Alien Vs Predator Retrospective: Aliens vs Predator: Requiem

Throughout this entire retrospective thus far, there has yet to be an entry from this franchise that I outright hate. The worst film I rated at this point was Alien: Resurrection, but even then, I got some fun out of it because of how utterly goofy it was. The point being that I’m somebody who holds these two franchises very dear to me. Heck, even Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien Vs. Predator was shockingly entertaining, and I’m not even the biggest fan of his films overall.

So coming off of that film pleasantly surprised, I was crossing my fingers hoping that maybe it’s sequel, the 2007 Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem directed by The Brothers Stasure (who are known for their visual effects work on films like Titanic), wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being either. Who knows, maybe I can get something positive from that one as well.

And you know what? It’s not on the same level of quality I thought it was all these years ago.

Because it was in fact far, far worse than I could have even imagined.

I’ve watched plenty of abysmal films during my time, so let it mean something that watching AvP: Requiem was one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever done. For a 90-minute feature, I had to take around 5–10 breaks in between because the film was so dreadful to sit through.

If I want to be generous, I could give it a tiny smidge of credit and say that it was trying to add new elements on top of the formula through a new location set in a small town and featuring the Predalien, a hybrid of the alien and predator that was teased in the last movie. It’s such a shame that it doesn’t matter at all because whatever unique elements this film could bring to the table are utterly trashed by just how rotten the foundation of this story really is.

Taking two of science fiction’s most iconic icons, like the Alien and Predator, and turning them into slasher villains, ala Freddy vs. Jason, neuters what makes them special to begin with. There’s none of the craft and horror that made Alien and Aliens so defining in the genre. There are no subversions of the 1980s action tropes that made Predator such an efficient thrill ride. AvP: Requiem manages to do the seemingly impossible by making these two characters utterly dull to watch.

And because this film wants to retread the most tepid of the 2000s horror cliches, the characters and narrative make for a tired mess. There are character motivations and relationships that border on being downright incomprehensible in terms of why they even exist in the first place. There’s a cop who’s buddy-buddy with the main lead who got out of jail recently, because I don’t know. The story never says why so why should I? There’s also a teen romance subplot that’s asinine and filled with the type of hokey dialogue you can expect from the worst of 2000’s horror and, quite frankly, has no place in a movie that’s supposed to be about the Predator and Alien killing each other.

There are many things you can say about the first film and W.S. Anderson, but at least that film gave proper credit to the mythology, and for as shallow as the story and characters in that narrative were, they least did their job in building up to the cool action. And on their own merits, I didn’t outright hate it either. Requiem has none of the production value and technical skill of Anderson, which results in one of the most technically incompetent features I’ve ever sat through.

There are great stuntmen in costumes that look convincing and should make for fun set pieces, but they are utterly rendered meaningless by the real horror villains of the show. The lighting and editing in this film make just watching it a terrible chore. There have been plenty of jokes by all sorts of people about how you can’t see anything in the film, and you know what?

They were right. All of them. In the context of my own viewing experience, I watched the extended version. Which I read online was better lit than the theatrical cut. I was not even more than two minutes into the movie, and I was already struggling to comprehend what I was looking at onscreen. And it never improves from there. Even during the daytime, I was terrified that the editing gods from above would change the brightness slider to zero.

And yes, this was how The Brothers Stasure wanted this movie to look. Both of them thought that if the film looked too bright, then the monsters would just look like guys in suits. So, they made the lighting dark on purpose to make their appearances more suspenseful. While their intentions make sense on paper, when nearly 1/3 of the movie comes off a literal black screen on my television set, then maybe it’s time to dial it back just a weeny bit.

And there’s the editing, which isn’t as much joked about but is still a vital culprit in making the film hard to follow. There’s no sense of flow or space during the action scenes, and even during sequences where characters are exploring an environment, the lack of any sort of visual geography meant that at points I couldn’t understand where the characters were in relation to the locale. Simply put, The Brother Stasure had no real knowledge of how to direct a big motion picture, and that makes the entire film an amateur work in every way possible.

There’s no heart. No thrills. No scares. Any time it tries to take advantage of that R-rating that the previous film wasn’t privileged with, it comes off as the most cringe-worthy, edge-lord rubbish that lacks any sort of tact or understanding of what makes the franchises this film actively stains actually work. At this point in my marathon, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is cinematic rock bottom. There are other movies coming up that have a divisive reputation, but I fail to see how they can be any worse than this. It’s quite embarrassing and pathetic.


Alien Vs Predator Retrospective: AVP: Alien vs. Predator

We’re finally here. Right at the movie where both Alien and Predator finally got to go at it mono e mono on the big screen. This 2004 crossover was set to answer the question of what would happen if two of science fiction’s biggest alien icons finally met.

What’s interesting in hindsight is that this was the first PG-13 feature in a series that’s been traditionally rated R. Likely 20th Century Fox trying to get a movie at a rating they deemed necessary in order to draw in a potentially larger audience. This decision was very unpopular with fans, though in hindsight, with how the sequel turned out, maybe that rating wasn’t as much of a curse as it could have been. 

