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IF WE’RE KIND AND POLITE, THE WORLD WILL BE RIGHT

Back at the beginning of 2015, during the same January opening weekend that Kevin Hart’s comedy film Wedding Ringer and Bradley Cooper’s bio-pic drama American Sniper were released, a little and polite bear made his first big-screen debut with the movie Paddington. First released in November of 2014 in the UK (before making his US debut a few months later), Paddington, which was based off of the book character of the same name from author Michael Bond, was directed by Paul King and the tale of a young polite bear named Paddington, who moved into the Brown family in London and learned what it meant to be a part of a family, while evading the grips of a villainous taxidermist. It was a whimsical film that featured childish fun and mischief, with the movie being targeted for the young “juice box” crowd”, but also presented a heartwarming tale of family and acceptance. Paddington went on gain mostly positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers everywhere and did gain a sizeable return on its investment, cultivating roughly $268 million against its production budget, which estimated around $50 million. This success proved strong enough for a follow-up adventure to be greenlit to be commissioned in sometime in the near future. Now, StudioCanal, Heday Films and director Paul King present the second chapter in the world’s most “polite” bear with the movie Paddington 2. Does this second installment shine bright as its predecessor or does it fail to impress and lack emotional heart and mischievous fun in this second helping of a feature?

THE STORY

The good natured and well-manned Paddington Bear (Ben Whishaw) has settled in nicely into his new life with the Brown family, including Mr. Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville), Mrs. Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins), Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris), Jonathan Brown (Samuel Joslin), and Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) in Windsor Gardens, having become very well-liked and helpful member of the community and its residents. Seeking the perfect gift to give to his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) for her upcoming 100th birthday, Paddington finds what he’s looking for in Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) old antique shop, a one of a kind pop-up book that takes its readers on a tour of London’s most famous landmarks, which gives Aunt Lucy a chance to see and experience the famed city that she had always dreamed of visiting one day. In order to pay for the relatively expensive pop-up book, Paddington takes a variety of odd-end jobs to raise the necessary money, eventually finding a niche as a window washer. However, when Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a washed-out actor who lives down the street from the Browns, steals the pop-up book from Mr. Gruber’s shop, Paddington is blamed for the crime and winds up being sent to prison. Determined not to lose faith, Paddington keeps his head up while serving time, doing his best to befriend his fellow inmates, including the prison’s ill-tempered cook Nuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). Meanwhile, the Browns set out to clear Paddington’s name and uncover not only who really stole the pop-up book, while Phoenix Buchanan scours for the book to find mysterious clues scattered across London’s cityscape for a long-lost treasure trove.

THE GOOD / THE BAD

Paddington Bear. While author Michael Bond’s books weren’t exactly a part of my childhood literature, I do remember the character through the 1975 BBC TV series, which was my first introduction to Paddington. They were short, sweet, simple, and (presumably) carrying the same type of moral theme / message from Bond’s original material. This, of course, brings me around to talking about the live-action film (Paddington) that was released back in 2014. While I did mention that they were a few minor bumps in the film, the movie itself was quite charming and heartwarming, especially in its overall presentation as well as the sensible all-British cast that populate all of the film’s various characters (both major and minor). It was definitely made for the “juice box” crowd, but Paddington is a great family-friendly movie that certainly will make you laugh as well as tug on the heartstrings.

I do remember hearing that Heday Films (the masterminds behind Paddington) decided that they were going to green light a sequel feature, furthering continuing the adventures of the polite bear’s adventures in London with the Brown family. However, that was quite some time since the first one and I sort of forgot about the second Paddington movie. That was until I saw the movie trailers of the new film and it sort of peaked my interest to see it. Much like what I said before, the film’s all-British cast was what made the first one interesting and Paddington 2 seems to keep the sensible notion very much alive (as shown in the film’s various trailer and promo TV spots). Plus, given what was shown in those trailers, it seems like the movie would be very much of the same tone and style, which (all things considered on the first film) is a good thing. Thus, I was definitely looking forward to seeing how Paddington 2 ultimately shaped up. Unfortunately, while I did see this movie when it was first released in US (back in January 2018), actually doing an actual movie review for Paddington 2 sort of fell through the cracks as I sort of got busy and decided to review other movies that were current and more popular. Thus, this is where I am now, finding myself ready to review Paddington 2. What did I think of it? Well, to be honest, it actually really good. Despite a few minor complaints, Paddington 2 is a delightful and charm sequel to its original. In a nutshell, this “second helping” of Paddington Bear is quite endearing and succeeds more than many other follow-up cinematic adventures of a similar nature.

