The Fate of the Furious – Review #72

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The_Fate_of_The_Furious_Theatrical_Poster.jpgThe Fate of the Furious, directed by F. Gary Gray, is the newest film in the now legendary Fast and Furious franchise. With Dom and Letty married, Brian and Mia retired and the rest of the crew exonerated, the globe-trotting team has found some semblance of a normal life. They soon face an unexpected challenge when a mysterious woman named Cipher forces Dom to betray them all. Now, they must unite to bring home the man who made them a family and stop Cipher from unleashing chaos.

I’ll admit this out front. Unlike Power Rangers or Smurfs: The Lost Village, I absolutely love the Fast and Furious franchise. I grew up with the series. I have all the movies on DVD. I have fond childhood memories of watching all of them except Fast Five, and that was because we had a crappy copy of it. Hell, I even liked Tokyo Drift!

Me trying to be objective here is just nigh impossible. I grew up with Dominic Toretto, with Brian O’ Connor, with Letty, Mia, Roman Pierce, Tej, all those guys. There’s an emotional connection here. I just thought I should preface this review with that, because yeah, I like this movie.

This movie is fucking stupid. I love it.

That about sums my feelings for the movie. It’s over-the-top, it knows it’s over the top, and it embraces it with the bulging biceps of Dwayne Johnson. This is the blockbuster at its most purest form.

Fate of the Furious is of course continuing where the last one left off, and I’m sure we all remember that the last one was the last time Paul Walker would be in the series. The emotional goodbye at the end of Furious 7 was just about as heart-breakingly sweet as it could’ve been. They do reference Brian in this movie, and the ending is also pretty bittersweet-I heard a few “awws” in the theater-but it’s not as powerful as the last one. But it didn’t had to be, and I appreciate that. Seeing Brian not being a part of this new story is somewhat weird and sad since it involves his closest friend, but Brian’s-and subsequently Paul’s-departure from this movie was done well enough.

The central cast has not changed at all, and they’re as charismatic as ever. Vin Diesel is actually given a bit more leeway to act, because betraying family and all that. He works fine, and the serious parts work well. It all serves to make us hate the villain, and in that sense I’d say it works.

Speaking of the villain, Charlize Theron as Cipher was sadly forgettable. I hate her in the movie, yes, but she’s not as memorable as say, Jason Statham. Then again, they did make me want to see Dominic beat the absolute fuck out of her in the sequel, so I guess they did their job.

There’s really not much else to say about this movie, other than be amazed at how 7 movies on, this series is stronger than ever. The kid inside me is so happy for that.

If this is your first Fast and Furious movie…why? It’s not just that they bring back characters from 3 movies ago that even took me a while to remember, why now? Go watch the whole series through first, damn it.

But besides that, yeah. In conclusion, Fate of the Furious is cheesy fun, but what the hell else did you expect?

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Smurfs: The Lost Village – Review #71

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Smurfs_The_Lost_Village_poster.jpgSmurfs: The Lost Village, directed by Kelly Asbury, is the newest cinematic adaptation of the famous franchise featuring the blue little people. Best friends Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty use a special map that guides them through the Forbidden Forest, an enchanted wonderland that’s filled with magical creatures. Their adventure leads them on a course to discover the biggest secret in Smurf history as they race against time and the evil wizard Gargamel to find a mysterious village.

I like the Smurfs in the “eh, they’re alright” way. I didn’t particularly loved them, but I watched a few episodes of the 80’s cartoon a few years back and I thought they were cute and innocent enough.

Certainly not deserving of the absolute travesties the first two movies were. I mean, Jesus Christ, looking back on it, they are just…so…bad.

Considering that this was a fully animated reboot, I had *some* hope for it. Maybe third time’s the charm?

No. No it’s not. It sucks. It sucks like the black hole in the center of our galaxy.

This movie had all the right ingredients. The animation was actually pretty nice, the plot was interesting, the voice acting was pretty good, and the jokes, while corny, mostly fit in well with the tone they were setting.

It all falls apart on one aspect; comedic timing. The movie just keeps throwing joke after joke at the screen, and it never stops. There’s always something frantic moving in each scene, and the audience never gets one bit of downtime. The jokes can be funny, but if it keeps coming, they’re just gonna get tiring and stale.

And Sony just had to cram modern music into what could’ve been a “timeless” movie. They had a surprisingly big and bombastic orchestral score, so the moment I heard that goddamn Eiffel 65 “Da-ba-die” song in the movie, I knew that any redeeming qualities the movie had were lost to me. Fucking modern music in animated movies. I hate that with a passion.

So yeah, in conclusion, the movie had all the makings to be “alright”. I’d say even “pretty good”, but a complete lack of comedic timing ruins any goodwill I had for it. Skip it.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Review #70

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15039604_1408397595845793_8833883194110677407_o.jpgBeauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon, stars Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular roles, and is the live-action remake of the classic 1991 animated movie. Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.

