Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'm So Excited, The Way Way Back, The Wolverine, 2 Guns, and Pacific Rim

               Four Threes and a Random Deuce Make for an Overall 
            Winning Hand

            Reviews by Ken Burke

[Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ brilliantly insightful reviews.  This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.

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It’s been almost a month since I’ve posted any Two Guys in the Dark reviews (not to be confused with Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which I finally sampled yesterday and found to be delicious in a traditional [that is, sensual] grease and salt manner; sadly, as always, no kickbacks for this promotional plug, just an honest shoutout of support for this nationwide purveyor of tasty artery-cloggers that I shouldn’t be admitting I eat where my doctor can read it [but at least the meals are more satisfying than what led to the recent bus-sized “fatberg” removed from a London sewer, composed of food fat likely poured down kitchen drains from holiday meals, further fortified with debris that also shouldn’t have been flushed; more on this “delicious” topic at]) because I’ve been on a retirement celebration in Hawaii with my wonderful wife, Nina Kindblad, and my brother-in-law, Ken Kindblad (with thanks to him for my ratings stars and a pause here for musical reminders at and ?v=hwhvByj8YG8 while the flowers and tropical breezes are still memory-fresh) after working for 26 years at Oakland’s Mills College and 17 more at various other locations.  So, now that things are back to normal (except for the lack of a paycheck, but, hey, Social Security’s going to be solvent for the rest of my life, right?) I’ll do a quick recap of a few cinematic encounters I’ve had just before, during, and after the trip.  Of the 5 movies under consideration here the first 4 are entertaining enough to rate some version of my updating of Mad Men’s 3-martini lunch to an Hawaiian-appropriate 3-Mai-Tai-lunch while the last one may be full-on Pacific but would be better off sinking back to the Earth-crust fissure that its monsters crawled out of.  With that prelude established—and recognizing that some of these movies have now been in circulation long enough that you may be starting to forget about them—I’ll try to move quickly (not my forte, as we know) through remarks on these 5, encompassing my most recent trips into projection-lit darkness, no matter what else is out there that might be better worthy of our mutual attentions.

                                   I'm So Excited!
Spain’s Pedro Almodóvar offers a tale of an airliner in crisis which mixes in comic celebrations of gay desire (and conquest), drugged passengers, and inspired lunacy.

This is not the ideal film to watch just prior to spending 5 hours hovering over the Pacific Ocean in a large jet plane (not to mention the horrible recent reality of the crash of Korean Asiana Airlines Flight 214 on July 6, 2013 at the San Francisco Airport, with resulting loss of life and extensive injuries), but with the track record that Pedro Almodóvar has established for unconventionally-successful renditions of the human condition I wanted to be sure I saw this one in mid-July before it disappeared from theatres.  While it might be considered one of his minor accomplishments compared to major award winners such as Talk to Her (2002, Oscar, Original Screenplay; BAFTA, Original Screenplay, Best Film not in the English Language),Volver (2006, Cannes, Best Screenplay), and All About My Mother (1999, BAFTA, Best Film not in the English Language; Cannes, Best Director), I’m So Excited makes the best of an absurd situation and turns what would have been tense drama in the 1970s Airport disaster movies into laugh-fest comedy in a plot about a plane’s pilots desperately trying to find a place to return to Earth because of landing-gear problems (caused by distractions between baggage-handler marrieds played by Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, as he greets her surprise pregnancy with such joy that he doesn’t realize that luggage has been swooped up into the plane; however, their brief opening scene is all we have of them so don’t be fooled by their presence in trailers and cast lists).  The pilots (Álex Acero [Antonio de la Torre] and Benito Morón [Hugo Silva]) and first-class stewards (Joserra [Javier Cámara], Ulloa [Raúl Arévalo], and Fajas [Carlos Areces]) know of the crisis, the economy passengers and crew have all been given sedatives to reduce crew chaos management, and the business-class folks (including deeply-troubled psychic Bruna [Lola Dueñas)—whose virginity won’t survive the flight, no matter its outcome—popular actor Ricardo Galán [Guillermo Toledo]—who’s involved with desperate relationship problems back on the ground—and successful dominatrix Norma Boss [Cecelia Roth]—with damning video evidence against the 1,600 most important men in Spain)—slowly become aware of the problem, even as their unambiguously gay stewards try to keep them distracted using booze and music.  With the various concerns generated by the few conscious passengers (too many to tally in my attempts to stay somewhat brief this time around), the difficulty bisexual pilot Acero has in staying faithful to his wife because of the advances of steward Joserra along with Joserra’s difficulties in even trying to remain sober, the obsession copilot Morón has with the quality of fellatio as delivered by different gender partners, and the underlying tension of a possible fatal crash-landing attempting to be masked by the stewards’ lip-sync performance of the title song and their mescaline-laced Valencia cocktail to help calm their high-roller passengers, there’s not a minute of I’m So Excited! that doesn’t attempt to howl with calculated craziness.

