Da Couch Tomato

An attempt at a new layout, with horrible glitches, and very minimal knowledge of HTML.
"You had me at 'library'."

•This isn't a shot-for-shot remake of the original 1991 animated film by Disney. This is more or less a very similar retelling, updated for a modern audience, particularly those who weren't born yet when the original was released.

•There are more songs here than the original one, but the great thing is, it's by the same composer and lyricist, Alan Menken and Tim Rice. And I believe that's the reason the new songs are a great fit to the old. Like, to someone who hasn't seen the original, all the songs in this 2017 version would have a unified feel to it, and they probably wouldn't be able to tell which songs are more than 20 years old.

•Emma Watson can sing, yes, but just barely. Like you can tell musical theatre isn't her background. In fact, she is, in my opinion, this film's weakest link. But I can't seem to think of anyone else who could've played Belle in this live-action version.

•Ewan McGregor was awesome as Lumiere. We've heard him sing before, in Moulin Rouge, so no surprise there. And to think he'd never seen the original before he signed up for this project. But with the way he sang "Be Our Guest", you can't tell. You'd probably even think he's seen the original a thousand times on VHS.

•I'm not a fan of the boots, Emma Watson. I understand it was your call to wear them. What were you thinking? No. Just no.

"You're not wearing those hideous boots, are you?"

•Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou were awesome. Unlike Emma Watson, these two are great singers. Josh Gad has already shown us his vocal prowess in Pixels, so it's nothing new, really. But Luke Evans came as quite a surprise. And to think I used to refer to him as a "poor man's Orlando Bloom".

•Apparently, LeFou is the first openly-gay Disney character. I just found that out recently, because it wasn't really obvious in the animated version. But I think Josh Gad is really gay. Or at least he could pass for gay. Actually, he's a family man with two daughters, so I don't think he's gay.

•I understand it was a stylistic choice to put Mrs. Potts's face on the side of the teapot instead of having the spout as her nose. But the animation looked kind of tacky, of you ask me. Emma Thompson in lieu of Angela Lansbury is okay, but I just don't like how the animation looks, sorry.

•I didn't know Ian McKellen was Cogsworth. I can picture him in a superhero film franchise. But I thought voice acting would be beneath his status as a skilled thespian. Apparently everyone has a price. I wonder how much he got paid for this gig.

•Dan Stevens was perfect as the Beast. First, because he sings quite well. Second, because he kind of looked like the prince in the animated version. With all the effort he exerted in his performance, it's a shame director Bill Condon didn't opt for practical make-up over CGI, but it was still a good job nonetheless.

Why does Cogsworth look like a Transformer?



Beauty and the Beast. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 8.0/10
"Be Our Guest": +0.1
"The Mob Song": +0.1
Emma Watson's singing: -0.1
Underutilising Kevin Kline: -0.1
Underutilising Stanley Tucci: -0.1
Audra McDonald's singing: +0.1
French translations at the end titles: +0.1
Final rating: 8.0/10
Riding off into the sunset... to certain death.

•Okay, first thing's first. Kong is not a gorilla. He walks upright, like man. So this makes him more a primate than an ape. A primate that looks very much like a gorilla.

•Toby Kebbel dies. The actor I like more than the actual lead star Tom Hiddleston doesn't make it to the end. Why, oh why? Wait, I don't actually know who the lead star is. If it's the one that gets top billing, then it's Hiddleston. But if it's the one with the most screen time, I think it's Samuel L. Jackson. Or Kong.

•I'm not sure if the Richard Nixon bobblehead doll on the helicopter dashboard is an anachronism. Although bobblehead dolls did indeed exist during this period, my research has revealed that early bobblehead dolls had generic faces, with very few specifically recognisable heads, and I don't think Nixon was that popular to warrant his own line of mass-produced bobbleheads.

•The curly-haired Latino scientist–the one who expressed his desire to just stay on the boat–got killed by being snatched from the boat by some flying creature. His death reminded me very much of the accountant's in Jurassic Park.

•Samuel L. Jackson says one of my favourite Samuel L. Jackson lines ever: "Hold on to your butts." This line was, again, from Jurassic Park.

"Problem?"

•Samuel L. Jackson has no redemption. He died a true villain. He didn't even let Kong live. Not even when they had eye contact while Kong was down, when "the big one" was making its way to them. Damn you, Mr. Jackson.

