Movie Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Running time: 126 minutes

Director: Alan Taylor

1427476029832Terminator: Genisys was supposed to be the first film in a new trilogy of the Terminator franchise before the rights went back to James Cameron but the fifth installment in the saga has been such a disaster at the box office, unable to beat Jurassic World and Inside Out (both of which have already been playing for several weeks) that Paramount Pictures might need to change their plans.

John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human Resistance, sends his best friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from the Terminator that Skynet has sent back in time to kill her and therefore eliminate John Connor from existence. But when Reese arrives to 1984 he finds a very different past than what he was expecting, where Sarah Connor is no longer a damsel in distress but a warrior who has been raised up by a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Together they will have to find a way to prevent Judgement Day from happening in the future.

sarah-connor-terminator-genisys.pngIn case you missed the previous films, Terminator: Genisys opens up with a voiceover by Kyle Reese explaining how the machines managed to conquer the world and practically eradicate the human race. It is the year 2029 and John Connor is the leader of the Resistance against Skynet, though Jason Clarke never comes across as the strong and charismatic warrior the character should be. Instead, he is quite creepy even at this point. After an attack to their base, Skynet sends a T-800 back to 1984 to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor, to prevent him from ever being born and that way eliminate the Resistance. John Connor sends his right hand man, Kyle Reese, to protect her.

So Reese travels in time to find out that the past is not how he expected it to be and Sarah Connor is no longer the waitress that needs his protection and has been trained by a Terminator since she was a child. And, in a movie where none of the actors really pop up, Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor is the only one who comes close to do so. But, though she is supposed to be the protagonist of the story, the movie does such a poor job at focusing on her that it ends up actually being Kyle Reese’s story and, though I’ll admit Jai Courtney is not as bad as usual, his performance is still absolutely uncharismatic, which makes it hard to care for any of the two characters.

terminator-genisys-photo-552bc861d9acbIf you haven’t noticed yet, the time-travel in this film is awfully confusing. When Kyle Reese is traveling to 1984 he has some visions of an alternate timeline due to the fact that the past has been changed and somehow he figures out that Judgement Day will no longer happen in 1997 as it originally did, but in 2017 where the machines will take over the world through an app called Genisys. Sarah is not entirely convinced about that (and who can blame her) but Reese finally convinced her and even though it doesn’t make much sense, we go along with it too because the best way to see this movie is shutting down your mind. In 2017 we finally see Matt Smith again, in a role that is a waste of time for the Doctor. J.K Simmons is also wasted but the jaw-dropping moment comes with the John Connor twist which should have been the big revelation of the film, if the ad campaign hadn’t already gave it away in the trailers.

It seems I’m trashing a lot on the film when the reality is that I had some fun watching it. Yes, the time travel is a mess, it introduces ideas that are never developed, the acting is not that great and therefore it’s difficult to emotionally connect with the characters, but it is great to see back Arnold as the Terminator with a very self-referencing humour, the action sequences are cool and there is some level of intrigue that keeps you guessing. So even though Terminator: Genisys is far away from being a good movie and we are all waiting for the rights to go back to James Cameron, there is some joy to have with the film if you don’t try too hard to make sense of what is going on.

6,5/10

Movie Review: Tomorrowland (2015)

Running time: 130 minutes

Director: Brad Bird

tomorrowland_movie_2015-2560x1600Trying to imitate the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, which is based on a Disneyland attraction, Tomorrowland is based on a section of the park. Brad Bird, director of Ghost Protocol and The Incredibles, gets behind this beautifully directed movie, that could have easily done way better with a better script.

Casey Newton (Brett Robinson) a genius and curious teenager that often gets into trouble for her ideas, finds a pin that whenever she touches it, she suddenly seems to be transported to another world. With the help of the cranky inventor, Frank Walker (George Clooney) and the enigmatic girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), she embarks in a dangerous adventure to find this futuristic city, known as Tomorrowland, and safe the future.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND Casey (Britt Robertson)  Ph: Film Frame ©Disney 2015With so many good things going on in Tomorrowland, it’s quite frustrating that the movie doesn’t actually work. The characters are interesting and it has a unique and original premise, but the plot is such a mess that it’s ironically that the movie starts with George Clooney trying to explain what’s going on and he keeps getting interrupted by someone off-camera because he’s doing a poor job at it. That right there could sum-up the whole movie. It’s awfully confusing.

