Movie review: Black Panther

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of the newest and, arguably, the most important Marvel movie! This is Black Panther!

IMDb summary: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

As usual, before I start, my previous MCU reviews are here: Guardians 1 and 2, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor 3.

Writing

Black Panther was written by the director of the film Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. I thought that the duo did a stellar job with the script. I’m not going to talk about the plot in detail, so as to keep this review spoiler free, other than to stay that a lot of narrative things happen in this film and a couple of them are quite unexpected. There are also a few of meaningful deaths (that might silence MCU critics who say that nobody ever dies in this universe). What I’m going to discuss more elaborately are the brilliant and multiple thematical concepts of Black Panther.

Just on the surface representational level, this film was a game changer. Black characters were elevated from the roles of the supporting friend/the funny sidekick/the one-scene cameo and were brought to the forefront. It’s also refreshing to see fictional black characters rather than real-life rebel slaves or civil rights activists (those smaller biographical movies are important too, but diversity in the blockbuster field is key as well). Also, even though this movie told a fictional story about fictional characters, it honored and paid homage to a lot of its real-world equivalents/inspirations, which raised a question for me: why haven’t we seen pictures about real, past or current, African tribes that were not documentaries???

Anyways, more on Black Panther paying homage to certain real-world ideas/events. I absolutely loved how the movie honored the connection that Africans have with their ancestors (and how in touch with their spirituality they are) as well their connection with nature (healing herbs, animals as deities). It was also great for the movie to acknowledge the violence within African culture (both the inner to the culture and the one coming from the west). Most importantly, it was just so amazing to see the Afrofuturism ideas on screen, which connected modernity with the traditional side of the culture. Scholars have been racking their brains about how to develop Africa without Westernizing it! Well, just do what Black Panther did: connect the two things rather than make one negate the other!

As the movie’s main character was a sovereign of a country, Black Panther also had some political commentary, mostly about a single country’s relation and obligation to the world. It also explored the well-known idea of the sins of the father reflecting of the children but in a royal context.  The film also had some fascinating things to say about communities, tribes or one’s ‘people’. How do we define that category? Do we draw lines based on race? Ethnicity? Nationality? Culture? Common beliefs and ideals? One of the central conflicts in the film was based on the fact that the villain and the hero of the story had different answers to that question. Speaking of the villain, Killmonger might be Marvel’s best one yet because he wasn’t just a villain but a character in his own right, whose goals were radical yet valid. The viewer could definitely understand his frustrations and reasons for his thinking.

Directing

Ryan Coogler (of Creedand Fruitvale Station) did an amazing job with Black Panther. He realized the visuals of Afrofuturism so well (with the help of production design, of course). The sets were brilliant and the costumes – absolutely impeccable and so cool as well! The action was really great too: fast-paced, intense, and meaningful for the plot. The pacing was also great!  The much-celebrated music of the movie was great (so it has been celebrated for a reason). I wanted to hear even more if it!

Acting

Black Panther assembled a stellar cast, led by Chadwick Boseman (Civil War) in a role that he was born to play. I’d love to see his involvement in the MCU leading to more non-biographical roles for him (cause I have seen him in quite a few biopics). Coogler’s collaborator Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fantastic Four) played the villain and fully embodied the role, both physically and emotionally. I absolutely loved his character’s Americanized look too. An absolute scene stealer was Letitia Wright as the tech (and actual) princess. I loved her portrayal as a tech genius who was super excited about her creations and I also loved all her outfits and amazing sense of humor (bit cringe-y at times but so relatable). Lupita Nyong’o (The Jungle Book, The Force Awakens) also had a great role in the film – really loved seeing her in a big picture in person (not as in Star Wars, in motion capture).

Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira played an incredible role of the leader of Dora Milaje (who were all so amazing), while the breakout star of last year Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) also had an interesting role to play (I loved how his character’s cape-like looking thing was also a shield). Winston Duke played a fun and multifaceted character too. Some more seasoned talent was also spotlighted: Angela Bassett was great as the mother of the king, while Forest Whitaker (Southpaw, Arrival, Rogue One) was perfect as an elderly statesman. Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis (War For The Planet of The Apes, The Last Jedi) also reprised their earlier roles in the MCU and were great. Freeman was a lovable CIA agent (not a word I’d use to describe a CIA agent, but, oh well), while Serkis was super crazy as one the villains of the film but it was really nice to see him in a non-motion capture performance.

Post-credits/End-credits (bit spoiler-y)

While Black Panther was mostly divorced from the MCU (it didn’t have many Easter Eggs that I could notice except of course the Stan Lee cameo), it did have a neat after-credits scene, where a fan-favorite from Civil War (‘White Wolf’) was defrosted. He seemed to be doing well in Wakanda.

The mid-credits scene was closely related to this picture and had a nice message of peaceful communication. It sounded a tiny bit naive but I can’t really fault hope.

In short, Black Panther was both a great Marvel comic book movie and a sophisticated game-changer in terms of representation for the whole context of modern cinema.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Black Panther trailer

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Movie review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Movie reviews

Hello!

The last of the YA dystopias is coming to an end. This is Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

IMDb summary: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Writing

The Death Cure was written by T.S. Nowlin (the writer of the two previous pictures in this series and the upcoming Pacific Rim: Uprising film), based on the book of the same name by James Dashner. I’ve read the original trilogy more than 5 years ago now, so I hardly remember its plot details (I might have remembered a bit more a year ago, when this film was supposed to come out but, as it was pushed back due to Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set, I’m now more in the dark than I’ve ever was). However, this movie franchise has gone so far off the books (especially in the second film) that my background of having read and not remembering the book hardly impacts the motion picture watching experience. Having said that, I did recount two major things from the last book that managed to stay with for 5+ years and both of these developments were preserved in the film. I was quite upset that the filmmakers kept the first thing (from the selfish fan perspective) but quite glad that they retained the second one (from an objective-ish reviewer perspective). Let me elaborate. Also: SPOILERS!

