Double Feature: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016) & Life (2017)

Next double feature comes at us with nothing too in common. For the K selection, I chose Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV which came out as the story leading to Final Fantasy XV’s video game release. For the L selection, which you will notice is going to be the first of 2 selections (the second title paired up in the next double feature with the M selection) is the 2017 sci-fi film, Life, which got relatively low ratings but remains intriguing to me.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

Director: Takeshi Nozue

Voice cast: Aaron Paul, Lena Headey, Sean Bean, Adrian Bouchet, Liam Mulvey, Alexa Kahn

King Regis, who oversees the land of Lucis, commands his army of soldiers to protect the kingdom from the Niflheim empire’s plans to steal the sacred crystal which gives Lucis its magic and power. – IMDB

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is the story that takes place before the events of Final Fantasy XV. The ending of this film introduces the four main characters in the game however doesn’t show them anywhere else in the film. With that said, this story takes a look at the kingdom and the threats as well as the soldiers abilities. Video game adaptations or even films derived from a game always has the difficulty of just appealing to those familiar with the franchise or the story. In this case, while Final Fantasy has had a lot of games so far and is a successful franchise, FF15 is a different story with different characters so the idea of making this film is a good one however the execution might not have been done quite as well as the story feels convoluted.

Voiced by Aaron Paul as Nyx, Lena Headey as Lunafreya and Sean Bean as King Regis, the character voiced here are done pretty well. At the same time, the visuals of the kingdom and even the action itself as well as the character design all are appealing. However, where this movie does fall apart is that the script isn’t written well, some dialogue feels very rigid and the story flow feels a bit slow where some parts actually start feeling a bit boring and slow.

Final Fantasy may be an overall pretty great gaming franchise however, its movies have mostly been lacking except for maybe one. Therefore, Kingsglaive might not be a good movie but I also didn’t expect to feel all that much different when I finished with it. Its visually appealing but everything else falls short in the spectrum of things.

Life (2017)

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dykhovichnaya

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars and now threatens all life on Earth. – IMDB

Life’s one of those films that I’d chalk up their general lack of box office or negative reviews on expectations and the fact that their trailer reminded the audience of an Alien rip-off. I’m not going to argue that I wasn’t affected by the trailer hence why I’ve put off watching it for so long. However, putting aside the similarities of sci-fi films and comparing it to the very fantastically done ones like Alien, Life is a pretty solid sci-fi film. Its quite entertaining that most sci-fi films in the Alien veins reminds us of the fascination of finding that we are not alone in the universe but then quickly wishes that we were because foreign extraterrestrial organisms are probably going to be much more lethal and a good part of it has to do with it being unknown. In that sense, Life’s best attributes is giving us an organism that develops and grows exponentially in a short frame of time and we learn about it just as the characters stuck in the spacecraft is at the same time.

Life is also quite good in the sense that its paced fairly well. The background music is done well especially to boost the atmosphere. With that said, the atmosphere and environment is controlled and the use of gravity and space is also done quite effectively. There is a good deal of tension throughout the film and it has a lot to do with the setup of the film being in a closed space within another closed space for a good part of the film.

Overall, Life is actually pretty good. If you can set aside some of the similarities it does have and see some of the things that are done differently. The quality of the film is definitely still there. There are tense moments and intriguing moments and the pacing is very fast paced so it helps propel the film forward without giving much time to think too much about the things in depth. Maybe its because I went into this one with lower expectations but its one that I’d gladly sit down to watch again. There are issues with it and it has to do with some of the very familiar characters which also don’t truly get a whole lot of depth because we don’t spend too much time with them before things get bad.

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

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Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: Lilo & Stitch (2002) – Starry Traveler’s Road

Next up to join us in the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is my long-time childhood friend, gardening buddy and Battle of Ingredients co-host, Phoebe from Starry Traveler’s Road. Over on her blog, she shares talks about her mommy things like making crafts and watching children movies with her little one while using her own background to talk about life in Montreal and other event recaps as well. There’s a lovely variety of stuff there.  This year, she chooses to review 2002’s Disney animated feature Lilo & Stitch and talk about her little girl’s reaction to the film.


