On the Basis of Sex Review (No Spoilers)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as RBG, has served on the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice for the past few decades. Despite being 85 years old, she continues to fight for gender equality, women’s rights etc. On the Basis of Sex is less about RBG’s biopic but more of her taking on a tax-related case (Moritz vs IRS) because of the case’ underlying assumption that only women are supposed to stay at homes as caregivers while men provide for the family. Moritz, played by Christian Mulkey, is denied tax deductions for looking after his ailing mother because only women were allowed to get tax deductions for the caretaker role. Such sexist remarks are prevalent throughout the movie to remind RBG of her place in society but it’s all the more satisfying and inspiring when she refuses to live by it.

Positives – Felicity Jones has always ever impressed me as a thespian and she is wonderful in this movie. Rather than letting her emotions out, she is quite subdued and her “emotional” scenes are generally “calm” by nature. Her husband Martin Ginsburg, played by Armie Hammer, is also really good in the movie and in many ways, her equal. Jones and Hammer have really good chemistry and it was wonderful seeing the husband supporting his wife to pursue her ambitions in a male-dominated profession. At times, it’s difficult to watch the flick because of the blatant as well as subtle sexist remarks against women but unfortunately, that was the norm in the past and still continues to be a thing. RBG’s frustrations are palpable but even she eventually realized, with some help from her husband and ACLU’s Mel Wulf, that making the issue about gender equality would have cost her the case. She needed to focus on Moritz but at the same time plant seeds of the idea of equal rights for men and women.

Negatives – This is definitely a predictable, paint-by-numbers story. Also, even though it is nice seeing RBG’s feminist daughter being one of the big motivators for RBG, the mother-daughter relationship drama felt a little shoe-horned in and just wasn’t as compelling as the main storyline. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad but it simply isn’t as good as the rest of the movie. Finally, the movie has somewhat of an abrupt ending with no actual resolution to the case, which bothered me a little. But as you can tell, it’s mostly nitpicks.

Overall, On the Basis of Sex is a good movie depicting the struggles Ruth Bader Ginsburg went through to get where she is today and her tenacity to fight for women’s rights. She really is a remarkable figure and worth talking about for generations to come.

Rating – 3.5/5

PS – Check out the documentary ‘RBG’ also released in 2018. It’s worth your time.

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Escape Room 2019 (No Spoilers)

January, usually the time of the year when studios dump their bad movies, was quite good last year with movies like Den of Thieves, Maze Runner: Death Cure, 12 Strong. Thus, fingers crossed this January also surprises us with movies like Glass, Replicas etc. Directed by Adam Robitel, Escape Room is about a group of 6 individuals, who we later learn each have traumatic pasts, attempting to solve complex puzzles in different environments in the hopes of winning $10,000. Unlike a regular puzzle, this puzzle actually has stakes and you could die anytime. The best way to describe Escape Room is that it feels like the movie Cube meets a PG-13 Saw with a tinge of Belko Experiment.

Positives – The set pieces are quite cleverly executed yet deadly, especially the upside-down bar set. Our heroes face terrifying rooms with extreme warmth and then cold, the aforementioned inverted bar, a surgery room, and a living room with the walls closing in. Another aspect of the movie I liked is that each ‘Escape Room’ has a connection to the traumatic pasts of the characters, which absolutely worked and made it a little more personal. Because they faced their painful pasts through these life-or-death situations, their frustrations are more palpable. As for the performances themselves, they are good for the most part. Deborah Ann Wolf, who plays Karen Page in Marvel’s Daredevil, is great in this movie and her physicality is one of the reasons for the upside-down bar scene being so memorable. The other actors like Taylor Russell and Logan Miller also have a couple of good moments to demonstrate their acting chops on screen.

