Category Archives: Family

“Spider-Man Homecoming” Movie Review

*Insert some witty/stupid quip about being “your friendly neighborhood movie critic” just to regret it immediately afterward* Let’s just get this thing started. This coming-of-age superhero adventure from director Jon Watts is the sixteenth overall installment in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has since nearly doubled its $175 million budget worldwide. The second reboot of the titular character within 10 years, Marvel Studios and Sony finally worked out a deal in 2015 that allowed Spider-Man to appear in the MCU. Sony still has the distribution rights and handles the marketing but Marvel Studios is given complete artistic freedom to do with the character as they please. A couple months after the events of Civil War, Tom Holland returns as our friendly neighborhood web-slinger struggling to juggle his superhero passion with high school. When a new villain named the Vulture rolls into Queens and what’s left of the fractured Avengers team is nowhere in sight, only Spider-Man can take him down. I loved the Sam Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy so much as a child and still do today. (Yes, I even enjoy Spider-Man 3) They inspired me to want to be a superhero at a young age. And while Marc Webb’s 2012 reboot was an enjoyable and more realistic take on the iconic character, I didn’t feel like it was necessary. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, meanwhile was a disappointing, wholly underwhelming and rushed sequel that desperately tried to cram in as much world-building as possible. With that background in mind, I walked into Jon Watt’s new version of this character, my favorite comic book superhero of all time, with some trepidation. He may have been the best thing about Captain America: Civil War, but I was not sure how they could possibly reboot him with ANOTHER origin story in only 10 years. But the fact that the single most successful film franchise of all time had commandeered control gave me a bit of hope, and I was glad I had it. Although his actual breakout role was in J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible from 2012, this role was the one that landed Tom Holland on the map of American cinema. At 20 years old, he is the youngest actor to ever portray Peter Parker/Spider-Man but he also may just be the best, even beating out Toby Maguire and the 90’s animation. His portrayal captures everything that Stan Lee had envisioned for the character when he was first sketched in the comic books decades ago. His introduction consists of a clever home video he made of the airport battle scene from Civil War, which establishes his innocence and wants to fight alongside the heroes he grew up loving. While Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, and Zendaya do great work as his best friend, high school rival, and classmate, respectively, Marisa Tomei wasn’t given nearly enough to say and do as his guardian Aunt May. While she is more attractive and naturally younger than her counterpart in the comic book, she just felt kind of wasted. But Michael Keaton totally owned it as the supervillain Vulture. The 5-minute cold open is dedicated to building his character, bordering the line between evil and misunderstood. You understand why he’s doing the things he’s doing, becoming the second-best villain in the MCU behind only Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and proves that some of the best antagonists are the ones with real and clear motivations. But be warned; his suit is all black, and some of the nighttime scenes involving him are hard to follow. Michael Giacchino returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the 2nd time after 2016′ Doctor Strange to give the musical score. Opening with an orchestrated version of the classic Spider-Man theme song from the cartoons, it builds some large sweeps of strings and horns, reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s theme 15 years ago. Since it’s centered on a teenager, the soundtrack also had some fun selections of millennial and 2010’s music that matched well with most scenes. At the very end of the movie, it goes from a surprising last line of dialogue to a smash cut to the end credits sequence with a crazy playing. It was downright awesome and got a big laugh out of me. But what I love most is that it apparently doubles as both a superhero adventure and a high school teen drama. Peter Parker is struggling to fit in at his small school in Queens and simultaneously take care of his single aunt. Yes, it’s just Aunt May. This skips the traditional origin story because let’s face it: we all know how it happens at this point and we don’t want to see Uncle Ben getting murdered again. At the same time, Spider-Man is the new kid on the block trying to prove himself to Iron Man and other Avengers. Unfortunately, he’s so young and naive that no one really takes him seriously, with Tony Stark being his only mentor. At one point, he tells the web-slinger, “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you don’t deserve to have it.” Even though it can’t reach the heights of the original Sam Raimi trilogy, Spider-Man Homecoming is a hilarious, briskly-paced adventure featuring a faithful representation of one of Marvel’s best heroes. I had middling expectations to start off and walked out with a great big smile on my face. Especially because the obligatory after-credits scenes were amusing and cleverly set up future installments. And now, I genuinely look forward to what they’ll do with Tom Holland.