Starry Traveler and Bun Bun review: Lilo and Stitch (2002)

lilo and stitch

A big thank you to Drew and my Battle of Ingredients co-host Kim for hosting the Ultimate 2000s blogathon! This is the third year for Miss Bun and I watching a movie and reviewing it together. Time really flies as she is more willing to stay put to watch a movie and uses more words to describe her train of thought!

To be honest, I have no idea what to watch from 2000s other than Lilo and Stitch. I know there is a lot of obsession around Stitch in general with all the merchandising, but the only thing that I remember about the movie was “ohana means family” which I thought was an important message. I have to be honest that I rely on my gut feelings about any movies rated G rather than looking up other parents’ online ratings before watching considering I like to discuss the movie and other content with Miss Bun as we go.

A Hawaiian girl adopts an unusual pet who is actually a notorious extra-terrestrial fugitive.

Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Writers: Chris Sanders (based on an idea by), Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois

Stars: Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere

IMDB

I started off the movie by reminding Miss Bun that this is not real and to not copy what she will see on the screen. She was very spooked by the gloomy beginning where we meet Stitch as Experiment 626 and was scared until it landed on Hawaii. When Lilo misbehaved by being aggressive and exchanged “bad” words with her friends, I asked Missy if it was nice and she shook her head with a no. When Stitch destroyed things, I asked again if that was nice and she said no. I am pleased because it shows me that she understands what is good and bad behavior. I took the opportunity to also discuss anger and other emotions that were felt throughout the movie by all the characters.

Miss Bun was not big on the movie until… she saw Stitch playing the ukulele.

Her eyes lit up and her mood improved as she loves watching anything playing guitar/ukulele. Missy asked a lot of questions about the emotional Aloha Oe scene.

I tried my best to explain things to her while holding her tight, but it did feel a bit emotional. During another action-filled scene, she freaked out and cried for Daddy during Gantu’s chase to capture Stitch and Cobra, the social worker, trying to take Lilo away. He calmed her down so we could finish the movie. I think she liked the ending (spoiler) where Stitch was allowed to stay with Lilo and Nani.

As a mother, I find there are many difficult topics to discuss such as how to explain what aliens are, the social worker and why Nani raises her younger sister Lilo after their parents passed away. I did think Miss Bun handled it well even if Lilo and Stitch is probably better for school-aged children. This is our thoughts on this movie. Hope you enjoyed it!


Thanks a lot to Phoebe for her review of possibly one of my fave Disney animations in the 2000s (because let’s be honest that there were a few that fell short).

To see a full list of blogathon entries to date, head over HERE.

Christmas 2018 Double Feature: Dreamworks Home For the Holidays (2017) & Trolls Holiday (2017)

Its Christmas day so I shifted things around to keep it light and fun. After some thought, the best is to put together another double feature of animated shorts. This time, it is two Dreamworks holiday specials, one for Home and the other for Trolls. Both of which I have not seen the films so watching their holidays special is going to be a completely new experience to dive into each of these worlds.

Let’s check it out!

Dreamworks Home: For the Holidays (2017)

Dreamworks Home For the Holidays

Director: Blake Lemons

Voice Cast: Rachel Crow, Mark Whitten, Ron Funches, Matt Jones, Atticus Shaffer, Ana Ortiz, Nolan North, Ben Schwartz, Kelly Clarkson

Oh takes it upon himself to introduce Christmas joy to his fellow Boovs. Unfortunately, his well-meaning mission nearly destroys the city. – IMDB

While I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Home For the  Holidays, there is something here that definitely didn’t quite hit the mark and that might have to do with the animation or the character design or even just the type of humor it chooses to have. I’m not sure its something that I’d go and watch the TV series for or the movie for.

