Monday, January 25, 2016

In Hot Pursuit of Scorching Fun

The second installment of the Maze Runner franchise that not all is lost, even during the Apocalypse 


ARTH VADER (AV): Faster than I would have thought, we got ourselves another Scorch Trials installment. I was surprised to have enjoyed the first film so much but I quickly forgot all about the campy ‘kids save the world’ story so when this one came out in the summer of 2015, I was like “huh–already?” The film comes hot on the heels of the first Maze Runner and as the first one was surprisingly good, my concern was simply; can the second one maintain form? Not a tall order but I had my doubts. How about you, Ponty? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): This film picks up where the last one left off…and like the last one, diverges greatly from the original book it was based on. This was to be expected though since the film adaption of the entire story left the books with the first installment... and will likely continue to the end of the trilogy. At least this film lines up with the first and in that, there is perfect continuity.


AV: Scorch Trials brings back an impressively talented cast of young Maze Runners, as Director Wes Ball expands his world of the and brings us new and compelling details of world that’s no longer ours but has become something else entirely. Let’s face it, Ponty, the acting is no great shakes anywhere in this flick but I don’t know if that’s the fault of the actors. The screenplay tries to involve the viewer and doesn’t fail, while not making a whole lot of linear sense. Still, the story is embraceable and we get so much more out of Scorch Trials than I would have thought, wouldn’t you say sir? 

TP: I wasn’t taken with any of the returning original cast Vader, even though they played their roles adequately (just barley so in some cases), I was more intrigued with the new additions to the cast. Jacob Lofland was particularly interesting in his role as Aris with his quiet demeanor and willingness to get involved. Although I like Aiden Gillen, he seemed to come off as just an alternate version of “Little Finger” (his Game of Thrones role)… worming his way to the WY.K.D throne. Giancarlo Esposito was a surprise and added some spice to the cast with his role as wheeler and dealer, but ultimately a concerned parent looking for a better life. Lastly was the unexpected appearance of Barry Pepper. Although he didn’t have a huge role, I haven’t seen him in awhile and it was good to see him return to the silver screen.


AV: It was hard not to to be impressed by this film’s visual effects. Massive CGI city environments-like the rolling electrical storms and crazy weather, as well as fantastic landscapes and of course (Spoilers!), Zombies. I gotta’ admit my friend, I did NOT see that one coming! Sure I might have if I read the books, but hey, c’mon what is this a library? 

The addition of Zombies, even different types of them, was kind of low hanging fruit from a story-teller’s standpoint but I loved it all the same. Really! Seeing brainless undead hordes chase our Maze-running heroes out of a blasted out skyscraper submerged in sand is one of the most compelling single moments of 2015 effects cinema.

TP: There was no new ground broken, but the effects were still well done and moved the story along for what it was…a giant chase film. With that, there isn’t much that need be done except having stuff pop out at various times coupled with camera play to distort the senses. It works well for what it was intended to do.


AV: Okay, so in the review of the first installment of the Maze Running chronicles, I was left with a number of questions like, why are they there, and who put them there and why are they being watched. Sadly, I’m not sure I have those answers. Yes, I am aware the organization that set up the whole Maze observation dynamic was revealed but, why would ANYONE dedicate such large-scale technological, human, and logistical resources to such experiments? It make no sense to me. But I guess some things just have to hold our suspended belief. It’s my least favorite storytelling component to these movies. What did you think?

TP: Where do I start Vader? Perhaps I’ll start with the lunacy that in the middle of a chase, or while still being in peril, is somehow the perfect opportunity to stop and demand a detailed explanation for why you are running for your life. No? How about splitting up in dangerous and unfamiliar territory that is no doubt riddled with danger? If that wasn’t bad enough, how about leaving a perfectly functioning gun behind so one of your party can commit suicide? Uh... throwing away an empty canteen, so in the off chance you actually do come across more water in the desert, you have no place to store it? What about setting your place to blow up because you are under attack by hostile forces, and you only take ONE of the six or seven guns you have, and leave the rest. Oh… my personal favorite is coming to a fork in the road and deciding to explore the scary creepy looking tendrils on the wall and follow them back to a place of horror… and continue to explore! These are just some of the idiocy and lunacy that simply killed this film for me.


