Spider-Man: Far From Home review – Far From Anything Special

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It is not secret among my fellow film fans that I am not the biggest of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, I wouldn’t go far to say that it is a bad film per say (unlike some friends of mine who has gone out of their way to call it the worse Spider-Man to date), just not a film that I can really see what the hype behind it is all about. I’ve tried to watch that film quite a few more times ever since buying the DVD and I just get the same sense of indifference towards the film as I did back when I saw it in cinemas despite some of the high praise some friends of mine (mainly one with a name that rhymes with Ham Lane) as some sort of intimated story due to how pedestrian the film comes off as to me and simply works as decent white noise as I am cleaning my room. So I will say that my expectations for “Spider-Man: Far From Home” were not exactly high, but I certainly wasn’t dreading the film either since the film was going to have Mysterio who is one of my favourite Spider-Man characters as a part of the film and I am willing to give it a shot. So read this non-spoiler review for “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and fine out what my thoughts on it are:

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Some may be asking the question on whether I like this film more than “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and I honestly don’t really know how to answer that question in such a straight forward manner. I will say that it is a film in which I had a slightly easier time having a more emotional attachment towards Peter in this one (sort of) and it felt more like a film rather than a TV pilot with a film budget that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” sort of was in the end. But at the same time, I felt like this is one of those MCU films that at times feels too much like a manufactured checklist of a film that is too afraid to really take risks with its premise and ideas (despite some nice visual flare here and there) and a lot of the times even if some of those stuff I am somewhat enjoying on a surface level even if a lot of doesn’t really do anywhere.

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As the film presents itself in terms of its themes and character arcs, there are instances and hints that seem to have a lot of potential on what the idea could been, but just like say a James Bond film from the Brosnan era or even most of the Phase 3 MCU films in general, the script just feels like one of those emasculated men who is too much of a “mummies boy” and never quite grew up mentally not allow himself to meet such potential to truly be himself and forge his own identity with any real meaning. When it comes to story structure rather than coopting the conflict within the main hero and allowing the planted plot points and idea to truly develop or grow like a well fed child, they insert them and forget about it like your average house plant that you give to your grandmother. Switching the chance to tell a potentially relatable story about dealing inner struggle and guilt in the wake of the greatest travesty in human history (or MCU history) and ultimate triumph in the face of pure evil, to tell a story about …whatever this movie ended up being since the almost borders onto similar territory to that of “Man of Steel” with its themes as it simply throws everything except the kitchen sink at you. For a film that serves as an epilogue to that of both “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” (similar to how “Ant-Man” sort of was to “Avengers: Age of Ultron” during the Phase 2 days) and instantly references the dire consequences of “Avengers: Infinity War” has had on those who have lost their loved ones and the eventual triumph of “Avengers: Endgame” with their eventual return, it seems to approach it with a misguided sense of humour that simply comes off as rather tone death with such heavy or layered ideas that reflects on the human condition. Playing the dramatic return of snapped individuals as a High School joke with deadpan humor. Rather than taking the opportunity to explore the significance of such a monumental event, we are thrust into a world that seems like it’s barely changed at all which simply makes the 5 year time skip in “Avengers: Endgame” even worse due to the number of huge implications that it simply couldn’t ignore and simply treats it like your average high school banter that you used to think were clever jokes until you think back about them and realise just how juvenile they were. Some subsidiary, uninteresting characters represent a change over the course of five years, but it’s once more played for cheap laughs and eventual undercooked drama between the hero and his desires. I am not saying that a film with interesting themes and ideas cannot possibly have comedic potential as films like most of the Monty Pyhton films, Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy and “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” are primary example of how that can work, but the jokes and humour should be organically be interwoven into the story and should at least say something about the ideas that you are saying that simply compliments the bigger picture rather than just cheap distraction for the audience. If you really don’t want to be too heavy with your dramatic ideas, then at least do what “Aquaman” did with its ideas and similar go all the way at being an insane romp with character arcs and a plot that is easy to understand as you are watching it.

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It’s a world that could be so uniquely interesting after such a devastating event and a film could use such an event as a visual metaphor to reflect on Peter’s growth as a character in terms of finding his own identity and place in the world, but it plays without any distinctive strokes or roads to follow itself up on. In regards to Peter’s and his hero’s journey throughout the film, I think the general idea of abandoning Spider-Man for an easy-going trip is promising in making a Spider-Man that makes it somewhat different and yet kind of familiar to that of “Spider-Man 2”, but it’s a story that doesn’t really develop at all as the plot and story start to become at odds with each other similar to that of “Avengers: Infinity War”. For the first 45 minutes to an hour, this movie struggles to find any real pace or have anything that resembles a proper narrative hook as it is seems more concerned with apprehending the sudden, eccentric antics of its students as the primary narrative which I could see some appeal towards (and I will admit that it did get a chuckle out of me here and there), but there really isn’t a lot to them that could really make this film that rewatchable outside of being possible white noise for me as I am writing another review or something like that to make my day go faster. After a while, the film started to remind me of when I saw “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” back in 2013 in which ended up walking out of the cinema screening for a few minutes to text a friend of mine to ask him “When does the plot start?”, to which he replied with “Which one?” almost immediately. The only difference in regards to my experience with this film is that I didn’t end up walking out of the screening to text this friend because he hasn’t seen the film yet, but I was still left wondering when anything remotely fascinating would take hold of the story and give me something worth being invested in. I never felt like this movie ended up achieving that, but there were moments that had me wondering why we ended up getting the story we got.

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The story here is meticulous and irritating since it never feels deliberate or calculated for the slow pace it has, and there simply aren’t enough worthwhile beats presented to give the story some much needed energy. When it presents a character like Mysterio (played delightfully by Jake Gyllenhall), it opens up the door for endless possibilities of mind games and does manage to introduce itself in multiple capacities, but I was left wondering why they went the route they did with Mysterio. There are glimpses of genuine jaw-dropping moments and surreal sequences here and there that I never thought would be possible in a Spider-Man film back in the Raimi days, but they come so late into the picture that it makes me wonder why the first hour dragged on and ultimately came off as filler. All of the emotion (or lack thereof in this case) that they tried establishing in the initial stages to prepare for the CGI outburst of its third act makes the entire second half feel kind of pointless and kind of like “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, the dramatic weight or emotional engagement is simply nowhere to be found on screen. It’s captured with a lick of style here and there, but it ultimately amounts to directionless, characterless meandering that relies on cheap tricks and faux-twists to make us forget that the movie hasn’t really been about anything at all. It takes it’s time a bit towards the end to finally commentate on some dramatic ties between characters and thematic resonance, but it once again completely fails to achieve any level of reward because it isn’t written as such any time prior and it really should have been character development that belongs somewhere in the middle of the 2nd act in order for the emotions and characteristics to recontexualise the following events of the film just so I can care what is going on, similar to that of say Camille Montes in “Quantum of Solace”. Instead of extending scenes with repetitive and rather bland jokes that have no real meaning behind them; Why not take the time to develop character, themes, or the story? So many scenes drone on and on for no significant purpose other than to try and make you laugh at cringe-inducing jokes and eye-rolling references that either feels dated, feel like they will soon be dated or would get you completely lost within the joke itself. Making you wonder when and where the time will come when this story is going to get an exhilarating breath of air to give this story something worth rallying behind to make it worthwhile, but the film just seems so lacking in its own confidence and yet at the same time almost so full of some of its pedestrian trapping that puts restraints on its story that it never does become nothing more than a pretty average film.

