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12 Strong (2018)
8/10
Hardcore Battle Scenes
17 January 2018
12 STRONG has some of the most hardcore battle scenes in any war movie. It's soldiers carrying weapons while riding horses, that definitely makes this one unique. And if you're animal lovers, you are right to be concerned about the horses' safety, I'm sure the production went above and beyond to ensure that but to me what's more impressive is the fact that these guys actually storm into battle like that, with bullets flying everywhere, riding a horse isn't exactly taking a cover, it's very very vulnerable, you're out in the open, impressive stuff.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena and Trevante Rhodes, directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, based on Doug Stanton's book, 12 STRONG is the true story of a U.S. Special forces team led by their new captain, Mitch Nelson, played by Chris Hemsworth, and after 9/11 they're sent to be the first troops into Afghanistan to retaliate. There they form alliance with a local general, played by Navid Negahban in order to fight their common enemy, the Taliban. The special forces team has to adapt to the terrain and some of the tactics there which means they have to use Afghani horses to go places. They're outnumbered and outgunned by a ruthless enemy who's driven by ideology.

Without sounding too shallow, to be honest with you, the biggest reason why I enjoy 12 STRONG is that it's essentially about good guys kicking bad guys' ass. The war in Afghanistan is one of the longest wars in our country's history with no end in sight, it's still going, it's still happening, so seeing it from today's perspective is quite depressing. But something like this, where the characters are charged up because of 9/11, they go in, guns blazing, sending hell to enemy's territory, they go in they get the job done, boom, it definitely satisfies those of us moviegoers who like watching bad guys getting what's coming to them.

And I'm glad that the movie is rated R and doesn't hold back, so what you get is a depiction that's not watered down. It's graphic, it's intense, it's brutal, it's in your face. And like I said earlier, the battle scenes are explosive and hardcore. You're really engaged the entire time. It's well staged, well choreographed and well-shot, with some excellent sound mix and sound editing work. There's a bit of drama they throw in there with the clash between how Chris Hemsworth's character does things versus how the local general Navid Negahban's character does things, so even though the bad guy is quite one dimensional, there's plenty to go around between those two commanding characters. The movie does a good job of emphasizing the reason why a group like the Taliban needs to be eliminated, it does a good job of pumping us up to keep rooting for the good guys to win. What a helluva film to honor those courageous horse soldiers.

-- Rama's Screen --
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6/10
More Action-Packed Than The Previous Films
17 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is way way way more action-packed than the previous two films. This one is all about jam packing more than its two hours runtime with one big action piece after another and ya know what, most of them are actually pretty damn entertaining, far-fetched and at times ridiculous but still, entertaining. This movie isn't concerned about bringing you up to speed, it's more concerned about concluding the whole saga on a blaze of glory.

Once again directed by Wes Ball, this is the third and final chapter of the saga starring Dylan O'Brien as Thomas who along with his fellow gladers friends, sets out to break into WCKD's so-called Last City in order to rescue Minho. This final and most dangerous mission yet will also uncover the secret behind the cure that everybody's after. Co-starring Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Will Poulter and Patricia Clarkson

I actually enjoyed the first Maze Runner movie mainly because even though I suck at solving puzzles, I do like watching other people try to solve puzzles and that's what the first movie was to me, the kids trying to outsmart the tricks that come with the glade. The second movie was just an absolute snoozer, it was so boring it almost put me to sleep twice during the screening, the pointless sand dunes journey, a tiresome government conspiracy, and a bunch of sprinting zombies just for the hell of it. And it's kinda weird that they still have Maze Runner as part of the title when clearly a literal maze is no longer involved, unless the meaning of the maze has become much deeper than that now and it clearly goes over my head.

This third and final movie however, runs like a speed demon. As I said earlier, it's a series of action pieces, non-stop, one after another. If the characters aren't busy trying to evade the bad guys shooting at them, then they're probably busy rescuing a bunch of kids while attempting a high wire act, or perhaps they're busy trying to survive through the revolt that's happening around them. So much is going on, I repeat so much is going on in Maze Runner The Death Cure, but one can argue that even in the long span of 2 hours and 20 minutes, Maze Runner: The Death Cure fails to give compelling character development, be that as it may, the film keeps me awake. And some of the death scenes are quit glorious for a young adult genre. Throughout the film I get the impression that the people who made this just wanted to get it over with and they wanted to get it over with by tying up loose ends and finishing whatever subplots needed finishing even if it means it all has to come crashing down.