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“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” Movie Review

I write this review with the full knowledge that not many of my readers will actually care about Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. I can live with that. This 3D computer-animated family comedy was released on June 2nd, 2017, where it grossed over $77 million against a $38 million budget. This makes this film the lowest budget animation from Dreamworks in the studio’s history. It also marks the second directorial effort of animator David Soren. Based on the long-running and recently-ended series of children’s novels by Dav Pilkey, best friends George and Harold, voiced by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch, are a pair of prankster elementary school students who love writing comic books and stories. One day, they accidentally hypnotize their mean-spirited principal Mr. Krupp, voiced by Ed Helms. They then convince him that he is Captain Underpants, the hero of their comic books, and things don’t quite go as expected for them. I remember reading some of the books in this series when I was younger and enjoying them. I wasn’t immensely impressed, but it was still fun reading. And when I heard that they were adapting it into an 89-minute feature film, my reaction was something of passable trepidation. But then, I saw on Rotten Tomatoes (A website that isn’t always accurate) the film got moderately positive reviews, and so I actually spent $11 to see this in my nearby theater. And I walked out feeling the same way as I did with the books: not particularly impressed, but still rather pleased and entertained. Kevin Hart continues his streak of family-friendly animation from last year’s The Secret Life of Pets here, which is actually surprising considering how adult-oriented his stand-up routines usually are. He and Thomas Middleditch share some nice chemistry, as their youthful voices sell the ideas that these two have been best friends since the 5th grade. Some of the pranks they pulled had me in stitches, while others felt like they were trying a bit too hard. Ed Helms more or less plays an animated version of his character Andy Bernard from The Office, as both Captian Underpants and Principal Krupp are total idiots. Thankfully, he’s able to switch between the two of them relatively easily. One’s an angry but misunderstood school supervisor, the other’s a fictional superhero who introduces himself by singing, “Tra-la-laaa!!” In the world where superheroes have brooding catchphrases like “I’m Batman” or “In brightest day, in blackest night,” it is nice to listen to something a little more lighthearted. Nick Kroll and Jordan Peele both voice the respective bad guys in the film, albeit very different ones. Peele voices the arch-nemesis of George and Harold, a child prodigy obsessed with grades. Kroll shines as a German, humor-hating science professor with a very embarrassing last name. Both are good and play fair to the stereotypes they’re with. That being said, the sense of humor found in Captain Underpants is very juvenile. Similar to the source material, several of the jokes are specifically centered around toilets and farting kids. But the main characters frequently break the fourth wall to address this to the audience, adding a great feeling of self-awareness to the overall package. Potty humor is the lowest form of wit on this Earth, and they’ll either fully embrace it or poke fun at it. Occasionally they do both at the same time. In fact, the final act of the rather short 89-minute picture is centered around the idea that the antagonist is trying to rid the world of humor and laughter from children. The way he does it? A scanning laser from atop a massively enlargened, toxic toilet. Obviously, this isn’t going to be competing with any of Pixar Animation’s finest achievements over the years in terms of visual storytelling. But when it comes to the visuals alone, Captain Underpants is pretty damn impressive. The character models are shaped and animated just as they were in the books, faithful in at least its visual adaptation. All of the animation, in general, is smooth and crisp at 24 frames-per-second. Similar to 2015’s The Peanuts Movie, the creators managed to inventively bring a two-dimensional cartoon strip series into glorious 3D computer animation with imaginative flair. So if for nothing else, give them props for that. Ultimately, though, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie doesn’t do quite enough to completely justify its cinematic existence. The humor is mostly low-brow, the voice acting is good but not award-worthy, and the storyline is as predictable as a kids movie can get. But the still gets in some good laughs in amidst nice animation. It’s great that it remains aware of what it is. If it tried to have some sort of higher meaning then it would just be too awkward. But thankfully, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a fittingly absurd round of family-friendly fun that never really impresses.

