THE LAST SUPPER (1996)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language, and for some Sexuality and Violence

Directed by: Stacy Title

Written by: Dan Rosen

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Ron Eldard, Annabeth Gish, Jonathan Penner, Courtney B. Vance, Bill Paxton, Nora Dunn, Ron Perlman, Charles Durning, Mark Harmon & Jason Alexander

Have you ever thought about what life might be like without your worst enemy, whether they be racists, bigots, sexists, xenophobes, or any other form of a generally unpleasant person. We’ve all had those passing thoughts from time to time, but 99% have the moral compass to prevent us from wiping that person off this world. 1996’s indie dark comedy THE LAST SUPPER playfully teases the notion of getting rid of people who “don’t deserve to live” and whose death makes the world “a better place,” whilst also shining a satirical light on a group of liberals who decide to start murdering their enemies. LAST SUPPER is a ballsy comedy that still contains a shocking amount of relevance and conveys a powerful message, even if its one-joke premise nearly overstays its welcome.

Jude (Cameron Diaz), Pete (Ron Eldard), Paulie (Annabeth Gish), Marc (Jonathan Penner), and Luke (Courtney B. Vance) are a group of five liberal grad students who invite a guest to a fancy dinner every Sunday night. At this weekly feast, the group talks politics and current events with their chosen guest. On a particularly stormy night, their planned guest is nowhere to be found and Pete arrives with strange trucker Zack (Bill Paxton) in tow. Their dinner takes a dark turn when Zack is revealed to be a neo-Nazi. After a brief altercation, Marc plunges a knife into Zack’s back. The five friends quickly get over the traumatic event and decide to begin offing their political enemies in order to make the world a better place. Homophobes, rape apologists, and extreme conservatives soon find themselves wining and dying at the dinner table…all while a nosy Sheriff (Nora Dunn) grows increasingly suspicious of the group’s activities.

Though it was made over two decades ago, THE LAST SUPPER is surprisingly relevant and conveys a strong message that’s just as timely now as it was during the film’s limited release. On a surface level, some viewers might take the film as a skewering of hypocritical liberals and others might see it as a dark comedy about ridding the world of conservatives. However, the story’s real message seems to skewer both political parties in vicious ways and sends a nice wake-up call to remind viewers that we should all respect each other (regardless of our political beliefs and differences). Though that message might be entirely lost on certain folks, I thought it was a nice satirical pick-me-up in a time when this nation seems more divided than ever in toxic ways.

THE LAST SUPPER’s cast sports a lot of big faces (even though a few of them only show up in brief supporting roles). Out of the main cast, the most recognizable performer is Cameron Diaz. She plays the most sympathetic member of the liberal lunatics. Though I didn’t recognize the other main performers, they all pulled their weight as well. The two biggest standouts are Jonathan Penner as the stab-happy Marc and Courtney B. Vance as the crazy-from-the-start Luke. Ron Perlman makes a huge impression as conservative spokesman Norman Arbuthnot, a character who was inspired by Rush Limbaugh and seems remarkably more level-headed than his real-life inspiration. Bill Paxton is also fun as the short-lived neo-Nazi, while Jason Alexander briefly pops in as one of the victims and Charles Durning is hilarious as a hungry (extremely homophobic) priest.

As for flaws, THE LAST SUPPER falters in two areas. The first problem is the subplot involving Nora Dunn’s Sheriff character. Though her investigation does lead to entertaining revelations, it’s completely abandoned in an anticlimactic way. The second flaw arrives in this film functioning on one big joke. There are plenty of laughs to be had throughout, particularly in how the group begins its killings and then progressively lowers their standards for choosing victims. However, the film meanders a bit before really hitting home its main point/message during the stellar final 20 minutes. Seriously, I love the message of this film…even if it takes a while to arrive at its destination.

THE LAST SUPPER is likely to entertain viewers from both sides of the political fence, whilst also making a statement about how we need each other to survive. In a society that currently seems torn apart by hate and division over the dumbest reasons, THE LAST SUPPER serves as a nice little satire to remind viewers that being a decent human being and doing the best we can is what really counts in this world. So grab friends with different opinions, dig in on some great food, and watch this entertaining little dark comedy…preferably without killing each other at the end of the meal.

