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My Sister's Keeper is a heart-warming drama movie released in 2009 and stars Cameron DiazAbigail Breslin, Sofia Vassilieva, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, David Thornton, Emily Deschanel, E.G. Daily, Lin Shaye and Joan Cusack.  It was directed by Nicholas David Rowland Cassavetes or better known as Nick Cassavetes.  


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It has a running time of 109 minutes and was based on the 2004 novel by New Yorker Jodi Lynn Picoult.   

Caught in a Dilemma (The Gray Area)

What will you do if your own daughter is dying from leukemia? Have a test tube baby and be a supplier of bone marrow, and other vital organs, for your daughter, obviously. That is what the 2008 movie My Sister’s Keeper showed. What a dilemma indeed.


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My Sister’s Keeper follows the Fitzgerald family, as each and every one of them try to cope with the worsening condition of Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). “Dilemma” is the main theme of this movie and we will get to know a little more about it.

The dictionary defines the term “dilemma” as a phenomenon in one’s life when an individual is faced with life-changing decisions that will lead to serious consequences or ramifications.
  
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There are numerous dilemmas tackled in My Sister’s Keeper, but I will only be highlighting the most important ones. First is Sara and Brian’s (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric, respectively) decision to let science give birth to Anna (Abigail Breslin).

Some parts of the plot revolves around Anna, revealing that she was made only to be Kate’s unwilling donor, much like how spare parts of a car are treated. The parents have to decide: to either let Kate die, or to let mad science work its magic.


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At the end, the couple decided to let Anna live, and for the rest of their lives, they just let Anna get be tested on again and again. Most of the people would view this decision as unethical and heartless, but Sara, and initially Brian, saw this as just.
  
Another is Anna’s decision to file a lawsuit against her parents to gain “medical emancipation”, a means to be free of her duty as a donor. It is eventually revealed that this is partially to delay Kate’s treatment, for her to finally die.


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Midway through the movie, while we take a break from the lawsuit plot thread, we get to see the love of Kate’s life, Taylor Ambrose (Thomas Dekker), whom she met while the latter was undergoing chemotherapy.

Upon learning that Taylor succumbed to his cancer in secret, Kate desired death. Anna is then convinced by Kate to file the lawsuit. From Sara’s perspective, this is a sign of Anna being neglectful of her duty as a sister, but Anna only wants to live normally.
  
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Two more integral dilemmas included are Kate’s decision to finally accept her doomed fate, and Taylor’s choice to keep his eventual death a secret from Kate. These two showcased the two main characters’ developed love for each other.

What interests me the most among the two is Kate’s desire to die. Generally speaking, nobody wants to see anyone die. Kate’s wishes are to be reunited with Taylor, but is mostly her desire to finally spare her family of the prolonged grief.


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Taylor keeping his demise a secret might be cliched, but it is just similar to Kate, as they both do not wish their respective loved ones to mourn for them. Either decision is originally viewed negatively by various characters.
  
What do these all mean? Basically, the world is neither purely black nor white. It has gray areas. A decision can look bad, but be good in nature, and vise versa. Dilemmas teach us that no decisions will not merit “perfect” positive nor negative outcomes.


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With Star Wars: The Last Jedi once more dividing critics and fans again, but not in the way you would think, to Wonder Woman showing audiences a small ray of hope for their franchise, and to The Mummy crashing its own franchise before it even begun, plus Disney actually buying 20th Century Fox, 2017 was sure one heck of a ride. Next year, we will be seeing sequels, spin-offs, and to top it all of, 2018 will be the year of Disney, as they will be releasing a huge bundle of films. Of course, there is some room for newer movies, but we will get to them later. This is Dateline Movies, and for our first post for 2018, also in preparation for the next year, here is our countdown of the Top Seven Most Anticipated Releases of 2018!
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7. The New Mutants (April 13, 2018)

While their major team-up movies are disappointing, on occasion, you have to admit that 20th Century Fox has some serious guts to experiment with some of Marvel Comics' properties. The results did not disappoint. Deadpool and Logan are just stellar, and each have delivered different and fresh takes on the superhero genre. And it looks like that they are not yet finished with exploring uncharted territory. The New Mutants, starring an ensemble of young and coming talents such as Anya Taylor-Joy (Split), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Henry Zaga (13 Reasons Why), and Blu Hunt (The Originals), with Alice Braga (Elysium), the movie is set to mix two genres: superhero, and horror. Well that sounds interesting. Let us hope that this could be another magnificent entry in the X-Men Film Series.