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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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“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” Trailer Analysis and Speculation

*Disclaimer: The following post contains huge spoilers from the events of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. If you have not yet seen the movie… stick around cause you need this.

Happy Easter weekend to all of you. Speaking of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we now have our first official teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. This is actually what consider to be a late reaction. I’ve watched the trailer roughly 88 times, and after carefully looking at each frame, I’m ready to give my thoughts. It begins with what we initially believe to be the stars of the galaxy before the frame fades into a rock. We then see Rey falls down onto it, breathless with something she has just witnessed. My guess is that she has just experienced a Force vision that Luke Skywalker has given to her as part of her training. In fact, much of this trailer is spent showing some of Rey’s time on the mysterious planet of Ach-To, training with the self-exiled Jedi. One shot shows her approaching a shelf of old books at the center of an old tree. This makes me think that she will not only be learning the ways of The Force, but also its history and how the Jedi and the Sith have been fighting for eons over the same cause. When it isn’t, it cuts over to quick cuts of the Resistance trying to hold its own against the might of the First Order. Seriously, we see what looks to be a fighter hanger get destroyed and the Resistance fleet is under an intense space combat scenario. That’s actually something I’m looking forward to most because it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a real space battle in the Saga films. And now, with improvements in technology and visual effects, I’m eager to see it all unfold. The thing I’m looking forward to the most, however, is how different of a movie this will be from the others. As much as I loved The Force Awakens, it’s impossible for me to deny how similar it was to A New Hope in terms of the plot and character development. Well, writer-director Rian Johnson has repeatedly professed that The Last Jedi will try to distinguish itself as much as it can from the other entries in the franchise. And of course, the trailer is filled with an epic montage of awesome, with zero context given for any of it. Why, you might ask? To keep the plot in the dark, obviously. The people in charge of marketing these films bend over backwards to ensure that the movies remain shrouded in secrecy and that absolutely nothing about the plot is revealed until the release this December. But that doesn’t stop us fans from scrutinizing every single frame of the trailer(s) while we still can. In this montage, Finn is shown to be asleep in a ship during hyperspace. I’m very curious to see what the Resistance plans to do with him in this film, as John Boyega has been very mum on information regarding his character’s new arc. Still, considering that this film begins immediately after The Force Awakens ended, it wouldn’t be surprising that he’s still recovering from his battle wounds with Kylo Ren. Speaking of Kylo Ren, who else saw that shot of his helmet completely destroyed on the ground? And later we see a tiny glimpse of him pointing his jagged crossguard lightsaber at someone. Something tells me that not only are we getting a new costume from him, but also more internal conflict. Because if you saw the previously film, you’ll remember that he was both literally scarred in battle and torn between his allegiance to The Force. But the real star of this teaser trailer is the star of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker. I was one of the only people who felt satisfied by his 30-second cameo at the end of The Force Awakens, and now it’s established that he’ll be taking center stage. His voice-over is heard throughout the 90 second-long teaser, mostly telling Rey how to prepare for her training of the ways of The Force. But then it takes 180 turn when he mysteriously announces, “I know only one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Most of the Force users in the galaxy are dead now, and the ones that aren’t are nearly spent on their energy. Maybe by the time that Episode IX ends, every Force user from both the Light Side and the Dark Side will die and there will be no more religion or space magic. Just the age of technology. Some ask me why I do this, and I have answer for you: Because it’s fun to theorize! That’s the purpose of the Internet: Criticism, speculation, and entertainment- sometimes all wrapped into one package. I can’t wait to see how The Last Jedi unfolds when it hits theaters on December 15th. Have you seen the teaser trailer? What are your thoughts on it and your theories?” This is definitely a trailer worth talking about. Put your thoughts in the Comments, and if you want more cool content like this, be sure to Like and Follow my Blog.

