TV Binge: Sweet Home (Season 1, 2020)

Sweet Home (Season 1, 2020)

Creators: Lee Eung-bok, Hong So-ri, jan Young-woo, Kim Hyeong-min, Park So-hyeon

Cast: Song Kang, Lee Jin-uk, Lee Si-young, Lee Do-hyun, Kim Nam-hee, Ko Min-si, Park Kyo-young, Go Youn-jung, Kim Gap-soo, Kim Sang-ho

Following the death of his family in an accident, loner Cha Hyun Soo moves to a new apartment. His quiet life is soon disturbed by strange incidents that start occurring in his new building. As people turn into monsters, Hyun Soo and other residents try to survive. – MyDramaList

Based on the webtoon of the same name, Sweet Home takes place as the world heads into an apocalypse where humans are turning into monsters. In an apartment building, the residents suddenly are locked in and soon realize why. As they hatch their plans of defense, its not whats outside but what is trapped inside that is their concern as well as who is infected and will turn. Being at a well-paced 10 episodes, the series moves through the characters foundation and the main characters slowly have their own story unravel whether in flashbacks or in conversation. The story also progresses in the sense that survival brings out the best and worst of people, making them at times the real danger as is the desires turning into these monsters. It makes you wonder whether its based a little on Buddhism and the concept of desire making someone unable to achieve happiness and in this sense, the infected will turn into monsters, some lethal and some harmless. With that said, there are two elements at least to look at Sweet Home: the characters and the monster design.

Sweet Home’s monsters are rather varied. There isn’t an expansive understanding of how someone gets infected but the symptoms are outlined fairly clearly. The change can be rather subtle unless someone is sitting around when someone’s nose fountains with a huge nosebleed. The monsters are rather varied and at one part, it stems from desire so there are many different types of monsters whether its one that is super fast with centaur legs or a giant eye or a gooey monster or a spider looking creature and so on so forth. They all are done fairly well. There are obvious moments of CGI use and its not as smooth as it should be but overall, it does look pretty nice. The only issue I had was one of the monsters was meant to be hulking and giant with this sinister grin and to me, it felt rather hilarious. Probably not the effect that the series was looking for but the monster itself was scary for its strength and relentlessness.

There are quite a few characters in Sweet Home. A decent bunch of ragtag supporting characters which bring some comedic relief and add some uselessness that usually causes more problems plus adds to the potential body count. The few main characters go more to Hyun-so, an eighteen year old that lives alone as a playtester and constantly thinks about suicide, a medical school student brother Eun-hyeok and an aspiring ballet dancer with a foot injury sister Eun-Yoo who is in disagreement with each other, a firefighter lady Yi-Kyeong, a musician girl Ji-soo and a mystery man with burnt scars on his face Jin-wook. The story revolves around these characters as their backstories get revealed one by one. What works well here is that these characters do slowly grow as they start to differ and show their worth as the situation gets more and more dire.

Sweet Home is an interesting first season to say the least. While I have little issues with the computer effects, the monster design, the atmosphere and especially those awesome fight scenes paired with “Warrior” by Imagine Dragons really does it all great favors. At the same time, the cast of characters and their development does work really well as they form their alliances and friendships and it all comes to a decent twist by the end. If there was any issue, its that the first season sets up for a second season and yet, if it doesn’t happen, that ending might be quite a pity. Fingers crossed that it will get a second season!

FNC 2020: The Book of Vision (2020)

The Book of Vision (2020)

The Book of Vision

Director (and co-writer): Carlo Hintermann

Cast: Charles Dance, Lotte Verbeek, Sverrir Gudnason

Eva, a mysterious doctor, searches for an answer to her urgent dilemma as she unravels Dr. Anmuth’s Book of Vision. Stellan gets involved in her life and is forced to confront his own nature, as Eva faces the biggest decision of her life. – IMDB

The Book of Vision feels like its a movie to ponder upon a little especially in terms of life. Its told in two storylines. The first is the present with Eva (Lotte Verbeek), a doctor who decides to leave the practical elements to study the history of medicine in hopes of solving her own illness. It leads her to meet a man, Stellan (Sverrir Gudnason) who leads her to look at Dr. Anmuth’s Book of Vision, a book that explores his experiences with medicine. This is where the second storyline comes in as it bounces between the happenings of Anmuth’s past as a physician as he gets phased out of his profession with newer views and practices in medicine. The two come to this blend as the two stories start to blend together much further propelled by the characters in past and present both leading different roles but existing together, leading to perhaps a theme of how perhaps life doesn’t exactly end when it does but exists in another form while others move on to some sort of reincarnation or something. I can’t truly say that I understand the complete depth of the film but at least that’s my takeaway from it.

