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Showing posts with label Adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adventure. Show all posts

Monday, March 5, 2018

Movie Review Coco Disney-Pixar

Movie Review - Coco             Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Coco - movies.disney.com
Coco

Coco
In Disney-Pixar's extraordinary adventure, a boy who dreams of becoming a great musician embarks on a journey to uncover the mysteries behind his ancestor's stories and traditions.

Reviews :

Written and directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo) and Adrian Molina (The Good Dinosaur, Monsters University), Coco is a wonder to experience. Dazzling, breath-taking animation, marvelous story-telling, engaging characters and so much heart that it's a film that's going to stay with you for a long, long time. This isn't just the best animated film to come out this year, it's arguably the best film of any kind to come out this year. It's the first film in years that I immediately wanted to see again after it was done, like just not leave the theater and watch it all over again. It's that good.

Coco takes place in Mexico on Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) an important holiday in Mexican culture that is celebrated every year from October 31st to November 2nd (All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas where families display photos of those in the family who have passed on, often going back for generations, then honoring the deceased using calaveras (decorated skulls made of sugar), Aztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and also visiting their graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at their graves. It helps to know this as background for the story, though the film does a good job of showing all of this as it goes on. It's all centered around the importance of family and of remembering those who have gone before you.

Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12-year-old boy who lives in a small rural village of Santa Cecilia with his elderly great-grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) and three generations of her descendants. Miguel's dream is to play the guitar someday, much like his hero, the famous Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a nationally celebrated musician and actor who came from his village and whose mausoleum is a major attraction there.

However, there is a problem. Many years ago, Miguel's great-great-grandmother, the formidable matriarch Imelda (Alanna Ubach) was married to a musician who left her and their young daughter Coco to seek his fortune writing songs and playing music and never returned. Imelda turned to shoe-making to support herself and her daughter, and eventually shoe-making became the family business. She also began a ban on any and all music in the family - no singing, no guitar-playing, no musicians! - which has continued to this day, rigidly enforced by Miguel's take-no-prisoners grandmother (Renee Victor).
All of this serves as a major obstacle to Miguel and his dreams. Miguel does practice in secret though, watching old movies of the great Ernesto and teaching himself how to play, and decides in spite of everything to enter a talent show for the Day of the Dead.
A sequence of events however result in Miguel stealing Ernesto's guitar from the mausoleum, and the next thing he knows is that he's suddenly an invisible ghost to the living - but the returning dead can see him and he can now see them. Which in turn sets him on a journey across a mystical bridge from the land of the living to the land of the dead, a wondrously beautiful place but one from which he must quickly find a way to return before he ends up becoming one of the dead himself and having to stay there forever. He's helped along the way by a down-on-his-luck denizen named Hector (Gael García Bernal), who's in danger of being forgotten, and a number of other characters he encounters. His quest ultimately requires him solving a generations-old mystery and setting right a wrong that occurred long before he was born.

The musical score by Michael Giacchino (Up, Ratatouille) is as beautiful as the animation, shifting from lively to wistful as the scenes require, and young Anthony Gonzalez's singing voice gives heartfelt depth to Miguel's dreams of becoming a musician.
 
Disney has always been synonymous with great story telling, powerful artwork and animation, and having heart in most of their major films. Some of the great Disney movies have transcended time and are loved by different generations for that very reason. But then in 2013, Disney attempted to trademark "Dia de los Muertos", or Day of the Dead for one of it's upcoming movies, a move met with much deserved resentment and criticism from Hispanic writers, critics, and the public. To say that the Day of the Dead is the Mexican version of Halloween is incorrect. It isn't a holiday as much as a tradition which is embedded into the heart of many Mexican families to honor loved ones who have passed away.
Disney's trademark attempt was an insult to not only the day itself but to millions of people who honor that tradition. That being said, Disney dropped the trademark, and did everything right since then to fix their mistake. Many of the people hired to work on Coco were Hispanic, and after their blunder they also hired Lalo Alcaraz, a political cartoonist and Disney critic, along with Octavio Solis and Marcela Aviles as cultural consultants on the movie. They went from possibly being boycotted to having great international and domestic success, turning many into believers including myself. The end result being a culturally rich and emotional movie that left tears in everyone's eyes.

