Double Feature: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) & Line Walker (2016)

I’m having this sudden urge to get through these Asian films. Crazy Rich Asians kind of counts, I guess which happens to be one of the double feature picks and just for the comedy element, I paired it up with Line Walker which is something of a crime action thriller with comedy elements. Let’s check it out!

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. – IMDB

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan (which I haven’t read), Crazy Rich Asians is romantic comedy with a really great cast. The movie itself should be looked at from two parts: Romance and Comedy. The romantic parts are exactly funny and actually to me, they are a bit weak whereas the comedy elements is what stands out. Of course, comedy is also very subjective so the best way may be to see whether the many comedians involved in this are ones that you normally enjoy or the cast itself. Not to mention, Crazy Rich Asians highlights the beauty of Singapore so much from the food to the scenery and captures the upper class society glamor as well as the Asian prejudices between each other whether its Asian-born or American-born which brings in the East versus West differences/culture clash.

Looking at the cast, its absolutely stunning. Its the first time watching Constance Wu for myself and while I have certain issues with her, she is rather decent in capturing that roles especially in the beginning and the ending parts where her character Rachel really gets a nice development. I can’t say her chemistry or the focus on the romance between her and Henry Golding’s character stands out a lot but her interaction with some of the other characters especially Peik Lin played by Awkwafina is absolutely awesome. Awkwafina carries a good part of the film every time she shows up especially when she first talks about the Youngs and how rich they are. Hands down my favorite part. Comedians involved have Ken Jeong, Ronny Chieng and I think Jimmy O.Yang also counts (even though I haven’t seen any stand-up shows of his). They each have very different types of character bringing in a different sort of comedy and they do a decent job. However, while not there for the comedy, Michelle Yeoh is fantastic and a stunning actress that I love to watch on screen. This role seems a little different from what I’ve seen of hers before however she still delivers.

I was a little hesitant to watch Crazy Rich Asians but I’m pretty happy that I did. There’s a lot to love about it. The way that its filmed and the little execution that they use even from the first scene that highlights how rich the Youngs are to the end where Rachel shows how she isn’t how the family sees her as despite where she grew up. Overall, its a fun time and earned quite a few good laughs even if the romantic elements were fairly flat.

Line Walker (2016)

Director: Jazz Boon

Cast: Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng, Charmaine Sheh, Shiu Hung Hui, Moses Chan

Several cops went undercover. Due to some issues, all undercover identities were wiped clean from the police database. – IMDB

Done as a spin-off from the Hong Kong TV series of the same name (that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet but recently found uploaded to Youtube so will catch up very soon), Line Walker is something of a comedy crime thriller. For what I see, it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge of the actual series to understand but its a little loopy as well as the network of undercover cops is quite extensive as the plot reveals itself throughout. In reality, the biggest issue is what the movie wants to be. At times, its comedic and over the top and then it will change in the next scene to a crime thriller serious sequence. It makes the film feel out of balance and maybe even disjointed. The moving parts of everything work as an individual sequence but together, it just doesn’t seem to work that well.

The highlight of Line Walker definitely has to be the stellar cast. With some names like Charmaine Sheh and Moses Chan, the latter in a cameo role rather popular names in Hong Kong series and bigger movie thriller actors like Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Shiu Hung Hui, its full of renowned actors who are well-known for their work in movies in similar genre. In reality, its quite a great thing to see Charmain Sheh being the only female lead here and paired up with Francis Ng as one side as the obvious undercover pairing and an undefined relationship between the two while having the much more intriguing pairing between Nick Cheung and Louis Koo’s characters as its a question about which one of them is actually an undercover cop that has lost his file and police status in the police system. Its the main focus for these two as they start questioning each other’s loyalty. At the same time, the movie is full of undercovers as one after the other gets revealed. The standout definitely has to go to Louis Koo and Nick Cheung’s characters as they do bring in the most balanced roles as well as their little bit of dark/sarcastic humor dialogue injected in the performance. It contrasts that of Charmaine Sheh and Francis Ng which adds a more comedic element.

Line Walker is an odd one. The cast makes it worth a watch but the script and the execution of the whole undercover and double crossing and whatnot in the crime world of who is on which side and all the undercover cops that scatter over the crime world almost feels like it doesn’t make that much sense. There are some clever bits but overall, it feels like the movie does fall short. On the other hand, its given me the boost to go catch up with the TV series since its garnered quite a bit of popularity.

