Double Feature: 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019) & Little Women (2019)

Next double feature is here as I worked through some more rentals. The first is the sequel of 47 Meters Down called 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. The second is Greta Gerwig’s directed adaptation of book of the same name, Little Women. Let’s check it out!

47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)

47 meters down uncaged

Director: Johannes Roberts

Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Rose Stallone, John Corbett, Nia Long, Brec Bassinger, Davi Santos, Khylin Rhambo

Four teen girls diving in a ruined underwater city quickly learn they’ve entered the territory of the deadliest shark species in the claustrophobic labyrinth of submerged caves.- IMDB

Let’s start off that this is pretty much a new story from 47 Meters Down. For those who have seen 47 Meters Down, there really isn’t any room to do a sequel with those characters or that storyline. While shark movies are rather entertaining and I did enjoy 47 Meters Down in several aspects and premise, lets just say that a sequel wasn’t exactly something that was expected or needed but it happened.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged takes a new perspective. This time around, it goes into a cave diving adventure where these four girls go to explore the underwater Mayan ruins but it ends up trapping them in after a sudden realization that there were blind sharks living in these caves. Its something of an opposite experience than 47 Meters Down. Uncaged has a lot more sharks and while there are some questionable CG effects like the screaming fish, the blind sharks is a fairly fresh concept. Sharks hunting only by sound and being able to blend into the background of the dark murky waters that the girls find them in. The whole course of finding their way out and having a lot of cast gives the movie a higher death count, more people to be endanger. With that said, its a faster paced movie and a much more simple and direct sort of element. It takes some of the good premise elements of the first like survival with decreasing oxygen tanks to the light elements and flares versus sharks and applies to a bigger scope.

If you look at the cast, its not exactly a well-known one. However, there are some second generation actresses like Jamie Foxx’s daughter Corinne Foxx and Sylvester Stallone’s daughter Sistine Rose Stallone. The characters themselves are linear and one dimensional. There is a little bit of family elements here as two step-sisters face this labyrinth together to try and get out. There’s also John Corbett who stars as one of the girl’s dad who is the one who is exploring these caves as their current project and the reason that they are in this location in the first place.

Overall, its an okay shark movie. Its paced quicker with a lot more sharks than its predecessor. Its more direct and less psychological. There are some tension built from this specific location of underwater caves that also brings in the frightening feeling of claustrophobia every once in a while. The sharks have really good designs of their scarred body probably from navigating the tight spaces in the area and how they have biologically changed because of being trapped in this dark location for such a long time. The general concept makes enough sense even if some of the computer graphics isn’t done well but Johannes Roberts does get some nice cinematography in that makes up for a part of that.

Little Women (2019)

Little Women

Director (and adapted screenplay): Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep

Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women, each determined to live life on her own terms. – IMDB

One of the classics that I haven’t read before is Little Women. I have a general idea of the source material but I’ve never actually read the novel nor have I seen the 1994 film adaptation. This viewing is solely based on this movie as its own film. With that said, Little Women is set up in a structure that I rather like. In one way, its main focus is on Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan and her determination to be a writer despite not quite able to accept the criticism but willing to sacrifice to have her work published anonymously. Its has something of an (semi-autobiographical nature where who we see as Jo March feels like she’s telling her story while also having this breaking reality moments at times where we see how things actually went and the way the story is told based on the pressures from her editor and whatnot.

Little Women is about the different girls in each of the March sisters who seek something different in life. They each grow up together and much like any siblings have their own issues and one sacrifices more than the other. As they grow up, their age and being able to do things the others can’t do all come into play as all kinds of values come into play. Through the actions and decisions of each of the sisters, it crafts each of their characters. The focus is rather heavily on the sisters finding their value and what they each value that leads them in different paths. Certain things break them apart and yet other things will bring them together. In the path of growing up, they sacrifice things and other things pass them by and some just fade into regret and moving on. Its all part of life. Something about Greta Gerwig’s structure for this story works really well. Its a subtle and endearing story about this sisterhood. While some characters fall into the background, they each have their own purpose whether its the mother, played brilliantly by Laura Dern that teaches her daughters to be selfless and willing them to have a mind of their own or its the youngest sister who has a dream but with her illness brings together the family in the end. There’s something that pieces each of these events together.

