Skyscraper

Skyscraper

Skyscraper

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Hanna Quinlavin, Adrian Holmes, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B-

After losing a leg while on a rescue mission with the U.S. Military, Will Sawyer starts a security consultation firm specializing in designing and testing the security measures of large buildings. When assisting with the security layout of the Pearl, Hong Kong’s tallest structure, Will runs into his friend and former unit member Ben, who was also injured in the incident that took Will’s leg. After a thief attempts to steal a tablet Will was given that contains access to the Pearl’s entire security layout, Will quickly learns that his former friend is working for people who want to infiltrate the Pearl and cause enough damage to have it evacuated. After making his way back to the building, Will realizes that the police aren’t going to attempt to rescue those still trapped in the building, including his wife and children, and so he decides to take on the thieves, and the burning building, himself to rescue his family and Mr. Zhao, the man who designed the building, and also try and figure out why the Pearl was targeted in the first place.

The latest in Dwayne Johnson’s resumé of disaster-related action movies could probably be interchanged with just about any of his other ones, or any disaster-related action movie for that matter, almost unnoticeably. About the only thing that truly sets this one apart is the fact that Johnson is playing an amputee, and does so in a way that is both believable and respectful to actual amputees. That said, the movie is still enjoyable on an entertainment value-level. Johnson always seems to look like he’s enjoying making these types of films, and it was nice to see Neve Campbell in something outside the Scream franchise again, though the fight-back skills she picked up while making them was put to use. She and Johnson have decent chemistry, and make a believable couple. The story may be a little far-fetched at times, but most action movies are.

The special effects are all very well done. It looks like they used mostly practical effects for the fire, with the exception of wide-angle and long distance shots. The background filler is seamless.

Action/disaster movies all make good popcorn flicks, and are a fun way to relax and not have to think for 90 minutes or so, and this one is no different. With lots of explosions and fight scenes, you can shut your brain off for a while and enjoy watching Dwayne Johnson kick the crap out of bad guys. As stated before, there’s not a lot of substance plot-wise, but it’s typical for most action movies, whose main goal is to get to the fights and explosions.

Skyscraper isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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The Meg

TheMeg

The Meg

Directed By: Jon Turtletaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Sophia Cai, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Jessica McNamee, Masi Oka, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

While on a rescue mission deep in the Pacific Ocean, Jonas Taylor encounters something large and unexplainable, which destroys the submarine he’s attending to and kills several people on board, including members of his rescue team. Years later, after his ex’s exploratory pod is attacked on the floor of the Mariana Trench, Jonas is brought to the Mana One Research Center, where two of his former coworkers now work, in order to rescue the people in the downed vessel. After reviewing the footage, Jonas discovers that the creature that attacked the research vessel is the same as the one that attacked the downed submarine, a prehistoric species of shark called a Megalodon, which was long believed to be extinct. Shortly after rescuing the research team, the Mana One station learns that the rescue pod didn’t leave the trench alone. Two of the Megalodons followed, and are now attacking vessels, civilians, and other marine life, and Jonas and the people of Mana One are the only ones who stand a chance of stopping them.

Despite being based on the Steve Alten novel of the same name, The Meg barely resembles its source material. The names and basic plot – Jonas and Company vs. Gigantic Ancient Shark – are the same, but pretty much everything else was changed. Surprisingly, though, the changes don’t actually detract from the enjoyment of the movie. The story used works just as well as the plot of the book, and the characters are mostly all the same (Suyin didn’t have a daughter in the original). The actors all work well together, and, for the most part, everyone looks to be enjoying themselves.

The special effects are all well done. The shark looks realistic enough, and the background filler is seamless.

Disaster movies, which is what I would categorize this movie as, all seem to have about the same amount of substance plot-wise, and this one is really no different. It’s all mostly a giant setup for a man vs. shark final battle, but it has decent dialogue ans a somewhat original story, and while it may not be true to the book, it’s still a fun watch. The plot doesn’t require your full attention, and there’s nothing too gory in the death scenes that would prevent it from being a date night/family movie night pick, though it may be a bit much for some kids under 10.

