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Song of the Sea (2014)


The first time I've heard of selkies was from a children's book back in grade school. From it, I've learned that some versions of these Irish and Scottish mythical creatures are more or less like mermaids. Rather than being part fish, Selkies are part seals. The book I've read as a child depicts a Selkie being forced to marry human after he stole her seal coat/skin, which enables her to become a seal and return to the sea. She bore him several children but without her coat, she could not return to her home in the sea. That is, until one of her children discovered where their father hid her coat a few years later. The Selkie occasionally returns to visit only her children. A bit tragic, but much more of a happy ending than the one in Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid, right?

Visually splendid, the animated studio Catoon Saloon does not fail to impress its audience by blending some of the most gorgeous artworks with beautiful characters and deeply rooted Irish mythologies. Director Tomm Moore returns from his previous work, The Secret of Kells, by adapting a children's book about a boy travelind distant miles to help heal his dying sister and freeing the stoned faeries. The animation does have a little bit of CGI-imagery to help enhance the flow of the characters' movements and the magic. Like The Secret of Kells, it's hardly noticeable, making the audience believe the entire film is traditionally hand-drawn.

Unlike The Secret of Kells, the story in Song of the Sea is little bit more modern. The film starts off in 1981 on a small island off the coast of Ireland. There lived the lighthouse keeper, Conor (Brendan Gleeson), his wife Bronagh (Lisa Hannigan), and their son Ben (David Rawle). However, Bronagh disappeared mysteriously into the sea upon delivering a newborn child. For the next six years, Conor became a depressed drunk; Ben is embittered by his sister, blaming her for their mother's death; and Saoirse (Lucy O'Connell) has yet to utter a single word. On the night of her sixth birthday, Saoirse borrowed her brother's shell pipe and managed to find a white seal coat. Lured by a pod of seals in the sea, Saoirse dove into the water while wearing her coat and transformed into a white seal. And here I thought harp seals were cute enough, but in this film they are super adorable! Fearing for their safety, the children's grandmother convinced their father to allow them to live with her in the city. Naturally, the children try to find their way back home to their island, and on the way they encountered various Irish mythological figures including the faeries who claims that Ben's sister is a Selkie! They hoped that Saoirse's song would break the Owl Witch's spell on them so that their essences could be free to return to Tír na nÓg. With the Owl Witch and her court of owls stealing mythical creatures' feelings and putting them into jars, the two siblings must race back to their island and get Saoirse's seal coat before she, too, dies like their Selkie mother.

As gorgeous and charming as this film is, Song of the Sea does suffer a bit in its story theme. It's as if the concept of a hero boy trying to saving his ailing sister while fighting against a witch sounded too's as if this concept was borrowed from other stories with its own spin. Yet despite some flaws, Song of the Sea is another beautiful traditionally hand drawn film that speaks to us with its story, touching us with its own heart and emotions. That is art itself and one must agree after seeing how beautiful this film is. It's blissful and awe inspiring. With two films that introduced to us about the beautiful, artful world of Irish mythologies, we pray that director Tomm Moore will return to give us more stories like this in the future.

The Secret of Kells (2009)


It's sad that most people these days often forget how beautiful traditionally animated films were and still is. The Secret of Kells, an animated film produced and animated by three countries (French, Irish, and Belgian), reminds us how much beauty there is still to be discovered when it comes to traditionally drawn animations. I'm not too familiar with most Irish myths and lore as I should, but the fantasy depicted in this film is absolutely superb. The film does well by mixing both Christian religion with that of Celtic myths by establishing a young monk befriending a spirit. Together, they'll bring light into this world plagued by darkness with a mystical book. Did I mention that there will be vikings and monsters in this story as well?

The story takes place in a tightly knit community at the Monastery of Kells where a young medieval monk named Brendan (Evan McGuire) is plucky, curious, and an idealist. However, his strict uncle, the Abbott Cellach (Brendan Gleeson), is obsessed in having walls built around the abbey to prevent vikings' attacks. But these walls doesn't deter his nephew's interest of the outside world. After befriending old Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), a traveler who possessed a precious Book of Kells. His own town has been destroyed by a raid and he travels to Kells for sanctuary. Some of its pages remains to be written and it will be Brendan who must help write them. To do that, Brendan must sneak out and collect nuts in the dark forest in order to make ink, ensuring the birth of the beautiful illustrations in the tome. Armed with only a white cat named Pengur Ban for companion ship, the young monk braved the forest and is cornered by hungry wolves. It is here where he encounters the forest spirit Aisling (Christen Mooney) who saved his life. Together, they brave the darkness and any danger related to Crom Cruach, a deity of death, in order to complete the Book.

The entire animation of this film is like the illustrations of an illuminated manuscript! Think more of the Irish than a bunch of leprechauns because these people have been preserving their legends in stories, songs, and books. There is a tome called the Book of Kells located in Trinity College, and it has been painstakingly illuminated with intricate drawings and writings. Its medieval manuscript preserves the four gospels and literally every, single page is a work of art. The Secret of Kells is no different as watching it frame by frame is like viewing the Book of Kells in great appreciation.

The film should be appreciated and others should copy its example by producing more traditionally hand drawn animated films. It's appealing, gorgeous, breath-taking, and awe-inspiring. It's no wonder that The Secret of Kells was nominated for an Academy Award of that year. It may not have a wide US release, but don't let that deter you from seeing it. It's a beautifully animated film with a very metaphorical story. The plot is unpredictable and may require you to have a little knowledge of Irish fairy tales. It's amazing to see how directors Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey took inspirations from actual medieval illustrations, traditional Celtic knots art, Irish history and legends, gothic backgrounds and transitioned it all into visual wonderland full of rich beauty beyond imaginations.

Inside Out (2015)


One of the best things about Disney Pixar films is that they can come up with a very basic and simple idea and tell it to us in a very interesting way that feels freshly new! Inside Out is another one of their project that turned out colorfully spectacular. I've always heard of seeing peoples emotions through colored auras around their bodies, but actually seeing them personified as colorful characters living inside our brains is a whole new level!

Most of us have gone through a time when we feel shy and isolated from our friends and families. The film's director, Pete Docter, undergo a period of social anxiety when his family was forced to move the Denmark when his father had a new job. Years later, Docter noticed his pre-teen daughter undergoing the same phase as she became more quiet and reserve from her parents. The idea for Inside Out came into existence when Docter took this realization and began to think about the emotions playing inside our heads during this troubling time.

Like what he experienced as a child, Docter's Inside Out is the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) trying to adjust to her new life when her family has to moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, California due to her father's job. Riley's mind is mostly controlled by five colorful, fuzzy, cartoonish characters, Each is the manifestation of five basic emotions as they try and guide Riley's life with a purpose: Joy (Amy Poehler) is Riley's main emotion, a tall, happy yellow spirit with blue hair and a green dress who does her best to keep Riley's life as happy as possible; Fear (Bill Hader), a purple, bug-eyed spirit with a question-marked hair and a nerdy outfit tries to keep Riley safe from harm; Disgust (Mindy Kaling), a green, stylish and snobbish spirit whose job it is to keep Riley from being poison, physically and socially; Anger (Lewis Black), the red hot-tempered flat-head that bursts into flame whenever he tries to ensure fairness voicing out grievances (CONGRATULATION SAN FRANCISCO, YOU'VE RUINED PIZZA!!! FIRST THE HAWAIIANS AND NOW YOU!!!!!); and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), a depressed, but cute blue spirit in turtle-neck sweater who tries to contribute in their work, much to the disdain of the other four emotions. The emotions control Riley's conscious mind with a small control console, always fighting to hog it, especially Joy, when Riley saw what a bust the move was. I don't blame them, considering how small their new house is (welcome to San Francisco), Riley's new room stinks, their moving truck got lost, Dad's busy with his new job, and all of Riley's old friends are back home in Minnasota.

Our memories are depicted as these spheres, each in the color of the five emotions whenever we're feeling that emotion during an event of that day. Most of Riley's memories are happy each day before the move and every night, these memories are sent to Long Term Memories. After the move, Joy struggled to encourage the other emotions to stay as positive as usual, especially on first day at a new school. But when Sadness accidentally made Riley cry in school, she and Joy struggle for the control before both are sucked through a recall tube and sent to other parts of Riley's mind. With the core memories along with Joy and Sadness, Riley's emotional state of mind soon became more frustrating with only Disgust, Fear, and Anger to control her emotions. To their horror, the five aspects of Riley's personalities are falling apart without the core memories and without Joy, her conscious mind is slowly disintegrating into an empty shell.

