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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Never judge the movie based on its trailer
"Do not judge a book by its cover." is often the common idiom that suits to possibly many underrated films out there, including "Kingsman: The Secret Service." There has not been any sacrament of myself planning to watch this movie because of a dull and cliché trailer that gives off an impression of the cheesy action movie with a ghost of hidden excitement. It definitely resembles to an obscure and mediocre Hollywood goof, solely based on the trailer.
However, I ended up watching it after coincidentally getting involved into the plethora of great reviews and positive opinions about this film that have littered the media and my surrounding. And I am glad I did. Almost everything about this film stands out among a lot of its counterpart. The introductory starts strong off by unleashing bits and pieces of prowess and personality of the private organization, Kingsman in the most entertaining way. And as it carries on, things get more intense with more character development and a series of predicament that leads to the breathtaking climax after a great amount of well-written shenanigans that transpire in different places which makes the cast twice look cool and bona fide. Although, I wish the director had them articulate little slower or clearer to neutralize the accent to make it easier for others to comprehend.
By watching a whole movie, each cut scene that I think of it as an underwhelming performance or over-the-top in the trailer surprisingly turns into an awesome sequence. It does not squander a minute to fully describe the protagonist who puts all of its energy into improving himself while fervently vying for the one and only Kingsman title with several others under the Kingman's unerring guidance as well as using all the skills he has obtained during the span to fight against the ominous and wicked pair that tries to get a grip on everyone in the world with manipulative SIN cards that can be inserted to mankind.
There is no such thing as "Too much" or "Too little" in the name of Kingsman. The moderate amount of characters, dialogues, and battle scenes are timely introduced and shortly edited. And what every character says is critical and relevant to the plot and those words speaks for its identity. The same thing goes to the battle scene. It effectively capitalizes on a shaky and fast-paced camera technique as well as focusing on significant parts where nifty artifice and brutality are vividly depicted. The massive scrum of entire nation beating each other up has more depth to it because as the outset gradually builds up, the origin of the outbreak gets disclosed, thus gives you another reason to watch it.
In a nutshell, the atmosphere of this film reminds me of the mitigated, but funnier version of "Kill Bill" sequel where the meaning of death is quite redundant. Obviously, the level of blood spattering and cruelty is different, but sharing one similarity would be the main character focusing on its nemesis as the deadly number of enemies and unexpected twists ensue. What truly differentiates the "Kingsman" in a good way from the "Kill Bill" would be types of weapons with a variety of uncanny attributes and the level of humor in which most action genre can rarely utilize.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Jupiter descended from Cloud Atlas
As an avid fan of Sci-Fi and as someone who was elated by Wachowski's last film, "Cloud Atlas" that managed to beautifully depict both originality from the book and an intertwining connection between notable cast who played several roles to the hilt, I am so stunned and disappointed by how contrary "Jupiter Ascending" is to their previous successors.
The trailer sure looks amazing enough to pull the wool over my eyes as it showcases spectacular visuals of futuristic environment and costumes along with an attractive heroine and a warrior with Spock ears in scintillating gears who pit villainous monsters. There is no doubt that the Wachowskis are capable of leading the crews to visualize the most realistic and yet imaginative images of how the future should look like.
So who to blame when the movie with such a visual and tons of potential gets wasted by sloppy, incomplete, and intricate plot and editing? Sadly, it all goes to the directors. Because the acting isn't that much of an issue despite the roles for Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean do not give as much impact as their reputation. Especially, Eddie Redmayne's character is awkwardly degraded due to his obscure personality with no special abilities. Refreshed Doona Bae from "Cloud Atlas" appearing as Razo, the impassive rider with blue dreadlocks also lacks its presence by being dully impassive and inertial. This is why plot and directing should sometimes go extreme to unleash all the potential of each character so that they conform to the flow of context.
And if there are several races vying for the reign, heir or whatever it makes them greatest, why wouldn't they adorn some magical prowess or unique characteristics to the spearheads. Although, the flying shoes and the transparent shield looks well-designed and impressive, but a lack of details and elements of each race needs to be more specified and explained in a clear manner. Aforementioned, the concept of the setting is indeed remarkable and splendid. Too bad they couldn't capitalize them to take it to the next level.
The same thing goes to the battle sequence. When an ambush from a horde of enemy spacecrafts in the middle of Downtown Chicago that leads to a fast-paced fray transpires, none of cars and citizens in periphery is nowhere to be seen as if it is staged just for the fighters. There is no excitement or nerves involved because it literally makes you feel like no matter how much of a barrage of attacks or threats they face, it makes you think that an invincible hero will eventually fall in love with the heroine by overcoming the forbidden boundary pronto at the end, thus there are numerous stuffs that remain unfinished, which flummoxes the audience in many ways.
