Movie review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Movie reviews

Hello!

The 15th MCU movie and a sequel to the 2014’s Marvel gamble – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 – has premiered on my side of the world, so, I’m going to talk about it!

IMDb summary: Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

Before I review the actual film, here are the links to my previous Marvel reviews, starting with GOTG Vol.1Doctor Strange, Civil War, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Captain America 1 + 2.

SPOILER WARNING

Writing

The writer and director of the first film – James Gunn – also penned the screenplay for the sequel. Overall, I very much enjoyed seeing the continuation of the Guardians story but I did feel that the first act of the film was a bit wonky. I thought that the set-up involving The Sovereign was choppy. In addition, The Sovereign were not utilized in a useful way throughout the rest of the movie (they just popped up in the third act because the film needed to have an even bigger space battle – they were basically the sequel’s Nova Corps). Plus, the fact that Aysha was interested in Peter’s heritage and, in the very next scene, Peter’s dad Ego suddenly appeared seemed as just too much of a coincidence.

The jokes and the banter at the beginning also seemed a bit forced. They were the bad kind of cheesy. However, as the picture progressed, the humor got way better and the narrative also found its footing and started to unfold quite cohesively. GOTG 2 just needed those first 30 minutes to get going and it could afford that, being a 2h+ movie.

I also really liked the character development in the film. I loved learning more about Peter, his past, and his dad. Ego was a wonderful addition to the cast and I also really enjoyed the fact that they turned him into a villain. And he actually was a good Marvel villain – menacing and threatening! I liked the fact that his and Yondu’s backstories fit together quite organically as well. I’m just worried that the filmmakers might have overpowered Ego – I can’t imagine what will Thanos be like?

A character which surprised me a lot was Yondu – I did not think much about him in the first film but the reveal of his backstory and true feelings towards Peter made him into a wonderful character. Sucks that he met his end as soon as I started to like him. The other new addition to the Guardians (well, sort of) was Nebula – I did enjoy learning more about her and thought that her and Gamora’s relationship progressed nicely. The definite newcomer – Mantis – was also a fun new inclusion. I loved the duo she and Drax made.

Lastly, I loved the thematical core of the film – the Guardians coming to terms with the fact that they care about each other and are a family. Yes, the family angle is cheesy and overdone (Fast and Furious in space) but it still works and has a universal appeal.

Directing

James Gunn, once again, directed the movie (and he also just recently announced that he will be back to helm Vol. 3). I believe that he did a great job. The visual design was just extraordinary, especially the visual realization of Ego in his various forms. I loved the landscapes of his planet as well as his appearance as a human. The visual sequence of Ego rebuilding his human body from a skeleton to being Kurt Russell was really impressive. The fact that they actually put a face on a planet was also really cool and a neat nod to the character’s representation in the comics. Another great visual sequence was Yondu’s ‘Ravager’s funeral’: it was so colorful and actually emotional. An extremely funny visual was the space travel facial distortion – it was such an unexpected but really brilliant gag.

The ‘money shot’ – the round shot of all the Guardians standing together was also just glorious. The camera work, in general, was very vibrant and elaborate – and it made the action look amazing. The opening shot was really great too – the focus on the Baby Groot with the action happening in the background was a really inventive and funny way to kickstart the film. Generally, Baby Groot was a complete scene-stealer. Huge props to the CGI department for realizing an animated (basically) character and adding so much personality (much more than the adult Groot had) to his movements and facial expressions. I also loved the fact that his size was an asset to the team and that Baby Groot was part of a final solution, not just the cuteness relief (a cute version of comic relief). Lastly, I loved the two visual gags and how they were both part of the story and fun references to the real life – I, of course, am talking about the cameos by David Hasselhoff and Pac-Man.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was also really good – equal to the soundtrack of its predecessor. Tyler Bates was responsible for the music but I think Gunn also had a hand in picking the songs. I also appreciated the fact that the music was half-diegetic and a part of the story.