-- Rama's Screen --
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7/10
The Obama Administration's Blindspot
13 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Director Greg Baker's documentary, "The Final Year" gives you a moving and intimate look at an administration doing everything it can before the clock runs out. It's a window into the inner workings of the white house back when the adults run the place. And for those of who dislike Donald Trump's presidency with a passion, this documentary definitely will make you wish that President Barack Obama had still been the one leading the country. But this documentary also makes you feel sad, not because "O, I miss the Obama administration," but more about "where did it all go wrong that we now have Trump's administration"

What Greg Baker focuses on in this documentary is very simple, it focuses on president Barack Obama's foreign policy team, specifically U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, deputy adviser Ben Rhodes and secretary of state John Kerry, during their last year in office, before they leave power after eight years.

First of all it's impressive how much access Greg Baker and his team were allowed to have, I bet other press or other filmmakers at the time were probably envious of the exclusivity that Greg's team got to enjoy, they even were allowed to document the staff's personal moments with their loved ones and family members. Clearly it's all done in a very good light, nothing that would appear like trouble in paradise, but if the goal was to show that these powerful influential people at the core of it are just humans like you and me with their own typical family situations despite their big jobs, then that's exactly what you'll get to see here in The Final Year.

Another thing that this documentary gives us a view of is an understanding of how complex and complicated these jobs are. To the point where you might watch this docu and start thinking, man they are spreading themselves way too thin. Secretary of State John Kerry has to juggle between Syria issues and Iran issues, and then Samantha Power has to travel around the world to even the most remote places and then somehow find time to give a speech at a U.S. citizenship event, the same goes with Ben Rhodes who's consistently busy trying to come up with the right speeches, the right wording for president Obama. Watching them do what they do, I wonder how much red bull or caffeine intake do they have on a daily basis to keep themselves on because they're juggling so much. You mights say, but Rama, that is their job description but an argument can also be made that this is the burden that comes with the whole world looking to us for leadership. Every country is is depending on us to broker a deal or to rescue them, so much so that you wonder if it all might backfire if everything has to always depend on the United States being the deciding factor. So keep in mind that this documentary is mostly about Obama's foreign policies, not his domestic ones. This is a look at Obama not as the commander in chief necessarily but more as the leader of the free world and the burdens that come with that.

Which leads me to my last point,,.. because this documentary shows us Obama administration's final year, hence the title, the documentary also shows the nervousness that the staff, specifically Ben Rhodes was feeling as it was nearing the election, he really wanted Hilllary to win and he told himself that but you can tell, he was also worried at the prospect of Trump winning instead. So when that did happen, it hit them like a brick wall because their expectations for Hillary Clinton's victory was so high, that when otherwise was the result, their disappointment is tremendous. It's like when you get your hopes up, super excited because you're super confident that your team would win but then they lose, because you were in such a high, the disappointment is devastating for you. That's what happened here.

And so, while this docu shows us how diligent the words of Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power and John Kerry are, the facts on the ground remains and that is the Democratic party lost about 1,000 seats under Obama, and the Rust Belt electoral voters even those who previously voted for Obama, ended up voting for Trump instead of Hillary. So perhaps either the Obama administration was too focused on their policies, as this documentary shows, or they were stuck in their bubble so much so that they were not aware of the suffering and the struggles of middle America. Which is why I said earlier that this documentary is somewhat saddening because here you have a bunch of great people doing great work, like the Iran deal and others but the voters at home would rather roll the dice and gamble on a fake populist. So that should say something about the Obama administration. You can argue, but Rama you can only do so much in 8 years, you can't please everybody,.. be that as it may, just like actions have consequences, inaction or lack of action has its consequences too. Ben Rhodes says in this documentary after Trump just won, in order to keep himself from feeling hopeless, he said that the pendulum will come back, pendulums swing this way and comes back to center again. That's nice and all but it's also an irresponsible comment, because while the pendulum swings this direction, it's us the regular folks who have to suffer through all the disastrous policies that Trump's administration applies, some of the damages may be irreparable. The pendulum illustration is only comforting for those who don't live paycheck to paycheck and are economically fine.

