Bro-Reviews: Venom

Venomous to the comic book film genre.

Since his introduction in 1988, Venom has held a special place in the hearts of “Spider-Man” and Marvel Comics fans alike. Venom reached iconic status, becoming one of Spider-Man’s most frequent adversaries and even reached anti-hero status in later iterations of the character. With his place in comics history cemented, many yearned for Venom to appear in film. That wish came to fruition when Venom made his film debut in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”, but Venom’s appearance yielded mixed results at best. Sony took this in stride, however, attempting to make a solo outing for Venom despite the disastrous results of their “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, resulting in Marvel Studios acquiring some of the rights to Spider-Man. While Sony could have chosen to partner with Marvel Studios to make a solid film adaptation of the beloved symbiote fans deserved, Sony chose to bring us “Venom”, the first in what they hope will be a universe building film adjunct to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Spider-verse. 

“Venom” sees Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a sleazy ambush journalist with a checkered past based in San Francisco, investigating a start-up company called the Life Foundation, headed by CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). When Brock receives help from Dr. Dora Smith (Jenny Slate), a scientist working with Drake, Brock discovers the Life Foundation has been conducting illegal experiments on humans to bond human bodies with an alien substance called “symbiotes”. Eddie becomes infected by one of these symbiotes, and with Drake and the Life Foundation coming after him and everyone he loves, Brock’s symbiote alter-ego “Venom” awakens to wreak havoc.

There is no doubt Tom Hardy is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, and is more than capable of pulling off the legendary villain/ anti-hero. Hardy gives it his all, and one can tell he is having fun and definitely committed to the role. Venom himself is also an impressive special effect, as he is able to pull off a couple of cool action sequences and does manage to deliver some of his trademark quirky humor that made him a beloved character. 

Unfortunately, that’s where all of the positives end in this atrocity that would’ve been considered outdated in 2004. “Venom” features one of the most uninspiring stories in comic book film history, as having the focus of the film center on a shady organization conducting unethical experiments with the intent of saving humanity is an insult to the word cliche. And although comic book movies have made a habit of altering their heroes’ origins, so much of Venom’s origin is severely misguided without the presence of Spider-Man. For the uninitiated, the symbiote attempts to bond with Spider-Man/ Peter Parker, but Parker rejects him, leading the symbiote the attach to Eddie Brock, who has an axe to grind with Parker, instead. Without Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, “Venom” feels bereft of important story elements and character developments, rendering the symbiote’s first solo outing borderline pointless. 

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Tom Hardy in Sony’s “Venom”.

But the problems for “Venom” don’t end there. Most of the film’s secondary characters add nothing to the film, in particular Michelle Williams, who plays Brock’s ex, Anne Weying. Williams and Hardy have zero chemistry on screen, yet much of the film’s’ first half before we even get to Venom himself focuses on their real action ship along with other pointless aspects of Brock’s life. Those familiar with HBO’s “The Night Of” know what Riz Ahmed is capable of, but in “Venom”, his attempts at selling the crummy material he’s given make him come across as trying too hard. Combine these aspects with an anticlimactic final boss fight riddled with special effects, unexplored story pieces regarding Venom being a “loser” on his planet, and jarring tone shifts from serious action to slapstick comedy, and “Venom” is a total mess.


(WARNING: The following paragraph contains spoilers for “Venom”. Please skip this paragraph if you do not wish to read any spoilers).

“Venom” could’ve just been an outdated, trashy comic book movie a la “Daredevil”, but the film’s mid credits scene makes it one of the biggest wastes of time and potential in comic book movie history. In the scene, Eddie Brock travels to San Quentin State Prison to interview an incarcerated serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, who wears a red wig that makes him look like Carrot Top). Kasady claims that once he breaks out of prison, there is going to be “Carnage”. The audacity of Sony to tease a sequel and universe with Venom as the main character is beyond insulting, and those who are interested in a sequel or further developments of this universe should be required to wear dunce caps in order to highlight the fact they have no taste in films. 


