Paul Review

Paul movie posterSynopsis
Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are two friends who are traveling the American west visiting UFO hot spots. Their holiday takes an unexpected turn when they run into Paul (Seth Rogan (voice)), an alien on the run from Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman).

Review
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been a part of some pretty unique films to say the least, just look at the The Cornetto Trilogy. This time, they take the reins as the writers of Paul. The pair really let their nerd-flag fly as there is a clear love for nerddom and science-fiction put into it. However, that is only a small part of what makes this an enjoyable film.

Pegg and Frost nail the nerd-type with ease, probably because they could be considered nerds themselves and bring that energy into their characters. If I remember correctly, in an interview I saw for this film’s release, Pegg said this was a love-letter to the comic-con faring, cosplay wearing, movie marathoning group of people (I might have paraphrased that last little bit but you get the point) and it shows. There are plenty of quotes from science-fiction favorites like Back to the Future, Star Wars, Aliens and more that are sure to please genre fans. The movie pokes fun at the nerd stereotype but at the same time, there is a reverence for them, much like Galaxy Quest. It’s a good balance that is difficult to find in movies.

The cast consists of several comedy veterans. Besides the aforementioned Pegg and Frost, Jason Bateman plays Agen Zoil, the primary agent chasing Paul. He plays it very straight-faced, not visibly reacting to how the people around him are acting. It’s a very typical Bateman role but one he does so well. Joe Lo Truglio, one of my personal favorites from the television series Brookly Nine-Nine, and Bill Hader play a set of almost-dim-witted agents who are assigned to help Agent Zoil. Together they have some pretty good moments, although they might not be the most memorable of the film.

I’ve repeatedly said that my sense of humor leans heavily towards the raunchy, tongue-in-cheek style comedy and this film delivers on that. When you see Seth Rogan and Kristen Wiig on the cast list, you can expect nothing less. It’s definitely not for everyone but there are plenty of probing jokes and f-bombs sprinkled throughout. Wiig’s character, Ruth, especially curses a lot since she is β€œpretty new” to cursing, only starting after meeting Paul. I don’t know why but I find her cursing inexperience absolutely hilarious.

I’ve talked about the cast a lot but that’s really what makes this movie work. The movie never takes itself too seriously and caters to its audience perfectly. Everyone in the cast knows what type of movie they are making and lean into their parts easily. When the cast is having fun, it shows and in turn makes the film more enjoyable for the audience.

I thought Paul was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s clearly aimed a specific audience but there is plenty for others who don’t fit the mold as well. The cast is really what drives this film. The humor might not be for everyone but you are going to find that in all comedies. If you’re looking for a fun and raunchy comedy, then Paul is the film for you.

Favorite Quote
Paul: Hey, there, sleepy face!
Ruth: Fuckeroo. That was the best titty-farting sleep I have ever had.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Greg Motolla – Director
Simon Pegg – Writer
Nick Frost – Writer
David Arnold – Composer

Simon Pegg – Graeme Willy
Nick Frost – Clive Gollings
Seth Rogan – Paul (voice)
Kristen Wiig – Ruth Buggs
Jason Bateman – Agent Zoil
Bill Hader – Haggard
Joe Lo Truglio – O’Reilly
John Carroll Lynch – Moses Buggs
Jane Lynch – Pat Stevens
Jefferey Tambor – Adam Shadowchild
David Koechner – Gus
Jesse Plemons – Jake
Sigourney Weaver – The Big Guy
Blythe Danner – Tara Walton


If you’re interested in joining the Ultimate 70s Blogathon, you can find all the information here.

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Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Review

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi movie posterSynopsis
Rey (Daisy Ridley) locates Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who reluctantly trains her in the ways of the Force. Meanwhile, the First Order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) are hot on the trail of Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) Resistance.

Review
By now, everyone and their brother has said what there is to say about Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Due to the holidays, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and put my thoughts into written word. I did, however, give my thoughts in a podcast, which you can listen to here. I’ve made no effort to hide the fact I didn’t enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens as much as everyone else seems to. With a film as divisive as The Last Jedi, where do I fall on the spectrum? Somewhere right in the middle.

