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Is DC Back?

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The DC Extended Universe. Remember a year ago when we all felt like Sadffleck above in regards to the current DC movies?

I felt like this. Pretty silly right? They’re just movies. But this is DC we’re talking about. The superheroes that are household names, with logos that are recognizable throughout the entire world. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are essentially the Godfathers of the comic book hero. To many, they are the modern day equivalent to the Ancient Greek myths.

Generations upon generations have had their own incarnations of these heroes through comic books, television shows, movies, and merchandise. Everyone knows who these DC characters are AT LEAST by name. So when kick starting this DC cinematic universe, why were none of the movies so far as iconic as 1978’s ‘Superman: The Movie’, 1989’s ‘Batman’, or Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight trilogy’?

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There are probably a ton of factors. But I think the biggest one was that WB/DC wanted to see if they could somehow catch up to Marvel with one swift stroke. It became about the business, and much less about the story and the characters.

Now, I’ll push myself to the other side of this coin for a second. I actually loved ‘Man of Steel’. Aside from some “Star Wars prequel” level dialogue here and there, I think it’s an awesome Superman movie. It might not have been the best it could have been, but I feel even to this day that it was at least a solid start to this universe. Starting with Superman is still the best move you could make. It would have been weird to start it with a more secondary character. Superman is the king, forever and always. So while ‘Man of Steel’ is a bit divisive among fans, I don’t think it really matters much in the long-haul. At the end of the day, it was still about Superman- and he should be the one that inspires all.

‘Batman v Superman’ came next, and I personally enjoyed that as well, for what it ended up being. I’ve actually rewatched the Ultimate Edition like 4 or 5 times since last summer and I enjoy it more and more each time. It’s a bloated mess, but I find it really entertaining nonetheless. Then there was ‘Suicide Squad’… which I absolutely hated.

So on a personal level, I’ve only truly disliked one movie so far, but that’s not to say that I still did not have major issues with just the general overall existence of both BvS and Suicide Squad. What do I mean by that?

Regardless of whether I liked either one of them or not- they shouldn’t have been made. What the hell is ‘Batman v Superman’? It’s not really a movie about the two of them going head to head like the title suggests. That’s like 10 minutes of the entire 3-hour movie. I suppose you could view it as “Batman” representing the human race and their outlook on Superman. He asks the question of whether or not we should trust him- which is a question addressed in the movie by all the people of Earth. In Superman’s death, both Batman and humanity discover that he was to not only be trusted, but looked up to. His selfless act of sacrificing himself to save a world that struggled to accept him is a very powerful bit that will (I’m sure) continue throughout the development of the Justice League.

So I just defended my own question, but still. It’s narratively a Man of Steel sequel- but why don’t we know this new Batman? Why didn’t we know Wonder Woman yet? Sure, it was a cool movie to me overall, but I wanted to truly care and feel invested when seeing this trinity together for the first time on-screen. I’m sure that in many years, after these characters are far more established, we’ll look back on this movie and accept it more. However, that’s really the issue I have with it. Part of the movie is a prequel to Justice League, and yet outside of Superman, we really don’t have an attachment to these characters at all. We all know Marvel did this better. And I get that DC didn’t want to copy Marvel. But maybe they should have.

I don’t even want to talk about ‘Suicide Squad’. I suppose that was DC’s answer to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’? Yeah… well… it sucked. It was just a 2-hour music video. I guess from that angle, it’s probably one of the best music videos I’ve ever seen. When really thinking about it though, why were Harley Quinn and Deadshot more developed characters than ummm… Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc?

Instead of BvS, why didn’t they make a simple Man of Steel sequel? It could have still had Batman introduced in it, and have them go head to head and work together. They could have called it ‘World’s Finest’! Instead of ‘Suicide Squad’, WHY NOT JUST MAKE A BATMAN MOVIE?! From then on, it would have been ‘Wonder Woman’, then ‘Justice League’. This would have at least given us a fully established Trinity before getting to Justice League. Think about it. Man of Steel, World’s Finest, The Batman, Wonder Woman, Justice League. How much better does that look on paper compared to: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. WHERE DID THOSE 2ND AND 3RD MOVIES COME FROM? Again, at least BvS had some things right in regards to the structure of the universe, but it sure as hell didn’t need to be the bloated movie it ended up being because they were trying to establish a new Batman and sneak in some other metahumans.

The problem with DC so far to me wasn’t so much that they made a couple mediocre-at-best movies. It’s that they made a couple movies that had no business being made in the first place in regards to STARTING a shared universe. They needed a better approach overall, at least in regards to the 2016 releases.

I’m done ranting now because I have good news.

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This powerful, courageous, {beautiful}, and wonderful woman just put DC back on track.

After last year, I was really nervous about the state of DC. If Wonder Woman wasn’t at least decent, then it would have proved that DC just didn’t know what they were doing. But I’m happy to say that BvS and Suicide Squad were just rocky missteps in the building of this universe.