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6. Isle of Dogs (March 23, 2018)

One of the most artistic directors of the generation, Wes Anderson, is back, and once more, he will be using stop-motion animation. Fresh from his award-winning outing last 2014 with The Grand Budapest Hotel, it looks like Anderson is going to deliver yet another visually stunning, and an overall brilliant film that is packed with a story that might sound ridiculous, but in Anderson's hands, it might be the most magical thing on cinematic history. In case you are wondering on what the movie will be about, Isle of Dogs is about a future when all dogs are quarantined in a single island, at a time when a disease of canine origin emerged. We follow the adventures of Chief, voiced by Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Rex, voiced by Edward Norton (Fight Club), Boss, voiced by Bill Murray (The Jungle Book Remake), and King, voiced by Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom), as they aid a boy named Atari Kobayashi, voiced by Koyu Rankin in his first movie role, searching for his dog, Spots, voiced by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight).


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5. Ready Player One (March 30, 2018)

Since when has Steven Spielberg ever disappointed us? (Recalls Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) Oh. Well, at least it is not the worst movie of all time. The latest addition to his mighty fine filmography is basically "Easter Egg: The Movie", Ready Player One! While it might just sound like yet another lackluster Hollywood-ized adaptation of a beloved best seller, just remember that it is in the hands of the legendary Steven Spielberg. Besides, the original writer of the book, Ernest Cline, is also co-writing the script. So yeah, the movie is in good hands. 


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4. Incredibles 2  (June 15, 2018)

Good God. Only now did Disney thought that an Incredibles sequel was a good idea. But hey, better late than never, I suppose. But is it a little too late for this long overdue follow-up? I hope not, because, aside from the original movie being the center of my childhood, The Incredibles is one of the absolute best films that Pixar and Disney has made. Heck, I might even say that it is one of the absolute best films in all of history. 


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3. Black Panther (February 16, 2018)

Black Panther promises to deliver something entirely different, and something entirely awesome! With the success of both Fruitvale Station and Creed, it was bound to happen that writer-director Ryan Coogler would helm a superhero movie. Together with his frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan (That Awkward Moment), who portrays the film's main antagonist Erik Killmonger, as well as the ever-glowing star power of Chadwick Boseman (Message from the King) in the lead role, we ought to see something truly wonderful next February. Also, did I mention that they have an all-star ensemble cast, composing of but not limited to Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) and Martin Freeman (Sherlock)? 


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2. Deadpool 2 (June 1, 2018)

And of course, how can we forget about the "Merc with a Mouth" and his highly anticipated follow-up to his successful cinematic debut? (His appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine does not count) We are promised with twice more perfectly choreographed action sequences, twice more comic book characters that all fans crave to see a cinematic debut, such as Cable, played by Thanos ... I mean, Josh Brolin (Sicario), and Domino, played by Zazie Beetz (Geostorm), and twice the R-Rated humor that made the first installment a smash hit. What makes this movie even more interesting is that we have absolutely no idea what the movie has in store for us. In addition, just looking at the funny teaser below is enough to convince you that we are bound for an awesome time at the theaters.


Like this year, there is so much more potentially great movies that we just could not fit them all in this countdown. As such, here are our ...


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Honorable Mentions:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Sometime Around 2018) - Finally, all of Gilliam's nineteen-year effort and dedication are about to pay off. And what better way to commend all of his hard work than buying a ticket to this film?

Annihilation (February 23, 2018) - With an interesting source material, and a talented cast lead by Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Annihilation might really be something.

Pacific Rim: Uprising (March 23, 2018) - We will be seeing a new story, with a new protagonist in the form of Jake Pentecost, played by John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and a whole new batch of monsters. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25, 2018) - Despite all of the behind-the-scenes drama, it is, after all, a Star Wars film, and anything that is connected to the beloved franchise deserves at least a peek, right?

Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (November 21, 2018) -  It is no surprise that we are about to get another movie about a guy who wrecks it. This time, we are going to the Internet! 

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (December 14, 2018) - Arguably the most surprising thing Sony has to offer, it looks like the said studio is trying to make amends with the awful The Emoji Movie.


Aquaman (December 21, 2018) - Honestly, for me, Justice League killed pretty much every single hype for this movie, as the character himself is not given enough respect. Hopefully his solo outing would deliver.

Bohemian Rhapsody (December 25, 2017) - Another victim of behind-the-scenes drama, the long-awaited Queen biopic is due to be released on Christmas Day, and it stars Mr. Robot's Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury.

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1. Avengers: Infinity War (May 4, 2018)

The culmination of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War is our most anticipated release of 2018! Well, it was obvious that this would be the result, given that we would finally get to see a decade of filmmaking finally come together in a single major crossover. In addition, with both Disney and Fox finally reaching a deal, the many directions that the long running franchise could take are just infinite (Pun intended). There are just so many reasons to list down here. And that trailer? Man, that trailer was the best out of all the trailers released last year.