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“Power Rangers” Movie Review

There’s not a person alive who saw a trailer for the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. Furthermore, there’s not a person alive who saw the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. This is how the world is made, and it shall continue as such. This science-fiction superhero action film was released by franchise creator Haim Saban on March 24th, 2017. Despite generally positive reactions from the audience, the movie has yet to recoup its staggering $100 million budget and wasn’t even the highest grossing film of its opening weekend. A reboot of the highly lucrative Japanese media franchise, the plot follows five teenagers with attitude- Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Billy, and Zack -in the small town of Angel Grove after bonding in detention. They stumble upon an ancient artifact that leads them to Zordon, a being who informs them of their new position as the new Power Rangers. Now they’re tasked with defending life on Earth from the newly awoken threat, Rita Repulsa. As a child, I grew up with the Power Rangers, from the original Mighty Morphin’ series up to S.P.D. Looking back on it now, however, it’s clear that not only am I not in the demographic anymore, but the shows simply don’t hold up today. So I walked into the theater with some trepidation. And for much of the film, I was sitting on the razor’s edge of liking it and loathing it. However, by the end, I left having surprisingly liked it more than I thought I would. Are there flaws? Absolutely. But right now, let’s divulge the good things about this picture. Getting it right off the bat, the five main actors do a surprisingly great job with their respective characters. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Becky G, Ludi Lin, and RJ Cyler have bright careers ahead in their future thanks to their commitment and chemistry with one another. Cyler, in particular, was excellent as the Blue Ranger. Though he’s a bit annoying at first, he (and consequently the audience) grows more comfortable with his role with a sense of heart and keeping his wits about. Aside from the newcomer leads, the supporting cast is filled with some rather large players in key side roles. The most notable one is Bryan Cranston as Zordon, marking his return to the franchise after voicing some of the creatures in the pilot episode of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television series. His role as an almost ethereal mentor to a generation of new potential Rangers is a welcome relief from his villainous performances in T.V. like Sneaky Pete and his iconic character in Breaking Bad. Comedian Bill Hader brings his signature awkwardness to the voice of Alpha 5, a bumbling and precarious robot with good intentions. It’s clear that he loves his role. However, Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of the villain Rita Repulsa didn’t feel believable or interesting. She spent the majority of her screen time over exaggerating her evil voice and stroking her long fingernails over new technology. Her character has always been an over-the-top intergalactic zealot, but it didn’t seem to flow with the tone of the movie. In fact, the areas this movie struggled the most in were in the tone and pacing. Much of the film’s marketing painted it as a darker, grittier reimagining of this kid-oriented franchise. Bryan Cranston, by his own word, even compared it to The Dark Knight. I would never go as far as to say the film has that much substance, but its influence is evident. While it does have moments of fun and humor, Power Rangers relies heavily on gritty story elements and visuals. Even their armor, as cool and practical as it looks, feels like an edgy Iron Man knockoff. The thing that made the original show so appealing is that it knew what it was, regardless of the cheese factor- and there was a lot of it. This one felt as if it suffered from an identity crisis at times. Also, the pacing of the movie was very wonky and inconsistent. In fact, the main characters don’t even get suited up until nearly 80% percent of the way through the 2 hours and 4 minute-long runtime. While they do take on a few threats before then, much of the time is spent examining these individuals’ personal lives. And in some ways, this is an interesting venture. In one particular scene, which was probably my favorite, all five of them sit by a campfire and discuss their deep personal troubles. It just made it feel a bit more human. Especially considering this is the first big-budget superhero movie to feature characters on the LGBT and autism spectrum- even if it felt a bit like tokenism. Known for extravagant action films, Brian Tyler’s score is a diverse one. Switching back and forth with intricate electronic tracks and big orchestral battle tunes is neat, if unmemorable. the best accomplishment from the soundtrack, however, has to be the inclusion of the theme song, “Go,Go, Power Rangers!” from the original show. Hearing that play as the Zords fought it out with giant monsters brought a warm feeling of nostalgia back, as if I were watching the old episodes in front of my old T.V. while acting out the fight moves. Nothing with a lot of substance or rewatch value, Power Rangers delivers great acting and nostalgia-inducing moments, especially for longtime fans. If you’re a newcomer to this franchise, you mayn’t be interested in trying this film out. You could wait a little while until it comes out on DVD or Blu-Ray, especially because this is the first in a planned six-movie story arc. Brace yourselves.

