Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Movie Review: Ready Player One (PG13 – 140 minutes)

Ernest Cline released the novel Ready Player One in 2011. The story is set in the 2040s as Wade Watts in on a search for an Easter Egg left in the Oasis by its creator, James Halliday. Whoever finds it will gain control of the Oasis, and much of Halliday’s company.  Wade is out to get it to keep the Oasis free for everyone, and Nolan Sorrento is out to find it for his company, IOI, so that they can monetize the Oasis.  The book is filled with pop culture references and connections, and due to being set almost entirely in a virtual world, seemed like it would be very difficult to transition to a movie.

The movie Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg and is similar to the book, but with some major changes. It’s still 2045, and Wade (and the rest of humanity) still spends just about all their time inside the Oasis - a virtual world that everyone uses for school, work, and recreation.  In it, you can be anyone or anything you want once you create your Avatar.  You can then collect coins and relics to add to your Avatar's abilities and skills.  

It’s been five years since Halliday passed away, leaving a challenge to find the easter egg inside the Oasis for his fans to find.  Wade spends the majority of his time looking for the egg (in the book, there are details about him also going to high school – that is completely eliminated from the movie).  The first challenge is a race, and the winner will find the first of three keys that open three gates that will lead to the egg.  During some of his research into the relationship between Halliday and his former business partner, Ogden Morrow, Wade finds a clue that leads him to an underground shortcut in the race, allowing him to win and receive the first key.
From there, Wade has to meet up with his fellow ‘gunters’ (egg hunters): Art3mis, Aech, Daito and Sho.  They go from working independently to working together to ensure that Nolan Sorennto and his ‘sixers’ will not win. 

The movie is directed by Steven Spielberg, who is actually mentioned several times in the book as the Halliday character is described as a huge fan of most of his movies. Spielberg changed several things, and tried to remove some of the references to himself – but honestly, it feels like he added some that were either not in the book, or just skimmed over.  I would have liked more information about the real world – the stacks, the decimation that lead to them and humans deciding to live mostly in the Oasis, but that really isn’t the point of this movie.  Other added differences seem to be there to make the story more cinematic.  For example, the three challenges to find keys in the book are mostly playing games or acting through movies.  In the movie, there is a giant car race facing off with King Kong and a trip through the Shining hotel.  It did seem more cinematic, but also a little less character-based. 
  • Tye Sheridan plays Wade (Parzival).  It took me a minute to realize that he is also new Cyclops, but that is why the bottom half of his face looks so familiar. He’s just fine in the roll, making Wade genuine and earnest, despite a fairly desperate existence. 

  • Olivia Cooke plays Samantha who goes by Art3mis in the Oasis.  She is less developed than her book counterpart (always an issue in an adaptation), and is leading a bit of a rebellion in the movie.

  • Ben Mendelsohn plays Sorrento, continuing to add to his cadre of villains. Sorrento is in it for the money, and doesn’t really care who gets in his way.

  • Lena Waithe plays Helen, and goes by Aech in the game.  Aech is Wade’s best friend and fellow gunter, despite never having met in the real world.

  • T. J. Miller plays I-Rok, a guy who helps Sorrento get the goods on Parzival, who looks extremely intimidating, but sounds like T.J. Miller.

  • Simon Pegg plays Ogden Morrow, who was Halliday’s business partner, and seems to still be keeping an eye on things.

  • Mary Rylance places Halliday, and does a good job of making the real Halliday unsure around other people but his game character, Anorak, all knowing and wise.

  • Win Morisaki and Phillip Zhao play Daito and Sho, the other two members of the “high five”.
  • Hannah John-Kamen plays F’Nale Zandor, a character I do not believe was in the book at all, and seems to be the ‘muscle’ for Sorrento.

Overall, the movie is entertaining, but I did prefer the book.  A lot of people are saying that the movie makes the story more action-packed and faster moving. I think that eliminated the character background of just about everyone, but does still make for an entertaining movie.

6 out of 10 – it’s just fine, it's fun and entertaining and I think if I hadn’t read the book first, I would probably like it a little bit more.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Movie Review: Rampage (PG13 – 107 minutes)

In 1986, an arcade game called Rampage debuted that featured humans mutated into giant monsters (George, a gorilla; Ralph, a wolf; and Lizzie, an alligator) that then had to battle through a city-scape, causing as much destruction as possible.  Why wouldn’t you want to make a movie from that?

