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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Kong: Skull Island Film Review

King Kong is sick and tired of these stupid @$$ humans in his stupid @$$ island!

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Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Kong: Skull Island is the second installment in Legendary and Warner Bros’ MonsterVerse, a cinematic universe where Godzilla, King Kong, and other kaijus exist. With an ensemble cast featuring Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly, this film features the second monster in the upcoming 2020 showdown.

Monarch senior official Bill Rana (Goodman) hires tracker James Conrad (Hiddleston), photographer Mason Weaver (Larson), and a helicopter squadron led by Preston Packard (Jackson) to journey to the mysterious Skull Island, a place where gargantuan monsters live. One big problem though… Only Rana knows about the monsters part…

The biggest (get it?) positive I can give to this movie is the action sequences whenever King Kong is on screen. You can truly feel the aggression and the ferocity of each blow and stomp. King Kong is menacing!

Do you know who else is menacing in this film? Samuel L. Jackson! The moment he locked eyes with Kong is one of the best scenes in the film. His character slowly loses his rational thinking and, much like Moby Dick‘s Captain Ahab, falls to a state of insanity and obsession.

The way the human characters get picked on one by one is also a pretty sight. A new set of monsters means a new way to die. However, it was predictable when it will happen. After the first two deaths, the film gave us a pattern that tells us it is about to happen.

The monster designs do not seem original. Of course, I’m not talking about Kong. The big bad monster looks like the creatures chasing you in Temple Run.

I can’t help but compare Kong to 2014 Godzilla. One of my biggest issue with Kong is that he does not feel that big. Perhaps, it is due to the way his scenes were shot. True, most of Kong’s shots were beside a mountain, but there’s something different in Godzilla‘s cinematography which makes it feel like you’re really looking at the King of Monsters.

Also, it is quite a waste not to use Toby Kebbell as the mo-cap actor for Kong. To use him as Packard’s second in command could have been okay, but the film decided he’s just a random cannon fodder to the Skullcrawlers.

The main cast, for most of the film’s run, stayed the same. There was no big character changing moment for them. Conrad and Weaver may have decided to protect Kong at the end, but they already had doubts and questions since the mission briefing.

Kong: Skull Island is an enjoyable film with awesome King Kong scenes and good action. Also, that post-credit scene had me sold on the MonsterVerse franchise. However, it suffers from predictability and lack of character development. Therefore, this is…

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Saban’s Power Rangers Movie Review

The colorful gang of teenage superheroes returns after 22 years since the first movie.

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After almost two decades since its conception, the Power Rangers franchise aims to relive its glory days in the form of a reboot.However, since its announcement, its biggest opponent is ironically the extremely heavy nostalgia fans of the original have.

The story follows the typical Power Rangers plot. A group of five teenagers (with real attitude) are recruited to be trained as the next generation of Power Rangers, an intergalactic force assigned to protect the Zeo Crystals. However, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), the rogue Green Ranger of the previous generation, aims to steal the Zeo Crystals for her own nefarious reasons.

A movie about a group of teenagers, whether or not it is a CGI fest or an indie, relies heavily on the chemistry among the characters. I had doubts at the start of the movie because the reason why they all met is such a fortunate coincidence. But as the story progresses, the group starts to be organic, which is one of the main reasons why the original MMPR worked so well.

Bryan Cranston as Zordon is a big gift for Power Rangers fans. Cranston used to do voice work as some of the monsters in MMPR. Apha 5 (Bill Hader) is not as annoying as I remember (haha); however, I still need to adjust to his new design. Rita Repulsa is more vicious as ever! Off-screen murder and a jaw attached to her staff made me realize this will not be that cheesy Rita.

The moment when the Zords are charging to Rita’s location just gave me such an energetic fanboy moment. The original Power Rangers theme will always have a place in my heart.

I’m having a on-again/off-again relationship with the movie’s soundtrack. There are some moments were the music does not fit the scene; there are some moments where it’s just perfect (Bootstraps’ Stand By Me).