Acting/Favorite Character Moments

  • Chris Pratt (Passengers, Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven, The Lego Movie) as Peter Quill / Star-Lord. Pratt was really good in the role – he has that infinite charm of a leading man and I can’t wait for him to appear on screen with other MCU leading men, like Robert Downey Jr. I also though that Pratt’s and Kurt Russell’s/Ego’s (The Hateful Eight) chemistry was believable. I bought them as father and son for a while and that scene with the ball was really touching and a nice callback to Peter missing out on this type of activity during childhood because of a lack of father figure.
  • Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Beyond) was also good as Gamora, my favorite shot with her was when she picked up that oversized gun. Her and Karen Gillan’s/Nebula’s (The Big Short, The Circle (premiering this weekend in the US as well)) chemistry was good and the banter – really enjoyable.
  • Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer. Bautista’s acting abilities have improved since the first film and his unapologetic and unironic comic relief was amazing. His budding relationship with Pom Klementieff’s Mantis was also lovely. Their scene on the steps was really moving. Klementieff was a nice addition to the cast and her performance was appropriate for the character.
  • Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta. The scene-stealer of the film. I loved the sequence where he used the arrow to escape from the Ravagers. It was just spectacular. I would have loved to see more of Rooker’s performance in subsequent films, but, oh well.
  • Vin Diesel (Fast&Furious) as the voice of Baby Groot  I have no idea why Diesel returned to voice Groot when Baby Groot sounds nothing like Vin Diesel. Well, at least they can put his name on the adverts and posters and that will get them a lot of money in China. 
  • Bradley Cooper (War Dogs, Joy) as the voice of Rocket. Cooper’s voice somehow fits Rocket’s appearance and behavior. I loved how the actor depicted the character’s dry sense of humor.
  • Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Aysha. While Debicki did look cool with all that gold make-up on, I don’t think she took the role seriously enough. Her acting seemed a bit cheesy but I am excited to see where her character’s story goes next, cause my favorite moment with her, performance-wise, was her delivery of a few lines during the mid-credits scene. In that scene, she sounded way more ominous and authenticate than she did in before.
  • Sean Gunn as Kraglin. I really liked the fact that we got to see more of Sean Gunn’s on-screen character during the sequel. If you didn’t know, he also does the motion capture for Rocket.

5 CREDITS SCENES

As James Gunn promised, the film had 5 scenes during the credits (that has to be some kind of record). 2 scenes played before the credits, 2 in the middle and 1 after. They were very well dispersed and the credits themselves did not feel long at all. The scenes were mostly related to the predeceasing film but they also set up some minor but long awaited stuff.

  1. The first pre-credits scene depicted Sean Gunn’s character Kraglin learning to work with Yondu’s arrow and failing at it. It was both funny and developed the story further.
  2. The second pre-credits scene showed Sylvester Stallone’s (Creed) character reforming the Ravagers out of the characters who were the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics. Their inclusion during the credits probably means that they will have a role to play in MCU or at least in GOTG Vol.3. It was also nice to see another scene with Stallone as he only appeared in a handful of them during the main runtime of the movie. It was basically just a cameo and if the role would not have been played by a big name talent like Stallone, no one would talk about it.
  3. The first mid-credits scene was a conclusion to The Sovereign’s plotline and a potential set up for the arrival of the long anticipated character – Adam Warlock! I really hope he finally shows up in the next film!
  4. The second mid-credits scene was probably my favorite out of all of them: it showed the teenager Groot acting as a typical teenager, while Peter attempted to be the Dad. Groot is kinda the child of the Guardians. What a dysfunctional yet lovable family.
  5. The last scene which came at the end of the credits was another Stan Lee cameo. He had a cameo in the main part of the film but it was also nice to see him again. I read online that they film a lot more scenes with Lee than they actually use, so it was quite neat that they found a place to use some more of that material.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

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Movie review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Movie reviews

Hello!

Do I even need to introduce this movie?! ‘It’s RogueRogue One‘. Let’s review it!

IMDb summary: The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

Before we start, if you are interested, this is my The Force Awakens review from last year and this is my more personal post regarding Star Wars. Also, I should probably give you a Spoiler warning, although, if you have seen the original trilogy, you know what was/is the end game for the characters of this story.

Even though the hype for Rogue One was much smaller than for The Force Awakens, I was still excited for it. So, let’s get the short version of the judgment out of the way first: Rogue One is not only the best Star Wars prequel but also might be my favorite movie of this year. It also makes me rethink the top spots on my personal Star Wars preference list.

Writing

Rogue One’s script was written by a duo of screenwriters: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. Weitz has mostly worked on comedies and YA adaptations, like The Golden Compass and the Twilight franchise. He also wrote last year’s Cinderella. Gilroy wrote the majority of the Bourne films, Armageddon, and the critically acclaimed Michael Clayton. Judging Rogue’s One’s narrative, in relation to the scriptwriters’ previous work, I think that this film had the best writing I have seen from both of them.

The story

I immensely enjoyed the story of the film: the plot was cohesive and clear and yet the narrative was complex.  All of the 3 acts blended seamlessly – the movie never slowed down. It had the perfect mixture of action and quieter character moments. The picture was also suspenseful and exciting, it compelled me both emotionally and intellectually. I loved the lines about how rebellions are built on hope and the one about taking all the chances. I also adored the world building: the screenwriters respected the canon but also expanded it.