AV: This film left the audience in a bit of a cliff-hanger so we are more than likely going to get another installment. I am quite interested in seeing how the story raps up in the next chapter. The culmination of robotic monsters (from the first film) and ravenous, black-blooded Zombies in film two makes me anxious to see if those two (adversaries) go to war or if there is a third terror unleashed on our heroes Runners as they head back for the final showdown.

TP: There is going to be a third film. In fact I have heard that the last film might even be split into two films ala “Hunger Games.” All I can say is if it is more of the same, I will probably be just as annoyed watching it as I was watching this film. 


ARTH VADER Rates Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: With a great–if not predictable–final battle wrought with tears, feel-good heroics and some good, old-fashioned Hollywood explosions and gun play, you’ll enjoy Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. I dare say even better than the first, this film does a solid job of engaging the audience and I need to re-iterate, for any Zombie-lovers out there, this film has got the goods. Well-paced, loaded with good-looking CGI and a story that’s good enough to move things along, I’d line up seven (7) Busted Blocks and drop them into a monster-laden, zombie-infested wasteland and watch the good time roll.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials:  Maybe it’s hubris when I say that I think I’m just too intelligent for this film, but when nearly every scene has me scratching my head wondering what the heck the characters are thinking when they do some of the dumb stuff they do…I have to wonder if people actually wrote this film or was it a room full of chimpanzees as part of some vile experiment. This film seems to have gotten lost in its own maze of idiocy and could only manage to find five (5) busted blocks

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: 6 / 10 Busted Blocks

Friday, January 8, 2016

San Andreas A Real Disaster

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is literally on shaky ground in this forgettable disaster tryst


ARTH VADER (AV): In loving memory of all the great disaster flicks like Twister, Towering Inferno, Tidal Wave, Dante’s Peak, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and Armageddon, San Andreas is the doomsday-eque tale of “the big one.” The supposed impending mega-quake along the San Andreas Fault line that will decidedly re-shape the west coast as parts of California are believed to likely fall into the Pacific. These films are fun, fruity fiction that play on our fears while trying to move us to tears. Thoughts, oh Pontificatorious one? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): There is a formula for films like this and the producers of this film stuck to it. Now, doing so doesn’t make this a great film, but it certainly made it a predictable one. If continuity were following a specific way formula for a hero/disaster film, then this film stuck to that…to the letter.


AV: Paul “The Rhino” Giamatti plays a decidedly intelligent role of a geologist who has the unfortunate burden of knowing what’s about to happen and in turn loose his partner (along with about 30 million Californians) for his troubles. The lovely and talented Carla Gugino all but wastes her time in this film. Even Ioan “No-longer Mr Fantastic” Gruffudd plays an unlikely super-industrialist for no reason whatsoever. Director Brad Peyton’s epic cinematography is misplaced in such an Epic flop and well, I won’t even mention the ‘acting.’

TP: Make no mistake this is a film about “The Rock” (Dwayne Johnson) and he does exactly what I expected of him…bigger than life with plenty of flexing. That said, the supporting cast does well, given the material. Carla Gugino (last seen by me in “Wayward Pines”) is the estranged ex-wife. Ioan Gruffudd (last seen by me in “Forever”) is the new boyfriend with loads of cash, but very little courage. Paul Giamatti, my favorite of the supporting cast, is the scientist that has important information, that nobody else knows. Although there was a lot of unused talent here, the direction of the film was more predictable than knowing submerging yourself in water will make you wet.


AV: Nothing says big-budget summer blockbuster than a massive visual effects budget on film devoid of story, value or merit. The ridiculous Tsunami, vast scope of giant cities buckling under massive aftershocks. On-screen, the visuals keep the audience from dozing or walking out wouldn’t you say old friend? 

