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“Mortal Kombat” (2021) Review: An Appreciative Look

Seeing Mortal Kombat on screen is nothing new due to the franchise being a video game as well as a filmed cinematic experience back in 1995. Kids as young as 8-12 years old were playing the video games. Surprisingly though, it was because of the portrayed violence that gave the franchise its appeal to all audiences who came in contact with it.

The latest addition to the Mortal Kombat universe is the new 2021 movie directed by Simon McQuoid. The film takes audiences back to witness the endless fight between the fighters of “Outworld” and the fighters from “Earth Realm”, as the respect McQuoid had for the franchise is easily seen.

Mortal Kombat has not been seen on the big screen since the two installments back in the mid 90’s. Teenagers who played the games as kids were able to see some of their favorite characters in live action for the first time. The films at the time, though cheesy in some sense, were great with their interpretation, and none would deny having heard an unforgettable music score.

Seeing the characters in this year’s much anticipated film gave an air of mixed emotions. Maybe the making of another movie took too long? Maybe the previous movies were satisfactory enough and needed no further expansion of the universe? Still the revamped characters and some additional ones brought some fresh excitement and new possibilities never experienced before.

For those familiar with the franchise, it is a safe bet they were quoting lines from the old movies and hoping to hear them again from the actors they knew so well. The nostalgia some fans were seeking from the old films did not seem to be present, but every character gets a poster worthy epic entrance which they own with ease.

In this new film there are some martial artists among the actors, such as Joe Taslim from Sumatera, Indonesia who has won gold medals from 1997-2009 in Asian and National Championships in Judo. He has trained in Wushu, Judo and Taekwondo. 

Another martial artist in the film includes Max Huang who is part of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and has won gold at the German Wushu Nationals in 2009. There is also Hiroyuki Sanada, of Japanese descent, who is no stranger to the action genre and has trained in Shorinji Kempo and Kyokushin Karate.

All of these true martial artists show off the skills they have honed over their fighting and acting careers and step into the shoes of some of the most iconic characters ever imagined. Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, Raiden, Kano, Sonia Blade and Kung Lao are some of the original fan favorites who fill the fight card, the film rounding out a few other surprise characters as well.

One wonders the difficulty it would take to perform a fatality in a live action sequence, but with the help of modern computer graphic imaging, it could be considered a FLAWLESS VICTORY! (pun intended). No film is perfect, but the expectations for a movie like this one is to honor the games as much as possible, and it delivered.      

Some complaints about the movie could be that the backstory to some of the character’s motivations are a little vague or just do not make sense in the larger scope of things. The issue is the characters are so memorable that anyone who has followed their journeys in the games have witnessed them evolve into something more than when they started.

Today’s average movie buff wants story driven drama and action, yet that is not what Mortal Kombat is about. Mortal Kombat is about just that, mortal combat between two fighters; meaning a fight to a sometimes-gruesome death, and that is exactly what the audience receives from the movie.

Difficult as it may seem to step into the roles of fighters, all the actors did their best to bring the characters some new life and even some unexpected hilarious moments. For those seeking to just sit and enjoy a modern somewhat cheesy martial arts movie with awesome fighting sequences, CGI and “R” rated brutality like the games, this is the one for you.

Godzilla vs. King Kong Review: An Appreciative Look

Slight Spoilers Ahead


We have had “The Thrilla in Manila,” “The Rumble in the Jungle,” “The Brawl in Montreal” and now we have what I’m calling “King of Titans” in “Godzilla vs Kong”!

The fourth installment in the MonsterVerse franchise directed by Adam Wingard packs a titanically large punch (pun intended) when these two giant monsters collide to see who bows to who. Whether you are a fan of Godzilla or Kong entering this film for the first time does not matter. The film will leave you wanting more of each respected titan and will bring a new level of appreciation for them.

From the opening credits of the film the viewer can see the breakdown of the monsterverse, and each fight leading up to Godzilla and Kong facing off for the first time in the franchise. Godzilla is not new to brawling with various other monsters with unique abilities and strengths, but he soon finds out Kong is in a different class all his own.

The experience of such a monumental fight was very nostalgic for me. I can remember being 10-12 years old and loving to see monsters clash with one another. I remember not being able to decide which was my favorite of all the creatures ever imagined, but my top two were definitely Godzilla and Kong.

