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    2014 Oscars
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Wonder Woman

A Visual Extravaganza Brimming with Heart and Reason
Patty Jenkins' 'Wonder Woman' movie begins with a rocky, uneven start. But this very flawed pace allows the origin story of the amazonian warrior mature in a compelling build- up, and eventually navigate towards the rest of her story in a riveting seismic progression. It gathers an affectionate sentimentality that sustains its potency even amidst the imposing explosive sequences that often triumph to take the audience's attention away from the oddly satisfying distraction, that is Gal Gadot. There are these resonating anthems that remain ablaze throughout the film's 140-minute duration: love and peace, sacrifice and courage, and while it gets extremely preachy sometimes, the narrative rarely gets boring. Jenkins' take on the genre doesn't abandon the idea of terror, and mass destruction, but it singularly escapes the confines of superhero clichés that eliminate its players' moral form. In 'Wonder Woman', Diana Prince's humanity is held by Gadot's portrayal with a bracing commitment, something she never loses even when confronted with the deceptive appeal of evil and darkness. Her heroic verve gets an unexpected reinforcement from Chris Pine's Steve Trevor, with whom she shares a surprisingly inherent chemistry. This is the first DC film in a very long time, to ever sustain such visceral distinction, a visual extravaganza brimming with heart and reason.

Diana Prince's story takes us to a mysterious island known as Themyscira, hidden by Zeus in a protective dome of dim and mist, far from the grasp of humanity. She grows to believe that it is her sacred duty to protect her world, not knowing such 'world' will include what is beyond the clouds. But when the first man arrives in a suspicious water- crash landing, she expands her understanding and begins to welcome the idea of defending whoever needs help in the other side. But this eagerness barely entirely rests on a moral responsibility; she believes that Ares, the God of War, and her inevitable nemesis, is what causing the war waged by humans, and she needs to kill him in order to restore peace to both worlds. In one spine-chilling moment within her breathtakingly choreographed fight sequence with Ares, Diana rises from a fall, and virtually carries out her meteoric ascent, a symbolic assumption of her superhero status.

But in spite of the amount of physical tension and visual explosion, Jenkins balances the flavor by injecting humor and romance, utilizing them even in places where gripping action sequences are imminent. Chris Pine shines in his own moments, a remarkable feat for a character in a saga that seems to underscore women empowerment. There is a powerful moment where he grapples for words to ask for Diana's help to win the war; he practically breaks down, a stirring and moving scene to behold. Part of the film's colossal allure is its heart--it never loses it, doesn't intend to, and it grows to more awe-inspiring forms as it reaches a resonating, albeit predictable, resolution.

It is ironic to think that Diana Prince isn't human, but appears to be the most one, when compared with her colleagues in the looming 'Justice League' film. In the end, 'Wonder Woman' isn't a film free of blemishes as it still stumbles upon political truths it rarely gets justified, and minor expositions it doesn't seem interested to shed light on. But it has soul, humor, and wonder-- a narrative spectacle one seldom finds in a film of its sort.

Rogue One

Utterly moving, most powerful 'Star Wars' story since A New Hope
A sequel to 'Revenge of the Sith', a prequel to 'A New Hope', 'Rogue One' is essentially a bridge that resembles to a colossal effort to accomplish three functions: explain the past, predict the future, create a tangible link between them, the last of which, this Gareth Edwards-helmed sci-fi giant is able to pull off with a brimming sense of nostalgic sentimentality. Often dark and brooding, there is an appealing force that emerges from its layers, continuously drawing us into the depths of 'Star Wars' cosmic saga that started to storm the box office, four decades ago. The 'force' persists in its riveting presence all throughout the film's visceral development, a monumental feat that itsTony Gilroy and Chris Weitz-written screenplay is able to preserve, even in the absence of the Jedi and Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks and the iconic opening crawl. In effect, the stand alone film manages to break down barriers, provide solutions to old puzzles, while practically presenting new ones that even non-religious spectators would be engaged to solve. That its motives is primarily enforced by the breathtaking visual renders of the film's explosive sequences, is out of the question, but the singular element that propels the film into action, is the story's protagonist, herself, and what she represents.

Driven by a female hero at its reins like last year's 'The Force Awakens', this 'Star Wars' story revolves around petty criminal Jyn (Felicity Jones) and the band of misfits she gathered- -one that includes rebel spy, Cassian (Diego Luna), a reprogrammed imperial droid named KS2O, who shares the biggest chunk of the film's comic effort, and a blind monk whose martial arts-adroitness seemingly dares to put Matt Murdock's echolocation expertise to shame--to steal the plans to the 'Death Star', a deadly weapon, so powerful it can obliterate an entire planet. The emotional weight of the narrative is gathered across the length of Jyn's ambitious mission, which the film's primal campaign itself, labeled as a 'rebellion built on hope', a screaming hint to the looming much bigger movement led by Princess Leia, that sets the whole course for the original trilogy.

Faithful to the tradition of female- centric narratives, Jyn's motivations is largely fueled by the traumatic childhood she endured: she saw her mother died at the mercy of an imperial superior, and the capture of his father who was forcefully recruited to engineer the empire's deadliest weapon--the Death Star. In the absence of an initiative, she courageously leads a highly-volatile expedition of recovering the plan to the Death Star, whose small but utterly significant flaw--one that could help the Rebel Alliance stop its cataclysmic power--is revealed by her father.

Save for Jyn's uninspiring fight- for-freedom speech, only because it sounds monotonous, the whole run of 'Rogue One', is a glaring testament of what a mere hope can muster in the wake of a ruling authoritarian regime. The film then becomes a picture of a political atmosphere, infested with injustice and oppression, that bears a striking recognition. 'Trust the force', says Jyn's mother, in a tone that almost makes us believe that a movement always remains smoldering, only waiting to be ignited by small but resilient flames in the hands of courageous beings, awakened to rise by the screaming social malignance and political malfunction around them.

The first of 'Star Wars' stand-alone films, 'Rogue One' is bold and moving with its lingering sense of humanity, nostalgic in its almost flawless integration with the saga's established structure, and ingeniously innovative in creating a whole new sci-fi space-war narrative that isn't devoid of the familiar 'the- force-is-with-me' sentiment. At its final moments, the film practically inserts a missing piece between the end and the beginning of the second and first trilogies, ending with a powerful one-second scene that can potentially make a voice in every spectator's head chant "I am with the force; the force is with me".

Me Before You

Mostly Manipulative, But Tears are Earned
It would be hard to hold back the tears, once 'Me Before You' moves along the emotionally-charged course of its unevenly laid-out entirety. Imbued with charismatic flair and some ravishing sentiments, the Emilia Clarke and Sam Clafflin starrer, is every hopeless romantic dream. It is bound to recreate the familiar 'heaven and earth' trope, with all its utter predictabilities and tiring cheesy clichés, but here, the tears are mostly rightfully earned.

Clarke's Lou, emerges as the brightest asset of this manipulative drama, her buoyant demeanor creates an affectionate atmosphere for this whole fairytale-ish attempt whose often leaning towards emotional tragedy is ever screaming at every turn of the proceedings. Her sprightly charm makes an indispensible compensation for the largely stale performance pulled by Clafflin who plays here, a quadriplegic near real-life prince, who enlisted the service of Clarke's caregiver character. But together they conjure magic, enough to sprinkle their often predictable storyline with heart-crippling charm.