TP: With a film this predictable, effects is really all there is to it. While the effects were great, there really was nothing new presented here to make up for the lack of everything else. Wanton destruction has been done before, the trick is to do it better than anyone else ever has…and this film missed that mark. 


AV: Its hard to consider a film like this anything other than eye-candy. Characters appear and disappear without any reason or explanation. We’re given little-to-no opportunity for character motivations (other than survival) and improbable scenarios arise that we simply take at face value (like how its ok to steal or randomly ‘borrow’ any boat plane or truck you need to get around during a giant Earthquake). 

Look in all fairness, movies like this don’t deserve our individual or collective brain power, but that doesn’t mean bad movies get a pass for spending $150 million dollars. C’mon Hollywood, you’re better than that. 

TP: If you are a huge fan of The Rock like I am, then you will give this film a pass regardless of all it’s shortcomings…the greatest of which is the fact you can tell exactly what is going to happen before it happens…in every…single…scene. I said earlier there is a formula for films like this. Great hero/disaster films tend to deviate from this formula in some way to give some surprise to the audience. The makers of this film didn’t even bother with that. As a result, I sat there like a precog for the entire film with the only high point being my fandom for The Rock, and all the cheesiness with which they presented his character.


AV: The big travesty is that more big budget, brainless boob movies like this are sure to follow. No one asks for them, no one wants them, but we keep going so they keep getting made. (sigh)

TP: Nope…don’t even bother because I will predict that one too. It will go like this: The Rock goes to another area, an earthquake (or other natural disaster) happens, he saves his family (or whatever supporting characters are presented) with all the non-surprises and cliche of this film, the end.


ARTH VADER rates San Andreas: The saving grace of this film is in its cornball cheesiness and the sheer ridiculousness of the screenplay and the film’s overall premise. But if you are so inclined, buy some popcorn at your local dollar store, nuke up a bowl or two, rent or stream San Andreas and get ready to get ready for well, not very much. That’s why I’m digging deep into my well of generosity and offer two (2)  Busted Blocks out of ten on the Busted Block scale. One for the visuals and the other as bribe to promise these producers never to make this kind of schlock ever again. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates San Andreas:  The only thing that even remotely gives this film a decent rating (such as it is) is the fact I’m one of the biggest Dwayne Johnson fans on the planet and a sucker for gratuitous destruction. Other than that, the predictability of this film makes it just a giant two hour cliche barely able to destroy five (5) busted blocks.

San Andreas: 3.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Small Hero, Big Fun

Marvel Goes Big Time With A Little Help From A Little-Known Avenger


ARTH VADER (AV): As one of the founding members of the original Marvel Comics Avengers, Ant-Man’s been a big part of the Avengers since 1963. While being strangely absent from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man, Giant Man, Goliath and Yellow Jacket) has been a key Avenger on Numerous occasions, though hardly a character on any comic fan’s ‘top five favorite heroes’ list. So it stands to reason that Ant-Man is only just now getting rolled into the MCU fold. The continuity is loose at best wouldn’t you say, Ponty? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Well Vader, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand with it’s newest addition…Ant-Man. As usual the introduction is seamlessly done with the current continuity and incorporates elements from the past and present of the MCU. We left the books behind a long time ago. 


AV: A curiously delightful cast makes this film breath with a life of its own. Comedy front-man Paul “Ant-Man” Rudd is a solid choice for the Scott Lang role. Academy Award winner Michael Douglas appears as the MCU’s original Hank Pam, and one of my favorites of the film Michael “Fury” Pena brings the now expected Marvel brevity to the screen in a very unexpected way. Director Peyton “Bring It On” Reed made this a part hero, part heist, part world-building film for Marvel and it I would think was fairly successful. Pontificator, what did you think of this movie’s casting? 