Grade: B

ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sci-Fi Violence and Gore, some Grotesque Images, and for Language

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Written by: Joss Whedon

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Raymond Cruz, Kim Flowers, Gary Dourdan, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon & Leland Orser

Five years after ALIEN 3, Fox proved to have not learned their lesson about unnecessary sequels and ALIEN: RESURRECTION hit theaters. Surely, this third sequel would jump-start a new chapter in the ALIEN franchise, right? After all, the main character of the first three films bit it in the last one and it seemed like a fitting (albeit plot hole filled and convoluted) way to go out. Well, Fox wanted Ripley back and hired Joss Whedon (15 years before directing THE AVENGERS) to write it. Surprisingly, Whedon’s screenplay combined with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s stylish direction make for a tolerable and (at times) entertaining ride. I consider ALIEN: RESURRECTION to be a bit of a guilty pleasure and there was nowhere to go but up after the crappy third film.

Set 200 years after the events of ALIEN 3, RESURRECITON begins by showing us that scientists have somehow managed to clone Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). After surgically removing the cloned Queen Alien from inside her body, the scientists decide to keep the Ripley clone alive as a side project. It turns out that the Ripley clone’s genetics may have mixed with the Xenomorph DNA. This makes her into a superhero type (fast reflexes, super strength and acid blood). Her skills will come in handy after the vicious aliens break out of their cages on the ship. Aided by a rag-tag group of space-pirates, Ripley and the others must stop the alien-infested spaceship from reaching its final destination: Earth!

ALIEN: RESURRECTION tries to be big dumb fun and that’s something that the series has never really encountered before. The first film was scary, the second film was exciting, and the third film was bleak. This fourth film is just fun. Yes, it’s stupid as can be and not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination…but it’s also fun. There’s lots of humor, action, and “twists” to be had. I put that third quality in quotes, because ALIEN: RESURRECTION recycles pieces of what makes the first two movies so great. There’s one specific plot point that directly rips off a terrifying scene from the first film, though it’s done in a much more action-oriented way this time around.

Sigourney Weaver isn’t playing Ripley because she’s playing a Ripley clone. This allows for a bit of character building in her interactions with the scientists, genetic memories being restored, and an odd motherly connection with the Xenomorphs. The first two plot points are actually quite creative. You just need to jump over the hurdle of scientists cloning Ripley with the alien still inside her, but my theory is that the company likely snatched her DNA from the prison planet. The decision to turn Ripley into an alien/superhero hybrid is a tad too ridiculous. One of the film’s best scenes has Weaver’s Ripley burning ugly failed attempts of past clones. More of a focus should have gone into moments like that, instead of them being fast forgotten in favor of more superpowers and a parental connection to aliens.

As far as side characters go, ALIEN: RESURRECTION has a few notable faces that stick out. Brad Dourif is a blast to watch as the over-the-top creepy mad scientist. It seems like he was allowed to do his thing and there are goofy moments that feel improvised. Dan Hedaya gets a few good moments in as a corrupt spaceship commander, but is woefully underused. Out of the space pirates, the only two of note are Winona Ryder’s action heroine and Ron Perlman’s smart-ass thug. The rest of the pirates are generic one-note stereotypes, including a paraplegic who’s gifted with unbelievable strength during one of the film’s more absurd action moments.

ALIEN: RESURRECTION’s style and visuals raise the film above its by-the-numbers plot. The movie essentially boils down to people running from monsters and trying to blow up a spaceship (kinda like the first movie mixed with the second movie). The outrageous action scenes and highly detailed environments elevate the entertainment factor above the been-there-done-that premise. There’s lots of rust, slime, and blood. Most of it looks absolutely fantastic and lends a slick atmosphere to the proceedings. It certainly helps that the aliens appear especially bad-ass this time around. The suits used to bring them to life are convincing, while the CGI isn’t bad at all.

The film even introduces a new breed of alien to the mix, but this white-skinned monster is laughably stupid to behold. He’s not nearly as intimidating as the Xenomorphs and basically looks like an albino Pumpkinhead. I don’t know what Joss Whedon or Jean-Pierre Jeunet were thinking when they came up with this creation, but it’s rather lame. If they had introduced this monster early on, then there might have been a better story arc. As it stands, the less-threatening alien seems like an easy-to-beat final boss at the end of a video game. That being said, I love the way that Ripley dispatches him as it’s especially gory and crazy.

