Thursday, December 1, 2016

"Mirror, Mirror On the Wall...."

As of late I am beginning to notice a pattern about films lately I have been watching. If I have high expectations, or just expectations and the film doesn't meet them it's rather dreadful oftentimes. However, if I have no expectations or low expectations and the film is essentially just "okay" then I tend to like it more often than not. The Huntsman: Winter's War fits into that latter category. I remember watching the trailer and thinking to myself that the movie was going to be terrible, despite having a lot of good material to work with. Now granted there are some flaws with the film, but overall I rather enjoyed it. The biggest saving grace of the film is that Kristen Stewart is nowhere to be found in it, so right away the film began on the right track. The casting of this film was epic though, and is probably was kept it from falling into total disaster. Of course we have Thor...I mean Chris Hemsworth playing the Huntsman Eric, and he actually brought some interesting depth and lightness to the character that didn't really exist in Snow White and The Huntsman, and even his character's behavior in that previous film was explained a little in this sequel of sorts. He did a good job with his character, but it wasn't anything extraordinarily impressive. Jessica Chastain was the Hunstswoman Sara the love interest of Eric, and the two of them had relatively good chemistry, and Ms. Chastain did much better with her character than Mr. Hemsworth did with his, although more depth of her character would have been better. Nick Frost and Rob Brydon as the dwarf characters Nion and Gryff provided the "comic" relief, although I figured they often came off as obnoxious and unnecessary, but it wasn't a huge distraction. The two female dwarfs Doreena and Mrs. Bromwyn played by Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach were a foil to the two male dwarfs and were alright, but rather unnecessary for the story or plot really. There were times though that the four of them together were rather humorous, but rather forgettable. I saved the best for last though. Charlize Theron as Ravenna is as perfect as it gets; lethality and beauty and never looked so good. Emily Blunt as Ravenna's sister Queen Freya was genius; cold and distant, powerful yet empathetic with a touch of monstrous evil. The film should have been predominantly about these two and it would have been a smash hit success; both had fascinating back stories, and what a dynamic it would have been with both fighting each other for dominance or something like that. Oh well, maybe next time. Liam Neeson made an excellent narrator, Colin Morgan (played Merlin) briefly appeared, Sam Claflin also briefly reprised his character of Prince William which might have been the worst acting in the entire film.
The director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan did a relatively good job with his first major Hollywood motion picture, and I don't think the fault laid entirely with him. The writing was largest source of any problem for the film. The story needed a major overhaul, and the screenplay needed a little more polishing so I can't really say much for the writers Evan Spiliotopoulos (who somehow wrote the screenplay for the upcoming live action Beauty and the Beast) and Craig Mazin. The premise of the story was fantastic, but the execution of that idea wasn't really fleshed out that well. James Newton Howard composed the music and I found it rather disappointing as fantasy tends to be his area of expertise and experience, but I can't say that I can recall a single note. It is also unfortunate that he tends to be a rather mediocre film composer; I don't think he's ever had a smash hit score that's really resonated on it's own apart from the film. The action in the film was pretty good, but it wasn't until the end that it became very cool and impressive, mainly because it revolved two of my favorite characters in the film. All in all the film was pretty good for not being panned as very good, and aside from Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman it is far better than it's predecessor. Hopefully they'll take my idea and run well with it for the next film in the series, if they decide to make another one.

The Huntsman: Winter's War The 2 Queens Clip

The Huntsman: Winter's War goblins clip

The Mummy teaser (not sure about this one as Tom Cruise is in it, but I might be pleasantly surprised yet again).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"...That's Not a Song, That's Propaganda."

The classic Walt Disney animated film The Jungle Book was the last film Walt was involved in before his unfortunate death which left the studio's animated film legacy with chaotic void which wouldn't be filled again until The Little Mermaid. Now this live action film of the same story from this year deviates ever so slightly from the animated tale here and there, but the heart of it stays true to the original story. So Mowgli grows up with the wolves in the jungle, and Shere Khan the tiger desires nothing more than to kill the little "man cub." Thus he decides to leave the wolves, and Bagheera helps him find his way towards the man village, although there are stops along the way. Neel Sethi played Mowgli and did a very good job with a rather static character who is very young, and breathed some character growth into the role he played. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera was absolutely perfect; he sounded firm but with such calm and cool ageless wisdom as one would think a panther would possess. Bill Murray as Baloo was also perfect, such a great performance where he was funny, serious, intelligent, and of course humorous again. I almost wish he had been in the original, but that Baloo was perfect for that film. Idris Elba can play heroes, villains, adventurers, deep dramatic roles; this man is truly a talented individual with great depth in regards to his craft, and so of course his take on Shere Khan was fantastic! Lupita Nyong'o as Rakasha (Mowgli's wolf mother) was good, albeit rather static, but that wasn't really her fault. Scarlett Johansson as Kaa was surprisingly good despite the fact that originally it was a male character, but there is something extraordinarily hypnotic about her vocal performance which captured the character right on; definitely a good casting decision (even though I'm certain my sisters would disagree with me). Which leaves the great Christopher Walken as King Louie, and that of course needs no further elaboration. A most excellent cast was assembled, but let's not forget that these individuals were only half of the performance; the rest of performance needs to be credited to all of the extraordinarily talented special effects and animation experts who worked tirelessly to create such realistic and exceptional performances of all the characters these actors and actresses voiced. I take my hat off to them, for without their skills and talents this film would not have been possible.
Yes I very much enjoyed the film, and it was quite brilliant. Not only was director Jon Favreau able to capture the fun and enjoyment of the original animated classic, but he was also able to sweep up the beauty and deep mystical nature of Rudyard Kipling's writings. Justin Marks wrote the screenplay, and while the story and characters were further elaborated on and changed here and there, it was done tastefully and skillfully which is no easy task especially in Hollywood these days (as excellent writing seems more scarce than bountiful). But perhaps the star of the entire film was the exquisite cinematography by Bill Pope. All I have to really say is wow! The film was shot and it came out so stunning and breathtaking with all of the vistas, intimate shadows, and the darkest moments of the story. This is was definitely brought the film to such vivid life. John Debney composed the music, and he did a fair job at adapting the original score and then adding his own, and it wasn't too bad, but it wasn't that good either. My favorite part of the music was played during the credits with Scarlet Johannson singing "Trust In Me." I wasn't particularly fond of Bill Murray and Christopher Walken singing, but it seemed to work well in the film and the characters as well. I highly recommend this film, and the beautiful thing is you can watch it as a family, as a date film, with your parents and grandparents, and friends; Jon Favreau really did an impressive job breathing new life into this classic Disney story, although I'm not quite certain if he'll be able to duplicate his success with the apparent planned sequel. Disney and their sequel mania, it is quite ridiculous. Oh, by the way I will take this opportunity to state that freedom for people in Cuba and around the world scored a huge victory with the death of dictator Fidel Castro of Cuba. He was a brutal man, who ruled with an iron fist and was responsible for killing thousands and destroying the lives of millions over a span of 57 years. He will not be missed, and I have very little doubt that he will be paying for his butchery for the remainder of eternity. You see, finally some good news to report. :)

The Jungle Book intro to Shere Khan

The Jungle Book Cast Feature

Emerald City television show trailer (looks.....interesting maybe?)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Is the Apocalypse of Comic Book Films Coming?