TP: This film was well cast and very well acted Vader. With Paul Rudd taking the helm, he actually held his position in the film and complimented veteran actor Michael Douglas (Hank Pym). With both actors elevating their roles, it was that much easier for Evangeline Lilly (Hope Van Dyne) to play the daughter/reluctant love interest roles. Corey Stoll was a great villain and unexpectedly so since he constantly plays the hero on television’s “The Strain.” Michael Pena was both brilliant and memorable and really put the icing on the cake of this film.


AV: As a Marvel movie, Ant-Man spared no expensive in making Ant-Man a delight to watch. Watching the Pym Particles in action was another movie milestone every comic nerd has longed for. As a kid reading about Ant-Man (and later Yellow Jacket) the eye-dizzying amazement that comes from watching Scott Lang run with a swarm of ants and then zip seamlessly back and forth from the little world to the big, was visual effects triumph that was so fluid, I couldn’t help but be awestruck over. Was it the same for you P-Man? 

TP: IMAX 3D. There…said it Vader. The effects were stellar and expected to be so this late in the game when it comes to a Marvel film. Usually there is nothing new to discuss, but here we have effects that give us a new perspective for a Marvel film (although not new to films in general) and they are brilliantly done, especially using…IMAX 3D. There…said it again.


AV: Here’s the big news, Ant-Man is fun, a bit kooky, highly MCU connected and unexpected. Marvel took the same gamble with Ant-Man as it did a year ago with Guardians of the Galaxy. As the number one movie studio on Earth, Marvel can–and MUST–experiment outside the traditional hero formula. It’s how the genre matures, moves on and lasts. In all fairness, the movie is kind of a clown romp, Scott Lang is a buffoon, as are his comedy relief, Heist cronies. The film is silly an feels very rushed at the end with a VERY odd ‘world-within-worlds’ sequence that feels almost dreamlike. 

TP: I guess there were a lot of low expectations for this film and understandable so since the trailers really didn’t compliment the actual film. Fortunately the film greatly exceeded those expectations and was another “win” for Marvel Studios. Despite the gaping plot holes to how the Ant-Man technology worked (think size and unchanging mass) the film still sold itself, especially if you are not into doing hard science while watching it. I have also long since stopped caring that the MCU does not follow any book or story to the letter and am therefore pretty positive that the Red Queen will not be showing up anytime soon. The mix of drama (Scott Lang’s determination to be a father to his daughter), action, and comedy (both Rudd and Pena deliver here) was perfect for this film and gave it it’s own flavor within the greater MCU. 


AV: This is a tough one to call of ram, Ponty. Ant-Man is good, make no mistake, its fun and is a great Marvel movie follow-up to the intensity of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. We are given all kinds of hints at the potential for more tiny Avengers, aka The Wasp (played by Evangeline Lily), but while this films performed at a solid $375 million (better than each of the Thor films, BTW) I wonder how vested audiences would be in an Ant-Man sequel. That remains to be seen (likely with a microscope). 

TP: Of course we will see Ant-Man again in his own film (Marvel said so in this one) and we will of course see him in the greater MCU as we continue the journey in Captain America: Civil War.


ARTH VADER rates Marvel’s Ant-Man: The magic of the MCU is alive and well and live large (ahem) in Ant-Man. A light-hearted, slightly forgettable film that has some strong ties to future MCU events (can anyone say “Captain America: Winter Soldier?”). The ‘fight’ between The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Ant-Man is onscreen gold. While not without it’s small (sorry) shortcomings, I think Ant-Man was a big hit. That’s why Ant-Man swat’s eight (8) Busted Blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Ant-Man:  This film was better than I expected and really delivered something different from other MCU films, but still upheld the quality expected from Marvel Studios. With the perfect blend of drama, action and comedy, Ant-Man easily shrunk eight (8) busted blocks on it’s way to saving the world from nefarious machinations. 

Marvel’s Ant-Man: 8 / 10 Busted Blocks

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mind Games In The Big Easy

The body-double thriller Self/Less plays with heartstrings and plays mind games with characters and audiences alike. 


