Review: Wonder Woman

I’ve had a good reason to be hard on the efforts of the DC Extended Universe over the past few years; especially last year considering my thoughts on their previous two pictures: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. This year, the producers of the DC Extended Universe look to turn the page on last year and seek to do so with their first superhero adventure starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

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Image by Warner Bros. and DC Comics

The film opens with Gadot as Diana Prince who receives a parcel from a new friend that compels her to reminisce on her earlier years. From her upbringing on the island of Themiscyra, home to the Amazons, where she was raised by her mother Queen Hippolyta, trained by her aunt Antiope, and encountered a man named Steve Trevor, who would guide her to the world of man on a journey that would change her life and the world at large forever.

To reiterate: I’ve been hard on the DC Extended Universe and I had good reason to be so. Their previous films have compelled me to set the bar low on their films going forward and I had to go into Wonder Woman with a low set of expectations. That being said, I must be blunt: THIS. MOVIE. IS. GOOD!

I must give credit where credit is due. Producers Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Charles Roven, director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg crafted a solid origin story with coming-of-age themes that culminated in a very engaging, charming and the most entertaining DC movie to come out in years! I was satisfied with how they handled this movie; it wasn’t perfect but this was a great effort that really paid off!

I thought that the strength of this movie lied solely with Gadot’s performance meshed with Heinberg’s script and Jenkins’ execution. Wonder Woman is basically looking at the outside world with the perspective of childlike innocence, guided by a man who exposes her to the good and bad that a world at war has to offer someone who doesn’t exactly need to help.

If Gadot’s introduction in Batman v. Superman didn’t sell you on her ability to embody this iconic character, than this movie will most assuredly convince you! It was a treat watching her carry this movie and her on-screen chemistry with Chris Pine is splendid! Whether Diana is trying ice cream for the first time or feels concern or sympathy for the wounded soldiers on No Man’s Land, she just embodies the strength, compassion and innocence in this iconic character and she is relatable to audiences.

While I enjoyed watching this film, I only wish that the film could have done more with the supporting characters such as Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremmer, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Danny Huston and David Thewlis. I also hoped that the film would take more time to explore and examine Themiscyra, the Amazons and their cultures.

The cinematography of Matthew Jensen was solid, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music was satisfactory, Martin Walsh’s editing was solid, the production design of Aline Bonetto was good, Lindy Hemming’s costumes were very good, the visual effects were to my liking and technically Wonder Woman was very well put-together to give this character the strength to stand on her own.

Wonder Woman clearly raised the bar for films coming from the DC Extended Universe because what separates this movie from the films that came before it: fun! This movie allowed itself to have its own natural fun and that allowed the audience to have fun watching it; this is leaps and bounds better than any DC film that came before it!

Movie of the Week: Wonder Woman

For too long, the fight against the forces of evil has been spearheaded by men. The greatest heroes who have fought for humanity against foes driven to bring hurt and pain to the innocent are great men, but still men. The time has come for a woman to rise against those who would do harm to those who cannot protect themselves. It is time. It is her time! The Princess of Themiscyra, with shield on one arm, a sword in her hand, and a mystic lasso at her hip will rise to bring an end to the war that will end all wars. Diana’s crusade for justice is only the beginning of a journey that will place her in a league of her own. This is the story of a new age of heroism. This is the tale of Wonder Woman.

Director: Patty Jenkins

Written by: Allan Heinberg

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Florence Kasumba, Ewen Bremmer, and Saïd Taghmaoui.

What am I expecting to see?: The last three films produced from the DCEU have underwhelmed to say the least, especially the films that flew under Warner Bros. and DC Comics from last year, so Wonder Woman is going in with an advantage of a low-bar already set. In the limited time we’ve seen her in the role already, Gal Gadot has done enough to sell audiences on her as Wonder Woman and now that she has this feature film to elevate herself, I’m hoping that she has clout to seize this initiative of being a powerhouse film hero in her own right.