 

So, I live in Malaysia.

“You gonna talk about the ba-”

No.

I didn’t grow up with the animated Beauty and the Beast. In fact, I only watched it for the first time last December. Objectivity for the win!

I found it to be pretty good. I really liked the music, that’s for sure. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman are easily the best musical duo Disney ever had and Ashman’s death came way too soon. I guess I can even say that I went into the new movie just to listen to the music on the big screen.

…what a mistake that was.

Okay, okay, I’ll give the movie some credit. It looked very pretty. It had this storybook fairy-tale look that fitted perfectly with the tone the movie was setting.

The CGI for the Lumiere and the other live appliances were actually pretty amazing. The young ones in the theater could very easily believe that they were real. Hell, I could almost buy into it, it’s that good.

The music is still pretty good; it’s still the Menken/Ashman stuff. Some new songs are added, created by Menken which are okay. You can hear the difference in when it’s made, somehow. And specifically the instrumentals are good. The vocals…yeah…let’s get into that.

As tradition, when I tackle a musical, I’ll go through the songs in relatively quick fashion. Here we go.

1 – Belle

Completely neutered by Watson’s singing. In the trailers, I couldn’t really hear the supposed autotune her voice went through. I could definitely hear it in the movie.

2 – How Does a Moment Last Forever

A new song. It’s segmented into several parts in different parts of the movie. It’s alright.

3 – Gaston

Luke Evans and Josh Gad do a not-so-bad version. It’s nothing against the original, but still, it’s serviceable.

4 – Be Our Guest

Easily the best song in the movie. Ewan McCregor has a nice (actual) singing voice, as you can find from Moulin Rouge!, and I found myself humming through it. Good work.

5 – Days in the Sun

Another new song. It’s okay. Nothing memorable.

6 – Something There

Dan Stevens actually sings fine, it’s Watson again to botch the whole thing.

7 – Beauty and the Beast

Emma Thompson is no Angela Lansbury. Let’s leave it at that.

8 – Evermore

The last new song and the Beast’s big solo song. Easily the “newest” song of the new songs. It sticks out.

9 – The Mob Song

It’s the big crowd song, so it sounded about the same to me. Not bad.

There’s a common link in the songs that drag it down, and that’s Emma Watson. Bless her heart, I love her, but singing is just not her thing. She just can’t hit those emotional highs. And she’s the main star.

The others do alright. Luke Evans isn’t as buff as a live action Gaston probably should be, but he replaces that with a new sleaziness that works for this version. Josh Gad is flamboyant. And I personally didn’t mind how Dan Steven’s Beast looked. He was alright.

So yeah. It’s like Ghost in the Shell, only slightly better.

In conclusion, Beauty and the Beast is a movie that feels like it doesn’t need to exist. It feels like an inferior version that tried new things, although it’s not abjectly bad. Those that grew up with the original would probably dislike it, those that didn’t-like me-would probably find it “eh”. You can pass this one.

Ghost in the Shell – Review #69

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ghostinshellposter.jpgGhost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, stars Scarlett Johannson and is the Hollywood adaptation of the classic 1995 anime movie of the same name. In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: a human who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that her life was stolen instead of saved. Now, she will stop at nothing to recover her past while punishing those who did this to her.

I knew less about Ghost in the Shell than I did Power Rangers. I don’t really know the world, I’ve never seen any of the original series, and the most I know about it is that one of the movies had music from the amazing Yoko Kanno.

And yes, I’ve heard about the white-washing controversy and all that. Not even gonna get into it. This is a movie review. We’re gonna talk about movies. Specifically, this movie, and how it looks nice…and that’s it.

As stated above, GitS looks nice. Very nice. As in, “this world is completely wasted by the story” nice. It looks like Blade Runner if it had some actual daylight. Giant bright screens of advertisements, huge holographic images taking part in the skyline, all this makes a world just absolutely stunning to look at. The amount of detail there is makes it clear that the makers of the movie tried. They tried their best. There was effort. The amount of practical effects there are in the movie prove that.

Another major prop I have to give it is that it looks absolutely stunning. The cinematography is sleek, stylish, and gorgeous. Apparently some shots were taken directly from the original movie, and if that’s true, then it didn’t feel out of place. This movie is top tier grade A eye candy. It’s almost worth it just for that aspect alone.

The problem is with everything else.

I don’t remember a single memorable thing from the movie. The plot was standard at best. It felt like it was trying so hard to delve deeper into some philosophical musings, but they don’t. You just see glimpses. A…shell, if you will.

The acting is bland. It is so bland. ScarJo probably was casted through star power, but Jesus cybernetic Christ she was as stiff as a brick. Granted, her character is supposed to be detached and solo, but by God at least make her interesting. But no, we get a main character that cares so little that lack of care transfers over to the audience.

