Dunkirk- Movie Review

Credit: Warner Bros.

What is it about?

Set during World War II, Dunkirk is about the real-life story of the evacuation of British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, when they were surrounded by German forces.

How is it? 8.2/10

Dunkirk is a harrowing, realistic, and intense film that’s both a technical marvel and a depiction of heroism in the most desperate of times. However, it faces a sometimes confusing narrative that does take away from the film.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Ups

Christopher Nolan is a remarkable director in all of his films, and Dunkirk proves no exception. Nolan crafts a truly realistic, bleak film, that still has awesome visuals and a feeling of ongoing tension throughout. This movie is, visually, beautiful. It looks really just spectacular, whether it’s dealing in grand, sweeping shots of war or claustrophobic moments of its characters being trapped in tight spaces. Dunkirk never ceases to awe, and its aerial dogfights are very well-done, boasting impressive practical effects. To get the biggest kick out of Dunkirk, watch it in IMAX. Nolan shot the majority of the film with IMAX cameras, to great result. It’s quite an immersive experience, and both the audio and visuals stand out more in IMAX.

The cinematography here is fantastic. There’s excellent camera work throughout that never feels choppy. The sound design also stood out to me when watching. Everything from gunshots to planes are unflinchingly loud and lifelike here. Hans Zimmer’s score is used very well here, and his work is (as always) brilliant. His score, combined with the never-ending sound of a ticking clock that plays throughout the movie, build suspense, tension, and even fear. It keeps the audience absolutely enthralled from the very beginning.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Speaking of which, Dunkirk is a THRILL RIDE from moment 1 onwards and keeps your heart pounding. It’s super intense, especially the first half an hour of it. The very first gunshot you hear throws you directly into this war and you feel truly scared for the film’s characters.

The movie’s not as long as other Nolan movies and is a little more than an hour and a half. It leads to Dunkirk never feeling overlong or dragged, and the pacing’s pretty solid. Additionally, this movie is unflinchingly realistic. It portrays the many horrors of war and its impact on those taking part in it. This includes the lack of dialogue in Dunkirk. The film acknowledges that these soldiers, in the situation given, wouldn’t sit down or talk about their pasts. In doing this, it doesn’t give you much characterization or dialogue and is totally invested in the battle, and that alone.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Not to say that the movie doesn’t have emotion, either. It’s quite moving near the end and shows how these people, some even civilians, are forced to respond to this situation.

Dunkirk has an ensemble cast, that’s used very well here. All around there are great performances: Harry Styles had a somewhat controversial casting choice, but he acts excellently. Other highlights include Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy, who both provide emotionally powerful, superb performances.

The Downs

My main problem with Dunkirk is its structure and non-linear form of telling its story. That is, it jumps back and forth between three story threads that all span different amounts of time and intertwine at points. Although this is an ambitious choice, there are some problems raised by this, the first of which is a lack of clarity. Even though everything eventually comes together, the structure causes a lot of confusion, especially as it zips back and forth between intense sequences. It’s often hard to tell what’s happening. Other times, you have to witness the same event from different perspectives. You know what happens at the end of this event, as you’ve seen it before, from someone else’s eyes. This not only adds confusion, but also removes some tension.

Credit: Warner Bros.

I mentioned before how there’s not much characterization here. Although it’s realistic to an extent, this still cuts away from how much you care about the characters. For example, many you don’t even learn the first names of. You still feel fear for them, but won’t be as invested in what happens to them because you don’t know much about them.

Overall, Dunkirk is a spectacular war film. It masterfully builds tension, both through score and sound design, looks truly gorgeous in terms of cinematography, and manages to be both realistic and emotional. However, it has a disjointed structure and minimal character work, which detracts from the overall experience.

War for the Planet of the Apes- Movie Review

Credit: 20th Century Fox

What is it about?

War for the Planet of the Apes is the third movie in the Planet of the Apes trilogy. After a virus wiped out most humans and made apes more intelligent, the few humans left (led by a colonel played by Woody Harrelson), are in a war with the apes that will determine the course of humanity. After the apes suffer an awful loss, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the leader of the apes, goes on a quest for revenge.

How is it? 9.8/10

War for the Planet of the Apes in an excellent, groundbreaking film that is fantastic in just about every aspect.

The Ups

The cinematography in War is flawless. This film is gorgeous to look at. Each shot not only serves a purpose, but is always amazing to look at. I really can’t emphasize this enough. Certain scenes featuring snow are just so…pretty and well-shot. The visual effects here contain some of the best CGI ever put to screen. All of the apes are SO realistic, and it’s impossible to tell that they’re rendered on a computer. They look exactly like real apes. Additionally, all of the environmental effects are fantastic. For example, the scenes that take place in the woods and feature snow all look spectacular. The sound design in War is really great as well. It shines both in quieter moments and louder, bigger scenes.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

All the characters in this movie have unique, flawed personalities. Caesar in particular has lots of development and is a very complex character. During the film, he is forced to deal with a lot of internal, moral conflict as he struggles with becoming more and more like the evil ape Koba, who he defeated in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Woody Harrelson’s character, who I’ll touch on more later, isn’t a flat-out bad guy: he has depth and motivations. You see why he’s doing what he’s doing. All of the humans are also believably motivated- they’re just scared people that want to survive.

