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?

Fantasia 2020: Detention (返校, 2019)

Detention (返校, 2019)

detention

Director (and co-writer): John Hsu

Cast: Gingle Wang, Chin-Hua Tseng, Meng-Po Fu, Cecilia Choi

Detention is an adaptation of independent video game of the same name developed by Red Candle Games which sets their story in Taiwan 1962 during the White Terror times when rules under martial law, all ideas considered dissendent is banned. In Tsuihua High School, two teachers have grouped together to create a secret underground literary club despite the close watch of the military police. Senior Fang wakes up alone in the classroom and realizes the school is no longer the same. As she searches for the teacher Zhang, she ends up joining up with a fellow student Wei. They can’t remember why they are at the school or how they got there but they continue their search. As they go further, they start encountering ghosts and monsters and their memory starts coming back as to what has happened.

Detention

Video game adaptations usually get a lot of harsh criticism. Detention is a unique premise. As a gamer, this game has been on my to-play list for a while and yet haven’t had time to give it a go yet. Going into this movie blind is a good idea though as the story unfolds like the layers of an onion. It flips between the present and the past from what goes on in Fang and Wei’s perspective respectively and separated neatly in chapters. How the other characters come into the equation and what happens with the military police and the underground club while having the mystery of why these ghosts and monsters are suddenly showing up and what has happened to this school. The story unfolds one layer at a time that adds helps build its intrigue as each side of the story has their own twist and their own secrets to reveal between young crushes, fighting for freedom and doing is what is right.

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Detention is heavily focused on the atmosphere. The school setting with the growing thunderstorm outside adds to the gloomy and dark atmosphere. Being set during the night creates the ambiance and also cleverly uses the lighting to its advantage. At one part, there is a play on the concept of reality and nightmare. As the story unravels, the different nightmare elements come into play using some horror tropes that actually are executed in an effective way. It has a fair share of jump scares which are mostly effective  but also manages to create a quiet and subtle environment that makes it more intense. Its because of these moments that the subtle sounds like repetitive clinking coin sounds or the off screen sound effects of something happening becomes more unnerving as its part of the unseen element. The monster reveal also doesn’t happen all in one shot and is slowly revealed from one scene to the next but when revealed has a good design as well. Kudos to some great visual cues used.

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Overall, Detention is a pretty good movie. As a video game adaptation, the story feels well-executed and paced really good. The atmosphere and tone is helped by the setting. Its story showcases a part of Taiwanese history while sharing a coming-of-age story as well as a little bit of romance in the background with themes of freedom and oppression. Everything is well balanced and the thrills of the story does happen as Fang and Wei slowly find back their own memories of how they got there. They are flawed in their own ways while also pulling in a family element that affects who they are as well. Full of twists and turns as well-constructed environment and atmosphere while delivering both subtle tension and effective jump scares, Detention is a great horror film taking its characters on a trip between reality, the past and nightmare to piece everything together.

Double Feature: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) & The Lodge (2019)

A little of an early announcement that this the last double feature for August. Double Feature will resume in September however, don’t worry, movie reviews will be the main focus for the next two weeks. The double feature is wrapping up the rentals that I’ve been working through. One is an movie that released earlier this year as video game adaptation Sonic the Hedgehog and that is paired with independent horror movie, The Lodge.

Let’s check it out!

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Director: Jeff Fowler

Cast: Ben Schwartz (voice), James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell

After discovering a small, blue, fast hedgehog, a small-town police officer must help him defeat an evil genius who wants to do experiments on him. – IMDB

Video game adaptations seem to be more and more of late. Maybe its the surge of video game popularity or something but Sonic the Hedgehog is a fairly classic game and its one of my faves and because of this and the cast involved, it was one that I had on my radar. With the pandemic happening, it was something that just fell through until it circulated around on the rentals list. Sonic the Hedgehog has a similar tone to Pokemon Detective Pikachu and it has to do with aiming towards a younger audience for the most part and having the family/children’s live action with CG animated characters mesh.