The characters

Rogue One begun as a story of Jyn Erso, but it soon blossomed into a more of an ensemble based movie. I believe that all the characters received a chance to shine and that their presence in the film was more than justified. I also appreciated the fact that the rebel characters were not portrayed as pure heroes but as realistic individuals, who have been through a lot and sometimes had to make the tough decisions, which were not always good. The fact that the alliance was presented as divisive also added more intrigue and realism into the story. Lastly, as we all predicted, the main rebel characters of the film all died. They were basically the real Suicide Squad of this year. The characters were really well developed through small and seemingly unimportant interactions in just one movie that their passing was quite emotional. I was invested in their lives and in their story and I’m quite sad that we only got to spent a few hours with them. All of them were unique and interesting in their own way and I don’t actually think that I can name another recent film with such rich (with potential) characters.

Directing

Godzilla’s director  Gareth Edwards helmed Rogue One and did not disappoint. I loved the scope of the film and all the exciting action in space. I also enjoyed the fact that this film visually looked like a Star Wars movie but had its own unique setting and locations – the fight on the beach and in the water was so cool. I also liked the fact that this movie was grittier and more sophisticated than the other recent fantasy films. The grit was appropriate, effective, and well balanced with funny moments (not like in BvS). The way the new characters were realized visually was super cool too: Ben Mendelsohn’s Krennic’s white cape was impeccable, Donnie Yen’s character’s look was amazing and Forest Whitaker’s Gerrera‘s appearance added so much to the character.

The film also had a few familiar faces popping up in cameos and small roles. At first, I thought that the inclusion of Darth Vader was not necessary as he did not have much to do. However, a couple of scenes with him at the end were so amazing that they made me change my mind. Grand Moff Tarkin also appeared with the help of CGI. The effects looked okay but I, since I knew that the original actor who portrayed the character sadly passed away 20 years ago, I instantly noticed the computer imagery. Leia also cameoed in the film and I think that her CGI face looked better, maybe because we only saw it for a couple of seconds. Lastly, the new droid K-2SO was a really nice addition too. He finally seemed like a fully rounded up character, because all the previous droids would mostly have one purpose. C-3PO is mostly in the films to be an annoying comedic relief, while BB-8’s main job is to be cute. R2-D2 is probably the one who is closest to being a full character, but since the audience can’t understand its speech, it is quite hard to connect with him. K-2SO, on the other hand, seemed like a real person with a distinct personality and yet he was still efficient as a droid.

Music

Michael Giacchino scored the film but my favorite aural parts of the film were, of course, the original soundtrack and the empire’s theme. Hearing that music didn’t make me as emotional as it did last year when The Force Awakens came out, though. Last December, I could not believe that I got to see a Star Wars movie in the cinema. This time around I was just enjoying the experience of watching the film, without paying much attention to the brand under which it was made.

Acting

  • Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso was fabulous. I wasn’t entirely sure how she will do in an action film but she blew me away. She was likable and inspiring but still had the level of darkness inside. I loved Jones’s and Luna’s chemistry and all their scenes together as well.
  • Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. Andor was my favorite character of the film, and Luna’s performance – my favorite performance of the whole cast. He was just so compelling and intriguing. Would love to read a book or a comic with his character’s background. I absolutely loved how damaged and tortured he was inside, but how he still managed to make the right choice. Cassian Andor as character reminded me a bit of Poe Dameron too. I wonder if I’m the only one who saw the resemblance. 
  • Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic was superb. Not only his appearance was cool, but his behavior as the nonchalant bad-ass villain was amazing as well. His whiny brat moments also added a lot of vulnerability to the character. 
  • Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe was so amazing. I loved that we got to see the force from a different perspective though his character and I also loved his action scenes. Yen’s back and forth scenes with Wen Jiang’s character  Baze Malbus were fun too.
  • Mads Mikkelsen played Galen Erso and was really good. I liked him in this film way more than in Doctor Strange. I just think that he got to show more of his dramatic acting skills in this film. 
  • Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook was also a marvelous addition to the cast. I loved his character’s arc and the transition.
  • Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera was spectacular too. His look and behavior were interesting both visually and from the narrative standpoint.
  • Alan Tudyk as K-2SO. Tudyk did a magnificent job with the motion capture as well as with his voice work: he made K-2SO’s dry sense of humor immensely entertaining. 

In short, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was/is another strong addition to the brand. The story was engaging, the characters unique and original, and the space action – spectacular as usual.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Rogue One trailer

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Movie review: The Birth of a Nation

Movie reviews

Hello!

After a long thought process whether to even see and support this movie, I decided to separate the picture from the filmmaker (as hard as it was to do, as the aforementioned person wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the film). I was also super curious to see whether this movie was worth all the hype that it generated before it crashed and burned. So, let’s allow the art to speak for itself and review The Birth of a Nation.

IMDb summary: Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising.

