Rampage (2018): Dwayne Johnson, Moneypenny and Video Game Nostalgia (Review)

Rampage (2018): Dwayne Johnson, Moneypenny and George of the Jungle (Review)

Rampage (directed by Dwayne Johnson fave director Brad Peyton) stars “The Rock” and Miss Moneypenny (London actress Naomie Harris) and is a nostalgic look at an old video game of the same name. Granted, the film does deviate somewhat but there are plenty of nods and winks for fans of the 1986 arcade game.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a government agent “good ole boy” type (he tells Okoye – Johnson, that he works for OGA or Other Government Agency with a sincere country delivery) who later steps up to help our heroes. Harris again delivers almost effortlessly as the former scientist/convict and there is far too little of personal favorite Marley Shelton.

George, the big ape, is brought to life by “Doug Jones” type Jason Liles and the film’s primary villain; Clare Wyden, is portrayed nastily by Malin Akerman. The cast contains a number of “familiar faces” and while it may seem a tad trite (it is, after all, based on a 1980’s platform game) it moves at a good pace and is funny in all the right places. 

The film makes use of devices from other, earlier, movies dealing with apes. Congo, starring Tim Curry, Ernie Hudson and a very young Laura Linney as the romantic/strong action lead, used sign language to communicate with the tame ape being returned to the wild.

However, Okoye’s pal George is much lighter and has a better and  naughtier sense of humour with his signage. (Going from a fist bump to flipping off his friend, George is an ape of many colours, unlike the drab and downbeat Amy in Congo.)

There is a nod to John Carpenter’s The Thing with the helicopter hunt of a 30 foot wolf and references to the video game itself are there for the taking. Rampage’s story, in a nutshell, deals with mutating animals that head to Chicago. They are set to destroy the city until Dr. Caldwell (Harris), Okoye and OGA Agent Russell (Morgan) step up, with the help of a cured George, and save the day.

The film is not deep and bears a slight resemblance to most Kong remakes. As video game films go, this one is fast paced, fun and not a little addictive. Shakespeare it ain’t but it is another Dwayne Johnson vehicle for the highest paid actor in Forbes history.

Joe Manganiello is good as the buggy eyed mercenary hired by the evil scientist to dispatch the 30 foot wolf and Demetrius Grosse is perfect as Colonel Blake; a man who overestimates the military’s competence and underestimates his targets. 

Morgan could have phoned his role in as it is a variation of his Negan character in AMC favorite The Walking Dead. Any downside to the film is, along with a yearning for more Marley Shelton, that the delightful and overly talented Ms. Harris could have also benefitted from more screen time. (Harris is a performer of many hues who delivered brilliantly in last years Moonlight playing splendidly against type.)

Rampage, however,  is an almost atypical Dwayne Johnson vehicle. It is yet another action/comedy part played by the wildly popular actor/icon this year (the other being Skyscraper with Neve Campbell) and, once again, the performer manages to thrill and entertain.

The film earns a cool 4.5 stars for its  fun factor alone. Rampage can be owned/streamed right now and it is worth a look, if one enjoys nostalgic video game films. The effects are good, the action plentiful and the comedy well timed. There is no nudity, foul language (except for the finger) and the violence is oddly bloodless.

 

Between First Season Ends: Renewal?

Still from Between
Between, the Canadian series which was essentially a riff on the old New Zealand kid’s TV show The Tribe, has finished, the first season ended after it’s “ordered” six episodes and there is no news of renewal…yet. Starring Jennette McCurdy, Jesse Carere, Ryan Allen and Justin Kelly, the show follows the trials of under-22s in Pretty Lake who have survived a viral attack killing off everyone over the age of 21.

The town is broken down into the rich kid, the poor ones and the in-betweens, which includes the smarter-than-smart MIT accepted wunderkind Adam (Carere) and the teen mom, Wiley (McCurdy). The series started with a bit of a whimper. Although it has to be said that the deaths of the “grown-ups” impressed. A sudden coughing attack and then thick blood drooling from the mouth and…death. Quick, disturbing and set up in such a way that one knew the younger denizens of the town were completely freaked out by the sight and suddenness of their parents, teachers, and so on expiring so fast and inexplicably.

The first episode of Between had McCurdy’s character acting like another variation of Ellen Page’s Juno in the film of the same name, but that soon changed after it was revealed that Wiley’s “baby father” was the rich guy who owns most of the town and whose son, Chuck steps up to take charge after all the older citizens die.

The Creekers, born on the wrong side of the tracks and who are still living there, fight Chuck every step of the way and provide a lot of conflict for the rich kid who is trying to keep things together. There were some things about the show that grated.

For instance, the seemingly obligatory “mentally challenged” sibling, who is doomed to die, the drug addict brother who wants to be good, even if he does almost rape a girl, and the crazy smart teen prodigy who helps to figure things out. The entire plot does make one think of cult favorite The Tribe but the setting and the characters are wildly different. The change of locale along with the increased sophistication of the kids in the show made the whole thing refreshing although woefully slow.