With that said, Sonic the Hedgehog does manage to deliver on the children’s elements and a lot of the essence of the characters involved. There’s quite a bit of charm to each of them. Its a harmless and entertaining movie that aims to be an enjoyable experience and lands on its comedic points. For the older audience, it might be the charming element of Jim Carrey going back to his comedic roots like The Mask and Ace Venture: Pet Detective style with some jokes and movements really giving those vibes a lot as he portrays the villain Doctor Eggman.

Sonic is voiced by Ben Schwartz which is a fun character in general, both portraying the speedy blue hedgehog and as an actor himself. He is a good choice for the role and works it out really well. Sonic in CG animated form is pretty hilarious as well. Paired up with a rather dynamic performance by James Marsden, its a fun ride. There are some truly over the top moments but with the cast and material on hand, its rather expected.

The Lodge (2019)

Directors (and co-writers): Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz

Cast: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone

A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place. – IMDB

The Lodge is a slow-paced atmospheric horror film. Its filmed in Montreal (where I am) which is why a lot of the road going up to the cabin looks incredibly familiar to myself which makes the isolated lodge in the familiar gloomy winter landscape feel even more unsettling. The Lodge builds on its quiet moments and its subtle sounds and creating this dark atmosphere. Whether its between the characters stuck in this lodge or dealing with the past and the events that happen, its all comes to spiral out of control even after the twist is revealed. It shows the dynamic and mentality between children and adults as well as the unsettled and unhinged mind. The setting creates a lot of the atmosphere to build up this story giving it the isolation and separation and even helplessness when things go bad.

At the same time, a lot of the movie is built up by its characters. The abrupt moments at the beginning and the simple-minded thoughts of children dealing with their soon-to-be stepmother and the nonacceptance of this new person in their lives followed by the dark past of said person all comes into play. Riley Keough delivers an outstanding performance as Grace, the soon to be stepmother who is trapped in this lodge with the two kids who are mostly ignoring her with the brother Aiden, played by Jaeden Martell being a big influence on the situation and having some unsettling moments of his own. Jaeden Martell made quite the performance in IT: Chapter One (review) previously and in The Lodge, its a different dynamic in his character.

The Lodge excels in its atmosphere and its characters and the surprise element that creeps along in the background until its final reveal. The way it concludes also takes a shocking path. This movie resides in knowing the least possible going in and experiencing its story so I won’t say any more. I do highly recommend it.

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

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

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

47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)

47 meters down uncaged

Director: Johannes Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Women (2019)

Little Women

Director (and adapted screenplay): Greta Gerwig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)

unrequited love2019

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

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

Where to Watch: Netflix

STORY

Unrequited love 1

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

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

LENGTH/PACING

unrequited love 3

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

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

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Luo Zhi & Huai Nan

unrequited love 4

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

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

Jiang BaiLi/ Ge Bi/ Gu ZhiYe/Chen MoHan

unrequited love4

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

Ding ShuiJing & Luo Yang

unrequited love3

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

Friends & Family

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

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

OVERALL

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

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

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

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?

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)

You can check out my review of the book that this film is adapted from HERE.
You can also read the review of the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before HERE.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)

To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You

Director: Michael Fimognari

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Holland Taylor, John Corbett, Sarayu Blue, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart

Lara Jean and Peter have just taken their relationship from pretend to officially official when another recipient of one of her old love letters enters the picture. – IMDB

Being a rather big fan of the books as well as absolutely adoring the movie, To All The Boys 2 has some big shoes to fill. And just like how I felt about the book sequel, I feel pretty much the same about this sequel. While the pink hearts and feel good moments are created rather well, what happens here in exchange for a more focused and fun coming of age teen romance in the first one is one that adds in a few too many tangents that never gets explored giving the characters not enough time to truly have more impact. For viewers like myself, the immense love for Lara Jean and Peter is memorable from the first film and can move onto the second film, but the second movie isn’t self-contained.

