Double Feature: John Wick (2014) & Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (2014)

And we’re ramping up on some of these double features. I’m trying to boost up some of the movie reviews especially since I’m trying to catch up on a lot of movies available on Shudder before I take a little break from subscribing to their streaming service. I do love their selection and they constantly are coming up with movies from Fantasia in the past few years that I had to miss due to scheduling conflict. Regardless, I’m going to try my absolute best to get through as many as possible.

I promise you that I never plan these things out so well but hey, apparently, I landed on a 2014 double feature. Why not, right? So, first one is catching up on John Wick, which everyone has been telling me to especially since its been a bumpy road for my Keanu Reeves love that has definitely faded quite a bit in the recent years, especially with the horrible Knock Knock that I wanted to roll under my car a few times if I had an actual physical copy of it. I heard John Wick is fantastic and it feels like its more in the Keanu Reeves element so I’m looking forward to it. Then its time to start the Shudder trek and go for a treasure hunt adventure in Kumiko The Treasure Hunter. It seems from what I’ve seen, its not exactly horror so I’m not sure why its in Shudder but hey, its been on my to-watch list for quite some time so I’m expecting some incredibly slow-paced indie film style. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect but it has this odd yet intriguing thing about it.

Without further ado, lets just jump right in!

John Wick (2014)

John Wick

Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick

An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog and took everything from him. – IMDB

John Wick is one of those movies that I sit down and right away its obvious that its going to be a fun little ride to the end. Keanu Reeves has had a few down moments but this is definitely one of those great moments that I loved him for. Him as John Wick is truly in his own element. Its a simple story about revenge and it was about John Wick’s loss and while it felt like it wasn’t a big deal to others, he lost everything that was worthwhile.

Its one of those films that build on its character gradually. When the movie started, it was just about this tired man who lost his wife and then gets broken into and steals his car and killed his dog. But as we pan into these other characters, we learn more and more about John Wick. First that he is a person to be feared and then how he got that title and finally, it gradually through the many scenes showed up his true focus and competency. Its builds and paces itself well. It didn’t need a lot of dialogue and fit the story perfectly because sometimes being about to see what is unsaid is a truly great performance in itself.

john wick

The characters whether it was the longer staying ones or the cameos all were memorable characters. Michael Nyqvist was great as the bad guy here taking his role to a fantastic new level that made him very fun to watch as well. Unfortunately, I did miss that he had passed away last year but learned about while researching the film a little further. He had done some great roles and this one included. John Leguizamo had a cameo role and I like that guy a lot ever since I saw him in Moulin Rouge. He has such a stand-out presence.

john wick

Overall, John Wick was a fun and thrilling ride from start to finish full of action and one liners and great performances through and through. The story was never too complicated and that fitted in exactly the focused character that John Wick was portrayed as while showing off how incredibly fantastic he was as a hitman. The soundtrack also was so awesome, accentuating every action scene.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

Director (and co-writer): David Zellner

Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, David Zellner, Shirley Venard

A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money. – IMDB

Right off the bat, lets just say that Kumiko the Treasure Hunter is definitely an indie film experience. Its fairly slow paced and honestly not a whole lot happens. We follow around this oddly introvert Japanese woman who believes in the based on a true story Fargo’s hidden treasure to fill her life goal to find it. Is it a journey to find meaning in her life? Theres something deeper in this story that pulls me in but yet, it feels like theres not a whole lot going for it because it feels empty and then maybe that is what Kumiko feels as her emotions are more connected to her pet bunny Bunzo than even her own mother. However, the story itself is quite unique and surprisingly, the more I think about it, I feel like there may be more to discover. Writing it up now, the intriguing elements of this story is in Rinko Kikuchi’s performance no matter how little she says, her actions and her expressions define her character and keeps us wondering what she will do next as he focuses on getting to her treasure.

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

I can’t say I am a huge fan of the movie or that I get whats going on completely and maybe it merits a second viewing. While I acknowledge the great performance of Rinko Kikuchi and the uniqueness of centering a story on someone actually believing the based on true story movies that general movie viewers (myself included) may have become skeptical to, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter has some good moments and some well shot scenes but its definitely not for everyone. It requires a lot of patience to get through, but if you enjoyed A Ghost Story, this one might be right up your alley in terms of pacing at least. A bit of mixed feelings towards this one for myself.