‘Wonder Woman’ is a fantastic movie. I’m not going to go into a full review or anything but I will at least say some things. It’s easily the best DC movie since ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, and an argument could even be made that it’s the best since ‘The Dark Knight’. It felt a little more “Marvel” than any of the DCEU movies so far, and I mean that in a good way. It was light-hearted, fun, emotional, and very stylistic.

The charm that this movie had was on the same level as Richard Donner’s ‘Superman’. There were even several references to the original Superman movie throughout the film that I was a big fan of. Moving forward, I sincerely hope that thanks to this film’s success, we can see the Superman movies have this tone again.

The action was fantastic, and the score was very present throughout- which is something most Marvel movies actually struggle with. Gal Gadot is perfect, and the chemistry between her and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is extremely well done. I felt completely invested in their relationship, and I loved each of their “fish out of water” roles. Steve was funny when he was on Themyscira and surrounded by the Amazons, and Diana was hilarious when she was in the real world surrounded by normal people.

I could get into all the social achievements this film has, but I don’t feel I can really add anything that everyone else hasn’t already said. I’m honestly just really happy that FINALLY we have a movie that is centered around a female superhero, and I’m glad that it will change things for the foreseeable future. It’s completely obnoxious that it took this long for it to happen.

It’s just an awesome and fun movie. Go see it.

Now back to my original topic. Is DC back?

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As long as ‘Justice League’ ends up being AT LEAST half as good as ‘Wonder Woman’… yes.

And I think it will be. As I said before, I think BvS and Suicide Squad were just missteps. They were too risky to be made as the 2nd and 3rd installments in building a universe. I can pretend Suicide Squad didn’t happen. Even though BvS was bloated, it at least gave more depth to Superman, and did a solid job of introducing us to this new iteration of Batman. Now with Wonder Woman fleshed out, we have our Holy DC Trinity established. ‘Justice League’ now feels like it’s not being totally rushed, and will fit in a place that makes sense. Could they have gone a little more into the Marvel route by having other standalones for Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman BEFORE this big team up? Yeah probably. But I can also see them doing a good job of just making those guys fun supporting characters in JL and then expanding their stories afterwards (which is their plan).

I’m not worried about it anymore. I really think they have everything together and it’s obvious they have a new plan that:

  1. Makes sense
  2. They’re taking their time and care withCP1471D-Trinity DC’s future looks bright.
    Bring on more movies of this quality WB!
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Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

These are my most anticipated movies for 2017! No particular order, but probably once I get towards the bottom, you’ll see which ones I’m definitely more excited for.

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Alien: Covenant

“Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant find what they believe to be an uncharted paradise. What the crew discover is a dark, dangerous world, whose sole inhabitant is the “synthetic” David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.”

Sequel to Prometheus, which is a prequel to the original Alien. I’m excited that this will continue the story of that movie, but then be more of a true Alien movie featuring Xenomorphs, chest-bursters, acid blood, and all that good stuff.

Release date: May 19th, 2017

 

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Power Rangers

“Five troubled teenage student outcasts – Zack, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, and Jason – become the Power Rangers after learning that their town of Angel Grove and the world itself are threatened by Rita Repulsa and her alien forces.”

I realize this has a really great chance at being horrible, but I’m still going to see it, and I hope that it’s awesome as hell.

Release date: March 24th, 2017

 

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Blade Runner 2049

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

I fully expect this to be amazing.

Release date: October 6th, 2017

 

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The Lego Batman Movie

“Batman goes on a personal journey to find himself and learn the importance of teamwork and friendship in hopes to save Gotham City from The Joker’s hostile takeover.”

Why not? I loved The Lego Movie. Batman was the best character in it. He’s also one of my favorite characters in general. I’m there.

Release date: February 10th, 2017

 

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The Mummy

“Thousands of years ago, an ancient princess (played by Sofia Boutella), whose destiny was unjustly taken from her, was mummified and entombed in an ancient tomb buried deep beneath the desert. She was awakened in the contemporary world, bringing with her a malevolent grudge that has grown over millennia and terrors that will defy all of humanity.”

This one I’m a little skeptical about. I didn’t buy into the trailer that much, and the villain was giving me horrible Suicide Squad “Enchatress” flashbacks.

BUT, it is Tom Cruise, and this movie is to be the start of a Monster Shared Universe for Universal. That idea sounds amazing, and I want this movie to succeed so that we can see Frankenstein, Wolfman, Mummies, Dracula, Van Helsing, etc all joining together somehow. I also really hope this is more than just a simple action/adventure movie. We need it to be at least somewhat scary too.

Release date: June 7th, 2017

 

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The Fate of the Furious

“With Dom and Letty on their honeymoon, Brian and Mia having retired from the game, and the rest of the crew exonerated, the team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman seduces Dom into a world of crime he cannot seem to escape, causing him to betray those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before.”

This is my guilty pleasure franchise. I’ve loved how each movie after the 4th has tried to outshine the last. I’m hoping it’s insanely over-the-top schlock with fun characters, just like the last several movies.

Release date: April 14th, 2017

 

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

“Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old rival, Capitán Salazar, who along with his crew of ghost pirates has escaped from the Devil’s Triangle, and is determined to kill every pirate at sea. Jack seeks the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, in order to defeat Salazar.”

