Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a space drama. It is the 7th film in the main Star Wars franchise.

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_Poster

Plot

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing. As forces loyal to the Empire become The First Order, Leia Organa (Carrie Fischer), now married to Han Solo (Harrison Ford), leads as General of the Resistance. As the First Order grows in power, The Resistance grows more desperate when whispers of Luke’s location motivate both factions to action.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), is given a digital map with a clue about Luke Skywalker’s location by his father. He and BB-8, his companion droid, prepare to give the information to the Resistance when a settlement on the planet Jakku is attacked by a fleet of Stormtroopers. The town is quickly overrun, so Poe orders BB-8 to get as far away as possible and to meet up later. BB escapes and Poe fights back to even the odds. He is quickly outdone by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a hooded figure with a unique lightsaber. He is accompanied by Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie), leader of the Stormtroopers. Poe is taken prisoner while the other Troopers are ordered to kill the remaining fighters. A lone trooper watches in horror as the settlement is destroyed.

Poe is interrogated by Kylo Ren and learns that the map is with the droid. A Stormtrooper, while escorting Poe away, reveals to have turned from The Resistance and offers to break him out. Poe introduces himself and the Stormtrooper, only assigned an identification number, takes the name Finn (John Boyega). They crash land back on Jakku, but when Finn wakes, all he finds is Poe’s jacket among the wreckage.

BB-8 comes across a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). While she’s initially dismissive of the droid, she eventually allows it to accompany her. They come across Finn as he looks for water, and he introduces himself as a member of the Resistance. BB recognizes Poe’s coat and is frantic to find his owner. The First Order attacks, forcing Finn, Rey, and BB to flee. They stumble across and escape on an old ship, and begin their quest for answers.

10/10

Characters

While Star Wars is the most successful movie franchise of all time, it doesn’t rely on the characters already established in the universe. It fleshes out the new characters with their own stories, motivations, and personalities.

One of the best uses of establishing character moments focuses on a “show, don’t tell” method. Finn’s defining moment is an epiphany while he still wears his Stormtrooper helmet, denying him any facial expressions but still getting across the idea that he’s remorseful. BB-8 doesn’t speak (outside of beeps and whirs, like R2-D2) but still manages to express himself through actions.

BB-8

“Whee!”

10/10

Language

A lot of language is carried over with legacy films like The Force Awakens. Already established concepts like the Force are mentioned, but take on a different meaning for the newer characters as opposed to the legacy characters. Concepts of the Jedi and use of the Force are considered mythical to Rey, while Finn only knows of the Dark Side of the Force when Kylo Ren uses it for the benefit of the First Order.

Furthermore, the presence of alien species forces the use of alien languages. Fortunately, most of them are translated or used in a context that’s understandable. Either way, the subtitles are never distracting or overpowering to detract from its associated scene.

10/10

Theme

With the main plot following the disappearance of Luke Skywalker, the moral use of the Force is frequently referenced; balancing the Dark and Light. Furthermore, it’s existence is a lot less questioned as it was in the original trilogy. The commanding officers of the First Order know better than to question the legitimacy of The Force, seeing it used dramatically and frequently by Kylo Ren. Han Solo writes it off as “hokey religion” in A New Hope but makes a dramatic change with his admission in the new movie.

v7Di1LR

Its_true_all_of_it.0

The film also addresses the familiar concepts of letting go of past circumstances or present troubles (Rey and Finn, respectively) in the pursuit of something greater.

10/10

Music

You know the music. That familiar theme that takes you back to a galaxy far, far away.

John Williams returns to score the movie, as he’s done with the previous movies of the franchise. All of the music will be familiar to the audience, the key difference is the magnitude. The big moments have larger orchestral sweeps than the previous movies, and the dramatic scenes seem to carry more weight. Minor changes to some of the music include length and changes in key. An unfamiliar arrangement plays during the second half of the credits, following the main theme that finishes every movie.

10/10

Spectacle

The expectations of this movie are very high due to the visuals and scenes of the previous trilogies. The graphics are escalated, but not in a way that seems arbitrary. How is the series supposed to grow from not one, but two moon-sized space stations capable of blowing up planets?

On the smaller scale, We have the dog fights with TIE fighters, X-Wings, and some nice aerial maneuvers from the Millennium Falcon.

And most importantly, the use of lens flares. Normally used as some sort of signature, J.J. Abrams reduced them and only used in places where they make sense.

Star Trek: Into Darkness lens flare

#154 in Into Darkness

10/10

Star Power

wars-comic

The three main faces of the original Star Wars are of course a big pull for the movie, while the newest three stars are relatively unknown. Oscar Isaac is best recognized as the star of A Most Violent Year alongside Jessica Chastain, but has other roles in Sucker Punch and Inside Lewyn Davis. John Boyega has been in 4 prior films, and Daisy Ridley has been on a handful of TV shows prior to this movie. Andy Serkis has a motion-capture role as Supreme Leader Snoke and makes two “appearances” throughout the film. Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren, and has several movie roles as supporting characters, most notably Samuel Beckwith in Lincoln.