So to conclude, if you're wondering if The Final Year has some sort of an agenda, or perhaps director Greg Baker just point and shoot the camera and whatever happens happens, The Final Year is both an excellent showcase of wisdom, compassionate but firm leadership but also a cautionary tale that if you're taking on too much, some things may get neglected. What can you accomplish when you're literally racing against the clock, when your decisions affect other people's lives? If there's anything that can be taken away from this is that there should be a balancing act on the part of any administration, a positive, healthy, and prosperous balancing act.

-- Rama's Screen --
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7/10
A Movie Just For This Franchise's Fans
3 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY has enough effective scares to keep the fans entertained but it will not bring in new converts though. It's not the best installment out of the entire franchise but it's a decent prequel that serves its purpose and that is to put further spotlight on the legacy of one of horror genre's most underrated icons, actress Lin Shaye.

Brought to you by the same creative minds behind "Insidious" trilogy, this fourth installment, Insidious: The Last Key takes you back to the beginning, to the family history of renowned parapsychologist, Dr. Elise Rainer and how the haunting in her own family home has returned with a vengeance. It is up to Elise and her spectral sighting team to defeat this demon once and for all.

Even though Insidious: The Last Key is directed by somebody new to the franchise, Adam Robitel, much of the style follows suit with its predecessors, so in a way, this movie is very formulaic, the objective is the same which is to present to you a big bad villain in a form of a demon at the end of the story and that's not really a spoiler because the other movies did the same thing. Because this is a prequel, it takes its time in setting the whole thing up in terms of Elise's family and the abuse she and her brother endured when they were kids. This part, these flashbacks are just as creepy, if not creepier than what's happening in the present day with Elise trying to communicate with spirits in the dark.

By the way, actress Lin Shaye has been in this business and specifically has been part of this genre forever, so as a fan, it really is cool to see a movie like this that allows her to showcase her all, that gives her room and space to do what she does best, in a way, they might as well have titled this movie, Insidious The Lin Shaye lifetime achievement award.

I actually enjoyed how the film presents Elise's background, the whole theme of it kinda resonates with any kid who grows up feeling different and the parents try to beat it out of you instead of helping you embrace your specialty and uniqueness. So that approach does help in making you empathize with Elise which is an effective strategy in any horror film because the jump scares can only do so much, what's truly scary is when you feel scared for the safety of the characters whose journey you've been following, and that's what Insidious: The Last Key offers. I'm also mildly amused by the comic relief of Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson who play Elise's sidekicks, granted some of the humor does feel a bit dumb but they mean well, so it's one of those that just make you shake your head and dismiss them as immature children. Insidious The Last Key is scary enough, it's entertaining enough for the fans, it's a popcorn horror thriller you'd want to take your girlfriend to see just so that she can curl up next to you when she feels squeamish, this really is a movie just for the fans of the franchise, and despite some of its few ridiculous scenes, I think overall they're going to be grateful that this installment exists.

-- Rama's Screen --
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Drawing Home (2016)
7/10
Romantic
21 December 2017
DRAWING HOME is one of those movies perfect to be enjoyed in breather moments, a nice relaxing romantic story at the end of an exhausting day. Mainly because it's a bit of a slow burner but also because the characters' conflicts are very mild and common to the point of stress-free. DRAWING HOME is endearing and sweet.

Directed by Markus Rupprecht who co-wrote the script with Donna Logan, based on the story of painting couple, Peter and Catherine Whyte. The story starts in the 1920s when a young east coast debutante is dating the famous John D. Rockefeller III, that is until she meets a young painter from the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

DRAWING HOME somewhat behaves like it's some kind of postcard for Canada. There are so countless scenes in this film where they are nothing but simply shots of landscapes and mountains, if I didn't know any better I thought I was screening some kind of nature documentary, but all of it was so gorgeous, it's kind of calling me to go there. If Canada's government wants to increase tourism, showing DRAWING HOME movie to potential visitors would be a perfect way to go about it. Plus the music is equally inviting.

