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Around The World With Monkeys Fighting Robots, Movies, And Me!

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I spent three weeks in December traveling on the opposite side of the world from me in South East Asia. I toured the dense, skyscraper-laden streets of Hong Kong, the rustic shores of Vietnam, the otherworldly landscapes of Thailand, and the phenomenal, modern world of Singapore. It was a beautiful time. But to get to these magical places (and back!) from my high-rise cave in Miami, Florida, required extremely long flights and a two-week cruise traveling aboard the Azamara Journey.

During all this traveling there was plenty of downtime, so I caught up on A LOT of movies. I broke down all 19 movies I watched into fun, bite-sized thoughts along with pictures of where the MFR Logo was seen!

The Adventure Begins!

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Kubo and the Two Strings

The Good: Beautifully animated with a simple but effective, comic-of-age story mixed with heavy dose of myth.

The Bad: If I were to critique something it would be the simplicity of the adventure, but that’s sort of the point. And the “universe” could expand into bigger and better adventures.

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The Ugly: This would be the best movie I’d see for a long time. Not a bad thing, but it was rough traveling thanks to some of these movies.

Suicide Squad

The Good: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was fun. Will Smith being a little more subdued.

The Bad: Everything. Firstly, it doesn’t make much sense at this point in the DCU. Where Marvel has built up to doing something like this, DC hasn’t earned it.

The Ugly: Director David Ayers forgot that lighting exists in movies for a reason.

Star Trek Beyond

The Good: The cast is still fun, and traveling around the galaxy never looked so pretty.

The Bad: The cast says and does things that just make no sense. Once again, the villain is a good actor (Idris FREAKIN’ Elba) wasted on an uninspired character.

The Ugly: Simon Pegg. Not as Scottie, but for someone who is a Star Trek fan I think Pegg should be ashamed of himself. It just moves even further away from the spirit of Star Trek.

X-Men Apocalypse

The Good: Singer’s style is still fun, Quicksilver scene is a little too much but still impressive, and it’s got plenty of destruction porn.

The Bad: Sorry if I get repetitive, but the villain. Apocalypse looks weird, and he’s about as interesting as Ultron.

The Ugly: I’m assuming ‘apocalypse’ in the title is to describe what’s happening to this once consistent series.

Independence Day: Resurgence

The Good: The original ID$ was dumb fun. That’s the good here, that the original movie is still easily available.

The Bad: They decided to make a sequel and chose to be lazy. Rebooting ID4 in this age of cinematic universes is a good idea, but the execution was wholly uninspired.

The Ugly: You could watch the movie on mute and create your dialogue and make it more interesting. Maybe even add a drinking game element to it because why not?

Hong Kong

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Top of the Peak Tram high above Hong Kong

Captain America: Civil War

The Good: The Russo Brothers do Michael Bay 100x better than Michael Bay. Their action scenes are clean, easily to follow, and very cool.

The Bad: Yet ANOTHER revenge villain with a convoluted plan that relies on the heroes traveling to the right place at the right time.

The Ugly: The plot and character motivations seemed developed by 12-year-olds using a free scriptwriting app.

Spectre

The Good: It’s a Bond movie with gadgets, girls, and ’explosions. Probably won’t be your favorite but it isn’t worst I’ve seen.

The Bad: It’s kind of boring. The villain and the twist involving him aren’t all that surprising or threatening.

The Ugly: Bond-by-the-numbers and lacking any ‘oomph’ and all the world traveling never feels tacked on.

Jason Bourne

The Good: ‘Splosions, action, and the fact that I’m not much of a Bourne fan, to begin with. So, my thoughts are mostly uninformed.

The Bad: Wildly straight forward and the once innovative action feels uninteresting because every movie does it.

The Ugly: Matt Damon’s scowl and that Bourne isn’t considered a comic book movie since he can seemingly take endless amounts of punishment and make cars much more durable than they should be.

Vietnam

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Ho-Chi-Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. 

Nerve

The Good: Pleasant surprise. Well-acted, briskly paced, and cleverly directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

The Bad: It’s kind of an episode of Black Mirror made a little longer. But that’s not so bad.