If you are not familiar with the scandal that surrounded the release of this movie, I suggest you just google the name of its filmmaker  – Nate Parker – and make your own impressions of him. I have my own thoughts and I don’t really want to state them her or repeat the controversial tale and also, as I said, I’m trying to judge the film by itself, so let’s get on with the review.

Writing

The Birth of a Nation, even though it shares its name with the infamous movie from 1915, tells a different story from that film. 2016’s picture’s plot revolves around the life of Nat Turner, who led a bloody and grueling slave rebellion in 1831. The majority of the film depicts his life before the rebellion and notes the important events that led him to the decision of rebelling. As all movies on the issues of slavery, the film angered me a lot. The blatantly racist moments were hard to watch, but I do think that Turner’s story was an important one and had to be told. I also appreciated the lighter scenes in the film, that showed the tiny specs of happiness that the slaves had a chance to feel. I would also like to note that this movie’s story was as much a story of religion as of slavery.

The actual rebellion was hard to watch and I, personally, had mixed feelings on it. On one hand, I wanted to root for the slaves, finally getting their revenge. On the other, I understood that I was rooting for murder. From the narrative structure point of view, I felt that the movie was a bit too long and I did feel that it dragged at times. I caught myself losing focus from the story a couple of times, and I think that if the pacing was a bit faster, the picture might have been even more compelling.

Directing

As a director, Parker did impress me. The film was visually interesting and the graphic content was not just there to be shocking – I felt that it was included to prove a point and to show the real cruelty and the real violence of those years. The film indeed was the most brutal movie on slavery I have seen (even the 12 Years a Slave lashing scene was nothing compared to this) and some scenes were extremely hard to watch. In addition, the opening of the film, as well as other forest sequences, were unusual and exciting additions. The historical events were well dramatized, the emotional weight was there, and the story came across clearly and neatly for the most part. Whether you see Turner as a hero or a criminal, I glad that his story was told. Having said that, I don’t think that the movie lived up to all the hype it created. To me, it did not seem like the perfect movie that deserved the guaranteed Oscar wins and the huge festival deals.

Acting

All the cast did a really good job with their roles. Parker delivered a stunning performance – I would even argue that he was a better actor than the director. Armie Hammer provided great support, but I do think that he should start portraying different characters since I have seen him as a rich white businessman/owner type of a character a bunch of times already. Other standouts from the cast included Aja Naomi King and Gabrielle Union. I really hope that their career won’t be hindered because of their involvement in this film and the unfortunate events that surrounded it.

In short, The Birth of a Nation was a well-made film that was heavy to watch. However, it was not a groundbreaking movie and I don’t think it was necessarily better than other films on the same topic, like 12 Years a Slave or The Butler.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Birth of a Nation trailer

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Movie review: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest film in that other Tom Cruise action-spy franchise has landed in theaters, so, let’s talk about it! This is the review of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

IMDb summary: Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

While I’ve closely followed Cruise and his Mission: Impossible movies, I managed to somehow miss the first Jack Reacher picture when it was first released in 2012. However, I did my homework and watched it before going to see the sequel. I really enjoyed the narrative of the film: the story was a bit different from the usual action movie plot. It had more of the actual investigation and an interesting dialogue rather just a ton of physical fights. But, when the action did happen, it was quite cool too – it was more rugged and down to earth than the spectacular and over the top action sequences in MI. Jack Reacher’s action reminded me of the action in Jason Bourne films, just with less shaky cam. The characters were fine as well, although the film was mostly a Tom Cruise show.

While the first film was a delightful surprise, the second one was just another uninspired and cliche sequel. I didn’t really have any expectations going into this film and I was right to not expect anything because Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was just an average action movie at best.

Writing

Richard Wenk (The Mechanic, The Equalizer, The Magnificient Seven), the director Edward Zwick and Zwick’s long-time collaborator Marshall Herskovitz wrote the screenplay for the film, adapting Lee Child’s 18th book of the Jack Reacher series. I had a lot of problems with the story. For one, the whole set-up seemed forced and rushed. It took two phone calls for Reacher to want to help Turner, while in the first film, more than 30 minutes had to be spent to actually get Reacher into the action. That whole thing with Turner being wrongly accused seemed like a recycled idea from the first movie as well. And don’t even get me started on that plot-line concerning his maybe-daughter – she was super annoying and was a huge liability to both the characters and the film’s narrative. She had one smart scheme, which we didn’t even see her carrying out – we were just told about it, and a ton of stupid ideas. And why even include her if she turns out to not be his daughter after all? Only to have that cheesy goodbye that didn’t add anything to the picture?

