Men in Black: International

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In this Men in Black spin-off, new agent M arrives at the MIB London headquarters and teams up with senior agent H to find a mole in the organization and stop an alien being from destroying all life on Earth.

The Men in Black movies have been very unique and enjoyable in the past, with moments that many generations can remember or quote — so it’s a shame this new installment is just pretty standard. It’s a movie we’ve seen god knows how many times — two agents/cops have to get along and fight bad a guy, but turns out it’s not who it seems. One golden aspect of the MIB films is the main duo, agents J and K, so they really needed to nail that without Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones around. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are the saving grace of the film and play off each other well, like they have in the past as a lovable duo in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame. Thompson especially delivers a great performance as the rookie agent discovering a huge world of extraterrestrial friends and foes. Kumail Nanjiani is also clearly having fun voicing an alien named Pawny, because… well, he’s a pawn. Get it? But the thing about cast members like Hemsworth and Liam Neeson are that they basically play the same types of characters we’ve already seen them play — give Agent H a magical axe and I would’ve certainly thought he was Thor. Some of the exposition gets uninteresting and the villain does nothing for the film, and barely any of the humor lands, whatever does was already shown in the trailer. Also, this is an action movie, and while the action here will keep most viewers in their seats, that’s just about the best compliment I can give it. I found the action to be dull and boring and it feels too much like the other films — or any action film, in that matter — to be praised, but most viewers will find it not bad enough to at least sit down in front of. The visuals are sometimes serviceable but there are even moments when the green screen and set design seem too obvious and stand out in a bad way. There’s also a huge plot twist in the final act that, well, I saw coming before the movie even began. The final battle is the most boring part and the ending is also very silly. I don’t know if they’re planning on making more of these films, but they should get new writers and directors, and also the original titular duo, on board to make it better.

Men in Black: International hits all the familiar notes, and you won’t really remember it after watching it. It has an enjoyable cast and some moments the general audience will enjoy if you’re looking for a light-hearted action film, but if that doesn’t necessarily mean a good film in your books, then you should just give it a go.

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Dark Phoenix

The X-Men have become global heroes, taking on riskier missions, and when Jean Grey is hit with a solar flare on a space rescue mission, it unleashes an unimaginable strength in her that threatens the X-Men and the entire world.

As the conclusion of this Fox X-Men saga, Dark Phoenix is somewhat enjoyable with a fascinating cast and characters that are stayed true to here. Sophie Turner does a solid job as Jean, and even if she sometimes overacts, she does a good job of delivering fear, uncertainty, and pain in her performance. Despite the title though, the real standouts are actually the supporting characters played by James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult. These characters really get moments to shine and the writing from the previous films is carried down to keep them effective characters like they are here. However, there are some writing choices that make Charles and Mystique feel a bit out of character, like Raven’s constant doubting of the X-Men’s mission which was there before but in this film’s situation is a bit of a stretch. Also, Charles clearly introduces some of the conflict in the movie but it also feels like the other characters treat him too poorly for the sake of the story. Also, one of the coolest characters from the last few films, Quicksilver, is hardly in the film, which is a missed opportunity considering how much enjoyment he brings to the screen and the fact that X-Men: Apocalypse also revealed him being Magneto’s son, which has absolutely no payoff (not really a spoiler, it’s a fact revealed early on in the predecessor which was released in 2016).

It’s surprising that the real reason this film works is besides the main story and the fact that this is a Phoenix adaptation, it feels above all like an X-Men movie and the character relations are what work best. Jean’s internal conflict which is the central arc of the film actually falls second to the world-building and the connections between the other characters, as well as nods to themes that even have allegories of WWII events, like the idea of one incident drawing fear towards an entire group of people. The action works at times, especially a fun space rescue scene at the beginning that has striking visual effects, as well as an exciting battle in New York City later on which does an impressive job displaying the characters’ powers. The score from Hans Zimmer is also remarkable and helps bring a darker tone than most superhero films which isn’t really ever interrupted by light humor, something most Marvel movies like to include. Unfortuantley however, one of the hardest parts of the film to enjoy comes when an alien race is introduced, led by Jessica Chastain in what is sadly one of her least notable on-screen performances. This shape-shifting alien race feels too familiar, as we just saw the same idea with the Skrulls in Captain Marvel, and their designs and powers are so inconsistent and boring, as well as their overall presence which was just unwelcome. There’s also some lines and moments that feel out of place, like Halston Sage singing a modern pop song at a party in the 90s, or cringeworthy dialogue like a random moment in which Raven says that “The women always save the men around here so you should really think of changing the name to X-Women,” a line that comes out of nowhere, has no context and serves no purpose to the story.

