Category Archives: Sci-fi

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” Movie Review

Director Luc Besson has given us a pretty kick-ass sci-fi space opera for a modern generation… called The Fifth Element, 20 years ago. And now, we are here. Let’s deal with it. This ambitious science-fiction action-adventure was released on July 21st, 2017. Estimates say that at a budget of nearly $200 million, almost all of it crowdsourced, this is the most expensive European film and the most expensive “independent” film ever made. This proved to be a disadvantage for the film, as it has yet to break just $50 million worldwide and will likely experience losses in the hundred million range. Based off the influential French comic book series Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, the PG-13 rated story follows Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as Valerian and Laureline, two space-traveling agents who are in charge of fixing problems for the United Human Federation. They visit the intergalactic space station Alpha, which houses thousands of races and cultures from all over the universe. One of these races is an endangered kind that begins a series of pseudo-terror attacks and it’s up to Valerian and Laureline to figure out what exactly they want. Now when I say that the graphic novel was influential, I really mean it. So many iconic space operas, from Star Wars to Babylon 5, have taken visual inspiration from it. Just the way the technology looked as well as some of the alien designs paid homage to this series. In an ironic twist, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets the adaptation seems to want to pay homage to the early birds of that genre which itself highly influenced. Even Luc Besson’s cult classic The Fifth Element took inspiration, and that was a really enjoyable sci-fi. But Valerian is not enjoyable at all; in fact, it’s one of the worst movies of the year. Dane DeHaan is an undeniably great actor, I’ve seen it in The Place Beyond the Pines and Chronicle. But here, his character is supposed to be like Han Solo, in that he’s the most badass human being in the universe. And it’s really hard to buy him as it, considering that the titular character is a bit of a conceded prick for most of the runtime. Cara Delevingne, however, may just be a lost cause for the acting world. Her performance in Suicide Squad was a mixed bag for me, and now she tries to come off as a sexy gun-wielding savior of the universe. She is definitely sexy, but her scenes of action turned me off. The supporting cast is filled with a surprising amount of big names. Clive Owen shows up for the first movie I’ve seen in awhile and was pretty good in his own role. Though I have to say, it was fairly easy to see where his arc was going in this one. Singer Rihanna tries her hand at acting for about a 20-30 minute stretch of the film and does a surprisingly nice job. Her character was relatively interesting, even if it tried to ham-fist social commentary into the story. Meanwhile, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer, Ethan Hawke, and Herbie Hancock… are all given so little to say and do that it’s downright criminal, and ultimately feel more like glorified cameos. Hawke was particularly annoying, reminding me too much of Chris Tucker from The Fifth Element. In many ways, Luc Besson is like this generation’s version of George Lucas. By that, I mean that he has an incredible imagination and sense of creativity but these ideas are not always executed in the best way possible. There are some really neat concepts and ideas in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to be savored. One of the races in the movie is based on beach-like terrain and uses sea pearls to fertilize everything. After the opening scene, our heroes arrive on a seemingly barren planet. But as soon as they put on special glasses, they see hundreds of markets, bizarre style, in an alternate dimension. But perhaps the coolest thing was the technology. Being a big sci-fi nerd, I love to see what kind of tech the world is able to offer. And one exhilarating chase sequence sees Valerian running through a wall and then shooting his gun to be able to walk on air. On the technical side of things, it’s a reasonably competent production. Alexandre Desplat’s score is an engaging, if not quite a memorable one. But the biggest thing this has going for it, by far, are the special effects. Utilizing 2,734 visual shots overall, the CGI is pretty impressive and sometimes just gorgeous. However, many scenes required some extensive green screen work and it didn’t always look convincing. But for the most part, it did look pretty. But it just comes down to the fact that this movie is detrimentally overstuffed with pointless characters and unnecessary subplots. Besson gives Marvel Studios a run for their money on how much you can pack into one movie. The romance aspect between Valerian and Lauraline is present in the film just as it is in the comics. But Develingne and DeHaan do not share good chemistry, so their hard-to-get relationship came off as forced and stupid. That whole thing occupied roughly 30 minutes of the movie. It’s already 2 hours and 17 minutes long, so if they just shaved that whole thing, it would be much better. While it’s undeniably ambitious in the scope, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a beautiful but insufferable mess with hollow characters. It’s a mystery movie without any suspense, it’s a romance without any chemistry or friction, and it’s a space opera with not much charisma. I was actually looking forward to it, but now I can safely say I saw it. At least I can say that much.

