The Colours Blogathon: Blue Jay (2016)

The Colours Blogathon

This is an entry for The Colours Blogathon hosted by Thoughts All Sorts.

Interesting that that original plan fell through with White Oleander as the DVD has vanished somewhere in my house. It will pop up when I don’t need it. Going back, looking at my too long Netflix to watch list, it felt right to finally give Blue Jay a watch, a 2016 indie romantic drama.

Blue Jay (2016)

Blue Jay

Director: Alex Lehmann

Cast: Mark Duplass (writer), Sarah Paulson, Clu Gulager

Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past. – IMDB

Blue Jay is truly a unique experience. The way its presented is solely in black and white however it quickly becomes not so noticeable when the focus on the two characters, Jim and Amanda are so deep. Jim and Amanda both have returned to town and we quickly see the high school sweethearts go from the awkward meeting to revisiting their memories and from there the chemistry is feels incredibly authentic and we can’t help be wonder what split them apart. The film does answer that as well by the end. The film’s black and white doesn’t only focus on them but in between scenes will also switch over to the small town scenery: empty streets serene nature and the likes. This is a nice way to approach a transition as it takes us into simple natural beauty and lets us see the town and everything around them. They regard it once as a “shithole” when in fact it doesn’t quite seem that way.

Blue Jay

As aesthetically pleasing as Blue Jay is made, the true gem here is the telling of the story between Jim and Amanda. We see them find the pieces of their young romance over 20 years ago. The awkward and weird parts when they were very different than now. There is something very believable about Jim and Amanda’s relationship. Perhaps its their awkward re-encounter of a first love, possibly the first true love that many say is unforgettable and will always influence us. The script takes a careful step to learn about them between their nostalgia and getting into deeper conversation of how both Jim and Amanda’s current life dilemmas are. However, there is an undeniable chemistry between them that is so real to watch come to life that it sucks us into their story, wondering why this beautiful couple split up. It is obvious that even they envisioned themselves together till they were old, making this relationship very much different from a high school fling but something made of true love and possibly the rare high school sweetheart stories that make it. The script also treads carefully to find the perfect moment to reveal the pain that has broken them apart.

Blue Jay

Overall, Blue Jay is a rare gem in the romantic drama genre. It also happens to be a favorite setting of mine to be set in a one night period and very character-based. The black and white adds to the aesthetic and appeal of the film as well as the tone. It helps with the nostalgia that these two characters carry for their relationship. At the same time, these characters are deep and carry many layers. Blue Jay captures young love, memories, chemistry and loss so well and in a believable way. There are laughs and thought-provoking and emotional moments. Its definitely a must-see!

Thanks to Thoughts All Sorts for hosting this fantastic blogathon so that I could discover this wonderful movie!
Find more entries for this blogathon here!

Advertisements

Double Feature: Embers (2015) & Free Birds (2013)

Next up in the double feature quite a mix. First is a 2015 independent drama called Embers, which I’ve heard nothing about before but post-apocalyptic sort of stories appeal to me so I wanted to check it out out of curiosity. Second is probably one I should’ve watched in October for Canadian Thanksgiving however, what the heck, right? We have 2013 animated film, Free Birds.

Let’s go!

Embers (2015)

Embers

Director and co-writer: Claire Carré

Cast: Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernandez, Tucker Smallwood, Karl Glusman, Silvan Friedman

After a global neurological epidemic, those who remain search for meaning and connection in a world without memory. – IMDB

Its hard to pinpoint where Embers falls. In one sense, it talks about a world that actually would be pretty scary and it looks at both spectrums of living in a post-apocalyptic world where you create new memories every single day or even more frequent than that and really not knowing anything. Isn’t that what some of us would hope for? Complete bliss from all knowledge? You wouldn’t remember your problems a few hours later but then you also wouldn’t have that long lasting human relationship because you wouldn’t even be able to build or think about those fleeting moments, let alone remember them. Is it emptiness or bliss in that case? However, on the other side of the spectrum is the quarantined who do remember but they don’t have the freedom to live outside the routine. They have memories but they are merely surviving and not really living.