There’s something so beautiful of The Book of Vision though. Its the cinematography mostly that shows this incredibly elegant and sophisticated air. The 18th century Book of Vision bits focus around this sense of belief in the concrete or whether some superstitions exist outside of what feels like a harder to believe realm of fantasy. The design of that element is breathtaking and mysterious all at the same time and yet, the imagination and creativity feels beautiful to look at. The outfit and the tone all coming together in those 18th century scenes so well. In the reality, there is another feeling as it focuses around not only the mystery but the gradual connection and relationship between Eva and Stellan and there’s a different feeling to the scenes using the lights and the work they explore. One of the most beautiful elements are when the more fantastical elements where the past leads to the present and the characters fall into each other’s world. Its these little subtle details. A little hard to understand what it all means but the way its put together is really quite the spectacle.

The Book of Vision is Carlo Hintermann’s narrative feature film debut after having done previously four documentaries. This one dives into a part costume drama, part romance drama and bringing in a creative dose of medicine, life and fantasy. Its not a piece to digest on the first viewing perhaps of the deeper connections and meanings. While that usually isn’t exactly the best selling point, there’s something so mesmerizing about how its portrayed and the beautiful cinematography plus the wonderful performance of this connection between these three characters paralleled in the past and present between Anmuth, Eva/Elizabeth and Stellan played by Charles Dance, Lotte Verbeek and Sverrir Gudnason respectively, that all makes it well worth a watch.

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

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

a mermaid in paris

Director (and co-writer): Mathias Malzieu

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

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

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

A Mermaid in Paris

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

A Mermaid in Paris

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

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

Double Feature: The Net (1995) & The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

Next up with the alphabet is the N double feature! Two rather random pairings as I did some last minute changes. The first is 1995’s thriller The Net starring one of my favorite actresses Sandra Bullock and the paired it with one of my Christmas in July Blogathon picks, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Let’s check it out!

The Net (1995)

the net

Director: Irwin Winkler

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam, Dennis Miller, Diane Baker, Wendy Gazelle, Ken Howard, Ray McKinnon

A computer programmer stumbles upon a conspiracy, putting her life and the lives of those around her in great danger. – IMDB

Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since 1995 when this movie is set. With that said, The Net doesn’t age as well and suffers as a lot of the cyber and tech elements to a first watch right now with everyone being more tech savvy in general. There’s some bits that absolutely make very little sense. However, The Net still has some entertaining elements to it in terms of a thriller. Sandra Bullock’s character, Angela gets caught up when the game software she was analyzing ended up having a backdoor access to a much bigger scheme by a cyber-terrorist group which ends up taking her identity and turning her life into a dead end where she has to use her own systems analyst and hacking skills to fight back. The premise is an engaging one even if some plot points seem to not work too well.

However, Sandra Bullock is as she always is, just like her Speed days where its a good performance on her part since the movie really focuses heavily on her reactions and how she fights back and uses her wits and brains to figure out what these cyberterrorist have against her, what their goal is and how to turn things around. She’s a tough female lead in a very believable way. On the other hand, the leader of the group chasing her down for a floppy disk (you know this movie is old when we talk about floppy disks…) Jack Devlin, played Jeremy Northam puts in a decent performance as well. There’s some overacting at some points but overall, its a good interaction between the two.