The Ugly: Like an episode of Black Mirror, the ugly truth always comes at the end. For Nerve, it’s the final punch of the plot when it reveals who the real ugly antagonists are.

Lights Out

The Good: Congratulations to director David F. Sandberg for turning his two-minute short film of the same name into a chance to make a five-million dollar version with the same concept.

The Bad: It’s not great, but at the same time it’s not a bad starting point for a monster/horror franchise with an interesting new kind of shadow creature. If they can make sequels to the dreadful Paranormal Activity, why not this?

The Ugly: The film-school-rookie ending. Yeesh.

Thailand

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The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

The Legend Of Tarzan

The Good: Skarsgard was a great choice, it moves along quickly, and you get Samuel L. Jackson playing Samuel L. Jackson or the anti-Morgan Freeman.

The Bad: The flashback sequences are disjointed, and the ending set-piece is borderline silly.

The Ugly: There must be some unwritten rule about making a Tarzan movie roughly every ten years. And this law dictates that the picture is average at best. The Legend of Tarzan fulfills this universal cinematic requirement entirely.

Now You See Me 2

The Good: A fun and lighthearted adventure where magic is real-ish if you go along with the pseudo-science explanations.

The Bad: Morgan Freeman playing Morgan Freeman or the anti-Samuel L. Jackson. I don’t think either actor tries very hard anymore.

The Ugly: My face while watching it because I’ve never watched the first movie or even heard of this series. I was utterly perplexed for the entire time.

Singapore

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S.E.A Aquarium in Singapore

Ben-Hur

The Good: Director Timur Bekmambotov delivers a handful of great eye-candy.

The Bad: Remaking one of cinema’s all-time classics is always ugly business.

The Ugly: Aside from some visuals, the film is as lifeless as the stone tablets once used to record ancient stories.

The Secret Life of Pets

The Good: Cute, family friendly film with candy-coated computer animation.

The Bad: It wants to be Toy Story with pets but doesn’t ever get close. One moment it’s smart and the next it’s thoughtlessly moving ahead.

The Ugly: Listening to funny people like Louis C.K. and Kevin Hart try to make it work in something that is just not suited for what makes them great at what they do.

Traveling Back To The U.S.A

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So long, London!

Keanu

The Good: I love me some Key and Peele and they do their thing here with gusto.

The Bad: The plot is ridiculous but somehow still works thanks a consistent flow of comedy and action.

The Ugly: I watched this one the day after George Michael passed away and the film took a little of that weight with its love for the late pop star.

Don’t Breathe

The Good: Pleasantly surprised by this thriller which didn’t quite go as I expected. Whether you like his take on Evil Dead or not, Fede Alvarez is an inventive director with a great eye and sense of cinema. I look forward to more of his work.

The Bad: How long will it take for this series to turn into a dried up cash cow where the blind antagonist is somehow driving a car in a chase scene?

The Ugly: It’s a bit of a reach as far as the suspension of disbelief goes. The blind antagonist is an adept shooter or has superhuman hearing like Daredevil.

The Conjuring 2

The Good: I consider the first Conjuring one of the better horror films of the 21st century. Conjuring 2 changes it up a bit in some very good ways.

The Bad: The last 20 minutes of the film tails off a bit in the same ways as the first Insidious.

The Ugly: The demonic villain here is pretty hideous and might be standing at the foot of your bed while you sleep.

Morgan

The Good: The concept, an assassin is sent to a remote lab to kill a genetically modified human designed as a weapon, is solid.

The Bad: The pacing, plot, and writing are lackluster. The team of scientist thing in an isolated location is a trope that needs good writing and acting to work well. It doesn’t come together here.

The Ugly: Kate Mara plays the world’s worst assassin. How bad is she? Mara gets her ass handed to her throughout the flick and the “surprise twist” makes it worse.

For The Love Of Spock

The Good: If you love Spock, Star Trek, or any part of Leonard Nimoy’s very extensive career as an actor and director you will love this. Directed by Nimoy’s son, Adam Nimoy, the documentary is a beautiful tribute that shows many aspects of the man from Vulcan.

The Bad: Being reminded that Leonard Nimoy is traveling within a new universe.

The Ugly: Watching Leonard Nimoy in the hilarious hobbit song video.

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Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.
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