Embers

 

Embers takes on various perspectives from its scattered characters in this area. There’s a young child wandering aimlessly, a teacher who is researching something endlessly, these two meet and they form a bond as one of the endearing moments is him teaching the child how to ride a bike. There is a couple who is together but then their lack of retaining memories separates them. There is an angry rebellious young guy who runs around wreaking havoc to be caught up in something more but not retaining that memory helps him to not even know what happened just moments or hours ago.

With that said, Embers has some decent performances and some nice moments and the shots and setting are filmed very nicely, however, the story itself is disjointed. Is it to match the world that they have created or maybe the story just skims the surface too much to have a resounding feeling? There is some thought-provoking depth that you can see but it never feels enough to feel immersed into the movie.

Free Birds (2013)

Free Birds

Director: Jimmy Hayward

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler, Amy Poehler, George Takei, Keith David

Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history – and get turkey off the holiday menu for good. – IMDB

Free Birds is the perfect example of how some movies just don’t work and have no humor because its not my thing. However, according to the 17% Rotten Tomatoes score, I’m actually not the only one. First off, the voice acting here is fine as expected with Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler at the helms. Its really the content of what this is and the jokes and dialogue that doesn’t work for me. In many levels, it was just really dumb. I have a peculiar humor so sometimes things like this just aren’t my cup of tea. I turned on Free Birds has background while I was working on something and its all so weird and feels rather unoriginal.

 

Turkeys going back in time to stop turkeys from turning into a tradition for Thanksgiving dinner seems a little odd. There might be some chuckles here and there but for the most part, I spent a lot of time just hoping it would end because it felt really boring and uninspired. I’m going to keep this short. It didn’t grab my attention all that much and the premise isn’t all that interesting to me. Its rare I feel so indifferent about animated films. I guess it was bound to happen eventually, right?

Have you seen Embers and/or Free Birds?
What are you thoughts?

Cinema Recall Podcast: That Moment In ‘Kill Bill Vol.1’

I was a guest on another podcast recently!

If you didn’t know yet, That Moment In has added in a new podcast a few months ago hosted by The Vern called Cinema Recall Podcast.

This show, we talk about Kill Bill Vol. 1 and each choose a scene that we loved to talk about. We head into a conversation on whether Uma Thurman should have deserved an Oscar nomination that  year and whether The Bride is an iconic female role.

I can’t embed the player here but here’s the link to where you can give it a listen! Hope you enjoy!

https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/thatmomentin/episodes/2017-08-25T01_52_56-07_00

When you are done, remember to head over to That Moment In and vote for the movie choice for the next selection.

As for myself, I realized that I haven’t reviewed Kill Bill yet so I’ll be doing a Double Feature covering Kill Bill Vol.1 and 2.

Double Feature: Southpaw (2015) & Miss Sloane (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature. I rented Southpaw and Miss Sloane on discount on Play Store last month. Two very different films and two very different feelings about it however both heavily reliant on their main character.

Southpaw (2015)

Southpaw

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Oona Lawrence, 50 Cent, Naomie Harris

Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services. – IMDB

If there is one word to describe Southpaw, it would be disappointing. It isn’t particularly a bad film as the performances were great. Rachel McAdams did great for what it was. Jake Gyllenhaal was fantastic and I absolutely love Forest Whitaker who is an underrated actor. The girl who played the daughter was Oona Lawrence and that arc was decent.

However, the flaw lies in the fact that Southpaw is pretty much another Rocky story in many instances and we already had Creed recently that was much more engaging. It didn’t help that Southpaw was a little too dramatic at parts but never made it feel very exciting to watch. Seeing the stellar cast being in this uninspired script truly was a lackluster experience.

