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Rating History

Non-Stop
Non-Stop (2014)
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Action movies are just about the toughest and most critically reviewed films a film fan or critic can ever watch. For me at least, the perfect action movie needs to attain a sense of realism while being fun and a little ridiculous in the process, though enough to where I wouldn't cringe to the point where a film is utter garbage. Nobody wants to see two hours of Autobots smacking into other Autobots (at least in the second film) cause there's no life in the dumb storyline and terrible characterization. But seeing a raccoon, a talking tree, and other misfits kicking so much butt in space works cause the audience knows what they came to see, and it's just so fun! Why am I saying this? Well, for a film like Non-Stop, I was expecting an intense thriller that's full of realism and grit with a little bit of ridiculousness that adds in to the fun, and that's what I received, and I wasn't disappointed!

Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a Federal Air Marshall with a tragic past that is not revealed until the final act to provide your typical Hollywood twist. Well anyway, he's on a non-stop flight from New York to London, and there he begins to receives texts from a mysterious terrorist, which states that it will kill off passengers every 20 minutes unless Marks transfers $150 million into a specific bank account. Tensions are raised, and Marks has to race against the clock to defeat this madman before it's too late.

First thing I have to say about this movie is how well-done the film's tone is, and it's brilliantly dark yet fun to watch at the same time. Though the film is styled as an action thriller with Liam Neeson, every time a passenger dies, it turns into a brooding suspenseful mystery that keeps you guessing until the very on... and I loved every minute of it! It also raises thought-provoking questions involving post-9/11 security that adds in to the brilliant layers of just plain fun and awesome action.

As for the heavily criticized final act, where the identity of the terrorist is revealed (and I've read way too many complaints on the reasoning behind this character's intentions), and where the passengers place different objects to cover up a bomb to make the emergency landing much easier, I admit a lot of is just plain nonsense, but then again, it's just so fun to watch! Especially the faceoff between Liam Neeson and the terrorist while the plane is making a complete nosedive to 8000 feet. It's freakin awesome! As for the identity and plot reveal of the terrorist, I didn't have a problem with it, cause I felt the character's motivations for blowing up planes and killing innocent people added in to the post-9/11 security debate I mentioned earlier. I can't help but saying this again, but I loved he you-know-what out of Non-Stop!

The other main factor to the film's success in my book is definitely Liam Neeson's performance, and that it's so powerful and riveting yet it's so awesome to see him solve the threats and kick butt all on an airplane, especially his choreography in the stunts he pulls off in this; it's fantastic! Plus his character is so well-done in the mystery and intrigue behind that tragic backstory that it's incredible to see a 62-year old actor have a range of versatility from action to drama. Same goes to Julianne Moore, who provides a fantastic supporting role as the passenger that backs Neeson up.

And finally the score by John Ottman is just... um... meh. Honestly I didn't realize Ottman was involved in the music until watching the end credits. It did very little to intensify the actual film, but since the film already did that without needing a music score, I guess the score does decent without caring too much if that makes any sense... oh well, I'll just stick to the X2 theme.

Non-Stop showcases the perfect action blockbuster in recent memory; provide an excellent action star that gives a riveting performance while being a butt-kicking force of awesomeness, give suspense and drama to the story, and make it fun even if there's ridiculousness in the script. And even in that crazy and definitely unrealistic final act, Non-Stop just blows my mind out in how great it is! It's kind of ridiculous that people take a great film like Guardians of the Galaxy seriously and a film like Non-Stop and tear it to shreds. Though Non-Stop features elements that parallel to terrorism today, it's events, though maybe not realistic, as a film, makes it look like something this over-the-top can happen, and that's why I loved Non-Stop. I think after the success of this and Liam Neeson's other recent thriller Unknown, director
Jaume Collet-Serra has potential to be a director to watch out for.

"I'm not hijacking this plane. I'm trying to save it!"

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Note that this is my first experience with the Fast and Furious franchise.

After the unbearable experience with 2 Fast 2 Furious (man I hate that title), my thoughts on future installments were full of complete pessimism, especially the fact that the third installment, Tokyo Drift, features an entirely different cast and is more of a spinoff to the franchise to focus on a different aspect of the racing, and it's highly viewed by many as the worst in the franchise, worse than 2 Fast. So naturally expectations were lower than ever, but as my rating suggests, Tokyo Drift not only exceeded my initial dread (though still far from being a great film); to date this is the most fun the franchise has had, and I like the improvement this has over its two predecessors.

