Fantasia Festival 2019: Extreme Job (Geukhanjikeob, 2019)

Extreme Job (2019)

Extreme Job

Director: Byeong-heon Lee

Cast: Seung-ryong Ryu, Seon-kyu Jin, Lee Hanee, Dong-hwi Lee, Jin-hee Jang, Myeong Gong, Ha-kyu Shin, Jeong-se Oh, Eui-sung Kim

Extreme Job is a 2019 South Korean action comedy about a ragtag team of cops who take over a fried chicken restaurant as a front to do surveillance on a drug trafficker.

Right off the bat, Extreme Job sets itself out as a comedic act as this specially put together team goes on their mission which ends up in a disgrace. This first mission sets the comedic tone for the film throughout as it shows off each of the members and the type of cop they are. Upon their suspension, they eventually gets into the fried chicken business and it becomes apparent that what started out as a surveillance job takes a turn for the worse when they start taking the business seriously and the food becomes popular, drawing them too much attention. A lot of luck and coincidence leads this ragtag team to the finale.

Extreme Job might go by the numbers and is on rails for most of the film but what it grasps well is finding that right tone and committing to it on all levels. It gives its characters room to grow and each of them to take up their job while also seemingly, see them lose their path as the restaurant business becomes more profitable than their actual police job. In terms of pacing, Extreme Job starts and ends very strong: quick-paced and action-packed and humor all balanced and bundled together wonderfully. Unfortunately, the movie is on the lengthier side at almost 2 hours long and because of that, the middle act lacks a bit of action and involves more tedium (which probably could have been edited out to make it more tight-knit).

The charm of the movie does lie in its police squad. This ragtag 5 person team might seem clumsy and disgraceful and even a bit ridiculous. Most of the time, they are nonsensical however, the dynamic they have makes each of them fun to watch, especially because they form the basic team of having a leader, an oddball, a tough lady, a serious guy and the newbie. The most charming of this does go to the oddball Sergeant Ma who makes things incredibly hilarious with both his character physical appearance as well as his dialogue. His character makes the rest of the team be able to bounce off his humor and in turn also have a fun humorous element to a lot of scenes.

While a lot of Extreme Job feels fairly formulaic in terms of story flow, it does take a unique turn of events for its final act which gives the reveal of who the team actually is and why they were specially formed. Perhaps a slight spoiler but the final act also brings out the action element to the max as it involves a lot of strong action choreography paired up with an energy-packed background music to give it that extra boost.

More comedy than action, Extreme Job still manages to find its tone and its charm, making it a fun ride full of laughs, and making it easy to connect with these 5 underdog cops and rooting for them to win even if it feels unlikely right from the beginning. Not to mention, its fantastic food shots that will make you crave for some fried chicken after the movie ends. After watching it, its no surprise that Extreme Job has the second most tickets sold in its country’s history and on top of that, an American remake in the works starring Kevin Hart.

You can catch the second screening of Extreme Job at Fantasia Film Festival on July 31st at 3:05pm EST.

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Fantasia Festival 2019: Little Monsters (2019)

Little Monsters (2019)

little monsters

Director (and writer): Abe Forsythe

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Josh Gad, Diesel La Torraca, Ava Caryofyllis, Kat Stewart, Marshall Napier, Charlie Whitley

Little Monsters is a 2019 Australian horror comedy-thriller that tells the story of a washed-up musician who ends up chaperoning his nephew’s class field trip in the heart to win the heart of the teacher however little do they know that, they end up driving into the heart of a zombie outbreak.

Between a lot of Taylor Swift‘s Shake It Off and a balance between humor and horror, Little Monsters is a horror comedy that does a lot right. It has to do with well-timed laughs and cleverly maneuvering its script between separating the reality into make believe where the kids are involved. Because the scope is fairly narrow and set mostly in one location, the Pleasant Valley Farm and despite the class of kindergarten children, the film focuses on a fairly small cast and all these elements do it a huge favor. It magnifies each character during the film to give it more space to develop and connect with. Every zombie movie gives its unique twist on the zombie trait (at least it tries), in order to make it stand out in a sea of endless zombie films and here, the reveal comes fairly late and yet, has so much charm to it.

