COCO review

Not that this hasn’t been making its rounds in the theaters, but let’s face it, it’s sad that the Frozen short is getting the greatest amount of attention. Jeez, I hate Olaf.

Disney and Pixar. What can you say? Individually, they’re amazing. Together, who knows what kind of magic is in store for us? Well… okay, fine, Pixar is owned by Disney (what isn’t these days?), but there’s a lot of Pixar films that are considered “Pixar’s films” more than Disney’s and Pixar’s. It’s strange to see that mix and mash. Or maybe I’m just weird. Eh, who cares? DISNEY AND PIXAR!!! WOOO!!!

The story looks like it’s about a Hispanic boy who wants to know more about his father, a famous guitar player, and… honestly, it’s Thanksgiving as I’m writing this, I’ve had two or three mimosas, I’m a lightweight, all I can remember is that this movie looks eerily similar to the movie THE BOOK OF LIFE (2014), which I really liked. I liked the wooden marionette puppet look, but just because something looks and seems similar, doesn’t mean there aren’t differences. Besides, it’s Disney and Pixar. They do great work, so let’s judge it for what it is, not what it looks like.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Anthony Gonzalez (known for unknown stuff and shorts) and Gael García Bernal (DESIERTO [2016], BABEL [2006], AMORES PERROS [2000], and the upcoming Zorro reboot, Z, no release date announced). In support, we have Benjamin Bratt (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], MISS CONGENIALITY [2000], and TV show LAW & ORDER [1990 – 2010]), Grabiel Inglesia (THE STAR [2017], THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014], MAGIC MIKE [2012], and the upcoming FERDINAND [2017]), and legendaries Edward James Olmos (BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017], SELENA [1997], NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND [1984], TV show BATTLESTAR GALACTICA [2004 – 2009], and the upcoming THE PREDATOR [2018]), Cheech Marin (CARS 3 [2017], CARS [2006], THE LION KING [1994], and GHOSTBUSTERS II [1989]), and John Ratzenberger (CARS 3, RATATOUILLE [2007], THAT DARN CAT [1997], and the upcoming INCREDIBLES 2 [2018]).

Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Lee Unkrich (TOY STORY 3 [2010], FINDING NEMO [2003], and TOY STORY 2 [1999]) and co-writer Adrian Molina (directorial debut; congrats, sir, but has contributed to writing THE GOOD DINOSAUR [2015]). Molina’s partner-in-pen is Matthew Aldrich, attached to the upcoming SPINNING MAN (2018). Composing the score is Michael Giacchino, known for WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017), JOHN CARTER (2012), RATATOUILLE, and upcoming films INCREDIBLES 2 (2018) and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018). Finally, co-cinematographers, both making their debuts as such, are Matt Aspbury and Danielle Feinberg.

Overall, I’m sure I’ll like it, but I don’t think I’m going in with the highest expectations. We’ll see.

This is my honest opinion of: COCO

(SUMMARY)

Set close to Día de los Muertos, “The Day of the Dead.” The story follows Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a Hispanic boy hailing from a long line of shoe makers with a bit of a dark history. A long time ago, Miguel’s great great grandfather was a musician who wanted to play for the world instead of be with his wife and daughter, Coco. As a result, everyone in the family hates music and utterly refuses its existence in the house, with the notable exception of Miguel, who loves music and wants to enter the local music competition to prove his skills with the guitar. But after his family vehemently objects, destroying his handmade guitar, Miguel tries to steal the guitar of legendary musician and actor, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), who “coincidentally” has a similar history to his great great grandfather. But the guitar has magical properties and Miguel accidentally finds himself whisked away to the invisible land of the dead, where he soon meets his skeletal ancestors. But Miguel doesn’t want to return to the land of the living without the blessing of his great great grandfather, Ernesto, to return to the living so he can pursue his dream of being a musician, despite his family’s denial of it, both the living and dead.

(REVIEW)

While I don’t agree with the 9.1/10 that IMDb has given it (as of 11/24/2017), it’s still a good movie, even great at times, but not all the way through.

One of my biggest problems with the movie is Miguel’s family. Already, the set-up of “something bad happened once upon a time, so now that bad thing is forbidden among the characters of the story” is an over-done cliché that nobody likes, but I can’t stand how mean-spirited Miguel’s family is. Okay, so a man chose to build himself a career instead of being with his family. Deadbeat dads aren’t exactly uncommon. Tragic and possibly unforgivable, to be sure, but how in blazes did this generational hatred for music last so long? Coco never seemed opposed to music, so how did Miguel’s grandmother, his parents, his aunt and uncles, how are all of them so accepting of this blind hatred? Literally not one person is sympathetic, supportive, or understanding of Miguel? Not even in a peripheral sense? Especially since everyone involved wasn’t even alive when his great great grandfather abandoned his family, I just don’t see something like this lasting for as long as it does. Maybe it’d make more sense if every generation, someone in the family wanted to be a musician and they all abandoned their families, then we’d have some understandable drama. But it was something that happened once… a long time ago. Like, probably more than 100 years ago. You see the problem here? The set-up just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me when Miguel rejected his family after his guitar was destroyed. They’re highly unreasonable and not very likable.

Smaller problems include some contrivances, like Miguel sporadically telling his family’s life-story to a stranger that he’s supposed to be shining the shoes of. Dante the dog was mostly annoying. Not Olaf annoying, but pretty annoying. And some moments seem a little too rushed. Like the movie was trying to get through its scene faster instead of letting the emotions sink in for the characters. It doesn’t happen often, granted, but it’s still present.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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Granted, any additional problems that I have are, objectively speaking, pretty small compared to the unlikable family. Having said that, there’s a few annoyances and some predictability to the movie that I couldn’t help but notice. Like, while I may not have predicted that Hector (voiced by Gael García Bernal) was really Miguel’s great great grandfather, but I called it pretty early on that Ernesto wasn’t either. And the movie tries SO HARD to make this a twist. Hector’s face ripped out of the picture, someone remarking how Ernesto is his family, but no one corrects him, just saying “never mention that man’s name again,” it all gets pretty forced.

 

And there’s the formulaic tropes that Disney and Pixar have been pretty fond of lately that I’m actually a little tired of seeing. First up, we have that thing where the budding traveling pair, Miguel and Hector, have an argument at the end of the second act, but you know they’re going to reunite. It’s not as forced or random as when MOANA (2016) did it with Moana and Maui, but it’s still in that ball park.

 

Also, the surprise villain. Oh jeez, do I hate it when movies do this, especially when it’s not really properly built up. Why did this story need a bad guy anyway? Isn’t the struggle of the lack of familial support kind of the main thing this movie was focusing on? And while I won’t deny that I liked how dark it went that Ernesto straight up murdered Hector for his music, as he never was able to write his own, I feel like there was a better way to spin this story. Wouldn’t it be a little more interesting if Hector really did die from food poisoning and Ernesto really was trying to keep his old friend’s memory alive, but because he was such a hero and legend in his time that he was never honest with the public, taking credit for music that wasn’t his own, he simply never acknowledged Hector? I feel like this could have fed more into even a theme of the price of following your dreams, giving Miguel a moment of pause if being a musician really is right for him, fearing that the fame could change him like it did Ernesto. I think that would have been more complex than simply, oh, he murdered him. It’s too easy, think.

 

And that final song and dance number between Ernesto and Imelda (Alanna Ubach) is pure padding. Instead of just trying to out Ernesto as a fraud to his fans, they sing and dance with him and not trying very hard to get that photo away from him and back to Miguel’s hands.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

But as much as I can rag on the elements that bothered me, I can’t deny what this movie does unbelievably well.

First and foremost, this might be one of the best-looking Disney-Pixar films to date. I am not kidding. This trumps FROZEN (2013), for crying out loud. The reveal of the land of the dead, the sheer size and scope of it, the layers, upon layers of animated beauty are truly a wonder to behold. The world of the dead is so lively, bustling with people with their comings and goings. It’s something you can easily freeze-frame and spend hours just gushing over the impossible detail the animators put in to it. But it’s not even just the land of the dead. This fictional Hispanic city is gorgeous to look at with its own personality to bring. The characters look great. Wonderful expressions, mixed with great voice-talent, it’s a whole package. And I’m telling you, your eyes are going to melt with awe when you look at Pepita, the Alebrije, which is this giant lion-dragon thing surrounded in bright neon colors that looks utterly phenomenal. There is no frame in this movie that isn’t pure beauty.

