Spoilers Review: Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9 “Battle of the Bastards”

Call me a nerd.  I’m actually upset at myself sometimes for being able to predict movie plots and twists.  When I saw Aidan Gillen listed in the opening credits, I connected this with the knowledge that Sansa Stark wrote to the Vale to ask Peter Baelish (ie. Littlefinger) for help in the previous episode.  I knew that the knights of the Vale would come in at some point to turn the tides in the battle of the bastards.  The question was how late.

As late as possible, pretty much.

That aside, the episode itself was nothing short of incredible.  With a reported budget of over 10 million (I got the feeling that the producers saved much of the season’s budget for this episode, hence the dullness in some of the earlier episodes), the episode was well-shot, with almost-seamless CGI, greatly choreographed, and intense.  The moments when Jon Snow was being trampled felt incredibly claustrophobic, very well done by the cinematographer.

The battle at Mereen was entertaining, as well, with strong dragon CGI, and witty dialogue that were to the point.

One more thing about the Bastard’s downfall.  While other reviewers were expressing their enjoyment of watching Ramsey getting the shit punched out of him by Jon and the subsequent doggy death, I was clenching my fists thinking “stop! you’re killing him too fast! Don’t give him a quick death!”  Ramsey’s psychotic, murderous, raping, and ravaging path spanned over seasons, starting with the torture of Theon.  To have him die within a day was way too easy for him.  I would have liked to have seen them keep him prisoner and do to him some of the things he’s done to people.

Some are labeling this their favorite Game of Thrones episode ever.  I’m not too sure about that.  The episode lacked the emotional gravitas compared to the episode where Tyrion gave his epic speech at his murder trial, or when he kills his own father, or the one where Jon kills the whitewalker.  I’d certainly place “Battle of the Bastards” in my top 5.

Movie Review: X-Men Apocalypse (7.4/10)

X-Men-Apocalypse-Heroes-Poster.jpg8597c6f8d30a096991f53d0e8081feadc1f43ded.jpg

There are certainly things to like about this film.  From the introduction of the new X-Men (the new Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Storm, and an increased role for Quicksilver), to the powerhouse acting performances by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, to several memorable action sequences, it’s a 2 hour and 25 minute movie sprinkled with highlights.

Which is precisely where the flaws of the film lie.  The film often drags on exposition and side plots to the point of dullness.  Also, as good an actor as Oscar Isaac is, he was not exactly menacing as Apocalypse.  For a mutant who was supposed to be the very first of its kind, who is able to change elements at will and whose power supersedes that of Professor X, he did not strike a fear into the viewer.  I was not terrified of Apocalypse; rather, my thought shifted to wondering how the X-Men would be able to defeat him.

(As much flak as Marvel has received for its lack of focus on its films’ villains, I gravitated towards the charming yet dangerous presence of Ultron, in the short moments he was featured in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”  It was really a waste of such a great performance by James Spader.)

It’s only June and already four comic book movies have been released.  I’d ranked them in this order, with the first being my must-see and last being wait for home video release.

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Deadpool
  3. X-Men: Apocalypse
  4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

 

Movie Review: Money Monster (6/10)

money-monster-poster.jpg

For some reason, after watching the trailer, I was anticipating a major plot twist in the third act of this film that could have elevated this to the next level.  But it didn’t happen.  Perhaps this was why I was let down by the film as a whole.

The first two acts of the film were quite well made, with a few intense sequences and some suspense pertaining to the overall plot.  There was a conspiracy set up involving a large corporation which could have taken this film in the direction of a thriller like “The Constant Gardener”, or even “The Usual Suspects.”  But it felt as if the filmmakers, including director Jodie Foster, thought that they had delivered the film’s message through the first two acts of the film and just completely dropped by ball on the climax.

Performance-wise, while George Clooney was great during the dramatic portions of the film, he just didn’t sell me as the Jim Cramer stock-market-guru type.  Julia Roberts was solid, adding a lot to her platonic relationship with Clooney’s character.

It’s probably a good catch on Netflix or DVD, not worth going to the theaters.

Spoiler Talk: Captain America: Civil War (Spoiler Alert!)

I will be giving a detailed spoiler-ridden discussion in this piece.  You’ve been warned!

For my spoiler-free review of this film, click here.

This won’t be an analysis of the film from start to finish, but rather things I want to bring up in terms of what impacted me the most.

Wow, what an awesome movie.  I have never been so entertained by a film and the range of emotions that it brought was astounding.  I laughed out loud at the jokes; I clenched my girlfriend’s hand so hard during the final fight when Iron Man tries to 1 v 2 Cap and Bucky, and especially when Bucky seemed like he had the upper hand and punched Iron Man’s chest and was about to rip out his core, only to have his arm eviscerated.

The reason this scene was so powerful (iconic, even), as with all great action scenes, was because of the stakes.  Action sequences mean nothing if there are no stakes involved (hello, Transformers).  Upon the shocking revelation that the then-mind-controlled-Winter Soldier was the one responsible for killing Tony Stark’s parents, there was a legitimate reason for him to seek revenge, and wage ‘war’ on Cap and Bucky.  At the same time, Cap, despite having prior knowledge of this and deciding not to tell Tony, now has to stand by his decision, and to stand by his friend and fight Tony.

This brings us to the one shortcoming of the movie, which has been the Achilles’s heel of most MCU films: The villain of “Civil War”, Zemo, barely has any screen time, and his motivations for revenge against the Avengers makes him hardly a villain at all.  He has no desire to wipe out the human race, nor the Avengers; he has no ambition to rule the galaxy.  His entire family was killed as a result of the events of “Age of Ultron”.  It is perfectly understandable for someone like him to want to cause the Avengers to fight each other.

