action, adventure, sci-fi, video game

January 20th, 2019 Movie – Rampage (2018)


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

action, drama, movie, movie review, sci-fi

May 11th, 2018 Movie – The Watchmen

the watchmen

If there is one thing that most comic fans can agree on, it is that Alan Moore is kind of a twisted genius with his story telling. I mean, the series, and one shots, that he has written are some of the most talked about stories by fans and non-fans alike. So it makes sense that these stories would be turned into movies, as the comic movie business was really starting to bloom at the turn of the century. Now I read this limited series when I was a kid and I know I didn’t have the understanding of what was going on back then that I did when I re-read it before the movie came out. Now, let’s see how well the movie holds up as I watch, The Watchmen.

The plot: On an alternate Earth similar to ours, government agent Edward Blake is in his apartment watching the news discussing the rising tensions between U.S. and Soviet governments and the Soviet’s stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Suddenly, a masked intruder breaks into Blake’s apartment and begins attacking him and though Blake fights back, the intruder easily beats him before throwing him through the window, where Blake falls to his death on the street below.  In flashbacks, we learn that during WWII, a group of costumed vigilantes called the Minutemen form to keep the streets safe from costumed gangs and crooks. After the war ends, several members of the team are killed, while another is committed to an asylum. During the 60’s, America ends up winning the Vietnam War with the help of a new hero, Dr. Manhattan. A new group of heroes, calling themselves the Watchmen, band together to protect the streets but rising anti-vigilante sentiments cause many members of the group to disband, while Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian become government agents and Rorschach continues to operate outside the law. Back in the present (1985), the cops are investigating Blake’s murder and after they leave, Rorschach enters and does his own search to reveal that Blake was actually his old teammate The Comedian. Elsewhere, Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl of the Minutemen who is long retired and runs an auto shop, is talking with Daniel Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl of the Watchmen, and discussing some of his old exploits. When Dreiberg leaves, he finds Rorschach waiting for him at his home and he tells Dreiberg about the Comedian’s death. Knowing Blake had done black ops work for the government, Dreiberg theorizes it could have been a political hit but Rorschach feels like it is someone targeting former costumed heroes. The next day, Daniel goes to see Adrian Veidt, who had come clean about his identity as the costumed Ozymandias and now runs a billion dollar empire. They discuss Rorschach’s theory but Veidt deems it unlikely, as Blake had made many enemies over the years, and it was most likely someone getting revenge on him alone. Meanwhile, Rorschach goes to a government facility to see Dr. Manhattan and his wife Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre II) to tel them about Blake’s death and ask Dr. Manhattan to see if the killer is ever found. Dr. Manhattan says that something his ability to see the future, most likely an impending nuclear war. He then teleports Rorschach out of the facility and speaks with Laurie briefly before telling her to say hi to Daniel for him, knowing she will go to see him. Laurie does go to see Dreiberg and the two catch up while Laurie starts complaining about how Jon (Dr. Manhattan) has been pulling away from her. The next day, as Blake’s funeral is taking place, Laurie goes to see her mother Sally, the original Silk Spectre, who has her own troubled history with Blake as he had raped her while they were members of the Minutemen, resulting in Sally becoming pregnant with Laurie. At the funeral, Dreiberg, Dr. Manhattan, and Veidt all attend and Dreiberg and Dr. Manhattan each have their own memories of their interactions with Blake that come to the surface. That night, Rorschach breaks into the apartment of a former criminal, Moloch, and asks why he attended Blake’s funeral. Moloch explains that he was paying his respects, as Blake had broken into his apartment a week ago and had cried as he rambled about doing bad things and that Moloch’s name was on a list as well as some others, including his. Meanwhile, Laurie gets upset with Dr. Manhattan when he makes clones to make love to her while he continues working on his devices and after arguing with him, she leaves him. Laurie ends up at Dreiberg’s place and the two decide to go get some dinner but as they cut through an alley, they are jumped by a gang of muggers and they end up beating or killing all of them. Meanwhile, Dr. Manhattan is scheduled to do a TV interview and while he is being questioned by the reporters in the audience, one of them asks if he is aware that several people he has had close contact with have contracted cancer or died of it, including his former girlfriend/partner Janey Slater. Janey is brought forth and she curse at Jon for what he has done to her before leaving as Jon calls out to her. As the reporters swarm around Dr. Manhattan to try and ask him questions, he yells out for them to leave him alone, then teleports himself to Mars, where he begins building a structure for himself. Back on Earth, Veidt is being interviewed in his building when there is an assassination attempt made on him but he survives and attempts to find out who sent the assassin but the assassin takes a suicide pill and kills himself. As Dreiberg and Laurie discuss it, as well as Jon’s disappearance, they are unaware that they are being observed by Rorschach in his civilian identity. Rorschach goes to see Moloch again, as he saw evidence linking him to Veidt’s would-be assassin, but when he gets there, he finds Moloch dead and he is being set up for the crime. Moloch tries to fight off the police but he is arrested and placed in prison. Many of the prisoners are excited to have Rorschach locked up with them, as they see it as a chance to get revenge on him but he warns that they should be more afraid, as he is now locked in there with him. Meanwhile, Dreiberg and Laurie get closer to each other and end up sleeping together. After waking from an apocalyptic dream, Dreiberg heads down to his secret lair and Laurie finds him staring at his old costume, saying he had wanted to make a difference in the world. The two decide to don their old costumes and go fly in Dreiberg’s vehicle when they hear a report of a fire at an apartment building. The two go to help rescue the people trapped in the building and, after having sex again, decide to go break Rorschach out of prison. Meanwhile, a prison riot occurs and Big Figure, a criminal that Rorschach had arrested, uses the opportunity to try and kill Rorschach but he takes care of Big Figure’s two body guards, then heads to the warden’s office to get his mask back. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II show up at the prison, dealing with some of the rioters as well as a guard that tries to arrest them and see Rorschach chase Big Figure into the restroom, where he kills him, then they all leave. When the return to Dreiberg’s home, they find Dr. Manhattan waiting for them and he says he is there to speak with Laurie and Laurie tells Dreiberg not to worry as she agrees to go with him. After they leave, Dreiberg and Rorschach decide to investigate Pyramid international and discover that Veidt’s company is the parent company, which means that Veidt was behind everything. On Mars, Laurie and Dr. Manhattan argue over the oncoming nuclear war and Dr. Manhattan reveals to Laurie that Blake was her father, causing her to think her life was a joke but Dr. Manhattan comforts her and says they will go back to Earth. Dreiberg and Rorschach head to Veidt’s Antarctic hideout to confront Veidt but he is easily able to beat them as he explains that what he is doing is to bring about world peace. He explains that he had built nuclear explosives that will mimic Dr. Manhattan’s energy signature and plans to detonate them in some of the world’s most populous cities, in order to unite the world against a common enemy, Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan and Laurie arrive in New York after the device goes off and Dr. Manhattan realizes what occurred and teleports them to Veidt’s base. He moves to confront Veidt but he maneuvers Dr. Manhattan into a chamber that is intended to destroy him, using the same process that created him. As Veidt returns to the others, Laurie tries to shoot him but he catches the bullet and kicks her aside. Dr. Manhattan is revealed to have survived the trap and goes to confront Veidt again but Veidt turns on the TV’s to reveal President Nixon talking about the U.S. and Soviet Union uniting to protect the planet from Dr. Manhattan. Realizing that Veidt really has brought about peace in their time, even if it is based on a lie, Dr. Manhattan, Dreiberg, and Laurie all seem to agree with Veidt but Rorschach refuses to compromise. As he leaves the base, he is confronted by Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach demands that he kill him as that is the only way to get him to stop and Dr. Manhattan does as he wishes, as Dreiberg screams out in grief. Dr. Manhattan leaves the planet, saying goodbye to Laurie and an enraged Dreiberg attacks Veidt, who refuses to defend himself, and argues about why Rorschach had to die before he leaves with Laurie. Some time later, Dreiberg and Laurie pay a visit to Laurie’s mother and Laurie tells Sally that she knows the truth about Blake. Sally tells her she wanted to say something so many times but just couldn’t bring herself to do it, then heads into the other room for a minute to collect herself as she is overcome with emotion. Laurie and Dreiberg then talk about the apparent truce and Dreiberg says that as long as people think Jon is out there watching them and willing to attack again, the peace will stand. Meanwhile, at the office of The New Frontiersman newspaper, the editor is complaining about there being no good news stories since the whole world is at peace. An employee named Seymour says they could print something from the “Crank” bin and the editor says to print whatever he wants. As the editor goes back to his office, Seymour glances at the bin, where Rorschach’s journal is sitting, as he had sent it to the newspaper before he left for the Antarctic.

