TV Binge: Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

ashes of love

Director: Yui Bun Chu

Cast: Andy Yang, Allen Deng, Leo Luo, Adonis Liao, Zhi Yuan Xia, Faye Wang, Ting Wei Zhou, Yukee Chen, Kathy Chow, Bella Du, Yang Peng, Run Jun Wang, Zhong Hua He

In ancient times, the Flower Goddess dies after giving birth to a daughter. Before she passed, she fed her daughter the Unfeeling Pill, ordered her subordinates to keep the girl’s birth story a secret and to imprison her within Shui Jing for 10,000 years. The girl’s name is Jin Mi. 4,000 years later, the Heavenly Emperor’s second son, Xu Feng, was entrapped by someone and mistakenly entered Shui Jing. He was saved by the ignorant Jin Mi. After living together for 100 years, Xu Feng gradually developed feelings for Jin Mi. Someone close to them wants to use those feelings for their own benefit. – MyDramaList

Where to watch with English subtitles (as at March 25, 2020): Netflix Canada & Youtube

QUOTE/SCENE

Jing Mi: That one’s so ugly. Why did you bring it here also?
Phoenix: I feel that one is the most beautiful of all the Phoenix lanterns, because it contains our memory.
Jing Mi: This is the memory of Saint Girl and King Yi. [pause] What a beautiful view!  It’ll be great if we can drink some self-made osmanthus wine. In fact, before I descended to the mortal world, I buried some osmanthus wine I made here.
Phoenix: I dug it out several days ago. Let’s try  your wine today. [next scene] The wine you made is indeed savory and mellow.
Jing Mi: I must have some skills amongst the six realms. Why are you staring at me like that?
Phoenix: Its great that I don’t have to look at you through the veil.
Jing Mi: Isn’t it beautiful?

STORY

ashes of love phoenix jingmi

Ashes of Love is essentially a love story and its where it thrives at its best. Much like the structure of 2017’s Eternal Love (review) and background, this one is set a little different  in the actual fairy world where this one has six realms however, the Sky realm is still the highest one (as it usually is) and the story resides in these different deity/fairy ranging from flowers to nocturnal creatures to celestial creatures and all kinds of animals and even inanimate objects. In terms of creativity, the story is full of them and that is one of the many highlights of this one and can bring so much fun to this as it makes for some leaps of beliefs but in a fantasy world like this one, its more about learning about it first. And that is a lot of the charm especially as it starts off fairly light-hearted and fun.

The realms here are really where the many past dilemmas have ignited from the past generation between the Floral Goddess, Heavenly Emperor, Water Immortal and all the other people linked to them. Its created essentially what happens to Jing Mi to have been given the Unfeeling Pill when she was born to prevent her from meeting her curse of love with the first 10,000 years of her life, which ends up being the catalyst of all the events that end up happening as misunderstandings happen as the truth unfolds. But that said, each of these realms of the three focused on among the six is different in its own way and has its own traits reflective of the place but yet still has their own good and evil characters.

ashes of love war

At the end of all this, between war and feuds and misunderstandings and realm battles for power, it all dials down to the romance and the love triangle between Jing Mi, Phoenix and Runyu instigated by jealousy and unfairness on one end and then creating revenge and hatred, making things worsen. Its all a story of the basic philosophy and belief in Chinese that what is meant to happen will happen regardless of how you plan on changing its course, that act alone is also destined to happen. Also goes along with you reap what you sow at the end of the day especially as what is given off from one generation can affect its next. Its all very common plot points and themes in ancient Chinese fantasy TV series as Eternal Love has about the same kind of plot point (as an example since its the other one in the same genre). What does work here is that once you get past those similar plot points and embrace what they do different in building this new world and its characters, Ashes of Love has a stronger bond with its love story and leads (for myself) whereas in comparison, Eternal Love is entertaining well-rounded but perhaps didn’t quite connect as much in terms of the main leads and their love story. I don’t mean to compare but I did watch them almost back to back.

