Avengers: Infinity War

The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
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Avengers: Infinity War is easily one of the best movies that I’ve ever seen overall, with a great story, above-average character development, witty banter, comedy, incredible action, and eye-popping visual effects. It isn’t without it’s problem moments, outlined in the spoilers section below, but is incredibly well-rounded for a superhero movie.

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The Hobbit Movie Review — The Desolation of Smaug

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
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The second movie in the Hobbit triology, The Desolation of Smaug, picks up where the first movie left off in reinventing the classic Tolkien story. I use the word reinventing loosely — it is more appropriate to say that the story has been completely rewritten.

The first Hobbit movie brought-on a number of arbitrary story changes; most of which did not significantly alter the story from the original. The Desolation of Smaug, on the other hand, takes this rewriting to a new level by introducing story arcs, events, and characters that were never present in the Hobbit books. Many of these changes dramatically impact the overall story, creating a bastardized version of the original.

Putting aside these major shortcomings, the movie is fairly entertaining. Like the original, one of its biggest strengths is the visuals. The high frame rate, 48fps instead of the standard 24, helps create an immersive world. The animation is also top-notch with many full character computer models being nearly indistinguishable from the real actors.

Bonus: Benedict Cumberbatch motion and voice capture for his amazing work for Smaug

The story seems to rush along at times; a common problem for book-to-movie adaptations. This is particularly odd considering a single 310 page book has been stretched into 3 movies. For some reason they decided to rush certain story arcs and add a great deal of filler for others. The biggest example of filler is the new love story that was introduced — that of the lady-elf and one of the dwarves. This love story was completely absent from the original book and clearly introduced simply to appease audiences supposedly desperate for a love story in everything.

It is these additions that earn The Hobbit a 3-star rating. If they stuck closer to the original story and resisted the urge to hollywood-ify a classic story, it would have been much better. These arbitrary additions are an unwanted distraction for those that are familiar with the story.

The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, is definitely worth watching in theatres, just be sure to try and forget the original story as much as possible to avoid disappointment.

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Pacific Rim Movie Review — Feels Like Traditional Hollywood

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
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Pacific Rim was, surprisingly, a pretty good movie. When I first saw a trailer I thought, “pfft, cool action but probably nothing else”. However, I was happy to hear good things about Pacific Rim beyond the action and thought I would give it a shot.

In some ways Pacific Rim feels like Jurassic Park, just a lot worse, of course. It has the eccentric and over-the-top characters (primarily the scientists), a powerful score, and plenty of predictable Hollywood glory. If you forgive the movie for its unoriginal Hollywood elements, you will find it enjoyable.

Pacific Rim was clearly created to appeal to the Japanese and appeal to Kaiju fans. The name for the monsters — Kaiju — is the name used to refer to the Japanese “monster vs. robot” movies. As a result, the movie is full of Japanese elements; some of which are a little too obvious, perhaps. Including Japanese dialogue throughout and the casting of a Japanese lead actress are the most obvious. Interestingly, they decided to set most of the movie off the coast of Hong Kong instead of Japan which would have been the obvious choice.

It should be obvious what Pacific Rim’s primary strenght is: computer animation. The CGI was truly incredible and I cannot begin to understand how long it must have taken to put the movie together. The battles in the ocean are particularly impressive because of the particle effects required for the water, but I digress.

The secondary strength is the story, believe it or not. The concept is quite simple but surprisingly strong. Pacific Rim introduced an interesting means of piloting the robots (with dual-pilot mind control), though it is probably less unique to Japanese fans of Kaiju movies. Emotional elements were woven in relatively well and made you feel for the characters more than the average action movie.

A small thing, but the physics seemed realistic. The massive robots moved somewhat slowly and really felt like the heft they would have in real life. As it turns out, the physics are still ridiculously unrealistic — as made clear in the (magazine-only) Wired article “Fighting Physics: The Megamath in Pacific Rim”. Essentially, a single robot punch in the movie should take 20 seconds instead of the 1.5 seconds portrayed. Still, they certainly feel hefty on-screen!

