Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is a superhero film starting Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Civil War Poster

The film starts in a hidden Siberian base in 1991. James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is triggered to become the Winter Soldier through an activation phrase, is given orders to intercept a vehicle, and take its contents without any witnesses. The vehicle contains five samples of Super Soldier Serum.

Cut to present day, Wanda Maximov/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) communicates with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to stop the theft of a biological weapon orchestrated by Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo). While the mission was a success, Scarlet Witch’s attempt to contain a blast resulted in the destruction of a building. She is particularly affected, feeling guilt and responsibility.

Meanwhile, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) shows off his new technological marvel to M.I.T. students and allows all of them grant money for their experiments. While leaving, he comes across a woman that lost her son to the incident in Sokovia and holds the Avengers responsible. General Ross (William Hurt) gathers several members of the Avengers and proposes the Sokovia Accords, a registration of super-powered people to maintain accountability and analyzing threats. The act is met with support from over a hundred different countries and the heroes are left to sign and comply, retire, or break the law and be arrested. Each member gets into a large argument why the Accords are a good or bad idea. Steve Rogers, shortly after, attends the funeral of Peggy Carter. Her niece, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) recounts a story about compromise and standing by conviction. Rogers commits to not signing.

While in a U.N. meeting, the King of Wakanda recounts the story of the stolen Vibranium used to make the anti-gravity weapon responsible for the destruction of Sokovia. His son (Chadwick Boseman) notices a bomb and fails in his attempt to save his father. He finds that the Winter Soldier was seen planting the bomb and dons the Black Panther outfit to find and kill him. Captain America catches wind of this and tries to help Bucky escape, only for both of them to be caught. With the Sokovia Accords now in effect, Captain America is arrested.

Plot

The two main points of the movie are putting the Sokovia Accords in place and the relationship between between Captain America and Winter Soldier. The former splits the Avengers in terms of ideology and the way superheroes need to carry themselves. The latter takes the majority of the movie, being a Captain America movie. While the movie is advertised toward the former, the focus on the latter leaves a lot to be desired.

7/10

Characters

Almost all of the characters in this movie were introduced in previous movies, with the primary exception of Black Panther. As such, we already have an idea of their emotional temperament, what they stand for, and how they solve problems. In terms of numbers, it has more heroes than Age of Ultron, which would normally be a source of confusion having so many characters available at once. The simple solution is having characters in groups, each time allowing to adjust to their personality. The climactic fight of the film has everyone together with their own fighting abilities.

My biggest concern is the character change in Tony Stark. Given his history in previous films, Stark has been very anti-government when it comes to his technology being used for federal purposes. While he may have developed some sort of change following his vision in Age of Ultron, where Captain America insists that Iron Man didn’t do enough to save them all, I don’t think it’s enough to escalate from developing an artificial intelligence to giving the government allowance to use his services whenever. It seems too dramatic of a step for Stark to let go of his ego and narcissism since it’s been built up since the first Iron Man movie.

7/10

Theme

Much like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a month and a half ago, the idea of superheroes unilaterally making decisions for fighting crime is a universally interesting point for all comic book characters gives way to the smaller-scale conflict. In the movie, Vision brings up the escalation of super villains with the presence of heroes. Since the introduction of super heroes, super-powered villains have escalated to match or overwhelm their power (to name a few: Iron Monger to Iron Man, Abomination to Hulk, and Yellow Jacket to Ant Man). Vision argues that because of these escalations, a check of powers can be beneficial to contain catastrophe.

The film expands on the relationship between Bucky Barns and Steve Rogers. It goes to a deeper theme of standing up for what you believe is right. Steve Rogers actively breaks the law because he’s sure that Bucky didn’t do what he’s accused of doing: blowing up the U.N. His justification, other than Bucky being his best friend, comes from the first act of the movie. During a eulogy, Sharon Carter shares a message that from her now deceased aunt, which is paraphrased, “When the world tells you to move, you dig in your heels and say ‘no, you move.'” He believes that the Sokovia Accords is wrong because it gives up his personal liberty and allows the government to dictate his actions as Captain America.

No You Move

Amazing Spider-Man #357

Captain America’s conviction is to be commended and is often considered to be in the right for the movie (it’s his name in the title, after all) and the source material it’s based on. In the case of the movie, his actions are personal instead of right. Instead of defending Bucky in a court of law, he takes it upon himself to help him escape custody. Iron Man eventually confronts Steve on a personal level, insisting that his crusade for one relationship damages another.

Civil War So Was I

9/10

Language

The movie builds off of the vernacular set up from previous movies, so it’s assumed that the audience has seen most of them to cut down on exposition.

8/10

Music

There’s a small amount of licensed music in the film, but mostly relies on an orchestrated score. There’s a lot of swells to match the action of the movie. Henry Jackman returns from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He updates some themes, like Brock Rumlow, to the more fitting presence of Crossbones. The new themes are exciting and relevant to the plot of the movie.