A lot of Little Monsters is pulled together by the humor and how the characters deliver it. The definite star here is Lupita Nyong’o who is fabulously hilarious as a school teacher, Miss Caroline straddling the line between being a caring school teacher as she is sweet and gentle with her class of 5 year-olds no matter how docile or annoying they can be, but so fierce when things start to endanger them, best shown with one of the best scenes between her and Josh Gad‘s character, Teddy McGiggle. To the 5 year olds, this is all a pretense of a game in action and yet, the few children that have their focus all have the unique traits of different types of children in these situations which surprisingly, adds to the humor as the adults try to make sure that little make-believe stays alive.

Looking at the other roles, both Alexander England who plays Dave, the wash-up musician and nephew and Josh Gad’s role of Teddy McGiggle, a famous kid TV celebrity follow a very familiar character trajectory. Teddy McGiggle is a kid TV celebrity and with any rich celebrity is the human villain because of his selfishness and it becomes obvious where this arc will finally lead. As the other comedic role here that mostly delivers, there is one or two moments that the humor he delivers goes a little over the top (but humor is subjective so it may change to the viewer and how you accept Josh Gad’s humor in the first place). Dave is also quite comedic however, his story is more on the touching side. There are some slower moments that might feel a little misplaced and achieve the one goal to pull Dave and Miss Caroline. While unnecessary, it does help to give the character some depth.

Overall, Little Monsters is a great horror comedy. Its funny with some tense moments. There are some flaws but its easy to overlook them because of the overall film’s charm. Lupita Nyong’o’s character gives it a lot of life as she shines being both fierce and caring to spin a tale for her class. The script is well-written and pulls all the elements together with clever writing using music as a fantastic medium of diversion. The three adult characters also creates a balance for where they stand on the zombie outbreak spectrum. As the audience, the movie as a whole allows us to see things that the main characters don’t see especially the outside dangers from worried parents to how the army plans on attacking the situation, making it feel more urgent than the characters feel for the unknown impending danger. Its hard to call a zombie film, even one structured as a horror comedy, touching but somehow, Little Monsters subconsciously does all that.

TV Binge: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3, 2019)

You can find the previous season TV Binges post below:

Season 1
Season 2

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3, 2019)

a series of unfortunate events

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Lucy Punch, Dylan Kingwell, Allison Williams, Kitana Turnbull, Max Greenfield

After the loss of their parents in a mysterious fire, the three Baudelaire children face trials and tribulations attempting to uncover dark family secrets. – IMDB

The third and final season of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events has now progressed to be the most dark of the three seasons. Rightfully so because the books also get quite dark in the last 4 stories. Its adapted well to the novels in a similar timeline. As with the previous few seasons, small changes have been made in each story but essentially to work up to an ending which feels much more exact than the one presented in the novels. Whether that is a good or bad thing is truly up for debate at this point based on your preference.  It keeps up with the vocabulary focus and the educational element and the clever puns used as well as keeping our narrator by Patrick Warburton ever so interesting and quirky to watch.

A series of unfortunate events s3

The final season takes us for some dangerous rides through some odd locations as the Baudelaires now approach the whereabouts of VFD and what it is about. While previous seasons have been quite dangerous already, this one definitely takes a turn as all the characters: the Baudelaires and Count Olaf and his crew all have a decent amount of development. Its been a long time waiting to see how his minions play in the story because they have only been supporting characters at this point. As the story winds together, its good to see that the final season takes into account all these characters and gives them some resolution and ending, making sure that they were not disposable and had a key part (whether small or big) to the entire story. What works even better is how it makes sure to now pull in why Lemony Snicket decided to do all this and while we’ve already seen Jacques Snicket, here the mystery unravels further. All this works to round out what has already been presented as over the last 2 seasons, there has been a lot of questions and so few answers. The writing and storytelling has always been the strength of the show and it maintains it here.

a series of unfortunate events s3

Moving on to the characters, The Baudelaires have all grown comfortably into their roles, whether it is Malina Weissman or Louis Hynes as they are the older kids who pass their characters’ birthday during this and the last season giving us a perspective of time for the series especially for the maturity and development of their characters, Violet and Klaus respectively. This story giving them somewhat of a love angle as well, inevitable with the amount of people that they do end up meeting along this series of unfortunate events. However, nothing quite beats having a much more understandable Sunny who is still a toddler but now we can get a good idea that she has some great linguistic skills as if you read the subtitles and whatnot, its another languages version in some cases (or maybe I’m hearing things). With that said, Count Olaf has had the darker development as each season progressed and in this season, he is the smartest that we have seen him and we start seeing his own motives which are more than just for the money. On top of that, as we would expect, some new characters appear and they include Kit Snicket (Allison Williams), the Denouement Brothers (Max Greenfield) as well a lot of familiar faces reappearing as well.