ALIEN: RESURRECTION is very silly and completely unnecessary in the grand scheme of the franchise. Still, it winds up as a middle-of-the-road experience because there is some fun to be had here. I enjoyed this film as a guilty pleasure when I was a teenager and still have fun watching it now. The fourth ALIEN installment isn’t anywhere near the quality of the first two films and I hesitate to call it good. This is like ALIEN fan fiction got made into a movie and it’s fun to watch in a really stupid way. Take that as you will.

Grade: C

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 13 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some Fantasy Action Violence

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Directed by: David Yates

Written by: J.K. Rowling

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman & Jon Voight

Five years after the eighth HARRY POTTER film concluded the beloved fantasy franchise, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world has returned in FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. This is the first in a five-part series that’s been penned for the screen by none other than Rowling herself and that will likely bring excitement to anyone who grew up with HARRY POTTER. Though this first film in the spin-off series suffers from a few narrative problems, this big-budget fantasy is sure to be please hardcore POTTER heads and those who simply want another cinematic dose of wizarding entertainment!

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The year is 1926 and the place is New York. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is an awkward young wizard with a briefcase full of magical creatures. While other wizards and witches seem content with exterminating fantastical beasts, Newt wishes to save the dwindling species and document their existence in a book (try to guess what it’s titled). However, through an accidental twist of fate, some of Newt’s creatures escape and begin wreaking havoc across New York. With the help of Auror Tina (Katherine Waterston), non-maj Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and psychic Queenie (Alison Sudol), Newt rushes to recapture his escaped creatures before they or potential wizards/humans are harmed. Meanwhile, dangerous dark magic is also loose on the streets of New York and that sort of off-and-on connects to the main plot.

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FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM doesn’t simply repeat the magical mystery/chosen one formulas that were used in the HARRY POTTER franchise, and instead offers fans and newcomers something fresh in Rowling’s wizarding world. The change of setting to roaring 20’s New York adds a lot of atmosphere and shows us how the magic community functions in America. Small creative background details offer chuckle-worthy visual gags, but the intricately fleshed-out and effects-heavy world simply dazzles before the viewer’s eyes. Though it’s loaded with tons of CGI (like all of the HARRY POTTER films), every frame of the movie looks convincing. FANTASTIC BEASTS more than delivers in sheer spectacle.

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The titular beasts themselves are indeed fantastic. These creatures range from whimsical and cute to potentially threatening and dangerous. Newt Scamander’s quest to document their existence and ensure their survival is likely to appeal to animal lovers everywhere, whilst also feeding into the HARRY POTTER meets JUMANJI storyline. Eddie Redmayne has had hits (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, THE DANISH GIRL) and misses (JUPITER ASCENDING) in his filmography, but serves as a rock solid lead here. Redmayne’s Newt is far from courageous “chosen one” Harry Potter…and starts off instead as quirky and awkward. Harry was a Gryffindor and Newt is a Hufflepuff. It shows, but offers a new kind of magical hero: an ordinary guy who wants to save magical creatures from mankind and wizardkind alike.

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Katherine Waterston makes a serviceable sidekick and heroine to go with the story’s eccentric protagonist, though a love-interest angle between them comes off as forced and unbelievable. Far more enjoyable to watch is Dan Fogler’s stint as a perplexed non-maj (an American Muggle) trying to avoid getting his memory wiped and helping Newt save the day. Alison Sudol makes the most of her scenes and has a fantastic subplot with Fogler. Ron Perlman also makes a brief vocal appearance as a sadly underused goblin gangster.

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FANTASTIC BEASTS’s major problem is a subplot that seems out-of-place and unfocused from the main story, even though it does finally form a connection during the final third. The villains and potential antagonists feel like afterthoughts. I’d argue that this subplot was included purely for the purposes of setting up future installments in a very noticeable, borderline distracting fashion. Colin Farrell does what he can to salvage the blatant sequel set-up as a hard-to-read Auror. Ezra Miller slumps his shoulders and cries, contributing next-to-nothing to the main storyline and giving a would-be emotional story arc that feels half-assed. Jon Voight shows up as a news reporter and doesn’t do much. Meanwhile, Samantha Morton seems primed to be a hateful antagonist…and then sort of fades away from the proceedings. This subplot was messy and though it does distract from FANTASTIC BEASTS’s main story, it doesn’t damage the overall movie too badly.

