The sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, and again directed by Peyton Reed, Ant-Man and the Wasp follows Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), on house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a pretty self-contained story, and introduces Evangeline Lilly, who reprises her role from the first movie, this time as Ant-Man’s partner, the Wasp. Also present are her father, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Scott’s daughter Cassie Lang (Abby Ryder Fortson), Luis (Michael Peña), and Michelle Pfeiffer as the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne.
Paul Rudd brings his all and definitely entertains as the charming Scott Lang, but the way the film portrays him a bumbling idiot underplays his supposedly smart, clever character. All the performances ranged from good to great, but the writing for the characters couldn’t do the acting justice. Evangeline Lily was solid as the Wasp and she gets plenty to do, but similar to most of the characters in this, never really grows at all.
The entire movie is spent in search of one plot device, and once that’s found, the plot turns really, really lazy and uses the generic science rules it establishes early one to resolve a major conflict (a more significant among the countless subplots, none fully explored) within moments. Personally, this left a bad taste in my mouth for the remainder of the movie.
Fortunately, the humor works yet again, and the jokes are more rapid-fire than in the first. This abundance of quips does mean that they’re less sharp and don’t hit as hard as in the original, but some sequences, especially with the yet-again hilarious Michael Peña, really did make me laugh. The supporting cast now includes Laurence Fishburne and Randall Park in minor roles, but while both get a few gags to work off of, the plot doesn’t serve either of them too well.
The action is entertaining enough and the visual effects work well yet again. The film utilizes its VFX to make the most of its premise, and the shrinking effects are a ton of fun. There are a lot of sequences, where, while the action might not stand out, the premise is utilized in creative ways to make it more fun, similar to the first.
The movie has two “villains” and the common argument used in defense of them is that they’re shown as “antagonists,” but they’re really played up to be mustache-twirling, MCU-mediocre villains and the movie doesn’t give them nearly enough to do. One is literally carrying the plot of the film around in a truck and the other gets a exposition dump and the audience is expected to be on board with her character from there. Neither get nearly enough depth or genuine plot work to make us care about them, and scenes with them on, if Paul Rudd’s signature charisma and humor weren’t there to keep them from sinking, are a slog to sit through.
Ant-Man and the Wasp, while admittedly, a very fun surface-level movie, offers little other than that exactly, and its forgettable writing makes it pale in comparison to its predecessor.
Directed by Leigh Whannell and starring Logan Marshall-Green, Upgrade is an action movie revolving around Grey, a mechanic played by Marshall-Green who, after getting paralyzed in the legs by the criminals who killed his wife, is offered and then given an implant containing an artificial intelligence program called STEM. It gives him the ability to walk, but also starts to help him track down those who killed his wife. He can also give STEM full control of his body, which lets him use his now enhanced body to fight the people he’s getting revenge against in more superhuman ways.
DISCLAIMER: Upgrade is Rated R for strong violence, grisly images, and language.
From the marketing, Upgrade seemed like a fun, passable action thriller with a cool perspective in the fight scenes, but turned out to be a lot more than that. I really did not expect to like Upgrade as much as I did. It’s fairly generic premise has been done many times before, but the spin it brings to that story is so much fun to watch unfold. The at times brutal action combined with the intense camerawork that throws you into the situation makes the action a major highlight, along with the main performance and the unpredictable plot. The movie is not without its mistakes, though, and many of the supporting characters are underdeveloped and the first 20 or so minutes occasionally stick out as expository.
First off, this is a very unique movie. It takes a cliched premise and subverts that in very interesting ways. It takes a larger-than-life sci-fi movie and mashes it together with a revenge movie in a super cool way.
The action here is also show-stopping. It’s shot in a very unique, point-of-view way that tracks the movement of Grey as he takes down bad guys. The sequences, because of a combination of the exhilarating choreography and the stunning direction, are incredibly fun. Logan Marshall-Green also brings a lot to these fight scenes. He shows a lot of expressions of horror and attempted restraint as STEM does brutal things to people through his body, and his facial expressions during the fight sequences make them feel more realistic. His performance otherwise is also pretty solid. The movie is entirely about him, and luckily, he carried the role and made his character sympathetic. Grey is an overall well-developed character and you learn enough backstory about him and he’s set up well enough that you feel invested in him throughout the movie. He makes the action sequences even more fun because his reaction often brings a lot of humor.
Speaking of which, this movie is surprisingly pretty funny! It is not devoid of humor and the fact that he has a Jarvis-like AI inside of him allows for some well-timed jokes. The movie does get dark at times, but never really too dark. It’s also really, really violent. It gets a lot of reactions (including a few laughs because of this) out of the audience and there are some very unexpected moments of gore. There’s not too much that it becomes a distraction from the story, but it’s used at the right times for shock value that it leaves an impact on the rest of the action scenes.
Another major plus with Upgrade is how unpredictable its plot is. Its base premise is already changed up because of the AI aspect, but the plot itself takes many very unexpected turns. It always goes the opposite of where you expect it to go until the very end. Its ending is built up properly from a series of twists and turns that leave you guessing what’s going to happen, but is also very thought provoking. It goes in a very intriguing direction that raises some questions as well as shocks the audience.
While Grey is a well fleshed out character, none of the other characters really are. His wife that’s basically the driving force of the movie’s plot has no backstory or development, and we learn very little about her. The police officer character that’s also investigating Grey’s wife’s death and even the villains, whose motivations are brushed over in a quick scene, don’t get much to their characters besides their interactions with Grey.
