and gives the necessary balance to Collette’s role. The family is rounded out by Peter, played by Alex Wolff, and Charlie, played by Millie Shapiro. Both actors give a wonderful performance under Aster’s direction and their own abilities do shine be they subdued or manic.

The problem with the movie, despite its technical and artistic proficiency is the story and the characters. For the tension of this supernatural family drama to work, you need to invest yourself. Few of the characters present themselves as likable to me enough for me to care about their fate. This isn’t to say they don’t feel real, because most of their in character actions, dialogue, and beats make sense within the context of the film, the history hinted at, and other points of the movie that paint a mosaic of trauma that can only lead the direction it goes. Yet; if you don’t invest, you don’t let the movie in or let yourself into the movie it could come across almost comical at times; which I know is not the intent. There comes a point where the art gives in to itself and seemingly goes off its own rails and no vision or amazing performance can keep you on the ride.

Now this could be because I watch so many movies. I’ve discussed this before that seeing too many films can actually be detrimental to the movie going experience. You see things, you notice things. It’s hard to avoid words in titles on peoples YouTube videos or reviews; which if you see them and have a certain level of insight into film give away all too much. I remember back in 99 when I read a three sentence review of the Sixth Sense and the last one said “with a twist you won’t see coming.” In that moment I called what it was. It took away a bit of the experience for me and that was 20 years and a thousand or so movies ago – its’s why I promise you all to be spoiler free even in my descriptions of the films.

TL;DR?

Hereditary’s hype train is amazing, with a marketing campaign you don’t see much anymore that hearkens back to old 50’s and 60’s movie going experiences with stories of nurses in the theatre for when people faint. I can’t say it lives up to the hype. I wish I could. I think that Grim may have been too harsh on it, but he might be in the same boat I am with so many movies under his belt, certain beats feel almost telegraphed to us; a skill we cannot separate from our experience as we watch the movies we do – especially when people rave about it the way the critics did on this one.

Hereditary does not live up to its marketing campaign; but it is also not bad either. It is a very artistic look at the horror genre in a way I haven’t quite seen before. While sure, I saw many things coming a mile away, the overall structure, camera work, acting, and tight feel to the production are without a doubt to me solid.

Many folks rave on the ending and I can see why. It just didn’t land for me at that level.

What would you rate it?

If I had to give a fang count on this one, it would net maybe a 3.5 out of 5. It is solid, well made in every aspect, but even with my connection of dysfunctional family I didn’t get as invested as I needed to feel the impact of it’s summation. I think this is a good movie and I was intrigued and entertained, but you have to want it. You have to put effort in. I wasn’t all the way there so it only goes just the right side of good.

Should I see it?

If you haven’t already, I can say give it a shot on matinee. I think the atmosphere of a big theatre, dark, and quiet will help the movie for most people. Watching at home, in the light, with all the distractions will certainly take away from the experience.

Would you see it again?

With the right friends? Yes. I think there’s a lot of discussion material to be had about intent, artistry, execution, and of course meaning.

How about buying it?

I’m torn. Without the friend component I don’t think I would watch it again and to spend $20 on it for a physical or digital copy seems off; yet again it’s something to be studied for what it did do.

That was an interesting turn of phrase…

Yeah, wasn’t it? I think this is the perfect film school or art house movie. Not that it looks like a movie from a film school project, but that there’s a lot to analyze here that can and should be. There’s a strong discussion to be had as I said before.

You can easily go either direction on this film which is why I am (perhaps cheaply) landing in the middle; but in a time when we say we want original films – we can’t turn down our nose when we get one that is this well made.

 

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Darke Reviews | The Incredibles 2 (2018)

In 1999 we were introduced to Hogarth Hughes and an Iron Giant. The world, as I remember it fell in love with Brad Birds creation. It absolutely flopped theatrically with a $23 million haul on a $70 million budget. It seemed (again recollection here) to gain life once released for the home market. I may be one of the few who haven’t seen it, or heard Vin Diesel in one of his earliest roles, but most of the people I talk to have very fond memories and feelings from the film. 5 years later, 20 million more in budget and the power of the mouse house, Brad Bird showed he had something special when he delivered us The Incredibles. It brought in over $260 million on a $92 million budget and is still considered by many to be a top notch, top ten super hero movie long before the rise of The Marvel Juggernaut we know and fear today. This was still the dark times, the times of Spawn and …Catwoman, and Ang Lee’s Hulk. Superheroes, super-villains, flashy costumes, a villain you could understand, and it wasn’t dark, broody, or edgy; unlike everything else in the hero market at the time. It gave us hope of a better world for our heroes; and a resounding ending  that left audiences clamoring to see more.

