Double Feature: The Kissing Booth 2 (2020) & Skyscraper (2018)

Welcome to the next double feature! I have to say that I may have given up on the alphabet format but I don’t think anyone else was really following that anyways…always get stuck at Q. Either way, next pairing are two movies I saw as breathers in between Fantasia screenings. The first is The Kissing Booth 2 (which I’m still wondering why I saw since I didn’t like the first one) and the second is Skyscraper which has Dwayne Johnson which is almost guaranteed a nice mindless entertainment movie night. Not exactly the typical sort of pairing but it is what it is.

Let’s check it out!

The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Vince Marcello

Cast: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Molly Ringwald, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Meganne Young, Stephen Jennings

In the sequel to 2018’s THE KISSING BOOTH, high school senior Elle juggles a long-distance relationship with her dreamy boyfriend Noah, college applications, and a new friendship with a handsome classmate that could change everything. – IMDB

Following the events of The Kissing Booth (review), The Kissing Booth 2 resumes after a summer of Elle and Noah being together and they have to part ways because of Noah having to go to Harvard. Between juggling her emotions for Noah not being there, keeping herself busy, spending time with her best friend (and his girlfriend) and then trying to find money to fund possibly college in Boston without burdening her family and keeping her own secrets, Elle has quite a lot on her plate. Not only from Elle’s angle, The Kissing Booth 2 also focuses a little on Noah and Lee’s side. The Kissing Booth 2 is probably exactly as I’d expected it would go seeing as I still am wondering why I started it in the first place since I didn’t really enjoy the first one and not a huge fan of Elle’s character setup.

The whole world of The Kissing Booth 2 just always seem to have this missing thing that they aren’t hitting. This one tries to cover a lot of ground with different supporting characters and more conflicts. Its about friends and relationships and planning for the future. I just sometimes have this hard time believing that these characters and how they talk are teenagers in high school in this current day and age. Its a predictable sort of story and to be honest, this film was more enjoyable than the first because of one element and that’s the Second Lead Syndrome where I thought the new character and Elle’s new friend and dance partner that has some sparks, Marco portrayed by Taylor Zakhar Perez was fun and one of the better characters of this whole story. There seemed to be some good chemistry between the two of them especially in the dance competition part which was a lot of fun to watch overall. But then I have this deep love for Dance Dance Revolution so the whole Dance Mania competition was a highlight.

The Kissing Booth 2 is really nothing to call home about. I’d love to see Taylor Zakhar Perez in something else although it was announced that The Kissing Booth 3 is happening and was filmed back to back or something and just to finish this thing up, I’ll probably still check it out and cross my fingers that maybe the 2nd lead will get the girl (which probably won’t happen) but then I’m getting ahead of myself at this point. If you liked The Kissing Booth then you might like the sequel, if you didn’t, then maybe you are like me and found some joy with the second male lead and the dance competition.

Skyscraper (2018)

Skyscraper

Director (and writer): Rawson Marshall Thurber

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Hannah Quinlivan

A security expert must infiltrate a burning skyscraper, 225 stories above ground, when his family is trapped inside by criminals. – IMDB

Dwayne Johnson is definitely one of those actors that makes some fun and entertaining sort of action movies packed with one liners and just altogether a straightforward good time. The stories sometimes don’t have a ton of depth and are fairly predictable but if you already know what to expect then its almost always a decent little action romp. With that said, Skyscraper fits the bill of exactly what to expect. Set in a rather fictional Hong Kong (to anyone who knows the city well enough) in a fictional tall skyscraper, it might break the reality just a tad on that front as well as how ridiculously over the top a few of the action sequences are. For frequenters of Fast and the Furious franchise who has just been packed with these over the top unrealistic moments that people like to make Youtube videos to debunk how accurate it can be, Skyscraper is a usual deal especially when Dwayne Johnson’s character goes to jump off a crane to another building, there’s some strange physics going on there.

Its really hard to talk about movies likes these. On one hand, for serious moviegoers, its very obvious that there are a ton of flaws whether in shallow plot or some computer effects or even how some events flow and how certain scenes are structured. Its not going to be some award-winning movie. On the other hand, if you go by the standpoint of having exactly what is expected and for the mindless entertainment and some fun Dwayne Johnson moments, this is fairly harmless especially when a lot of his skyscraper moments involve duct tape, a common every day man trick which does keep the movie grounded a little more than expected.