The villain showed up in maybe like 3 or 4 scenes in the whole movie. If you want to see a much better movie about the government contracts and arms’ dealers, then just check out War Dogs. Lastly, while the first film was slow but had a somewhat interesting dialogue about the investigation to fill in the time between the action, its sequel had a ton of small talk that didn’t get the movie anywhere. When it tried to foreshadow or set-up something, it did that in the most obvious way possible. From a thematical standpoint, I did like the overarching military v civilian life debate, however, what I didn’t appreciate was that whole male/female bickering. That plotline was irrelevant and felt out of place even more than the father/daughter storyline.

Directing

Edward Zwick, who has previously worked with Cruise on The Last Samurai and has also directed such films as the biopic Pawn Sacrifice, the war drama Defiance, and the comedy Love & Other Drugs, helmed Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and did an okay job. He opened the film with the sequence from the trailer, which I have seen multiple times before even watching the movie since I go to the cinema a lot. Wish they would have either chose a different scene for the trailer or changed it up a bit for the movie. The overall action was fine but nothing too striking or worth mentioning. I liked the gray colored shots of Reacher visualizing the escape or the past events, but the movie kinda dropped this idea halfway through.

Acting

  • Tom Cruise was good as Jack Reacher but I have come to expect this from him a long time ago. It’s nice to see him doing his own stunts, though – makes the movie a bit more realistic. Cruise also produced this film, like the majority of his action movies, but I’m actually quite interested to see if he will ever direct one. His upcoming pictures are a biographical crime thriller American Made and The Mummy reboot.
  • Cobie Smulders as Susan Turner was quite good too. I was happy to see her getting some work, because since How I Met Your Mother has ended, I haven’t seen much of her, well except in the MCU films, although her role in those is really small. I liked hers and Cruise’s chemistry in this movie and I also thought that she was good in the action scenes.
  • Danika Yarosh as Samantha Dayton a.k.a. the daughter. I don’t want to be angry with the big screen newcomer Yarosh because she was fine in the role, but, as I have already mentioned, her character was written terribly and didn’t even have a place in the film. Yarosh has been mostly acting in various TV shows and I do hope that this mediocre film and a bit cringe-y performance won’t stop her from being cast in more movies.
  • The supporting cast also included a lot of quite unknown (to me) actors, like Aldis HodgePatrick HeusingerHolt McCallany, and Austin Hebert. No one really stood much but they also haven’t been really given a chance to do so.

 In short, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an average sequel that basically advises its potential viewers to skip it. The story is awful, the directing is okay and while the acting is good, the cast is not given enough solid material to work with. I advise you to Never Go Back to the Jack Reacher films.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back trailer

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Movie review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer movie season and review TMNT: Out of Shadows – a sequel that nobody asked for?

IMDb summary: As Shredder joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman and henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady to take over the world, the Turtles must confront an even greater nemesis: the notorious Krang.

I’ve already done a review for the 2014 reboot of TMNT/the first film in the new series, you can find it here.

Reasons for Going

The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film was watchable but nothing great. Previous Michael Bay films were all (almost all) terrible, awful and tragic (Transformers). So, why did I subject myself to TMNT 2? Well, because Stephen Amell joined the cast. I’m a huge fan of Arrow and I’m also a fan of Amell himself, not only as an actor but also as a person. I admire his activism on social media, his charity work and his honest and open communication with the fans. He was the sole reason why I went to see this film.

Writing

The film was written by a duo of screenwriters – Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. I have mixed feelings about their previous work. They scripted the 2014 TMNT movie, which was average at best, as well as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – my favorite MI film. The narrative that they created for Out of Shadows is also of mixed quality.

To begin with, I appreciate the inclusion of iconic characters from the TMNT history like Casey Jones, Krang, Rocksteady and Bebop, and Baxter Stockman. At the same time, I don’t think it was such a good idea to bring some of these characters to live-action just because of how cartoonish they are, while, simultaneously, not staying true and faithful to the most realistic character from TMNT animation and comics – April O’Neil. Wouldn’t it be better to give us a proper April O’Neil and leave talking/floating brains behind? Or just bring everything as it is, not just half of it. Why bother with realism, when you have talking ninja turtles as protagonists? Just a thought.

Moving on to the film’s plot, it was convenient AF. The exposition was obvious as well as the villain motivations. The character of The Shredder, while somewhat fixed with the recast, was totally useless, because he was defeated so easily. The teleportation plotline was interesting but the more it was developed, the worse it got. The 3rd act of the film was worth a Transformers movie.

The writing for the turtles improved a bit. They weren’t just one sided cliches – the leader, the brains, the muscle and the jokes. The roles were switched up a bit and the ideas that ‘our differences make us stronger’ and ‘the family always accepts you’ were kinda nice. The other message of the film – that the turtles would go ‘out of shadows’ was touched upon but never fully realized because the public still doesn’t know about the heroes in a half shelf. They probably left that for a 3rd movie.