The film then concentrate on a mission as Joy and Sadness tries to rushed back to Headquarter with the missing core memories before it is too late, all the while encountering various aspects of characters in Riley's mind including her forgotten imaginary friend, Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), mind workers like Frtiz (John Ratzenberger) whose job it is to sort out faded memories and other mind works. They try to catch the Train of Thoughts which would lead them back to Headquarter, but first, they must go through several realms of Riley's mind including Imagination Land with its French-fries Forest and even an Imaginary Boyfriend who kept saying, "I would die for Riley! I'm from Canada." There's Dream Production which acts like the Hollywood studios in our mind by producing all of Riley's dreams and nightmares.

This is where Inside Out differs greatly from other Pixar's films, everything happening in Riley's mind are nothing more than figurative manifestations of what's going inside to reflect our expressions on the outside. Emotions, memories, and thoughts are really just as intangible as our souls and it's fascinating how Pixar is taking all of this and personifying it in creative ways in this film, rather than working something that already physically exist such as the toys in Toy Story, the robots in Wall-E and the house in Up. The story plot is well scripted as it connects the new events that's happening to Riley since the move to her old life in Minnasota. Riley is growing up and she's undergoing threat changes in her life as she struggles to get used to her new life in California. The emotions has some growing up to do themselves as Joy realized that Sadness isn't there to annoy them on purpose, but her actions to make Riley depress is a signal to others, such as her family and friends, to come and help comfort her in her time of needs.

Inside Out is another great film to be remembered in Disney Pixar's collection. It's lovable characters, dialogues, and scripts are so creative and colorful that it's bursting with emotions. It's enjoyable for me to be sitting in a theater room full of kids and parents laughing at the humor and excitedly looking for the Easter Eggs (there are plenty in this film) but also silently cry when Riley is united with her parents. If you're going to see this film, bring a tissue box because your eyes are going to get watery due to both tear-jerking moments as well as humorous scenes where you'll laugh too hard. As always, do not dawdle at the concession stand but get there early in order to see the short film, Lava, that plays before Inside Out. I thought I've seen it all with Wall-E when it comes to a robot in love, but a volcano yearning for love in Lava? Wow! What an idea! The animation of this tropical volcano island is gorgeous and it really makes me feel more and more eager for the upcoming Disney's princess film Moana next year. And don't get up when the end credits are rolling in because you're going to see the different forms of the five emotions in other characters' heads, including Riley's new teacher, the bus driver, the cool girl, and others.

Jurassic World (2015)


When they first released the trailer for Jurassic World, I just realize what that this million-dollar franchise has denied us for twenty two years: the actual theme park itself. True, when Jurassic Park was first released, John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough) has a revolutionizing dream to feature his dinosaur theme park to the world. Unfortunately, the theme park never officially open after they tried a testing run with potential endorsers. For all the awesome thrills of watching some of your favorite characters being chased or eaten in the first three films, the thought of never seeing the park officially opened to the public and to us is a bit lamenting. Practically a decade after the third (and horrible) film, Jurassic World finally decided to deliver what we want and more: the park is officially opened like a Disneyland with bigger attractions, bigger dinosaurs, bigger special effects, bigger risks and danger, and more teeth.

At last, we have a film where both dinosaurs lovers like us and those who are familiar with the wonderful world of amusement parks can enjoy a film as if they were part of it. John Hammond's dream of opening this park is finally realized and although he is no longer around, there is a hall named after him in the film as a tribute. Jurassic World is essentially a reboot with newer characters replacing the old ones with a newer concept: they've decided to take the role of "playing God" from the first trilogy and take it to the next level. (The only returning cast from the original film is B.D. Wong reprising his role as the scientist Dr. Henry'd thought he was eaten, didn't you?) Not only are they breeding dinosaurs like they used to, but they've decided to made a new one. Why? Because apparently the guests are starting to view dinosaurs as if they were regular cows or giant elephants that you can ride on and the corporates wanted "bigger and better". Yeah, it's always done with good intention for money, but the ending result is always a huge and bloody debacle.

There always seemed to be the smart dinosaur expert in these films whom no one else bother to listen to. Rather than being a paleontologist, Owen (Guardians of the Galaxy's Chris Pratt), he's a raptor trainer with a good knowledge on carnivorous dinosaurs and a game hunter. Bryce Dallas Howard plays his "love interest", Claire, who's the head of the new and improved theme park. Yet she's such a workaholic, she fails to remember her nephews' ages when they came to visit her. This film should get a hashtag for #WeNeverLever, because creating a bigger, meaner, meat-eating dinosaurs with crazy superpowers is a huge indication. After three films of trying to play god, they think they finally got it handle enough to go to the next level? As Chris Pratt's Owen said, "These people never learn!" There is also another saying that stated we only learn our lessons once it's too late. Apparently, too late is the part where the ridiculously named Indominus Rex decided to go on an eating and hunting spree in a park filled with over 21,000 people.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World is a fun dinosaur film with that Spielberg-style filmmaking, yet at the same time, does things its own way. While the dinosaurs are obviously CGI, it's hard to believe its authenticity as real dinosaurs, what with us living in an age where almost everything is easily generated digitally. Trevorrow tries to cover that up with quick paced flashes of people getting eaten by the Indominus Rex with splashes of blood as it chomps on her victims. The CGI may feel a little bit obvious and ridiculous in some parts, but the end result is worth it. At last, the dinosaurs can much on the thousands and thousands of tourists it wants rather than just the those who worked as maintenance and security guards. But this film isn't perfect and isn't without some features that seemed irrelevant to the store. Why do we need to know that the two brothers' parents' divorce is important? Why doesn't this park have any for of evacuation plan should they suffer a dinosaur or weather disaster? Why didn't the Indominus Rex used her cool power of camouflaging and hiding her temperature more often throughout this film? It seemed these questions are soon considered null and void once they deliver the holy grail of dinosaur battle at the end between the genetically altered white dino and the iconic T-Rex tagging with Owen's raptor. The final battle, if anything, is worth the wait.

All in all, Jurassic World  may not be as groundbreaking as the original Jurassic Park 22 years ago, but it's still a great reboot and it does play several homages to the original, reminding us to go back and watch it, especially for the younger audiences who aren't familiar with the classic. Acting wise, the characters throughout this film are mostly likeable. Chris Pratt steals the show by giving us his bad-ass coolness as well as smart-assing personality from Guardians of the Galaxy. The biggest character itself is the actual theme park. We finally get to view the theme park which John Hammond hoped to see, and in essence, it became its own character. Despite some flaws and unnecessary takes, Jurassic World is an impressive, terrific, exciting, and fun sequel that will probably having you jumping out of your seat if you were not already swooped up and eaten by a pterosaur.

Jurassic Park III (2001)


After seeing this film, I only have one main question: Who's bright idea is it to replace the iconic T-Rex with a spinosaurus? True, the real question should have been a: "Why was this film made?" but frankly, Jurassic Park is a one of those blockbuster franchises, so of course sequels are going to be made.

Out of all four films, Jurassic III is considered to be the worst and is considered as the joke in the franchise that almost everyone wants to forget. I can't blame them. Despite the return of one of the main characters from the original film and a small appearance of the iconic T-Rex, Jurassic Park III seemed to be hitting rock bottom. Unfortunately for us, there is no discovery of a great dinosaur skeletal remains to take in with amazement. The first two films were great and fun to ride along, but by the time you're finishd with the third one, you left feeling underwhelmed. While the story plot is definitely darker and a bit faster in its pace, it's also very dull, lacking that magical atmosphere that you would get from its predecessors.

Sam Neill returns to reprise his role as Dr. Alan Grant. Rather than losing his reputation and his work like Dr. Ian Malcolm in the second film, he is still a world-famous paleontologist for surviving the Isla Nublar incident. However, his experience on that island many years ago has left Grant weary against the creatures he once admired.

When a boy named Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan) went missing after parachuting over Isla Sorna, his parents, Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) frantically hired Dr. Grant to take them "close" to the island, under the pretense of going on an expensive honeymoon trip. Tagging along is Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola), Grant's assistant, as well as a few hired bodies as they are forced to help these two frantic parents. Admittedly, the concept of this story plot is there and has potential as well as the intention on being great, but the end results is quite disastrous. Unlike the first two films, there were a few characters that could care less about, such as the hysterical mother. Yes, people, call me a cold-blooded dinosaur but I actually wished that she would get eaten just so that she could shut the hell up after thirty-minutes in. Even I didn't wish any of the villains from the previous film to die this way.

There is a line somewhere in this film spoken by Dr. Alan Grant that practically highlights what Jurassic Park III is all about: "For best intention? Some of the worst things imaginable has been done with best intentions!" Jurassic Park III was intentionally made to entertain us, but instead, it delivers something duller than dull. While the spinosaurus is considered a dangerous carnivour, having it as a replacement for the T-Rex seemed to be an insult here, and even worse, having it kill the mighty king in a lame fight scene is just another insult to injury. But all in all, Jurassic Park III is still not the worst film to date, counting its luck. It may lack the awe-inspiring magical touch in the first two films, but it was a good attempt to make a decent thrill ride.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)


I don't get why some people and critics find this film to be a recycled version of the original, and frankly, I don't care. I like it a lot and find it enjoyable and fun to watch as much as the first film, if not more. While it's not as epic and groundbreaking as its predecessor, there were still several things to enjoy about it. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (perhaps one of the few films were the series title comes after the film story title), released in 1997, was one of Steven Spielberg's follow-ups to his Academy Award winning film, Schindler's List. Spielberg did confessed that during this film's production, he did felt disenchanted by it, but still it came out as a great "monster" film and that's saying something especially when you're trying to compare it to other lesser filmmakers like Michael Bay.

The story, taken place four years after Jurassic Park, now focused on the wisecracking mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm with actor Jeff Goldblum reprising his role. It's actually a very nice change, considering the fact that his character was practically taken out of commission after he injured his leg in the first film, reducing him to being a sideline character as the others scrambled to defend themselves against a T-Rex and several hungry raptors. Now, taking the spotlight, Dr. Malcolm returns to this crazy island in hopes of preventing his girlfriend, Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) from becoming dino-chow. Tagging along is his daughter from a previously failed marriage, Kelly Malcolm (Vanessa Lee Chester) who could kick a raptor out the door with her gymnastic skill.

After what happened in the first film, the park's former CEO and creator, James Hammond (played by the late Richard Attenborough), hoped to leave his island island as a lost world where the dinosaurs may live their lives in peace and away from human contact. Yet, it's revealed that there is a second island where the dinosaurs were originally engineered before being moved to the park's island. Apparently, making a dinosaur park is his big mistake in Jurassic Park, but sending in people to document these wild creatures in their natural habitat is a new mistake. While his intentions are good, there's a huge difference between documenting nature films about tigers and lions from T-Rex and raptors.

Originally, it seemed that the late author Michael Crichton's The Lost World was specifically written so that it could be turned into a sequel film. Critics hoped that Spielberg wouldn't treat it as a crowd-pleasing project, but that's what happened and they weren't happy about the ending result, or at least most of them. It's a shame since The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a really fun film that expands its focus on a minor character from the first film. Not only is he shoved into the spotlight, but is given both of Sam Neill's character's role as survivor and surrogate father in a dangerous world, without some of the drippiness, of course. All in all, The Lost WorldL Jurassic Park is a monster film, full of intense chasing and surviving scene as these titans are deciding which puny humans (and a few cute animals) will become dino-dinner. There's seemed to be a lot more brutality in how they eat their victims this time, especially when you have two parents T-Rex tearing a guy in halves. Goes to show you that Spielberg isn't shy to show these gruesome scenes in any of his films when needed to be, and with the improvement in the special effects of the dinosaurs, it makes it all more scary and fun to watch. So "hang on to your butts" people, because this sequel is one fun and bumpy ride.

Jurassic Park (1993)


Looking back at the first Jurassic Park  film, some of the tech may seemed outdated to today's technology, especially when you're trying to compare it to the latest Jurassic World. However, many of us are still astonished at the extent of the then-technology, using both computer generated and animatronics, to make these dinosaurs so real and life liked. Some of my most favorite scenes include the part where a T-Rex almost ate the two children while they were in their tour jeep. The children are screaming at the sight of this titanic, carnivorous reptile with nothing more than the jeep's skylight glass pane to protect them from becoming its dinner. Surely Steven Spielberg will have no problem getting his actors to scream and looked as frightened as possible with that thing in your face. I know it's just an anamatronic T-Rex head, but the sheer size of it in your face (and the part where it unintentionally broke a piece of the glass pane) does make it feel all too real. I'll admit that I still feel nervous while going on the Jurassic Park Ride at Universal Studio. The near ending part of the ride is where there is a giant anamatronic T-Rex head over your head and in your face before the boat plunges about 180 feet down always make me feel like one of those two kids in the film.

The story is based on a book of the same title by the late Michael Crichton, and the film surprisingly seems to stand out more than the original book. (This seemed to be a trend after Spielberg's Jaw adaptation.) After so many years, it seems to be able to stand the test of time as many people still remember how biblical of a giant it is. We remember it's legacy, it's pacing, dialogues, and character buildings, and its dinosaurs!

Jurassic Park is about the power of nature and the consequences of man's sin in trying to become gods. The dinosaurs and us humans were separated by a differences of millions years for a reason. Throw in these reptilian titans into our world for our entertainment when they're naturally engineered to follow their ancient instinct to hunt and kill for food isn't going to end well. Eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has built zoos and other types of resorts and exhibits for the world to enjoy. Now he decided to place himself above god's level by turning his own island into a theme park with real dinosaurs! He had his scientists and dinosaur experts extract dinosaurs' DNA in mosquitoes that have been fossilized in amber. As one of the mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) stated, "The lack of humility in the face of nature is astonishing!" Spielberg does well by showing us how amazing the idea of creating a Jurassic Park is and treating it like Disneyland would rake in more money and raving reviews. But his film is to show us the consequences when you're pushing things too far, especially when you're upsetting the balance of nature. Hammond and his scientists think that they can control the dinosaur population by only breeding female dinosaurs. But unfortunately for them, "Nature finds a way!"

After an accident with a worker who was severely injured, Hammond brought in Malcolm and two other palaeontologists, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), hoping that their love for dinosaurs and astonishment would endorse his park to the world. These two are the characters to root for as they not only try to survive this island, but must ensure the safety of each other and Hammond's grandchildren, who not only helped the plot when it comes to surviving and outwitting the raptors, but they proves to be good for Alan Grant in teaching him to love and care for children as if they were his own.

Jurassic Park is a film that stands the test of time as it helps cultivate our love and fascinations for dinosaurs. While these giant lizards may be extincted for millions of years, the first of the Jurassic Park franchise reminds us that they still live forever in our imagination. These are powerful and clever beasts and in this film, they'll show us that they will not be easily controlled by humans for their personal entertainment! Looking back, Jurassic Park is a great classic that helped to revolutionize film technology as well as story telling. The characters are wonderfully fun to watch, the plot is exciting, the dialogues and musics are memorable, the dinosaurs are still awe inspiring! If your kids have not seen the original Jurassic Park film, you should really make them sit down and watch it!

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)


Pure Evil has never manifested itself like this before in films before The Silence of the Lambs came along. The way Dr. Hannibal Lecter speaks and gets under your skin is not only bone rattling, but painfully true. He's a deranged killer, but very sophisticated as a character that all fears him. Even when he's contained and strapped down with a binding mask, he's still very dangerous with his words to the point that it will hurt you like you've never felt before and I think Anthony Hopkins does that well in his character.

They called him "Hannibal the Cannibal" because he eats his victims and is a the most dangerous mass murderer, yet he's not your typical monster with a mind that you can analyze just because you have a degree is psychology. Rather yet, Hannibal Lecter IS a psychiatrist who knows how your minds and the minds of other psycho-killers worked. He's already locked up in prison behind plexiglass, and the authorities needed his help to catch another dangerous psycho-mass murderer named "Buffalo Bill" (played by Ted Levine). The latter earned this nickname because he skins his female victims and uses their hides to make himself a woman suite. Apparently, he's not qualified enough to register for a sex-change operation and decided to take matters in his own, sick and twisted hands. But Hannibal won't be so easily persuade to help the authorities to catch "Buffalo Bill". Rather, the FBI decided to send in a young trainee named Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). She's like a young bird, but will sending a fledgling like her down that dark hall to the last cell on the left be enough to tame the monster that is in Dr. Lecter?

There is a powerful scene at the beginning of this film where we see the young agent walking towards Hannibal's cell to meet him for the first time. The other crazy inmates hissed and lustfully threw vulgar comments at her. But upon Hannibal's cell, you see him standing perfectly still in the center of the room, his arms at his sides and immediately, there is an air of fear and respect. His resting position gives him the power like a lion looking down on its prey, observing them with keen eyes that can pierce your soul. The way he speaks to Starling is so calm and precise that you feel as if he cannot be bothered to humor the intelligence level of your caliber. But Starling is not just any regular cop that can interrogate and interview you. They have a mutual understanding and respect for each other. Hannibal even joked "People might think that we're in love!" to her. Throughout the film, the detective story of finding a homicidal maniac is enticing! Beyond the hunt and the forensic studies these detectives and officers must go through, there is a deeper connection that is more brutal and it hits at the heart.

The film is based on a series of novels, with one book of the same title by Thomas Harris. The title, "The Silence of the Lambs" refers to Starling's desperate dream after a haunting and nightmarish experience as a child. As an adult, Starling works hard to conceal her real accent and tries to give a more respectable authorities to her peers who are policemen several heads taller than her. But upon meeting Hannibal Lecter, the veil she created is easily ripped apart by his brutal observation. He digs deeper and Starling confessed that after her father was killed, she moved in with distant relatives on a farm. There, she could hear the screaming of the lambs that were being slaughtered. Running away in hopes of saving one, she failed to hear the silence of the lambs. Seeing this, Hannibal Lecter slowly, but surely helped Starling track down "Buffalo Bill" so that her mind could be at peace.