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And that concludes our countdown of the most anticipated releases of this year.  Disney really is in a roll next year, with various releases of Marvel and Pixar movies here and there. Be sure to also check-out the trailer for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse below, because it really is just awesome! Have a happy 2018 ladies and gentlemen, and stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


Siargao (2017)



Rated PG: Parental Guidance is Advised



Genre/s: Drama, Romance


Running Time: 104 (1 hour and 44 minutes)

Released on December 25, 2017 (PH Release Date; Limited Release Only)

Presented by Ten17p Films, through Solar Pictures

Writer: Anj Pessumal

Director: Paul Soriano

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Starring:
  • Jericho Rosales as Diego
  • Erich Gonzales as Laura
  • Jasmine Curtis-Smith as Abi
Crew:
  • Produced by Paul Soriano and Mark Victor

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'Tis the season to be jolly! Since it is now Christmas time here in the Philippines as well, that can only mean one thing for our national cinema industry. No, it does not mean we will be having a marathon of a bunch of Christmas movies. Here, we have the annual Metro Manila Film Festival! And that means no Hollywood movies for a couple of weeks, to make way for a little bit of that Filipino cinematic pride. In our latest movie spotlight, although a little late one, Ten17p Films, in partnership with our friends at the appropriately named Solar Pictures, invites you to go surfing under the sun, in one of the most exotic locations in the country, which is ironic considering that this season is anything but warm. Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and this is our spotlight on one of the entries for this particular event, Siargao.

Before we start, we would just like to offer our condolences to those who were affected the NCCC incident in Davao. 36 call center agents were caught in a blaze, a few days before Christmas. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected.



What is the movie about?

Rock musician Diego, played by Rosales (Magpahanggang Wakas) returns home to Siargao, in order to confront both the demons of his past, present, and future.

There, he meets vlogger Laura, played by Gonzales (Once a Princess), who came from Manila in order to seriously mend a broken heart, which resulted from her anxieties of a married life.

As Diego and Laura bond, Diego's old flame, up and coming businesswoman Abi, played by Curtis-Smith (I'm Drunk, I Love You), comes back into the fray, and she is longing to revive their long lost love for one another.

With a love triangle bound to happen, Diego must choose between Laura and Abi, in order for him to have his own happily ever after!

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And that wraps-up our latest movie spotlight. Also, I just want to express my pleasant surprise to hearing Reese Lansangan, one of the great contemporary OPM artists out there. She deserves more attention. Check her out, you guys! Be sure to also check Siargao out, in cinemas now. Hurry, before time runs out. For more updates on the movie, be sure to check-out their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages by clicking here, here, and here, respectively, and for their official website, here. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!
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Your Name / 君の名は (2016)

Rated PG: For Some Language and Sensitive Themes, and Smoking

Running Time: 106 minutes (1 hour and 46 minutes)

Genre/s: Anime, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Released on August 26, 2016 (JP Release Date; Available For Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by CoMix Wave Films and Toho



Based On "Your Name." By Makoto Shinkai



Writer and Director: Makoto Shinkai

Starring:
  • Ryunosuke Kamiki as Taki Tachibana
  • Mone Kamishiraishi as Mitsuha Miyamizu

Get ready for an anime film that features one of the most unrealistic love stories ever told in cinema, combining coming-of-age drama and comedy with a huge bunch of seeming magical nonsense, but somehow manages to depict love more realistically than most romantic movies? Wow. 

The movie court is now in session! I have been hearing a lot of insights from my school's Twitter-sphere commenting on just how darn powerful this artistic work of animation, with other critics even showering it with the same amount of near-endless praise. We naturally gave in to our curiosity, and watched the "subbed" version. So help us God, we will determine truthfully if this movie lives-up to the word-of-mouth hype. Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and this is the case of Dateline v. Your Name (君の名は).

In case it is still not yet obvious, a spoiler alert is a must! Seriously, if you have not watched this yet, you might want to leave. Some of the plot points we will be discussing are essential to the narrative, and spoiling you might just ruin the entire experience for you.


What is the movie about?


Teenagers with big dreams, workaholic architecture aspirant Taki Tachibana, voiced by Kamiki (Spirited Away), and weary provincial girl Mitsuha Miyamizu, voiced by Kamishiraishi (Wolf Children) are living their lives in search of something vague. Something important. Something that is like a dream.

To their shock and initial confusion, Taki and Mitsuha discover that they have switched bodies, for an unknown cause. With almost no choice but to move along with their lives, in each other's bodies, Taki and Mitsuha decided to help each other with their own personal lives.

