Showing posts with label film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film. Show all posts

Monday, April 8, 2019

Meeting Brown (2019) Personalizes the Divide between Love, Race and Racism

What do you do when the one you love turns out to be the opposite of what you thought? Great relationships can feel like they’re built on honesty and trust, but one brief meeting with her fiance’s best man Richard (Andrew J. Cornelius) changes everything for Alex (Diana Gonzalez-Morett) – a hopeful Latinx bride who sees her white partner’s true colors about their cultural differences.

Meeting Brown draws attention to the complex lines drawn between love, race, and racism. Director and writer Ana Lydia Monaco, a rising Latina filmmaker, tackles diversity by bringing representation to women of color to the screen with experiences from her own community. Realizing how often she didn’t see herself and fellow people of color onscreen, Monaco’s transformed her observations with bicultural couples to create a distinct narrative about life as a woman of color.

Nervous yet excited for her doubtful maid-of-honor to meet her fiancĂ© John (Sean Dube) and his best man, Alex believes John is exactly the man she wakes up to every morning. Life is seemingly smooth between the two of them until that fateful evening when the four of them spend time together – or rather, Alex and Rocio (Sonia Diaz) try to navigate Richard’s ignorant remarks about their heritage and identity while John goes along with the "jokes". His continual dismissal of his future wife's feelings and invites an alarming realization to Alex about his own excuses about Richard’s behavior. Monaco’s script paces well between the dreamy state of bliss Alex thought her life was and the slow realization of John's beliefs aren't what she ever imagined.

Even though the film’s primary focus of the cracks deepening in a romantic relationship, there’s a genuine relevance, especially in our current political climate, of how much we might be expected to accept other people’s behaviors as they are. It might be out of fear of losing or creating a rift between a family member, friend, or acquaintance, there's a personal responsibility of recognize what individuals of other communities withstand and persevere. How we treat someone’s culture in our own lives speaks to how society treats minorities on a whole – women, people of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities. Meeting Brown is succinct and to the point of how what most consider microaggressions, small acts of ignorance, start to add up whether we are bystanders or in the direct line of dangerous judgement and attacks.

As a ten minute short film, Meeting Brown presents a thorough examination of what Latina women encounter. Her cast carries the story well with performances by Gonzalez-Morett, Sean Dube, Sonia Diaz, and Andrew J. Cornelius. Even though there is an increasing divide between the film's leads, the actors share a palpable chemistry together as their idyllic relationship starts to present true issues. Monaco’s attention to detail and the experiences she has witnessed in her own life creates a refreshing defiance of the typical roles women of color are presented with on-screen and shines a light on the daily conflicts they encounter in real life.

Please Note: I was provided with a screener of this movie in exchange for an honest review. Meeting Brown is currently making the rounds at film festivals this year. Check out more of Ana Lydia Monaco past and current work at her official website.

Rating: ★★☆

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Captain Marvel (2019) Proves Her Power

Captain Marvel Movie Review
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Fandom hatred for Carol Danvers was sparked long before she hit the screen. From Brie Larson calling for more inclusiveness with film criticism to her heroine being pitted as better or worse than Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel had “something to prove” to the haters, the box office, and the barriers Black Panther obliterated. Despite being underestimated, the film has been knocked down but fights to live another day.

On the planet Hala, Vers (Brie Larson) and her fellow alien race of Kree are fighting a brutal war against tyrannical shape-shifters called Skrulls. Curious and haunted by the mysterious dreams she has of another life, she escapes capture to Earth to uncover the truth about where she comes from and who the real enemies are.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Fighting With My Family (2019) Shines A Light on Sharing The Dream

Fighting With My Family review
Universal Pictures
Thousands of screaming fans. Electrifying feuds. Bold outfits. Audacious athleticism. Wrestling is larger than life. Taking the glitz and glamour down a notch, Fighting with My Family shows what happens when fans dare to walk the path their heroes paved and become icons themselves.

