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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes jumps right into the time when the apes
are beginning to build a new civilization while mankind is starting to
fall apart. What makes this different from the last feature is it once
again sticks more to its symbolism. Now this is the real deal of the
context, it's obviously a truce between two sides, it is the part that
is mostly known as the last chance before the unwanted fate of their
world happens. Since everybody knows how things are going to turn out
(regarding this as a prequel), it still provides the heartfelt tension
of their trust to each other. Unlike Rise, Dawn of the Planet of the
Apes doesn't only throw off a visual effects gimmick on screen, it also
deeply focuses on the compelling themes beneath the tale.
Whatever legacy that was left from the last movie is the character development of the ape. Caesar has grown understanding more how the world works, his sympathy with the humans remains and he can still believe in peace in them and his own kind. However, anyone else in both sides stayed naive, paranoid on what they're planning to do. It doesn't lack any information, the rubble already shows the crisis going on in those streets and the characters are given their own backstory to effectively define their motivations, thus this is a situation which is far from good vs. evil. The real enemy of this conflict are simply fear, cynicism, and sometimes revenge. It is a dilemma that is a few steps closer to the edge of their trust. And that is how the whole story works, it makes the audience real nervous about the decisions each of the characters make.
Even when it's already packed with a great director and a great cast, the film still manages to keep on telling the story straightly, like exactly pinpointing the allegories without distracting any demanded pleasures that you would typically ask from a blockbuster. But as said, it still offers those elements when necessary. Director Matt Reeves gives this franchise a whole new tone. Blockbusters today tend to be ultra serious and darker, but Reeves is one of the rare directors who could live up to that ambition. He doesn't only bring the atmosphere, there are also some nicely shot action scenes that deliberately displays the horror and violence of the battles.
But the merits doesn't end there of course. The acting is stellar, mostly pointing at the man behind the leading ape, Andy Serkis. He's always been terrific in this job, but here there is more gravity and grittiness to the performance than before, whether it's physical or vocal. The motion-capture performances just add a lot of exceptional value to the CGI work which could totally outshine everything else in the filmmaking. The actors who played human characters also did good, with Jason Clarke handling his role well.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is more than a stunningly made film, it thoughtfully considers real depth within its storyline which results an overwhelming experience even without an excess of action. There is already suspense existing at the complexities of the species' treaty. The battle scenes just becomes the gravy of it, but really, the analogies is what makes it really compelling. After years of attempting to bring back the original spirit of the series, the filmmakers has finally realized that this is what this mythology is all about. Except it has become grittier. The film just triumphs in its choices, which it's almost difficult to call it a blockbuster, because blockbuster asks you turn off your brain. This movie makes you open your heart.
Begin Again tends to take things light and easy, despite of its harsher
first act. It introduces its main characters falling down from their
careers as they face the unfair reality of the music industry. Dan
seeks for actual good music but the production keeps on feeding
everyone the awfulness of modern mainstream because the mass would
sadly swallow it no matter what, while Greta has gone to a typical
celebrity relationship which won't last that long (apparently). The
first thirty-minutes or so pours out the worst until they immediately
find the solution to get up again. The plot sometimes move too simple,
but what consists in those scenes however bring a real heart to music
which easily makes the audience sway from some of its obvious flaws.
Some might expect some commentary since the beginning keeps poking fun of today's popular music, but it didn't took that long. Instead of petty satires, it rather makes music as a way of expressing their various feelings. Their problems may be solved far too easy which makes the steps of the journey feel kind of underwhelming, but how they define their affections towards the music deeper than what the storyline was trying to suggest. The lead characters are given some genuine personality which makes their bonding moments wonderfully down-to-earth.
The direction contemplates and perfectly follows the rhythm of the playing songs at the scenes. The songs are fine, few might be considered as memorable but they are all appealing anyway. Keira Knightly isn't known for singing, but she nicely carries her character's emotions through it, also of course at the acting. Mark Ruffalo manages to be all likable in his redeeming washed-up producer role. The rest of the cast also brims some life in their background.
