Wednesday, February 25, 2015


It's not very Kingsman to put a review up late.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a Matthew Vaughn film based off the comic The Secret Service. It's a British spy film focused around the Kingsmen, as they're in the process of selecting a new Kingsman. Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) is a lower-class kid invited by Galahad (Colin Firth) to be part of the try-out selection. The Kingsmen also face Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), one of those colorful and wacky, spy-movie terrorists.

I was really looking forward to this movie. It was my 5th most anticipated movie of the year solely because of my faith in director Matthew Vaughn. He has had numerous success in the comic book genre before (X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass are both in my Top 10 Live-Action Comic Book Films), and I was positive that he'd be able to deliver again.

I liked the film, but I was very disappointed with it. Not because my expectations were so high, but really because I have quite large issues with it. 

Leading off with the positives, Kingsman is a very fun action/spy movie. Vaughn just knows how to deliver great action sequences, and this time is no exception. There's a lot of really well choreographed fight sequences here and a lot of inventive gadgetry. Some of the fight sequences here I'd say are reminiscent of Edgar Wright fight sequences, which are really exciting, fast-paced, mostly consisting of long one-shots, and have unique music choice.

The performances are equally kick-ass. Firth was really good, as he is usually, but this time, we get to see him as an action star, and my God, I don't want to see Firth in anything other action movies ever again (mostly kidding). Jackson nails his role as the cartoonish and colorful villain. It's right up his alley to do so, and he absolutely crushed it. Egerton and Sophie Cookson are revelations in this film. They're surprisingly really good, for people I haven't heard one word about. I'm very interested in seeing more of them in the future.

On the surface, Kingsman is a really fun and exciting popcorn flick. However, I feel that it's when you delve deeper into it, that a few people will find a disconnect, as I did.

Jackson's character, Richmond Valentine, is a man who is sick at the sight of violence, yet is the villain of the film who wants to unleash global chaos and death. That's sort of like the film itself. One moment, it's celebrating its action sequences (the fun, upbeat music and some deaths presented comedically), and in the following scene, comes the aftermath, the dark and grim realization of what has just transpired on-screen (or in "real life", in the perspective of the character). There were so quick and they fall together so inconsistently. Granted, I do believe Vaughn did this intentionally, but I don't understand why he'd think it'd work. Maybe I can examine it more upon further viewing, but as of now, it just didn't sit right with me. 

There were other few inconsistencies I saw within the film. Like how a few characters talk the talk about being a gentlemen and how it's your actions that make you one ("manners maketh man"), but they don't walk the walk when it comes to this. Their actions and (sometimes) motivations fall outside of the image their putting up. I felt as if our protagonist, Eggsy, had a nice story so far... that was until the end scenes came up, which I felt were a bit against what the character was building up to. 

Also, it comments on old spy movies (especially James Bond), but unlike others, I wasn't turned off by that commentary. The thing I felt lacking was a clear stand on whether the film was a homage to old spy films or a parody. The film itself doesn't feel quite sure on that either. A lot of times, you'll see the film wink and nudge at old spy film tropes but it really doesn't do anything that improves upon them. The film even repeats some tropes at times.

There's no doubt that Kingsman: The Secret Service is a mostly well-made action/spy film with great performances. Hell, I even liked it. It's just that when the film got to deconstruction of subject matter, I felt a few parts didn't really connect well. There were a few scenes that were a little hard to sit through, honestly.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

BOYHOOD movie review

I have no witty tease for this movie. All the good ones have been repeated a lot throughout this awards season.

Boyhood is a film that Richard Linklater shot for over the past 12 years. It follows Mason, a 6 year old boy, through his suburban childhood years to his adventurous adolescence to him choosing a path for his adulthood. 

Linklater had such a unique and innovative idea for this film, and I feel that it was executed with flying colors. It's one of the reasons I love film so much. The way creative minds such as Linklater approach different stories and telling them in a fresh and ambitious way.

For this film, Linklater decided to capture life (or more specifically, childhood). He succeeded. The film shows life like no other film, because it really is life. The film plays out like a string of memories that are minor or of little significance yet, at the same time, very meaningful.  It's like looking back at your own life, and focusing on the small memories that happen to also be life-defining moments. 

One could even have a valid argument that this film is more about the family than it is just the boy. Patricia Arquette steals the show with her performance as this caring mother, who has made a few poor choices along the way. Arquette gives a powerful performance as this wonderful character. You get a scene at the start of the movie that really locks you in to her character and she has a really emotionally heavy scene at towards the end of the film. Ethan Hawke gave a great performance as Mason's father, and I really liked his character. His journey seemingly runs parallel with Mason's, with both providing support for each other. I commend Ellar Coltrane and Lorelai Linklater for their improvement as actors. They essentially play their age range, and, for the most part, they're good. I appreciate the effort, and I acknowledge their growth as actors.