Returning to the director’s chair for Paddington 2 is Paul King, who previous directed the first film as well as directing several TV shows, including The Mighty Boosh, Dogface, and Come Fly with Me. Given his familiarity of making the first Paddington movie, King seems to return “right at home” when helming this second endeavor, making Paddington 2 a very similar in tone, style, and fashion to its predecessor, which is sort of a good thing. Build upon what was established from the 2015 film (as well as from Bond’s books), King continues to make a poignant and meaningful message (thematically and within the subtext of the narrative) of the importance of the kaleidoscope of community in London, displaying a variety of people / individuals that live and breathe around the city and interact with Paddington. Additionally (like before), King almost makes an importance of celebrating diversity and tolerance through the film’s story and all of its characters, which does speak to a modern audience of moviegoers in being fundamental towards the real world (which is always a good thing from a any type of movie). Also, King still keeps the film’s comedy aesthetics to a more juvenile slapstick variety, which is approachable for all ages, and, while that may be a slight distraction for some, I think it works best for the movie. The first Paddington had those particular comedy filled moments and so does again with this sequel, which are a little bit better presented and more humorous (I think), especially seeing all the various problems that Paddington actually causes in trying to do the right thing. All in all, King returning to the director’s chair doe Paddington 2 is a great thing, keeping this follow-up sequel cute, fun, and heartwarming and just as family friendly as the first film was.

The movie’s script, which was penned by King as well as Simon Farnaby is also equally beautiful, displaying the right amount of kindness and generosity within the film’s narrative as well as being both entertaining and heartfelt that compliments that the film (as a whole). There’s a certain touch of sincerity throughout the movie (even the more lighthearted / comedic aspects) that resonates with the movie itself, invoking a strong sense of Paddington’s journey in the movie (i.e. feeling what he feeling and the importance of family). Being a kid’s movie, there’s plenty to like, which is aimed at the “juice box” crowd, but that doesn’t mean that the film is able to cater to older individuals. In truth, the film’s messages and themes are rather quite (again, speaking to a modern world) as well being familiar to a lot of family movies out there. This makes Paddington 2 approachable for all as the film’s story is cute and tender as well as being joyful and entertaining. Plus, with the movie having a runtime of only 103 minutes long (one hour and forty-three minutes), King keeps the feature’s narrative moving at brisk pace; tightly weaving the movie’s story threads together in an even-keel way (for the most part). All in all, Paddington 2 succeeds at being both entertaining and meaningful within its own cinematic undertaking, never going on any unnecessary tangents or uncalled for moments that would distract the film’s true sentimental heart.

In terms of technical presentation, Paddington 2 looks great, keeping in the same filmmaking background rhythm and tone from its predecessor. While the movie’s story is a pure to joy to watch, the film’s technical background aesthetics work and work well, finding King’s style in crafting the feature similar to a children’s storybook feel (something akin to Bond’s books). There’s a great sense of quirky details and child-ish wonder that blends together in the movie, combining both to make a colorful palette cinematic world for Paddington and all the rest of the colorful characters to move around in. What also helps Paddington 2 (in it’s overall “look and feel”) is that cinematographer Erik Wilson, production designer Gary Williamson, set decorations by Cathy Cosgrove, and costume designs by Lindy Hemming (all of which worked on the first Paddington movie) return to their respective posts, offering up their artistic approach in making the feature feel the just the same as last time, which I personally loved. In this regard, while sometimes change is a good then, I think matching the same exact background setting and style works in the movie’s favor, giving us (the viewers) a sense of cinematic quality of familiarity. Basically, there’s nothing I would’ve change in the film’s technical presentation and I think many will agree on that. Lastly, while the film’s musical score, which was composed by Dario Marinelli, is very good and definitely plays some melodic melodies piece throughout (both lighthearted and tender ones), I love the fact that Paddington 2 sees the return of the calypso music group Tobago and d’Lime to function as the movie’s Greek chorus.

There were a few minor problems that I had with Paddington 2 that, despite the film being a bit more well-rounded (entertaining-wise), felt that could’ve been slightly better handled. It doesn’t really deter from me overall liking the movie, but there are a few pieces that stood out (at least to me). The one that stands out is the film’s narrative path. Yes, while I do praise the film for featuring a somewhat similar appeal to its predecessor, the some of the similarities between the two Paddington films can be (at times) vaguely identical. Thus, means the movie follows a formulaic path and, while that might be the “nature of the game” (especially with King returning to direct the feature), it does become slightly rigid and conventional predictable at certain points. I know it’s a kid’s movie and all (and I shouldn’t judge it too hard), but a little “freshness” to the narrative couldn’t have hurt.