Miss Sloane (2016)

miss sloane

Director: John Madden

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Alison Pill, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Lithgow, Jake Lacy

In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. But when taking on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds winning may come at too high a price. – IMDB

Miss Sloane was a movie that I went in with no idea of what the premise is. I have heard good things about it and I have enjoyed Jessica Chastain. Miss Sloane is such a vibrant character wrapped up in a tough and ruthless shell. She is strong and strategic in all her plans and for all the reasons, it makes us wonder on what she has under her sleeve even in the most desperate of situations but it is what makes her compelling to watch.

Miss Sloane, just as the title implies, is truly based on Jessica Chastain and how she takes on the role and she did an outstanding job. As we navigate through her way of life and the little things, while she isn’t exactly a character you would cheer for because of her lack of ethics and morals in some of her decisions, every part whether planned or not comes into play and that gives full credit for the screenwriters doing a fine job at giving it a good pacing that keeps everything moving and finding a balance to learn just enough about Miss Sloane and keeping enough to make everything make sense and surprise when it falls into place.

While Miss Sloane isn’t typically the movie that I would watch, I’m glad that I did because it was absolutely awesome. Gripping, compelling and full of twists and turns around every corner. This one is a must see.

Have you seen Southpaw and/or Miss Sloane?

Double Feature: Knight and Day (2010) & Bang Bang (2014)

Welcome to another double feature!

This time we have a deliberate pair-up. Knight and Day was released in 2010 and is a through and through Hollywood production with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. According to Rotten Tomatoes (and a few people that I mentioned to), it isn’t really that well received. Which makes it weird that it was turned into a Bollywood film in 2014 called Bang Bang! starring familiar faces like Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif, both of which I’ve seen movies of before. You’d think that I saw Knight and Day first but I actually saw Bang Bang first and then decided to give the original a shot to see how they compare.

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Molla, Viola Davis, Paul Dano

A young woman gets mixed up with a disgraced spy who is trying to clear his name. – IMDB

Knight and Day is pretty much and action comedy with hints of romance. Its a fun ride with some awkward moments. You can never fault Tom Cruise for not delivering on action but how can we be satiated when we have the last two Mission:Impossible, right? With that said, there seems to be forced dialogue and some things that don’t always flow well along with characters that try to be deep but never quite hit the potential. It might simply be the fact that Tom Cruise has always been a cool dude so when he is doing the passive thing or saying some sarcastic or some misplaced encouragement or whatnot to Cameron Diaz’s character June, there is the rare moment that it works but mostly, it doesn’t seem to fit the character too well or maybe its because its Tom Cruise and it doesn’t fit him. Always a danger of this happening when using huge stars.

Knight and Day also has some familiar faces like a cameo by Gal Gadot. Viola Davis is the Director who is the head of the good side, aka managing the spy and her mission is to catch Roy who has gone rogue. Then you have Paul Dano who is the nerd kid who invented a powerful something that everyone is after. Possibly, the most fun is in the final act particularly after a truth serum is used. Cameron Diaz has always been a hit and miss. For example, I didn’t like Bad Teacher but I love The Holiday.

Overall, I honestly don’t have much to say about Knight and Day. Its good for a watch and it was fun and entertaining but something didn’t feel right and the more I think about it, it might just be awkward dialogue and my not seeing Tom Cruise as this character.

Or it could be that I saw the remake first…

Bang Bang (2014)

bang bang

Director: Siddharth Anand

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Katrina Kaif, Pavan Malhotra, Danny Denzongpa, Javed Jaffrey, Jimmy Shergill, Vikram Gokhale

A young bank receptionist gets mixed up with Rajveer Nanda, a man who has a mysterious background. – IMDB

Some of you know that with Netflix having more foreign films, I have opened up my world slightly and slowly to Bollywood films. They do take up a ton of time but its usually a decent experience so far. I am a fan of Hrithik Roshan since Dhoom 2 (review HERE). The man is like the whole package and some and in Bang Bang, he proves that he can also be almost like Tom Cruise. Knight and Day being a Bollywood remake is the perfect fit. The corny dialogue and the serious and fun but over the top action: it works here so well. The key here is that Bang Bang keeps a tone that is very light-hearted. To be honest, the Bollywood singing and dancing parts are used quite sparsely in comparison to other films so it makes it possibly even an easily entry point for those that feel less inclined because of these usually odd transitions. I always find Bollywood musical segments appealing to watch. This one is absolutely no exception especially because both Katrina Kaif and Hrithik Roshan got the moves.