Upgrade runs at only 1 hour and 35 minutes, and while some of this may be due to how flat some of the characters are, it’s paced at really, really well at a breakneck speed that doesn’t ever slow down–that is, once it gets going. The first 20 minutes start off pretty slow, and can be very expository. While some background information is necessary from a movie that has the task of building and explaining its own world entirely, there are a few parts in the beginning that stuck out as being too exposition-heavy. Upgrade definitely does an impressive job of getting us inside this world by the time the action kicks in, but the way it does so feels clunky at times. There’s some rough dialogue at the beginning that felt like it was almost talking to the audience, but it does effectively use other subtle strategies in other places to introduce us to the world.
Overall, Upgrade is not only solidly entertaining, but very unpredictable too. Logan Marshall-Green sells us on his character and is able to not only better the action sequences with his physical performance, but get us to empathize with his character. While the same can’t be said for the supporting chracters, the pacing in this movie is impeccable. Right as soon as Grey embarks on the journey to find those who killed his wife, the movie kicks into first-gear and constantly keeps us thrilled. Its action is almost resemblant of The Matrix in its choreography, but still manages to throw us into the fight with its awesome camera work. In conclusion, Upgrade was a very unexpected, enjoyable action thriller that I’m going to give an 8.4/10.
Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of the previous 10 years and 18 films of Marvel movies, and while the task of creating it must have been impossible, the Russo brothers, who also directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War. pulled it off, and they pulled it off incredibly well. This review will be SPOILER-FREE, and will contain absolutely no spoilers for Infinity War. The movie follows Thanos (Josh Brolin), who is on a path to collect all of the Infinity Stones, which would give him the power to wipe out half of the universe and more, and the Avengers’ attempts to stop him. Every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man, or more directly, The Avengers has been leading up to this and it manages to juggle an incredible cast of characters without falling over, largely due to the handling of it from directors Joe and Anthony Russo.
Avengers: Infinity War is an emotional, hilarious, sprawling ride that really doesn’t let you go for any of its near 3 hour runtime. It’s amazing just how huge this movie is: it takes characters that you’ve grown to know and love over the course of the last 18 movies and puts them in a place where you feel real peril. And quite possibly the most…awesome part of Infinity War is how it lets you see these heroes in ridiculously entertaining combinations you never imagined and it plays this up for maximum effect. It comes pretty close to being perfect, but sadly, is not and runs into some problems just because of the sheer size of its cast.
The tone of this movie is something very interesting, as it manages to take each individual feel of all of the previous movies and combine them in a way that highlights each hero. However, this tone does feel a bit jumbled sometimes, as it moves from dark to a bit too jokey. This is also one of the darkest Marvel movies yet, with heroes put in a situation that none of them are prepared for.
Marvel’s been killing it with their villains this year, with Killmonger and now Thanos, who ties with Killmonger and Loki as the best Marvel villain yet. First off, the CGI on Josh Brolin through motion capture is amazing: Thanos really does look great and he really needed to, as he interacts with humans for so much of the movie. This is not a villain who is evil for the sake of being evil: Thanos is the star of this movie, and it is told mainly from his perspective, which is both refreshing and super compelling to watch. He gets development, and you really get to see why he’s doing what he’s doing and you even sympathize with him. And Josh Brolin’s performance is fantastic, which really drives the whole thing home.
And perhaps the most anticipated part of the movie, the character dynamics. What I myself was most excited about here was seeing these characters get to interact in new ways, and it definitely delivers. The heroes are paired up in really fun, exciting ways and get to play off each other a lot.
This feels like a blockbuster Marvel movie in a lot of ways, and the action is phenomenal. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before and is really stunning. The heroes get to interact in really fun ways that make the action super entertaining, especially in the third act. It’s amazing how it’s all done in the end, and the movie switches between a few fight sequences pretty deftly, always keeping you engrossed in them. The fight choreography here is like if the airport battle in Captain America: Civil War were blown up to include every superhero from every MCU movie yet. It’s truly dazzling and is so entertaining to watch. The visuals in this movie are the best that the MCU has done yet. Black Panther had pretty spotty CGI, but this utilizes all of its budget and really makes everything feel realistic. So much of it is CGI and how believable everything looks and how we’re transported into this world is incredible. Between some completely CGI characters and some entirely CGI locations, this film really deserves credit in this area. Avengers: Infinity War is also a super funny movie. The character dynamics, as said before, bring a lot of humor, and all of it hits hard. Despite how dour and hopeless it may seem, there are a lot of crowd-pleasing, genuinely hilarious jokes in this movie largely due to so many characters getting to interact for the first time.
