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The movie FERDINAND is serviceable, it definitely hits home for those of you who identify yourselves as a lover, not a fighter. Although the sidekick goat is absolutely annoying and there are parts in the middle of the film that drag and are just pointless especially the use of dance number as a way to forge friendship, FERDINAND means well and it will easily become PETA and animal rights groups' favorite movie of the year.
Voiced by John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, Davee Diggs, Gabriel Iglesias, Bobby Cannavale, David Tennant, Anthony Anderson and Flula Borg, the story is about this giant bull with a big heart. As a little calf, he escapes the fighting bull ranch and ends up growing up in nice farm owned by a lovable girl with her kind-hearted father. After being mistaken for a dangerous beast, Ferdinand gets captured, torn from his home and finds himself once again back in the old fighting bull ranch where he must form a team in order to escape, otherwise the choice is either die in the matador's arena or in the meat factory.
I think my only problem with FERDINAND is that it plays it too safe, the characters, their personalities and how they bond for example, are very textbook. The story and its themes are nothing new really. When you've seen it addressed in a much grander way like the movie "Okja," seeing it done like this, in FERDINAND just seems unimpressive. If this had been a short film focusing on the battle between the bull and the matador in the arena, I think audiences would be more entertained and they'd still get the whole "Don't kill animals" message. By the way, that scene is indeed the highlight of this movie because it does a switcheroo and turns Ferdinand the bull into the matador, it's a clever twist in my opinion. But still there are so many jokes in FERDINAND that just don't land, I'm a big fan of Kate McKinnon but her character, that goat is just annoying, there's nothing likable about her.
But at the end of the day, I probably shouldn't bee too hard on FERDINAND. It's a movie that does what it's supposed to do. It's not a complete mess of a storytelling like those Nut Job movies. And WWE action star turned actor John Cena does a decent voice job. If you recalled, Dwayne Johnson also had his stint in the family comedy world back then with "The Game Plan" and "Tooth Fairy," and so with "Daddy's Home" movies and FERDINAND, it's like a rite of passage for John Cena. Children will love this fighting bull who'd rather smell the roses than to throw a punch, in this day and age when aggression unfortunately seems to be the answer to every conflict, it is nice to have a character who believes that good can defeat evil just by way of simply being good.
-- Rama's Screen --
The force is strong with this movie!
This review is spoiler-free meaning it does not contain spoilers, but I will genuinely share with you how "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" affects me as a movie fan, as a Star Wars fan,.. and whether or not it does what it's supposed to do. Audiences around the world tend to agree with the statement that "Empire Strikes Back" is one of the best sequels ever made, well, I think "The Last Jedi" can easily take that honor now. This movie is astonishing and spectacular. It pushes many of this franchise's familiar elements to their limits and it really digs deep into the key characters and brings forth everything that stands out about them. Writer/director Rian Johnson is an impeccable storyteller.
The story picks up after the events in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," by this time the First Order grows stronger as it corners the resistance to an impossible situation. Poe Dameron, Finn and Rose come up with a plan that could work but time is of the essence. Meanwhile Rey is doing her best to convince Luke Skywalker to join in on the fight, but Luke doesn't want to be a jedi or a master, let alone the resistance's final hope.
Ok, so if you're wondering what happens with Kylo Ren, Rey, Poe Dameron and Finn and how they affect each other this time around, without giving it away, what "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" does is essentially flesh out these characters. Not only will you get to know some of their history and their background and what truly compels them, but this time they're also facing some very difficult choices. And the film also lays out judgement on some of them, it puts an end to some parts of the story that doesn't need to be continued anymore in the next episode. And what's brilliant about the story that Rian Johnson has crafted is that it makes you the audience think that each of those characters has their own respective path that they're going on, you expect them to see it through but bam, other plans take over but turns out these new unexpected plans actually make sense to the overall arc.
Johnson wants these characters' personal journeys to be a refined in the fire type of journeys. Each revelation, each aspect, brings them one step closer to being the lead stars, front and center of this new trilogy as the old icons take a step back further away from the spotlight. Speaking of whom, it's so awesome Mark Hamill be Luke Skywalker again, he has a bigger role this time, such a larger than life legend, and Hamill actually gives his best performance in years in this one.