I really really didn’t like the fourth Pirates movie that much. It just felt like a very useless entry. I know many haven’t liked anything past the first movie, but I’ve actually always found the second and third films to be quite enjoyable. Convoluted. But enjoyable.

I’m anticipating this because it could be a return to form for this series. Just by the look of it, even with the returning supporters from the original trilogy, I sense it will at least feel more in line with those movies than the fourth film did.

Release date: May 26th, 2017

 

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Kong: Skull Island

“In the 1970s, a team of explorers and soldiers are brought together to venture deep into an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean – as beautiful as it is treacherous – unaware that they are crossing into the domain of monsters, as well as the mythic Kong, the “king” of the island.”

While I had problems with 2014’s ‘Godzilla’, I at least left the theater wanting to see more. Then they announced a shared universe for giant monsters, with ‘Kong’ being the next entry. All of this has me excited.

This looks rad. I’m anticipating not only this movie, but everything that will follow. I can’t wait to see King Kong fighting other monsters in this, and I definitely can’t wait to see him fight Godzilla in a future movie.

Release date: March 10th, 2017

 

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Beauty and the Beast

“Belle is a young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle in exchange for the freedom of her father Maurice. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s exterior to recognize the true heart and soul of the human Prince within just as a hunter named Gaston is on the loose to take Belle for himself and hunt down the Beast at any cost.”

The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast are my Top 3 favorite animated Disney movies of all time (not counting Pixar). We’re getting live-action versions of all of these!

I really can’t wait to see this story come to life. The music alone will be worth the price of admission if anything. I fully expect this to be flat out amazing.

Release date: March 17th, 2017

 

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Thor: Ragnarok

“After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor, imprisoned on another world without his hammer, must outlive a gladiatorial duel against his old friend — the Hulk — in order to return to Asgard in time to stop the villainous Hela and the impending Ragnarök.”

A new Thor adventure mixed with an adaptation of “Planet Hulk”? Yes.

Out of the whole MCU, I’d say the Thor movies are among the weakest of the bunch. The first movie was solid, while the second remains the most mediocre in the MCU. But I have a feeling this could be the best of the three. It looks like the stupid annoying supporting cast from the first two films are gone and that alone makes it better without me even seeing it yet.

But Thor and Hulk make for a great pair-up. I expect it will feel almost like an inter-galactic buddy-cop movie. Who wouldn’t want to see that?!

Release date: November 3rd, 2017

 

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Dunkirk

“Allied soldiers from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German Army on the beaches on Dunkirk and evacuated in Operation Dynamo between 26 May and 4 June 1940, during the early stages of the Second World War.”

Christopher Nolan directing a war movie? Of course I’m in.

Release date: July 21st,2017

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

“Set two months after the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy travel throughout the cosmos and struggle to keep their new-found family together, while helping Peter Quill learn more about his true parentage.”

Baby Groot.

Release date: May 5th, 2017

 

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War for the Planet of the Apes

“Following the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar and the apes are embroiled in a war against an army of humans. As the apes suffer heavy losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts as he resolves to avenge his kind. The war pits Caesar against the humans’ leader, a ruthless Colonel, in an encounter that will determine the fate of their species and Earth’s future.”

If you have not seen both ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’, fix that now. These are spectacular movies. ‘Dawn’ especially was one of the craziest movies I remember watching in 2014. This has Matt Reeves directing again, and I’m fully expecting to be blown the hell away.

Release date: July 14th, 2017

 

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

“Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City with fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.”

It’s about time. If getting Spider-Man to be a part of the rest of the Marvel universe wasn’t cool enough, the very concept of this movie alone is fantastic. It feels like it’s going to be a John Hughes movie set in the MCU. The idea that Tony Stark is going to be a mentor to Peter Parker is also fascinating. If ‘Iron Man 3’ was ‘Rocky Balboa’, ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ will be like ‘Creed’. I’m also hoping Michael Keaton gives us the best Marvel villain we’ve seen so far… at least since Loki.

Release date: July 7th, 2017

 

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Wonder Woman

“In the early 20th century, the Amazon princess Diana, who is living on the island of Themyscira, meets American military pilot Steve Trevor when he is washed ashore. After learning from him about the ongoing events of World War I, she leaves her home to bring an early end to the war.”

Out of everything on this list, I must honestly say that ‘Wonder Woman’ is the movie I’m truly most anxious to see. The others can wait until their time comes.

Why? Because it HAS to be good. DC has not really got off on the right foot with their shared universe, and there is so much evidence that WB/DC is still in a fix. {Ben Affleck exiting as director for The Batman; The Flash getting a page one re-write and losing 2 or 3 directors; reactionary announcements for movies no one even wants at the moment}

I personally loved ‘Man of Steel’, and I thought ‘Batman v Superman’ was pretty decent. It was a bloated movie that didn’t need to be as bloated as it was… however we knew it would be once the title was announced. It still did an okay job of setting up the DC universe and left me wanting more. Then ‘Suicide Squad’ came out and didn’t help anything. That movie in my opinion was borderline garbage.

