Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Moses and Ramses go head-to-head in Ridley Scott's "Exodus: Gods and Kings"

Moses and Ramses go head-to-head in Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

Exodus: God and Kings is another biblical epic that has gained a lot of controversy before its release. While people debated about the inaccuracies in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, they complained about the casting in Exodus: Gods and Kings. They pointed out that the white actors were cast as the Egyptians, and the black actors were cast as slaves. With that aside, Ridley Scott dedicated the movie to his late brother Tony by making a good-looking epic that follows the Bible more than Noah. However, it’s far from superior.

There’s a feeling of a satire occurring in the movie’s first scenes with John Turturro portraying the Pharaoh Seti prophesying Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) to be there for one another and become leader. Years later, Ramses becomes the new Pharaoh, and brings Moses into exile. Then, Moses begins to plague Egypt by freeing the slaves by crossing the Red Sea. I appreciate how Scott portrays the book of Exodus. He adds a lot of realism by making the ten plagues looks like natural disasters. Featuring miraculous sets, breathtaking action and visuals, and exceptional performances by Bale and Edgerton, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a solid attempt.


Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

J-Law returns as Katniss Everdeen in the latest entry in "The Hunger Games" franchise.

J-Law returns as Katniss Everdeen in the latest entry in “The Hunger Games” franchise.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for…will be coming out next year.

Everyone left the theater speechless after the cliffhanger ending of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. They couldn’t wait to see the franchise unfold with Mockingjay, which is separated into two films. The first part opens with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) living in the bunkers of District 13 after destroying the force field in the Quarter Quell. She is reunited with her mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister Prim (Willow Shields), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Haymitch, and Effie (an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks) There, she meets President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), who convinces her to be the mockingjay, symbolizing the rebellion. She accepts. As President Snow (Donald Sutherland) destroys just about every district of Panem, Katniss must save Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capitol.

For someone who has never read the books, I went into the movies with an open mind. I liked the first Hunger Games despite how shaky the camerawork is. Catching Fire was a slight improvement over the first with a lot of clever ideas and confident direction by Francis Lawrence. With Mockingjay: Part 1, I understand a lot of people would be disappointed that there is not a lot of action in the movie. Yes, it drags at times. However, I appreciated how Lawrence focuses more on the political side of Panem rather than the action around it. That way we would be pumped – albeit impatient – for the grand finale. Leading an all-star cast, Jennifer Lawrence has embraced her role as Katniss Everdeen in an emotional and astute political thriller. Bring on Part 2!


Movie Review: Big Hero 6

The characters of "Big Hero 6"

The characters of “Big Hero 6”

It’s about time I finally see this. Better late than never, am I right?

Big Hero 6 is the first Disney animated film to be based from a series of Marvel comic books. In a futuristic world of San Fransokyo (a hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo), Hiro Hamada, a teenage robotics prodigy, spends most of his time participating in back-alley robot fights. When his older brother Tadashi picks him up, he brings him to a robot lab. There, he meets his friends as well as an inflatable health care robot named Baymax. After a big incident that leaves his brother dead, Hiro and Baymax develop an unlikely bond. An evil super villain begins to attack San Fransokyo. They invite Tadashi’s friends to be a part of his band of superheroes to get rid of him once and for all.

Most Disney animated films intend to have their heart in the right place. Big Hero 6 is no exception. Along with likeable characters (especially Baymax), gorgeous animation, great humor (and perfect timing), and sensational action, this is one of the year’s best animated films.


The Hobbit: Another Long Journey Worth Taking

Peter Jackson walks through the door to film "The Hobbit" trilogy

Peter Jackson walks through the door to film “The Hobbit” trilogy

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit” are the first words in J.R.R. Tolkien’s first Middle-Earth adventure – The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. Published in 1937, it became a milestone in literature. It had adventure, fantasy, humor, and emotion. Sixteen years later, Tolkien published three volumes of The Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King). After his death, his son Christopher published The Silmarillion, which consists of the history of Middle-Earth. Several film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been made, however, the Tolkien family didn’t appreciate them (yes, they didn’t like Peter Jackson’s version).


