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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Review of The Fate of the Furious

Dearest Blog: After a two-week hiatus, yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas to watch some of my favorite folks drive fast cars, shoot big guns, and blow stuff up in the Fate of the Furious.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
This being the eighth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise, one has to ask: Did they miss an opportunity in not writing it "The F8 of the Furious?" Because I don't see it like that on any of the marketing (despite the official hashtag being #F8) and it's bummin' me out. Secondly: Is the series running out of gas? (Har. Har. Har.) I mean, literally, I think you HAVE to ask that, because every single headline I've seen so far has done so. But I digress...
The Fast and Furious franchise has buttered its bread by making each installment bigger and crazier, and this most recent outing is no exception. I didn't feel there was any one huge showpiece (like dropping the cars from an airplane last time), but the whole had higher stakes, better surprises, and more sustained lunacy. Vin Diesel is again front and center, as F8 sees Dominic Toretto turning on his team to work with an evil madwoman, portrayed with gleeful relish by the brilliant Charlize Theron. I was very pleasantly surprised by a couple much-loved faces turning up in the supporting cast, though I'd fervently hoped for one and the Internet tells me I should have known about the other. (Not spoiling here in case anyone else wishes to remain in the dark.) Dwayne Johnson is his usual charming self, and I say with only the tiniest bit of bias that the movie is a good deal better when Jason Statham is onscreen than when he isn't. Despite the world's fate hanging in the balance, F8 has plenty of lighter moments, and the humor, though juvenile and predictable, usually hits the mark. The film throws down massive stunts, explosive action, and, of course, some pretty sweet rides. Negatives are relatively few, but, as usual, the ending comes with extra cheese. Michelle Rodriguez is bad enough that I wondered how I ever thought she wasn't, and the movie could have used at least a 30-minute trim.
The Fate of the Furious runs 136 minutes and is rated PG13 for "prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language."
The Fast and Furious franchise gets full marks for giving its audience exactly what it wants, without ever taking that audience for granted. Of a possible nine Weasleys, the Fate of the Furious gets seven.
Until next time...

Saturday, April 1, 2017


In a future in which humanity and technology have begun to merge, a cybernetically enhanced policewoman (Scarlett Johansson) hunts a mysterious terrorist who can hack into his victims' minds and control their thoughts and memories. Her pursuit eventually leads her to discover the full truth about her traumatic past. Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, and Michael Pitt co-star. Directed by Rupert Sanders (Rupert Sanders), Ghost in the Shell is based on a popular Japanese manga series, which was already adapted into an iconic anime film of the same name. ~ Jack Rodgers, Rovi

Director: Rupert Sanders

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt

Release Date: Mar 31, 2017

Rated PG-13 for some Disturbing Images, Intense Sci-Fi Violence and Suggestive Content

Runtime: 1 hr. 42 min.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy


The 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime is a personal favorite of mine so the live action iteration had a lot to live up to.  Rupert Sanders nails the aesthetic, borrowing elements from Blade Runner and A.I., throughout.  Sanders seems most comfortable replicating iconic sequences from the classic anime and he does it well.  The action set pieces are impressive throughout.  It’s hard not to be impressed by some of the shots but it’s a shame that the story was neutered.  Ghost in the Shell was always a heady meditation on souls, “ghost”, and technology so it’s not unexpected that live action story would be made a bit more palpable.  Unfortunately, it’s stripped down to a Jason Borne meets Robocop plot.  Thankfully, Scarlett Johansson is excellent as the Major even if she’s not given much narrative meat to chew on.  Still, she is always the most interesting thing on screen.  That being said decidedly multicultural supporting cast is a spot on.  Pilou Asbæk is a solid Batou even if his voice leans closer to Sin City’s Marv than it should.  Sadly, Michael Pitt isn’t given much to do as the primary antagonist since he’s just there to move the plot along more than anything else.  The live action Ghost in the Shell is an origin story, so fans should hope that future installments have a bit more meat behind the glossy shell.


