Thursday, 23 April 2015

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Previous Review: Cinderella
Next Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Avengers members: J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Nick Fury, Thor, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, James Rhodes/War Machine, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver, Sam Wilson/Falcon, Maria Hill.

After the first Avengers film 3 years ago, we finally get to see the gang back together again! Being one of the most highly anticipated films of 2015, can Marvel deliver its magic once again with a slightly darker, serious and slightly complex plotline? (don't worry, not as dark and serious as the Dark Knight Trilogy or Man of Steel) Well, safely to say, it's still undeniably another massively entertaining and enjoyable feast for Marvel fans. There are more awesome and cooler action sequences, wonderful character moments with funny witty dialogues, spectacular visuals with more new Avenger characters filling in this time around. With writer/director Joss Whedon at helm again with all the same actors reprising their roles, the film still feels lively with the occasional team banters.

There's a lot to deliver in Avengers: Age of Ultron...aside from the main plotline, world-building, bigger and better action scenes that needs to be in the sequel, it needs to set up the beginnings of Marvel's Phase 3 plans as well. As a result, there are lots of subplots and references going around in the film for fans to take note of: Tony and Steve clashing ideologies for Captain America: Civil War, mentioning of Wakanda and the introduction of Ulysses Klaw, enemy of Black Panther and Thor's apocalyptic vision of Asgard for Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War. It's definitely not an easy task for Joss Whedon to juggle with so many characters in the same film. Thankfully, every hero does get their chance to shine. Surprisingly, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Clint Barton/Hawkeye have bigger roles this time around and are more involved than before with their character arcs. The film is very clear with its theme, by showing how misguided intentions, no matter how noble they may be, could potentially lead to more death and destruction.

The action scenes are very well choreographed with superb, top notch CGI effects. Hulk is getting more screen time smashing several Ultron robots with his fists, and even Iron Man, himself too. The massive, destructive battle between the Hulkbuster Mark 44 Iron Man suit against the Hulk is definitely one of the highlights of the film. Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision, they all have a good balance of action screen time to show their abilities against Ultron and his robotic armies (except for War Machine and Falcon, which have a slightly minor role compared with the rest). The final climactic battle of the film is certainly the most over-the-top, "comic booky" thing ever put on screen (not sure it's a good or bad thing).

With that being said, now comes the bad part. The film has too many new characters introduced in this sequel and not enough character development to make them memorable (despite the film's long running time) and this hurts the film a lot. The 'Enchanced' Twins' origins were simply brushed off by a few lines from the main characters and Vision's powers were not clearly explained in the film. Moreover, there's too much going on that there's simply no time for the casual audience (non-Marvel fans) to take a breather and slowly digest the new plot and character developments.

There were lots of sudden plot developments shoehorned into the story: forced romance between Banner/Hulk and Natasha/Black Widow (When did Natasha start having feelings for Banner?), the introduction of two vital team members - Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, the birth and introduction of Vision, the increased development of Hawkeye, the introduction and development of the main villain, Ultron. Not to mention, there are other members of the gang needs to be on the spotlight as well.

The main villain, Ultron is rather disappointing. His motivations of destroying humanity aren't clear enough, his grudge against Tony feels rushed and underdeveloped, which makes him less compelling. In comparison, Scarlet Witch is a far more terrifying force compared to Ultron as the film clearly shows that she has the power to tear the whole team (Avengers) apart like they were nothing.

In short, is Avengers: Age of Ultron as good as The Avengers? Well, it's a worthy sequel and it's good enough, but not exceeding expectations. It seems that the film is quite rushed and too fast-paced due to the editing cuts needed to make the film shorter (the first cut is said to be roughly 3 hours). Although the script does feel slightly weaker than the well-constructed first film, but the action, witty dialogue is more than enough to make up for it.  With the release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel's second Phase is coming to an end very soon (after this year's Ant-Man).

Rating comparisons with other Marvel Cinematic Universe films:
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Note: There's a mid-credit scene, please hold on for a while before leaving. There's NO after-credit scene though, so don't bother waiting until the end.

Little Things you should know/remember before watching Marvel films:

If interested to understand more about Tony, Captain, Thor, Banner, Natasha, Hawkeye character arcs in Avengers 2, read this article after the film:

Previous Review: Cinderella
Next Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Monday, 13 April 2015

Movie Review: Cinderella

Previous Review: Furious 7

Cinderella has always been a love fairytale about the courage and kindness of the human spirit that we all familiar and love. It's been a very long time since a fairytale has been told as it is. There have been many mediocre or disastrous results when the filmmakers took creative license with fantasy fairytales to make it more 'exciting' or action-packed. Still remember Snow White and the Huntsman, Maleficent, Into The Woods, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Red Riding Hood? That's what I mean.