Both the motion-capture and live-action actors in War give great performances, but a definite standout is Andy Serkis. He gives an Oscar-worthy performance and shows so much emotion and conflict, just through motion-capture. Woody Harrelson provides a wonderful portrayal of The Colonel that depicts the character’s motivations quite believably. Steve Zahn plays Bad Ape, who provides comic relief. He’s great in the role and really brightens up the film, but more on that later.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Matt Reeves masterfully directed War for the Planet of the Apes. The film is brutal and bleak, yet never too dark. Reeves made a movie of both spectacle and emotion, and it weaves between those two seamlessly. Again, the flick can get quite grim, but it always maintains a feeling of hope: Reeves nails the tone. The movie isn’t devoid of humor, either. Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape, as I said before, is quite funny. He lightens up the film when it needs some levity, but is never overused or annoying.

The plot of War is great. It takes risks and is quite compelling. The story gets you to care about the characters and is smartly written. The stakes really help you understand how important the war is and invest you deeper into the storyline. The film’s not short on heart, by any means. There are many excellent emotionally charged scenes that further the motivation of the characters, and the audience’s caring about the movie.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Michael Giacchino has been on fire recently: first, he had the great score for Spider-Man: Homecoming, and now this! The score here is truly brilliant and manages to evoke emotion in the audience. At times, it’s triumphant; at others, its fear-inducing. Nonetheless, it is a spectacular score, and the movie’s worth watching for it alone. Although War is long, it certainly doesn’t feel it. The pacing is done well, and the movie’s never boring. Even the quiet, soft moments are entertaining (to say the least) and not boring at all.

The Downs

Honestly, there’s nothing to complain about here. War for the Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece. However, and this is NOT a problem, but should be known before viewing, the movie isn’t necessarily about the titular “war”.  It’s more contemplative and thoughtful than just a compilation of action sequences. There is action in it, and when it comes, it comes big, but the film’s not totally about war.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece. It excels everywhere, but especially in its stunning cinematography and effects, wonderful score, and amazing performances by its cast.

The Big Sick- Movie Review

Credit: Lionsgate

What is it about?

The Big Sick tells the real life story of how Pakistani comedian Kumail Nanjiani (played by himself) met his wife Emily Gordon (portrayed by Zoe Kazan). As he struggles as a stand-up comedian and grows closer to Emily, he dies their relationship from his traditional family.

How is it? 8.3/10

Bursting with heart and humor, The Big Sick is a great rom-com that not only feels authentic, but also touching and quite hilarious. DISCLAIMER: The Big Sick is Rated R for language.

Credit: Lionsgate

The Ups

The Big Sick nails the comedy aspect. The movie is truly very funny, and always manages to bring in humor, even in the saddest of scenes. Kumail Najiani is hysterical playing himself and has some really funny bits in the film. The entire cast, however, also gets to have their comedic moments, with Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who play Emily’s parents, also standing out. This movie is very smartly written, both in the comedy scenes and in more emotional ones.

Credit: Lionsgate

Everyone provides fantastic, sincere performances here. Zoe Kazan does great as Emily Gardener, and the cast is all-around very likable. Her and Kumail have great chemistry, making the romance very believable. As I said before, Kumail, Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter all shine as their respective characters continue to bond and form unique relationships throughout the course of the film.

Credit: Lionsgate

The Big Sick has tons of heart. It’s very touching and there are many sweet moments. It also feels very authentic and never forced, as it is based on a true story: all of the interactions and emotional payoffs feel organic and earned. It’s also very realistic. It captures how both Kumail’s and Emily’s cultures function and how they are forced to adapt to each other. This makes for a very entertaining, heartfelt story.

The Downs

Credit: Lionsgate

The main down of this movie is its pacing. It is a little too long at the end, and definitely drags thing out around the third act. Additionally, it feels longer than it should be and probably should have wrapped things up earlier than it did. However, this doesn’t compromise the movie at all, and it’s still a very entertaining film.

Overall, The Big Sick is a smartly written, hilarious romantic comedy that addresses its subject matter in a heartfelt, authentic way.

Ranking the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

So far, there have been 16 movies in the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Spider-Man: Homecoming just having come out in July. This is a ranking of all 16 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

16) Iron Man 2– Even if you’re a HUGE Iron Man fan like me, don’t watch Iron Man 2: it’s boring, unentertaining, has a weak villain, and only has one really good fight scene. 2.5/5

15) The Incredible Hulk– The Incredible Hulk has a few impressive action sequences, but it lacks humor, the fun elements of other Marvel movies, and major connections to the rest of the Marvel Universe. If you’re new to the Hulk character, and want a decent origin story, watch The Incredible Hulk. 3/5

14) Thor: the Dark World– Thor: the Dark World is an awesome movie. The Dark World has some really funny moments, as well as breathtaking action and special effects. It shows the audience more of Loki, and his chemistry with Thor is one of the best parts of the movie. Overall, Thor: the Dark World is an entertaining movie worth watching. 3.5/5