However, Tomorrowland is not short on good performances. It’s great to see that an actor of the caliber of George Clooney can be in a movie like this without just phoning it in. Frank Walker had a lot of layers that made him enigmatic and made you care about him. But then, there is all this romantic subplot going on with a little girl, played brilliantly by Raffey Cassidy, and because it’s a Disney movie they couldn’t fully explore it to make it work, so it ended up being just creepy. Despite of that, and not diving into her character to avoid spoilers, Athena was the most charismatic and the stand out character of the movie.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..L to R: Frank (George Clooney) & Athena (Raffey Cassidy)..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney 2015Brett Robinson as the lead, Casey Newton, also did a great job, she handled the humour very well and held her own until George Cloony was finally introduced a whole hour into the movie. On the other hand, Hugh Laurie’s David Nix was kind of a throwaway character and one of the main problems with Tomorrowland is its lack of a solid antagonist. It had a lot of potential and an ambitious idea, but didn’t quite get there and made a very poor job at sending a subtle message at the end. That, amongst other things, suggests that the movie was trying to aim more at little kids than at adults.

The main thing to have in mind while getting into this movie is that it is not about Tomorrowland. It’s about getting to Tomorrowland, and if you’re expecting a movie about a futuristic city, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment because in the end, Tomorrowland was hardly explored. The worst part of all is that you spend the whole time waiting for them to get there and the movie is quite fine until that point. Once they get to Tomorrowland the movie starts to derail. The reveal of what was the ultimate threat was very underwhelming. That, and the inconsistent tone, hurt the movie overall.

6,5/10

Movie Review: Inside Out (2015)

Running time: 94 minutes

Director: Pete Docter

2901682From the director of some of Pixar’s most beloved  films, like Up and Monsters Inc, Inside Out is the first Pixar movie that has not debuted at number one. However, it has scored the biggest box office opening for a movie based on an original idea, unseating James Cameron’s Avatar. It is also the second highest opening for a Pixar movie, after Toy Story 3. With numbers like these, it doesn’t seem such a big problem for Pixar that Jurassic World was the one who took the first place in the weekend’s box office.

11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) moves from Minnesota to San Francisco after her dad (Kyle MacLachlan) gets a new job. As she struggles to adjust to her new life, the same happens with her emotions: Joy (Amy Pohler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kailing) and Anger (Lewis Black), who live in Headquarters, the center of Riley’s mind, and guide her through everyday life. Joy, Riley’s primal emotion, tries to stay positive and in control of the situation but after a traumatic first day of school she will have to learn that all the other emotions, even Sadness, play an important part in Riley’s life.

mt2InsideOut11After a problem with Riley’s core memories, Joy and Sadness embark on a journey to get back to Headquarters, taking us through Long Term Memory, Abstract Thought, the Personality Islands, Imagination Land, Dream Productions or the Train of Thought, and showing us in a very imaginative and clever way, how the mind works. It’s fair to say that the world-building in this movie is absolutely brilliant.

It is fascinating to see how these two opposite emotions develop their friendship along the journey and how they realise that they need one another. Joy, honouring her name, is a joy to watch every time she is on-screen and Amy Pohler seems to be the perfect casting. Sadness is an interesting case because I absolutely hated her at first. I wonder if it was poor writing, trying to make her too annoying, but at the beginning all her actions seemed out-of-place. That said, she developed a lot of personality on the journey and became much more likable.

intensa-mente-trailer-1Meanwhile in Headquarters, Fear, Anger and Disgust have to take over the control room and as you might guess, these three emotions are not the best to have full-time in charge. This leads to Riley making some very bad decisions and creates some conflict with her parents, like the dinner sequence featured in the trailers. A scene that played really well showing the interaction between the members of the family from the perspective of their individual emotions. It was great to see more of that in a funny montage during the credits.

As for these three emotions, I loved them. The voice acting was fantastic and they had some of the best comedic moments. I just wished we could have seen them do more stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Joy and Sadness’ quest and discovering the mind, but I also wanted to see more of the five emotions working and bickering for who should take over in certain situations. Maybe if there is a sequel about Riley’s adolescence, these three will be able to play a bigger part.

Inside-Out-8 Sure, if you look too much into it, you will find some inconsistencies. For example, I feel like there should have been something to indicate that Riley was partly in control of her actions because she seemed to be like a robot. But when you have a premise so ambitious, some flaws will come along and, unlike Interstellar or Tomorrowland, Inside Out was geniusly executed and for that alone, it deserves a lot of merit. It is emotional, but not manipulative and like most of Pixar movies, kids will be entertained, but adults will be the ones to fully appreciate it. In the midst of the summer blockbusters this is a breath of fresh air and a delightful experience.

