Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Pacific-Rim-Poster Before jumping into my review of Pacific Rim, I want to talk about two things running through my mind as I was heading into the theater Saturday evening. First off, I’d been reading a lot that week about how this movie was going to tank. That’s one of the downsides to having a gig in the entertainment industry, you’re constantly inundated with the business-y side of Hollywood, the kind of stuff most people don’t really care about. The problem, though, is that sometimes the projections about how well a movie is going to do leading up to its release wind up poisoning the well a bit for the people who do pay attention to these things. “It’s not going to do well? I’m not gonna go.” I don’t have a solution for those aside, but the news bummed me out. Did it have something to do with Despicable Me 2 and Grown Ups 2 doing better over the weekend at the box office? Maybe. Then again, those more family friendly movies were going to be big no matter what.

The other thing rolling through my head was, “THIS is going to be what I always wanted from a Godzilla movie.” As a kid, I loved the bits and pieces of giant moster flicks I’d catch on TV, but when I finally turned 16 and started getting tapes by the backpack-full from Family Video I discovered something rather unsettling: a lot of those movies (like Gamer vs. Viras) are super boring. All you really want is guys in rubber suits fighting over a cardboard city with toy tanks shooting at them, but what you get is a little bit of that with a lot of scientists talking about how to stop the monster. Yawn.

I figured that a director like Guillermo del Toro would be able to figure out a way to balance the giant action with the smaller character moments and that’s what Pacific Rim delivered as far as I’m concerned. The story takes place on an Earth in which an inter-dimensional portal has opened up in the ocean. Said portal spits out giant monsters — dubbed kaiju — that humanity has to fight. The human race took on the first one with conventional weapons, but eventually built gigantic robots called jaegers to handle the menace. The jaegers are so big, though, that you’ve got to meld two minds to run them. Two pilots — usually relatives — literally link minds to drive these things and fight the baddies. Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket is a one-time jaeger pilot who winds up working for his old boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to try and put a stop to this nearly decade-long menace once and for all. There’s a whole heckuva lot more going on, of course, but I don’t want to get too spoilery (yet).

Guys, I loved this movie. It delivered exactly what I wanted and even a little more. The robots versus monsters scenes were fantastic with everything from spinning blades and swords to battleships coming into play. But there’s also a real sense of menace to the film. They got pretty good at taking on the kaiju for a while as Becket tells us in the opening monologue, but then things got crazier with bigger, more dangerous monsters attacking. A pair of scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are doing their best to figure out what’s going on, but in the meantime you get the sense that the world is hanging in the balance. Some politicians have decided to bury their heads in the sand and try a fairly foolish means of defense (which might seem a little insane, but I bought it enough), but luckily for earth there are some very brave men and women from all over the globe working together to put a stop to it.

As a kid I always wanted to cut out all the boring stuff with people and just watch the fights, but in this one, I thought there was a good deal of humanity interspersed throughout. Sure, a lot of it’s the kind of stuff you’d expect. A leader who considers his image more important than his well-being, a cocky fighter unsure of why the hasbeen and rookie have been brought in, a person who hates the kaiju for destroying their family (that flashback scene kicked me in the gut, I’m such a wuss when it comes to kids in films these days). But when those characters are played well — and I thought they were for the most part — a bit of new life is breathed in. Plus, even if you don’t dig the, you wait a little bit and a robot rips a monster’s tongue out, so it’s cool.

pacific rim gipsy danger poster

There were a few elements of the film that didn’t sit particularly well with me. Minor SPOILERS follow. I enjoyed Hunnam’s performance, but the way he spoke was kind of distracting. The actor is from England, but he sports one of those accents that doesn’t sound like it truly belongs on either side of the pond. I had a similar complaint regarding Freddie Highmore’s performance in the first episode of Bates Motel. I’m not sure if this is just how he talks or how he was directed to speak, but it was distracting. I also wondered why the manner of defense against the kaiju was so segregated. You’ve basically got the jaegers and a giant wall, but the two are almost completely unrelated. Wouldn’t it make sense to have cannons that can do the same thing that Gipsy Danger’s fists can? They’ve been fighting these monsters for 6 or 7 years and no one thought of building up the borders in a different way?

But those are fairly minor quibbles. On the whole, I thought the story had a lot of fun, new elements that made sense and also had fun with sci-fi elements. The mental handshake stuff was cool and how can you not love ridiculously gigantic robots being built in even bigger bunkers driven by two people? The basic concepts get thrown at you pretty early in the movie, so if you’re not on board with the movie science, then you might want to skip the whole thing altogether. As it is, I enjoyed seeing a big budget spectacle that wasn’t based on anything but writer Travis Beachum and del Toro’s imaginations. I was far from disappointed by this film and would recommend anyone who though the trailers looked cool to go check it out.