Double Feature: Work It (2020) & The Prom (2020)

Today’s double feature is a rather musical pairing and both are Netflix films released in 2020. The first is a dance film called Work It and the second is the recently released musical The Prom. Let’s check it out!

Work It (2020)

Director: Laura Terruso

Cast: Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Kalliane Bremault, Briana Andrade-Gomes, Liza Koshy, Julliard Pembroke, Michelle Buteau, Drew Ray Tanner, Sabrina Snieckus

When Quinn Ackerman’s admission to the college of her dreams depends on her performance at a dance competition, she forms a ragtag group of dancers to take on the best squad in school…now she just needs to learn how to dance. – IMDB

Work It is mostly a dance film and yet its a comedy about a girl with perfect grades who realize that its not enough to get into college and as an extracurricular decides to go to her best friend’s dance troupe which doesn’t take her so she tries to put together her own group of misfits. The group itself has all different styles of dance and yet the biggest problem is that she can’t dance and needs to start from zero and its zero like finding her music flow and rhythm. That is the comedy part.

With any of these films, you need to throw in a little romantic flare and that’s when Quinn and Jake come into a picture: a girl who can’t dance and a renowned dancer that disappeared off the dance competition circuit after an injury. Its hard to talk about Work It without criticizing its issues but then that is usually the case for dance films, much like Step Up franchise, and yet, Step Up is one that I can see the flaws and still like it for exactly what it is. The same applies for Work It, except it suffers from coming later than a wave of better executed films. What is good is that it adds in those comedy moments and changes the vibe of the film a little. Simply put, its a lot of the same when it comes to these sorts of movies and it is fairly predictable especially when there doesn’t even feel like there’s a lot of dance sequences.

Other predictability, the execution is fairly unbalanced. The movie seems to want to do everything so its structured to go through the motions. Starting off with the characters and then what they need to achieve, the tear in the friendship and struggle to get their act together and then the big win at the end. Other than that, it adds in a little unpolished romantic flare here and then some bad dancing from Sabrina Carpenter’s character to her finally getting it. While the cast itself does what they need to do whether its Sabrina Carpenter or Jordan Fisher and even the sassy other team’s leader Julliard Pembroke, played by Keiynan Lonsdale or the best friend Jasmine, played by Liza Koshy, the script itself does have some lacking moments as well.

Work It is one of those films that is really for the soundtrack or some light entertainment. Its not meant to be reviewed in depth. Its a simple movie and a familiar sort of dance movie storyline. While I did have some cons more than pros, I do enjoy dance films so this one is just some harmless entertainment that you can leave for a rainy day keeping in mind that you do enjoy dance movies. If you don’t, then this one won’t do anything for you.

The Prom (2020)

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells

A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. – IMDB

Looking at the cast, The Prom is absolutely star studded with some big names and most of them, I do quite enjoy so the movie popped onto Netflix and I didn’t know about it in advance but I saw those stars, that it was a musical and it was an immediate play. Adapted from a Broadway musical of the same name, The Prom does come at a good time when the world is talking about LGBT rights a lot. I haven’t heard of The Prom before but at first glance, The Prom’s story almost feels like Footloose where that one is about not being allowed to dance, The Prom is about the PTA trying to stop one of the students to take her girlfriend to prom and wanting to cancel prom altogether. In the face of this serious matter, a bunch of theater stars comes in to try to fight for a cause to help themselves get back some positive press. Its hard to determine whether the journey for the film is for the girl, Emma or the troupe as both of them do have their moments of growth.

Being a fan of musical films, The Prom is the type of movie that I’d like and it is quite enjoyable. Most of the stars here have been part of musicals before so the talent is there. Perhaps what stands out more is some of the awkward moments between characters. It definitely is scripted to be awkward and was delivered pretty well. The Prom has a decent storyline even if sometimes the events feel slightly disjointed like its being pushed along so its forced to progress faster. What makes this film shine is truly some of the stars here delivering some great performances. Other than Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, they are joined by Andrew Rannells as this performer that’s wants to hang with them and adds comedy. There’s a lot of characters so its hard to say whether anyone had enough time for their characters to develop enough but Kerry Washington’s parent character against the whole prom situation and Keegan-Michael Key’s principal character were also done really well. In all honestly, the younger characters also did fairly well and Emma’s character is a much quieter one despite the unfair situation that she’s part of.

