"Dark Phoenix" Movie Review

As per usual, after my first thoughts video (here), I've taken a couple days to let Dark Phoenix set in. Then, write a more thorough non-spoiler review afterwards. After hearing all the poor reviews, I'm still surprised how much of this I really liked. Was it perfect? Not at all, but when put I to contrast everything we've got from the past 20 years of X-Men it does more than hold up. Not quite as great as X2 or Days of Future Past, but far from being a X3. In fact, I'd almost go as far to say spin-offs aside, I'd put this at a tie for 3rd place. Everyone holds their own, acting wise for what they're supposed to be. Major standouts from McAvoy's Professor X, & Fastbender's Magneto as usual. They've really held their own in some giant shoes left by their predecessors. There's a lot definite pros & cons to this film though. As I said, it's not perfect. It didn't really stick the landing in my opinion, & I'm only talking last 5 minutes of the climax. In a world without X3, I'd have probably been a little more lenient. However, it felt too close to that film's Phoenix attempt. I also wasn't really feeling Jessica Chastain's character at all. While her alien race made for great canon fodder later in the film, her characters addition felt like it was forced to fill a void. Particularly if we're talking comics, the void of Mastermind & the Hellfire Club to get into Jean's head. We've already done Hellfire Club though in these though. I get they needed a bigger villain, this just wasn't it. Other than that, there things that a just become a token of FOX with the X-Men property. Lack of continuity, & unknown mutants added when they have literal books filled with actual famous & semi-famous X characters. However, all that said, the pros on this film somewhat tilt the scales in its favor. The story, changed a little from its source material, was really good. Alien race aside at least. Much darker tone than expected. It fits the subject matter perfectly though. I loved what they did with Jean's background. On top of that, the Mutant power action side of this film has never looked better. Hands down, this was the best display of the actual original's team's powers in use we've seen so far. And though I don't like their use of no name mutants, they still keep up the fun fan service of characters fans will notice in the background, but unfortunately have no real part to play. That's been a staple since day one. All in all, if you've stuck with the X films so far, you shouldn't be disappointed with Dark Phoenix. I liked it way more than the last installment, & just judging from the epilogue of this film, I'd have continued to follow this cast. That said, am I glad this is it for FOX? The X family are going to get passed into the more capable hands of the MCU eventually? Yes. It's been more good times than bad over the past 20 years with FOX's, but I feel like even when they hit a homerun, they haven't fully reached the X-Men's full potential. I'm glad I went to the theater for this one though. They're going out on a much higher note than they were. I enjoyed a whole lot more of this film than I didn't.

