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The Lion King

Beautiful Remake in the Most Literal Sense
In the age of advancing CGI, "The Lion King" is definitely one of the best visual movies I've ever seen. The animals are highly realistic, the surroundings were vivid, and at times when there was no dialogue, you might think you're watching a documentary on Nat Geo. It is a beautiful movie but if you've seen the original movie, you'll see that this movie is a near-replica of the original, with scenes that come right out of the original, adopting identical framings, etc. It adds very little to the original movie and its status as a "remake" is very spot-on.

The animals are very lifelike and beautiful to watch. That said, just as I think real lions are hard to distinguish from one another, I also feel like the lions here are very hard to distinguish from one another. It helps Mufasa and adult Simba are never in the same scene, because I would be very confused. However, the lionesses are very identical to one another, and it's only because I'm familiar with the fact that Nala is the main lioness in the story, that I was able to distinguish her from the other lionesses. The standout design was Scar, though, and while he's not as colorful as the cartoon version (black mane, green lions), his rugged look, and not to forget with an actual scar across his left eye, presents a terrifying villain, elevating one of Disney's best villains into another level.

Another drawback with realism is that it's hard to discern emotions from the animals, aside from smiles, etc. But it's difficult to obtain the same amount of expression as in the original, where the eyes are so much more flexible. It loses a certain degree of charm, and has to be made up by the voice actors. I personally found Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Timon (Billy Eichner), and Pumba (Seth Rogen) to be highlights in the movie, and their vocal performances were top-notch.

Ultimately, "The Lion King" is a beautiful movie that is the definition of a "remake" in the most literal sense. Even the dialogue is highly identical, save for some modern updates to connect with today's audience. It's visually splendid and I had a good time watching the movie, and while everything is highly familiar, it was still a great experience getting to see how those animated frames get translated into the hyper-realistic renderings. However, now having watched both, I'm still unsure in the future, which version I would watch when I want to revisit the story. This remake is a technological marvel, but the original had strong colors, vivid emotions, and just an overall animated charm that a live-action version just can't have. Let's leave it at 50-50.

Spider-Man: Far from Home

"Far From Home" Brings Everything Home
"Spider-Man: Far From Home" is the first movie in the MCU set after the events of "Avengers: Endgame", giving a glimpse of the world after the "Blip" although ultimately, is simply used as the source of some humor. In "Endgame", we lost three of the original Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow. However, "Far From Home" only really takes into account the loss of Iron Man, considering how he has become a mentor to Peter Parker and sort of taking the place of Uncle Ben as a source of Spider-Man's motivation. Nevertheless, Spider-Man must now battle the Elementals threatening the world without the guidance of Iron Man...

...except that the Elementals are not real. But, it should be pretty obvious because if they had been the real villains, it would have been a huge step down the brilliant Vulture from "Homecoming". Instead, enter Quentin Beck aka Mysterio, someone who first pretends to be Earth's newest protector, but turns out not to be. Now, if you know anything about Mysterio or perhaps have looked him up on Wikipedia, you might know that Mysterio is a master of illusions, generating confusion using his witty tricks.

I think Mysterio ranks as probably Spider-Man's greatest movie villain, aside from Doc Ock from "Spider-Man 2", in that he is very charismatic, aided with the brilliant performance of Jake Gyllenhall. Mysterio's skills lend to wonderful action sequences with Spider-Man that are unlike anything I've ever seen in a Spider-Man movie. It helps that "Far From Home" is the first movie since "Black Panther" that takes place entirely on Earth and better yet, doesn't have super large-scale war action, because after a while, watching it can be numbing. "Far From Home" brings everything to a smaller level, creating a more intimate and ultimately, more thrilling action experience for Spider-Man. It is a welcome relief from them to bring everything back home to Earth.

I feel that the story here is an improvement from "Homecoming". One of the issues I had with the first installment was that it was too kid-friendly, which I found to be a bit of a letdown considering the more intense predecessors. Granted, the movie really captured the spirit of high school. Luckily "Far From Home" managed to increase the stakes and put Parker in a tougher spot which I really welcomed. Plus, given that he's been to space, it seemed more fitting to place him in more dangerous situations.

"Far From Home" definitely ranks as one of my favorite, if not my favorite "Spider-Man" movies of all time, along with "Spider-Man 2", and "Into the Spider-Verse". It's funny, charming, has a lovable ensemble of characters, and a welcome relief from the massive scale of recent MCU movies. Don't forget to wait til the end for the best mid-credits MCU scene ever.

Toy Story 4

Beautiful Epilogue to a Masterful Tetralogy
"Toy Story 4" comes 9 years after "Toy Story 3", giving us another tale of the toys after their saying their goodbyes with Andy. To be honest, I felt "Toy Story 3" was the perfect conclusion, given that Andy had been the toys' owner over the course of the film series, and their separation and Andy moving on just felt like the apt place to end things. I was a bit skeptical that this installment would feel unneeded, and out of place, because what could possibly be there to explore. It would be a shame if a redundant installment ruined one of the best trilogies of all time, but I'm glad to say it may perhaps make it one of the best, if not the best tetralogy of all time.

This installment is mainly focused on Woody, dealing with the aftermath of no longer being with Andy, and being left with Bonnie, leading to questions of his self-purpose and what-not. Bonnie is an adorable character but she's no Andy, and perhaps because of that, I associate "Toy Story 4" as more of an epilogue instead of a full-fledged installment. It's not a bad thing, but it does stand out being the only movie where Andy is not in the background.

There are a bunch of new characters here; Forky, a newly made toy struggling to cope with his sentience, Duke Caboom, Canada's greatest stuntman voiced by everyone's favorite actor right now Keanu Reeves, Ducky and Bunny, the fluffy duo brought to life by the comedy duo Key and Peele. These characters are plenty of fun to watch and each of them have their own unique charms. They are excellent characters and an appropriate amount of screen time is dedicated to each of them. That said, this means that the characters we have been familiar with (Jessie, Rex, Mr. Potatohead, etc.) are sort of given the backseat. It would have been great if they had been given a more central part in the action but it's understandable to manage the time to give to the newcomers.

The story itself is beautiful and not as dark as Toy Story 3, with Lotso essentially transforming the kids' center into some sort of prison camp. It deals with questions of what it means to be a toy and what a toy dreams life should be. I feel it to be somewhat more existential questions than I had expected, especially with the arrival of Forky, a newly created being brought to life from trash. Perhaps with age comes the boldness to ask more challenging questions. This is after all, a 24-year-old franchise.

The animation is beautiful and some of the scenes just stood out as being immaculate and gorgeous. Some of the scenes are set in a carnival with lights and serving as a backdrop with all the lights illuminating in the background, it was just a feast for the eyes. That said, I have to point out that the movie does not really have a wide setting, it's pretty much limited to certain locations. It's more expansive than "Toy Story 3" but not as diverse as "Toy Story 2". Somewhat with the ever-growing ensemble of toys, it also is narrower in scope.

Ultimately, "Toy Story 4" is an amazing movie and wiped away any notions I had that this movie would be a letdown, considering how "Toy Story 3" acted as a very sweet conclusion. I personally think "Toy Story 2" is still the best and this one particularly acts as more of an epilogue, but it is a damn good one.


It's Not Three Roentgen...
"Chernobyl" is a 5-episode miniseries by HBO, chronicling the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and its aftermath. It displays the calamity of the incident and just how devastating it is not only for the civilians, but the heroes who helped to diffuse the situation. It also delves into the tricky framework of the politics within the Soviet Union, questioning the cost of secrets.

The visual effects are amazing. The disaster looked devastating and when we get a glimpse of what happened to the victims, it is just disturbing to watch. It does well to highlight just the devastation that the nuclear disaster caused and while I knew it was bad, I never knew it was this horrifying. I love that the series didn't shy away from showing gruesome imagery and instead going bold to display just the horrors of the disaster in its entirety.

The characters are also very well-written. We have Jared Harris as Valery Legasov, the physicist from the Kurchatov Institute brought in to solve the problem. We have Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Shcherbina, a politician charged with the task of handling the disaster. These two actors gave incredible performances and within the span of just five episodes, I learned a lot about these characters because they were very well-written. Their motivations, their backgrounds, their struggles, their ideals. These are two names that I had never heard before, which highlights just the amount of secrecy that shrouds this operation within the Soviet Union, and by the end of the movie, I felt I know these two people more from reading their Wikipedia pages. There are bound to be some historical inaccuracies, but nevermind that.

The series starts with a bang with the explosion, and then ramps up the tension with dealing in the aftermath, and settles to a subtle, smaller-scale, yet equally tense finale. There is just so much suspense throughout the series and you can't help but feel for the heroic sacrifices of everyone who participated in helping deal with the disaster. The musical score is superb and it owes it to its simplicity, no large explosive choruses but powerfully chilling. One of my favorite ones is the sound of the dossimeter just becoming more of a frenzy, and this just elevates the tension level.

It's five episodes, it's succinct, but it packs a punch. It is one of the best, if not the best, TV series I have ever watched.