The biggest flaw of this film, perhaps, is how it seemed written to manipulate. That is not to say it isn't effective, because in fact it often works, but you would still think, and wonder, how more beautiful it would have become, had it been written with pure authenticity. Be that as it may, you've got to give it to those at its helm for molding an extremely poignant drama, that even if its often undermined by its easily recognizable motives, isn't devoid of wit, humor, and charm, and jaw-dropping glamor from two of the most beautiful faces to ever star in such romantic tragedy.

Finding Dory

Sentimental and Funny, at the same time. Charming!
The real beauty in Pixar's FINDING DORY lies beneath the elaborate tapestry of immersive adventures, played in plethoraic array of comic efforts pulled off by what could be now one of the most sprightly animated characters to ever grace the big screen. Dory's adventures might singularly win hearts through laughs, but there's a bracing sentiment lurking at the depths of its story that can never be less of a heart-rending emotional gem.

Coming thirteen years after the critical and commercial success of its predecessor, 'Finding Nemo', 'Dory' displays a zealous effort to replicate a similar success by pulling off an essentially similar drama. Only this time, Dory (Ellen deGeneres), whose colossal allure generated much of the overall comic charm in 'Finding Nemo', is the one trying to find her way home. Her journey is depicted in equally vivid, albeit chaotic, adventures that don't only concern about her finding her way back to her family, but more thematically appropriate, about her attempt for self-discovery. In the opening sequence, the sentimental heft of her story is already gaining some volume, but what comes next, no matter how engagingly funny, provides an even more crippling notions of friendship, courage, trust, and family.

Much of the film's comic glamor rests on Dory's forgetfulness, itself, but the incredible charm from new and returning characters, can't be counted out, easily. The biggest surprise is Hank (Ed O'Neill), a cranky anti-social octopus, whose chameleon like ability, could actually be Dory's brightest chance in getting back to her family. Marlin (Albert Brooks), and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) are now mostly relegated to the sidelines, but other memorable characters are put in their places to deliver equally indispensible appeal.

In the end, what the film accomplishes could not be even close to what it aspires to be. There is a big part of its charm that doesn't quite satisfy its own ambitions, but what comes brimming beyond such effort can never be rudimentary. 'Finding is Dory' never able to deliver a piece of thematic complexity, but the depth it is able to dig, is utterly unforgettable.


Subpar Action and Convoluted Narrative.
It's not difficult to guess where the tension and dramatic build up are going in WARCRAFT: The New Beginning, the big screen adaptation of the global RPG hit, World of Warcraft. There is an incredible display of flair and build up in the early minutes, all pointing to a riveting dramatic heft that the rest of this another attempt to transpire a phenomenal video game into a massive box office franchise, seemingly tries to unload. And it does hit that point, but it crumbles right away as it gives way to numerous subplots it doesn't seem able to fully get across. Much of this film is funny when it tries to be serious, and it is too serious (and dark) most of the time, but ends up being funny, anyway. But this isn't the fun that even most game fanatics would probably root for.

At its helm, director Duncan Jones tries to juggle all the worlds and realms, all their mythical creatures, and their substories, together. There is a readily perceived effort to get to narrative and visual success, but the victory can't be claimed by both. Even where its better, the glory can only be half- baked at best, and it deteriorates toward the rest of this ambitious saga, as it aspires for reaches it doesn't seem capable to make. The ensuing result plummets past mediocrity.

Much of this film follows the epic battle between the defensive human race and an invasive other- worldly Orc species. When Draenor reaches a brink of collapse, its Orc inhabitors must flee the planet and search for a new home in another. A portal connecting to the Earth- like Azeroth is opened, and begins a brutal battle between the two races. But a spark of hope emerges from both sides when Durotan (Toby Kebell), an orc soldier, questions the savage measures of his clansmen, and insists that a peaceful mediation must be pursued, a campaign which human knight, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) also proposes to his king and queen. But this motion could might as well trigger an in-house hostility within both sides, and the resulting chaos may be even more disastrous than both races can ever foresee.

If its visual grandeur could compensate for its narrative shortcomings, this oncsreen attempt might have actually delivered an at least tolerable presentation. Much of this technical prestige comes in excess, but often still unable to blend with the tension of the sequences it is meant to enforce. A sizable chunk of this failure also emanates from its utter inability to efficiently utilize its characters, whose being overly underwritten, makes rooting for them extremely hard for the audience. This mistake plagues some of the central characters like Ben Foster's Medivh and Paula Datton's Ditto Garona, whose either boring demeanor or laughable appearance can make them struggle for chuckle or affection.

Where it stands, it's not hard to see how earnest Warcraft's motivations are. The narrative itself holds some sentimental weight, but unless they're not employed at right places, any attempt to go a step higher could only ensue a staggering fall. There are some hints of genuine efforts to this, most of which, heartfelt, but ones horrendously not enough to compete with the film's aesthetic ambitions. There is a screaming hint of sequel that protrudes out of this convoluted complexity, but we might be wishing for the enmity between the two factions to immediately cease, before that said follow-up gets realized.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Overstuffed with So Many Things, Tolerable At Best.
There is a searing sense of humanity in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE's effort to thrust Magneto (Michael Fassbender), one of its key characters, into its emotional core. This allows a brief, but commanding moment establish a formidable ground to a film that aspires for enormous accomplishments. Yet these very same ambitions also seem to serve as malignant flaws that inevitably drags this Bryan Singer's desirous experiment into its very own apocalypse. While it stands with its impressive visual execution and incredible size— boasting one of the biggest character ensembles in superhero cinema—'Apocalypse' can only carry out ephemeral glories that can never compensate for the film's utter lack of structure. Ambition turns out to be this film's biggest threat.

As compelling as descriptions might have made him appear, titular 'Apocalypse' (Oscar Isaac), doesn't seem capable to inspire the terror he seems to claim. For a villainous figure whose omnipotent power is meant to decimate civilizations, his efforts are mostly spent for futile chases that mostly involve expanding his network of mutants. At some point, the film shifts entirely on laying grounds for an apocalyptic battle that the narrative doesn't seem bothered to get to at a tolerable pace. Along the way, it constructs further story lines which it willingly abandons before any palpable resolution arrives. The film struggles to hold all its weight and extensions together, and yet it keeps introducing elements for which it has no evident plans to efficiently utilize. Much of this film turns out only trying to expand size, but at the expense of having a decent structure. Interesting characters get left underdeveloped, their backstories often written without congruence to the central storyline. And as it may insist, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Professor X (James McAvoy)'s struggle runs on an emotional spine that mainly involves a campaign to retrieve Fassbender's Magneto from Apocalypse's hold. All these actors come out more powerful than their roles dictate them to be, defying the limits of their extremely poorly-written characters with strong performances that are enough to cover up for their characters' lack of development. A short but incredibly singular performance by Fassbender during the film's early minutes may be the spot where the film's sense of humanity is at its peak. Unfortunately, this distinction is relegated below technical pursuits. The ones with smaller roles are seemingly just too small to be served with affecting storyline, an apparent flaw in which Sophie Turner's Jean Grey fell.

For all its narrative faults, a hope for some compensations may not at all strike as a bad idea. Singer, here, tries to build an immersive world where action sequences are filled with whizzing lethal beams and energy collisions. The one he creates inspire awe and paves way for breathtaking moments, but this is already as far it can get.

'Apocalypse', in spite of its elaborate designs, doesn't quite get past its mammoth aspirations. It has a lot of stuff going on but the film itself deprives them with space to breathe, and eventually seamlessly integrate with each other in the cosmic expanse that Singer ambitiously tries to construct. So, technical splendor and terrific action setpieces, aside, the only thing that actually makes this film commendable, is the sizable amount of reverence it has paid to the canon, making this Bryan Singer's biggest fan service to date. This movie is tolerable at best.