Before viewing the film, I admit to not having any expectations for it being more than another monster film. That quickly turned once Godzilla was on the screen. 

Even if you have seen the previous movies from the monsterverse, there is something about Godzilla that draws the kid out of you. Seeing him makes you remember his classic roar and his dragon breath and gives you the feeling that Kong will have no chance in this fight since he is known more for defeating titans.

Our favorite titans have to share screen time in this one and could not hog all the glory from the film even though they are the main event. The cast was well rounded but did not give enough of a lift to the film to make it a perfect monster movie.

The classic conspiracy theorists join together to provide some comical relief between what everyone tuned into watch. The film did have a classic villain plotting some secret scheme for the world. Although considering monsters were destroying cities with their earth-shattering fights, I cannot say I blame him for trying to find a way to overpower them and put humanity on top again.

Sadly, this is one thing in the movie I could have done without. I caught myself thinking many times through the film that I could do without the people in it. Unfortunately, that would only make it a 40-minute movie and not a full-length feature.

The story that was built around the fight was a sci-fi adventure which had holes with no explanations. I do want to be fair and say that perfect science was not the main focus and dealing with sci-fi is not always the easiest thing. Still the ideas for the origins of the titans was given a good effort.

Overall the film is worth watching due to its epic battle scenes. The movie moves from fight to fight like a boxing event. Each fight is a round on its own and you can never really tell who will win in the end. You could say you have ringside seats to one of the most action-packed fights of all time. You will find yourself cheering for both combatants and not wanting either to lose because of the heart they both show. 

“Tiger King”: A Must Watch

Ty Phay / Staff Illustrator

From gay, country singing, drug-addicts, to cultish tiger housing societies, the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” shocked the world with its captivating look into the lives of the American big cat community. The most-watched Netflix show since March 20, gave a glimpse into the animal rights controversy that many Americans didn’t know existed. 

According to the documentary, twice as many tigers live in U.S. captivity than in their natural habitats. Big cat owners across the nation claimed they existed for the conservation and awareness of the animals, but directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin allowed viewers to judge the owner’s intentions.

With viewpoints from all sides of big cats captivity, ranging from caretakers to protesters, the directors captured the conflict between good and evil. This conflict drove the story of the docuseries, and added to the dramatized angle fit for national streaming. The docuseries seemed to stray from the focus of spreading awareness for big cats and focused on the characters that drive the controversy.

The protagonist and former big cat zoo owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic,” provided much of the surreal entertainment throughout the seven-part series. Wildlife park owner Bhagavan “Doc” Antle best described Exotic as, “A completely insane, gay, gun-toting, drug-addict fanatic.” Exotic was the perfect defining character and face of the documentary with his eccentric lifestyle and fiery personality. 

The second large scale animal owner and breeder is best known as “Doc Antle.” The director of Myrtle Beach Safari and Rare Species Fund seemed to bring together cultish intentions with the operation of his wildlife park. His act of polygamy with his park staff added to the surreal nature of the characters in the docuseries. 

In contrast, for these two big cat animal owners, animal activists have devoted their efforts to the abolishment of exotic animal parks. Animal activist and Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin acted as the antagonist to the main character of Exotic. Through her opposition and controversies, mainly over the disappearance of her husband, the directors added her story to blow up the documentary. 

“Tiger King,” may not be for people of all ages due to the use of profanity, guns, and crude language, but the story told is unlike anything the world has seen. The show left its audience laughing at one minute, gasping the next, and finally shaking their head all in one episode. The seven episodes acted as the perfect getaway during the current Covid-19 pandemic that left the world stuck at home. 

The docuseries blew the mind of people around the world gaining popularity across social media. From celebrity photoshops, to Tik Tok videos, and memes, the show was popularized by people of all backgrounds. 

Directors Goode and Chaiklin masterfully put together a juicy and eye-opening docuseries showing the controversy and blinded nature of self-proclaimed animal activists. The endless energy of the back and forth banter led the characters in the series to distance themselves from the conservation of big cats in the wild. Visitors of America’s big cat parks benefit every day from the striking features of an 800-pound tiger, but it’s the animals that ultimately pay the price.