One of the main reasons The Empire Strikes Back is so widely loved is because of where it left the Rebellion at the end. The bad guys won. The good guys lost and were left in a very difficult spot. The Last Jedi channels that same desperation. Throughout the film, you can feel the Resistance getting closer and closer to despair. This really allows for some great character growth, particularly from Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who is learning that there are better ways of protecting your forces than just running head-first into battle.

Despite my mixed feelings about The Force Awakens, one thing from that movie I absolutely loved was its use of practical effects. The Last Jedi follows in its immediate predecessor’s footsteps and uses practical effects, uh, effectively. I don’t know what else to say other than it makes a big difference compared to the CGI-heavy Prequel Trilogy.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is one of my favorite Star Wars characters so it was great to see him in a mentor role, teaching Rey (Daisy Ridley) about the Force. Even better, I like that he wasn’t perfect. He was broken and hesitant and it made for a good relationship between him and Rey. However, I do not like his moment of weakness that drove Kylo Ren to leave the academy, but that would be discussing spoilers, which I’m not going to do.

Speaking of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he continues to be the most interesting new character to come from this new trilogy. Once you think you have him figured out, he goes and does the unexpected. Adam Driver was a great choice to play Kylo. Driver really brings out Kylo’s emotional struggle, sort of like the Anakin we never had. The relationship forming between him and Rey is something to look out for in Episode IX.

The Last Jedi newcomer Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, was a great new addition to the cast. She really embodied the hope that the Resistance stands for and Tran played her optimism well. Her side quest with Finn (John Boyega) was a fun romp and break from the main plot line. Tran and Boyega had some good chemistry so I can’t wait to see how they’re developed in the future.

For as much as I enjoy Daisy Ridley’s Rey, I don’t feel like her character grew as much as several of the others. Coming into the film, she was strong in the Force, if untrained, determined to learn from Luke the ways of the Jedi, and optimistic about turning Kylo back to the Light Side. By the end of the film, she’s just as strong in the Force, though this time a little more refined in her training, and still has her optimism. One of my gripes with Rey, despite my love for the character, was how quickly and how strong she became in the Force in The Force Awakens. That quick growth in her first appearance doesn’t give her abilities much room to grow here.

What I can say about the story without going into spoilers is how bold it is. As I said, it takes inspiration from The Empire Strikes Back in where to take the story but how it does that is unlike any Star Wars movie to date. I appreciate it for being different and daring with its characters and story, even if I didn’t agree with all of it. That’s all I can say at this point. Most of my issues with the film go into some pretty heavy spoilers. If you would like to hear those, check out the podcast linked above.

I thought Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was GOOD πŸ™‚ After several viewings, the best way I could describe my feelings for the film is that I like the story beats but not all the character beats. Poe finally gets the development he deserves and Rose is such a great new addition to the cast. The Last Jedi answers several of the questions laid out in The Force Awakens, but not always in a very satisfying way. All I can say for sure is that Episode IX has a huge task ahead of itself drawing this new chapter of the Star Wars saga to a close.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rian Johnson – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher – Leia Organa
Daisy Ridley – Rey
Oscar Isaac – Poe Dameron
John Boyega – Finn
Kelly Marie Tran – Rose Tico
Joonas Suotamo – Chewbacca
Laura Dern – Vice Admeral Holdo
Billie Lourd – Lieutenant Connix
Adam Driver – Kylo Ren
Domhnall Gleeson – General Hux
Andy Serkis – Snoke
Gwendoline Christie – Captain Phasma
Benicio Del Toro – DJ
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Jimmy Vee – R2-D2

Alien: Covenant Review

Alien: Covenant movie posterSynopsis
The Covenant is on its way to the remote planet of Origae-6 to start a new human colony. Along the way, the ship is hit by a neutrino burst from a nearby star, forcing the crew to wake up early from stasis to make repairs. After repairs are made, the crew receives a distress signal from a nearby planet and travel to the planet’s surface in search of the signal’s origins.

