Category Archives: Action

“The Mummy” Movie Review

Oh, the things I do for you guys. This horror action thriller from debuting director Alex Kurtzman released nationwide on June 9th, 2017, surprisingly earning back nearly $300 million at the box office. It also marks the beginning of a brand new cinematic universe franchise entitled “Dark Universe,” a highly publicized reboot of the Universal Monster series from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Tom Cruise stars as a looter named Nick Morton who accidentally stumbles upon the grave of a thousands-year-old mummy princess, played by Sofia Boutella. Once she awakens, it’s up to him and Annabelle Wallis to prevent all hell from breaking loose in the modern world, while a mysterious organization looms over everything. Now this movie has been raked over the coals by critics and audiences everywhere, saying that it is a betrayal of everything this franchise stood for. Confession time: I was never a fan of Stephen Sommers’ original The Mummy from the late 1990’s or its two sequels. I haven’t seen them in years. I also think that some of the early Universal Monster movies are a bit overrated. In short, I genuinely do not care about this series, so I was able to enter the theater with a completely open mind. And after 107 minutes of my time absorbed, I walked out blown away… at how bad this actually was. Let’s start out with the positives in this movie, as I typically like to do. Like most of his other movies, Tom Cruise totally brings it to his role as Nick Morton in physical demand. The fact that this man is willing to perform most of his own stunts and retain that iconic All-American smile gives an edge and sense of being fun to watch that most action stars miss. While yes, he does run a lot, his character arc is essentially the same one he’s been playing for the last several years. Meanwhile, Anabelle Wallis plays his love interest with some great feistiness and is able to keep her wits about her. Their love story follows all of the beats you’d expect rather predictably and lazily. Sofia Boutella is a greatly underrated actress and action heroine who deserves more recognition than she already has. Her mummy actually had a relatively intriguing backstory Despite the rest of the cast consisting of A-list talents such as Courtney B. Vance, Jake Johnson, Javier Botet, Marwan Kenzari, and Russel Crowe, they feel wasted and wanting of more to say and to do. And that’s apparently because Cruise reportedly had way too much creative control over the production of The Mummy. From rewriting the meager script (Which already had six people credited to writing) to teaching Kurtzman how to properly direct to downplaying the roles of actors, this might as well have been his own directorial debut, Stanley Kubrick style. No wonder Universal Studios gave a monster salary for this film. Now I’m left to wonder if the movie would have become better if he had let the creators do what they wanted. I haven’t even gotten to the technical parts of the picture, which are an extremely mixed bag. The sound design and surround audio are crisp and nice, especially during gunfights or tomb looting moments. But the visual effects are the most inconsistent aspect of the film as a whole. Some scenes, it looked fine; not nearly impressive, but fine enough. Other times, it looked a wholly unconvincing sequence of greenscreen voodoo magic infused with whatever few practical sets were built on a studio lot. The design for the mummy herself, Princess Ahmanet, was pretty cool and showed off some impressive make-up, but that’s about the extent of it. Action movie man Brian Tyler composes his fourth feature film score this year, and can be deemed as “passable.” While it does lean on the tense strings during some of the more horror-driven moments, for the most part, the tracks often feature rousing orchestral arrangements in the vein of high-flying adventures like Indiana Jones. Which I find funny, considering that Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy actually started out as an Indiana Jones rip-off, which itself was a parody of tomb raiding adventures like the original from the 1930’s starring Boris Karloff. Everything that goes around eventually finds a way to come back around. But above all else, The Mummy is simply frustrating in its attempts to set up the much-talked about “Dark Universe.” Alex Kurtzman is so convinced that he has to create this world in which we can have sequels and spin-offs in the future that he and the other five screenwriters end up rushing through many beats. Whereas Marvel Studios took their sweet time establishing the whole universe and set of characters to come, The Mummy wants to get it all out of the gate immediately, using Russel Crowe’s character of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his organization as a thread tying it all together. Hell, even the DC Cinematic Universe seemed more patient than this one does. To be fair, that whole segment involving Jekyll and his people was the most genuinely entertaining part of the entire 107-minute runtime, and as far as I’m concerned watching the origin of his character and organization would have been a much more interesting movie than the one we ultimately got. All the hype around this new cinematic universe of iconic movie monsters coming together and this is the best thing they could come up with? Unless you’re the curious completionist or fan of brainless action, The Mummy is a desperately rushed and wholly underwhelming barrage of boneheaded potential. Confusing in tone and disappointing overall, there is honestly a compelling movie SOMEWHERE underneath this foundation; it’s there. I’m just waiting for the first person who finds it.