However, just like with my refusal to be fully enamored with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is the End (reviewed in our June 20, 2013 posting, with a "mere" 3-star rating), I can’t fully give myself over to I’m So Excited because, like the L.A. apocalyptic tale, I don’t see Almodóvar’s latest as much more than an excuse to link one crazy scene with the next, all based on a premise that's supposed to be so disturbing that we have to constantly check ourselves to understand why we’re laughing at it.  However, with This Is the End I never could quite get past the reaction that I’m paying to see a bunch of rich friends indulge what feels like a weed-fueled weekend improv session (with some hilarious moments, I admit) turned into an opportunity for the principals to enlarge what could be just an iPhone video into a feature film just to prove how loyal their fans are to support practically anything they put forth (except costar James Franco’s pitiful attempt at being an Oscar host in 2011; bring on Ellen DeGeneres next year!) while at least Almodóvar’s sex-fueled farce feels more like an attempt by an accepted idiosyncratic writer-director to revisit a type of disturbed humor that’s legitimately within his realm of themes yet recalls long-unexplored comedic approaches (including the character extremities and the Pop-Art color palette of his images, beginning with the opening credits and their appropriately-bouncy music).  Prior to the bumpy but otherwise safe landing at La Mancha (presented creatively with sounds of the plane landing on foam juxtaposed with shots of the empty airport), his result seems at times like a sick variety show just like in This Is the End, but I credit him for building his absurdity with clever writing and well-nuanced acting rather than depending on gross-out humor and special effects to carry the day (keep that in mind regarding the latter tactic with Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro, a New World descendent of Almodóvar’s heritage; I’m not sure what else I need to say about it below, but I’ll try to come up with something).  I liked I’m So Excited! a lot, although it never quite rises above a series of SNL-type skits as done on HBO where the censors can’t pull the plug on the content.  Unlike most films that I give a 3 ½ rating to, though, I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, which is considerably more than I can offer This Is the End (unless they can get all of the original Beatles, Beach Boys, and The Who together in another miraculous Heaven concert).

                                             The Way Way Back
Coming-of-age tales often come to the big screen so this isn’t unique, but it is heartfelt as a reclusive teen finds some purpose in life, even if just at a New Jersey waterpark.