What follows Taki and Mitsuha's strange encounters is a journey across time and space that will help them discover what they have been looking for their entire lives. For them to find it, they must go against all odds in order to be by each other's side, and to always never lose sight on who each of them truly are.

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The Defense:
  • A contemporary love story you should actually care about? Finally.
Actually, what we mean is that this film has a love story that is quite unlike everything that we have ever seen before. No cliches will ruin your movie-viewing experience. Admittedly, in structure, it is not exactly original, as all you need to do is watch The Lake House starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock for you to understand the movie, but it will not matter, because like (500) Days of Summer, and La La LandYour Name nevertheless offers a pretty unique take on the genre.

There are only a few movies like Your Name that have really struck the audience so hard. Almost none of most romantic-drama catalogue actually reached the same heights as Your Name did. It is not the usual "you will never know what you have until it is gone" parable. It is not the cheesy, mainstream "guy tries to get girl" story. It does not adhere to typical romantic movie cliches. The almost complete absence of tropes, plus the added twists of mysticism, enable the characters to truly shine, and make them as people that the audience can easily identify with. With exceptionally brilliant voice work from Kamiki and Kamishiraishi, you simply cannot help but root for Taki and Mitsuya to just be together.

In fact, what sets this movie apart from various other romantic movies is its creation of two organically developed characters. As we have said before, neither Taki nor Mitsuya fall under a specific stereotype, and no, neither of them fell in love out of the blue. Instead, they caught feeling for one another after getting to know each other better through their body-swapping antiques. They get to literally live each other's lives, experience each of their respective struggles, and through all of that, they understand each other. All of these culminate into one big weird love story that is neatly wrapped with a beautiful red bow.

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  • RADWIMPS excellently sweeps you away with their heart-tugging songs.
Thank God for RADWIMPS! It is not everyday when you get to hear a movie soundtrack done by a band, instead of a composer, that is surprisingly good. Local Japanese band RADWIMPS' sweet and melodramatic tones perfectly reflect the film's emotional overly sentimental mood. My personal picks for their album, which is currently available in Spotify, are "Dream Lantern", and "Zenzenzense" (Past Past Past Life), which are the two most upbeat tunes in the soundtrack, and the only two that fall under the pop-rock genre. Their instrumentals are also pretty good, but for me, the ones featuring their vocals are absolutely the best. Also, as an honorable mention, the last two tracks that feature vocals, which are also the most sentimental tracks, including "Sparkle", and "Nandemonaiya" (It's Nothing), will surely bring tears to your eyes.

Honestly, the entire album is just golden, and those two aforementioned tracks are not the only ones that are worth listening to. Seriously, you should listen to all of the tracks on Spotify.

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  • The animation is beautifully done, and the end result is just a stunning sight for sore eyes.
Japan is clearly one of the greatest when it comes to animation, and it is no surprise that this little feature is just stunning to look at. The animation is titanium smooth, and crystal clear. The character movements, from the facial expressions, to the designs, everything is breathtaking to behold. I also love the visuals on the background, and all of the colors burst into one grand spectacle at the climactic scenes, when both Taki and Mitsuha finally get to meet. Also, the day-to-night time-lapse transitions, and the animation of the comet, the plot device, are just gorgeous to look at, and every single detail from the scene when both Taki and Mitsuha are altering the past, is just art in motion.

  • The movie is just absolutely bold and thought-provoking in execution and style. Basically, it deserves more than one viewing.
The movie is all about a deeper meaning on the concept of love at first sight. Yes, a lot of other romantic movies, even the great ones, also tackle this idea, but Your Name offers something else: an artistically surreal take on love, which we will be discussing deeper later, and most especially, a non-manipulative way of making viewers shed tears. It simply means that all those times that the movie literally asks you to cry, you will cry, because it does not feel forced.

There is just a lot of emotional moments to mention, from Taki's shocking of discovery of the truth that the Mitsuya he knows died years ago, to Taki and Mitsuya's eventual, and totally expected, and anticipated, reunion five years after the events of the comet. However, if I were to pick among those moments that is the most touching, it would have to be, obviously, Taki and Mitsuya's first ever meeting in the present day (The plot is confusing, but worry not, we will get to that later). It is a beautiful and heartwarming tipping point of the entirety of the movie that will just leave you at the edge of your seat.

But the best thing about this film is, for me, the underlying message of Your Name. Actually, I had to ask Dad, and even subscribing to a few die hard film analysts, about what the entire point of the film is. To my discovery, it is all about dreams. It might sound weird, but yeah, it really is all about dreams. That feeling that you dream of something, or probably someone, so captivating, but due to it being a dream, you barely even remember him or her. In short, the people who are meant for you lie in your dreams. Sad. A really sad message when you think about it, but a very meaningful, and a little bit hopeful, one.