The Gates of Erebor

After The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) was originally going to be attached to direct the adaptation of The Hobbit, and separate it into two films. Many delays have occurred during pre-production. Del Toro decided to only become the producer and leave the directing to collaborator Peter Jackson. Wanting to expand the Middle-Earth universe, Jackson decided to make the project into a trilogy. While filming since 2011, Jackson made fifteen video blogs featuring the behind-the-scenes of the trilogy starting with the beginning of shooting. Filmed during a period of 266 days, Jackson and his team strike back giving us another great journey. Even though it’s not as phenomenal as The Lord of the Rings, it was great returning to Middle-Earth and seeing the characters that I know and loved (or loved to hate) as well as some new faces.

We start the trilogy with An Unexpected Journey (2012). On the day of his 111th birthday, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) begins to write his book about his first adventure sixty years ago. Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) visits a younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and says “I’m looking for someone to share in adventure.” Bilbo refuses. Gandalf puts a sign – consisting of a letter from the Germanic alphabet – on his door. One night while having his dinner, he gets unexpected visitors at his door. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his company of dwarves: Fili (Dean O’Gorman), Kili (Aidan Turner), Oin (John Callen), Gloin (Peter Hambleton), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Balin (Ken Stott), Bifur (William Kircher), Bofur (James Nesbitt), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Nori (Jed Brophy), and Ori (Adam Brown). They come in to his hobbit hole to have food, drinks, and sing songs.

Once they have settled down, the company talks about the journey to reclaim the Lonely Mountain, or Erebor as it’s called in the trilogy. Earlier in the film during a flashback set many years ago, Erebor has been lost after the dragon Smaug attacked the city of Dale and ended up taking the dwarves’ gold. They come to Bilbo’s house to assign him as the burglar of the

"I'm going on an adventure!"

“I’m going on an adventure!”

quest. Reluctant at first, Bilbo, then, signs the contract and ends up going on the adventure with Gandalf and the gang of dwarves. Along their way, they begins encounter wargs, orcs, trolls, goblins, and an odd wizard named Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) who warns them of a Necromancer in Dol Guldur. In the goblin tunnels, Bilbo takes possession of a magical ring – makinh him disappear whenever he puts in on – from Gollum (Andy Serkis) after playing a game of riddles.

He continues to have it in The Desolation of Smaug (2013), the gang meets with one of the more interesting characters, Beorn (Mikael Persbrant), a “skin-changer” who can transform into a giant bear. He gets advises them about the journey, and tells them his story about being enslaved by the Orcs inside the mountain and expresses his disrespect for Dwarves and his bigger hatred for Orcs. The gang goes through the forests of Mirkwood while Gandalf goes to Dul Guldur to encounter the Necromancer. They fight giant spiders, and come across the Wood-elves led by the children of Thranduil (Lee Pace), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom). The gang gets imprisoned until Bilbo, with the help of the One Ring, helps them escape by floating down a river in barrels, which leads to an exciting action sequence. Then, they enter Lake-town with Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) to pick up their weapons. As Durin’s Day (the last day of Autumn) comes to a close, most of the gang enter the Lonely Mountain (because Kili gets wounded after getting shot in the leg with an arrow at the river). Bilbo is assigned to retrieve the Arkenstone (King Thror’s gem) from Smaug (a scene-stealing performance by Benedict Cumberbatch). He accidentally wakes him up and escapes to Lake-town in The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) – the shortest in the franchise, clocking in at 2 hours and 24 minutes, leaving it up in flames in a breathtaking action scene (what

"I am fire. I am death."

