Hear Her Roar! (Wonder Woman Review)

On any other day, if you were asked who comes to mind when told to think of a “female superhero”, it’s almost always gonna be her. For a character as iconic and trailblazing as Wonder Woman, there were many failed attempts to bring her into the live action mainstream media (save for the 1970’s television show starring Lynda Carter). So when the DC announced that she was getting her own movie, many people cheered while a bunch of us groaned. Remember, this was the studio that brought us such instant classics such as The Green Lantern (in his CGI costumed glory), Batman V Superman (MARTHA!!!) and Suicide Squad (This is Kitana!! She’s got my back!). In their defense, they also brought us the Dark Knight Trilogy. And now, they gave us Wonder Woman

I was so glad to leave the theater when the credits rolled. This is not only a desperately needed win for DC, but once again proves that women (both behind and in front of the camera) can lead the charge in a big blockbuster film, as well as finally giving Wonder Woman her overdue spotlight. Here you got great character development, excellent direction, intense action scenes and of course, superb acting from the whole cast, with Gal Gadot and Chris Pine deserving special recognition for their roles here.

The film follows Diana, Princess of Themyscira, as she embarks on a journey with pilot Steve Trevor after he crash lands near her island in the midst of World War I. Diana leaves behind her utopian home for our complicated world and learns that she must do all that she can to put a stop to the war. If you weren’t sure if you liked Gadot from her few scenes in Batman v Superman, this film ought to put those doubts to rest

Gadot fits the role of the Amazonian Princess perfectly and adds her own touches to make it hers alone. She can be both nurturing, but aggressive, naive, but wise, graceful, and full on warrior mode. She also manages to get a couple of laughs along with Pine who serves as the comic relief in their adventures. Another thing I noted while watching this move is the shift in tone compared to Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. While those movies turn the bleak factor up to 11, there is a surprising sense of hope by the end of the movie (which is sad when I’m talking about superhero movies that are sorta meant to invoke hopefulness to their audience, but I digress).

In an interesting move, the film balances its superhero elements with war movie features as trench battles and gun fights take center stage during the big action scenes. I also really liked the structure they went with for the film, which presents all the events as a flashback so we learn more about Diana and how she became the woman we met in Batman v Superman. This makes her character more matured, as we see how far she has come and changed since her first days in our world and where this can lead in future films. She’s portrayed as a war hero in the same manner as how we view our veterans, except she’s got superpowers and is immortal.

Now, no film is without its flaws. The many slow motion scenes that occur during the action both highlight the beauty of the scene, but there were so many of them that it got a little distracting after a while. I’m assuming producer Zach Snyder must be behind that, while director Patty Jenkins was probably forced to compromise. This only justifies my fears that Snyder is the main problem of the DCEU. Though no fault of its own, the exposition does drag the film a little in its first act. That I can excuse only because the film wanted to explain Wonder Woman’s place of origin in more detail. If you can muster through it, you’ll be fine.

Other than that, this film definitely sets the bar for other DC films to follow and I cannot wait to see what else Gadot will do with the character. She’s pretty much become the main reason I’m considering watching the Justice League movie. With a couple of applause worthy moments, Wonder Woman is a delightfully refreshing thrill ride with a star making performance from Gadot.

Remember to always dress right to fight!

Rating: 4.25/5

 

Thank You Hugh (Logan Review)

17 Years

Hugh Jackman has been playing Logan/Wolverine for 17 years, and by god, it was an amazing ride. It’s difficult enough for directors to find actors who are able to play a character well, but even less so to find an actor who fits so well into a role, that just watching it happen before your eyes feels like magic. You really can’t imagine these characters being played by someone else (Heath Ledger as the Joker, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, or almost everyone in the Harry Potter movies)

Logan is meant to be Jackman’s final performance as everyone’s favorite curmudgeon mutant, as well as Patrick Stewart’s final appearance as the wise telepathic Charles Xavier. Both actors are marvelous here as their old characters, but whom have gone through rough times over the course of more than a decade. Logan’s healing factor is receding, the adamantium that coats his skeleton is beginning to poison him and he’s now working as a chauffeur. All while having to take care of Professor Xavier who has seemingly gone senile and is losing control of his telepathic abilities. They are also accompanied by Calaban (played by Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant who’s ability is to track other mutants.