A few other characters had their own arcs as well. I felt that Casey Jones fit into the story organically and was a nice addition. On the other hand, Vern, once again, was totally unnecessary and was basically shoehorned into the plot. April O’Neil felt like a less sexualized character, but still, she is not the O’Neil from the animated series, that I grew up watching.

Directing

TMNT 2 was directed by Dave Green, whose only other feature film is 2014’s Earth to Echo, which received mixed reviews from the critics. Green’s efforts for this film were good, but the final product – not so much.

The opening shot of the film seemed really cool…until it turned into a product placement. The Halloween parade was visually interesting…until it turned into a plug for Transformers. The action was exciting…until the screen was overloaded with explosions or with unnecessary slow motion. You get the point.

The CGI looked kinda nice (I could almost deal with the fact that all characters looked like they were on steroids) – the turtles’ faces actually had expressions and they even actually seemed realistic-ish – they had sweaty skin during the action scenes and teary eyes during the more emotional sequences. Nevertheless, the CGI of the villain – Krang – was terrible and cartoonish not in a good way/caricature-like. The film perfectly described the look of the character itself – ‘a chewed up piece of gum with a face’.

My favorite visual was probably the traditional graphics of the comic books during the credits. They felt somewhat refreshing, after staring at CGI for 2 hours.

Producing

I mentioned a lot of faults of the movie, but I don’t blame the director or the screenwriters for them. I actually think that they had little to do with the film, as this picture felt like it was made by the studio suits and the executives. TMNT 2 had too many producers and like 5 different production companies. If it was made by a director, a screenwriter and a few producers, it might have turned out much better.

Acting

  • Megan Fox as April O’Neil was fine. Her acting is getting better and I wish all the best for her, but still, she is not the April O’Neil. Her next film is James Franco’s Zeroville.
  • Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, not surprisingly, was my favorite part of the film. I liked his humor as well as his action scenes, which were the most realistic. I hope that Amell can get more movie roles after this as he is absolutely amazing on Arrow. He is also currently working on a film project with his cousin Robbie AmellCode 8.
  • Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick was annoying, as expected. He should just stick with voice work or TV projects.
  • Brian Tee as The Shredder. The decision to recast The Shredder was a good one, however, the decision to make him totally useless and irrelevant to the plot wasn’t. Tee did an okay job, I liked him the beginning of the film, but after that, he became a parody of himself.
  • Tyler Perry as Dr. Baxter Stockman was absolutely the worst. He seemed like a parody of Madea and not a good one. If you want to see a good film, starring Perry, just watch Gone Girl.

The voice work and motion capture for turtles were done by Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), and Jeremy Howard (Donatello). Donatello is still my favorite turtle, although, I really liked Raphael in this film, especially after I found out that his idol is Vin DieselGary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly played Bebop and Rocksteady and were fine. Cartoonish, but I guess they had to be like that.

All in all, TMNT: Out of Shadows was an okay film. It was fun but nothing too spectacular. I feel like this is a film for little kids (so I shouldn’t judge it too harshly) that they cannot technically watch because of the PG-13 rating. In short, it had one too many fart jokes for my liking, but was definitely watchable and an improvement on the first film.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Testament of Youth

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another segment of brief movie reviews. You can find the first installment here.

This time, we are talking about Testament of Youth – a 2nd British period piece of this summer. I have done the full review of the 1st one – Far From the Madding Crowd, find it here.

  1. Testament of Youth is a film about World War I. It is based on a memoir by English writer and a pacifist Vera Brittain, who is also the main character of the film (it’s a memoir, so duh-uh). I’m in love with British literature and history, so this film was perfect for me. Also, recently, I have become very interested in books and movies about World Wars, so I’m very happy that I checked this one out as well. It’s a great historical movie and, as you would expect from any wartime movie, it doesn’t have a happy ending. However, the whole plot of the film portrays one particular feeling, which makes the ending seem like a happy one: the feeling of hope. Hope that the world can change and that we, as a race, can learn from our mistakes. Sadly, the film’s characters don’t know the true, but we do – people never learn from the past.
  2. The film is directed by James Kent and written by Juliette Towhidi. However, the most accomplished behind the scenes person on this film is actually the producer – David Heyman. He produced all Harry Potter films and 2013’s Gravity. Visually, the film looks beautiful and the locations are true to historical facts. The famous shot of saying goodbye in a train station, which can be seen in all films about war, is done wonderfully in this film as well.
  3.  The leading lady of the film – Vera Brittain – is played by Alicia Vikander. I loved her in the role. She perfectly portrayed an independent woman, who is smart and knows what she wants from life, but is not afraid to be a romantic as well. I did a review of other Alicia Vikander’s films very recently and spoke more about her as an actress in that post. Find it here.
  4. The leading man of the film is played by Game of Throne’s Kit Harrington. With an unknown fate of Jon Snow, I’m happy that Harrington is developing his movie career. He was brilliant in the role and I’m happy that critics finally seem to like him because his other movies Pompeii and Seventh Son were torn apart by the same critics.
  5. The film’s suppository cast is full of British talent. Kingsman’s Taron Egerton plays Vera’s brother, while Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell stars as one of the nurses. TV and theater actor Colin Morgan plays a friend of the Brittain’s siblings. All actors deliver top-notch performances.