In a lot of blockbuster movies today, the plot shows that the universe is at stake, but we never really feel that peril and danger. Here, because we’ve gotten to know all of these characters and because of the legitimately terrifying villain, we feel like our characters are in danger. This movie is possibly the most emotional Marvel movie yet. No spoilers, but it makes some extremely unexpected choices and the audience is definitely very affected by the emotional stakes. There are also some very devastating surprises, jaw-dropping surprises that is sure to keep the audience guessing, and they are extremely effective. The shocking ending is arguably the best part of the movie and made me extremely intrigued as to what will happen in the sequel next year. This movie manages to not only fulfill what you wanted out of it, but leaves you at a cliffhanger that makes the wait for next year’s Avengers 4 very, very hard. Infinity War is almost three hours, but definitely doesn’t feel it. It doesn’t let go until the credits roll, and is a sprawling, very well-paced movie. The way that it’s edited allows you to feel the weight of all of the storylines at the same time, and there’s close to nothing that feels too dragged out. However, there are a few parts around the first two acts that could have been cut down, which I’LL touch on later. Every storyline is moving with such urgency, especially in the second half to defeat this villain that you get caught up with it and don’t really feel the runtime. My main issue with this movie is that not all of the heroes get to be in the spotlight. Obviously, with as many characters as there are, it would be impossible for them all to get a chance to shine, but there were some heroes who were made out to have a bigger role that ended up being…just there. While the movie is incredibly satisfying in a lot of aspects, it felt lacking here. Some areas in the first half really could have been cut out to give some characters more of a leading role.
This movie will really not make as much of an impact if you haven’t seen any of the other Marvel movies. It also requires a bit of prior knowledge, but not so much that movie doesn’t make sense if you haven’t seen any of them. If you’re not a fan of superhero movies, this is not the movie for you, as is a lot of that. If you’ve seen at least 3 or 4 Marvel movies, you will care about these characters and it will make a very large impact on you. But for fans who have seen every MCU movie, this movie will be immensely satisfying (make sure to stay for the post-credits teaser!).
Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that is pretty close to being perfect. It’s based around the villain, but lucky for it, that villain is great. It has spectacular action, a few emotionally crushing twists, and awesome combinations of characters that you know and love. This is a movie that was definitely made for the fans, but is so much more than that. It’s a movie that had so much pressure leading up to it, but worked incredibly well.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, Ready Player One is based on the novel by Ernest Cline set in a dystopian 2045 about the virtual reality world called the OASIS that was created by eccentric billionaire James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Before he died, he created a contest to find a secret Easter Egg he hid in the game where the winner inhabits full control of the OASIS. The book’s novelty was that it was crammed to the rim with pop culture references, and the movie doesn’t skimp on these references either.
Ready Player One was a ton of fun, and a super entertaining Spielberg movie that manages to give the audience every single reference and callback it could get its hands on without feeling too distracting. Personally, I had pretty low expectations of Ready Player One from the trailers alone and I thought that it would rely too much on this gimmick of pop culture references after more pop culture references, but it handled that aspect just fine and the references, while fun to spot, don’t take away from the overall movie. A general complaint about the book is that a lot of the references feel sometimes shoehorned in, and some parts of the book are just lists of pop culture beloved by Halliday. Luckily, that’s not too present in the movie, and although there are references galore, they’re not just blatantly listed or name-dropped. That’s not the only thing changed by the movie. It removes and changes large sections of the book, with all of the challenges to find the Egg being different from the book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just a heads-up to big fans of the book (myself included): the spirit of the book is still there, although big parts of the plot and world are changed.
The performances from all of the cast are superb. Tye Sheridan is great as Parzival/Wade Watts (his OASIS/real world name), the main hero of the movie, a kid who goes on the hunt for Halliday’s egg. We’re always rooting for Wade throughout the movie, and Sheridan’s charismatic believable performance helps. Olivia Cooke is also terrific as Art3mis, a fellow avatar on the hunt for the Easter Egg. Her character is endlessly cool and gets to kick quite a bit of butt in the OASIS as well as gets a solid backstory and part in the real world. Mark Rylance is fantastic as James Halliday and really brings a lot to the character. He gives a very eccentric performance that fits the writing of the character well and gets one great scene near the end. Ben Mendelsohn plays the CEO of the company IOI, Nolan Sorrento, who wants to take over the OASIS, and has a lot of fun with the role. His character gets a lot to do and is very entertaining throughout the whole movie. There is one performance from a secondary villain that feels really forced and just didn’t come off as believable.
As great as the cast is, few of the characters get arcs or any development at all. Many of the characters feel underwritten and are very surface-level: we learn the gist of their character, and they aren’t fleshed out much and don’t advance at all over the course of the movie. The supporting characters are especially subject to this: we don’t really get to know a ton about any of them and they just sort of show up to fill out their role in the story. Even Parzival and Art3mis, the “main” characters, get very scarce arcs and remain very much the same throughout. Again, their characters are very fun to watch, but they don’t get developed much.
Steven Spielberg is behind the camera here and gives us a movie that really does feel like a spectacle. He’s a very visual director, and utilizes the giant budget to give us something that feels awesome as much as it looks awesome: the chase sequences are thrilling and we always feel transported inside of the OASIS whenever we enter it. Speaking of the visuals in this movie, it looks amazing. Much of the OASIS is CGI, and the way it’s rendered is vibrant, immersive, and realistic, but at the same time feels like it’s another world. The CGI on the characters (inside the OASIS, that is) is fantastic as well.
