Benz Eye View: 12 Strong

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12 Strong

Pros: 

1.) The movie shows that the soldiers have so much camaraderie with each other.  That is to be expected in military movies like this, but it is still nice to see that these characters tease each other at times, and still see each other as great friends and comrades despite being in a middle of a terrorist area.  It humanizes them at certain scenes, and it is nice to see that.

2.) Out of all the characters in the movie, the one that stands out (other than Chris Hemsworth’s character) is Abdul Rashid Dostum.  There is a more personal reason for this character to be involved in the events of the movie over any of the other characters (which is that they want to protect their country and loved ones after the events of 9/11).  Also, the actor playing him did a pretty good stand-out performance…

 

Cons: 

1.) …Which it is unfortunate that the rest of the characters do not stand out.  While I mentioned that they have great camaraderie, and the actors do give it their all, that does not mean that their character makes them stand out.  If you have seen any war dramas or thrillers, you have pretty much seen similar characters like the ones in this movie.  At best, three to four of these characters have some interesting distinction, but nothing much else.

2.) The pacing has some issues in the first two acts.  It takes its sweet time for any action moments to happen, and everything else in between ranges from decent to archetypal.  Many of it is exposition, some of it is traveling from point A to point B, and the rest is just characters standing around and waiting.  Not exactly thrilling, just slightly boring.

3.) By the time the action starts, for some reason, even that feels underwhelming.  I cannot put my finger why.  It is probably because it is typical; good on its execution, but it will not amaze you.  It is just shoot some people, take cover, and shoot some more.  If you have seen many war movies, you will not exactly be surprised about the action of this movie.

 

Overall: 

In all honesty, I do not really have much to say about this movie.  It is a decent war drama movie about the first twelve soldiers that fought back at the terrorists after 9/11.  I am not sure which of the events are true or not, but due to how the movie was delivered, it did not really help me much to care nor will it stand out for everyone, especially fans of war movies.  If you are in a mood for a war drama movie, this will do just fine, but I can certainly think of better one on top of my head…cough Lone Survivor cough

6/10

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Benz Eye View: The Commuter

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The Commuter

Pros: 

1.) While there are not that many, there is one action sequence I found to be pretty cool.  It is all done in one shot, fought in closed spaces (although the visuals look kind of hazy as a result, especially with the CG and green screen), and sound effects make each blow painful.  It is easily the one action scene that stands out over the rest in this movie.

2.) I like the concept of the movie: an action thriller taking place in a train, and one person has to find someone that does not belong in the train, or his family suffers.  I like the idea, although it does sound awfully familiar to another Liam Neeson movie.

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And it is directed by the same man, too.  

Good idea, but the execution on the other hand…I will get to that in the cons.

3.) The third act I found to be the most exciting out of the rest of the movie.  There are some thrills, a couple of cool (if a little bit over-the-top) action scenes, some of the mystery gets slightly interesting, and some good payoffs for a few of the side characters…

 

Cons: 

1.) …The reason I said that the third act is exciting is because the rest of the movie is dull.  The movie is so grounded in reality that it makes it boring.  The writing does not really help since the characters are not really that compelling nor interesting even if the actors did a decent job, and many scenes pretty much consist of the following: finding the person who may be what they be looking for, accuse a passenger, get it wrong, rinse and repeat until the third act.  Not exactly the greatest screenplay in the world, but at least it is not the worst.

2.) Even the mystery itself gets boring.  At first, it seemed to have an interesting start, but as soon as it gets to the status quo from what I mentioned in the previous con, I barely started to care for it.  Combined with an uninteresting main character and barely a sense of urgency despite trying that a few times, and this mystery thriller lacks any thrills so to speak.

3.) Apparently, there is an integral side story that is very briefly mentioned/shown in the movie that if you miss it, you will end up getting confused by the third act.  I did slightly remember seeing when I watched it, but I was loss for a while when they brought it up again by the time the third act started.  It would probably help if this important plot point gets brought up once in a while throughout the movie, otherwise some audience members will be confused on what is happening.

