At the Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2

So, reporting live from my seat in the theater. With all the studying and stuff it’s nice to head to the world of make believe for just a little bit. Mental break!

We’ll see how it goes!

Movie Moment: Huh? Processing in progress

Have you ever watched a movie where you were thinking, through the entire movie, “okay, this is pretty good,” “not bad,” “I’m liking it” and then in the last fifteen minutes or so you’re like “what the heck?”

And then you’re thinking “no, but I liked it” and you have another part of your mind going “did you? did you really?” and you answer back “I did. Seriously. Well, I think I did?”

This. All of this. Like, an hour ago. 

I’m still not feeling well. My mind is still in static mode (remember the snowing TV? Yep, still there). Still tangled and, therefore, a lingering mild headache is still present. So I decided to journal a bit. Which helped. But now and then the slight pounding takes precedence so I stop. I decided to watch a movie while dozing in and out of consciences.

Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow (remember her?), written and directed by Peter Howitt. Like I mentioned earlier, I was looking for a distraction, but it started to get a bit interesting. Especially dealing with themes that portray the “what ifs?” and “by chance?” story lines. I’m a sucker for that only because, really, all it takes is a moment to change the course of life. But I won’t get into it just now. So, back to the point of this post.

So, like an hour ago I was really getting into this movie. I like the story it was telling (and I’m not going to go into it because that will be like movie reviewing, which really should be its own post). And then we get to the last fifteen to thirty minutes and I’m thinking “what just happened?” when the credits start to roll.

Reflecting upon this, it could be one of two things. Either a major plot twist through you off-balance, changed the atmosphere so to speak, or a plot point just didn’t make sense and it ended too abruptly for your mind to process it naturally. I’m sure I’m missing other possibilities, but these are the two I could think of with a mild headache and a major “what just happened?” 

I’m still trying to figure out which one is it, but wow. I mean, wow. One moment I’m watching the movie and cautiously enjoying it and then BOOM! “huh?” I did feel that’s the direction the movie was taking so I wasn’t surprised, but I was. Surprised and not surprise. At the same time. It’s an interesting and puzzling feeling, but there it is. 

And if I decide to review this one . . . well, hopefully, I’ll figure it out by then.

Here’s to “huh?” moments!

Movie 411: Beauty and the Beast (2017)


Directed by:
Bill Candon (Mr. Holmes)
Screenplay by:
Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being a Wallflower

and

Evan Spiliotopoulis (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
*based on Disney’s 1991 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Animation
Rated: 
PG
Release Date: 
March 2017
Genre: 
Musical, Fantasy
The Hook:
Nope. No hook. I went with my mom 😊

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Review

A few random thoughts

I will be straight forward and say I did not want to watch this version. 

What?! You’re kidding me!

Nope. Not kidding. I love the animated one and I think it’s safe to say out of all the Disney animations, Beauty and the Beast was my favorite until The Princess and the Frog. But when I heard they were going to do a live action I was so apprehensive about it. 

Will it be as good as the animation?

Are they going to do all the singing?

Will this one have “Human Again?”

Who’s going to do Lumiere? They cannot get my favorite Disney character wrong!

Emma Watson? As Belle? Are we sure?

There was just too many reservations for me so I decided to skip it for as long as I could. Which wasn’t long, laughs. My mom really wanted to see it and we had an afternoon free of obligations so to the theater, we went.

Now, do you really need a summary? For the newer generations, one should be written.

So, there once lived an arrogant boy who was too much into looking good. When an old, ragged woman knocked on his door one rainy, stormy, wintery kind of night he balked at her and shooed her away. Turns out she was a witch! Or at the very least a magic-wielding woman. She cast a spell on this arrogant boy, turning him into a beast and his entire household into household objects. The only way the spell can be broken is for someone to fall in love with the beast, despite his monster-like appearance. 

Enter Belle.

The Plot . . .

 

What can I say about the plot? It’s a classic. At least, I think of it as a classic. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991 and even before that you had the French film La belle et la bete directed by Jean Cocteau (which I’ve never seen and didn’t know of its existence until this. post.). And with further research (because it wasn’t until I decided to write this when I thought “Hm, where did Disney pick up this French tale) I found this fascinating article, “The History of Beauty and the Beast”, posted by Pook Press that gives an overview of the history of the story and it’s possible origins (and I’m not using “fascinating” in the sarcastic sense. Historian wanna be, remember?) and it has a relatively short history when compared to other fairy tales. The article mentions that the first appearance of the tale was in the 1700s.