This really is a movie made for people that love movies and pop culture as much as the characters do, but that’s not to say that it’s not accessible to everyone else. There are SO MANY REFERENCES which is definitely appealing to movie and video game fans (like myself) as well as fans of the book, but it doesn’t alienate the movie to everyone else: it’s a perfectly enjoyable movie all the same. Some of the references are really fun to watch on screen: seeing the Batmobile race against a DeLorean from Back to the Future and seeing the Iron Giant fill up the screen in a giant battle alongside various recognizable video game characters is something that you’re not going to get anywhere else. There is also one sequence that’s essentially a living Easter Egg, which I’m not going to give away here, that is one of the best scenes in the movie and is super entertaining to watch. Ready Player One does have a nice message at the end and it’s interesting to see these characters going into the OASIS to escape the harsh realities of the real world: this was one of the more intriguing concepts in the book, and it’s explored here a little bit as well. As great as other parts of the script are, the romance between Parzival and Art3mis took a big hit when the book was converted into a 2 and a half hour movie. in the book, their relationship is a little bit more believable because they actually get time to know each other, but in the movie, it feels quite rushed. Parzival claims he develops serious feelings for Art3mis after only a few exchanges and this leads to scenes revolving around their romance feeling forced, even. Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke have solid chemistry, but the writing of their characters’ relationship isn’t great.
Alan Silvestri, who did the score for Back to the Future, composed the score for this movie, and it was great. It’s thrilling, grand, and really fits the spectacle of the movie. The soundtrack as well is filled with fun 80s hits that pair with the endless 80s references as well.
Ready Player One is 2 and a half hours long, and it mostly utilizes that well. It’s a very fast-paced movie, and never really feels boring. Brisk as the pacing is, the movie does drag on too much in the third act. It could have been much tighter, had it cut out a good 20 or so minutes near the end.
Ready Player One is a super fun time and proves to go beyond its (still awesome) references, with great performances and gorgeous visuals, although it does run into a few problems involving the supporting characters and length.
2017 has been an awesome year of movies. There are still a bunch of movies that I haven’t seen or reviewed, but out of all of the ones I saw, these are my 10 favorites.
Dunkirk (directed by Christopher Nolan)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (directed by James Gunn)
The Big Sick (directed by Michael Showalter)
Thor: Ragnarok (directed by Taika Waititi)
10. Wonder Woman (directed by Patty Jenkins)
Wonder Woman was great. Despite a cheesy third act and weak villain, I had a fantastic time at this movie. It’s not only a really solid origin story for the character but gives us an awesome female-led superhero movie for 2017. Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman and the movie boasts lots of humor, heart, and some really cool action and visuals.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (directed by Jon Watts)
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, we got to see not only the web-slinging action of Spidey, but also the high-school aspect of the character, which is what I love most about this movie. Tom Holland gives us a Peter Parker that feels like a kid, and its endlessly entertaining. Although Michael Keaton’s villain feels flat at times, it’s made up for by the gorgeous visuals, charismatic performances, and super fun story. Homecoming was a blast, and does the iconic character justice.
8. Logan (directed by James Mangold)
Logan is another type of superhero movie completely. It’s bleak but never too dark, and Hugh Jackman is the best he’s ever been as the Wolverine. The movie, although it has its fantastic, intense action sequences, also really explores its characters in a way we haven’t seen much before and gives us a fantastic X-23 in Dafne Keen. It’s very…different, and shows us these “superheroes” at a breaking point in a way that’s both somber, satisfying, and heartbreaking.
7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (directed by Rian Johnson)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a very unique Star Wars film. It subverts your expectations in a way that’s both shocking and interesting. It was so much fun from start to finish. It has some of the best action sequences from a Star Wars movie, humor that works really well, and a complex, damaged performance from Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Aside from one subplot that could have been cut out, I loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
6. It (directed by Andrés Muschietti)
It works on a lot of levels. It’s a both horror story and a coming-of-age one. The kids in this film are fantastic acting in their respective roles, and make us really care about them and where the story takes them. Not to mention the fantastic, at times horrifying visuals that add to the effectiveness of the movie. Andy Muschietti gives the movie a creepy atmosphere that will have you constantly nervous. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise is definitely super scary, and he gives a really, really good performance as the titular clown. It balances scares, some really genuine humor, and an emotional, at times touching story deftly and makes for a very interesting watching experience.
5. Coco (directed by Lee Unkrich)
Pixar gives us a very emotional, heartfelt, and gorgeously animated film in Coco. This movie has everything you could want from a Pixar movie and more. It’s characters are so well-developed and I found myself really invested them by the end of this movie. There’s some super catchy music in here and visuals that are amazing to the point that they don’t look like they’re animated. This movie made me cry, it made me laugh, and it has a great story for all ages.
4. Get Out (directed by Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele, who’s known for his comedy, and not exactly psychological thrillers, made his directoral debut with Get Out. And, boy, is it good. Get Out is a mixing of a lot of different things. It’s part satire, part thriller, part social commentary, part drama. Get Out provides an accurate, scary look at racial tensions in America now, and does so while balancing this commentary with old-fashioned scares. All of the performances in Get Out are great, and Daniel Kaluuya shines as the protagonist, Chris, who must escape his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) house. There’s also a good comic relief in Chris’s friend Rod, which adds a bit of levity to the movie. Get Out is a unique experience, and a film you can revisit many times.
3. Baby Driver (directed by Edgar Wright)
Edgar Wright is one of the best directors working. His films are hilarious and have his trademark editing and style. Baby Driver is those things, but also more. It’s an action musical that has a great soundtrack, thrilling car chase sequences, and lots of humor. The way that everything syncs up works as more than just a gimmick and adds a ton to the movie. Baby Driver doesn’t lack on plot either: it’s story is engaging and never lets you get bored. Ansel Elgort gives a ton to the role of Baby and other standouts from the cast include Jamie Foxx’s insane Bats as well as Jon Hamm’s Buddy. Baby Driver is a movie you remember long after you watch, and as soon as you’re done watching it, you want to turn on the soundtrack and crank it up to 11.