The focus is a lot on Jo March, Amy March and their neighbor/family friend, Laurie played by Timothée Chalamet. It seems that Greta Gerwig sure loves to work with Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet and always sees them as the impossible pairing. Their relationship/friendship is something of the other way around from Lady Bird (review), which I thought was pretty genius to cast them and give their characters an opposing sort of character and giving these two a nice dynamic. Little Women is a pretty great adaptation that executed really well and all the characters portrayed incredibly charming and with a good deal of depth and purpose. Its a great coming of age period drama.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

TV Binge: Sugar Rush:Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020) & Sugar High (2020)

Sugar Rush: Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020)

sugar rush extra sweet

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo
Guest Judges: Fortune Feimster, Naya Rivera, Justin Willman, Tyler Posey, Garcelle Beauvais, Ron Ben-Israel

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Season 3 of Sugar Rush is pretty much the same as the previous seasons. They run in the general same structure of having 4 teams and 3 rounds which leads to two rounds of elimination and 2 final teams battling it out in the final round and saving up time for their final rounds. Season 3 is titled Extra Sweet. This adds in the new element of ingredients requirement matching with the theme of the episode. For each rounds, there is a different shelf of certain items that have a minimum required of items to incorporate into the dessert to elevate the theme that that round whether its cupcake, confection or cake.

Its nice to see that Sugar Rush is changing up its formula a little. Sugar Rush has a decent concept and it runs at only six episodes a season, which makes it fairly binge-able as long as you are into this type of baking reality competition series. Its a serious and professional baking competition so its good in smaller doses (I usually watch an episode or two and stop). They find some fairly good guest judges. In this case, they had a few judges that was previously on Nailed It!, I believe and then also adds (sadly) the last reality show appearance for Naya Rivera. They all are rather fun and give some decent feedback for the most part about the desserts. The “Extra Sweet” addition to this season does add a little challenge and it usually can see how daring the teams are and their creativity.

Sugar Rush is at its third season. If baking reality competition series are your thing, this one is pretty good. I don’t think its quite as bingeable because its a lot more of a serious baking competition but I do enjoy the interaction of the judges, Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo as well as most of the guest judges here. They had some nice fancy baked creations that was quite fun to watch. The time element feels like the tension from the first few seasons has worn itself down where that’s no longer something that feels like its not doable. All the competitors just make it work 100% of the time and things that happen is more technical issues that they run out of time to fix. Its still fairly entertaining to watch overall.

Sugar High (2020)

sugar high 2020

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Jackie Sorkin, Rebecca DeAngelis, Stéphane Tréand

Contestants compete in two rounds of sugar sculpting challenges for a prize of $10,000. – IMDB

Sugar High is a one episode spin-off of Sugar Rush except with a focus on sugar sculptures and sugar confections. With that said, other than the host Hunter March remaining the same, the judges have all changed who are knowledgeable about this area of expertise.

Sugar High is separated into two rounds. The first round is about making confections to fit the criteria set out. Its meant to be a feast for the mouth and the eyes in many ways. The second round is about making these beautiful sculptures that also fit another set of criteria. In this case, it was the height, which is a challenge for desserts as we know from Sugar Rush challenges but with sugar sculptures, its even more fragile.

Its only one episode. I’m not sure whether this is just testing the waters to see how many people will be interested and the feedback or just a one off deal to add some variety to show off sugar work. I honestly think its like watching an art work come to life which is a nice change in pace. Sugar work is something that doesn’t seem to have that much emphasis but from this one episode, it seems like there’s quite a bit to discover and learn. Different way to work with sugar and the challenges that comes with working with something that sensitive to heat and craftsmanship. One episode isn’t enough to say much but I’d be down to at least watch a few more episodes of this.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula (2020)

Peninsula (2020)

Peninsula

Director (and co-writer): Sang-ho Yeon

Cast:  Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-jae, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Ye-won

Marine captain Jung-seok and his family escapes by ship which suddenly changes course to Hong Kong and ends up having a lower level outbreak that infects his sister and nephew, leaving him and his brother-in-law, Chul-min to escape in Hong Kong. Four years later, as they live poorly in Hong Kong with no status, the triad boss gives them a task to go retrieve money stuck in a truck in Incheon which was in transport during the zombie outbreak years ago and giving them a decent cut for their work if they get out alive with the loot. Jung-seok, Chul-min and two other Koreans end up taking this task and they find the truck fairly easily. As they plan to leave, a platoon ambushes them and triggers a massive wave of zombies. Jung-seok manages to be rescued by two sisters: Joon and Yu-jin who take him back to their hideout with their mother and  and grandfather. With the knowledge of a chance to leave Incheon, they decide to infiltrate the platoon’s camp to get back the truck and rescue Chul-min. 

