Avengers: Infinity War

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Six years ago, at the age of 10, I started this website, hoping to share my love of movies with the world, and my first review was for a film I had recently watched and loved — that film was The Avengers. I can’t believe it’s been so long since then, and growing up with this franchise, it’s amazing to see how it’s grown from 6 superheroes fighting an alien army to the extraordinary team-up of Infinity War. Marvel has always been my favorite film studio around, as their blockbusters always astound viewers and bring us together a few times a year. Their movies have rocked my world and are the reason I got so into action and superhero blockbusters. And after 10 years and 18 films, the buildup of the Marvel universe has finally paid off as Thanos begins his journey to find all 6 Infinity Stones in order to wipe out half the universe. If you’re not familiar with any of Marvel’s movies, don’t count on the film to help you catch up, and it doesn’t only require you to watch The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, it also brings together the events of Captain America: Civil WarGuardians of the GalaxyDoctor StrangeThor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther. The cast is exceptional, as they are in every Marvel movie — Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, and Chris Pratt all reprise their roles (among many others) as the heroes who have become among my favorite film characters through the decade. It’s plenty of fun to see these characters interact — particularly those who meet for the first time, such as Iron Man and Doctor Strange, Thor and the Guardians, and Spider-Man and Star-Lord. Like I said, many plot details involve knowledge from the previous film so I strongly recommend you watch all the previous Marvel films before watching this one. The humor is also a big part of many Marvel movies and here it once again doesn’t disappoint. Every member of the enormous cast does an excellent job bringing their characters back to the big screen, but the standout is the one we haven’t seen much of before — Josh Brolin as Thanos. Thanos is not only a threatening villain but also a complex one who is developed thoroughly and isn’t just another CGI alien trying to get control of the universe. He also shows complex emotions and sees his actions not as acts of villainy, but acts of sacrifice to save the universe.

The action is always spectacular, with gorgeous visuals and setting painting the screen in every shot. The stakes are always high for the Avengers and the fate of humanity, and the unpredictability takes the film to surprising places. Many have criticized Marvel’s villain problems or lack of risk-taking, but their villains this year — both Thanos and Killmonger — have become the best in their universe, and Infinity War may be the biggest risk ever taken for a blockbuster. Years of buildup over so many films — it could have gone wrong early on if any of their movies failed — but so much faith and effort was put into this project and it pays off perfectly. None of it feels unbalanced or crowded, and though my one complaint is that a few of my favorite characters ended up getting no development, and a few of the arcs from the previous films weren’t quite carried on, it’s forgivable because of how much action is already going on and how the main focus of the film is developing the villain. Infinity War is so much to take in not just because it’s different from any Marvel movie, but because it’s different from any movie that’s been released before in cinemas. With Infinity War, Marvel will not only have fans clapping and cheering, like I found myself doing in many of the awesome moments in the film, but they also break ground in the opportunities of high-budget filmmaking and create something truly unique for audiences to enjoy. Not to mention that incredible and shocking ending that’s one of the most brilliant cliffhangers in cinema history.

Avengers: Infinity War is not only another step up for Marvel, but also an achievement for Hollywood and action films that’s bigger than anything a studio has produced before. The gripping conflict, action, visuals, and entertaining cast and humor will satisfy all who have been waiting for so long, and assembles the world’s favorite movie characters for an epic battle you won’t forget.

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A Quiet Place

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This apocalyptic horror film focuses on a family who is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound. Starring in the main roles are John Krasinski (also the director of the film) as the father of the family, and Emily Blunt (his real-life wife) as the mother. With A Quiet Place, Krasinski not only crafts a great edge-of-your-seat thriller with plenty of scares for wide audiences and horror fans to enjoy, but also makes excellent use of suspense with the sound, directing, and acting. Every noise is made to feel loud enough to pose a threat and surprise us at certain moments, and the sound editors knew very well which sounds they needed to make louder than others and how loud each sound needed to be. The tension is built effectively in every scene, as we get character development with each member of the family while the danger around them quietly builds. Small moments like a lamp falling and breaking or a toy making a sound will frighten you, and whenever it gets too noisy you’ll even start getting stressed just by the thought of what what be about to happen to our characters. None of the intensity feels fake and you’ll definitely be as anxious as the characters in some of the most scary scenes in the film. Krasinski and Blunt are both splendid as the parents; Krasinski’s character clearly showing fright but also leadership of his family through the everyday hours and protecting them with everything he can. His love for his children is the strongest part of the film and his acting is always spot-on. Blunt also can’t be ignored; she’s a fearful and also protective mother who demonstrates pain and terror excellently.