I actually saw one of Linklater's earlier films, Dazed and Confused, before Boyhood last year, and I have got to say he is a master of his craft. I embraced the non-formulaic narrative and the abundance in philosophical talk, and I feel like it really worked for a film like this. It's certainly not a conventional film. 

There is no "character arc" for Mason to go through, and there doesn't have to be. That's not within the film's goals. The film just shows him going through life, just like all of us do in real life, because real life doesn't have character arcs.

There isn't a plot line either. It's all a bunch of seemingly random occurrences and life milestones. Same as character arcs, this film didn't need to have a plot line. Linklater's goal was to showcase life (in his words, "life as a series of milestones"), so of course, it's not going to follow the same film structure. I understand that may turn some people off, and I more than understand why some people found it dragging, but it just added more reasons to why I love it and find it so beautiful.

Richard Linklater was surely ambitious with Boyhood. He made a beautiful and emotional film about life and growing up without divulging into coming of age genre tropes. His achievement here is amazing. It will hopefully go down as one of the greats, and if not, then it will with me, because it's a time gem.


Suite movie.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film mostly from the point of the view of a man named Zero Moustafa as he chronicles the adventures of his youth with the manager of the Grand Budapest Hotel, Monsieur Gustave. They go on quite a quirky and fun adventure.

To get things out of the way, I've never seen a Wes Anderson film. Some have critiqued that his style is getting quite repetitive (though, not necessarily bad), while others praised it as Anderson's best film. I have no opinion on any of these, just in case you're wondering why I didn't mention it.

Apparently, Wes Anderson is a filmmaker I should pay more attention to, because his work is just marvelous. It's so quirky, fun, and (judging by what I've seen of Wes Anderson in real life) so Wes Anderson. I'm also very glad I chose to watch this at the very end of this award season, because in terms of things like narrative structure, performances, cinematography, and even aspect ratios, it's such an offbeat and unconventional film. 

The plot isn't much, it's a pretty basic plot, but it's elevated by how Anderson translated it to the screen. It's surprisingly really fun, engaging, and also emotional. Not the tear-jerker kind of emotional, but the "wow, that's just so beautiful" sense. It's a wonderful film, and I was really amazed by it.

On a technical level, the film is impressive as well. If you asked me what my favorite shot of the movie was, I wouldn't be able to tell you, because there were so many beautiful, well composed shots. Every single shot is a beautiful painting. That's incredible cinematography done by Robert Yeoman. Alexander Desplat's score was very good as well. I sat through the entire credits because of the score that played in the background.

Ralph Fiennes was excellent in the movie. He probably could've squeezed in that Best Actor category, knocking someone off of there, but he'll be great even without that award. He really disappears into that role. He plays a very precise and commanding man. He would've been almost like J.K. Simmons' character in Whiplash, except Fiennes' character is kind, silly, and friendly.  Fiennes nailed every nuance of the character. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fun, quirky, sweet little film. The film is beautifully directed by Wes Anderson, a creative mind whose other films I'll most certainly check out now.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


I find it funny that Benedict Cumberbatch gets casted in biopics when the only person in history that looks like him is James D'Arcy. 

The Imitation Game is a biopic that focuses on the story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a genius mathematician that is selected to crack a German code encryption during World War II. He also is a homosexual living in a time and place where homosexuality was illegal.

With that premise, I was really looking forward to this film. I was interested in how they were going to explore the character's homosexuality, his works, and the conflict of all. You can imagine my disappointment then.

The one part of the film that got me intrigued in it took about, I don't know, 1/5th of the film. I'm disappointed that they chose to go in the direction of focusing much of the film on Turing's code decrypter. The film is more focused on the narrative and the themes, and not on the character. Granted, it does execute the storytelling pretty well. The film handles tension and the emotional peaks well. The themes on the other hand... Let's just say they repeat words/phrases throughout the film to get the theme across.

The main chunk of the homosexuality-centric storyline comes in the early school days section and the post-war section of the film. Even then, all the homosexuality stuff is swept under the rug. A character threatens to out him as a homosexual, and the problem is solved in the next scene. We get a nice isolated scene where we see him struggling with it, and the movie ends not two minutes after that. A little more focus on his character rather than his work and the film's themes would've helped the film a lot.