Still set-2

Peninsula is a standalone sequel to Train to Busan. It is its own beast building on the post-apocalyptic world created from the previous movie. However, its important to remember that its a standalone and in many ways, an opposite experience from its predecessor, which has its pros and cons. Instead of a zombie horror film, Peninsula is more of an action film with zombies. There are more humans involved in the equation and its given up the straightforward concept in the first film to a movie with more moving parts. With that said, its hard to not compare the two as I’d wager that most people seeing this will be fans of Seoul Station and/or Train to Busan and have their own set of high expectations to meet. Whether this film lands or not will depend on how much you accept it. It does all the elements right and yet, there’s something a tad derivative that might not sit well for some. Due to more characters, it has has less space to develop memorable characters like the first film. With a standalone film, newcomers can come into this and shouldn’t have issues following the story. 

With that said,its best to see this as a standalone and come into this with fresh eyes and mind. Peninsula does a lot of the elements right. First and foremost, the cinematography is incredible. There are some scene set-ups showing the vast wasteland that Incheon has become over the course of 4 years from using the lighting appropriately to set the mood and in general, using light for its aesthetic as well as playing along with how zombies work in the Train to Busan world. The zombie scenes are the most outstanding of the film, with one scene when they first arrive in Incheon and traversing the place where the cross through that is a spine-chilling seen that comes to play in the end in a spectacular way. That aside, the zombies are used really well. Not quite as frequent but still making for a lot of good fight and escape scenes. The scenes at the platoon camp also adds a further dystopia element along with the rather familiar roles and events, however the rescue and retrieve mission is a good one. Suffice to say, the script had thought out a lot of the little details in these scenes and how its put together visually to be an engaging experience (even if it feels like a few of the plot points are familiar). 

Still set-1

The characters of Peninsula revolves around a few moving pieces. There’s ex-marine captain, Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) who is no doubt the main character with his own inner struggle and with the most character depth and development. Gang Dong-won grasps the character fairly well even if he’s rather brooding and has rather little dialogue. The turning point of the film in terms of charming characters do go to the two sisters: older sister Joon (Lee Re) and Yu-Jin (Lee Ye-won). They bring in a level of wit and courage as Joon is a beast behind the wheel and Yu-jin is a strategic little girl with her rigged up flashy remote-controlled cars. They bring a lot of personality to the film with their appearance and what’s important is that they both still have a helplessness to them where they still feel in times of despair that they are still just kids. Of course, the character that plays their mother Min-jing (Lee Jung-hyun) also brings in a great performance. The character doesn’t have as much depth but does manage to bring some inner conflict to the whole situation. There are some surprises in some of these characters and supporting characters that do add to the film especially by the end. 

Overall, Peninsula is a well-crafted movie. Sure, its not as unique as the first one but what it has built with its post-apocalyptic world setting and the nature of their zombies gives it a lot of room to play around with. Where Peninsula might suffer is with the high expectations set from Train to Busan moving into this one, which is a completely different beast and in turn, easier to be disappointed (possibly). As a standalone, there’s a lot of standout elements and director Sang-ho Yeon does build a decent movie. Its a tad more complex and a lot more moving parts but there are little details that will be noticed that works by the end and makes sense. There are clever bits and some comedic bits, a few over the top characters and then there’s the well-choreographed action sequences with gun fights mostly (plus a car chase). If there’s one thing I didn’t talk about before, there are much more (unnecessary or over-emphasized) dramatic scenes in the veins of South Korean cinema that I’m not a huge fan of but that is also a personal preference. However, this director has one thread that links all three of the Train to Busan films and that is the conflicted main character which like I said before, is one of the great elements of this film as well. I can hate on this film but I have to say that standalone sequels always earns the film brownie points on my end at least. As a final thought, Peninsula might not be what was expected but I would love to see what else they can do with this zombie apocalypse setting especially if they move around different South Korean city as their story backdrop. 

Peninsula is currently in theatres, including IMAX, ScreenX and 4DX as of August 7, 2020

*Screener provided by Taro PR*

TV Binge: Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)

Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)

unrequited love2019

Cast: Zhao Shun Ran, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Zhang Yi Chi, Rain Shen, Chen Meng Qin, Zhang Zhe Hao, Yuan Bai Zi Hui, Esther Chen, He Mei Xuan, Huang Shi Chao, Li Jin Zhe

A story revolving around two students, Huai Nan and Luo Zhi, who immediately hit it off when they meet in university, but a message from an ex complicates things. Furthermore, Huai Nan discovers that Luo Zhi has been harboring a secret crush on him since their younger days. Luo Zhi has been caught in a one-sided love with Huai Nan for over ten years as she acts in a monodrama of her own creation. Her feelings towards Huai Nan are complicated, fueled by an honest admiration for his excellence but also tainted with jealousy and hatred. While following Sheng Huai Nan, Luo Zhi is also admitted to the best university. Her one-sided love finally gets a new chapter when the two start getting close to each other, but reality hits hard and they undergo many trials. Will they finally be together? Who took Luo Zhi’s diary? Which one will prevail – love or family? – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: Netflix

STORY

Unrequited love 1

Unrequited Love is a story about secret high school crush by a introvert student who then becomes friends with her crush in university. She has to decide how to approach this to catch his attention through her knowledge of him. Unrequited Love has a solid story that is based on novel of the same name by Bayue Changan. What makes this story standout is that both of these characters have stronger personalities. Its about misunderstanding, persistence and courage to own up to feelings and letting yourself be vulnerable.