Negatives – The movie starts in media res with Miller’s character in an increasingly- claustrophobic living room setting, which is pretty intense but is 100% unnecessary. Even though it doesn’t prove the other characters already met their demises , it spoils a major part as to who is going to survive the previous escape rooms. Even though we get a little backstory for the characters, it is ultimately not enough for us to be really invested in them. It also doesn’t help that half the characters are unnecessarily dicks to each other. But the biggest culprit of all is the ending. The ending is really disappointing and it is quite evident the filmmakers are not sure how to properly end the movie. Instead, they blatantly attempt to set up a sequel rather than resolving the movie’s story arcs.

Rating – Whilst not a great movie and definitely a premise we’ve seen before, Escape Room is a semi-fun, palatable January movie. 2.5/5*

* You might think a 2.5/5 is an F and mathematically speaking, it is a 50%. The way I rate movies – 1 (sucks),  2 (bad / meh / okay depending on the decimal), 3 (good), 4 (great), and the rare 5 (perfect).

Top 10 Movies of 2018 Ranked

With 2018 now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to reflect on and rank the movies that came out last year. 2018 was arguably the best year for movies since 2014 and it was especially hard to make my Top 10 list because there were a ton of movies I liked/loved that sadly didn’t make the Top 10 cut. Before I give my Top 10 list, I want to issue a caveat. I have (yet) to see movies like Green Book, If Beale Street could talk, Roma etc. that are getting Oscar Buzz. So if you don’t see those movies on this list, chances are I haven’t seen it yet or I simply didn’t think it was Top 10 worthy. That being said, here is my honorable mentions list, followed by my top 10 list!

Honorable mentions – Vice, Spiderman: Into the spider-verse, Hereditary, Unsane, A star is born, Black Panther, Eighth Grade, Won’t you be my neighbor, Love Simon, Bumblebee.

#10. Searching – Searching is a really suspenseful thriller. Great performances, cool twists and a much better version of the ‘Unfriended’ series.

#9. Incredibles 2 –  While not as good as the first one, it’s still a dam great movie. Having Mr. Incredible stay home with the kids while Elastigirl is out doing superhero stuff really worked and made for great comedy. Jack-jack vs the poor raccoon fight is one of my favorite scenes of the year and I still contend, had Jack-Jack been in Infinity War, even Thanos with all 6 Infinity Stones would have been defeated.

#8. Mission impossible: fallout – Tom Cruise does what Tom Cruise does best – run (a lot), do insane death-defying stunts etc. While this entry in the franchise is not as good as MI4 and MI5, it’s still a great action movie with solid character interaction moments. Also, how great is Henry Cavill? From his now iconic “reloading his arms” scene to his sick multi-million dollar moustache that ruined Justice League, Cavill was a great foil to Cruise’ Ethan Hunt.

#7. Blindspotting – Blindspotting is a movie I just recently watched and man, it’s such a powerful, thought-provoking movie. Like Blackkklansman, it is a very relevant movie that is also extremely funny. This movie is fueled by stellar performances from Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, and explores the issues of gentrification, police violence against unarmed black people etc. A must-watch.

#6. Bohemian Rhapsody – Just like the Queen band themselves, 20th Century Fox rocked our world with a Queen biopic movie starring Rami Malek as the band’s lead singer Freddy Mercury. What could easily have been just a 2 hour long music video featuring all the iconic Queen songs, the filmmakers crafted a compelling story with well-developed characters and an Oscar-worthy performance from Malek. Lastly, the Live-aid concert left me wishing this was my real life rather than being a fantasy.

#5. Blackkklansman – A movie like this could have easily been a dark, serious movie but Spike Lee chose to add a comedic angle to it, making it a more palatable, powerful yet entertaining film. This is a very relevant movie and Lee had the chutzpah to take a firm stand against the current political administration and its tendency to attract white nationalists.

#4. A Quiet Place – You make a noise, you die. Definitely an interesting premise that makes you wonder how you would fare in a situation like this. However, the tension is palpable, the characters are so well-realized with terrific performances from John Krasinsky, his wife (both real life and on-screen) Emily Blunt, and the two kids. Like Get Out last year, here’s hoping the Academy ignores the fact that this is a genre movie and actually recognizes this movie to be worthy of a few accolades, because it is deserving of it.