I know that a lot of fans consider "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" to be more or less a rehash of "A New Hope" and I don't blame them for thinking that because to a certain extent, it was a rehash. But it's a necessary one because after the super boring parliamentary-heavy prequels by George Lucas. So it was important for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" to remind us that this franchise was once super fun and exciting. So because that problem was taken care of, so now Rian Johnson doesn't need to do such reminder anymore with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." It is not a Empire Strikes Back rehash. Rian can freely do what he does best, similar to what he did with "Brick," "The Brothers Bloom," and "Looper, and that is to further explore the possible consequences of the characters' decisions while at the same time amplifying everything you love about Star Wars, it even brings back some familiar faces. If you've always been fascinated with the force, this movie emphasizes the force all the more. If you miss Carrie Fisher, this movie has heavy dose of general Leia, if light speed gets you stoked, there's plenty of those here, and if you're a big fan of jedi mindtrick, boy does "Star Wars: the Last Jedi" have a big motherload surprise for you or what!
Such incredible breathtaking new locations as well, especially that vast salt land in Bolivia that serves as the backdrop for the planet Crait. The battle sequences in this film are pulse-pounding, explosive and intense. The light saber fights are thrilling, you just get enough of it, you'll be begging for more, you'll want the film to display more of those laser swords in action. The way the new characters integrate themselves with the stories of Kylo Ren, Finn and Poe Cameron is quite seamless. Whatever conflicts amongst them or their collision only lead to some of this film's most heroic moments which are highlighted by the remarkable sound mix and sound editing. This is a movie that entirely looks and moves and feels and breathes like a Star Wars movie with an Oscar level deeply affecting drama that stays with you long after the end credits roll. The force is strong with "Star Wars: the Last Jedi."
-- Rama's Screen --
American Assassin (2017)
Dylan O'Brien the action man
#AmericanAssassin movie starring #DylanOBrien is a flawed but entertaining spy thriller. There are many parts about it that just don't work and it's very generic especially if you're an avid political spy thriller novels reader like yours truly, so while the character, Mitch Rapp, isn't quite yet comparable to Jack Ryan, this film is a showcase of what Dylan O'Brien can do as an action star and I think it can catch on for his army of fans.
Based on Vince Flynn's novel series, Dylan O'Brien plays a CIA black ops recruit, Mitch Rapp, whose fiancé was killed by terrorists . He eventually finds himself under the training and guidance of a tough Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). CIA director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) then sends Rapp and Hurley to investigate a wave of attacks that seem to point to a rogue operative with a connection to Hurley's past.
I think the biggest problem with "American Assassin" for me is that it feels choppy, some of the cuts and editing work that just seems like it doesn't go through that fine-tuning process. That may have been an effective strategy to design a trailer/preview but as a movie, it will just annoy you. The other big problem is how one-dimensional some of the characters are especially the Turkish agent played by Shiva Negar, the film just expects you to feel for her when there's no foundation set up to build that connection to her character.
I haven't read Vince Flynn's novels, I'm sure he was a talented writer, may he rest in peace, but the concept of rogue operative and a nuclear bomb as the end game have been played out way too many times in the spy thriller genre that it goes to what I said earlier about this film being generic, it doesn't really offer anything new or anything other than what we've seen a thousand times before. This whole thing to me is more or less a test run to see if Dylan O'Brien can graduate from a young adult franchise like "Maze Runner" and become this next big action star. And equal to that, this is also a test run to see if O'Brien's character, Mitch Rapp, can fill the void that the Jack Ryan movie franchise left behind. I think O'Brien has the potential but with "American Assassin," Mitch Rapp is off to a rocky start.
-- Rama's Screen --
Take the boat, Georgie!
The brand new #ITMovie scared the heck out of me and I don't throw that around loosely because just when you thought that "Annabelle: Creation" may have set the bar for this year, bam! "IT" comes along and smashes that bar into pieces. Wow! This is one incredible horror film, everybody involved should get a congratulatory pat on the back, definitely a huge upgrade from the '90s miniseries. This is best Stephen king adaptation yet.
