Movies based on video games are always iffy. You got your bad ones (Super Mario Bros., Doom), your good ones (Tomb Raider, Tron), and then you got your ones that are just plain silly, hokey, ridiculous, with unbelievably LOL dialogue, and have a complete disregard for the laws of physics… but you love it anyway!
We see the ominous genetics company, Energyne, lose three secret, valuable (and very deadly) canisters from their doomed space station. Falling to Earth like meteors, one falls into a Florida swamp, another on a remote Wyoming hillside, and another smack-dab into the gorilla compound of the San Diego Zoo, run by beefcake primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) and his team. Looks like gorilla-whisperer Davis loves the zoo’s pride ‘n’ joy, a hulky and very rare albino gorilla named George that ‘speaks’ sign language.
But all hell breaks loose when those canisters break open and create homicidal monsters: a gigantic wolf with porcupine-like quills and a mutated Godzilla-sized alligator! George is also affected, making him start to grow to King Kong sized proportions and a temper to boot. As much as Davis wants to get George under control, he’s usurped by pretty geneticist, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomi Harris), an ex-employee of Energyne, and then by a good ‘ol boy government agent, Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from The Walking Dead).
Meanwhile, CEO of Energyne, the heartless and dastardly Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her dimwitted brother, Brett (Jake Lacy), devise a nefarious plan to call the monsters “home” to Chicago via a radio signal, and thereby retrieve their valuable blood. But you know these kind of plans always backfire, right? Of course they do! George goes ape (sorry!) and hooks up Ralph the ginormous wolf, in terrorizing lower Chicago, cutting a swath towards the Energyne building, while the military throws everything at them with no effect.
And just as Davis and Kate show up to “fix” things, that humongous alligator decides to show up and the party really gets going! Yes, it’s the Rock vs Negan vs a 5-story-tall pissed-off Curious George. Subtlety, this movie does NOT have. Heck, Claire even has a Rampage stand-up arcade game in her office! With no shortage of silliness and written like some on-line fan-fiction from a 14-year-old nerd, the four screenwriters (Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel) must’ve had a fun time throwing logic, science, and just plain intelligence out the window, because nothing about this movie makes any sense whatsoever, but (and I have to admit this) it sure is alot of fun to watch.
Director Brad Peyton knows dumb, and I mean that in a good way. He’s done some of the most idiotic movies ever (San Andreas, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore), but his direction is flat-out clean and precise, giving you your best bang for your buck. He knows how to milk an action-shot like his life depended on it and does it here with this insanely stupid, but wickedly wonderful popcorn movie that just sucks you into the nuttiness. Giant monsters? Check! Untold property damage with a complete disregard for human life? Check! Bad people getting theirs? Check! The hero survives impossible situations… over and over again? Check and check!
Played mostly for comedy, Johnson is having fun spouting kid-friendly lines like he did in The Tooth Fairy, while Harris is “Dr. Exposition”, with every line she utters. Morgan is bubbly as the lovable & swaggering Texas G-man that is like Negan on a good day swinging Lucille around. I also liked Akerman with her ice-blue eyes and her ‘take-no-prisoners’ attitude. Another overall enjoyable factor was the eye-popping CGI, which was outstanding and stunning in design. It was SO good that it almost took your mind away from all the howling plot holes and the laughable deus ex machinas that rampaged throughout the movie. (see what I did there?).
Food of the Gods (1976)
Normal animals becoming huge behemoths were the topic of this hilariously awful 1976 movie loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel. Shot in drop-dead gorgeous British Columbia, this movie was supposed to be a horrible cautionary tale concerning the ecology and what happens when Man tampers with it. But it wasn’t. At all.
Football star Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) and his buddy Brian (Jon Cypher) are shocked to learn that a friend of theirs was stung to death by a wasp, but upon further checking on the small British Columbian island where it happened, that it was a raven-sized wasp! Morgan finds the hidden farm of religious fanatic Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino), who has discovered a tiny stream flowing with vanilla pudding. Well, it looks like vanilla pudding, but she calls it “The Food of the Gods”, a weird thick white substance that makes things grow big. I mean, REALLY big! Her chickens are the size of horses, worms are huge, and the rats? Oh, they’re huge and hungry!
Wanting to cash in on the icky, gooey, and potentially profitable F.O.T.G. is really nasty Jack Bensington (Ralph Meeker) and his lovely assistant, Lorna (Pamela Franklin). Also thrown into the mix are a young couple, Tom (Thomas Stovall) and his very pregnant wife, Rite (Belinda Balaski) who are seeking shelter from a recent rodent rampage. Well, quicker than you than say, “Suppertime!”, the rodents of unusual size come a’callin’ and that’s where the lunacy begins. Combining live-action rats, rat puppet heads, and some animatronics, some of the humans are eaten, while others escape the house they’re holed up in.
Clearly this was not a film authorized by the ASPCA, as many real rats were visibly killed/maimed during the filming. Shot with red paint pellets to simulate shotgun blasts, you had to feel bad, not only for them, but for the many that actually drowned on camera. Yuck! Written, produced, and directed by Bert I. Gordon who, like Roger Corman, made a career of making incredibly lame and hilariously bad B-movies like Earth vs The Spider, Village of the Giants, and Attack of the Puppet People, to name a few. That being said, this movie has exceptionally bad dialogue, terrible direction, and some of the worse acting ever.
Marjoe Gortner headlines this film with his signature over-the-top-acting, while this was famed 50’s actress Ida Lupino’s final film. Another casting misfire was Ralph Meeker, another talented 50’s actor that had seen his career go from headlining Broadway plays to B-films. The only one trying is Pamela Franklin, who gives an Oscar-worthy performance as compared to the others.