 

Overall: 

Have you seen any latest movies starring Liam Neeson recently?  Have you seen Non-Stop or Run All Night?  Then you are not missing much if you are going to watch this movie.  In fact, I describe this movie to be Non-Stop except it is on a train.  There is nothing really special about this movie if you have seen any of Liam Neeson’s movies before.  It is dull, boring, and repetitive with few things holding on its own.  If you really do not have anything to watch in the theaters, maybe this movie will do for you, but I suggest you lower those expectations, and wait for the few good scenes that await in the movie.  Otherwise, it will be a long train ride for you.

4/10

Benz Eye View: Darkest Hour

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Darkest Hour

Pros: 

1.) You know you are seeing a fantastic actor if they can play a character so well that the audience does not see the actor, but the character instead.  While every actor in this film deserves praise, the stand-out performance is definitely Gary Oldman as Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  He plays the character as much as Daniel Day-Lewis plays Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln.  I would not be surprised if he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor (although there is a possibility that he might not considering the state of the Academy Awards these days).

2.) This film has some incredible writing at work here.  I like how Winston Churchill is not really beloved by many due to his personality and hard-will attitude to the point that many believe he is a bully, because he wants to take down Hitler, but others want to appease him to avoid the destruction of the United Kingdom.  He becomes one of the greatest leaders of our time, but even he has flaws that he needs to overcome.  Despite the situation being hopeless, he does not give up despite protests from some of his own comrades.  Great motivations for both the protagonist and the antagonists, well-written story as a whole, and an amazing conflict for the protagonist to go through.  I am not sure if every single event is true or not, but it is still a great film nonetheless.

3.) I also like to give credit to the amazing production of this film.  The makeup for Gary Oldman makes him look like the actual Winston Churchill (unless he actually made himself fat to get the role), the lighting makes interesting symbolic images that relate to the conflict at hand, the costume and set designs complement each other while fitting in the 1940 timeline in the United Kingdom, and so much more.  They certainly want to perfect the production in this film, and they succeeded.

 

Cons: 

1.) This is a dialogue-heavy film, so if you expect some action, do not expect much since there is very little of it.  In fact, many of the events that they talk about are only mentioned in dialogue and never shown.  Its main focus is on Winston Churchill, so that is understandable, but it is a fair warning for those who are curious on what this film is and what it contains.

 

Overall: 

Not to be confused with another movie in 2011 with a similar title called The Darkest Hour, Darkest Hour is based on a true story about Winston Churchill’s first days as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and his journey in convincing Parliament to continue fighting against Hitler despite the odds.  I would like to say that this is a great start for 2018 films in the US in January (though it was released earlier in a few areas), because this is one of the best films I have ever seen.  I can find very little flaws in this film (unless if someone tells me that there are numerous areas in the film that are actually not true to the actual events).  Great acting (especially from Gary Oldman), fantastic writing, amazing production value, and so many more that I possibly did not notice.  If you want an uplifting film about not surrendering despite many others wanting to, this is a film that is perfect for you.

10/10

It also helps if you consider this a prequel to Dunkirk, making the film experience so much better.

Benz Eye View: The Disaster Artist

 

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The Disaster Artist

Pros: 

1.) I believe that this is the first film that the Franco brothers are finally in, and they work so well together.  These two work so well together that you would never think of these two as brothers, but as different people with wildly different personalities.  When those personalities clash, these actors can show off their skills like they did in any of their films, except to the best of their abilities.  I am surprised that they are not in any films together until this one, because they would make a great acting duo.

2.) The film likes to make fun of the creation of The Room and certain aspects about Tommy Wiseau, but it respects them at the same time.  It shows how much he wants to achieve his dream in creating his film, and how far he can go to get that dream to the point where they even question how he got the money for it, which he does not answer (in fact, he does not answer many things about himself like where he actually comes from).  He may not be really good at it, but he is one of those people where you admire that determination even he does not know how to pull it off.  This will probably inspire people who want to get involved into filmmaking or any other subjects (just do not pull it off like he did unless if it is on purpose).

3.) I like how they use the cinematography to make the film look like a documentary.  It makes the film look like the behind-the-scenes footage of the making of The Room.  It becomes more interesting as a result, and any fans of the movie will enjoy how it is delivered that way.  In fact, the film starts with interviews from a few acting and directing celebrities talking about The Room, reinforcing the documentary-feel of the film.