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As far as the action goes, it is safe of me to say that this film is certainly a step up from the rather forgettable and bland direction to that of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” since I good sense of momentum and creativity behind the sequences this time around. Outside of the Spider-Man suits needing some polishing, the visual effects this time around does deliver on a few (absolutely) stellar visual effects sequences that looks like artwork made by Steve Ditko and these moments that made me wish the movie was more like that, instead of what was actually given. Tom Holland is also doing the best at what is given to him because as I have said in my review for “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, the guys approach to Spider-Man comes off as what Brosnan did with James Bond with him being a nice mix of previous Spider-Man actors, only Holland brings his own spin to the familiar tropes of previous actors rather than coming off as watered down version of Connery or Moore as Brosnan often did for me as he is able to switch between deftly dramatic to wildly quippy is no easy task and he pulls it off with ease. However like Brosnan as Bond, it isn’t his fault that the writers can’t really find any interesting characteristics or emotional purpose to give him. Having a villain like Mysterio opens up the potential to so many interesting concepts to relate to the emotional pathways a story could tread down, but it is a character that is sorely miswritten and barely has that much screentime. Tapping into one of the few cool things he does, but he’s a character that doesn’t really resemble anything and the film-maker doesn’t use him to say anything about the hero, world, or story, something that every great villain should do whether they are the heroes opposite (like the Green Goblin), a dark reflection on the heroes secret identity (like Doc Ock) or a dark reflection on the heroes alter ego (like Venom). This is quite the disappointment since because Gyllenhall is an actor I like a lot and he played Quinten Beck commendably and as the nuisance one would expect, but the writers do him no service with a motivation that only very thinly links him to Spider-Man. Peter Part is a character that has a slight sense of growing as a character, but it comes with no emotional reward or satisfactory exploration because his journey feels unearned and short-changed. So many beats, reveals, and interactions feel hollow, out of place, and defeated by lengthy moments of drawn out humor that doesn’t lend itself to any identity or narrative purpose.

 

VERDICT:

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” really is a film that I saw a lot of potential in being the live action Spider-Man that would come close to the greatness of “Spider-Man 2” and even the film that renew my interest in the MCU going forward that isn’t even “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” or “Black Widow”, but it never quite does it for me outside of some rather superficial and amusing moment that were sprinkled here and there.

 

My score for “Spider-Man: Far From Home” would be a score of 2.5 fishbowl helmets out of 5.

Rating

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Spider-Man: Far From Home review – Far From Anything Special

Toy Story 4 review: Worthy Follow Up, Despite Some Missing Parts

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What can I really say about the previous Toy Story films that hasn’t been said already a million times by down? Well the only distinct thing that I can really say is that my favourite of the series for being both the most thematically coherent and the most well-structured of the series, as well as the one that still really hits home with me in regards to how it explores the idea of abandonment. But like a lot of people in regards to the announcement of “Toy Story 4”, I wasn’t exactly on board with it since “Toy Story 3” (despite some of my issues with that film and how it relies a bit too much on convenient happen-stance to move the plot along) was a perfect send-off film and none of the promotional material really did anything to win me over or made me think that the film was nothing more than a cash cow. Luckily the film I’ve ended up watching wasn’t certainly one of those films that is better than it had any right to be, but there is something that I felt were kind of missing and I will explain in this non-spoiler review:

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Let’s start with the most obvious positive thing to talk about a Pixar film: the animation. Saying that the quality and level of detail of their animation quality has come a long way since the first “Toy Story” would be an understatement as it would be like comparing yours truly travelling from my home to the local corner shop to that of a space program finally achieving the success of astronauts travelling from Earth to the planet Mars. As much as most of us agree that the first “Toy Story” is a great and important film for the animation medium, but a lot of the 3D models of the film really do not hold up well at all to the point of coming off as the sort of stuff that you would use to prank your younger sister who is into cute things (especially with the dog of the film). The animation and visuals of this film are simply so breath-taking that I think I might have to go to my doctor at some point to see if I might have asthma because of how borderline photo-realistic the film looks from the water/rain effects from the opening flashback sequence just to how the lights reflect upon the toys whether they are made of plastic like the heads of Woody and Buzz Lightyear to the porcelain material that Bo Peep is made of. It’s is hard to not appreciate such attention to deal for a studio that achieve such levels of success in the past with many of their films. However like how the main theme of the “Toy Story” series is about growing up, the animators behind these films also like to grow and find ways at improving on their craft which adds a small doses of layers and subtext behind the films theme of growing up as you can almost see what many consider to be Pixar’s flagship franchise as a reflection of Pixar themselves and how they have and continue to grow as a studio even if not all their entries as of late were exactly hits such as “Cars 2” or “The Good Dinosaur”………although to be fair as much as Pixar has kind of grown up into adulthood in terms of maturity as an animation studio that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of making some juvenile duds within its adulthood like most of people on this planet.

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Now onto the story and I will say that I at least enjoyed watching the story of this one over “Toy Story 3” since it doesn’t quite delve into heavy handedness of that film. Like the previous films in the series, the film continues to explore a different aspect of its predecessors themes on growing up and abandonment. I think the best way I can describe how this films approach to such an idea is that the film pretty much makes its main protagonist of Woody into the empty nester type of character (a term that is usually used to describe an individual like a parent experiencing grief and loneliness when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college) as he now finally face being out on his own and ask if life can still have meaning beyond the relationship that has always defined him. Now I do have some issues with this approach as I am still questioning whether it is consistent or the right way to go with how the previous film ended some the film really didn’t leave that much of an impact. On the one hand, there is the character of Forky who I honestly expected to hate because of how he could have potentially gotten really annoying really quickly, but he is not in as much as I thought he would be and does get a good laugh out of me whenever he shows up. But the main thing that I liked about Forky is like with any other good supporting character is that what he symbolically represents because I see him as a modern Buzz Lightyear from the first film. However instead of being somewhat of an obstacle for Woody to overcome his jealous, Forky is a character that perfectly reflects on how much Woody has grown through the course of the films as he is now a character who looks out for the new toy because how he realises the importance of a new toy is to a child such as Bonnie.

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Woody also starts to view the world in a broad way through the character of Bo Peep, while I am not too such if I completely like aspects of what it was done with the character with this update, I know the people behind the film say they updated Bo Peep as a way to make her “less of a damsel in distress” (even though she was NEVER that sort of character to be begin with in the previous films outside of Andy’s playtime), but statements like that make me wonder if they even watched the previous films and seems to continue a reoccurring trend in Hollywood in mistaken femininity with weakness that has its own can of works that I won’t get into. But I do like how she is a non-antagonistic supporting character that challenges Woody as he represents something that challenges his place in the world and just lean into it with his new challenge is to create a new individual identity that is not centred on the parent/child relationship. Like most people in the world, this represents virtually all stages of life that involves self-reinvention as we have to dramatically reshape our conceptions of ourselves, set out to the scary unknown and leave the people we love most behind which doesn’t devalue our love for them as we continue to carry our love for them in our hearts.

