Kong: Skull Island- Movie Review

Credit: Warner Bros.

What is it about?                                                                                                                     Set in the 70s during the Vietnam War, Kong: Skull Island follows a group of explorers including: ex-military tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), angry and vengeful colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and government official Bill Randa (John Goodman). They venture into an uncharted island only to find a giant (and I mean GIANT) ape named Kong, who’s king on the island, and numerous hostile and terrifying creatures.

How is it? 6.8/10                                                                                                                     Kong: Skull Island is fun, stylish, and looks great, but is severely lacking in the people department. It’s a decent popcorn B-movie where you get to see a giant ape beat up a giant lizard, but not much else. Oh, and don’t forget, they are always setting up for a sequel because this monster movie takes place in the same universe as Godzilla (2014)!

The Ups                                                                                                                                      I have to give this movie credit for its cinematography. The camera work is very stylish and lots of fun to look at, as well as the colors in this movie. It has a warm, tropical, 70s tropical hue, which is displayed excellently alongside the giant monkey.

Kong, as he appears in the movie. Credit: Warner Bros.

Its soundtrack is also cool, chock-full of 70s music that assist the tone of Kong.

Also, it doesn’t take itself too seriously: you came to see an ape smash things, and you get to see an ape smash things.

John C. Reilly is a standout character in Kong. He plays Hank Marlow, a WWII pilot stranded on the island since the 40s. His character steals the show, has clear motivations, gets a bunch of development, and has a surprisingly emotional payoff.

John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow. Credit: Warner Bros.

Kong himself, when on screen, is awesome. Watching him beat up other creatures on the island never gets old, and this movie in particular shows just how huge he is.

The other creatures on the island are cool as well. They provide for some great set-pieces, and are interesting and unique enough to keep you from getting bored. Also, seeing the creatures pick off the team members one by one is entertaining.

One of the “Skullcrawlers”, alongside Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson. Credit: Warner Bros.

Finally, the CGI is fantastic. The work on Kong, the creatures, and the island’s unique, tropical features is great: it’s super realistic, nice to look at, and gives you a sense of scale between the humans and the creatures.

Tom Hiddleston chopping monsters with a sword, which you didn’t realize you needed until you did. Credit: Warner Bros.

The Downs                                                                                                                                Now, here’s the main flaw with Kong: you’re shown a giant monkey, but then said giant monkey leaves, leaving you with a bunch of explorers you are given no reason to care about. These characters are paper-thin: Tom Hiddleston is tracker/mercenary/butt-kicker who works for money but…yeah that’s about it– you have no idea why he’s there; Brie Larson is an ANTI-WAR photographer, who really shouldn’t be coming on the mission; John Goodman is your typical off-his-rocker, been-waiting-years-for-this guy; Sam Jackson is Sam Jackson…this time, it got old; and finally, Toby Kebbell plays a soldier, who makes some significantly stupid decisions. This is a giant waste of a great cast. They even try humor with these people, but it really doesn’t work, and the vast majority of the jokes fall short.

Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly. Credit: Warner Bros.

In addition, the first 25-30 minutes of exposition are pretty boring indeed, and there’s a bunch of cheesy dialogue throughout.

Lastly, the editing in the first half of the movie can be pretty choppy, and sometimes gets hard to look at.

Overall, Kong: Skull Island gives you a fun, stylish, and action-packed B-movie that has characters no one cares about nor wants to.

Logan- Movie Review

Hugh Jackman gives a performance of a lifetime in this action-packed, brutal, somber, and beautiful movie that’s a character study before superhero movie. Credit: 20th Century Fox

What is it about?                                                                                                                           Logan is the newest addition to the X-Men franchise, and is the story of an old, aging, Wolverine in a new, standalone, X-Men timeline. In 2029, a weary and hopeless Logan cares for dying telepathic Charles Xavier in a hideout on the Mexican border. All mutants have perished, and Logan is trying to escape somewhere safe with Charles. He soon finds a little girl named Laura Kinney, or X-23, with the same powers and deadliness as him, and is forced to (reluctantly) protect her from dark forces following them.

How is it? 8.9/10                                                                                                                               Logan is an amazing movie. However, I have to put A DISCLAIMER: Logan is Rated R, and contains SEVERE violence, gore, and language, as well as dark and mature themes. 

