Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pacific Rim Review: Awesome Fighting Scenes But Alas, No Plot To Speak Of

Trying to review Pacific Rim is like trying to review two totally disparate movies mashed into one- the incredible fighting scenes between Kaiju and Jaeger (sea monsters and the robots built to do battle with them), and the abysmal interplay of human drama in between these awesome fight scenes.

True, one does not go to a movie like Pacific Rim expecting Shakespeare, but I still expected a somewhat decent and coherent storyline to tie the whole movie together. Alas, that was not to be. The dialogue between the human characters are simply terrible and cringe-inducing. At first I was disappointed with director Guillermo del Toro, who I assumed was the sole screenplay writer, until I realized that he actually shared writing credits with Travis Beacham, who also wrote the screenplay for the devastatingly bad remake Clash of the Titans. So I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised at just how godawful the script was.

The character motivations of the various characters in the movie are just as laughably bad, weak and cliche-ridden. The main character Raleigh Becket (played by Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy fame) is a Jaegar pilot haunted by memories of his brother being killed while they were piloting a Jaegar together. Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi of Babel fame), who plays Becket's new co-pilot, is here unfortunately reduced to a disappointingly insipid female lead. I was so excited when I heard that one of the main characters piloting a Jaegar would be a female character. Imagine my disappointment when Mako, upon meeting Becket, is reduced to a mass of quivering fangirl; she takes to spying on Becket through her room's door peephole, blushes furiously, stutters in his presence and make gooey moon eyes at him. Becket, who spent the last five years after his brother's death working in construction amongst other dirty and sweaty men, is probably very flattered by such adoration from such a lovely female specimen, which may explain why he is so quick to reciprocate this crush. And so what we get is basically the instalove formula that is the stuff in so many badly written teenage books like the vampiric Twilight series.

The other pair of Jaegar pilots who share the screentime with Becket and Mori are an Australian father-son pair with superficial parent-child issues haphazardly thrown in to give the characters some so-called "depth", while the Chinese triplets and the Russian husband-and-wife team who pilot the other two remaining Jaegers are unsurprisingly given short shrift here.

You would think that such a movie would not be worth watching at all. Oh, but the fight scenes, the glorious, glorious fight scenes. The wonderfully and gorgeously choreographed fight scenes. Such beauty amongst such an epic scale of carnage and utterly delightful mayhem. Bigger, louder and better than anything a certain director can conjure up in his Transformers series; eat your heart out, Michael Bay. It is almost worth suffering through the completely banal human scenes to watch these huge monsters and robots have a go at each other with entire metropolitan cities as their playground. Stunning, just simply gobsmacking stunning, so very very cool and so fun to watch; The kid in me who used to build robots out of Lego sets is happily delighted.

So, my verdict? One star for the human scenes. Five stars for the fight scenes. That makes the movie, on average, a 3 out of 5 star movie for me. My recommendation: go watch it for the breathtaking fight scenes; just don't expect much of anything in the way of a decent plot.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Despicable Me 2: Underwhelmingly Disappointing, Bland and Predictable Sequel

I wanted to like this film. I really did. I loved Despicable Me and when news came in that Despicable Me 2 was trouncing The Lone Ranger so badly in box office receiptss, I wanted to know what all the fuss was all abou and knew I had to see go it.

The results, were, sad to say, totally underwhelming. The plot was utterly predictable and very bland. Everything felt very cobbled together. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus reads: It may not be as inspired as its predecessor, but Despicable Me 2 offers plenty of eye-popping visual inventiveness and a number of big laughs."

At one point halfway through the movie, I realized that I could have actually taken off my 3D glasses and watch the movie without missing much of anything; the best 3D effects in the movie were too little and too late, seen only when the credits began rolling. I had a few chuckles throughout the movie, but they were few and far between. Definitely no big laughs.

Certainly if you enjoyed Despicable Me, you should check out Despicable Me 2, if only to find out what more about what happens to Gru and his new family and to enjoy the silly antics of his yellow Minions. But I'd say save your money, skip watching the movie in the movie theater and just rent it when it comes out in DVD.

2 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.