Unlike past Disney/Pixar movies I've seen, there are three layers of meaning integrated into this movie. The first layer is what every Disney story requires which are the characters, plot, visuals, settings etc. The second layer are the morals that Coco teaches, which any person watching the movie can learn from. These two alone are enough to call Coco a great Pixar movie in my opinion. However the third layer, which involves the integration of hispanic traditions and culture, is what makes this movie standout as special, memorable, and unique.
As a Mexican-American, this movie holds a special place in my heart because so much of this movie feels real and familiar. From the family dynamic that Miguel shares with the family, to the chancla (sandal) smacking grandma, and especially because of the music, this movie feels saturated with Hispanic customs and way of life. It is obvious from the first scene to the last that Disney listened very well to their cultural advisors for this movie.

Being a Mexican-American, I've learned that various aspects of Life, Death, and Family are handled and understood differently between all ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures. Coco involves several scenes in a graveyard, shows relatives returning from the afterlife as skeletal versions of who they once were, and has Miguel racing against the clock to return to his family before dying. These are cinematic occurences which some may not want to watch or explain to their children. My suggestion for anyone who hasn't watched this movie and is not of a Central/South American background is to be prepared and be open minded.
Though some parts of the movie could seem farfetched, myself along with all the Hispanic adults and children watching the movie in theatres were mesmerized to watch something you can identify with as a person and as a community. For many, this movie is all about seeing the world through another's eyes, and that's wonderful in itself.

Ultimately, Coco is a fantastic movie worthy of the Pixar/Disney brand which every family should enjoy. Prior to release, my two concerns with the movie was that it would be a heartless Pixar version of the Book of Life, and that Disney would take advantage and exploit the Hispanic culture in a distasteful way. I'm glad to say that besides focusing on music and honoring the Day of the Dead , similarities ended between the two movies.
I enjoyed The Book of Life, and had low expectations for Coco in comparison. The truth is (no disrespect to the movie or the people who made it) The Book of Life is enjoyable and relatable, not a cultural staple. Although both movies treated one of the most important Mexican traditions with dignity and respect, Coco's heartwarming interpretation will become an unforgettable treasure in the Hispanic community for generations to come.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves animation, great story-telling and characters that grab you by the heart and never let go.
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Coco (Theatrical Version) 2017

  • Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Animated, Comedy, Kids & Family
  • Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal
  • Supporting actors: Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Herbert Siguenza, Gabriel Iglesias, Lombardo Boyar, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Selene Luna, Edward James Olmos, Sofía Espinosa, Carla Medina, Dyana Ortelli, Luis Valdez, Blanca Araceli, Salvador Reyes
  • Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
  • Format:  Prime Video (streaming online video)
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Studio: Pixar
  •  

Movie Review
Coco: (Theatrical Version)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

TV-Series Review Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

TV-Series Review - Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7
Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons
From the scheming south and the savage eastern lands, to the frozen north and ancient Wall that protects the realm from the mysterious darkness beyond. The powerful families of the Seven Kingdoms are locked in a battle for the Iron Throne. Game of Thrones, spans across the fictional continent of Westeros.

Game of Thrones Characters:
Game of Thrones is a thrilling journey through a riveting and unforgettable landscape. This is a story of duplicity and treachery, nobility and honor, conquest and triumph. In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.

Game of Thones is one of my favorite shows of all-time. The story is brutal and tragic, yet engrossing and compelling. The characters are wonderfully written, and everything from character motivations to the dialogue and action sequences are superb. The show also has top notch production values, as the environment, props, and wardrobes look magnificent. GOT is a beauty.

The packaging is awesome, as it has been on all of the season blu rays. The discs are in flip book, which go into a sleeve, which has a paper sleeve over top of it all. This season has black and brown artwork, which looks lovely. Very happy with the packaging. The insert also has a complete character guide, breaking down the different families/houses, and a full map of Westeros.

Extras include a complete guide to Westeros, making of featurette, in episode guides, histories and lore, audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a plethora of behind the scenes featurettes.

The episodes look amazing on blu ray. The 1080p really shines on this series, and everything look breathtakingly beautiful. The characters, scenery, wardrobes, etc all look excellent. The 5.1 audio is great too. The score is brilliant and the metal swords and armor clanging sound great. Sound and Video are easy 10/10.

