Benz Eye View: The Fate of the Furious

The_Fate_of_The_Furious_Theatrical_Poster
The Fate of the Furious

Pros: 

1.) Since this the eighth movies in the series, I expected that the character chemistry to be strong in this, and I was correct.  I can buy that these characters have known each for years (especially since many of the actors have worked on the series for years), and it is shown throughout their many interactions.  Even characters who were introduced in the last movie interact with the old characters as though they were friends for a while.

2.) When it comes to this series, it always involves cars, and the car action scenes are thrilling.  With some pretty good editing, the car sequences can be heart-pounding and exciting (the best part is the New York car sequence).  The physical fight scenes are fine, but the car scenes are where this movie excels in.

 

Cons: 

1.) I was hoping this would not happen as a non-Fast and the Furious fan, but there are many references from the past movies.  A few of them I am guessing are from the past movies, but if they are not, it makes those moments nonsensical and confusing.  In many cases, these references end up becoming deus ex machinas despite them being foreshadowed.

2.) I did expect many turn-off-your-brain moments, but there are some I just cannot suspense my disbelief.  You will know them when you see it, and you may end up thinking exactly what I was thinking when I first saw them.  It may bother you, or it may not.  Either way, it is too much for me.

3.) I kind of knew what was going to happen as soon as Charlize Theron’s character, Cipher first appeared into the movie.  Many moments are kind of predictable due to the movie’s direction and writing, and certain moments that are built up do not work that well.  One thing that does bother me is that Jason Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw (the villain from Furious 7) gets along with the main characters a bit too quickly.  They were enemies in the last movie, so I do not buy that they get along that quickly.

 

Overall: 

The Fast and the Furious series has surely changed over the years.  It started as a movie series about illegal car races, and it is now a high-octane action movie series featuring cars.  I am the last in the bandwagon when it comes to these movies, so I started with Furious 7 back in 2015, and I thought it is a fun turn-off-your-brain movie.  I can say the same thing when it comes with this movie, just not as fun.  There are many faults that I cannot ignore when compared with last movie I watched years ago.  I believe newcomers will not have much as fun as the people who know these characters ever since the series started.  However, if you do want a turn-off-your-brain movie, this is a heart-pounding roller coaster of a movie.

6/10

Benz Eye View: Your Name

Your_Name_poster
Your Name

Pros: 

1.) You remember Groundhog Day, and how it sets up their own set of rules on what happened throughout the entire film?  This film does the same thing, and while it takes time to understand what is going on, it gives out a fun and hilarious time with the two main leads (Their initial reactions of the body-switching alone are funny enough).

2.) The writing has no flaws that I can find throughout the entire film (except for a couple that I shall not spoil).  The film has two main leads who have their own set of problems, and they end up helping and falling in love with each other in the process.  It reminds me of Freaky Friday, except it is much better conceived, and it has a stronger emotional connection.

3.) This film’s 2-D animation is very beautiful and drawn so well, it makes me nostalgia over many of the old 2-D animated films (i.e. old Disney films).  The environments look life-like and the characters appear natural, especially without the exaggerated anime facial expressions.  I miss these types of animations considering the huge amount of 3-D animations we have been receiving throughout the recent years…

 

Cons: 

1.) …Speaking of 3-D animations, there are some of them in the film, and they stick out pretty badly.  It is not bad enough where it completely ruins the immersion of the film, but it is noticeable enough that anyone who has decent knowledge of animation would know how it looks.  Integrating 2-D and 3-D always looks off, and this film will not change that perspective.

2.) Here is one thing you should keep in mind when it comes to Japanese cinema: their filmmaking is much different when compared to American filmmaking.  One example is that they spend more time explaining stuff rather than showing it, and in some cases, that is not even enough.  If you are not a fan of that type of storytelling, you might not completely get what is truly happening in this film without paying close attention or multiple viewings (in this case, I somewhat doubt it).

3.) Considering this is an anime, there are some anime clichés that I am not fond of even when I was young.  Even certain romance clichés fill in this film like the typical “I have fallen in love with you despite knowing you for a couple of weeks” cliché, and it does not really help that two main leads “technically” have not met each other.