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"Aladdin" Movie Review

As usual I've took a couple days from my first thoughts review video (here), and now it's time to get into my full thoughts on the live-action remake of the Disney Animated Classic, Aladdin after getting some time to let it sink in. I can't believe how excited I still am about this film. It totally lives up to its own phrase, "diamond in the rough". That said, there will be some layers to this review. First, I want to get into how this film stands up to its animated predecessor. This is the part I couldn't believe the more I thought about it. As great as Robin Williams is, I think I now actually prefer this out of the two. Probably because it hits every single beat of the original. With only  slight changes & additions. Changes that seem only there to compliment the realistic nature of live-action, & additions that go on to further the mythology of the tale without changing it any way. It being live-action also gives it room to draw on so much more emotion. In today's context, animated Aladdin is a smartphone, the live-action Aladdin is the upgraded version. Speaking of upgrades. Sees like a good time to get into the music. With the addition of Jasmine's new two part song, along with some amazing dance numbers, this film seem more a musical than the original. All the original songs got a new remix if you will. However, they stayed so true their original counterparts if I played the right snippets, you'd think only the artist performing had changed. Basically there was a very subtle hip hop influence injected into each. Like a 80-20 mix, 80% original, 20% hip hop. It blended perfectly at that rate. One of the things that worried me going in. Jasmine's new song I mentioned earlier was an amazing piece of music performed beautifully. It seemed a strange place to add it, but by the time she was halfway done the hair on my neck was standing up, & I didn't care about its placement anymore. I also mentioned the dance numbers earlier. These were amazing! Also a mix, this time Hip Hop meets Bollywood, & I never wanted to learn a dance in my life until I saw this. This blew me away! I loved the dance choreography in this film. Never really seen anything like this in my life. Now, before I sign off I want to break down the standout acting performances contained in this film. I have to start that by mentioning the overall chemistry between the cast as a whole. The chemistry displayed made it look as if these people had been really good friends for years that just decided to make a movie. I couldn't believe how tight knit they all seemed. I'll break 'em down first with the one everyone was most worried about, Will Smith as the Genie. When he first was cast, I told a lot of nay sayers if we could get old Fresh Prince, Bad Boys Will Smith, he could pull it off. If anyone has the charisma to even attempt to fill those big shoes Robin William's left behind he could, but only if he could tap back into something we haven't seen for a long time. That's exactly what we got. I haven't thought Smith was having a good time making a film in a long time. It was so refreshing to see this return for someone who at one time was one of my favorite acting personalities. He took full ownership of this role & totally made it his own, & the addition of keeping him around throughout to be Aladdin's advisor was a perfect addition. Definitely one of the additions that puts this over the top. Mena Mossoud was also just cast perfect as Aladdin, as was Naomi Scott as Jasmine. You believed every minute of their love story. Not just that though, every other aspect of their characters as well. From his thief with a heart of gold, to her frustrated Princess who's beauty hides her mind. These three carried this film to the heights it reached, but they did definitely have some back up in that feat. Nassim Pedrad was great as the new character & best friend to Jasmine, Dahlia. Even if I did immediately realize why she was there, i loved her role. The biggest one i was worried about going in though was Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. Jafar always came off as downright sinister even in just his look, where this guy didn't to me. What he lacked in sinister look though, he made up for in performance. This guy oozed evilness from the start. They added some extra layer to the character too that worked very well. I noticed at the end af my first thoughts vid that I didn't mention the digital characters of Abu, Jago, & the Magic Carpet. I at least have to mention how real these characters came off. You would totally have thought that they not only trained these animals, they also went out & got an enchantment put on a rug. Beautiful effects abound, & set pieces for that matter. Every place form the alleys of Agrabah to the Cave of Wonders seemed so real. Last but definitely not least though, Guy Ritchie. I think the craziest part of all this is how this stays so true to the animated original, but at the same time is totally a Guy Ritchie film. The chase scenes are absolutely amazing. The storytelling is fluid, with virtually no downtime. Totally Guy Ritchie. Anyway, all in all I completely loved this film. Definitely my favorite out of all the live action remakes Disney has done so far. If they can keep them to this level, I can't wait to see what's next.

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"Captain Marvel" Movie Review