Dark Phoenix

Feeble Phoenix
There's one line in the movie where Erik says to Xavier "nobody cares" for his (Xavier) stories. It's a line that I completely agree, although it applies to all the characters in the movie. They're very one-dimensional and it doesn't help that the story is very plain and uninteresting. "Dark Phoenix" was an attempt to do justice to the storyline of Jean Grey after they did a miserable job with "The Last Stand"; well, it was another failure.

The only character of interest was Jean Grey, after all it is her movie. Sophie Turner is a wonderful actress and she gave a wonderful performance, given the material handed to her. Aside from her, the cast was pretty much underused. "Dark Phoenix" has an ensemble of very talented actors and actresses with McAvoy, Fassbender, Chastain and others but they are very underused. An actress of Jessica Chastain's caliber is confined to a character who only has one expression, which is such a shame.

The script does not have any impactful moments. I understand that the X-Men movies all have the difficulty of having to juggle multiple characters, but the attempt here is just bad. The conversations the characters have are just bare and empty, with no emotional weight. Remember the scene in "Days of Future Past" where Erik confronts Xavier in the airplane while he crumples the airplane. The tension. The weight of the story. None of that here. To add to that, I find the decisions taken by the characters to be very illogical at times, and sometimes very out of character, rendering them to be one-dimensional and lacking in any depth.

The action sequences are kind of cool, although overly stuffed with visual effects. We get to see all the mutants working with all their powers. But they feel empty and devoid of tension. The villains here are some alien shapeshifting race who cannot replicate emotions, so ultimately are just stone-faced super-powered creatures with a vague set of abilities. Some of them die from bullets but some can withstand them? I feel they are an attempt to replicate the Sentinels from "Days of Future Past", where they have a horde of unstoppable enemies. However, I barely know what these aliens are, where they come from, what they're capable of, which is unlike the Sentinels, where I know how they were created, their strengths, their capabilities, and just how threatening and unstoppable they are. The odds are immensely against the X-Men and each action sequence displayed on screen as gripping. The same cannot be said here.

Ultimately, "Dark Phoenix" is an anticlimactic ending to the X-Men saga. To be honest, it's only the ending because of the Disney-Fox merger, but its status as whether it's the real ending or not doesn't change just how disappointing the movie is. We had "Days of Future Past", "Logan", "Deadpool" and "Deadpool 2", movies in the X-Men universe that were amazing, but unfortunately "Dark Phoenix" couldn't continue the streak.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Monster Action, Meh Humans
"King of the Monsters" is the sequel to "Godzilla", and it comes after a five-year wait. A lot can happen in five years and the sequel certainly carries a different vibe from the original. It attempts to fix the flaws of the first movie but along with it, sacrifices some of the positives of the original, resulting in a mixed bag in the end.

The most prominent problem with the 2014 film? "Godzilla" does not really have Godzilla himself. It was slow, and we never really encountered him in his entirety until the climax, preferring instead to offer glimpses through the characters that come near his presence. This made for a very slow pace and very little screen time of Godzilla, aside from witnessing him from secondary sources (TV, etc.). But the slowness wasn't all for naught; it provided build-up.

"King of the Monsters" scraps this notion of slow-pacing and delivers a lot of action and spectacle. It is unlikely that anyone coming out of this movie would complain that Godzilla's screen presence wasn't enough. There are a lot of action sequences in the movie among the beasts and they are epic, visually stunning, and fun to watch. Yet, I feel they don't feel as exciting as it was in the first movie. Granted, the first movie barely had action, but the glimpses of the monsters and slow-pacing allowed a building of anticipation for the ultimate climax. "King of the Monsters" had no such build-up leading to action sequences that ultimately don't really have weight.

It doesn't help either that the human story is boring, and the characters are forgettable. The only ones I remember: there's Millie Bobby Brown, a person who pronounces Godzilla's name correctly, and a character whose job is to say the new monsters' names. I understand that the sacrifice of a compelling story arc was to make way for action sequences, a major departure from the focus of the first film. But the characters had very questionable motives and sometimes, illogical reasoning for the actions they did that it's hard to really ignore the humans and just focus on Godzilla and friends. They tried to implement a family arc into the movie, but it wasn't even decent. I felt it was put there hardheartedly, and could have been scrapped, instead of being a nuisance. I guess this is the problem when making movies where the main attraction is non-human and it's hard to really go down a certain direction.

Ultimately, "King of the Monsters" is fun to watch but the human element feels boring and becomes a nuisance. They might very well be better off scrapping the whole human thing and make a movie with just the monsters, it could be more interesting. The humans in the movie do actions that seem to matter, but in the end, they barely make a dent. They're supposed be our eyes, whom we relate to but I couldn't care less. I cared more for the monsters. It's a cool monster fiesta flick, but nothing more.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Spectacular and Immensely Fun, "Mission: Impossible" Keeps Soaring

The fifth installment of the now quintessential action spy franchise has arrived 19 years since the original. Times change, the crew changes, yet our hero is always going to be Ethan Hunt. This time, he's going to face his most seemingly impossible mission yet: take down a mysterious anti- IMF group called the Syndicate, with the help of a few allies and a disavowed British agent who may or may not be on his side.

Let's get on to the points.

Pros (Things that I enjoyed about the film)

1. The film starts with a blast with full-throttle action and doesn't hold up until the end of the movie. It's very fast-paced and an exhilarating adventure.

2. Our main team is made of our favorite agents: the nearly- superhuman Ethan Hunt, the lovable tech-genius Benji Dunn, the kick-ass William Brandt, and the return of original computer hacker Luther Stickell. It's worth to note that there aren't any female IMF agents though.

3. The two mega-action sequences here are able to stand alongside the stand-out scenes from its predecessor: the underwater scene and the airplane scene.

4. Tom Cruise is an action machine and here, he continues to just prove that he's the best at what he does, and despite his increasing age, he's also increasing his credentials as an action movie stars. It also amazes me that even at more than 50, he's still willing to do his own stunts. Incredible.

5. The villain here is the mysterious Syndicate. I found its motives to not be that original but not too preposterous and lazy either. (I'm pointing at you M:I 2. Spreading a disease and curing a disease?)

6. Rebecca Ferguson's character is a welcome addition to this film. Her presence adds another layer of mystery and keeps us guessing on whose side she really is on.

7. The story takes place on many different locations around the globe and including an exotic one (Morocco). This is one of the many things I really like about global espionage films.

8. The humor here is spot-on too. It does not feel forced and for the most part, it works. But more importantly, it does not detract from the direction of the plot and does not become distractions.

9. The climax is very smart and is immensely satisfying. It's lengthy and even without a jaw-dropping moment, it culminates into a very thrilling and pleasing finale.

Cons (It doesn't necessarily bog down the film but I felt that it could have been changed for the better)

1. There are many action sequences but I was disappointed that there was a lack of action scenes led by Jeremy Renner. We've seen him kick-ass in the previous installment, as Hawkeye in the "Avengers" films, and even become the leading role in "The Bourne Legacy". I really thought I would see him get some solo time, but not here.

2. I felt that the ending was a tad bit too abrupt. I would love to see more of the immediate aftermath for those more involved in the conflict.

3. The situation faced by the heroes is very similar to "Ghost Protocol", in the sense that they are disavowed by the authorities and therefore they are wanted people.

4. (Minor spoiler) The whole four-man team only get together halfway into the movie, so there's not a lot of action sequences where they all team up together where each does their own job and depends on the other (i.e. the Burj Khalifa scene and the India scene from "Ghost Protocol"). In most scenes here (especially the beginning), the main team is separated and off doing their own missions.

5. The conflict here is between Ethan Hunt and the Syndicate. At one point, it becomes personal, but I felt it was not just as personal as the one present in "M:I 3" where Ethan's girlfriend is abducted by Philip Seymour Hoffman's character.

6. Alec Baldwin's character is more comic than imposing as his role suggests (can be a good thing, depending on how you look at it?)

Overall, "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" is a very solid and very well-done action movie that is on par with the previous installment, which itself is already an incredible thrilling ride. It doesn't necessarily add anything game-changing to the franchise, but it doesn't put anything "Ghost Protocol" accomplished to waste. It certainly was very fun and ranks among the best entry in the franchise alongside "Ghost Protocol". It identifies what we love about the previous installments to deliver an entry that is immensely pleasing and satisfying. This movie is highly recommended whether you're a fan of the franchise, of action spy films, or of Tom Cruise.

Even after 19 years, the franchise just keeps soaring and if sequels are as good as this, I will certainly be looking out for future installments.

Terminator Genisys

"Genisys" is a new Genesis for the Terminator
"Terminator: Genisys", a reboot/sequel that serves as a modern upgrade to the original Terminator movie. In this beefed-up summer popcorn flick, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns once again as a Terminator re-programmed and sent back in time to protect, once again, a figure of great importance to the Human Resistance, who in the future will be engaged in a massive war against the machines of Skynet. But this time, it concerns the Sarah Connor, mother of the human leader John Connor, and this time, he's been there since she was a little girl. So when Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect Sarah, he becomes confused that Sarah is already aware of Skynet, his arrival and her destiny. This means that the past has been changed and the future is yet to be determined.

