Category Archives: Reviews

‘Rampage’ movie leaves audience with mixed feelings

Art by Shelby Pennington

By Reagan O’Farrell

The theater was eerily quiet as the lights went down. Every other seat was occupied, it seemed, by someone who was apparently curious as to just how good or bad this movie was. People were divided either way — a film with big-time actors and a not-so original plot tended to do that.

Rampage, which was released on April 13, has drawn critics and moviegoers to both sides of the line. It was reminiscent of other films like Godzilla or King Kong but attempted to have its own modern twist, being that one of the “bad guys” was actually kind of a “good guy” — this character being the ape itself, an albino gorilla named George.

Upon watching the trailers, people pretty much knew what to expect from the entire movie. For the most part, at least. It was driven primarily by action and comedy — this comedy being a surprisingly unique mixture of absolute childishness and a target aimed directly at adults. Normally, this really should not work. For some reason, it did. This was one of those movies that was almost stupid-funny, whether or not that was that actual intention of the makers of Rampage.

Without its notable actors, however, this movie likely would have been a bit of a mess. Dwayne Johnson played the main character, Davis Okoye, the primary caregiver and best friend of George. Naomie Harris acted as Dr. Kate Caldwell, one of the lead scientists who had a role in incidentally developing the objects responsible for the mutations of George and two other animals. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, recognized for his recent role as Negan in The Walking Dead, played Harvey Russell, a government agent who initiated the attempted capture of George. These are the three actors who prevented the movie from flopping entirely primarily because, despite their poor scripts, they actually managed to somehow pull off their parts.

The plot of the movie, for the most part, was fairly predictable. A genetic experiment gone wrong ends up affecting a few predator species and it is up to Davis and company to fix it. The corporation responsible for the experimentation, Energyne, is corrupt and wants to make money off the disaster — that is, the mutated animals. CEO Claire Wyden, portrayed by Malin Åkerman, is the cool, collected head behind Energyne in contrast with her brother, Brett — played by Jake Lacy — who is a panicky dimwit. While an interesting dynamic, their parts were not written particularly well and it was impossible to take either of them seriously and see them as the threats they were supposed to be. More-or-less, this was made up for in the true threats presented by the mutated animals.

The music behind the film was in accordance with that of any action movie — loud and boisterous for important fight scenes, suave and dark whenever Claire Wyden began to present another aspect of her evil plan, and the likes. It was blended in well enough to hardly be noticeable, but this seemed to be more of an advantage toward Rampage — had the music been more of a forefront, it would have been just another stereotypical action ploy that would have made even the intense scenes a joke.

Rampage has not been getting the best reviews. Despite this fact, it was actually almost worth seeing. The childishness comedy was practically nostalgia, and the ridiculousness of it all was enough to leave a lasting smile on anyone’s face. The actors may not have been casted in an award-winning film by any means, but it honestly looked like they had fun shooting it. It was genuine as much as being genuine was necessary.

Frankly, Rampage was equal parts good and bad, but these dichotomies tied in pretty well to make a halfway decent movie. Really, it was no surprise that the theater was half-full.

It is worth giving Rampage a chance, if only to satisfy one’s own curiosity. From the raw action to the occasionally ill-placed joke, it is a unique film.

Relevant film captures interest of moviegoers

Art by Tori Roberts

By Reagan O’Farrell

In a world where terrorism seems to have become relatively inevitable, it is not much of a surprise that movies are now being released exemplifying the heroism of those who take action to prevent it. In the most recent case, that movie is The 15:17 to Paris.

The 15:17 to Paris tells the true story about the endeavors three men took to stop a terrorist bent on killing hundreds of helpless citizens as they took the Thalys train connecting Amsterdam to Paris. This movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, has a notable twist, however—the main cast is the heroes themselves.

This film has a running time of an hour and 36 minutes in which the life stories of Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler are told beginning when they are around 11 years old and ending when they receive membership to the Légion d’Honneur.

Overall, The 15:17 to Paris told a great story of heroism from seemingly ordinary people, demonstrating the power of every individual to make a difference in the world. However, going into the theater, one would expect to learn more about the events that transpired that day in August of 2015 when a man entered a heavily-populated train with the intent to kill, or even gain a look into the unique lives of all the people who stopped that man. Frankly, neither of those happened.

The plot—which was, of course, a true story—seemed interesting on the surface, but the only moments where a person could feel like he or she was interacting with the film, almost there, feeling the rush of adrenaline, happened in the span of a brilliantly produced maybe-fifteen minutes. The rest of it was pretty distant.

