Movies

Movie Review: "Pacific Rim: Uprising"

Mecha vs. kaiju sequel ups the ante for epic rock 'em sock 'em action

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Tempo grade: B+

Unlike the noisy and quickly tiresome "Transformers" franchise (yes, I said it), when director Guillermo del Toro adapted (and presented) Travis Beacham's comic book into the "Pacific Rim" sci-fi action film in 2013, he tapped into an even more engaging guilty pleasure for boys who like big toys.

Now, del Toro steps into the executive producer's chair for the sequel, handing over the director's viewfinder to Steven S. DeKnight, whose previous work has been rooted in the small screen. Make no mistake, though, DeKnight stepped up to the formidable task of putting together a pretty entertaining movie that pits giant robots called Jaegers (German for "hunter") against massive, nearly unstoppable monsters from another dimension called Kaiju (Japanese for giant creatures of legend), and yet keeps the story human-centric.

Both films emerged as an amalgam of various ideas spread across the sci-fi movie spectrum going back decades and generations. From "Kronos" (1957) to the various smackdowns in the King Kong-Godzilla universe to the slugfests among modern super-heroes, big robots and monsters have been pivotal in the drastic urban renewal of major cities the world over. But here, they come together as pawns in a larger story about ways humanity can come together to stave off annihilation from forces H.P. Lovecraft could only dream about.

In this film, it has been more than a decade since Jaeger pilots Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam, who is missing from this movie) saved the world by destroying a breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean that tore open an interdimensional link between our universe and that of "The Precursors," alien beings that use giant monsters to destroy and then invade new worlds.

As this story picks up, we are introduced to Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of Kaiju War hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). Even though the threat of extinction has been eliminated, the world's Jaeger program is still maintained just in case the Kaiju return. But, now, the two-pilot system, which uses a "drift" technology to meld their minds, is reluctantly about to be replaced by a huge army of drone Jaegers, machines operated by a single pilot sitting in front of a screen anywhere in the world.

Jake is not his father. Although he has the talent to become a skilled Jaeger pilot, he rejects the career path and instead makes a living selling illegal Jaeger parts on the black market.

If you saw the first movie, Jake's presence may be a little puzzling since no mention is made of any family in Stacker's world other than his adopted daughter Mako. Anyway, Jake gets arrested and is given a choice: jail or recruitment as a teacher in the Jaeger pilot program.

In the meantime, a teenage girl named Amara Namani (appealing newcomer Cailee Spaeny) has built for herself a mini-Jaeger she calls Scrapper. She gets captured by the PanPacific Defence Corps and is also given a similar choice, which is how she gets set to become a pilot under Jake's tutelage.

After the Kaiju War, the internationally pervasive Shao Corp. privatized the entire Jaeger program and is now behind its complete overhaul. Dr. Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) return as researchers at odds because one believes in the old system while the other is committed to the new.

If you saw the first movie, one of the main plot points involves discovering the true motives of The Precursors by going into drift mode with a Kaiju brain. That action has evolved into something much more ominous in this movie.

"Uprising" isn't so much about Earth's defense against another Kaiju War, but against what some humans have done with the remnants left behind. It's an interesting take that also lays the groundwork for a franchise with some promise.

"Pacific Rim: Uprising" is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language

It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

The folowing were complied from press materials.

The Breadwinner

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic material including some violent images

Movies at the TCA

From executive producer Angelina Jolie and the creators of the Academy Award-nominated “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea,” comes the highly anticipated animated feature based on Deborah Ellis’ bestselling novel.

Parvana is an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana cuts off her hair and dresses like a boy to support her family.

Working alongside her friend Shauzia, Parvana discovers a new world of freedom and danger. With undaunted courage, Parvana draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family.

Equal parts thrilling and enchanting, “The Breadwinner” is an inspiring and luminously animated tale about the power of stories to sustain hope and carry us through dark times.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (April 1), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (April 2-4).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

I Can Only Imagine

MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements including some violence

Mitchell Storyteller 7

It’s the song that brings ultimate hope to so many often in the midst of life’s most challenging moments. Amazingly, the song was written in mere minutes by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard (played in the movie by J. Michael Finley). In reality, those lyrics took a lifetime to craft.

Although he found faith at a young age, life wasn’t easy for Bart. He leaned into an active imagination and his love of music as an escape from a troubled home life.

As he grew older, Bart turned to football in hopes of somehow connecting with his abusive father. But a career-ending injury, combined with the vision of a teacher who saw unlimited potential, set Bart on a musical pathway.

Chasing a dream while running from broken relationships with his father and Shannon (Madeline Carroll), his childhood sweetheart, Bart hits the road in an old, decrepit tour bus with his new band MercyMe, named for his grandmother’s favorite expression. With the guidance of a grizzled music-industry insider, the band begins a journey none of them could ever have imagined.

Directed by brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, the film co-stars Trace Adkins, Priscilla Shirer, Cloris Leachman and Dennis Quaid.

A gripping reminder of the power of forgiveness, “I Can Only IMagine” beautifully illustrates that no one is ever too far from God’s love or from an eternal home in Heaven.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Midnight Sun

MPAA rating: PG-13 for some teen partying and sensuality

Mitchell Storyteller 7

This film from Director Scott Speer is described as a romantic tearjerker about 17-year-old Katie Price (Bella Thorne), sheltered at home since childhood with a rare genetic condition: a life-threatening sensitivity to sunlight.

Having only her father Jack (Rob Riggle) for company, Katie’s world opens up after dark when she ventures outside to play her guitar. One night, her dreams come true when she’s noticed and asked out by her longtime crush Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), whom she’s secretly watched from her bedroom window for years. As they embark on nightly summer excursions, Katie’s risk to sunlight grows, and she’s presented with the gut-wrenching dilemma of whether she can live a normal life with her newfound soul mate.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Sherlock Gnomes

MPAA rating: PG for some rude and suggestive humor

Mitchell Storyteller 7

When Gnomeo and Juliet (voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt) first arrive in the city with their friends and family, their biggest concern is getting their new garden ready for spring.

However, they soon discover that someone is kidnapping garden gnomes all over London. When Gnomeo and Juliet return home to find that everyone in their garden is missing, there’s only one gnome to call: Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp).

The famous detective and sworn protector of London’s garden gnomes arrives with his sidekick Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to investigate the case. The mystery will lead our gnomes on a rollicking adventure where they will meet all new ornaments and explore an undiscovered side of the city.

Directed by Jon Stevenson, this animated comedy features the voice talents of Michael Caine, Mary J. Blige, James Hong, Ozzy Osbourne, Maggie Smith and Julie Walters.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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