So, as usual after my first thoughts video, I like to take a little time & let everything set in before I write a more full review. If you haven't seen that video you can check it out here. I feel like Captain Marvel is fighting an uphill battle, even with people I personally know, before they even see it. For some it's the press it's getting, for others it's unfortunately the fact that it's a girl superhero. Both as unfortunate as the other because this was a really good film. I highly enjoyed myself through every minute of this latest Marvel installment. While it's not on the level of an epic Infinty War, Civil War, or any Avengers film, I feel like it easily takes its place by the side of Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, or any of the introductory MCU films. Those being some of my favorites due to their ease of rewatchabilty. Much like this, those seem to have a fun factor that sets them apart from their longer more epic films. While those are the better films, they do take a certain mind frame to really get in the mood to rewatch. This one itself really shines in the way it deals with its story. It hasn't been a secret that Captain Marvel would be the most powerful hero we've seen so far in the MCU, & she definitely is. She's basically the equivalent of Superman when it comes to power levels in comparison to the rest. That's what's made it so hard to tell compelling Superman stories over the many years of his existence. When you're dealing with an overpowered superhero just their entrance into the game ends all threats. This film found a way to deal with that level of overpowerness perfectly, & that was the amnesia aspect. When this film opens Captain Marvel, the Kree warrior hero is already a thing. However, she has no idea she has a whole human life before all of this. This not only made for a very interesting sci-fi story, it was a great way to keep her overpowering in check until the grand finale. Powers which were so great, without spoiling anything, I questioned the grandness of the finale until they really upped the ante in the final moments. As I said in the first thoughts video, I can't wait to see this character find a matchup on her own level. It'll be an amazing sight. Now, a lot of the actors parts will be hard to really get into without spoilers. So, forgive me if I'm to vague in some character descriptions, as the misdirection in this film's advertising was real. Brie Larson was amazing as the title character. Once she finds out things aren't as she believes her character development is so on point, & she is pure greatness in this role. Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury stole every scene he was in however. The de-aging process is now perfect, as he just looked like they picked him right out of A Long Kiss Goodnight. His back & forth with Carol Danvers was by far one of my favorite parts of this film. We had a very unique villain with a lot of depth in the form of Ben Mendelsohn's shapeshifting Skrull Talos. I was not expecting his performance at all. I was thinking we'd see some shades of Rogue One, but this character is 100% original in comparison. Jude Law also wasn't at all what I was expecting, & I really hope we get to see more of Yon-Rogg in the future. Annette Bening was one of the biggest surprises to me. Yet, she's also the hardest one to talk about without delivering spoilers. Layers of performance from her though, with bold decisions to the lore that actually work quite well. Can't go through the characters without mentioning Goose the cat, with a top notch acting performance in his debut role. Seriously though, I highly enjoyed, & recommend this film. Even with the comic knowledge filled head I have this kept me on my toes with all the surprises. They took liberties here & there, but all the decisions to stay worked. The 90s aspect brought me right back to my high school days. The moments of comic nostalgia were so naturally added. All in all this film is perfect for fans of the MCU as well as fans of great sci-fi. The Star Trek to Guardians of the Galaxy's Star Wars feel. A must see in the theater as well. The 3D was amazing as well. So, if you're a 3D fan, this is definitely worth the upgrade. Before signing off fully I must address the awesome tribute to Stan Lee. Not only his appearance, but the Marvel title screen. Applause rang out through the theater & almost brought tears to my eyes. Thanks again Stan. Also, make sure to catch both the after credit scenes.

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"Incredibles 2" DOUBLE FEATURE Movie Review

Alright, after getting my first thoughts out (see here), I've took a couple days to really let the Incredibles 2  DOUBLE FEATURE sink in. Since we're dealing with 2 films & a short I'm gonna break this into 3 sections.

Incredibles:  This was my first experience with the classic Pixar film on the big screen, & it was impressive on a while new level. The story, action, & comedy stand up to time so well. In fact, the only sign that this was a classic, was the dated Pixar animation. Which even 14 years ago would stand up against any other animation studio today. The movie blends classic golden-age superheroes, James Bond like locales, & a strong family dynamic seamlessly. I still say to this date, this is actually the best Fantastic Four  film we have recieved. Set in that golden age of heroes like the old Superman cartoons from the 50s, superheroes have been made illegal due to ever growing lawsuits against them. Honestly, the most realistic reason ever, & then the "Supers" are out on a form of Witness Protection. Part of the catch is they can't use their super powers any more. Mr. Incredible can't stop dabbling in heroics though, & eventually requires help form the whole fam. That's the ultra simple version of an animated film that holds it's own with major live action comic book films of today. Ultimate storytelling in what is one of Pixar's best. The cast of characters are intriguing, with so much depth for animated characters, that only Pixar can add. Seeing this on the big screen gave me a even bigger love for this movie. Depending on what day I wake up, this goes back & forth with Toy Story  & Coco  as my favorite Pixar film. If you haven't seen this film, where have you been for 14 years? Anyone with a love for superheroes, golden age heros, Pixar, James Bond, or just all around great feels all around films this one is definitely for you, & leaves you begging for more.

