Movie Review: Tag

Director: Jeff Tomsic

Cast: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Jeremy Renner, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb

Runtime: 1hr 40min Rated R

Watch the trailer

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Every group of friends has their own traditions that they hold on to in order to stay in contact with each other. Some like meeting for dinner regularly, others maybe stay in touch through Skype or social media. One real group of friends from Spokane, Washington have been playing tag for one entire month out of the year for the past 30 years.

The movie, Tag is based on this incredible true story that was first published in the Wall Street Journal back in 2013. As a way to stay connected, the group made a pact to play this game from their childhood for an entire month every year. The normal rules of tag apply, however the length at which these 10 friends go to tag someone are pretty intense. They even have drafted their own rule book to keep things somewhat in check.

Image via the Wall Street Journal

For the movie adaptation, the group is condensed to only four friends, three of whom scheme to tag the 4th member of the group, Jerry (played by Jeremy Renner), who is about to retire from the game having never been tagged.

Just from an initial reading, it looks like the actors in the movie aren’t playing specific people in real life, more like caricatures from the group. For example, Jon Hamm plays Callahan, who is the CEO of a company. The real life counterpart is Brian Dennehy who, at least at the time the article was written, is the chief marketing officer for Nordstrom. That’s part of what makes this story so interesting; these are successful adults with wives and families who are playing this children’s game every year. Of course Jake Johnson plays the other extreme to round out the cast: a divorced, jobless, pothead who lives with his dad.

Tag is a fun, adult comedy overall that will have you laughing more times than not. It even manages to be touching at times. Many of the jokes are funny; some do feel a little forced and don’t quite hit their mark though.

This is definitely not a movie for kids as a large amount of the humor is derived from dick jokes and other forms of crude humor. If that’s not tour style of comedy, there may be large sections of this movie that you find hard to tolerate.

Most of what I found myself laughing the hardest at was the physical, slap-stick comedy of the movie. Tag at times feels like an R rated Tom and Jerry cartoon with a touch of Home Alone. Things get hilariously rough often, and you’ll need to suspend reality just a bit to enjoy the movie as they get up and brush off serious injuries. Each character would have certainly died in real life before reaching the end of the movie. Ironically, Renner actually broke both arms chair surfing during one of the scenes.

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Speaking of Renner, his character, Jerry is one of the highlights of the movie, despite being in it the least amount of time. It’s obvious why he has never been tagged; he’s always one step ahead of the rest of the group, constantly waging psychological warfare on his friends.

He’s also a master strategist, and there are a couple hilarious scenes where you see him mentally think through a few of the many ambushes he finds himself in. It reminded me of the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movies, where something very similar happens. Thankfully, the movie uses them sparingly, which succeeds to keep the joke from getting stale.

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Isla Fisher is also notably funny as Anna, the wife of Ed Harris’s character, Hoagie. “Over competitive” is an understatement for her, and while women are not allowed to play (according to the friend’s official rule book), she is far more aggressive with the group’s tactics than some of the friends actually playing.

Most of the other actors were great as well. Unfortunately, Annabelle Wallis and Rashida Jones both felt like they were in the movie only because they had to be. I don’t think that was necessarily their fault; they just weren’t given much to do.

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The ending takes and unexpected shift in tone that feels a bit out of place for the rest of the movie. It leaves you asking if it was “real” or just another strategy to attempt to tag Renner’s character. I understand why it’s there: to inject a little drama and bring home the idea that above all else, continuing to play this child’s game keeps this group of adults close. I just think there was probably a better way to get that message across without derailing the laughs quite so much.

Without spoiling too much, one of the best parts of the movie was actually seeing the video montage at the end with the real group of friends. You discover that much of what you thought was exaggerated or made up to make the movie funny was taken directly from the playbook of the real friends playing tag.

Final Verdict


Cinematic Quality: 6 out of 10

  • Pretty standard fare for what you would expect from the genre.
  • Most of the stunts were well executed.
  • Many of the injuries inflicted, while funny, were a little too brutal to be believable.