The Meg isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Ouija

Ouija

Ouija

Directed By: Stiles White
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Darren Kagasoff, Bianca A. Santos, Douglas Smith, Shelley Hennig, Sierra Heuermann, Lin Shaye, Vivis Colombetti, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C

After her best friend Debbie suddenly commits suicide, Laine Morris decides the best way to figure out what happened to her friend is to play with the Ouija board Debbie was playing with before she died. Having been asked to Debbie’s parents house after they leave to get away for awhile, Lanie invites over some of hers and Debbie’s mutual friends to play the game with her. As the group settles in, they soon realize that, not only are they actually contacting spirits, but the ones they’re contacting aren’t their friend. Initially believing that if they quit playing, the spirits will leave, the group heads home, but they soon realize that’s not the case after one of the group that played dies. As they try to learn more about the spirits they unleashed, Laine and her friends try to keep the entities from harming them so they can figure out a way to send them back to where they came from.

As far as teen paranormal thrillers go, this one is painfully average. The story is fairly straightforward, with little to no background given as to what made the board evil, and there’s little info about the mythos surrounding Ouija boards outside of a short Fact or Fiction-type video that Laine watches after first realizing they contacted an actual spirit. The acting is only so-so, and the chemistry between characters is stilted. Instead of developing character stories so we actually care when they start to get killed off, the movies jumps right to a sequence of haunted house scenes with jump scares and low lighting.

The special effects are okay. The ghost effects are decent, and I didn’t notice anything off about the background filler. The few practical effects used also seem to be done well.

As far as teen horrors go, there are definitely better choices out there, unless you prefer horror movies that aren’t very scary throughout most of the run-time. It would serve well as background noise when you’re too busy to pay attention to what you’re watching, and the plot is straightforward, so you won’t lose anything if you step out of the room for a minute.

Ouija isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Purge Election Year

PurgeElectionYear

The Purge: Election Year

Directed By: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Kyle Secor, Mykleti Williamson, Edwin Hodge, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Terry Serpico, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

Eighteen years after losing her family on Purge night, Senator Charlie Roan is running for president on a platform of eliminating the holiday. As the day approaches, the White House announces that, for the first time since its inception, there are no restrictions on who can be Purged, meaning that the Senator is in danger. After her home is attacked, she and her head of security, Leo Barnes, flee and attempt to find a safe place to lay low. They come across Joe and Marcos, who are protecting Joe’s store since his Purge insurance was raised at the last minute and he couldn’t afford to pay the higher premium. While there, a group of high school aged Purgers attack the store since Joe had thrown them out for shoplifting the day before. As the four of them are leaving, Joe calls his friend Laney, who is traveling in a triage van helping attacked by Purgers. While in the van, the group is attacked by the same people who infiltrated Charlie’s home, and Leo discovers that he’s been shot with a tracking bullet. Shortly after arriving at the triage center, the mercenaries track down Leo and Charlie again, resulting in the Senator being taken, and Leo appeals to Dante Bishop to help him rescue the Senator.

This is the third movie in the Purge series, and it continues the trend of adding to the universe without completely rewriting it. In the previous two films, high-ranking government officials were exempt from being Purged, but since this one takes place during an election year, and the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are in serious danger of losing the election for the first time in ages, they change that rule to revoke the protected status of the Senator, hoping that she’ll be killed. Again, the actors all work well together, and, like in Anarchy, Election Year is almost more of an action movie than a horror. Frank Grillo and Edwin Hodge reprise their roles from previous films, and are the only two actors to do so outside of archive footage.

The special effects here are on par with the previous movie. There are a few more explosions this time around, and the instances of near-future technology, as well as background filler, are well done.

If you enjoyed the first two movies in the franchise, you’ll probably enjoy this movie, too. Occasionally some of the acting gets a little ham-fisted, and some of the real life parallels aren’t exactly subtle, but the story remains interesting, and it shows what lengths some people will go to in order to remain in power.