9,5/10

Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Running time: 130 minutes

Director: Colin Trevorrow

650_1200It’s been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park movie came out and Jurassic World must have been a very eagerly awaited sequel as it has broken box office records, with the highest-grossing opening weekend domestically and worldwide in history, surpassing the two Avengers movies.

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar is fully functional as a dinosaur theme park. After genetically engineering a new breed of dinosaur to raise attendance, as people are not impressed anymore by regular dinosaurs, the park’s operation manager, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) will need the help of Owen (Chris Pratt), the velociraptor trainer, to find her nephews (Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins), who have gone missing at the same moment that the Indominus Rex, outsmarting her guardians, has been set free in the park.

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Not only did Chris Pratt look fantastic, he also proved that he is a movie star. It was great to see that he can be more than just Star-Lord. He elevates the movie in every single scene he is in and even though his humour is toned-down he is still the only character with charisma, likability and common sense and definitely the most interesting. I loved the part the velociraptors play in this movie. Some people may be apprehensive about it from the trailers, but it actually worked really well. Anyone who owns a pet will feel the emotion in the relationship Owen has created with them.

As for Bryce Dallas Howard, I wasn’t a big fan of her character from the trailers and she was too stark and dull at the beginning, but as the story unfolded she kind of won me over. Keeping the heels when you are running away from dinosaurs that are trying to eat you was a bit ridiculous but her scene at the end with the T-Rex (though immensely unbelievable) was pretty cool.

31723And for some strange reason, in a movie like this you always need to have kids and, while the little one was quite charming, the older brother was for the first part of the movie the most annoying thing ever. Constantly flirting with every single girl, being an asshole to his brother… I was starting to wish the dinosaur will eat him quickly. Also, there was this whole subplot about their parents getting divorced that was just unnecessary. It didn’t add anything to the story and it slowed the movie considerably every time it came up.

The reality is that there are too many subplots that you don’t care about going on. Vincent D’Onofrio, though it’s interesting what his character is trying to do with the velociraptors, felt like from a different movie. His character was very one-dimensional and seemed to be there just to set-up a possible sequel. B. D. Wong as the genetic engineer and the only returning cast member from the first movie, tries to link the plot to that one with every scene. On the other hand, Jake Johnson, rocking the original Jurassic Park t-shirt, was fantastic and he had one of the funniest scenes where he mocks a very stereotypical moment in these kind of movies.

hgxfysec5xcn2odalxroThe main problem with Jurassic World is that it’s pretty much a monster movie. Unlike Jurassic Park, the majority of the characters are cliché and you never really get attached to them, except for Chris Pratt’s Owen. And given that it takes too long before something happens, whereas the previous three started right away with a sense of dread, it needs to rely on the human characters for the first half an hour and it can be a bit too slow. It’s great to see the park, which is very well realised with the attractions and has a relatability factor that works very well, but it takes too long to introduce the Indominus Rex. That said, once the action started I was in tension and with a level of anxiety until the end and the final showdown was absolutely epic.

There are some plot holes in the story. It’s never explained how they could open the park after the events of the trilogy, though they managed to through a lot of reference to the first movie while completely ignoring the other two. There are some non-sense moments. Now, every time the dinosaurs are on-screen is breathtaking. The visual effects are phenomenal and the Indominus Rex is indeed frightening. I would love to see a sequel to it but I don’t see how there is any room left for it after what happened in this movie, without going in a completely different route and losing the main element of these movies that it’s the park. In the end, it captures the feeling of nostalgia and  the storytelling flaws are compensated by the spectacle. Jurassic World is a fun ride.

8/10

Movie Review: Spy (2015)

Running time: 120 minutes

Director: Paul Feig

Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham in a scene from the motion picture "Spy." CREDIT: Larry Horricks, 20th Century Fox  [Via MerlinFTP Drop]Bridesmaids and The Heat‘s director, Paul Feig, is reteaming once again with Melissa McCarthy with spectacular results, which is very good news for those eagerly awaiting the all-female Ghostbusters movie where they will be working together again. But that will be next year, in this new comedy, Feig has front and center the two actresses that made the biggest impact in Bridesmaids, McCarthy and Rose Byrne, proving once more that women too can be funny.

