Captain America: Civil War Review

Genre: Superhero
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Length: 147 Minutes
Main Cast: Chris Evans
Robert Downey Jr.
Scarlett Johansson
Sebastian Stan
Production Company: Marvel
Written By: Christopher Markus
Stephen McFeely
Directed By: Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

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Written By Nelson Cumming

Captain America: Civil War may please the casual fan of superhero movies to one degree, for devotees of the Marvel Universe it may please them further still. Even though “Captain America: Civil War” is 2 and a half hours long, you would be hard pressed to find a time where they wasted a minute of it. As a recent writer of movie reviews, there is always an appreciation for movies that have many characters that work well together, action sequences that you want to see more of and plot points that make sense to every character motivations. To balance all those elements is an art. As a casual fan, I like the overall execution of Captain America: Civil War and as for devotees, they may get more out of their superheroes if they have been following them all the way.

“Captain America” revolves around a dissension among the ranks story. When the heroic actions of the Avengers damage to innocent civilians (collaterally) there is a political movement that allows the United Nations to control the actions of all superheroes including the Avengers. This political movement divides all of the Avengers. Captain America (Chris Evans) is the leader of the superheroes who want total freedom to stop crime while Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is the leader of superheroes who believe that they can be more effective if regulated by the United Nations. There is also someone who intend to destroy the Avengers through disinformation and deceit.

There were two action sequences that made me love the movie for very different reasons. One was because it was fun and engaging and the other was because it symbolized the struggle and the pain the superheroes went through that made me buy the whole story. For the fun action sequence, it did feel to me that the action was going on forever, but the thing is that I never wanted it to end. It is the action scene that pays tribute to Star Wars. The other action sequence is a triple-threat match that evokes the apex of a downward spiral of decent. This sounds broad I know, but I am doing my best to accurately reference scenes to people who have seen it while avoiding spoilers for people who want to see it.

An aspect I both loved and hated was the use of high frequent cutting on many of the action sequences. It was good because the editing was great as it mostly felt smooth and fast-paced. It looked intense and professionally made. The downside to this was the action was so fast that my brain struggled to keep up with the images. Maybe it is because I am slow sometimes or the fact I was sleepy tired after a long day of travel, but my eyes and brain hurt! Thankfully, it was only for short periods of time, but it slightly hurt the viewing experience for me.

There are only two things I will say about the story. 1. It was rather engaging and 2. I liked how the story developed and how key scenes convincingly changed the behaviors and motives of the main characters in an entertaining way. You have to give credit to the actors for that.

Captain America: Civil War was a nice action film to see. It may be even better if you have seen other movies from the Marvel universe. From my limited knowledge, I have heard people understand more of the movie and sympathize more with the characters if they saw movies like the Iron Man and Captain America series. Despite not being a diehard fan, it worked for me as well. I think it falls short of the top echelon of superhero movies, but not by much. In saying that, I think it is better than Deadpool as a whole. That is saying something. ****1/2

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The Boss Review

Year: 2016
Rating: M
Genre: Comedy
Length: 99 Minutes
Main Cast: Melissa McCarthy
Kristen Bell
Peter Dinklage
Production Company: Gary Sanchez Productions
Written By: Ben Falcone
Melissa McCarthy
Steve Mallory
Directed By: Ben Falcone

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Written By Nelson Cumming

After seeing Melissa McCarthy in different roles and movies I have come to the conclusion that her talents are manifested through the careful direction Paul Feig instead of her husband Ben Falcone. Feig has directed McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”, “The Heat” and “Spy”. Falcone has directed McCarthy in “Tammy” and “The Boss”. I think if anyone had to do a ranking from best to worst based on the five titles alone I would be amazed if the latter two were anywhere higher than fourth and fifth.

“The Boss” is not a terrible film by any means. There are moments where I laughed, but the laughs were few and far between. The thing that was the most inconsistent was character and story progression. What hurt the movie the most was probably how hateful Melissa McCarthy’s character inherently was to Kristen Bell’s character who portrays a nice, vulnerable single mother. That detracted me from a lot of the comedy as a whole. Nonetheless, this movie was good overall but it skates on thin ice by the end.

