Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi: Not a Perfect Star Wars Movie, but Still a Great One

Directed by: Rian Johnson | Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Ram Bergman | Written by: Rian Johnson | Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro | Music by: John Williams | Cinematography: Steve Yedlin | Edited by: Bob Ducsay | Production Companies: Lucasfilm Ltd., Bad Robot Production | Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios, Motion Pictures | Official Website

8.8/10

When you first know that the latest Star Wars episode is going to be released soon, what do you expect from this The Last Jedi? A space soap opera? Check. Cool lightsaber fighting? Check. Strong shows of what the forces will do? Check. On this review, I try my best to not spoiling any twist on this movie, but if there’s some plot unevitable to be revealed, I beg your pardon.

Set right on the timeline left by Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has asked Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to teach her how to control the force. Unfortunately, Luke has drown himself in sorrow and disappointment, and refused to take Rey as his apprentice. On the other side, the Resistance under General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) faces new attacks from the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, adding his portfolio of grotesque performance under CGI) and his loyal right-hand Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), previously known as Ben Solo, Leia and the late Han Solo (Harrison Ford)’s son. Leia is assisted by wingman Commander Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), First Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern, stunning with her purple hair) and stormtrooper-turns-Resistance Finn (John Boyega).

Finn then meet Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a technician who has the idea of shutting down power of Snoke’s ship to stop the attack. With Poe’s permission, they begin to search a way to penetrate the ship. Meanwhile, after being rejected by Luke, Rey finds out that the force creates a way she can communicate with Kylo, kind of you and I are communicating using Skype. Sensing a man who deep down knows he needs a moral turnover, Rey wants to lure him to the light. Sensing a young pretty girl who can be manipulated and molded, Kylo wants to drag her down deep into the hell, umm I mean to the dark. Although their interactions were cute in a way, Kylo’s ambition ruins everything. He is now ready to attack the Resistance latest fortress, taken down his own mother, and face to face with his previous master Luke who has failed him.

The Last Jedi is a Star Wars release that has released themselves from the old patrons of every Star Wars trilogy. Since it has so many characters to be handled from the original trilogy to this latest release, each has their uniqueness, and so many stories to be covered, it’s almost impossible to knit a story that can tie them together harmoniously. However, director Johnson proved himself as a smart writer who successfully wrote a story that not only give each character room to develop, but also makes them essential to the whole plot. He also gives reason to every character’s behavior, makes the story unbelievably interesting and enjoyable. Every twist, every turn, every up and down were delightful and somehow emotional. Watching The Last Jedi is like riding an endless ride, joyful and we’ll never know what twist is waiting on the next scene.

However, I feel that this trilogy lacks of strong character to anchor the whole emotion. The original trilogy has Leia, and this trilogy has no one. Rey is busy being a spirited young girl who discovers new way of knowing herself better, and how her new discovery will create a new entire life for her. Finn is still coward and somewhat we can’t find any good from this character. Poe is dubbed as the new Han, but he ends up being too obsessed of blowing everything out to show he is capable. The new hope comes from Rose, who is quite delightful to be watched, and now has reason why she must fight for the Resistance.

As The Force Awakens has been dedicated to Han, this The Last Jedi is said to be Luke’s. It’s true, in a very relieving way they can ever give us. However, the next episode IX should have been dedicated to Leia, and since Fisher’s death, I think The Last Jedi leaves us with one question: what will the battle between The First Order and The Resistance would be looked alike without Leia?

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Wonder (2017): With his Deformed Face, Auggie Wins Our Heart

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky | Produced by: Michael Beugg, Dan Clark, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman | Screenplay by: Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky | Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin | Music by: Marcelo Zarvos | Cinematography: Don Burgess | Edited by: Mark Livolsi | Production Companies: Lionsgate, Mandeville Films, Participant Media, Walden Media, Tik Films | Distributed by: Lionsgate | Official Website

9.1/10

If you have to choose to be right or to be kind, choose kind” is the first percept (or principle) Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs) teaches in his classroom. Since children cannot choose whatever situation they would born into, this movie is trying to embody that principle into the story. They somehow successfully do that, while also teach us the lesson that everyone has their own reason in doing something.

This movie is all about August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a 10-years-old boy who born with Treacher Collins Syndrome that creates deformities on his face. Auggie, a Star Wars geek and science master, has been on 27 surgeries on his facial deformities, and has home-schooled due to that surgeries. He used to wear astronaut’s helmet to cover his facial deformities, while showing his passion of exploring space. However, he is gifted with a loving and positive family: passionate mother Isabel (Julia Roberts), cheerful father Nate (Owen Wilson), and amazing sister Via (Izabela Vidovic). His family somehow decided to let him leave their Brooklyn brownstone and send him into private school Beecher Prep. School, crossing their fingers that other kids will be nice to him.

Being in middle school isn’t easy for everyone, but it goes terrible for Auggie. Everyone’s keep staring at him, one bully calls him “Barf Hideous” and everyone thought that he will cause plague if they touch him. There is one boy, Jack Will (Noah Jupe) that changes the atmosphere. Jack comes from middle class family with scholarship, and be the first one to sit with Auggie during lunch. While Auggie is making friends, his sister Via (short for Olivia) is being estranged by her long-term bestfriend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell). Via then finds solace in theater club, right after she meets her future boyfriend Justin (Nadji Jeter).