I'm not a comic book fan, but from what I understand there are a lot of them published with several heroes, villains, sidekicks and secondary characters alike. Are all of them eventually going to get transformed into films or television shows? Where will it stop, or rather when will it hit a wall? Now, X-Men: Days of Future Past was a very good comic book film, and perhaps the best of the X-Men films thus far. X-Men: Apocalypse was okay; not really bad, but not really that good either. Too much honestly was going on so that the story wasn't focused enough, and none of the characters really had chances to develop because the film was literally going here, there and everywhere. So the plot is easy, the super-mutant (the original) Apocalypse comes back to life and seeks four partners to help him eradicate human existence to rebuild it with him commanding it all, and of course the "X-Men" are there to stop him as he does it, and they also have their own story lines and drama going on along the way. James McAvoy as Professor X was fine; nothing really new with him, although we see apparently why he goes bald in this film. Michael Fassbender as Magneto in this film was definitely a much more different approach than I had thought, and I'm not certain if I like where they went with his character, but he felt like an afterthought in the film as a character. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique was good, although I found her a little too preachy at times, and she also felt like an afterthought. Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy was fantastic of course, but they didn't really do much with his character unfortunately. Perhaps the best performance and most interesting character of the entire film was Apocalypse portrayed by the very talented Oscar Isaac. Subtle things here and there in his performance, and he was very strong in his presentation. Rose Byrne came back as Moira Mactaggert, which was nice because she is an excellent character and actress, but her character was fairly useless so I don't know why she was inserted into the story. Perhaps the newer additions of Sophie Turner as Jean Grey and Tye Sheridan as Cyclops were some of the other really good casting bright spots, although it would have been great to see their characters developed a lot more than they were. Then there were the characters: Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Lucas Till as Havok, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, Ben Hardy as Angel, Alexandra Shipp as Storm, Josh Helman as Col. Stryker, and Olivia Muun as Psylocke. With 15 characters all vying for a chunk of screentime, many of whom are major characters, this was the primary cause of the weakness of the film.
Bryan Singer is one of my favorite directors, and he is actually quite skilled at what he does most of the time, and granted where he went with this film and how me directed it wasn't atrocious, but it did lack a cohesive fluidity to it, which is unusual for him. Simon Kinberg, the skilled screenwriter, story writer, and producer that he is this film was definitely not up to his usual par. John Ottman as both film editor and music composer excelled with the music and didn't do so well with the editing of the film, which was really choppy in how it was cut together. The music was really good, especially at the beginning; definitely memorable. The action was pretty dynamic and exhilarating most of the time, although I don't think they used everyone's powers to their fullest extent. All in the all the film was entertaining, and I'd watch it again. The beginning of the film which shows what happened to Apocalypse and his four followers was perhaps the best sequence of the entire film, with maybe the climactic end battle being a close second. If there had been a sharper screenplay, and a more focused story with fewer, or a narrower cast then the film would have been so much better. Better luck next time I guess, at least according to the end credits scene. It's a fun film to watch, but you aren't missing out if you never see it. I hope everyone has an excellent Thanksgiving holiday! Despite all of the dreadful and horrifying things that occur daily in life, there will always be much to be thankful for.

X-Men: Apocalypse cast interviews

X-Men: Apocalypse scene

X-Men: Apocalypse scene

Friday, November 18, 2016

Can Star Trek Go Beyond?

Okay, I prefer Star Wars over Star Trek anytime, but I did grow up with it since my father liked it, and I enjoy it too. I have seen all of the films and series (except all of the original show), and I have to say overall that J.J. Abrams strategy of breathing new life into the franchise isn't going all that well in my opinion. And yes I did not like Star Trek Beyond. Honestly, the entire film was completely bland. So the crew of the Enterprise has been in deep space doing...whatever they do, exploring I suppose, and I guess it's really bothering them, or Captain Kirk, it wasn't really that clear. Then the film becomes even more spotty as they take the starship on a supposed rescue mission and get completely annihilated in the progress by some sort of hive culture that's after a specific object. After crash landing on the planet the crew then has to survive and get back to....well, I think it was the Federation, or more specifically one of their starbases. That's the plot in a quick summary. So, Chris Pine as Captain Kirk was pretty flat and static in this film, although it seemed like they were attempting to grow his character, but it didn't work out that well. Zachary Quinto as Spock also came across as flat and static despite attempts to grow his character as well; Kirk and Spock's friendship has nowhere the same or even similar chemistry that Nimoy and Shatner had with the same characters. Karl Urban as Bones was the same as it had been in the first two films; he does a good job, but he seems a little too angry all of the time, and it's kind of getting annoying. Zoe Saldana as Uhura was similarly bland and static despite attempts to also grow her character, which was probably at its best in the first film in her first couple of scenes. This was actually I thought Simon Pegg's best film as Scotty thus far; he really has adapted himself to the character very well, though his character is rather static. John Cho as Sulu seemed older and wiser; perhaps that has something to do with him being married with a child. But his character unfortunately didn't have much done with it. Anton Yelchin as Checkov was fine in his last performance of the character since his death will be preventing him from any future role with this character; I don't know if they will replace him or simply kill off the character. Since it is an alternative universe, why not; should be interesting to see what kind of ripples it creates. The two new major additions to the film were Idris Elba as the villain Krall, and Sofia Boutella as Jaylah both of whom are very talented. Idris Elba as the villain could have been amazing, but honestly he sucked as a villain, but they tried very hard to give him a plausible backstory so that the audience would feel some empathy for him, I think it backfired though. Jaylah could have been a great character, but it seemed as if she was tossed in just for the sake of a new character with no real idea of what to do with her; a lot of potential, but really fell flat.
So this ranks as one of the worst Star Trek films ever up there with Nemesis, The Final Frontier, and The Motion Picture. Justin Lin as the director was not a good choice whatsoever, and having Simon Pegg and Doug Jung writing the screenplay were also bad ideas. Those three choices were most likely why the film was quite bad. There also seems to be in the newer Star Trek films this slapstick, silly kind of comedy that seems to permeate every moment, which was never in any of the previous films in such an obvious manner. The films don't take themselves seriously and hence neither do the people who watch them. The other thing is that there has never been a single Star Trek film that has been a box-office smash; Into Darkness is the one Star Trek film that has made the most money, and it didn't even break $500 million in total box-office receipts. So I'm curious to see if this franchise can ever soar like Star Wars or comic book based films. Also it would be nice to see a full out war involving the Klingons, Romulans, Federation, and perhaps Tholians, Gorn, or something new. Anyways. Special effects were good, and the cinematography okay, as was the costume design, although truth be told they have been wearing essentially the same costumes for three films. The action sequences were mostly boring with a few good moments here and there. Michael Giacchino had a rather disappointing score as it sounded very similar to the last two in so many ways; no really good new themes or motifs. All in all, it was just a bland film, not terrible, but not really that good either. Don't fret if you never see it, or never see it again; you really won't be missing anything.

