Fantasia Festival 2020: Chasing Dream (我的拳王男友, 2019)

Chasing Dream (我的拳王男友, 2019)

Director: Johnnie To

Cast: Jacky Heung, Keru Wang

Tiger, an aspiring MMA fighter, meets young Du, whose dream is to become a singer. Together they go from audition to audition as they try to get Du into the talent show Perfect Diva. And at the same time, Tiger tries to quit the ring – but leaving turns out to be harder than expected. – MyDramaList

With 70 director credits under his belt according to IMDB, Johnnie To has a huge array of movies under his belt spreading over many genres even if a lot of people will first remember mostly his action or crime titles. Coming back from a 3 year hiatus, Johnnie To’s latest offering is a sport and music comedy about chasing dreams. As it follows two people in debt to the same loan shark ending up living together to pay off their own debts doing random jobs while each pursuing their own dream. Tiger (Jacky Heung) fights these cage battles for the loan shark boss who ends up using his roommate Cuckoo Du as his bargaining chip and he ends up giving in each time to help her achieve her dream to win Perfect Diva, a singing competition. Something about this story is a little silly and been there done that and yet there’s this charming element about how its all put together especially with the array of characters, the comedy point and how its a little bit silly at times being rather reminescent of the 90s Hong Kong comedy.

Chasing Dream

Johnnie To doing this sort of movie adds quite a bit of charm no doubt. He brings in some great comedy points while executing some incredible scenes that feel a little over the top and yet manages to keep it entertaining. Of course, comedies are always subjective so what works for might not work for you. The use of the music element actually works out all the ways especially during a specific singing training scene to prepare Cuckoo for her competition as Tiger calls in a bunch of favors to be her band while trying to help her find her diva style that would fit her as he wheels in food for hotpot while throwing out different popular American singers and Cuckoo imitates their performance and singing style. It sounds a little ridiculous but actually the scene works out really well. All that culminates to a huge Bollywood style musical flash mob scene that is absolutely awesome. However, the movie isn’t all fun and laughs but still packs in a lot of drama especially on the side of Tiger as his boxing matches get more intense and the matches become harder to watch as his character really does connect and stand out the most in the entire film. Jacky Heung shines in this role as Tiger.

To be honest, Chasing Dream is almost back to the basics. Its a simple storyline. The plot points are fairly predictable. Inspirational tales about chasing dreams and going through a lot of obstacles has been done tons of times. The relationship between Cuckoo and Tiger is unique and its because of these two characters that the story stands out so much. The ridiculous comedy, the bright and entertaining bits balances well with the drama of highlighting what is the most important. Especially with a final ending scene that gives major homage to Rocky. Its hard to not slowly be taken over by this movie but then I’m also a sucker for music and chasing dreams movie so watching a movie titled exactly what it is seems like a solid win and Chasing Dream surprisingly not only met my expectations and exceeded it.

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

The Paper Tigers (2020)

The Paper Tigers

Director (and writer): Quoc Bao Tran

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

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

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

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

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

the paper tigers

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

Fantasia Festival 2020: A Mermaid in Paris (Une Sirène à Paris, 2020)

A Mermaid in Paris (Une Sirène à Paris, 2020)

a mermaid in paris

Director (and co-writer): Mathias Malzieu

Cast: Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marilyn Lima, Rossy de Palma, Tcheky Karyo, Romane Bohringer, Alexis Michalik

A man rescues a mermaid in Paris and slowly falls in love with her. – IMDB

Being a huge fan of Mathias Malzieu debut feature film Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (review), A Mermaid in Paris was a must-watch. It would be interesting to see how Mathias Malzieu would approach doing a live-action film knowing the imagination that he is capable of. This fantasy romantic melodrama is an outstanding effort by Malzieu once again proving that his unique eye for the visuals as well as the use of an older era of fashion and fantastical color palette all blends incredibly well together with his creative imagination that all comes to life in such an appealing way.

