Rambo: Last Blood (2019): Action / Adventure / Thriller

 

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When the girl who raised as his own daughter gets kidnapped by Mexican human traffickers, Rambo goes on a rampage to get her back.

Let me tell you a story about John Rambo… Behind the American propaganda, and behind the real-life wars that affected real-life people in the real-life world, Rambo, as a fictional character, is a man not so different from you and me. With desires, wants, needs, feelings, and emotions. That said, he’s a natural-born killer. In Rambo: First Blood (1982), we get to see that he’s a misled soldier who has realised he is carrying this ‘curse’ and upon running out of missions to complete, all he needs is to be left alone as the world makes no sense to him. It never did and probably never will.

Cutting to Last Blood, the ‘curse’ has not been lifted but now he has found a (mission) purpose; the daughter he never got to have. The story is solid, don’t get me wrong. The idea behind Last Blood makes it a Rambo film through and through. Its development becomes the problem though. Director Adrian Grunberg, actor/writer/producer Sylvester Stallone, and the studios should have revised and tightened the script up, deciding on its tone, rhythm, pace, and continuity. Gabrielle’s father switches, in a blink of an eye, in a way I am still scratching my beard. Human trafficker Hugo Martinez knows military combat communication (somehow) but no tactics at all, and the story itself holds back on dramatic intensity, especially surrounding deaths, and goes full throttle on brutal violence like anything you’ve seen in the previous installments. Last but not least, it feels as if the writers for a few minutes forgot who Rambo is and sent him straight to an ambush that a 5 y/o would have seen blindfolded – still scratching the beard. By the way, I totally didn’t see one event coming though (no spoilers). You can read here about the funny or comic versions of other scripts that were handed in at the time before the studios chose this one to be the one: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1206885/trivia?item=tr4768586

These are the inconsistencies I am talking about. Make sure you watch the extended R-rated version which is a lot more… juicy! Be it as it may, the action is indeed brutal and if you want to blow some steam off just put it on and hit ‘Play’. Do not try to find plot holes, it’s not productive. After all, it’s not every year the year that two major franchises that my generation grew up with come to an end – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/01/16/terminator-dark-fate-2019-action-adventure-sci-fi/.

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Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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Sarah Connor and an enhanced human from the future must fight against the most advanced Terminator ever sent back in time, protecting a young woman whose existence is the key to humanity’s fate.

Old wine, new bottle. The franchise’s sixth installment acknowledges only Terminator (1984), and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and pretends the ones in between never happened (or ‘occurred in alternate timelines’).

The pros: The story contains – or repeats – the necessary elements from T1 and T2 making actually Dark Fate look and sound like a Terminator movie. Linda Hamilton defies age. Mackenzie Davis kicks ass. Gabriel Luna… keeps coming back. And last but not least, even though I was skeptical at first glance, Arnold Schwarzenegger always was and always will be the Terminator.

The cons: Even though the story borrows the best elements from the previous films, the script relies on T1‘s and T2‘s previous glory to stand out only to, eventually, get overshadowed by them. James Cameron and Tim Miller are both visual effects directors, leading to a VFX overuse. Which is exactly what T1 and T2 weren’t. Cameron’s and Miller’s opposite personalities clashed and that showed heavily on the editing suite – where all fights between them took place. Dark Fate, as collateral damage paid the price for it. Lastly, Natalia Reyes, an otherwise very charismatic actress, landed a role that was plainly flat. And it wasn’t her fault. Going from crying and never fired a weapon to the moronic, wannabe heroic level ‘I will stand and I will fight’ makes everyone yawn to tears – something that eight (8) writers and co-writers who read it got the goosebumps.

Filmmakers need to keep in mind that #movements are there, in their majority, for impressions and popularity. Not everyone but most people, from all over the world and every walk of life, join these movements to give meaning to their lives and express themselves, from the comfort of their couch and the safety of their house, in a way that they never could face to face. The systematic effort to please these groups keeps leading to film failures and fans’ profound disappointment. Because hashtags are for free, films aren’t.

Does it worth your time? It does. Remember, film= escapism. For just over two hours relax and forget all your problems. If anything, it will be probably the last Terminator you will ever watch.

 

Men in Black International (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Men in Black, the secret government organisation with the cream of the crop agents and the advanced technology from all over the known Universe is now having a mole who threatens to destroy the Earth.

