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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Great Debate: Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime Video

Today, new guest author, Cassie, from CultureCoverage.com, is presenting an article about the great debate between the three biggest online streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime! Take it away Cassie!

Many thanks to J and J Productions 1809 for allowing me to share the pros and cons of some of the best streaming services available so you won’t regret any of your subscriptions. And if you aren’t quite sure what you’re looking to watch yet, check out this article on the Top 100 Movies.
So what really sets Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video apart? Well besides their subscriptions plans differing, each has their own library and features that might appeal to some more than others. Perhaps the most important feature though, for any of these services, is their compatibility with different devices.

Not everyone has a PC to stream movies on, and instead rely on other devices such as Smart TVs, tablets and game consoles. A large number of users also prefer to stream while on the go, as it often beats paying to view movies while at a hotel during your travels. Speed, reliability and cost can be a main concern as well.

Which genre of movies and TV shows you’re interested in can also be a contributing factor to your decision. Some streaming services offer limited amounts of anime, for example, whereas others have a better selection. Though there are genre-specific streaming services available (such as Crunchyroll), let's take a look at how three of the most popular services compare.

Netflix
Netflix is a little bit different than other streaming services since you can choose to receive DVDs if preferred. Though a plan including DVDs is a separate cost, it’s nice to have the option available. DVD plans range between $4.99 and $14.99 per month, depending on how many discs you're able to rent out at a time, how many you’re able to rent per month and whether you choose to rent Blu-Ray discs or standard DVDs.

Streaming plans cost between $7.99 and $11.99 per month, and prices are dependent on whether or not you choose a plan with HD or Ultra HD streaming and how many screens you’d like to be able to watch on at once. Certain plans will only allow one user to watch at a time, making it difficult for those who want to share their accounts with anyone else.

On the topic of sharing, Netflix now allows you to create different user profiles too, which is particularly handy when you don’t want to lose where you left off in a movie or TV show due to sharing your account. With Netflix, you can also view a selection of suggested titles that are based on your prior viewing history. As you can imagine, this makes it easy to discover new content and videos you wouldn’t have normally thought to watch.

Overall, Netflix is a great choice due to their low price point, lack of commercials, ease of use and selection. They appear to have a little bit of something for everyone, even offering a large selection of international movies. Netflix’s compatibility across different devices is seriously impressive too, as you can watch from several different streaming media players (such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Nexus Player and NVIDIA Shield), game consoles, smartphones and more.
No need to worry if you’re hesitant about subscribing before viewing their library of movies and TV shows either—Netflix offers a one month free trial with the option to cancel at any time.

Hulu
Hulu used to be the streaming service of choice for those looking to keep up with some of their favorite TV shows since they release new episodes the day after they premiere on cable TV. However, in the past few years, Hulu has stepped up their game by adding a fairly large selection of movies to stream. Like Netflix, their subscription plans for streaming costs between $7.99 and $11.99 per month but commercials are unfortunately included in their $7.99 plan.

Hulu offers a ShowTime add-on as well for an additional $8.99 per month, which will allow you to access content that would normally be found on ShowTime’s channels on cable TV (such as “Penny Dreadful,” “House of Lies” and “Homeland”). If you’re especially interested in some of ShowTime’s original movies or TV shows, Hulu might be a good choice for you (if you don’t already subscribe to ShowTime with a cable provider, at least).

There's no doubt that Hulu does offer some titles that Netflix doesn't, but overall, Netflix offers a little more for the money. Besides the commercials that are included on their lowest cost plan, Hulu also only offers a one-week free trial, which can be especially easy for many viewers to cancel before their credit card is billed (assuming they decide not to keep the service).

As far as compatibility goes, there are a couple of devices Hulu appears to support that Netflix does not and that alone might make Hulu more worthwhile for you. You can check out a list of supported devices here. Overall, I’d say Hulu is worth the cost, but it does fall a little short of Netflix.

Amazon Video
Amazon Video is unlike both Netflix and Hulu. If you’re a frequent customer of Amazon’s, you likely already have an Amazon Prime subscription and if so, you have access to Amazon Video. And if you haven't signed up for a Prime membership, there's no need to fret over it; you can choose to sign up for Amazon Video (also known as Prime Video or Amazon Instant Video) regardless.
Amazon Video costs only $8.99 per month and offers a month-long free trial to get you started. Just as Hulu allows you to subscribe to ShowTime for an additional fee, so too does Amazon Video, and you can also pick from other popular entertainment channels such as Starz. In my opinion, Amazon Video is a bit more complicated to use than Hulu or Netflix, though it does have a nice selection of movies and includes original series.

Perhaps the most appealing feature Amazon Video has to offer is the ability to purchase the DVD of the movies you view with a simple click or the fact that you can read through thousands of reviews before watching or even post your own. If you're only looking for HD streaming, Amazon Video isn't the right choice for you though, and their list of supported devices is somewhat limited.