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Bao:  For me this short film was an intermission film. For anyone seeing a non-DOUBLE FEATURE, this will be what opens Incredibles 2. In a nutshell, without spoiling it, this short is about a lady who makes a dumpling that comes to life. She raises this adorable dumpling as her own child. From there the clip uses this as a metaphor for growing up & letting go. I never knew so much emotion could be contained within about 5 minutes. You could feel the emotion radiating throughout the audience when this was over. It's a very powerful short, quickly becoming one of my all time favorites. 

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Incredibles 2:  Here it was. We had all waited 14 years for this. 14 years, & they definitely made it worth it. Picking up exactly where the first left off to the second, there was one notable difference. Pixar has come a long way in 14 years, & it shows in the best ways. This was probably easier to see due to the DOUBLE FEATURE aspect, but the difference was like HD versus classic film. Everything immediately looked so much more alive. Other than that though, if you wouldn't have told me this was part 2, I'd have thought I was watching an Incredibles  extended edition. Not only does this pick up right after, it just take the ball & keeps running. The story progression feels more natural than almost any sequel I've seen. The story takes those moments at the end of the first to segway right into fixing the illegal superhero problem. With a brother/sister pair enlisting Elastigirl to put Supers back in the limelight. This has Mr. Incredible playing Mr. Mom while wifey does all the hero stuff. Opening up the reveal of baby Jack Jack's powers by the way. Had me laughing in tears for what felt like a solid 5 minutes. All the main characters return, not skipping a beat. Meanwhile, favorites Frozone & Edna Mode get some more screen time this time around, sprinkled along with some new Supers. There was an awesome villain that felt straight out of Batman, even if the reveal was a little telegraphed. All in all, this movie was as good, if not better than its predecessor. I've got my fingers crossed we don't have to wait another 14 years to cap this as a Trilogy. I do suggest to anyone that does see this film, it benefits highly from coming directly after the first. Revisit Incredibles  as soon as you can prior to seeing the sequel. I'll probably never watch these films another way. That's my full thoughts though. Love to know yours. Put em in the comments, like, & share.

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The "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1-2" Double Feature Event Movie Review

I must say to start this off that this may have been the most enjoyable experience I've ever had in a movie theatre. AMC was ready for Guardians. The double feature included a poster, "backstage pass", & two buttons. A not so shabby amount of "swag" to make the movie seem like more of an event. Also always a plus the large cups & large popcorns were themed for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, something that was left out for Beauty & the Beast's Event. Yours truly even nabbed a prize in a comic book Guardians of the Galaxy themed trivia contest during the intermission between Vol 1 & Vol 2. An answer one letter shy of my own name, J'son, won me a choice of T-shirt or Soundtrack. (Of course I went with the Soundtrack) The most impressive thing though, as with the last event we attended, was the fans. You can feel the electricity in the air & it's like everyone knows they're amongst friends almost. It's an awesome experience. Now the movies at hand:  