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“The Void” Movie Review

With high-quality horror movies like Get Out earlier this year and total shitfests like Wish Upon infecting this summer, this movie got a bit lost in the shuffle. Now that it’s been released on Netflix, I’m here to tell you whether or not it’s worth your time. This independent horror thriller from Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest before getting a small release of only 50 theaters on April 7th, 2017, doubling its tiny $82,000 budget. The film was a passion project for the directors on Indiegogo where they raised all of the funds. Eventually, Jonathan Bronfman, one of the executive producers for the film The VVitch, discovered it and brought it to DFilms to be distributed. The 90-minute plot follows a policeman who brings a dying man into a secluded hospital in the middle of the night. The staff and patients inside soon realize that they are surrounded by a group of hooded cultists who will not let them leave. Couple that with some truly weird creatures hidden within the hospital itself, and now we have ourselves a big thrill ride. This is clearly an homage to horror films from the 1980’s, specifically the filmography of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg. And honestly, that is my favorite decade of horror movies, as each one that came out was perfect in just about every aspect. It also seems to take some inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In an era where so many horror directors base their films off of something that came out recently, it’s refreshing to see a pair of people who understand modern horror’s roots. David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows from 2015 proved as much. But while The Void starts off strong and promising, it fails to leave any lasting impact or impression. The most obvious way that it pays homage to the masters of the genre is that Gillespie and Kostanski had a big itch for using practical effects. They specifically avoided the use of CGI, and instead decided to rely heavily on practical effects and makeup. The hooded cultists are wearing real robes with triangles painted on them. The characters are confined in real hallways at night time. The monsters they encounter are fused together with makeup and real prosthetics. So much of the movie feels real and gives it this lived-in element. Another way in which the directors pay tribute is through the otherworldly soundtrack by the Canadian band Blitz/Berlin. The tracks are synthesized beats and ambient noise designed to create the tension of a scene. No single track is really that memorable, but it felt right at the moment and pretty fun to listen to. It definitely added to a dripping atmosphere that was so creepy and suspenseful to be sucked into. As far as characters go, they’re all pretty much exactly what you would expect them to be. The only person in the cast with any real work to their name is Ellen Wong, and she had a pretty minor role. No, the real star is Aaron Poole as the everyman cop. He’s the one who’s constantly trying to keep order in this increasingly chaotic situation. You see everything from his point-of-view from the beginning to the twisted conclusion. So you immediately empathize with him, as well as some of the other people stuck in that hospital. But where the film falters is that there is a huge gaping pit in information regarding much of the film’s lore. Where did these hooded cultists come from? What do they truly want out of our protagonists? How long have the monsters been around in our world? The ending doesn’t offer us much help either, as it kind of convolutes these questions into oblivion. “But dude, not everything has to be explained to us. Some things are best left to interpretation by the beholder.” I agree with that sentiment, my fellow cinephiles. But there is a distinct difference between giving us hints of an answer and withholding information to a point where the story begins to make no sense. Both leave people wanting more, but only one of them is actually satisfying. I thought The Maze Runner taught us that already. I will say that it’s nice to know there are still young fans of old-school horror movies and even take inspiration from them. And even though it’s not original by any stretch, it did feel much fresher and fun than a lot of contemporaries in the genre today. But still, The Void is an empty practice in nostalgia-inducing aesthetic and practical special effects. It’s great to watch with your friends at night on the couch at home, but not really worth much of a second viewing. Much less $10-12 in paying a ticket to see it theatrically.