Based on the real life story, eighteen year old Saraya-Jade Bevis - popularly known as Paige - (Florence Pugh) who aspires to be a wrestler, is discovered by the WWE and becomes their youngest champion ever. Hailing from a small town in Norwich, England, Paige's dreams are not entirely her own. She shares them with her family - dad Ricky (Nick Frost) and mom Julia (Lena Headey) who run their own wrestling association, and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) who misses out on making his own fantasies as a WWE Superstar come true.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Serenity (2019) Delivers Justice to The Hype Train


Promo tours often limit actors from not leaking intricate or even obtuse details about their upcoming highly-anticipated films. Persuading audiences to see their project based on a trailer, the director's skills, and chemistry between the leading stars is a tricky sell and not something I envy. This marketing spin, usually left up to Big Important Movies like action flicks and superhero sagas, has surprisingly worked for Serenity - an independent film with big names and an even bigger plot twist that's proving sometimes not shouting the story from the rooftops is worth its weight in tuna - I mean, gold.

Everyone on Plymouth knows everyone else’s business. There’s no hiding who is sleeping with who, the gossip between tourists and locals, and if someone’s venture immediately starts to flail. Plymouth is claustrophobic, to say the least, for Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) -  a washed-out fisherman obsessed with catching tuna, drowning in the memories of his son and struggling to make ends meet. When his ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) comes into town offering him $10 million dollars to kill her current abusive husband, Baker must be led away from a tempting payday that could push him further into madness.

The magic about Serenity is that, like a lot of action flicks and franchise players, it’s best to not know a lot about it. Director Steven Knight, either by pure happenstance or sheer insanity, wrote a script that has a lot of things going for it – both good and bad. Namely, the story starts off relatively simple – a hard-knocks guy trapped on a tropical island where everything should be easy breezy, and it’s not. Like the insufferable heat, Baker is suffocating in "paradise" where every day becomes more lucid than the last. It's within the film's most normal moments that the tension builds as Knight implores the cinematography and mood into a modern noir.

And, then eventually the plot grows out of control to instill the twist that has everyone talking. The plot’s swerve, in all honesty, is not that hard to miss. As Baker howls, shrieks and wallows in his sorrows and obsessions, Knight slides in clues and even straight-out tells you where the story is heading. Every shot aims towards growing intrigue (okay, maybe not the ones of McConaughey in the nude but still there's something to take away from those too) and holds the promise that if the audience just stays with it a little longer, they're in for a surprise. Thus, audiences shouldn't feel shocked by a film that is blaring what is going to happen, but all that suspense transforming into true hard facts is a real mind-boggler. It’s a storytelling switch so audacious that one is left not only trailing the breadcrumbs to assess everything the film had laid out before, but also coercing you to pull back the layers of a very surreal onion that only increases the confusion and captivation.

If the film is stripped of the plot twist, Serenity contains a level of tremendous detail by its head honcho in Knight as well as a genuine commitment by the cast. Between Baker falling apart over mysterious visions about his son to Knight's tonal shifts with Plymouth's idyllic aesthetic, the film makes for an adequate drama on its own. In particular, McConaughey and Hathaway give performances that reach varying levels of Nic Cage’s looniest cinematic moments as well as their career bests. Other supporting stars have more trouble finding their place in the story as they only make-up parts of the whole and nothing more. The film has its own set of ambitions to be "a serious film to be taken seriously", but also seems to confuse authentic mystery with being over-the-top.

To be honest, Serenity could've become a drop in the ocean of bargain bin movies – it has all the right elements of a convincing contemporary noir and then it becomes something else entirely. It's hard to think about its stylistic intentions without feeling like some parts of it was a massive prank the audience stumbled upon. Without the instant-reactions of social media, there's a true chance this might've not gained its notoriety so quickly and for its cult potential to live on. And that’s sort of the blessing and crux. Knight worked some kind of vision into his idea that might be worthy of watching once and forgetting about, or revisiting in five years with the sense that this movement of enthusiasm for the film was fun to be a part of. It breaks the rules and defies expectations in the most unexpected ways, leaving 2019 into a rocky but awesome start.

Rating: ★
a gold star for trying
Have you seen Serenity? What did you think?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Monday (2018) Packs A Big Punch For The Short Film Circuit

Sometimes it's not the budget that makes a short film good, it's the production team rallying behind it that counts. Following in director Robert Rodriguez's footsteps, independent filmmaker Alejandro Montoya Marin participated on El Rey's network show Rebel Without A Crew where creators banded together to create an original film. Armed with $7,000, no crew, two days to prep and fourteen days to film his project, Marin creates a fun action movie reminiscent of today's blockbusters.

