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

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

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

Director: Takeshi Nozue

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

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

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

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

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

Life (2017)

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TV Binge: Rush to the Dead Summer (夏至未至, 2017)

After the massive love for A Love So Beautiful (review), I went backwards to check out Hu Yitian’s previous role, which is a fairly smaller supporting role which was probably only about half of the series in very small doses in Rush to the Dead Summer, adapted from a 2006 romance novel originally called 1995-2005 Rush to the Dead Summer written by Guo Jingming . The ending was changed in the version. I haven’t read the story but after the ending felt the need to hunt down the actual ending to draw some comparisons and I will touch on that as well.

RUSH TO THE DEAD SUMMER (夏至未至, 2017)

rush to the dead summer

Cast: Cheney Chen, Shuang Zheng, Jingting Bai, Biyun Chai, Zitong Xia, Hehuizi Zheng, Hanchen Pang, Uvin Wang, Jingyang Ni

The love and growth of a group of young people from the same high school. – IMDB

QUOTE

People say we meet seven versions of ourselves during our youth. One bright and beautiful, one laden with grief, one is gorgeous, one that takes risks, one that is stubborn, one that is soft, and the last one is in the middle of maturing. On the road to maturity, we would experience rain and wind, encounter thistles and thorns. We will swallow our anger and we would also strongly retaliate. Of course, we hadn’t anticipated that there is a price to pay for this so-called maturity. Sometimes, even if we know that we’ll be punished, we’ll still bravely step forward because these are our true selves. Before we are polished to shine, we carry sharp edges and thorns all over, and fearless confidence and determination so we can be dashing heroes for a brief moment. – Li Xia, Rush to the Dead Summer, Episode 5.

You can watch the series with English subtitles on Youtube below:

STORY

Rush to the Dead Summer focuses on 5 different characters over the course of 10 years of their life from their senior high years to their adult life. There are a few supporting characters that also get a voice however, those primary five are the main focal points where these other characters pop up for whichever duration. While not as defined as the source material structure, there is a very accurate focus on various characters. It focuses on friendships and romantic relationships as well as each characters hurdles from family, school and their career choices.

The series can be split into various acts. The first building the foundation of the characters and relationships set during the senior high years that has a much longer focus of over 20 episodes. The second act is the post secondary education phase which looks at seeking career dreams, university and finding their path into setting into the real world which could be considered the shorter act because it sets up for the third act which is the real world. Because of this shift in different stages of their life, the story ends up having a decent pacing and also brings up a very real draw in these characters where different primary characters will fall to the background accordingly when some other characters will have their own moments and their stories, just as in real life when friends will each have their own moments to celebrate or experience and the others become their support and audience.

The story tone also has those shifts because of these different stages accordingly. The first act is more innocent high school moments with a focus on Li Xia (Shuang Zheng) and Xiaosi Fu (Cheney Chen) and their romance while also focusing on the bromance between Xiaosi Fu and Zhi-ang Lu (Jingting Bai) and the friendships between Li Xia and Qiqi Cheng (Biyun Chai) as well as Li Xia and Yu Jian (Zitong Xia). Its a building of new friends, maintaining of old friendships and learning about romances and the coming of age of embracing the things that we truly desire and knowing when to fight for them. In the second act, it becomes fairly shorter as everyone splits up into their own segments. The romance between Li Xia and Xiaosi become more developed while the pursuing of their own dreams become a big focal point for both Qiqi and Yu Jian in their own ways defined by their own values while Zhi-ang chooses a new path completely that takes him into a new environment. In the last act, its the final bits as a lot of secrets get revealed, different personalities and motives get revealed and the adult world proves to be one with much more serious consequences for their actions bring dilemmas and challenges and all kinds of conflicts at every turn.

Rush of the Dead Summer’s story sounds like a very familiar teen coming of age kind of drama. In many ways, its hard to argue that it isn’t. The uniqueness of it is how it executes its through changing the different voices and giving the story a moment to move around flexibly while making sure that each of these five characters are ones that we care about to a certain degree.

LENGTH/PACING

Rush to the Dead Summer clocks in at 46 episodes. Odd number? I know it is. With these series, they fall into the borderline of having pacing issues because it can very well go into the pacing a little too different. However, this series uses different characters and point of views, experiences and perpetual stories  that it makes it never feel like it drags on for too long. The only issue here is that some characters fall into the background and the main issues do lie with accepting when the characters we love more may flip around in the end and fall behind the scenes more or the story loses that focus and it gets more dramatic as these characters get older. In terms of length and pacing, Rush of the Dead Summer does a relatively good job. If anything drags along, it can very well be because the character story that its focusing on is getting too much screen time and the other character in preference doesn’t, but there is a good amount of care in executing it so that the different characters or different pairs all get their due time whether the audience agrees with it or not.

