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Review: “Pacific Rim Uprising” Repeats More Mecha and Monster Action

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Uprising could be considered the safe bet for a sequel regarding the risk of a new cast and a first-time director. It doesn’t exactly reinvent the robot, merely adding a few new twists, weapons, and monsters to the familiar plot of the human-built Jaegers versus the monstrous Kaijus. But as someone who grew adoring the likes of Gundam, Robotech, and Power Rangers, my adult critical facilities had a meltdown to see more robot-on-monster action for the big screen with a wink and a plasma cannon.

The world has become a much different place after the events of the first film. Ten years have passed, and while Kaijus are not as big of a problem, Jaegers are now becoming a nuisance. Scavengers have taken to the streets to reap the parts of the downed robots and build their ¼ scale, homemade Jaegers. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) is among the scrapers, stealing what he can to eat while living on the streets. He’s surprised to discover the street rat Amara (Cailee Spaeny) has built a working Jaeger. After a run-in with the law, they’re pulled into the current Jaeger project of training new teenage pilots. Why teenagers instead of adults? Consider the movie’s genre and demographics.

The two-person piloting system, requiring a mental link to control the Jaegers, is being phased out by a Chinese firm that wants to replace human pilots with robot drones. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this plot is going, even if there are a few shocking reveals thrown into the mix. If you go strictly by the progression of action, this is mostly the same film with more robot battles and bigger baddies. What makes the movie shine past this flaw, however, is the more significant emphasis on charisma. Boyega and Amara may have predictable pathos, but much stronger chemistry than the previous film’s male/female duo. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman return as the bickering scientist pair, Day gushing about Kaiju brains and Gorman rambling on about calculations as he stumbles around on a cane. While most of the other characters adhere strictly to the expected tropes, there was rarely a moment I didn’t enjoy their presence.

Admittedly, Uprising is a poor construction of twists and turns if you slow down long enough from the adrenaline rush to question the story. Many puzzling aspects are rarely answered, as to the origins of the evil Jaeger or the method behind a secret Kaiju brain remaining a secret within a big company. While the story does offer plenty of twists and turns to keep a constant surprise, it is like delving into the bags of tricks better display the cracks in the formula. Only through the stellar action set-pieces and charismatic characters does this shaky narrative hold firm, more concerned with staging beautifully brutal robot fights than a concrete explanation of the Kaiju conspiracy.

But, of course, the big draw is the giant robot fights, and they do not disappoint. Jaegers come in all shapes and sizes, using all manner of weapons from energy sabers to gravity guns. Kaijus, coming in many different sizes as well, sink their many rows of teeth into the robots as they roar and rip up cities. And as if to give Michael Bay’s Transformers a giant middle finger, all the fights occur during broad daylight, well-staged with robot/monster designs, and well-shot so there’s never a moment where the camera gets too jerky or the action too chaotic to follow.

Though Pacific Rim Uprising merely offers up more of the same, trading incoherent story structure for more character and battles, I was never bored and never found myself cringing at the spectacle, even when the film resorts to touting an old meme. While it does hold more flaws than its predecessor and never veers wildly off the simple course, there’s just something about the adventurous and silly nature of this film that makes the mecha fan in me still beam with ecstasy. And when a sci-fi action picture sneaks in Easter eggs for Evangelion and Gundam, they’ve got my number.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]


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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.


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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.


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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.


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