13) Thor– Thor wouldn’t have been this far down on the list if it hadn’t been for all the other Marvel movies. Don’t get me wrong, Thor is awesome- the action’s great, it’s pretty funny, and the special effects are amazing- but it’s not as good as some of the more recent additions to the MCU. 4/5

12) Captain America: the First Avenger– The First Avenger is a great movie, although not as good as it sequel, the Winter Soldier. It has some funny moments, spectacular action, and likable characters. However, it does start a little slow.  It also boasts a strong performance on the part of Chris Evans. If you like Captain America and want a good story packed with action and humor, watch the First Avenger. 4/5

11) Avengers: Age of Ultron– Age of Ultron is definitely not as good as its predecessor, but is still pretty good. It has amazing special effects, awesome fight sequences, and is pretty funny. But it is also overstuffed and and the romance between Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Black Widow is hard to watch and terrible. While the villain may seem a little generic,  James Spader is great as Ultron. For die hard fans, Age of Ultron will please, but probably not as much for casual fans. 4/5

10) Iron Man– The one that started off all the MCU movies and created the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist we’ve all come to know and love. And it is a pretty good movie. It serves as a great origin story for Iron Man ( ’cause let’s be honest, who knew about “Iron Man” until 2008?), provided really good action, and was pretty funny. It also picked the PERFECT person to play Tony Stark: Robert Downey Jr.- could we now imagine anyone else playing him? Looking at it now, it may not seem as great as all the new ones, but it was quite original in 2008. 4.5/5

9) Ant-Man– In spite of its silly concept, Ant-Man turned out to be a wonderful Marvel movie, different from the norm that the Avengers set. Yet it’s still full of humor, action, and dazzling special effects that’ll prove this unique Marvel movie is up to par with the rest of them. Ant-Man isn’t only a superhero movie, it’s also a heist movie- Ant-Man has to steal a similar suit from his mentor’s rival who will use it for evil (yes, I am aware that sound almost identical to the first Iron Man, but there is still a bunch separating it from Iron Man). Paul Rudd also provides a great everyman performance as Scott Lang, an ordinary thief who becomes a superhero. Ant-Man is one of the best Marvel movies that is definitely worth watching. 4.25/5

8) Doctor Strange– This movie just proves that Marvel hasn’t lost their hot streak in 8 years because, wow, it is good! Doctor Strange may follow a similar formula to Iron Man and story to Iron Man, but it definitely feels fresh throughout. Doctor Strange has amazing character development, and acting by, well, the whole cast! And the visuals…The visuals in Doctor Strange warrant it the best-looking Marvel movie ever, and it explores the more…mystical and magical realm of the MCU. Its action bounces off these visuals and is…different, to say the least, than the rest of the Marvel movies. Finally, its score is amazing and it has humor and comic relief sprinkled throughout, that hits at all the right moments. 4.25/5

7) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Guardians Vol. 2 is fantastic. The first movie being the intergalactic, heartwarming delight that it was, there were some pretty high expectations going into this.  Guardians 2 meets those expectations for sure: it doubles up on what we loved about the first one, including its action, comedy, dazzling visuals, intriguing characters, and heart, but also tries something new. Guardians takes each of its characters and gives them an arc, exploring their distinct backstories and dynamics. Baby Groot is just…aagh, SO CUTE, and the movie packs the biggest, most impactful emotional punch yet in the MCU.  Kurt Russell is spectacular as Ego, Star-Lords father, and also, that soundtrack.  However, the plot is messy and you don’t really know what the overall purpose is until the end of the second act: it lacks urgency and can get choppy at times. 4.25/5

6) Iron Man 3– Iron Man 3 is a truly spectacular movie. It’s an entertaining movie full of action, special effects, wit, and humor. Iron Man 3 not only shows  the suit in action: it shows Tony Stark without his suit of armor, which some say worsens the movie, but I think actually betters it: it’s not all about the suit, but about what Stark would do without it. One down, though, was that the twist on the villain was smart, but disappointing. Iron Man 3 is a funny, smart, well-acted, and action-packed Marvel movie, and considerably one of the best. 4.35/5

5) Spider-Man: Homecoming- The movie that brought Spider-Man back to Marvel, Spider-Man: Homecoming not only gave us the best version of Spidey ever put to screen, but also hysterical comedy, great action, and awesome characters. Spider-Man: Homecoming has the classic high school feel of a John Hughes movie, but doesn’t skimp on the CGI action. It has great, interesting characters, but never ceases being entertaining. It has a charismatic, believable performance from Tom Holland, but also a surprising, engaging plot. And Peter Parker’s best friend, Ned was pretty great as well. It might have some low stakes and a tad too many characters (not to mention the spoilery trailers), but those are minor gripes on an otherwise fantastic movie. 4.5/5

4) Captain America: the Winter Soldier- Many have called it the greatest Marvel movie of all time. And it is truly an AMAZING movie. Its plot is great, it’s action is some of the best we’ve seen from a Marvel movie, and it has a huge plot twist that is actually permanent, unlike some other superhero movies. It’s thrilling and always keeps you on your toes. It even has lots of humor to lighten the mood when it gets dark. Also, Chris Evans gives a great performance as Cap, who has a hard time accepting the world as it is today. 5/5