CHARACTER/CHEMISTRY

Rush of the Dead Summer focuses on these 5 characters: Li Xia, Xiaosi Fu, Zhi-ang Lu, Yu Jian  and Cici Cheng. In the previous sections, I’ve already mentioned some of the romance relationships here and some of the friendships in focus. Before we look at the effectiveness of these relationships, lets take a quick look at the characters.

Li Xia plays a focal character. She is a mild-tempered, hard working and shy girl who has a specific set of values and makes sure that everyone she cares about will be taken care of and respected. Because of this, she is good friends with every one of the other characters. Her junior high friend is Qiqi, her love interesting in senior high is Xiaosi, Zhi-ang has a crush on her but also enjoys being her good friend, and Yu Jian became her friend because she did little things in senior high that made her feel warm. Li Xia is a likable character even if at times, her indecisiveness and her meek personality will make it hard to not feel bad or feel frustrated with her not learning more to protect herself.

With that said, her main relationship chemistry is with Xiaosi Fu. Xiaosi is a more introvert and perfectionist character. He is the first in their grade, he has incredible artistic skills and doesn’t know how to express himself a lot and is very straight-forward with his words. However, his care is in his actions and its because of these things that Li Xia and him has quite a good bit of chemistry. Every series has a guy that is like this and they always end up having this awkward moments that make for some cute and sweet moments.

While it seems like Zhi-ang Lu is the best friend of Xiaosi and has this love triangle, it never quite goes into fruition because he never really pursues her but chooses to be the happy character in the series that goes from the positive and social outgoing personality who flirts with other girls and has one of the biggest changes where he becomes more focused on his dreams and finding a different path while also in the final act, the story suddenly shifts its voice into having a heavier focus on him and a new girl character that enters the picture called Yan Mo (He Hui Zhi Zheng). I’m not going to talk about Yan Mo’s character but its one that brings on a lot of changes and also delivers a lot of sweeter moments in the final act especially when the relationship and career of the first primary couple enters a much of dramatic turn of events affected by a lot of outside factors that this new relationship and pursuit gives off a new comedic angle.

At the same time, its at this time that we can talk about Yu Jian, Qiqi and the different friendships because as great as the chemistry of the relationships here. Perhaps some of the better moments are how the different friendships develop. Yu Jian has a more set goals and has the opposite personality of Li Xia and stands up for her constantly which makes their friendship solid in their own way in a more reliable way where we soon learn, some friendships will change because of the change in perspective and that happens with Qiqi and Li Xia where they may know each other longer but their friendship slowly also has its cracks. Qiqi also is designed to be a more “bad” sort of character and while I never found her good. Her parts and self-destruction and other bits usually prove be more frustrating to watch and probably one of the not so well written characters. While Yu Jian remains one of the better written ones.

OVERALL

Rush of the Dead Summer is unique because it takes on the different voices of five characters and creates a tree of stories for each of them throughout 10 years of their life. There are a lot of quotable moments and share a lot of different sides of life between all of them as they encounter different happy, sad, frustrating and angry moments. Its one very much worth watching. Some people complain about the fact that the main male lead is very rigid in his role but to be fair, his role is meant to be that way and his character because of the initial way changes over the time as a development angle and probably was done deliberately. There are little details in the series that I caught on the second viewing which actually makes these characters and gives them signs on how their character and nature will develop over the course of the series. My only issue is how it chooses to end the series which is hard to decide whether its a better ending or a worse one that the original one in the source material. Its a whole end game issue of which version and type of viewer you are. For myself, it felt a bit rushed and a bit lazy to not have expanded at least a little further on it. The ending few episodes could have definitely used a little more symmetry to the beginning act to give it a more well-rounded feeling.

Main Theme

Double Feature: A Monster Calls (2016) & Battleship (2012)

Call this a little Netflix alphabet marathon again but a more relaxed and random one with no specific theme but just to get through some of those films sitting in My List. I’m going to have random movies not in the alphabet happening but I’ll try to keep to it as much as possible. The first to kick off this second round in 2019 is 2016’s A Monster Calls paired oddly, almost like a Liam Neeson double feature with 2012’s Battleship. The first I don’t know much about and the second, I’ve been extremely skeptical to see so the expectations are low.