 

 

Cons: 

1.) There are a few scenes in the film I found to be questionable.  I will save you from the spoilers since I want you to figure it out yourself (especially fans of The Room), but since this is based on a true story, I found a few scenes kind of hard to believe.  It feels like some typical Hollywood or writing scenes to keep the film interesting, which it is fine, but it seems to stand out over the realism that the film was delivering.  I cannot be sure if those scenes are real or not, but it does not seem like it to me.

2.) The events in-between the meeting between Tommy and Greg, and the creation of The Room is not really interesting.  I do like how the two characters interact with each other, and it is necessary on to know certain parts of their lives, but it did slow down the film a bit.  I am more interested on how they created the movie than their daily lives, and it fortunately does lead to that pretty quickly, but unless if you are that interested in Tommy and Greg’s lives, the film will temporarily slow down for you.

 

Overall: 

The Room.  For those who have never heard of this movie, it is about…something involving a “man” named Johnny (played by Tommy Wiseau) wanting to take care of his fiancé (or in the movie’s case, his future wife since he says that instead of fiancé) named Lisa, but she cheats on him with Johnny’s best friend named Mark (played by Greg Sestero)…and several plot points that is mentioned or shown that is never brought up again happened.  That movie is considered to be one of the best worst movies ever made.  I first heard of it via a review by the Nostalgia Critic (which is one of his best episodes).  Years later, I finally had the chance to watch and judge it myself…and it is SO bad.  I would give that movie a 1/10, but it is one of those movies you have to see to believe in order to understand how enjoyably bad it is.

 

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Bet you want to watch it now, huh?

 

Now, there is a film about the creation of The Room as well as the relationship between Tommy Wiseau (the director, the producer, the writer, and the star of the movie) and Greg Sestero (one of the other stars of the movie).  Took me a while to get to it, but I finally watched it…and I love it.  It is not necessary for you to watch The Room to enjoy this film, but I do recommend watching it to get some of the full impact of events during this film.  For casual viewers, you cannot help but admire a man who wants to achieve his dream despite his lack of knowledge.  For fans, it is a worthy tribute to a man who has created the best worst movie ever made.

9/10

Benz Eye View: The Greatest Showman

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The Greatest Showman

Pros: 

1.) If there is one performance that requires a huge amount of credit, it is the great Hugh Jackman.  Since he was originally a Broadway actor (watch 2012’s Les Misérables for another great musical performance), he knows how to sing and dance.  Besides that, he definitely pulls out so much charm through playing a character who is optimistic and happy despite starting from nowhere and ending from somewhere.  He knows how to perform a happy character as a oppose to an enraging character (I do not think that Wolverine is going to fit very well here).

2.) Despite barely seeing some of them, the freaks actually look good.  A few them of them get more attention than others, but I like how the makeup artists make them stand out due to usual difference of appearances (i.e. the bearded lady, the short guy, etc.), although certain actors are doing fine on their own.  Their appearances are the reason why the circus is born.

3.) The songs and dances are amazing and well-coordinated.  You can tell that each of these performing numbers have energy and coordination that matches any Broadway performance.  Not only can these people sing, but they can move like their lives are depending on it (especially considering that many of dance coordination are from circus performances).  It does seem to be the moment that we have been waiting for…

 

Cons: 

1.) …Although, I felt that the execution of these song and dance numbers leave much to be desired.  I can tell that there is so much to look at in these performances, but since this is a movie, there are only so many shots and cuts that limits on how we see them.  To me, it seems like the medium is wrong; it should have been a Broadway musical instead of a movie.  That way, the impact on seeing these numbers would have been stronger.

2.) While the plot is slightly well-executed, it is pretty predictable.  You have a character who dreams of something big, he gets it, and gets slightly overconfident with his dreams.  What do you think is going to happen to him next?  A man who does not really care about any of the circus performances, but decides to join for money until he meets and falls in love with one of those circus performers.  What do you think is going to happen to those two?  Also, when they reach to the part when the characters are down to their lowest points, it is slightly easily resolved.  It is an entertaining movie, but a slightly predictable one at that, especially if you have seen movies similar to this before.