Not to mention, Dwayne Johnson is accompanied by a supporting role by Neve Campbell who plays his wife in the movie. She actually has quite a useful point to make and actually speaks some decent Cantonese line. I always praise actors/actresses who are given these foreign lines and get it right on point. Although, that is definitely more of a personal thing. With that said, there are some good characters here plus I do usually enjoy Chin Han’s roles. Overall, Skyscraper was plain and simple a fun time. I acknowledge all the issues with it but at the same time, it was exactly what I needed when I chose to watch it.


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

Double Feature: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) & Bloodshot (2020)

Next double feature something of a more random selection with a movie that left Netflix Canada paired with a rental with 13 Hours: The Soldiers of Benghazi and Bloodshot respectively. Let’s check it out!

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

13 Hours: The Secrets Soldiers of Benghazi

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, Alexia Barlier, David Costabile, Payman Maadi

During an attack on a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos. – IMDB

Based on 2014’s historical book by Mitchell Zuckoff of the same name, Michael Bay helms this project that retells the account of a terrorist attack that took place at an American diplomatic compound in Libya from the point of view of the the security team. Its quite a jarring story even under the direction of Michael Bay that many people have issues with his direction style on literally explosive scenes, which in the context of this film definitely felt like his direction was a lot more grounded than a lot of other previous movies. Having never read the source material, there are some elements that feels a little odd but at the same time, the story of this security team and the men involved as they get caught up in this dangerous situation that they need to face focuses a lot more on them as individual people and the team and there’s this incredible subtle action and intensity that builds while also giving a few of these more key characters enough background to make them feel real, which is important seeing as this is based on something that actually did happen.

In reality, the strength of the film lies heavily on the characters themselves especially through the eyes of John Krasinski’s character Jack, who is the latest addition to the team upon his arrival and in a short amount of time is shown the place that Americans have in this place and the dangers of their presence as well as the role they play as a private military security team. The whole cast of characters whether its Pablo Schreiber’s Tanto and his odd decision to wear shorts the whole time or the role of the friendships between these characters as well as the connection between the office they are protecting as well as whether help is coming for them and who is one which side all comes into play of the big picture.

Sure, the movie itself has its flaws since it still has the Hollywood sense where some things do feel constructed to make it more entertaining for the audience but the premise and how its executed and even Michael Bay’s choice to keep things feeling fairly grounded but still deliver some intense action scenes that play especially with darkness and the mystery of what is and isn’t there and different ploys really does add a lot to the movie. Its a rather gripping viewing experience.

Bloodshot (2020)

Director: Dave Wilson

Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley, Lamorne Morris, Guy Pearce, Johannes Haukur Joahnnesson, Alex Hernandez

Ray Garrison, a slain soldier, is re-animated with superpowers. – IMDB

Its fair to say that Vin Diesel is casted in a certain type of movies aside from his main role of The Fast and the Furious franchise and his grunting voice cast role as Groot. He has this cookie cutter sort of deal where its a lot of one liners and not a whole lot of dialogue and enough action to make it satisfying to watch, at least for myself, I like watching Vin Diesel movies even if the movie itself is flawed. With that said, Bloodshoot is pretty much exactly what I expected and wanted out of watching a Vin Diesel movie which had enough entertaining elements. The story itself does try to add in some twists, probably more for me since I haven’t read the comics and know nothing of this Bloodshot character so its a fresh discovery.

If you look at the cast, its really a pretty decent round-up. Aside from Vin Diesel, there’s Guy Pearce playing a rather similar role to Iron Man 3’s role (if I remember correctly), I’d say while also haven’t some familiar faces like Eiza Gonzalez which has delivered some fun roles in recent films as well as Lamorne Morris who is almost unrecognizable from his New Girl days but also does a decent job here with a fun supporting character. Plus, it takes on this element of having a crew of characters that are all flawed and using this new technology to make them have this “superhuman” in their own way. Of course, with Bloodshot being the character that has been literally revived from the dead and the twist is how he’s being manipulated.