Jim (Jamie H. Jung)'s life is about to change in the worst ways when he loses his job and his girlfriend gives up on their relationship. Caught in the crossfire of two hit women aiming to take down a drug cartel, Jim is on the run for his life and standing up for himself once and for all.

As the story counts down Jim's day starting off as bad as it can be and only getting more bleak and chaotic from there, what Martin and the cast were able to put together in such a short amount of time shines. Each actor has a fitting on-screen presence for their characters and working well as an ensemble. It's difficult to single out any singular actor in particular, but Kenneth McGlothin exudes a perfect big personality as Jim's friend Paul and Anna Schatte/Sofia Embid have a commanding, intimidating bad-ass presence as the hit women at odds with each other's plans. But the entire cast has good comedic timing and offers solid reminders of similar action-comedies like Horrible BossesThe Other Guys or 21 Jump Street . It's also worth it to stay through the end credits for bloopers and a post-story catch-up with Jim's old business acquaintance.

Monday showcases a lot of potential for Marin as a filmmaker. The story trails in the footsteps of comedies and action movies that you would see today with leading stars like The Rock or Kevin Hart. His direction is seamless, especially with the sound editing adding clever bytes for specific lines of dialogue and an energetic soundtrack. As the writer of the film too, there's a real sense of love for film-making with Marin's clever dialogue and nods to pop culture. The only slight stumbles are a few one-liners that feel random and out of place. However, it's tough to imagine how much of a rush the production must have been to work together, but the limitations doesn't show in the slightest. For a film that only runs an hour long, there's a lot to unpack and it makes for a fun Friday night short film to check out. Hopefully it's the start of bigger and better films to come for everyone.

Please Note: I was provided with a screener of this movie in exchange for an honest review. Monday premieres on the El Rey network on Feb 18 at 10 EST and will be available video-on-demand. You can currently watch Rebel Without A Crew on El Rey and Alejandro is getting ready for his next project on IndieGogo.

Rating: ★★☆

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Favourite (2018) Is Capable of Much Pleasantness

The Favourite movie review
With some directors, you never know what you’re going to get. As familiar as you may be with their past projects, they always manage to create something within their own style but also off the beaten track. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is easily one of those types of directors today. Every film he produces from The Lobster to The Killing of A Sacred Deer, Lanthimos stands out even from his own work. This is easily the biggest, perhaps the best way, to describe his latest film The Favourite.

Set in the early 18th century, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) relishes having Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) all to herself. And then, her cousin Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) arrives on their castle's doorstep striving to make a name for herself by any means necessary. The two begin vying for the attention of the Queen as Britain braces itself for war against France.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Might Just Be The Best Spin-Off in the Galaxy So Far

Some movies just have really bad luck. One wouldn't think that this would be the case for Star Wars, but since its Disneyfied resurgence in 2015 the beloved phenomenon has had its ups and downs. The highs have been relatively good enough to give the movies a new life, while the lows of critically-panned sequels and spin-offs are enough to put a kink in the franchise's hype. Overshadowed by high expectations and franchise-overexposure, Solo: A Star Wars Story has the unfortunate disadvantage of landing right in the middle.

Set before the original Star Wars films, young Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) joins forces with a group of smugglers in order to make good on a deal that went sour. Along the way, he reconciles with a partner-in-crime he thought he'd lost for good, gains enemies, and makes new friends as he aims to become the best pilot in the galaxy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Watch on Netflix: Bird Box (2018)


2018 has given us quite a few reasons to believe that women can do more in Hollywood than what they’ve been regulated to. Similar to films released earlier this year such as science-fiction flick Annihilation or romantic-comedy Crazy Rich Asians, the latest apocalyptic adaptation Bird Box is another example of an unexpected film telling a different story than the ones we’re always used to: female roles can be complex, actresses don’t have to stick a certain genre, and men can be more than  the only strong character.

Based on the book by Josh Mallerman, a mysterious virus triggers people into killing themselves sparking an international apocalypse. Mallory, an artistic hermit who's not prepared to give birth to her child let alone the end of the world, must fight to step outside of her shell in order to survive. Forced to live alongside fellow survivors – an Army vet Tom (Trevant Rhodes), a MAGA conspiratorial Douglas (John Malkovich), a young and naive pregnant woman Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) - she has to remain guarded enough to stay alive but also not lose hope in humanity.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns (2019) Is Full of New and Familiar Tricks

Mary Poppins, the British superhero equipped with a talking umbrella and bewitched carpetbag, first debuted onto the big-screen nearly fifty-four years ago. Having become a childhood classic starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the hotly contested adaptation between author P.L. Traver and Walt Disney, the beloved nanny makes a comeback in a familiar and fresh "remake-quel" of the original.