P.S. I Still Love You is supposed to dive into the growing up and insecurities of a relationship and while Lara Jean has those moments, it gets a little buried in her meeting John Ambrose and having some sweet moments and then Peter’s character falling into the background, which is supposed to be because of underlying issues with his ex-girlfriend Gen and then his obligations with school in preparation for college applications which never truly gets elaborated enough and what we get are just some sweet moment together with the two, and then some arguments as well. Adding in the plot with Stormy, which was a really great supporting character in the book, she also gets very little screen time here but still has that quirk and romance guidance element for Lara Jean. Then, there’s the dad finding his romance and squeeze all of this stuff into 100 minutes and it gets a little rushed.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

While execution of the story and possibly how the adapted screenplay might be a little lacking here, the characters are really charming. The cast from the first film, Lara Jean and Peter still have that chemistry that they have and for viewers and people like myself who loved the first movie, its great to see their relationship move from being fake to real and navigating through certain insecurities and awkwardness of facing this in a more serious way. Adding in the love interest reappearance and choosing Jordan Fisher to be John Ambrose is definitely a good choice. John Ambrose is a different kind of charming boy that enters into Lara Jean’s life. He is something of a clean slate that creates a comparison for Lara Jean. While some of the decisions she makes approaching John Ambrose might not be all that correct, her character is a teenage student in her first relationship and the reality and expectations and comparing the two comes into play as all kinds of factors come into play as she tries to figure out her feelings towards these two boys. It does fit her character design as in the first film, its already obvious that Lara Jean isn’t someone who takes risks easily and doesn’t quite understand her feelings too well.

To All The Boys 2 is not as strong as the first film, as expected with sequels. I’m still not decided whether having a script like this is good or whether they could have committed more to the love triangle at hand here. In the end, there were a lot of great and sweet moments whether its John Ambrose or Peter and Lara Jean and it does give space for other characters to have their own little developments but its both a good and bad thing. It doesn’t give time for too many unnecessary things to happen because it just doesn’t have time for it but at the same time, the story jumping through so many characters and giving them their own little developments also seems to be nice to see but also doesn’t give more time for their main leads. Good and bad, right? The good thing though is despite all that, they manage to wrap up the whole thing in a meaningful way and giving the whole sequel some substance. In the end though, To All The Boys has some nice chemistry and some good revelations for Lara Jean and in reality, it makes sure that the audience knows one thing: whether you are team Peter or team John Ambrose, its not really about them but the story is all about Lara Jean.

TV Binge: Eternal Love (三生三世十里桃花, 2017)

Eternal Love (三生三世十里桃花, 2017)

Eternal Love

Cast: Mi Yang, Mark Chao, Ken Chang, Dilraba Dilmurat, Vengo Gao, Maggie Huang, Vin Zhang, Alan Yu, Lawrence Wang, Bambi Zhu, Wayne Liu

After a devastating war, the immortal tribe paid a heavy price to seal the demon lord. 70000 years later, in an attempt to re-seal the demon lord who broke free, Bai Qian was sent to the mortal realm. In the mortal world, she meets Ye Hua and falls in love with him after forgetting about her life as a goddess. Ye Hua gifts her the name of Su Su. Su Jin, who is jealous of Ye Hua’s love for Bai Qian, intentionally creates a series of misunderstanding between them and causes Bai Qian to lose her eyes. Thinking that Ye Hua has betrayed her, the devastated Bai Qian jumps off from the Zhu Xian Terrace. At her request, all her memories have been erased and she forgets Ye Hua. Hundred years later, the two meets again as deities. Another lifetime another world, Ye Hua recognizes Bai Qian but the latter remains indifferent. Three lives three worlds, her and him, are they fated to bear an entangling love? – MyDramaList