ARTH VADER (AV): Based on an original screenplay by Barcelona-born horror screen vets David “out of the dark” Pastor and Alex “Carriers” Pastor, Self/Less is a psychological thriller in the vain of The Andromeda strain, this film looks to spotlight immortality for the super rich. Billionaire Damian Hale has terminal cancer and turns to a radical medical procedure called "shedding," where his mind is transferred to a younger, healthier body. soon, he starts a new life in New Orleans an becomes engulfed in disturbing recurring images of the past life of his surrogate body. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Body snatching is not new to the sci-fi genre, but this film does it in a way that makes it interesting and uniquely entertaining. The fact that the “snatch” can only be permanent by meeting certain conditions, kept me wondering who was going to make it to the end.


AV: The cast is a quality ensemble of A-Listers and up-and-comers. Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds plays the role of young Damian, Ben “Mandarin” Kingsly is the terminally ill real estate mogul, Damian with Natalie “Deathrace” Martinez and perennial bad guy we love that, Matthew “Ozymandias” Goode. The competent direction of Tarsem “Immortals” Singh delivered a visually tense aura to the movie and lends itself soundly to the dramatic thriller genre. The acting was kind of expected to me, but that by no means the film showed poorly. There were other things that helped that along. How say you old friend? 

TP: The cast was very good and it was a stroke of genius to hook the audience first with Ben Kingsley as his performance was stellar for the short time he graced the silver screen Vader. I’ve always liked Ryan Reynolds although he is better in some films than others depending on the material. In this film he was pretty good and it helped that he was supposed to be channeling Kingsley because his performance kept bringing me back to that. The beautiful Natalie Martinez was very good as was Matthew Goode (whom I have not seen since “Watchmen” despite his doing lots of work since then).


AV: It is my grounded belief that visual effects are an integrated part of the sci-fi movie making process. What distinguishes one take on visual effects over another is part budget, part story and part director’s vision. In self/Less, there is an effort to make the flashback experience different, especially since it is a deep-seeded memories are less true flashbacks and more memory fragments. This film presented those moments expertly. Anything new here? No, however, in context, not in anyway disappointing. 

TP: This film did not call for too much special effects leaving it to spend a lot of time developing the characters and delivering a great story. The effects that were in the film helped bring it along and complimented the story. It’s hard to mess up a few fight scenes, car chases and explosions.…and making the mind swap aspect very simplistic, this film was a sci-fi thriller that was very light on “sci" and heavy of the “fi.”


AV: Above/Average. This film offers little new narrative to speak of but that didn’t make it a bad movie. Its not terribly inventive, not overall clever and bores and challenges your suspension of disbelief so often you wonder why you are still along for the ride. In truth, Self/Less has its moments–a good number of them, actually–but fails to deliver a knockout blow, or enough “WOW” moments that send me over the top and riding off into the sunset. Kingsley is terrific and its hard not to love Reynolds in nearly anything, but in truth, for me, Self/Less is just sort of there. Parts are near stellar and Matthew Goode is flawless and mostly liked the film. A worthy rental and certainly worth another viewing wouldn’t you say Ponty?

TP: Well Vader, if you blinked, this film got passed you as a science-fiction thriller that told a very well thought out story with lots of drama. The idea of immortality is not new, but this take on it was very unique. I enjoyed the fact that this was a story-driven film that told a multiple stories at the same time. The fact that the basis for the film started out as a search to live forever, but ended up as a story about love makes this one of the most engaging films I have seen this summer. It is also one of the few films where the trailer does it absolutely no justice at all and those that decided to pass on it because of the trailer have been wronged by shoddy marketing.


AV: There are many reasons to further explore this genre of movie-making and story-telling. There are few reasons to follow up on this film, though. The mind is a fertile landscape to craft a sci-fi master piece (Please allow Chris Nolan’s Inception as exhibit ‘A’, Minority Report as exhibit “B”). Psychological thrillers are no stranger to the sci-fi genre, but I truly feel this story has been told and I don’t need any more. What were your thoughts, Pontificator? 

