Friday, 17 November 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE



             This movie feels much like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. It is not any one person's vision, and hence, feels inconsistent. Zack Snyder kicked it off, but due to unfortunate circumstances, was unable to complete it. Joss Whedon (who has a rather opposing style & vision) was asked to complete it. And then there is the directive from Warner Bros chiefs to keep it light and to keep it under two hours. The outcome: neither here nor there.

               Among the many flaws in this movie, the biggest among them are the overly simplistic, generic, predictable plot. It is literally like taking the common denominator of all superhero flicks of the past 10 years. And the plot feels so shallow - things just happen too quickly and the characters doesn't seem to change or have any character development at all.

                To make it worse, the main villain in here is so dull & lame. If not for the stupid & weird Enchantress (in Suicide Squad), I can almost say that the villain in Justice League is the worst comic book villain in the past 10 years. Not to mention the CGI that wasn't really done well.
              And speaking of the CGI, the overall visual effects in this movie was rather poor as well. I can still bear with it, but for a movie the size & scale of Justice League, it should have been done better. 

                But moving towards the more positive aspects of the film. It has great characters, in terms of the members of the Justice League. The dynamic between the characters was pretty cool & fun to watch. And despite some misses with the humour, a lot of the jokes does land and I thoroughly enjoyed the banter between the heroes. Such that if these characters were put in a different (better) story, I think this would have been a good movie. Crossing my fingers for Justice League 2...

             Meanwhile, the action is still pretty good & fun to watch. And the score is okay, though it doesn't stand out. In fact, the one part I do like is the song used in the opening credits (Everybody Knows - Sigrid). Though it is not a good testament to the overall movie, but that song in the opening credits was my favourite part of the film. I really like that song.

              Overall, the film is watchable & enjoyable, for me, but it is not of high quality in any way. As much as Batman v Superman wasn't great, at least it was fully Zack Snyder's vision. This one isn't, and that is what disappoints me most.

VERDICT: 60 / 100

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Looking Forward: DECEMBER 2017

Much like last December, and the December before, we have a Star Wars movie, one or two other (quite) big budget films, and some Oscar potentials...

For this list, I will only mention films which gets wide release (in the US) in December, so films like The Post will only get mentioned for January 2018...



The Shape of Water (Dec 8-USA, Feb 16-UK, Jan 18-Singapore)

             I can actually say that this film looks to be among those Oscar potentials as well. But I am interested in this film for more than just the quality of directing, story or performances. The story itself interests me. And I have always liked Guillermo del Toro's ideas/concepts for visual storytelling. And the fact that this film (as of writing) has 97% rating in Rotten Tomatoes and has won the Golden Lion award in the 74th Venice Film Festival, it does look to potentially be GDT's best film other than Pan's Labyrinth, and this is something to be excited about.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA4WD92it0k (Trailer #1)


Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Dec 15-USA, Dec 14-UK, Dec 14-Singapore)

              And of course, this is the one! Most of you would know by now how a big a Star Wars fan I am. This was easily my most anticipated film of the year, and looking at the landscape right now, this is probably my most anticipated film until Star Wars Episode 9 comes out. Not only am I very excited to see Luke Skywalker in action, or the continuation of the stories of Rey, Kylo Ren, and co, but I am also very hopeful that this will be one of the best SW films ever.
              A big reason for that would be director Rian Johnson. And the fact is Rian was the only director in which there have been no word or rumblings of any trouble at all (unlike the Han Solo film or Episode 9). Add to that the fact that this film has been fully completed (with post-production and all) a few months before release. There is just so much confidence and positive vibe surrounding this film. And finally, of course, the trailers for this film is just awesome!

Trailers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qsg0fku78o&t=1s (Teaser)
MUST SEE!!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-qnbOVhM_U (Trailer #1)


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Dec 20-USA, Dec 20-UK, Dec 21-Singapore)

               I am actually quite doubtful of the quality of this film. But it sure does look like fun, so why not. And I suppose that sums up my thoughts about this film. It looks fun, and I'm probably going to go watch it simply for that, but for sure I am not expecting this to be a high quality film. If I'm wrong, then all the better.

Trailers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leE10vdvkho (Trailer #1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3f1Tvev010 (Trailer #2)


Other Movies:

            Let's kick it off lightly, before we get to the Oscar potentials. First up is this animation flick - out on December 15 - Ferdinand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hggl_Ime15I), which I'm really not quite interested in. The synopsis of the plot doesn't interest me, and Blue Sky Studios' recent track record have been poor. So unless this film comes out with stellar reviews, I'm probably going to stay away from it.
              Next up, Pitch Perfect 3 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8GbmkbKTGg) comes out on December 22. I had watched the first film sometime back, but to be perfectly honest, I had never been very interested in these kind of movies, anyway. Also out on Dec 22 is a science-fiction comedy that I am much more interested in, Downsizing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoBLLqlI3tQ), starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, and more.

            Now, moving to the likely Oscar potentials. For these kind of films (which I rarely watch), the ones that could get me interested are those in the crime-drama realm (as compared to biographies or the likes), so when a movie like All the Money in the World (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJtqk0qq0uk) comes along, it caught my attention, especially knowing that Ridley Scott is at the helm. But of course the more interesting thing is the fact that Kevin Spacey (for obvious reasons) gets replaced by Christopher Plummer just a month before a release. This film is out on December 22nd.
              Out on December 20th is a film called The Greatest Showman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gXEF3G0fAc), which usually isn't my kind of film, but the performances and the color and the visuals of the film got me a little bit interested. And finally, I would like to call out a movie titled Phantom Thread (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtWNdHDWsB0). I am not personally interested, but given that this is likely to be Daniel-Day Lewis' final film, maybe its worth a mention. This film is out on December 25th.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

SPOILER TALK: Thor: Ragnarok

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Hela

              I hate to say this - because as a female villain, Hela has the potential to be one of the better villains in the MCU - but I feel that she is among the weaker of them, partially undermined by her limited interaction with Thor (so lacks the emotional/character damage to the heroes) but I think also because her origin story does not feel that powerful to me - felt a little bit cheesy.

Hulk

              Meanwhile, Hulk is like the perfect supporting character & partner to Thor. The banter between the two is just brilliant. Some of the best humour in the film also comes when Hulk is around, among which my favourites are:
- In the arena, when Hulk smashes Thor around much like what he did to Loki in The Avengers
- After he exits the tub, and poor Thor had to see something he can never unsee
- When Banner leaps of the ship and does not change into the Hulk in time

                I got to admit, I kind of wish that Hulk will turn back to Banner, because Mark Ruffalo as Banner himself has that unique charisma of a simple and intelligent man. Though I would not be disappointed if we get to see Hulk like this in his full glory.

Loki

               To this day, I still think that Loki is the most charming character in the MCU. I really enjoy a lot of his interactions with other characters, including Thor himself. And to think about it, some of the best humour also comes when Loki is around, among which my favourites are:
- The Play/Drama: The Tragedy of Loki (to be honest, it felt weird at first, but thinking about it, it does fit Loki's character to be asking his people to perform a play about himself...and my, what a cameo from Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, and my boy Matt Damon as Loki)
- His interactions with Doctor Strange (falling for 30 minutes)
- His responses watching Thor and Hulk battle in the arena

                  I am happy to see that he sticks around at the end. I realize that they did not specifically explain how Loki escaped at the end, but perhaps it was the Tesseract? Given how he took a prolonged glimpse at it, it's teleportation capability, and how it as an Infinity Stone (and Loki) will most certainly play a part in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.

                  And speaking of that, very quickly, I am happy how they touched upon and addressed that (with Hela's comments) that the Infinity Gauntlet in the Asgard Vault is a fake, especially as we had seen Thanos wield it at the credits of Avengers: Age of Ultron...