“Venom” is a disaster that could have been avoided. Sony could’ve waited and teamed up with Marvel Studios to bring Venom to life in the new “Spider-Man” series that is part of the MCU. This way, not only would the character get the big screen adaptation he deserves, but would also allow Sony and Marvel Studios to makes millions or perhaps billions of dollars in the process. Instead, Sony’s greed clouded their judgement and resulted in them making a misguided project that should have never been green-lit and will make fans look back at Venom in “Spider-Man 3” more fondly than they could have ever imagined. “Venom” is an entry that represents the worst the comic book film genre has to offer, and one that continues to highlight Sony’s incompetence that resulted in them having joint custody of their beloved web slinger. Should the response to “Venom” be poisonous enough, that joint custody could extend to this beloved villain/ anti hero sooner rather than later. 

Rating: 1/4 Stars. Stay away.

“Venom” Stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, and Woody Harrelson. It is in theaters now.

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Bro-Reviews: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The most impossible mission yet.

Star driven action franchises are far and few between nowadays in Hollywood, no thanks in part to the comic book film craze and every studios’ desire to create a cinematic universe. One star driven action franchise that has stood the tests of time has been “Mission: Impossible”, an action vehicle starring Hollywood stalwart and everyone’s favorite couch jumper, Tom Cruise, based on the popular television show of the same name that aired from 1966 through 1973. To put it in perspective, the first “Mission: Impossible” was released back in 1996, and has seen numerous sequels over the last two decades. The latest sequel, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”, has crashed into theaters with the promise of being the most action packed mission there is, but does the film live up to its “impossible” name?

Two years after the capture of “The Syndicate” leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris),  the leftovers of “The Syndicate” have reformed into a new organization called “The Apostles”, whose mission is to cause catastrophic terror on a global scale. Their mission becomes a more of a possibility after the IMF’s (Impossible Mission Force) Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team fail to capture three plutonium cores to members of the group for their new client, John Lark. With the fate of the world at risk, Hunt must unwillingly team up with C.I.A. assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill), whose orders are to kill Hunt and his team should they fall out of line, before the world experiences a global catastrophe.

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Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”

What has made the “Mission: Impossible” series last as long as it has is its willingness to up the ante with its action sequences. “Fallout” unequivocally lives up to its “Impossible” name with its prolonged action sequences, including a tremendous sky diving through a storm scene, a bathroom brawl, thrilling car chases through France, and numerous standoffs. Perhaps the most thrilling sequence of the film occurs at the films climax, a helicopter chase in Kashmir that truly epitomizes an impossible mission.  But even at two-and-a-half hours, the film operates at a brisk pace, thanks mostly in part to the non-stop action. It’s clear Christopher McQuarrie, who previously directed Cruise in 2012’s “Jack Reacher” and 2015’s “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation”, has an eye for thrilling action sequences, and should see more work come his way with another showing of his masterful direction.

Tom Cruise has had a legendary Hollywood career that spans nearly four decades, and his trademark intensity and snarky quips remain as effective as ever. Cruise may be the film’s star, but it’s Cruise’s willingness to perform his own stunts during the action sequences that takes center stage adding an element of vulnerability to this mission. You’ll gasp and cringe at every blow Cruise’s Hunt takes throughout, making the film even more effective in its thrills. Cruise doesn’t hog the spotlight like the first two “Mission: Impossible” outings, however, as Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, and Rebecca Ferguson all return and contribute to the mission, making the film the closest adaptation to the iconic television series yet. If anyone in the cast doesn’t quite deliver, it’s Cavill, and while it’s clear Cavill isn’t much of an actor, his physically imposing presence contributes well to the film’s action.

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” lives up to its title name. Its director somehow outdoes himself with more impossible feats of action direction, making it the most action-packed film in the series. Its star may have a death wish as it pertains to performing the dangerous stunts, but it lends itself well to this thrill ride that sees every member of the cast/ team contribute in a memorable fashion.”Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is an adrenaline rush that operates at a brisk pace that will undoubtedly thrill audiences, making it the most impossible mission in the franchise.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” stars Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Wes Bentley, Angela Basset, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Skyscraper

Die Hard with a Plastic Leg.