•This film, by the way, is set during the tail-end of the Vietnam War, in case you didn't get the Apocalypse Now vibe this movie seems to be giving off.

•Tom Hiddleston looks great in rugged themes. Yes, he looks great as Loki, but the rugged, unshaven look suits him better. Like how he looked like in The Night Manager. But seriously, what happened to his badassery? The first time we see him, he beats up guys at the pool table, and even breaks a cue stick on his knee. He never followed through on that badassery.

•Kong is huge. Like extremely huge. This is probably the biggest incarnation of Kong on the big screen ever. So it makes sense to see this film on the biggest screen known to man: IMAX. In fact, despite not being shot in IMAX nor in 3D, it seems IMAX 3D is the best format to see this film in.

•This film utilises great CGI. However, the creature designs, not so great. Those skull crawlers? Terrible. I mean, what're they supposed to be? Half-evolved lizard snakes? Ugh.

•And now we go to the end credits scene. So what is their mission now? Is this going to be like a monster cinematic universe? Apparently, it seems like they're serious about the idea.

"God damn, you're ugly."



Kong: Skull Island. USA. 2017.



Original rating: 7.9/10
No Brie Larson nudity: -0.1
Eugene Cordero: +0.1
John Goodman as a despicable character: -0.1
Toby Kebbel dying: -0.1
Samuel L. Jackson dying: +0.1
Final rating: 7.8/10
*Random Thoughts is a new style of reviewing I'm trying out, so this blog can release reviews faster. In case you don't know, reviewing films is time-consuming, and I don't get paid to do this.

"My daddy drives a limo. And decapitates people."

•Great move for Stephen Merchant. Those who don't know him will be surprised to learn that he is one of the greatest comedic minds of the English-speaking world. He's the co-creator of The Office, and the creator and star of HBO's short-lived Hello Ladies. So seeing him in the non-comedic role of Caliban the albino mutant tracker is quite refreshing indeed.

•This is Marvel's most realistic movie to date. Like Batman Begins. Well, you could argue that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was realistic, but I think you got "realistic" confused with "dark and gritty". Of course mutants aren't real, but if they were, this film would probably depict it better than the stylized look and feel of the preceding films in the X-Men franchise.

•I thought Wolverine can't die. I thought his healing factor made him close to immortal, and that there's only a few ways he can actually be killed. So why is he dying in this movie? Adamantium poisoning? Okay, so his healing factor kept the adamantium poison at bay all this time? Sure, I'll buy that. But why did his healing factor fail in the first place?

•What I would've wanted was more of a back story. So this movie takes place in 2029, but how did they end up there? How did Logan get into the limousine business? How did Caliban and Professor X end up in Mexico? I mean, why Mexico? Also, there was no sign of a Mexican-American wall, so does that mean President Trump reneges on his promise to keep the Mexicans out? Or maybe he didn't get reelected? Or does that mean Trump gets impeached?

•Is there some sort of demand for characters like Eleven from Stranger Things? You know, the weird, creepy girl who's actually nice were it not for the circumstances in her life that forced her to become feared as a weapon? I mean, don't get me wrong, Dafne Keen gave a good performance as Laura, even if she spent most of her screen time in silence. She's got that rage-y angst down, and I'm not sure if she's hit puberty yet.

This is actually a very cool costume, in my opinion.

•At one point in the X-Men universe, Charles Xavier was the most powerful mutant in the world. What happened? How was he reduced to this withered old man that Hugh Jackman can carry up a flight of stairs? It seems the Professor is now suffering from Alzheimer's. It's kind of strange that a mind  as powerful as the Professor's can't fend off a mind-debilitating disease. I mean, if I had Charles Xavier's mind, I'd use it to command my cells to regenerate. But I guess that would be a tall order, seeing that he can't even command his legs to walk.

•Boyd Holbrook plays a bad guy in this film. I liked him in Narcos, where he plays a good agent with an even better moustache. Here in Logan, he plays Donald Pierce, the leader of the mutant-hunting gang known as the Reavers, and he sheds off his good guy-image while retaining his facial hair. No, Pierce is not a mutant. He's a cyborg who hates mutants.

