Wonder Woman Review

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Since her inception in 1941, Wonder Woman has remained not just the most famous female superhero – but also one of the biggest icons of pop culture. That’s why it’s shocking it’s taken this long for a movie about her to be made. Lesser known comic book characters like Electra and Steel have gotten feature films, but never Wonder Woman. Finally, that changed this year. Wonder Woman appeared in last year’s Batman V Superman, and while people were divisive on that film, many agreed that Gal Gadot’s brief portrayal of the character was solid. Now we get to see this version of Wonder Woman in a starring role. Director Patty Jenkins delivers a film full of heroism and inspiration. It’s a film worthy of the iconic character.

Wonder Woman as a character stands for justice, and the film does a fantastic job showing that. When Steve Trevor is forced to tell the truth on Themyscira, Diana’s reaction to it looks incredibly genuine. He says how the war has taken the lives of women and children, and the viewer knows at that moment, Diana is going to do something about it. From here, Diana continually showcases what being a hero is about. Two of the most notable scenes in the film are when she talks back to the government and when she decides to jump into battle to stop the oppression of the village of Veld. It’s inspiring, and the major reason why it’s so well done is Gal Gadot’s fantastic portrayal.

Diana has lived on an island away from mankind all her life, so it’s interesting how she reacts to things in the outside world. Her reaction to seeing a baby and ice cream for example are nice scenes. Her respect and love for people are evident, as seen in the aftermath of the Veld’s battle sequence. She stands on a rooftop as people clap and look above at her. What does she do then? She comes down to their level. She shakes hands and smiles – a truly touching scene showcasing the kind of character she is. This feels like the first time in a comic book film where we see such a powerful character on the same level with the people he/she protects.

The other main character is Steve Trevor. He’s had a long history with Wonder Woman in the comics, so it would be interesting to see how he would be used in the film. Chris Pine provides just the right amount of charisma without going overboard. Like Diana, Steve is portrayed as heroic, and becomes even more so because of her. The romance between him and Diana isn’t bad. Romance has a reputation in comic book films for being forced or poorly done, so it’s good to see a romance subplot actually passable.

Near the middle act of the film, the story introduces viewers to three characters that form Steve’s team to raid German High Command. There’s a problem with introducing a bunch of characters in the middle of a film. Not enough character or backstory is given here. We have Charlie, whom is supposed to be a sharpshooter. But what did he actually contribute? Then there’s Chief, but he also did nothing of importance. Only Sameer is given something to do. He mentions to Diana that it is his dream to be an actor, and later we get to see that acting ability in one of the film’s most hilarious scenes.

Steve’s secretary Etta Candy borders on being funny and over the top. Thankfully the film doesn’t go overboard with her. There are a few antagonists. Danny Huston as Ludendorff is a bit on the generic side, but he’s not terrible. He does his job at being a sinister army general. However, Dr. Isabel Maru (known as Dr. Poison) is far more interesting. There’s an unhinged nature to Elena Anaya’s portrayal of the doctor. The real villain however is Ares, and how his character comes together in the climax is brilliant. Though he only does big things in the last act, Ares cements himself as one of the better comic book movie antagonists.

Wonder Woman doesn’t disappoint in the action department. The early battle on Themyscira was well done. It takes a bit before the next big action sequence, but when it happens, it’s worth the wait. Diana’s stand against the German army at the village of Veld was awesome and well choreographed. It’s a nice balance between the street level Batman type of fighting and the grand Superman battles. The climax is divided into two major fight scenes, both of which are great. The showdown against Ares was a satisfying final action piece.

Though the film contains great action scenes, it’s something else that ultimately shines: the theme of love. It’s the genuine love of people that can conquer darkness and hate, as Diana displays. It’s a great message for a culture that promotes self-interest. The film’s soundtrack is strong, featuring the now iconic theme from Batman V Superman along with other quality themes. As for Themyscira, it’s a beautiful, unique setting. Though Diana’s mother, Hippolyta, doesn’t appear after the first act, she leaves a lasting impression along with Atiope.

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Overall, Wonder Woman is a great film. It’s full of genuine heroism and emotion. Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the character is perfect. She displays everything Wonder Woman is meant to be. Steve Trevor is very good as well. (Sadly, most of the other characters don’t actually do much.) The war backdrop is interesting, and provides a great sense of victory when Diana rises to combat the army in the fantastic Veld sequence. The actions scenes are well done and Ares is an excellent final boss. To love others, to do the right thing, and to be a hero is what Wonder Woman is all about.