10/10

Target Audience

The film is rated PG-13, an abnormality of the franchise (previously only used in Revenge of the Sith). That being said, the film’s violence is largely sci-fi and not at all as bad as some of the shows readily available on TV. The fans of the series are already committed to watching the movie, and with movies coming out since the late 70s, the franchise has a very dedicated following. Anyone unfamiliar with the franchise will have to have at least some knowledge regarding Luke Skywalker’s family tree. But with so much time being among America’s most popular movies, the only people unfamiliar with it are people who’ve actively avoided the movie or kids.

10/10

Post-Movie Thoughts

It’s been said by J.J. Abrams that a lot of things that had to be deliberately kept under wraps to avoid spoiling the plot of the movie. I obviously won’t explain any of them here, but the revelation of them one after another was very cathartic. Each scene had something spectacular, culminating in the last act and the final scene.

10/10

Legacy Movie

This movie lives up to the hype it’s been generating for the past few years. The last movie, Revenge of the Sith, was released over 10 years ago and was largely panned for lack of characterization and poorly filling in spots between the prequel films and the original trilogy. Disney bought the rights to the franchise in 2012 and almost immediately announced plans for a sequel to Return of the Jedi. The movie properly builds off of its source material while not entirely relying on the older characters. It paves the way for its own significance without being anchored on Darth Vader.

10/10

Overall: 100/100

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak is a gothic horror and romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, and Tom Hiddleston.

Crimson Peak theatrical poster.jpg

Plot

Edith Cushing has been haunted. At 10 years old, she’s visited by the spirit of her dead mother, warning “When the time comes, beware of Crimson Peak.” A decade later, a full-grown Edith (Wasikowska) has taken to writing about ghosts. While explaining this to her childhood friend Alan McMichael (Hunnam), other social women and her editor believe she should either work on romance novels or drop the endeavor entirely. While in her father’s company, she comes across Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), an aristocrat from Cumbria seeking financing for an invention. After some flirtation, the two become romantically involved. Edith’s father’s unease of Thomas and his older sister Lucille (Chastain) stirs an informal investigation leading to a coercive deal made between Mr. Cushing and the Sharpes. A series of events leads to a marriage proposal and Edith moving to Allerdale Hall with Thomas and Lucille. As the winter rolls in, Thomas off-handedly tells Edith that she will see why his house is nicknamed Crimson Peak.

8/10

Characters

The majority of characterization falls on Edith and Thomas. Edith is mainly explained in the first act while Thomas develops through the second. Thomas in particular starts off putting his best impression to get an invention funded, but is exposed from his lack of experience. It seems as though the rest of the movie he wants to break out of the projection of inferiority. Lucille is introduced as an accomplished pianist. Throughout the rest of the movie, she produces an air of concern for Edith as she adjusts to her father’s passing and moving to a different country. Despite this, she is coarse when not tending to Edith. The least developed of these characters is Alan McMichael, immediately introduced as a childhood friend, somewhat of a frequent traveler, and in love with Edith. For the moments he’s on screen, he didn’t hold a lot of interest. It stands to reason that there wouldn’t be an explanation of his love for her if it’s a defining trait of his character. 

7/10

Language

American and English accents are used throughout the film. Of the few swears that are used in the film, I found myself wondering if they were used in the time period portrayed in the film, but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary enough to dwell on. Finally, the descriptors of things like the Allendale estate are all expansive instead of straightforward. For example, fragile and formidable are used in place of weak and strong.

9/10

Theme

Frailty is the most frequent idea of the movie. During a dance, Thomas Sharpe makes it a point that precise moves are important for a waltz, so much so that the moves won’t extinguish the flame of a candle. Naturally, when he dances with Edith, the flame wavers but never goes out.  One of the things that stuck out the most were the use of moths and butterflies, moreso the former than the latter. In the first act, a group of dying butterflies are noticed by Edith and laments their sickness. Lucille watches over her and says explicitly that beautiful things, like butterflies, are fragile. Conversely, the moths that are native to Cumbria are formidable but aesthetically unpleasant. Throughout the movie, moths are all over the old Allendale house, which is itself still standing despite being in ruins. Early in the movie, the ghosts in the book Edith planned to get published serve as a metaphor. Thomas later explains to Edith in the second act that the house prevents souls of the departed to move on, instead lingering in the house. Each of the ghosts carry a message, whether it be a warning or a story of the past.

9/10

Music

The film starts with a child’s lullaby, which repeats sporadically throughout the film. Solemn piano, almost always played by Lucille in-film, sets many of the scenes to unsettle the audience. There are many tells of a jump-scare when the movie abruptly stops with the background music.

8/10

Spectacle

Guillermo del Toro has a penchant for fantastical scenes and imaginative characters. Though instead of a faun, Hellboy, or giant mechs, the imaginative characters are the ghosts. Each have distinct features for things like color or body structure. However, the ghosts seem just out of reality enough to rest on the edge of an audience’s suspension of disbelief. The unsettling house almost takes on a life of its own with rattles and shakes. It literally has layers detailing

9/10

Star Power

Tom Hiddleston is the biggest pull for this movie in terms of the cast. Mia Wasikowska may be most recognized in the Diney live-action movie Alice In Wonderland as the title character. Jessica Chastain has been in a string of movies, one of the most recent being the critically acclaimed The Martian. Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy rounds out the top billing and working again with del Toro, originally working with him in Pacific Rim.