The music is great as well. Being someone who works in a restaurant with a kitchen staff mainly comprised of Hispanic cooks, I’m usually within earshot of some of that type of music. But as lively and fun as that is, nothing compares to the gorgeous tunes you’ll be listening in this film. When you get the chance, check out the soundtrack. Easily something that anyone can add to their personal playlists. Everyone’s a great singer, especially Gonzalez.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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I even enjoy some of the ideas the movie presents as well. Like, apparently, there is a death or the dead. In the land of the dead, their entire existence is strictly based on their pictures being put up on the Día de los Muertos, and they continue to live on, so long as the succeeding families remember them through stories passed down from generation to generation. But if the succeeding families forget the dead, then even they fade out of existence, called “The Final Death,” which is chilling to think about. This factors in great with Hector and his desperation for Miguel to take his photo and put it up in the land of the living because Coco, his daughter, is almost ready to pass on herself and no one remembers Hector’s face, so he’s dangerously close to the Final Death. You really understand his motivations and his emotions when Miguel proves to be difficult, albeit for good reasons on all sides.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

I know there’s not a lot of positives to rave about, but they’re so consistent throughout the film that they hold up the movie extraordinarily well and overcome many of the problems I have. Ocularly, phonetically, this movie is magic of the highest caliber. Sure, I had problems with the set-up, some of the characters, and certainly had my issues with the final act, but this movie has way too much going for it that I can’t help but say that I do highly recommend it. This could even be one of those movies to watch around the time of Día de los Muertos, which goes from Halloween until November 2. If you’re a fan of Disney and Pixar, then you’ll definitely get your moneys worth. Seize your moment and see this brilliant and beautiful film.

My honest rating for COCO: 4/5

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TOMORROWLAND (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Won’t lie, I didn’t exactly have the highest of expectations when I heard that this movie, based on A SECTION OF DISNEYLAND, was getting made. Of course, then I heard Damon Lindelof (wrote LOST – TV series) was working on the story and screenplay with Brad Bird (directed and wrote THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE, and directed MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL) and then those low expectations skyrocketed. The first trailer really gripped my attention and the second sealed the deal. Then I learned that Hugh Laurie (HOUSE M.D. – TV show) was in the movie, this was shaping up to be a real hit. Saw an employee screening at work and I was pretty excited.

Starring: Britt Robertson (THE SPACE BETWEEN US [2017], SCREAM 4 [2011], and DAN IN REAL LIFE [2007]), George Clooney (MONEY MONSTER [2016], MICHAEL CLAYTON [2007], and BATMAN & ROBIN [1997]), and Raffey Cassidy (THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER [2017], ALLIED [2016], and DARK SHADOWS [2012])

Support: Hugh Laurie (ARTHUR CHRISTMAS [2011], FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX [2004], SPICE WORLD [1997], and the upcoming HOLMES AND WATSON [2018]), Tim McGraw (THE SHACK [2017], COUNTRY STRONG [2010], and THE KINGDOM [2007]), Kathryn Hahn (CAPTAIN FANTASTIC [2016], WANDERLUST [2012], THE LAST MIMZY [2007], and the upcoming A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS [2017]), Keegan-Michael Key (WHY HIM? [2016], WANDERLUST [2012], ROLE MODELS [2008], and upcoming films THE STAR [2017] and THE PREDATOR [2018]), and Judy Greer (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], MARMADUKE [2010], WHAT WOMEN WANT [2000], and upcoming films ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [2018] and HALLOWEEN [2018])

Director: Brad Bird (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL [2011], RATATOUILLE [2007], THE IRON GIANT [1999], and upcoming films INCREDIBLES 2 [2018] and 1906, no release date announced). Writers: Damon Lindelof (WORLD WAR Z [2013], PROMETHEUS [2012], COWBOYS & ALIENS [2011], and the upcoming TV show WATCHMEN [2018]) and Brad Bird (RATATOUILLE, THE INCREDIBLES [2004], THE IRON GIANT, and upcoming films INCREDIBLES 2 and 1906). Composer: Michael Giacchino (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, INSIDE OUT [2015], SUPER 8 [2011], and upcoming films COCO [2017] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM [2018]). Cinematographer: Claudio Miranda (OBLIVION [2013], TRON: LEGACY [2010], FAILURE TO LAUNCH [2006], and upcoming films ONLY THE BRAVE [2017] and 100 YEARS [2115])

(STORY) – SPOILERS AHEAD

The story follows Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). She’s a brilliant teen girl with an incredible penchant for not giving up. Her dad, Eddie Newton (Tim McGraw), is a NASA engineer, but the platform he works at is being dismantled and Casey is trying really hard to disrupt its deconstruction, though her dad isn’t aware of that. For good reason, as it’s VERY illegal. Unfortunately, she gets caught and goes to jail. She quickly gets bailed out by her father, but something weird happens when her things are returned to her. A strange looking pin that upon, touching it, she is instantaneously teleported to a whole new dimension. And upon immediately letting go of the pin, she’s just as instantaneously teleported back to her own world, though it appears to the outside world that she hadn’t gone anywhere and that she’s just acting crazy. Not to mention this pin’s feature only seems to work for her, as when her father touches it, there’s nothing. Incapable of getting this beautiful world out of her mind, she touches the pin again and explores the world in more detail; a world of futuristic technology and a peaceful and prosperous city. Everything is wonderous and amazing. However, the pin is on a timer and runs out before she can get to the truly amazing stuff. Investigating the pin’s origins, she discovers that someone is looking for it. She sneaks off to discover what this buyer knows about it. Turns out, this buyer isn’t the only person looking for the pin. A little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) seeks both the pin and very specifically Casey. Casey arrives to find out that the buyers are evil robots intent on killing Casey for the pin and information regarding Athena, whom Casey hasn’t met yet and don’t believe her when she mentions that tid bit of information. Luckily, Athena rushes in and saves Casey’s life and destroys the robots, soon revealing that Athena herself is a robot and wants nothing more than Casey to continue pursuing the world she saw. But time is of the essence as more robots are revealed to be around and still seek the pin and Athena. Obviously, something’s not right, seeing as both the homicidal robots and Athena are from that world, and Athena hints that something bad happened there and if Casey is to reach Tomorrowland, then she’s going to need help. That help comes in the form of Frank Walker (George Clooney). Frank was once a child genius who had invented a jetpack, albiet a flawed one that didn’t quite work. Athena invited Frank to Tomorrowland and stayed for a good long time, losing himself to invention and wonder, until one day he was kicked out. There’s even a hint of young Frank falling in love with Athena, but he ends up outraged when he finds out that she was a robot; information that he wasn’t privvy to before. Over the course of the last few decades, Frank’s been in isolation, continuing to tinker with inventions, even creating a machine that predicts the exact time and day that the world will end and doesn’t believe it can be avoided. Frank is now a bitter, even hostile man. Enter Casey. Athena has ditched the girl on the side of the road right next to Frank’s house and Casey is left to basically deal with him. Frank is incredibly reluctant at first, but the reinforcements of murderous robots appear and Frank is forced to protect Casey. Reunited with Athena, they must now hitch a ride to Tomorrowland, believing that Casey can save both Tomorrowland and Earth. Upon arrival, via a rocket ship, Tomorrowland isn’t what Casey was led to believe. It’s empty, lifeless, practically a desolate wasteland. Sure, the skyscrapping buildings are standing and looks fantastical enough, but there’s nothing there. No one there. But things take a turn when the mayor of Tomorrowland, Nix (Hugh Laurie), whom was established as a particular dick toward Frank when he first arrived in Tomorrowland, is also revealed to be the reason why Earth is about to end, and now the three companions must stop him. Chaos and fighting ensues, Athena sacrifices herself to stop the countdown that will destroy Earth, Nix dies, and Tomorrowland rebuilds its former glory with the need for new creative thinkers and dreamers alike.

(REVIEW)

I am incredibly divided on this movie. On the one hand, it does SO much right, but on the other, so much goes wrong as well.

Let’s start with the pros. This movie is beyond visually captivating when it comes to Tomorrowland itself. The pin is an invitation to those who are chosen to come to Tomorrowland and gives them a promise to be a part of something great and will fuel their imagination and curiosity. When Casey is exploring her invitation, we are given a front row seat to a vast, immersive world where technology is everywhere. It’s whimsical and just plain fun. As Casey explores everything and shows her excitement and wonder, we can’t help but get caught up in this as well. It is so incredibly well-shot, this is just pure Disney magic at its best. We even feel just as frustrated as Casey when her pin’s timer goes 0 and she’s booted out of the fake Tomorrowland. No, bitch, I wanna go on the rocket that will take me to my destiny!!! That moment is quite hilarious, and says something about a movie that can make an audience feel that way. You can just tell the art and prop department went wild and crazy with their designs and it shines like a beacon of fun and excitement. Can I also give a shout out to the performances in this movie as well? Robertson as Casey is pure energy and is a terrific presence on screen. This might also be my favorite role by Clooney. He basically plays every over-the-top role he’s ever done, but like Brad Pitt who always plays Brad Pitt in his movies, but makes it work for him in FIGHT CLUB, Clooney does the same here in TOMORROWLAND. He’s big, he’s funny, he’s just so much fun to watch and really makes you wonder about why he is the way he is. Also, a big shout out to the talented young Raffey Cassidy. While her intro to her powers and abilities is at first off-putting and a little too bizarre, once you find out the how and why, you quickly accept her role as a sort of protector and guide for Casey. Cassidy’s portrayal is oozing with layers and subtlty that I am very eager to see what her career will be like in the future and hope she continues to take solid work that showcases her talent like this.