3.) While it is not used that often, the green screen and CG effects are pathetically noticeable.  It kind of disappoints me, because there are some really good practical effects (maybe a few of them are CG done well) that could have implemented with those green screen and CG effects.  They are so good, I wondered how they managed to do that.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing with the other effects, and I wish they did not stand out so much.

 

Overall: 

Based on the creation of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, The Greatest Showman has all the makings of a great show: the songs, the dances, and the performers.  They even got the lyricists for La La Land, a great film in its own right, to make these songs.  However, there are some things that are left to be desired.  It is not a bad movie, but it is a movie that I have seen before.  It may have some great songs, dance coordination, and acting performances, but it does not mean that it automatically makes a fantastic movie.  There are some flaws in this circus of a movie, but if you do not mind of any of it at all, you will enjoy it just fine.  It is that there are better movies with the same plot line and story, so maybe you should watch an actual circus performance instead.

6/10

Also, Happy New Year, everybody!

Benz Eye View: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Pros: 

1.) The main cast of this film works well together.  As avatars of the main characters, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan have great chemistry with each other, making it believable that they work as a team despite having major flaws in their characters (especially Bethany considering that she is stuck in a man’s body).  The only exception is Nick Jonas since he is the worst actor out of all of them (especially when he has to act out a few dramatic moments and he cannot do it).

2.) There are some decent character arcs throughout the film.  A couple of them are generic and predictable (i.e. Spencer and Fridge’s relationship), but they are delivered well enough that these characters end up learning some great lessons after the events of the film (i.e. Bethany spends so much time on her phone, so you can guess what she is going to learn in the film).

3.) The comedy works here despite a difference in tone compared to the original Jumanji.  While it is helped by the chemistry of the main cast, there are some legitimate laugh-out-loud moments that will satisfy anyone that is looking for a good laugh…

 

Cons: 

1.) …That being said, comedy is subjective, and it may depend on you if you like this type of comedy or not.  For example, if you are not a fan of Kevin Hart’s comedic routine, you are going to get annoyed throughout the entire film.  There are areas of comedy that I did not really laugh as much, but the audience did, so it is up to you if you really enjoy it (which I am sure you can tell what type of comedy it is with its trailers and ads).

2.) If you are not familiar with video game mechanics and logic, this film may annoy you a bit.  In fact, it may still annoy you even if you are a gamer considering that the video game world of Jumanji does not exactly follow a logical pattern other than for the main characters.  It will take a while to get use to, but over time, you will understand the ways of the video game world, especially if you are a gamer.

3.) There are plenty of times that the film halts for a while for character development, comedic moments, or exposition.  While I can see that a few of those moments or scenes are necessary, I wish it was delivered better that it did not seem that it was slowing the film down.  I suggest trimming down or remove some of those scenes (or in a few cases, develop it more in the first act), and then the film will have a flowing pace.

 

Overall: 

I grew up watching the original Jumanji (1995) with Robin Williams so many times and even read the original book at times when I was young.  When I heard they were making a stand-alone sequel to the original film, I was skeptical especially after watching the trailer.  I can tell you with confidence that the film is quite fun.  It may not have the emotional and dramatic tone and impact as the original, but it does its own thing by becoming adventurous, fun, and comedic.  The film does have its flaws like there are a couple of plot holes and the villain is forgettable (although I argue that the whole game itself is the antagonist), but it does its own thing while capturing the spirit of the original Jumanji.  If you enjoy the 1995 film, you will like the sequel just fine, and even people do not have to see the original in order to appreciate this film.  If you wanted a fun time during Christmas (assuming if you have seen it at that time) or New Years, then welcome to the jungle that is this film.

7/10

Benz Eye View: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

It is time for another Star Wars film in the Sequel Trilogy.  Will it outdo its previous installment?  Only one way to find out…

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Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Pros: 

1.) If there is one thing I did enjoy in the last film, it was the characters, and they are still great in this installment.  Rey has a better emotional conflict compared to the last film, Finn wants to be of use in helping the Resistance, Poe has a bigger role of protecting others instead of trying to deliver the plans of Starkiller Base, returning characters (i.e. Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa) have a huge role to fill, and even new characters (i.e. Rose and Holdo) have something interesting to put in the film.  All of these characters are interesting in their own ways, and they are all fully-realized.