Young people coming into their own identities have probably been a staple in literature and its stage/cinema adaptations and original stories since the saga of Cain and Abel (or not; maybe I’m just very attuned to their tragic situation because in my non-Mai-Tai-consumption time in Hawaii [limited I admit; that’s why it literally took me 2 ½ weeks to get through Steinbeck’s opus] I finally read East of Eden [1952] and just saw the film again [1955, Elia Kazan; with James Dean and Richard Davalos as the twins Cal and Aron Trask, reworking the Genesis story] as I’m plodding my way through writing this review).  Thus, The Way Way Back (seemingly without a comma, at least in the studio’s poster, etc. materials for the film but with such punctuation in other references and reviews), co-written and co-directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (whose adolescent encounter with his non-supportive stepfather provides the actual early scene where Trent crushes Duncan’s already-fragile self-image), is nothing you haven’t seen variations on a 100 times before, but that doesn’t prevent the impact of 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) beginning steps on the road to maturation from being engaging, particularly because of the quality performances of James and Sam Rockwell as his mentor, Owen, although the rest of the cast adds substance as called for in their supporting roles, while Steve Carell as aspiring-but-passive-aggressive-stepfather Trent continues to show that his range isn’t limited to Will Ferrell-type doofuses, allowing him to be impactful with purely-serious characters as well.  Essentially, Duncan (I can’t help thinking about a Paul Simon song [“Duncan” from the 1972 Paul Simon album] about another emerging kid bearing the same name [here’s a live version which you can listen to at]) is a recluse whom we first meet in the very back seat of a station wagon (where he can dwell on the past—miserable as it is with his parents’ divorce—and not directly address what’s to come), resisting the attempts of Trent to goad him into a more vibrant version of himself (a self-image important to this potential stepdad as he assumes a furthering of his relationship with Duncan’s mother, Pam [Toni Collette], even though he slips off for various rendezvous with married-neighbor Joan [Amanda Peet]) in the New Jersey beachside town where these two assumed-to-be-merging families are spending most of the summer.  Duncan’s actual father-figure, though, turns out to be the life-loving manager of Water Wizz—a run-down water park—Owen (Sam Rockwell), where the kid takes a job, unbeknown to Mom and Trent, leading to friendships with the park’s off-kilter adults (the most stable one being Caitlin [Maya Rudolph], the constant object of Owen’s affection) and a girlfriend in Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), daughter of Duncan’s constantly-drunken neighbor, Betty (Allison Janey), and, like Duncan, disgusted with the crass behavior of both her teenage peers and the adolescent-acting adults in this vacation-escape-from-reality community.

Although there’s nothing that surprising about The Way Way Back once you’ve seen the previews and even 15 min. of the film, it’s all done with a fine sense of concern for how difficult it is for an outcast kid to get into some kind of a groove with others who won’t condemn him for his very existence (my salvation came in my senior year at Ball High School in Galveston, TX with the jubilant J.R.’s, which you can read about within my review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in our October 13, 2012 posting) and how hard it is to leave the secure situation you’ve longed for when circumstances force you to move on.  We don’t get resolutions by the end of The Way Way Back, only ambiguity as to whether Duncan will ever see Susanna again—or be able to trust himself with another relationship back in Albany—just as we’re not sure what will become of Pam and Trent now that she’s aware of his infidelity; all we get at the close is Mom coming to join her son in the backward back seat, leaving Trent and his snotty daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin), to contemplate what lies ahead while Pam and Duncan look at their receding past, wondering how to make the best of what they’ve learned as they consider going forward, including Duncan’s awareness of Owen’s reality check that his New Jersey life may seem desirable to a teenager but it’s also a bit of a dead end with no advancement in the summer and necessary odd jobs to make ends meet in the winter (here’s where I’d cue up a Bruce Springsteen song for you, but there are so many that could be appropriate here I think I’ll just let you search YouTube or other sites on your own—although it’s hard to resist at least offering “Born to Run” [from the 1975 album of the same name] at Way Way Back is no groundbreaker, but it’s a real pleasure to watch, as you determine which of the characters you most relate to and why, which may leave you nostalgic or unsettled, as the case may be.  Coming of age may be universal, but it’s rarely easy nor necessarily fulfilling, as this well-acted film forces us to acknowledge.

                                  The Wolverine
Hugh Jackman returns as the morose X-Man mutant with amazing recovery powers, body-implanted superior metal, and a desperate desire to be just rid of it all right now.

