Top 10 Films of 2016

Yes, I am extremely late in writing this. You may think “why bother making a top 10 films of 2016 list by this point? We’re more than five months into 2017 now!” Well, this is my site and I can do what I want on it. That’s reason enough for me.

In all serious though, I intended to write this some time ago, but there were a number of 2016 films that I had wanted to see that I didn’t get around to until much later. Now that I’ve seen them, I can write this with a deeper knowledge of 2016 films.

Of course, keep in mind that this is my own personal list. Ergo, my personal taste will probably make this look wildly different than many other lists. For example, I like movies that actually gain an audience and make money  a lot more than professional award committees seem to. Sure, I’m open to liking any movie if I think it’s good (hell, sometimes I like movies that I know are bad, if they provide enough entertainment). But I’m not going to place some critically acclaimed, artsy films just to make me look more “legit.” I like what I like, so that’s what’s going to be here.

As a whole, I don’t think 2016 was as good of a year for movies as 2015, but it still provided some gems. These are said gems that I really liked.

But first, I’d like to give a shoutout to both Dr. Strange and The Founder, both of which I greatly enjoyed and wish I could place on here as well. But top 10 is the tradition, and it’s a perfect number that appeases my OCD. So they have to settle for runners-up spots. Still, one’s a great superhero movie that changes things up by actually including magic (instead of skipping around it like Thor) held together by Benedict Cumberbatch and Mads Mikkelsen. The other is a surprisingly engaging look into the origins of the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain, lead by a great performance by Michael Keaton.

Okay, now onto the top 10.

Continue reading “Top 10 Films of 2016”

Star Wars Day 2017: Why We Love Star Wars

It’s May the Fourth! Star Wars Day! The day in which we celebrate all things Star Wars (except the prequels… and those Ewoks TV movies). I was unsure what to write about to celebrate the occasion. I was tempted to write reviews for some of the Star Wars films, or write a blog about why – contrary to many Star Wars fans – I greatly prefer The Force Awakens over Rogue One. But I think I’ll save those for another day (soon).

Earlier today, I found this video in my recommendations on YouTube. It’s a video of an old television appearance by film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who defend the Star Wars films from a rather prudish critic who is less enthusiastic about the franchise.

 

This video inspired me to write about something that I actually intended to write some time ago: Why Star Wars is so special, even in a time when fantasy and sci-fi blockbusters are no longer as rare as they were when Star Wars first made its impact.

Critics of the Star Wars franchise often deride the series for being “all about the special effects” (much like the prudish critic in the above video does, as he makes an incoherent analogy about a dog’s tail to go with it). While it’s true the visual effects of Star Wars were revolutionary, the real treat about Star Wars is its imagination.

All the visual polish in the world wouldn’t mean a damn thing if what it brought to life had nothing to it (just look at all the visual effects movies today that fall by the wayside). What makes Star Wars stand out so much is the imagination at play in its world.

There are countless aliens and creatures, many of which are truly original and inspired to behold. Considering the closest thing Star Wars has to a rival is Star Trek, a series in which the majority of aliens just look like people with varying odd-looking foreheads, the fact that Star Wars was able to bring to life so many unbelievable creatures made it captivating to audiences.

The “wow, look a that” factor, prominent as it may be, is probably the least of Star Wars’ imaginative triumphs. The world (or should I say Galaxy?) of the series is a unique blending of genres that creates something truly original.

Because of Star Wars’ popularity, we often take for granted how inspired its setting is. People who refer to Star Wars as “sci-fi” are only looking at things from face value. Sure, it’s set in outer space, and many of its machines look like something we can only imagine being products of the distant future. But Star Wars, from the offset with the immortal words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” immediately informs us that it’s more akin to fairy tale than science fiction.

Jedi like Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi, as well as Sith such as Darth Vader, are more or less wizards and sorcerers. The Force is their magic, and the heart of the series’ mythology. We also have princesses, animal sidekicks (Chewbacca), and robots who have more personality than real-life humans. If Star Wars were strictly sci-fi, an uppity, whiny droid like C3-P0 could never exist. But with the fantasy and fairy tale elements in play, we can happily embrace the idea of a robot who cracks jokes and has panic attacks.

Star Wars isn’t just sci-fi and fantasy, either. It also has elements of westerns and samurai films, as well as war dramas. It’s a franchise that takes all these radically different pieces, and puts them all together in a coherent whole. Very few franchises even come close to pulling such a thing off.

Of course, these things still wouldn’t mean much if Star Wars weren’t also compelling films in their own right. Though the prequels certainly leave a glaring blemish on the franchise, as a whole, there’s a reason why the Star Wars films have remained the most influential of blockbusters.

I wouldn’t often use the word “purity” to describe the appeal of a film, but I think it’s incredibly fitting when describing Star Wars. Not pure in the sense that it’s completely void of evil (this is a series in which the galaxy is ruled by a lightning-throwing sorcerer). I mean pure in the sense that it has no ulterior agenda. It’s a simple story of good and evil that adopts the iconic “hero’s journey” structure of the myths of old, and uses its wildly original world to introduce us to memorable characters.

Though the likes of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo may be a bit archetypal, they easily stand out over any other characters of their ilk by the simple touches the films (and actors) gave to them. Whatever similar characters existed beforehand have long-since been rendered obsolete. Anyone else who fits into such archetypes is now compared to those found in Star Wars, who are unlikely to be displaced from their pedestals.

Another aspect that makes Star Wars so appealing is that it is a film series anyone can enjoy. In the above video, Siskel and Ebert (rightfully) defend Star Wars’ placement as a children’s film, whereas their opponent John Simon derides it for its childlike elements.

The thing is, Star Wars works because it’s a children’s film, but one that doesn’t talk down to children. It’s fun and imaginative, and littered with memorable characters that could appeal to anyone. It’s the kind of film a kid can (and will) easily enjoy, and the adult sitting next to them can enjoy every bit as much.

A lot of Star Wars fans don’t want to admit that it was always a series aimed largely at children, but that’s exactly what’s allowed it to endure. If Star Wars were a series aimed squarely at science fiction enthusiasts, it’s hard to imagine it would have anywhere near the level of timelessness that it does. Many people (such as myself) have grown up with Star Wars, and new generations are continuously doing the same. It’s a film series made for kids, and because of that, it has managed to break age barriers and be appreciated on a universal level.

