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Review: Dark Phoenix, or Now We Can Finally Link the X-Men to the MCU

Why do most mutants have blue skin, anyway?

I am probably one of the few Marvel fans that wish the X-Men franchise would wrap up.

The franchise can be divided into two periods: the first would be the Patrick Stewart-Ian McKellen era, the second would be the James McAvoy-Michael Fassbender era. The two eras overlap slightly in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, which for me is also the best film in the whole franchise.

As a kid, I was a Marvel fan, but the X-Men comics were my favourite. I owned The Dark Phoenix Saga compilation (I didn't really own it; I borrowed it from a classmate and never returned it), and I've read it several times before the pages turned brittle and gave up on me. Now that was a great read. I remember how I used to spend hours in my bedroom reading it, occasionally shifting to my drawing book, inspired to try my hand at drawing my own comics.

Okay, enough about that. This isn't a post reminiscing about my childhood.

There is a lot of focus in this film on Charles Xavier's guilt about Jean Grey's childhood. Both of Jean's parents died in a car accident, which was actually her fault. Now imagine a childhood trauma that strong, coupled with an insanely powerful mutant ability. That is a recipe for disaster right there; no wonder Jean Grey turned out as the damaged mutant she is. If this film teaches us any valuable lessons regarding mental health, it is that repressing memories is never good. But that's probably easier said than done.

Mystique's death at the hands of Jean Grey came as a blow to most viewers, but that would of course be a preferable death compared to just some lame gunshot wound to the head or falling off a cliff. Jennifer Lawrence has been the Raven most fans would remember, but only because the original Mystique practically never appeared without make-up. As this is (most probably) the last we'll see of JLaw in this franchise, it's only appropriate that she be given a proper dramatic send-off.

What would have made the Dark Phoenix saga complete was the presence of Wolverine. The unlikely pairing of Jean Grey and Logan is a favourite among comic book fans, and it was referenced in the first X-Men films with Famke Janssen and Hugh Jackman. I don't think it would've worked with Sophie Turner, though, seeing as Jackman is way older than her, and that any romantic tension between both of them would come off as pedophilia.

And finally, let's talk about Hans Zimmer's wonderful score. There's a part in the film's score where you can hear a ticking clock sound, and I thought to myself, "That sounds like Hans Zimmer's Dunkirk score." Turns out I was right. Before this film, Zimmer has only scored DC movies, making this his first foray into Marvel territory. Hopefully this won't be his last.

Too bad we won't be seeing her in the MCU.

Dark Phoenix. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 7.5/10
No Sophie Turner nudity: -0.1
No Jessica Chastain nudity: -0.1
Tye Sheridan looking like he has a VR headset: -0.1
Not enough Nightcrawler: -0.1
Not enough Peter Maximoff: -0.1
Simon Kinberg writing and directing: +0.1
Final rating: 7.1/10


Review: Aladdin, or Brown Is the New White

"We are NOT doing any sequels, all right?"

Since we all know that Disney's latest trend of remaking their entire catalogue of animated films isn't going away anytime soon, let's just accept it. After all, they wouldn't keep making more if we didn't keep watching them. So we are partly to blame for this.

One commendable thing about this film, though, is Disney's decision to avoid "whitewashing" by casting actors more ethnically suited to the story. Casting relatively unknown but culturally appropriate actors was a huge gamble, especially after receiving flak during the film's developmental stage for the earlier casting choices (Tom Hardy as Jafar, come on). I'm glad to see it paid off.

Anyway, let's go ahead and analyse Aladdin using three different criteria. 

I am fairly certain that a huge chunk of this film's audience was alive when the 1992 animated film hit theatres, so the filmmakers needed to preserve the visual look to satisfy these paying customers. Mena Massoud is still cute enough for young girls to crush over, and Naomi Scott is still hot enough for young boys to masturbate to. Her outfit though isn't as revealing as the animated Princess Jasmine, but nobody seems to mind. Costumes here are more conservative, so no, there won't be any glimpse of Mena Massoud's abs.

The plot is basically the same, save for a few additions made. Some of the changes include the addition of new characters such as the Caucasian suitor Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen) and Princess Jasmine's handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), the introduction of the genie and Dalia's love story, and a longer and more intense action sequence in the last part.

Robin Williams' genie was an icon of the 1990s, so one of the challenges for a live-action remake would be preserving the genie's skin colour. I don't think this is particularly hard to pull off for Disney, especially after Guardians of the Galaxy showcased actors with blue and green skin. So I don't really understand the decision to go with a blue CGI Will Smith. Don't get me wrong, Will Smith's performance was all right, since he brought his own style to the performance without trying to be a Robin Williams copycat, and his best moments are those where he isn't blue.

Overall, the special effects could have been better. The CGI animals, namely the monkey Abu, the parrot Iago, and the tiger Rajah, were great. The flying carpet, too, was a welcome throwback to the animated carpet, but it looked good mainly on its own. However, the scenes showing Aladdin and Jasmine soaring, tumbling, and free-wheeling through an endless diamond sky looked kind of fake. The most magical scene in the entire film looked obviously green-screened.