This film is a straightforward live-action remake of the classical fairytale without the musical aspect. Yeah, there's not much singing this time around, just drama...Rather unusual for a Disney film. It was faithful to the original story, with some wonderful additions or improvements to the story as well. The film does a great job in showing us an enchanting, mesmerizing, fantastical world with its spectacular costume designs and special effects. Every scene of the film is a delightful watch, filled with beautiful, vibrant colours.

The love romance between Cinderella and the Prince Charming is more than just 'love at first sight' and not just for looks and status after meeting only once. The Prince was captivated by Ella's ability to see the world as it could be, with heart, courage and kindness. Ella was amused by the Prince's humility and courtesy without knowing that he is royalty. The film also showed that the Prince has a loving and respectful relationship with his father, the King. Their relationship is built on love, trust and mutual respect for each other. Moreover, I was quite surprised that the film actually includes the origin of the name, 'Cinderella' - a cruel nickname for Ella by her stepmother and stepsisters by adding 'cinder' to her name because she used to clean the cinders from the fire and sleep near them to warm herself when her attic room is too cold.

Lily James does a fine job as titular heroine Cinderella, a kind and innocent girl who's true to herself from beginning to end. If all of us could see the world as Cinderella did, the world would be a far more better place. I believe that Richard Madden managed to charm a lot of female audience's heart (not just Cinderella's) for his humility, chivalry and relentless pursuit of happiness and love. Cate Blanchett plays a convincing role of the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine. The film added a bit of depth to the character, by portraying her as a woman who's changed by hardships of reality, eventually believes that status, power and wealth is everything and that kindness or love is not free.

In the film, Ella asks the Prince whether he is willing to accept her as she is, and it's her goodness and sincerity that truly made her happily ever after in the end. From someone who grew up watching and reading classical fairytales, it's great to see this old fairytale being brought back to life with such charm and beauty. A gorgeous remake of Cinderella for the new generation.

Frozen Fever: A Frozen short film about Elsa desperately trying to prepare the best birthday celebration for Anna despite her not feeling well. It's great to see back Anna and Elsa before moving on to watch the main film.

Rating: 8/10

Favourite Quotes from the film:

“To be seen as we truly are, is the biggest risk we will ever take. Will we be enough as we really are?” And one day, the question will come, you will be asked, “Who are you?” And if you’re brave enough, you will answer, “I have nothing. I am nothing, but who I am.” And you will ask the person, who asks you who you are, “Will you take me as I am?” And one day, the answer will be, “Of course, I will. But only if you will take me as I am.” 

"Have courage and be kind. When there is kindness, there is goodness. When there is goodness, there is magic."

"To see the world not as it is, but as it could be."

"Just because it's what's done doesn't mean it's what should be done!"

Previous Review: Furious 7

Monday, 6 April 2015

Highly Anticipated Films of 2015 (April onwards)

Hey guys! I've been on hiatus for nearly 4 months due to personal reasons and now I'm back. For those who read and follow my movie reviews, I do apologize and I will continue my writing for newly released movies that I've watched and some of the movies that left out during these 4 months. Appreciate those who do value my opinions on the movies that I've reviewed. Thanks!

I've compiled my list of highly anticipated films of 2015 starting from April and I hope you do keep an eye for these movies and decide whether you want to watch them or not. Here they are:

Avengers: Age of Ultron (April)
Needless to say, I believe everyone knows about The Avengers sequel that's coming very soon. We'll be seeing Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision!

San Andreas (May)
In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged daughter. Starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino.

Tomorrowland (May)
"Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory." Starring George Clooney and directed by Brad Bird.

Mad Max: Fury Road (May)
The first film of the franchise in 30 years. "In a post-apocalyptic world, in which people fight to the death, Max teams up with a mysterious woman, Furiousa, to try and survive." Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Zoe Kravity, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Jurassic World (June)
A new Jurassic Park film with a new genetically-engineered hybrid dinosaur gone horribly out of control. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard.

Ted 2 (June)
Our funniest CGI teddy bear is coming back again.

Ant-Man (July)
Another Marvel cinematic movie after Avengers: Age of Ultron. The story is about a master thief who tries to steal a special suit that allows the user to decrease in size but increase in strength. Soon, he comes to work with the suit’s owner to plan and pull off a heist that could save the world. Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly.

Terminator Genisys (July)
Another Terminator movie in the franchise that drastically changes the traditional Terminator timeline. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke.

Pan (July)
A prequel of the fantasy story Peter Pan, who was kidnapped from an orphanage by a pirate to the magical world of Neverland. Starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Joe Wright.

Minions (July)
A spinoff animated film about the Minions from the Despicable Me series.

Pixels (July)
When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games. Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan.

Mr. Holmes (July)
Ian McKellan plays a 93 year-old version of Mr. Sherlock Holmes taking on one last case he couldn't solve before.