As a feature film directorial debut for Dave Wilson who had only previously directed a short for Love, Death & Robots (review), which is pretty impressive and did mostly visual effects for a ton of video games, this is a step forward and in reality, the direction is pretty decent. What really does make this movie feel a little more disposable and flawed is really that superhero movies are oversaturated at this point and there’s this predictability to the whole situation. The elements are there in terms of action and some fun little Vin Diesel moments and even the humor additions and the littler twist is all decent but then its hard to not feel like, there’s a solid idea of what the general end result of a superhero movie will be that makes it hard to be truly excited by its end game.

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

Double Feature: The Platform (2019) & The Predator (2018)

As I took a few days off to get my mind back on track and figure out what needs to be written (because I basically forgot after Fantasia Festival), we’re back on the double feature! As we gear into October’s Halloween Horror month, I’m leaving some horror on Shudder for next month so we’re focusing on the rest of the alphabet with only Netflix choices and maybe some shortcuts along the way.

Picking up where we left off, its time for the P selection. The first is a Netflix movie called The Platform and paired with the fourth movie in the Predator franchise called The Predator. Let’s check it out!

The Platform (2019)

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Cast: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale, Alexandra Masangkay, Zihara Llana

A vertical prison with one cell per level. Two people per cell. One only food platform and two minutes per day to feed from up to down. An endless nightmare trapped in The Hole. – IMDB

The Platform is a Netflix Original Spanish sci-fi horror film which works a lot like Snowpiercer where its moving horizontal through a train, this one moves in a vertical structure via a platform that passes from the top levels to the lowest levels. As a man gets trapped there, his conversation with his cellmate becomes one where he starts to notice the patterns and the system and wants to fight for a change to actually survive this ordeal. The backstory and mystery of why these people are there and how do they get out is all a key part to the story. Sure, the platform itself plays a big part as the people shift every while from one level to another so that they can experience the upper and lower levels and the ugly and selfish side of humans in the face of survival.

Netflix automatically started the movie in its dubbed English version for myself which was a decent experience. It would be interesting to watch it again in its original audio. Overall, The Platform is a pretty good film. It builds up on the mystery and the intensity of the situation pretty well and has a decent pacing and execution throughout.

The Predator (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Shane Black

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey

When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled scientist can prevent the end of the human race. – IMDB

There are days I wonder why we just keep going back to making more and more of a franchise when it should’ve been left at the first movie. It sometimes feels like Predator is one of those situation, maybe because I’m also not a huge fan of this franchise in comparison to Alien franchise, I guess. Although, credit where its due, Predators (review) was a pretty fun one even though I think some people wasn’t a big fan. Back on track to this one, the story here is far-fetched and it runs rather off track the further it goes. The only thing that worked for it was the ragtag team and the twist of the concept of the predators end-game although the whole “twist” of what they wanted wasn’t exactly a twist but fairly obvious.

I don’t hate on this completely since I thought Olivia Munn’s character was fairly resourceful and there’s some familiar faces with Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key, two people that I rather enjoy in movies. Then there’s the little boy played by Jacob Tremblay who right away is different but intelligent for his age. The characters do work rather well. Its a pity that the story gets a little odd especially when the Predator world starts showing up with alien pups which was supposed to add some humor which it kind of did at times especially with whatever it would fetch back.

Its a fairly flat experience. Its not good but not horrible either. There are some glaring issues with it for sure but then, the director definitely has a special place for this movie as it puts in some references to the original film (or at least a very obvious one).

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

Fantasia Festival 2020: A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪现场, 2019)

A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪现场, 2019)

A Witness Out of the Blue

Director (and writer): Chi-Keung Fung

Cast: Louis Koo, Jessica Hsuan, Louis Cheung, Patrick Tam, Philip Keung, Sam Lee, Andy On, Fiona Sit, Cherry Ngan

A Witness Out of the Blue is 2019 crime thriller about a murder of a member of a bank robber group that may have gone array as they hunt down their leader with only one witness to the crime: a parrot. One of the best things about Fantasia Festival is hearing director’s talk about their film. A nice touch to A Witness Out of the Blue was the director having a little message about how the movie came to be and how it all started with a parrot. Director and writer Chi-Keung Fung definitely is more renowned for his writing credits with involvement in Stephen Chow movies like Shaolin Soccer and The Mermaid. A Witness Out of the Blue has the hook of using a parrot as a witness and how the cop will use it to his advantage to learn about how a parrot communicates or learns the language and can have the intellect of a 5 year old child and its a fun element for sure. The story itself does create a lot of twists and turns that manages to lead down a rather interesting chase. There’s a bit of tension and a bit of humor and the mystery definitely takes everyone for a chase with the characters. The ending isn’t exactly never been done before (but I say what its similar to, that would be a huge spoiler so I’m going to avoid that). Whether pacing or execution, A Witness Out of the Blue is an intriguing thriller.

