The Great Wall Movie Review

Despite what Wikipedia says, the Chinese apparently built the Great Wall because of dragon-type monsters…

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Directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero and House of Flying Daggers), this movie stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Andy Lau, and Pedro Pascal.

Set in the Song dynasty, the movie revolves around William (Damon), a European mercenary who stumbles upon the Great Wall in search of blackpowder. In the Great Wall, he and fellow mercenary Pero Tovar (Pascal) witness a centuries-long battle between man and monsters.

One of the great things about this movie is the chemistry between Damon and Pascal. It really felt like that their characters know each other for a very long time. Pascal provided an incredible amount of humor.

As expected from the director of Hero, the action sequences were also good, especially the first half of the movie. To me, it is like watching The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies because the movie is just one big mega-fight.

Costume design is a bit of a mixed bag here. For one thing, they are visually appealing. Each troop has their own color designation, and each armor is well-crafted. On the other hand, I just can’t help thinking about how historically inaccurate the armors are. There is this one shot where they all look like Ancient Chinese Power Rangers.

And then we look at the casting choice and character development… William’s character is really just another one of those white men who can miraculously save an ethnic group. Though the director claims that it has the most number of Chinese actors in a film of such a scale, it cannot ignore the fact the the Eurpean characters have more character development, more intrigue, and conflict.

Furthermore, the story was executed very simply (or lazily…). There were no surprises because every scene that follows is exactly how you picture it. It is simply a generic monster fantasy.

Lastly, common sense seems to be thrown out! Why use gymnast women with spears when you already have cannon, gunpowder, and a revolving blade?!

The Great Wall is a generic monster movie. Despite the chemistry between its actors and some of its the action sequences, this movie is…

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Split Film Review

MIRACLES CAN HAPPEN! SHYAMALAN HAS REDEEMED HIMSELF!

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It is official… Director M. Night Shyamalan has found his redemption in the form of Split. Two years ago, his film, The Visit, gave us a hint that he is returning to form, but there was something missing. He finally got his mojo back and delivered us this gem.

Kevin (James McAvoy) kidnaps three teenagers, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), and Marcia (Jessica Sula). All hope to persuade Kevin dissolves when the three teenagers discover that he suffers from dissociative identity disorder. In his case, he possesses 23 unique personalities. A 24th one, known as The Beast, will soon emerge and plans to devour them. Meanwhile, Kevin regularly visits his psychiatrist (Betty Buckley) to assure her nothing is wrong.

The trinity of this film, McAvoy, Taylor-Joy, and Buckley, delivered very well. Buckley’s character reminds me a lot of Dr. Sam Loomis of the Halloween franchise. They’re both well-known psychiatrist trying to guide and find cure to their respective patients. Taylor-Joy’s performance shows such frailty and control at the same time. And McAvoy is simply phenomenal in this film. Those little gestures and body movements make all personalities truly seem like different people. When he is “Hedwig”, he is really a child who never kissed a girl before. When he is “Dennis”, he is really a controlling person with OCD.

The film manages to give this sense of claustrophobia and dread. You will feel like you are one of the captives. The music provided by West Dylan Thordson captures the sense of helplessness and fear the teenagers feel during the duration of their capture.

MINI-SPOILER ALERT

AND THE ENDING! That ending blew my mind! It opens endless possibilities to the world of Shyamalan movies. The beauty of it is that Shyamalan knows that the general public is looking for a plot twist. The film does not have one! Yeah, sure there is one big impending doom that is The Beast, but it was given in the trailers already. The ending simply takes everything into a new plane of narrative.

However, that ending might only be understood by people familiar with Shyamalan’s early work. In fact, I was the only one who marked out when the ending was revealed.

Split is one of the best Shyamalan films and definitely the best in his line of work for the past ten years. With its chilling music, claustrophobic environment and cinematography, amazing and engaging performances from McAvoy and Taylor-Joy, and an ending no one expected at all, this film is definitely…

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XXX: The Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

After a 12 year-absence and ignorance of a deleted scene in its 2005 sequel, Xander Cage is back!

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Directed by D.J. Caruso (I am Number Four), this film marks the … well … return of Xander Cage, Vin Diesel’s character in the first movie (2002).