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As for other characters in the film, I will perhaps get my most controversy opinion out of the way right now: I did not find Key and Peele as Ducky and Benny to be all that funny as a lot of the time, I’ve found a lot of their jokes to be either poorly timed, drag on for longer than they really needed to and in a few places actually pull the Marvel Cinematic Universe shtick of using bathos for when the drama really didn’t need it. But what makes it worse is that they really didn’t needed to be there as they really added so little to the actually themes of the story that they seem to be just there to cash in on the recent popularity that Key and Peele have been experiencing lately which is odd since a toy voiced by Keanu Reeves pretty much worked as comic relief and as thematic addition to the story in a way Bunny & Ducky really didn’t. But I will talk about a character in the film that I did really like and that is Gabby Gabby who is the primary antagonist of the film although I honestly wouldn’t really call her a villain per say due to how sympathetic her motives and goals are that are not under the false pretense that characters like Thanos would fall under. I won’t spoil too much about Gabby Gabby other than I pretty much see her as the Anti-Woody of the film and how the idea of abandonment and reinventions of oneself could constantly lead to different expectations whether they are false, prolonged or well-intended. Finally is how Buzz Lightyear was utilised in the film is certainly worth talking about after he was somewhat shafted in the previous film, this time he is given a bit more to do in terms of the theme of reinvention as a part of the cycle of life as this time as he learns about the “inner voice” (even if Buzz misinterprets “inner voice” as his physical voice box) and he uses it to guide him to what he must do next. I get what they were going with here in regards to reinventing Buzz as a leader, but I think this is the part in which the plot relies a bit too much on convenient happen-stance in certain places and some dumbs down Buzz for the sake of giving him this subplot even if he has shown to be pretty competent leader in the past as shown in “Toy Story 2”.

 

VERDICT:

“Toy Story 4” is a film that is worth a watch, but I would be lying if I said that this would be one of those film in which I think I wouldn’t be that bothered if we never got it since it doesn’t quite have the emotional punch that the previous films have had since it didn’t even make my mother cry who is usually such a baby for when it comes to the more emotionally driven Pixar films. And while there is a lot to consume that makes for an interesting experience, not all of it quite works for me in practise as they do in theory.

 

My score for “Toy Story 4” is a score of 4 Keanu Reeves toys out of 5.

Rating

Toy Story 4 review: Worthy Follow Up, Despite Some Missing Parts

Men In Black International review: Let This Franchise Die Already

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What can I say about the first “Men in Black” film that hasn’t already been said? It came out during a decade that were not the best era for summer blockbusters with how refreshing it was as a sci-fi film and as a buddy cop film. But I think most of us can agree that the first “Men in Black” is just one of those films that no one can really recapture the magic since none of the sequels really manage to achieve, although I don’t personally hate “Men in Black 3” per say, but it certainly doesn’t fire on all cylinders when it comes to the jokes and I have massive problems when it comes to a certain revelation near the ending of the film. So maybe some fresh blood outside of Barry Sonnenfeld (who hasn’t really made anything that worthwhile after the first “Men in Black”) is what the franchise needed in order to stay relevant and move forward from its comfort zone. While I will say that I liked this film more than “Men in Black 2” on the basis of it not being a complete insult to the first film in terms of its character arcs, but I wouldn’t call this a particular good film per say and I will explain why in this non-spoiler review:

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Might as well get the one thing I think most people agree on as far as a positive for the film and that is the main two leads of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. I will give some credit for this film for not trying to do the whole “separation of generation” route for the film as the first film pretty much perfected such an approach to the buddy cop formula. And I am not going to lie here: as the film was started despite some cringe inducing jokes, I was almost on board with the film as in a way it feels like it following up on the idea that the first film set up with Agent J and Agent L in regards to another approach to the buddy cop formula with it going more for social and even cultural differences. While I don’t think the film truly capitalise on its potential as far as the script goes, I think Hemsworth and Thompson their best with what they were given by using their past experience in other films to their advantage. While it is no secret that I am not a fan of “Thor: Ragnarok”, the comedy is one of the reasons why I didn’t like it since the shift from scripted moments to improvised moment more often than not took me out of the momentum of the film nearly everytime. Let’s just say that I prefer how this film used the chemistry between Hemsworth and Thompson here because there is a consistency in their comedic performance that doesn’t feel like the improvised comedy doesn’t come off as Hemsworth breaking character just for a cheap ego boost like he did in “Thor: Ragnarok” since this time around it felt like a role that was written for him with the films attempts at character writing does feel like it is one in the same with the comedic chops of the main lead.

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Yet despite myself liking the main two leads on a performance level, sadly the script is simply not up to par with the actors’ talents. There are many reasons why the first film is a sci-fi action comedy film that many consider to be a timeless classic (minus the Dennis Rodman joke that bookends the film that dates the film badly) mainly because it knew all the main sources that make for a great comedy. It knew that the best sort of jokes that truly stick with people are the unpredictable ones that naturally come from a place of character and moves along slowly naturally with the films plot that prevents it from coming off as a cheap, lazy and desperate of the writers. Unfortunately the exact opposite happens with this film, it is pretty much predictable in all the wrong ways. While I am not going to act like the first “Men in Black” has an original plot in terms of its structure, but it knew when to subvert your expectations without overdoing it and most of the scenes do naturally follow each other as a way to make the timing of the jokes more natural. With this film, the predictability a lot of the time hinders the jokes as it commits the crime of a comedy telegraphing its jokes as soon as the set up comes up, the punchline becomes so obvious that a blind man like Steve Wonder can see it coming……………….from the planet Neptune. It also doesn’t help that unlike the first film with its New York setting (see Patrick (H) Willems video “Patrick Explains MEN IN BLACK (And Why It’s Great)” video for more detail on this), this film simply does not utilise the London setting outside of a few gags (like the steering wheel being on the other side of the car), which is a shame because I really think that with the current state of the city of London seems like an “all you can eat” buffet as far as satire would go. Now I might as well address the elephant in the room of the film in regards to the comedy of this film and that is the “woke comedy” that is sprinkled throughout this film here and there that become more noticeable after Tessa Thompson comments on changing the name to “People in Black” to be more “inclusive”. I feel like this is the film simply not really getting the “Men in Black” series as a concept since changing “Men in Black” into “Humans in Black” or “People in Black” is kind of missing the joke of the name considering that is named after the popular UFO conspiracy theory that refers to alleged men dressed in black suits who claim to be quasi-government agents who harass or threaten UFO witnesses to keep them quiet about what they have seen.

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Now onto to the technical stuff and this is certainly where I think the film also kind of dropped the ball for on its opportunity. If the point of the film is to breathe some new life into a struggling series, then it kind of fails in this regard. While I will say that this films in terms of cinematography, lighting, editing and musical score goes, it is pretty component in those areas overall at replicating the feel of the 3 “Men in Black” films that Barry Sonnenfeld did. However that is kind of a fault for the film since it just makes me question on why they hired a director as talented and unique as F. Gary Gray to make the film if you are not going to allow him to make it his own? You could say the studio did this as a way to keep a sense of consistency to the series, but I would like to use “X-Men: First Class” as a film that doesn’t visually resemble the previous X-Men films, yet was mostly successful at renewing the audiences interest in a series due to Matthew Vaughn’s sense of flare and sense of direction. This series could have easily done the same as long as it was able to do with a lot of confidence and effort that the difference don’t really matter to a general audience as long as the film is well made and is effective at its goals. Overall, the films technical sense of direction seems to be at odds with what appears to be the films initial goals and if any good film critic would tell you: a clear sign of a bad film is one that is going through an identity crisis and has no idea on what it wants to be.

