Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Captain Marvel (2019) - Review

The 21st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) works like a cog in a well-oiled machine. It doesn't add much the lore, but it's a connective tissue and gives you your fix until Avengers Endgame comes out.

The movie starts with Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as an elite warrior among the Kree - an alien race - with no recollection of her past. The first act (out of the traditional three-act structure) establishes the relationships and dynamics that the titular character has with the rest of the Kree (fellow soldiers and their leader: the Supreme Intelligence). A mission gone slightly wrong brings Carol Danvers to earth in the year 1995. In this second act, she meets Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and somewhat figures out her backstory. The movie concludes with Carol Danvers' transition into Captain Marvel and winning the climactic battle.

The whole movie is an easy-watch, and time flies by (i.e., excellent pacing, which was the third pillar in my taxonomy). The second act is the strongest as it has some heart and humour, and hits the nostalgia factor (Nick Fury in the mid 90's!). But the rest is a generic cookie-cutter comic book hero introduction (with all the doubts and hero's acceptance of their power and responsibilities).

The biggest flaw of the movie is within the main character. Carol Danvers or Captain Marvel is supposedly suffering from amnesia, and she doesn't remember who she was before joining the kree. In the beginning, she is this stoic, no-nonsense soldier that acts a lot like the Terminator (i.e., a robot). As the movie goes on, she pieces the puzzle together and figures out how she got there, but she still remains the robotic soldier. Frankly, the T800  (Arnold Schwarzenegger's character) in Terminator 2 had more character development (started as a robot, and almost became human by the end). But she is still likeable, and the rest of the cast (protagonists and antagonists) work well too.

If it was the first movie in a new cinematic universe, it probably would havee failed to attract much attention. But as the 21st entry, it certainly entertains fans of the MCU (myself included). I'd give it a 7/10.

After Life (2019) - Season One - Review

Ricky Gervais starred in, wrote, and directed a show about himself, but not the globally successful comedian, but as if he was a small town journalist who had picked love over career.

Fans of Gervais (a group that also includes yours truly) will enjoy After Life, since it is very much like an extended interview with Gervais himself. His character, Tony, has recently lost his beloved wife to cancer, and now has nothing else to live for. He works for the local newspaper and has to cover trivial affairs of a small town (e.g., water stain on a wall that resembles a celebrity). Tony is too smart for his own good and could have been a big shot journalist, but picked this life to have the freedom to enjoy more time with the love of his life. Now that his wife has passed on, he has lost the will to live.

Of course, the show is not this dark and nihilistic till the end. The journey that Tony (Gervais' character) goes on to find a new meaning of his life (manifested through his interactions with the social circle around him), is truly beautiful!

If you're a fan of Gervais' comedy and world-view, then After Life is a must watch and a 10/10.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Polar (2019) - Netflix Original - Review

A comic book movie with hyper stylized violence that brings to mind Kill Bill (2003-4) and Shoot 'Em Up (2007)... What's not to like?

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Black Kaiser, an aging assassin who is two weeks from retirement. His agency owes him $8 million, but instead of paying up their debt, they make the grave mistake of trying to eliminate him. What ensues is a two hour non-stop battle. The film is well made, and the pacing is just right. Again, viewers need to set their expectations to a comic book movie, not an artistic film.

The cast were great, except for Vanessa Hudgens who over-acted her scenes. It was like watching a highschool play where the lead is trying way too hard to impress.

As a genre movie, Polar easily earns a 9/10!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Red Dead Redemption II (2018) - Video Game Review

The best video game of all time! Nuff said!

A prequel to the original game from 2010, excels in every regard on top of an already perfect game. Acting, storytelling, and computer effects don't get any better than this. I acknowledge that it is a slow burn. It took me 70 hours to finish the game and some of the more fun side activities. The first 20-25 hours were at a slower pace. I have heard from some gaming personalities that they felt the game was pushing them away with a friction force. Again, I concede that it is a slow burn. Also, for fans of the original game, accepting Arthur Morgan as the protagonist may take some time.

I, however, had complete trust in Rockstar games and the Houser brothers to offer another masterpiece. Red Dead Redemption II is their magnum opus (up to this point at least). I am also a fan of the Western genre, so I admit that I was biased.

The game has received countless perfect 10 scores from the game media and 97% score on metacritic. I also echo their opinion and give it a 10/10. Red Dead Redemption II is a game that I will revisit and relive again and again.

Black Panther (2018) - Review

Black Panther is a significant cultural breakthrough in the comic book genre, but besides that, the characters and effects are seriously lacking!

It is yet another superhero origin movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; so, you can expect the tried and true formula to be replicated again: the hero is recovering from a tragedy (loss of his father in this case), finds his stride and puts on his costume, but then is challenged by an antagonist that is a carbon copy of our hero. This is the same plot that we have seen in Iron Man, Ant Man, and Dr. Strange. Seems Marvel is going with the old adage of if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And, well... it works!

What doesn't work is the character of T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), or the Black Panther himself. He is depressed by the weight of the world on his shoulders, seems to be constantly constipated, and is simply boring. The movie also ignores the development of the character in Captain America: Civil War. T'Challa is hundred times more interesting in Civil War or in Avengers: Infinity War. The antagonist, Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan), has somewhat genocidal goals, however, his character arc is better developed, and he captured the attention better whenever he was on the screen.

Besides the character development issues, the computer effects were another weak point of the movie. Particularly, the last fight scene between Black Panther and Killmonger next to the underground trains was as primitive as a PlayStation 2 game circa early 2000s.

Going back to an earlier post that I had about the three pillars of a good movie, Black Panther fails in the first dimension, but story logic and pacing are done well. Bottom line, the film left me desire for more, and for that I give it 4.5/10.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) - Review

Six short stories by the Coen brothers that make everyone (well, at least me) envy their creativity and smooth flow of story telling!

Trying to stay spoiler free, these six stories take you for a ride with each protagonist for a few hours up to a couple of days. I am a huge fan of the Western genre, so, the escapism was much appreciated. Besides, the protagonists were interesting enough that I enjoyed my time watching them. The stories were dark and some anticlimactic. Also switching from one point of view to another every 20-25 minutes may be a little cognitively taxing. However, Joel and Ethan Coen are masters of their craft, and it is always a pleasure experiencing one of their stories.

If it is not clear already, I loved this masterpiece and I give it a 10/10! Although, I acknowledge that this work may not appeal to the majority of the audience the way it did to me.

BlacKkKlansman (2018) - Review

The true story of an undercover African American police officer in Ku Klux Klan is stranger than fiction. The premise of this story is fascinating, and the boldness of that officer defies expectations and beliefs. The movie's message is that KKK is a racist organization, and race prejudices of the past are still with us today. These, sadly, are facts that are widely known already...

I also found some of the matters were handled heavy handedly. Again, we know that those issues from 60's and 70's are still persisting. Putting today's political slogans (e.g., build a wall, and make America great again) in the mouth of David Duke - the leader of KKK - is a little too on the nose. Okay, we get what Spike Lee (the director) was trying to say. But the overemphasis on these parallels felt like Spike Lee was trying to force feed his message.

I personally subscribe to liberal views, however, I raise this issue because I prefer nuance in story telling. For example, George Orwell's Animal Farm was a social commentary on its contemporary socio-political situation and Marxism in particular; however, the allegories were used delicately and hence, made a stronger impact.

Props to acting and soundtrack, however, the movie neither entertained nor informed. I'd give it a 4/10.