9/10

Audience Demographic

While this movie is advertised as a horror film, I feel it’s about as horrific as Pan’s Labyrinth, which is to say that the horror was not the driving force of the movie. Many who follow del Toro’s films have an idea that while characters in his films are unsettling, it’s not always meant to terrify. Fans of Hiddleston will naturally be drawn to this movie.

Can’t imagine why.

8/10

Post-movie thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, Edith uses ghosts in her writing as a metaphor, that not all stories written by women are love stories. As each ghost makes an appearance, it points out an important message, as a metaphor does in a story. I was left wondering if that was meant as a deliberate self-awareness or just a foreshadowing of the rest of the story.

While the movie as a whole was satisfying, there were a few unresolved plot points that disrupts suspension of disbelief. The moments are in the third act, so for the sake of spoiler free I won’t go into detail.

6/10

 

Overall: 73/90

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Ant-Man is the latest superhero movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, preceded by Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, and Michael Douglas.

Ant-Man_poster

Plot

In 1989, Hank Pym (Douglas) confronts S.H.I.E.L.D. about their attempts to acquire and replicate the Pym Particle, a technology Hank discovered that allows living beings to shrink to very small sizes while maintaining full or increased physical ability. S.H.I.E.L.D. executives, including Howard Stark (John Slattery) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) reason that the technology is necessary to maintain a level of security. Pym vows to take the secret of the Particle to the grave, believing it to be too dangerous to be reproduced.

The film flashes forward to present day, where Scott Lang (Rudd) gets released from prison to find his friend Luis (Michael Peña) with a new heist opportunity, but Lang promises to give up his life of crime to make a legitimate living for the sake of his daughter. After seeing his daughter and ex-wife (Judy Greer), Scott realizes that his family is moving on without him, making his attempt to get things straight all the more urgent.

Meanwhile, Pym Technologies is now run by Darren Cross (Stoll), Hank Pym’s ambitious protege and Hope van Dyne (Lilly), Pym’s daughter. Cross reveals to Pym and several potential buyers a new weapon called the Yellowjacket, a weaponized suit that can shrink the wearer and stop several threats without being seen. The suit is mostly well-received, but the technology to shrink living organisms is still lost to the suit’s developers. Cross is determined to find it, not content that his mentor calls the technology “Tales to Astonish.”

Scott Lang’s only job prospect falls through, citing his criminal record. With no other options, he takes Luis’s tip about stealing a large fortune from a home with an absentee owner. The fortune is revealed to be nothing more than an old red suit and helmet, but Lang leaves with it anyway. He tries on the suit and accidentally shrinks himself; the suit is powered by the fabled Pym Particle. Hank Pym communicates to Scott that now that he’s found the suit, he has a job to offer him.

7/10

Characters

Scott’s character moments come up right as he’s introduced as somewhat of a joker and atoning criminal. Despite his wanting to get out of crime, he’s not shy about what he knows how to do. His compatriots in crime, particularly Luis, also have their own little quirks that make them distinct. Luis, while very detailed about plans of action, is also very detailed about extraneous information, which is exclusively played for laughs. Hank Pym is almost straight atoner for the duration of the film. He discovered something very powerful and takes steps to make sure it doesn’t stumble into the wrong (or right) hands. There are two specific moments that break from his reserved nature and show how nasty he can be. The moments were put in to reflect the source material, where Hank Pym has a tendency to commit domestic violence. That obviously wouldn’t make for a good hero, so the temper was put in a slightly different direction. Hope’s focus to accomplish a mission is compared and often clashes with her relationship with her father. She’s very capable of completing a mission put in front of her, which she puts up every time she’s directed -not- to do something. A lack of sympathy for her father is addressed in pieces throughout the film.

8/10

Language

Any technical terms, such as the mention of atomic sciences, is often explained so the audience can understand the context. At times, though, it has to be explained even further for some of the characters for a comedic effect. Those moments come often enough to be recognized but not enough to be trite or belittling. Any swearing is kept to a minimum, being a film intended for a wide audience. In particular, a character is called an “ass-hat,” to the chagrin of another character. It’s met with a paraphrased, “What’s wrong? I said ‘hat.'”

8/10

Theme

Redemption is brought up deliberately when it comes to Scott Lang and a much more subtle way with Hank Pym. Scott redeems his criminal past by committing an act for the greater good, while Hank struggles to reconcile with a daughter he pushed away. Passing judgment is also touched on, citing why heroes are reduced to trusting criminals to accomplish a mission. Family is mentioned at the forefront as well, with Scott and Hank both trying to place the pieces together with their respective estranged daughters.

8/10

Music

During the climax fight, a song is used that’s more or less lampshading the use of music to heighten a situation and instead makes it more lax. Score music for training montages and drama are also present, but not overbearing.

8/10

Spectacle

The growing/shrinking with the Ant-Man suit is the biggest spectacle, for obvious reasons. For several instances, this effect is used for scale between small fights and its real-life observation. The climax fight with the train set is the most obvious example, used in the trailer.