Set twenty-five years after the 1964's story, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to the Banks’s home where Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are all grown-up and have fallen on hard times at the height of the Great Depression. Michael, in particular, is struggling to overcome his wife's passing when he learns that the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank is about to repossess his family's home. While Michael and Jane race against an impossible deadline, Mary and an exuberant lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) take Michael's children with a series of bombastic and inspiring adventures.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Annihilation (2018) Is One Of The Years Underrated Sci-Fi Flicks

We need more sci-fi movies with women. I’ll point you to director Alex Garland’s Annihilation as one of the most recent reasons why. Despite having a familiar plot of an isolated team searching an almost alien-like treacherous land, the film hypnotizes you with its bizarre world and the mystery of unanswered questions. The movie's cast, cinematography, and world-building is satisfying enough on its own with what it gives to the story but also leaves you wanting more.

Based on the trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, a mysterious translucent orb looms over Area X. No one knows how or why it came to fruition, just that its electromagnetic power slowly absorbs everything in its wake. Anything or anyone that crosses the Shimmer’s threshold is never to be seen or heard from again. That is until cellular-biology professor Lena (Natalie Portman) is inexplicably reunited with her husband (Oscar Isaac), a soldier who entered the Shimmer as part of a military operation and was the only survivor to come out alive but suffering ill effects from being inside. Curious to venture into the heart of the orb and find out what happens inside, Lena and four other women - psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), paramedic Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), anthropologist Cass Shepphard (Tuva Novotny) and physicist Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) - make one last dangerous trek searching for answers.

On the surface level, there isn’t a lot about Annihilation that’s unique from many other sci-fi counterparts. The story is something that we’ve seen before: a uniquely qualified group of individuals enter an unknown world and nothing can prepare for them for what they’re about to encounter. We’re left with various questions about what happened, and the suspense is left up to both the cast of characters and the environment (which becomes a character on its own) to tease us with what happened: Were the  previous military groups driven crazy and murdered each other? Did something else kill them - how? What? The longer Lena’s squadron spends in the orb, their doubts and terror about the environment start tipping the scale of how they struggle to trust each other and the deathly situation that they’re in.

What lies underneath the surface of the film is how the story and direction is gorgeously haunting. The Shimmer's overgrown forests and peaceful isolation feels like something out of a fairytale. But lurking behind the illusion of its dream-like atmosphere are changes that the team could never imagine: People become one with the landscape, animals transform into terrifying beasts, and the fact that nobody can really live within its translucent walls increases any sense of seeing civilization again. As Lena and her comrades follow its trail of breadcrumbs about the military units that came before them, their resolve starts to crumble – there really is no such thing as going back. The Shimmer is filled with tension and wonder about the unknown, a lingering suspicion about what will happen next; it has a foreboding peacefulness to it that’s matched by violence; life equals death; destruction breeds creation. The longer you spend with Lena and the group, the more you want to know answers too, and to see who might survive, die, or how the Shimmer changes them.

The film is very much an ensemble piece. Portman’s career over the past decade has truly flourished, churning out all kinds of complex performances from Black Swan to Jackie. As Lena, she offers a formidable leader to the group and someone to anchor the story to as she tries to navigate what’s going on around her – she’s vulnerable, smart, and resilient. The rest of the characters could come across as a little trope-ish compared to similar action / sci-fi movies, but they create a tight camaraderie between them that makes their tentative unity and division almost palpable. It’s not hard to fall in love with the film’s overall aesthetic, to be honest: Five women walking into the Shimmer ready to get answers and kick ass.

Written and directed by Alex Garland, Annihilation is only the first step in a trilogy, and unfortunately, he only had the intention of making the first one. When he started the project, the author's manuscript was just coming together, and Garland scraped the series' ideas together to form his own vision - ironically, just like The Shimmer. His film's world-building asks big questions, and the road to answering them is chilling and unexpected. Annihilation works well enough as a stand-alone, but knowing what happens next would’ve been interesting for the rest of the trilogy to be made and explore. There’s honestly nothing wrong with Garland's film, except the shame of wanting more and being forced to wait for another director to take the series on again. One can only hope that this breeds similar yet different sci-films in the future.