The first thing I had in my mind was the death of probably my favorite character from the series – Newt. I distinctly remember being very sad after finishing the book and hoping that, when this novel will finally reach the big screen, Newt will be allowed to live. However, I’m not surprised that the screenwriter kept such an ending for one of the main character’s, as his final scene was pretty emotional and made for a great and powerful moment on screen. His nickname for Thomas – Tommy – was heartbreakingly sweet too. The second development that I’ve mentioned as having liked from a more objective point of view was the movie’s (and the book’s) ultimate ending. The film ended with all the surviving characters living on an island (a more realistic version of the safe haven from the books. In the original novels, a portal had to be taken to reach safety rather than just a boat). I’m glad that the screenwriters didn’t change the ending into fairytale/happy one but kept it ambiguous: what will Thomas do with HIS gift? In addition, I feel like a happy ending (like a sequence of the cure being spread to everyone) would have undercut all the losses that the surviving characters had to go through.

Now, having explored some of the narrative details, let’s look at some themes. One of the major topics of discussion for the film was memory (and my musings about remembering or forgetting certain details of the plot somehow feel more appropriate). Another big concept for this series has always been friendship, which was on display here once more (Thomas, Newt, and Minho are one of my favorite trios in YA fiction). The shades of the love triangle (Thomas, Teresa, Brenda) were present too, though, they weren’t on display that much.

My few slight criticism towards the writing were mainly just two and both of them had to do with the antagonists of the series. For one, I have never fully understood the hierarchy within the WCKD. In this film, Ava Paige had to ask somebody else for the permission to start the human trials of the cure as if they haven’t been experimenting on humans for years already to get the vaccine in the first place?! Also, I’m still not entirely sure whether I buy Teresa’s shifting allegiances or it might be that I just don’t understand her character and the scale she uses to judge what is right on.

 

 

Directing

Wes Ball directed The Death Cure (he also did The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials) and did quite an amazing job, especially with only around $60 million budget. The last entry into the franchise was highly action-packed. The said action was also quite varied: the film had a variety of sets (all brown and broken but still cool looking) and a ton of CGI that looked quite good (I’ve seen movies that cost double what this one did and looked four times worse (*cough, cough*, Geostorm). The focus on the action in this film also allowed this series to finally differentiate itself from the other YA dystopias, mainly The Hunger Games. While THG finished off as more of a political thriller, TMR series seems to have always been more about the spectacle and only then about the ideas. The ideas – the attempt to go the political thriller route with the cure only being meant for the privileged – were present but they did feel like an afterthought. The Maze Runner series should not have tried to shy away from its action roots, as these sequences were the best ones in the movie. Having said that, the characters had to break into The Capitol-like city in this film, so maybe these two series aren’t that different after all. I wonder how the Divergent/Allegiant situation is going on? That series probably won’t end ever.

Anyways, the fact that this movie had a lot of action, also helped it with the pace, which was quite fast. The only dip came in the second act, however, the first and the third acts were rapid and intense.  My only critique of the action sequences was that, at times, they were filmed with a bit too much of the shaky cam. Nevertheless, those moments were far and few in between, while the majority of the action was captured by a handheld but steady enough camera, while the mobile frame helped with the intensity. I also loved how the action scenes in the first act (the maze and the grievers; the cranks) were used as a slight reminder of what happened in the previous pictures. Lastly, how nice was it that they the filmmakers (and the suits) didn’t divide the finale of the trilogy into two parts!

Acting

The Death Cure saw the return of all the favorites. Dylan O’BrienThomas Brodie-Sangster, and Ki Hong Lee were all great as my favorite trio: Thomas, Newt, and Minho, respectively. I only wish that they would have shared more scenes together. O’Brien’s TV show – Teen Wolf – has ended last year but he has been steadily racking up movie roles (in this series, Deepwater Horizon, and American Assasin) and seems to be fairing much better than the actual lead of his TV show – Tyler Posey. I really hope that the relative financial success of this franchise will allow Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee to be cast in more projects too.

Will Poulter (The Revenant, Detroit) also returned as Gally, while Dexter Darden had some neat moments (operating a crane) as FrypanKaya Scodelario (Pirates 5) was okay as Teresa, while Giancarlo Esposito’s (OkjaJorge and Rosa Salazar’s Brenda were neat to watch in their father-daughter-like relationship. On the villain side, Patricia Clarkson (The Party) was still immaculately dressed in white as Ava Paige, while Littlefinger – Aidan Gillen (Sing Street) as Janson – was doing his thing as usual. Another GOT family member (who also stars in Fast&Furious franchise) Nathalie Emmanuel (as Harriet), as well as ShadowhuntersKatherine McNamara (as Sonya), appeared too, although the film didn’t really know what to do with them, after having introduced them in The Scorch Trials as members from a different maze/test group.

In short, Maze Runner: The Death Cure was an entertaining finale to the, overall, surprisingly strong YA franchise, that pleased my heart and mind. And this praise comes from somebody who was once the biggest fan of the book and this genre in general.

Rate: 3.8/5

Trailer: Maze Runner: The Death Cure trailer

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Movie review: Logan

Movie reviews

Hello!

The last (supposedly) Hugh Jackman-lead X-Men movie – Logan – has hit theaters, so, let’s review it! The review is spoiler-free, for the most part. I have written down 8 points, full of spoilers, at the very end and included an additional warning.

IMDb summary: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.

The X-Men franchise has had its fair share of hits and misses. While the original movie and its sequel X2 were mostly well-accepted, everyone would rather forget X3. Looking at the newer prequel franchise, once again, the first two pictures were really good, especially, Days of Future Past, while the third one – X-Men: Apocalypse – was just kinda meh. The most successful X-Men film to date is the spinoff Deadpool, which came out just last year. Now, Logan is following the formula set by Deadpool – the R-rating + the faithfulness to the source material – and is hoping for a win. The previous two Wolverine movies didn’t impress anyone, and that’s putting it mildly. Maybe, third time’s a charm? Both this being the 3rd sub-trilogy within the X-Men series and the 3rd movie of it.