Thats it for this 2014 double feature. A contrast in so many ways.
The first is action packed and the second is slow paced execution.
Have you seen these two yet?

Advertisements

Movies and Tea #1 – Shopping

Welcome to the Booth! Elwood and I just released the first episode of Movies and Tea, our new movie podcast. The structure of the show is divided into seasons where each season we take a look at different directors and their works. The first to kick off this debut season is Paul W.S. Anderson and his directorial full feature debut, Shopping.

Head over to our blog to check out the podcast!
Give us a follow is you like it so you don’t miss out on the upcoming episodes!

Movies and Tea

Kicking off our first season looking at the films of director Paul W.S. Anderson starting with his debut film Shopping

Released in 1994 to a mixed critical response and much distain from the BBFC Paul W.S Anderson’s Shopping gave a pre-apocalypic vision of an unanmed British city in which the recently released joyrider Billy (played by an impossibly young jude law) and his best friend Jo (played by Law’s future ex-wife Sadie Frost).

Here they set out to leave thier mark on the city along the way clashing with Jonathan Pryce’s authoritarian chief of police and Sean Pertwee’s rival gang leader Tommy in what could have been seen as sparking the revial of the british independent scene had it not been eclipsed by the release of Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave the following year.

Join us in the booth as we discuss this debut aswell as looking at the rebel girls…

View original post 53 more words

Double Feature: Astro Boy (2009) & When in Rome (2010)

And we’re back with another double feature!

In the neverending quest to catch up with Netflix and diminish the outstanding titles on my Netflix list before they vanish from selection, I’ve decided to choose movies primarily already on the list whenever I watch something which lead me to trying out a new way than the normal alphabetical approach and that’s to choose a common factor between films, mostly director or actor/actress in whichever role. I honestly don’t know how long this can go for but from the preliminary test, I have at least 20 movies drafted in so we’re in for a ride. I’m liking this new way as it gives variety.

This time will be a lovely Kristen Bell double feature with Astro Boy and When in Rome!

Astro Boy (2009)

Astro Boy

Director: David Bowers

Voice Cast: Freddie Highmore, Charlize Theron, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Bill Nighy, Kristen Bell

When an android replica of a boy is rejected by his aggrieved creator, he goes off to find his own identity in an adventure that would make him the greatest hero of his time. –IMDB

While I can’t hate on animated films. Astro Boy really is quite average. Back when this was announced, I had my doubts and I was also travelling when it came out so I never caught it in theatres. A lot of the story here is quite generic and its not very exciting. However, the art is quite nice plus the world is very pretty with lots of colors. The characters are brought alive by its immense talent behind the voices. Kristen Bell does a great job but we also have Bill Nighy as the scientist and Nicolas Cage as the dad and of course, Donald Sutherland as the villain. During that time, Freddie Highmore had a lot of these kid roles and he does a fantastic job as Astro Boy. It may be average but in all its generic and predictable moments, it still has a few decent fun and funny moments.

 

With that said, Astro Boy could be a fun movie for a younger audience. It has a lot of science-y fun and brave kids and takes in the parents angle. Plus, its not terribly long running at about 90 minutes which is always nice because it keeps the pacing decent.

When in Rome (2010)

When in Rome

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Alexis Dziena, Kate Micucci

Beth is a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love. However, on a whirlwind trip to Rome, she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors. – IMDB

I’m pretty forgiving with romantic comedies. They are really just silly and funny sometimes. There has been widely a shortage of good ones and When in Rome honestly doesn’t do much for itself. Its quite ridiculous in parts and I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes at everything. However, When in Rome has some charming characters. Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel are incredibly fun to watch together and separate. The premise is really where things are a little odd and shaky. Just take a look at the cast, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett are all fantastic as the enchanted lovers chasing after Kristen Bell and they offer some pretty comedic moments. Its always a good time to watch Dax Shepherd and Kristen Bell as they always do these roles and can get the whole not into each other thing really well. When in Rome just seems like it doesn’t have anything special about it other than its charming cast. But then, you can always watch this charming cast in other movies they’ve done better roles for making this one seem not so appealing.