So, I didn’t mean to turn this plot-review into a history lesson, but since this plot is a classic fairy tale all I can really comment on is the theme. As most fairy tales go, there is usually a lesson to be heard and in this case, it’s to not judge outward appearances. It’s a good lesson to learn. And while we cannot always stop our minds from being biased at first glance, we can push those thoughts to the side after those first few seconds. 

. . . and Presentation

“Oh, you’re a villain, all right? You’re just not a super villain.”

“Oh yeah, what’s the difference?”

“Presentation!”

Sorry, sorry. This movie has been on my mind and I watched parts of it the other day. Couldn’t resist putting this in  😛 .

The live action adaptation, together with good directing and good acting, was done well. The pace moved along nicely and almost matched the animation scene for scene. It was interesting to see how some animated parts would translate to live action, like the scene where LeFou hides as a snowman while spying on Belle’s father. I’d say the spirit of the animation was captured in this live action which is always a plus. There are just some things that you just can’t translate into live action, but Candon and his team done good.

And as apprehensive as I was about casting, it was . . . pretty good. I was going to write decent, but I think that’s too light of a word. I was unsure of Emma Watson as Belle. For whatever reason, she did not seem quite like a Belle to me but it worked. Watson always does a good job and she didn’t disappoint in this one. Whether she matches as Belle is another argument, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t pull off the character. And I have to say Matth–I mean Dan Stevens did a good job as Beast (because he is still Matthew to me–Downton Abbey, if you’re wondering) 

They were the leading actor and actress, but really, the cast did an amazing job. Luke Evans was hilarious as Gaston. It really was hard to picture him like that since he’ll always be Aramis (Three Musketeers [2011], just in case) to me. And Josh Gad did well as LeFou. It was good to see Kevin Kline (Maurice) as well. Everyone did an amazing job.

While we’re on presentation, the storyboard layout was good as well. I’m not really that techie, but I like the shooting sequence (does that make any sense?) of the scenes. I know they had a blue print, but I cannot help but think that it the camera work and editing could have gone wrong and they didn’t in this case. 

The Verdict

Ah, the verdict. Well, let’s start with this:

Will it be as good as the animation?

As with most comparisons, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two. While telling the same story and almost matching the animation, it’s live action. I mean, animation you draw the smiles, the laughs, the anger. Live action it falls upon the actors. It falls upon the backdrops, the set design, the right camera angles. It just wouldn’t be fair.

So to say that it was as good as the animation? No. They are both good in their own right.

Are they going to do all the singing?

They sing. You are warned. It was so much fun to hear this soundtrack again and seeing it on the big screen (since I didn’t watch the animation in theaters). Needless to say I was singing softly to myself during the movie. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. 

Will this one have “Human Again?”

No. They did not  😥 . 

Who’s going to do Lumiere? They cannot get my favorite Disney character wrong!

Ewan McGregor. And as far as voice overs go, he did do live-action Lumiere justice. And of course, you have his partner in crime, Cogsworth, who was done by Magne–I mean, Ian McKellan. They had the right chemistry for partners-in-crime.

Emma Watson? As Belle? Are we sure?

Yeah, I answered this one. But to the point, not too sure, but she did well. She always does a good job with the roles she plays and this one was no different. And just think, to one generation she’ll always be Hermoine and to the other she’ll always be Belle. #mindblown

As for the verdict, to add or to pass. It’s a good movie to watch, but I don’t think I would add it to my library. But it’s not my kind of movie, I don’t think. I mean, for me, I don’t think I would ever say “Ah, let’s watch Beauty and the Beast!” For me it would be like, “you didn’t watch Beauty and the Beast? Oh, you have to. At least once.”

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Movie 411: The Great Wall

Directed by:

Yimou Zhang (Hero)

Screenplay by:

Carlo Bernard (Prince of Persia), Doug Miro (Prince of Persia), and Tony Gilroy (Rogue One)


Rated: 

PG-13

Release Date: 

December 2016

Genre: 

Action, Adventure

The Hook:

Nothing really. Just action, adventure, and the need to catch a movie.

