Ant-Man

Ant-ManOne of my favorite movies so far this year, Ant-Man is not your typical superhero film. Just by basing on its title, one can assume this superhero movie has something to do with our small but incredibly strong insect friends: THE ANTS. Marvel creators and writers have this amazing ability to squeeze out interesting characters with solid background stories. And Ant-Man is not an exemption. Before I proceed with the short gist of the movie’s story, I should clarify that there are two Ant-Man (Ant-Men? haha) in the movie (as well as the comics world.) A hint of the original Ant-Man story is seen at the start: Dr. Hank Pym, a brilliant scientist, resigned from S.H.I.E.L.D. (the agency that vows to protect the world from evil forces) as he heard talks about replicating his invention: the Ant-Man shrinking technology. He vowed to protect it as he deemed it dangerous when taken by the wrong hands. More than a decade after, Dr. Pym’s protege is close to making up a shrinking technology of his own and he’s worried about its implications if ever perfected. Pym has no choice but to pass on the Ant-Man suit. But it won’t be easy, because the one he chose was a well-meaning thief who has just been sent out of the prison: Scott Lang. Will Lang be an effective Ant-Man? Will he be able to stop Pym’s protege and prevent the technology be taken by the enemies? That’s what you have to find out in the movie.

Paul Rudd is not someone you’d expect to be an actor who would suit up and be a superhero. But, lo and behold! Ant-Man fits him perfectly. With his strange but interesting demeanor, Rudd delivers as the fast and strong superhero named Ant-Man who can transform himself into a size of an ant at will but can still possess great strength even while being small.

If you have noticed, one of the amazing things in Marvel movies is the great chemistry of their cast. It’s great to have good actors in a production, but if they don’t quite work well together, the movie is sure to suffer. Michael Douglas commands during his scenes as Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. He’ll make you look at him earnestly with the way he talks and acts. Other supporting actors in the film are also outstanding, from Evangeline Lilly (as the beautiful yet deadly Hope Van Dyke, Dr. Pym’s daughter) and Abby Rider Fortson (as Ant-Man’s smart and funny daughter) to Corey Stoll (as Ant-Man’s effective nemesis, Yellowjacket) and T.I. (yes, the rapper! as part of Ant-Man’s crew).

They say that superhero movies are a bit predictable. Yes, that’s true. But the real fun in watching them is in the execution of the director to pull off a great story in his or her own story-telling ability. In the case of Ant-Man, as it is not yet as popular aside from Marvel comics fans, the director’s way of introducing Ant-Man would make or break the franchise. Gladly, Peyton Reed presented Ant-Man in the best possible way: in a funny, heart-warming yet explosive kind of film!

I can’t wait for the next Ant-Man film! Will he be part of the next Avengers film? We’ll see!

Ant-Man‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Avengers: Age of Ultron (movie review)

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-PosterI have enjoyed the first Avengers movie better than this sequel, but one can tell that there’s a certain level of maturity that the Age of Ultron has shown. The characters were given more depth, the cast displayed a great deal of chemistry, the vsual effects are ultra-cool and the story has had a good and smooth flow. The writers were able to weave through the rich story of these Avengers and along the way; one can tell each one is going to have a thoughtful, or even good, ending.

Also, there’s still this good humor that Joss Whedon is able to instill in every part of the movie. Whether during a light moment or a heavy one, a lighthearted line or a funny gesture brings lightness to a rather heavy story.

Needless to say, the Marvel movie is every bit packed with action. Other action movies would be shy they’re called action movies because this one doesn’t stop from bringing in the goods. The action scenes are consistently thrilling! I especially love the slow-motion group battle scenes sort of montage. I can’t help but say that the movie’s the best action movie since the first Avengers! Sorry, Bryan Singer, but Joss Whedon seemed to have the real magic when it comes to bringing comic characters into real great live action films. My most favorite comics/ cartoon of all time is none other than X-Men but its movie versions don’t come really close (except to the first X-Men film) to the greatness that is The Avengers.