Their lives are uprooted by the appearance of Laura/X-23, a young mutant who resembles Logan and needs to be brought to a safe haven no one is even sure exists. She is played by 12-year old Dafne Keen, who is remarkable here. Equal parts bad ass, likable and adorable, Keen definitely holds her own while paired up with Jackman. The film turns into a road trip/ chase film as our heroes our pursued by the menacing Donald Pierce (played by Boyd Holbrook) with intentions to capture and kill Laura.

Perhaps, the most obvious thing I loved off the bat was, because of the film’s R rating, Logan is able to be his true visceral self. Bloody, foul mouthed and unleashed, this is probably the best portrayal of Wolverine ever shown on film. Despite that, this is also the most sympathetic we’ve seen of the character. Not just because of his weaker state, but because we see him take on more of a father figure to Laura and Professor Xavier.

Also noticeable is the complete change of tone compared to the previous films. While the rest of the X-men films felt more action packed and were prone to over-the-top moments, Logan goes for a more bleaker realistic look that emphasizes the gravity of our heroes’ situation. Whether in the middle of the desert or deep in the woods, there’s always a sort of desperate aesthetic that shadows the film, even during its warmer moments. It definitely makes this film stand out compared to the other films in the series

Without spoiling the ending, I will say that it is a fitting, if painful, send off for Logan and Hugh Jackman.The final battle is both satisfying and gripping, with all the players involved getting their time to shine. If you are even slightly susceptible to tears, you might wanna bring your handkerchief.

In all seriousness, even at his lesser films (*cough Origins: Wolverine) watching Jackman playing Wolverine for almost two decades was a joy to experience. We only get these occurrences once in a while and they rarely last as long as Jackman did with Logan. As the that old saying goes “All good things must come to an end”

Thank you Hugh

Rating 4.5/5

ALWAYS keep the flash on (Get Out Review)

I wasn’t a devoted viewer of the hit comedy series Key and Peele, but I have enjoyed the few skits I did see and was aware of the show’s acclaim, citing its biting satire and relevant social commentary.

So when I heard that Jordan Peele, a noted comedian, wanted to direct a horror film, my interest was piqued. I love it when comedians take up something that is outside their spectrum; Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine, Robin Williams in every dramatic role he takes on, and Louis CK’s own show when it gets pretty deep. With Peele’s debut film Get Out, I gladly have another entry to add to that list.

The film follows Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya) driving down countryside with girlfriend Rose (played by Allison Williams) to meet her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener). Chris and Rose are an interracial couple and he voices his concern that Rose’s parents are unaware that she is dating a black man. Though Rose assures him that there’s nothing to worry about, Chris’ suspicions start to grow true as her parents and the housekeepers (all of them black FYI) act strangely around him.

From the first scene of Chris and Rose together, you know that the topic of race is taking center stage. But part of the brilliance of the film is the way Peele uses it as the source of most of the suspense, tension and some comedic moments sprinkled in the relieve said tension. You can almost see it start off as a skit for his show, but then it grew into something new.

Daniel Kaluuya has been a favorite up and coming actor of mine since seeing in the Black Mirror episode “500 Million Merits” and Sicario. He is likable, funny and shows immense star potential in this film, only complimented by his co-stars who are all up in their A-game. I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

Speaking of funny, a shout out to Lil Rel Howery for his role as Chris’ best friend Rod for providing some of the best comic relief I’ve seen in a while. Every scene he’s in has gotten the audience dying of laughter.

Get Out is an effective Social Horror film that is a breath of fresh air for the genre and inspires lot of interesting ideas. Jordan Peele has proven that he’s got as much talent behind the camera as he does in front of it and I can’t wait to see what other concepts he’s got in store. The cast nails their roles just right and the film gives out some interesting messages about the nature of race, relationships and identity. That twist at the end by the way is as bonkers, messed up and creepy as you can expect from the mind of Jordan Peele.

Side Note: To anybody who might find this film offensive or racist in any way or for any reason, I just got two words for you: Get Out

Rating: 8.5/10

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!!!!!

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?)