 

VERDICT:

“Men in Black International” is one of those sequels that had some potential in there and could have been the fresh blood that a somewhat stale series needs, but after watching it just became one of those sequels that really didn’t need to be made with how it fails to achieve its goals with its predicable and unfunny nature.

 

My score for “Men in Black International” would be a score of 1.5 annoying aliens out of 5.

Rating

Men In Black International review: Let This Franchise Die Already

X-Men: Dark Phoenix review – A Disappointing Swan Song to a Solid Series

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I am someone who considers himself to be a stanch defender of the Fox X-Men franchise, despite MCU shrills making up laughable excuses for why the films were “never good” due to pretty superficial or hypocritical arguments since the series have made some films in the superhero genre with the likes of “X2”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and especially “Logan” being among my favourites. But even I couldn’t really put myself into being that excited for the film due to all the reasons that you have heard a million times on the internet………and I mean the more legit reasons like hiring a first time director for your big scale superhero film since that hardly ever works *cough* “Fant4stic” *cough) and all the news about the reshoots don’t exactly inspire confidence for me. But a small part of me wishes that all my low expectations might actually work in the films favour in some way. I will say this right now about the film: it is nowhere “Fant4stic” levels of bad and I would put this above other lesser regard films in the series like “X-Men: The Last Stand” or “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. But as what is the final swan song to the Fox X-Men film series, this is certainly not the finale the series that the superhero genre owns such much to deserves and just makes me wish “Logan” or even “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was the finale of the series. Find out why I think this way in my non-spoiler review:

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Might as well get some of the positive stuff of the film out of the way and that is the acting or at least the acting from a nice handful of the actors despite the material they were given. We all know that James McAvoy is great as Charles Xavier as he has proven to us the once impossible mind set of “No one but Patrick Stewart can play Professor X” back in the days when “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was the biggest show in the Western world, then along came the likes “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and has proven us all wrong to the point in which people actually unironiclly say that he should play a young Jean-Luc Picard in a prequel to “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. But what I liked about McAvoy in the role and continues on with this film is very similar to why I like Tom Hiddleston as Loki, the man likes to play the role ever so slightly different with different aspects of the characters persona. In this film, McAvoy plays Xavier almost like the old wise man type with conflict to it, even if the make-up department didn’t even try to make up look like Xavier has aged since his “X-Men: First Class” days. Michael Fassbender continues to bring as much pathos to role of Magneto with some of his actions to a degree being a characters who actions and motives (even if I have hard time believing that the American government or the people would be so easy on him after the events of “X-Men: Apocalypse”) I can understand mid-way through the film due to his history with the character, although I do think this might be Fassbender being the most wasted in the role since Magneto only feels like he was just there by obligation rather than by necessity since there is really no conflict or development for his character in this film. Or at least is there as a way to display just how powerful the Jean Grey under the Phoenix Force is in order to establish thread levels, so what better way to demonstrate this than by doing what the Cell Saga did with Frieza in “Dragon Ball Z” and simply have the main villain from previous stories that the heroes struggled with to be suddenly be thrown like a rag doll by a new threat. The final performance that I would like to talk about is Sophie Turner, while I personally don’t think she had any chemistry Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers / Cyclops and aspects of the script that she was given in terms of how it functions as a drama/character study, Turner does a surprisingly good job with the script that she was given since I wasn’t too crazy about her performance in “X-Men: Apocalypse” with her accent slip ups being somewhat noticeable at times. Apparently in order to prepare for the role, Sophie Turner studied mental illness such dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia as a way to get into character like a lot of method actors. And I honestly think her preparation for the role mostly paid off in her favour at least in her quieter moments when it comes to the struggles of what you cannot control.

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The overall experience with the film is certainly the strangest one that I have had in a long time for a film because in a way this film reminds me an awful lot of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” in which it has very all over the place in terms of its running with emotions in which there was times in which start of the film (despite some very questionable logic leaps) I was honestly almost on board with in terms of establishing the new status quo, setting up arcs/ideas for the film to expand on further etc. But I will talk about Simon Kinberg’s direction before I actually talk about the story itself, while this is Simon’s feature film debut, it is worth noting that the man did direct a TV episode recently with Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot. Why do I bring this up? Because a lot of the direction of the film really does feel like this was a TV film that was given a theatrical release and a slightly higher budget since the film in terms of direction does have a lot of traits that make a lot of TV films such as the awkward talking head shots through handheld camerawork with a lot of the dialogue scenes that make the film look cheap and a bit too claustrophobic for my taste rather than the more mid-way shots that Bryan Singer mostly used in his films. The lighting a lot of the times is noticeably darker a lot of the time, which isn’t inherently a bad thing per say as a darker lighting can give a film a certain atmosphere that is warranted, but I can’t help but think that this was Kinberg cutting his corners as a director lacking in experience on a big feature. Unlike the first two Bryan Singer X-Men films which had a more grounded tone to them that makes the darker lighting make sense on a tonal level, I feel like the darker lighting of this film kind of feels at odds with the films more fantastical and out there concepts of the films script which makes for a confused and somewhat dull experience. While I personally found most of the action in this film to be pretty lifeless with how little energy they had to them, but the closest thing that the film had to an action sequence that did get some thrills for me was the train sequence, which is odd since I usually do not like trains being used for a set pieces since they are usually shot way too close and the geography and environment of the setting doesn’t usually leave for the most creative action scenes. But I will say that despite some of those limitations being present in places, I will say that the sequences did had its stand out moments that were pretty cool (mainly with Magneto and Nightcrawler) as well as it having a lot of momentum as the sequence kept on going. Although some of the CGI in the film does take me out of the experience and kind of feels like Kinsberg is being a bit too ambitious with aspects of his directing rather than knowing his limits and being creative with such limitations because as the old saying goes “art thrives upon limitations” and tension of the sequence is a little bit all over the place since the hardly established how the D’Bari power set works as some are like Putties from “Power Rangers” in which they are easy to kill and some are like the T-1000 from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” in which they can only be killed by certain means. People have bitched about the train sequence and how they found it “underwhelming”. It may shock you to know that the original climax took place in space and the entire third act was reshot because Disney (who had Fox by the balls at this point) felt that the ending was too close to “Captain Marvel” (which I have still not see yet). Now with that information now known to be, I might as well put on my tin foiled hat for what I am about to say because now I am started to think that Disney asked Kinberg to constantly reshoot the film or make new script ideas on the fly as a way to make the film “deliberately bad” just so people would be more excited for when the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets around to doing the inevitable X-Men reboot after this.