The story is rather melodramatic since unrequited love is almost always an upward trek of unfruitful outcomes but this story gives them a chance. At the same time, the story isn’t just about them but also the friendships and family around them and the influences and choices that each of these make that may make them question their approach to love for each other. What I like about it is that its not all about them. In fact, every couple or secret admirer or relationship has their own struggles and show a different type of relationship, one-sided or not and with different basis of what draws them to each other.

LENGTH/PACING

unrequited love 3

Episodes: 24
Length of episode: 35 mins (approx.)

Running at 24 episodes with normal episode lengths, Unrequited Love has a good pacing and execution as a whole. The frustration from all the melodrama is rather short in compared to if it was longer and dragged out. Every event moves through quickly from love to loss to misunderstandings to crushes, friends, school and family. Normally, dramas that take a long time to get their main characters together is somewhat of a drag, surprisingly, this one isn’t and a lot of it has to do with how these characters develop over the course of the series (but that’s further discussion in the next section). Series running at the 20+ episodes works the best because the story progresses fairly quickly. Here it starts off playing between the past and present between Luo Zhi’s observations and Huai Nan’s side of things. As the viewers, we get to see where their misunderstandings happen and start to see how as they become friends and care more for each other, their relationship and personality also changes for the better. The story is unique because of the unrequited love element but its done best because of the characters, which takes me to the next part.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Luo Zhi & Huai Nan

unrequited love 4

As a couple, Luo Zhi and Huai Nan are quite a good pairing. They are both more along the lines of living in their own world and then using their own ways to catch each other’s attention. Essentially their story is about communication, confidence and trust. What cam be frustrating is their lack of communication which leads to them getting into arguments as they always assume or guess.

As individual characters, Luo Zhi is more of a unique female lead. She is more stubborn (its a good thing) about what she wants as we see her find her value. She also has the most development from her high school days of hiding in the backdrop and just looking from afar, her university days starts off that way but ends up giving her switch around where she stands up for herself. One of the best parts is when her high school past that she is trying to keep secret is revealed and used against her and Huai Nan doesn’t believe her or the person that he has grown to know and also insisting for Huai Nan to confirm his feelings for her and not always have him want the confirmation that she likes him. It might seem like a petty difference but its little details that give Luo Zhi her standout points.

Jiang BaiLi/ Ge Bi/ Gu ZhiYe/Chen MoHan

unrequited love4

Baili and Ge Bi are a different type of relationship and unrequited love as right from the start, its very one-sided. Baili does everything for Ge Bi but his heart just isn’t there and in the end, it lingers in the realm of questions whether its a regret or not for him. Much like the previous pairing, the entrance of the other love interest characters is what stimulates and pushes Baili to face those issues and move forward. Her character is one that balances Luo Zhi because she’s a more extrovert and caring character and one that is easy to love. There is a naivety to her personality as well as her directness. Her character finds revelation and ends up changing the outlook for Gu ZhiYe, an older guy who pursues her for ulterior motives but (of course) ends up falling for her which also has issues when all the schemes come to life. Their

Ding ShuiJing & Luo Yang

unrequited love3

Luo Zhi’s high school friend, Ding ShuiJing in some twist of events ends up meeting Luo Zhi’s cousin Luo Yang who is already in a long-term stable relationship but they connect because of their idealistic views and art. ShuiJing’s love is also another version of unrequited as she likes Luo Yang enough to move anywhere to see him but he isn’t ready to give up on his stability and the image to family and responsibility to the current relationship.  Their romance is slightly tedious to watch, just like ShuiJing’s character design which is not bad in comparison to Luo Yang’s but she also plays the part of Luo Zhi’s friend who forcibly believes that she is her best friend when the other doesn’t really admit to it and because of this, ends up creating another issue. This pairing is not the most fun to watch but they also is the sub-sub relationship so in the spectrum of the series, it doesn’t have too much effect.