A Mermaid in Paris

Being a musician before stepping into the director’s chair, Malzieu also uses soundtrack in a strong way to build up the character of the film. He injects Piaf’s song as well as other song choices to pair with the times. In this case, he also plays on the mermaids and the myth of the mesmerizingly deadly songs of the sirens. This builds up the romantic storyline of Gaspard, a man who falls in love easily and has had his heart broken so much he feels that he has no more love to give and struggling to hold onto his family’s business that holds memories of his mother and a place for performances, who saves a mermaid Lula (Marilyn Lima) who he is immune to her song. Their romantic connection grows gradually throughout the film and Lula becomes a character that wants to get back to sea soon but also has the fish out of water story element, that I’m a big fan of as it brings in a comedic element. The chemistry between Gaspard and Lula is undeniably beautiful.

A Mermaid in Paris

The comedic element is enhanced by a stellar performance of Rossy de Palma playing Gaspard’s neighbor Rossy in a second collaboration with Malzieu. Rossy is a unique character who guides both of them in her rather whacky ways but also plays as an assist. All the happy things here with romance and comedy has to be paired with some drama and adding in a threat to balance out all of this is a revenge story from the girlfriend of one of Lula’s victims. If there’s anything, this character Milena is a bit frustrating at times however she has her purpose.

A Mermaid in Paris is a cinematic treat. The rich color palette paired with the fantasy elements; the mermaid myth playing along on the romantic infatuation that creeps up between them to a surprising twist; the wonderful performances from the cast and the colorful characters: all comes together to create this beautiful experience. On top of that, Malzieu doesn’t even forget to give a nod to the animation style using the characters in this previous film in one of the scenes as a background element. There’s so much to love with Malzieu’s filming style and his seemingly love for telling stories about the life-threatening dangers of falling in love. Its a unique way of telling love stories and its this vision paired with his imagination that makes his films so fun to dive into.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Yummy (2019)

Yummy (2019)

yummy

Director (and co-writer): Lars Damoiseaux

Cast: Maaike Neuville, Bart Hollanders, Benjamin Ramon, Clara Cleymans, Annick Christiaens, Eric Godon, Joshua Rubin, Taeke Nicolai

An orgy of blood, violence and fun in which a young couple travel to a shabby Eastern European hospital for plastic surgery. Once there things unravel. – IMDB

There’s no doubt that zombie films are still rather a huge focal point. Belgium offers its version of horror comedy as it sets this zombie film called Yummy in a sketchy plastic surgery hospital doing some experimental things on the side. When a couple decides to go to the plastic surgery through the request of the girlfriend Alison to have a breast reduction, Michael wanders around with one of the staff Daniel and ends up discovering a gory Patient Zero which gets loose. Chaos awaits as the hospital gets infected and the few survivors hiding out in various locations need to find a way out. As with the location, some of the patients is hard to tell whether they are infected or not as well as adding some nudity into the mix. All this adds together for some rather comedic moments.

Yummy is somewhat of a double -sided coin. On one hand, it offers its viewers what you’d expect from a zombie film. Its entertaining and funny at some parts. There’s a lot of blood and gore to satisfy those expecting it in a zombie movie. Trust me, there are some rather disgusting bits. It gets right to the root of the zombie action fairly quickly and is well-paced. It does all the motions of a zombie film fairly well. Its fun enough to keep wanting to see more and how some of the stupid decisions these characters make or even what other spontaneous things they do to make the situation worse. I’m talking mostly about the boyfriend character Michael who is set up as a character who is rather useless and seems to mess things up more throughout the film more than contribute to the situation.

yummy 2019

With that said, the characters are rather one-dimensional. Normally, with low-budget zombie films, its really not expected for a lot of character depth except these characters aren’t exactly engaging to watch. Some of them are downright bad in nature or just doesn’t feel like anyone to root for to get out of this whole ordeal. Its almost expected that someone is going to betray or just be a coward or not stick together to survive and of course, all those things do happen. In reality, its hard to chalk it up to whether its the characters fault since the cast seems to have portrayed them fairly well or the story which seems to be lacking the unique element to make it stand out a little more.