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Before we jump to pacing, I need to mention that the costume designs here are really nice. There’s a lot of thought of each one from the Birds Realm to the colorful Flower Realm to the dark Demon realms outfits as as well as the gold and white and more royalty colors in the Heavenly Realm. Its one of the elements that make me love watching Chinese Fantasy TV series. The costumes and the hair ornaments and hair styles are just so beautiful! While I’m talking about this, I do have to mention that when they do close-ups of the props, fake flowers and such, it is pretty apparent, maybe one of the lesser elements of this series. But then, I guarantee you that there is one “sex” scene in this (its public TV so nothing explicit) and its filmed so poetically and beautiful that I was really impressed by the whole thing especially when you remember the true forms of the leads on hand.

LENGTH/PACING

ashes of love jingmi

Episodes: 63
Episode length: 40-45 mins approx.

Its incredible how long Chinese TV series are sometimes especially these big production Chinese fantasy ones. Ashes of Love is surprisingly long at 63 episodes and yet, the script is done so well that the story progresses in phases that gives time for each stage of these characters to grow and develop individually and together in their different relationships, friendships, family, brothers, etc. It doesn’t take a break from this other than maybe the secondary couple from the demon realm which ends up being a rather touching story as well by the end.

Looking at the phase, the first part (as I mentioned) before is about the meeting between Phoenix and Jing Mi and her introduction from the Flower Realm to the Heaven Realm and gradually the reveal of her true identity as well as her growing relationship in their few hundred years as the helper and disciple of Phoenix. As her true identity gets revealed, it jumps into the next phase of the story where it shares about the past and the characters involved and what actually happened, throwing the hatred of the Heavenly Empress and her desire to split up Jing Mi and Phoenix while Phoenix’s brother, Runyu gets pulled into the mix and he learns about his mother and it builds on his revenge and his plot slowly conspire. Things gets more messy here as this also get intermitted with Jing Mi’s mission to become an immortal by going to the Mortal Realm to experience the suffering of mortal life to gain knowledge where she ends up connecting with her feelings more as a turn of events takes Phoenix to have a rather intense romance. Finally, the third phase appears after all the plots of phase 2 unravels and Jing Mi unexpectedly breaks the Unfeeling Pill’s effects and realizes her real feelings and makes up for her mistakes to Phoenix. That turns into the most painful, emotional and heartbreaking moments of search and hopelessness and this last part is just such a ode of how the beginning builds up its characters and relationships so well that this part ends up working a lot. (I mean, I bawled my eyes out a ton in the last 8-10 episodes or something)

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Leads: Jing Mi & Phoenix

ashes of love phoenix jingmi 1

Ashes of Love takes a lot of time and attention on building these two characters. Its great because the focus never quite leaves them even when they are apart and doing their own thing. There’s a lot of factors that work here. The first is that its not dubbed voices and the actual actors are voicing these characters because both Andy Yang and Allen Deng are really talented actors and in their respective roles as Jing Mi and Xu Feng (aka Phoenix, as I keep referring to him), they are incredibly convincing and hard to not ship them, to be honest. These two characters are strong individually as they both have their own family, relationship and realm issues to deal with and consider in all their choices and their own secrets to uncover. Its what makes their love story so heartbreaking and bittersweet altogether because each of their own issues and it all comes down to Jing Mi and the Unfeeling Pill that stops her from realizing her own feelings until its too late which makes their relationship take a very heartbreaking turn of events. The chemistry between these two characters are fantastic especially in some scenes of how the director uses close-ups to the dialogue around them where they both are able to act with their eyes and interpret some genuine feelings without saying anything.

Brothers & Family Feud: Phoenix & Run Yu

ashes brothers

All royalty has their own conflicts and Phoenix’s family is the Heaven realm’s family which creates all kinds of crazy as the Heaven Emperor reveals to be a rather unloyal man where his past creates the Empress’s hate and jealousy making a lot of issues become unfair to the older son, Runyu the Night Immortal. What starts off as a rather good brother relationship despite the parent issues ends up turning sour as Runyu’s character ends up having a subtle villain type of change full of plot and schemes, creating this character that flips from the nice guy at the beginning.

