Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

J.K. Rowling continues to expand her Harry Potter universe through the eyes of Newt Scamander, magizoologist and writer of the book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” It is the 1920s and magical America is in a state of emergency, struggling to deal with strange occurences in the city and also straining under increasing persecution from the No-Majs (that’s American slang for “Muggles”), and also from the threat of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, who’s apparently running loose in magical Europe. Into this New York comes Newt Scamander and his case of magical creatures – illegal under magical American law that prohibits beast ownership. Mishaps occur (of course), and some of Newt’s creatures escape, which does not in the least contribute to the peace of mind of the Magical Congress of the USA (MACUSA).

Rating: ★★½

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Doctor Strange

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Doctor Stephen Strange is a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident. Bereft of his life’s purpose, he spirals into a near-manic obsession with trying to fix the nerves in his once-steady hands. He ends up in Kathmandu, under the tutelage of the Ancient One. But instead of finding healing, Strange finds himself caught up in a mystical battle to protect the world from a group called the Zealots, and a powerful being called Dormammu, who hails from the Dark Dimension.

Rating: ★★★½

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The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Antoine Fuqua brings together a star-studded cast in this remake of a remake. Kurosawa Akira’s Seven Samurai, hailed as one of the best movies ever made, was three hours long. Thankfully, Fuqua’s Magnificent Seven follows in the footsteps of the 1960 Magnificent Seven with a shorter runtime instead of imitating Kurosawa’s epic. (To this day, I still think only the LOTR movies have any right to be three hours long.)

Rating: ★★★

I watched Seven Samurai about 5-6 years ago, and finally got around to watching the 1960 Hollywood remake last night. So this review is probably going to have quite a few comparisons…

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Star Trek Beyond

Captain Kirk, rather bored three years into the Enterprise‘s five-year mission, takes his crew into a nebula to search for a downed ship and finds himself embroiled in a race against time to retrieve his crewmates and stop the big bad of the movie, Krall, from destroying the idyllic space station of Yorktown.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Star Wars Episode VII has finally landed in cinemas and what a frenzy of adoration it has generated. But here I would like to add my contrary opinion to the mix: I did not love it, nor did I hate it.

I’m no stranger to Star Wars, having been a fan since 2001. But perhaps there lies part of the problem. I have had about 13 years of Star Wars Expanded Universe novel-reading before Disney acquired Star Wars and chose to blast away all the EU material and relegate them to nothingness. Sure, they have “Legends” status but that’s very little consolation. In the blink of an eye, characters I’d come to love (Jaina Solo! Jag Fel!) were just erased from canon. Sure, the EU had lots of weird stuff and some books were just not good, but some were amazing – primarily those by Timothy Zahn (Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most impressive and intimidating fictional villains across the board, I say), and the series revolving around the Yuuzhan Vong and the New Jedi Order was pretty impressive in construction. So to lose all those things, as well as the development of characters I already know and hold dear… Not fun.

Anyway, on to the movie!

Spoilers, there are here. Be warned…

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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Takahata Isao directs this 2013 Studio Ghibli piece based on the Japanese legend “The Bamboo-cutter and the Moon Child.” A bamboo-cutter discovers a tiny girl inside a bamboo shoot and takes her home. The bamboo-cutter and his wife decide to raise her as their own, and the “Princess” (as they call her) starts to grow at a rapid pace, hinting at her un-earthly origins. When the bamboo-cutter finds gold and silks in bamboo shoots, he is convinced that the Princess is destined for fame and fortune. The family moves to the city, where the girl’s beauty and talents become the talk of the town. This garners attention from some of the highest-ranking noblemen in the land, but she wants none of them and sets them impossible tasks to accomplish if they wish to gain her hand…

I would highly recommend this film for anyone who is appreciative of animation and illustration. It’s not the easiest of stories of watch, being a tiny bit too long and lacking a classic happy ending. But I definitely enjoyed watching it, despite the sadness at the end. Certainly worth a watch and a worthy contender for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Annie Awards (where it’s up against other films like The Boxtrolls, Big Hero 6, The Book of Life, and The Song of the Sea.)

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

And with this, Peter Jackson finally wraps up The Hobbit. Thank goodness.

What happens in this movie? Fighting. Thorin suffering from “dragon-sickness.” Bilbo sneaking around a bit. Legolas being unbelievable (even if he does run out of arrows for once). Tauriel being… not much use, actually.

The Good

  • Martin Freeman as Bilbo. He has just the right “aura” for the character. It’s just a pity he didn’t get to do more.
  • Peter Jackson knows how to direct battle sequences. It was easy to follow the different segments of the battle; I never felt too confused by the action or the editing.

That really is all the good I can think of… What follows next is a chunk of ranting:

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In Between Floors

This was much more enjoyable than I expected it to be. The trailer looked amusing but I’m accustomed to local movies (or just indie movies in general) being a bit of a let-down so I went in with low expectations. The story is short and simple: An “Ah Beng” guy (Alvin Wong) gets stuck in a lift with a “banana” girl (Dawn Cheong).

I really don’t know if anyone outside of Malaysia/Singapore will really get this movie. I don’t know if someone of non-Chinese descent would entirely understand the points being made in this movie. But I certainly did find many things in the story relatable on some level. (Probably because I am one of these “bananas” although I don’t have as pronounced an accent as the girl in this movie does.)

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Big Hero 6

I think I like the abbreviated format I used for the last two Rurouni Kenshin movies. I shall apply it again here.

The Story (based very loosely off a little-known Marvel comic of the same name):

Hiro Hamada (and I’m struggling to not write “Hamada Hiro” instead of “Hiro Hamada”…) is a teenage robotics genius who lives with his elder brother, Tadashi, under the care of their aunt. Hiro gains entry to the same university as Tadashi when he presents his latest invention – microbots – at the university’s exhibition. Tragically, Tadashi is killed in an accident on the same day. But Tadashi leaves behind his invention – a robotic healthcare assistant named Baymax. Hiro accidentally activates Baymax one day but doesn’t think much of it until Baymax (following and Hiro’s last remaining microbot) leads him to discover that a mysterious masked man is making more microbots just like his. Hiro forms a team with Tadashi’s university friends – Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Gogo and Fred – to track down the masked man, whom he suspects of having started the fire that killed Tadashi.

Rating: ★★★½

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