Something Else To Think About
No matter which streaming service you decide on, there are limitations to consider. Hulu, for example, isn't available worldwide, and the selections are likely to be different on Netflix if you live outside of the US. It’s a good idea to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for any of these, to avoid issues while traveling or streaming on the go and also to avoid paying for service you can’t use if you’re going on a trip overseas.

VPN service will allow you to continue to watch American Netflix (and Hulu) even if you're located elsewhere by masking your IP address. It's as simple as connecting to a remote server in the program, and as a bonus, it also encrypts your connection so you'll be able to stream videos safely from anywhere.

Have you used any of these streaming services yet? If so, we’d love to hear your opinion on them in the comments section below.

About the Author: Cassie is no stranger to streaming, and some might even call her an entertainment expert. She's tried out the best video streaming services the internet has to offer thus far and has written about each of them on numerous occasions. Check out her work on CultureCoverage.com for some great tips.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Top 13 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Movies: Part 1

Captain America: Civil War blew all our minds last month with an emotionally gripping story of the MCU being split apart. Now it is time to re-rank the Top 13 Marvel Cinematic Universe films yet again. However, to my surprise, my opinions of many of the films have gradually changed over time after re-watching each one, so this list is a bit different than my previous ones, even if there are some similarities. 

13: The Incredible Hulk
The black sheep of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk has faded into obscurity almost to the point where it is barely considered canon. Sure, it is occasionally referred, but many aspects of the film just do not fit with the rest of the MCU. Part of this is due to Edward Norton not returning in The Avengers, which led to Mark Ruffalo redefining the film version of the Hulk/Banner to astounding success.

As for the film itself, The Incredible Hulk is a fun film. Nothing about it is remarkable, but it tells a classic Hulk story of Banner running from them military. For the type of on-the-run Banner that the film required, Edward Norton did a fine job in the role. Unfortunately, the film starts to fall apart towards end with the introduction of Major Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination. The final battle between the two is entertaining for some CGI Hulk smashing, but that is about it. The other issue is that the budget and technology at the time could not create a Hulk comparable to the one in the comics. Overall though, it is a solid comic book flick.

12: Iron Man 2
Receiving more hate that it ever deserved, Iron Man 2 is very much a mixed bag. Certain elements are fantastic, while other aspects disappoint. The film tries to use the palladium poisoning as a substitute for Stark's alcoholism arc from the comics. While a few parts of that story as Tony tries to discover what is truly important is effective, it is ultimately buried by uneven pacing and too many subplots. Thankfully, Robert Downey Jr. being himself is always a pleasure to watch, and his ad libbed banter keeps things interesting. And Sam Rockwell is awesome. Marvel, please bring him back in something.

The most notable criticism is that Iron Man 2 tries to be the bridge that sets up for The Avengers, and at the time, the executives at Marvel still had yet to figure out exactly how everything would come together, which is apparent in the film. The building blocks are there, but it is not integrated with the any form of subtlety like later the films. However, it is a necessary evil of sorts to get us to the ultimate payoff that is The Avengers. Oddly enough, I basically agreed with the majority that it was a disappointment upon my first viewing of the film (before I became a critic). However, after multiple viewing, its importance in the overall road to The Avengers and Downey's innate charm made me like the movie so much more entertaining the second and third times around, despite the messy narrative and apparent flaws.

11: Thor: The Dark World
Despite Thor being the titular character, we all know that The Dark World is the Tom Hiddleston show, as he steals every second of his screentime. Sure, his screentime may be limited to the first two Acts, but he eats it up.

Despite Hiddleston’s brilliance, Thor: The Dark World is ultimately the most generic MCU film. There is nothing controversial or world shattering; it is a straightforward and entertaining adventure. The best aspect is the brotherly interaction between Thor and Loki, and visually interesting Asgardian world. Yet, it feels like it lacks purpose or as many memorable moments as the films higher on this list. And Malekith is probably Marvel’s worst villain. With that said, The Dark World is a great entertaining flick from beginning to end and still a favorite of mine in many respects.


10: Thor
Of all the Phase 1 films, Thor had the most potential for disaster! In fact, before watching the film, I feared that there would be no way that a Thor film could work in live-action. Thankfully, to my surprise, Thor turned out to be one of the films in a long line of Marvel productions that defy expectations against all odds.

Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearean background lent itself well to the film's theatrical family drama and archaic dialogue, which is one of the film's stronger aspects. The "fish-out-of-water" comedy with Thor is full of unforgettable lines that I still quote today, and the Final Act brought Thor’s character arc full circle. As a whole, Branagh managed to capture Thor and the world of Asgard in a satisfying manner!