Writing

Logan was written by Scott Frank, the director James Mangold, and a TV writer Michael Green. Frank has written 2013’s The Wolverine and 2002’s Minority Report, while Green is the writer behind Green Lantern (that sounds worrying, however, Green is also listed as the screenwriter for a lot of big upcoming films, like Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049and Murder on the Orient Express, so maybe his writing for Green Lantern was just an unfortunate accident that will never, hopefully, be repeated again?

Even though I had some worries about the writing for this film, I should not have, cause the narrative of Logan was just spectacular – cohesive yet varied and complex. I’m gonna go over all the different story points in the spoiler part, so here I’m just gonna mention some of the general stuff. To begin with, Logan had clever dialogue which provided the viewers with snippets of the overarching story, rather than explaining it through narration. Even the one explanatory scene was done in an interesting and modern way – through a video on a phone.

I also loved all the character moments that were written into the script: Caliban actually had some important stuff to do instead of just being an accessory, like in X-Men:Apocalypse; Professor X, even though he was old, has not lost his nurturing nature; X-23 was animalistic but intelligent (loved the moment when she sucked the bullets out of her hand): she did not say a word until the end of the second hour of the movie, and when she finally spoke, she did that in both Spanish and English, making her an even more of an authentic character; and, lastly, Logan himself has a variety of stunning moments that drove home the idea that he is not the Wolverine that we were used to seeing: this time around, he needed glasses and his claws did not pop out as easily as they used to. The moment from the trailer, where he holds up the comics was also great – it was so fun seeing a comic book character whining about the comics.

Thematically, Logan continued the tradition of all the X-Men films and looked at the staple topics of family and belonging, but not in any other movie have these two topics felt more relevant and emotional.

Directing

James Mangold is best known for directing The Wolverine and the awards’ nominated western remake 3:10 to Yuma (Logan was a kind of western too – set in a similar location but modernized). Mangold did an absolutely spectacular job directing the movie. The opening sequence was just wonderful – it set the tone for the film and explained the characters psychological and physical state with a single, quite short, action sequence. I also have to praise the director for using the various visual storytelling techniques – showing instead of telling. The overall action of Logan was also magnificent. If you thought that Deadpool was violent, then I can tell you that you haven’t seen nothing yet. Logan was 100 times bloodier and way more brutal – it was sometimes hard to watch. And yet, even though the picture’s themes and visuals were dark and brutal, the color pallet was not, meaning that one could actually see the action, instead of guessing what’s happening in the shadows.

Acting

Hugh Jackman was just absolutely wonderful. I’m so happy that he got a chance to finally play the type of Wolverine that he always wanted to play. I really am gonna miss him in this role. Jackman’s next project is a musical The Greatest Showman, which he is going to produce and star in. Patrick Stewart’s last outing as Professor Xavier was also excellent. I wasn’t expecting this many casual humor moments to come from him. His next gig is voicing the poop emoji in The Emoji Movie. Yup, this is the world we live in.

Richard E. Grant was amazing as Zander Rice. I loved his character’s look as well as behavior. Boyd Holbrook was good as Donald Pierce too. His character wasn’t the most interesting but I guess the movie had to have the ‘big bad’ – a mad scientist running things from above. Stephen Merchant replaced Tómas Lemarquis in the role of Caliban and did a much better job. Some of its due to better writing, but I also felt that Merchant delivered a more nuanced performance. Lastly, I have to mention how amazing was Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23. I really hope that this young lady has a bright future ahead of her, be it as the new lead of this franchise or working on other projects.

In short, Logan is a magnificent movie that pushes the boundaries of the comic book genre. It is well acted, has an emotional and interesting story, and spectacular action to top it off.

Rate: 4.7/5

Trailer: Logan trailer

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SPOILER PART

  1. I loved how Logan subverted the action genre tropes. For example, during their first escape, their car actually got stuck in the fence and couldn’t go through it, which usually happens in films. Also, when the bad guy was beginning to give his monolog, I loved that Logan just shot him and cut his speech short. Not only was this a great subversion of a classical action movie cliche, but this action left some gaps in the story, which the villain hadn’t had time to explain
  2. Namely, the biggest gap is the question of what has happened to the mutants that they basically went extinct? The character of Pierce seemed to be the one who was responsible, but Professor X also remembered something related to that incident. Was Xavier somehow responsible too or was he just feeling guilty for not being able to save them?
  3. Speaking about Professor X, while a lot of us predicted his death, it was still an emotional moment. I did shed a tear during his funeral when Logan was at a loss for words and X-23 just took his hand. I loved the scenes of Xavier’s seizures, though, they had such an interesting special effect.
  4. The X-23’s backstory was interesting and pretty faithful to the comics. We also got a bunch of others genetically conceived mutant kids, which I wish we knew more about, cause I wanted to care more for them during the final act. We did get a taste of their powers and I wonder whether they will be the ones to continue this franchise.
  5. Touching upon the third act, it was probably my least favorite part of the movie. I felt that the beginning of it dragged a bit and slowed down the movie too much. It also made the final product feel too long.
  6. The inclusion of the X-24 – an almost perfect killing machine and a double of Wolverine – was an interesting choice. At times, it felt like an afterthought, but I cannot fully argue against its inclusion, cause Hugh Jackman vs Hugh Jackman fights were astonishing.
  7. I have already mentioned how Wolverine was complaining about the comics, but I would also like to draw attention to the fact that the said comics weren’t just there to be an Easter Egg but acted as a driving force for the plot. This idea just blew my mind completely.
  8. And to finish off this spoiler-y part, we, of course, have to talk about the ending and the final send-off of the character. I absolutely loved Logan’s final arc and the mutual saving part of his relationship with X-23. Not only did he actually save her from the Transigen company but she also saved him from suicide. I thought that his death was worth the character’s life and his last moment with Laura, when she utters ‘Daddy’, was a complete tearjerker. The turning of the cross into an X was just a heartbreaking icing on a cake made of tears. I wasn’t completely surprised that they decided to allow this character to die. Hugh Jackman does not really want to do these movies anymore and what a better way to end one’s career as a specific character than to give him the ultimate send-off. It just adds to the legacy of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Movie review: Now You See Me 2

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of this summer. This time, it’s another sequel – Now You See Me 2 also known as Now You See Me: The Second Act.

