The Force is Back Baby!! (Non-Spoiler The Force Awakens Review)

Just in case the title didn’t give it away, I will avoid spoilers since I did see the film’s Thursday premiere. With that out of the way….

WOW….

Back in ’99, the hype for The Phantom Menace was no less different than the amount of hype built up for The Force Awakens. Alas, we all know what all the hype for Phantom Menace led to. (And we will never forget). That’s what frightened me about The Force Awakens. Sure, the trailers were awesome but the same could be said about The Phantom Menace. Even videos of Phantom‘s trailer being screened and applauded got me thinking: “Will The Force Awakens end up into that same path?”

Thankfully (Thank God thankfully I’ll add) the hype for The Force Awakens is hype well placed. THIS was the kind of Star Wars film we all wanted in the prequel trilogy and director J.J. Abrams delivers the goods.

The sense of excitement is there. The danger is lurking. The stakes feel high. And the film perfectly mixes the sense of nostalgia while also leaving room for the new cast to take center stage for this new trilogy. Let me quickly get the original cast members out of the way….

We are all aware of the return of Ford, Fisher, Hamill and others and I know is going to be in every moviegoers mind while seeing the film. But for those fearing that they will just be some cheap cameos who don’t offer much of the story, have no fear. Again without spoiling everything, all the original characters actually serve a plot purpose, some albeit a shorter purpose than others, but still they’re not just in the back seat. I especially love the way how ALL of them get introduced and it’ll get some fanboys and fangirls to lose their cool as they show up in the big screen again after as their iconic roles. That’s all I’ll say in risk of unintentionally revealing something, but now onto to the NEW cast….

It’s a literal passing of the torch. The new cast are new characters, yet they all fit so well into the Star Wars adventure, we quickly accept them and are happy to ride alone with them. We have Daisy Ridley as Rey, the scavenger who has a bigger role in the universe than she initially believed. Ridley is a standout and shows off her bad ass chops here which is much welcomed. We have David Boyega as Finn, the stormtrooper who becomes reluctant of his role in the First Order (succeeding the Empire) and strays off. Boyega is both really engaging and funny in this role. We have Oscar Issac as Poe, the snarky and talented pilot who is part of the Resistance, the successor of the Rebel Alliance. We could have used more of him, but hey! We still have two more films to go! We got BB-8, the spheric droid who ends up kicking the story off and shares R2D2’s sense of humor and quirkiness. I am seriously contemplating buying that remote control BB-8. And we have Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the new baddie in the galaxy who has more going for him than the trailers will let you realize. He’s a pretty interesting character and no Darth Vader, in the sense that he’s not driven for the same reasons Vader was but still menacing in his own right

Once again, in risk of revealing too much details, I won’t delve in too much into the plot itself. However, I am extremely satisfied in saying that The Force Awakens was worth the wait and definitely worth an extra viewing or two (as I plan to do). The Star Wars universe is back and better than ever. I am both excited and afraid for what they have to offer next in the trilogy. But for now, their off to one HELL of a good start…..

 

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Beware the old people! (The Visit Review)

Horror film? Check. Found Footage? Check. Old people are the “monsters” of the movie? Check. M. Night Shyamalan directing? Check. It sounds like it supposed to be another disaster from the man who brought you The Last Airbender (*shudders), but to my utter and sincere surprise……

It was okay

That’s both saying a lot and not saying much for a Shyamalan film. You want to feel good that Shyamalan for once made a somewhat decent film, but come on! The man has been on a losing streak for the past decade at least. Even a “meh” film would have fared better

But as I said before, this film lands on “okay”. Let me guide you to my (and my sister’s) thoughts throughout the movie:

We follow aspiring documentary film maker Becca (Olivia Dejonge) and aspiring wannabe rapper Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) as they decide to pay a visit to the grandparents they never met because of the strained relationship between them and their mother Paula (Kathryn Hahn). Olivia wants to film the whole experience to hopefully submit it for film festivals and maybe a Oscar nomination (Oh….kids lol). The grandparents, Doris (Deanna Dunagan) and John (Peter McRobbie), appear heart warmed to see their grandkids, but as luck will have it, some things are going bump in the night. Weird noises appearing during sleep hours, grandma’s acting weird and grandpa’s acting paranoid. Let the hijinks begin!