The idea of Home is cute to say the least and the characters I see can work for the young children audience. For me though, I can’t say that it worked quite as much. It also has the idea that it reminded me a lot of Lilo and Stitch in a lesser way and I hold Lilo and Stitch very close to my heart. Home for the Holidays is a fun 45 minutes though. It has some nice tunes and songs to keep it lively. There is a strong Christmas holidays all throughout and even has parts for Kelly Clarkson and Ben Schwartz, both that I like quite a bit.

Some good and some bad but in terms of holiday cheer, this one does have quite a bit. As a family thing, it does seem like maybe it might be more for the kids than the parents. But then, I’m not a parent yet, so maybe I’m wrong.

Trolls Holiday (2017)

Trolls Holiday Special

Director: Joel Crawford

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, James Corden, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, Walt Dohrn, Kevin Michael Richardson

When the Queen of the Trolls, Poppy, finds out that the Bergens do not have holidays, she enlists help from her friends, Branch and the Snack Pack, to help her bring holidays to the Bergens. – IMDB

22 minutes of fun Trolls time. I’m going to be honest here that other than playing with actual Trolls toys in the 90s when I was a kid, I have never watched the movie before. I’ve heard the song from the movie sung by Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick but other than that, I have no idea how it all goes. Suffice to say, this one seemed and was absolutely colorful and fun.

I’m a big fan of Anna Kendrick, whether its her acting and her singing. I think she’s so dynamic as an actress so I have full confidence in her capability. And my first experience with it here definitely proves that its a pretty fun time and a lot of it has to do with all the quality singing that goes into each scene. Its abundant but that is what highlights the talents of both Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake because it is their fortes. Of course, I can’t get past this one without talking about Bridget, voiced by Zooey Deschanel who I happen to love also. Trolls Holiday had all the cards on its side for me to absolutely enjoy and I did with all my heart. It was light, happy, colorful and fun. There’s a positive message about friendship and communication and listening.

While Trolls Holiday isn’t exactly a Christmas movie mostly because Poppy goes to her best friend, Bridget to pitch one of their many holidays to hopefully make them happier, it is still a happy experience because of how silly all the Trolls holidays are and how they present it.

This Dreamworks Christmas double feature is done!
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Opinion Battles Year 4 Round 12 Worst Animated Sequel

Its the final round of Year 4 of Opinion Battles! We’re wrapping up the year looking at the worst animated sequel. I always have one choice on my mind whenever we talk about this and it goes to Cars 2.

Head over to check out all the other choices and drop a vote for who you agree with.

Movie Reviews 101

Opinion Battles Year 4 Round

Worst Animated Sequel

With the final round we are returning to the worst of, this time in animated movies, we seem to get a lot of sequels that just don’t work, this is going to give us a chance to vent about the animated cash ins we didn’t want to see.

Next Round – This is going to be the final Opinion Battles in its current form, I would like to thank everyone for playing and voting along.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

Atlantis: Milo’s Return

I wasn’t a fan of the first Atlantis, this sequel brings the character back in three separate stories as it was meant to be a pilot for a television series, which only make things worse. The mysterious are not interesting and by the end of the mini adventure we are left wondering just what was the point.

Milo –

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Christmas 2018: Angela’s Christmas (2017)

December is finally here! That means that Christmas/Holiday marathon is here.

I’m a bit behind with watching holiday movies even if there was a solid plan on what to watch and even some Netflix films and such to be released before Christmas comes around so its all set. Finally, I got around to getting a short animated Netflix film this weekend. I went into this one completely blind but starting with animated films can’t go wrong, right?

Let’s check it out!