A Witness Out of the Blue has a stellar cast. Its consisted primarily with the once righteous but now easygoing cop Detective Lam that everyone sees as useless who sees through the case in another angle played by Louis Cheung who is more known for his music career than his acting career even if he has a lot of Cantonese voice acting credits to his name however delivers quite the performance. Lam starts suspecting his upper level boss played by Philip Keung (a familiar face at this year’s Fantasia for sure with his appearance in Sheep Without a Shepherd HERE) who holds a grudge towards the bank robbers for killing another cop. At the same time, Lam needs to still try to catch the bank robber mastermind Wong by the character played by Louis Koo but always seems to be one step behind as the robber crew starts being hunted down as well making him look more and more suspicious. There is no doubt that Louis Koo’s career is full of crime thrillers at this point and he is the perfect candidate for this role especially since he becomes something of an antihero. At this point, Wong hides out at this senior care home managed by a visually disabled woman played by Jessica Hsuan where we see the more human side of Wong in their interaction.

There is no doubt that Chi-Keung Fung is a great writer since every character in this thriller has its purpose. The characters all play off each other as detective Lam goes looking back at the grudges linked to robbery as he questions supporting characters played by Fiona Sit, Andy On and Patrick Tam. Each of these characters have their own stories whether its a flawed detective or a mastermind who wants to find the truth of the death of his team but every step takes on a different turn. Put in the equation of the parrot being another character and its all quite the whirlwind ride.

A Witness Out of the Blue has a lot to offer. It tries to be a little different and how it starts with a parrot and uses its characters all fit well together. Its a crime thriller that has some action and comedy blended together to become a little more mix genre. With both a stellar cast and a fun little plot and some great comedy points, it all actually fits together in a well-paced, engaging and entertaining sort of crime thriller even if the ending isn’t as clever as the director might think it is but somehow this still felt a little like a breath of fresh air in the sea of crime thrillers that come out every year.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020)

Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020)

Crazy Samurai Musashi

Director: Yuji Shimomura

Cast: Tak Sakaguchi, Kento Yamazaki, Masaaki Takarai, Akihiko Sai

A clan’s future hangs in the balance. A boy of noble birth waits by a temple. The dishonor of his father and the death of his brother must be avenged. The boy is merely bait, there to draw out the enemy who has brought shame upon the Yoshioka school of swordfighting. In the surrounding woods, hundreds of Yoshioka retainers lurk, weapons at the ready, in anticipation of the solitary swordsman’s arrival. This will not be a fair fight. Not fair at all. – Fantasia Festival

With only beginning and ending scenes with the actual plot, Crazy Samurai Musashi is mostly all about its 77 minute one take samurai fighting scene in between where Musashi faces an unfair amount of 400 mercenaries and other clan samurai who all want his dead. A few of these have a bit more dialogue which indicates some kind of deeper desire to win or more competent which isn’t always the case.

77 minutes of fighting is still a little much. It becomes a little flat since its easy to start seeing who will get hit on the head or get slashed elsewhere. It gives a lot of space to start nitpicking and seeing the little moments of people getting hit and then running off screen for example that feels like its a constant rinse and repeat cycle. It is 400 people to 1 person so its nothing that’s unexpected. Its also a lot of the same moves with some more elaborate fighting choreography here and there. However, credit where credit is due, the fight choreography does take the time to go from the lighter elements in the beginning to being more lethal as there’s more blood spill and such. It all escalates to this fight in the rain that is definitely one of the high points of the film. The score also changes throughout almost like the fights shifts from one phase to the next. The film also takes the time between these transitions for Musashi to be human and look for water thats conveniently strewn about in little corners of the house that he can find instantaneously.