3) Guardians of the Galaxy– The movie that everyone, including myself, were skeptical about, with characters that literally no one knew. It actually turned out to be AWESOME! There’s a certain magic to seeing Guardians for the first time, and that retains even on repeat viewings. Guardians is probably tied for funniest MCU movie with Ant-Man, and had moments that made me laugh out loud. It embraces its Marvel movie core, with huge CGI battles, and great special effects, and has a ton heart. Its characters were unique, likable, and hilarious, with some of them being a walking tree and a machine gun-wielding raccoon (yes, those are actual movie characters). It provided us with a new tone for Marvel movies, being more of a space opera movie, and I truly love this movie. Guardians of the Galaxy is a really good movie that, despite all doubts, will entertain you for a good two hours. 5/5

2) The Avengers– The Avengers is a movie for fans of all Marvel superheroes- whether it’s Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, or Black Widow. It managed to bring the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together without being overstuffed. Its acting as well is really strong. The cast and their chemistry is a major highlight of the movie. It also has a strong story, and a great villain, unlike other MCU entries.  It’s super funny, has awesome large-scale special effects and action, a great cast, and is the second best MCU movie yet. 5/5

1) Captain America: Civil War– The movie that all the others have been building up to since The Avengers. And Civil War definitely delivers.  It is action-packed, contains one of the best fights in the MCU- the airport fight- and has lots of humor throughout. Newcomers Spider-Man and Black Panther are wonderful, and the first adds great comic relief.  Even the villain, Helmut Zemo, was pretty strong and had believable motivations. This movie basically hits every spot, with well-developed characters, a smart plot, great action, staying light-hearted, and going into darker ideas. Not to mention the fantastic acting from the entire cast, that really brings out each characters motivations. 5/5

That’s my ranking of the MCU movies, but what’s yours? Tell your opinion in the comments section below.

Spider-Man: Homecoming- Movie Review

Credit: Marvel Studios

What is it about?                                                                                                                     After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is back at high school. Trying to manage to still be a normal teenager, Peter wants to do more than just be a neighborhood Spider-Man as The Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges, causing trouble as a threat towards Spidey.

How is it? 8.9/10                                                                                                     Spider-Man: Homecoming is a sensational movie that not only does justice to the character, but provides the audience with a truly entertaining experience.

Credit: Marvel Studios

The Ups                                                                                                                                       Following his fantastic performance in Civil War, Tom Holland shows us that he really is Spider-Man. He is the perfect choice for the character and embodies the Spider-Man from the comics. He’s clumsy, gets excited about being a superhero, and is naive but extremely likable. Tom Holland not only looks like he’s the character, but also acts it: his role here sums up what an actual high schooler would do if put in this situation.

The comedy here really works. Homecoming is a really, really funny movie. Everyone has their comedic moments, but standouts are Peter, his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and high school outcast Michelle (Zendaya). Another thing to give the film props for is the high school element. On top of being a superhero movie, it is also a John Hughes-esque teen movie. It captures a high school feeling and shows Peter in class, with friends, and during his day-to-day life. Overall, the tone here is like a Spider-Man comic: it’s colorful, fun, funny, and hopeful!

Credit: Marvel Studios

The CGI here is truly spectacular. All the work on Spidey, Vulture, and Iron Man is amazing and assists the action. Speaking of which, the action is superbly choreographed and you get to see Spider-Man swinging around neighborhoods, using his suit and powers in special ways. There are lots of great set-pieces, and the standout for me is the Washington DC sequence glimpsed at in the trailers. It’s a fantastic mix of action, comedy, and suspense.

As far as characters go, this movie hits home. Ned, Peter’s best friend, is excellently performed by Jacob Batalon. He’s really funny and acts like a real best friend: that is, he gets excited when he finds out Peter’ secret, and pressures him with questions. Michael Keaton gives a charismatic performance as the Vulture. The character’s motivation is easy to get behind of. Additionally, the character isn’t hard to sympathize with: he’s not too strong of a villain, as he is a smaller-scale one, but entertaining nonetheless. Iron Man is used sparingly here so that he doesn’t steal the film from Spidey, which is a great thing. But when he’s on screen, you can’t deny how entertaining Downey is. Stark’s assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) has a small role in the movie, which I won’t say too much about, but his use and relationship with Peter is always a delight. The bully Flash Thompson is approached differently here, as instead of a stereotypical “jock”, this time he’s snarky and mean to Parker, which was an interesting version of the character. There’s a fresh take on Aunt May as well, and Marisa Tomei gives a good performance as her.

Credit: Marvel Studios

The romance in this movie never bogs it down. It’s present, and when there are elements of it onscreen, it’s organic and plays out well. It involves Peter’s teen crush on a girl in his school named Liz (Laura Harrier), but I won’t say anything more. The plot here is not too predictable, and there are plenty of surprises and turns. The MCU connections in Homecoming are not distracting and there are some fun references to the greater universe. Spider-Man: Homecoming does deliver on emotion and has a hopeful, good-hearted Spidey.