The supporting cast is somewhat better. Pilou Asbæk as Major’s closest acquaintance Batou had an inkling of a personality, more so than ScarJo, but not by much. Michael Pitt as the villain was intriguing enough, though not particularly interesting. Easily the best actor in the movie is Beat Takeshi as Chief Daisuke Aramaki. He’s the only guy that speaks Japanese and only Japanese, and that alone raises his coolness factor by a fair amount.

But one guy doesn’t make up for the drabness of the entire cast.

In conclusion, Ghost in the Shell is wasted potential. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and not much else. Maybe go see it if you want to watch a beautiful sci-fi movie for 2 hours. That’s a very hard maybe.

Power Rangers – Review #68

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exclusive-final-power-rangers-poster-zords.jpgSaban’s Power Rangers, directed by Dean Israelite, is the newest movie adaptation of the long running Power Rangers TV show, and stars 5 young actors I’ve never seen before, and Bryan Cranston. Five ordinary teens must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.

I went into Power Rangers pretty much the same as how I go into most movie adaptations of franchises past; I know the general story of it, but I won’t consider myself a fan. I know what the Rangers are-I’ve seen bootleg action figures everywhere-, I know how the show mostly goes, and I know it is a staple of the 90’s.

But a nostalgic connection? Nope. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a single episode of the series. Maybe a few brief glimpses of Super Sentai but I’m not sure. Anyways, I went into this with pretty much no expectations. In fact, I kinda dismissed it. The trailers made it seem so drab and boring.

But after watching it, I will bite my tongue and say that I was pleasantly surprised.

There’s a strange charm to this movie. For the most part it plays the whole Rangers thing straight. The teenagers actually have real-world feasible problems, all that. But there are moments where it allows itself to go just slightly over-the-top and into a realm of weirdness. Those moments are lengthened greatly when the climatic battles comes but that’s to be expected.

I wasn’t expecting the movie to be quite so character driven. Each of the 5 rangers have their own problems, troubles and personal afflictions. Teenagers with actual attitude. I found myself really liking them. I can’t remember their names for the life of me, but they were good enough that they were able to make me care and held my attention.

The rest of the cast was alright. Bryan Cranston as Zordon and Bill Hader as Alpha-5 were serviceable. Got a few chuckles. Elizabeth Banks as Rita was something else though. Chewed the scenery liked nobody’s business.

Oh, and they got an Asian teenager that isn’t a stereotype. I dig that.

I suppose the main flaw with the movie is that it’s bland. There’s some good in it, but for the most part your mind is this constant state of blank. It’s “good enough”.

Others have stated that the movie isn’t good because it focused too much on the characters trying to become Rangers and less on the actual Ranger fighting. I agree in some aspects; the Ranger suits really don’t until way over an hour in. But I personally didn’t mind as much. In fact I found it quite daring.

I suppose it’s because that I’ve never watched the show that that doesn’t bother me as much. We all know the show is one big pile of cheese, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that some people went into the movie expecting more of that. But again, I myself didn’t mind it.

In the end, I surprisingly liked Power Rangers. Does it have its problems? Yes, as does any movie. But I had a good enough time, and hearing the audience respond with slight joy at the Green Ranger reference made me smile. All in all I’d say go watch it at matinee price, and don’t expect it to be like the TV show.

And there you have it, my thoughts on *Power Rangers*. So, *Beauty and the Beast* has been unbanned here, which is nice. That’s what I’m gonna watch, although if things go better, I’ll try and make it a double feature with *Ghost in the Shell*. See ya.

Kong: Skull Island – Review #67

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kong-skull-island-poster-2.jpgKong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is the newest film in the proposed Monsterverse, and stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and others. Okay, so it’s the 1970’s. The Vietnam War is at it’s ending days. Scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from everything they know, they venture into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery soon becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape from a primal world where humanity does not belong.

So, King Kong. The 8th Wonder of the World. I’ll admit that I don’t really have any special feelings towards the franchise. I’ve watched the 1933 original and really loved it, but that’s about it. I don’t the series that high of a cinematic prestige as others may.

The trailer is what sold me on it. The mixing of a Vietnam war movie and a giant monster movie is something I didn’t know I needed, but I did. It wasn’t a discussion and dissection of the human condition masked as a monster movie like the original was. It doesn’t even try. It was marketed as Apocalypse Now meets King Kong, and I was freaking in.

The action in Skull Island delivered in spades, and then some. It doesn’t do the 2014 Godzilla thing where Gareth Edwards teased the monster until the end, where they then give an all out brawl. In this movie it’s “go” right from the beginning.