“I am fire. I am death.”

a way to start a finale!), forcing the survivors to flee to Dale for shelter. Meanwhile, Thorin begins to suffer from “dragon sickness”, in which he becomes so obsessed with the gold. As the enemies are coming closer and closer, Thranduil asks if Thorin wants peace or war. “I will have war,” says Thorin as he and his dwarves get prepared to fight to the death in one of the most spectacular battle sequences since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Seeing these movies in theaters are movie-going experiences unlike any other. It was a treat to go back to become enthralled by the Peter Jackson’s passion of New Zealand. He brings back the sense of adventure and fantasy that made J.R.R. Tolkien’s book one of the best of all-time. He starts off the trilogy with a whimsical and humorous adventure, and then transitioning into a dark and powerful finale. At first, I had no idea how Jackson would adapt one book into a trilogy. Despite some of the gratuitous changes, like adding characters that weren’t in the book, like Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), and Legolas. However, Jackson puts enough story lines to make the trilogy stay true to original source material.

In a world where every great filmmaker is relying on CGI, Peter Jackson knows how to use this technology. Of course, there happens to be more CGI than practical effects frequently throughout the trilogy. However, it felt like they are realistic like in The Lord of the Rings. Not to mention the incredible action sequences juxtaposing the parts featuring others in perilous situations. Kudos to Cumberbatch and Serkis, motion-capture has never looked as amazing like ever before.

The theme of courage comes into play in the trilogy. When Bilbo goes on this journey in An Unexpected Journey, Gandalf says, “True courage is not knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one.” Bilbo enters the goblin tunnels to encounter

The Lonely Mountain

The Lonely Mountain

Gollum. They play a game of riddles, takes possession of the One Ring, and is shown the way out. He becomes invisible by putting on the ring, and he is inches away from slaying Gollum with his sword. Bilbo knows better by sparing his life than killing him.

As they go on their journey, the characters have evolved greatly. Thorin becomes the main focus in the trilogy rather than Bilbo. He has lost everything: his homeland and his wealth.

An interesting love connection occurs between Kili and Tauriel. When he is imprisoned in The Desolation of Smaug, they have a conversation about his rune stone as a promise to come back home safely. They become more affectionate toward each other in a beautiful scene when she comes to Lake-town to heel Kili’s wound. “You could not be her,” says Kili, not believing she came all this way for him. “She is far away…far away from me. She walks in starlight in another world. It was just a dream.” In an emotionally powerful scene in The Battle of the Five Armies, Tauriel weeps for Kili after getting killed. “Why does it hurt so much?” asks Tauriel to Thranduil, in tears. “Because it was real,” says Thranduil.

Billy Boyd, who played Pippin in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, wrote a song called “The Last Goodbye” played during the end credits of The Battle of the Five Armies. Reminiscent to Annie Lennox’s “Into the West”, this sweeping tune not only sums up the trilogy, it also sums up the entire franchise. It’s impossible not to get teary-eyed with the theme of the journey coming to an end. When I saw it Friday night, I was the last person to leave the movie theater thinking it’s a great way to end what is easily the best in the trilogy.

Peter Jackson won’t return to make another trilogy set in Middle-Earth. I hope someone who is familiar with the franchise to make a noteworthy version of The Silmarillion.

The Lord of the Rings: A Long Journey Worth Taking

Peter Jackson on the set of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy

Peter Jackson (1961-) was a nine-year-old kid living in Wellington, New Zealand when he saw the original King Kong (1933) for the first time, which he considers his all-time favorite movie. When Kong slipped off the Empire State Building, he cried his head off. From that point on, he was inspired to become a filmmaker. Jackson started making home movies with a super-8mm film camera including his version of King Kong (which he gave up on until 2004). Years later, he became successful making movies that are absolutely disgusting and hilarious that moviegoers can feel their stomachs churning. Some movies include Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles (1989), and Dead Alive a.k.a. Braindead (1992).

The Eye of Sauron

The Eye of Sauron

He went to another territory with 1994’s Heavenly Creatures, the dramatization of the 1950s New Zealand matricide case starring Kate Winslet, and 1996’s The Frighteners, starring Michael J. Fox as a man developing abilities to communicate with the dead. Then, Jackson’s ambitions are put to the test when he started production on the film adaptation of his favorite books (as a teenager), J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Filmed between 1999 and 2000, Peter Jackson and his team have created an epic fantasy that is among my favorites of all-time.

