action, adventure, sci-fi, video game

January 20th, 2019 Movie – Rampage (2018)

rampage

Man do I miss the good old days of spending hours upon hours, and tons of quarters, at the arcade, and one of my favorite games to play was Rampage. I mean, you get to go around as a giant monster and destroy a city while fighting other monsters. That is a kid’s playground fantasy come to digital life right there. When I first heard that they were making a movie based on the game, two thoughts went through my head; 1) this is going to be another terrible video game movie, and 2) it was definitely a movie that I would be interested in seeing/owning. Let’s face it, almost every movie that has been based on a video game has absolutely sucked so there is definitely a precedent that this will be a bad movie. However, this is also a movie involving giant monsters destroying a city, and those are some of my favorite movies to watch. With these two differing factors weighing in, I honestly didn’t feel like spending the money to go see this in theaters and waited till it came available to rent before watching it. Then I saw that there was a sale on the digital copy of the movie for $5 and decided that was a pretty decent price for some entertainment, which is what brings us to today’s movie, Rampage (2018).

The plot: In 1993, the breakthrough gene editing technology known as CRISPR allowed scientists a way to treat incurable diseases but by the year 2016, gene editing had been deemed a “Weapon of Mass Destruction and Proliferation.” In 2018, the space station Athena-1, owned by the Energyme corporation, is doing illegal tests when the test subject, a rat, breaks free and attacks and kills the crew. Dr. Kerry Atkins, the lone survivor, tries to make it to the escape pod but finds the hatch sealed remotely. She is told by Claire Wyden, the CEO of Energyme, that they won’t unlock the hatch until she retrieves the canisters of the pathogen they were testing from the lab. Atkins makes her way to the lab and begins retrieving the canisters when an alarm sounds that the space station’s hull integrity has gone critical, just as the rat appears down the corridor. With the rat chasing after her, Atkins makes it to the hatch with the canisters and is allowed inside, then jettisons the escape pod before the station explodes but the damage done by the rat causes the pod to break apart as it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere. At the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary, Davis Okoye, along with his friend Nelson, are leading new team members Amy and Connor into the gorilla habitat to see how Paavo, a new arrival, is integrating into the enclosure. When Paavo sees them, he gets agitated but Davis is able to calm him down until George, a large albino gorilla, appears. Paavo gets agitated again, frightening Connor and causing him to run, with Paavo chasing after him but before Paavo can attack him, George knocks Paavo aside and roars at him, cowing the younger gorilla. Davis goes to check on Connor as George roars at them, but then starts laughing and Davis realizes he is joking with them. Davis then signs to George and tells him tobe nice, welcome and protect Paavo, as his family had been killed by poachers, and George agrees to do so. That night, the debris from the escape pod crashes to Earth, with one landing in the Wyoming desert, where a wolf investigates it and is engulfed in a green gas, and a second one landing in the Florida Everglades, where an alligator swallows it. A third canister lands inside George’s gorilla habitat and when George touches the canister, it breaks open and envelops him in a green gas, causing him to roar out. The next day, Davis is summoned to work by a call from Nelson about George and when he gets there, Nelson tells Davis that George is in the grizzly enclosure. The two head over there and find that the grizzly is dead and a wounded George is sitting in a cave and when Davis convinces him to come out, they are shocked to see that George has grown considerably. Connor radios Nelson and tells them to come to the gorilla habitat, where he and Amy show Nelson and Davis the canister that was still in it’s crater and Davis uses a sample bag to grab it and says they need to figure out what it is. At Energyme’s corporate headquarters in Willis Tower in Chicago, Claire’s brother Brett is upset about the space station’s destruction and the hit that their company took on the stock market but Claire tells him that everything will be ok. She tells him that Atkins had gotten the research canisters off the space station and even though the escape pod blew up, the canisters were designed to survive reentry, and one of them had landed in Wyoming. Claire tells Brett to deal with the press while she uses a private military unit, led by a man named Burke, to retrieve the canister. When they arrive at the crash site, Burke contacts Claire and tells her they found the canister but whatever was inside was gone or destroyed. He then tells her they found a pack of wolves that had apparently been killed by a single wolf and Claire, realizing that the wolf had been infected with Project Rampage, tells Burke to bring her the wolf dead or alive. In Los Angeles, a genetic engineer named Dr. Kate Caldwell sees the news report about Athena-1’s destruction, and the story about George “escaping” his enclosure, and she quickly heads to San Diego. In San Diego, Davis is looking over the lab results for George when Kate arrives and tells him she can explain. Davis takes Kate to see George and Kate explains that she worked for Energyne and had developed a way to advance CRISPR so that instead of altering one cell at a time, her system allowed entire DNA strands to be edited at once. Suddenly, George breaks free from the containment cell and breaks out of the lab, terrorizing the visitors to the sanctuary. As police show up and threaten to shoot George, Davis is able to calm George down but a Homeland Security helicopter arrives and shoots George with multiple tranquilizer darts, bringing the large gorilla down. Back in Wyoming, Burke and his men spot the wolf, which has grown to giant size, and attempt to kill it but the wolf kills them all. Back in San Diego, Davis and Kate are taken into government custody by Agent Harvey Russell, who loads them onto a plane along with George. As they are flying, Russell reads