Over the years, Hollywood has had the tendency to churn-out copy cats of popular blockbusters, chief among them 1988’s “Die Hard.” “Speed” was “Die Hard” on a bus. “Under Siege” was “Die Hard” on a boat.  “Sudden Death” was “Die Hard” on one of the biggest sports stages, the Stanley Cup Finals. “Air Force One” was “Die Hard” on a plane. “Snakes on a Plane” was “Die Hard” on a plane, with snakes. But what happens when you combine “Die Hard” with another beloved Hollywood blockbuster like 1974’s “The Towering Inferno”, add in the most popular action star Dwayne Johnson and take away one of his legs just to seemingly make it a fair fight? You get “Skyscraper”, Dwayne Johnson’s latest vehicle in an attempt to become this generation’s Schwarzenegger.

Johnson stars as Will Sawyer, a former FBI   Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran turned security accessor for skyscrapers after a rescue mission leaves him with an amputated leg but is fitted with modern prosthetic leg. Sawyer is tasked with accessing “The Pearl”, the tallest building in the world located in Hong Kong, China built by Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) designed to be a literal city in the sky. However, Chin has something on terrorist kingpin Kores Botha (Roland Møller), who unleashes a plot involving setting “The Pearl” on fire in order to attain what Han has on him. With Swayer’s wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and kids trapped inside, Sawyer must scale the building to save his family before the building comes crumbling down. 

“Skyscraper” is undoubtedly a retread of the aforementioned “Die Hard” combined with the aforementioned “The Towering Inferno” with current action star of the moment Dwayne Johnson in nearly every single frame of the film. Unfortunately, the film comes across as a tired knock-off of the two, and with Mr. Johnson already appearing in the zanier “Rampage” earlier this year in which he teams up with an giant albino gorilla to fight a giant flying wolf, seeing the seemingly invulnerable Johnson scale a building to save his family seems unimaginative and unimpressive. It doesn’t help matters the film is clearly pandering to a Chinese film audience in the hopes of obtaining high box office receipts, which appears to be plaguing the industry with the release of each new film every week.

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Dwayne Johnson in “Skyscraper.”

Dwayne Johnson is s more than capable action star, and his turn as Sawyer marks one of his finer solo performances. The rest of the characters in the film, however, are reduced to types. Neve Campbell has proven she’s a decent actress, but her role as Swayers wife doesn’t rise above “the wife”. Chin Han’s Ji is nothing more than the eccentric Asian architect with a secret, while many of his Asian co-stars serve as the pandering to China pieces that will hopefully entice people of that nation to see the film. Roland Møller comes across worst as the film’s main villain, a terrorist who believes having an accent constitutes as having a personality.

Working in the film’s favor, however, is just how ridiculous the action is. The further the film devolves into Johnson, best known as his WWE persona “The Rock”, attempting impossible feats of ability on one leg, the more fun “Skyscraper” becomes. Can the Rock defeat an adversary who pulls off his prosthetic leg? Can the Rock jump into the building off a crane while being shot at? Can the Rock dead-lift a bridge to hold it steady for his family to make it across safely? Can the the Rock use the magical powers of duct tape to tip toe his way around the outside of the building? Can the Rock climb up his prosthetic currently entangled in rope and climb that same rope and pull up his leg in time to get into a safe-house door? It’s ridiculous moments like these that make “Skyscraper” enjoyable if one is willing to go along for the ride, and those who do will find the humor necessary to enjoy the film.

“Skyscraper” may be a clone of a clone that lacks any sort of distinction from the films it borrows from, but it’s a rare star vehicle that can be enjoyed. If one abides by Johnson’s/ The Rock’s line “This is stupid” during the film’s over-the-top action sequences, then you’re in for a good time. “Skyscraper” may not be reinventing the wheel in the action genre, but it’s perfectly fine star vehicle that coasts off being “Die Hard” with a Plastic Leg.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. Pay low matinée price.