The third and final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events does a great job at wrapping up the series. It makes some choices especially in the ending that might not sit well with some people however, I thought it was pretty clever to add their own twist. Plus, its nice to see that they thought about all the characters that came into the Baudelaires lives that mattered and did a little mention for them.

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon Finale: The Hangover (2009) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

Time sure flies by! Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is at its final finale post with my awesome co-host Drew sharing his review of 2009 comedy, The Hangover. He takes an in-depth look at the comedies that influenced 2000s and the subgenres that thrived throughout before sharing his thoughts on one that no doubt is a favorite among many people and suitably, one to wrap up this blogathon as it was released in the final year of this decade.


The HangoverMany comedies of the 2000s are based around characters that are crude, clueless, and, put frankly, idiotic. These movies are an evolution of the slap stick films from earlier decades. There are stylistic hints from films like The Naked Gun, The Cannonball Run, Dumb and Dumber, and Happy Gilmore. We began seeing glimpses of this new brand of humor in movies like American Pie and Zoolander. By 2004, this new brand of humor had become the norm. Movies like Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Napoleon Dynamite embodied 2000s comedy and characters. These characters were vulgar and naive. The films themselves reveled in their gags and ‘did he really just say/do that’ moments, relying on making the audience laugh from becoming flabbergasted or uncomfortable, rather than genuinely finding the moment or joke funny.

This is especially true in the spoof movies. Movies like Scary Movie, Superhero Movie and Insert-Whatever-Genre-Here Movie looked to cash in on pop culture and parody whatever genre was in the title. Spoofs are nothing new in Hollywood.  Mel Brooks practically made his name making spoofs like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Spaceballs. And then there is everyone’s favorite spoof: Airplane!. While these movies shared many similarities with with the parody films of the 2000s, their scripts were solid and, you know, actually funny, an element severely lacking from most of the spoofs during this time period.

By the end of the 2000s, comedy filmmakers were learning that this latest iteration of comedy films needed to be refined; that ignorant or appalling actions do not automatically equal funny. And while actors can be funny on their own, or sometimes ad-lib better and funnier lines, the movie can’t solely rely on them and the script needs to support the actors.  While not every comedy fit this decade-defining mold, such as EuroTrip or The 40-Year-Old Virgin, these feel like exceptions, not the norm. Although this type of comedy, what I’ve come to call ‘stupid funny,’ still continued into the 2010s, it wasn’t to the extent that existed in the previous decade.

Moving into the tail-end of the 2000s, comedies began changing how they approached their characters. They were still profane and sometimes oblivious but that wasn’t the focus the film anymore. Crude jokes weren’t often being made for the sake of being crude. Instead, the films were becoming smart, insightful, and sometimes even filled with heart. Movies like Baby Mama, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I love You, Man, and Tropic Thunder used their comedy to amplify their story, not be the crux of it. They shared many characteristics with the earlier comedies of the 2000s but writers and directors had learned how to use these characteristics more effectively.

To make a long story short, that is why I have chosen The Hangover as my second and final entry for the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon. I could have chosen a film set squarely in the middle of the era of comedies that defined the 2000s. However, these early- and mid-years feel more like stepping stones to get to the comedies in the latter part of the decade that told better stories and were still funny without solely relying on its stars. I believe that The Hangover is one of the best examples of this. So without any further ado, here is my review of The Hangover.

Synopsis
Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married. For his bachelor party, his friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), take him to Las Vegas. Phil, Stu, and Alan wake up the morning after arriving in Vegas with no memory of what happened the night before. They attempt to retrace their steps to figure out what happened and to find Doug, who has gone missing.