9/10

Spectacle

The scale of this movie is very large, having more heroes than either of the Avengers movies. The movie prevents the audience from being overloaded by not having all of them on the screen at once, even during the climax fight. There’s plenty of special effects to keep attention, and with the new heroes comes a more dynamic fight.

10/10

Star Power

Civil War Cast

There are plenty of recognizable stars, with the newest to the movie being Daniel Brühl and Martin Freeman in small but significant roles. Chadwick Boseman joins the fray of superheroes as Black Panther and will get his own standalone movie in 2018.

10/10

Audience Demographic

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands, a lot more of it is expected from its audience. With Civil War being the start of Phase 3, this is not a movie where anyone can just drop in. The audience has to know the main characters at least from the previous Avengers movies. If not, the audience will be left swimming in questions of “Who’s that character? What does s/he do?” The movie will be a hit for action movie fans and obviously those invested in comic book movies.

7/10

Post-movie Analysis

As with other Marvel films, there are extras following the movie. In Civil War, there are two after-credits scenes: one following the animated credits and another at the end of the main credits.

The lingering thoughts of the movie deals with which character was in the right. Was Iron Man correct in saying that superheroes need to be held accountable for their actions? Was Captain America correct in saying that superheroes need to maintain their autonomy? While it’s a good marketing strategy, picking a side isn’t exactly the point of the movie. Its recognizing the merits of both as well as their faults.

10/10

Source Material

Civil War was a Marvel crossover event from 2006 to early 2007. Although there were different circumstances, the Superhero Registration Act in the comics are largely identical to the Sokovia Accords of the movie. The number of characters in the former is much larger than that in the latter due to movie licensing, though a full adaptation may have made the movie much harder to follow. The message of the movie is slightly altered, putting a focus on Captain America rather than super heroes as a whole. I feel this is not a good move, as it takes away from the significance of how it affects superheroes as a whole, rather than how it affects Captain America personally.

8/10

Overall: 85/100

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Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a superhero action film. It is a sequel to Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel. The film stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Irons.

BvS poster

Plot

A perspective-flipped battle from Man of Steel shows Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) driving and running through the streets of Metropolis as it’s being destroyed by Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon). Bruce witnesses the deaths and maiming of several people as well as the brutality of two aliens tearing apart a city.

A year and a half later, Zod’s terraforming ship is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, slowly being excavated for materials. Superman stops a plot in Egypt that almost has Lois Lane (Amy Adams) killed. His actions don’t come without consequence, as the collateral damage causes a few civilian deaths. This catches the attention of the government, particularly Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) as she holds Superman particularly accountable for the civilian deaths.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne continues his crusade as Batman, branding sex criminals with his signature symbol. The criminals are reported on the news being beaten severely in prison, catching the attention of Clark Kent, Superman’s secret identity. Senator Finch is welcomed into LexCorp by its eccentric CEO, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). He reveals to her that Superman has a vulnerability lying in the remains of Zod’s spaceship after experimenting on Zod’s cadaver. In a gala event hosted by Luthor, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent finally meet and question each other on the ethics of the “heroes” in their respective cities, neither back down on belief that they are doing the right thing.

The plot is very understandable, but it doesn’t follow a hard narrative, making the flow of the story difficult. There are a few moments for Bruce Wayne and a singular moment for Clark Kent that I could best describe as an insert; some sort of moment that was hastily added in order to push forward either the justifications of their actions or an attempt at characterizing them. There are times where moments linger much longer than they need to, where the audience has already picked up on what’s happening but the scene stays for another 10 seconds before moving forward again. Then in the third act, while the motivations are clear for the characters, everything seems to veer off in a different direction and the audience is quickly jolted into a different motivation for the characters. This change had to be done, but the way it was implemented was jarring.

5/10

Characters

BvS 1

Clark Kent/Superman has already been established in the previous movie, so his characterizations are more reactions to how people perceive him. Bruce Wayne/Batman, on the other hand, has a legacy of films to pull from (particularly the Nolan films) but has no history in the Snyder-established universe. It’s revealed that he’s been crusading as Batman for the better part of 20 years and hints that he lost a sidekick to Joker.

BvS Robin

At three points in the movie, he’s haunted by dreams that more or less drive his actions. As they’re portrayed in the movie, these dreams are at best unnecessary and at worst nonsensical.

Alfred (Jeremy Irons), is introduced early on as Bruce’s confidant and butler. His biting snark breaks from the continual sense of dark and brooding atmosphere. Lex Luthor starts out as an eccentric CEO with a mission, but with each appearance he becomes more of a megalomaniac. Seeing the evolution of his character (or devolution, whichever you prefer) in a somewhat controlled fashion makes his character arc one of the most interesting in the movie. Clark Kent’s mother Martha (Diane Lane) makes a few appearances that more or less frame up Superman as a hero that he wants to be, not the hero Metropolis wants. Finally, there’s the mysterious Miss Prince (Gal Gadot) that crashes Luthor’s party and derails Bruce’s plans. She turns out to be Wonder Woman and gets in on the last battle of the movie, but other than that her entire existence seems to be a framing device for the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League movies. The movie talks about her very little, likely in an attempt to characterize her in her own movie, but I feel it leaves her existence in the movie as very little than “Oh look, another super hero!”