Overall, Astro Boy and When in Rome fall in the very average range. I’m still a fan of Kristen Bell and its definitely not her issues that makes for the downfalls of these two selections.

Have you seen Astro Boy and/or When in Rome?
What is your favorite Kristen Bell film?

Horror Marathon: Saw VI (2009) #horror #Saw #SawVI #Franchise

Moving along with quite well with the Saw franchise and we are at the 6th movie. Its becoming wildly apparent that this is one long story that can’t be really reviewed by part however, we will try.

Lets go!

Saw VI (2009)

Saw VI

Director: Kevin Greutert

Cast: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Peter Outerbridge, Shawnee Smith, Athena Karkanis

Agent Strahm is dead, and FBI agent Erickson draws nearer to Hoffman. Meanwhile, a pair of insurance executives find themselves in another game set by Jigsaw.-IMDB

NOOO!!! Scott Patterson’s Agent Strahm is dead. He was my highlight in the last two movies. At least he died pretty epicly, sort of.

I never thought that I would say this at this point in the franchise but the sixth movie breathed some life back into the franchise. However, since the last two movies, I haven’t been able to watch any of the first victims/games because its just incredibly disgusting. Gore and torture porn doesn’t normal bother me a lot but its probably the watching back to back of them that has caused a decrease tolerance. So, I was pretty nauseous in that first part because the sound effects made me also imagine what was going on and I have one outrageous imagination. And actually because of that beginning, I went into this sixth one quite bitter and angry for this opening direction. Lets just say I’m fed up of the gore which doesn’t make sense because this is what I had originally thought Saw franchise was all about.

Saw VI

To be fair, Saw VI is quite good. In terms of the direction of the story, it starts lining up with Jigsaw’s last game in his will and reveals the answer as to other person or people involved. The question at this point (and before) is always how do these people caught in the game relate to Jigsaw? How did they meet and what bad things have these people done? Jigsaw’s captives are rarely people who have done nothing and here is where this film excels. The story itself highlights Jigsaw’s mentality in spades about the morality and ethics. The backstory of everyone’s involvement is what links all the movies together but this story really brings out the why for Jigsaw’s action especially when his mantra is cherish your life and yet the guy caught in the game is stuck in making decisions to essentially use his formula on the people he knows and make him question his choices. What I did like the best was actually the way Saw VI manages to keep its tension and momentum and really keep us guessing to the end which was quite a twist. Good job on the switch in director to Kevin Greutert who seems take the gore a little too seriously still manages to balance it well enough in the psychological department to make it work.

Saw VI

While I do praise this instalment and had a good bit of enjoyment from it, which is surprising considering I was angry at it when the movie started, there are still flaws. It mostly goes down to our character making predictable choices. However, it might just fall into how well we know Jigsaw’s puzzle concepts particularly under time crunch blended with the guy in the game who does a decent performance. Or maybe, its just my expectations are so low that it didn’t matter anymore so there was more enjoyment because of that.

Overall, Saw VI does a decent job here. It makes the The Final Chapter (which we know is a lie since theres a new movie out in a week or so) a little more promising. How will they end it?

Did you watch Saw VI? 

Horror Marathon: Saw III (2006)

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadian friends! 🙂

We continue our horror marathon with the next Saw entry, Saw III. At this point of the franchise, I went into this not exactly sure where it will go. The second one was lackluster and the first was really good. However, this is still at the helms of the sequel’s director so lets just say expectations weren’t particularly high.  Let’s just jump right in!