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“War for the Planet of the Apes” Movie Review

Isn’t it just the weirdest thing to be rooting against your own species in a conflict for the future of our planet? Is no one else feeling that right now? Just me? Okay. This science-fiction action drama was released worldwide on July 14th, 2017, earning back its large $150 million budget in no time. The third and (supposedly) final entry in the rebooted franchise and the ninth overall entry of the series that began all the way back in 1968 with Charleton Heston, Matt Reeves returns to direct this picture after his outing with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 3 years ago. Two years after the events of Dawn, the highly intelligent and respected ape Caesar leads his people into a new conflict with the surviving humans. When a ruthless Colonel McCullough shatters his doorstep and threatens everything he’s built, Caesar must wrestle with protecting his people, controlling his darker self, and seeing a way for the future to hold hope… for either species. I vividly remember seeing the original Rise of the Planet of the Apes and thinking that it was going to be a piece of crap blockbuster that happened to star James Franco. To the universe, I was wrong and so I apologize. And then in 2014, a mere month or so after I began my blog, I was blown away by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, one of the few sequels that manage to outshine the original in almost all departments. So naturally, I was very excited to see what would happen with War, once again directed by Reeves. But I clearly didn’t know what to prepare for because when it was over, so many people walked out of the theater speechless. And after pondering on it for a few days, I’m ready to share my thoughts: go see and support this movie right now. The thing that the original film from 1968 was most famous for, aside from its iconic twist ending, was the convincing and groundbreaking prosthetic makeup. On a similar note, the reboot series has been famous for its astounding and realistic motion-capture photography. For those unaware, motion-capture is when an actor or actress is covered in computer animation but their voice, movements, and emotive responses are all their own. The results can be hit or miss, but whenever Andy Serkis is involved, it is almost instantly the former. The apes in this movie may just be the best motion-capture work I’ve ever seen in a feature film. At a point, I actually thought that the production crew had brought real apes on board to film the various scenes. Not only that but the environments of the San Francisco Red Forest and snowy winter terrain of a base look gorgeous with or without CGI, thanks to cinematographer Michael Seresin. Andy Serkis returns for the third time as the ape Caesar and gives perhaps his best performance to date. The man revolutionized how acting could be seen with the lens, with Gollum from The Lord of the Rings being arguably his most famous work still. But here, he gives Caesar a few tragic dimensions that just make you respect and understand him. He never asked for this war, hell, he didn’t even ask to be the leader of the apes. But he’s been thrown into this situation and has to deal with it and face his past demons, including the traitorous Koba. Comedian Steve Zahn joins the simians as Bad Ape, a hermit from a zoo in California. Putting a character as comic relief in a film like this was a huge risk and could have easily become a gimmicky misfire. But it paid off, and it got some genuine laughs out of the audience. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson is appropriately villainous and unstable as the Colonel, almost the complete opposite from his character in Zombieland. During one lengthy monolog scene, (The ONLY ONE in the entire movie) he gives an emotionally distant story concerning his son and the lengths he’s willing to go to in order to save humanity from extinction. The increasingly prolific Michael Giacchino composes his 6th film score in just over 12 months. And yet, this might be one of his best, next to The Incredibles and Up. Several of the tracks seem to pay homage to legends like Ennio Morricone, mostly consisting of mellow piano and strings and a haunting choir. The opening titles even feature an inventive all-drums version of the 20th Century Fox fanfare, establishing the truly bananas feeling of everything. But it also allows certain scenes to breathe with long takes of verbal silence and sign language between the apes elevated by faint piano melodies driving the characters. I do feel the need to give the disclaimer that, despite its title, War for the Planet of the Apes is not an action movie. While it does open up with a fantastic sequence in the woods and some other moments that occur later on, this is a bleak and mature exploration of dark themes. The necessity and desire for violence, torture, obligations to your species versus obligations to your loved ones, prejudice and hatred. Never flinching and sometimes hard to watch, the film pulls zero punches in regards to subject matter like this. And the characters almost never get the easy way out in the story. But because this is the end of a trilogy, you have to watch Rise and Dawn in order first since jumping right in wouldn’t give you that emotional oomph. And that oomph hits hard and moved me almost to tears. It’s extremely rare for a franchise to move through nine films and have a rebooted trilogy. Even rarer is for that one to be the best out of all of them. But War for the Planet of the Apes is one of the best final installments ever and a deeply, emotionally satisfying conclusion to one of the best trilogies in recent memory. Up there with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Bourne Ultimatum.