#3. Game Night – Game night is one of the most original films of 2018 and is such a rollicking fun time at the theatres. The movie has a great ensemble cast coupled with a genuinely interesting story and most importantly, jokes that actually land and are funny.

#2. Avengers: Infinity War – What can I say that hasn’t already been said. I absolutely loved this movie. It had everything I could ever have hoped for – great action, wonderful character interaction moments, humor, a commanding villain in Thanos etc. With that epic cliffhanger, I am salivating over the next installment in the Avengers franchise, Avengers: Endgame.

#1. Creed 2 – Being a massive fan of the Rocky movies and Creed, I was a little nervous when they announced that Ryan Coogler won’t be returning for the Creed sequel and the movie would have Adonis go toe-to-toe with Ivan Drago’s son, Victor. However, this movie packed a number of punches, making it an emotional, exciting ride. Not only are the boxing scenes super hardcore and awesome to watch, there are a number of poignant, heartfelt moments between Adonis and his family.

 

Bumblebee Review (No Spoilers)

Transformers used to be a critic-proof franchise that was guaranteed to make a ton of money, regardless of the quality. Now, I am going to mention something controversial – I like this franchise. Yes, it has a ton of issues, one-dimensional characters, messy action sequences. But, this is my guilty-pleasure franchise. I actually enjoyed the first 4 Transformers movies! However, even I hated the fifth one (the Last Knight) and that was the first movie in the franchise that had a big drop in the global box office. Meaning, the audiences were catching on and were no longer interested in being disappointed again and again by the franchise. Bumblebee, directed by Travis Knight (director of the great Kubo and the Two Strings), is the first non-Michael Bay Transformers film, and he had a very difficult job – making a Transformers movie that can bring back the people that abandoned the franchise. I am very happy to say, I loved this movie but more importantly, the critics and the general moviegoing audience also seem to share my appreciation for Bumblebee.

Positives – At its core, this is a story about the relationships between Charlie (played by the beautiful Hailee Steinfeld) and Bumblebee, and Charlie and her family. First of all, the scenes with Charlie and Bee are extremely cute to watch, especially the beach scene. It never felt like Steinfeld was acting opposite of a CG creation (unlike the obviously CG creations in the other films) and Bumblebee very much felt like a real character. Another major emotional aspect of the movie is the relationship between Charlie and her family. Unlike the other members of her family, Charlie is still not over her father’s death and there are some really poignant moments in the film. Aside from the character moments, the action is great! You can actually tell what is happening on screen, unlike the other Transformers films where the action is quite unclear and just feels like a bloated mess. We also learn how Bee lost his voice in the first 15 minutes of the movie, thus, him essentially trying to “regain” his voice is powerful. The movie also gives us our best Cybertron scene of any Transformers movie and it’s cool to see the G1 designs for the Transformers.

Negatives – Unlike the Rock who has quickly cemented his place as the leading Hollywood star, John Cena isn’t there (yet). While he is great in comedies like Blockers, Trainwreck, he hasn’t demonstrated his acting prowess in the more serious dramatic moments. Outside of the genuinely funny Charlie-Bee comedic scenes, the comedy felt pretty cringe-worthy at times and, as is the case with every Transformers movie, the military plots felt shoehorned in.

Overall, Bumblebee is a movie that anyone can watch and enjoy. It has great characters with some good action sequences and a likeable main lead in Steinfeld. I can finally breath a sigh of relief knowing I am no longer that one person that enjoys this franchise as I know, you all now will too!

Rating – 4/5

Ranking the Comic-book Movies of 2018 (SPOILERS)

Since forever ago, many folks have been predicting the demise of the superhero genre. Well, they were proven wrong yet again. Being the dominant genre in Hollywood, the combined worldwide gross of all the 8 comic-book movies (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Ant man and the wasp, Teen Titans: Go to the movies, Venom, Spiderman: into the spider-verse and Aquaman) is well over 6 billion dollars, with Spiderman and Aquaman just having released in theatres. Now that I have seen them all, I can now rank the 8 comic-book movies from least favorite to my favorite. Spoiler warning.

#8. Venom – a Tom Hardy-led Venom movie with the director of Zombieland at the helm and a solid cast (including Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed), what could go wrong? Well, it seems like pretty much everything went wrong with this anti-hero flick. Venom has a terrible script, weak performances (sans Hardy), cringe dialogue, poor villains (both Drake and Riot) etc. The only reason I didn’t hate this movie is because of Hardy, who goes “all out” and delivers an entertaining-to-watch performance. Eddie and Venom’s relationship and back-and-forth is one of the film’s strengths and it was very enjoyable when the movie just focused on the two. While I personally didn’t like this movie, the general audiences kinda did and the movie had great legs and well over $850 million at the box office. This is by far the weakest comic-book movie of the year but here’s hoping that they make a better Venom sequel.

#7. Teen Titans – this was a movie I had absolutely zero interest in. Never seen a Teen Titans episode and the trailers were pretty bad and looked extremely childish. Gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised. This is an extremely self-referential movie and has a pretty well-developed lead in the Robin. While this is definitely not a movie for everyone because of the juvenile nature of the movie, it has some great moments for the DC fan in me to ultimately have a good experience.

#6. Ant man and the Wasp – Like its predecessor, A&W is a good palette cleanser after the big Avengers movies. I love how our heroes use shrinking/growing and the visuals are really good! This is also a really funny movie with some good performances from Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly etc. Where this movie suffers is with the villains, especially the storyline with Sonny Burch. Also, Black Panther just opened our eyes to the incredible world of Wakanda and Infinity War was a large-scale epic movie, but A&W, unfortunately, is a pretty formulaic MCU movie .

#5. Deadpool 2 – Like most people, I loved the first Deadpool movie and was very excited for the sequel. After watching the movie, my initial reaction was “it’s good but no where as good as the first one” and this reaction mostly stands. I enjoyed this movie but this movie doesn’t have as good of a balance of humor and character work as the first one did. The pacing is off and some characters like Firefist are obnoxious. However, the emotional moments between Wade and Vanessa are powerful and this movie is arguably funnier than the first film, especially the X-force deaths sequence which had me cracking up. Not to forget, Cable and Domino are really interesting characters and I can’t wait to see them in X-force.

#4. Aquaman – Coming off of a string of divisive films (sans Wonder Woman), DC absolutely needed a win in Aquaman and they achieved it! Aquaman is the definition of a fun, popcorn movie. It has a ton of action, one-liners, comedy and decently fleshed-out characters. The effects on the underwater world are visually stunning and this movie does not hesitate to embrace its comicbook-iness.  Not to mention, Aquaman has a good lead in Momoa! Where this movie suffers is in its script, emotional moments and weak villains (notice the trend?). However, a win’s a win and DC is on the right path again!

#3. Black Panther – Before I say anything, I just want to preface this by saying Black Panther is a really good movie. It has some of the best performances and an uber-talented ensemble cast in the MCU, strong female characters (Okoye, Shuri, Nakia) and is a very relevant movie in our society today. Having a predominantly black cast with a black director is remarkable and what Ryan Coogler did with Black Panther is incredible! This is also one of those movies where the beliefs/actions of the villain actually changes our protagonist and by the end of the movie, T’Challa opening up Wakanda to the rest of the world works. However, I don’t love this movie, like most people do, and really don’t believe that this movie deserves to get a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. It is an important movie but that doesn’t make it an Oscar-calibre movie, in my humble opinion. This movie also has questionable CGI at times, messy fight scenes and a sudden villain turn. Killmonger makes some very good points about Wakanda not using its resources to help black people around the world, but he becomes a moustache-twirling villain by the end. Again, I really like this movie and do believe that it deserves technical awards nominations like “Best Costume,” “Best Sound Editing,” and “Best Sound Mixing” but just not more.

