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Netflix's Avatar The Last Airbender: Comparative Review

Netflix first announced in that they obtained the rights to an ATLA live-action series in September 2018, with Albert Kim as the showrunner. The production originally included creators DiMartino and Konietzko, however they left shortly after writing began citing creative differences. However, I still wanted to give this a fair chance, so I decided to watch from two lenses: 1) As an adaptation of the original show's strengths and, 2) from the production quality as a standalone. This is mostly because the producers stated they wanted to attempt their own take on the iconic story, so I'm going in expecting differences but I wanted to see if Netflix could replicate the charm and feel of what made the original so engaging.

Madame Web: Spoiler-free Review

They say no one is truly ready for motherhood, until they have something to protect. This is the main theme of S. J. Clarkson's first feature film Madame Web (2024). With the hundred different spider-people stories Sony is pushing out, it is curious to wonder if these stories can hold their own, without being too compared to others. This might be where theming is very important to help distinct one project from another, and this is where Madame Web excels. I felt the theme throughout the film, and it allowed for this spider-person origin story to have its own feel to it. I think Madame Web has a very solid core, and just needed some fine tuning to really make it a standout.

Godzilla Minus One: Spoiler-free Review

He's known well in pop-culture, Godzilla. Everyone knows the giant monster that destroys Tokyo! There have been 36 Godzilla films since 1954, and they will probably continue for a long time as well. And for each rendition, there is a slightly different interpretation of this kaiju, ranging from a mindless force of destruction, to being highly intelligent and strategic. There are so many stories, it can be easy to forget where it really started. The last few years of productions have leaned into the campy style of Godzilla, and especially American versions makes Godzilla a more intelligent, benevolent creature. But Godzilla Minus One (2023) is a much more harrowing rendition. It brings back the original concept of Godzilla, and reminds us that he is a representation of war, and ultimately, serves to highlight humanity's will to survive. And in doing so, they have made an instant classic for the cult fans.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Spoiler-free Review

The Hunger Games was an important part of my childhood. I read the books with my then best friends, and waited for premiere day of the film adaptations. I even have my own mockingjay pin! Something that really stuck with me in those films is how it puts on display some of the most harrowing parts of humanity: how easily power can consume and blind people. Humans will survive, and if they can, aim to thrive, and that is exactly how Coriolanus Snow came to be President. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (2023) explores Snow's original story with a rule-breaking, attention-grabbing brunette from District 12, and suddenly so much is clearer about Panem, and the film does so without trying too hard to be like the original series. This is a can't miss exploration of desire and values.

Loki: Finale Review

Spoilers! Loki is the first of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) TV shows to have gotten a second season, so there was much speculation if that mean maybe even another season could occur? During the course of the second season, the theme of "time" was heavily shoved down our throats, and ultimately, it felt like nothing was really happening. This was very confusing, and somewhat disheartening to get through. However, Loki's second season's finale reveals both seasons were part of one large story that tells the tale of how Loki (Played by Tom Hiddleston) became a new God.

The Marvels: Spoiler-free Review

Marvel Studios has been giving us lots of content that gets bigger and badder each time. Just when you think the stakes couldn't get any higher, they slap a more universe-shattering implication on top of it. This was fun back at the end of the Infinity Saga, but please, we are getting bored and feeling fatigued. So I was pleasantly surprised that The Marvels (2023) instead gives us a fairly grounded and wholesome story, focusing more on relational conflicts than the action. It's a breath of fresh air, but is not necessarily a stand out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) portfolio. Director and writer Nia DaCostaIt gives us an unexpectedly funny and heartwarming film that serves to be enjoyed.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Spoiler-free Review

Our fate is in our own least that's what they say, right? But how much can we really control, especially if we are beholden to a path assigned to us before we can even live? How many times have you felt you met someone who just lived the same life as you, and experienced the following eery feeling that we just live in a simulation and are doomed to a certain life? To "have an original experience" feels like an impossible task. Yet, we strive to feel special in our own worlds - in our own stories. Because... we are. We might go through similar things, but we also experience them entirely different. And, sometimes we use the wisdom and stories of others to help us guide actions in our own. Our actions are the only thing we have control over, and that is a principle Miles Morales lives by: To take things into your own hands, and don't just let life pass you by. This is a trait we can find in all of our spider-men, and it has never been more exemplified than in Sony's Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023).

