Passengers Review: An intergalactic awry love story

The spaceship, Starship Avalon, is on its 120-year journey through space to a colony planet when the ship starts to malfunction. As a result, two hibernation pods open 90 years too early, awaking its inhabitants Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). As Jim and Aurora begins adjusting to living the rest of their lives aboard the ship, they fall in love. But their blissful lives are put on hold when the malfunctioning ship begins to act up, threatening the lives of everyone on board.

To be honest, it was a little difficult crafting the summary for this film especially when a crucial plot twist had to be left out. This plot twist takes up a pretty huge role in the film and actually erases everything you believed in before sitting down to watch the film. In short, when you finally see the reveal of this plot twist, you’ll realize that there isn’t much of a story to it.

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“Oh damn. Critics are going to have field day with this one.” Source: Columbia Pictures

There are no villains in the film and the action only comes in during the second half. The malfunction comes in a simple form though I would have preferred someone hijacking the system. Though the audience is given a chance to learn more about Aurora’s character, there isn’t much background given on Jim – which makes it all the more strange. It would have been a nice balance to understand the two characters individually instead of knowing a lot about one and nothing about the other.

The visual effects are pretty great in this film, akin to other space films like Gravity and Interstellar. The chemistry between the characters, on the other hand, felt a little awkward at times. Instead of seeing Lawrence and Pratt as a couple, I was seeing more of a sibling chemistry between the two.

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“Your hair is so soft. You have to tell how you maintain it in this stale space air!” Source: Columbia Pictures

The story definitely had a lot of room to grow and I would have preferred to see a little more hurdles that challenged the characters. But, I can also see how it had been watered down to concentrate on the growing relationship between these two characters.
Instead of harping on the ‘what could have been’, sometimes, it’s enough to enjoy the moments you are given. In the case of Aurora who has been planning her life and trying to live up to her father’s name, she needed to learn to let go and dive head-first into the unknown. And, Jim was her way to achieving that.

Though I did enjoy the human aspect of the plot, I really did hope for some evil villain to pop out and say ‘huzzah, your ship is going down because I want it to!’. But, when it came down to it, the action-filled portion of the film felt like a defining moment in the film to progress the relationship between Aurora and Jim. Instead of being a climatic point of the film, it has suddenly become a filler for the plot.

I’d love to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Passengers but it was rather difficult when I’m left with questions despite a proper conclusion to Aurora and Jim’s lives.

Rating: 

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review: This is the film you’ve been waiting for

Having to survive without her parents since a young age, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has been longing to find her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and seek revenge against Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and the Empire. Her chance arises when she is rescued by the Rebel Alliance. Learning that her father had built the Death Star with a way to destroy it, Jyn joins forces with Cassian Endor (Diego Luna) and other rebels to steal the space station’s plans for the Rebel Alliance.

This film was truly what all Star Wars fans have been waiting for. I had been a little bit wary of this story, wondering how it was going to tie in to the others since most of the lead characters looked new. Well, I must say it was dumb to worry about that when it is being handled so perfectly. From start to finish, I was on the edge of my seat. Even when I’m watching it in IMAX 3D, I couldn’t even tell what was 3D and what wasn’t. I was so focused on the story since the film started that I ignored everything else.

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“Great. Just when I thought we were going to finally win against the Empire.” Source: Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The story line of Rogue One definitely helped bridge the missing time between Episode III and Episode IV in a way. Though the CGI effects surpassed all Episodes (especially with General Tarkin and the young Princess Leia), it is not impossible to dismiss that as just a technicality. With a simple plot that made for a heart-racing adventure, this was truly on par with the Star Wars film.

The characters created were a great diverse addition to the Star Wars universe, especially with the creation of Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a blind character that utilized Yen’s martial arts background. His witty lines and hilarious mantra ‘I’m One With The Force, The Force Is With Me’, easily made Chirrut a likeable character. Though supposedly the dashing Captain of the story, Luna managed to give his character a flawed disposition – a truly different kind of hero.

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“Gather round kids. We will now begin chanting our mantra.” Source: Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Following in the footsteps of a self-made rebel like Rey, Jones’ Jyn Erso is the definition of a woman saving the day. Gone are the days where female characters require a man to step in. Despite Jones’ small stature, she is still able to command presence in every scene that she shares with her co-stars. Her no nonsense expression gives way to the real meaning of a resting bitch face, which I only wish I could master.

Unlike the adorable BB-8, R2-D2 or the rather testing C-3PO, we are introduced to the sassy and witty K-2SO. A rather refreshing take on a new android, this is truly the android we’ve been looking for. With the ability to sass his counterpart and even operate weapons, K-2SO in my opinion, is quite literally the best of the androids. Voiced by the awesome Alan Tudyk, K-2SO has just replaced BB-8 & R2-D2 in my heart.