This movie is simplifying reasons to just be nice, and how’s that would change the rest of the story. Auggie is being nice to himself and try to blend in, although sometimes being sarcastic would be acceptable if you were born with facial deformities. His mother Isabel sacrifices her career to take care of his surgeries, and the greatest sacrifices would be for his sister Via. As a teenager, Via sacrifices her lack of parents attention and surprisingly still loves her brother unconditionally, states “My brother is the sun, and my father, my mother and me are the planets that revolve around him.” Another kindness comes from Auggie’s friend Jack. Begins with cheating on their pop-quiz, something that states their rebellious preteen times, Jack chooses to be with Auggie since he finds him more than just a look. Their friendship invites more kids to “be kind” to Auggie, despite his horrible face.

This movie’s strong messages also be supported by its strong casts. Jacob Tremblay once again did miracle after being a perfect match for Brie Larson’s Oscar winning performance on Room (2015). Beyond his heavy prosthetics, we can still see his fragile emotions, along with his soft voice and trembling little figure. Julia Roberts left her glamorous persona, be more down to earth and her trademark laughs at one scene will be enough to ease your yearn for her best performance. Owen Wilson lets go of his goofy persona and gives us reason to be sympathetic to this simple father, although his character is not developed well. Another stellar performance comes from Izabela Vidovic as Auggie’s lonely sister Via. Via is an extraordinary teenager that instead of hates her brother for stealing her parents whole attention, she is being an understanding sister. Vidovic makes us believe that no matter how old you are, you still can have a great empathy especially for the one you love, with her statement “He won the lottery. Otherwise I would look like him.”

Wonder is a wonderful movie that teaches us to develop a positive family. They portray a family that never gives up to whatever comes their way, strengthening and supporting one another, and never blames the situation. This kind of family is the family you want to have, and you want to raise. It’s no longer miracle that Auggie still can live his fate since he has a wonderful family to come home to.

After all, it’s all abour Mr. Browne’s last percept, “Everyone is having their own fight, so be kind.”

Murder on the Orient Express (2017): Beautiful in Scenery, Boring in Other Aspects

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh | Produced by: Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Michael Schaefer | Screenplay by: Michael Green | Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom, Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley | Music by: Patrick Doyle | Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos | Edited by: Mick Audsley | Production Companies: Kinberg Genre, The Mark Gordon Company, Scott-Free Production | Distributed by: 20th Century Fox | Official Website

6.8/10

So what do you expect when you are about to watch another adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express? I am a person with short-term memory loss, I forgot lots of stuffs especially the simplest one. This one is an exception. Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is a masterpiece, the unforgettable one, and a different kind of murder mystery novel. Murder on the Orient Express is probably one of mystery novels that contains strong personality (and also a motive for killing) of each character, an almost perfect murder plan and multiple perpetrators. Sydney Lumet’s version in 1974 starring Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave and Albert Finney as Christie’s signature Hercule Poirot is one version that represent this masterpiece very well. This 2017 star-studded version of Kenneth Branagh, unfortunately, is not comparable to its predecessor.

Begins on the 1934’s Jerusalem at the edge of The Wailing Wall, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh himself) is cleverly solved the mystery of stolen artifact from The Church of Holy Sepulchre, showing his strong intuition on a very small clue. He then decides on taking vacation, but have to return to London soon for another case. He then meet his old friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), who’s charged for The Orient Express, who then offers him a cabin in the train. On the train, he meets several characters: sinister businessman Ratchett (Johnny Depp) along with his secretary MacQueen (Josh Gad) and his butler Masterman (Derek Jacobi); Austrian lecturer Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe); Russian royalties Princess Dragomirov (Dame Judi Dench) and her German servant Mrs. Schmidt (Olivia Colman); a troublesome widow Mrs. Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer); fanatic religious woman Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz); Geography teacher Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley); a young doctor Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Romanian royalties Count and Countess Andrenyi (Sergei Polunin and Lucy Boynton).

On the first day, Ratchett asks Poirot to become his bodyguard as he receives a threatening letter, and Poirot refuses clearly on the most intense scene of this movie, stated, “I don’t like your face.” On the night, an avalanche derails the trains and strands them on the middle of nowhere. The next morning, Ratchett is found dead after being stabbed a dozen times, with Arbuthnot stated the time of the death is between ten and two o’clock. Poirot and Bouc starts to investigate the murder. As the investigation goes deeper, Poirot links Ratchett to the murder of Daisy Armstrong on the hand of her kidnapper Cassetti. Poirot indicates that Ratchett is Cassetti, and somehow Daisy’s murder has a linkage to this case. Poirot starts to investigates every passenger of the Orient Express, investigates their alibis and figures out that everyone is somehow has a motive to kill Ratchett. Just before the train is about to depart again, Poirot has to conclude the murderer from all the suspects, and decides whether he wants to do the right thing, or keep the truth beneath to not bring any more damages to all the suspects.