Logan marks Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s final performances as Wolverine and Charles Xavier, respectively, and is a very satisfying and fitting conclusion.

Logan and Charles Xavier side-by-side. Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Ups:                                                                                                                                            The overall tone of Logan is great. It knows what it wants to be and is unrestricted: it can be dark, grim, and hopeless, but can also be warm, funny, and uplifting.

The acting is top-notch throughout the cast. Hugh Jackman is fantastic and perfectly portrays just how hopeless, tired, and dying Logan is. Patrick Stewart is great, as he shows Xavier off-his-rocker, guilty, and sad. Finally, newcomer Dafne Keen, who plays X-23 is my favorite performance, as she manages to kick butt, and give a heartfelt performance just through facial expressions. She awakens the hero in Logan, which brings out his better, younger self.

Dafne Keen as X-23 in Logan. Credit: 20th Century Fox

The action is brutal (I really can’t emphasize this enough), but executed spectacularly, and the cinematography and editing assists it. The score by Marco Beltrami was a small detail that I enjoyed, and it helped with the tone of the film.

Although I mentioned earlier that the movie could be grim, it still had humor from the dynamic between Laura and Logan, and even Xavier.

Logan in one of the quieter scenes, next to X-23 and Charles. Credit: 20th Century Fox

Logan never ceases to be enthralling and constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat, even when there isn’t a huge action sequence: many of the movie’s better moments are quiet, small interactions between the characters. Through these moments it manages to even bring emotion.

Logan during one of the more…vivid action sequences. Credit: 20th Century Fox

Logan explores many grim, sensitive themes that you want to talk about long after the credits have rolled. Through carefully exploring its characters, it delves into the ideas of death, aging, sadness, family, love, and even guilt. These really establish it as a drama first, and a comic-book movie second: it’s very grounded.

The Downs:                                                                                                                                   There are few problems I have with Logan. There is a minor pacing issue with this movie around the middle: sitting at a lengthy 2 hours and 21 minutes, there are certain scenes around the middle that could’ve been trimmed. However, the vast majority of Logan serves a point and all builds up to the finale.

It also slightly overuses it’s R-rating. Even though most of the violence is well-deserved and built up to, there are certain aspects where the gore was overused. Also, there was a subplot that serves a purpose, but goes over-the-top. I understand why it was kept, but it causes the movie to lose some of its grounding.

Logan is not only one of the best comic-book movies of recent years, but also one of, if not the most meaningful. However, discretion is advised, as the movie can get quite violent and gory.

The LEGO Batman Movie- Movie Review

What is it about?                                                                                                                     The LEGO Batman Movie is about Batman, or at least the LEGO version of him, the breakout star of the original LEGO Movie. Set in Gotham City, the Joker uses an entire rogues gallery of villains to take over Gotham City. Meanwhile, Batman struggles with the idea of being part of a family, as he tries to raise Dick Grayson, a young orphan he adopted and deal with Barbara Gordon, the new police commissioner who wants him to team up with the police.

How is it? 8.8/10                                                                                                                     Batman was a huge hit in The LEGO Movie, so he got his own, and it delivers on a ton of levels. The LEGO Batman Movie is an absolute burst of joy from start to finish: literally the first frame is hilarious. Its only shortcoming is that it doesn’t quite reach the heart of The LEGO Movie.

The Ups

LEGO Batman is chaotic, frenetic, and fun-filled adventure that will leave a smile on your face for, well, the whole thing.

This movie has such a strong sense of humor. The LEGO Batman movie is made up of gag after gag, and is unceasingly funny, yet it never feels forced. It is one of the most meta, self-deprecating movies I have ever seen, and references pop-culture every other minute. This movie is packed throughout its 104 minutes with winks, nods, and jabs at other movies and itself.  It references about every Batman movie or TV show you can think of, and I mean every. It also takes some fun jabs at the currently failing DC Cinematic Universe that will have you laugh out loud. This is all best demonstrated in the first ten minutes, which is a spectacular mix of visual and spoken pop culture references, fantastic voice acting and cameos, and chaotic action. I almost burst laughing at this, and let’s just say there is a very…unique sequence involving Batman rapping. Being a huge Bat-fan, I got a huge kick out of the references, but Batman fans, movie fans, and casual viewers alike will all enjoy it.

