Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: 6 UNDERGROUND (Netflix, no spoilers)

Director Michael Bay’s filmography is both a blessing and also a bit frustrating. In the 90s he gave us some of the best action films ever made, such as Bad Boys, The Rock (easily his best film), and Armageddon. And then Pearl Harbor happened. Not sure why they thought combining Bay and basically almost ripping off the success of Titanic would actually work. But then we returned to form with a sequel to Bad Boys and the very underrated The Island. And then…Transformers happened…and kept happening…and kept happening…with Pain & Gain and 13 Hours…two okayish films, snuck in there during brief breaks from robots in disguise…and yeah, things turned to shit quickly. Other than the first Transformers (I guess) and a couple of cool shots in Dark of the Moon…the Transformers series felt like Michael Bay on autopilot. He knew the script was shit, but he did his job…but maybe his heart wasn’t in it anymore. But now that they kicked his ass to the curb and he didn’t do Bumblebee (thank the fuck Christ, I know people love it, I thought it was shit), we get the new 6 UNDERGROUND, his first film for Netflix. And despite it not clicking with critics, it clicked with me. It is easily his best film since Bad Boys II and The Island, and it seemed like Bay was actually having fun again with his so-called “Bayhem.”

And while the editing is EXTREMELY jarring, I still kind of loved this film. Bay is back with another R rated actioner, and he wears that R rating on his sleeve, with some of the most insane brutal kills with tons of guts and gore that it somehow out does the carnage from Bad Boys II. And Ryan Reynolds is the main lead in this and he is…well…Ryan Reynolds at his finest. Basically a more serious non costumed Deadpool. Cracking one liners but with a little more focus on taking out dictators obsessed with genocide. The story, actually written by the guys that wrote both Deadpools, is about a billionaire (a non famous, not in the limelight one…how is that even possible?) who gets fed up with dictator assholes one day as he is almost killed doing charity work, trying to bring food and supplies to poor parts of the country but then almost right after he arrives his location gets bombed and gassed to high hell. He gets so fed up, that he fakes his death, and then recruits other people with special skills (ex-CIA, parkour thieves, expert drivers), fakes their deaths too, so they can join his underground “ghost” team and help take down terrorists and dictators that the U.S. Government wouldn’t touch politically with a ten foot pole. This film tells of their mission to take down the dictator that bombed the site he was at while he was still “alive,” and put that dictator’s brother in charge of the country, who completely disproves of what his leader brother is doing, and actually wants their country to be like the U.S., a democracy.

6 Underground stands for 6 members of a team, which include Ryan Reynolds. The rest of the team is filled up by the great Melanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, and a new recruit (gotta have that in the story for character introduction purposes), played by Corey Hawkins. They don’t know each others names, and only acknowledge each other by their number, 1 2 3 4 5 6. It is so that there are no attachments, nothing to make each other feel like a family. If you can’t make it to rendevoux point, you get left behind. The film switches from their current mission to little zany mini origins of all 6 members, which fills out the 2 hr 8 minute run time and keeps the pace flowing and the fun never stopping. Everybody gets several moments to shine, but the main focus is kept on Reynolds, followed by Corey Hawkins and then Melanie Laurent. Everybody is great here, but I felt like Adria Arjona got the short end of the stick. She’s good in this too, but I would’ve liked to see a little bit more character development from her as I feel like when the end credits hit I didn’t know much at all about her character like I did the others. She’s a good actress, memorable probably from Narcos and The Belko Experiment, so it puzzles me why she’s not featured in the film that heavily. I feel like there is probably a Michael Bay cut of a 3 hour movie here, and her moments were the ones that were left on the cutting room floor. Maybe they can bulk her up in an inevitable sequel.

The first 25 minutes of the film is one long awesome car chase, which should’ve had a giant watermark of “I’m Back” from Michael Bay in the background, because its is the best car chase I have seen in a long long long long long time. But that isn’t the only great special action set piece. There is one in the middle of the film involving a pool and one at the end involving a boat that involves magnets in one of the most visually stunning scenes I’ve ever seen come out of Bay’s filmography. You’ll know what I mean when you get to that part. The film is just plain fun, with the chemistry of the team being solid yet fancy free, and the quips and jokes from everyone, especially Reynolds, hitting their mark each and every single time. The only thing that will put some people off about this film is that the editing is extremely jarring. There is not one shot that lasts more than 5 seconds, and I’d say the average shot only lasts about two seconds. But if you are used to Michael Bay movies, you should already be used to it, as that shit hasn’t stopped since Armageddon. I have a feeling he films so much shit that his editor has to take a boat load of pain pills just to be able to control his headache while trying to put the movie together. The only thing true thing I can say about Michael Bay is this: the son of a bitch knows how to beautifully film an action sequence, no matter how jarring the editing and no matter how shitty the script is.

At least the jarring editing isn’t combined with a shaky cam. Bay also knows how to film static shots, even though they might be quick cut where every scene only lasts .5 seconds. I’d rather having static shots with jarring editing, than decent editing but with constant shaky cam. Anyway, 6 Underground is what Netflix is partly made for. Fun films like this. I really hope that Michael Bay and Netflix, after this film, maybe sign a numbered picture deal, because Bay could have unrestricted fun on this platform. You can tell with this movie, they just handed him the money, green lit the script and just said, “do whatever you want. go for it, we will not intervene.” When the movie was done they just released it, no questions asked. Because they know that Bay, when it doesn’t have to deal with fucking emotionless robots, can deliver a half way decent entertaining ride. This is one of those, no more, no less. Not one of the best films of the year, but one I would definitely watch again on Netflix with friends who haven’t seen it, or if I’m bored and can’t find anything else to watch that day. 6 Underground is Bayhem at its finest. If you’ve missed that Bayhem since his great action films from the mid to late 90s, and then Transformers ruined everything, then 6 Underground is Bay’s fun return to form.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: POKEMON – DETECTIVE PIKACHU