Angela’s Christmas (2018)

Angela's Christmas

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

Voice Cast: Lucy O’Connell, Ruth Negga

Set in Ireland in the 1910s, ‘Angela’s Christmas’ is a funny, heart-warming and poignant story about the power of family and the innocent desire of a child to ensure everyone is safe, warm and loved at Christmas time. –IMDB

Angela’s Christmas is a 30 minute short Christmas movie that takes us to the night before Christmas when a little girl takes the the Baby Jesus from her church manger with the best intentions of warming him up before returning him to the cold church. Family-friendly holiday films like these are the perfect dose of the holiday spirit filled with both a valuable lesson on family and childhood innocence. It delivers really fun and heartwarming moments.

Angela's Christmas

At the same time, this film also takes us for a little adventure through the streets as Angela encounters lots of fun little incidents. Be it with a policeman with a fun sleight of hand pulling coins and whatnot from ears or going to a more adult setting with a candy shop during the day that turns into a bar at night or even the little arguments between siblings and how everything comes together. There’s a lot to love in here. The animation is also done so nicely with each set piece drawn really well and the night colors working so well together to create some lovely scenes, just like a little creepy alley scene where Angela’s imagination takes her for a little scare as she imagines the tree branch shadows on the wall chases after her. Perhaps more poignant to myself because, I felt that way before eons ago when I went on a Snow White ride and went through the night escape with the trees doing the same thing.

Angela’s Christmas is the perfect length. It builds a nice simple story and delivers some nice lessons on the Christmas spirit and especially about the togetherness of family with a spark of imagination with everyone. Perfect to add to a Christmas marathon for the whole family.

Double Feature: Pete’s Dragon (2016) & Peter Rabbit (2018)

double feature

Its been a while since we’ve done a double feature, right? Things are back on track and as much as I wanted to start this whole all same year movies get full reviews. Meaning Peter Rabbit should have its own full review, I just decided to keep with this formula. I guess that kind of hints on how I feel about Peter Rabbit but oh well, we’ll see, right? A nice little pairing that worked out because of my procrastination, may I add? An animated double feature seems like its a rarity around here nowadays plus it has similar names, Pete and Peter. Let’s put it out there right now that I really like watching movies that blend animation with live action, like Mary Poppins. Obviously, these two are more CG and live action but it still counts just in a modernized way.

Let’s check it out!

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Pete's Dragon

Director: David Lowery

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban

The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. – IMDB

I only watched the original Pete’s Dragon recently. You can see the review HERE. This remake or reboot (whatever you want to call it) is still good for what it is. It had adventure and the acting was good. The atmosphere was nice and a lot of the key elements were there while replacing it with a more environmental sort of idea. It creates a lot of drama and less of a musical like the original. Some of the differences are really the point here which truly depends on how much the audience buys into and how it all works out. Like I mentioned, one of the main elements is the more drama and less musical. To me, that kind of takes away from the charm of the original. I’m into adventure and drama and they work well in family movies and that part does work well but it gives off a different vibe from the original. Of course, we should look at this film as how it stands on its own and there is still a lot of magic in Elliot. Without its pink tuff of hair and more alive thanks to computer graphics and less hand drawn animation gives him a more real feeling but still has its magical moments and he is still very cute with his little movements but Elliot is huge and massive compared to Pete, which is also normal.

I watched Pete’s Dragon a good while ago so if you asked me the details, I probably won’t remember a lot of it but I do remember the emphasis on environment which is a nice theme along with the family and just how to not touch the differences in nature and let them be. At the same time, the film’s charm goes to bringing Elliot to life. I still think the original is more fun to watch and its more colorful and all that happy stuff but this one is a different vibe and beast and has its charm. Shame is that its a reboot and not an original property because its hard to not compare the two which makes it feel less of the original concept but each has its strengths.