“Skyscraper” stars Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, and Hannah Quinlivan. It is in theaters now. 

Bro-Reviews: Escape Plan 2: Hades

No escape. No plan. Mostly hell.

Despite a brief resurgence at the start of this decade, by 2013 the teaming up of old action stars had lost its luster considerably. This did not stop Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger from making their long awaited team up in the underrated “Escape Plan”, and while many praised the two’s chemistry, the film underperformed considerably at the North American box office. The film did big business overseas, however, including a $40 million haul in China, the largest overseas market. With the tease of a sequel at the end of the first film, Stallone has taken it upon himself to cash in on a rising foreign movie market while still maintaining a presence in North America with the direct-to-video sequel “Escape Plan 2: Hades” and create his latest franchise in the process. 

“Escape Plan 2: Hades” sees Stallone returning as Ray Breslin, a prison escape artist expert who has found a way to monetize this unique skill with his company. After a hostage job gone bad, Breslin’s apprentice, Shu Ren (Xiaoming Huang) takes time away from the company to protect his cousin Yusheng (Chen Teng), a satellite tech millionaire with a target on his back. When the two go missing and wake up in an undetectable prison called Hades, it’s up to Breslin and his associates, consisting of up and comer Luke (Jesse Metcalfe), tech expert Hush (Curtis Jackson), and punishing weapons expert Trent DeRosa (Dave Bautista), to locate them and plan another escape from a seemingly inescapable prison.

Marketing for “Escape Plan 2: Hades” would leave you to believe Stallone and Bautista are the focus of the film. But if you had watched the trailer closely and paid attention to other direct-to-video films that boast A-list stars, you’d know this isn’t the case. This is Chinese star Xiaoming Huang’s movie, as he subs in for Stallone. While Huang isn’t much of a screen presence due to struggling with his English, he’s capable of delivering good action with his martial arts background, which suffices enough for the least demanding of action fans. 

That’s not to say Stallone isn’t in the movie much, he just takes more of a secondary role in the film. He gets his time with a few action sequences, and the film attempts to make up for his lack of screen time with Huang by having him be a voiceover that acts as Shu’s thought process of planning an escape. It’s Dave Bautista who feels underused most in the film, but he seems resigned to cash in this check while waiting for his next Marvel project as Drax.

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Sylvester Stallone in “Escape Plan 2: Hades”

Jesse Metcalfe barely resonates as a beefy rookie in the film as he attempts to recapture his “Desperate Houswives” fame. One can barely tell the difference between Metcalfe and Wes Chatham’s Jasper Kimbral, another member of Breslin’s team whose arch is beyond predictable. Jamis King doesn’t even reach eye candy level that’s how much of an afterthought she is, and it’s obvious rapper turned actor Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson needs to pay a few bills by reprising his role from the first film. The only one who gets anything out of his small role isTitus Welliver, who seems to be enjoying himself as the villainous “zookeeper” of Hades.

The film has all the trappings of a direct to video film: bad acting, laughable special effects, and choppy editing. While the action itself is somewhat competent, it’s the film’s underused premises and lack of explanation that truly made it destined for life on the direct to VOD market. A group of hackers called “Legion”, who appear to be pale rejects from “Mad Max: Fury Road” and speak only one phrase just because, and the prison’s system of selecting which days are fights days and why they are doing so has little rhyme or reason. There are numerous times you’ll have to stop the film and ask aloud “Wait, what?”, and at times you yourself will ask how it took one movie studio and five production companies to make this film.

Other than a nice way for Stallone to add to his grandchildren’s college funds, there’s a reason why “Escape Plan 2: Hades” wasn’t released in theaters. Despite an inkling of an interesting idea, the film is a largely bland and derivative sequel that makes the first film look like a masterpiece by comparison. Stallone die-hards and undemanding action fans may find something worthwhile, but most will be left without an escape and without a plan, languishing in movie hell. 

Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars: Rent it.