Love Interests, Villains & Other Characters of Interest

Love Interests for Jing Mi is mostly Runyu as well as some other characters that don’t really have too much to mention however the main villains of the series is one, the Heaven Empress, aka Phoenix’s mother (as mentioned before because of jealousy) and the second is Phoenix’s “cousin”/crush who likes him a lot and believes she is the one destined for him and does increasingly evil acts. The two villains in the end are the main cause of Phoenix’s “demise”. Everything comes in full circle in Chinese philosophy and nothing proves it quite like how TV series stories work. You can’t say these two villains don’t do a great job. Empress is portrayed by 90s Hong Kong TV actress Kathy Chow who does a fantastic job that its hard to not dislike the character much like Faye Wang as the love interest who plays on the more annoying side of things.

Of course, the more fun additions do go to the Green Snake and the other colorful character of the Flower Realm just like the Moon Immortal (Phoenix’s uncle) who are comedic but in desperate times, knowledgeable and contribute to the dilemma in their own ways. There’s a lot of characters in Ashes of Love so its hard to talk about all of it.

OVERALL

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Ashes of Love is a really great series. Its one that takes its sweet time to move through its different story levels to gradually connect with each of these characters as they develop and learn about the different secrete in their life, especially with the main female character, Jing Mi. The magical elements and this new world and the possibilities gives it the space to believe in all the twists and turns and thats because its already given it such a creativity to begin with which also sparks some deeper thoughts on how certain plot points would work but never quite doubt its possibility, leaving space for the audience to draw their own conclusions. The different worlds have beautiful CG effects that make them unique as well as their own kingdom and rules as well as different worlds and their feuds with each other.

Aside from all that is crafting these characters that work so well on their own in complexity. Having 63 episodes to do it definitely feels like it would be a drag but it isn’t most of the time because these characters need it and its because of that, it makes especially Jing Mi and Phoenix’s story so much more emotional to watch whether its happy moments to the extremely heartbreaking moments. Fantastic series that makes me want to watch and rewatch and notice those little story plot details more.

MAIN THEME

Double Feature: The Night Comes For Us (2018) & Come and Find Me (2016)

Next double feature is here! This time is a bit of a fast pace film duo with Netflix distributed Indonesian action crime film The Night Comes For Us and drama thriller Come and Find Me. The first I originally watched as a contender for opening the Ultimate 2010s blogathon and the second was just a random pick and I hadn’t watched an Aaron Paul movie in a while. Let’s check it out!

The Night Comes For Us (2018)

The Night Comes For Us

Director (and writer): Timo Tjahjanto

Cast: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Zack Lee, Salvita Decorte, Sunny Pang, Hannah Al Rashid, Dian Sastrowardoyo, Abimana Aryasatya

Ito (Joe Taslim), a gangland enforcer, caught amidst a treacherous and violent insurrection within his Triad crime family upon his return home from a stint abroad. – IMDB

Indonesian cinema has been gradually finding its spot in the last decade or so especially when The Raid: Redemption arrived in 2013. With the two main leads from that film being the leads in The Night Comes For Us, the least we do know is that there will be some fantastic action. There’s a lot to love about The Night Comes For Us even if its very much a lot of the same bloody, fast-paced and action-packed sort of deal that Indonesian action films have been showing (at least in my very little experience from the 3 films I’ve seen..so I could be wrong, and if I am, please let me know other Indonesian movies to check out).

Running the movie and being caught up in this action thriller is Ito played Joe Taslim who is amazing because he is this good-looking rugged action star who truly has some fantastic moves, not surprising since he was on the Indonesia Judo national team for a while. Between him and Iko Iwais as well as the femme fatale characters and Ito’s buddies, the action has a lot of variety and keeps it pretty fresh throughout with different weapons and stylishly violent.