For 14 years.

Now, Brad Bird wasn’t idle during this time. He put out Ratatouille in 2007; which more than a few people love, but that’s a 3 year hiatus for an up and coming director in demand. Then 4 years after that, just when people were asking “whatever happened to” we get Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol; which breathed new life into the franchise and is generally loved. Here we go Brad Bird is back! We hear then he is going to work on Tomorrowland, inspired by the ride at Disney. Awesome right? Sci Fi, future tech, hope for the future?! This is our guy. Remember what he did with Incredibles?!

Then it came. We were left lost, confused, and even worse bored. While my review is overall positive on it, there are pacing issues and looking back I may have been trying to see more good in it than it deserved. Maybe not. Most folks couldn’t even manage a “whelmed” and went for under it. It didn’t even make back half its budget, which is rough on a Disney feature on a holiday weekend. In the Year of Fan4stic, it is considered (Box Office Mojo 2015 showdown) one of the most disappointing films of 2015. This is also the year of Jupiter Ascending and Terminator Genisys. Yeah like that.

Upon leaving the theatre tonight I have but one question:

Brad Bird – who hurt you?

You come back and write and direct this film, but it is missing …well everything.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie is perfectly adequate. I can tell where the money went for the cast and crew who made it. The movie looks beautiful. The camera work (yes there’s camera work in animation folks) is excellent. The actors all do the best they can with what they have.

What happened to you? The movie has no heart, no soul, no message. Before anyone goes off “its just a kids movie” – a majority of them actually do have a message for the kids even if they don’t see it. The first Incredibles is about being true to yourself and the importance of family in your life. It’s there. This movie doesn’t have any of that. There’s no growth to the characters, no change, nothing effectively learned.

The choice to pick up the movie where the last one left off was a bold one. It didn’t inherently hurt the movie, but it didn’t help it either. I feel as if our writer and director, Mr. Bird lost his inspiration somewhere. Lost his hope, because the movie is just pock marked with insecurity and cynicism. The lines of dialogue given just show over and over someone who has lost faith in the system and the world. They aren’t looking for the good anymore and just put out something with a fine shine of nostalgia and polished heroisim; it doesn’t take someone squinting to see just past the shine and see how dark the writer feels.

The movie commits one of the other gravest sins possible – it’s actually kind of boring. It has high moments, but the lull between them just goes too far. Even the action scenes just go…too long.

TL;DR?

The Incredibles 2 is a passable movie. It’s cute at times, but has significant pacing issues and runs the full two hours. You feel the run time, but the colours are pretty and will probably keep the kids from getting too restless. It relies on old tropes too much and doesn’t deliver a fraction of the heart of the first one. This isn’t to say it doesn’t try or even succeed once in awhile, but there just isn’t enough good or hope here to bring it all home

Should I see it?

Matinee at best. XD sound is good and I don’t know if they have 3-D showings or D-Box, but both might be an add if you have the excess funds to spare.

Would you see it again?

Not likely in the theatre, even with a movie pass.

What about buying it?

Maybe. Just maybe. Like I said, its cute, it’s pretty, it’s passable. That might be enough for a purchase. Ask me again in October when it comes out.

Any other thoughts on it?

It? No. The experience – yes. People lets chat. Pickles while nice at home are not theatre food. You can smell them three full luxury loungers away. I don’t know who thought these were a good idea.

Also ETIQUETTE.

We like the luxury loungers right? I know I do. You aren’t at home though. Don’t put your stank feet on the arm of the chair while you curl up and chat with your boy. Don’t be constantly shifting and kicking the chair. You aren’t at home. Other people are watching the movie too. Sit like a normal person, curl up if you want, but it’s an arm rest, not a foot rest, K? I felt bad for my movie going partner tonight. Not cool.

Now get off my lawn. (thats how I felt writing that)

 

Darke Reviews | Upgrade (2018)

I was debating whether or not to see this due to its ableist look and literally basing all the action off of that and a woman in a fridge moment. I am not one to say if it is or isn’t for sure and I leave that to people in a better place to judge, but if you were to ask me? Yeah it is. How so?