The consensus overall though is that these movies need to be better in quality. Period. If it doesn’t start here, it’s over. Yes, ‘Justice League’ will still be released later… but if ‘Wonder Woman’ receives the same type of response both Dawn of Just “Okay” and Suicide Squash got, no one will go see ‘Justice League’, and WB may fall into a trap.

‘Wonder Woman’ has to be good. I have faith it will be… but I’m so nervous.

Even outside of that though… there has never been a decent female-led superhero movie. This could change that! So much pressure is on this movie. Please be good!!!

Release date: June 2nd, 2017

 

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Justice League

“More than a year after the events of Batman v Superman, inspired by Superman’s sacrifice for humanity, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince assemble a team of metahumans to face the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf and the Parademons who are on the hunt for three Mother Boxes on Earth.”

I know I will at least like this movie. As I’ve already said, I really loved ‘Man of Steel’, and ‘Dawn of Justice’ did what it needed for me on a personal level. If ‘Justice League’ at the very least doesn’t have 4 plots and just focuses on the team assembling with Superman returning as a subplot, this should turn out to be a fairly competent movie.

I just hope Zack Snyder doesn’t over-complicate things like he did with BvS. Just make it simple, and make it fun. There’s a whole future ahead for these characters, there was never really any need to rush this. But… it’s what we’re getting.

If ‘Wonder Woman’ under-performs, so will this. If ‘Wonder Woman’ is a big success, this will at least be another fair success. At least enough for WB/DC to keep going.

With all of this stuff out of the way though, I am really looking forward to seeing this. It’s just hard to be enthusiastic about it when the DC movies make me so nervous.

If all else fails, I’m happy this movie will at least provide an ending to Superman’s arc that began in 2013. ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Dawn of Justice, and ‘Justice League’ will really be trilogy about Superman: his impact on the world, and him being the central figure in the formation of the Justice League. Jor-El’s line to Superman in ‘Man of Steel’ will provide a lot of meaning in Zack Snyder’s trilogy:

“They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

But seriously- I feel like I’m not asking much for these movies to be good. If ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Justice League’ are good, my faith in DC’s future will be totally restored.

Release date: November 17th, 2017

 

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Logan

“A weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. His attempts to hide from the world and his legacy, however, are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.”

I really love the X-Men films. They’ve had their highs, and they’ve had their lows. Wolverine’s first solo outing I completely ignore, but I enjoyed 2013’s ‘The Wolverine’ and I either enjoy or straight up love each of the mainline X-Men movies.

It all began began in 2000, and the series has always had its focus on Xavier, Magneto, and Logan. Some may argue that’s why the series is weak. There are other characters to focus on. While I agree, and hope that future movies put a nice focus on characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, etc… I am still so very happy that the chemistry between Charles Xavier and Logan were always the shining aspects for most of these movies. We can leave it for the future movies to be a little more “comic-accurate”. For right now, we get to see Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s version of Xavier make their final bow.

Hugh Jackman will always be Wolverine to me. He’s become one of my favorite cinematic characters of all time. While I’m sad that this will be his final movie, I can’t wait to see this. It looks visceral. It looks bloody. It looks like the Wolverine movie we deserve for Hugh’s last go-around.

Release date: March 3rd, 2017

 

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Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

“Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.
Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.
While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict….”

That’s what the synopsis of this movie will not be.

Release date: December 15th, 2017

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My Top 5 Films of 2016

Honorable mentions:

’10 Cloverfield Lane’


‘Star Trek Beyond’


‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (Ultimate Edition)


‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

 

Main List!

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#5. ‘La La Land’

Just saw this the other night. Probably won’t do a full review on it, but I think I can say what I need to right here.

This is a beautiful movie. I loved the characters, the story, the film-making (especially the lighting and camerawork), and I really enjoyed the music. The chemistry with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling was fantastic, and their bond just really tugged at the heartstrings.

The ending left me feeling very bittersweet. But since I’ve left the theater, I’ve realized how realistic the outcome was for the two lead characters, and how mildly unconventional it was. I must say it was beautifully handled, and made the title make a bit more sense in retrospect.

I’m sure by now everyone has heard how good this movie is. It gobbled up a ton of Golden Globes and I’m sure it will have a lot of Oscar success as well. It’s just a very classical feeling movie. I would even go as far as saying it’s this era’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’.

I think this really resonated well with me as it’s a film about both movies and jazz, which are huge passions of mine. The script had subtle embellishments that were there not to simply improve character and story, but to offer a valid viewpoint on the arts that are in focus.  I really loved the dialogue throughout on why jazz stands out among any other genre, and how it should always be evolving in order to grasp the interest of new listeners.

With ‘Whiplash’, and now ‘La La Land’, I’m eagerly waiting to see what director Damian  Chazelle brings next.


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#4. ‘Captain America: Civil War’

‘Civil War’ was just fantastic. It handled so many characters so incredibly well, and still ended up being a Captain America movie at its core. I’m looking forward to everything this movie set up for the Marvel universe, and I’m happy that Marvel has made such an excellent trilogy for this character.