The Purge: Election Year isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Destination Wedding

DestinationWedding

Destination Wedding

Directed By: Victor Levin
Starring: Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, DJ Dallenbach, Ted Dubost, D. Rosh Wright, Greg Lucey, Donna Lynn Jones, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C+

On their way to the wedding of a mutual friend, two socially awkward narcissists, Lindsay and Frank, meet and take an instant dislike to one another. As they find themselves continually paired off during the weekend’s festivities, their initial dislike slowly evolves to a tolerance for each other. Their bond, developed through a mutual hatred of nearly everything in life, slowly strengthens after they encounter a mountain lion when they take a walk in order to avoid the wedding reception. After tumbling down a hill while escaping the animal, they decide to enter into a sexual relationship, if only for the remainder of the weekend. However, as the weekend comes to a close, they ponder what it would be like to have a relationship after they return home.

This is a difficult movie analyze. The entirety of it is spent with the two main characters, with no one else having an actual speaking role. By the end, you’re thinking that these two deserve each other, but are strangely happy for them as well. Among the difficult pieces is Frank’s relationship to the groom (I think they mention his name as Tom, but he’s not named in the credits). It’s unclear whether they’re just good friends, or if they’re step/half-siblings. Franks mother and stepfather are in attendance, so I’m leaning towards the latter option. The acting itself is well-done, though the constant chunks of dialogue tend to wear on you after a while. Ryder and Reeves still have good chemistry, and they manage to make their characters into a believable couple.

There aren’t any special effects beyond background filler, which is done well. The location they filmed at offers some lovely scenery.

All in all, if you don’t mind what amounts to a dialogue-heavy two person stage play about rampant, unapologetic narcissists deciding whether or not it’s worth the effort to fall in love, then you’ll probably like this movie. It may not be a typical rom-com that’s laugh out loud funny, but there are moments of chuckle-worthy humor sprinkled throughout the film.

Destination Wedding is available to stream through Amazon Prime, and it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Purge Anarchy

PurgeAnarchy

The Purge: Anarchy

Directed By: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Edwin Hodge, Michael Kenneth Williams, Lakeith Stanfield, Jack Conley, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

In the second installment of the Purge anthology, we see the lives of five individuals intersect as they all find themselves out on the streets and exposed during the dangerous holiday. Shane and Liz are on their way home from a visit with Liz’s sister, and their car breaks down. Unable to get a tow so close to the commencement of the Purge, they decide to continue the rest of the way home on foot, but quickly realize they’re being pursued by a group of individuals they encountered earlier in the day. Eva and Cali, a mother and daughter, are rescued from a dangerous neighbor by a group of masked strangers, only to be forcibly removed from their home by their rescuers for another man, referred to only as Big Daddy, to kill. They’re saved by Leo, a man on his way to the home of the man who killed Leo’s son in a drunk driving accident who was released on a technicality. Shane and Liz, who have managed to evade their pursuers, find Leo’s car and take temporary refuge in it. After Leo returns to his car with Eva and Cali in tow, he makes a deal with the four of them to take them someplace safe where they can wait out the rest of the night and he can continue on with his mission. Together, the five of them evade both sets of pursuers in the hopes of finding sanctuary with one of Eva’s friends, and when things begin to go awry, they all must fight together to survive the night.

As far as sequels so, The Purge: Anarchy is a rarity. It introduces an entire cast of new characters, with only one carrying over from its predecessor. It also manages expand the universe it exists in without completely ignoring the information presented in the movie before it. And, where the original was more of a locked room thriller, this is almost an action movie more than a horror. The acting is well done, and the characters work well together, something that may or may not have been aided by the fact that Gilford and Sanchez, who play Shane and Liz, are a real-life married couple.

What few special effects there are were done well. This movie had a bigger budget than the original, so they could afford to make the background effects more seamless this time around. There are also several explosions, and a few instances of near-future technology.

If you enjoyed the original, you’re likely to enjoy this movie as well. The storylines are interesting, and it’s interesting to why what for some of the characters were targeted. It also shows how an economic group different from the original handles the annual Purge, and how they attempt to keep themselves safe.