Review
When a movie comes along that has a phenomenal cast with perfect chemistry, who are backed by a memorable and quotable script, I get excited. It makes it even better when that criteria applies to a comedy because, in my honest opinion, comedy films are one of the hardest genres to make everything click. The Hangover checks all the correct comedy film boxes and more.

The first thing this movie nails is the casting. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis all have very different brands of humor. Their deliveries are different, their body language is different, their mannerisms are different. Nothing about them is the same. And yet, they all mesh together so well. Their different styles complement each other wonderfully. Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis are in almost every scene together and every scene is filled to the brim with laughs. Coincidence? I think not.

Everyone in the supporting cast is top notch as well.  Justin Bartha rounds out the group of friends at the center of the film. While not much is seen of him, he does add an extra dynamic to the group when he is there. Smaller roles from Heather Graham, Rob Riggle, Bryan Callen, Jeffrey Tambor, and Mike Tyson all bring the laughs. However, the best member from the supporting cast is Ken Jeong. He had me in stitches every time he was on screen. He deserves as much praise as the headlining three.

Even though Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis are funny on their own (and together), the script amplifies their comedic strengths. The script, written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, feels fresh and clever compared to other comedies of the time. It leaves the audience just as in the dark about the previous night’s events as the characters, so as they piece together what happens, the audience is right there with them. It’s crass, it’s vulgar, and at times it’s irreverent, but It doesn’t rely on toilet humor or leaving the viewers dumbfounded to be funny. It uses jokes or visual gags that are funny because they are truly well written or well delivered. As a result, The Hangover is insanely quotable and has very few diminishing returns on its jokes.

This movie reminded me a road trip movie. In road trip movies, the main characters are going from point A to point B, and along the way, they meet people who usually only show up for a scene or two. This format fits this film as well; Phil, Stu, and Alan are going to these different places to try and piece together what happened the night before. It’s fun because it allows the focus to remain on the three main characters while allowing the supporting cast to have their own funny and unique moments.

I thought The Hangover was GREAT 😀 The entire cast had me laughing throughout the film. Every scene was filled with jokes and gags that always landed and are just as humorous after many, many views later. I can think of no better film than to call the best comedy of the decade.

Favorite Quote
Doug: I don’t think you should be doing too much gambling tonight, Alan.
Alan: Gambling? Who said anything about gambling? It’s not gambling when you know you’re gonna
win. Counting cards is a foolproof system.
Stu: It’s also illegal.
Alan: It’s not illegal, it’s frowned upon, like masturbating on an airplane.
Phil: I’m pretty sure that’s illegal too.
Alan: Yeah, maybe after 9/11 where everybody got so sensitive.  Thanks a lot, Bin Laden.

Trivia
No effects or prosthetics were created for Stu’s missing tooth. Ed Helms never had an adult incisor grow, and his fake incisor was taken out for the parts of filming where Stu’s tooth is missing.  (via IMDb)

Trailer  

Cast & Crew  
Tod Phillips – Director
Jon Lucas – Writer
Scott Moore – Writer
Christophe Beck – Composer

Bradley Cooper – Phil
Ed Helms – Stu
Zach Galifianakis – Alan
Justin Bartha – Doug
Heather Graham – Jade
Sasha Barrese – Tracy
Jeffrey Tambor – Sid
Ken Jeong – Mr. Chow
Rachael Harris – Melissia
Mike Tyson – Himself
Jernard Burks – Leonard
Mike Epps – Black Dog
Rob Riggle – Officer Franklin
Cleo King – Officer Garden
Bryan Callen – Eddie


Remember to check back at Drew’s Movie Reviews as we conclude the entire blogathon tomorrow.

You can read all the entries that took part in this blogathon HERE.

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: Juno (2007) by From the Depths of DVD Hell

The guest to join this Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is Elwood Jones, my co-host of Movies and Tea and Game Warp Podcast as he represents his own movie blog, From the Depths of DVD Hell. For reviews of movies that stray away from the mainstream and dive into the obscure, cult and foreign selections, this is the place to go! For this blogathon, he chooses to take a look at 2007’s indie coming of age teen comedy Juno.


juno

Title: Juno

Director: Jason Reitman

Released: 2007

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons

Plot: After finding out she is pregnant, high school teen Juno (Page) she soon finds herself face with some tough choices of what to do about her unborn child.