Review
The Alien movie franchise is an interesting one. It spans nearly four decades, while consisting of only 6 films. The first two are two of science-fiction’s best films, which are then followed by three mediocre films. In Prometheus, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise to begin delving into the origins of his mysterious Xenomorphs, but ended that film with more questions than answers. Scott returns yet again to direct Alien: Covenant, which is inching closer to where we first met them at the beginning of Alien.

With the exception of Aliens, each film in the franchise after Alien has attempted to recreate the horror aspect of the original 1979 film. This film has so far been the closest to recreate the horror that made the first film so engrossing. Although this shouldn’t be much of a surprise given both are directed by Scott, the visionary behind the franchise. He understands that it is the fear of the unknown and mystery surrounding it that makes Alien great. Having several decades to become familiar with it, that atmosphere cannot be replicated, which is why the sequels have failed. However, that style can be honored. This movie still draws on the fear of the unknown for its tension but rather than the Xenomorph, it looks towards a fairly unexpected place.

What did surprise me, and what I really enjoyed, was that the horror didn’t always come from the alien but rather David. David is a truly twisted being and that is where a lot of the tension come from. He is an android who has no emotion and is only seeking perfection on life. And to him that requires sacrifice, sometimes at the cost of others if need be. His distorted view on life and the pursuit of perfection is sure to keep your attention. It’s a different kind of villain but one that works amazingly well.

Of course, a lot of David’s memorability is due to Michael Fassbender’s excellent portrayal of the character. It was an excellent idea to keep him in the franchise after Prometheus because he was the highlight of that film as well. He also plays another android, Walter, an updated model of David. At first I wasn’t sold on the accent he gave the character but after a while it grew on me, especially after a few scenes of the two androids together. Fassbender portrays the two characters in two very distinct ways that really highlights his acting ability.

Although it may be difficult to remember, there are other cast members besides Fassbender. Katherine Waterston as Daniels gets the most development and keeps the Alien franchise’s bad-ass heroine streak going. Danny McBride’s Tennessee also gets quite a bit of screen time but not as much development. Everyone else pretty much exists as Xenomorph fodder, just like in all the previous movies. However, with this kind of a movie, and what has become expected of the franchise, that’s alright. Not every character needs a deep rich background, especially if they aren’t going to last long anyway. Scott understands that we are there to see one thing: the titular Alien. And if we get a great character like David along the way, then that’s just icing on the cake.

I thought Alien: Covenant was GOOD πŸ™‚ The Alien franchise has had its ups and downs over the years but it seems to be finding a groove. The β€œalien” is slowly becoming less and less the alien Xenomorphs and more of an android alienated from humanity. If Michael Fassbender keeps up the great work as the android David, then that is completely fine with me.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Jack Paglen – Story
Michael Green – Story
John Logan – Screenplay
Dante Harper – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Music

Michael Fassbender – David / Walter
Katherine Waterston – Daniels
Billy Crudup – Oram
Danny McBride – Tennessee
Demian Bichir – Lope
Carmen Ejogo – Karine
Jussie Smollett – Ricks
Callie Hernandez – Upworth
Amy Seimetz – Faris
Nathaniel Dean – Hallett
Alexander England – Ankor
Benjamin Rigby – Ledward
Uli Latukefu – Cole
Tess Haubrich – Rosenthal
Lorelei King – Mother (voice)
Goran D. Kleut – Xenomorph / Neomorph
Andrew Crawford – Neomorph

Lightning Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell movie posterSynopsis
Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A perfect human / machine hybrid. However, she has no recollection of her past before becoming the weapon she is today. When she confronts a mysterious terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), she soon begins looking for answers about the truth of who she really is.

Review
Ghost in the Shell had the difficult task of luring in fans of both the original 1995 animated film and proceeding anime of the same name, as well as a new audience. Because I have yet to see the original film, I fall into the latter, but found myself right away getting drawn into the movie’s world. What hooked me in the beginning was its fantastic science-fiction neo-noir version of Tokyo. The bright colors from the advertisements, signs, cars, and lights create a stark contrast against the more muted-colored buildings. When it comes to sci-fi films, I like to be sold on the world it is looking to create. Almost every character has some sort of cybernetic enhancement and this movie shows how integral these enhancements have become in this world. Say what you will about Scarlett Johansson being cast as Major, she did a great job in the role. She made her movements rigid and less fluid than what you are used to seeing. This motion sold that she had a robotic body despite her appearance as flesh and blood.