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“Batman Begins” Movie Review

Why did the Batman franchise fall? So that it could learn to pick itself up. Or at least when a competent filmmaker is given the reigns of it all. This superhero thriller drama debuted in June of 2005, going on to earn just under $375 million at the worldwide box office and helped propel this comic book property to critical heights. After nearly a decade of dropped directors, budget deficits, and scrapped ideas, (Including an early version of Batman v Superman) Warner Bros. finally hired director Christopher Nolan to reinvent the DC character, who at that point had only been known for Memento. The PG-13 rated plot ultimately takes the origin story of Batman, one of the most iconic fictional characters in American pop culture, in a dark and gritty direction. After billionaire Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents get murdered, he leaves to join the mysterious League of Shadows to learn the ways of justice. Years later, he returns to Gotham City and uses his money and resources to fight crime on the streets as the masked night-time vigilante known as Batman. After the disaster that was 1997’s Batman and Robin, so many comic book fans were skeptical that a relatively unknown director could bring one of their favorite characters back to life. At this point he had become a joke of a hero, what with plastic nipples and Bat-Credit Cards. But Nolan not only accomplished this goal with flying colors, he also made a great movie in general. Future Oscar-winner Christian Bale plays Bruce Wayne/Batman and is absolutely perfect in the lead. He essentially plays a triple role; the real Bruce Wayne around his butler when he’s being himself, the vigilante caped and cowled in the night, and the facade of Bruce Wayne that most of Gotham’s people see him as- which is a drunken billionaire playboy who cares about nothing except money and women. And watching this man carelessly bringing European girlfriends to a hotel that he immediately buys out for a new swimming pool is rather funny. Speaking of funny, Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth brought both a fatherly figure and a great sense of comic relief without it feeling forced. He often offers our hero some great advice before he dons the outfit to fight more crime, but isn’t afraid to say what’s really on his mind. Liam Neeson shines as Bruce’s temporary mentor, Henry Ducard, in a role right before the man became a flat-out action star. Other veterans in strong supporting roles include Morgan Freeman as the technologically helpful Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as the one honest cop in Gotham James Gordon, Tom Wilkinson as the arrogant mob boss running the streets of Gotham City, and Cillian Murphy as an ironically insane mental doctor. Meanwhile, Katie Holmes as the main love interest feels like a shoehorned afterthought and would be better established in the nest installment. The action, like the rest of the movie, feels very gritty and grounded in reality. The character’s background in ninja expertise lends itself well, even if sometimes it looks a bit uncomfortable. This being only Nolan’s second big-studio film, his first foray into action scenes leaves a bit to be desired. But watching the Caped Crusader eliminating a gang of street thugs never gets old. In the first film of their long-running collaboration, Hans Zimmer composes the musical score in epic fashion. However, he brings on some professional help with fellow industry titan James Newton Howard. One of the more memorable superhero scores of recent times, the centerpiece consists of fast-moving strings building up to a horn sound off. Also worth noting are the pulsating electric drums in action scenes that help establish the tension. Batman Begins is also a fantastic film filled with thematic statements consistent with Christopher Nolan’s filmography. The most obvious of these is facing your fears, no matter how frightening it may be. Bruce Wayne as a kid is terrified of bats and still is as an adult. But he embraces his phobia and turns his dread onto his enemies. Proof positive that Batman is no laughing matter who sports plastic nipples and suits that can’t let him rotate his head. Joking aside, the titular character also seems to be looking for a father figure to mentor him in the realities of the corrupt world around him. Since his real father was murdered in cold blood when he was a child, Bruce has looked to both Alfred and Ducard for that hole in his personal life. This opens up an interesting philosophical dichotomy for the hero, with one side teaching him to counter a ruthless world with more ruthlessness and the other encouraging him to fight against corruption without excessive violence. While this film and The Dark Knight Rises were arguably overshadowed by the sequel to come, Batman Begins is a greatly realized and super satisfying start to a trilogy that’s among the proudest in its genre. Each time I watch it makes it better and remains a fine superhero movie. And Bruce Wayne doesn’t even do his cape and cowl until over an hour into the experience. That’s the craft and dedication they poured into it.