The Prom is an alright musical. Everyone does a good job and the story is pretty nice as well as how the characters develop throughout. It is structured well and the scenes are executed pretty good as well. Where I have issues with it is that it feels like it lacks the uniqueness to make it more memorable. None of the songs stuck in my head even if they were rather fun to listen and watch the choreography/performances in the moment. I know that I had fun watching it the first time and yet, it doesn’t make me want to go back to watch it a second time and yet, I can’t quite pinpoint where its lacking as everything seems to done good, just put together, it seems to not quite get that excitement of a musical for myself.

Double Feature: Enola Holmes (2020) & Robin Hood (2018)

Next up for double feature is a pairing of Netflix film Enola Holmes and 2018’s live action retelling of Robin Hood. Two movies that I feel pair up rather well together. Let’s check it out!

Enola Holmes (2020)

Director: Harry Bradbeer

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Burn Gorman, Adeel Akhtar, Susan Wokoma, Frances de la Tour

When Enola Holmes-Sherlock’s teen sister-discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord. – IMDB

*Originally published in Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

Based on the first book of the series of the same name by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes tells the story of the teenage sister of an already famous Sherlock Holmes who follows the clues to find her disappeared mother. Using her wits to be evade her older brothers’ tracking in order to put her into a finishing school, she escapes to end up helping a young Viscount Tewkesbury escape from a man sent searching for him with murder intentions. Despite having part ways in London initially, they end up meeting again when she realizes that she needs to help him being murdered and tracks him down.

Enola Holmes are originally set for a theatrical release however due to the pandemic, they sold the distribution rights to Netflix which is how this movie has graced it presence on the streaming circuit. This is one charming movie that boasts a brilliant cast with Millie Bobby Brown playing the young female detective Enola Holmes, Helena Bonham Carter player her disappeared mother and her brothers Sherlock and Mycroft being played by Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin respectively and finally, the young Viscount Tewkesbury is played by Louis Partridge and his murderer by Burn Gorman. Its a very full cast with many names that I haven’t even started mentioning yet. The cast are remarkable in each of their roles especially with Millie Bobby Brown who delivers her best role to date.

One of the best elements of Enola Holmes is due to a script that constantly breaks the fourth wall which makes it very engaging and fun as the character Enola would constantly be reacting at the camera even sometimes for one quick moment to show her true reactions. It makes it all the more charming and entertaining. At the same time, her whole chemistry with Louis Partridge’s Tewkesbury while inching towards a little young romance hints throughout did play very well off each other. Of course, Henry Cavill needs to get a mention especially since Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by so many different actors at this point over the past decade and he definitely holds up the role fairly well especially as he is supposed to be an older Holmes who is starting to show his more emotional side which is a good different.

Overall, Enola Holmes blends the world of Sherlock Holmes with a young heroine detective story. It has a unique little twist and the execution of the film works in a fun and feel-good way that gives its a lot of charm and well worth a watch.

Robin Hood (2018)

Director: Otto Bathurst

Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, Tim Minchin, Paul Anderson

A war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown. – IMDB

I’ve lost count of how much retellings and adaptations we’ve had of Robin Hood already whether its TV series or movies. I sometimes hop in and out of the TV and films and they all feel along the same line of thought, but then it all makes sense since its been a story that’s been around for a long time considering Disney’s animated classic was released in 1973. With that said, I was fairly indifferent about this one. On one hand, there’s a lot of familiar faces in cast such as Jamie Foxx, Taron Egerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Jamie Dornan, even though they all happen to actors that I’ve seen but never watch a lot their movies.