Another problem with the movie is that Paddington 2 follows the classic path of trying to “go big” when it should’ve remained “small”. This tried and true method is almost commonplace for a sequel movie endeavor, with the studio (behind the feature) trying to overtake the liking of the first one by trying to present a bigger story and a bigger adventure. Paddington 2’s story, while cute and charming throughout, follows that particular method to a certain degree, most notable in Phoenix’s treasure hunt throughout the city of London as well as the film’s climatic piece during the third act that involves train chase. It’s all good and fun (there’s no denying that), but a story like this doesn’t need to “go big” and could’ve benefited a bit more if was more on a smaller scale adventure for Paddington and his family to experience. Personally, the tale of Paddington should be more a character based cinematic endeavor rather than trying to big, loud, and boisterous with large set-pieces. It doesn’t derail my appeal to Paddington 2, but it’s one aspect could’ve been changed slightly. Another problem I felt with the film was in some of the characters (i.e. the Brown family members) don’t get the same amount of screen-time as they did in the previous movie, but I’ll explain more on that below. Again, all these points are minor criticisms and don’t really deter my overall liking of these touching kid’s movie…. just minor complaints that could’ve been “tweaked” here and there.

One of the strongest aspects of the first Paddington film was the all-around British cast that had a hand in shaping the various characters of the feature. Luckily, lightning strikes twice with Paddington 2, with many (if not) all the cast from the first movie returning to reprise their respective roles as well as several fine new additions for this sequel adventure. At the head of the feature (and literally the “beating heart” of the movie) is actor Ben Whishaw as the friendly and polite bear named Paddington. Known for his roles in Skyfall, In the Heart of the Sea, and Marry Poppins Returns, Whishaw is the perfect embodiment of Bond’s classic children character, projecting the exact tone, mannerisms, and overall child-like politeness one would expect from the character of Paddington. Speaking of which, Paddington himself (in these movies) remains one of the most expressive CGI characters I’ve personally seeing in most. While there have been more detailed digital creations from such larger blockbuster features (from the superhero genre of late), there’s something how Paddington is rendered in these movies that works beautiful, which is combination of the computer wizardry artists and Whishaw’s vocal performance. To be honest (and I know that this sounds stupid), Paddington 2 seamlessly integrates / weaves the photorealistic bear into its proceedings to a certain point that it is easy to forget that he’s not actually there, especially in how vividly imagine on-screen through his body movement and facial expressions / emotions. Of course, being the main focus, the journey that Paddington undergoes in the movie is touching and heartfelt and definitely speaks to the inherit likeability of the character. In short, Whishaw continues to impress with his vocals of Paddington as well as the character himself is just so cute and adorable.

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The battle of the giant monsters has come as Warner Bros. Pictures releases the second official trailer for their upcoming MonsterVerse feature Godzilla: King of Monsters. View trailer below.

Following the global success of “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse, an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history.  The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.  When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters - Official Trailer 2 - In Theaters May 31 - YouTube

Very interesting. Personally, 2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island were just okay. Sure, they plenty to like about (visually speaking) and did have some big monsters fighting each other, but the movie’s narrative and the cast were just mediocre. Still, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures continues to move forward with the release of Godzilla: King of Monsters. This new trailer for the film provides plenty of new footage from the upcoming movie, promising much larger scale monsters and sizeable battles over dominance of our world. In the end, I’ll go see this movie as I’m sure it will definitely be a big summer popcorn blockbuster fanfare, but I do have some reservations about this movie. Hopefully, they are wrong and this movie becomes a smash hit. Only time will tell…

Godzilla: King of Monsters  stomps its way into theaters on May 31st, 2019

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Part of the journey is the end as Marvel Studios releases the official trailer for their highly anticipated film Avengers: Endgame. View trailer below.

A culmination of 22 interconnected films, the fourth installment of the Avengers saga will draw audiences to witness the turning point of this epic journey. Our beloved heroes will truly understand how fragile this reality is and the sacrifices that must be made to uphold it.

Marvel Studios' Avengers - Official Trailer - YouTube

Oh my god…so epic and emotional. I’ve always stated that I’m a huge fan of the MCU and this trailer gets me so excited. After months and months of just simply calling the movie “Avengers 4”, we finally get a name to the movie….and a fitting one. Love the beginning of the trailer with Tony Stark. As to be expected, the trailer, though a bit long, doesn’t really show much beyond a few snippets of some of the surviving characters from Infinity War. There’s a lot of sense of foreboding of dramatic conclusion throughout the trailer, which is also fitting sense this installment is suppose to be the somewhat “grand finale” of the MCU tale (thus far). All in all, I’m super excited to see this movie. Can’t wait to finally see Avengers: Endgame when it comes out. Oh yeah….plus I love the Ant-Man appearance at the end.
Avengers: Endgame arrives in theaters on April 26th, 2019