By now, with a previous stand-alone movie and a cluster of appearances in X-Men stories, Wolverine is either a character that you’ve come to admire or he’s part of a genre world that you have no interest in, so if you’re already on board with the traumas of a mutant whose self-healing powers make him virtually invulnerable, unstoppable, and immortal and whose retractable metal blades jutting out from his knuckles make for a hell of a hand-to-hand combat opponent then this latest episode in his traumatic life will likely imbed you even further in your respect for his determination and resilience.  If not, just watching a hairy guy with swords coming out of the backs of his hands to help him defeat any number of outmatched adversaries may not be enough to sell you on the premise of this latest comic-book-hero protagonist, but there are some seriously interesting aspects of Wolverine’s uncomfortable relationship with his near-immortality that might be appealing even to those viewers whose tastes don’t run toward 2 hours of almost-constant fighting.  Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine (James Mangold) continues to bring tormented life to this complex character who wavers between willingness to be a protector of the downtrodden and disgust with not only the obligation of being one of society’s warriors but also the burden of never being able to escape from his existence because one of his chief mutant powers is a combination of a self-healing ability that restores his body no matter what level of trauma it endures and a seeming agelessness, in that this story begins in the WW II era yet he hasn’t greyed a day over the last 7 decades (you might be tempted to say the same thing about James Bond, but if you try to rationalize his 50-year filmic presence as an international secret agent you’d just have to say that all of those adventures must have taken place within a roughly 30-year span of 007’s life even as different actors were needed to represent him in our timeline [some day this never-aging situation will catch up with Wolverine as well because even if the character doesn’t age Jackman does; therefore, as the X-Men continue on into our new century there’ll ultimately need to be a new face behind those mammoth mutton-chops, just as all of the other X performers will also grow too old to be the virile beauties that they are now])—and Logan the Wolverine actually goes back even further, to pre-Civil War 19th century, as we learned in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009).  As with the chronologies of most of these superheroes (we’ve already seen it in previous cinematic accounts of Superman, Spiderman, and now Batman) there comes a time when they’re ready to retire the costume (which the movie Wolverine never has bothered to don), drop off the grid, and try to lead a sort-of-normal life; this is the case in The Wolverine as well (especially as Logan tries to blot out the recurring memory of lover Jean Grey/Phoenix [Famke Janssen], whose rampage required him to kill her in the previous X-Men: The Last Stand [Brett Ratner, 2006]), but Logan is finally tracked down by psychic/swordmaster Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who convinces him to accompany her to Japan to pay last respects to dying corporate magnate Mr. Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a former soldier that Logan saved during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945.  However, Yashida is more interested in siphoning off Logan’s immortality, which begins with a weakening device implanted by evil-mutant Viper (Svetlana Khochenkova).  Through a series of plot complications not necessary to detail here Logan becomes more vulnerable although he still has his retractable metal swords to help him fight off any number of ninja warriors and Yakuza hitmen until his ultimate collision with Yashida in a large robot suit made of the same super-strong metal as Wolverine’s “claws,” which ultimately are chopped off, although this just allows him to regenerate his original bone extensions (seen in the 2009 Wolverine origin movie]), finish off his aged attacker, and rededicate himself to public warriorhood.

If watching an outnumbered superhero dismantle a large collection of opponents (but at least in a largely bloodless PG-13 manner) isn’t within your interest zone there’s going to be a lot of The Wolverine that won’t matter much, as it’s just another in a long list of CGI-enhanced comic-book-tales-brought-to-screen that have become a box-office staple in the past couple of decades now that we have the technology to visually render anything imaginable.  But, if you’re a fan of this type of collision-conquest (as I am) The Wolverine maintains a pace and impact that’s quite enjoyable (especially the spectacular duel atop a bullet train where each opponent uses their killer blades part of the time simply to prevent being swept off of their speeding platform), while Jackman is very effective in conveying the mixed emotions that come with cursing the burden of his immortality while also realizing the fear he’s never had to face when it’s temporarily being taken away from him (climaxed by the frenzied scene in which he has to reach into his chest cavity to remove the damaging creature that’s been attached to his heart).  Even within the combat chaos that pervades this movie Jackman conveys an effective existential sense of grappling with the choice of continuing a lifestyle that has brought him a lot of pain and misery or sacrificing it all for a mortality that won’t support his questing nature (giving us just enough of the sort of inner-soul wrestling that studio head Jack Lipnick [Michael Lerner] would accept to satisfy the critics [like me] in a picture that mostly has to be about large, sweaty men “in tights” in Barton Fink [Joel and Ethan Coen, 1991]).  When we get the whole X-Men ensemble together it gets a bit crowded and complicated (I’d say there were a more appropriate number of heroes and villains in The Avengers [Joss Whedon, 2012]), but when you just focus on one of them, as we do here in The Wolverine, it works well as a combination of angst and triumph.  If you’re not oversaturated with this sort of thing already I think you’ll find this latest chapter of the Wolverine's story well worth your time.

                                            2 Guns
Undercover agents team up to unravel a complex plot of stolen money, drug lords, and warring government agencies with the heroes’ chemistry the best thing on display.