•So who is that younger Wolverine? It's probably X-23. Wait, no–X-23 is Laura. This younger Logan is X-24. And to pull this off, director James Mangold utilised the method that's been growing in popularity and will probably be a game-changer in the future, despite the ethics controversy after Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I'm talking about the use of digital actors. Yes, they used a digital Logan in this one. Actually, for the scenes they were together, sometimes it's X-24 that's CGI, and sometimes it's Old Man Logan. It's just so seamless, you don't know who's who. And that's really how it's supposed to be.

•I noticed that the scene on the highway had trailers/container vans that seemed to drive themselves. Are those for real? They just looked like huge boxes moving across the highway. And also, good job, Professor, for calming the horses down with your mental telepathy. That would make you a...drumroll... horse whisperer. Yeah, I know. That was forced.

•Those kids in North Dakota, are they the New Mutants? You know, because they're new (to the franchise), and they're mutants. But seriously, there's a comic line called The New Mutants. So how do we know these kids are the same New Mutants? Rictor. Yes, that young man who seems to be their leader. Actually, introducing these guys is a set-up to their upcoming spin-off movie. That's right. The New Mutants are getting their own film.

•So while setting the stage for the spin-off franchise, might as well introduce that spin-off's new villain, which would be Dr. Rice, played by Richard E. Grant. Although Dr. Rice plays second fiddle to Boyd Holbrook's main villain, he is by no means still despicable, and we'll probably get to see more of his villainy when the spin-off movie comes out.

"Wait, I haven't done a Rogue-Jean Grey threesome yet."



Logan. USA. 2017.



Original rating: 8.4/10
Not-so-comic book treatment: +0.1
Professor X's powerful seizures: +0.1
Dafne Keen's annoying voice: -0.1
Fat black kid with the power of electricity: +0.1
Logan's death: +0.1
Chrysler limo: +0.1
*Random Thoughts is a new style of reviewing we're trying out, so this blog can release reviews faster. In case you don't know, reviewing films is time-consuming, and I don't get paid to do this.

"Let me show you how to dance the 'Asereje'."

•An alliterative title about L.A., a.k.a. the City of Angels. It sounds playful and whimsical, which actually helps set the tone for the entire picture. This is actually a modern throwback to old Hollywood. It's like Singin' in the Rain, but with smartphones.

•That opening sequence on the freeway flyover was brilliant. Very well-choreographed, not just with the dancing, but with the camerawork as well. I bet they had to shut the road down, which would have made that sequence quite expensive to shoot.

•This is not a proper musical per se. I mean, it's not a musical in the Broadway tradition. It's more of like a love story with some singing and dancing.

•Ryan Gosling has really great comic timing. I've already noticed this in The Nice Guys, and I'm so glad he gets to unleash some of his comedy here, for the benefit of those who haven't seen his movie with Russell Crowe.

•Okay, so Ryan Gosling plays the piano. Damn you and your good looks.

•Is Emma Stone a natural redhead? And is it just me, or do redheads look good in any colour? Okay, I googled it, and she's a natural blonde.

•Ryan Gosling dances, too? Fuck you. I am kidding. You are my new man-crush.

•Okay, the singing wasn't bad. But it wasn't great singing, either. It's like driving a car. Most people can get their vehicle from point A to point B, but that's not the sign of a good driver. A good driver can get to point A to point B with style and grace. Much like hitting the right notes doesn't necessarily make you a good singer. Yeah, Stone and Gosling may have hit the right notes, but come on.

•Remember that scene when they had a fight about achieving their dreams? Well, a true musical would've done that scene in song. If this were a true musical, it would've done a lot of exposition in song. Just saying.

•Why is John Legend here? Did he write all the songs and the score? Like what Pharrell did in Hidden Figures? Ah, no. Google says Justin Hurwitz wrote La La Land's score. Thanks, Google, for answering my rhetorical questions.

•I loved that scene towards the end when Emma Stone and her husband went into Seb's. There's something wonderful about "what could've been" scenes. You know why? Because they are alternate timelines. Parallel universes. That's fifth dimension stuff right there, man. And I always find that mind-blowing.

When the director says "Jump", you say "How high?"