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DEFININIG A LEGACY

In 2015, moviegoers everywhere were introduced to the film Creed, which was set to act as a continuation to the Rocky movie franchise as a sort of “offshoot” to the boxing cinematic series. The film, which was directed by Ryan Coogler and starred Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, and Tessa Thompson, told the story of Adonis Creed (the wayward son of the late Apollo Creed) and he followed in his father’s footsteps into the boxing ringing (with Rocky in his corner training him). Creed, which is the seventh installment in the Rocky franchise, was met with generally positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers, finding the movie to generally solid (with its story being predictable) as well as strong performances from both Stallone and Jordan. During its theatrical run, Creed was able to cultivate a little bit over $173 million at the box office worldwide (against its $40 million production budget) and did receive several nominations during the award season, with Stallone winning the National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actor, Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor, and Golden Globe Award for Best Support Actor for his role as Rocky in the movie. Given the popular reception that the movie had, a follow-up sequel film was soon greenlit in the continuation of Adonis Creed’s boxing career. Now, three years after Creed’s release, it’s time to step back into the ring with Adonis and Rocky as Warner Bros. Pictures (as well as MGM Pictures) and director Steven Caple Jr. present the feature film Creed II. Does this next chapter in this Rocky spin-off endeavor stand tall and proud (in the ringing) or does it go “down and out” in the first round?

THE STORY

After proving himself against his bout with “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is on the verge of becoming the new world heavyweight champion; taking the next step forward in shaping his career in the boxing realm, with seasoned boxing veteran Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in his corner. Likewise, Adonis prepares for the next step in his relationship with his longtime singer / songwriter girlfriend, Bianca Porter (Tessa Thompson). However, just as everything is going according to plan, he is challenged to a match by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu): an up and coming boxer, as well as being the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the former USSR’s champion boxer who killed Adonis’s father, Apollo Creed, in the ring during an exhibition boxing match. When Adonis accepts Viktor’s challenge, he is surprised that Rocky, who defeated Ivan in the ring following Apollo’s death back in the 80s, doesn’t want him to fight and refuses to train him for the upcoming match against Drago’s son. Unfortunately, Adonis comes to appreciate just how dangerous his new opponent truly is; coming to realization that he may already have lost the fight before ever stepping into the boxing ring. With the match soon approaching, Adonis pushes himself to evolve beyond his normal boxing style, but to also answer the fundamental question…. who does he hope to achieve by fighting Viktor Drago and what does it mean him?

THE GOOD / THE BAD

Much like what I said above (as well in my review for Creed), I grew up watching the Rocky movies, so I was pretty well-versed in the cinematic mythos of the famous movie character of Rocky Balboa. As I’ve mentioned before, my personal favorite Rocky movies were the original 1976 film as well as 1985’s Rocky IV (love the “Hearts on Fire” montage sequence). Suffice to say, while majority of the franchise is mostly conventional predictable, the Rocky films have stood the “test of time” in becoming a famous movie series. Then, in 2015, Creed came out and brought with it a twist of old and new tales together; branching out in discovering the story of Adonis Creed and the continuation of much older Rocky Balboa. To me, the film “modernizes” the classic Rocky narrative for a new generation of viewers, utilizing the character of Adonis as the “new generation” and having the character of Rocky anchoring the film’s story. Personally, Creed was great movie that had a lot the heart, drama, and excitement one would expect from a Rocky feature film, thanks to Coogler’s direction as well as Stallone and Jordan’s equally solid performances. All in all, I felt that Creed was a great extension to the Rocky films and the start of new franchise as a kind of sort of “one foot in the past and one foot in the future” vibe.

As to be expected, this brings me back to talking about Creed II, the follow-up sequel to 2015’s Creed and the eighth overall entry in the Rocky / Creed franchise. Like I said, given the success and critical acclaim that the first film was able to achieve, it was almost inevitable that second Creed film would eventually materialize, with many speculating that it would feature Ivan Drago’s son in a fight against Adonis (revolving around the story of what Ivan Drago / Rocky in what occurred during Rocky IV). Within time, that particular speculation rumor became the main story arc for the Creed II, which came right after the film’s announcement (which got me excited). Plus, with Stallone and Jordan returning to reprise their characters, it was also announced that actor Dolph Lundgren would also be reprising his Rocky IV character of Ivan Drago. Given all that was said during the film’s production and all the internet buzz about the movie (including the film’s trailers and marketing campaign), I was pretty excited to see Creed II (considering it to be one of my last super hyped movies to see during the 2018 film release). So, I went to see over Thanksgiving weekend with my parents (my dad is a big-time Rocky fan). What did I think of it? While the movie does have a few problems, majority of Creed II packs a punch, comprising of some strong performances, narrative arcs, and cinematics undertakings. It may not outshine its 2015 predecessor, but it’s still solid and poignant sequel film that’s definitely is a crowd pleaser.