“The Boss” revolves around a cut-throat entrepreneur Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthey) who was arrested and sent to jail for insider trading. When she is released, she lives with her secretary because she has nowhere else to stay. Her secretary is Clare Rowlins (Kristen Bell) who is a struggling single mum. Michelle finds a business opportunity in selling girl scout cookies. But longtime rival Renault (Peter Dinklage) holds a longtime grudge against her and plans to ruin the cookie business Michelle started.

Michelle Darnell’s character is narcissistic, self-centered, relentless and jaded. Those character qualities can be used to great effect (through my own observations) if :
A. The actor does it in short sharp bursts
B. The actor has great comedic timing
C. The actor knows when they need to stop
and finally and most importantly,
D. The character exhibits those qualities to other people who share similar qualities of overconfidence and wit. That way it feels more like a funny exchange with words instead of a bullying exercise against a nice character.

Out of all these four characteristics, only the second one was done well in “The Boss”. There were several scenes in “The Boss” where it was one joke too much (not to be mistaken for one joke not too far). In one scene where Darnell is given fashion advice for Clare on her first date and there is a gag involving her bra that was great (Kristan Bell’s reaction is priceless) but then both girls, Melissa McCarthy especially, was coming up with 7 more jokes, each being less funnier than the last. It was clear that a lot of the scenes were improvised, which is ok when it works, but the editor could easily cut out some of the one-liners and made a tighter movie.

Another problem I have mentioned is when the narcissistic character spouts manipulative rants to inherently nice characters like Clare the single mum. It just felt mean. There is one thing that McCarthey’s character does that drives the two apart and when she pleaded for forgiveness it felt to me that the emotional payoff wasn’t earned. This was because she was a shrew up until that point. Showing of machismo mostly works when both characters are self-confident show-offs or when both characters are at least thick skinned. From the top of my head, great examples are Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller in “Tropic Thunder” and Melissa McCarthy with Jason Statham and Rose Byrne in “Spy”. They are funny because they are witty and mean but most importantly their characters can dish it as well as take it. It just doesn’t work in my opinion if you do it to a character that we come to know is vulnerable and mildly insecure like Clare’s character is.

“The Boss” is actually funny here and there but there are good stretches where it feels mean and there are wild inconsistencies that manifest in the movie climax. I thought Peter Dinklage was good, despite the fact his character is a joke. It could have been improved significantly but that is what you get. “The Boss” narrowly escapes the bad movie zone with the skin of its teeth, but barely **1/4

Eddie the Eagle Review

Genre: Sports Dramedy
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Length: 105 Minutes
Main Cast: Taron Egerton
Hugh Jackman
Production Company: Marv Films
Written By: Sean Macaulay
Simon Kelton
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher

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Written By Nelson Cumming

Eddie the Eagle is a consistently good movie. The entire story is formulaic and predictable so “Eddie The Eagle” relies on the execution to succeed. Fortunately, it does succeed. There is good chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton and everything else fits like set design and cinematography fits into the story. All I can really say is that “Eddie the Eagle” is a feel-good movie about a nice guy trying to achieve his Olympic dreams. It does not challenge the intellect but it pleases the mind.

Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) is British boy off the street who dreams of making it in the Olympics. Trouble is, Eddie is not alethetic in any way as he comedically trips over hurdles, smashes windows with a javelin and carries all his broken reading glasses from his comedically failed attempts in a tin. At age 22, Eddie sees the opportunity of making the Olympic team through ski jumping (only because there are no qualifications or regulations since a Brit has not competed in the sport since the 50’s). On pen and paper, all Eddie had to do was ski jump in a formal event. As we learn, it is not as simple as that. Eddie has to overcome adversity to try and live his dream.