9/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

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Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel’s surprise hit. The characters were relatively unknown to the general public until the film came out in 2014. Now everyone knows “I am Groot” and Rocket Raccoon’s constant sarcasm. Though having a grand outer space backdrop, the film was about different characters coming together and forming a team – or better, a family. The concept of family continues on in the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Anticipation was high, and with Ego the Living Planet as the antagonist, one expects a grand sequel. Sadly, though it has some of the things that made the first film great, Vol. 2 is a mediocre sequel.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has an exciting climax that ends with a  genuinely emotional sequence. The last 30 minutes makes the viewer forget about any mediocre things prior to the final act. Of course, as a reviewer, one has to look at the film as a whole and unfortunately there are quite a few negative aspects. The film does retain some of what made the first Guardians a blast. There are plenty of fun character interactions and space battles. The writing is sadly a lot weaker than its predecessor.

Vol. 2 is a prime example of the writing going to the extreme in the comedy department. The first Guardians perfectly balanced comedy and storytelling to deliver one of the best comic book films ever. Vol. 2 takes that comedic aspect and multiplies it tenfold. The problem is that the “funny” scenes are often obvious and forced. Even the character interactions at times were trying too hard to be humorous. The intro with the characters battling Sharktopus an Abilisk was fun, though Groot dancing went on a little too long. Since we’ve just brought him up, baby Groot is cute but by the middle act the viewer misses the adult Groot from the first film.

Pacing is one of the most key aspects of any film. The first Guardians had perfect pacing; the film moved smoothly. The second film unfortunately lacks that. Vol. 2 slows down drastically when the Guardians land on Planet Ego. Things happen, but they’re not particularly interesting. It felt like the scenes on the planet were just buying time until the climax. Yes, the core aspect of the film is Peter finding his father. But it’s not as engaging as a reunion as it should be. This could be because Ego isn’t the best antagonist. The writing gives him some meta motivations and technically his goal might be the grandest from the Marvel films, but the actual character just isn’t notable. To give some credit to the reunion aspect, some things worked well, such as the playing catch scene.

Something that worked really well was the Gamora/Nebula subplot. Nebula’s backstory on why she hates Gamora is fascinating, and also shows how evil Thanos is. The scenes with the sisters are some of the most well done in the film. Their last scene put an extra emotional touch to the final act. Gamora is one of the best characters, showcasing that hardcore warrior persona while also showing genuine emotion. The theme of Guardians Vol. 2 seems to be family, and while some of the Star-Lord/Ego scenes were a bit flat, other aspects were fantastic. We just discussed Gamora and Nebula; there’s also Yondu, who could be the best character. His scene in the climax might be the most emotionally well done of all the Marvel films.

Rocket is usually a highlight, but the film does one big negative thing with him. So, a major subplot is that an alien race called the Sovereign is after the Guardians. The reason? Rocket stole their batteries. This came off as petty and something that didn’t need to happen. Rocket does get some fun scenes with Yondu on the ship. Drax doesn’t have much of a character arc this time around unfortunately. He’s there mainly for comedy, and it can range from laugh-out-loud funny to forced. Star-Lord is a fun character like in the first film. Though, there’s a lack of well-acted emotion. He seems to have the same static face even when faced with the revelation of who killed his mother.

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As stated earlier, the climax is awesome. Fighting a living planet seems like something that could only be done in a comic book, but the film pulls it off. The visuals are fantastic (want to see Pac-Man chomping away in space?) and there’s quality emotion as the writing reminds the viewer that family isn’t always by blood. The soundtrack is very good, though not as notable as the soundtrack from the first film.

Overall, this review seemed to be a bit on the harsher side. That is because the first Guardians of the Galaxy set a high standard. Vol. 2 doesn’t live up to it. The writing is weaker and doesn’t balance the comedy properly. It wouldn’t be a terrible thing if most of the funny stuff were genuinely funny. A lot of the dialogue just doesn’t seem like what actual people would say. That might sound silly since most of the characters aren’t human, but a lot of the dialogue is obvious comedy. This is not to say the film isn’t a good time. If one enjoyed the first movie, one should like the second. The character interactions are at times priceless and the climax is one of the most exciting from any Marvel film. It’s a shame the rest of the film didn’t live up to it.