Time traveling is a tricky plot device, and this movie uses it extensively (multiple timelines) that it not only tangles the plot, but also our brains. It's all very confusing to follow, especially for those who are not devout sci-fi fans, because the film doesn't really spend that much time trying to ensure audiences get a fully thorough understanding of the situation. However, there is one plot twist that I appreciated, (but too bad the trailers revealed it), and that concerns John Connor.

Because this time, John Connor has become a Terminator. Yes, he is the villain.

I thought this was a smart move and put the movie in new territory, by having its supposed protagonist turn into an antagonist. It introduces something fresh to the franchise and the possibility of creating a conflict that is more personal and engaging to the two main leads. However, I felt the film didn't really utilize this opportunity to create a much more enticing John Connor, instead just depicting him as a simply a more advanced Terminator who simply talks a lot more. Despite the underused John Connor, Jason Clarke delivered a terrific performance, giving us a Terminator that is imposing and someone we all want to run away from.

There are many action sequences in the film and while none of them bring as much suspense as the first two Terminator films, they are still exciting. Granted, this is rated PG-13, so there's no split-head from T2. There are more evil Terminators present here; there's the T-1000 (liquid metal), T-800 (younger Arnold Schwarzenegger), and John Connor himself. I really enjoyed the one sequence where old Schwarzenegger faced off against his younger self, I thought that was a bit nostalgic and just simply awesome to watch see Schwarzenegger fight himself. I also found John Connor's abilities to be visually stunning and sophisticated (nanotechnology). However, it may sound odd but the visual effects of the T-1000 didn't look that pleasing as compared to the one present in T2. Perhaps they rushed it?

Schwarzenegger headlines a new group of cast members. As he has always done in the previous Terminator movies, Schwarzenegger delivers an excellent performance as the T-800 that it seems like this is the role he is born to play. His deadpan delivery of the dialogue also proves to be a major component of the humor incorporated in the film. Jason Clarke, as previously said, is terrific in portraying the revamped antagonistic John Connor. Jai Courtney was fitting as Kyle Reese, and his personality of being quite brash is spot-on. Emilia Clarke was appropriate as Sarah Connor, making her a strong female character but not quite on par with Linda Hamilton, though.

Overall, "Terminator: Genisys" delivers in the action department and is sure to keep us entertained for a good two hours. It provides a good foundation for future sequels to build upon, although I think it's about time to retire the "go-back-in-time-to-save-someone" arc. It doesn't measure up to the first two Terminators but is a vast improvement from the recent two dreadful installments.


A Festival of Pure Silly Joy and Nothing Else
"Minions", the spin-off everyone has been waiting for! Over the years, we've grown to be very fond of those yellow pesky yet lovable Minions who speak Gibberish and are very well-known for their carefree and silly antics. This time, they finally get to become the main stars of a 90-minute feature and honestly, they delivered what they were known for, their carefree and silly antics, and nothing else.

"Minions" starts out with an overview of the origin of the Minions (sort of). It explains that they are creatures whose purpose is to serve the baddest villain. But they always have hard time keeping their masters since their efforts to help them always unintentionally leads their masters to a not-so-good fate. The failure to find a master leads them to a depression and one Minion (Kevin?) decides to bring some of his friends along to find a new villain to serve, that is Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock).

The movie itself is quite fun. It has plenty of laughs, and even if the majority of the laughs are slapstick comedy, the Gibberish spoken by the Minions are always something to giggle on. They do silly stuff. Their interactions with humans are fascinating and funny. They run into ridiculously impossible situations yet somehow manage a way to find solve it. It's hilarious. The gadgets are visually dazzling and cool to look at, but everything else was a bit lacking.

This spin-off lacks the incredibly likable human characters its predecessors had. No Gru. No Agnes. It substitutes them with a couple consisting of Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm). They do not resonate with us as Gru and the three girls did with us in the previous two films. The signature Gru accent is absent. The awkwardness of Gru trying to become a good dad is absent. The vibrant and distinct personalities of the three girls are absent. But rather than replacing them with other rich characters, we just get a female super villain who's really just a control freak or a megalomaniac, with a husband who simply just supports her along the way. I can't help but feel that they are just dull as compared to what we were offered previously. (There's also one random villain family but they're also plain.)

Ultimately, the lack of dynamic human characters causes this spin- off to not be able to achieve what I really loved about the first two films besides the Minions, that is the ability to have touching moments. In the first film, there was an arc when Gru started to actually open his heart to the girls, and when he started to gradually become kinder and more giving. The scene in space where he finally shrunk the Moon, but realized that he was on the verge of missing the girls' recital. The bonding between the girls and Gru. In the second film, there was this scene where Gru felt depressed after Lucy was relocated somewhere else, where he just sat outside his home alone in the rain. Agnes comes and the two have a chat.

In the end, it's a lighthearted comedy and it's enjoyable. Kids will undoubtedly devour it and will glee at the sight of those yellow Minions. But for those who expect something more than just rampage and silly antics, well this movie doesn't offer to you that much. It reinforces the popularity of the Minions but it's quite a shame that this movie could have been done with more thought and heart, but ultimately chose not to pursue it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

An Exhilarating Super-powered ride that barely manages to hold its strings together
*There are no strings on me*

First of all, huge kudos to Joss Whedon for wanting to take the job as the director of this mammoth movie. The sheer scale of this film is both huge and yet smaller at the same time as compared to the last outing. And yet, Whedon manages to pull it all together, despite a few loose strings, and deliver an exuberant two-and-a-half hour thrill ride with the mighty Avengers as they try to stop the technological enemy who is bent on human extinction, Ultron.

Despite the Avengers' fight for peace, not all the people in the world adore them. Realizing that the Avengers need a hiatus, Tony Stark attempts to jump-start a peace-keeping program Ultron so that they can take a break from saving the world. However, things quickly go wrong as Ultron immediately decides that peace can only be achieved through the obliteration of human life.

The film is simultaneously bigger yet also smaller in scale. On one hand, all of the conflict is based on Earth and therefore, there are no aliens involved (at least until the end of this film), and yet despite the smaller canvas, it becomes much denser as more characters are involved, not to forget the main villain himself. Handling a film this big is not easy and Whedon tries his best to develop his characters and while he doesn't accomplish this perfectly, he does it well enough that we get to roughly know what troubles each of these characters. And it's also welcoming that he spends more time with characters that don't have their own standalone movies such as Hawkeye, Hulk, and Black Widow.

Ultron is an interesting villain because he's different from other artificial intelligence villains. While it is true that his motives are based on logic, it's that he has a personality that sets him apart. He was jump-started by Stark, so therefore he inherits some of Stark's attributes such as his sarcasm and dry wit. But he's technological, he doesn't need the Chitauri army, he can make his own, he can reproduce at incredible rates, he can upgrade himself. He also has another perspective on the definition of peace. As long as he has access to the Internet, he's virtually unstoppable. Unlike Loki who's deceptive and mischievous, Ultron's straightforward. But the true standout was James Spader's voice. His voice was menacing, powerful and gave Ultron his signature feature.

Ultron's not the only newcomer. There's also the Maximoff twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. The twins are not "mutants" but rather, a result of an experimentation conducted by Hydra member Baron von Strucker. They've suffered a harsh past and therefore, they have a very strong bond as they protect each other. Quicksilver can run incredibly fast psychic powers. These two characters provide something fresh to the film as their powers are visual delights (although that one scene from "X- Men: Days of Future Past" remains superior) but they're among the crowded canvas of super-powered characters in this film. Therefore, their characterizations are not that extensive but enough for us to relate to them and to keep the action engaging. (There's also the Vision, but it's much better that he remains as mysterious as he is now.)

Talking about the action, the action sequences are absolutely outstanding. We get an adequate dose of each character kicking ass and showcasing their powers and abilities. One thing I enjoyed was that the action took place in different locations all around the world and this was very nice to see that the conflict was global and just kept it fresh. Most of the time, I just gasped in awe and just was astonished by just how awesome the action was. Some of the shots were so jaw-dropping I wished I could immortalize them into posters. It brought my inner geek out. Apart from being exhilarating, it was also humorous and that's also another primary reason I loved about this film. Some movies work well with a dark and brooding atmosphere, but I loved that this one was not so gritty but instead, more fun and just more about the adrenaline- filled ride. But all this wouldn't be a fully baked cake without a brilliant script. The script, although unable to delve deep into each character's mind (wished Scarlet Witch explored more), ultimately reminds us that despite their incredible powers, the Avengers are still humans and have faults, and this makes them feel real and to be rooted for.

Rating: 9/10

Final Verdict: It can't help but feel very crowded but Whedon ultimately manages to keep all of the gargantuan content together, despite a few slipped strings, and deliver a hugely sensational and satisfying sequel to 2012's "The Avengers".