Robin Hood has some alright action sequences. The cast itself isn’t really the problem although the characters themselves are a little disjointed. I can’t say that after so many Robin Hood’s that Taron Egerton brought anything different especially since he still has more of a boyish feeling which doesn’t quite match the character of Robin of Loxley for this story. However, one of the bigger issues probably dials down to execution and pacing. Running at almost 2 hours long, the movie spends a lot of time in slow-paced segments that make this feel a little boring to be honest. It actually stretches out this familiar tale and adding some unnecessary changes that doesn’t seem to add too much.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that this film feels like its fairly forgettable. There’s nothing that makes it better than previous versions released. Taron Egerton’s Robin of Loxley feels fairly disjointed. Sure, Jamie Foxx’s character delivers a decent performance with some good dialogue. There’s definitely some issues with this latest version of Robin Hood and the similarities made me think about how other movies might have done it better.

Double Feature: Angela’s Christmas Wish (2020) & The Grinch (2018)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wrapping up this year’s Holidays marathon on Christmas day is how it usually works so the next double feature is the final 2 movies of the marathon, although I did have one more alternate Christmas movie but we’ll pair it up later after Christmas. This time, its a animated Christmas films double feature with a Netflix sequel, Angela’s Christmas Wish and 2018’s adaptation, The Grinch.

Let’s check it out!

Angela’s Christmas Wish (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Damien O’Connor

Voice cast: Lucy O’Connell, Ruth Negga, Moe Dunford, Brendan Mullins, Shona Hamill, Oscar Butler, Janet Moran

A sequel to the much loved Angela’s Christmas, Angela’s Christmas Wish is a heart-warming tale of a determined little girl who sets out to reunite her family in time for Christmas. – IMDB

There’s something so heartwarming about Angela’s Christmas Wish. It has that same type of charming little girl character for Angela that continues from Angela’s Christmas (review) where Angela’s imagination is one that makes it so beautiful to be a child because of the naivety to believe in the things that she knows probably isn’t true but also shows her big heart. Last year was keeping baby Jesus warm and stirring up a lot of commotion that the townspeople hasn’t quite forgotten as it still gets mentioned but this year, its running around trying to bring her father home. Being an adult watching this, its obvious that whatever she is thinking up is absolutely impossible to happen and the adults do bring it up, however its the persistence and the pure hope of bringing her father back home that makes this such a heartwarming tale, which takes her on an adventure and makes a new friend in the process.

Wrapping it up with a tale about a pauper and what he wished for that made him happy as a string between the conversation and a Christmas surprise to look forward to, Angela’s Christmas Wish is all about family, the meaning of happiness and the best intentions. The story is all about the kids and their shenanigans especially based on their simple minded ideas that kids have, liking digging to Australia. Its all the world that crafts up these cute funny moments that make up this story and makes Angela such a charming character who has this convincing enthusiasm that makes her brother and this other little girl to follow along her since her wish would make for her father getting involved and that would allow him to spend time with her. Its all these little desires from children to be close to their parents and yet, adults can see through those beyond the lines moment that make it so meaningful to watch.

Angela’s Christmas Wish is a fun and heartwarming story. One that has all the right values and such charming characters in a cute little town. The ending bit was so touching also that I got a little teary. Its one definitely worth a watch, especially since its less than 50 minutes in length.

The Grinch (2018)

Director: Yarrow Cheney & Scott Mosier

Voice cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams, Tristan O’Hare, Kenan Thompson, Sam Lavagnino, Ramone Hamilton, Angela Lansbury, Scarlett Estevez

A grumpy Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea Friday Film Club*

Based on the 1957 Dr. Seuss book How The Grinch Stole Christmas and the third screen adaptation following the 1966 classic TV adaptation and the 2000 live action film, The Grinch is a computer animated film and the second Dr. Seuss by Illumination following The Lorax. Illumination is rather on point with these adaptation. For those who are unfamiliar of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, its about a green-furred Grinch who was born with two hearts too small who lives alone in the mountains with his dog Max above Whoville. The Whos are festive and love Christmas a lot which rubs The Grinch the wrong way that he decides to put a stop to it by disguising as Santa on Christmas Eve and stealing all their decorations, gifts and foods to stop them from celebrating Christmas however, he soon realizes that Christmas is more than the material things and that its all about the Christmas spirit which lives in them and ends up with this revelation making his heart grow two sizes and deciding to give back all that he stole to the Whos who in turn, take him in for their Christmas holiday.