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The Prosecution:
  • Beneath a sweet love story is a series of complex plot threads that might be confusing for some.
This is honestly the only thing that might prevent anyone else from truly enjoying the magic that this movie has. Although this is not to say that the writing is horrible, because it actually is darn magnificent, it is just that people might get swept away with all of the fantasy and romantic elements that the story has. Mind you, I encountered this problem 

To sum it all up though, just imagine the past and present, unbound-to-time communication from the movies  Frequency and The Lake House, which is pretty much the Americanized version of this, but older, and unlike The Lake House, the plot is combined with the body-swapping strangeness of Freaky Friday

Still confused? Fear not! Allow me to explain to you in a more complete manner.

Basically, the entire story is all about Taki and Mitsuha suddenly switching bodies at random. At first, they thought it was just a dream, until they realize that everything is real. Thinking that they have no control over the phenomenon, they decide to live their lives for awhile in each other's shoes. Mitsuha, in Taki's body, decides to help him win over the affection of his co-worker, and also secret admirer, Miki Okudera, voiced by Masami Nagasawa (Our Little Sister), while Taki, taking over Mitsuha, makes her one of the popular kids in school.

Things get complicated, however, when both of them, after a sweet, sweet series of bonding through notes left behind, while they are in each other's bodies, stopped swapping. After an awkward date with Miki, Taki decides to call Mitsuha for the first time in forever, but he does not receive an answer. He tries to find her hometown, only to discover that five years ago, it was crushed under the weight of a giant comet, during the time when Mitsuha and her family were doing a ritual, in honor of their deity, or something. This reveals that Taki was only communicating with the past, now deceased, version of Mitsuha, through some weird time-related phenomenon that runs through Mitsuha's bloodline, in order to prevent disasters that will doom the family tree. For some reason, no one bothers to ask or even explain as to why have Taki be Mitsuha's vessel, of all people in the world. 

Desperate to reunite with her, Taki vows to help her evade that horrifying fate. Taki ventures through the remains of the village, and for some odd reason, Taki thinks that by drinking the sake that was made by him, in Mitsuha's body, for the aforementioned ritual for their god, will have him reconnect with Mitsuha in some way, which strangely enough works. After drinking the potentially rotten sake, Taki's consciousness goes on a psychedelic trip through time, and now, in Mitsuha's body, Taki sets-out to prevent the people living in the village from perishing.

Meanwhile, Mitsuha wanders the present day in Taki's body, and as fate would have it, their respective consciousness meet in a specific crossroad in time, located atop the village mountain. After talking for awhile, with them asking each other to write their names on each other's hands, but instead of doing so, Taki decides to write "I love you", while Mitsuha attempted to do the same, but not before disappearing into time (Sobs), Mitsuha, now in her body, convinces her father, the mayor Toshiki, played by Masaki Terasoma (The Princess and the Pilot).

In the end, they do not meet in the present day, and neither recall the events of that day. To the joy of everyone, myself included, the town was saved. Well, actually, the town itself is still destroyed, but the people are safe and sound. With Mitsuha alive, including her entire family, Taki, now an architect, gets a chance encounter with Mitsuha in the now present future. Taki proceeds to follow her through train, and finally he gets her attention, and both proceed to, at the same time, ask each other's name. The end.

See? I told you it was confusing ... and also wonderful. Very heartwarming, and all that. (Sobs even further) To be straight, that was just me nitpicking. Please just watch this fascinating piece of cinema, right this second! I mean it! Do it!

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The Ruling: Not Gulity

One of the finest anime movies yet, that I know of at the moment, Your Name is easily a must see, thanks to its colorful visuals, spectacular writing, and gut-wrenching emotional gravitas!

And there you have it! Case closed. Now that right there, is one awesome movie! I just cannot see why would its own creator not like it. It is a mystifying masterpiece, I tell you. A masterpiece! But hey, I cannot blame. It is his own assessment of his own work.

I do hope that you watch this, and I do recommend that you do it quickly, because inevitably, Hollywood is aiming to cash-in on the popularity by making a remake, which we have all known by now, never ever ends up well. J.J. Abrams, if you are listening, please do not mess this up! You are a good director, and I trust you do what is best for this movie.