Eternal Love is currently available on Netflix (as on January 15, 2020)
You can also find it on Youtube via Croton Mega Hit Channel with English subs.
Below is the playlist:

STORY

ten miles of peach blossom

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Tang Qi and later translated, titled To The Sky Kingdom, Eternal Love aka Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is the most watched Chinese Drama in China to date. The C-drama tells the story that spans over Three Lives, Three Worlds (as the Chinese title calls it) and as its about the love story that happens between the many trials and tribulations between Fox King’s youngest daughter Bai Qian and Nine Heaven’s Prince, Ye Hua. Their story is told over the events of the Sky Kingdom: Nine Heavens, Ghost Tribe, Kun Lun Mountains, Fox Clan and other fantasy lands as well as the mortal world. Suffice to say that, the story itself might sound a little back and forth with its focus on the three lives and three worlds for these two characters and their love stories.

eternal love baiqian

However, the story is done well that it gives room for each of the characters to grow and each love life in each world has their own depth. Plus, the supporting characters also have a good amount of entertaining filler to guide these characters. Between good and evil, love and trust, and the schemes and power balance, the story has a lot to love. It has its frustrating moments with some of the scheming characters but overall, its done really well.

LENGTH/PACING

ten miles fighting

Episodes: 58

58 episodes is the norm for a Chinese drama of this calibre. Anything set in the fantasy world and such always has the 50 or more episodes attached to it. Its something that doesn’t always work depending on what the story interpreted is. Surprisingly, while there are some small moments that feels like the plot stays or simply some characters being frustrating as times because of their stubbornness or whatever character trait (which I will talk about in the characters section below), the story does move forward.

It does so by giving it enough places to move around these fantasy worlds. Between the rigid rules of the royalties in Nine Heavens to the much more relaxed Fox Clan’s Fox Burrow  setting to the dark Ghost Tribe and the beautifully enchanting Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms owned by the Phoenix God, the story shifts from its political elements of war between good and evil to maintain peace and the romances and friendships that happen between the characters and with that, its own set of misunderstandings. There’s a decent amount of action scenes which are well-executed and the dialogue is done naturally, while giving it a good amount of space for building the chemistry between the characters.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

eternal love dilraba

If you haven’t noticed, characters and chemistry are my favorite parts of TV series and with Eternal Love and its 58 episodes and different worlds, we’re in for a ride in this section as there are some really good ones to highlight and talk about.

Bai Qian & Ye Hua
(and their 2 other lives/worlds)

eternal love 1

I’m not going to lie that its a little hard to totally figure out which romance this whole Three Lives and Three Worlds was initially for Bai Qian and Ye Hua but they do make an effort to point it out at the end which is pretty cool. There’s a lot to love about these two as their different romances each have a different sort of feeling whether its the type of love or the conflicts that happen that cause them to break apart and in the end, solidifies their love more by the end. Its the first time I’ve seen Yang Mi in this sort of role and she is so pretty in her various outfits and they match well with Mark Chao’s character in his various prince transformations. Mark Chao’s character becomes one that changes in his personality and not so much the lives prominently so its easy to quickly feel and connect with his character quickly.

Dong Hua Di Jun & Bai Feng Jiu

eternal love fengjiu dijun

While the main couple was done really well, this supporting characters of Bai Feng Jiu, the rare nine-tailed red fox niece of Bai Qian portrayed by Dilraba Dilmurat and Dong Hua Emperor Lord who is has lived so long that he has let go of emotions. These two are the focus of the sequel coming up this year. Suffice to say that they were done very well. Their romance is one that is not only fun because of Bai Feng Jiu who is a bit clumsy and naive but will do anything for love but facing Emperor Lord who seems to care but not reciprocate affections, it turns into a roller coaster of emotions that probably hits even harder than the main couple.