Davis’ file out, revealing that he was former Special Forces and is now part of the UN’s Anti-Poaching Task Force. Russell then shows them the video of the giant wolf, who has been named Ralph, and when Davis says that Kate can cure the animals, Russell reveals that Kate used to work for Energyne and had been fired two years ago, then sent to prison for 13 months for stealing company hard drives. In Chicago, Brett shows Claire surveillance photos of Davis and Kate being loaded onto the plane with George and Claire says that they should have killed Kate when they had the chance. She then tells Brett that there is a pill that can halt the growth and aggression in someone exposed to Project Rampage, and that the pathogen also rewired the host to respond to low level radio signals. Claire activates a radio transmitter that her team modified atop Willis Tower, which will lure the animals to Chicago, and in the case of George, destroy the plane and kill Kate in the process. When the signal is activated, George, who had been sedated, wakes up and breaks free from his enclosure and begins attacking the agents when they try to shoot him. During the fight, some explosives are detonated, blowing a hole in the plane and causing it to crash. Davis and Kate parachute to safety, with Davis rescuing Russell as well, while George goes down with the plane but George survives the crash and makes his way to Chicago. In Chicago, the FBI arrive at Energyne and after serving Claire the warrant, begin taking all of the hard drives and servers while Claire begins trying to pass the blame onto Kate. Back at the crash site, Russell tries to secure transport for the three of them while Kate tries to explain herself to Davis. Davis isn’t interested at first but Kate tells him that she had joined Energyne to try and use CRISPR to save her brother but when she learned that Energyne was using her research to weaponize DNA, she tried to destroy it but got arrested for it, and her brother died while she was in prison. Russell manages to get military transport to a base outside of Chicago, where the base commander is coordinating an assault on George and Ralph before they reach the city. Davis and Kate try to explain that Energyne must be luring the animals to the city and that the attack won’t work but the commander has them taken away, saying the FBI wants to speak with them. Davis knocks out their guards and he and Kate head to an unguarded medevac helicopter when they are stopped by Russell, who hands Davis the keys and a satellite phone and says that they are on the same side. Russell returns to the operations room just as the attack on George and Ralph commences and when it fails, he contacts Davis to let him know what happened. Davis and Kate reach Chicago just as George and Ralph begin attacking the military in the city, and are shocked to see a giant alligator, Lizzy, emerge from the river and join in the attack. Realizing that the military won’t be able to stop the giant creatures, Davis and Kate head to Energyne to try and find the antidote, being contacted by Russell and told that Blake is ordering a MOAB to be dropped on the city to destroy the creatures. When they reach the labs, Kate finds that the system has been completely scrubbed clean by the Wydens but the keep looking and eventually find the cure, only to be confronted by Claire and Brett. Claire tells them that the R-19 doesn’t return the animals to their original size, merely removes the growth and aggressiveness in them, then demands that Kate hand them over but Kate secretly sneaks one into her coat. Claire then tells Davis and Kate to move and when Davis refuses, Claire shoots him, then forces Kate to head to the roof. They head for the waiting helicopter but George arrives on the roof and destroys the helicopter, then begins smashing the transmitter. Davis, who only wounded, rescues Kate from the debris and when she reveals she still has a cure, Davis says they should give it to George and hope that he will help them deal with the other two monsters. The two head down the stairs to get off the roof but are stopped by Claire, who wants them to distract George so she can escape. Davis appears to agree, but then yells out for George while Kate throws the cure into Kate’s bag, where the other two vials are, and shoves her back into George, who grabs her and swallows her. In the building’s lobby, Brett is trying to call for an escape when he encounters Russell, who tells him that he will let him escape if he hands over the laptop he is carrying. Brett quickly agrees, but as he walks outside, he is crushed by some falling debris. Back on the roof, Davis realizes that the building is about to come down and quickly gets into the Wyden’s damaged helicopter with Kate and powers it up, managing to stay just above the building as it falls before they crash to the ground. Davis and Kate walk away from the wreck just as George emerges from the debris, and they are happy to see that his gentle personalite has returned. When Ralph and Lizzy emerge as well, Davis sees a Humvee and tells Kate to use it to find Russell and get him to call off the air strike while he and George deal with the creatures. Using a grenade launcher, Davis fires on the animals while George attacks them, and they manage to lure Ralph into flying towards Lizzie, who grabs his throat in it’s jaws and decapitates him. George and Davis then turn their attention to Lizzie, just as Kate reaches Russell and tells him what is going on. George is overpowered by Lizzie and tossed into some debris, ending up impaled on rebar. As Lizzie closes in to finish off George, Davis gets into a downed Apache and begins firing at Lizzie, taking it’s attention off of George. As Lizzie goes to kill Davis, George takes the rebar and impales Lizzie through the eye, piercing the brain, and finally killing the giant alligator. Colonel Blake, who had been alerted to the situation by Russell, calls off the airstrike and as Davis tells George that they saved the city and George saved him, George collapses from his injuries. Davis cries for his friend’s death just as Kate and Russell show up and as they see the military helping the survivors, Davis sees George move and realizes that George had been playing a joke on him. After talking with Kate and Russell, Davis says that they should help get the people to safety, then find George a new home.