Captain America: Civil War

Best Marvel film, Yet.
Cynically speaking, the whole mold that the latest Marvel movie creates, is a colossal set up that engenders subsequent sequels and solo outings in the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. The third for titular Captain America, "Civil War" is essentially the third Avengers film, starting with events happening a year after "Age of Ultron". That is not to say the film is mistakenly titled, because it still is, in all important aspects, a Captain America movie. It's just that, he isn't alone. The sheer size of this potential billion-dollar movie calls for an equally mammoth effort from sibling directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, who also both helmed Cap's previous film, Winter Soldier. Their deft maneuver results in a beautifully crafted cinematic piece, whose towering bravura, bestows the entire proceedings with striking depth and sentimentality, which may not be the first for the genre, but enough to make it Marvel's best film, to date.

In "Civil War", the brewing enmity between Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) inevitably arises and turns bitter in the wake of their relentless campaigns to save humanity. The irony emerges amidst of their efforts, when greater authority finally asked who should be held accountable for the collateral damages brought both by their offensive and defensive operations. The motion begins to roll when a mission in Lagos resulted to unexpected amount of destruction and deaths.

Differences in views divide the once solid group into two colliding factions. With Stark and his allies resigned to submit under the Sokovia Accords, Captain and the rest of his team, move away with staunch stand to operate freely under no greater force's jurisdiction. There is an intelligent attempt from both sides to meet halfway, but battle line is imminently drawn as a result of another attack which Cap's best buddy, Winter Soldier— now simply, Bucky Barnes— is believed to orchestrate. Doctrinal contrasts force heroes to pick sides, and the resulting chaos ensues a much bigger damage than what came in the missions they've previously pulled off together.

While Joss Whedon's "Age of Ultron" is as massive as a superhero movie could be, Russo's Civil War is colossal in its own right, maintaining the former's size as it shifts to a more character- driven narrative, with its emotional weight heaviest on Steve Rogers' shoulders. There is a striking hint of effort to not overpopulate the proceedings with relentless chaos and destructions, but the ones inevitably allowed, are delivered in immaculate visual glory, each explosive action set- piece captured with breathtaking panoramic ingenuity.

Even with all the intersecting plot lines laid out for every important character of this superhero extravaganza, they all eventually converge at one point, in which Captain Rogers and his connection with Stark, plays a key part. There is a visceral profoundness in how his character is written that finally places him at the center of his own film, and Evans has his commitment fully deployed for the role. And for a film whose own size seems to undermine its very own titular hero, the accomplished feat is truly massive for Captain, himself.

A film of this size naturally gets devoured by its very own ambitions. Character-wise, Civil War is as big as the last two Avengers movies. And while Thor and Hulk are both missing in action here, newcomers are welcomed to fill in their shoes. The film facilitates the solid introduction of Chad Boswick's Black Panther, whose stand-alone film is due in 2018. But perhaps, as most people who've seen it, will say, the entry of the amazing web- slinger is the film's most anticipated highlight. Tom Holland's Spider- Man is a breath of fresh air, and it delivers some hope for the character's looming third big screen incarnation, next year. His comic timing may have been at par with that of Paul Rudd's Ant- Man, who shares one of the most genuine fanboy moments in the movie. This lightness comes amid the political tensions and philosophical differences between the opposing forces, one that is utterly missing in DC's Batman v Superman's messed-up attempt to pull off an essentially similar drama, last month.

The Huntsman: Winter's War

Weak Narrative Makes Huntsman' an Unnecessary Pre/Sequel
Even with its imposing technical flair, 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' can only do so much to hide every hole in its already tired narrative. What it can do best seems utterly insufficient to compensate for what it is screamingly lacking.

Now moving on without the once titular "Snow White", 'Huntsman' serves both as a prequel and a sequel to the Kristen Stewart-starred film. While her absence may not have made any significant difference, it is inevitable to think about how better —or more likely, worse—it might have become if the film continued her tale. Be that as it may, the idea of having 'The Huntsman' as the main object of the narrative is interesting enough to spark attention. The spotlight is on Eric (Chris Hemsworth)—our titular 'Huntsman—at the start of the film where it recounts his beginning. He was a young soldier enlisted to serve for the Ice Queen, Freya (Emily), who was embittered by the demise of her child and her lover's betrayal. Enraged with hate, the once good-hearted ruler, abducts young children to build an army, disabling them to have the capacity to love— at least that's what she wants to believe. But love is powerful—yeah, as cliché as it may sound—and so Eric finds the love of his life, in Jessica Chastain's Sara, a fellow warrior, with whom he is specifically forbidden to fall in love. The Ice Queen, as expected, discovers the affair, and sends him to exile.

Jumping to seven years after Snow White's triumph against the Wicked Queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), the narrative shifts its focus to what may seem the main concern of the story: the quest for the missing magical mirror. Reunited, Eric and Sara, embarks on a quest to recover it before Freya does. Their adventure eventually leads to the return of villainous Ravenna, whose connivance with her equally wicked ice-controlling sister, ensues a much more miserable struggle for the reunited pair, who for most of their shared moments, are just trying to rekindle the flame that gave in to Freya's freezing power.

The interesting subtexts dropped, and some palpable comic effort, are as futile as the film's ambitious visuals can be. There are some suggestions here which might have helped the overall script to gather attention, but these potentials turn out to be just wasted efforts. As useless as the film's attempt to cultivate those depths is, its seemingly lack of interest to grant the story some structure, can only make the entirety even worse. In the wake of these fatal flaws, 'Huntsman' loses whatever 'fairness' the first film suggested to be having.

The Jungle Book

Immersive Storytelling and Incredible Visual Appeal
There's a haunting remnant from the 1967 classic, The Jungle Book, that blooms into unspeakable greatness in the newest cinematic retelling of Rudyard Kipling's literary masterpiece. Undeniably colossal in its new form, the film stands in riveting perpetuity, both on the grounds of its incredible storytelling and its dazzling visual achievement.

The Jon Favreau-helmed film thrives in the real and unimaginable, riding on the lingering reminiscent spirit of its source material and the jaw- dropping wonders of its technical splendor. Imagination propels its narrative forward, fueling its core with crippling sentiments that will surely render every heart moved. At the center of the story, the film is bolstered by its only human character, Mowgli (Neel Seethi), and his immersive adventure with his animal friends in the jungle. Populated by themes cathartically distuinguishable to us, like braveness, friendship, family, and survival, the film manages to navigate itself toward a satisfying finish even in the midst of its imposingly devouring visuals. In most cases, such enormity ruins the very essence of the narrative, but it works the other way around for this film, enforcing the already engaging tale, with much more affecting magnitude. The vocal cast is perhaps, one of the biggest ever assembled, with Ben Kingsley's Bagheera, Lupita Nyong'O's Raksha, and Idris Alba's Shere Khan leading the stellar assembly. This ensemble fuels the powerful emotional core of the film where themes as diverse as love, compassion, and greed, exist. Much of this core is relentlessly stirred with chaos, but there is charm in little, but sweet and serene instances. The comic effort provided is contagious, euphoric even in some scenes.