6.5/10

KONG: SKULL ISLAND Review

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It’s been 12 years since the last King Kong film. Peter Jackson’s 2005 film is a remake of the classic 1933 story of a giant ape who falls for a woman and ends up meeting an unfortunate demise. Skull Island takes a break from this plot to tell a unique tale using elements from the original story. This isn’t the first time Kong has deviated from the usual story of course, with one example being TOHO’s King Kong Escapes where he battles a mechanized version of himself. Skull Island brings an ensemble cast to the titular setting for an adventure that feels both familiar and new. It lacks enough quality writing to call it a “great” film, but it’s still an enjoyable, fun trek.

The primary reason why people would come to watch this film is to see the title character in action. Kong himself doesn’t disappoint. The sequence with him taking out the helicopters was excellent and rivals Godzilla’s grand airport entrance in the 2014 film. The music going silent when the tree struck the first helicopter changed the mood drastically, and as one by one each helicopter was destroyed the viewer got a sense of how ferocious Kong was. This is his most violent portrayal yet, and in this early scene the viewer actually begins to think that Kong might actually be bad in this one. The story smartly destroys that thought later on. The writing perfectly balances Kong’s gentleness with monstrous ferocity.

Again, his big scene with taking down the helicopters was incredible. It featured some of the best cinematography and editing ever in a monster movie. It’s actually a shame that the very first scene in the film featured a full face shot of Kong, because the helicopter sequence later on would have been a much better way to first show the character. Kong commands a presence every time he’s on screen, and the film features him a lot, which is a nice change of pace from monster films hiding the beast for extended periods of time.

Like in the previous King King films, Skull Island is home to many dangerous creatures. Unlike the previous films, the creatures in this film aren’t ones we’d find in a book. Instead, they’re either abnormally giant (the spider) or completely brand new, such as the Skullcrawlers. The creatures are used to great effect. The spider sequence was very well done (it features one of the creepiest deaths in a monster movie) and how the characters managed to overcome it was pretty smart. There’s even a giant octopus which Kong battles. (It reminds the viewer of his encounter with another giant octopus in the original King Kong vs. Godzilla.) The Skullcrawlers are the film’s primary antagonists, and they are really well utilized. They’re genuinely creepy and also command a presence. (The quick death scene of a character turning around only to be chomped by a Skullcrawler was something straight out of a horror film.)

Of course, the climax couldn’t feature Kong simply taking on a bunch of little creatures. The final battle featured a giant Skullcrawler. It got some quality buildup beforehand, and it doesn’t disappoint. It takes what made the little ones creepy and amplifies it. The fight was very well done. The battle is brutal, the setting is used to great effect, and above all else – it’s satisfying. There are no extended cutaways, there are some surprises, and it’s just fun to watch as a moviegoer and as a longtime kaiju fan.

The main thing the story suffers from is an unnecessarily light tone. There is some seriousness to the atmosphere, namely when the music stops when that tree struck the helicopter. Despite scenes like that the story appears more on the light-hearted side at times. John C. Reilly’s character for example kinda takes the viewer out of the realism at times with his dialogue. With horrific deaths taking place on an unknown setting, it seems like the overall atmosphere should be consistently more serious than what it is. Perhaps the idea was to differentiate itself from Godzilla, since that film was completely series from beginning to end. This is not to say Skull Island is a comedy, because it isn’t. A more serious tone throughout just could have been better.

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A rather big drawback is that the Island natives don’t really do anything in this film. It felt like they were just there for tradition’s sake. (They barely do anything other than stare and nod.) An additional 10 minutes could have been added to explain more about their relationship to Kong and the fascinating backstory only briefly mentioned. Moving on to the characters, the film features a cast with quite a few familiar names. Just about all of them are fun to watch. (It could be a fun game counting how many zoom-ins they give Samuel L. Jackson.) Ultimately though, there’s no standout performance. Maybe it’s assumed that simply having these big name actors on screen is good enough. (We have Tom Hiddleston grabbing a sword and slashing like a samurai.) The characters needed to be fleshed out just a little bit more.

The pacing is solid. Some of the early scenes on the boat were a little on the boring side, but it doesn’t take too long for the characters to arrive on the Island. There’s just the right amount of Kong scenes and humans, whether the latter be talking or running away from another creature. The soundtrack has some great moments. There’s also some classic music thrown in the mix, being set in the 70’s. This is used to great effect in the helicopter sequence.

