Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 Film Review

In just two films, the GotG franchise has achieved what The Fast and the Furious has lazily attempted in eight: showcasing the value of family.

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Director James Gunn attempts to recapture the surprising success of the first GotG film.  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, and Dave Bautista return as the core members, while Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, and Pom Klementieff join in on the action.

After their victory against Ronan the Accuser, the Guardians of the Galaxy gained fame all around the…galaxy. After a conflict against the Sovereign, the Guardians meets the father of Peter Quill (Pratt), Ego the Living Planet (Russell), who has Mantis (Klementieff) as servant/company. As father and son bond for the first time in three decades, the rest of the Guardians discover something sinister in the shadows…

The very first scene of the film reminded me of the unsung character of the previous film: the soundtrack. As expected, the soundtrack of the film is fantastic. Most of the time, it is very retro, but very emotional in a few (more to that later).

James Gunn managed to juggle an ensemble of characters again. Each character had a time to shine (much more in a positive light compared to the first one). Further backstories were given to Gamora (Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax (Bautista), and Rocket (Cooper). I personally like the Drax-Mantis chemistry in the film. Most of the jokes I like were from scenes harnessing the energy of that tandem.

But without a doubt, the scene stealer of the film is Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker). The character went such a huge development that his very first scene immediately made me watch him intensely. His relationship with Peter went deeper in this film.

Visually, GotG2 is one of the most colorful in the MCU franchise. It is vibrant to watch, and each world/ environment is designed well.

Also, the typical Marvel humor is present. I mean, if you need to show someone the typical Marvel humor, show GotG.

SPOILER ALERT

As written in the intro, GotG2 managed to tug at my heartstrings with the theme on fatherhood. Quill explores his relationship with his two dads: the biological (Ego) and the father figure (Yondu). And each relationship is both tragic when you think about it.

For me, this is the most emotionally gripping film in the entire MCU franchise…A surprise considering the negative comment I have for it…

However, it seems that the film sacrificed simple story structure to make room for the Marvel humor. The film had no BIG conflict until its last 30 minutes. Everything is just a series of unfortunate events that leads to the Guardians meeting Ego. Most of the action sequences are caused by the sub-plots that are scattered in the film. Let me be clear. It is funny and entertaining! But looking at it in an objective perspective takes a lot away…

Also, it infuriates me to see a few scenes with obvious green screen use. This is a BIG budget film, by the way.

Though the space/sky battles are good, the hand-to-hand action scenes are still too choppy. Every piece of movement gets cut! It makes it so hard to follow the action. HOLLYWOOD, learn from your Eastern brothers!

And another (though it’s super nitpick), the character of Adam Warlock is teased in a post-credit scene, but it totally ignores a former tease of the same character in Thor: The Dark World.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a fun and emotional ride but lacks the decent structure of its predecessor. Add the same problems it had in its first run (fight scenes). This film is…

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Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Scarlett Johansson in a skin-tight tactical suit… That’s a pretty good marketing strategy.

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Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman). Since its announcement, much criticism was given to the casting of Scarlett Johansson as The Major. Whether or not the movie will be better if a Japanese actress is cast is anyone’s guess. Here is my review of Ghost in the Shell.

The Major (Johansson) is a cyborg counter-terrorist who/that was saved by and works for Hanka, a private robotics organization with ties to the government. Though her memories from her life before being The Major is blurred, she regularly sees visions of her childhood. In her recent cybercrime case, she meets another cyborg, Kuze (Michael Pitt), who aims to destroy Hanka … and holds the secret to The Major’s past.

Let it be clear that artistic license was obviously used in this movie. The casting does not bother me at all. What matters is the story and how it was delivered.

Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and The Major’s chemistry is well shown in the movie. Their interactions show deep concern and friendship.  Also, The Major’s relationship with her de-facto mother, Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche), provides another good relationship in the movie.

The visuals are stunning! From the robot geishas to the city itself, the CGI helped greatly in building the world of GitS.

Scarlett Johansson’s performance as The Major is a bit of a debate in my mind. It reminds me so much of her performance in 2014 Lucy, and I never liked that movie. But then again, her movement is robotic, and it is kinda obvious why she would act that way.

The fascinating thing about GitS is that it has a great story and characters (just look at the anime), but its greatest blunder is its execution.

The movie feels extremely slow. Half of the time, I find myself demanding the movie to pick up the pace. Scenes that should have shown great character development feels so dull because of the way it is revealed or shown.

The soundtrack may have helped in giving this slow-paced movie a much slower feel.

Ghost in the Shell has great potential. Though it may have an A-list lead and stunning visuals, it fails to deliver a well-paced and engaging story. Sadly, this is…

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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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Rogue One Film Review

A spin-off prequel better than the prequel trilogy.

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Do you remember that opening crawl from Episode 4: A New Hope (1977)? Director Gareth Edwards and his writers managed to make a movie out of it. Is this really a necessary movie to make? With rumors circulating about other spin-offs focusing on Han Solo and Boba Fett, the Star Wars franchise seems to be in a brink of “Milking the Cow” Syndrome. However, as you may have noticed in my intro, for now, that is not the case.

Starring Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Casian Andor), and Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), Rogue One is about a group of Rebels (mostly) undergoing a mission to take the blueprints of the Death Star, a space station with enough firepower to destroy an entire planet.

The film features a dirtier, more grounded, fresh take on the series. After 7 films in the series, cartoons appearing out of nowhere, and multiple other media, one might think Star Wars has told it all.

The first act of the film was pretty slow, especially the Saw Gerrera part. However, that seems to be an necessary evil because it helps us learn more about Jyn’s backstory. Once the 2nd act starts, everything went great.

One of the biggest pressures of Rogue One that it is a Star Wars movie. It has come to a point that everything Star Wars (especially in the silver screen) has huge expectations. It’s a matter of “hit or miss”. Fortunately, Rogue One hits the good notes.

Right off the bat, audiences see that there is no opening crawl at the start of the film. This represents the movie’s departure from the two trilogies. Even the music is different. Eventhough there are cameos and references regarding the other Star Wars films, Rogue One manages to have its own identity.

The cast did their jobs well. Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe) and Alan Tudyk (K2SO) are the scene stealers of the show. Yen’s physicality and Tudyk’s voice work breathes life to an already energetic story. Another wonderful thing the film did is to show that the two sides (the Empire and the Rebellion) are not as easy as black and white. Director Krennic’s motivation to lead the Death Star project is relatable, and Andor’s actions as a Rebel are questionable at times.

Rogue One is a masterpiece. With its well-built characters, rich mythos,  and proper connection to both Star Wars trilogies, this film is definitely…

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