Friends & Family

unrequited love 2

The best elements in Chinese drama is that they have a good focus on outside elements. In this case, Huai Nan’s is mostly with his 5 other roommates. They live in a huge dorm and each one of them, while not all equally a lot of screen time or backstory, altogether are rather entertaining. Of the five, his best friend is MingRui who is the bridge of how Luo Zhi meets Huai Nan but also goes through a lot of unrequited love of his own as timing is his worst enemy. However, much like a lot of other characters by the actor Zhang Yi Chi portraying him, he has somewhat of a comedic relief for the most part. While Luo Zhi’s friendships are a lot simpler with roommate BaiLi, high school friend ShuiJing and university friend Mingrui being her own rocks that she confides in to various levels. BaiLi being the one that has the most story and development.

Family plays a big part between Huai Nan and Luo Zhi’s relationship and that’s meant to be a twist at the end that if you watch Luo Zhi’s few interactions with her mom, its easy to see where its going fairly quickly.

OVERALL

Unrequited Love is something of a forgotten child or maybe more a neglected child in the world of Chinese drama. Its considered something of a failure which I think is rather harsh since it didn’t seem like a whole lot of promotion of given to it in the first place and then this year, we’re expected to get a second adaptation with a more popular set of cast, bumping down any traction from this one and creating a big confusion between this and the upcoming version.

In reality, Unrequited Love does a good job and does have a good cast even if they aren’t as popular, but its rather expected as China produces a lot of TV series and also promotes a lot of new series with new young actors. Its a bit sad that this series didn’t get the amount of exposure it should have considering it did hit Netflix as a Netflix Series and isn’t available on Youtube. Its characters are designed and developed really well and in the scope of 24 episodes, the pacing is great. There are some rather dramatic parts but then, its nothing compared to some of the other series that I’ve seen. Plus, the female characters are done really well and not as typical (in my opinion).

**As an extra thought, I honestly don’t see how a new cast will breathe new life into this story especially knowing who the cast is. It might get more traction because of the male lead’s popularity. But its updated to air in September 2020 on Mango TV so that’s right around the corner so maybe it will surprise me.**

What’s Up 2020: Week 31

Week 31 is something of an in between week. I wrapped up a lot of things and then ended up being in the middle of deciding other things so its been a lot of nothing as I look over this week in the different categories below. I’m also trying to clear out and organize my to-do list and actually set up a list of backlog that I haven’t done yet so that I can start working on it so doing anything here is a little bit on hold as I did some housekeeping.

READING

and then we vanish

  • And Then They Vanish: Collected Stories by D.H. Schleicher

Currently reading: *Still deciding… leaning towards Fangirl or The Girl on the Train*

With that said, I finished up the collected stories by D.H. Schleicher which was a really fun read. I’m working on the review for the book as this goes up and should be there in a few days at most so I won’t talk too much about it right now. Some really nice ideas and premise in a bunch of stories about different people vanishing.

PLAYING

gorogoa

Currently playing: Gorogoa, Find Out

To be fair, I didn’t play anything this week other than mobile game Find Out every once in a while. Its been my filler games for the last few weeks. However, the game in progress is Gorogoa and I’m working on wrapping that one up so that I can move on to the next game. I don’t like games sitting in limbo for too long. My crappy memory makes me forget where I was when I stopped.

WATCHING

Little Women

  • The Cabin in the Woods (2011 rewatch)
  • The Platform (2019)
  • Little Women (2019)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
  • Peninsula (2020 screener)
  • Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Caglistro (1979 rewatch)

A couple of rewatches paired with a random title, two rentals near expiring and then a screener this week definitely makes for some fun movie watching time. A lot of the movies were pretty good. The Platform was a good dystopian movie in the veins of something like Snowpiercer with a heavy message about social class. Sonic the Hedgehog is pretty much a children-oriented video game adaptation. Its not as good as Detective Pikachu but Jim Carey does his thing and Ben Schwartz voices a good Sonic so it a fun enough time. I’m not going to talk about rewatches or the screener (since that has embargo so review coming up very soon for that..maybe even this afternoon).

The highlight of this week is goes to Little Women for various reasons. One, I love Saoirse Ronan and her roles are great. Really should do a Sunday List for her (unless I forgot that I already did…). Second, its a good adaptation that takes a bystander look at how the story came to be and has a little bit of a story in a story deal which is pretty nice.

BINGING

sugar rush extra sweet

  • Sugar Rush Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020)

Currently binging: Great Escape 2, Little Forest, The Irresistible, Mr. Honesty, Gagman, Super Nova Games 3, The Coming One: SuperBand, Street Dance of China 3, Rap Star

I love food competition shows. If you’ve been hanging out here, you know that I devour those series literally. Sugar Rush Extra Sweet released on July 31st and less than 24 hours and I was done. There are some changes so I will do quick little TV binge for it.