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“I’m small but I can beat you anytime.” Source: Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The chemistry between the characters made for a cast that complemented each other. No one felt odd or out of place and it was my new definition of squad goals. The electric chemistry between Cassian and Jyn could have made for an easy romantic moment to happen but fortunately, it didn’t happen. In forgoing their romance, there was room for more content and more action.

With the addition of the Darth Vader scene which was so bad-ass (he’s a multi-tasker!), the bridging of the ending of Rogue One to the beginning of Episode IV felt almost seamless to me. I liked that they tied up all loose ends in Rogue One, leaving no room for ‘what ifs’ which would otherwise make Episode IV to VII have a problem with continuity. Though, being an ever-growing galaxy of stories, it is still quite possible to sneak in one or two familiar faces from Rogue One but the chances are quite slim – especially after that freaking heartbreaking ending.

I’ve never been so blown away by a Star Wars film before and though I might get shunned for saying this, Rogue One has easily become one of my favorite Star Wars films.

Rating: 

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La La Land Review: A Bittersweet Love Story

Mia (Emma Stone), is an aspiring actress who works at a cafe situated in a studio lot. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), is a jazz musician who aspires to open his own jazz club but scrapes by playing at restaurants and parties. The two meet, hitting it off and becoming one another’s pillar of support as they work toward their dreams. But, as each start to gain momentum and success, their fragile relationship takes a hit. They are eventually left with decisions that change their lives forever.

Over the course of the years that Mia and Sebastian were together, they experienced all the highs of a couple in love. But when their dreams slowly take shape, they begin to experience tough decisions that start to sour the relationship. The foundation of the support begins to disintegrate, becoming hard to accomodate one another. In short, it is a simple love story that combines dancing and singing. But at the heart of it are two kindred souls that fell in love because of the passion they saw in one another for their craft.

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The highs of a romance. Source: Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures

A remarkable film that shows the vulnerability of love between two people – La La Land is a bittersweet look at how two people can forget each other so easily when given an opportunity they’ve longed for. Though many would argue that they just didn’t love each other enough, I felt that they did love each other but just not to the point where they can see themselves giving up on their dreams. They loved each other in a different sense – one that gave each other support. They both knew mutually that somehow, their love for one another thrived on the passion they each had. Mia’s love grew whenever she sees Sebastian play the piano. And his love for her grew whenever he sees her planning for her one-woman play. When Sebastian starts to waver in his belief for true jazz authenticity, Mia’s love began to wane.

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“Our careers are so beautiful, huh?” Source: Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures

It was sad for me at the end of the film though I understood the decision that arrived at that conclusion. I honestly would have preferred the ending in that dance sequence but it would have meant one of them giving up on their aspirations.

La La Land has the making of a perfect Broadway show and it is only a matter of time until it happens. The dancing, tapping and singing made for an enjoyable film that truly brought back a nostalgic feel. I’m hoping this is the start to more films like this – a rare gem of 2016.

Rating:

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Moana Review: Spreading the love for Polynesian Culture!

A spirited teenager, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), sets out on a daring mission to find the once-mighty Demi-God Maui (Dwayne Johnson) to save her island and restore the heart of Te Fiti. Together, they travel the open ocean on an action-packed voyage where they encounter different fiery creatures and overcome impossible odds.

Another visionary masterpiece from the folks at Disney, Moana didn’t disappoint. It was initially a little worrying when I noticed how little marketing was made for the film. Unlike its predecessors, Moana seemed a little under the radar. But even with the little to no effort on marketing, nothing can stop a good animation like Moana from topping the box office.

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Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures

I had been really excited about the animation when I found out that lyrical genius Lin Manuel Miranda, was to produce the music and lyrics for the film. At that point, there was little to be known about Moana except for the Polynesian culture embedded in the heart of the film. Once the trailer came out, I knew that this was going to be one of my favorites hands-down.

What makes Moana such a gem as compared to the other Disney animation films are the characters and the story line. As it is Moana’s journey of self-discovery, there isn’t a real villain in the animation. This helps with the plot, making the objective clear – restore the heart of Te Fiti. The songs definitely helped in introducing characters that have very little background. Besides being catchy, they also do their part in giving you a sense of what the characters are like.

Aside from it being Moana’s journey, I’d like to think that it is as much Maui’s journey too. He is a character that had good intentions from the beginning but he had the wrong way of expressing them. And though he’d always put himself first, Maui eventually returns to join Moana, distracting Te Kā while she returns the Heart to Te Fiti.