 

Overall: 

Well, here is something I have not really done much (if at all) in this blog: reviewing an anime film, especially since I reviewed a movie based off of an anime last week.  I heard of Your Name before, and how it is the most popular anime film in Japan back in 2016.  Now that it is finally released in the West (I watched it in the Japanese dub with English subtitles), I can clearly see why it is.  The film is nearly perfect in what it delivers: an emotional story about two high school kids switching bodies a few times a week to help each other’s problems, and beginning to fall in love with each other in the process.  As an average anime fan, this film makes me want to watch anime films (especially the most popular ones like any of the great Miyazaki films) considering how different they are with the Western films.  I hope to see many more anime films in the future and many more deeply-emotional films with great writing and animation.  Now excuse me, I need to go back playing Persona 5.

9/10

Benz Eye View: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost_in_the_Shell_(2017_film)
Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Pros: 

1.) The visuals look amazing.  When the movie shows shots of the city, the holographic images looks fake yet real at the same time.  Even certain CG characters (i.e. the Geisha robots) look realistic.  Not all of the CG is perfect, but props go to the visual effects team in making life-like visuals…

2.) …Speaking of life-like, the word of Ghost in the Shell reminds me so much of every other cyberpunk medium like Deus Ex, Robocop, Blade Runner, The Matrix, etc.  I enjoy how much they show rather than tell what the technology of that world is like.  If it makes me feel like going to that world, the filmmakers did a great job immersing people into the movie in terms of its world.

3.) There are many cinematic shots that look pretty cool.  Many of them are reminiscent to the original 1995 anime film.  If there is one thing that the movie does well, it makes many of the scenes look cool…

 

Cons: 

1.) …However, just because it looks cool, that does not mean it is cool.  For one thing, the filmmakers have made some changes from the 1995 film, and those changes are not good.  Talking about it will spoil the movie, but let’s just say the intentions from the original does not compare well into this movie.

2.) I watched the original 1995 film a few years ago, and I remember that there are many philosophical and religious discussions and symbolism.  This 2017 movie tried to do the same thing, but it is not as strong.  In many cases, it is just outright pointless.  It is brought up only to be forgotten with a decent action scene.  I feel like they were trying, but they got bored and just rushed to the key plot points from the original.

3.) Just like the Iron Fist, this movie gained controversy for the fact that they hired a white woman to play a Japanese woman.  This angry reaction is slightly more justified, but given the fact that the director of the 1995 film is fine with Scarlet Johansson as the Major, I will be fine with it as well.

Even the Japanese are fine with it.

However, the movie itself actually gives a reason why the Major is white instead of Japanese.  If you are one of the many people who hated that the Major is played by a white person instead of a Japanese one, then you are going to hate the reason why she is white in this movie.

 

Overall: 

Based on the anime film in 1995 that is based on the manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell is ridiculously controversial in terms of its casting of Major Motoko Kusanagi.  Just like I said in my Iron Fist review, I really do not care as an Asian person myself as long as the movie itself is good.  Going back to the movie, I have seen the 1995 anime film once a few years ago, and I thought it was interesting yet strange.  Watching this movie, I do remember some of the events that happened in the original, but not enough to make me bias with the new movie on its own.  As a cyberpunk movie, I enjoy its delivery of its source material, but it seems clear they want to make it deep, but lack the effort.  They are trying to make it mean something, but it ends up making me want to watch the original or any other cyberpunk films.  If you want to see futuristic action movie with an interesting world, this movie is a decent start.  That said, if you are a fan of the Ghost in the Shell anime film, I suggest you stay away since there are enough changes that are likely going to tick you off.

6/10

I did watch this movie in 3D, and it is not worth it at all since the 3D effects are not used that much.

Benz Eye View: Iron Fist

vlcsnap-00020
Iron Fist

Pros: 

1.) I do appreciate the references on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (particularly the Marvel Netflix Series).  It reminds me that this takes place in world with Daredevil, Captain America, Iron Man, etc.  It is a nice touch (especially since returning characters like Claire Temple and Jeri Hogarth are in this series).