Also, after some interesting drama and action, the film takes a drop in quality during a final battle where suddenly a lot of the excitement is lost and I didn’t really care about where it was going. This final battle was poorly choreographed and obviously felt like a last-minute reshoot, and sacrificed any convincing emotion the previous two acts may have had, and it culminates in a horrible and laughable climax that might be one of the worst scenes in the entire franchise. The ending to the film, which is now supposed to end the entire franchise, feels pretty abrupt and anticlimactic as a conclusion and I wish they had made one or two more films after this before bringing the story of the X-Men to a proper close. The way the film ends also leaves lots of plot holes in the timeline and unresolved things that make no sense when looking at the ending of X-Men: Days of Future Past, and this film is now supposed to be a prequel to that film’s final sequence but instead it diverts away from that to make the story in the franchise even more confusing. There’s also a huge plot hole in this film that completely ignores the events of X-Men: Apocalypse — if Jean used the Phoenix force in the ’80s, how does she only get the Phoenix force in the ’90s? Dark Phoenix feels darker than the other films and focuses more on character and plot than large world-ending scale, but by the end, I wasn’t really sure what it wanted to be. What redeems Dark Phoenix as a film though is the acting, music, and action (sometimes), as well as some interesting dilemmas and character arcs raised that may or may not appeal to both fans and non-fans, but personally I found it to be a lot better than the critics are calling it, though it’s still disappointing considering how awesome I’ve seen this series become before.

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Rocketman

Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. Taron Egerton proves that he was perfectly cast as the titular role. His singing voice is so fitting and perfectly delivers on these classic Elton songs which are not only integrated into the film through his concert performances but also by musical and dance sequences where Elton’s lines connect to the situations in certain scenes. Egerton also delivers on showing how the leading character felt pride, love, anger, and rejection at certain points in his career. Also great is Jamie Bell as Elton’s best friend, and Bryce Dallas Howard who was an odd choice to play Elton’s mother but still does a solid job. Dexter Fletcher was the one and only person who should’ve directed this film and he brings so much style to the film that makes it easy to enjoy. The sets, cinematography, and editing add to an already interesting script with an artsy feel that heightens the audience’s connection to the protagonist and will make you want to sing and dance along to some of your favorite Elton John songs. What the film does so well is depicting both the highs and lows of Elton’s career and also spends a lot of time addressing and depicting his sexuality, so expect some strong sexual content as well. We see Elton display talent and receive fame, but we also see him deal with rejection from those closest to him, as well as suffering from addiction resulting from a downward emotional spiral. Yet by the end, Rocketman will feel like a rewarding time at the movies with great music, acting, and story that those who love his music will very much enjoy.

My only gripe about Rocketman is that despite its 2-hour runtime, I think a few aspects could have used a little more screentime, like how audiences were affected by his music or how those around him reacted to his addiction, which we could have seen a bit more of. Other than that, Rocketman is entertaining and emotional yet uplifting and very well-directed and acted.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla resurges from the depths of the ocean once again to face off against monsters like King Ghidorah to claim dominance over the other Titans and determine the fate of humanity and the Earth.