Let’s talk about Joss Whedon. The director and self-proclaimed comic lover has come a long way since his Buffy The Vampire Slayer days. He’s become one of the favorites in Hollywood and I think that statement in itself is an understatement. Huge projects such as The Avengers and its sequel were given to his hands and thank goodness because he’s able to execute these stories well and turn them into two of the most enjoyable comic movies ever. I love what he did with the series and I can’t seem to wait for the next installment.

Age of Ultron binds the original Avengers team to ultimately eradicate Hydra. They were successful in destroying the enemies’ base but a mysterious artifact that they have taken has unleashed Ultron, which took over  Iron Man’s computer intelligence, Jervis. Ultron acquired the skill of controlling some of Iron Man’s metallic armors, weapons and robots. Complicating matters is the presence of twin mutants, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who hold key roles in this movie. Will the Avengers be able to stop the onslaught that Ultron is brewing to take over the world?

If you haven’t watch this movie yet, it’s not too late. The money and time you will spend watching it is worth it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Big Hero 6

Big_Hero_6_film_posterAs the first Disney animated feature film to feature characters from Marvel EntertainmentBig Hero 6 impresses as one of the best animated movies ever.

Hiro, a 13-year-old genius, spends his time doing fun things like participating in back alley robot fights. His older brother, Tadashi, who’s also a genius, made him realize he might just be wasting his time and his potential by introducing him to the robotics lab in the university where he is studying. Tadashi introduced him to his project, a personal health care assistant named Baymax. There he also met Tadashi’s friends GoGo Tamago, Honey Lemon, Wasabi and Fred, who are also geniuses in their own fields. An application exam in the form of a project presentation is needed for him to enter the university. While he passed it with flying colors via microbots, which are swarms of tiny robots that can link together and form into any shape imaginable, a tragedy strikes that made a great impact to Hiro’s life. This is the premise of Big Hero 6.

Such a heavy theme in an animated movie, shall we say? Yes, but all is well put to make it suitable both for kids and kids-at-heart. In fact, Big Hero 6 gets it all right: great story, appealing characters, slick direction, impressive cinematography and spectacular animation! Believe me, I was very pleased the whole time I was watching the movie! The movie had me (hehe) at San Fransokyo during its very first scene and it made me really smile until the very end!

The way the movie started brought about a feel of Real Steel but it quickly moved to show that even though it has a similar vein as that movie, this is way better. If The Big Bang Theory made smart as the new sexy, this movie justified that nerd is the new cool. Not a new idea considering the success of Iron Man and similar movies that escalate technology to a whole new level on a pedestal, but Big Hero 6 made it more relatable for kids and teenagers. It also somehow reminds adults of their purpose and relevance in life, thanks to the adult figures in the movie.

It has always been said that time flies when you’re having fun and I have always said that a good movie would let the time fly while you’re watching without you noticing. Big Hero 6 is such a perfect example of a movie wherein you won’t notice that a lengthy amount of time has passed by. And, more than the fun, watching it was such a great movie experience. Not only would it please and entertain you, it would also make you think, feel, and make you want to act in favor of what it is teaching.

The animation used in the movie is a whole level of amazing. (Have you noticed I am saying whole a lot of times in this review? Big Hero 6 makes me do so because it is a whole lot to take in! Hehe.) Its use of computer graphics made the scenes seem to be real. From topography up to robotics technology, Big Hero 6 makes topnotch animation. I am guessing that simple isn’t in the vocabulary of the movie’s animation team and their efforts surely propel the movie at the list of films with the best special effects.

Meanwhile, one of the most llikeable, lovable and cutest animated characters is born in Big Hero 6! Watch out for Baymax, which, even though a robot, captures the heart of the viewers as he signifies the heart of the movie. Creators of Big Hero 6 set him apart from the rest of robots in films as he is one-of-a-kind: powerful, caring and huggable! And not just that. As a creation of a good person in the film (Tadashi), he is programmed to serve and do good things to others and refrain from hurting them. Moreover, when Hiro loses his way, Baymax serves as a true friend who redirects him to the right path. Do you know a robot that does exactly like that?