Review: Having been brought to the attention of producer Mason Novick after he discovered her blog about stripping Diablo Cody was almost instantly a hot property first for her memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper and unquestionably when she claimed the Best Screenplay Oscar for her debut script. Of course like anything which is a hot property on it’s release there is always the question as to if they still hold up down the line which in particular was what inspired my own re-watch of this film having watched it when it on its original release but hardly thought about it since while Cody despite being marked as an exciting new voice has struggled to create anything which comes close to her debut script.

Juno is the blueprint of the smart-mouthed hipster teen which Director Jason Reitman wastes little time in establishing as she trades barbs with Rainn Wilson’s sarcastic convenience store clerk, after walking through her town swigging Sunny Delight to Barry Louis Polisar’s “All I Want is You”. Even her pregnancy announcement to best friend / Crush Paulie (Cera) has her dragging a furniture set to his lawn only to drop it on him with such casualness that she might as well be making diner plans. At the same time she is unquestionably the sort of character who only exists in the fictional realm with his smart mouth and retro obsessions and certainly with the numerous smart mouth teens which followed in the films wake, as well as a string of teen pregnancies labelled “The Juno Effect” by Time magazine after 17 students at a Gloucester, Massachusetts high school became pregnant which many accused this film and Knocked Up released in the same year of glamorizing teenage pregnancy though how the later could be accused of such a thing is unclear, more so because none of the cast are close to high school age. What makes Juno stand out though is unquestionably Ellen Page who’d prior to this film already caused waves for her pedophile punishing antics in Hard Candy and here really made the character her own as she influenced many of the key details for the character such as her hair as well as the soundtrack being heavy on Kimya Dawson as she felt that this is what Juno would choose to listen to.

Soundtrack wise there’s a mixture of hipster folk from the aforementioned Kimya Dawson and her old band the Mouldy Peaches and a couple of Belle and Sebastian tracks mixed in with a some retro tracks from Mott the Hoople and a Sonic Youth cover of the Carpenters “Superstar” which became one of the selling points of the soundtrack. Largely its just background music which never seems to gel with the film as more often battles for your attention with what’s happening on the screen rather than complementing it. Removed from the film its a fun background music for hangouts, hinging largely on how much you like the abstract tones of Kimya Dawson.

One of the most refreshing aspects to the film though is is how it approaches the subject of teenage pregnancy as Juno is clear from the start that she has no plans to keep the baby with a sobering visit to a Women first clinic broaching a taboo subject which most films wouldn’t touch. Sure the film might not be venturing as deep as Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire” but it’s acknowledgement of abortion gives the film much more of a grounding that you would have expected from a film so focused on whitty pop culture influence dialogue. This visit in terms of plotting does serve a purpose as ultimately leading her to Mark and Vanessa to arrange a closed adoption which also forms the real meat of the film as starts to learn more about this couple she is going to be giving her child to.

Seeing this couple develop like our opinions of them over the course of the film is one of the strongest aspects of the film with Vanessa initially coming off the cold only to showing deeper levels of warmth to her character especially with her desire to become a mother. Mark on the other hand still clings onto few traces of rock star ambition that Vanessa allows him to keep in “his room” of their pristine house while he now pays the bills writing jingles for commercials which needless to say plays his character perfectly off Vanessa’s who is seen as the dream crusher initially with Juno and Mark soon bonding over a love of music and horror movies. By the time that Juno is due to deliver this relationship soon takes a darker turn reminding us once more just how well Bateman does suburban creepy while Cody pulls a switch-a-roo with our feelings for these characters the final pay off being delivered not in some stirring monologue but instead a simple note.

Perhaps it could be argued that the film does let Juno off attachment free when it comes to her baby as she is merely just the carrier and host to this child and any comment she really makes about the child is in how its effecting her physically than any kind of connection. As a result she give away her child and settles back into her life nine months prior to this incident now only with the knowledge that she has unconventionally helped someone out.