Bang Bang only changes the story a little as in its stealing a diamond Kohinoor and that its a more personal affair than the original. At the same time, Bang Bang also remakes some of the scenes almost exactly the same. In fact, some of the dialogue is also incredibly similar. If you went into Bang Bang having already seen Knight and Day, a good at least 70% of this will look familiar. Bang Bang definitely does lack originality on that front. There is no denying it, especially in many scenes like the beach scenes where only the escape is different or how the attack was constructed. Same applies for the final scene that I loved so much in the original.

However, what Bang Bang makes up for is the charm that it has with Hrithik Roshan playing Rajveer and Katrina Kaif playing Harleen. Somehow, the music and dance and their personalities truly shine and match with this story. Its a much better fit for these characters. There is some cheesy moments but it also comes with the expectations and Bollywood films that I’ve seen tend to be structured in this way tonally. It just blends very well together with what this type of story tried to achieve. Of course, Indian cinema has changed now and there are horror films and other more dramatic entries and especially more action which is void of the whole Bollywood musical thing.

With that said, I like Bang Bang more than Knight and Day. I like Knight and Day for its finale whereas Bang Bang was much more of an overall experience.

Have you seen Knight and Day and/or Bang Bang?
Also, if you did see it, I made a little banner for this double feature. What do you think about it?

Fantasia Festival 2017: A Taxi Driver (2017)

A Taxi Driver (2017)

Director: Hoon Jang

Cast: Kang-ho Song, Thomas Kretschmann, Hai-jin Yoo, Jun-yeol Ryu

A Taxi Driver is Korean drama that is based on a true story. It becomes apparent at the end that parts of it particularly related to the said taxi driver especially beginning and ending may be fictionalized mostly because this unnamed brave soul deserved the recognition and yet has never been found since the event. Before we jump too far in, A Taxi Driver is the retelling of how a taxi driver down on his luck decided to take a job to drive a German reporter to Gwangju in 1980 without realizing what was actually happening. The German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter is an actual person and does have a recording of a clip here made in 2015 before he passed away in 2016 thanking his brave friend who he never got to meet again because he had given a fake name and phone number. This story is a retelling of his story. The best comparison of A Taxi Driver would be to Argo except this is a story about men walking into Gwangju as outsiders and leaving as insiders.

A Taxi Driver starts off in the most lighthearted fashion as we watch this taxi driver drive down the road happily singing along to a song. He makes judgmental comments about university student protesters blocking the road and causing the decrease in clients. Its pretty much an everyday feeling of seeing this man. In fact, it is done so well that it feels like we can connect with his character immediately. Whatever the first half an hour of the film felt like would not prepare you for the rest of it. There is no doubt that the tone gets much more serious as expected with the material and incredibly dramatic but all done effectively. Many will know Kang-ho Song from Korean monster movie, The Host however, its been over a decade and his acting has elevated into this emotional performance as taxi driver, Sa-bok Kim.

The director and the script both hit exactly the right tones. A Taxi Driver is a longer film however, there is only a few moments where we will notice a little drag. This film is about the uprising and seeing how the media released under government and what really happened had a huge discrepancy. The events are ruthless and this movie captures those heartless and confused, not to mention angry and frustrated moments very well as while this is set in a political background, the uprising itself is really talked about in broad strokes but rather focuses on the civilians and these two men who eventually bond together despite their backgrounds to take this hidden story to tell the world. Dramatization in slow motion was also used in parts to accentuate. A Taxi Driver turns into a heavy movie very quickly. It is also a tense experience as we follow these two men escape. However, the script and director adds in car chases to make it more gripping also.

As mentioned before, Kang-ho Song delivered an outstanding performance. However, we have to also acknowledge the great performances by Thomas Kretschmann as Jurgen Hinzpeter. Their parts together truly make this film have their moments as they both struggle to communicate due to language barrier and we see their communication and views align and they understand each other more. The performances overall were truly outstanding and the younger cast, Jun-yeol Ryu takes on a university protester also takes on a supporting role that truly connects as well.

A Taxi Driver is a fantastic movie filled with great performances and the retells a tense, gripping and emotional time in Korea when they struggled for their nation’s democracy.

Fantasia Festival 2017: Bushwick (2017)

Bushwick (2017)

bushwick

Director: Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott

Cast: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Angelic Zambrana, Christian Navarro, Arturo Castro

When a Texas military force invades their Brooklyn neighborhood, 20-year-old Lucy and war veteran Stupe must depend on each other to survive. – IMDB

Bushwick sets in an intriguing scenario if the southern states would be persuaded by Texas to join in to overturn the government. Their plan is to use insurgence to forcefully takeover unwilling cities. Their next target to get the Northern states was to make a small city of Bushwick located in New York. As the insurgence starts, we fall on scene with Lucy, played by Brittany Snow on her way to her grandmother’s house to introduce her boyfriend. It doesn’t take long before they head out and realize that something is very wrong and separated from her boyfriend almost immediately from the start, she has to avert danger. Luckily, circumstances lead her to meet Stupe, an ex-Marine who knows everything she doesn’t about survival and has a few guns to protect as well and who reluctantly agrees to take her to her destination, while trying to figure out what actually is going on.

Bushwick is a tight and tense ride. While the subtext is the insurgence from the private military force which terrifies the city itself and is the centre of all the danger, the best part of it all is truly the unlikely team in Lucy and Stupe. Together, the character development here and how they bond together throughout the film which is really only set over a few hours was compelling and engaging. One of the best parts of Bushwick is how they chose to film it. It has somewhat of a found footage way even though it isn’t. The start of the film is the best example as they choose to begin using the angle of the helicopters scanning the city from above. However, the best parts is how it chooses to follow the characters. We never seem to follow them directly in back but in fact, it chooses to go watch their feet as they scurry from location to location. It creates a sense of suspense as the camera plays with what we can see and in turn allowing us to be shocked just as the character by the unknown situations ahead.

Lucy and Stupe are two very different people. In fact, the story focuses on their story while not making it too dramatic and keeping it with the action. In fact, it focuses more on the situation at hand and how they work together to get themselves out. Because of this, there may be a difference in tone throughout the movie. While it may seem to make us wonder how serious to take Bushwick, it is well-timed and particularly makes Lucy’s character more believable when she makes some silly decisions in the beginning that may end up having serious consequences. As the movie moves along, their character growth and the value of their team is what will keep it intriguing as they see what this insurgence has caused the people around them especially the reason why a small town like Bushwick was targetted. Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista pull out some of their best acting in this one and delivers two great performances.

Talking about the reason of why Bushwick is chosen make this film seems like an obvious social commentary of sorts. It reflects perhaps the disagreements and wars about the values and beliefs of Northern and Southern states in America. However, the more prominent one is the fact that Bushwick represents a lower class multicultural community which seems like they are disjointed because of that and make them an easier target. However, surprisingly the film takes a turn of how the city’s different groups each may react differently to the insurgence but still survival may just bring everyone together. Going deeper into the message this may convey will enter spoiler territory so we’ll refrain.

To be honest, Bushwick is an interesting premise and it does take the path of some contrived moments. There may even be some predictable happenings that are meant to shock however, it also succeeds in creating an engaging experience by delivering characters such as Lucy and Stupe that make us want to cheer for them to get out of this ordeal. There are quiet and dramatic moments to help see a deeper side of the characters as well as endearing bonding moments, added in with a few comedic moments to slice through the tension a little. All of these moments tie in very well together. There is no doubt in the end that this is meant to be taken with a serious tone and for the most part everything fits together for an action and suspenseful watch through Bushwick. Its not so much about the politics of it all as it is about survival. Just for the performances and the premise and setting, Bushwick is worth a watch.