As philosophical as this movie wanted to be, it never fully examined the themes it was trying to bring across. They were touched on and hinted at several times through the film but it still felt like the message or commentary it was trying to provide was not delved into as deeply as this movie thought it was. I think it is funny that this is the case because a lot of time was spent on exposition. However, it never seemed to move past a superficial level or into any deep exploration of its themes. This also made the movie feel like it was often not going anywhere because there wasn’t enough action to make up for the lack of depth. It’s a shame these ideas never found much ground because the concepts of artificial intelligence and identity are very interesting to me.

I thought Ghost in the Shell was OK 😐 Its futuristic neo-noir world is extremely well realized and Scarlett Johansson was great casting as Major but despite much of its run time is spent on exposition, the themes and commentary it was trying to bring across aren’t explored past high-level concepts. This movie isn’t bad by any means, but there are flickers of good ideas that never came to fruition to make it something special.

Trivia
Several original voice actors from the 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell reprise their roles for the Japanese dubbed version of this film. Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, and Koichi Yamadera voice their parts as Major, Batou, and Togusa respectively.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rupert Sanders – Director
Jamie Moss – Screenplay
William Wheeler – Screenplay
Ehren Kruger – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer
Clint Mansell – Composer

Scarlett Johansson – Major
Pilou Asbaek – Batou
Takeshi Kitano – Aramaki
Juliette Binoche – Dr. Ouelet
Michael Carmen Pitt – Kuze
Chin Han – Togusa
Danusia Samal – Ladriya
Lasarus Ratuere – Ishikawa
Yutaka Izumihara – Saito
Tawanda Manyimo – Borma
Peter Ferdinando – Cutter
Anamaria Marinca – Dr. Dahlin

Lightning Review: Predator 2

Predator 2 movie posterSynopsis
In 1997 Los Angeles , Lieutenant Harrigan (Donald Glover) is in the middle of a gang war when, unbeknownst to him, he is targeted by a Predator (Kevin Peter Hall). He must figure out why his squad members are disappearing while dealing with a government official, Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who is taking over his investigation of the cartels.

Review
One of Predator‘s strongest features is its simplicity. A team of commandos is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Predator 2 tries to keep the same simplicity but in an urban jungle instead of a lush, green one. It’s an interesting concept to move to such a dramatically different environment but I don’t think the film fully took advantage of the setting. Maybe it was the way the Predator hunted this time wasn’t as exhilarating or maybe it was the film’s pacing. Either way, I didn’t feel the suspense I felt in the previous movie. The film has a good cast who do what they can with what little script they are given. Danny Glover is a good follow up to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch. I particularly liked Bill Paxton as the quick-talking Jerry Lambert. The character’s attitude is much some of Paxton’s other characters I like, such as Private Hudson in Aliens or even more recently John Garrett in Agents of SHIELD TV series. Similar to the Xenomorphs in Aliens, Predator 2 expands on the Predator’s as a species, apparently called the Yautja (e-wat-ya), more by showing they hunted a variety of species, not just humans, as well as expanding their arsenal.

I thought Predator 2 was OK 😐 It tries to be simple like Predator but it doesn’t have the same thrill or suspense so it ends up feeling dull at times. The great cast does well but they can only do so much with the little material they have to work with. This is a rare case where the plot was too simple and to have a twist or two would have kept it interesting.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Hopkins – Director
Jim Thomas – Writer
John Thomas – Writer
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Kevin Peter Hall – The Predator
Danny Glover – Lieutenant Mike Harrigan
Gary Busey – Peter Keyes
Ruben Blades – Danny Archuleta
Maria Conchita Alonso – Leona Cantrell
Bill Paxton – Jerry Lambert
Robert Davi – Captain Phil Heinemann
Adam Baldwin – Garber
Kent McCord – Captain B. Pilgrin
Morton Downey Jr. – Tony Pope

Tron: Legacy Review

Tron: Legacy movie posterSynopsis
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), computer programmer and president of Encom, disappeared twenty years ago. When his son Sam (Gerret Hedlund) receives a mysterious message from his father’s old arcade, he finds himself transported to the Grid, a world inside the computer. With the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam goes on a search for his father and a way to escape back into the real world.