Composed by Michael Giacchino, the score for this flick is great. It contains an awesome rendition of the classic Spider-Man theme from the 60s.

Credit: Marvel Studios

The Downs                                                                                                                      One character I didn’t love in Homecoming was Zendaya’s character Michelle. She was very one-note and sort of hung around to make sarcastic comments and mope: not to say she isn’t funny, but she is very minor and inconsequential. There are quite a few characters in this movie, some of which end up underdeveloped. Some examples of this are Michelle and Donald Glover’s mystery character who I won’t disclose the identity of here.

Another problem I had with this movie involved its marketing. Some of the trailers had been infamous for giving away some big set-pieces, and while there are surprises to be had, there was some unnecessary spoiling. There were also some really great moments that didn’t need to be hinted at in trailers.

Credit: Marvel Studios

Finally, the stakes in the movie aren’t very large. Because Spider-Man is a street-level hero, stakes are lower here, especially at the end. Even though that was the feel of the movie, it still felt a little underwhelming and made it harder to feel invested in the finale.

Overall, I loved Spider-Man: Homecoming. It delivered on everything I expected, and brought even more to the table. The story was ambitious, the film was never short on comedy, all the action was executed perfectly, and Tom Holland was the perfect Spider-Man.

Despicable Me 3- Movie Review

Despicable Me 3. Credit: Universal

What is it about?                                                                                                                     The third Despicable Me movie and the fourth in the franchise, Despicable Me 3 is about villain-turned-hero Gru, now living with his wife Lucy and three daughters Agnes, Edith, and Margo. He finds out he has a more successful twin brother, Dru, who wants to revive their family’s tradition of villainy and go on one more heist. Meanwhile,supervillain Balthazar Bratt, who was a child actor in the 80s, but got his show canceled, is on the loose.

Gru (left) next to his brother Dru (right), both voiced by Steve Carrell. Credit: Universal

How is it? 5.9/10                                                                                            Despicable Me 3 is a serviceable, mediocre fourth installment in the Despicable Me franchise that is occasionally funny, but is too formulaic and forgettable to stand out.

The Ups                                                                                                                                       This movie, as it is a comedy, does have a few funny lines. However, there is some humor that doesn’t work as well, which I will cover more in The Downs.

The animation here is great. The visual work on all of the characters is fantastic, as is the par for animated movies these days. In addition, this movie is super colorful, which goes with the sugary, light-hearted tone of it.

Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), the 80s themed villain of the movie. Credit: Universal

Like most movies in this franchise, the voice acting here is pretty good, and quite entertaining throughout the cast. Everyone has fun delivering their lines, and some characters that show this are Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker,  who is always gleefully over-the-top, and Gru, voiced by Steve Carrell. Gru’s daughter Agnes continues to be one of the funniest characters in these movies as she deliver innocently adorable dialogue that brings laughs.

Gru (Steve Carrell) facing off against Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Credit: Universal

This movie is also relatively fast paced and moves along briskly. This speediness seldom allows the audience to get bored.

The Downs                                                                                                                                About the humor in Despicable Me 3, a lot of it falls flat. I rarely found myself laughing, and many of the jokes just weren’t too funny. On top of this, the few good jokes were mostly given away in the trailers. The story here is quite forgettable as well. It follows the formula of the rest of the Despicable Me movies quite closely and is rarely inventive. The plot took very few risks and wasn’t that ambitious.

(Left to right): Dru and Gru (Steve Carrell) quarreling while Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is in the background. Credit: Universal

Dru, Gru’s twin brother in the film, isn’t too entertaining. He’s basically a more light-hearted version of Gru and there’s nothing about him that makes him very special. In addition, Balthazar Bratt, the villain, is nothing more than a gimmick. His character occasionally pops on screen to make an 80s reference, which the target audience probably won’t connect with and listen along to an 80s song.

Despicable Me 3 skips along from subplot to subplot to maintain the audience’s attention. There are several side stories all going on at the same time, which may seem entertaining as there is always something happening, but prevents any real exploration of a single story. None of the characters are too well developed because of this.

A Minion up to no good in prison during one of the flick’s funnier sequences. Credit: Universal

The Minions, whether you like, love them, or find them extremely annoying, have a small side role. Their role is entertaining and funny enough, but pretty inconsequential. However, this is a good thing, given that with too much screen time, they would probably distract from the movie more.

Overall, Despicable Me 3 is a generally light-hearted, well-animated flick that, besides a few funny bits, falls flat. It jumps to various different side stories when a single subplot begins to feel tired. The movie does stays fast-moving, never feeling too slow, but eventually is quite unmemorable.

Baby Driver- Movie Review

Baby Driver. Credit: Tri-Star Pictures

What is it about?                                                                                                                     Baby Driver follows Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, a young getaway driver, who always listens to music to drown out the constant ringing in his ear from a childhood car accident. He is forced to do a job for crime mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey), alongside criminals Buddy (Jon Hamm),  Buddy’s wife Darling (Eiza González), and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Meanwhile, he has plans to run off with a waitress named Debora (Lily James) that he just met.