The Net might not be Sandra Bullock’s best movie performance and it might not be a great thriller but it has a few elements from premise to characters and a good performance that makes it a fun watch. Sure, its a little out of the current times and technology but if anything, maybe those games she tests out has some level of nostalgia.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie poster

Director: Lasse Hallstrom, Joe Johnston

Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Macfadyen

A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Drew’s Movie Reviews for Christmas in July Blogathon*

Disney picks up a lot of these live action children fantasy adventure movies at this point. It’s usually some harmless and visually appealing affair. That’s the best way to describe The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Set on Christmas Eve where Clara goes to a Christmas party and seeks out her godfather to the key to a puzzle that her mother had left her before she passed away takes her to an adventure in another realm through a passage from the mansion. Its quite a fun way to incorporate the elements of Christmas in the beginning and take the elements of a classic story like The Nutcracker and be able to reinterpret some of the characters especially the Mouse King the way that it did. The visuals paired with the score as well as the costumes are definitely the highlight of the film. The story itself is fairly predictable and even the villain which should be a twist is fairly easy to figure out. In the end, this is supposed to be a children’s movie for the most part so it’s not supposed to be complicated for an adult to watch this.

If you look at the cast, its quite a packed one with supporting roles from Morgan Freeman and Matthew Macfadyen. How many times has Matthew Macfadyen been in the same movie with Keira Knightley at this point, right? Keira Knightley takes on a much bigger role as the Sugar Plum Fairy with a high pitched voice and a rather entertaining role. To be honest, the younger roles here who play the lead like Mackenzie Foy as Clara or the Nutcracker Philip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight are fairly okay. They are still young and have room for improvement for sure especially in some reactions and such but overall, it’s still decent.

There’s a lot of the expected and predictable elements here. For people who enjoy this type of movie, they will still find the joy in it. If you’ve never quite enjoyed these movies from Disney, then its probably not one to catch. It sounds like I didn’t say anything with that comment but this is along the lines of movies like A Wrinkle in Time or Alice in Wonderland where it has a certain level of entertainment and visuals but also a fair share of elements like plot that might feel more formulaic.

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

Blog Tour: Forgotten Magic (Magic Underground Anthology #3) [Excerpt/Giveaway]

Welcome to the blog tour for the final installment from the Magic Underground trilogy, Forgotten Magic! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book!

Forgotten Magic (Magic Underground #3)

Forgotten Magic

Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: Anthology/Fantasy/Magic
Publisher: Magical Mayhem Press

SYNOPSIS

For the last time, these heroes, witches, wizards, vikings and more will put it all on the line. No quest is too dangerous. No monster be it a dragon or something cuddlier with teeth is off-limits in the epic conclusion to the Magic Underground Trilogy. Stay tuned for details.

Add to Goodreads

EXCERPT

Excerpt: The Ones Who Choose by C. S. Johnson

Before I’d left to return home, Ai started talking to me about the Bloodmagic.

After I’d rescued him from the tower, I had taken him down to the caves. I’d settled him in one as best as I could, and then faced the cave entrance, keeping a lookout for Aiden. I was more concerned for Aidan at first; I didn’t know if he was coming or not. There was a good chance that when Ai was taken, the Community Elders would find a way to keep everyone in the tower until they had answers. As much as we were both in this together, I didn’t know what to expect now that we’d accomplished something this big.

But as Ai kept talking to me, and considering his talk of condemnation, I began to ask Ai questions. It didn’t take us long to talk about Bloodmagic.

“Bloodmagic is their word for the sacrifice,” Ai said.

“What?” My head snapped to look at him, as if to make sure he wasn’t trying to fool me. Instantly, I regretted my action, seeing his mangled body and the sad condition it was in. That was part of the reason I’d offered to stand watch in the caves, keeping my focus on the entrance. While I did not want the Community Elders to find us, and although I was watching for Aidan, I did not want to look at Ai too much. He made me feel uncomfortable.

Ai slumped beside me, looking out toward the cave entrance. The last of the sunlight was gone, and the temperature dropped. Ai did not seem to notice, even if he was nearly naked, with only a thin cloth around his loins.

“They call humanity’s curse ‘Bloodmagic,’” Ai said. “That is their name for it. I don’t think they like to think about it much.”

“If this is why you’ve been hurt, they probably don’t like to think of it,” I said. I glanced at him quickly, before reverting my eyes back to the cave entrance. “This is terrible.”

“It is,” Ai agreed. “But it is like I told you before. All of my suffering is your suffering.”

“That’s not right.”

He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I have been alive for nearly a century, thanks to the Bloodmagic, and this is just the way things are. That is why I would prefer that you return me to my tower room.”

“What?” I gasped at the remark. “No. Why would you want that?”

