Tag Archives: Michael Peña

Extinction (2018) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Extinction Review

Director: Ben Young
Writers: Spenser Cohen (screenplay by), Brad Kane (screenplay by) (as Brad Caleb Kane)
Stars: Michael Peña, Lizzy Caplan, Amelia Crouch 

Plot:  A father has a recurring dream of losing his family. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm.

Running Time: 95 Minutes

IMDB Rating: 5.8

Why I Watched It: This is a Netflix exclusive so I saw a poster and that’s it, I went in blind I do really like Michael Pena but to counter that I’m not a Lizzy Caplan fan.

Random Thoughts: I think every character actor should get at least one kick at the can as lead in a film, now Pena has had co-leads before but here he’s front and center and it’s nice to see, he’s a very underrated actor who can do both comedy and heavy drama and that’s not easy.

As a point of interest this film is marketed heavily on the Sci-Fi elements in the film those elements take awhile to get fully introduced so be patient.

What I Liked: The thing I liked the most is that I didn’t care for the film for the first third, it was fine but boring and then it won me over.  Now I won’t spoil anything and this is the kind of film that I recommend you see without knowing too much cause there is a major twist that I think saves the film and there’s a couple of more to round out the film and for me that’s the reason to watch the film.  The twists make sense and then turn the film into something else, for the first third the film is very Sci-Fi light but then by the end it hits some very big Sci-Fi themes and they nail them.

The film starts very cliched and then becomes something else, I don’t want to say too much but at the beginning they steer you one way then man do they sucker punch you, the direction and the script is very good here, all of the twists have major effect, this is not just a twist for the sake of a twist.

Pena carries the load here, he’s good but he’s very quiet, nothing showy here but he’s solid as always.  He does a lot here with silences, you care about him cause you get the sense early on something is not quite right.  The key here is Pena doesn’t go over the top or do any big foreshadowing with his performance he deals with the twist as we do.

What I Didn’t Like: The beginning is slow and I’ll be honest I almost fell asleep and if I did I might not have gone back to finish it and that would have been a shame cause I really liked the last third but the first act is so cliched and so slow it does kill the tone and it is something they don’t fully get back, I know what they wanted to do and it was needed but they could have given the first act some energy.

After the twists the film is very good but the end does drag a bit and I’m glad the film was just over 90 minutes cause they were beginning to screw up the landing.

So I said I’m not a Lizzy Caplan fan,I just don’t like her style of acting but she’s fine here though I didn’t buy her and Pena has husband and wife.

Final Thoughts: Not a perfect film but a well written and very thought provoking Sci-Fi film well worth seeing.

Rating: 7/10

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Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) Movie Blu-ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins

When heavy metal was at the height of its popularity, most bands could be counted-on to include at least one power ballad on each album, a relatively quiet song that was seldom the best tune on the record, but got the most radio airplay and had fans whipping out their lighters during a concert.

The power ballad also served an important aesthetic purpose, offering a brief respite from the sonic fury of the rest of the album. For example, smack-dab in the middle of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning is a song called “Fade to Black.” While still heavier than anything Poison ever recorded, it was sort of a breather from the constant speed and intensity of the surrounding songs.

As films in the MCU grow longer, louder and increasingly epic, the Ant-Man films are sort-of like Marvel’s power ballads. The second film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is more tied to the MCU story arc than the first, but steadfastly maintains the same light, breezy and humorous tone, another welcome break from the serious implications and apocalyptic battle royals where the fate of the world is at stake.

Not that it skimps on spectacle. As power ballads go, Ant-Man and the Wasp is still more Metallica than Poison. But the stakes are more personal, the characters more grounded and realistically flawed. One thing I appreciate about Paul Rudd’s amusing take on the title character is that he screws up as often as he succeeds, and most of the supporting characters (Evangeline Lilly as Hope/Wasp in particular) are just as integral to the plot. Most distinctively, the action & visuals are as humorous as they are eye-popping (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a giant Pez dispenser take-out henchman).