One of the movie’s weak-points was Charlie Hunnam. He is easy to sell as the “badass” but his acting was never fully convincing. I would consider him B or C-list at best. Rinko Kikuchi was not much stronger, unfortunately. Her acting seemed to get much better as the movie went on but she still had many awkward scenes (some intentionally so, I will admit). Overall though, the acting could have been much worse so I won’t hold a grudge.

Pacific Rim is definitely worth a watch. If you go see it, make sure you watch it on the biggest and most intense screen possible. Ultra AVX or IMAX is a necessity.

Spoilers

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Am I the only one that is mad that they survived at the end? Obviously it is hard to sell a sad ending to Hollywood but I felt it would be poetic if they sacrificed themselves for humankind. Instead their personal feelings for each other almost cost mankind everything. At the very least they could have allowed Raleigh to be the sacrifice for humanity and for Mako.

Man of Steel Movie Review: 1 Spoiler — It Sucks

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
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I found it completely shocking that some people actually liked this movie, although I attribute it to the hype and the action that overshadowed the actual meat of the movie (or lack thereof). Of course, many people also share my sentiment that Man of Steel sucks.

Man of Steel falls down on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. The biggest hole in the movie was the cast: failing to create any believable characters. The “Man of Steel” (Henry Cavill) was very dull, delivered lines robotically, and was just absolutely unlovable. He certainly lived up to his name in the movie though, with no more personality than a steel girder. The same went for Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams that failed to create any spark on-screen between herself and Superman. She was hot, yes, but a great movie that does not make.

By far the worst scenes were between Superman and his parents as they try to explain who he is and what is happening to him. It is always interesting to see how a movie will approach these difficult aspects but they did not handle it well. “Son, you are an alien. No big deal” was essentially their approach. It was awkward. It was bad. It felt like the directors just wanted to deal with it quickly like ripping off a band-aid.

What was good about the movie? The action — kinda. There was a lot of it, but it was senseless. The movie was too long and yet it was full of action scenes that stretched on forever. Superman is basically invincible and so are his enemies. So why are they punching each other around for 10 mins? Don’t they realize they are not accomplishing anything? Neither Superman nor his enemies seemed to take any damage throughout their “epic” battles but they kept punching each other anyway. The graphics were really good though, that’s about it.

The way they explained Superman’s powers was also bad. See the spoilers for details.

To spare myself an essay, I’m going to stop here. If you liked the movie, I don’t blame you but you might want to get your eyes and ears checked 🙂 Give the movie another watch and pay attention to the things I have mentioned and I am sure you will understand my pain. Of course you can always just look at the pretty explosions.

Spoilers below

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I actually laughed out loud when Superman let his dad die in the tornado. It was a huge stretch for him to let his dad die just to conceal his identity but on top of that, they felt the need to spell it out for us by him specifically saying that he let his dad die for that purpose. Laugh out loud ridiculous.

His powers were explained by atmospheric differences between Krypton and Earth which was great. Except that no amount of atmospheric differences gives you the ability to fly. Jump high? Sure! Fly? No. Laser vision? Where did that come from? Near invincibility? You’re going to have to try harder than “atmospheric differences”. I actually love it when super hero movies use plausible explanations to bridge reality but when it’s not plausible, it is painful.

Oz the Great and Powerful Movie Review (Only one spoiler: It was bad)

A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.
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The super short version: Oz the Great and Powerful was quite bad. Skip it.

My expectations were not very high for Oz, but I was greatly disappointed nonetheless. Despite being bankrolled and produced by Disney, with quite the record of success, Oz failed on so many levels.

The most notable failure was the acting. James Franco’s performance was predictable good for much of the movie but terrible off-base for others. He just never seemed to really find his place in the movie except for a few scenes. All of the actors, including each of the witches were painful to watch during most scenes. I felt like I was watching a highschool play at times, forgetting for many segments that the movie cost many millions.

Mila Kunis was most disappointing of all. Her first appearance onscreen was very painful and unnatural to watch. She didn’t improve throughout the movie either. She may not be Anne Hathaway but I expected much more from her acting skills.