2.) Um…the last few episodes are tolerable.  That is just fine…

 

Cons: 

1.) …Unfortunately, I cannot really say the same thing to the series as a whole.  Where do I begin?  Let’s start with the characters: None of them are compelling.  Either I have seen these characters before, or they are not interesting enough for me to care.  There are moments when I start caring, but they are brief and get replaced by something stupid.  The only characters I actually truly care are the returning characters from previous Marvel Netflix series like Claire Temple or Jeri Hogarth.

2.) This series is excruciatingly slow.  If you want to see plenty of action, or a mixture of dialogue scenes and action scenes, you are going to be very disappointed.  There is more talk than action, and it is written poorly.  It would be fine if the characters are not stale, and some of the events are at least slightly unpredictable.  Not to mention since Danny Rand keeps mentioning K’un-Lun so much, I rather watch the series that takes place in that ancient city instead of New York.

3.) Let’s talk about the Iron Fist himself: Danny Rand played by Finn Jones.  You would think that since this is his own series, he would stand out more than any of the characters in a good way.  Not true in this case.  Before I explain, I like to explain the casting controversy.  Many people were not happy that Iron Fist was going to be played by a white actor instead of an Asian actor.  Two things I like to say about that.  First, Iron Fist is white in the comics, so they are just following the source material.  Second, as an Asian person myself, I really do not care.  He could have been played by a black actor for all I care as long as he performs well.  In this case, Finn Jones is probably the worst actor in the series.  In certain cases, I can tell he is trying, but his acting conviction seems to be lacking in many scenes, especially when he tries to look sad and angry, but he ends up looking like he needs to go to the bathroom.  Ironically, there is a minor villain played by an Asian actor that performed pretty well in his role, and he actually auditioned to play the Iron Fist.  I prefer him over Finn Jones any day.  As for the character, you might as well call him Batman or Iron Man except he only has kung-fu powers, and he is kind of stupid.  And if I hear him say “Because I am the Iron Fist” one more time, I will call Jackie Chan and ask him to show Iron Fist how a true martial artist works.

 

Overall: 

While Marvel is busy with their cinematic movies, they also have created their own TV series.  In the case of Netflix, they created four series to eventually coincide in a crossover series called The Defenders.  Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage are all great in their own ways, and now we have the last Defender in this new Marvel Netflix series: Iron Fist.  Does this new series punches hard in the right place to earn its place alongside the other Marvel Netflix series?  Unfortunately, I have to say that this series is one big blunder.  I feel like they were obligated to make this series so they can finally have that Defenders crossover.  This series is so bad that there are more cons that I can talk about here.  The series can be preachy, there are plenty of poor fight coordination, annoying repetition, and moments that are built up well with poor execution.  The series is not completely terrible since there are moments where I actually started to care what is happening, especially in the last few episodes.  The only reason I would recommend this show is to prepare for the upcoming Defenders series.  Otherwise, watch the other Marvel Netflix series or even Agents of SHIELD.  For the Iron Fist, its fist ends up with a serious damaging bruise.

Pass

 

Benz Eye View: Power Rangers

Power_Rangers_(2017_Official_Theatrical_Poster)
Power Rangers

Pros: 

1.) This movie certainly feels like a Power Rangers movie.  It keeps in some of the traditions of the original Power Rangers TV series like five teenagers with attitudes (but in a different way), they fight a group of foot soldiers, call in their zords to fight a big monster, etc.  Despite some changes from the original show, it feels like watching a longer episode of Power Rangers, which could be a good or bad thing depending on their execution (which I will get to in the cons).

2.) I really enjoy the cast playing the original Power Rangers.  While there are some differences in the originals, I enjoy the characteristics of each of the Rangers (with the somewhat exceptions with Zach and Trini), and the actors play them so well that I buy the chemistry with all five of them.  They are much better than the almost perfect originals of the TV series that seem to have little to no flaws.

3.) One of the biggest changes from the original that I really like is the movie’s portrayal with Rita Repulsa.  In the original, she is just a typical villain who has some charm.  In this movie, she is a terrifying threat that can be legitimately scary at times.  Some of the changes with her character actually makes some sense when you compare her to the original.  She may not be the most well-written villain you have ever seen, but she is better than the original.