Other than an ominous MCU-related coda during the end credits, Ant-Man and the Wasp, while not strictly mining for laughs, is never overly serious. It’s even shorter than other recent Marvel movies, never outstaying its welcome. Like heavy metal power ballads, the film may not be among the most essential entries in the franchise, but like the first Ant-Man, it’s a welcome change of pace. Even fanboys need an occasional breather.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers 
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins

I finally got round to watching Ant-Man and the Wasp a good week back, just the one month after the rest of the world. I knew about the end credit scenes, because frankly, I couldn’t wait to see how they interconnected this with the events of Avengers: Infinity War and so I succumbed to reading about them on the internet. They had to do it following Scott Lang’s non-involvement and I have to say that I was pleased and relieved that Disney/Marvel didn’t intrude upon the actual films plot with any Thanos related incidents. 

This had to be a more street level, more intimate affair, focusing on Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyme and Hank Pym. I’ve always enjoyed that element to the MCU over the years. Their ability to jump from cosmic scale events to fighting a corrupt businessman with itchy fingers and a propensity for turning up at just the right time. That last bit is directly connected to this film, admittedly, but we’ve seen it time and again, in the in the other standalone films. Be it the ragtag group of terrorists in Iron Man, Yellowjacket, Aldrich Killian, or more recently, Killmonger. 

Thankfully, it is more street level. It begins with the focus on Scott Lang, post Civil War. He’s under house arrest and he unwillingly gets stolen away by Hope (Evangeline Lily) and Hank (Michael Douglas), as they try to save Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who’s apparently alive and still trapped in the quantum realm. There’s two main antagonists and a minor, comedic one. Primarily, we’ve got Ghost/Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), weaving through doors and walls, trying her damnedest to steal Pym’s latest invention for herself, a portal to the quantum realm. 

Why does she want it? Well, her father is Elihas, a former partner of Hank, who killed himself and his wife, during a quantum experiment. This left Ava in a permanent state of agonising pain, with her body tearing itself apart, again and again. She wants Hank’s lab to extract quantum energy, in the hope of it curing her, with the help of Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), another disenfranchised ex-partner of Pym. Which would be perfectly fine and dandy, if it wasn’t for Janet being trapped within and the danger of her being killed by such an excursion. 

The second antagonist, is a wiry, snake of man called Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins). He’s an opportunistic, low level criminal and more of a traditional villain. His main objective for the entirety of the film is fairly simple. He also wants the Pym lab for his own and endeavours to sell it onto the black market for monetary gain. I described him as being similar to the Beni character from ‘The Mummy’ in that he’s full of misguided cockiness, but does have a propensity for arriving on the scene at the right time, much to the chagrin of  Scott and Hope, who he taunts frequently. Ava is a relatable antagonist, with a semblance of humanity. Sonny, is a little annoying bitch. 

Thirdly, you have Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), an FBI or some kind of law enforcement officer who makes regular trips to the Lang household to make sure Scott is maintaining his house arrest. He’s not a proper antagonist as such, but he’s a thorn in the side of Ant-Man, who often has to leave more important matters to dash back and keep up the facade of ignorance to the forty foot plus superhero wading through water in the Ant-Man suit, which is definitely not him. No way. Woo brings some much needed comedic relief along with the usual suspects of Luis (Michael Peña), a family pet sized ant and even Lang himself. 

The humour is fantastic, incidentally, and very reminiscent of the first film. It’s reminiscent of just about every MCU film in existence. They know how to blend all the different elements together to create a perfect tonal stew. Paul Rudd is no stranger to that genre too and he’s got the gift of comedic timing and hilarious line delivery. From the “Hank I would never do that to you, I respect you too much” to the “I don’t think you got the gist of the game” quip to Hope. He’s a very likeable, loveable even, goofball. Luis also brings the comedy with his antics and even a certain Mr. Douglas has his moments too with a few one liners. 