A Quiet Place is not only a great showcase of acting and directing but doesn’t forget to be an entertaining horror flick; you don’t have to worry about this one being too boring or stretched out even though most of the film is in sign language rather than spoken dialogue as the device the family uses to survive against the creatures. The visual images are always conveying of the conflict and emotions the family faces, and we though we never see too much about how the creatures got there or what’s going on in the rest of the world, that’s what makes everything more mysterious. My one problem is the ending, which though I didn’t have something strong against, I feel the ending had a more light and even comedic feel to it, and I hoped it would’ve stopped at a place a little more powerful, like the rest of the film. Otherwise, horror and science fiction fans won’t bed disappointed by this short but noteworthy thriller that won’t fail to keep you thrilled and entertained.

The film poster shows a close-up of Emily Blunt in-character with her hand over her mouth.

Ready Player One

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In the year 2045, reality is harsh so everyone is escaping to the virtual reality of the OASIS. When the creator of the OASIS dies, he plants an easter egg within the game which one must find in order to inherit his fortune, which sends Wade Watts on a journey to win the competition and ensure a bright future in both reality and the OASIS.

Whether it’s animatronic sharks or dinosaurs, or recreating D-Day and World War II’s most frightening battles, or creating some of the most iconic action scenes and heroes, Steven Spielberg has always found ways to break ground, and here he presents us with another cinematic achievement. Ready Player One is an experience unlike any thing I’ve seen before. Like the characters in the film, you are pulled from your reality and into the OASIS as you race past worlds and characters based on your favorite films. You’ll see the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Iron Giant, the Xenomorph from the Alien films, and many more that I won’t spoil but will definitely give your entire audience nostalgia. But it’s not the tributes to pop culture that makes this film so memorable. The visuals are gorgeous and the virtual reality is created so meticulously, scenes of cyber races, fights, and dances are absolutely unforgettable. Watching this in IMAX 3D doesn’t feel any more like looking at this movie than it did being inside this universe which is so wonderfully built. Tye Sheridan has always been a great actor and here he shines in the lead role of Wade, as well as his virtual avatar named Parzival. He’s got great chemistry with Artemis, another avatar known in real life as Samantha, played by Olivia Cooke. Also part of the cast is Ben Mendelsohn as a menacing businessman, as well as Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance as the creators of the OASIS. The story is filled with heart, and we get more of the Spielberg dynamic we’ve seen before of smart kids against greedy adults, without it feeling recycled or predictable. The adventure our characters embark on is gripping and the action scenes are no less marvelous than they should be. Spielberg has always been so great at creating wondrous worlds to behold and journeys to join the protagonists on, and it’s no less than a visual masterpiece with a soulful story and a theme about how virtual reality may impact us in the future, both good and bad.

Ready Player One is the kind of film blockbuster cinema was made for — it’s original, heartfelt, and beautifully directed, and you don’t have to be a video game fan to appreciate and enjoy the story, everyone can love this film. It’s the most fun film experience I’ve had so far in 2018, and I recommend you watch it on the biggest screen possible, preferably in IMAX 3D. You can bet Spielberg will never stop breaking the boundaries of cinema and giving viewers an incredible time at the movies — and that’s a truth in reality.

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Annihilation

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A biologist joins an expedition into a mysterious zone called The Shimmer, full of mutating landscapes and creatures that threaten whatever enters it.

Natalie Portman leads the cast of this ambitious sci-fi feature from Ex Machina director Alex Garland. This corner of the sci-fi genre is one of my favorite types of films because they’re often the most shocking and thought-provoking. i like to watch science fiction movies not just for excitement or satisfaction, but to be surprised and to think about what happened. Ex Machina was a smart cautionary tale about how scary a future with artificial intelligence may become, and Annihilation is much more complicated than just having a single theme like that. However, it’s a good thing that a movie is trying to be more intellectual, although Garland’s refusal to alter the film to make it more pleasing for mainstream viewers cost it its theatrical release overseas, so if you don’t live in North America you’ll only be able to see this on Netflix, which is unfortunate because this movie is a gorgeous theater experience. Portman is exceptionally deep as Lena, who leads a great cast along with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac. The way Portman expresses her feelings such as fear, uncertainty, and agony serve the character very well, and also noteworthy is Isaac as her husband. Annihilation is what people may call classic sci-fi, as it does have the buildup, clues, and mystery until there’s a final twist reveal, but I personally don’t think I’ll ever get tired of these films because of how many questions they can raise and how puzzling they can be but still intrigue (like the bizarre but fascinating Cloverfield franchise). People can draw comparisons to Arrival, and I think that one is a far superior film to this because it doesn’t just talk about the sci-fi concept it introduces but also presents more layered themes about humanity that don’t just belong in science fiction, not that this one doesn’t have any of that. Annihilation definitely has a lot under the surface that I still have yet to discover but I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since I saw it and I remember sitting quite shocked in the theater as the credits rolled. Some of it doesn’t completely add up, including some subplots and details that weren’t fully realized but that doesn’t stop this from being a worthy experience. Don’t go in expecting anything because the story takes many unexpected turns and has some visually marvelous sequences, as well as a spectacular musical score, but though it has a horror scene here and there, don’t expect too many answers right away but a lot is left open-ended for the audiences that aren’t mistaking this for an Alien or Predator-style film.