The Silence of the Lambs is basically a Beauty and the Beast story with a mystery and detective flavor mixed into it. Sounds crazy, I know, but here it works. Ted Levine gives a great performance as the psycho killer who skins his victims and shoves a moth larva down their throats. The way he picks his victims and treats them as "its" is very disturbing. Jodie Foster may be the main character in this film, but her steadiness and calm is upstaged by Anthony Hopkins as "Hannibal the Cannibal". His character is a classy, frightening, and a very sophisticated villain. Physically, he'll bite off your ears and eat your tongue if you get too close to him. Mentally, he will toy with your psyche and rip your mind apart with words so sharp that you'll still feel the scar for years. Aside from great performances from these actors, The Silence of the Lambs has a great balance between dialogues, suspense, and absolute horror. If anything, it truly deserves its Oscar wins, including one for Best Picture. In 1991, there were two "Beauty and the Beast" films, one produced by Disney Beauty and the Beast, and one called The Silence of the Lambs. Both films were truly remarkable and deep in its tales, but as the more harrowing and complex of the two, The Silence of the Lambs probably deserves its title as Best Picture of that year.

Rain Man (1988)


It's difficult for teachers to help students who need special educations, such as autism. It's even more difficult for parents or siblings who must live with a person that is born autistic. Being autistic doesn't mean that you're mentally retarded, rather your brain is hardwired differently, which can make you brilliant in that skill, you prefer to arrange things in specific orders of your choosing, and you stick to strict personal schedules and routines as a part of a defense mechanism. Needless to say, people who have autism are quite brilliant in some things we only wished we have, but due to certain aspects and characteristics of this condition, it's very difficult for these people to be able to function in the outside world on their own. But does this mean that you can't have a developing relationship with a person who has autism? That's a difficult question because despite what psychology says, we don't really understand the fullness of what autistic are thinking or how they're truly view the world and us in their lives. That question is sparked with the quote, "I know there has to be somebody inside there!" in the film Rain Man.

Starring Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt, Rain Man is a film that focused on his developing relationship with an estrange brother he never knew he had. Charlie is a man trying to sell expensive cars, but first has to run through some processing issues. He's a driven man, a workaholic, and unhappy despite having an Italian girlfriend (Valeria Golino), and is about to make some more money selling cars. He's on his way to Los Angeles to clear out a current crisis when he suddenly received news of his father's passing. Charlie never got along well with his father ever since he left and has decided to never drop a word of hello. Returning to Cincinnati for the funeral, Charlie discovered that all his father left him were his father's prized 1949 Buick Roadmaster and some rosebushes. The mansion and the $3 million dollars are going to a trust...but who's receive it?!

Charlie discovered that his deceased father left all of his fortune to Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), an older brother he never knew he had! Raymond is an autistic who resides in a special nursing home for those who are handicapped. Being a "high-level" autistic, Raymond must stick to his schedule such as watch television at five and be in bed by eleven. He organizes his books and his baseball card in a very specific order and if anything disturbs these orders or disturb his schedule, he WILL have a meltdown. Yet, despite being unable to function in the outside world on his own, Raymond can calculate square roots and large numbers in a blink of an eye, memorize the phone book, can count 496 toothpicks that has been spilt on the floor in seconds, and even remember the exact dates of specific events, such as the date when his mother died. His mind is quite brilliant in a way, yet Raymond doesn't understand the concept of money nor can he express and comprehend emotions the same way we can.

Furious that he has been denied his share of the inheritance money, Charlie decided to "kidnap" his brother by taking him to L.A. and obtain custody. Yet you don't need Raymond to make it harder, because even if he were to get custody of his brother, he still won't get half of his brother's money. Raymond's antics and autistic mind makes the trip frustratingly more difficult for Charlie as he struggles to get them both to California before he owes his clients a lot of money. Yet, Raymond doesn't want to fly in a plane for fear of plan crashes, demands to have his bed by the window, must have certain foods on certain days of the week, and must wear Macy's underwear.

Rain Man is a film about change and the unchangeable. Charlie, in his selfishness and arrogance, learns something about his brother and himself throughout their long journey across America: Charlie really did remember having a brother, but thought he was his imaginary friend named "Rain Man" who would sing to him whenever he's feeling scared and lonely. Charlie learned how to care for his brother's need and discovered why Raymond was sent away. In discovery a bond with Raymond, Charlie discovered what a selfish jerk and stupid son he was since he left home. As for Raymond, his life is all about sticking to his strict schedule: it has to be unchangeable in many parts, yet by the end of the film, we find that Charlie was able to change at least two things about Raymond.

You must admire Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Raymond. He doesn't pat it down as the cute and sympathetic character that gets on your nerves unintentionally. Rather, he is the straight to the point, unmoving and incomprehensible character that is complex yet simple. He is what he is, even when he has a severe meltdown for fear of plane crashing or hot water and goes into a mantra until all is calmed to him. The film itself is very charming, funny, and intriguing with its basic concept and execution. All in all, it's a film that teaches us a great deal of many things when it comes to caring for those who aren't just autistic, but disabled in other ways. Raymond was able to teach his selfish brother about being more responsible, compassionate, and patient for those in needs of assistance and care like him and to accept them for the way they are. Rain Man teaches us this as a whole.

Amadeus (1984)


We all know who Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was historically: a musical prodigy. Here was a man who was able to write his first concerto at age four and give a spectacular performance to the Austrian royal family at age 6; memorize the entire score after one hearing, and play it back perfectly as well as improve it with his own twist; does not need to make copies of his score sheets after writing down his first draft (because they lack scratch marks and errors); and was known for some of his most famous pieces, including The Magic Flute and the unfinished Requiem. Yet, not many of us knew of another composer, Antonio Salieri. His work and popularity waned to near extinction in the 19th century and didn't regain some modern recognition until the late 20th century, thanks to this film, Amadeus and the play that it was based on.

Mind you, Salieri was a decent composer during his time, but compare to Mozart, he and many others paled in comparison. Was Salieri jealous of Mozart's natural talent for beautiful music? Perhaps...perhaps not. Although there might have been some indications of a rivalry between them thanks to a small incident to determine which composer would tutor the Princess Elizabeth of Wurttemboug (historically, Salieri was the winner, although in this film, the Emperor wanted to give the job to Mozart). Amadeus and the 1979 play that it was based on tells a highly fictionalized concept of Salieri's strong jealousy against the young Mozart. This film doesn't show you the Mozart you think you knew in music class. After seeing his 18th painting, a lot of you would think that he's a sophisticated man, right? Think again when you see this little man chasing woman's skirt with his white-powdered wig slightly tilted, playing and laughing like a child. In this film, Tom Hulce marvelously brought out the fun in his character as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by making him as vulgar, boorish, irreverent as possible. You know like his character every time Mozart does his funny high-pitched laugh!

He is nothing like the paragon of virtue that Antonio Salieri (portrayed by F. Murray Abraham) thought him would be. Salieri is now the well-respected Royal Court Composer to the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones) and a member of 18th-century cultural elite of Vienna, Austria. He thought his life perfect and a reward from God due to his piety. He was loved and liked by all, even tutoring the Emperor Joseph and opera singers, all the while writing and composing several operas. Everything was perfect until Mozart came to Vienna and not only made a mockery of his work, but also kicked him into the shadow while he stood in the limelight. Amadeus is a fun film with great historical characters, yet it's also a tragedy as it tells the demise of not just Mozart (who died at a young age) but also of Antonio Salieri to the point that the world no longer remembers him. Admittedly, Salieri wasn't a great composer, but he was good enough to work with the elites and he can recognize the beautiful work of a genius when he sees one. Yes, Mozart's scores are far more superior, beautiful, and memorable while his paled in comparison. But seeing such great musical talent embodied by God into this little man fills Salieri with hatred, anger, and sadness. It took Salieri an entire night to compose a short welcoming piano piece for Mozart. It took Mozart a minute to rewrite and improve it with such ease. The gift of music came so easily to Mozart and they were so beautiful that upon seeing and hearing them with his own eyes, Salieri's heart is broken.

At the beginning of the film, an elderly Salieri tried to commit suicide and hinted that he killed Mozart because he was jealous of the latter. When a father from a church came to hear his confession, the film moves back in time to an era when he and Mozart were still young men in the city of music. As the elderly Salieri narrates and confessed his story, the film began to observe his life in order to determine whether or not he really did murder Mozart out of spite and jealousy. At first, it seemed to go that way as Salieri recounted all the hatred and bitterness boiling in his heart. So much to the point that we would see him cleverly manipulate people and the situation in order to ensure Mozart's misfortune. His greatest triumph would be tricking the sick and dying Mozart into composing his famous Requiem and plagiarize it as his own once Mozart was dead. Of course this plan failed when Mozart died before he could finish it and is buried in an unknown mass grave.