Tip: The mid-credits scene is one to watch out for! Don't miss it!


"Do not go gentle into that good night"
Space is an interesting setting, due to its enigmatic properties, hidden secrets, and just the sense of awe it instills on us. There's something alluring to space, whether it's because of our curiosity to explore what's out there, or just because of the seemingly endless void of darkness. It's fascinating, and yet terror-inducing.

In "Interstellar", the earth has been ravaged by blight, and is in a desolate condition. Farming is the number one occupation and the only crops that still survive under the harsh conditions (frequent dust storms) is corn. Our protagonist is Cooper, a widowed engineer and former pilot who has two children, Tom and Murph. After an accidental incident, he stumbles onto a NASA hideout. There, he meets Professor Brand who informs him of the existence of a wormhole (a phenomenon that theoretically is able to act as a "shortcut" through spacetime). Then, he is requested by Brand to pilot the Endurance, an experimental spacecraft joined by Amelia (Brand's daughter), Doyle and Rommily, along with two versatile robots named CASE and TARS, on a trip to the discovered wormhole in hopes of colonizing new worlds to ensure mankind's survival. But this is a Christopher Nolan film, so there is sure to be more layers surrounding the plot of the film.

"Interstellar" boasts some of the most exhilarating and beautiful images I have ever seen on the big screen, and as i watched these spatial phenomenons unfold, I was completely baffled. I may not know much about astrophysics, but the wormhole and the spinning blackhole were extremely grand, massive, and digital wonders. Comparisons to "Gravity" will surely be present, but "Interstellar" is different enough in the sense that it has a much larger scale of setting and story then "Gravity".

One of the highlights this film carries is its scientific accuracy. Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne served as the scientific consultant of this film and the movie had a lot of physical concepts, most of which were interesting, but sometimes quite hard to grasp quickly. The quite prominent concept is that of time dilation, a phenomenon that occurs due to the difference in gravitational potential. Time will pass slower when there is a higher gravitational potential. In one situation, the characters visit a planet that is in close proximity to a blackhole, which means for every one hour they're there seven hours have elapsed back on Earth. Time is a valuable resource and therefore, everything the characters do must be carefully considered. There are other concepts too such as gravity and the nature of time itself.

Running at nearly three hours long, the film runs quite slowly in the first act, sweeps up into full gear in the second (after we enter the wormhole), but ends with a quite abrupt, rushed and confusing third act. Perhaps the concept makes sense but it feels quite out of place and preposterous. Nonetheless, the film is one that will make you think, one that actually requires you to think, and one that utilizes its characters to exchange ethical ideas. Director Christopher Nolan's confident sense of direction allows this movie to successfully hit the right notes as the film progresses.

The film has a lot of big talent in its cast and Matthew McConaughey leads the pack as Cooper. Fresh off his Academy Award-winning performance from "Dallas Buyers Club", McConaughey delivers a sensational experience as a caring father who is torn between having to travel far to save the world or be with his children. Anne Hathaway is superb as Amelia Brand, a very determined astronaut who later gets caught in her own motives and becomes confused in her judgment of what's right and wrong. Jessica Chastain was also amazing, able to display her anger and frustration at her father for leaving, and also her newfound determination to do something herself to help the human race. The rest of the supporting cast couldn't be anymore better. And don't forget about the two robots TARS and CASE, very imaginative creations who provide the light-hearted humor amidst the brooding atmosphere of the film.

In conclusion, "Interstellar" is a very beautiful visual experience that will take you back to that moment when you see something that made you feel out of this world, like "2001: A Space Odyssey". It is however a long epic film filled with technical concepts of physics and therefore, quite a heavy film for your mind to work on. But with the help of a superb cast and a clear direction from Christopher Nolan, "Interstellar" is a ride you should not miss, and instead experience on the big screen in its entirety.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

A Film Bursting with Energy and Beautiful Storytelling, Unstoppable Fire
"Catching Fire" is the highly awaited sequel to the immensely box-office-smasher "The Hunger Games". Based on the middle book of Suzanne Collins's best-selling trilogy, it focuses on the complications Katniss faces after her actions in the previous film, and the rising of a rebellion against the cruel Capitol.

Katniss won the 74th Hunger Games, alongside Peeta Mellark. This means that she broke the rules as a single Hunger Game can only have one victor. by threatening the Capitol, they both won the game, although this meant breaking the rules. The Capitol felt mocked. What worried the Capitol was that this instilled a spark of hope within the citizens of Panem, and a rebellion itself might be imminent. So, in an attempt to reaffirm their authoritarian power, the 75th Hunger Games is born, and its tributes (participants) are to be chosen from the existing pool of victors. Since District 12 has only had one female victor, Katniss heads back to the arena.

Characters from the previous film are back. Our heroine Katniss Everdeen is back! She's even bolder this time around and her hatred against the Capitol is very conspicuous. Peeta Mellark is also back and let's not forget his famous rival Gale Hawthorne. Amazing side characters like Haymitch Abernathy, Cinna, and Effie Trinkett return too. Oh, and don't forget the lovable Primrose Everdeen too.

New movie, new characters. There's a new Gamemaker. Seneca Crane, the man with the fabulous beard, is replaced by Plutarch Heavensbee. He's more aggressive and his affiliation is mysterious. And the tributes! Just when you thought the District 1 and 2 tributes are terrifying in the first film, the new tributes are even more dangerous, having all been victors. Gloss, Cashmere, Brutus, Enobaria are the new Careers here. Other tributes include the brilliant Beetee and Wiress from District 3, the heart-melting Finnick Odair from District 4, the aged but humble Mags from District 4, and the violent & brave Johanna Mason from District 7.

"Catching Fire" amps up the stakes considerably compared to the previous film. While in the first film, only the other tributes pose the threats to the characters. But here, not only to the tributes become even tougher, they've also got the Capitol against them. The fate of the Panem is now in uncertain hands. Trust is scarce. What they say and their true feelings must carefully considered.

New director, new style. For those who despised the infamous "shaky cam" from the previous film, well don't worry. There are no shaky takes and you can enjoy the beautiful sets and thrills without a headache. The scenes are now smooth and some of the thrilling sequences are perfectly shot, literally perfectly. Watching it in IMAX glorifies this aspect.

The sets are amazing. The Capitol is amazing, futuristic, and just awesome. Beside the beautiful Capitol, there's also other districts too that are shown in the film, most notably District 11.

Performances were outstanding. Jennifer Lawrence is without a doubt the star. THE STAR. She has incredible talent and powerful skills. Her performance is incredibly captivating and we are always with Katniss. However, that's not to say that the other members were bad. They were also great, but do not measure to Lawrence's ability. Josh Hutcherson was great as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth was stellar as Gale Hawthorne. Sam Claflin was charismatic as the handsome Finnick Odair and Jena Malone was vicious in portraying Johanna Mason. Donald Sutherland was imposing as the feared President Snow and Stanley Tucci was of course charming as the exuberant host Caesar Flickerman.

With excellent storytelling capabilities and an interesting continuation, "Catching Fire" is one hell of a ride, with exhilarating action sequences and powerful performances, especially Jennifer Lawrence as the lead heroine. This film surpasses the original film in almost all aspects. Its story is more interesting, its themes are more mature, the stakes are higher. Wonderful job!

Rating: 9/10

Final Verdict: "Catching Fire" is a perfect continuation of "The Hunger Games", with fluid pace, excellent storytelling, an interesting premise, and flawless performances, most notably Jennifer Lawrence.

Thor: The Dark World

The God of Thunder Returns, with More Lightning
Marvel's superheroes just keep coming. It's just only been a few months since the release of the immensely successful "Iron Man 3". Now it's Thor, the God of Thunder to strike back. Thor is of course the least relatable of the Avengers. But that doesn't stop this movie from succeeding.

There are multiple references to what happened in the blockbuster "The Avengers". Often referred to as the "alien invasion in New York", it doesn't really play a major role in the primary plot in "Thor: The Dark World" itself. So, even if you haven't watched "The Avengers", don't worry, you won't feel left out.

The plot of "Thor: The Dark World" concerns with something extremely ancient. The Aether is kind of like a fluid that is extremely full of energy and is able to turn ordinary matter into dark matter. This ancient relic begins to play its part in the story after scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) travels to another world accidentally and encounters it. It is later revealed that every 5000 years, the nine realms will be in perfect alignment and therefore, borders between these worlds become blurred. This is an event known as the "Convergence".

However, due to the recent activity of the Aether, a race called by the Dark Elves, led by Malekith, are awakened. Apparently, they were once ruthless rulers who were defeated by Odin's father Bor. Bor vanquished the Dark Elves and it started a peace that lasted for thousands of years. However, Malekith wants the Aether to plunge the whole universe into total darkness. He intends to that at the peak of the "Convergence". Now, it's up to Thor to stop Malekith and his evil schemes. If Thor is to defeat Malekith, he's going to need help from someone unlikely...