It has its appeal at the beginning when the story starts off with a specific scene where Musashi shows up and then the one take starts and it seems a little funny to see people running off screen or being shielded to move off screen or whatnot. The one take techniques comes into play and its fun to watch how its executed in this sense but then fighting goes on for a long time and its wears down the pacing a lot. It might feel a little more gimmick than proper execution in this sense. The backstory is decent but the focus on the story is so little that there isn’t a whole lot of engagement with the characters to begin with.

Overall, Crazy Samurai Musashi might be only suitable for those with an incredible love for either the technical one take movies or samurai movies on general. For myself who isn’t quite that hardcore and more focused on more thorough story line, this one fell a little flat in the middle, even if the movie does give some changes like score and the pacing of the fight choreography. The one take and some of the fight scenes and even the filming and use of the setting and the score is really nice but there’s just something missing to make this more engaging.

Fantasia Festival 2020: The Paper Tigers (World Premiere 2020)

The Paper Tigers (2020)

The Paper Tigers

Director (and writer): Quoc Bao Tran

Cast: Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Matthew Page, Ken Quitugua, Roger Yuan, Raymond Ma, Jae Suh Park

Three Kung Fu prodigies have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men, now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. But when their master is murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties, and old grudges to avenge his death. – IMDB

The Paper Tigers is one of the absolute hidden gems of this year’s festival. Its another type of martial arts movies that focuses on a script that stays true to the traditional practice of Kung Fu. It adds in all the proper Chinese terms that the disciples all learn and the different clans and how the ranking goes with how the “bei mo” challenge for someone who wants to fight for a position or whatnot goes. Its all a new eye at the roots of the virtues of practicing is like honor and brotherhood. “Paper tiger” is a common term in Chinese used to represent someone who appears/claims to be threatening but actually isn’t, which is a perfect title that encapsulates this entire film.

Its great to see someone making movies about these key virtues and values that is much more than the actual fighting bit. Ken Quitagua, who also plays one of the later characters Zhen Fan, is the action director that crafts so great fighting choreography. With that said, they don’t cheap out on the fighting either although its more of an action comedy so the fighting wraps in the rusty out of practice Kung Fu skills of these middle age men who have more heart than skills but slowly finds back some of their groove, at least those able to do it between these three friends: Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan) and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins). For them, its about the values and friendships that they treasured when they were young and because of all the curveballs life has thrown them, they seem to have forgotten the basics of those values that don’t thrive so well in their current reality. The course of this “adventure” or “revenge mission” takes them all for a loop, especially for Danny who the movie focuses mostly around his backstory and life with his divorced wife and being a father to a young boy.

The Paper Tigers is a straightforward story. Its clear cut and doesn’t pad it with a lot of unnecessary tangents but sticks true to the three main characters who are portrayed incredibly well by its cast. They have their own issues to deal with and then they have a lot of the rivalry from past and present that they need to deal with. Its all well-paced and everything hits its marks really well throughout. It shows the years of how the Three Tigers get together as children and then young adults and then for some reason that gets revealed in the plot, what separated them when they reunite to find out what happened to their “Si Fu” aka Master. It also brings in the clever use over and over again in different situations about the Chinese proverb, “Two tigers cannot share a mountain” which they word it a little differently but means the same thing essentially.

the paper tigers

Whether its the humor or the character or the nod to Kung Fu martial arts, its virtues and respect, its all such a great balance of everything that makes it an exceptionally enjoyable viewing. As a finishing note, as I was watching this, it reminded me of Ang Lee’s debut films of Father Knows Best Trilogy that also used the same sort of story-telling methods of presenting a scenario (entertaining or not, like Pushing Hands or The Wedding Banquet) that actually embedded a lot of traditional customs and exhibiting a new culture to the public. There’s a lot of positive vibes from watching a movie like The Paper Tigers.

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*

Double Feature: Charlie’s Angels (2019) & Doctor Sleep (2019)

Clearing the last two rentals for now before we resume the alphabet Double Feature! These two are both 2019 titles that I’ve finally gotten a chance to catch up with. Let’s check it out!