 

Cons: 

1.) There are certain camera movements/shots and editing choices that can be really bothersome.  Some camera shots favor dutch shots for no good reason, inter-cutting over-the-shoulder shots when two characters speak in turn is disorienting, and other editing moments that makes it seem like the filmmakers are favoring style over substance.  These choices are important since the audience is watching the movie, so they should not make choices that can ruin the audience’s immersion.

2.) Since this is a superhero movie, it cannot escape the typical superhero clichés.  Five people get superpowers, they do not really like each other, and they have to use the power of friendship in order to beat their enemies (come to think of it, that sounds like a typical anime show).  I might as well watch Guardians of the Galaxy since that is a much better film than this repeated superhero cliché, which has a predictable story.  Not to mention that hardcore Power Rangers fans may have to wait a little while for some of their favorite moments to come on-screen.

3.) The movie has a Macguffin that is hidden in Angel Grove (how convenient).  Where is located?  In an area that is just a poor cover-up of a product placement that I have ever seen.  It bothers me so much that it has to be in this con.  They are not subtle at all, and they need to do better than what they just did.

 

Overall: 

I was a huge Power Rangers fan when I was young.  Every time I watched the opening theme of the show, I was always pumped to see the martial arts and giant monster battles.

It is a really dumb show now that I think about it, but it was a fun dumb show.  I watched it up until Operation Overdrive when it got really stupid even for my tastes.  The show even got a couple of movies in its line-up (which are just stupid now that I looked back at them).  With this new reboot of the Power Rangers movies, is it as faithful as the show as well as being a good movie?  To me, I am a little conflicted.  As a Power Rangers fan, I like this movie.  As a film person, it is just an average movie.  It is indeed faithful to show and adds its own tastes, but kind of fails to hold up as a great movie.  I am pretty sure Power Rangers fans will like it as it is, but average audiences will see it as a typical superhero movie.  There are enough moments that will give the fanboys some glee (despite how brief some of them can be), but typical viewers may not see it the same way.  I would not say that the movie is morphinominal, but it is at least a decent start for the movie franchise.

6/10

Benz Eye View: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty_and_the_Beast_2017_poster
Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Pros: 

1.) While the live-action remake is pretty faithful to the original 1991 film, there are some new story details that they added.  My favorite new detail is the backstories with Belle and the Beast.  While the backstories themselves are fine, it helps make the romance between Belle and the Beast a little bit more believable and relatable than the animated one.

2.) The set and costume designs are gorgeous.  All of it makes it believable that we are in mid-1700s France…and that is all I have to say about that considering I have do not have that much expertise in costume and set designs during that time.

3.) The characters are still as good and faithful as their original counterparts (with a few exceptions *cough*LeFou*cough*).  While certain moments make them look a little dumber than usual (besides, even the original had those moments, but for good reasons), they are still likable enough to make you care for them, and hope they live on happily ever after.

 

Cons: 

1.) There is some pacing issues in the first half of the movie rushing up until the “Be Our Guest” segment, resulting in some moments seem a little dumb or not as good as the original.  It seems odd considering that this movie is at least thirty minutes longer than the original.  Since there are some additions to this version, they did manage to fix the couple of plot holes in the original, but they also added a few more plot holes that is more noticeable than the previous version.

2.) The original songs are in the movie, and they are just as great here (there are even some new ones, but they are kind of forgettable).  All of the people singing do a decent job, but the one person that stands out is Emma Watson as Belle, and not in a good way.  Emma Watson is using Auto-tune, making it clear that she cannot sing.  It stands out very badly, so why cannot they at least get a voice double for her instead of Auto-tuning her “singing” voice?  See if you can notice it…

3.) There are times that the CG is done well, but there are times that the CG is clearly not done.  Look at the Beast: he looks good in some shots, but in other shots, he looks like he does not belong in a realistic environment.  Some green-screen shots do not really integrate with the actors in front of them, so they need to work on that as well.

