Pacific Rim: Uprising Review

Pacific Rim Uprising is the same as its predecessor in every way, only two steps in a worse direction.

It takes place ten years after the conclusive events of Pacific Rim, only now there is a new enemy that threatens humanity. We focus in on out semi-main protagonist Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), who was once a promising soldier now turned to a life of crime. But, when giant evil robots and monsters return for round 2, Pentecost must return to pilot his giant robot and save the day. At least, that’s the general gist of what’s going on.

The biggest fundamental flaw with the film is that the characters are poorly written and don’t fit with this story. Never are they charming, funny, or even relatable. They just felt like people in a film studio doing stuff. Their personalities were the cookie cutter stereotypes done in the most clichéd way imaginable. There was the tough military guy played by Scott Eastwood, as well as the cool rebellious dude, who felt more like he was playing a discount John Boyega rather than the real John Boyega. And who can forget the sciency guy who speaks in intellectual jargon and looks like a coked-out Willem DaFoe.

All together, they try their best to give audiences as bland and forgettable of an experience as science fiction can possibly allow.

The climax does provide us with the robots vs. monsters fight we were promised, albeit not as stylish or exciting as the previous film. Maybe it was the unconvincing CGI effects, or perhaps the exhaustion from the last ninety minutes setting in. Whatever the case, this action sequence wasn’t nearly as intense or rousing as it should’ve been.

Those pulling the strings of Pacific Rim Uprising seemed too preoccupied with turning this into the next summer blockbuster franchise. Little effort was put into characterization and overly complex story, resulting in a hodgepodge of sci-fi nonsense that rivals the intelligence of Transformers 5Pacific Rim Uprising is just fine for those who want to watch a monster get beat up for twenty minutes, so long as they’re willing to sit through ninety minutes of gibberish to get there.

Pacific Rim was a big, dumb, exciting action movie. This one was just dumb.

The Verdict: D

-Zachary Flint


Annihilation Review: The Best Science Fiction Film In Years

Based on the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation is the latest movie endeavor into the science fiction genre.

Starring Natalie Portman as Lena, she plays a biologist and former soldier whose military husband (Oscar Isaac) goes missing. Reappearing twelve months later as a shell of a man, Lena discovers that he embarked on a secret mission into a secret scientific anomaly known as the shimmer. Landing here from space only a few years back, the shimmer continues to grow in size and swallow everything it touches. Multiple expeditions into it have proven to be failures, with Lena’s husband being the only one to have ever returned. So, with her extensive knowledge of biology, Lena decides to join the latest expedition into the shimmer and hopefully find a way to heal her husband.

The fear of the unknown is one of the most visceral and scary feelings a human can encounter, and it’s something everyone deals with at some point. Some may even grapple with it on a day to day. And it’s this exact feeling that Annihilation portrays with such explicit and alluring detail. Our protagonists are thrust into a domain they, nor we, fully comprehend. Alone and isolated, the unsettling tone sets in for the audience very quickly, and never leaves. As soon as you start to feel like you’re grasping the complexities of the shimmer, something new is thrown into the mix that chills as well as intrigues.

With all this focus on isolation and the unknown, I’m automatically drawn to make comparisons to the film Alien (my favorite movie of all time). Some scenes were intentionally reminiscent of Alien, as I believe the writers must’ve taken inspiration from. And what a wonderful film to be influenced by, as Annihilation is nearly as effective in its pacing, build-up, and satisfying payoffs.

The cast of Annihilation matched the quality of filmmaking quite well. Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and many others work to make Annihilation the provoking film it is. Each moment shared between the characters was strongly performed and executed, perfectly conveying their inner-burdens and the slow psychological decent they undergo.

The environment of the shimmer is, on a visual and artistic level, as diverse as it gets. We are first greeted to a dense, colorful forest that surrounds our disoriented protagonists. And as they trek further and further into uncertainty, the film flaunts its ability to increasingly delve deeper into imaginative content, especially at the stylistic and mesmerizing climax. A climax which gives very few concrete answers to the events depicted, leaving the audience to put the fragmented pieces together themselves.

Among all the well-developed and sometimes perplexing themes of self-destruction, what remains clear is how powerfully poignant Annihilation is. Director Alex Garland transports us to this seemingly horrifying world and not only shows the beautiful side of it, but by the end of the film makes us reevaluate are preconceptions about that world. We see the beauty, terror, and everything in-between that this world has to offer, which is the mark of a truly wonderful science fiction film.

There’s no way getting around it, Annihilation was one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of partaking in. Everything from the guitar-laden soundtrack to the thought-provoking climax was perfectly orchestrated. All compiling into one big sci-fi/horror masterpiece. I loved Annihilation in all its visual and emotional beauty, and I will continue to ponder its meanings for some time.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Blade Runner 2049 Review

As a lifelong follower of the science fiction genre, Blade Runner has always been revered as a classic. Pioneering many awe-inspiring visuals that films today look to for guidance. While I respect Blade Runner for its visual achievements, emotionally the film has done very little for me. I find it a bit mundane and heavy-handed, with little going for it other than the artistic style.

In many aspects, Blade Runner 2049 is very similar.