And now the cons. While the movie is brilliant in teasing us about Tomorrowland as a whole, the story goes a little too fast-paced to clearly get a grasp of what is really going on. When the movie should have taken a moment to catch its breath and help the audience understand why these robots and why this and that guy are doing this and that, the explanations that are given are driven right on through and I couldn’t quite catch up. At its most crucial points where the audience needs to understand what is happening, the movie doesn’t take its time to easily explain, possibly requiring a second viewing to fully comprehend the rhymes and reasons. Also, the film is titled “TOMORROWLAND,” yet we only get glimpses of the actual world of Tomorrowland itself. Granted, they are spectacular glimpses, but dear god the movie is anchored to the real world. We only get glimpses of technology, which isn’t always bad, don’t get me wrong, but we came here to see a futuristic world to get lost in. Not the garden-less front yard of an unknown Texas house, though the hologram dog was pretty f**kin’ amazing. But where the movie loses me is how this technology manages to get here to Earth at all. I might be more inclined to let that go, but, get a load of this:

***SPOILERS***

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Remember how Casey, Frank, and Athena reach Tomorrowland by hitching a ride via a rocket ship? Wanna know where that rocket ship came from? Underneath the Eiffel Tower… which neatly splits apart like a STAR WARS landing platform and a rocket comes out from the ground. How does that fucking work?! Even that’s explained in a half-assed way. Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and two other scientists of that era, built this rocket. Let me say that again. EDISON AND TESLA INVENTED A SPACE ROCKET!!! …. Movie, dear sweet movie, at that time in history, we hadn’t even invented the first airplane. About ten years away from it in fact. But you expect me to believe that Edison and Tesla invented a ROCKET THAT GOES INTO SPACE, SUCCESSFULLY, AND CAN PERFORM TRANS-DIMENSIONAL TRAVEL, AGAIN, SUCCESSFULLY?????? Uh… nope.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, characters are well-conceived, it’s masterfully shot, and captivates your imagination. Tomorrowland, via the pin’s invitation, is an incredible world radiating with glee and majesty, begging to be expanded. But we don’t get that for a majority of the movie despite how great the in-world technology and action scenes look. The actors’ performances hold up the movie for the most part, but the story is not kind to the audience when crucial information is glazed over, treating it like unimportant exposition. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see it a second time, it’s worth seeing even once. It might be easy enough to lose yourself in this potentially wonderful world that Lindelof and Bird have created, but one cannot deny the problems that bog this movie down from being truly great.

My honest rating for TOMORROWLAND: a strong 3/5

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JURASSIC WORLD (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Let’s face it, this movie has been in the making for a long time (since 2007, I think) and we were/are hoping that it’s been worth the wait. I won’t waste any time, I’m going to try to keep this spoiler-free, so let’s get right into it.

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard (GOLD [2017], PETE’S DRAGON [2016], 50/50 [2011], and the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM [2018]), Chris Pratt (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017], THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN [2016], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], and upcoming films Marvel’s AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM), Nick Robinson (EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING [2017], THE 5TH WAVE [2016], THE KINGS OF SUMMER [2013]), and Ty Simpkins (THE NICE GUYS [2016], IRON MAN 3 [2013], and INSIDIOUS [2010]). In support: Vincent D’Onofrio (CHIPS [2017], THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, MEN IN BLACK [1997], and the upcoming remake DEATH WISH [2018]), Jake Johnson (THE MUMMY [2017], MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES [2016], TV show NEW GIRL, and the upcoming TAG [2018]), Judy Greer (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], ANT-MAN [2015], CARRIE [2013], and the upcoming Marvel’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [2018]), Irrfan Khan (The Da Vinci Code’s INFERNO [2016] and LIFE OF PI [2012]), and BD Wong (THE SPACE BETWEEN US [2017], MULAN [1998], TV show GOTHAM, and the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM).

Directing and co-writing: Colin Trevorrow (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], the upcoming STAR WARS EPISODE IX [2019], and writing the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM). Co-writing: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES [2011], THE RELIC [1997], and upcoming films Disney’s live-action MULAN [2018] and AVATAR 3 [2021]), and Derek Connolly (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], MONSTER TRUCKS [2017], and upcoming films JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM and STAR WARS EPISODE IX). Composer: Michael Giacchino (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, ZOOTOPIA [2016], TOMORROWLAND [2015], and upcoming films Pixar’s COCO [2017] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM). Cinematographer: John Schwartzman (THE BOOK OF HENRY, SAVING MR. BANKS [2013], THE BUCKET LIST [2007], and upcoming films FIFTY SHADES FREED [2018] and STAR WAR EPISODE IX)

Story on top, review on the bottom.

(SUMMARY)

We open to Zach (Nick Robinson) and his younger brother Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are about to embark on a family trip to the now-opened dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, which is headed by their semi-estranged aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Gray is more than excited to be in this place, but Zach seems rather detached at first, but eventually warms up. Claire is an incredibly work-driven woman who sadly doesn’t spend time with her nephews to show them the park and leaves them with their personal guide, Zara (Katie McGrath), and even reveals that her scientists have spliced together a completely new dinosaur called the Indominus Rex, revealed by Doctor Henry Wu (BD Wong) to be bigger than a T-Rex. We are also introduced to Owen (Chris Pratt), the park’s very own raptor whisperer and his rocky business relationship with Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who admires the way Owen handles the raptors and sees these intelligent animals as weapons to use for the military against their opponents, to which Owen knows is a colossal mistake, knowing that these raptors only listen to him because they’ve built a relationship since they were hatched, and it’s not a relationship with them thinking that he’s their mother, but uneasy respect. Of course, everything starts going to hell when the Indominus Rex finds a way to escape its paddock and turns the entire park into a warzone. Now, with Owen’s help, Claire must reunite with Zach and Gray and get everyone off the island.

(REVIEW)

To be honest, I never truly believed I’d go into this movie thinking it would be JURASSIC PARK’s equal. It’s a movie that changed cinema with ground-breaking CGI, and perfectly blended horror, action, and wonder. To boot, it was a smart movie. It wasn’t just about a group of people on an island of dinosaurs that run amok. It was about how the advancement of science shouldn’t be wielded like a children’s toy and must be considered if the risks truly outweigh the reward, and shows what happens when there is no contingency plan for when shit hits the fan. Granted, it was far from a perfect movie, but mix all those fantastic elements with a hint of badassery, it’s hard to not like the film as a whole. I knew JURASSIC WORLD wouldn’t be that well-written or impactful, but I was holding out for it to be at least better than LOST WORLD. Boy howdy was I pleased.

Let’s start with what didn’t work, in my opinion. First, D’Onofrio is usually an incredible actor, and coming off his success as Kingpin from Netflix’s DAREDEVIL, I was really curious to see what he was going to bring to this film, and he brings… nothing. His character is there to provide one of the stupidest sub-plots that you can squeeze into a sci-fi like this: turn the subject matter into military weapons. Seriously, writers? It’d be better if Hoskins was like the park’s captain of the soldiers-who-hunt-dinosaurs-if-they-escape and Owen was his most trusted lieutenant who had duel jobs as the park’s raptor trainer. Instead, he’s one of those character who you can write off and the movie would progress just fine. Or worse yet, I won’t spoil anything for anyone, but he does blatantly set up the notion of a sequel. Literally, that’s his only purpose. Not someone we give a shit about. He’s just there to let us know that a sequel could happen.

While I’m on the subject of characters, I really didn’t like Zach. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Nick Robinson. I’m a huge fan of the TV show MELISSA AND JOEY, and Nick is such a presence on screen, but he had to pick the most two-dimensional character that could possibly exist: I’m a moody teenager and I hate everything and I’m just going to ignore everything and listen to my music because I’m just a bad ass. You know what you little dip shit, you’re about to go to a theme park WITH F*****G DINOSAURS, AND YOU’RE MISERABLE???? HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN??? Are you all mopey because you’re leaving your girlfriend? Dinosaurs or pussy, dude? Let’s face it, dinosaurs win EVERY TIME!!! THEY’RE DINOSAURS!!! And never mind his moodiness, he has like no character arch. He comes to this island with an attitude that makes me want to throw a great big pile of shit at him *REFERENCE* and seems rather distant of his brother, or worse, is incredibly cruel to Gray for no rhyme or reason, and even once he starts to care about him… well, that seemed to just come out of his ass. Why do you suddenly care if Gray is getting the full Jurassic World experience? You don’t even want to be here, you hairy scrotum! Nick Robinson played the role well, I just didn’t like the role he was given.