“Booksmart” lives up to its title

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Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart

High school can be the best of times or vice versa. It is a time where people start to find their identity as well as planning for another chapter of life. The high school spirit has been captured in so many movies like “Mean Girls,” “High School Musical,” and “The Breakfast Club” just to name a few. Moving forward a few decades, 2018’s “Love, Simon” continues the love training, putting audience in the shoes of a gay high schooler. This year, “Booksmart” brings to the table teenage angst through a pair of best friends, who are trying to find their place.

“Booksmart” is a story of two high school bright bookworms, Amy (played by Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein,) trying to navigate their way through high school. After hearing that a graduation party has been planned, they decide to attend to experience the high school vibe that they missed out on and in order to show people their “fun side.” To add to the mix, Amy and Molly both have their own romantic interests and are on the mission to find love.

If there is one word to describe this movie, it would be “youthful.” The beauty of teenagehood is painted in a simple yet uplifting way. However, one perk that “Booksmart” possesses is the maturity. It does not shy away from the realistic vulgar teenage talk. One might think that this is done for shock value, but it comes off as authentic. Both Dever and Feldstein put on incredible performances, and the chemistry between Amy and Molly drives this coming-of-age story well. The choice of making the character of Amy, a lesbian, offers a new perspective to audience members who are tired of the same old motifs.

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Beanie Feldstein as Molly (left) and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy.

While the movie is charming, the trailer can mislead the audience into thinking that this is a laugh-out-loud comedy. The movie definitely has quite a lot of humor, but a large portion of it is in the first half. The rest is more dedicated to the hormonal interactions of high schoolers and character progressions. It is a great quality, though it can drag on for people who are simply looking for laughs. When viewed under a comedic lense, “Booksmart” might not be satisfying, but when looked at as a film, it works wonders.

The movie is “R-rated,” which means this is no “High School Musical.” The humor can be viewed as offensive, and some of the ways teenage affection is depicted may make people uncomfortable. It is important that viewers go into this movie knowing that for the most part, it does not pull any punches to preserve authenticity. When “Booksmart” needs to get graphic, it does.

When it comes to flaws, there are a few minor ones. In some scenes, the references of teen lingos and memes can easily conveys that an adult is obviously writing the script. Also, near the end, there is a plot point that can scream “too convenient” to viewers. It sticks out, especially when most of the film feels so real.

To sum up, “Booksmart” is a teenage polaroid. Adult viewers can watch this movie and reminisce memories of a younger time, while the younger viewers can identify with the story. It does not try to be a masterpiece, and yet, it succeeds in many ways.

“John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum” expands the lore with style

Niko Tavernise / Lionsgate
Keanu Reeves as the title character in “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”

Action movies are not hard to come by. Great action movies, on the other hand, are not something one sees everyday. A lot of films are labeled as “action movies,” yet they ditch out on the “action,” in exchange for shaky cameras and quick cuts to fake the intensity. “John Wick,” released in 2014, brought audience the purest form of action, with minimal plot and maximum violence. The film received massive praises from critics, as seen on its Rotten Tomatoes review. Now, the third part of the series is out, with the promise to fans that has always been kept: a lot of action.

In this film, John Wick ( Keanu Reeves) becomes a target of skilled killers from around the world. No longer under the protection of the High Table, an underground assassins’ guild, the man has to fight in the heart of New York city with a $14 million bounty attached to him.

Keanu Reeves is back playing the beloved hitman, and he’s still got it. He breathes into John Wick a sense of style, even in the most bruised moments and low points in the character’s journey. In a lot of angles, Reeves face can be seen, indicating that the actor does a lot of the stunt work himself.

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Halle Berry, whose character has very particularly skilled dogs, is one of the movie’s many guest stars.

The fights are swift but at the same time appear improvised. They are not choreographed dances with weapons. The punching, slicing and shooting feel “in the moment,” which illustrates Keanu Reeves’ skills. The movie also smartly uses a lot of environmental elements to make the scenes more interesting. Motorbikes, books, swords and even horses are used by the hitman while in combat to eliminate his opponents.

It is not a “John Wick” movie without the appearance of a few skilled canines. Even in the first movie, the plot began because of a puppy. The dogs work well with the human actors, and are ready to display the primal side. Sofia (Halle Berry) is a character that has a lot of comradery with the dogs, and they work like a team. Alongside the humans, they put on one of the most “video-game like” action scenes in the movie.