The film takes place about thirty years after the events of the original Blade Runner. Since then, the world has fallen into somewhat of a dystopian mess. With a new era of blade runners (hitmen, essentially) hunting down replicants (a term for bioengineered humans) of the past.

Blade Runner 2049 follows Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a particularly skilled blade runner on a mission with enough significance to throw what’s left of the world into complete chaos.

Beautifully crafted sets, enticing visuals, and monumental sound design all blend together to make Blade Runner 2049 artistically stand out. Concepts and knowledge only briefly mentioned in the previous film are expanded here tenfold. Scenes are shot and crafted with such delicate precision that viewers like myself will be left completely spellbound. The level of imagination in its design is on par with the Star Wars trilogy, and the perfectionism in the lighting and set pieces is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

However, it is here where I’d argue the film does too much expanding, to the point where it exhausts itself. Dramatic scenes that, overall, carry very little weight last for ten to fifteen minutes, when they could be summed up with two simple lines of dialogue. Instead, the film goes for this melodramatic, philosophical dialogue so that it may beat its themes and messages into the viewers head.

And unfortunately, the themes are all recycled from the first Blade Runner. “What does it mean to be human?” Boiled down, that’s the question Blade Runner 2049 poses to the audience. Only it takes them three hours and way too many dialogue pauses to say it.

With so many needlessly lengthy scenes, the conclusion of Blade Runner 2049 felt all too rushed by comparison. Plot lines that needed more depth and discussion get no such thing, which leaves the audience with just as many questions as answers.

So, while most of Blade Runner 2049 was still entertaining to watch (mostly due to the visuals and Goslings straight-faced performance), I think the story and themes have very little to offer viewers.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

Arrival Review

This is a film that I contemplated not seeing. Which would have been unfortunate, because I found Arrival  to be both thought provoking and just plain awesome.

Arrival stars Amy Adams as Louise Banks, a linguistics professor hired by the US government to learn to communicate with alien visitors. These aliens landed at various points around the world, and it has everyone guessing as to why they are here? With the help of physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise must communicate with the aliens and prevent an all-out nuclear conflict involving many nations of the world. Arrival is full of interesting tidbits on linguistics and communication, as we the audience discover the true intentions of the aliens.

I would first like to point out the designs of the aliens. Often extraterrestrials in movies are bland and boring, but these were very different from what I am used to seeing. They looked like big octopuses and communicated by spraying ink into the air they occupied. The design of the spaceship pod is very cool too, probably one of the most unique designs in the film. I loved viewing the process the researchers had to go through to enter the spaceship, including their change in gravity as they ascend into its core. Very cool stuff.

Arrival is the kind of film that makes you think differently about our perception of time. It twists our usual longitudinal way of viewing a three act story, especially in the film’s final act. It is difficult for me to describe Arrival’s chronology without giving anything away, but it is all done in a very clever and thought provoking way. I enjoyed critically thinking about the more complicated aspects of Arrival after viewing it. Similar to when I watched films like Inception or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The acting in Arrival is beyond great, and from looking at the cast it is easy to see why. Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker all give convincing performances in their respective roles. I particularly liked Forest Whitaker as the military general that continues to probe Adams and Renner for additional knowledge on the aliens. His character has this aggressive sense of needing to know what the intent is of the aliens to help keep the U.S. under control. Adams and Renner work great together as they slowly and methodically study the aliens.

The musical score in Arrival is mostly minimalistic, but very effective. The music becomes very loud and vehement in multiple scenes to emphasize the more grand and extravagant scene. The moments I remember the music most were when we were first introduced to the alien spaceship, as well as when we first see the aliens. Anyone who enjoys mostly subtle musical scores will be sure to like this.

The end of the film left me amazed with just how many ideas they tackled. Our perception of time, the future, life choices, and many others. I left the theater wanting to know more than I was given, which is a feeling I wish more films gave.

As a big science fiction fan, I really loved watching Arrival for its sci-fi feel. The film plays out just as I would imagine it if aliens made first contact with us. Lines are being drawn in the sand. There is twenty four seven media coverage of the event, with radical politicians and commentators coming up with radical ideas. Some people want to kill the aliens because they might be here to initiate war. Others want to work together and understand them. It all ties together very well.

I recommend Arrival to anyone who likes a thoughtful, well made film. I myself wouldn’t mind getting to view it a second time just to solidify everything that I experienced on screen. The effects are great, acting is phenomenal, and the story is very thought provoking.

-Zachary Flint

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

I hold an overarching fear for the future of Star Wars. With Disney at the reins it seems that we may have another Star Wars movie every year until the end of time. Call me crazy, but I think we are really overdoing it. Yes we want more Star Wars, but do we need more Star Wars? Do we even deserve it?

Making so many movies will make an already complex universe ever more convoluted (just look at the prequels). It also takes the magic away from the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a simple story yet captivated us all.

Why the hell do we need to see the back story to Han Solo? Wasn’t what we got in A New Hope enough? Perhaps things like this are not necessary to dive into. Maybe part of the magic of Star Wars is that everything wasn’t spelled out for the viewer.