La La Land. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 7.7/10
Cinematography: +0.1
Ryan Gosling's comic timing: +0.1
Dance sequences: +0.1
Opening sequence: +0.1
Ryan Gosling's musical talent: -0.1
Tap dancing sequence: +0.1
Not enough J.K. Simmons: -0.1
Damien Chazelle's directing: +0.1
Final rating: 8.1/10
*Random Thoughts is a new style of reviewing we're trying out, so this blog can release reviews faster. In case you don't know, reviewing films is time-consuming, and I don't get paid to do this.

Spot the hidden figure. Clue: she's not wearing white.

•I am a sucker for biopics. There's just something about stories that you know are true. Although I know filmmakers are notorious for taking creative liberties, but still, biopics are possibly the only exception to the general rule that "books are better than movies".

•The real gem here is that this story was hidden. But why did they hide it in the first place? This is truly a phenomenal story, told with the backdrop of race and gender segregation. And the best part is, there's three women being honoured here: a brilliant mathematician, an excellent engineer, and and awesome programmer.

•We seem to have forgotten about Kevin Costner. Why do I feel like it's been a long time since I saw him on the big screen? Oh, wait... he was in the Superman reboot. But this feels like the first time in a while since he really showcased his acting skills.

•Was NASA really the first to segregate restrooms? If they were, then bravo. Apparently, the only thing that can rid America of racism is the space race. Good job, Kevin Costner, for swinging that sledgehammer.

•Speaking of restrooms... that Taraji P. Henson monologue, though. The one about restrooms. That's a guaranteed Oscar clip right there.

•And speaking of great speeches, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)'s court speech is awesome. Yes, being first is important. Landmark cases always go down in history, as well as the landmark decisions that turn the tide.

•Nice soundtrack. Kind of sounds like Pharrell. But probably not. I think this is '60s music. It really sounds like Pharrell, though. Shouldn't they be using music from the decade? Okay, let me just wait for the end credits. Oh, it's actually Pharrell. With Hans Zimmer. Again.

•Ah, single mothers... you can't help but appreciate their strength. They can withstand a lot. How about couloured single mothers? Wait, how about... coloured single mothers in the 1960s? These women are probably the strongest human beings in the world.

•There's an awesome line from astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) that best sums up this entire film. "Let's get the girl to check the numbers... the smart one. And if she says they're good, I'm ready to go." He didn't say "the black one" or "the coloured one". He said "the smart one". Race has nothing to do with the numbers. But it's nice to know that a white man would not launch until a coloured woman verified the math. Sweet.

•I wonder if this will be like another Top Gun. The year that film came out, applications for the Air Force significantly increased. I wonder if Hidden Figures will also spark a sudden interest in mathematics and aeronautics in the coloured community. Or maybe in the United States in general. Is it still right to use the word "coloured" in this day and age?

•I'm happy about Jim Parsons. His lanky physique and geeky manner of speech has forever pegged him as the ultimate dork, no thanks to The Big Bang Theory. I thought he'd be forever shoehorned into roles like that. Glad this film was able to bring out the despicable side of him. He's still not super-villain material, though. Just super-douche material.

•In the past, "computer" was a title for a person. Like "accountant", or "chef". Nowadays, it seems really weird to call a person a computer, because we've reduced computer to a machine. Oh, how time flies.

"Are you a Windows or a Mac?"
"Are you Captain America?"



Hidden Figures. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 7.7/10
Octavia Spencer's bitchiness: +0.1
Downplaying Kirsten Dunst: +0.1
Soundtrack: +0.1
Final rating: 8.0/10
*Random Thoughts is a new style of reviewing we're trying out, so this blog can release reviews faster. In case you don't know, reviewing films is time-consuming, and I don't get paid to do this.

I just love the scratches on Batman's helmet.

•This is the most meta of Batman films in the canon. It's a Batman film about being Batman.

•There's a rundown of Batman villains from the comics, with the common ones such as the Joker, Bane, Harley Quinn, the Riddler (voiced by Conan O'Brien), and Two-Face (voiced by Billy Dee Williams), and Scarecrow, among others, and there's also the weird, obscure ones like Crazy Quilt, Polka Dot Man, Eraser, Condiment King, and Zebra Man, among others.

•There's a rundown of all Batman movies, from 2016, 2012, 2008, 2005, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989, and all the way back to that weird one from 1966.