After repeated criminal charges against him due to his illegal street racing activities, troubled teen Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is forced to live his life in Tokyo with his father to avoid jail time. However, racing still fuels his desires, and soon enough, Sean finds himself back in the driver's seat, but when his love for a girl (Nathalie Kelley) upsets her boyfriend (and racing expert) Drift King (Brian Tee), Sean learns how to drift and competes in the ultimate survival battle that could change his reputation for good.

What surprises me about Tokyo Drift the most compared to its predecessors is that the story is actually a decent one. The first film had awesome stunts but a dumb story, and the second one was so dumb it didn't make any sense story or character wise, but this one actually tells a good story. The characters are interesting to hang out with, and there's actually a decent emotional level that doesn't happen in the other films. The success of this film to me comes from director Justin Lin, who would go on to direct the remaining films in the franchise. Being an expert in action, Lin succeeds in delivering in an invested storyline.

A major improvement this has over 2 Fast is that the stuntwork impresses again. The opening street racing scene was so incredible to look at that it puts the ridiculous CGI garbage from 2 Fast to shame! I liked that the film goes far beyond the world of street racing and adds drifting to the mix, making the film more intriguing and less repetitive. It's also impressive that the racing also shows that there's consequences in every minute and that it's also a dangerous sport to get into. One major character gets brutally killed off in a fiery wreck (ironically a similar event killed off Paul Walker in real life), which shows that this franchise isn't just for idiots who view dumb blockbusters as art.

I know, the acting's not great, but the characters are actually well-done. Lucas Black puts a solid performance as the main character. His southern, all-American accent was definitely a reason why people hated his performance, but I felt that a Southern white boy adjusting to a different culture was very enjoyable to watch. It might not be great acting, but with more experience, I think Black has potential to be the new face of the franchise, especially now that Paul Walker's passed. As for everyone else, the characters are good but the acting's a mixed bag. Nathaline Kelley's a decent love interest, but her acting is horrid, almost like a zombie on steroids. However, Brian Tee's the best "villain" in the franchise thus far, Brian Goodman makes a solid father figure, and in a surprising turn, rapper Bow Wow provides good comic relief in the "main character's bro" role; he does a heck of a better job than Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson combined! And as an added bonus, it was fun seeing Zachary Ty Bryan in a role outside of Home Improvement.

The film scores in this franchise have been a mixed bag (hated BT's garbage from the first but was sold by David Arnold's from the second). Bryan Tyler, before defining his career with scoring Marvel films, provides an enjoyable music experience that combines genres I dig, particularly rock and a little dose of hip-hop that doesn't irritate me to death.

Obviously a film like this isn't perfect; acting isn't Oscar-worthy (which I knew wasn't going to happen in a film like this), there's still an irritating dose of sexism throughout the picture (but nowhere as offensive as the first film), and parts of the storyline that's supposed to connect with the first film doesn't connect (I don't remember a character named Han that dealt with Dom Toretto; I did not care for that first film that much), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the first feel-good film in the franchise (well at least in my standpoint). The story's solid, the stuntwork wows, the new characters are well-invested, and the cameo appearance from the best character in the original film sets up the stage for hopefully better signs to come... too bad it didn't happen due to the poor reception financially and critically, but with Paul Walker's tragic death stalling future installments after the upcoming 7th film, I hope Lucas Black gets a second shot at being a solid face to the franchise. As for films 4-6, with Justin Lin directing those, I think I'm finally starting to enjoy this franchise after two rotten installments, and am more optimistic on the remaining films.

"There's no 'wax on wax off' with drifting. You learn by doing it. The first drifters invented drifting out here in the mountains by feeling it. So feel it. "

X-Men: Days of Future Past
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Though it's been almost a year since I found myself watching all the X-Men films, I can honestly can I'm a very good fan of them, enjoying almost every single film in the franchise (even when it was not enjoying favorable reaction with Wolverine's infamous debut outing). After extremely loving First Class and The Wolverine, I had no doubts that Fox was itching to compete with Marvel's success in a shared universe... but how was Fox going to pull this off? Well, first, you announce that your next movie is based off one of the most well-loved story arcs from the X-Men comics, bring Bryan Singer (who hadn't directed an X-Men film since X2 but was involved in the production of First Class) back to the director's chair, and combine the cast from the original trilogy and prequel for one all-out blockbuster. And X-Men: Days of Future Past not only succeeds in extremely demanding expectations but I also think it's the best film in the entire franchise since X2.