It has been a while since I've written my review this much and I think that is because I truly care about the possibilities of this long-awaited Wachowskis' work. The attempt for "Jupiter Ascending 2" does not look risky and improbable, if they want to make it up for all the bad reviews and critiques. Regardless, I will be looking forward to what they have in store no matter what they are. Arrivederci!
American Sniper (2014)
A movie in which everyone can emotionally relate to
A lot of times, a well-edited trailer with a bit of cliffhanger at the end entices you to watch the movie out of curiosity and often get the wool pulled over your eyes. Gladly, it has been a while since I have encountered a powerful war film that is based on a true story about the most lethal sniper who had over 160 kills under his belt in the Iraq War.
The title really lives up to the hype and breaks down the cliché of standard war movies that are known to be showy and frantic as there are valuable perspectives and immense emotions you are able to embrace, sympathize, and get the most out of this film. Although, it does not deliberately cover the true color of the deceased sniper, Chris Kyle as well as the relentless and aggressive sides of American soldiers against innocent citizens, I believe the director's focus is on America's point of view, especially the context of military family.
Despite "American Sniper" not being impartial, this is a type of movie in which everyone from various countries with different cultural backgrounds can witness disparities in poverty, lifestyle, and humanity. If you are a peacenik, you will discover the necessities of war. If you are the member of military, you ought to experience the intensity and agony of your brethren whose devotion and patriotism are realistically depicted. And for a family member of the military, the priority conflicts between your family and the country will move you because it is a well-directed, well-staged, and well-acted film.
Taken 3 (2014)
Better than the second one, not as good as the first one and what is even worse is the trailer is better
I would not be writing this review if I had not watched the first "Taken" movie which was recommended by my former co-worker 7 years ago. That is how I am here to write a biased and subjective review of the third installment of the action movie trilogy in which I never thought it was going to be the trilogy seeing how the initial one ended so well.
If you have been brought to this page to decide whether you should watch "Taken 3" or not, I posit you happen to be one of these two types. The first type would be those who watched both original "Taken" and "Taken 2" which are done by two different directors that led to a major discrepancy in scores and reviews with great expectations. And the second type would be the reluctant and risky action-movie junkies whose hobby or knack is criticizing films and comparing how bad or good it has gotten from the previous sequel.
Well, am I not only writing this review in the first person point of view but I also want you all to realize that if you are one of the aforementioned types, your precious time and wherewithal will be measurably TAKEN by getting reeled in by the well-edited trailer that foreshadows a group of formidable forces, comprised of CIA, FBI, and Liam Neeson that makes you want to watch it with a risk. Sadly, it does not pan out and crumble like a grain of salt.
The problem is there is no chemistry between actors and its title as the climax gets subliminally evaporated by a sloppy, uncanny, and cliché setting for the following reasons. First, Liam Neeson's prowess and aptitude for fighting for the one that is TAKEN is overly depicted and making him look immortal. Forest Whitaker's presence as a LAPD detective looks irrelevant and redundant despite his role fitting him well. And the last but not least, both villains and the police who confront Liam Neeson get intentionally bowled over by being either too generous or careless. There is just not enough exposition to make it up for a series of kinks.
However, I would like to give all the crew of this film some credit for making an attempt to embellish what seems to be the first highly anticipated movie of 2015 as there are some potential moments where it can be enhanced with deliberate editing and directing. When it comes to the trilogy or sequels, I think it is best to leave it to the same director who can keep up the same level of quality and consistency.
Lack of detail leads to two different opinions pronto
As an avid fan of fantasy genre, I am fond of a fierce one-on-one combat, fighting neck and neck to the hilt. Not to mention the massive and fast-paced brawl that consists of jumbled armies scuffling with their spearheads leading the way. Thus I give this final film of the "Hobbit" trilogy, seven out of ten for captivating and scrambling sequences. However, the score might get reversed by those who are very passionate and keen about Tolkien's LOTR and Hobbit because even I could tell that this movie seems rushed by subliminally negating and compressing all the important events and elements that could have emblazoned the wonderful trilogy that has potential to lure people to buy the Blu-ray of LOTR series in order to complete the whole adventure.
It is truly a no-brainer since almost most contexts happen within a specific vicinity along with the duplicated CG armies in the widespread field. The highlight of the movie is surprisingly the emotional love tale between an elf and a dwarf which has its moment to make a lot of female audiences move. Sadly, the number of the characters seem redundant as only a few of them get a spotlight through ample cut scenes, which make them look somewhat underperformed.