How much 2 Guns (Baltasar Kormákur) is worth your time depends largely on how much affection you have for Denzel Washington and/or Mark Wahlberg, because it’s their personalities and interactions that hold this movie together even when there doesn’t seem to be much else happening except another rendition of the getting-to-be-age-old manifestation of the “buddy” movie (with their interactions played a bit less for comedy—at least at times—than the other main “buddy” movie this summer, the one that finally puts women in the main roles, The Heat [Paul Feig; review in our July 11, 2013 posting]).  As with The Heat, the plot in 2 Guns gets a bit complex, mostly so as to set up problems for our protagonists to deal with as their lives spin ever further out of control.  When we first meet Bobby Trench (Washington) and “Stig” Stigman (Wahlberg) all we know is that they seem to be on the verge of a cocaine deal with local drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) in Sonora, Mexico.  (Another example of creative movie geography, in that there is the state of Sonora, basically due south of Arizona, but I find no city of Sonora in proximity to Texas, which is key to movement in this movie as our protagonists at one point need to cross a river—presumably the Rio Grande—back into the U.S. and at another time need to get from Gulf-of-Mexico-coast-located Corpus Christi, TX at night all the way to Papi’s Mexican ranch the next morning, so all of that just becomes details to dismiss as the focus is intended to be simply on our boys’ travails, wherever the hell they’re supposed to be located [maybe the screenwriters looked too quickly at a map and misplaced Sonora, TX, which is south of San Angelo in the Big Bend vicinity of No Country for Old Men [Joel and Ethan Coen again, 2007] territory, but, after all, 2 Guns is taken from Boom! Studios graphic novels—no surprise given all of the R-rated violence—where such matters as geographic validity may have no concern].)  We soon find out, however, that Bobby is an undercover DEA agent and Stig is also undercover from Naval Intelligence Special Forces, although they’ve been paired by their respective agencies with no acknowledgement of the other’s status, so each thinks his partner is actually a drug dealer until they get that sorted out mid-movie after they’ve firmly established their mutual dislike and mistrust.  As it turns out, they’ve each been set up, Bobby by fellow-DEA-agent-part-time-love-interest Deb Rees (Paula Patton) and Stig by his immediate superior, Commander Harold Quince (James Marsden), so that the backstage manipulators could make off with the $143.125 million (a number precisely repeated many a time by a very intentionally-obnoxious character) held in a small Texas bank, secret money stashed by the CIA as part of their arrangements with Mexican drug cartels, with our guys intended to be left dead in the process, even as the furious CIA thugs headed by Agent Earl (Bill Paxton) are ready to snuff anybody in order to recover their clandestine cash.  

Suffice it to say that in the end just about everyone we’ve met (except for a couple of waitresses) has been killed, either through direct intention (Deb, Quince, Papi) or caught in one of many crossfires as various banditos and corrupt G-men unload on each other.  The lost money (a prime plot point, yet not necessary to elaborate upon for our purposes) is found although much of it is scattered to the wind (see the recommended clips below for just about every relevant scene in 2 Guns) but not before Bobby keeps enough to support himself and Stig as they continue to go rogue, probably by robbing other secret CIA bank stashes (they can’t go legit again because both have been framed for crimes they’re not responsible for, with no superiors alive or willing to clear up the manipulations).  The main thing that works in 2 Guns is the witty interaction between Washington and Wahlberg, although the transgressive plot does provide some juicy cynical commentary about corruption throughout our supposed structures of citizen protection—including Stig’s ultimate superior, Admiral Tuwey (Fred Ward), who shows indifference to the plotting of Quince so as not to cause a scandal which would harm the Navy’s reputation—that might be gleefully received by those who assume that power corrupts by its very nature.  As for the movie’s repeated moral lesson, “Never rob a bank across from a diner that has the best doughnuts in 3 counties,” I’ll leave that wisdom to you to do with as you will.  I’d love to see Washington and Wahlberg together in action again, but preferably in a plot less scattershot than this one.