The tone that the film carries might separate itself from the familiar set-ups of family films that primarily target the young audience. While it could barely boast a cerebral distinction, the salient matters driving the entire story bear some recognizable sophistication, giving itself a familiar depth that utterly deserves commendation.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Some Greatness Undermined by Fatal Flaws
There is an utter greatness that thrusts BATMAN v SUPERMAN: Dawn of Justice into immediate attention. The brawl from which it explodes and paves way for relentless epic action sequences, conjures breathtaking forms, never less monumental than what Snyder seemingly tries to make them appear on the big screen. It's a visual spectacle, only much grittier and grimmer than any of its Marvel counterparts has ever been, even darker than the already dimly- toned 'Man of Steel' in 2013. In such measure, it is no question that this pre-Justice League movie has created for itself a towering achievement. But if that's how you gauge cinematic greatness, alone, then let's call the recent 'Fantastic Four' resurrection, a colossal epic (note the exaggeration). True enough, the absurd amount of explosive action takes the film into some time-stopping, jaw-dropping prodigiousness, but it is ultimately the absence of a decent plot that pulls itself to the ground. And while the overstuffed narrative is what tends its already complex plot line into further convolusion, it is not entirely what it is adequate of, that ultimately gives 'Dawn of Justice' unnecessary weight, but the horrendous lack of coherence and proper structure of its narrative.

Picking up from where 'Man of Steel' ended, the film paints the kryptonian superhero, a figure of destruction. Half of his city worships him, while the other regards him as its very destroyer, capable enough to rend the earth apart. Much of this film is spent in introductions, of hints about a looming mega-franchise that, let me guess, is set to counter what is Avengers to Marvel. That could have been alright if only the film knows where to place them. A recurring streak of ominous dreams introduces Bruce Wayne's (Ben Affleck) visions, while also becoming Clark Kent's (Henry Cavill) ultimate nemesis. Gal Gadot's entry as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman is nothing more spectacular than how the trailers made her appear, in fact, her underwritten character may have made her role shrunk to the miniature levels of her fellow Justice League members, whose cameo introductions you might have missed if you happened to go to the restroom for at least two minutes. Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is epic in both good and bad way, but more of the latter I guess. Amy Adams' Lois Lane— forget her, she's just there to prove she really loves Clark.

The movie bleeds from these flaws, the same way the Caped Crusader becomes kryptonite to Superman, and the Man of Steel becomes Batman's very Bane. The very same struggle inflicts the audience who thirst for some sensible story lines and not just shreds of unresolved, horribly- knitted sidestories. We might as well be grateful we're not Kryptonians.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

The Hunger Games franchise struggles reaching for a safisfying conclusion
Finally picking up some pace after the tedious, sorely-stretched penultimate Mockingjay Part 1, the final chapter of this 2-billion dollar franchise spikes up with a promise of rip-roaring adrenaline that fits for a final onslaught—a promise it could barely fulfill with its drawn out and narratively-flawed set up. It sounds fitting to call the previous installment as a storm of fire still gathering blaze, or an engine still heating up, with Katniss' being prepped up for a deadly rebellion as the fuel filling up the gas tank of interest for this last film. It is arguably a promise that has left a very comforting thought to dwell into, in spite of the fact that Part 1 isn't as compelling as any of the last two films. This year, part two unleashes that storm of fire, but it runs out of palpable wallop at landfall.

Picking up from the events where the previous film ended, the film follows District 13's march toward the Capitol, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), at the forefront standing as the symbol of the rebellion headed by revolutionary President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). The fire has already gathered blaze, even at the first overly-stretched twenty minutes or so allocated to wait for the smoldering heat to scream its vengeance. At the center of it is Katniss, ready to dive into the claws of danger and terror awaiting in the Capitol. There is much of these threats seen and unseen alike, that inundate the screen in successions of deftly staged sequences that are no less of a visual feasts, and that is the problem. By the time the story has to fold itself into a supposedly satisfying conclusion, the film itself gets lost in its grimness and violence that it forgets to serve itself and its spectators a sense of finality. The last two films are arguably the darkest, being at the end of a trajectory that trails toward a depressing farewell. It stumbles in the end justifying the horrors it has needed to go through, that all those bloody campaigns end up as if they are meaningless.

Ultimately it all goes down to its cast and how they pulled off their material in the best way possible. This franchise, even from the start, has been ridiculously provided with great actors of caliber much better than its material ever deserved, most note-worthy of whom is Jennifer Lawrence, having carried out the character with reasonating dignity and credibility. Towards the end, it only gets difficult to question her commitment to Katniss that even her material itself almost becomes her bane in the end, she manages to pull off the role with palpable capacity. That is true on her part, but it is hard to see how influential her role becomes to the franchise's final moments, considering how the story itself has seemingly disregarded the path it took to reach its end. It just doesn't fit, and makes this final installment even more depressing than it already is.


Not as Spectacular, nor as Ominous as its title suggests
The opening sequence in "Spectre", brims with sense-juddering action setpieces, as it has always been in every previous Bond film. Exploding amid the masses celebrating the day of the dead in Mexico City , the film sets its path ablaze with an exquisitely choreographed string of exhilarating events, featuring Bond carrying-out an asassination, and immediately followed by a massive, earth-shaking building collapse, a brutal foot chase atop rooftops, and a battle of fists in a spiraling helicopter—a jaw-dropping scene immaculately rendered in full technical glory, above a square, full of swarming crowd in panic. The recognition is right away. This is James Bond, no less than the man who swings back and forth adrift danger, one who could make an entire structure crumble with just few shots, so mind-blowing you would might as well believe he could topple the building with his bare hands. He is capable and mighty to confront death, and still come out unscratched, ready to wrestle against more. And as Sam Smith belts out "Writings on the Wall" for the inevitably lengthy title sequence, it gets easier to be convinced that a lot more of these explosive visual marvels are still to bombard the action-packed proceedings.

Yet, that's probably already the best thing in its two and a half hours. Nothing that follows ever comes close to it, even its explosive final chase sequence between James in a motorboat and Oberhausen/Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) in a helicopter, that ends up with Bond's gun pointed at his seemingly indestructible adversary. Sam Mendes, who also directed "Skyfall" in 2012, seems to maneuver his second attempt toward the classic mold of the 007 icon. Whereas Skyfall was more concerned reinventing Bond, Spectre is almost in full reverence of the character's traditional form, which isn't a bad thing at all, it's just overly done. At some point, the nostalgia is awe-inspiring, sensually inviting at others when naked women come again sharing its moments of sensuality—alas, women, something that was almost absent in Skyfall, is here, indelibly a part of Bond's sex god persona. And there is Q (Ben Whishaw), with his campy gadgets and cars, and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), whose role here, is a far cry from her on-field stint in Skyfall, and now she is either just receiving calls from James or following orders from "M".

Arguably, Spectre has a more emotionally-charged plot than any of Craig's past 007 films, its heart mostly coming from the strangled father-daughter bond between Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) and his father, the inevitably brewing romance between her and Bond, and a link to Bond's past, all of which ultimately leading James to the sinister crime organization he is after. But it's hard to see whether these emotional arcs have filled up the narrative holes of the film. In Skyfall, James' campaign was primarily driven by an attempt to save the secret service, one that brought him back to his family's estate in Scotland—Skyfall. The emotional struggle was easier to absorb there, and the moments that led to Judi Dench's M's death was singularly propelled by one massive sentimental cause. In "Spectre" there are more bombs detonated into the narrative, but only few are capable enough to keep us on the edge of our seat. Ironically, Skyfall was actually a rise from the previous entries of the franchise, having both resurrected the classic form of the character and introduced an appropriate modern spin—Spectre, is sort of, a 'fall'. Not only it fails to make sense in its attempt to tie up the events in the last three films, together, it also undermines the capacity of its main villain, depriving him to display the full extent of his power to make his threat more palpable.

