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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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The Best Films of 2017

Fashionably late! Luke Miksa presents his top ten movies of 2017.
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Reliably late as always (Sorry I’m Late is the name), it’s that time of the year to once again compile the best movies released in 2017.

I don’t want to spend much time on caveats, but it should go without saying that I clearly didn’t have a chance to see everything, but holy heck I tried my darndest!

It’s also worth mentioning the odd release schedules for Australian cinemas. Down under, we often get the big blockbusters the same time as the US market (sometimes even a day or two earlier due to weird time zone stuff), but the smaller releases are all over the place. For example, La La Land was technically a 2016 release in the US, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t hit our shores until 2017 (and I delayed viewing it until February 2018, and I don’t kid you when I say that if I had seen it in either 2016 or 2017 that it may have topped either list. I love La La Land so much).

But anyway, this is my house and these are my rules. Let’s begin.

Missed the Cut:

Hidden Figures, Kong: Skull Island, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Lego Batman Movie, Dunkirk, Okja, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton

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10. John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick has a special place in my heart (it did make my list of 2014, after all), so word of a sequel had me plenty excited. More badass Keanu Reeves! More headshots! More close-quarter skirmishes! This is a burgeoning franchise I can totally get behind.

Little did I know of the immense universe building to happen in John Wick: Chapter 2. Not content with simply providing a unique, adrenaline filled world of gun-play and martial arts, returning director and former stuntman Chad Stahelski builds upon a community of secret assassins with a distinct moral code. Combine the returning cast with a strong ensemble of new players, and John Wick: Chapter 2 is about as much fun as you can have with an action movie.

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9. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright is one of the best filmmakers in the world. His Cornetto Trilogy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are iconic, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World is totally underrated and a personal favourite.

Baby Driver is a kinetic caper, starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, a supremely skilled driver under the payroll of crime kingpin Doc (creepo Kevin Spacey), who uses his talents behind the wheel to ferry a rotating crew of robbers (including Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm). Baby suffers from tinnitus, thus is always listening to music through an iPod. And here lies the genius of Wright, as Baby’s playlists are the soundtrack of the film, and the film’s stunt-driving and action scenes are all set in time to the music. It’s a musical with stunts instead of dancing! Baby Driver is so much fun and adds another winner to Edgar Wright’s impressive resume.

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San Diego Comic Con 2017 — Trailer Roundup and Good Stuff

Holy heck there’s a lot of news coming out of Comic Con. It’s lucky Luke Miksa has your back with a roundup of the best stuff.

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Ready Player One

Based on the wildly popular novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where humanity now escapes the now-harsh reality by spending every waking moment in a virtual reality called Oasis; an adventure world filled to the brim with 80’s and 90’s nostalgia. Directed by Steven Spielberg — himself responsible a lot of that nostalgia first-hand — Ready Player One is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated movies of 2018. Between the Iron Giant and the DeLorean time machine, how many Easter eggs can you spot in this trailer alone?

 

Thor: Ragnarok

If you had any reservations at all about the direction Marvel’s Thor universe was headed, this trailer should rectify that. With an inspired choice of director in Taika Waititi, the neon-soaked, synth-laden trailer for Thor: Ragnarok appears to be the absolute business! October can’t arrive soon enough! Let’s have some fun!

 

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Review: Alien: Covenant (2017) — A Chest-Bursting Return to Form for the Xenomorphs

Luke Miksa finds out if Alien: Covenant has what it takes to return a long mediocre franchise to past glory.

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Following 2012’s disappointing Prometheus, director Ridley Scott returns to the well once again, continuing the origin story of the Alien franchise with Alien: Covenant; a series which began all the way back in 1979 with horror classic Alien, launching Scott’s career in the progress.

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Not a spoiler: Most of these people die.

The year is 2104 — fifteen years since the events of Prometheus — and the colony ship Covenant is carrying two-thousand colonists and human embryos to the remote planet Origae-6. After a devastating neutrino storm hits the ship, the crew is woken from their stasis by the synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender), who was overseeing the trip on its extended journey. The crew, including new captain Oram (Billy Crudup), scientist Daniels (Katherine Waterston), pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), and security Lope (Demian Bichir), intercept a human transmission from a nearby planet, and decide to investigate the source. Once on the surface, the crew must begin a desperate escape when they find out that there are more dangers on the planet than first expected, but not before dealing with the source of the transmission: the wreck of an Engineer ship, which was piloted by Elizabeth Shaw and synthetic David from the Prometheus mission.

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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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The Best Films of 2016

Luke Miksa welcomes 2017 with a look-back at the best cinematic treats of 2016.

I’m back!

Another year full of movies is now behind us. I saw some bad ones, and a whole bunch of mediocre ones. But they will be rightfully ignored, as I focus on the best, the funniest, the most action-packed, and dramatically satisfying films of the year. Let’s focus on the good stuff!

A lot can be said while analysing this list. Three of the top ten spots are owned by Disney (with more just on the outskirts), but I guess that just goes along with Disney’s dominant year at the box office. Another note is that three of my picks (including the top two) would easily pass the Bechdel Test, which is great for the growing diversity in Hollywood.

A lot more made the short-list, but the following class of movies made for a culling not taken lightly (Zootopia was a Disney movie with a Breaking Bad reference, for crying out loud!). Also, let’s collectively pour one out for Rogue One sadly missing the cut — the final 15 minutes were absolute ecstasy for a Star Wars fanatic.

Missed the Cut:

Zootopia, Keanu, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Green Room, Eight Days a Week, Edge of Seventeen, Lights Out

 

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10. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

There weren’t a whole lot of great comedies this year. Only the Key & Peele comedy Keanu came close (very close), but this spot ultimately belongs to the This is Spinal Tap style mockumentary from The Lonely Island, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

Popstar stars Andy Samberg as Connor4Real, a pop superstar in the vein of Justin Beiber, and follows the dramatic shifts in his professional and personal career. If you’re familiar with musical documentaries, you’ll definitely appreciate the subversive humour, but the stand-out is the catchy and hilarious soundtrack, which was to be expected with The Lonely Island calling the shots behind the scenes.

This was not a popular film — a box office disaster, all things considered — but I have the feeling that Popstar is a movie with real legs, destined to become a cult favourite.

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