Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019)

Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019)

Hobbs and Shaw

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza Gonzalez, Eddie Marsan, Eliana Sua, Cliff Curtis, Lori Pelenise Tuisano

Lawman Luke Hobbs and outcast Deckard Shaw form an unlikely alliance when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain threatens the future of humanity. – IMDB

The ninth film in the Fast and Furious franchises heads into a change in gear as it turns around to focus on what used to be two side characters that rose over the last few films: Luke Hobbs, appearing first in Fast Five and played by Dwayne Johnson and Deckard Shaw, who made his appearance as a cameo in the 6th part and was the baddie in the 7th. Hobbs and Shaw are definitely fan favorites despite not being in the leading roles in the previous films. Breaking free (mostly) from racing and heists, this one puts them on the other side of the table as they are recruited to retrieve a stolen virus suspected to be taken from Shaw’s MI-6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) when she only did it to prevent it from getting into the hands of Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) but causing her to have a limited amount of time to take it out of her body before it kills her and the world. A true everyday hero story, right?

Its important to go into Fast and Furious films with rather simple expectations of being fulfilled by mindless entertainment. With Hobbs and Shaw, its expected also that it rides heavily on the love of these two characters specifically. The story takes the time to make this a little bit more of a personal adventure for the two as each of their families and backgrounds get revealed a little deeper from their family relationships, sibling rivalries and such. There are some absurd scenes and illogical moments but it all comes with the Fast and Furious title and is also expected. Hobbs and Shaw did everything that was expected of it, which is pretty good.

Except…Hobbs and Shaw also has a ton of flaws. Nothing about those expectations that were met but rather, in its polish of it all. For one, it runs quite long and in some parts does overstay its welcome. One of the main deals is that the Hobbs and Shaw insult sequences start off to be quite funny but as it happens over and over and over again, it does tend to be less so. At the same time, it also underuses a great villain role like Idris Elba which is like Terminator with a Transformer bike as Brixton Lore and yet, he never reaches the level of dangerous villain that would have been expected probably because of not so much screen time and most of it being caught in enhancements, chase scenes or fight scenes making his character fairly shallow (not sure if thats the right word to use here).

Talking about those fight scenes. On one hand, its great that everyone here has the ability to do the scenes and there is an attempt of keeping it a lot of close combat melee and such with props and whatnot. It has a nice angle with the finale which was a big one to say the least that had its great bits. When not in the chase scene or anything else, the big fight which was especially apparent compared to the previous scenes was the amount of cutting shots as the camera moves around too much, making the scenes less immersive to watch because there was no flow. It was honestly a bit too much with the size of the scene and amount of action going on.

Overall, Hobbs and Shaw is fairly on par with my expectations and also has elements that was slightly disappointing. Disappointment is a hard thing to get over with, possibly worse than a bad movie in general. Fact is, Hobbs and Shaw is still fun entertainment and it still has a lot of decent moments and funny one liners and comedic comebacks. The acting is alright and falls in character with these two characters especially and its hard to not love Hobbs and Shaw’s family like Shaw’s mother is played by Helen Mirren or especially Hobbs mother who commands her family by waving a flip flop around. Thing is, Hobbs and Shaw, if you look at it, is like a reboot of The Fast and the Furious but without the focus on cars and heists and yet for these two characters, its about family and two rivals finding friendship together right down to the romantic angle. It stays true to the values of the franchise, which is okay. At the same time, it does need some credit for bringing in some fun cameo roles like Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart for example.

Be sure to check out The Lambcast episode where I was guest on for a discussion/review of Hobbs and Shaw HERE.

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Fantasia Festival 2019: Riot Girls (2019)

Riot Girls (2019)

Riot Girls

Director: Jovanka Vuckovic

Cast: Madison Iseman, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Alexandre Bourgeois, Munro Chambers, Ajay Friese, Evan Marsh, Jenny Raven

Riot Girls is a 2019 Canadian action coming of age story where adults have been wiped out by a mysterious disease leaving two groups of kids in one area to fight against each other over territory, resources and survival.

Set in an alternate 1995, it zeros in on a town now divided by West and East side, named exactly as that, Westsiders and Eastsiders respectively, these two groups are run very different. The Eastsiders are run by big brother Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois) along with his girlfriend and younger sister Nat (Madison Iseman) and her girlfriend Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski). When Jack goes for a resource run and ends up saving Westsiders escapee Sony (Ajay Friese) and consequently, taken by the Westsiders, Nat, Scratch and Sony set out to rescue him from the Westsiders turf in the center of operations at a high school from the hands of jock leader Jeremy (Munro Chambers).