Let’s check it out!

A Monster Calls (2016)

a monster calls

Director: J.A. Bayona

Cast: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson (voice)

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness. – IMDB

A Monster Calls is a stylistic fantasy drama. It works for the most part but has some bits that get a little annoying. The boy Connor, played by Lewis MacDougall is pretty decent. He matches his character quite a bit. On the surface story, A Monster Calls has a pretty generic and dramatic story when dealing with Connor and his mother and how his relationship with his grandmother, played by Sigourney Weaver. A lot of it has to do with how he deals with the situation. When the tree monster, voiced by Liam Neeson appears and decides to tell him three stories before he can help him or something (I’m a bit fuzzy on the details since its been a month or so), the stories itself and the animations used to portray them is the true heart of the movie. Its these moments between Connor and the Monster that give it depth because each story wraps up a few lessons on morals. What is right from wrong and the gray area that most kids grow up to learn about and how Connor is thrust into the situation because of his problems at home. Its also these stories which are structured with more

I’m okay with everything about A Monster Calls. It actually had more depth than I had expected it. What didn’t work so well was the pacing. It had style and some decent performances. As expected when seeing Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones as part of the cast. They were able to show the different relationships that Connor had with each of them. Because of that, the story gave a lot of depth to Connor and everyone else became more of backdrop and felt less fleshed out. The best part of the film does go to how they chose to end it and giving it a little twist that somehow brings together the tree monster and the stories in a clever way.

Battleship (2012)

battleship

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater, Liam Neeson

A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. – IMDB

The idea of making a classic game into a movie is a pretty good idea. Battleship did have a pretty open canvas to work with seeing as the game itself doesn’t have a backstory or anything but just to set it in some kind of battle. The idea of bringing aliens in doesn’t seem like a bad thing because it can give a lot of fantasy and science fiction creative elements as well. However, its hard to pinpoint where Battleship falls apart. Everything had its issues: the story, the characters, the action, the logic behind it all. Probably its because I recently looked at Pacific Rim that the whole electromagnetic and analog thing stood out to me more than usual when I watch these films and how probably things don’t quite work that way even if on the surface, you could accept that it does (especially since I don’t know a whole lot about that anyways). Fact is, Battleship is long and repetitive. It adds too much drama and the action is very predictable. The fun element is not quite there either.

In terms of character, they were really what I was skeptical about going in. Taylor Kitsch is an actor thats been really rocky (to me). There hasn’t been one role that stood out and Battleship is the same. Its nothing special and his character is a bit irritating and shallow and the fact that he’s the main character and gets the most character development says a whole lot about that. Not that a movie like this needs a ton of character depth to be honest. On top of that, some characters that were less annoying had too short of role. The surprise of this was that Rihanna’s character was actually quite decent. I’m starting to feel like I need to re-evaluate her roles a little more. Battleship had more cons than pros and it was a predictable and forgettable movie. But hey, I didn’t have high expectations to start so it felt like it was everything I expected.

That’s it for this double feature!
A&B selection was a little good and a little bad so it kind of balanced itself out!
Have you seen A Monster Calls and/or Battleship? Thoughts?

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: City of God (2002) by Flick Hunter

Wrapping up the third week of the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is Norman from Flick Hunter. If you haven’t been to Flick Hunter, you should give it a go and check out the myriad of movie reviews over there. He also is a frequenter of various film festivals and offer some great opinion pieces. For this blogathon, he brings a review of 2002’s Portuguese crime drama City of God.


City of God

Taking its title from one of the most dangerous favelas in the Western outskirts of Rio de Janeiro effectively voiced by Alexander Rodrigues as Rocket; City of God  spans three decades from the end of the 60’s to the mid 80’s where residents are prisoners in their homes caught in violent battles between rival gangs. The original group the Tender Trio features Rockets brother Goose (Renato de Souza), Clipper (Jefchander Suplino) and the gentlemanly Shaggy (Jonathan Haagensen) small-time hoods at targeting fuel trucks and motels. Entering into the ’70’s Their antics are quickly replaced by the very hardcore Lil Dice (Leandro Firmino de Hora) kindly Benny (Phellipe Haagensen) rivaled by Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele) and the former law-abiding Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge).

Rocket is at the centre of the piece. A childhood friend of Lil Dice he has a camera that is always by his side and as a local can get shots of the violent event as they occur in the favela while professionals are afraid to tread, can’t get access and even if they could, would not be trusted.