“The Community won’t survive long, Skyla,” Ai said. “Without the Bloodmagic Covenant, the full effects of suffering will return to your friends and family swiftly and mercilessly. They will suffer, and in their suffering, they will make others suffer more. They might even begin to enjoy hurting others if we don’t hurry.”

“But you will suffer if you return,” I said. “And I will make you suffer, too. I don’t want that. Can’t something else be done about the Bloodmagic?”

“There is nothing that can be done about human nature,” Ai said quietly. “We are prone to self-destruction, and we live in a world where pain and suffering are constants. All the countries and nations of the world have wrestled with this question, and in the end, all of the pain still exists. Many tried to fix the problem and only made it worse.

“So they decided to try something else. And it works.” He reached up and touched the shard on his forehead, the one what was darkening along with the sky. “If I am not returned, the suffering will only increase, and you will see people at their very worst. Every evil, selfish, and ignorant thought will manifest into danger and disaster. I’ve been able to hold off their degeneracy for a long time, and without me, they will exponentially become violent and careless.”

“Surely we still have some more time to stop them.” I put my hands together, trying to think of something else. “Maybe it is a matter of education. The adults here are smart. They’ll be able learn how to deal with the pains our Community has.”

Ai shook his head. “You don’t understand,” he said with a sad sigh. “But you will, once you see it. You must promise me you will not forget me when you do, or you could be at risk, too.”

From that moment, we lapsed into silence, and I was grateful.

I shivered as we sat there, but I didn’t think it was because of the chill in the air.

Purchase Link: Amazon

AUTHOR LIST

Melinda Kucsera
Joynell Schultz
Lee French
H.B. Lyne
Raven Oak
L.C. Ireland
Alesha Escobar
Tiffany Shand
C.S. Johnson
Anela Deen
Erik Kort
Devorah Fox
Stephen Wallace
Gwendolyn Woodschild
Leah W. Van Dinther
Barbara Letson
C.K. Rieke
William C. Cronk
Majanka Verstraete
Toasha Jiordano
H.M. Jones
Krista Ames
A.R. Johnston

GIVEAWAY

Print copy of the book
Enter Giveaway HERE

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

June 1st

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
Tranquil Dreams (Spotlight) https://klling.wordpress.com/
Lunarian Press (Review) https://www.lunarianpress.com/

June 2nd

C. Vonzale Lewis (Spotlight) https://cvonzalelewis.com/index.php/blog/
Crystal’s Book World (Spotlight) http://crystalsbookworld.wordpress.com
Jennifer Mitchel, Bibliolater (Spotlight) https://www.jennifermitchellbooks.com
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

June 3rd

Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com/blogs/news
Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/
The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

June 4th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
Carrie’s Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Indies Reviews (Spotlight) http://indieproreview.blogspot.com/
Just 4 My Books (Spotlight) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com
Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
The Cozy Pages (Spotlight) http://thecozypages.wordpress.com/
Books Teacup & Reviews (Spotlight) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

June 5th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/
Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Spotlight) www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com
Lecari’s Live Journal (Review) http://www.lecari.co.uk

Blog Tour Organized By:
R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

To Wake The Dead (The Dead Dreamer #2) by Sarah Lampkin

Review for To Dream is To Die, Book 1 of The Dead Dreamer Series HERE

To Wake The Dead
(Dead Dreamer #2)
By: Sarah Lampkin

to wake the dead

*Book received in exchange for honest review*

Brenna Whit teeters the line between the living and the dead. Now that she’s back for her sophomore year at Nephesburg College, she’s determined to focus on the waking world. But when her own soul is trying to kill her and a new Dead Dreamer is fighting for power, Brenna is dragged back into the world of the dead.

The Gatekeepers are doing everything they can to restore the power they once held over the town of Nephesburg. With a mysterious set of twins arriving in town to help them prepare, Brenna must decide what’s important: continuing to hide her secret or reveal herself and fight for what she believes is right. The decision could end up leading to a permanent death for Brenna so she must choose wisely. – Goodreads

To Wake The Dead is the second book in The Dead Dreamer Series. The story picks up a few months after the events of the first book as university resumes again for Brenna. As a sequel, the story itself fully utilizes the foundation of the first one and builds from those events. However, its more of a second level deal. In the first book, it showed more of the general world of how the alternate plane, Fade would work and the different roles of Dead Dreams, Watcher, the Gatekeepers and more. The story goes further this time as it picks up those pieces and drives it towards something with a deeper scheme with even more characters and other elements involved and some more mysteries. It all says a lot to the entire world building for the premise itself and its incredibly well thought out as more factors come into play.