For a season which was only going to consist of six episodes the very fact that things do not really “take off” till episode five shows either complete faith that there will be a season two, or that the show’s producers were not aware that the pacing was snail paced and annoying. Netflix does not have the problem of most networks, their rating system does not dictate whether they cancel a series or not, at least it certainly appears that way.

The show suffered a bit from clunky acting and storylines that were a little predictable. There were issues of events that were illogical and potholes that one could drive a lorry through…

But…

The pickup of action in episode five and six; the series finale, and the improvement in the performances made the show feel like it was finally sailing instead of tacking. This illusion of smoothness, versus fighting the tide, makes the short six episode season seem unfair and a tad annoying.

There is no word, not that this reviewer can find, on whether the show will be renewed or not. Entertainment review site Rotten Tomatoes slaughtered the series and on IMDb the rating of Between is a paltry 5.5.

Followers on Twitter, @betweenseries numbers 2858 and the show’s Facebook page has under 6,300 likes. The series may well vanish without a trace with fan numbers this low. If Between does hang on for another season, it will be a miracle as well as very annoying when one compares it to other, vastly superior, Canadian export The Lottery where Marley Shelton tried to save an infertile world inspire of a corrupt and evil government.

The six season series can still be seen on Netflix.

‘Between’ Canadian Version of ‘The Tribe’ With Jennette McCurdy as Ellen Page

Between Tumblr page header
While at face value Between looks like a Canadian version of the New Zealand cult television series The Tribe, but with Jennette McCurdy as an Ellen Page Juno clone, it is different. Certainly the plot is very similar, an unidentified plague or virus starts killing off the adult population, age 22 up, and only youngsters are left to figure out how to survive.

On another level, just the apparent specificity of the age where the virus hits feels very like the Gone series of books by Michael Grant, but only in this area. There are no signs of mutating teens in this new show.

There is, however, a brilliant modern day touch where teenagers are tweeting one another over their smart phones as they attempt to deal with the sudden deaths of parents, grandparents, and so on. The screen flashes the various hashtags of #prettylake and #staystrong. One message claims quite succinctly that “they r lying to us.”

The series premiere episode, titled School’s Out has Pretty Lake, a small rural community suddenly hit with a string of mysterious deaths. The afflicted all begin drooling blood and then very quickly expire. All the dead are over the age of 21.

One student, Wiley, is heavily pregnant. Her water, as pointed out helpfully by her older sister, is about to break and the younger sister handles her awkward situation with wisecracks and a sort of “gallows” humor. When asked what she’ll do after the baby is born, she replies that she plans on continuing her role of disgraced preacher’s daughter.

By day five, information that is posted regularly via text on the screen shows the death rate has reached the hundreds and is escalating. The Canadian Ministry places Pretty Lake under armed quarantine. Prime Minister Miller, in a special broadcast to the denizens of the town now under lock and key, tells all those involved that it was a hard decision to make.

By the 10th day, the death count is in the thousands and M.I.T. teen Adam, who is also interested in Wiley, has hacked the official government database to learn that no one under the age of 22 has died. Events move forward and by the end of the first episode, Wiley/Juno gives birth, two lads almost get coated with driveway sealer for stealing a truck, Adam may or may not be dead and the inmate, in what seems to be Pretty Lake’s county jail, just misses being executed by another con.

Between may have a bit in common with The Tribe, but in reality, only the idea of minors surviving a plague hitting adults is the same, along with the mysterious cause – not a virus according to the two medical specialists from the Ministry. The show’s use of the Internet and smart phones makes the scenario current and should enable the series a chance at survival.

Former Sam & Cat star McCurdy will have to expand on her Juno act, Ellen Page need not worry about Jennette replacing her in other roles, to keep the audience interested in the new mum of Pretty Lake.

Thus far, the show is fairly interesting, despite the Under the Dome and The Tribe feel to the series. Hopefully this Canadian thriller will do better than the Marley Shelton science fiction series The Lottery which never quite found its audience despite being a brilliant show. Time will tell if Between proves to be interesting enough to find a following.

The Lottery: In Extremis Season One Finale (Recap/Review) *Contains Spoilers*

The Lottery: In Extremis Season One Finale (Recap/Review)

*Contains Spoilers*

With no news of whether a second season is in the works or not for The Lottery, its season one finale, In Extremis delivered across the board with the science fiction dystopian thriller tying up a number of threads and opening the door for more Dionysian activities from the government. This show has been a fascinating look at the nefarious dealings of not just the bad guys in the White House but also outside the system. Marley Shelton and her co-stars have worked hard to bring life to this series about a world that has gone sterile with the result that the human race faces complete extinction.

The Lottery: Season One Finale Airing to a Disinterested Audience

The Lottery: Season One Finale Airing to a Disinterested Audience

With the season one finale of The Lottery airing tonight to a disinterested audience, two things are clear. Firstly, there will most likely never be a season two and secondly if there was, for some reason, no one would care. The show has worked very hard to come up with a thriller that should have been a winner. Sadly, it seems that the viewing audience just do not have any interest in a near future where infertility and governmental dirty tricks walk hand in hand.