It's all come to this. 10 years of world-building, all done on a high-stakes gamble thought to be impossible in Hollywood until one success after another made it possible. This is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's peak. Pessimists will say, "But The Empire Strikes Back got there in three years!" (as critics are calling this film the ESB of the MCU). Others will be overwhelmed by its sheer massive scope - whether it's the lengthy running time, the large amount of characters involved, or the number of plots all diverging to the singular story that connects the film together. Regardless of personal opinion, one can't deny the following statement: INFINITY WAR IS ONE HELL OF A MOVIE, from start to finish. One depressing, heavy, epic, overwhelming movie, but one that actually works. It follows the formula of its predecessors again, but then proceeds to transcend it farther than any of its predecessors had gone before, culminating in a shocking ending that's left people baffled. And, broken.
The major storyline of Infinity War is extremely straightforward - a two-eyed, no-horned giant purple Mad Titan (or Thanos for short) wants to collect six colorful (and powerful) gems to alter the universe as he sees fit. And, it's up to a small, spiky, fast, blue hedgehog to stop Thanos, collect the gems himself, and thwart his evil plan. Okay, that's not really the plot.
Thanos's goal is true, though. He thinks the universe faces overpopulation issues, which would lead to a loss of major resources vital to survival. So, he's after the Infinity Stones, six powerful gems that each have their own power (all but one of them had been seen in previous MCU films) that, when brought together with a special Gauntlet, can reshape the universe entirely. Every single Marvel superhero in this franchise is out to stop Thanos from achieving his goal, as he poses a serious threat, perhaps more so than any other villain before him. This leads to new team-ups between different heroes that offer incredible payoffs and interactions as they ultimately do everything in their power to stop Thanos once and for all.
What follows is a spoiler-filled discussion on the plot, characters, and other aspects of Infinity War. Read at your own risk if you still haven't seen the film yet.
Photo courtesy of IMDB.
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: lots of Marvel superheroes (see full list here, courtesy of IMDB), Josh Brolin, Peter Dinklage
Distributor: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
This review is going to take a slightly different direction from what I've normally done, mostly because a number of the primary discussion points for Zack Snyder's latest film in the DC Expanded Universe have already been mentioned and discussed at length. These points will definitely be brought up, but in this case, most of these things will just be from my perspective and personal opinion of what this film tries to accomplish and its biggest weaknesses. This review also doesn't seek to intentionally reignite the whole "Marvel vs. DC" argument again, because let's be honest, it's completely blown out of proportion at this point and you (the reader) are perfectly entitled to like one, the other, both, or neither. Finally, THIS WILL GO INTO SPOILERS - you've been aptly warned. With that in mind, the DC Expanded Universe has finally reached a pinnacle point in its shaky 4-year existence; the culmination of a band of superheroes united to battle a common foe. This is the first time ever that the Justice League has come together (no pun intended from its marketing scheme) in a theatrically-released film, and in their case, the stakes are high enough that they have no choice BUT to come together. The foe is Steppenwolf, an alien from another world who is searching for three mystical boxes on the planet to (you guessed it) take over the world. The universe, too, if he can pull it off. So the biggest question everyone has been asking and now answering is has the hype for Justice League paid off? Is this the film that cements the overwhelming success left behind by this summer's Wonder Woman, proving the DCEU is finally on track to do great things? The short answer: mostly no, but to some extents, I finally believe they're doing some things right.
Good. God. Where do I even begin? The next project in Disney's growing list of reboots and remakes is based on another film made not so long ago, based on one of the most acclaimed animated classics of all time and the first animated film to garner a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. This tale as old as time, however, has now become a tale-as-fresh-as-the-modern-retelling-adding-unnecessary-messages-that-have-to-be-infused-in-order-to-please-diehard-fans-for-today's-audiences-and-not-for-everyone-including-generations-to-come. And while it's fine to do this for remakes if executed well, is it really necessary for this one? In other words, THE FILM IS NOT SO VERY TIMELESS NOW, IS IT?
You all know the story. You all know the characters, the songs, the quotes, and the humor. Disney banked on that and exploited the hell out of it in their marketing plan. This time around, it's Harry Potter badass Emma Watson in the iconic lead role, with a star-studded cast whose previous films range everywhere from The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings to Star Wars to Downton Abbey, Frozen and A Fish Called Wanda.
For this review, there's a lot to get through, so if you're not the kind of person who likes to read longer reviews, then this probably isn't for you. A few things need to be made clear, though;
This review is based on a critical search for a solid entertaining movie, not based on bias or blinding nostalgia of the original film. In other words, I don't care whether or not it's a remake; this is a critical look at the film regardless, as a film.
There will be comparisons to the original film for the sole purpose of critically analyzing this film, NOT to solely point out if and how the original film is better. The original one had plot holes and other concerns too.
