Halloween 2018: Annihilation (2018)

Continuing on with the Halloween movie watching, we’re back to something a little more current with a 2018 film. While a lot of people got this on Netflix, Canada got the theatrical release and therefore only just got it available on Netflix now. I remember watching the trailer for this and being incredibly interested in it. It felt like it would be a horror thriller with science fiction and such. Honestly, at this point, I don’t remember much from the trailer except the general storyline.

Annihilation (2018)

annihilation

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply. – IMDB

As usual, I’m going to be clear that I’ve never read the source material so this write-up is based completely on the film itself.

Annihilation comes as a midway point  for myself. I had some high expectations for it when I first saw it announced but somehow that feeling has gone away a little. As for whether it met my expectations, I’d have to say that it did in one way and then it didn’t quite reach what I had expected it to be completely. A part of me also thinks that this isn’t quite horror. Its more of a scifi/fantasy thriller with horror elements. With that said, Annihilation is visually very pretty. The creativity behind the world that the five scientists go into definitely was an eye-opening experience just to see the ideas behind it and how it was executed. The execution itself is a recount of events from Natalie Portman’s character and with that centers her as being the main character which makes it out by all means but then it jumps from mostly in the past rundown of events but jumping back to the present as she is being questioned.

Annihilation

The creatures in this world and the flora and the colorfulness that covers all over the world has this sinister yet mesmerizing sort of effect. The world creation actually is the plus in Annihilation. Its the mystery that surrounds it which makes it so intriguing to keep watching just to see what more there is around the corner. There is this creeping feeling of something bad always going to happen because of the little that we know especially with the history of no one making it back from this area. At the same time, there is a lot of genuinely dangerous moments that happen at fairly unexpected moments. There are some that pack in quite a lot of atmosphere building tension.

Annihilation

As for the cast itself, I haven’t seen Natalie Portman in too many movies so I’m not sure that I’m exactly impressed with her performance. To be honest, everyone does a well enough job but nothing really does standout because it becomes fairly obvious that the scientists here are only half developed especially with anyone outside of Natalie Portman. Everyone seems to have some past that gives them some form of weakness but its never given enough attention to make them memorable. Some of them seem to fall a tad flat. For anyone back in the facility with Benedict Wong who only plays as a tough interrogator while Oscar Isaac is a survivor that pretty much that falls into a coma after the events and is the main reason behind the mystery and why Natalie Portman’s character goes into this area. His parts are best described as powerful because of what the scene delivers but its Oscar Isaac and he always has some presence but he’s more of a supporting leaning into cameo part. However, there are some familiar faces like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tessa Thompson.

Overall, Annihilation is visually very impressive and the story and execution uses ambiguity to create mystery and suspense and that works especially with the beautiful world they have created. However, there’s something lacking about it that makes it hard to really be completely memorable and that probably gets down to lack of character development. There has this effect of giving the story something to think about at the end but then, I’m not sure it actually lingered that long in my mind.

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Double Feature: Lifechanger (2018) & Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

double feature

And you thought Fantasia Festival stuff was over, right? Yeah, this double feature comes as something of a surprise as the reviews posted when the movies showed at Fantasia were reviewed by David. I managed to be able to check them out also back then but just kind of needed a break from Fantasia for a moment so here we are, a month after Fantasia closes, to clear out the overdue stuff and get some quick thoughts in for them as these are two selections that are very unique.

Lifechanger (2018)

Lifechanger

Director (and writer): Justin McConnell

Cast: Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako, Rachel VanDuzer, Steve Kasan, Bill Oberst Jr.

A murderous shapeshifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves. – IMDB

If you haven’t seen or didn’t check out my Poor Agnes review HERE, Lora Burke is a fascinating actress to watch on screen particularly in that role. When I knew she was attached to Lifechanger, count me in. Lifechange isn’t really about Lora Burke’s character in fact, our main character is narrated and keeps changing lives as the title implies. The idea of this character and who he is looms throughout the film as he goes from one body to the next. His situation becoming more in danger than the next as he starts being able to choose his victims carefully until his situation of the body he carries running out of time makes him having to make desperate choices.