What do you think of the list so far? Please comment below and let me know.

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Top 25 TV Shows: Part 4

My list of the Top 25 TV Shows of All-Time continues with five more entries! If you missed my previous parts, click here for Part 1here for Part 2, and here for Part 3.


10: Seinfeld
If you haven't lived under a rock your entire life, chances are you have at least heard of Seinfeld, if not seen or heard it referenced at some points. Seinfeld, described as "a show about nothing," obviously did a lot of something to become probably the most popular and well known comedy of all-time, and for good reason, it is absolutely hysterical! The series follows a fictionalized version of Jerry Seinfeld and his friends in New York and all of the insane misadventures that the group gets themselves into. If you somehow have not seen Seinfeld, what the heck are you doing!? Watch it! It's beyond a classic!
Watch on: Hulu


9: Psych
Psych is a crime mystery drama with a heavy dose of comedy blended throughout. Often times, it is funnier than the majority of comedies, yet smarter than the majority of drama crimes. The dynamic duo of Shawn and Gus have so much chemistry and witty banter. Psych is just one of the most entertaining TV series ever for me. In the later seasons, the writing is a bit weaker, but my investment in the great cast of characters made it all worth it. If you want a crime drama with a comedic twist and great characters, give Psych a chance.
Watch on: Netflix

8: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
While the first few episodes did lean towards less mature themes, after the episode "Rookies" The Clone Wars turned out to best thing to happen to the Star Wars franchise in years. It gave fans some of the best Star Wars stories since the Original Trilogy. A few story arcs are absolute masterpieces. As with most of my favorite shows, The Clone Wars was cancelled too soon. Fortunately, however, the final story arcs are on Netflix, even if the series never had a chance to end the right way. Also, it should be noted that my ranking of The Clone Wars is incredibly biased. I will admit that some other shows are probably better, but I have a lot of nostalgia for it almost because of how it positively affected my blog and how it has made a lot of new Star Wars fans during its run. 
Watch on: Netflix

7: Frasier
A spinoff of the popular Cheers TV series, Frasier might the most consistently high quality TV comedy ever made. Every TV series is bound to have moments of weak writing, and yet, despite 11 seasons and 264 episodes, Frasier rarely features a truly weak episode. Not every episode is the funniest thing ever, although many episodes are, even the weaker ones make you laugh several times. Honestly, Frasier is the type of comedy that everyone could at least get something out of and that everyone should watch because it is not especially crude, or at least no more so than Seinfeld. The series follows Frasier Crane, his brother Niles, their father, Martin, and the physiotherapist, Daphne Moon as they go about their everyday life, and even though it is a spinoff, having only seen a handful of Cheers episodes, you can watch Frasier without any prior knowledge.
Watch on: Netflix, Hulu

6: Avatar: The Last Airbender / Legend of Korra
After a few years of watching Japanese anime, I never expected an American animated series to ever impress me, to get me involved in the characters and story, and yet, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra did that so well. Following the Avatar, a person born with the ability to wield all four types of Element Bending, The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra tell sprawling fantasy epics. While season one of The Last Airbender is a bit childish, the later seasons develop the characters and really tell a story that is on par with other fantasy epics. Legend of Korra meandered a bit in its seasons, so it ended up being a bit weaker than The Last Airbender, but as an adult, both series truly impressed me. The series hits no matter your age, assuming animation is not a barrier. For me, Avatar: The Last Airbender is the pinnacle of western animation, so give me a chance.
Watch on: Amazon Prime

Are any of these your favorites? What do you think of list? Please comment below and let me know!

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse Review

X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest superhero adventure in a summer full of superhero flicks, and a sort of trilogy conclusion to the X-Men: First Class trilogy of films. Can this next X-Men film stand against the various other superhero films this summer? Well, let's find out!

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Genre: Action, Comic Book, Sci-Fi,
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Running Time: 144 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13

The Good: Quicksilver's scene is one of the best movie scenes all year, Magneto continues to be the emotional core. Superb performances across the board, Epic cameo, Apocalypse is a unique type of evil, Often quite funny, Impressive kills, Excellent new cast, Great soundtrack, 80s setting and references, Star Wars meta-humor, Revising history, Oscar Isaac nails it, Quicksilver is the best thing ever, Impressive special effects, Interesting world building,

The Bad: Less accessible to those not invested in the franchise, One missed opportunity, Somewhat generic finale,
Plot: 7.2/10- Opening with a scene in ancient Egypt, the film shows how Apocalypse was buried for thousands of years before being resurrected in 1982, the setting of the film. After the events of Days of Future Past, mutants are known by, and in some places, accepted among the general public. The world building is the first thing that stands out. X-Men revisionist history of the 1980s contains many of the familiar pop culture references, which makes the alternate world feel real.