The reasons are obvious as to why it didn’t perform well. Barry Sonnenfeld, director of Men in Black I (1997), Men in Black II (2002), and Men in Black III (2012) gave MIB an appealing character to men, women, and children of all ages. F. Gary Gray and the studios decided it’s a wise choice to ‘devote’ Men in Black: International to millennials and, as a result, it was turned into something unfulfilling for everyone else – even them evidently. To be more specific:

  • Online childish slang (?) such as ‘you had one job’ and ‘that happened…’ were only put there just to have these lines heard by their favourite actors/actresses.
  • Both men and women, we acknowledge that Chris Hemsworth is attractive. Fair enough, but to make him look like he just finished a fragrance photoshoot or an underwear ad throughout the whole film kills the vibe, throws the fans of MIB off, and ultimately depreciates the franchise’s value.
  • I know it’s an action/comedy/adventure but the main hero comes to realise something he never expected about himself (no spoilers). Do we feel like he is really affected by it? No. That kills the drama. And as a whole, I didn’t really feel anything about anyone as it was all…
  • Fun! Comedy works in mysterious ways and what makes people tick varies. BUT… having a punchline for everything that happens for almost two hours creates one emotion for every situation.

Men in Black: International became a lose-lose situation for studios and audiences alike. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (even Josh Brolin) became MIB by earning their stripes. F. Gary Gray is an amazing director. Friday (1995) and Straight Outta Compton (2015) are brilliant examples of his work but Matt Holloway’s and Art Marcum’s script didn’t do any favours to anyone. If you also want to admire Chris Hemsworth as a presence but also a thespian, watch Rush (2013), In the Heart of Sea (2015), Bad Time at the El Royale (2018), and of course, the Thor/Avengers franchise.

I’m not even gonna go into production details and I feel sorry for not having something good to say (except that Tessa Thompson is always mesmerising).

If you still feel fancy watching it, you can find it here:

UK: https://amzn.to/2trujIs / https://amzn.to/37vNKP1

US: https://amzn.to/2QnHbs7 / https://amzn.to/35n7iDR

6 Underground (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Six highly, uncommonly skilled – each in their own way – men and women have formed an anonymous team for the sole purpose of… making the world a better place.

Michael Bay does what Michael Bay does best. What do you expect from 6 Underground? Slo-mo? You got it. Slow-mo with car chases? But with also faster than you can blink cuts? You got it. Shots with choppers? You got it. From within choppers? Over the choppers? Against the sundown? With whirring blades (slo-mo of course)? Shots with men and women throwing punchlines at the brink of death, swapping to superficial drama, killers looking like they came out of underwear or fragrance ad? You. Got. It. All!

At a budget of $150 million, Netflix urges Bay to just destroy everything – preferably with explosions. Everything nice you see in the film will get destroyed. Simple as. Story-wise, the high levels of implausibility, improbability, and impossibility run through the film’s veins from the opening to the closing credits, making the Fast & Furious (2001- ) franchise look like a based-on-a-true-story. Meaning: The operations and the decisions taken throughout the operations are purely laughable, the chances of survival having suffered certain wounds are zero (much less keep running and jumping around, shooting, and kicking ass), the access to whatever they need, whenever they need it, the warp speed of getting from one country to the next… I can go on forever here! But… I have a favourite one: The brother’s speech causing the fastest revolution ever started in a film!!! The revolution started before even the speech ended. And, cinematically, guess how? Accompanied by pop, hybrid music, or whatever the hell it’s called nowadays, with lyrics calling to arms. I think I’m gonna stop here, you got the gist.

Here’s my two cents. Don’t take 6 Underground seriously for a minute. Know what you sign up for, sit down, relax, surround yourself with great company and horrible food, and enjoy the Bay style of filmmaking that makes all your problems disappear for two hours. This way, you’ll get to enjoy:

  • High octane, multiangular action sequences,
  • The destruction of everything looking fancy,
  • Entertainingly gruesome deaths,
  • Buildings and surroundings that are meant to be in one country but are shot in another,
  • Ryan Reynolds blatantly advertising his Gin,
  • Ryan Reynolds as an endless punchline machine,
  • Funnily foul language,
  • The “magnet sequence”,
  • “Rebellious” heroes and heroines who just came out of a Christian Dior and Calvin Klein photoshoot,
  • Transformers sound effects,
  • And an awesome soundtrack!