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“Wonder Woman” Movie Review

Sometimes, movies can teach its audience a valuable lesson. The lesson I took away from this one? Never question a woman when she has an opinion in the war room. Ever. This historical superhero adventure released worldwide on June 2nd, 2017, grossing over $220 million in the opening weekend. It took years for the character to make her onscreen debut, with Joss Whedon making attempts at it in the late 1990’s. Under the reigns of Monster director Patty Jenkins, Warner Bros. finally gave her a solo film this year. The titular character from DC Comics, played by Gal Gadot, lives on her paradise island of Themiscyra with her fellow female Amazon warriors. When American pilot Steve Trevor lands on their doorstep, Princess Diana is swept up into the War to End All Wars. Now, she must find the God of War Ares, who she believes is causing the conflict, and save humanity from tearing itself apart. Going into Wonder Woman, there was a certain level of expectations I had set. In the past, I was probably way too forgiving to Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a massive disappointment. But listening to the initial critical reactions, I was wondering if it would truly be the first great movie of the DC Extended Universe. Well, I’m very happy to report that that is the case. The biggest thing at the forefront of this film is the character interactions, particularly between Steve Trevor and Diana. And that is arguably the strongest aspect of the entire movie. Gal Gadot is practically flawless as the main hero, showing off all the charisma and charm of any cinematic male superhero you could think of. Her gradual discovery of mankind’s capability for violence and compassion gives her a genuine arc, rather than some god who is perfect at everything. Chris Pine is a magnificently funny counterpart to her in both essence and philosophy. While Diana believes strongly in the inherent goodness of man, Trevor is more world-weary and idealistic. Their back-and-forth banter is written sharply. In fact, the biggest thing distinguishing this film from its predecessors is just how funny it is. Previously, both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were total gloom-fests and Suicide Squad has some trouble finding its identity with a lack of balance. But Wonder Woman emerges with zero shame in its protagonist, highlighting much of the absurdity in a comical light. Is it cheesy and cliched sometimes? Yes, it is. You’ll likely hear this in many other reviews, but this charm is reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s Superman from 1978, the granddaddy of all modern superhero films, regardless of license. The period setting and “God-is-a-fish-out-of-water” premise are also familiar with 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. To be clear, Wonder Woman is better and funnier than either of those two, but seeing that kind of influence is just so amusing. The funniest segment comes in the portion set in London when they come to visit higher-ups. Not only does Lucy Davis nail the role of Steve Trevor’s secretary, but there was a scene when Diana saved Trevor from thugs in an alleyway. Yet again, that reminded me of Richard Donner’s classic. The main villains were a mixed bag for me. Two of them were actually interesting and it was rather nice to watch their plans unfold. However, I felt that the reveal of Ares in the final act was ruined by a bit of miscasting and predictability. And like the previous installments of the DC Extended Universe, as well as arguably Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman‘s final battle is a CGI-heavy festival of explosions and fantasy elements. It wasn’t necessarily a mess, it was relatively easy to follow but felt drawn-out. Speaking of action scenes, when they do happen in the movie, they are absolutely riveting to behold. The greatest and by far most memorable sequence in the entire movie is when our heroes are trying to help their comrades survive a bit of trench warfare. Diana brings out her outfit, shield and God-Killer sword, and walks into No Man’s Land determined to bring down the Kaiser’s men. In some ways, this was the centerpiece of the film, elevated by Martin Walsh’s fast-paced editing and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ pulsating orchestral score. Mixing the titular character’s electric guitar-driven theme song from Batman v Superman with swelling strings and horns is an interesting play. Also worth noting, pop artists Sia and Labrinth wrote an original song for the soundtrack called “To Be Human,” which plays as the credits begin to role. Fans should hold out to listen to a rather inspirational song. Just don’t expect any post-credits scenes of any kind while you’re at it. Ultimately, this movie has a message. A very important and relevant message that all of mankind, let alone comic book fans, need to be reminded of. As most of the film is told through the eyes of Diana/Wonder Woman, we see the human world as she does: grimy, desperate, washed away, and on the brink of self-destruction. But she also sees that as deeply flawed as it may be, and as evil the atrocities it can commit throughout history, humanity is still worth saving from the darkness. Incredibly challenging and uplifting, this message is the kind of optimism and hope our world desperately needs right now. My faith in humanity has been what it’s always been, but movies like this remind me of something that seems impossible to conceive of, yet easy to grasp. That, or I have no idea what the hell I’m actually talking about. With thrilling action, tons of heart, great acting, and clever homages to the original films of the genre, Wonder Woman is a love letter to female empowerment and a celebration of man’s worth for salvation. Go see this movie and support it actively. And then buy it on Blu-Ray. That’s what I’m doing next.

