Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spring~Early Summer Movie Reviews 2014

The year of 2014 has provided us a great time at cinema. Although not the huge blockbuster even we had in 2012 with The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, this year has given us some nice surprises. Some great and some just ok...

Starting off with round one of this year is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel took a more serious tone with its iconic super hero in this post-Avengers movie. Although other post-Avengers movies did not live up to their respective hype like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, this movie far surpasses expectations. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a sequel that is better than the original in terms of story, character development, and intense action scenes. The movie is a fun ride, while also keeping you guessing of what is going to happen next to our heroes and even the Marvel cinematic universe. A definite must-see if you are a fan of Marvel and/or comic books in general, but even someone who just wants to watch a good, intelligent action movie will greatly enjoy this film. This is one of my favorite Marvel movies I have seen by far. Score: 9/10

Next up we have The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Another Marvel film, though NOT taking place in the “Avengers cinematic universe” (thanks a lot FOX…), our favorite web-slinger jumps into action in the sequel of the latest reboot. This film provided great action scenes with stunning visuals, making it feel you are right in the middle of the fights. However, what this movie lacked was a coherent story. Just like what happened in Spider-Man 3, we got three villains (or two-and-a-half) which the movie tried too hard to rush their stories in, making the film feel pretty crowded. Though this movie was not nearly as sloppy as Spider-Man 3, the film still suffered from villain characters that we care little about, as we know very little about them and even their motivations make very little sense. The movie also tried to be funny and fast-paced at times, while trying to be dark at others, which could have worked with better pacing, but overall felt awkward. Another thing that bothered me was that throughout most of the movie, the soundtrack felt very generic. Although the score was done by the very talented Hans Zimmer, it seems he was underutilized here. The only themes that stood out was Electro’s (nice touch of mixing instrumentals with dubstep to give the “electric effect”) and the ending scene (only because it finally matched the tone of the movie, but of course by then…the movie is over). I do not consider it a bad movie, but I cannot help but feel it could have been much better. I did, however, enjoyed the interaction between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, even though they did the “I have to break up with you because of my superhero life, but I love you too much so we will end up together anyway” cliché’, but that was forgiven at the end…no spoilers… Score: 7/10

Our favorite kaiju from Japan has made his dramatic entrance in American cinemas in 2014’s Godzilla! Although invulnerable to any conventional weapon mankind throws at him, the giant radioactive monster is not immune to movie critics! With the jokes aside, the movie took itself very seriously and provided a scenario of what would happen if Godzilla were to appear in today’s world. Veteran actors like Brian Cranston and Ken Watanabe did not disappoint by providing us the emotion of their characters. Unfortunately, they were the only human characters you cared about (ok, also the main character, a little…). The movie tries to follow the same pacing as the original 1954 classic by showing very little of Godzilla throughout the film until towards the end. It is a grueling journey for both the characters and the audience that has to be endured, BUT fortunately it is a big payoff at the end. Tease after tease, we finally get our reward during the final showdown between Godzilla and his newest foes, the MUTOs. What I give the movie most credit for is giving me those rare moments when I see something so awesome on screen that I want to jump off my chair and cheer in excitement, which I am unable to do in my theater full of Marines. This movie provided three of those moments which I am thankful for, even though they were all in the last 15 minutes of the movie. The movie could’ve used stronger character development in the human characters, or even Godzilla himself, but the final fight will show you why he is the King of Monsters. Score: 8/10

Wolverine has been through a lot lately, almost having his credentials completely ruined in X-Men 3 and in the brutally awful X-Men: Origins. He slowly gets his groove back in Japan in X-Men: The Wolverine, but now he has go time-traveling in the latest epic tale, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Fans have been craving for a good X-Men movie for quite some time and this movie provides it all. With an incredibly large cast consisting of the characters from the original trilogy to the newer ones that we saw in X-Men: First Class. Mutants are now facing extinction and even mankind is threatened with the introduction of the Sentinels, unstoppable mutant-hunting killing machines. “An apocalyptic future ruled by robots? Like we never saw that before! Wah wah wah!” you may be thinking, but does it really matter if even though the idea is not original but the execution of it is? Well, it executes it perfectly in this movie! As ridiculous as a plan of sending back Wolverine to 1970’s America to stop the events that caused the Sentinels to be produced may sound, this movie somehow made it work. The character interactions with each other has been done so well, it keeps you involved throughout the film. The movie has an almost perfect balance of action, drama, suspense, and even comedy. Director Bryan Singer even goes as far as to “correct” the mistakes of the bad X-Men movies (Take THAT X-Men 3!) You will have to watch it to see what I mean... Score: 9/10

Japanese manga being adapted into live-action American movies usually do not end well *cough cough*Dragonball Evolution*cough cough*. However, this year’s biggest surprise comes in the form of Edge of Tomorrow, or All You Need Is Kill in Japan, starring Tom Cruise. The trailers made it seem like a generic sci-fi action flick, but what we really got was a very well put together story of a war between mankind and an alien invasion taking place in Europe. Through chance, Tom Cruise’s character gains the ability to “restart” the day every time he dies while retaining his memories of everything that happened previously. Basically his life becomes a living video game. We watch the main character progress from being a cowardly “noob” to battle-hardened super soldier as he learns from every death (Hey, just like a video game!). An outrageous concept that could’ve easily been ruined by film makers, however the execution of the plot was so well done, that even though the character seemed “indestructible”, there are legitimate circumstances that take place that make you still feel tensed at how they will beat their over-powering foes. The actors did a great job in their roles. Though we have our Tom Cruise jokes that make fun of his stereotype acting style, he really did a great job in this movie and you could tell that he is having a blast with his role, which makes the audience enjoy it as well. Emily Blunt plays as this other super soldier who is one of the only people who understands what is happening to him and ends up training him to become the hero that will save the human race. This movie caters to any type of action movie fans and gives homage to sci-fi action films that were enjoyed during the 80’s and 90’s like Aliens, Starship Troopers, & Independence Day. The beach landing scene is like the opening Normandy beach scene from Saving Private Ryan, except add mechs, hi-tech gear, and ravaging aliens…can’t go wrong with that! Score: 8.5/10

Speaking of Japanese manga adapting into the big screen, my final review for this round is Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Taika-hen (Kyoto Inferno). I will write a full review with more details later so I will be brief. Following the events of the first movie, Kenshin’s newly found peaceful life at the Kamiya Dojo is interrupted with the news of the arrival of Makoto Shishio, an ex-assassin who was betrayed by the government he fought for, now seeking revenge by burning Kyoto to the ground and throw Japan’s Meiji government into chaos. Kenshin, now allied with his rival, Hajime Saito, sets off to Kyoto to stop Shishio’s plot, saying his farewell to Kaoru. The action is highly improved from the last film, with incredible choreography that gives a great “realistic” interpretation of the fights from the manga/anime, without losing its unique touch. Most of the characters were very well portrayed, although through others, a lot of liberties were taken to adapt them into film. Some people might be turned-off with the cliff-hanger ending and the lack of big duels (most fights were our main characters fighting a bunch of henchmen), however this film IS a two parter, so this movie is pretty much a huge buildup to the next one. Overall, a very fun film and fans of the manga will enjoy the nods to the original material even though the overall story had to be shortened to only two movies. Score: 8/10

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