9/10

Star Power

Ant Man Cast

Paul Rudd gets front billing with the movie, drifting away from his straight comedy and in to a more action-based movie. Evangeline Lilly as the female supporting character is a wonderful choice considering her past fantastical roles, such as The Hobbit. Corey Stoll plays a good villain, which is different from his more recognizable dramatic role in House of Cards. Michael Douglas gets back billing as Samuel L. Jackson does for the Avengers movies, and perhaps the biggest pull for the older audience members.

8/10

Who to Watch With

As with the previous Marvel films, the main target are the comic book fans. Most people are only vaguely aware of Ant-Man, likening him to Aquaman in terms of usefulness once they understand his powers. Many audience members who don’t know who he is may have the same feelings toward this movie as Guardians of the Galaxy, being a lesser known comic series. But through and through, it will attract audiences across the spectrum with humor, action, and fantasy.

8/10

Post-movie Thoughts

Thinking back on it now, there’s a huge plot contrivance that was the make-or-break point of Scott Lang and Hank Pym from meeting. With all of the other moments that have the audience surrender to suspension of disbelief, the method that they get together is fragile at best, considering Scott originally wanting to stay out of flimsy crimes. That aside, the movie does well with a standalone hero as opposed to the multi-layer, multi-hero movies that the rest of the MCU has become.

7/10

Source Material

As with other Marvel films, the movie has a lot to work with, but forced to be contained within the universe made by the MCU. While Hank Pym is responsible for the creation of Ultron in the comics, it’s not at all mentioned in the MCU because Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are responsible for Ultron. Hank Pym also had to go through a big character change to avoid the fact that he beat his wife in the comic series. That certainly wouldn’t make a good hero for a movie perspective, but an interesting character in the realm of comic books.

8/10

Overall: 79/100

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Inside Out

Inside Out is the latest Pixar/Disney film. The film is directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen.

Inside Out (2015 film) poster.jpg

Plot

Riley Anderson is born and along with her distinct emotions to develop her personality. Joy (Amy Poehler) is the dominating emotion, keeping Riley optimistic and happy. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is charged with making sure Riley doesn’t interact with anything poisonous, either biologically or socially. Fear (Bill Hader) keeps Riley safe. Anger (Lewis Black) controls Riley’s outbursts and maintains fairness. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) arrived shortly after Joy, but her role in Riley’s life and emotional spectrum are largely a mystery to the other emotions. Together they live in the mind’s headquarters, cataloging her reactions to the world with various emotional responses and sending them to long-term memory, a vast library of her experiences. During particularly profound moments in her life, the memory is stored in the Core Memory chamber in the headquarters, sending power to a unique place in Riley’s mind that affects her personality (such as Goof-ball Island and Family Island). Riley and her parents move from Minnesota to San Francisco for her dad’s new job prospect, which rattles Riley’s emotions. Sadness gets more involved with Riley’s memories, but inadvertently changes them from happy memories to sad ones. She’s apologetic, but continues to get into memories despite Joy’s attempts to distract her by giving her manuals to read. On the first day of her new school, Riley starts optimistic but is reduced to tears when she is introducing herself to the class. Sadness got involved with the making of the memory, and its significance was to place it in the Core Memory storage. Unsure of potential consequences, Joy breaks the Core Memory storage to stop the new memory from forming. She grabs all of the “good” Core Memories to place them where they belong, but instead she and Sadness get taken to long-term memory with the Core Memories still out of place. Fear, Anger, and Disgust are left to navigate Riley in this difficult time in her life while Sadness and Joy desperately try to get back to headquarters.

10/10

Characters

Inside Out 1

The plot of the film is centered on Riley Anderson, an 11-year old girl having just moved to San Francisco with her parents. Her personality and character are shaped by her emotions. As their names suggest, the emotions predominantly express their respective feeling. This typically leads to conflict when resolving an issue (Fear, for example, will usually intervene when Anger takes command, only for Fear to get hurt in some way) but more often than not come to a compromise. As revealed in some trailers, Riley’s parents also have stylized emotions to fit their personality.

10/10

Language

The movie will go into things about the mind and emotions a lot, and occasionally the technical terms are there to follow. In an attempt to not alienate the audiences without technical knowledge of how the brain and emotions work (almost all of us), it is usually followed by an explanation to make it understandable. In one particular scene, abstract thought is introduced and broken down in four distinct stages. While an explanation for what happens is given, a visual and funny interpretation is shown. There are also two subtle examples of getting mature themes into a movie intended for kids, and both appear in trailers. First is the recall of the Brazilian helicopter pilot after Riley’s mom probes about the first day of school. Her emotions swoon at the pilot saying “fly with me, gatinha,” with gatinha meaning “sexy woman.” Second is Fear’s mentioning the possibility encountering a bear, with Disgust bringing up the fact that there aren’t any bears in San Francisco. Anger points out that he remembers seeing a big hairy man that resembled a bear walking down the street. For those unfamiliar, “Bear” is a term used in the gay community. And with the movie taking place in San Francisco, it’s easy to assume that the use was deliberate.

10/10

Theme

And how! Pixar almost always has a moral of its films.

Cars2-teaserposter

I said almost!

