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Review: Rampage (2018) — Fun and Frustrating, but Mostly Fun (But Also Frustrating)

Video game movies suck! Is the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson destruction-fest Rampage better than the rest? Luke Miksa tells all:

Based on the classic arcade video game of the same name, Rampage opens with the destruction of a space station, which leads to scattered debris all over the United States. Amongst the wreckage is a mutated pathogen, which comes into contact with a wolf, a crocodile, and an albino gorilla under the care of Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson). As the pathogen mutates these animals into gigantic and violent beasts, Okoye is aided by geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and Agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in an effort to stop them before they turn Chicago to rubble.

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Kinda like Jaws, but with a dinosaur.

Director Brad Peyton and star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have become quite a successful duo in recent years, releasing crowd-pleasing action fare such as San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. While not aiming for high-cinema, these films are the perfect kind of entertaining dumb fun which will always certainly have its place, especially when international markets are concerned. Peyton is quickly becoming this generation’s Roland Emmerich, much like Johnson is this generation’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At heart, Rampage is an old-school monster mash, full of action and quips. But despite the relatively family-friendly M-rating, Rampage is actually kind of violent. It’s not Predator by any means, but there is a certain scene involving Joe Mangianello and his mercenaries going up against the wolf (dubbed Ralph) that is pretty intense. There’s also plenty of collateral damage to the city of Chicago once the beasts convene there, and these scenes do show plenty of civilian deaths.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) — The Most Fun You Can Possibly Have Watching A Movie, All Thanks To Marvel’s Unlikely Cosmic Heroes

The popular cosmic team from Marvel Studios is back, but can they replicate the surprise success from 2014? Luke Miksa finds out.

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In 2014, we were introduced to Guardians of the Galaxy; a ragtag combination of obscure characters seemingly plucked from the most obscure Marvel comics title. That was then. Now, the Guardians of the Galaxy are a big deal. With characters like Rocket and Groot leading the way, beyond all expectations the Guardians became cultural icons and some of the most recognisable and popular characters in the Marvel Universe.

With the surprise factor no longer an option, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 now has the burden of high expectations. But is this a sequel that squanders the possibilities presented in the first instalment? Thankfully the answer is no: Guardians 2 is just as hilarious, just as exciting, and just as heartfelt the second time around.

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The gang is back!

After the adventures of the first film, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and the newly pint-sized Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are now known throughout the cosmos as the Guardians of the Galaxy. In exchange for their services, the dysfunctional team acquires Nebula (Karen Gillan), sister and rival of Gamora. With Nebula secured on board their spacecraft, the team now has to not only deal with the pursuing Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) and his team of exiled Ravagers, but the sudden appearance of Quill’s estranged father Ego (Kurt Russell) threatens the dynamic of our new favourite team.

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Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015) — Quick, Someone Go Back in Time and Save This Franchise

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Terminator: Genisys (yes, that is a real title) is the fifth film in the Terminator franchise and follows the same basic premise of all but one: robot/human is sent back in time to kill/protect John Connor; an important figure in a future war with machines. In the year 2029, Skynet — in a last-ditch effort to win the war against humanity — sends a T-800 Terminator back in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of resistance leader John. In response, Connor (Jason Clarke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, Live Free or Die Hard) back to protect her from the unstoppable machine. Upon arrival to 1984, Reese soon learns that things are not as they were anticipated, as Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones) has been raised by a re-programmed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, reprising his famous role) since the age of nine. Now that the timeline is changed, the trio must now embark on another mission to prevent Skynet from initiating Judgment Day, the end of humanity as we know it.

Does that sound confusing? Don’t worry you’re not alone, as Terminator: Genisys (real title) is one hell of a convoluted time-travel story, and the retcon from the first act is only the start of the insanity. Director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), struggles to balance the many, many various plot threads and the result is a garbled mess of a film with mediocre performances, a nonsense plot that makes less sense the more you think about it, and that frankly doesn’t even look that good.

"I'll be back. Again. And Again. And..."

“I’ll be back. Again. And Again. And…”

Honestly, the first hour or so of the movie was pretty good. I was on board for the alternate 1984, and it was fun revisiting scenes we’ve seen before, but altered slightly. This is something I also liked from Back to the Future II. Unfortunately, there is another time-jump that takes place which sends the story to the year 2017 and that’s where the movie completely implodes.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — Marvel’s Weirdest Team in Marvel’s Strongest Movie

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Space Avengers.