In 2014, Godzilla introduced us to a new MonsterVerse from Warner Bros. with exciting monster action from the new wave of Hollywood blockbusters. Godzilla: King of the Monsters, well, succeeds at making that film and every monster movie that came before look like an absolute joke. The stakes and scale are raised to an all-time high, with cities submerged underwater, millions in peril, and nuclear blasts that could cover oceans. Nothing ever looks or feels delicate because of the amount of destruction that occurs here. The vibrant blue and orange colors paint the screen and the visuals on the monsters look even better than before, as they battle and wreak glorious and enormous havoc. The visuals feel like a real achievement for the genre and always stand out in a way unlike most action films today where the CGI often feels taken for granted and not treated with such meticulous care like here. The director also did a great job of topping the action from the last film, with epic sequences fans have likely dreamed of that will immerse you with loud monster sounds and excite you with impressive visuals and fights.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters works as a fun monster movie — if only the story was able to keep up. The first act starts out as an intriguing and decent film but once the focus turns away from the main characters and toward the philosophies of whether or not the Titans should be let loose in the world, it gets extremely tiring and all the character drama gets lost in muddled story and irritating side characters who do nothing but explain things about monsters and nuclear science. Once a character’s motives are revealed, there’s an extremely frustrating second act that makes you want to get lost in all the loud music and monster extravaganza rather than care about what’s going to happen. Most of the cast is pretty underutilized except for the lovable Millie Bobby Brown, who does a great job as one of the only characters in the film who doesn’t keep making questionable decisions. Every other cast member that you want to love is either given poor dialogue or just not given good screentime or an interesting arc. Thankfully we are given time in the end of the film to enjoy yet another big battle, with an awesome finale and a grand final shot that leaves me excited for the potential of the next sequel — I just wish that they can make sure the script isn’t sacrificed next time in order to make a rewarding visual treat.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters fulfills its purpose of being a huge monster mashup with plenty of destruction, violence, and excitement, but the story is often second to fun eye candy — so come for the monster action, stay for that and not much else.

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Aladdin (2019)

A modern rendition of the beloved story of a thief who meets a beautiful young princess, finds a lamp and befriends a Genie, and must fight against the evil royal advisor Jafar.

There is no real reason as to why Disney’s new wave of live-action remakes is needed, other than for the studio to gather more money, but some have even shown potential and paid off like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast. We’ve also recently gotten Dumbo and will soon have a CGI Lion King. However, Aladdin was the one I was most skeptical about because of how close to my heart the original was and how many times I’ve viewed it. There’s so many aspects that can’t be changed or replaced, especially not Robin Williams’ Genie. This live-action rendition finds some highs and lows but ultimately never justifies its existence, but then again, I wasn’t really expecting it to. Aladdin plays it mostly by the books but even when it tries to reinvent itself, it often fails. The musical numbers don’t have much energy into them with weary long takes that don’t feel engaging, and attempts to “modernize” some of the songs with the addition of a drum backdrop was not a good call. We didn’t ask it to beat the original, but we certainly didn’t ask for an autotuned Will Smith singing “Arabian Nights” or a credits version of “Friend Like Me” that includes DJ Khaled. I know, I don’t believe it either. The cast finds some faults to but also brings the film its greatest strengths. Mena Massoud feels like the perfect embodiment of how a live-action Aladdin should look and sound. Naomi Scott is fantastic as Jasmine, who not only has a powerful arc as she seeks to bring Agrabah the true leadership it deserves and speak out against those who silence her and say she is better “seen than heard”, but the actress also has a gorgeous look and singing voice that make her one of the best parts of the film. Will Smith is also one of the most entertaining parts as the Genie. Does he live up to the performance of the role by Robin Williams? No, nobody ever can and it’s too much to ask from someone to do so. However, Smith still captures the fun spirit the Genie has and embraces every moment he has on screen, even though the horrid CGI on his blue form takes some getting used to. My main problem with the cast is definitely Jafar. Growing up, Jafar was one of my favorite Disney villains because of his menacing and thundering presence and how intimidating he felt. Jafar’s execution in this remake is rather weak and annoying, with his monotonous delivery making him feel extremely generic and unlikable. Other great actors cast in the film are Nasim Pedrad, Navid Neghaban, and Billy Magnussen, but they all have to do weird voices throughout the whole film. Pedrad’s new character is a highlight but her unnecessary “elegant” accent slightly bothered me, Neghaban was a good choice for the Sultan by doesn’t have the hilarity and over-the-top personality the Sultan is known for having, and Magnussen had no reason to be in the film and his terrible German accent makes you dislike his new and unnecessary character — he was definitely better off doing other projects.