Of all Christie’s mystery, Murder on the Orient Express is probably one of the most complex and the most risky one to be adapted to the big screen or to the television. People are more familiar with several other Christie’s adaptation And Then There Were None or maybe Death on The Nile, but 1974’s version of Murder on the Orient Express is truly a significant one. One thing that 1974 Lumet’s version had and this 2017 Branagh’s version lacks is fun. Branagh seems to forget that he casts so many talented casts that has to be explored more on their background, just like the novel did. However, he gives too little screen time for every characters so it almost feels like every star casts here just to collect their paychecks and has no opportunity to develop their character. Murder on the Orient Express should be a movie that makes audiences believe that every suspects actually has their own motive to kill Ratchett, but Branagh seems to ignore it and decides to give the explanation duty on his own Poirot. His Poirot, on the other side, looks more like a grumpy man that pays too much attention to his boiled eggs than to his funny looking mustache. His Poirot also lacks of passion, and his attempt to give Poirot more humane side with the portrait of Katherine is failed after all.

However, his shooting technique successfully captures the beauty of The Orient Express scenery journey. His perfect shooting technique is also perfect for capturing the scene of the murder, and just keep the audiences guess of what really happened. This is one of the reason why you must see this adaptation, beside Branagh and Depp’s intense scene and Michelle Pfeiffer’s excellent performance as Mrs. Hubbard. The other casts are simply being there for almost no reason, but Pfeiffer really steals the screen. Her seductive yet troublesome image dominants the screen every time she appears. Daisy Ridley should be one of the most dominant character with playing Miss Debenham, but she looks almost too stiff and lost her persona of the passionate Rey on newest Star Wars trilogy. Willem Dafoe also lost his charm as Gerhard Hardman, and just so our lovely Olaf, Josh Gad. It almost seems that Michael Green’s screenplay didn’t give them any chance to develop their character well, or maybe they just lack in vision of where this movie should be.

The problem with any adaptation from the movie is the expectation of the audiences who, at first had read the source. This is the expectation any movie maker should accomplish, and this movie is somehow, failed to fulfill that expectation.

Coco (2017): Disney and Pixar’s Nicest Gift to Mexicans

Directed by: Lee Unkrich | Produced by: Darla K. Anderson | Screenplay by: Adrian Molina, Matthew Aldrich | Story by: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich | Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Alanna Ubach, Jaime Camil, Sofia Espinosa, Selene Luna, Edward James Olmos | Music by: Michael Giacchino | Cinematography: Matt Aspbury, Danielle Feinberg | Edited by: Steve Bloom, Lee Unkrich | Production Companies: Walt Disney Studios, Motion Pictures | Official Website

9/10

Disney and Pixar formula on two sequels and one new release has made us waiting for their new release more. We have Cars 2 (2011) and Monster University (2013) to have Oscar-winning Inside Out (2015). This year, we got Cars 3 (2017) and Finding Dory (2017) to have Coco, and this movie is a jewel.

Set on Mexican Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of The Dead, our protagonist is a 12 years-old boy Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez). The Rivera family have been shoemakers since their matriarch Imelda (Alanna Ubach) was left by her musician husband. Since then, music was forbidden for any Rivera and the musician’s face was ripped off Imelda’s photo. Imelda’s daughter and Miguel’s great-grandmother, the titular character Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguìa), is now suffering for dementia but still remembering her father. On the other side, Miguel is an aspiring musician. He wants to be a musician like his idol superstar Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) although all his family are against his will.

On the Dia de los Muertos, Miguel finds out that the guitar Ernesto used has the same design with the guitar of the musician that on the Imelda’s photo. He then assumes that Ernesto is his great-great-grandfather and therefore, Ernesto will bless his will on becoming musician. Miguel then steals Ernesto’s guitar, but he is cursed to enter the Land of The Death. On the land of the death, Miguel has to be blessed by his family to return to the Land of the Living. Imelda gives her blessing, but mentions Miguel must forget about music. Miguel refuses that blessing, and thought that if he meets Ernesto, he will bless him to become musician. Miguel then meets Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), a street musician who admit he knows Ernesto. When Miguel finally meets Ernesto, he knows the bitter truth about his idol, that somehow relates with the tragedy that torn his family apart.

Coco is a beautiful movie with the most proper way to show us Mexican culture. Yes there was The Book of Life (2014) before, but even that movie cannot represent Dia de los Muertos well. Coco, however, embraces the vibrancy of Mexican culture, along with their vibrant color of Aztec Marigold road to lead the dead to our world, their lively music and their sexy accent. The whole casts were Latina, or have the Latin blood, which shows us the clear vision of this movie. From this movie, we can see what Mexican people do on Dia de los Muertos, and why they do it, including why they spread the marigold on their way home, or why they put their dead family picture on their offrenda.