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“Blade Runner” Movie Review

*The following review will account for the Final Cut version of Blade Runner, as I feel it’s the only one worth watching.*

In honor of the new film, Blade Runner 2049, which is due out in October, I felt it was appropriate to review the original classic. This neo-noir sci-fi thriller- written by David Webb Peoples and Hampton Fancher -released on June 25th, 1982. It vastly underperformed both overseas and domestically, only grossing $33.8 million against a $28 million budget. And that includes rereleases. But now it is considered among the best in its genre and one of the most highly regarded films of the 1980’s. Disclaimer: this review will contain significant spoilers, so read at your own discretion. It’s the not-too-distant (And not too absurd) future of 2019 in Los Angeles. Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is the type of human who is tasked with finding androids that look like other humans and even imitate them. When a group of these androids, called Replicants, escape from custody on an off-world colony, he has to track them down and kill them all. Dystopian sci-fi futures aren’t anything new in cinema. Nor are stories that attempt to have sociopolitical allegories infused into their overall narratives. And yet, there is just something about Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner that makes it feel so singular, so original, and so memorable in almost every frame of the motion picture. But it’s not just a science-fiction story. Hell, even if you erased the flying cars, and any mention of future technology, what you’re left with is still a compelling drama. This is a movie focused on the question of general ethics and our capacity to follow them. Not just human beings but Replicants as well. In fact, some of the Replicants are more humane than some of the human characters we meet at all. This movie never did get enough recognition, especially when it first debuted in 1982. It bombed so hard because few people were interested in a science-fiction film that made the audience think about the story rather than big explosions or sentimentality. It also failed to recoup its budget because it premiered at the same time as E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, a fantastic movie in its own right. But in terms of filmmaking, Blade Runner is an infinitely more fascinating picture. Everything you see on screen, there is more of it to show behind the curtain. From the history of the Tyrell Corporation to the details of the off-world colonies, the whole universe oozes with detail and layers of personality. Being based on a Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, It would have been so nice to see more of this interesting yet somewhat gloomy world. No one directs science-fiction films like Ridley Scott. From the original Alien in 1979 to 2015’s The Martian, every single one of his films looks absolutely gorgeous. They have lived in worlds made with sets that probably took several days to design and build. These sets seamlessly blend with CGI and bluescreen to create a unique and wholly original vision of what 2019 might look like. Even the way they are directed feel thematic, from the sexually-charge mystery of Alien to the isolation of Prometheus. And then there’s that ending. An ending that has had so much discussion that it puts the finales of both Inception and Birdman to utter shame. After saving his life, Roy Batty peacefully dies in the rain a content man. Not a machine, not a Replicant, a man. And when Deckard goes back to that apartment, he picks up that origami unicorn. “Too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?” he remembers Gaff telling him as a warning. And then he runs out. Is Rick Deckard a Replicant, the type of being that he’s been hired to track down as a Blade Runner? Or is he still just a human and feeling a sense of imagination or paranoia? It’s a great question to ponder with other people who have seen it. Personally for me, though, it would make more sense if he turned out to be a Replicant. Why go through all this trouble and all this discussion just for it to be untrue? It has to be true, for the sake of the themes of the story. While I ultimately have mixed feelings about Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming sequel set in 2049, I have no doubt in my mind they will address either of the two. How they approach it is the real trich, though. Blade Runner is not strictly speaking a perfect movie. The pacing, especially around the middle act, wanders from time to time. And some of the effects don’t necessarily hold up very well. But this is still one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time, and one of the greatest films ever made, period. Even with epic works like Gladiator, Alien, and even The Martian, this has to be Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, and one worth watching many times just to pick up something new each time.