Lifechanger

Lifechanger is a unique angle to take especially as it seems to challenge the deeper notion of survival versus living. Our main protagonist changes lives so quick and in turn, lives the life of this new person temporarily without any way to settle into anything that makes him truly enjoy life. When does it become all worth this trauma? Is it perhaps asking the deeper question of what we do this for and to what ends?  As much as this movie is fantastic at being this horrifying gruesome experience of the transition and the notion of what this man is about as he filters through all kids of lives in just the short span we were watching, there is an urgency and tension and with that, the film also ramps up the pacing as well in a tight little run time package.

Lifechanger is unique to say the least. Its packed with some pretty impactful moments and strives this balance between some horror elements in a thriller-esque and kind of dramatic story. It works really well and honestly, a great idea in itself.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Director (and writer): Issa Lopez

Cast: Paola Lara, Juan Ramon Lopez, Tenoch Huerta, Ianis Guerrero, Rodrigo Cortes, Hanssel Casillas

A dark fairy tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels and the ghosts created every day by the drug war. – IMDB

If you don’t know me, you put tigers in a title and I’m in or at least I’ll watch the movie. I actually totally missed this one in the first rundown of the tentative scheduling but saw the poster during the festival and added it on. So lucky that I did because Tigers Are Not Afraid is an exceptional film. Its one of those hidden gems that I’ve heard some people draw comparison to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. I can definitely see how there is a sort of link to it.

tigers are not afraid

Using five children who band together, specifically four boys adding in a girl who comes home and finds her mother missing, is a really broken group in itself as we learn a little about the background of the kids. You can also see how mature especially the leader of the pack, Shine, is in terms of his cautious nature as well as the way he chooses for her to be a part of the group. At the same time, there is a vulnerability to using kids as the main lead because it gives us these kids stuck in a very dangerous situation like living in the cartel and drug war and being caught in the crossfires to make them have to defend themselves in these drastic ways with no one to really turn to. What makes Tigers Are Not Afraid more special is that it never forgets that we are dealing with kids because they still have hope. They believe in the tales about the tigers who protect the neighborhood and draw inspiration from that, we see this with this animated tigers throughout the film in the arts on the wall moving around and even at the scene above with a plush tiger coming to the rescue. And the kids also being still innocent, they bask in the moments they can enjoy being a child again like celebrating their successes and playing when they believe they are safe in the moment.

tigers are not afraid

Being able to bring in this dark material and yet feeling so real in what the kids trapped in the drug war go through in this story (and probably drawing from some reality as it does feel plausible and genuine) and also bringing in those hints of innocence makes this movie so effective. Its has these adorable childlike moments that elevate this movie and make it unique while also ramping the tensions in the movie as the kids try to survive and navigate through this world as they get involved and end up getting dragged into a bigger cartel secret they were never supposed to know in the first place. Its violent, brutal and so very dark but the director never forgets to give this a childlike fantasy touch to pair up with maybe the remaining hope that these children have in their minds, making Tigers Are Not Afraid an outstanding movie and quite the gem that you need to check out if and when you get the chance.

Fantasia Festival 2018: A Rough Draft (2018)

A Rough Draft (2018)

A Rough Draft

Director: Sergey Mokritskiy

Cast: Nikita Volkov, Severija Janusauskaite, Yuliya Peresild, Evgeny Tsiganov

A video game designer is stripped of his identity and recruited by a mysterious force to be the gatekeeper of a multi-dimensional portal. – IMDB

A Rough Draft is based on a Russian novel of the same name by Sergey Lukyanenko. Kirill (Nikita Volkov) is a genius video game designer whose new idea has set him apart but suddenly, he comes home to find it taken over by a mysterious woman (Severija Janusauskaite). In the following hours, his life as he knows it disappears as he soon realizes that he has been wiped from the memory of everyone that he knows. With no job, homeless and accused of murder, he soon gets a message to go to a location which turns out to be a customs office to other realms and he gets introduced to his new job as interdimensional guard. There are many rules to this job but he now has abilities and is immortal. On top of that, he also meets his ex-girlfriend Anna (Olga Borovskaya) who doesn’t remember him either and decides to try to reboot their relationship. Of course, things go array as this new job and the life he wants doesn’t align and when Anna is taken away, he goes off to find her through the realms.