#2. Spiderman: into the spider-verse – This animated flick had a very difficult job – convincing us that a Spider-man movie with so many characters and villains can work. After all, neither Sony nor we have forgotten what happened with Spiderman 3 and Amazing Spiderman 2. I am very happy to say that this movie is amazing (no pun intended)! It had a lot of great character moments and the relationships between Miles and his dad, Miles and his uncle and Miles and Peter are heartwarming. There is a scene that takes place between Miles’ dad and Miles in a college dorm, which gives me chills just thinking about. The introduction of the secondary Spidey characters is super fun and infuses a lot of humor to the movie, especially from Spider-Noir (voiced by Nicholas Cage). This movie, at times, feels like a comic-book come to life with comic-book style panels and text on screen. If this movie does end up getting a ‘Best Picture’ nomination at the Oscars, which it vert well may, I have no qualms about it as it is definitely deserving of any accolades.

#1. Avengers: Infinity War – Infinity War is the culmination of 10 years of storytelling and to celebrate this momentous occasion, Marvel essentially had “throw everything but the kitchen sink” mentality for this movie. It has basically every main character (sans Hawkeye and Ant Man) in the MCU facing off against the big baddie, Thanos and man, the Russos exceeded my already-high expectations. This is easily one of my favorite movies of the year and one particular reason for that is Thanos, who is now my favorite villain in cinematic history. He is such a complex, 3-dimensional character and even though you (hopefully) don’t agree with him, you totally understand where he is coming from. The action is incredible, the humor totally works and because of its scale, this really felt like the most epic movie of our generation. And of course, who can forget the ending? Our heroes turning to dust and Spiderman’s line “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” Man, that is heartbreaking. Infinity War is easily my favorite superhero film of the year and I am (just a little) excited for Avengers: Endgame!

Now, what say you? Leave your rankings down below!

Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse Review (SPOILERS)

From his recent acclaimed video game to movie appearances in Civil War, Homecoming, Infinity war to upcoming roles in End Game and Far From Home in just the last couple of years, Spiderman is once again dominating pop-culture! Even though that is great, there is a risk of over-exposure and possibly rehashing the same story again. However, this new animated movie definitely feels original and has a different central focus: Miles Morales, a half-African American and Mexican. Oh don’t worry, Peter Parker is still in the movie as Spiderman, but Peter’s Spiderman is an older, more jaded Spiderman. The movie also introduces Gwen Stacy as Spider-Gwen, Spiderman-Noir (voiced by Nicholas Cage), Spider-Ham (an actual pig!) and Penny Parker (an anime looking Spiderman). It also has a ton of villains, including Kingpin, Green Goblin, a female Doc Oc, the Prowler etc. With Sony previously attempting such an endeavor with Spiderman 3 and Amazing Spiderman 2, folks were, understandably, nervous that this movie would end up being like those 2 critically-panned movies. Nope, third time’s definitely the charm and this movie is great!