However, credit where its due, the setting in the plastic surgery hospital is a fun choice and does add a lot of points plus the effects are done rather well. There’s a lot of use of the surroundings including intestines and whatnot and some creative use of the equipment to turn into a bomb. Overall, Yummy is a fun zombie movie. There’s some funny parts and is a silly experience as a whole with a lot of gore and blood and then a decent amount of nudity. I’m a little lukewarm towards it since its fun and all but I can’t see myself watching it again since I wasn’t a big fan of that type of ending (but spoiler free so I won’t dive further into that). Zombies, horror comedy, shabby hospital, blood, gore and nudity all seems to be things that you like, Yummy might be the movie for you.

Fantasia Festival 2020: I WeirDo (怪胎, 2020)

I WeirDo (怪胎, 2020)

I WeirDo

Director (and writer): Ming-Yi Liao

Cast: Nikki Hsieh, Austin Lin

This film is Asia’s first feature film shot on an iPhone, telling the story of two weirdos becoming a positive made by two negatives. – IMDB

In the current film landscape, unique romantic comedies are far and few. Most of the memorable ones in recent years have come out of streaming service with coming of age elements or the independent landscape. I WeirDo is one to add to that quirky romantic comedy/dramedy style coming out of Taiwan, somewhere that its cinema is much less known but thanks to Netflix, a lot more of Taiwanese cinema is landing in front of international audiences.

Written and directed by Ming-Yi Liao, the story revolved around two intensely obsessive-compulsive characters who end up meeting each other and falling in love. The cute moments of finding companionship in their “abnormality” breaks them each out of their own comfort zone to accept this less lonely way of living. Like most romantic comedies, things have to go a dramatic turn and for this one, OCD is a switch (it might not be in reality..I didn’t do any research) and one thing can switch it off and things can go back to normal but its different for everyone and in this case, falling in love is one of the pair’s triggers but becoming normal might be what pulls them apart. The film is less about the mental illness element of OCD but rather its about the definition of normal versus abnormal and the power and fragility of love itself as well as the power of companionship to have more courage to face the world outside. It also reminds us, despite the crazy times we’re living in now, that what we might consider normal is a challenge for others.

Shot with an iPhone, this film is fairly experimental. There is a certain meta element as the narrator shifts from the beginning with main guy Po-Ching (Austin Lin) who narrates a good half of the film until he goes back to normal and it switches over to main girl Chen Ching (Nikki Hsieh). A lot of times they talk to the camera and narrate their story and what is going on. In that sense, it lessens their dialogue communication but leaves it mostly to their own actions. The cute elements are mostly in the first half as we see them challenging each other to their own limits to break out of their comfort zone and finding ways to spend more time together and the second half sees them transitioning into a life together and the third act is when things unravel. The execution is spot-on as the tone change is gradual and smooth. At the same time, the characters are very unique in their own quirky ways. They change each other naturally as they spend more time together. From the moment they meet, its already a lot of awkward chemistry going on that makes it hard to not look at their interaction. Kudos to Nikki Hsieh and Austin Lin for pulling off these performances including some fantastic outfits especially their giant raincoat and protective gloves and masks. Everything is thought out in detail and their outfits contrast each other. There’s something so awesome about Chen Ching’s big yellow raincoat with her sneakers look.

I WeirDo isn’t just a quirky romantic comedy. The build-up and the change in tone and the swapping of narrative voice as well as the character development all combines to be an impressive film. Especially in the thrid act when it pulls a surprising twist which is visually appealing and then wraps up the film with space for contemplation. I WeirDo is different in the sea of romantic comedies and its one that comes highly recommended.

Double Feature: On Chesil Beach (2017) & One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Next up is the O double feature! Took a little while to get it done but here we are! The first is a British drama adaptation called On Chesil Beach and the second is a Japanese horror comedy called One Cut of the Dead. Let’s check it out!

