Thursday, August 28, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I wasn’t all that into the first movie, because there were a whole slew of origin movies at the time, and even though Steve Rogers was actually decent (and not cocky, brash and/or arrogant), it was still an introductory film to yet another comic book character.

So it was completely without much anticipation that I went to see Winter Soldier.

And I was taken aback at how not-boring it was.

Exploring how Steve settles into the modern world after his awakening and the subsequent battle of New York, shit immediately happens when the Winter Soldier (an assassin long thought to be Soviet myth) surfaces and turns out to be Steve’s best friend (thought to have died in Captain 1).

Throw in Hydra, which was thought (lots of thinking in this movie) to have gone done with the death of the Red Skull (also in the first movie), and with this, we have an (implicit) explanation why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been so freaking humdrum: because Hydra tends to be synonymous with Captain America, and they didn’t want to spoil the storyline for Cap’n 2.

[It actually makes sense that Agents exist to combat Hydra.]

Then you have Nick Fury faking his own death, a few people from past Marvel outings getting outed as Hydra molls (Jasper! Senator Garry Shandling from Iron Man 2!), and though it’s a lot to cram in and digest in a two-hour movie, it didn’t get draggy nor did I find it overcrowded.

I was also glad that Scarlett Johansson wasn't also there to perpetuate the film stereotype of male and female leads falling in love with each other and no one else. Thankfully, there’s not a trace of a blossoming romance between the Black Widow and Captain America.

[Because she needs to have one with Hawkeye!]

After the frankly-mild Iron Man 3 and the slightly better Thor 2 (setting up to gonna-be-good Thor 3), Captain 2 is a vast improvement over its first movie and, compared to its fellow Phase 2 movies, a much better entry to the MCU. Though the first one had heart, this one had also twists and turns worthy of an espionage film (you can’t have Robert Redford in a movie like this without giving him a meaty role like the bad guy. Poor Powers Boothe).

[Fun fact: Redford and ScarJo were in the horse whisperer a long, long time ago.]

Do, do watch. This was the movie that made me sit up and acknowledge that Marvel can not do any wrong. 8/10.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Expendables 3 (2014)

I have absolutely no idea how to review this movie.

If I attempt this like an actual reviewer, there might be quite a bit for me to critique. But I don’t feel like doing that because I found this film a lot of fun, and though it’s not quite as fun as the second movie, I’m not disappointed either.

[Not like Spider-man 3.]

So, I’m just gonna go through this in listicle format (list + article = listicle. Yes, it’s an actual new word, and no, it hasn’t anything to do with ‘testicle’), with what I liked and what I didn’t quite like (in no particular order and with spoilers):


  • Evident in this movie and the previous one, everyone looked like they were having a ton of fun hanging out together, shooting and blowing things up aside, which makes the audience enjoy the ride as well. It’s like the action movie version of Grown-Ups, all friends getting together, and that fact itself makes the whole endeavour far less pointless.

  • Wesley Snipes – Damn, I missed this guy. He doesn’t look a day older than he did in the Blade films (and that was a long while ago!), and I loved the part where the team asks him what he was doing time in prison for, and he says, “Tax evasion.” Ha! It was so much fun watching him.

  • Antonio Banderas – Him channelling a benevolent and even more chatty version of Assassins’ Miguel Bane. Despite him being the comic relief that never shuts up, the scene where he tells Sly what happened to his last team is one of the best in the film. It was a lot of fun watching him too, though he looks very emaciated; I hope he's alright.

  • Harrison Ford is actually a supporting character! I thought he was only cameo-ing, but he had far more screen-time than Bruce Willis ever would. That’s probably Sly one-upping his former(?) friend.

  • Kelsey Grammer is also a supporting character and not a cameo! Good on him! Maybe the next one he'll get to hold a gun.

  • “GET TO DA CHOPPA!” One of the reasons why I love the Expendables films is because of all the throwbacks to the actors’ respective past movies, although there’s far less references in this one than in Movie 2. There’re also sly nods to Willis’ falling out with Sly (Ford saying, “he’s out of the picture,” when referring to Willis’ character, Church), and my personal favourite, tax evasion.

  • Young vs old – By introducing the young team and still retaining the old, team make-ups in future movies (if any) would be on rotational basis, I believe. I think with what went down with Willis, it’s Sly’s way of saying that everyone (but him) is expendableinterchangeable. You might think that overcrowding the movie would affect the pace, but I found it fine to split the first half with the youngsters, have them get caught, and then having the oldies break them out and then fight and blow up stuff together. The movie itself is roughly two hours long.

  • Villain-wise, Mel Gibson is more menacing and threatening as an antagonist compared to JCVD and Eric Roberts (from past outings). He still looks good, despite that whole anti-Semitic rant and subsequent under-the-radar that happened some years back. The final fight between him and Sly was just okay, but you have to consider the fact that Gibson isn't an actor known for brawn.

  • Absolutely no romantical notions whatsoever. I don't like romance to distract from my action movie. Just because you have a woman in the show doesn't mean she has to flirt or fall in love or want babies with any of the guys around her.