As the outset kicks off strong with pep and whooshes to the nicely crafted battle scenes that are capable of keeping the audience entertained from various immersive angles and feisty actions that happen on thin ice as both actors and CG creatures are in unison, everyone will find out why the title of this movie is indeed "The Battle of the Five Armies," Although, it is kind of hard to see how every soldier gets knocked out due to a constant camera moving left and right without enough close-ups. Other than that, it is worth watching in 3D and heed when it gets down to the wire.
The Equalizer (2014)
Morose and feisty, decent enough to catch action movie buffs' eye
What makes a great action film? Showcasing a charismatic protagonist that bustles all sorts of powerful moves? Or would it be the thrilling plot that revolves around intriguing motives and cynical enemies? The Equalizer possesses both elements while featuring a veteran, Denzel Washington who plays Robert McCall still has what it takes to waltz through a plethora of wrongdoing by helping others and equalizing the corrupted society.
The movie gets intense as the days of McCall ensue. It begins with an ordinary routine by showing McCall commuting via public transit and gradually foreshadows unique aura that differentiate him from his coworkers in the warehouse center. Then he spends his night reading in the café where he often chats with an indecent and polite girl, Teri played by Chole grace moretz. She manages to handle such a promiscuous role pretty well. It will take anyone by surprise when you find out her age.
The prowess of Washington really makes this movie worth watching as his indomitable strength nonchalantly gets unleashed in order to take out the mafia. Nifty, swift, and impeccable, every movement he makes is a sight for sore eyes. Thus the editing seems well-done in terms of cutting and panning the scenes. The Russian mob and their dastardly stooges fit in well as they go head to head with Washington verbally and physically.
However, there is a number of improbable moments that put you into thinking that perhaps McCall is invincible. Despite his strength of being such a skilled combatant, it is unrealistic for one guy to catch his counterparts red-handed in a jiffy as well as thwarting the armed group of mob. Although, that might get resolved by the scene where he heads to the majestic dwelling to debrief his enemies from a lofty couple who seem to be related to the president. It is safe to posit that McCall used to work for the United States Secret Service which explains why he is so formidable.
In a nutshell, the equalizer is packed with breathtaking fights in which Washington acts like the present version of cavalier. It is also a no-brainer because there is neither conundrum nor mystery thus you don't need to heed the plot but let your emotion and time to be enraptured by a series of exciting and stimulating scenes that do not feel redundant.
Gone Girl (2014)
The epitome of how hard it is to tolerate the infidelity
If someone recommends you to watch a two-hour and a half thriller movie about an ordinary guy seeking his missing wife in a suburb neighborhood, would you be interested in watching? Most audiences may question about greatness of the story, wife's motives or most likely, the level of acting. Yes, the acting goes through the roof as the entire audience were really into it throughout that length to find out whereabouts of the "Gone Girl", Rosamund Pike who plays Amy, a famous author whose husband is Nick, played by Ben Affleck.
As impressive as the guise of cast, the plot development also lives up to the hype by introducing main characters from the outset with deliberate flashbacks of how the relationship between Amy and Nick builds up. This is where a special aptitude of Rosamund for her acting is fully discovered as Amy begins to disclose Nick's wrongdoing from the past, which turns him into an audacious liar and cheater.
A huge shutout to the director, David Finch who led the amazing cast and the talented film crew, especially the editing department for nailing on Amy's conniving scenes where she sets up all the uncanny incidents, such as the basement with full of shards of glass in order to frame his husband as well as a pretense of friendship with a nosy neighbor to retain sympathy from surrounding. The calm narrations of Rosamund Pike based on her inner emotions and diary effectively adds potent depth to several critical moments.
To talk about other cast, Carrie Coon, who plays Nick's younger sister manages to be very natural at her role as she is in the limelight whenever she chastises her cheeky brother. Neil Patrick Harris shows off his elegance and professionalism, which proves why he is capable of playing all kinds of characters in various genres.
There are a few goofs and overly-done sequences that can be spotted. However, they subliminally get overshadowed by Rosamund Pike's presence which unleashes an all-out prowess to pull the wool over everyone's eyes to keep her reputation as a famous author and the marital status. Ben Affleck also does his part by being a nifty two-faced man who is forced to feint his love to live off Amy's fame and fortune. What they do in the movie evidently make them either a psychopath or sociopath.
And now, last but not least, I think this contains important lessons that a lot of couples can take cue from. When it comes to moving to a new place, it requires careful thoughts and researches in order not to regret because there is always a chance that it may exacerbate the relationship while making adjustments to changes. It would be essential to consider each other's situation and come to an agreement instead of solely sticking to one's advantage.
An emotional war movie that evokes intense sentimentality
The cover of the movie, displayed with well-known group of cast along with the mighty artillery and the name of Brad Pitt above the title definitely makes me want to consider watching it. However, it also creates a deliberate debate about whether the content actually lives up to billing or not. And, it turns out to be a well-acted and well-directed war film that dramatically depicts explosive and scenes of World War II.