While director Ryan Coogler directed the first Creed movie, the directorial baton is passed to Steven Caple Jr., whose previous directorial credits include films like The Land of Misfits, A Different Tree, and The Land. Given his past projects and much this particular film has been anticipated by viewers, Caple Jr. makes Creed II his most ambitious film project to date. To his credit, Caple Jr. handles himself well in helming a project like this, finding Creed II to be an equally impressive feature film that both honors the past (most notably from Rocky IV) as well as continuing to create a new cinematic tale for character Adonis Creed. Interestingly, Caple Jr.’s attention to characterization, most notable in Adonis’s relationship with Rocky and Bianca, is also commendable; finding some of the movie’s more poignant moments happening outside the boxing ring. That’s not to say that the film’s boxing fight sequences are dully, with film compromising of those classic fighting bouts that the Rocky movies are known for, with a big climatic one that we have you rooting for Adonis the entire time (when I saw the movie… the entire theater was cheering and screaming for Adonis). In truth, the major theme that plays out in the feature is defining who a person is and the legacy that must make on their own. This can be easily extrapolated into Adonis’s journey in Creed II as he (the character) finds out that he must carve out his own legacy of the Creed name and find out what it all means to him personal, which Caple Jr.’s executed beautifully in the movie (as well as the various actors and actresses themselves).

Additionally, the film’s script, which was penned by both Stallone as well as Juel Taylor with Cheo Hodari Coker and Sacha Penn sharing story credit, manages to make familiar Rocky-esque beats work in a that’s mostly fresh and dramatically compelling ways that work within the context of the Creed franchise series. In the combination of the script (as well as Caple Jr.’s direction), Creed II further establishes Adonis Creed as the true main protagonist character, carving out his own personal legacy in both the cinematic ring as well as in the Rocky series. This also reflects into the appearance of Rocky Balboa as well Ivan Drago, with both characters represent the past and allowing to “bridge the gap” between the franchises’ s outdated Cold War-era mentality narrative, especially since Creed II takes inspirational / narrative roots in Rocky IV. As predicted, the film’s story, which revolves around Adonis’s legacy and the legacy of his father becomes the main focal point of the feature and is handled quite well, speaking to a more measure themed storytelling arc than just simply a tale of boxing for money or for glory. There is an overall predictably nature of the film (more on that below), but its ultimate trajectory is executed well that many can overlook Creed II’s story path.

On the technical filmmaking presentation side, Creed II does shine. It may not beat out some of its more technical achievements that were made in the first Creed feature, but the movie still provides plenty of cinematic aspects and nuances to be the film (looking and feeling) appealing and engaging. As a whole, this sequel is a well-crafted feature, which is bolstered by the cinematography done by Kramer Morgenthau that blends a touch of raw realism (especially during some of the fight sequences) as well as some movie world aspects that are handled well on-screen. Other notable areas on the presentation team for the film include the production designs by Franco-Giacomo Carbone, set decorations by RA Arancio-Parrain and Jesse Rosenthal, and the film editing done by Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider, and Paul Harb. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Ludwig Goransson (who scored the music for Creed as well), continues to branch out into the into the musical styles of hip-hop (something that probably Coogler wanted to project into Creed) and continues work with Creed II. The flavoring styles of hip-hop doesn’t come across as “out of place” or anything rather it feels a part of the cinematic undertaking of these Creed spin-off films, which is also accompanied by Goransson’s soundtrack melodies that’s a mixture of contemporary vibes as well as classic nostalgia.

There were a few problems that I noticed with Creed II that hold the film back from reaching the same caliber of greatness that the first Creed movie was able to achieve. Perhaps the most notable one is that directorial style. Creed’s director Ryan Coogler has demonstrated that he is capable of handling stylish cinematics and technical nuances while also balancing dramatic moments (i.e. character and or story moments) much like what he did in the 2015 film and 2018’s Black Panther. Caple Jr. gets a lot right when directing Creed II, but lacks the same flourishes nuances than Coogler’s Creed. It’s kind of hard to pin down exactly, but the overall presentation of Creed II (while still seems quite good) lacks a certain directorial approach that Coogler was able to established in the first film. I’m not saying that Creed II looks bad, but seems more of a standard direction, with Caple Jr. taking more of “safer” route rather than trying to make the feature evoke creativity and “out of the box” thinking as a director.

Additionally, the film’s pacing is a bit off and certain storytelling elements aren’t quite as fleshed out as they could’ve been. Looking at the feature (as a whole), the first half is a bit slow, lacking some excitement during a flew scenes here and there and a little “action” or even dramatic cinematics could’ve been employed during those sequences to “spice” it up. The second half of the feature certainly does do that (and a great job), but its actually getting to the point is a bit problematic. Yes, I know a narrative has to take shape, especially considering branching out Adonis’s story, but the first act seems to lag from time to time. As for the story elements, there were a few narrative threads that didn’t quite pan correctly, leaving us (the viewers) curious and wanting more. This is most notable in the narrative threads surrounding Ivan Drago and his son Viktor. I’ll explain more in the paragraphs below. Suffice to say, some story threads could’ve been expanded upon in the movie, providing a bit more insight into various characters.