Charlie’s Angels (2019)

charlie's angels

Director (and screenplay): Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Elena Houghlin, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Chris Pang, Noah Centineo

When a young systems engineer blows the whistle on a dangerous technology, Charlie’s Angels are called into action, putting their lives on the line to protect us all. – IMDB

I’m going to confess right now that I wasn’t a big fan of Charlie’s Angels in the 90s. In fact, I probably don’t remember too much of other than the three Angels back then and then didn’t even realize there was a sequel. The reason that I watched Charlie’s Angels (other than it being a cheap rental) is the fact that I’ve been constantly realizing that Kristen Stewart is a really talented actress and Twilight was definitely her low point (in my opinion, of course. If you like Twilight, that’s perfectly fine with me). I went into this one completely blind. I didn’t realize it was meant to be a sequel and in turn the third movie of this franchise and didn’t realize who was the director or any other the other supporting cast. However, Charlie’s Angels does refer to its previous movies in context but it does standalone on its own, which is important since its been over 15 years since its predecessor.

Charlie’s Angels isn’t a masterpiece cinema and has some flaws but it also was incredibly entertaining. In many ways, it shows off the directing style of Elizabeth Banks that wasn’t too obvious until you can really see her influence in the entire film if you’ve seen Pitch Perfect 2 before. I’m a fan of Pitch Perfect as a whole and enjoyed the second film and the comedy element and you can see some of that sort of comedy in this Charlie’s Angels as well as the female character designs whether its the contrast of the three Angels as well as her own role as Boz. Elizabeth Banks shows off how talented she is in all the hats that she wears in making this movie. Of course, we can’t neglect the three Angels played by Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott. Its all about training the new trio as its really the new team of two formed by the former two as Sabina and Jane that are sent in to help Elena as she tries to get back a technology that could cause a lot of damage. Elena’s character especially gets a lot of development as she becomes more and more courageous through everything she goes through and has the smarts to compensate for her lack of experience. The dynamic of Sabina and Jane is also a evolving friendship which has a bit of the female version of “buddy cop movies” except this obviously isn’t a buddy cop film.

Thing is, Charlie’s Angels in term of depth might be similar to one-liner action movies (The Expendables or Crank, perhaps) and its more about the entertainment and action-packed sequences which may work for some and not so much for others. For myself, it achieved exactly what I was looking for and actually exceed my expectations in the enjoyment factor. Running at almost 2 hours, it had some pacing issues. However, credit where its due, the three leading ladies were very good. There’s some nice action sequences and the comedy mostly does land well. The cast bounces off each other’s role fairly well. There is some formulaic elements like its bad guy design and its easy to see where the twist is at a certain point. However, it does also have a great supporting cast like Patrick Stewart, a reintroduction of the agency and its structure at the beginning to see its progress of the decade between the previous movie until now and manages to keep it standalone. All things that I appreciate and like about this film.

Doctor Sleep (2019)

doctor sleep

Director (and screenplay): Mike Flanagan

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind

Years following the events of The Shining (1980), a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal. – IMDB

*Originally posted for Friday Film Club on Movies and Tea HERE*

Being the sequel of The ShiningDoctor Sleep is based on the 2013 book of the same name by Stephen King, which takes place decades after the events at the Overlook Hotel. At the helm of this film is Mike Flanagan which takes the director’s seat as well as the screenplay writer which aims to pull together the elements of the source material of The Shining as well as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining while adapting Doctor Sleep to its sequel. In many ways, for someone like myself that hasn’t read any of the source material, Doctor Sleep takes a step into something more than just a crazy Jack Torrance from the first movie and gives it a much more ominous and supernatural angle to these characters with certain powers especially in the now adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) who embraces it after the trauma left behind from his childhood at the Hotel and has to face them while trying to protect a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) with similar powers against a cult called The True Knot.

Mike Flanagan has truly grown over the years from the days of his independent horror films like Absentia  and moving forward a little more mainstream especially in the successful The Haunting of Hill House series on Netflix. There’s a specific charm to how he handles every element in his horror films to create the dark atmosphere, build up on the characters and have this underlying sense of lingering fear that tests the boundaries of when to expect a scare and when it will actually happen. With him in the director’s seat, Flanagan adds his flair to Doctor Sleep and works wonders on creating a visually appealing horror experience especially with suitable camera rotations, how it’s all set up and having a level of subtlety that fits the film.