Overall, Kong: Skull Island is a worthy addition to the large catalog of monster movies. Director Jordan Charles Vogt-Roberts’ vision of Kong is truly special. The ape steals the show, having the perfect balance of being the kind creature viewers have come to know and displaying monstrous ferocity. If Kong had a reputation of being on the weaker side before, this film changes that. The other creatures are really cool to watch, especially the Skullcrawlers. The big one made for an excellent final boss, with the actual battle being a satisfying finale to the story. The characters aren’t bad. They’re fun to watch, and are given enough personality to keep them from being dry. Still, they could have used just a bit more development. Some of the lighter elements and humor didn’t work, but they don’t ruin what is Kong’s most explosive film yet.

7.5/10

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

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Star Wars is enjoying a revitalization this decade. Last year Episode VII, the continuation from Return of the Jedi, released and ended up being one of the highest grossing films of all time. This year saw the release of another installment in the series. This time however instead of the next chapter, we have a prequel detailing some of the major events leading up to A New Hope. The idea of a standalone-ish film important to the overall saga is an excellent concept; and it’s something Rogue One succeeds at marvelously. Gareth Edwards of Godzilla fame directs a film that puts the Wars in Star Wars.

Rogue One tells a familiar tale at the surface. It follows a group of rebels in a mission to halt the progress of the Empire. Perhaps the biggest contributions to the franchise here are how the Death Star came into existence and how the Alliance acquired the plans of the weapon’s weakness. As a longtime Star Wars viewer, it’s great to see how this connects to A New Hope, a film almost 40 years old. There are other things to look out for, along with other references to the franchise such as The Clone Wars. Of course, the film doesn’t sell itself as one only focused on being one big reference; it’s an excellent showcase of quality written characters and some of the best action sequences of the series.

The opening act shows the main character, Jyn, as a young girl and how she got separated from her parents. It’s a well done sequence as it establishes her hate for the Empire, Krennic’s menacing persona, and how Jyn’s father got taken into the Empire to build the Death Star. The jump to modern day is interesting as we see Jyn a battle-hardened character. Felicity Jones does an excellent job portraying that throughout the film, especially in the first and middle act. Rey from The Force Awakens was a fun character, but Jyn is more interesting thanks to her more down-to-earth, realistic persona. Her journey from hardened prisoner to inspiration for the rebel cause was engaging. This nicely complements the rather grim atmosphere the story has.

Perhaps the most notable character is K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial Droid for the Rebel cause. One of the reasons why A New Hope is fondly remembered is for its introduction of C-3PO, who was constantly bringing humor. K-2SO plays a similar role in Rogue One, and it’s fantastic. (Also, unlike C-3PO he can actually fight.) K-2SO’s scene in the climax is one of the most powerfully written in the entire series. Most of the other characters are good. One of the few that wasn’t particularly notable was Rook. It’s easy to see what the writing was going for in his personality, but it didn’t work most of the time in making him likable and there was a severe lack of backstory. Saw Gerrera wasn’t memorable either and may have actually been the weakest character. The viewer doesn’t feel any sense of emotional attachment so when he stops appearing it’s more of an empty scene.

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Even though the original trilogy took place in a galaxy controlled by the Empire, Rogue One is the first one where the viewer really gets a sense of what it’s like to live under this occupation. There’s a down to earth tone which lacks in the other films. This is also helped by the careful usage of humor. The Force Awakens most of the time had an upbeat tone with plenty of comedic scenes, sometimes forced. Rogue One is a lot smarter in this department. Its “funny” scenes are spaced out and when they appear they are genuinely good. Action films can learn a thing or two from the style of Rogue One.

As stated earlier, the film features some of the greatest action scenes in the franchise. The first major fight sequence on Jedha when Andor and Jyn arrive comes to mind. Not only is it choreographed well and there’s a great amount of tension, but the viewer also gets a sense of a brutal war backdrop. The climax is a big highlight; the Rebellion plan is fun to watch unfold, which leads to some -once again- great action sequences and emotional scenes. The tagline for the film is “A rebellion built on hope.” The final act of the story is unexpectedly somber, but with a glimmer of light in the end since it leads straight into A New Hope. It’s one of the most effective and well done climaxes in recent history.

On some last notes, the soundtrack features a few classic Star Wars themes. They are used effectively. (The opening crawl was unfortunately missed.) The other themes are very similar and while not as iconic as John Williams’ work, Michael Giacchino does a solid job complementing the legendary music. Darth Vader was one of the most highly anticipated aspects of the film. (He hasn’t been seen in film since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith.) He could have used maybe one more scene, but what is there is spectacular. It’s as if you can watch this film and then jump into A New Hope and not see any difference with the villain. If this is truly Vader’s last appearance in a film, he went out showcasing that he still is one of (if not the) greatest villain in cinema.