The voice actors (led by Ryan Potter as Hiro, Scott Adsit as Baymax and Daniel Henney as Tadashi) did a good job voicing out their characters. Their timing is on point, which made the funny dialogues really funny and the smart and witty lines very understandable. Furthermore, Henry Jackman’s score in the film (and Fall Out Boy’s “Immortals” as the movie theme) makes it more appealing.

Big Hero 6’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

Rurouni_Kenshin,_Kyoto_Inferno_film_posterRurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is a good sequel to 2012’s Rurouni Kenshin. Having the same director and actors who reprise their roles, Kyoto Inferno still has those edgy, power-packed action scenes and the exciting plot twists that reminded me of what Samurai X (the anime the movie was based on) has been. The movie continued where the first movie left off: the peace the Japanese people were having under the Meiji government was interrupted when a great threat suddenly appeared to cause havoc in Japan. 

Oh how I missed the fancy characters that helped defined a part of my growing up years! After watching just a few scenes with the characters onscreen, I started to be hooked. Two of these characters were Kenshin Himura, the legendary assassin named Battousai who vowed never to kill again, and Makoto Shishio, the ruthless assassin who came up next after Battousai retired and who’s considered the great threat to the Meiji government. These characters were deftly acted on by Takeru Satoh (as Kenshin) and Tatsuya Fujiwara (as Shishio). I continue to like how Takeru moves like the legendary samurai and somehow, I find Tatsuya’s subdued performance in his vicious killer role something of an indicator as to how he will fare in the next Rurouni Kenshin movie. 

Ah, yes, the next movie in line is going to come out next month! And I think this is planned for a very good reason. Probably a lot of viewers of the film will find Kyoto Inferno lacking, as the storyline is cut off to pave way for the third movie. Kyoto Inferno’s got good action and all but I won’t hide my disappointment because it lacked what I was imagining it to be. No real great face-offs transpired in the movie and what the viewers were left off is foreshadow of what’s to come out next month. Besides, I found some scenes too much staged and choreographed. As a result, the acting of some supporting actors and extras hired to be on the backdrop seemed to be very unnatural. 

But, let’s not undermine the goodness we’ve seen on the film. 

Kyoto Inferno was filled with beautiful sceneries to show the viewers how beautiful Japan was during the mid-19th century, the start of the Meiji period. Rough neighborhoods, lively markets, rowdy streets and spirited dojos were just some of the settings brought out alive by the production team. The pacing of the film was just quite right as what story the movie needed to tell was for the most part, successfully told. Meanwhile, aside from Takeru and Tatsuya, Muneta Aoki, Tao Tshuchiya and Ryunosuke Kamiki played their parts, respectively, as Sagara Sanosuke, Makimachi Misao and Seta Sojiro all too well. It’s fun watching them as they’re really into their characters every time they’re seen. 

September can’t come sooner to finish the saga of the famed samurai with the X scar. We can just hope that the third movie will be the best of the three. 

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

GOTG official posterVisually splendid, smartly written and surprisingly but satisfactorily emotional, Guardians of the Galaxy stands on its own as a great Marvel film. 

I’ve actually feared that this Marvel movie was going to flop. The story’s not that familiar to many, the trailer’s not liked by everybody and the only thing that’s attracting it is its Marvel brand. I guess I shouldn’t have feared because it has all the makings of a blockbuster flick. 

Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG) is about a seemingly group of miscasts led by Peter Quill (or Star-Lord), a half-human, half-alien whose rogue ways made him hunted by the thieving and smuggling group that kidnapped him on Earth as a child. Upon teaming up unexpectedly with the other guardians, namely Gamora, adopted daughter of the mighty Thanos and the last of her species; Drax the Destroyer, an avenging warrior; Groot, a tree-like humanoid and Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon who’s a master mercenary, he (along with his team) found a higher purpose, and that is, to serve and save the universe we are in from the dangers highly powerful creatures bring. 