The story is Romeo and Juliet-esque, two opposing backgrounds that invite disagreements between classes in society. But as I said earlier, the conflicts are very mild, even as one of the characters hits rock bottom, the tone is more soap opera as opposed to something earth-shattering like Ed Harris' movie, "Pollock." DRAWING HOME focuses more on this love of art that connect these two souls together and that is definitely a theme a lot of audiences with a rebellious adventurous heart can relate to. Thanks to DRAWING HOME, you'll get to know a bit about the prominent figure, Carl Rungius, played in the film by Rutger Hauer, you'll fall in love with the Canadian Rockies and Banff region, and you'll come to appreciate the joy and the pain of love in the midst of art.

-- Rama's Screen --
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10/10
Ending the year on a high note
20 December 2017
O, my god! I knew I was a sucker for musicals but The Greatest Showman just exceeds all my expectations. The songs are catchy, the dance numbers are hypnotic, all the performers look and sound fantastic, and they're all such great singers. None of them fumbles, none of them sound dreadful like Russell Crowe in Les Miserables because almost all of the ensemble in The Greatest Showman can carry a tune. The story is a bit basic but that's ok, it was always designed to be a feel-good movie that's triumphant, extravagant and joyous.

Written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon and directed by Michael Gracey, Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum who came from nothing and marries the love of his life, Charity, played by Michelle Williams. Charity comes from a privileged family, while P.T. Barnum grew up poor. So now comes a chance where P.T. can finally prove that he's more than just some dirt kid from the street, he opens up a circus spectacle that became a big sensation but his ambitions and his desperate need for approval makes him unable to see the joy and happiness that are already there right in front of him.

First of all, what you need to know is that this is not a straight up biopic of the actual P.T. Barnum because the actual P.T. Barnum had his controversies. So what THE GREATEST SHOWMAN basically does is take the character P.T. Barnum and put a spin on his story, including his touring with opera singer, Jenny Lind. Zac Efron and Zendaya's roles are that of a young love but their subplot also ties nicely with the drama of Hugh Jackman and Michelle William's characters.

And I freakin 'love all the songs featured in this film, I have the soundtrack by the way and I kept listening to it for hours on end, put them on repeat and listen to them again the next day. So addictive. Written by the same songwriting team behind "La La Land" but I must say that "The Greatest Showman" songs are way better, they stay in your head for days. Kudos on the dance choreographies too, everything about this film's music is so in sync harmoniously, the songs match what is going on at that moment in the story, they compliment the characters' emotions. Another thing that you need to know is that even though the story is set in the '1800s, the music is not meant to sound like it comes from that era, the style is more contemporary or hip-hop, it's meant to give you that grand majestic impression, more like Las Vegas rather than Broadway, if that comparison helps.

This of course is not Hugh Jackman's first rodeo in the world of musical, Zac Efron and Zendaya are talented in that department too, so what you have here is a group of talents that are highly skilled at dazzling you with their moves and vocal chords, it helps that easy on the eyes as well. Jackman in particular has that bravado presence about him. But don't be mistaken, this is not some Oscar worthy achievement ala Les Miserables, although.. if it does get nominated, it deserves to be recognized for at least the costumes and the production design, but THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is all about entertaining you with bright colors and it's all about making your foot tap while at the same time celebrating entrepreneurial spirit and celebrating diversity which are something I can definitely relate to. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is charming, it's uplifting, it makes you smile, it's a great way to end the year on a high note.

-- Rama's Screen --
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Ferdinand (2017)
4/10
Serviceable
13 December 2017
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 --
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10/10
The force is strong with this movie!
12 December 2017
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 --
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4/10
Dylan O'Brien the action man
12 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
#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 --
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It (I) (2017)
10/10
Take the boat, Georgie!
5 September 2017
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 --
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Wind River (2017)
10/10
Suspenseful! A perfect thriller!
1 August 2017
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 --
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Good Time (2017)
8/10
Robert Pattinson on the go!
1 August 2017
#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 --
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Detroit (2017)
10/10
One of the most important films you'll ever see
28 July 2017
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 --
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8/10
Iron Spider: Homecoming
29 June 2017
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 --
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Cars 3 (2017)
9/10
Speed with heart
12 June 2017
#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 --
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The Mummy (2017)
4/10
Dark Universe off to a bad start
7 June 2017
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 --
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Tra-la-laaaa!!!!
2 June 2017
This is certainly "Captain Underpants" first movie, but does it live up to what the title suggests, 'epic?' Let's just put it this way, the humor doesn't land most of the time. It doesn't do enough exaggeration, which usually can make kids laugh, kids who are clearly this movie's target audience. It tries too hard to make their parents laugh instead. At least not until halfway through the end when the story busts out a weapon that can enlarge or shrink objects. But what it lacks in funny, "Captain Underpants" makes up for it in characters that entertain.