A lot of the same going on for the currently binging except for 2 new additions. The first is finally starting a new drama series called Mr. Honesty. It started off a little iffy and this series has the hated revenge plot from the supporting cast that makes very little sense so makes the supporting male lead a tad annoying. However, the two main leads are pretty fun. Could have better chemistry but it fits into their roles so I have a feeling it will improve further down the road. Fingers crosses. Other than that, Mango TV’s new game show The Irresistible has a ton of celebrities that I like and the first episode was pretty entertaining.

As an ending note to follow-up the beginning blurb, things will wind down as I clear things off my to-do list as virtual Fantasia Festival starts ina few weeks and I will be covering it. It feels good to get back to some kind of norm of previous summers. I miss it more than I had thought I would.

That’s it for this What’s Up recap!
What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?

TV Binge: Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

twogether

Cast: Jasper Liu, Seung-gi Lee

Paired together for an unforgettable trip across Asia, stars Lee Seung Gi and Jasper Liu become buddies as they connect with fans and local cultures. – IMDB

For fans of Jasper Liu and Seung-Gi Lee, both stars now having their own Netflix Original series, this pair-up for the travel reality show with a little bit of challenges and games added in is a fairly fun adventure. Essentially, the concept is that these two go to different Asian countries, they land at night and choose which location to go that their fan from that country has recommended. At each location, if they beat their challenge, they get a clue which narrows down the location of where the fan lives. As they move through one location to the next, its a strategy to see where to go to maximize their time since before a certain time if they don’t find their fan, they need to catch the plane to the next location. Most of the fans don’t know that they are going to find them so its a surprise and the other surprise is that, they don’t know whose fan it is.

In the current world of when this is released, we can only find travel on Netflix. Yet again, a show that releases at a good time. To be fair, the travel element is there as a unique backdrop for the reality game show element. There is some education on the different places they visit and the landmarks in those countries from a local. However, the game show element is where the show has the most fun as the show’s structure: challenges, travel allowance budget and language barriers between the two at the beginning, plus any Asian game show viewers knows that the director/crew always has it out for the people involved to make things harder.

To be fair, I’m not a Jasper Liu or Seung-gi Lee fan mostly because I haven’t watched anything of theirs (but Jasper Liu’s Triad Princess is on my to-watch list). Call this Netflix’s big scheme to give their show some extra promotion, which it probably is but it worked for me since I definitely did bump up my priority to watch their works. Its mostly entertaining in a very Korean variety show style with the comments made in post-editing to the scene (at least from my memory since its been more than a decade that I haven’t watched Korean shows). These two get together well and they both are fairly chill people who have a lot of fun with each of their challenges. At the same time, this is a good concept to have and more places should implement it (when this whole pandemic hopefully/eventually ends) to give fans an opportunity to meet their idols. There are some moments that it is rather touching to watch. Especially with the global presence of Netflix, its great to see that shows like this has an outlet to combine these stars from different countries together and in reality, its really cross-promotion but still achieves its entertainment element while promoting some of these beautiful locations in Asia.

Double Feature: The Net (1995) & The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

Next up with the alphabet is the N double feature! Two rather random pairings as I did some last minute changes. The first is 1995’s thriller The Net starring one of my favorite actresses Sandra Bullock and the paired it with one of my Christmas in July Blogathon picks, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Let’s check it out!

The Net (1995)

the net

Director: Irwin Winkler

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam, Dennis Miller, Diane Baker, Wendy Gazelle, Ken Howard, Ray McKinnon

A computer programmer stumbles upon a conspiracy, putting her life and the lives of those around her in great danger. – IMDB

Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since 1995 when this movie is set. With that said, The Net doesn’t age as well and suffers as a lot of the cyber and tech elements to a first watch right now with everyone being more tech savvy in general. There’s some bits that absolutely make very little sense. However, The Net still has some entertaining elements to it in terms of a thriller. Sandra Bullock’s character, Angela gets caught up when the game software she was analyzing ended up having a backdoor access to a much bigger scheme by a cyber-terrorist group which ends up taking her identity and turning her life into a dead end where she has to use her own systems analyst and hacking skills to fight back. The premise is an engaging one even if some plot points seem to not work too well.

However, Sandra Bullock is as she always is, just like her Speed days where its a good performance on her part since the movie really focuses heavily on her reactions and how she fights back and uses her wits and brains to figure out what these cyberterrorist have against her, what their goal is and how to turn things around. She’s a tough female lead in a very believable way. On the other hand, the leader of the group chasing her down for a floppy disk (you know this movie is old when we talk about floppy disks…) Jack Devlin, played Jeremy Northam puts in a decent performance as well. There’s some overacting at some points but overall, its a good interaction between the two.