On Chesil Beach (2017)

on chesil beach

Director: Dominic Cooke

Cast: Billy Howle, Saoirse Ronan, Anne-Marie Duff, Adrian Scarborough, Emily Watson

Based on Ian McEwan’s novel. In 1962 England, a young couple find their idyllic romance colliding with issues of sexual freedom and societal pressure, leading to an awkward and fateful wedding night. – IMDB

On Chesil Beach is a British drama adaptation of a novella of the same name by Ian McEwan. The story is executed as a parallel between the past of each of these characters and the day of the newlyweds first night of honeymoon on Chesil Beach. This sort of execution is rather familiar to a lot of stories like this featuring some kind of bittersweet ending. However, its also a good way to tell a story of the issues that pulls them apart while highlighting their character personalities. In fact, the execution of On Chesil Beach is done rather well. Its engaging to see the subtle nuances of what bothers them and what ends up driving them apart after a things don’t go as expected on their wedding night.

If we talk about characters, there is a lot more depth to the girl Florence even if the story is actually not so much about her as it is about him, Edward played by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle respectively. Saoirse Ronan portrays Florence really well, giving her this natural character who tries to please the people around her but faced with her issues towards sex because of her past, the inner struggle is shown in her own subtle ways they build to her big “reaction”. On the other hand, Billy Howle as Edward is one that I can’t quite decide whether its the character Edward that that I don’t like with his own set of deeper problems and ridiculous about of pride and self-esteem issues that make him think about being the victim and everyone out to embarrass or look down on him. His character is a tad frustrating watch as you can see the deeper character elements.

On Chesil Beach spans over 40 years or something of these two characters where the last part is final act is mostly jumping through 2 different times in between to 2007 to where the two find some kind of resolution. On one hand, its a nice thing that this isn’t about Florence since that would yet again be about damaged women and such but at the same time, Edward’s character seems to have some sudden enlightenment as he gets older but it all comes in a disjointed way since there’s not a lot of build-up. Its really focused on the first part and then the final act sends the point but there’s this lack of something that pushes this story to be more engaging than it probably should be.

One Cut of the Dead (2017)

one cut of the dead

Director (and screenplay writer): Shinichiro Ueda

Cast: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Hiroshi Ichihara, Mao

Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies. – IMDB

*Originally as part of Friday Film Club*

Right when we think that zombie and horror movies are overdone and nothing new can possibly come from this subgenre, One Cut of the Dead turns it around and creates almost a three in one movie experience that truly is a hilarious ride through and through and takes it in unexpected directions adding so much charm and detail. Its not wonder that One Cut of the Dead ended up making box office history when the film earned over a thousand times its budget which was possible due to a cast of unknown actors and eight days of shooting.

One Cut of the Dead has a simple premise and is partially inspired by Ryoichi Wada’s stage play, Ghost in the Box. A cast and crew is sent to do a low-budget zombie film for a new channel airing on TV live and has to be done in one shot. As they film in the abandoned water filtration plant, the director (Takayuki Hamatsu) ends up leaving the set after an argument with the cast. That’s when zombies start to appear to chase down the cast and crew. This is when the director appears delighted to see the effect he wanted and insists on continuing to film.

For a cast which is unknown and fairly inexperienced where they all took acting workshops with a drama school for 2 months prior to filming, every single cast member delivers on all levels. The originality of the script makes it feel like a genuine experience and has so much detail to every single twist that adds another level to the story. Its an one of a kind horror comedy full of satire. Honestly, its a viewing experience and is best watch as blind as possible to enjoy the little surprises.

On a side note, in the phase of the current pandemic, the cast of One Cut of the Dead did a remote version of the movie called One Cut of the Dead Mission: Remote, filming in their own homes as the character in One Cut of the Dead and put it on Youtube to bring some laughter to everyone. Its definitely one to check out, especially after you watch One Cut of the Dead.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two (or three) movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Maniac (1980) & Matilda (1996)

Taking a moment to get back to our alphabet double feature as we continue onto the M selections. The first is a 1980s slasher Maniac followed by 1996 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel of the same name Matilda. Let’s check it out!

