Wonder Woman – A wonderful heroine

wonderwoman

DC films have been divisive among both critics and fans. Man of Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad all suffered from muddled plots and thinly developed characters.

Can Wonder Woman, the first female superhero film of this era reignite hope for the DC Extended Universe?

I am happy to say – yes in a spectacular fashion. Wonder Woman is a vibrant film with depth and heart. It is a character driven story that is both grounded and emotionally engaging. I walked out of the cinema with a renewed anticipation for the upcoming Justice League film. But not for Batman, Flash or Aquaman. I wanted to see Justice League for more Wonder Woman.

Fittingly, this film is directed by Patty Jenkins who helped Charlize Theron land her best actress Oscar in Monster. No doubt the biggest praise must go to her. She was able to balance fast pace action scenes with slow but tender moments, all the while sprinkling in some genuine laughs. I am not exaggerating when I say Patty Jenkins succeeded in striking the perfect blend between lighthearted Marvel films and bleak DC films. I would love for her to direct another Wonder Woman film in the future.

Apart from the tone, this film is also triumphant in two aspects that, in my opinion, current Marvel and DC films have failed to achieve. Not since Christopher Reeve’s Superman have we gotten a great love interest (Lois Lane) and a character defining score (John William’s Superman theme). Although I cannot say Wonder Woman is superior in either – it came close. Gal Gadot personified Wonder Woman with her physicality while Chris Pine brought the charm. Together, their chemistry felt real. At one point I even thought to myself…Bruce Wayne got no chance!

As for the Wonder Woman theme. It was used in BvS and for me, it was by far the most memorable score from that film. Upon some quick googling, I was surprised to learn that this piece of Hans Zimmer score was in fact recorded on an electric cello! (Click for clips from cellist Tina Guo). This is a powerful theme perfectly suited for a powerful Amazon princess. A cherry on top of a fantastic film.

Rating: Doesn’t matter if you are a DC fan, a Marvel fan or neither. If you love films, you should go out and catch Wonder Woman in the cinema!

By: Edward

Advertisements

Ghost in the Shell – A beautiful but empty shell of the original

ghost_in_the_shell

Ghost in the Shell is an adaptation of the 1995 anime film of the same name. Set in the near future, much of humanity has embraced cybernetic enhancements and to a certain extend, cybernetic body, or “Shell”, that houses a human brain. With the line between human and robot blurred, cyber-terriorists can now hack into, and toy with a person’s psyche, or “Ghost”. The 2017 film follows Section 9, an anti-terroism unit and focuses on the struggles of Major. Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson), the first fully cybernetic human.

The original film, directed by Mamoru Oshii, was perhaps one of the most influential anime films to date. It was a perfect blend of stunning visuals and compelling story telling that challenged my perception of being a human. What is the true definition of being a human? Is human consciousness housed in a cybernetic “Shell” still a human? That original film boldly and cleverly packaged those questions into a riveting narrative, which I admit, took me several viewings to fully appreciate.

So, is the 2017 Ghost in the Shell successful in replicating the magic of the original?

Not quite, but certainly not for lack of trying.

I enjoyed this film a lot. Visually it was a thing of beauty. It painted a colourful and vibrant future where technology permeates our lives. Robots and cybernetic bodies were extremely well crafted and all the action scenes, especially ones with the “Major” were breathtakingly artistic. Scarlett Johansson fits the role extremely well, bringing over her Black Widow flair. For a property that is unknown to most western audiences, I believe she is the perfect lead.

Where this film falters is in its narrative. The first half of the film showed glimpses of the original with the Major questioning her existence and identity as a human cyborg. Unfortunately, these themes were forgotten in the second half and we were left with a cliche plot line and an one dimensional villain. With that said, I still enjoyed it. It was a decent attempt at laying down the ground work for future films.

To be honest, I want this film to do well. It’s about time Hollywood tap into the rich anime culture and bring us live-action adaptations of Akira, Cowboy Bebop and maybe even Black Lagoon. Just don’t give us another stinking garbage like Dragon Ball Evolution.

Rating: A decent introduction to Ghost in the Shell. Give it a shot and if you want more, there is always the original.

By: Edward

Casual Cinephile’s 2017 film list

2017-films_243

Don’t know what to watch in 2017? Here is our list!


February
– Silence
– T2 Trainspotting
– John Wick: Chapter 2

March
– Logan
– Kong: Skull Island
– Beauty and the Beast
– Lego Batman Movie
– Ghost in the Shell

April
– The Circle

May
– Alien: Covenant
– Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2

June
– Wonder Woman
– The Mummy
– The Beguiled
– The Book of Henry

July
– Dunkirk
– The Dark Tower
– Spider-Man: Homecoming
– War for the Plant of the Apes
– Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

October
– Blade Runner 2049
– Kingsman: The Golden Circle

November
– Creed 2
– Thor: Ragnarok
– Justice League
– Murder on the Orient Express

December
– Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Did we miss anything? Let us know!

