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Into the Woods (2014)
It's good but it's better left onstage
I was a huge fan of the original Broadway musical and when I found out that they were making a film version of this beloved Sondheim/Lapine-musical, I was crazy excited. I'm not going to critically analyze this film because I know you already know that with this A-team cast and creative team, the film is going to be spectacular. I'll just clear up some confusions and mild criticisms. First of all, I agree with most reviews that the latter half of the film felt off, especially for those who aren't familiar with the source material. This is most likely due to their decision of cutting The Narrator character from the stage musical. The death of the narrator was an essential turning point in the musical; he's supposed to be the one guiding the characters in their story, but after he died, things went wrong (like the Prince's affair with Baker's Wife and the Giantess thing). Also, I was disappointed that the show's act finale/opener, Ever After and So Happy were cut, although I get it due to cinematic restrictions. Ever After and So Happy juxtaposes the two acts, whilst expressing the characters' perception and doubts of a happy ending. I was also saddened that many viewers (and reviewers) didn't found Sondheim's songs as astounding, lacking the "catchy" factor, which they also found in the film version of Sweeney Todd. While it's understood that Sondheim's labyrinthine score isn't for the general film audience, the genius of his music and lyrics is incomparable and deserves more commendations that it will never get from film adaptations of his films. That being said, Into the Woods is an overall fun and spectacular film (clearly a contender for the upcoming awards season), but like I said. It's better left onstage.
Once Upon a Time (2011)
Season 4 and still no improvement... maybe a bit..
God, the show is now on its fourth season and still there are no drastic progress with this one, though I'm still watching it and still I'm faithful to this show. The show's writing and directing is still awful! I do not doubt the writers and directors' intentions and their attempts to add depth to the show, but still it ends up looking like a live-action Disney features for adults with a script carved out of soap operas! The characters, while not half-bad, are as good as it gets. I just have to give credits to the writers for making all these characters work out with each other. The one thing that ruins the characters are those who are portraying them. The only thing holding me back from condemning them are their killer looks and charisma. I don't know what the casting director is thinking, but I think he/she preferred attractiveness over talent. While not bland, the actors are just bland. Still, kudos to Lana Parilla and Jennifer Morrison (though this is not the role for her) for standing above the mediocrities of their fellow cast members. I'd also like to give it up for Colin o'Donoughe and Emilie de Ravin for some decent portrayals of Hook and Belle, respectively (though I'm not sure if I'm just blinded by their hotness or what). Okay, so the story, which is the only thing that keeps me watching this show (aside from the aforementioned Regina, Emma, Hook and Belle) is getting better and better. Season 1 started of as pretty good, Season 2 is a bomb, but Season 3 managed to rise from ashes and gave me one of most mindblowing TV experiences ever. Season 4 had barely scratched the surface, but I hope they will do justice to Frozen (though there's not much to do since I didn't really like Frozen). So yeah, I'll still be faithful to this show. Lastly, I want to commend the production designs, art directions, costume design, music, visual and special effects etc. for making up for the show's discrepancies. Honestly, they're the ones who reminds the audience that what they're watching is but an epic fairytale, epic, yes, but still a fairytale. So despite my harsh words, this show still deserves an 8 out of 10. :)
How to Get Away with Murder (2014)
The show left some pretty good first impressions
I was searching for a new TV show to watch because waiting for GoT and OItNB is torture, so I tumbled upon this one. At first I wasn't interested, but when I found out Viola Davis is the prima donna, I decided to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did! I'm going to start with the story, writing and directing. The pilot showed us a promising start. The use of unconventional nonlinear story-telling is intriguing. The script is fast-paced, although sometimes too fast that the narrative impact is often left unfulfilled. Nothing usual with the directions, but altogether everything is working out. I'm not going to lie, there are many plot holes within the story, and the entirety of scenarios are too panned out with the characters. Speaking of the characters, Annalise Keatings is one strong lead. She is the your typical "pro" character with a tough, strong facade and yet shows emotional vulnerability within, but a paragon at that one. The rest of the supporting casts, the students and others aren't as well-built as Annalise but the show is just barely scratching the surface so we'll find out more soon. The cast, dear Lord, the cast is good! Viola Davis' portrayal of Annalise is very transcendent and somehow sublime. Judging by Davis' past roles, like that Oscar-worthy role of the maid in The Help, we can see that she's one of the best and most versatile actresses out there. I'm still annoyed that they cast attractive young people to the other featured roles, but after witnessing that their acting is actually acceptable, above average at best, I didn't have a problem with them afterwards. Overall, the show is worth watching and pursuing. You may find clichés and holes in the story, but How to Get Away with Murder can be one of the best shows that will open this season.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Who needs Avengers when you got X-Men?