Co-Directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund take the story from the book by Paulo Lins who grew up in the favela. The narrative follows the main characters from when they are little kids, get their first guns in hands, commit their first crime then push the violence beyond the generation before. The champion of this is the above mentioned Li’l Ze aka Li’l Dice as a youth and due to his connection to Rocket allows him into their lair to photograph them with all of their firepower. Rockets photos are noticed by a newspaper photo editor where he delivers papers who publishes them. Rocket expects to be in grave danger for the reveal but instead, Li’l Ze and his crew buy up every copy cheering Rocket when they encounter him next.The co-directors keep the main themes of the devastating effects of poverty, class warfare, violence begetting violence close to the surface. As cinematographer Cesar Charlone inflects a sharp gold based colour plate for the production. Split screens feature heavily as a device of showing rival gangs committing crimes as the principals barrel along towards each other on a collision course. The directors set up an acting workshop for the locals which gives the film raw authentic energy alongside the basic fundamentals of acting leading to the exceptional performance of Firmino de Hora as Li’l Ze. He has the 1000 mile stare, crooked teeth, dark skin plus short man’s syndrome. His solution killing for fun, randomly and not getting attached to anyone or anything. The creators keep the dark humor coming in the 80’s the young up and coming crew know as The Runts who were mirrors of Ze to the Tender Trio back in the day but prepared to take things much further than the  Ze/Benny and Knockout Nick battles of the 70’s as they rise to power towards the end of the piece as they lay out their death list in the infant stages of the Red Command.

City of God is a film about kids killing kids in an environment where no one in government or with influence cared. Rocket toward the start of his narration notes that there was no electricity or paved streets and the business Elite and Politician could not give a second thought to any of the problems there. It’s a fast-paced, ultra-violent gritty look into life in a favela based on real events that are more twisted and harrowing than anything that could be thought up in the word of fiction.

***** A Five Star Film

City of God | Fernando Meirelles / Katia Lund | Brazil / France | 2002 | 130 Minutes.


A huge thanks to Norman for joining us with a fantastic review.

You can see the list of the entries for the blogathon 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: Secret (2007) & The Space Between Us (2017)

Its been a while since I’ve continued on the Valentine’s Netflix Alphabet marathon! Its getting dangerously close to the end of the month and I still have a good few movies to get through. At this point, it might spill into the beginning of March. Either way, I said that I’d finish it so I will. Due to the missing X selection later on, I have chosen to do two S selections! This is the last change to the alphabet marathon. Surprisingly though, these two are both teen romances and have some unique-ish idea/concept.

Let’s check it out!

Secret (2007)

Director (and writer): Jay Chou

Cast: Jay Chou, Lun-Mei Kwai, Anthony Wong, Kai-Syuan Tzeng, Ming-Ming Su, Devon Song

Ye Xiang Lun, a talented piano player is a new student at the prestigious Tamkang School. On his first day, he meets Lu Xiao Yu, a pretty girl playing a mysterious piece of music. – IMDB

Jay Chou’s directorial debut sees him both as the writer of the original story and also acting in the film. From Initial D, its already not high expectations in the Jay Chou acting but Jay Chou is a creative individual and a very musical person so its no surprise to see that he has injected a musical element to this story. The pity of this film goes to Netflix categorizing its subgenre that ruins the twist of the story making it much easier to guess. The ending is somewhat of a headscratcher and feels a bit flawed from what the whole logic behind the situation was, the story itself had its charm. The first is the setting that its done, bordered by water, the school grounds and the more classical building. The second is its characters, including Jay Chou who wrote in a character that truly matches himself. Its probably the perk of being the writer of the original story.

secret 2007

On the off-chance that you aren’t watching this through Netflix, I’m going to keep this spoiler free as much as possible. While this movie seems a lot like your average teen movie with the female character having some ailment, there is a much more light-hearted sort of appeal to this mostly with its added twist. Using music as a medium is a really nice touch here. With the subgenre that it tackles, there are some little logic issues and flaws but it also has this fantasy element that adds a little something extra.

As I mentioned before, Jay Chou writes a character very suitable for himself therefore he does a decent job. Its really his romantic interest, Lun-Mei Kwai that takes a lot of credit here. Her personality reflects Xiao Yu’s character a whole lot whether its her little movements or when she’s happy or sad. The chemistry between them spark up some nice little moments that make us truly root for this pairing. However, in a movie full of young actors and actresses, there is no doubt that Anthony  Wong stands out the most playing the father of Jay Chou’s character. He has this vibrancy and his character while seemingly not very significant in the beginning, ramps up quite the significance by the end.

The Space Between Us (2017)

the space between us

Director: Peter Chelsom

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery

The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be. – IMDB

I’m not exactly understanding all the hate that this movie seems to get via the different site that I’ve looked at. To be honest, this movie is right up my alley. For one, it has an incredible cast, at least I’m a big fan of everyone here. Then it has this whole sci-fi premise of space and Earth. The idea behind the story is pretty nice as well. There are some glaring similarities to a lot of other movies, the one that I thought of first was Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (Review), an animated film that I love a whole lot. To see competent young actor and actress like Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson take over this pairing just warmed my heart because they are both constantly on my radar.

With that said, the music here is fantastic. The story here is a bit thin on the character development side of things and focuses on some cheesy teen romance thing, which worked for me because somehow these two have a good bit of chemistry and some really nice scenes. Plus, the whole fish of water thing always makes me feel incredibly entertained especially how they wrote up Asa Butterfield’s character even if he falls into those tropes of having some weakness to him but the fact that its because he’s born on another planet really makes it unique in its own way.

On top of that, you get Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino in this film who truly add quite a bit to the film in their roles. Its quite the adventure to see the whole chase from one thing to the next. There is romance but also a great deal of adventure that is where the bonding of the characters happen. Britt Robertson does play a very similar role to a few roles she’s done where she is a teen that doesn’t fit into the life that she is from. The key question here that is asked is “What is your favorite thing about Earth?” I think its a valid movie that uses this story to ask a deeper question about appreciating the things that we have around us that we take for granted. There are many layers to the story. Sure, it has its faults and there’s a ton of cheese and its fairly predictable but there’s also a lot of fun and adventurous moments here that work. Plus, it doesn’t take the normal teen romance type of bittersweet ending so I’m all for that.

That’s it for this double S feature for Valentine’s romance!
Both movies that have flaws but that I found a lot of enjoyment from!
Have you seen Secret or The Space Between Us?

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: 2046 (2004) by The Stop Button

Its already the second week of the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon. The first guest this week to drop by over here is Andrew from The Stop Button. The Stop Button was started in 2004 focus in film blogging. Over there, you can check out many different segments and film reviews. Its a site that you will definitely something that you will enjoy reading about all kinds of films. With that said, Andrew takes us to check out a unique film, 2004’s romantic fantasy/drama Hong Kong film 2046.


2046

2046 (2004)

2046 is a very strange sequel. Because it’s most definitely a sequel to In the Mood for Love. Tony Chiu-Wai Leung and Lam Siu Ping are playing the same characters, a few years after that film. But the way writer and director Wong deals with the previous film and its events… he intentionally… well, I’m not sure if distorts is the right word, because it works out perfectly, but he delays it. 2046 is a sequel to In the Mood for Love, but it’s also a sequel to itself. The film starts in the mid-1960s with Leung moving home to Hong Kong from Singapore. Well, actually, wait. It starts in 2046, a CGI megalopolis with a train and some narration about riding the train and trying to leave 2046. Like it’s a place.

2046 also has Hong Kong significance—when the British “gave” Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the Chinese said Hong Kong would stay the same way for fifty years. So 2046. Of course, it’s also got a significance to In the Mood for Love. But back to the future for a moment. There’s some love sick guy on the train. He wants to leave 2046. His narration also refers to Love, even though nothing else does.

So all the coincidences collide for Leung—mid-sixties Hong Kong had some significant unrest and Leung spends his time sitting it out, dreaming of the future and writing a serial called… 2046 in a hotel room 2047, which he took because 2046 wasn’t ready yet. Leung brings a litany of nightclub friends with benefits affairs home while musing on the goings on around him at the hotel. Faye Wong is the owner’s older daughter, in love with Japanese guy Kimura Takuya. Her dad (Sum Wang) doesn’t approve. Leung distantly watches the heart attack and incorporates it into his stories, which is good since Kimura plays the story’s protagonist in the future stuff. Leung’s also got to fend off Sum’s younger daughter, Dong Jie, who’s too young.