All in all, it’s a great film for fans of history and for fans of sad but hopeful war movies. The acting is great, the visual appeal – amazing and the story is bound to bring at least a single tear to the viewer’s eye. The film was released in the UK last year and in many parts of the world throughout 2015, but in might be easier to find it online or on DVD, if you want to watch it.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Testament of Youth trailer

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Movie review: Terminator Genisys

Movie reviews

Hello my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer of sequels and review Terminator Genisys.

I am a kid of the 90s (I was born in late 90s), so I grew up watching Jurassic Park, Terminator and Mission Impossible on TV in the early 2000s. During this summer, we are getting sequels to all 3 of my childhood franchises. Jurassic World was normal (financially successful, a flop with the fans (review)). Sadly, Terminator Genisys is a double flop. So maybe Mission Impossible Rogue Nation will succeed in every aspect? We will find out in August. Anyway, let’s stay on topic and review the film which should be terminated.

Also, if you still plan to watch this film, don’t watch the trailer. The biggest twist and practically all cool action scenes are spoiled in the trailer.

IMDb summary: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

Timeline

The timeline of Terminator films was complicated without this 5th installment but Genisys decided to mess it up completely. Don’t think about this movie in terms of other films – it’s impossible to put it in a timeline, so that it would make sense. You can watch the original James Cameron’s films in order to understand the Easter Eggs but the T1 and T2 won’t help you to understand the plot of T5 at all. However, if you think about this film as stand alone one (a reboot, a new beginning and so forth), it doesn’t makes sense as well. It relies too heavily on the originals but tries too hard change everything and misses the mark. The multiverse and time travelling are tricky things to do and, while I applaud the creators’ efforts, the results are bad. I hope The Flash season 2 will deal better with multiverse.

Reboot

Some people say that this is the 5th film of the franchise, some think it’s a reboot. For me, it’s somewhere in-between. The movie’s plot is definitely different – they tried to do a mash-up of T1’s and T2’s plots with some unnecessary twists added. Basically, they wanted this film to be a new generation’s version of Judgement Day. I have no idea why they wished to remake a perfect movie, by making it worse.

In addition, if you treat this as a reboot, why do you cast the same actors? The Connors have always changed in between movies, so it’s okay to recast them for a reboot, but why keep Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character? I know he is iconic but if you want a fresh start, you have to leave everything behind, even your icons.

Acting/Character by character

Since I am a teenager/young adult, I should like younger actors more, but this time the old Arnold was the best one.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/The Terminator – was the best character. His action scenes were the coolest – after all these years he still looks like a bad ass. His comedic timing was also great – the joke about smile worked for me.

Jason Clarke as John Connor was okay. Nothing too good but definitely not bad either. If his reveal wasn’t spoiled in the trailer, the movie would have been more enoyable and interesting for sure.  

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. I am a fan of Clarke, I love her on Game Of Thrones but she is no Linda Hamilton. However, I warmed up to her by the end of the film, she won me over but it took some time.

P.S. The Clarkes were playing The Connors – I’ve only noticed that now.

Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney has been getting a lot of work recently, but I still haven’t seen him in a role which he would truly make it his own. He was functional in Divergent and Insurgent (review), he didn’t stick to me in Unbroken (review), but I hope he will be awesome in Suicide Squad! (Have you seen the trailer?)

Courtney and Clarke really lacked chemistry at first, but they got there by the end of the film. Their pair and Arnold’s character made for an awesomely awkward trio.

Lee Byung-hun as a T-1000 brought some diversity to the film but I still prefer Robert Patrick in the role. I also was surprised how quickly they defeated him, when it took them the whole T2 to do the same.

J. K. Simmons as Detective O’Brien wasn’t a character but a plot device. But J.K. Simmons, being the master of acting he is, was great in the role. His comedy was nice too.

Matt Smith had a small role, which I don’t wan to spoil. I have only seen a few episodes of the Doctor Who, but after seeing what Matt Smith can do with 5 lines, I’m maybe more interested to try my hand at Doctor Who one more time.Regarding this film, I’ll only say this – if Smith’s role was bigger, the film might have been much better. 