While the first adaptation in 1966 is the one that most interprets the original story, these adaptations all add their own twists to fluff up the full length. In this adaptation, it gives the Grinch a backstory that makes him less of the disagreeable character but one where he grows up suffering from being alone that he doesn’t know how it feels to have companionship whether as friends or family. At the same time, giving a lot of life to certain characters in Whoville and not just focusing on Cindy Lou Who. She still plays a big element but giving her more of a backstory, a ploy to meet Santa with her friends and a connection with her mom. Sure, maybe it does stretch far from the original but all this does add a lot of fun characters. Cindy Lou Who and her friends are very adorable in design just like Max and the addition of a buffalo and then there’s the very fun neighbor Mr. Bricklebaum.

Plus, there’s a decent cast of voice actors from Grinch by Benedict Cumberbatch, Cindy Lou’s mom by Rashida Jones, Cindy Lou by Cameron Seely and Mr. Bricklebaum voiced by Kenan Thompson. Of course, a big part of Dr. Seuss story is the Narrator. In this case, its narrated by Pharrell Williams who actually has some narration that strays away from the original text but still keeps the rhyming and creative elements.

This adaptation of The Grinch still has a lot of heart. Its light and fun and fairly entertaining. There’s no doubt that The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is its best without all the extra bits but as its straightforward story like the 1966 TV movie, however this version does an exceptional job at making it very entertaining. Its still full of the Christmas spirit and its a great effort as an adaptation plus in my opinion, its much more redeeming than the 2000 live action adaptation. This one might have some slight pacing issues but it still delivers as a family holiday animated film.

TV Binge: Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

dash & lily

Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Leah Kreitz, Keana Marie, Glenn McCuen, Agneeta Thacker, Jodi Long, Diego Guevara

A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. – IMDB

Dash & Lily arrives at a suitable time in our current pabdemic landscape. Dash & Lily is a building connection between two young strangers as they exchange dares in a notebook stashed at a local bookstore all in an attempt to bring in some joy during this holidays by Lily whose normal family holidays plans have been thwarted due to a business trip. On the other hand, Dash despises the holidays especially without a girlfriend to smooth the situation between him and his father while fooling both his divorced parents about his wherebouts. The notebooks ends up being a new start as it takes them both to extend out of their circle and learn and try new things. A runaround New York doing all kinds of unique activities and meeting some a variety of people gives both of them a slight change in their original mindset.

Running at a swift 8 episodes, Dash & Lily is based on a book series called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn (which I haven’t read before). Running very much like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on a book also by David Leviathan), this is a journey through New York. Where it differs that this time, the story is about two separate characters and their own journeys that help them find themselves and find companion in each other and eventually, a stronger connection/romance. Dash and Lily are opposites. Lily sits in her comfort zone and doesn’t really get along with people her own age but remains close to her family and is somewhat of a brighter character where Dash has a more incomplete family and lives with less family guidance but also doesn’t have a friend circle in fear of mentioning his break-up and in turn both needs their own change in view to get back in touch with the space around them. What brings them both together is that this dare notebook turns into something of a tree hole where they can share their thoughts and find their own excitement in life.

As much as Dash and Lily’s characters are pretty fun, the supporting cast pulls in other factors like family and friends. Lily’s family is quite the amusing bunch especially with her grandfather played by James Saito and her great aunt played by Jodi Long, both colorful characters. Lily is also left with her brother who is spending a lot of time with his new boyfriend that makes for some fun moments as they help and encourage her to do the dares and step out of her comfort zone. Dash’s group is more focused on friends with his ex-girlfriend and her group of friends that he meets here and there but mostly his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown) who works at the local pizza place and ends up being a link between Dash and Lily secretly. There was even a little cameo with Nick Jonas which makes for a pretty fun scene.

Overall, Dash & Lily is pretty fun. It doesn’t take place over a long period of time but at the same time, it takes us for an adventures around New York while getting to know these two young characters. There are times and that they seem a little older than they should be but then, the little activities and dares they get sent on are rather unique. This time, its a lot of cutting between the two characters and flipping between them so its less their chemistry together but rather more like friends that builds into more. Its set around Christmas time so there’s a lot of inserts of Christmas themed elements and uses it as a foundation of the difference between the two: one that loves it and one that doesn’t and that’s all rooted from their view about how they view life at that point. Its a fun and bingeworthy Netflix series for sure!

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)

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.**