By the end of the film, you feel nothing but sadness and pity for both men. Mozart may had been condescending and a bit arrogant, but he was young at heart and in the mind and in reality isn't an evil person. His death at a young age is not just tragic for us who would never be able to hear more of his unwritten work, but also for Mozart because his demise was simply cruel and fast. To Salieri, God would rather kill Mozart off than have Salieri share a single ounce of his glory. But it's Salieri that the audience feel for. We can identify with him because we have all had that feeling of jealously and longing when other people's talents surpasses yours, especially in a skill that you're good at. The way F. Murray Abraham portray his character as both the elderly and the young Antonio Salieri truly is remarkable, one that definitely entitles him to winning the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Amadeus is an absolutely spectacular and memorable film that construct its characters, dialogues, settings, acting, and music magnificently. Each scenes is carefully constructed to play well like a music note. Once put together, you have one hell of a magnificent film! It's delightful, fun, tragic, and memorable. Mozart's work may still be remembered for centuries to come, but it's thanks to this film and the play that it was based on brought Antonio Salieri back into recognition.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


I think there were times when we really did enjoy reading those required literature books in our high schools' English classes. Personally for me, One Flew Over the Cuckcoo's Nest by Ken Kesey was one of them. Like The Godfather or Jaws, it's not difficult to believe that its film adaptation would become a sensation as well as one of the greatest classical motion pictures in film history. Film is after all another media form where many people express themselves or voice their defiance against a corrupted systems by portraying their thoughts and feelings. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is perhaps that kind of film in which its main characters, R.P. McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson) does several things that may leave viewers puzzled. R.P. is a convict who just transferred to a mental institute by choice. But based on the way he carries himself about in just a positive manners at times, it's hard to believe that he really has gone insane, despite his insistence on it. Then what is he thinking, trying to get himself transferred to a mental prison? Is he looking for some new ways to defy the system or has he forsaken the fact that his freedom is lost? It's a mystery in the film as it was in the novel.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of three films that have won all five of the top Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor for Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, Best Director for Milos Forman and Best Screenplay for Lawerence Hauben and Bo Goldman. (The other two films that won these five main awards? It Happened One Night and Silence of the Lamb.)

This film isn't about insanity and other mental illnesses. Rather it's about this one man who left a huge impact on the inmates, but not without some dire consequences in the end. Some mental patients are there by choice, others not so much, and one, such as little Billy (Brad Dourif) is there as a favor due to his parents being friends with the institute head nurse. There is also a big inmate of Native American heritage called The Chief (Will Sampson). Yet the Chief doesn't speak, leaving all but R.P. McMurphy to think that he's mute. The mental institute is run by a strict and respectable woman called Nurse Ratched who would do her best to enforce the rules and protocols and does not take lightly in the fact that McMurphy seems to be trying to invoke the concept of anarchy in her lawful system. However, McMurphy is more democratic as he takes his fellow patients and judges them based on face value. He thinks and suggests that their illnesses are choices that can be reverse, encouraging them to take charge by demanding to watch the games, go on a fishing field trip, and getting them to party and let loose with girls (that he snuck in). He's encouraging his fellow patients to stand up to Nurse Ratched, a woman who embodies the meaning of authority. In reality, she's not a bad person, but merely a woman who was taught to be feared and respected, putting frivolous desires such as sexuality aside for duty and responsibility.

Eventually, McMurphy's strong personality and eccentric characteristic got to the rest of the patients, encouraging Billy to speak without stuttering and the Chief to break out from his silence and speak. Yet sadly, for all of his talk about taking action and control, everything goes wrong when Billy committed suicide which later lead to McMurphy's downfall as the system lobotomized him for his attempt to strangle Ratched. The ending is tragic, but McMurphy's legacy survives when the Chief took it upon himself to end him and escape, giving hope to the other patients.

One Flew Over the Cuckcoo's Nest continues to be a great film even to this day, withstanding time with its great cast of performers and great adapted screenplay. Through and through, it continues to do the novel justice.

Gandhi (1982)


There is a great deal of things to describe Mohandas K. Gandhi, the pacifist leader of India's non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement fighting for independence from Great Britain in the mid-20th century, but this one man's entire life cannot be told in a single cinematic story. This film does not and could not film the entire scope of Gandhi's life campaign and briefly made a statement of this at the beginning of the film. Yet despite this, Gandhi is a film that marvelously depicts this one man's effort to promote independence and respect without the means of violence.

This film was produced and made by the late Sir Richard Attenborough (some of you might recognized him as the older brother of the famous naturalist David Attenborough). Throughout watching this film, we saw nothing but an attempt to pay tribute and respect to Gandhi. Through Attenborough's directing and guidance, Gandhi shows a lot of labor of love and effort, showing some of Gandhi's greatest achievements and not shying away from the brutality and violence deaths of those who protested.

The film began on the day of Gandhi's assassination where he was shot and killed by a visitor before depicting his funeral. The film then jumps back many years in South Africa, where a young Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) is kicked off of a train for riding first class because of his skin color. Seeing the injustice in this, Gandhi decided to promote equality and full citizenship for Indians living in South Africa through non-violent and non-cooperative way. His ideal and action is very naive, but through firmness and a strong determination to never strike back against his attackers, Gandhi paved the way the future of a series of campaign that would become iconic and historical.

With his success in South Africa, Gandhi returns to India and found himself reveled and respected by many and is seen as a national hero. Yet his work is not over as Gandhi found himself trying to promote a series of campaign to fight for India's independence, all the while trying to emphasize the concept of a non-violent and peaceful way of protesting. As with each non-violent (and some violent consequences) protest, the news of a little man in a loincloth that he made himself marvels the world. Gandhi sees that his own people are being forced to live as second-class citizens in their own country ruled by British, who they believed, is in their divine rights to do so via a belief called "the white man's burdan". There is a scene where his followers willingly marched towards a group of guards who would beat them without quarter all the while without raising a fist to defend themselves. The scene is brutally shattering, but Gandhi and his people believed in what they do is right. Yet even when they have finally gained independence from the British Empire, true peace is not over as Gandhi weeps in the fact that the new modern India is fiercely divided by Hindus and Muslims, escalating into a series of bloodbath. Gandhi looks on sadly as he tries to implore to the world to stop the violence by fasting, all the while saying, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, delivers an exceptional and breathtaking performance as he dons a piece of fabric around himself, walking about like a little guru, but speak full of wisdom. Other cast members, such as Trevor Howard, John Mills, and John Gielgud, should also be commended for their performances.

Gandhi isn't a simple film about good and justice triumphant over evil. Rather it is a complex historical story full of violence, madness, and chaos being done and the endurance to fight it all with peaceful concepts. Gandi weeps when the country is torn apart by civil unrest and does die tragically at the hands of a conspirator whom is angered by Gandhi's approach. Gandhi is a film that is worth watching even after all of these years and should continue to be watched by generations whom have only heard of this little man in loincloth through their history books.

Previously on W.I.T.C.H. Dreams of Lusteria
Orube and the Guardians arrived in the Northern Water Kingdom of Joseon and chased after Kimi, hoping to stop her from walking down the dark path of revenge before it's too late. However, their journey across the frozen moor is interrupted by Kimi's cousins, Kiyomi and Kazumi Kinomoto, whom had been brainwashed and influenced by Xuan Wu's deadly spell. They're convinced that the Guardians must be stopped! As if that wasn't enough, they're attacked by both Zhu Que and Xuan Wu! Is Will's new Power Girl transformation powerful enough to withstand their might, or will Xuan Wu succeed in destroying them?

:bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:W.I.T.C.H. Dreams of Lusteria, Chapter Six Pt I "Reflection of Pain":bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:

In this chapter, Hay Lin put Cornelia into question for forsaking Kimi's life to the wicked Xuan Wu. Meanwhile, Kimi is a prisoner of Xuan Wu and has been put on ice. Xuan Wu is planning something grand for the other Guardians should they return to save her. But the Guardians are not the only ones experiencing some form of tensions in their group as Xuan Wu found herself on thin ice with Zhu Que watching her every move. Meanwhile, Cornelia is conflicted: is she too blinded by her frustration and anger towards Kimi to the point that she would now let her be condemned to a horrible fate? Like Will, Cornelia finds herself before the equivocal masked figure in a dream as he helps her reflect on her pain.…

:bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:Guardians, Unite!:bulletpink::bulletblue::bulletorange::bulletgreen::bulletpurple:


WITCH: Dreams of Lusteria: The New Guardians by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: Brave New World by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: To Have and to Hold Back by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: A Wall of Earth and Iron by Galistar07waterWITCH Dreams of Lusteria: A Heart of Ice by Galistar07water

Feedback and reviews (on the story's site) are highly appreciated
The Godfather: Part II (1974)


Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part I in 1972 was and still is a masterpiece itself. Beautifully depicting the path that elevated the young Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) into the position of a don. Being a don is a position that Michael wanted to avoid, rather being a military war hero with a wife than the head of a murderous criminal organization. Yet when his family members were being targeted, Michael has a change of heart and decided to follow in the bloody path, eventually finding himself to become the next don after his father's passing.