This may be because the transition from childhood to adulthood is abrupt, awkward, and lacking in explanations. Not to mention, the dialogue among the children is forced—child actors William Jennings, Bryce Geiser, and Paul-Mikél Williams did their best with what they got, but what they got must not have been good enough.

It may also be because of the most infamous detail being the actors actually playing themselves. Their acting, while a good attempt, is not the best. The conversations are not natural—from sports talk to making light of one another or talking about future plans, it is evident they were not trained to do this kind of work. One develops an appreciation of those who act for a living when watching these three make a go. Then again, maybe it is just really hard to act as yourself in a film.

The best scenes in the movie came when the men were acting in behavior seemingly normal to them. In Spencer’s case, this was following orders on a military base, practicing jiu jitsu, and ultimately taking down the terrorist. He seemed to hold the most spotlight, which may be because he is the one who ran down a man in the face of a gun and faced injuries due to his willingness to protect people.

Overall, The 15:17 to Paris shared an excellent story about heroism in the modern world and about the coming-of-age tale of Spencer, Alek, and Anthony. While the production was a bit awkward, the inspiring tale captivates audiences regardless.

Ladybird Produces New Reliability on the Big Screen

By Abby Chovan

Art by Victoria Roberts

Though a film without much buzz, Ladybird is a tale of the 21st century about a mother and daughter and how they thrive and flounder from the toils of life at the same time. It is a story that anyone could relate back to their own lives.

The actors who began the on-screen journey were Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. In the opening scene they both cry over an audio recording of their favorite book, one that holds many memories between the two. Though this sweet moment captures the room, an argument erupts that is recognizable to most family fights that many people face. As the movie progresses, it centers around these two women and their stubborn personalities that cause them to make life a little more dramatic than it has to be. Christine, known by her self given nickname Ladybird, is played by Ronan herself. The girl goes through teenage troubles of dating and wanting to go to her dream colleges in New York, but her lower-middle class society standing and home life has her in fear of forever living in her hometown of Sacramento.

One specific struggle Christine has is wanting to be seen as a popular girl, but seeing as she’s friends with the less popular crowd, it is hard to do so. She struggles with wanting to remain friends with her “oddball” group of theatre kids and wanting to experience living a wild life as a smoking, partying, and all around fashionable 2002 teen.

This movie strikes a cord with many teens today, dreaming of an opportunity to get away from their normal lives. There seems to be a character for every person to relate to in this movie, with its wide range of lovable and relatable people to choose from. It especially shines on mother-daughter relationships and how they aren’t all clean and perfect.

Media has often portrayed these family relationships, but never have they escalated to this level. It seems as if most movies try to hide the problems instead of address them, leaving them in the dark and instead creating a satirical escape for upset people around the world to turn to for a good laugh. However, the film Ladybird addresses the real ugly truth and left some audience members in tears, feeling so much meaning behind the screaming matches and contrasting gentle lectures that Christine and her mother share.

Among teens now is the debate over sexual relationships and when it is acceptable to begin one. The film address many different viewpoints on the subject, ranging from views on abstinence to a seemingly care-free opinion that one of Christine’s boyfriends had.

While this movie has many reasons to bare its R rating, it is one that teens and adults alike can appreciate and relate to. It’s a tale of first loves, chasing dreams, and utter ambition that we cannot find easily anywhere else. It left many of viewers in awe at the end, a few sitting in an almost comical thinking position. As a couple of sobbing and hugging mothers and daughters filtered out, a few sat with hands on their knees, pondering. As Christine had just finished a heartfelt apologetic call to her mother and the movie ended with a shaky inhale, viewers left in provoked thought that the beginning had brought, bringing everyone involved full circle.

The Punisher grips Marvel fans’ attention in release of first season

By Reagan O’Farrell

Art by Shelby Pennington

The Punisher started off with a bang- or more accurately, a hit-and-run murder, then a bang, then a strangulation in a men’s bathroom.

This TV show, which had its entire first season released by Netflix on Nov. 17, is not for the faint of heart. With graphic gore and an abundance of violence, not everyone can handle this story of an avenging anti-hero.

The Punisher circles around the story of Frank Castle, who is also known as “Punisher” and played by Jon Bernthal. After coming home from war and having his wife and two children murdered, he exacts revenge on those responsible before attempting to live out a quiet life. This quiet does not last long as he soon finds himself thrust into the vigilante lifestyle to uncover the conspiracies plaguing the nation.