Rampage (2018) met with mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but contrary to appearances, this makes it the highest reviewed movie based on a video game of all time. The critical consensus on the site is, “Rampage isn’t as fun as its source material, but the movie’s sheer button-mashing abandon might satisfy audiences in the mood for a brainless blockbuster.” During the movie when Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) signs to the young gorilla Paavo to calm him down, the sign he makes while saying “It’s me” is for”rock”, a reference to his WWE days as The Rock. The mutated rat at the beginning of the movie is likely a reference to Larry, a character that was only available in the Atari Lynx version of the game. The film was a success at the box office, earning $428 million off of a $140 million budget.

Ok, this was not what I would consider a great movie but it was a pretty entertaining movie. Dwayne Johnson was pretty good in his role and the interaction his character had with George felt pretty natural. Naomie Harris (Kate), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Russell) and Malin Akerman (Claire) were also good in there roles as well. The story was pretty good and did a decent job in sticking to the basic premise of the video game, but instead of humans being the subject to the experiments and turning into monsters, the movie chose to simply have animals accidentally be exposed to the pathogen that turns them into giant monsters. The special effects with the creature designs were pretty interesting, well Ralph and Lizzie’s design, as George was simply a big gorilla. One thing I didn’t particularly care for the consistent power-ups that they seemed to give Ralph. First it was the projectile spines that he fired at one of the helicopters, but then he was able to fly, which was just weird. Another thing that I thought was interesting was that Lizzie seemed so much more massive than George or Ralph. The only reason I can think as to why this was is because Lizzie had swallowed the canister with that pathogen, receivng a larger concentration of it, as opposed to what happened to George and Ralph, who had simply been exposed to a portion of the gas. A nice bit of mindless, city trashing entertainment that can be fun to watch.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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October 23rd, 2018 Movie – Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

jumanji welcome to the jungle

At this point, I don’t think anyone can argue that Dwayne Johnson has succeeded in Hollywood just as he did in the WWE. I mean, in 2017 he starred in 3 movies that made over $2 BILLION combined at the box office, granted one of those movies was Baywatch so it was really the other 2 movies that made up that amount. One of those movies was today’s movie, the sequel to 1995’s Jumanji. Now when I first heard that a sequel was being made, I will admit that I was a little hesitant to get on board with it, as Robin Williams really made the original movie special. Still, they were assembling a good cast to take part in it and the premise sounded pretty good so I decided to give it a shot. Needless to say, I enjoyed it and decided to buy Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle when it came out on video, which is what brings us to today.