The risk of "beginning again" is probably too little, basically because passion to music could easily find the end of the tunnel of their sudden misery. Its eventual sheer positivity can be both a good and a bad thing. The good side is it stays true to what it is wanted to say. But still, they're still burdened with some heavy personal issues that doesn't get enough consideration, but whatever I guess. The sub-themes and all; it still delivers its message sincerely and it can be quite a charming thing.
The thing about The Rover is it doesn't only let the plot get out of
the way. Other than pointing at the hero, the title sums up the overall
film, it often wanders around the deserted roads and broken towns.
There are plenty of stories hinted behind the rubble of the anarchic
world, but the main focus of this tale is about a man who just wants
his car back. This case gives the total atmosphere of the condition, it
acknowledges how desperate and deprived humanity has been, and that
point makes it really intriguing. The details are brief yet the center
is clear and the film is best that way because it falters when it
breaks that direction, but the experience as a whole still remains as
The movie makes sure that it doesn't reveal too much detail; it rather just paints a post-apocalyptic world of dread and bleakness. Instead of just spitting out too much information from the dialogue, it just makes you contemplate at the hopeless exteriors and potential danger in the deadly context. The citizens have gone cold-blooded and their grim faces often get infested by flies. Looking at these images alone can already tell a lot of stories. The hero's arc however could have been the most powerful. He's a lone vagrant who only owns a car which is the last thing he values and yet it is taken away from him. We don't know enough of this guy, but we feel his determination and anger through his actions. The last part sort of compromises that core, which makes the point of the story seem cloudier.
There is something still special in this flawed journey, the filmmaking is plain brilliant. Director David Michôd is known for his slickest tension, and here he delivers more than that. His pacing gives plenty of room for deadly silence that usually leads to a sudden chaos. There is also a remarkable car chase at the beginning in which has a part when the angry rover uses his wheels like creeping footsteps. The entire set piece is one of the amazing scenes of the film. The music score is mesmerizing as it stirs every single scenario. The performances are also splendid. People might call Eric as one of the variations of heroes like Clint Eastwood's "The Man with No Name" or Ryan Gosling's Driver because of his strong, fearless, and quiet trait, but this character has an actual backstory. Guy Pearce perfectly manifests the gloomy emotion and hidden rage of the titular rover. Robert Patterson is also great in depicting his character's lost from his moral dilemmas and it sometimes gets a bit terrifying.
The final scene in The Rover makes the plight feel underwhelming. Despite of that, the experience is still extremely fascinating. It is basically a vast exposition that has a compelling backstory in every place they stop by. With all the heartfelt situations in its self-destructing society, it simply builds a bigger world. Indeed, that is a style which defines pure cinema and I guess that will fully admire everyone in the end. Its signature narrative could have been a lot straighter, but observing around the environment is already worth the ride.
More than once, the characters keep stating that they're doing the same
thing all over again. 22 Jump Street as a movie itself is basically an
uninspired clone of the first one, except it's bigger and has higher
production, but lazily follows the same storyline and delivers the
jokes with an only occasional energy (well, at the first act at least).
While it's still funny, it only appears as an entertaining yet
forgettable sequel. But there is a punchline and a wise sprinkle of
self-awareness behind this. Everything you've first thought about it
turns out to be the other way around, therefore it's a smart surprising
trick that you will end up smiling.
The plot is absolutely no different from the first: the heroes as actual cops messes with a drug business, decides to better off undercover as students to another case, explore around the culture of the generation, friendship gets a loyalty issue, their targets at the first act turns out to be connected with their current mission, goes to a party, finally faced fears, etc. This is not a spoiler, we've already seen this coming. With these same elements coming through, we are immediately assuming ourselves that this won't live up with the quality of its predecessor. It's not only because it's exactly the same, but it also gets a less clever treatment. Example is portraying today's college life doesn't get any much enough clever gags to poke fun of, which is a total contrary to the absurd shift of tolerance in the high school world of the first film. Also their relationship with the students aren't as appealing as the last one, too. The mission however improves with its turns.