•The movie also shows a whole lot of villains from the Warner Bros. catalogue. Is it the Warner Bros. catalogue, or the Lego catalogue? Probably the latter. There's a shark that's probably from Jaws, velociraptors from Jurassic Park, agents from The Matrix, Sauron (voiced by Jemaine Clement) from Lord of the Rings, Voldemort from Harry Potter, and Daleks from Doctor Who. It's Daleks, okay, not "British robots".

•Could've sworn the Joker was voiced by Mark Hamill. Turned out to be Zach Galifianakis. Well, Hamill already voiced the Joker in the animated Batman films, so having him voice the Lego version is highly unlikely, come to think of it.

•Could've sworn Voldemort was voiced by Ralph Fiennes. Turned out to be Eddie Izzard. I just thought since Fiennes is already voicing Alfred Pennyworth, then he probably threw in Voldemort's voice for free. And why is Wingardium Leviosa the only spell Voldemort knows?

•Could've sworn Robin was voiced by Jesse Eisenberg. Turned out to be Michael Cera. Oh, well. Same mold.

•You'll know this is a spinoff of The Lego Movie not just because Will Arnett still voices Batman, but because of the concept of Master Builders (not "Masturbators", you pervert). In the Lego universe, a Master Builder is someone who can mix and match Lego parts to form totally new creations, such as...

•The Scuttler. If the other Batman films had vehicles like the Tumbler and the Batpod, this film has the Scuttler. It looks like a robot or mecha version of a biological bat, which looks a bit clumsy when standing and walking like real bats do, but which can transform into a magnificent flying bat-jet.

•The sountrack is great. There are some original songs aimed at the younger kids, while there are also some old songs used. I particularly loved the use of Cutting Crew's "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight", which plays when Bruce Wayne sets eyes on Barbara Gordon (voiced by Rosario Dawson) for the first time. Also, there's a very cheesy Lego minifig dance number at the end.

•This isn't just a comedy about children's toys. Beneath the bricks, there actually lie themes of relationships, family, and friendship, things which the Batman films and comics fail to address adequately.

•I can imagine the merchandising. I mean, the Scuttler? Shut up and take my money, Lego.

•One of the most hilarious moments in the film for me was Bruce Wayne's family portrait he has hanging on his wall. It's a selfie with his parents outside the theatre... near Crime Alley. That's right, a photo of his parents right before they died. I mean, would you do that if you were in Batman's shoes?Keep a photo of your folks right before they're murdered? Okay, it's probably just me, but I found it hilarious. Yeah, it was probably just me.

•The most laugh-out-loud joke in this film, however, is Batman's password to his computer (voiced by Siri). And that password is: Iron Man sucks.

"There will be a sequel, right?"




The Lego Batman Movie. USA. 2017.



Original rating: 8/10
Stop-motion animation style: +0.1
Homage to the '60s "Bam! Pow!" sound effects: +0.1
Jerry Maguire scenes: +0.1
Batman and Joker's almost-gay bromance: +0.1
Final rating: 8.4/10
"Wanna come with me and make tusok-tusok the fishball?"

*Ang Random Thoughts ay isang bagong style ng pag-review na aking susubukan para mabilis lumabas ang mga review ng blog na ito. Kasi masyadong time-consuming ang pagsulat ng isang proper review at hindi naman ako binabayaran para dito.

  • •Nice, may animated short film pa sa simula. Pumi-Pixar ang Metro Manila Film Festival.
  • •Ay, wait. Medyo chaka ang short film. Parang student project lang ng college student.
  • •Wow. A Filipino film na may live-action at animation. Finally.
  • •Una kong naalala na pelikulang ganito ay Mary Poppins (na ina-arkila pa namin dati sa Betamax). Tapos n'ung '80s, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Tapos n'ung '90s, Space Jam. Tapos iba pang mga Looney Tunes films. Bakit sa Pilipinas, ngayon lang?
  • •Ganda talaga ni Rhian Ramos.
  • •Medyo nakaka-off talaga 'yung Taglish (or more accurately, Ingglisero) na dialogue. Parang hindi natural. Pa-konyo masyado. Pero that's just me.
  • •Consistent naman ang munduhan ng animation.
  • •Hello, Kuya Bodjie. N'ung bata ako, ikaw ang aking idea ng pagiging isang mabait na tao. Parang tingin ko sa'yo ay hindi marunong magalit at hindi gagawa ng masama. Sana mas marami ka pang pelikula at raket para hindi ka mamroblema sa pera, kasi ambait mo.
  • •Bakit parang hindi masyado evident ang pagtanda ni Sally at ni Martin? Dapat from high school to college, 'di ba? Parang ganoon pa rin sila katanda. Humaba lang buhok n'ung guy.
  • •Ten years in the making itong pelikulang 'to? E bakit parang hindi tumanda ang mga artista? Paano 'yun, ten years ago sinimulan na nila ang animation, tapos mga a year ago lang shinoot ang live action parts?