Rating: ★★
Have you seen Annihilation? What did you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

(Spoiler-Free) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review
Warner Bros Studios Pictures
The importance of family, power of love, good vs evil – the Harry Potter series was a master at being a universal phenomenon. No matter where you came from or how you found the story, author J.K. Rowling offered a doorway into storytelling as easy as flicking your wand and make-believing you were a witch or wizard on your way to exploring her wizarding world. Ten years after her first series ended, and the start of a new chapter has begun, it's a little clearer with the Fantastic Beasts series that the story we loved is not as accessible as it used to be - whether you’re a die-hard fan of the series already or just curious about the franchise's future.

Following Newt on his adventures, the second Fantastic Beasts film travels to the Paris wizarding world where Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) promises freedom for his growing, loyal band of followers who want to be liberated from the shadows of the No-Maj/Muggle world. In trying to stop his rise to power, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) requests the help of his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Meeting in the middle are both foes and friends alike - Tina Goldstein (Katharine Waterston), Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), Leta Lestrange (Ezra Miller), Nagini (Claudia Kim), and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) – who called to decide which side they are on.

To say the least, there’s a lot going on in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Where the previous film Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a mere appetizer, its follow-up is the meaty hook of what’s ahead. With three more installments on the way, Rowling as screenwriter employs all the world-building and story-development she has at her disposal– introducing new characters, uniting or pitting familiar faces against each other, and trying to connect her novels to this other set of adventures. Her revered imagination and ability to weave her ideas together are the film’s best and worst assets. 

To the sequel’s long-awaited credit, there’s no way that you can’t not feel like this film gives you your fill of exploring the wizarding world. From returning to Hogwarts to seeing new avenues of the French wizarding world, every stone feels unturned as the intricacies of the impending wizarding war connects to all of the characters’ journeys and motivations. Unlike any of the Harry Potter films he’s directed before, David Yates sheds the constricted nature of his previous installments from Order of the Phoenix and beyond to make this film as gorgeously grim as it can be. Yates and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot create fresh angles of the world we love that we haven’t seen before. With every fresh installment of the phenomenon, the escapism gets better and better from James Newton Howard’s ominous score to the glorious production design by Stuart Craig. Every time you think you’ve seen what this series has to offer, there’s more around the corner - that reason alone is what keeps fans coming back for more.

Story-wise, the film also has a lot of intricate moving parts with the characters and doesn't shy away from making this the darkest entry in the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchise. Primarily, because of Grindelwald. Similar to Voldemort, he is a grave threat against the wizarding world, a master behind the curtain pulling all of the strings. The entire ensemble is in one way or another an outsider- they don’t fit in with their peers or society. Some are searching for their long-lost identity and validation (Credence, Leta, Nagini); others have weaknesses that can be exploited by Grindelwald or help them take a stronger stance against him (Newt, Tina, Queenie, Jacob, Theseus, Yusaf). And because of that, we truly get a  sense of how powerful he is by how he uses other characters as a pawn for his vision. As moviegoers, we're left to watch what Grindelwald is capable of, and root that our favorites don't fall into his cat-and-mouse schemes. As much as the film is darker in its tone and explores human nature more, there's also a lot of lightness to be adventurous, romantic, and charming. Unlike Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, this installment has a better balance of flipping between both styles. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Venom (2018) Makes Comic Book Movies Fun Again

Venom Movie Review
Sony Pictures
Why so serious comic book genre? This is the big question that pops up in my mind over the intense division, even backlash, over Venom. Sony's latest attempt at their own comic book universe is an unexpected detour from the expected adaptations we've seen over the years, and reminds us of how the genre used to be: purely fun for fun's sakes. Venom's splash of action, sci-fi, and rom-com is not the most traditional story of its kind, and that works both for and against the film.

Humankind is depleting all of its natural resources. So much so that it's gonna need a better planet. Creator and inventor of the Life Foundation Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) uses his spaceships to bring back aliens known as symbiotes with the hopes of finding human hosts, but they’re deadlier and dangerous than even his multi-million dollar corporation ever planned for. Enter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an investigative journalist who uncovers shady dealings with Drake’s corporation and inadvertently becomes the host of a violent symbiote called Venom. Forced to act as a hybrid, Eddie and Venom work together to take down the Life Foundation.