Ten minutes in and I knew “Eddie the Eagle” was essentially “Cool Runnings”. You have the over-optimistic, almost naive, lead character paired up with a pessimistic coach who was destined for greatness but lost himself along the way. The movie was set in the winter Olympics and it involved northern Europeans belittling the main character Eddie. Hell, this movie was set in the same Olympic Winter Games in 1988. There is even a little easter egg in the movie about this similarity. So at least the filmmakers were self-aware and paid homage to its predecessors. If you like “Cool Runnings” you will like this movie without a shadow of a doubt.

The good thing is I like “Cool Runnings” so liking this movie is a natural fit. Taylor Egerton is good enough at being charming and friendly that we care for him. Even with the predictability of all the scenes I was saying in my mind “Oh my God, Eddie you are just going to hurt yourself. I know it’s going to happen but don’t do it Eddie” instead of “He is probably going to fail the jump and fall on his ass” It’s pretty amazing how an invested interest in characters gets me into a movie quickly. That is always a big tick when I rate movies.

This film also brings Hugh Jackman as Bronson Perry, a rising Olympic star who fell short of glory by his own demons. Perry teaches and trains Eddie to the art of ski jumping. Great character development from Jackman. From the guy who depends on his “Jacket” to just converse with Eddie to the guy who bonds with Eddie through his “Jacket”. Through Eddie, he slowly finds happiness. Jackman finds the magic spot of being distant from Eddie but not so much that we would think he is mean, self-centered and detracting from the movie. It’s is actually a little delightful to see the various training montages with him and Eddie.

My final compliments go to both the cinematographer and the set designer. The design looked convincing as it has the large slopes and the large crowd. The locker rooms and the cafeteria fit the environment effortlessly. The cinematographer was especially good at presenting how scary and dangerous the high jumps were while also showing us how fun those jumps would be if you had the confidence and the technique. There is one scene where Jackman does the 90-metre jump slightly drunk with a cigarette in his mouth that was fun to see instead of being worried that he might be stretchered out.

Eddie the Eagle is an all round good movie. It doesn’t break away from the mold and it doesn’t really offer anything to take away from, but it does make you care and it does fulfill the basic objective of a feel good movie: To make you feel good at the end! ***1/2

The Jungle Book (2016) Movie Review

Genre: Adventure

Year: 2016

Rating: PG

Length: 105 Minutes

Main Cast: Neel Sethi

Bill Murray

Ben Kingsley

Idris Elba

Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures

Directed By: Jon Favreau

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Written By Nelson Cumming

At the end of my review of “Allegiant”, I cried “God help me”. God answered in the form of “The Jungle Book”. This movie was great. From the acting that Neel Sethi had to do at such a young age to the use of CGI animation is brilliant. “The Jungle Book” is one of the strongest movies to come out in months. The movie stays to the original Walt Disney animation from a story perspective. It is darker than the original but the visuals alone make “The Jungle Book” something to see. It is a textbook movie from Walt Disney Company who have been really stepping up their game in terms of movie quality.

The story takes place in the heart of the tropical wilderness amongst many different animals and vast amounts of beautiful natural terrain. Mogil (Neel Sethi) is a man-cub raised by wolves ever since his home was destroyed and his people vanquished when he was a baby. A tiger Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) is a firm believer that humans do not belong in the jungle and seeks to erase Mogil. This leads Mogil to leave the wolves that raised him and lead out on an adventure of self-discovery.

“The Jungle Book” is the kind of movie that reminisces a pure form of kid’s action adventure. As I have mentioned before, the animation and imagery is articulated to the point where not only do you get a feel that you are in jungle but it also makes the jungle and the animals awe-inspiring. It is easy to suspend disbelief based on animation alone but what made it even better was I saw acting from a boy that was better than the entire cast of “Alligent” combined.

Based on his performance alone, Neel Sethi deserves to every dollar his gets for this film. To ask a child on set to run and traverse through things while keeping in character and to interact with non-existent animals that would have been rendered in post-production is insane. There is actually a beautiful departing moment with Mogali (Sethi) and the mother wolf he was raised by which would have been cheesy if Sethi and the animation team were not at the top of their game but they both were.