IMDb summary: The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.

2013’s NYSM was a surprising and vastly entertaining film, but if Hollywood would not be so focused on franchises, the movie would not have gotten a sequel. Before going to see the sequel, I actually rewatched the first film, because I’ve heard that NYSM 2 relied heavily on the plot of the first picture and, now having seen the movie, I can confirm that. If you want to really enjoy The Second Act you have to have The First One on your mind. Usually, Hollywood tends to make more of  standalone sequels that do not require homework or any preparation, so I don’t understand why they made an exception this time.

SPOILERS FOR BOTH FILMS

Writing

NYSM 2 was written by the same screenwriter as the first film – Ed Solomon. While I really enjoyed the story that he crafted in 2013, I had quite a few problems with its 2016 continuation.

Firstly, as I have already mentioned, the film’s big reveals relied too heavily on the plot developments of the first film:

  1. The movie made the big deal out of the fact that Dave Franco’s character was alive, but we, as the viewers, find that out at the end of the first film.
  2. The reveal that Morgan Freeman was behind all of the events of the sequel (at least, it looked like it) was meaningless if you did not know what role he played in the first film.
  3.  Ruffalo’s character motivation, as well as his father’s story, were given even more screen time but, once again, the crucial info was only told in the first film.
  4. Michael Caine’s character’s involvement in this film can also only be explained by the events of the first movie.
  5. The EYE was once again present in the film and didn’t do anything useful. The big reveals – who was the EYE’s members and that ending involving the EYE – were also kinda underwhelming.
  6. The 2nd film mentioned why Isla Fisher’s character left (in truth, the actress got pregnant and couldn’t participate in the filming), so I appreciate the fact they at least addressed this development in an appropriate to the story way.
  7. The first film had a quick pace and a straight forward plot, but this one had a really slow setup and a really convoluted yet predictable plot.
  8. The sequel kinda recapped the events of the first film and set up the revenge plot in that opening montage with the voiceover by Freeman, but I don’t really think that that was enough.

A few things that I did enjoy where the pairing-ups of the characters. I liked that Dave Franco’s character was the one with the love interest this time, instead of Jesse Eisenberg. Caplan and Franco had great chemistry, although I did not appreciate the fact that they emphasized a few times that Caplan was the only female horseman.In the first film,  Isla Fisher  was just one of the members of the group, not THE ONLY female member. The other pairs were the Prison Break with Mark Ruffalo’s character and Morgan Freeman’s character as well as the competition for the leadership between Ruffalo and Eisenberg. I also liked the mentor/student relationship between Woody Harrelson’s characters and Dave Franco’s character.

The overarching theme of the two films was the revenge of the sons, so I wonder who will be avenging who in the 3rd film, as they will probably make it.

Directing

The film was directed by Step Up’s Jon M. Chu, whose latest film- Jem and the Holograms was one of the biggest financial and critical flops recent years. He did an okay-ish job this time. I didn’t see the need to set half of the movie in Macau, except to please the Chinese audiences and get their money. Also, if you have to set-up a film Macau, why not use it? We only saw Macau in a few shots of the lights and billboards  and those shots were only used tot transition between the scenes.

Also, this film lacked magic. NYSM had 3 big and somewhat realistic magic shows, while NYSM 2 had a few small performances/moments and a few big-ish ones that were completely unbelievable. To begin with, this time, hypnosis seemed like an easy thing that really everybody could do. The passing of the card/chip trick was cool to look at but completely over-the-top. The water/rain trick was also nice and pleasing visually, but, once again, unbelievable and unrealistic. The final act was pretty cool though and did wrap up the story nicely, so I can at least give the director that. However, the finale did leave a lot of questions unanswered and even the horseman realized that. I wonder if they will address any of the questions in the sequel if they make one.

Acting

Firs of all, let me just say that this film had way too many characters, a few of whom were really unnecessary.

  • Jesse Eisenberg as Danny Atlas – was okay and I finally liked his hair in the film, after suffering through his bad hairstyles in BvS and American Ultra. He was believable as an egoistic illusionist and I did like him in the role. Now, I just hope that I can learn to like him as Lex in Justice League.
  • Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes was also fine. I enjoyed the fact that we finally got to see him doing a few tricks and I also liked the fact that he took up his right place as the 5th horseman in the end. I don’t think that I’ve ever watched a movie with Ruffalo that I did not enjoy, so any film of his is a good bet, but if you don’t know where to start, just check out his most recent work  with Marvel and in Spotlight.
  • Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney/Chase McKinney was good and annoying. I liked the character of Merritt but could not understand the need to include Chase as his twin brother, especially when he was this annoying. I sill haven’t finished watching Harrelson on True Detective, although, I’ve really liked him on THG films. He will also be in War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Dave Franco as Jack Wilder was also good. He is really charming and has a great screen presence. He has mostly done comedic work, in 21/22 Jump Street and Neighbors films. He will also be in Nerve later this year.
  • Daniel Radcliffe as Walter Mabry was good but slightly creepy. I’m happy to see Radcliffe getting some mainstream work in this film as well as in Victor Frankenstein, but none of his post-Harry Potter films were able to reach the level of HP success. I wonder if that is even possible
  • Lizzy Caplan as Lula May was a great addition to the cast. I liked her awkward humour and the line ‘He’s cute, let’s kill him’. I don’t know why Caplan does not get more roles in bigger films, as she is so good. My favorite film from Caplan’s filmography is Bachelorette, in which she starts alongside the former NYSM female lead – Isla Fisher.
  • Jay Chou as Li was only there to add ‘diversity’ and appeal to the Asian audiences.
  • Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler and Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley were both fine but I am getting angry with both of them. They used to be respectable actors and now they are just doing all the films, the majority of which are paycheck gigs. I would love to see them in more serious films and in more challenging roles.