The casts are exceptional too. Anthony Gonzales successfully controls this movie’s whole emotion, while he’s only 13. He can be persisted, fragile and cute at the same time. The main villain, Ernesto de la Cruz, played perfectly by Benjamin Bratt. Bratt captures the cocky soul of a greatest legend they had, like Mexican Elvis, or in Indonesia he somehow reminds me of Rhoma Irama, haha. The rest of the casts are portraying their character well. Gael Garcia Bernal looks perfectly desperate as Hector, Alanna Ubach convinces us that she is the longtime matriarch of the family, and even the ending of this movie shows us why Coco, not Miguel, is the titular character.

At the end, this movie taught us that whatever evil thing you’ve done, and whenever it is, it will be revealed someday. This is good lesson for children. And the music is satisfying too. This is a movie you have to watch with your children, and probably the most heartwarming children movie of this year.

Marlina Si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak (2017): Mendobrak Patriarki, Marlina adalah Reinkarnasi Fiktif Kartini

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Directed by: Mouly Surya | Written by: Rama Adi, Garin Nugroho, Mouly Surya | Produced by: Rama Adi, Willawati, Najwa Abu Bakar, Peter Bithos | Starring: Marsha Timothy, Dea Panendra, Egy Fedly, Yoga Pratama, Indra Birowo | Music by: Yudhi Arfani, Zeke Khaseli | Cinematography: Yunus Pasolang | Edited by: Kelvin Nugroho | Production Companies: Cinesurya, Kaninga Pictures, Shasha & Co Production, Astro Shaw, HOOQ Original, Purin Pictures

9.2/10

Beberapa film Indonesia yang saya tonton tahun ini kebanyakan film berkelas festival, karena menurut saya film-film ini kisahnya jauh lebih membumi, konsepnya jelas dan biasanya pemainnya lebih total dalam berakting. Kehausan saya akan film Indonesia yang berkualitas terpancing saat membaca berita bahwa film karya Mouly Surya, Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts (jika diubah ke dalam bahasa Indonesia menjadi Marlina Si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak) tayang premier di Cannes dan beberapa festival film bergengsi lainnya.

Ketika film ini akhirnya mampir di bioskop Indonesia, film ini memberikan saya jawaban akan film berkualitas karya anak bangsa dan membuat kembali yakin untuk nonton film Indonesia di bioskop lagi. Tidak seperti kebanyakan politikus Indonesia yang hanya doyan obral janji tanpa bukti, film ini sesuai dengan apa yang telah dijanjikan di judulnya. Film terbagi dalam empat babak yang saling menyambung satu sama lain. Jadi bagi kalian yang suka tersesat dalam alur film maju-mundur, jangan khawatir. Alur film ini seperti lagunya Titiek Puspa, Terus Maju Pantang Mundur hehe.

Babak pertama, The Robbery a.k.a Perampokan Setengah Jam Lagi, menceritakan kedatangan seorang perampok lelaki paruh baya bernama Markus (Egy Fedly) ke rumah protagonis kita, Marlina (Marsha Timothy). Dalam kunjungannya, Markus menagih utang Marlina dan karena Marlina tak bisa membayarnya, Markus mengatakan kalau gerombolannya yang berjumlah tujuh atau delapan orang akan datang mengambil ternak Marlina sebagai pelunas utangnya. Markus juga mengatakan dengan jelas kalau ia dan gerombolannya akan memperkosa Marlina. Disini ia seolah menegaskan betapa patriarkinya dunia kita dengan mengatakan, “Kau akan jadi perempuan paling beruntung malam ini.” Ketika Marlina menjawab bahwa ia akan jadi perempuan paling sial karena pemerkosaan itu, Markus menjawab, “Ah, kau perempuan sukanya menjadi korban.”

Markus makin menjadi lambang patriarki dengan bertanya sudah berapa banyak lelaki yang ditiduri Marlina mengingat statusnya sebagai janda, status dimana kebanyakan perempuan tak pernah dianggap dengan hormat. Ketika gerombolan perampok datang, Marlina mencoba mencari bantuan. Rumahnya terletak di atas bukit dan tak punya tetangga, sehingga bantuan yang ia harapkan tak kunjung datang. Marlina pun memutar otak, dan membubuhkan racun di makanan yang ia masak, membunuh seluruh gerombolan, kecuali Markus. Markus mencoba memperkosa Marlina, dan Marlina terpaksa membunuhnya dengan memenggal kepalanya.

Babak kedua, The Journey a.k.a Perjalanan, mengisahkan perjalanan Marlina ke kantor polisi sambil menenteng kepala Markus. Di perjalanan, Marlina bertemu Novi (Dea Panendra), tetangganya yang sedang hamil tua dan ingin menemui suaminya di kota. Babak ini didominasi oleh “protes” pembuat film pada potret Sumba yang indah tetapi miskin (NTT pada kenyataannya adalah provinsi termiskin ketiga di Indonesia) dan terabaikan oleh Pemerintah. Moda transportasi dari kampung Marlina dan Novi hanya truk yang mengangkut penumpang, hewan ternak dan hasil pertanian, pun entahlah layak jalan atau tidak.