A lot of people want to bring in the Chinese into their action crime thrillers these days. Being Chinese myself, I naturally tend to judge the believability of the people speaking this language and for myself, the actors speaking Chinese definitely could be better. However, the story itself was in some ways rather straight forward and it was somewhat of big plan or just reasoning as to why Ito wanted to make that first decision to save the girl and slowly gives an idea of his spot with the Six Seas and then into the relationship with his friends.

Come and Find Me (2016)

come and find me

Director (and writer): Zack Whedon

Cast: Aaron Paul, Annabelle Wallis, Garret Dillahunt, Enver Gjokaj, Terry Chen, Zachary Knighton, Chris Chalk

When his girlfriend goes missing, David must track down her whereabouts after he realizes she’s not who she was pretending to be. – IMDB

Its not surprising that Come and Find Me was an unknown title to myself. It did only have a limited release and VOD. Its quite a pity because while Come and Find Me follows the motions of a general thriller of this type in a relatively predictable way, its actually executed pretty well. I might also be a little skewed because this type of setup where past and present intertwine when done well is a pretty neat structure. I do admit thay there is a beginning sequence that feels like the setup took a little longer than needed.

Aaron Paul is definitely the central character here as David who finds his girlfriend missing one day and then realizes something isn’t quite right when her friend comes to trash their place in search for something. Its this that starts his search for her in another direction and leads him to find him her different secrets and essentially who is really is. Aaron Paul does deliver a great role here. Plus, I love movies that throw their characters on wild and unexpected rides turning them from clueless innocents into tougher characters.

Come and Find Me was a pleasant surprise. It had some slower moments but overall it was executed fairly good. There was a bit of intrigue and mystery and thrills. Its a decent random pick.

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

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon: Holy Motors (2012) by Flick Hunter

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Next up in the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon is Norman from Flick Hunter. Flick Hunter is a movie review site who shares both reviews and commentary on film festival screenings. He also covers new releases as well as a focus on contemporary foreign films. Head over to check it out HERE. Its no surprise that he brings a very unique 2010s  pick which he says is his number 1 pick for the decade which is 2012’s fantasy drama, Holy Motors.


Holy Motors

Holy Motors (2012)

We first meet Monsieur Oscar as he leaves his home at the crack of dawn dressed in a business suit headed for the office.  His wife and family send him off with good wishes and armed guards occupy the rooftops of his family compound as he walks down the driveway towards a white stretch limo. He is greeted by his female driver and settles into the back of the vehicle for the drive into the city. Monsieur Oscar discusses business deals and the need for an upgrade in weaponry for his guards during the drive. His driver (Edith Scob) then hands him a folder that prompts Monsieur Oscar to undergo a transformation the back of the limo emerging as a beggar woman complete with cane and cup to panhandle for money in a busy downtown square. After a while, Mr. Oscar returns to the limo to prepare for his next appointment as a motion capture actor. These are the opening sequences of Leo Carax’s Holy Motors the director’s first feature in thirteen years since 1999’s Pola X.  Carax himself has a brief part in the film billed as the sleeper. He wakes up up a room with a wall featuring a forest mural. A screwdriver appears extending from one of his fingers that he uses to enter the balcony of a movie theatre above an audience full of sleeping patrons.

Holy Motors

Carax has evidently built up a lot of material in the period between films. The plot of many of the film’s appointments could have stood alone as subjects of their own films. When interviewed Carax indicated that he came up with the concept of the film while wandering around Paris mulling over his problems obtaining financing for other projects. He noticed an abundance of limousines and always came across the same elderly female panhandler those early elements were the seeds of the film.

Carax’s regular muse Denis Lavant is mesmerizing as the central character. He switches from one character to the next in the back of the limo that resembles a theatre dressing room. Throughout the day he reviews the folders passed back by his driver Celine ahead of each appointment, completes his own elaborate makeup in a large movable dressing room mirror and his wardrobe options cover the  back two-thirds of the limo.

Holy Motors

The film serves as a low tech take to Cloud Atlas on a multiple character feature. Lavant plays 11 different roles in the film including one where he plays both ends of a deadly encounter. The film is rich in dialogue the day-long banter between Monsieur Oscar and Celine serves as it’s backbone. Along with being his driver Celine plays confidant, motivator, assistant, shrink, mechanic  and there are hints that their relationship has or may grow intimate throughout the film.