The first glance of the scene is quiet gloomy and cruel as it takes place to a smoky land, fraught with crummy tanks and corpses scattered around. It gives you the surreal feeling of you being in the movie to sense a long-standing animosity against Nazi. From there, a series of emotions and battles build up till the final stage where a five U.S. armed contingent tries to execute a very reckless ambush while getting outnumbered by an advanced and a plethora of German legion.
Things that differentiate this film from other counterparts are strong sympathies towards hand-to-mouth citizens whose lifespan being on thin ice every moment by relentless barrage of bombs falling from the skies and mass shootings. When you realize that the death is approaching, anything can happen in such a short period of time from falling in love with someone you just met to killing anyone regardless of age or gender.
The last but not least, we all shall remember that any of us would not be able to watch this film or possibly, this movie might not have been made without the sacrifices of those who fought through their precious youth to provide us the rosy future that we are experiencing right now in some extent. I hope all the autocrats or leaders manifest themselves that declaring the war does not solve anything but leaves needless casualties and morose memories.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Turning a foreign novel into a Hollywood film succeeds
The trailer of Edge of Tomorrow, starring the well-known actor and the actress whose career is quite remote from a combat movie fiercely facing uncanny-looking enemies on muddy soil under a barrage of explosions looks indeed cliché and unoriginal to me. However, the fact is this screenplay is actually based on the military science fiction light novel, written by a Japanese author, Hiroshi Sakurazaka. And the movie takes me by surprise with a unique sense of humor and stunning visuals.
Having said that, adapting a successful novel into a screenplay does not always guarantee the efficacy either. A careful observation and nifty editing skill to keep the originality is a must. Also, when it comes to foreign novels, compulsory changes need to be made so that a wide range of audiences can embrace the contents without misunderstanding.
Surprisingly, the crew is able to not only westernize it well but also make the film effectively succinct. Emily Blunt's role as Rita Vrataski, the chief of the Special Forces pans out as her usual toughness and charismatic demeanor is shown professionally despite this being her first heroine as a warrior. Watching her wielding the gigantic Tomahawk is quite impressive. Tom Cruise as usual, stands out by playing the protagonist with various emotions. And the stage of becoming from a coward major with no battling experiences to a reckless and competent solider is neither over-the-top nor under-performed.
One thing that disappoints me is not being able to see the details of the mimics, the robotic creatures that resemble octopus-looking aliens with a chain of metallic arms that slice or throw human forces out. It is hard to identify what they are really capable of due to the fast- paced battle scenes. But that really does not matter because the story keeps getting interesting as it moves forward.
As this film contains a series of iteration, it may look confusing for some people. However, I can't not think of any other counterparts that explain the theory of the time loop better than this one. I also highly recommend everyone to check out the manga/comic book version of "Edge of Tomorrow", which is called "All You Need Is Kill." There are no spoilers but fresh looks with a different style to enjoy.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
DreamWorks Animation surpasses the boundary of computer-animated films beyond the standard
As a former animator who once used to be quite familiar with principles of animation, complex technical tools in 3D software, and the determination for what it takes to be a great digital artist just got awestruck by an awesome sequel, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" that was thoroughly created over the last 4 years.
The Hiccup and Toothless aren't the only ones that grew up dramatically as the first sight of dazzling island of Berk amazes me in a neck-breaking pace. The pristine stream that rolls beneath the ragged hills filled with authentic houses where vikings and dragons frolic together look so real that I can not visualize the strenuous process of creating a beautiful scenery within a boundary of the computer animation. Every element is packed with details, such as wild environments, costumes, and uncanny textures on various shaped dragons. Not to mention the frosty dragon aka Alpha, that feels much gigantic and overwhelming than the Godzilla will never be forgotten.
Moving on to the animation part. The grown-up hiccup and his gang showcases what they are capable of by maneuvering their dragons swiftly and sometimes, botching mischievously. The humorous part comes from Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera (Known for Ugly Betty) where she impersonates Hiccup's habits and articulation. It goes without saying that the amount of time and efforts spent for animators on acting in front of the mirror to scrutinize facial expressions is presented through my eyes. That applies to other scenes where Hiccup tries to persuade Drago and his dad, Stoick to steer clear of the war as well as the most emotional scene where an absent- minded Toothless awakening and getting reunited with Hiccup who almost turns his back on his partner because of an unintended attack of Toothless that ends Stoick's life.
There are more to praise about in terms of the cast, character developments, and most importantly, the touching plot that moves so many audiences to tears. The newly developed animation and lighting softwares by DreamWorks that make this distinguished along with a lot of talented artists is what I am so proud of. This film has motivated me to re-challenge to join the team that produces spectacular and feisty animation like this one someday.