Space Avengers.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is directed by James Gunn (Slither, Super) and co-written by Gunn and Nicole Perlman. In a departure from the highly interconnected, Earth-bound Marvel Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in a galaxy far, far away (hmmm). Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, a massive departure from Parks and Recreation) aka Star-Lord, was abducted as a child by a group of inter-galactic marauders and has since grown up as a thief and rogue. When Quill discovers an ancient orb on a desolate planet, he finds himself in the crosshairs of Kree warrior Ronan (Lee Pace), who is also after the artefact. In his journey Quill encounters Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin who looks to redeem her nefarious past; Drax (former WWE Champion Dave Bautista), looking to avenge the death of his family at the hands of Thanos (that big guy at the end of The Avengers!); Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically engineered raccoon with a penchant for weaponry; and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a hulking, anthropomorphic tree and companion of Rocket. Quill must tag with this renegade group of extraterrestrial fugitives to outrun Ronan and his subordinates who are in pursuit of the orb, which holds one of the powerful Infinity Stones and the capability to destroy the galaxy.

The strong point of this film is the outlandish cast of characters. Each character has different backgrounds and different motivations, and the greatest moments come when they are interacting with each other — both clashing and bonding. The humour is never cheap either; there is never a moment where you are laughing at Rocket just because he’s a raccoon. On the contrary, Rocket is initially established as a no-nonsense, sarcastic badass, and the humour comes from the fact that he actually doesn’t realise he’s a raccoon. That’s great scripting, because the character of Rocket is established without a mention of raccoon, that point comes up naturally in the dialogue. Another great character trait belongs to Drax, as his people do not understanding metaphors, this creates some great comic banter between himself and the sassy Quill. GOTG has a level of entertaining character interactions and dialogue on par with The Avengers.

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Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) — Mind-Numbing Autobot Boom-Boom, Another Bay at the Office

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Michael Bay returns to the bombastic robot-fisticuff franchise in Transformers: Age of Extinction; the fourth film in the series, and despite reports to the contrary, not a reboot. This Transformers film deals with the effects of that gigantic battle in Chicago, and it’s not good for our Autobot pals:  CIA operatives are out to capture and destroy all Transformers, Decepticons and Autobots alike. Fugitive Transformers have scattered all across the USA, and it’s in a small town in Texas where failed inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) finds a dilapidated truck that winds up being the wheeled form of Autobot leader and franchise stalwart Optimus Prime.Yeager and his family must join the Autobots in evading the US government, led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), and their associate, a mysterious bounty hunter known as Lockdown.

Twin guns? Check. Explosions? Check. City-wide destruction? Check.

Twin guns? Check. Explosions? Check. City-wide destruction? Check.

These Transformers movies need to be taken with a grain of salt; you know exactly what you’re getting when you purchase your ticket. It was to my surprise that the first act of this film was actually quite enjoyable: the character interactions were reasonable (despite clunky, cliché dialogue), and Bay’s directing was surprisingly restrained (for his standards). But after a major car-chase action sequence at the end of the first act the film becomes a mind-numbing bore. Meaningless action scenes with no plot development, wretched and laughable dialogue, and awful pacing and editing: the exact stuff I was initially dreading. This is a film that goes well over two and a half hours, but could easily have been edited down to one and a half. Classic Michael Bay over-indulgence

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Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014) — Cruise Keeps Dying, Doesn’t Stop Running, in Smart and Gripping Sci-Fi Spectacle

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In the near future, alien creatures — known as Mimics — have conquered most of mainland Europe, with global domination in mind. A last-ditch assault is planned by the military: a surprise attack on France, fueled by the addition of weaponised ‘Jackets’ worn by human soldiers. After attempting to weasel out of front-line deployment, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is apprehended and knocked out by military general Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), who dumps him with the infantry unit J-Squad en-route to the invasion. The cowardly Cage winds up in an explosion with an advanced Mimic known as an Alpha, and the Alpha’s caustic blood spills over Cage as he dies. Cage wakes aboard the same vessel on the day before the battle. Confusion sets in as he repeatedly dies on the battlefield and awakes the day before, stuck in an infinite loop. With the assistance of war hero Rita Vrataski, the “Full Metal Bitch” (Emily Blunt), Cage realises his curse may be the key to victory over the Mimics.

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