The film is helmed by film director Paul W.S. Anderson, known for his take on Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, and the live-action Resident Evil franchise. Anderson is a director about whom I have mixed opinions at best. His better works, like Mortal Kombat or Solider, I’ve found decently watchable if disposable, while his worst works, such as Resident Evil’s last few films or Monster Hunter, left me very considering the possibility of me needing to see an ophthalmologist. So he likely wouldn’t be my first pick for a project like this.

So, can I just say how baffled I am at myself for how much I came out liking it? To get the biggest issues out of the way right now, the narrative and characters we met that will become cattle for the slaughterhouse have basically nothing going for them. There’s a little bit of effort to give some of the characters some unique traits to differentiate them from some of the others, but it really doesn’t amount to much as they’re ultimately names that are going to be added to the film’s kill count. 

To give credit where credit is due, however, at least I can say those weaker elements of the picture weren’t outright terrible. AVP does its job of providing a logical foundation to validate the existence of this crossover, and to that end, I say the end result is pretty respectable. It helps a lot to have AVP take place in such an isolated location, deep underneath an ancient pyramid under the frozen plains of Antarctica, making for a suitable fighting pit.

What really bolsters it is the film’s truly shining aspect. The production design, from the sets to the costumes, looks great from top to bottom. The foreboding pyramid makes for a delightful madhouse of shifting mechanics that leaves its characters between a rock and a hard place in one of the most terrifying ways possible. While CG is used for some of the more dynamic action, there are plenty of great practical efforts on display, courtesy of Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated (ADI), who had experience with their work on Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection.

Anderson himself also emphasized the use of suits and puppets, when possible, which works to the film’s benefit. They are often given the spotlight in AVP’s various action scenes. It does a pretty fair job of giving both aliens and predators some proper respect and demonstrating the many fun possibilities that take place when they share the scene together.

I must say that some of Anderson’s quick cuts and overedited antics that make some of his later movies difficult to sit through can be found here, though to a much lesser degree. In that respect, AVP can be seen as a transitional film for the director, for better or for worse. Still, none of the action here is unreadable to the point of causing nausea.

Shockingly, during this look back on all of these movies, AVP so far happens to be the one that’s pleasantly surprised me the most. It’s a fun B-movie homage to these cinematic legends and reminded me that W.S. Anderson was able to make well-produced films.

So, seeing how good things turn out here, maybe watching the sequel again won’t be one of the most painful things I’ve ever done either?

Alien Vs Predator Retrospective: Alien Resurrection


Alien Resurrection is the fourth film in the Alien franchise and is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Most famous for Amélie, which is one of the most positive feel-good movies I’ve ever seen and is an easy ultimate recommendation. And written by Joss Wheadon of Firefly and The Avengers fame. Once again seeing Sigourney Weaver as a human/alien hybrid clone of Ellen Ripley this time around, Resurrection sees Ripley having to team up with space pirates in order to stop the aliens from reaching Earth.

By all accounts, a film with this level of talent should be a hit. But alas like with Alien³Resurrection makes for another divisive entry that some either really enjoy or flat-out despised. Arguably even more so this time around, as Resurrection is by far the most light-hearted and comedic film in a series known for its inherent cruelty and indifference, as Jeunet intended for the film to be a dark comedy. In what feels like a proto-Firefly, many of Wheadon’s quirks and banter are present throughout the film, with many characters spouting off one-liners and gags aplenty.

It’s important to note that despite both creators’ intentions, they did not agree on the direction the film should take. Jeanut did not care for Wheadon’s story ideas or screenplay. Which causes the quippy and action-oriented script to clash with the film’s darker tone. This tonal mismatch really is what makes Resurrection so much more bizarre than anything else this series has had to offer.

For what has been a relevantly grounded franchise, Resurrection is the first film in this series that I genuinely think can be called goofy. Watching these over-the-top, campy performances delivered by a cast of actors who are talented in their own right spout off some really awkward comedy in what’s supposed to be an Alien movie of all things makes for a very bizarre viewing experience.

Sigourney Weaver, who has been consistently on top form even with Alien³, certainly makes an effort to make this new version of the beloved heroine as cool as ever, but the direction and script that she has to work with make her, for lack of a better word, weird to watch. I don’t know how I’m watching an Alien movie where Weaver is strangely moving around the ship, touching everything and everyone in a strangely sensual manner, but here we are.

In a film with other notable names like Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, and Brad Dourif, to name a few, they all just seem off-kilter. Once again, this is an Alien movie where Dourif seems like he’s trying to lick or kiss an alien through a glass window for reasons that I can’t even fathom. Going from something as nihilistic as Alien³  to something like this is quite shocking. 

And while this more comedic approach to the series might seem ill-advised, I could roll with it if the material on its own was solidly made. However, Wheadon’s script, in comparison to his better efforts, is rather unrefined. The humor loses its luster when the characters that are supposed to work together are more often at each other’s throats, and I barely got any sort of camaraderie out of this team of space pirates.

It doesn’t help that the characters don’t really get any time to develop or meaningfully interact with each other. Making them feel like disposable fodder rather than characters we should be rooting for. I imagine the comedy was meant to make them endearing, but since that element doesn’t work, well…   

While the aliens are nicer to look at this time around compared to Alien³, they still lack that same sort of nightmarish magic that defined them in the franchise’s early installments. Their sequences aren’t badly constructed, but when the whole film surrounding them is so unserious, why should they be any different? And the final creature that’s supposed to make Resurrection stand out in this series is so absurdly designed that it becomes laughable. 

