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The original Pacific Rim, from 2013, had some definite problems, and its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising is much worse—a big, stupid, worthless waste of time.

Uprising takes an original idea (big Kaiju monsters fighting manmade robots) from director/creator Guillermo del Toro—an idea that resulted in an OK first movie with great elements but troublesome issues (robots/monsters good … people bad?)—and turns it into something perhaps even worse than your average Transformers movie. It’s a watered-down, cheap joke of a film that obliterates anything good del Toro started.

Without del Toro directing (he dumped out a few years back to assume a producer’s role), the film loses all sense of style and artistic direction. Steven S. DeKnight, who has directed episodes of TV shows such as Smallville and Daredevil, makes his feature-film directing debut with something that screams, “Maybe I should’ve stuck with the TV gigs; movies too big for me.”

Replacing Charlie Hunnam as the original franchise star, John Boyega jumps headlong into this mess as Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba in the first movie. Jake is a former Jaeger (giant robot) pilot who, after the death of his dad and a bad Jaeger experience, has taken to partying and trading hot sauce on the black market in a post Kaiju world.

While Elba’s character supposedly closed off the monsters from our world, they find a way back, of course. I won’t give away how they come back, but I will tell you that it does involve a shit performance from Charlie Day, returning as Newt, one of the few characters from the original who remain. Others include Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), and they all would’ve been better off doing Dancing With the Stars.

During a deal gone wrong, Jake comes across Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a scrappy kid who has managed to refurbish a mini-Jaeger (almost giant robot) all by herself, so you know it will eventually be her with Jake as they pilot a big robot against new monsters and other bad giant robots (traitorous dickhead Jaegers).

As the original was, the movie is bad when people are standing around talking. Unlike in the original, the action gets even lousier when the slick CGI monsters show up. Del Toro offered a certain strain of realism to his monster battles—that is, they were as real as a fantasy movie could be, with robots that lumbered along and monster haymakers that had some real weight behind them.

Now the monster battles have a cheap, half-baked, way-too-fluid look to them. They glide around in quick-cut, super-fast battles that look more like Saturday-morning cartoons than big-budget, big-screen fare. Del Toro’s Kaiju battles were actually kind of scary. DeKnight’s smackdowns play as if Mark Wahlberg should be nearby, waiting for his glistening, slow motion close-up. Actually, Spaeny does get the slow-motion, 360-degree treatment at one point; it’s as if Michael Bay chloroformed DeKnight and directed the scene.

If crappy special effects aren’t enough to keep you away, let it be known that this movie contains what will surely stand as one of the year’s worst performances, from Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) as Nate Lambert, Jake’s former military mate and occasional Jaeger co-pilot. Whenever Eastwood spoke, I thought I was watching a derivative Starship Troopers sequel. Oh, wait, we have some of those already. Maybe he was in one of them. Let me check. No … no, he was not.

Honestly, after the subpar performance of the first movie at the box office (it lagged domestically, but did well internationally), I’m surprised Pacific Rim: Uprising even exists. If the saga continues, I presume it will be via Netflix or something like that.

Whatever they do, I’m hoping I never have to watch John Boyega eat ice cream again. Seriously … he makes really gross sounds when he eats ice cream. Yep, that’s the stuff I’m left thinking about after seeing the garbage sequel. Can you tell it didn’t have much of an impact on me?

Pacific Rim: Uprising is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

1. Man of Steel* (Warner Bros.)

2. Turbo (DreamWorks)

3. Grown Ups 2 (Sony)

4. White House Down (Sony)

5. Monsters University (Disney)

6. The Heat (20th Century Fox)

7. R.I.P.D.* (Universal)

8. The Internship (20th Century Fox)

9. Pacific Rim (Warner Bros.)

10. The Conjuring (New Line)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

1. White House Down (Sony)

2. Monsters University (Disney)

3. Grown Ups 2 (Sony)

4. The Heat (20th Century Fox)

5. R.I.P.D.* (Universal)

6. The Conjuring* (New Line)

7. The Internship* (20th Century Fox)

8. Pacific Rim (Warner Bros.)

9. The Purge (Universal)

10. World War Z (Paramount)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

1. Monsters University (Disney)

2. The Heat* (20th Century Fox)

3. The Conjuring* (New Line)

4. R.I.P.D.* (Universal)

5. The Internship* (20th Century Fox)

6. Pacific Rim* (Warner Bros.)

7. The Hangover Part III* (Warner Bros.)

8. The Purge* (Universal)

9. The Way Way Back* (20th Century Fox)

10. The Croods (Dreamworks)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

1. The Heat* (20th Century Fox)

2. The Conjuring* (New Line)

3. The Internship* (20th Century Fox)

4. Pacific Rim* (Warner Bros.)

5. The Purge* (Universal)

6. The Way Way Back* (20th Century Fox)

7. The Hangover Part III* (Warner Bros.)

8. Iron Man 3 (Disney)

9. The Croods (Dreamworks)

10. After Earth (Sony)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

The latest film from director Guillermo del Toro is a bit dopey and soapy in spots, but it definitely delivers the thrills when big robots clash with big monsters.