Before getting to the last review, I’ll revisit the 3-Mai-Tai-lunch-praise-metaphor that began all of this with its relation to the above 4 movies being worthy of some level of 3-star acknowledgement.  However, the metaphor must change for our last analysis because the work in question is not something I’d chose for a toast nor even a substantial taste.  So instead, I’ll shift your consciousness to this pile of chicken feet from a Chinatown market in Honolulu as I finish out the overarching-review-title-metaphor of a poker hand with 4 useful cards and 1 stray, which I’ve called a deuce here to connect to my 2-star system of entities that are struggling to be appreciated at all.  In regard to the bin of nasty-looking fowl feet in these interlocked metaphors, I’ll offer the whole pile to Pacific Rim, though, simply because I appreciate the quality of the CGI work that went into rendering monsters and giant robots in water, rain, and other complex presentations; however, just as I’d not care to chew on these chicken parts (no nuggets here)—unlike my willingness above to drain the Mai Tai glasses—I don’t have much taste for this final movie, except to say that it does provide a nice escape into a cool theatre on a hot afternoon until it’s time for Happy Hour.  Other than that, as my mother used to say, I haven’t lost a thing at that theatre (that I need to go back for—just so you get her drift).

                                  Pacific Rim
Giant monsters from another dimension attack Earth; we counter with giant robots.  Some decent knockout punches here, but you’re better off with a WWE pay-per-view.

This one earns its rating based on sheer audacity because despite Guillermo del Toro’s previous successes with both the sophisticated (The Devil’s Backbone, 2001; Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006) and silly (Hellboy, 2004; Hellboy II: The Golden Army, 2008), Pacific Rim just feels like a hugely-expensive-bloated-bit-of-giant-beast-fascination on the part of the director (case in point: after a month in release it’s earned back only about $93 million in the domestic market of it’s $190 million budget while The Wolverine’s well on the way to at least break-even status and will likely do much better, 2 Guns has made back about 1/3 of its costs after only 1 week in release, The Way Way Back isn’t making too much [about $14 million after 5 weeks] but it probably didn’t cost all that much to produce, and I’m So Excited has topped the $1 million mark in the U.S.-Canadian market, a hefty take for a wacky film with subtitles; however, del Toro can laugh back at me on his way to the bank because Pacific Rim has earned over $200 million in international sales so he’s now comfortably in the black with his worldwide total).  The premise of Pacific Rim is that an inter-dimensional portal has opened up on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, allowing huge Godzilla-like monsters (called Kaiju in Japanese) to rise to the surface and attack various coastal cities, beginning with San Francisco (no need to finish that Bay Bridge revision after all, guys, so you can just return the faulty bolts to China); humankind retaliates with a defense system of giant robots (Jaegers, or “hunter” in German) which require 2 pilots to get into some sort of “drift” mind-meld state in order to operate their massive weapon (it functions more like an interactive Wii game where these pilots don’t sit at a control console but instead are within Stairmaster-type structures that allow their arm and leg movements to be paralleled by the outer frame of the robot; to me, a rather low-tech concept for such a sophisticated pile of machinery, but it makes for better emotional tension in the movie as trauma within either of the pilots will lead to malfunction with the machine, thereby advantage monsters, so there needs to be an existing pilot synchronicity even before they suit up).  The essential concept here is that a former ace, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), seemingly washed-up after his brother is killed in a Kaiju battle, is called back into action to be teamed with a rookie, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), as Earth’s future rides on their skill in attempting to overcome their inner traumas in order to fight their way through invading monsters, reach the ocean floor breach, and detonate an atomic weapon to close the portal.  