So Resurrection doesn’t really work as an Alien movie yet I would be very unkind if I didn’t admit that the sheer weirdness of the experience left me more cheerful than one would think. In retrospect, it’s pretty incredible that the director of Amélie got to make an Alien movie where he was actually given some degree of creative freedom. 

Make no mistake, this is still a Jean-Pierre Jeunet feature through and through. His visual style is present everywhere be it in the camerawork, the color palette, and the performances he wanted from his actors. Like in a quick moment where there’s a POV shot of Ryder punching the camera. To see a big horror franchise like Alien, where there are four films created by four talented directors with their own distinctive traits that make them feel so different from each other, does add some sort of novelty to each film, regardless of quality.

Alien Resurrection is, in my eyes, the weakest installment in the franchise so far, but just like with the previous film, I’m glad I decided to watch it. There really is no other film in this franchise quite like it.   

Alien VS Predator Retrospective: Alien³

It’s good to be back. Also, because of the nature of this story, I will have to discuss spoilers in some detail.

1992’s Alien³ is the follow-up to Aliens and once again stars Sigourney Weaver in her iconic role as Ellen Ripley. Following up the ending of Aliens with Ripley seemingly being the only survivor of a colonial marine spaceship following an escape pod’s crash on a planet housing a prison filled with only violent and wildly unpredictable male inmates

I could dedicate an entire post to describing the production of Alien³ because the events that took place in order to get this movie made could be enough to fill an entire novel. To summarize this complicated tale, the production of Alien3 was rather troubled. This would be director David Fincher’s first film. His name is synonymous with some of the most spectacular works of cinema in the American cultural landscape, like Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, and Gone Girl. But seeing that he was just starting out when this movie was getting made, he basically had no say in how the story could be conceived, and he essentially left the production as a result before it even finished. 

To date, Ficher has disowned the film entirely and stated that nobody has hated Alien³ more than him. There were many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, with producers, studio heads, and writers duking it out and making constant changes to the story. It got so chaotic that shooting would commence without even a proper script. 

For the purposes of this review, I will be covering the 2003’s assembly cut. A revised version of the film, made without Fincher’s involvement yet, was produced to showcase more of his ideas and what he wanted to bring to this story. And because I often want to judge this story at its best, I will do so as such. Though this does open the door one day for me to explore the theatrical cut and the messy road taken just to get it made.  

If you want a movie that could be seen as genuinely divisive, this is it. Alien³ made some notably bold but controversial narrative choices in its opening act made some notably bold, but controversial narrative choices by killing off most of Aliens’ surviving cast sans Ripley. Considering that Hicks and Newt were well-liked characters that were thematically relevant to Ripley’s own development as a character as she found a new family and overcame her trauma, it can be seen as a slap in the face for the next movie too. Without pause, hit the reset button and leave Ripley back where she started.

And I won’t even lie and say that was the primary reason I didn’t even touch Alien³ for years. Even in a franchise as ruthless as Alien, both previous films ended with a speck of hope that things could work themselves out in the end some way or another, and even though those endings were still bittersweet, that sweetness was still there for a reason. Though even now I still disagree with this choice, I at least respect the sheer audacity of it, and at least the movie dedicates a good chunk of its opening act to giving Ripley the proper time to mourn her sudden loss. 

But now with the status quo set back to step one, how do this new setting and new faces fair up in comparison to its two genre-defining predecessors? Though I guess it doesn’t sound fair when it’s put like that, huh?

It’s pretty easy to see why Alien³ is both admired and hated, depending on who you ask. Aside from those story choices I’ve gone over, it has plenty of qualities that are both admirable and not so admirable in their execution. From the surface, the main theme that runs undercurrently through all of the tragedy and alien-induced mayhem is the idea that redemption is achieved through sacrifice. This is reflected in its own setting—this worn-down prison filled with criminals of the worst kind.

There’s a religious aspect to the prisoners, as they pray to their God in the hope of being able to set themselves on the righteous path so that they will never sin again. This is best exemplified in what I think is the film’s best character, not named Ripley, in Dillon, played by Charles Dutton. A self-admitted murderer and rapist of women, Dillon should, for all intents and purposes, be sent down to hell for his sins. Yet even for everything he’s done, Dillon is still capable of guilt and introspection and does everything in his power to lead his fellow inmates towards a destination that may allow possible redemption in God’s eyes.

Thematically, this is all well and good, but it’s not as fully realized as it could have been, in part due to its cast of inmates not being as memorable as the previous films. Both Alien and Aliens wonderfully contrasted their cast with the Xenomorph to bring the creature to new horrifying heights. By setting one against a group of average Joes or showing how the technological might of the Marines is pitiful compared to the sheer numbers and home advantage that an entire swarm can possess. Here, there is just not as much time dedicated to understanding these characters’ mindsets as I believed it could have, making most of them just feel like fodder in the end. And unfortunately, the characters that could make for some compelling material are underutilized.

Thankfully, the cast of mostly talented actors does give these roles some authenticity, even if it’s just so happening that all of these imamates happen to be British. And of course, Weaver still rules as the main heroine, perfectly combining the character’s vulnerability and ferocity, which continues to make her a magnetic screen presence.

