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)

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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!

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (6.5/10)

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Talking about disappointments.

I walked into “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” hoping to see one of the best comic book movies of all time, a cinematic masterpiece by director Zack Snyder.  What I got instead was a film that was mediocre at best, and a director who clearly was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of setting up the DC cinematic universe.

The film clocked in at around two and a half hours, half an hour of which could easily have been cut out without diminishing the movie.  It’s almost as if they have no idea how to utilise two of the biggest comic book superheroes of all time, and that they have no comic book movies from which to draw inspiration (yes we know Warner Bros. wants to make the DC cinematic universe darker and grittier than Marvel’s but that doesn’t mean they can’t look to Marvel movies to learn how to make good comic book movies.)

This review would seem endless if I delved into spoilers and picked apart all the film’s flaws.  To summarise, the writing is sloppy and tedious.  Lots of pointless dialogue that does not further the plot.  The film even uses the same device twice to reveal things to the audience.  At certain points, scenes would seemingly build up to something exciting to amp up the audience, only to cut to something completely off tempo, leaving the audience frustrated.

Worst of all, for the most part, the film is just plain dull.  Not just the signature Snyder-saturated palette, but the tone of which the acting took place.  Speaking of the acting, there was a range of good (Ben Affleck was great as the new Batman, Gal Gadot was perfect as Wonder Woman, apparently also a woman of few words) and bad (my god that overacting from Jesse Eisenberg, did not work at all.)

Even the Snyder-isms were off.  This guy is known for using extreme slow motion to good effects (like in “300”, “Watchmen”, even “Sucker Punch”).  But here, he puts the slo-mo in all the wrong places, missing out on creating iconic cinematic moments in the process

There were moments of brilliance in the film, such as when Batman finally faced off against Superman, and the first DC Universe team fight against Doomsday.  But these were overshadowed by the salient flaws of the film.

I’d almost say it’s not worth seeing in the theatres, but there are a few redeeming points to the film.  It all depends on whether you want to spend that money and sit for two and a half hours for brief moments of coolness.

Movie Review: London Has Fallen (6.4/10)

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Not as bad as I had expected, honestly.  As it currently sits at a dismal 25% at Rottentomatoes and generally panned by critics, I went in  with very low expectations.

I was made aware of the film’s potential xenophobia and I looked out for it.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought.  For those who think this movie is xenophobic or racist towards Muslims, I’d argue that within the context of this film, you could easily replace this group of antagonists with one originating from, say, Chechnya or North Korea (or America, for that matter), and it will have the same effect.

What surprised me the most was how well shot the film was.  Between the extended unedited shots and the long, sprawling establishing shots, director Babak Najafi and his crew showcased action scenes that were intense and comprehensible.  That’s a lot more than I can say about recent horrible action films.

The acting was what it was; Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart weren’t really taking their roles too seriously, and that’s what the film needed.

Yes, there was too much of the pro-American ra ra; some of the lines uttered by Butler, Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman’s character, were much better off replaced by silence.  But for a country that adores films such as “Black Hawk Down,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “American Sniper,” “London Has Fallen” is certainly a bit more fervent when it comes to its pro Americanism, but not by much.

It’s not fantastic by any means.  But if you compare this to other action bombs in recent years, such as “Taken 2” and 3, “Terminator Genisys,” “Jupiter Ascending,” “Point Break,” even “Chappie,” “London has Fallen” is no more worse, and sometimes better, than these films.

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight (8.4/10)

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Very long, low on action, but nail-biting dialogue and intense scenes is my summation of “The Hateful Eight,” Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, and definitely one of his better ones.

If you walk into this film expecting action sequences like those from “Kill Bill” or “Django Unchained,” expect to be disappointed.  But the movie didn’t need much action at all, as the drama all takes place in the form of intense conversations between the characters.  As almost the entire film is set in a cabin with no rooms, there is a strong dramatic irony for the audience.  Because there is nowhere to hide, there is always the possibility of someone getting shot during any of the tense moments.

The acting by the large ensemble cast is fantastic, and the film is very effectively shot; I found myself leaning left and right trying to get a peek over things that are intentionally placed in the background or obscured.

Not sure if this is a resurgence, but lately there have been a few well-praised, ‘artsy’ films that are shot like plays, setting the film in a small space and relying on long takes to add life and tension to the shots.  Other films include last year’s Oscar winner “Birdman,” and this year’s “Steve Jobs.” It’s worked out for these films so far, but I’m not sure if this can be sustained.