An Assessment that is Summer 2016 at the Movies

I certainly didn’t see every movie that came out this summer but I certainly tried to see every movie of note that was released. To say that the films released between the period of mid-May to the twilight of August and speaking of the twilight of August: we’re in it! The Rio Olympics, which I did not bother watching at all, came and passed, NFL preseason is halfway through, the back-to-school advertisements are out in full force, and even though the final official day of summer arrives in early September, I’m ready to call it: summer’s over. That being said, I’d like to take a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of the last few months at the movies!

Summer 2016’s biggest surprise: Hell or High Water

Man, I’m still aglow over this knockout comtemporary Western gifted to us by director David McKenzie and rising star screenwriter Taylor Sheridan! In case you missed my review, Hell or High Water stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as two bandit brothers determined to keep a bank from foreclosing on their family farm by elaborately robbing various branches throughout Texas. Jeff Bridges plays the grizzled long-in-the-tooth lawman nipping at their heels as they tear through the Lone Star State and with a solid 3-man leading ensemble, excellent writing and superb execution, Hell or High Water came out of nowhere and scored a vintage cinematic homerun!

Summer 2016’s biggest disappointment: Now You See Me 2

I can’t remember if I cried when I saw this sequel come untied, but something touched me deep inside, the day Now You See Me 2 proved, the magic had died. The magic, being the magic, fun and the unexpected twists and turns from the original Now You See Me, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and others about a team of magician thieves who pull off criminal feats of awe-inspiring dexterity. Now You See Me 2 is merely one of the many unnecessary sequels of this summer no one asked for and honestly, director Jon M. Chu should have kept this rabbit in its hat.

The superhero movie of the summer: Captain America: Civil War

This decision was not even close! X-Men: Apocalypse failed to live up to the hype, and Suicide Squad was doomed by its own shortcomings, but even if this wasn’t by default, Captain America: Civil War had it all! This star-studded Marvel grand showcase pitted Avenger against Avenger is a thoroughly well-thought out execution of philosophy, orchestrated by powers beyond the Avengers’ field of vision and started Phase Three of the Avengers Initiative with a bang!

Summer 2016’s best animated film: (tie) Finding Dory & Kubo and the Two Strings

2016 was a year to celebrate animated features and two of my most anticipated animated films of this summer did not disappoint at all! Disney & Pixar should probably take home a prize for actually making a sequel that was done right for audiences everywhere were taken back to the sea to check in on Marlyn, Nemo and Dory who set out on a grand adventure to realize who she was and where she came from. Finding Dory was absolutely precious and it should be celebrated not only as one of this summer’s best films but one of the best films of this year, but not so fast!

The latest animated adventure from Laika and Focus Features is a genuine marvel in itself. Kubo and the Two Strings follows the tale of a boy with a magical knack for origami and storytelling and he embarks on a quest to inherit his father’s legacy while supernatural forces are hunting him and his companions down. I’ve always respected the work of Laika and Focus Features’ stop-motion animated adventures but Kubo and the Two Strings is a genuine treasure and a highlight of this summer.

Summer 2016’s best visual effects: Captain America: Civil War

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Image by Marvel

Again, this is another competition the super soldier won without much difficulty and that’s saying something considering the summer is the season where visual effects run rampant throughout movie theaters. Whether it was the fight between Team Cap and Team Iron Man or the final battle between Iron Man and Captain America, this movie was a feast for the eyes.

The best movie of the summer: Hell or High Water

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Image by CBS Films

I should really proclaim this as one of the best film’s I’ve seen this year. Oh wait. I think I did!

The worst movie of the summer: The Legend of Tarzan

There were many to choose from over the past few months. To narrow my choice down, I thought about a movie that I had no high expectations for going in whatsoever and a movie that attempted to or didn’t even try to meet those shallow expectations and what I was left with is The Legend of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skaarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Djimon Hounsou, in David Yates’ take on the legendary character crafted by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This movie was like watching a snake crawl back into its old skin after shedding it and it was rather unnatural to digest.