Yes, remakes need to be updated for current movie-going audiences. I realize that.
Now that this is clear, buckle up - it's going to be a wild ride.
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Aubra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Hattie Morahan
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures, Mandeville Films
This is not a superhero film. Sure, it was co-produced by Marvel Studios, one of the biggest comic book and film entertainment companies in America today. Sure, the film is based on characters who were once heroes in a past life. Sure, there are villains and conflicts told in a superhero, comic-book fashion. But Logan, the latest directorial outing by James Mangold (who previously handled The Wolverine), is not a superhero film. It is so much more than just that.
Logan, the tenth X-Men film, really has no X-Men in it. Gone are the days where mutants and epic, larger-than-life action scenes with saving citizens and protecting the world are common, everyday news. In the not too distant future (does anyone else think of Mystery Science Theater 3000 every time this flashes on screen in an X-Men movie?) is now in the farther, bleaker dystopian future of Western frontier. Logan, once the Wolverine, is much older, worn, and tired. His healing abilities are not what they once were, the adamantium metal in his body (and what gives him those famous retractable claws) now acting as a poison. Booze - constant booze - is his painkiller, along with the occasional expletive. He is caretaker for a much older, senile Charles Xavier, plagued with multiple diseases and seizures affecting his powerful mind-altering abilities. One day, a young girl with powers like Logan's own wanders into their lives, with a group of bounty hunters called the Reavers on their trail. With his friends threatened, Logan reluctantly but assuredly begins a quest to stop the Reavers and to bring the girl to a new home, someplace safe and far away from the wastelands.
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook
Studio: 20th Century Fox, Marvel Studios, TSG Entertainment
The Force is back yet again. After the massive success of The Force Awakens last year, Disney and Lucasfilm announced not just the continuation of the main storyline for Star Wars, but a whole set of new films and stories within the galaxy around these events. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first of such endeavors, occurs right before the events of the very first Star Wars film, A New Hope, and details how exactly the rebel forces managed to capture the schematics and plans to the Empire's massive superweapon, the Death Star.
Primarily a war film with elements of the traditional Star Wars lore, Rogue One takes a darker and more adult direction from the other seven films (not including the godawful film precursor to the much-better Clone Wars television series). In this tale, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has a troubling childhood and grows up over the years with distaste for both the rebellion, the Empire, and warfare altogether, although capable of fighting when she needs to. Jyn is captured by the rebels, however, and told that her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) was in league with the Empire in building the Death Star. Through a series of fateful encounters with other characters, including a Force-believing shaman (Donnie Yen), a rebel pilot (Diego Luna), and an Imperial droid with a wiped memory (Alan Tudyk), it's up to Jyn to find the truth about her father's whereabouts and ultimately stop the Empire's greatest achievement from coming to fruition.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker
Marvel Studios has become quite the well-oiled machine. With now fourteen films in their Cinematic Universe, the road to the long-awaited Infinity War is coming closer and closer to reality. This next stop in their series, however, doesn't involve one reality - it involves an infinite amount of possibilities.
Doctor Strange finally takes the MCU towards the path of the mystical arts. After dealing with science fiction, advanced technology, mythology, and political thrillers, here lies an exciting and bold new path that opens up an extraordinary amount of potential for what's yet to come. It is also yet another origin story for the studio to introduce new characters into the MCU and expand it even further than it's ever gone.
Stephen Strange, an arrogant but extremely successful neurosurgeon, is left victim to a fatal car crash one night which strips him to little use of his hands and effectively ends his career. With his life torn apart and nothing left to lose, Strange travels to Kathmandu and eventually finds The Ancient One, a high mystic and defender of all realms. It is here where Strange learns to not only heal his wounds, but to find spiritual enlightenment and look beyond his selfishness to help defend the world from all kinds of enemies.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong
James Patterson's novels, whether you love his writing or dislike it, are usually very gripping to the imagination. From the Alex Cross series to Middle School and Women's Murder Club, Patterson's reputation as a master of thriller and suspense is well-executed for his craft and well-earned. Translating these novels to films, however, always seems to be a daunting task for Hollywood for some reason. Every film based on the Alex Cross series were major disappointments, and the made-for-TV films has not fared much better. Now, after a development hell lasting several years, Patterson has finally had the opportunity to bring to the screen his YA thriller of children with avian wings, Maximum Ride.
The books, about six children on the run after escaping an isolated facility where they were experimented on, were not necessarily critical hits, but like most of Patterson's novels, Maximum Ride does have a deep fanbase and a number of people who love and respect the series. Although they've certainly had their most outrageous adventures (including what could honestly be the worst finale to a book series ever written), there's a strong bond and charm developed in all of these characters that help to create a unique identity and stand out from other popular YA books.
Now that a long-awaited film finally exists for Maximum Ride, does it hold up? Has Patterson finally succeeded in helping to create a solid film that does justice to his source material?