“Escape Plan 2: Hades” Stars Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Xiaoming Huang, Jamie King, Jesse Metcalfe, Wes Chatham, Tyron Woodley, Chen Teng, Titus Wellive, and Curtis Jackson. It is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD now.

Bro-Reviews: Incredibles 2

Not so incredible.

It’s been nearly a decade and a half since the release of “The Incredibles”, one of Pixar’s top films according to most. While some may argue the film told the story it wanted to tell and wrapped it up nicely, many craved for a sequel. It didn’t help that other Pixar films also got overdue sequels in the meantime, such as “Monsters University”, the prequel to “Monster’s Inc.”, “Finding Dory”, the sequel to “Finding Nemo”, and “Toy Story 3”, the third film in the beloved franchise and the one that started it all for Pixar. Brad Bird, the director of the first “Incredibles”, heard the fans’ cries for a sequel, and over a decade later, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Dash, Violet, Jack Jack, Edna Mode, and Frozone have all found their super suits for one last shot at superhero glory in “Incredibles 2.”

“Incredibles 2” picks up right where the first film ended, with the Parrs/ Incredibles doing battle with “The Underminer”. After a lengthy battle that causes damage to the city, the Parrs/ Incredibles and all other Supers are forced to adhere to their secret identities due to the authority’s concern over the level of damage caused. However, Bob/ Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Helen/ Elastigirl (voiced by Helen Hunt), and Lucius Best/ Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by Wisnton Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk), the owner of telecommunications company and super hero fanatic who wants to bring supers back into the spotlight under a positive image. With Deavor suggesting Elastigirl should be the first to test his strategy and fight crime, Bob finds himself struggling with the day to day duties of being a father to his daughter Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), his son Dash (voiced by Huck Milner), and infant son Jack Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile), all the while a new nemesis arises, “The Screenslaver”.

At this point, there is very little in the way of slowing down the Pixar machine. Pixar’s animation continues to be the envy of all animation studios, as “Incredibles 2” features their trademark crisp, clear, and colorful animation. One of the more impressive feats in the animation in this film is just how busy and action packed it all is. For a studio that has built its reputation on family friendly vehicles, one could mistake “Incredibles 2” for an animated version of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” property, as it’s definitely the most violent and action oriented Pixar film to date. This should please most audiences, and it’s worth noting just how high of a bar Pixar has set the animation standard with its latest money printer.

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Helen Hunt, Eli Fucile, and Craig T. Nelson in “Incredibles 2”.

The voice cast does an excellent job once again. Helen Hunt’s southern twang lends itself incredibly well to Elastigirl, as she is a standout in the film. Craig T. Nelson also gets mileage out of playing an exhausted father dealing with the pitfalls of being a stay at home parent, a welcome change from the traditional family roles we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in film. Veteran actors Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener, who voices Deavor’s technologically gifted sister, Evelyn, also do a fine job in their roles as a dynamic brother and sister business duo. Sarah Vowell’s Violet stands out of the Parr’s/ Incredible’s children as an angsty, moody teenager dealing with the perils of adolescence, but Jack Jack does get his due in the film as well.

Unfortunately, despite the near decade and a half wait for the film, “Incredibles 2” comes up disappointingly short. Whereas the first “Incredibles” told the story of a family finally coming together and accepting their differences (*along with a harrowing premonition of how fanatic/ fanboy culture will invade society), “Incredibles 2” feels like a sequel made to cash in, similar to Pixar’s weaker films such as the “Cars” follow-ups. The film definitely has the attitude of “bigger is better”, and while its action sequences are impressive and at first thrilling, they are far too long and lose steam after a while. A subplot involving other, less notable Supers goes nowhere, and the film’s twist is beyond predictable. Other than the film’s gender norms reversal, there isn’t anything that new or inventive here, a disappointingly hallow result considering Pixar’s impressive track record.