The Net might not be Sandra Bullock’s best movie performance and it might not be a great thriller but it has a few elements from premise to characters and a good performance that makes it a fun watch. Sure, its a little out of the current times and technology but if anything, maybe those games she tests out has some level of nostalgia.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie poster

Director: Lasse Hallstrom, Joe Johnston

Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Macfadyen

A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Drew’s Movie Reviews for Christmas in July Blogathon*

Disney picks up a lot of these live action children fantasy adventure movies at this point. It’s usually some harmless and visually appealing affair. That’s the best way to describe The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Set on Christmas Eve where Clara goes to a Christmas party and seeks out her godfather to the key to a puzzle that her mother had left her before she passed away takes her to an adventure in another realm through a passage from the mansion. Its quite a fun way to incorporate the elements of Christmas in the beginning and take the elements of a classic story like The Nutcracker and be able to reinterpret some of the characters especially the Mouse King the way that it did. The visuals paired with the score as well as the costumes are definitely the highlight of the film. The story itself is fairly predictable and even the villain which should be a twist is fairly easy to figure out. In the end, this is supposed to be a children’s movie for the most part so it’s not supposed to be complicated for an adult to watch this.

If you look at the cast, its quite a packed one with supporting roles from Morgan Freeman and Matthew Macfadyen. How many times has Matthew Macfadyen been in the same movie with Keira Knightley at this point, right? Keira Knightley takes on a much bigger role as the Sugar Plum Fairy with a high pitched voice and a rather entertaining role. To be honest, the younger roles here who play the lead like Mackenzie Foy as Clara or the Nutcracker Philip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight are fairly okay. They are still young and have room for improvement for sure especially in some reactions and such but overall, it’s still decent.

There’s a lot of the expected and predictable elements here. For people who enjoy this type of movie, they will still find the joy in it. If you’ve never quite enjoyed these movies from Disney, then its probably not one to catch. It sounds like I didn’t say anything with that comment but this is along the lines of movies like A Wrinkle in Time or Alice in Wonderland where it has a certain level of entertainment and visuals but also a fair share of elements like plot that might feel more formulaic.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two movies? Thoughts?

After Hours #13 – Paradise Hills

Next up is the last episode of our 4th episode as we wrap up the last After Hours pick, Paradise Hills! Head over to Movies and Tea to give it a listen! While there, let us know whether you’ve seen this one and what are your thoughts.

Movies and Tea

On this episode we check out the pastel goth dollhouse that is “Paradise Hills” a mysterious behavioural modification centre for women who have displeased their families.

But what secrets does the island hold? We find out as we check out this sci-fi thriller from Alice Waddington here making her directorial debut and featuring a script co-written by Nacho Vigalondo

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

Listen to the Show

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Music Obsessions – August 2020

Its August already and we’re at the monthly dose of Music Obsessions with my finds. Its been a really good month although a lot of my finds in reality was related to Mango TV’s reality competition show called Rap Star so I had to pick my faves and then fill it with some other random finds. Let’s check it out!

天上的星星不说话 The Stars in the Skies Don’t Speak- 俞天时Kozay/Rarpid望江晴
(Rap Star Hit Song performance)

Round 2 of Rap Star was called Hit Song where teams of 2 had to create their own hit song. Kozay and Rarpid , two different generations of rappers got together to create a song that had a precious message of thanks to their moms and the misunderstanding of parents to their career choice. Its one of the best performances in this round in my opinion and they wrote some really good lyrics. Its hard to translate it all but its definitely one that took the writing with your heart path unlike some other groups, plus showed off their own talent.

Anti-Climax – StoneOcean

StoneOcean makes music that I go back to every once in a while that really works for me. Its been a while since the last one but their EDM song this time called Anti-Climax works in the rhythm and beats. The whole vibe is appealing.

用盡我的一切奔向你 Running after you with all I have – 周筆暢 Bibi Zhou

I think I heard this song from a TV series or maybe variety show at one point this month but I can’t remember from what anymore and then searched it up. This is an older song from a few years ago probably . However, I do think its a motivating song especially in its lyrics about chasing dreams or such.

討喜 – G.G 張思源

G.G.  has been eliminated from Rap Star at this point of the conversation but for myself, he’s a lost talent. In the whole competitions, its one that has a lot of space for growth and has a good personality that does stand out and its why I went to look for his other songs which is where I landed on this one. Out of the few that I have been listening on repeat, this one is definitely my fave. Good beat, has a decent attitude and just a lot of fun.