Babak ketiga, The Confession a.k.a Pengakuan, menceritakan setelah Marlina tiba di kantor polisi. Keakrabannya dengan anak penjaga warung yang namanya mirip dengan nama bayinya yang lama meninggal digambarkan seperti oase di tengah amarah yang mendominasi film ini. Dari interaksi mereka, kita tahu kepedihan Marlina yang kini ditinggal mati anak dan suaminya. Pengaduan yang dibuat Marlina di depan polisi pun menjadi kritik pedas pada birokrasi di republik ini. Marlina yang harus menunggu para polisi selesai bermain tenis meja sebelum membuat pengaduan menjadi lambang sempurna birokrasi yang lamban dan bertele-tele. Belum lagi ketidakberpihakan hukum pada perempuan korban perkosaan juga semakin menegaskan betapa patriarki mengakar di negeri ini dan keberpihakan pada perempuan baru sampai pada sekedar wacana belaka.

Babak terakhir, The Birth a.k.a Suara Tangis Bayi, sudah menjelaskan bahwa Novi akan melahirkan di akhir film. Hebatnya, proses kelahirannya pun anti-mainstream. Setelah bertemu suaminya Umbu (Indra Birowo), Novi tidak mendapat perlakuan seperti yang ia harapkan. Umbu malah menuduhnya selingkuh, memukulnya dan meninggalkannya di jalanan. Novi pun jadi sandera Franz (Yoga Pratama) demi memaksa Marlina pulang membawa kepala Markus. Begitu Marlina pulang, Franz mengulangi kesalahan Markus dengan kembali memperkosa Marlina, tetapi kali ini nyawanya berakhir di tangan Novi.

Film ini, selain menjadi kritik pedas akan ketidakhadiran Pemerintah dan masyarakat akan nasib perempuan yang menjadi korban kekerasan seksual, juga meyakinkan kita bahwa dalam kondisi terdesak, perempuan bisa membalikkan fakta bahwa mereka adalah makhluk lemah yang butuh perlindungan lelaki. Kekerasan pada Marlina terjadi di depan jenazah suaminya, menunjukkan ketidakhadiran lelaki untuk melindunginya. Kekuatan visi pembuat film menjadikan film ini tangguh, kuat dan meyakinkan. Buat saya, ini salah satu film Indonesia terbaik tahun ini!

Justice League (2017): After Wonder Woman’s Glory, This Doesn’t Feel Right

Directed by: Zack Snyder | Produced by: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg, Geoff Johns | Screenplay by: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon | Story by: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder | Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, JK Simmons, Ciaran Hinds | Music by: Danny Elfman | Edited by: David Brenner, Richard Pearson, Martin Walsh | Cinematography: Fabian Wagner | Production Companies: DC Films, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films | Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures | Official Website

8/10

In this era of Superhero movies get in and out our cinemas, you are liberally able to choose whatever genre you like the most. Because it’s different, totally different. It sets on several tones, one brings out the most fun of all, one sets on a darker tone, and one becomes the milestone for the whole superhero franchise. Superhero movies, as I can say, is an egalitarian way that tries to meet every fan expectation. Since every fan has his own expectation on their superhero, then it becomes so hard to meet their demand while also making a blast on box office.

Marvel has set their awesome path to glorify their superhero since over a decade ago. While their Cinematic Universe comes to the third phase and everyone is getting boring with their typical storytelling, their counterpart DC has just started their Extended Universe with seemingly no exact direction on which they want to set their universe further. With Marvel glorious sets on both box office and become movie reviewers’ darling, DC falls the other way round. They fall in reviews, state their darker tone doesn’t fit the reviewers criterion on how superhero movies should be. The anomalous Wonder Woman (2017) that released this summer has given DC fans hope since that movie becomes the only DCEU release that doesn’t flop in reviews. Unfortunately, I think this Justice League movie will not follow Wonder Woman’s glorious path and fall on Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice class.

Sets directly as Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice sequels after Clark “Superman” Kent (Henry Cavill)’s death, Justice League tells us about Bruce “Batman” Wayne (Ben Affleck)’s concern on new emerging enemies. Realized he cannot face it alone, Bruce is trying to get help from another superpower men, starting from asking “Do you really talk to fish?” to Arthur “Aquaman” Curry (Jason Momoa), throwing his batarang to young and awkward Barry “The Flash” Allen (Ezra Miller) and trying to reach half human half robot Victor “Cyborg” Stone (Ray Fisher). Except Barry, the other rejects Bruce’s offer.

That was not long before a villain with big horns new gods Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his Parademons invade Themyscira to take over one of the boxes that Amazonian has protected for a very long time. Queen Hyppolyta then flares the old fire to warn his daughter Diana “Wonder Woman” Prince (Gal Gadot). Diana then meets Bruce and together they gather the team, soon after Steppenwolf invades Atlantic and take over the second box, then kidnaps dr. Stone, Victor’s father that he deemed knowing the third box’s whereabouts. Bruce insists they were not enough, so he tries to resurrect Clark from his death.