Effects

The CGI looked terrible in some places (young Arnold *facepalm*), but really good in others (John Connor’s robotic body). T-1000 looked cool too, but he looked the same 24 years ago, so that isn’t a big compliment. Action scenes were okay too, they actually were the best part of the film because they did not require any explanation. And when this movie tried to explain something, it starter to sink like a Titanic. Or even faster than a Titanic.

Screenplay

The screenplay was the worst part of the film. The plot made absolutely no sense. I tried to follow it so hard in the first 30 minutes but then just gave up. My dad was napping the whole movie, because he wasn’t able to follow the plot too and then simply did not know what was happening and was snoozing because of boredom. I don’t know if a screenplay by a Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier was really that bad already or did a studio altered it way too much. Kalogridis was an executive producer on Avatar and Lussier wrote a few horror movies, but both of them aren’t really established writers, so maybe that was the problem.

However, I will give them credit for introducing the theme of humanity’s dependence on technology. Genisys app looked like an interesting device but we only had tiny bits of information about it. If the film focused more on the actual technology and less time on time travel and family dynamics, it might have been a really great motion picture.

Directing 

The film is directed by Alan Taylor – he has only directed 5 movies, including Thor 2, which I liked but a lot of people had mixed reactions to it. However, Taylor directed a lot of TV shows, like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Rome, Mad Men and Game of Thrones. To my mind, after this flop, he won’t be making any movies moving forward, but I hope that he will be able to get some work on TV.

All in all, I loved Arnold as the Terminator once more, the action and acting was tolerable, the plot lacked focus but wrapped itself up nicely, although, it made no sense to begin with.  I advise you not to waste your time on this film or if you do decide to see it – have very low expectations. Mine were too high. I believe that this film will be a huge box office flop and although 6th and 7th installments are slated for 2017 and 2018, I won’t believe that they will be happening, at least not with this creative team. Maybe if James Cameron had the rights back, we would actually get a good Terminator film in the 21st century.

Rate: 3.25/5 

Trailer: (spoiler-y) Terminator Genisys trailer

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Movie review: The Judge

Movie reviews

Hi!

As you have probably noticed, I go to a cinema at least once a week. This Thursday, I watched The Judge – comedy-drama by the director David Dobkin.  I wasn’t familiar with his work, probably because he is not that famous.  He has directed a couple of comedies, TV shows and produced many more of them. The judge is his baby – he did everything himself – written, produced and directed.

IMDb summary: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

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Story

I really enjoyed the story and all the different aspects of it. I loved the whole coming home from a big city thing – I have always imagined myself moving from my own small native country to live in the US and coming back for a short visit. The law side of the movie also appealed to me because last year I did a semester of Law AP class at my local college, so I am familiar with the basic structures and different kinds of laws. The family drama was also close to my heart because I have always had problems finding a connection with my mom. Cancer aspect was also understandable because a few years back my grandma died from stage 4 lungs and bones cancer. And of course, love and relationships are a universal language which is understood by all. All the complex plot-lines, problems from the past and current events really mixed well and were not too much for me. My favorite scene was the final courtroom scene – the trial. That talk between The Judge and Hank  was super powerful and really good.

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Acting

Robert Downey Jr. was perfect in his role. Previously, I have seen him in big Marvel movies and in Sherlock Holmes franchise as well as this year’s Chef by Jon Favreau (review). He is truly a remarkable actor and this weekend I am definitely going to watch Chaplin (Academy Awards nomination for the lead role), The Soloist, Love&Distrust and Due Date. I love the fact that Robert Downey Jr.’s character could joke around one minute and be tearing up the next. What is more, his character Hank from this movie reminded me a bit of Sherlock Holmes with all that reading of a person stuff: both these characters paid attention to details and acquired a lot of knowledge without even engaging in a conversation. I guess that’s a part of their job: one is a lawyer while other is the private detective.

P.S. Robert Downey Jr. is almost 50 years old and he still looks like a 30-35-year-old.  Does anyone want a youth potion?

Robert Duvall was also really good in his role as The Judge. I hated him for being such an awful father but could sympathize with him as well for trying to make up for his mistakes. Other actors have been upstaged by Hank and Judge Palmer and I don’t really remember them. One of my most beloved TV actress’s from childhood – Leighton Meester – was also in this film as Carla – maybe / maybe-not Hank’s daughter. She had a small role but it was nice to see her after quite a long time.

All in all, I enjoyed the film, could relate to the story and adored the performance of the main duo – father and son. The movie premiered a month ago at TIFF – possibly this could mean that the movie is willing to get an Academy Award or at least Golden Globe nomination; however, I don’t really believe that will happen because the reviews from critics have been only mediocre.

Rate: 4.5/5. If the movie had been shorter by half an hour I would have given it a full 5.

Trailer: The Judge trailer

The_Judge_2014_film_poster Photos: Getty Images