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Now onto the story of the film and I will say this right now about: while it has been a long time since I have read “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, but I will say that I think that this film is certainly more faithful to the themes and ideas that were presented in the book than “X-Men: The Last Stand”. Those themes were mainly adding a darker twisted on one of the main themes of the X-Men that is being true to your own identity. A concept that may sound good in theory for a lot of people, but what very few people seem to realise is that it can also be a rather terrifying idea when it comes to certain people and even your closest friends since we can never truly know what anyone is capable of. While I will say that I am not one of those people who thinks that “this film is repeating the same mistakes of X-Men: The Last Stand” since the main issue with that film really isn’t that they screwed over “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, but the film tries to juggle way too much to the point in which all the baggage severely undercooks a lot of the potentially interesting ideas that film presents. This film has its own set of problems in which script does have the meat of a story that could have been something great, the skeleton that should have helped support and structure the meat of the body is either broken due to slipping on some ice a few too many times or was replaced through surgery, but the surgeon replaced some of the body parts with limbs that are either two sizes too small or replaced with the limps of a different animal. Let’s just say the films is one of those films that kind of like the essence of Jean Grey’s struggle in the film, it has a hard time finding an identity to truly stick with that would please the right people. According to some friends of mine, Kinberg has stated that when approaching this film, he took inspiration from “Logan” in terms of approaching the story as being one in which Jean Grey is the main character with the X-Men playing more of a supporting role that are reflective of her character. While comparing this film to “Logan” would beyond unfair, I think comparing it to “X-Men: Days of Future Past” would be much more fair comparison since they are much closer in tone and even in intend. But the reason why I don’t think this film quite succeeds as a character study is very similar to why I don’t think the argument of “It’s Thanos’ story” works for me when it comes to “Avengers: Infinity War” in which I think the main character of the film was absent for way too long and hardly any of the characters in the film provide any real emotional or internal for the character of Jean to make fully buy whatever journey she meant to be going through since most of them have a very “come and go” like approach to them without any breathing room or even throw certain supporting characters under the bus with how some (not all) of the drama came off as melodramatic at times. Say what you will about “X-Men: Apocalypse” (a film I still think is just okay) but that film knew how to structure itself plot wise, it had some flare that gives it an 80s vibe with some anachronistic undertones to them that worked with some of the themes about power that film was going for (in a way this film really didn’t with its 90’s setting) and had some fun with itself even if you could argue that the film was less tonally consistent that this one. Kind of a shame because the film does have a lot of great scenes in it (I mean any film that kills off Jennifer Lawrence isn’t completely irredeemable in my eyes, even if they should have killed her character in “X-Men: Apocalypse”) that could have been great on their own if the framework that holding the scenes all together could barely stick together as well as a overall rather uninteresting alien plot with Jessica Chastain playing a rather cynical character who I think is supposed to represent the devil on Jean’s shoulder type of character since the film does have its fair share of Biblical allusions. I honestly feel like the film in a lot of areas did have its heart in the right place, but good intentions don’t allows result in the most satisfying outcomes.

 

VERDICT:

I don’t think “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” is quite the dumpster-fire that people are making it out to be. Then again we do live in an era of comic book films in which there seems to be no room for in-between thoughts like average or being above and/or below average as everything is either “OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE GREATEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD” as some (wrongly) say about a lot of the MCU films like “Avengers: Endgame” as of late or “THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN, LET’S BURN IT!!!”. But even someone who is a fan of the X-Men film series honestly cannot even if this film even an average since it doesn’t really seem all too committed in its identity and is not the sendoff film that a series  deserves since the series helped kicked off the superhero film landscape that we are in today. I honestly think the film is just a below average flick that one its own did nothing for me since it is one of those films that I can barely remember.

 

My score of “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” a score of 2 Christ symbolisms out of 5.

Rating

X-Men: Dark Phoenix review – A Disappointing Swan Song to a Solid Series

Godzilla: King of the Monsters review – Delivers on What It Promises

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I am what you would call a rather moderate fan of the Godzilla franchise since I have only seen at least 14 films in franchise (including this one) since access to a lot of films in the franchise is severely limited in the UK since they are pretty hard to find. Like a lot of Japanese films on DVD, they seem to be a bit more expensive than the usual DVDs here in the UK. My introduction to the Godzilla franchise was actually “Godzilla: The Series” the animated spin-off to the pretty terrible 1998 “Godzilla” film, so Godzilla as a franchise is one of those that was always part of my life to some degree, but the curiosity never quite allowed to expand itself in the same way my liking for 007 or Batman did as I was growing up. But I was excited for the 2014 film as it was about to come out, only to be disappointed with the finished results, although I wouldn’t call the film bad per say. So went into this film with rather moderate expectations as all I wanted it to be is an entertaining film. Does the film work for me? Well read this review and find out:

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The best way for me to describe “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is that it is certainly a more balanced film in this MonsterVerse franchise. Although I would say it quite succeeds at schlocky monster fights that made “Kong: Skull Island” a fun film for me, it is certainly better at executing its metaphors in terms of getting me engaged in the story than 2014’s “Godzilla”. Possibly best film of the MonsterVerse franchise? Too soon to say, but I will say that enjoyed it enough to recommend it for just being able to pull off a film that is at least entertaining for me in a way last years rather disappointing “Pacific Rim: Uprising” didn’t deliver on. When it comes to reviewing a kaiju film especially ones within the Godzilla franchise is which I don’t judge them to the same level as would other blockbusters or mainstream genre film. The reason why I bring this up is because of the whole criticism that this film has been getting in regards to the human characters being undeveloped because I personally find it to be a somewhat harsh criticism for the film in general because of how the human characters are never the main focused or appeal of kaiju films for me or most people, most films in genre are aware of this and don’t try to be the next James Cameron film. Expecting a deep and multilayered character drama in a Godzilla film is like ordering steak dinner and expecting veal since that really isn’t what these films are about, I do expect the human characters in the film to at least represent how humanity in general suffer the consequences of Godzilla and the monsters just like how the original 1954 film worked for some many people that reflect on the fears and tension of its time. But when it does come to the human characters, I do want at least for them to be either functional, identifiable or have enough colour to them. For the most part, I would say most of the human characters in this film do fit that bill for me (as opposed to the rather dull, but functional ones in the 2014 film), although I do think the main child character played by Millie Bobby Brown to be one of child characters who borders on being too smart for their own good to the point in which I just don’t find her character to be that believable at least as far as the human characters and I do wish Charles Dance was given a bit more to do in the film.