Doctor Sleep runs at a whopping 2 and a half hours which is pretty much a lengthy film. However, what is great is that it never feels like it’s that long as the story keeps moving forward. At the same time, the characters are focused enough on the few prominent ones like Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of adult Dan Torrance and a quick span of his growing up process, particularly psychologically and the nightmares that accompany him after surviving the childhood events. It manages to give a link to The Shining before moving forward, which is a good approach. One of the standout performances do go out to the young girl Abra, portrayed by Kyliegh Curran. The cast for Doctor Sleep in general all do a great job from the leader of The True Knot played by Rebecca Ferguson in a charming outfit and character to Cliff Curtis who plays Dan Torrance’s friend that helps and believes him through his unbelievable story.

There’s so much to love about Doctor Sleep and while I haven’t read the source material, it works well on its own as it does call back to the film adaptation of The Shining at a various points but the story behind the film itself is much more fleshed out and takes a different direction than The Shining that its a different experience altogether and one well worth checking out.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these 2019 films? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Flowers in the Attic (1987) & The Foreigner (2017)

Next double feature is here! We’ve arrived at the F features. The first is 1987 adaptation of V.C.. Andrews novel with the same name, Flowers in the Attic followed by 2017’s The Foreigner with Jackie Chan in this action thriller. Let’s check it out!

Flowers in the Attic (1987)

Flowers in the Attic

Director (and screenplay): Jeffrey Bloom

Cast: Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Ben Ryan Ganger, Lindsay Parker

Children are hidden away in the attic by their conspiring mother and grandmother. – IMDB

I still remember back in the days when I first discovered V.C. Andrews through some school friends reading it and it was such a rebellious thing to do because of its edgy content. Of course, I read some other series and not Flowers in the Attic which I learned when I got older that it was a very popular title in her writing. Until today, I haven’t read it so I also went into this knowing nothing about its plot. Call this a fresh watch if you may but this story is definitely a bit edgy as it deals with incest and religious beliefs and control. The story itself has a good premise to work with especially in the realm of a gothic thriller.

The execution of the film does leave a lot to be desire. There are some obvious direction to give it the scary grandmother and the mystery behind the family secrets and why the mother was kicked out in the first place as well as the general dislike and unaccepted feelings towards the children. There’s a lot done to give those unsettling moments. All this somewhat falls apart with a lot of overacting and the camera wanting to focus a lot unnecessary bits almost trying to hint that something would happen between two characters that would be unacceptable in the eyes of the grandmother. The mother at the same time is one of those characters that come and go and is meant to be incredibly odd and not meant to be likeable.

Flowers in the Attic was rather disappointing. I am curious whether the source material is as lackluster in general because the potential of the premise is there but then it feels so unsatisfying as a reveal. Its a tad bit predictable and there are some decent scenes. Even some moments that work between the siblings but when you put them all together, it just never seems to be well-paced and everything feels very deliberate. Not really my cup of tea but then its given me the desire to eventually get back to some V.C. Andrews reading and see how it holds up now.

The Foreigner (2017)

The Foreigner

Director: Martin Campbell

Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Orla Brady, Dermot Crowley, Ray Fearon, Rory Fleck Byrne, Michael McElhatton, Charlie Murphy, Liu Tao, Lia Williams

A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities. – IMDB

The Foreigner is a fairly typical sort of action thriller. The story itself wraps around terrorism and politics and human clashes between a father who wants to seek justice and a government official who has some questionable background connections.

The story takes the time to give these characters a little growth as every step of the mystery opens up a little more of their backgrounds, especially the obvious one, how a businessman is so knowledgeable in creating these scare tactics and evading the pursuit of government official’s men. If we talk about characters, the movie is essentially carried because of Jackie Chan who plays the father called Quan and the government official played by Pierce Brosnan. I mean, two veteran actors who deliver good roles all around. Their clashes and the action from Jackie Chan is reflective of the story itself and doesn’t overdo it a lot.

While there is a whole other issue at hand with supporting plotlines with marriage and family, The Foreigner does remember where its main focus is as an action thriller and sticks to it. It adds a few twists and some secrets from the supporting cast. Its not exactly unpredictable and not a lot of surprises but its a decent movie experience.

That’s it for this double F feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?
Also, have you read Flowers in the Attic? Is it worth a read?

Double Feature: 31 (2016) & Justice League (2017)

Time for the next Double Feature! This time is a bit of a random combination as I take a look at 2017’s DC superhero film Justice League and Shudder exclusive horror film 31. Two movies that has been on my to-watch list for a little while but always a bit hesitant on it. Let’s check it out!