Overall this is an excellent 1st season in this great series. I enjoyed every episode, and always recommend this show to anyone I talk to about movies/tv. Game of Thrones gets my highest recommendation, and the blu ray sets are glorious. This is the best show on television, in my humble opinion.
The casting is excellent and the plotline riveting from the first episode, even when I can't keep all the Houses straight! (That's when the capability to rescreen comes in handy - and it helps to keep a novel with the appendix of Houses at your elbow.)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

  • Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Action & Adventure
  • Starring: Various Artist
  • Supporting actors: Various Artist
  • Directors: Various
  • Producers: Various
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 7
  • Studio: HBO
  • DVD Release Date: December 12, 2017
  • Run Time: 3800 minutes
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TV-Series Review
Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

TV-Series Review Sons Of Anarchy: Complete Seasons 1-7

TV-Series Review - Sons Of Anarchy: Complete Seasons 1-7

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The writer of the Shield and the producer of the Sopranos bring you the most ruthless adrenaline-packed new drama of 2009. With over 40 minutes of unaired scenes, the DVD takes you even deeper in the unexplored world of this outlaw Californian Motorcycle Club as its members struggle to balance family life and weapon-trafficking business.

Sons of Anarchy is very well-made, well-written, and extremely well-acted FICTION. Though engaging and entertaining, it won't offer any insights into a real motorcycle club. Kurt Sutter's speculations and story threads have woven a persuasive, enthralling TV show. Let's keep all this in perspective: excellent entertainment draws the viewer in, makes them feel as if they know these characters, and makes viewers envy and wish to be part of such a story. But at the end of the day (and each episode), it's TV at its finest, and not a statement on real life.

Some other reviewer mentioned "for people who don't know any 1%-ers," but I would argue that those of us on the outside will never know anything about 1%-ers, because Motorcycle Clubs are secret societies, like the Masons. They fiercely guard those memberships; thus the need for prospects. Even if you happen to be a family member of a patch-holder, you won't know anything more about the club than any average citizen. They do not and will not share club details with an outsider. Any no 'old lady,' even one of a club president, could or would ever wield the kind of power and sway that Gemma does. Women are regarded as p*ssy, and that is all. Katey Sagal adds another dimension to the story threads through Gemma, but it's an entertaining and compelling farce.

The actors in this entire series bring humility, reason, and understanding to a subculture of folks that just aren't that nice or interesting in real life. Remember that they call themselves 'outlaws' for a reason. They're an unknown quotient, so it's easy to speculate about them and give them the benefit of the doubt. This makes for outstanding entertainment, done by fabulous actors in realistic settings. Keep all of this in perspective: you can envy them, buy a Harley, and ride on the weekends, but leave it at that. They're the 1% that you wouldn't want to join, even if you could. Go read the book, "Three Can Keep a Secret if Two Are Dead," if you disagree.
Magnificent action drama that follows the adventures of Jax Teller, a modern-day Achilles who rides a Harley and helps his Uncle Clay run an outlaw biker gang, the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club (Redwood Original.)
The shocking thing about the show is that although there's sex, violence, and gun play galore, the tone is closer to GAME OF THRONES than THE SOPRANOS. Golden-haired Jax is as tough as they come, and when it comes to brawling with knife, pool cure or bare fists he's always ready. Yet Jax is also a visionary, philosopher and dreamer, and as the first season progresses it becomes more and more clear that he is beginning to question the outlaw life and in particular his Uncle Clay's corrupt and cynical tendency to use the gang for criminal gain. Will Jax challenge his uncle like Hamlet, and if so, will he triumph or fall?
Such a great series. I love that I could buy the entire series all together. The price was very reasonable. I love that this series did not glorify the behavior of those that were in this motorcycle group. The characters were all complex. You could see good and bad in all of them. You could hate and love them at the same time. This is not a series for young ones at all.
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Sons Of Anarchy: Complete Seasons

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TV-Series Review
Sons Of Anarchy: Complete Seasons 1-7

Friday, March 2, 2018

Movie Review The Line (2017)

Movie Review - The Line            Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The Line - www.imdb.com
The Line (2017)


The Line - Movie 2017
The unstable new kingpin of a Tijuana drug cartel is targeted by an assassin for elimination.


The use of Mexican/US drug wars as a catalyst may have caused some viewers to think that this is a routine gritty crime movie but the writer(s) wanted something epic, life and death, which these ravaging drug wars are, to put the bigger theme of Family into high relief.

As to the casting, I appreciate it whenever actors challenge what they've already done twenty times, so I rather liked the choice that Andy Garcia made in particular, I do not think he was wasted at all. Liotta played his assassin's part almost as a mute - and that too is not an accident or a poor reading on his part, ie. who is his foil? It's the striking Mexican prostitute, her life is the battleground that all the other actors cross over, disrupt, shred, and yet she is the one who communicates to us, the viewer, what Liotta is going through, we understand him through her empathy with him. I think that this film is worth watching just to see how Liotta and Cruz pull it off. The title itself, the "line," is in my opinion, refers not to geography but the line crisscrossing over lives of real people like Cruz, it is her life encapsulated for us to see where the real terror and horror of these drug wars are fought, not some convenient metaphor of a border between countries.