Based on the worldwide sensation and best-selling book series, "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" voice stars Kevin Hart, Ed Helms and Thomas Middleditch and it's about two pranksters/best friends, George and Harold, who hypnotize their mean principal into thinking he's a dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants.

I was never actually familiar with the book series, I've heard about this "Captain Underpants" fellow but mostly from bits and pieces told by fans of the books. It's a different kind of superhero movie because it's a mistaken identity story so that itself is entertaining enough to follow. I don't know if it's strong enough to capture children's attention span but as I said earlier, once the shrinking weapon is introduced, everybody's having a good time at least at the screening I attended because people love seeing parts of a person or parts of an object be bigger or smaller than the sum of their existence. It's a type of exaggeration that would tickle anybody's funny bone and it fits the villain's mission which has a lot to do with laughter.

So overall, it's a 'first epic movie' that could be much better but it does its job as a family animated film. The themes of friendship and understanding a person from their point of view, will hit home. Captain Underpants definitely would make the easiest cosplay if you think about it, all you have to do if you were a guy is just shave your head bald, wear a red cape and an over-sized breeze underwear and voila, you're ready for comic-con.

-- Rama's Screen --
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Wonder Woman (2017)
10/10
This is Wonder Woman in all her glory
31 May 2017
#WonderWoman movie is simply amazing. It doesn't hold back, it pulls out all the stops, it doesn't reserve some parts for a potential sequel, it fully gives you this iconic Amazonian Warrior princess in all her glory. You'll be constantly blown away by what she can do because the film is constantly eager to show them to you. Gal Gadot has cemented her star power and the DC Cinematic Universe has redeemed themselves through "Wonder Woman."

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, directed by Patty Jenkins, before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons trained to be an unconquerable warrior in the mythical island of Themyscira. But Diana is unaware of her true identity. When an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive war raging in the outside world, Diana feels compelled to join him and fight alongside mankind to stop the threat and kill who she blames to be the cause of such destruction, the god of war Ares.

Because it's a DC movie, much of the visual and the style of "Wonder Woman" is what you'd expect from a DC movie. But what's great about this one, which by the way the other installments unfortunately failed to do, is that "Wonder Woman" manages to inject entertainment, so it's not all brooding and dark and depressing like the way they've turned boyscout Superman into.

And I think much of that is thanks to the fish-out-of-water aspect. This is a woman who comes from a place which has a significantly different culture than ours. And halfway through the end, the fish-out-of-water aspect becomes less about literally not fitting in and more about her misunderstood perception of us, mankind. So perhaps "Wonder Woman" is an example of a success story that happens when you don't give all the control to Zack Snyder and when studio heads don't meddle with the mythology and the filmmaker's vision and when things are not forced or rushed. The result is a story which you can tell has been given a considerable amount of thought process.

Any doubt anybody may have had about Gal Gadot playing this role will fade away the minute she steps into the screen. Not only does she look the part, she's absolutely gorgeous, her acting is sharp, she also performs the action sequences with strength and elegance. She becomes Wonder Woman, they are now inseparable, just like we're all going to have a hard time imagining somebody else other than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine/Logan. This is Wonder Woman's debut on the big screen, billions of girls and women on earth look up to her as their hero, they have been anticipating this moment for years, so it is a huge responsibility, one that I think Gadot gracefully carries. Kudos to WB and DC Entertainment for entrusting this to female filmmaker Patty Jenkins who does an excellent job because more than just it being a great superhero film, "Wonder Woman" is a very well-made film. It's spectacular in every sense of the word.

-- Rama's Screen --
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8/10
The great paranoia horror
28 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"It Comes At Night" is an incredibly chilling hitchcockian paranoia horror that creeps up on you. Filmmaker Trey Edward Schults whose feature directorial experience prior to this was only "Krisha," brilliantly follows the regular rules that come with crafting an effective character-based psychological thriller while at the same throwing curve balls every now and then, so that at the end, the threat from within becomes even scarier than the outside threat.

Starring Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough, the story is about a family (husband, wife, and teenage son) who's closed themselves off from the terrors of the world where a certain disease has infected the general population. But their reclusive existence gets put to the test with the arrival of a desperate young family seeking refuge. What starts out as a harmonious agreement turns into suspicion and distrust which then leads to protecting your own family at all cost.

I think Trey Edward Schults does an excellent job of building the tension, slowly but surely, because halfway trough he kinda flips things over from the concept of us against the world out there into us against each other. So it's written in such a way that from the start is already giving the audiences warning signs to be alert even when the characters seem to have their guard down. It's character-driven, it's performance-driven, and thanks to the unsettling cinematography and how it plays in the dark, you're on your toes the entire time. In a lot of ways, it reminds you of '70s paranoia thrillers but it's also the kind of suspenseful film that M. Night Shyamalan probably only wishes he could make.

Fear is a great motivator that can drive you into committing unspeakable acts, that's pretty much what Trey Edward Schults is going for with "It Comes At Night."

-- Rama's Screen --
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Baywatch (2017)
4/10
Unlimited supply of sex appeal
23 May 2017
Here's my review of #Baywatch movie and the reason why I don't hate the film as much as someone who probably over analyzes it is that I wasn't expecting this to be any better than the long-running cheesy TV series that I did grow up watching. If you recalled, the show was basically just about attractive people in swimsuits patrolling a beach and it had the occasional soap opera romance. It produced such hot babes as Pamela Anderson, Brooke Burns, and Yasmine Bleeth. Teenage boys watched it religiously whenever they can't get their hands on a copy of the latest Playboy magazine.

With that said, this movie throws the drama out the window and cranks up the sex- crazed raunchiness that the TV version could only hint mildly. The action sequences are not well-staged, the jokes more than often don't land, but from time to time it does exactly what it's supposed to do, it entertains.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, directed by Seth Gordon, the story is about veteran lifeguard Mitch Buchannon who finds himself butting heads with a brash new recruit, 2-time gold medalist named Matt Brody (Zac Efron) who thinks highly of himself. Meanwhile, a certain local criminal plot is operating an underground drug ring that threatens the future of the Bay.

This is a movie that from the start wants you to know that it doesn't intend on taking itself too seriously. There are scenes that I'm thinking the writers and director thought were going to be solid when they viewed them during storyboard process perhaps, but on screen, they're actually uneven and off-putting.

The whole crime investigative aspect of it is anything but smart, sure one can argue that's because these guys are lifeguards and not cops, a point which by the way keeps being hammered again and again throughout the course of this film, but what I mean is that there really is nothing clever about solving the drug ring because everything about it is obvious and out in the open. But I am a sucker for a comedy about nerd guys and hot girls falling for each other and so I find the dynamics between Jon Bass' character and Kelly Rohrbach's character to be adorable, it's like those impromptu in-between moments that I consistently look forward to.

Overall, I think people are going to want to watch this movie for the very same reason they watched the TV series, and that is: the beautiful people. Girls will come for shirtless Zac Efron and beefcake Dwayne Johnson, and guys will come for Kelly, Alexandra, Priyanka and their voluptuous bodies, I'm just keeping it real. Attractive people in swimsuits have always been the essence of "Baywatch," they are what this franchise banks on. So the story quality and the jokes may not be up to par, they're silly, they're lousy, they're ridiculous, but "Baywatch" has an unlimited supply of sex appeal.

-- Rama's Screen --
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6/10
It's King Arthur through Guy Ritchie's filters
9 May 2017
The biggest problem with #KingArthur #LegendOfTheSword is that it puts more emphasis on trying to be a Guy Ritchie superhero film than it is about King Arthur. I understand that mythically, Arthur's sword supposedly bears powers of its own, but this films makes its effects work the same way spinach boosts Popeye's strength. Another problem is that instead of watching a movie, some of the time it feels more like you're watching "Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor" video game walkthrough.

Charlie Hunnam stars as the born king, Arthur whose father is murdered as Arthur's uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law) seizes the crown. The film traces Arthur's journey from the brothel life all the way to the throne. Robbed of his birthright, Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and finds himself become the king's threat number one.

At the very least, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" does have a clear story, so this is not as messy or as incoherent as a Zack Snyder presentation by any stretch of the imagination. And if you're a die hard Guy Ritchie fan, this too carries his usual brute montage style that often explains a subplot in a very quick, very humorous manner, so in that sense, it is a more dynamic film than any of the other versions of King Arthur you've seen on the screen.