The fight scenes were shot too close and in shaky cam. It’s too hard to focus on the action if the movie itself won’t focus on it. The scene where they fight Rita’s putty monsters lost the grand scale it should have because the cameras focused on the Rangers rather than the situation they are in.

Also, the fight between the MegaZord and Goldar felt nearly nothing. Sure, the “Zords Combine to make Megazord” shot is awesome, but the fight itself feels extremely slow. I believe the filmmakers took their cue on Pacific Rim, but the way it was delivered was painful. (SPOILER) add the fact that Goldar was mainly defeated because of a German Suplex….

Lastly, it pains me to see that what should have been a normal Krispy Kreme product placement turned into a pivotal part of the plot. During the climax, when one of the Rangers commanded to never let Goldar reach Krispy Kreme, I absolutely cringed.

Power Rangers is a film built on nostalgia but has managed to present something new. Despite its stars’ chemistry and amazing costume designs, the film is loaded with problems in its action sequences and a blatant product placement. This is …

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Beauty and the Beast Film Review

Disney continues to pull the “Let’s Make It Live-Action” lever…

This time, it’s one of the films of the Disney Renaissance in the 90s.

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After Alice in WonderlandCinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book, Disney hires director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls, and …strangely… the last two Twilight movies) to helm the live-action remake of the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast. With an ensemble featuring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in starring roles and Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, and Ian McKellen in supporting roles, the 2017 version has a lot to live up to from its 1991 older brother.

The film follows 90% of the 1991 film. Honestly, I won’t tell it anymore because the story is such a classic.

One of the things I like about the film is that it added/fixed some plot questions/blunders/scenes from the original 1991 version. How come the villagers have no idea of their former rulers? Why are the pieces of furniture still friendly to Beast? LeFou’s character development is a welcome addition. Whether or not his sexuality affected his character arc/film itself is not important (at least for me). Also, the addition of his line in The Mob Song just made both LeFou and the song better.

Of course, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens gave their all. Emma Watson is truly a beauty in this film (you know… Belle), and Dan Stevens managed to give us a voice that is almost similar to the 1991 version (credits to the post-production team too). The chemistry between the two is very evident. The tandem of Lumiere and Cogsworth (Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen, respectively) feels so natural.

The songs were phenomenal as well. As I said, this remake will be heavily compared to its 1991 version, which won multiple awards (ie. songs and score). New lines were added; new songs were introduced. All of it went seamlessly, and we are lucky to listen.

I have three issues with the film though. First, there are some scenes which the green screen is VERY obvious. It takes away the magic of the moment. Second, the character of Agathe the Enchantress (Hattioe Morahan) is really unnecessary. I mean, obviously the first scene is important, but the rest of her scenes can be removed and it would not affect the plot at all. Lastly, the fight between Gaston (Luke Evans) and Beast was better in the 1991 version. The 2017 fight was too short and did not feel personal at all. In the 1991 version, you feel Gaston digesting every moment he bludgeons Beast. 2017 Gaston using a gun doesn’t work for me. When you saw 1991 Gaston stab Beast deeply, you truly feel his obsession.

Beauty and the Beast captured the essence of the 1991 original. It has great performances from all of the cast, but it is simply a live-adaptation remake of a 1991 animated film that is debatably better. So… this film is…

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Get Out Film Poster

A satirical horror film made by the great comedian Jordan Peele.

Wait… what?!

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Jordan Peele makes his directorial debut in Get Out. Anyone who is familiar with Peele’s work knows him as this funny comedian who works with his usual partner Keegan-Michael Key in Comedy Central. But then, to everyone’s surprise and confusion, Peele’s first film is that of horror.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man (or is it African-American), reluctantly agrees to his girlfriend’s wishes: to meet her completely white family for the first time. As Chris and Rose the Girlfriend (Allison Williams), arrive to the Armitage family residence, he immediately felt a certain level of uneasiness towards Rose’ parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) and the family black servants (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel). He turns out to be right as soon as he uncovers the family’s dark secret/agenda.