But eventually, this is definitely in purpose. It satirizes cash-in movie franchises that throws the same knockout repetitively. Hollywood's bribery to people is the budget and celebrities, the end credits sums that up, and the police station's description with the Jump Street program is an obvious allegory of what's going on. While the million dollar compromise is taken as a joke, the comedic value outside the idea never lacks and indeed they are everywhere. But the genuine value that kept things a lot alive is the chemistry between the lead stars, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The two continue to shine in their buddy comedy figure and it has become the unbreakable core of these movies.
The main point of 22 Jump Street is to be a large and mediocre sequel like many others out there, except of course with a strong sense of self-awareness. It's not noticeable if it takes its clichés too seriously, but later then you would start to notice that it is all part of the joke. It's not the most smartest thing you'll ever see in the genre, but it sure is a slick thing to pull off. You will still get some great loud laughs within the story and the growth of the best friend relationship between the main characters remains brilliant as usual. If you think that 22 Jump Street is an inferior redux of the first then you are right, but for some reason you could be also wrong.
2011's The Raid: Redemption was a surprise. It was a nothing more than
a showcase of the ridiculous moves of penack silat, taking place on a
law enforcement mission. The kinetic was so over-the-top, it somehow
reminds the audience why we adore this genre a lot. This sequel, The
Raid 2, expands itself into some sort of a Hollywood like blockbuster.
The difference here from the Western mainstream today is, this one is
less artificial and is unafraid to show the true brutality and spirit
of the action genre. Now it consists more psychopaths, corrupt
politicians, and revenge. It may be a little soap operatic, but the
hard-hitting punches and cold-blooded atmosphere still takes over the
relentlessly fun experience.
The first movie was just one mission gone awry, this sequel goes to the next level by turning the hero from law enforcer to a double agent. It is a tale which is strung by various subplots but only involving in one place, which is the corrupt side of society. There is too many stories to juggle on, apparently, which can feel quite heavy, but they are decently balanced anyway. It is by the way a two and a half hour experience, so there is more time to explore the arcs. Unfortunately, the only story we can find behind the main character, Rama, is his protection to his family. But really, we don't need much from the guy, because what really defines this hero is his fighting skills and that is already enough. However a more compelling character is Uco. His story might feel soap operatic at times, but when he finally turns to his violent nature, the danger of the plot becomes a big deal.
The film indulges itself by adding more characters with ridiculous abilities to transcend the fights into something unique and way brutal. It may seem too campy for its serious situations, but the joyous of it makes it feel right for the story. This is in fact all about the martial arts, even when the story has gone out of hand with the flavor, the tension and the moves will still be the only things that would matter in the end. Every single set piece, it never stops surprising the audience. Each one has to be distinct, and of course, has something to do with destroying someone's body parts. It's an outright joy for releasing its intense madness.
The direction is not only for the choreography. There are scenes that takes its time to breathe and think at the trouble that is about to happen or the information that is about to be revealed. It all goes silent, until it explodes like a ticking bomb. The version I saw is an English dubbed version and I can't really say enough about the acting. What I can only see in Iko Uwais so far is his skills are still badass yet able to be relatable. I can tell that Arifin Putra is ruthless as Uco, but also manifests a human grief beneath his sinister turn.
The important advice for the viewers who don't speak its original language is to stick with the English subtitles. I don't know how many dubbed versions are out there, but the prominent one kind of negates the grittiness of the dialogue. Maybe at the original language, their line deliveries would sound a lot sincere. In other way, The Raid 2 defines how an awesomely dark action movie truly is. It can be a little silly, but it shows how real and none-CGI-ed stunts look like and it's not as friendly as your Hollywood superheroes tend to show you. The violence is the mind-blowing (literally and metaphorically) and the context is effectively grim. Just like the first film, it is enough to see a man beating up a load bad guys with his strength of five from one level to another. Except this one goes beyond your expectations.