While “Incredibles 2” has its moments, the near decade and a half follow up to the first film fails to meet expectations. Despite a great voice cast and expert animation, “Incredibles 2” suffers from the dreaded disease known as “sequelitis”, as the filmmakers have forgone a gripping story in favor of prolonged action sequences that lose your attention they longer they drag on. Despite its titular name, “Incredibles 2” is far from incredible.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars. Pay low matinée price.

“Incredibles 2” stars Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Eli Fucile, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, and Brad Bird. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Deadpool 2

A funny, albeit not as fresh, worthy sequel.

Flashback to February of 2016, a time where comic book movies were in a strange place. Most of them took themselves too seriously, and Marvel had hit a bit of a lull with the disappointing results of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This was also a time when the team-up of DC Comic’s biggest heroes in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” seemed like a sure thing. Meanwhile, audiences were welcomed by “Deadpool”, a fourth-wall breaking, quipping, Spider-Man looking superhero that was the least beacon of hope for Ryan Reynold’s career. Most importantly, it was the first mainstream R-rated comic book movie in nearly a decade, with the prevailing wisdom that such movies couldn’t be made and be financial and critical successes. “Deadpool” more than bicked the trend, it destroyed it, as the film went on to becoming the highest grossing R-rated film of all time and was beloved by critics and audiences alike. Neatly two-and-a-half years later, the long awaited sequel, “Deadpool 2”, has finally arrived in theaters, hoping to capitalize on the successes of the first film.

“Deadpool 2” sees the return of Wade Wilson/ Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), who continues life being the “Merc with a Mouth” as a contract killing anti-hero. While assisting in a mission with X-Men allies Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), he encounters a troubled youth named Russell Collins/ Firefist (Julian Dennison), who is being hunted by futuristic time traveler Cable (Josh Brolin). With Cable after Russell due to his dooming visions of the future involving the fiery mutant, its up to Deadpool to stop Cable and rescue Russell in order to alter the youth’s future.

Needless to say, Ryan Reynolds remains born to play the “Merc with a Mouth”, as his fourth wall breaking, foul-mouthed quips, and self deprecating humor distinguishes the character as one of the most memorable in the Marvel cannon. Even though we know what to expect from the character, Reynolds is also able to give Wilson enough humanity to make us empathize with him, something that even the Marvel Studios films tend to overlook in their sequels. His willingness to also make fun of his previous comic book movie sins also retain hilarity, and pay big dividends in the film.

Josh Brolin’s Cable may not be nearly as complex as Thanos, but he’s still able to deliver a solid performance as the antagonistic and physically threatening nemesis. Zazie Beetz’s Domino is also a welcome addition, as her comedic timing and screen presence make her a strong female hero that many will find relatable, and her star should undoubtedly rise to new heights after her turn in the film.

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Ryan Reynolds in “Deadpool 2”.

The action is definitely bigger this time around and has more CGI effects behind them. While still not a mega-budgeted comic book film despite the success of the first film, “Deadpool 2” has thrilling action that although sometimes strains its budget, still flows nicely thanks to director David Leitch. Leitch previously helmed “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde”, and his star continues to rise as one of the best action directors in the business thanks to his capable direction.

While the humor definitely reeks of repeating itself and isn’t nearly as fresh the second-go-around, “Deadpool 2” is still quite funny. Sure, it follows many of the same tropes of the same genre it expertly made fun of in the first film, but its willingness to level with the audience and call itself out on its own storytelling makes it one of the most honest film franchises around.

The unfortunate fate the film suffers like many of its counterparts is a case of sequelitis. Not only do the filmmakers believe bigger is better, but the story is merely an afterthought and derivative of previous movie sequels. This leads to the underdevelopment and downright unlikability of Julian Dennison‘s Russell/ Firefist, who comes across as a mutant with fiery powers doing a impersonation of Rebel Wilson, not the desired result when considering the character’s troubled backstory.