One common criticism is that the first hour of the film is slow, and in some respects, that is valid. Personally, the first hour of collecting Apocalypse's Four Horsemen and the introduction of the new X-Men was entertaining throughout. However, my enjoyment of the buildup might be more so due to my love of the characters and franchise.

Apocalypse's weakest aspect is probably the finale. It's not especially unique compared to other superhero movies, at least narratively speaking. The events that take place are quite different and fun, but the central conflict is ultimately: "Bad guy wants to destroy the world. Good guys try to stop him." For me, it wasn't much of an issue.

X-Men's other weak point is that if you are not invested in the X-Men franchise and remember the previous films, much of the depth is lost. X-Men has been around for 16 years, so the lack of accessibility is certainly an issue. Actually, I have noticed that among younger and new superhero movie fans introduced to the genre during the new MCU era, those fans just do not care about the X-Men. They might go see them in theaters, but the fandom is lacking even half the enthusiasm and voice of the MCU, which is a shame. 

Characterization: 8.2/10- Magneto is a highlight in the film. His scenes have so much weight and pathos thanks to Fassbender and the previous development of the character. There is so much emotion to his scenes during the early parts of the film. Unfortunately, he does not play a major role in the middle portion of the film, and the engaging interaction between him and Professor X is minimal. However, everything about his character works so well, despite limited screen time.

Professor X does not have the powerful character arc of Days of Future Past because, at this point, his character is established and stable as he aids the younger generation. Mystique is.... fine the film. Her role serves its purpose in an interesting way for the plot. Hank McCoy, aka Beast, plays a relatively small part as the teacher guiding his students, much like the comics.

Apocalypse, the film's titular antagonist, portrays an interesting type of villainy. Some complain that he lacks menace, partially due to Oscar Isaac's relatively small stature. However, to me, this take on Apocalypse is more of a cult leader giving off an air of benevolence and almost kindness to his followers. Compared to the typical maniacal villain that's trying to takeover the world, Apocalypse's refreshingly calm presence makes for a strong villain. Unfortunately, the finale with Apocalypse is a bit of a letdown after him being such a powerful figure in the comics.

While the other characters all serve their part well, the true standouts are Quicksilver and the new cast members for Scott, Jean, and Nightcrawler. Quicksilver's role and characterization are greatly expanded upon compared to Days of Future Past. And his main scene is absolutely spectacular, easily the best part of the movie; true show stealing stuff. While you might not be able to tell from his part in the original X-Men trilogy, Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, is actually a cool character, almost like the Captain America of the X-Men, so it was great to see a young version of the character being portrayed so well. Jean Grey is equally as stellar in the film, and the subtle romance between the characters is excellently executed. Nightcrawler has been sorely missed from the X-Men films, so it is also great to see his character reestablished. As an X-Men fan, seeing characters other than Wolverine being the focal point is a true pleasure. Storm is also introduced, although her role is smaller, albeit still well executed. With that said, what the heck happened to Jubilee's screen time!?

Direction: 8.5/10- Bryan Singer really knows how to make an X-Men film, despite his reluctance to commit to the classic costumes. His visual style really works, as the film looks and sounds like the 80s. The action sequences, while expectedly inferior to Captain America: Civil War, are rather impressive. The mutant powers on display are fun to watch as no other superheroes have quite the wide range of power sets that the X-Men possess.

Acting: 9.2/10- X-Men's cast is always a highlight and Apocalypse is no exception. Michael Fassbender shines bright with a performance full of gravitas and weight, even more like Sir Ian McKellen's take on the character. Despite having less to do this time around, James McAvoy continues to give a top notch performance. While "phoning-it-in" is an exaggeration, Jennifer Lawrence does not have the type of screen presence compared to her other recent roles, and Nicholas Hoult is always a joy to watch. Oscar Isaac plays the mix of evil and calm excellently as Apocalypse, even if that is not the type of villain viewers expected. Evan Peters’ charisma and charm continues to be a blast to watch as Quicksilver as he steals every scene. Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Alexandra Shipp all play the younger versions of classic characters superbly with Turner being the standout as Jean Grey. Everyone else in the cast are good as well.

Special effects: 8.8/10- Aside from the occasional bit of noticeable CGI, X-Men: Apocalypse actually manages a lot of CGI heavy scenes incredibly well with the powers providing very colorful and exciting visuals. Of course, Quicksilver's sequence is the highlight as it almost makes you wonder how the heck did they pull it off!? 

Soundtrack: 8.5/10- John Ottman returns to score X-Men: Apocalypse, and his work continues to be high quality and fitting for the film. The use of licensed songs from the 80s added a great sense of fun and familiarity to the period setting.