Benedict Cumberbatch leads the film as Alan Turing. His role isn't a complete departure from his role as Sherlock Holmes from the BBC Sherlock. He plays the isolated, brilliant loner, but he's actually homosexual in this one (unlike in Sherlock, to many of his Tumblr fans' sadness). I would like to see him be a little bit more risky with his roles in the future, but he was really good in this film. Knightley provides a good back-and-forth between her and Cumberbatch's characters. My favorite parts of the present and future sections of the film were their scenes together. The real show-stealer is, without a doubt, Alex Lawther who plays the young Alan Turing. He was just excellent, on-par with Cumberbatch, and that's great for a kid of his age. Sadly, the rest of the actors are demoted to one-note, walking plot devices on this one.

Morten Tyldum's good yet mechanical directing makes this a pretty cookie-cutter biopic that screams "Nominate me for awards." The film works well on a technical level, but it imitates a few other biopics (off the top of my head, Hollywoodland)  that it doesn't really stand out.

There's no denying that The Imitation Game is a well-made film with great performances. However, a character-centric film that wasn't so mechanical and awards-desperate would've been much better.

Monday, February 16, 2015


I'll be posting late movie reviews for movies that were nominated for this year's Oscars. Roll with it and enjoy.

The Theory of Everything is a biopic focusing on the love life of the brilliant Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane Wilde. The film also tackles subjects like Hawking's disease and his famous theories, but it's mostly centered around the Stephen-Jane love story.

The biggest strength of this film is its amazing acting. Eddie Redmayne kills it as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones is almost equally as great (but way more subtle) as Jane Wilde. Redmayne essentially plays different forms of the same character throughout the movie, because of him acting out different stages of Hawking's disease, so seeing him transform himself a multitude of times throughout a couple of hours, I found it quite extraordinary. Jones really played a more tamed character. Her role wasn't flashy as Redmayne's, but that doesn't diminish her performance one bit. I felt that she brought a lot of quiet strength to her character. She also essentially carries have the movie, so that's not to be underappreciated.

The love story between them and the struggles they went to because of Hawking's illness was a truly fascinating thing to watch. I followed the story and the science in the film. It's an interesting and compelling story to translate on to film. 

Despite having good subject matter, I do think the film suffered from being too average. Other than the performances and the history, nothing really stands out or is all that memorable. It has the same look and feel of a lot of other biopics in the past couple years alone. I wouldn't call it 'predictably', but is rather generic and formulaic. It's like the film was solely dependent on the story and the performances to elevate it to new heights. 

The Theory of Everything is a pretty well-made film, with a good subject matter and great performances. However, it tries so hard to be a generic film that it limits it capability of being a great film. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thoughts On: Spider-Man Joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Never thought it would happen, but it did. Go, Marvel.

Just in case you haven't heard, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have finally struck a deal to bring Peter Parker aka Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the Avengers related films). The announcement came late Monday night from Marvel themselves. In brief, the major things that are happening are Sony Pictures will let Marvel use Spider-Man in one of their films, then  the Spider-Man film series will once again be rebooted in 2017 (under the Sony Pictures flag) with a new actor and new continuity , and Marvel pushes back most of their already announced films to fit Spider-Man in.

This is huge news, because I personally thought that Marvel wouldn't get Spider-Man until at the earliest 2020, but they got him way earlier than expected. This was most likely due to the public shame Sony (the entire company, not just the film division) went through last year. It'll be nice to see Spider-Man in the MCU, and I'm actually more excited for the future of the Spider-Man franchise now that they're steering away from The Amazing Spider-Man series. I actually liked the first Amazing Spider-Man film, more with every viewing. It's not one of the best superhero films, but I thought it was a pretty solid reboot. However, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 took such a nosedive in quality, that it was very hard to get excited about The Amazing Spider-Man 3, and Sinister Six (and that Aunt May movie, or whatever). 

It's a pretty good deal for Marvel and Sony too. Marvel gets to please fans who have wanted this for years, Sony gets to get some of its credibility back, and Spider-Man films might be good again with Sony and Marvel working hand in hand to make it good (this, depending on how much Kevin Feige is involved in the upcoming Spider-Man films. It doesn't specify in the article). All in all, a pretty fair trade.

Of course, the next major question becomes who is Marvel going to cast as the new Spider-Man? The two actors leading the rumors right now are Dylan O' Brien (The Maze Runner) and Logan Lerman (Perks of Being a Wallflower). I'm not really for any of these names. I am hearing things Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), and that seems like an interesting casting choice. I haven't seen his new film yet, but he looks pretty good in it. I'll have to check it out first.

I can't help but feel bad for Andrew Garfield for this. In the right hands, he would've made a great Peter Parker and Spider-Man. In my opinion, he was on the right track with The Amazing Spider-Man, but then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 happened, and I felt that the movie strayed so far from the character, that Garfield was basically a different character altogether. It's a shame really, but oh well.