I think you can guess that if they’d failed we’d all be dinosaur dinner by now (and my apologies that I haven't been able to illustrate these comments with decent images of the monsters and the robots, but they just weren't forthcoming from the movie's publicity folks; however, take a look at the second recommended video clip below for Pacific Rim and you'll see some evidence of the big beefcakes on display here).  The concept is sort of fun in a dumb way (although it’s just a serious version of the DreamWorks animated Monsters vs. Aliens [Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon, 2009] with the roles reversed as the earlier movie had monsters as our protectors—although none of them were of the giant dinosaur variety), but it’s full of clichés and recycled elements from other films (the most overt one being an Earthly/hero machine—in this case a robot rather than a spaceship—going into the aliens’ lair to detonate a nuclear explosion to stop the invasion, variations of which are well-known from Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope [George Lucas, 1977], Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi [Richard Marquand, 1983], and Independence Day [Roland Emmerich, 1996]—there’s an alien brain-link device right out of Independence Day as well, along with a “We must rise to victory!” speech from the Allied commander, Stacker Pentecost—how’s that for an extreme name?—played by Idris Elba), just as the robot vs. monster battles are all-too-reminiscent (intentionally, as noted by del Toro in homage mode) of something like the prototypes to be found in Japan’s Toho Studios’ “Creature Feature” movies, originally culminating with Destroy All Monsters (Ishirō Honda, 1969) but continuing on for years thereafter with variations on the original city-stomper, Godzilla.  It’s all a big, loud, amusing diversion, but you’d get more for your money if you just rented a DVD of last April’s 4-hr. WrestleMania in terms of behemoths bashing each other around and more interesting commentary from the announcers than we get from Becket’s super-serious narration.  But if it’s giant alien dinosaurs you want, have at it!

As we bring this voyage to an end I’ll make just one closing musical connection, not because the original Pointer Sisters version of “I’m So Excited” (1982) represents a level of viewer satisfaction on my part for everything explored above but just because it’s such a damn infectious song, made even more so when performed by the original singers than by the infectious-in-their-own-way airline stewards in Almodóvar’s film.  Besides, 4 more songs at this point runs the risk of this site turning into a radio station, so I’ll just leave you with the relatively sanitized images of Oakland’s own Pointer siblings at and let you fill in your own illustrations of what they’re really singing about (not just being on stage at a nightclub, even though the real excitement is implied by the opening images of this decades-old music video and is actualized in various ways on that wayward Spanish flight that got us into this review cluster to begin with) as your own exciting sunset may approach on some given day.  Until next time, I’ll just say “aloha” (goodbye, in this context), “mahalo” (thank you) for giving your attention to the Two Guys site, and best of everything in perfecting your own Mai Tai recipe (Which might win you $10,000 on August 17 if you go to Don the Beachcomber’s spectacular open-air bar at the Royal Kona Resort in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island; but if you’re looking for recipe options on the Internet, avoid any that include Grenadine, please.  I’d share my own ingredients with you, but the fundamentals are based on what was privately told to me by a bartender on Kauai—and, besides, someday I hope to show up at Don’s and astound the competition myself).

If you’re excited to know more about I’m So Excited here are some suggested links: (36 min. interview with director Pedro Almodóvar and actors Blanca Suarez, Carlos Areces, and Miguel Angel Silvestre at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, presumably in June 2013)

If you’d like to find your way home to know more about The Way, Way Back here are some suggested links: (7:52 showing how some scenes in the film were shot)

If you’re steeling yourself to know more about The Wolverine here are some suggested links (yeah, I know it’s adamantium in Wolverine’s body and Superman is the “Man of Steel,” but certain metals make for better puns): (click the X in the upper right corner to get out of the Get Tickets opening screen and into the actual movie site) (17 min. of X-Men movie trailers in the chronological order in which the stories take place, beginning with the origins of Wolverine and concluding with the current Wolverine movie plus personal, occasionally crude, comments from trailer reviewer Ryan Wright)

If you’d like to load up to know more about 2 Guns here are some suggested links: (for all practical purposes this clip shows you the essence of the entire movie without the troublesome bother of plot details) (and this cluster of 12 trailers, featurettes, and clips from the movie fills in all of the plot details that you might need)

If you insist on exploring the path around Pacific Rim more here are some suggested links: (another version of a trailer for Pacific Rim that features images of the monsters and giant robots that I couldn’t get much in the way of still photos for the review comments)

As noted above, we encourage you to look over our home page (ABOUT THE BLOG), found as the first one in our December 2011 postings, to get more information on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, including our formatting forewarning about inconsistencies among web browser software which we do our best to correct but may still cause some visual problems beyond our control, as well as difficulties we’ve encountered with the Google RSS Feed Alert when used in conjunction with iGoogle and Google Reader.

Please note that to Post a Comment you need to either have a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Pacific Rim - Transformers with people inside against an evolving Godzilla, in a word: ridiculous.

  2. Hi rj, You've always had me beat where "succinct" is concerned, even when I'm trying to do short reviews. Thanks for cutting successfully to the chase. Ken