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“The Lego Batman Movie” Movie Review

There is a common belief in the world of cinema that if you put Batman into anything, then it’s bound to be good. That is a completely correct statement, and movies like this are why. This animated superhero action-comedy was released on February 10th, 2017, grossing over $90 million in the first weekend alone. With the unexpected success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, Waner Bros. quickly announced its plans for an expanded franchise of films set in this buildable universe, including The Lego Ninjago Movie, which is set for a release in September. Set 3 years after the adventures of Emmet Brickowsky wrapped up, the titular hero returns to Gotham City. After their latest battle against one another, his greatest enemy The Joker is heartbroken when he realizes that Batman doesn’t think much of him- or anyone, for that matter. So he formulates a plan to take the Dark Knight, and his sidekick Robin the Boy Wonder, down in a blaze of glory. When I first saw the trailer for The Lego Batman Movie, I didn’t know what to think of it, primarily because spin-offs that focus on supporting characters have had a bad track record.. However, that fear was completely gone during the first 5-10 minutes of this movie, when I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard. It set the tone for the rest of the movie, and for the remainder of its 104 minute-long runtime, it’s line after line and quip after quip of Batman spoof comedy. I’m telling you, it was exhausting. Though it does take a slight dip about halfway through, finally giving audience members time to catch a breath. It’s at that point when we start to see the family dynamic flourish, which really works for the title character’s nature. And in the lead role, Will Arnett is brilliant and hilarious in his voice role. Mimicking the rough, throat cancer-laden voice of Christian Bale from the Dark Knight trilogy, this is perhaps my second favorite on-screen portrayal of the character. Let’s be honest: There was a point where Batman could not be taken seriously anymore. *cough Save Martha cough cough* And considering the extensive lore from both the comic books and movies, there’s a lot of material to draw from and parody regarding this character. Opposite him, Zach Galifianakis brings his awkward nature to The Joker. He’s not up in the annals with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, but he is a perfect villain for what they were going for. It’s just so fun to watch him unfold his master plan, regardless of what media he’s in, and The Lego Batman Movie is no exception. He takes the help from a multitude of villains from the Batman rogues gallery. From Harvey Two-Face and Bane to Z-List villains like The Condiment Man and Mr. Pokadot, (Who, to my everlasting shame, do actually exist) chances are every Batman bad guy you can imagine is here. In the supporting cast, all the actors and actresses seem to indulge themselves in their roles. Ralph Fiennes as a wise, loyal and somewhat sarcastic butler father figure in Alfred Pennyworth, Michael Cerra reunites with his Arrested Development co-star as orphan Robin/Dick Grayson, Rosario Dawson is the strong-willed Barabara Gordon, Channing Tatum as Kryptonian goody two-shoes Superman, and Jonah Hill as the impeccably dumb guardian Green Lantern/Hal Jordan. Even without a microphone, there are still probably a dozen cameos in this film. Not just limited other DC properties like the Justice League, The Lego Batman Movie incorporates characters from all sorts of different media franchises, mostly those owned or distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. This includes Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Godzilla, and The Matrix references any fan is sure to have a field day watching. So seeing Batman and Robin throw down with multiple clones of Agent Smith while the Eye of Sauron tracks their every move is one of many scenes that is impossible not to smile at. I have to give the studio credit because it just feels like something special when they can be willing to let filmmakers make fun of their franchises, especially with all the rewrites, reshoots, and other things we’re dealing with in the DC Extended Universe. Although I probably won’t be clamoring to Best Buy to purchase the soundtrack, Lorne Balfe’s musical score is exciting and matches perfectly for the action sequences. Like The Lego Movie, the soundtrack also contains at least one original song that will keep infecting your brain and keep your foot tapping fo a while. They’re not as political as “Everything is Awesome,” but they’re definitely memorable. Overall, while it may not be as surprising or ambitious as the original, The Lego Batman Movie is still a wicked-fast and hilarious superhero romp that the genre needed like last year’s Deadpool. Like it’s predecessor, it’s beautiful and original style of computer animation, matched with a top-notch voice cast and awesome action, make it a family-friendly blockbuster adventure for all ages- something that seems too rare these days. The fact that this had a stronger opening than Fifty Shades Darker restores my faith in humanity just a little bit.