  • Not liked:

  • Jet Li is out of the Expendables!! I mean, he may still be in future films, but he’s in Arnie’s team so I expect cameos. He didn’t even do any kung-fu this time around. I wonder whether he wanted out, or the other way around. I'm guessing the former; after all, he’s only there for the China market. I think Banderas is his replacement; he got third billing.

  • Not enough Dolph Lundgren!!

  • Terry Crews – I don’t get why he has to get shot (and in the ass too, it looked like). It just makes it look like there’s only quota enough for one black guy in the team (i.e., Snipes).

  • No Chuck Norris!! I enjoyed seeing Chuck Norris tell a Chuck Norris joke.

  • Ronda Rousey – Girl’s got moves, but unfortunately she’s not really good with her face. She looks like pouting, belligerent child whenever the scene calls for her to stare/glare people down.

  • Still not enough Lundgren!!

  • With the above, my take on The Expendables 3 is DO WATCH, if you loved the 80s and action stars that you haven't seen in a very long while. Of course, you can consider the first two outings as having seen them recently, but if you are me, the throwback movies themselves don't count.


    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

    I’ve been excited about this movie ever since I saw the hilarious first trailer. Unlike Iron Man, Captain America and Co., (whom I knew of either vaguely or from newspapers or Marvel Zombies), I've never heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but because of said trailer and the usual Marvel-film hype, I went in with some level of expectation. First time ever.

    And I wasn’t disappointed. Although, I can’t say expectations exceeded, either.

    In brief, Guardians revolves around five escaped convicts who band together to claim a huge bounty on an item that one of them had stolen at the start of the film; an item, which the main villain of the film needed for trade with a larger big-bad in order for the latter to commit genocide. Through the course of the film, our convicts elude the main villain and other parties who also want the item, and become unlikely heroes as they try to prevent a planet from being massacred and defeat the bad guy.

    Un-blanding the paragraph (which wasn't at all easy to write in the first place) would mean writing out almost the entire plot, and that’s my main quibble of the film: there’s not exactly a coherent storyline to speak of. It’s very all over the place (character gets item everyone wants amidst geo-political warfare and probable genocide and there’s a guy who collects things), but the movie is just so much fun that you don’t notice how messy it is.

    [Unfortunately for me, I'm left with “something I can’t quite put my finger on”-itis.]

    Rooting its emotional core with Peter Quill (“you may know me by… Star-Lord”), pivotal scenes come with classic songs from the 1970s and 80s (including the awesome “Hooked on a Feeling”, which is also in the trailer), heard through his Sony Walkman and “Awesome Mix Vol. 1”-tape with all his mother’s favourite songs. Peter left Earth as a young child at his mother’s death, and listening to the mix-tape is his way of remembering his mother and reminding him of his home planet.

    After those poignant first scenes on Earth (its 8-10 minutes to me is almost at par with the opening of Up), the movie establishes its comedic tone by having Chris Pratt (who plays Star-Lord) strut and dance his way through alien ruins. Pratt fits the standard cocky, sarcastic hero mould that we’ve acquainted and re-acquainted ourselves with in each superhero movie, but he’s so freaking adorable (like a teddy bear! a giant ginger teddy bear!) that I didn’t even realise this (cocky sarcasm) until time of writing.

    As fitting as Pratt is as the lead, he has his movie almost stolen from him by two characters who are completely CG’ed: Rocket (Raccoon) and Groot. The pair (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively) showed more humanity, emotion and compassion (this especially from alien wood) than all other characters put together. I’m surprised that Diesel got billing ahead of Cooper, who got in far more dialogue than expected, compared with “I am Groot”.

    After the wasted opportunity Green Lantern was, I was sceptical of another movie set in space, because how much time spent in space really depends on the production budget. I’m glad that in Guardians, we barely spend any time on Earth (only in the beginning), though we do spend almost a cumulative half-hour on the mostly-human-looking Xandar. Luckily, this doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the film.

    [People behind Green Lantern sequel or reboot, please take note. Two hours of Oa would be comparably better than one hour of Earth.]

    Guardians introduces an ensemble instead of just a solo act, so backstories for everyone but Peter are told via exposition. This I somehow noticed, which annoyed me for the rest of the film that I noticed. Thankfully, in all of that exposition is witty dialogue, and its very able actors and trip down nostalgia lane make the movie work.

    The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies tend not to deviate into the unknown (even Thor doesn’t really talk about other Realms), so it's great to see this film delve deeper into more obscure material, and, to quote another sci-fi saga, “it boldly goes where no (MCU movie) has gone before.” Unfortunately, I didn't quite find this movie fresh or original (as I hoped it would be), but it is a solidly entertaining new entry. Considering how the past few were tried-and-tested box office material (Iron Man threequel, Thor and Captain America sequels), Marvel Studios still has that magic touch, and I'm looking forward to seeing whatAnt-Man and Doctor Strange movies bring.

    This movie's end-credits doesn't tie in to The Avengers 2, but the find scene does tease a unexpected possible re-boot for a character long-dormant.

    I was so, so psyched with that last scene.

    8/10. Do, do watch this movie, and just laugh at everything.