31 (2016)

31

Director (and writer): Rob Zombie

Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Kevin Jackson, Malcolm McDowell, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson, Richard Brake, Pancho Moler, David Ury, Lew Temple, Torsten Voges, Elizabeth Daily

Five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in an abandoned, hellish compound where they are forced to participate in a violent game, the goal of which is to survive twelve hours against a gang of sadistic clowns. – IMDB

When we think about Rob Zombie movies, I’m fairly certain that’s a hit or miss deal, just like how we’d think about his version of Halloween brings up a lot of debate. With that said, 31 probably will fall in that same area. 31 is something of a Saw mixed with escape room deal. It takes a group of 5 carnival workers who get kidnapped into this sadistic game to survive 12 hours. This game that has never had survivors before suddenly is met with these five who turn out to be tougher than expected and take down these different sadistic clowns one after under. While their numbers also dwindle gradually, the game itself and the whole concept is done pretty well.

However, there are some serious execution issues that doesn’t quite strike a balance with its quick pacing. Usually with movies like this and ideal movie length, its hard to be very critical of its execution as it usually keeps the characters on their toes and becomes an exciting watch. Don’t get me wrong – it is a fun and rather intense watch. Each of these killer clowns also have their own unique qualities that give them their own edge. It all dials down to how these five taking down these clowns in a fairly swift manner actually brings in this element that these clowns aren’t on screen long enough to feel like they are deadly. It becomes obvious that the main showstopper is the first one that is in the opening scene, Doom-Head (Richard Brake) who does a stellar job and makes us wonder whether the film’s end game giving him the most depth and focus actually should have just been this sole much more capable threat than adding so much more.

To be fair, the five carnival workers is a good balance as well. They each have their own value in the group and its pretty fair game as they find their way to survive together and move on as they lose their own group one by one. Leading all this is tough chick, Charly, played by Sheri Moon Zombie who is no doubt meant to be the highlight of the film. She does a pretty good job at being the “final girl” candidate and in all reality, my only thought of question in a much more unimportant and random thought is how her little outfit stayed together through all the fighting, running and hiding.

31 is an okay movie. There are some issues with it and yet, there’s also some entertaining elements to it as well. Its ending a little questionable and will probably be debatable on who will like it and who won’t depending on how you like your movies to end.

Justice League (2016)

justice league

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry  Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciaran Hinds, Amber Heard

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his new-found ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. – IMDB

DC Universe is still one that I’m catching up to gradually. Its been spotty at best to catch onto especially with Marvel Cinematic Universe’s earlier domination. However, the effort is there plus, I’m a fan of Gal Gadot played by Wonder Woman so why not, right? Thing is Justice League is like your typical superhero movie. Its nothing too different from what you’d expect and its hard to not compare it to something like The Avengers who had a lot of success when it first launched. Sure, its a different universe but then the story superhero movies do tell is about the same, seeing as I’m not a comic book fan so my focus on watching these films is more about enjoyment than all the background lore that I know nothing about from its source material.

With all that said, Justice League actually was a pleasant surprise. Its 2 hour run time is filled pretty well. There is a good balance between the characters and their purpose in the storyline as a whole. There is a suitable amount of banter between its characters to keep it entertaining. Ezra Miller’s The Flash actually is a big highlight which takes over a little of a the Spider-Man appeal where its a lot of fanboy over the other superheroes but keeping him a good back-up support when things get dicey. The dynamic between the group also works fairly well. Considering that I hated the pacing of Batman vs. Superman and has since forgotten most of it, Justice League has much better pacing.

Like what I’ve been saying about the last few DC movies (except for Wonder Woman that really does stand out more, in my opinion), these superhero movies have their fun blockbuster elements. The villain is acceptable. Its a tad lengthy (like most superhero movies in whichever universe) and its execution sometimes is okay. but the overall experience is alright. It might be the over-saturated superhero market and its rather formulaic plot execution that has somehow desensitized the initial excitement of these films. DC movies seem to struggle to grab the element that makes them stand out more and each story more memorable. Its a good first time viewing but its hard to say whether I’d be going back to watch it again.

That’s it for this double feature!
Some pleasant surprises but still have some disappointing elements for both films!
Have you seen 31 and/or Justice League? Thoughts?