(Left to right): Baby (Ansel Elgort), Bats (Jamie Foxx), Darling (Eiza González) and Buddy (Jon Hamm). Credit: Tri-Star Pictures

How is it? 9.6/10                                                                                                                     Baby Driver is a phenomenal, often hilarious, action-packed movie that utilizes music in all the best ways to provide for one of the best films of the year. Just a DISCLAIMER: Baby Driver is Rated R for violence and language.

The Ups                                                                                                                                       First off, the use of music here is wonderful. Music is integral to Baby Driver, as Baby is always listening to music, so every single action or movement is carefully choreographed to the songs in the soundtrack. The entire movie is seen through this lens of Baby listening to music, which in my opinion, is really cool. By the way, the soundtrack for this movie is just great! It has lots of really good 70s and 80s songs, which are used to awesome effect in the film.

The titular character, Baby, listening to music. Credit: Tri-Star Pictures

Baby Driver is directed by Edgar Wright. I’m a huge fan of all his previous work-  they are all extremely well-directed, kinetic, hilarious movies. His editing style and flair work super well in those movies and they show through here. The editing here is superb, especially during the many car chase scenes. The cinematography is very fluid and benefits the already fantastic chase sequences. This movie is so stylish. I can’t emphasize just how cool it all is: whether it’s the sharp editing or colorful characters, the film has tons of style.

Speaking of which, the characters in this and the performances behind them are great. Ansel Elgort is does really well as Baby, who is well-developed, but barely speaks. Ansel does a great job still conveying emotion, even though Baby rarely talks. Jamie Foxx has a ton of fun with his role and is delightfully crazy as Bats. Kevin Spacey has some really funny lines and gives an excellent performance, as well as Jon Hamm. The romance here works nicely. Lily James and Ansel Elgort have endless chemistry and a believable, sweet romance.

Ansel Elgort’s Baby and his crew. Credit: Tri-Star Pictures

The action in Baby Driver is just spectacular. All the car chases and action set pieces are done with very little CGI, which is really impressive. These scenes are nothing short of thrilling and are some truly great car chases.

Although this film isn’t as much of a comedy as Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy or Scott Pilgrim vs the World (would highly recommend both!), it’s still a very funny movie. There are some great one-liners all around and many hilarious moments. The script is impeccable as well, boasting both lots of funny parts and emotional moments. Additionally, the emotion in this movie hit harder than I thought it would. It was very real at times, and I ended up sympathizing with characters more than I thought I would.

Baby behind the wheel, headphones plugged in. Credit: Tri-Star Pictures

The Downs                                                                                                                                If there is a single nitpick I can make with this movie, it’s the length. The movie feels just a tad bit long at the end, but it’s barely a problem.

Overall, Baby Driver is a unique, fun, stylish, and well-acted film. It has great characters, really funny lines, stylish direction from Edgar Wright, stunningly choreographed car chase scenes, and an inventive use of music. Baby Driver is one of my, if not my favorite movie of the year so far. 

Transformers: The Last Knight- Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight. Credit: Paramount

What is it about?                                                                                                                     In the fifth movie in the Transformers series, Humans and Transformers are at war. Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots (“good” Transformers) is gone. Meanwhile, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who assisted the Autobots fight the Decepticons (“bad” Transformers) in the last movie is a fugitive. And that’s about all you need to know going into this movie.

Optimus Prime…who’s barely in the movie. Credit: Paramount

How is it? 3/10                                                                                                                          Transformers: The Last Knight is a cluttered, lazily written 2 1/2 hour mess of a movie with few redeeming qualities.

The Ups                                                                                                                                       Despite the awful script he had to work with, Anthony Hopkins, who plays a man named Edmund Burton tasked with delivering exposition, has fun with the role. As he spouts ridiculous dialogue, he proves entertaining when the movie itself can’t. His Transformer assistant Cogman (voiced by Jim Carter), who is like an aggressive C-3PO, delivers some fun dialogue and has a few mildly enjoyable scenes.

Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) explaining something to Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) with Cogman (Jim Carter) in the back. Credit: Paramount

Say what you will about the quality of this film, but the visuals are stunning. All the CGI is executed quite well and there are some gorgeous shots Michael Bay includes here. Additionally, a few action sequences, although cluttered, are entertaining- Michael Bay knows his way around these sequences.

Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker), one of the Decepticons. Credit: Paramount

The Downs                                                                                                                                First off, the script here is terrible. It’s chock-full of awkward, cheesy dialogue that detracts from the movie, not to mention the almost cringe-worthy jokes here that none of the audience laughs at. The plot of The Last Knight is comprised of subplot after subplot, and many of these go nowhere and overcomplicate everything. There is so much not paid off in this movie, as it just throws everything out there, expecting it will work. This movie is cluttered, to say the least. It is lacks any coherence whatsoever, given that everything is happening at once and you, as the viewer, aren’t interested in any one subplot.

Not only is the story cluttered, but the cast of characters is too. There are just too many characters, and very few serve a real purpose. A prime example of this is the 14-year-old girl named Izabella (Isabela Moner) introduced at the beginning of the movie. She shows up at the beginning, does nothing useful the whole movie, and pops back up at the end.