Venom is an absurd comic book movie that embraces how absurd it is, and honestly, the pure joy of the film comes out of its leading performance by Hardy. Already having a reputation for going all in for his characters, he makes no shift in changing his methods now, and here it really works – he’s not only playing Eddie but gives Venom his voice and comically, awkwardly, and believably acts like there’s an alien taking over his body - it's some of the best, and most importantly playful (and not method-esque performances) he’s ever given. As much as the film includes the typical CGI combat scenes between the two of them against Drake's cronies, there are a few set pieces of Eddie fighting his body's reaction to Venom's invasion and embracing Venom until they end up creating a weird bond of compromise and trust. Their arc from enemies to frenemies and friends is one of the best on-screen relationships to come along in a long time, especially in the "superhero" genre. It’s almost impossible to think that another actor could’ve carried the film as entertaining as he does.

Following behind Hardy is the supporting cast who aren’t “bad” in any sense of the word, but in comparison to Hardy don’t have as much to carry in terms of showy performances or transformations. Riz Ahmed as Drake is sort of your typical Marvel villain as a rich inventor who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, but Ahmed is charismatic and tries to rise above some of the cliche tropes his character has. More minor characters are filled in nicely: Jenny Slate as one of the few doctors who questions the lengths Drake is willing to go to; Celphas Jones as Eddie’s steely boss are fine the roles that they have; Reid Scott as a doctor who tries to help Eddie. The only casting that felt out-of-place was Michelle Williams as Eddie's girlfriend Anne; she's well-balanced as stuck between loving or leaving Eddie, but the chemistry between herself and Hardy didn’t quite gel - I had a hard time trying not to imagine someone else in the role.

Therein lies a small crux to Venom: it entirely rests on Hardy’s beefy shoulders. If his performance works for you, it’s guaranteed to be a good time; if it doesn’t, well, the whole film falls apart.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

First Man (2018) Shoots for the Moon But Misses

First Man movie review
Universal Pictures
Most are probably familiar with Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission: the space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union, the "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" quote, the iconic photo of Neil's footprints on the moon. Here for First Man, director Damien Chazelle explores a deeper, not widely known story, behind one of humankind’s biggest achievements.

Following the death of their toddler Karen, Neil (Ryan Gosling) and his family gradually set a course for him through trial and error to chart the famous Apollo 11 mission. While working his way up as a pilot and surviving the Gemini missions to landing on the moon, Armstrong’s eyes are so strongly set on the stars to deal with his grief, his relationship with wife Janet (Claire Foy) and their two sons starts falling apart at the seams.

One can’t have a biopic about Neil Armstrong without the Apollo 11, and vice versa. To tackle such an elusive figure with monumental events, it’s a real balancing act for any director to want to tell both stories. There's no question that Chazelle wanted to explore Armstrong's side of the events. However in focusing the film almost entirely from his perspective, the overall journey to the moon leaves a lot to be desired. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Fourth's Time The Charm for A Star Is Born (2018)

a star is born 2018 movie review
Warner Bros Pictures
Every twenty years Hollywood has reinvented A Star Is Born, a seemingly timeless story where a veteran star’s fame declines as he falls in love with a newcomer who rises to the top. From earning standing ovations at film festivals around the world to epic word-of-mouth on social media, director Bradley Cooper and his co-star Lady Gaga has earned acclaim for his directorial debut with the reboot of a tragic Hollywood fairytale. With so much hype surrounding the musical-drama-romance, the fourth A Star Is Born remake not only lives up to the hype but worth all its weight in gold and then some.

I don't consider this review full of spoilers, but if you're not familiar with the full A Star Is Born plot, it might be spoilerish. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Puts A Feminist Twist on Rom-Com Fairytale

Warner Bros. Pictures
Anyone who’s anyone has probably heard of Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan's international bestselling book that's taken the literary world by storm since 2013. If you haven't, chances are you'll know its name now with the critically acclaimed adaptation closely following its lead. And for good reason: director Jon M Chu charms with a story about love, sacrifice and identity that'll sweep you off your feet.

An economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is invited by her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to attend a family wedding. Making a good first impression to your possible-in-laws is naturally intimidating, but Chu’s meet-and-greet brings a shocking revelation: Young is the prized son to one of the richest families in Singapore and the approval of his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) is extraordinarily difficult to earn; so much so, it might end up tearing them apart.