Also, there’s a lot of sub-plots… and they don’t go anywhere. Owen and Claire went on one date. Okay… why was THAT relevant to the story? I think if you watched the movie and fast-forward to ANY point in the story, you wouldn’t really guess that these two had a history together. They’re not divorced, they’re co-workers who went on one date. Oh the drama…

***SPOILERS***

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Also, what’s with the sub-plot of Gray finding out his parents are getting divorced? That was clearly just added to see Gray deliver is a crying performance. As well as Simpkins delivering on that performance, that sub-plot goes absolutely nowhere. Sure both the mom and dad come to Isla Nublar together to find their kids, but… okay, are we going to elaborate on this subject at all now that everyone’s together? Nope? We’re just going to cut to Owen and Claire have a chat and cut to the credits? Cool. Thanks for telling us about a plot that won’t be developed. Awesome sauce *sarcasm*.

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***END SPOILERS***

On a slightly lesser note, why was Judy Greer in this movie? This woman’s got acting talent that can wipe the floor of most actors in Hollywood, so why is she playing a nothing character? Literally, ANYONE could have played Zach and Gray’s mom, and it would have been fine. But no, Greer plays their mom that does NOTHING in the movie other than foreshadow, which is pointless because this is JURASSIC PARK (kinda); dinosaurs running around eating people is kind of a given in this franchise. Also, why was there literally just ONE little pterodactyl with an Indominous Rex head? Anyone else think that was just random for the sake of random? But fine, whatever.

But for as much as I hate some of the characters… and seemingly much of this movie now that I’ve read through some of it, I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t like this movie. For as many problems as it has, it does a great deal more good than bad.

The moment you step out into Jurassic World itself and the immortal Jurassic Park theme starts playing, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. I remember reading the review on Collider.com about how the reviewer would have been perfectly content just exploring the theme park itself and just do away with the chaos and death, and I have to say, I’m in complete agreement. The park itself is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Bright colors, large crowds, it makes the 8-year-old Peruvian boy in me giddy with delight. The fact that the movie takes a beat to actually let us in on some of the attractions, such as feeding the mosasaurus and, how awesome is this shit, lowering the bleachers below the tank water to see the reptilian fish underwater. SO F*****G AWESOME, I’M JEALOUS!!! And a petting zoo, a f*****g petting zoo. Never in my life have I ever been so jealous of an 8-year-old kid getting to hug a baby brachiosaurus, or riding a baby triceratops. Makes me wanna punch those f*****s off and have my turn. F*** YOU KIDS, I LOVED DINOSAURS FIRST!!!

Another unique thing that you might notice in this movie is that the raptors are somewhat given personalities. You can tell there’s a complicated relationship between Owen and the raptors. These are clearly wild animals that want to maim everything in front of them, but there’s clearly some kind of connection they have with Owen that makes them understand that THIS human isn’t meant for eating, but for respecting. This relationship really shines through later on in the story, both for the best and the worst, but always makes sense and even provides a couple of the tensest and somewhat heart-warming scenes. Plus, totally awesome when Owen and the humans team up with the raptors to hunt down the Indominus Rex.

The Indominus Rex is pretty fearsome for a newbie and is a rather well-written monster whose motives and actions make sense. It’s been in captivity all its life, has had no other interaction with anyone or anything other than a crane that lets it know that it’s feeding time. So when it does escape, its rampage makes sense. It’s smart, it’s vicious, it’s something I don’t want to run into on a Saturday night drive home. Nah, bro. Just nah. So no one needs to worry if whether or not the new Rex is a lame new element. It really isn’t.

***SPOILERS***

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The only real problem with the Indominus Rex is this: Owen comments after seeing all the dead brachiosauruses that it’s killing for sport. If any of you have been following the movie as it was being developed, there were some fan theories going around that maybe Indominus had some human spliced into it because the only creature on Earth that hunts for sport is a human. I guess I can chalk this one up to another plot point that doesn’t go anywhere.

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As much as I bash the characters, Pratt and Dallas Howard have great chemistry. Maybe Pratt makes it easy because he’s such a charismatic actor. But hey, what do I know? In fact, both Pratt and Dallas Howard are great. They’re plots go nowhere and are pretty pointless, but they play their characters very well. Especially Dallas Howard. It’s so strange, though. Her resume consists of some pretty awful movies. TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE (2010), TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009), M. Night Shyamalan’s LADY IN THE WATER (2006), and SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007). It’s curious how this wonderful actress even has a career after being in some of the most hated movies in their respective franchises, but here she is in JURASSIC WORLD, practically headlining it and she’s great. I knew she had talent, but there was never a movie that really showcased it. This may be her best performance yet, but here’s hoping that she will get better roles because I know she can act the f*** out of a movie if she was given better material.

And there’s a nice throwback to JURASSIC PARK’s character Tim, who was a dino nerd; now it’s Ty Simpkins playing Gray. While certainly Tim was clearly more knowledgeable about dinosaurs, he was a far more annoying character than Gray. Gray is probably younger, but there’s a certain gravity that he has about him; a youthful strength that he plays so well that doesn’t feel like he’s needy or frustratingly helpless.

And yes, Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus are incredible comic relief.

***SPOILERS***

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For anyone who wants me to dish out my thoughts on the Indominus Rex duking it out with the T-Rex, don’t kid yourself. It’s beyond f*****g awesome. Oh my god, to see these titans chomping down on each other and f*****g each other up, oh my god oh my god oh my god, so much SQUEE, and then the velociraptor enters the fight, overload of badassery, my brain can’t take much more of this, f***, three-way fight! T-Rex and velociraptor versus Indominus Rex, holy mother of shit! And then the Indominus Rex gets it by getting eaten by the mosasaurus. In case you can’t tell, it was f*****g awesome. I mean, clearly it’s fan service since the T-Rex is clearly the fan favorite of the franchise and needed a win after getting straight murdered in the third movie by the less popular Spinosaurus. Still, the only real downside to the fight is that the Indominus Rex is killed rather anticlimactically; not by the T-Rex, but rather randomly by the mosasaurus.

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While this movie has glaring, even frustrating problems, there is more than enough awe-inspiring visuals, badassery, and fan service to more than make up for it. It may not have the brain of JURASSIC PARK, but it plants its feet as the second best Jurassic Park movie, which I think is something any fan of the franchise can walk away happy with.

4/5

PS: If you recall the scene where the pterodactyls are attacking the tourists, you probably remember seeing a guy fleeing from the dinosaurs with a pair of margaritas. You wanna know who that is? Famed singer Jimmy Buffett! No joke, look it up online! It’s really, hilariously, him!

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SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING review

It’s about time.

Spider-Man has certainly had his ups and downs when it came to his cinematic adaptations, huh? Might as well talk about ’em, but since there’s so many, I’ll just talk about the respective franchises.

Obviously, like many in my age range, the Sam Raimi films were practically landmarks in superhero history. They were fun, light, funny, but still bad-ass. At least, up until the third one, which… yeah, let’s not get into. Tobey Maguire was a new millennium icon and everyone loved him.

But then the dawn of taking comic book movies seriously took a serious turn (pun intended) and it seemed like Spider-Man wanted to go that route too. Enter the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies and personally… I prefer them. Oh sure, the conclusion of that series ended in much the same way as the Raimi films, but everything was so much better in my opinion. It took the character in a new direction and I loved them.

But Sony’s hold over Spider-Man must have been pretty weak by that point because they just allowed this movie to be made under Marvel Studio’s banner, rebooting the webslinger once more. And before seeing this movie, yeah, I had some high hopes. Spider-Man had a pretty fun, albeit forced, introduction in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), and now we’ve officially got his stand-alone outing. It looked funny, it looked intense, I was looking forward to it.