Star Trek scene Scotty & Jaylah meet

Simon Pegg on writing Star Trek Beyond

A Series of Unfortunate Events preview (looks great!)

Beauty and the Beast trailer (should be good).

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"With the Strength of Ra!"

Sorry, I couldn't help myself by quoting an old line from a kids animated show I grew up with back in the late 1990's, The Mummies Alive. Anywho. So last night I sat down to watch Gods of Egypt, which when I first saw the preview a while back I thought that it had a lot of potential, but did seem a little over the top with perhaps not the best casting decisions. However, aside from all of that it was a rather entertaining film that wasn't all that bad. Granted, it's not Oscar award winning (except perhaps for the special effects and costume design), but it wasn't as bad as some "critically acclaimed" films that I've seen recently. It also might have something to do with the fact that I find Egyptian antiquity extraordinarily fascinating along with their mythology, and I don't think a film has ever delved into their gods and goddesses like the Greeks, so it was something fresh. The film basically follows the god Horus as he gets revenge on Set for killing his father, taking his eyes, and then his crown as king of Egypt. A human mortal, Bek, assists Horus against Set so he can free his beloved from the afterlife and on they go. Aside from the dialog, and some of how the characters were written, I didn't have a huge problem with the writing, but the casting certainly wasn't ideal. Brenten Thwaites as Bek was pretty good....even though he didn't sound or really look Egyptian, which in a film about gods and demons may not be exactly necessary, but it would have given the film a better edge I think personally. He was funny, interesting, and had some good potential for deeper character development, but that specific arc was given to Horus. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Horus (plays Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) did a good job with the character he was given, and aside from some bad dialog he did fine. I however, don't think that a man born in Denmark should have played one of the most powerful gods of ancient Egypt; there was something that just didn't seem to fit. But it wasn't atrocious. Perhaps the worst casting decision was Gerard Butler as Set; that just didn't work for me. His look, his voice, and although he tried his best to hide his Scottish accent I could just hear it constantly every time he spoke, and he played the character a little too playfully. Elodie Yung as Hathor the love interest of Horus, was a good decision, although I would have liked to have seen her character explored much more as she was one of the more interesting characters. Chadwick Boseman (played the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War) as Thoth could have been good, as the man is very talented, but I didn't like how they made the character sound especially which was very British like, and he came off a little too Victorian like with manners, gestures, and his overall presentation of himself. Geoffrey Rush as Ra was very cool, and although I'm certain the Egyptians probably didn't imagine him as presented as a British actor, his time in the film was very cool and very well done....I do have to say that I am very biased towards this man though. The remainder of the cast was okay, but very British heavy; some more actors and actresses native to Africa would have enriched the experience of the film so much more.
So as I mentioned above, the film wasn't great, but it was good; I definitely would watch it again, and the more I think of it, the movie was really fun. The writing wasn't the best, but it wasn't dreadful; the plot however was very well done, how they progressed that along. If they had worked a little bit more on the casting and writing this would have been a phenomenal film. There is a lot of cool action in this film, at least I thought there was. There were times when some of the action was a little much, and things could have been slower paced, but I don't think that's what the films' creators were going for. Marco Beltrami did the music and I actually like him a lot as a film composer, and this score was pretty good but nothing stands out musically except some choral pieces during some of the fight sequences. The special effects for the most part were pretty good, and I think they'll probably be nominated for an Oscar at least. The art direction was also an excellent technical element within the film, and the ancient setting gave that a rich background, along with the cinematography. And then of course the costume design was pretty amazing, although what Osiris and Horus wore as kings wasn't very kingly looking in my opinion. All in all a very enjoyable film, and although it bombed miserably at the box office in the USA, it did fairly well overseas, and yes I liked and enjoyed it enough to watch it again. Some good old fantasy is what this world needs right now to distract itself from its problems. So switching gears a little bit. Last week depending on your perspective was either a good newsweek or a very bad newsweek. Donald Trump will be the 45 President of the United States of America, and the first US president with that first name. Did you know that "James" is the most used Presidential name with 6 US presidents with that name, more than any other singular name. I think John, William, Franklin and George were the other names that popped up multiple times for US presidents. Regardless, should be interesting to see where it all goes. I shall quote some Shakespeare, who as Klingon General Chang stated was one of Earth's greatest warrior poets....

"What's past is prologue...." and "...Security is mortal's chiefest enemy..."

Gods of Egypt trailer

Gods of Egypt interviews

The Animaniacs on the US presidents (such a great show, and humor is good for the soul. It's on Netflix FYI).

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"....Government's Should be Afraid of Their People."

"Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot."  -V

Yes indeed it is that time of year again; Guy Fawkes Day. The time of year when I watch the film V for Vendetta and remember that it is the people of a democracy that hold the ultimate control and fate of their country, not the elected government. It's interesting to consider that in a true modern democracy people surrender their power and control to a group of individuals, and then hope or naively expect that power to never be used against them. The more I consider that, it almost seems rather ludicrous; no wonder, at least in the United States of America, trust in the federal government is at an all time low. Three days from today, the people of the USA will choose a new president, and decide their representatives and other government leaders for the next couple of years. I believe one key philosophic idea that everyone should take away despite who wins and loses is to remember ultimately that it is the people not the government that have the true power in an elected democracy. And in this very unusual election cycle in the USA , I believe we have seen what the power of the people can accomplish, especially when they are incited, motivated, and angry. Whatever happens, it will definitely be quite an interesting day, and the days that will follow will be even more interesting. One thing that I would like to see are more countries, more people being allowed the possibilities of electing and shaping their own government and civilization freely. Countries such as: China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Venezuela, Belarus, Syria, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam that are either outright repressive or are slowly eliminating their people's civil liberties. Granted, in several if not most of the countries I named, democracy is a foreign concept unfortunately as men with power like to keep their power and oftentimes do whatever it takes to keep it from falling into the hands of the "masses." I don't know how in some countries sparks of rebellion and freedom spread to oust the established status quo and a stable democracy forms, and then there are times when the rebellions are absolutely crushed such as in China and Iran and it seems the spirit of democracy withers away. Perhaps what V for Vendetta gives me is hope; hope that if a day should come when the US government becomes tyrannical that I have the courage and the strength to stand up to it, or any other government that lords over their citizens in an egregious way. I always like to remind people that a politician's favorite kind of people are dumb, uneducated, clueless, and selfish. So, please stay aware of what is going on around you, your country, and in the world and people will be less likely to pull any wool over your eyes.

V's Speech to the People

Series of Unfortunate Evens teaser (looks very good)


Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

I'm not certain what they did on Halloween night 1000 years ago, but I don't think it involved children going from home to home asking for candy. But, I think modern trick-or-treating on Halloween is far better than...well whatever they did a thousand years ago. So have fun, stay safe, and apparently watch out for crazy people dressed as clowns. For some odd reason I have been selecting a lot of boring films lately, and I think I could translate that into them being quite dreadful as well. Last night I watched Carol a drama film that takes place back in the 1950's in New York City about two women who fall in love with each other, and how they navigate their lives with this relationship during that time period. Cate Blanchett plays the title character Carol Aird, who is a divorced woman with a young daughter and an angry, possessive, brooding ex-husband. She is relatively high society, or at least wealthy, but comes across as gentle, kind and compassionate. Ms. Blanchett gave a fine performance, although I don't think it was worthy of the Oscar nomination she received; and I have to say that I didn't care for her character, which I also thought of as quite boring and flat throughout most of the entire film. It was only at the end that there was some energy put into the performance. Rooney Mara plays the young lover, Therese Belivet; and wow what a dull character, and what a dull performance. Throughout the entire film she bored me constantly, and her character was flat; there was nothing even remotely good about this character, yet somehow she too received an Oscar nomination somehow.
The film was primarily these two the entire time. Kyle Chandler played the obnoxious, jealous and possessive ex-husband, Harge, but his character was static the entire time save for a brief ten seconds or so. The rest of the cast was unremarkable. In short the film was beyond dreadful, and beyond boring; two hours of nothing really going on, and the irritating thing was none of the performances were even interesting let alone good. Even more astounding was that the screenplay, written by Phyllis Nagy, received an Oscar nomination which boggles my mind, because the writing was boring, flat, predictable, and there was no life in the characters or the dialog. Carter Burwell somehow received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score for his film score, which it wasn't dreadful, but....it wasn't anything even remotely good. Sounded like he borrowed his musical notes from Alexandre Desplat and just re-orchestrated them for this film. Perhaps the only place where the film shined was in the cinematography by Edward Lachman (which was nominated for an Oscar) and costume design by Sandy Powell (also nominated for an Oscar), but other than that, I can't recall anything pleasant or good about this film, even the ending was quite dreadful. I do not recommend this film whatsoever, unless you want something to put you to sleep or out of your misery. There is nothing compelling in this story, and honestly there was so much they could have done with this film, but it was so sedate and....well, simply put it will bore you to death. For good Halloween viewing watch the classic Hollywood horror films like The Mummy from 1932 with Boris Karloff, The Invisible Man from 1933 with Claude Rains, or Dracula from 1931 with Bela Lugosi, and The Horror of Dracula from 1958 with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Carol clip

Cate Blanchett interview

Gilmore Girls Netflix trailer

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Turing Test.

I think I can speak for the average, majority of Americans when I say...thank God that November 8th is almost here, and will soon be behind us....hopefully. Just as usual there isn't really a lot of good news being reported in the world, but I'm sure peppered throughout the world that there are decent, lovely people who are keeping the world from becoming totally dark. God bless them, and hopefully their numbers grow rather than shrink. So recently I watched this science fiction film Ex Machina after having it on my list for quite some time. When I first noted its release, I didn't feel that enthused about seeing it, and after watching the film now I know why I wasn't. It was extraordinarily boring for basically all 1hr and 50min of the running time. For some odd reason it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and who knows why as the writing wasn't that good. The story is basically this employee of a technology company goes and stays with the CEO of the company for a week to work and test on this robot to improve her artificial intelligence capabilities to make her more believably human. However, he begins to develop emotional feelings for the robotic woman, who is more complex than she lets on, or the CEO who designed her. The cast for this film was top notch, although their characters were rather boring, and not fleshed out quite well. Domhnall Gleeson plays the lead character, Caleb, who is the employee that assists the CEO. I thought he was completely miscast, and that actually may have been one of the death knells to the film for me. There were brief moments when his performance of the character was quite remarkable, but most of the time it was dull; also, his character was rather bland to begin with anyways, so he didn't have much to work with. Oscar Isaac played the CEO, Nathan, who was also a rather bland character and although the performance was better than Gleeson's, it wasn't better by much unfortunately. I found his character not compelling at all, or likable to any degree, yet his character had a lot to work with. Alicia Vikander played the robotic Ava, and she was perhaps the best, most compelling, and most interesting character in the film, but all of this wasn't effectively utilized at all in the writing or during many of the scenes. She had the best performance in my opinion, but once again she wasn't allowed to blossom that much. The film was pretty much only those three characters, so that might have something to do with why I disliked it so.

Alex Garland, who wrote and directed the film did a rather atrocious job putting all the pieces of the film together, but the concept behind the film was truly remarkable; he just didn't deliver. The editing also fell through really poorly I thought, and may have been another gigantic reason why the film was so boring; the pacing was very slow and choppy. The music was blandly ethereal with no good emotional anchors to help you fall in love with the characters, or feel what they were feeling. Perhaps the one good thing from the film was the cinematography by Rob Hardy; it was intimate, yet dynamic and edgy at times. The visual effects won an Oscar, which were good, I just don't think that they were that good. All in all, if you never watch it then you aren't missing a thing. I definitely do not recommend this film, even as a film experience unless you want to know what not to do if you make your own science fiction story or film. Well, even though 2017 isn't here yet, I hope that things get better after it starts out as one of the determining factors to a degree is just around the corner. May the Force be with us all.