All in all, Now You See Me 2 was an okay film. It was worse than the seqeul, had an uninspired and messy plot and really unrealistic ‘magic’. Defintely not a must watch, but if you do choose to see it, make sure to re-watch NYSM 1 or at least read its plot online.

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Now You See Me 2 trailer

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Movie PREVIEW: Captain America: Civil War a.k.a. Civil War comic book review

Movie previews

Hello!

I have done a few preview posts while waiting for the release of the big movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now, I would like to discuss my expectations and predictions for the new Marvel movie – Avengers 2.5 also known by its actual name Captain America: Civil War.

In preparation for the film, I have rewatched both of the Captain America’s films and enjoyed them even more than the first time. If you would like to read my review of the previous two films, you can click here – that post is one of my early ones and the reviewing style is completely different from the way I review films now, so don’t be too harsh.

In addition, not only did I rewatch the previous movies in the series, but I have also actually read the graphic novel by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven (the main series of the 7 issues) that this movie is at least partially adapting. Civil War graphic novel is one of the first serious superhero graphic novels that I’ve ever read. As a child, I would read comic books about magic that were aimed at very young audiences. Nowadays, the majority of graphic works that I used pick up would be quite biographical, like Maus and Persepolis. However, Civil War really made me want to get into comics more. I have always felt kinda overwhelmed with the lore of the comic book universes and didn’t really know where to start. But, through Civil War, I discovered that there is a bunch of limited series style graphic novels that are easily accessible to new readers. You don’t have to hunt down different issues, but can enjoy the whole story all at one, in a book format! Because of this, I have recently purchased the Greatest Batman Stories compilation novel and I’m also actively looking for the Watchmen graphic novel in my town’s 2nd hand shops.  So, let’s talk what the film might and will change when transferring the Civil War story from the page to the civil screen. SPOILERS for the comic book and possible SPOILERS for the movie.

  • To begin with, from the trailers and previous MCU films, we know that the incident that will divide the superheroes won’t be an unsuccessful TV show and will have nothing to do with New Warriors. Instead, The Avengers will disagree over the Winter Soldier question, thus, making it a personal matter to Cap. In addition, the aftermath of Sokovia and other accidents, that The Avengers were involved in, like Battle of New York will only deepen and widen the rift .
  • In addition, the film will probably cut a lot of characters that were involved in the original story. For one, Marvel Studios does not have the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four characters – it is a miracle that they got Spider-Man. Moreover, MCU has a lot of characters already, without adding a bunch of new ones ( that’s why I called the film – Avengers 2.5  – it is more of a team up movie rather than a solo standalone feature). So, if Cap 3 introduced a big group of characters all at once, the majority of them would lack the necessary development and would overcrowd the film. In the comics, it is a different story – all of the characters, that were involved in the Civil War story, have about 50 years of history behind them – they are known to the avid comic book readers, while the movie has to cater the needs of the mainstream audiences, who do not know anything about these characters.
  • Having said that, while the film won’t add a bunch of new characters, we will be introduced to a few of them. Black Panther and the new Spider-Man (with the best suit ever – the CGI eyes are amazing) will make their debut. I do not really think that they will reveal Spider-Man’s identity like they did in a comic book Civil War, since Spidey is so new in the MCU. I feel like they will save this big reveal for a solo Spider-Man film, maybe even the last film of the new trilogy. On the other hand, Black Panther’s comic book storyline probably won’t be changed that much, but the movie might add something more to it.
  • In the comic book, X-Men characters were sorta neutral, so the lack of them in the film won’t be a huge loss. On the other hand, Fantastic Four’s characters played a big role in the events, so I wonder who will replace them in the movie’s version. Doctor Strange was also neutral in the comics and since he technically is still Stephen Strange – the surgeon in the MCU (he will get his powers in his own film), we will probably only get a post-credits scene with him. Other characters, like Thor’s Cyborg Clone will either be cut or substituted. There is only a small chance that any Thor lookalikes will appear in the film, as Chris Hemsworth is not listed on IMDb. Nevertheless, that plotline might be included in the film by replacing Thor’s Clone with Vision. The characters or team like Goliath, Mrs. Sharpe, The Thunderbolts (Marvel’s Suicide Squad), Young Avengers and Namor will probably also be cut. I also don’t think that TV characters, like Daredevil and The Punisher, will appear.
  • I wonder whether the film will keep the idea that Nick Fury is on Captain America’s side, while the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. is supporting Iron Man. Either way, Civil War film will definitely mark the end of The Avengers as we know them now.
  • I am mostly sure that, in the movie the same way as in the comic book, both teams will have members, who will question their choice and will change sides. We will probably get ‘mole inside the team’ plotline as well.
  • The negative zone prison and the fifty state project will probably be too comic-book-y and too grand ideas for the film, so the actual Prison 42 will most likely be different – more realistic maybe? In general, the film’s Civil War will probably be a much smaller scale event.
  • I am also interested to see whether the film will keep the ending of the comic book. Will Tony become the S.H.I.E.L.D director? Will Cap surrender? What will be Winter Soldier’s role? I also heard the rumors that they might include the death of Captain America storyline at the end of Civil War – really don’t want that to happen. It would also make Civil War very similar to BvS, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. 

So, in conclusion, I have a lot of questions and possible speculations about the film and that’s all part of the fun with these comic book movies. I loved the graphic novel Civil War and can’t wait to read more – now I feel stupid for waiting so long to star reading the comic books.