Let’s start with the actors. Kathryn Hahn does a great job grounding the story for a such a minimal role. While the kids are at their grandparents house, Paula is on a vacation cruise with a new love interest and can only talk via Skype. Olivia and Tyler are great as the curious siblings who try to investigate the weird occurrences that happens after 9:30 pm and try to “survive” the week (in both senses of the word). Deanna and Peter are creepy if sometimes awkward as the grandparents who might or might not be hiding something from the kids and the neighbors

Let me take a brief pause and say that this film is not Shymalan’s “return” to greatness. The Visit is not The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, it’s a little like Signs but with logic that actually works (Seriously though! Why would hydrophobic aliens come to a planet that is 70% water????). My sister had a pretty good grasp on the movie, as it made her feel “mixed” and I agree with her. It has it’s moments, but there were a bunch of times that I questioned the directional choices Shymalan made. At one point, I thought of it more as a waters down horror movie, that contains some scares that often get obscured by the other story elements. In my opinion, there was a little too much “free-styling” on Tyler’s part and Olivia expressing her cinematic techniques of the “documentary” makes it sound like Shymalan trying to tell us that he still knows what filmmaking is.

For a horror film, there a bunch of comedic moments stuffed in there. I appreciated it to some extent as some of the jokes fell flat or were too awkward for my (and the audiences) taste.

And now, what most of you might be expecting in any Shymalan film: The twist

I’m glad to say that for once, it doesn’t make the film fall flat on it’s face. In fact, it pushes the film further and makes sense. I actually managed to predict it, but it didn’t take away it’s effect. Without spoiling it, all I will say is that the twist definitely heightens up the creep factor.

Overall, I liked the film for trying to take a seemingly ridiculous plot and actually giving it some scares. The found footage gimmick is actually put to good use and the performances give the film its depth, humor and fear for some of these character’s well being.

Rating 3/5

Most likely to love it: Fans of goofy horror films

Most likely to hate it: The elderly

Fail-tastic Four (2015 Fantastic Four Review)

WARNING: Bad Puns ahead!
This is why I don’t trust trailers anymore! Like many, I was excited about the newest superhero reboot that is Fantastic Four or Fant4stic as it’s sometimes stylized. UNLIKE many, I actually enjoyed the 2005 Fantastic Four. (Yes, I watched again as a grown man, and I can’t help it. It’s goofy and stupid, but hell, till fun take on the superhero quadrio. Even the 2005 cast looked like they were having a fun time). But that’s The Thing (hehe, get it?)

This film feels kinda joyless and too much origin focused. Here’s the way I described to the theater usher who waited for my honest opinion of the film: It’s pretty much the movie equivalent of the Challenger take-off back in 1986. It starts off great and you get excited, then you spot some problems and think “Well, okay, I’m sure it’s just a misstep”, then you keep watching and you think “Oh come on. You can do better!”, then it keeps going and then you think “Oh God. No! No No No! No No!” and then finally it ends with a big “DAMMIT!! Damn it all!!” Boom! Crash and Burn a like a Human Torch (hehe)

Basically, my mind while watching the film

My biggest gripe with the film is that it could have been so great. The main problem everybody, and myself included, had was that it focused WAY too much on the origins of the team instead of them, you know?, being a team. The origin story takes up about 75% of the film, and by the time it ends, we’re faced with the antagonistic Dr. Doom and you think “Wait! They’re already gonna fight Doom? I thought there would be more!”

It’s basically a good movie that gets stretched (ha!) too long. Were this movie to be trimmed (or maybe chopped) some more it would be passable. Trank tries to make it his movie but you could almost tell where Fox ( the studio behind this film) got their dirty hands on it. Oh Fox, when will you ever learn?

If I had to say one good thing about the movie, it’s that cast were pretty good, but it could have used some more joy or depth into it. One of the fun Things (okay, I’ll stop) about the the team is Ben Grimm (The Thing) and Johnny Storm’s (Human Torch) witty banter with each other. The 2005 film does a great job showing that chemistry. This one….not so much. Maybe just one instance….at the END OF THE MOVIE!!!!

It is for these reasons that I will continue to side with 2005 Fantastic Four. At least with 2005, I wasnt mad that I spent 100 minutes with those characters

One more thing and probably the biggest crime of the movie: NO STAN LEE CAMEO!!!!!

