2016 Summer Movie Review: Jason Bourne


Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) gets out of the shadows after nine years in Jason Bourne.

Extreme ways are, indeed, back again!

In 2002, the world was introduced to a new anti-hero: Jason Bourne. Ever since The Bourne Identity, he tries to find answers on who he really is while the CIA is on his tail. The sequels, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum (the best film in the series), brings Paul Greengrass’ handheld camera work into good use, either it’s the brisk-paced energy of the action sequences or slowing down in order for the movie to explain how Bourne became such a badass. During his nine-year disappearance, another agent decides to finish what Bourne had started in The Bourne Legacy, which it isn’t terrible, but it’s easily forgettable. With Jason Bourne, now I can sigh with relief. It’s great to see Bourne back in action and Paul Greengrass back in the director’s chair nine years after Ultimatum.

We open the movie with our hero (Matt Damon) in Greece recovering from his amnesia. He spends his time becoming part of illegal fighting matches. Meanwhile, new CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and hacker expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) are out to stop Bourne once and for all after his involvement with the Treadstone program. He is on the run once again. Along the way, he encounters Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) on the streets of Greece during a violent protest. Not only is he racing around the clock but also around the world while Bourne tries to take down a network, led by social media extraordinaire Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), that might put a stop to hacking.

The handheld direction by Greengrass might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some people have to get used to it. If it worked in the two Bourne sequels and Captain Phillips, it certainly works here. It is rare, nowadays, for a summer blockbuster to have practical stunts. It gives the film a raw outlook of international justice. Damon kills it again as Bourne whose past comes back to haunt him while beating up bad guys along the way. It features two of the best action set pieces that you will see all year. Despite the formula staying the same and the supporting characters being underused (e.g. Alicia Vikander, who is great as she’s always been), I had a blast seeing it in theaters.


2016 Summer Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) learns from his “Uncle” Hector (Sam Neill) how to survive in the wilderness in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Knowing almost nothing much about a movie so original does make the experience worthwhile. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of the best films of the year featuring the best Lord of the Rings reference. Juxtaposing offbeat humor with New Zealand’s majestic beauty (kudos to the awesome cinematography by Lachlin Milne), Kiwi director Taika Waititi—who directed last year’s What We Do in the Shadows and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok; also the screenwriter for Disney’s upcoming animated film Moana—creates a quirky comedy about the importance of caring those around you. Julian Dennison and Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill are the heart and soul as this odd yet dynamic duo while all these hijinks ensue. I had never laughed so hard yet felt so engaged at the same time. Good stuff!


2016 Summer Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond


Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew enter a new world in Star Trek Beyond

In 2009, J.J. Abrams rebooted a franchise that made Trekkies and newcomers “boldly go where no one has gone before”. Without watching the original series, it didn’t matter with Star Trek. Learning the backstories of James T. Kirk and Spock in a futuristic world. As well as being blown away by the visuals and the performances by a gifted cast. It resulted in being one of 2009’s best movies. Despite its flaws, Star Trek into Darkness is a worthy sequel with Benedict Cumberbatch in a menacing portrayal as one of the most menacing villains in the franchise. In Star Trek Beyond, Justin Lin takes out the lens flare and having the movie follow more closely to the show, which Trekkies will likely appreciate.

Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Chekov (Anton Yelchin, who died in a car accident last month at the age of 27), Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of the Enterprise crew are three years into their five-year expedition through space. They are thinking of what they want to do with their lives afterwards. For instance, Kirk wants to be a Vice Admiral of Yorktown while naming Spock as the new captain of the Enterprise. All of a sudden, Krall (Idris Elba) and his crew attack the starship. He’s looking for an artifact that would cost the lives of many. The ship crash lands on an uncharted planet called Altamid. They must find their way off the planet.

As the writer, Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty) allows Star Trek Beyond to take enough time to build before discovering the planet. The chemistry between Bones and Spock is the biggest focus. While on the Enterprise, Spock has a conflict between his human and Vulcan qualities. Unlike Bones, he cannot express his human emotions well. It’s always a joy to watch them bond. They provide some of the funniest and most poignant moments.

As character-driven as the sequel is, it has the action-fueled energy one would expect from Star Trek or the director. It also features the humor and heart of the adventure. Jaylah (played to perfection by Sofia Boutella) is a great addition to the universe. After voicing Shere Khan in the remake of The Jungle Book, Idris Elba hits out of the park once again as the villain.

Live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.


2016 Summer Movie Review: The Legend of Tarzan


Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) and George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) go out to rescue Jane in David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan.

When someone brings up Tarzan, you might think of the original book by Edgar Rice Burroughs from 1900s. Maybe you have seen the films starring Johnny Weissmuller from the 1930s with his famous cry, or—for millennials; myself included—have grown up with the 1999 Disney animated film with Phil Collins providing the soundtrack.

David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) brings back the familiar face in The Legend of Tarzan. It’s not just an origin story. Compared to other versions, it follows closely to Burroughs’ source material. Yates puts some serious effort into this grand adventure for a modern audience, but it left me wanting more.

Years after living in the African jungles for most of his life, John Clayton III, or Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) leaves his gorilla family behind to live in a gorgeous estate in England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). When they enter the Congo once again, they encounter Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who works under King Leopold of Belgium. He comes up with a scheme to capture John and Jane to exchange for diamonds. With the help from George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), John swings into action to save his wife from Rom.

Yates brings his magnificent vision that made his final two Harry Potter films such an epic conclusion. The panoramic shots of Africa (featuring realistic computer-generated animals) give the feeling that the audience is in for quite an adventure. While the movie is visually stunning, most of its narrative takes itself way too seriously; not to mention Tarzan’s origins feeling a bit rushed.