On a quest to hunt down black powder, a group of mercenaries find themselves caught in the desert lands hunted by nomads. Their party of four is quickly cut down to two people when something attacks them. A day later they find themselves at the Great Wall (of China, in case you’re wondering), the violent nomads at their backs and a whole army in front. Taking their chance with the army at the wall, these two mercenaries find a whole lot more than black powder.

The Review

This was another of those movies that weren’t exactly on my to-watch list, but in need of something to do this was the number one choice. And it made for a fun evening.

The Plot . . .

Very interesting story. Cough it up to the history buff in me mixed with the myth and legend side of me and you have the me that totally geeks out. That’s what this story was. As I admitted, this movie wasn’t exactly one I was dying to watch (and I’m admitting it now. Asian movies is that particular genre that I have to be in the mood to watch. They just aren’t my cup of tea, so to speak) but the idea of a myth or legend explaining the Great Wall of China did appeal to me. And I’m don’t know much about Chinese myths and/or legends so wether or not this particular myth is unique or not, I cannot say, but I did like the concept of it. An elite army defending all of China not agains the Huns, but . . . other things, is just fascinating. It seems a unique and original story, at least to me. It’s the first movie I’ve seen, or even heard about, that addresses a myth or legend about the Great Wall so . . . high marks in my book.

. . . and Presentation

The portrayal of medieval China (I’m taking a stab at the era and I know I’ve probably made an incorrect guess, but I’m too lazy to look up this fact right now. I have an excuse. I’m typing this through a headache) was amazing. The costumes, the weapons, the personality. I loved it!

Matt Damon (William) and Pedro Pascal (Tovar) worked well together. And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too sure about Matt Damon starring in a Chinese-ish movie, even though he was playing the part of European mercenary. And I’ll be honest (times two), I really hope to see more of Pedro Pascal. He did a great job playing the comic relief and the added tension to the plot.

Tian Jing (Commander Lin) was brilliant! I haven’t seen her act before this and she did such a good job standing up with actors like Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe (Ballard). It was nice to see this dynamic.

Action shots were well done. Not too fast and not drawn out either. It moved the story along nicely and kept things interesting. Great work!

The Verdict

If we’re talking a must watch, yes. This movie definitely is a must watch. If we’re talking about a must add, that’s a tougher one. I think this is worth adding to your movie arsenal. It’s a great action flick, the plot is unique, and the acting isn’t horrible. It’s a great movie for those kinds of nights (or days, or whatever) when you have no clue what to watch. I think it’s worth the investment.

Photo Credit: Impawards.com

Movie 411: Hidden Figures


Directed by:

Theodore Melfi (Saint Vincent)

Screenplay by:

Allison Schroeder (Mean Girls) and Theodore Melfi


Rated: 

PG

Release Date: 

December 2016

Genre: 

History, Drama

The Hook:

NASA! And “based on actual events.”

 

Three strong women of color are employed at the prestigious NASA during the Space Race of the Cold War. Having the brains and determination to get themselves there, they face unique challenges because they are intelligent, African-American, and female in a mostly dominated male profession. Their story demonstrates the strength these women had to not only get to the top of their respective field but to gain the respect of their peers in a time when civil rights were challenged and when the role women played were questioned.

The Review

I must admit. This movie wasn’t on my radar on my list of must-see movies. It was one of those “what movie shall I watch. Oh, this one looks okay” kind of nights and this was the pick. And I am glad to have watched it!

The Plot . . .

 

What a story! When watching this movie, I couldn’t help thinking about all those sports movies in which the underdog prevails at the end. You know what I’m talking about. Not only sports movies, but basically any movie where the main character is snubbed only to knock-it-to-them in the end. This movie was just like those movies except in the field of math and science. I love it! You get to see a little bit of the behind the scenes of NASA, or at least a fictional-maybe-a-bit-exaggerated behind the scenes, and the different departments that helped NASA operate. And it’s not your typical day at NASA either. You’ve got the backdrop of the Space Race to set the mood, tension, and plot.

The story is great for film and even better that it’s based on a book, HiddenFigures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margaret Lee Shetterly.

It was good to see these women get recognized and it amazed me at what they did during the time they lived in. Simply amazing. I’m not sure whether the story was good because it was based on actual events or because their story made it to the big screen and a wider audience. As with all movies tied to real world possibilities, it may not be completely accurate, but it gets people thinking and asking questions.