Civil War film will be directed by the Russo brothers. Since half of their filmography consists of past and future Marvel movies (they will direct Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and 2), I don’t really have anything more to say about their previous work. I will briefly touch upon actors’ previous work in the actual review of the film, although I will probably be repeating myself a lot since I have said almost everything I wanted to say about them in my past Marvel movie reviews: Avengers Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Guardian of the Galaxy. If you want to read my either comic book movie posts, both Marvel and DC, you can find them here: Marvel Phase 3, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool and BvS.

I am planning to see the film on April 29th, in the morning, and I will definitely be rocking my Marvel Comics T-Shirt. Will you be cosplaying for the premiere and what are your predictions for the film? Let’s discuss this in the comments!

  

Movie review: Spectre + a look back

Movie reviews

Hello!!!

The latest (24th!) James Bond film – Spectre – has finally hit theaters in its native UK and this is going to be my review!!

To begin with, as some of you may know, James Bond franchise is one of 2 spy/agent/espionage film series that I adore (other being Mission Impossible). And while MI films only had one interpretation of Ethan Hunt, James Bond has been played by a huge variety of actors and all fans have their favorite one. Mine is Daniel Craig’s Bond, just because it is the one that I’m most familiar with and that I actually grew up watching. In truth, I have seen one or two Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films on TV as a child, but they weren’t that good while Craig’s first outing as Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale was amazing. I would also love to check out the earliest editions of Bond and read the original novels by Ian Fleming someday.

Let’s go over the 3 previous films in a franchise, before moving on to talking about Spectre!

SPOILER WARNING

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale is one of my favorite movies ever made. I still cannot believe that Martin Campbell directed it and did such an amazing job and then moved on to making Green Lantern. Casino Royale was the origin story of 007 and it had amazing action (the parkour chase) and wonderful suspense (the best poker scene ever put to film – made me want to learn poker). It also had amazing callbacks to the lore of Bond: the ordering of Martini, the iconic line to end the film and so forth. It was also the film that pushed the boundaries of violence – the torture/whipping scene was something that I have never seen before. It was really uncomfortable to watch but you could not take your eyes off the screen at the same time. This film also had the best Bond girl  – Vesper played by Eva Green. Vesper was resourceful and strong female character, who also had femininity and softness to her. She was just an overall great, well-developed character. It sad that she had to die for 007 to become the real Bond.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

This sequel to the majority of fans was a bit of a disappointment and I have to agree with them. While I really liked how this film based its story on the things that happened in the first film, it wasn’t up to par with its predecessor on any level.The plot was really messy and hard to follow. Quantum was directed by Marc Forster, who later made World War Z, which a lot of people hated while I kinda liked it.

Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall was the big comeback of this series as well as the commemorative film of Bond’s 50th anniversary. While Casino Royale was the origins of Bond and the Quantum of Solace was the Bond-y Bond, Skyfall was all about the broken Bond. It was great seeing a different side of the character as well as being able to glimpse into his past and his family – a theme which will be very important in Spectre. In addition, this film allowed us to spend more time with Judi Dench’s M and introduced 2 great new characters: Ralph Fiennes’s Mallory and Ben Whishaw’s Q. Lastly, as a new inhabitant of Scotland, I really appreciated the setting of the last part of the film, when I’ve re-watched it only recently: Welcome to Scotland!

Overall, this franchise has great acting and really good villains – in the first and third films to be precise. It also is an internationally set franchise which is always a plus for me. It also has a great soundtrack: my favorite theme song (not counting the original James Bond theme song) is still Adele’s Skyfall, but I do like Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall as well. Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name and Jack White’s and Alicia Keys’s Another Way to Die are also great songs, worth the listen.

SPOILER WARNING FOR SPECTRE

IMDb summary: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Overall, I’ve definitely enjoyed Spectre but not as much as I thought I would. Casino Royale is still the best Bond movie, to my mind, and, sadly, Spectre is not as enjoyable as Skyfall. Quantum of Solace, not surprisingly, takes the last place on the list.

Opening credits

Spectre had my favorite opening credits of the last 4 Bond films. Skyfall had amazing opening as well, but this one had even a better one. I loved how they started with the theme of fire and then played off of the Spectre’s logo – the octopus. I also really enjoyed the references to the previous films (or at least to 1st and 3rd films – everybody wants to forget Quantum): images of Vesper, M, Le Chiffre and Silva appeared in a breaking glass.

Tone

Spectre was probably the funniest Craig’s Bond film. It had a lot of laugh out loud moments and these were set up not only by dialogue punch lines but by action scenes. For example, I loved how Bond fell onto the sofa after that building crashed at the beginning of the film. At the same time, this movie was really dark and conveyed emotions like hopelessness and loneliness perfectly.

Story

The film’s script was written by a group of people: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth. All of them, except Butterworth, have previously worked on other Bond films. Logan has been nominated for an Oscar for writing Gladiator, The Aviator, and Hugo. Purvis and Wade have worked on other films together and Butterworth wrote Edge of Tomorrow and this year’s Black Mass. All of these accomplished writers did an okay job, however, I believe that they could have refined the story a bit more. A few supporting characters could have fared better with some more development and the plot could have made more sense: at times it felt that Bond was going from point A to B to C for no reason. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the dialogue of the film, which was brought to life by amazing performances from the whole cast. The way Spectre’s story tied the whole series together is also worth praising. The theme of modernity versus tradition was an interesting idea to introduce into the Bond franchise as well. Lastly, I do not know about you, but I would definitely not feel safe if I am constantly being watched.

Directing

Skyfall’s Sam Mendes returned as a director for Spectre. He did an amazing job in 2012 and did not disappoint this year as well. I loved the opening crowd chase scene in Mexico as well as the car chase in Rome. I also liked how the ending of the film was set in Bond’s home – London. It was nice seeing the old MI6 base. Speaking about Mendes’s other films, I really want to watch American Beauty, which earned him an Academy Award for best director.