Inside Out has one of the most straightforward yet complex moral I’ve seen in a movie: Your emotions are complicated, but a necessary part of your life. In a more in-depth example, Sadness interjecting with emotions, even happy ones, can be viewed as an “easier to express than explain” way of representing depression. I can tell a lot of research has been put into this movie regarding how emotions affect the body and how circumstances affect emotion.

Inside Out 2

10/10

Music

Not much to discuss in detail with the music. It is always engaging to the audience. The tones reflect the mood of the scene and tends to fall in one of the categories of the emotions.

9/10

Spectacle

As to be expected from a Pixar film, the visuals are grand and imaginative. And with a great portion of the movie taking place in the abstract of human thought, there’s a lot of liberties taken with how the brain categorizes and creates memories. Real-world settings are grounded and pulled from actual places. The bright colors are typically there to keep the attention of the kids, but darker colors like grey and black are also used in an important way.

10/10

Star Power

The voice cast for this movie was as close to perfect as I can imagine. A long list of recognizable stars are perfect fits for their respective roles. The emotions are played by comedians of TV shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation as well as live segments like Saturday Night Live! Lewis Black as Anger was surprising, as I didn’t think Disney or Pixar would approach somebody with such a foul mouth to do a film intended for kids. But his inclusion was a perfect fit for the role. Phyllis Smith as Sadness was also a fantastic choice, having several films as the sad/lonely secretary/teacher  to get the beats of her character correctly. John Ratzenberger cameos in the film, as to be expected.

10/10

Audience Demographic

The movie, as are every Pixar/Disney movie, is intended with a child audience. Adults, especially parents, will find a much deeper meaning in the film than the kids do. Teens and young adults will connect with the emotions because of the ever-changing environment going on in their lives at that moment. Parents in particular will be able to connect with the idea that they don’t always know what’s going on in their kids’ lives, despite want to know or willing to help. The film hits all cylinders and every person will find significance in it.

10/10

Post-movie Thought

Coming into the film, I knew that Pixar would tug at the heart strings and bring up very emotional events. This time around, instead of the one or two times that it comes around (like Up and Toy Story 3), I was bombarded with emotional hits throughout the movie. It was quite cathartic at the end, and it actually helped me realize something about depression that I didn’t quite understand when studying psychology in college. The emotions are necessary, even if they are unwanted at the time.

10/10

Shown Their Homework

Pixar and Disney have done a lot of research when making this film. The entire production took about 5 years, and in that time psychologists and behavior specialists were called in to build the film’s theme. While there are certainly more than 5 emotions that a person experiences (27 is a closer number), many elements of the emotions were streamlined and incorporated into the five that are present in the film (Surprise, for example, is encapsulated by Fear and his regular responses to Riley’s environment). I really like appreciate this level of depth to their research, and it shows in their final product.

10/10

Overall: 99/100

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World is a science-fiction adventure film directed by Colin Treverrow. It is the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park film franchise. The film stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, and BD Wong.

Jurassic_World_poster

Plot

The film opens with two hatching dinosaurs eggs, then cuts to a family leaving for an airport. Zach Mitchell (Nick Robinson) and his little brother Gray (Ty Simpkins) are leaving to visit their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Claire is the park operations manager of Jurassic World, a revitalized dinosaur theme park after the disaster that happened over 20 years ago. Through the primary financing of the Misrani Corporation CEO and genetic engineering abilities of Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong, who reprises his role from the first film), Claire focuses on unveiling the first genetically modified dinosaur (well, unless you count the amphibian DNA they’ve used to complete the genome from the previous films) to keep audience attraction but neglects to spend time with her nephews. The dinosaur is given the name Indominus Rex, distinctly separate from its T-Rex predecessor. With upgrades to the new dinosaur’s enclosure necessary, Velociraptor trainer and behavior specialist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is brought in to examine the structural integrity only to find that the dinosaur can’t be found inside. An incredible ruse brought about by the Indominus Rex’s newly understood abilities leads to it breaking out of the enclosure.

8/10

Characters

JURASSIC-WORLD-8

Zach and Gray are the first characters to have any development in the movie, and unfortunately those moments are shallow and incomplete. Gray appears to be in late elementary school or early middle school, but has an unusual fixation on numbers and information that kids his age wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Zach, on the other hand, is a nonplussed teenager who doesn’t seem to be committed to anything, including his girlfriend at the start of the movie that is never mentioned again. A handful of conversations between them seem to force the idea that they’re brothers and need to stick together instead of building them up. Other moments with them seem to be more of a plot coupon that conveniently helps them progress with staying alive.

Claire has the biggest character change by the time the movie starts to the time it ends. She has very little concept about how to be a member of a family with the awkward conversation with her sister and inability to communicate with her nephews. She also happens to set a double standard by criticizing a subordinate for wearing a Jurassic Park shirt, calling it poor taste, but seemingly learning little from her predecessors by going along with bigger, more dangerous dinosaurs.

Owen’s interaction with the characters are perhaps the most compelling. He’s incredibly genre savvy and knowledgeable about wildlife behavior, which makes him the asset when things go horribly, horribly wrong. Outside of Claire, he also deals with Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who’s in charge of InGen security. They are almost exclusively stand-offish toward each other and it comes to a head at the end of the second act. He’s the lead handler in the velociraptor attraction, actually able to communicate and lead his group of raptors.

jurassic-world-trailer-0000-600x360

7/10

Language

Geneticists and attraction specialists have the most technical explanations of the universe set up in the movie. They explain the specialties of the dinosaur attractions and the science behind building the Indominus.