It’s a visually sleek film that contains some of Fincher’s unique flourishes that would become staples in his classics. The art direction complements the setting through its intentionally ugly and bleak color palette, which makes it feel as real as any other film in this franchise. Shockingly, however, the special effects are actually rather a mixed bag this time around, I’m afraid. While the two films that follow have held up wonderfully in that department, the VFX for the Xenomorph ranges from great to outright terrible. The suit and puppetry on their own look astounding, but when the alien has to perform more complex movements, the compositing used to achieve this effect makes it look blatantly dated.

This is partly why I feel that the visceral punch of the Xenomorph feels less intense here. My issue with the special effects being put to the side is that there will be few sequences this time around that really capture the heart-pounding tension of Alien or Aliens. Be it because of an overall lackluster cast this time around or repetitive POV sequences of the alien chasing people that lose their effect fast, Alien³ just feels like it’s going through the motions when its most iconic asset shows up when it is instead supposed to be something that invigorates the overall picture.

With all of my praise and critique of this film, it wasn’t a challenge for me to see how the botched nature of its production dipped into the final result. In some ways, Alien³ is a beautiful mess. One that started off with promise but struck down when all of the setbacks kept piling on. That being said, I’m glad that I chose to put aside some of my biases and bite the bullet on this one. It’s a fascinating film in many regards and should be watched at least once by fans or those curious to see where they stand on this feature.

The Super Mario Bros Movie: It Could Have Been Better.

To say that the road up to The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a crazy roller-coaster ride would be an understatement. From Illuminations and Nintendo involvement to the reveal of the voice cast with Chris Pratt of all the people playing Mario, this could have been an easy write-off just from saying that, but the trailers actually help turn the tide in its favor by showing some stunning animation and faithfully translating the look of the games to 3D animation.

I mean, in comparison to the last Mario movie, the bar was rather low in regard to how faithful it needed to be in the first place to make fans happy. And as a fan of the games myself, I can say that it certainly captures the spirit of the games on a technical level.

And if anything can be said after this movie has already made over 1 billion dollars, it will undoubtedly leave fans very happy. While the movie still makes some tweaks to the character designs and world to make it more suitable for animation, the visuals are undeniably gorgeous. Fantastic rendering and kinetic movement make the characters very lively to watch onscreen and give them so much expression and personality. And all of the locales are impressive in their level of detail.

Also faithful to the games is the sound design. Managing to incorporate sound effects from the games into the movie in a way that feels seamless The soundtrack by Brain Tyler is also delightful. It brings some very inspired music to the table while also remixing much of the game’s iconic music. And I can say that at no point did I think any of the tracks were just there for the sake of fan service instead of serving the needs of the scene in question.

The one thing that made me sigh in relief was the celebrity voice casting. As controversial as the lineup was online, I have to admit that nobody did a bad job. Chris Pratt as Mario, as much as I think the casting choice is a meme, was totally fine. His choice of accent wasn’t too distracting and gave the title character enough of his signature energy and charisma to make him watchable. Pratt also gets to have solid chemistry with Charlie Day’s Luigi. Day delivers the stronger performance in comparison, making Luigi a very charming, if scared to his wits, goofball who just needs to find his sense of courage. Unironically, I enjoyed The Super Mario Bros. Movie most when the two brothers shared the spotlight.

My favorite performances came from Anna Taylor-Joy and Jack Black. Taylor-Joy’s Peach comes across as a heroic and capable leader while still getting in enough fun comedic beats that make her fun to watch. And undeniably, Jack Black as the big, mean Bowser makes for the best character to watch onscreen. Making him a fun menace while also coming across as a wimp in a very specific sense. Every time he shows up, the film becomes outright better to sit through.

I still don’t know how I feel about Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong, if I’m being honest. It still feels unreal, and maybe not in a good way. But he wasn’t terrible or anything, for what it’s worth.

So, on a purely technical level, Super Mario Bros. delivers. Just from seeing these images onscreen, I can tell there were many talented people onboard who were really passionate about capturing the look and sound of the games.

If only the passion could have been seen in the film’s story. Watching the movie made it very apparent that this felt like the safest, designed by the committee, version of any Mario movie that could have ever existed. It often jumps from point A to point B without really having any sense of rhyme or reason. There really is no sort of message or characterization that feels realized by what happens onscreen. At least not in any way that I found satisfying. It’s 90 minutes of Mario characters doing Mario things, with a truckload of references from the games on top of that and nothing else.

Don’t get it twisted. I didn’t watch a Mario movie with the expectation of watching the Citizen Kane of animation, whatever that ever means. But there have been plenty of other animated movies for kids that also had solid writing, an actual story, and well-developed characters. I could just bring up the 2014 The Lego Movie, another animated movie that brought another big IP to the big screen but actually did the right thing that the Mario movie failed to do in every way that I just mentioned. But to bring up another comparison, let’s look at the Sonic movies.

In terms of looks or music, they’re not the most faithful renditions of that game’s franchise that fans could have hoped for. However, they competently told a narrative about friendship and family with characters that actually changed in some way over the course of the movie. Are they themselves the most amazing pieces of cinema ever made? Far, far from it. But they were heartfelt offerings that didn’t just feel like getting paraded around a toy store.