Ex Machina interview

Ex Machina scene

The Masque of the Red Death
(something for Halloween)

Monday, August 29, 2016

"This is Now a Land of Wolves...."

After sitting on my television for quite some time, I finally watched the film Sicario. This is the synopsis of the film in a nutshell an idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to assists in the escalating war against drugs at the border between the U.S.A. and Mexico. I visited El Paso quite a bit within the last year visiting my sister and nieces, which of course is right next to Ciudad Juarez; quite a bit of the film takes place around this area. It was definitely something being that close to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and if the movie is even a small fraction accurate with its depiction then it is definitely not a place I would ever care to visit without some impervious shield/force field. Emily Blunt played the lead idealistic FBI agent, and she did a good job playing the straight arrow, although it didn't seem natural for her; it seemed very forced and not executed well, and she was the only one with whom it was like that. Benicio Del Toro was utter perfection in this film. Calm, cool, mysterious, and excellently executed; this is another film that showcases how well the man can act...but I also really liked his character as well. Josh Brolin pretty much played himself; satirical, humorous, but with a slight edge of seriousness to lighten the rather dark film up a little. Victor Garber had a nice little supporting role as Emily Blunt's boss/supervisor, but it wasn't anything very outstanding.
The film is quite slow, and it reminds me of something more of a technical feature with a lot of emphasis on the cinematography, visuals and music than having the dialog carry the scenes, although there were also times when the action carried the scenes, but that was much later on in the film. I do not know much about the border war with drugs and the cartels, but I do know it is not a pretty picture. When a person comes between a person with no qualms who he or she kills or how and their source of income, be prepared for an unpleasant ending. I think oftentimes the public and public leaders of the world ignore the ugliness of these horrific actions until it hits close to home and affects their polling numbers or their source of income. I saw it frequently when I worked in mental health; no one wants to talk about, they just want it taken care of, and away from the public eye. In the film, there is a very gritty, realism approach about how to deal with drug cartel problem. This is led by the Brolin and Del Toro characters, but you have Emily Blunt pushing back barking that what they are doing isn't by the book. Del Toro has a good line he says to her "....you should move to a small town somwhere. You won't survive out here; this is now a land of wolves, and you are no wolf." Denis Villeneuve directed the film, and for the most part did quite well; it definitely felt quite real to me, but the screenplay could have used a whole lot more work. And honestly, I really think they should have gotten someone else to play Emily Blunt's character; she just didn't seem to really have it in her. The sound design was quite well done and the music by Johann Johannsson while not something you want to listen to on it's own, did such an amazing job of heightening the tension of the film. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards in Cinematography, Original Score, and Sound Editing. It isn't a happy go lucky film, and has a conflicted ending, so be forewarned, but it is a good film and I think I'd definitely watch it again. The beginning of the film will definitely get you hooked...quite literally. If you want a clear, and true picture about any issue, always talk to the people on the front lines and ignore the pundits, media, and public officials who sit comfortably in air conditioning behind desks (something else I learned working in mental health). There doesn't seem to be any really good news that I can find lately, and it seems as if the entire world is having a 1970's flashback from what I understand from the time. God help us all.

Sicario interviews

Sicario trailer

Thursday, August 4, 2016

King of the Jungle?

I have to admit that I didn't expect much when I went to see The Legend of Tarzan, and for the most part I was correct in that regard. David Yates (Harry Potter) directed the film and he did a relatively good job with it all things considering. The story takes place apparently after the initial story of Tarzan before he departs for England to live as an English Lord. Africa was divided up by the Colonial European powers, and Belgium received the Congo and began to take every resource they could. However, according to the film the King of Belgium went broke doing this and thus sent in his man to change the situation in his favor. Enter Tarzan who is returning to Africa to make right the wrongs of Colonial Europe. Whether or not most of this is historically accurate remains to be seen, but it made for a compelling plot at least, although it could have been fleshed out more. Alexander Skarsgard as John Clayton/Tarzan worked quite well I thought (as much as anyone in that situation could be), but I was looking for more depth, and it was almost there. Christoph Waltz as Leon Rom, the film's main antagonist, was of course perfect; not necessarily all powerful, but strong and evil enough to see his goals through. Samuel Jackson as Tarzan's sidekick, George Washington Williams, was boring, flat, and definitely a stereotypical character for the actor. I would have liked to see someone like Anthony Mackie play that role or Michael B. Jordan. Margot Robbie as Jane Clayton, Tarzan's wife, was great but could have been better. 

Visually the film was pretty impressive; they took pretty good advantage of the location and period they were filming, but there was a lack of depth oftentimes to the shots, they were quite linear, which I attribute to David Yate's filming style. Perhaps my biggest complaint in this film was the writing; the film touched upon a subject and historical period that isn't typically filmed or spoken about in the big or silver screen world. How the European powers plundered and ruined Africa, thereby engineering many of the current conflicts that exist in modern Africa, is a fascinating and heart wrenching story that is unheard. For some reason, Americans only seem to care or are interested in the oppression that African Americans endured during times of enslavement and colonial advances, not actual Africans. This film barely scraped the surface of what could have been something truly remarkable, as they could have gone more in depth about what European countries like Belgium were doing, rather than focusing on the Tarzan nonsense of communicating, living, and fighting with animals. There were some good moments in the film of drama, some good shots, and some good humor, but overall the film was mediocre at best. It could have been something so much better, but the actors and actresses weren't given enough to make it better than that. Even the action was mediocre at best as well. The only thing that stood out to me was the story of the plight of the people who lived in the Congo, nothing else. I really wish more filmmakers would take the period of 1700-1900 and film more of that time period of Africa; I think they could really get some really good compelling stories and heroes, like David Livingston. So in the end, the film was entertaining, and interesting to a point, but other than that nothing really stood out. If you don't see this film you won't miss out on anything, if you do, well.....you might like or you might not.

Alexander Skarsgard & Margot Robbie interview

Legend of Tarzan trailer

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (actually looks rather dreadful)

How I and several other Americans feel about the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Survive.

