ron perlman

Movie Review: Pacific Rim (2013)


Over the last few summers we have been treated to a lot of geeky delights up to and including massive fighting robots, monsters and aliens- but what if you could have that all in one movie? That’s what Guillermo del Toro wants to show us and boy does he ever. I love superhero movies as much as the next guy, but PACIFIC RIM rocked and socked me into a state of mind that left me saying, “Avengers who?”

The film kicks off by setting up the world where giant monsters known as Kaijus found a way into our world through an interdimensional portal beneath the Pacific Ocean. After a slew of attacks by the giant creatures humanity knew they needed to mount some kind of counter offensive against them so they created giant robots called Jaegers to fight the Kaijus. The idea of the Jaegers is that two pilots combine their minds- memories and all- to form a bond that makes their fighting skills sync to be more effective at fighting the monsters. Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) is a former pilot that gets brought back in to help the Jaeger program make one last push to stop the Kaijus from entering our world before humanity is completely extinguished.

The thing about PACIFIC RIM is that it does not really excel in terms of acting- in fact a lot of it is really cheesy even in the more dramatic moments. The weird thing about that is that it works and even when there are not giant robots and monsters beating the crap out of each other the film is incredibly entertaining. The drama while cheesy remains interesting and therefore does not feel like filler while we wait for another fight scene.

To add more to the proceedings, if you feel an overload of CGI fight scenes there are also a slew of hand to hand fights scenes to break things up a bit and propel the story. The world created by these scenes in addition to the eye candy is incredibly creative and just serves to immerse the viewer (at least this viewer) into the experience. There isn’t much in the way of deep acting or character depth, but in my opinion the film doesn’t need it with the sheer amount of jaw dropping action sequences one of which last 15 minutes before we ever see the title card.

I screened the film in 3D, which I wasn’t happy about to begin with- but I came out actually pretty okay with the experience. I still think I will enjoy it that much more without the glasses, but given how much I hate 3D, the fact that not begging you to avoid it in the third dimension is worth some sort of praise. It baffles me the amount of people complaining that you can’t see anything going on when I am always hyper aware of such issues and had no issues whatsoever. I will give critics their complaint about everything being staged at night, in the rain or underwater but to say you can’t see anything is a little bit of a reach to me. It does seem like an opportunity missed to display the phenomenal monster designs in the light of day so we could awe over the details, but what is here is stunning to me and I cannot buy into anyone who believes this movie suffers drastically due to it being too dark.

PACIFIC RIM got me in the theater simply by having a simple premise such as giant robots vs. giant monsters, but made me fall head over heels with it with a rousing musical theme, terrific special effects and an incredible sense of fun throughout. The script lacks deep character development and wallows a little too much is cliche, but the simplicity of the story doesn’t bug me in the slightest. PACIFIC RIM bleeds the spirit of a summer blockbuster, but trumps every single one released so far this year.

Rating: A


Movie Review: Drive (2011)


Don’t worry it’s not a mirage- you ARE seeing Ryan Gosling in just about every movie coming out lately. The good thing about that is that he is an immensely talented and versatile actor- which is ever so evident in Nicolas Winding Refn’s new film DRIVE. If that sounds like an incredibly vague and minimal title then just take my advice and buckle up because the dialogue in DRIVE is also minimal but all of the content and visuals pack enough punch to give anyone a severe case of whiplash.

I don’t want to give out too much info about the plot- though if you’ve seen the trailer that job’s been done for me- so I’ll just hit the bullet points. Ryan Gosling plays a character referred to only as driver, kid or wheelman throughout the film; he’s a car stuntman for movies, a mechanic and moonlights as a heist getaway driver. He gets involved with some shady individuals, some for business and some incidentally which forces him to protect a young mother (Carey Mulligan) and her son. To go any further or to dole out too many more details would likely spoil any dips and turns that the movie takes so let me just say this now- the film is more than worth the price of admission but enter with checked expectations as it is a film that is not for everyone.