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FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is better than three of the HARRY POTTER films (GOBLET OF FIRE, HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, and DEATHLY HALLOWS: Part 1) and reaches the level of SORCERER’S STONE on Rowling’s Wizarding World totem pole. Though BEASTS suffers from noticeable narrative stumbles and a sloppy subplot, it more than delivers in being spectacularly entertaining, giving us a new batch of interesting characters, and making the viewer excited for future installments to come. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM has satisfied a cinematic craving that I didn’t realize I had until this film concluded. Bring on more magical adventures!

Grade: B+

HELLBOY (2004)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence and Frightening Images

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Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro

Written by: Guillermo Del Toro

(based on the HELLBOY comics by Mike Mignola)

Starring: Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor, Doug Jones, David Hyde Pierce, Brian Steele, Ladislav Beran & Bridget Hodson

The early 2000’s weren’t necessarily a good time for superhero flicks. There were a few exceptions (two X-MEN films and two SPIDER-MAN installments), but for the most part, filmmakers tried too hard to be cool, slick and edgy while pretty much attempting to turn every big superhero into their own franchise…most of which failed miserably. HELLBOY looked to be yet another one of these mediocre comic book movies and didn’t quite attract a huge crowd of filmgoers as a result. Luckily, the film eventually found its audience and garnered enough attention to warrant an outstanding sequel, but this review isn’t of HELLBOY II. It’s of 2004’s HELLBOY (adapted from Dark Horse comics). Skillfully directed by Guillermo Del Toro (in one of his early breaks into mainstream American cinema), HELLBOY is a rockin good time boosted by creepy visuals, tons of creativity, and a sense of humor that embraces the premise’s goofiness instead of flat-out ignoring it.

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The film begins in 1944. Nazis are using insane methods to fight the war. These methods include supernatural forces, otherworldly dimensions, and undead mystics. Luckily, an attempt to unleash Lovecraftian monsters fails and the evil Rasputin (yes, that Rasputin) is killed. Something made its way into our world though: a young demon with a rocky right hand. He’s adopted by a paranormal investigator and grows to become the monster-hunter known as Hellboy. In 2004, the timid John Myers is hired by the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense to be Hellboy’s caretaker. Little do Hellboy, John, or any of the BPRD members (including an aquatic psychic and a pyrokinetic) know that Rasputin has been resurrected and intends on using Hellboy to successfully bring Lovecraftian monsters to our world. Our lives are in danger and the one person that can save them is a demon.

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HELLBOY is a gorgeous-looking film. Guillermo Del Toro was no stranger to filmmaking by 2004 (creating CRONOS, MIMIC and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE) and lets his creativity shine behind the camera. With a budget of just over 60 million, HELLBOY looks better than most of our modern superhero movies. There’s a slick visual style and attention to detail brings every scene to life. You could pause any frame of this movie and spend a minute studying every detail about that still frame. It’s downright (for lack of a better word) cool. The creativity isn’t just in the visuals as Guillermo Del Toro was clearly having a blast in adapting the comics to the screen. The movie is fast-paced, confident, but not afraid to embrace the goofy cheese that comes with material like this. Even though it has a sense of humor, the movie isn’t too jokey though. That’s a tough tightrope to walk.

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The cast is great, with two exceptions. Ron Perlman is perfect as Hellboy. Though he’s wearing make-up and horns, Perlman sort of has the look that you’d expect Hellboy to have. He has that appearance even without the make-up and nails down the mannerisms of a witty, horned superhero in a way that’s rarely captured in superhero movies. Meanwhile, Selma Blair shines as the emotionally damaged pyrokinetic Liz. For my money, Liz is the best role that Blair has ever had. Karel Roden is great as Rasputin, yes that historical Rasputin, while John Hurt is well cast as Hellboy’s “father.” Doug Jones and the voice talents of David Hyde Pierce are combined to bring Abe Sapien (the psychic fish guy) to life. On the other side of the coin, Rupert Evans is utterly bland as the clean-cut FBI agent. He hadn’t starred in many movies before HELLBOY and hasn’t been in many since. This is probably for a reason. His delivery is unbelievably wooden. It’s a good thing that he’s not a big player in this movie and more of a background character. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Tambor is hit-or-miss as FBI Director Tom Manning. He has a couple of solid scenes, but does get over-the-top.

