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Movie Review: The Wolverine (2013)

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                   Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this film is Wolverine aka Logan. In this film, he is much more three-dimensional than in any of the X-Men films and the film X-Men: Origins Wolverine. Rather than just being the guy who tears through people with claws, he is also a person who struggles with the price of his immortality and the pain of loss. The Japanese ronin samurai forms the central metaphor of Wolverine’s character to make him a compelling and relatable to the viewer.

Besides Wolverine, the secondary characters are also worth watching the film for. There are strong female and male characters that keep the viewer engaged in the film. While some are good and others are evil, there are a couple of characters who are morally ambiguous to make the film interesting.

A final aspect of the film that is great is its setting. Once Wolverine arrives in Japan, the viewer is exposed to a modern traditional, and spiritual place that enhances the plot and Wolverine’s character. At one point in the film, the setting moves to a simple place that is connected to Wolverine’s character as well as the plot. Then Mariko, one of the film’s key characters, says to Wolverine “It is here that we learned that everything finds peace eventually.” This scene is where the setting complimented Wolverine perfectly.

Overall, this was a fantastic film that is a huge improvement over the previous film done about Wolverine. I recommend this film to any fan of the character Wolverine or the X-Men.

Written by Serena Zola

January 29, 2015 at 7:17 PM

Movie Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

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Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): Two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are led to an impetuous, physically skilled, adolescent nobleman’s daughter, who is at a crossroads in her life.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is the characters. Not only are they well acted, but they are people who make you either care for them and root them on or make you what to see what will happen next. Key characters include wise and righteous swordsman Li Mau Bai, the maternal and strong swordsman Yu Shu Lien, the lost and physically skilled swordsman Jen Yu, the merciless swordswoman Jade Fox, and the resourceful bandit Dark Cloud.

Another great aspect of the film is the plot. Together, the key characters tell a story of the need to be free from corruption, emotional burdens, and traditional values. The main theme of the story is freedom and it is shown in such a way that anyone can relate to it.

Besides the characters and the plot, the fighting scenes are amazing. While the actors use wires to fly through the air and bounce off walls, it doesn’t come across as over the top. Instead, the use of wires adds grace and excitement to the fights, so that there are moments that look magical. An example is one scene that occurs when two of the characters are fighting in a bamboo forest. There are moments when move so gracefully that they become as flexible as the bamboo themselves as they fight.

In addition to the characters, plot, and the fighting scenes, the cinematography is lovely at times. Certain scenes are shot so well that they make the characters and the events taking place striking. One example is a climactic fight scene that occurs between Shu Lien and one other character.

A final notable aspect of the film is its soundtrack. Composer Tan Dun and cellist Yo-Yo Ma made beautiful pieces that heighten the emotions of certain scenes. For instance, the piece on the soundtrack called “Night Flight” has drums that elevate the tension and action that is going on at the time. Another piece “Yearning of The Sword” highlights the beauty and sadness that comes with the weapon.

Overall, this was a magnificent film that put the art in martial arts. If you enjoy martial arts films or want a great action-adventure film, I recommend this film.

Written by Serena Zola

January 12, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Movie Review: Big Hero 6 (2014)

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Big Hero 6

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from Wikipedia): The story of a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada, who forms a superhero team to combat a masked villain responsible for the death of Hiro’s older brother.

My Review: One of the best things about the film is the characters that form Big Hero 6: Hiro Hamada, Baymax, Fred, Gogo Tomago, Wasabi, and Honey Lemon. The entire team is a racially diverse group of science nerds, but each of them have their own quirks and develop cool powers. For instance, Fred is a comic enthusiast  and Wasabi is overly cautious yet level-headed.

Of the entire group, the characters that stand out the most are Baymax and the film’s main character Hiro Hamada. Baymax is a giant marshmallow robot that serves only as a healthcare companion at first. As the film progresses, he gets an awesome heroic upgrade and also helps Hiro deal with his grief. Meanwhile, Hiro is a relatable character for anyone who has lost a loved one or is trying to find their true potential.

Besides the characters, the plot is very good. It took your standard superhero film and gave it more heart and humor. Poignant themes include grief, creativity, and revenge. Furthermore, there is lots of action-adventure that kids and adults will enjoy.

In addition to the characters and plot, the setting was great. The fusion of Japan and San Francisco in the city is amazing. Furthermore, Japanese anime and pop culture fans will be pleased to see references to things such as such as the Power Rangers, kaiju, and mecha.

A final aspect of the film that was enjoyable was the animation. It made the super powers look amazing and the setting really eye-catching. The best work was during the climax of the movie in a very vivid scene that is reminiscent of the imagery found in Hayao Miyazaki fantasy films.

Overall, this was a fantastic film. I recommend this to Japanese anime fans and kids and adults alike.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

November 19, 2014 at 10:37 PM

Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace (2004)

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Maria Full of Grace

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): A pregnant Colombian teenager becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family.

My Review: One of the best things about this film was how universal the story was. There are themes that anyone can relate to, whether you speak the same language or not. These include struggling to provide for your familial love,  community, and more. Another aspect that made the story universal is how Maria was able to be in Columbia even when she wasn’t in Colombia. For instance, a snack that she had in Columbia could also be found in New York City’s “Little Columbia” district.

Another great aspect of the film was the characters. Maria starts out as a caring yet innocent young woman who wishes to “go somewhere else”, but becomes street smart and resilient. Don Fernando, the most compelling character of the film, is a compassionate and warm figure who supports his fellow Colombians through hard times.

Lastly, the most compelling aspect of the film is how it put a human face on drug trafficking. The characters and the plot felt like it could have been a chapter in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. It is something that will haunt you and make you root for the characters.

Overall, this was a poignant film. I recommend this for foreign film fans and anyone who is willing to do anything to provide for their family or a loved one.

Written by Serena Zola

October 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: Filly Brown (2012)

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Filly Brown film

Source: IMDB

Plot Summary: (Taken from IMDB): A promising hip-hop rhymer from Los Angeles finds herself in a gray area when a record producer offers her a compromising shot at stardom.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this film is the characters. For instance, the main character Filly Brown is not just an aspiring rapper. She is also a protective older sister named Majo who is willing to do anything to free her jailed mother.

Also, Majo doesn’t take crap from anyone who hurts her or her loved ones. Meanwhile, her dad is a single parent and a contractor who puts up with prejudice from his employer to support his daughters. Another sympathetic character in the film is Filly’s younger sister Lupe, a teen on the verge of growing up too fast.

Another notable aspect of the film is the acting. Gina Rodriguez is great as Filly the rapper and Filly the person. Lou Diamond Phillips does a good job displaying the fierce and vulnerable sides to Filly’s dad. Last but not least, the late Jenni Rivera had an excellent film debut as Filly’s mother, playing the manipulative yet caring personality well.

Besides the characters and acting, the portrayal of the music industry was well done. Filly Brown’s experience shows how aspiring musicians of any genre may be forced to sacrifice who they are in order to sell lots of records. It also shows how big an ego musicians and record companies can have when they have lots of money.

Finally, the soundtrack was very good. The best songs in the film are the ones that Filly Brown does because they reflect her character development. Other tracks provide atmosphere to Filly Brown’s neighborhood or her hip-hop lifestyle.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and poignant movie. I recommend this to hip-hop music fans everywhere. I also recommend this to Latino viewers looking to see their experiences in film.

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

September 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The Sapphires (2012)

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The Sapphires

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): It’s 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is the blending of Aboriginal Australian culture with that of American culture and history. Since the film’s main characters are discriminated against for being Aboriginal and considered black, it is easy to connect their strife with the turmoil going on in America in the late 60’s. In addition, the American soul music and a hymn sung in the Yorta Yorta language all play a prominent role that is moving and entertaining.

Another good aspect of the film is its characters. Greta is the fierce older sister who stands up for herself and her sisters’ safety. Julie is  the headstrong younger sister who wants to prove herself. Kay is the fair-skinned sister who grapples with her racial identity. Cynthia is the romantic who is also slightly careless. Lastly, Dave Lovelace is the careless yet caring manager.

Besides the blending of cultures and the characters, the acting and singing are excellent. Although two of the main actresses actually sing their roles, their vocals are very good. Of the two, Jessica Mauboy is the strongest singer. As the most prominently featured vocalist, she makes Julie shine bright.

While Juanita Tipper’s vocals get a touching moment in the spotlight, it is her acting that gets the most attention. In addition to Jessica Mauboy and Juanita Tipper, Chris O’ Dawd is great as Dave Lovelace. Many of his scenes will make viewers laugh, but there are a couple of tear-jerkers too.

In addition to the acting and vocals, the film’s plot was very well done. It developed its characters realistically around historical events and racism. Although it is loosely based on a true story, the entire movie felt like a real biopic.

Overall, the movie was fantastic. If you are a fan of 60’s soul music or enjoy music films, then I recommend this film.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The Lego Movie (2014)

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The Lego Movie

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied ‘Special’, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

My Review:  One of the best things about this film is the animation. The Lego world is so colorful and bright, the viewer will want to jump into the movie. Sometimes, the Lego world looks real enough that you forget its animated.

Another aspect of the film that is good is the voice acting. Will Ferrell is fantastic as both President Business and The Man Upstairs. Liam Neeson is just as great as Good Cop/Bad Cop.  Morgan Freeman lending his godly voice to Vitruvius is perfect. Other highlights include Alison Brie as Princess Unikitty.