Be that as it may, it is hard to shrug off the commitment that Craig has put upon the role, having able to live up to its old and new requirements with the unmistakable verve and imposing manly elegance he has given for the character. Amid the near-impossible stunts he performs and everything with his presence in it, that thrusts into attention, it is arguably Craig's Bond, that lingers. So effectively, I almost couldn't believe this might be the last film he is playing the character—no, I don't think I am ready. 7/10

The Martian

Of Miraculous Science and Sheer Human Ingenuity
In truth, The Martian's sentiments may come across as old-fashioned and impossibly conservative. The film's notions subsist in a territory less explored in the ever expanding immensity of the space sci-fiction genre, somehow deviating from the category's more standardized form, but it makes a clear point, one that strongly testifies to humanity's incredible capacity to survive.

The hero is Matt Damon's Mark Watney, who, after presumed dead by the rest of NASA's Ares 3 crew, was left in Mars, alone in the hostile red planet. He has at least four years to endure before a possible rescue mission arrives. But with limited rations left that may be good for only a few months, and persistent fatal conditions around him ever present, the witty Watney decides to "science the sh!t out of it" for him to survive, declaring he is the planet's greatest botanist, after all.

For most of his chunk of the screen time, Watney shares his daily struggle in seemingly endless monologues through a confessional Vlog, running through diverse subjects that go from things as random and simple as Donna Summers to those of unfathomable scientific and mathematical depths, like thermodynamics and hexadecimals. And if you're not really into such stuff, you would thank him for throwing punchlines every now and then, which sometimes may be corny and flat, but nonetheless enough to keep us away from getting bored. And with the rest of the cast mostly standing in front of screens monitoring him,y Damon singularly shines throughout the picture. That's not to say the rest of the frame is invaluable, but Watney's struggle itself creates an emotional connection between the worlds, relaying a cathartic sentiment that the audience would impossibly not relate to.

This may not be your no.1 sci-fi film, no thanks to a not- so- impressive finale, a bunch of supports whose functions mostly never go past just being stare-at-the- monitor standees, and some persistent logical leaps in the narrative, but it should be enough to shake up your list. Not only it pays with utmost reverence to science, it also explores its endless possibilities, which may not be within our grasp at the moment, but still scientifically possible.

With all that said, 'The Martian' is an exquisite cinematic gem, its sentiments reminiscent of familiar campaigns pulled off by countless previous films aiming to enforce humanity and its miraculous capacity. It's a celebration of human spirit and our species' ingenuity. And while everybody's abuzz about the recent discovery of existence of water in the red planet and the possibility it might be capable of supporting life, 'The Martian' has somehow delivered a compelling argument about how the planet probably can, one I believe, is worth checking out.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Less A-Maze-ing than the First Installment
Last year's 'The Maze Runner' was en route to a non-conformist course off the young adult/post-apocalyptic sub-genre, delivering less familiar but appealing deviations from the more recognizable standards of the category. This year, 'The Scorch Trials', its sequel, keeps some of the original beats of its predecessor, but it eventually falls into the scope of the overly familiar trope that the first film has defiantly avoided, which is a bit disappointing, considering the riveting buildup they've pulled off with the first film.

      Much of this film is spent in running. That doesn't necessarily makes the film bereft of sense and extremely difficult to follow, but that fact itself, hinders the proceedings from delivering a comprehensible narrative. 'The Gladers', still led by Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), are now on the run from the forces of WCKD, the mysterious organization that placed them in the Glade. What even worse, are Cranks, James Dashner's version of zombies, joining the pursuit. After seemingly endless cat and mouse chases, you'd be thankful to see them stumble upon a resistance movement, giving them a few moments to rest (that gives you a moment to rest from following them). But that's just a bump, because as soon as alliances are formed and a hint of the government's agenda, is revealed, it's marathon-time again.

     See, that's what sends this sequel spiraling down from the heights the first film has soared past in 2014. It lacks genuine emotions, and there are barely plot developments well- knitted enough to spark interest. The marathon extravaganza hampers the characters to fully connect with each other, and engage in a conversation, lengthy enough to help us understand. That's maybe the problem for someone who hasn't read the book like me, ever loaded with 'how's and 'why's, which this sequel seems uninterested in answering, until the final chapter.

That being said, there are still some few things to commend, like the fact it has retained, if not improved, its scares and thrills. The Grievers are now replaced by hungrier and grotesquely more vicious Cranks, and the obstacles are updated, to provide more hair raising creeps. The first movie's $340million worldwide cume against its $34million budget has given this sequel a bigger financial resource for production, and you would thank that for 'The Scorch Trials' stunningly choreographed setpieces, looming up in and between adrenaline- propelled pursuits.

Some new characters, like Aiden Gillen's Rat-Man, are introduced, but the rest or more than half of movie's payroll's new names, are barely, if not efficiently, utilized. That's an inevitable additional layer to the heap of flaws that piled up for this outing, but it's extremely hard to completely shrug off the film, especially with an interesting, and riproaring climax, that pretty sets the stage for the trilogy's final phase. While that last chapter is yet to happen, let's pray for the last film to never get split into two. 6/10

Hitman: Agent 47

A Disappointing Miss
Hit-man: Agent 47 teems with spectacularly choreographed action scenes, so real looking you would think you are actually watching a real video game, like the one the film's based upon. But you can't expect more than that. Outside the territory of its gore explosiveness and visual intensity, stretches bare ground of pure dumbness, of pointless narrative entanglements, that is more often bereft of sense and tension, you probably wouldn't care to follow. It's ironic, really, when the film itself suits itself as a complex one, but barely constructs a coherent storyline to make us drawn and interested. It's an effort to lay groundworks for supposedly incoming conflicts and answers, but the thinly-structured backstories, more often than not, mess up during the process.

The narrative is complex. That's probably what first time director, Alexandre Bach, and his team of writers, want to claim. That's one easy thing to justify when you've stuffed your storyline with bunch of needless, if not poorly-structured expositories, but looking at it as a whole, it's basically just about a genetically-engineered assassin trying to stop a malevolent organization from making more killing machines like him. This involves going after a girl named Katia (Hannah Ware), who is actually the daughter of our hero's creator. In pursuit of her, is Agent 47(Rupert Friend), the last and perfect, of his kind, and John Smith (Zachary Quinto) of the international criminal organization, Syndicate International (nope, not the one we heard in Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible). Katia, herself, has been trying to locate her father, and that's exactly the information the 'Syndicate' hopes to get from her, so they could resume creating more of Agent 47's kind, a dream only Katia's father could help them fulfill.

Once the adrenaline picks up, deadly cat and mouse chases follow, and explosive breath-takingly executed fight setpieces roll out like dominoes, as if nothing can't stop them.'Hit-man' works fine with this set up, and those who only look for action of such seismic scale, should get satisfied, but for a film that actually seems to aim achievements far beyond just perfectly-choreographed violence and visually explosive setpieces, this film is a misfire.