The filmmakers chooses the most perfect angles to show the action without cutting to different cameras too often which minimizes the confusion of what is going on. The cinematography is paired up with the beauty of an urban city to deliver the most gorgeous “knock outs” coming from John Wick.

Despite what the trailer shows, it is not quite a “go, go, go” action movie. The story takes some down time in between the heavier scenes, which can drag on for the people who are just there for the action. While the conversation scenes are done well and serves the purpose to the lore, they can be more riveting.

While a lot of action flicks can take advantage of computer generated imagery (CGI,) “John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum” is back and stays true to the brand, with real actors and real choreography. With the new installment, the skilled hero has returned and will keep action junkies’ hearts racing.

 

Long Shot is a hidden gem

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From left: Ravi Patel, June Diane Raphael, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in “Long Shot.”

As the “Avengers: Endgame” hype is still going strong, people seem like they know what movie they will likely choose when they set foot in a theater. While “Avengers: Endgame” is one of the most popular films this year, the effect of it can bury other movies in its shadow. While people are still buying tickets to arguably the biggest superhero movie of the year, no one is talking about a smaller but charming romantic comedy by the name of “Long Shot.”

The movie centers around the story of Fred Flarsky, played by Seth Rogen and Charlotte Field, portrayed by Charlize Theron. They both come from different backgrounds and walks of life, but both know each other from the past. Through circumstances, they reunite when Charlotte is running for President, while Fred Flarsky is unemployed. As they get to know each other, a possible romance begins.

The movie follows a “Lady and The Tramp” motif that has been done countless of times, but somehow wonderfully captures the playfulness of a newrelationship. “Long Shot” is not a deep story, and it does not try to be one. The movie has one job and it does it well: to entertain the audience. It is quite refreshing to transition from the epic “Avengers: Endgame” to an idyllic love story.Romantic comedies can be “a dime a dozen,” but something about “Long Shot” makes it appear above the rest.

Seth Rogen plays the same typical character that he plays in most of his previous roles, but his lovable aura works in this film. With past movies like “Pineapple Express, “This is The End” and “Neighbors,” audience can expect the “Seth Rogen” humor appearing in the movie. If a person likes his other projects, then they can certainly find enjoyment in this movie. However, his humor can be considered offensive to some people, and it is important that audience go into this movie knowing that it will be riding the line.

Murray Close / Lionsgate
The journalist and Madam Secretary.

Charlize Theron reveals a funnier side that is not often seen in her films. Her comedic timing is effective. One scene that involves her with a cigarette and a telephone perfectly illustrates how she works her physical appearance and delivery to make the quite humorous.

The two stars, as odd of a couple as they are on film, are believable as lovers. They look like they enjoy spending time with each other on set resulting in great chemistry, which is a vital asset. The humor, although still important, sometimes take a backseat for the more romantic moments. They do not come off as sappy- but genuine.

With a romantic comedy like this, it is surprising how deep this movie is when it comes to the debate of politics. Towards the end, there is a moment where Fred Farsky and his friend, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. talk about their identities and beliefs. The scene weirdly points out the problems that America is facing at this time.

The movie is not without its problems, as no movie is perfect. Some of the jokes do not land in the way that the filmmakers probably hoped that they would. Also, the escalation of the romance is a touch too fast. The ending of movie can be considered far-fetched considering what the characters have been through. As fun of a ride as it is, “Long Shot” can be predictable with plot points that have been in countless of rom-coms. However, despite the flaws, one can easily over look them in exchange for a light but well-made comedy.

It can be strange to take a left turn from all the Marvel fever that is wreaking havoc at the moment. But if an audience wants a break from the intensity of comic book movies, “Long Shot” is a viable option.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody: All of the shines, none of the shimmers

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The rock ‘n’ roll fever sweeps across theaters nationwide

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Joe Mazzello, left, Ben Hardy, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee star in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

With “A Star Is Born” bringing in more than $167 million to Warner Bros. in the last month, according to Box Office Mojo, audience across the globe seem to have found a new love for films made about musician and showmanship. The film, along with “Venom”, made a colorful and diverse opening weekend for October.

This month, the theater greets its viewers once again with the sound of music and a splash of nostalgia in the form of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a movie about a beloved rock ‘n’ roll legend.