The plot: In 1996, a man is jogging along the beach in Brantford, New Hampshire when he discovers the Jumanji board game buried in the sand. He takes it home to his son Alex Vreeke, who sets the game aside and continues playing the video game he had paused. That night, a strange green glow appears in Alex’s room and the drums starts beating, causing Alex to wake up. When he examines the board game, he discovers that the board has changed into a video game cartridge, which he decides to play and he ends up getting sucked into the game. 20 years later, Spencer Gilpin is writing an essay for his friend Anthony “Fridge” Johnson so that Fridge can stay on the football team and after he finishes, he gets a text from Fridge telling him to meet at the “Freak house”. When they get there, Spencer hands Fridge the paper and tries to invite him to hang out during the weekend but Fridge blows him off and Spencer feels hurt at the fact that they don’t hang out anymore. Suddenly, Spencer is startled by the appearance of Old Man Vreeke, who tells him to loiter somewhere else. During school, Bethany Walker is making a video call during a quiz and ends up getting detention. As Spencer is in gym class, he sees Martha Kaply get detention for not participating and thinks she is “bad ass” when he is suddenly called into the principal’s office. When he gets there, he find Fridge in the office along with Principal Bentley and Miss Mathers, Fridge and Spencer’s history teacher. Miss Mathers says she knows that Spencer wrote the paper as it has several sentences and key words that he used in other papers and Spencer tries to pass it off  as all his doing but they both end up getting detention. Principal Bentley takes them to the school’s basement and has them removing staples from old magazines so they can be recycled, telling them that they will finish on Saturday what they don’t get done that afternoon. As Spencer and Martha work on removing the staples, Bethany keeps trying to get a cell signal on her phone while Fridge looks around the room. When he finds an old video game console with the Jumanji cartridge in it, he shows it to Spencer, who hooks it up to a TV. After turning it on, they see the character select screen and when Fridge tries to pick Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough, he finds he can’t choose that character so he chooses Franklin “Mouse” Finbar. Stephen chooses Dr. Smolder Bravestone and then he and Fridge convince Bethany and Martha to play. After Bethany chooses Professor Shelly Oberon and Martha chooses Ruby Roundhouse, they press start only to have the sound of drums and jungle noises fill the room. When the game system starts sparking, Spencer unplugs it but it turns back on, then sucks all four kids into the game. The four kids fall out of the sky into a jungle and as they try to figure out what happened, they discover that they are all in different bodies. Spencer realizes that they have somehow become the avatars they chose in the game. with Spencer being a muscular explorer, Fridge being a dimunative man with an oversized backpack, Martha is a martial arts expert, while Bethany is an overweight middle-aged man. Martha discovers a strange tattoo on her arm, with Spencer and Fridge saying they have the same tattoo, but before they can figure out what it means, Bethany is eaten by a hippo. As Spencer, Fridge, and Martha react in shock over what happened, they see Bethany fall out of the sky, seemingly unharmed. When more hippos chase after them, the group runs away from them until they encounter Nigel, who tells them to get in his car. As they drive away, Nigel introduces himself and tells them he is glad they have arrived as they are the only ones that can break the curse. When Spencer asks about the curse, Nigel tells him to read the letter he sent them and Spencer suddenly finds a letter in his hand. As he reads it, the four kids find themselves in a cutscene within the game, where they see Van Pelt, Spencer’s character’s former partner now turned bitter rival. Van Pelt stole the Jaguar’s Eye, a magical emerald that is essential to Jumanji’s well being and allows the user to control the wild life in Jumanji. Nigel, who was Van Pelt’s guide, stole the jewel from Van Pelt, then wrote the letter to “Bravestone” asking for his help. Back in the present, Nigel hands the gem to Spencer, then tells them that the only way for them to return home is to finish the game and lift the curse. After Nigel hands Spencer a map, he tells him to head to the bazaar to find the missing piece, then drives off. Spencer manages to access his player menu, learning his character’s strengths and weaknesses, and the others do the same for their characters. Spencer can’t see anything on the map but Bethany, whose character is an expert in cartography, is able to see it and tells them what it says and where they should go. Suddenly, they are attacked by a motorcycle gang and they manage to get away by jumping off a cliff and swim to shore. As they recover from what happened, Martha reveals that she had been shot and suddenly disappears, only to drop down from the sky onto Fridge. As Martha gets off of him, Spencer looks at her tattoo and notices it is now 2 bars instead of three and tells them that it is their life bar. When they ask what happens if they run out of lives, Spencer says it means game over, and that they could die for real in the game. Meanwhile, the motorcycle gang return to Van Pelt’s camp and when he learns that Bravestone and the others escaped, he says he will have every creature and soldier in Jumanji search for them, telling a vulture to go find them. Elsewhere, the group starts heading out, with Martha and Bethany starting to bond a little over their situation. Meanwhile, Fridge and Spencer are arguing about why they are no longer friends and Fridge gets mad and pushes Spencer off a cliff. When Spencer returns, he and Fridge fight some more before Spencer stops Fridge from falling off a cliff, telling the group they can’t waste lives and have to work together. The group reaches the bazaar and start to look for the map but when they hear a man calling out rations, Bethany and Martha go over to get some food. Fridge gets some as well but when he learns that it is pound cake, he suddenly explodes as one of his character’s weaknesses is cake. After Fridge reappears, a small girl approaches them and leads them to where the missing piece is. Inside the room, they find a large basket and when Spencer lifts the lid, a snake pops out. Fridge recognizes it as a black mamba and Bethany, thinking of what the kid said, thinks it must be a staring contest. Spencer lifts the lid and Bethany tries to stare down the snake but the snake hisses at her, then lunges at Martha. Spencer manages to catch it before it can bite her and Fridge defangs the snake to make it harmless. Bethany reaches into the basket and finds a wrapped package containing an elephant token and a note saying “when you see me, begin the climb”. Suddenly, Van Pelt and his soldiers show up and Spencer begins fighting them but when they are about to get shot, a masked figure throws a smoke bomb into the bazaar, then leads the group into a sewer tunnel. As the man leads them through the tunnels, they realize that he is the 5th player and after making it out of the tunnel, he introduces himself as Alex. Alex takes them to the tree house that he has been living in, which was Alan Parish’s home when he was stuck in Jumanji. Spencer asks Alex how long he had been there and he tells them at least a few months, then explains how he couldn’t get past the transportation shed, which is the next level in the game, and when he was down to 1 life left, he stopped trying. Spencer tries to convince him to work with them to finish the game and Bethany realizes that Alex was the missing piece they were supposed to find, as they now have a complete team. Alex takes them to the transportation shed and as they try to figure out how to distract the guards, Bethany suggests having Martha flirt with them and after they convince her to try, Bethany works on teacher her how to flirt. Alex finds a side door and as Martha goes to flirt, Bethany joins the others to sneak inside when they learn that Alex thinks it is 1996. Realizing that Alex is Alex Vreeke, they tell him that he has been in the game for 20 years. Martha manages to distract the guards long enough for the others to sneak inside but when Fridge knocks over some motorcycles, she is forced to beat the guards unconscious before they can investigate. As Van Pelt’s men return to the shed, Alex gets scared about flying, as his previous attempts didn’t work out well but Martha and the others convince him to fly the helicopter. They manage to escape from the shed but some debris from a missile damages the rotors and they find themselves falling down into a canyon. As a stampede of albino rhinos starts chasing after them, Alex says they can’t fly up until the piece is repaired. Spencer climbs out and fixes the rotor but as they are flying out of the canyon, Fridge accidentally drops the gem. Circling back around, they find the rhinos forming a protective ring around the gem and Spencer shoves Fridge out of the helicopter to act as a distraction for the rhinos while he grabs the gem, then saves Fridge when he dies and respawns. As they land the helicopter, Alex is stung by a mosquito, which is his weakness, and starts to die but Bethany does CPR and sacrifices one of her lives to give to Alex. As they rest for a bit, Spencer and Martha admit that they have feelings for each other and start to kiss when Fridge interrupts them to tell them that he found the jaguar statue. As it starts getting dark, they reach the path for the jaguar statue and realize it is most likely a trap. Seeing the elephant statue nearby, Spencer thinks it means he should climb the trees to get to the statue but he is scared by a squirrel and falls to the ground, where a jaguar kills him. After he respawns, he talks with Fridge and tells him that he can’t do this but Fridge convinces him that he can and as Van Pelts men get closer, he comes up with a plan. While Martha works on slowing the men down, Bethany, Fridge, and Alex work on distracting the jaguars so Spencer can reach the statue. Martha ends up being snagged by a rope dragged behind a motorcycle but Spencer saves her, then he uses the motorcycle to continue towards the statue but when he reaches it, he finds Van Pelt there holding Bethany hostage. As Alex and Martha join Spencer, Van Pelt demands that he hand over the gem but Spencer says that he doesn’t have it, just as Fridge appears atop an elephant, holding the gem. Van Pelt has the jaguars attack Fridge but the elephant bats them away. Van Pelt then fires at Fridge but Bethany disrupts his aim, causing the bullet to miss but the elephant gets scared and causes Fridge to toss the gem up the hill. As Bethany and Alex struggle with Van Pelt, Martha tells Spencer to head for the statue and she will get the gem to him. Spencer rides up the hill and Martha looks for the gem and finds it in the middle of a field full of black mambas. Martha manages to get the gem just as Van Pelt appears and demands she hand it over but Martha allows a mamba to bite her while she is holding the gem, killing her, and she then respawns and falls to the ground, passing the gem to Spencer as she does. Spencer places the gem in the jaguar’s eye but nothing happens until Bethany remembers that you have to call out Jumanji, and they all scream it out, causing Van Pelt to fall apart into a mass of rats and insects. As the group celebrates lifting the curse, Nigel shows up and says their time is done in Jumanji. Nigel then says goodbye to everyone and shakes their hand, causing them all to fade away into the gem. When he gets to Martha and Spencer, Spencer asks her if they could stay there, as he likes the person he is in the game, but MArtha tells him to be the person in the real world and come home, and Spencer reluctantly follows her. The kids all find themselves back in the school’s basement but there is no sign of Alex. As they head to the Vreeke house, they find it is no longer rundown but in good condition and decorated for Christmas. Just then, a car pulls up and a family emerges to visit Old Man Vreeke but as the man goes to get the Christmas tree off his van, he sees the kids and approaches them. As He names them all, they realize that it is Alex and he says that he is happy to see them again and says that the game sent him back to 1996, allowing him to live his life. He then introduces them to his baby, Andy, and tells them his older daughter is named Bethany after the girl that saved his life. The next day, Spencer and Fridge show up at school, their friendship restored, and see Bethany trying to convince her friend to go backpacking with her. As Bethany joins them, they see Martha approaching and Spencer approaches her and kisses her. Suddenly, they all hear the sound of drums beating and they take the game out back and Fridge smashes it with a bowling ball.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle fared much better with the critics than it’s predecessor, holding a certified fresh rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle uses a charming cast and a humorous twist to offer an undemanding yet solidly entertaining update on its source material.” In a bizarre coincidence, both Jumanji films have a connection to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Director Jake Kasdan, who directed Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, is the son of Lawrence Kasdan, who was the writer for Raiders, while Joe Johnston, who directed the original Jumanji, worked on the visual effects. The movie was a box office hit, earning $962.1 million off of a $90 million budget with a sequel scheduled to be released in 2019 with the 4 stars all returning for the sequel.