Also, a big congratulations to the voice actors for their performances. They sound great on the microphone while sounding like the characters they represent. The relaxed and playful bear plays well to the natural voice of Bill Murray and Idris Elba really balances the intimidating nature of Share Khan while not overdoing it to really scare any of the kids. Ben Kingley is mesmerizing playing the voice of —— all the voice actors do a fantastic job playing their parts.

For a guy who seamlessly blended all sorts of elements into this movie the final credit has to go to, as always, the director, the general, the man Jon Favreau. I do not know who you are, but I will find you and watch your movies sir. May the red flower burn inside for years to come. A lot more things worked in “The Jungle Book” than not. I still do not think Disney are on the same level as Pixar but they are slowly convincing me otherwise. The last Disney film I reviewed was “Zootopia” and now “The Jungle Book” and both are great. Go for the hat trick, the trifectia, I dare you Disney. I dare you. ****1/4

The Divergent Series: Allegiant Review

Year: 2016
Rating: M
Length: 120 Minutes
Main Cast: Shailene Woodley
Theo James
Jeff Daniels
Production Company: Red Wagon Entertainment
Directed By: Robert Schwentke

 

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Written By Nelson Cumming
I woke up this morning with an optimistic attitude. I was going to see the live action version “The Jungle Book” because I like the animated version of it as a child. I made the mistake of arriving at the movie theatre 10 minutes before it started. That was because “The Jungle Book” sold out. So my next thought was “How about seeing The Boss as it has one of the most talented females comedians of recent times: Melissa McCarthy” That was also sold out. The only movie that was not sold out was “Allegiant” and that is the one I went to.

After seeing “Allegiant” I learnt a life lesson the hard way: If you know there is high demand for a movie, arrive 30-40 minutes before it starts. That way I can avoid seeing a crappy movie in the event a potentially good movie sells out. Allegiant reminded me of “The Island” directed by Michael Bay and even that was better. If a Michael “The Godfather of Young Teenage Exploitation Films That Destroys The Attention Span” Bay is making a better film about eugenics and genetic purity than you are. You have problems. Severe problems.

This film has a dystopic feel to it (which is good), from places like the darkly confined areas of the slums of Chicago to the bright orange wastelands reminiscent of Mars and a sky high metropolis you would find the best and most highly advanced human beings written from a science fiction novella. Tris and Four escape with their friends from a war-torn Chicago to find the Bureau of Genetic Warfare who operate in a large city. It is soon revealed that their intentions are to separate, destroy and rebuild society with genetically “pure” human beings. Tris, Four and their friends have to prevent this from happening to their people

This movie is dumb on many levels. From the below-average CGI, The inconsistent script, the wooden acting from the young actors, the complete lack of chemistry between Tris and Four and the repetitive action scenes made “Allegiant” so boring to watch. The most horrible crime is the acting by far. I could tell Theo James (Four) was there just cash a paycheck. Absolutely zero effort from him and his performance was so wooden and forced. Because of this, I did not care about the love relationship between the Shailene Woodley and Theo James characters. That is bad if the relationship we should care most about doesn’t work.

The other main problem is the action sequences. Not only were they repetitive but they were generic and uninteresting to begin with. They were just basic action scenes with shootings. Despite this, there was a cool scene when Theo James’ character is trying out these floating disc tracking systems that detect hidden enemies. If only it was used to its full potential during actual combat sequences it may have been half-decent. When there were 25-30 minutes of the movie left I looked around the room and only saw blank and bored faces. I also had a blank and bored face.