The part of this news that I'm really bummed about is that they're pushing back the already announced Marvel movies like Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Inhumans (I don't really care that they're moving Thor: Ragnarok). The reason why I'm upset isn't that they're moving those films back a few months (though I would've liked to have seen Black Panther and Captain Marvel BEFORE a third Spider-Man series). It's the effect of those push backs to the story. Before the move, the slate was like this:

Now, however, Black Panther will come between both Avengers: Infinity War - Part I & II and Inhumans now coming at the very end. Before the change, Black Panther was most likely designed to come before the events of this two-part mega crossover event, and Inhumans was designed to come in between this two-part mega crossover event. Now, the films' original plans will have to be altered just to fit Spider-Man into the MCU slate. I just feel kind of disappointed that Marvel opted to significantly  alter their finale to Phase 3 just to fit one character in.

That being said, that character is Spider-Man. He'll no doubt be a key player and a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it's hard to feel too bummed about the changes being made to Black Panther and Inhumans.

Truly a fascinating trade made here. I cannot wait to see what transpires in the next couple of years. For now, I have one thought. Spider-Man... with the Avengers... produced by Marvel Studios. Hell yes. #MakeMineMarvel

Monday, February 2, 2015

INTO THE WOODS movie review

Have you ever wanted a crossover/team-up movie between a few of your favorite fairy tale characters? Well, you got your wish.

Into The Woods is the film adaptation of the musical fantasy Broadway play of the same name. The film brings together a few fairy tale characters in a story that revolves around the Witch (Meryl Streep) telling the Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) to collect trinkets from various fairy tale characters, like Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and a couple others. 

I'm a big fan of musical films. Les Miserables is unashamedly my favorite film of 2012, and this is almost sort of in that same style, with more than half of the dialogue being sung. I wasn't hyped for this movie, but I was still interested in seeing it. I was pretty sure I was going to have a blast watching this, and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed.

This movie is so charming and fun. It's definitely a movie the whole family would appreciate. It's definitely not a sad and dramatic musical like Les Miserables. It's more lighthearted and fun, and there's nothing wrong with that.

You'll tap your foot and laugh with some of the songs in the film. Most, if not all, of the songs in the film were designed to be entertaining and funny to watch. There's a lot of creative set designs and costumes that really catch the eye, and that's almost an essential for fantasy films like this.

The cast is amazing too. Even though I was extremely doubtful that Streep's performance here was "Oscar nomination worthy", I have to admit she turned in one hell of a good performance (as she always does). She truly disappears into her character and she's a good singer too. However, the one who stole the show was Chris Pine as the Prince. Chris Pine is a Hollywood gem, man. This guy can be great, especially in fun and a little bit wacky roles like this. He just let's loose, and he's amazing. Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick were really good in the film too. The little kid who played Gavroche in Les Mis is playing Jack in this film, and he was fine. It wasn't a very special performance. These actors just bring these fantastical characters to life on screen, and it brought me pure joy to watch.

The film doesn't have a lot going against it, but I had a few issues with it that I really want to point out. Firstly, a minor one, the casting of Johnny Depp. I know he's only in, like, around five to seven minutes, but man, were his scenes unbearable to watch. He plays the Wolf, and he just does it so creepily and he acts so weirdly. It's his gimmick to do that, he doesn't take these roles seriously anymore. He just puts on makeup and different hats and gives us different incarnations of Jack Sparrow over and over again, and it's tiring.

The biggest flaw I had with the movie was its pacing. The film is choppily paced. It would jump focus to different characters so randomly and without any real flow that it made the film very incoherent. It left a few characters and subplots undeveloped as well. There's one particular subplot that doesn't even fell connected to the main story at all, and I think even the writers knew this, so they literally sent those characters involved off away on a horse, like, twenty five minutes before the movie ended. A few other characters would leave the film in various anticlimactic ways as well. Also, some characters would disappear for a large portion of the film, and then all of a sudden reappear again. The pacing of the film is just so off and confusing that it's really hard to settle down with the film.

A lot of people have told me they hated the second half of this movie.While I agree, the film would've been better if it just ended at a certain part, I do think there are some redeeming qualities in the second half as well. There were some real good character moments for the four main characters towards the end, and that for me made it worth it. However, I do hate the fact that the last few minutes of the film take a huge turn for the worse, turning into one big random fantasy battle. It just feels so out of place compared to the rest of the movie, and it feels super forced.

Into The Woods is a really entertaining, funny, and charming musical. It's full of great actors playing fun characters singing catchy songs. The makers of the film do need to grasp the concept of how to edit a film, but if you're looking for a fun musical to watch, this is it.