However, of all the cast, and it was a remarkably competent one, the stunner for me had to be Pelon, every second of screen time Esai Morales was riveting, pathetic, tragic, and desperate and in many ways the male parallel of destruction in this environment that we see with Cruz's character. Even Assante's seemingly minor role became the pivot I never saw coming. It never ceases to amaze me how many gears this actor has to work with, be it over the top charm or almost a stunted shell of a man, merely existing on autopilot, he nails the human drama of that life every time.

So, don't view this film as some gritty routine action throwaway, as if it were Dumb and Dumber with guns. There were times when I did wish they had had a different film editor to better layer the many simultaneous story lines so that we wouldn't lose or confuse the underlying theme of Family. Then again, most films that endeavor to be a persuasive emotional and intellectual "experience" and not just a couple hours spent in leisure mode are not one-offs, view once and move on. They become a new film every time you view it, they grow as you do, they reveal details that you missed the first time. They may even change entirely once you do see it from say the perspective of Family or blood feuds or revenge or even exposing the moral decay of a human who no longer has family?

A final thought, any film that attempts to do things differently, from cast to writing, to choices in character development, to cultures too often passed over as one-dimensional, impresses me tremendously. Give this one a look, and let it tell you a story or stories, that you aren't telling the director is the one you want, but the one they want to tell you.
 
The plot line is hard to follow but it should be given the chaos of the subject matter. I was totally fooled by the ending. Knew the priest was up to no good early on but couldn't have guessed to what extent. Armand, I've never seen you do bad so well. Ray, I thought were washed up and over the hill. Excellent work. Brilliant. Thought you were dead! 
 
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The Line (2017)
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Movie Review The Line (2017)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Movie Review XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

Movie Review - XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage - Youtube.com

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage Movies 2018
When a group of lethal mercenaries steal a hi-tech weapon that poses a global threat, the world needs Super Spy Xander Cage. Recruited back into action, Xander leads a team of death-defying adrenaline junkies on a mission to save the world.


This movie follows in suit, with the not-quite-good guys fighting for the world. It opens up with a much wider array of X operatives, and brings in an entirely new crop of desirable "undesirables." Ruby Rose and Rory McCann liven up any bunch, and Donnie Yen is simply amazing with his acting and choreography/fight skills.

That said, there were a few ways that the film simply fell short of the franchise, and didn't live up to the original. By introducing so many new characters, it was impossible to develop each of them, so we were left with a token introduction to each one and one or two scenes that built off that introduction. It felt a bit glossed over and might have actually been better if fewer characters had been used. For instance, in the original XXX, the main team consisted of Xander, Gibbons, and Shavers, with Yelena trapped in the middle. The main antagonists were Yorgi, Kirill and Kolya. That's only six characters to really need to know anything about. This movie has Xander, Gibbons, Becky, Marke, Nicks, Adele, and Tennyson. Then there's the second team of Xiang, Serena, Talon, and Hawk. That's already eleven characters, and that's not counting the two different love interests they bring up for Xander.

It just seemed like they tried to cram a bit too much into this movie. I can appreciate the fact that they are trying to stick with the fact that Xander has always been a man who lives life to the fullest, but the addition of a current love interest for no apparent reason other than a 5 second long PG-13 sex scene didn't make much sense. It didn't enhance his reputation, nor did it really last long enough or show enough to be of any real entertainment. In my opinion, the entire scene could have been removed, and it wouldn't have detracted from the movie at all. In fact, removing it, and giving a bit more detail as to why he was visiting Ainsley specifically would have been much better. That scene, followed with his classic "the things I do for my country" line, are much more in line with his character.

I was also a bit sad to find out that Agent Shavers was not going to be in this movie, after the actor's, Micheal Roof, tragic death. He was one of the fundamentals of what made the series so good, and I caught myself wishing that he would pop up in scenes with some lame attempt at being cool. He will definitely be missed.