The name Bohemian Rhapsody has been on everyone’s lips at one point or another in their lives, and the story of the musical group Queen has kept people interested for generations. Being one of the most recognizable names in the music industry, their music was revolutionary at the time and helped set the tone of modern music. Not to mention the influx of “nostalgia-based” entertainment that has made its way into theaters and video on demand services alike, a movie like “Bohemian Rhapsody” is simply asking to be made. While the movie carries a name that will make some people think about the journey of one of the most influential bands of all time, it is not so much a “Queen movie” as it is a “Freddie Mercury movie”.

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Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’

The movie is more focused on the tale of Mercury, played by Rami Malek, the rock superstar that has made the world stomp their feet. This feature shows the viewers his past, his rise to fame and the side effects of having such a level of popularity. We get to see a side of Mercury that had never seen the light of day as we follow him, along with Queen, through the ups and downs of life.

Malek, whose previous works include the television show “Mr. Robot” and the “Night at the Museum” series, among others, delivered a stunning and uncanny performance portraying Mercury. Malek’s on-screen version of the famed lead singer feels real and does not come off as an impersonation. While that is a good aspect of the film, it can also be a bad one, as it sometimes pushes aside the people that he interacts with and even the other members of the band, making them look more like “background characters”. Although sometimes neglected, they put on powerful performances that help paint the picture that is the movie.

The movie is fast-paced and often glosses over details that otherwise would have been interesting and even crucial the rise to fame of Mercury and Queen. While the movie is littered with immersive montages of the band touring, it can also distract the viewers from the interactions between the characters. Granted, it will never be possible to fit all of Queen’s milestones in the movie’s 2-hour-and-15-minute run time. Instead of shooting sequences of Queen’s concerts, which people can see whenever they desire, the studios could have dove into the process of the band making its biggest hits, especially the Bohemian Rhapsody music video.

It is a failure to talk about Queen without mentioning its music. The sound is the icing on the cake that helps drive the narrative forward. The iconic soundtrack blasting out of the speakers throws viewers into a time warp back to the ‘70s. While most movies go with a simple text on screen to indicate the progression in time, the bands soundtrack chronologically highlights pivotal moments throughout the entirety of Queen’s career.

All in all, viewers will have a good time at the movies with “Bohemian Rhapsody”, especially for those that are Queen fans. The lack of details in the movie can easily be overlooked by the spectacle that is Queen’s career, the heart-pumping sound of the band’s discography along with the nostalgia that comes with the package. You will leave the theater humming the bassline of “Another one bites the dust,” and it will continue to rock you.

Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
Denofgeek.com
Bohemian Rhapsody Queen

‘Logan’ faces pain, grief in Jackman’s final movie

Latest installment treats grizzled hero with appropriate seriousness, sincerity

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In this sendoff to Hugh Jackman’s performance as Logan, this film stands tall as not only an exceptional superhero movie, but as an emotional story about people holding close to whatever they has left.

Set in 2029, the story follows a scarred and beaten Logan, also known as Wolverine, as he reluctantly escorts a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), and Logan’s old mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), across the country, searching for a mutant haven, Eden. This Logan is far more grizzled than ever before, overwhelmed by loss and despair. He suppresses his pain through drinking or evasion from facing his sorrow.

Meanwhile, Logan, Laura, and Charles are being hunted by a corporation who believe they own Laura. Laura is a mutant with Logan’s abilities, who was raised to be a killing machine before she escaped the facility with the help of some nurses. The corporation quickly dispatches its hit squad, led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).

The film takes a far more serious and poignant approach with its story and the emotional ramifications the characters endure. Where one superhero film may be light-hearted and inconsequential with its stakes and threats, “Logan” treats death and characters constantly being hunted with far more dramatic impact.

Moviegoers need not to see the past X-Men movies to fully understand the backstory of “Logan.” The film offers plenty of information and dialogue that informs the audience of the events that transpired in the new past.

Charles is a powerful psychic mutant, but is now suffering from Alzheimer's and repeated seizures. Logan looks after Charles, and whenever Charles tries to help Logan confront his pain, Logan tries to brush it off or tell him to stop talking, before the grief overwhelms him. Grief is a key component to “Logan” and one of its many strengths. Characters who try to avoid their problems or face them the wrong way, all learn to let the pain pass through them, and let them keep pushing forward.

