'Pacific Rim' monsters and a true 'Midnight' romance

By Tom Von Malder | Jun 23, 2018
Photo by: Universal Pictures Home Video One of the Kaiju rages in Tokyo in "Pacific Rim: Uprising."

Owls Head — Pacific Rim: Uprising (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 100 min.). You will not really fall for any of the characters, but the giant robot on giant robot and giant robot on giant monster fighting is very well done. And who doesn't like a homage to "Godzilla" when seeing Tokyo destroyed once again?

First-time feature director Steven S. DeKnight (producer of TV's "Daredevil," "Smallville" and many others) takes over for recent Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro ("The Shape of Water") in helming this sequel, which is low on character development, but high on action sequences. The film brings back rebellious Jaeger pilot Jake Penecost (John Boyega of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), the son of Stacker Pentecost, who gave his life in the first film, into the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, this time to train new, much younger pilots. For a lead character, Jake is kind of annoying. Jake is paired with his former co-pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood of "The Longest Ride," who really is not given much to do other than look handsome).

Jake is pulled back into the planet's defense when, trying to scavenge abandoned Jaeger Parts -- Jaegers are the giant robots that require two internal pilots to operate -- he comes across 15-year-old Amara Namani (newcomer Cailee Spaeny), who has built her own miniature Jaeger (called Scrapper) from spare parts, but her machine brings down the authorities on them, leading to the film's first action sequence, their arrest and transfer to pilot training.

It has been 10 years since the Kaiju monsters attacked, coming through a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. They are advance creatures of the Precursors, if I have the mythology correct. Not only has Jaeger technology been improved, but Liwen Shao (Tian Jing of "Kong: Skull Island") of Shao Industries has built prototype drone Jaegers  that are remotely controlled, rather than using onboard pilots (hence no pilot training and special mind-melding required).

Returning from "Pacific Rim" are Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, Jake's adopted sister, and scientists Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman as the one character you root for) and Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), although they no longer work together, as Dr. Geiszler works for Shao Industries. They do team up when a new threat -- and an unexpected villain -- emerges. There are two battles with a rogue Jaeger, named Obsidian Fury (apparently each Jaeger has to have a name, like the Transformers do), then a much larger battle with three of the Kaiju monsters that come through newly opened undersea breeches. Much mayhem and destruction in Tokyo follows. The film does set up a sequel in which mankind will become the aggressor. Nearly 10 minutes of credits then follow.

Extras are plentiful, but basically it is a making-of featurette broken up into several small parts. They cover the Jaegers (3:25), the relief zones (3:47; basically abandoned coastal cities), the 4-month training of the actors (5:58), the international cast (4:39); character Shao (3:14), the return of Mako (2:08), the miniature Jaeger Scrapper (2:08), the Kaiju (3:21), the next-level Jaegers (5:08) and, spoiler alert, the unexpected villain (5:48). There also are eight deleted scenes with optional director's commentary (6:56). DeKnight also does audio commentary on the feature film. Grade: film and extras 3 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Midnight Sun (Universal, Blu-ray-or standard DVD, PG-13, 90 min.). This was an unexpectedly affecting teen romance, especially with one of the characters having a potentially fatal disease. Strong, believable performances by the three leads makes the film work very well.

The disease is XP or Xeroderma Pigmentosus, which basically means 17-year-old Katie Price (Bella Thorne of "The Duff") cannot be exposed to the sun. Exposure means instant lesions, skin cancer and damage to her brain that could prove fatal. She has lived inside her house, behind special glass windows, during the day her whole life, only venturing out at night. Her mother died at a young age, so she is home-schooled by her father, Jack (the best performance by Rob Riggle that I have seen). In many ways, the setup is similar to last year's "Everything, Everything," in which a 17-year-old girl has had to stay inside her whole life because her rare condition is SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency, which leaves the body vulnerable to infections that someone without the condition would just shrug off. In both films, along comes a boy who makes the girl desire more from life.

In Katie's case, that boy is neighbor Charlie Reed (Patrick Schwarzenegger of "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse"), a champion high school swimmer whom she has watched pass her window nearly every day of her life and on whom she developed a crush. Katie is a singer-songwriter who sometimes goes down to the train station at night to play for passengers and other passing strangers. One night, Charlie hears her voice finds her and a quick-blooming relationship begins, albeit awkwardly as Katie initially panics when her crush suddenly notices her. They begin dating -- at night, of course -- and Katie neglects to tell Charlie about her condition until one turning-point night. Part of Charlie's story is that he injured his shoulder, costing him his swim scholarship to UC Berkeley. Also in Katie's life is her best friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard).

The film is directed by Scott Speer ("Step Up Revolution") from an original script by Eric Kirsten. The only extra is a brief inside look (2:21). Grade: film 3.5 stars; extra 1/2 star

Sherlock Gnomes (Paramount, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG, 86 min.). In this sequel to "Gnomeo and Juliet,"  the now happy couple, and all the other garden ornaments, have moved to London, where the garden/yard is rather poor. Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt) takes charge of building the garden up and Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) sneaks away to secure a Cupid Arrow's Orchard as the centerpiece. When Juliet notices his absence, she goes out into the streets of London after him. Unbeknownst to both of them, someone has been stealing garden ornaments in London and the thief strikes Gnomeo and Juliet's new home while they are away.