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As far as the story goes, it is pretty a film that mostly ticks all the right boxes on what I want in a American Godzilla film that involves a group of monsters simply duking it out. I will say without a doubt that this is certainly a film that I feel like was able to get across with its metaphors a lot more than the 2014 film did for me since it able to grab my attention in a way the 2014 really didn’t for me. Yet it is pretty respectful to some of the themes that its predecessor set up with the film continuing to use Godzilla and the monsters as a metaphor for natural disasters. I know most of us go into a kaiju film expecting to just watch it for the monster fights, but it worth noting that being a metaphor of current events is just as much of a key part in what made Godzilla such a pop culture icon as the cheesy B movie charm of the later films in the franchise since it makes the franchise such a diverse one similar to that of Batman for the United States or James Bond for the United Kingdom. Originally Godzilla was a character that was made to be made to symbolises nuclear holocaust from Japan’s perspective and has since been culturally identified as a strong metaphor for nuclear weapons, but that had to change after the end of the Cold War to which many films in the Japanese series start to use Godzilla and the monsters as a metaphor for natural disasters which perfectly suits both a Japanese and US setting in a way the nuclear weapons metaphor really wouldn’t. At first I was a little reluctant to when the film started to bring it up since it started to remind me a lot of the motives and goals of Thanos from “Avengers: Infinity War” in terms of its comments on over-population, pollution etc. However unlike Thanos, I do get where the human antagonist are coming from since the film understands that in order to make a good argument is to use real events in a very “for the greater good” for of way and the film is very aware of the problematic logic behind what appeals to a noble cause and how the motive behind it behind it isn’t as noble as the cause itself as the film does call out on it. But what I do like about the film is how it also uses the monsters as a metaphor that reflects on the human story in regards to family that was there in the first film to some degree. Instead of having a nuclear family from the film on the forefront, we have a family that represent the dysfunctional or the broken family without coming off as a Spielberg knock-off that plays into the motives of some of the characters, but as well as correlate with the nature themes of the film that the monsters represents from both Godzilla and King Ghidorah represent different perspectives on what we would call “the alpha male” or the apex predator as the film referred to as such, Motha representing what we call motherhood with the nurturing nature towards Godzilla and rather different kind of protective nature that you could see as the monster or nature version of the maternal instinct and the list goes on. Although that being said, while the initial motivations for some of the human characters are understandable, I do questions one characters motivation to change later on.

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It also worth mentioning that the film in a way reminds me an awful lot of the James Bond film “Skyfall” in terms of it also being that is about rebirth. A lot of people were disappointed with the 2014 film in regards to what they want in a Godzilla film since a lot of people were expecting a more fast pace monster brawl rather than the slow burner we ended up getting, So in a way I see this film as one of those films that is responding to some of the criticisms of the first film, but instead of pulling a similar feat to that of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and suddenly shifts gears without any gradual flow to the whole thing. Without going into too much into spoilers, let’s just say that along with the some of the Biblical imagery (with perhaps King Ghidorah representing the Anti-Christ who throws off balance in the world) and even Biblical ideas such as sacifrice, the film uses a similar plot point to that of “Skyfall” for Godzilla that helps change him from being a force of nature to the character being portrayed heroically while still maintaining an edge afterwards since it was mankind that helped him with such a rebirth. I do hope that “Godzilla vs. Kong” next year follows up on this idea and moves forward with Godzilla being a protector for mankind similar to that of a classic Kurosowa samurai tale mixed with aspects from the of The Incredible Hulk comics rather than being a rather confused follow up to a thematic idea in a way “Spectre” was to “Skyfall”.

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As for the more technical aspects of the film, it is certainly one that delivers on what it promises for the most part. If there is one thing that had me worried about this film is that I was worried it would do a similar thing to that of “Man of Steel” responding to some of the criticisms of “Superman Returns” and would go too far the other direction. Luckily the film avoids these trappings and does realise not to make the kaiju overstay their welcome and then give us a sense of “less could have been more” afterwards. While at times, I do think some of fights are framed as a bit too close up for my taste, I get what those shots were going for in terms of making the monsters have a very otherworldly or god-like perspective to us “puny humans”. But when the kaiju fights do happen, they deliver in a satisfying way, it is still dark like the first film and yet they do have enough colour and distinct look to them that the close up camera doesn’t bother me as much as it does in a lot of other action films nowadays. The film also avoid the rapid editing that many people complained about the first film, which I didn’t mind at first for the first time in the previous film, but it got really frustrating to the point in which I questioned whether Gareth Edwards actually understood what made the build up to “Jaws” and “Godzilla (1954)” so effective, instead we’ve got the camerawork using the more continuous shots that corresponds the kaiju fights along with the justified human activity of the action scenes. The fight were spaced out throughout the film enough that they don’t get so exhausting or boring so quickly in a way some of the “Dragon Ball Z” like fight scenes in “Man of Steel” kind of gotten for me as that film kept on going.

 

VERDICT:

I might be coming off as a bit too nice on this film than most critics, but I am allowed to go against the grains and admit that the film mostly delivered on what it promises and what I expected it to be. It is unashamed of being a kaiju film and so far into this MonsterVerse franchise is the most balanced in terms of balancing its sheer scale along with its metaphors, even if some of the latter parts can be seen as good in theory than in practice.

 

My score for “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” would be a score of 3 and half unsubtle Biblical imagery out of 5.

Rating

Godzilla: King of the Monsters review – Delivers on What It Promises

Rocketman review: A Rocket That Mostly Soars Than Crashes

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What can I say about Elton John that hasn’t already been said at this point? There is a good reason why the guy is often labelled as an icon when it comes to the music medium and British culture since there is just so much that the man has achieved over the several decades as a musician and as a person. Although I will say that my introduction is an odd case because I would like to describe it as both being introduced to the guy through the means of both not knowing who is and later on knowing who he is. Like a lot of people my age, I was introduced to the guy through the film “The Lion King” with songs like “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”, but I didn’t care who was behind those songs since I was more concerned over the cartoon animals since I was 5 years old at the time. But my introduction to the guy in which I actually know his name was in an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer locked him in a dog carrier at the airport and leaves him to go after Apu, a gag that still gets a good laugh from me. It is safe to say that I am at least curious when it comes to a film based on one of the most celebrated musicians of our time. So does this film fly high like a “Rocketman” or does make sink as low as going to a “Funeral for a Friend”? Read this review and find out:

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Obviously this film will be compared by many people to last years “Bohemian Rhapsody” since it is directed by the same guy replaced Bryan Singer mid-way through its production. I will try my best to not bring up “Bohemian Rhapsody” that much in this review and judge the film on its own merits, but I will say this about “Rocketman” by comparison: the film does have some of the same problems that “Bohemian Rhapsody” had (despite myself enjoying that film in a “warts and all” sort of way), but it is certainly a more focused, coherent and even creative film based on a famous musician within British history. The reason why I would say the film is more focused is mainly due to how the film doesn’t feel like the writers simply went with the approach of “this is the life of Elton John” to the point in which it comes off simply as the visual version of Elton John’s Wikipedia page (although I am sure the fact that John is still alive prevented the writers from taking this approach), but choose aspects of Elton John’s life as tools to tell a meaningful story and explore an aspect of the human condition. With the case of this film, it uses a certain part of John’s life such as his times as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music, through his influential and enduring musical partnership with Bernie Taupin as means to explore universal and human ideas such as depression, substance abuse, and his sexual orientation to tell a rather heartfelt story that is essentially about acceptance.

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Those are all ideas that I am perfectly fine with, but what I really liked about the film goes about its ideas and story about acceptance is how it is told through the framing device of flashbacks as Elton John is at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. I like the films usage of an alcoholics anonymous meeting as framing device for the story for a few reasons, but the main reason being that is it almost a perfect metaphor for the films ongoing narrative being about the struggles of acceptance since such meetings are often resulted in people both accepting who they are as a person, but at the same time accepting that have a serious problem that you need to overcome. Acceptance more often than not is an idea that I feel like a lot of films nowadays has become over-simplified to the point in which I almost started to lose interest in a film that has it a main story point since the world and human condition is not that simple. Luckily “Rocketman” doesn’t simply go with the whole “Accept who you are” message that so many films often go for and call it a day just to satisfy John’s ego as while Elton John is still the protagonist, he still portrayed as a flawed human being who is just as guilty for his action as some of the people around him.