It’s kind of neat that there are so many references to the games, and from many different sources to boot, as a fan, but even then, it started to get to a point where it became tiresome and arguably felt obtuse to anyone whose not familiar with the games. Some of these references that have big scenes in the movie, like the kart chase sequence, feel like they come out of nowhere with no real consideration to explain to the audience why karts exist in this universe the way they do. This might be a movie made for the fans, but this is also an adaptation and is allowed to be judged as such. The best ones stand on their own two feet, but I honestly don’t believe that the Mario movie does.

And it doesn’t help that the pacing is way too fast. I’d expect a Mario movie to be fast-paced, but here there are no chances for the film to breathe or allow the audience to take in a scene or moment. This lack of downtime makes the other big issues I’ve had with the movie, like the hollow storytelling or lack of character development, much more obvious. And it’s not like it needs to be longer than 90 minutes to tell a story. Just actually have scenes doing just that rather than inserting it in reference #503. Oh, and I could have taken it or left it with all of the insert songs. They feel out of place with the film’s actually well-composed music and didn’t really do anything for the moments they were used for either.

A movie based on one of the most popular franchises in gaming that looked faithful to the source material was always likely to be a hit with fans and kids wanting to see their favorite characters in a cinematic format. Rest assured that the movie delivers exactly that. But those looking for a little crumb of substance will be disappointed. I’m hoping that the eventual sequels will have something a little beefier to offer next time.

Bumblebee is a Mircale

It finally happened. It took over several movies to get to this point. It was a long painful descent into the abyss, but the light at the end of the tunnel can finally be seen.

We’ve actually got a Transformers movie that I can confidently say is good. Like, actually good. Don’t know why it took this long for one of these to finally be a hit, but I’m not complaining about the final product. After drowning myself in Bayformers madness during a long, soul-crushing week around the end of last year, watching Bumblebee felt like such a breath of fresh air. At last, a Transformers movie with characters and a plot that I felt invested in. Comedy that doesn’t make me awkwardly cringe, and action that doesn’t feel like it’s just dragging on and on and on…

The point is that being the first film in this series not directed by Michael Bay, and instead finds Travis Knight of Laika fame in the big chair. Released in 2018, and starring Haliee Steinfeld, and John Cena, Bumblebee serves both a prequel/reboot kind of to the 2007 film. With Rise of the Beasts just around the corner, I want to highlight what Bumblebee accomplished that actually has me optimistic for the future of this franchise in regard to cinematic features.

It can’t be denied that Bay’s films for better or worse were packed with spectacle. However, it came at the cost of those films lacking any real sense of heart. The human characters made for often dreadful leads and the big robots had even less characterization, often just serving as big scraps of metal whose sole purpose in that franchise was to hit other big scraps of metal. But Bumblebee actually has a soul. The relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee is the main heart of the film as both connect together through the loss of self-identity. It’s through this bond that both characters develop and really lends to some of the narrative’s most heartfelt moments.

What always bothered me about Bumblebee’s relationship with Sam in the first three films was that I never bought them as being actual friends. Rather their relationship felt more akin to an owner and a big metal guard dog. But in Bumblebee, it actually feels like both the big yellow bot and Charlie rely upon each other and shared a common trust. Major praise must be given to Hailee Steinfeld’s performance, as she essentially has to do all of the real acting against a CGI creation. She perfectly captures the angst of the character, making her sympathetic but all the more triumphant when she regains her sense of self-worth and confidence.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed John Cena as the Colonel hellbent on capturing Bumblebee. There is a tragic angle to his character as his comrades were all killed by a Decepticon that would also be responsible for taking away Bumblebee’s voice. But at the same time, Cena pleasantly hams this character archetype with some fun bits of comedy spread throughout, while never coming across as incompetent.

Speaking of the robots, however, this is the first Transformers movie I felt actually did the title characters justice. Granted it’s a very small roster of robots, but they’re easily the best-written roster in any of these movies. Bumblebee’s arc of self-discovery and regaining his voice serves a thematic parallel to Charlie’s but makes his character endearing. He’s like a big child learning how the world works for the first time while coming packed with cannons and being able to transform into a car. Bumblebee’s the most charming he’s ever been. It helps that thanks to the excellent visual effects, Bumblebee is a very expressive character who says just as much with his face and poses just as much as he could have with words.

And the main villain Shatter and Dropkick despite not being the most fleshed-out villains out there, are still easily the best Decepticons in any of the Transformers live-action movies so far. They for once actually live up to their faction title. They use deception to trick Sector 7 to allow them free reign to achieve their own goals. Whenever they show up, we know as an audience that things are about to get dicey. The voice pairings of Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux make this duo a pretty fun pair of baddies.

Even though Bay is no longer at the helm, this is still a pretty action-packed movie with a decent amount of set pieces. The main highlights are whenever Bumblebee gets into a tango with any of the Decepticons. In a David and Goliath scenario, Bumblebee is noticeably outsized forcing him to his wits to stay ahead. It helps visually demonstrate how he’s such an effective soldier even when he’s on the back foot. It’s nice to see this sort of character writing integrated into the action instead of two big hunks of metal mindlessly killing each other.

As a story looking at it from the outset, this is a kid-befriends beast plot akin to the Iron Giant or ET: The Extraterrestrial with an 80s backdrop. So, from that angle, Bumblebee may not win points in originality or breaking new narrative ground. Where it does actually win points is that it knows how to use those tropes effectively to make a Transformers story that I can say is charming. Its setting is charming. The characters are charming. The humor is charming. You get the idea.