At first glance, Crazy Rich Asians is a lighthearted, endearing movie that's pretty much like every other romantic comedy: pretty people falling head over heels for each other in wonderful locations set to an addictive soundtrack. But sometimes the best rom-coms have substance as well as style, and this film has both in spades; especially the latter starring women (and men) struggling to sacrifice or uphold a part of their identity and traditions to appease the people they love.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018) Is The Best Franchise That Keeps Getting Better

mission impossible fallout movie review On the very rare occasion that Tom Cruise doesn’t deliver on his promise to thrill moviegoers, almost every summer we count on the renown star to bring on the excitement as the daring spy Ethan Hunt. Waiting for another installment has become an event in itself for fans anticipating where Cruise will take his passion for this sage next. Every Mission: Impossible installment seems outdo the last tone. Coming back for the sixth time, Mission: Impossible Fallout again proves to be the best entry in a franchise that just keeps getting better.

After failing to recover three plutonium nuclear cores, IMF Agent Ethan Hunt is forced to team up with the CIA’s top assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) to prevent the weapons from falling into the hands of a religious anarchist group known as the Apostles. While dealing with the aftermath of capturing one of its dangerous associates Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), Hunt’s past comes back to haunt him, and question how he can save the world just one more time.

Every Mission: Impossible has been naturally different in their own way as the films have changed hands between directors, writers, and supporting casts. Despite definitive stylistic transitions between movies, the series has never lost the core of what it’s always striven to be: an action-packed escape with fun characters. Though the franchise as a whole and individually are far from bad (the earliest ones are certainly dated but not the worst), Fallout is not just a physical rollercoaster ride but an emotional symphony in humanizing its hero.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Watch On Netflix: Set It Up (2018)

For the past several years, romantic comedies haven't flourished like they used to. Gone are the days where one quirky love story after another swept us off our feet and dominated the box office. While The Big Sick and Love, Simon have recently become beloved favorites, regular hits seem few and far between. After significant word-of-mouth through social media, there might be some hope left for the ol' harmless genre with Netflix's Set It Up

Two hardworking assistants Harper and Charlie (Zoey Deutch and Glenn Powell, respectively) are anxious to live a normal life outside of the office and enjoy more free time to themselves. To get a much-needed break and reconnect with neglected aspirations/relationships, they decide to secretly set up their bosses Kristen (Lucy Liu) and Rick (Taye Diggs) for a quick hook-up that might just become the real deal.

Fascinatingly, Set It Up is not entirely different than most 'chick flicks' you'd find on the Hallmark channel - which isn't an insult to Netflix's surprise hit at all. Like all rom-coms, the story is a bit of a fairy-tale and more happy-go-lucky than real life fails to be; there's cutesy montages, sappy quotes about what it means to fall in love, a dance-party-Spotify-worthy songlist. Drawing on elements of what's worked in the past for the genre - heartwarming characters, the right cast, and a joyful setting - director Claire Scanlon and writer by Katie Silberman revive the rom-com wheel to create a funny and light-hearted movie night and a big hit online.

Where the movie truly shines is the leads. Zoey Deutch charms the hell out of her role as Harper, an awkward, dorky 'insert foot into mouth' aspiring writer who's become too comfortable filling out her boss's requests in order to take a leap of faith and combine her love of words and sports into a different career. (Something I relate with all too well, fyi). Glen Powell is the perfect counterpart as Charlie, a likeable guy-next-door who puts up with his hotshot boss in order to be promoted and live the high-life, but in getting everything he wants, he might inadvertently fall down the same loveless path Rick's on. As a pair they truly steal the show, wonderfully alienating each other until they fall in love as we fall in love with them.

As for Harper and Charlies' bosses, the script for both Kristen and Rick isn't horrible but could be a bit stronger. There's simply more to love about Lucy Liu's performance and wardrobe than Taye Diggs's. The former's boss-from-hell is fierce, independent, and demanding yet as down-to-earth-as possible, while the latter's quite one-sided and doesn't put his charisma to good use. Though Diggs is typically wonderful in everything he does, his character is less of a perfectionist womanizer with a heart of gold underneath, and more of a spoiled tantrum-thrower with shades of decency thrown in. While the rest of the cast has a sense of humor tailored to them (Harper's sarcastic/clever, Charlie's dry, Kristen's sharp), Rick's one-liners are so random they'll require a double-take. Additionally, Kristen/Rick's initial run-in can only be described as awkward, in comparison to the rest of the movie that's quite subtle and wholesome. While Rick's faults goes to the writing more than the actor, everyone blends together quite smoothly; Liu has a lot more to work with here (she might even get her own sequel), but with Diggs, they manage to exude 'will-they-or-won't-they' chemistry as well as Deutch and Powell.