One of the few weaker aspects of the movie would be that it is the last film with Wolverine. This becomes a flaw for the future of the franchise given the ambiguity of what exactly happened between the 1980s and now in the new timeline. The previous timeline, which featured the first three X-Men films, had many of the X-Men die because of their war with Magneto.

Now those films have been undone, it is unclear if a mutant war ever happened. The new timeline implies a large scale massacre of mutants through 2029, the movie’s present.

“Logan” is a gripping story and a violent action drama. Film studios should take note that violence and profanity isn’t the sole solution to making superhero films feel refreshing and engaging.

“Logan” is a film that deserves to be R-rated. It benefits the movie by showing the ramifications and stakes the characters must undergo. But if future superhero films follow with R ratings by being violent or profane just for the sake of it, these films will suffer.

The balance is needed between family-friendly and lighthearted and an adult approach to certain stories if the writing calls for it.

“Avengers” films can be more of a joy ride, “Guardians of the Galaxy” films should be witty and sarcastic. But when films such as “Batman v. Superman” actively try to be serious and dreary, they lose the effect of the dramatic moments.

When a film is dark and moody 100 percent of the time, the scenes or moments that should be treated seriously lose their weight, as they are buried in the sea of gray filters and melancholy voices.

“Logan” is one serious film that is appropriately adult. It is dealing with characters who are suffering and hate themselves for who they have become. The film paces itself with heartwarming moments, humorous scenes and layered characters.

“Logan” has set itself high on the scale of superhero films —  that future films should learn from. Its meaning, impact and the appropriate tone, this story about the X-Men’s most iconic hero, gets the treatment it deserves.

Avengers return, surprising no one

With action and comedy “Ultron” is a solid addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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“Age of Ultron” is not an action film, despite the copious amount of action contained within it. Regardless of what the trailers might show and what Marvel might say, Joss Whedon’s sequel to his enormously popular first “Avengers” film is, in actuality, a comedy.

Whedon is no stranger to either genre. As evidence by his work on “Dollhouse”, he can certainly write dark and moody action, but it’s clear from his history that he prefers to work on comedies, and especially comedies with a large cast of characters. The more characters he has to work with, the better he can bounce jokes off of them.

It’s like a bouncy ball factory in “Age of Ultron.”

Whereas the first film focused on getting the Avengers together and united as a group, “Age of Ultron” jumps directly into the action, showing an Avengers team that has been together for some time. It creates an almost childlike giddiness to see them work together in such a smooth fashion. Fans of the long take from the end of the first film will be pleased to know that Ultron begins with one about twice as long, showcasing the powers and abilities of the entire team.

Then it’s less then 10 minutes before the jokes begin and they don’t end until the film is over. Not only is the team more comedic given their much closer bond, the villain is quite possibly the funniest character of the film. The genocidal Artificial Intelligence, Ultron (played by James Spader), is as sarcastic as Tony Stark, but with an added confidence that truly sells his character.

The added comedy is by no means unwelcome. Though it occasionally feels as though the action and story are manipulated for the sake of a joke, it does help to undercut the surprisingly dark tone of the film.

“Avengers” had a fairly clear lesson: cooperation is the only way we can save the planet. “Ultron”s lesson is more muddled, dealing with the nature of life, death, and the fear of change. People die, mistakes are made, unrepairable damage is done. At the core of it all is a question of the nature of humanity itself. Given all of this, the comedy is a welcome break.

It is undeniable that “Ultron” is bigger in scope than the first film. It has more action, more stars, more locations, more special effects, and a bigger threat. Unfortunately, it never feels as big or as important as the first film, and can’t help but sit in its shadow. It’s somewhat forgettable by comparison, containing little in the way or major plot development for the Marvel universe.

All that said, if you walk into the theater expecting a fun and exciting super hero film, you will walk out happy. If you walk in expecting to see something as mind blowing as the first avengers, you’ll leave disappointed. Either way, you’ll probably laugh.

 

Beloved 1950’s classic series transitions to the big screen with ‘ Paddington’

Where other recent live-action CGI hybrids have failed miserably (Yogi Bear, the Garfield movies, and the dreadful Smurf films) Paddington attempts to breathe life into the genre by giving its main character and film one element the other films were missing: heart. In that regard, Paddington mostly succeeds, but the movie falters in its transition to the silver screen.