Annihilation presents marvelous visuals and style, as well as questions that sci-fi fans will love to discuss, with Natalie Portman giving it her all, and though Alex Garland encountered some problems with the international release of this film, he has nothing to apologize for and should continue making smart and unique science fiction like this, because these are really the films we need to remind us how intriguing science fiction cinema can be.

A woman armed large gun, backed by four others, enters a heavily forested area

Black Panther

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T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who believes the throne belongs to himself.

Marvel breaks ground once again with their first African superhero as the center of a film set in their cinematic universe. When Chadwick Boseman first played the role in Captain America: Civil War, I knew we should be getting a solo film for him soon, and he nails it once again as the fantastic protagonist of king T’Challa. We feel that he is conflicted about how ready he is for his new position but like those around him, would die for his country of Wakanda. We are immersed in the visually striking setting of Wakanda which is realized very well as not only a gorgeous setting, but as a country that must choose its position in the world. The rest of the cast is also outstanding, with more African Americans cast in big roles than any superhero film before. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger steps out of medicore Marvel villain territory and delivers a complexly portrayed and excellently motivated antagonist who’s a great counterpart to Boseman. His rage is brought on so well and we actually understand why he wants to fight our heroes, and his reasons aren’t too bad. I’d be damned if this isn’t one of the best villains modern superhero films has to offer. Lupita Nyong’o as T’Challa’s ex-lover is also a well-written character who will stand by his side and help him out at all costs, and Danai Gurira as the ass-kicking Okoye steals some of the fights. We’ve also got the awesome presence of Oscar-nominated Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, and I’m seriously convinced this guy should be in every upcoming movie, and there’s the hilarious and memorable tribe leader M’Baku played by Winston Duke, who we definitely need more from soon, and who doesn’t love some charm from Martin Freeman? However, my favorite member of the supporting cast was Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, as she’s inventive, sweet, funny, and brings lots of light to her scenes. Every member of the cast is well-realized and I couldn’t ask more from the nuanced performances and great chemistry they all have.

Black Panther may be set in the biggest universe in cinematic history, but even though the enormous Infinity War team-up is only two months away, Black Panther remembers to be its own story, free of set-ups, teases, and big characters thrown in from other films (save for an awesome post-credits scene). There are no Infinity Stones or scenes that need to hint at what’s next for the Black Panther saga, instead we get a story that stays within its 2-hour length, allowing us to really explore the themes and character motivations without being reminded too much we’re watching a comic-book film. Vivid costumes, sets, and action make this visually pleasing, but we also dig deep into why everyone does what they’re doing, and what leaders must do to help others, not just when it concerns them. We get a well-directed and written action film thanks to Creed‘s Ryan Coogler but also how Black Panther himself takes steps to make the world a better place. A couple of scenes do dive into familiar territory, but by the end, Black Panther is a new kind of Marvel movie and a spirited hero for us all to love.

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure

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In the final chapter of the Maze Runner trilogy, Thomas embarks on a mission to save his friend Minho from the sinister organization WCKD and find a cure for the deadly disease known as the Flare.

I enjoyed reading the Maze Runner books so when the films were announced, I was excited. Though I did enjoy the first film, the second one wasn’t very good and put the potential of this final film at risk. Though this did take much longer to release due to Dylan O’Brien’s injuries on set, the franchise has finally concluded, and though it’s often bland in its execution, it wraps things up pretty well. The cast that includes Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Giancarlo Esposito are quite good, but some of the writing, especially in the first half, is so forced it’s hard to care for the emotion they try to deliver. Too much time is spent discussing a disease and its cure and not enough about Thomas’ internal and external conflict which we cared so much about in the first film. It does recover from the mess of The Scorch Trials, which strode away from the main focus of the series and was too unevenly paced and unnecessarily crowded. This film knows which cast members to put in the center and which characters it doesn’t need, and it begins with a very entertaining action scene but then goes to the predictable “main character on a rogue mission to save the world” route. The dialogue feels either too rushed or too direct and cliche to care too much about, and though the action is quite fun, the character development is sometimes not in the right places. However, the second half does recover with a dramatic and thrilling final battle for the series, that hits the right emotional marks at the end and often keeps the viewer in their seat. As someone who is somewhat a fan of this series, I enjoyed this movie by the end and thought it was an improvement over the second one, but I wouldn’t defend it over the mixed reviews it’s getting because despite the entertaining action and cast, there isn’t much to love. It’s a serviceable conclusion to a series that wasn’t all that great but ends on a good note for the franchise. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you’ll definitely have a lot of fun with this finale, but if you’re not a fan or haven’t seen the other films, don’t bother.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the latest installment in the most popular film franchise of all time, and I can’t tell you anything else about this one, because if you’re a huge fan like me and most of the world’s population, you don’t need a plot description to get you to go see it. This movie picks up right after The Force Awakens left off, and as soon as the movie begins, the return to the galaxy which the world has grown to love over the last 40 years feels intriguing from the first scene. Like its predecessor, The Last Jedi is completely unpredictable and this one is even more different than the last film.