Li Jing

ten miles li jing

Li Jing is the second son of the Ghost Tribe Emperor and ends up taking over when his father’s war against Nine Heavens fails. He is a character that is one that isn’t very ambitious but at the same time, a rather frustratingly silly character as he constantly gets led astray by Xuan Nu, a childhood friend of Bai Qian who uses a prettier face to gain attention. Li Jing also is the first person that Bai Qian falls for romantically but due to Xuan Nu’s action, it causes them to break apart. Li Jing is not exactly a bad character. He actually fills up some of the spaces well as Xuan Nu is one of the “bad gals” who orders harm because of jealousy. Li Jing becomes a fairly tough character who stands up for peace and rights as the Ghost Tribe King and has a bit of character development that suits him well.

Bai Zhen & Zhe Yan

eternal love alan yu

I’m a huge fan of Alan Yu as an actor. There’s something very unique about him that I enjoy about him and as Bai Zhen (Alan Yu), the fourth son of the Fox King and the older brother of Bai Qian, he pops up occasionally in a very carefree and relaxed way randomly and yet him and his best friend (who seems like they have a special relationship) Zhe Yan (Ken Chang), a Phoenix Immortal both spend time together drinking peach blossom wine and playing Reversi and then randomly have arguments that makes Bai Zhen run off to his palace in the Northern Seas. These two are something of a comedic relief as well as surprisingly insightful guidance for all the characters and the myriad of dilemma.

There’s a ton of other characters that we could also talk about but I’m going to leave it at these top ones that truly appealed to me. However, one of the bad ladies in this one is the woman who loves Ye Hua called Su Jin and her role was to create a lot of the misunderstandings and misguidances that lead to a lot of the drama happening. As frustrating as her character was because she was able to get away with it because of her status, it was all merited because she was a character that had nothing to like.

OVERALL

Eternal Love is a much easier mountain to climb than expected. Other than the elements that I talked about for the story depth and the great fantasy world that is presented here with gods and fairies and spirits and a roundup of some well-written and well-developed characters, it also has some lovely visual effects. Every scene is done really nicely. Sure, some of the flowers might look a little fake in some scenes but overall, its done relatively nice for TV dramas. At the same time, as I was researching this up, the costumes are actually rather intricate with each one done by hand to show off the details for each of the characters plus all the sets were newly built to not have any replicas. Not to mention, the soundtrack here is amazing. Every song is so great that I almost wanted to share it all. Eternal Love is definitely one of the better Chinese dramas out there. Sure, its a bit long but it has enough content to make it really nice. If you watch the behind the scenes, its actually a pretty involved process between the actors and the director with how they work the script and how each scene is done. All things great for bingeworthy TV.

MAIN THEME

Movies and Tea #26 – Sense and Sensibility

Back to regular programming on Movies and Tea as we continue on with Season 4 as we take a look at Ang Lee’s filmography. After the Father Knows Best Trilogy, Ang Lee heads over to make the Jane Austen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Taiwanese director adapting Classic English Literature is definitely an interesting combination. Head on over to Movies and Tea to listen to our latest episode as we discuss Sense and Sensibility. While you are there, tell us your thoughts on the adaptation.

Movies and Tea

Having captured the attention of the mainstream studios with his Father Knows Best Trilogy Ang lee would now set himself the challange of adapting the classic Jane Austin novel “Sense and Sensibility” while working from a script from first time scriptwriter / actress Emma Thompson.

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Double Feature: Pet Sematary (2019) & Snowpiercer (2013)

As we put the holidays behind us, the normal double feature is back in action. This time, we’re catching up with some 2010s movie. The first film is this year’s Pet Sematary remake of the adaptation. The second is 2013’s Snowpiercer which has been on my to-watch list for much longer than I had intended. Let’s check it out!

Pet Sematary (2019)

Pet Sematary 2019

Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jete Laurence, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.  – IMDB

I’ve never read the source material or seen the 1989 Pet Sematary adaptation so I am basing this review solely on my feeling towards the story interpreted here and how it was executed.