Izabella (Isabela Moner), who ends up not having…any effect on the movie’s story. Credit: Paramount

Transformers: The Last Knight is an utterly brainless, confusing clump of story. It’s quite forgettable as well, as it’s basically made up of generic subplots stacked on top of each other, intertwined with giant explosions. This movie is exhausting to keep up with: I, myself, lost track of the plot around the end of the second act. The movie moves from dumb sequence to dumber sequence with an either exhausting side story in the middle or groan-worthy dialogue. Did I mention that this movie is 2 1/2 hours? Compared to other Transformers movies, that’s half an hour shorter, but it still feels 3 hours. Everything feels dragged out. Don’t expect Optimus Prime a ton either; he’s on all the trailers and posters, but is barely in the movie until the end.

The last act of Transformers: The Last Knight is just a mess. It’s just a bunch of Michael Bay explosions and action, but there’s so much going on at the same time that it becomes a nonsensical mush of action. Although not as much as previous Michael Bay movies, Transformers 5 somewhat shamelessly objectifies women, and racial stereotypes are sometimes played up. The product placement here is quite blatant and obvious.

Optimus Prime (left) and Bumblebee (bottom center) during the movie’s climax. Credit: Paramount

One thing that bugged me constantly throughout this movie was the changing of aspect ratios. Aspect ratios are whether or not the black bar on the top of the screen is present, and because Michael Bay shot this with different cameras, they constantly change. He shot partly in IMAX, which is extremely nice to look at when it fills up the screen, but he constantly changes to digital camera, which means that there’s a small black box popping up and down. And he doesn’t only change when an action sequence is over: he often does it within a scene, after a few shots, which isn’t only distracting and irritating, but also jarring. Besides this, some of the editing at times is very choppy and sometimes just strange. The Last Knight is lazily written, edited, and acted, but it will still probably rake in a ton of money at the box office.

Overall, Transformers: The Last Knight is a horrible movie. The dialogue is awkward, the plot is overstuffed with subplot after subplot, and the aspect ratio changing is annoying. It is a brainless, nonsensical blob, albeit boasting stunning visuals and cluttered, but entertaining action sequences.

Wonder Woman- Movie Review

Wonder Woman. Credit: Warner Bros.

What is it about?                                                                                                                     Wonder Woman is the fourth movie in the DC Cinematic Universe and is set during World War I. It follows Diana (Gal Gadot), who is a princess on Themyscira, an island in the ocean occupied by only women. One day, a plane crashes in the ocean and Diana discovers a soldier named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine): the first man she has ever seen.  From him, she learns about the ongoing war and feels the need to stop it, so she goes with him to fight in the war.

Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Credit: Warner Bros.

How is it? 8.8/10                                                                                                                  Tasked with delivering one of the first female-led, female-directed big-budget superhero movies…ever, as well as rescuing the DCEU from a critical slump, Wonder Woman is fantastic all around. However, it does face some problems.

The Ups                                                                                                                                     There is a lot to love about this movie, and the biggest thing, perhaps, is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She gives the audience an excellent, well-rounded performance that conveys all of Diana’s strengths and flaws and defines her as THE Wonder Woman. Her character tells a fish-out-of-water story, as she isn’t used to either men or modern society, which brings plenty of laughs.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Credit: Warner Bros.

Chris Pine almost rivals Gal Gadot in terms of an amazing performance. He brings the charisma and charm in spades and is very believable as Steve Trevor. His comedic timing both reacting to Diana’s distinct culture and trying to help her blend in is really, really funny.  The two stars’ chemistry is off-the-walls. You cannot take your eyes off the screen when the two are together and they bring a heartfelt, at times, comedic, relationship to the movie.

This movie has lots of comedy and definitely is funnier than previous DC films, with the entire cast having their share of laughs. Speaking of which, the supporting cast is great. A standout for me was Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Steve Trevor’s assistant.

Patty Jenkins provides fantastic direction in the film and carries it well. She brings many tender, quiet moments that are, honestly, as great as the action. There is genuine emotion in this movie: there are many compelling character-driven moments that are very affecting and involving.

Wonder Woman during the thrilling sequence where she steps into No Man’s Land and faces an army of soldiers. Credit: Warner Bros.

The action in this movie is just…wow. It has many brilliantly choreographed and epic action set-pieces including a grand battle at Themyscira, another one where Wonder Woman takes on an army of German soldiers (my favorite scene), and the final CGI fight. Slow-mo is utilized to awesome effect here in every battle.

This movie deserves praise for its lighthearted tone and hopefulness. The Wonder Woman we see in this movie has no sense of cynicism and is innocent and hopeful, which is refreshing , as most superheroes today spend their time brooding. Additionally, this movie utilizes COLOR, unlike a lot of recent superhero movies: this is a superhero movie, after all.

The lush island of Themiscyra, a key location where color really shines in this film. Credit: Warner Bros.

A great thing about Wonder Woman is that it is very standalone in the DCEU: sure, there are some connections to the greater universe, but in functions great on its own.

Finally, the visual effects in this are fantastic, as would be expected from a superhero movie today.