Right off the bat, there is a lot of style in the execution. Riot Girls uses a comic strip set up to present its story. Using this, it also helps with scene transitions and location swaps as well as switching the narratives from one side to the other in a fluid way. There’s a lot of charm in using this form of execution but also helps keep the tone in check of having something a little wild and fun but also comedic and cool. The cool punk elements are elevated because of the hard rock soundtrack that plays in its scenes especially the chase scenes or fighting scenes. As a fun little trivia, the school used as the base for Westsiders is also where Degrassi: The Next Generation was filmed, so a little throwback of familiarity as well for Munro Chambers who is the baddie in here.

Talking about the story itself, there is a gnawing feeling that a film called Riot Girls lacks a little of the girls element at first. It spends a lot of time in the first act following Jack and his kidnapping to the Westsiders area then it dives a lot on the Jeremy and how he runs his side of town with only snippets of Nat and Scratch as they make it there and little establishment bits for them. However, the story does converge itself as the girls reach their main objective, they show up much more frequently and the dynamic slowly switches over to their heroism and cooperation as they work together to successfully rescue Jack while surviving the more brutal Westsiders. Its a change in a pace because usually we have boys saving girls but in this situation, the girls are saving the boy especially as they go into a very male-dominant area with Jeremy and his jock buddies in the lead.

Despite the fact that there is a big storyline focused on the Westsiders, its not a huge problem because the entire cast delivers on their performances well. No doubt that Westsiders is strong because of Munro Chambers as Jeremy who also delivers on his bad guy roles. In this case, he shines quite a bit especially with the fact that Jeremy also delivers on showing that there is never a forever leadership in this world because kids will grow up to be adults and the inevitable will happen. Nat and Scratch is rightfully the stars of the show with  Madison Iseman and Paloma Kwiatkowski as the actresses behind it respectively. The friendship and relationship behind Nat and Scratch is a fairly positive one that doesn’t need to be explained. Its just there and its accepted for exactly what it is. They have each other’s backs and they love each other through these hard times and they are both empowering roles as they fight with their girl power against a band of boys. What is viewed as the less competent are actually the most competent and that goes not only for the Riot Girls Nat and Scratch but also their help Sony who is somewhat of the awkward yet comic relief. Not to mention Scratch and Nat have incredible style especially Scratch sporting a fantastic mohawk.

Its not like the movie is very heavy to begin with. Its both fast paced and a lot of action with some nice sarcastic humor to pair with it all. Riot Girls is a fun movie. Perhaps it betrays its title a little with having more boy times and a lot more male roles than females but Nat and Scratch are the most memorable characters in this no matter how little they may be, its all big moments which give their characters their own natural spotlight. Sure, its a flaw perhaps in the script but in terms of everything else from execution to soundtrack to pacing to the Riot Girls and the baddie, everything falls into place and works really well together.

Riot Girls hits theatres on September 13, 2019.

Fantasia Festival 2019: The Fable (2019)

The Fable (2019)

The Fable

Director: Kan Eguchi

Cast: Junichi Okada, Fumino Kimura, Mizuki Yamamota, Koichi Sato, Yuya Yagira

The Fable is a 2019 action comedy about a genius assassin forced to live a year of normal life but gets dragged into a whirlwind of chaos involving the Osaka underworld.

The Fable is the nickname of the genius assassin that this movie revolves around. After a massive killing job, he is forced to take a year off to live as a normal person, something that he has never done before. All he has ever known is to be trained as an assassin and be an assassin throughout life. Paired up in disguise with his partner as his sister, he is ordered to live a year without killing. Things go well as he awkwardly tries to adapts, find a job and meets a girl, Misaki that he is interested in until the Osaka criminal world gets him dragged in when Misaki gets caught as the underworld clashes in a fight for power. Making things harder is the fact that his reputation has put two young assassins on a hunting trail to find him and take his title of The Fable.

The Fable, named Sato for the year leave, is a peculiar character played by Junichi Okada. Wrapped up in his lifestyle as an assassin, he has weird habits like sleeping naked in the bathtub and disguising his bed, for example. In fact, he is naked doing a lot of things. What might seem general knowledge to everyone else is something that he needs to observe and try to learn in the process of being normal. It doesn’t help that he has odd tastes in what is funny and he is so calm and collected that everything is in his control as he faces the normal world around him. There is no doubt that the fighting scenes that he does is very fun, both in creativity and simple execution and style, however, the heart of the film is in how it pairs the fish out of water story and where a lot of the comedy lies. Most of the dark humor and slapstick comedy does land pretty well.