7/10

Theme

Much like the previous installments, the overwhelming theme of the movie involves scientific advances and the could/should dilemma of experimenting. On a lesser note, working together for survival plays an important role. The raptors do it when hunting (as discussed in previous movies) and the human leads do it to not die. Lastly, it examines the consequences of genetic modification. On the surface, it brings out the best and deadliest qualities of the Indominus. In context of reality, it could be represented as a metaphor for GMOs, or perhaps I’m looking too far into it. (I honestly don’t have much an opinion on organic vs. modified food)

8/10

Music

One of my favorite qualities of this movie is the use of the original music from the first movie. There are updated mixes to keep things fresh, but the main theme with a bigger orchestra is the best piece of music. The movie setting is also placed sometime during the Christmas season with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” playing in the airport at the beginning of the film, but has little impact with the rest of the film.

9/10

Spectacle

There are more dinosaurs. Lots more. Most of them will call back to the original films, while others will leave you scratching your head. In the context of real life, the designs of the film’s dinosaurs are not at match for what science has discovered about them. Real science confirms that birds are closer descendants to dinosaurs than reptiles and even mentions it in the movie, but there aren’t any feathers or spines like the raptors of the third movie. With the big scenes involving multiple dinosaurs, they CGI is a little too obvious to make it believable and removes the suspension of disbelief for a moment. There’s a mythology gag to consider, as well. When the aquatic dinosaur is being fed in the first act of the movie, the food is a great white shark. With Spielberg being the director of the first movie (executive producer of Jurassic World) and one of his other famous movies being Jaws, it’s a deliberate (and in my case, successful) show of how far monster escalation has come with these types of movies.

jurassic-world-trailer-0000-600x360

8/10

Star Power

Chris Pratt is the action hero of the movie, coming fresh off the heels of Guardians of the Galaxy. Bryce Dallas Howard is the female lead, being in other sci-fi/fantasy movies such as Terminator: Salvation and Hereafter. Vincent D’Onofrio plays Hoskins, head of InGen security. He’s recently been praised for his portrayal of Fisk in the Daredevil series on Netflix. Judy Greer plays the mother of Zach and Gray in the movie, but she has very little screen time. Ty Simpkins, Gray in the movie, may be most recognizable as Harley in the third Iron Man movie.

9/10

Who to watch with

I find that the movie is almost exclusively made for the people who enjoyed, or perhaps grew up on, the original movie. There are so many call backs to enjoy that the movie could be considered a nostalgia trip.

8/10

Post-movie Thought

Coming down from watching the movie, there’s a lot of the movie that can be rightfully criticized for not making sense or being some sort of plot contrivance (particularly a scene where Gray mentions Zach’s failure of a driving test before driving off road in a jungle environment. Or as shown in some of the trailers, Owen riding through the jungle on a motorcycle. The suspension of disbelief is up to the viewer: if you are willing to accept people riding a motorcycle through the jungle in the same vein that dinosaurs coexisting with humans, it won’t likely bother you.

7/10

Nostalgia Filter

As I mentioned before, the film is catered to those who’ve seen and enjoyed the previous films, particularly the first one. Depending on how the audience holds the sequels, this will help or hurt the experience of the film. On the one end, I felt very satisfied with the movie when it hit every beat in each act. On the other, a friend felt betrayed because he held the original in such a high regard only to be let down. Legacy movies are in a dangerous position of being held of a strict standard of the original. From a personal level, it was everything I was expecting for being in development so long and other things that left me pleasantly surprised.

10/10

Overall: 

 

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is written and directed by Joss Whedon.

Avengers Age of Ultron.jpg

Plot

Right at the start of the movie, the Avengers infiltrate Baron Strucker’s (Thomas Kretschmann) base in Sokovia in an attempt to retrieve Loki’s scepter from the first Avengers movie. Along the way, they encounter two “enhanced humans” (because the term “mutant” is still owned by FOX in the context of superhero movies). They are twins, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson, respectively), though they are more commonly known as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. After a mental warning from Scarlet Witch, Tony Stark manages to retrieve the scepter and reverse engineers it with Bruce Banner to create the Ultron program without the knowledge of the other Avengers. The intention of the Ultron program is to create an A.I. capable of enforcing world peace by deterring unusual behavior. The Avengers celebrate a job-well-done in retrieving the scepter by hosting a party with several returning members of previous movies such as Col. Rhodes and Maria Hill. The mood immediately shifts when Ultron gains control of Stark’s Iron Legion to eradicate humans, whose inability to change is slowing the process of peace.

UTR-Ultron1

8/10

Characters

While the movie relies on the character development established by the previous 10 films of the MCU, the movie still makes an effort to show the personal relationships between characters instead of their duties as a team. With the characters that are new or never had a back story (such as Black Widow), their past is also mentioned in their own scenes to help get a better understanding of them.

8/10

Language

There’s a fair amount of technology-based dialogue to show off Stark’s and Banner’s intelligence. For the location scenes, the speaking actor’s have distinct accents significant to the area. Wanda and Pietro consistently have strong Eastern European accents.

