Acting, Production Save ‘Monster Trucks’ From Being A Monster Failure

Courtesy: Nickelodeon Movies/Paramount

Paramount and Nickelodeon’s latest effort at a family friendly action flick, Monster Trucks is a work that while not a monster failure, is anything but a monster success.  Originally released in theaters this past January, it was just recently released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 11.  It fails to run on all eight cylinders in part because of its story, which suffers from some major writing issues.  While the story does suffer from some undeniable issues, it isn’t a total loss.  That is thanks to the work of the movie’s cast.  This will be discussed later.  The movie’s balance of special effects and live action elements is another notable element worth discussing.  Together with the work of the movie’s cast (which clearly is not a group of teenagers, save perhaps for one cast member), the two elements are just enough to keep Monster Trucks’ engine running, albeit not on all cylinders.

Paramount and Nickelodeon Films’ new high-octane family action flick Monster Trucks is an entertaining watch.  However, it is a movie that clearly does not run on all eight cylinders.  That is due in large part to a story that is marred by a plot hole *ahem* large enough to drive a truck through and a story that is anything but original in its setup.  The plot follows high school student Tripp as he fights to save a friendly mutant half shark/half octopus from the clutches of an evil oil drilling company and get it back home.  The problem with this story is that he does this while driving a late-model truck that normally would be a gas guzzler.  The movie’s defenders might try to argue that putting the creature in place of the truck’s engine was a subtle way to argue in favor of alternative energy.  Odds are though, that the movie’s writing team did not exactly have that message in mind when they came up with the movie’s script.  Odds are they didn’t even begin to think about this plot hole at all and just thought it would make for a good way to bring in young audiences because it had monsters and trucks.  That is just one of the problems from which this movie’s story suffers.  It also suffers from a setup that is anything but original.

The setup for this movie’s story sees a young person (or at least what is supposed to be a young person—obviously played by someone who is not a teenager in this case) saving a harmless creature from an evil heartless corporation.  In case that doesn’t sound familiar to anyone out there, similar story lines have been put forth in E.T., Free Willy, Pete’s Dragon, Super 8, and so many other movies.  Given the plots are not mirror images.  They are close enough though, that the comparisons are undeniable.  Considering this and the problem posed by the movie’s massive plot hole, the movie’s story is a major problem for its overall presentation.  Even with the problems posed by its plot hole and its setup, the movie is not a total loss.  It just takes a big hit.  The work of the movie’s cast is a saving grace in examining its overall presentation.

Monster Trucks’ cast is obviously supposed to be made up of characters who are teenagers.  However, it is clear in watching this movie that save for maybe one of the supporting cast, none of the other young cast members are teenagers.  On the surface that seems like a bad thing.  However on a deeper level, it may account for why each cast member’s performance is, while slightly over-the-top, at least entertaining to a point.  None of the performances necessarily pulls audiences into the movie or is award-winning by any means.  It is however entertaining enough that collectively, it is just enough to keep audiences watching through to the movie’s finale.  Case in point, lead star Lucas Till’s interaction with his CG-rendered co-star.  Till is to be applauded for the exemplary job he does of imagining the shark/octopus hybrid is actually in the scene alongside him.  That is exhibited in happier and more high-energy moments.  Co-star Thomas Lennon (Reno 9-1-1, Night at the Museum 1 & 2) is just as entertaining when he is on camera as geologist Jim Dowd.  Audiences will find themselves rooting for Dowd thanks to Lennon’s performance of the reluctant oil company employee who turns out to not be so bad (not to give away too much).  Lennon shows through each moment on camera that he understands Dowd is a supporting character and still makes the most of each moment without taking over said scenes.  His is just one more way in which the cast’s performance proves to be so important to the movie’s overall presentation.  If not for their work (and that of the rest of the cast), the movie’s plot hole and equally problematic setup would be unbearable and would otherwise not make the movie worth watching even for five minutes.  The cast’s work on camera, while important is not the movie’s only important element.  The balance of the movie’s special effects and live action elements rounds out its most important elements.

The balance of live action and computer generated effects used throughout Monster Trucks is the last of its most important elements.  As with the work of the movie’s cast, the lack of this element would make the movie’s story even more unbearable, and in turn, the movie overall even less worth the watch.  The CG is limited to Tripp’s subterranean pal and its family (or at least they seem like family) members.  Audiences will be impressed by this minimalism and the effect of said minimalism on the movie’s look.  In a weird way that expert balance actually serves to add to audiences’ ability to suspend their disbelief.  That leads to even more ease in watching the movie.  When the work put into making the movie look believable is set alongside the work of the movie’s cast, the two elements do just enough to keep the movie’s batteries charged along with those of its audiences.  Keeping that in mind, Monster Trucks proves to be an entertaining watch even though it proves to be a movie on which hopefully future models will improve.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s high-speed family flick Monster Trucks is a work that would benefit greatly from a tune-up.  That is the case even taking into consideration the positives of the cast’s work and that of those responsible for balancing its CG and live action elements.  The movie’s story keeps it from running on all eight cylinders.  That is because of its massive plot hole and the unoriginal setup exhibited in its setup.  Even with the problems posed through its negatives, its positives are, thankfully, just enough to keep its batteries (and audiences’ batteries) charged from start to finish.  In other words, it proves to be another movie that is fun but ultimately forgettable.  More information on Monster Trucks is available online now at:










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Prometheus Puts A New Fire In The Sci-Fi World

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox’s new Alien prequel, Prometheus is one of the biggest and most underrated movies of the 2012 Summer blockbuster season.  What director Ridley Scott and writers Damon Lindelof and John Spaits have crafted in this movie is a story that works not only as a standalone alien based action flick, but also a movie that connects the early Alien movies to the more recent Alien vs. Predator movies.  Add in spectacular special effects and audiences have a movie that is not just one of the Summer’s top movies, but also one of the year’s best.Prometheus has largely been received to mixed reviews.  But one has to wonder if those who had their doubts about the movie had any experience with the previously mentioned movies.  Those who have any knowledge about the original franchise and the comic books will recall that the aliens were created by the predators.  Thus the movies in the AVP franchise.  Now it’s obvious that the engineers in Prometheus look nothing like the predators from the early movies.  But Scott and his team of writers do make it clear that the aliens were created by something.  So that being noted, they at least made the attempt to keep some form of continuity in the alien universe.  Fans of both franchises should be impressed by this.

While the “engineers” in Prometheus likely have no connection to the predators, it is noted that they were created.  The difference here is that in the case of this story, Scott and his writers put in a classic story of aliens intending to invade Earth.  Essentially, the “engineers” created the aliens in question to destroy humans.  So it leaves the question wide open, did the “engineers” really create humans?  Or did they only create the alien species just for the sake of taking over Earth.  Late in the movie, Elizabeth (played by Noomi Rapace) mentions to David that she still believes the “engineers” created humans.  And that she deserves to know why they changed their minds and decided to kill them.  But David’s retort was does it matter why she wants to know why they changed their minds and decided to kill the human race?  This generates the whole theological versus scientific discussion concerning where man came from.  Even in the twenty-first century, there are those who believe that man was created not by God, but by other beings from other worlds.  It’s an interesting topic.  The way in which Scott and the writers approached the topic for this story, made the movie that much more interesting.

Adding to the interest of the general story is the bonus deleted and extended scenes feature on the new Blu-ray and DVD release of Prometheus.  At one point, audiences are offered an extended version of the aforementioned discussion between Elizabeth and David.  It goes into more depth about the whole back story of the alien origins and the belief of whether or not the “engineers” really created man or if it was God.  The deleted and extended scenes feature (especially with the additional commentary) are proof positive of how much bonus features can do for a movie.  Seeing all of the noted scenes adds an extra level of depth to the overall viewing experience.  Perhaps those who criticized the movie while it was in theaters will have a different view and appreciation for Prometheus after watching it again at home along with the bonus features.

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Gone Fishin’ Proves Comedy Can Be Funny And Family Friendly

Courtesy: Caravan Pictures/Hollywood Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

In the world of comedies, there are buddy comedies and then there is “Gone Fishin’.”  This outrageously funny flick will bring the entire family to tears with laughter.  It’s one part “Dumb and Dumber” (only funny) and one part “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”  It proves that comedy can be funny without going blue.  That’s thanks both to the writing of uber writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams and Jill Mazursky, along with the acting of Joe Pesci and Danny Glover.
“Gone Fishin’” was originally released in 1997.  Much like so much other comedy of the 90’s, it was comedy that for the most part was family friendly.  So having it brought back to light on blu-ray is like unearthing a relic from a bygone era.  Both the writing team of Abrams and Mazursky, and the acting duo of Pesci and Glover are to be commended for their parts in bringing this near Three Stooges-esque story to life.  Joe Pesci was a laugh riot in his own right throughout this movie.  Considering his resume, he was a natural choice.  That resume includes a pair of teamings with Glover in Lethal Weapon 2 and 3 in 1989 and 1992 respectively. 

Given, the story behind “Gone Fishin’” makes suspension of disbelief next to impossible.  But the movie’s comic elements more than make up for that fact.  Every time that Joe and Gus turn around, something else goes wrong for them.  For instance, watching their boat get pulled away by a train after the same train nearly destroys it comes across as almost cartoonish.  It’s simply one of many funny moments for the whole family.  And Joe and Gus themselves are funny.  Their mannerisms, their facial gestures, all of it combined make for plenty of laughs for the entire family.  Again, one can’t help but make at least light comparisons to the style of comedy that made the Three Stooges popular.    

“Gone Fishin’” is a funny movie.  There are those who would compare it to the pair’s teaming in Lethal Weapon 2 and 3, and automatically slam it.  So be it.  But that comparison isn’t entirely fair as that is comparing apples to oranges.  If anything can be said of the movie that’s bad, it’s Joe Pesci trying way too hard to come across as a New Jersey native.  And while his comic delivery is over the top, to say the least, it’s so over the top that it’s funny.  Even though it may not be the most memorable of comedies, “Gone Fishin’” is still by and large a great, fun, turn off your brain comedy for the whole family any day of the week.

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