The fighting scenes are both close hand to hand combat and gun fights. The first scene and the last big fight is both larger scale and the more impressive part of the action element. In the opening scene, its already obvious that style is going to be apparent as the bullets hitting its targets are all probability and arrows as it hits set up in a hand- drawn trajectory zooming in and out. In the big final third act, its a spectacle on a massive scale through a disposal facility.

Taking home the Fantasia Best Action film this year, The Fable is a ton of fun to watch. Junichi Okada delivers an outstanding character as Sato. Not only the main character but also the two assassins who want to take him place has a lot of moments between fanboy-ing and trying to take him down. Its this sudden change in character that makes them hilarious. Its a side plot but these little elements puts more stakes on the line and keeps the action going. However, some of the little flaws here goes to some truly over the top characters that are a touch generic and annoying. The story has a lot of characters in and out that don’t always get enough presence, making it a little hard to place as a result. All this is easy to look past because The Fable is well-paced, has great comedic timing and some odd but charming characters paired with nicely choreographed action sequences.

Fantasia Festival 2019: The Prey (2018)

The Prey (2018)

The Prey

Director (and co-writer): Jimmy Henderson

Cast: Gu Shangwei, Byron Bishop, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Nophand Boonyai, Rous Mony, Dara Our, Vithaya Pansringarm, Dy Sonita

The Prey is a 2018 Cambodian action thriller about a corrupt warden that sets up a hunting game for rich men using the prisoners as their prey.

The Prey is essentially a cat and mouse game gone array from the original plans as they accidentally implement an undercover international Chinese cop into the mix. Xin (Shangwei Gu) is said cop that has spent his life catching criminals and suddenly needing to try to not be caught, especially as he also has taken to help out the other prisoner, Mony (Rous Mony) also sent out. As the three rich men go their separate ways to kill their prey and win the game, things turn around when Xin and Mony manages to turn the game around and kills one of the three hunters.

Xin is the star of the movie here. He has more brains than brawn and that works in the gun heavy action. He has a lot of grit and while there isn’t a lot of context to his background, its never necessary because his character development relies on how this prison, the warden and the game may or may not have changed him. Talking about the warden played by Vithaya Pansringarm, he makes quite an appearance, albeit fairly familiar type of character, but he truly captures the role well in the first act with Xin. His part is small compared to the three hunters, especially two of them, the army camouflage dressed Mat (Byron Bishop) and his nephew, Ti (Nophand Boonyai). The latter takes on more of the story as the movie goes into the more intense bits. His story gets a bit far-fetched, but somehow it also tries to give his character more depth.

The Cambodian jungles are a great location. The beginning of the story takes place in the prison but most of the movie is set in the vast jungles. The camera work right from the start is the highlight of the film. It manages to capture the vast spaces to the little places with angles from the ground to overhead shots or trailing cameras after its characters. It all helps make the action scenes better. Although the scenes are mostly gun fights, with some interesting weaponry to say the least, especially Ti’s choice of firearm. The background noise uses mostly its natural surroundings except for the action scenes which has varying background music from lighthearted music to contrast the ruthless moments to the more intense music in the final act to complement.

At the end of the day, The Prey has a lot of great technical elements to it. Where it falls short is in its story. It lacks character depth, probably a lesser problem as its more about the action bits, but probably its bigger problems is having a disjointed story. There are some decent gun fights and combat but it introduces characters that never give enough focus or enough of a tangent to make it all come together, making it less easy to commit and feel completely immersed.

Fantasia Festival 2019: No Mercy (2019)

No Mercy (2019)

No Mercy

Director: Lim Kyoung-tack

Cast: Si-Young Lee, Se-Wan Park, Jun-hyuk Lee

No Mercy is a 2019 South Korean action drama film about a woman recently released from prison who takes revenge when her younger sister disappears the next day.

Revenge films definitely have a place in South Korean films especially after the Vengeance trilogy, Oldboy being one of the three that made it huge around the world. No Mercy is an entirely different beast of a film. With a central character Inae being a former security officer with martial arts training and clad in a feminine red dress paired with red heels, the main actress Si-Young Lee, previously known for her more romantic comedy roles shows off the contrast her fighting skills especially as she does almost 95% of all the moves herself without a stunt double. This is always a great point because the action choreography becomes more genuine and less camera cuts, making it a more immersive viewing experience. Adding on the fact that she also uses different weapons and the fact that as she learns more about her sister’s disappearance from one person to the next, her anger escalates causing each person to suffer her wrath just a step more intense  each time.