Fun Factor: 8 out of 10

  • Watching these adult friends play this extreme game of tag is hilarious and at times touching.
  • Some of the dick jokes did feel a little forced.
  • Shift in tone at the end of the movie felt out of place and stops some of the laughs.

Worth the price of admission: 4 out of 10

  • This is a great movie to see with Movie Pass or on a discount night. If not, you won’t miss anything waiting until it’s out on DVD.

Re-watch Value: 6 out of 10

  • Moderate rewatch-ability.
  • Worth getting on DVD to watch when you’re in the mood for slap-stick laughs.

Overall Score – 6 BFF’s out of 10

Final Avengers Infinity War Trailer Breakdown.

We’re almost there, everyone! The movie event that has been brewing for the past 10 years and 18 movies is now just over a month away.

Tickets went on sale yesterday, and to help entice people to buy, a new trailer and movie poster were released. I’m not ashamed to admit it worked on me…but I would have bought tickets regardless.

Holy smokes, what a trailer! There’s several new clips with a ton of new insight to be gleaned from the trailer, so if you don’t want to know anything going into the theater, turn away now.

Who the heck is this Thanos guy? The trailer starts with Gamora talking about who Thanos is and what he wants. Then we see that she’s talking to at least Tony, but most likely other Avengers as well. This makes sense as the Guardians are the ones who have had the most history with Thanos up until this point.

Wakanda takes center stage. We already knew that Wakanda would play a large role in this movie, including a large-scale battle. Now the reason for that battle seems more clear: Wakanda will be the location the Avengers try to hide the remaining infinity stones from Thanos and his minions.

Star Lord doesn’t agree, but this seems logical considering Wakanda is the most technologically advanced city on the planet and would provide the best defense against Thanos.

The Avengers are in trouble. We see several heroes taking on either the Mad Titan himself or his henchmen in the trailer, and all of them seem to be completely outmatched. Fans are already anticipating heavy casualities and this trailer doesn’t do anything to change that idea.

A close up of the “Hulkbuster” armor. Last seen in Age of Ultron, the team will need everything they have to take on Thanos. There’s reason to believe there could be someone other than Tony in there…

Tony’s “Bleeding Edge” armor at work. This new armor pulled from the comics is based on tiny nanomachines that not only expand across his body to construct Tony’s basic armor, but they can also form new shapes such as wings, or the huge rocket booster we see form around his feet in the trailer.

Star Lord and Iron Man probably won’t be besties. This is the first interaction we’ve seen of the two so far. Knowing the size of both of their egos, things seem to be going about as expected.

A closer look at Peter’s “Iron Spider” suit. This is the same suit Peter decided not to take from Tony at the end of Spiderman: Homecoming. It’s inspired heavily from the “Iron Spider” suit he gets from Stark in the comics.

Flashback to when Thanos kidnaps/adopts Gamora. Both the child and another woman to the left of one of the clips have Gamora’s green skin and red hair. It seems safe to assume this is from a flashback to the day Thanos conquered Gamora’ s home world.

A blink and you’ll miss it look at “The Black Order.” These are the elite, alien henchmen who work for Thanos and do his bidding. It looks like they have been sent out into the universe to help Thanos track down the infinity stones.

Doctor Strange and Star Lord know that teamwork makes the dream work. This one is easy to miss but we get a super quick look at Doctor Strange helping Star Lord cross an area with a little use of magic. Peter Quill usually has rocket boots that allow him to fly; they must have been taken out of commission somehow.

Humorous introductions. Peter Parker introduces himself and we learn that joking about Doctor Strange’s name is still funny.

What do you think? Anything else cool that I missed? What are your predictions?

Avengers: Infinity War explodes into theaters April 27.

The Greatest Showman Review

Directed by: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Keala Settle

Watch the trailer

I finally got around to seeing The Greatest Showman, the musical biopic loosely based on Phineas Taylor Barnum (better known as P. T. Barnum) and the origin of the “Greatest Show on Earth.” I’d heard a tremendous amount of praise for the film and considering it released in theaters in December and I was still able to see it in early March is saying something.