A Rough Draft

There are a lot of imaginative and unique elements in A Rough Draft.  Looking at the world through Kirill’s point of view as he goes to the different realms crafts a great fantasy and sci-fi element. The world itself or the different realms is filmed so beautifully and meticulously to show its different environments and a different era in time. Each realm have their purpose. Similar to  District 13 of The Hunger Games, it also has the unknown mystery realm that has lots of rumors. The contrast of the brighter realms versus the more sombre ones  makes for some unique moments. One of the most outstanding parts of the imagination is watching the Matryoshka dolls turn into violent drones. Now, there’s some next level creativity of blending in their own culture.

A Rough Draft

The downside of A Rough Draft is in the story. Perhaps  because it is an adaptation that it needs a little more detail because of the complexity of the world and the realms and simply how everything works. The movie didn’t completely demonstrate the world-building enough to make how even the simplest things of why and how Kirill got his powers suddenly or how certain things somehow turned out well when previous situations proved otherwise. There is a lot of discrepancy here and it creates some disjointed and confusing moments that disconnects the story from the audience who hasn’t been exposed to the novel.

A Rough Draft is a creative world full of fanciful ideas. Visually, it is a beautiful film. However, the execution does leave something further to be desired in terms of world building context. For fans of the source material, the ending does hint that the movie will have a sequel.

Mermen (The Mermen Trilogy #1) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Coming off reading The King Trilogy by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff, I decided to just go ahead and wrap up any other books from her in my Kindle. I believe I had gotten this one in a deal on Amazon or free offer or something. I can’t remember anymore but its how I came up on it.

Let’s check it out!

Mermen (The Mermen Trilogy #1)
by: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Mermen

SOLE SHIPWRECK SURVIVOR LIV STRATTON had been adrift at sea for ten grueling days when salvation miraculously appeared: an uncharted island. Only, the deceivingly beautiful men who live there aren’t interested in saving her. No, not at all. Because they somehow believe she is their property, a gift from the ocean to do with as they please. This is not good.  Her only hope? Billionaire Roen Doran, of all people. A man who’s said to care for nothing and no one. But if he’s so heartless, then why is he about to risk everything to help her? – Goodreads

There are days I start off this genre of books and I get worried. I only read on trilogy from Mimi Jean Pamfiloff and honestly, I enjoyed it fairly well. If you didn’t see the reviews, it was something of a slippery slope as it fell into some aspects I didn’t like but what I enjoyed about this author was her dedication to making her characters (all of them) not feel disposable. I’ve never read anything about mermen so I don’t know what is expected about it. My vision of it is still from movies like The Mermaid and The Little Mermaid, so when her plot is about these men without tails on this hidden island, well, it sets up quite an intriguing premise.

If I’m being completely honest, the world-building and lore behind the mermen was much more fascinating than any other part of the book. It sounds harsh but its really not cup of tea. The characters here were pretty generic. The rich billionaire Roen was quite one dimensional. The only reason he seemed more than that was because of the effect of the mermen lore and that doesn’t contribute back to who he is. Then we have Liv who turns into this exactly what you’d expect sort of damsel in distress. She tries to keep herself up for a while but essentially just breaks down into the ladies in this genre that I really don’t like, like falling for the man..but then maybe it had to do with the lore a little.

Either way, I don’t have an incredibly huge amount of things to say about Mermen. It was pretty disappointing see as King trilogy had some really strong aspects to it. You probably can guess that I’m not going to continue this book series. I’m just not really a fan even if the potential for the mermen back story could have had a lot of potential if it wasn’t in this genre. I’ve been watching a lot of cool movies lately and in a fairly decent mood from all the sunny weather and loving the summer, so I don’t feel like ranting more about this one. If I was you, I’d stay away from it. The only reason I gave it 2 stars out of 5 was because I saw some potential in building the mythology of this tribe of Mermen and having some interesting creations on the island itself. Everything else, I honestly could care less about.

Montreal Comiccon 2018 Haul

Welcome to a beautiful Tuesday! After an intense 3 day weekend at the Montreal Comiccon, I finally got all recuperated and caught up with everything, well, mostly. Yay to vacation time!  While I still have a ton of cosplay pictures to go through and event stuff to work on before sharing it tomorrow along with all the coverage links and such which I have over at That Moment In.