The story is pretty simplistic throughout really, I pretty much nailed it all in one sentence earlier, but that’s absolutely fine for a film like this. It doesn’t need a complicated, convoluted plot to work. It gave me exactly what I wanted with the relatable, great characters we love returning, slick and quick paced action, more of Pym’s cool shrinking technology, more great humour and stunning visuals. But more importantly, the aforementioned human level antagonists and story. It was a great change of pace, it was escapism, and for me at least, an improvement on the original. That’s no mean feat either, because that was one of my favourite standalone MCU films.

My only gripe for this film was the bone headed decision from the Disney executives to delay its release in the U.K. by a month. Ok, fair enough, the World Cup was on and that can have ramifications for the box office performances. That seemed to have overlooked the fact that three of the four countries that make up the U.K. weren’t even in the tournament though. There’s little appetite in Scotland to watch England coasting to a semi-final. Watching Ant-Man would’ve been the perfect remedy. That’s before you even mention that a large part of the core demographic probably doesn’t even follow football.

It was a mistake for me and it’s came back to bite them in the arse because it’s not doing too great at the box office regardless. A large proportion will have watched a pirated copy, which is criminal, particularly for a film of this ilk. But it’s also understandable too. Nobody wants to be waiting a month longer to see a blockbuster release like this. If it was the United States getting that treatment then there’d be riots. That being said, I think the fact my biggest criticism isn’t even about anything within the film itself will speak volumes.

It’s another highly enjoyable ride from Disney/Marvel. They’ve nailed the formula at this stage, they know what fans want and they bring their A game every time now. It’s a more than worthy addition to the collection. Of course, I’m biased because I love Paul Rudd and the Ant-Man character, but it’s a highly recommended watch.

Rating: 5/5

The Vatican Tapes (2015) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

The Vatican Tapes Review

Director: Mark Neveldine
Writers: Christopher Borrelli (screenplay by), Michael C. Martin (screenplay by)
Stars: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Dougray Scott

Plot:  A priest and two Vatican exorcists must do battle with an ancient satanic force to save the soul of a young woman.
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 17%   Audience 62%

Why I Watched it: It’s a horror film and it’s Netflix fault.

Random Thoughts: Possession movies are tricky, along with the Slasher movie it might be the most cliched horror sub-genre, they tend to be paint by numbers productions.  Now the one thing with this film it gives us a two for one, it’s a possession movie and an anti-christ movie, fun wow.

What I liked: Not much, there I said it.  Let me take and breath and try to come up with something positive.  I liked the supporting cast actors, all are wasted but Michael Pena does try real hard and he’s good here and his character does work for the most part.

What I didn’t like: This is a sloppy mess of a film even for a horror film this is just bad.  Nothing in this film holds together and the plot seems so rushed that we never get a bearings, the film seems like a huge cut and paste job.  The characters aren’t fleshed out at all, we never get a sense of anyone or their relationships.  I think the acting suffers here as the characters and motivations are so mucky the actors are having a hard time getting a handle of what they’re dealing with.
I like Dougray Scott and he’s a vet of genre work but here he’s lost, he plays the father and by the end I swear he’s just yelling all his dialogue.  Olivia Taylor Dudley gives a not great performance, I can’t blame here cause the story throws her character around and we never know if she is possessed or why she’s acting like she is.

The biggest flaw this film has is that it’s not only not scary but there is no suspense at all, the cliches have cliches.  They do nothing with the genre and it’s so badly directed we don’t care. Even the set up of the title so all this is on tape and the Vatican has it?  The film starts in one direction, a small story about one women and then by the third act we’re dealing with the end of the world as we know it the film changes from The Exorcist to The Omen very quickly.  The main problem is we don’t get to know these people there’s no stakes at play.  It doesn’t build, almost every scene feels disjointed.  I blame the script mostly but the film is also not edited well.  This is a mess from start to finish, it wastes some good actors but it doesn’t have a story worth telling.