The film begins in the year 2023, a dark and grim future for mankind and humans combined. Advanced beings called Sentinels are ravaging the world, destroying everything in their path, despite the mutants best intentions. In one last attempt to restore balance, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back in time to his younger self in 1973, to convince both Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to reteam together during the era they hated each other most, to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from triggering the assassination event that triggered mutant extinction in the first place.

With a film like Days of Future Past, in order to pull this off, Bryan Singer needed to make sure that the concept of time travel pays off, especially when the most criticized thing about the franchise are the so-called "continuity errors". Though Singer deliberately ignores the events of Origins (probably cause of the extreme hate from almost everybody; I wouldn't have cared anyway), everything told in Days of Future Past answers common confusions about the X-Men timeline. Singer also does a great job at showcasing the visual aspect between the two timelines; the dark, apocalyptic settings of the future and the colorful, bizarreness of the 1970's.

Also, in a surprising twist for the franchise, I thought it was great to see that Wolverine wasn't the main focus of the film. Though Wolverine is clearly my favorite character in this franchise, there's always other characters I felt that need to be in the spotlight for once. And Days of Future Past gives very strong character focus on different mutants this time around. Charles Xavier is extremely lone and broken from the events of First Class, with the conflict in Vietnam that forced him to close his school down, even going as far as to sacrificing his great powers in order to walk again. Magneto is trying to decide whether he should repent of his past sins in First Class or continue to go down the path he eventually takes. And finally, the main focus of the film, in my book, Mystique (my second favorite character in the franchise I might add), has to make the ultimate choice; kill the person that leads to mutant extinction or change the course of history and possibly alter some events in the franchise that angered many fans, particularly from The Last Stand.

And continuing on from Singer's brilliant styles he used from the original two X-Men films, Singer cleverly makes sure the drama is well-done before bringing the action together. Again, Singer does it again! I would go as far to say that Days of Future Past goes as far as provide the most emotional levels of the franchise, something that The Last Stand lacked. Whenever a mutant dies in this movie (and I will say, the mutant body count is extremely high in this film), no matter which one it is, the amount of emotions that carry out in the scene just flat-out delivers. There's also an extremely brilliant ending that raises many questions like great sci-fi does. When the action does kick in, it's as awesome as that phenomenal raid scene in X2! The opening battle with the Sentinels rocks, a prison breakout scene is delightfully entertaining (with a new character Quicksilver having the most memorable scene in the whole movie), and the climax, with battles taking place between 1973 and the future, is intense and emotionally resound as I mentioned.

Carrying on, Days of Future Past features some of the best acting in the franchise thus far. From the get-go, when seeing actors from the original trilogy like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, and Shawn Ashmore return on the big-screen just rocked! Though it's the other performances that really bring the best out of this movie. Hugh Jackman continues his awesomeness as Wolverine, even when he's more of a diplomat in this than the antihero we are used to in previous films. The new additions are great to, which includes Peter Dinklage as the creator of the Sentinels, Evan Peters as Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson will have a tough time topping this portrayal in the upcoming Avengers movie), and Mark Camacho doing an awesome imitation of President Richard Nixon. But it's the First Class cast that really make the film stand out most, which includes James McAvoy's emotional trauma, Michael Fassbender's way of causing mass chaos, and Jennifer Lawrence showcasing more grace in every new film she's in (Mystique might be better than Katniss, I don't know, I kind of like the blue makeup).

John Ottman does two jobs in Days of Future Past; he provides the score while also doing the final editing. As an editor, he successfully provides the film with a brisk pace that works for these blockbusters. As a composer, boy does he deliver. When his X2 theme is played during the title sequence, that scene alone made me realize that this was going to be a spectacular motion picture. His score does go into Hans Zimmer territory (there's one moment during the closing credits that sounds almost like the extremely talked about track "Time" from Inception), but it really adds up the emotional levels delivered in the film.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is simply phenomenal. 100% phenomenal. Bryan Singer's return to directing the franchise clearly paid off, bringing back a powerful story with powerful themes, combined with a strong visual storyline, amazing characterization and action, and one of the best modern endings I've seen in a while. With Singer directing the sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse, and James Mangold returning for the next Wolverine outing, it's safe to say that the X-Men franchise is in extreme competition with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (heck, I even think this tops The Winter Soldier as my favorite superhero film of 2014; sorry Marvel), and that the franchise won't go away anytime soon.

