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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Deadpool 2

Deadpool2

Deadpool 2

Directed By: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, Stefan Kapicic, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

After the love of his life is killed by people seeking vengeance on him, Wade Wilson (a.k.a. Deadpool) spirals into a suicidal mania, complicated by his mutant ability to heal rapidly. Eventually taken in by his X-Men friends Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Wade attempts to join their team in an effort to give purpose to his life. On his first outing, Wade connects with a young mutant who is angry and lashing out at his abusers, causing Wade to attack the men and get both Russell and himself arrested and sent to a secure mutant prison. While there, an assassin from the future named Cable arrives to stop Russell from becoming a powerful supervillian called Firefist who winds up killing Cable’s family. Wade then decides to form his own team of heroes to find and rescue Russell and the future is show Cable that people can change by persuading Russell that revenge isn’t always the best answer.

The original Deadpool movie managed to revive Fox’s dying superhero franchises. With the X-Men slowly losing steam and failures to launch from Fantastic Four and Daredevil, the much-awaited Deadpool was seen as a way to renew interest in the characters the studio still held the rights to. Its self-aware, self-referential humor was a breath of fresh air compared the increasing seriousness of its counterparts. This sequel continues with that brand of humor, keeping its tongue firmly planted in cheek, and still manages to have an emotional through point. In many ways, Deadpool 2 is better than Deadpool. One of them being that the storyline is slightly stronger, and the fact that there are actual emotional stakes and reasons behind the action. And, while Reynolds and company manage to find the humor in most scenes, it doesn’t detract from the message about acceptance and forgiveness.

The effects in the movie are great, and on par with the quality of the previous film. There are several explosions and displays of mutant powers. The background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who was a fan of the first movie should like this one, too. The humor is on the same level and there’s a better story. It’s also something you can watch without getting lost, as is typical for most action/comic book movies.

Deadpool 2 isn’t available anywhere to stream at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased at a participating store or online retailer.

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Snowman

Snowman

The Snowman

Directed By: Thomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jonas Karlsson, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, David Dencik, Toby Jones, Chloë Sevigny, James D’Arcy, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C-

As the first snowfall of the year hits Oslo, women begin disappearing from their homes, only to be found later having been murdered and gruesomely displayed. Homicide detective Harry Hole, who has been contacted by the perpetrator, races against time as more women go missing, eventually being found murdered, all the while attempting to battle his own personal demons.

Normally when a book, or series of books, is turned into a movie, they start with the first in the series, which isn’t what happened here. Instead, we’re dropped into the middle of a universe with little to no explanation as to what’s going on with the characters, resulting in a movie that’s choppy, strangely paced, and has characters and subplots that seem to go nowhere. There are also, apparently, a number of flashback sequences that are presented as real time, including an entire character who is revealed to be long dead, despite appearing in what seem to be present day scenes. Despite the movie taking place in Norway, the standard of using an English/British accent in place of anything foreign is used, with the handful of American actors using some muddled hybrid of vaguely British and vaguely Scandinavian.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond some practical uses of severed limbs and blood spatter. The background filler isn’t really noticeable

This movie could, and should, have been better than it was. Nearly all of the actors involved are known talents, but most of them are underutilized here. Those involved in post production also should have spent a little more time trying to create a comprehensive story, instead of the rambling mess we were given. Unless you really want to watch this, it would probably be best left to waiting until you don’t have to pay, as it likely won’t be worth the cost.

The Snowman isn’t available free 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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Rampage

Rampage

Rampage

Directed By: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Ackerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacey, Marley Shelton, Joe Manganiello, P.J. Byrne, Jack Quaid, Will Yun Lee, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C+

After an orbital research station suffers a malfunction and begins to crash to Earth, the specimens onboard are jettisoned and land in different areas across the US, infecting local wildlife with a virus that causes them to rapidly grow and mutate, all while giving them a nearly uncontrollable violent streak. When one of the specimens lands in a zoo, infecting a normally gentle albino gorilla, the zoo’s Primatologist, Davis Okoye, joined by disgraced geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell, sets out to find a cure for the pathogen from its source at Energyne Labs in Chicago before the mutated animals can tear the city apart.

Turning video games into movies is notoriously hit and miss. The biggest hurdle they face is finding a good reason for the plot of the movie to be taking place, which can be difficult depending on the game. Unfortunately for Rampage, a little research tells us that the mutated creatures are the “heroes” of the game, and the destruction of various cities is the main goal. Despite all that, Rampage does maintain a sense of fun. Dwayne Johnson is Hollywood’s leading go-to action/comedy man, and for good reason. It’s easy to tell that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which usually translates into his characters looking as though they’re having fun. Most of the other actors also seem to be having fun with the movie, which is one of the reasons it’s not a total bust.