Overall, Rogue One might be the most well made Star Wars film to date. It goes darker than previous entries while containing pockets of genuinely humorous moments. Jyn’s character journey is engaging, and the theme of hope shines throughout. As iconic as the original trilogy was, there was sometimes a lack of tension because of cheesy writing. The serious tone in the latest installment coupled with the most intense Stormtrooper action scenes in the franchise gives the film a consistent atmosphere that The Force Awakens -or just about any film in the series- doesn’t have in comparison. Rogue One is a great film of diverse, likable characters and an excellent prequel to A New Hope.

9/10

Doctor Strange Review

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Marvel Studios has cemented itself as a company viewers expect great things from. For the past two years it has been consistent in delivering quality. This year saw the release of one of the finest films in the franchise, Civil War. Now the company takes a short break from the ensemble to focus on introducing another character to the fold. Directed by Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange is an enjoyable installment with a unique spiritual backdrop. The main thing stopping it from being truly great is a mediocre climax.

In some ways Doctor Strange is similar to the first Iron Man. Like Tony Stark, Stephen Strange is introduced as an arrogant man only looking out for himself. The path to his redemption is engaging. The opening act does a good job establishing who he is as a surgeon. Everything seems to be going right, but one event can change everything. In Iron Man’s case it was the terrorists killing Tony’s companions and kidnapping him. In Doctor Strange it’s the car crash that sets him on a path he didn’t expect to be on.

As stated in the first paragraph, the film has a unique spiritual backdrop. Scott Derrickson is a Christian, and he brings quite a few Biblical themes to the table. The conversation between Stephen and the Ancient One on life in general comes to mind. Ancient One shows him in a fun sequence how there’s more to life than what is happening in front of them. Derrickson delivers something refreshing with utilizing aspects of faith which is unfortunately rare in films.

The core of the story is found in the middle act with Stephen traveling to Nepal in hopes of healing his hands. This is one of the main aspects of the origin: Stephen training alongside other sorcerers. It’s well done mostly, but falters in perhaps being too long. There isn’t a big action sequence for quite awhile after the opening scene. The biggest problem with the training aspect might be that the film doesn’t let the viewer know how much time has passed since Stephen first walked through the doors. If we take the film at face value, it hasn’t been that long, so it’s hard to believe that Stephen was able to master all these techniques so quickly. He learns spells and actually outsmarts Wong.

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Benedict Cumberbatch owns the role as the title character. By the end of the film he’s one of the most engaging Marvel protagonists. His role as Sorcerer Supreme will be a lot of fun to watch in future films. The story does a good job detailing the type of work the Ancient One and her fellow sorcerers do. Wong’s dialogue stating,“The Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.” was excellent. Speaking of Wong, he was a lot of fun to have around. Every scene he was in with Strange was a highlight. Going back to the Ancient One, she was a compelling character. The writing gave her the best lines; Tilda Swinton delivered them with excellence.

Baron Mordo is an interesting, likable character. Anyone who has read the comics knows what happens; nonetheless, the writing does an excellent job building up to his big plot development in the after-credits scene. Before moving on to the antagonists, there’s one more character of note. Christine Palmer doesn’t appear too much but when she does it’s almost always a good scene. The viewer can feel her sadness when Strange early on basically tells her that without his work, life isn’t worth living, even with her. This plays into the excellent development later when Strange admits he was wrong. Romance doesn’t play a huge part in the story, but what is there is very genuine, in contrast to what is seen in some other Marvel films. (Thor and Ant-Man come to mind when it comes to poorly developed romances.)

The film has two main antagonists. The first is Kaecilius. He wasn’t that interesting, but at least the idea of a former student turning over to the dark side was done alright. The true villain behind everything is Dormammu. He gets a lot of hype throughout the story, and rightfully so. In the comics he’s a powerful figure, on the level of Thanos. Marvel had the opportunity to introduce a major character, and it failed miserably.

Dormammu is Doctor Strange’s greatest antagonist and an extremely powerful character. In the film he is described as a destroyer of worlds but we never get a glimpse of that. Instead when he finally appears he is just a floating head with a deep voice. In the comics he has a menacing, humanoid appearance with a flaming head similar to Ghost Rider’s. We didn’t see that here. Marvel is typically good with accurately bringing characters from the page to the screen but this is just as bad as what FOX did with Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The climax also doesn’t help. Instead of a grand final battle, Strange beats Dormammu in a most unsatisfying way. It’s amusing after the first couple of times (though the ability is too overpowered) but becomes an annoying running gag considering it’s at the expense of Dormammu actually doing something. This was a massive disappointment and could potentially ruin the film for longtime fans of the villain.