Aladdin’s real main selling point is nostalgia, as for all of these remakes. Kids will find themselves bopping their heads to tunes like “Friend Like Me” or being enamored by the beloved anthem “A Whole New World”, but when this classic animated adventure was converted to the live-action treatment, it feels like a lot of the wonder was lost. Aladdin and Jasmine’s chemistry, is still there, as well as the friendship between the Genie and the titular character, but what feels loss is the character’s iconic journey from a street thief who steals for himself but also just cares for the other poor people around him, to a selfless, courageous hero who will fight for his love and the kingdom. His arc just doesn’t feel as effective and the movie doesn’t leave us thinking about the films’ themes and emotions like the original did for me all those years. It’s not like all animated stories can perfectly stay effective in all mediums, but Aladdin does definitely suffer from being too close but also changing too much of the wrong things. However, one thing that does land is the humor. There are some fun humorous moments that I did not expect, especially a scene involving a dance. There’s definitely some pacing issues that this remake faces, though. Since the original is 90 minutes but this remake is 130, there feels like a lot of unnecessary filler added to the third act which just makes it tiring and it drags on and doesn’t find much of a point until the climax. The visual look isn’t very impressive either. The cinematography looks so bland, sometimes almost as if someone went to the desert and started shooting on their iPhone. But even the production design isn’t very convincing and it all clearly looks shot on a film set. The movie also fails to capture the vastness of Agrabah that was so intriguing in the first film. Here, everything feels a lot smaller and less striking to the eye, as well as poor CGI for the Genie as well as a few action sequences which aren’t enticing at all. There’s even a character in the final battle who looks like all the DC Extended Universe villains combined, and believe me, that’s not a good thing. Making Iago look like a real parrot takes away all the humorous and cartoonish feel that’s made him a classic role, same with Raja, who’s just a tiger rather than a trusty sidekick for Jasmine. Guy Ritchie’s new Aladdin doesn’t necessarily ruin the film that inspired it, but it certainly doesn’t honor the beauty of the glamour and the story that’s taken us all by awe like something like, say, the new Broadway musical adaptation.

Aladdin clearly didn’t need to be made, but kids will still enjoy a remake that’s, not really different from the original and in the end is just an inferior rendition of a magnificent gem that came before. Despite some entertaining moments but mostly frustrating changes and updates, there isn’t too much to take away except lovable songs you already know, and a strong, fresher arc for Jasmine as well as a standout delivery from Will Smith.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

After being excommunicated from the hitman underground, John Wick finds himself on the run from legions of assassins after a $14 million contract is put on his head.

This third installment ups the ante again with unimaginably epic action scenes and set pieces, and a once again powerhouse delivery by Keanu Reeves and the incredible stunts team. The fight choreography has so much dedication put into it and the visual style and cinematography stand out. Those who love the first film for its vibrant action won’t be let down by Parabellum at all, as all the blood and excitement is still very much present thanks to Chad Stahelski who has wonderfully directed all three films and helped make this franchise one like no other. Reeves’ performance as always awesome but also deep, and he puts so much commitment into the role that it’s clear how much he loves playing John Wick. Another win is Halle Berry, who owns her scenes and shares some great scenes with Wick. The way they handle the plot is mostly interesting, although flawed. The themes sometimes get muddled and confusing, and it feels like a lot less development happens than in the first two, because while still exciting, it feels cut a tad short. The ending unfortunately just makes the movie feel like a bridge between Chapter 2 and 4, and considering I had been waiting for 2 years to see how the ending of Chapter 2 is resolved, it’s a little frustrating for them to make us wait another two years to give us closure because ultimately, a lot less changes by the end of this installment. Also, the fights in the third act do get repetitive or overly extended at one point where the intensity slightly drops, and the villain shows up out of nowhere in the middle of the movie and doesn’t feel interesting at all, rather just another random pawn John has to fight through but with more extended screen time and wise-cracking lines. The only characters you’re really still invested in are the protagonists, like the characters played by Reeves, Berry, Ian McShane, and Laurence Fishburne. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t have that same spark the first two did, but the action still makes this one a worthy watch, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what will go down in Chapter 4 (spoiler alert: he’s probably going to kill a lot of people again).

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum‘s plot sometimes fails to catch up to the brutal and enthralling action and set pieces, but is still worth a watch for action moviegoers, fans of the previous films, and those who just love seeing Keanu Reeves do his thing, and I for one am looking forward to seeing more of his dedication and presence in the future.