Holy Motors

Music is thoughtfully chosen and adds to each scenario.  It has a particularly telling impact in the scene where Lavant assumes the role of Merde a sewer-dwelling goblin that bursts through a cemetery and into the middle of a Paris fashion shoot harkens back to the silent era of monster films.  Then there is the iconic Rock and Roll accordion sequence to R.L. Burnside’s Let My Baby Ride in an old church billed as the films interlude.

Part-way through the film Oscar returns to the limo to find a mysterious older gentleman sitting in the far end of the vehicle. A discussion ensures about Oscar’s motivation and commitment to his role. Oscar responds commenting on how in the beginning the cameras were large and evident, then smaller and hidden and now he is not sure if there are any cameras at all regardless he continues his tasks for the beauty of the Act.

Holy Motors

Holy Motors is why we go to the movies. It’s captivating, breaks entirely new ground and is a fresh take on movie making it my number 1 film of the 2010’s.

A Five Star Film

Holy Motors | Loes Carax | France 2012| 115 min.


A huge thanks to Norman from Flick Hunter for joining in and sharing this very unique pick for his number 1 film of 2010’s! Remember to check out his site!

As always, you can find the list of blogathon entries updated daily HERE.

Battle of Jangsari (2019)

Battle of Jangsari (2019)

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Director: Kyung-taek Kwak

Cast: Minho Choi, Myung-min Kim, In-kwon Kim, Megan Fox, George Eads, Si-Yang Kwak, Jae-Wook Lee, Ho-Jung Lee, Gye-nam Myeong, Sung-Cheol Kim

A depiction of the Battle of Incheon during the Korean War in 1950. – IMDB

Battle of Jangsari is a South Korean action war drama based on true events. This film is mostly in South Korean but also has American collaboration in the efforts of mostly the American support present during this event and playing the roles is a general played by George Eads and correspondent played by Megan Fox. The movie is set during the few days length of this battle and revolves around inexperienced student soldiers that haven’t even completed their training who end up being shipped out to face this battle. Battle of Jangsari does make the effort of focusing on a few of the characters here with different backgrounds and back stories to be revealed throughout to build their characters. 

Battle of Jangsari

One of the best elements of this film goes to its cinematography. It captures the different elements and hurdles that they have to face with a lot of impact and danger and devastation. The war action is done well as the camera follows the troop through the trenches and across the land trying to capture the vantage point or even as they try to ambush. War dramas are heavily reliant on these elements to make the whole film feel the grave matter at hand especially in a battle that feels like it was a shot in the dark to begin with. All this shows well in how it builds the situation from the little moments of drama as these students realize that the opposition might be soldiers much like them. One of the best moments is when one of the soldiers find a letter from the opposing side written to their mother explaining his situation and final words. 

Battle of Jangsari

When we look at the characters, its a pretty big cast with probably about 5 or 6 soldiers along with some of their captains that have their own back stories to navigate but its never used a lot, making these characters never developed completely and perhaps their situation is easier to feel bad for than their story or any specific character. However, the focus on the student soldiers and how little they know of each other ends up sparking up their own issues whether its prejudices and misunderstandings leading them to not cooperate as well. Its the human element between this fight between North and South Korea that is pushed to the forefront. Over fighting for survival together, the story lets these soldiers also find trust and bonds and friendships. 

Battle of Jangsari

Perhaps one of the lesser elements of this film is with the very vague moments between the General and Maggie where the American side of the story is very weak. Its dialogue doesn’t seem to give the story a lot of support. Its not the fault of Megan Fox or George Eads and feels much more like the script issues. It almost feels unnecessary for most of the conversations they have and their characters also prove to be rather empty with the main purpose of having their a part of the finale. 