In addition, not only the action scenes were exciting, but the whole film was visually appealing, glamorous, luxurious and elegant. Praises for this go to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema.

Acting

  • Daniel Craig as James Bond, agent 007. This was Craig’s 4th time playing Bond and it was yet again a different side of Bond. If Skyfall showed us a physically broken Bond, Spectre gave us an emotionally damaged one. It also showed that even though he is a stone cold assassin, he would like to change his way and find his ‘happy ending’. I’m sure that that ‘ happy ending’ won’t last long since Craig’s contract states that he has one more movie left (at least according to the Internet). However, there has been some rumors that Craig will refuse to play Bond moving forward, so I guess we will see what happens.
  • Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld was a good villain, who could have been great if we just have spent more time with him. I believe that it was a wasted opportunity not to put more of C. Waltz in the film because he is amazing in villainous roles. Just watch Inglorious Basterds if you don’t believe me. Check out Django Unchained as well if you want to marvel at how great of an actor Waltz is.
  • Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann. Finally, a Bond girl (well, not really) who challenges Bond and who was actually as good as Vesper! I loved her character and would have wanted to spend more time with her as well. Seydoux is an accomplished French actress with films like the aforementioned Inglorious Basterds, Midnight in Paris, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Blue is the Warmest Color and The Grand Budapest Hotel on her resume.
  • Ben Whishaw as Q. I loved how Q’s abilities were crucial to the plot of Spectre and I, once again, wish that we could have spent more time with him. I have talked more about him in my Suffragette review.
  • Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny. I quite liked the brother-sister relationship that she and Bond have. However, her character was kinda wasted in this film – it is a shame that they didn’t give more things for her to do.
  • Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra. I have always been skeptical about Bellucci as an actress and never really paid any attention to her. However, she was perfectly fine in this film as the sex toy-Bond Girl. You see there are different types of Bond girls and she played the most stereotypical one.
  • Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory aka the new M. As much as I like Fiennes as an actor, my favorite M will always be Judi Dench. Having said that, Fiennes did a nice job in the role and I did love his serious facial expression.
  • Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh – C. He was a really unlikable character even before it was revealed that he was working for Spectre. You could sense his douchebagness from miles away, so the twist was not that surprising.
  • Jesper Christensen came back as Mr. White and I really liked the fact that his comeback was meaningful and not just a random cameo to please the fans.
  • Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx – the assassin of Spectre. He was not really developed as a character but, not surprisingly, did an amazing job in the fight/action scenes as in Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Lastly, it turns out that a Lithuanian actor (I’m Lithuanian also) Gediminas Adomaitis, who I have never heard before, was one of Oberhauser’s Right Hand Man, according to IMDb. That’s pretty cool.

All in all, Spectre was definitely an enjoyable film, however, it could have been and should have been so much better. I don’t know whether my expectations were too high and that’s why I am so harsh on this film. Still, I firmly believe that the film’s script was its weakest part. While I loved the tone and the dialogue, the plot could have used another revision. Nevertheless, the acting and the visuals, both in the opening and in the actual film, were splendid.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Spectre trailer

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Movie review: Minions

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just came out of the cinema where I’ve watched probably the most anticipated animated movie of the summer – Minions! Let’s review it.

To begin it, I really liked the Despicable Me movie and its sequel. For me personally, the first Despicable Me film is one of the best animated films of the recent years. Maybe it’s not my favorite animation but it is definitely at the top of the list. Sadly, Minions aren’t even going to make that list. Let me explain why.

IMDb Summary: Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.

Minor spoiler ahead!

Setting

I have already mentioned that I love when movies include real historical facts. It was nice to see this trend continuing in Minions. Also, as a European, I liked the fact that a lot of famous individuals, who were represented in the film, were of European origin. For instance, Napoleon, Dracula and even Queen Elizabeth. Inanimate objects were also represented – one of them was the King Arthur’s sword in the stone.

References to real life

Some of the events of the film reminded me of the real life events. For example, when minions were going to the Villain Convention in Orlando, all I could think about was Playlist Live – a YouTube convention that happens in Orlando. The fact that Scarlet Overkill had an appearance in hall H was a slight callback to San Diego Comic Con as well.

The reference that I enjoyed the most was the one where Bob (I think it was Bob) is getting out of the Underground and he runs into the Beatles, walking across the street like on the cover on their album “Abbey Road”.

Childishness

The humor of the film was quite stupid, so I don’t think that this is an all ages film. The parents will probably be bored and will have to suffer. My favorite part, which made me chuckle the most, was when Kevin expanded into a giant and got stuck in that tiny street. I mean, that would really happen in real life and I was always wondering, how these big monsters or other giant creatures don’t get stuck in narrow streets during action films.

Visual appeal

The computer animation has reached its high long ago, but I am still shocked while seeing what can one achieve by just simply drawing on a computer. The amount of work that goes into every little detail is mind boggling and even if I don’t like the story or the characters, I can always appreciate the technical side of the animation.

My favorite prop of the film was definitely Scarlet’s dress – that’s a cool super-villain costume. Also, Bob’s teddy bear was really cute.

Plot

The plot of the film involved a lot of misbehavior which, don’t get me wrong, was funny and entertaining but not a great example for children, especially the young ones. Also, at one point I thought that they were going to recycle the first’s Despicable Me plot and run with it (changing Gru into Scarlet, and the moon into the crown), but they added a few nice twists and turns, which were a nice surprise.

Voices

Since animated movies are mainly aimed at kids, they are dubbed in my country, so I wasn’t able to hear what Sandra Bullock or Jon Hamm brought to the film. However, the minions had their own language which didn’t require any translation. I liked that you could hear a mixture of languages in their language: there was definitely some French (Illumination Entertainment – the production company behind Minions – is of French origin), some Spanish and a bit of English. So, despite the fact that you couldn’t actually understand what the minions were saying, you instantly knew what they meant.