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Avengers: Endgame

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After the decimation of half the universe at the hands of Thanos, the Avengers must fight to restore order to the universe once and for all in the conclusion to an 11-year, 22-film-long journey through the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

If you’ve ever felt like all these shared universes and year-long franchises have been leading up to something, then, well, it’s here. The moment fans have been waiting for since 2008 has finally arrived, culminating an already enormous franchise in a gigantic finale that’s everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s the most shocking and emotional movie out of the entire superhero genre, but also brings all the excitement and fun Marvel knows for while having a more somber tone than most Marvel films as well. This movie brings eleven years of cinema in a cinematic event that pays off every minute dedicated to waiting for, watching, and discussing Marvel films over the years. If you think you could get away with only watching a few of the previous films before this one, then you’re wrong — in order to truly grasp the substance of Endgame like the movie wants you to, you are required to watch every film from the Iron ManCaptain America, and Thor trilogies to all the other connected adventures such as Guardians of the GalaxyDoctor StrangeAnt-Man and the Wasp, and Captain Marvel, and of course, the first three Avengers film. After all, it has been an eleven-year adventure and, to be honest, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the center of popular culture for as long as I’ve known about it and have been following it. In case you don’t know, I’ve seen every Marvel movie in theaters since 2012 and this franchise has always had a special place in my heart. This movie is one that everyone can love, but simply going to see Endgame without any prior knowledge won’t bring you as much joy and emotional payoff as that which so many fans in my theater, including myself, experienced when watching this film. The performances are all spectacular, including Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans reprising their beloved roles as the leading names of the Avengers, which have easily become the greatest characters in modern cinema. The movie does a wonderful job continuing every character arc from the previous films but still takes characters in unexpected directions, which may be why characters like Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Thor are such highlights as well. Every actor wonderfully reminds us why they were so perfect from the role, including the previously mentioned actors, as well as Mark Ruffalo who is always so enjoyable as Bruce Banner. Not to mention Paul Rudd, who is perfect comedic relief but also delivers a terrific performance overall as his character Scott Lang, better known as Ant-Man. Another character I was very impressed by is Nebula, who originates from the Guardians of the Galaxy films and is most deeply connected to Thanos from all the characters in the film. Nebula’s arc has always intrigued me though many have overlooked it, and the script takes advantage of what makes her great very well and transforms her into a real hero, as opposed to her darker, villainous personality when her journey began in Guardians of the Galaxy. Telling you who else is in the film would already be a spoiler, but every cast member that does appear in the movie perfectly utilized and is very much welcomed every minute they’re on screen.

Remember when Avengers: Infinity War came out and everyone called it a cinematic landmark because of the incomparable scale and stakes? Well, Avengers: Endgame succeeds at topping that scale by creating something even more unimaginably enormous and climactic. Moments fans have awaited for years and buildup waiting to be payed off, it’s all rewarded here in scenes you would never think to picture in your head but finally can. Audiences will continuously clap and cheer as the past films are referenced and heroes do awesome things you’ve always wanted them to do. This movie made me react like no movie before, and I had a huge smile on my face in some scenes that I just couldn’t get rid of. Even after twenty-two films, Marvel takes unexpected directions that you wouldn’t have thought of but still remain true to the long-lasting story arcs. This results in an emotionally surreal experience where you cannot tell what will happen next, or if Hollywood can ever top such a glorious event. The way Endgame handles its story serving as a climax of eleven years of cinema and as a 3-hour movie lover’s dream, well, it convinces me that this is the peak of filmmaking history here. Every movie in history has always promised to “up the ante”, but after Endgame, it’s hard to see how the scale, stakes, and weight of this film can ever be topped. But that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it just means that we lived in the right time, to witness such a grand phenomenon unfold in front of our eyes, and that we’ll be able to tell those who come after us of the adventure we went on with these characters over the years, and the conclusion of their stories that we see here, wrapped up terrifically in one of the greatest superhero movie endings of all time, which in turn helps make up the greatest superhero movie, and one of the most astonishing action movies and blockbusters put to film in this day and age.

Avengers: Endgame is a cinematic event that must be witnessed on the big screen, marking the end of an era for Marvel but one that still exceeds expectations with fantastic writing, emotional value, nostalgia, and visuals and set pieces that will be remembered for the rest of however long superhero and action movies continue to be made. Thank you, Marvel Studios, for making such a sensational universe and making the experience of being a fan an unforgettable one. I’m sure more people can agree with me on that than Thanos can snap away. You’ve definitely already heard of Avengers: Endgame and now that you know why you should see it, what are you waiting for?

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