Alas, despite how I or anybody else in the world thinks, Star Wars will continue to go on. And that brings us to our very first spin-off film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

I would like to begin by saying that overall, I enjoyed my experience watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I felt very invested in the plot and would not mind watching it again in the near future. I say this now because I have many, many problems with this film.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place very shortly before the events of A New Hope. It stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, the criminal daughter of the inventor of the very first Death Star. Jyn is sought after and found by the Rebel Alliance, who enlists in her help to basically find her long lost father and unite the Rebellion . With the power of the force by their side, Jyn and her new Rebel friends must help save the Galaxy from the wrath of the Empire (its a little more complex than that but this is the short of it).

Now, my first complaint would be all the shoehorned cameos made in the film. I do understand that it takes place before the first Star Wars, so naturally we are going to see Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader. But did we really need to see the pig nosed guy from the Cantina? For the brief couple of seconds he is on screen, the crowd loved it. Yet I couldn’t stop hating it. It was pointless crowd pandering that I feel Disney wanted in the film for nostalgic purposes. It served no purpose. Period. I rolled my eyes and did not crack a smile. The exact same went for when I saw C-3PO and some of the other nostalgic characters.

I would also like to briefly mention Grand Moff Tarkin’s role in this film. Again, I understand why he would be important to the story, but I don’t get why they put him in the film so much. Since Peter Cushing (the original Grand Moff Tarkin) died in 1994, his character had to be completely CGI. The design looked okay I guess, but from the get go I could tell it was fake. I really can’t blame them too much on this because they did the best they could. However everybody needs to stop pretending that this was some great performance or something. Because it definitely was not.

The acting was all around fantastic on all sides. I loved Felicity Jones as Jyn and thought she did a terrific job. I also loved the acting talents of our supporting cast members like Forest Whitaker and Diego Luna. Even though a lot of the side characters weren’t developed enough, which was another problem with this film .

Since so much time was dedicated to focusing on our lead hero Jyn (dealing with her backstory, emotions, struggles, etc.) we did not get as much time to learn about our other heroes. They were left a little on the bland side and could have been much better and more thawed out. They had their quirks and their moments but didn’t get much personality devoted to them.

The audience gets a good look at many new planets as well as the inhabitants of those planets. And in usual Star Wars fashion, they are all really awesome. The planets all seem so fleshed out and creative, I was wishing we the audience could experience more. There was one cool planet in particular that I could tell was inspired by Ridley Scott’s Alien, my favorite movie. There are literally hundreds of different designs of characters, many of which were real costumes and looked really cool.

The ground combat of the storm troopers and the rebellion, something this film is heavy in, is phenomenal. I was always curious what gritty, up close combat would be like in Star Wars, and I definitely got it. The action scenes are intensely shot and keep the pace moving quickly. Enough new gadgets and tanks are brought into the fighting to make the combat at least feel somewhat refreshing and new.

The musical score was pretty good and went well with the film. It was different while still being reminiscent of the usual Star Wars composition. The music was able to vary while still keeping the general theme similar to John William’s style. This is good considering the new composer only had a month to write it.

Some aspects of Rogue One I was kind of give or take with. Darth Vader makes an appearance here and there, and those are hit or miss unfortunately. The same went for the new villain Orson Krennic, who would flop between being a predictable bad guy and purely diabolical.

The ending to Rogue One was probably my favorite part of the film. Without spoiling anything, I think that some very bold creative choices were made. I was glad to see the outcome of the film and left me feeling very satisfied. I think many others will disagree with me on how they handled the ending, but I loved it.

I recommend Rogue One to every Star Wars fan out there. Go watch it and make an opinion of your own! I believe it is an enjoyable, well made film with a solid story and great cast. I will try to remain as hopeful as possible for the next installment of Star Wars, even though my faith in the franchise wanes. I think I just need to remind myself that some movies are built on hope.

-Zachary Flint

Ratchet and Clank Review


I have not played Ratchet and Clank games. I say this because my opinion of this film is not coming from a lifelong fan of the videogame, but as a stranger with little previous knowledge.

I found that this film had very little to offer. The animation was bright and very pleasing to look at. It looked similar to the kinds of graphics you would see in a cut scene of a well-made game. The characters were also somewhat enjoyable and had good voice acting. That`s about all I liked in this film.

The plot to Ratchet and Clank is nothing new. The underdog Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) has to save an alien galaxy from bad guys with the help of his robotic friend Clank (David Kaye). The film has other characters and sub plots too, many of them I felt to be pointless and boring. I`ve heard the game has a similar if not identical basis, which with any luck will work better than here.

What is most abysmal about this movie is the pun ridden jokes. Bad comedies have bad slapstick. But really bad comedies use that not so creative slapstick on rapid fire. Using lame jokes and lame puns again and again with absolutely no setup or punchline. Those in charge of writing the jokes for Ratchet and Clank clearly had no idea what they were doing, and had a five minute deadline to come up with all the jokes.

Ratchet and Clank serves no other purpose then to market the upcoming game to children and those who play the games. Previous fans of the game will be able to respect this movie a lot more than I can. One can only hope that the videogame is good and worth the money, because the movie sure as hell wasn`t.

Zachary Flint