13 April 2018

Critters Go Nuts, some Fight the Rock

Another Friday has dawned and it's time to take apart what's hitting your local multiplex. There is a rath of animal flicks dropping today, all of wildly varying genres. The big tentpole of course is Rampage (2018), which is based on a really niche video game that fizzled out like twenty years ago, despite having a more recent release in like...2006. We need to talk more about this, but let's first get some of the more inconsequential releases out of the way.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (2018). Say, you like saccharine family-fun features but also want to honor World War I dog veterans? Sgt. Stubby seems to play like the conservative, America-friendly animated flick, one that neglects any kind of real danger or insight in favor of blind jingoism. Yeah, I'm probably reading too much into this. It's probably just a cute little picture, definitely skewing way too young. Fucking Sgt. Stubby. I get annoyed at these pathetic last minute animation attempts to make a quick buck. For some reason they really get under my skin. Like Sherlock Gnomes (2018). It feels like such a futile effort and waste of everyone's time. This is probably an adorable inspirational movie.

Next up we have Borg vs. McEnroe (2018), which feels like it's been stewing for a while, and frankly, I didn't realize was even getting a nationwide release this weekend. It's Shia LaBeouf, which is cool because he's nuts and trying to become a real actor (doing a decent job of it lately), but I don't see how this improves upon 7 Days in Hell (2015). Critical appreciation seems like it's...okay? Maybe not worthy enough to be a real prestige release, but a fair shake at a sports drama. It's decent counter-programming to anything else out right now, and depending on the pathos it delves into, it ought to do...fine. It's kind of a sneaky film that could easily be forgotten forever. Or maybe it lasts. Either way, tennis is sill boring as hell.

Arf arf arf!
With each Wes Anderson movie he becomes more Wes Anderson-esque, and that's definitely true with Isle of Dogs (2018), getting a slight theater bump, but not quite wide release. Good enough. He has his fans and the marketing for this has been solid. Do kids even like this kind of animated film? It's so measured and tepid. Like the exact opposite of any flashy Dreamworks animation. The colors here are so muted, camerawork, and set design so artificial. It wears this artificiality on its sleeve, though, as if to simply say "Let's not let this get in the way of the story."

There's some criticism of Japanese cultural appropriation which I don't really think is valid, but we'll have to see. It looks fun, iconic, weird, and tragic. Basically super Wes Anderson-y. To be honest, Anderson doesn't have a great track record with women characters, either, so I'm kind of curious how that plays out here. It seems like we have at least one prominent female quasi-protagonist. So...that's something? I've already hyped this up and still want to see it. Wes can be brilliant or a hipster doofus, but animation suits his sensibilities far more than he actually indulges. That is, he should really just only direct animated films.

That is pretty cool, though, actually
Alright, back to Rampage. Why the fuck are they making a Rampage movie. The original arcade was a cheeky 80s romp, where you took control of a King Kong analogue (George), a Godzilla analogue (Lizzie), and uh...a giant Wolf, who I always thought looked like a rat (Ralph). You pretty much just smashed up everything. It was a really simple game that was fun as hell. I played the hell out of Rampage: World Tour for the Nintendo 64. The goal is always to eat some toxic waste and turn into the giant evil bat. That's what life is all about. Subsequent games added more monsters, and that's cool, but this was never a really huge game, either in depth of gameplay, story, or popularity.

That didn't stop Hollywood, though. Someone thought this was a good idea. Through the Rock in and blow up some buildings. It's all good. I kind of wish they didn't spoil Ralph and Lizzie appearing in this movie, but what are you going to do. It could be pretty fun if it keeps up the irreverent spirit of the games that were borderline parody / homage to classic Kaiju moments. I don't really see that being a thing here. Director Brad Peyton has done servicable work with Johnson on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) and San Andreas (2015), but these are movies no one cares about. The screenplay was written by a four-person committee whose biggest name is Carlton Cuse, so there's nothing notable to be said there.

I hope it's good! I always end up so bitchy in these things. The marketing material hasn't been all that grab-worthy, and if there's good character work and a solid bond between The Rock and a giant albino Gorilla, then cool. If not, then it's another Pacific Rim Uprising dumpster movie. Is it weird that I actually know a lot of Rampage video game trivia?

What are you seeing this weekend?

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