9/10

Theme

Interestingly enough, there’s a lot of religious context in the movie. There’s a particular plot point that takes place in a church and Ultron, with his god complex, removes any subtlety to that fact. Something else, as mentioned earlier, is relationship that each of the Avengers share with each other as opposed to being forced together for a single cause. Ultron also makes it a point that not being tethered to limitations or being “held by strings” allows him to adapt (evolve) much more quickly than his human opponents.

8/10

Music

Unfortunately, the “No Strings on Me” music is almost non-existent in this movie. While it was blasted in several of the trailers and made to be a big point, the song itself is only in one brief scene. Other licensed music is used in the movie, but the most obvious is the Avengers theme introduced in the previous movie.

6/10

Spectacle

Everything is bigger in this movie, whether it be the villain, scope of destruction, or team synergy. Particular moments are Hulk vs. Hulkbuster (called V.E.R.O.N.I.C.A. in the movie) and Maximoffs vs. The Avengers.

10/10

Star Power

There’s a big celebrity list previously established with the other Marvel movies. The newest faces are Elizabeth Olson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, both of whom starred in another large-scale movie a year ago.

Of course it’s more monster than machine.

James Spader also joins the fray as Ultron, a large performance for a great Marvel villain. Finally, Paul Bettany reprises his role as J.A.R.V.I.S. and also as a new character to the MCU, The Vision.

10/10

Who to Watch With

If anyone has watched any of the previous MCU movies, they will already have an inclination to watch this movie. On the other end, movie goers without any prior knowledge of the movies or the characters they are based off of will have a hard time following the movie. It hinges a great deal on the character establishment of the other movies.

7/10

Post-movie Thought

This is more or less then end of the second phase of the MCU, and while the movie was overall more enjoyable than the previous Avengers, the future of the franchise relies on the audience’s complete obedience to keeping up with the rest of the MCU with movie releases, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, and other soon to be released series. It’s a lot to keep up with and may turn off some people from getting too invested in it.

7/10

Source Material

The Marvel story arc Age of Ultron is much different from the movie due to the screenplay being written alongside the release of the comic, leaving very little overlap. Also, Ultron was originally created by Hank Pym, a character that will be introduced in the MCU later this year. Instead, Ultron is a program made by Tony Stark as seen in the Heroes of Tomorrow story. As the MCU drives forward, I sense it will drift further away from the Marvel comics they are based off of. This is more or less forced due to the movie rights being owned by separate companies (FOX and Sony). Of course with several different stories to choose from, it may be in the best interest for the directors to take their stories in a different direction to make something unique, much like the different writers for the same Marvel characters.

8/10

Overall: 81/100

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Exodus Gods and Kings

Exodus Gods and Kings is a biblically-inspired epic based on The Book of Exodus. The film is directed by Ridley Scott.

Exodus2014Poster

The movie takes place in 1300 BCE (Before Current Era, instead of the more biblically-based Before Christ), in the 400th year of the Hebrew enslavement in Egypt. Despite their oppression, the introduction insists that the Hebrews have not abandoned their God and God had not forgotten them.

Plot

Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramesses (Joel Edgerton) gather in Pharaoh Seti’s (John Turturro) palace in preparation of an attack on the Hittite army. A seer declares a prophecy of a leader emerging following the battle, which is met with skepticism from Moses. Seti gifts swords to Ramesses and Moses as a symbol of their fraternity. Following the battle, Moses offers to visit Pithom in Ramesses’s place and interrogate the Hebrew elders. Along the way, he comes across a defiant slave by the name of Joshua (Aaron Paul) who claims to feel no pain under Egyptian whips. Among the Hebrew elders is Nun (Ben Kingsley), who privately tells Moses of his past and lineage. Moses is ultimately confronted by Ramesses and his mother Tuya (Sigourney Weaver) and exiled. Moses finds a village outside of Canaan and lives peacefully with Zipporah (Maria Valverde), whom he eventually marries and has a child. Many years later, Moses climbs a mountain to gather some sheep when he gets hurt in a rockslide. He witnesses a burning bush and a young boy tells him of his destiny to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt.

7/10

Characters

With the characters being based on the famous Bible story, there’s a lot to draw from and there are a lot of spaces where character development can come up. While the characters are for the most part distinct, the development seems arbitrary to appease a secular or skeptical audience. Right away Moses is skeptical for the sake of being skeptical, despite being raised in an environment where seers and prayers to gods are commonplace. It’s brought up later in the film and seems just as unnecessary. Ramesses seems very confusing, wanting the power of the Pharaoh but having no interest in the responsibility. Then when the movie returns to Egypt, he’s accepting every part of the role of Pharaoh without any personal conflict.

Something that’s been brought up on social networks and news media is the idea of race in the movie. It stands to reason that the entire movie taking place in Egypt would have people of very similar skin color. While the extras range from tan to dark skin, a majority of the main cast are played by Caucasian actors (except Ben Kingsley, who’s Indian). At times, you can’t tell because everyone is covered in sand or in a dark atmosphere. The official reason, given by director Ridley Scott, was in regard to attracting an audience with recognizable actors.