Overall, Battle of Jangsari is a good action war drama. Its action and war depictions are filmed very well and incredibly captivating to watch this event unfold. While the actual event exceeds my knowledge and I’m not sure how much of it is accurate, the movie itself does have a good deal of drama that portrays the struggles and misunderstandings and more between the characters. Individual character development is a bit lacking but the situations that they face actually does make up for it as it makes this battle focus on the devastation from the people involved on both sides as well as the urgency of the opposing force with much more reinforcements a constant pressing matter. 

You can find more info on this film as well as where to watch it HERE.

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Kick-Off: The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

Welcome to the official kick-off of this year’s ultimate decades blogathon hosted by myself and Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews, Ultimate 2010s Blogathon! As we wave goodbye to the 2010s, its the best time to talk about the movies that defined it. Whether its a favorite or one that shows off  an element that represented the decade, both movie choices are good. With a lot of movies to choose from between 2010 to 2019, there are endless possibility.

Kicking off the first two days is myself and my fantastic co-host, Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Starting this off on day 1 as I take a look at one of the biggest trends and changes in the movie landscape is the power of the rise of streaming services opening up a variety of movies, giving a platform for distribution and creation of independent and international titles that may otherwise have remained unknown or less accessible.

The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

The Wandering Earth

Director (and co-writer): Frant Gwo

Cast: Jing Wu, Chuxiao Qu, Guangjie Li, Man-Tat Ng, Jin Mai Jaho, Mike Kai Sui, Hongchen Li, Jingjing Qu, Yichi Zhang

As the sun is dying out, people all around the world build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail Earth to a new star system. Yet the 2500-year journey comes with unexpected dangers, and in order to save humanity, a group of young people in this age of a wandering Earth fight hard for the survival of humankind. – IMDB

Loosely adapted from a novella of the same name by Li Cixin, The Wandering Earth is not only China’s third highest grossing film of all time but also the third highest non-English film of all time. Taking a change in landscape from the normal Chinese New Year movie release, The Wandering Earth is set on Chinese New Year but isn’t the normal happy movie but rather a high budget science fiction film.

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Set in a future where the sun has become a threat to Earth, the world has united into the United Earth Government and collectively has initiated The Wandering Earth Project, installing Earth Engines across the surface of the planet to propel Earth out of the Solar System 4.2 light years away to the Alpha Centauri to preserve human civilization. However, as they cross Jupiter, the gravitational pull of the bigger planet takes control of Earth and causes a possible collision while causing other side effects. As teams travel with their Lighter Cores to reignite the failed Earth Engines, the dangers that await them are numerous with the unexpected changes in the environment.

wandering earth

This premise alone of creating a future where Earth is being pushed in movement out of the solar system is unique to say the least and one that has so much room for exploration. The story uses its environment to its full potential as it shows off right from the get-go how the world has changed from its inhabitants living in various underground cities that have everything that you’d have when the world lived above ground to the current frozen above ground and its operations. The visuals of these are done with grandeur, showing off the technological advances in both this film but also in showing off slick cinematography and CGI used in the current Chinese filmmaking landscape which is pretty much  on par with the Hollywood blockbuster films at least delivers the same feeling, especially as the film’s story starts stepping into the dangerous elements.

wandering earth

The story is two-fold. On one hand, it takes place with the father and Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu) who left at the initiation of the Wandering Earth Project 17 years ago and now is on the last day before retiring back to Earth but now is stuck on the space station. On the ground, his son, now a young man Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu), decides to take his grandfather’s driving access card to show his sister, DuoDuo (Jin Miao Jaho) the world above ground, unknowing getting caught up in the mess as they get caught along with their grandfather (Man-Tat Ng) in the midst of the Earth crumbling as the side effects of crossing through Jupiter and as they try to escape, get commissioned to help transport the rescue mission lead by Wang Lei (Guangjie Li).