This was such a funny movie to watch and definitely a great sequel to the original. The acting was good, with all 4 of the main characters doing great jobs in their roles, but Jack Black honestly stole the show with his portrayal of Bethany. The story was pretty good, doing a great job of revamping the game to a more modern age, by turning it into a video game instead of a board game. I really liked how they acknowledged the original movie, by showing the house that Alan lived in during his 26 years and making it a new safehouse for Alex while he was trapped there. I also liked how the different characters showed a lot of character growth throughout their adventure, taking some of the aspects of their avatars with them when they returned to the real world. The one thing I didn’t really like was how they had Van Pelt portrayed. In the original movie, he was the quintessential “great white hunter”, but in this one he was more of a mercenary that was essentially nothing more than a collection of rodents and insects. That was honestly disappointing. The special effects were really good and while I liked the fact that they showed Jumaji as it’s own world, I wish they had more animals in it more consistently, instead of just a scene or two every now and then. A great movie that did a fantastic job of expanding upon the world that was created back in 1995 and is well worth watching.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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July 13th, 2017 Movie – The Scorpion King

the scorpion king

When The Mummy Returns was in theaters, one of the selling points that all the trailers referenced was that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was in it, but his role actually ended up being pretty brief. Since his star power was beginning to break through outside of the wrestling world, it only made sense to do a spin-off with his character. Now while I am a wrestling fan and liked The Rock’s character, I honestly didn’t plan on going to see this movie. Honestly, the main thing I liked about the movie at the time was the soundtrack. Still, I did eventually end up watching it and it was more entertaining than I thought it would be so I wound up picking up a copy. Let’s see if that purchase was worth it as I watch The Scorpion King.