Director: Jay Martin
Cast: Allie Evans, Patrick Johnson, Lyliana Wray, Gavin Lewis, Luke Gregory Crosby, Peter O'Brien
Release Date: August 30 (Digital HD): In Theaters and On Demand September 30
Distributor: Studio 71, JP Entertainment, G2 Studios
One of the most iconic graphic novels of all time finally has an animated adaptation. Batman: The Killing Joke was one of the darkest stories to come from the mind of Alan Moore, best known for also creating Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It addressed a darker version of the characters of Gotham that comic-book and graphic-novel enthusiasts had rarely seen before. This work of art, along with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, helped to revitalize the titular character from his early detective days and the television series starring Adam West, transforming into the darker narratives most people associate him with today. The original The Killing Joke graphic novel was not initially a critical hit for its story, but was praised for its art direction and detail.
The Joker once again breaks free from Arkham Asylum and decides to prove to his enemies that everyone has an edge of insanity within them. The story also explores further the relationship between Batman and the Joker, and Batman's fears that one day it will all go too far and one of them will die because of it. The Joker is given a possible backstory as well, although readers are led to believe he is an unreliable narrator (one of his memorable lines being "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another ... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!").
Director: Sam Liu
Cast: Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, Ray Wise
Release Date: July 25 (limited), July 29 (Digital HD), August 2 (Blu-Ray, DVD)
Suicide Squad, the motion picture DC Comics has been banking on for months to revitalize their expanded universe. It was in trouble the moment Warner Bros. decided to release the 2015 Comic-Con trailer feeling they couldn't have it "represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our [DC Comics] presentation." Then, reshoots were ordered by WB executives, causing further speculation there were problems with the film. The marketing was heavily altered thanks to the critical failure of Batman v Superman and behind-the-scenes restructuring of DC Comics led to attempts for funnier, more character-oriented, formulaic fun.
Suicide Squad, the DC answer to Marvel's own Guardians of the Galaxy, is based on the popular comic book series released in 2011, with some of the characters' backstories combined from previous efforts (past films, TV shows, etc.). In the aftermath of Superman's "death" (did anyone really think he was actually going to die or stay dead?), government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) takes it upon herself (with government approval) to enlist a task force of who she deems as "metahumans" to combat future threats to their world. This includes the Joker's psychotic sweetheart (and fan favorite) Harley Quinn, hitman Deadshot, Killer Croc, El Diablo, and Captain Boomerang. Another one that Amanda tries to recruit, the Enchantress (Paper Towns's Cara Delvingne), goes out of control and begins to terrorize the city, leaving our band of rogues to find out what the hell's going on and stop this madness so they can bring a little of their own.
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne
Release Date: August 5, 2016
Studio: Warner Bros., RatPac Entertainment, DC Comics
Finally, finally, finally, after a full year's delay of a worldwide release, The Little Prince makes its way to the United States. Director Mark Osborne's follow-up to the highly acclaimed Kung Fu Panda takes a spin on the popular children's book of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, about a mysterious boy, his fox, and an aviator stuck in the desert. The movie adds another element of plot to stretch it to a proper length, a story which involves the relationship between a workaholic mother and her young daughter. The young daughter, known as The Little Girl, meets an older version of the aviator and, in turn, she experiences the story of The Little Prince as the audience does, learning valuable life lessons along the way.
The Little Prince made its debut last year at the Cannes Film Festival in France, and Paramount Pictures had picked up the rights for distribution in the United States shortly after. Initially intended for a theatrical release in March, Paramount dropped the film from its slate one week before its scheduled date for reasons that have yet to be explained. Fortunately, Netflix picked up the US distribution rights, with the film becoming available to stream starting August 5th.
The Little Prince is a gorgeously animated feature and remarkably inventive in adapting its source material. The world of the little prince is youthful, bright, colorful, and unique, in stark contrast to the bland and grey business of the real world The Little Girl inhabits. The childlike innocence and wonder of these worlds is perfectly captured stylistically in both the prince's journey and The Little Girl's adventures.
Director: Mark Osborne
Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, Riley Osborne, Paul Rudd, James Franco, Albert Brooks
Studio: Netflix, Paramount Pictures France, Kaibou Productions, On Animation Studios, Onyx Films
Release Date: July 29, 2015 (France); August 5, 2016 (Netflix)
M.O.T.I.F. strives to create music which pushes the limits of what it can do. Using experimentation balanced with traditional approaches, this music dares to explore uncharted territory to create a new experience out of the principles that have shaped its evolution over the centuries. Its focus is for performance by all musicians - those who are just beginning their musical life, to those at the professional height of their musicality. Inspired by a multitude of genres and other stylistic influences, M.O.T.I.F. embarks on a new frontier with these ideas and hopes to inspire the next generation of musicians, listeners, concertgoers, and audiences everywhere.