Okay, SUPER SPOILER TIME. This is so SPOILERY that I’m putting it after the jump if you happen to be reading this post on the main page. If not, you’ve been warned.  Continue reading Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Drive-In Double Feature: Harry Potter 8 (2011) & Horrible Bosses (2011)

Last night, the missus, our daughter and I went to the drive-in once again to watch one of the most mis-matched double features I’ve ever heard of. First up was Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (or what I like to call Harry Potter 8, or just HP8 for short), a PG-13 dark fantasy epic along with the R-rated, somewhat filthy dark comedy Horrible Bosses. It was pretty funny watching the cars with kids tear out of the drive-in parking lot 10-15 minutes into the movie. Thankfully, our daughter’s too young to understand any of the bad words, so we stuck around.

I wrote my thoughts on this movie’s predecessor here, if you’re curious. As I said over on that post, I’m not much of a fantasy fan and, while I respect Harry Potter, it’s not something I lover. My wife does, hence our viewing. Anyway, like that movie, I wound up liking this one and its dark tone. Man, is this movie dark. But what else would you expect from the build-up to the death of several characters. I’m still not sure why no one tried to shoot Voldemort in the face, but that’s just me.

As I mentioned above, this movie is pretty epic. Lots of things happen. Lots of people die. Lots of magic gets thrown around. Some of the moments were a bit ovbious if you’ve ever read anything in this genre, but overall I thought it was well done and actually kind of ballsy with how violent and terrifying things got. Plus, Neville Longbottom got to be a badass. Good for him.

In my review of the last movie, I said I didn’t like how the magicians had to say the spell they were using. This time there was less of that, though oddly enough Voldemort still says some of his. My only real problem with the movie was that characters seem to disappear and then show up in strange places with zero explanation. Luna Lovegood’s with the gang at a cottage and then she’s at Hogwart’s. Really, why’d she go there when it’s run by a kinda evil Snape? Then there’s the scene when Harry saves Malfoy (I wish that little bastard would have gotten what was coming to him), they go through some mystical door and then it’s just Ron, Hermione and Harry talking. Where’d Malfoy go? I guess it’s possible he scurried off and I happened to look elsewhere? I dunno, it was a problem I had throughout the movie, but all in all, I’ll give this one the thumb’s up. Kinda wish someone would edit the long boring parts out of the previous film and put them together with this one, because that would be one ass kicking movie. I would also be in full support of an 80s director remaking this movie with a snarkier lead who would drop some awesome one-liners when kicking bad guy ass.

I had heard nothing about Horrible Bosses before going in. I love stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. I’m quite fond of their awful bosses Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. But, I’ve seen most of those people in movies I don’t like–especially Bateman in Extract, woof, what a stinker–so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, Horrible Bosses turned out to be a rollicking good time that played it’s leads to their strengths and mostly played the bosses against type. I guarantee even the most jaded people around will be at least a little shocked with the graphic talk coming out of Rachel-from-Friends‘ mouth. And yet, it was all pretty hilarious.

The plot is pretty well established in the trailers, these guys all have pretty terrible bosses and decide that the only way they will ever be happy in their lives is to murder their bosses (it’s actually less silly and more logical in the movie than it sounds). Even with them doing a lot of research, getting a murder consultant and getting pretty close to actually doing the deeds, I never bought for a second that these guys would kill anyone. I think that’s part of the conceit though. How would regular guys try to figure out how to find a hitman? The internet? Going to a dive bar? That’s probably where I would start.

My wife said she didn’t like how the movie kind of rapped up so quickly at the end. She said something like “it seemed like they were trying to keep it to 90 minutes and wrapped it up really quickly.” I can see where she’s coming from, but I thought the ending made a lot of sense within the story. Yes, it comes quickly, but it made sense and wound up being pretty funny.

On a side note, this movie was directed by the guy who made one of my favorite movies of the past decade: King Of Kong, the Donkey Kong doc. His name’s Seth Gordon and he’s also done a few TV gigs like directing Modern Family, The Office, Parks & Recreation and Community episodes along with a few other movies I haven’t seen. I like what he did here and would be curious to see what else he can do in the future.

Drive-In Double Feature: Going The Distance & The Other Guys (2010)

The missus and I have been wanting to head to the Warwick Drive-In all summer, but the pairings of movies have either been uninteresting or we’ve either been out of town on good weekends. See, they’ve got three screens set up and each one shows two movies. We had never been to this drive-in, but we had a great time when we went last night to see Going The Distance and The Other Guys. As an added bonus, I could see the screen showing Expendables and kept peeping the awesome action scenes while listening to Other Guys.

