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Loveless • Pacific Rim Uprising

March 22, 2018

Loveless (** ½) R

The Russian nominee for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscar ceremony, Loveless, gets off to a promising start before eventually going off the rails during its denouement. The film, which begins as a portrait of divorce and its effect on not only the man and woman at the center but also their offspring, loses ground when it changes the focus to simply commenting on the state of things in modern day Russia. The film feels as if it’s trying to make separate statements that never quite come together satisfactorily as a whole. Its intentions are obviously in the right place but this is a case where dialing back the scale of things may have been a good idea in hindsight.

The film begins with a sense of foreboding as twelve-year old Alexey (Matvei Novikov) attempts to make his way home through snow-covered terrain after school one afternoon. The opening elicits a sense of foreboding that is very effective in the film’s early scenes. This continues after the introduction of Alexey’s parents, Boris (Alexey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak). They’re recently separated and are already in the midst of new relationships and seem to really harbor an intense hatred for each other. In fact, their hatred is so strong that it leaves one to wonder why or how they ever got together in the first place. These two are so self-absorbed that it would be a miracle if any child they had together came out unscathed, emotionally or otherwise.

Matvey Novikov in Loveless

Alexey disappears one day, which really isn’t that much of a surprise, considering the relative lack of attentiveness Alexey’s parents seem to have in regards to anyone other than themselves. What’s a real mystery is whether the boy left on his own accord or was kidnapped. Zhenya and Boris are questioned, which leads to only more hostility between the estranged couple.

Zhenya and Boris receive a tip from one of Alexey’s childhood friends that the boy may have purposely run away as a result of the tumult of his home life. The film then segues into a police procedural as they comb the town looking for the boy. At this point the film switches gears and becomes a commentary on the futility of government institutions, particularly those in Russia.

Loveless contain some great acting all the way around and it paints a pretty realistic portrait of a marriage that has passed the point of no return. If only it had focused on that aspect, instead of injecting all of the other elements into the proceedings which never quite feel as if they’re fully formed. You’re left admiring the scope of the film but lamenting the result. 

Pacific Rim Uprising (** ½) PG-13

One of the biggest movie going surprises of the year 2013 was how much I enjoyed the recent Oscar winning director Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. The tale of oversized robots with humans at the controls, beating the tar out of dinosaur sized creatures emanating from beneath the sea and referred to as Kaiju, in order to save mankind, worked better than I could have imagined. The takeaway quotient ran low, to be sure, but it was a load of escapist fun for me and I had a great time with its old school vibe, a deliberate callback to many of the Godzilla films of decades past. Perhaps it was because I’ve always been a sucker for movies featuring giant monsters at the center of the story but, whatever the reason, I gave into its charms. 

It’s pretty much a given that when a second cinematic helping of a dish you really liked the first time comes along the enjoyment is almost guaranteed to be of the lesser variety. Appearing nearly half a decade after its predecessor, Pacific Rim Uprising is better than I expected. There are some great monster battles, most of which are confined to the film’s final act, and enough of a story to keep one reasonably engaged.  It’s definitely a lesser experience but that’s no surprise.    

Pacific Rim Uprising unfolds ten years after the first film’s events. When we left off it was pretty well established that the humans had won the battle, with the alien creatures neatly sealed off in a breach at the bottom of the ocean. 

John Boyega in Pacific Rim Uprising

The son of the character played by Idris Elba in the first film, Jake Pentecost, is the main protagonist on hand. He’s played by John Boyega who’s best known for his role in the current crop of Star Wars films. Jake lives in the shadow of his legendary father who sacrificed his life in the first film, and as written he’s a bit on the clichéd side. We all know he’s going to eventually save the world just like dear old dad but not before he takes a young girl named Amara (Cailee Spainey) under his wings. She’s adept at putting together oversized robots out of spare parts and eventually we know her talents will be put to good use.   

Jake and Amara find themselves on the wrong side of the law but are given the opportunity to train for monster battle in exchange for going to prison, reason being that their skills are deemed an asset should another monster attack take place. The first hour of the movie mostly consists of the characters in training before the Kaiju return around the one-hour mark, laying waste to parts of Japan in the process.   

The loss of the original film’s director this go round certainly brings the film down a notch or two. TV director Steven S. DeKnight gets the job done but his work is perfunctory at best. How much better would the film have been had Guillermo Del Toro returned to the scene is a mystery about which we can only speculate.

Loveless opens at the end of the month in Charlotte. Pacific Rim Uprising is playing in Hickory and all around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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