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.