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an office-bound CIA analyst and the person who guides Bradley Fine (Jude Law) during his dangerous missions. When he is assassinated by Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and all the top agents covers are compromised she volunteers to enter the field to avenge her partner’s death. The Agency chief (Allison Janney) reluctantly agrees, to which Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) is completely against. Cooper has to go through several pathetic covers before getting close to Raina and becoming her personal bodyguard to sabotage her plan of selling a nuclear bomb to a businessman linked to terrorism (Bobby Cannavale).

DF-03507_R2 Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) clearly has eyes for her partner, superspy Bradley Fine (Jude Law).After the let-down that Tammy was and with the help of Paul Feig’s script, Melissa McCarthy finds the way back to what made her so memorable in the first place and even got her an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids. Characters that are a bit mean and always the smartest person in the room are McCarthy’s strong points and it doesn’t hurt that she manages to be always so unbelievably likable. She carries the film with ease portraying Susan’s vulnerability without ever being weak and slowly building her confidence. And she does kick some major ass in this movie. There is a particular fight in a kitchen that it’s intense, gruesome and funny as both women are using what is available to them, being that mainly pans and pots and occasionally, knives.

After stealing the show in Neighbours and Bridesmaids, Rose Byrne plays the daughter of a Bulgarian arms dealer with constant hairstyles that almost defy gravity. One of the stand-outs of the movie has to be the many vicious verbal smack downs between her and McCarthy, even more impressive than how funny they turned out to be is that the jokes are always about choices, like outfits, but they are never aimed at personal traits.

spy-2-gallery-imageThe greatest part about Spy is that not only these two center characters are funny, but the supporting cast is phenomenal across the board. Allison Janney as the Agency chief and Miranda Hart as Cooper’s friend, Nancy, both added a great dynamic. But it’s not just the women who get all the laughs. Jude Law is also fantastic as the Bond-type character of the film that Cooper is in love with and has to guide through an earpiece while monitoring him on a computer screen.

But it is another character who steals the show. Early this year, Colin Firth reinvented himself with Kingsman as an action star and now, the action star Jason Statham proves himself to be outstanding at comedy with this over the top character who is always cranky and determined to keep the “old spy traditions”, though at the end turns out not to be very efficient himself. With several endless monologues that are simply hilarious, Agent Ford is basically Statham spoofing his own career and he is terrific at it.

3040872-poster-p-1-spy-movie-paul-feigMaybe Spy is not the laugh-out-loud experience that Bridesmaids or The Heat were, but has a perfect balance of action and comedy and is consistently funny and is full of priceless moments. It doesn’t matter how many times I have seen it in the trailers, but the scooter bit still makes me laugh every time. Or all the cool spy-gadgets that Cooper gets that are disguised as things a middle-aged woman would be expected to carry, which are not glamorous at all. McCarthy’s many covers are not just there to add to the fun but to also make a social commentary on how the world sees middle-aged women. Alright, the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, but who cares. Just to see the back and forth between these characters and the thrilling action, Spy is a movie worth checking out.

8,5/10

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Running time: 114 minutes

Director: Elizabeth Banks

screen-shot-2015-05-24-at-17-01-52After the unexpected success of Pitch Perfect in 2012, co-star and producer Elizabeth Banks takes charge behind the camera to bring this highly anticipated sequel. And now that Pitch Perfect 2 has made in its opening weekend more money at the box office than the first movie did in its entire run, it will be no surprise at all if another sequel is announced soon. So get ready to see all of this again for a third time.

Three years after winning the a capella Finals and becoming legends, the Barden Bellas are humiliated while performing for the President of the United States due to a wardrobe malfunction involving Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) that costs them their title. To clear their names, they will have to win the world’s championship that no American group has ever won. In order to accomplish this task they will have to focus on their goal and have no distractions though graduation is quickly approaching and Beca (Anna Kendrick) starts to wonder what she will do after college.

1416508461_pitch-perfect-2-zoomSo yes, it is practically the same as the first movie, recycling a lot of the main plot points: something bad happens and the Bellas need to win a competition to redeem themselves but first they have to find their voice again. Also, there’s a riff-off in the middle, though the music in the film doesn’t make the same impression as in the first one. Basically, Pitch Perfect 2 takes all the elements that worked in the first movie and gives you more of it, when the whole reason it was so beloved in the first place was how refreshing it felt.