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“Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” Movie Review

As of this entry, all entries from the original Star Wars trilogy (the ones that matter) have been reviewed. In hoping that Disney will continue to recapture such memories, I get into spoiler territory with a movie that apparently a lot of fans hate. The third and then-final installment in the epic space opera trilogy received its widely anticipated release on May 25th, 1983, accumulating over $570 million worldwide in box office receipts. Like the previous movie, series creator George Lucas chose not to take the director’s chair in favor of Eye of the Needle‘s Richard Marquand- though he stayed credited in screenwriting and making the story. As the film opens, our favorite robotic duo from a galaxy far, far away C-3PO and R2-D2 arrive on the desert planet of Tatooine. After trying to convince Jabba the Hutt, a nasty criminal lord in the Outer Rim and a cool showcase for ILM’s makeup department, to give up a frozen Han Solo, both of them are forced into Jabba’s servitude. A similar thing happens when a disguised Leia, played by the late Carrie Fisher, attempts to save the man she loves and ends up in chains. Any boy who grew up in the 80’s was bound to have some sort of fantasies about her now-iconic metal bikini. (I may have been one of them) After all of this, Luke Skywalker finally pays a personal visit to the Palace. And at this point, Luke is a completely different person than he was in the previous movies. He’s calm, calculating, but still willing to shoot first. Once he overcomes a tense battle with the mechanical Rancor, he and all his friends are sentenced to be throw into the Sarlacc Pit. Thankfully, former traitor Lando Calrissian shows to rescue them, making for arguably the most exciting part of the whole movie. But this also gave Boba Fett, one of the coolest characters in the Star Wars franchise, a lame death. A blind Han Solo bumping into him and setting off his jetpack is such a cartoony way to kill him off. However, because they filmed the scene from the graphic novels, it’s been confirmed that he is still alive in canon. Before meeting up with the Rebel Alliance, Luke keeps a promise and visits Yoda one more time on Dagobah. In one of the saddest scenes of the original trilogy, he dies at the age of 900, telling him, “There is another Skywalker.” Thanks to a ghost Ben Kenobi, Luke learns that the other Skywalker is his twin sister Leia, and they were separated at birth to hide from their biological father, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. This revelation makes perfect sense, but also makes the kiss the two had in Empire Strikes Back gross. Later, the Rebellion learns that the Empire is building a second Death Star, and is guarded by an energy shield projected on the nearby moon of Endor. While Lando leads the space cavalry, Chewbacca, Leia, Han, Luke, and the droids take a small squad of soldiers to the surface of the moon to destroy the generator. And this is when we come to the most controversial part of the original trilogy: the Ewoks. Some like them, some loathe them, some can’t enjoy the movie altogether because of them. Were they a tool for George Lucas to sell more toys? Yes, they were. But I rather enjoyed them as a kid, and watching them take down the technologically superior Empire is reminiscent of how the Viet Cong defeated the U.S. Army. While these little fuzzballs are giving our heroes a welcoming feast, Luke decides the only way to truly confront his father is if he leaves and surrenders to Darth Vader’s forces. And when he turns himself in, he just doesn’t understand that Anakin Skywalker is not there anymore. The two of them finally meet the Emperor, played like a Shakespearean villain by Ian McDiarmid. The man is a word smith, knowing exactly how to manipulate his subjects into his will, and reveals that not only is the second Death Star fully operational, but that they are fully aware of the impending invasion. At that moment, as the forces on Endor are fighting for control of the battlefield, the Rebel fleet arrives, completely caught off guard by the entire Imperial fleet. Starting one of the greatest memes in internet history, Admiral Ackbar responds by declaring, “It’s a trap!” And then, after getting constantly taunted by the Emperor, Luke Skywalker grabs his lightsaber and is stopped by Vader, turning into a battle of father-versus-son. Not only is this three-way battle extremely entertaining, but it shows that Luke is a relatable Jedi who’d do anything we’d do in his shoes. After a threat to Leia, Luke wails away on Vader and cuts off his hand. I think he would’ve actually killed him. But when he refuses, the Emperor does something never seen before, and attacks Luke with lightning. Vader is absolutely conflicted, looking back and forth between his master and his son. In the end, he lifts the Emperor up and throws him over a precipice. And late in his dying moment, he takes off his helmet and James Earl Jones doesn’t voice him anymore. Redeemed in the eyes of Luke, Anakin Skywalker dies a hero, fulfilling the prophecy in the prequels. Later, after the Death Star is destroyed, John Williams’ score is sounding off in celebration, a funeral pyre is held for Vader. And Luke is the only one attending. During the final celebration, when all the characters have gathered in joy, the Force ghosts of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and a young Anakin are shown one last time before the film cuts to black. Many MANY changes were done in the Special Edition, particularly using crappy CGI early on. And later, Vader yells NO!” when he throws the Emperor to his death. But these changes aren’t enough to hurt the overall quality of the film. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is a satisfying end to a magnificent saga. It may be super late, but May the Fourth be With You Always!