The plot is summed up as thus. The story takes place in some not too distant future where technology is at once familiar and not and is fully integrated into most peoples lives. You can see a tenth generation Alexa, third generation self driving cars, police drones that patrol the sky, and of course everyone is tagged to be able to be detected by the drones (of course there’s a way around that too). A working class mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) who is some form of executive for a cybernetic company run afoul of some bad people aiming to do bad things. They kill Asha and leave Grey a quadriplegic who has no choice but to watch her die inches from his fingers.  Several months later after he’s released from the hospital, and an appropriately long sequence showing what his life is like this, he begins to sink into a depression. This of course is when one of his former clients makes him an offer he can’t refuse – a chip that can be inserted into his body that would take over for the interrupt from brain to spine. With the computer chips help, that conveniently comes with an AI named STEM (Simon Maiden), Grey goes on the hunt for those who killed his wife.

There we go, everything from the trailer summed up and not a single spoiler, yet I still covered the entire setup for the movie. It cannot be denied that the movie leads in with a women in fridge moment, but so does something like The Crow. It’s worth bringing that film up since at the core there’s an element of origin stories there brought to bear, and yes, this pales in comparison to that one. But we have a mechanic and his female companion who come to cross a group of bad guys who do something horrific to both; which leads to the man coming back from the brink of death to avenge her. Pretty familiar?

As for the trope of women in fridges. Is the trope tired? Yeah, its why it is generally looked down on and writers (looking at Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick here) don’t get a by for saying they don’t know about it. Now I don’t know if Leigh Whannel the writer and director of Upgrade knows of it. After writing SAW way back in 2004 and the decade and half of films and media that have followed I can’t say for sure.  I can say in my opinion (though correct me otherwise readers) having someone else die to cause him pain is somehow psychologically less Ableist as its not the grief of his own situation that drives him but the loss of wife. Could it have been a child (see Crow 2), parents – maybe? Dog…no. John Wick did that and you are no John Wick.

So the story is problematic perhaps on a few levels. The acting is nothing really to write home about. The actors are fine, but don’t really stand out. What does stand out is the fact you can tell this was made by Blumhouse. They don’t shy away from visceral imagery when it suits the purpose of the camera. There were multiple reactions in my showing to some of the character ends.  The world the characters live in is an interesting mix of familiar and not as I mentioned before; but doesn’t quite deliver on any single aspect of it. Players of Shadowrun and Cyberpunk who see this will simply want a real SR or CB movie to come  and after Bright and Altered Carbon and now this – we need one. Badly. With someone like Fuqua at the helm, but that’s a conversation for a different post.

TL;DR?

Upgrade was a sufficient enough action film. It is far more Science Action than Science Fiction as it has no real message and the technologies presented don’t feel too unreasonable within the next 50 years. The action scenes are shot well and aren’t quite like anything we’ve seen before due to the jerky motions required for the narrative. I was entertained for its very 80’s ninety-five minute running time as was the rest of the audience.

Should I see it?

It’s too quick to ever become boring and doesn’t really suffer any editorial flaws, but as discussed above there are some problematic elements to its architecture that shouldn’t be ignored. That said if you don’t care about such things you won’t hate the thing; those who do I can say just give it a pass.

If you do plan to see it – matinee only.

Would you see it again?

In theatres? No.

Buying it then?

Undecided. It has some cool tech and sci fi elements I would use for gaming, but I don’t know if its worth the $20 for that. Maybe…ask again in September when it’s released for the home.

Not a lot of praise for this. It sounds kinda meh?

I *was* entertained and there’s some stuff worth talking about, but I can’t without spoilers. It’s above a Meh but just barely into the good category. I can tell it was shot on a tight budget and they were judicious with it so points there…I guess?

What’s next?

Well next Thursday I am travelling for work so there may not be a review; I’ll have a choice between Hotel Artemis or Ocean’s 8 if I do see something. I would probably pick Artemis and wait til the week to see 8 with some friends.

Darke Reviews | Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Continuing to try the new format, which is to say going to get to the point early and go into detail in a bit.