The visuals are perhaps the film’s best feature. They are unlike anything we’ve seen in previous comic book films and rival that of Inception’s loopy visuals. They made for some really unique action sequences. From the opening fight scene to the battle in the mirror dimension, it’s an experience witnessing reality being warped. The soundtrack is another highlight. Marvel films don’t typically have notable soundtracks, but Doctor Strange breaks that trend. It’s still not spectacular (there are a few generic themes in there) but it’s solid thanks to the epic choir throughout the film.

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Overall, Doctor Strange is an engaging introduction for the Sorcerer Supreme. Scott Derrickson brings excellent themes to the table. Time is limited – we’re not here forever, so we need to make the most of every opportunity to do good. This is something the Ancient One says to Stephen later in the film. There’s a lot of excellent dialogue. The visuals are unique and something to be experienced on the big screen. Unfortunately the climax is disappointing and a major drawback.

8/10

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree Review

Equestria Girls returns with its fourth installment. This one introduces a few new things for the spin-off franchise. The first thing is of course that it released on Netflix. (In the US anyway, it was broadcast in Brazil about a week ago on TV.) The first two films had theatrical releases while the third went straight to TV. It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for MLP on Netflix. (Who knows, if the show for some reason goes off Discovery Family we could see new seasons on Netflix.) The biggest new story aspect is the debut of this world’s version of the Everfree Forest. Legend of Everfree is another solid entry. It’s not as strong as the last film, but fans will definitely find a lot to like.

Official synopsis: When Canterlot Highschool goes on a trip to Camp Everfree, they’re surprised to find a magical force is causing strange things to happen around camp. With the help of the Mane 6 and especially Sunset Shimmer, Twilight Sparkle must confront the dark “Midnight Sparkle” within herself  and embrace her newfound magical abilities to save the camp.

Legend opens up with a strong dream sequence: Twilight being taunted by her darker self Midnight Sparkle from the previous film. This is a continuing element of the story until the climax. Even though the concept of keeping an evil version of one’s self at bay is nothing new, it will always be an engaging character arc. The viewer can see the terror on Twilight’s face in the final act as she’s forced to use her magic. As the one thing she’s been fearing is coming true: Midnight Sparkle taking over, her friends jump in and throw her some encouragement. Quotes such as “You are a light Twilight!”and “We’ll be here, no matter what!” were powerful and showed what kind of positive impact good friends can have. MLP never fails to showcase what friendship is supposed to look like in the real world.

As the title states, the core story takes place in the Everfree Forest as Canterlot High goes on a camping trip. The previous three films took place completely at school, so the green was a nice change of scenery. The plot moves at an okay pace. There are a few aspects of the writing that bring down the score a bit. For one thing, Filthy Rich is painfully generic. His pony counterpart didn’t seem to be that pretentious. Yes, the idea is to portray the person who only cares about profit. But, there are better ways to do that than the unrealistic portrayal here.

The bigger negative is that the writing decided to add another romance. Twilight (pony) liking Flash Sentry in the first Equestria Girls was incredibly forced, but even that was better than what is seen here. Timber Spruce isn’t a bad character, but the viewer has to question him right away flirting with Twilight. (Camp seems like a scary place if the counselor goes ahead and decides to flirt with one of the students almost instantly.) The writing attempts to develop this romance subplot throughout the duration, but it never works. All this happens over the course of just two/three days; by that night Twilight and Timber are just about to kiss before being interrupted. Again, all that happens in such a short amount of time. The romance aspect wasn’t needed and brought the story down every time it appeared. The only clever parts about it were the friends’ reactions.

The only other main negative with the writing is that there’s a missed opportunity. Everfree Forest is where Zecora lives in the pony world, so it would have made sense to introduce her here. Sadly, she’s nowhere to be seen. Moving on to the positive aspects, the writing aside from what was previously listed contains the quality viewers have come to expect from the franchise. From excellent humor (Rarity’s campfire story on “same color family” was ingenious) to iconic friendship speeches, there are a lot of great things to find here. The best part is the portrayal of Sunset Shimmer.