Despite not being the primary target audience for Oz, I was unimpressed by the lack of universal appeal. Pixar, for example, is very successful at making movies that can entertain both kids and adults alike. Unfortunately, Disney has a long way to go in this respect, Oz being a great example. Many scenes were rather childish and played out too far as a very cheesy fairytale.

The one saving grace was the visual appeal, although it still fell far short of comparable visual masterpieces like Alice in Wonderland. Despite the fantasy landscapes being well put-together, other visual effects were not. The witches moved unnaturally in several scenes – so much so that you could easily picture the ropes and pulleys pulling them into the air.

I found myself laughing awkwardly, sighing, and rolling my eyes throughout at least half a dozen scenes. Oz was easily one of the worst movies I have seen in a long time. Viewer beware!

Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away Movie Review

A young woman is entranced by an Aerialist. When they fall into the dreamlike world of Cirque du Soleil and are separated, they travel through the different tent worlds trying to find each other.
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Quidam - Cirque du SoleilCirque du Soleil: World’s Away is a movie that combines segments of Cirque du Soleil’s various franchises. The movie has an extremely simplistic plot used to interweave these segments, but for the most part the movie can be considered a “best of” collection of shows.

My favourite part of Cirque is the music — particularly that of Quidam. The musical highlights of Quidam were incredible vocalizations mixed with intricate guitaring (see the video below). Since World’s Away is a compilation, it features Cirque’s varied musical styling including a number of Beatles songs from the LOVE franchise. I still believe Quidam’s music trumps World’s Away overall, but Beatles fans might disagree given the Beatles segments.

Half way through this short review and I have not yet spoken about the acrobatics. Why? They speak for themselves. There is nothing like Cirque du Soleil these days as far as human feats of acrobatics, balance, strength and flexibility. Each act showcases a different feat that will blow your mind.

World’s Away contains its share of these “ooo ahh” moments, however the movie focuses primarily on the more elaborate sets designed for some of the bigger franchises. So while you will see some incredible acrobatics and feats of strength, you will most likely take notice of the ingenious stage designs. In one scene, for example, the entire stage shifts vertically forcing the performers to seemingly defy gravity as the scene plays out.

Despite being quite impressed by World’s Away overall, I am forced to give the movie 3 stars simply because Cirque’s essence cannot be captured in a movie. I have seen Quidam live, so the World’s Away paled in comparison to the live show. Safety Wire’s attached to the performers are more obvious in the movie because of the close-ups which takes away from the fantasy world. During the live shows the wires are virtually invisible.

For those wanting to get a glimpse into the world of Cirque, I recommend spending the hour and a half to check it out. For the real thing, find a local show and see what the fuss is all about!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides-review Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.

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The 4th movie, in what may people wrongly believed to be a trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was surprisingly quite good. My expectations for the movie were very low going into it as there have been few instances of franchises that can make it this far without completely selling themselves out into misery. This movie was unnecessary in terms of adding to the on-going plot of the franchise, however, it now seems clear to me that Disney wants to continue Pirates as an on-going series of somewhat unrelated adventures. At the end they even create the opportunity to make a 5th.

I am okay with this for 2 reasons:

1. It doesn’t seem like a complete money grab. Sometimes a franchise will sell its rights to the highest bidder so you end up with a product made by a random 3rd party. In this case though, the integrity has been largely maintained. Although some of the actors no longer return (namely, the lovely Keira Knightley and her male counterpart Orlando Bloom) Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush do and they are able to keep the originality alive.

2. The franchise now seems to be taking a turn towards somewhat un-related yet epic adventures. This is okay with me because it largely resembles a James Bond-style approach to a franchise. Instead of trying to continue to build a story-line outwards (or, now very frequently, backwards with prequels) you can create a series of “mini-stories”. This approach is very effective for big-budget Hollywood movies. Much more effective than trying to force an on-going story line for a large number of sequels and prequels.

All in all, the movie was very fun and I hope to see at least a couple more Pirates movies. As long as they keep Depp at the helm and maintain the series integrity by creating epic short stories, you will always find me in the theatres watching them.