The cast once again knocks it out of the park, from the original characters portrayed by Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, the returning characters from the previous sequel including Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, and new additions to the universe played by Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran. Hamill is as terrific as he’s ever been as Luke Skywalker, the most beloved hero in the history of cinema. His performance and his character’s arc over the last forty years has been tremendous, and the addition to his arc here is an unexpected turn which Hamill portrays so well, as he expresses the loss of heroism and his giving up of hope after a mistake he made prior to the events of the trilogy. Fisher’s scenes are great as well, and her final film performance that was shot before her tragic death last year is poignant and the film does her justice, paying tribute to her like it should. If you loved Daisy Ridley as our new protagonist Rey, you won’t be disappointed in the path she takes in this movie, as her journey through the ways of the Force continues under Luke’s guidance. Ridley does a terrific job conveying the emotional conflict her character experiences and how she finds her place in the battle of good against evil. Driver is back as the menacing and superb antagonist of Kylo Ren, who is a complicated villain but perfectly developed, and experiences changes after he did something in the last movie that shocked us all. We root for the good guys and against him but we feel that he isn’t all-evil like his master Snoke, speaking of whom is very intimidating and well-acted by Andy Serkis. John Boyega as defected stormtrooper Finn is another one of my favorite members of the cast, and although the storyline he has with new character Rose isn’t as compelling as the rest of the film, Finn is still a character we enjoy going on an adventure with thanks to his great writing and acting from the awesome Boyega who had his breakout when he first played the character two years ago. Isaac as Poe Dameron has more to do this time around, and his clashes with authority and his morals are interesting to explore. Of course, expect appearances from your favorite creatures like the lovable wookie Chewbacca, droids such as C3P0, R2-D2, and BB-8, the adorable new birds from Luke’s planet known as the Porgs, and a shocking appearance from one of everyone’s favorite Star Wars characters.

As a middle installment that has the expectations as many set as high as Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jedi definitely reaches those standards for what has been set with The Force Awakens, which introduced us to this magnificent new setting within the universe we already love, and here we dive deeper into those characters and experience some dark twists and turns on the way. Many fan theories have been developed ever since everyone saw the first film in this new trilogy two years ago, but no theory was able to predict the events that happen in this movie. I loved J.J. Abrams’ direction of Episode VII, and although he will return for the last installment in the trilogy, this one is directed by Rian Johnson, who previously directed the high school mystery Brick and the sci-fi thriller Looper. Johnson does a very impressive job building on what’s already happened and bringing to life the new planets and settings. The cinematography is beautiful and so are the visual effects, capturing the memorable action scenes and sets magnificently, just like a Star Wars movie should. Reception from fans has been mixed, but I can’t see why. I was on the very edge of my seat for the entire movie, and stunned at what this had to offer. It’s risk-taking, unpredictable, and deprived of the familiar 3-act story structure, making it even more suspenseful, and it’s got plenty of originality for the eighth film in a franchise. It holds onto what people have loved about the series since 1977, but it still has room for lots of creativity and trust me, I was quite shocked by what happened in this film. It’s not the cheerful blockbuster that most big studio sequels are nowadays, but it’s a dark, thrilling epic that will have everyone, Star Wars fan or not, cheering throughout.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the movie everyone will be going crazy about, and whether or not you like these films, you really should see the definitive blockbuster of the year. As an enormous fan of the series, I was not let down by the amazement I got here. Star Wars has brought people together all around the world since the first film was released 40 years ago, and this movie brings back what fans have loved since then but also lots of surprises. Although a few minor moments/plot points were weaker than others, the cast, visuals, story, writing, and emotion redeem the film, and at best this is an epic and marvelous sequel that is strong with the force.

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