As I said before that DCEU has set their superhero movie tone to be darker than usual, this movie’s tone is still dark and gloomy. Although it’s unfavorable to most of the reviewers, I still think that it is acceptable. The superheroes are lovable, and it’s a good point that they give us reason to love them. Barry’s awkwardness almost feels like DC’s version of Tom Holland Spiderman on Spiderman: Homecoming (2017). Arthur’s manly arrogance and Victor’s cynicism are reasonable if we remember their position as the ocean’s ruler and the victim of heavy explosion brought back to life. When Diana claims “Children. I work with children”, we know that we love these superheroes and their cute characters. Unfortunately these cute superheroes have to meet Steppenwolf, who I think is the most pathetic supervillain after Doctor Victor Von Doom on Fox’s Fantastic Four (2015). Steppenwolf is plain, and as a supervillain Ciaran Hinds doesn’t give him much terrifying scenes he deserves.

The other unacceptable things are the CGI and the direction they set on this franchise. I know that Justice League is just their fifth movie on their entire expanded universe and there are some more superheroes to join, but it feels so ambitious that they already had two movies that gathers their iconic superheroes in their first five years. I think it will be better for them to create origin story movies for their each superheroes, bring us closer to them and then gathering the familiar superheroes, not just suddenly gathering them in an instant and let the usual viewers stranded with no clues of what that superhero’s superpower. The CGI is no better cause to love this movie even more. It’s rough, it sometimes feels like we were playing Playstation 4 games on a giant screen.

The casts are so-so, some are lovable, some are unreasonable why he’s there. Ben Affleck still tries his best to fit the role of mature Bruce Wayne, and ends up doing almost nothing to the movie. Bruce has to turn on the spotlight for each member of the group, but it seems that he even has difficulties to turn on his own spotlight. Gal Gadot is charming, and makes us believe that it should be Diana that lead the team, not Bruce. The surprisingly lovable characters are Ezra Miller’s Barry and Jason Momoa’s Arthur. They shine in their own way, and they don’t need Bruce Wayne to shine their superheroes charisma. Ray Fisher, on the other way, needs more reason why he joins the team other than he just completes the diversity cause.

This movie is rated PG-13 so beware of bringing you children although they will probably love this movie. There are two extra after credit scenes that are both so good and makes me wonder why I didn’t have that movies instead of this, so just don’t leave your seats too early.

Paddington 2 (2017): Little Bear’s Adventure that will Warm Your Heart

Directed by: Paul King | Produced by: David Heyman | Written by: Paul King, Simon Farnaby | Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Grant | Music by: Dario Marianelli | Cinematography: Erik Wilson | Edited by: Mark Everson, Jonathan Amos | Production Companies: Heyday Films, Studio Canal | Distributed by: Studio Canal

8.7/10

I remember back in 2014 when the first Paddington movie was both cute and entertaining. When lots of sequels this year don’t even come up to its each prequels, I doubt this second beary adventure will again steal our heart away. In truth, I completely fulfilled and satisfied with the sequel, which I never thought would top the first movie.

As we follow our beloved young bear Paddington (his innocent voice was done perfectly by Ben Whishaw) after he is adopted by the Brown family in London, we soon know that Paddington wants to buy a present for his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Stanton)’s 100th birthday. His heart chooses a pop-up book in Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent)’s antiques, but he knows he can’t afford it. He then decides to get some jobs so he can save his salary for the present, and his clumsiness creates most of this movie’s entertaining scenes.

On one night, Paddington watches a thief robbing Mr. Gruber’s antiques and stealing the pop-up book. Paddington tries to chase the thief, but he lost him and Paddington is convicted to be the thief. He is sent to prison, while the thief revealed himself as Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), an old actor with ambition to search for fortune left by the pop-up book’s author. In prison, thanks to Paddington’s innocence and clumsiness, he makes the prison much lively and he makes some friends. Meanwhile, the Browns never give up their best to set their beloved bear free.

Watching this movie is like watching Sherlock with extra fun from Paddington. Thanks to writers Paul King and Simon Farnaby, the whole who-done-it and how-we-prove-it mystery elements were mixed with Paddington’s cuteness, innocent and hilarious actions, and makes this movie become more exciting and enjoyable to watch. Paddington’s innocent and his love for marmalade, beside stole our hearts away, has melted the hearts of most of the prisoners, including the Iron Chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). There are some thrills for adventure, but the thrills don’t knock down the whole charm of this children movie. The whole movie felt like it was meant to warm our heart, so we can walk on Antartica wearing bikini after watching this.

The whole casts were also the most important issue in this movie. Ben Whishaw, as I stated before, has been done perfectly in voicing Paddington. On his hand, Paddington fulfils his complete character and becomes the main reason why we can have fun for the rest of the movie. However, the show was stolen by Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan. Grant has everything to portray Buchanan, the main villain of this movie: charm, looks, and the post-power syndrome. Grant makes us believe that Buchanan is the villain we want Paddington to face without getting beaten too hard.

If you wants a movie with warm messages and sense of adventure suitable for your children, this movie is highly suggested.