In this movie version of Rampage, we start with an astronaut attempting to make it to the escape pods on a space station as one of their ‘experiments’ has gotten loose and killed just about everyone.  Her boss down on earth – Claire Wyden – is refusing to allow her into the escape pod unless she brings the samples of the pathogen they were experimenting with.  She just barely escapes the experiment, a former rat – current giant scary monster. She gets the samples into the escape pod, but the pod burns up on reentry.  Claire tells her brother that’s no big deal, since the canisters were made to withstand that. All they have to do is go pick them up.

We are then introduced to the Rock, or Davis Okoye in this movie.  He’s a former US military solider, former anti-poacher specialist, and current San Diego Wildlife Park primatologist (of course he is).  He rescued an albino gorilla from poachers, and now cares for him at the park.  After a bit of a cutesy scene where we see the close relationship between Davis and George, the gorilla, we cut to the evening and the canisters landing from the space station.  In San Diego, George is exposed to one of them – in Wyoming, a wolf is exposed to another – and in Florida, an alligator eats the third – because alligators eat just about anything.

George grows crazy big and gets atypically aggressive.  Dr. Kate Caldwell, a genetic engineer who used to work at Energyne for Claire Wyden and her brother, hears about the space station explosion and George’s rapid growth on the news and heads right for Davis (convenient newscast that has all the pertinent information she needs).  She explains to him that while at Energyne, she had been working on gene manipulation – compiling traits from various species to find a cure for various diseases.  The Wydens weaponized it for profit, and she tried to sabotage her work, but they had her arrested and jailed instead. The Wydens send a team of the most alpha-males dudes they can find out to Wyoming to bring in the wolf. To say they are unsuccessful is an understatement. 

Meanwhile, a shady government operative, let’s just call him Negan, shows up to try to take George from Davis for “studying”.  The Wydens release a low-frequency signal from the Sears Tower (or Willis Tower, depending on how old you are) in downtown Chicago that will bring the creatures to them, and therefore save them the effort of looking for them.  George and the Wolf head to Chicago – but no one counts on the giant alligator also making its way there.   Once in Chicago, the three cause insane amounts of destruction as the city is being evacuated until (mild spoiler here) Davis and Kate are able to give George (in a hilarious method of force-feeding) a semi-antidote, and he promptly helps Davis fight the other two in an epically insane creature-destruction climax.

This movie is directed by Brad Peyton, who also worked with the Rock in Journey 2 the Mysterious Island and San Andreas.  Rampage is similar, and Peyton has really started to emerge as a guy who can cause CGI damage with the best of them.  The movie is complete nonsense, but also manages to be great fun.  The Rock is so entertaining to watch, and honestly, his interactions with George are fantastic.  The movie feels like a SyFy Saturday night creature feature, just with a bigger budget.  Everyone involved seems well aware of the level of silly – and commits to being so genuine they are almost over-the-top, which works well with this type of insanity.  

  • Dwayne Johnson – The Rock plays the Rock, who for some reason is called Davis Okoye in this movie.  He’s charming, he’s fun, he’s lovely to look at, and he’s best in this type of movie that can capitalize on his action-capability as well as his personality.

  • Naomie Harris plays Dr. Kate Caldwell, and she stays just on the edge of hysterical as someone who is desperate for redemption after realizing what the Wydens were doing with her research.

  • Malin Akerman plays Claire Wyden, and what an exceptional villainess. She’s basically moustache twirling as she strides around her office being far more concerned with optics and profits than with any animal or human life.

  • Jake Lacy plays Brett Wyden, Claire’s brother, who is basically there to help reinforce her evil-ness and eat things.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Negan playing Harvey Russell.  Honestly, this movie could play as a Negan backstory as he cowboys his way through it, then saunters off with an infected rat. Negan started the apocalypse.

  • Joe Manganiello has maybe two scenes where he attempts to out-badass a group of badass mercenaries (including Matt Gerald and Urijah Faber) as they are sent out to get the wolf, but then promptly gets eaten.