Besides the animation and voice acting, the plot of the film was creative, humorous, and heartwarming. The Lego world felt like a hilarious satire of real-life, especially with the theme song “Everything is Awesome!” Yet, behind that world is also a touching message about uniqueness and creativity.

In addition, the film’s universal appeal is good. There’s comedy, action-adventure, romance, and a little drama. Furthermore, the characters are something kids and adults can relate to.

Overall, the film is great.  I recommend this film to everyone.

Written by Serena Zola

August 13, 2014 at 9:04 PM

Movie Review: The First Grader (2010)

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The First Grader

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): The true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

My Review: One of the best aspects of the film is the characters. The main character Marugue is a resilient spirit who has survived the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. After enduring much hardship and tragic losses, Marague wants to better himself by attending school for the first time. His teacher, Jane Obinchu,  is the kind and bold.  Also, the other children lighten the story with song and dance, but a couple of them also bring out the best of Marugue.

Another good aspect of the film is the use of its setting, the country of Kenya in Africa.  It made the experience of the main character Maruge very palpable for the viewer. For instance, you see how simple his house is, a structure made of logs and the surrounding land almost bare except for a small garden and a goat. You also sympathize with him when you see how far he has to walk to get to the primary school.

Besides the characters and the use of its setting, the cinematography made the film powerful. The flashbacks are positioned so that the viewer slowly gets to know Maruge and see how traumatized he is by his terrible past.  The African vocals heard during certain scenes provide a meditative atmosphere for the viewer to think about the film as the movie progresses.

In addition to the characters, setting, and the cinematography, the film provides excellent commentary on the value of an education. One of the most striking scenes in the film involves the adult education school, which reflects so many of today’s public schools. Another powerful scene occurs when Maruge forces education officials to see why good teachers are necessary. Other commentary occurs in the form of lines like, “You never stop learning until you have soil in your ears.”

Overall, this was a very poignant film. Due to the strong violence and empowering message, I recommend this film for high school students and up.

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The Radiant Child (2010)

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Jean Michel Basquiat, The Radiant Child

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while minimalist, conceptual art was the fad; as a successful black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions.

My Review: One of the best things about this documentary was how well its subject matter was presented. The director Tamra Davis did an excellent job combining her own personal interview footage of Jean-Michel Basquiat with interviews of those who knew and worked with him. In addition, images of Basquiat’s artwork were well shown because you also see what influenced it. For instance, you would see footage of the cut-out method used by the poet William S. Burroughs and then see that method in a colorful Basquiat painting.

Another good aspect about this documentary was how Langston Hughes’ poem “Genius Child” was used to sum up his life. The poem is used as an epigraph at the beginning of the film and then spoken aloud as an epitaph at the end.  For the first time viewers, it haunts them and makes them think more about who they are learning about.

Besides the use of the poem “Genius Child”, the way blues, jazz, and classical music was used in the film was poignant. It immerses the viewer in different moments in Basquiat’s life and puts the viewer in either Basquiat’s point-of-view or his peers point-of-view.  One example is when his work ethic is being described and you hear fast-paced jazz music. As a viewer, one can then imagine Basquiat painting  like crazy.

The only flaw in the film is that you don’t see if Basquiat influenced any of today’s artists. Given that Basquiat was a graffiti artist and then a painter during the emergence of hip-hop culture, he must have had some influence on hip-hop artists today. In fact, it would have been interesting to see if Basquiat influenced any of today’s artists in general. His work that focused on black history could have easily been an influence on today’s Afrofuturism culture.

Overall, this was a great documentary on a brilliant yet fragile artist. I recommend this to any art enthusiast and any black person who wants to see art they can relate to.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

July 13, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Movie Review: Raw Spice- The Unofficial Story of The Making of The Spice Girls

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Raw Spice, Spice GirlsSummary: This film shows how the Spice Girls were formed in 1994 and the months leading up to their first performance in front of industry writers and producers.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is that it lives up to its title. The girls are never seen with their trademark looks, but you can catch glimpses of what would become each girl’s trademark personality. You also see them as performers in training as well as regular young women.

Another positive aspect of the film is that you slowly see the girls come together as a group. You see them trying to figure out what their vocal ranges are, learning to harmonize,  dance, and live together. In fact, the most candid parts of the film are when they are at their house, because you see them let loose a little more.

A downside of the film is that it only covers a year or so of The Spice Girls’ journey. Once they do make their debut in front of the music industry people, you are left wondering what happens afterwards. The film should have shown how they got signed to a record label and how they recorded their first album Spice.

Overall, the film was interesting to watch, but it could have been better. However, I do recommend this to any old and new Spice Girl fans.

Watch the film on Hulu here.

 

Written by Serena Zola

June 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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