Based on the beloved Paddington Bear books by author Michael Bond, the film starts off with a geographer introducing us to a new species of bear he comes across on his adventures. After deciding not to make them extinct, he befriends them and introduces them to a new joy: marmalade.

Flash-forward to present time and we find the bears Aunt Lucy, Uncle Pastuzo, and Paddington all enjoying their marmalade filled jungle life. Sadly, tragedy strikes, resulting in Aunt Lucy heading to “the home for retired bears” and Paddington dons his trademark red bush hat to make a new home in London.

It is there where the bulk of the story takes place, with Paddington finding a new family at a train station. The family, led by Henry Brown (played by Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, who brings loads of fun to the role) decides to take him home, and gives the name Paddington, although ketchup the bear was briefly in contention. Henry is against keeping him, but Paddington does his best to fit in and prove himself to the family.

The fish out of water story has been done to death on the big-screen by this point, but with Ben Whishaw (Skyfall) voicing the titular animal, he gives him a well-spoken innocence only Whishaw could bring to the role. Paddington himself is vividly brought to life by the special effects team, exuding a sweet politeness and charm.

Unfortunately, the movie runs into some problems with a major subplot featuring the attempted murder of Paddington. Played by a deliciously evil Nicole Kidman, Millicent Clyde attempts to take out Paddington to add to her collection of rare taxidermy. It feels out of place and is reminiscent of 2012’s Ted, a movie that the team behind this film certainly wouldn’t want their family-friendly comedy to be compared to.

To add insult to injury, the movie features multiple clichés of the genre featuring outdated pop songs, endless slapstick, and gas jokes. The movie is well filmed and features a likeable main character brought to life in a charming fashion, but the movie being buried under the predictable gags holds it back from being a true family classic. But as it stands, Paddington is light and harmless fun.

Interstellar delivers Christopher Nolan experience

Nolan takes audiences to the final frontier in his latest sci-fi epic.

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Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Photo

Matthew McConaughey delivered stunning and realistic acting.

From one of the greatest cinematic minds in Hollywood, director Christopher Nolan, who directed the “Dark Knight Trilogy” and “Inception”, has come out with his boldest picture yet, “Interstellar.”

“Interstellar” follows former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widowed father of two children, who is recruited by NASA again to embark on missions into outer space to save what remains of the human population by finding planets outside of our solar system that can sustain human life.

The fact that this is an epic science-fiction film coming from Nolan should be the only thing necessary to entice anyone to go and see this film.The film is just as thought provoking as one would expect from Nolan and offers some of the best acting to hit theaters this year.

With that being said, it should be noted that everyone single actor in this movie, regardless of their screen time, simply kills it. McConaughey, fresh from his late ‘Oscar’ winning performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”, gives a great and emotional portrayal of Cooper who is not just trying to save the remaining families on Earth, but is trying to save his own family as well.

Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, and Jessica Chastain, among others, all give worthy performances, but perhaps the best acting does not come from Hathaway, Cain, or even McConaughey, but from Mackenzie Foy. Foy plays the young Murphy “Murph” Cooper. She absolutely knocks the role out of the park and alongside McConaughey sells the most realistic father-daughter relationship brought to the screen in years. There are also a few surprise actors that make their way into the picture that would simply be a crime for spoiling, but the surprise guests also make great performances.

The direction of this movie is great and the fact that Nolan went out of his way to create such authenticity to this film by consulting with real life theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who is also an executive producer for the film, adds a high level of realism to a film that would seem far-fetched else wise. The film also provides great special effects that seem realistic to the point where it is hard to tell what is fake and what is not.

The cinematography for the film is amazing and should be noted as award worthy. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema who did work on 2010s “The Fighter,” last year’s “Her,” and is currently working with director Sam Mendes on the next “James Bond” film. A lot of the film was shot in IMAX and Hoytema did impeccable work on filming practical landscape shots as well as interior shots.

The music by award winning composer Hans Zimmer is simply phenomenal and evokes such a great sense of awe and wonder that matches the scope of the film. It is hard not to mention how immersive the music is. Whether it comes in with the perilous action the characters have to face in the film or if it is for dramatic effect and in this case, the music succeeds in all areas and even makes the soundtrack worth checking out.