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“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Movie Review

Now I know for a fact that I need to own a walkman. In fact, if anyone would be so kind as to send me one for Christmas this year, I will be the happiest man on Earth. This science-fiction comic book superhero movie was released worldwide on May 5th, 2017, officially becoming the 15th installment of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following in the footsteps of its predecessors getting released on the first week of May, the film opened to about $440 million worldwide at the box office. Taking just a few months after the vents of the first installment, the titular team have become a renowned intergalactic mercenary group. The leader of the group, Peter “Starlord” Quill, unearths some new discoveries about his ancestry and sets out to find his father, Ego. All the while, the company of mercenaries called the Ravagers, led by Yondu, are hot on their trail for glory and gold. Now way back in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the very first movies I ever did a review of on my blog. It was hilarious, heartfelt, and perhaps the most ambitious production ever taken up by Marvel Studios, as these were previously characters whom very few people were familiar with. And now we get to see a sequel written and directed by James Gunn, and how is it? To be honest, it was a bit of a letdown in some regards, but still really enjoyable and entertaining. Right off the bat, Chris Pratt leads the big ensemble cast with his traditional likability and overall sense of humor. Previously a “nobody” just a few years ago, this man has been taking over Hollywood one blockbuster after another. Zoe Saldana returns as his green-skinned love interest Gamora, who is kicks a lot of ass and looks sexy while doing it. Former wrestler Dave Bautista may not be given much to say or do for a majority of the 136 minute-long film, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t make me laugh a lot. His great sense of timing and wicked physical comedy makes him probably the funniest member of the titular group of misfits. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel reprise their voice roles as the genetically modified Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot, both of whom were just adorable in their own twisted ways. Big names like Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Chris Sullivan, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michael Rooker round out the impressive supporting cast. Rooker and Russell were both particularly noteworthy in their roles as Yondu and Ego, respectively, bringing a sort of human element to this otherwise otherworldly tale. Most everyone else seems like they were there just to say that they were part of the Marvel franchise. One of the distinguishing factors of the first movie was the astonishing, if somewhat overused visual effects. These effects continue to dazzle in the second installment, with a beautiful use of bright and vibrant colors for the ships, planets, and even the characters. The makeup design of several aliens is pretty impressive, especially of the gold-skinned Sovereign race, an arrogant people whose stoicism makes for some unexpected laughs. Though by the second half, it becomes pretty easy to tell when there’s a green screen in the background because some locations just look too fantastical to build with real sets or shoot on-location. And yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is really funny just like the last one, albeit not quite as much. Often, the humor comes out from the awkward dialogue among the characters, such as Starlord referring to his semi-romantic relationship with Gamora as “this unspoken thing.” One notable standout is when the Sovereign race tries to attack the Guardians after screwing them over on a deal, and send spaceships out to fight. But all of these ships are remotely controlled from their home planet and emulate something of a video game. One has to wonder how long it will be before any real-life military will start using this system to virtually train its soldiers for combat. Tyler Bates returns from the first film to provide the original score. But like many other Marvel productions, the main theme and other tracks are forgettable and sub-par, only standing out in moments where it all intensifies. However, Gunn attempts to make up for this with yet another soundtrack of old tunes. Mostly consisting of pop songs from the late 70’s and the early 80’s, my personal favorite was “Father and Son” by the controversial Cat Stevens. It evoked the right amount of emotion for the overall theme of the lost bond between father and son found in the relationship Starlord and his mysterious patriarch. Aside from this, and a brilliant addition of “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah in the opening sequence- which was all shown on a single, uninterrupted shot -this soundtrack, I feel, is not worth buying as a whole. Most of them did fit in with the story, but others felt somewhat gratuitous. In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a solid, if a little disappointing, space romp that just doesn’t quite hit the heights of the original. Excellent visuals and a bevy of characters that we love keep this superhero story aloft in memory and enjoyment.