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#3. ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

As a HUGE Star Wars junkie, this movie had one job. To prove to me that Star Wars can work outside of the Skywalker family tree.

It can. ‘Rogue One’ is a fantastic first step into exploring the Star Wars universe outside of the main “Episodes”. It was an exciting standalone movie that somehow improved elements of the original film, ‘A New Hope’. I can’t wait to see Star Wars continue in all the various directions it will be taking in the future!


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#2. ‘Deadpool’

I knew it’d be funny. I knew it’d be entertaining. But I didn’t know I’d practically die of pure joy when watching this movie in the theater.

It’s possible I may look back a couple years from now and wonder why the hell this movie is ranked at #2. But I will always remember the gut hurting feeling I had when watching this the first time. It truly hurt to laugh, and I’m pretty sure I had a permanent smile on my face 2-3 days afterwards.

‘Deadpool’ could turn out to be a “product of its time”, but it’s something you just have to see before you die.


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#1. ‘The Nice Guys’

I just realized I never wrote a review for this one either. Sorry Ryan Gosling!!!

So here’s the review I guess.

‘The Nice Guys’ and ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ are the only movies on this list I didn’t get a chance to see in theaters. My regret for that is minimal though thanks to how quickly movies get home releases now.

I can’t say enough about this movie. It’s hilariously well written, acted, and directed. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe create the best buddy-duo I’ve seen in years. Director Shane Black just crafts this perfect comedy thriller that feels like it doesn’t have any real boundaries in what the characters might do. This is the guy that wrote ‘Lethal Weapon’, directed ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, and ‘Iron Man 3’. He’s now directing the next Predator movie.

This dude has so much variety up his sleeve, and it’s obvious that we should just expect a huge element of surprise when watching his movies in the future. Say what you want about ‘Iron Man 3’, but I bet you can’t say you expected most of the decisions he made for that story.

‘The Nice Guys’ never drags, and it throws a lot of curve balls for the characters who are so well executed. It’s just pure entertainment from start to finish, AND… it’s quite original. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you must do so as soon as you possibly can.

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There are definitely a lot of other movies that I want to see that were released in 2016. ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, ‘Deepwater Horizon’, and ‘Sully’- just to name a few. So obviously this list is based only on what I have seen so far.

I’m really excited for the 2017 slate. I have a feeling it’ll be an excellent year!

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‘Rogue One’ Review

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I won’t cut corners here. ‘Rogue One’ is awesome. If you love Star Wars, you will thoroughly enjoy this. It’s incredibly in-line with the original movie, both in story, and very much in aesthetics. I truly don’t see how a Star Wars fan could walk out of this movie being truly disappointed.

‘Rogue One’ (for those of you not keeping up) is the first standalone anthology film in the Star Wars series. It chronicles the events that transpire leading into the original film, ‘A New Hope’. The entire basis of this film was fully inspired by Episode IV’s opening crawl.

“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….”

Speaking of opening crawl, let me just get some of the flaws out of the way. The movie starts, and there’s no opening crawl. I knew this going in. I knew it’d be weird regardless of whether I knew it or not… but the lack of an opening crawl has left me…conflicted.

I get why it wasn’t there in the context of the movie. Without spoiling much, the movie opens up with a flashback. I won’t say what happens in the flashback, but I’ll just leave it at that. Star Wars has never really made use of a flashback sequence in the films. So this clearly had something to do with the decision of not having an opening crawl, because this scene told us a lot in a matter of just a couple of minutes.

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The scene itself was perfectly fine. No issues there. But then once it ends, we see a title card that has a terrible yellow font that looks like it was just typed out on Microsoft Word. But what made it even worse was the music that played during that title card. It was cartoonish as hell. Even that might be an understatement because I think the title card for the animated ‘Rebels’ show features better music, and better font for when they flash “STAR WARS REBELS” at the screen each episode. So I found that to be pathetic, however that was honestly my biggest gripe with the movie. But… still. Why was this so hard?

The music was another slight disappointment I had. Now, I get it. Michael Giacchino was brought on board at the last minute to write and record the music for this film after Alexandre Desplat exited the project with such poor timing. He only had about 4 weeks to do everything. Aside from the music for the title card, the rest of it was still okay, and actually pretty well done for only having that amount of time. It definitely wasn’t a bad score, because there were still a lot of musical cues that I loved. There were cool throwbacks to ‘A New Hope’ with themes that were only heard in that movie alone. But the music of Star Wars is practically another character to me. So to have it be so middle-of-the-road really has to fall into my category of negatives.

Giacchino did a good job given the time he had. But why did this happen in the first place? What the hell happened outside or within corporate Disney’s contracts that allowed Desplat to peace out on such short notice? I get that re-shoots happened for this movie, but the scheduling normally takes re-shoots into account, and music is done in post-production. Desplat must have been contractually obligated to do his work  during this already set post-production timeline. A timeline, that doesn’t even seem to have been altered that much. Clearly we’re missing something here. Perhaps this is something that will be explained in some kind of “Behind the Scenes” documentary in the future, but it still boggles my mind.

So outside of that horrible title card and somewhat flat musical score (at least by Star Wars standards), the rest of ‘Rogue One’ is pretty excellent!