Finally, there’s a problem with the female characters in this movie. There’s less than half a dozen women with significant roles in the movie, and collectively only have like 20 lines of dialogue. Miriam, Moses’s biological sister, has two scenes in the movie that wouldn’t have been lost on the audience if they were cut out completely. Queen Tuya is seen but barely heard, having Ramesses relaying messages on her behalf for most of the scenes involving her. With an actor like Sigourney Weaver, it’s almost insulting to have her lines spoken by someone else. These female characters have importance, but were set aside to focus on the relationship between Moses and Ramesses.

Exodus Tuya

“I’m too busy fighting aliens to take command of this scene.”

6/10

Language

For the sake of audience convenience, the entire movie is in English and not Egyptian or Hebrew. I don’t have a problem with that. In a few instances, Hebrew is seen in written form. However, for the sake of authenticity, accents are used for the setting. It seems that the accent is predominantly English, with occasional slips into a more Middle-Eastern accent. The accent didn’t bother me so much as the inconsistency. If an actor makes a choice, the least they could do is stick with it. The only one who seemed to stick to their accent choice was Christian Bale, and many of those time he was shouting too loud to pick up on anything.

Exodus Moses

“Swear to me!”

5/10

Theme

Oh hey, it’s a Bible story. So all of the elements of belief in God, faith, and doubt are all present. On a human level, the relationship between Moses and Ramesses has the most importance at the start of the movie and deconstructs upon Moses’s return. There doesn’t seem to be any allegory because it’s all much more blatant, like the previous Bible epic Noah, from earlier this year. They are still enjoyable, but the problems that stem from the biblical elements is trying to put them into a more realistic spin on the miraculous events of the Exodus story. In an attempt to reach out to the faithful as well as the secular, it instead alienates both.

6/10

Music

There’s no licensed music tied to this movie. The entirety of the movie soundtrack is scored by Alberto Iglesias. The music features something to the effect of Gregorian chants and sweeping orchestral pieces. It’s most apparent in the battle scenes and the flight from Egypt, but almost unnoticeable in the small dialogue scenes.

6/10

Spectacle

I had a lot of high hopes with this movie, considering the multitude of plagues that I know would happen in the back half of the plot. With such a big budget, the effects were enjoyable, but not overwhelming. A majority of the effects were wide shots, ruining any suspension of disbelief. The close shots of some of the plagues (frogs, in particular) seemed the most realistic as well as the practical effects of hail.

7/10

Star Power

Exodus Cast

Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton were the pulls for the movie, having the most screen time and spoken lines. Ben Kingsley acts as a catalyzing force as the Hebrew elder telling Moses of his destiny. Aaron Paul, coming off his huge success in Breaking Bad, plays the role of Joshua, an important role in the context of the Exodus book but much less so in the movie. Sigourney Weaver, perhaps most famous for a different Ridley Scott film (you know which one, don’t play that game), has a role so small she may as well have not been in the movie, which is a shame. The man on the far left of the photo is Ben Mendelsohn, a minor player in films as A Place Beyond the Pines and The Dark Knight Rises. He plays the viceroy tending to matters of the Hebrew slaves.

7/10

Target Audience

In an interesting attempt to attract the faithful and skeptical, the film rationalizes some of the miracles found in the original story. To me, it felt as though the rationalization denies the faithful of the majesty God is capable of, and the fact that some things are left without explanation gives the audience (or perhaps just myself) a lingering thought of why some of the plagues needed to be rationalized in the first place.

In it’s attempt to reach a wider audience, it pulls the necessary elements to maintain the attention of one or the other.

6/10

Post-movie thought

I’ve already said my piece about the movie in the previous segments, so I’ll make this part brief. It was a well-intentioned and expensive attempt to revitalize the story of Moses. But honestly, you’d get a much more concise story in the animated movie The Prince of Egypt made by Dreamworks almost 20 years ago.

Prince of egypt ver2.jpg

5/10

Source Material

Much like previous adaptations of the story of Moses, most of the exchanges between Moses and Ramesses were cut out. Each plague was brought about when the latter refused to let the Hebrews leave Egypt. It cuts out a lot of unnecessary scenes in the context of a movie, since most people remember the story of the plagues coming one after the other after a single denial anyway. A majority of the movie takes several licences with what happened in between major events of the story as well as developing Moses in a different manner than the biblical story.

SPOILER WARNING, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

*Moses is presented as a military general with a natural ability to lead people.

*God manifests as a young boy in Moses’s vision instead of a disembodied voice in the presence of a burning bush, though the bush is still present on their first meeting.

*Many of the first plagues are rationalized, such as the river being tainted by an overflow of blood caused by a crocodile attack.

*Aaron, biological brother of Moses, is nowhere to be seen in the film. In the original, Aaron serves as a successor after Moses dies.

*Moses trains dozens of Hebrews how to handle weapons before God unleashes his plagues.

*Moses is portrayed as skeptical of not only God, but the Egyptian religion he grew up with.

*…And I’m sure there are more that I can’t remember.

END SPOILERS

Much like Noah before it, the movie’s artistic license makes the story much more interesting at the cost of it being “inauthentic” to its source.

5/10

Overall: 60/100

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment