‘Rampage’ Review: A Big, Dumb, Not-So-Fun Cartoon

I can’t tell whether there’s too much rampaging in Rampage, or not enough. The only thing I am sure about is that it takes too long to get to the rampaging. Rampaging is, after all, the number one thing that Rampage has going for it — exposition and set-up aren’t exactly the draw of a movie like this.

For anyone for whom the title isn’t a sufficient description of what you’re getting into, suffice to say that Rampage is a good old-fashioned monster movie. A mysterious serum gets cooked up in a lab in outer space via CRISPR gene editing (which is a real thing), and when things on the station go awry, canisters of the serum plummet down to Earth. Those canisters, in turn, infect a few animals, causing them to grow in size and throwing a few other genetic mutations into the mix. And then, well, you know.

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truth or dare review

Jeff Wadlow’s Truth Or Dare is an inconsequential brand of horror likened to Stiles White’s Ouija or more recently John R. Leonetti’s Wish Upon. Actors such as heartthrob Tyler Posey and pretty little liar Lucy Hale entice younger audiences who may find a scream or two in the shallow slog, but hardcore hellhounds will sniff out confliction from scene one. Aggro college-bred stereotypes, telegraphed jumps from miles away, nonsense plot connectivity – hope you like your demon possessions overshadowed by hormonally volatile love triangles and “white girl problems.” And if you don’t? I dare you to reach the credits of this generic schoolyard excuse for genre furtherment.

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lean on pete review

(This review originally ran during our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival. Lean on Pete is in theaters today.)

Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete is a social realist drama of the highest order, combining the gentle pastoral touch of David Lynch’s The Straight Story with a probing sympathy for individuals on the edge of society recalling the best of the Dardenne brothers. There’s no armchair sociology here, just rich character observation steeped in a spirit of compassion. Haigh never veers into grandstanding “issues movie” territory or troubled youth drama. It’s just the story of an adolescent boy in need of the tiniest bit of permanence and security.

That boy is 15-year-old Charley Thompson, played by Charlie Plummer, a pure but restless soul hitched to the fortunes of his good-natured single father Ray (Travis Fimmel). When the film starts, the two are just getting settled into a new home in Portland, and Charley clearly has the routine down. He unpacks his trophies, goes for a run around unfamiliar streets to acquaint himself with the area and puts his Cap’n Crunch in the refrigerator to avoid the roaches. Charley is no hopeless, despairing victim – he’s just stuck in a situation beyond his control. From a young age, he has already learned not to get sentimental and accept nothing as permanent.

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If I tried to explain the premise of Blockers and then followed it up with, “I liked it,” you’d probably think I’d gone a little crazy. After all, there’s nothing about Blockers — from its trailers to its title (the shortened and clean version of “cockblockers”) — that would suggest it’s as good as it is.

The premise is this: three girls, about to graduate from high school and go to college, make a pact to lose their virginities on prom night. Their parents, who find out about the pact pretty much right after the girls have left the house, set out to stop them. I had my doubts, too — it sounds sexist and regressive! — but Kay Cannon, in an impressive directorial debut, has managed to craft something charming and fresh.

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isle of dogs spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.)

With Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson returns to the magical world of stop-motion for the first time since Fantastic Mr. Fox. The results are frustrating. On one hand, Anderson has crafted a genuinely emotional, frequently funny adventure focused on man’s best friend. On another hand, Anderson has, for some inexplicable reason, decided to use the film to turn Japanese culture into a punchline.

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ready player one spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.)

Steven Spielberg has spent nearly his entire career proving his critics wrong. When the filmmaker rose to prominence as a blockbuster wunderkind, there was a prevailing sense among critics that Spielberg was little more than a purveyor of harmless, artless pop – not a serious filmmaker. “If there is such a thing as a movie sense — and I think there is, Spielberg really has it,” critic Pauline Kael said. “But he may be so full of it that he doesn’t have much else.” Yet Spielberg did have much else, and he proved it time after time, crafting a lifetime worth of fantastic, heartfelt, downright magical films.

Until now.

It’s taken nearly 44 years, but with Ready Player One, Spielberg has finally proven his critics right. Here, on the heels of The Post – a wonderful, important film that had the 71-year-old filmmaker still firing on all cylinders – Spielberg offers up a muddled, downright hideous catastrophe. It’s official – Ready Player One is Steven Spielberg’s worst film.

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Satan's Slaves Review

Satan’s Slaves reminds me of Babak Anvari’s Under The Shadow – two piss-yourself-scary stories so deeply rooted in overseas culture and indigenous circumstance. Joko Anwar’s Indonesian monstrosity does not mess around, readers. Within minutes you’ll be hit with the first of many paranormal punches that land like Manny Pacquiao on a speed bag, one after the other with impressive stamina. Scares are executed via a madman’s blueprint, birthed from beyond the grave and traced from your gnarliest nightmares. I do not scare easy, but you better believe this impossibly proficient downpour of demonization turned me into Jumpy McScreamsALot. Carved by tools that have been sharpened, dipped in acid and blessed by Satan for good measure. Take no prisoners terror, make no mistake.

A Quiet Place and Hereditary have already been dubbed 2018’s scariest films to beat, but you can add Satan’s Slaves to that list now – the most horrifying film of 2018 you haven’t heard of yet. Read More »

Pacific Rim Uprising Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Steven S. DeKnight’s Pacific Rim Uprising.)

When it was announced that Guillermo del Toro wouldn’t be coming back for a sequel to his 2013 sci-fi action adventure Pacific Rim, fans of the original movie were understandably worried. Sure, the idea of giant monsters called kaiju battling against giant pilot-controlled robots sounds like it sells itself, but del Toro brought his signature style and passion for monsters and epic fantastical imagery to bring it to life in spectacular fashion.

Pacific Rim Uprising is certainly not a Guillermo del Toro movie, but it benefits from taking place in a world he created that’s rich with mythology. Thankfully, Steven S. DeKnight, along with co-writers Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin, jumps into this sandbox with an engaging expansion of that mythology, advancements of the wild sci-fi concepts introduced in the first movie, some scrappy new characters, and tremendous action sequences that surpass the thrills and excitement of the first film’s monstrous battles. Read More »

Pacific Rim Uprising TV spot Jaegers

Somewhere around the halfway mark of director Steven S. DeKnight‘s Pacific Rim Uprising, my groans of exasperation turned into gasps of delight. I can pinpoint the exact moment in which my opinion of the movie changed, but so as not to spoil what is genuinely one of the strangest scenes in a blockbuster in recent memory, let me just say that once Pacific Rim Uprising really starts drinking its own Kool-Aid, it’s an absolute joy. Given the visually and narratively incoherent mess that is the Transformers franchise (the closest thing that Pacific Rim has to a genre competitor except perhaps Power Rangers), I’d call it a feat. It’s just a wonder that the Toei Animation logo isn’t slapped all over it.

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Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren’s Heavy Trip blast-beats a warrior’s drum for road-trippin’ comedics and heavy metal odysseys. This is a story of companionship bonded by outsider dismissal; a blossoming “Symphonic Post-Apocalyptic Reindeer-Grinding Christ-Abusing Extreme War Pagan Fennoscandian” metal band ready to break from their basement shackles. Laatio and Vidgren respect Nordic brands of face-melting musicianship rooted in mythology and “crappy fantasy novels” as Deathgasm does, except with a more Anchorman approach (animal fights, national crises, etc). To quote Jason Lei Howden’s equally amplified metal adventure, this hilarious endeavor isn’t just brutal – it’s “brutal as fuck!”

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