... Loki.

Yes! A team-up between Thor and Loki. This is one of the most exciting components of the film. Thor is serious, powerful whereas Loki is wise-cracking, mischievous, and very tricky. Together, they form a very well-balanced duo and seeing them work together is true joy.

There is plenty of action. Of course! It's a superhero action movie. But the superpowers incorporated here are mighty and therefore the sequences are intensified. The Aether is slick and don't forget, Mjolnir is a ravager. The 3D is amazing and I watched this in IMAX 3D. Not all of the scenes were shot in IMAX, but some of the landscapes were incredibly beautiful. More of Asgard is revealed and it really is gorgeous.

The movie also had a comedic nature. In fact, it was funnier than I expected. The mischievous and charismatic Loki is plenty of fun to watch. Watching him on screen is pure delight and his character is extremely interesting. But you also have to keep an eye on Dr. Erik Selvig, Jane's ally. He's gone a bit crazy in this movie and therefore, his antics are hilarious in the movie.

Malekith is an all-powerful villain and he is intimidating. However, I didn't really think he was an interesting villain. His background is rich but that was short. We don't know really know Malekith. He is extremely devoid of character and sometimes, he's so boring. He, along with his race, speak a language that sounds like pre-historic dialect to me.

Performances were wonderful. Chris Hemsworth is a well-rounded character and has given Thor adequate depth. Natalie Portman is stunning as the pretty and intelligent Jane Foster. Anthony Hopkins shows his class as Odin. Tom Hiddleston is flawless as Loki. His performance is top-notch. Christopher Eccleston's performance was polished enough, although his character was a bit boring.

So is it a good movie? Yes. "Thor: The Dark World" is a good sequel and I would say that this exceeds the original in quality. I enjoyed the film although the villain was kind of dull. It may fall in some aspects but overall, this is a great success. And as a Marvel film, check out the two post-credits scenes.

Rating: 8/10

Final Verdict: "Thor: The Dark World" is a well-polished sequel that has great action, excellent chemistry (especially between Thor and Loki), but lacks character in the villain.


Fresh and Gripping; Space Masterpiece
"Gravity", the movie that's been talked about for quite a few months now, is something unlike any other. It has extremely beautiful shots, dazzling visuals, gripping narrative, and fantastic music. Alfonso Cuaron, director of the third "Harry Potter" film, has a guaranteed a spot as one of the masters of film-making with this film.

Set in space, a very intriguing setting, "Gravity" is a survival thriller about bio-medical engineer Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone and astronaut Matt Kowalski and their exciting tale in space as debris from a Russian anti-satellite test creates a chain of destruction that damage their space shuttle and leave them stranded in space.

The movie is pure thrill. There are so many unexpected situations and each of them is memorable. The suspense starts fairly quickly when their space shuttle is hit by high- speed debris. The music elevates the tension and therefore, each of the suspenseful scenes never fails to please the crowd. Dying and getting lost in space is quite a terrifying scenario and terrible way to end one's life, and therefore, you're going to be on the edge of your seats as the action ensues.

The visuals were magnificent. Space is intriguing and this movie provides plenty of space panoramas. We see different parts of the Earth from space and it's just splendid. I also loved that the shots were long, instead of short unsatisfying ones. The scope of the setting is massive, and this is meant to be seen in a large screen, possibly IMAX. The 3D is pure enhancements and it's definitely recommended.

"Gravity" doesn't have too many characters to play around with. Instead, we focus on Sandra Bullock's Ryan Stone, the female protagonist of the story. The other leading guy is Matt Kowalski, portrayed by George Clooney. By not having too many characters, we get to take a look inside these characters, really get to know them and this film does it, especially with the character of Dr. Ryan Stone.

The movie is headlined by two Academy Award winning actors and they are nothing short of excellent here. Bullock is so good in portraying the role of Dr. Ryan Stone here. She brought all the emotions here and was great. George Clooney was also impressive as the slightly cocky Matt Kowalski (although his role is less compared to Bullock's). They are experienced actors and this film shows just how professional they are.

Brilliant. That's the word for the film "Gravity". Never before have I seen something like this. It's gripping, it's beautiful, and perfect. This year has not been a very successful year for sci-fi but "Gravity" is different from the rest. It may contain more drama but it is nothing short of spectacular. Not all will find the brilliance but older audiences should discover just how magnificent this film is. "Gravity" is wow!

Rating: 10/10

Final Verdict: "Gravity" is an experience like no other and will engage audiences with its thrills, visuals, and plot as if it's gravity itself.

Insidious: Chapter 2

Ominously Fun
James Wan is on a hot streak this summer. After the success of July's "The Conjuring", he returns to deliver more thrills in "Insidious: Chapter 2", the sequel to the horrifying "Insidious". It may not compare to "The Conjuring", but "Insidious: Chapter 2" is also definitely a thrilling experience.

The main characters from the first film are back and the story picks up directly from the end of the first film. The Lambert family are back and the target of hauntings again. Patric Wilson is back as the head of the family, Josh Lambert and Rose Byrne is back as Renai Lambert. The kids are also back and even Specs and Tuckrr are back. The only new members are the new ghosts.

The story is similar to the first one, about astral projections. This time, it's the dad. They move to Lorraine's (Josh's mother) home to stay and strange occurrences still happen; the piano playing by itself, the baby's toy turning on by itself. Then they connect it to a mysterious person and it gets creepy.

The film is quite interesting. The flashbacks and background stories are intriguing and creepy. But what made the movie succeed was its shocks. The movie is skillful in producing scares and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The music was well-done too and provided quite the tension. The performances were also not too shabby and well-done.

However, what I felt was that kind of got repetitive towards the end. It was definitely formulaic and therefore, in the end, it got kind of annoying. In the end, the conclusion was nothing surprising and therefore played out normally. The last scene was quite expected and it's not surprising that the third installment is in the works right now.

But overall, "Insidious: Chapter 2" is quite a fun experience and it delivers quite enough shocks to satisfy horror fans. It may not surpass the freshness of the first film but "Chapter 2" is quite satisfying.

Rating: 6/10

Final Verdict: Not a huge accomplishment, but "Insidious: Chapter 2" is a fun horror flick with an adequate amount of scares and is quite creepy.


Revisiting "Pitch Black"?
That's the kind of experience you're going to face when you watch this third installment of the "Riddick" franchise. Coming off the moderate second film, "Riddick" goes back to its roots and presents itself as basically a replica of the first film, a tale of survival.

There is practically no story here. The only scene that had more of a story lies in the first ten minutes. And it's not part of the main storyline, it came as a flashback describing how Riddick ended up in the desolate planet that will become the setting of this film. It is revealed that after Riddick became the Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, he wished to go back to his home planet of Furya. He made a deal with Vaako that he will be brought to Furya in exchange of him relinquishing the crown to Vaako. After Riddick lands on a desolate planet which he believes to be Furya, it is revealed that it is not Furya and he has been betrayed by the Necromongers. The Necromongers leave him and Riddick is stranded here. From then on, there is no single mention of the Necromongers anymore and it's basically a revamped "Pitch Black" all over again. (At one point, Riddick even said that it was the beginning all over again).

The first part of the movie was delivered in a very slow pace. We got to see Riddick beat up the deadly animals alone. There isn't a variety of creatures here; I only found three (striped feline creature, giant scorpions, and pterodactyls). However, there was one bright spot of the film that offered humor for the film and was a bit unexpected. Riddick takes care of one of the striped feline creature and soon it becomes Riddick's companion. The creature is actually quite adorable (an unusual word used to associate with the term "Riddick"). That was the only character that was actually quite interesting.

The other characters (the mercenaries) were dull and boring except the incredibly annoying Santana. I'll admit, at some points, he was actually pretty funny and provided the movie a comedic tone. However, sometimes, he just came across as being annoying and presenting the characters with additional problems. The side characters were basically unknown. You only know their names, but you don't know who they actually are. We don't know anything about them, because they're all so busy shooting the monsters.

This is what goes on for the rest of the movie. The mercenaries hid the battery as they intend to use the function-less ship as bait. Riddick stole it and put it somewhere far away. They don't make an agreement until a storm comes where large hordes of giant scorpions come lurking out. The two alliances comply to each other's terms and attempt to pass through the large flocks of scorpions and retrieve the battery. That's basically the whole movie aka "Pitch Black" all again.

The action sequences were quite thrilling, but nothing to brag about. It was quite standard with all the slashing and blood. The film is actually quite bloody and extreme. There are many decapitations and lots of blood. The creatures are too quite disgusting with all the organs lying around in some cases. But the action scenes were one of the positives of the movie. Another positive is the comedic theme incorporated here. It actually worked and was quite well done.

"Riddick" is certainly an improvement over "The Chronicles of Riddick" but is definitely steps below the original "Pitch Black". It is basically a revamped version of "Pitch Black". Newcomers won't find this that great but fans should find themselves quite satisfied with this installment (although I was a bit let down by the alarmingly close similarity to the first film).