So, we’ll start with something light as always. I’m on quite a tight budget lately but I did manage to get a few things over at Montreal Comiccon.

Without further ado, here is the haul!

Books

I’m starting to feel like I buy a lot of books during the year at these Comiccon events. Oddly, its something that I tend to enjoy doing because I get to meet these independent authors. There was quite a few new names there (unless of course, I just didn’t realize they were there last year, which is also highly probable).

Afterdeath – Benoit Chartier

AfterDeath

One of those really memorable moments of meeting someone at Montreal Comiccon definitely goes to Benoit Chartier who has an incredible way of sharing a brief summary of his stories. While its easy to sell me on a YA fantasy paranormal novel of sorts like Afterdeath, when he started telling the summary of Red Nexus which is a sci-fi story and that is not exactly my top reading genre, he also got me curious and it sounded like a fun concept also. While I had a hard time deciding, I did ask for a suggestion on which he recommends, a hard decision I know but he ended up suggesting Afterdeath. There’s a high chance I’ll check out Red Nexus one day since its still on my mind.

The Violet Fox – Clare C. Marshall
Within – Clare C. Marshall

Clare C. Marshall

A final walk through of the exhibition led me to finding this booth. I’m a sucker for a nice book cover and after chatting with the author, she managed to convince me to give her books a shot. The stories sound really fun. Within is a horror book while The Violet Fox is the first book of a four book series (if I remember correctly).

Art

My Guardian Playlist by Johnni Kok

Johnni Kok

I have A LOT of Johnni Kok art at our house. If you look at my past few years of Montreal and Toronto Comiccon, you will see that it is quite the popular thing in our house. It probably has to do with his drawing style that fits what I love and well, the amount of Chinese painting hanging on my walls. Honestly, I was going for some fan art initially but his original pieces are on point! When he told the story of the inspiration behind this one called My Guardian Playlist, it was just something that I loved because I have a strong connection to music.

Don Rosa

Don Rosa

Check out our new Christmas art after we frame it of course. Its nice to switch things up and its been something I’ve been thinking about a long time. If you see Don Rosa at any conference, you should know that he has an incredible amount of knowledge and a passionate love for the origins of DuckTales which are comics form Carl Barks who is the creator of Scrooge McDuck. While I’m one of those people who have never read the source material, I love these characters a lot so this fits perfectly to what I love and Don Rosa draws beautiful. Just for the passion I saw, I’m definitely going to try and find these original comics.

This wraps up the Montreal Comiccon 2018 haul!
The event recap is coming up tomorrow!

King of Me (King’s Trilogy #3) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Check out the review of the second book, King For a Day, here.

King of Me (King’s Trilogy #3)
by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

King Of Me

What if you were asked to love a dangerous man who betrayed you at every turn, who terrified you even in your sleep? Could you do it to save the people you hold dear?

Mia Turner is ready to give it all—her body, her heart, her soul—to the mysterious, ruthless billionaire who holds the cards to saving her family. But when this sinfully sexy man, simply known as King, demands something more, something horrifying, Mia will be forced to face the impossible truth about their lives.

Sometimes the truth brings salvation. And sometimes the truth breaks you. – Goodreads

In the final book of the King’s Trilogy, King of Me is a pretty decent read. It has a lot to thank for the first two books doing a great build-up to this point. Of course, this third book also has to bring an end to all the teasing and seducing and arousal from before so we finally get some sexual action here. However, the core of the story is Mia embracing who she is as in the time of danger she escapes to the past before King was cursed. However, history is set in a certain way and even Mia’s Seer abilities aren’t almighty so there is some mystery behind what she does and how things turn out. Its journey to the past that feela destined and changes Mia’s mind about King and his demons and also drawing comparisons to the other people linked to King as well. Its a big unveiling and does a decent job. Everything makes sense and the erotic scenes play out well. It adds even more depth and development for all our characters, King and Mia but also Mack and the Spiros as well as the truth behind the story from the last book while seeing why Mia falling in love with King is the key to changing everything one way or another, at least for a better outcome.