"So many battles waged over the years... and yet, none like this. Are we destined to destroy each other, or can we change each other and unite? Is the future truly set? "

2 Fast 2 Furious
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Note that this is m first experience with the Fast and Furious franchise.

With my not-so positive thoughts on the original Fast and Furious film, and hearing that the franchise only gets worse before it gets better, my expectations for it's first sequel was some of the lowest expectations I've had in any blockbuster, especially when the film title is one of the worst sequel titles I've heard of (Really? 2 Fast 2 Furious? That's almost as dumb as Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel). Bu even with these low expectations, 2 Fast 2 Furious brings the franchise down to a lever of absolute boredom and absurdity that makes me question whether it's worth watching this franchise to begin with.

As for the plot, I'm not going to bother with a small recap; the film's so dumb it hardly makes any sense. Somehow it involves Paul Walker's character teaming up with an old friend to destroy a drug cartel. A plotline this simple shouldn't be so complicated, but that's what 2 Fast 2 Furious does. I think director John Singleton was confused that this was some intelligent man's drama instead of an entertaining blockbuster, and the results fail horribly. I don't know if it's just me, or is that these double-crossing scenes should just stick to the films of Jason Bourne or James Bond.

One of the things that I liked in the first film is the incredible stuntwork. Here, the film fails to impress. There's a little more streetracing this time around, but this time, every race and any form of action just plain bores. There's even some shots where CGI's involved, and even the CG is bad, particularly in an extremely ridiculous scene towards the end involving a yacht.

Don't get me wrong; I actually think Paul Walker is trying his absolute best in his role (he was one of the best things in the first), but his character is just way too bland to care. There's some scenes where you'd wish that Vin Diesel was involved in this (Walker was the only one in the original film to return here), and the whole cast in that matter. Even though I never cared for the characters in the first, I'd rather watch them then the new characters presented in this film. Having Ludacris in a motion picture is just downright unbearable, Eva Mendes is a pointless love interest, and Cole Hauser is an extremely dull villain. Even more frustrating is that instead of Vin Diesel in the buddy role, we have Tyrese Gibson (yep, that underused guy from Transformers who always hung out with Josh Duhamel), and he's just flat-out irritating. It's not even called acting what Gibson does, just all 100% screaming that gets old in the first ten seconds of screen-time. His "YO HOMIE" slang makes Shia LaBoeuf's girl-screaming in Transformers 2 sound hilarious.

But with all this hate, there's two things about 2 Fast 2 Furious that I thought was an improvement from the first. First is that the horrendous sexism problem is nowhere as irritating, though there's still some occasional hooker women in the opening racing scene (I promise to all women reading this that the sexism almost ends after the first race). The other is that the score improves as well. Though there's still those annoying rap songs that play out in some scenes, the actual score from David Arnold actually manages to gain a decent amount of impression. It makes the film sound kind of cool for once.

However, a score's a score, and a good music score doesn't bring my rating up to such a bad movie. Aside from the completely awful title (wouldn't it have been easier if they called this Fast & Furious 2?), 2 Fast 2 Furious is 2 Irritating 2 Dumb to be taken seriously in a so-called "entertaining" blockbuster, with almost atrocious acting, a plot that is unbearable to watch, unnecessary CGI stunts, dull action sequences, and the questionable disappearance of the original cast with the exception of Paul Walker brings the franchise down to an extremely low level. Either I'll continue to hate future installments of this franchise or I'll get into them once I get to the 5th one. Oh well, at least the sexism wasn't as bad this time around,

"You know, I like you. But I still gotta kill you. It's my job."

How to Train Your Dragon 2
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

I was very much in awe and pleasantly surprised when I first experienced a DreamWorks film titled How to Train Your Dragon in theaters back in 2010. After being similarly wowed by Kung Fu Panda with its clever mixes of comedy, drama, and kick-butt action, I realized that even with DreamWorks notorious for the hit-or-miss pop-culture extravaganzas they usually release each year, they are finally hitting a mature side to the table that rivaled Pixar's phenomenal storytelling. I came in with How to Train Your Dragon 2 with that exact same mindset that DreamWorks was going to blow my mind again, and just like the first film did back in 2010, DreamWorks has done it again with this spectacular sequel.