TP: Well Vader, I don’t think a sequel is likely as the movie wrapped up nice and neat and stands independently as a great story about two fathers that love their daughters.


ARTH VADER rates Self/Less: An intelligently positioned, near-future, cautionary tale set to some unique and original locations in New Orleans, Self/Less is a mind transfer thriller that exceeded my expectations but didn’t fully realize it's own potential. With lots of thought-provoking thrills, the intelligent, action/thriller thoughtfully transfers six (6) Busted Blocks from one host to the next. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Self/less: With a great performance by Kingsley and good follow-ups by the rest of the cast, this film told a great story full of drama and laced with plenty of action and thrills to appeal to a broad audience. An excellent example of using a little sci-fi to tell a great story, this film shed eight (8) busted blocks to live forever on the silver screen.

Self/Less: 7:0 / 10 Busted Blocks

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Welcome To Terminator’s Uncertain Future

Alternate Timelines and Zany Franchise Twists Re-Direct Audiences To Foggy New Directions For Terminator 


ARTH VADER (AV): Time travel is a tricky thing, Ponty–and science fiction is inundated with with time travels stories. One could argue that the Terminator series is built on the concept and it would be a heart discussion. So it comes as no surprise that the core story arc of Terminator: Genysis (T:G) is about the alternative timeline that emerges form all the Terminator time traveling that occurs in the previous films and TV series (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was pretty darn good after all). I always have mixed emotions on the time travels in movies. I mean what parameters are there if they can just be erased because time travel occurred and changed the time stream, right? T:G puts some interesting twists into motion would you agree, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): The continuity of this film is a complete mess Vader. I won’t even attempt to explain it as it has splintered into so many different timelines with two films and the television series being completely ignored by this film, this movie creates far more questions than it answers. 


AV: Can you give a good Terminator flick without Arnold “I’ll Be Back” Schwarzenggar? Honestly we don’t know and this isn’t the film where we find out. Arnie is an integral part of the action and even offers some decent satire to the story. Jai “Insurgent” Courtney’s take eon Kyle Reese feels flat and disinteresting. Emilia “Daenerys Targaryen” Clarke also has a rather dry delivery as Sarah Connor. Director Alan “Thor: The Dark World” Taylor has a grounded vision that honestly an interesting take on the John Connor spectacle. With fairly decent cast, I felt the film didn’t take itself too seriously which might have been a saving grace. 

TP: What is a Terminator film without Arnold? Schwarzenegger returns for another round of bullets and one liners and despite his advanced age, remains classic. Emilia Clarke has swapped out her dragon for a gun and gives a fair rendition of Sarah Connor. I was never really sold on Jai Courtney as Reese like I was with the original, he just didn’t convey the same intensity. Jason Clarke is yet another take on John Connor…and I am no more enamored with the legend now than I was before. I was really hoping Matt Smith had a larger role, but I guess he would have really messed things up (or perhaps fixed the continuity) had he been tripping through the film in a TARDIS. 


AV: Visual effects shots helped make this a palatable ride, Ponty. The opening combat sequence is strong, if not a bit over-the-top and borderline frivolous. The revival of the 1980’s–style Terminator world was by far the visual effects accomplishment of this movie. With key liquid metal and robo-terminators to vibe on, T:G offers some exciting visuals for audiences looking to get their next fix on the Terminator franchise. To note, the ‘liquid Arnold’ sequence is particularly enjoyable and my favorite CGI moment by far was watching ‘young’ Arnold Terminator and ‘veteran’ Arnold go toe-to-toe. Complete with grenades, rockets and exposed Terminator exoskeletons, the scene is smile-inducing, wouldn’t you say Ponty? 

TP: The special effects were very good and exactly what I expected…except for the lack of really capitalizing on IMAX 3D Vader. I expected all the explosions, liquid metal, etc… but I also expected them to come off the screen if I’m plunking down my hard earned cheddar for IMAX 3D. I have often complained about films showing in this medium and not using it to the fullest…. and it saddened me that an opportunity was missed here as it seems they did not use it at all! 