I think I am going to be in the minority again like I was with Avengers: Infinity War, except this time it’s reverse. I really found myself enjoying this movie. It felt like the space fantasy I wanted to see with a heist movie thrown in as the plot. I don’t think there’s any real character growth to be had, but sometimes that isn’t the point. It’s sometimes worth it to see the character learning the tricks of the trade even if his core nature never really changes or evolves. Seriously, its ok from time to time to use this as a narrative trick and overall they were successful here with Solo.

I know a lot of people were concerned that Alden Ehrenreich would be directed to emulate Harrison Ford and I did not find that to be true. He was directed to be his usual charming self, while playing Han Solo. Some folks may think I am biased because I really liked the kid in Beautiful Creatures, and that may be true, but it doesn’t make it less true that I felt I was seeing a young Han Solo. He came across as the hustler always just in over his head but with the skills to get himself out of it, but still always trying to play an angle. Taking the movies as the only source for him, this is part of his essential nature and they delivered on that.

Folks are already praising Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian and the praise is worthy. When you consider there’s maybe a total of 30 minutes between two films with the character of Lando they don’t have a lot to work with to deliver a younger version of the man you meet on Bespin in Empire Strikes back. Glover, unsurprisingly, delivers enough charm to light the screen for some of the weaker performances in the movie – which thankfully there aren’t many. Sadly, Emilia Clarke is one of them. The more I watch of her outside of Game of Thrones the more I find her range limited. This isn’t to say she’s bad in the film, but against Ehrenreich and Glover she’s a shadow. Woody Harrelson continues to enjoy the resurgence of his career since Hunger Games and I don’t mind one bit, he fit this world and melded with it like any smuggler I would see from the Star Wars games. Paul Bettany gets to chew some scenery and this is always a pleasing thing, especially when he gets to be intimidating and it works.

From a story telling perspective the movie does run into some pacing issues, but otherwise holds together and plays well with the universe. It helps expand the Meta of the new Disney Canon universe but doesn’t tromp all over the things that we consider Legends now. There were a few moments that made me giggle like a little girl when I saw things that were little more than trivia in 1994 when I committed the entire layout of a very special YT-1300 to memory. Yes, that was geek speak.

It is not shot like a Star Wars movie that we’re used to and that’s actually good. It expands the tricks future directors get to use and helped create some interesting dynamic action scenes that we haven’t quite seen before. It’s lit well and the effects are very well done. The downside on the technical aspects is you can tell there was another director on this before Ron Howard was brought in to pinch hit and try to knock this one home. There’s some pacing issues and some disconnects in the shots. What makes it work so well is that there is a lot of practical work here and lack of hyper saturation. It felt like a lived in world.

TL;DR (not getting rid of this, it’s almost a trademark)

Solo is a good movie. I think there are going to be people who don’t think it works and don’t find it as enjoyable. I don’t think it’s going to be as divisive as The Last Jedi was, but I think reactions will be split.

Honestly, I don’t give a damn. I enjoyed the movie. I had fun. I bounced in my chair (D-Box notwithstanding) and felt excitement watching a movie again.

Would you see it again?

Yes. The D Box was fun for it, but not necessary. XD is almost a must. 3-D probably not. Big screen though? Absolutely.

So you are buying it?

Yes. No Question

Why didn’t you use the Science Fiction hashtag you use?

Because Star Wars isn’t science fiction. It’s a fantasy movie in space. Princesses, Wizards, Rogues, daring chases and wild escapes. That hasn’t changed here.

 

Folks, the movie was a good time. This was Oceans 11, The Italian Job, or Thomas Crowne Affair in space. It gave me what I wanted to see. The cast was charming. The visuals were good. The directors slowed down enough to let moments that needed to go a bit go a bit and kept the action in a way you could understand everything going on.

I enjoyed Solo.

I hope you do too.

 

Goddess I have things I want to talk about with it too, but even with the new format – NO SPOILERS

Darke Reviews | Deadpool 2 (2018)

Trying a new format, see how it works.

First things first, if you liked Deadpool you will like Deadpool 2. Period. Let’s put the TL;DR upfront. It’s a solid film that at the minimum meets the expectations set by both trailers and the prior film. Ryan Reynolds is still charming. T.J Miller is still a waste of digital media. This is the year of Josh Brolin, good for him. Zazie Beetz is the best and we should praise the ground she walks on as Domino. There was not nearly enough of Yukio and Negasonic Teeenage Warhead, but hey at least we have a Superhero movie who acknowledges not everyone is straight.