The thing most everyone will immediately pull from the film is that there is not a whole lot of dialogue. Refn himself has said the original script was a slim 80 pages and on shooting days time was spent removing dialogue from the script. Instead what we have is a film where people express themselves silently with a variety of facial expressions and body language. A simple smirk or clenched fist with a leather glove goes a long way when Gosling is interacting with someone. When Gosling’s character does talk there’s a purpose and he can be very intense. The second thing will likely be the quick yet extreme bursts of graphic violence- which will either shock or amuse you (I heard both gasps and laughter at times), but either way it’s effective and well done. Depending on your enjoyment of the film once the blood starts flowing you’re either going to be on the edge of your seat or at least perking up with interest.

Performance-wise with such a minimal spoken word approach the actors are forced to bring their A game otherwise audience interest would really be tested. Luckily everyone does a great job and there isn’t a bad performance present. Gosling is the quietest of all but even when he’s not talking you can see the gears turning in his head and it just adds to the interest in the movie as you wonder what he could possibly be thinking. Albert Brooks plays a villain that is weirdly likable yet unpredictably scary and to top it off Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman give brief but great roles.

The best way to describe DRIVE is that it is a very patient movie that a patient audience will do nothing but appreciate. The film knows to grab your attention with the extremely riveting opening scene which is a picture perfect way to ratchet up the tension. After the opening Refn slows things down and gradually builds to an all out assault of tension and strong bursts of extremely painful acts of violence. The opening getaway that Gosling performs is pure entertainment- the scene is quiet and intense and really had my pulse pounding and I was with the film from then on out. That being said there are still dips and approaches that I was not fully on board with, but never ruined the movie.

It can be said that DRIVE gets to be a little over indulgent and repetitive with the use of slow motion and 80’s techno music playing over everything. I even at times was a little put off by the excessive use of the music and slow motion but it also adds to the disturbing nature of how the violent scenes build up. There’s also a very well staged scene between Gosling’s character and Perlman’s character on a beach with strobe light effect that had me giddy with how amazing it looked- but the culmination of the scene ended in an anticlimactic way- which can be said for other select scenes in the movie as well.

DRIVE is nowhere near your typical mainstream release and it carries an artsy retro feel that may very well alienate a crowd looking for something like FAST FIVE. With the intense yet smooth performance from Ryan Gosling and the very sleek indie style DRIVE is an extremely well done genre piece. Despite a few small complaints the film strikes the perfect beginning tone to carry itself through to the end. If you love big dumb action movies only then DRIVE is not your cup of tea- everyone that’s left that loves more subtle action films with bursts of insanity then it’s right up your ally.

Movie Review: Season of the Witch (2011)

I enjoy a bad movie from time to time as long as they are at least entertainingly bad as opposed to just being horrible acted, directed and ends up being dreadfully boring. I don’t want to beat around the bush and make you believe that SEASON OF THE WITCH is a movie capable of recommending because the truth is- it is a very bad film. There are several reasons to deter people far away from spending their time on this one, but I will say that I did have a little bit of fun watching it- and in the end, even though it is frighteningly bad, all I ever ask for is to have some fun.

Nicolas Cage stars as Behmen as a crusader that kills in the name of God along with his right hand man Felson (Ron Perlman). The two crusaders are tasked to escort a girl (Claire Foy) that is suspected of witchcraft to a monastery. Once there a ceremony will be performed that monks believe will wipe out the Black Plague that is devastating the villages. Behmen is conflicted about his feelings on rather or not the girl is innocent or is in fact a witch while also battling with his conscience over deeds he’s committed from the past.

The biggest resounding disappointment I had throughout the movie was that visually everything looks pretty good. The scenery is pretty great and once the special effects take over they are cartoony for sure, but a lot of fun nonetheless. The disappointing thing is that nearly everything else surrounding the visuals is awkward and just fails on a spectacular level.

Starting with the script- I have a hard time accepting movies set in medieval times, but even I can notice a script where aside from including the Black Plague and the costumes barely anything resembles a period piece. This could just as easily been set present day or in a not so distant future and the script may have made much more sense or at least been a tad bit more interesting.