Assassin’s Creed – The wait continues

assassins-creed

After the largely disappointing performance of Warcraft, my hope rested on Assassin’s Creed. I loved the franchise, especially its historic settings. Even Vy was mazmerised by the French Revolution backdrop of Unity. No kidding, I was praying for its success. I wanted this film to break the curse of video game adaptations.

So, was it successful?

No.  A rather resounding NO. Frustratingly, Assassin’s Creed managed to drop the ball despite having talented casts and rich source materials to draw from.

In Assassin’s Creed, Michael Fassbender’s character was able to relive the “genetic memory” of his ancestor through the use of the Amimus device. Essentially, this film followed two storylines – one set in the present and one set during the Spanish Inqusition. Unfortunately, both were badly constructed and even worse when combined.

Most of present day events were bland and riddled with long expositions. Also, character motivations were incoherent and decisions were seemly made on a whim. Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons gave the best performance they could. But with shallow and bland characterization, even they couldn’t elevate this film.

There was a glimmer of hope when we transitioned to the past. You can tell there were some brilliant stunts and well choreographed fight routines. But nope. This film managed to mess that up as well with horrendous editing. Instead of long takes and properly framed shots, we were given a poor rip off of Jason Borne. Quick and successive cuts from five different angles mixed in with nonsensical shot of horses. Also, what is the point of doing the leap of faith in real life (see this world record attempt) if most of it was obscured by CGI smoke and dirt? Even a fan made video (see devinsupertramp) does a better job with the parkour and action scenes.

I apologize if this review sounds like a rant. If you can’t tell, I was utterly disappointed by this film. Let’s hope Fassbender’s other half, Alicia Vikander, has more success with her upcoming Tomb Raider reboot. If not, I guess we still have Mortal Kombat…

Rating: Don’t waste your time and money on this film. Save it and get yourself a copy of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

By: Edward

Rogue One Spoiler Review

rogueone_onesheeta

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.


Time to talk about my most anticipated film of the year!

To give you a hint of my excitement level; three days into its cinematic release, I’ve already watched it twice and pre-ordered a digital copy on iTunes.

If you can’t tell – I loved this film. Perhaps more than The Force Awakens.

Before I go into details, a few disclaimers:

  1. This review will be a SPOILER review. If you haven’t seen the film yet, do yourself a favour and watch the film!
  2. I am also writing this review having read the Rogue One prequel novel, Catalyst: A Rogue One novel. I highly recommend reading this book before watching Rogue One.  This prequel novel establishes the intriguing backstory of Galen Erso, Orson Krennic and their contribution to the Death Star.

Last chance to turn back before I spoil everything!

First, what I loved about this film.

Unlike The Force Awakens and other saga films, Rogue One does not rely on the Skywalker or the Jedi. Instead this film showcases the true struggle of the rebellion. A rebellion that is morally grey. A rebellion that is willing to bend its integrity to bring down the Empire. In fact, I did not miss the Jedi at all. It was rather refreshing to know that Obi-wan won’t swoop in and save the day.

With this, I come to the biggest spoiler – everyone dies in Rogue One. I suspected death, but I did not expect them ALL to go down in a blaze of glory. In a way, this was a pleasant surprise. Garth Edwards handled each character death masterfully. Every member of the Rogue One squad had a purpose. For me, their sacrifice felt real and impactful. And knowing that their sacrifices were pivotal to the Death Star’s ultimate destruction, elevated my enjoyment of A New Hope. It added an emotional weight to Episode IV that was previously missing. (Yes – I popped in Harmy’s Despecialized edition as soon as I got home). Apart from the emotional impact, Rogue One cleverly fixes one of the most talked about problems with A New Hope – the exhaust port! With a wave of their billion dollar bill, Disney-owned Lucasfilm changed Star Wars history. The weakness of the Death Star was a trap all along. It was planted by Galen Erso and serves as his revenge against the Empire. Bravo Lucasfilm.

Despite being short lived, there were a number of memorable characters. My favourites were Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Cassian Andor encapsulated the desperation of the rebellion, while K-2SO was edgy and charismatic. However, the best human moment came from Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). I felt Jyn’s agony as she collapses upon watching her father’s hologram. This was especially moving as a reader of Catalyst. Galen Erso’s affection for his wife, Lyra, and daughter, Jyn, was well established in the prequel novel. It was heart wrenching to see a loving family torn apart by the ambition of Krennic.

rogue-one-news-story-1-aug-22-3pm

On the other side was the Empire, particuarly Orson Krennic, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. After my second viewing, I overheard complaints about the lack of Vader. I respectfully disagree. Rogue One was never about Vader. His two appearances were powerful and justified. His scene with Krennic reminded the audience of the brutality and terror of the Sith Lord. While his merciless performance at the end was beautifully(?) choreographed. Another complaint I heard was about Tarkin. The obvious problem with Tarkin was the absence of Peter Cushing. I applaud Lucasfilm for pushing the limit of CGI, however I don’t think they quite bridged the uncanny valley. I say we are 70% there. But the knowledge of Peter Cushing’s passing alone was enough for me to scrutinise the CGI. Whether the industry can overcome the remaining 20% is anybody’s guess.