This is definitely a feel good movie that you can watch with the entire family. Hugh Jackman continues to show his versatility as an actor; whether he’s growling and shredding through bad guys as Wolverine or singing and dancing here, there’s no question he’s a talented guy. Zac Efron is back at home from his High School Musical days and Zendaya is absolutely stunning. Honestly, the entire cast is solid.

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Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams in The Greatest Showman.

The music is also fantastic and complimented with entertaining choreography. Some of the dancing is a little too modern for the time period, but it’s clear that there’s more emphasis on entertainment than historical accuracy (more on that in a bit). The movie shines visually as well; a bright and colorful treat for the eyes. Even the back alleys and rooftops are interesting to look at.

The only down side is that some of the CGI work is extremely noticeable, and does ruin the illusion of reality for a few scenes. It’s no secret that a movie like this can’t be filmed solely with practical effects, but a couple of scenes you can’t help but focus on the CGI and it becomes a minor distraction.

The Greatest Showman’s story is running over with positivity including themes such as “follow your dreams not the status quo” and “be happy with who you are.” These are all fantastic messages, and could have been a little too sanctimonious if it wasn’t for the well-rounded arcs of both Zac Efron and Jackman’s flawed characters. You see them make mistakes and then learn from them; providing a nice balance to the overall tone.

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The circus family in The Greatest Showman.

It is important to note that while the movie itself presents Barnum as a champion of tolerance and equality, it’s far from historically accurate. After a little research, the truth is that Barnum didn’t start his circus until he was in his 60’s, and there appears to be a mountain of evidence that suggests he was more interested in exploiting people for profit.

It’s ironic (and fitting) that the movie about a man who sold falsehoods to the public for entertainment and profit should do exactly the same. None of this matters in order to enjoy the movie; you should just enjoy it for what it is and not accept it as historical fact. As Barnum says at one point in the movie: the truth is irrelevant, as long as people were entertained and felt they got their money’s worth.

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Zendaya and Zac Efron in The Greatest Showman. Neither character actually existed in real life.

At the end of the day, whether you enjoy this movie or not will depend largely on what you’re looking for. As far as being a true to history biopic about P. T. Barnum’s life and career, it fails on several levels. However, if you’re looking for an entertaining musical with a positive message that you can watch with your family, then you will be hard pressed to find one that soars higher than The Greatest Showman.

Final Verdict


Cinematic Quality: 8 out of 10

  • Music and choreography, while sometimes a bit modern, is fantastic.
  • Some of the CGI is a bit too noticeable.
  • well-rounded character arcs

Fun Factor: 9 out of 10

  • Tons of good family fun to be had by all.

Worth the price of admission: 7 out of 10

  • The visuals, music and choreography are best viewed on the big screen, but will offer the same amount of fun on home video.

Re-watch Value: 10 out of 10

  • If musicals are your thing, this is sure to become a classic.

Overall Score – 8.5 circus freaks out of 10

What is a “Good” Movie? – My Quest to Find The Best Review Rating System

“What makes a movie good?”

If you ask 10 people that question you may get 10 different answers. Why is that? I think many times it has less to do with the movie than it does with the person viewing it.

We come from all walks of life, with different experiences, and have various tastes and interests. This is true of not just movie goers, but those who create the movies we love (or hate) as well. All of those things come into play with the movie experience.

While there are universally accepted rules, cinema in and of itself is an art form. Similar to a painting or a piece of music; movies are subjective, meaning different things to different people. It’s part of the reason I love movies so much. Two people can sit beside each other watching a movie and have completely different take-aways.

This subjectivity makes for great discussion, but it also makes it difficult to decide whether a movie is worth your time. Honestly, I’ve struggled with this in my movie reviews so far. At first, I did not want to give any type of numeric score, and now I’ve switched it up and decided some type of ranking system is inevitably necessary.