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“Colossal” Movie Review

And I thought that kaiju monster movies were done and finished these days. Guess I was wrong on that count. This sci-fi romantic comedy-drama was had a lengthy festival run from Toronto to Sundance before garnering a limited release on April 7th, 2017. The $15 million production is the first official theatrical release for the newly formed distributor, NEON. And they remind me of Pixar because there’s a hilarious short film that plays just before this one. Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, a struggling alcoholic who is dumped and kicked out of her New York apartment by her ex-boyfriend. After moving back to her small hometown in the Midwest, she discovers that she has a strange psychological connection with a massive kaiju that is attacking Seoul. With that premise alone, you already know that this is going to be a very tongue-in-cheek tribute to old monster movies, specifically the early years of the Godzilla franchise. And writer-director Nacho Vigalondo certainly throws his audience a figurative bone every now and again. But for the most part, he focuses on the characters and the story. During the opening 20 minutes of this film, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it yet because some of the writing felt a bit rushed and uneven. But as soon as the kaiju started attacking Seoul, I was treated to some pretty entertaining stuff. Anne Hathaway started her career in romantic comedies before she transitioned to big-budget Hollywood films and serious dramas. This felt like a happy medium for her, going back to her roots while still retaining her current (and totally attractive) image. Her awkward nature matches her character’s down-to-Earth personality and absolutely weird condition and set of circumstances. However, for a while, her utter beauty made it hard to buy her as an alcoholic. Supporting players include Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell, and Downton Abbey‘s own Dan Stevens all of whom do a respectable job. However, Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis is a total scene-stealer in this film. He begins as his regular, funny self, giving the impression of that guy you would love to hang out with at the park. But soon, he turns a complete 180 and becomes a menacing creep who is unfulfilled by his standing in his small, inconsequential life. But his transition in character felt extremely jarring and conflicting with the tone that was set up at the beginning. The tone of the story is easily the biggest problem with Colossal, as it felt very inconsistent. In fact, I would blame the marketing because it’s not as funny as the trailer suggests. There are some scenes that will make the audience laugh out loud, for sure. But the opening 20 minutes are a little misleading as to what kind of movie you’re really in for. And the psychic monster aspects were far more interesting and memorable than the romantic-comedy it sets itself out as at the beginning of the film. Think of it as something like several pieces of a pie that are pretty good, but not one whole pie that is just great. On the topic of the monster, the visual effects are rather impressive for a relatively low-budget film like this one. The fact that he doesn’t appear onscreen too often is probably the reason why, as focusing on him too much would have likely not turned out well at all. Indeed, the majority of the 110-minute film is spent in the bar of this small town, where the main characters converse either on the events unfolding on television or just whatever comes to their mind. In that, Vigalondo has written the movie pretty and rather realistically, at least given the circumstances given. Underneath all of the laugh-induced drinking and far away city destruction, however, Colossal is a story about escaping abusive relationships. Much like last year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, the main character in this movie, Gloria, finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Her previous boyfriend didn’t work out at all and the new one she finds is less than cooperative, especially after he discovers her strange connection to the kaiju in Seoul. The monster must be a metaphor for her self-empowerment getting a personification. As she learns to control the monster more, she starts growing more confident in herself. The meaning of it all shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with recent developments in the news. There is an actual musical score in this film, provided by the prolific, if underrated Bear McCreary. He foregoes the moody and grim leitmotifs from his work on shows like The Walking Dead and the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica and instead goes for something a little more grand in scale. Full-fled orchestras sound off during the final act when all the pieces start coming together. And boy, what a finale that was. Colossal may be a little too ambitious for its own good and underwhelming at times, but it’s the original concept and Anne Hathaway’s lead performance that elevate it above mediocrity. While it’s certainly not a movie for everyone, it promises great things for the future of Nacho Vigalondo. And NEON.

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