FEBRUARY 2017 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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Boy it felt like it’s been ages since I actually wrote reviews. Naturally because of my short film project I haven’t had time to watch a ton of films, but I did go to a few screenings. Though Jan/Feb are considered dead months at the movies, but I did see some good ones! Since I won’t have time to do a full review, I’m including mini reviews of some of them here.

New-to-me Movies

A United Kingdom

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Director Amma Assante has done it again! I absolutely love her work in the period drama Belle from a few years back. A United Kingdom is another tale of forbidden love… and it’s beautifully done! David Oyelowo played Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana, who caused an international stir when he married a white London woman Ruth (Rosamund Pike) in the late 1940s. Both Oyelowo and Pike are wonderful in their roles, they have a lovely chemistry and both conveyed the emotion of their tumultuous relationship beautifully. The political aspect and the romance collide beautifully, done in such an elegant way with a touch of humor. Assante has definitely become one of my fave filmmakers now.

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Project Eden Vol. 1

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Glad I got to see this indie sci-fi on the big screen a couple of weeks ago. Read my recap of the Minneapolis premiere, quick thoughts about the film & my interview w/ the duo filmmakers. The film is not perfect but still, it’s got an intriguing vision and gave us enough to anticipate the sequel. The two MN actors in the lead (Emily Fradenburgh and Peter Hansen) are both terrific in their first big-budget indie film roles.

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LEGO Batman Movie

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The trailer made me laugh SO hard! I think the film is funny, with some really thigh-slappingly-hilarious moments, but I don’t think it’s as good as everyone’s been saying. I actually think the first LEGO movie is more entertaining overall. I just think some of the jokes are just goofy and silly that it actually stopped being funny. It’s also way too bombastic, especially towards the end. Still it’s a hoot to watch and the animation is great. My favorite parts are definitely the one between Batman (Will Arnett) and Alfred (Ralph Fiennes in another fabulous comedic role!), wish there were more of those. I LOVE the moment Batman accidentally kicked Alfred that sent him flying to his grand piano!! 😂

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Finding Dory

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I finally got a chance to see this one. It’s pretty enjoyable and the ride Dory & co. went on was fun albeit predictable. I have to say I think Finding Nemo is eons better and made a much more lasting impression on me.

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I will have reviews of these two later in March… but I absolutely LOVE both of them. Interesting that both bad-ass heroes, John Wick and Wolverine, got completely beat-up in their respective movies!

John Wick Chapter 2

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LOGAN

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Rewatches:

SenseSensibility

I only got time to rewatch one movie and I went with my absolute favorite… Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility never fails to lift up my spirits whenever I’m in a gloomy/melancholy mood. Everything I learn about love and life I learned from Elinor Dashwood and her sensible restraint.

Movies I’m hoping to see in March

Kong, Skull Island
Beauty & The Beast
Wilson
Personal Shopper


MOVIE OF THE MONTH

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Hands down the best X-Men film, and one of the best films of the superhero genre to date. That’s all I’m going to say right now, definitely see this even if you’re not a fan of comic book films.


Well that’s my viewing recap of February. What’s YOUR favorite film(s) of the month?

FlixChatter Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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For anyone who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, you probably heard of the Ninja Turtles even if you were not a fan. As a young boy back in those days, I was a huge fan of the turtles, my brother and I used to watch the morning cartoon show every day and I’ve watched the original film countless times on VHS. The first film released back in 1990 was a huge hit but unfortunately the two sequels that followed were quite awful and the franchise went on hiatus for a few years. The studio tried to restart the film franchise with a CG animation and released an animated movie simply called TMNT back in 2007. Even with voices by well known actors such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans and Patrick Stewart, the movie never caught on with the public. For a while many thought the franchise was dead, at one time John Woo was attached to produce and direct another film version but of course that never happened. The franchise ended up in the hands of Michael Bay and now we’re finally got to see another live action movie version.

With a comic book style introduction, this new movie takes us right into the chaos. Apparently Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his foot clan army have been terrorizing the citizens of NYC for a while and it seems to no one can stop or find him. Young reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is eager to become a real reporter and wants to find out who these foot clan are and what they’re planning to do next. One night she ran into the clan’s illegal activity and then witnessed the clan being took out by some mysterious figures. This scene was basically a rip-off of scene from Nolan’s Batman Begins when Batman was introduced, in fact the whole “plot” of this turtle movie was a rip-off of Nolan’s first Batman flick. Of course those mysterious figures turned out to be our heroes the Ninja Turtles. O’Neil wants to break the story about how someone is fighting back against Shredder and his army but without any proof her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) refuse to run the story. In fact she fired O’Neil because she’s becoming an annoyance. Now jobless and still wants to prove that the Turtles do exist, she decided to confide in her late father’s co-worker Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) and told him about the Turtles. Well wouldn’t you know it, Sacks happens to be the minion of Shredder and of course this leads to O’Neil being in danger and our heroes in the half shell came to her rescue.