This is the case with Rebel Wilson. Fat Amy was definitely the scene-stealer in Pitch Perfect and she became the most iconic character of the film. There is no doubt she is always fun to watch but, let’s be honest, she does the exact same thing every time. She gets the laughs though, which is the point, so now she is practically the star of the movie and therefore gets a more developed romance with Adam Devine.

pitch-perfect-2Anna Kendrick’s Beca, now leader of the Bellas, sees her role considerably diminished from the first one as there are more characters and her romance with Skylar Astin is portrayed next to nothing. But, while Beca may not make the same impression, her storyline, dealing with what to do after college and getting an internship was one of the most interesting parts of the film. Keegan-Michael Key as the producer she works for only helped to elevate those moments. They could have focus with what to do after college a bit more especially when is a subject a lot of people can relate to and you have a character like Chloe (Brittany Murphy), who is so afraid of the real world, she has been in college for seven years.

Taking the place of Anna Kendrick as the new-comer is Hailee Steinfeld as Emily, a singer-songwriter and a legacy whose mother was one of the Bellas when she was in college. The end of the movie suggests a possible sequel with her as the lead character and I’m not very excited about that. Every time she tried to be funny I found her annoying and awkward and the romance she is involved in (because there was a romance in the first one, so there must be a romance here) felt really forced and with nothing to it.

pitch_perfect_sd3Also back are the sharp-tongued commentators played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins and they are even more offensive this time but they went for it, they owned it and somehow it worked (at least most of the times), even though the majority of the jokes were completely sexists and racists.

There is a moment where Fat Amy is trying to cross the road and a truck keeps getting in her way that it is hilarious. It felt organic, realistic and I wished there had been more of that because sometimes it tried to be overly funny and some of the jokes did not land. Especially those involving some of the secondary characters of the group who are all playing some kind of stereotype.

Some people may criticize Age of Ultron for not being as good as the first Avengers. The main problem with Pitch Perfect 2 is that not only it isn’t as good as its predecessor, is that it didn’t even try to do something new with it. I can’t say that it is a bad movie at all, it’s just that it plays it too safe and I would have liked to see it evolve and not just be a moneymaker. Still, it is funny, there’s a lot of energy and it is entertaining. In the end, if you liked the first Pitch Perfect, you’ll enjoy this one.

7’5/10

Movie Review: Ex Machina (2015)

Running time: 108 minutes

Director: Alex Garland

ex-machinaEx Machina is the directional debut of Alex Garland, better known for his work as a writer in 28 Days Later and Dredd and in a time where most sci-fi movies seem to follow the statement ” the bigger, the better”, Ex Machina is a pure sci-fi thriller that combines elements of romance and horror, while being surprisingly stylish and where the great acting involved makes it even more appealing. I am coming a bit late to the party but it is sad that not many people have heard about this movie because it is probably one of the best movies of the year so far.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer working in one of the largest internet companies in the world, wins a competition to spend a week in the remote house of the company’s owner, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). When he arrives there, he discovers he is to take part in Nathan’s last project by evaluating the human qualities of the world’s first artificial intelligence, housed in a beautiful female body called Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Ex-Machina-01-GQ-22Jan15_rex_b_1083x658Right from the very first moment we meet Nathan, it is clear there is something off about him. From the beautiful but claustrophobic setting of his house, that fits with the enigmatic personality of this reclusive genius, to a lot of his character traits, like getting wasted every night and then purging himself on the morning. Oscar Isaac’s performance is both fascinating and suspicious. In his interactions with Caleb, who is completely the opposite of him, you are never sure who is testing who in each scene.

Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb is the empathetic character of the movie that serves us as a guide through the story as he tests Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. I didn’t like her that much in the Seventh Son earlier this year, but she is absolutely fantastic here. She gives a subtle performance that is on the brink of human and robotic, with the help of the excellent visual effects that create her body but it is her air of vulnerability that makes it impossible not to sympathize with her..

Ex-Machina-Download-WallpapersEx Machina doesn’t need to rely on big special effects or crazy action sequences to keep the audience engaged. Just the intrigue, the sharp dialogue and the brilliant execution is enough to build up the tension in this thought-provoking movie where the story constantly goes to unpredictable directions. It keeps changing and surprising you. I never saw any twist coming but everything makes completely sense at the end. Dealing with the intellectual exploration of AI, Ex Machina succeeds at every level other films tackling the same ideas, like Transcendence and Chappie, have failed. This is a gem of a movie.

9’5/10

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Running time: 141 minutes

Director: Joss Whedon

avengers-age-ultron-one-sheetOne of the most anticipated movies of the year and the sequel to the third highest-grossing movie of all time is finally here and this time, director Joss Whedon has the impossible task of juggling six main characters, introducing four more, wrapping-up Phase 2 and plant the seeds for several movies of Phase 3. All of this still trying to maintain the charm, the action and the endless chemistry between the characters that conquered so many people with The Avengers.