Speaking of the voice acting, all of the voice stars are great. Will Arnett, who was hilarious in The LEGO Movie is back and funny as ever, along with newcomer Michael Cera (playing Dick Grayson/Robin), who is innocently funny. Ralph Fiennes shined as butler Alfred, and Zach Galifinakis was a humorous, fresh take on Joker.

One of the things I loved about LEGO Batman was the play on Batman and Joker’s relationship. In comics before, they have been seen as needing and completing each other, which is put on play here. Joker desperately wants to be Batman’s greatest villain, but the fact that he just can’t say it causes Joker to crumble, resulting in some hilarious sequences.

The animation here is superb. All the computer animated facial features are very clear, and I was in wonder at the visual effects used. This pays off in the action, which, especially, in the third act, is chaotic and crazy, but still very smooth, providing an excellent experience.

This movie also has heart. It has a very good message of being part of a family, and it is touching near the end.

The Downs

I am a huge fan of The LEGO Movie: it is incredibly witty, very clever, hilarious, but most of all, heartfelt. I would say LEGO Batman is funnier, but it doesn’t match the freshness, cleverness, or emotion of the original: the original’s message about being yourself was truly brilliant, and this one’s about family is sweet, but not as good. Finally, the humor, sadly, does slow down a bit around the middle, as the concept of family is explored more.

Overall, The LEGO Batman Movie is a GREAT movie, with fantastic animation, great vocal performances, an amazing sense of humor, and unceasing meta and pop-culture references.

Moana- Movie Review

What is it about?                                                                                                                     Moana is Disney’s latest flick after Zootopia, and it’s about Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of a chief that sets out on an adventure. She has to find Maui (Dwayne Johnson), a powerful, but arrogant demigod, and bring an ancient relic to a goddess with him to end the darkness devouring their islands. Hei Hei the Rooster (Alan Tudyk) joins them as they face many obstacles on their journey.

How is it? 8.7/10

Moana is a terrific movie. There were a ton of things to love about it, and it’s one of my favorite animated movies of 2016.

The Ups

First off, the music is great. Composed by Lin Manuel Miranda, it’s super catchy and will have you humming it long after the movie.

The characters are also really cool. Moana herself is a fun twist on the typical “Disney princess,” and she actually is about to take on the role of chief, whereas in most Disney movies, she would be destined to awaken the chief from eternal sleep, or something like that. Also, her character is faced with a choice: to stay and be chief, or to go off on a voyage to find Maui. This dilemma for her character adds development and makes the movie even better. Demigod Maui is also really awesome. His character is shown as a likable and charismatic, but arrogant and selfish demigod that brings a bunch of laughs and fun scenes. Also, not-so-bright chicken Hei Hei produces a ton of laughs being one of the more…dim-witted characters in the movie. Great voice acting is displayed all around.

This movie is really funny, and has a fun, adventurous plot. It boasts some awesome set-pieces where Moana, Maui, and even Hei-Hei show off their unique powers.

This movie looks excellent. This movie meets the high standard of animation set by previous movies and passes it. Everything from the amazing CG shots of Moana and Maui battling coconut pirates to Maui’s hand-drawn tattoos is fantastic.

Most of all, Moana has heart, which is what we’ve come to expect, and it shows this moral well. It delivers a good message for both adult viewers and kids.

The Downs

I have very few problems with this movie, and overall, is a ton of fun. However, its only down is predictability. It falls into some Disney movie tropes, and while its hero is different, it has a predictable plot. A lot of Moana’s journey has been seen before in other movies, which, while it’s not a super bad thing, just makes it feel like it’s been seen before.

Overall, Moana is an excellent, well-animated, and funny movie that has heart, rich characters, and great music, although it’s a bit predictable. 

Most Anticipated Movies for Kids of 2017

So, 2016 has ended, and now it’s 2017, which means…a whole new year of movies!

Here are my honorable mentions for my most anticipated movies of 2017:

The Fate of the Furious: This looks great, and was really hard to keep off my list. The Fate of the Furious is the sequel to Furious 7 and is about what happens when Dominic Toretto turns evil and abandons his loyal team of racers. This movie looks like a ton of fun, and they continue to up the ante with each movie getting more and more ridiculous, which by no means is a bad thing. The Fate of the Furious comes out on April 14, 2017. Check out the official trailer right here!