The most refreshing aspect about Set It Up might be how it avoids falling into tropes with its characters, especially its heroine. The script, and Deutch, have a great time with Harper as a hard-working and dorky-to-the-max protagonist, and also showing that she hasn't had a lot of romantic partners but that doesn't necessarily define. Charlie, who thinks he's quite the ladies man, doesn't try to change her personality or looks to improve her life. Their relationship starts out as strangers who want the same things, which develops into a relateable friendship and something more. There's no man-boys forcing women to be something they're not (looking at you Judd Apatow) or a girl being forced to choose between work and love (looking at you...every other rom-com ever); all of the characters are on equal playing fields. As Netflix churns out feel-good flicks left and right, this one's reminiscent of traditional romantic movies that are thoroughly missed.

Set It Up might not be the most original romantic comedy, but sometimes that's the best kind of escape; girl and boy meet; for the most part get along and wear their 'friendship blinders' until they discover what they've been missing: each other. The movie has a lot to love just the way it is. With a great cast and delightful setting, it's genuinely worth a watch or two.

Have you seen Set It Up? What did you think?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Love, Simon (2018) Is More Than A Coming-Of-Age Story

Everyone deserves a love story, but cinema has been slow in letting everyone share their affection for others. Based on the best-selling book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is one of the most refreshing romantic dramedies in a long time.

Simon is gay. But nobody knows it yet. One evening, the gossip site for his high school tips off the community that someone is secretly gay but hasn't revealed their sexual identity yet. In a bid to ward off any attention, he anonymously shares his story of fears and worries about coming out, and begins a penpal relationship with "Blue" - another kid at school who's in the same position he is. When a nosy theatre nerd finds out Simon's secret and promises it'll stay so if he's hooked up with one of Simon's friends, Simon does everything he can to help him while sorting out his feelings.

Though I haven't read the best-selling book yet, the adaptation proves to be a hit on its own. Given how many young adult franchises just don't capture the attention like they used, and films representing the gay youth experience are becoming more seen than ever, Love, Simon is an enjoyable, important coming out of age movie.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Makes Superhero Movies Feel Good Again

Ant-Man and the Wasp movie review
Since Avengers: Infinity War left us in an exhausted heap of feels, Marvel offered their least suspected characters to cleanse our palate after everything changed with a snap of Thanos's figures. Surprisingly, against the odds that one of the Avengers' smallest heroes could fill in the summer gap, that's exactly what Ant-Man and the Wasp does: pick up the pieces from Infinity War's devastating wake and gear us up for the next leg in the Avengers' recovery with Captain Marvel in 2019.

Starting where we left off in Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) have rekindled their relationship and are determined to return to the quantum realm to find their long-lost matriarch Janet (Michelle Pfieffer). However, in the two years since Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) sided with Captain America in Captain America: Civil War to fight Iron Man over the Accords, he made a plea deal and was put on house-arrest to avoid going to jail. Brought in to help Hank and Hope on their quest, they're on the run from the FBI, and together, they must race against time and a new form of Ant-Man called the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who is hellbent on stealing their new quantum technology.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Greatest Showman (2018) Sings A Surprisingly Different Tune


Musicals inspire us to set aside reality as characters break out into song and dance when life’s knocked them down or they're making their dreams come true. With the setting of a grand circus and a showman making his performers dreams come true, The Greatest Showman surprisingly struggles with creating magic outside of its wondrous score and dazzling production.

Hugh Jackman takes on real-life circus mogul P.T. Barnum from his downtrodden childhood to marrying the woman (Michelle Williams) of his dreams and creating an eccentric show starring outcasts – bearded lady, a giant, a dwarf, trapeze artists, siamese twins - to name a few. As his exhibition of "freaks" bring a different kind of success than he anticipated, Barnum's forced to face what his dreams are truly made of.