Lastly, the final problem of the film is not just confined to this particular movie, but rather the entire franchise. Of course, I’m talking about the formulaic narrative arc that each Rocky / Creed installment follows. Now, it goes without saying the narrative path of these films isn’t exactly original, with many carving out a recycle path from their predecessors. Naturally, this makes majority of the Rocky movies predictable, utilizing a tried and true narrative trajectory that has worked before and just simply repurpose (i.e. changing a few things around) for the latest entry in the series. The same can be said for both Creed movies, with Creed II in particular having familiar beats scattered throughout. However, with Creed II being the eighth installment in the Rocky franchise, it’s clear (to many) that the movie will follow a certain series formula with all the classic nuances and sequences that usually accompany a Rocky movie (i.e. training montages, a mid-film fight / crisis, another training montage before the big fight at the end, etc.). I mean…. if you’re honestly walking into this movie thinking for something radically different, you’ll be disappointed. However, I do think that many will think that. Thus, this problem (to me) didn’t bother me as much I expected Creed II’s story to play out as it did. Still, the formulaic narrative familiarity with the rest of the series could mean that the Rocky franchise is becoming a bit stale and worn out. Doesn’t mean that the franchise is need of a reboot / remake, but needs a bit more “freshness” if you know what I mean.

The cast in Creed II is a solid one, with most (if not all) the actors and actresses delivering equally impressive performances in the movie, regardless if they are major players in the film or just minor supporting ones. Leading the charge in the movie (as well as acting as the main focal point) of the feature is actor Michael B. Jordan, who returns to reprise his role as Adonis “Donnie” Creed. Known for his roles in Fruitvale Station, Chronicle, and Black Panther, Jordan continues to grow and evolve within the character of Adonis, capturing the young boxer, who’s on top of the world in one moment and then hitting rock-bottom later on. It’s definitely a compelling role, with Jordan displaying the right amount of cockiness and headstrong bravado as well showcasing Adonis’s insecurities and vulnerabilities that he must overcome. With the story being more focused on Adonis in Creed II, this allows the character himself to grow more and more..

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Get ready for the latest superhero to “marvel” over as Marvel Studios releases the second official trailer for their upcoming feature film Captain Marvel. View trailer below.

Set in 1995, Captain Marvel follows Carol Danvers, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, as she turns into one of the galaxy’s mightiest heroes and joins Starforce, an elite Kree military team, before returning home with new questions about her past and identity when the Earth is caught in the center of an intergalactic conflict between two alien worlds.

Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel - Trailer 2 - YouTube

Totally psyched for this! Of course (as many of you know), I’m a big fan of the MCU movies, so I’m definitely interested in seeing Captain Marvel. This new trailer showcases plenty of new footage that highlights the feature well, especially given a bit more understanding of the plot (the mystery behind Carol Danvers) and more hints about the Kree / Skrull war that is going on. Much like what I said about the teaser trailer, it will be interesting to see how Brie Larson handles the role (I’m sure she’s capable of performing well) and I am curious to see how this movie will ultimately shape up to be….especially on how it will fit into the still untitled Avengers 4. Regardless, Captain Marvel looks fantastic. Can’t wait to see the movie!

 Captain Marvel  flies into theaters on March 8th, 2019

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Get ready to discover the existence of fairies as Walt Disney Studios presents the official teaser trailer for their upcoming film Artemis Fowl. View trailer below.

Artemis Fowl II, a young Irish criminal mastermind, kidnaps the fairy LEPrecon officer Holly Short for ransom to fund the search for his missing father.

Disney's Artemis Fowl - Teaser Trailer - YouTube

Working at a bookstore, I do always come across this book (when I shelve books in the YA section). I know that Artemis Fowl is written by Eoin Colfer, but I still haven’t picked up the book series. However, after seeing this teaser trailer for the film adaption, I might have to. Given what was shown, the movie does look promising, especially with actor / director Kenneth Branagh directing the feature. With the movie coming out towards the end of summer of next year, I might pick up the first book and read it before the movie.

Artemis Fowl  arrives in theaters on August 9th, 2019

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A LACKLUSTER CONTINUATIION / REBOOT INSTALLMENT

The world Steig Larsson’s literary crime series Millennium universe (originally dubbed the “The Millennium trilogy”) has fascinated million of readers around the world, with each installment becoming a “must read” bestseller. Thus, given the fascination and allure of this international crime novel series, it was almost a forgone conclusion that a movie adaptation of the novels would soon materialize, which they did in 2009 with the release of not one, or two, but three theatrical films. Released in Swedish, the films, which starred a Swedish cast including actor Michael Nvqvist and actress Noomi Rapace as main character Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, received critical praise and told Larsson’s novels (those written at the time as the series continued on after in 2015) from beginning to end. Two years later (2011), Hollywood took an interest in Larsson as Sony Pictures released a US version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the first installment in the series). While the movie, which was directed by David Fincher and starred Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the roles of Mikael and Lisbeth was well-received from critics and fans of Larsson’s novel, the movie itself did not perform well enough from what the studio expected it to be; grossing roughly $232 million at the box office against its $90 million production budget. It made its money back (and then some), but the film’s underwhelming performance at the box office put the follow-up sequel through development hell for years, with Sony Pictures mulling over the ideas of returning to the world of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander for some time. Seven years have passed since Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was released and now Sony Pictures (i.e. Columbia Pictures) and director Fede Alvarez present the next American cinematic chapter of Larsson’s novel with the movie The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Does this latest installment (which does a double stance as a continuation and soft reboot) prove something worth seeing or is it a failed relaunch of the “The Girl” franchise?