AV: As Hollywood screenwriters scramble to shoe-horn new Terminator stories into a somewhat shaky franchise to begin with (c’mon, think about it), this is an arguably sound movie. It meanders, confuses and takes way too long to tell a story that could have been told better and more succinctly. It all fairness, the story holds and makes for a mostly enjoyable film. The thought that scent–now in the form of the new Genysis operating system–clearly a light-hearted jab at my beloved Apple OS–and imparts the cautionary tale of a new form of a singularity event, hellbent on mankind’s termination. As much as I tend to repel time travel stories, the Terminator franchise offers something others can’t; continuous story arc reboots within the continuum. 

TP: Watching this film,I had to just take it for what it was and enjoy whatever I could out of it. Trying to figure out the continuity was pointless (as any Google search will tell you) and even though there are tons of nuggets in the film and nods to some of the others, it just seems this issue with Skynet trying to take over the world and exterminate all humans will never ever end (and why should it when Hollywood is cashing in large?) The film was two hours of more of what we have already seen in the previous films and brought nothing new to the series… just some adequate summer fun layered in explosions and one-liners.


AV: Hard to envision a Hollywood in the near-future (see what I did there?!) without some kind of Terminator film in play. We are most assuredly going to get more tales of futuristic robots traveling back to our time period to kill, maim and re-write history. The films do well, they entertain and give new insight to a franchise that continuously refreshes itself with the same threat wrapped in a new package. To be honest, if I could have more Terminator films without a robe-John Connor, I’d be fine. 

TP: Word is that this was the first of yet another trilogy (rolling my eyes) and we can look forward to more human exterminating machines in the near future. I can only hope the series gets better and they find a way to thread it all together for one cohesive story. 


ARTH VADER rates Terminator Genysis: Not the summer’s biggest blockbuster, but this film does scratch your Terminator itch, if there is such a thing. While the robot-John Connor was quite nearly a deal-breaker for me, I, like most who love these films, was able to get past it and (mostly) enjoy this film. Worthy of a Saturday night rental, Terminator: Genysis offers a subdued, alternate vision of the Terminator universe that earns a skynet-defying six (6) Busted Blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Terminator: Genisys: This was a fun film and was just about what I expected it to be.…meaning there were plenty of missed opportunities to make this into something much better. With the technology and competitive film industry, I was very surprised that this film was “just” good… only sending back six (6) busted blocks back through time.

Terminator: Genysis: 6 / 10 Busted Blocks

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jurassic World is Dino-Bite!

Chris Pratt and His Posse of Trained Velociraptors is a Certified Bad Ass in The Overwhelmingly Fun Jurassic World


ARTH VADER (AV): The Jurassic Park series of films is one of the tried and true (and mostly successful) of Hollywood’s formulas. Inspired by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park series of New York Times best-selling books, the story of a park of genetically produced dinosaurs that goes way off the rails has been a hit for an entire generation. The story hits on beats that were established in earlier films while keeping a surprisingly fresh perspective.

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): A continuation from the original film, this movie takes place 22 years after the original and keeps the continuity of the cinematic world that is Jurassic Park alive and well. There is even an original cast from the first film here…still splicing together the DNA of dinosaurs…and still clueless as to why you should not do that.


AV: I firmly believe that the casting of Chris “Starboard” Pratt and the on-screen chemistry he clearly has with steamy lead actress Bryce Dallas “Gwen Stacey” Howard and likable villain Vincent “Wilson Fisk” D’Onofrio, Jurassic World was doomed to succeed. Sure, sure doom isn’t the most ideal word but it is fitting seeing as the that’s where the franchise was headed. And relative newcomer director, Colin Trevorrow, brought Site A (Isla Nublar) come alive onscreen. Pratt’s raptor trainer was so fun and made was such a preposterous possibility, it was a delight. How say you my dino-watching co-host? 