GOTG’s got terrifically marvelous visuals. I was awed by the graphics and effects of this movie and thought the production behind it didn’t restrain its team from making it really look great. Anyone who’s got a clear, good vision will be stunned by its superb cinematography and production design. 

Witty one-liners: This movie’s got a whole lot of these killer funny lines. I think I’ve laughed here more than any other film I’ve watched this year (including those old comedies I’ve watched in the comforts of our home). Plus, it’s got a real good story going on. What’s more impressive is that it’s still tied in with the story arc of the other Marvel movies that are due in the next few years. These ludicrously smart tie-ins might just be superb promotional maneuvers for the companies behind these movies, but if we get to be fully entertained by the fantasy these Marvel stories bring, who are we to complain? 

Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt is a revelation in the film. Who knew he could carry an enormous Marvel movie with him on the lead? Nevertheless, his funny antics and childish charm have certainly helped. Zoe Saldana showed she’s a tough lady by performing as Gamora. Meanwhile, Dave Batista (as the rough Drax), Vin Diesel (as the lovable Groot) and Chris Cooper (as the whiny Rocket) proved that there are no small roles as they perform well in their respective challenging characters. Meanwhile, I did not see any sign of Lee Pace as he shows how to be a main villain in the movie. 

I love the editing done in the film. GOTG didn’t seem very long for me considering the short attention span I am having with films lately (haha). I enjoyed its pace, which was enough to present who are these guardians of the galaxy and how are they a part of the whole Marvel universe. The director of the movie, James Gunn (Slither), seemed to love this movie so much he probably even cared about the nooks and crannies of each scene, aside from how his actors fare in front of the camera. I am hoping he will still be the director and writer of the expected sequel. 

Hmm, if those things I’ve said are still not enough for you to watch the movie, just listen to what’s more to love about this film… its great soundtrack, of course! 

Guardians of the Galaxy’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_posterX-Men: Days of Future Past is the most exciting, most compelling and most beautiful X-Men movie since the first X-Men film in 2000.

As a fan of the X-Men comics, cartoons and video games, I was in such a wild ride (again) while seeing the characters that I love battling each other and manifesting their powers on the big screen. It was sort of like a dream come true! Just imagine the euphoria I would feel if this movie was several hours long!

Moving decades forward since the conclusion of the X-Men: First Class, Days of Future Past presents the greatest threat to mutants that could wipe them all out: the sentinels. As mutants seem to die one by one because of the indomitable and powerful sentinels, Professor X and the remaining members of his team take action by doing what seemed to be impossible: sending a mutant to the past. The chosen mutant, Wolverine, would be tasked to change what has been done that has led to their current predicament. Will Wolverine be successful in changing the events that coursed through time?

Bryan Singer is a perfect fit for the X-Men movies. With his delicate and classy presentation of the characters, the engaging battle scenes, from the funny and light moments to the oh-so-awesome-how-did-they-do-that action-laden sequences, you would know he really loves and cares for the whole X-Men saga. The great camerawork and editing of the scenes paved for a very engaging film. And needless to say (but still I will say it), the visual effects used are superb. I have never been so happy while watching an X-Men movie.

Both senior and younger actors really impressed with their great portrayals all throughout the film. With the calculated and careful ways of the old Professor X and Magneto made alive by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, firmness and persuasiveness of the young Magneto by Michael Fassbender, careless ladida of Quicksilver by Evan Peters, the fragile yet still fighting young Professor X by James McAvoy, the cool shifting aura of Mystique made possible by Jennifer Lawrence, the tough, charismatic presence of Wolverine by Hugh Jackman, the unyielding determination of Bolivar Trask by Peter Dinklage, the smart, funny and engaging characterization of Beast by Nicholas Hoult, the classy moves of Storm by Halle Berry, the delicateness of Blink (Fan Bingbing), the  perseverance of Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), the coolness of Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). The list of awesome characterization of the actors  just goes on and on.