No Mercy attempts to make its audience feel Inae’s anger and pain with every reveal of her sister’s story. Her younger sister Eunhye, played by Se-wan Park in her debut role, is one that deserves praise as she takes on a intellectually disabled teenager. What starts with school bullies taking advantage of her ends up leading back to what caused Inae to end up in prison in the first place. Every reveal, maybe a little emotionally manipulative, does hit the same painful spot over and over again and its hard as the audience to not feel the same anger and frustration over the abuse of the vulnerable in the society.

No Mercy is not an easy film to watch. Its takes its subject matter far but also manages to balance out impressive action with a dose of thought-provoking drama. It all comes down to an intriguing script and a well-executed movie. It starts off in the middle of the film which sets the pace and what to expect. Unlike other South Korean action films, it has a shorter runtime and therefore has a well-paced script and well-developed contrasting characters: the weak and meek Eunhye, the fierce “heroine” Inae faced against a world of mostly horrible men and the most powerful of them portraying the most despicable.

Packaged as a revenge action thriller, No Mercy does deliver a more profound message. Its how society views its different members as a nuisance and treats them unfairly. Messages of female oppression, abuse of the vulnerable and the unfair treatment of the intellectually disabled are constant reminders in many scenes as some people find justifications through their power or through their ignorance. It is because No Mercy does such a convincing job that Inae’s revenge thriller, taken into her own hands because no one else bothered to care, as extreme as it is, felt more and more satisfying with each person she took down in a ruthless and unforgiving way.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Extreme Job (Geukhanjikeob, 2019)

Extreme Job (2019)

Extreme Job

Director: Byeong-heon Lee

Cast: Seung-ryong Ryu, Seon-kyu Jin, Lee Hanee, Dong-hwi Lee, Jin-hee Jang, Myeong Gong, Ha-kyu Shin, Jeong-se Oh, Eui-sung Kim

Extreme Job is a 2019 South Korean action comedy about a ragtag team of cops who take over a fried chicken restaurant as a front to do surveillance on a drug trafficker.

Right off the bat, Extreme Job sets itself out as a comedic act as this specially put together team goes on their mission which ends up in a disgrace. This first mission sets the comedic tone for the film throughout as it shows off each of the members and the type of cop they are. Upon their suspension, they eventually gets into the fried chicken business and it becomes apparent that what started out as a surveillance job takes a turn for the worse when they start taking the business seriously and the food becomes popular, drawing them too much attention. A lot of luck and coincidence leads this ragtag team to the finale.

Extreme Job might go by the numbers and is on rails for most of the film but what it grasps well is finding that right tone and committing to it on all levels. It gives its characters room to grow and each of them to take up their job while also seemingly, see them lose their path as the restaurant business becomes more profitable than their actual police job. In terms of pacing, Extreme Job starts and ends very strong: quick-paced and action-packed and humor all balanced and bundled together wonderfully. Unfortunately, the movie is on the lengthier side at almost 2 hours long and because of that, the middle act lacks a bit of action and involves more tedium (which probably could have been edited out to make it more tight-knit).

The charm of the movie does lie in its police squad. This ragtag 5 person team might seem clumsy and disgraceful and even a bit ridiculous. Most of the time, they are nonsensical however, the dynamic they have makes each of them fun to watch, especially because they form the basic team of having a leader, an oddball, a tough lady, a serious guy and the newbie. The most charming of this does go to the oddball Sergeant Ma who makes things incredibly hilarious with both his character physical appearance as well as his dialogue. His character makes the rest of the team be able to bounce off his humor and in turn also have a fun humorous element to a lot of scenes.

While a lot of Extreme Job feels fairly formulaic in terms of story flow, it does take a unique turn of events for its final act which gives the reveal of who the team actually is and why they were specially formed. Perhaps a slight spoiler but the final act also brings out the action element to the max as it involves a lot of strong action choreography paired up with an energy-packed background music to give it that extra boost.

More comedy than action, Extreme Job still manages to find its tone and its charm, making it a fun ride full of laughs, and making it easy to connect with these 5 underdog cops and rooting for them to win even if it feels unlikely right from the beginning. Not to mention, its fantastic food shots that will make you crave for some fried chicken after the movie ends. After watching it, its no surprise that Extreme Job has the second most tickets sold in its country’s history and on top of that, an American remake in the works starring Kevin Hart.