And before we wrap all of this up, here is a piano version of "Zenzenzense" by RADWIMPS, done by Theishter - Anime on Piano. If you thought the vocalized version was great, wait until you hear this one. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Rated PG-13: For Violence

Running Time: 152 minutes (2 hours and 32 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

Released on December 15, 2017 (US Release Date; Available For Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Lucasfilm Ltd. and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures



"Star Wars" Created by George Lucas



Writer and Director: Rian Johnson

Starring:
  • Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
  • Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
  • Adam Driver as Ben Solo / Kylo Ren
  • Daisy Ridley as Rey
  • John Boyega as Finn / FN-2187
  • Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
  • Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
  • Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico


A polarizing Star Wars movie? Critics have expressed their admiration for the film, while the fans have pulled-out their torches and pitchforks. It must be opposite day this Christmas season, since normally, it is the critics who come out to lambaste, while the fans come to defend.

The defendant has been accused of not living-up to any of our expectations, with some of the audience viewers even claiming it to be a whole lot worst than the disappointing prequel trilogy. So help us God, on the season of His Son's birth, we will get to see if this is indeed as great as The Empire Strikes Back.

But before anything else, I just want to say that this movie, despite what most other Star Wars fans say, it is pretty good. I mean yeah, there are huge, glaring flaws and all, but it is not in the unwatchable level of bad. It is decent!

Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and movie court is now in session to handle the case of Dateline v. Star Wars: The Last Jedi! And please do not forget that the spoilers are strong in this one!


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What is the movie about?

After the destruction of the "Starkiller Base", the core forces of the Resistance, lead by General Leia Organa, played by Fisher (When Harry Met Sally ...), together with First Order defector Finn, played by Boyega (Attack The Block), and ace fighter pilot Poe Dameron, played by Isaac (X-Men: Apocalypse), as well as mechanic Rose Tico, played by Tran in her first major movie role, scramble to make their next move to decimate the First Order for good.

While this is happening, potential Jedi Rey, played by Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express), seeks out former Jedi Master and intergalactic hero, Luke Skywalker, played by Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service), after retrieving the lost pieces of the map to his current location. There, she implores his guidance, in order to gain mastery over her Force-related abilities.

Humiliated from his defeat by Rey, Kylo Ren, played by Driver (Logan Lucky), is trained to the peak by Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Serkis (The Planet of the Apes Reboot Trilogy), and now thirsting for vengeance, sets his sights on both Rey, and his former master, Luke!

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What we think of the movie?

The Defense:
  • It channels The Empire Strikes Back, while offering something different.
You did not enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens for blatantly copying-and-pasting A New Hope? Were you worried that The Last Jedi would just straight-up rip-off The Empire Strikes Back? Fear not, because The Last Jedi might have taken some tonal cues from the fifth episode of the saga, the latest installment in the franchise is anything but a complete mirror reflection!

We are treated to new twists, new mysteries, new creatures, and new worlds. Most of these twists are linked to some of the recently unexplored dimensions of the Force. In the film, while possessing the Force does give you some form of telekinesis and telepathy, we discover that by having the Force, one can physically communicate with another Force-wielder. In addition to that, geokinesis, or the ability to move literal mountains, is introduced. Plus, Leia is actually a Force wielder? Whoa! We have so much more territory to cover.

I enjoy the movie's basic premise, which is a standoff between the Resistance and the First Order, in the vacuum of space. Surrounded by a First Order squadron, including the fearsome Supreme Leader Snoke's ship, the Supremacy, the Resistance have to survive for as long as they can, to escape on low fuel. I have to admit though, while it is a breath of fresh air from the usual large scale battles, the execution is quite messy, but we will go into detail later.

Luke Skywalker's more pessimistic portrayal, in contrast to his more optimistic versions in past stories, is one of the few other points that fans are not open to. While admittedly it barely resembles anything like the Luke that we all know and love, you have to admit that his characterization into this was bound to happen. I mean, come on, his own nephew turned to the Dark Side.Yeah fine, he did try to kill Ben Solo in his sleep, out of fear that he might be the one to end it all, but it shows that Luke, like every other legendary hero, is prone to making poor human judgments, and his display of guilt at seeing Ben look in terror just shows that he is indeed a flawed, but human, figure.

Overall, The Last Jedi is dark, and not in an unnecessarily brooding or a plain awful manner, and I am just glad that it did not borrow shamelessly from The Empire Strikes Back.

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  • Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are at their prime, and so are the rest of the cast.
It really is great to see both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher be in major movie roles once again, other than being voice actors in some of our favorite shows. Hamill, despite initially not liking how his character has developed into, delivers his best live-action performance in a long while. Like what we have said before, this older, grimmer, grumpier, potentially crazier Luke is a bit of a far-cry from previous iterations, but Hamill makes Luke every bit as likable as before. I do love his highly anticipated, although a little bit underwhelming, duel with his former apprentice, with him just showing-off that Hamill still has that lovable energy going, and his brief encounter with Leia is pretty heartwarming.