Honestly, that’s one of the best things about Deadpool it does and continues to do the things no other comic book movie would dare. It pokes at every facet of the other films and its supporting industry and goes “Here I am”. Seriously, think about the last time you saw an overweight hero who isn’t The Blob. Now an overweight person of colour hero, who is also a kid? You won’t find one anywhere in movies or TV. You won’t find a modern comic book movie as effectively lampshade some of the ridiculous aspects to the comic book origin stories.

The movies biggest flaw is its pacing. It really feels it’s two hour run time; which could have been saved by cutting some of the joke scenes that go on a bit too long. The Rehash that just doesn’t work. Cutting TJ Miller entirely. No seriously, the movie would be better without him. Characters people really enjoyed could have gotten a few more minutes and that might have been worth it.

That said, have I praised Domino enough? Zazie is poetry on screen and we are all better for her and the portrayal of Domino. Admittedly I have a soft spot for the character, but it was just good to see a fun, good, bad ass lady on screen where there is zero romantic or emotional B.S with any of the other characters. She has her own agency and it works.

I am not going to try to force word count here, (or anymore) , but Deadpool 2 is worth your money. It’s a fun little romp that doesn’t fall prey to the pitfalls many sequels do. It *could* have been better, but it’s a far cry better than many sequels out there.

 

Darke Reviews | Avengers – Infinity War (2018)

SPOILER FREE – DUH

Let’s face it folks. This is the most useless movie review in history. You already know you are going to see it regardless of what I say.

Avengers Infinity War is *the* movie of the year that everyone wants to see. Few expected Black Panther to be the hit that it was (we really should have though), Solo is getting a mediocre response, do not get me started on Jurassic World, and literally everything else is sequels which while there are some fans don’t have over a decade of build up leading to their release. This is something no one has tried before at this scale and with good reason. It seems a Herculean effort, the impossible task to try to take multiple group and single character stories that largely operate on their own and put them into a single picture against a single threat.

Yet here we are Marvel has tried it. They wisely put Joe and Anthony Russo in the directors chair after the both critical and audience success of Winter Soldier and Civil War. The writers, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely were also behind those two stories as well, plus The First Avenger. Winter Soldier, still easily in my top five Marvel films is an excellent story that just happens to have super heroes in it. Civil War, also is a strong story with a bigger hero presence – even if I personally have significant issues with some of the characters – the story cannot be denied and it’s solid film making. This was a good play on Marvels part and yes, this too is a well made film; but…

It has flaws for me.

Lots of them; but because I want my readers to enjoy the movie for its merits let me answer some questions that as always contain no spoilers.

Do they successfully merge multiple franchises?

Actually yes. This is a very very busy movie with a ridiculous number of locations, characters, and beats to it. It never quite feels too rushed or too slow , even if it gets close a few times.

Do they do justice to each of the characters as we’ve grown to understand them?

Honestly yes. Everyone gets a good moment of their own that sticks to the core of who and what they have been established to be. Everyone you can imagine gets an appearance and it did make me smile to see a few of them too; yet at the same time I think they spend time with all the wrong characters. The ones who get the most focus are the ones I care about least.

How is Thanos?

Josh Brolin absolutely brings it and anything else verges into spoiler territory so you’ll have to chat with me in the comments section on him. He Looks Great! He is a SOLID Villain. I am happy to see him.

Is there anything else you can share that doesn’t even hint at a spoiler?

There’s not a lot I *can* say about it. The money sunk into this movie is on screen with absolutely nothing wasted. The visuals are surprisingly solid with the raw amount of CG on screen at any given time; and show just how far they are pushing the technology.  The fights left me something to be desired as they are very busy which detracts from most of them unfortunately as I couldn’t really see who was who and there were too many cuts to other places.

TL;DR

I hope you truly enjoy this movie. I really didn’t. It is in the solid middle for me on the Marvel films. I don’t actually *hate* it in any way – which is an important distinction from things like Age of Ultron or Iron Man 3. I just don’t have any emotional connection to it whatsoever and that is why it fails for me.

The ultimate telling thing to me is that the audience in my showing was stone quiet even after the credits rolled. Not a gasp, not a tear, not an applause. Just quiet. So maybe I am not the only one? There *are* good things to it, I covered some above. There are others that are cool too, but they are moments in a whole cloth that just doesn’t do it for me. They aren’t enough to save it even if in those moments it engaged me like nothing else in the film did.