Deadpool 2 at times comes across as a cash grabbing sequel it critiques, but as one of the few films willing to take risks with its R-rated thrills and jokes and isn’t afraid to communicate with its audience, it works more often than not. It’s clear Reynolds and company have love for the character and desire to continue on as the near antithesis of mega-budgeted films, but it the sequel can’t help but follow the same tried and true path as other comic book movie sequels. “Deadpool 2” may have its flaws, but its still a rousing good laugh and thrill ride that suffers the unfortunate fate of having to live up to the expectations of its groundbreaking predecessor, a fate even Deadpool himself could quip endlessly to his audience about.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay matinée price.

“Deadpool 2” stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić, and Eddie Marsan. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Rampage

Arcade button mashing is more thrilling.

Earlier this year, the video game movie genre stumbled with the arrival of Tomb Raider, an uneven, overlong slog that received mixed reviews at best and disappointed at the box office. Hollywood can’t seem to get the video game movie formula down. But their was hope, as such films never had as big a movie star as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Sure, he had starred in the film adaptation of the popular video game “Doom” back in 2005, but he wasn’t a bona fide star then like he is now. Throw in the high concept idea of the video game “Rampage”, a game in which you play as giant creatures going around the world destroying everything in your path, and you’ve got a recipe for a fun, and possibly even first good video game movie, right?

Rampage sees Dwayne Johnson as Davis Okoye, a primatologist who prefers the company of animals rather than humans. His favorite animal/ friend George (* motion captured by Jason Liles*), an albino gorilla he rescued, one night becomes infected by a pathogen that causes him to grown in size and increase aggression. After numerous cases of other animals being infected by the pathogen arise, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Noami Harris), a genetic engineer, teams up with Okoye to try and find a cure before the evil Energyne Corporation, led by Claire Wyden (Malin Åkerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacey), unleash even more hell upon the world with their experiment: Project Rampage.

Obviously, the glaring difference from the game and this adaptation is actual animals become infected with the pathogen in the film whereas it was humans being turned into giant animals in the game. This was probably a wise decision, and it lends itself well to the relationship between George and Johnson’s character. This is surprisingly one of the best aspects of the film, as while Johnson isn’t exactly known for his acting abilities, he’s able to convey his concern for his friend and vice versa. Of course, the giant albino gorilla, giant crocodile, and giant flying wolf wrecking havoc on the city draws parallels to the game, and at times is a delight to watch. It even lends itself well to an interesting horror element that makes the film one of the most violent PG-13 rated films ever released.

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Dwayne Johnson in Rampage.

Unfortunately, for a film that’s main selling point is monstrous destruction, Rampage is confoundedly mute during some of it. Sure, there’s plenty of destruction, but it doesn’t sound or feel like you get the full brunt of the carnage unfolding. The obliteration in the film never escalates to what should be disaster movie levels, and this could be due to the fact that the film struggles to balance tones during its slog of a second act. At times, the film takes itself seriously as if it’s trying to sell us that this could actually happen, and at others it stops to be meta and lighthearted, a combination that does not mix well. The second act is the main area where we see these jarring tonal shifts, and after countless male posturing confrontations, mistimed comedy, and failed attempts at developing characters, Rampage unforgivably becomes a bore.

While Dwayne Johnson may have the desire to be the next global action star, al la Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s no Schwarzenegger. Jeffrey Dean Morgan should change his name to Jeffrey “Lean” Morgan, as his performance consists of the tendencies of his Negan character from The Walking Dead combined with an impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive. The result is an awkward cowboy persona that feels like he’s in a completely different movie. Naomi Harris and Joe Manganiello are utterly wasted in the film and barely even resonate, while Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy come across as Team Rocket from Pokémon and also feel out of place.

Rampage is yet another missed opportunity for the video game movie genre. A film boasting the talents of Dwayne Johnson, a blockbuster budget, and a high concept like the “Rampage” video game should have at the very least been fun. The result we get is an uneven disaster movie that hopes it can save itself by recklessly button mashing its way through its climax. You’d better off going to the arcade and doing that with the game the movie drew its inspiration from, at least you might get some thrills attempting to beat the high score.

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars. Rent it.

Rampage stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomi Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin  Åkerman, Jake Lacey, Marley Shelton, and Joe Manganiello. It is in theaters now.