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Spoiler-free Review

Humans crave connection. Evidently - every species does. We seek it out, regardless of whether we want to or not. Even if the connections we have aren't perfect; because we aren't looking for perfection, we are just looking to give love and care, just as much as we are seeking to be loved and cared for. Our bonds are what support us as we find our own meaning in life. The Guardians of the Galaxy exemplify that as a plucky found family, and that theme is evident throughout Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023), highlighting imperfection and love in every interaction. James Gunn's stylized and humorous direction juxtapose with an otherwise gruesome and dark plot to give us a fitting, and deserving final chapter in the Guardians trilogy.

Polite Society: Spoiler-free Review

I went to see a friend from grad school today to be her interviewee for her Multicultural class. We talked about my experience as a South Asian woman, and there was a lot to talk about, from being a second generation child, to the importance of reputation, to the food I enjoy...everything. I don't really see these intricacies outside of the community, let alone on the big screen. So when I saw there was a film in theaters that featured an almost entirely South Asian cast, I knew I just had to see it. 2021 Rose d'Or Emerging Talent winner, Nida Manzoor, takes a gender-bent family action-adventure and weaves it through a hyperbole of the South Asian experience to give us Polite Society (2023). And damn is it good.

Suzume: A Masterclass in Modern Anime Film

Spoiler-free! Love makes you irrational. You'll chase to the ends of the Earth to be with those you love. And maybe, you'll even defy the natural order to do so. Makoto Shinkai does it again with Suzume, his most recent film that had its Western release on April 14, 2023. Shinkai has been the anime director to watch since his hit 2016 film Your Name, which took audiences by storm. Quickly that film gained appeal for its beautiful visuals and profound romantic story. Suzume is the culmination of all his work and he has perfected his two-act formula for these romantic-fantasy films.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Spoiler-free Review

I've always been a fan of the Mario games. I remember one of the first games I played was the 1988 Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Gameboy Advanced my parents got me. So I am very good friends with the story of one famous plumber and a damsel in distress. So imagine my surprise when Mario and Luigi in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) are actually from the human world, and are isekai'd into the Mushroom Kingdom. Writer Matthew Fogel uses this trope to explain why Mario and Luigi are some of the only known human characters in the Mario World. This is an interesting concept, and I found myself feeling conflicted about the choice. Ultimately, poor pacing and forced jokes makes the film hard to take seriously, and the best parts of the movie are the gaming easter eggs.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Spoiler-free Review

Possibilities are endless, and all it takes is a split-second choice. The choice to try something new at a restaurant instead of the usual. The choice to stay home and rest instead of going to that company outing. The choice to stand up for what you believe in even if it may have negative consequences. Choice is important, and there are those who try to take that choice from others. It's a hero's job to protect that sanctity. 

Thor: Love and Thunder Spoiler-free Review

"'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." This Lord Tennyson quote from his most celebrated poem, "In Memoriam A.H.H." (1850), has now risen to proverb status, and is often referenced in society. Who of our beloved MCU heroes have we seen love more deeply and lost more tragically than Thor himself? Taika Waititi's Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) is driven by this sentiment and we see Thor finally try to define himself through his own desires. 

The Disenchantment of Batman: Spoiler-free Review

I have never been a fan of Batman. I don’t think I truly ever understood his character, and frankly none of the past films have done a great job of characterizing him either. However, just 10 minutes into Matt Reeves’s The Batman (2022), I finally understood what Bruce Wayne had stood for all these years in Gotham as “vengeance.” Yet, The Batman is not a story about vengeance. Instead, it takes everything Bruce has known and stood for, and brings it toppling down. Finally, Bruce Wayne is humanized, and damn is it refreshing.

Eternals: Full Review

Eternals surprised me as a longtime fan of Marvel and the MCU. The classic hero’s journey has been tossed away in favor of a darker, more philosophical tale. It brings a slew of A-list talent, brutal hand-to-hand combat, and even a sex scene - to which some people in my theater actually gasped. Director and writer Chloe Zhao handles the large cast well, and lets each of the Eternals' personality shine while letting them make decisions for themselves without turning them into pawns for the plot. This film is not for the light hearted, and the themes and conversations will probably fly right over children's heads. This is a new era for Marvel Studios. However, while the film has its strong points, odd pacing, randomly placed action and the final “twist” leaves little room for the original threat to evolve (literally) into its potential, and leaves casual viewers yearning for something more concrete.
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