As I mentioned previously, the characters motivations are easy enough to follow, but into the third act one of the main characters has a significant change of heart that would make sense in theory, but sloppily put into practice.

6/10

Language

I really don’t have much to report here. The big thing is the introduction of Kryptonite and references as such. In the previous movie, Kryptonite was implied as the atmosphere in Zod’s spaceship which caused weakness in Superman. Here it takes physical form and frequently discussed, immersing the movie into the comic culture instead of the realistic culture that DC hero movies have been striving for recently.

7/10

Theme

Superheroes working outside the law and accountability for their actions is the main concern for Batman and Superman. Clark Kent feels that Batman working outside the law and literally branding criminals is a step for far for a vigilante and remarks that he may be doing more harm than good. Bruce Wayne feels that Superman’s existence is dangerous to people because of his capabilities to level cities and the fact that a literal alien is able to do these things and apparently not be held accountable. Both Bruce and Clark make their feelings known to each other and don’t recognize the hypocrisy of their criticism. But the discussion isn’t just between them. There is a montage of several people, in-universe and real life, that comment on the idea of super heroes and the problems they cause if they are idolized. Specifically, the idea that if Superman is capable of saving people but doesn’t, does leave a question of his being all-powerful, or all-good?

8/10

Music

There are plenty of heroic swells throughout the movie to tense up the action scenes, most notably in the fight scenes of the third act. One of the main composers is Hans Zimmer, and many movie-goers will be familiar with his work in the Nolan Dark Knight films. He’s gone on record that trying to make the score different from his previous films was difficult, and he’s right. I believe that despite his and his co-composer’s efforts, there are still elements that sounds distinctly Dark Knight, and I even picked up a hint of Inception, another film where he composed the score. That’s not entirely a bad thing, I enjoyed the music from those films, but I’m not watching those films. I feel Zimmer’s formula is getting the better of him.

7/10

Spectacle

My biggest praise for the film comes from the perspective flip in the first major scene. Looking at the Superman/Zod fight from a different angle really set the tone for the film. There’s plenty of fantastical sights, from the ruins of the terraforming ship to the high speed chase of the Batmobile. The inevitable fight scene between Batman and Superman looks like something pulled right out of the comic book (more on that later). My biggest complaint is really just an observation of Doomsday (sorry if it was spoiled, but the character is shown in the trailers) looking incredibly similar to a Lord of the Rings cave troll or an unmasked Ninja Turtle. There’s plenty of materials to go off of when developing him, so the final result just leaves something to be desired.

9/10

Star Power

BvS cast

I like the casting choice for the movie. Returning actors like Henry Cavill and Amy Adams generate a lot of buzz for the movie. Jeremy Irons is my favorite addition. His delivery with Alfred’s remarks are better than Michael Caine’s in the Dark Knight movies. Gal Gadot has been criticized for her stature in respect to recent depictions of Wonder Woman. The way I see it, strength isn’t always portrayed by being muscular; she portrays it through relentless action. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is well enough to recognize that he isn’t just a comedic or overly dramatic actor, but his age held him back from being too believable.

And of course, there’s Ben Affleck. His being cast was a controversial topic for a long while, citing his performance in the poorly received Daredevil back in 2003. The thing is, that was over a decade ago, and a solid actor can’t act his way out of a bad script. Since then, he’s proven himself to be a solid choice for main characters, such as Argo and Gone Girl. Affleck recreated a character tic that I didn’t recognize at first, but is present all the way back to the animated show; the half smile. It’s a small gesture, but I feel this show of amusement helped.

8/10

Audience Demographic

A lot of movie goers are on the edge for this movie because of its predecessor. Comic book fans in particular are torn because they have the opportunity to see the fight they’ve all been waiting for, but in the context of Snyder’s universe. Even fans who aren’t as heavily invested in Batman’s story knows how he became Batman, but everyone has to go through the same origin story of having watch Bruce’s parents get shot. Zac Snyder doesn’t seem to trust his audience to know how Batman came to be, so that starts off the movie and leaves a bad impression to those who watched his movie.

5/10

Post-movie Discussion

This movie took too many steps that it didn’t need to take to make the story as long as it was.

5/10

Source Material

BvS DKR

The fight scenes are very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, where an aging Batman has to confront Superman. He uses similar tactics when fighting Superman, as well. There’s a lot of comic material to pull from, and I think that’s what hurt the movie instead of help it. There are so many elements that were chosen for this film that it doesn’t blend as well as it should have. At one point, I thought I was looking at elements from Batman Odyssey, which if you’re not familiar with, is the most brain-bendingly confusing story about Batman that I’ve ever seen (and certainly doesn’t make for a good movie).

6/10

Overall: 66/100

 

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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

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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

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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

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Movie Review: Inside Out

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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: 

 

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