Daniel Kaluuya’s acting shows the slow realization of the situation his character is in. From the moment he was being hypnotized to the moment he realized he cannot leave the residence, his expressions show extreme helplessness.

Speaking of expressions, this film is a perfect example of how micro-expressions show the deeper personality of people. You can see it especially when Rose’ parents talk to Chris. You can see it when the old white people are talking to Chris.

Also, the soundtrack of this film is very effective. The chills of the scene gets added by the music created by Michael Abels.

My only complaint/not-so complaint to the film is that it is a slowburn. At only 1:40 hours, the film feels really slow at times. However, each scene is important to the plot and allows the big payoff at the end to be more satisfying.

Get Out is a film that explores racism in a horror setting. That is quite a unique experience as I have never seen a horror movie that has racism as a pivotal part of the plot. This is certainly…

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Hacksaw Ridge Film Review

If there’s something Mel Gibson proved in The Passion of the Christ and Hacksaw Ridge, it’s that he can make masterpieces with blood and gore.

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Director Mel Gibson delivers yet another war film filled with intense action and and a lot of people dying.

At the outbreak of World War II, conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Garfield), enlists in the army as a combat medic, much to the disappointment of his father (Hugo Weaving). During the course (ahem) of his training and even that of the war, many of Doss’ co-soldiers (platoonmates? squadmates? I don’t know the term) and senior officers think of him as a huge liability. His faith and strong beliefs are tested as his division is assigned to take over the Maeda Escarpment/Hacksaw Ridge.

What I really like about this film is how it builds up to the brutal and high-octane second part. It might be too much for some audience, but the film shows war in its true state: nothing but carnage and mayhem. Beautifully choreographed and well-shot scenes of metal slugs bursting through anyone.

Garfield’s character, Desmond, attempts to patch it all up, literally and metaphorically as he mentioned in the trial scene. This is Andrew Garfield’s best acting yet. He has escaped the Spiderman’s shadow.

Hugo Weaving is amazing as a troubled WWI veteran and father of Doss. One scene he is an abusive husband; the next, he is a dad to the rescue. Through him, we see what Doss could have been if he let the war engulf him.

And that is what I like the best about this film. Doss’ belief of no killing and no guns is shown in such a way that we understand his reasons and we obviously understand his superiors’ annoyance of it. Is he a zealot or is he just stubborn? In the face of Armageddon, is it okay to let go of your morals and beliefs?

His relationship with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) is also a very integral part of the film. In his most vulnerable state, he clings to his love of Dorothy to help him stick to his beliefs.

The last scene which features real interviews from Doss and other people in the war made me tear up a little. His life story reminded me of another WWII hero, Audie Murphy.

Hacksaw Ridge has amazing everything: cast, story, cinematography, action, and drama. I enjoyed every bit of it. Because of this, I truly believe this is…

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Logan Film Review

Tears fall as the X-Men film universe says goodbye to Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman.

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Director James Mangold (Knight and Day and The Wolverine) teams up with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in what could possibly be one of the highlights of the X-Men franchise. As the last X-Men film for both Jackman and Stewart, Logan should be viewed whether or not it is good.

In 2029, Logan (Jackman), whose healing factor has greatly declined, now works as a chauffeur, lives with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and takes care of a senile Professor X (Stewart). Soon, they meet Laura (Dafne Keen), a mysterious girl with a blatant similarity with Logan. They soon find themselves on the run and protecting Laura from a group of mercenaries known as the Reavers, led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).

Hugh Jackman goes all out in this film. This is definitely his best Wolverine film and his best portrayal of the character. You really feel the toll of his weakened healing factor. His walk is limp; his body is bruised and scarred; his face is definitely rugged. Logan has seen and experienced a lot… and most of it is bad.

The same goes for Charles Xavier. He really looks vulnerable.He has a hard time speaking. He regularly experiences seizures. He really looks old.

In fact, they both look old! It’s such a painful sight to see these two beloved characters in such a dilapidated state.

Meanwhile, Dafne Keen is surprisingly amazing as Laura. She expressed both innocence and ferocity in her scenes. She had more character development than a lot of characters in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

The action sequences and fight scenes are brutal in its execution, and it truly deserves its R rating. For the first time after 17 years, we finally get to see what Wolverine does best: slicing and dicing.

The tone of the film is obviously different compared to the rest of the X-Men movies. It doesn’t follow your typical superhero story.

However, the film suffers from the same sickness the Marvel Cinematic Universe is having: weak antagonists. Logan’s internal conflicts are obvious… yes- his age, weakened healing factor, and his rejection of being in a group/family (again). But the people who are in his way (external conflicts) only appeared as minor grievances.

Also, given that this is the last appearance of Jackman and Stewart in an X-Men film, it bothers me greatly that there are a lot of questions the film left unanswered. Some of them are continuity questions; some of them are new ones.

Logan is a great sendoff to Jackman and Stewart in roles that they have played for almost two decades. It has great character development, brutal fight scenes, and a new character with full of potential. However, it suffers from the same problems the X-Men film franchise suffers. Because of that, this film is…

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Kung Fu Yoga Movie Review

At the age of 62, Jackie Chan can still make fluid action comedy.

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Directed by Stanley Tong (The Myth and Rumble in the Bronx), Jackie Chan’s next movie brings us to countries all over the world.

The movie revolves around archaeologist Jack (Jackie Chan), who was hired by another professor, Ashmita (Disha Patani), to retrieve the lost Magadha treasure in Tibet. Also on the hunt is an Indian Randall (Sonu Sood).

First of all, it is always nice to see Jackie Chan perform stunts. Lately, there are scenes which are obvious that Jackie used a wire to do a flip. But considering his age, he can still do a lot of things more than most people in my age*.

The fight scenes were well-choreographed, as expected from a Jackie Chan movie. Each execution can be easily followed…something most modern Hollywood movies are forgetting to do.

Jackie brings some of his usual gags and antics in this movie. If you have watched a lot of Jackie Chan movies/films, you would have a pretty good idea what would happen next in some scenes/fights. This would either make you anticipate or have that “meh, so that before” feel.

SPOILER ALERT

But the movie just feels like it was made because Jackie happens to be free at the time. Some of the humor were cheap and lazy. The change of the antagonist’s worldview was very sudden and was not given a proper scene to digest it. It’s just “Hey, you’re good now.”

BUT THEN THE MUSIC HITS AT THE END. And here I am asking, “Wait a minute, is this a sequel to The Myth???” Well, in my research there are no indications that it is a sequel to the said film. Looking back, however, makes me realize that it is! Last time I marked out of a movie’s ending was Final Destination 5.

The last scene just came straight out of a typical Bollywood movie, and I love it! It was so enjoyable to watch that for the remainder of the dance you forgot the problems you had with the movie.

If you’re a Jackie Chan fan, Kung Fu Yoga is still a fun movie to watch, but objectively speaking only the action pieces AND that last scene were the good things here. So, with a bit of reluctance, I, a Jackie Chan fan, would say this movie is …

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*24 yo

 

My Ex and Whys Film Review

They could simply just shoot the “Liza Soberano in the rain” slow-mo shot for 2 hours, and it will still be a wonderful sight.

my-ex-and-whys-secondary-posterDirected and co-written by Cathy Garcia-Molina, My Ex and Whys stars Enrique Gil and Liza Soberano. An expert in the rom-com genre, Garcia-Molina attempts to give us yet another memorable rom-com.

The story starts with call center agent/blogger Cali Ferrer (Soberano), whose twitter blog @TheBakitList slowly gains fame. After attending a blog con, Cali has an online discussion/argument with a new blogger, Gio Martinez (Enrique Gil), who happens to be her ex. The twitter war leads to both their blogs being instantly famous, and they are hired to promote a bag company. Meanwhile, Gio attempts to win Cali over again, but Cali’s trust has been long gone.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room…Liza Soberano is simply gorgeous*! Like wow! Every frame involving her is a beautiful painting. That “Cali and Gio meets for the first time” scene was so cheesy yet you can’t help admit that Liza is really a beautiful woman.