Because even though Leung is supposed to be a casual sex addict, charming the ladies by night, moping about his previous heartache through his writing, there’s got to be a line. And Wong, director, tests it from time to time. It’s a good narrative hook and only there because we still need to like Leung for later, because later is going to get worse before it gets better. Leung narrates the film–eventually even the future stuff–and it’s a very controlled narration. Wong, writer and director, doesn’t want to show too much. Like Wong, actress, appearing for an almost cameo before disappearing, just like when the film opens on Leung and mystery woman Gong Li to set up the Hong Kong homecoming. Wong, writer, is delaying certain things but for very good reasons, which aren’t clear until the end of the second act.

Because it’s not just Leung’s story; there’s also a second story-in-the-story, which Leung writes for writing partner and lovesick buddy Faye Wong for a while in the middle. It’s got a full narrative arc for future guy Kimura and even future Faye Wong. And that narrative arc is later going to matter for Leung and the film. It’s an exceptionally complicated narrative structure. Wong, writer, fractures the narrative in a lot of major ways, sometimes technically surprising ones (but the surprise isn’t the right reaction because they’re inevitable). But he lays out this always forward layer too. For the viewer, who is watching the events of Leung’s life—with tangents—but seeing Leung’s reaction to those events. Macro-reactions, not micro. So very deliberate plotting.

2046 has more than its share of “why is Wong doing this” head-scratchers, but they’re always the exact right move. Because while Wong, director, is keeping with Leung in the present, experiencing new events, Wong, just writer, needs to move the plot in peculiar directions. The film’s got these multiple, dense narrative tense layers and Wong, writer, needs to move between them sometimes rapidly, sometimes not. Wong, director—and with great editing from William Chang and music from Umebayashi Shigeru—has to figure out a way to trigger these movements stylistically. It’s gorgeously done.

The most drastic of the three big narrative shifts is someone I can’t believe I got 700 words into a post about 2046 and haven’t yet—Zhang Ziyi. She’s Leung’s first significant love interest. Meaning she falls in love with him and he treats her like shit.

Remember when I said it was important to like Leung? It’s when he breaks Zhang’s heart, which isn’t really a spoiler because it’s almost still first act stuff. If you took out the future stuff, it’d be first act stuff. 2046—a sequel—is initially just about Leung’s really sexy love affair with his neighbor, Zhang. During that time period, Zhang gets a lot more to do than Leung. It’s not exactly from her perspective, but Wong, director, makes sure it’s real close.

So, in the second act, 2046 becomes a sequel to 2046’s first act, which was a sequel to In the Mood for Love. Only as things go on, it turns out 2046’s first act is a sequel to the end of the second act flashback, which is a sequel to In the Mood for Love. The more Wong, writer, reveals about Leung, either through the present action, flashback, or the future story stuff… the more the narrative distance changes. Narrative distance in this case also taking into account narrative sympathies; assumed intentions as far as Leung goes. 2046 isn’t a mystery, but Wong does almost structure it as one. Really, I guess, the more appropriate phrase would be a secret. 2046 is a secret and Wong is very careful about how he wants to tell it.

Of the three female leads, the best performance is Zhang. Faye Wong is really, really, really close but Zhang wins out. Then Gong. Gong it’s the role. She doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of time as the other two. Gong’s really is the extended cameo it seemed like Wong was getting. Only Gong’s cameo seemed like a really short one when it opened the movie. Because Wong, writer and director, is so forcefully deliberate.

So good.

Leung’s really good. He’s not as good as Zhang, Wong, or Gong. In a way, it’s not his place in the story. Where he’s protagonist. And everything revolves around him. He shouldn’t be overshadowing in that narrative, at least not the way Wong wants to tell it. It’s a very delicate, precise performance. Lots of nuance. It’s outstanding.

It’s just not as good as any of the lead actresses.

Carina Lau has a nice cameo, Wang has some good moments, Ping is hilarious. Not comic relief hilarious, just momentarily hilarious hilarious.

High nineties majority of the film is inside. Restaurants, the hotel rooms, occasionally cars. Quiet moments between characters either on their own or in crowds. There’s one standout party scene, which opens things up for a while, but the scene’s still focused on Leung. Again, the film is exceptionally precise.

Great photography from Christopher Doyle and Kwan Pung-Leung. Great production design from editor Chang. Great everything.

2046 movie probably even works better if you haven’t seen In the Mood for Love, which is a singular description—and, in this case, compliment—for a sequel.

But it’s still a very direct, very intentional sequel.

It’s magnificent.


A huge thanks to Andrew for reviewing this Hong Kong film! Remember to head over to give The Stop Button a follow HERE. Tomorrow, drop by to my co-host Drew’s Movie Reviews to see the next entry.

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