What separates Pacific Rim from the likes of Transformers and similar films with gigantic creatures? One person: director Guillermo del Toro. With clear inspiration from Japanese monster lore, Pacific Rim works better than pretty much any other film that’s similar in theory because of the vivid sense of imagination behind the film, and the attention to details not typically found in films this big.
Pacific Rim is set up fairly quickly in its opening act: in the near future, alien creatures that humans call Kaiju begin to wreak havoc on Earth as they enter through a portal in the Pacific Ocean. To combat the Kaiju, humans build massive robots called Jaegers. Because of the neural power required to operate the Jaegers, two pilots are required to run each individual Jaeger. The two pilots connect through “drifting,” a process that allows the individuals to know each others’ thoughts. The bulk of the film takes place at a time where the Kaiju have decimated large parts of the world. With time running out to stop the Kaiju, and the power of the Jaegers disintegrating, a last-ditch effort is made by a small group led by Pentecost (Idris Elba) and including pilots Beckett (Charles Hunnam) and Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to stop the Kaiju once and for all.
One of my problems with films like Transformers is a lack of realism. I know that sounds silly, but what I mean is that through all of the CGI, there’s no effort to give actions any realistic sense of weight or movement. That’s not a problem Pacific Rim shares. The Kaiju and Jaegers move with the weight you would expect of massive creatures towering above humans. In a summer that’s already given us amazing fight sequences (I’m looking at you, Man of Steel), Pacific Rim sets the bar for action sequences in big-budget films.
The story is light, but it works perfectly for what the film sets out to do. It’s robots fighting aliens. It’s supposed to be a lot of spectacle. Thankfully, del Toro has assembled a top-notch cast that also includes excellent comic relief from both Charlie Day and Ron Perlman. Overall, if you’re looking for a lot of action, give Pacific Rim a shot. I rarely do this, but I strongly support seeing this in IMAX 3D. The IMAX is well, well worth the money here.
Grown Ups 2
The critical reception was so low for Grown Ups back in 2010 (currently 9% on Rotten Tomatoes), you would think that Grown Ups 2 would have nowhere to go but up. You’d be wrong. In the film’s opening scene, Lenny (Adam Sandler) wakes up to find a deer in his bedroom. Once the deer is agitated by wife Roxie’s (Salma Hayek) screams, the agitated deer starts urinating all over the place. It’s hard to read this as anything but a representation of what Adam Sandler & Friends are doing to their audience throughout the film’s running time. Grown Ups 2 is nothing more than a piss-poor (literally) excuse for this particular group of actors to collect a paycheck for a bare minimum of work. The scary thought: if this film does nearly as well as the previous one, we’ll be on our way to Grown Ups 3.
The Way, Way Back
Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants) make their directorial debut with The Way, Way Back, a coming of age story about a young boy named Duncan. One summer, introverted teenager Duncan (Liam James) travels to a small beach town with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), along with her pushy boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter. Duncan eventually strikes up a friendship with Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of the Water Wizz park, and over the course of the summer, begins to find the confidence he’s lacked. The Way, Way Back works in large part due to a deft blend of comedy and drama, coming from both Faxon and Rash’s script and the enormous talents of the cast, which also includes Amanda Peet, AnnaSophia Robb, Rob Corddry, Maya Rudolph and a scene-stealing turn from Allison Janney. As far as indie comedies go, this one’s a winner.