There were two good things about “Allegiant”. By “good” I mean competent and not great. The visuals of the wasteland areas outside of Chicago was convincing and so was Jeff Daniels performance. Daniels is pretty much the guy that narrates the whole story so his talent is pretty much wasted. At least for a couple of moments he got me interested in his pure hemogenic vision of society. But the movie is not challenging about our humanness beyond the fact that “eugenics is bad, we must stop it”. Don’t get me wrong, I believe eugenics is a bad thing but that theme is so overused in movies that I don’t really care seeing it anymore.

I (now happily) admit that I have not read the original books nor have I seen the first two movies “Divergent” and “Insurgent”. I now know for certain you do not need to read the books or see the other movies to know when a film is bad. People are apparently upset that “Allegiant” does not follow the book. I can tell you that it is the tip of the iceberg in terms of its problems. Sixteen years ago when “Battlefield Earth” was released the last thing anyone was complaining about was the fact that movie only covered half of L. Ron Hubbard’s book. “Allegiant” has too many movie errors to ignore and next year a third and final sequel will be released called “Ascendent” God help me. *

The Huntsman: Winter’s War Review

Year: 2016
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: M
Length: 114 Minutes
Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth
Jessica Chastain
Charlize Theron
Emily Blunt
Production Company: Perfect World Films
Written By: Craig Mazin, Evan Spillotopoul
Directed By: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

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Written by Nelson Cumming

If there is any thought that comes to my mind when watching some blockbuster movies it’s this: sometimes less is more. The Huntsman: Winter’s War has melded in with the hundreds of blockbusters that fit into this category. That is not a good thing. Like those films that fit into the “less should be more” category The Huntsman: Winter’s War has all the decor, the costumes, the settings, the actors, the design and the professionalism but it only has a thinly veiled storyline that further suffers from cliches and blatant rip-offs from other movies. Like all the major blockbusters that have come before it, The Huntsman has the rhythm but no music.

The film starts off with Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) who love each other in a society conditioned to hate. Freya (Emily Blunt) (who is The Ice Queen) rules over her kingdom and forbids love. Freya herself is manipulated by her older sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Eric and Sara learn of Snow Whites Magic mirror contains pure evil. Eric and Sara agree that Freya and Ravenna must not get the mirror to prevent her from gaining absolute power.

I know there are is a massive audience out there who after the fun and forgettable movies. They think that I am a negative reviewer for not liking these films. Personally, I love the fun but hate the forgettable. However, I am going to do something that I have never done before for a film I did not like: I am going to start off by explicitly saying what I did like first.

The costume designers deserve a raise. All the designs perfectly fit the character’s personalities. The acting was also good, especially from Charlize Theron portraying the villainous Ravenna . She commanded attention in the form of a whisper. She got people to listen intently to the mundane things she was probably told to say.

The little people (I am not sure if that is the politically correct term but I mean no offense) are pretty decent in adding the comedic elements in the movie. They got the wittiest and best bits of dialogue in this movie. Their banter and comedic timing was great. Maybe in an alternative universe, there may be a comedic spin-off movie based on them. I can only wish. The story itself, albeit weak, was easy to follow so no headaches on that aspect and the CGI was actually ok. Unfortunately, all I have mentioned are the appetizers of the film and when the main course arrives, all good things come to an end.

“The Huntsman: Winter’s War” suffers from an annoying amount of cliches, making it very predictable. Scene after scene I could tell what was going to happen based on the law of movie cliches. Here is one movie cliche law: When the comedic character in a drama discovers and foils a booby trap and says something like “Lucky we didn’t fall for that trap” The characters will immediately fall into a bigger trap. That was one of the many cliches that happened in the movie. Worse still is when I know were a film “borrowed” their source material from.

I must start this paragraph with a word of advice to aspiring filmmakers. It’s natural to use films as inspiration to create original ideas. However, if you must resort to taking plot devices from other movies and presenting them like it’s your own, it would be best to take your source material from old or obscure movies. Therefore, you reduce the odds of people noticing that you copied ideas from other movies.

I say this because it was transparently clear that The Huntsman: Winter’s War was taking ideas from very obscure sources and using them as their own. These obscure sources include the movies Frozen, Harry Potter (The Prisoner of Azkaban specifically) , The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe and Romeo and Juliet. All movies that I am absolutely sure no one has ever heard of. The story was also not original but at least the execution of the story was.