Paper Towns (July)
Based on a best-selling novel by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), the film is about a promising coming-of-age romantic drama about a young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.

Fantastic Four (Aug)
A reboot of the Fantastic Four with a new ensemble cast. This film is expected "to be more grounded, more character driven, more emotional, and a little more dramatic compared to the previous films".

Inside Out (Aug)
The next film from Disney's Pixar, this film will take audiences into the mind of a young girl who has just been moved from her home in the Midwest to San Francisco.

Masterminds (Aug)
A heist comedy film starring Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis.

Regression (Aug)
"A psychological crime thriller starring Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke. Detective Bruce Kenner is investigating the case of young Angela, who accuses her father, John Gray, of an unspeakable crime. When John unexpectedly and without recollection admits guilt, renowned psychologist Dr. Raines is brought in to help him relive his memories and what they discover unmasks a horrifying nationwide mystery."

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Sept)
The sequel to The Maze Runner series with the same casts.

Everest (Sept)
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley, a drama centering around a snowstorm that hits the world's tallest mountain.

Victor Frankenstein (Oct)
"Told from Igor's perspective, we see the troubled young assistant's dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man - and the legend - we know today." Starring James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe.

Bridge of Spies (Oct)
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks with a screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen to tell the story of an American lawyer recruited by the CIA to rescue a pilot during the Cold War. It’s based on the 1960 U-2 Incident, the true story of Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union while flying a spy plane.

Steve Jobs (Oct)
"Another biopic of the Apple founder's rise to prominence, told via three product launches representing three different periods in Jobs’ life —the Mac, NeXT and the iPod." Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) and starring Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet.

London Has Fallen (Oct)
In London for the Prime Minister's funeral, Mike Banning discovers a terrorist plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders. Very similar plot structure to Olympus Has Fallen, but happening in London. Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart.

Crimson Peak (Oct)
A film directed by Guillermo del Toro, starring Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and the film is a romantic ghost tale about a young author falling in love with a mysterious man and living in his 'old, out of the ordinary' mansion up in secluded mountains? Count me in.

Spectre (Nov)
Bond is back again after Skyfall and he's facing a great threat than before - SPECTRE. With great casts: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (Nov)
The final movie in the Hunger Games franchise. I'm sure everyone is excited about this.

The Good Dinosaur (Nov)
Another Disney's Pixar animated film released this year other than Inside Out. Not sure about this, but hope it's decent.

The Walk (Nov)
"The film centers on the life of a French high-wire artist named Philippe Petit who attempted to cross the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974." Directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Joseph Gordon Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley.

The Martian (Nov)
"During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive." Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (Dec)
Anyone who doesn't know about this latest Star Wars sequel?

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (Dec)
A continuation of the MI series, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his new team out on a mission to save the world, again.

In the Heart of the Sea (Dec)
"Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home." Starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson.

Snowden (Dec)
"The biopic story of CIA employee, Edward Snowden who leaks thousands of classified documents to the press." Starring Shailene Woodley, Scott Eastwood, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie (Dec)
Finally, we get a Snoopy and Charlie Brown 3D animated film.

Joy (Dec)
The unusual drama story of Joy Mangano, a struggling Long Island housewife who becomes a successful entrepreneur after inventing the self-wringing Miracle Mop. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro.

The Hateful Eight (TBD)
From writer/director Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill). Some years after the Civil War in Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception.

Macbeth (TBD)
Another adaptation of the famous Shakespeare work. Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard.

Absolutely Anything (TBD)
A British sci-fi comedy film about a disillusioned schoolteacher, who suddenly finds and uses the ability to do anything he wants, a challenge bestowed upon him by a group of power-crazed aliens watching him from space. Starring Kate Beckinsale, Simon Pegg.

Southpaw (TBD)
"Jake Gyllenhaal playing a boxer who fights his way to the top, only to find his life falling apart around him. Other co-stars are Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Forest Whitaker, Victor Ortiz, Tyrese Gibson, 50 Cent, Clare Foley and Beau Knapp."

The Revenant (TBD)
"Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Based on the Michael Punke novel, "The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge", a 19th century fur trapper who is mauled by a grizzly bear, left for dead and then robbed. When he survives against all odds, he sets out on a journey to exact revenge on his betrayers."

Dark Places (TBD)
Based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), the story is about "a woman who survived the brutal killing of her family as a child is soon forced to confront the events of that day by a secret society obsessed with solving notorious crimes." Starring Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Attack on Titan (TBD)
Attack on Titan: End of the World (TBD)
A two-part film based on Hajime Isayame's popular manga. "100 years ago, titans suddenly appeared on Earth. Soon, human civilization veered on collapse due to the titans. Humans then built a giant wall to defend themselves. Within the giant walls, humans lived in peace, but 100 years later, the giant wall is broken."