Humor: 8.7/10- Surprisingly, this is a very funny movie at times. Whether it's Professor X stumbling over his words with MacTaggert or Nightcrawler's clumsiness, the humor is really spot. And again, Quicksilver's scene is brilliant and absolutely hysterical!

Entertainment Value: 9.7/10- As an X-Men fan, X-Men: Apocalypse is a pleasure from beginning to end. The bits of fanservice sprinkled throughout certainly made the film even more fun, especially a certain cameo that was apparently spoiled in a trailer, which I did not see. 

Overall: 8.0/10- Making way for the new generation of characters, X-Men: Apocalypse might suffer from a few nagging narrative issues that bring it down from the instant classic territory of the previous two X-Men films, but its exciting new cast, Magneto's riveting scenes, and stunning display of mutant powers makes it a treat for X-Men fans and a fun superhero flick for everyone else. With that said, if you are not invested in, or familiar with the X-Men franchise, the film's score would probably be more of a mid-sevens, rather than a flat eight.

Closing comments: While definitely weaker than either First Class or Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse is a lot better than the Rotten Tomatoes score gives it credit. Sure, it has flaws, but not every superhero flick can be the masterpiece that is Captain America: Civil War. Below is a review by one of my favorite movie critics and top reviewers on YouTube, Chris Stuckmann, that highlights many of the film's strong points.

Recommended for: X-Men fans, Superhero fans, Action fans,

Click here to check out more of my movie reviews.

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Friday, June 17, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse First Impression


Finally, I got to see Bryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse! Unlike my usual experience, I actually saw the review scores. For some ridiculous reason, the Rotten Tomatoes score is a mere 48%. Sure, it might not be the masterpiece that Days of Future Past, but it much better than that rating would suggest. My reasons will be explained in the review on either tomorrow or Saturday. Also, definitely avoid any trailers if you have not seen it. Apparently, one of the later trailers spoils one of the best surprises of the movie. If possible, I recommend re-watching some of the other X-Men films to refresh your memory because much of the character building ties into what happened in the precious films. Please check back soon for my full review tomorrow!


If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to stupidly financial success that is Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. It follows Alice on a time-traveling adventure to save the Mad Hatter's family, while running from Time himself.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is not the type of movie that you would normally find in the theater to see. However, due to some circumstances, I went to see this in theater with two of my best friends, so that's why I watched it, and now it's time to review this thing!

Directed by: James Bobin
Genre: Fantasy, Family
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Running Time: 113 minutes
MMPA rating: PG

The Good: Pretty colors, Surprisingly good production value, Funny time puns,

The Bad: Does almost nothing interesting or anything at all, Painfully meh, Weak performances, Depp phones it in,

Plot: 2.9/10- Alice Through the Looking Glass' plot does nothing particularly bad, nor does it do anything good. Despite having too much going on, it feels like nothing is happening. It feels so incredibly generic. But again, there's nothing that is truly awful, just painfully meh.

Characterization: 2.0/10- Wait, did this movie have characters? Well, I guess Alice is a character, and there is the subplot of a woman fighting to have a man's job, which is clich├ęd yet not dreadfully executed. The Mad Hatter feels so dull. He is the crux of the narrative and yet he's just boring. The Red Queen continues to be a loud caricature that shouts and shouts about chopping off heads. Time is a fun character in a goofy way, and the rest of the cast is boring.

Direction: 4.0/10- James Bobin is no Tim Burton, but nothing about the direction is necessarily bad. It's all serviceable with occasional moments of visual spectacle.

Acting: 1.4/10- Poor performances across the board! Johnny Depp phones it in hard as the Mad Hatter. Mia Wasikowska is a little less wooden than she was in the first film, albeit still bland. Anne Hathaway walks around like she is on drugs, and Helena Bonham Carter is loud and annoying. Sacha Baron Cohen is the only highlight of the film with his goofy, yet humorous, time jokes. Alan Rickman is in one of his final roles briefly voicing a CGI, so that was nice hearing him again after his untimely passing.

Special effects: 6.0/10- If anything, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a pretty film. The CGI is certainly overbearing, but hey, the visuals are occasionally eye-catching if nothing else.

Soundtrack: 6.5/10- Danny Elfman is disappointingly underwhelming. Nothing is stands out at all, which is a shame for an Elfman score.

Humor: 6.2/10- Sacha Baron Cohen's time puns and jokes are silly and childish, yet still managing garish quite a few laughs. The Mad Hatter also has a couple of decent jokes, although nothing else makes an impact.

Entertainment Value: 5.0/10- Thanks to watching this being the first time I had the pleasure of watching a movie with two of my best friends, watching the movie was significantly more fun than it would have otherwise been. With that said, I almost literally nodded off during the film and that has NEVER happened before, so yeah, it was kind of boring.