Final Thoughts: Just a really badly made horror film.

Rating: 2/10

War on Everyone (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

WAR ON EVERYONE

Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård,  Michael Peña,  Theo James

Plot: Two corrupt cops set out to blackmail and frame every criminal unfortunate enough to cross their path. Events, however, are complicated by the arrival of someone who appears to be even more dangerous than they are.
IMDB Score: 5.9
Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Why I watched it: I was on the fence with this one, I had seen the trailer and thought it looked alright, at first I heard good things but then there was a kind of backlash saying on violent and vile all the characters were, I decided to give it a go.
Random thoughts: Just to get it out of the way, this is a tricky film to review cause it’s a few genres rolled into one and it really feels like a throwback movie to me, late 80’s early 90’s, gritty, not PC at all and the good guys are more anti heroes or less bad than the guys they go up against and even with everything going on some vile shit happens there’s a lot of humor to it, dark but there’s some laughs.  This one is not for everyone that’s for sure.

What I liked: The biggest thing for me that worked is the two main characters played by Skarsgard and Pena, their not just types or cliches, they’re not defined by being cops or corrupt.  Now there’s a lot of violence, swearing and some vile things going on in this film but for me it’s a character study, not only the two main characters but their friendship.  They don’t talk about it but these guys love each as friends, there’s a couple of times when other people say some bad things to one about the other and you can tell it not only pisses them off but they don’t buy it. For all this film is I think it does a good job of not over talking some of the big points, they don’t talk about their friendship, their home lives, they feel like real people in these lives not just written for a plot device.

For my money Michael Pena is one of the best actors working today, one of the most versatile and underrated he’s played in almost every genre you could think of the funny thing here he does have the big arc it’s Skarsgard.  One thing I like about his film is that it starts out as a buddy cop film, granted corrupt cops, I want to make this clear they only screw around with bad guys, their not Bad Lieutenant bad, they’re in it for the money.  Things change as the case they’re chasing brings them into contact with some different people.  Skarsgard character is almost always drinking and we find out he lives alone in a big house, Pena is married with two kids.

We also find out Skarsgard character has some demons, he ends up dating a girl he meets and also picking up a boy who’s mother killed his father, now the thing that surprised me about the film is that in this action genre they kind of include some really touching subjects and we find Skarsgard might have something in common with the boy.  For me their’s a heart to this film, a twisted heart but it’s there.  The bad guys in this film at least the two main ones are vile, I’ll give Theo James credit here cause he’s playing against type and he underplays, he doesn’t run around over the top he’s a spooky, creepy guy.  Caleb Landry Jones is right out of the 70’s with his look and performance and he out creeps James.

What I didn’t like: Tone is it’s biggest problem, like I said it’s tricky, some people are going to be turned off cause it’s not black and white, this is a very dark grey film.  Sometimes the film is hurt by it’s sense of humor considering what else is going on.  As much as I like the character work here I do feel Pena’s character could have been fleshed out more, we know he’s married with two boys and they seem to have a good relationship, but besides providing for his family we don’t really know why he does what he does.  Skarsgard is a wounded animal, a broken toy and he kind of follows, he’s looking for a family.  Now this is done with a lot of subtext I think the film would have been better if it toned down some of the “cool action” stuff and dealt even more with the motivations.

Final thoughts: One think I didn’t mention is I did find the film funny at times, there’s some fun bits, they follow this lead to Iceland, and suddenly their in Iceland dressed the same and freezing their asses off.  For me this is a film you are either on board for or not, some people are going to be turned off and rightfully so but I liked enough of it to go along for the ride.