The Ant-Man Cometh (Ant-Man Review)

Like most film geeks, I was disappointed when I heard that Edgar Wright, who directed Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and Shaun of the Dead and was going to direct this film, had left the project because of creative differences. I could have imagined how Wright would have taken on the film and how his style looks on a superhero film. *sighs A man can dream

But have no fear! Director Peyton Reed still manages to deliver a film that not only delivers actions and laughs, but also a new superhero for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that we want more of. Enter Ant-Man

Funny man Paul Rudd is a fine choice to play Scott Lang, an unlucky electrical engineer who gets jailed for pulling a Robin Hood and who is recently released from prison. He’s not starting off okay. Given his criminal record, he is unable to find work and pay for child support for his adorable daughter, who he cannot see since (SURPRISE) Scott’s ex-wife has remarried and they prevent him from seeing her. His only friends are his goofy posse of thieves: T.I. (yeah, the rapper) and David Dastmalchian are two of the three thieves who befriend Scott when he get out and they provide some well timed comic relief. Michael Pena is the stand out third member of the group, Luis. He kinda wears out his welcome but is still hilarious. I hope they come back for the next film

(Anyways, back to the story) A “job” brought up by Luis entices Scott to break his promise of a criminal-free life so he could use the winnings to see his daughter again. As chance would have it, these series of events would lead Scott to Hank Pym (played wonderfully by Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, a weary father and businessman with a heart. Along side with Hank’s kick-ass daughter Hope Pym (effectively portrayed by Evangiline Lilly), they conspire to steal a new more advanced Ant-Man like suit developed by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll’s also good here) who hopes to use it for war purposes.

Here’s the strange thing about this film: Though this it is part of the MCU, it doesn’t feel have the same feel and look that the other films before it had which I found refreshing and helps the film stand out. My biggest concern was that the film will play off more as a comedy film than a superhero film, but to my surprise it manages to balance out just fine. The actions scenes are engaging, the effects are top notch, the comedic moments hit the right notes and the sentimental moments are believable. I won’t say that this is the best film of the franchise, but it’s nowhere near the worst (looking at you Iron Man 3). It also leaves subtlety out the door with it’s references with the Avenger’s, but no harm done there.

I have to also give the film credit for making CGI ants lovable and awesome, which also had me worried that they would look silly (again and gladly, I was wrong).  Overall, Ant-Man is the funniest film of the MCU list, and in it’s own right, an exciting and stimulating change to the superhero films, given the recent trend of dark and gritty directions most films are taking now.

Oh! Pro-Tip! There are two credits scenes, but maybe you knew that already since it is a Marvel Film

One last thing: THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE!!!!

Rating: 9/10

Most Likely to Love: Team Marvel

Most Likely to Hate: Team DC (I’m being biased lol)

Worst. Night. Ever! (After Hours Review)

I always feel a bit uneasy when I find myself in an unfamiliar place in the middle in the night. This film is pretty much the embodiment of that fear, except it’s actually pretty funny. The plot follows Paul Hackett, a New York yuppie whose night goes from potentially romantic to potentially fatal for him. This is one of those comedies that’s laugh out loud funny, but rather situational funny, in which you think “Wow, I’m glad that’s not me going through that, but that’s why I’m laughing”

This is one Martin Scorsese’s least known films, which is both shameful and understandable. Going on back on it’s more situational funny tone, I don’t see this film pleasing every audience, but more towards film fanatics and/or devout followers of Scorsese’s works. Perhaps that’s why it has a cult status. That’s why I also warn that if you expect something like Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, you might be underwhelmed.

Griffin Dunne (you might know him from An American Werewolf in London) is perfect as the unlucky Paul who experiences the worst night of his life. We’re not given much to know about him, yet we still sympathize him for all the unfortunate events that befall on him. Then again, none of what’s happening is really his fault to begin. Just wrong place at the wrong time kinda stuff. it’s also funny how in a neighborhood in one of the biggest cities in the country, everybody seems to be connected with one another. It almost feels TOO convenient story-wise, but I’m not complaining. I’ve been to Soho a couple times at night, and while I’m sure things have changed since the mid 80s, the SoHO in this film is hilariously evil at times. Think of The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street meets NYC. This is what happens when a community decides to take things into their own hands, (and when you hurt some people’s feelings): they turn on you

Let me give you a list of vague words that pretty much sums up the whole night without spoiling anything:

Paperweights

Burglars

Punks

Pills

Paranoia

Berlin

A Quarter

Stolen

Full Circle

That’s pretty much as much I can tell you.