Despicable Me 3: The fourth entry in the smash-hit Despicable Me series, this movie looks fun. Gru is back, and now with his wife Lucy, and together, they must face a villain that’s stuck in the 80s. The movie definitely looks funny, and delivers a few laughs in the trailer. Watch the trailer right here!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: The fifth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise follows pirate Jack Sparrow on the run from an old rival, Capitán Salazar, who sets out to kill every living pirate. The trailer is tense, and gives us a great look at the villain, who looks just the right amount of scary. Check out the teaser trailer here!

Now, on to my Top 10:

10. The LEGO Batman Movie: This spinoff to The LEGO Movie is about exactly what the title suggests: LEGO Batman. He’s back, and to protect Gotham from the Joker, he has to learn to take a sidekick and recruits Robin. All trailers for this movie have been pretty funny so far, and The LEGO Movie was incredibly witty. This movie looks equally clever, and promises both great voice acting, and lots of laughs. It comes out on February 10, 2017. Check out the latest trailer here

9. Kong: Skull Island: Kong: Skull Island is a reboot of the King Kong movies and actually looks really, really great! Both the Comic-Con trailer and the second one look awesome, and the trailers show both some really cool moments with the giant ape and some moments of humor. It’s about a group of explorers in the 70s venturing into an island where Kong is king, but their hostility angers the giant. The movie has an all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston, Samuel Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly.  This one comes out on March 10, 2017. Enjoy the newest trailer here!

8. Split: M. Night Shamalayan’s thriller about a man named Kevin with 23 distinct personalities inside his head abducting three girls looks fantastic. All the trailers for this movie have been tense in all the right ways, and the movie looks like a spectacular thriller. Split is released on January 20, 2017. Check out the second official trailer right here!

7. War for the Planet of the Apes: The third movie in the amazing Apes trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes is about, well, the war between the apes and humans that the previous movies have been building up to. The first one was great, and the second one was even better, so I’m pretty sure this one’s going to be great. The trailer boasts great CGI, and looks like a gritty, well-acted war movie. War for the Planet of the Apes is released on July 14, 2017. Enjoy the trailer right here!

6. Thor: Ragnarok: The third Thor movie promises something entirely new. With Jeff Goldblum playing the villain Grandmaster and Hulk there for the whole movie (yup, you read that right), and even a possible Doctor Strange cameo, this movie has all the ingredients for a hit. Comedy director Taika Waititi is behind the camera for this one and the footage from Comic-Con is hilarious. It showed what Thor was doing during Civil War and was really, really funny. Ragnarok comes out on November 3, 2017. Watch it here!

5. Wonder Woman: There’s a lot riding on this movie. It has to “fix” the DC Extended Universe, warm up it to critics, and pull of the first female-led superhero movie. But it looks like it can do that and then some. It’s about Wonder Woman during WWI, and looks excellent. The trailers give awesome action and humor as well. Wonder Woman is released on June 2, 2017. Watch the newest trailer here!

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The only reason this is number 4 is just because I’m more excited for 3 other movies, but, wow, this looks GOOD. Guardians 1 was exceptional, and delivered something… different, which makes it one of my favorite Marvel movies.  This movie has so many things going for it, from it’s awesome cast which now includes Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, or its funny, action-packed trailers. This is a sci-fi superhero flick that I am absolutely sure will deliver. Guardians 2 comes out on May 5, 2017. Enjoy the teaser right here!

3. Spider-Man: Homecoming: They’re finally doing it right. Spidey was my favorite character from Civil War and is one of my favorite comic book characters. This movie finally skips the origin story and gives us something special: a John Hughes-style high school movie about both Peter and Spider-Man. Not to mention the PERFECT casting of Tom Holland, who feels like an outsider high schooler. And Iron Man’s going to be in this! They are finally going to share the screen, and I know it’s going to deliver. Homecoming is released on July 7, 2017. Watch the first trailer here!

2. Justice League: So, the first official trailer for this dropped at Comic-Con, and I may or may not have seen that trailer 89 times. This movie brings us the iconic DC team to the big screen for the first time, and it’s going to be awesome. In the wake of Superman’s death, Bruce Wayne recruits a team of metahumans, including The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg, to stop a mysterious supervillain. The movie looks amazing and the trailer is riddled with fresh humor, and some cool group shots. This comes out on November 17, 2017. Enjoy it right here!