2. Blade Runner 2049 (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
The original Blade Runner is widely considered a masterpiece, and after watching it, I…thought it was fine. But it was 2049 that did it for me. This movie expands on the original in a way that honors its themes and idea, but gives it new ones too. This movie looks just gorgeous. Its cinematography is some of the best I’ve seen ever and the visual effects are groundbreaking. The score is otherwordly and Denis Villeneuve gives this movie a gritty, realistic, yet still futuristic feel and does a great job directing it. It deals with some really interesting themes in a very thought-provoking way, and has a compelling story. Although it’s long, it uses its runtime effectively and doesn’t ever feel boring. 2049 is a truly well-made film.
1. War for the Planet of the Apes (directed by Matt Reeves)
War for the Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece. Every shot in this film looks amazing and there isn’t a dull part of it. And even though the movie doesn’t skimp on action, it shows the more personal aspect of war than the actual fighting. Andy Serkis is once again amazing as ape Caesar and despite the fact that his performance was using motion-capture, it showed more emotion than any other in this movie. Speaking of which, this movie’s visual effects are rival to none and the apes were unable to be deciphered as CGI. The plot is emotional, brutal, and bleak, and has high stakes that keep you inside the story at all times. And finally the score was some of the best I’ve heard in a movie this year, and just made this movie better. War for the Planet of the Apes is a flawless film, and my favorite of the year.
Well, these were my top movies of the year, but what were yours? Post your favorite movies of 2017 in the comments below!
As Rey (Daisy Ridley) begins training with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the Resistance, led by Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), has to face the First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
How is it? 8.7/10
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a unique, ambitious Star Wars movie that still maintains the magic of the previous ones. Rian Johnson’s excellent direction and script gives the movie a ton of surprises, while the gorgeous cinematography, effects, and action also make this movie even better. This is a SPOILER-FREE REVIEW, but you should definitely go experience this for yourself.
First off, Mark Hamill is fantastic here as Luke. He’s shown as a darker, more damaged, and haunted Luke, but he’s not completely different from the one in the originals. Mark Hamill is truly compelling and gives such a complex performance. His character goes interesting new ways and has a great, satisfying arc. Daisy Ridley is again amazing as Rey. Her character also has a great arc, and her training with Luke is super entertaining to watch. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is one spectacular villain. He’s very well developed and you get to see his internal conflict throughout. Driver’s performance is captivating and really lets you look into the character.
Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has much more to do here. I liked him a lot in The Force Awakens, and Oscar Isaac is again great. Poe’s such a likable, charismatic character, and I found myself always rooting for him throughout the film. He became one of my favorite characters after this film. John Boyega is amazing as Finn, who is a really strong character here. Carrie Fisher’s tragic death is handled well here and Leia’s character gets justice and lots of great moments. Laura Dern is great as Vice Admiral Holdo. She gives a committed, fun performance as the new Resistance leader. Kelly Tran also gives us a promising new character in Rose, who I want to see more of in Episode 9.
Director Rian Johnson gives The Last Jedi the feel of a Star Wars movie, but also adds his own voice. He does a stellar job directing it, and the movie boasts a spectacular script as well. This is a Star Wars movie that takes risk and is definitely super ambitious. It’s unique and has some very bold story choices. The story also has a ton of surprises, and the movie will subvert your expectations lots of times. There were several genuinely shocking moments that had me gasping. Johnson also deepens some aspects of Star Wars mythology that might anger some fans, but I personally thought was really cool. This movie also has emotional moments that will definitely satisfy fans and are done well. As long as the movie is, despite one issue (which I will discuss later), its pacing for the second and third act is handled very well. The movie generally moves at lightspeed and even when it slows down a bit, it’s still super compelling.
Rian Johnson gets very meta here at times, and this movie has some great self-aware commentary about itself that’s both entertaining and interesting. Although this movie gets really dark sometimes, it’s still endlessly entertaining. I had so much un with this movie and had a grin on my face for a large portion of it. There’s some great comedy from all of the characters and it’s used at the right moments so that it never detracts from the drama. The script explores the difference between the light and the dark and the blurring between the two. Its characters also see where they stand on this spectrum and these themes are very well dived into. Any and all fan service here doesn’t feel like it’s there for the sake of being there. There are lots of crowd-pleasing fan service moments that are earned and you can see the director’s love of Star Wars shine through.
This movie is gorgeous. The visual effects are truly jaw-dropping. Combined with the incredible cinematography and action, this movie has some of the best Star Wars effects ever. The work on the creatures and all of the locations are just amazing and so hyper-realistic, you are really transported to this other world. The action is present throughout the film and is some of the best in the series. All of the space battles, hand-to-hand combat, and the lightsaber fights are just beyond words and look and feel so amazing. The choreography in them is so great and every detail about them is perfect. The cinematography is also fantastic. Some shots are just so well framed and had me in awe. A lot of the locations, like the salt planet Crait, utilize this, and they look fantastic. John Williams’ score is, as always, magical. It adds so much to these movies and is, again, just amazing.