Fare the well Summer 2016. I did my best to see your best and I certainly will try to forget your worst, if indeed I did bother seeing them. Anyway, I’m on to fall. Check on my blog for any updates or news or my next film and I’ll see you at the movies.

Review: Hell or High Water

Who doesn’t love a good Western? A classic American tale set in the untamed frontier about a clash between a sheriff, a cowboy or a lawman against an outlaw, a Native, or a man looking to kick up a little trouble in a sleepy town holds mass appeal for film lovers but I’m not talking about a “vintage” Western ala High Noon, Unforgiven, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit or Hang ’em High.

Set in modern day West Texas, Toby and Tanner Howard are venturing into a new enterprise: bank robbing. The brothers take it upon themselves to settle their late mother’s debt and prevent Texas Midland Bank from foreclosing on their family farm and they set out to rob branches of Texas Midland Bank and use the money they get from their heists to pay off their loans.

The activities of the Tanner Brothers don’t go unnoticed. Soon-to-retire Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and his partner Alberto Parker are on the trail of these mysterious bank robbers and are intent to deliver justice upon them.

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Image by CBS Films

This is the plot of the contemporary western Hell or High Water, directed by David McKenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, screenwriter of Sicario. My late father loved a good western but Hell or High Water is not a good western. Hell or High Water is one hell of a western!

This was what I’d like to call a “can’t miss movie” and this summer, a movie of Hell or High Water’s caliber has been far and few between. Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Dale Dickey lead this exemplary cops and outlaws film, featuring Jeff Bridges in rare form, Chris Pine who delivers his best performance that I’ve seen and a solid performance by Ben Foster.

The shining star of Hell or High Water isn’t any of the actors though. The man who steals the show is none other than screenwriter Taylor Sheridan.

There is no doubt that Sheridan planted his own personal stamp on this tale of family and justice and did so with cunning, wit, bravado and expert craftsmanship. The idea for the Howard Brothers to steal from the banks their family owes money to to repay them, is a stroke of genius; no doubt that Sheridan is still riding the wave of success he rode when he crafted the framework for Sicario and the writing for Hell or High Water is just as impactful.

There is no doubt that this is one of the most original films of the year, perhaps the best written film I’ve seen since Zootopia.

David McKenzie did a fine job directing this movie. I would argue that maybe the directing was good because he had an awesome screenplay to work with but the directing of this movie can certainly be regarded as top-class. This is certainly a high-point for McKenzie as well as films released in 2016 because the plot and how the plot unfolded on screen held your attention and doesn’t even bother to let go.

Does this mean that Hell or High Water is 2016’s Sicario? I can’t say for certain because even though the writing is similar they are different films with different tones but I am certain that this should be recognized as a sensational film as Sicario was.

The supporting cast including Buck Taylor, Paul Howard Smith, Kevin Rankin, Margaret Bowman, Marin Ireland, John-Paul Howard, they’re essentially extras but they do their utmost to lift the core cast as possible and they are effective in their brief but significant roles.

Technically, this is a well put-together movie. Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography is well-done; I specifically enjoyed the opening of the film with that intricate tracking shot of the parking lot, serving as a sort of scouting the area technique, for the brothers before they rob their first bank.

The editing flowed seamlessly between the brothers and the rangers. Jake Roberts did a fine job of balancing between the subplots between the lawmen and the outlaws without giving too much or too little to anyone. I also particularly liked how well-executed the shootout sequence was. Going back and forth between Tanner scoping and shooting the police while Marcus was getting into position to scope and take out Tanner was smooth.

Tom Duffield’s production design was sharp, Steve Cooper’s art direction was good, the costumes of Malgosia Turzanska added to the authenticity of the film, this movie certainly went the distance to deliver a vintage western level of authenticity and that authenticity was rich in my opinion.