1. Star Wars: Episode VIII: It’s Star Wars! Episode VIII is the sequel to Force Awakens, and has a few questions to answer from the last movie. Plus, it has the return of Luke Skywalker and a hopefully well-handled farewell to Han Solo. Let’s hope it’s as good, if not better than Force Awakens. There haven’t been any official trailers, except this short clip of the end of Force Awakens, but I would check out Force Awakens again if you haven’t already!

Well, that’s my list, but what’s yours? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

La La Land- Movie Review

What is it about?                                                                                                                     Directed by Damien Chazelle, who did a great job with Whiplash, La La Land is a modern-day musical that goes back to the originals of the 40s and 50s. Set in Los Angeles, it is about Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz enthusiast that wants to start his own club, that fall in love. The movie’s about how they set out to achieve their dreams and how their romance gets involved in that.

How is it? 9.8/10                                                                                                                     La La Land is an excellent film, whether or not you like musicals, the director, or the stars. I’m not a fan of musicals…at all, and this movie had me tapping my toe at every song, laughing at the jokes, and appreciating the cinematography, acting, and soundtrack. La La Land delivers a joyous, whirling, whimsical, but realistic experience. And being set in L.A., and explores the struggles of being a dreamer, achieving your dreams, and the compromise that comes with it. It switches between fantastical musical sequences and real emotion perfectly to show this. Overall, it’s a really emotional, sweet movie, that’s even funny at times, and it has a satisfying, but bittersweet conclusion.                                                                                                                                         The Direction                                                                                                                  Damien Chazelle does a great job of incorporating music into this movie. He did it with Whiplash, which was about an aspiring drummer and his teacher, and he does it here, as he makes the music an integral part of this movie, both in a technical and story sense. Also, the cinematography here is spectacular, and looks beautiful. In huge musical sequences, it has wide, sweeping, seemingly one-take shots that capture the spinning, whimsical aspect of it. In addition, there’s great lighting in the movie.                                                                                       The “Musical” Aspect                                                                                               I’ve said this before, and I’m going to say it now: I don’t like musicals. But I loved every minute of this movie, including the musical aspect. Musicals don’t always transition to the singing sequence smoothly, but this movie does it seamlessly. This has realistic transitions that start and end organically, in moments where that sort of thing would actually happen. The first such sequence happens in the very first minute of the film, and is of people in L.A. sitting in painful traffic and all of a sudden burst into song: it’s a great sequence. The whirring, whizzing musical sequences capture the theme in the movie of having dreams, as characters joyfully burst out into song and dance, but we are soon faced with raw emotion: the downside of these dreams                                                                                                                                                     The Characters and Acting                                                                                 Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have really great chemistry in this movie. Onscreen, they are a great and very believable couple. They both display fantastic acting as a couple of struggling dreamers hitting a ton of obstacles along the way. Emma Stone, in particular, is amazing, and portrays her character and her emotions exceptionally. Ryan Gosling is actually pretty funny at times, which definitely adds to the film.                                                                                                                                                The Music                                                                                                                  La La Land has a really, really good soundtrack composed by Justin Herwitz. All of the songs have great lyrics that connect with the content of the movie really well. Their incorporation and placement in the film is also done really well.

Overall, La La Land is one of my Top 3 favorite movies of the year, with some great music, acting, and heart, and it brings back the dead genre of musicals in all the best ways.

Arrival- Movie Review

What is it about?                                                                                                                     Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve,  is about a linguist named Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), recruited by the government when aliens from another planet arrive at 12 locations around the world.  Working alongside her is physicist Ian Donnelly, and the two must figure out why the aliens came to Earth and try to establish a form of communication with them.

How is it? 9.25/10                                                                                                                          Arrival is an excellent movie, and one of my favorites of the year. There’s a lot to love about this movie, from its suspenseful direction to its compelling performances. Let’s talk about that first part. Denis Villeneuve manages to create an atmosphere that feels tense. There’s one scene in particular around the beginning of the movie in which Amy Adams and her team go into the spaceship, and you hear her heavy breathing. The audience feels pretty similar. The use of sound and beautiful cinematography here adds to the mood and makes you cling to your seat and sweat with the characters, anticipating the alien’s response to them. Now a lot of sci-fi movies these days are mainly just explosions. This movie does something else: it has you wait and creates more excitement through making you wait in silence behind a glass wall, rather than having said glass wall explode.                                                                                                                                           The score that I previously mentioned is also great, and it adds to the mystery and tension of the movie.