Positives – The animation style in the movie is simply beautiful. From the use of vivid colors to having comic-book esque panels with text in the movie, Spider Verse truly felt like a comic-book come to life. I am one of the people that does not like 3-D but this movie looked incredible in 3-D. This movie is also very emotional and has a lot of compelling family drama. The relationships between Miles and his dad, Miles and his uncle, and Miles and different Earth’ Peter are poignant and add a new layer to this movie. Speaking of Peter Parker, our Earth’s Peter Parker is brutally murdered (SPOILER ALERT) by the Kingpin and Miles witnesses this. You probably thought this was a kid’s movie. Well, not really. The new Peter Parker (voiced brilliantly by Jake Johnson) is from another Earth and that version of Peter is down on his luck: break-up with MJ, out-of-shape etc. After being transported to this Earth, he is initially uninterested in mentoring Miles and just wants to get back home. However, he eventually becomes the Spiderman we all know and love, and that is totally earned. The other Spidey characters also have some really heartfelt moments and cool backstories and I would totally love to see them again in future movies. This movie also embraces the Spiderman mythos and is not afraid to make fun of the many incarnations of the web-slinger but does so in a respectful manner. The sequences where Miles learns to control his powers (shooting webs, turning invisible at will and shocking) are very fun to watch and reminded me a lot of Spiderman 1! What’s also fun and delightful is his interaction with the other Spidey members, including burgeoning friendship with Gwen Stacy. Because of the animation medium, the filmmakers are able to do some really unique things with how Spiderman moves and it’s wonderful to witness that on the big screen. The fight sequences could easily have been a giant mess, especially with so many characters, but that is so not the case and they are pretty well-done. Lastly, there are some great Stan Lee – related moments, which were heartbreaking yet inspiring.

If you can’t tell already, this movie is spectacular / amazing (puns totally intended). But, it does have a couple of minor issues.

Negatives – Kingpin, one of the best villains on TV, unfortunately gets the short end of the stick as the main villain in this movie. He is portrayed as a giant brute who wants to bring Vanessa and his kid back to life using the collider but there is nothing more to it. I also wanted a bit more of the relationship between Miles and his uncle, who turned out to be the Prowler. His death is sad but it would have had a bigger impact if we got to know him more.

Ultimately, Spiderman: into the spider-verse has a ton of heart, good story-telling and really fleshed-out characters. This is easily one of the best movies of the year and worth seeing on the big screen! Please support this movie!

Rating – 4.5/5.

TV – Bodyguard Season 1 Review (No Spoilers)

Bodyguard, the latest BBC One original and a Netflix distributed show, stars Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden (Robb Stark) as David Budd, an Afghanistan war veteran, who is assigned to be the bodyguard to Julia Montague, the UK’s Home Secretary. Being a vet however has changed Budd’s outlook on sending troops to foreign countries and he is opposed to Montague’s pro-war attitude. On top of that, Budd’s PTSD, from his time in the war, has negatively affected his relationship with his wife (Vicky), causing the 2 to live separately with their kids. With a tense life at home and at work, Budd has to protect Julia in an increasingly dangerous world from conniving politicians to terrorists.

Positives – Richard Madden gives such a terrific performance as the main lead in the show. Numerous times, he has to talk his way out of intense situations like talking to a suicide bomber in the very first episode, which is exciting to watch, particularly because of Madden’s expressions. Episode 6, the season finale, does a clever switcheroo and this time, it’s Budd in a suicide vest and he has to clear his name and talk the police out of potentially shooting him. It was exhilarating. Not only does he do a great job in the emotional scenes, he also brings a lot to the physicality and you absolutely buy him as a bodyguard. This show also relies less on action but more on the characters and their arcs, and it is riveting to watch. The supporting cast also do a great job, especially Nina Toussaint – White as DS Louise Rayburn. The family aspects of the show were also one of the many highlights. You felt bad for Budd but you also understood where Vicky was coming from and why they needed to live separately. Despite what Budd had gone through in the war, his refusal to seek help despite being advised by numerous people in his life to do so, made for a compelling drama.

Negatives – Despite being a season with just 6 episodes, there are a handful moments that drag and one could make an argument that this show could have benefitted from 5 episodes. As I mentioned above, this show isn’t an action-heavy show, which might affect people’s viewing experience. After all, with a name like ‘Bodyguard,’ people might expect a lot of action, only to be disappointed. Just know that this show is a character-drama with a lot (emphasis on lot) of politics.

Overall, Bodyguard Season 1 is a great mini-series to binge. It has great characters, performances, dialogue, writing, and I am genuinely excited for season 2.

Rating – 4.5/5