TP: This film was well cast and well acted. Chris Pratt’s stock continues to go up as he shows he works just as well with dinosaurs as he does with aliens and talking raccoons. Bryce Dallas Howard has received the torch (as passed) as the new park director and taken her place in Jurassic history. Of course it was a real treat to see Vincent D’Onofrio slip once again into the role of the “bad” guy. The film had a steady pace and kept me engaged from the beginning as the build up to all the death and mayhem was filled with interesting characterizations of the actors and the dinosaurs.


AV: True to Jurassic form, Jurassic World was a top-notch visual spectacular. The film was chuck full of dino-tastic effects. Old friends such as the Velociraptors, the trikes (Triceratops) and Pterodactyls all returned to the story, brought to life once more by the magic of CGI-enhanced cinema. The film stimulated audiences further with he introduction of several more species but in all fairness, the effects were an integral but not ‘primal’ part of the storytelling and while the movie does rely on a great deal of content from the visual effects folks. Was the Pontificator blown away by the dino-rich visuals?

TP: I keep ringing the IMAX 3D bell…but don’t know if anyone is hearing me Vader. The special effects were awesome. They were in-your-face and make-you-jump and I loved every bit of it. Sometimes, new ground need not be broken if you do all the present techniques perfectly. There is a reason JW is breaking records!


AV: How do you take a failing iconic franchise and breath new life into it? Add liberal amounts of Chris Pratt, stir and repeat. Chris is a stunning addition to the Jurassic cast of adventurers and we all but hope that he continues on to some kind of consistent appearance in the franchise. Just about everyone else is a throw-away character, so it goes. The revitalization of this great franchise is in the new synergy of the cast, new dino-dangers and some great sci-fi-a-storic writing. While the film follows the classic formula of new dino-park, something goes wrong, dins eat people, showdown and the kids survive. Did I miss anything? Likely not but Jurassic World flourishes under this all-too familiar formula wouldn’t you sap, P-Man? 

TP: People love dinosaurs done right Vader. Really, there was nothing new here. Scientists were still splicing dino’s and tampering with forces they should not have been, leading to chaos and death, and resolved by the very creations responsible for the problem in the first place. If you take a moment to really reflect on the film, everything we saw has already been seen and easily predicted. I think it speaks volumes about the film that this is so…and it was STILL so enjoyable to watch! I could put it all on the I-Rex, but I had already guessed about that long before they revealed it’s origins. No…it has to be the total formula that is “Jurassic” that is drawing people to the theater out of love for the previous films…and hooking them with the same (but updated) formula of tried and true success.


AV: Where do you take a franchise struggling to find new engaging story content? Well definitely off of Isla Nublar. Several folks I have talked to have formulated a pretty sound theory; Jurassic War. It stands to reason that IN-GEN, now backed by the military, will be ready to step up its monster-warrior program. Velociraptors with rocket launchers on their shoulders… what could possibly go wrong? 

TP: Honestly…I think as long as they make a good story that makes enough sense, they can always do a “Jurassic” film. As it turns out, some dino DNA has escaped destruction and some dino’s remain on the island, leaving the door wide open to continue the franchise.

ARTH VADER rates Jurassic World: A refreshing, fun journey through a lost world of new monsters, old problems, new technology and mayhem, Jurassic World delivers. Overcoming some downright silly moments–like when Chris Pratt is tooling through the jungle with his pack of Velociraptors, is more than ridiculously over-the-top but it somehow works. With that, this is one dino-loving fanboy who had a thoroughly good time and strapped nine (9) Busted Blocks to some Raptors and watched the fun unfold.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Jurassic World:  This is truly a “summer” film and fills that need to sit back and be thoroughly entertained. There will be no acting Oscars here, but the acting was great, the story was good, and the effects were supreme…making this a whole lot of fun to watch. Adding a new dino’s to the classic (and usual) suspects paid off big and took a huge bite out of eight (8) busted blocks.

Jurassic World:  8.5 / 10 Busted Blocks