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‘Rogue One’ has some of the best action set-pieces in the entire saga for sure. The greatest ground assault battles are featured here, and I honestly can’t think of any scenes in the other movies that could top these aside from maybe the Battle of Endor. The space/air battles were on point as well, but I gotta give props to just the way every single action set-piece was directed. Gareth Edwards fills tension in just about every scene. The final act had me on the edge the entire time. The climax of ‘Rogue One’ builds and builds and builds, and right when it ends, you will want to run right home and watch ‘A New Hope’ IMMEDIATELY.

The casting was great. I felt the characters were about as interesting as they could be for a one-off standalone story. I’m interested in reading the Rogue One novel, ‘Catalyst’- just to get more in-depth with certain characters, events, and whatever else. K2SO is the perfect droid that I didn’t even know existed in this universe. It was so refreshing to see a droid that wasn’t overly-cautious and as annoying as C-3PO, but to have one that was helpful, but really sarcastic. Jyn Erso was a very great leading character, and Orson Krennic was a fantastic over-the-top villain. That real stand-out supporting character though was Chirrut Îmwe, played by Donnie Yen. What a badass this dude was. Now we’ve seen Storm Troopers taken down by teddy-bears and a blind man. Who the hell is training these “soldiers”??!!

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Not only was this a great movie in its own right, but it actually adds a layer of context to the original film, thus making ‘A New Hope’ more interesting than it ever has been before. Who knew that a film made in 1977, that is already a beloved classic, would improve almost 40 years later? There’s plenty of fan service, but none of it is “in your face”. It’s all there to effectively improve not only the story being told at hand, but the story we already know. The best bits though were definitely Vader, and the uncanny appearances of certain characters I will not give away yet.

If you’re worried about Darth Vader, don’t be. His role is small, which should be expected. There is definitely a “less is more” feeling that went along with how he was handled… but it was perfect.

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Did I love this movie as much as ‘The Force Awakens’? No. The movie definitely has some pacing issues in the first act. This is mostly because we go to so many locations and meet so many characters, SO QUICKLY. It’s a bit daunting. I liked the characters in ‘Rogue One’, but I LOVED the characters in ‘Force Awakens’. I guess that isn’t a huge issue though, as the characters here aren’t to be built up for anything outside of this film. But they still could have done a slightly better job with some of them, and the final act nearly negated this issue entirely.

If this was our first look at what LucasFilm has in store for us for the anthology films, then I am totally pumped for what’s to come. I’m now almost as excited for the Han Solo movie as I am for Episode VIII. An annual Star Wars movie is looking like one of the greatest things to happen in my life.

Rating: A

 

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Spoiler Area:

Some might have issues with the what happens in the uncanny valley in this film. Our brains can tell when we’re looking at something real, and when we’re looking at something artificial.

Peter Cushing was brought back to life (in a way) to play Grand Moff Tarkin again. From my perspective, I took no issue with this. It was distracting for a second, but then my eyes adjusted, and I kept telling myself that I was just watching Tarkin, and not a weird CGI recreation of Peter Cushing’s face.

I can see and understand why one would consider this a major flaw for the movie. There are ethical issues that can be brought up for this type of thing, but the way I see it is this: It’s just a story. I felt it was necessary to have Tarkin be in this film. Considering that this movie takes place so shortly before ‘A New Hope’, and not 5-7 years or something, I kind of liked that Tarkin looked almost exactly how he looked in that movie.

While it was brief and maybe less of an issue, I felt that Leia’s appearance at the end was very cool as well.

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I realize it’s a lot harder for the eye and brain to believe this type of CGI for a human face, as opposed to when you see Caesar the ape, Gollum, or Maz Kanata. I think that no matter how perfect they can get this technology, we will always notice that something is “off” because we have interactions with humans every single day.

I felt I was able to allow myself to temporarily believe that I was seeing the character of Tarkin and Leia when they appeared on-screen, for the sake of just enjoying the story and its immediate ties to ‘A New Hope’. Obviously, not every person’s eyes and brain work the same. But my advice when watching these scenes is to suspend your disbelief as much as you can.

Just wanted to give my two cents on that aspect of the film. It’s definitely… strange. But it’s amazing and cool to see that this technology is improving. It has definitely come a long way over the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see what other directions it might go in the future of film-making.

 

 

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‘Rogue One’- What to Expect

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is just a couple short days away. Reviews for the film have started to come out, and it seems like the consensus is overall, pretty positive.

HOWEVER! In some of the reviews I’ve read and watched, I’ve seen some criticisms that I really struggled to see eye to eye with before even seeing the movie myself. It got me thinking that there might still be a lot of things that people might be expecting or not expecting from this movie that need to be checked.

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Concerning Darth Vader:

If you truly are expecting him to have a huge presence in this movie, you’re fooling yourself a ton. None of the marketing for this movie has suggested that his role is that large. It will be nothing more than a glorified cameo, though I do hope we see that he does something cool.