Fantastic Four

Has Some Great Moments, But Takes Too Much Time to Become Interesting, Long Enough to Make Us Not Care
There's probably some salvageable remnants left in Fox's previous attempts to bring one of Marvel's most popular superhero team, FANTASTIC FOUR, to the big screen. That's maybe what Fox thinks in pushing this new adaptation, given how franchises keep being rebooted and resurrected these days, assuming either lighter or darker takes, to pull away themselves from the shadows of their previous (most often, forgettable) forms. The latter is more evident with this film, as Director Josh Trank, puts a darker spin to it, employing a grittier feel to its plot. While that is true and recognizable, there's no denying of its desperate efforts to emulate its Marvel predecessors. Unfortunately, though, neither, succeeds. If it's any a consolation, Trank has assembled a group of actors that are all naturally charming, you would find anything messed-up they're in, tolerable.

The spotlight is cast upon young genius, Reed Richards, at the beginning of the film, working on an experiment that attempts to construct a teleportation device. It was hardly a success as the object they've sent to who-knows-where, never returned. Seven years later, now teenage Reed (Miles Teller) is again trying his luck on the same experiment. The attempt yields a better result but is still dismissed as a magic trick by his high school teacher, but not by Dr. Franklin Storm, who at that moment, is drawn with utter interest to Richard's experiments. The meeting brings Richard's feet to Baxter Institute where he is joined by Storm's daughter, Sue (Kate Mara), his son, Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and Viktor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to work in completing a larger and more advanced version of Richard's device. The success of their effort prompts their team to send all of them four to their target alternate universe, but the consequence is far worse than they could imagine.

It's easy to dismiss Trank's Fantastic Four as an unfortunate victim of superhero fatigue that emerges in the wake of the continuous influx of superhero movies inundating the big screen, but you can't shrug off its fatal narrative flaws that include unfocused pace and bland character developments. The latter may have been completely covered by the actors playing the two-dimensional characters, but expositional defects keep sending them to becoming something the audience might find hard to care about. Perhaps its the ill-contrived rationales behind how all the often-sense-deprived proceedings work, that keeps the film constructing a form, worth-of- attention, or the forced CGI-gimmicks that strip the sense off the moment's supposedly strong sentiments, that hampers its spectators' ability to absorb its message, and thus, feel that the dangers these characters are about to face, is real. Either way, it's difficult to care, much less find reasons why we still should.

If it's any consolation, the final battle of this film,sparks hope. But who knows who else is up with eagerness to see it when the rest of the film strikes more than enough to make the audience not wait for any longer. 5/10

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Most Explosive MI, Yet.
Even two hours won't be enough for "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'" to be able to unravel all its exhilaratingly high-octane action and drama. This fifth installment in the franchise surges with death-defying action proceedings, riveting and pulsing with the relentlessness and explosiveness of its spiking adrenaline, to deliver the franchise's most thrilling outing, yet.

That relentlessness is true and screaming right at the opening sequence of the film, where IMF agent, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), is seen dangling from the door of an airbus, already adrift in the air as it ascends even further to the skies. That's the first of too many, and you wouldn't care less of the logic behind such impossible knockout stunt demonstrations, because once the momentum crashes past the speedometer's limit, there's no other choice left but to get consumed by the electrifying influx of near-impossible action setpieces. This doesn't mean there's barely any sense to take in, in fact you would be awed to realize that in spite of its speed and strength-defying physicalities, characterizations are still working along the explosive chaos, and the behavior of the characters, and the emotional aspect of the narrative, still follows acceptable reasoning.

The whole of 'Rogue Nation' can be seen as Hunt's team desperate attempt to keep IMF running, and save it, and the world it intends to protect, from extinction. This time, the major figure of terror, is the mysterious organization, 'The Syndicate', headed by the despicably steel-fisted Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) . Ethan is joined by co-IMF agent, William Brandt (Jeremmy Renner), and suspicious British agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). The comic effort comes mostly from Hunt's sidekick, Benji (Simon Pegg), and Brandt, who spends most of the time running and chasing after the shadow-terrorist group, The Syndicate.

Much of the movie's strength emanates from its seemingly unstoppable delivery of edge-of-your-seat action, but you can't ignore the grandeur of its camera shots and the palatable efforts of its lead characters and supports. There's much to say about how inconsistent and illogical some of the narrative choices that the screenwritersn took are, but they get overshadowed by the more relevant, and on this case, more effectively utilized, high-tension action extravaganza.

One can inevitably notice how Cruise has aged through the franchise's almost two-decade history. He's more tired-looking here, but you can't question his commitment to the franchise. In 'Rogue Nation', he's definitely back, running after, and wrestling against, the equally desperate claws of 'The Syndicate'. He hops across the world to trump the enemy, and in every city, he inevitably gets himself involved in deadly strangulations. At such moments, cinematography is top notch, and the breathtaking panorama becomes an exquisite backdrop for the ever-imminent rumbles. This is where this installment is strongest and most engaging, a strength that should warrant a sixth outing.

Paper Towns

A No Heavy Tearjerker, But Still Searingly Relatable and Sentimental
Coming on the heels of its commercially-successful predecessor, 'The Fault in Our Stars', PAPER TOWNS is no heavy tearjerker, but it echoes more affectionate and piercing sentiments, with its lighter, minimalist take of its recognizable subjects.

The film follows Quentin (Nat Wolff) , or "Q" as he is more popularly called, a highschool boy who has been nursing an unrequited love for the girl living next door, Margo (Cara Delevigne) since childhood. Even after when they turn 12, when Margo suddenly becomes distant, "Q" never loses the affection, and it only becomes even stronger when one day she climbs again to his window, the way she did when they were still kids. The next events follow an eager "Q" savoring the moment as he escorts Margo in her series of "small revenge" against those she thinks have betrayed her, including her ex-boyfriend. But the levitating moment would only last overnight, because the next day, the ever mystifying Margo, disappears.

Mining on the same overly familiar material that dwells on both coming-of-age and teenage romance territories, PAPER TOWNS pulls off two easily-recognizable efforts: maintaining 'The Fault's charm, while toning down its tragic notions. The latter of which, yields a more tangible and heartwarming result, capable of conjuring a lasting tug at the heartstrings. The credit for this goes to its equally-charming yet capable actors, both of whom teeming with fresh and enigmatic likability. It will also sound unforgivable to never pay regard to the film's brilliant screenwriters who manage to cleverly highlight this extremely familiar highschool tale's stronger and more relatable sentiments, genuinely and sincerely enough, to bend fragile emotions with crippling capacity.

"Q"'s road trip in finding Margo represents a bigger journey with far wider scope and meaning, and it comes across as a process of personal exploration that unknowingly liberates one self, toward finding the deeper sense of their existence. Hardly that the questions thrown get resolved, but the charming and sincere take of its proceedings, will ultimately make the narrative arrive to a satisfying conclusion. This doesn't mean it's able to satisfy its own queries, but the resolution delivered are nonetheless, reliable and honest.

PAPER TOWNS will come across as a witty, yet touching case of a 'lost and found'. Much of it is spent in searching for the 'lost', a liberating process that frees its seekers from every question that unfolds in the wake of a previous other, but the 'found', though never really answers any of the previous questions, will deliver a surprisingly satisfying, and never less of a rewarding, answer.

The Water Diviner

Exquisitely-Acted and Heart-wrenchingly Sentimental,
Right from the beginning, Russel Crowe's directorial debut, THE WATER DIVINER, is already sweeping with unfathomable amount of emotions, gathering affection the moment it flashes grim representations of war and what follows at its heels. From there, it treads through compassionate subjects of ambitious scale, stumbling upon its own entanglements at times, but gets saved by towering affectionate performances from its actors.