In the video, Ebert and Siskel also mention how, back in the early 80s, younger audiences really didn’t have a whole lot of options when it came to quality entertainment. Most kids movies at the time were dumbed down, because they were made for kids. Star Wars, on the other hand, gave children a whole mythology to embrace. It captivated audiences’ imaginations, and continues to do so to this day.

In this day and age, children do have a few more options when it comes to quality entertainment, due in large part to the influence Star Wars had on filmmaking. But while Star Wars may continue to be endlessly imitated, its only really been duplicated by, well, more Star Wars movies.

It’s true, Marvel has put out some great family entertainment, as have a few other studios and franchises. But really, the only better family films around are all in the realms of animation. Disney has been on a hot streak in recent years, Pixar’s resume speaks for itself, and Studio Ghibli sits at the very peak of this mountain. Outside of such animated endeavors, however, Star Wars is virtually inapproachable in its imagination and appeal. Though Star Wars’ storytelling may not boast the sophistication of Pixar or Ghibli, its execution in storytelling easily stands above any of its live-action peers. Even Marvel’s best haven’t come close to being as captivatingly imaginative as Star Wars’ galaxy far, far away.

That’s not to say that the Star Wars films are perfect, of course. Even my favorites of the lot (Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens) have some issues. But anything the (non-prequel) Star Wars films may slip-up on, they more than make up for with the purity of their imagination and storytelling. And that’s why it has drawn in so many fans in a way very few – if any – franchises have.

Why so many people love Star Wars shouldn’t even be a question. The real question is why wouldn’t we love Star Wars so much?

“Also Rey is my waifu.”

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Disney has struck gold with their recent string of live-action remakes to their classic canon of animated features. Though their earlier efforts such as 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and 2014’s Maleficent weren’t very good, they still brought in enough box office revenue to ensure Disney would continue with their sub-genre of live-action remakes. 2015 saw Cinderella receive the same treatment, and though it wasn’t great, it was an improvement over the preceding features. It was with 2016’s The Jungle Book where the concept of Disney animations turned live-action really hit a home-run. The Jungle Book was not only a technical marvel, but it was an improvement over the animated original in terms of story and character development. So it seems Disney has now managed to make these live-action remakes worthy of their beloved animated counterparts by this point.

However, there was a large amount of skepticism in regards to what was to come after The Jungle Book, as Disney planned to remake Beauty and the Beast as their next live-action adaptation. This was a risky move for two big reasons.

The first is that, although Beauty and the Beast is twenty-six years old as of 2017, it’s still a much more recent feature than the other animated films Disney has chosen to remake so far, meaning it’s a much larger target for millennial cynicisms and dismissals.

The other reason is that Beauty and the Beast is quite likely the most acclaimed Disney animated feature in history. The other animated movies Disney remade were enjoyable to varying extents, but there was definitely room for improvement (even if the live-action remakes didn’t always achieve that). Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, is so charming, sweet and entertaining, it didn’t really need a remake. I would even say it was my favorite non-Pixar Disney animation up until Frozen was released twenty-two years later. Disney was taking a big gamble with this one.

I’m happy to say that I ultimately feel this new version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a highly enjoyable movie. Though it never reaches the same heights as the animated original, it’s a more than worthy retelling that does justice in reimagining the film so many of us have grown to love.

The story is nearly identical to the original. A young prince (Dan Stevens) is vain and selfish, and is punished for his ways by an enchantress, who places a spell on the prince that transforms him into a beast, and the staff of his castle become anthropomorphic objects. The only way for the prince to break the spell on himself and his staff is to learn to love another, and to earn their love in return.

Some years later, in a small village not-so-far removed from the castle, a young woman named Belle (Emma Watson) lives with her tinkerer father Maurice (Kevin Kline). Belle doesn’t fit in with the rest of the village, being a well-educated bookworm in a town filled with more simple-minded people, such as the brutish Gaston (Luke Evans) an accomplished hunter and the most respected man in town due to his good looks, who is obsessed with making Belle his wife (due solely for the fact that she’s the most beautiful woman in the village).

One day, Maurice gets lost in the forest on his way to the market, and ends up becoming the prisoner of the castle ruled by the prince-turned-Beast. Belle goes to rescue her father, and ends up taking his place as the Beast’s prisoner. From there, Belle befriends a number of the castle’s staff, such as Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) who has been transformed into a candlestick, Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), who has become a clock, and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), who has become a teapot. The castle’s staff believes Belle could be the one to break their curse, but winning the Beast’s affections is easier said than done.

So the story is lifted almost directly from the animated film. That’s probably for the best (why fix what isn’t broken?), but there are some slight changes to certain scenes in an attempt to add more to them or make them fit more into the ever-so-slightly different tone. Some of these changes are fine (Gaston is more immediately villainous here, as opposed to the comical buffoon who slowly degrades into a monster by the third act). Others, however, can feel a little bit like padding, with the most notable example being a largely out-of-place flashback to Belle’s childhood, which details the tragic events involving her mother, and why Maurice has raised her alone.

I don’t want to sound too hard on the scene, because in terms of emotion, it does a solid job, and actually adds a bit to this version’s take on Maurice’s character. But it also happens at kind of a random moment, and the method in which the film gets us there feels kind of shoehorned.

With that said, the film – as a whole – does retain much of the animated original’s charms. The iconic musical numbers such as Belle, Gaston, Be Our Guest, the titular Beauty and the Beast, and The Mob Song are all here, with most of the cast providing solid recreations of these classics (though with all due respect to Emma Thompson, the kindly vocals of Angela Lansbury just can’t be recreated). Emma Watson does sound a little auto-tuned (at least during her character’s self-titled musical number), which is a little distracting as she’s the main character, but the songs are so great it’s hard to be too critical.

There are also a few additional songs added in this version, and though they’re unlikely to become as immortal as the returning songs, they still make for some great musical sequences. The best of the new batch are probably Days in the Sun and Evermore, the latter of which rectifies one of the few questionable omissions from the original by giving the Beast his own solo number.

The film also follows in the footsteps of The Jungle Book by being an absolute marvel to look at. The CG used to create the Beast and his transformed staff is impressive, and the art direction, set designs and costumes do a great job at bringing the animated source material to life. It’s just a really pretty film to look at.