The trilogy begins with The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). In a beautiful prologue, narrated by Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), consisting of the forging of the rings. In the land of Mordor, the dark lord Sauron forged a special ring as a way to conquer Middle-Earth (“One ring to rule them all”). The Elves and Men fight for the ring, and they believed they defeated Sauron. However, his soul is still alive in the ring. Over several centuries, the ring has been passed from Isildur, who refuses to destroy it, then to the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis), then to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). Much to Gollum’s grief, Bilbo goes back to the Shire with the ring.

Sixty years have passed, on his “one-hundred and eleventieth” birthday, Bilbo leaves the ring – that could make a person disappear whenever they put it on – to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). The wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) warns him that Sauron’s forces will come after him if he goes on the quest to destroy the ring. Frodo accepts and goes with his friends Samwise “Sam” Gamgee (Sean Astin), Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan), and Peregrin “Pippin” Took (Billy Boyd). Once they all arrive in Rivendell, populated by

The Argonath in "The Fellowship of the Ring"

The Argonath in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

elves, a council, led by Elrond (Hugo Weaving), takes place on who will take the ring to Mordor. Gandalf, Frodo and his friends join the ranger Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Boromir, the prince of Gondor (Sean Bean), the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). This is where they became the Fellowship of the Ring. Along the way, they encounter various creatures such as the Nazgûl, Orcs, and the Balrog, in which Gandalf fights on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum (“You shall not pass!!), and falls – what the Fellowship believes – to his death.

In The Two Towers (2002), the Fellowship go their separate ways while Sauron’s powers grow stronger. Frodo and Sam decide to go to Mordor, and encounter Gollum, who has been looking for the ring, and becomes their guide. Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin have been captured by the Orcs in Parth Galen and then make companions with Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies), a tree creature known as an Ent, who later plans to attack Isengard. In Rohan, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli try to look for them until they reunite with Gandalf, resurrected as Gandalf the White after defeating the Balrog in the film’s most exciting prologue. amake companions with King Theoden (Bernard Hill), as they plan the battle at Helm’s Deep. The trilogy concludes with The Return of the King (2003), where Sauron sets his eye on the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith. The clan make their way there as they take part of the biggest battle of Middle-Earth.

Peter Jackson shot these movies in his native New Zealand. There is no other place to capture the imaginative locations of  Middle-Earth other than New Zealand. Jackson shows his love by frequently shooting faraway shots in which the characters

The Shire

The Shire

are walking, riding their horses, or taking a rowboat to their location. As the camera moves around, he shows the utter beauty of his homeland as the astounding music by Howard Shore plays in the background. With some of the most breathtaking sets ever shown, we would wish Middle-Earth actually existed. It feels like the audience is getting a warm welcome when the trilogy begins in the Shire. It has such a lively environment that it’s hard not to think of the comforts of home. Same goes to Rivendell (where the elves live).

Every time I watch these movies, it feels like I’m on this adventure the whole time. It’s amazing how much these characters evolve on the quest, like Frodo, who has possession of the ring. In one scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Fellowship is in the mines of Moria. “I wish the ring had never come for me,” says Frodo to Gandalf about the quest. “I wish none of this had happened.”
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them [the Fellowship] to decide,” says Gandalf. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us…Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. That is an encouraging thought.” Gandalf encourages Frodo to make the decision to keep his fate as the ring-bearer. He couldn’t finish the quest without Sam (“I made a promise, Mr. Frodo…’Don’t you leave him, Samwise

"I can't carry it for you. But I can carry you!"

“I can’t carry it for you. But I can carry you!”