In The Blood is the second film of Gina Carano as the lead star and
people might be giving her a second shot since the strange quality of
2012's Haywire only appeals a rare type of audience. This latest
attempt of making the actress a bigger star becomes the opposite and
the result is much conventional but also a lot messy. There is a fine
amount of inventive set pieces to be found in this simple little
thriller and those alone could make an at least memorable B-Movie, but
the film deserves a better filmmaking than what it has become. There is
potential scattered around, if only it was handled by a better
The plot makes for a good straightforward action film, it fleshes out its characters and spills out the details fair enough. There is also a commentary about an easily manipulated politics in this foreign land and a struggle of one's identity. These intriguing ideas immediately makes the story gripping, but let's not forget that it's still an action film which aims to be ridiculous and both elements work together. The action appropriately gives the novelty thrills: the zipline accident stands as its most tense sequence. The camera focuses on how high the daring ride is which may sweat the palms of the ones who have a phobia with heights. There are more solid set pieces like this to be found, the rest of the action is simply hand-in-hand combat, gunfights, car chases, and torture. And they can also be equally fun, especially when everyone started to point guns at each other.
The real problem lies in its craft. The direction seems to experiment a lot of style, the camera moves like a Neveldine/Taylor film, but in an amateurish way. The angles through digital cameras is kind of interesting, but in the end it's just a gimmick which can be totally distracting. Inept editing also affects the fights; the dance club scene is so poor because of it. Even the acting is sort of problematic. The only thing we expect to Gina Carano is her fighting skills. Her acting however still needs a little more work. She delivers the lines well, the performance only hits the right note occasionally. But at the most crucial scenes, she is unable to show the character's inner fortitude which makes some of the emotional suspense and ordeal feel ineffective. Well, of course, the fighting is still the best, if only the camera-work and the editing is as good as her moves. The hard hitting punches and leg wrestling moves is always a pleasure to watch.
In The Blood can be a good film for its unique personality which a typical Hollywood blockbuster won't even dare to provide, but the execution just robs all the potential. While it's still mildly fun, it's also difficult get over of what it could have been. The talent of Carano is still applied excitingly even when the camera-work is often confused by being cool. An economical and less gimmicky craft could have at least made this a cult classic, but now it's simply a mess. A brutal and tense mess that action fans will finally enjoy from the actress. But the story is embedded with interesting questions which ended up kind of shoehorned. But that's not the problem, it's really about the filmmaking. Otherwise, I can assure to you that this is less classy, less quiet, and less clean than Haywire, because a real fun action movie always requires dirt, bruise, and a whole lot of boom, right?
Noah tends to bring the well known biblical story into an epic scale.
This idea may involve a lot of stretching, the original story is simply
about a man's obedience to his creator, and whatever it is changed here
other than the big action set pieces and CGI creatures is its theme of
misanthropy. It can be quite interesting when it focuses to that part,
but it suddenly gets out of hand in the second half when it sends the
protagonist to the ultimate test. The more new ideas this movie shows,
the peculiar the vision becomes. And to that point Noah becomes
strangely fascinating, even when the narrative could get a little
The central message of this version goes to the aspect of humanity's worthy of existing. It deeply portrays their arrogance and mischief like they are the real villains of this world; that even the fallen angels, who are responsible of their corruption, end becoming their victims and decided to defend the good guys. The first half is quite compelling for giving us the perspective of the only good living people protecting themselves from the dark side of humanity. The second half goes to the riskier challenge of Noah's obedience, and that's when it becomes a little shaky because its sudden shift into a psychological thriller diminished the subtext of human enlightenment and complex divine relationship. The guilt and redemption segment in the end never really felt natural with that contrivance.
It's a waste of an intriguing opportunity, but it still succeeds at being an epic. While the film stays true to its grand blockbuster tone, it still manages to put whimsical images at the backstories and the action. Director Darren Aronofsky shoots those marvelous landscapes and set pieces as a visual feast. Its technical ambition awkwardly gains more accomplishments than its larger thematic potential. The film scatters a lot of other weird ideas to the story, but they were eventually just hanging along. It was the acting that helped to make it at least somehow compelling. The performances of Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Ray Winstone gave the real human gravitas to the characters which was lost in the script to the second half. Crowe also gets to calm a little of Noah's random transformation into Jack Torrance.