After years of self-exile, extreme sports enthusiast Xander Cage is hired by the NSA to retrieve the Pandora’s Box, a device that will allow the owner total access to military satellites. Meanwhile, Xian (Donnie Yen), a dangerous man whose motives are unknown, leads a team of similarly dangerous people to also retrieve the device.

This movie does not take itself seriously. Let that sink in before you watch it. It does not pretend to be this James Bond/Jason Bourne level of entertainment. It’s more of a parody as the film goes on. Considering the camp and over the top action, one may look and wonder if this is a spin-off of The Fast and the Furious franchise (the latter movies).

First off, this movie only has one goal in mind: show how awesome Xander Cage is. Most movies have that goal, but what sets this movie apart is how they do it. Either this is a tribute/parody of 80s and 90s spy movies or this is a big massage of the main star’s ego. There is literally nothing that hinders Xander Cage. Nothing! He simply breezes through anything. Then a scene later, someone comments how much of a badass he is. Stop telling us how badass he is; just show us! But when the moment Cage does his thing, it’s obviously a stuntman. It’s like that Deadpool deleted scene (“My stuntman will f*ck you up!”). Same thing goes to most of the spies and agents in this movie. “Look what I can do!” is a line removed in this movie.

And the acting! THE ACTING! Toni Collette portrays Jane Marke, Cage’s new NSA employer and my absolute most hated character in a movie ever. I have seen grade school acting better than this. Nina Dobrev portrays Becky, a very annoying yet pretty tech NSA agent. Why do you have to be so annoying? It does not do anything to the plot other than… oh my lord… TELL ME HOW AWESOME XANDER CAGE IS!

The action sequences are decent though, especially the fight scenes. This is to be expected considering martial artists Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, and Michael Bisping are in the cast. Such a shame, though, that Tony Jaa was not given much spotlight.

Donnie Yen stole every scene he is in. He oozes with such energy and charisma. It is a pity he serves second fiddle in this movie.

This is my first entry to my Guilty Pleasures of 2017.

Because of its insistence to show how cool their characters are, the horrible acting of its supporting actors, and its co-star outshining the main star, This film is definitely…

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La La Land Film Review

There was a time when musicals ruled Hollywood. This film reminds us of the greatness of that era.

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Director Damien Chazelle, who gave us 2014’s Whiplash, one of the greatest films of that year, now gives us another music-heavy film with a lot of comedy, drama, nostalgia, and of course a great soundtrack.

The film centers around the relationship between Mia (Emma Stone), a barista by day and struggling artist by day and night, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who dreams to own a club. Conflicts rise when they realize that to achieve a successful future means to sacrifice precious things in the present.

Holy nostalgia! I love this film! Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Donald O’Connor would be proud. The title sequence itself is a big shout-out to the musical of the 40s and 50s (or the entire genre in general). The film felt like a treasure hidden from a time capsule from an era almost forgotten… a time when the actors should really have talent! The Epilogue scene reminds of The Broadway Melody Ballet featured in Singin’ in the Rain.

SPOILER ALERT!

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have such great chemistry together. One feels the relationship build and crumble as the film progresses. We love it when they achieve the smallest success, and we empathize when they stumble on obstacles.

Of course, the third character of the film is its soundtrack/music. It’s quite rare for a modern musical to transition itself from a dialogue-scene to a singing-scene. And the fact that it manages to hook such an emotion from the viewers… Mia and Sebastian’s Theme, anyone?

And the great thing about La La Land is that it does not shy away from the harsh realities of life. There is no “Everything Will Turn Out Right” button. We choose what happens to us. We are responsible to our lives. You want to achieve your dream? There’s a price, and it’s not cheap.

La La Land hits all the notes. Just like Sebastian’s passionate speech about jazz, it is only by watching, listening, and digesting this film can one truly experience its greatness. This film is definitely…

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Extra Service Movie Review

Like the characters of this movie, I have a mission… To clean my eyes after watching this…

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Chris Martinez, director of the Kimmy Dora prequel and the Babae sa Septic Tank sequel, gives us an action-comedy film that was neither exhilarating nor funny.

Three ex-convicts, Aw (Arci Muñoz), Em (Coleen Garcia), and Gee (Jessy Mendiola), are recruited by FOTA, the Filipino Organization of Top Agents (a word play on the Filipino word for bitch). In exchange  to retrieve the 3 missing pearls (AKA Perlas ng Silangan).