I consider Hell or High Water a sleeper film for any awards, but hands down, this was an original movie that I wouldn’t hesitate to go to the theaters and see. Hell or High Water certainly is one of the best films of the year and a genuine western through and through.

Movies of the Week: Florence Foster Jenkins and Hell or High Water

I think I’ve seen enough films for kids and young adults for this summer, at least for now. I think it’s time I turn my attention toward films that are geared for more mature audiences and as it happens, there are two films of such nature. Based on the true story about an underdog with appeal, Florence Foster Jenkins stars the incredible Meryl Streep as an aspiring opera singer who dreams of making it big but there is just one problem: she can’t hold a quality note to save her skin yet audiences of her time can’t get enough of her.

What am I expecting to see?: At this point, you should be aware that I’m down for anything related to Meryl Streep and honestly this looks fascinating in of itself. Stephen Frears, director of Oscar-caliber features such as The Queen and Philomena, may have a film with substance worth seeing this summer and I could use anything substantive at this point. Rounding out the cast includes Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda and Christian McKay and I hope Florence Foster Jenkins strikes a different chord compared to most films I’ve seen the past few weeks.

The second half of my intended weekend double-feature is a western, of sorts from the writer Taylor Sheridan and director David McKenzie called Hell or High Water. This film made a name for itself at Cannes a while back, following a fraternal tandem of bank robbers determined to clear their mother’s medical debts and save their farm in Texas, but these brothers have a grizzled lawman nipping at their heels hell-bent on bringing the law to these outlaws.

What am I expecting to see: Sicario introduced Taylor Sheridan’s screenwriting and that movie’s writing was superb. I caught wind of Hell or High Water a few months ago and I was immediately interested in seeing it. Granted this movie may be flying under the radar but maybe that could be a good thing, I’m not seeing a so-called “blockbuster” for once. Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Buck Taylor, Kristen Berg make up the cast of this cops-and-robbers drama. I hope Hell or High Water, is a riveting change of pace.

God Bless Comic Con! Why? TRAILERS!!!

I just knew that I would be blogging something today. Didn’t know how, but I knew. At first I thought I would throw up a surprise review on Star Trek Beyond, which IMO wasn’t all that; I’m not a Trekkie, I fail to see the appeal in Star Trek but I’m being honest, fans of the franchise will get a kick out of Justin Lin’s addition to the franchise and its attempt to appease its audience with classic nostalgic tones but for those non-Trekkies like myself: meh.

In case it hasn’t dawned on you: San Diego Comic Con is underway. It is in this time where fellow nerds, pop-culture enthusiasts, comic-lovers, practically people I can get along with confluence together to ooh and ahh all of the new grounds being broken in the worlds of comics, video games, television, films in the coming weeks, months or years even. You can always count on Comic Con to deliver something to wet your pop-culture appetite. While I was distracted by Star Trek Beyond, I returned home to catch up on what I’ve missed and I have missed much!

Kong: Skull Island

When Godzilla roared his mighty roar, someone at Warner Bros. and Legendary must have realized that this could be the beginning of something truly extraordinary but the creatures Godzilla faced did not pose enough of a challenge for the giant! Who could possibly stand against such a foe? The answer: KONG! An expedition led by Captain James Conrad, takes a team of explorers onto an island laden with danger and reigning over this treacherous-loaded-paradise is a creature who has existed long before the time of man but formidable and fearsome enough to hold dominion over his world and he won’t bow before anyone who dares stand in his way! Behold the trailer for Kong: Skull Island!

Kong: Skull Island is written by Max Borenstein, Derek Connelly, John Gatins and Dan Gilroy and is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. The film stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell. Kong becomes King on March , 2017.

Doctor Strange

Just when I FINALLY calmed from seeing that ridiculously trippy trailer from Doctor Strange, they set this on us! I’m not complaining it looks spellbinding all the same! BY THE EYE OF AGAMOTTO ENCHANT US!

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg and Scott Adkins, Doctor Strange is written by Jon Spaiths, directed by Scott Derrickson and will land in theaters by November 4, 2016. WOW!