I’m so relieved that this film exists and that for now new movies are set to follow this one going forward. It’s the shot in the arm that Transformers needed for so long. With all the ingredients that will satisfy fans and newcomers alike, Bumblebee sets the standard that I will judge future movies to going forward. If what comes next is as good if not better, then we are in for something special.

How human nature is explored in A History of Violence

Based on the 1997 graphic novel, A History of Violence is directed by David Cronenberg and stars Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt and Ed Harris. When a diner owner becomes a hero in a small town after he stops an attempted robbery but is threatened by gangsters who seem to know more about him than anybody else in the town.

I don’t think it’s groundbreaking of me to say that humans have the capacity for lack of a better word to get very violent. It’s been ongoing for as long as we have been alive as a species, and it’s doubtful that will change anytime soon. Be it because of wartime, crime, or interpersonal situations, we often show that during times of conflict, we often resort to violence as a quick, and easy solution. The question is if that violence should be celebrated or even justified.

Obviously, this question comes with a lot of complicated answers regarding human nature in itself that require much introspection. And David Cronenberg’s case, he chose to answer this question himself with a sledgehammer. With movies like The Fly or Videodrome, he is no stranger to portraying violence in his own works. Those films have plenty of groqueste body horror to spare. With A History of Violence, however, his approach to violence is notably restrained, yet still effectively horrifying all the same.

In fact, scenes, when violence occurs, are very much brief, but it still demonstrates the impact of said violence. During the inciting incident in the first act where Tom shoots one of the two spree killers via a headshot, we get a quick cut to the man lying on the ground with his face destroyed. Undeniably Tom was in the right in this situation. Those two men were not only likely just going to rob his store but kill him and everyone else in the building. And to be quite frank, probably do worse than that. That doesn’t distract from me possibly arguing that the aftermath is still rather disgusting visually.

If A History of Violence was making a commentary on such a thing, it that violence is just not a pretty thing. Sometimes it just happens for many different reasons which depends on the person who commits it. Those two killers? They’re quite frankly casual about it and murder people without any sort of remorse. And as the opening demonstrates, children aren’t safe either. Tom’s (Or Joey depending on who you’re asking.) actions are to me a matter of necessity to protect himself and his family. But there was a time when there wasn’t a Tom Stall. But there was a Joey Cusack who once was involved in the mob. Until one day he decided out of the blue to try to take another mobster’s eye out. We don’t know why this happened other than the fact that Joey was an utter lunatic. While Tom chose to leave that life behind in pursuit of a more traditional American family with a loving wife and children, his past has its own ideas.

What interesting is that before the gangsters show up, the entire town celebrates Tom’s killings. While of course what he did was heroic, Tom himself does not call himself a hero. When the press tries to ask him questions about how he felt about killing the robbers, he would rather not talk about it. In the grander scheme of the film’s design, maybe Tom was secretly dissatisfied having committed another violent act even if it’s for the right reasons. Or could it be he was afraid the publicity would bring about unwanted attention? If it’s the latter, then he would be on the ball with that.

With the mob and people like Carl Fogarty or even Tom’s brother Richie, their need for violence is a result of both business and personal reasons. Carl clearly has beef with the man who almost took his eye out, and Richie views killing Tom as both getting even, and a way to earn himself back in the good graces of the mob. In the end, the only thing that is gain from their efforts is getting killed themselves. But this destructive cycle of violence itself was a result of Tom/Joey’s actions that took place to begin with. Even if Tom ran away from that life, maybe it was only a matter of time before the crows came to roast.

Even though the nature of human violence is highlighted front and center with the conflict with the mob, there are other interactions separate that also make commentary. Most important is a subplot with Tom’s son and school bullies that ends with his son having enough and beating them in front of all of the other students. Cathartic? Yes. It also results in his son getting suspended from school, his bullies in the hospital and their parents considering a lawsuit against Tom’s family. Even if those bullies had it coming, it still comes with a price.

So, is the sole point Cronenberg wishes to make that violence is just an inevitable part of being human and that’s that? Well yes and no. At the end of A History of Violence, Tom comes home from killing his brother thus ending any future threats from the mob, and returns to his family having dinner. With his relationship with his wife and son strained from both the experience and the realization about Tom is or maybe was, it’s uncertain if there is still a place for him there. But his daughter, the youngest and most innocent out of all of them, without saying a single word still grabs a plate for him. And with his son offering him food and his wife still willing to at least look at him in the end, maybe Tom Stall can still exist after all.

At the very start of the film, an employee tells a story where his girlfriend attempts to kill him in the middle of the night because she mistook him for someone else. Upon the realization of who she was hurting, she was groveling for his forgiveness and told him she was sorry. What does he do afterward? Leave her maybe?

Nah, he marries her. Why? Well in he’s own words, nobody’s perfect. It was a good couple of years anyway.

Prerelease Discussion-Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

If it hasn’t been obvious from my writings, I have a huge soft spot for Transformers. What can I say? Robots that can turn into all sort of vehicles sounds all sort of awesome to me. But that doesn’t mean I share that heart when it comes to live-action movies. I’ve had quite a few posts about Micheal Bay’s franchise and long story short, at best it’s a series that I feel mixed about. Thankfully with the release of Bumblebee in 2018, it seems like there is a chance for this IP to be successfully translated into the big screen.