Rating: 6/10

Final Verdict: "Riddick" is a near-exact replica of the original "Pitch Black" that should offer enough to satisfy fans, but not newcomers.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Fun, Interesting, and Magical
Another adaptation of a wildly popular book franchise comes alight. "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is the big-screen adaptation of the fantasy book saga penned by Cassandra Clare. It borrows from other materials but the film offers quite an intriguing story line of magic.

Here, the magical-powered people are called Shadowhunters. There are two possible ways one can be a Shadowhunter; you're descended from a Shadowhunter, or you drink from the Mortal Cup granted by the Angel Raziel.

The story starts with Clary Fray starting to see strange symbols and seeing things other can't see. After her mother has been kidnapped, she is drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters, warriors trained to slay demons. She learns that the Shadowhunters are after one of the Mortal Instruments: the Mortal Cup. The villains are after it in hopes of conquering the world and the good guys are here to prevent the villains from succeeding. Along the way, there are many twists and a rich background story that makes this a wonderful ride.

There are many twists concerning the alliances of the characters. In the beginning, some of these twists work and are quite surprising and therefore they work. However, as the movie moves along, similar twists are put and it becomes kind of repetitive that it becomes quite predictable (at least for me).

The movie itself has quite an interesting and fun plot. The background is rich and the characters are quite interesting. It blends various mythologies and also incorporates some peculiar tiny bits (Johann Sebastian Bach was a Shadowhunter). The characters' motives are quite clear too. However, I felt a little bit down during the climax since the main character was not really involved prominently and therefore it was kind of disappointing.

The film has a wonderful ensemble of young likable stars. The role of the protagonist is taken by the beautiful young Lily Collins. Her performance here was stunning and definitely a highlight. Coming in as the her love interest is Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland. Although he had a fine performance, it didn't match Collins's performance. The rest of the cast also gave impressive performances.

The pace was quite well-done and it didn't feel rushed. However, sometimes the film did feel draggy in some scenes. The visual effects were incredible too and definitely a treat for the eyes. Characters were quite well-developed too.

All in all, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is a well-crafted fantasy adaptation that is enjoyable. It's loosely based on the book. It's not for all and no, it doesn't put the love triangle as the main theme of the film so not all "Twilight" fans will enjoy this. If you just open your mind a bit, you might be able to savor the film.

Rating: 7/10

Final Verdict: "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is an enjoyable adaptation of the popular fantasy book series with an intriguing plot and an excellent performance by Lily Collins.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Back to Camp Half-Blood
Greek mythology returns in "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters", the sequel to 2010's "The Lightning Thief". Based on the novels by Rick Riordan, the series puts a spin on the rich mythology by blending it with modern society, which is kind of interesting.

The bulk of all the characters here are demigods/half-bloods (offspring of gods and humans). But the protagonist is Percy Jackson, a demigod son of Poseidon. Previously, he along with his besties Annabeth (daughter of Athena) and Grover (a satyr), stopped Luke, the Lightning thief, from destroying Olympus. Here, Camp Half-Blood (demigods' safe haven) are under threat after Thalia's tree, the boundary that protects the camp, is poisoned. The only thing that can heal it is the Golden Fleece which is located on an island in the Sea of Monsters, or what we like to call the Bermuda Triangle.

The movie is quite action-packed and pits our hero against a variety of Greek monsters. I loved the scene where the half-bloods had to face the Colchis bull. The mechanical bull was quite extraordinary and that scene was entertaining. However, I felt that the climax was a bit of a letdown as all the tension that had been generated zipped away so quickly.

Characters come and go. In "Sea of Monsters", much of the ensemble cast that make up the deities from the previous film are absent. We will see no more of Zeus (Sean Bean), Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), Hades (Steve Coogan), Persephone (Rosario Dawson), and Chiron (Pierce Brosnan). That means most of the experienced actors are out (not to forget Uma Thurman as Medusa). In replacement, we get Dionysus portrayed by the reliable Stanley Tucci. The gods Hermes and Chiron have replacements (Nathan Fillion and Anthony Head, respectively). We also have the clumsy but humble Tyson (Douglas Smith), Percy's cyclops half-brother, and the self-eccentric Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin), demigod daughter of Ares.

The movie had lots of scenes involving special effects. It was okay but it wasn't excellent. Some of the creatures were stunning (the hippocampus was amazing and eye-candy) whereas some looked pretty cheap and effortless (Kronos).

Under the direction of a new director, the movie is more faithful to the source compared to the first movie's similarity to the book (although by a tiny bit). But that's not to say some of the scenes diverge from he book. The movie is quite well-paced and during the ride, there are plenty of laughs to enjoy.

Overall, "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" is quite an enjoyable film. It's not better than the first and it's not worse than the first. It has quite an interesting premise and some fine action sequences.

Rating: 6/10

Final Verdict: "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" is a decent sequel that provides plenty of action scenes and laughs, with passable acting and okay visual effects.


Snail in Full Speed
"Turbo" may not be the most original or inventive animated film ever but it's a good time and pretty fun. The story is pretty simple and one that a little child can imagine. But the way it delivers the story is gorgeous. It has lovable characters and sense of humor.

Theo (who prefers to be called Turbo) is a garden snail who lives as an outsider among his snail community. His dream of becoming the Indianapolis 500 champion makes him an outcast and his obsession with speed brings embarrassment to his brother, Chet. However, after an unexpected accident, Theo is granted incredible speed and also inherits some characteristics of an actual car (headlights, radio).

He is then taken by a chubby guy named Tito. Tito and his brother Angelo own a taco shop that is struggling. The other tenants in the area are also facing the same problem. Tito has this idea of registering Turbo into the Indy 500 in order to help his business prosper. And there are also other snails who become Turbo's buddies.

"Turbo" may not have as much depth as some of the animated masterpieces. But "Turbo" doesn't aim in being that. It wants to become a fun-filled adventure about a freaking-fast snail racing in the midst of an array of monstrous cars. And it doesn't disappoint. It's enjoyable, slick and plenty of fun.

The characters are likable too. Turbo is ambitious, funny, and adventurous. All the qualities of a fun character are embodied in him. Chet, his brother, is caring and more cautious but is also adorable in some moments. The other snails are also plenty of fun due to their ridiculous antics. Besides the mollusks, we also have the human characters. Tito, with his large build, is extremely chubby and funny. Tito's other friends are also a joy to watch.

"Turbo" also has a great sense of humor. I had a blast watching this film. Not all the jokes work, but most of them do. But I do want to mention that there's a joke concerning crows snatching one snail at a time, and to me it seems a bit extreme because the idea of a snail being eaten by a crow is kinda creepy, don't you think? Or maybe it's just me. But the bottom line is "Turbo" is plenty of fun to watch.

The animation is not the best I've seen but it's pretty good. It possesses beautiful sets and the colors are fluorescent. The voice cast was excellent too and Ryan Reynolds did a great job lending his voice to Turbo.

"Turbo" is a fun and rollicking adventure and it is plenty of joy to watch these lovable characters see what they're up to. Just don't expect too much from it and don't expect it to be a masterpiece.

Rating: 7/10

Final Verdict: It may not be original but "Turbo" is a hell of a roller-coaster ride that will provide plenty of joy and laughs with its lovable characters.

The Wolverine

Wolverine's True Comeback
Wolverine is finally back, and this new installment in the "X-Men" franchise is extremely slick, exhilarating, and top-notch. Forget the disappointing "Origins" 4 years ago, this is the real Wolverine movie. It's action-packed, dark, occasionally humorous, and surprisingly has depth. It may not be the best "X-Men" film but "The Wolverine" is a solid entry that will help the "X-Men" franchise recover from the disappointing "Last Stand" and "Origins".

In this installment, Wolverine is struggling with his immortality. His lover, Jean Grey died way back in "The Last Stand" and he's been suffering from an endless period of nightmares. It feels as if he has nothing to do on this Earth and he's longing to re-join his lover in the other side. But when an old acquaintance Yashida (a man who Wolverine saved during the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki) invites him to Japan and offers to remove his immortality, Wolverine is delved into new territory.

There are two women who work alongside Wolverine here. First, there's Mariko Yashida, the granddaughter of Yashida and the chosen heiress to the throne. When she takes her grandfather's role, she will become the most powerful person in Japan and will need protection from the endless hordes of the Yakuza. The other person is the pink-haired Yukio who is an excellent fighter and form a great team with Wolverine.

"The Wolverine" is set in an environment new to the "X-Men" franchise, Japan. The vibrant colors, tall buildings, beautiful scenery are used in a maximizing manner. The action scenes look really well in this new setting.

What made "The Wolverine" more engaging was that we finally get to see Logan mortal. He literally will get hurt if he gets shot or cut. For the first time ever, he is no longer invincible and this escalates the tension every time he's in a fight against an adversary. We see Wolverine lingering in the boundary between life and death. Wounded.