The Godfather Part II is a dramatic, dark, and beautiful continuity of Michael Corleone's life as the new Godfather. Before, he was just a young man who wanted to be different than his brothers and his father. Now he finds himself trying to live up to his father's reputation as he orders his men to kill those whom he find unworthy in the grand scheme of things. Yet, clearly we see a difference between Michael and his father as they both rise to being the head of a family of classy criminals. The film may centered on Michael's current life, but there are various flashbacks of his father, Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro). Vito was a boy who escaped to American as another Italian immigrant when his parents were murdered by a cruel crime boss in Sicily. The film depicted Vito as a timid boy and despite his calm and mature nature, he never forgot what happened to his parents, nor did he forgive. As he grew up to be a man, Vito decided to take action against another powerful crime boss and soon found himself being favored and loved by those who feared the dead one. Here is the beginning of Vito Corleone's story in becoming the don that we will know.

In the present, Michael is attempting to reign in control and fill in his father's shoes. Throughout the film, we finally saw the difference between Vito and Michael when they're both dons of their time: despite both men orchestrating series of calculated murders, Vito was the more compassionate man who had honor and value. He was respected by his enemies and loved by his families. Yet as Michael tries to live up to his father's level, we see that he became less like his father. The man has lost sight of what's important the most in the world and the value his father had taught him. His enemies, allies, and even his own family members soon found themselves fearing and even hating him. For all of his cruelty, Don Michael Corleone has become a more evil man than we ever thought he could be (If ordering his last remaining blood brother's execution is any indication).

We all know that killing and murdering other people is a terrible thing, but we cannot deny the fact that both of Coppola's first two The Godfather films are must-see classics. Coppola is rightfully deemed as one of Hollywood's best directors. Here in The Godfather Part II, he and his crew continue the story with powerful dialogues, giving us excellent actors with outstanding performances, and two stories of different generations that is both gripping and unimaginable. This is a film that engaged the audience with their emotions and their minds. As both Vito and Michael make their decisions and handling the situations as crime bosses, we can't help but be fearful for the things that might and will go wrong. And it does. While the spotlight feels stronger on Vito, the entire film's real focus is on his son, Michael. We must remember that he was a young and proud college and military boy. But how he's the target. Despite his wife leaving him and even accusing his adopted brother Tom Hagen (Duvall), Michael doesn't lose face. Paranoia is what keeping him alive, but it's driving those that loved him away. His only confidant is his elderly mother, but even that's not enough as his desperation encapsulate the man he's now become.

The Godfather Part II is a sad film about Michael's decline, yet strangely, we don't feel as much remorse for him as we do for his father. True, Vito Corleone did kill and murder people when he was the don, but there is a kinder and more loving atmosphere around him than it is around his son. Vito was wiser, more diplomatic, and respectful. When he died playing with his grandson in the tomato garden, we weep on the inside deeply for him. When he died, an era of classy gangsters died with him. As his son's era is diminishing, we don't really feel any remorse for him. One could only suspect that unlike his father, Michael Corleone's end will be nothing short but sad and very lonely.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)


There is a scene in this film where Thor dares his fellow Avengers to try and lift his hammer. When they couldn't, Tony Stark thinks that the reason for this is because it's an advance form of Asgardian technology in which the hammer only activates to Thor's genetic fingerprints. Thor replied perhaps so, or there is another, more simpler reason: "You're NOT worthy!" I think in the comics, Black Widow could do it because she's a woman, not a mortal man...but I'm not certain since my knowledge of Marvel's Avengers isn't as extended as DC Comic's Justice League. Yet, I have to wonder if Thor's statement is also aimed at DC Comics, implying that their continuing universal film(s) are perhaps not as worthy as Marvel's. The audience and I may have applauded enthusiastically when they showed the teaser trailer for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice before the start of the film, but after sitting through the entire "epic-ness" of Age of Ultron, I'm starting to wonder if the former would be as worthy. DC Comics, I love you, but your Superman and his friends better be worthy enough to even lift up Thor's hammer next year.

Throughout this film, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) seemed to like singing the Disney's song "I Got No Strings" from Pinocchio in a very creepy way as a cynical metaphor of his freedom. As a matter of fact, that's what Age of Ultron culminated into. This franchise of Marvels started seven years ago with mostly individual films of each heroes. They are all connected to each other into strings of story lines, full of tit bits of clues and often we, as the audiences, don't notice it until they finally come together into an Avengers' film. The scepter that Loki possessed in the first Avengers film is now in the hands of a homicidal android, hell bent on destroying humanity. The purple Infinity Stone that was seen in Guardians of the Galaxy isn't the only one as there's a yellow one hidden somewhere in this film. And S.H.I.E.L.D. is still trying to recover itself to what it used to be.

Going into this film, you should have a high expectation, but don't expect it to be a smooth ride. Aside from the return of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), we have a few new members joining this roster including twins Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who oddly enough, aren't really portrayed as mutants, but volunteered orphans to get superpowers, hoping to get revenge against Iron Man for one of his warheads destroying their home. They teamed up with Ultron and proved to be very worthy adversaries for our heroes to the point that Scarlet Witch's hallucination spells invoked an epic battle between the Hulk and Iron Man in a bigger, bulkier Iron Man suit. After they let Tony Stark take back the scepter, he and Dr. Banner, aka the Hulk's true form, decided to integrate parts of its mind into Stark's Project Ultron, hoping that creating a more sophisticated A.I. inside an Iron Man suit would enable a more peaceful world so that the real heroes can retire to a peaceful life. But Ultron, like many typical monster machine, is robotic creature that believes humans and the Avengers ARE what constitute as a legit threat, and thus should be destroyed. But he's not your common rogue A.I. that would spout "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't let you do that" phrase. Rather's he's Tony Stark's darker side, a sadistic, psychotic mech who sees himself as a deity of all machines, all the while swatting insects for sport and flaring the same smart-ass lines that Tony Stark would say. Unlike J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced and portrayed by Paul Bettany as Vision), Iron Man's more compassionate, A.I. butler and friend that you would love to have around the house, Ultron's the kind that you really should stay away from (or have Magneto come in and rip him apart).

Ultron is the symbol of our trust in technology going bad, while the banters between Iron Man and Captain America upon the decision in his creation is more political. Iron Man is like a post 9/11 survivor and is still haunted by what happened to him in New York back in the first Avengers film. He believes that trying to create something that can and would protect humanity should the Avengers not be able to is ideal and just and that he doesn't need to share it with the rest of the team. Captain America doesn't take this news too kindly, citing on based upon what he has seen from WWII and the present, is the fact that "every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, people die!"

As interesting and fun the dialogues and the actions were, I still found some parts dull and disappointing. For instance, I never really got the romantic-implications between Black Widow and Dr. Banner throughout this film. I suppose they're trying to portray it more like a romance between King Kong and his gentle lady, but it's a little bit empty in comparison. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the final battle of the Avengers against an army of Ultrons onto a floating city, I was fairly disappointed in not seeing more of Falcon and War Machine!

I understand that there are those who would review this film more negatively, but if Age of Ultron was a disappointment, it's a pretty good one. For all of its imperfection, I find myself enjoying it very much and perhaps more than the first Avengers film. Sure, the concept of your robot creation turning into a homicidal killer isn't new, but the way they portrayed it here in this film still feels so personal and fresh. This film has a lot of humors that hit it their marks well and it balanced out with the actions. The special effects on Ultron and his robotic armies are amazing. It's all mechanical, but the design is more personal, intimidating, fresh, and organic compared to the Cybertronians from Transformers. The portrayals of the heroes were more well played. Characters such as Iron Man and Captain America are still top favorites, but this time, Thor and the Hulk weren't seen as clunky as they were before. Here, they seemed to be more well balanced out, each with some sort of emotional and moral trauma they must face. As Captain America said, "We'll do it together!"

Watch and learn, DC Comics. You have a lot of expectations to meet if you ever want your future members of the Justice League to be as worthy on the big screen as the Avengers are now.
Last Days in Vietnam (2014)


Riveting and marvelous, director Rory Kennedy reveals to us images and interviews about the final days of the Vietnam War unknown to us until now. As the 40th Anniversary of the fall of Saigon draws near, Last Days in Vietnam reveals to us what we have lost in the final days of the war: our honor and our sense of dignity. There are many Americans who believed that they have been forgiven for abandoning those left behind in this war, however this film proves that they and the world will never forget.