The characters                                                                                                                            Amy Adams delivers an Oscar-worthy performance in this movie, and above all, this movie is about her. Her character is exceptionally well-developed and progresses in many different ways throughout the film.                                                                                                                                              Jeremy Renner is also pretty good in his role of a physicist in this situation, and his character has some cool moments with Amy Adams.                                                                                                                                              Forest Whitaker, also, delivers a good performance as Colonel Weber, who recruits Banks and Donnelly, and his character has great scenes trying to compromise between peaceful Banks and the aggressive government.

The plot                                                                                                                                            Arrival has an extremely smart, clever, and even emotional plot. This plot does a great job of incorporating suspense, making this the sci-fi thriller it is.                                                                                                                          There is a huge twist in this movie that slowly unravels and you start to realize it more and more until it says it up front, although I can’t elaborate without going into spoilers. It plays with your mind and makes you truly believe something until it establishes the exact opposite.                                                                                                                                          One slight downfall, however, is that the movie is a bit tough to follow. That plot twist hit me a little late, and you really need to be paying attention during the movie.                                                                                 Another great thing about it is that it’s actually really emotional, which you don’t see from a typical sci-fi movie. It explores some meaningful themes and balances them with this emotion.                                   The movie also always stays compelling, and you always want to know what’s going to happen next, although many think the movie seems slow. While it may seem slow because the movie first introduces Adams, and shows the whole process in how her team communicates with the aliens, in terms of its story, it never wastes time, and establishes something new every shot. However, you shouldn’t go into it expecting a CGI-fest, explosions-laden, action thriller. Rather, this is a thoughtful sci-fi drama about its characters.

The visuals                                                                                                                                     Arrival, visually, looks spectacular. Whether it’s beautiful shots of the outside and inside of the alien ship or just some really good-looking scenery that definitely benefits the movie, it always has amazing visuals. It also has some great cinematography, and is shot very well.

In conclusion, Arrival is a fantastic movie, with great performances and an extremely clever and thoughtful story, making it one of 2016’s best.

Doctor Strange- SPOILER REVIEW

DISCLAIMERS–SPOILERS AHEAD!!!                                                                    

Just want to make this super clear, THIS IS A SPOILER REVIEW!!! If you haven’t seen Doctor Strange, go check it out, it’s a great movie, and you can read my SPOILER-FREE review right here!

Now, Doctor Strange: there are a LOT of things I love about this movie; after watching it a second time, besides the slightly familiar formula, there’s not much wrong with it. Doctor Strange hits the spot on all fronts, and following the formula even helps it, as it makes it a surefire box office, and at least moderate critical, success. Let’s talk about why…

This movie, above all, is just a lot of fun. Let’s start with the opening sequence. You open to a shot of Kamar-Taj, and the movie wastes no time getting to the (AWESOME) fight between the Ancient One and Kaecilius. Right off the bat, the movie establishes what the next two hours are going to be like, mind-bending, action-packed, fun. The fight also does a great job of showing the villain and his power and conflict with the Ancient One. Also, it carries those amazing special effects in that it uses the Inception-esqué city bending…technique, which we see later as well.

We cut to arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, and the scenes of him in the hospital show off his arrogance and brilliance simultaneously, which leads up to the visually pleasing car crash sequence. This is one of those times that sound actually matters in a movie. As soon as the Lamborghini hits another car, I still jump a little in my seat as the car topples of the highway at high-speed and crashes.

When Strange arrives in Kamar-Taj, we come across one of the sequence that makes this movie live up to its name. As soon as the Ancient One touches his forehead, we witness what makes this movie live up to its title as Strange travels through multiple kaleidoscopic dimensions, and one particularly entertaining one is the hands sprouting out of hands dimension. For eagle-eyed viewers, you see glimpses of Dormammu, which pays off later in the movie. Strange’s subsequent training sequence/second act is also fun, and boasts some humor as well (Yes, I’m talking about that Beyonce moment with Wong).