The film follows the story of miraculous farmer (he knows where to find water underneath the arid earth) Joshua Connor (Crowe), whose three sons were sent to the war in Turkey. Years later and none of them has ever come home. His wife mourns over their presumed death, and succumbs to fatal depression. Swearing at his wife's grave to bring their sons' remains home, Connor voyages to Turkey, not even knowing what exactly to expect and see.

There is much to admire in Crowe for helming such historical romance, teeming with bold themes about love, family, and war. His directorial inexperience screams with some odd choices he made, like the forced romance between Connor and Olga Kurylenko's widow character, and the mostly ill-woven narrative his screenwriters knitted, but the sentimental performances of his actors and himself, are overwhelming enough to make up for the narrative inconsistencies. These solid heart-shattering performances summon the affection they truly deserve, and make the film, amid of its script's evident flaws, able to relay its sincere intentions, to the audience. Also a key factor for its effective delivery, is an exquisite cinematography that is able to capture the dreadfulness of the war, the sorrow of a grieving and longing father, and the breathtaking sceneries of countryside Australia, assuming incredibly toned palettes that shifts along the landscapes of the story.

This movie could have been perfect with an excellently-written script, but considering it's just Crowe's first directorial assignment, I'd say this is one hell of an epic job. Sincere, heart-wrenching, and beautifully-acted, THE WATER DIVINER, packs an incredible wallop of searing emotions, sending the most striking of sentiments, despite the faults in its storytelling.


Mammoth in its Tiniest Form
Had it been too desperate and hopeless, ANT-MAN would have shrunk its way for admission to the almost-complete, Avengers team. But neither such concern nor saving the world from an impending catastrophic destruction, holds weight heavy enough to pull this miniature superhero from his top priority: winning back his daughter. The emotional weight of the narrative comes across as an anomalous content to the generally comedic structure of the film, but they serve purpose for the overall flow of the proceedings, nonetheless.

The film follows Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who has just been released from prison after committing burglary. He has been prohibited to see his daughter due to his inability to provide financial support, no thanks to his being an ex-con that keeps hindering him from getting a job. He meets the highly-intellectual yet solitary scientist, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who has a job for him: pulling off a heist on his ex-protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who is in possession of a size-changing prototype, that poses massive amount of threats to worldwide security. Using a military suit that allows him to shrink back and forth, in size, Lang carries on with the mission with the hope that by doing so, he would be able to reclaim and earn the reputation and respect he lost, especially his daughter's.

It's easier to see Ant-Man as a beautiful mess, rather than a well-crafted superhero flick with profound depth and sense . There's a lot of illogical nonsense that always nearly sends the film to wreckage, but there's also so much of the fun side to make up for the eventual narrative shortcoming. At the center of its comic efforts, Paul Rudd's Scott Lang/Ant-Man shines with his general amiability, pulling off his role with credible wit and comic allure. Rudd is such a delight here, and his presence and effortless take on his character make the mostly messed-up flow of the events, extremely palatable. There's also much to say about Michael Douglas, how his character, Pym, easily integrates well with Lang and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lily) , to provide a firm and well-knitted character framework. Corey Stoll, on the other hand, is less impressive, barely providing the needed threat to make his presence felt and his belligerence imminent. But on moments where he and Lang engage in beautifully-choreographed fight scenes, the ineptitude gets relegated below the more important aspects of the proceedings, and once it does, the breathtaking visual schemes work under the spotlight, capturing Lang's size-changing skill with epic elaborateness. There's magic in every size shift, and the visual artistry is at its peak to deliver the moment.

Perhaps, one of the most immediately-noticeable difference of Ant-Man from its Marvel fellows is that it doesn't engage, nor rush too much, to explosive battles that generally results to immeasurable destruction. It is noticeably evident on the fact that its most interesting and most jaw-dropping action setpiece, happens in a toy train set. Most importantly, this new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe places its comic prowess at the center of its general effort to validate its entry to the franchise, and that is achieved without putting the natural action/adventure tendency of its superhero, nor the inevitable emotional nature of its characters, at risk of getting overshadowed by the rudimentary elements of the narrative.

It's actually hard to gauge ANT-MAN using the same measure that made the rest of its pack, mammoth and omnipotently powerful. But in its own right, and sub-atomic scale, this microscopic superhero is clearly a power behemoth, and it will surely spring back to its even bigger form, once the Avenger call is delivered.


Too Many Bananas
There is a conscious effort to generate chuckles in MINIONS, the spin off of the blockbuster animation, Despicable Me. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor one that could have been easily shrugged off, but its inevitable persistence, somehow tones down the ingenuity of the bean-shaped yellow cuties, in their first solo (almost) Gru-less outing. In Despicable Me, the heart of the narrative runs on Gru's relationship with three little cute girls, providing heart and soul amid of the massive comic effort delivered to draw brittle laughter from the audience. Such thing is seemingly missing in MINIONS. In their original movies, they couldn't care less whether we're attentive or not of their silly, almost always stupid but laughable choices, but here, they are already working hard to please us, which is somehow distracting, but still never less of a massive entertainment.

The Minions are dedicated henchmen which, even at the dawn of time, are already on the hunt for the evil master they intend to serve, forever. They've gone dedicating their service from a T-rex to the likes of Dracula, and Napoleon, but their very own clumsiness keeps sending their masters to their death. Finally, they brave the harsh coldness of Antartica to settle down, and a civilization of their own, starts thriving for their own keeping. The feat is a moment they would want to remain in forever, but again, without a villainous leader to guide them, there seems no point in going on. Soon enough, the once flourishing minion-isque realm hits a point of stagnation, and nobody could care less of bringing the life back...except the courageous Kevin. With the shy Bob and perpetually screwing (doesn't necessarily mean the other two are any less) Stuart, Kevin embarks on a quest, intending to find the most heinous of all supervillains. That quest leads them to the Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock)in Orlando, and later on for the rest of the movie, in 1968 London. As a villain, she's deadly and ambitious, a combo that would inspire the three to dedicate their full service to her, but both hold dangers of immeasurable scale, for their own safety.

The relentless deployment of slapstick comedy, comes in brimmingly overwhelming amounts, that even most of them don't actually hit their targets, those still-many that landed, are more than enough to make us chuckle. Such abundance comes across as overkill as Scarlet's last name, and at some moments, it fleets with turn out of rudimentary importance, but the laughter generated, no matter how ephemeral, makes up for the narrative mess.

The string of misfortunes of the three, on their way to finding their "One" evil master (No, it isn't Overkill), packs a different wallop from the lighthearted emotional sentiments imbued in Despicable Me, and keeps everything running on one lane, desperately pushing efforts to arrive to the point of unnecessariness of its forced efforts to send the edges of our lips to those of our ears. The intention is unwittedly effective, but lingers for too short of a moment, to make us forget what these ridiculous yellow beanies are seemingly up to. It also doesn't add up that Scarlet Overkill is too small to inspire terror in comparison with the colossal allure of the disreputably criminal mastermind Gru. This make paying these little creatures and the story they're into with lingering attention, not easy, but the affection is earned, and their reward is the uncreatively witty one word: "BANANA".

Terminator Genisys

Way Below James Cameron's Terminator
The newest entry to the Terminator franchise, strives with towering efforts to reclaim the glory of its two James Cameron-directed predecessors, but miserably fails to deliver even a faint hint of wit and sense, in the wake of its convoluted confusion-infested time-travel narrative.