The Watchmen met with mixed to positive results from the critics, holding a 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Gritty and visually striking, Watchmen is a faithful adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, but its complex narrative structure may make it difficult for it to appeal to viewers not already familiar with the source material.” When the trailer first premiered during The Dark Knight, it created so much interest in it that it caused the graphic novel to end up back on the bestseller list and Barnes & Noble reported selling out nationwide. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $183.5 million off of a $138 million budget.

Despite the rather dark tones it took, this was a pretty good comic book movie. The acting was good, with Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan doing great jobs as Rorschach and Blake respectively. I also liked Billy Crudup’s stoic portrayal of Dr. Manhattan, as it really fit with the character and his losing touch with his humanity and emotions. The story followed the comic pretty closely, with the only real big change being Veidt’s plan, as in the comics he faked an alien invasion that destroyed the cities instead of framing Dr. Manhattan for it. The fight scenes in the prison were pretty well done, and I liked the fight in the Antarctic, but I thought the fight in the alley between Dreiberg, Laurie, and the muggers, was too slow, and I know it was somewhat deliberate in it’s filming but it still seemed overly slow. The special effects were pretty good all around but I think we could have gone with out repeatedly seeing Dr. Manhattan’s crotch in that once scene. Yes, it is dark and yes, there are some parts that people won’t like, but this is still a good movie that is worth giving a shot.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5