Death Ship (1980): Adventure / Horror / Mystery

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A Nazi ghost ship rams a cruise ship, sinks it, and then comes back only to get the survivors on board and make them descent into madness.

Act I: Chessy ’70s editing, accompanied by cheesy ’70s music. Get to know who everyone is and what everyone is like. You see them having fun and then you see them sink.

Act II: Get to know the ship… and what it can do to its passengers. Or, even better, what it can make the passengers do to each other.

Act III: Standard, hiding no major surprises.

Death Ship could as well be the B-movie version of The Shining (1980), on the sea. After all, they came out the same year. Also, the same year, the same producers brought you the Terror Train (1980) – I assume you can see the connection. Anyhow, Death Ship may not be well known but I would call it the father, the instigator of every other ghost ship movie out there. So, if the three acts are as described above, do I recommend it? I do indeed. But before I say why please pay attention: You must watch it with untrained, ’80s eyes! Where a good B-movie was as entertaining. Forget the New Hollywood, the 21st century, and how the digital era advanced the filmmaking techniques (or did it?). Keep the Italian Giallo horror films in mind. Not knowing too much about films in the mid-nineties, I first watched it with my brother and we crapped our pants! Is it now outdated? It sure is, but let it trip you down the memory lane. Through an era that you were either too young or not even born. In a time where ‘Intermission’ appeared halfway through the film… Damn, I’m getting nostalgic!

Anyway, if it doesn’t scare you, let it amuse you. Cinematically, the ‘omniscient’ handheld shots are the film’s biggest asset. Crenna and Kennedy are brilliant and so is the cinematography. Last but not least, the first act’s cheesy editing becomes the second act’s conveyor of paranoia…

That one’s for you bro. Remember the scare we got that night (dog manically barking outside / grandma appearing out of nowhere)???

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/366QDFz

Ad Astra (2019): Adventure / Drama / Mystery

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After a series of cosmic power surges threaten to wipe out life as we know it, an astronaut undertakes a space mission in the hope of stopping them but also finding his father who was considered long gone.

I might not be reading reviews before writing mine but I happened to read Ad Astra‘s on a Sunday night, right after the film came out. They were horrible. I mean shockingly bad, claiming that film fails on every front. The titles alone were… hilarious. So, what did I do? I packed it up on the spot, went to the last screening, and watched it. I hadn’t even watched the trailer. So…

The film itself is not near as bad as people make it to be. Potential issues might include the following: Us, the audience, do not really experience neither the surges nor their aftermath. Through the news, we can see a number that thousands have died and this is it. Therefore, the actual reason why Brad Pitt goes to space heavily focuses on his issue with his father and partially due to his ex leaving him. He doesn’t seem to care at all about the fact that thousands have died and that the future of the Earth but also the rest of the solar system solely burdens him. The second act, yes, it is slow but this merely means anything. To me, the biggest problem of the film lies in the third act. I could thoroughly elaborate as to why but my reviews are spoiler-free so, you are more than welcome to comment when you watch it. Sources claim that director James Gray had to compromise his ending in order for the studio to give the green light. It makes me wonder how his finale would be.

None of these issues though justify the horrendous reviews. I watched the trailer afterwards and looked into a few production details. As with the film’s ending, the studio caused the biggest damage. The trailer had no idea how to promote the film. Subsequently, people thought that they are going to the movies to watch this year’s Gravity (2013), Interstellar (2014), or The Martian (2015) – which again would pose an issue as not too many people would want to watch another Matt Damon rescue. To cut the long story short, the audience was given the wrong impression and went there with false expectations. Maybe if it had been marketed as Solaris (2002) things would have been different. See the poster above as well. As if seeing close-ups of Brad Pitt for two hours is not enough, he has to be staring at us even before we enter the theatre. Oh, and read the tagline and weep.

I would like to conclude by saying that the slow editing paces the film’s rhythm as it was initially intended, Max Richter’s music is superb, Brad Pitt expresses Roy’s emptiness perfectly, and last but not least, Ruth Negga, as always, every time she makes an on-screen appearance, mesmerises.

I don’t regret being on my own in the whole theatre watching it. Knowing nothing beforehand, I perceived Ad Astra as an existential journey to the vast loneliness of space which can only be outmatched by the vast loneliness of our soul.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2skmG6u

Good Boys (2019): Adventure / Comedy

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Drugs, alcohol, obsessive teenage girls, bullying, and a sex doll are in the way of three schoolboys that are ready to party.