With that said, King of Me did suffer some of the erotic novel pet peeves that I have. I have some odd ones and it comes from a little similarity of finding redemption for King drawing some comparisons to Christian Grey in the last book of Fifty Shades trilogy. Its this way out where they feel compelled to make love center to just giving in to abusive behavior. However, King of Me does give it a reasonable route afterwards to somehow shed the light a little on why there was this drastic change in that point in King’s history that Mia had stepped into.

Overall, King of Me was decent as the supposed final book of the series. It answered all the questions and sorted all the emotions out. It was fast paced and added depth to the characters.

Of course, reading it after the initial release means I also know that the trilogy turned into more so this isn’t actually the end. There currently two more books, #4 Mack and #5 10 Club. I was hoping to wrap up the series and move into something else. I will try to catch up to the final two books later this year. With that said, I wonder how they will be seeing  as the original idea was a trilogy but these two has now turned it into a series. Hopefully it will work out well.

King for a Day (King’s Trilogy #2) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Check out the review of the first book, King’s here.

King for a Day (King’s Trilogy #2)
by: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

king for a day

When Mia Turner’s life becomes tethered to a mysterious billionaire, who she swears is the devil himself, she knows she must break free. It doesn’t matter if everything about him—those sinful lips, those pale gray eyes, that perfect male body—keeps her awake at night. He’s evil. She has to get away.

But when this man, known simply as King, suddenly disappears, Mia will discover she’s not home free. Because without King, she’s no longer safe from his ruthless, depraved, power-hungry social circle.
To survive, Mia will have to conceal King’s absence and walk a mile in the evil man’s twisted, cruel shoes. What she discovers will leave her more terrified and her heart more conflicted than she ever imagined.

King is not who she thought. She wasn’t even close. – Goodreads

One of the things I love the most from the King’s Trilogy, and maybe it has to do with Mimi Jean Pamfiloff’s writing but I have only read this trilogy so I have no comparison, is that the setup of the mystery and the characters are quite multi-layered which makes it intriguing to read. In the first book, we learned the basics of Mia and her dilemma, got hints of King and how he is not quite human and of course, the twisted elite 10 Club and the disturbing people involved. But those are fairly skin deep and leaves a lot of room for both the mystery and the characters to grow. In King For a Day, that was exactly what happened. And no one was left out in this character and situational development process, which is always nice to see, making all the characters meaningful to the story as a whole and more depth for the mystery in this one. At the same time, the scope expands with the story widening to other locations and the extent of King’s “powers” being revealed a little bit more.

King for a Day does fall into a familiar path that I didn’t really want it to go down. Part of it was rather predictable and the story line here really seems to fall away from why I found it unique in the first place. However, Mia stays true to her character and King, well, is King, filled with mystery and discovery. The fantasy of figuring out bad boys really never dies. You know, the quiet and cryptic ones who seem to have a lot to hide and are probably wildly dangerous. This story feeds on that mentality for sure. Its always nice to remember when to pull a character out to cool down a little just as King of a Day does as it removes King and makes him disappear, leaving Mia to fend for herself with the help of King’s loyal helper, Mack. Both properties of King, the 10 Club is ready to claim them and they need to find a way to hide the fact that he is missing even if they know who is behind it all. It add tension when the main character is left in the dark especially when the secrets and dangers seem pressing.

With that said, this is a fast-paced read. Even with the few twists that come in play, there is still a playfulness to this one that transforms quickly into a mix of feelings. It builds primarily the depth of King’s backstory and who he is, while also giving Mia her strength and building upon her learning more about what it means to be a Seer and her abilities. At the same time, what I loved from the first one is that this one teases sexual tension and attraction but manages to keep Mia from doing anything that will betray herself even if she finds this strong attraction and pull to him, not only because she was marked (or claimed) by King. Its been one of the characteristics in this series that I’ve enjoyed a lot.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with King For a Day. Its a worthy sequel. There were some predictable moments but it was a fast-paced read. The story and characters both had a decent amount of development to not only keep the mystery and suspense keeping the matter at hand fairly contained but building on the backstory for King as well as the future of Mia and King as well as their tension. At the same time, the other characters never feel dispensable as they also get a fair growth and development to their characters to make them necessary in the story.