Well, here’s the on screen star power. Starring as the titular superhero is Tom Holland (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR,  THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY [2010], and upcoming Marvel films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and the as-of-yet-titled Spider-Man sequel [2019]), and his villain, the legendary Michael Keaton (THE FOUNDER [2017], WHITE NOISE [2005], MR. MOM [1983], and upcoming films AMERICAN ASSASSIN [2017], and Disney’s live-action remake DUMBO, due out… who knows when). In support, we have newcomers Jacob Batalon (the upcoming as-of-yet-titled Spider-Man sequel), Zendaya (known for a ton of Disney channel stuff), and Laura Harrier (TV show ONE LIFE TO LIVE), and returning veterans Robert Downey Jr. (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, TROPIC THUNDER [2008], A SCANNER DARKLY [2006], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE [2019]), Marisa Tomei (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, THE WRESTLER [2008], and MY COUSIN VINNY [1992]), and Jon Favreau (CHEF [2014], IRON MAN [2008], and DAREDEVIL [2003]).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Jon Watts, known for COP CAR (2015). MAJOR RED FLAG ALERT!!! A grand total of FOUR other writers: duos John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (VACATION [2015], CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 [2013], and HORRIBLE BOSSES [2011]) and Christopher Ford (COP CAR) and Chris McKenna (COP CAR and the upcoming JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017]). Composing the score is the ever-amazing Michael Giacchino, known for THE BOOK OF HENRY (2017), DOCTOR STRANGE (2016), DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014), and upcoming films JURASSIC WORLD: FORGOTTEN KINGDOM (2018) and Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Salvatore Totino, known for INFERNO (2016), FROST/NIXON (2008), and CINDERELLA MAN (2005).

Overall, yeah, I was pretty stoked for this. Bought a case of caramel corn for the occasion because a Marvel movie is always a caramel corn occasion.

This is my honest opinion of: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

(SUMMARY)

Several months after the events of CIVIL WAR, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is trying to simultaneously readjust to his normal life at home with his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and school, while also trying to prove his worth as a superhero to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his right-hand man Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Soon, he happens upon what seems to be a like a run-of-the-mill bank robbery. However, the robbers are armed with high tech weaponry that nearly kills him. Despite Stark’s insistence that Peter stay away from them, Peter believes that the inactions of everyone more qualified to handle it aren’t doing enough to stop them and takes it upon himself to do it himself, even if it costs him the chance to become an Avenger.

(REVIEW)

While I hesitate to call it the best Spider-Man movie, nor do I consider it even one of the better Marvel Cinematic Universe installments, but it’s still a good film and a worthy entry to both the MCU and the Spider-Man franchise as a whole.

I guess maybe it’s best if I started with the things I didn’t like so much as there isn’t… much, but they’re worth addressing. I’ll go off on a tangent later about how much I adore Holland as an actor, but as much fun as he is, he unfortunately has a few too many whining scenes. In fact, the first red flag was during the trailer when Ned hacks into his suit and finds the “training wheels protocol” and Holland hops onto the bed saying that he’s sick of being treated “like a kid.” I disagreed when Ned said, “But you are a kid.” Heavily. First off, I’m a big fan of “teenager” is not a kid. By this point in a person’s life, they’re able to comprehend choices and consequences, start making more adult decisions. Peter is fifteen years old. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure wasn’t whining and jumping on a bed when I didn’t get my way. That’s how a child would act, not a teenager who’s been through enough adult situations with high stakes to act so… kindergarten. Some things make sense, like when Toomes (Michael Keaton) figures out Peter’s identity, Peter’s so paralyzed with fear and uncertainty, that he’s bowing his head like a punished dog and quiet the entire time. He’s not exactly the most established superhero with years of experience under his belt. He’s still young and doesn’t have everything figured out either as Peter Parker or as Spider-Man, so his brain isn’t constantly thinking of ways to stop Toomes. I enjoy that idea that he’s just afraid and realizing that he’s in over his head. But more often than not, he’s complaining how he’s not given a chance to prove himself and rushes into a situation half-cocked and yeah, it sours the character a bit.

And there is a big problem that I had with Stark and Happy in general. So when Peter figures out where these high tech weapons will be sold to next; on the ferry that gets torn in half and put back together with Iron Man’s help. Before Stark takes the Spidey suit away, Peter says that he tried to tell him and Happy that this was happening and they didn’t listen. But Stark goes off and says that he believed in Peter, in the context that he could be an Avenger. First off, that line is incredibly preachy and made me cringe a little bit. Second, no, I’m siding with Peter on this one. Both Happy and Stark should be painfully aware of Peter’s desires to prove that he’s the hero that Stark believes him to be. By all accounts, Stark does know that, as he has a tracker in the Spidey suit. But teenager who is that gung-ho about this superhero thing, how could either of the adults supervising him not see this brazen act of lone-wolfing coming from a hundred miles away? You’d think, if only to shut him up, they’d look into it. But no, Happy’s concerned with moving and Stark’s… well, who knows what Stark is actually doing. I do feel like many of the problems that Peter was trying to fix could have been if Stark contributed to the solution. But no, his job seems to be more of a disappointed surrogate father and chastise him the entire time. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I agreed with Peter’s complaints.

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This isn’t a complaint toward the movie itself, but there is something that I didn’t think was very smart for Kevin Feige to say. For those of you that don’t know, Feige is the President of Marvel Studios and has produced every single MCU-related film and been an associate/executive/co-producer (whatever they mean) for several film adaptations of Marvel Comics properties since BLADE (1998). He’s a respected driving force behind the MCU and is arguably the reason why they’ve been so good, outside of solid writers. He recently stated that Michelle is not intended to be Mary Jane Watson, despite the character saying, “My friends call me MJ.” Um… then who is she supposed to be then, Kevin? Quite literally, this “MJ” nod is supposed to be a quirky “hehe” moment. But… no, Kevin, audiences who aren’t reading up on these interviews, will be treating Michelle like she will be. Personally, I don’t care that she’s a different race, nor a traditionally labeled “bombshell” like she’s depicted in everything else, but… yeah, no, she’s our new Mary Jane, just without the name… or really the personality. Honestly, the writers could have just said, “Screw it, she’s a new character and we’re going to roll with it. No Mary Jane, no Gwen Stacey, just… a new character.” The whole MJ thing could be taken out and no one would be the wiser. Throwing it in there doesn’t make the movie any better. It just makes it a pointless detail.

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For all intents and purposes, those are my only complaints. They may not be the most major complaints, but they hampered it a bit.

But enough of the bad, time to rave about the good. First off, despite his complaining out of the Spidey suit, I love this take on Spidey. I feel like each Spidey film has led up to this performance and this movie’s tone. While Maguire’s Spider-Man movies are their own classics for that generation of superhero lovers, the movie as a whole, while tonally appropriate for the character, wasn’t very funny. At least, not compared to Andrew Garfield’s Spidey, or certainly Holland’s. Nor could you take the movies very seriously. By today’s standards and the dawn of the MCU, superhero movies can be light in tone; funny and occasionally goofy, but still have a perfect balance of drama that anyone can relate to and be taken seriously. Maguire’s Spider-Man films were pretty campy and even cartoonish at times, and I’m not just talking about the dated CG. You couldn’t take it very seriously. Then Garfield’s Spidey films went maybe a little too dark for the character, despite them being, in my opinion, better movies with more intriguing ideas. The way Holland’s Spidey is written takes everything that made the character great from the previous films, the light-hearted nerdy character from Maguire’s and the legit humorous Spidey from the Garfield’s, and yet still makes it his own. Peter is still socially awkward, but doesn’t seem to be too affected by his bullies. He’s a smart-ass, but he takes things seriously when he needs to. He loves being a hero and his intelligence is showcased a lot more than I expected.

Now let’s talk about Keaton as Vulture. I feel like I’ve seen one too many opinions circling around claiming that he’s still not one of the better villains. I might disagree with that, actually. Okay, he’s not as entertaining as Loki, but I think he’s given more screen time and development than most villains. He’s not at strong as Loki, but he’s given just as much development as Zimos from CIVIL WAR, and everyone was saying that he broke the streak of bad villains in the MCU. He starts off as a normal construction, demolitions guy and because of red tape, he’s forced to surrender alien debris that could help him take care of his family and the families of everyone that he’s in charge of. I do think it’s a weakness that we don’t actually see his personal struggles, hence why he’s not exactly breaking the bad streak. In all actuality, I may just be bias because I think Keaton’s performance elevates the role quite a bit because we see his desperation and defiance and why he steals the tech to make the weapons he does. Keaton knows how to act and Vulture and how good or not good he is as a villain probably depends entirely on how much of a fan you might be of Keaton. Since I am, I enjoyed his performance more than many other villains.