The LEGO Batman Movie

I confess, I regret not giving The LEGO Movie a chance while it was in theaters. It did prove to be quite the delightful adventure. The film went on to enjoy a LOT of success in 2014, and in typical Hollywood fashion success usually equals sequels or spinoffs and in The LEGO Movie’s case, both. While the sequel is a ways off, a spinoff starring one of the films most popular characters is completely put together and fans are eagerly awaiting for the unveiling of The LEGO Batman Movie.

Chris McKay is the director guy in charge of assembly, who co-wrote the film with Seth Grahame-Smith and Eric Sommers, with the assistance of Jared Stern and John Whittington. Will Arnett will lend his voice to Batman, and rounding out the cast is Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera, Zack Galifianakis and Mariah Carey. The LEGO Batman Movie will hit theaters with excellent reflexes on February 10, 2017.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Harry Potter’s magical age has come and gone but renowned literary genius J.K. Rowling has started a new story about a new magical hero. Famous magizoologist Newt Scamander’s arrival in 1950s New York City has coincided with strange happenings within the American wizarding community and these bizarre events have involved some form of magical beast or two. Scamander must put his expertise to the test to remedy the problem before the fallout falls onto the non-magical population. This is the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is written by J.K. Rowling, directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo, Dan Fogler and Samantha Morton. A new age of magic begins on November 18, 2016.

Wonder Woman

One can say she made her long-awaited debut in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, many can argue that she stole the show in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Either way, whether you liked Batman v. Superman or not-I didn’t-Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was a revelation and a statement; badass heroes don’t have to be men. Before she stepped back into the light in that intense battle, she had a story and this trailer is a preview of said story about how Princess Diana of Thymiscara set foot onto the world of men, guided by Steve Trevor.

Directed by Patty Jenkins and written for the screen by Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Lucy Davis, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Saïd Taghmaoui and Florence Kasumba. Wonder Woman rides into battle June 2, 2017.

 Justice League

Perhaps no movie will be under no greater scrutiny than the follow-up to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Judging by this trailer, Justice League is saying and doing all of the right things but trailers have been deceiving before. Essentially, Batman is recruiting a team of meta-humans including Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. This team of extraordinary individuals with great power will combat a coming threat. Justice League is coming together.

Zack Snyder directs, Chris Terrio contributes the screenplay for this superhero ensemble piece starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amber Heard, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe, Jeremy Irons and Henry Cavill. Justice League bows into theaters on November 17, 2017.

I have never attended Comic Con before but one day I hope to go and be a part of so much nerdgasmic excitement! Any more trailers come out, I’ll bring them here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy and GOD BLESS COMIC CON!

Chris Pine Signs On for Wonder Woman

By Eva Rinaldi Uploaded by MyCanon (Chris Pine), via Wikimedia Commons

The DC Cinematic Universe is expanding. Man of Steel was enough to launch an established universe of heroes and villains which will be showcased next year in the highly anticipated blockbusters Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad and post-2016, DC has a slate of films scheduled for release which will ultimately lead to a Justice League feature. One of the heroes waiting in the cinematic wings is the iconic Wonder Woman, who will make her big-screen debut in Dawn of Justice starring Gal Gadot. Her solo feature will be directed by Patty Jenkins and the Wonder Woman feature will gain some star-power thanks to Chris Pine.

In May, rumors circulated regarding Pine joining Gadot in the female-superhero installment as Diana Prince’s love-interest Steve Trevor. Speculation also swirled regarding Pine as a candidate to play Hal Jordan in Green Lantern Corps, so obviously, he was courted heavily by Warner Bros. and DC Comics, but instead of taking the Green Lantern oath, he opts for something more “down to Earth” in a manner of speaking.

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Image by Warner Bros

Gal Gadot will debut as Wonder Woman on March 25, 2016 in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman‘s solo movie will arrive in theaters on June 23, 2017.