Overall: 2.9/10- Alice Through the Looking Glass is inoffensive and occasionally charming. However, it does nothing interesting, nothing to make the film's existence worthwhile. It is a colorful children's film and nothing more. But again, it's so inoffensive that I left the theater decently entertained, albeit bored at times. Overall, do not waste your time or money on this film, unless you loved the first film. Otherwise, skip this and watch Civil War again.

Closing comments: What more is there to say? The movie is painfully "meh," so don't waste your time or money on it.

Recommended for: Alice fans,

Click here to check out more of my movie reviews.

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Review

Captain America: Civil War is the culmination of the Avenger and Captain America films. As soon as Civil War was announced, it was my most anticipated Marvel film, much more so than Age of Ultron at the time. The Civil War story has the potential to really hit hard emotionally and thematically by saying something meaningful and creating conflict between everyone's favorite two superheroes. And with all of that hype and pressure, can Civil War possibly succeed? Let's find out!

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Genre: Action, Comic Book, Drama, Sci-Fi,
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Running Time: 147 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13

The Good: Thematic depth, Clash of ideologies, Emotionally riveting, Understandable motivations, The airport battle is literally the best superhero throwdown ever, Spider-Man is absolute perfection, Balanced characters, Stunning visual effects, Superbly choreographed action sequences, Shocking plot twist, Friend against friend, Hilarious dialogue, Perfect tone, Consequences, Strong conclusion, Black Panther is great, Exceptional performances across the board, No "right" side,

The Bad: One small plot convenience, maybe (requires rewatches to confirm),
Plot: 10/10- Captain America: Civil War presents the audience with two opposing ideologies and neither side is strictly in the "right." As the film continues, you might even switch sides at points depending on your own ideals. It brings up meaningful themes on government control and various other issues, which are brilliantly weaved into the narrative and character motivations. Captain America's reasons for fighting are understandable, and Iron Man's reasons are also understandable. And there truly is a war between the two and the supporting cast's reasons for choosing each side makes sense. Motivation is key and Civil War executes that perfectly. Some might have issue with the antagonist, but even his motivations are also reasonable, so it worked.

After some riveting action, Civil War’s pace does slow down. Personally, the pacing is superb because all of the dialogue sets up the characters, presents ideals, and makes you care about the impending battle and conflict. Each plot point moves fluidly, even the Spider-Man introduction, albeit slightly less so. The Russo Brothers do an incredible job balancing the screen time, and despite the darker, more serious, tone, the humor is naturally inserted throughout the film. 

Characterization: 10/10- Despite Iron Man and the various supporting cast, Captain America still shines as the main character. His friendship with Bucky, aka Winter Soldier, is moving. There is such a strong sense of brotherhood between the characters, which drives the narrative. Of course, Iron Man is brilliant. There is so much character development packed into his screen time. Tony is shaken; he is troubled, and his actions reflect that. Seeing Tony and Cap and the rest of the cast battling is enthralling and packed so much emotional weight. Towards the end, the film's emotional impact is brutal because the characters' relationships are so well established, so real; it's stunning. Ultimately, Cap and Tony's actions are driven by personal reasons that I can sympathize with, which is not easy for a movie to accomplish. Neither side is ever the "villain," and it just works.

As for the supporting cast, each character is given their time to shine. Spider-Man is absolute and utter perfection. As a Spidey fan, in less than 10 minutes, Tom Holland won me over 100%. He's funny, witty, and awkward. He is a teenager, and he acts like it. Honestly, I had a bit of a geek heart attack at seeing Spider-Man alongside the MCU characters. Black Panther is seamlessly included in the story without a hitch, as his character drives plot points. Falcon, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and the rest of the cast is given just enough time for each character to shine.

Direction: 10/10- The Russo Brothers are masters at their craft. The airport fight scene is unquestionably mind-blowing. It might be the most impression action sequence ever in film, and definitely the best in a superhero flick. The choreography and the inventive use of powers are stunning. It will be a battle that goes down in movie history.
My only visual criticism is that the fight sequence earlier in the film with the Winter Soldier features a few too quick cuts and the 3D made a few seconds a little blurry. Otherwise, the action sequences are superb.

The Russo Brothers' cinematography creates a strong sense of realism. Even though superheroes are throwing around their insane powers, everything looks grounded, which fits the tone. The usage of more practical effects and stunts certainly helps.

Acting: 10/10- Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. obviously take center stage. While you would expect Downey to overpower the cast, Evans remains the focus and the remainder of the cast feels well balanced. Sebastian Stan continues to play an excellent Winter Soldier, and Chadwick Boseman nails Black Panther so well. It cannot be expressed enough, Tom Holland is a Spectacular Spider-Man! And everyone else in the all-star cast hits the mark 100%.