If he doesn’t actually do anything cool, no one can blame the marketing for showing too much or too little. This was an issue with ‘Revenge of the Sith’. There were pieces of marketing in merchandise and posters that made it seem like Vader would be in his suit using his lightsaber. This never happened in the movie.

They didn’t make the same mistake twice. The marketing and early reviews for ‘Rogue One’ indicate that Vader’s role is in fact very small. It’s not a Darth Vader movie, so don’t expect it to be one.

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Next… Don’t expect an opening crawl.

It was heavily hinted that it wouldn’t be there by the producers, and several critics have confirmed it is not there. I personally don’t like this decision, as I have always felt the crawl for Star Wars is important.

  1. The crawl reminds the viewer that you’re in this infinite universe of story telling. No matter where you pick up, something always happened before. Even ‘The Phantom Menace’ did this, and so far that has been the earliest canon event we have seen take place on-screen.
  2. They’re trying to make the audience know that this is a different type of Star Wars movie. Okay. But you have 2 HOURS to do that! There are plenty of things you can do in 2 hours to help differentiate.

But the opening crawl will not be there. I expect this will feel a little jarring, even if you do know this going in. But perhaps it’s best to know beforehand. With that said, it makes sense that it isn’t there, as this movie is literally the event that is described in vague detail in the opening crawl for ‘A New Hope’.

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On critics:

I know us Star Wars fans are very hyped up and that seeing certain reviews might be a bit nerve-racking. We all want an enjoyable experience. Please understand this when looking at reviews though— Not every critic is a Star Wars fan. Some also might not be big fans of franchise films in general.

The thing about any franchise movie- There is always a formula. But what makes a certain new story stand out is normally how well the journey is executed, as well as how well the characters are executed on that journey.

Some bonus points go to the franchise film that tweaks its tone and aesthetic to help it feel a little more fresh. This has been done in various franchises like ‘Mission: Impossible’, ‘Fast & Furious’, and ‘Captain America’.

‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ is pretty much the exact same movie as ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, but it’s my personal favorite because even though it follows the same formula, it adds a father-son dynamic that I feel more invested in. Even ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ is a total rehash of ‘Home Alone’, but people tend to love that just as much (maybe even more) than the first film.

The critique of ‘The Force Awakens’ feeling too familiar still bothers me a year later. Every Rocky movie, every Bond movie, every Die Hard movie… it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same formula, but everyone also still has that one that resonates with them more than another.

It’s obvious that many critics will just go with the “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” label on certain franchises, if it’s a series they were never truly invested in. Which is fine, I’m not saying they’re wrong. I’m just saying that if they don’t already like Star Wars a lot, they’re going to use that type of critique so that they can carry on with their lives a lot quicker, and move onto the next film they have to write about. My advice to any Star Wars fan out there looking at reviews, is this: Seek out the reviews of critics who are actually Star Wars fans. If they like or dislike it, that is a far better indication of what you should expect.

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On knowing the outcome of the story:

We all know the Titanic sinks. But why would anybody watch 3 hours of that one event? Because (agree or disagree) James Cameron takes the viewer on a journey, with real characters, which by the end, the viewer has an emotional response to how everything ends up.

We all know ‘Rogue One’ is about the events that get us to ‘A New Hope’, and we know the rebels end up destroying the Death Star. But what we don’t know is the journey that brought the rebellion to that point, and how we as an audience emotionally react to that story being told. To dismiss a movie just because you know the concept is ignorant. It’s not always about the concept, it’s about the journey.

Very soon, we will all have our own opinions about ‘Rogue One’. Expect that elements might feel familiar. Expect that other elements might feel unfamiliar by being altered or removed. It’s never going to please everybody. Just sit back and enjoy the journey!

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‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ Review

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I need to confess something before I get into this. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I read the books in elementary school, saw each movie opening day, listened to the soundtracks for fun, and I re-watch the series on an annual basis.

As far as the movies went, not a single one disappointed me in the slightest. ‘Half-Blood Prince’ was pretty slow in the middle and I take a little issue that it didn’t delve into the Riddle’s back story featured in the book. But even then, the movie still turned out great.

I must also confess that even though I was looking forward to this movie, I kept my expectations INSANELY low. For one thing, the trailers didn’t totally impress me, at least until the last one they put out. Also, prequels and spin-offs to hugely popular franchises don’t exactly have the greatest track record. Growing up (and even to this day), Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter were my favorite film franchises. I couldn’t completely notice at a young age that the prequels to Star Wars were less than stellar, but I knew, even then, something was a little off. As time went on I’ve come to accept they were not the best. Although I still enjoy them, one would have to be a fool to think that there isn’t a dip in quality. Then there is The Hobbit. Again, I still enjoy those films for what they are. But in comparison to Lord of the Rings, they are a bit disappointing.

So, because of this, I kept my expectations in check. I didn’t want to walk into this believing I’d have the same exact feeling I had when watching Harry Potter. Something about The Hobbit was a little off. Many things about the Star Wars prequels were off. It only made sense that it would happen with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well.

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Welp. The magic of the Harry Potter world is in no way, shape, or form, tarnished with ‘Fantastic Beasts’. This is an insanely magical, delightful, and fun experience.