As enjoyable as the film is, Beauty and the Beast just can’t quite recapture the same magic and excellence of the animated film. Some of that is simply the differences in mediums, with certain elements just not being able to translate as perfectly as you’d wish they could.

For example, in the animated film, when Maurice first meets the talking candlesticks, clocks and teacups of the castle, he’s more curious and delighted by the occurrence than anything, and there’s something charming about that innocence. Sadly, that just wouldn’t translate into live-action, so when Maurice finds a talking teacup, he does what someone would do in real life, and out of fright, tries to get the hell out of there. It makes sense in this version, but obviously that’s a bit of the original’s charm that simply can’t be recaptured in a live-action setting and feel natural.

Another small example (strangely also involving Maurice), comes when we are first introduced to the tinkerer. In the animated version, Belle – after hearing the entire town sing about how she doesn’t fit in – asks her father if he thinks she’s “odd.” He replies – after emerging from under one of his contraptions wearing a goofy helmet and comically large goggles – “My daughter, odd? Where in the world would you get an idea like that?” In this version, Belle asks him the same question, and Maurice’s response remains identical, only this time with a much calmer voice, and he simply continues work on one of his inventions, without the ironic visual gag to go with it.

These kinds of things aren’t too big of deals, and are certainly no deal-breakers. But I do see them as simple reminders that the animated film was perfect as it was, and that there are some elements that simply work in animation, and lose a little something when brought to the realms of live-action.

With all that said, this Beauty and the Beast is a worthwhile retelling of the beloved animated film, which ultimately does a terrific job at bringing its source material into a new medium. All while providing a solid cast (also including Josh Gad as Gaston’s sycophantic lackey LeFou). Emma Watson certainly looks the part of a Disney princess, just as Luke Evans is a perfect match for the vain Gaston. Meanwhile, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen are highlights of the film through their banterings as Lumiere and Cogsworth. Throw in some wonderful music both new and old, and some shiny new visuals, and you have a worthy modernization of one of Disney’s most timeless films. Even if it didn’t necessarily require one.

 

6

You Don’t Have to Look Like a Character to Relate With Them

Now it’s time for something more controversial. Well, it shouldn’t be controversial, because what I’m about to say is based on individualistic ideals. But in this day and age when everyone is so “politically correct” it seems like it’s considered taboo to see people as individuals instead of simply identifying them by skin color or sexual orientation. But I’m going to say it anyway.

Simply put, I detest this recent idea that people need a fictional character to fit into their demographic in order to relate with them. It serves only to shoehorn characters into media that often have no defining characteristics other than fitting into said demographic, and ultimately only serves for the people who threw the character into the mix to give themselves a pat on the back for how “inclusive” they are.

All this ends up doing is damaging stories and the characters themselves. You can’t simply toss in characters solely for the sake of representing a specific group, and expect there to be anything more to those characters. They just become a token, which is more insulting than anything else.

What I really can’t stand is that media is forcing this idea on people that it’s necessary for movies, games, TV shows, etc. to include such token characters, because if they don’t, then they “aren’t being inclusive” and are “backwards thinking” and crap like that. They insist that entertainment needs these characters in order for people who belong to any given group to relate with them.

That’s a load of BS.

At the end of the day, we’re all people. Things like skin color and sexuality don’t mean a damn thing. We all understand emotion, and any given person can potentially relate to any character, provided there’s an emotional connection to be had.

If you want a good example of what I mean, take a look at Bambi. Bambi is a film where the characters aren’t even human, but it doesn’t stop us from feeling sad when Bambi’s mother is shot by a hunter. It’s a sad moment, one that any human can feel for, even if the characters in question are deer.

These days, you’ll always hear people say how a certain movie or game wasn’t “inclusive” enough, because it didn’t include a character that belonged to X group of people. But why does that matter so much? What should be important are the story and characters themselves (and in terms of games, the gameplay). If you have good enough characters, and are given reasons to care for them, why does it matter what they look like?

Now, I’m not saying anything against the inclusions of such characters, but you can’t just shoehorn them in just to fill a quota. That will only end up hurting the stories they are a part of. They’ll just be empty characters that will exist for the sole purpose of the production crew being able to pat themselves on the back.

It’s entirely shallow to think that someone can only relate with a character if they look similar or have the same lifestyle as themselves, to the point of being insulting.

Going back to using Disney as an example, people are always jumping down Disney’s throat to include more ethnic characters in their animated films (something which Disney has actually continued to do for decades). The great irony here being that you’ll see children of all colors wearing t-shirts with Elsa or Moana on them. Kids don’t give a damn about what color the character is, they (rightfully) just love the characters, and relate with them because of who the character is, not what they look like. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Why do we, as adults, now have this idea that it’s impossible to relate with someone who isn’t like us in appearance? It’s just utter nonsense. If a story is good enough, and the characters compelling enough, anyone can relate to them, because we’re all people. If a movie or game just so happens to not include a character from a certain background, that doesn’t mean that movie or game has anything against people of that background. Stories have to care about stories first. They shouldn’t have to feel the need to mark a checklist of “inclusiveness.”

After all, it would be impossible to manage to squeeze in representation for every existing group of people, and still tell a coherent story with meaningful characters. Should a movie just be an extended clip of people walking in a line, with each person who walks by the screen fitting into a different group? Yeah, that would make for some good entertainment.

Again, it’s incredibly shallow to think someone can’t identify with a character if they don’t fit square peg into the same demographic. People are people, and anyone should be able to relate with a good story and memorable characters. We can all relate to emotion. No one can relate to a token.

Power Rangers (2017) Review

I enjoyed the new Power Rangers movie. So sue me. Obviously, you don’t go into a movie called Power Rangers expecting anything resembling a deep story, you go in expecting to have a fun (if maybe a bit insane) time. And I ultimately felt Power Rangers delivered on that, even if it takes an excruciatingly long time to get there.

Back in the 90s, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was the biggest thing on children’s television. The show was a unique specimen in that it took stock footage from the long-running Japanese series Super Sentai – a super hero show in which a multi-colored team of heroes battled monsters with giant, dinosaur robots – and not only dubbed it, but also filled in the non-super hero-y parts with a teenage sitcom with American actors.