Rating: 4/5

Most Likely to Love: Black comedy enthusiasts, film buffs

Most Likely to Hate: Fans of Mister Softee and residents of SoHO, you monsters….

RAWR!! (Jurassic World Review)

I LOVED Jurassic Park. It was every kids dream come true, it was fun film for the adults and well….DINOSAURS!! It’s basically what Spielberg did with Jaws except with T Rexes and Raptors. Make a movie featuring a creature man has to fight and survive from and BOOM summer blockbuster, millions of dollars in the box office, made a huge impact in the world of cinema, everybody’s happy.

Jurassic World is pretty much the same thing, except without the impact on cinema, but that’s unfair. You can’t fault Jurassic World for not being as influential as Jurassic Park. That’s like comparing the Empire State Building to a very Lego building, yeah sure they’re both good rite but come on…we know which is the better one. Don’t compare apples to oranges.

However, this doesn’t mean I don’t have my faults with the film. I’ll get to that later. Let me address the things I liked about Jurassic World. First, Chris Pratt is pretty solid lead as Owen Grady, the Raptor tamer at Jurassic World, who sees his raptors as more than just attractions, but more like brothers and sisters, as far as human-dino bonding goes. The film is lots of fun. Now that the park is open we could explore more dinosaurs than we did before, particularly the Mosasaurus who steals the scene in its very brief cameos. The action scenes are pretty amazing. From being chased by dinosaurs, to fighting off dinosaurs or hell, even riding with dinosaurs, when Jurassic World wants to be fun, it shines and your eyes are glued to the screen.

Now lets get to my gripes with the film

I feel like I should mention the casting of the film. They seem to have left out one cast member from top billing and that cast member is Mercedez Benz. Good God, it felt like every five minutes briefly switches from dinosaur movie to, well, a Mercedez Benz commercial, as thats the brand that’s driving around everybody in the park. (That sentence, by the way, is brought to you by Mercedez Benz). The product placement in this film feels relentless. The park says that they have sponsors who fund the park and so they have some buildings named after them as well as some shops set up for the guests. It’s a good reason to have brands and logos in the movie, but it doesn’t mean that they won’t totally take me out of the experience

The writing is another weak spot in the film. I mentioned that Chris Pratt was a good lead, but when you see him saying the cheesy dramatic statement, it’s kinda a laughable. You can’t blame Pratt, he’s doing the best he can with a somewhat weak script. Also, while I’m on the subject of dramatic statements, pretty much everybody has to STAND UP on their feet to make a dramatic delivery. Gee, where have I seen that before?

The last fault I’ll mention here is probably one where I stand alone in according to critics and other personal review blogs, but I HATED Bryce Dallas Howard’s role as Claire, the cold, uptight businesswoman who works at Jurassic World who is visited at the park by her nephews, who she then proceeds to hand them to her assistant, who eventually loses them. HATED IT, HATED IT, HATED IT. I’m not even sure if I hated the character or the treatment she is given by other characters or probably both. I never found myself rooting for her even when she does come through and saves a couple of lives. And it definitely doesn’t help that none of the other characters (predominately male I should mention) don’t treat her as an equal or give her the respect she wants. If they don’t respect her, why should I? The fact that she’s the main female protagonist, with the exception of some of the raptors, has brought up some discussion of treatment of women in action films. Joss Whedon made a tweet criticizing her role in the movie as well as the movie’s treatment of her. I also didn’t buy her “romance” with Chris Pratt’s Owen. If felt rushed and completely random and lacked of chemistry. I believed Owen’s bond with the raptors more than I believed his relationship with Claire. The trailers hinted that they dated once at some point. Maybe they should have just left it there.