If they hired Muñoz, Garcia, and Mendiola because of their looks and sex appeal, then they achieved that. In the course of the movie, they have a lot of costume changes that accentuate their curves. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of eye candy scenes.

And that is where the positives end…

AwEmGee! So much cringe was given the day I watched this movie. Let’s start with the genre. According to its Wikipidea page, this is supposed to be an action-comedy movie. Both the action and the comedy failed at delivering anything substantial.

The action sequences and the fight scenes are absolutely laughable. It is quite clear a number of the fight scenes are probably rehearsed once (or never). Every punch and kick has no power. The explosion in the climax did not present any danger because it was extremely unrealistic and had horrible VFX.

The humor was completely absent. One of the big reasons is the characters deliver the punchline with such emphasis the only thing missing is a big neon sign saying “That’s the punchline!”.

Also, the way the characters are portrayed… Just like the color designations of each main character, the characters in this movie are very one-dimensional. Each character was given only one adjective to work with, and the result is one caricature after another. The frustrating thing about all of this is that we have seen the actors’ ability to actually act in a different show/movie.

Extra Service provided no laughs, laughable action, and three gorgeous actresses who deserve better than this. This movie is really…

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Sing Film Review

The director of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the production company that gave us The Secret Life of Pets combine forces for an animated musical. This is a “hit or miss” situation.

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Let’s face it. The Secret Life of Pets, another 2016 animated animal-based movie from Illumination Entertainment, was ultimately disappointing. So when Sing premiered, one might have the notion that it would be just another kids movie. Fortunately, that is not the case.

Realizing his theater is on the verge of foreclosure, optimistic  Buster Moon the Koala (Matthew McConaughey) starts a singing competition and promises $100 000 to the winner. Dozens of animals auditioned, including pigs Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and Gunter (Nick Kroll), self-centered Mike the Rat (Seth MacFarlene), rocker Ash the Porcupine (Scarlett Johansson), shy Meena the Elephant (Tori Kelly), and reluctant criminal Johnny the Gorilla (Taron Egerton). There is only one problem with the competition… there is no $100 000!

It is just so nice to hear these actors… well … sing! MacFarlene has regularly shown us his singing chops in Family Guy; Johansson, Egerton, and Witherspoon teased us in 2016’s Jungle Book, Eddie the Eagle, and 2005’s Walk the Line, respectively; and Kelly is an American Idol alumnus. Because of the expected (and surprising) singing talent, the climax of the film delivered in all levels.

Also, each character’s personal narrative was given enough screen time to let us know them. These are not just a bunch of individuals grouped together just to sing. They have separate lives, and the singing competition added (or removed) something to it.

The visuals and character designs were stunning. The squid scenes, for example, burst with colors!

The only negative thing I can think about this film is that it is a story we have seen countless times, conflicts we have seen over and over again, and resolutions that have become a cliche. But the film managed to be a feel-good one, and everything enters the Entertaining Zone once the music starts hitting.

Sing delivered what is expected from a musical. Despite having an overdone story, it has such a superb voice-acting and singing from its cast, colorful visuals, and laughs the entire family will enjoy. Because of this, this is definitely a…

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Passengers Film Review

Jennifer Lawrence as your only companion in space? SIGN ME UP!

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After the commercial and critical success of 2014’s The Imitation Game, director Morten Tyldum enters the sci-fi genre with Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.

In the deep void of space, Jim Preston (Pratt), a passenger of the space ship Avalon, prematurely wakes up from hibernation and finds himself the only man awake in the ship. Months later, he meets Aurora Lane (Lawrence), the only female passenger awake. Meanwhile, something causes the entire ship to malfunction.

The first act of the film gives us “Cast Away in Space”. Christ Pratt delivered enough emotion to convey the fear of being alone. The scene where he hugged a space suit showed how companionship is a vital element in a person’s life. This explains the need for one of the film’s biggest plot point (and one that is arguably wrong to do).

The addition of Jennifer Lawrence to the story may be due to her Hollywood appeal and the fact that she is hot right now. However, one might wonder if “50 Girls 50” is better than “Cast Away in Space”. There was so much potential for an “I am alone” space movie, but I guess filmmakers needed to gross more money, so they added J. Law. But it does not change the fact that J. Law. delivered in this film.When Pratt conveys doomed acceptance, Lawrence conveys fear of the inevitable.