Noah works as a fantasy blockbuster, with all the good vs. evil struck during the humongous battles, but that's it. There might be a sympathy towards the error of human beings, but in the end it jumps right back at the black-and-white morality. The director did realize his view on Noah as a man with the "survivor's guilt", the disappointment is the philosophy beneath his devoted struggles just left out shallow. It only goes faithful to its cynicism. While that isn't the true center of the original biblical story, I personally still got the curiosity. It's a spectacular new vision, if not a little silly. The silliness could have passed if the thematic building gets more work. For now, it's a nicely done blockbuster.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 follows the common rule of sequels by making
everything bigger, even though that isn't always enough to justify the
series. In fact, it usually leads the franchise into a disaster, and
thankfully this film is one of the rare which lives up to its promise.
While it already provides the most breathtaking action and impressive
visuals, it also able to expand the universe and give huge room for
nice warmth beneath the bombast. Once again, the studio has put aside
their recent style of broader gags and bullet speed pacing and settle
down for a real storytelling that reminds us why animated movies are so
appealing anyway. How to Train Your Dragon 2 has given all what you've
wished for as a great sequel.
The plot sure does heightened into an epic installment, it could have been an easy throw away of cool effects, battle sequences, and humor, but the movie is smart to keep on following its own roots by settling more on the characterization of their world and Hiccup's life with his dragon and the tribe. To keep it from being a wheel spinning visual showcase, the story embeds itself with full of inspired emotions, example is when it explores the icy dragon cave. It wasn't only an exposition, it is mainly a developing relationship between Hiccup and his long-lost mother. The quieter moments of letting the once disconnected family reunite again captures the same heart of the boy and dragon friendship of the first movie, which certainly made it pretty endearing.
The film also spends its time exploring more places around and beyond the Isle of Berk. It's quite interesting to let the years pass by and make the young vikings grow mature, and how it depicts their maturity is pretty clever, like the hormonal attraction of Snotlout and Fishlegs to Ruffnut, in spite of fact their comic relief get a a bit way out of hand. The dragon species were also given enough intriguing details, essentially for the plot, which sort of recalls the book series of Cressida Cowell. This is a rich universe that makes the whole journey even bigger.
The voice acting is predictably great. Jay Baruchel still brings the same earnestness to Hiccup even when the character's new appearance has outgrown his voice. Gerard Butler remains to be perfect as Stoick The Vast, he lends more gravity to the character in this one. Cate Blanchett joins in and she appropriately gives a great amount of warmth to the role. The other cast did well enough at keeping things much alive. For the filmmaking, the direction handles a better pacing compared to the other quicker cuts of the last few animated films. It's an easier way to watch by concentrating each scene of getting know of the characters, either with or without any dialogue. The flying scenes have always been a tremendous ride with scale and fortitude. John Powell's score helps making it feel much powerful, and it gets even better with a Jónsi song in it.
Apart from Disney, these are the only animated films of Hollywood today that have a wider ambition other than selling off kids with cool visuals and absurdist humor. There is an actual story to be found here, even without following its source material. The typical elements of Dreamworks are still there, but is hardly noticed. It's nearly like the first film, except of course it's larger. It does justice to today's family fare, somewhat forgetting the current mediocrity and rather fills it with inspiration from the past. One thing that is missing in most of the genre's attempt of transcending their films is the sincerity to its heart. Every affection in How To Train Your Dragon 2 never felt forced and right there it soars way up high. And if we have learned something about training dragons from the past, then it is the same thing about sequels: You don't just yell at it.
The Fault in Our Stars is based on a YA novel that somehow becomes a
sensation. It's basically one of those which defines the generation's
admiration to literature and music, and it majestically expresses them
quite sincerely. The movie gives a perfect vision to their blissful
moments as a youth. But it's also an uplifting drama about the risks of
having cancer and it might be a difficult thing to balance between the
sad parts and their happiness, and fortunately it doesn't become a
problem. It's not as completely powerful as it should be, but it's wise
enough to just embrace its aesthetics and soul.
It's actually not an original thing to see a love story about two sick people trying to gloss over their pain with a relationship. Hazel and Gus's interaction keeps it simple, attempting to forget the real problems of their condition. These types of drama tend to over sentimentalizing the unpleasant truth behind the person in every single moment, but instead, they most of the time just express who they are. The painful moments only happens when it has to remind the two that they are still living with a fatal disease. The film remarkably hits the right note in both elements. The romance is distinctly endearing, the truly soulful moments that aren't meant to be taken away. And the crucial parts which straightly display the reality of what they are going through.
They are definitely affecting, but only at the fine level. The real impact only comes occasionally, and when it goes there, it becomes triumphant. The film just needed a lot more contemplation at the rest of the depression. It's probably too busy focusing at the sweet stuff, but that couldn't be a big flaw anyway. The movie just could have suggested to be tougher. Still, I'm glad it manages to flesh out these characters beyond their struggles. The leading cast shines all around. Shailene Woodley is pretty natural as she imbues the character's personality more than just the angsty feelings. It works in both ways but we get to know Hazel better at the brighter side. Ansel Elgort shares the same feat by showing off his charms, until the performance becomes a nuance when the situation has got a lot serious.
The Fault in Our Stars has favored enough for the fans by being a really good and faithful adaptation of the popular book, but a better movie would deeply contemplated more on the serious stuff. Nevertheless the film still keeps the themes effective; the characters are wonderfully developed and the drama doesn't rely too much on making the audience cry. Overall it's a pretty strong film which standout by its outstanding performances and a direction that fully understands the environment and subtext of every scene, unlike most YA films. And I guess that is what everybody needed for this adaptation.
Edge of Tomorrow has anything you could ask for in a Sci-Fi
blockbuster. It has robots, aliens, big guns, car chases, and even Tom
Cruise; mashed together into an exciting high concept story. While
these elements aren't completely original, the film put these things
together with plenty of personality, thus it is predictably all fun. It
would have been nicer if it explored a little more deeper within its
intriguing ideas to end up being a fully epic blockbuster, but Edge of
Tomorrow is still quite the adventure that goes beyond the typical
excess of explosions that the audience have been swallowing these days.
The main concept is pretty intriguing indeed. It definitely reminds you of Groundhog Day or Source Code, except it takes place in the middle of an alien invasion. This idea excellently works when it tries to make a joke out of it. The story doesn't really flesh out anything beyond the concept enough, so it's best to just play around with the repetition. When the film finally takes the logic of the loop seriously, the film lost a little of its enthusiasm and sometimes skims the details into quick montages. The mission doesn't make itself sound that interesting, and it helps that the movie fills it with gigantic weapons and car chases to gloss it over with large scale excitement. There is no denying how awesome the action scenes are, but no matter how indestructible the heroes look, there is still a sense when you don't want them to die and go back to the very start of their checkpoint again. Just the basic suspense these sequences needed. The direction moves consistently, even when the pacing has to go through several loops, its decent editing makes sure these scenes aren't as complex as they supposed to be. Witty screen writing also makes things absorbing.
Even the arc of the main characters aren't totally fresh. Cage is basically a man out of luck who is hooked up with various troubles then suddenly meets a much competent companion to develop a team which happens to be the only hope of mankind. In spite that it feels a little stale, how it depicts these misfits somehow becomes the special asset of the film. The actors have given everything these characters deserve. Tom Cruise hasn't been fun lately, his attempt of being a much gruff anti-hero mostly kills the momentum of his last two films. Here, he finally succeeds on what he was trying to do back then, by simply realizing the fact that he is just as ordinary as the people around him, who can get hurt and killed all of the sudden. He also bursts charisma which makes his connection with his co-stars a lot more likable.
There could be a larger universe behind the story that needs a deeper exploration, but it's a breath of fresh air seeing a blockbuster attaining more on story building than world building. Edge of Tomorrow is straightforwardly fun, although it's not exactly perfect, whatever the film has glossed over made the experience even better. Especially the ending which is ought to be a flaw, ends with something which turns out to be one of the greatest things I've see in a blockbuster this year. The movie is simply charming, a priceless kind of charm that seems to belong to another decade that we didn't know it hasn't wane out yet. If you don't know what I am talking about then it's alright. Just let me sum it all up for you already: Edge of Tomorrow is a good time at the movies.
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