Maniac (1980)

Maniac 1980

Director: William Lustig

Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper

A psychotic man, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in New York City, kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in a photographer, and end his killing spree? – IMDB

Maniac is an odd film. Its not a particularly long one and the premise itself is rather spine-chilling. There’s this appeal of the abrupt attacks that this serial killer deals with its victims. The aftermath of taking the scalps and the whole killer by himself is all fairly well-done psychologically especially in terms of its final act to the actual final moments that are actually the best part of the film in terms of delivering its final surprise.

However, Maniac has a lot of elements that didn’t quite work for it. It could be that the film didn’t really age too well from the 80s until now or its the general lack of appeal that I’ve had lately for 80s films. I feel like its more of a personal preference element. One thing that I truly didn’t appreciate though was how each scene of killing or hunting its victim was filled with this overlap of heavy breathing sounds that seemed like it was added in afterwards to make the scene more nerve-wrecking except it was more annoying and retracted from those scenes.

Its obvious that Maniac didn’t quite work for me (or my husband). The story itself has something there so I’m interested to see whether the 2012 remake will land a little better.

Matilda (1996)

matilda

Director: Danny DeVito

Cast: Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, Paul Reubens, Tracey Walter, Kiami Davael

Story of a wonderful little girl, who happens to be a genius, and her wonderful teacher vs. the worst parents ever and the worst school principal imaginable. – IMDB

Having read a few of Roald Dahl’s children’s novels when I was younger, Matilda has been one that I’ve never read before although I might have owned it at some point (or it might be in a box somewhere when I moved, I can’t remember). However, its been a movie on my radar for all the time that its been released since Mara Wilson in the child actor days was absolutely fantastic. Matilda is something of an odd movie but yet its one that’s a tad over the top in all the characters especially when it comes to the actions of the principal Trunchbull, played amazing by Pam Ferris. But then, children’s films tend to have these silly and ridiculous moments to give it that extra entertainment value.

Mara Wilson is definitely the charming element of this film. As well as her parents played by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman which was downright hilarious as they were simply ridiculous parents. They almost seem like the inspiration behind the parents in this year’s Netflix animated film, The Willoughbys (review). As she learns about her abilities, Matilda is so much fun to watch since she uses her powers essentially to payback the adults that have been mean to her. Sure, we’re not supposed to encourage the concept of revenge but its all about teaching a lesson to bullies who deserve it and standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves, just like taking on this actual bond with her teacher, Miss Honey played by Embeth Davidtz.

Matilda is fun children’s movie. The premise is good and while I haven’t read the source material, its one that I would like to check out for fun. The cast is incredibly colorful and suitably over the top as it fits the genre.

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

Double Feature: Joker (2019) & Ready or Not (2019)

Taking a little break from the alphabet double feature as we take a look at some rental viewings in the past while. Its always good to have a chance to catch up with some 2019 titles that I had missed and this time, its looking at Joker followed by a title that I had missed during its film festival run, Ready or Not. Let’s check it out!

Joker (2019)

joker

Director (and co-writer): Todd Phillips

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp

In Gotham City, mentally troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: the Joker. – IMDB

At this point, we’ve seen Joker in so many different DC Universe movies (and video games). There’s always some form of familiarity to the character and its villainous nature. 2019’s Joker takes the origin story and character study path as it looks at Arthur Fleck and the events that lead him to become the villain Joker that we know. The struggles and the not being accepted by society as well as other underlying issues in his life that all culminate to propel this character into this mentally unstable comedian that lives in his own world and starts finding a way to be seen in a world that ignores him. Its definitely a unique angle to take the character as well as a much more dramatic one.

Joker’s most outstanding element undoubtedly has to go to Joaquin Phoenix who truly takes Arthur Fleck into a fresh direction. He captures a lot of the little things of the character that makes it increasingly unsettling to watch unravel as each event and knowledge all come together. Its really nice to see how he interacts with each of the other supporting characters as well as how his morals and ethics are balanced. In reality, it also gives his character a deeper element than just being crazy like other movies and a basis of what he has gone through to lead him to this stage and the more and more violent and extreme actions.