All in all, it was a decent movie. The action scenes were good. The comedic one-liners were good, and it had just enough moments of cheeky humor that we've come to expect from a XXX movie. It may not be as good as the original, but it's still a good action movie, and one that I would watch again. And I will be buying it to add to my Vin Diesel movie collection.
I liked the crazy action that drove the plot. Loved the crazy stunts too. I thought it was fun, adrenaline pumping, don't take it that seriously. Not intended to win an Oscar but doesn't mean it's any less entertaining. Oh the two chicks who doing their own rendition of Mr. and Mrs. Smith just knocking them out with the choreography and bullets was hot too.
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XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

TV-Series Review NCIS Seasons 15

TV-Series Review - NCIS 15 Seasons

NCIS Season 15 Episodes - CBS.com
NCIS Season 15 Episodes

The 15th season of NCIS returns two months after Special Agents Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and McGee (Sean Murray) were last seen fighting a group of rebels in Paraguay. Last season's dangerous mission will forever change each member of the team and bring this family of agents closer than ever. 
1. House Divided
2. Twofer
3. Exit Strategy
4. Skeleton Crew
5. Fake It 'Til You Make It
6. Trapped
7. Burden of Proof
8. Voices
9. Ready or Not
10. Double Down
11. High Tide
12. Dark Secrets
13. Family Ties
14. Keep Your Friends Close
15. New Team Friendships and Rivalries

I've been a fan of mark harmon for a long time. When NCIS came online and I saw the cast I had to watch it. i've watched all the seasons plus shopped at the gift shop on line. NCIS is everywhere at my house. I see people come and go the imprint that each person leaves is and imprint on the person watching this show. I'm 61 for me it brings a little life back in me. The show means a lot to a lot of people. Mark (Gibbs) lives by a code in the show. and i think everyone needs a little bit of code to live by. i will be sorry to see the show come to and end .The cast has been at this a long time. But you do touch people.
NCIS had a rocky season last year--no wonder, with the departure of Michael Weatherley after 13 years and the sudden death of long-time show runner Gary Glasberg. Story threads got lost, writing was uneven, and, sadly, the "team" just never jelled. There was a lot of adolescent silliness in the office. But from the first show of Season 15 on, the show is totally back on track and better than ever: good stories well written and acted, newer characters fitting in well now, and the team members have suddenly all grown up again. (Gibbs never needed too, but he has also changed in interesting new ways). There is still enjoyable good humor among them, but a lot less silliness. New addition Agent Jack Sloane is a strong plus.
NCIS has been characterized by strong characters, good plots, and good directing. This IMHO is not the real source of its popularity. NCIS has been so popular because its characters are patriotic and care about honor and integrity. They are front line soldiers working for something greater than themselves. Last season was not a great one, due to a weak character, who has now left the show. There's only been one episode of the new season, but it was excellent. If the writers are going to expand McGee and Bishop's roles, that will be great. The writers definitely haven't lost their touch. If you liked it before, you'll still like it. Unless the rest of the episodes just collapse (unlikely) I anticipate a very enjoyable season. 
NCIS is still the best of all the NCIS’s.
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NCIS Seasons 15

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NCIS Seasons 15

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Movie Review Star Wars VIII The Last Jedi

Movie Review - Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi - youtube.com
The Last Jedi

From the ashes of the Empire has arisen another threat to the galaxy’s freedom: the ruthless First Order. Fortunately, new heroes have emerged to take up arms and perhaps lay down their lives for the cause. Rey, the orphan strong in the Force Finn, the Ex-Stormtrooper who stands against his former masters and Poe Dameron, the fearless X-wing pilot, have been drawn together to fight side-by-side with General Leia Organa and the Resistance. 
But the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke and his merciless enforcer Kylo Ren are adversaries with superior numbers and devastating firepower at their command. Against this enemy, the champions of light may finally be facing their extinction. Their only hope rests with a lost legend: Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Where the action of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended, Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins, as the battle between light and dark climbs to astonishing new heights.


Both directors of the new trilogy are huge Star Wars fans, each with a different mission as filmmakers within the series and each with their own sense of style and vision. Compared to Abrams, whose job it was to create new and likeable characters while thrusting them into a fun and familiar Star Wars setting (a job well done IMO), Johnson's job was to continue the arcs of those characters while somehow subverting expectations. I can't speak for other fans, but I had a strong personal need for the saga to expand on its ongoing narratives, themes and character dimensions in ways that were simultaneously new, familiar, interesting and unpredictable. I didn't want just another Empire the way we kinda got just another New Hope. I knew that to do that Johnson would need to take some risks, and as it turns out he took a lot of them with varying degrees of success. Not everything lands how it should've, but all the A-plot stuff with Kylo, Rey, Luke and Leia worked great for me initially and in retrospect.