Then we have the action sequences which are extremely intense. The climax was gripping but I also expressed extreme fondness for the action scene where Wolverine battled against several Yakuza members on top of a lightning-fast moving bullet train. That scene was extremely suspenseful and was one of the highlights, at least for me. Don't get me wrong, the other action sequences were fun too but that bullet train scene was just amazing.

Hugh Jackman returns once again as the ageless Logan aka Wolverine. As usual, his performance is strong, gritty, and excellent. The only difference between his performance here and "Origins" is that his performance here is not burdened by an awful script as it was in "Origins". The other performances were powerful too. Tao Okamoto was perfect as the heiress Mariko Yashida and Rila Fukushima was bad-ass as Yukio. Everyone of the cast was good.

All in all, "The Wolverine" is solid, action-packed and a satisfying addition to the "X-Men" franchise. It has incredible action scenes, solid acting, and a great script. However, I did find something nit-picking (no spoilers here but it concerns Logan's ability to recall a certain memory). Nonetheless, "The Wolverine" is successfully in continuing the revival of the "X-Men" franchise and only gets me more hyped about next year's "Days of Future Past". And watch out for the post-credits scene in the end.

Rating: 8/10

Final Verdict: Forget "Origins", "The Wolverine" is a terrific new entry in the "X-Men" franchise that serves as the Wolverine movie we all wanted.

Pacific Rim

Monsters vs. Mechanical Monsters
"Pacific Rim" is a highly explosive, exhilarating, exuberant, energetic, and exciting hell of a ride. When I saw the trailers, I knew the action sequences would be massive in scale, but the film just blew me away because the scale was just incredibly enormous. Every action sequence in this film was just mind-blowing.

Unlike "Transformers", this movie has a real sensible plot. Giant monsters (known as Kaijus) are the extraterrestrial beings that are currently ravaging Earth. However, they don't come from above the atmosphere, instead they come from beneath us. A portal in the bottom of the ocean serves as the method of transport these Kaijus use to reach us. These Kaijus are arriving one by one, and as they do, they increase in size. They're so massive in size (I reckon they're bigger than Godzilla) and the amount of destruction they cause is just indescribable.

But the humans don't stand around doing nothing. They build their own monsters, gigantic robots known as Jaegars, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked by a neural bridge. This allows them to synchronize their movements. However, despite these mighty Jaegers, the seemingly bright future for the humans turn dim as they begin to lose the war against the Kaijus. All of this was clearly covered in the prologue, quickly but properly.

Now that seems like a basic plot, but I can tell you that there's actually more than that and the story is deeper than it looks from the outside. "Pacific Rim" provides sensible explanations for the phenomenons that occurred in the film. Now I'm not a genius or a scientist, but the explanation is logical.

The characters. Our protagonist is Raleigh Becket. He's had a bad time after his partner and older brother Yancy died in a battle against a Kaiju before. But he's recruited by Marshal Stacker Pentecost to pilot one of the four remaining Jaegers. His new partner is Mako Mori, a Japanese girl who wants to be a pilot to avenge the death of her family. Becket's and Mori's Jaeger is the American-made Gypsy Heart.

The cast behind the characters were great too. Charlie Hunnam was terrific as Raleigh. Idris Elba gave a commanding performance as Stacker. Rinko Kikuchi rocked as Mako Mori. The chemistry between Hunnam and Kikuchi was excellent too. But I have to give special credit to Ron Perlman (who previously played in del Toro's "Hellboy" films) as the black marketeer Hannibal Chau who makes a living by dealing with Kaiju organs. He has style and charisma. I also loved Burn Gorman and Charlie Day as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb and Dr. Newton Geizler, respectively. Their chemistry was absolutely perfect and these two were just amazing.

The visual effects were undoubtedly incredible. Everything was mind-blowing and the gigantic scale of the action sequences allows you to be fully immersed into the scene. And the sets were extremely magnificent and glorious. I did not feel any sense of boredom when I was watching this film. Even the drama scenes were enjoyable too. The scenes where explanations were uncovered were exciting too and the music is a prominent part of this.

Guillermo del Toro also did a great job in his directing because I gradually became supportive of the Jaegers and every time they fought, I rooted for them to win. I became immersed into the movie. Every time a Jaeger was in trouble, I was rooting for them to get back up and fight back again. I wanted them to smash the Kaijus to pieces.

"Pacific Rim" is just simply awesome. Now, it may not be for everyone, but if you love action, giant monsters, and giant robots, you'll definitely love this. Or if you're just trying to have some fun, watch this. It's got both brains and brawn.

Rating: 9/10

Final Verdict: "Pacific Rim" is an amazing and explosive ride that is plenty of fun to watch, accompanied with dazzling visuals and a coherent plot.

World War Z

Fun, Exciting and Surprisingly Bloodless
"World War Z", despite involving zombies, plays more to the likes of a disaster film instead of a zombie film. It's more of like "2012" than "Resident Evil". We see shots of cities tumbling down to the rule of zombies and the world slowly turns into a zombie wasteland. The zombie attacks are large-scale, grand, and extremely exciting, save for the climax which ends up as a small-scale sequence, but is equally satisfying.

The hero is Gerry Lane, a retired United Nations investigator who is recruited by what is left of the U.S. government to assist a young virologist Dr. Fassbach in investigating the virus. He reluctantly accepts this task in exchange for his family to be able to shelter in a U.S. Navy vessel. After Fassbach dies (in a hilarious way) he is determined to stop this outbreak.

During their visit to Camp Humphreys in South Korea (where the word "zombie" was first used in reference to the outbreak) they learn that the zombies are attracted to sound. They also learn that Israel has established itself as a safe zone after it quarantined itself within a wall. Unaffected civilians, regardless of nationality, are allowed to enter. But due to the civilians singing loudly through a microphone, the zombies pile themselves up and manage to overcome the wall, and chaos ensues.

This the largest action sequence in the entire movie. The scale is so massive and this scene is extremely exciting. Millions of uninfected humans being chased around by millions of zombies. The chaos is just indescribable. Add in the fact that the zombies are mindless and uncivilized and the chaos just multiplies itself. But this scene isn't the only one. There's another one earlier back in Philadelphia where Gerry witnesses the zombies firsthand for the very first time. All the action sequences are highly entertaining, massive, but surprisingly bloodless (which is peculiar for a film with zombies). They're massive, except the climax, where it's noticeably smaller set in a WHO facility, but the tension is equally high, and allows more shocks.

Brad Pitt portrays the lead character, Gerry Lane. His character is devoid of personality here as most of the time, he's just involved in action. But Mr. Pitt delivers a performance that is quite pleasing. The rest of the cast gave good performances too and the acting shouldn't burden the whole movie experience.

The script isn't that bad too. It diverges significantly from the original book and it is a bit uneven, but the lines make sense. It also works because it contains a real plot for the script to follow through. It has a sensible plot and the script acknowledges this. It's also worth noting that it has several humorous scenes too.

It's far from perfect, it's heavy on action sequences, and it's uneven, but "World War Z" is an extremely fun ride for everyone to enjoy. I would also say that it's rather family-friendly as there are child characters that appear quite prominently. Another reason it's rather family-friendly is that it's bloodless. It has a real sensible plot (unlike most mindless movies containing zombies) and if you ignore the tiny faults and plot holes, "World War Z" will take you away on one of the most fun rides.

Rating: 7/10

Final Verdict: "World War Z" is uneven and far from perfect, but it's a fun and exhilarating ride that is more of a disaster film instead of the typical zombie film, and rather family- friendly.

Despicable Me 2

More Minion Madness? Yes, please!
"Despicable Me 2" is the highly anticipated sequel to the lovable "Despicable Me". It was fairly unique as instead of the typical good guy as the main character, they put up a villain as the protagonist (although he ended up good) which made it more refreshing and more fun to watch. Aside from his pointy nose and hilarious accent, we were also invited to spend some time with the extremely adorable and mischievous yellow Minions, who speak almost entirely incomprehensibly in their own unique language. There were also the three little girls that have the movie heart (Margo, Edith, and Agnes).

This time around, Gru's no longer a villain. He's devoting his life to being a father and raising his three adorable little kids. (He dressed up as a fairy for Agnes's 6th birthday.) He's also managing his business of manufacturing jellies. But when there's a villain who just stole a secret formula (named PX-41) that could threaten the entire civilization, Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League, headed by Silas Ramsbottom ("bottom" read in a Minion's voice), to stop this new villain. His partner is an orange-haired funny woman named Lucy Wilde.

Gru is facing with different kinds of experiences now. He's raising his three girls and has become a father. He's managing his jelly business. But he's also for the first time in love, which is haunting him due to a past experience back in his days at school. Love is a central theme to the story this time around. Gru is in love and a fun love storyline comes in full effect. Not only is Gru in love, but Gru's oldest daughter Margo also experiences the rush of falling in love. Even Dave, one of Gru's many Minions, falls in love. This love theme is what sets this sequel apart from the original.