Charlie Hunnam essentially plays a reluctant hero who's having difficulties coming to terms with his destiny but after a while, his continued reluctance becomes frustrating and downright annoying. Not to mention the fact that for whatever reason, this film is so obsessed with wasting time on VFX hallucinations and pointless creatures, there really is no good reason why this film's runtime has to be 126 minutes long. And the supporting characters aren't well-developed either which is why you'd get easily stoked at David Beckham's easily spotted cameo. Jude Law is probably this film's only redeeming quality, as the villain, Law is as incredible and reliable as he's ever been which makes his character, Vortigern, a formidable foe. Overall, I'm not saying that "King Arthur: Legend of The Sword" is not an entertaining film if you're a style-over-substance kind of an audience, but just be aware that you'll be viewing Arthur through Guy Ritchie's filters.
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Lowriders (2016)
8/10
Not fast and furious. It's low and slow.
8 May 2017
"Lowriders" is a solid redemption drama wrapped in a celebration of a car culture that frankly doesn't often get the respect and attention it deserves. With all the fast and furious stuff going on out there, it's a breath of fresh air to just appreciate the art of the low and slow.

Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, set against the backdrop of the lowrider society in Los Angeles, Southern California, Gabriel Chavarria plays a talented young graffiti artist, Danny, who's caught between the lowrider world inhabited by his old school father (Demian Bichir) and his ex-con brother (Theo Rossi). Co-starring Eva Longoria, Melissa Benoist, and Tony Revolori.

Last year you had a look at L.A. from the much vibrant musical point of view through "La La Land," well, "Lowriders" gives you a different angle, and not the stereotypical gang turf war either. It's a clash between father and sons, about sins of the past and what they define as self-expression. I think the story blends the car culture and the family drama really well, the mix of those two makes sense in this film, and it speaks about the characters as well. There's plenty of conflict to go around, well-performed by all the actors involved.

You don't have to come from that background or from that neighborhood or you don't necessarily even have to know much about cars to be able to relate to "Lowriders." It's one of those situations in which you can always tell beauty when you see one, whatever shapes and sizes, and so that's the kind of art that "Lowriders" offers. A lot of people look down on graffities, some of their reasons may be justified, but a lot of the times they also don't take the time to truly look at the work and try to understand what it's trying to say. Street artists may not have the same reputation that gallery or exhibit artists do but that kind of freedom is what "Lowriders" puts a spotlight on. It's a film that does the culture justice.

-- Rama's Screen --
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Sleight (2016)
8/10
Intriguing
27 April 2017
After screening "Sleight," I now understand why on the poster there's a quote by a critic describing this film as "Chronicle" meets "Iron Man," because that's the perfect description for it, you can't say it any much better than that without revealing spoilers. The story is basic and yet the way it's shot, it has that sense of naturalistic realism with most of the pivotal scenes happening at night, so "Sleight" basically carries Michael Mann's style.

Written and directed by J.D. Dillard, Jacob Latimore plays a young street magician named Bo who takes care of his little sister after their parents' passing and in order to pay the bills he also sells drugs for a known vicious dealer named Angelo (Dule Hill). Sasheer Zamata is the next door neighbor who looks out for Bo's sister when he's out for work. Co-starring Seychelle Gabriel as Bo's girlfriend. When Bo gets in too deep with the criminal group, they kidnap his sister and he's forced to use his so-called magic to save her.

In a lot of ways, "Sleight" entertains those of us fans of illusion and magic, those of us who've always wondered how on earth Criss Angel does what he does. The things that Bo (Latimore) can do will amaze you but there's a twist to his ability which you'd have to watch the movie for yourself to find out what that really is. So that alone makes "Sleight' intriguing and fascinating, your eyes glued to the screen the entire time. You want to see how Bo would use his magic skills to get himself and his sister out of the mess they find themselves in. Dule Hill's performance as the villain is basically your stereotypical street gangster but Hill delivers it just fine.

Even though Jacob Latimore has been around for quite some time as an actor, I first noticed his work in "Collateral Beauty" which was an awful movie by the way, but Latimore stood out. He has a level of intensity that other rising stars may lack. The young man has the potential to be extraordinary and Oscar-worthy someday. So although "Sleight" crime thriller/drama can't quite find its footing, the way it wraps up at the end is nothing short of hardcore.