Before getting into my review of Going The Distance, which I dug, doesn’t that not look like Drew Barrymore in the poster to the left? It’s kind of unsettling. Otherwise, I dig the poster.

Anyway, the movie’s about Barrymore and Justin Long a pair that meet in Brooklyn’s Barcade (one of the few hip places I’ve been in the city, though I could barely handle the overabundance of hipsters, go fig), but the problem is that Barrymore is an intern at a NYC paper and will be heading back to California in a few weeks. They don’t plan on making a big deal of their relationship, but find that they really dig each other and give the long distance relationship thing a shot.

Sounds kind of formulaic, right? Yeah, it kind of is. Both Long and Barrymore have sexy friends and coworkers of the opposite sex who make the partner jealous. But, even with all of that, I thought the movie was surprisingly funny. I didn’t realize it was rated R and they really go with it, having the usually disgustingly saccharine Barrymore dropping F bombs and drunkenly telling a huge biker to suck her dick. So, I went in expecting yet another Barrymore romantic comedy with Long’s awkward comedic stylings (which I like for the most part), but with the inclusion of Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as Long’s friends and Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan (who is the only comedian in recent memory to make me laugh so hard I cried) as Barrymore’s sister and brother in law there’s a lot of funny moments going on like when Day, Long’s roommate, starts DJing Barrymore and Long’s first hookup and they’re both okay with it. Those unexpectedly funny moments made me laugh.

The problem with some of those moments and others where they seem to be letting Sydeikis or Applegate riff is that the movie feels about 10 minutes too long which is fair considering it’s 102 minutes. I’m a strong proponent of comedies not exceeding the magic 90-minute marker. Instead of cutting the funny bits, though, I would have just gotten rid of Applegate’s sexy British work friend who winds up disappearing after an awkward moment between the two when Barrymore gets super drunk. All in all, though, I was surprised at how funny the movie was and how much I didn’t mind the tropes of the romantic comedy genre shown by some legitimately funny actors and actresses.

I’m not a huge fan of writer/director Adam McKay’s but I’m getting there. Anchroman befuddled me when I first watched it, but I think that’s because I didn’t know what to expect and definitely wasn’t thinking it would be a life-like cartoon. Talladega Nights and Stepbrothers were pretty good, but didn’t blow me away, however, I really loved the shorts he did with his daughter Pearl “The Landlord” and the like. Plus, he wrote tons of sketches for SNL that I’m sure I loved during his long tenure on the show where he met up with Will Ferrell, the star of all the aforementioned movies and videos.

The Other Guys is about two low-men-on-the-totem-pole cops played by Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg who go after a low level criminal which winds up being a huge deal, referencing many of the financial problems we’ve seen in this country over the past few years. The plot reminds me of a lot of 80s and 90s buddy cop action movies I like, which is fun because they reference that genre by featuring the Rock and Sam Jackson as your action-packed cops.

I was glad to see Ferrell not playing his usual manchild character. Sure, he’s cartoony, but this time around he’s more buttoned up, but has a dark side. Meanwhile, Wahlberg plays the caricature of the pent-up cop perfectly. You’ve also got actors like Damon Wayans Jr., Rob Riggle, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan and Eva Mendes doing great, funny work in the movie that makes it a lot of fun to watch. There’s lots of silliness going on here, but I think it’s the most grounded movie that McKay and Ferrell have made, which would probably also make it the most accessible (having Wahlberg and Mendes can’t hurt either). I dug this movie and appreciated that I could watch the action scenes in Expendables and not miss any plot points. Speaking of action scenes, the one in the beginning of Other Guys features the Rock and Sam Jackson in a car chase that gets stuck in a double decker bus. It’s awesome.

Both movies were set in New York, so it was fun looking for the few locales I’m familiar with. The two movies also had some interesting connections for Six Degrees fans: Rob Riggle appears in both as an asshole and both feature The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers, a driving range that overlooks the Hudson River. I’ve never been there and didn’t even know it existed until I saw Long, Sudeikis and Day hitting balls there in the first movie and then a helicopter landing on it in the second. Fun stuff!

The drive-in experience was a lot of fun. We took the missus’ car which has a hatchback and built ourselves a nice little nest in the back. I wasn’t sure how comfortable it would be lying in the back, but it was pretty great and the weather was perfect. The food we bought there wasn’t too bad, but the snacks we brought in were kind of unnecessarily and I wound up with a stomach ache (combining hamburgers, chewie Jolly Ranchers, soda and Kit Kats is not the best idea). Hopefully we can get a few more double features in before the end of the season! Also, I think I might have seen a UFO!