Rating: 7/10

CHIPS (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

CHIPS

Director: Dax Shepard
Writers: Rick Rosner (based on the television series created by), Dax Shepard
Stars: Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Vincent D’Onofrio

Dax Shepard’s completely unnecessary remake of the 70s, buddy cop show, ChiPs is a rather underwhelming affair. Admittedly though, I’ve never actually watched the original series, being born in 1989, it was way before my time and I’ve honestly never seen the point of these sort of remakes. The Nice Guys (a film I really enjoyed incidentally) proved last year that there is still some love to be had for the buddy cop genre which in general has grown somewhat stale and it was predominantly for this reason that I gave ChiPs a chance.

Right, so I’m going to get my first major gripe with this film out in the open right away. I’ll not beat about the bush. The story is atrociously bad and simplistic. It’s a light hearted, action/comedy film, I get that, and I wasn’t expect any grandiosity in that department, but still, come on man. I’ll give Shepard some plaudits, as he must have been a busy boy during the production of this, acting as director, writer and one of the leading two protagonists in the film. His characters autistic like awkwardness was actually one of the few things I enjoyed. The flak for the story and some of the corny jokes that fell flat are on him though and he can’t be escaping the criticism as such.

The story is basically centred around an investigation into police corruption within the Californian Highway Patrol. It becomes clear that corruption is rife after an armed robbery leads to the death of an officer and this throws an undercover FBI agent into the fray. Officer Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Peña) is said FBI agent and he’s partnered with former motorcross champion John Baker (Dan Shepherd), a man riddled with health problems from his previous career and a complete novice (and liability) at the job. The two form a gradual bromance as they try to work together and bring down the corrupt Ray Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio), the criminally underused main villain of the film.

Our leading two are polar opposites, not an uncommon situation in mismatched buddy films, and both have their personal problems, which in a way, helps to bring them together. Ponch is reckless, incredibly cocky, something of a sex addict with a predisposition for sexting and inappropriately face timing his bosses; whilst Baker is a lanky mass of awkwardness, more analytical in his methods (but still a liability) and has a flagging marriage to his cheating, air headed wife that has left him sleeping in the guest house and in complete denial. The vast majority of the film focuses on Ponch and Baker with little to zero time being spent on developing Kurtz or even explaining the reasoning behind his rogue groups actions.

The story, as mentioned earlier, is chronic. Ponch is supposed to be an undercover FBI agent and yet thinks it’s cool to run around with a non-issue uniform and a modified Ducati bike with Baker. This creates no suspicion apparently in any of the others minds, there’s a brief comment from Ava Perez (Rosa Salazar) and then the film just goes with it. The jokes too are a little lame. The Pistorius one in particular was in bad taste, whilst the running gags about homophobia and ‘eating ass’ were about as funny as getting a kick to the groin. But look, I’m not going to lie and say it was completely unfunny and I didn’t laugh at any point. I did, especially at some of Bakers misfortunes and antics.

Performance wise, Michael Peña must have came close to phoning it in here. He’s a better actor than this and the handful of very decent films he’s had supporting roles in prior to this will attest to that. He did all right, his performance wasn’t offensive and that’s about all I can say. Shepherd, as I mentioned previously, was one of my few positives in this film. I thought he did very well in a project he was clearly positive about considering he wrote and directed it too. He brought some laughs. D’Onofrio was just so underused in this film. What were they thinking? His character came off in the end as shallow, underdeveloped and just not a serious threat when the shit hit the fan in the final act showdown. The humorous manner of his death summed this up.

At this stage, I’m actually running out of things to talk about. There was an attempt a twist involving one of Ponch’s love interests in the film that was the definition of telegraphed. One major positive that I’ll all but end on is the camera work. I loved the helmet cams used in some of the actions sequences. Very cool looking and it worked nicely. Overall though, I can’t be recommending a film for a bloody helmet cam and this film really doesn’t offer anything else of real substance to make it a viable recommendation for anybody. Unless you’re really into the highway patrol and love motorbikes, in which case, dive in.

Rating: 2/5