To give you an example of just how awesome this movie can be, I’ll spoil you the first kill of the movie. Don’t worry, there are way more later on. So, the group arrive at the island. “Paranoid” from Black Sabbath starts to play-because Vietnam-when all of a sudden a freaking tree comes out of nowhere and flies right at a helicopter, impaling the damn thing cockpit first. There is a distinct style to it, something I really appreciate. it feels like a director made the movie, not a studio.

The cast is as cookie cutter as you come, but I’ll be damned if a few of them don’t leave an impact. Tom Hiddleston is Soldier McSoldierson, the main badass of the movie whose as bland as vanilla. He’s not memorable in the slightest, but he’s not terrible. Same goes for most of the cast really.

Two people stand out, though. John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s like all the charisma from the other actors were siphoned to the two. I won’t spoil what character Reilly or Jackson play, but it’s clear that they could loosen up and have fun with the movie.

The flaws of the movie to me are more subjective this time round. See, King Kong has always had this prestige surrounding him, both the character and movies. The original movie is a technical marvel, and stands as one of the best movies from that era. They’ve always that slightest bit of wax poetic to it, “it was beauty that killed the beast” and all. That is nowhere here.

Because of that, some people might go into Skull Island with a higher standard than it really should have. I mean, I love the movie, but I’m not gonna say it’s not stupid. So I suppose this is a warning more than anything.

In conclusion, Kong: Skull Island is a B-movie with an A-movie budget. Action to the max. If you want to see giant monsters beating the fuck out of each other, it’s almost a damn impossibility that you won’t get something out of this. A strong recommendation.

Oh, and there’s an after credits scene. It sets things up. To those that follow the Godzilla movies of old, you’ll get a kick out of it.

Logan – Review #66

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Image result for logan posterLogan, directed by James Mangold, is the latest 20th Century Fox X-Men movie, and stars Hugh Jackman in his perhaps final outing as the iconic Wolverine. It’s 2029, the world has gone to shit, the mutants are almost a thing of the past, and Logan is doing his best to aid an ailing Professor X near the Mexican border. Things are generally crappy, but things take an interesting turn when a new young mutant shows up, pursued by dark forces.

Ah, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. The Canadian Destroyer. The Snick-Bub. While I didn’t grow up and still haven’t watched most of the X-Men movies, I still loved his portrayal the…one time I’ve seen him in a movie, excluding this one. I liked Days of Future Past fine enough.

I was pretty psyched for Logan. It looked nothing the previous movies, with the drab and dusty look, and seemed to be more of a character piece than anything.

So I went in and yeah, it delivered.

The key word here is “grim”. Everything is brown and sand orange. The brilliant gleam of the superhero has come and long gone, so much so this doesn’t even feel like a superhero movie. Not in the traditional sense, at least, because this is one of the best superhero movies that has been made in recent times.

This is rated-R and oh yeah, it needs that R-rating. It’s not just for the blood guts slashing action that you get from Wolverine, although seeing actual blood for the first time when he slices someone feels so good, but the R is for it’s way different tone, it’s style, it’s very liberal use of profanity, everything to set this mature, dusty world where the X-Men are no more. The PG-13 rating simply would not have worked.

One thing I noticed was just how…cinematic this movie was. One of the biggest gripes I’ve had with the new Marvel movies is just how bland the directing and cinematography was. Say what you want about the original Spider-Man trilogy, they had style. I absolutely adored Logan‘s shot design. It feels like a movie, without the “superhero” stamp on it. It’s shot like a freaking Western, and indeed, the movie seems to take inspiration from the old cowboy “last ranger” movies of the 60’s. They even show a bit of the 1953 Western classic Shane and play a bit with it.

The cast…oh sweet Jesus. Patrick Stewart and Jackman give easily amazing performances. Do I dare say Oscar worthy?

…yes. Yes I do, actually. Their performances are damn Oscar worthy. But that’s not to dismiss the newcomer here, Daphne Keen as the kid.

12 year old me had a huge crush on the morbid Wednesday Addams from the Addams Family movies. 12 year old me would’ve probably went head over heels for Daphne Keen’s X-23. She cute, she’s deadly, and for an 11 year old, she gives an absolutely astounding performance. Good child actors are like unicorns, man.

Those three, supported by a well-rounded cast of others, made me care about Wolverine. I have not felt so much emotion from a superhero movie for a long time. Again, this is coming from a guy that didn’t follow the original X-Men movies. It made the superhero human, and it did it so well.

It has it’s flaws, though. Rather noticeable ones. I feel like the end of the 2nd act and the beginning of the 3rd act kinda dragged a bit. It had it’s reason, and I liked what I saw, but I still think they could’ve cut just a bit.

The villains I think could’ve done more, but for the most part they’re fine, they’re just there.

Overall though, the good far outweighs the bad. There is just so much they did right.

Overall, if Logan is Jackman’s send off to the character, then I don’t think they could’ve done it better. Like the old drifter riding into the sunset for the last time. It definitely deserves your money. Go see it.