Since I was a child, my father would tell me about the Fall of Saigon and his experiences during the war every year around April 30th, a date that marks the end of democracy in Southern Vietnam when the Viet Cong took over southern capital. My father was still a teenager at that time, and children growing up in a third-world country during war time were forced to mature faster, shedding any layers of childhood innocence that we all experienced with. My father told that that as the Viet Cong drew closer to the capital in late April of 1975, everyone felt that it was Armageddon, and indeed it was as many US military members scrambled to evacuate as many desperate Vietnamese refugees out as fast as possible. My late grandfather worked for the Southern Republic of Vietnam but he and my grandmother were originally from the north before they decided to move to the south to start a new life. Therefore, anyone like him was deemed a traitor by the Viet Cong and those that knew it beforehand would try their best to get out of the country before it was too late.

It's amazing how much Last Days in Vietnam reveals to us historical footage and other facts that seemed very unfamiliar to us. For younger audiences and those still in schools, this is natural as the war was unrelated to them and its just another event that happened in their textbooks. However, it's different for those who did grew up during the war. The Vietnam War became unpopular at home in America as citizens demand troops withdrawals, boycotting drafts, and looking down at those involved with said war with disdain. The collapse of South Vietnam was so abrupt, swift, and chaotic that it people back home in America saw it nothing more than incoherent spasm on the news. The war in a far-away country became unpopular and Americans feel certain levels of hate and bitterness for it to the point that they choose to turn their backs away, and thus, ensure the demise in a country.

The film starts off in 1973, when President Nixon was still in office. His administration and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger just finished negotiating the Paris Peace Accords, hoping to bring the war in Vietnam to a peaceful end. The objection was to keep North and South apart like Korea, and while this was being established, US troops were slowing being withdrew out of the nation. There is a misconception that once the Americans were gone, the Southern Viets were on their own until the end. That is not true for there were still several thousands Americans in Saigon and they could not leave their Vietnamese friends and families behind. The Paris Peace Accords was supposed to mark "peace with honor" but in reality, it's really just a piece of paper full of ambiguity. The North were too afraid of Nixon because to them, he was bat-shit crazy enough to bring back the US troops into their nation if they dare break the agreement. However, when news broke out of Nixon's resignation because of the Watergate Scandal, the Viet Cong saw their chances to march towards the southern capital and took it. The risk they took shows assurance as the Ford Administration shows no sign of bring back the troops.

President Gerald Ford and his administration may not have brought back the troops in this country, but he had tried to get Congress to vote on a measly sum of $722 millions in order to help out their former partners. But this moment in time was nothing more than the "final agony of South Vietnam" and the legislature shamefully did not agree to pass. Those Americans who were still in Vietnam felt that they could not abandon their Vietnamese friends and families that they have grown to know to the oncoming Viet Cong. Here, the film shows a number of low-leveled Americans helping their Vietnamese friends escape. Helicopters was not a desirable way to transport these people out, but with only a 24-hour-time limit until the enemies knock down their doors, it was their only options. Last Days in Vietnam then began to show how frantic the evacuations became as hundreds of people scrambled into the US Embassy, hoping to hope on a helicopter that would take them out to a waiting US carrier ships in the ocean. Some previous pilots became so desperate that they would squeeze their family into a tight airplane and flew out towards these carriers. A helicopter was sent to take US Ambassador Graham out first, but he refused, insisting on staying behind to help oversee the evacuations. The Americans promised the Vietnamese at the Embassy that they would all be airlifted out, yet they regrettably had to leave behind hundreds of them.

It's astonishing to see how much documented newsreels there were during the last few days in Vietnam. As I watched scenes of US carriers bombarded with waves of incoming helicopters dropping off refugees, it got more overwhelmingly crowded, forcing the US sailors to push the several million dollars choppers into the ocean just to make room. It's just as surreal and exciting as the escaping scenes from the film Argo, which goes to show you that real life documentaries can be just as intimidating to watch.

Director Rory Kennedy was born after her father, Senator Robert Kennedy and her uncle, President John F. Kennedy were assassinated. Yet their deaths and legacies related to Rory consciously as she devoted herself into making films center on certain issues. Last Days in Vietnam is no different as Kennedy portrayed it as a two-sided story: one that shows us of the final days in Vietnam, filled with real-life dramatic stories of the frantic and chaotic evacuations in Saigon and the other address how similar the Americans' withdrawals in Vietnam is eerily similar to our withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan today. Kennedy gave us an amazing document that is an eye-opener on our past roles in the Vietnam War, all the while she doesn't note her families' connection to it.

When I went to watch this film, most of the people in the audience with me were Vietnamese refugees and war veteran. Seeing this film was a closure for them and as the 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon drew near, it shows that my parents' and grandparents' generations will never forget their lost nations. While my generation and the next might not have a stronger attachment, but we do view it as a part of our history. In truth, the lost of democracy in Vietnam wasn't without some happy endings for many of those who did flee their homelands like my families, were able to make a new life in a new country and paving the way for a brighter future.
Home (2015)


To me, DreamWorks' Turbo was like a watery knockoff of better Disney films such as Ratatouille and Cars. When DreamWorks released their latest (and perhaps only) animated film of 2015, I find it almost as disappointing as Disney's Lilo and Stitch was better. Home may be cute and colorful looking, but underneath all of that cuteness is a lot of layers of boredom. I find myself wanting to snooze after the first twenty minutes into the storyline. There is such a thing as too touchy-feelings and overdoing the melodramatic scenes. I fail to understand the need to play some songs by Rihanna, especially when the main character is thought to be crushed under another alien's ship while his human friend crying out for him in anguish. It feels like they're trying too hard to force tears to come out of my eyes. Rather than crying about this so-called "touchy" scene, I find myself blinking and dozing away, all the while laughing at the excessive melodrama.

The entire film of Home is kinda like that: putting too much emphasis on the comedy, the character developments, the sappy backgrounds, and the "touchy" scenes. Yet in the end, the result is as bland and empty as this entire story. Really? I should be laughing harder with Steve Martin as one of the funny aliens? Yet, I can't enjoy the comedy as much as I would have liked due to the handling of the story being too distracting. Unlike the teaser trailer where we see an alien species trying their best to find a good home to run away to and start anew, the film opened right into the part where the Boov have already found their perfect home on planet Earth, forcibly relocated the humans to Australia, and moved into their already established homes.

The setting is all too similar to Lilo and Stitch as you have Tip (voiced by Rihanna), an outcast seventh grader, who managed to evade capture and relocation by the Boovs as she goes on a mission to find her mother (Jennifer Lopez). Tip encounters another Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons) who's now branded a fugitive and on the run from his own kind because he accidentally sent a party invitation to everyone, including their sworn enemy, to where they're living now. Oh's constantly sprinkles in "do not"s and "cannot"s words in his alien-accent speech is going to become very distracting as the film continues to show us their journey across the world. Oh made a deal with Tip that he'll help her find her mother in exchange for a ride away from the authorities. In reality, he only wants to reach the South Pole and be with cute penguins and not live as a fugitive anymore, even if he has to turn Tip's car into a flying one that's powered by convenient store's slurpies and bubbles to do it. For a bunch of cowards and running away from their problems, these Boovs are admittedly good at technology without using it too mechanically in a cold way. And speaking of penguins in the South Pole, where are those Penguins of Madagascar when you needed them?

I would like to know more about Oh and Tip's background. Instead, I constantly have to watch them arguing loudly as they messed up Paris, New York, Paris, and traveling across the Atlantic Ocean. I have never seen such a silly film with silly characters. I understand that the aliens can manipulate gravities, but they're not that terrifying to humans! Tip clearly showed this by turning the Eiffel Tower upside down so why don't the rest of the human race rebel and fight back for their planets? Have they not seen War of the World? When did they became so spineless against a bunch of shorter purple aliens who thinks that paintings and footballs are food?

All in all, Home is a dull, boring film that lacks the same charm that we saw in Lilo and Stitch as well as previous DreamWorks' films. If anything, I would consider Home to be one of their least interesting films to date. After How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Penguins of Madagascar, I was expecting something with more pop and cleverness. It's also very sad to say that Home is perhaps DreamWorks' only animated feature film to be released this year. We are forced to wait until 2016 to see their next one, Kung Fu Panda 3, which sounds a hundred time more promising. It's too bad that it's a year away. For what it's worth, Home is an innocent film enough with a few jokes that did hit.
Penguins of Madagascar (2014)


Penguins are undeniably one of the cutest animals in the world, if not the cutest. The four cute and cuddly little fellows that we all knew since the first Madagascar film made it quite clear that they are more than just adorable, flightless penguins: they're secret agent spies. However, after three adventures and their own animated television show, it's quite clear that their little game of secret spies is just that: a game. While it's true that they got some mad skills in knocking out people and hijacking their rides, we're starting to think that it's all just dumb luck on their parts. Now that DreamWorks have given them their very own movie, with an equally fitting title of Penguins of Madagascar, we can finally see how much bumbling these little fellas are. Yet despite all of it, they're still the cute, fun, and attention screen-grabbing penguins that we all know and love.