Peter Rabbit (2018)

peter rabbit

Director: Will Gluck

Cast & Voice Cast: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, James Corden, Colin Moody, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Daisy Ridley, Sia, Fayssal Bazzi

Feature adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of a rebellious rabbit trying to sneak into a farmer’s vegetable garden. – IMDB

Peter Rabbit is pretty much the expected route of things. For myself, I don’t have a whole lot of nostalgia in regards of Peter Rabbit and honestly, it was so long ago that I read it that I don’t even remember any part of it. My knowledge of it is so little of the source material that this is something of an adventure. Rose Byrne is always a pleasure to watch. Seeing as I just saw Domhnall Gleeson in Goodbye Christopher Robin, there is this odd feeling that he keeps getting into these adaptation projects. He is a pretty good actor in the sense that he nails these roles down really well. While I wasn’t totally buying the romance between these two, it worked in a fun way as he silently fought with the rabbits over their affection of Rose Byrne.

I have fairly mixed feelings. On one hand, I don’t think that the material was as memorable as it could have been. But its harmless fun. There’s a bit of music and dancing bits. There’s some over the top comedy. There is some silly humor. There is also family themes and drama but I can’t help but think that for myself, some of the comedy didn’t land so much but then its not exactly for my age group especially without the nostalgia factor.

Fantasia Festival 2018: Fireworks (2018)

Fireworks (2018)

Fireworks

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo & Nobuyuki Takeuchi

Voice Cast: Masaki Suda, Suzu Hirose, Mamoru Miyano, Shintaro Asanuma

Fireworks is based on the 1993 live action TV series with the same name and produced by the producer of 2017’s Your Name. The primary story is an adolescent romance which starts from two school buddies, Norimichi and Yusuke who both have a crush on a quiet girl in class, Nazuna. Little do they know that Nazuna’s mother is planning to be remarried and she will be moving, however she has her own scheme to run away. In the moment, she places her courage to run away with whoever wins the swimming challenge she suddenly suggests using the excuse of the traditional fireworks event to go on a date with her. While Norimichi and Yusuke’s group of friends debate and bet on whether fireworks are round or flat from the side and set up to go to the light tower to settle it, the boys are caught up in being struck by whether to go on a date except there is a twist when Norimichi learns about the true abilities to turn back time from a glass ball that Nazuna had found by the ocean that morning. Here lies the central theme of this story as we take a look at what-if things were different and you could have a do-over of your choices.

Fireworks

Right from the opening credits of Fireworks, the soundtrack and animations are absolutely spectacular. Its sets the mood and tone of what is to come. The colorful world and the different filters used especially paired up with a charming story about young love and what-ifs. The twist to the normal formula is the groundhog day elements adding a  bit of science fiction to it all. There are little details like the transition of the rewind of the magical glass ball that lights up these coils which looks like the word “if”. There area few rewinds in the story and little subtle changes in the environment. One of the examples is after a rewind, there was a sketch filter over the scene for a while and it added such a beautiful detail to it. It made each rewind feel like it was in a fictional world and breaking away from reality but somehow into a wonderful alternate reality. It extends to the small things like when we see the different ways the fireworks are shown in the different possibilities. Its all these little details that make the a animation even more gorgeous to look at.

Fireworks

The story also has a lot of its charms in sharing this genuine and believable story despite all the groundhog day elements. The reason why its feels so close is in these believable teenage characters. They act like teenagers. The boys debate about silly things like whether the fireworks are round or flat and place bets on who is right as each of them believe that it can’t be the other way. Teenage boys are scared to share their feelings and when given the opportunity, they let their fear take over and run away from it. At the same time, it’s about finding the courage to do the more daring things and breaking out of the comfort zone. It is a nice dose of also seeing the different paths that the different choices would result in. All these elements make it feel like a natural teenage story.

Fireworks is a charming story in its genuine characters and the beautiful detail in every scene of the animation. It packs in a lot of adventurous moments while still having those heartwarming young romance elements. It never hits those sappy moments because the storyline also involves some family conflict as well as navigating the teenage friendships and jealousy. Fireworks finds a balance in telling a charming story packed with colorful and gorgeous animation while adding in that sci-fi element to make the what-if element blend so well together.