Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wonder Woman (2017)

Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, 
Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, 
Danny Huston, David Thewlis

"Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder."

I grew up watching Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in the 1980s. A tough woman fighting crime and just doing good for mankind. I never knew about her back story, the who, the how and the why she was a superhero. Well considering that this was back in the days when google didn't exist so information wasn't readily available in one click. So I was really invested in this film because it explores her background and how she became a superhero. 

At a young age, Diana (Gal Gadot) was already quite fierce. The daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) an Amazon warrior and Zeus himself, she was of privilege stock. But this didn't keep her from watching other Amazon warriors practicing their warrior skills, led by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). Their little paradise like world called Themyscira filled with only women is suddenly 'invaded' by German troops who were chasing an American pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He just happens to be a spy and somehow thinks he can stop the German army from winning the war.

Having grown in an all female environment, Diana is both curious and intrigued with the pilot. But once he mentions about a war, she becomes more interested as she was raised to believe that Ares, an evil demigod is out to destroy the world so she decides to accompany Steve to find so called villain to stop his evil intentions.

She soon joins Steve in his fight to stop the Germans in developing an vital tool that will annihilate the entire opposing forces. For a woman and an Amazon warrior, she is quite fearless yet at the same time she displays a certain vulnerability that makes her quite an endearing character to root for. 

Gal Gadot is a mesmerizing figure to watch as Wonder Woman. She is quite beautiful and has this twinkle in her eyes that adds to her charismatic superhero image. The innocence as well as the bravery of Diana is well manifested by Gadot in her first leading role. Her chemistry with Chris Pine is believable enough for a romantic interest without resorting to silly love scenes which can sometimes just ruin the entire love story angle. She carries the entire film on her worthy shoulders and although there are certain flaws in her acting, we are all willing to let it slide as she is the Wonder Woman, after all.

The setting is the first World War so there are enough fight scenes befitting a conflict. Action sequences are also a plenty and they are all executed well. The plot develops at a good pace with the usual theme of good vs evil  prevalent in superhero movies with an unexpected twist that leads towards an exciting, action filled conclusion. 

An entertaining movie with just enough relevance and gravitas to elevate it above the other superheroes movies, that simply rely on bombastic computer generated effects to draw a  crowd.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth,
Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum,
Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alstrom

"Reports of my Death have been
greatly Exaggerated"

Through some elaborate hacking scheme, the Kingsman headquarters is blown up along with the residences of some of its agents. Only Eggsy (Taron Egerton)) and Merlin (Mark Strong) are left to pick up the pieces.  This leads them to Kentucky where they discover Statesman, their American counterpart hidden inside a whiskey distillery. 

Much to their surprise, they also discover that Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who was Eggsy's mentor is still alive but suffers from severe amnesia due to the procedure that saved his life and was performed by agents of Statesman.

Both agencies combine to fight a common enemy, an organization known as The Golden Circle headed by  Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore). A megalomaniac out to control the illegal drugs trade. Her base is deep in the jungles of Cambodia and guarded by armed men and two vicious mechanical dog robots. The design of the place pays tribute to the 1950s with a big diner that reminds us of one of the venues at the Universal Studios amusement parks.

The first installment concentrated on the training of the new recruits of secret spy agency. It was an action filled, slick parody of the Bond movies. It was fast paced, peppered with multi-dimensional characters and the plot was interesting enough to grab your attention.

The sequel features an actual operation which involves many side plots, set in various locations like the stunning sequence in the Italian Alps. Big name stars like Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum are not used for their full potential. 

While villains like Poppy Adams and Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) are reduced to caricatures which is a pity. Don't get me started on Elton John starring as himself in quite a ridiculous role, that was just plain silly and quite stupid. Eggsy is still charmingly portrayed by Taron Egerton but giving him a love interest in the persona of a Swedish princess with whom he has no chemistry at all is a major  flaw. 

It is still a good popcorn movie despite its glaring flaws. I do like the soundtrack as it features John Denver's songs so I can totally relate with Merlin! Hehe

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, 
Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, 
Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel,  Kurt Russell

"Anyone can Save the Galaxy once"

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his 'gang' are back. Now they are officially the guardians of the galaxy battling all sorts of monsters and alien creatures to ensure the safety of the universe.

They are assigned to fight some creatures/beings on behalf of The Sovereign and after their job was accomplished, Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) steals some really important batteries so they again find themselves in trouble. 

In their escape though, they run into Ego (Kurt Russell) who turns out to be Peter's long lost father. Whoa!  Ego is a celestial being or a god but with a small 'g', has his own planet which looks like heaven. Yet something is a bit amiss with this dreamlike scenario and soon enough we find out what it is. 

There was a lot of hype about this sequel in terms of Peter finding his father. So most of the film is about Peter reconnecting with his father. It is like a long flashback until the true intentions of Ego is revealed. That turning point is when the film really regains its former glory. An intergalactic battle with much needed action sequences that thankfully wakes us up from our stupor.

But it has to be said that the case of the stolen batteries as the main plot is quite flimsy. A thin segue to the father - son reunion which didn't turn out to be a good one. I, for one didn't see it coming but perhaps it is because I was heavily medicated.

Nevertheless, the second installment is still fun to watch. Merry bunch of characters all acting true to form especially the cute lil twig, Groot. Irreverent dialogue and sarcastic jokes abound plus a good soundtrack of 70's songs works to add on the charm!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Monster Calls

Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver,
Felicity Jones,

"Stories are wild Creatures"

The other day, we returned from our Yuletide holidays and are all sick with the flu. So I'm staying in bed, fully medicated and to chill I decided to watch movies from the comfort of my sick laden bed.

For easy viewing, I picked this film thinking it was a simple coming of age flick but boy was I wrong! Not only is this visually stunning movie filled with significantly powerful messages, it deals with sensitive topics like illness, bullying, grief and death. Not what you'd expect from a children's book. But then aren't most stories from this genre really dark tales?

Young Connor has too much on his plate. An artistic loner, he is constantly bullied in school and when he comes home he has to watch his mother battle terminal cancer. He finds solace in the form of a giant yew tree which comes alive at a specific time and regales him with stories filed with wisdom that tackle some issues currently plaguing Connor's life.

I believe it is these stories which encourage Connor to face his so called demons even though he is too young to be stressed with these burdens. It is also necessary for him as he turns into a young adult and must be armed with enough (painful) experiences to face life.

I like the vivid animated scenes that are incorporated within the film. It adds a childlike wonder and it helps cushion against the dark elements of the stories. The cast performs very well, the dialogue is brilliant especially the haunting voiceover of Liam Nesson as the giant yew tree. It is a good combination of fantasy and realism that is both provocative and poignant. Highly recommended!

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