Monday, March 26, 2018

Movie Review … Pacific Rim Uprising

In a year already filled with endless sequels, ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ serves to remind that it’s going to be a long 12 months. Original ideas appear to be in short supply in Hollywood, with money-men apparently in charge of the studios.  If a movie makes a fortune, then the formula is copied as the countless franchises attest.  Whether sequels are actually any good is another question although ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ isn’t too terrible.  Neither fish nor fowl, it should satisfy admirers of the first instalment even if the threat of a third outing lingers.

Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) is part of an elite force ready to combat any alien threat.  Part of the high-tech Jaeger program, Jake’s friends include Nate (Scott Eastwood) and Amara (Callee Spaeny).  When evil sea creatures, the Kaiju, rise from the surface hell-bent on destruction, it’s up to Jake and the team to defeat them.  With a rogue Jaeger working against them, their efforts are made harder with time running out before earth meets a deadly fate.

‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is a very generic monster/robot movie filled with CGI wizardry.  It’s certainly a spectacle with plenty of sequences featuring robotic warriors battling beasties from other dimensions. The heroes are suitably virtuous and the villains are as wicked as expected.  This familiarity provides a modicum of comforting escapism as it generally entertains even if it wears its predictability on its sleeve.  The characters aren’t that memorable although Spaeny delivers spark as a determined teen eager to impress.

Directed with minimal flair by Steven S. DeKnight, ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is a by the numbers affair.  The best one can say about it is that it’s rarely boring and provides mirth at the shoddy performances of most of the cast.  Only the CGI offers awe-inspiring moments as one continues to marvel at the imaginative ways entire cities are blown to bits.  ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is the toy box with the movie-makers bashing the monsters together on screen ensuring the audience have little chance of feeling drowsy.

‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is reasonable hokum without being dazzling.  Like a cinematic version of a pre-packaged meal, it’s easily digested but is quickly forgotten.  Whether it receives another instalment remains to be seen but the plethora of sequels may see an uprising against banality.  That uprising may be even more threatening than the creepy crawlies the film depicts.


Movie Review Rating out of 10:  5

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


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Movie Review … Love, Simon

Based on Becky Albertalli’s novel, ‘Love, Simon’ is a breath of fresh air.  For a long time, romance movies featuring gay characters have usually ended in heartbreak.  While this ‘gay romantic tragedy’ genre has seen several films win praise and awards, it’s been frustrating not seeing a gay romance without the spectre of death hovering over characters.  ‘Love, Simon’ ignores that awful device and goes for a simple coming of age romance.  Although having a few gay clich├ęs generally seen in American movies, it dares to offer brightness amongst the gloom of cinematic same-sex relationships.

Simon (Nick Robinson) is a closeted gay teenager attending high school. Although close to his parents Jack (Josh Duhamel) and Emily (Jennifer Garner), he hasn’t told them his secret.  Whilst grappling with this issue, he begins an on-line connection with a fellow class-mate.  The problem is this person goes under a codename with Simon left guessing as to who he may be.  Aided by his friends, Simon attempts to discover his current crush and come out to his family.

Although walking a predictable path, ‘Love, Simon’ doesn’t have any false sincerity. Many of the situations and feelings Simon has ring true as he tries to solve his problems.  Learning about love, betrayal and hope, Simon’s journey from the film’s beginning is interesting.  Whilst occasionally indulging in the usual American sentimentality, the emotions the characters feel seem real.  The performances are all solid with a great 80’s-style soundtrack capturing the bright days for which Simon longs.

Greg Berlanti directs with compassion, making ‘Love, Simon’ feel more personal than most.  Berlanti ensures the comedy and drama are effectively mixed allowing the movie’s themes to clearly stand out.  The concept of having a mystery for audiences to solve also enables them to remain invested in proceedings with the reveal not as easy as expected. 

‘Love, Simon’ may be a little overlong and familiar, but it marks its territory amidst a glut of ‘gay romantic despair’ films.  Its optimism makes it more daring than others and charts a unique course in the teen-angst genre.  With marriage equality now a reality, hopefully the issues Simon faces will gradually fade with respectful acceptance being something all should learn.

 
Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Movie Review … Red Sparrow

Although the Cold War is long gone, films like ‘Red Sparrow’ have kept the espionage flame alive.  Spies never truly go away with the art of deception still commonplace.  Writers like John LeCarre and Len Deighton have never run out of material for their books.  The ongoing success of the James Bond spy series also attests to the popularity of the genre with the franchise continually raking in a fortune.  Based on the novel by Jason Matthews, ‘Red Sparrow’ offers its own unique spin as it charts a course in a shadowy world.

Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is a Russian spy who has been trained in Sparrow School.  A Russian intelligence service overseen by headmistress Matron (Charlotte Rampling), the school gives Dominika her first assignment.  Tasked with seducing CIA agent Nate (Joel Edgerton), who poses a huge threat to Russian secrets, Dominika uses any means to ensnare her prey.  Using her body and brains as a weapon, she is surprised when she falls for Nate.  Events rapidly deteriorate as allegiances crumble and retribution surfaces.

‘Red Sparrow’ has caused controversy in its attitude towards sex and violence.  Both have long been hot-button topics which ‘Red Sparrow’ pushes to the max.  Lawrence’s matter-of-fact delivery as Dominika conjures a broken person in search of her identity.   Manipulated by others, she aims to become the manipulator in a twist-driven plot worthy of any thriller.  Lawrence delivers a brave performance that may be confronting but reveals her character’s uninhibited ambitions.

Francis Lawrence’s edgy direction ensures unpredictability at every turn.  Russia’s grey mean streets have never looked more stark with the cinematography revealing many dark corners.  ‘Red Sparrow’ discards any fantastical spy elements seen elsewhere and opts for brutal realism.  The action and savage brutality is painted in vivid strokes that almost covers up the often unnecessarily long run-time.  The score and performances successfully evoke the urgent danger ‘Red Sparrow’ needs.

‘Red Sparrow’ may often be difficult viewing, but it dares to be different in an era of cinematic conformity.  It’s another solid outing from Jennifer Lawrence who is slowly carving out an interesting career.  Spies haven’t behaved this badly for a while and ,as ‘Red Sparrow’ proves, it stills pays to question their apparent trustworthiness.


Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

Agree with Patrick's Movie Review? Then please use the comment box.

Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


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