Review
Tron is a cult favorite from the 1980s. It comes as no surprise that with the trend of bringing back old and favorite franchises, particularly over the last decade or so, that Tron would get its own sequel, nearly thirty years later. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original but I still understood its significance in cinema. In 2010, Tron: Legacy takes audiences back inside the computer with an updated look to match the updated times.

My biggest issue with Tron was the characters. There wasn’t much to them, or the story even, so I didn’t care much about Flynn, Tron, or Crom. This time around, I would say the characters are the strongest part about this film. From the beginning, we learn about Sam’s close relationship with his father and he how distraught he is when his father disappears. As the film goes on, we learn more about their relationship and them individually. Their relationship is fleshed out. By the end of the film, I cared more about either them than I did any of the characters from the previous film.

The costumes from Tron were pretty interesting, with lines running along the outfits differently and in random patterns for each character. This design element is brought back for Tron: Legacy but better realized than it was before. The rotoscopic techniques used inΒ Tron to add the color were distracting and not very crisp. With today’s computer imaging technology, the lines are sharp, creating an effect that is probably more in-line of what Lisberger imagined in 1982. Although the scenes set inside the computer are in color as opposed to the black-and-white of Tron, they do have a gray tone to them that gives it a similar feel without becoming distracting.

When Sam first enters the Grid, he is taken immediately to the Games, an arena reminiscent of what was seen in the previous film. This creates a lot of confusion for both Sam and the audience. I liked this feeling because I didn’t get all the information right away. I was trying to figure things out, just as I’m sure Sam was, and it had me excited. The film gave a burst of excitement before getting to the characterization scenes between Sam and his father. And it gave a glimpse that this was the same world as before but updated, just like an actual computer would be.

For a film called Tron, there is an obvious lack of the character in the film. Hints are dropped throughout the movie as to where he is (and eagle-eyed fans might figure it out based on some visual clues). However, when Tron is finally revealed, it felt anticlimactic. Given his history with Kevin Flynn, I was expecting more. I’ll just leave it at that because going into it any more would wonder into spoiler territory.

De-aging in film has been happening longer than I have realized. I knew it has been used to some effect before, such as in films like X3: The Last Stand and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but I didn’t think it wasn’t until more recently that it was used to the degree it was used here. A de-aged Jeff Bridges is used for Clu (since most programs in the Tron universe resemble their programmer) back in 2010. Flash forward six years and the process is used again to resurrect Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I mentioned in my review of that that the effect looks great except for when Tarkin talks. Now knowing this de-aging effect has been around since at least 2010, it is a little more disappointing that this is a problem in Rogue One because that is the same flaw in this film. There is something off with Bridges’ mouth as Clu when he speaks and it removed me from the film.

I thought Tron: Legacy was GOOD πŸ™‚ It fixes the biggest reason I didn’t like the previous film: the characters. They actually get some development this time. There are plenty of Easter eggs and homages to the original classic. Although it doesn’t push the boundaries of CGI and animation as much as Tron did in the early eighties, it looks visually remarkable and has some impressive de-aging, albeit with some imperfections. Tron: Legacy is a worthy legacy of such a popular cult classic as Tron.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Joseph Kosinski – Director
Edward Kitsis – Screenplay / Story
Adam Horowitz – Screenplay / Story
Brian Klugman – Story
Lee Sternthal – Story
Daft Punk – Music

Garret Hedlund – Sam Flynn
Jeff Bridges – Kevin Flynn / Clu
Olivia Wilde – Quorra
Bruce Boxleitner – Alan Bradley / Tron
James Frain – Jarvis
Beau Garrett – Gem
Michael Sheen – Castor / Zuse
Anis Cheurfa – Rinzler

If you are interested in participating in the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself, you can find all the information here.