We have an array of new characters now. The first one is Lucy Wilde, the orange-haired woman who works for the AVL and eventually becomes Gru's love interest. Her funny actions and hyperactive behavior makes her a fantastic addition to the wide range of vibrant characters here. There's also Silas Ramsbottom (emphasis on "bottom"), the leader of the AVL. His elegant personality and unique appearance makes him a lovable addition to the diverse cast. The final main addition to the character list is Eduardo Perez, the owner of a Mexican restaurant whose real identity provokes the saying: "there's more than meets the eye".

While these new colorful characters add a delight to the screen, none of them compare to the lovable army of yellow Minions. Hands down, they stole the whole film. They have fantastic chemistry with just about anybody and they're funny as hell. Every sound that comes out of their is just damn hilarious. I have no doubt that children will enjoy the Minions' mischiefs. This time, the Minions have more scenes dedicated to them too, compared to their appearance in the first film. Oh, and don't forget Dr. Nefario too, who sadly has his appearance minimized. But every time he appears on screen, he's a delight.

The comedy here works too. The jokes are humorous and most of them work for all ages. Some of them may not be original or repetitive, but they're still able to give you a laugh. And it doesn't hurt that an incredible cast was behind the delivery of the jokes here. Steve Carell was charming as usual and he never fails to impress with his excellent voice portrayal of Gru. Kristen Wiig was energetic as the energizing Lucy Wilde. Benjamin Bratt also gave a satisfying performance as Eduardo Perez. The rest of the cast was superb too.

The visual effects were incredible. The sets were also very vibrant and colorful. They're so wonderful that they make the film come to life. Everything is splendid about the setting. They're also very detailed and it's just a treat for the eyes. The animation too is just eye- popping. All the characters' movements are extremely detailed and very smooth. The 3D is more of an optional choice though, but some scenes are especially tailored for 3D as they literally pop out of the screen, especially the end credits. Don't miss that one.

Despite the beautiful visuals, the film only explores several locations which is kind of upsetting. A big chunk of the film is set in Paradise Mall, a colorful mall. Some scenes take us to other places but I feel that it's kind of limited. I feel that it's kind of a missed opportunity because the animation here is just irresistible and they could've given us more sets to feast our eyes on.

But despite some setbacks, "Despicable Me 2" is a satisfying sequel to the excellent original. I won't say that it's better than the original because it lacks the freshness the first film possessed. But this sequel comes really close and this should be an entertaining 98- minute adventure.

Rating: 8/10

Final Verdict: It's not as fresh as the original but "Despicable Me 2" nearly matches the first one and is highly entertaining for all audiences, with plenty of laughs and a superb cast.

Man of Steel

Superman is Back, and He Soars High
Who doesn't know Superman? He's undoubtedly among the most popular superheroes and arguably the most popular one. With his trademark red cape, "S" emblem emblazoned on his chest, and trademark red underwear (worn underneath this time), Superman's become a cultural icon and universally beloved.

His films started arriving in 1978. An excellent film, it was followed by the equally superb sequel. The subsequent installments failed to match the impressiveness of the first two installments, especially the fourth one, so disastrous that it killed the franchise for 19 years before they tried to bring it back to life in 2006 with the release of "Superman Returns", which was still a disappointment. Now, we finally have another Superman film: "Man of Steel". And I'm happy to say that it is excellent.

You've seen the previews and trailers and they're excellent. "Man of Steel" does live up to the expectations set by its brilliant previews. And while critics are bashing it for the super- serious Superman, lack of Clark-Lois chemistry and too much action, I'm sure that the general audience and fans will enjoy this adventure.

The 148-minute journey starts off with the destruction of Krypton. I loved the beginning because we are able to explore Krypton, their people, their culture, just how it looks like. Krypton's core is growing unstable and its destruction is soon and inevitable. Jor-El and General Zod acknowledge this fact but the Council won't buy it. Zod attempts a rebellion but fails and is sentenced to the Phantom Zone, Jor-El died in a battle with Zod, and Krypton is destroyed. But baby Kal-El is able to escape in a spaceship and arrives on a farm in Kansas on Earth. He is taken care of by Jonathan and Martha Kent.

We then see Clark take on several jobs under false identities, with his childhood portrayed in occasional flashbacks. We see times where he used his superhuman abilities and receives lecture from his Jonathan Kent telling him to keep this side of himself a secret. Finally, Clark discovers a Kryptonian spaceship and sparks a conversation with a hologram of Jor-El. He then receives his Superman suit (no underwear outside) and becomes the Man of Steel as we know it. And then he flies...

When he flies, he laughs in joy. (Earth's gravity is weaker than Krypton's) I loved this scene because he really feels human, after living most of his life here. He's so happy when he flies, just like any other human would if they could. It's such a special moment for him and this scene is just "Wow"!

And then Zod makes a grand appearance with his henchmen (including the ruthless Faora-Ul), and we soon know Superman's identity is soon going to be known worldwide. After several conversations, Superman (along with the military soon after) engage in a battle against Zod's forces...

...and we then witness some of the most spectacular action sequences ever crafted. Any worries that "Man of Steel" would be action-less (like "Superman Returns") should be put to rest because this film delivers mind-blowing intense sequences of battles. Superpowered Kryptons battling each other is just plenty of fun to watch. So much wreckage, and explosions too (but not as much as the obnoxious "Transformers"). Critics are bashing it for having too much action. From my perspective, it's not too much. It's just a crazy action sequence followed by another crazy action sequence and so on. By the end of it, you'll say "I'm satisfied" instead of "I want more".

Superman is far more serious this time around. Another area where some critics are criticizing on, but I don't find that bad. In fact, I feel that having a serious Superman is pretty cool. He's serious, calm, humble, and super! Henry Cavill, the star who fills in the shoes once used by Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh, does a terrific job of portraying this latest incarnation of Superman. He's able to blend all this seriousness, humility, serenity, tranquility into one and is able to create a Superman that's really human.

The rest of the cast is superb too. Amy Adams is Lois Lane, a reporter Clark meets in an encounter in the spaceship where Clark discovers his identity. Amy Adams portrays a Lois Lane that's curious and not a damsel in distress, someone who can act. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe play their roles as Clark's adopted and biological father, respectively. They play their fatherly roles so leisurely, so easily, with ease that they're splendid to watch. Diane Lane and Ayelet Zurer also play their mother roles skillfully. Michael Shannon delivers a terrific performance as the merciless General Zod. He delivers his lines so powerfully that you can feel the anger.

I loved the chemistry between Clark and Jonathan Kent. Their meaningful conversations, reflections on situations, thoughts on the possibilities of life, I enjoyed all that and it gives this movie enough heart to make it a heartwarming experience. Clark's relationship with Martha Kent is also impressive, especially when Martha tries to calm Clark after he is overwhelmed with his super-senses.

Many critics comment on the lack of interaction between Superman and Lois. Their interaction is a bit limited but it's more of an origin story this time around. The love storyline could perhaps be more focused in the follow-up.

All in all, "Man of Steel" is an impressive reboot and mostly successful one for the Superman franchise. It may not be perfect, some elements can be improved and some plot points contain minor problems and inconsistencies. But if you let that go away, this movie will blow you away. And I dare say that this is better than "Iron Man 3".

Rating: 9/10

Final Verdict: It's not perfect but "Man of Steel" is a superhero film that will amaze you with its impressive action sequences, amazing performances, and surprising heart.

Resident Evil: Retribution

It Goes On ...
"Resident Evil: Retribution" is strictly for fans of the series and for those who love mindless, long action sequences filled with blood. Period. Anyone expecting a storyline or strong performances should stay away with this film.

The "Resident Evil" series has reached its fifth installment and this latest one delivers the same thing it's good at: mindless action scenes. There is hardly a storyline here. The opening sequence of the film runs way too long. That takes roughly fifteen minutes off the ninety-minute run. It directly takes place where the last film left off and Alice is captured by the Umbrella Corporation once again. Then, with unlikely help from Albert Wesker, she plans to escape the facility (now controlled by the Red Queen, that AI girl) by going through replicas of cities which are used as testing ground for experiments by the Umbrella Corporation. That's it.

The replicas explain the numerous environments portrayed in the trailer. Actually, it's only one place. The trailer also displayed the return of some characters that appeared in the previous installments. We see the return of Michelle Rodriguez as Rain Ocampo, Oded Fehr as Carlos Olivera, and some others who died in the previous films. They're actually just clones, made to serve the Umbrella Corporation. However, there are also good clones of them, which are used to be part of the simulations.

"Retribution" is full of mindless action sequences that never seem to stop. You won't have time to take a breath before the next action sequence begins. The fight choreography is outstanding and the 3D enlivens the scenes. That's probably the shining spot of the whole film.

Other than that, the film is decent at best. I wonder if there will be a sequel to this film. Director Paul W. S. Anderson stated that the sixth installment will conclude the series. If that is so, then the last shot of this film sets up a good atmosphere for the next film.

Rating: 5/10 Final Verdict: "Resident Evil: Retribution" will attract fans and action buffs but will not be suitable for others who want a clear story and convincing performances.

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