Directed by Andy Muschietti, based on Stephen King's timeless novel of the same name, IT is set around the mysterious disappearance of children in Derry Maine, when a group of young kids will have to come face their biggest fears and square off against an eternal evil clown named Pennywise who comes around every 27 years to repeat his reign of terror.
It's no secret and it's not really a spoiler that New Line and the filmmakers of this new version have planned to re-imagine this story into two installments, with the first focusing on the children and then chapter two will be about their grown up selves once again battling Pennywise. So with this first chapter, I think the timing of its arrival couldn't be more perfect especially with last year's debut of the hugely popular series, "Stranger Things" that brings up '80s childhood nostalgia while presenting mystery at the same time, "IT" offers you that same vein and I think that's OK because we haven't gotten to the point where it's played out so for the time being you're going to love that aspect about "IT." There's definitely a "Stand By Me" vibe to it as well, and the whole thing does feel episodic, at one point while screening it I didn't want it to end, it felt like I was binge-watching, it was so cool. Kudos to all the young actors featured in this film, they really hold their own and each of their characters' distinct personalities stand out. Their backstories and their process of slowly but surely coming together as some sort of a team is both honest and engaging.
Now, if you've ever read Stephen King's book, "IT," you'd recall that it is a super duper thick book. You can use it as a stool to stand on for when you need to change that lightbulb. But the point is, I think the screenwriters of this new film did well in condensing the story to just the right amount of time that contains just the right mix of kids camaraderie and the horror fest that is Pennywise. And if you've watched the '90s miniseries, you'd recall how much that version held back plus the low quality practical effects that they had at the time. Well, I'm happy to tell you that this new "IT" doesn't hold back, this is Pennywise unleashed, it's practically proud of being R-rated, which is great because it allows for the scary parts to be really really scary and not second-guessing or pandering.
And if you have never liked clowns before, you're going to hate clowns even more because Bill Skarsgard's performance as the new Pennywise will haunt your dreams for the next few weeks after you've watched this movie. What I appreciate about Skarsgard is that he doesn't try too hard to emulate or imitate or channel Tim Curry, Skarsgard does his own take of creepy. And because Pennywise is pretty much invincible to a certain extent, you'll see him pop up in the most unlikeliest of places meaning when you least expect him, that's when he'll scare you to your core so brace yourselves for surprises around every corner. Another reason why the timing of this movie's arrival could not be more perfect is because today's visual effects compliment Pennywise's limitless abilities and so director Andy Muschietti and his crew have the creative freedom to not only realize some of the scare points in the book but they managed to also go beyond that. "IT" goes for massive, it goes for bold, it goes for bloody, not a single boring minute, it goes for the "Goonies" fan in all of us. You will laugh, you will scream, you will have nightmares, hands down one of the best horror movies ever made.
-- Rama's Screen --
Wind River (2017)
Suspenseful! A perfect thriller!
The screenwriter who gave us "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water" has come back with "Wind River" which he also directed and I am now convinced more than ever that Taylor Sheridan is one of the best storytellers of our time. There's something about his thrillers that are just so cunning and sharp and profound, like a great American classic, even novelist Dennis Lehane probably couldn't come up with materials that are as skillfully played as this. And with "Wind River" Sheridan's personal artistry mission to do some effort to right the wrongs that the system has committed against the Native Americans, continues.
The story is about a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams up with a tracker/hunter (Jeremy Renner) with a tragic past in order to investigate the murder of a local girl on a remote Native American Reservation.
Sheridan has tackled themes surrounding the Native Americans before but with this latest one, it's not so much that he's preaching about it but he ties it into this entire fabric of community where you sense the clash between outsiders and locals, between whites and natives, so there's a level of frustration about that arises from this murder investigation that brings up all kinds of cultural suspicions, on top of which there's also a game of jurisdictions. It's a complex yet cleverly woven thriller that starts out as a whodunit and evolves into a thirst for retribution. And the fact that it's set in a very cold harsh environment just adds to the film's chilling effect.