My main problem with this movie is the storyline on casino planet Canto-Bight featuring Finn and Rose. Johnson needed to give them some to do, so he…gave them this…? It leads nowhere, has barely any payoff, and drags the pacing of the (already long) movie a ton. The design of the location is cool but it adds nothing to the movie and could have been cut out completely with no effect on the story. Benicio del Toro’s new character DJ is just…meh. He doesn’t get much screentime at all, and doesn’t have much of a role. Another underdeveloped character is Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), who didn’t get her character done justice in Episode VII, and doesn’t get it here either. She barely has any screentime and is just there for the sake of being there.
Overall, I loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Packed with action and surprises, and boasting a great story, The Last Jedi goes deeper into these worlds and characters. However, there is one storyline that doesn’t land at all and could be taken out of the film, which is my only big problem with The Last Jedi.
Coco follows Miguel (Anthony Gonzales), who wants to become a musician despite his family’s ban on music. He accidentally ends up in the Land of the Dead on Dia de Los Muertos, where he meets a shifty con artist named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). He must break his family’s curse on music and get back to the real world before he gets stuck in the Land of the Dead.
How is it? 9.3/10
Coco is a truly touching movie, with fleshed-out characters, amazing music, an emotional, personal plot, and gorgeous animation.
The characters in Coco are stellar. It’s super fun and interesting to watch Miguel’s (physical and inner) journey across the Land of Dead where he definitely grows as a character. Anthony Gonzales is really great as Miguel, and he gives a ton of emotion in his vocal performance. Hector is another solid character. We learn a lot about him over the course of the movie, and although he seems one-note at the beginning, he has a ton of depth to him.
As far as the animation goes, this movie contains the best animation I’ve seen all year. It’s standard for Pixar to make their movies look gorgeous, but this movie is really special. Everything about both the Land of the Dead, the real world, and the characters all look amazing. Some of the shots of streets and buildings are super realistic and it’s hard to believe it’s animation at times. The entire design of the Land of the Dead is also great. The city’s design is colorful, creative, and we get to see a ton of it through Miguel’s trip through the city. Speaking of which, this movie is insanely colorful. There are a ton of bright, neon colors found inside the Land of the Dead that work the almost real animation to make something that looks awesome.
Both the score and the original songs in Coco are great. There are some very catchy, and sometimes even genuinely emotional original songs in the film that are used in just the right places. The vocals from the cast are very good and they can all sing exceptionally.
The plot of Coco is never cliched or cheesy and there are lots of really surprising twists and turns. It has a lot of depth, which is expected from a Pixar film, and is captivating to watch. From the very beginning, you see Miguel’s world and how he has to deal with it. It keeps you constantly engaged as he goes farther and farther away from his home and learns more about his family. There’s also no shortage of humor here: the movie mixes emotion with some good jokes very well.
Pixar knows how to make their audience cry, and their strategy is very effective here. The movie deals with a very personal, human story, even for Pixar, and it has a giant emotional payoff near the end. The reason this works is because the movie develops these characters and you learn so much about them. By the time that the emotional punch rolls around, you’re deeply invested in these characters and you care about them a ton. At the center of this movie is a story about family. It explores the different aspects of a family, their flaws, and their traditions, as Miguel learns more and more about his family and their history. It also dives into what it means to be remembered, and all of these themes are displayed in the fantastic story that a bunch for both adults and kids. Coco is very informative about Mexican culture and Dia de Los Muertos, and you can learn a lot about that holiday through this movie.
Honestly, there’s nothing much wrong with this movie. I can’t think of anything to complain about and it was just a beautiful movie in all senses of the word.
Coco is one of the best films of the year. It mixes colorful, realistic animation with emotion, a deep plot, and great music to make a really original, sweet movie. I would recommend it to all ages and there’s something in it for everyone.
After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) is forced to assemble a team of other heroes, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to fight the incoming threat of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds).
How is it? 6.1/10
Justice League is a disappointing, but moderately entertaining movie. It has great performances and fun characters, as well as plenty of humor and a hopeful tone, but the rushed plot, CGI mess of a villain, and lackluster, sloppy visual effects make it just decent.
The characters (mostly) and acting were pretty strong in Justice League. First off, The Flash/Barry Allen was a lot of fun here. He gets some of the best jokes and acts as comic relief and “the rookie” of the group. Ezra Miller is really good as Barry Allen . He has a lot of fun moments interacting with his teammates. Aquaman, another new character, is just…so awesome! Jason Momoa gives the character a very confident, cool demeanor that’s super entertaining to watch. Gal Gadot is, again, excellent as Wonder Woman, and she remains a strong character, being the highlight of the last two films she was in. Also, we finally get a hopeful Superman! That’s what character is supposed to be like, although in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, we got a very mopey, brooding Superman that wasn’t too in line with the character. Henry Cavill shows us what an optimistic, actually fun Superman would look like.
There’s quite a bit of humor in Justice League, as the trailers have promised, and most of it comes from the group dynamic among the team. Warner Bros. has acknowledged criticisms of a lack of humor and levity in other DC Extended Universe movies and made an effort to make this one more light-hearted. There are lots of funny gags throughout, and it’s an easy, light watch. Yes, it can be a bit cheesy at times, but it’s cheesy in the right ways. Because Joss Whedon, director of the (much quippier) Avengers movies, came in after Zack Snyder, who directed Batman v Superman and Man of Steel, had to step off, you can see the film have a bit of his touch. He’s known for a lot of banter between characters, and you can see that on show.
