Movie Review: Justice League

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Unlike Marvel, DC has been struggling to get its DC Extended Universe (DCEU) to get the recognition it deserves. Man of Steel was rather lackluster, while Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s best parts were only to be found in the trailer. Wonder Woman worked wonders for DC, however and became their first really big hit. Will Justice League be able to hold its own and potentially be the great superhero team-up film we’ve been waiting for?

Despite some flaws, Justice League surprisingly does DC justice, and more than redeems DC for its first two lackluster films in the DCEU.

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Thoughts on the Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Official Trailer

Marvel has spent years building up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s definitely no easy feat, linking a roster of diverse superheroes and supervillains. All the films have hinted at the Infinity War – a story ark where Thanos gets hold of all the infinity stones which have caused conflicts in most of the MCU films to complete the all-powerful infinity gauntlet. The trailer has just been released, and it is now the most-watched trailer of all time, with more than 230 million views, and that number is still increasing! Marvel has certainly learned a lot over the years in crafting their films for the MCU, and they know how to build up hype and anticipation. Avengers: Infinity War has the potential to the most anticipated film of all time, and potentially, the best film of all time if done well.

There are a couple of things that, if done well by Marvel, could really make the MCU the best movie franchise of all time.

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Black Panther needs to be relevant

Given the amount of views that the Infinity War trailer is getting, the film has the potential to overshadow the upcoming Black Panther film. Given that the final infinity stone didn’t show up in Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther has the potential to become a skippable film simply because it might only be about the final infinity stone. Marvel could counter this by making Black Panther’s story truly essential to the entire Infinity War saga. Maybe T’Challa could be instrumental in reuniting the Avengers? Or perhaps his nation’s tech expertise could make some of the heroes more super-powered than they are? Whatever it is, Marvel really needs to get Black Panther right so that it becomes an important film that compliments Infinity War instead of getting overshadowed by it.

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A radical plot twist

At this point, Marvel is certainly getting better at this. The plot twists in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok certainly caught everyone by surprise, and it works well when nobody expects it, especially given how much the trailers tease us. It would be great as well to leave fans guessing what could possibly happen in Infinity War. Will any of the Avengers die? Or would there be any betrayal or backstabbing occurring in the film? Would there be any new characters who make a surprise appearance? A great plot twist can define a film and become the talk of fans for years. Let’s hope Marvel gets this one right!

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The Avengers needs to be reunited, properly

Avengers: Age of Ultron made the mistake of not explaining how the Avengers were reunited at the beginning of the film (one had to watch Agents of Shield to understand how). This left fans wondering what actually¬† happened, and could make Infinity War as bad as Age of Ultron. However, if the film spends too much time on reuniting the Avengers, it can make Thanos’ role forgettable, like how Hela got too little screentime in Thor: Ragnarok. It’s truly a wonder, how Marvel will begin the film.

Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters in May 2018.

 

 

Movie Review – Thor: Ragnarok

 

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Of all the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) thus far, Thor has been kind of the underdog. First and foremost, Loki stands out way more than him in not one but two films which bear his namesake. Also, the way his character is portrayed a bit too seriously. Oftentimes, it feels like watching Shakespeare in outer space, and it feels so stark in comparison to the rest of the MCU, you don’t even need Tony Stark to feature in the film to make things feel that way.

Thor: Rangarok, however, aims to be different. With a brand new hairdo and a brand new director, it seems like Thor’s getting the biggest makeover he’s ever had. But would this be enough to finally make Thor shine?

Surprisingly, a makeover is all the God of Thunder needed to give him that extra spark.

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Album Review: Endur – American Parasite

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Making a solo album when your main band has already established a solid reputation can be a tricky thing. These kind of albums come in various categories. There are solo albums which try too hard to be like the original band and fail to capture the magic (Rob Thomas’ solo effort comes to mind). There are solo albums which should have never been made, such as the late Chris Cornell’s Scream. Then, there are solo efforts which are so good, you’d be forgiven for not realizing the artist was originally from a band/group (Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson are prime examples). Spencer Sotelo’s Endur solo project, however, is a bit different from all of these categories.