-- Rama's Screen --
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The Circle (I) (2017)
4/10
Kool-Aid drinkers!
27 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
THE CIRCLE wants to make you think that this movie is presenting something revolutionary or innovative, it wants to wow you into believing as if you're watching a profound film that bravely tackles the issue of privacy in the social media age by way of a Microsoft or an Apple company-esque scenario. But nothing could be further from the truth. Author Dave Eggers and filmmaker James Pondsoldt aren't really giving us anything new here, only a version of something too familiar.

Emma Watson plays Mae who rises through the ranks of the world's largest tech and social media company, The Circle. Meanwhile Mae struggles to do right by her family and her old friends. But company founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) manages to convince Mae to go transparent, meaning everyone in the world will get to watch her 24/7 livestreaming. It does however come at a hefty price.

You know those many stories you've heard a thousand times before about a utopia place where everything seems to be perfect and everyone seems to be happy. At first the protagonist buys whatever the place is selling, he or she even becomes somewhat of a spokesperson inviting others to join in but the process ultimately pushes their loved ones away. Then the protagonist discovers the truth which usually happens with the help of an inside man. After a certain tragedy occurs, it's then payback time. Really, that's all there is to THE CIRCLE. It's formulaic through and through.

THE CIRCLE is predictable, it's boring and some of the characters are annoying. I'm a big fan of Patton Oswalt but I can't take him seriously as a chief operating officer of anything. Tom Hanks plays a villain for the first time since God knows when but he's not able to emulate that Steve Jobs charm, Hanks acts more like a snake oil salesman.

The film's attempt to make Silicon Valley tech giants appear like immoral entities are laughable at best. I'm not saying those guys over there are saints, but THE CIRCLE's biggest problem is that it doesn't know how or it's not smart enough to dance in the gray areas, its main message essentially when you strip it down to the core is that too much of a good thing is bad.

But the film does point out one thing correctly, how a keynote presentation often times can be no different than a church gathering in that they both feel like a cult. The priest or the presenter up front preaching his sermon or about the latest tech gadget, and then the converts cheer Hallelujah. It takes a non kool-aid drinker to view things objectively for what they are. I think that particular approach by this film is at least worth noting.

-- Rama's Screen --
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Logan (2017)
10/10
A character-driven superhero film done right!
17 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
LOGAN is brutal, merciless and powerful. This is a character-driven superhero movie done right. I would even dare to say it's better than many of the previous X-Men installments and spinoffs. And if this is indeed Hugh Jackman's final Wolverine movie, then my goodness, what a helluva way to go out in a blaze of glory.

The story is set in the near future, mutants are thinning out. They've either died or been hunted down. Logan's (Hugh Jackman) healing power is not as strong as it used to be. He's old and weary and taking care of professor X (Patrick Stewart) in a hideout on the Mexican border, accompanied by Caliban (Stephen Merchant). But their attempt to hide from the world gets interrupted when dark forces arrive at their doorstep looking for a certain young little girl.

Great move on the studio's and filmmakers' part to have this film be rated R because what we get here is Wolverine unleashed. The violence is as graphic and fully exposed as you can imagine it to be. So just that aspect alone will excite the fanbase who's been wanting to see the destruction that could take place when Wolverine is really really angry. Setting it on the border does allow the film to play with certain tones and color palette reminiscent to "Breaking Bad" for example, the film's ending however does provide a more vibrant environment as a base for an extremely bloody collision.

The writing is solid for a superhero film, it really digs deep into these beloved characters, how vulnerable they are, how they long for a world where people would just leave them be. You truly feel for Xavier and Logan in a way that you never did in the previous X-Men movies, not only because they're now in their twilight years but there's also that father-son type of relationship that's tough love and endearing and then there's also the reluctant father daughter connection Logan has with X-23. By the way, the little girl, Dafne Keen, who plays X-23 is remarkable. So much force, so much energy, so much roar, she's like a cheetah that just runs and slices and dices left and right without prejudice, what an incredible young talent. This is a movie that gives you action to its fullest degree and an emotional journey that's uncompromising. The perfect film about the man who's the best at what he does but what he does isn't very nice.
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