Without going into too much detail, VIII suffered mostly from one or two of its subplots, namely that of Finn, Rose and DJ. In spite of their subplot's flaws, perhaps the biggest payoff was one in which DJ helps Finn and Rose to understand that war is far more grey and nuanced than they previously realized, and that the concepts of good and evil are maybe a bit more relative than they'd like to think. This is a concept that is echoed in various ways throughout the movie's various arcs, and its a theme I personally adore, but I wish Finn and Rose had come across it in a more fun and concise way.

One of the most common complaints I've seen of this film has to do with it's attempts at humor. Admittedly, I was caught off guard by it near the beginning, but I quickly and effortlessly found myself enjoying it, and did so for the most part for the rest of the film. I'm not sure I understand why the humor didn't land for so many people, at least not beyond the fact that humor is a very subjective construct. The humor of the prequels suffered greatly because it was so infantile and kid-centric. I think people forget how much humor there was in the original trilogy, but it seems to me that the new trilogy hasn't forgotten, nor has it failed to understand what made that humor more successful. The humor simply needs to appeal to the widest possible audience, young lings and old lings alike. Was some of the humor too “meta” in this film? Who knows. One could easily argue yes or no, but I personally didn't think the humor was specific enough to be truly bad in a meta sense. Overall it seemed fine, and a lot of it got genuine laughs out of me.

I have enormous difficulty taking seriously the opinions of those who say flat out that Episode VIII “sucks” or even of those who somehow loved it unconditionally, although there seem to be far fewer of those in the latter category. Either way, let's not kid ourselves into thinking there has ever been a perfect SW film (although Empire was objectively maybe the closest we'll ever get to one). Empire took plenty of risks that in hindsight paid off beautifully, and I feel quite comfortable saying the same of VIII. As far as risks go, the difference between the two films is that VIII takes maybe one or two too many. Its possible that a few more months in the writer's room probably could have fixed all or most of the film's biggest missteps, but as a realist I understand time isn't always as abundant as we'd like it to be. In the end, The Last Jedi is what it is, and it would have been folly to ever think it could have pleased everyone.

I could follow suit with so many of the Internet's talking heads by nitpicking this film to death, but doing that seems unnecessary and beside the point of cinema. It might be a cynical view, but I think a lot of people kinda enjoy dissecting all the “bad” parts of movies more than losing themselves in all the “good” parts. I simply can't find it within myself to cut off this film's face to spite it's nose like so many people have. When considering the poignantly grey themes of The Last Jedi, doesn't it make more sense to embrace a more “grey” approach to how we experience films? To reference a specific quote from VIII, if darkness rises, shouldn't the light rise to meet it?

With all it's jaw-dropping spectacles, touching character moments and fresh thought-provoking themes, its the sum of Episode VIII's parts that, for me, make it an enjoyable cinematic experience. I have no quibbles about recommending this episode of Star Wars, but I'd try to ignore the Internet's echo chambers.
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Star Wars VIII : The Last Jedi

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Movie Review Wonder Woman

Movie Review - Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman - Amazon.com
Wonder Woman

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny.


The storyline in a nutshell: Diana leaves her paradise Island of Themiscyra that is magically hidden from the rest of the world to fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.

Wonder Woman is a movie that everyone can comprehend and accept, which is not brooding and polarizing like other DC movies. Unlike many comic book movies that make the main character one dimensional, I have never seen so many profound aspects in a fictitious superhero movie before. It is a movie beyond woman equality, history, war, ethics and even religion. It’s about honor, duty, good, evil, love and doing what is right.

Wonder Woman is a good mix of action helped by the back drop of The Great War/World War I. It is not just plain adventure but has a narrative focused on the increasingly treacherous world with diminishing tolerance and morality. While I don't consider it good to compare, it was inevitable to see similarities with Captain America: The First Avenger.
This doesn’t just create a good visual. After a three-movie streak of stinkers from DC studios, this moment demonstrates what makes superheroes, something Zack Snyder apparently doesn’t appreciate. Heroes represent, not the recourses we’re willing to live with, as with Snyder's Superman, but the aspirations we pursue, the better angels we hope to achieve. We all hope, faced with the nihilism of the Great War, that we’d overcome bureaucratic inertia and face our enemies head-on.

In some ways, this Wonder Woman, directed by relative novice Patty Jenkins, accords with DC’s recent cinematic outings. Diana’s heroism doesn’t stoop to fighting crime, a reflection of cultural changes since the character debuted in 1941. Ordinary criminals, even organized crime, seem remarkably small beer in today’s world. Crime today is often either penny-ante, like common burglars, or too diffuse to punch, like drug cartels. Like the Snyder-helmed movies, this superhero confronts more systemic problems.