Overall, even with these cons weighing the film down, I still had a good time. With some nods to the original films, it’ll probably please fans of the series as well as those new to Lost World: Jurassic P…I mean, Jurassic World. The climax is pretty much what you expect, yet it’ll still leave you cheering in the theaters. Approach with caution 😉

Rating: 4/5

Most likely to love: Dinosaur lovers, Chris Pratt lovers, Product Placement Lovers

Most likely to hate: South Asians apparently: http://www.mediaite.com/online/stop-enjoying-jurassic-world-because-apparently-its-racist/

Oh! The Feels! (Inside Out Review)

I may have been the only adult in theater attending without a child, but there is no doubt that Inside Out shouldn’t be labeled as another children’s movie. It’s so much more complex and beautiful beyond that. Pixar has once again delivered another original and enthralling story that can entertain children AND adults while offering both groups completely different experiences. Director Pete Docter (who also directed Monsters Inc and Up, both of my favorite Pixar films along with Toy Story) has delivered us a vision about the human psyche that doesn’t just look fun and colorful, but is a pretty plausible way of seeing how the mind works. The film centers on Riley, an 11 year old girl form Minnesota who’s life is turned upside down when her family moves off to San Francisco. Inside Riley’s head are her five core emotions that help run Riley’s mind and control her responses to certain situations. Let’s meet our emotions:

We got Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) who is the energetic, optimistic, spunky member of the group. Though her intentions are always good, she’ll sometimes come off as pushy and bossy to get things her way. It’s not her fault though, since her main purpose is to keep Riley happy at all times. Which is good thing….sometimes, as the film will show you.

We got Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) the mopey, pessimistic but likable emotion who doesn’t seem know her purpose. I wanna say that while most kids choose Joy as their favorite emotion, most adults might side with Sadness as their favorite. Most of the comedic moments of Sadness can get you laughing one minute and then saying sympathizing with her

We got Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) the paranoid, scaredy cat (duh!) emotion who’s purpose is to keep Riley safe from danger, but sometimes his concerns might come off as too much. Example: he mentions Meteor as a potential danger for Riley’s for day at a new school.

We got Anger (voiced by Lewis Black, of course lol) the grumbling emotions who is reading to throw a temper when things don’t his (and Riley’s) way. Alongside Sadness, Anger gets most of the comedic moments in the film, and how can’t he? With Lewis Black lending his voice in a role that was perhaps made for him, you’re sure to get a chuckle at everything he says

Finally, we got Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling) the sarcastic and very picky emotion who kinda looks like she can’t enjoy anything. That would be a wrong assumption. Her sarcasm usually overshadows her disgust for certain things, but she’s a nice addition to the group.

The casting for Inside Out is pitch perfect, but it’s the message that I appreciated most from the film. I’ll try to be as spoiler-free as I can, but the film teaches us that everybody and everything has its role. The two front runners of the film are Joy and Sadness who couldn’t be more opposite, but they are caught in a predicament that forces them to work together. It is then that, while explore many other aspects of the human mind in Pete Docter’s eyes (abstract though, imagination, personalities), we have to see how to opposites work together for a common goal. Here’s where I’ll get spoilery:

SPOILER ALERT! Eventually, Joy learns a tough lesson how being happy isn’t always the right solution and being sad isn’t always a bad thing. Without Sadness, we can’t learn to be happy. It’s what makes us human. It’s when Joy and Sadness are sucked out of headquarters (where the emotions operate) that leaves Fear, Disgust and Anger in charge and the results are disastrous. Riley gives off attitude towards her parents, her interests begin to fade away and she slowly loses herself as her days without Joy and Sadness make her move to San Fran harder to accept.

SPOILERS END HERE! Overall, I loved this film and it’s another worthy addition to the Pixar franchise (i’m waiting to see where in the Pixar Theory this fits in). The ending is also the funniest I’ve ever seen, offering so many different versions of the film we just saw through different minds. That is my gripe, by the way. I would have TOTALLY sat down for a much longer film where we can explore more complications in Riley’s life and see how the emotions deal with it. I’m not really sure we’ll get a sequel (not that we need one) but I find the functionalities of the mind in this film so fascinating that I wish we could see more. Maybe a short video series? Or heck, even a comic would be great! I really want more! *Sighs. Guess I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out because I’m definitely gonna be watching again

Rating: 5/5

Most Likely to love: I’ll risk it: Everybody. There, I said it

Least Likely to Love: Robots (What. Are. emotions?)