Short Spoiler Review: Game of Thrones S06E10 “The Winds of Winter”

As many have already provided in-depth reviews this very fan-service-filled, feel-good episode where one feel-good moment happens after the next, I’m just going to provide some general thoughts.

I really loved this episode, as it finally progresses the grander story line of the battle of Westeros.  Almost every story line showed progress, and many were linked together.  For example, the scattered story lines of the Tyrells, the Martells in Dorne, the Greyjoys were linked with the grand story line of Daenrys Targaryen and her quest to claim the Iron Throne.  The quips between all these characters, led by Tyrion, is definitely something to look forward to.

This episode, along with the previous one (as I mentioned last review), were both incredibly well shot, utilizing so many techniques to create suspense and pay off, from holding the shot of the window to witness Tommen’s suicide, to the cut from baby Jon Snow to the now-revealed Jon Snow-Targaryen, it was all very well made.

There are for sure many things to look forward to for season 7.  The Night King and his white walkers did not make an appearance the last few episodes.  Also, how will Bran contribute to the story arcs of Jon and Sansa to Daenrys? How will King’s landing function under the reign of Cersei? What of the Hound and the servants of the Lord of Light? How about Arya?

Wish season 7 would start today!

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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I watched this film during its first week of release, and have since watched it again.  For lack of a better term, the film is just flat out awesome. It is a very well executed piece of entertainment with solid storytelling, creating characters that we care about, and seamlessly integrating them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is action-packed, funny, and, most importantly, doesn’t take itself too seriously.  When the film opened with Chris Pratt’s character dancing to “Come and Get Your Love” in an otherwise eerie setting, it establishes itself to appeal towards a wide array of audiences: the young and the old, the hipster and the nerd were on board. The casting was also perfect as the chemistry between Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper (Rocket), and Groot (Vin Diesel) lit up the screen.  The banter between them never felt forced. I had my doubts about how successful the film would be considering the Guardians of the Galaxy is much less well known than Marvel’s other comic book heroes such as Iron Man or Captain America.  But when this film became the biggest office success this year, surpassing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Marvel has proven that it can bring its secondary franchises to the forefront. Barring a tiny bit of dialogue inadequacies, this was the not only the best Marvel film, but one of the best action films in recent years.  This film was a blast; I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to have a good time at the movies.

Movie Review: Godzilla

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I had described this film as “glorious” on a few occasions to my friends.  As it ended, the film left me with a smile and wanting for more (in a good way).

I had no expectations heading into this film, barely taking note of the trailer and avoided reviews.  This probably helped me like the film more.

The film certainly takes its time to build up to the debut of the titular character, or the “Alpha Predator”, as the film calls it.  The wait was worth it, as my jaw dropped when Godzilla emerged out of the shadows and declared his presence with a menacing roar.

The epic set pieces and action sequences, particularly those featuring the giant beast, are reminiscent of the fights from “Pacific Rim.”  The movements of the combatants appear slow on screen but that precisely adds gravitas to the scene; each impact reverberates through the theater and the audience echoes the tension.

The casting was decent, although I would have liked to see more of Bryan Cranston.  Amazing special effects and adrenaline-filled battle scenes aside, the film does commit one of the bigger sins of story-telling, and the movie suffers from it.

Nevertheless, “Godzilla” definitely surprised me and blew me away, and it is the perfect way to open the summer movie season (sorry, Captain America, April openings don’t count).

Movie Review: Out of the Furnace

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Boasting a truly star-studded cast that includes Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, and Forrest Whitaker, “Out of the Furnace” nearly overwhelms the audience with its sheer amount of good acting performances.  The film is also proof that intriguing premises or mind-blowing concepts aren’t always prerequisite for good entertainment.

The film is a drama set in the shadow of the latest Iraq War, in working class, suburban America.  It follows the life of Russell Baze (Bale), a hard working mill worker and his brother Rodney (Affleck), who struggles to transition back into civilian life after four tours in Iraq.  The drama that unfolds is gripping, and we care about what happens to these characters every step of the way.  We feel their pains, and their reliefs.  We experience the fear together with the main characters as the endeavor into the lawless and barbaric countryside.

“Out of the Furnace” doesn’t break new grounds, but it is two hours of solid entertainment, and it deserves more viewing and recognition than it has so far.

Movie Review: 3 Days to Kill

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Arguably, the advertising campaign for this film falsely represents what the film really is, a daughter-father relationship drama / comedy intermittent with some action.  The film never builds itself up as an action film.  It could have, but it chose not to; an intriguing opening act featuring an international terrorist and a leather-wearing Amber Heard playing a top CIA agent gave way to Kevin Costner’s character trying to rekindle with his daughter, played by Hailee Steinfeld, who he’d barely seen for most of her life.

Halfway into the film I almost forgot about what Costner’s character was supposed to do because it steered too far off course.  That being said, it wasn’t exactly too bad, as Costner, at this stage of his career, excels at playing the middle-aged father figure (as he did in “Man of Steel”, the 2013 Superman reboot).  The relationship between Steinfeld and Coster’s characters is surprisingly heart-warming, to the point where it almost became unnecessary for the action to kick back in.

It’s not a horrible movie.  It just struggled with its identity.  In a movie season that is starting to pick up as early as April, wait for this to come out on DVD.

Movie Review: 300 – Rise of an Empire

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When you make a movie that is iconic as “300,” people will inevitably compare any sequel to the original.

Sadly, I have to say that in every aspect, “Rise of an Empire” feels far short of the first “300.”  Even though the stakes are higher, the tone and atmosphere of the film does not retain the glorious, no-holds-barred attitude of its predecessor.

What was magical about the first “300” was that, in a rare case, we witness a story where the warriors are happy about sacrificing themselves for their cause, even though we were never entirely sure for what cause they were fighting.  It was pure camp and corny, but they pulled it off brilliantly and made it look easy.

Examples of films that tries to emulate the feel of “300” are “Clash of the Titans,” and “Immortals,” and these films show that ancient-swords-and-sandals films, if not done the right way, can be cringingly-corny and difficult to watch.  Sadly, ‘Rise of an Empire” dabbles into this area of mediocrity at times.

“300: Rise of An Empire” is a decent time at the theatres, but don’t expect anything as epic and awing as the first “300.”

Quick Movie Review: The Lone Ranger

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While it currently holds a 31% ‘Rotten’ rating at Rottentomatoes, what surprised me about the reviews is the viciousness of some of the critics when they attacked it.  For example, the film was put into Peter Travers’ Scum Bucket for “The ten worst movies of summer 2013.”  Really?

Yes, it was unnecessarily violent whether onscreen or implied, to the point where anyone under the age of fifteen probably shouldn’t be seeing it.  Yes, it was too long; at the bloated length of 149 minutes, I’d say the film could have been at least 15 minutes shorter without sacrificing anything.  But other than these shortcomings, the film was pretty much a Western version the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, which is perfectly fine by me.  It has the same director and main star as “Pirates,” Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp respectively, and boasts the fun and excitement that propelled “Pirates” into a billion-dollar franchise.  I’m not sure what more the audience can ask for.

The way in which the critics panned “The Lone Ranger” reminded me of the vitriol they used when they slammed Michael Bay’s “Transformers” films.  I must say, I can’t possibly lump the two together, as the “Transformers” films, particularly 2 and 3, were much worse.

“The Lone Ranger” brought about moments of Indiana Jones-esque fun that reminds people why they go to the movies, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.