Carrie Fisher, before sadly passing away last year, was able to accomplish her parts in this movie, and is even made more hopeful when you realize that Fisher was able to share the screen with her daughter, Billie Lourd (Scream Queens), who played Lieutenant Connix here and in The Force Awakens. In her final film, Fisher makes the best out of her last outing as the beloved Leia Organa, and she will indeed be truly missed. 

I also enjoy Oscar Isaac's larger and much more meaningful role as Poe Dameron. While last time, he was missing from more than half of the movie, and now he is back with a character arc. With charm, Isaac makes Dameron a character of his own. Newcomer Kelly Marie Tran makes Rose Tico, a character that feels as if she was made to meet a demographic's expectations, a likable character, and her interactions with John Boyega's Finn are just average, sadly. I hope to see more of Tran in future installments. Rey's much more conflicted portrayal is great, as she struggles with discovering her true lineage and identity, we join her in her path of self-discovery.
  • Kylo Ren evolves from emo Darth Vader wannabe, to one of the best movie villains of the decade!
And the best thing about this movie is Kylo Ren's further decent into insanity. While you might think that this movie is all about Rey trying to master control of her powers, it is actually all about Kylo Ren, and whether or not does he truly have a shot at redemption. Adam Driver finally sheds Ben Solo of his initially bratty and confused nature, and with a powerhouse level of a performance, Kylo Ren is a complete force to be reckoned with! (No pun intended.)

When we last saw him in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren was just trying way too hard to be the next Darth Vader, and he often comes-off as whiny, with fits of temper tantrums. Now, after being endlessly poked fun at by Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren, discarding his trademark mask, becomes the new Supreme Leader of the First Order! Throughout the entire movie, we hoped (or like me, probably not) that there could at least be a chance for him to rejoin the side of light. Alas, Ben Solo is no more, and Kylo Ren reigns!

I am just amazed at the writer-director Rian Johnson's decision to take the more risky route, and make Kylo Ren into a fully recognized villain, with no longer any ties to morality. And thanks to this, and Driver's amazing performance, Kylo Ren is now officially one of my favorite on-screen villains.

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  • The action is breathtaking, and the cinematography is jaw-dropping.
Being one of the cinematic forerunners in the industry of making wide-scale, epic battles, it has come to no surprise that expectations are high for the awesome battle sequences. Thankfully, The Last Jedi does not disappoint, and the battles are just mind-blowing! It only has two major battles, and only one that is set in space, which is the introductory battle. For me, I thought that this is the best big-scale battle, as not only are we introduced to Rose's sister, and eventually, Rose's motivation to join the fight, which make for some heartbreaking moments, we are also shown at Poe Dameron's tendency to be stubborn in the face of danger. Aside from just being a visual splendor, in less than a few minutes, we already know how some of the essential characters work, and the execution of this scene is flawless.

The final battle planet at the salt planet (Yes, salt.) of Crait is also brilliant, and the assistance of some eye-popping usage of the color red, as seen in the image above, is beyond spectacular. I also like how in this sequence, I get those "Battle of Hoth" vibes from The Empire Strikes Back. That might sound like copying to you, but trust me, the scene is great, and the emotional punch at Finn's aborted heroic sacrifice, and later on, Luke's peaceful demise, is decent.

Allow me to also add Vice Admiral Holdo's, played by Laura Dern (Big Little Lies), by using the Hyperdrive to collide with the Supremacy, is one of the best shots of this movie. The action is actually done better here, thanks to its crisp cinematography.

But none of these epic fights can come close to the visual, pulse-pounding spectacle that is Kylo Ren's team-up with a captured Rey, against Supreme Leader Snoke's heavily-armed "Praetorian" guards. Actually, I will just say that the best fights in the movie are the duels, but this just takes the cake. Tired of being pushed around by Snoke, Ren decides to kill Snoke, by using the Force to move his Lightsaber from Snoke's reach, and slice him in half. What follows is a beautifully choreographed team-up between the good, and the evil, against the much more useful red-colored ninja-like guard. For real, this is by far the best scene in the entire movie! Also, the designs of those guards, are awesome.

Lastly, the duels between Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren, as well as Finn and Captain Phasma are great, but sadly, underwhelming. Underwhelming as in it does not last long enough to be truly grandiose. Do not get me wrong though. Those scenes are brilliant, and it will put you at the edge of your seat, but in the end, it is very limited.

The Prosecution:
    • It is not made to cater to fans, at all.  (Also, Supreme Leader Snoke and Captain Phasma are wasted, big time.)
    The Force Awakens sure knew how to raise expectations, then immediately ruin about some of them. The Last Jedi does exactly the same thing, but instead of only ravaging some of our expectations, it completely does not meet about almost half of them? The movie is completely non-serviceable to fans of the saga, which is the very reason why it is polarizing audiences. Meaning to say, it does not exist for the sole purpose of meeting fans' wants and desires, which can be both a good and a bad thing. 