Putting aside my being a die-hard Marvel fan and summoning my critical perception to the film, I say this with most sincerity, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best film of X-Men franchise yet, and for that matter one of cinematic history's best of the superhero genre, easily lining itself to other superhero films' gems like The Dark Knight and the Avengers. I would like to begin by saying that Bryan Singer is a miracle worker (making the "impossible" filmable), making X-Men DOFP one of his finest. Singer carefully crafted every single scene with such awe and sincerity that the word perfection isn't enough to describe it. May it be a series of CGI effects, unique action extravaganzas, and powerful, moving emotional scenes, Singer never failed to blend the elements of a superhero film with human drama. His powerful direction certainly brought the best in each of the cast and unlocked their hidden potentials. For the storyline, I would like to commend the writers for their excellent writing that never failed to amuse and captivate the audience with powerful storytelling while maintaining logic and perceiving bigger messages to society and human faults. (BTW I'm not a huge comic book reader so I don't have any idea what X-Men DOFP would be about) Anyways, the writers did an excellent job in connecting the dots from the past X- Men films (though it's not necessary to watch them all to fully understand the film). Now for the stellar cast: I think the whole cast (both new and recurring) did their best to fully portray the characters they're embodying. First, kudos both to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, who both are the embodiment of X-Men themselves; even though their pretty much in the same place the whole film, their performance proved to be timeless without severing emotional vulnerability and the bond of a strong true friendship. Hugh Jackman's performance in the film could be argued as his best portrayal of Wolverine yet. What can we say? He's Hugh Jackman. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender's characters have evolved so much from the first film, and the two of them displayed performance that made X-Men DOFP superior to other X-Men films. Their portrayals held such pain and confusion from their damaged relationship that made them human despite their superhuman distinctions. Of course there's the ever-astonishing Jennifer Lawrence whose acting prowess is unmatched. Lawrence's Mystique is one of the best portrayal of a troubled character in a superhero film, exploiting mixed feelings with pure acting that made Mystique and Jennifer Lawrence a very crucial piece to the film's success. And for the newcomer Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones, portrayed a villain with no actual superpowers but made the future as it was in the beginning of the film. His role as Bolivar Trask is an interesting character fighting for survival with judgment clouded by society's erroneous perception. The actors in the supporting roles also did very well. Ellen Page got the spotlight she deserved with her vulnerable yet enduring portrayal of Kitty Pride, who's the bread-and-butter character of the film. Shawn Ashmore has grown so much since his first X-Men film, and that maturity is very much shown in his strong portrayal of Iceman. Halle Berry, while she has a much smaller role in the film, steals the spotlight every second she appeared on screen. The appearance of Bill Stryker (Josh Helman) is of course appreciated as it gives us a brief window to Wolverine's character and proves the quantum theory about time which is an important aspect to the storyline. Smaller roles which are included for filling the shoes of other characters showed so much potential that it's too disappointing they didn't got a chance to develop throughout the film: Colossus (who's supposed to be Kitty Pride's couple, though I don't think that's necessary for now), Sunspot, Bishop, Warpath, Blink (instantly my new favorite character) and Havok from the past. By the way, special mention to Evan Peters and his portrayal of Quicksilver for being too awesome. I think it's very obvious that he would appear not only in future X-Men films but also in other Marvel films (such as Avengers 2) because he's such an iconic character. As expected, the cameo appearances by James Marsden and Famke Janssen as Cyclops and Phoenix set us for the next X-Men film, which I think is great. So that's pretty much my though for X-Men: Days of Future Past (not including the visual effects, sound, costume design etc.). This is a must-see film and it is sure to entrance die-hard Marvel fans and non-fan viewers alike.