Of course, in the world of Gotham, some things are still familiar especially signs of the Wayne family being a family in control and finding a way to connect the young Bruce Wayne to Arthur Fleck and bringing up questions of lead to them having a connection to the Batman that we know which is a nice touch. There’s a very entertaining role as Murray Franklin by Robert De Niro that adds to the film. The cinematography also builds up the environment and each scene.

Ready or Not (2019)

ready or not

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni

A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game. – IMDB

*originally posted on Movies and Tea for Friday Film Club*

Every wealthy family has their secrets and very much so for the Le Domas who run the Le Domas Family Games company who has their own wedding night ritual. When the youngest brother Alex (Mark O’Brien) gets married to a “normal girl” Grace (Samara Weaving), she ends up meeting his very odd family and introduced to their wedding ritual to honor their family business and that is to draw a card from their prized possession, Le Bail’s puzzle box which names a game they must play as initiation. Grace draws “Hide-and-Seek” which turns out to be the deadliest choice in the pile when she finds out that she is now being hunted by the entire family in their locked down mansion.

Ready Or Not might seem like an escape room sort of deal and some twisted family. While the Le Domas family is a bit odd, they definitely fit into the dark comedy element presented for the movie as it’s obvious that this draw is not frequent. Through the movie, it’s much more than that as Grace outsmarts each of the members of the family, it becomes clear that the Le Domas have no choice to do this and their own reasons as we learn who Le Bail is and what the puzzle box is all about. The story itself being deeper than what its presented at the beginning along with a fast-paced chase around the house with each of the characters having their own agenda and quirky personality all adds to this being both violent but comedic and striking a nice balance between the two.

ready or not

Each of the members of Le Domas family as well as Grace is so colorful. The standout would of course go to Samara Weaving who has been landing these crazy roles in the indie film realm and yet again, pulls off a great role with Grace. The unknown factor is where each person feels about this Hide and Seek game on hand. The female characters actually play mostly the stronger roles just like the intense Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) and Grace’s mother in law (Andie MacDowell) who has more of a calm and manipulative personality. However, Alex’s character also has its inner conflict much like his brother Daniel (Adam Brody) who ends up  having quite a surprising turn of events in their choices.

Ready or Not is a fast-paced fun dark comedy thriller. It’s violent and intense at times yet at the same time, there are moments of dark comedy elements that relieve the tension a little. With some well-written characters and a unique twist to the story, it’s an absolute blast to watch.

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

Double Feature: Jigsaw (2017) & Jack Frost (1997)

Up next for double feature is the J selections!

Jigsaw (2017)

Jigsaw

Director: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig

Cast: Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Cle Bennett, Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein, Mandela Van Peebles, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black

Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for over 10 years. –IMDB

Seven years after the seventh movie of this franchise, Jigsaw arrives. I’m not going to lie that I was a bit skeptical about how this could go considering that I found the last few movies of Saw a little bit meh. It still had some fun elements but it had a significant drop in horror value since the first Saw movie. To be honest, what is there to expect from Jigsaw? Its an attempt to revive the franchise and it picks up over 10 years after John Kramer is expected to be dead. For the most part, it does work pretty well and exceeded my expectations from it. It was a fun time with some decent traps and the whole twist at the end really comes together as its both a police chase and the game playing out together.

Jigsaw’s good bits are definitely in the escape room style and goes somewhat back to its roots. In this one, the group all start chained together and starts to realize that they all have some crime that has caused them to be in this position and its their way to admit those faults, whether they can get out or not is of course, pretty much set in the game. Each of these games as they move from one room to the next is a step more dangerous than the previous one and its a good structure. It brings in a lot of tension mostly from how each of these games play out because honestly, the outcome of these characters are fairly predictable for the most part. Plus, the gruesome and extremity of each trap is usually where movies in this franchise excel and this one is no exception.

The whole police section of the movie that plays as the outside factor of tracking these captured victims is a whole other level. It all dials down to figuring whether its Kramer behind all this as well as finding each of these victims and ends up where it all starts and cycles back into a twist as the story comes together. The story itself, especially the twist, was quite fun as a reveal. It became a little more apparent where it was going but then there was still a bit of surprise and cleverness which is always appreciated. Jigsaw was a fun comeback for the franchise and it’ll be interesting to see where they take it from here.