When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.  

Avengers-2-Age-of-Ultron-Captain-America-Thor-Chris-Evans-Chris-HemsworthAge of Ultron starts right in the thick of the action as the Avengers attempt to break into one of Hydra’s compounds where Baron Von Strucker is hiding Loki’s scepter. A scene that is fun and mind-blowing where every character has its moment to shine and we get to know how the team works together. Robert Downey Jr keeps bringing so much charisma to Tony Stark and his suave, brilliant and vain personality never gets old. He and Cap had some really good moments together though I would have liked to see some set up for Civil War. Chris Evans is fantastic and after Captain America: The Winter Soldier there has been a considerable improvement in the character. Also, the fighting dynamic he has developed with Thor worked very well and makes for some really cool sequences.

Speaking of Thor, who is often overshadowed in his own movies by Loki, this is the best he has ever been and Chris Hemsworth has never been this funny in the role of the God of Thunder. I don’t think his quest was necessary, it was just an excuse to set up Ragnarok and Infinity War and it could have been enough with his vision. Another character that has stepped up his game is Hawkeye. Joss Whedon knows he let Hawkeye down when the character spent most of the first film under mind control and never had the opportunity to prove why he should be an Avenger. This time, he let himself have fun with all of that and Clint is probably the character that has more development in the film.

Avengers-2-Age-of-Ultron-Mark-Ruffalo-Robert-Downey-JrI wasn’t a big fan of the Brutasha romance. I feel like Joss Whedon did a fantastic job with this two characters in the first film but in this one, even though they have a bigger role, they kind of end up being just each other’s romantic interest. I loved the peek at Black Widow’s past but after how well handled she was in The Winter Soldier, I was expecting much more. Same with Banner. The Hulkbuster fight is incredibly epic but I missed the Hulk’s funny moments and Banner’s attitude.

The new additions fitted perfectly with the already stablished team. The accent of the twins is a bit distracting at first but makes them quite unique. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver is very different from the one in Days of Future Past but has some great lines and comedic moments. As for Scarlet Witch, I ended up loving her set of powers and it worked because Elizabeth Olsen was fantastic and really embraced the weird hand movements. They could have been a bit more developed but there is so many people in it, it was impossible as the movie has also to introduce Vision. This is a character that could have been a complete disaster and could have looked ridiculous but worked surprisingly well. His ambiguity added a lot and is great to see Paul Bettany being more than the voice of JARVIS.

avengers-age-of-ultron-twinsNow, if there is something the MCU hasn’t been able to achieve yet is to make a proper villain. The only memorable one is Loki but he is more of an anti-hero and has become a fan-favourite because it is impossible not to like Tom Hiddlestion. But with Ultron, Marvel has finally done it right. He is intimidating but also quite sassy and there is no one who could have done a better job than James Spader. Quick, sharp and sarcastic, Ultron has everything needed to go toe to toe with Iron Man both physically and mentally. My only complain with him is that his creation was way too rushed.

But there is still so many more characters. Maria Hill, Nick Fury in a minor role, War Machine being more funny than ever, and it was great to see Falcon. Andy Serkis is absolutely fantastic and helps build the excitement for Black Panther. And here is the thing, knowing the slate of films Marvel has for the next five years, it is hard to fear for the characters because you already know who is coming back for their solo films, but Joss Whedon managed to make some unexpected turns. I’ll go as far as to say that he plays with the audience during the entire film and that is awesome.

Avengers_groupBut everyone is asking the same question. Is it better than The Avengers? And it is hard to compare ir because they are so different. The magic of seeing the Avengers come together for the first time and how they learn to get along is of course gone but with witty dialogue, non-stop action and humour all the way through, Joss Whedon nails the characters and their chemistry is even better than in the first one and there is more complexity to all of them. Loki is such a different villain than Ultron and that makes for a completely different tone. The stakes are higher and, while The Avengers had quite an easy plot to follow, there is too much going on in Age of Ultron.

That would be the main problem with the film. The first time I saw it, I would have said that as much as I loved it, it wasn’t as good as The Avengers. With the second viewing, I’ll say that despite its many flaws, it’s up there. Yes, it is too crowded and due to the fact that the original cut was over three hours some things feel rushed and at times the pacing is off. It’s not a perfect movie but the things that gets right are spectacular. Out of any other genre movie, Age of Ultron is the one that feels the most like a comic book brought to life. I had a blast and I adored it.