While the scene mentioned above was great, the one being touted as one of the best comic book (or just overall) action scenes of all time was the epic team fight at the airport.  I’ll let everyone else talk about how awesome that scene was.  In fact, I liked the action scene prior to that one, the one where Black Panther first appeared, just as much.  It was exhilarating to see Bucky fling around a motorcycle that was going at top speed and ride it.

Ant-Man’s introduction into this movie was a bit sudden, as he just shows up in a van at the airport, minutes before the big confrontation.  And, as expected, as soon as Paul Rudd appears, he immediately steals the scene with his charm and wit.  I wished there was a little bit more of him.  The additional run time of having more of Ant-Man would be offset by shortening the bits with Vision and Scarlet Witch.  While that storyline was fine in developing chiefly the Avengers story line, it dragged on just a tiny bit.

Despite all my praises, “Civil War” isn’t perfect.  Bits of establishing shots and set up scenes could have been trimmed down to shorten the film’s 2 hour 27 minute run time.

The introductions to the new characters, however, were perfect.  Both Black Panther and Spiderman were set up so that they were appropriately motivated to join the conflict.  In particular, Tony’s recruitment of Spiderman… that 5-minute conversation between Peter and Tony was a superior build up to the new Spiderman than the entire retelling of the origin story in the previous rendition played by Andrew Garfield.  We don’t need to see Peter Parker be bitten by a radioactive spider and discover his powers again; the scriptwriters knew this and found a perfect way to address it.

I will be writing a piece ranking all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.  Suffice to say “Captain America: Civil War” will definitely be in the top 3.

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (9/10) (No spoilers)

“Captain America Civil War” was released in Hong Kong on April 27.

Easily one of the best comic book movies I have ever seen, and definitely one of my favorite films in recent years, “Captain America: Civil War” strikes all the right tones, and delivers on all my sky-high expectations, and more!

Against all odds of being labelled “The Avengers 2.5”, “Civil War” finds to distinguish itself from the other Marvel movies.  Despite the huge ensemble cast (featuring just about every Marvel character who has appeared before except Thor and Hulk), directors Joe and Anthony Russo made it clear that this was first and foremost a Captain America movie.  Even though attention was paid to each major character, the story still centers around Steve Rogers, played perfectly once again by Chris Evans, and his journey to redemption towards decisions he’s made, past and present.

Many had doubts as to whether the Russo brothers can create a movie that involves a legitimate conflict when future movies where the Avengers will undoubtedly reunite are confirmed (the Infinity Wars).  But the stakes were definitely high enough to warrant the title “Civil War”.   At the center of it stood Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, played once again by Robert Downey Jr.  Their conflict spawns from a fundamental disagreement on how to protect the world, and how the Avengers should operate.  There’s really no right or wrong; the subjectivity of the matter is what made it so powerful.

There were a number of set piece action sequences in the film, each unique and brilliantly choreographed.  The one that is shown in the trailer, which takes place at an airport, is being touted as one of the best action scenes in comic book movie (or just movie) history.  And just to have an idea of how good the action scenes were, that wasn’t even my personal favorite!

Other highlights include the great chemistry between the ensemble cast, including Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, and awesome additions to the MCU of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, and Tom Holland as Spiderman

Whether you are a fan of comic book movies or not, this is a must-see.  Absolutely blown away.

 

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1 Review (7.5/10) (Spoilers alert)

 

Entertaining as usual, the season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones thrusts us right back into where we left off in season 5, with several mouth-dropping and awesome events in its last three episodes (the battle beyond The Wall with Jon Snow and the White Walkers / the fight in the arena / Jon Snow’s death)

More so this time around than in previous lessons, it felt like the season premiere struggled a tiny bit in its balance between refreshing the audience on what has been going on in the many plot lines and advancing them them with interesting events.  While the longer scenes featuring Brienne and Sansa, Jamie and Cersei, and at the Night’s Watch, the scenes with the Boltons, Arya, Jorah and Daario, felt a bit like fillers.

The highlight of the episode to me was definitely when Brienne and Podrick fought Bolton’s men, which not only saw a reunion of characters but also capped off one of Brienne’s sworn missions to fulfil Catelyn Stark’s wishes to protect her family.

Overall, a solid premiere.  Now that this episode has done its job in bringing us up to speed, the next one should be much more enjoyable.

Movie Review: Zootopia (8.8/10)

Zootopia-Poster.jpg

Brilliantly animated, incredibly fun for both adults and kids, “Zootopia” took me by surprise and currently stands as one of my favorite films of the year.

The story takes place in a world where animals have human characteristics, and interact with each other and handle themselves the way humans do.  This opens the world up for endless creativity, which the film absolutely capitalizes on.  This doesn’t necessarily have to do with the main characters or the plot, but the auxiliary things, so to speak,  the world creation.  From rabbit main character (Judy Hopps) wearing earphones that are actually placed correctly, in her bunny ears on the top of her head, to the little animals (squirrels?) having their own exit doors on the train, there is amazing detail being put into this film, from start to finish.

The plot is generic enough, almost vintage Disney, but it was so well executed that there was never a dull moment.  The color palette of the film was always vibrant.  And the comedy…  I’m not sure if I have ever heard a Hong Kong movie audience laugh this hard.  And not just the sloth scene that was in the trailer, either.

The voice talent was also very solid from top to bottom, with a cast consisting of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, and Jenny Slate.  And directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore definitely created something special that can spawn many sequels

I have to say though, the one shortcoming of this film is that the contexts within which some of these comedy scenes lie are quite mature-themed and rely on threats of violence. I glossed over it initially, but in retrospect, these methods ultimately placed this film below “Inside Out” in my favorite animated movies.

As the film has already grossed over $800 million worldwide, I’d imagine many people have already seen it.  I’d recommend it nonetheless.  Go see it!