Maybe it’s because I kept expectations at the door, and then I just really enjoyed it because a good/fair movie always seems great if you’re expecting it to be bad… but no. Usually when that happens to me I say “Wow that was better than I expected” and then maybe I’ll watch it again a year later. I want to see this again as soon as possible. Not only that, but I want to take large groups of people to see it so that they can experience this pure joy too. This exceeded not only my lowered expectations, but my high ones that were still there subconsciously.

I think the best aspect of the movie is in the title itself. These “beasts” were so AWESOME. From a technical stand-point, the CGI for these creatures was really good. They were all so unique, and so clever. More importantly though, they all had these fantastic personalities. My favorite one was the little platypus that was obsessed with jewelry. I couldn’t help but smile during every scene featuring these creatures.

One thing I was scared of were the characters. What made Harry Potter so special? The core friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They were the 2000’s version of Luke, Han, and Leia. One thing The Force Awakens succeeded in was having Rey, Finn, and Poe being the new trio, and that was done so well. So if ‘Fantastic Beasts’ didn’t have lovable main characters, it could have fallen really flat. Fortunately though, I loved these main characters. They interacted really well and as great as Newt Scamander was, the stand-out was Jacob Kowalski the NoMaj. He was one of the best comic relief characters of recent memory.

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Only a few short weeks before this movie was released, there was news flying everywhere on the future of this new franchise. Instead of 3 movies, it’ll now be 5. Johnny Depp will be playing Grindelwald and a younger Dumbledore would be cast. Then what really got my attention was that David Yates made the claim that he intends to be in the director’s chair for all 5 movies.

I didn’t take that bit of news lightly, as I feel directors should change every so often to keep things feeling fresh in a series. But after seeing this movie, and seeing how fresh THIS was to everything we’ve had before… I think I really trust this guy. He also directed the last 4 Harry Potter movies before this, and all of those had a different feel to them as well. David Yates has directed 5 movies in this series that have all ranged from good to great. Now I’m thinking this would be the best move as there are 4 to go and he already has an excellent statistic here.

Anyways, go see ‘Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them’. If you’re a Potter fan, you will not be disappointed in the slightest. If you’re new to this world, start here. The movie has an excellent cast, wonderful music, a really well done roaring 20’s setting, and a really fun and entertaining plot that involves the most special creatures and characters one could come up with.

Rating: A

If you’re a casual Potter fan, I would advise that you brush up on your Dumbledore history just a bit. Not so much to understand this movie in particular, but to be excited for what is clearly to come. I can’t wait for the future of this series, and I can’t wait to watch this again.

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‘Doctor Strange’ Review

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One reason for my lack of posts over the last couple of months is because ‘Doctor Strange’ was literally the first movie I went to the theater to see since August.

As you know, I’m a BIG Marvel fan. I’ve enjoyed every single movie in their cinematic universe thus far, and at this point I believe it’s safe to say that they can’t really make a truly bad movie. Some might be a little weaker than others, but at the end of the day, I think they’ve all been pretty good.

So where does ‘Doctor Strange’ rank among everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? I gotta say that the answer is somewhere in the middle. It’s definitely no ‘Civil War’ or ‘Winter Soldier’, but it’s also not nearly as mediocre as ‘Iron Man 2’, or ‘Thor: The Dark World’.

This origin story for the Sorcerer Supreme follows a very safe formula, with a good amount of action, humor, great characters, and an excellent musical score.

There are some issues. Rachel McAdams’ entire role was pretty much useless. There are a lot of cliche love interests in comic book movies, but this one was beyond lazy to me. There are other things her character does that just felt unrealistic in the situations she was involved in too. Very sloppy writing for her character in my opinion. The first half hour of the film after the introduction felt very rushed, but once Stephen Strange met The Ancient One, everything felt very smooth.

The stand-out of this whole movie though would be the special effects. Holy damn. It should come as no surprise that this was a comic that came out of the 60’s because this is one trippy experience.

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I almost have to say the visuals (at times) were pretty over-whelming. For instance, there were times where the plot during action scenes felt a bit hard to follow, mostly because I was so distracted by how crazy everything looked. There were also sections where it seemed like things were moving a little too fast. It’s not really a confusing movie, it’s just that it seemed like a lot to take in for the run time that was actually presented to us. There seemed to be very little breathing room,  but that’s not to say the movie didn’t accomplish what it set out to do.

I think upon repeated viewings, I will actually gain a lot more in terms of what the movie was trying to lay down. There were just times during the movie where I felt like I was in a class where the teacher was going through the Power Points too fast, and I couldn’t take note of everything I needed. To be fair, I felt this way about ‘Inception’ the first time I saw that movie. It wasn’t until repeated viewings where I not only grew to appreciate it more, but it also became one of my all time favorites.

Not saying I will LOVE ‘Doctor Strange’ after watching it again. But I do think I would like it more, knowing that I won’t have to take in so much information again.

Overall, it’s another fine addition to the MCU that is definitely worth seeing in the theater, just for the visual experience alone.

Rating: B

The magic will continue in my next post, as tonight I will be seeing ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’!

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