The Purge: Anarchy isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Jurassic World 2

JurassicWorld2

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Directed By: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Danielle Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

When the volcano on the island of Isla Nublar reactivates and prepares to erupt, the question of what to do with the dinosaurs still living there in the ruins of the Jurassic World Theme park becomes a global debate. Former Park Director Claire Dearing accepts an offer to help rescue several of the species before the island is destroyed. She enlists the help of her ex, and fellow former park employee Owen Grady by telling him that there’s a chance he can rescue Blue, a Velociraptor with whom he had a bond. Shortly after arriving on the island, however, Owen, Claire and their small team learn that the plan to rescue the animals was just a ploy to capture Blue so her genetics can be used in Dr. Wu’s continued dinosaur hybridization project. After barely making it back to the main land, Owen and Claire attempt to enlist an aging Benjamin Lockwood, the former partner of John Hammond, to keep Eli Mills, the man Lockwood hired to be his aide, from selling the dinosaurs to the highest bidder. However, after a dangerous hybrid is accidentally set loose in the mansion, Claire and Owen, along with Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie, must figure out how to destroy it and stop Eli before either he or the dinosaur can kill them.

The latest entry into the Jurassic Park franchise is serviceable as far as movies go. It’s not anything great, but it’s not the worst of the franchise either. Claire and Owen are the only characters returning from the previous movie, along with a brief appearance by Ian Malcolm from the original Jurassic Park. The acting is on par with the other movies in the series. As is typical with action movies, it’s not great, but not terrible either. No one really stands out as exceptionally good or bad, and the new characters seem to blend well into the Jurassic universe.

The special effects are great, which is typical with the series. The dilapidation of the new park was done well. The creature effects were realistic and the volcanic eruption was done well. The background effects aren’t noticeable.

For all its faults, Jurassic World is an entertaining movie. The plot may be a little thin, and they retconned John Hammond’s partner in out of nowhere, but aside from that, it shows a side to the possibility of bringing dinosaurs back from the dead that hadn’t really been touched upon in the previous installments, which is selling the creatures as weapons and/or pets. It also delves a little further into the hybridization plan that was introduced in the previous film, and implies that Eli was working with the military to create the living weapons.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Solo

Solo

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed By: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Thandi Newton, Jon Favreau, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo, Erin Kellyman, Linda Hunt, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

The story of young Han Solo, and how he came to be the man he was at the beginning of the original Star Wars movie. Growing up an orphan on the planet Corellia, Han becomes a street thief for the White Worms gang and their leader, Lady Proxima. After a con goes bad, Han and his girlfriend, Qi’ra attempt to escape through the nearest spaceport, but Qi’ra is captured, and Han only escapes by joining he Imperial Army as a pilot. Years later having been relegated to the Imperial infantry after getting kicked out of flight school, Han deserts the army after the invasion of an otherwise peaceful planet. Originally placed in a holding cell to be fed to another prisoner, which the soldiers guarding it call the Beast, who turns out to be a Wookie named Chewbacca. After escaping the holding cell, Han and Chewbacca join up with a group of smugglers, led by a man named Beckett. After their first outing with Beckett stealing valuable coaxium goes disastrously wrong, Beckett, Han, and Chewbacca go to the leader of the gang Crimson Dawn, a violently dangerous man named Dryden Voss, to plead for mercy after their failed mission. While there, Han learns that Qi’ra also works for Voss, and he comes up with a new plan to get the coaxium that Crimson Dawn was promised. After obtaining a ship with the help of Lando Calrissian, the group sets off and steals the unrefined coaxium from the planet Kessel. After making it to the refinery planet, Han is confronted with the surviving victims of Crimson Dawn, and must choose whether to hand the coaxium over to Voss, do what’s right and stand up to him.