Sunday, March 26, 2017


This science fiction saga tells the story of astronauts on the International Space Station who retrieve a sample from Mars and discover it contains evidence of intelligent life. The crew is thrust into danger when the specimen shows signs of aggression, threatening the entire mission. Jake Gyllenhaal stars alongside Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson. Daniel Espinosa directed a script written by Deadpool scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi

Director: Daniel Espinosa 

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare

Release Date: Mar 24, 2017

Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror

Runtime: 1 hr. 43 min.

Genres: Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Thriller

Life is a surprisingly bland rethread of Alien.  Daniel Espinosa does a serviceable job of directed an impressive collections of actors.  It has the hallmarks of decent filmmaking but even with the actor’s best efforts it’s never terribly interesting. The story plays out exactly the way you expect it to go and there’s little effort to bring something new to the story.  The biggest mystery during the entire thing is the order of the characters exit.  Even the finale, which the film seems to think is mind blowing, is incredibly predictable.  You have to wonder if there is a better film in there somewhere.  That’s the only thing that could explain what could have drawn so many talented actors to such a bland and forgettable exercise.     


Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Life & Power Rangers

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas with the throngs who apparently haven't left their homes since Christmas. Ahhhh...springtime. On the docket: Life and Power Rangers.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing plot-related that you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First up: sci-fi thriller Life.

Deadpool, Donnie Darko, and the chick from the last Mission Impossible discover an alien life form. 
Humanity weeps.
As I was suffering through Life, I was prepared to declare it the worst thing I've ever seen. In hindsight, there's no way it's that (screams Ghost Ship from my DVD collection), but it IS a gruesome, derivative waste of a pretty solid cast. The dialogue ranges from trite to cringe-worthy, and the tired old story drags on like a drum solo at an 80s arena-rock show, cut-rate sci-fi that occasionally knocks you over the head with clumsy attempts at poignancy. Sadly, even the creature effects are lame. Then, after two hours of taking itself way too seriously, the end credits kick off with a perky rendition of Spirit in the Sky. Whatever the filmmakers thought they were doing with that, it was a less-fitting finish than La La Land (which is saying something). The one thing Life has going for it is a terrific score by Jon Ekstrand, but, even in tandem with my best boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal, it can't save the day.
Life clocks in at an interminable 103 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror."
Life is dead on arrival. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Life gets one.
Next up, the most recent take on Saban's Power Rangers.
Five ordinary high-schoolers are chosen to be the next Power Rangers, and are tasked with saving the world from the evil Rita Repulsa.
Well, dear reader(s), in the interest of full and fair disclosure, I'll admit that Power Rangers would have had to work very hard to earn a thumbs-down from this blog, but I'm pleased to report it's even better than I'd hoped. This new crew of Rangers is a diverse, likable, good-looking bunch that seems a solid fit, both as a group and individually. Special shoutout (with just a wee bit of personal bias) to Ludi Lin, who does a great job as Zack, the Black Ranger. RJ Cyler is also terrific, portraying Billy, the Blue Ranger, as a young man on the autism spectrum. There's plenty of well-paced action, but it doesn't drag on or overwhelm the whole. Effects are just as huge as you'd expect. Suits and Zords have been updated for a new age, looking slick and impressive. The film's humor is hardly cutting edge, but the movie's funny when it means to be, and the dialogue among the kids feels natural and not over-scripted. Elizabeth Banks gleefully chews the scenery as Rita Replusa, not my favorite take on the character, but definitely entertaining. Power Rangers have always been corny, and this outing is no exception. The movie runs a little long, and Bill Hader is supremely annoying as the voice of Alpha 5, but, overall, Power Rangers is good fun, and my theater gave it the loudest, longest ovation I've ever experienced at the movies. Stick around for a mid-credits scene. It's no great revelation, but it'll still be welcome "news" for most fans.
Power Rangers runs 124 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of sci-fi action, violence, and destruction, language, and for some crude humor."
2017's Power Rangers pointedly takes aim at a new generation, but still manages to indulge old fans' nostalgia. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Power Rangers gets seven and a half.
Fangirl points: There is a Social Distortion song in this movie. I repeat: There is a Social Distortion song in this movie. This is not a drill.
Until next time... 

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