As far as action goes, this movie (mostly) delivers. There are lots of action scenes sprinkled throughout, and they are very entertaining, especially in the final battle where the whole “Justice League” teams up. There are also two great post-credits scenes here. The first is a quick gag that’s pretty funny and the second is a genuinely surprising reveal that gets me very excited for the future of the DCEU.
Justice League stands at 2 hours, which is shorter than most superhero movies these days. That’s generally a good thing, but not for this movie. A lot of scenes feel rushed or cut down significantly and there are some side storylines that never get revisited and are just there for the sake of being there. The movie didn’t know where to spend more time and where to spend less: some scenes go on for too long or shouldn’t be there, whereas others feel just skimmed over. It has a very messy plot that piles scenes on top of each other without any flow.
Some characters were subpar also. For example, Cyborg is really bland. He has his own storyline that’s not very interesting and is supposed to be a key character, as he has a special connection to what the villain wants. He is also one of the most powerful in the group, but the audience doesn’t really care about him. Ray Fisher’s performance comes off cold and dull for such an important character. Ben Affleck looks almost bored playing Batman and is very unenthusiastic in his role. Also, although Superman’s entrance is pretty awesome, he’s absent for most of the movie and sort of hangs over it before he’s “resurrected”. It feels kind of abrupt when he just shows up.
Steppenwolf is undeniably the worst part of Justice League. He’s just another CGI monster that wants to destroy Earth for the sake of being evil and was almost unwatchable. I nearly cringed whenever he was onscreen and he doesn’t feel like a real threat. You know nothing about him except for the fact that he’s powerful and evil. Every time he shows up, he mumbles something about having to destroy everyone like a video game villain. He was a weak, underdeveloped, and boring villain.
For such an expensive ($300 million!) movie, you would really expect better effects. The effects are very sloppy and obvious. Cyborg is an almost entirely CGI character, and he looks awful. The visual effects are not great on him and are really obvious. Also, Steppenwolf, who is similar to Cyborg (mostly CGI), doesn’t look that good, and you feel like you’re watching video game graphics when you see him. A lot of this movie is shot on green screen, which is common, but so many shots are glaringly obvious. Sometimes, it’s painfully clear that green screen is being used, which took me out of the movie a little. Some of the action, combined with the messy visuals, can be really chaotic and hard to follow, which detracts from the film.
Overall, Justice League is just fine. It’s not awful, but it’s definitely not great either. Its characters and their interactions provide for lots of humor and a more fun, hopeful tone, but it has an awful villain, embarrassing CGI, and a messy, rushed plot.
After getting trapped on a faraway planet where he has to fight Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a gladiator contest, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has to team up with him, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and new character Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to defeat the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett).
How is it? 8.2/10
Thor: Ragnarok is, above all, a ton of fun. I can’t emphasize how funny this movie really is. The action looks great, but this movie is still primarily a comedy. The cast is all terrific, and they are all hilarious in their respective roles. However, this constant sense of humor takes away any palpable emotion or drama from the film, and causes some tonal dissonance, as so much of the story involves destruction and death.
Thor: Ragnarok nails its humor. The movie knows exactly when to time jokes for maximum impact, and it (for the most part) works. There were several times in this movie when I just couldn’t stop laughing. It is definitely the funniest MCU movie yet. Taika Waititi did a great job directing the film and has great comedic timing.
Chris Hemsworth got to show off some of his comedic chops here, and is really good as Thor. The film elevated Thor as a character, specifically in its removal of his hammer. It shows what he can be as the “God of Thunder,” without his hammer. Tom Hiddleston is, as always, awesome as Loki. He has lots of fun scenes throughout. Hulk is amazing here. He can finally talk (albeit like a 2-year-old), and is portrayed as a sad, whiny child. This causes for lots of humor. The relationship between Banner and Hulk is explored more, which is very interesting. Cate Blanchett gives a hammy, but good performance as Hela. She has her comedic moments, too, and clearly has fun with the role.
Taika Waititi as Korg, one of the contenders in the gladiator contest, is just the best. Korg is one of the best characters in the film, and despite being a giant rock-monster, is actually soft-spoken. He is hilarious and gets some of the best lines in the movie. Jeff Goldblum is a riot as Grandmaster, who controls the gladiator contest. He has a ton of fun witht he role, and steals the scene every time he’s onscreen. Tessa Thompson kicks butt as former Asgardian, but now alcoholic bodyguard, Valkyrie, for Jeff Goldblum’s character. We learn about her past, and her character arc is pretty satisfying.
Although this movie is mainly a comedy, when the action comes, it’s spectacular and a blast to watch. The effects are great, especially for CGI characters like Korg or Hulk. This is one of the few Marvel movies (mainly the Guardians films), that utilizies color. There’s a bright neon color scheme, emphasizing the colorful, vivid locations. There is also a great 80s-influenced, sci-fi score that complements the action and humor nicely.
The emphasis placed on humor in Ragnarok does cause the movie to lose any sense of emotional weight or drama. Its few attempts at this are undercut by jokes: not to say the jokes don’t work, but the movie could have had more emotion. There is one specific moment where the movie could have had a lot of emotional impact, but chooses to go straight for the joke.
The tone also feels a bit shaky at times, as you have a buddy comedy with Thor and Hulk for half of it and a story about death and destruction on Asgard for the other half. The film treats the second part a bit too flippantly sometimes and it’s kind of jarring to switch tones so rapidly.