Even though this Spider-Man isn’t the best of the six that now exist, I do have to say that it’s the one that I appreciate more. Holland is more age appropriate to play a fifteen year old Peter Parker (he’s twenty-one years old), whereas Maguire was twenty-seven, and Garfield was twenty-nine, both unconvincingly playing high-schoolers. Holland both looks and sounds like a teenager. And I know that this was showcased in CIVIL WAR, but I love how expressive the Spidey mask is. Maybe it doesn’t express sadness or anything, but the eyes glare when angry, or widen when frightened. By the way, did anyone else catch this? The voice in Spidey’s suit, “Karen,” is Jennifer Connelly’s voice! Dude! I wish I hadn’t missed that as the credits rolled by! I also enjoy that this movie teases that the technology that Toomes takes and modifies to create weapons are also meant to create future villains, like Scorpion. Mac Gargan is teased. There’s little things like Spider-Man in a suburban neighborhood struggling to web-sling around because there’s no tall buildings to swing from, so he has to comically run across neighborhoods. Heh, hey, friendly “neighborhood” Spider-Man! Did I just get it? And the movie does get creative with how Spidey uses his webshooters. Making a hammock, a timed web-mine thing that explodes a web when a bad guy passes by… so I guess that’d be “proximity,” not timed. In any case, it gets pretty creative and I hope to see more of that in future installments. Donald Glover plays a character named Aaron Davis, a petty criminal who helps Spider-Man in the movie, but refuses to take the weapons that Toomes offers him, later on commenting that he, “has a nephew that lives here,” referencing the now popular comic character Miles Morales, a half black, half Puerto Rican kid who eventually becomes another incarnation of Spider-Man. I doubt the MCU will be around long enough to take this character in that direction, but it’s a nice little easter egg for comic book fans.

The supporting cast is also really good. Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned is really funny and they have incredibly enjoyable banter and scenes together. I especially enjoyed the montage-y scene where… actually, I forget the particulars, but I think Ned and Peter were waiting on a hacking that Ned was doing on the Spidey suit and they’re so bored out of their minds that they’re constantly cut to a new bored position around the room, resulting in Ned in the Spidey mask. No explanation, no rhyme or reason, no comment from the characters, he’s just in the mask. I cracked up, I won’t lie. Zendaya as Michelle is also pretty compelling, being this character that has a seriously sarcastic and sharp whit when interacting with Peter, but still has an unflinching care for those around her as well. She’s definitely a compelling character that I’d like to see return in the sequel.

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While Tomei’s Aunt May was a little underdeveloped in my opinion, it’s hard not to talk about her big reveal in the end when she discovers that Peter is Spider-Man. First of all, her reaction is freakin’ hilarious when she screams, “WHAT THE FU-” and the end credits cut her off. But more than that, this is a new dynamic that fans of the films have never seen before and I’m really looking forward to seeing that develop in the sequel and how this affects their relationship.

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Overall, I think this is definitely worth the time of day. It’s fun, energized, hilarious, great performances all around, it’s great time. It’s got some weaknesses plot and character-wise here and there, but they’re not enough to prevent the movie from being good. Is it the “best” Spider-Man movie? No, I don’t think I agree with that one. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) are better in my opinion, but this is one that should be appreciated in its own right for how it will affect the future of this character and taking a few risks that pay off for the most part. Just nick “Whiny-Spidey” for any future appearances and I’ll be a happy camper. If you’ve been a fan of the MCU, this film is for you.

My honest rating for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING: 4/5

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THE BOOK OF HENRY review

What the hell is this movie?! The advertising for this flick is beyond misleading. Oh, as of this moment while I’m writing, I haven’t seen the movie, but… seriously! The trailer starts off like a gender-swap GIFTED (2017). The kid is a genius who handles the taxes of the house, his mom works as a server and plays video games, and… pretty sure the younger brother is just cute pandering. The boy meets a girl he likes at school and then things go dark. Like… schoolgirl’s step-father may be abusive, dark. Like… end the trailer with the mom holding a sniper rifle, dark.

And then one of the film’s poster looks like this!

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There’s sniper rifles in this movie, kids! Be confused! Be very confused! But all that being said, I’m excited for this movie. It looks like it could be so insane that it’s entertaining.

Well, here’s a look at the cast. Starring, we have Jaeden Lieberher (MIDNIGHT SPECIAL [2016], ALOHA [2015], and ST. VINCENT [2014]), Naomi Watts (CHUCK [2017], the Divergent Series ALLEGIANT [2016], EASTERN PROMISES [2007], and the upcoming direct-to-TV Divergent Series ASCENDANT, due out… who knows when), Jacob Tremblay (SHUT IN [2016], ROOM [2015], THE SMURFS 2 [2013], and the upcoming THE PREDATOR [2018]), and Maddie Ziegler (1 episode of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, 1 episode of DROP DEAD DIVA, and the upcoming animated French-Canadian film LEAP! [2017]). In support, we have Sarah Silverman (POPSTAR [2016], A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST [2014], WRECK-IT RALPH [2012], and upcoming films BATTLE OF THE SEXES [2017] and Disney’s animated RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), Dean Norris (FIST FIGHT [2017], SECRET IN THEIR EYES [2015], TV show BREAKING BAD, and the upcoming DEATH WISH [2017]), and Lee Pace (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], LINCOLN [2012], and TV show PUSHING DAISIES).

Now for the crew. Directing is Colin Trevorrow, known for JURASSIC WORLD (2015), SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012), and the upcoming as-of-yet-titled STAR WARS EPISODE IX (2019). Penning the screenplay is Gregg Hurwitz, known for 7 episodes of TV show V. Composing the score is the awesome Michael Giacchino, known for ROGUE ONE (2016), INSIDE OUT (2015), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (2011), and upcoming films SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017) and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is John Schwartzman, known for FIFTY SHADES DARKER (2017), THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012), THE GREEN HORNET (2011), and upcoming films FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018) and STAR WARS EPISODE IX.

Overall, yeah, kind of excited, but more curious to see just how weirdly bad this movie gets. I’m just hoping for some entertainment, not expecting a good story.

This is my honest opinion of: THE BOOK OF HENRY

(SUMMARY)

Eleven-year-old Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is smart. Gifted. He lives with his loving single mother Susan (Naomi Watts) and his younger admiring brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Henry also has a crush on his neighor, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), whom he starts to believe is being abused by her police chief commissioner step-father Glenn (Dean Norris). However, his efforts to trying to save her are constantly thwarted due to Glenn’s status and his age. But as he starts to put an elaborate plan together to save Christina, things go horribly wrong for Henry.

(REVIEW)

Oh man, don’t hate me, y’all, but… I kinda like this movie. I hesitate to say it’s good, but I really like a lot that I saw. Yes yes, the tone is inconsistent as hell, but I barely care.

So yeah, the movie starts off about as… well it actually starts off pretty obnoxious. You have an intellectually gifted kid who’s only with his peers because he thinks it would help him develop more appropriately, yet when he’s supposed to talk to the class about what he wants his legacy to be and the other kids are doing what the assignment calls for, he gets so annoyingly dramatic and is all like, “I don’t put stock in legacy. It’s not about what we do. It’s about who we surround ourselves with. Our friends and family.” I winced in pain from that. But honestly, my problems with the movie end there.

From this point on, it’s a long series of character and relationship development that I honestly got really hooked by. Henry likes to make contraptions. He’s a somber kid, loves his mother and brother, fiercely loyal to them, and even has a cute battle-of-attitudes with Susan’s best friend and co-worker Sheila (Sarah Silverman). Susan is a single mom, but all the household responsibilities are taken over by Henry. He pays the bills, handles bonds, banking, all that stuff while she comfortably sits around playing video games. And for the record, Naomi Watts playing GEARS OF WAR (2006) is the greatest cinematic gift to the world since a bearded, witch-hunting, flaming-sword wielding Vin Diesel. She’s deeply loving toward her two sons and has a cute relationship with Christina, though I could have done without their complicated hand-shake. Peter is… well, okay, he’s the cute-pandering kid who’s there to be adorable, but even he has some character traits. He wants to be an inventor like Henry, even though this doesn’t really amount to anything later on in the movie, and loves spending time with Henry. I love these characters and their relationship toward one another. It’s cute and it’s engaging. I loved it.

And speaking of Watts, I thought she was SO GOOD in this movie! There’s not one moment where I didn’t believe her acting. Every scene, from the happy mother, to the emotional, to the grieving, to the bad-ass, I bought everything. Sure, there’s a lot of shit that was way too convenient, like Henry overhearing an illegal weapons transaction in a gun store where a shady man drops the name of a shady character and uses that later on in the story, but whatever, the pay off was fun, making the ending feel even more victorious and Watts knocks it out of the park for me. I laughed and cried with, and cheered for her as a woman who has to learn how to learn to find confidence in herself and learn to do things on her own. It’s a nice character arch. Of course, now that I’m typing this out, everything that I’m talking about is probably the very reason why this movie is getting such low ratings and negative reviews. What kind of mother lets her eleven-year-old son do all the important housework and she literally does nothing but drink and play video games? Well, if Susan was a more despicable character who forced Henry to do that work so she could be a lazy good-for-nothing and wasn’t a loving mother, this would be a much bigger problem for me. But since it’s Henry that put that responsibility on himself and she’s just going along with it, I can’t say that I agree with them if that’s where the criticism comes from. I would understand, but I don’t agree.