Who's Gone?

                 Odin's death is probably not much of a surprise, and it is actually a critical element to kick start the plot. I only wished that it was delivered with more emotional impact. And actually, similarly with The Warriors Three, who dies very quickly and very easily without much fanfare. I don't particularly care much, but for quite important supporting characters, I don't think it does them justice.

What's Gone?

               Mjolnir is clearly gone, for now. I personally thought it would come back at the end somehow, but as of now, we still have no Mjolnir. Meanwhile, the other thing that I am more shocked to see is the fact that Thor loses his eye. That is a bold move. It is not a simple flesh wound that would just heal in time. This really means that Thor has lost his eye, and moving forward, it appears that we will always see Thor with an eye patch.

                But perhaps the biggest & boldest move of all is to see Asgard gone. Of course, we heard the saying that Asgard is the people, not the place. But still, to see Ragnarok (instead of it being stopped) actually happen instead is a really bold move. As far as endings go, this is one of the boldest I have seen in recent time, and I really am curious to see where these Asgardians will go and rebuild.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

THOR: RAGNAROK


             At this point, Marvel Studios seem to know what they want, and they have perfected their formula. Granted, this is a Taika Waititi film through & through and it is very much his vision, but Marvel signed off on the guy and on the film, so they know what they want. Like many recent MCU films, Thor: Ragnarok focuses on the fun & light-hearted tone and feels more like a comedy than anything else. I cannot deny that it works and I really enjoyed it (and as recent record suggest, fun movies like these prove success in the box office), but I have to admit I kind of miss the intensity from the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier...

                If you have seen the other two MCU films this year, you probably know what to expect from this film. A lot of humour & comedy mixed with cool, colourful action in a fast-paced story. The humour in this film is top notch - I think it is better than the other two MCU films of the year. It really is a very funny film from start to end, and there is never a boring moment. And you can't deny that films like these gets people flocking to the theatres (and I can now see why DC and Justice League strives for similar tone...)

                But as much as this is a very fun film and a film that people will really love, it is not exactly perfect, nor it is the best of the MCU film by any stretch. For me, the plot - especially in terms of the execution/delivery - lacks the depth. Maybe it is because that they focus too much on the fun and humour, that they didn't deliver the more powerful moments as they should have. Which is why (and I am not particularly complaining) I think if it had more balance between the humour & story (like The Avengers or Doctor Strange), the powerful moments would have been more felt. For that matter, the first two Thor movies (as much as they are not that great) have an excellent balance of drama & humour - they are pretty funny when they can be, but they don't forsake the storytelling.

                All that being said, the plot actually doesn't hold back at all and takes bold moves (more in the spoiler review). And the characters in this film are pretty good. The banter between the characters (Thor & Hulk, Thor & Loki) are excellent fun to watch. And Loki remains the most charming character in the MCU. What it lacks is character development (perhaps also borne from the lack of dramatic pacing), and the smart & Shakespearean dialogue that is more prevalent in previous Thor movies.

                Other aspects are more on the 'good, not great' level. The action is colourful & fun. The music is also decent, but does not stand out. Oh, and the villain Hela is interesting as a character, but doesn't do much in terms of character significance.

                But despite all my above comments, in the grand scheme of things, it remains a very fun & fast-paced film with top-notch comedy with likable characters you can enjoy to watch. I suppose I'm just trying to pick out why I did not enjoy the film as much as many others seem to do, and why it felt a little out of place given how previous Thor movies executed their storytelling & humour. For sure, the Thor movies will never be as intense as the Captain America movies, but Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and The Avengers showed that there could be better balance.

              Nevertheless, ignore most of my comments above. If you like MCU movies, and if you like fun & fast-paced storytelling, you will have a hell of great time with this film! Go watch it!

VERDICT: 79 / 100

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Looking Forward: NOVEMBER 2017

November is upon us...and that means more big blockbusters...


Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3-USA, Oct 24-UK, Oct 26-Singapore)

               This film might not be my most excited MCU film coming up, especially with the likes of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War not too far over the horizon. But Thor remains one of my favourite Avenger, and Loki still is one of my favourite character in the whole universe - and who doesn't like Tom Hiddleston, anyway?
              And to add on to that, the film looks like a lot of fun, as the trailers have shown. Heck, even the trailers themselves are already fun to watch. But it really looks to be one of the funnier MCU movies, and I really think this movie will deliver the popcorn fun we haven't had for a while now.

Trailers:
MUST SEE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODqPGttjjOY&t=1s (Teaser)
MUST SEE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5HP-iUvlC4 (Comic-Con Trailer)


Murder on the Orient Express (Nov 10-USA, Nov 3-UK, Nov 30-Singapore)

              There is quite a few reasons why I am really looking forward to this film. First of which is the director, Kenneth Branagh, who is one of my favourite director. There is always an element of beauty & wonder to his vision, especially looking at his recent films like Thor or Cinderella. Especially the latter which I didn't expect to like, but ended up loving it.
               Back about this film, I really like it when films has an element of mystery because there is always that level of intrigue that keeps us interested/invested in the story. Of course, if the ending don't deliver, it may still fall apart, but I have hope with this one. And finally, look at the cast! Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, just to name a few. A stellar cast with a brilliant director telling a suspenseful mystery...hell yes!

Trailers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isnICELMRns (Trailer #1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mojQrEQpbSs (Trailer #2)


Justice League (Nov 17-USA, Nov 17-UK, Nov 16-Singapore)

             This is supposed to be one of the biggest movies of the Year, but it is now pretty low in terms of my excitement level. I have mentioned this in my social media, but I'll say it again. Out of all the things scheduled for release in November 17 alone...this is the third (yes, third) most interesting thing for me. I am more excited about The Punisher series from Netflix, and more importantly, the video game Star Wars Battlefront II. And we are in fact talking about a movie which assembles Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and co. for the first time ever.
              Without putting anything into negative light, I have to say that the fact that Zack Snyder dropped and Joss Whedon had to mop up gave me a slight concern. Despite the fact that Zack Snyder's recent films haven't been great, I would rather it remain as one person's singular vision. And if the rumours are true, then we have the final nail in the coffin, and that would be the rumour that the movie is only 121 minutes long. Not saying that longer movies are better, but for a movie with so much great characters, a movie that is (excluding credits) less than 2 hours long doesn't really air confidence. And to put into perspective, both Avengers movie which has came out was about a full 20 minutes longer than the rumoured runtime of Justice League.
               For sure, I am still excited about this film, and my concerns could just well be that, and I might find this a really great film. But right now, it's just nowhere near the excitement levels I would expect from a movie this big.

Trailers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiAmnKUaNmc (Trailer #1)
MUST SEE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DblEwHkde8U (Comic-Con Trailer)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWJG0dYqVU4 (Final Trailer)


Coco (Nov 22-USA, Jan 19-UK, Nov 23-Singapore)

            I am not particularly that excited or interested with this film. But it is a Pixar film, so there is good reason to believe that this may well be one of the better animation movies of the year, especially given the ones we've had so far hasn't really stood out (Despicable Me 3, The Lego Ninjago Movie). And I also have a certain fondness/interest of the Mexican culture and this Day of the Dead festival.