The characters are mostly the same as before. To Wake The Dead is in first person narration by its star Dead Dreamer, Brenna who tries to navigate the situation. What really builds on her character is that its not only a “battle” with the outside dangers in the Fade and the Gatekeepers but at the same time, its a battle with herself, the whole soul and spirit fight makes for a lot of the intrigue as her inner person, Maura, speaks up once in a while and then also has its danger elements. These unknown moments creates for changes in her mood and unexpected results of different severity and show of abilities that were unseen before. There’s a constant changing element presented each time and it makes Brenna become an intriguing character to follow in her adventures. Of course, it helps that her friends, Aeria and Damon also have a great part as they also get pulled deeper into the equation. The three actually find a balance in their characters especially with the banter between Damon and Brenna (which started off in the first book) and these situations that come up in the story also create some tension as expected.

Overall, To Wake The Dead is a very decent sequel. There’s more depth in world building, plot development and character development. The story does start off a little slower than the first book therefore, pacing at the beginning dragged just a little bit to set up the new situation. Once things started moving again, it was an engaging read. Solid sequel and can’t wait for the next book!

Score: 4 out of 5

Double Feature: A.M.I. (2019) & Albion: The Enchanted Stallion (2016)

Next Double Feature is here! Its been a while since I’ve gone on an alphabet double feature! This time, I’m going to try to work through both Netflix and Shudder titles for the pairing as much as possible. Its a decision that I made after the A selections though so here we are! A selection starts with 2019 horror film A.M.I. and then followed by 2016’s indie fantasy-adventure film Albion: The Enchanted Stallion. Let’s check it out!

A.M.I. (2019)

A.M.I.

Director (and co-writer): Rusty Nixon

Cast: Debs Howard, Philip Granger, Bonnie Hay, Sam Robert Muik, Veronica Hampson, Havana Guppy

A seventeen year old girl forms a co-dependent relationship with an artificial intelligence on her phone and goes on a murderous rampage. – IMDB

Movies based on AI and possibly corrupted or misused technology is definitely been on the rise. We did recently watch Child’s Play remake (review) and then there’s been a few short films screened at film festivals that had that sort of concept as well. A.M.I. plays with that concept where the AI becomes the mother figure anchor for Cassie, who loses her mother and can’t seem to see eye to eye with her father, grows distant with her friends (who aren’t all that great) and then a scumbag of a boyfriend. With all these factors, A.M.I. turns into her “person” and eventually becomes the manipulating force that drives her to start killing all those that have wronged her.

The story and premise, while not entirely fresh, has a decent foundation. The only issue is that the film is filled with really bad characters. Bad in the sense that they are truly bad people with some really warped sense of friendship, love, relationships, etc. As Cassie breaks down from seeing everyone’s true personality, her character is supposed to have some kind of pity, I suppose but then, the story never gives enough to make her feel that way and instead brings her straight into this rampage that she goes on. The characters here are built so incredibly thin and so unwelcoming that its hard to side with any of them and care about what happens to them either. A part of that might have to do with some overacting on all parts and some ridiculous dialogue.

A.M.I. has a lot of issues that hides the fact that the premise itself wasn’t a bad one and has some creepy parts but the tone it chooses and the characters it uses during this makes it actually a rather funny movie. Perhaps if it didn’t feel like it took itself that seriously, it would have been a fun little movie romp to have a good laugh at some of the ridiculous bits that happen.

Albion: The Enchanted Stallion (2016)

Albion: The Enchanted Stallion

Director (and co-writer): Castille Landon

Cast: Avery Arendes, Stephen Dorff, Castille Landon, Daniel Sharman, John Cleese, Liam McIntyre, Jennifer Morrison

A twelve-year-old girl is transported by a magical black stallion to the mystical world of ALBION, where she discovers that she alone is the key to saving an entire race of people. – IMDB

Albion: The Enchanted Stallion is a fun little fantasy adventure. There’s a lot of creativity here and introduces a new fantasy world that the young girl enters unknowingly on the back of a stallion that she tends to. In this world, she learns that its not all coincidence and yet has something linked to herself and it gives her the courage and bravery to do the right thing and help her newfound friends in saving the people in this magical world called Albion.