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1

The first time I saw this movie I fell in love with it. Every single part of it. It not only jumped to be one of my top 5 Marvel films, it became one of my favorite Sci-fi films as well. (Right under Star Wars of course, probably over the prequels though.) First of all, James Gunn is the true star of this movie.  He having written & directed, this movie is like a "sandbox" video game is has everything in it. Drama, Comedy, Sci-fi, Action/Adventure. Hell, there's so much great music you could probably almost call it a musical too. You would think that would be too much to be crammed into one film, but it's blended together perfectly. Then, there's the cast. If someone was ever born to play a part, Chris Pratt was born to play Star Lord. Star Lord is the human-born taking the part of leader for this group of miscreants. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, one of Avengers behind-the-curtains baddie Thanos's daughters. Vin Diesel finds as many ways as possible to emote the words "I am Groot" as the giant one-phrased tree creature Groot, & Bradley Cooper doesn't "call in" his amazingly entertaining voiceover as Rocket Racoon. Dave Bautista was the wildcard coming in for me though. Being a wrestler turned actor doesn't have a successful track record despite The Rock. However, he was used to perfection in this, & gave a very entertaining performance. Lee Pace's Ronan the Accuser, though he could have used a littlemore backstory, was one of the more successfully pulled off villains in the Marvel universe as really coming off menacing. He was also convinced he was doing something he was supposed to be doing, which always tops your I'm in it for money, power, or destruction type villains. There were many characters introduced as well.  There's a pirate like character that took in Star Lord as a boy when his mom died Yondu (Michael Rooker), Gamora's ready to kill her sister sibling Nebula (Karen Gillan), Korath (Djimon Hounsou) ally of Ronan, Nova corps member Rhoman Day (John C. Reilly), Nova Prime (Glenn Close) & collector of all things in the galaxy rare, The Collector (Benicio Del Toro). I've heard older people say that this is how they felt when they came out of Star Wars for the first time, & that totally makes since I've never seen anything quite like this. The ending point was a little lack-luster, but those have been just been hit or miss thus far in the Marvel universe. I would suggest this movie to anyone & be very surprised if they did not enjoy it. I just have to add as well though, that the use of 3D in this movie is amazing. I love 3D, I even have a 3D television. I'm not in it for the things popping out of the screen though, I'm in it for the depth it adds. Almost like looking through a giant window. Now for those who have not seen the first, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1, the following will most likely have Spoilers due to it being about the sequel.

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Let me start this off with this is how this movie is supposed to be seen, directly after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1. These movies flow together seamlessly, even closing off plot points introduced in the first such as the identity of Star Lord's father, the sisterly feud of Gamora & Nebula, & the evolution of the newest addition to the cutest character ever created club, Baby Groot. This movie seemed to never take itself seriously as I'm not quite sure I've laughed out loud that much in a theater in a long time. Yet, in it's few somber moments it would immediately shift & bring you to tears. James Gunn is back to write & direct (hopefully forever), as well as the main team plus Yondu. Kurt Russell joins the fray as Star Lord's father along with the empathic Mantis (Pom Kementieff). Additional appearances include Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), Taserface (Chris Sullivan), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), & Stakar Ogord ( Sylvester Stallone) along with a slew of surprises. This movie definitely holds its own with it's predecessor, as I enjoyed every second of it. The developing relationships between the characters are phenomenal. We get a lot more Rocket Raccoon this time too. Which is awesome as he's one of my favorite parts of the first. Then there's the "unspoken thing" between Star Lord & Gamora on it's way to becoming bigger than Sam & Diane from Cheers fame. The soundtrack was on point as well, like most of the movie feeling like a natural transgression from the first. They even nailed the ending, along with so many after credit scenes I lost count. I couldn't have asked for more from this film & Vol. 3 couldn't arrive fast enough. Definitely go see this movie in the theater while it is in 3D. It is worth it, transport yourself to another galaxy.

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Disneynature's Born In China Movie Review