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Besides being creative and mostly well acted, HELLBOY greatly benefits from a terrifically creepy atmosphere too. The special effects are top-notch and incorporated into their environments with care. The decision to keep this relatively dark for a PG-13 was a ballsy one and there are a couple of images in this film that could potentially be nightmare fuel for young kids. These mainly include shots of giant tentacled beasties and a dual-sword wielding surgery addict (who unmasked has no lips or eyelids).

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Brimming with imagination, great effects, (mostly) good performances, and a tone that manages to be jokey, creepy and cool at the same time, HELLBOY really is among the top-tier of superhero films from the early 2000’s. Though it’s definitely an unconventional superhero flick, it’s made all the better for it. Lucky for fans, the film eventually garnered its audience (I remember watching this on DVD a whole lot) and got enough popularity to warrant HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (a sequel that manages to be even better than this first installment) as well as rumors of a third movie in the works. In this current situation where Marvel and DC are dominating movie theaters, 2004’s HELLBOY is a movie that deserves far more credit than it gets.

Grade: A-

ROMEO IS BLEEDING (1994)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Language and Sexuality

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Directed by: Peter Medak

Written by: Hilary Henkin

Starring: Gary Oldman, Lena Olin, Annabella Sciorra, Juliette Lewis, Roy Scheider, Michael Wincott, Will Patton, James Cromwell & Ron Perlman

The 90’s was a strange time for cinema. Though many of my friends cite the 70’s or the 80’s as their favorite decade in film, I personally favor the 90’s. Bold new talents were arriving and great old talents were putting out some of their best work. The filmmaking scene was expanding into exciting new areas as independent films made huge waves. With all of the great movies coming out of this oddball decade, many forgotten and overlooked gems were buried. ROMEO IS BLEEDING premiered at a couple of film festivals before being trashed by most critics and flopping hard at the box office. That’s really a shame as this super dark modern noir deserves more fans than it has. Peter Medak didn’t go on to do anything of note after ROMEO IS BLEEDING, but could have very well ended up as a tour-de-force like Tarantino or the Coen brothers. This is film is that good!

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Jack Grimaldi is a New York cop who’s recently discovered the monetary benefits of playing both sides of the law. He serves as a police officer by day and mob informant by night. Aside from his corrupt double-life, Jack is also cheating on his wife with a younger mistress. His newest illegal assignment is to kill a psychopathic Russian assassin, Mona, who will briefly be in his custody. Jack fails to complete his task due to a sexual attraction to Mona. As a consequence for not going through with the deed, Jack finds his life thrown into turmoil. Both his wife and mistress are now in danger from an intimidating mob boss, all while Mona keeps reappearing in his life with unclear intentions. Jack’s been thrown into a deadly mess of blood, money, and sex. If he walks away alive, he won’t be walking away clean.

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As far as film noirs go, ROMEO IS BLEEDING is among the most vicious and grimy that I’ve seen. The New York locations shine under solid cinematography, especially the nighttime scenes. A constant feeling of ever-approaching dread keeps escalating with each passing minute. The screenplay is a tightly constructed web of deceit and violence that keeps the viewer on their toes. I gasped multiple times while watching this film, especially as things spiral out-of-control in the second half. The soundtrack is both a blessing and a curse. It’s very pleasing throughout most of the movie and seems to fit certain scenes like a glove. However, there are a couple of points where it borders on distracting as it’s trying a bit too hard to emulate past film noir music. My only complaint with this film lies in those few moments of so-so music. Otherwise, it’s a pretty damned awesome thriller tailor-made for those who like their crime films to be dark, complicated and twisted!

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Of course, a great screenplay wouldn’t do much if the performers weren’t pulling their weight. A pre-LEON Gary Oldman plays Jack as a morally reprehensible being. He starts off as a pathetic character who is easily manipulated. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for him and though he’s pretty much a scumbag through and through, he’s very interesting to watch (especially when you see that he does care about the safety of those around him). His unhinged narration throughout gives us an insight into why he makes some of the stupid decisions that he does, even gains a bit of pity as he deeply regrets committing his crimes. Juliette Lewis and Annabella Sciorra star as Jack’s love interests and are fairly well-developed through little nuances they put into their performances (especially Juliette Lewis lecturing Jack upon discovering that he’s a married man). Roy Scheider plays the mob boss as calm, collect, and very dangerous. Finally, there’s the show’s real scene-stealer in Lena Olin’s Mona. This character is an absolute psychopathic monster and Olin is a beast in the part. She’s downright terrifying and one of my new favorite femme fatales.