Now, I didn't mean the title to infer that The Revenant is about how to survive (even though it really is), what I meant was how to survive watching the film...and even I don't have a good solution for that. I spoke to several people who really enjoyed the film, and yes it was reasonably financially successful, but I really don't know why. Honestly, the only thing that I thought was excellent, or just the best part of the entire movie was the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, for which he won an Academy Award for (which was quite well deserved). I'm not entirely certain, but I think the film takes place in Canada during or right before the American Revolutionary War; the film wasn't clear on this end, which now that I think of it, the film wasn't clear on a lot of things. A man/scout is leading a group of fur traders/trappers through the wilderness when they are assaulted by a group of Indians and a lot of them die. They then make the harrowing trek back to the fort, but in the process the scout is viciously mauled by a bear and is constantly cared and watched over by his half-white/half Indian son. But the other Indians are hunting them, so a few of the men stay behind to watch over the scout (including his son) to see him healed of his wounds, or die of them. But one of the more dominant members of the group gets tired of waiting and kills the scout's son, and then talks the other remaining man to leave the scout behind for dead after witnessing his son's death. What then follows is the scout surviving the brutal wilderness half-dead by himself.

So, the film is your basic hero almost killed/watched his family die/now on a mission of revenge which he will stop at nothing to see through. Not a very inventive plot, but there you have it. Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Oscar for this role, and I honestly have no idea why. Of all the roles he played, this one had the least amount of dialogue, least amount of character depth, and was the least interesting. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, he should have won the Oscar for The Great Gatsby as that was a fascinating character of great depth, and was also a very unusual type of character for him to play; happy, not dark, depressing, or brooding. Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald, essentially the villain of the film, I was told was amazing, but I was sorely disappointed. His performance reminded he completely of his performance in the film Lawless, which I didn't care for whatsoever. His character didn't really become interesting until the very end, at which point there wasn't much chance for redemption. In the entire film the only character that I liked and found interesting was played by Domhnall Gleason (Captain Henry). He was likable, interesting, and had depth as you could see the internal conflict playing out, but sadly he had such a small role. The rest of the cast wasn't memorable in the slightest. I was so miserably bored out of my mind for nigh the entire film that I almost just stopped it several times, but I wanted to finish it so I pushed on through. The director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu, somehow received the Oscar for Best Director when it should have gone to the director of Spotlight. The film is essentially a glorified documentary on frontier wilderness and survival from the time period it is depicted happening in. It is violent and quite visceral, and perhaps that is the attraction; Freud always said people are driven by sex and violence. The screenplay by Mark L. Smith and the director was dreadful; the dialog was boring not compelling, and the story and plots were very fragmented with many of the questions brought up never resolved. Yes the scene where the bear mauls DiCaprio was intense, but so what; what is so cool about being mauled by a grizzly bear. DiCaprio's character grunted more in the film than he actually spoke, and although I'm certain physically the acting for this film was quite difficult, any man in shape probably could have done the same exact thing. I don't think it took a great deal of talent. The only technical element of the film that was good was the cinematography, everything else was mediocre. This was such a boring film, that wasn't even interesting, profound, deep, or thought provoking I would never recommend anyone see it. Yes I am eviscerating The Revenant but I really thought it was a complete waste of my time and I would be more than happy if I never saw it again. Oh, don't bother watching the news; all of the bad news seems to be overshadowing any good news if any exists.

Tom Hardy & Leonardo DiCaprio interview

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu interview

Justice League trailer (looks potentially good)

Wonder Woman trailer (kind of looks good)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Familiarity of Boyhood.

There is a lot of my own "boyhood" that I don't really recall that well, but there are bits and pieces that I can recall quite well. I loved G.I.-Joe's, the Power Rangers, Zorro, swords, magic/fantasy, was teased by other boys, picked on by my sisters, and always loved Star Wars. Granted I had my own fair share of problems and difficulties, but there wasn't anything extraordinary that happened in my life...at least that I can recall. The 2014 film Boyhood films a fictional story about a boy growing up over 12 years, and I mean this quite literally. The filmmakers actually used the same kid over the period of 12 years to film this movie to show what an average boy goes through in his younger and formative years. Fortunately my boyhood was much more stable than this fictional kid's was. Ellar Coltrane played the main star of the film Mason, and all I can say is the poor kid cannot act, but the idea behind filming the same kid growing up over a 12 year period was cool, but they should have at least provided him with acting lessons along the way, or picked someone who could actually have acted. Lorelei Linklater played his older sister Samantha, who aged just like her co-star on screen, and just like her co-star cannot act. Patricia Arquette played the mother, and she did a very good job with her performance which felt real and passionate. At times you wanted to slap her character in the face, who made bad choice after bad choice, but her flaws made her character more real. Ethan Hawke as the father perhaps had the best character in the film, even though at the beginning you wanted to strangle his character. By the end of the film though, Mr. Hawke's character had grown so much, so much so that you ended up liking him more than the mother. When the whole family dynamic was put together it played well, and I believe that is a huge factor for a developing boy during his formative years. Richard Linklater wrote and directed the film, and honestly the concept was immeasurably fascinating and cool, but the execution not as good. The writing needed a whole lot more help, the transitions between the years weren't very smooth and two of the main characters were consistently poor at acting throughout the entire film. I was probably bored most of the film, and I kept wondering throughout the entire film how it was going to run two hours and forty-five minutes long. Somehow it managed to plug along and reach there, but it definitely wasn't a fulfilling film watching experience; I was just thankful that I had finished it finally. There isn't really much to say about the film as none of the technical aspects of the film were that good, and perhaps the editing the worst of all. The only thing the film has going for it is the entire film being shot over a 12 year span. Other than that, I really wouldn't recommend watching this film, unless you were going to show it in a psychology class or developmental class. As I mentioned last time, there really isn't any good news as the violence continues to grow on a global scale, and now I typically end a lot of text messages with "watch out for terrorists," which is no longer a joke or something that shouldn't be taken seriously. The world is much more dangerous than it ever was nine years ago. God help us all.

Making of Boyhood

Rebels Season 3 trailer (and Grand Admiral Thrawn makes his silver screen debut!)

Rogue One Celebration Reel

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Marco......Polo.....?