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Sunset Shimmer has come a long way from being the magic-obsessed villain from the first film. Interestingly, in many ways she’s at the moment the Twilight of the group. This is because the Twilight of this world is still new to friendship while Sunset is portrayed as a veteran when it comes to understanding how friendship works. Sunset throughout the story demonstrates how kind and caring she is. She’s just all around a sweet character and one of the best in the entire franchise. If you have a friend like Sunset, give her/him a hug (or at least a handshake) and let them know that you appreciate them. Friends like that are rare, and a blessing.

In some ways, the story is about Sunset and Twilight. The other friends don’t really do much aside from talking. This could be a major negative if the viewer was hoping for a more group-centric focus. Pinkie Pie is the biggest disappointment. She has no notable scenes and ended up just being comic relief. The antagonist this time around features a tragic backstory, a nice change of pace from previous films. Her dialogue was excellent with subtle comedy added in. Her character arc demonstrates the unfortunate happening when one wants too much power, even if it’s for seemingly noble reasons. The ending has her get off a little too easy however. By now we know the pony world and its human counterpart are very forgiving of crimes, but there were literally no consequences for what she did. It just subsided right after it was over.

One of the greatest parts of the film is the soundtrack. Legend might have the best songs from the series yet. The two main highlights are Twilight’s emotional “The Midnight in Me” and Sunset’s “Embrace the Magic.” These two are a couple of the best songs in the entire MLP franchise. Even if a person is not interested in the film, the music is worth listening to.

Overall, Legend of Everfree is another enjoyable film in the Equestria Girls series. Sunset Shimmer is the biggest highlight, showing that she’s just as a fantastic character as any of the Mane 6. (Depending on how you look at it though, the writing leaves the other friends in the dust while giving Sunset all the best dialogue and screen-time.) Twilight’s journey to fighting off her dark self was an engaging plot element. The climax features a great battle and hints at what’s to come for the series. There are some things holding back the film from being truly great, such as the poorly developed romance, but there’s a lot to appreciate despite any negatives.

7.5/10

Suicide Squad Review

Ten years ago the thought of a Suicide Squad movie would have been almost unheard of. Today we live in a cinematic world where almost anything is possible. If Marvel can turn Guardians of the Galaxy into a triple a property, there’s no reason why DC couldn’t do the same with another lesser known team. This group of of villains have been around since the late 80’s, but it wasn’t until recent years that they started to become more mainstream. How did that happen? It’s tough to say. Somethings in comic world just happen gradually for no real reason in particular. The Squad film has been garnering a large amount of hype. In fact, many people I’ve talked to in the past seemed to have been looking forward more to it than Batman V Superman. The reasons for that could be an article for another day. For now, the big question is whether or not Squad is the big jump-start for the DCEU and a quality film in its own right. What we have is something that is never boring but often lacks in writing.

Figuring they’re all expendable, a U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret mission. Now armed with government weapons, Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc and other despicable inmates must learn to work together. Dubbed Task Force X, the criminals unite to battle a mysterious and powerful entity, while the diabolical Joker (Jared Leto) launches an evil agenda of his own.

There was an animated film that came out two years ago called Batman: Assault on Arkham. Even though it was titled ‘Batman,’ it was really a Suicide Squad film. It is very similar to the live action one in many ways, and better. I don’t think Squad should be a copy of Arkham, but should have definitely taken more cues. For one thing, the Enchantress is an incredibly generic villain and seems out of place for the tone the film was striving for. Just about all her dialogue is pretty standard. Meanwhile the Joker is on the flip side, completely unique and commands a presence every time he’s on screen. The entire Enchantress angle wasn’t particularly engaging while the Joker in his low screen time was very good.

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It’s always a tricky endeavor when a film stars a bunch of characters. Squad manages to semi-avoid feeling overloaded. It introduces the characters one-by-one via flashbacks said by Amanda Waller. The style works for this type of film. Of course, it really depends on the quality of said flashbacks. First up is Deadshot’s. Seeing Batman was definitely a great moment and it’s very cool how the films can have things like that as one connected world. Now, the problem with the flashback here is the writing. It’s established that all Deadshot truly cares about is his daughter. The dialogue between them is extremely mechanical. It seemed like his daughter was just reading lines off a script. There was zero emotion invoked, which is a problem when the film wants the viewer to sympathize with a serial killer.

The rest of the flashbacks are simple and to the point. Harley Quinn’s of course is the best, giving the viewer insight into how she became the deranged person she is. Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Joker is the best character here, giving us a familiar yet different version of the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a good tease when we see the Batmobile go after him and Quinn. It makes the viewer really want to see this Joker go up against Batman in a future film. Harley’s entire flashback would make for an excellent movie in its own right, and not to mention there’s some awesome references to the 90’s Animated Series and this famous picture. Since we’re on the subject of these two, first Margot Robbie as Harley was definitely a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing her again in a future installment.