In retrospect, it sounds like the most insane concept ever, and in many ways it was. But it worked. Spinoffs of both Super Sentai and Power Rangers continue to this day in their respective countries. And during the 90s, it was the centerpiece of children’s popular culture much like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before it, or Pokemon after it.

I should know, I was about four-years old when Power Rangers came into existence, and like so many children, I was hooked. Again, this is a series that had super heroes, dinosaurs, robots and monsters, and then threw in the stories of a group of teenagers that actually aimed to be relatable (if campy) around it all. What kid wouldn’t like this?

Now, like so many other 90s franchises, Power Rangers has received the nostalgia-fueled Hollywood blockbuster treatment. And while I will certainly say it’s a greatly flawed film, by the end of it I was having a good time. While many such reboots just don’t work, Power Rangers does manage to tap into the nature of its ridiculous source material and give you what you came for.

Suffice to say the story is the best kind of nonsense. As the film’s mythology goes, every planet that houses life has a “Zeo Crystal” hidden somewhere within it, which can grant ultimate power. 65 million years ago, the Power Rangers were a band of aliens trying to protect the Earth, after one of their own, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) went rogue and tried to steal Earth’s Zeo Crystal. The dying leader of the Rangers, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), then called down a meteorite to stop Rita from gaining the crystal, and to ensure life would be allowed to continue on Earth.

“They may not be the Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, but they’ll do.”

Fast-forward to the present day, and the Zeo Crystal’s location is now buried deep under the city of Angel Grove, where five teenagers, Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Trini Kwan (Becky G) and Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin), inadvertently uncover five mystical tokens during one of Billy’s exploits to an abandoned mine, which he does to continue in his deceased archeologist father’s footsteps.

“I don’t know, a simple poster might be a better wall decoration…”

Upon finding the tokens, the teenagers are given newfound strength and superhuman abilities, and eventually uncover a hidden spaceship in the location they found the coins. The spaceship is tended to by Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), an ancient robot who “uploaded Zordon’s essence into the ship’s matrix.” Zordon then informs the teens that by finding the tokens, they are destined to become the new Power Rangers, with Jason becoming the leading Red Ranger, Kimberly the Pink Ranger, Billy the Blue Ranger, Trini the Yellow Ranger and Zack the Black Ranger. With their new roles as Power Rangers, they must prepare for the return of Rita Repulsa, who plans on constructing a golden goliath named Goldar in order to find the Zeo Crystal (which just so happens to be buried deep beneath a Krispy Kreme).

Yeah, it’s insane.

Honestly, once we actually get to the Power Ranger-y bits, it’s a lot of fun. The grave problem with the film, however, is that it just takes way too long to get there.

The build-up to the teenagers becoming the Power Rangers takes up the majority of the film. This might not be so big of a problem, if this extra time were spent on things like character development. Instead, it all just seems like build-up for the sake of build-up, and a good deal of awkward dialogue doesn’t help things, either.

Now, in its defense, the film does try to give a little bit of attention to its characters’ backstories: Zack has an ailing mother, for example, and Billy is probably the most interesting character, having a form of high-functioning autism that gives him an incredible memory at the expense of basic socializing skills. The problem is that these character moments are very short-lived (especially for Zack and Trini, whose introductions in the film feel incredibly sporadic).

You could compare the situation to the 2014 Godzilla film, in which the whole reason audiences came to see the movie (in that case, Godzilla) doesn’t get nearly the amount of screen time you’d hope for. Though Power Rangers is probably more guilty. At least in Godzilla’s case, its titular monster had origins in a serious drama (let’s not forget Godzilla was originally an allegory for the atom bomb). But Power Rangers was always so ridiculous, that there’s really no reason to try to take things so seriously and hold off on the Rangers, Zords, and giant monster battles.

With all that said, once it all picks up, and the Rangers (finally) don their costumes, ride in their dinosaur-shaped Zords, and have the inevitably ridiculous showdown with Rita Repulsa, it’s a whole lot of fun.

“65 million years never looked so good.”

Speaking of Rita Repulsa, Elizabeth Banks has to be the film’s best singular asset. She seems to be having an exceptionally fun time hamming it up as the evil witch, and just brings a whole lot of energy and humor to the film.

In the end, Power Rangers was never going to be a cinematic classic, nor is it as ridiculously fun as it could have been, since it staves off the good stuff for far too long. But thankfully, the payoff at the end, coupled with Elizabeth Banks’ over-the-top performance, makes it all worth it in the end. And in a time when entertainment is becoming insanely preachy and self-righteous, it’s kind of nice to see a movie that’s okay with just being insane.

5

Kong: Skull Island Review

Though the giant monster genre may not exactly be a critical darling, there are at least two giant monsters in cinema with legacies so strong that even the more prudish film-lovers show them a degree of respect. One of them is Godzilla, who has seen a recent return to form in both his native Japan with the acclaimed Shin Godzilla, as well as making a splash with western audiences with his 2014 American reboot. The other iconic giant monster is King Kong.

While the original 1933 King Kong may not wow today’s audiences with its special effects, it remains heralded for how much it pushed filmmaking techniques forward, as well as its genuine storytelling prowess. It’s still entertaining, and is held in such high regard that its remakes in the 1970s and 2000s were seen as big deals, with the filmmakers behind those remakes (particularly Peter Jackson and his enjoyable-but-overly-long 2005 film) showing a great deal of respect to the source material.

Now we have another reboot of the King Kong franchise in the form of Kong: Skull Island. Though unlike the previous films, this is not a remake of the 1933 movie. Instead, it’s a reimagining of the Kong mythology that serves as a means to not only reintroduce Kong, but also to combine his world with that of the 2014 Godzilla, to create a shared cinematic universe between the behemoths.

Of course, this isn’t the first time cinema’s two most famous giants coexisted. Toho once made their own King Kong Versus Godzilla in the 1960s, which delighted the Hell out of me when I was very young. Of course, today, King Kong Versus Godzilla can only be enjoyed in an ironic sense, as the film’s special effects were laughably bad even in their day, and it’s not exactly a movie that had a strong narrative to fall back on.

Still, King Kong Versus Godzilla established my love of giant monsters from an early age, and now I’m ecstatic that the two legendary monsters have the chance to have an epic encounter worthy of their names.