Aside from the previous issues I have mentioned the most important piece to any puzzle has to be the story which, I am sad to say, was uninspired. The story and execution have been overused for decades, centuries even. It tries to cover the age old question “does love really conquer all?” said by the evil Ravenna to which the ruggedly handsome Eric responds “No, but it can conquer you” I may use that line if a philosophy student asks me that question to see the reaction.

As you can see for my review The Huntsman: Winter’s War is actually good in the acting and production departments but falls short on what any good movie does: a good, consistent, original story. *3/4

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Year:2016
Rating: PG
Length: 151 Minutes
Main Cast: Ben Affleck
Henry Carvell
Jessie Eisenberg
Amy Adams
Holly Hunter
Main Production Company: DC Entertainment
Written By: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Directed By: Zack Snyder
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Written by Nelson Cumming

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice needlessly pants, wheezes, and heaves along before it hurls itself over the finish line completely exhausted and out of breath by the time the credits roll and the curtain calls: At 151 minutes. When I walked out, I was admittedly confused others were miffed, but we all shared the same disappointment. There many, many movies that are worse than this one. The main reason I was disappointed was because of the large gap in quality between the expected product and the actual product. I can tell you that I am not the only one that shared this view.

This film is so uneven that I had to look at the plot on Wikipedia to understand what was going on. Batman (Ben Affleck) finds a weapons dealer selling Kryptonite to Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) and plans to try and steal the Kryptonite, weaponise it and defeat Superman (whom Batman believes is a threat to peace). Funny thing is, Superman (Henry Carvell) thinks Batman is a threat to peace too! (dun, dun, dun!) and the main antagonist Luthor has his own plans to destroy both Superman and Batman.

I am not sure if I am the only one here, but it was unclear to me the reasons Batman and Superman hated each other in the first place. I also wondered why some of the side plots even existed. Scene after scene, this movie goes from one character to another without connecting the dots together to make a coherent narrative. There is a scene near the beginning when Kryptonite was discovered in the ocean, the Kryptonite is then not seen for about half an hour as the movie cuts away to a scene with Superman, another scene with Lois Lane and the third scene with Batman. By the time I saw the Kryptonite again, I nearly forgot about its existence. This was how the whole movie played out.

Batman v Superman needed better writers and better editors. Too many scenes were redundantly made (shame on the writer) and those scenes were kept in and were chopped around instead of flowing seamlessly (even more shame on the editor) There is a subplot which involves lots of politics with tons of soapbox political dialogue that could have been cut out. That is 30 minutes off right there! Now all you have to do is put the remaining scenes in the correct order and you have a half-decent movie that people can leave the cinema saying “It was ok, not that great, but it is a movie you can spend an hour and forty minutes on”

Even then I am not exactly sure people would say that due to the classic Hollywood storytelling convention this movie used (twice). It is called The Dream Sequence, where “it was all a dream”. Yes, Batman has nightmares about Superman kicking his ass twice. To say that I hate a dream sequence would be an understatement and yet they had the courage to do that twice to the audience. As soon as I saw the second dream sequence, I stopped writing and smacked my fist into the palm of my hand in frustration.

What was even worse is the actual movie title is misleading. Batman and Superman fight for only five minutes only for them to stop fighting through because of a silly little plot device. Let’s just say that the stars aligned for Superman when his mother shared the same name as Batman’s mother. The rest of the film is Batman and Superman vs. Lex Luthor which goes for 30-40 minutes.

There were some awesome action scenes, great music by Henry Carvell and decent acting from the cast. This is what helps make the movie watchable. At the end of the day, the movie had a very high benchmark it had to live up to, made even higher with its marketing campaign. I was expecting at least 4 and a half star quality movie. Unfortunately, the movie falls 500 miles off the mark. It is so mundanely average **