The producers made an excellent choice in cast members for the show. Jon Bernthal, who was originally most notorious for his role as Shane early on in The Walking Dead, brings Punisher to life, making him into a relatable quasi-hero who also happens to live a life wrought with tragedy, death, and manipulation. His portrayal is a memorable one, and it is hard to imagine Bernthal in any other role given how fluidly he is portrayed in this one. Ebon Moss-Bachrach plays Micro, a former NSA computer analyst believed dead much like Punisher himself. His introduction is also the introduction to much of the humor in the show, even if that humor is scarce and often short-lived.

One of the most notable features of The Punisher is its soundtrack. The season-long introduction sequence alone offers music that parallels the show perfectly, intertwining with the dark images displayed in its mist. The action sequences are notable and undoubtedly memorable in the minds of viewers because of the hard, strong beats accompanying them that makes hearts beat faster in anticipation and excitement despite the gruesome behaviors it is exemplifying.

The Punisher is not slow, but it does take some time for the buildup before the main plot is fully introduced. There is a certain shadows and curtains aspect to the show, however, that keeps up the intrigue throughout, drawing in the more plot oriented minds as opposed to simply leading a character-driven story.

It delves deep into the importance of origins and the effects of social and government influence while also providing both subtle and direct criticisms of the inter-workings of the United States. These criticisms certainly raise questions and bring to light conspiracies that are sometimes swept under the rug by the public. While Punisher himself is no role model, he does act the door to both answers and the reality of human nature.

Overall, The Punisher is a good source of entertainment for both superhero fans and non-superhero fans alike. Those who primarily watch Marvel movies may be surprised at just how different this show is, but it still offers the much-desired action sequences that make those films noteworthy. While the brooding-man-who-lost-all-that-he-loved trope is strong in this one, it actually plays off well and with an air of rationality given Punisher’s overwhelmingly tragic backstory.

Netflix has been coming out with multiple memorable shows, and The Punisher will likely become an inevitable addition to that growing list.

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ excites movie fans

Art by Shelby Pennington

By Reagan O’Farrell

A final group of people bustles into the already packed theater just as the lights go down, signaling the beginning of the film. People shift in their seats, turning off their phones as their focus now turns to the large screen before them.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle starts off with a bang, paralleling its predecessor of Kingsman: The Secret Service by instantly throwing moviegoers into the heat of the action. Taron Egerton returns as “Eggsy,” one of the two latest recruits to join the Kingsman, a spy organization created with the intention of upholding peace without the use of the government. Mark Strong, who plays “Merlin,” also returns, bringing with him a good portion of the comedy that makes the Kingsman movies so popular. The much-anticipated Colin Firth also returns as Harry Hart despite the seemingly fatal gunshot through the eye in the last movie.

This particular movie centers itself around a group known as The Golden Circle led by Julianne Moore as Poppy, who is the head of a major drug organization that plans on making its practices legalized by any means necessary.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle delves further into characters of whom little was really known about. Harry’s past, in particular, is subject to more scrutiny than previously, and more of Merlin’s personality is revealed through his excursions with Eggsy.

New characters are also introduced in the storyline, including Channing Tatum’s ‘Tequila,’ Halle Berry’s ‘Ginger,’ and Pedro Pascal’s ‘Whiskey.’ These players still did not quite overshadow the original characters, but Ginger and Tequila especially had fairly large roles throughout the movie. Channing Tatum did not appear in the movie nearly as often as one may have expected based on the trailers, but his presence as Tequila still impacted the actions of many characters whether or not he was on the screen.

Kingsman continues its trope of fantastical spy technology, even including a bionic arm that looks straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This comes as no surprise, though it did often lead to several easy wins that would never be possible without their presence. That being said, it did not hinder the movie: there are many battles that could not be solved by a nicely timed container of goop, and multiple resounding losses are faced.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle has been popular since its release on Sept. 22, possibly signaling the rise in popularity of movies that include a combination of action, adventure, and comedy. This movie blended all these genres together seamlessly, occasionally hardening back to The Secret Service in parody.

As with the first film, this movie was clever. Just like in The Secret Service where the “world ending” plot was radical though had its fair amount of reason and logic behind it, The Golden Circle has characters doing bad things for what they believe to be just reasons. While some aspects were more outlandish than others, with one of the main antagonists even bringing about some Hannibal-istic concepts, most of it was in no way entirely unheard of.

This movie does not appear to signal the end of the series: the tail end teases another sequel that may allow Kingsman to continue.

While this movie is certainly rated R for a reason, with its language, violence, and sensual content nobody can rightfully argue, it is certainly something worth seeing for the more mature audiences.