Hold my hands – 法老 & MC光光组队 Pharaoh & MC Koko Team
(Rap Star Mentor performance)

I already said that Rap Star was a big musical focus this month so the last one from Rap Star is my fave performance from the mentors. MC Koko and Pharaoh got the lowest amount of votes but in my opinion, they had the best song which reached out in a meaningful way in their lyrics about environment and preserving endangered species. Its a powerful performance that starts off quiet and builds to be stronger and stronger. Really talented pairing.

密室大逃脱2 Great Escape S2 Main Theme – Yang Mi, Allen Deng, Justin, Wowkie Zhang, Qilin Guo

Great Escape is another TV variety show which is a real life big scale escape room with celebrities trying to break out of the scenarios packed with NPCs and such. The upgrade in Season 2 definitely adds quite a bit to the show. Of course, this isn’t a review of the show since its still going on but the music video for the theme song shows a lot of the scene and its a song that I’ve been listening to on repeat.

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
What have you been listening to lately?

My July Adventures!

These might be some unusual times but July has been right on cue with the hot and humid weather along with some random downpours. There’s a few changes as things get back to some form of normal since Montreal is pretty much in their last phases of deconfinement as offices has the okay for up to 25% of staff to get back to work and masks are mandatory on public transit and indoor public places. I’ll talk about all those things below as well as some updates of July.

Hiking: La Boucle du mont des Trois-Lacs

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After some rainy weather, we finally found a day to go out for a hike to hit the other trail in the same spot where we went in the previous hike. You can see the recap of this hike HERE.

Movies and Tea Podcast

Movies and Tea Podcast is still going pretty strong. We’ve been wrapping up Season 4 for Ang Lee and After Hours this month and will be starting up Season 5 for David Fincher shortly.

On Youtube, we’ve been posting up on a weekly basis and we’re pretty much updated almost the entire first season. As we step into Season 5 for Movies and Tea, it will be updated on Youtube while still catching up on the older episodes in between. Above you can find the latest episode updated on Youtube.

Back to the Office

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As #workfromhome ends for me, I've been preparing by checking out different #facecoverings as it becomes mandatory to wear #masks on public transit. In the last few weeks, I ordered from @sofsdesigns @hoplagogosses which both are pretty good. For both, I had to make slight adjustments to the ear loops to fit more snug. #sofsdesigns has a space to put a 3rd layer for filter and nose band. It has its pros especially in high heat to choose whether to add that extra layer. #hoplagogosses has a nose band and is 3 layers fitted which is good as already all done so very convenient and the nose band is good quality. The black cherry one is a free trial from my friend @surprisesdephoebe who has been trying to make her version of the best mask suitable for her family and kindly made me one to try which turned out really well. Its not for sale but I had to share it since it fit the best. #buylocal #madeinquebec #quebecproducts #handmade #covid19life

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Back to the office doesn’t really have much to talk about. I wasn’t exactly excited about it since the whole public transit thing is rather stressful mentally. It was okay for the first week or so until the buses started getting more people, probably because of 25% capacity of office able to open. I’m trying to keep a relaxed mindset about it all and just make sure to stay on high alert. Of course, with masks mandatory not only on public transit but expanded to indoor public places, its all about amassing face masks since the government has said that its something that will likely remain mandatory for the foreseeable future.

Gardening Update

All the garden vegetables are doing fairly good. Everything’s have some kind of vegetable growing. We have an abundance of cucumbers and Hungarian Wax peppers. I’m hoping that at some point we’ll get more than the one or two squashes. The downpours will hopefully  help.

Quick Road Trip to Ottawa

I didn’t take any pictures but I went to Ottawa for quick Chinese grocery store run since I had some things that I needed but some Chinese grocery stores here don’t have a lot of. At the same time, it was mostly also a chance to take care of a wrong delivery item from an online order for Eddie Bauer that I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of calling and getting a Fedex pickup and whatnot. Its just nice to take a road trip since there’s no other form of travelling that seems reasonable in the current times. I got a chance to pick up a hiking bag on discount at Eddie Bauer, half a dozen of donuts from Maverick Donuts, ciders from LCBO as well as the above-mentioned grocery run. At least one less thing to deal with for the whole Eddie Bauer wrong item situation that got sorted out fairly easily.

Workout Update

  • Run: 8.19km/ 1hr1min
  • Pool Workouts

With only one hike and one long run this month due to the extreme heat, I’ve been moving every week’s workout into a few pool workouts. Its been mostly about endurance and resistance workouts as well as swimming. Going back to the office also means that I can get back to the normal everyday walking. Point is, I’ve been trying to get more active and lose some weight and stay fit.

Cute Kitty Pic

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That’s it for this July Adventures!