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It is also worth noting that the other reason why I liked the fact that the film was told in flashback with the frame narrative of Elton in an alcoholics anonymous meeting as way being a lot more creative in terms of its presentation as a film based on a musician by presenting it as a nice mix between a broadway musical and a jukebox musical (since the film does pretty much use a bunch of Elton John songs through at musical sequence for obvious reasons). But like how a great action scene should drive the story, a great music number in a musical should drive or develop the story and “Rocketman” was able to succeed in this as it is able to capture the spirit of its subject and a lot of that is through Dexter Fletcher’s direction that has all the energy of a broadway musical and revels in excess; this is particularly true in the second half, that plays with conventional biopic form as time blurs and scenes collide into each other in a way that’s exhilarating but also gives a sense of Elton’s increasingly whirlwind mind and a true insight into his character that makes him a “one of a kind” sort of singer. The musical numbers are also staged in ways that are visually slick and creative, highlighting the resonant parts of the lyrics. Although as I have said earlier, the film does share a couple of the issues that I have with “Bohemian Rhapsody” such the film having rather weird pacing issues in which quite a few moments in the film in which scenes kind of have a very come and go like feel to them with how rush they are and I personally don’t care for this approach because sometimes it doesn’t allow certain side characters to be fully fleshed out. As I have always said: a truly great character are the ones in which the supporting characters are almost as rich and gives us a different angle to allows the characters struggle to be more endearing, while there are plenty of side characters in the film that do that fairly well, there are others who disappear for way too long for it truly work in the films favour. I do get why the film did this since it is told through the perspective of Elton John as an alcoholics anonymous meeting, it wouldn’t make too much sense to have scenes that are there to solely develop Bernie Taupin as a character in his own right, so the film has somewhat of an excuse for not giving certain side characters enough screentime even if I don’t think excuse is quite enough for me to think the faults are a little justified.

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Now onto the performances of the film, which is usually the main draw for any biopic. The best way to describe Taron Egerton as Elton John would be like this: if you were to tell be that the casting directors just went back in time and just got a young Elton John to play himself in the film, then I would believe you. Not only those Egerton simply look like Elton John as he did during the 60s and 70s, but in terms of his body language or his mannerisms, the guy turns in a performance that is just as captivating and mesmerizing as Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the point that I do hope for at least an Best Actor nomination for Egerton at the Oscars, but I am currently not holding my breath on that actually happening. The rest of the cast provide with some pretty solid performances overall ranging from Jamie Bell playing a rather likable Bernie Taupin who believable in terms of being a loyal and yet conflicted friend of Elton John (even if I think he could do with a bit more screentime) to Richard Madden playing a rather slimy version of music manager John Reid who does his very best at playing a very unlikable music manager (even by the standards of what we usually associate with a music manager) in a very believable and professional manner. And much to my surprise, I even liked Bryce Dallas Howard as Sheila Eileen (the struggling and harsh mother of Elton John) because she is an actress who I honestly never been a big fan of despite many friends of mine insisting otherwise and honestly despite her fake accent at times being a little distracting, she played the part of a mother who is struggling with the consequences of her sons actions and fame without overplaying it or severely underplaying the role like she usually does.

 

VERDICT:

“Rocketman” is certainly what I would call a film that is certainly made with all the right intentions of making a truly great film about one of the greatest musical icons within British history and for the most part it succeeds. Despite following some of the conventions of musical biopics, it does enough creative and focused things with itself that makes it into a film that I can easily say is a better made films than “Bohemian Rhapsody” and general love letter to a legend that is more than the sum of its parts.

 

My score for “Rocketman” a score of 4 eccentric Elton John outfits out of 5.

Rating

Rocketman review: A Rocket That Mostly Soars Than Crashes

John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum review: Wicked Action As An Art Form

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It is finally here, the film I was most hyped for ever since I saw the action masterpiece known as “John Wick: Chapter 2” and the fantastic cliff-hanger ending that film left on. “John Wick” is the sort of action franchise that I didn’t realise I needed until I watched the first two films a few months ago and really thought about what is it about these films that appeal to me so much that I have pretty become the go-to guy for anything related to John Wick. They are just sort of films that really tick all the right boxes on what I want in an action film. The films are very neo-noir in their style and tone, a genre I love to pieces with the likes of “Sin City” being one of my favourite films. Another reasoning being that I am a dog person. I love my pet Basset Hound to pieces and similar to Wick and his pet Beagle in the first film, my dog Poppy means a lot me than people truly care to think, but that’s a another story for another day. Finally as a mate of mine once put it: “You’re the go-to guy for any renowned action protagonist”, I am somewhat of sucker for what many would call “high-brow” action films. As much as I do enjoy action schlock that are good time wasters for a rainy day, it is the action films that go beyond the spectacle that I usually go back to with the likes of “The Dark Knight”, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”, “Casino Royale”, “Die Hard” and the “John Wick” films being perfect examples of the sort of “high-brow” action films that truly put the effort into being more than just spectacle and truly take their time in exploring its characters or making their world more unique than other action films. So how does “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” hold up especially when compared to the other two? Well read this non-spoiler review and find out:

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Now let’s get the obvious thing out of the way when it comes to the appeal of the “John Wick” guys: the action. Saying that these film more than deliver on the action scenes would be an understatement of the century even if we were not living in an era in which the action genre has been plagued by overuse of shaky cam and dull looking CGI (*cough the Russo Brothers *cough) since these film really are the type of action films that are as the old saying goes “the gift that keeps on giving” because as soon as you watch the previous film and think to yourself “There is no way they can up themselves with the action in the next film”, yet the people behind these films continue to prove yours truly wrong when it comes to such a mindset as they continue to top themselves in terms of the creativity and brutality of the action. I am not going to into detail on the choreography, the camerawork or the commitment Keanu Reeves to the stuntwork since I’ve already got into such detail in my review for “John Wick: Chapter 2” and many other video essayist on YouTube have gone into detail on why the action in these films really stick out as action set pieces in not just in modern action cinema, but with action cinema in general. Instead, I am going to talk about both the creativity and the brutality of the films action scenes because this is what I meant earlier back when I said about these films continuing to up themselves in terms of the action because there were moments in which the action (and even one none action moments like one involving toe nails) really do push themselves in terms of their brutality to the point in which they actually made cringe in disgust to the point I looked away a few times. In terms of the creativity, the action also top itself in this film when compared to the previous films and reminds me of the old saying of “art thrives upon limitations”. The reason why I bring up the “art thrives upon limitations” is because the film does pick up where the 2nd film left off with John Wick pretty much stripped of his resources and now has to reply on his ingenuity in order to survive a world that is literally out to get him. Throughout the film goes beyond the familiar gun-fu action style that we come to action scenes since includes using books from the library, knives, a motorcycle, a horse and even killer dogs as means of surviving the bounty on his head and simply uses them to their fullest potential.