Set five years after the original film, Berk is at peace with the dragons and Hiccup is now a young adult and enjoying his time exploring other worlds and discovering new dragons. But while the land is enjoying their newfound life, Hiccup is faced with a series of challenges that could determine Berk's fate forever. Such as the revelation that his father wants to make him chief of the land, which Hiccup feels is a huge responsibility to bear for his age. And coming to grips with the mother who left him as a child. And the return of an old enemy that threatened Berk in the past that unleashes a new threat which could end the newfound peace!

You have to give DreamWorks the biggest credit in the world for making this sequel work. One thing because they completely nail it again in making top-quality CGI animation! The landscapes impress, the texture on the people and dragons impress, and the flying scenes that wowed me in the first continue in that aspect this go round! One thing that's growing in my interest on cinema is the cinematography, and the director of photography here (Roger Deacons, who also provided the cinematography for animated films like the first How to Train Your Dragon, The Croods, Rango, and Rise of the Guardians, while also shooting films for directors like The Coen Bros. and Sam Mendes) provides another top-notch round of beautiful photography.

Like with DreamWorks' fellow sequel Kung Fu Panda 2, I loved that the studio opted to create a darker and more mature storyline this time around! Take the Hiccup character for example. Gone are the days where he's that teenage outcast looking for his identity and personal friendship! Here he's a young, mature adult who has to make personal decisions and sacrifices in order to save his culture. His friends, particularly Astrid, get the same treatment as well, but we still get that same crude DreamWorks comedy then and there from the side characters. It's kind of distracting in a mature storyline, but not enough to weaken the entire film as a whole.

And then we have our villain, the main reason why the story is ten times more darker than the first, an extremely freaky and intimidating man who almost sounds like Ahnold Swartzenegger but they couldn't cause the film would have gotten an R-rating if they did; Drago Bludvist. Every time this character's on screen, there's that level of darkness that one does not expect in an animated film these days. There's one moment particularly in the final act that's so shocking that you'd think that Don Bluth was involved behind the scenes! DreamWorks has gone far beyond their usual target demographic to create one of the most adult films in their library, but still one that the kids can watch without being too traumatized, and one I give a very deserving pat on the back.

Like the first, the biggest success of these films definitely come from the bond between Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. It's a bond that's sweet and lovable that manages to add a powerful sense to the film experience, almost to that level that Pixar's done since the first Toy Story.

The voice acting is once again marvelous, in some ways, more developed this time around. Jay Baruchel once again nails his portrayal of Hiccup, providing the oomph of maturity needed for a character that advances from teen outcast to adult. Same goes to America Ferrera as Astrid, who has some scenes that in some ways steal the spotlight from everyone else involved. Gerard Butler once again gives a heartfelt performance as Stoick, up to the point where if their was an Academy Awards for Animated Films, he would definitely win one! Craig Ferguson does the same-old same routine he does in the first as Gobber, and it's still fun, especially some of the adult humor he provides. The new additions are great as well, particularly Djimon Hounsou as the villain and Cate Blanchett as Hiccup's mother. Her scenes with Hiccup are almost as emotionally rewarding as any scenes with Toothless or Stoick.

Remember when I said that the biggest success of the franchise comes from the bond between Hiccup and Toothless? Well, the other big success that makes these films work, and one that would instantly become an instant fail if the wrong person was used, are the film scores from John Powell. Like the film itself, Powell's intentions of creating a mature score pays off drastically, and his choice of music for the project, which includes choir, an orchestra, and ethnic instrumentations are absolute perfection, especially in the more powerful moments of the film, such as the shocking part of the film.

How to Train Your Dragon 2, like Kung Fu Panda 2, serve as some of the most rewarding mature animation sequels in recent memory. The storyline is expended to good use, the characters are richly developed, the tone is more frightening and made to greatness, and the emotional core is rewarding. Though I still say the first film is slightly better in terms of entertainment value, it's sequel gets it's job done as a spectacular successor. Hopefully DreamWorks will hit the same success again with the third installments for both this and for Kung Fu Panda, not a nosedive that occurred with the Shrek films after 2.

"This is Berk. Life here is amazing. Dragons used to be a bit of a problem. But now they've all moved in. "

And as an added bonus (something I might do in future reviews), here's a link to one of the tracks of John Powell's score, the lovely song "For the Dancing and Dreaming", sung by Gerald Butler and Mary Jane Wells (for Cate Blanchett's character):
www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzxW85KCGQ8