Bumblebee was confirmed by Hasbro to be an official reboot some point after its release, the only question that can be asked is what now? And very soon we are going to get an answer. Later this year on June 9th, Bumblebee’s sequel Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will hit cinemas. Rise of the Beasts seems like it will be a very big film. As the first film to kickstart a whole new trilogy of mega robot action, it going to set the stage for the sequels that are likely sure to follow it.

From the trailers and behind-the-scenes information, there is a lot to be hyped about with some fair concerns as well about this film’s chances. As a fan of this series, I cannot overlook that this will be the cinematic debut of Beast Wars. I’ve talked about the show on this blog before and suffice it to say I think that show is one of the best Transformers shows out there. It may have shown its age visually, but its story and characters have withstood the test of time. It’s a perfect Saturday morning cartoon, and to see it in an actual movie alongside other established characters like Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and the Autobots makes me very giddy with glee.

Based on the new trailer, the biggest thing and I mean that literally is that I wasn’t expecting to see Unicron himself. For those who don’t know who that is, Unicron is the ultimate evil in the series. A robot the size of a planet that happens to eat other planets, having Unicron show up in any TF story means something big is going to happen. His appearance in this film is actually very important for many reasons. First of all, for those that had remain unsure until now, this very much confirms that these new Transformers films are entirely separate from the Bayverse. For those brave enough to sit through all of The Last Knight, the film stated that the Unicron was Earth itself, and the film ended with setting him up as the next big bad.

In that trailer, it is clear as day that Unicron is not Earth and is in fact on his way to adding Earth to his grocery list. Granted Bayverse and continuity get along as well as a house on fire. But it’s very much likely that these two series won’t intersect at this rate. That aside, I will say that I also wasn’t expecting to see Unicron this soon. In fact, he will make his debut before any big Transformers villains like Megatron, who we have yet to see in this series. It could be viewed as anticlimactic if he was to be beaten this soon.

What I likely think might be the case is that this film is going to set him up now and have him serve as a consistent undercurrent that pays also in the 3rd film. And to do this, Rise of the Beasts will use the Terrorcons to set up Unicron as somebody who will be even worse than them for obvious reasons. I would be happy if this is the case, because as I’ve mentioned this is going to be a very big film. Remember, this film is a sequel to Bumblebee that is introducing several new Autobot characters. It’s also bringing the maximals, Predacons, and Terrorcons into the mix. And there is the literal planet-sized robot in the room. Don’t forget that this story takes place on Earth, so we’re going to have several human characters that will play an important role also.

What made Bumblebee feel like a miracle was that the characters on the whole, both robots and humans actually felt like characters. With arcs, and personality that we care about. Though in comparison to Rise of the Beasts that film’s cast was also much, much smaller. But to get back to my previous point, all of the marketing points to the robots being the main stars and that feels really refreshing. I’m just hoping that the characterization will be on point also.

That is a lot of ground for any tf story to cover in just one film. And I’m hoping that this movie will give enough development to all of those various factions so that they don’t feel superfluous. That being said, this Transformers movie seems like it will put the main emphasis on the big robots. One of the biggest criticisms of the Bayverse is that the Transformers feel like an afterthought in comparison to the human characters. It would hurt a little less, if the human characters didn’t suck also.

Judging from the trailers, I can say that it’s safe to say that the action looks to be sick. Without any sort of visual clutter that makes Bayverse unwatchable for some people while still being exciting, it looks like the set pieces will be a lot of fun. The one-take shot at the end of the new trailer actually almost made me scream as if I was a 5-year-old who just watch Transformers for the first time.

Of course, I’m hyped for Rise of the Beasts. It’s overall seems it taking cues from Bumblebee in telling a fresh story in this mythos and looks like a pretty fun time. I’m just hoping that it’s able to live up to its ambitions and prove that this series has a place in cinemas outside of just mindless explosions.

The bizarre existence of Super Mario Bros

With The Super Mario Bros Movie currently airing in theaters and racking in a huge amount of cash, I found it fitting to go back to The Super Mario Bros Movie, but at home edition with another movie centered around the Italian brothers. One that turned out to be very, very different than anything seen in the new movie or the video game series in general.

Starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario Mario and Luigi Mario respectively, with Dennis Hopper as the tyrannical King Koopa. The 1993 Super Marios Bros. can be viewed as a historical moment in a sense as it is the first feature-length live-action film based on a video game. Being the first of anything leads to a lot of valid questions. What’s the standard that will it set going forward? How will it turn out? Could it be any good?

Considering the very rocky path video game adaptations had until the past few years, it’s safe to say that this movie started things on a rocky note. But in retrospect, I doubt it would have been anything but. Just look at the posters or any screenshots should be any indication that this film would have some very creative differences from the video games. I doubt any Mario fan at the time was expecting to see these characters in a cyberpunk dystopian setting with dinosaurs running the show. One must ponder what could have taken place behind the scenes on why this movie turned out the way it did.