Albion is a world split between the good and bad. There are people fighting to regain the balance that once was despite its perils and challenges. Evie is brought into this world and almost doesn’t believe that things that she experiences and tries to find a way back. Its a fun world to say the least. Plus, each of the characters that she meets is rather entertaining as well. They run into their own dangers and while some of the characters could have a little more depth, this is something of a family film (although there are some rather disgusting bits), it satisfies the adventurous tale that it wants to tell. Everyone’s character whether good or bad has its own standout moments. Special mention to Jennifer Morrison who plays The Abbess and her part is absolutely awesome.

Albion: The Enchanted Stallion has its little issues here and there but it executes itself pretty well and its a harmless little film that packs in a lot of fun dialogue and banter and also brings in some colorful characters. I’d definitely say that its something of a hidden gem and a pleasant surprise in the landscape of family fantasy adventure films.

That’s it for the A title double feature!
Have you seen these movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Black Panther (2018) & A Wrinkle In Time (2018)

Next Double Feature here! This time its multi-themed, I guess. Both 2018 movies and also part of the Disney movies so we have A Wrinkle in Time and paired with Marvel’s Black Panther. Not the same type of movies or directed to the same audience but I figured it was the best way to pair it together. Let’s check it out!

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther

Director (and co-writer): Ryan Coogler

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

T’Challa, heir to the hidden but advanced kingdom of Wakanda, must step forward to lead his people into a new future and must confront a challenger from his country’s past. – IMDB

Marvel movies are pretty much churning out non-stop at this point with multiple film releases in a year. Black Panther had a lot of buzz and praise. While we had already seen T’Challa show up in a previous Marvel movie, this one takes place after Captain America: Civil War where we did see T’Challa appear in (I think) and while not an origin story is somewhat of the story of Wakanda, their rituals and land as well as how the kingdom is run. It also shows the rise and fall from the kingdom for T’Challa as he finds his way back to the throne. Its not meant to be a bad comment but I actually felt a lot like I was watching the story of The Lion King.

As with the majority of Marvel movies, its the length that really bothers me and its also one of the reasons why its taken so long to catch up with Black Panther. While I still think the movie was a tad longer than it needed to be and dragged in some parts and its still a rather superhero formula type of movie, what stands out in Black Panther is the unique kingdom and clans that surround it and seeing the different characters fall apart or become allies. There’s a sense of true pride with the characters and Chadwick Boseman is really good as Black Panther.

In terms of villains, its somewhat of a two-fold villain where Andy Serkis plays one part of it and then Michael B. Jordan plans the second part of it. Villains are always one of the weaknesses of Marvel movies in my opinion as it has so much focus on the superhero coming out on top that it makes the villain less threatening because it just never has the time to build. In this case, its not exactly great but I’d say that Michael B. Jordan makes for a better villain and it might be simply because the reasoning behind what he does makes sense and has its own backstory that gets revealed and connects everything together.

Overall, Black Panther is decent. I can’t say that I’m running back to watch it mostly for its length. But, in terms of Marvel films, this one falls somewhere in the middle due it having some unique origin story elements, character development and Wakanda “world” building elements.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time

Director: Ava DuVernay

Cast: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena

After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him. – IMDB

Live action fantasy adventure films for family/children is always a little bit of hit and miss when it comes to Disney offerings. A Wrinkle in Time is based on a 1962 novel of the same name that I haven’t read so I have no comparison to source material and really just how it delivers as the movie. A Wrinkle in Time falls somewhere in the middle. Its feels a bit like pieces stuck together so always has that disjointed feeling but at the same time, the new world is fantastical and just like the three astral travelers, they all happen to be a little odd as well. Its really a search for a father who has gone missing as they chase down where he might have gone because of his research and how the planet needs their help in order to battle the darkness which leaks into their own planet and causes negative things to happen, like bullying and envy. With that said, the sentimental elements here are done pretty well in terms of a family film. Visually, the movie also delivers on all the fantasy and sci-fi elements which is where the story itself truly has a lot of fun.