Wandering Earth

The story here, while isn’t quite as fresh as its premise, managing to add some little comedic moments through some goofy elements and characters and adding in the expected Chinese drama, in this case, mostly within the family drama with the main characters as well as the hardships and loss of hope through the rescue mission and its possibility of failure. However, where the film shines is in its emphasis on keeping on track with the action and giving this movie in its science fiction a certain level of disaster film quality as well that keeps the film propelling forward. The movie runs for over 2 hours and while some of the slower dramatic moments might drag out a little, the film does focus heavily on the concept of being united and keeps itself focused on these everyday realistic characters but never let them be heroes but rather to let them fight for mankind’s survival together. There’s something so precious and touching about this story as it works up to its endgame and reveals a little more about the state of the United Earth Government and adds in the internationalism with the different languages and authorities working together that makes this future feel hopeful and even utopic.

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The Wandering Earth might not be the best film of the decade (although it definitely is pretty close to at least the Top 20 for myself), but it does achieve a lot and defines a lot of the 2010s. While I would have loved to pick a movie that was also created by Netflix (or some other studio), the global distribution rights for Netflix shows off the change in landscape and how international films are more visible especially as they manage to reach platforms globally and become more accessible especially in the Chinese film market which has its many restrictions and is less openly advertised than other Asian films. As the world moves closer together, these channels give a chance to have access to more international films and especially, those that are as significant as The Wandering Earth with all the success its had in its own country. Its definitely worth a watch to see how far and competent Chinese film are especially great with one that is pretty much a sci-fi blockbuster.


You can check out the full archive of Ultimate 2010s blogathon posts as they go up, updated daily HERE.

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews to check out my co-host’s kick-off movie review!

Double Feature: The Marshes (2018) & Short Term 12 (2013)

Time for the next double feature! This time, its somewhat of an odd pairing as we quickly catch up on some movies

The Marshes (2018)

The Marshes

Director (and writer): Roger Scott

Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Matthew Cooper, Eddie Baroo

Deep in a remote marshland, three young biologists conduct research but when they encounter evil, science ends and survival begins. – IMDB

Australian horror films have definitely been more abundant in the last few years. The Marshes is an alright look into the survival horror in a remote area as it creates something of a legend that wanders this land that these three take as a campfire story in the first part as they stay longer in this area to conduct the research. However, there seems to be a lot of fluff in the beginning between the three at the start before any of the horror starts that makes it a little harder to first get into. However, once the horror does start, the setting allows for a good atmosphere to build. 

The wilderness, isolation and the outdoors marshlands is where The Marshes is at its most unique and most effective horror parts. It creates a lot of thrills as the cannibalistic threat hunts down the three biologists. There is a good amount of stealth and hiding and makes for some tension. Visually, the setting also is appealing along with some of the more gruesome death scenes are well executed as well. However, the characters themselves and the flow of events are fairly predictable. It lacks a bit of surprise and the characters and situation always feel slightly underdeveloped that its hard to truly care of the three characters as well. 

The Marshes is an okay horror thriller. It has its gruesome scenes and creates a human/monstrous threat which has its creepy elements. However, a lot of it feels like it falls flat whether because it follows some expected motions in horror films or simply that it takes a little long to introduce its threat and start the hiding. If anything, The Marshes does prove that marshlands are a great horror setting perhaps with a slightly better script. 

Short Term 12 (2013)

Short Term 12
Director (and writer): Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Alex Calloway, Kevin Balmore, LaKeith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever

A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. – IMDB

Short Term 12 is a little indie hidden gem that shines out because of its cast of characters. While its central focal point is between two of the supervising staff members Grace and Mason, played by Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr respectively, as they embrace the next step in their life, the past troubles for Grace and her inability to talk about them ends up creating a wall in their relationship especially as her troubled past reveals itself slowly as she deals with a new teenager that lives at the facility, Jayden played by Kaitlyn Dever. 

There’s so much to love as Short Term 12 remembers to keep its story focused on its characters. While it can’t give stories for all its youths, it focuses on a few. As for the supervisors, it also gives a few characters that make for a fresh pair of eyes especially as Rami Malek is the new supervisor that enters this residential treatment facility and learns how to maneuver and find his purpose here. On the other hand, the more interesting story is the next youth that is getting ready to be released from the facility and transition back to the real world Marcus, played incredibly well by LaKeith Stanfield. Marcus might be somewhat of a supporting story here for the youths facing transition while on the other hand, another youth looks at his dependence on his objects that is taken away suddenly. 