Saw III (2006)

Saw III

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer, Lyriq Bent

Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor named Lynn denlon to keep him alive while he watches his new apprentice put an unlucky citizen named Jeff through a brutal test. Lynn has to keep jigsaw alive until Jeff completes the test or else Lynn will die – IMDB

Saw III takes a turn with a really different vibe. At this point, if you haven’t read the last two, this one is going to have certain spoilers relating to the flow of the story. In the previous one, we’ve learned that Jigsaw has an apprentice in the one girl that has escaped in the first one, Amanda Young. Jigsaw is on his death bed and both him and Amanda are trying to keep him alive in this last elaborate trap/redemption for a man who has lost his child and lives in mourning. However, Saw III takes a different approach as it has very much a more gory and disgusting choice in its scenes than the first two. There are some truly gut-wrenching scenes in particular one death scene. Saw III so far is the weakest of the three so far in the franchise and that comes with somewhat of a lackluster build-up even if its ending tries very hard to be clever to link back events and characters to make it find its worth.

Saw III

Saw III, like the previous ones, takes us on two primary storylines. One is of Jeff and the other of the psychological battle of the doctor kidnapped to try to make sure Jigsaw survives. Since I enjoy these Jigsaw bits more and through his conversation, understanding his character a little more, this part is the stronger part, however, it does feel so pointless at parts because it focuses on Amanda Young who seems to have this toxic relationship with Jigsaw (but then, Jigsaw is a pretty toxic character with some warped sense of life), whereas she seems to be a very extreme character leading her to some of the tense moments while seeing how she is also weak. In fact, Shawnee Smith does a decent job at this character. The fault might be in the writing being slightly convoluted in showcasing her character as Amanda Young.

Saw III

On the other hand, Jeff’s storyline leads us to most of the gory parts as he needs to face one obstacle after the next. These obstacles are truly a psychological battle as Jigsaw tests his stubbornness of holding onto his grief and not letting go to continue to see what he has and be grateful for those things. It all seems like such an obstacle because in the first one, there is  a connection for the people he’s captured. This one, we wonder why he’s captured him. I mean, Jigsaw is a pretty intricate man. He picks his victims with purpose. Instead, here we see a lot of pieces lined together from the opening scenes and such to picking Jeff. Of course, Jeff is a character that is battling with his own emotions however, it feels so dull to keep watching him go through one person to the next that could have been responsible for his child’s death not having justice or treated correctly, etc.

To be fair, Saw III does pull the story together at the end. Just like the second one, the ending is its strength however, it hardly justifies the very lackluster beginning and middle sections that only try to make us wonder in dumb dialogue and gory and disgusting moments. Saw III is one that I didn’t enjoy a lot. It had a clever ending and for that, it did take me by surprise slightly although at a certain part, I had started piecing everything together. However, it is my least favorite till now.

That’s for for this review! Did you see Saw III?
Saw III makes worry about where the next one will go. At least there’s Scott Patterson, right?

Double Feature: Southpaw (2015) & Miss Sloane (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature. I rented Southpaw and Miss Sloane on discount on Play Store last month. Two very different films and two very different feelings about it however both heavily reliant on their main character.

Southpaw (2015)

Southpaw

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Oona Lawrence, 50 Cent, Naomie Harris

Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services. – IMDB

If there is one word to describe Southpaw, it would be disappointing. It isn’t particularly a bad film as the performances were great. Rachel McAdams did great for what it was. Jake Gyllenhaal was fantastic and I absolutely love Forest Whitaker who is an underrated actor. The girl who played the daughter was Oona Lawrence and that arc was decent.

However, the flaw lies in the fact that Southpaw is pretty much another Rocky story in many instances and we already had Creed recently that was much more engaging. It didn’t help that Southpaw was a little too dramatic at parts but never made it feel very exciting to watch. Seeing the stellar cast being in this uninspired script truly was a lackluster experience.

Miss Sloane (2016)

miss sloane

Director: John Madden

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Alison Pill, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Lithgow, Jake Lacy

In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. But when taking on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds winning may come at too high a price. – IMDB

Miss Sloane was a movie that I went in with no idea of what the premise is. I have heard good things about it and I have enjoyed Jessica Chastain. Miss Sloane is such a vibrant character wrapped up in a tough and ruthless shell. She is strong and strategic in all her plans and for all the reasons, it makes us wonder on what she has under her sleeve even in the most desperate of situations but it is what makes her compelling to watch.

