film review

Dazzling, vibrant fun with a classy set list

Drax jumps right in.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the highly anticipated follow-up to the surprise superhero blockbuster from Marvel Studios, opens with a credit sequence set to Baby Groot dancing around a space station platform while the rest of the gang fight an intergalactic squid monster. Of course, Baby Groot is dancing to the late ’70s jolly tune “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. If that isn’t a welcome return to the colorful, soundtrack-propelled, fun tone of the Guardians franchise, then I don’t know what is. From the first moments to the very end of the closing credits, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a fun ride with all the elements that made the first such a glowing success, and, even if it doesn’t feel quite as fresh and employs a few unorthodox plot maneuvers, it still delivers a ton of laughs and top notch visuals. 

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A lovely night with Williams’s score, Ford’s performance, iconic scenes… there are no bad dates here!

Face melting, Nazi punching fun!

Raiders of the Lost Ark is the quintessential action-adventure film. One could confidently claim that it is the greatest action-adventure film of all time! There is nothing about Steven Spielberg’s 1981 classic that isn’t famous — the giant boulder, the snakes, the hat & whip, every single line of dialogue, Marion’s alcohol tolerance, the airfield fist fight, the melting faces, poisoned dates, and so on. Yet, one component of the film is arguably more iconic than all the rest: John Williams’s score. The awe-inspiring, galloping main theme that nearly all humans can identify is a benchmark against which all other adventure film music is compared, and it is the basis for which this amazing night at the San Francisco Symphony exists!

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Even with a few stumbles, this is an ultimately fun return of a classic franchise.

Saban's new Power Rangers

Saban’s new Power Rangers

Remaking a story like that of Power Rangers requires a great deal of care on two fronts. On the one hand, preserving the world, the characters, and the essential plotlines, is important in order to make the new film appeal in the first place (brand new characters, names, etc., simply wouldn’t fly), but also requires being modernized to fit the sheen and shine of big-budget motion pictures. However, there’s also the concern of keeping a lot of the original charm — which isn’t without its strong sense of extreme camp and over-the-top flashiness — and not having that clash strongly with a modern sense of acting and drama. Thankfully, Lionsgate’s new attempt at rebooting the Power Rangers franchise is ultimately a very fun effort, despite its occasional awkward moments that stumble slightly before the big, explosive finishes arrive. [read the whole post]

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Still magical. Yet, there’s something there that wasn’t there before, and that something is meh.

Belle and Beast dance the night away.

If you’ve seen the 1991 Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast as much as I have, you’re probably just as nervously excited for the live-action version as I was. The 1991 film was the first animated feature to ever be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar Award, and for good reason: it was smart, magical, romantic, and broke down animation barriers. The new live action version had to stay true to these things, while simultaneously amping up the drama, the romance, and the magic, and still embracing its classic songs (“Bonjour”, “Be Our Guest”, “Beauty and the Beast”, etc.). For a while, it was scarily unclear if the new version would be a musical at all. Once announced it would be, however, the producers needed to cast actors who could sing, and employ special effects that didn’t ruin the fun-loving side characters like Lumiere, Cogsworth, and, of course, the central character of the Beast. While the new songs and expanded character backstories are jarring and uninspired, the majority of the new Beauty and the Beast is still full of magic and romance, and does the original and Disney source material proud. The film also marks a pivotal point in Disney’s aspiration to have one of the industry’s most inclusive, and ethnically and racially diverse, modern film portfolios.

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Film Review: Logan

by Chad Liffmann on March 3, 2017

Dark and gritty and a proper sendoff for Jackman and Stewart.

Jackman is jacked up one last time…for now.

Logan will be Hugh Jackman’s ninth (and final) appearance as the comic hero, Wolverine. Nine. Films. <<pause for effect>> In. Seventeen. YearsThat’s two more movies than either Sean Connery or Roger Moore played James Bond. That’s two more than there are live action Star Wars movies, and one more than in the Fast and the Furious franchise. You know which movie won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2000 when Jackman first starred as Wolverine in X-Men? American Beauty won! Feel old yet? Yeah, me too. First, let’s give Mr. Jackman a round of applause. <<applause>> Next, let’s begin to consider Jackman for a potential Best Actor nomination come next Oscar season, as his performance in Logan transcends the casual superhero action movie performance — it is staggering, transformative, emotional and tragic. Finally, let’s admire Logan for the amazing piece of storytelling, acting, and cinema that it is. Logan is not only the darkest and grittiest X-Men movie to date, it’s also one of the most dramatic and near-perfect superhero movies, ever.

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A perfectly crafted, poignant charmer.

Zucchini looks to the sky.

My Life as a Zucchini is one of the most wonderful films of the year, which has resulted in its much deserved Oscar nomination this year for Best Animated Film. Zucchini is a stop motion animated feature from France and Switzerland about a nine year-old boy, Courgette (which is French for zucchini), who loses his mother and father and is taken to a foster home where a handful of other orphans reside. The brisk 70 minute film follows Courgette as he befriends the kindhearted policeman who takes him to the foster home, and then learns to love and trust the other foster children in similarly unfortunate situations. The animation is colorful and simple, yet each shot is overflowing with heart. My Life as a Zucchini is not meant for very young audiences — the subject matter may be beyond a young child’s understanding and there are some bits of nudity and substance abuse. And yet, I recommend audiences of nearly all ages see My Life as a Zucchini because it beautifully tackles how all people, including children and adults, can rise above their surface-level differences to love each other, even in the face of tragedies that affect their lives in unexpected ways.

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Film Review: The Great Wall

February 17, 2017
www.youtube.com/watch?v=avF6GHyyk5c

White male hero leads dumpster fire movie to a forgettable fate. I chose the above picture for very specific reasons. I could’ve chosen a more beautiful shot of a heroic looking Matt Damon atop The Great Wall of China. But no, I preferred this one for the way it captures the feeling one has while watching The Great […]

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Film Review: Fifty Shades Darker

February 10, 2017
youtu.be/vnLqJLeTMVU

Fifty Shades Darker: A movie for people who like their boyfriends to be creepy stalkers I’m not crazy; I think you already know if you want to watch Fifty Shades Darker, and I would be surprised if anything I could say would change your mind. However, I’m sure there are some people who are just […]

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Film Review: John Wick: Chapter Two

February 10, 2017
www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGk2EfbD_Ps

John Wick proves once again that style can be substantive In 2014, John Wick combined a Taken-esque simplistic revenge tale with the unrelenting action of Korean and Indonesian action films like The Raid and doused it in stylized modernity. Directed by first-timer Chad Stahelski, who was the stunt coordinator and choreographer for dozens of action titles including multiple Keanu Reeves films like The Matrix […]

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Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

February 9, 2017
www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGQUKzSDhrg

BLAP! ZLOTT! KAPOW! LEGO Batman punches its way to be one of the most entertaining DC movies yet Fresh off the disappointing start to the expanded DC cinematic universe with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, in swings The LEGO Batman Movie, a refreshingly funny meta action flick. Will Arnett reprises his vocal role as the caped crusader, his second feature film […]

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