Each of the stories for its youth as well as the connections to the supervisors shows both sides of the characters in this facility called Short Term 12. Adapted from a short film of the same name, this indie film definitely tells a great story with a good deal of character depth and development. Plus, a handful of the cast has gone a long way since their roles here: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., LaKeith Stanfield, Rami Malek. Short Term is a fantastic movie and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet. 

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

Double Feature: La La Land (2016) & In My Dreams (2014)

Welcome to the next double feature! Its also the second (and probably last) Valentine’s romance film double feature. This time, we’re looking at romantic musical drama La La Land and then, pairing with it romantic drama In My Dreams. Let’s it check!

La La Land (2016)

La La Land

Director (and writer): Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Finn Wittrock, John Legend, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, J.K. Simmons

While navigating their careers in Los Angeles, a pianist and an actress fall in love while attempting to reconcile their aspirations for the future. – IMDB

Its taken a few years to catch up with La La Land and with Oscar-nominated films, I always hesitate to believe all the hype, especially when it comes to musical and romantic drama type of films. La La Land is a fun little movie. Its not completely about romance but its definitely present throughout as these two find being with each other to find the courage to be themselves and pursue their own dreams. At the same time, its fun because it has a lot of the right elements lined up, whether its Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling being cast as the two main leads and deliver some charismatic performances, a lot of great choreography for their dance numbers and a beautiful soundtrack as well as how the whole film has some wonderful cinematography. It all adds to the whole viewing experience.

If I had to be a little picky, because I do watch a lot of these types of things, albeit lower budget and not with all the other elements, the story of inspiration and romance and succeeding in your dream and the whole journey sort of story line is always rather similar and the same applies to La La Land. The script is absolutely not the standout point here. What helps a familiar script, because I think being familiar isn’t always a problem, is that the other elements done well above, makes the script find its unique elements. Perhaps the best thing about the script is the beautiful bittersweet ending add-in that actually rounds up the film so well.

In My Dreams (2014)

In My Dreams

Director: Kenny Leon

Cast: Katharine McPhee, Mike Vogel, JoBeth Williams, Joe Massingill, Rachel Skarsten, Antonio Cupo, Jessalyn Wanlim

Natalie and Nick are frustrated with their luck in romance. After tossing coins into a fountain, the two then begin dreaming about each other. But, according to fountain mythology, they only have a week to turn those dreams into reality. – IMDB

I think the best way to describe In My Dreams is that it has its heart in the right place. The story itself is not a bad one at all. We have movies like In Your Eyes which is about two people seeing through each other’s eyes (review) and then we have movies like The Lake House which is two people at different times, just as examples. In My Dreams success would lie heavily on the mechanics of how these two manage to meet in their dreams and then afterwards, how they end up realizing that they are actual people and not figments of their imagination and end up connecting in real life. For this point, it works and then it doesn’t.

In My Dreams is a TV movie so right away, the quality is probably more along the Hallmark movies kind of deal. And it does have that feel-good and inevitable happy ending. Its an okay movie in terms of those little elements of character building and making Nick and Natalie, played by Mike Vogel and Katharine McPhee respectively, rather decent characters. They don’t have a huge amount of depths, just like they only had a few conversations about not a lot that makes them feel like they would work with each other. However, they do have some fun supporting characters that make for some nice moments as these two characters work towards their own dreams.

Where this falls apart is in letting Nick and Natalie have this frustratingly slow way of connecting the dots of their little details in the conversations in their dreams to the events of themselves in reality as they had those missing each other moments (which is also rather expected in romance films). Those little cues that weren’t connected actually felt like it was ignored deliberately, making the script slightly inconsistent with these two characters who aren’t dumb especially as their conversations together is about deeper feelings and such.

In My Dreams is probably one that is okay for a rainy day but there are some plot holes and then its still a rather predictable movie.

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