After the training sequence, the movie becomes more and more action-packed. The New York Sanctum battle is great, and the Cloak of Levitation proves itself as one of this movie’s best characters. Strange’s action and banter with Kaecilius is entertaining, and when Kaecilius describes the benefits of the Dark Realm, you see Strange (partially) convinced, which just proves Benedict Cumberbatch’s great acting. Then, his fight with one of Kaecilius’s zealots (played by Scott Adkins) is a lot of fun, with their movements affecting small things in the real world.

The New York battle truly shows off the Inception-inspired effects, but it improves…a lot. The fight in the Mirror Realm is REALLY cool, and the Ancient One coming in only improves it.

We then get an amazing, actually touching moment from the Ancient One that truly makes her an amazing character. She had already had some good, even funny moments with Strange earlier, but this one tops all. Tilda Swinton gives her all in this performance, and her chemistry with Cumberbatch is great. Her explaining of what she sees for Strange and how she saw her death earlier is one of the most touching scenes from a Marvel movie, which normally doesn’t happen.

Then, the SPECTACULAR Hong Kong battle. Strange’s use of the Eye of Agamotto is just…really cool, and it utilizes some great special effects. The way they incorporate action into that is even cooler. Watching Strange and Kaecilius fight stuck in time is definitely a lot of fun. Then, the same thing happens with Dormammu in probably my favorite scene. The defeat of Dormammu through a time loop is clever, to say the least, and shows that Strange uses his brains, rather than fighting. Also, it’s pretty funny to see Strange’s smug smile and Dormammu’s frustration at the time loop.

Benedict Cumberbatch, as I said in my spoiler-free review, is great, and his character is both well-developed and entertaining. He has wonderful chemistry with all of the cast members, leading up to some pretty funny parts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is also good as Mordo, as Benedict Wong is with Wong. Rachel McAdams’s character also delivers some fun scenes with Strange both early on and around the middle of the movie.

Overall, Doctor Strange is a truly amazing movie, and one of Marvel’s best, and it delivers on all fronts.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story- Movie Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or simply Rogue One, is the 8th addition in the Star Wars franchise, but falls between Episodes III and IV. Rogue One is about how and why the Rebels steal the plans for the Death Star, a weapon of mass destruction made by the Empire. It’s mainly about Jyn Erso, a criminal who’s father was integral to the building of the Death Star and she, along with a team, tries to steal the plans. If you haven’t seen any Star Wars movies before, don’t worry: all you need to know is this: the Empire is evil and building the Death Star, while the Rebels are good and fighting against them. However, there is a lot of awesome fan service that won’t make sense if you haven’t seen other Star Wars movies.

How is it? 8.7/10

Rogue One, overall, is spectacular. It is definitely one of my favorite Star Wars movies, and does so many things right, although it isn’t perfect.

The characters

Jyn Erso, played pretty well by Felicity Jones, is awesome! Her motivations become quite clear, and her character is pretty well developed.

Captain Cassian Andor, who recruits the team, has a pretty cool character, and he shows that the Rebels aren’t squeaky clean and have to make tough decisions, which adds previously unseen layers to them.

Andor’s reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO, is probably one of my, if not my favorite, character. He’s voiced by Alan Tudyk and is a more sarcastic, aggressive, and cold C-3PO. K2 is one of my favorite droids, and whether he’s making sarcastic comments to Jyn Erso or effortlessly knocking down Imperial Troops, he is awesome and hilarious.

Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior recruited by Andor is tied for my favorite character with K2. His character is shown believing in an ancient religion (the Force) in a dark time of war, which elevates him from just a guy with a cool fighting style that kicks more butt than anyone else. Baze Malbus, Chirrut’s friend is sort of just…there, and doesn’t do much except crack a couple of one-liners.

Bodhi Rook, an Imperial pilot that redeems himself, has a good character arc as he puts his life on the line for the rebels.

Orson Krennic, the main villain who was critical to the Death Star, has a character that does a pretty good job of feeling menacing. Darth Vader, one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, is there, but not for a long time–don’t expect any more than about 4 minutes of screen time for him, although he does have one AMAZING scene at the end, and quite possibly my favorite scene.

Finally, Saw Gerrara, a character from The Clone Wars is there, and delivers one cool scene, but he isn’t present much.

Another thing that Rogue One does really well is create a world that feels lived in, whether you see the attention to detail in a busy marketplace or a crowded temple.