This is my first Disneynature experience in a theater. In, fact If I'm being truly honest I want to say the only other one I've ever seen is Disneynature's Oceans. After this I know what I will be doing every Earth Day from now on though. This was incredible. I feel like I just took a trip to see a China that I never knew existed. Not the giant cities that we're use to seeing, or the Great Wall either. Instead, I just spent the last 1 hr. & 16 min. surrounded by the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen. Forgive me if I wind up over-using the word beautiful in this review, but that's the only way to describe this film & do it justice. I've never seen clarity like this. There were times I felt like I could jump right through the screen, & feel the animals' fur. I was so amazed there were times I couldn't help but wonder how this feat was accomplished at all. Which I got a glimpse into during the credits. Just that small look made this feat look even more overwhelming. They give us a very intimate look into the family lives & struggles of three families. An adorable panda family that further cements the notion in my mind that pandas are possibly the cutest animals on the planet. Then, a family of golden monkeys. Or more particularly, the family life of a certain mischievous little growing monkey finding his place in life. Finally, probably one of the most stunning creatures I've ever seen, a snow leopard trying to provide for her two cubs. These animals stories were very intriguing, much to my surprise. The picture was so clear & precise you could really get a sense of emotion from these animals. Which helped the rather entertaining narration provided by John Krasinski (The Office, 13 Hours). Director Lu Chuan, usually known in China for more action based material, seemed right at home in a genre far outside all the action he's used to. Overall, I was very impressed. This was a very enjoyable film, that is definitely best enjoyed on a big screen. If you want to not only see, but also be entertained by some cute creatures in one of the most beautiful environments I've ever seen on film, this is for you. Go see it by Sunday though. As long as you see it on opening weekend, you're actually helping pandas & snow leopards. Entertainment & a good cause. So that's my thoughts on Born In China. Let us know what you thought & like & share. TTFN. See ya real soon.

Beauty & the Beast (2017) Movie Review w/ "Be Our Guest Fan Event"

Just got out of the Beauty & the Beast "Be our Guest Fan Event" first release of the brand new live action movie. I had never been to a "Fan Event" so I wasn't sure what to expect except an inflated ticket price. However, it was worth it just to feel the energy in the room as the rest of the audience sat & chattered about all things Disney in anticipation. For that matter, my little girl was not the only person to come in full costume.

 

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I was a little let down that the AMC Imax we went to didn't have themed cups or popcorn buckets. Along with the fact that our particular theatre wasn't showing the fan event in 3D. It did provide a few attendee only items though. In the form of a lanyard style event pass with the date & a fold up cube style Beast. The lanyard was a nice touch as it felt as a sort of backstage pass. While the Beast cube figure was....  Well, a Beast cube figure. There were also two scenes that played before the movie. These two were only for the event. We got the Ariana Grande - John Legend video for their version of "Beauty & the Beast". Which I could've done without. Then we got a nice little behind the scenes with the composers that was actually a real treat. You could really see the passion they had for wanting to make this one bigger than what was already perfect. 

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Now to the review of the actual movie. I had a few worries going in from the previews. First, was Emma Watson's ability to sing. I had noticed in the previews the songs had been altered to suit that she couldn't belt it out like her predecessor. Second, the CGI designs.  I wasn't fond of the first images of the various furniture, it seemed basic & lacking life. I was also concerned with the ability to pull off the Beast for the whole duration. Lastly, was the music in general. The more I had watched the previews I was starting to think this cast would have made a better non-musical film.

All of those worries have been put to rest. First of all, I must say I was very wrong about the non-musical. The old songs felt as new as they could considering you've heard the perfect versions already. While the new song additions had all the passion of the originals, even if they weren't as memorable. Emma Watson sang, & though it wasn't Paige O'Hara level, it was quite good & took nothing away from this fantastic retelling. The CGI is also not perfect, there are a few times you can notice the Beast is animated. However, they are few & far between when you take into consideration how long he is present throughout. These being the only the only actual negatives they were easy to look past.

On the upside, in the most curious casting decision for me by far, Luke Evans shined as Gaston. Emma Watson made you fall in love with Belle all over again. To Dan Stevens & all the creators involved with bringing the Beast to life, I must commend them on their near perfect quality. Not quite on the level of Jungle Book's CGI, but very impressive nonetheless for an emotional leading role. Most of all, the all-star supporting cast was amazing from the believable cadre of furniture, to Belle's father, to LeFou all contributed to making this bigger & more magical than its animated version.

Overall, that's the best thing I can say about this movie. The fact that they set out to make it bigger & better, & they actually achieved that. They managed to top a story that had already been told to perfection. I must give this movie a 10 out of 10 just due to that fact. We're now 3 for 4 on these live-action Disney remakes in my book, & if they keep up like this count me onboard for the ride. Disney really made this one a tale as old as time.