Most movies can bypass a bad script with some decent performances- well SEASON OF THE WITCH is void on those as well. I love Ron Perlman so I can’t put the blame on his shoulders because he made me laugh more than once. Nicolas Cage on the other hand- I’m not even fully convinced that he was awake during this movie. Cage’s dialogue is quite possibly the most wooden and uninspired line delivery I’ve seen from a well known actor of all time. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the time he hadn’t read the script and each scene he’s reading it from a card off screen for the first time in one take. No one else is all that great either minus maybe Claire Foy as it seems like she’s having the most fun with it, but no one is Cage’s equal in terms of laziness.

Rounding out the shortcomings of this film are the action sequences and the extremely lazy sword fights. The fight choreography mirrors just about everything else with this movie- boring and stiff which at the very least is the worst thing you say about a bad porn movie but at least you can still get some pleasure out of that. Even during the CGI heavy finale the stuff that could be cool happens off frame as we get close-ups of Cage and Perlman swiping swords and the moneyshot is happening just off-screen.

When I opened the review I mentioned how I did have a little bit of fun- the only redeeming thing for me was Perlman hamming it up, the visual aspect and the morbid humor I was getting from how bad Cage and the script were. I anticipate that not everyone would be forgiving of nearly everything in this film, and trust me I am not that forgiving about it. I got a small bit of morbid enjoyment from SEASON OF THE WITCH, but that in no way shape or form foreshadows that I would ever watch it again. Director Dominic Sena makes just about every wrong step through a minefield he could possibly make before throwing in the towel and giving up completely. If you can squeeze any juice out of the dry fruit that is the visuals and small performances you might be able to justify watching this on a day when you’ve exhausted every other possible option.

Movie Review: Tangled (2010)

It’s been a while that I’ve been truly taken aback by a musical, but Disney has time and time again never failed to impress. I didn’t love THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, but I did like it, but it’s safe for me to say that TANGLED exceeded my expectations while still not surpassing some of my previous favorites like ALADDIN and THE LION KING. The voice acting is top notch and the animation is not quite as dazzling as Pixar’s work, but still very magical and exciting to watch.

TANGLED is the story of a girl, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), who is born to a king and queen after the mother is healed by a magic flower. The flower that healed the queen was previously being used by a woman, Mother Gothel, who used the flower’s magic to keep herself young. To attain the magic once again, Mother Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel and locks her away in a tower as Rapunzel’s hair has absorbed the flower’s magic. The king and queen send out floating lanterns each year on Rapunzel’s birthday in hopes that she will return and by chance Rapunzel meets a wanted thief, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), who makes a deal to make her wish of seeing the lanterns up close come true.

I’ve had a love for animation since I was a kid and even today I get excited for most of the animated films release each year. Over the years I’ve especially taken a liking to the 3D computer generated animated movies that came along from Disney and Pixar as well as Dreamworks. TANGLED doesn’t quite touch my favorites of these types of films like HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON or THE INCREDIBLES, but it is still a very entertaining and at times very heartfelt film.

TANGLED is a very interesting and fun take on the fairy tale of Rapunzel. I probably could do without the musical element behind the film as I don’t find a majority of the songs as memorable or catchy as previous Disney musicals but as it stands they are not terrible by any stretch of the imagination. It’s definitely a film that should please the whole family; even adults will find some big laughs along the way.

The animation while far from Disney’s best is still quite striking, especially during the scene with the floating lanterns. It’s the characters though that deserve a lot of the praise as each one is designed uniquely and voiced perfectly. The two best characters in the movie though don’t even speak and that’s Rapunzel’s faithful chameleon and a determined horse named Maximus. I found the horse to be the funniest part of the film.

Personally, I think the animation and the characters are the key selling point of TANGLED, but I know that the songs are a big part of the film too. As I mentioned though, I just don’t think the songs are anything to write home about. The song during the flying lantern scene and one of the earlier songs I really enjoyed, and others I just didn’t think had a rhythm or theme that I could really get in to. None of them are terrible pieces of music; they just aren’t up to par with earlier Disney musicals.

There are plenty of reasons to recommend TANGLED to just about everyone and the flaws will not ruin the film so it winds up being a very enjoyable piece of family entertainment. It’s not every day that I really like a film where the two best characters don’t even have a single word of dialogue. Kids will get a kick out of it and adults won’t feel cheated either. TANGLED fits in nicely with the Disney filmography but does not stand near as tall as their best efforts.