  • Will Yun Lee has one scene as Agent Park, who comes to the Wydens’ office to collect their research and inform them they are under investigation.  This is not nearly enough Will Yun Lee for me, but it’s about the same amount of Will Yun Lee that was in San Andreas. 

Overall, the movie is perfect Saturday afternoon popcorn fare. Be sure not to think too much about it, and just go in ready to be entertained and I think you’ll enjoy it.  There are a couple of scenes that are too heavy for the rest of it – Kate’s backstory, George’s backstory, and that can make it a little uneven tone-wise.  I really enjoyed the scenes of all three monsters tearing around downtown Chicago, especially the reveal of the giant alligator as it overturns a ferry.

7 out of 10 – Sometimes it is nice to have something that does not pretend to be more than it is!
Bonus - In case you missed San Andreas:

Friday, April 13, 2018

Retro Movie Review: Top Secret! (PG – 90 minutes – 1984)

Out of the country trips sure do cut into my movie-viewing time!  I just returned back from an amazing trip to China with my dance troupe (check us out at http://www.TamarindTribalBellydance.com – and come visit us for Tribal Union this August), and so I haven’t been to the theater lately, but Top Secret was on TV recently, which reminded me just how much I love it.

The Brothers Zucker (David and Jerry) along with Jim Abrahams, were responsible for some of the zaniest spoof comedies on record, including the Naked Gun Series, Hot Shots, and Airplane!
One the very first – after the Police Squad TV series – is the movie Top Secret!  It is a spoof of spy movies, and features Val Kilmer in his first film role as an American Rock and Roll singer who accidentally gets caught up in an espionage tale.

Nick Rivers is a very popular American rock star in the 40s, with hits like Skeet Surfin’.  He is traveling to East Germany to perform at a cultural festival.  Unbeknownst to him, the festival is serving as a front so the East Germans can reunite the country under their harsh rule.  While at dinner, Nick meets Hillary Flammond, a member of the resistance.  He pretends to be her date, and later encounters her at a ballet, where he saves her from the police but is captured.  While captured, he accidentally meets Hillary’s father, who is a great scientist being forced to create a weapon. To avoid an international incident, Nick is told to perform and rescued immediately after by Hillary, who takes him to meet the rest of the resistance.  Nick has to deal with an ex-boyfriend of Hillary’s, a group of resistance fighters, an attempt to rescue Dr. Flammond, and a traitor (gasp!).

Honestly, the plot does not matter, as with all ZAZ movies, you are not watching for the plot, you are watching for the insane gags that happen between the storylines. This one includes many: the giant phone, the “Find Him And Kill Him” stamp, the chinstrap, the little German, the little horse, the backwards bookstore, Déjà Vu thinking he’s met someone before, and Chocolate Mousse’s high five.  It’s absolutely insane, but the perfect movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon with popcorn when the weather is too questionable to venture out.

  • Val Kilmer is young and charming – and does all his own signing, of which there is plenty.  He sounds a bit like young Elvis, and is just fantastic. 

  • Lucy Gutteridge plays Hillary Flammond, and is the perfect over-the-top serious to counter Kilmer’s earnest silly.

  • Peter Cushing, yes Grand Moff Tarkin, plays the Swedish bookstore owner. And get this – the cast that was made of his face for the magnifying glass gag was used to help digitally recreate him for Rogue One. 

  • Christopher Villiers plays Nigel, Hillary’s ex-boyfriend who mysteriously resurfaces as the head of the resistance, determined to do some good for the cause – or is he?

  • Michael Gough – one of the top three Alfreds – plays Dr. Paul Flammond.

  • Jim Carter plays Déjà vu and Eddie Tagoe plays Chocolate Mousse, two members of the French resistance and easily two of the best-named characters ever.

  • And Omar Sharif plays Agent Cedric.  Omar Sharif!

Overall, if you haven’t seen it, but you love Airplane and Hot Shots, you need to check it out.  In fact – write off the whole evening and watch Airplane, this movie, and Hot Shots right after one another.
8 out of 10 – non-stop nonsense.

Bonus – Hot Shots! Watch Lloyd Bridges steal every scene... that Cary Elwes didn't already steal.