The plot: In the time before the pyramids, a barbarian tribe is in their main hut, where the leader is talking about all of the races they have fought and killed before approaching their prisoner, saying they have never killed an Akkadian before. The Akkadian, Jesup, warns them that his brother is coming for them, just as his half brother Mathayus enters the hut and begins killing the warriors in order to free his brother. Meanwhile, a warlord named Memnon leads his horde of invaders to conquer the ancient lands and only a few tribes are left to oppose him as he has a sorcerer that is able to predict the battles’ outcomes. King Pheron, one of the last leaders of the free tribes, is holding a meeting with the other leaders when Mathayus, Jesup, and Rama, the last of the Akkadians, appear and Pheron explains that he hired them to kill the sorcerer. While most of the assembled men are happy with the news, as the Akkadians are known for their assassination skills, Pheron’s son Takmet is upset that his father used the last of their treasure to hire them while another leader, King Balthazar, doesn’t like the Akkadians due to their mercenary nature. The Akkadians make their way to Memnon’s camp, taking out the sentry’s and saving a horse thief named Arpid from being executed. As they make their way towards the sorcerer’s tent, Mathayus notices movement in some of the other tents and calls out a warning just as the tents open to reveal Memnon’s men. Jesup and Rama are shot with arrows but Mathayus manages to escape and makes his way into the sorcerer’s tent. As he is about to kill the sorcerer, the sorcerer is revealed to be a sorceress named Cassandra, who says she knows why Mathayus is there and that he has been betrayed. Instead of killing her, Mathayus begins killing Memnon’s soldiers that appear but he is eventually captured. Mathayus then sees Takmet enter the tent, who admits to killing his father and swears his allegiance to Memnon. Memnon then has Jesup, who is still alive, brought to him and he proceeds to kill him in front of Mathayus but when he goes to kill Mathayus, Cassandra stops him. She says that the gods wish him to survive the night and that he won’t be killed by Memnon or any of his soldier’s hands so Memnon has Mathayus knocked out. When he regains consciousness, Mathayus finds himself buried up to his neck in the sand next to Aprid, as one of Memnon’s guards begins putting small torches down some ant hills to coax the fire ants out to kill them. Aprid manages to escape and knock out the guards, then rescues Mathayus after getting his word that he won’t kill him. They head towards Memnon’s city, and Mathayus knocks out Aprid and uses the bounty on his head to get access to the city. Once inside, Mathayus revives Aprid and buys him some wine to apologize for hitting him, then heads towards Memnon’s palace. Along the way, he encounters some street urchins, who steal the pouch with the blood rubies, but Mathayus is able to get it back, then offers one to the urchin he caught if he can get him inside the palace. The urchin leads him inside and the reach the workshop of Philos, Memnon’s court magician, who tells Mathayus where Memnon is. Mathayus pays the urchin then takes up a position to shoot Memnon but when he sees the urchin was captured and about to have his hand cut off, Mathayus saves him, exposing his position in the process. As the guards try to kill Mathayus, he runs back into Philos’ workshop, then uses a catapult that Philos built to escape the room. Mathayus ends up landing in Memnon’s harem room but as the women distract him, they secretly take all of his weapons and proceed to alert the guards. Mathayus is able to escape and ends up in Cassandra’s room, where he quickly takes her prisoner as he escapes the city. Mathayus rejoins Aprid, who was trying to take Mathayus’ camel, and they head towards the Valley of the Dead, with Cassandra explaining she was Memnon’s prisoner along the way. Meanwhile, Memnon sends his general Thorak to retrieve Cassandra and kill Mathayus, handing him an arrow laced with scorpion venom to kill him with. Mathayus, Cassandra, and Aprid reach the valley and when Mathayus sees Thorak approaching, he has Cassandra and Aprid take shelter, then rides out to face Thorak and his men, using an oncoming sandstorm as cover. Mathayus is able to kill several men in the storm and when they try to take shelter in a cave, starts picking them off one by one. He eventually fatally stabs Thorak but when he goes to kill the last of Thorak’s men, Thoraks stabs him in the leg with the poisoned arrow. When the storm passes, Cassandra and Aprid go to find Mathayus and Cassandra is able to use her powers to save Mathayus’ life. MAthayus and the others soon meet up with Philos, who had escaped the city after being accused of being a traitor, and he happily tells them he found the secret to his magic powder (gunpowder). As the group stop at an oasis to rest, they are captured by rebel forces and taken to the main camp. Once there, Balthazar plans on killing them but Mathayus is able to get free and fights Balthazar, eventually beating him. That night, Cassandra has a vision of the village being massacred by Memnon’s men and she goes to tell Mathayus what she saw. He sees this as a way to kill Memnon but she has a vision and tells him that he will die if he faces Memnon. Mathayus says that he chooses to make his own destiny and kisses her. Mathayus and Cassandra end up sleeping together, after which she wakes up and takes Mathayus’ camel and rides back to Memnon’s city in order to spare the village. When Mathayus wakes, he plans on going after her and Balthazar stops him at first but then accompanies him with some of his warriors. At the city, Memnon is having a feast to celebrate his army’s impending victory in the morning but one of his generals says the men are talking about Cassandra not being there as a sign the gods are not with them. When Cassandra appears, she tells the men that she sees victory for them and Memnon kills the general that questioned him, then says the feast is over. Memnon then tells Takmet to seal the city while he takes Cassandra into his chambers. Once there, he says he feels something is different about her and has his men place four cobras in some vases, then has them spun around before making her choose the two vases that are free from the cobras. Meanwhile, Mathayus and the others make their way into the city before separating to go on their own missions. In Memnon’s chamber, Cassandra correctly picks one vase but when she chooses the next one, she grabs the cobra that is in it and threatens Memnon with it. Memnon easily kills the cobra but when he goes to kill her, Mathayus bursts into the room and begins fighting with Memnon. Meanwhile, Philos and Aprid head underneath the city and place sacks of gunpowder around the main support column for the temple. On the palace grounds, Balthazar and the Amazon warriors fend off the palace guards, with Balthazar killing Takmet during the fights. Memnon manages to grab Cassandra and exits the chamber but Mathayus follows after him. When Memnon gets the upperhand on Mathayas and one of his guards shoots him in the back, just as Cassandra had seen. As the rest of Memnon’s soldiers arrive at the scene, Aprid sets the gunpowder on fire, just as Mathayus stands up, pulls the arrow from his back, and shoots Memnon with it. Memnon is consumed in the explosion before crashing to the ground in front of his army and as they see Mathayus standing atop the temple, they kneel and declare him their new king as per their tradition. The next day, Balthazar and his people leave, with Balthazar telling Mathayus he is a king now but they will be watching him. Cassandra says that she foresees a time of peace and prosperity for his kingdom and when he asks how long it will last, she says nothing lasts forever but Mathayus says that he will make his own destiny.

The Scorpion King met with mixed to negative reviews from the critics, holding a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “Action adventure doesn’t get much cheesier than The Scorpion King.” Dwayne Johnson said that he intentionally shied away from using any of his signature moves as The Rock in the movie, with the only exception being “The People’s Eyebrow”, which he used after he landed in Memnon’s harem. The movie was a box office hit, earning $165.3 million off of a $60 million budget, and ended up spawning 3 direct to video sequels.

This is a pretty basic over-the-top action movie but it can be entertaining. The acting was good, with Dwayne Johnson (Mathayus), Kelly Hu (Cassandra), and Michael Clarke Duncan (Balthazar) doing good jobs in their roles, while Grant Heslov (Aprid) and Bernard Hill (Philos) making for some good comic relief. The story was interesting, since it was a prequel to a movie, which in turn was a sequel to another movie. As for the actual plot itself, it was pretty basic to be honest with nothing really special or original to it. The special effects were ok but I honestly thought they could have been better for a big budget picture like this. It is interesting to watch to learn about the character’s history but unless you are just in the mood for an mindless action movie, there isn’t much reason to watch this movie.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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