Trailers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8NB2aaiM14 (Teaser)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aoS52EX16g (Trailer #1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga6RYejo6Hk (Trailer #2)


Other Movies:

             What this November also isn't short of is comedies. The first of which is A Bad Moms Christmas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2bnY9oWVFw) which comes out on November 1st. This is a sequel to last year's surprisingly pretty good comedy, Bad Moms, which now introduces their respective mothers into the party.
             In a coincidental parallel, the next comedy in my list is about dads instead of moms. Daddy's Home 2 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MddEE_tC_w) is a sequel as well, and to further add to the similarity, this time introduces their respective dads into the story. This film is out November 10th.
               The last comedy that interests me is yet another sequel - though this time it is the British film Paddington 2 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryY8v_SPlqc), which I think is out on November 10th but only in the UK for now. It comes later in the US and in most other countries.
              Apart from the comedies, there are a few interesting political dramas. The first, out on November 3rd, is LBJ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrnEp8WLH0g) which tells of the story of Lyndon B Johnson's political career. But the one that caught my interest more is the one that tells of Winston Churchill's time during World War II. This film is called Darkest Hour (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pNOCzV5jG0) and stars Gary Oldman, one of my favourite actor alive. This film is out on November 22nd in the US.

Friday, 20 October 2017

GEOSTORM



             I didn't actually expect to like this film, but truth be told, it's not bad. This film has all the looks of a typical simple-story action flick, not unlike a few things Gerard Butler has done recently. And it actually ends up like one...but it's pretty well done. So it's not that this movie has brilliant story or great action or anything, but for what it is, it is done quite well & I kind of enjoyed it.

              Almost all aspects of the film can be classified as 'good not great'. One thing that stood out for me - because I really don't expect it at all - is some of the character relationships, especially Gerard Butler's character and his brother. It is very well thought out and explored throughout the film. Again, I feel like they could actually show or tell more about their backstory to make it more meaningful, but I didn't expect such intricacies, so I'm glad they went out this far.

               On the other hand, if I had to pick out a thing that I don't quite like - that would be the dialogue & the humour. A lot of the jokes are dull and flat - some, a little cringy. Meanwhile, the plot is fine, the action is decent...even the visual effects were pretty good. Again, nothing particularly stood out or is outstanding, but they were good enough to make me enjoy the film. A decent watch.

VERDICT: 60 / 100

Saturday, 7 October 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049



             I mentioned recently that I am probably not the biggest fan of the original Blade Runner, but I do appreciate its story potential & world expansion...and I think this sequel more than delivered. This film treads on similar footsteps to the original in some aspects such as the lack of fantastic action sequences (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, by the way) and slow pacing, but the story & characters are excellent, and the setting is gorgeous.

             For a futuristic setting science-fiction movie, Blade Runner 2049 lacks the fantastical action sequences which most others have, but then again, this film was never meant to be about that. In fact, what made Blade Runner special was the concept of Replicants and how their existence challenges the idea of what it meant to be human.

              And so to have a story revolving around that concept which is both smart and constantly engaging, I think, is brilliant. And that is where Blade Runner 2049 duly delivered. In many ways, the story is much like a typical police-detective story with a lot of mystery/investigative element as we follow the protagonist in uncovering the plot - but again, with the added science-fiction concept of Replicants - and that is probably why the slow pacing didn't bother that much. As such, the overall plot is smart & interesting, meanwhile the story which slowly unfolds keep us constantly engaged.

              The remaining aspects of the film are kind of a mixed bag. The lack of action sequences remain a missed opportunity to take this film up another level. Similarly, a little more humour will never be out of place, as long as it is delivered in the right place & time. Meanwhile, I really like the engaging story & dramatic elements that pours out from it. And to quickly speak about the more technical stuff, I think the visual effects are really well done, and I find the world & setting both gorgeous and unique.

               One last thing I want to credit are the acting performances of some of the cast. In general, all the performances are decent, but without spoiling anything, the stand out scene for me is when two people are looking at a certain memory and you see the emotions immediately in their facial expressions. That level of performance stunned me.

               Anyway, initially I didn't really think I would like this film, but actually, I do. I still feel that by not having more action sequences & humour (though this is in keeping with the tone & style of the original film) is a missed & untapped opportunity to take this film to the highest level among the cinematic elite. Yet, it remains one of my favourite films of the year, and I really like it.

VERDICT: 80 / 100