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Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures

The non-talking characters were also lovable in their own ways especially Pua, who embodies every aspect of my pet dog; and Hei Hei, whom I love and hate at the same time. They delivered some of the cutest fillers and expressions that made Moana all the more enjoyable.

The visual effects for the film was definitely one to remember with the islands and oceans looking almost identical to the real thing. I often found myself marveling at the background like I would in reality. Coupled with the songs, especially in ‘We Know the Way’, I couldn’t help but feel this warm, fuzzy feeling I always get when I can’t express how beautiful or brilliant something is.

Perhaps this won’t resonate so much with the younger audience like Frozen or Zootopia did. But with an adult audience like me, this easily became one of the must-see Disney animations to date.

Rating:

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PSA: There are posters of the Fantastic Beasts for the film!

Having seen the film, I bet all of us are wondering why the Fantastic Beasts didn’t get their chance at gracing the posters, right? They practically stole the show!

As if knowing these beasts were going to be even more popular than the human characters, China had six posters were created by artist Zhang Chun, for the film. Inspired by 工笔 or ‘gongbi’, the posters were created using a realist Chinese painting technique that involves highly detailed brushstrokes.

The result are these exquisite-looking posters showcasing the 6 brilliant beasts from the film: Niffler, Demiguise, Bowtruckle, Occamy, Thunderbird & Swooping Evil.

Now to get my hands on a physical copy…

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review: Welcome back to the Wonderful Wizarding World!

After just completing a global expedition to find and document magical creatures, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) enters New York for a brief stopover. His attempt to enter and leave quietly is thwarted when a No-Maj <American term for Muggle> named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) witnesses Newt’s magic. To make matters worse, after having a rather small altercation with Jacob, Newt misplaces his magical case; which eventually led to several of his fantastic beasts escaping. He meets a fellow witch, Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), who lends a hand with her sister Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) to find these creatures before they wreak anymore havoc that could possibly unmask the whole Wizarding World to the No-Majs.

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“Hurry, hurry. They may look slow but they are efficient muggle transports that can hit hard.” Source: Heyday Films, Warner Bros.

As a Potterhead, this had been the movie I’ve been anticipating since the announcement. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I had this idea that the plot was going to be based off the accompanying book in the Harry Potter series of the same name. But, with J.K Rowling being the brilliant writer that she is, I knew I was in for another magical ride.

The film wasted no time in introducing Newt to the audience, instantly endearing them to this character. Intricately woven in are the introductions of the different characters, which helped to point out what roles they’re going to play in the plot. However, the film still managed to keep the role of Credence a mystery throughout, only giving the character’s true identity away when the plot calls for it. An otherwise uneasy feat made seamlessly possible by Rowling.

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“Guess what buddy? Plants are cool now!” Source: Heyday Films, Warner Bros.

Aside from the brilliant human characters, the beasts definitely had their fair share of the limelight. Stealing scenes shared with their human counterparts, these beasts easily became characters that audiences felt very strongly for. Perhaps it’s the mannerisms that reminded us of a mischievous pet or the cuddly features, the CGI visualization was absolutely fantastic. Based off the description from the companion book in the Harry Potter series, these creatures are brought to life with such realistic characteristics; it’s hard to forget that they’re not real (or are they?).

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“I just wanted to be a Wizard.” Source: Heyday Films, Warner Bros.

There was definitely no one else who could have contested against Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. His mannerisms and expressions made it easy to instantly love this quirky magizoologist. Fogler’s portrayal as Jacob was also one of my favorites because he basically represents every Potter fan in the world. Though he provided most of the laughs, he still managed to make a good-bye seem so bittersweet. Ezra Miller’s Credence definitely stole the show, proving just how versatile an actor Miller is. Though I know it’s almost impossible to bring his character back, there is still a glimmer of hope for the reprisal of his character.

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“Well, this is a surprise.” Source: Heyday Films, Warner Bros.

As a Potter fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and definitely felt ’em excited tears as the film started. However, my parents, who aren’t well-versed in the Wizarding World didn’t exactly share my enthusiasm. The reason being the confusion they felt with the climatic scene towards the end of the film. For fans of the series, it was easy to pick up on the dialogues and references from the characters that led to the surprising discovery. Only after my explanation did they finally understand, which made their own understanding a little delayed. So, here’s a tip on how to understand the big reveal at the end: Just pay attention to the news headlines in the beginning of the film.

This was definitely a great way to be welcomed home to the Wizarding World. It has been 5 years since we said good-bye to the trio but now, we’re saying hello to a new era with characters we’ve loved. I’m excited for the upcoming films and cannot thank J.K. Rowling enough for her great imagination. 2016 had been a rather horrid year (in reality), but it’s comforting to know that we can still escape with magical movies like this.

Rating:

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