In many ways, Elizabeth Olsen performs here like Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling where at some points you kinda know that Olsen's character may be out of her elements, but at the same time that factor actually gives her a good vantage point. Jeremy Renner plays his character like an old timer western hero who knows the ins and outs of everything, a man of few words but gets tough when needed. Their dynamic is not some kind of odd couple cop duo, this is more like each of them trying to prove themselves while bringing justice to the family of the unfortunate girl. And the way Sheridan crafts the mystery from a small radius to a much larger scheme is one that will have you hooked. "Wind River" is highly suspenseful, it's a perfect thriller.
-- Rama's Screen --
Good Time (2017)
Robert Pattinson on the go!
#GoodTime is a fantastic insomniac crime comedy/thriller with the fully determined & daring #RobertPattinson. It's like if "Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels" met "Trainspotting" and had a Red Bull-fueled baby. It's entertaining through and through.
Directed by Josh and Ben Safdie, Robert Pattinson plays Constantine Nikas who commits a botched bank robbery that lands his younger brother in prison. The rest of the film shows Nikas' dangerous attempt in a span of one crazy night just to get his brother out. Madness, mayhem and violence ensue as he also tries to evade the consequences of his actions.
I haven't watched "Heaven Knows What," but I am now definitely a big fan of the Safdie brothers after "Good Time" because their vision and craftsmanship are simply hypnotic. Not only do they play with neons and glows but also almost the entire time, the film is done with close-up shots which tightly frames the characters so much so that it intensifies the story's unpredictability.
The characters in "Good Time" may not be quite as dumb as the characters in the Coen Brothers' crime comedies, but they're quite rudderless. Nikas knows that his main objective is his brother, but he doesn't have a clear plan. He's got bits and pieces of what can be considered close to a plan but for the most part, he just wings it, which makes this whole thing hilarious. It's as if the script intentionally throws a curve ball at him every other five minutes or so, you see him encounter unexpected blunders, mostly of his own doing as he's winging it from one cluster- mess after another. He's always on the go. And Robert Pattinson is marvelous, some say this is his breakout performance, I say it's the performance that no one else but him could play. Pattinson becomes this desperate loser, part of you empathizes with him but part of you wants to see him get what he deserves. "Good Time" is a helluva way to end this summer season at the movies.
-- Rama's Screen --
One of the most important films you'll ever see
Even if Kathryn Bigelow's #Detroit movie may not purposely intend on pointing out the continued failures of our justice system with regards to police crime in today's world, it succeeds in doing exactly that. This is a raw and disturbing depiction of an even more disturbing true story that for one reason or another had been stuck as some kind of historical footnote for the past fifty years but it is timely as ever and it's one of the most important films you'll ever see.
The director who gave us "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty" proves once again, with "Detroit," that she is not one to run away from controversial subject matter. Written by her frequent collaborator, Mark Boal, "Detroit" is set during the most terrifying civil unrest that rocked the iconic motor city in the summer of 1967. The story zooms in on the Algiers Motel incident involving the death of three black men and the brutal beatings of nine other people including two white women.
Bigelow and her crew apply the famous cinema verité style of filmmaking that allows you to feel like you're there in that hallway with those victims as they're hands and heads are up against the wall, as the cops are beating on them. It doesn't get more visceral and up-close than this, the cinematography that is in constant motion elevates the intensity because it engages you the viewers and never lets go. Everything about this film is meant to create a sense of discomfort in addition to its trying to also reach some kind of authenticity that comes across as thoughtful and respectful. It's very hard to watch, definitely not a film for everybody.
Bigelow knows the importance of setting up the context and so the film comes with a prologue that briefly explains the history behind the migration and also the transfer of wealth away from the neighborhood and how pressure cooker builds up, how the events culminate into an uprising and ultimately this collision between a few racist cops and a few unfortunate young folks. So that way you get a better understanding as to why the collision got to be as violent as it did.