The problem is that giving one numeric score doesn’t comprehensively say everything you need to know about a particular movie. Sometimes, a movie may be horribly made, however it’s still enjoyable to watch. A recent example for me is xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. This movie, on a technical level, is hilariously terrible. However, it is so over the top and absurd that I had a blast watching it. I can’t bring myself just to give it a 3 out of 10 and move on. However, I also don’t think it deserves a high score just because it was fun. There needs to be more of a breakdown.

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Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone have a weird way of flirting in xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

So here is what I’ve come up with for my movie reviews going forward…at least until I change my mind again!

Feel free to give me your input: what are the deciding factors for you as to whether a movie is “good” or not??


Cinematic Quality – score range: 1-10

Is this a well made movie from a technical standpoint? story, acting, cinematography, music, visuals, etc.

Fun Factor – score range: 1-10

Despite whatever the quality of the movie is, how much fun will you have watching?

Worth the price of admission? – score range: 1-10

Plain and simple; is it worth it to pay good money to see in the theater, wait until it hits second run theaters or just Rebox it?

Re-watch Value– score range: 1-10

Some movies can be watched more than once, while others you wish you could get that time back.

Overall Score – The average of all of the above categories

Red Sparrow Review

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons

Rated R / Runtime: 2hrs and 20mins

Watch the trailer


Many people have been calling Red Sparrow essentially the more adult version of the Marvel comic character Black Widow. However, while there are some similarities, this movie is most definitely its own thing.

Jennifer Lawrence plays a talented Russian ballerina named Dominika Egorova who takes care of her sick mother. However, Dominika’s career is quickly cut short by an injury, and is desperate to find an alternative means to continue to afford her mother’s care.

Dominika’s uncle Ivan, a high-ranking official in Russian Intelligence (Matthias Schoenaerts) approaches her with what has to be the most bizarre offer of assistance from a family member ever. If she will agree to seduce an enemy of the state and switch his phone out for a government provided duplicate, Ivan promises to ensure the medical care for her mom will continue.

She reluctantly agrees, however the State’s real plans are revealed when during the encounter the man is brutally murdered while forcing himself onto Dominika. To eliminate any witnesses, she is soon given a choice by her uncle: death or agree to become a Sparrow. Great family.

Sparrows are government spies that agree, or more often forced, to commit their entire bodies to the State. Their main assignments are usually not to assassinate targets, but rather seduce and sleep with them in order to extract information.

They are trained in multiple areas of espionage including psychological manipulation, infiltration, and weapons training. Her first assignment is an America CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who knows the identity of a mole in the Russian government.

First and foremost, this movie has a very hard R rating. Not only are there numerous scenes of graphic nudity, but there are some brutally violent scenes; both physically and emotionally. Many critics are even condemning this movie for the light in which Lawrence’s character and others are portrayed.

That being said, while many parts of the movie are graphic and even shocking, it feels like an accurate depiction of what the life of a “Sparrow” would be like. Movies give us the incredible ability to see and examine life from different points of view, even if those viewpoints are sometimes disturbing. The film definitely fails to have any message or deeper meaning, but it doesn’t glorify the lifestyle either. It merely puts it on display and viewers are able to think what they want.

In a bizarre way it was humourous that despite all the brutality of the film, the characters seem able to survive the most extreme of beatings. More than once Lawrence beat the shit out of someone and I was convinced, based on what I have seen in any other movie ever, ” yup, they’re dead.” Only in the next scene to discover; nope, they’re fine, only injured.

The story itself is a very slow burn and only has a few mins of action. Most of the 144 mins are focused on Lawrence interacting with other characters and us trying to figure out which side she’s really on. Honestly, the movie is about 30 mins too long and needs to be cut down. After the first hour and a half, you really start to feel how long many scenes seem to drag on.

There is a satisfying ending that gives a nice “ah-ha” moment. However, especially with the longer runtime, once you know the ending, there’s not enough depth to the story to warrant more than one viewing.

Whether or not you enjoy this movie, Jennifer Lawrence is hands down the best thing about it. Her Russian accent is on point, and she gives an incredibly complex performance which draws you into the character’s story.

This was a bold choice for her, and though it may not be the greatest movie, it is one of her best performances so far. As a side note, she’s worked with director Francis Lawrence (no relation) before; last time on the Hunger Games trilogy.

Everyone else gives the performances they need to for the movie, however nothing you’ll remember a day or two after watching the film.

Red Sparrow is a visceral adult spy thriller that is worth watching for J.Law’s stellar performance. However the shallow story combined with its long runtime and slow pacing make for a “one and done” viewing scenario.

See it in the theater if you’re a Jennifer Lawerence fan, otherwise I would wait for Redbox or Netflix.


Final score for Red Sparrow:

6 Soviet sex spies out of 10


9 March Movies You’ll Want to Check Out.

While you don’t typically think of March as a big movie month, there are surprisingly quite a few coming out that I’m interested in and think you should consider checking out. (MoviePass powers activate!) Some are admittedly a little riskier than others, but take a look at the trailers below and let me know your thoughts!

Which upcoming March movies are you excited for??

March 2nd

Red Sparrow

I love me some J-Law. This looks like the type of thriller that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Death Wish

A remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson movie. Whenever you have Bruce Willis out for revenge, it’s a good time.

March 9th

Gringo

I have no idea if this will actually be any good, but David Oyelowo’ s reactions to the situation his character finds himself in has me laughing every time I watch.

A Wrinkle in Time

I’m not familiar with the book, however this has a great cast. Disney has been on fire the last several years, so this looks promising, especially if you have kids.

The Hurricane Heist

This will undoubtedly be a horrible movie. However, a heist movie AND a disaster movie rolled into one? I’m there. This has the makings of a great guilty pleasure movie (Plus they get bonus points for trailer song selection).

March 16th

Tomb Raider

The 2011 video game this version of Lara Croft is based on was a phenomenal reboot for the franchise. This is a kickass trailer that looks promising. I’m hoping it can deliver the same level of story and drama as the game.

March 23rd

Pacific Rim Uprising

I’m admitting freely that I’ll be a little biased on this sequel: I absolutely love the original. Giant monsters fighting giant robots…suddenly I’m a kid again watching Godzilla. I’m disappointed Del Torro isn’t directing, but hopefully he can still help the movie as producer deliver the same level of fun.

Isle of Dogs

This looks….weird, and I want to see it for Jeff Goldblum alone. Then add Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber and others? I’m too curious to say no.

March 29th

Ready Player One

Based on the popular book and essentially a futuristic Willy Wonka story, this looks like an epic line up of 80’s nostalgia goodness.

Annihilation Movie Review

Directed by: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuva Novotny

Rated R, Runtime: 2hrs

Watch the trailer

In Annihilation, a strange and mysterious phenomenon named “the Shimmer” has been expanding out from a meteorite impact at an exponential rate for the last 3 years and will soon overtake major cities. The Shimmer is a swirling bubble-like shape with various rainbow colors, similar to the way water looks when mixed with oil. Though pretty, anything that ventures into it is never heard from again. However that changes when a soldier, Kane (Oscar Isaac), returns home to his wife Lena (Natalie Portman) after being missing for a year and presumed KIA during a military expedition into the Shimmer.

Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac in Annihilation.

Kane isn’t doing well though: he has no memory of what happened to him and starts spitting up blood. After being taken to the Southern Reach military base of operations to be monitored, Lena, a biologist by profession, decides that in order to save his life, she must venture into the Shimmer with an all female group of scientists with the goal of scouting the area where it all began.

Tell me their outfits and backpacks don’t remind you of Ghostbusters…at least a little.

The movie is loosely based on the first novel in the Southern Reach series written by Jeff VanderMeer and will likely attract a lot of initial interest due it’s heavy hitter cast lineup including Portman (needs no introduction), Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens / The Last Jedi), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), and Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Creed, and Westworld).

This is a different type of movie.

Director Alex Garland has done a stellar job bringing a thought-provoking story to life here; something he’s becoming increasingly known for after his first directorial role with Ex Machina in 2014.