The good news is that Kong: Skull Island doesn’t just serve as a means to prep Kong up for his inevitable encounter with Godzilla (though it does that, too), but also makes for a highly entertaining film in its own right.

“The film features numerous awesome creatures besides Kong.”

What struck me as kind of funny is how different the tone is in Skull Island than it was in the 2014 Godzilla film. In the 2014 movie, the film really tried to treat Godzilla with nothing but reverence (sometimes to its detriment, as Godzilla only had a handful of minutes of screen time). It was a serious, dramatic film, and a mostly good one (albeit with some great flaws). But here, Kong is only treated with reverence in select moments. For the most part, Skull Island just wants us to have fun and to show how badass King Kong is. The plot has serious elements, but the tone of the movie is a lot more focused on action, comedy, and fun than Godzilla was.

Personally, I don’t mind that. So many blockbusters these days try to be so dark and edgy, that a genuine good time seems increasingly rare. Though I respect Godzilla’s efforts for trying to present things as serious as possible to respect its titular lizard, Kong: Skull Island serves as a nice counterbalance to it. This is a movie all about having a fun time, and it succeeds.

“Tom Hiddleston seems to be cosplaying as Nathan Drake for the majority of the film.”

Kong: Skull Island takes place shortly after the Vietnam War (making it a prequel to Godzilla). Bill Randa (John Goodman) is a leading member of the government organization Monarch, and is leading an exhibition to the mysterious Skull Island, under the pretense of mapping out the island. He recruits a tracker in James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a photographer in Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonal Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) along with his with entire squadron, who are to escort the mission.

Naturally, it’s anything but an easy ride, as Skull Island is surrounded by perpetual storms, and shortly after arriving, many of their helicopters are downed by the giant ape known as Kong. The surviving members of the group (namely the main characters) then meet up with Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a cooky and eccentric US soldier who’s been stranded on Skull Island since World War II.  The group then plans a way to escape from the island, all while surviving the many dangers it entails, the most prominent of which being vicious, reptilian monsters dubbed “Skullcrawlers.”

It’s silly and simple, yes. But it’s also a lot of fun. The special effects are great, the action scenes are exciting, and the film is a lot more generous with its giant monster fights than the 2014 Godzilla film. Not to mention John C. Reilly gets some terrific comedic moments and one-liners.

“Confirmed: John Goodman makes any movie better.”

Admittedly, the film has its flaws. Namely, the characters are all pretty stock, and pretty much fit into their generic adventure movie roles. It’s a shame, because the film features some great actors, but they only have so much to work with in regards to their characters. John Goodman especially seems underutilized, much like Bryan Cranston was in Godzilla (though admittedly Goodman has a better showing than that).

It’s as if both the 2014 Godzilla and this film showcase the good and bad of both of their approaches to the material. While Godzilla focused too much of its time on the humans at the expense of the giant monsters we all wanted to see, Kong: Skull Island spends so much time on its action that its characters are never allowed to become anything more than archetypes. Hopefully future films in this crossover franchise will learn to find a good balance between entertainment and depth.

Still, Kong: Skull Island is tremendous fun. It delivers solid blockbuster entertainment, and serves as a fitting introduction for King Kong’s placement in this new shared Monsterverse (King Kong is much larger than he’s ever been, with the film making a point to mention that he’s “still growing,” as to make him a worthy opponent to Godzilla). The wait for future giant monster showdowns is looking promising, and hopefully the inevitable encounter between King Kong and Godzilla will be one for the ages.

 

6

Frozen Review

Frozen

Frozen really doesn’t need an introduction at this point. After its release in late 2013, Frozen became the unexpected hit of the decade, climbing its way to becoming the most popular animated film in history, and creating a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon that few films could ever match. If we were to rewind the clock back to the earlier part of 2013, however, probably no one could have seen such success coming. The teaser trailer seemed to indicate the film was about a snowman and a reindeer fighting over a carrot, and later marketings only seemed to give the impression that it was just another Disney princess movie, but with two princesses.

Now, however, it’s all too easy to see where Frozen’s success stemmed from. In a time where Disney has been at their creative best, crafting memorable features such as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana, Frozen sits comfortably as the apex of Disney’s modern generation.

Anna and ElsaFrozen tells the story of two sister princesses: The older sister Elsa (Idena Menzel) and the younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell), who live in the kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa was born with a magic gift, the ability to create and manipulate ice and snow. For two sisters who love spending time together building snowmen and ice skating, this is a dream come true. But Elsa’s magic is often too powerful for her to control, and can even become dangerous.

One night when they were young, Elsa accidentally struck Anna with a magic spell, which almost cost Anna her life. Horrified, the desperate king and queen take the girls to a tribe of trolls, who manage to heal Anna. The trolls then remove Anna’s memories of her sister’s magic, as the girls’ parents decide Elsa’s powers should be kept a secret to protect anyone from any further harm.

Elsa and Anna are then raised in separate chambers of their castle, with Elsa locking herself away from her sister as she tries to learn to control her powers, and Anna becoming just as lonely with the absence of her sister in her life. As they grow older, Anna and Elsa lose their parents, leaving them with only each other. Though Elsa’s fears of her powers mean they don’t even have that much.

Once Elsa becomes of age, she is to become the new queen of Arendelle. But after a confrontation with her sister goes awry during her coronation, Elsa accidentally reveals her powers to her sister, and inadvertently unleashes an eternal winter onto Arendelle. Elsa exiles herself from the kingdom, and Anna sets out to find her sister in hopes that she can break the spell that has befallen Arendelle.

Anna and ElsaIt’s probably the most character-driven setup in the entire Disney animation canon. While most Disney films tell great stories, oftentimes the characters are a bit archetypal, and are more like pieces that simply push the plot forward. But here, it feels like Disney crafted the story around the characters, their personalities, and their relationships with each other. Frozen is all the better for it.

Not only is the story built around the characters, but said characters are just so likable, as Frozen takes many of the usual Disney archetypes, and evolves them into deep, fleshed-out characters.

Anna is kind-hearted and heroic, but also socially awkward and more than a little clumsy, while Elsa is intelligent and refined, but also sad and lonely. There’s a greater sense of substance to Anna and Elsa than the Disney heroes and heroines who came before them, which makes them all the more relatable and sympathetic.