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“Inception” Movie Review

Ever wondered what it would be like if a traditional Hollywood blockbuster were to be combined with avant-garde or art-house movies? This movie should hopefully satisfy your search. Christopher Nolan’s complex science-fiction heist thriller debuted in late July of 2010, earning excellent reviews and over $825 million worldwide. This was probably due to the serious lack of entertaining movies that summer. The script, initially a treatment for a horror film, floated and developed around the film industry as early as 2002, with many tweaks and adjustments added over the years. The plot centers on Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a thief who specializes in corporate espionage of the mind. He and his associates use advanced technology to enter the subconscious of their targets to extract an idea and give it to whoever hired them. But now, in order to clear his criminal record and return home to his family, Cobb must perform “inception”; going deep into the subconscious to plant an idea in someone’s brain. That already sounds like a mouthful, but trust me. The story is much thicker and more nuanced than that. And while I’m honestly tempted to spend this whole post explaining every nook and cranny of this film’s lore, I’ll just skip right ahead and tell something you should have already guessed. Inception is a brilliant, downright amazing movie that every film fan should see. In fact, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe that this film is Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus. You could argue for days on Memento or The Dark Knight, and both are fantastic in their own right. But those films were based on pre-existing material, Memento being a short story written by his brother Jonathan and The Dark Knight an adaptation of the DC Comics character. This, however, is a wholly original film with no ties to any other franchise materials and only takes mere influences from previous classics of the genre. That is SO rare in Hollywood; if you can make a big-budget feature as original as Inception, consider yourself having taken the right path. Leonardo DiCaprio leads an all-star cast with some fine charisma and physicality. But he brings even more to the dramatic scenes, where his past life is slowly revealed. Like Nolan’s previous protagonists, this is an emotionally tormented man who struggles to move on from his past, which is almost suffocating him. The ensemble cast includes A-List talent such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page as the vocal reminders for Cobb to retain his humanity, Michael Caine as yet another elderly mentor, Ken Watanabe as the benefactor of this entire heist, Cillian Murphy and Peter Postlewaite as the targets of the mental infiltration, and Marion Cotillard as Cobb’s mysterious deceased wife obsessed with haunting him on the job. But let’s be real; the real show-stealer, here, is Tom Hardy as Eames. The British man is a straight-up action hero in this film and his lines of dialogue provided some great moments of humor. That being said, much of the dialogue early on is reserved almost exclusively for exposition. For the first half, practically everything to know about this universe is told to us through character interactions. It doesn’t quite feel forced, but it does require the audience to pay close attention to everything that is spoken. It can almost be exhausting. But in the latter half, as we now understand almost everything about the movie, it truly reveals itself as a slick mix of both heist crime thriller and science-fiction spectacle. The incredible production design and editing by Lee Smith create dreams that are both very elaborate and yet still grounded and believable. One of the most thrilling sequences in the whole movie comes when Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fighting antagonistic projections in a hallway that keeps on turning and changing gravity. There’s no CGI or greenscreen whatsoever in this segment, hell not even wires. Instead, it was on an actual rotating set that took nearly two weeks to film. And several more of the action scenes are extremely well thought out and mix gritty realism with creativity. You want to get a large gun in the middle of a shootout? All it takes is your imagination. Hans Zimmer composes the music for Inception as part of the third collaboration between him and the director. Robbed of an Academy Award, the score is a unique mixture of orchestral and electronic sounds. Many of the tracks feature a steady guitar, reminiscent of the films of Ennio Morricone. The final track “Time,” in particular, is one of the most beautiful and haunting pieces of film score ever written, perfectly capturing a balance between heartbreak and nostalgia. And then there’s that ending. Holy crap, THAT ENDING. One of the most ambiguous final scenes in recent cinema, up there with films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. I refuse to discuss it and spoil it on the off-chance that you haven’t seen this movie. But keeping it vague, it uses a certain device in the plot that we are familiar with by that point and leaves off on a big tease if ever I’ve seen one. Even though it’s been nearly 7 years since the movie was released, this ending is still intensely debated among film buffs to this day, with some creating their own alternative fan theories explaining everything. I don’t mean to disarm you with this, though. Inception is a stimulating labyrinth of ideas and action that is startlingly original and captivating. Touching on some existential and philosophical themes, this is a modern classic, one of my all-time favorites, and the best movie this decade has offered so far. You have to see it to believe it.

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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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