THE STORY

Lisabeth Salander (Claire Foy) has created a reputation for herself as a brilliant master hacker and defender of the innocent, answering calls for help from those who cannot defend themselves. One particular case involves Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), an ex-employee of the NSA who’s created Firewall, a computer program that controls the world’s nuclear arsenals and giving the users remote access to launch at any moment. Wanting the program back from the US government and seeking safety with his autistic son August (Christopher Convery), Lisbeth sets out to steal Firewall from the NSA, while NSA security expert Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield) witness the theft from their database and travels to Sweden to take the program back from Lisbeth’s cyber-hacking hands. Beating him to the punch, however, are members of The Spiders, a shadowy criminal organization with the intent of taking Firewall for their own purposes, putting Lisbeth on the defense as she seeks help from her old journalist friend Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason). As Lisbeth works fast, she ultimately undercovers the mastermind behind The Spiders, which means to come face-to-face with her past.

THE GOOD THE / THE BAD

Working at a bookstore, I remember seeing the rise of popularity with international author Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy; finding an American audience with his story of mystery, intrigue, and deceptively dark nuances. Thus, hearing a lot of “word of the mouth” of the books, I decided to read them, picking up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo first and (a few weeks later) picking up The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest novels. Personally, I liked the books and found them to be quite enjoyable. Of course, one of the reasons I decided to read the book was because of the news that a film adaptation was announced (the US version), with actor Daniel Craig and actress Rooney Mara being attached to the film. Naturally, I did hear about the original Swedish movies (three in total), but, while I did see them and love them (as they told the entire trilogy story), I actually prefer watching the US 2011 version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For starters, the movie was directed by David Fincher and his directorial style was drenched all over the movie, which did help the plot’s dreary mystery aspect of being in an isolated environment and dubious people. Plus, I thought that both Craig and Mara were excellent in the story’s lead roles. All in all, despite the movie being long and a bit unsettling during some moments, I thought that Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was really good and was definitely hoping for a sequel (i.e. a cinematic iteration of Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire). Unfortunately, like what I said above, the film’s box office return for The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo wasn’t enough for Sony to move forward with the project, with the studio delaying a possibly future installment in the series for quite some time and without the involvement of neither Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, which was mostly due to their scheduling commitment to the project as well as a lower budget (if another movie was to be made).

Of course, this brings me back around to talking about The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the latest installment of Sony Picture’s film adaptation of Larsson’s novel franchise. With the constant delay of a sequel to 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for several years, Sony finally announced (on November 2015) that they were planning on developing a new entry in Larsson’s Millennium series by starting from the book titled “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”, the fourth installment in the series and done by David Lagercrantz. As mentioned, both Craig and Mara would not return to reprise their roles in the upcoming movie (replaced by a new cast), which made me lose slight interest in the project. Additionally, the movie’s story was gonna be based on the fourth entry in the novel series, intentionally skipping over the second and third installments (more on that below). However, after seeing the film’s movie trailers every now and again, got a little bit intrigued to see the movie. Since I did read the Larsson’s original trilogy, I was planning on reading Lagercrant’z novel, but (as thing usually go) I got busy and didn’t have time to read the novel. Thus, this review is mostly gonna focus on the movie version and not so much on the translation of “page to screen” (i.e. what was changed, added, or omitted). So, I went to see The Girl in the Spider’s Web with that “hoping for the best, but expecting the worst” type of mentality. What did I think of the movie? Well, to be honest, I was disappointed with the film. While the movie gets some elements right, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (as a whole) feels like a generic franchise reboot that just simply feels lackluster to the touch and in its overall appeal / execution. There’s a story there, but it’s bland one and hard delivers on surprises, especially when examining Fincher’s 2011 movie or even the original Swedish movie trilogy.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is directed by Fede Alvarez, whose previous directorial works includes several short films like Panic Attack and El Conjonudo as well as several full-length feature films including Evil Dead and the critically acclaimed Don’t Breathe. Alvarez approaches Spider’s Web with some intriguing ideas, most notable one that takes the novel’s story and make a bit more streamlined for American viewers. In a nutshell, Alvarez shapes the movie to be approachable to all, without many aspects and nuances needed from prior entries to watch Spider’s Web. The movie also makes for a perplexing stance of the narrative, but more on that below. Suffice to say, Alvarez effectively plays up more of action sequences with car chases, shoot-outs, and some closer-quarter combat, which does sort of “up the ante” for the feature. Alvarez also demonstrates in making the character of Lisbeth Salander more of a lead role (more son than Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo) and provides enough screen-time for her character to be the “main attraction”. Additionally, Alvarez makes the film somewhat lean, with the movie clocking in under two hours (a runtime of 117 minutes). This results in making Spider’s Web effective precise (for the most part) and never overstays its welcome, which (in hindsight) is a good thing.