In the near future, huge beasts have started coming out of the ocean, making it hard to get a morning latte at the corner shop. The world comes up with a giant robot plan that works for a while—but then multiple monsters start attacking. Things start going wrong, and bad dialogue ensues.

Yes, the script is a bit weak, but the action is stellar—and one of the scenes, in which a woman recalls a monster attack from her youth, is one of the year’s best individual sequences.

The film tanked domestically, but did OK internationally—raising hopes that more robot/monster action could follow. Del Toro has confirmed that work has begun on a part two, but the project hasn’t been officially given a go-ahead, so don’t hold your breath.

Special Features: This one is LOADED. There’s a commentary from del Toro (his commentaries are among the best), and a large variety of behind-the-scenes shorts. You also get deleted scenes, a director’s notebook, art galleries and even a blooper reel.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

1. The Heat* (20th Century Fox)

2. Pacific Rim* (Warner Bros.)

3. The Hangover Part III* (Warner Bros.)

4. After Earth (Sony)

5. The Purge* (Universal)

6. This Is the End (Sony)

7. The Croods (Dreamworks)

8. World War Z (Paramount)

9. Curse of Chucky* (Universal)

10. Iron Man 3 (Disney)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

Gigantic alien beasts get their asses handed to them by robots that don’t turn into trucks and cars in Guillermo del Toro’s alternately exhilarating and stale Pacific Rim.

This movie is full-on crazy, often in a way that’s rather fun. This is del Toro’s first directorial project after abandoning The Hobbit—and he made a good call. I had a hard time staying awake during The Hobbit. Such was not the case here.

It’s the near future, and freaky beasts called kaiju are rising from the ocean depths and tearing cities to shreds. Do we nuke them? No. That would be too easy. Instead, we spend kazillions to build a bunch of hard-core robots that are driven by pilots melding their minds together. It makes absolutely no sense, and I don’t care—because it’s fun.

Nearly all of these battles take place in the dark, in the rain or in the ocean. Normally, I would scream “Copout!” because this is a technique used by directors to cheat a bit on the CGI. (Obviously, it’s a lot harder to create computer-generated monsters doing things in broad daylight.) Even if del Toro is cheating, it works. Having the battles go down in the dark makes them scarier.

As for the people inside the robots: Watching them throw their fists and move their legs as a means of controlling the robots results in something immersive. I felt like I was throwing punches and wielding swords; del Toro puts the viewer into the battles.

Unfortunately, some of those people are a little dull outside of their massive steel shells. Charlie Hunnam, who plays the main protagonist, Raleigh, has one of those movie-trailer voices. Every time he spoke, I thought he was going to say something like “IN A WORLD WHERE ROBOTS BEAT MONSTERS … .” He fails to distinguish himself. Rinko Kikuchi is fine as Mako Mori, a wannabe pilot with a secret past that is keeping her from her robot dreams.

Speaking of Mako Mori's past, it provides perhaps the film’s greatest moment. Del Toro takes us into her memory as she is running away from a monster on a city street. Experiencing the horror of one of the monsters from the vantage point of a child is powerful stuff; del Toro makes it an amazing sequence.

For comic relief, there’s Charlie Day as a hyperactive scientist who collects kaiju tattoos. The bespectacled Day is 2013’s answer to Rick Moranis; his presence here reminds of the nerdy Louis in Ghostbusters.

Ron Perlman gets perhaps the film’s biggest laughs as Hannibal Chau, a monster collector who sells their crap for fertilizer. Idris Elba lends his formidable presence as Stacker, leader of the robot guys and the deliverer of huge, rousing “Cancel the Apocalypse!” speeches.

When the movie isn’t dealing with robot on monster smackdowns, it’s a little boring—perhaps even tedious. Those looking for a summer blockbuster that delivers the action goods, however, won’t mind sifting through the sleepy passages to get to the good stuff.

The kaiju are great movie monsters, because they come in many incarnations. They look like everything ranging from a rhino to the devil; they spit plasma lasers that act like acid; and the bastards even fly on occasion.

Pacific Rim isn’t the all-time classic for which I was hoping, but it is good, and in a summer when many, many blockbusters have faltered, I’m glad to get one that is at least enjoyable.

Also: If you can catch it in 3-D, do so. It looks great.

Pacific Rim is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The Summer Movie Season starts earlier every year. In fact, one could argue that March releases like Oz the Great and Powerful and Jack the Giant Slayer were summer-season-caliber, big-budget extravaganzas with lots of Hollywood pop. Yes, they blew ass, but they had a summer-season pedigree.

For organization’s sake, let’s just say the summer season starts on May 3 this year with the release of Iron Man 3, and ends around Sept. 6 with Vin Diesel’s Riddick. Here’s a round up of some of the biggies that look great—and others that offer reasons for concern.