2.) Many argue that The Force Awakens is too similar to A New Hope.  While The Last Jedi does have elements of The Empire Strikes Back, it does have a concise story (almost, but I will get to that in a moment).  All of these characters I mentioned have their own conflict (I would be specific on what they are, but I believe it is best for you to watch it yourself to see what they are) that clashes with other characters like Rey and Luke’s conflicts.  It all leads up to the awesome third act that will give every Star Wars fan a chill in their spines.

3.) This is Star Wars.  Of course the production and post-production values are great.  The costumes, the special effects, the environments, the set designs, the lighting, etc. are fantastic.  I would say more, but I think you will get the idea when you see the film.

 

Cons: 

1.) If I have to nitpick what I have noticed in the film, I feel like the first half of it slightly dragged a bit.  There are moments where I felt that some areas were confusing, but I did manage to catch up over time (there are a couple of exceptions, but I will not get into specifics).  Still, despite having a well-written story, there are arguably a little too many sub-plots that take over the film.  It is paced well enough to follow all of it, but some get more time than others, and I argue that a few scenes are not really needed (unless if they are foreshadowing Episode IX).  In fact, one sub-plot that is probably the worst out of all of them is Finn and Rose’s subplot.  It is unfortunately necessary, because it is needed to progress the main plot, but maybe a few rewrites then that subplot could have been better.

2.) There are a couple of characters that I initially thought were a big deal when they were introduced, but the film disappoints me when it is revealed that they are not.  Once again, I will not spoil it for those who desperately want to watch the film, but when you do see it, I think you will know who they are.

3.) Another disappointing thing to bring up (but will not spoil) is that certain questions that were brought up after The Force Awakens.  A couple of those questions are answered, but are not fulfilling.  Maybe some of it will expand in Episode IX, but…well, we will just have to wait and see.

Side-Con.) This side-con does contain slight spoilers, so avoid it if you do not want to see it.  I will be vague on this slight spoiler if you are really curious, but I suggest you watch the film in order to understand what I am talking about.  (SLIGHT SPOILERS)  What they did to Luke Skywalker in this film disappoints me personally.  I am a huge fan of Star Wars, and they reduced him into this?  It makes me wish that the original Expanded Universe is still canon.  In terms of the film itself, it actually gives some depth to the character, but I really do not like how a great character that we have known since his inception has been reduced to what he is now in the Sequel Trilogy instead of what I like about him in the original Expanded Universe.  I am willing to not let it affect the score, but it still bothers me to no end.  (END SLIGHT SPOILERS)

 

Overall: 

On December 15, 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released into theaters.  The Force Awakens was a huge success (especially compared to The Phantom Menace) despite many similarities to A New Hope.  Now that J.J. Abrams has stepped down from directing Star Wars (until Episode IX), it is now up to Rian Johnson (who directed Looper) to direct this new installment of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy.  Apparently, his producers thought he did such a great job that the idea of a new Star Wars Trilogy outside of the Skywalker plot circle that he pitched and was approved.  Does The Last Jedi prove not only to be great, but also allow for Rian Johnson to create his new Star Wars Trilogy?  Short answer: yes, and better than The Force Awakens, but just barely.  I admit that the only reason why I liked The Force Awakens is the nostalgia factor, and now that I watched it multiple times and looked closely, it should have gotten an 8/10.  However, The Last Jedi improved many of the flaws from the previous installment (though they did add some new ones) while making its own film that is set in the Star Wars Universe.  I agree with many people that this is currently the best Star Wars film in the Sequel Trilogy, and now let us see how Episode IX will hold up (as well as Johnson’s new trilogy).  Any Star Wars fan will be happy to see that the Force is strong with this one.  However, there are things that I have noticed that tick off some of the fans, so I suggest watching it with low expectations.

8/10

I did watch it in 3D, and there is very little point of having it on, so watch it on 2D if you wish.

Before I close this review and Star Wars Marathon off, I just want to say that it is unfortunate that Carrie Fisher (the actress who played Leia Organa) passed away a week after Rogue One.  It is sad that she is gone, and I have heard that she was a great and wonderful woman.  Here is a video that was shown in the D23 Expo that is a tribute to Carrie Fisher.  May the Force be with her, and rest in peace.