    The fans who sorely tired themselves in theorizing who Rey's parents could be would be sourly disappointed to the revelation that her parents are not related to the Skywalker family tree, and are instead just a bunch of random, horrible people who sold her for drinking money. Wow. Talk about being anticlimactic.

    We were teased frequently that both Snoke and Phasma would eventually become key players in the sequel trilogy. So far, in the seventh episode, they were more or less just cannon fodder. Our eighth episode pretty much just proves that claim. While it has been hinted time and time again that Snoke possesses some new array of Force-linked abilities, and is even portrayed as a powerful Lucifer-like deceiver, he gets easily killed by a nearby moving Lightsaber in just a few seconds. While Captain Phasma is said to be a cool assassin in the same vein as Boba Fett, she gets instantly caught in an explosion after fighting Finn for only a minute.

    While I am always up for something unexpected, couldn't Rian Johnson have at least given these two some form of justice before biting the dust? Fine, Boba Fett did not get that much screen time, nor was The Emperor given a complete backstory in the original trilogy, but both characters were teased to the point that they were suppose to matter. I am hoping that some way they can be resurrected for future installments. Snoke might use the Force to come back, while Phasma might even become a cyborg.
    • What happens in Canto Bight, should stay in Canto Bight, forever. (That includes that one huge plot hole.)
    And here is where much of the fan-rage originated. I have to agree with a lot of the fans here, as the way the Canto Bight subplot is handled is really clunky and messy.

    The movie showed that the adventure to the casino planet is important, as both Finn and Rose need to seek-out a master codebreaker who can jam the Hyperdrive-tracking device in the Supremacy, for the Resistance to escape. In all of the scenes they are in, I might have been slightly engrossed by its use of political commentary, stating that the rich people there are rich because they sell weapons, but everything feels more like an Indiana Jones copycat. Their escape from the planet also screams Indiana Jones, or even worse, "prequel-like". The scenes feel a little bit out of place, although it will ultimately payoff in a forced love story between Finn and Rose by the ending,  and a potential love triangle between Rey, Finn, and Rose, and it clearly disrupts the most important story arc in the movie, which is Rey's evolution to a full-on Jedi Master.

    I understand that Finn needed some form of character development, and we needed to advance the plot and all that, but what really infuriates me most about this part is the fact that it is pointless. Yes. Pointless. You see, Vice Admiral Holdo did not like to share what she was planning, which is to escape to a nearby planet undetected. Finn and Rose's trip to the planet would not have taken place had she just told everybody. In fact, DJ might not have even double-crossed them at the end, had Holdo just told them. How hard is it to explain all of that?

    Also, here is another plot hole. If Leia only manifested her connection to the Force when she nearly got sucked out of space, why is she not surprised? Also, why is it not brought-up again? A lot of questions left unanswered.

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    • Some of the humor is forced and out-of-place.
    Lastly, if you are tired of the humor presented in the various installments of Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might now want to listen to some of the jokes featured here. While the jokes are actually fewer here, in contrast to the over-exaggerated claims made by fans, the gags really do tend to feel out-of-place. Admittedly, you will get that bit of an awkward chuckle, but for most times, they would just feel weird. But for me, there was ever a time when I actually laughed. Grinned probably.

    One instance of this being out of place is in the very beginning of the movie, when Poe Dameron sort-of prank called General Hux over the communications, even making a Star Wars variation of a "yo mama" joke. The most effective attempt at having me laugh is when Luke had Rey close his eyes, to "feel" the Force around her, and Luke uses a leaf to tickle her, pretending that it was the Force. Just because it sounds funny on paper, it does not mean it will be funny for people. I also did not like that about half of the jokes are actually found on Rey's training scenes, and those gags, simple and harmful as they may be, do ruin the seriousness that it is supposed to be felt by viewers.

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    The Ruling: Not Guilty!

    As much as I would want to sentence this film as "guilty", due to it not meeting my typical Star Wars standards, but as a film, it is fun, it is dark, it is intriguing, and it is worth the watch.

    And with that movie court is adjourned! To be fair, I understand why most fans are upset with this movie, but seriously, it is not really all that bad. It is a decent movie. Decent enough to not be entirely compared to the mediocre prequel trilogy. At least they tread on previously unexplored territory this time around, and I am really hoping that the next movies can be just a little bold, but not too bold. Also, I hope Solo: A Star Wars Story is good, despite the behind-the-scenes drama. Before we leave, here is a little Star Wars Christmas treat. (And no, it is not the Holiday special.) Merry Christmas everyone, and stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!