The plot

Rogue One’s first act was a bit of a slog and was slow. We are introduced to characters like that, and we don’t really have time to take in the environment or characters we meet. A lot of them don’t really have a backstory either. And aside from one cool action sequence, it moves slowly and doesn’t cut to the chase quite then. The second act speeds up a little bit, but, wow, the third act is amazing. It adds a new level of intensity and war to Star Wars, and is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride with amazing action and visuals. It adds to the grit of Rogue One and makes it feel truly like a war movie.

The action and visual effects

Rogue One looks great. The visuals are nothing short of flawless, and although there is one CGI character that’s distracting, Rogue One knows how to capture the spectacle of a Star Wars movie. The space battles, especially in the third act, look like the best CGI we’ve seen yet, as well as the smaller, more gritty conflicts. The action as well, is amazing and it has plenty of time to show this off, as it is, at heart, a war movie. It’s thrilling, gritty, and even funny in all the best ways.

Overall, Rogue One is one of the best Star Wars movies that is definitely worth checking out.

 

 

 

Doctor Strange- Movie Review

What is it about?                                                                                                      Doctor Strange is the 14th movie in the MCU, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is based on the obscure comic character Dr. Strange. It follows the story of arrogant, but extremely successful neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange, portrayed excellently by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) , who loses his hands in a car crash. He tries all possible procedures to restore his hands, but ends up resorting to going to Kamar-Taj, a place in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he learns about a world of magic, sorcerers, alternative dimensions, time travel, and much more. Taught by “The Ancient One” (Tilda Swanton),  he also learns that this magical society faces the threat of Dark Dimension and evil sorcerer Kaecilius. Also assisting him are Karl Mordo, played by Chiwitel Ejiofor, and Wong, portrayed by Benedict Wong. He has to choose either to go back to his old life of success or stay and help fight the Dark Dimension.

How is it? 8.5/10                                                                                                                   The MCU has been on a hot streak, since it started and this movie does nothing to change that, maybe even landing in my Top 5. Doctor Strange is, above all,  a great movie. While it may seem similar to previous MCU entries, particularly Iron Man in that it takes an obscure comic book character, casts them with a well-known actor, and gives them a character arc of “arrogant and successful” to “humbled and superpowered”, it still feels fresh, new, exciting, and strange (no pun intended) in all the best ways. However, sometimes the familiarity bogs the movie down a little, as the story is really quite similar to the first Iron Man. It follows Marvel tropes, as the villain isn’t too well developed and the arrogant guy’s assistant becomes a love interest that helps him fight the bad guy. The brilliant score by Michael Giacchino, which definitely adds to the content of the movie is also good. You don’t need to have seen all the previous MCU films to understand this one, but it may pay out more with some references to other Marvel movies.

How are the acting and characters? 9/10                                                                   Doctor Strange boasts great performances from its entire cast, with Cumberbatch acting spectacularly as the title character. He captures the arrogance, but charisma of Strange perfectly. Strange has a great character arc, and it’s definitely fun seeing him be so humbled by the possibility of these amazing powers and worlds.  Also amazing in her role is Tilda Swanton as the Ancient One, and delivers an actually touching moment during the climax of the film, which you don’t always see in these kind of movies. Chiwitel Ejiofor is also awesome as cynical sorcerer Mordo, and Benedict Wong delivers both comic relief and, with Mordo, some serious butt-kicking. Sadly, Rachel McAdams doesn’t do much other than serve as a love interest for Strange and have a couple funny moments.

How is the action, special effects, and humor? 9/10                                            Doctor Strange has truly INSANE visuals, showing off the more magical and mystical element of the MCU, and a couple major set-pieces taking places in the Astral Realm, a place where your spirit is separated from your body, but I won’t give away too much. Let’s just say that this is worth the 3D, or even IMAX 3D ticket, and has jaw-dropping special effects, truly feeling like the $165 million blockbuster it is. Its action coasts off these effects, providing us with something different from the punch-happy fights of previous Marvel movies, but doesn’t go too far from the norm. This action is present throughout the movie, with the opening being one of these kinetic sequences. Finally, the movie has plentiful humor throughout, which always hits and never misses. And the comic relief isn’t just provided by a single character, with each character having their own moment.

Overall, Doctor Strange is a spectacular movie, with amazing visuals, awesome action, irreverent humor, great performances, and interesting characters.