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“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” Movie Review

If this movie proves anything in life, it’s this: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was not the only awesome film to come out of New Zealand. This adventure comedy-drama landed a limited release in North America on June 24th, 2016, following a lengthy festival run after its premiere at Sundance. It has since gone on to become the highest-grossing native film in New Zealand, with a box office take of about $23 million. Based in part on Barry Crump’s book Wild Pork and Watercress, the story is set against the extensive wild bush of New Zealand and follows a juvenile delinquent named Ricky Baker, who has recently been adopted by a farmer couple. After a tragic happening, Ricky resolves to run away from his home into the bush, only to be found by his foster uncle Hector. When a nationwide manhunt ensues, they reluctantly have to work together to survive the wilderness. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is brought to us by writer-director Taika Waititi, who also gave us hidden gems such as the moving drama Boy and the hilarious mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. He will also be moving to the Hollywood blockbuster environment this November with Thor: Ragnarok so it would be wise to keep tabs on this one. His trademark quirkiness for characters and dialogue is ever-present in this latest effort, which may be his best work yet. His script is injected with immense heart and poignancy, contrasted by scenarios so absurd that it’s almost impossible to not laugh out loud. During one particular scene, the situation was mirrored to and alludes to The Fellowship of the Ring, something even the characters address. As a fan of the series, this made me chuckle. As for the cast, veteran Irish character actor Sam Neill gives us a performance unto itself completely different from his stint as a paleontologist in Jurassic Park. He’s gruff and occasionally closed off but shows a tremendous capability for compassion and care as a father figure. By his side is a breakout performance from the newcomer, native New Zealander Julian Dennison as Ricky. Even at the age of 14, this kid does a fantastic job with his lovable, yet deeply troubled character. You get the idea that Ricky has had a rough life up to this point, and it also becomes clear at a point that he wouldn’t last 2 seconds out in the wilderness without Hector. These two bounce off of each other with ease, as their relationship is a very believable one. Hector has to show Ricky various tactics for survival, such as building fires and hunting for food with a rifle. But it’s also their less stressful and quieter situations that make for some of the most human moments. Whether it’s when they’re both sitting by the campfire sharing their own painful pasts, or when they’re quietly sitting in the woods looking at a thought-to-be-extinct bird, it’s actually quite impressive how well these scenes were put together. However, we can’t talk about any movie set in the wilderness without discussing the look and aesthetic of it all. In a sense, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has the feel of a modern sitcom because it was almost entirely shot on a single camera. Even with that, the locations in the film look absolutely beautiful. There are so many aerial view shots of the lush green landscape that are immediately edited into quick cuts across the dense forest. This gives the film a feeling that puts it on level ground with the characters. Of all the places in the world that I would like to visit before I die, New Zealand is at the top of that list. This is the final proof of that goal. Commentary should also be given to the music. There is a very minimalist score from Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott, and Conrad Wedde, mostly just background guitars. The soundtrack itself is comprised mostly of folk songs, all of which perfectly match the tone of the story. And now for the big negative of the movie: Regret. I regret not seeing this film in theaters in 2016 because it would have easily appeared somewhere on my Top 10 List by the end of the year. So please don’t let its seemingly foreign nature dissuade you; Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an irresistibly quirky and touching dramedy about the sacred bond between father and son. (Or in this case, uncle and nephew) A poignant yet hilarious showcase for great, lesser-known actors, it’s appropriately restrained in its direction. And for that, Hunt of the Wilder people absolutely deserves more recognition from American audiences.

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