The potential problem with Annihilation is that the story concepts explored are extremely cerebral and steeped with philosophical metaphors that may be more of an acquired taste than what most movie goers are expecting after watching the trailer. The studio itself seems to have accepted this as well, as the movie will only be releasing on Netflix outside the US; an uncommon practice for a bigger budget film, but a sign of the times and possibly the future of movie delivery.

That doesn’t mean the movie is bad; it’s actually quite good…it just may not be the type of movie for mass audiences. You definitely need to know what you’re signing up for before diving in.

This isn’t an action flick. There are a couple of action scenes, but this is more of a slower pace examination of humanity; specifically it’s self-destructive nature. Annihilation doesn’t focus so much on leading up to a “satisfying” ending as it does exploring what the journey itself means.

Admittedly, this makes for a polarizing film. You’ll either find its often strange moments captivating and want to mull over the implications long after it ends or you will angrily leave the theater thinking, “What the hell did I just watch?” Truthfully, you may find yourself asking that question even if you do like Annihilation.

Natalie Portman, Tuva Novotny, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Annihilation.

The film deliver numerous “edge of your seat” moments. I was surprised how intense much of the movie felt despite the slower pace. The nature of the Shimmer itself helps to create this as it has a weird effect on its visitors; losing track of time, clouding their memory and feeling almost like a dream at times. The eerie score also does an excellent job of adding to the beautifully off kilter atmosphere.

The ending, especially what happens at the lighthouse is undoubtedly the strangest part of the movie, which is intentional. It will also be what people analyze, discuss, and debate the most.

Annihilation certainly has faults beyond whether or not it is your type of movie. While the movie tries to stay in the realm of science fiction horror, some of the things encountered push the limits too far; closer to the fantasy genre which feels a little out-of-place here.

Natalie Portman in Annihilation.

There’s also a few decisions made that are illogical to the point of laughter. For example, late in the film the group decides it’s safe to make camp inside a house, without ever checking out the upstairs. You’d expect the scientists to possibly not think about doing a sweep of the entire house, however Portman’s character is supposed to be ex military.

The acting is exceptional…for the most part.

The acting, for the most part was very solid. Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez both show they have impressive range as actresses. Thompson plays a meek scientist here when her last few roles have been stronger, more domineering characters. Conversely, Rodriguez is known most for her good girl role in Jane the Virgin, but successfully mixes it up here as a character with a much rougher personality.

Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation.

Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance, however was too strange for me and distracts from the overall film. Her manner of speaking is annoying and strung out; failing to convince that she’s competent enough to be a psychiatrist, let alone lead a team on a potential suicide mission.

Jennifer Jason Leigh in Annihilation.

Annihilation is not a movie for everyone. It is a fascinating examination of human nature that is worth giving a chance. If the slower, more cerebral aspect doesn’t sound like your usual taste, I would wait for Redbox or Netflix to decide what you think.

Annihilation’s final verdict is 7.5 expanding alien rainbow bubbles out of 10.

Rampage Trailer 2 Reaction

I am 100% convinced that if the money is good, the Rock will take on literally any role. Rampage, which is based on the 80’s arcade game with the same name, is a perfect example. Most actors of his level of fame wouldn’t dare get anywhere near a role like this, as the chances of it doing well are slim. Johnson basically said “hold my beer, watch this…”

Rampage, released in 1986

It is true that Dwayne Johnson’s acting has drastically improved since his WWE days, and he’s had a decent track record lately with making magic happen with whatever movie he’s in (with the exception of Baywatch maybe).

I played Rampage quite a bit as a kid, so this definitely has some nostalgia factor that might also make it easier to overlook its inevitable flaws. In a time where most games had you play as a hero, Rampage gave you the choice between 3 monsters and then set you loose to destroy a city. For a movie based on this type of game, the story seems to make as much sense as it possibly could: science.

George.
Lizzie.
Ralph.

The bottom line is: this will not be a cinema masterpiece…not even close. What it does look like is a ridiculously entertaining popcorn flick that not only acknowledges it’s absurdity (“of course the wolf has wings”), but flaunts it while having a good time, that Dwayne Johnson is an expert at providing. He is the modern day action hero.

Rampage release on 4/20/18