There was so much hope for this movie when it was announced. With the success of the new Star Wars trilogy, as well as the previous Star Wars Story, Rogue One, Solo was all but guaranteed to be a great success. Unfortunately, the movie was marred by behind the scenes drama, which included the firing of the original directors shortly before filming wrapped and then reshooting about 80% of the movie, and a release date a little too close to the previous Star Wars movie kept this from being the mega blockbuster it could have been. As for the acting, Alden Ehrenreich does a serviceable job as Han Solo, though the characters trademark sarcastic swagger seems to have been replaced with a warm congeniality. The real stand outs are Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who deliver superb performances and steal nearly every scene they’re in.

The special effects are fantastic. ILM is one of the top effects companies and they do a great job. There are plenty of space shots, even though the planetary landscapes look decidedly Earthy. All of the background elements are seamless, and the instances of futuristic/alien technology and characters are rendered well.

Despite all of the controversy surrounding the filming/production of the movie, they managed to make an entertaining feature. It may not be the best entry into Star Wars canon, and it may not answer all of the questions fans wanted answered, but it’s enjoyable, and can be watched without having seen any other Star Wars movie. It’s definitely I’d recommend watching, and no one should be mad at having spent the money renting/buying it.

Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Set It Up

SetItUp

Set It Up

Directed By: Claire Scanlon
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Joan Smalls, Meredith Hagner, Pete Davidson, Jon Rudnitsky, Tituss Burgess, Jake Robinson, et. al.
Network: Netflix
Rated: TV-14
Grade: B

Harper and Charlie, a pair of overworked assistants working in the same office complex, decide to set their bosses up for romance in order to gain a little bit of personal freedom. As their bosses grow more serious, the two spend more and more time together devising schemes to keep their bosses happy and distracted, while also forming an unexpected friendship. This newfound friendship, as well as their respective jobs, however, are compromised when it’s revealed that the motives of one of their bosses isn’t as quite what they originally thought.

Another of Netflix’s recent spate of original-content rom-coms, this one is fairly average. The storyline is a Parent Trap-like scheme, and while the motivations are somewhat understandable, tricking two people into beginning a relationship so you can have more time off is a fairly crap thing to do. The only thing that keeps that aspect from being a complete turnoff is that the bosses aren’t much better people themselves, though one does get a small bit of redemption by the end. The actors playing Harper and Charlie have decent chemistry, and one nice thing is that they initially become friends before realizing they have feelings for each other.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t really noticeable.

Anyone who likes rom-coms should enjoy this. As stated before, while the initial setup is done for selfish reasons, it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie. It’s a simple story that’s easy to follow, so you don’t need to remain glued to your seat while watching.

Set It Up is currently only available through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase.

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To All The Boys

ToAllTheBoys

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Directed By: Susan Johnson
Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Andrew Bachelor, Trezzo Mahoro, Madeline Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, John Corbett, et. al.
Network: Netflix
Rated: TV-14
Grade: A-

For 17 year old Lara Jean Covey, skating through the real world nearly invisible and thriving on a steady diet of romance novels and fantasy is as close to a real relationship she believes she’s going to get. However, after a series of love letters she’s written to various crushes over the years, including her sister’s newly exboyfriend, are mailed to the intended recipients, she finds herself suddenly visible to those around her. When she’s approached by Noah, one of the boys who received a letter, with a plan to make Lara Jean’s current crush jealous, as well as get back at Noah’s exgirlfriend for publicly breaking up with him, Lara Jean agrees, and soon learns that reality can be much better than fantasy.

Over the years, Netflix original content has become more diversified and has delved into nearly every genre. This movie, which is a teen rom-com based on a YA novel of the same name, is an easy-to-watch, fluffy popcorn movie that reminds you of the heyday of these type of movies. The story is simple, without being overly so, and characters and actors all work well together. The teen actors (or the actors playing the teens) are especially charming, and the leads don’t feel like their chemistry is forced.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t really noticeable.

If you have a Netflix account and like cute rom-coms, then you’ll like this movie. As stated before, the storyline is simple and easy to follow so you don’t need to be glued to your television to enjoy it. I haven’t read the book it’s based on, so I can’t say how closely it follows that, but even those who haven’t read it should find the movie enjoyable.

To All The Boys I’ve Love Before is currently only available through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase.

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