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Spencer’s main band, Periphery, is fast becoming progressive metal’s rising star. Comprising a group of young, talented individuals who are all capable of writing and producing their own music (which became evident beginning from the Clear EP), the band is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Amidst the many aural experiments they have made, Spencer’s voice truly shines, with the wild diversity and wide range he is able to achieve with his vocals. From the almost gospel-like choir chorus of “The Way The News Goes…” all the way to the brutal screaming in “The Price Is Wrong”, Spencer certainly does a lot. One would be hard-pressed to think, why make a solo album, when you get to do almost every conceivable style with Periphery?

With his debut solo album, American Parasite, Spencer hints at a lot of potential he’s been keeping in the shadows, and shows that he’s certainly capable of a lot more, though at times, the album succumbs to its own parasites.

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Album Review: The Contortionist – Clairvoyant

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In the music industry, staying relevant can be a challenge. Some bands go around in circles and recycle old ideas, ending up sounding pretty much the same with every subsequent release. Other bands interpret the whole concept of circle of progression as a circle of life for the band – start out relatively experimental or heavy, before eventually selling out and becoming mainstream. For The Contortionist however, they’re playing the circle game quite differently, and they’ve played it well, as evident on their latest release, Clairvoyant.

Following up 2014’s critically-acclaimed Language is no mean feat. The album was the band’s most ambitious up to that point, featuring haunting vocals over angular yet ethereal melodies, almost like being dragged into a never-ending meditative state. Conceptually and sonically, Clairvoyant completes that circle. The lyrics continue the concepts present in Language (Language is basically about one’s love for a mother who is dying, while Clairvoyant deals with the pain of losing that mother). But it’s the sound that is the biggest surprise here.

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The Contortionist has never been a band to do the same thing twice, constantly experimenting and pushing the envelope. The shift towards almost completely clean vocals was expected, but the change in genre towards a more ambient, post-rock sound is a welcome surprise. And they do it very well. From the very first notes of opening track “Monochrome (Passive)” to the piano glimmers of “Godspeed”, it’s a surprise that the same band that produced heavy numbers such as “Sollipsis” can come up with something as driving and as pretty as the tracks on Clairvoyant.

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It’s not just the instrumentation which make the album shine, but also the approach towards every instrument. Despite being deceptively simple at first listen, the bass really grooves and drives songs, especially on songs like “Relapse” and the single “Reimagined”. It’s unexpected coming from their bassist, who used to play in the highly technical instrumental band Scale the Summit, but it’s a warm welcome on Clairvoyant. The keyboard work on this album also shines, as it doesn’t overly dominate the songs and adds the right mood at the right time throughout the song.

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However, this album isn’t without its drawbacks. The mixing isn’t the best, as the guitars are sometimes too bright, and sometimes they sound too muffled that you can’t really hear what’s going on. The other major detractor is how the vocals are mixed and arranged, which is such a pity because the lyrics are simple, yet very powerful. The vocals sound almost like it’s being sung from under a blanket, mix-wise, and they sound restrained. Michael Lessard is a gifted singer, but he doesn’t seem to be exploring his wide range on Clairvoyant.

Despite the drawbacks, Clairvoyant is definitely an enjoyable album, and it’s one that will grow on you. It’s an album that makes its biggest impact when listened to as a whole rather than individually. It’s certainly a big risk to experiment with a brand new sound after establishing a critically-acclaimed one back in 2014, but if the current performance and sales of Clairvoyant were to be an indicator (#6 Billboard Hard Music and #31 Billboard Current Top 200), the effort has certainly paid off.

Rating: 7.5/10

Recommended tracks: “Godspeed”, “Reimagined”, “Clairvoyant” “Relapse”, “Monochrome (Pensive)”

 

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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The release of the original Kingsman: The Secret Service back in 2014 was one that certainly turned heads. Despite polarizing opinions and having divided critics, it was a success as it brought unusual, off-beat elements into the otherwise serious spy movie genre. Over-the-top violence and dark humor were the name of the game for the first Kingsman film. Will its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle be able to take the throne this time as well?