The special effects are all relatively well done. The giant monsters don’t look too cartoony, but they don’t look terribly realistic, either. The destruction of downtown Chicago, including a skyscraper, looks like it could have been using miniatures and set pieces, though there were a few sequences done with CGI. There are also a couple of death scenes but they’re either blink and you’ll miss it, or played off for laughs.

Anyone looking for fun, semi-mindless popcorn flick should find this enjoyable. As stated before, the actors all seem to be enjoying themselves, though Malin Ackerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan lean towards scenery-chewing every now and then. If nothing else, it’s worth the price of a rental, and shouldn’t wear too thin on repeat viewings.

Rampage isn’t available free 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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Tag

Tag

Tag

Directed By: Jeff Tomsic
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Leslie Bibb, Nora Dunn, Steve Berg, Rashida Jones, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B+

For the last 30 years, five lifelong friends have devoted one month out of every year to a no-holds-barred, anything goes game of tag. After learning that their best player and friend Jerry, who has never been “it” in all the years they’ve played, is planning on quitting once the current game is finished, Hoagie sets a plan in motion to finally see their friend tagged. Joined by a reporter who is inadvertently made aware of the game while interviewing Bob, one of the players in the group, for a magazine article, they use increasingly elaborate ruses in an attempt to catch Jerry off-guard in the days leading up to his wedding.

Although loosely based on a true story, the actual plot of the film, and the characters used, are all original to the movie. That said, the actors are all believable as a group of lifelong friends, with all of them sharing similar personality traits while remaining individual people. The actual plot itself could be a bit more fleshed out since the “let’s tag Jerry” motive doesn’t hold up to some of the massive lengths the characters go to in order to corner their friend and finally tag him. And, while the ultimate motivation for one of the characters is eventually revealed, it’s almost too late to redeem the movie, though the final sequence makes up for it partially.

There are no obvious special effects outside of background filler, which isn’t noticeable.

This is a fun movie that will appeal to most people. Despite some clunky bits of plotting, the general story is amusing, and the trap sequences in which the group tries to tag Jerry are interesting to watch. The only thing that didn’t sit well with me was a minor plot point in which Jerry’s fiancée fakes a pregnancy, and eventually a miscarriage, which detracted from the overall light tone of the film. Overlooking that minor hiccup, this should stand up to multiple viewings, and it doesn’t require a ton of effort to follow. It should be worth spending the money to rent or buy.

Tag isn’t available free 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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Infinity War

AvengersInfinityWar

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War

Directed By: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johanssen, Chadwick Bozeman, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elisabeth Olsen, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klemintiff, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A+

Thanos, an evil genius, is bent on collecting the six Infinity Stones so that he can enact a plan to wipe out half the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers. Using a select group of his “children,” what he calls the young orphans he’s taken off of the planets he’s conquered over the years, he attempts to recover the remaining stones needed to finish his gauntlet and enact his plan. The only ones standing in his way are the Avengers, or what’s left of them anyway, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the few heroes the two groups have managed to find along the way. As the groups cross paths on their missions to stop Thanos, they learn they must all band together to defeat him as he razes a path of death and destruction across the galaxy from Knowhere to Earth in order to complete his mission.

As I’ve stated before, Marvel has used the last ten years or so to perfect the fine art of a fleshed-out, fully populated comic book universe. Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th movie in the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe, brings together nearly every hero introduced up to this point in a massively ambitious crossover event that is unlike pretty much anything seen before it. Due credit should be given to the casting directors, as they’ve managed to assemble (pardon the unavoidable pun) a group of actors that all work amazingly well together, even though many of the groupings include characters that are meeting for the first time. Since about 90% of the characters have been previously introduced over the last decade of movies, and Thanos has more of his back story filled in, only his Children are left a mystery, since we don’t learn much about them in their limited screen time.

The special effects are top notch, which is to be expected. With everything from ships traveling through space and alien planets, to the slightly futuristic technology of Wakanda, it all blends well and has a realistic quality. There are also several fully CGI characters and creatures, which also have a realistic quality. The background filler is unnoticeable.

Despite the fact that several of the characters from the comic book story line don’t appear in the movie because of licensing issues, the movie is still really good. Viewers may need to watch the previous 18 films in order to know what’s going on, but it’s worth the time spent since much of the series is above-par, with only one or two missteps. And, as long as you don’t let the cliffhanger ending get to you, it’s one that can be watched more than once without getting too old.

Avengers: Infinity War isn’t available free 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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