Review – Below the Rim (“Pacific Rim 2 : Uprising”)

The one thing I really hate about sequels is, many times the original writer(s) and director never come back to give the second film any justice, just like in the perfectly dreadful Caddyshack 2 or Son of the Mask. So, what do you often get? A horrible screenplay, terrible direction, and a cast that is trying WAY too hard to please.


*
Yes, it’s been ten years since those pesky Godzilla-sized kaiju monsters have bothered us (if you remembered the 2013 movie), and all is good with the world. Yeah. Right. With all the Pacific ‘breaches’ sealed, the peacekeeping Jaeger’s (those gigantic robots that protected us) have been mothballed and are now sold for junk on the black market. This is where we meet teenage scrappy tomboy & ace mechanic,
Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) and ex-Jaeger pilot turned junkyard thief, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega). They’re both arrested and forced to join a new Jaeger unit that’s being mobilized.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s impressive Shao Corporation wants their fleet of drone Jaegers to take over, as they feel two human pilots for each Jaeger are a waste. Naturally, problems arise quickly when a rogue Jaeger attacks Hong Kong, and it’s up to Jake and his estranged former co-pilot, Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood–son of Clint) to go get that giant robot with their old Jaeger, the Gipsy Avenger. After a major battle, it’s discovered that the villainous rogue Jaeger was powered by some kind of home-grown kaiju tech! But, who would do something that diabolical?

Looks like it’s up to the two kooky research scientists from the old movie, Dr. Newt Geiszler & Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Charlie Day & Burn Gorman), to figure out what’s what. There’s Jaeger cadet training & hazing for young Amara (like in Ender’s Game), sinister motives being played (like in Iron Man 2), and a whole lotta robot street fighting (like in every Transformers movie ever made) while the head of the Shao Corp, the heartless Liwen Shao (Jian Tian), demands her drones be deployed for a whirlwind exhibition of strength for the press. I don’t have to tell you how THAT goes! Needless to say, calamity and utter mayhem ensues with a few kaiju escaping into the wild. There’s catastrophic property damage, untold deaths, and some of the silliest fighting of giant robots vs giant monsters you ever saw.

Guillermo del Toro’s original movie was fun, imaginative, and had a decent story with a underlying core plot about humanity and self-esteem. But, like I said, nobody from the original came back to give this messy sequel anything worth remembering. No director/ writer del Toro at the helm this time; instead we have four writers (newbie Emily Carmichael, TV writer’s Kira Snyder and Steven S. DeKnight, and T.S. Nowlin, who wrote all the Maze Runner movies) and combined they slapped together a plot-holed riddled lazy sequel that barely generates any originality. Clichéd from the get-go and peppered with some of the worst ‘jokes’ and lite comedy, I was cringing at their attempts at humor. The only thing decent were the excellent CGI SPFX. At least they got THAT right!

This is co-writer DeKnight’s motion picture directorial debut, as he’s only directed TV shows like Smallville and Daredevil, and he does shows a nice sci-fi flair, especially in all the action scenes. But this is NO DelToro picture, not by a long-shot. Boyega (with a Cockney accent) isn’t even trying here and Eastwood is just a pretty face collecting a paycheck. At least Spaeny is giving it some effort. Most of the characters are just two-dimensional and cartoonish, and my two favorites from the first movie (Gottlieb & Gietzer) have lost all the spark they had from the original. Also missing is the wonderful Ron Perlman as black marketeer Hannibal Chau. Where was he??                

 
Jabberwocky (1977)

*

 
Two years after the monster cult classic, Monty Python & The Holy Grail hit theaters to record box office sales, American Python member and co-director Terry Gilliam, branched out on his own with this odd-ball, little seen gem starring his Python buddy, Michael Palin.
 
It’s still the Dark Ages where knights and kings are running around doing strange things, but the Holy Grail, Castle Anthrax, and Tim the Enchanter are somewhere else. In a poverty-level village is Dennis Cooper (Palin), a ne’er-do-well little nebbish who has a knack for always getting into trouble and annoying people, even though he means well. His own father ridicules him as he’s dying in front of the family. With his papa gone, and determined to marry the obese and incredibly rude Griselda Fishfinger (Annette Badland),  Dennis sets on a pilgrimage into the city and find work. A whole five miles!
 
Keeping a potato that Griselda threw at him as a cherished memento, Dennis arrives at the city, where he finds the people are gripped in a constant state of fear. Why? There’s  huge monster lurking in the woods called the Jabberwocky that attacks at will. All attempts to kill it have been met with failure and so the king, Bruno the Questionable (Max Wall), continues to has his jousting tournaments to determine who will be sent to slay the monster. IF that knight returns, he will promoted to prince and marry the very goofy Princess (Deborah Fallender), who lives in a tower.
 
After Dennis is denied entry into the castle and city (even though he’s a skilled laborer), he sneaks in and accidentally enters the tower, where the Princess mistakes him for her prince. After a deadly Champion knight is chosen to kill the Jabberwocky, the local church officials gather together. Looks like they LIKE the monster, as it brings in $$$ to the church from the peasants, so they hire an assassin knight to kill the Champion knight. But the Champion knight’s squire (Harry  H. Corbett) has his sites on a lutsy-butsy wench and gets Dennis to take his place.
 

Dennis, out on the road with his new ‘master’, comes face-to-face with the creature and accidentally kills it! Back in the city, Bruno the Questionable promises to wed Dennis to the Princess, even though Dennis STILL wants to marry the acerbic Griselda. This is one crazy and unappreciated movie written by Gilliam and Charles Alverson, who co-wrote Gilliam’s masterpiece, Brazil. It’s farcical, extremely strange and non-sensical, loaded with sight-gags and odd little touches, and very, very, funny. There are hilarious side plots like Wat Dabney (Jerrod Wells), a friend to Dennis, who cuts off his feet to get some money, and the bizarre cult of monster-worshipers that set themselves on fire as penance.

Gilliam, working with an incredible small budget, relied on friends coming in for bit parts (Terry Jones, for instance) and shooting down a single castle corridor using multiple takes and angles to make it LOOK like different corridors. In fact, all the sets were from abandoned movies lying around, like Oliver!, and the costumes were all second hand and used. The director even cast himself as The Man with Rocks for one scene, just to keep the budget down.

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