In the roles of the villains, actors Will Poulter, Ben O'Toole and Jack Reynor give performances unlike any other corrupt cops we've seen before. Poulter in particular, perfectly embodies what a person would do when he's on an absolute power trip. Poulter is a remarkable young talent with skills beyond his years. Equally impressive are Jacob Latimore and Algee Smith who play characters traumatized, physically and mentally affected by the incident. Rising star John Boyega plays an African American security guard who's unwilling to speak out but doing his best to keep anyone from getting shot. Some might see it as complicit or cowardice, he might see it as surviving.
By the way, even though the film's focus may be on this motel incident or on this Detroit riot, screenwriter Mark Goal manages to make it also be about these individuals, and so you fear for them every passing minute. The production design and the combining of archival footage and photos from that night make it seems like you've been transported to 1967, this is a film that pays attention to details and goes the distance and does whatever it can to convey what I think it tries to impart to the audience and that to me is the relevant theme indicating that if you think our criminal justice system is broken and messed up, if you think inequality is bad today, imagine the cruelty and the unfairness they had to live through some fifty years ago. We as a society have still got a long way to go.
-- Rama's Screen --
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Iron Spider: Homecoming
So here's my review of Iron Spider Homecoming.. ehm.. I meant to say #SpiderManHomecoming. It's an incredibly fun teen movie but it's not perfect. I think Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker, he's got the character down spot on. No offense to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield but Tom Holland's version is like straight out of the pages. But with this reboot, they basically plaster Iron Man's previous drama on to Spider-Man in addition to the new tech-based suit, so I'm not sure if that's going to sit well with all the fans.
The events take place right after the colossal airport fight in "Captain America: Civil War," young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is stoked about helping Iron Man and looking forward to the next mission. But he seems to have been sidelined by his new mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) Peter goes about his high school life with his best friend and decathlon classmates, when Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as the new villain.
There's a bit of John Hughes influence in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and that's a good thing considering Hughes was a legend when it comes to chronicling high school dramas, so it's natural for any filmmaker that's handling the same subject to be taking inspiration from his movies. I think Holland's fellow young co-stars are just as perfect in their roles. And Michael Keaton is superb. The movie doesn't have to keep hammering the whole working class man getting screwed over by the rich and powerful because Keaton himself already does a good job of conveying that. I enjoy the vibrancy of the chases because the movie keeps reminding us that Spider-Man can't go immediately from one location to another so Spider-Man has to hitch a ride or trespass a backyard or crashes a sleepover tent.
But because the humor really works, the drama has to come from somewhere else. They remove the origin story involving Uncle Ben and they also remove the "With great power comes great responsibility" essence, and they replace those with the dilemmas that Tony Stark had to experience in his previous film which asked the question of can a superhero be a superhero without his suit. To some, this might make sense so as to give us Spidey stripped down to his element. While others might see it as an effort to include Spidey in the MCU that comes with the risk of turning our friendly neighborhood hero into something else. The tech-based suit does provide some of the film's hilarious moments, but at times it makes Peter Parker/Spidey even more bumbling than he should be. So I'm not suggesting that iron-manizing Spider- Man is a terrible idea but clearly there are just too many MCU fingerprints all over what's supposed to be a Spider-Man new solo movie. The classic song might as well go like this "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever Iron Man can."
-- Rama's Screen --
Cars 3 (2017)
Speed with heart
#Cars3 is speed with heart. It's fun, exciting and emotionally endearing. The first film was about a lost small town USA and the humbling of a cocky racer. The second movie didn't quite know what it wanted to be, part espionage, part mistaken identity, part global tournament, all wrapped up in a poor attempt to address friendship. But this third installment is about the racer becoming the mentor while at the same time honoring the legacy of a very important person in McQueen's life, Hudson Hornet, who's voiced by the the late great actor whom we cinema deeply miss seeing on screen, Paul Newman.
In "Cars 3," Lightning McQueen suddenly finds himself blindsided by a new generation of blazing fast racers. He's seeing himself and his fellow race mates forced to retirement. Refusing to be told when he should call it quit, McQueen is determined to get back in the game, acquiring the help of a new sponsor and a young trainer who's secretly wanting to be a racer. But all that only brings McQueen to the doorstep of his own inspiration, the late fabulous Hudson Hornet. This enlightenment will prove once again whether or not Lightning McQueen still has what it takes to be a champion.