So I watched season 2 of Marco Polo and even though I really enjoy the series and the entire idea behind it, this most recent season wasn't as good as the first. There was some good character growth in season 2, and the production design and cinematography remained stunning, but the writing just wasn't as good as season 1, nor were the fight sequences. The final showdown between the Chancellor and Hundred Eyes from season 1 was so good, yet there wasn't anything that came even close in this season. So Kublai Khan still retains his throne and stranglehold over China and the surrounding area, but his vice-chancellor Ahmad continues to plot against him to destroy his reign and him eventually is his long term goal. Part of that plan is using Mongolian laws to take the mantle of Khan away from Kublai and give it to one of his rivals. Ironically, Kaidu (the one who would be Khan of Khans) believes that in so challenging Kublai's right to rule, he is saving the empire from becoming too "Chinese" and the protecting the Mongolian people losing their nomadic way of life along with other cultural ideology. So all of the characters were relatively good, and the actors and actresses who portrayed them delivered very well. A nice edition this season was Michelle Yeoh, but she wasn't used as well as she should have been considering her fine caliber of an actress and martial arts expertise. She and Tom Wu (Hundred Eyes) were awesome together, but the writers should have done more with that plot point than they did. I felt like Marco Polo was kind of left out of this season while many of the other characters were brought to the forefront as he was then put on the sidelines. The character of Mei Ling (played by Olivia Cheng) was one character I really enjoyed seeing on-screen of most of the characters; she was strong, intelligent, passionate, and has the keen ability to survive anything. Great traits for a great character. In regards to the writing, one problem they had throughout the second season was that there were too many plots and arcs going on that they didn't have enough time to properly and effectively explore each one and gain a fair amount of character depth. It was an entertaining season, and I love Chinese history and Asian history of that era, but it wasn't a resounding successful season in my opinion. I don't know what Netflix's problem is, but a lot of their shows start off really good, and then quickly lose steam after the first season, although with House of Cards it was after season 2. Hopefully they turn it around soon and get some better writers. I honestly don't know what's going on with Hollywood; it seems like there is a vast absence of good writers. Once again concerning international affairs there doesn't really seem to be any good news, and the trend of "out of the frying pan and into the fire" continues to remain true regarding how the state of global affairs is going. I'm going to make a fictional parallel here, but I think it works; ISIS or DAESH is very, very similar to The Brotherhood of Nod. If you haven't played any of the PC game series Command and Conquer then you won't understand the parallel, but basically the idea is that ISIS is going to be around for a very, very long time and will only become more lethal through the passage of time. And to think, it is very likely all of this could have been prevented five years ago.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

One Prophecy Down....

Fire and Blood...

Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been perhaps one of the slowest starting but then action packed at the end of the series thus far; it seems like things progress very, very slowly at the beginning of the season and then everything happens in the last two episodes. By the way, if you are not caught up with the entire series, do not continue reading as I will spoil everything.

The Sixth Season of Game of Thrones ends with Cersei as Queen of Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen has her fleet, her armies, full grown dragons and is on her way to Westeros with allies from the Iron Islands, Dorne, and House Tyrell. Jon Snow is King in the North, and his brother Bran has taken up the new mantle of the Three Eyed Raven, while Arya has returned to Westeros to exact her revenge beginning with Walder Frey. People who are dead: Margery and Loras Tyrell along with their father; the High Sparrow, Lancel Lannister along with his father, Tommen Baratheon, Grand Maester Pycelle, Ramsay Bolton, Rickon Stark, The Blackfish, Doran Martell, Balon Greyjoy, Osha, and Hodor. As you can see a lot of major characters died in this season, which I think is good, because hopefully they can create a more focused story now rather than having dozens of independent storylines going on simultaneously. So yes, Jon Snow came back from the dead and is now a king; how fortunes quickly change in the midst of chaos. Danerys also had her fortune change similarly from being a prisoner of the Dothraki at the beginning to sailing to Westeros with a massive army and fleet at her side with all three grown dragons, and with Tyrion at her side as her Hand of the Queen, and Varys as her Spymaster. It also seems that Varys was able to galvanize support most likely for Daenerys from Dorne and House Tyrell, as they want revenge for what she and House Lannister did to them. Blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor with wildfire while it is packed with people, isn't a very popular thing to do, but when it is filled with your enemies, it is quite clever. However, Cersei's children are all dead now (Tommen committed suicide when all his advisers and his wife blew up) and the prophecy told to her by Maggie the Frog has come true..."Gold will be their shrouds..." So she doesn't have much to live for anymore. My guess is that she would rather die than yield King's Landing to Daenerys, so she will most likely take the Mad King route and attempt to burn everything, but Jaime will stop her by killing her and then killing himself. Very Romeo and Juliet like, which I think will go perfectly with the overall story thus far. Season 6 may actually be the finest season thus far. Bran as the Three Eyed Raven got to see some interesting moments from the past, including what happened to his aunt and why, although not fully revealed but she did have a baby and it seems likely that it is Jon Snow, but nothing would surprise me. It was also revealed how the White Walkers came to be and how the Night King was created and why. You saw a lot of good character development in this season, particularly with Sansa, Arya, and Daenerys which was great; actually this could be called girl power season in Game of Thrones as all of the men seem to be dying off and all of the women rising to power. Has a nice sense of irony and karma after the brutality they have endured for most of the 5 previous seasons.

So in Season 7, I think Daenerys will take King's Landing and finish off House Lannister and reinstate House Targaryen as the royal dynasty and ruling house of the 7 Kingdoms and she will cement her power. Then, in Season 8 (which I believe will be the final season of the show) everyone will band together and fight off the Night King, the white walkers, and his dead army. It is possible that John Snow will actually be revealed to be Rhaegar Targaryen's son from Lyanna Stark, and might fly on one of the dragons, or marry Daenerys. Also, it should be interesting to see what they do with Aegon VI, Daenerys nephew fathered by her brother Rhaegar, because he would have a stronger claim to the throne than her. Then there is Littlefinger, and what his plans are, as he desires to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa at his side; should be interesting to see how he manipulates events in his favor. During all of this George R.R. Martin is supposed to release another two books I think, one of which is titled Winds of Winter, but he is taking over 5 years to complete it, so who knows. All in all, Game of Thrones is a series that has been getting better with each passing season, with perhaps seasons 5 and 6 standing out as my favorites. Yes there is a good deal of violence in the show, and sex (the least sex was in seasons 5 and 6), but there is something quite compelling about the characters and story. Try finding a quiz about which House you'd be; it's really fun! Oh and I do have to give props to the writing in this series which is phenomenal, as well as the production; very impressive for a television show.

Star Trek Beyond trailer

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them interview 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Fantastic Fantasy?