There are also some problems with structure in the film. The ending, in my opinion, feels abrupt. The movie’s structure left me feeling empty afterwards: Thor’s at Saakar (gladiator planet) for a bit, he has to escape, they go to Asgard, he has to defeat Hela. The Saakar part, entertaining as it is, isn’t even that essential to the story. So much time is spent at two general plot points that the movie feels shorter than it actually is.
While Blanchett’s performance was fun, Ragnarok runs into another case of the Marvel villain problem. We get a little bit of backstory for Hela, but nothing really stuck out in her character. She’s evil for the sake of being evil, without any real development. I found myself bored when she was onscreen and wanted to go back to Sakaar for more of Thor and Hulk because she just wasn’t that interesting of a villain.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is a blast. It’s hilarious, looks (and sounds) great, and has stellar performances from its cast. Taika Waititi did a fantastic job directing Ragnarok and acting as Korg, who is definitely a standout character. However, the same can’t be said for its villain, who is definitely underdeveloped. The movie fails to provide any real emotion and has a slightly jarring tone at times. Also, the structure of the film feels empty, as it jumps between two major storylines.
30 years after the events of the original (where human-like androids called Replicants that were used for slave labor have gone rogue, and Deckard (Harrison Ford), a Blade Runner, must track down and kill all remaining Replicants), newer models are now legal. LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling) now has Deckard’s job of killing older models, and stumbles on a world-changing secret that he needs to investigate.
How is it? 9.6/10
Blade Runner 2049 is a one-of-a-kind experience. Boasting gorgeous cinematography, jaw-dropping visual effects, solid acting, a mesmerizing score, and thought-provoking themes, this movie truly is a sight to behold. DISCLAIMER: Blade Runner 2049 is Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.
Ryan Gosling is fantastic as K, and really brings depth to the character as he learns more about himself. Harrison Ford is great reprising his role as Deckard, although he isn’t in the film much. Ana de Armas provides an emotional, realistic performance as K’s girlfriend, Joi. Robin Wright is also good playing K’s no-nonsense boss. Although he isn’t given much screentime, Jared Leto commits to the role of creepy replicant-maker Niander Wallace. Finally, Sylvia Hoeks does really well as Wallace’s assistant Luv. Blade Runner 2049 has flawed, complex characters that learn more about themselves and grow throughout the runtime, which provides for an intriguing viewing experience.
At several times throughout the movie, my jaw dropped in awe at the cinematography onscreen. Roger Deakins gives the movie the best cinematography I’ve seen possibly EVER. Shots of beautifully rendered Los Angeles are a marvel to look at. This alone makes it worth watching. The use of color is also really interesting: the film sticks to certain palettes depending on the environment, which is quite pleasing to look at. All effects on display play off the gorgeous cinematography to make it even more eye-popping. 2049 expands on the gritty, futuristic world of the first and adds lore to it.
The original Blade Runner’s score had a unique, surreal feel to it, and the score in 2049, composed by Hans Zimmer, is similar, but also its own masterwork. The score here is intense, emotional, and dreamlike, which, combined with the infinitely cool visuals, makes for an awesome film. The sound design is really well done also, whether it’s the loud booms of the score of the buzz of Los Angeles you hear.
The film’s plot is great. It takes risks, is layered, and has plenty of twists and turns. There are lots of surprises in the movie, much of which is uncovered by the detective work K does. As the plot unfolds, the audience has to put the pieces together. Much like the first, Blade Runner 2049 contemplates what it means to be human and to feel emotion. These themes are displayed through the several Replicant and human characters, and how their arcs all overlap. On top of this, the movie has heart. In my opinion, this emotional core is something the first lacked, but this one has.
Standing at 2 hours and 47 minutes, 2049 is long. However, this isn’t an issue: the movie uses the runtime to flesh out its characters and environment. It keeps the audience intrigued in the storyline. Denis Villenevue, who did a superb job with Arrival, is once again fantastic here. He makes a suspenseful, deep sci-fi film that combines technical brilliance with a great story. I liked the original, but I didn’t think it was the “masterpiece” many hailed it to be. This one improves on the first by making the pacing less lackluster, sticking to a tone, looking more into the themes, and having a better personal storyline amongst the amazing visuals.
If you haven’t seen the first (which you should if you want to see this one), then don’t expect an action movie as the marketing makes it seem like. This isn’t so much of a negative as a warning. Blade Runner 2049 is a slow-burn and has maybe a few “action” sequences, but many scenes of just characters in conversation. Again, the film is almost 3 hours. I didn’t find it too long, but it may come across as slow to some. There’s a lot of detective work that K has to do, which can seem slow at times.
Harrison Ford and Jared leto both do fine jobs with their characters, but they’re not in the movie much. The marketing made it seem like Jared Leto was the main villain and Harrison Ford had a huge role, but neither are really true: Leto gets less than 10 minutes of screentime, and Ford doesn’t show up until the middle of the second act.
Blade Runner 2049 is something special. From the first frame, you can tell how much effort was put into this film, yet it still seems effortless. The gorgeous sweeping shots of dystopian Los Angeles are awe-inspiring, the score is breathtaking, and the themes are thoughtful. The movie has a heart, top-notch performances, and manages to be its own thing, but still builds on the original. Go see it.