Juno in many ways marked the high watermark for the American Indie genre before the collapse of several of the major studios which soon saw the remaining studios move away from investing in such risky material which is something of a shame when we consider the wealth of material which came out of this period such as Little Miss Sunshine and The Squid and The Whale. At the same time while this film might not feel as hip on the rewatch as it did back on it’s original release a strong likeable performance from Ellen Page carries the film which at the least should be appreciated for it’s fierce originality as it sidesteps genre cliches to deliver it’s story in a voice which is very much its own.


A huge thanks to our final guest Elwood Jones for joining with this blogathon with a great review of Juno.

We head into me and Drew’s conclusion posts after this one. If you missed any entries, you can find the entire list HERE.

Double Feature: The Vow (2012) & Who Gets The Dog (2016)

Moving on to wrap up the Valentine’s Marathon (but not officially listed there) is the next double feature for V & W selection. The first is The Vow, a movie that I’ve had on the Netflix list for a really long time and Who Gets the Dog that I have no idea what its about but then I liked Ryan Kwanten from True Blood.

Let’s check it out!

The Vow (2012)

The Vow

Director: Michael Sucsy

Cast: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill, Jessica McNamee, Wendy Crewson, Tatiana Maslany, Scott Speedman

A car accident puts Paige in a coma, and when she wakes up with severe memory loss, her husband Leo works to win her heart again. – IMDB

The Vow probably seems like a movie that is exactly up my alley seeing as I do enjoy Nicholas Spark films and such. However, something about  The Vow didn’t really work and that has to be with a few factors. The first is that the establishment of Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) was a bit rushed in the beginning  and never had the development that made their relationship really worth anything to feel connected to. The second factor is that a lot of the characters were very unpleasant to watch and very cliche characters. Paige’s parents, played by Jessica Lange and Sam Neill were about as predictable as it can get as the parents that had their own plans for their daughter and took advantage of the fact of Paige’s amnesia. At the same time, the biggest issue was that Rachel McAdams’ character was really annoying to watch which is probably the biggest issues if you can’t even cheer for the couple in question.

However, there is one redeeming factor and actually in that time frame of movies, an unexpected factor that worked and that is the fact that Channing Tatum had something of a cookie cutter roles and surprisingly, this one stepped out of it, which is a pleasant surprise. At the same time, Leo’s character was written the best and the character that I remotely cared about and wanted him to succeed and felt bad for him whenever things didn’t go his way.

Overall, The Vow was pretty meh. I didn’t really enjoy it a lot and don’t plan on watching it again. I’m usually pretty lenient on these films but this one felt pretty boring, and things don’t get more formulaic than when I even predicted the exact dialogue a few times.

Who Gets the Dog (2016)

who gets the dog

Director: Huck Botko

Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Alicia Silverstone, Randall Batinkoff, Matt Ryan, Devin Bethea, Rachel Cerda, Amy J. Carle

A couple going through a divorce squabble over custody of their beloved dog. – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I didn’t have any high hopes for this one. I wanted to watch it for one person, which usually never ends up being a good reason. Who Gets the Dog is fairly predictable in general. Alicia Silverstone and Ryan Kwanten lead this film and its about them fighting over custody over their dogs. Things get pretty over the top and ridiculous. However, its pretty expected how its all going to end because it never feels like these two are separated because they dislike each other. Movies with dogs involved in relationship always tend to have this likeable advantage. There isn’t a lot to criticize here or compliment either. It didn’t feel like a lot happened and then hours after the film, it already feels like its fading. To be fair, the movie has some fun factors even if it takes a bit far sometimes. There are things that don’t exactly work but then its still fairly harmless.

I’m going to just keep this short. Its nothing impressive and yet nothing feels like they did anything particularly bad. Its an average movie: predictable and cliche. The dog played a decent part here. It’s not something that I’d preferably go back to watch but then I don’t feel horrible about seeing it either. Its just forgettable. What else can I say? The movies that are forgettable and indifferent towards are the hardest to write about.

That’s it for this double feature!
Its a very meh romance pairing.
Have you seen either of these films? Thoughts?

Valentine’s Double Feature: This Is Not What I Expected (2017) & Us and Them (2018)

Third before last double feature in this Valentine’s romance double feature theme. I’m starting to think about when to do another themed alphabet month because it was just so much fun. Not sure what to do or what theme would be interesting enough. Maybe an international film theme, which would open up more genres. Any suggestions.