In this fifth installment, ill-wittedly conceived and called GENISYS, The Terminator is definitely back, but his legacy is dead, butchered to bits of rusty metal junks through lazy and uncreative reinvention of its original source material. The timeline is set back to 1984. Skynet sends its own terminator from 2029, to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), mother of future subversive leader of the resistance, John Connor (Jason Clarke). Consequently, a human, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is also sent to stop the terminator, in humanity's desperate hope to save their species. At the time, Sarah is already being protected by her guardian terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), whose reasons of arriving in her time, is seemingly set to be never known.

Time-travel has always been a fascinating subject, and it in such fashion that Terminator: Genisys, attempts to build its own stronghold in the mold of the first two films. The take assumes an interesting onset, depicting an apocalyptic future where machines lord over the human minority, but it spirals down to fatal loops of nonsensical uncreatively-staged retreads when the what can be considered the inception of human salvation (Schwarzenegger's Terminator's arrival), begins. Once the deadly cat-and-mouse chases spin out of control, confusion begins, and the film itself, can't be bothered to clear off heads as it totally busy itself to trying to awe-inspire spectators, with elaborately-constructed action setpieces, teeming with CGI-mastered explosions, pursuits, and fight scenes. There's no denying that such attempt is carried out with colossal success, but the audience would inevitably find appreciating the feat, difficult and pointless . The proceedings are sutured into recreations of some iconic scenes of the original movies, while also devising its own, at the same time. But even with all these efforts, GENISYS still fails to generate sustained interest. The result of its motives manages to hit some of the nostalgic beats of the franchise, but tepid one-liners and confusing paradoxes would drag down its capacity to last. It is also by these narrative defects that interest is being stripped off its key players, making the audience barely care about the characters and the imminence of their extinction. This is why Genisys is way below the glory of its predecessors--the dread is barely present, and fear is forced, thus ineffective.

There is a screaming irony that bursts at the heels of this attempt to reinvigorate the sagging Terminator series: The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) returns to the past to save the whole of humankind, but the mess that is GENISYS, murders the franchise. 5/10


Brings Back the Nostalgic Creeps, but Uncreatively Copies the Original
POLTERGEIST, the 2015 remake of the 1982 supernatural horror classic with the same title , haunts with the same hair-rising creeps that made the original Tom Hooper/Steven Spielberg film, a cultural phenomenon but it's utterly devoid of any inventiveness, nor of a sensibly-constructed narrative, to make itself a stand out among the string of horror movies that recently inundated the big screen.

This haunted house-horror updates the set-up of its original source material. By "update", I mean it has literally filled the house with new gadgets (most strikingly recognizable, the flatscreen TV), and also takes CGI-generated effects to its service to deliver its dreadful scares. Now following the Bowen family, who have chosen to settle in a suburban home to mend their family's fiscal inadequacies, this remake seems to duplicate the proceedings of the classic from which it is based. Such attempt works with spine-creeping effects, but only for ephemeral period. It won't take too long before perplexing illogical events start to dangle from the central narrative, and they won't establish any connection from each other. It also doesn't help that most of the characters don't posses emotional depths. There's this baffling creepy feeling about the Bowen parents' laconic natures, and to their children's inexplicable behaviors, but the nonsensical turns and shifts deprive the stream of ominous events with logic and sense, rendering the entire proceeding vapid and forgettable.The ever imminent horror tactics work, but eventually pales in the wake of an inevitably distracting narrative incoherence.

For all its frightening thrills and chills alone, POLTERGEIST, is undoubtedly a cinematic success, able to creep audience out and make them stick at the edge-of-their-seats. The effort to update the setting to contemporary feel, somewhat feels needlessly exaggerated, but nonetheless helps in magnifying the amount of scares to claustrophibic levels. This is where the movie it at its best. But at its worst is the feeling of its unnecessariness, a film bearing the same old overly familiar creeps of its predecessor but losing them swiftly as the end credits begin rolling.


Unsatisfyingly Vapid and Laughably Tawdry
ENTOURAGE, the movie adaptation of the HBO series with the same title, has too many concerns to juggle with its utterly vapid and tawdry script. It's almost always expected that stories with multiple lead characters eventually suffer through bland and unfocused narrative, part of which may be atrributed to the fact that most of such screenplays generally fit for long-term storytelling. Such flaw is inevitably at large in this big screen take of the 8-season series.

The movie follows Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier), who, after his failed marriage, realizes he wants something new for his career. So when his former agent-turned-studio-head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) offers him a lead role for his studio's debut film, he agrees, on condition that he gets to direct the big screen project. Months later, the movie is pursued but still 15million behind completion.

Such pursuit is never engaging to follow. While the whole movie-making thing is made here a fascinating subject to tackle, the string of tepid and uninspired proceedings, robs all the interest and leaves a crumbling narrative, bereft of even the littlest of sense. Soon enough, the film spirals into too many other concerns that from the get go, are uninteresting and unnecessary . The focus then shifts to multiple loud parties, where elaborate garish exhibitions of social lords are ever the main attraction of the spotlight. Before you know, the whole movie industry exposition is already relegated behind the much less inviting sequences that mostly involve skins and male superiority displays. Plus, countless unflattering cameos are omnipresent to steal portions of the rottening pie. By the time it comes back to its main subject, there's only too little eagerness left for the final product.

Much of ENTOURAGE's disaster emanates from its inability to keep its focus, and provide decent material for its actors to work with. The main conflict doesn't even strike as something worth paying attention to, and the resolution is unsatisfyingly cheap. While the film itself calls for celebration, it would be hard to enjoy this ENTOURAGE of men, when they barely have a feat to party for.

Jurassic World

Works Best With Jawdropping Visuals
Once the obstreperous mayhem roars across Isla Nublar, there's no telling whether a chance for you to escape is going to gape into view, or you just run away from the pursuing carnage. These harrowing dangers, and imminently omnipresent threats in JURASSIC WORLD scream in deafening volumes, enough to keep the awe- inspired spectators glued on screen for more than two hours.

The movie picks up two decades after the infamous Jurassic park shut down, in the wake of a horrendously bloody catastrophe that swept through the island. A new company has taken over ownership of the park which has been fully operational and open for tourists, only it's been seeing a steady decline in audience attendance. At the request of park's geneticists, a new hybrid, called Indominus Rex, which actually resembles a T.Rex, is created.

Frankly, there's is not much to dig in the movie's proved-tested but overly familiar set-up. Cliché and predictabilities scream along the ever impending terror, but that terror itself holds enough charm to cover such narrative defect. The jawdropping cinematography employed to capture the screaming raptorial outrage is unmissable. Once the hybrid escapes, terrific camera-work follows its rampage and delivers an avalanche of eye-popping bloody visual spectacles. There are plenty of riproaring sequences, that include deadly chases and battles for flesh, enough to pull your attention away from fully gauging the depth of human emotions, that the film barely relays to its audience. This isn't to say there is really nothing to expect from that department, because as its emotional core, lead actors Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard, charm their way through their thinly-structured (mostly two- dimensional) roles. Chris Pratt, being the central hero here, has the striking charm and sarcastic demeanor he needs, to pull off his character, while the rest of the supports engage with either nothing or no more than forgettable acts.

JURASSIC WORLD works best once its CGI dinosaurs begin raging on screen. It's a visual bloodfest, teeming with sense- cracking fight setpieces that get more intense toward the movie's roaring final sequences. I'm not really a religious fan of this franchise, and I'm not claiming to be a credible source of comparison between this installment and the past entries of the franchise. But based on what I've seen here, and in so many similar creature movies in the past, I'd say JURASSIC WORLD, is a solid addition. 7/10

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