Iron Man 3 (May 3): How in the heck are they going to top The Avengers? It looks like Marvel and company are going to try, starting with this, the first stand-alone superhero film after last year’s massive roundup. Shane Black, who piloted Downey to one of his best performances in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, takes over the franchise from Jon Favreau. I think this franchise will avoid the dreaded third-in-the-series curse that has afflicted superhero films before (Spider-Man 3, Superman 3).

The Great Gatsby (May 10): Leonardo DiCaprio takes on the title role for director Baz Luhrmann. (The two worked together before, on Romeo + Juliet.) This was originally slated to be released last year; let’s hope the delay was to make it better, and not because it stinks like Luhrmann’s overblown Australia.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17): Will this be J.J. Abrams’ last time in the director’s chair for this franchise now that he is taking over Star Wars? My guess is yes. If this is half as good as Abrams’ first blessed effort with the Trek characters, then we are in for a good time. Have you seen the footage of the Enterprise underwater? This one has to be good!

The Hangover Part III (May 24): I’m betting on a return to form after the lousy second chapter in what director Todd Phillips promises will just be a trilogy. The preview footage of a euphoric Zach Galifianakis and his giraffe has me excited. However, if Mike Tyson shows up and sings again, this will get an automatic “F.”

After Earth (June 7): Uh oh … somebody has given M. Night Shyamalan a lot of money to do science fiction again. Will they ever learn? In Shyamalan’s favor, he has the likable duo of Will Smith and son Jaden starring as a father and son crash-landing on Earth many years after humans have left. Also … Shyamalan only contributed to the script, rather than writing it all himself. So there is hope. There is hope.

Man of Steel (June 14): After doing a decent job with Watchmen and then sucking balls with Suckerpunch, director Zack Snyder takes on the Superman franchise. This time out, Henry Cavill (who was really bad in Immortals) wears the cape, replacing Brandon Routh, who actually did a great job in Superman Returns. Amy Adams is on hand as Lois Lane, and oh my goodness, there’s Michael Shannon as arch villain Zod. OK, I want to see this.

This Is the End (June 14): The likes of Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill play themselves in this apocalyptic comedy. While they’re hanging at Franco’s place, the apocalypse strikes, and they don’t deal with it in the best of ways. If this isn’t the year’s best comedy, I will be disappointed.

Monsters University (June 21): A prequel to Monsters, Inc., this will make millions upon millions upon billions upon trillions of dollars, whether it is good or not.

World War Z (June 21): Another postponed movie from last year, this one has Brad Pitt squaring off against crazed zombies. I love the previews, but its delayed status is worrisome.

The Heat (June 28): Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play an FBI agent and a cop teaming up to take out a drug kingpin. McCarthy got an Oscar nomination the last time she was with director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids); I doubt that will happen this time out. Still, it could be fun.

White House Down (June 28): Following in the footsteps of Olympus Has Fallen, this is another film in which the president and his pad are in jeopardy. This time, we get Jamie Foxx as the president, and Channing Tatum as the hero.

The Lone Ranger (July 3): The idea of Johnny Depp playing Tonto—not to mention his crazy getup—has me concerned. Gore Verbinski directs, with Armie Hammer as the title character. This could be very, very bad.

Pacific Rim (July 12): Big alien-monster-type things strike the Earth, and huge robots piloted by humans are sent to defend the planet. This looks amazing, and Guillermo del Toro is directing, so this will be something to see. I’m hoping this puts MichaelBay’s big robots to shame.

Grown Ups 2 (July 12): I miss Adam Sandler. That dude used to make me laugh—and laugh hard. The key phrase is “used to.” His first Grown Ups was one of his worst movies, and it looks like his Sandler comedy slump will continue with this one.

The Wolverine (July 26): I thought the first solo Wolverine movie was OK, but many people hated it. James Mangold directs this film, which is set in Japan. There’s no word on whether Jackman sings live on set.

The Smurfs 2 (July 31): This movie is proof that Satan loves you.

2 Guns (Aug. 2): The good news is that this film stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. The bad news is that it is directed by the guy who did Contraband.

Elysium (Aug. 9): From the director of District 9, this stars Matt Damon (with a shaved head) in a future in which the Earth has gone to shit, and the rich live in space. Jodie Foster co-stars.

Kick-Ass 2 (Aug. 16): Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all return for a new round of comic vigilantism. Jim Carrey joins the cast as Colonel Stars and Stripes, and all signs point to hilarious.

The To Do List (Aug. 16): Aubrey Plaza blew my ass out of the water with her performance in Safety Not Guaranteed. This one has her starring as a soon-to-be college freshman looking to get some things out of the way before starting college.

Riddick (Sept. 6): After The Chronicles of Riddick, I never wanted to see Riddick again. Hell, I never wanted to see Vin Diesel again. After seeing the teaser—a teaser that features weird monsters—I’m optimistic this will be a return to the coolness that was Pitch Black

Published in Reviews