Jared Leto as the Joker was one of the most hyped aspects of the film. As stated earlier, he is a presence stealer and should have been written as the main antagonist over the painfully generic Enchantress. This version doesn’t seem to be the anarchist from The Dark Knight nor the comedian from Batman 89. What we have is a unique take on the character, whom is criminally underused in the film. Sadly it’s hard to write too much about this incarnation because he simply isn’t given much to do. It remains to be seen what kind of mark this version of Batman’s greatest nemesis will leave on the cinematic world.

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As for the other members of the team, Captain Boomerang doesn’t really add anything to the story. In fact, he could be cut out entirely and it wouldn’t have mattered. Killer Croc isn’t bad, but is only memorable for having a monstrous appearance. Just about all of Croc’s lines were, as a viewer next to me called them, “Corny.” He talked little and was given a very small amount of backstory. He was pretty much just the “grunt” of the team, and nothing more. A surprise highlight was El Diablo. Jay Hernandez portrayed a man whom regrets his past and doesn’t want to use his power anymore. His mini-character arc was one of the best. Katana was fun to have around, but appeared out of nowhere and never got adequate backstory. How is the viewer supposed to accept that her sword can apparently hold souls, in just one sentence without further clarifying?

The team forms kind of suddenly by the middle act. This isn’t the problem however. The problem is some of the dialogue in the middle to last act. Just about all these characters are hardened criminals, yet later they open up like old friends. The dialogue here just wasn’t organic. The biggest culprit is the bar scene. First, the scene is very poorly placed. As the world is about to be taken over we see the characters hop into the bar to reflect. This scene just didn’t make sense at that point and felt thrown in out of nowhere. What’s worst is Flag, the army official in charge of enforcing the team, joins them. He has been their enemy all this time, and just like that he’s their buddy as well? He even says, “I need your help Deadshot” as if the latter would sympathize with him. (After all, Flag just a day ago was threatening the latter.)

Even though the writing could have been better, the team is still fun to watch together. There’s solid chemistry, it’s there, but sometimes the film tries too hard to establish a friendship between them. Harley Quinn stating “You hurt my friends” before attacking the Enchantress was supposed to be a hardcore moment, but the viewer just can’t take it seriously because the friendship just wasn’t established properly. (Not only that, but it’s apparent that she would leave them to be with Joker.)

Obviously going into a film like Suicide Squad you know there’s going to be a lot of grit and comedy to go along with it. The film takes it a bit overboard at some points. For one thing, Slipknot when he first appears punches out an officer followed by some supposedly “funny” dialogue. This was a distasteful scene, and it seemed like the film had a very negative outlook on the corrections system since almost all the guards whom appeared were very abusive to the inmates. Next is an Amanda Waller scene. When she first appears the viewer gets a sense that she’s a bit of a shady government individual. But with the dialogue on hypothetically stopping another Superman, you get a sense that she’s bending morality out of a warped sense of keeping the country safe. This a viewer can get behind, but there’s a scene later in the film where she puts bullets in all her officials because they know too much about the operation, or as her dialogue put it, “It’s above their pay grade.” This scene was done to make her even more hardcore, but ended up making her unlikable in a negative way. It was just meaningless deaths and felt empty.

Even though there’s problems with the writing, the film is on some technical aspects better than Batman V Superman. Unlike the latter, the first half is nicely paced with good, stylized action scenes and character interaction. Aside from the abrupt bar scene, the film moves at an excellent pace. The climax unfortunately isn’t particularly that memorable. It’s only slightly better than Fantastic Four’s (2015) final battle, which is mainly due to the characters being fun to watch. The soundtrack is pretty much what one expects from this kind of film. In any other film it would be out of place, but it works here. (Though the lyrics are sometimes too questionable.) The final battle theme, though some might call it standard in comparison to the rest of the film’s music, truly increased the intensity and ended up being one of the best fight themes of the year.

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Overall, there’s definitely quite a few negative things to list about Suicide Squad. This is mainly due to the writing and often choosing style over substance. However, despite these things the film is still very entertaining and the characters are diverse. Even though the dialogue isn’t quite on par with that of say The Dark Knight, one never grows tired of the proceedings. David Ayer directs perhaps the most unique comic book film yet. With better writing, we could have had a truly great film.

6.5/10