Maybe there is just some subject matter that works better in comic book mode, or animated television than a full fledged motion picture, and I do believe that The Fantastic Four franchise qualifies definitely. This is the 3rd attempt at making the characters into a successful film, and honestly I think it was the best attempt of the three. Unfortunately the film got a really bad rap right from the beginning, which considering all of the dreadful films out there was really ridiculous. So it is essentially an origins story and plot where the Fantastic Four are working together...or rather 3 at this point to create an inter-dimensional teleporter for biological matter. Experiment goes awry and thus births the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom. Very vanilla like, although their transformation was very dark and visceral, which was a nice difference between some other super-hero films. They then battle and fight essentially Dr. Doom to save themselves and their planet basically. Not a very original plot, but there are some character and story developments that make it work from start to finish. Now, if there was one place this film excelled at it would be casting, which was superior. Miles Teller as Reed Richards was superb; he was funny, clever, heart warming, yet there was depth. Same thing goes for Kate Mara as Sue Storm; such a great talent, depth, humor and a certain level of character intelligence. Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm was perhaps my favorite of the four, and someone they should have gone into further depth with, and I would give him all of the similar traits as I mentioned concerning his cohorts. Michael B. Jordan is a talented actor, but that didn't really transfer to his character in this film as Johnny Storm; maybe it's because I don't really care for the character, but he really came off as flat and annoying most of the time, which is unfortunate because of his immense talent. Toby Kebbel as Dr. Doom was perfection beyond belief....and of course he had a small role that wasn't explored. He was dark, brooding, likable, sympathetic and compelling and then he made for an excellent villain. Reg E. Cathey was Dr. Franklin Storm and he was great to have in the film, so much talent, and he did quite well in his role as the surrogate father to the team.
Now, the reason why I think the film tanked was the material, because it wasn't the talent in front of the camera. I wouldn't come out and say that the writing was completely horrendous, but it was fairly close to that. Also, for some odd reason the running time for the film was only an hour and a half, which doesn't give much wiggle room for smooth transitions and character development; thus despite a very good look to the film and a talented cast, it sank. Okay probably the reason why it wasn't completely atrocious is because Simon Kinberg was one of the writers, the director Josh Trank, and Jeremy Slater were the other two writers. I'm not certain how much influence those two had on the finished product, but it should have been just Mr. Kinberg who wrote the screenplay since he has a proven track record already. Marco Beltrami and Philip Glass composed the music which was kind of forgettable as I just watched it last night and I cannot recall any motifs or themes that stick out, which is disappointing as I really like Marco's music typically. The costumes were well done, I thought, and the cinematography wasn't too bad either. There was one particular scene where the special effects weren't that great, but other than that not too bad either. Yes the film was mediocre, but I would watch it again. It just needed better writing and editing skills, and the film would have been a smash hit. Alas there is seemingly a severe shortage of writers in Hollywood these days. Watch it or don't watch it; it's one of those films. So the news around the world is becoming increasingly bleak, and I definitely believe the world is becoming more and more dangerous; more so than I can ever recall in my lifetime. I had conversations with my sisters to make certain that they can protect themselves, and I've talked about that with other people as well. Between Russia, Syria, North Korea, China, Daesh, Iran, and radical Islamic terrorists it's becoming a huge mess out there as US foreign policy retreats to pre-WWI levels. So God help and protect us all; we're going to need it.

Fasntastic Four trailer

Fantastic Four cast interview

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"I Can Do This All Day...."

So after watching Captain America: Civil War finally, all I have to really say is.... "Go Team Captain America!!!!!!" Unlike most of the other Marvel films, the Captain America films have gotten far better with each one, and also have gotten deeper; this one of course reaching the pinnacle thus far of the 3 films released. I am truly becoming "comic-booked out" but the Captain America films stand apart from the others. There are two plots going on in this film; one bad dude is seeking vengeance on the Avengers, and the other plot is the United Nations trying to control organized superheroes. Tony Stark is for the UN controlling the Avengers, and Captain America is not, and thus struggles ensue, and of course Bucky Barnes returns as the Winter Soldier further complicating matters. I really don't have to say much about the returning cast, although Chris Evans (Captain America) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) really took it up a couple of notches in this film which was great; more intimate and human than fake superhero. I really enjoyed Anthony Mackie (Falcon), he's an excellent addition to the team. Scarlet Johnansson (Black Widow) perfection as always. Sebastian Stan was good as Bucky, but was awfully static considering. Don Cheadle is a great actor, but I really do not care for him as War Machine....it just doesn't seem to fit him. Jeremy Renner shot arrows as Hawkeye and witty quips...that's it. Paul Bettany as Vision was good, but static, but I really enjoyed Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch. Paul Rudd's brief appearance was....amusing. Emily VanCamp finally got a larger role, and she did quite well with it. As for the new people, some were excellent some were....not. Tom Holland as Spider-Man was perhaps the only part of the film, aside from Paul Rudd, that I didn't like about the film. I'm sure he's exactly the kind of Spider-Man the filmmakers want, but I for once would like to see a new Spider-Man story start out with the character in college already and skip the obnoxious intro stuff. Not to mention the character is depicted as a kid that yacks on and on endlessly. Not really something I am really interested in. Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther was awesome; the best new character from the film absolutely. He presented himself in a compelling way, and his character had a reason for being there; he wasn't merely just haphazardly tossed in. Definitely looking forward to seeing more of him. Martin Freeman (CIA chief) and William Hurt (Secretary of State), and Marisa Tomei (Aunt May) were totally wasted talents; William Hurt should have had a far more prominent role, that was clearly not written well. And as for the other two, their characters weren't even necessary whatsoever; I don't even know why they were in there. Bad casting and writing award there.
The action sequences were relatively good; not too much over the top action, but there were times when more dialog would have been better suited than other ten minutes of punching, kicking, jumping, or flying. The Russo Brothers directed the film and are apparently also directing the Avengers: Infinity Wars, and they did a pretty good job. I would give props for the writing, but I think they really messed up on the villain; talk about severely anti-climactic, especially after The Winter Soldier, so I would definitely say that was a huge flaw in the film. Henry Jackman did the music, and it was relatively forgettable unfortunately, although he did far better on The Winter Soldier. I don't recall anything significantly amazing about the 3-D, but maybe I'm just getting used to it. There weren't any technical elements that really stood out in the film, but I guess they were far interested in 13 superheroes than anything else. It was definitely entertaining and enjoyable, and I have to say that I no longer really care for Tony Stark/Iron Man as a character after this film, I have become disillusioned with his character, and War Machine as well. I can't wait for Thanos to rip them all apart; now that will be fun. Oh, and there are some interesting parallels to what's happening politically in the world now, and what was going on in the film, try to see if you can spot it.
Captain America: Civil War trailer

Captain America: Civil War interviews

Beauty and the Beast trailer (looks like it will be amazing!)