I hope you enjoy The Infinity War and it lives up to every expectation you have.

 

 

Darke Reviews | Rampage (2018)

The video game movie. A long Hollywood tradition of pain and misery, with rare gems rising to the top of a pile of well something. Much like I opened with on Tomb Raider a few weeks ago there are video game movies that don’t suck; that said they usually have a story to them. There are only a few movies based on games started in the Arcade first; and we don’t talk about Double Dragon in polite company.

Yes – thats The Chairman on the right…

The hair. The eyebrow. It’s too much dahling.

So here we have Rampage. Someone, somewhere thought lets take the game of three mutated humans turned monsters beating up Illinois cities and turn it into a major motion picture event. Then someone else said “Ok. Here’s $50 million dollars.” I think I am in the wrong line of work some days when I point stuff like that out.

So should you insert a coin to start?

The movie has a total of four writing credits thus invoking my Rule of 3 for writers rooms. The story was by Ryan Engle who disappointed me with The Commuter and Non-Stop for Liam Neeson. Engle also gets a screenplay credit with three other men. Carlton Cuse (San Andreas, Brisco County Jr., Colony), Ryan J Condal (Colony,  Hercules), and Adam Sztykiel (Due Date, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip).  With this combined pedigree and multiple writers on a concept such as Rampage, this movie should be an absolute train wreck with wildly shifting tones, weirdly spliced scenes, and cringe inducing dialogue; and somehow its not.

Rather than humans who mutate into the monsters, they have animals mutate into significantly larger aggressive hybrid animals. The humans should be and largely are second fiddle to the creature carnage the movie brings. The dialogue is not much, but a few of the lines really work and will make you laugh – especially with some of the delivery. This is not a complex movie here and the concepts are simple and the writers played into those strengths to their benefit with only a handful of human driven moments that do “ok”. The real surprise was the fact the movie addressed consequence for actions (karmic and otherwise) a few times and left me and my partner for the night rather pleased.

Now the humans themselves are, ok its the Rock, you just want to see the Rock. It’s all good. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is charismatic as ever here, knows full well the movie he is in and delivers everything the trailer promised you and more. Naomi Harris does well with her role as a Doctor who had her hand in the creation of the mutagen and she  holds her own with him. The final standout is Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( Supernatural, The Walking Dead) who also knows what sort of movie he is in and goes for the most fun, hammiest – yet entirely in world and in character – performance he could. He worried us at first, then when they let him cut loose he just is all kinds of fun.

Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) clearly has a love for mid and late 80’s action movies. He shoots sequences that are nothing short of absurd but played straight, and straight sequences with a sense of humor. There’s an early scene (non spoiler dont worry) where a guy is handed three weapons in the span of a minute walk from his car to a chopper as if its nothing, all the while some action hero music from Predator or Commando plays in the background. If you pick up on it – you’ll laugh at the ridiculousness of it, if you don’t you will be rolling your eyes at just how close to over the top it is.

This of course brings us to our creatures, Lizzie, Ralph and George. They look GOOD. Yes, you know they are CG, but the effects team blended them into the real world rather well. Your brain tells you this is computer, but it is interacting with its environment like its there effectively. The people in that environment look part of the scene (most of the time) as well. Its good use of colour correction where they brought up saturation levels just right.  While were on the topic of technicals, the action is magnificently glorious and easy to follow. There sound designers deserve a raise as during loud sequences you can often hear someone in the background saying something entertaining. You will find plenty of game easter eggs as well to a pleasing degree.

TL:DR?

Rampage gave me everything I wanted and a good bit more. This is the grab the popcorn and a drink of choice, sit back, turn the brain off and enjoy for an hour and a half. There’s not much more to say about it – it is just sorta fun and kept the promises the trailers made.

So should I see it?

Yeah. It’s a good time at any price. I would be curious how DBox or XD sound plays with it, I think they’d enhance the experience.

Will you see it again?

Being honest with myself, probably not in theatres, but before you ask yes I am going to buy it.

So the video game movie is good?

Yes, because it doesn’t try to rise above its overly silly concept but also doesn’t deride it either. It embraces it and all its merits and flaws and runs with it with abandon that should be cherished. It’s not quality cinema folks. Some movies can just be there to purely entertain and this does that in spades.

If you have the time and inclination go on a Rampage this weekend.