But Snyder misses the point, which Jenkins hits. Where Snyder’s superheroes battle alien invaders, like Superman, or pummel the living daylights out of each other, Wonder Woman faces humanity’s greatest weaknesses. The Great War, one of humanity’s lowest moments, represents a break from war’s previous myths of honor. Rather than marching into battle gloriously, Great War soldiers hunkered in trenches for months, soaked and gangrenous, seldom bathing, eating tinned rations out of their own helmets.

This shift manifests in two ways. First, though Diana speaks eloquently about her desire to stop Ares, the war-god she believes is masquerading as a German general, this story is driven by something more down-to-earth. General Ludendorff’s research battalion has created an unusually powerful form of mustard gas. The very real-world Ludendorff, who popularized the expression “Total War,” here successfully crafts a means to destroy soldiers and civilians alike. He represents humanity’s worst warlike sentiments.

Second, this Wonder Woman doesn’t wear a stars-and-stripes uniform. Comic book writer William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman as an essentially female version of Superman’s American values, an expression externalized in her clothing. This theme carried over into Lynda Carter’s TV performance. But this Wonder Woman stays strictly in Europe, fights for high-minded Allied values rather than one country, and apparently retires to curatorship at the Louvre. Her values are unyoked to any specific nation.

Recall, Zack Snyder’s Superman learned from his human father to distrust humankind, and became superheroic only when threatened by Kryptonian war criminals. Diana, conversely, learned to fight for high-minded principles—which she learned through myths which, she eventually discovers, are true without being factual. Snyder’s Superman, in fighting General Zod, showed remarkable disregard for bystanders, his film’s most-repeated criticism. But Diana charges into battle specifically to liberate occupied civilians. The pointed contrast probably isn’t accidental.

Unfortunately, Diana learns, war isn’t about individual battles. She liberates a shell-pocked Belgian village, and celebrates by dancing with Steve Trevor in the streets. But General Ludendorff retaliates by testing his extra-powerful chemical weapons on that village. No matter what piteous stories she hears about displaced, starving individuals, ultimately, her enemy isn’t any particular soldier. It’s a system that rewards anyone willing to stoop lower than everyone else, kill more noncombatants, win at any cost.

In a tradition somewhat established by the superhero genre, Diana culminates the movie with a half-fight, half-conversation with her antagonist. Ares offers Diana the opportunity to restore Earth’s pre-lapsarian paradise state by simply scourging the planet of humanity. (Though Greek in language, this movie’s mythology reflects its audience’s Judeo-Christian moral expectations.) Diana responds by… well, spoilers. Rather, let’s say she simply resolves that fighting the corrupt system is finally worthwhile, even knowing she cannot win.

Wonder Woman’s moral mythology resonates with audiences, as Superman’s doesn’t, at least in the Snyderverse, because she expresses hope. Watching Diana, we realize it’s easy to become Ludendorff, wanting to not just beat but obliterate our opponents. Yet we desire to emulate Diana, standing fast against human entropy and embodying our best virtues. Diana is a demigod, we eventually learn, and like all good messiahs, she doesn’t just rule humanity, she models humanity’s truest potential.


This is by far the best DC to be made since The Dark Knight. Although I remain loyal to Marvel, I am pleased with DC success with Wonder Woman as it is one of the most well rounded, entertaining superhero movies to date.
 
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Wonder Woman

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Movie Review Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Movie Review - Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back - Amazon.ca

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back


When Army Major Susan Turner is framed for treason, Jack Reacher discovers she's the target of a massive government conspiracy. Together, they will risk everything to take down a powerful organization that will stop at nothing to protect its secrets.


A pretty good movie though not accurate to the books. However, author Lee Childs has given his approval. I have not read many of Mr. Childs' books, but my memory is that they have better and more believable plots. In this movie, Reacher is a highly decorated near legend but he has no "old boy or girl" network to call upon in times of trouble? Instead, he asks for help from a relatively new and low ranking NCO with whom he renewed his acquaintance by chance.