“It was WONdurFul!” – Kimberly Finke, 33 about to turn 34 year old enthusiastic kid at heart. She’s grew up with Pokemon though. I did too, but we will get to what I thought of it in a minute. The thing is this, if you know absolutely nothing about Pokemon, then POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU is going to fly over your head and you are probably not the least bit interested in watching this movie let alone reading my review for it. Not saying you will hate it, you might even find some parts entertaining (Ryan Reynold’s off the cuff jokes), but you just won’t get it. This movie has a specific target audience. Either you know and love Pokemon or you don’t. You will love the movie, or you will think it is okay and ultimately be baffled by it. Me? There are now three solid video game film adaptations of all time. Mortal Kombat, the new Tomb Raider with Alicia Vikander, and now this. But is that really saying much?

Like with the new Tomb Raider, I’m going to say what I said on that here: the video game movie curse isn’t broken quite yet, but its a helluva step in the right direction (and then will take one step back in the fall when Sonic comes out…). The film actually had a decent plot that wasn’t too contrived or one-note or hokey. I just wish it maybe had a few more twists and was a little more in depth was all. But I also realize you can’t do that with a kids film. So I’ll just brush off my complaint aside. If you were to look really, really closely, the film is basically a beat by beat remake of Ace Ventura: When Nature or a Japanese version of Disney’s Zootopia. Everything in this is very, very, very predictable, and when the movie thinks it is about to lose the interest of the young folk in the audience, it literally stands still for five minutes, telling you exactly what happened, so that they catch up to the adults in the audience that have already figured it out.

Let’s take a step back and I’ll tell you my experience with Pokemon. I was there at the start. I had the Gameboy with the Red and Blue versions, traded with friends using that pesky USB cord. Used my info to sync it up with Pokemon Stadium on the N64, watched the first season of the show, but then like Beanie Babies, after maybe about two years of massive hype, I fell out of it due to my age range, and look back on the experience like I do with POGS now: with a smile on my face and good memories in my head, but also asking the question, “what was I thinking?” I knew going into this that there are about 812 Pokemon now (correct me if I’m wrong) and not just 151. I figured though that with a target audience of fans now in their 30s that grew up with them and getting current fans all on the same page, that they would probably stick to the 151 we knew, with just splashes of the others in there as background noise and to teach the older generation on how everything has evolved into something bigger (I was correct). I also went into this really enjoying the trailers and tv spots so far, and loving the look of the Pokemon interacting with people in the real world (take note Sonic creators).

But did I love the movie and think it was WONdurFul? No. But, I thought it was cute, very well made, I was mildly entertained throughout the whole thing, even smiled when stuff came on screen that I recognized. Memberberries for sure. Would the movie have worked without Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu? Probably not. Even though one would argue that this is basically just Pikapool and a PG rated version of Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds still knocks it out of the park with his voice acting in this. I have a feeling he ad-libbed a shit ton, and that it was so good that they incorporated it into the movie even though it wasn’t in the script. Great decision by the filmmakers. Color me shocked when they threw in a sexual innuendo or two and even a cocaine joke. Subtle enough that young kids won’t get it though thankfully. Ryan Reynolds could make anybody laugh just reading War and Peace or Gone With The Wind on audio book, that’s how great he is.

As for the plot, do I really need to explain it? In a world where there are still a lot Pokemon in the wild yet there are cities where Pokemon and humans live in harmony, a late teen/early 20’s male who used want to be a Pokemon trainer who is now a insurance agent, gets called back into the fray when his father, a police detective that worked with Pokemon, goes missing and is presumed dead. His father’s Pokemon partner, a Pikachu, shows up at his father’s old place, and the two team up to discover what happened. Like I said, it is fairly easy early on to know what is really going on. Too simple for an adult film, but like I said, this is a film made for those in their 30s that grew up on Pokemon, and their children who might be into Pokemon now. My only other qualm other than the predictable plot and the obvious eye rolling 3rd act typical bad guy reveal is that they revolve it around a certain Pokemon that they have relied on too many times for story and plot devices. Surely there is a different Pokemon that could have some elaborate origin story and mystery. I won’t say which Pokemon that is, but it is very obvious which one in the trailer. Pokemon people now need more of a variety if this film spawns a sequel.

I also wanted more Pokemon battles. I know they didn’t really serve the plot other than one or two of sequences, but the few Pokemon battles in this film were very entertaining and well done. The director, Rob Letterman, didn’t go and do Goosebumps 2 for this film, and he very obviously made the right decision. The acting is good for a kids film too, as supporting characters such as the boy, played by Justice Smith, and an investigative reporter he teams up with, played by Kathryn Newton, made their characters believable enough that I was convinced they were actually talking to cute little monsters walking and talking beside them. Their character arcs, everyone’s character arcs, are one note though.

Wow, I’ve talked about this film haven’t I? Let’s get to the end. If you are one of those people that skip to my last paragraph after reading the first and power reading through the rest, I liked it. It wasn’t great, but it was good and is a very, very solid family film that people taking their kids to the theater would enjoy. Or if you are a woman-child at heart like my friend whose quote I mentioned in the first paragraph. But if you have no interest in Pokemon whatsoever, never have, and are completely befuddled on the hype, this film is not for you. Heck, if you are a kid that doesn’t get Pokemon or see what the fuss is about, this film isn’t for you. However, if you know what that hype was and even dipped a toe in it, and if your kids did or do as well, I can’t think of a better film to go to the theater together and spend sometime eating up some decent member berries. I mean it could be worse, you could’ve shared your love of Game of Thrones and have watched this last season together…