Special effects: 10/10- Marvel movies always deliver stunning visuals and Civil War is no exception. The use of more practical effects compared to The Avengers certainly helped the sense of realism, and many scenes left me wondering what was stunt work and what was computer generated.

Soundtrack: 8.9/10- Henry Jackman's score is the only lacking aspect of the film. It is certainly quite good, especially during the film, but nothing stands out. However, as I listen to the score on its own, my opinion might change.

Humor: 10/10- Despite being a more serious film, Civil War mixes in the perfect amount of humor. Spider-Man is hysterical, Tony is witty, and Ant-Man is way too funny. The Russo Brothers and the screenplay writers really know how to balance the humor and banter, which makes me even more excited for how the Russos will handle Infinity War.

Entertainment Value: 10/10- Captain America: Civil War is one of the best cinematic experiences I have ever had. It is right there with The Force Awaken, and I wanted to see it again as soon as I walked out of the theater. Marvel movies have always been entertaining, but Civil War is on a whole new level.

Overall: 10/10- Captain America: Civil War is near perfection. Emotionally resonate, thematically deep, and insanely fun, it is everything that we needed. Civil War marks a darker chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with consequences that will impact future films, yet it ever loses the joy that Marvel does best. Captain America: Civil War is the Empire Strikes Back of the MCU, a perfect conclusion to the Captain America trilogy, and Marvel's greatest film to date.

Closing comments: My review cannot possibly do justice for how truly brilliant Civil War is. Every other movie this year has a tall order if they want to top this masterpiece of a superhero flick.

Recommended for: Everyone, Marvel fans, Action fans, Sci-Fi fans, Superhero fans,

Click here to check out more of my movie reviews.

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Five Year Blogiversary

Wow, five years! Half a decade! Yes, it is my Five Year Blogiversary! Well, I am a month late, but I'm still going to celebrate my Five Year Blogiversary! Thank you everyone for these past five years. I encountered fascinating blogs, I have met many of my best friends, and the blog is even to thank for helping me find the love of my life. 

While this year has seen a massive slowdown in my posts of late due to some inconvenient health issues, writing movie reviews is always a blast, especially when I see a movie that ignites my critical eye. And discussing those movies and TV shows with y'all makes it all worth it. These have been five amazing years, and I have no intention of stopping. Again, thank you everyone who has commented, guest posted, and read J and J Productions over the past five years. Please check back tomorrow for my long overdue review of Captain America: Civil War.



If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Blog Meets Real World

At this very moment, I am writing this post while sitting beside my very best friend. We are both looking back and forth at each other write essentially the same type of opening for the post. Typically, this blog is only meant for fandom and movie writings, but today is a special one. Today, my best friend, Jamie, from the blog Through Two Blue Eyes, is sitting keyboard to keyboard with me on the couch at this very second. We are both writing a post about us finally meeting for the first time. After traveling thousands of miles, she is here in my home state, aka an undisclosed location that you will never find. But yep, SHE'S HERE! Worlds collide! The blogging world has turned into the real world. We have watched various movies together, most notably, Captain America: Civil War (which was amazing!). We are about to watch Star Wars: Despecialized Edition, which, if you do not know, is a fan restored version of Star Wars in full HD as it was intended to be seen without all of the awful CGI and "NOOOOOOOOOO's." It has been an incredible week and a half, which is why blogging has slowed. It has been great to finally meet her in person after knowing her for five years! It has been the best. Writing about myself is really not my forte, so if you want details about us, you can click here to read her post. Well, enough about us I suppose. Thanks everyone for reading and commenting on the blog! But expect reviews for Captain America: Civil War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and other movie stuff in the future. 
Yeah, you can't really see too much in this one but this is when it all started.

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Coming Soon: June 2016

Well...the summer movie season is certainly in full swing as there are several weekends this month with THREE new releases. With that, I'll try to keep overviews brief, but let's take a look at what happened in May first, shall we?

Captain America: Civil War: Absolutely incredible in almost every way. One of the most entertaining films I've watched in a very long time and that airport scene is about as close to perfection as the movies can get. (RRS: 10/10 -- Instant Classic)
Money Monster: Decidedly less intense and thrilling than I was hoping to hear it would be, I skipped this one in favor of a film I didn't cover last month...
Sing Street: A fairly basic coming of age romance story that's infectious with its 80s-inspired music and overall attitude. Predictable, but highly enjoyable. RRS: 8.5/10
The Angry Birds Movie: Calling this one of the better videogame movies isn't saying much as it still received fairly dismal reviews with many questioning its existence. Ouch.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising: A comedy sequel with a message that was consistently hilarious and, dare I say it, better than the original. A rarity. RRS: 9/10
The Nice Guys: One of the most consistently funny films (not a single joke falls flat) that I've seen. A great script and chemistry between Gosling and Crowe are the crowning achievements here. RRS: 8.5/10
Alice Through the Looking Glass: It received some surprisingly dismal reviews that seem to indicate it's a hollow experience with impressive visuals, usually an oddity for Disney. 
X-Men: Apocalypse: An enjoyable, but forgettable installment in the franchise, hindered by the fact that it doesn't bring much special to the table in a year where every comic book movie is trying to one up the other one. RRS: 7.5/10

Biggest Disappointment: X-Men: Apocalypse
Biggest Surprise: Neighbors 2
Worst Movie: Seems like it was Alice Through the Looking Glass
Best Movie: Captain America: Civil War 

Let's check out that BUSY June! Remember that trailers are linked to movie titles!