It is quite clear that the two have chemistry. C’mon, they have been working on their love team for a few years already. When the humor and the drama hits, you feel that a relationship is about to be rebuilt or destroyed all over again.

Speaking of which, both the humor and the drama work so well in this film. Back and forth the humor and the drama go. Much of the humor is provided by Gio’s all-male family. Joey Marquez shines as the patriarch of Gio’s family. The drama between the two leads is very effective because of their chemistry. You can really sympathize with Cali’s pain and you can feel Gio’s attempts to redeem himself.

Also, the film used social media as a means to move the story forward, which is pretty rare in Filipino movies. Every tweet is treated like a piece of dialogue.

Besides Liza Soberano, the other scene stealer of the film is the character of Lee (Ryan Bang). At the start of the film, Bang portrayed the character with his usual image, a dorky Asian who is having a hard time speaking Filipino. But then he starts acting in the drama scenes. Like wow! I never knew Ryan Bang can act.

The sub-plot about Lee’s upcoming wedding was also done well. It provided Lee’s character to develop more than just a bestfriend of the two leads, and it allowed the romance between the two leads to be set in motion. However, in a few parts of the film, it outshines the primary narrative.

Also, some of the minor characters in the film were either unconvincing (Cali’s two brothers), exaggerated (Cali’s girl bestfriend), or unnecessary (Lee’s Korean friend).

SPOILER ALERT

Lastly, the end of the film ignored or did not present the consequences of Cali’s actions. Her public image and professional career might be in jeopardy for all we know, but the film showed us the happy ending where they get together.

My Ex and Whys is another rom-com from Cathy Garcia-Molina that hits the right spot most of the time. Though it may have been better if certain characters were either scrapped or polished, it is still a fun watch and may pull some heart strings. This film is…

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*Kinda obvious I have a crush on her

The Lego Batman Movie Film Review

yet another Lego film filled with fantastic humor and incredible fun

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A spin-off of The Lego MovieThe Lego Batman Movie is directed by Chris McKay, whose directorial works has been mostly Robot Chicken episodes. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the writers and directors of the 2014 The Lego Movie, only served as producers.

The film follows the adventures of an egocentric Batman (Will Arnett) who attempts to stop the evil plans of The Joker. Along the way, he accidentally adopts the orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and reluctantly works (at first) with the new GCPD commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson).

This film absolutely bursts with fun, humor, entertainment, and a rare heartfelt moment about family and friendship.

The film had amazing special effects. Each individual piece looks like real Lego toys (except of course for the eyes and mouth). And though each character moves in spectacular ways, they are still limited by the physical capabilities of their Lego form. I can only imagine the immense planning the animators went through.

Besides Batman, the biggest selling point of the film is its humor. From the very start…and I do mean the very start of the film, it presents to you the level of humor the film has. Like last year’s hit Deadpool, this film is very meta in its humor. Good comedic timing from each character and very colorful visuals make this film such a sight to behold.

Also, the soundtrack of the film just screams of Batman, action, and humor. You know it’s an animated film, but you have this feeling that you’re listening to a Hans Zimmer-esque soundtrack.

However, my only gripe with it is it has moments of slow pacing, especially the scenes where it addresses Batman’s fear. It only builds up when the same moments ended with a sudden joke. There was not much moment to address or digest it. Only in its final reveal or epiphany did we get a clear answer, but because of the way it was handled it did not mean that much as it should be. It was just fortunate that I know a lot of the Batman mythos and have invested a lot in the character.

The Lego Batman Movie is a film for all ages, especially for Batman fans. A lot of Batman reference and pop culture Easter eggs are scattered in the film. Tons of action and humor make this film…

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