Some minor annoyances in the movie before I head into spoiler territory. As much as I enjoy Silverstone as an actress, and for all intents and purposes, she’s not bad in this, Sheila is a little too 80’s diner cliché for me. She has that nasal-y speech pattern that makes her sound like Fran Drescher, and because she’s youngish, attractive, and bustier, her boobs are out in the open, it’s a little too on the nose for my taste. Thankfully, I do enjoy the playful banter she has with Henry and how she does show that she cares about him later on, lending itself to a pretty tender and heartwarming scene… er… that is if you can ignore the VERY OBVIOUS BAD TOUCH moment. What the hell, Silverman?! You didn’t argue that shit?! Actually, there seems to be quite a few of those in this movie with adults being unnecessarily close to children, but I guess this isn’t a big deal since some of those moments are between a mother and her young children, but still… half an arm distance away, y’all.

It’s pretty hard to talk about the meat of the story without getting into spoiler territory, so that’s what the remainder of this review will be.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

***

 

 

***

 

Wisely hidden from the trailers, Henry dies early on in the movie. This sort of comes out of nowhere and the tone shifts tremendously. The first quarter or third of the movie is all happy-peppy family togetherness, with hints of harsh drama, like why someone should or shouldn’t interfere in public abuse and Henry’s desperation to try and save Christina from Glenn (Dean Norris). But then suddenly, we get an eleven-year-old having a seizure, then immediately told that he has a tumor that’s going to kill him. And I was remarking on the sniper rifle thing and the happy family picture above. Yeah, we haven’t gotten to that point yet, and we’re already treated to a dead child. If this is also a contributing factor to the negativity toward the film, I get that too. It’s almost fairy-tale too happy at first and then the movie throws this at the audience. It would bother me more if the acting wasn’t so damn powerful.

 

Yeah, the acting in these few scenes is absolutely heartbreaking. When Henry deduces that he’s going to die, he’s absolutely paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. The way he requests to be left alone, you can’t help but get invested in the emotions, especially as he later tries to set everyone up after he passes. I know I’ve rambled about Watts a lot already, but I absolutely love her in this movie and a good performance should really be commented on when it warrants. You not only see that shock and uncertainty of how she’s possibly going to take care of herself and Peter, but the utter inner destruction of knowing that she’s saying a slow good-bye to him. Both Lieberher and Watts run through gauntlets of emotions and they’re absolutely fantastic together.

 

And it’s here where that Silverman “bad touch” moment happens. They have a heart to heart and admit that they really do like each other and before she leaves, she plants a kiss on his lips. Yeah… it’s a little too ewie for me. Hell, I think Henry had the same reaction as I did because that kid’s eyes widen. I’m with you, kid. Ew.

 

So when Henry does die, he leaves behind a notebook that goes through every scenario he went through as he tried to call child protective services to save Christina, but utterly failed, going through why any official channels won’t work. And by the way, I’m declaring this a movie line, but when Peter reads Henry’s book, he runs down and hilariously shouts, “Mom! I think Henry wants us to kill Glenn!” Oh my god, I’m still laughing about that. God, I love Tremblay. Even when he’s given thin roles, he knows how to make them entertaining as hell.

 

Not all of the writing is good post-death scene. In fact, a couple of scenes are downright awkward. Susan is told to go home to grieve, but Sheila races after her and have a really weird and senseless conversation. It was such bizarre writing that I don’t actually remember what she was babbling about. Something about her car, or some shit. There’s also a somewhat inappropriate comedy moment when Peter’s at school with a lunch box full of unhealthy food, looking at it like he’s bored, and then says, “Anyone wanna trade from some fruit?” And then a crap ton of hands lay down fruit as they take his treats. Funny, but… this is barely ten minutes after Henry’s death scene. We’re still wrestling with the emotions of that. The comedy is really out of place here.

 

But these gripes don’t anchor the movie down too bad as it starts picking up again when Susan starts following Henry’s instructions, nabs herself a flawless plan to literally murder Glenn and get away with it. It’s so silly to see her taking directions from a recording, especially when Henry’s voice is commenting on things that he couldn’t possibly know would happen. But yet again, this would be a bigger problem if Watts wasn’t so damn hilarious as she discovers that she’s a pretty decent shot with a sniper rifle. Not that she ever utilizes it when she’s got Glenn in her sights, which… didn’t make much sense.

 

Yeah, after she drops off Christina and Peter at their school’s talent show, she’s off to try and kill Glenn. She’s out deep in the woods and you know what she does to lure him out? She makes whistling sounds through a walkie-talkie to which he follows the whistling to the designated place where she’s going to kill him. I say again, a sound that is coming from a walkie-talkie taped to a tree at least a quarter mile away in a forest… Glenn heard that whistling from within his enclosed house. It’s about as stupid and senseless as it sounds. In fact, this whole scene is pretty out there. Her arm knocks over a doohickey which does this thingy- basically, it makes a bunch of noise that she’s supposed to ignore as she snipes a child-abuser and said child abuser doesn’t hear that racket when he’s not that far away. Eventually, all that shizz opens up a collage of family photos that somehow means that Susan can’t pull the trigger. But I do like that when Glenn realizes what she’s up to moments later that he can’t fight against her determination and kills himself, eventually resulting in her adopting Christina at the end of the movie. And as anyone can tell you, I’m a sucker for adoption stories… even though that wasn’t the focus of the movie, it worked well enough for me. Sure, there’s probably a million ways around this situation for the guy. He is the police commissioner after all, and Susan’s a waitress at a diner who doesn’t know how to pay her own taxes. I can’t imagine a court case lasting long in her favor. But the fact that they decided, “Screw it, forced happy ending,” saves a little time and I liked this ending as is.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, it’s not a perfect film. Far from it, actually. In fact, I hesitate to say that it’s even good, as most of the things that I love about the movie are likely the reasons why it’s not getting well received by critics and audiences. But I won’t lie. I love the acting. I love the family bonding. I love how even within dramatic shift in tones that shouldn’t work still managed to keep me both interested and emotionally invested. It’s hard for me to know how to recommend this movie and who might enjoy it. My highest recommendation is to watch the trailer and get a sense if this movie is for you. If you think it might be, play it safe and see it at a matinee screening, in case you don’t like it, you at least didn’t waste too much money. If you think it’s not for you, I can hardly argue and I see why it wouldn’t be. But as for me, I’m happy I saw this movie and do see myself revisiting it. Maybe not twice at the theaters, I certainly won’t own it on Blu-Ray, but if it was on Netflix or TV while I was channel surfing, I’d watch this again, definitely. Maybe it’s just a guilty pleasure, but it’s still a pleasure to watch it nonetheless.

My honest rating for THE BOOK OF HENRY: 4/5

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DOCTOR STRANGE review

Marvel. Once upon a time, it was just a comic book company that gave the most memorable superheroes to grace the memories of multiple generations of fans. Well, it was inevitable that their famous characters would make it to the big screen and it’s been a hell of a roller coaster especially in the past ten years with the Avengers-related films, produced specifically by Marvel Studios, as opposed to Sony or 20th Century Fox.

It seems like only yesterday that the prospect of the original Avengers was too good to be true, but fast forward to today, we’re two movies in and a slew of other superhero films in between. Some of them never having been on the big screen before, like Thor, or Ant-Man. Well guess what? We have the latest pilot to a hero, Doctor Strange.

Once again, for those of you that don’t know, I’m not much of a comic book reader. I see these movies and might look them up on Marvel’s Wiki to get some idea of the character’s history and or future. So, I know next to nothing about this character, apart from the awesome animated film DOCTOR STRANGE (2007), which I imagine will be very similar to this film. Kind of already does minus the INCEPTION (2010) look to it, which I don’t think is a bad thing. In fact, there’s a lot of things going for it.