Pet Sematary is an interesting one to talk about. On one hand, Stephen King stories are always quite an intriguing entry to discover as his storytelling skills are quite extraordinary especially with the execution of a story to its characters to the premise. This one is about bringing back the dead and how it all starts with a Pet Sematary and the burial of a cat. The story itself is a lot of fun and remains in that dark and creepy phase because any horror watcher, even the not so seasoned, knows that black cats are bad and bringing back the dead is not a good thing. There’s a lot of playing with bad omens in this story and yet the characters go right ahead to take its viewers into this creepy place as the neighbor takes a new resident of the city deep in the forest. At the same time, simply the different rituals of pet burials at the beginning are enough to bring a little chill down the spine with some creepy kids and scary masks.

While Pet Sematary does build a decent horror atmosphere, it isn’t doing a lot of difference. There are some rather predictable scares, jumpscares and whatnot. Its more expected to happen. At the same time, other than a rather convincing John Lithgow playing the neighbor and the daughter working out rather well, I’m not a huge fan of any of the other cast as Jason Clarke doesn’t stand out of a first choice for this role. He isn’t bad but then, its the normal horror film acting here.

Horror movies are so overused in all its genres that sometimes its hard to find that place of being unique. There’s a good story here and I would assume that it all goes to the strength of the source material and an alright execution. It’d be interesting to hear what others would think of this one: those who can compare to the source material or the first film adaptation.

Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer

Director (and co-screenplay): Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Ko Asung, Ewen Bremner, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino, Vlad Ivanov

In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges. – IMDB

Snowpiercer sets its story in a future where the world has frozen over and the only survivors live on the train. As the lowest class tries to break forward to the leader at the front of the train, the different sections that the group pass through has its somewhat subtle hints on classes and are a big highlight in this story. I’m not sure why South Koreans seem to thrive on movies set in fighting through enclosed spaces especially on trains (like Train to Busan), but its definitely a great setting. Snowpiercer isn’t just a great setting in its claustrophobic and tight spaces where it does all its action, but its also a story packed with a lot of twist whether its group of characters or its plot twists and the different surprises that it delivers. Its visually very nice as each shot is framed very well, using all its elements and different areas having their different colors and such. Whether its pacing and execution, Snowpiercer does a fabulous job at delivering a good deal of drama, action and thrills.

Any good script also needs a great cast to deliver those great performances. In this case, the casting is right on point. With Chris Evans as the main character Curtis who leads the operation but doesn’t want to be considered a leader to his right hand man Edgar (Jamie Bell) and the no-nonsense mom who wants to find her son back, Tanya (Octavia Spencer) with a powerful presence of a disabled man, Gilliam (John Hurt). Along the way, they pick up the security mastermind of the train to help them escape, Namgong Minsoo (Kang ho Song) and daughter with some odd powers Yona (Ko Asung). As I mention Kang-ho Song which is a fave of this director specifically, Song is a great actor who has a huge range of acting capabilities as seen in another South Korean film I had seen previously called A Taxi Driver (review) The dynamic of this group brings a lot to the table as their personality does contrast each other and adds to their characters. Each having their own depth and further character development as the story moves along.

On the other side, the villainous side are a lot of lesser known group of characters or perhaps well reflected in the whole concept of the top tier always being less people with just more resources. In the forefront, defending the leader of this train is Mason, played spectacularly by Tilda Swinton. Along the way, they have a little cameo performance from a school teacher on the train by Alison Pill which doesn’t do a lot but has its moment. Finally, at the front of the train comes the leader Wilford who is played by Ed Harris. The band of villains might seem small but there are some great ones mentioned here and then there is the more assassin type who just never dies. I think if anything, the unrelenting bad guys or even sidekick always seems to be the most annoying to watch, probably, my only minor issue with this movie.

That’s it for this Double Feature!
Have you seen 2019’s Pet Sematary and/or Snowpiercer? Thoughts?