 

Overall: 

Beauty and the Beast: one of the greatest classics in Disney’s Renaissance Era, one of the best films of all time (one of three animated films to be nominated for Best Picture), and one of my favorite films ever.  If I were to grade the original 1991 animated film, I would give it a 10/10 with great characters, writing, and animation; but with small flaws like few animation errors, and a couple of plot holes if you nitpick it hard enough.  Now, we have ourselves a live-action remake of a Disney classic.  When it comes to these live-action remakes, some are good (Cinderella (2015)) and some are bad (Maleficent).  Does this new live-action remake of a tale as old as time need to be retold?  It is good as it can be.  Keep in mind, I am trying not be bias as much as possible considering I love the original version.  That said, the animated version is still better than the live-action remake, but it still has some good elements like the original.  It still has great characters, but the writing is a little more flawed than the original.  The CG is tolerable enough, but it can no way stump the original’s animation.  The remake is good enough for anyone wanting a live-action version, but the animated one is the best one of all.  This is the best you are going to get in live action, but no other version can stump the animated Beauty and the Beast.

7/10

Benz Eye View: Kong: Skull Island

Kong_Skull_Island_poster
Kong: Skull Island

Pros: 

1.) This movie certainly feels like a Kong movie.  If you think about it, there are elements in the movie that are similar to other Kong movies.  You have a group of people going to a mysterious island, a woman who has an emotional connection to Kong, monsters that are threats to other people besides Kong, and a man who is desperate to take out Kong by any means necessary.  It certainly fits in the mold of any Kong movie (or monster movies in that matter).

2.) While Kong is the main monster of the movie, there are other monsters as well, and they have pretty interesting designs.  In fact, I find the environmental and monster designs to be quite interesting and engrossing.  It certainly captures what a terrifying monster can be (especially in shots where they contrast the sizes between Kong and the humans), and how wild the environment is in a mysterious island.

3.) The final fight with Kong is pretty fun.  It reminds me of Godzilla (2014) with its final battle (even though it spent more time with the humans than the monsters).  It feels like a large-scale battle with the humans caught up in the middle.  In fact, Kong looks terrifying enough to scare any people in this movie.

 

Cons: 

1.) I can automatically tell which of the characters are going to be red-shirts by the time they enter the island.  Even if my predictions were not true, they are uninteresting, because the movie spends little time with them.  The only characters who are holding this movie together are the characters played by Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly, because the actors play their characters well…

2.) …Even if the actors do play their characters well, some of those characters seem to fall apart as the movie progresses.  One particular is Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who has an understandable background, but I lost sympathy with him by the end of the movie when he does something dumb that endangers his comrades.  Characters need to be interesting enough to make the audience care, but hopefully they do not do something stupid that makes the audience stop caring for them.

3.) There are moments and characters that seem to be important in the movie, but they end up not really using them that much.  Honestly, some of these characters are not really needed in the movie, especially the ones that are important in the beginning end up doing nothing in the end.  There is one unintentionally funny moment where one soldier is going to sacrifice himself to stop a monster, but let’s just say that the monster is not stupid.  Use these characters and moments that have been built up.  Otherwise, what is the point having them in the first place other than they are dead meat?

 

Overall: 

King Kong.  A classic monster in the film industry that was created back in 1933.  Ever since his creation, many film creators made sequels, rip-offs, or their own versions of King Kong.  Some of them are terrible, while others are not bad (i.e. King Kong (2005) by Peter Jackson).  Twelve years after King Kong (2005), we get a reboot of King Kong called Kong: Skull Island.  I found this reboot to be OK, but since this is a popcorn movie with monsters, that is fine within monster movies standards.  I do wish that the movie can be better than what we have, because I keep thinking about the Peter Jackson film twelve years ago, and the 1933 film.  I believe the filmmakers realize that their movie is not going to be as deep or well-developed as the other ones.  If you are going to watch it, at least watch it for a certain thing that happens after the credits, or when Kong is on the screen.  Otherwise, wait until the Blu-Ray comes out, and watch it with another certain movie that you will know what I mean when you see the after credits scene.

 

6/10