First off, the cast is incredible. Benedict Cumberbatch (ZOOLANDER 2 [2016], THE INTIMIDATION GAME [2015], and TV show SHERLOCK) as the title character looks fantastic and will most likely be great, as he’s always great… even if the movie itself is not. I’m looking at you, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS [2013] and definitely at you, ZOOLANDER 2. Anyway, looking forward to his performance. Tilda Swinton (HAIL! CAESAR [2016], THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL [2014], and CONSTANTINE [2005]), an acting wildcard, always known for her quirky and offbeat performances, but always leaving a fun impact on critics and audiences alike. A true chameleon in the performing arts and this looks to be no exception. But anyone else getting a “white chick Morpheus” vibe from her? Anywho… we also have co-stars Mads Mikkelsen (THE THREE MUSKETEERS [2011], 007’s CASINO ROYALE [2006], and TV show HANNIBAL), Chiwetel Ejiofor (TRIPLE 9 [2016], THE MARTIAN [2015], and 12 YEARS A SLAVE [2013]), Benedict Wong (THE MARTIAN, PROMETHEUS [2012], and TV show MARCO POLO), and Rachel McAdams (SPOTLIGHT [2015], THE VOW [2012], and THE NOTEBOOK [2004]).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Scott Derrickson (DELIVER US FROM EVIL [2014], SINISTER [2012], and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL [2005]), which makes me a little twitchy. He’s primarily known for horror films, and one horribly panned remake of a classic sci-fi film. A superhero movie seems a bit out of his league. Even the stuff he’s only written don’t seem to be anything special or worthwhile, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough. But if Derrickson as the director made me nervous, take a gander at what makes me downright frightened: three writers. Derrickson’s partners-in-pen are Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill. Spaihts is a newcomer with only two films under his belt, the critically panned THE DARKEST HOUR [2011], and the critically controversial PROMETHEUS [2012]. But he’s slated for a ton of projects in the near future, including the amazing-looking PASSENGERS (2016), THE MUMMY (2017), PACIFIC RIM: MAELSTROM (2017), and was announced to write VAN HELSING, due out… sometime in the future. Cargill is also pretty new, having only done the Sinister films with Derrickson. If I had to deduce anything, Derrickson and Cargill know each other and at least make the movies they want to see, but adding Spaihts could make the writing go either way and seriously make it choppy. Composing the music is the ever popular Michael Giacchino, known for ZOOTOPIA [2016], INSIDE OUT [2015], and a whole lot of J.J. Abrams’ projects. He’s also slated for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY due out later this year, WAR OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017), and THE INCREDIBLES 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Davis, a veteran of Marvel (AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON [2015] and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014]), and fantasy films (WRATH OF THE TITANS [2012] and STARDUST [2007]), so we can definitely expect this movie to look gorgeous, huge, and all around epic.

All in all, I’m super hyped for this, and early ratings only have me even more excited. IMDb has it at a 8.0/10, which is fantastic and RottenTomatoes has it at a 91% (both as of 11/2/2016), so this looks like a big winner. This is my honest opinion of DOCTOR STRANGE.

(SUMMARY)

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant neurosurgeon. Cocky, arrogant, and self-centered, yet harmless enough. But after getting invited to a special engagement, he gets into a horrible car accident. He survives, but his hands are horrible damaged to the point where he will most likely never be able to perform surgery ever again. But Strange can’t accept that and is willing to try any surgery, no matter how expensive or experimental, whatever gets him back on track. But everything proves fruitless until he hears about a case about a guy who was paralyzed and one day was walking again. Speaking with the man, Strange is directed to a place called the Kamar-Taj, in the Himalayas, where the man was taught to walk again. Strange spends the last of his money and makes his way there and eventually discovers Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who leads him to The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a supreme master of the mystical arts; magic. Turns out, Strange has entered this place of mysticism at a complicated time, as The Ancient One’s most talented pupil, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), became enamored by the power of The Ancient One’s long time enemy known as Dormammu, and seeks to give Earth to him for total domination. But Strange is there to heal his hands and get back to the way things used to be. But as the threats become closer and more direct, Strange must choose to become a sorcerer and help defeat the mystical evil that threatens the world, or turn his back on this new reality.

(REVIEW)

OOOOOOHHHHHH MYYYYYYYY GOOOOOOOD!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, where I even start?! AAAAAHHHHHH it was so awesome!

Okay! Composure! I got this.

Let’s start… like I always do, with the cast. Cumberbatch as Strange was awesome. He’s a slightly different approach to the 2007 animated version, who was more of a serious asshole, rather than a ego-centric likable jerk, but Cumberbatch is really nails everything. He looks great as the hero in the red cape and shining green gem. I bought him as a surgeon. “Please cover your watch.” Oh man, his comedic timing is pitch perfect. As per usual, Marvel movies are proving to be more competent comedies than actual comedies and Cumberbatch’s brand of fun is much welcomed. Beyond the funny moments though, he does very well with the more dramatic stuff too. There’s a scene where he’s in his apartment after his accident and Christine (Rachel McAdams), his former girlfriend, is trying to be supportive and take care of him, but Strange is a legit asshole to her. When he learns of the mystical dimensions, he’s seriously in wonder. Even when he’s training and asking questions, there’s never a sense of asking to respond, he’s genuinely trying to learn. It’s always an appreciative feat when they don’t make the learning-hero a whiny baby when he fails. Oh sure, you see frustration and a burning desire to scream and curse, even give up, but he never does. He keeps trying.

Swinton churns out a delightful performance as well. I feel like with every wise line, there’s a lingering punchline just waiting to happen. But more than that, you feel the frustration she has that her teachings have been called into question by one of her more gifted students and doesn’t want to train another. The threat of Dormammu is enough and now she has to contend with one of her own. Granted, her change of heart in training Strange is pretty easy, but you do see her having pride in his progress, her faith in his abilities.

McAdams as Christine Palmer is a wonderful little addition to the story as well. In fact, Christine’s dynamic with Strange is almost on par with that of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. They are so funny and work incredibly well off of each other. Granted, Pepper had a more involved role in Tony’s arch as a hero than Christine did for Strange, but they probably have the most entertaining “romantic” relationship since Tony and Potts. You could also make the strong argument that Christine’s character was pointless; write her out of the story and it would have progressed just fine. But as true as that might be, she’s still an enjoyable enough character to be fun to have around. Here’s to hoping for a more involved role in the future.

I’ve been hearing one or two professional critics out there calling the movie “familiar.” That’s very hard to argue, and in fact, I do not disagree. Having not read any other reviews out there in depth, I imagine one of those reasons is because this film is basically IRON MAN (2008). Really think about it. You have an ego-centric protagonist, brilliant in every way in his field of expertise, a beautiful blond woman that he works with and is sort of a lover, is in some way separated from his home to a foreign land, triumphantly returns home a changed man, all the while fighting an evil dude whose backstory involves betrayal, and has the same abilities as he does. This is what I have to say:

I do not care! In fact, I might prefer STRANGE over IRON MAN.

Here’s the thing, while IRON MAN is definitely a movie that any fan should appreciate the most (starting the Avengers-related films, as well as re-energizing Downey Jr.’s career), the visual spectacle alone makes STRANGE more worthwhile to rewatch. What is the climax of IRON MAN? Tony fights in the streets, and on a rooftop. While fine for the time, the movie is a little dated in that respect. I know a lot of critics and general audiences would prefer some variation – no destruction of cities – in their superhero movies, but… I kinda like that stuff. I like big, I like world-shaking. Unless a Marvel movie is going to not have that kind of destruction at the end, say like in CIVIL WAR (2016), then it has to do something unique with it other than have a half-assed excuse for a couple of characters to fight again, unlike in CIVIL WAR. At least with a city being threatened, you have built-in stakes. What were the stakes in the climax of CIVIL WAR? Tension between Tony and Steve? That’s been there since the beginning of the movie. What are the stakes in the climax of STRANGE? A city being destroyed. Not unique, but not unimportant.

Also, the opening of the movie is basically GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014); the bad guy making a dude’s head… not there anymore.

Speaking of bad guys, Mikkelsen unfortunately joins the ranks of bad and underdeveloped villains, but honestly, like a comically bad Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees movie, I’ve just gotten so used to it that I stopped caring. If we get a good one, sweet. If we get a bad one, that’s pretty standard now, so I’m not overly bothered by this (waste of Mikkelsen’s talent, though). And it’s never quite explained why Dormammu wants Earth so badly. If there’s infinite dimensions out there, what makes this very specific dimension the prize of prizes? Eh, again, comic book movie villain logic, I guess. Honestly, every single problem that I think most people will have with this film don’t really bother me. I sure have my questions, but… eh. Whatever.

Overall, I don’t think I can recommend this movie enough. I’d say this stands pretty well on its own and you don’t need to see the previous Marvel movies in order to understand it, though there might be a reference or two that might fly over someone’s head. It’s a wonderfully executed fantasy and action film, marinated in great performances, marred only by some of the trippiest and mind-screwing visuals since INCEPTION. Seriously, it’s like looking through a kaleidoscope the whole movie. Entertaining and engaging, this is probably one of the best superhero movies of the year.

My honest rating for DOCTOR STRANGE: 5/5

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