The Downs                                                                                                                                Now, the problems with the movie. My main issue with Wonder Woman is its villains. There are three main villains, General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), a German general; Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), a chemist cooking up deadly gases from Luderndorff to unleash; and Ares, the CGI big-bad of the film, who I won’t give too much away about. None of these three villains have much development, motivation, or payoff at all, so you really don’t care a ton about them.

General Ludendorff (left) and Doctor Poison (right). Credit: Warner Bros.

The third act in Wonder Woman, sadly, resorts to your typical superhero blockbuster fare in that its doused in CGI with giant explosions, This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just feels very familiar and is dragged out a bit. The effects in this movie, at times, is slightly questionable and I don’t love the visuals on her Lasso of Truth. Some of Wonder Woman’s giant jumps in action sequences look a little cartoonish also. In addition, the slow-mo does feel a little overused sometimes, but is mostly great.

Overall, Wonder Woman is a wonderful (no pun intended) movie that has two extremely likeable stars, great comedic chemistry between them, a perfect Wonder Woman in Gal Gadot, thrilling action, a hopeful lens for the DCEU, and a genuinely emotional touch. However, it does face some problems with its underdeveloped villains and standard third act.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Credit: Marvel Studios

What is it about?                                                                                                                     Directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes place a few months after the (amazing) first movie. The newfound family of Guardians are working as heroes-for-hire. Meanwhile, they are struggling with their family dynamic, as Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) learns about his paternal heritage when the mysterious Ego (Kurt Russell) emerges. All the while, the seemingly idyllic society known as the Sovereign are on the Guardians’ tail as a threat.

How is it? 8.6/10                                                                                                                     Guardians Vol. 2 is spectacular. It tries something different from the first one and still manages to be pretty awesome. Guardians brings much more of what we loved, packs emotion, and most of all, looks into its characters, giving them each their own arcs. However, it isn’t flawless, as it lacks the urgency in story of the first.

The team, including (left to right), Yondu, Nebula, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, Groot, and Mantis (center). Credit: Marvel Studios

The Ups                                                                                                                                       One of the best things about Vol. 2 is that it tries something new, adn takes on a new tone: it still packs a ton of fun, but deeply explores its characters by splitting them up.

Speaking of which, the characters are just fantastic, being the highlight of the first movie. It truly looks into them and their issues. By the end of the movie, Yondu (Michael Rooker) became one of my favorites and was terrifically developed. Star-Lord and the realization of having a father is really dug into. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and the dynamic with her resentful sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) is explored as Nebula shares just why she hates her sister. Even Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) gets his own satisfying arc.

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) Credit: Marvel Studios

This movie packs a heck of an emotional punch-it’s incredibly touching at the end, probably being the most emotionally impactful in the MCU.

BABY GROOT. Credit: Marvel Studios

The characters in this, as I said before, are great. Star-Lord is charming and well-acted. Kurt Russell is perfectly cast as Ego, and super charismatic. Baby Groot is just about the cutest creature ever seen on screen. Every scene he was in made you either have a giant grin, burst out laughing, or say “Aww” repeatedly: he’s used brilliantly. Drax (Dave Bautista)  doesn’t have a ton of development, but he’s really funny.  Emotion-detecting Mantis (Pom Klemetieff) is just delightful and hilarious. Rocket gets great moments as well.

Drax during one of his hilarious deadpan sequences. Credit: Marvel Studios

I’ll say it: this is the funniest Marvel movie yet. So many of the jokes work, and it’s because of the same reason as the first movie: the characters and their interactions. Drax is given a ton of great lines, as he interprets everything literally, and Baby Groot and Mantis are for sure highlights. Some of Drax’s humor is a little too hit-or-miss, however.

The action in Guardians 2 is dazzling. It has many breathtaking set-pieces, and the entire third act is just an action spectacle.

Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) during one of the movie’s fantastic action sequences.Credit: Marvel Studios

The visuals are some of the best in Marvel and are up there with Dr. Strange: they are wonderful and weird and eye-popping, and the use of color is very vibrant and distinct. It is incorporated into the action exceptionally and the 3D is surprisingly great.

Finally, the soundtrack is just like the previous: full of super catchy hits from the 70s and 80s. The use of it in the movie is super creative, just like the last movie.

The Downs                                                                                                                                The main down with Guardians is its plot. It lacks the same simplicity and sense of urgency as the first; there’s no real story until the end of the 2nd act, and you don’t really know what it’s about. It’s slightly messy as well: it moves from scene to scene without a clear plot, feeling a little choppy. This provides for a sense of madcap, frantic fun, but the movie almost has to compromise the plot to be as fun.

Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the leader of the Sovereign. Credit: Marvel Studios

The Sovereign is also messy and underdeveloped- they show up at random parts of the movie without a clear purpose, acting as a pest. Sometimes, the humor gets a little too much as well; some of Drax’s jokes don’t work and try too hard.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is fantastic. It tries something new by looking into its characters and passes with flying colors. It also doubles on what we loved about the first, with dazzling visuals, breathtaking action set-pieces, some of the funniest jokes in the MCU yet, a great soundtrack, and a really touching emotional payoff. However, the plot is unfocused and aimless at times, putting it slightly lower than the first.