Miss Sloane, just as the title implies, is truly based on Jessica Chastain and how she takes on the role and she did an outstanding job. As we navigate through her way of life and the little things, while she isn’t exactly a character you would cheer for because of her lack of ethics and morals in some of her decisions, every part whether planned or not comes into play and that gives full credit for the screenwriters doing a fine job at giving it a good pacing that keeps everything moving and finding a balance to learn just enough about Miss Sloane and keeping enough to make everything make sense and surprise when it falls into place.

While Miss Sloane isn’t typically the movie that I would watch, I’m glad that I did because it was absolutely awesome. Gripping, compelling and full of twists and turns around every corner. This one is a must see.

Have you seen Southpaw and/or Miss Sloane?

Fantasia Festival 2017: Napping Princess (2017)

Going to Fantasia and not checking out at least one anime or other animated films would be a pity. While some great choices slipped through because of scheduling like Senior Class, I wasn’t going to let this one go.

Napping Princess (2017)

Napping Princess

Director and writer: Kenji Kamiyama

Cast: Mitsuki Takahata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tomoya Maeno

In the car-clogged Eastopolis, capital of the kingdom of Heartland, Princess Ancien is confined to gilded cage of sorts. Gifted with remarkable powers, she can bring the inanimate to life using a magical digital device. But she also draws to the city the Terrible Colossus, placing her father’s realm at risk. Back in the real world, it’s three days before the Tokyo Olympics of 2020, and sleepyhead Kokone awakes again from her dreams of Heartland to the realities of life in small-town Okayama. All is not well, though, as her struggling widower father has become tangled up in some sort of corporate intrigue. Soon, the divide between her reveries and the real world will begin to crumble… – Fantasia Festival

Napping Princess, also called Ancien and the Magic Tablet, is a fun and magical adventure animated feature. Straddling between reality and the dream world, a different but linked story with all the same characters come to life in an endearing and a lot of times, humorous way. Cute characters and fantastic environments and the magical kingdom being so pretty, truly makes it something of an eye candy. Napping Princess however does seem to get lost in its length a little and the final act meshes together in a way that makes it hard to follow.

The concept of Napping Princess is outstanding and this anime takes its audience for a ride both literally and figuratively. Our main character is college bound Kokone who has an awkward but close relationship with his widower father who ends up being arrested by the police because he is accused of stealing something. This takes Kokone and her school friend, Morio on a journey as they tumble and roll through one scene after the next, funnily getting through it despite the danger. Napping Princess is definitely a family friendly feature and in many ways, remains innocent. Not only is Kokone and Morio colorful but even the more subtle characters also are. Between the reality and dream sequences, many characters are portrayed differently however also a joy to watch. Even the enemy may have a secret agenda that we soon learn about by the end, however he and his goons are comedic goofballs. What makes it funnier is the fact that the audience is the smarter person here and it becomes obvious that the scenes were written as in our seats we react accordingly with disbelief of the innocent acts of revealing where Kokone is for example in a situation where she may be too trusting.

Napping Princess is an anime that aims to keep its audience on its toes as Kokone escapes and learns about her parents. While the audience gets to see a bigger picture as we can see the villain’s schemes as well as the father’s interrogation, the journey is primarily with Kokone and her friends. While the kingdom of Heartland is a steampunk world filled with mesmerizing designs and a war that is incredible to watch. The real world is in a much more personal journey. Princess Ancien may know much more about her powers and her capabilities but on the contrary, Kokone is only learning about her background as she heads off on this escape and its an adventure that takes everyone quite the turn. Plus, everyone likes an adventure with a magical bear. In this case, he’s called Joy and an adorable little thing that is Princess Ancien’s companion in the kingdom of Heartland.

While Napping Princess is a rather long anime, it does create two fun worlds: the kingdom of Heartland and the future reality of Japan in 2020. In a world of corporate schemes and a dream world of impending war from giant creatures attracted by magic, both are in danger and its all on Kokone or Princess Ancien to hatch a plan that will fix it. Its fun, entertaining and filled with lots of laughter. Its never too serious or even too dangerous even if there is a little bit of violence. With cute and colorful characters, Napping Princess is a family friendly animated feature that is altogether a fun time.