The cast itself is decent as well with a lot of star power behind it. The three astral travelers are played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling who each have a little personality that balances each other out and their own abilities. The older kids are played Storm Reid and Levi Miller who does a decent job as well. There are other performances by Michael Pena and Zach Galifianakis. All the characters are a tad quirky and there’s a little cryptic element as they go through this search towards helping save this planet from their dangers. The story is a little messy at times but there is a decent level of imagination in what it presents. To be fair, its not completely engrossing to watch but at the same time, its a pretty harmless family film. You get what you’d expect from a Disney family adventure film pretty much.

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

Double Feature: The Last Witch Hunter (2015) & Bait (2012)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of the odd and ends paired up for this one as we look at 2015’s action-fantasy The Last Witch Hunter and 2012’s Australian shark film, Bait, which is coming up in a Movies and Tea’s After Hours 4th Shark Week choice. Before that, I’ll do a little review here since I do love talking about creature features and shark films a lot.

Let’s check it out!

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

The Last Witch Hunter

Director: Breck Eisner

Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Rena Owen, Julie Engelbrecht, Michael Caine

The last witch hunter is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history. – IMDB

While The Last Witch Hunter wasn’t well-received, I’m not going to lie that I still had hopes of it being a fun watch. Vin Diesel has a reputation to be cast in certain roles and in certain types of characters. In the case of this film, its something along the lines of past movies like Van Helsing which I actually enjoy quite a bit. With that said, there are glaring issues with the movie as its mostly a mindless entertainment and incredible amount of fluff. Its story is not that deep even if it tries to pull out some twists which honestly doesn’t execute all that well and if you think too much about it all, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Not to mention, there isn’t a whole lot of actual witch hunting so it has a little dragging feeling.

However, being as objective as I can be and fully noting all its flaws, The Last Witch Hunter is for people who enjoy the generally more one liner sort of anti-protagonist if you will that Vin Diesel plays. Not to mention, there is a good cast here with a somewhat cameo appearance of Michael Caine and a supporting role by Elijah Wood and a female lead with Rose Leslie. They all do bring something more to this film. The Last Witch Hunter is understandably not liked by its general viewers and there are a lot of issues with it, not to mention that its pretty forgettable but as a Vin Diesel fan, it still was a passable movie experience. Not something to rewatch but it had its fun moments.

Bait (2012)

bait

Director: Kimble Rendall

Cast: Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson, Adrian Pang, Yuwu Qi, Alex Russell, Phoebe Tonkin, Martin Sacks, Alice Parkinson, Lincoln Lewis, Damien Garvey, Cariba Heine, Richard Brancatisano

A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building – along with 12-foot Great White Sharks. – IMDB

There are a lot of shark movies. So many of them are just really bad B-movies. As sharks as the underwater predator becomes such a constant use, its easy to be a little desensitized and pickier about how its used and what type of scenario to toss at the characters. In the case of Bait, while it doesn’t do a lot of things that are new, it still has quite the hook of creating a one location movie with a great deal of characters and different types of relationships: family, romance, work. Its set during a tsunami that traps its characters in a underground supermarket primarily setting it within a flooding supermarket and parking garage and two sharks circling those waters while alternating between the two locations to figure out their way out before the dangers surrounding them takes them down, both shark-related and not.

With that said, Bait does a lot of good execution here. One of its best things is using a top down camera to capture the underwater shadow of the shark location which gives the audience more knowledge than the characters and builds tension. At the same time, it doesn’t reveal the shark a lot and just uses the point of view of its characters to create the tension of the unknown, giving the sharks a much more quiet predator that will ambush them. The shark elements here are done pretty well.

If there’s anything to probably criticize a little, it would be its characters which are plentiful so the survival rate is fairly high. That’s not a bad thing but with a movie like this, deep characters usually are already hard to create especially when its a balancing act to not bring in too much petty drama and keeping in sight the bigger problem at hand, like survival. The characters are very basic and don’t really stand out. But then, let’s be honest, I’m not expecting deep characters in a shark movie. Maybe its just my expectations are low to start with and I’m just looking for a thrilling time. On that level, Bait delivers pretty well. Although, I would have liked the shark reveal a little later, just to give it more mystery but there is enough moments to make it pretty exciting to watch.

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

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.

ashesashes2

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

ashes phoenix

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.

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