. . . and Presentation

 

Well done. I haven’t read the book or thumbed through it either, but to translate a non-fiction read into an entertaining and inspiring movie script takes a certain finesse and Melfi delivers. He unpacks the story in an easy to follow narrative and adds humor, tension, and seriousness in all the right places.

I enjoyed the energy and humor Octavia Spencer (Dorothy) brought to The Help and she does an excellent job with Dorothy’s character as well. Acting with her were Taraji Hensen (Katherine) and Janelle Monae (Mary), whom I have never seen before. They do an excellent job adding to the on-screen chemistry among friends who are taking on NASA. The supporting characters of Kevin Costner (Al), Jim Parsons (Paul), and Kirsten Dunst (Vivian) helped move the story along and worked well with the dynamics of the story and of the leading actresses.

The Verdict

A really great movie to watch. If only once. It’s a great story so that itself is worth giving it a go. As much as I enjoyed this movie, I don’t think I’d add it to my library. Everyone loves it when the underdog rallies back and actually knock the smug smile off the faces of those who questioned, mocked, and/or humiliated. While mostly everyone. At least I do anyway. But it’s not the kind of movie that I would go to whenever I’m stumped on what to watch, you know? It’s that movie you watch when a group of you are trying to decide on a movie. Not really something I’d say “Oh hey, I want to watch this movie.” To me it’s the kind of movie to share with others and not really keep to yourself.

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

 

Movie 411: Moana

Directed by:

Ron Clements (AladdinTreasure Planet, The Princess and The Frog) and John Musker (AladdinTreasure PlanetThe Princess and The Frog)

Co-Directed by: Don Hall and Chris Williams

Screenplay by:

Jared Bush (Zootopia)

Rated: 

PG

Release Date: 

November 2016

Genre: 

Family, Adventure

The Hook:

It was about Maui, a demigod I’ve been learning about for as along as I can remember. Near and dear to my Hawaiian heritage, I couldn’t not watch it.

The Summary

Moana is the daughter of an island chief destined to rule the people someday, but she also has her own destiny waiting for her. A darkness is slowly creeping up on her people, threatening their way of life. What used to work for them in the past isn’t working anymore and against the wishes of her parents, Moana sets off to chase a legend in hopes to restore nature’s balance.

and The Review

From the moment I heard about this movie, I wanted to watch it. Growing up in Hawaii, which is part of the greater Polynesia, Maui was definitely a part of our story-telling culture and definitely a part of the ancient religion of the Hawaiian people. I was so curious to see how this childhood story and my local culture would translate to the big screen.

Plot . . .

I love this story! I was about to type that the plotline is nothing new, but then again, what story is actually new, you know? Hasn’t all stories, at one point another, been told before?

This plot is packed with adventure and true to Disney’s style packed with a fun soundtrack. I love the telling of the story and the focus on kupuna and the knowledge of our elders. Family history has always been a big part of my life (and partly responsible for the history geek in me) so to see that being a huge part of the story had me smiling for most of the movie.

You have a young woman who’s trying to save her people. She accepted responsibility for her people and she had to be brave enough to break tradition. Do something different to ensure survival. You cannot help but be a little curious to see how this story played out and it’s done well in this film. It moves along nicely and doesn’t drag on, too much.

. . . and Presentation

I love how the Polynesian culture was presented. Mostly, I love that it raises questions about our culture. It allows an opening for discussion and I love the opportunity to do so. I’ve had people ask me how I feel about it since I’m part-Hawaiian and I’ve got no complaints. I’m sure Disney stayed as true as they could to certain parts of the legend, but I also recognize the fact that this is a fictional story and not a documentary so there may things that contradict what I know. And that’s okay. As mentioned, it allows our culture to be open to discussion and gives me a chance to talk about my Hawaiian heritage, what I know of it.

Dwayne Johson and Auli’i Cravalho did a great job adding personality to Maui and Moana, respectively. The rest of the cast of characters were also done well. Family is an important part of the culture and to see Moana’s grandma guiding her through her decision, ensure that she was aware of all pieces of her ancestry, that was awesome to see. Well done.

The Verdict

Of course this is a must watch, must add. It was well worth seeing in theaters and I would be happy to add it to my library because it is definitely a movie I’d watch again and again.