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Not to say the gun-fu are absent because even they get creative as the film progresses. In a way the action in the general kind of reminds of video games like “Batman: Arkham Knight” or the “Uncharted” series (continuing on the video game motif from the first film) in which as the film progresses, so does the enemies facing the protagonist similar to a video game increasing their difficulty the further you move on during the story mode due to enemies improving on their own strategy. This would force the player to be more thoughtful when it comes to the sort of weapons that you use in combat and how you use them as means of achieving your objective, something which John pretty much does during the film that doesn’t feel too gimmicky as far as the video game motifs go since it does reflect on his character arc within the film. It is also worth noting that the film even utilises the novelty of one shot fight sequences. Unlike films such as “Black Panther” or “Atomic Blonde”, the one shot action takes do not feel like cheap gimmicks that a director uses as a way to trick audience members into think the film has more artistic craftsmanship than it actually does. The reason why “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” avoids being gimmick with such a now overused gimmick in action films nowadays is because they don’t take up the entire action sequence since the film does use cuts within the sequence as a way to give us brief moments to breath, as well as the fact that it uses the one shots a few times throughout the film that they don’t feel out of balance and further enhance the rather stylistic world of the John Wick universe. The close thing that I have to an issue with the action is that there are a couple of times in which I think they drag on a little bit too long for my taste, but they don’t really ruin my experience overall.

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Now onto the other appeal of these films for me, which is the story. These are certainly not films that exactly tell you the most groundbreaking, innovative or even original stories that you will ever see, these are films that similar tell the sort of stories that we are all familiar with and either executes them effectively or makes the familiar refreshing again. While I wouldn’t say the story for this film is quite in leagues with “John Wick: Chapter 2” for me (since I truly admired the modern myth approach of that film), it is still a pretty coherent film that truly understands how to develop a story effectively by giving a colour set of characters that represent aspects of a film central idea of rules and the consequences of your actions for obeying and disobeying said rules, which I think is a pretty aspiring idea to explore in a series that is well known for its unique world-building. The reasons why I say such a thematic idea is such an aspiring creative choice for a series known for its world-building is because anyone who knows anything about knows that one of the first things any writer should do when it comes to world-building is that you should set up your own set of rules in terms of how the internal logic of the world actually functions and you should consistently obey the rules that you have established without each rule contradicting each other. For example, I am a lot more forgiving of a film like this having a character surviving a fall from a building because this film clearly establishes that it is heighten reality in which the rules and logic of what a man can take are different from our own world, whereas I am a lot less forgiving a film like “Quantum of Solace” in which Bond was able to survive a fall from an aeroplane with so much as a limp because it contradicts the more grounded world that “Casino Royale” establishes in which Bond was hospitalised for weeks for being tortured.

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Unlike films such as “Avengers: Infinity War”, this film knew how to use its huge set of characters by having a central character go through a series of internal and physical obstacles to overcome, while a lot of the supporting character represent a different perspective of the idea at large through a film that almost feels like if the late great Serigio Leone directed an action film. John Wick (played by the cool and yet all so lovable Keanu Reeves) represents the consequences of disobedience and innovations against rules and traditions as means of moving forward and survival. The Adjudicator (played by Asia Kate Dillon) is the opposite of John Wick in many ways since represents the scary and almost lifeless notion of obedience when it comes following rules in almost a very bureaucratic sort of fashion to the point in which her exterior gives you the impression that she is completely out of touch with her humanity as oppose to John being a character while stoic is still in touch with his humanity both as a strength and to a fault. Winston (played by the incredibly charismatic Ian McShane) represents the thin line between obedience and disobedience as he is willing to follow and not follow the rules of the High Table as means of self-preservation. Sofia (played by Halle Berry in a role I am sure was written for Carrie Ann-Moss but couldn’t get her due to her shooting scenes for “Jessica Jones”) represents the more humane form of  obedience that displayed by the franchises marker medallion, which represents an unbreakable promise between assassins. And finally there is Zero (played by delightfully Mark Dacascos) the main assassin recruited by the Adjudicator who I have come to see as an interesting contradiction of being both the dark and the light John Wick of the film because he is the evil John Wick who are both “markers of death” as Zero would put it. But Zero takes extraordinary enjoyment from fighting as the system and rules of the High Table perfectly suits his pleasures in life, yet he doesn’t the stoicism that defines John as a character and even admits into being big fan of John Wick to the point that they let him recover between fights instead of hitting him when he’s open. You could even read such a characteristic from Zero can be seen as the consequences of one’s legacy of a past that a lot of us would like to forget. It also helps that the best action films are the ones in which the action helps drive the story, so you can also see the films theme of “every action has consequences” as a somewhat meta commentary on the action genre and how too many of them have simply become loose frameworks for set pieces and every action scene in this film does exactly what action scene should do and help develop the plot and themes as it is moving forward.

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In terms of presentation of its story, this film in general is pretty top notch stuff as far modern action films go because this is one of those films that is just littered with symbolism. We all know that the first “John Wick” film was directed by two guy who are Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, but the latter didn’t get credit due to the Directors Guild of America having a rule that a film can only have one single director was adopted to preserve the continuity of a director’s vision and to avoid producers and actors lobbying for a director’s credit, or studios hiring multiple directors for a single film or television episode. But between Stahelski and Leitch, I feel like the former is better storyteller once you compared the two directors solo outings since Stahekski is a filmmaker who is able to merge the plot and action fluidly within the story he is trying to tell, whereas Leitch with “Atomic Blonde” (I am not counting “Deadpool 2” since he was essentially a work for hire for that film) kind of struggles finding a connective tissue with the plot and action scenes since neither really have much of a narrative hook that makes either worth investing outside of superficial gimmicks. Stahelski is able to present his films with symbolic motifs throughout these film and is able to give different meaning to them each time with the most notable motif being dogs. Most of us who have seen the first “John Wick” film symbolises John’s dead wife in more literal terms, but represent unconditional love and devotion is more metaphorical terms. In “John Wick: Chapter 3” on the other hand, the dogs represents the ideas of constancy, friendship, loyalty and protection, especially when it comes to the sequence that involves Halle Berry and her killer dogs in one of the film most creative set pieces. Yet despite being a film having a familiar motifs that run throughout the series, it never feels formulaic or at least formulaic to the fault in which you can almost see the checklist on screen, an issue that I have a lot of films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe that makes it hard for me to be invested in what is going on due to the rather predictable and familiar outcomes. There is almost some admiration for “John Wick” as a modern franchise in which all the films to complement each other and build to a grander story, yet each film can still be watchable on their own merits since the sequels do have a character organically recap the events of the previous film each for anyone to catch up on what is going on.

 

VERDICT:

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” might not be a film that is for everyone and a film that I might be going too easy on, but this is just the sort of film that I needed right now after a series of disappointing or lacklustre films (which sadly includes “Avengers: Endgame”) because it is just the sort of film that ticks all the right boxes on what I want in a film. It delivers on everything that I expect and want from this franchise, but it knows not to remain formulaic and get creative with itself by going into organically unexpected directions that makes it my favourite film to come out this year so far.

Rating

John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum review: Wicked Action As An Art Form