The visual effects of the film served its purpose both as a visual marvel and a nonparticipating companion to Jim.

My biggest concern in Passengers is its linear plot. If one omits or rearrange certain plot points/acts, the film would have been a lot more interesting. Plot twists and big reveals would have felt more impactful. Because of its linear plot, the film felt like a passable movie. Scenes that were supposed to feel big felt less than it should have been.

Passengers has amazing visuals, good chemistry between characters (though it may be weird when one considers its narrative origins), and a potential that was sadly not utilized well due to the filmmakers decision to present it in a manner that was done a lot of times. Because of that Passengers is…

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Assassin’s Creed Movie Review

For almost 2.5 decades, video game-based movies have been greatly disappointing. Will this be different?

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Well, the short answer is no.

Director Justin Kurzel and the entire crew behind this movie failed to capture the spirit of the game its based on. The reason? A heavy reliance on CGI and too much setup for a sequel that will not anymore see the light of day.

The movie revolves around Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender). Abstergo Foundation, a modern day Templar front, captured him to relive his ancestor’s memories through the use of a machine called the Animus. Through the orders of Alan Rikkin and Sophia Rikkin, Callum journeys through his ancestor’s past as an Assassin. The Rikkins’ goal is to acquire the Apple of Eden, a relic that contains the genetic code for free will. Through the exposure of the Animus Project, however, Callum learns of secrets that will shape his future…and also that of the world’s.

Everything does not feel right with this movie. Since the game franchise has such rich mythos and lore, one would think the filmmakers would give the viewers enough time to soak it in. But no! A lot of things happened way too fast, but the viewers barely had enough time to digest anything.

It shows in the basic execution of the narrative, and it is still present in the action sequences. Obviously, great stuntwork has been used, but the filmmakers opted to utilize such flimsy camerawork.

Even the character motivations are rushed. One moment Callum does not care about his heritage; the next, he is a proud Assassin… with little to no moment to show the transition. The same goes for Sophia’s character.

Lastly, after the disappointing film it presented, it assumes we wanted a sequel (as the last scene teased us).

Assassin’s Creed destroyed the hopes and dreams of gamers who want to see a good video game-based film. Sadly, with its use of camera work, sloppy pacing, and horrible switches in character motivations, this movie is definitely…

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Seklusyon Film Review

Only director Erik Matti can turn an innocent young girl into a manipulative demon.

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Erik Matti directs yet another horror film in his repertoire. This time, it is about 4 deacons undergoing a 7-day retreat in the 1940s. Everything went haywire when a young girl named Anghela (Rhed Bustamante) and a nun (Phoebe Walker) joined the deacons in their … seclusion (ahem).

SPOILER ALERT

One of the great things about this film is how it makes you aware of your inner demons. In most horror films/movies, monsters, serial killers, and demons are the common antagonists. In Seklusyon, the deacons’ faith and willpower are tested everyday. Yes, there was a demonic intervention, but the real enemy here is the monsters hidden in the characters (much like in real life). Each deacon tries to battle these dark pasts, and they unfortunately cling to an entity with malicious intent.

Comparing it with the other entries in the MMFF, this film obviously has better cinematography and sound design. It simply looks professionally done!

The standout of this film is of course child actress Rhed Bustamante, who portrays Anghela. Her back and forth performance as an innocent child and a manipulative demon is fun to watch.

However, Ronnie Alonte, who portrayed the central character Miguel the Deacon, is a different story. 2016 was his first acting role in movies (Vince, Kath, and James was the other one). I guess he is just adjusting? The other three deacons seem to be hollow characters because all you need to know about them is just one thing (Lover Runner + No Mama No + Cookie Monster + Baby Bear = The Four Deacons).

Also, one of the rules the film introduced at the start of the film was completely forgotten or ignored in its climax. This made the primary antagonist too overpowered and unstoppable…

And the biggest downer I had with this film is that… it was not scary as I thought it would be. There is a lot of potential for its psychological horror vibe, but it was simply not that scary enough. One might feel uneasy watching Anghela spew black ooze out of her mouth… Or witness the crumbling of the deacons’ faith… But the fear factor is at a low.

Seklusyon is a well-shot horror film that is directed by a renowned director of the genre, however its lack of fear inducing scenes and ignorance of the rules it established make this only…

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