The writing for the film, which is credited primarily to Nolan’s brother Jonathan, was at the level to be expected. The script provides all the philosophical aspects that you would expect in a Nolan film, but also adds charm and real heavyweight emotion to the story which is portrayed excellently in the film.

The story, perhaps the biggest undertaking yet for Christopher Nolan, comes with many pleasantries and cinematic value, but it doesn’t have that sense of epic fun that matches the film’s scope. The story is not hard to follow, although bringing your brain to the movie is required, it is somewhat lackluster in its execution. Some moviegoers may complain about Nolan’s choice of heavy foreshadowing in the beginning of the film as unnecessary.

Some other issues with the film are lack of character development, and questionable motives and representation in the film. Cooper’s son Tom is sadly underutilized as a supporting character. All things considered, the film could have done without Tom and if it just focused on the relationship between Murphy and Cooper. Other characters in the film do not really connect and results in a lack of any emotional attachment with the viewer.

Certain motives are questionable as well, such as Tom’s, who is portrayed one way by Nolan and then develops a whole different type of motive that does not make sense later on.

Another aspect of the story that did not really work was the ending. No spoilers here, but it seemed like Nolan was not sure how to end the movie as it went through at least three different endings instead of concluding where it seemed like it would the first time and probably would have been a much a better movie for it.

The pace of the movie certainly is not an issue-despite its 169 minute running time. The only time audiences may feel like the film is dragging may be in the beginning as they wait for the space exploration to begin.

In the end, ‘Interstellar’ is a great movie. It may not end up winning Christopher Nolan that ‘Academy Award’ or ‘Oscar’ for best director which he should have gotten by now, but it does prove why Nolan is one of the best directors of our time. Even with some of its faults, which can be easily forgiven, the film manages to keep the audience entertained and offers some fun that may remind moviegoers of previous sci-fi classics like “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

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Joseph Kelley, A&E Editor

My name is Joseph Kelley and I'm and Opinions Editor at the Pioneer News. I write opinions, editorials, and movie reviews for A&E.

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Big Hero 6 takes off in theaters

Hiro and Baymax bring a new level of action and fun to the big screen

Big Hero 6 is a film about a boy named Hiro. He is intelligent, some might argue borderline genius. This young boy tends to get into trouble due to his arrogance. To put it simply, he is bored with everything. It’s all too easy for him.

This all changes when he goes to his brother’s school. This may seem innocent until dire events transpire causing Hiro to lose faith only to have it restored by his brother’s creation, the big, soft healthcare robot Baymax.

This might seem off since many of the trailers showed this robot flying and looking far from his adorable design, but that is because it’s all a part of the story. After a major event Hiro learns of a Kabuki mask wearing villain. He in an effort to stop the bad guys evil plans sets off to try stop him with the help of Baymax and his friends from the school.

From there hilarity and action ensues as each moment delivers its purpose of pulling the heartstrings and engaging the crowd.

In addition to that Big Hero 6 has strong voice acting. Ryan Potter, the voice actor for Hiro, pulls off the age of the character with believable skill. He has a good back and forth with Scott Adsit, who voices Baymax. Backing up Potter is a cast of actors whose skills compliment his. These include Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr. and Genesis Rodriguez.

The acting is sprinkled with a great score. Many times the music is pronounced with guitar riffs and drums, others times it’s subtle as the soft taps of a piano hinting at the tension or sorrow of the scene. One of the most notable moments was with the final conflict between Hiro, Baymax and the Kabuki mask wearing villain from the trailers. The music takes on the beat of the fight. Each moment is guided by the damage and the music adds tension that makes the viewer root for the heros.

Along with good voice acting and strong screenwriting there is the graphics of the film itself. This film is clearly computer generated.  The graphics helped make Baymax’s design more believable. The motions were believable and the hard work that went in to make sure that each movement, impact, and turn was perfect shows.

There aren’t any flaws or glitches to be found. When the characters hug it feels like a solid hug. This says a lot considering many videos can be found where things get lost in the works.

Overall Big Hero 6 is worth your time. People aren’t losing money going to the theatres and it has something for all ages. Whether it be goofiness for the kids, actions for teens or heartfelt moments for adults, no one will be left without something to enjoy.

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