Gamgee’ I don’t mean to”). As they are going on the quest by themselves, Frodo starts to change as he comes closer to Mount Doom. He has the feeling of going back home, because the quest is more of an impossible task. In one powerful scene in The Return of the King, Frodo and Sam are on the side of Mount Doom about to destroy the ring. Frodo’s strength is deteriorating, and he’s about to give up. Sam wants him to defeat Sauron once and for all (“I can’t carry it [the Ring] for you, but I can carry you!). That’s why I think Sam is the ideal hero of the quest.

Gandalf is a wizard who could do anything he want. He’s never late, he’s never early, he intends to show up anytime he

wants. He has the ability to telecommunicate with his companions. When he refuses to join Saruman the White (Christopher Lee, playing someone that everyone loves to hate), the wizard who joins forces with Sauron at the tower of Isengard to create armies of Orcs (notably the Uruk-hai), he is trapped on top of his tower. Then, he sets out his butterfly (symbolic for a messenger) to call for the Eagles, and meet up with his companions. Gandalf is like a Christ-figure. After defeating the Balrog into the abyss in the exciting opening in The Two Towers, he becomes resurrected as Gandalf the White.

Elves have a choice whether to be immortal or sail into the West. Arwen (Liv Tyler), the daughter of Elrond, chooses to live a mortal life so she can be with Aragorn. She gives him an Evenstar necklace as a promise to return to her. As she is joining with her elves to sail into the West, she sees glimpses of the future on what would happen after Aragorn dies and what would happen if they have a son together. Despite how deeply emotional these movies are, there are also some light-hearted and funny moments as well. Merry and Pippin are two hobbits who love to cause trouble in the Shire, like when they go through Gandalf’s fireworks at Bilbo’s birthday party. They provide one of the funniest scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring where Pippin asks Aragorn to stop for breakfast (“We’ve had one, yes. What about second breakfast?”).

The One Ring is rife with significance. For instance, Gollum is one of the most complex characters in the trilogy. As Smeagol, he has had possession of the Ring for five centuries after choking his cousin Deagol in a chilling prologue in The Return of the King (“My precious”). He starts having a split personality between Smeagol and Gollum. His physical appearance is what makes him possess the Ring for a long time. It holds a certain power that makes every race fail. Once the Ring is taken from Bilbo, his power weakens as Bilbo becomes younger. Later on in the trilogy, when Frodo has the Ring, Bilbo grows older. The Ring emphasizes how one’s weakness should gain more power.

Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith

Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith

Peter Jackson uses a mix of computer-generated images and practical effects. With new technology, he uses the motion capture technique for Gollum, Andy Serkis, an unknown actor at the time, came into the studio in a suit to capture the mannerisms of Gollum. Treebeard was used as a CGI and an animatronic model. For close-up shots of Merry and Pippin riding on Treebeard, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd will be set on the model in front of a green screen. They are used in some of the trilogy’s best battle sequences ever: The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers and The Battle of Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King.

After the trilogy won 17 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Peter Jackson went on to make his noteworthy remake of King Kong (2005), the adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones (2009), which is considered by many to be his weakest film, and he collaborated with director Steven Spielberg to produce Hergé‘s The Adventures of Tintin (2011). He thought he would never return to Middle-Earth by directing the underrated The Hobbit trilogy.

Create Your Own James Bond Cast

Today, Sony has announced the title of the new James Bond movie, appropriately named Spectre. Even though we have yet to know what the movie is about, w do know that it’s going to be released on November 6 of next year, and Daniel Craig is going to reprise his role as Agent 007. Christoph Waltz will be cast as the villain, while Lucia Sciarra and Lea Seydoux will be cast as the “Bond girls”. Ralph Fiennes will be the new spy chief M, and Ben Whishaw will reprise his role as Q.

Have you ever wondered who would you like to cast as the new James Bond after Daniel Craig? Now here’s your chance! In honor of this astounding news, TIME has create a unique “app” in which you can create your own fantasy James Bond cast. You can cast five actors to play the role of 007, the Bond girl, the villain, Q, and M. Here is what I came up with:

James Bond Fantasy CastCheck it out here: