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Non-Review Review: Rampage

Rampage suffers from some pretty severe tonal issues. The video game adaptation starts and ends as a spiritual companion to Kong: Skull Island, but takes a detour into the last American Godzilla movie during its extended climax.

The results are jarring, creating a more dissonant movie than either of its obvious monster-movie forebearers. Rampage is goofy enough that its urban carnage feels out of place, and brutal enough that some of its cheekier decisions feel mean-spirited and vindictive. The result is very much a curate’s egg, to the point that it occasionally feels like Rampage escaped its creators in the edit room.

Going ape.

There is a lot to like in Rampage, particularly its weird committed earnestness when it comes to dealing with the friendship between a primatologist and his gigantic albino gorilla. Rampage skirts the line, occasionally embracing the camp absurdity of muscle-bound Dwayne Johnson’s deep-seated emotional attachment to a computer-generated rampaging “gene-edited” monster. Rampage understands the absurdity of the set-up, but makes a convincing sell of it nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Rampage‘s human characters are never as interesting, which creates a problem when the climax attempts to shift gears into a sprawling urban destruction epic. Rampage feels as much a product of careful and outrageous engineering as the creatures at its core. However, as with those creatures, it never feels quite like those doing the engineering had a clear design in mind.

“I sure picked a bad day to move George to the Metropolis Zoo.”

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Non-Review Review: Predator

Predator is an absolutely brilliant piece of work. It’s elegantly constructed, beautifully directed and cleverly written. Perhaps the smartest thing about Predator is the way that it so fantastically plays on audience expectations, offering the perfect bait-and-switch, teasing a jungle adventure in the style of Schwarzenegger’s Commando before morphing into something else entirely. It’s so well handled that the film’s reputation and prestige has done little to dampen its thrills.

A predator stalks...

A predator stalks…

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What Measure is a Monster? or Sympathy for the Devil…

I loved Super 8. It was just a wonderfully made coming-of-age tale that paid excellent homage to those old Spielberg films (even those he produced, like The Goonies, not just the ones he directed). However, as I got thinking about the film, and the plot that focuses on a rather ugly-looking alien escaped from government custody, I did find myself somewhat conflicted in what to make of the menace. Was it a poor victim of torture and inhumane treatment at the hands of the United States military, or was it a genuinely evil creature that deserved to be put down? It’s interesting how Abrams manipulates us into feeling sympathy for the creature, despite the fact it tends to feast on innocent human flesh.

Well, it's certainly alien...

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Non-Review Review: Monsters

At this stage it seems almost pointless to reflect on how impressive Monsters is from a purely film-making perspective. Filmed on a ridiculously tiny budget, the film features a wonderful epic scale, beautiful locations and not-half-bad special effects (they’re more The Mist than Avatar, but let’s not complain). It’s the latest “look what modern film directors can do on a shoe string!” picture, one that you drop into conversation when you wonder how a film like Transformers can cost as much as it does. Unfortunately, as bedazzling as these aspects are, and they are very bedazzling, the film has several shortcomings which have nothing to do with budget.

Here be monsters...

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Non-Review Review: Piranha 3D

You know, I wanted to like Piranha 3D. I really did. I like a certain level of schlock and self-awareness which a film like this really just promises. Hell, I’ll normally even acknowledge that a one-note film can strike that one note particularly well. Unfortunately, Piranha 3D is just… well, let’s just say I’d probably enjoy skinny-dipping with the eponymous monsters more than watching them.

Fish out of water...

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Non-Review Review: The Wolfman

The Wolfman was clearly intended to kickstart a relaunch of Universal’s Monster Movie franchises, updating them for a whole new generation of movie-goers. It was intended to call back to a whole generation of horror films, starring Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff and so on. However, director Joe Johnston’s attempt to update the monster movie for a new generation is a muddled affair, simple and straight-forward, but clouded with unnecessary blood, gore and CGI.

No escape claws...

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Detective Abberline, I Presume?

The second trailer for The Wolfman hit the interweb yesterday. I’m still on the fence about this one. On one hand, there’s a classic monster movie, Anthony Hopkins and Benecio del Toro. On the other hand there’s Joe Johnson (the dude who directed Jurassic Park III) and what looks like fairly dodgy CGI. The twice pushed-back release date isn’t filling me with confidence for this kick-start to the monster movie genre either. Still, one aspect of the film intrigues me, amid all the forest scenery, interesting make-up and scenery-chewing going on. It’s the ever-fantastic Hugo Weaving appearing as Detective Francis Abberline. Don’t worry if the name doesn’t ring any bells, I’m fairly sure you’ve seen him somewhere – he’s been played by Sir Michael Caine and Johnny Depp amongst others. The problem is he’s constantly upstaged by his most frequent co-star:

Jack the Ripper.

On the scent...

On the scent...

 

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