Chasing The Dragons (2017): Hongkong Action Movie with Yen and Lau would Never Betray You

Chinese title: 追龙 | Directed by: Jason Kwan, Wong Jing | Produced by: Wong Jing, Yu Dong | Executive Producers: Andy Lau, Donnie Yen, Wong Jing, Connie Wong | Starring: Andy Lau, Donnie Yen, Kent Cheng, Kent Tong, Felix Wong | Production Companies: Mega Vision Project Workshop, Bona Film Group | Distributed by: Mega Vision Project Workshop, WellGo USA

8.1/10

As one of the most prominent Hong Kong director of the last quarter-century, Wong Jing has offered us a lot of legacy within his trademark comedic gambling genre like God of Gamblers series, until his newest From Vegas to Macau. This man seems to have no doubt in cultivating his own legacy and now he has returned, alongside co-director Jason Kwan, in the mash-up of two Hong Kong classics, Chasing the Dragons. Chasing the Dragons was a movie mash-up between two Hong Kong’s 1991 action movies, To be Number One and his own Lee Rock, and now he aims the largest movie market nowadays, China.

Sets in Hong Kong 1960s, Chasing the Dragons portrays two prominent protagonists: corrupt police Detective Lee Rock (Andy Lau, reprises his role from nearly twenty six years ago) and drug dealer Ng Sai-Ho (Donnie Yen, replaces Ray Lui from the original To Be Number One). One day, Ho saves Lee’s life and caused him to be a crippled, called Crippled Ho. Those two then become close friends. Lee appoints Ho to become his hand on drug trading in Hong Kong’s walled city, while he climbs up his career as a clean, sophisticated and English-speaking police detective.

When Hong Kong’s political situation becomes more complicated, Lee realizes he needs more hands to help him control drug trading on all over Hong Kong and also to secure his position. On the other side, Ho starts to grow insecurities to Lee and his other hands after his brother’s death to drug overdose. Their friendship is getting more heat when Ho decides to take revenge on British government whom he judged to be responsible for his brother’s death, while Lee cannot protect him anymore since British government develops the anti-corruption committee and starts to know his real involvement in drug trading all over Hong Kong.

The most interesting thing in this movie is as they aim to pursue China market, this movie is trying hard to tell that every political turmoil in Hong Kong is caused by the British colonialism. They want to make clear that this movie is telling about how British government has been unfair to the local community and that’s why the protagonists, who are both Chinese, fight British in their own ways. They made the two protagonists Lee and Ho, who are actually criminals, become sophisticated and sympathetic antiheroes, and give heroic reasons to their every act in order to maintain Mainland’s heroism spirit. The actions were good, has been a nice touch to glorify the whole movie plot without looking too much exploited Yen’s background as an action movie actor.

The other interesting thing in this movie is the two main actors, who also act as executive producers of this movie. Andy Lau returns in this movie, reprises his role as Lee Rock, who has been transformed from a raw and rough gangster into a charming, well-dressed police officer who speaks perfect English. Meanwhile, Donnie Yen plays more interesting character. As a narco-kingpin Crippled Ho, he channels his family-man off-screen persona into his character, transforming Crippled Ho into a highly sympathetic rebel who is willing to do anything to protect his kin and his family.

Wong Jing eliminates his sex and erotic sense and gives this movie more proper gory scenes for an action movie, so please don’t bring your child watching this movie.

Flatliners (2017): A More Mediocre Remake of a Mediocre Original

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev | Produced by: Laurence Mark, Michael Douglas, Peter Safran | Written by: Ben Ripley | Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland | Music by: Nathan Barr | Cinematography: Eric Kress | Edited by: Tom Elkins | Production Companies: Columbia Pictures, Cross Creek Pictures, Further Films, Laurence Mark Production | Distributed by: Sony Pictures | Official Website

4.5/10

So one day I talked about death with my friend and we came to a conclusion that somehow we will never be ready to face it. My mother once said that death maybe the final destination of our life, but again, we really have no idea of what happens in the afterlife, despite of what your belief said. This movie is trying to figure out that biggest question of our life: what happens to our body and mind after we die. That was a real good idea, if the execution is not going the other way than we are expected.

Meet our five medical students: Courtney (Ellen Page), Ray (Diego Luna), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Jamie (James Norton) and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons). Courtney is the first person who has the idea of stopping her heart from pounding and experiences the death. She asks Jamie and Sophia to come to abandon ward of their hospital, then assist her to stop her heart and resuscitate her one minute later. They are nearly failed if Ray wasn’t suddenly appear and help them, not long before Marlo figures out their plan.

After coming back from the death, Courtney suddenly becomes a more brilliant intern who answers their supervisor, dr. Wolfson (Kiefer Sutherland, the only actor from original movie that comes back in this remake)’s questions. Courtney’s brilliance lures her colleagues interest in experiencing death, of what they call “flatlining”. However, the “flatlining” has side effects. One by one, they are starting to be haunted by their past and their guilt. When the guilt kills Courtney, they know that they should do something to free themselves of those side effects.

Lately Hollywood has come to the age of sequels, reboots and remakes. There are 43 sequel, reboot and remake movies according to this site, and not every movie on that list is a better one than the original. This movie, however, falls into the categories that are worse than the original one. The original one is quite boring actually, but this movie is a good bedtime stories if you have acute insomnia because I am pretty sure you will fall asleep while watching this.