The soundtrack was basically the same songs of the 1992 flick, with a few new songs thrown in. For the new songs, original composer Alan Menken teamed up with Benji Pasek and Justin Paul for the lyrics, giving the girl-power anthem "Speechless".

My only gripe is that the new songs, for me, feel like they were written in 2019. It doesn't have the feel of like a missing song from the original soundtrack which was just re-released this year but was actually written back in 1992 with the old songs. It just feels, I don't know, new. But that's just my opinion, coming from someone who grew up listening to the original songs. I'm interested in how a young viewer who's never seen the old film perceives the new music. And I'm also interested in Lea Salonga's opinion of this movie.

In case you hadn't noticed, I didn't mention this film was directed by Guy Ritchie. That's because this film doesn't look and feel like a Guy Ritchie flick at all. I like Ritchie as a director because of his distinct visual style, which appears nowhere in this movie at all. So let's just chalk this up to Ritchie selling out so he gets money to do the movies he really wants to do.

"Yes, I'm a dimpled Middle Eastern hottie. Deal with it."

Aladdin. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 7.8/10
No Naomi Scott nudity: -0.1
Alan Tudyk: +0.1
Aladdin and Jasmine's flirting and sexual tension: +0.2
Not-ugly Jafar: -0.1
Parkour scenes: +0.1
Actors pronouncing "Agrabah" with an accent: -0.05
Final rating: 7.95/10


Random Thoughts: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, or This Is Action Porn at Its Finest

"Are these direwolves?"

•This film is porn. No, not that kind of porn. It's action porn, and we have lots of it. There's still a story, of course, because this is a franchise, and no film franchise is built on the back of a gimmick alone. This film has a narrative, yet at the same time, there's also a ridiculous amount of action. And it's not just the running time of the action sequences; it's also the intensity of these scenes that makes John Wick what it is.

•Remember in the first John Wick when we hear about the anecdote of John Wick (Keanu Reeves) killing guys with a pencil? And how in John Wick 2, we actually see him kill guys with a pencil? Well, that's nothing. A pencil is a sharp object, after all, of course it can kill! In Parabellum, we see John Wick kill someone with a book. Not a flimsy pocket paperback, obviously, but still. Killing someone with a book!

•I've always been a fan of big dogs. I'm okay with small dogs, only because I won't be spending as much on food. But big dogs I really like, because these are closest to wolves. After seeing the canine action sequence with none other than Halle Berry, I now want an attack dog of my own. Not for attacking people, but for farting stars and puking rainbows.

•For those of you who haven't seen an action sequence on horseback, let me tell you that Parabellum's horseback action sequences are probably the best ever in the history of cinema. That's saying a lot, since one of the earliest motion pictures was about a horse galloping, so it's about time horses got the onscreen badassery they deserve. A horse kicking a thug in the face, I mean, come on!

•Okay, so how's this for a realisation: John Wick isn't actually American. His real name is Jardani Jovanovic. So he's an immigrant. Or a child of immigrant. Either way, it leans toward the trope that the best assassins are imported from Eastern Europe, what with those scenes of ballerinas and Greek wrestling (and detached toenails! Ugh). I guess it adds to the film's international flavour.

•I enjoyed the scenes with Anjelica Huston, but I enjoyed the scenes with Halle Berry more. This film is already a testosterone-filled ride as it is, and it's too bad scenes with strong women such as Anjelica Huston and Halle Berry weren't enough to balance the scales of manliness. I hope future films in the franchise can give us a great female antagoinst.

•I love Mark Dacascos. Older cinephiles know who Mark Dacascos is: a great martial artist with Filipino blood. The last time I saw him onscreen was in 2001's Le Pacte des Loupes (The Brotherhood of the Wolf), where he played a Native American in the early French colonies in the Americas. Here he plays a Japanese assassin, more than a match for John Wick himself. How come Filipinos rarely play Filipinos onscreen?

•Jerome Flynn, more popularly known as Bronn in Game of Thrones, was sadly underused. He can play a believable villain, especially with his seemingly natural douchebaggery, but I believe his thespian skills can also make him a believable good guy. Sadly, we're not going to find that out now, because the filmmakers killed him off. Too bad, Mr. Flynn.

•The best thing about the entire John Wick franchise is its action. The fight scenes have this realism to it, like you're actually watching two people having a go in an alley behind a bar. It doesn't have the flashy choreography of something like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Kill Bill, but that's because the story doesn't call for it. The John Wick films pay tribute to the dark and seedy underworld of assassins for hire, and the realistic approach to the fight scenes gives it the believable grit it needs to keep viewers cringing. Also, that scene with the knife being stabbed in the eye just makes me shudder. They didn't have to make it that realistic.