Anna and HansThe other characters include Olaf (Josh Gad), a snowman created from Elsa’s childhood memories who serves as the film’s comedic sidekick. Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a mountain man with a pet reindeer named Sven, who escort Anna on her journey. Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), a royal from a neighboring kingdom who serves as Anna’s love interest. And the Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk), an eccentric and distrusting figure who believes Elsa to be a menace due to her powers.

FrozenMuch like Anna and Elsa themselves, the supporting cast also has a greater sense of depth than most characters found in Disney films: Kristoff is lonely to the point of providing the voice for his pet reindeer so he has someone to talk to. Olaf avoids the unfortunate pitfall of some past Disney sidekicks of being an overbearing distraction by actually serving an emotional connection between Anna and Elsa. Being their imaginary friend from their childhoods, he actually contributes to the story by serving as a bridge between the sisters. Not to mention Olaf’s childlike naivety makes him all the more endearing. Even Prince Hans is given dimensions that prevent him from simply being another automaton of a Disney prince.

Of course, the biggest mixup of Disney norms goes back to Anna and Elsa themselves. While most Disney films have stories that are built around the plots of dastardly villains, here Elsa more or less serves as the antagonist of the story. Yes, some sinister characters (such as the Duke of Weselton) show up, but they are never the driving force in the story. It’s the dynamic between Anna and Elsa that serves as the film’s central conflict. Anna isn’t a heroine out to stop a villain, but instead is trying to reach out and understand her sister.

Because of this alteration of story and characters, Frozen is able to change up the Disney formula in fun and inventive ways. It’s one of the few Disney films that’s full of surprises.

ElsaLike the majority of great Disney features, Frozen is a musical, and it has the catchiest and most memorable soundtrack of any Disney film. Some of the best songs in the film include Do You Want to Build a Snowman, a simple but heartbreaking number that explains the divide between Anna and Elsa during their youth. For the First Time in Forever (one of the best “I want” songs ever), which further shows the contrasts between the sisters’ personalities. And Let It Go, Elsa’s signature song that has not only become my favorite Disney song ever, but has also seemingly become the anthem of childhood for an entire generation.

All of the songs in Frozen are insanely infectious, and will surely get stuck in your head in the best way. The songs are so good, in fact, that the wonderful musical score is often overlooked because of them. Though not as iconic as the song work, the instrumental pieces from Frozen are still a joy to listen to, and help capture the film’s many emotions.

FrozenTo top it off, Frozen is a beautifully animated film. Frozen adopts a similar look to Tangled, combining CG animation with traditional, hand-drawn techniques. The characters’ motions have a fluidity that matches even Pixar’s best, and the character designs all leave a lasting impression. Plus, the snowy landscapes and magical goings-on make for some truly captivating imagery. Frozen is simply a gorgeous film that belongs in any discussion of beautiful animated features.

Frozen is a wonderful film. It’s as simple as that. It tinkers around with Disney’s conventions and turns them on their head, while still paying full respect to the things we love about Disney films to begin with. Its cast of characters are as memorable as those of any of the best animated features. And they tell a great, heartwarming story filled with fantastic songs and stunning animation.

On the surface, Frozen is Disney doing what they do best, at their best. In its depth, Frozen is unlike anything Disney has ever made before.

10

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

*Some minor, vague spoilers included*

Ghostbusters

The original 1984 Ghostbusters is an icon of 80s culture. With its smart sense of humor, innovative concept, and visual effects that, somehow, still hold up, it’s no wonder that Ghostbusters became the highest-grossing comedy of the 1980s. There was one sequel which lacked much of the humor found in the original, leaving many fans dissatisfied. Though a third film in the series was often planned, it was a project that was ultimately not to be, as it fell through one time after another after another after another.

Now we finally have a third Ghostbusters film, though not a third in the same series. Like many franchises that have laid dormant for an extended period of time, this 2016 film is a reboot, with an all-new cast of characters starting from scratch. This has, of course, lead to many fans of the original films feeling disheartened that they never got the third film they waited so long for. And sadly, this newer version doesn’t give a whole lot of reason to win fans over. Ultimately, the ghosts of its past are just too prominent, and the new material not strong enough to bust them.

The new film reimagines the Ghostbusters as a team of female paranormal patrol officers. The two at the center of the story are Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), while the two other members of the quartet are Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones).

Yates and Gilbert were once best friends and colleagues. Both of them believed in the supernatural and became scientists on the subject. Somewhere along the line, Gilbert left paranormal research behind her. Though that didn’t stop Yates from releasing the book they both wrote on the subject some time later. Gilbert is immediately discredited upon the book’s release, and confronts Yates about her actions. This leads Gilbert to becoming an inadvertent tagalong with Yates and her new colleague Holtzmann, as they investigate a supernatural happening. They successfully document the presence of an apparition, reaffirming Gilbert’s belief in the supernatural, which leads to her being fired as a university professor. So she decides to join Yates and Holtzmann on their new ghostbusting endeavors.

The group is later joined by Tolan, the everywoman of the team, and hire a handsome but impossibly buffoonish receptionist in Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth). The four women have fluctuating success at capturing ghosts as they develop new equipment for the job, but a much larger threat looms over the city of New York as a madman is developing a means to intensify paranormal activity across the city, in hopes of opening a portal and unleashing an army of ghosts on New York.

Ghostbusters

The plot is a bit basic, but it has some fun with its nature as a reboot and focuses a little more on the Ghostbusters getting to know their craft than the original film did. Perhaps the best addition to the reboot are McCarthy and Wiig, who have great chemistry together, and do what they can to bring out the best in what they have to work with.

On the downside of things, the writing is largely inconsistent. Though some jokes are mildly funny, many don’t hit the mark, leaving the film to feel more awkward than humorous. The film as a whole just has a mediocre feeling to it, and this is only magnified by the film’s rocky pacing.

Too many unimportant scenes feel dragged out, while a number of key plot and character moments go by all too quickly. The central relationship of the film is the friendship between Yates and Gilbert, and it’s good when it’s present, but it often feels like that central element is lost in favor of the aforementioned inconsistent jokes.