I went into this movie with very low expectations since it’s directed by journeyman Jonathan Liebesman, the same man who directed some awful flicks including Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Battle: Los Angeles. Also, any movie with Michael Bay‘s name attached to it, I just don’t think it will be any good. Surprisingly I thought Liebesman did a pretty decent job with this movie, he remember to hold the cameras steady for most of the action scenes and staged one pretty awesome action sequence. A chase scene with our heroes being pursued by the foot clan army down a snowy mountain, seeing that sequence in 3D was quite great. Unfortunately though, the script by Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty was quite dreadful. As mentioned earlier the whole plot of this movie was a rip-off of Batman Begins but it’s also full of amateurish humor that only teenage boys will enjoy. One thing I really hated about the script was how they decided to change the origins of the turtles and their master Splinter. It’s so idiotic that I almost laughed out loud when that scene appeared.

Performances wise, you can’t really judge the actors who voiced the turtles so I’ll just focus on the human characters. As we all know Megan Fox can’t act and it’s quite painful watching her “act” in this movie, she’s asked to carry the movie for the first 40 minutes or so and it wasn’t fun watching her trying to act. William Fichtner and Tohoru Masamune didn’t have much to do except playing the straight one dimensional evil characters. Will Arnett showed up as the sidekick to April O’Neil and unfortunately his comedic role was just that, a comedic sidekick. I thought they might make him into Casey Jones by the end but I’m glad that never happened.

The movie wasn’t as bad I expected but it’s still not something adults will enjoy but I’m pretty sure most teenagers will have a great time with this one. I enjoyed some parts of the movie but in the end, it’s just another loud action/adventure movie from Mr. Bayhem.

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Have you seen this one? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The LEGO Movie

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We’ve seen a plethora of movie tie-in with the LEGO company for a long time. From the Lord of the Rings to Star Wars, there’s pretty much a LEGO version of pretty much any franchise. So it’s really a matter of time that these colorful interlocking plastic bricks have a movie of their own, I’m quite surprised it took six decades since its inception in the late 1940s.

Who says that February is only for duds? This is one of the most fun experience I had in the movies in a long time, it’s every bit as cute and hilarious as the trailers and featurettes promised us. I’ve heard the term geekstravaganza being used in one of the reviews and that’s the perfect way to describe it. But as fun as those pop-culture characters are, the movie wouldn’t have worked without a protagonist worth rooting for. Seems that I’ve been seeing Chris Pratt quite a lot lately, he had a brief appearance in Her and also as a NAVY Seals in Zero Dark Thirty a few years back. He is perfectly-cast as Emmet, an ordinary construction worker with a happy-go-lucky attitude and contagious hyper-optimistism. In a world where coffee cost $37 a cup, Emmet still thinks life is well, awesome! 😀

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The opening sequence showing him living his day-to-day life is a hoot, the simple shape of each LEGO piece comes to live in this colorful LEGO universe. The LEGO universe is ruled by President (Lord) Business (Will Ferrell), a maniacal tyrant [is there any other kind?] bent on world domination, it’s a totalitarian existence we’ve seen in many dystopian futuristic films.

A lot of the ideas in this movie’s premise is not groundbreaking, but yet the style in which its presented makes even the most clichéd concept still watchable and entertaining. Borrowing from The Matrix and countless other sci-fis, Emmet is thought of as *the one*, that is the extraordinary MasterBuilder whom the resistant group thinks would lead them to the Piece of Resistance that’d what else, save the LEGO citizens from impending doom. The member of the resistant group is led by fun characters like the Yoda/Gandalf-like Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the beautiful fighter Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), 80s astronaut Benny (Charlie Day) and Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett). All of them are hilarious though the most inspired casting of all is Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop who’s quite the scene stealer.

I have to admit that halfway through the 100-min running time the action are happening way too fast that it’s borderline ADD. Fortunately the jokes just keep on coming. In the midst of their adventure, Emmet, Wyldstyle & co. encountered a pirate called Metalbeard who’s bent on revenge against Lord Business for taking his body parts, voiced by the always-awesome Nick Offerman. Other pop-culture characters showing up in this one big intergalactic-like conference, which offers plenty of nostalgia to our childhood for everyone born before the 80s. But the focus of the story is always on Emmet, who’s the heart of the film. The ending offers a surprising twist that connects the LEGO universe with our human world, which represents what the LEGO toy is to kids in their creativity process. I think this part is handled quite nicely, though it feels a bit schmaltzy at times but it’s not without its charm. It’d definitely inspire both parents and kids in the audience, but the message of the power of imagination is relatable to anyone of all ages.

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Props to Phil Lord & Christopher Miller and the team of animators for creating such a joyfully entertaining movie that also has plenty of heart to balance the action-packed scenes. I’m still humming the theme song Everything is Awesome, I’d dare not to let this song lift up even your grumpiest mood. Combined with the playful stop-motion animation and hilarious expressions of every single LEGO characters, it’s perhaps the cheeriest sequence you’d see all year. The attention to detail is amazing and hugely entertaining. For a shape so simple, somehow the facial expressions are pretty darn good. Oh and even something as mundane as taking a shower is so adorable when done in LEGO! The water *droplet* and the soap *bubble* are so darn cute!!

It’s no surprise that the box office take blew even the industry estimates by nearly 30% with $69 mil take. This now stands as my favorite Warner Bros. animated features since The Iron Giant. I highly recommend seeing this one on the big screen if you want a mood-lifting movie. The 3D is good though I think seeing it in 2D is perfectly acceptable as well. I’m being pretty generous here on my rating, but it really is hugely entertaining movie I don’t mind watching again.

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Thoughts on The LEGO Movie? I’d love to hear it!