Except we don’t need to as there is plenty of information about the movie’s production that paints a very revealing picture. When producer Roland Joffe obtained the rights from Nintendo. With Nintendo giving everyone in the production free creative license to do whatever they wanted; the screenwriters planned the feature to be a subversive comedy influenced by Ghostbusters and The Wizard of Oz. It would take the settings of the game with other facets of the story being drawn from fairy tales and contemporary American culture.

The film’s directors, the husband-and-wife team of Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel had their own ideas in mind the moment they were bought on board. Envisioning the film to have a much darker tone in line with Tim Burton’s Batman also takes cues from Blade Runner, Mad Max, and Die Hard. Though the screenwriters and directors got along well enough, the initial script was dismissed by the producers for being too comedic and wanted a more mature film. This led to a new team of writers creating a new screenplay more in line with the producers’ expectations. However, the original screenwriters were concerned that this new script skewed too far away from its intended audience of young adult and family audiences. Without giving the directors any notice, they hired another pair of screenwriters to provide a more family-friendly script that also came with more restrained effects requirements.

The sudden news of a whole new script shocked the cast who were already signed onto the project with the previous screenplay. This almost gave the directors reason to leave the production entirely. Nevertheless, they stay on board to finish the movie. Through interviews from both Hoskins and Hopper showed that the directors were certainly not without fault. Both actors called the production a nightmare that only made the situation worse as they found them extreme control freaks who mistaken their arrogance for talent. Hopper himself brought up this humorous exchange he had with his son about his role in the movie. When his son asks him about why he played that terrible guy King Koopa in the movie, Hopper says that he did it so his son could have shoes. Which his son said he didn’t need shoes that badly.

What is also notable about Super Mario Bros. production is that it innovated and introduced many techniques considered pivotal in the transition from practical to digital visual effects. It was the first film that used what is now industry-standard software, Autodesk Flame. It was also the first film to be scanned with a digital intermediate, which allows for more than 700 visual effects shots to be composited.

With a production that messy and arguably overambitious, it’s no real surprise that it translates to the film. As someone who likes the games, to say the film takes a major departure from everything that series is known for would be a massive understatement. It’s undeniably a very inspired choice if for nothing else, but it’s pretty understandable why fans were very displeased with the film when it first came out.

Personally, I can easily not care about how much artistic license is in effect as long as the final film is just good in its own right. However, as an actual movie, I think because it was a mishmash of so many different talents and mindsets, there is this strange tonal inconsistency that runs throughout the whole film while it’s trying to combine those more family-friendly elements with this gritty dystopian setting. And on a thematic level, there really isn’t much to the narrative or the characters. It’s very much a point a to b plotline but without substance that I can safely say that the movie is actually good as a movie.

That being said for these very major problems, I would be lying if I said that it didn’t entertain. For how ambitious and confused Super Mario Bros. is, it actually gives the feature this weird, quirky charm that I often have a soft spot for. It helps that at the helm that the main leads Hoskins and Leguizamo as the Mario bros actually have some pretty decent chemistry that gives the film some fun factor. And I can never say no to Hopper hamming it up as the main baddie who’s always a treat when onscreen.

The main highlight of the film without a doubt is the production design and visual effects. The whole world of Dinohatten (Yes that’s what it’s actually called.) is very well-crafted and feels like it’s been lived in. And while a couple of the digital effects show their age understandably, there are a lot of really great effects with the monsters that make them very expressive even though they don’t speak beyond grunts. Does it resemble anything from the games? Not at all. Is it commendable in its own right? Absolutely.

Quite frankly, this is one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. From its conception to the production, and the final film, everything about it screams weird. But in its weirdness, I did find it enjoyable in that oddball way. Certainly, the type of movie to watch while on mushrooms (Or maybe fungus?) if for nothing else.

And yes, I do plan on reviewing the new Mario movie when it comes out on streaming next month. Suffice it to say because of the discourse surrounding that film, I’m very interested to see how my thoughts pan out.

I’m taking requests!

As someone who tries to have a new entry for my blog at least once a week, sometimes I hit the dreaded mental block when I can’t decide for the life of me what I want to write about. But I still want to do something rather than nothing so to speak.

So, going forward I would like to take cues from my readers and have you guys start giving me suggestions on what type of media would you like me to cover on this blog. Can be anything related to movies, tv shows, and video games. Anything is good for me, but I do want to add a few rules.

  • While I like to cover stuff that is quite frankly abysmal, I would very much appreciate not having all of my suggestions be utter garbage in that sense of the word. Don’t be afraid to request it, I still have a few plans myself down the line. It’s just that sometimes I would like to watch something that isn’t just outright terrible from time to time is all.
  • While any tv show can be on the table, do note that if it’s having an episode count of say 100, it might take some time for me to watch all of it. If it happens to be something I’d end up being really invested it, I might do it in chunks or seasons if it allows for it. Long video games fall under this rule as well
  • As this is something I do completely for free, while you are free to suggest anything, I am not obliged to actually write about it for whatever reason. That being said, I’m pretty lax for the most part as long as whatever you are suggesting doesn’t end up with me getting apprehended by the FBI.

With that out of the way, for any request, you would like to make, just post it in the comment section of this post or send me up on any of my social media accounts. The links of which you can find right here:



And that’s pretty much everything. Not exactly what one would call a lengthy article, but I do have plans to cover the upcoming Forbidden West DLC coming out later this week. Kinda forget it was coming out so soon too.

Anywise, have fun and will see you on the next post!