REVIEW: ‘Wonder Woman’ lives up to and exceeds the hype

“Wonder Woman” is not only the superhero movie the world needs, but also the superhero movie DC has needed for years.

DC’s recent films have expanded their universe, which is great, but the films have been either disappointing, crowded or a combination of both. “Wonder Woman” is the complete opposite of all of those things.

Gal Gadot shines in her leading role as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman.  Gadot manages to bring a life to Diana that her male DC predecessors have failed to accomplish with their characters. Gadot’s Diana is strong, hopeful and personable in a way that lights up the screen.  Also let’s give thanks that they allowed Gadot to use her real accent and gave all the ladies of Themiscyra accents to match. Diana Prince is the strong, brilliant woman that has deserved a shining big screen light for years because of Gadot’s performance.

DC’s genius decision to nab the last of the Chris’ before Marvel could really paid off. Chris Pine makes Steve Trevor the man you want him to be, ignorant enough for the time but also endlessly supportive of Diana. Pine makes you believe in him and his cause.

The plot perfectly combines Diana’s Greek Mythological background with a mix of her canon comic origin stories. The story is gripping in its fantasy, but also in its reality with a striking and unique score behind it.

The story also manages, like so many things do intentionally or not, to be incredibly timely. A powerful woman leading a change and a charge for a fight she believes in. It’s a bold and timely statement about fighting for your home, yourself and your people whether those around you are in your corner or not. It’s also important with its social commentary specifically with its secondary characters, unlike so many films “Wonder Woman” manages to actually remember that not everyone was white in the past. The character Sami particularly stands out in a moment when he tells Diana that he never wanted to be a soldier, but because of the color of his skin it’s the only job he could get.

And all of these things don’t come together as beautifully as they do without director Patty Jenkins. Jenkins lens into the male dominated world Diana is walking into is incredibly well done. The fight scenes are enthralling and manage to be shot both realistically and fantastically with the Amazonian powers in play. Having a woman behind the camera for this female driven film was the best possible decision. he was no gamble (@ Hollywood Reporter, she directed an OSCAR WINNING FILM).

Overall “Wonder Woman” is the best solo superhero film to reach the big screen to date.

REVIEW: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2’ gets to the heart of what it means to be a family

When the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film came out my knowledge of the team was essentially at zero. I went in thinking it would be ridiculous to see a talking raccoon and tree fight across the galaxy; I came out crying over the friendship between and loving that talking raccoon and tree.

The first film quickly became a favorite of mine and remains so to this day, the same can definitely be said for the second installment.

Much like the first “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” has a lot of humor , but this time around director/writer James Gunn managed to find a perfect balance between the humor and a more serious plot as well. The beauty of the “Guardians” franchise is that unlike most of the other Marvel properties they can remain separate, aka there’s not unnecessary cameos and Tony Stark can’t come in and take over 80% of the film. “Guardians” at its heart is about the core group of characters they have, core characters that all received a bit more depth this time around in a surprisingly poignant commentary on what it means to be a family. The laughs were there, because what family doesn’t make jokes and insult each other, but so were the moments of honesty between the characters. Blood doesn’t make a family and this second volume was all about this family admitting and realizing that.

Baby Groot and Rocket naturally steal the show, just as they did the first time around. Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper may only provide voice talents, but their presence is felt and the emotion they bring to these two characters and the dynamic they have really steal your heart. Mantis was a welcome addition to the team, providing a just as literal friend for Drax; Sean Gunn’s Kraglin was also a welcome addition in his more featured role this time around; Elizabeth Debicki was eerily calm but likely to be a more looming presence in the third installment and Kurt Russel was perfectly Kurt Russel.

But while all the actors really brought it all to the table the absolutely unexpected star of the film was Michael Rooker. Yondu was seemingly just a villain in the first film, but this time around they shaped him into something more, showed a side of him that was softer, more emotional and more damaged. Rooker was incredible in all of his scenes; his dynamic with Christ Pratt’s Peter Quill was so well done highlighting the father/son relationship they have as well as his unexpected dynamic with Rocket and Groot.

No spoilers on the end of the film but let’s just say I’ve now cried openly during both “Guardians of the Galaxy” films and I’m hoping they’ll go for the trifecta and get me again in the third one.

Overall “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” is just what you’d expect with the humor and the excellent soundtrack, but also just what you aren’t expecting with a deeper more emotional storyline. Also be sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits there are five, that’s right FIVE, after credit scenes you won’t want to miss.

“Rogue One” review: the darker side of the galaxy

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

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“The Force Awakens” welcomed in a new era of great “Star Wars” films and “Rogue One” has easily continued that trend.

But what makes it great isn’t that it’s just like an old “Star Wars” movie, it’s different, darker. “Rogue One” is the darker, grittier look at the rebellion that fans of the franchise have been wanting for years. While you can still sense that franchise feel with the lighter moments and style you also get the sense of fear and urgency that the rebellion was facing before Luke came into the fold.

Bringing you back to the old world of “Wars” of course is Darth Vader’s appearance. Vader is finally the terrifying badass you always wanted to see Vader be. He’s not just Vader choking his idiotic generals in this one; no he’s committing some very heinous acts.

The score carried you through into that familiar “Star Wars” world as well.

The darker feel of the film also benefits from some darker characters, not all the heroes are perfect, but that’s what makes them real. It’s a sad realization at the end of the film we won’t see these amazing characters again. For me Rhiz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook especially stood out. Now I’ll admit I’ve been on an Ahmed kick since watching him own it in “The Night Of,” but his defector pilot character was incredible.

Arguably the most important thing about this film however isn’t what it means to “Star Wars” fans, but what it means to anyone watching. “Rogue One” is the most diverse film in the franchise easily, and possibly one of the most diverse blockbusters I’ve ever seen in my life.

A lot of parents might not want to take their kids to this one because of its darker tone and the fact that there’s a lot of death, but if you explain it all to your kid or just know they can handle it; let them watch it. Representation matters and this film represents in ways that this franchise never has. For the first time in “Star Wars” there are only people of different races (and a lead female (not the first time for that, but still)), leading the side of the heroes.

Overall, “Rogue One” is an honest show of the rebellion, a great film for the franchise (possibly my personal favorite), and just a fantastic sci-fi film.

REVIEW: ‘Suicide Squad’ deserves far more credit than critics are giving it

After a series of horrendous reviews it was safe to assume that going into “Suicide Squad” with high expectations might not be a good idea. However be prepared to be pleasantly surprised, the critics were by and large wrong.

“Suicide Squad” isn’t perfect, but rarely are any comic book movies. The first act is a little all over the place establishing each character individually, though some backstory for Slipknot would have been nice that way it wouldn’t have been so obvious he was going to be the designated dead body. If the critics were right about anything it was the main villain, Enchantress, fell a little flat.

But where Enchantress lacked the actual squad picked up the slack. Will Smith played Deadshot so convincingly it’d be nice to see him get his own solo film one day. One of the biggest highlights of the film was the unexpected friendship that developed quickly between him and Harley Quinn. Harley and Joker were entertaining enough, though no matter what any actor does in the future no one will ever quite live up to the Joker legacy that Heath Ledger left behind.

Boomerang provides a light comedic relief, Killer Croc brings surprising personality and Diablo steals the show at many points with his heartbreaking backstory. Katana could have been used more considering how interesting of a character she is, but what bits she did have were fantastic.

The biggest highlight of the cast however has to be Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Davis manages to encapsulate the cold-hearted badassery of who Waller is. You do not feel for her in any way, whereas you find yourself feeling for the actual members of the squad, which is exactly how it should be with such a cold character.

“Suicide Squad” may have been massacred by the critics but for comic book fans, and lovers of action films it’s a pretty good movie with an absolutely brilliant soundtrack. DC has the chance to do some incredible work in its near future with individual films if they don’t pull a Marvel and feel the need to overcrowd every film with a hundred different cameos. So here’s hoping the do that with “Wonder Woman” next year, but for now enjoy “Suicide Squad” for what it is, a fun, dark comic book film any fan can enjoy.

REVIEW: ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ is more than just a great ‘Star Trek’ movie

From the second you walk into to “Star Trek: Beyond” there are high expectations simply from knowing that the cast put their hearts into making this film for Leonard Nimoy. Those expectations are met and even surpassed.

From the opening act it feels like not only a “Star Trek” movie but just a great sci-fi movie. Every small salute to the original series, the ripped shirt joke being a personal favorite, and to the other “Star Trek” series’ is welcomed and the gentle kind of homage that the previous film never quite grasped.

“Beyond” does what “Into Darkness,” the second film in the new installments, failed to do. The second film was meant to be a tribute to what’s widely regarded is the best piece of “Star Trek” but ended up being a rough cut remake, this film was the exact opposite of that. Not only for its subtle tributes, most notably the lovely tribute to Nimoy, but for the fact that it was an original piece of pure “Trek.”

The villain was new, different and well played by the immensely talented Idris Elba. But the best part is that the villain isn’t just original and great, he’s not the focus of the film. The focus lies equally on the seven original crew members, which is exactly where the focus should be.

From the small but important glimpses into the personal lives of the main seven (i.e. Starfleet’s Most Beautiful Gay Son™  Hikaru Sulu and his adorable little family), to the fantastic moments where all seven of the crew come up with the big plans together this movie is entirely about the heart of the Enterprise. It’s about the diverse group of unlikely friends who work together, not just Kirk always saving the damn day, to protect their people.

Another thing that’s great about the focus on the main seven is the points where the group is broken apart into different pairs. New character Jaylah was fantastic and her interactions with Scotty were a delight to watch. Kirk and Chekov’s teamwork was unexpectedly great and since this is sadly the last time we’ll see Anton Yelchin onscreen as Chekov it was lovely to see him get to be so involved in this film. Uhura and Sulu’s ‘we’re not just gonna sit here and wait to be saved’ attitude was incredible. And most notably there was the focus on the most underrated bromance in the world of “Star Trek,” McCoy and Spock, whose constant banter and disgruntled behavior towards one another is actually just the way they show respect and friendship.

“Beyond” is easily the best film of the new era of “Star Trek,” Justin Lin’s directing was action packed, yet subtly human to show the depth of the characters. And if this film is anything to go by maybe Simon Pegg and Doug Jung should have been writing these movies all along.

REVIEW: ‘Ghostbusters’ isn’t the original, but that’s not a bad thing

Sorry haters, “Ghostbusters” is actually pretty good. It’s not a carbon copy of the original film, but that’s what makes it great. It can be loved as something separate, something new.

“Ghostbusters” accomplishes what many remakes or reimagining’s fail to do, it gives you a sense of whimsical throwback to the original, paying proper tribute while creating its own sense of self. The cameos from the entire original cast, even including a nod to the late Harold Ramis, remind you why you loved the original while the new cast gives you something new to love.

As far as that new cast goes each woman brings something to the table and writer/director Paul Feig played it incredibly smart pairing Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as a duo and doing the same with Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. The clear chemistry between these two pairs of women from their previous work together is very evident and when all four of them come together for scenes great things happen. Also here’s hoping people start putting McKinnon and Jones in more films.

Chris Hemsworth is surprisingly hilarious as the stereotypical dumb blonde receptionist, a role usually delegated to the token woman of a cast. He’s lovable eye candy, but unlike many films where this stereotyped role would be made fun of the women appreciate him for who he is and as he is.

The movie manages to be funny, but not a laugh riot from start to finish, much in the way the original was which can be appreciated. It’s not perfect though the first act is a bit slow, but once it gets going in the second act it really hits its stride. The third act is spectacular both in action and comedy, all while displaying some pretty incredible looking special effects.

Other things to love about it are the lack of unnecessary romantic subplots or love triangles (none of these ladies have time to fight over Hemsworth), the positive female roles and the use of the old music. Thank goodness we only have to endure about 30 seconds of that horrendous new Fall Out Boy cover of the theme song.

Overall, “Ghostbusters” is worth the watch. It’s not destroying anyone’s childhood and it’s definitely not a slap in the face to the old film. If anything it’s an updated tribute and a film that will do for young girls what the original film did for young boys.

REVIEW: ‘Captain America: Civil War’ puts Steve and Bucky front and center

SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD…

Marvel has yet again made a massive and inevitably successful film with “Captain America: Civil War.”

After an Avengers mission gone wrong, the government and the public take into question the absolute authority given to the heroes. Two sides form, Steve Rogers standing firmly against signing away their rights and a guilt ridden Tony Stark standing with the proposed Sokovia Accords.

The film has a lot to offer. Almost every character you could want shows up at some point taking a side on this battle and this argument, and while the accords battle is interesting the reality is it could have probably stood alone as its own movie. The real highlight of the film was the thing Steve was fighting for even harder than he was his opposition of the Accords, his victimized and abused best friend and brother Bucky Barnes.

014Much like the two previous Captain America films Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan steal the entire spotlight with their excellent onscreen chemistry. The relationship between these two is complicated, but at its base it’s about family. The only real family either of them have left or have ever had is each other and even through brainwashing and outside threats they continue to fight for each other. Much like the two previous Cap films, at the heart of it this movie is about Steve and Bucky.

Stan yet again shines in his role. Watching him evolve from the flirtatious young soldier he was in the beginning to the completely controlled assassin to this man he is now has been an absolute delight. He perfectly captures the struggle Bucky now must live with, a mix of knowing who he is and being unsure of what’s true. His only bright spot is Steve, who he knows is very much real and believes in the man that he knows is still inside of him. Much in the way that he conveyed everything with barely any dialogue in “The Winter Soldier,” Stan conveys everything through the simplest of lines and looks. If you don’t feel for Bucky Barnes you aren’t paying attention.

While Steve and Bucky’s relationship was the highlight of the film, there were other great pieces as well. Such as: Sam and Bucky working together (especially when their clear real life Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan love shone through), Wanda Maximoff proving that she could level them all and saving each character at least once, nerdy Scott Lang, and Wanda and Clint giving off brother/sister vibes like in “Age of Ultron” (please give us even more of this in the future).

Of course there was also the introduction of Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman. He was an absolute force of nature in the film and his own standalone movie is bound to be incredible. It was also nice to see him take in Bucky to protect him for Steve, understanding and caring enough to make a difference in his situation; it’s an absolutely incredible opportunity to have Bucky appear in the Panther standalone film.

One other thing was Spiderman, he was fun and definitely captured the essence of the character, but one question: how in the hell did Tony randomly figure out this kid from Queens was this Spider vigilante he saw on YouTube?

However, the film wasn’t perfect. Sharon Carter deserved more screen time and involvement, she is such an essential and interesting part of Cap’s world, yet she was reduced down to helping them briefly and a kiss. With the way the film ended let’s hope they jump on the opportunity to include her in assisting Steve’s new little renegade team of Avengers.

We also need to talk about Tony Stark, unpopular opinion: it’s time to let Tony’s role in the MCU be reduced. It was pointed out by multiple characters that he’s allowed his ego to do more harm than good and now is the time for him to take a step back. With Iron Man more in the background for future films it will allow other characters to rise to the more prominent roles they deserve (hint, hint all the ladies).

Overall, “Civil War” is another great MCU film, I’m excited to see where things will lead with two separate Avengers teams existing (Go Team Cap!).  Also, if Marvel would like to talk to me about the idea I have for an all-female Avengers team (like A-Force) featuring Wanda, Sharon, Natasha, Wasp and eventually Captain Marvel, I’m ready for them.