One aspect of the film that’s full of highs and lows are the callbacks to the original 1984 Ghostbusters film. There are some moments in the film that purposefully mimic the events of the first film, and that’s understandable for the most part, but the film’s third act maybe feels a little too familiar to anyone who’s seen the original film. So we have a reboot trying to reinvent its franchise that’s simultaneously afraid to reinvent.

These callbacks also take the form of cameos by most of the cast of the 1984 film, who play new roles in bit parts. While the cameos of Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts are small enough as to be fun and not distracting, Bill Murray’s small-but-relatively-larger role comes off as a disappointment. Murray’s character’s first scene works well enough, but the film later brings him back for a second go, almost hyping him to be an important character in the story, before unceremoniously writing him off. It may have actually been interesting to see Murray in an important role in this reboot that’s wildly different from his main character of the original, so the fact that nothing comes of it makes the character’s return appearance feel misleading and entirely pointless. It just deviates from the plot when his first appearance would have sufficed for a cameo.

Another disappointing aspect of the film are the visual effects. Much of the CG looks a little bit behind the times. The final, big bad ghost works well enough. But many of the standard ghosts the titular busters face don’t exactly look like what you would expect from a big budget movie like this in 2016. There is a brief visual created with traditional, hand drawn animation in one instance, which is probably the effect that stands out the most.

As a whole, the 2016 Ghostbuster reboot just fails to deliver. The writing and pacing aren’t never seem to click, the visual effects leave a lot to be desired, and the ghost of the original is constantly looming overhead, and not always for the better.

Who ya gonna call? Someone else.

3

Don’t Let Classics Become a Thing of the Past

Don’t be confused by the title of this post. I understand that the majority of works labelled as “classics” earn the title in retrospect and, as such, tend to be works from years gone by. The title and point of this post is more about my concerns of how many of todays works will be “allowed” to be considered classics in the future, due to the increasingly cynical nature today’s generation has towards the creative works of others, which seems dead-set on not wanting to enjoy anything.

Now, before I sound too defeatist, I would like to point out that there are a number of movies, video games, and other art works of today that will achieve classic status, as this cynical attitude isn’t an absolute. But I think the works that are to be judged by the Millennial generation will have an increasingly difficult time in attaining that “classic” status, even if they fully deserve it.

"People liked this movie. Time to make sure we do everything in our power to make people hate it."
“People liked this movie. Time to make sure we do everything in our power to make people hate it.”

For example, films like Inception, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Disney’s Frozen will no doubt go down in the history books. Yet we live in a time in which such things will almost certainly be written off as “overrated” and labelled with even worse monickers by a number of people, simply because their initial reception was highly positive. The internet generation seems to have a dismissive attitude towards positivity, and if anything is greeted warmly upon arrival, they’ll be sure to do their damnedest to shoot them down.

"Frozen isn't as good as the Disney movies I grew up with because I didn't grow up with it."
“Frozen isn’t as good as the Disney movies I grew up with because I didn’t grow up with it.”

Part of the problem of today stems from nostalgia (lord knows Millennials love their nostalgia). Now, nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, but not when it’s at the expense of giving anything new a chance. It’s quite disheartening how frequently I see people on the internet defend literally anything that came from their childhood, and deride anything new as being inferior simply, well, because. It’s a mindset that automatically prevents anything new from joining the ranks of our favorites of yesteryear.

Nostalgia is only the secondary problem in this equation, however, as I feel cynicism itself is public enemy number one in regards to artistic timelessness.

We now live in a generation where review aggregates are readily available for us to peruse on the internet, and in which people will readily deride anything that has a positive reception on the sole grounds that it has a positive reception. Now, I’m not saying people can’t disagree with the general consensus, I myself have my fair share of disagreements with popular opinion, but there’s a difference between differing opinions and simply belittling something because how dare people enjoy things. And it seems that, all too often these days, the latter is the case.

"Uh oh, The Force Awakens made too much money. Guess I need to hate it now."
“Uh oh, The Force Awakens made too much money. Guess I need to hate it now.”

It certainly doesn’t help that we live in a time that frowns upon success. So you can bet if a movie happens to make a lot of money through box office revenue and merchandise, or a video game sells millions of copies, there will be a vocal lot of people who will hate them on those grounds alone. Whether or not these people even watched these movies or played these games is irrelevant. Because how dare success! 

Yet another problem stems from the self-indulgence that has emerged in this age of Twitter and Facebook. Now, I’m not saying these social media sites are innately bad, but they haven’t exactly helped fix the lack of humility found in Millennial culture. People want to feel important, and this day and age, feeling important means belittling the works of people with talent.

"Both the people behind Honest Trailers, and its audience."
“Both the people behind Honest Trailers, and its audience.”

Look no further then the likes of Honest Trailers and CinemaSins (actually, don’t look there, they’re rather insipid). These types of internet videos are wildly popular largely because they eviscerate popular and beloved movies in a snarky, self-important attitude. I get that such videos are aiming for “humor,” but again, there’s a difference between simply making jokes about movies (or anything else creative) and arrogantly bullying a work with no constructive criticisms to speak of, which is the trap Honest Trailers, CinemaSins and their equally vapid contemporaries indulge in. And people today eat it up, because it feeds their cynicism and self-importance, and punishes the movies, filmmakers and the people who enjoy their creations simply for existing.

"Sire, the possibility of a millennial actually enjoying something are approximately 3,720 to 1!"
“Sir, the possibility of a millennial actually enjoying something is approximately 3,720 to 1!”

This relishing in pessimism is making it difficult for things to be fondly remembered in the way they were in the past. Can you imagine if the original 1977 Star Wars had to be subjugated to to the same kinds of audiences who simply don’t want to like things? Such works may not have the status they have today if that were the case, and I think fewer and fewer works of today will share that kind of status because of it.

Again, I’m not saying there can’t be the usual contrarian to bring up a differing perspective, but I again point out that today there’s more of an attitude that frowns upon the very idea of liking things. We’ve grown to hate honesty and only allow the sarcastic and the obnoxious to thrive. People just don’t want to like things these days.

"It's not Super Mario 64. 0/10."
“It’s not Super Mario 64. 0/10.”