Meanwhile, Sherlock Gnome (voiced by Johnny Depp) has battled, and apparently defeated, his arch enemy Moriarty (shaped like a pie and voiced by Jamie Demetriou) in a battle atop a dinosaur skeleton in the British Museum. As always, Sherlock is aided by Dr. Watson (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor).

The story is charming throughout and very imaginative with Empress Pom-Pom and her minions in Chinatown. It then goes for a surprisingly solid action ending, as the heroic quartet has to track down clues in order to rescue all the garden ornaments before they are crushed to death at Moriarty's deadline. Also proving voices are Mary J. Blige as singer Irene, an ex of Sherlock's; Maggie Smith as Lady Blueburg; Michael Caine as Lord Redbrick; Matt Lucas (TV's "Doctor Who") as Bennie, who is secretly in love with Nanette (Ashley Jensen voiced the large frog); and Ozzy Osbourne as Fawn.

The film uses instrumental versions of Elton John and Bernie Taupin songs, as well as featuring three new John-Taupin compositions, including "Stronger Than I Ever Was," sung by Bilge and featured in the extras as a music video (4:05) and a featurette look at Bilge and the music (4:09). Other featurettes look at a look at the plot and characters (7 min.), the London locations (3:10), the design and art (5:59), the five stages of animation (1:36) and head character designer Gary Dunn shows how to draw Sherlock, Watson, Moriarty and Goons (18 min. total). Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.25 stars

The Mimic (South Korea, Well Go USA Blu-ray, NR, 100 min.). This horror film, written  and directed by Huh Jung ("Hide and Seek"), is based on the Korean mythological "Tiger of Mt. Jang," a legendary ghost that mimics human voices. In the film, those voices are of deceased or missing loved ones.

The film starts in startling fashion, as a man is driving with a woman passenger when they hit a dog. The man picks up the almost-dead dog and places in the trunk of the car, next to a woman who is bound and gagged. We then see the man break a hole in a brick wall and put the woman and dog inside. Later, it is revealed the wall is the entrance to an abandoned mine in  Mt. Jang, but I'm not sure we ever see the woman again, although plenty happens in the mine, which apparently is the lair of the Mt. Jang tiger.

Much of the film deals with a couple who moves to the Mt. Jang area to help a parent who is having increased mental difficulties. This couple lost their young son in Seoul five years previously. The child apparently wandered away into the crowds and was never seen again. Soon after the relocation, the woman finds a young girl in the forest near the mine, a young girl who claims her name is the same as the couple's daughter. The wife takes the young girl into the household and strange things start happening. However, the real strangeness -- and horror -- is kept for the movie's ending, which takes place down in the mine, among images or recreations of the dead.

The film, which waits too long to scare, stars Yum Jung-Ah ("Tell Me Something"), Park Hyuk-Kwon ("A Taxi Driver"), Shin Rin-Ah ("Ode to My Father"), Ho Jin ("The Wailing"), Kil Hae-Yeon ("Missing" and Lee Yool ("Hello Murderer"). Extras are two brief looks at making the film (1:47) and how it focuses on auditory horror, and brief interviews with the director and two lead actors (2:47). Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 1 star

Hooked (Breaking Glass DVD, NR, 90 min.). The film follows just-turned-18- hustler Jack (Conor Donnally) and his year-younger boyfriend Tom (Sean Ormond). They are very much in love and live in a shelter for the homeless in New York City. Tom is hoping his father does not find him, as he has threatened to send him to live with an uncle in Mexico. Jack, who narrates at the beginning, tends to be very impulsive with his body and emotionally explosive. He meets Ken (Terrance Murphy), a married man who has not come out of the closet. Ken seems to genuinely want to help Jack, rather than use him for sex, and offers to take Jack to Miami for a weekend. Jack agrees, thinking he and Tom can relocate there.

In an early scene, Jack is assaulted by a client. He depends himself, steals the man's camera and gives it to Tom, a budding photographer. Writer/director Max Emerson, who used crowd funding to finance the film, has had a successful acting and modeling career. Later, Jack feels betrayed when he discovers Ken is still married and not divorced as he claimed. He runs off, stealing Ken's drugs and handgun, both of which will lead to future problems, including thoughts of suicide.

Not just a cautionary tale of life on the streets, Emerson has said 50 percent of the film's profits will be donated to non-profits and partner organizations to support the homeless LGBTQ youth demographic. Partner organizations include the Ali Forney Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Albert Kennedy Trust, Lost and Found, and GLAAD. There are no bonus features. Grade: film 3 stars

Will & Grace (The Revival): Season One (Universal, 2 DVDs, NR, 337 min.). After a 10-year hiatus, the original cast -- minus Rosario, the maid, whose portrayer retired -- have reunited for at least three more seasons. Will (Eric McCormack) and a now-divorced Grace (Debra Messing) are roommates again and, during the season, Will goes to work for Grace's interior design company. That is where Karen (Megan Mullally) also "works" as the secretary (she occasionally shows up at the office and does, well, nothing) and Jack (Sean Hayes) still lives across the hall. During the season, Will connects with an old beau and Jack snares a newbie, while Karen has an affair with Alec Baldwin. Other guest stars are Bobby Cannavale, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Minnie Driver.

The show remains relevant, as one episode concerns a baker who refused to decorate a cake as a gay couple wanted. Extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel, the cast and crew discussing why the original series was so special, how a public service announcement by the cast spurred the revival  and series director Jimmy Burrows and the cast talk about creating the humor. Overall, this is the show's ninth season. Grade: season 3.75 stars; extras 2.5 stars

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