Penguins of Madagascar is a zany, hilarious ride of a roller coaster. Our four lovable penguins may fancy themselves as super spies since they were wee little chicks rescuing an egg down in Antarctica, but when the film introduced a new villain, a new world threat, and a new team of (legit) super spies, we're realizing that the penguins are pretty overconfident and inept in what they do. But despite all of it, they somehow managed to use their wits and skills to wiggle out of trouble and save the day. Penguins of Madagscar is both an origin story as well as a spin-off on said penguins all in one package. It starts off like with a documentary scene of thousands of penguins marching on without any question. It seemed like something out of March of the Penguins, but then three little chicks decided to break out of their natural instinct to waddle and look cute by saving one little egg. This little egg would hatch into their fourth member, Private. From there, Skipper (Tom McGrath) the leader, Kowalski the brain (Chris Miller), Rico the insane (Conrad Vernon), and Private (Christopher Knights) the adorable, are inseparable. They are placed in a zoo in New York where they began their adventure from the first Madagascar film. A few years later, it picks up where the third Madagscar film left off. We don't see the other four friends in Marty, Alex, Gloria, and Melman as the penguins blasted themselves away to escape their crazy circus afro song, we do get four more Arctic animals as replacement. Calling themselves the North Wind, the members consisted of Eva (Annet Mahendru), Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), Corporal (Peter Stormare), and ever sharp-tongued Benedict Cumberbatch as Classfied.

Skipper and his brothers are informed that the North Wind are here to save them and all the cute penguins of the world from the evil Dave (John Malkovich), a purple octopus who was thrown out of every zoo in the world because the audience prefer cute, cuddly penguins to his disgusting looks. "I guess some creatures are just born to be loved!" And with that, Dave vow to take his vengeance by kidnapping all of the penguins in the world and turning them into hideous freaks! (Didn't we see something like this once in Despicable Me 2?)Oh, the horror! A world without cute, cuddly, fluffy, adorable, little penguins?! What has this world come to?! It's up to Skipper and his brothers to save their fellow penguins, but only if they're able to prove to Classified and his team that they are worthy spies and not just a much of kids playing around.

Penguins of Madagascar shows us just how awesome Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private are on their own. After all, they always steal our attentions away from Marty, Alex and the rest of the gang, but now it's time to give them their own film and it delivers. The jokes and not just one-fin flipped over as some parts are quite clever and original. The film is zany and fast as the penguins jump and hijacked one plane to the next, all the while trying to catch the dastardly evil Dave with the ever serious, but comical Arctic wolf super spy Classified behind them. It's hard to imagine that Benedict Cumberbatch could voice a fun character as this as he voiced the frightening dragon Smaug from The Hobbit films. Not to mention that he played a Sherlock Holmes in the 21st century in the lovable BBC television series as well as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game! Goes to show you that Cumberbatch is not limited by his skills, but is widely diverse and talented in every way possible! So much so that I had wished they had created a 5th penguin for him to voice in order to join Skipper and the others. Imagine Benedict Cumberbatch as a penguin!

Penguins of Madagascar is a fun, fin-slapping film in the face, but after a few slaps, it may get a little bit thin. But overall, it's a decent attempt to give more spotlights on our favorite penguin spies. If anything, I'll be flipping for more (not talking about the animated television version, of course).
Cinderella (2015)


After seeing what a disappointment Maleficent was, I was unsure of how they would do Cinderella. Needless to say, it was more magical and honestly better than Sleeping Beauty's other side of the story. As the newest in the line of Disney's fairy-tale live action adaptation, Cinderella is a classic fairy tale film filled with stylish 19th century romance, gorgeous and dazzling dresses, and special effects. It's clear on its attempt in being much closer to its 1950's animated version than Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent ever did.

There's no darker theme like they did in last year's Into the Woods, or any girl-empowering messages like they did in Frozen. (You might want to hurry up at the concession stand to watch the Frozen Fever short that plays before the start of this film.) Instead of changing things up too much like they did with Maleficent, director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Aline McKenna and Chris Weitz decided to chose the safer route and go for the more familiar fairy tale with the pumpkin and the glass slippers that we're familiar with when Walt Disney produced said 1950 animated movie... Only difference? There are some slight changes and add-on bonus bits, but not too much to alter it drastically. Instead of Cinderella and Prince Charming falling in love after their very first meeting at the ball, our two love birds are given a little bit more time to get acquainted: the young Prince "Kit" (Richard Madden) ran into Cinderella (Lily James) while hunting one day. He introduced himself as an "apprentice" of a sort who's working at the palace and is very intrigued in the mysterious girl's messages on "having courage and being kind" as well as "just because of what's done doesn't mean that it should be done". She may be a simple country girl, but her messages cuts him deep like glass and soon, the prince can't stop thinking about her (or vice versa).

Hoping to see her again, the prince orchestrated a grand ball, inviting all of the ladies in his small kingdom so that she might show up. With his father, the king (Derek Jacobi), so deathly ill, the prince will have to marry a princess in hopes of making their tiny fictional kingdom more strong, according to the Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgård), that is. I feel like this little extra plot point should have gone deeper and depicted more sinister. Even when we saw the Grand Duck conspiring with the step-mother did it still feel a little bit too tamed for my liking. There is such as thing as playing too safe when it comes to scriptwriting.

The rest of the story, we all know: Cinderella is the orphan girl whose being mistreated as the servant by her wicked step-mother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and idiot step-sisters, Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). She started off as Ella and later earns her "Cinderella" nick-name after sleeping by the hearth cinder ashes for warmth on cold nights. Despite losing her parents and having three slave-drivers as her relatives, Cinderella continued to be as patient and level headed as possible. She sings, she daydreams, and she can talk to animals. When she can't go to the ball to meet her new friend Kit (whom she doesn't know is the Prince), she is helped by her fairy-godmother (Helena Bonham-Carter). As the more alluring version the fairy-godmother, Bonham-Carter's character magically wiped up some coachmen, horses, a driver, a gilded-pumpkin carriage, and a gorgeously dazzling blue dress for the poor girl, complete with glass slippers (courtesy of the world-famous Swarovski crystal and glass company). As usual, the spell will end when the clock strikes twelve at midnight, resulting in Cinderella rushing home and losing a slipper in the process.

Although we all know how this story is going to play out and how it will end, we can't help but be in awe of all of its splendors and visual beauty. Everything from the ball gowns to the make-ups and to the film background setting is gorgeous to look at. Everything else is sadly as transparent as Cinderella's glass slippers. Yes, this Cinderella film does seemed empty, especially for the adults in the audience. I like the idea of the Grand Duke and the step-mother conspiring together, but it feels little too benign to make any real difference. Yes, I did wanted to see more wickedness in this little plot, but the more I think about, I think there is a reason why this film is what it is. These days, I realized that a lot of children aren't familiar with the old Disney classics that we grew up with (seriously, one of my students has never heard of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, let alone Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella!), so this Cinderella is a chance for Disney to introduce them to the classic while satisfying us older generations. More importantly, the director and screenwriters did try to improve the characters' development. Cinderella was a lot more plain and boring in Walt Disney's 1950 version. Here, she and her prince have a little bit more time to fall in love than in the animated film. The step-mother, Lady Tremaine, isn't all black and white in the department of evilness: like Cinderella, she was once beautiful and had a happily ever after and only became jealous of her because she realized that she had just lost her happiness twice when both of her husbands died. Despite the wicked path she now treads on, Cate Blanchett shines the most by carrying herself with grace and class. You can tell that Blanchett relished her role as the villain and her performance is deliciously delightful to watch.

Others playing their roles were wonderfully chosen. Lily James gave Cinderella more life and personality and shows us that she's a capable woman; Richard Madden from Game of Thrones, isn't that mute, empty, and plain-boring Prince Charming in the animated series. Rather, he's a handsome and humbled prince. And the ditzy fairy-godmother can only be portrayed by the Helena Bonham-Carter. And the two bumbling idiot step-sisters? Like their fellow actors, they were comically and wonderfully portrayed by Grainger and and McShera. Unlike the three fairies in Maleficent, these two step-sisters have every right to be klutzy idiots. With them, it feels right, but with said three fairies in Maleficent, it's unbearable.

Despite some lacking aspect of this film, Cinderella is still a very magical film that feels very sincere. There are signs of real effort and compassion put into this and I think it's very brave and kind of Branagh and his crew to give us a film as charming and wonderful as this. Out of all the animated Disney classics adapted into live action, Cinderella is the best one yet. Let's hope that Disney will continue this streak in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast next year in 2016. (Don't mess this one up, Disney! It's my most favorite fairy tale!)