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ROMEO IS BLEEDING won’t be please everyone. It might be too dark, grim and violent for some. Those looking for an intense modern noir will not be disappointed though. From the stellar performances from Gary Oldman and Lena Olin to the insane screenplay that goes into macabre corners that you wouldn’t imagine possible, this is one the best underrated gems that I’ve found in reviewing for this website thus far. ROMEO IS BLEEDING is a film that I plan on revisiting many times in the future and is definitely worth checking out!

Grade: A

PACIFIC RIM (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 11 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Sci-Fi Action and Violence Throughout, and brief Language

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Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro

Written by: Travis Beacham & Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day & Ron Perlman

PACIFIC RIM is a movie that never really caught my interest when it was released. It was about giant robots fighting giant monsters and it didn’t look like it would be very good. This is a case where I am so glad that I was sorely mistaken. It seems like PACIFIC RIM was Guillermo Del Toro’s dream project from day one. It’s an ode to the cheesy kaju flicks from Japan, but also is executed in a vibrant way with a cool story to boot. Cinematically, the movie looks astounding (I now wish I had seen it on the big screen) and it’s clear that a lot of love was thrown into it.

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The time is the near future and the world’s population is gripped with fear. For years, a series of gigantic creatures, known as Kaju, have been rising from the Pacific Ocean and wreaking havoc. In order to battle this monsters, the Jaeger program was initiated. This was a specialized operation that built giant robots controlled by two pilots, who share a neural connection. The government always seems to screw up good things though and the Jaeger program is no exception. With a limited amount of time left for the Jaeger program, as a useless coastal wall is being built to keep the monsters out, it’s up to a select few (a hardened commander, a fresh young pilot, another pilot with a grudge against the Kaju, and two oddball scientists) to close the portal giving these monsters entrance to our world.

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Out of all of his imaginative projects, PACIFIC RIM is Guillermo’s most colorful film. It’s simply gorgeous to behold and looks amazing. Even the scenes that are just characters having discussions look stunning, given the creative set design and wonderful cinematography. Speaking of which, this isn’t 2-plus hours of robots fighting monsters. We get a bunch of nasty looking creatures and some great mayhem, but this is also a character driven story. It helps that the characters themselves are interesting, despite a couple of cliché moments that occur here and there (comes with the giant monster territory).

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The cast itself is entertaining. Charlie Hunnam is a good lead, though it seems like a few minor moments needed another take. Idris Elba is badass as always. Rinko Kikuchi (as the Hunnam’s new co-pilot) is great. Also, Charlie Day and Ron Perlman have side-roles that supply some of the best comic relief in the entire movie. The villains themselves are, of course, the monsters. Guillermo Del Toro has a reputation for being the most imaginative filmmaker currently in the business. With masterful work like PAN’S LABYRINTH and the awesome creature designs in HELLBOY II, Del Toro has made sure that PACIFIC RIM is no exception. The beasts here are creative and very cool, to say the least.

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The battle scenes themselves are intense, I actually felt myself clench up on a few moments and even let out some gasps. It may be a special effects packed film, but this is nowhere near the awful cringe-inducing levels of trash like TRANSFORMERS. This is a movie that shows what summer blockbusters featuring giant robots and aliens should be: fun, creative, and immensely entertaining.

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There is a nitpick that becomes a full-fledged plot-hole though. In one of the middle battles, a sword is whipped out as a last resort and seems to do more damage than anything previously used. Later on, the final battle is fought completely using swords, so it makes one wonder, why the robots are punching the monsters and hitting them with ships, when there’s a perfectly good sword that can do far more damage. This actually took film down from an A to an A-. It’s just too big a plot-hole to overlook.

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Even with this flaw, PACIFIC RIM rocks! It’s a fun thrill-ride that reminds one just how wild and crazy cinema can get…and still have a brain. It’s an extravaganza of a movie and I loved every second, save for a minor plot-hole. This one comes highly recommended and I can’t wait to see what Guillermo Del Toro has up his sleeve next!

Grade: A-

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