unknown

The CGI technology aside, I personally think Rogue One needed Tarkin’s presence. This, however, leads me to the weakness of Rogue One – the reliance on the prequel novel and the lack of an opening crawl. If you read Catalyst, you would know that Tarkin and Krennic were rivals amidst a power struggle. Tarkin was part of the Emperor’s inner circle, while Krennic, a power craving bureaucrat, seeks to topple Tarkin. In Catalyst, this game of wits was not played out fully. Instead the outcome was revealed in Rogue One. Despite knowing that Tarkin will eventually come out on top, it was still fascinating to witness the poetic demise of Krennic by his own weapon. With that said, if you haven’t read Catalyst and spend as much time with these characters as I did, the importance of Tarkin may not be apparent. This can also be said for Galen Erso, whose backstory was told through Catalyst. Personally, I think an opening crawl that summaries Catalyst would have been perfect. It would have provided the general audience with the necessary backstory.

Finally, I HAVE to talk about the third act. The last 30 minutes of this film was mind blowing! The space battle and the beach assault were both exhilarating. Possibly the best space battle ever on screen. I love how they took down a Destroyer with a Hammerhead corvette. Cannot wait to get my hands on a Blue-ray copy! With this, I will conclude by saying that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a brilliant film. This anthology film achieved the impossible – it elevated my love for the original trilogy. I cannot wait to journey back to the galaxy far, far away with Episode VIII.

battle

Rating: The third act alone is worth the price of admission. Must watch for any Star Wars fans!


Of course there were plenty of easter eggs and references, here is what I found upon my second viewing:

rogue-one-collage

  • Star Wars Clone Wars / Rebels references – Saw Gerrera, The Ghost, Hera Syndulla, Chopper.
  • A New Hope references -Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Wedge Antilles, Gold leader, Red Five, Dr. Evazan & Ponda Baba, Blue milk, Tantive IV.
  • Revenge of the Sith references – Mustafar (Vader’s planet)

By: Edward

Doctor Strange – Marvel’s visual extravaganza

doctor-strange-2016-poster-impossibilities

So far the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced, in my opinion, four outstanding films, ten good films and zero duds. If you are counting, that is 14 hits and no misses – a rather remarkable achievement.

Can Doctor Strange uphold this achievement? The answer is yes, but not without flaws.

Watching this film in IMAX 3D blew my mind. Doctor Strange offered a visual experience beyond anything I’ve seen on screen. Visually, it is Inception on steroids with psychedelic sequences sprinkled in between. Despite such daring visuals, the special effects never took me out of the film. Somehow this film managed to ground such out-of-this-world visuals with convincing and engaging characters. Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor were brilliant as the Ancient One and Baron Mordo. Their interactions with Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, Dr. Stephen Strange, brought the humor and gravitas to the film. As the star and the titled character, Cumberbatch was perfect as the egotistic neurosurgeon turned sorcerer surpreme. I cannot wait to see how he interacts with the rest of the Marvel gang – particularly the equally eccentric Tony Stark.

As an origin film, Doctor Strange had a lot on its plate. The story worked well – for the most part. Unfortunately, Doctor Strange suffered from what I called the marvel-less villain. Mads Mikkelsen was once again imposing as a villain, but once again, the villain was only there to further the plot. His motivation wasn’t convincing and was sometimes muddled. Fortunately for me, this didn’t detract too much from the film. I ate up every single moment spent with with the trio of Dr. Strange, the Ancient One and Baron Mordo.

With Doctor Strange, Marvel successfully tapped into the yet unexplored realm of magic and sorcery. The consequence of introducing such divine power will have far reaching consequences within MCU. Because of this, I am excited to see where they go next.

Rating: If you enjoy Marvel films, find the biggest screen and watch it in 3D!

By: Edward

Top 3 movie trailers of October 2016

movie-trailer-october-2016

Movie trailers have one job – get you pumped about the movie. The follow trailers did exactly that.

These are my favorite trailers of October 2016!

1. Logan – The trailer for Logan just dropped and I was blown away. Forget Iron man and Captain America. It was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine that kickstarted the superhero hype. In his final film as Wolverine, it looks like Jackman is going to reinvent the superhero franchise AGAIN.

– See the trailer on the 20th Century Fox Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Div0iP65aZo

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – How do you show the War in Star Wars? Gareth Edwards has the answer. This trailer brilliantly showcased rebellion’s struggle against the empire. It is an underdog story in the Star Wars universe. December can’t arrive soon enough!

– See the trailer on the Star Wars Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC9abcLLQpI

3. John Wick: Chapter 2 – John Wick got himself a new dog, and it is a pit bull! More awesome gun fu and kickass action.

– See the trailer on Lionsgate Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMqETeQrgqU

By: Edward