9/10

Movie Review: Cinderella (2015)

Running time: 113 minutes

Director: Kenneth Branagh

cdn.indiewire.comDisney is wasting no time adapting their most beloved fairy tales into live-action films and the talent involved both in front and behind the camera is stellar. First it was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, last year Maleficent  and with Beauty and the Beast, which will star Emma Watson, Dumbo and Mulan on the horizon, it’s time for Cinderella to make it into the big screen.

After her father dies, Ella (Lily James) is forced to live with her stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and step sisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) who make fun of her and never treat her as part of their family. Soon, Ella becomes a servant in her own house but never loses her pure heart and good will. After meeting a dashing stranger (Richard Madden) in the woods and with the help of her fairy godmother (Helena Bohan Carter), Cinderella attends a ball at the palace that will give her the opportunity to change her life forever.

CINDERELLAAs Disney has evolved through the years, the role of the princesses has done the same. Released in 1950 and being the second Disney Princess after Snow White, the classic Cinderella was in the early stages of this evolution, so she was still pretty much a one-note character that needed the Prince to save her from the horrible stepmother, and like in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves the role of the Prince was underdeveloped, not even having a name. Now, 65 years later, when Disney Princesses have stopped being damsels in distress and have become adventurers, brave and the ones in charge of their own future and happiness, and with the live-action adaptations changing the stories to turn then into heroines, Disney’s remake of Cinderella finds a beautiful balance between maintaining the original story that is so close to everyone’s hearts and making Cinderella a stronger character as well as giving more depth to the Prince.

Lily James was such a perfect casting choice for Ella. Incredibly likable in the role, she has that iconic sweet, kind and naive look of Cinderella but brings more personality to the character and, though not too many times, has the courage to stand up for herself. Now, while in the animated version the mice are adorable and probably the most remembered characters of the film, here seeing Ella talking to them and serving them dinner was a bit weird at first. But instead of pulling me out of the movie, it was kind of fun and you can actually understand what they are squeaking some of the times.

CINDERELLAThe chemistry between Ella and the Prince is wonderful from their very first encounter. I loved that they changed it from the animated version and Kit doesn’t fall in love with her when she is all dressed-up and pretty for the ball, but when they run to each other in the woods and she is wearing her maid clothes. Also, let it be said that Richard Madden makes an excellent prince. One of the changes in the story that I liked the most was how much we got to know his character. As I said, in the first Disney movies the Prince was there to take the Princess away from her misery but it wasn’t until Sleeping Beauty that he had a name or something to do in the story. Through his friendship with the Captain of the Guards, and especially the relation with his father we finally get to see Prince Charming being something more than just charming and becoming an actual person with fears, doubts and emotions.

CINDERELLAAnd though the two leads are excellent, Cinderella wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing supporting cast that also does a great job at embodying the original characters, still making them different and unique. Helena Bohan Carter puts an interesting spin on the role of the fairy godmother. Like in the animated version she’s just in one scene but really makes an impact and contributes to make that sequence unforgettable. Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger as the step sisters, Drizella and Anastasia have great dynamic together. They can be a bit cartoonish and annoying but that only adds to the fun of the characters.

But amongst all these fantastic actors the one who, without a doubt, steals the movie in every scene she is in, is Cate Blanchett in the role of the wicked stepmother. That icy, malicious look and the elegant way she carries herself through the film is really mesmerizing. We get to see shades to why she is as evil as she is but not trying to redeem her. Something I would have love to see done in Maleficent instead of that twist that completely ruined a lot of people’s favourite villain, despite being Angelina Jolie the perfect person to play Maleficent.

CINDERELLAAnd not in many movies does the talent behind the camera shine the way it does here. Director Kenneth Branagh makes it visually stunning. The movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The attention to detail, the splash of color, especially in the ball sequence, which is breath-taking. Everything is so stylish, from start to finish, including those dresses and hats Cate Blanchett gets to wear that look like they belong in the cover of some fashion magazine. My one complain would be that I would have loved to hear some songs from the animated version.

Of course some more flaws can be found but for what it is, a re-adaptacion of a beloved classic fairy tale, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s enchanting, pure Disney magic, it keeps very close to the original story and I had a smile on my face for its entirety. Cinderella can only be described as a delightful experience.