On the filmmaking / presentation side, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is rather good and gets the job done within its sets and background nuances. Alvarez, along with cinematographer Pedro Luque, provide enough movie nuances in making the film’s background aesthetics similar to David Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo, creating an effectively bleak environment (i.e. cold and dreary) of the landscape in and around the city of Stockholm and the Sweden countryside. Plus, the film’s costume, which are done by Ellen Mirojnick, are pretty good as well, especially the clothing for the character Camilla. Other areas worth noting, include production designs by Eve Stewart, set decorations by Yesim Zolan, and the music score by Roque Banos are effectively good in the movie, adding that extra quality of the film’s technical presentation.

Unfortunately, The Girl in the Spider’s Web faces multiple bumps along its cinematic journey, with many of them undercutting the feature in its entirety, which results in the film from being good and settles for more of a disappointing mediocre one. Perhaps one of the biggest (and the most perplexing one) is the simply fact that the movie “skips ahead” to the fourth entry of the series, especially since this is suppose to be a somewhat continuation to 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (under Sony Pictures brand name). Thus, this sort of jump skips over the narrative that’s found in The Girl Who Played and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, which are the second and third installments in the Millennium series. While Alvarez makes this particular movie approachable for non-reader viewers to get involved in this latest chapter of Lisbeth, the film itself has a lingering problematic aspect that hangs throughout the entire movie (from onset to conclusion). What do I mean? Well, it’s because The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels like you’ve missed out on something and doesn’t really take the time to tell you (the viewer) that. There’s a couple of hints here and there, but the overall execution of it all feels wonky. This is most prevalent in the character of Lisbeth’s father, who the movie never mentions that his name is Alexander Zalachenko (aka Zala). If the viewer knows of the character from either reading the books (of which he was of paramount importance in Played with Fire and Hornets’ Nest) and / or watching the Swedish films, then they’ll know how cruel and vile Zala is and how much of a monster he truly is. For everyone else, however, the movie vague mention how evil he was, but there seems to be something missing to the equivocation of trying to understand Lisbeth’s past, especially when discuss Zalachenko.

Again, it just feels like we’re missing a puzzle piece by skip ahead into the series and not examining the story in-between Dragon Tattoo and Spider’s Web. To be honest, the narrative story that takes place Played with Fire and Hornets’ Nest is more interesting than Spider’s Web. Thus, it all goes back to my original negative point as to why skipping out that particular story? It’s an indeed a perplexing one, with more probable reasoning behind it being Spider’s Web seems to have more of a standalone arc rather than a sort of two-part endeavor of Played with Fire and Hornets’ Nest (should if the movie tanked at the box office). Still, regardless of that, the decision seems to be a strange one and doesn’t help the overall appeal to the feature.

Looking past that the idea of “skipping” over two entries in the series, the rest of the film still feels lackluster. Part of the problem of this comes from the actually narrative being told, which sounds good on paper, but doesn’t translate well when presented on-screen. Let me rephrase that…. the story being told is quite interesting, but how the film’ screenplay, which was penned by Alvarez as well as Jay Basu and Steven Knight, handles it all feels disappointing and almost watered down to what it could’ve been. Judging from how the screenplay ultimately plays out, it seems like that Alvarez (and Basu and Knight) want Spider’s Web’s story to be more streamlined for American viewers, finding Lisbeth to be more something akin to James Bond or Jason Bourne with more action-based scenes and less time spent on character development. Thus, the film prioritizes its main ideas in the wrong category, making The Girl in the Spider’s Web unbalanced and rather boring as moves from one plot point to the next. Basically, the movie just lacks substance.

Unlike Fincher, who really did embrace the unsettling and disturbing nature of Dragon Tattoo’s narrative, Alvarez doesn’t dig deep enough into the material, skimming the surface on its plot and its various characters, including its main ones. Because of this, The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels hollow, “cold to the touch”, and playing out in a generic (and almost forgetful) cinematic endeavor. Lastly, another problem is that the film’s movie trailers (kind of sort of) showed a lot of the key sequences that happens in the movie, most notable the identity of the character known as Camilla (especially to the uninitiated to the Larsson’s novels). Thus, majority of the feature feels disappointing and rarely produces that just engrossing moments.

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