As far as video games are concerned, you can look at classics from years past such as Chrono Trigger or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as examples of games that are held on a pedestal. But it would be much harder to find newer games that are held in a similar light, simply because we aren’t allowing them to be. Every time a new big game comes out, it will almost immediately be declared “overrated” or people might go on and on about how much it “sucks” simply because there’s one mechanic they don’t like (as if the camera in Ocarina of Time was perfect). Sequels to big games, even ones with obvious improvements, are declared inferior to their predecessors simply because they aren’t their predecessors. We don’t even give things a chance, simply because we don’t want to. I guess hating stuff is supposed to make us feel special or something.

"brb brah, I need to go write a negative review of the new Zelda before it's released."
“brb brah, I need to go write a negative review of the new Zelda before I’ve played it.”

There was a time, not all that long ago, where video games, much like movies, had some exceptional works where it was clear they were going to be revered as classics. These days, it’s not so obvious. It’s not that video games or movies have gotten any worse (I’d argue movies are doing much better now than they were in the 90s), it’s that we don’t want to like things. We wish to indulge in our cynicisms, and it’s making some truly great creative works suffer because of it.

"E3 is just around the corner! I can't wait to hate every game!"
“E3 is just around the corner! I can’t wait to hate every game!”

If people continue to go down this path of self-importance, where creativity is shot down at every opportunity just so we can give ourselves a pat on the back, I fear we may end up with less and less artists who actually care about their creations. I mean, it’s not like we’re giving them much incentive to create things, since whatever they make will be belittled in obnoxious internet videos and any shred of success they may find will be turned against them.

I can’t help but feel a heavy sadness sweep over me every time I think about it. If everyone keeps up this destructive cynicism towards creativity, we can sure as hell expect the future of movies, video games, and other art forms to be riddled in nothing but sarcasm and self-deprecation. People often claim to want “smarter” stories, and yet we’re the ones who are ultimately making stories dumber with our utter distaste for honesty and genuine storytelling.

I can only hope more and more people can start appreciating creativity again, and remember how enjoyable it can be when viewing creative works with a sense of optimism and being able to form actual opinions. If we continue down this destructive road, classics will indeed be a thing of the past.

Ratchet and Clank (Movie) Review

Ratchet and Clank

Video game to movie adaptations have a rocky track record, to put it lightly. Some of the earlier film adaptations of games – such as Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter – at least had something of an excuse for their less-than stellar quality, seeing as the idea of bringing the worlds of video games to life on the big screen was new territory back then. And it’s not like most games at the time were built around compelling narratives that could translate easily into the world of cinema. But as the years went by and video game-based movies continued to be… not good, even as games became more movie-like themselves, the sub-genre of video game movies grew to become something of a joke. It’s as if some curse simply prevents video game movies from being good.

The curse is alive and well, evidently. Because, despite some charm and humor, the Ratchet and Clank animated film isn’t that good. And this is a series that’s been begging for an animated film since its inception.

That’s not to say that Ratchet and Clank is as bad as many other video game movies that came before it, but taking into account the colorful worlds, characters and humor of the series, the end result of the movie is a shallow letdown.

Ratchet and Clank tells the story of, well, Ratchet and Clank. The former is a cat-like alien called a Lombox, who works at a vehicle repair shop on a desert planet, while the latter is a small and charming robot who serves as the brains of the duo.

An evil organization known as the Drek Corporation has been destroying uninhabited planets, under the leadership of its chairman and CEO, Drek. Drek is working with a mad  scientist, Dr. Nefarious, and a musclebound robot named Victor. Together, they make up the film’s triumvirate of villains.

With the aforementioned planets getting destroyed, the galaxy is in a panic, worrying that an inhabited planet could be next. So the galaxy-protecting Galactic Rangers (lead by the hammy and dimwitted Captain Qwark) are looking for a new recruit to help them take on this new threat. Ratchet, being a big fan of the Rangers, seeks to be their new recruit, but is quickly rejected. This of course leads to the predictable “follow your dreams amid disappointment” bit that – while certainly a good message for young audiences – seems to be the go-to message in animated flicks when the filmmakers can’t think of anything else.

Ratchet and ClankEventually, Ratchet meets up with Clank, who has escaped Dr. Nefarious’ robot factory. The two become fast friends, and prove to be a good enough heroic duo that they end up getting recruited by the Galactic Rangers. That’s when the adventure to stop Drek gets going.

It’s not that the story is inherently bad, but it lacks any shred of surprise and innovation. The plot basically follows all the same, predictable beats you could imagine from both animated movies and the sci-fi genre. What’s worse is that the film basically only captures the most simplistic and on-the-surface qualities of its characters.

While Clank is charming with his intellectual quips, and Captain Qwark is humorously cheesy, Ratchet, the film’s main character, can basically be summed up as “the main character.” The rest of the Galactic Rangers are so forgettable you may forget that they’re there, and the villains, while not without their funny moments, basically just fill the roles of villains.

Worse still is that, despite this being the Ratchet and Clank movie, it feels more like the Ratchet and Captain Qwark movie, since Ratchet and Clank don’t share a whole lot of screen time together, which makes the titular relationship feel squandered. Meanwhile, Qwark seems to hog the screen at the expense of Clank.

The movie’s sense of humor also feels a bit dumbed-down, with perhaps too many jokes built around texting and Twitter. There are a few jokes that land (including a few references to other Playstation franchises like Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper, as well as some fun subtitles that go with the traditional on-screen names of locations during scene transitions), but most of the humor feels like it’s trying to be hip with the Twitter generation.

In terms of animation, the film looks capable, though not exactly impressive. It’s pleasing enough to look at the cartoony character designs and colorful environments, but it also doesn’t exactly look up-to-date when compared to a lot of other animated features of today.

Ratchet and ClankThankfully, the film has some great voice work, with many of the voice actors from the games reprising their roles, as well as a few celebrities thrown into the mix. Paul Giamatti voices Chairman Drek, while Slyvester Stallone fits as the lumbering Victor. Best of all, John Goodman has a small part as Ratchet’s boss and mentor at the repair shop, and John Goodman vocals are only ever a good thing.

Ratchet and Clank is ultimately an uneven movie that’s hard to recommend. Young children will probably have fun with it, and perhaps some diehard fans might simply enjoy the titular duo finally making it into a movie (though one can also imagine fan disappointment as well). But for everyone else, the story is too predictable, the humor too inconsistent, the characters too shallow, and the overall execution too uneventful to be anything more than another disappointing video game movie.

4