Jack Frost (1997)

jack frost

Director: Michael Cooney

Cast: Scott MacDonald, Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker, Ellen Seeley, Rob LaBelle

After an accident that left murderer Jack Frost dead in genetic material the vengeful killer returns as a murderous snowman to exact his revenge on the man who sent him to be executed – IMDB 

I’ve been some pretty odd choices for Shudder, most of them being quite random. The J selections on Shudder is rather limited and it was between Jack Frost and another French horror that I’ve heard mostly bad things about so here we are, heading back to 1997 to watch the horror Jack Frost. This one is silly and low budget. There’s not a whole lot to be scared about and its not extreme or anything.

There’s a lot of overacting and a lot of it is really odd, especially in buying into a killer snowman deal. Sure, there’s a little more to it than that but still, its watching a snowman, cut to a puddle of water and then hear some sound effects of it moving into another area. The connection of water and snow all comes into play in its different forms and in that sense, it does make a snowman a pretty lethal deal if it can move like it does. At the same time, its a bit hard to buy into it since this is some guy who gets hit by some experimental acidic solution.

Luckily, the movie itself doesn’t seem to take itself very seriously as this is categorized as a horror comedy. The whole idea of it is being mostly entertainment and the so bad its good variety. Jack Frost is very bizarre and I’m not exactly a huge fan of it. It has its fun moments because of the obvious low budget and how its all executed. Its mostly pretty ridiculous in some of those plot points and how the people get killed which makes it all the more funnier, in the laughing at the movie way and not the having a lot of fun way.

That’s it for this double feature!
A good pick and a meh pick, right?
Have you seen either of these movies? Thoughts?

The Willoughbys (2020)

The Willoughbys (2020)

the willoughbys

Director: Kris Pearn, Rob Lodermeier, Cory Evans

Cast (voice): Ricky Gervais, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Sean Cullen, Brian Drummond

Convinced they’d be better off raising themselves, the Willoughby children hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation. The siblings then embark on their own high-flying adventure to find the true meaning of family. – IMDB

There’s nothing like a quirky and colorful animated film to bring in some joy. The Willoughbys fills that really well. While its a bit of everything mushed together and incredibly random, (maybe you can call it imaginative), it manages to be clever especially as its full of little references of other popular things from movies and whatnot in their own version that makes it absolutely enjoyable to watch. That’s something that I’ve always appreciated in movies. It starts off with narration a little like A Series of Unfortunate Events and then the story moves on and these children are a little random like the Despicable Me kids and then we move forward the characters they meet including their parents are all very extreme in their own ways. It still manages to be quite entertaining.

The Willoughbys has a decent cast behind it and a few of them are pretty recognizable. First of all, we start of with Ricky Gervais being the narrator who is a cat that lingers in the neighborhood and just like Gervais’s humor, he delivers some funny narration that carries the story from one scene to the next. The parents who love each other so much that they don’t have any love left for their kids is voiced by Martin Short and Jane Krakowski, who are suitably mean for a family film. The nanny is voiced by Maya Rudolph who I’ve always loved and found incredibly underrated but her enthusiasm really carries through into the nanny here and adds so much fun. Then, on their city escape, the kids ends up meeting a Willy Wonka parallel sort of character voiced by Terry Crews whose voice is very unique and wildly entertaining all the time.

The Willoughbys is incredibly silly and at times some of the things that happen are a little absurd however somehow it all works together. There’s a lot to love here with the story progression. The kids themselves are trapped inside their world and each have their own personalities that somewhat balance each other out. They also have the heart to be true Willoughbys and defining what makes a good person and making good choices even if they don’t have the best approaches. At the same time, its a touching story about family whether its between the siblings or the finding them along the way.

You know what The Willoughbys is? Its simply a great time. Its full of laughs and adventures, mistakes and bad decisions and most of all, learning the meaning of family. There’s clever dialogue, fun characters and some pretty great voice cast tossed into the mix. Its charming, clever and colorful: three things that I love in animated films. Totally recommend this one!