Why It's Worth Seeing: I'm surprisingly kinda-excited for this one. The trailers so far have been fun and the addition of the often underrated Stephen Amell (from Arrow) adds a potentially cool new character.
What Could Go Wrong: I wasn't the biggest fan of the first one at all because it didn't flow well at all and wasn't all that exciting with all the insane amounts of CGI. This could always just be more of the same. 

Why It's Worth Seeing: I can really only offer a single reason here: Andy Samberg
What Could Go Wrong: The trailers have been awful, IMO, and the premise just doesn't seem that funny at all to me. This could be horrendous, but then I remember how great Samberg is in other things (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and how stupidly-funny Hot Rod was...

Why It's Worth Seeing: Its the sequel to one of the best horror films in the last decade and the production values/scares seem just as good, if not better, from initial trailers
What Could Go Wrong: Have you actually ever seen a better horror movie sequel?

Why It's Worth Seeing: This looks like a fun cast and that it could have some good setpieces.
What Could Go Wrong: I wasn't a fan of the original for three reasons: 1) magic does NOT translate to the big screen. It's clearly fake/CG and thus, the magic is gone. 2) Jesse Eisenberg 3) It had the most inexplicable and unnecessary twist I've probably ever seen. So yeah, I don't think this sequel to a dumb original is necessary, nor do I understand why people found the first appealing outside of the cast. /rant

Why It's Worth Seeing: It looks gorgeous and....
What Could Go Wrong: I would've added more to the "Why It's Worth Seeing" but early reviews are coming in and they awful, one even comparing it to Battlefield Earth. Ooooooo....ouch. Shame for videogame movies everywhere. Where's my R-rated, true to story, God of War movie?!?!

Why It's Worth Seeing: I think the trailers have been genuinely funny and hell, I love Dwayne Johnson. He's a great guy in real life and I enjoy supporting him and often find that I enjoy whatever he's in.
What Could Go Wrong: Nothing against Kevin Hart, because he's hilarious, but his comedies don't always hit the mark. Hopefully this pairing with Johnson finally strikes that comedy gold for him.

 
Why It's Worth Seeing: Well it's the highly anticipated sequel to one of Pixar's most beloved/successful/memorable films ever. And it focuses on its best character.
What Could Go Wrong: Honestly? I don't think much. That said, we're not too far removed from the "Pixar slump" so hopefully this is more like a Toy Story sequel than a Cars or Monsters Inc. one

Why It's Worth Seeing: We don't often get too many high-profile Civil War films (no, not Captain America) and McConaughey looks to be great, and well suited, for this role.
What Could Go Wrong: Something about it seems hollow to me. Is it a Civil War summer blockbuster? Are they going for any Oscar recognition? I think it will end up being another impressive performance from Mr. Alright, Alright, Alright, but forgettable otherwise.

Why It's Worth Seeing: It's the long gestating and anticipated sequel to the crowd-pleasing, Independence Day with much of the same cast returning.
What Could Go Wrong: I'm excited to see it, don't get me wrong, but not as much as I should be I feel like. The trailers have been serviceable, but in this day and age of cinema where destruction is so prevalent, I'm not sure that Resurgence has much new to offer. There was a time that audiences hadn't seen anything like it, but that's long past now.

Why It's Worth Seeing: The premise is intriguing and simple and it's 90 minutes of Blake Lively
What Could Go Wrong: Honestly, if it wasn't Blake Lively, I probably wouldn't have included this one. I think it could really go either way and be awful or surprisingly well-filmed and intense. But either way I'll have been staring at Blake Lively for an extended period of time so it's not a complete wash.

Must See (in order): Finding Dory, The Conjuring 2, Central Intelligence, Independence Day: Resurgence
On My Radar: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Now You See Me 2, Free State of Jones, The Shallows
Predicted Duds: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Warcraft

Whew! We made it through the June lowdown. See you next month for a nearly as busy July! As always, I'd be really appreciative if you came and followed me through Blogger at RATH'S REVIEWS and like me on Facebook HERE! I follow-for-follow 100%. Thanks again!!
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