It's obvious from "Cars 3" that Pixar had learned the lessons of their mistake or blunder that was "Cars 2." The story in "Cars 3" is more coherent, clear and straightforward and it goes back to Pixar's strongest strategy which is to appeal to our deepest emotions. It doesn't necessarily rehash the first film, but more of presenting our hero deciding for himself to take on the next chapter of life that is just as fully rewarding as beating his opponents on the race track, which I think is a well put progression in McQueen's evolution as a character.
I think you'll be wowed at the film's excellent effort in pulling parallels between Hudson Hornet's experience and what McQueen is going through. It's like every piece fits into its place naturally, like it's meant to be. The new rival, Jackson Storm makes the cocky McQueen in the first film look tame. You don't see much of Mater this time around, but that's actually not a bad thing. You'll love some of the new racing tricks that "Cars 3" has up its sleeves, I'm entertained by them and I'm not even a Nascar fan. And the rookie/trainer who secretly wants to race, Cruz Ramirez will surprise you at every corner, that one is like a an eager young prodigy whose skills are just waiting to be discovered given the right opportunity. The themes basically ask the inevitable questions of what we all should do when we get older and are no longer able to do some of the things we love, what would be the the options then. And so I think "Cars 3" does an excellent job of letting you know that if you've reached the point of success, we should then do our part to now guide, train, teach others to reach their point of success too. Don't burn the bridge behind you.
-- Rama's Screen --
The Mummy (2017)
Dark Universe off to a bad start
If #TheMummy is supposed to be the beginning of Universal's ambitious Dark Universe that showcases their classic monsters in one big shared cinematic crossover, then they're off to a terrible start.
There's probably only a couple of sequences that somewhat thrill, the rest are just a continuous string of one poorly written, poorly acted and poorly executed scene after another. It feels more like sitting in a dentist's waiting room as opposed to rockin' on a roller coaster ride. And Tom Cruise is just wrong for this role, a huge case of miscast. Perhaps they should just press the reboot button again.
Sofia Boutella plays an evil ancient princess imprisoned in a tomb deep beneath the unforgiving desert. When a couple of treasure hunters and an archaeologist awaken her in our present day, she returns to life to reclaim her destiny while at the same time unleashing unimaginable terrors in this new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters. Co-starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe and Jake Johnson, directed by Alex Kurtzman.
The concept of what the writers and director Alex Kurtzman is trying to present to us with "The Mummy" is nothing new, in fact it's quite predictable, but the biggest problem about it is that along the way from point A to point B, they fill it in with moments that just don't work. And it gets even more frustrating when they bring it up again the second, third and fourth time as if shoving it down our throats would make it better. The jokes fall flat so much so you kinda feel sorry for Jake Johnson who clearly wants to make some effort as this film's comic relief. There are also parts that are just absolutely pointless and unnecessary. The characters including Dr. Jekyll frequently draw conclusions out of their butts. I do think "The Mummy" is what happens when the story is forced to serve the visual spectacle instead of the other way around. That said, rising star Sofia Boutella is a marvelous choice, she exudes that thirst for power effortlessly in addition to being incredibly seductive.
But of course, just as expected, instead of it being a movie about Sofia Boutella's The Mummy, it becomes all about Tom Cruise, who as I said earlier is just awfully wrong for this role. I understand that the studios probably think that banking on a A-lister would translate into box office results, but fact of the matter is outside "Mission: Impossible" franchise, Cruise just doesn't fit anywhere else anymore. The character that he plays here is is a thieving treasure hunter, much like Nathan Drake from "Uncharted" games, but all you see on the screen instead is special agent Ethan Hunt desperately trying to be someone he's not. By the end of "The Mummy" you're going to have second thoughts about anticipating the next installment of this Dark Universe, and you're going to want to wish Brendan Fraser had still been around.
-- Rama's Screen --