Moving onto the T & U selections. Talk about international films: I ended up choosing a Zhou Dongyu double feature and a Chinese film double feature and coincidentally, because its such a rarity in my movie watching life: a double 5 star rated films as well. All around an awesome time which had one feature that gave me a ton of laughs and fun and the second that gave me all kinds of emotions and some tears. If nothing else, these two films show that China is an upcoming force to put on our radars, especially with Netflix acquiring some as Originals.

Let’s check these out!

This Is Not What I Expected (2017)

this is not what i expected

Director: Derek Hui

Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Dongyu Zhou, Yi-zhou Sun, Ming Xi, Kuo-Chu Chang, Tony Yo-ning Yang, Chiling Lin

An obsessive CEO of a company meets a ragged chef by chance. They are drawn closer together because of their love for delicacies, yet their personalities clash big time. – IMDB

Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen. Honestly, the Hong Kong (can’t say for China because I haven’t seen enough films to comment on it) landscape doesn’t really have any ground-breaking films in this regard. No one sits down to enjoy a great romantic comedy because its just generic. This Is Not What I Expected might not be anything ground-breaking in its formula because the course of events are quite predictable and generic, what it does do is for the first time (to my knowledge) dive into a screwball comedy style. Its quirky and hilarious. There are contrived events and things that get way out of proportion where its impossible to imagine any of it actually be accepted normally, but then there is a point in film that we find a line between reality and challenging its limits and something about the charm of This Is Not What I Expected hits it perfectly. Its been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a film and felt so fulfilled and happy about it all the way through. Not to mention, the movie also is right up my alley as it has a lot of artistic shots of food and cooking.

The main reason is its main leads. For one, Takeshi Kaneshiro is a fantastic actor and he has been in many films. However, it may be the first time he’s done a role that feels so serious but at the same time, so hilarious because of his expressions. It definitely isn’t a frequent type of role for him and this feels so refreshing to watch. At the same time, she is opposite the younger Dongyu Zhou who is a rather popular Chinese actress and truly excels in this type of role. She has this out of control nature and yet there is something so genuine about even the most absurd things that she does and yet it makes her quite adorable as well.

Us and Them (2018)

Us and Them

Director: Rene Liu

Cast: Boran Jing, Dongyu Zhou, Zhuangzhuang Tian

During the hectic chunyun (aka Chinese New Year) period, 2 strangers travelling home meet on the train. – IMDB

Us and Them is a Netflix Original and it tells a wonderful love story. Its quite reminiscent both in color palette and plot of a story like Blue Jay and One Day (the book, not sure how the movie is structured), except this story has much more context as we see a colorful past of Xiao Xiao (Dongyu Zhou) and Jian Qing (Boran Jing) from how they met to how they got together and the conflict that drove them apart. Ten years later, as they meet again and each in their different phase in life, how they have changed and how they face each other. Perhaps the story itself isn’t very unique but its honestly in the details as we see why their present is in black and white and their past in color. Especially with the background music as well as the artistic shots and structure of some of the scenes. Its hard to imagine that this is a directorial debut of Rene Liu who is an accomplished singer and actress but the first time taking the helm of the director.

However, true credit goes to how the characters are developed in each phase of their life. There is a deep knowledge of them as they change and grow over the years. It is a genuine relationship and progression that makes them so real. At the same time, the story isn’t just about their romance but also pulls in masterfully a second plot line related to family. The movie extends itself the entire way through the end credits as they pull in some real people who write messages to their past loves and then an ending scene which talks a lot about the message behind this movie being in telling those you love them (whether lover or family) before you lose the chance to and letting the regrets hang in the air. Just like the tagline of this movie which translates to: “After, we had everything except each other.” Its both a heartwarming film for a part of it and yet such a heartbreaking film that ends up being bittersweet as well. Just like Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing reflect on themselves and their relationship, the movie will end and made me reflect on a few things as well. Us and Them is a beautiful movie both in cinematography, soundtrack, character building and story. Its full of style and so very unique because its been pieced together so well.

This double feature is the absolute highlight of not only this marathon but probably the past while of films I’ve seen.
Have you seen This Is Not What I Expected or Us and Them? Thoughts?