Yes, the guys who brought you Superbad (2007), Neighbors (2014) and Sausage Party (2016) brought you this. But what is this? This is a film that some people were telling me that I’ll be laughing through my tears and some others that it will insult my intelligence. That there would be nothing in between. So, I watched it. And there is nothing in between…

I probably counted around five to six funny moments and I’m not sure about a couple of them. It got too American for my standards on more than one occasion, but that is not the film’s major issue. The major issue is the forced, scripted humour and the forced five dozen times the kids “have to” say the word “f*ck” and its derivatives. I’m a big fan of R-rated films in all genres as there is a lot more freedom of expression both visually but also verbally but Good Boys is just too scripted and its message is clear: Provoke by having the kids swear as much as possible while getting into inappropriate situations.

It doesn’t matter really. The film cost around $20M and made over $110M so, who cares what me, you, or anyone else is saying. Hopefully, the team will do a come back with something equally provocative but naturally funny, and there won’t be any either-or; just narratively funny.

P.S. OK, the kids are brilliant!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/36fI4Zn

Alita (2019): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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A dismantled cyborg found in a scrapyard is put together by a rather unconventional doctor but when she wakes up with no memory and hell-bent on discovering who she is, she goes against anyone who stands in her way.

Amazing visuals! Director Robert Rodriguez, producer James Cameron, and the visual effects department perform magic with the film’s visuals. A lot of credits goes also to Junkie XL for the soundtrack and the sound department for sound effects, sound editing, and sound mixing. Actually, almost all departments do a brilliant job in the film. I guess now you are waiting for the “but”…

In a $170M film the “but” is the story! Inundated with cliches, no twists, predictable character development, and no suspense whatsoever it makes all the A-list actors yawning while performing. Rosa Salazar and Ed Skrein do the best they can though as heroine and villain respectively. Shame really. With Rodriguez and Cameron in the credits, one would expect at least an extraordinary story, something along the lines of the films both of them have given us over the last four decades. Alita, unfortunately, is not one of them…

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2MzgZsg

Sucker Punch (2011): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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After losing her mother and accidentally killing her sister, a young girl gets institutionalised, mentally withdrawing to an alternate reality, to produce an escape plan.

There is no real need for yet another review on Sucker Punch but, stumbling upon a horrible critique the other day, I felt like watching it again and writing about it. Directing, acting, cinematography, visual & sound effects, editing, music, casting, costume design, makeup, art direction, stunt coordination, choreography… get 10/10.  The opening sequence alone could be a landmark for montage in the 21st century’s Hollywood.

As for the script, this is an excruciatingly dramatic story written and uniquely developed by Zack Snyder. A more symbolic logline could be: A fragile, young girl descends into madness after reality hits her harder than she could ever imagine, not even giving her the time or arsenal to defend herself. Possibly the most artistic way of examining the mind’s coping mechanisms in multiple layers. Read between the lines; there is a huge amount of information waiting to be discovered. For more spoilers, have a look at this one. Very interesting: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/trivia?item=tr1610675

It’s always easy to cast stones and judge from the comfort of our couch. To go out there and actually do though is what takes real “cojones”. You don’t have to like it. Whoever thinks s/he can do a better job, by all means, give it a shot – and write about your experience. The number of hours and amount of effort put to bring such a film to life is beyond understanding. If you are passionate about German expressionism, Italian neorealism, experimental/avant-garde, or even art-house cinema and you still decide to watch it and don’t like it… at least don’t attack it.

They say words are mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, in this case, it proved to be true.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2tS9kP0

Rim of the World (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Four teenagers meet at a campsite when the world gets invaded by aliens and it is up them to save humanity.

Well, well… if I haven’t elaborated before on exploiting kids and races! Anyway, you know what, I’m not gonna go through it again. So, let’s focus on the film itself.

It’s Independence Day (1996) meets Jurrasic Park (1993), meets Stand By Me (1986), meets E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) (and quite a few more) but, unfortunately, it’s neither! Not even close. On the plus side, it’s fun. Made me chuckle a few times. Should you decide to watch it, don’t have any expectations. Put it on and forget your problems for just over an hour and a half.