The movie writing is bad, too many plot-holes and unanswerable questions left after the ending. This movie has a good start with medical backgrounds, but when your protagonists are starting to be consumed by their guilt, there were no medical or scientific explanation of what they were really experiencing. The solutions are even more ridiculously not scientific and made this movie feels like you are trying to look smart before an exam but failed successfully. The writings also made this movie looks more like hospital drama than a thriller it should be. If it wants to be sorted into horror and thriller movie, Flatliners falls into a flat horror without any significant jump scares or thrilling moments.

The actors are not making this movie any better. They were trapped in a bad writing so their characters were not developed enough. Their past time that made them feel guilty were strong enough to be developed but we can’t see well if it haunted the characters, and what hurts them in real life or who stabbed Jamie’s palms. Then if character Ray were the only one left without experiencing death or guilt and not even be the one that propose a solution? I almost expected that Ray could be the villain for his friends but it doesn’t happen. Other than his brilliant medical records, I don’t even understand the reason why they even create this character.

So if the original is told us “It’s not a good time to die”, this version is trying to tell us “It’s a good day to die”. For me, it sounds more like “It’s a good day to not watching this movie”.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017): More Fun but also Messy

Directed by: Taika Waititi | Produced by: Kevin Feige | Screenplay by: Eric Pearson | Story by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Eric Pearson | Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins | Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh | Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe | Edited by: Joel Negron, Zene Baker | Production Company: Marvel Studios | Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios, Motion Pictures | Official Website

8.6/10

Marvel has begun their cinematic universe since the release of Iron Man (2008) and keeps on collecting our money by their decent CGI and star-studded superhero themes. The same formula has been repeating on their superhero themes, but their gigantic plan of making their universe expanded until more than a decade is ambitious, and risky because it can make their audience boring with the same formula. However, since Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) released and stole our heart with their fun and stellar mix of soundtracks, it seemed that Marvel finds out a new way to set their feature movies free from boredom.

Then comes Thor: Ragnarok, which according to many Marvel fans, would end everything and kill everyone. Well, this doesn’t make sense since Marvel still has to release Avengers: Infinity War on 2018 and 2019 and it’s hard to imagine what those two movies would look like without our charming and bodybuilder-look-alike Lord of Thunder, Thor. Thor has a very impeccable charm during his previous solo movie Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) and being one of the most influential member of The Avengers. Since it’s almost impossible to kill Thor now, then I think that this Ragnarok would mean another thing, and keep my fingers crossed that it would be a nice thing.

On his first appearance on this movie, our beloved Lord of Thunder (still played by Chris Hemsworth) is detained, chained and hanged in a big deserted hell, by a big monster wearing a big crown and adopting a big dragon as pet. That big monster, called Surtur, then talks about the Ragnarok he would cause to Asgard, Thor’s homeland. Thor then fights Surtur, after mocks his big crown as big eyebrows, and brings his crown to Asgard. On Asgard, he encounters his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who turns out to be camouflaged by his brother God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston). It seems that Marvel wants to make Thor and Loki bitter sibling rivalry looks like Liam and Noel Gallagher on Norse Mythology.

On their way to find Odin, they meet *ehem spoiler* Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who reveals that Odin is in Norway. Upon their encounter with Odin, Odin dies, and his death released his first born, Hela (Cate Blanchett) from captive. Hela, the Goddess of Death whose make up looks like smokey eyes that brought to sleep and her majestic antler headpiece that would absolutely steal everyone’s attention if you wear it on Halloween, breaks Mjolnir to pieces easily. She then sends Thor and Loki to deserted planet of Sakaar, where Thor is made a gladiator where he should fights the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum)’s champion, Hulk aka Bruce Banner in failed anger management (Mark Ruffalo). On Sakaar too, Thor meets the drunken Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson), who is actually the only Valkyrie left alive.

Meanwhile, Hela seems to be a busy goddess explaining her victorious days fighting alongside Odin to her new minion Skurge (Karl Urban). After her mesmerizing battle against Asgard’s troops, somehow steal my heart away and for one moment reminds us on how terrifying she is, she still needs the Sword of Bifrost to open the gate for her conquest on other realms. The Sword of Bifrost, by the way, has been stolen by Heimdall (Idris Elba), who is now evacuating every Asgardian to hidden fortress behind the mountain.

Okay. So let’s catch it all up. This is another story of family conflict sets in Norse Mythology on who should ascend the throne after Odin’s death. And just like other mythologies, there is one god stronger than other god and in this case, Hela looks like she is absolutely stronger than any of Thor or Loki. Cate Blanchett again, always looks charming as hell, and even her standing doing nothing is terrifying as well. However, this movie has a lot of things and too many characters to be covered up so she doesn’t have enough screentime to be one of the most charming yet terrifying Marvel villain. Loki might be charming, but he looks like a little child compared to Hela.

In the end, the Ragnarok is not like we already imagined before. No one gets killed, besides Odin, and nothing makes me happier than listening to Led Zeppelin in the middle of Marvel movie.