You can catch the second screening of Extreme Job at Fantasia Film Festival on July 31st at 3:05pm EST.

Double Feature: Tracers (2015) & Ultraviolet (2006)

DOUBLEFEATURE (58)

Its time for the next double feature! The alphabet Netflix is going a bit awkward and weird and it won’t look like the whole alphabet at this point with doubles and triples here and there for various letters. Anyways, this is the penultimate one before we finish up the 26 movies in this rundown. This time, for the T selection I decided to go with Tracers which looks like some parkour fun. I liked Brick Mansions even if the plot was a bit thin and I’m expecting a similar experience here. For the U selection, I went on to look at the Ultraviolet.

Suffice to say, the ending two movies for this rundown is going to be not the rest of the alphabet but cut very short, either way, it needs to wrap up so some other random pairings can happen. 🙂 Anyways, let’s check out these two movies!

Tracers (2015)

tracers

Director: Daniel Benmayor

Cast: Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos, Adam Rayner, Rafi Gavron, Luciano Acuna Jr., Josh Yadon, Johnny M. Wu, Sam Medina, Amirah Vann

Wanted by the Chinese mafia, a New York City bike messenger escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger. – IMDB

Just as I’d expected, Tracers is an alright movie. Its not great because its pretty predictable in how things are going to go down but its also better than I expected because of the parkour and the setting. The characters are alright but they have quite a few so it also lacks some depth. In the choice between making it more action-packed and crime or giving it more of a character oriented drama, this one leaned more onto the former, which is a pretty good choice seeing as it took the twist of these groups of parkour youths pulling off some crime jobs like stealing stuff and whatnot.

Taylor Lautner is usually dismissed mostly because of Twilight, it feels but I thought he did alright in the few Twilight films that I saw. To be fair, the whole acting job here was a little meh but the parkour was fun to watch and everyone seemed to have the reason to be there even if the romance here felt a little forced and became like the pushing force for Taylor Lautner’s character to do this because, it always felt like while it was a perk to get to know the character of Marie Avgeropoulos, he did it for the fast money. So everyone has their agenda and it tried to do this twist with the leader of the parkour group which I guess makes sense to a certain extent. Talking about Marie Avgeropoulos, I grew to like her character in The 100 even if she is super stubborn and this character here is very reminiscent of that one where she’s a pretty tough girl.

Overall, Tracers was pretty middle of the line. Its not a very memorable movie because it played a lot of it by the books but it did exceed my expectations. Aside from all the nonsensical romantic angles that really just tried to flaunt some young bodies and romantic tension to give it more conflict, the parkour bits were pretty fun to watch. There’s some decent action in the escape scene near the end. The twist was alright as well even if it was a tad predictable. I didn’t expect much from it to begin with so it exceeded my expectations.

Ultraviolet (2006)

ultraviolet

Director (and writer): Kurt Wimmer

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund, Sebastien Andrieu, Ida Martin, William Fichtner, David E. Collier

A beautiful hæmophage infected with a virus that gives her superhuman powers has to protect a boy in a futuristic world, who is thought to be carrying antigens that would destroy all hæmophages. – IMDB

Honestly, there’s not much to say about Ultraviolet. Its a pretty bad movie. If it didn’t have Milla Jovovich as the main character and then some competent supporting roles like William Fichtner, I probably would have shut off the film. The premise of the film isn’t too bad set in the futuristic work and the whole blood angle and hemophages and such. All that stuff works well enough as the background premise of the story. The main issue is that the movie itself is pretty bad. The computer graphics are absolutely outdated at this point which makes it very unconvincing to watch.

At the same time, there’s a whole lot of bad acting from everyone else. Milla Jovovich might not have great acting skills but she fills up the space because its her unique attitude that always makes her stand out (even in the Resident Evil), making her the best part of Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet is a pretty bad-ass character with some fun one-liners, very reminiscent of Alice in Resident Evil, and I guess that really makes it work for her. Playing alongside her is Cameron Bright as the boy who can destroy all of the hemophages. I’ve only seen Cameron Bright in one other movie (that I remember) in Running Scared which I really liked him and think that he’s a pretty decent young actor and he does pretty well here even if his dialogue is quite scarce.

Overall, Ultraviolet is pretty meh. Nothing really does good and unless you are a fan of Milla Jovovich like me, you might even dismiss her role as Ultraviolet as well. But seeing as I am a fan of hers, this movie worked because she held it up and kept me watching. I can almost guarantee that I probably won’t be watching this again though.

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