SPOILERS

Could you spot the young Gru and his mom at the Villain Convention? I though that this was going to be the only tie-in with Despicable Me series but I was wrong. The ending shout-out was really cool and unexpected. I loved it a lot.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. To my mind, minions work better as side characters and the real stars of the Despicable Me franchise are Margo, Edith, and the cutest one ever- Agnes. Moreover, the real driving force behind that franchise might be the girls relationship with Gru. While I liked how the movie was able to tie in with the main series, I don’t believe that it could stand on its own or that it will stand the test of time.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: Minions trailer

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Movie review: Jurassic World

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of this summer movie season. Let’s just jump right into it and talk about Jurassic World.

To begin with, I would like to admit that I am a huge Jurassic Park franchise fan. I remember watching the original trilogy at home on my super small TV and still falling completely in-love with that world and being simply mesmerized by the dinosaurs. I loved dinosaurs even before I watched Jurassic Park. My favorite childhood animated movie was and probably still is The Land Before Time. Interestingly, both the animation and the Jurassic Park franchise are produced by Steven Spielberg. 

Anyway, this was my first time experienced Jurassic dinosaurs on the silver screen and I really loved the experience. I was probably as excited for this film as I was excited for the Avengers. Shockingly, both of these films are not my favorite motion picture of this summer so far, despite the the prior excitement.  While Jurassic World and Age of Ultron are sharing the 2nd place, the top spot goes to a movie that I knew nothing about – Mad Max Fury Road

So, let’s stay on topic and talk about the big comeback of the Jurassic franchise. We could call Jurassic World the beginning of the 2nd trilogy because I am sure that they are going to make more movies with all that cash flowing in because of this one. If you haven’t heard, Jurassic World had the biggest domestic opening weekend and the biggest global opening weekend.

IMDb summary: Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitors’ interest, which backfires horribly.

Script

The screenplay of the film had the most problems. Some of characters’ actions seemed extremely out of place, their intentions – unclear or unexplained and their development – unfinished. Moreover, while that ending pleased my inner 3 year old, it felt quite distant from the rest of the film. Also, I was sad that this movie lacked some scientific explanations, even the made-up ones. I mean, they were creating dinosaurs from scratch and they didn’t even told us how they did that. They probably didn’t even know how they did that.

The only part of the script which I really loved was the call-backs to the original film. The small Easter Eggs were as pleasing as the opportunity to actually see the broken down original park.

The twists of the film were enjoyable. They should have been excepted but, since I usually tend to shut half of my brain down, when watching action films, I didn’t see them coming.

Visual effects

While the first Jurassic Park revolutionized the computer effects and made some great use out of the practical effects, 4th’s film’s effects were just okay. I mean they were cool to watch but we expected that. Now, practically all the movies have awesome CGI. But we, as a viewers, are getting tired of the same old thing, as did the attendees of the Jurassic World got tired of normal dinosaurs.

Directing 

The film was directed by Colin Trevorrow. He is quite an unknown director and I think he did a nice job. The scenes were interesting, the wide shots worked but there wasn’t anything revolutionary or completely breathtaking like in the first flick by Spielberg.

Acting

The movie had a lot of character and I will try to talk about the majority of them.

My favorite performance was, of course, the one by Chris Pratt. He really shined in this film and cemented himself as an A-list movie star. I liked how cool he looked and how genuinely he cared for the velociraptors. All the scenes with him and them were amazing. I want to buy an action figure of either Blue, Echo, Charlie or Delta. Or better, of all of them.

Our lead female, played by Bryce Dallas Howard was also an interesting character. I liked how she was a complete 180 of Chris Pratt’s character. Also, I applaud her for running in heels –  I cannot even walk in them properly.

Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins played the two nephews who got lost. I wish their relationship would have been developed more. Their parents divorce story could have been caught out completely, but maybe some flashbacks to the kid’s childhood would have helped the audience to care more about them.

Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin, sorry, InGen security guy was okay. His actions seemed extremely stupid but that just made me hate his character even more, so the payoff was all that sweeter.

Irrfan Khan as the owner of the Jurassic Park was the most out of place character. His last scene was also disappointing.

Omar Sy added some diversity to the cast. I liked his interactions with Chris Pratt’s character. They seemed like they really got a log well and I like when co-workers become real life friends.

B.D. Wong was the crazy doctor who created Indominus Rex. He gave of Frankenstein type of vibe and the Indominus was his monster. His smirk also just screamed “I am a Bad Guy”. He was also the only returning character from the first film.

Jake Johnson played the funniest character of the film. I wish he had more commentary scenes.

Lastly, Katie McGrath’s last scene was unexpected. I wasn’t really sure if they were gong to go there but they went the far-rest route and I kinda liked it. I at least, laughed because of it.

Themes

The main theme that I want to discuss is the fact that we, as a species, have no boundaries. We always go that extra mile too far and the we suffer some dire consequences. When will we learn how to press STOP? I know that modernization and innovations are important and I fully support them, but we cannot forget that there is a limit to everything.

Ending

SPOILER-Y PART. 

The way the movie brought back the original T-Rex was really awesome. He had a redemption arc, turning from the villain to a hero. I really loved his appearance too: he seemed old (as he should be) and the scars only added to the overall visual appeal. I also liked how the T-Rex versus the Indominus Rex represented the fight between the nature and a man. T- Rex represents the real and raw nature while the Indominus is genetically modified and nurtured to be a killing machine and to bring profit (not necessary a financial one) to the humans. As we saw from that fight, nature usually comes out on top, so maybe we should stop fighting it?

To sum up, this movie was enjoyable, it had some flaws, but, as a fan, I could close one eye and pretend that I didn’t spot them. The pacing of the film was wonky and it lacked the suspension of the original film, but I was still able to catch a glimpse of that Jurassic Park original feeling of amazement. If they would just focus up more, I am sure the sequels would turn out as good as the original film is.

Rate 4/5

Trailer: Jurassic World trailer 

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