The military aspects of the movie do not seem correct. When I was a military police investigator in the Mississippi National Guard, military policemen (women too) were enlisted personnel. CID were NCO'S and warrant officers. Commissioned officers commanded, lead and supervised. They did not perform police duties. They certainly did not escort and guard prisoners. I streamed this movie via Amazon Prime.
This film finds Reacher with something more to protect than the first one. Plenty of action and pay back. The addition of a resourceful, smart teenage girl adds a welcome new dynamic to Reacher's world. This film delivers what fans would expect with a bit of a surprise. This ends up being something of a buddy movie as Jack helps his friend clear her name from some very nasty rouge elements. Recommended for fans of the series.
 
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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

  • Genres : Thriller, Adventure, Action, Mystery
  • Director : Edward Zwick
  • Starring  : Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
  • Supporting actors  : Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Robert Knepper, Judd Lormand, Christopher Berry, Hunter Burke, Jason Douglas, Lizeth Hutchings, Marisela Zumbado, Alexandra Lucchesi, Madalyn Horcher, Robert Catrini, Anthony Molinari, Theo Kypri, Talbott Lin, M. Serrano
  • Studio  : Paramount Pictures
  • Format : Prime Video (Streaming Online Video)
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Movie Review Doctor Who: The Complete Specials

Movie Review - Doctor Who: The Complete Specials  

(The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars / The End of Time Parts 1 and 2) 


Special features
  •     Disc 1: The Next Doctor
  •     Disc 2: Planet of the Dead
  •     Disc 3: The Waters of Mars
  •     Discs 4-5: The End of Time, Parts One and Two
  •     Doctor Who Confidential
  •     Doctor Who at the Proms
  •     Deleted scenes with introduction from Russell T. Davies
  •     David Tennant Video Diaries: The Final Days
  •     Doctor Who BBC Christmas idents
  •     Audio commentaries
  •     Doctor Who at Comic-Con

This stunning collection of Doctor Who specials The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead, The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, Part One & Two is a must own for all Doctor Who fans. The four imaginative, action-packed specials are the farewell to star David Tennant, and Russell T Davies, the mastermind behind the rebirth of the modern DoctorWho. The specials culminate in the dramatic regeneration of the Doctor, giving fans their first glimpse of the eleveDoctor, played by Matt Smith. The specials are packed with a terrific lineup of guest stars includingMichelle Ryan (Bionic Woman), David Morrissey (State of Play, Sense and Sensibility), Lindsay Duncan (Alice in Wonderland (2010), Rome, Under the Tuscan Sun) and many more that we can t reveal just yet!
I've been a Doctor Who fan since I encountered it as a kid in the 80's, and I have been overall very impressed and pleased with Doctor # 10! The specials are great to see in HD! I had seen them before in poor streaming web quality. Waters of Mars had a great spooky atmosphere, and I think is the strongest of the specials. The End of Time - well, my problem is I can't stand the new regenerated Master. He's too campy, and seems to be trying too hard to be an unhinged Joker. The Master is the dark version of the Doctor, cunning, cold, manipulative, foreboding and charming. This Master is none of those things. Plus the lightning bolt throwing? Thankfully "The Next Doctor" is great fun, "Planet of the Dead" is interesting and enjoyable, "The Waters of Mars" is awesome, and the End of Time is mixed.
What more can I say about the 10th Doctor's Specials that hasn't already been said. They're great. The problem I have and this has been a major problem with all of my Doctor Who Blu-ray sets (and I own every Blu-ray for modern Doctor Who available) is that the audio tracks are really screwed up when played through my Onkyo receiver.

It's obviously a codec issue but what happens is that the DTS HD HR (not tobe confused with the lossless MA) audio randomly drops in and out on and either completely disappears or you can only hear certain channels. Although I had the random dropout issues on my other DW sets, the solution to that was to simply to change the audio output on the PS3 from bitsream to linear PCM. This results in no change in audio quality with the only difference really being that the display on the receiver shows "Multichannel" instead of "DTS HD HR."

With this set, however, that doesn't work and the discs become impossible to enjoy. I have done all of my updates and I have tried connecting different Blu-ray players to the receiver with no change and I must not that out of the 400 Blu-ray titles I own, the DW titles are the only ones I've ever had a problem with.
 
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Doctor Who : The Complete Specials
  • Gendre : Science Fiction, Drama, Adventure, Mystery, Kids & Family
  • Actors : David Tennant, David Morrissey, Michelle Ryan, Lindsay Duncan, Bernard Cribbins
  • Format : AC-3, Blu-ray, Box set, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language : English (DTS-HD High Res Audio)
  • Subtitles : English
  • Region : All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio : 1.78:1
  • Number of discs : 5
  • Studio : BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date : February 2, 2010
  • Run Time : 311 minutes
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