This is how UP Diliman look like on a normal day.



Saving Sally. Philippines. 2016.


Original na rating: 6.8
Animation: +0.2
Animation style: +0.1
Pa-conyo dialogu: -0.1
Final na rating: 7.0/10
Female leads and Latino guys are fast becoming a Star Wars staple.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (But you should've already seen this film by now)

Ahh, Rogue One. The first film in the Star Wars franchise that's not about the Skywalker family. Also described by director Gareth Edwards in The Director's Cut podcast as "the District 9 of the Star Wars universe", in terms of having a relatively low budget but delivering the most bang for the buck. And indeed, it does deliver.

But like all films with a huge fan base, there will be complaints. Some complain about the different types of stormtroopers that are never seen again after Episode IV. Some complain about the morally gray characters, like the supposedly good rebels who kill indiscriminately. All I can say is, ignore them. Well, if you're a true Star Wars fan, you'd watch this film regardless of the reviews. Just as if you're a true Star Wars fan, you would've recognised Mon Mothma from the trailer. Yes, I'm talking to you, weird guy with a Kylo Ren lightsaber in the theatre.

That said, here now are six reasons why Rogue One is possibly the best Star Wars story since, oh I don't know, The Empire Strikes Back.

K2SO
K2SO is my new favourite Star Wars droid. I can't say I had an old favourite. Maybe Chopper from Star Wars Rebels. Or BB8. But they're astromechs, incapable of human speech. And I've always found C3PO to be a bit too effeminate for my tastes. And now we have K2SO, a witty, sarcastic, funny, and badass former Imperial droid refurbished for rebellion purposes. Almost all the laugh-out-loud moments from Rogue One were uttered by K2SO. Oh, and he's voiced by Alan Tudyk, who was practically given free rein to ad lib his way throughout the entire production. And that is the reason why Alan Tudyk is one of my favourite voice actors of all time. Ever.

Disney did good after having Tudyk voice Moana's voiceless chicken.

All the Easter eggs
Like I said, this film is a fanboy's wet dream come true. You can actually play a game while watching this, something like "Spot the Easter Egg". Let me rattle off some from the top of my head. The Mon Calamari fleet admirals (not Ackbar, sadly). The blue milk. Chopper, Artoo, and Threepio's cameo. That cantina duo from Mos Eisley (the one whose arm got sliced off by Obi-Wan Kenobi). Mon Mothma. Bail Organa. General Jan Dodonna. "I have a bad feeling about this." The rebel pilots Red Leader and Gold Leader. And of course, the special cameos of...

Chopper on the far left. Mon Mothma on the far right. Nerdgasm achieved.

Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia
While I consider this a real treat, the resurrection of late actor Peter Cushing has drawn flak from both fans and non-fans alike for the ethics of using a dead actor to reprise a role. But for that decision, Edwards is not solely to blame: Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) wizard John Knoll (who also wrote the story for Rogue One) can be held equally liable. The Star Wars flicks have always pushed the technological envelope, especially in terms of special effects, and the CG resurrection of deceased actors may or may not catch on, but you have to hand it to the special effects team. Well this should hardly be any surprise, seeing as John Knoll co-created Photoshop with his brother. Having Tarkin and Princess Leia in here is basically just like Photoshopping them in a motion picture.

A younger Leia browsing on her smart phone. Like young people nowadays.

The most badass Darth Vader ever
Some not-so fans would probably discredit Darth Vader's power as being not-so powerful, what with his labored breathing, limited mobility, and lumbering lightsaber swings. Some of them would even argue that Darth Maul would be the most badass Sith, and that the only thing Vader has going for him would be his use of the Force to asphyxiate his enemies. But Rogue One shows us what slow lightsaber swings can do to an entire ship of rebels. It can still make them pee their pants in fear, apparently. And the best part is it's still James Earl Jones's voice. May Darth Vader haunt the nightmares of generations more to come.

"I find your lack of fear disturbing."

It's a stand-alone film
This is possibly the best aspect of this film. Remember how greedy the Hollywood studio system has become? Bleeding franchises dry, adapting young adult novels left and right, splitting one book into two movies, that kind of thing? Well with Rogue One, Disney is seemingly reassuring us that "Look, we're not after your money. We're not going to give you three movies about one story when a single film will do." That's nice, Disney. But what they're really saying is, "Look, we bought the rights to this modern mythology that we all connect to, like the twenty-first century's Iliad, and we know you fanboys will eat up anything we release under the Star Wars banner. So this stand-alone film? This is nothing. We'll give you a hundred stand-alone films set in the Star Wars universe. And you'll all watch this like the desperate nerd losers that you are." That's pretty mean, Disney. But I have six words for you: Shut. Up. And. Take. My. Money.

Even Forest Whitaker's eyelid stands alone. Get it?

And finally... (spoiler)

Everybody dies
Yes, so sorry to disappoint you. There will be no other Jyn Erso movie, which means no more of Felicity Jones's face on IMAX. This is, after all, based on the opening crawl of Episode IV, about how "rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR". This is the story of those rebel spies. What they did was nothing short of heroic, having turned the tide for the Battle of Yavin. But where were those spies in A New Hope? Were they honoured with medals? Nope. If anyone deserved medals, it would be Jyn Erso, et al. But since the only one who got medals in that film were a rookie farmboy-turned-pilot, a smuggler, and a Wookie, we can only assume that everyone who had a hand in stealing the Death Star plans died. And this film is our way of honouring them.

Good luck killing Riz Ahmed's career, though. This guy's everywhere.



Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 8.0/10
No Felicity Jones nudity: -0.1
Mads Mikkelsen: +0.1
Riz Ahmed: +0.1
Alan Tudyk's ad libs: +0.1
Diego Luna's sexy accent: +0.1
Guy Henry as Moff Tarkin: +0.1
All the Easter eggs: +0.25
Ben Mendelsohn: +0.1
No George Lucas creative involvement: -0.1
Final rating: 8.65/10
Moana dreading any sort of sex scene with Maui.

Moana is the second Disney release this year, tailing Zootopia, the studio's first animated 2016 release way back in January. They've had a good year this year with two releases, compared to Pixar's lone release Finding Dory, which as a sequel does not stand up to Moana's original screenplay. But enough comparing. Is Moana as good as we hoped it would be? Just what makes a good Disney movie?

Great story
Disney has made efforts to be inclusive of different cultures since Pocahontas and Mulan, incorporating Native American and Chinese characters and stories, respectively, into its films. However, since the start of the "CG Renaissance"–that point in time when Disney shifted its animation medium from traditional 2D to computer-generated 3D–Disney’s princess movies have reverted back to Caucasian female leads with Tangled and Frozen. With Moana, however, Disney has expanded once more to include Polynesian folklore.

Another great thing about the story is that it doesn’t attempt to force any romantic angle. Sorry, fans, but there won’t be any demigod-on-mortal romance brewing here, despite that happening a lot in Greek and Roman mythology.

Great characters
The most memorable character here, of course, would be the title character Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), Disney’s first non-Caucasian CGI princess. She has no superpowers unlike Elsa, yet she is badass nonetheless. It’s also a big step in casting, as Cravalho is a relative unknown who got the part for her singing prowess and ethnic background.

The second best character here, hands down, would be the demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Aside from having animated tattoos and awesome shape-shifting powers, The Rock showcases his musical talents here. Who knew, right? Who actually knew that Dwayne Johnson could carry a tune? I mean, with that eyebrow-raising and all. Totally unexpected.

"What, you don't like my eyebrows?"

Among the non-human characters would have to be Tamatoa the giant crab, voiced by the funny Jemaine Clement, who is actually known for his singing abilities. But as he himself points out, his character would’ve probably been more memorable if he spoke with a Jamaican accent, a reference to another Disney crustacean who dwells under the sea.

All Disney princesses are known for their mostly non-human sidekicks, and this film is no different in that regard. The sidekick here is the stupid chicken Heihei, voiced by the great Alan Tudyk, which in my opinion is a total waste of Alan Tudyk, as Heihei only talks by squawking and clucking.

Great songs
No Disney movie is complete without the songs, and of course Moana prides itself in having the songwriting powerhouse of Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina (who also composed the score), and the great Lin-Manuel Miranda. There’s the glamorous “Shiny”, sung by Jemaine Clement; the damn catchy “You’re Welcome”, The Rock’s only song which he sings with surprisingly little effort; and of course Auli’i Cravalho’s “How Far I’ll Go”, which is this movie’s “Let It Go”. Miranda’s success with Hamilton will probably ensure that he will get more screen musicals thrown his way in the near future, and I do hope Disney signs him on for another animated musical.

Tamatoa can crush Sebastian in an underwater match any day.



Moana. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 7.8/10
Maui's tattoos: +.1
The Rock's singing voice: +0.1
Jemaine Clement: +0.1
Final rating: 8.1/10
Yes, Scamander's suitcase is like the TARDIS.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling. For a lot of things.

While a part of the movie-going populace laments the lack of original screenplays in Hollywood, you have given us something new with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Well, it's not wholly original in the sense that Inception and Interstellar were original; I meant original in the sense that this wasn't adapted from any existing literary material. Technically, this movie would be classified as a spin-off, very (very) loosely based on the book of the same title released as part of Comic Relief in 2001, which was basically you bringing one of Harry Potter's fictional textbooks to life. I guess an original spin-off is way better than an adapted screenplay.

Cover of the original Comic Relief book.

Thank you for bringing magic across the pond to America. Your skill in creating a solid fictional universe is unparalleled, rivalled only by maybe George Lucas. I think Fantastic Beasts is more than just a mere spin-off. It's like a break-away religion that has taken a life of its own, and after the five movies you promised, the American wizarding world could be even bigger and more complex than the one in Britain.

"Honestly, I'm not happy that I won't be back for the sequels."

Thank you also for the great casting choices. Much like you had a hand in casting Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, I'm sure you also had the final say in the casting of Fantastic Beasts. Eddie Redmayne seems perfect as the bumbling magizoologist who's like a duck out of water, although I wonder if Matt Smith could have played the role with equal brilliance. Colin Farrell is spot-on, if only because the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay describes his character Percival Graves as "very handsome, early middle age". Alison Sudol also gave a very convincing performance as the blonde bimbo American witch Queenie Goldstein, and I'm rather interested in how her skill in Legilimency will play out throughout the franchise. Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald was surprising (I had no idea coming into the cinema), and I hope his future performances as Grindelwald show no trace of Captain Jack Sparrow, a role he has a habit of falling back on. My most favourite character in this movie, however, is the Muggle No-Maj Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, an actor I liked since Balls of Fury and Fanboys. He serves as the audience's anchor point for this franchise, someone non-magical folk can relate to, much like Harry Potter was the anchor point for the previous franchise.

I mean, come on, look at Kowalski's face. 

Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for your hyperactive imagination. These beasts you conjure from your imagination are awesome, although almost of these creatures have already made their debut in the Comic Relief book. The niffler is so adorable, although of course I wouldn't want to have a kleptomaniac for a pet. The demiguise still has the most awesome ability of them all – invisibility. The erumpent is just too big to be allowed, even in Scamander's TARDIS-like suitcase (bigger on the inside). And the thunderbird, oh what a glorious beast. Thank you also for designing the sorting test for Ilvermorny, because I took the test and got House Thunderbird.

Now isn't that a majestic creature?

And finally, thank you for ensuring that all screenplays of Newt Scamander's franchise will be penned by you. What better way to preserve the voice and feel of the original wizarding world we all grew up with. I eagerly await the second film in this series with as much anticipation as I had waiting for the Harry Potter books to come out.

"Bravo, Jo Rowling. Bravo."



Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. UK/USA. 2016.



Original rating: 8.1/10
Gemma Chan as Madam Ya Zhou: +0.1
Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski: +0.1
The niffler: +0.1
No wizard-on-no-maj sex: -0.1
Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald: +0.1
Jon Voight not playing a wizard: -0.1
Ezra Miller's weirdly nice face: +0.1
Ron Perlman looking like Gnarlak: +0.1
Pacing of screenplay: -0.1
Final rating: 8.4/10
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