8,5/10

Movie Review: Insurgent (2015)

Running time: 119 minutes

Director: Robert Schwentke

I_D024_10238_RBeing another young adult franchise taking place in a dystopian future, The Divergent Series seems to be always behind someone else. It hasn’t been able to step away from the big shadow The Hunger Games has cast and their next installment, Allegiant, is going to dangerously tackle the same idea as The Maze Runner sequel. The latter will take the lead though, as The Scorch Trials is coming out nearly half a year before. Allegiant also has against it that it will be another case of a last book being split into two films, even though there’s not much material to pull off two solid movies. With all these facts playing against it, will Insurgent be a step up or a step down for the franchise?

After the attack on Abnegation by Dauntless, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run from the leader of Erudite, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), who is using Divergents to open a box that has all the answers to understand the purpose of the factions. A secret that Tris’s parents sacrified themselves to protect and will make Tris embrace her Divergence and confront her inner demons if she wants to discover the truth.

Insurgent-HD-wallpapers-26The movie picks up shortly after Divergent ended, with Tris, Tobias and Caleb on the run from Erudite and joining Amity. There, Tris cuts her hair and even though it was shown in the ad campaign, it still threw me out of the movie. I know it shouldn’t bother me that much what her hair-style is, but it does, because it is not about the hair-style but what it represents. While in the book Tris cuts her hair carelessly below the ear without even looking in the mirror, in the movie is so perfectly cut and stylish. It was supposed to be awkward, not cool. I understand that they did it this way to fit Shailene Woodley’s current short hair after The Fault in Our Stars but I would have rather see her wearing a wig.

Ok, that was too much talk about hair so let’s move on. While the group is in Amity together you come to a funny realization. Every male actor there has already played Shailene’s love interest in some movie. It makes you wonder if there are no more young actors working in Hollywood these days. At least Miles Teller as Peter has some funny, snarky moments, but Ansel Elgort, playing her brother Caleb, simply doesn’t seem to want to be there. Then there is also, Theo James as Tobias, who is stuck in the boyfriend role and even though he has a lot of action scenes to do, he doesn’t have any development and we don’t learn anything about his personality at all.

tumblr_nhyu9agYRz1t1p3qwo5_1280It is after they have joined Candor that I had my second major problem with the changes in the character of Tris. When she is interrogated, Tris is forced to confess something she did in the first movie, that has been hunting her since then. In the book she is able to fight back the serum (because she is Divergent, maybe they forgot, despite being the title), she could have kept it to herself but chooses to tell the truth. In the movie they take that decision away from her and the merit it involves.

It is from the moment she gets to Erudite that the plot becomes completely different from the book. I don’t mind plot changes because I understand that some things that work on paper don’t necessarily work the same way on-screen, but one thing is making changes in the story and other is taking away things that define and build the characters. Like, a lot of Tris’s actions are supposed to be suicidal because she thinks after her parents sacrified themselves for her, it is her duty to do the same thing to honour them, which causes a lot of friction with Four and comes to play later in the books. The movie forgets about that as it forgets Tris’s apprehension about using guns after killing Will in the first movie.

I_D051_21792_RSome curious thing about Insurgent is how wasted are the Oscar caliber actresses in it. In the first ten minutes we are introduced to Johanna, played by Octavia Spencer, the leader of Amity, to never see her again in the movie. When the group is captured by the factionless we meet their leader, Evelyn, portrayed by a brunette Naomi Watts, who was ok but for what the character is, could have been much better. Another that is kind of phoning it in is Kate Winslet, who was actually my favourite part of the first movie as Jeanine, and in this one doesn’t seem to know what to do with the horrible part she has been given. Despite not minding plot changes, the box thing didn’t convinced me and the simulations Tris had to go through there didn’t work for me, precisely because they had taken away all those details from her that in the book, most of them, come to play in that situation.

insurgent_trailer_stillThe production design is beautiful and there are some cool action sequences, but one of the problems I had with Divergent was how episodic it was. I was hoping they would make the story flow better this time, but they didn’t. The characters go from one scene to another with no development at all. It kind of feels like playing a video-game and the technology they use is so futuristic that it comes across almost fake.

When I finished the second book I felt a need to read the next one and find out more about the big revelation. I was devastated because by that time the third book didn’t even have a released date yet. The movie has completely failed to captured that feeling. The revelation doesn’t play like a cliffhanger but as a resolution and very much like in The Maze Runner ends up setting the sequel in the most anti-climatic way and I’m not sure if people will come out of the cinema craving for the next one, not even those die-hard fans of the books.

5,5/10