Days of Future Past, though, is not just an entertaining film. It comes with a powerful message. In the film, mutants are feared because of their abilities and this is why they’re persecuted or even killed. In real life, people in all kinds of minority are persecuted because of the others’ fear of their potential: what they can do and how they can do it. This film does not merely suggest equality, but right treatment people deserve no matter what or who they may be.

X-Men: Days of Future Past’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Who wouldn’t get excited when the web-slinging superhero is back along with his beautiful lady love, new super villains with impressive powers and strengths are on their way and many more visual spectacles are to expect?

I expected much in this film as I loved the first Amazing Spider-Man. I was happy after watching it and there were a lot of reasons why. The most fascinating part (and the bulk of the reason why I was happy) was its battle scenes. The first battle between Spider-Man and his main nemesis in the movie, Electro, was fantastic, but the second and final one was spectacular. The electrons pulsing in and around Electro and his surrounding environments were made outstandingly, resulting to a number of great scenery with the striking combination of the illuminating current, the dark city landscape, the quiet background of the dimming lights and the dynamic action happening at the center of the scene. If the battle between Spider-Man and Lizard in the first movie was fiercely exhilarating, the ones with Spidey and his electricity-laden nemesis were radiantly invigorating. Meanwhile, even though the fight scene between Spider-Man and Green Goblin was relatively short (I really wished it was longer!), it did not disappoint. The action sequences were well-choreographed and the final scenes were downright thrilling.

The chemistry between onscreen and off-screen couple Andrew Garfield (as Spider-Man) and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy) was undeniable. They lit up the screen every single time they were together. And when they were together, it seemed like they just shut everything out, which was good for the roles they portray. Garfield was able to maintain the funny, romantic and dependable masked vigilante of the New York City. On the other hand, Stone was able to keep up as his sweet and understanding lover. The roster of supporting actors kept the movie interesting as it rolled along. Sally Field as Aunt May, Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn and even Paul Giamatti in his short stints at the start and end of the film were remarkable. I was most impressed, though, with Jamie Foxx as he portrayed Max Dillon, the eccentric electrical engineer whose accident turned him to the powerful Electro.

One of the best things that I like the most in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the lessons it wanted to teach its viewers. Early on the movie, Gwen Stacy already shared how to make our lives meaningful with her valedictory speech:

“I know that we all think we’re immortal, we’re supposed to feel that way, we’re graduating. The future is and should be bright, but, like our brief four years in high school, what makes life valuable is that it doesn’t last forever, what makes it precious is that it ends. I know that now more than ever. And I say it today of all days to remind us that time is luck. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life, make yours count for something. Fight for what matters to you, no matter what. Because even if you fall short, what better way is there to live?”

Meanwhile, nuggets of wisdom kept pouring from the mouth of Aunt May as she advises Peter Parker about the truths and secrets of their family:

“I once told you secrets have a cost. The truth does, too.”

Everyone has a part of themselves they hide, even from the people they love most. And you don’t have forever, none of us do.”

And of course, our favorite hero has his memorable lines as well about fate and the decisions we make:

“We all gotta make a choice.”

 “I made a choice. This is my path.”

Major drawbacks in the film include the implausibility of a few key scenes (Harry turning into Green Goblin among others). The writing was funny and smart for the most part, but credibility happens in the consistency of details. Sad to say, some major plotlines showed loopholes.

The Spider-Man sequel was far from being better than the first one. It should be noted, though, that much of the energy and the action of the first could be seen and felt here. Loopholes in the plotline made the movie annoyingly childish at times. Most scenes were actually good, and a few were even great. It’s the consistency that the film lacked to be considered a great superhero flick.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5