In The Golden Circle, perhaps The Secret Service should have just remained a secret, as this film leaves us with black circles around the eyes, wondering what really happened.

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3 Things “The New Mutants” Needs to Do to Mark an X on the Right Spot

 

the-new-mutants-first-trailer-feature-img-v1The letter X is an ambiguous letter. At times, it can be the sign of approval, love and sheer awesomeness. In other situations though, it can be a sign of rejection and dismay, marking that things went wrong. In the case of the X-Men films, it seems to go both ways. Some of the films were really good (X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past come to mind), while some literally tried to bring the apocalypse to the franchise (like X-Men: Apocalpyse).

So far, we’ve had two main trilogies (one featuring the “older” cast of Patrick Stewart and co, and another featuring the “newer” cast of James McAvoy and co) and an entire Wolverine spin-off trilogy (which ended with the brilliant Logan). When The New Mutants was initially announced, it certainly raised eyebrows. Apocalypse was a total disaster and nailed the coffin for the franchise, while Logan literally put the franchise’s best character in the coffin. Deadpool on the other hand, pretty much has a life of his own. It really makes one wonder where The New Mutants would fit in the whole equation until very recently, when the first trailer was finally released.

The trailer does show promise, as it does something that has never really been done in a superhero film: horror. A superhero-horror movie? Definitely an X. But is it an X of approval or X or rejection? While the trailer is definitely intriguing, if the film doesn’t pull it off well, it would end up being more like a superhero horror fan-fiction rather than a legit superhero film with horror elements.

What could Fox do to make The New Mutants to mark an X on the right spot? Here are 3 things that could be done to let The New Mutants really leave its mark.

3. No Forced Relationships

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While the X-Men films definitely has great action, let’s face it: when it comes to personal relationships, especially of the romantic kind, Fox kind of fumbles in this department. In the original trilogy, the whole Logan/Phoenix thing comes as obsessive, forced and annoying. In the James McAvoy trilogy, the whole Xavier-Magneto-Mystique love triangle felt so wrong and out of place. In the first two Wolverine films, the relationships were just as horribly done as well. The only things they got right are the grueling Prof X/Magneto relationship (which was very well-done in Days of Future Past) and everything between Logan and X-23 in Logan.

Now, the trailer has already set a very dark, brooding tone for the film. Not to say that romance is unwelcome or unnecessary – it could work in this film. But if Fox doesn’t take a hint from how unwelcome it was in their previous films, forced and relationships need to go. Bad relationships were never supposed to last long in the first place.

2. Up the Action and Horror

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If there’s something that Deadpool and Logan have proven, it’s that their R-rated action has a place among audiences and really add to the feel of their films. In Deadpool, the killer action provided a stark contrast to the otherwise offbeat 4th wall-breaking humor, while in Logan, the intense action really highlights the pain and suffering faced by the titular character. Since The New Mutants seem to be going for the whole horror vibe, imagine some really grotesque torture and pain added to the mix. That could add a whole new dimension never before explored in any superhero film, and it could become The New Mutants‘ secret weapon.

1. Tie All the Loose Knots

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If there’s one problem with the X-Men universe so far, it’s the timeline continuity. There are a lot of loopholes and unexplained events, and with Days of Future Past, the entire timeline got reset and even more messed up. On top of that, it’s still vague how where exactly does Deadpool sit in the timeline, and with Logan ending the entire Wolverine story arc, it’s a wonder where The New Mutants is supposed to be. So naturally, it would be great if this film actually explains what is happening where and when.

Time will tell if The New Mutants will bring something new to the table, or rehash the same old formula, only with different faces. The horror element could make it a standout, though if done badly, it could make The New Mutants seem like fan-fiction. This film needs to get the X on the right spot, and not X off its own existence.