•For the next installment, I hope we get more heavy hitters for the High Table. Of course, it is inevitable that we get to meet the High Table, because as film franchises grow, so do its cinematic universes, so it only makes sense that the universe of John Wick slowly unravels for the audience. For a council with so much power, I was expecting a bigger, grander High Table. Here in Parabellum, the closest we get to the High Table was in that desert scene (where Wick cuts his finger off, ugh). It's not bad, though. Come to think of it, for an organisation as cloak-and-dagger as the High Table, I guess meetings in the desert are standard practise.

Of course there'll be a dog in John Wick 4. It's a running joke.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 8.2
No Halle Berry nudity: -0.1
Laurence Fishburne: +0.1
Neo, Morpheus, and the Keymaker reunion: +0.1
No Aisa Kate Dillon nudity: -0.1
Lance Reddick from The Wire: +0.1
Ian McShane: +0.1
Jason Mantzoukas: +0.1
Chad Stahelski's direction: +0.1
Final rating: 8.5


Random Thoughts: Game of Thrones, or Now My Watch Has Ended

Ever since, Jon Snow knew nothing.

Farewell, Game of Thrones.

1. I remember the first time I encountered Game of Thrones. I only read the books later, but I remember reading a feature about HBO's upcoming new show, and it had me at the premise: "The Sopranos in Middle-Earth". And ever since the pilot dropped, I’ve watched every episode religiously on the day they aired.

2. I remember the first time I discovered Tumblr. Well, I’ve been on Tumblr for a while already before GoT, but back then, I used it more like a blogging platform. I remember it was the GoT memes back in Season 1 that made me realise what Tumblr was really for: a magical place of memes and GIFs for every fandom in the world.

3. I remember creating this meme for Season 2, then hearing from a friend that my meme was going viral on 9Gag, although my creator watermark at the bottom was cropped out. I then went on 9Gag and confronted the person who uploaded it and tried to tell him that he stole his post from me. He tried to explain it to me, but I forgot how things went down after that.


4. I remember how the culture of spoilers, although it may have started way before GoT began, actually peaked during GoT’s historical run. History will remember this as the period when spoiler ethics were set by the global community. See, if we can agree on what constitutes a spoiler, then we should be able to agree on anything.

5. I remember how I wasn’t that into Sophie Turner before. Yeah, she was very pretty, but I didn’t really find her sexually attractive – yet. Then I saw her rapping to Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”, and her hotness level just skyrocketed through the roof. Now I am a super fan.

6. I remember after the first two seasons, I decided I wanted to try reading the books. So I had this really crappy, cheap-ass laptop (I don’t think it was even a proper laptop, it was more like a portable low-end gadget that can do very primitive computer functions), and I started reading the books, meaning the A Song of Ice and Fire saga. A little into the third book, I found that I didn’t remember most of the details being mentioned in the text, so I tried going back to the previous books and discovered that although I recalled a certain detail being mentioned, I had difficulty locating where that detail was in the text, which was in .pdf format. Conclusion: I prefer reading real books to e-books, because with old books, I could remember where I read a certain detail, and what part of the page it was located. Strangely, that skill didn’t carry over to digital books. How sad.

7. I remember when I first realised that this was the biggest television show in human history. It was when I read an article saying that Game of Thrones was the most pirated show in history (not anymore, although it was the Number 1 most pirated show for six years in a row). And by pirated, I mean illegally downloaded. I mean, for HBO to take a relaxed stand on the piracy of its show means only one of two things: it doesn’t mind the piracy, because it brings the show to an even wider audience, or the piracy has gotten so out of control because of the sheer numbers.

8. I remember when Season 6 of Game of Thrones coincided with the 2016 Philippine presidential elections. Even the Commission on Elections used GoT references for their election materials. That’s how big this show got, people.

9. I remember being surprised that Jim Broadbent would be joining the show. Of course I knew who Jim Broadbent was before this, but after watching his very first scene, I was just blown away. After that, I decided to watch old Jim Broadbent films, and now I am a huge fanboy. Also, I think I created a Reddit account just so I could post this:

Jim Broadbent should win an award for his performance as Archmaester Ebrose from r/HBOGameofThrones

10. I remember reminiscing on my early attempts at meme-making, and so I decided to make memes again for Seasons 6 and 7. This particular Season 7 meme of mine garnered 6K+ upvotes. A personal best. You’re welcome, 9Gag.


11. I remember the sadness I felt during the last season. My excitement when the Battle of Winterfell aired, and my annoyance at how dark the screen was. My reservations that Sansa Stark was turning into a bitch. My disappointment at Daenerys’s descent into madness. My sadness at Varys’s execution. My non-surpise at Jon stabbing Daenerys in the throne room. My grief at Cersei and Jaime buried under all that rubble. My admiration at Tyrion Lannister’s integrity. My amazement at Drogon melting the Iron Throne. My snicker at Bran Stark being named king. And my sadness upon realising that there might never be another show like this, watched, celebrated, and talked about collectively by millions around the world.

And now my watch has ended.

Where's Lena?

Game of Thrones. USA/UK. 2010-2019.

Original rating: 10/10
Surpassing the books: -0.1
Rushing the last two seasons: -0.1
Final rating: 9.8/10


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