With Skarsgård leading a solid cast with his massive physique and warm emotion, they aren’t put in a lot of depth. Waltz’s portrayal of Rom is nothing but your stereotypical villain. Robbie’s Jane is more independent than in the other versions. As real-life George Washington Williams, Jackson provides the film’s wit and energy that most of the film lacks. Nevertheless, thanks to its nifty visuals, heart-pounding action, and sheer beauty, The Legend of Tarzan is a good attempt bringing the rope-swinging hero back to the silver screen.


2016 Summer Movie Review: Swiss Army Man


Hank (Paul Dano) tries to make his way back to civilization in Swiss Army Man, one of the most original movies in recent memory.

I have been waiting for a movie like this for years! Something that is not based on a book or television show. Something that is not a remake, a reboot, or a sequel. But something imaginative and original. After receiving polarizing reception at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (causing a lot of people to walk out within ten minutes at the premiere), Swiss Army Man is one of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen. Imagine Cast Away directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman.

We open up with Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on an island months after his boat crashes. He’s about to hang himself until a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up shore. The corpse—dubbed Manny—is actually flatulent. Hank later uses Manny as his #1 survival tool; he has many abilities compared to a Swiss army knife including using his farts to propel forward like a jetski and his erection as a compass. They both go on a crazy adventure back to civilization.

How can a movie featuring a flatulent corpse be one of the best movies so far this year? Swiss Army Man is more than just about the toilet humor (be prepared for a lot of it). Not only is it funny, it’s also a heartfelt picture about the ways of life through love and regret. Farting is a natural process of life. Without Manny, Hank would continue to lose every brink of hope. With the island serving as a symbol for Hank’s grief, Manny’s farts become symbolic for freedom and having a connection with someone. Thanks to the marvelous screenplay and direction by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known for directing the music video for DJ Snake and Lil John’s “Turn Down for What”), the movie goes in many deep paths.

Fresh from delivering a wondrous portrayal of Brian Wilson in last year’s Love and Mercy, Dano is a revelation as Hank. It’s hard not to relate to the hell he is going through. He has an offbeat sense of humor, and–kudos to its practical effects–his stunts resemble those of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. His chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe is one of the reasons why this movie works. Even though Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter career hasn’t been the strongest, this has to be one of the oddest yet most ambitious roles of his career. From staying underwater for long periods of time to being carried on Dano’s back to acting dead and occasionally talk, he has a massive heart.

Unlike the traditional orchestra, the score—performed by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of the Manchester Orchestra—is a cappella. In one funny scene, Hank starts to hum the Jurassic Park theme with Manny joining him. There are scenes in which these two start humming a tune until the music takes over for them. I guarantee this movie will not be for everybody. Once you get through the farts, Swiss Army Man is a one-of-a-kind movie. A wild, devastating journey that I will never forget.


2016 Summer Movie Review: Independence Day: Resurgence


David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is about to celebrate the Fourth of July once again with some new faces in Independence Day: Resurgence

20 years ago, Fourth of July was more than just a celebration of America declaring independence from the British. It became a day where we saved the world from annihilation. Well, that was the case for Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, the mother of popcorn entertainment. Everyone knew the aliens would come back someday. Emmerich had plans to make the sequel ever since the attacks on 9/11, but it took so long to find out where the story will go. Independence Day: Resurgence isn’t horrible. It has plenty of wondrous effects and wall-to-wall action that are always a joy to watch. Jeff Goldblum’s deadpan antics of David Levinson are back, as well as some of the recurring characters from its predecessor. However, Resurgence is bogged down by new characters who are either tedious or a nuisance, plot holes that you can ride a space shuttle through, and the aliens have barely changed. Defending Earth once was enough.


2016 Summer Movie Review: The BFG


The worlds of Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and the BFG (Academy Award-winner Mark Rylance) collide in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel The BFG

Steven Spielberg reunites with the producer and writer of E.T.—Frank Marshall and Melissa Mathison (who passed away last year from neuroendocrine cancer)—to adapt Roald Dahl’s beloved 1982 novel The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), which was dedicated to Mathison. Fresh from creating two historical masterpieces (Lincoln and last year’s Bridge of Spies), he creates the most ambitious straight-up family film of his career. He takes the audience to a world unlike anything they have ever seen. Even though it’s not Spielberg’s best, it’s still quite a spectacle.

Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) is a 10-year-old girl living in an orphanage in London. One night, wrapped up in her quilt, is snatched away by a big creature. He takes her to his hideout in Giant Country where she first sees the creature chopping up a “Snozzcumber”, which is the only food he can eat. Terrified at first, she soon realizes he is gentle and kindhearted—hence the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). She encounters other giants including Bloodblotter (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement). Unlike them, the BFG refuses to eat humans, given for his slender appearance. As soon as their friendship grows stronger, they come to realize they are going take London.

If I was 10-years-old, I would have been blown away by its visuals and message of friendships coming in all shapes and sizes and being brave. As a 20-year-old, I am astonished of what Spielberg and his team brought to the screen with its compelling narrative, dazzling visuals, and imaginative sets.

Fresh from winning an Oscar last year, Mark Rylance’s BFG is nothing short of perfection. Performed through motion capture by Weta Digital, he brings a massive heart into this character it almost moved me to tears. His smile is just pure delight. He catches and implants dreams (there is one magical scene where Sophie experiences Dream Country with John Williams providing another astounding score). With his Dumbo-sizes ears, he hears “the most secret whisperings of the world.” His friendship with Ruby Barnhill’s Sophie (who is a ton of fun to watch) is something to behold.

Even though the villains aren’t as three-dimensional as they should have been, The BFG provides enough for the entire family. Not to mention this movie having a wonderful sense of humor; featuring the most effective and the cleverest fart scene since Blazing Saddles. Roald Dahl would certainly be pleased.