Music Obsessions – June 2020

In a blink of an eye, 2020 has entered June. I guess being home on lockdown has been quite the discovery as I got to catch up on some music, mostly as I was more on top with TV series and variety shows and whatnot as well as some new music.

Empty Space  – Theo 朱正廷 ft. Boogie 

Its always exciting to see Theo release new music. So far, the last few singles have been really good and shows a diverse style that he has been able to grasp from ballads to cute to energetic music. Its always nice to see the Nine Percent crew getting together so here, Boogie joins him to do a little rap portion. Its a really nice song and very uplifting.

别人家的小孩 Other Family’s Children – 创造101 Yamy组 Produce 101 Team Yamy ft. 王一博 Yibo Wang

I’ve been searching up some music from Yibo Wang lately because of not being able to let go of The Untamed. He seems to fit into this mold but then when he is on stage, there is this different person that pops up that I find is fairly fun and charming. One of the really fun songs was a recap back in Produce 101 (that I didn’t watch in 2018, I think) and he was one of the instructors that got to participate in this song with the trainees. Its a super fun song.

Eternal Love 貳叁 – Kris Wu 吳亦凡

I’m using this one as this is the performance that I saw on Produce Camp 2020 that made me like the song and the actual MV is a 15 minutes short film, which I’m not sure anyone has time for so I’ve put it below as well in case you want to check it out:

Back to this song by Kris Wu, I’m not going to lie that I wasn’t too sure about Kris Wu before since I didn’t listen to EXO-M and didn’t quite know of him other than the pretty and cool face in XXX: The Return of Xander (review). However, he was the surprise mentor in Produce Camp 2020 for the first performances and I realized that he actually wrote both the lyrics and music for this song and its a nice blend of traditional Chinese music fused into modern pop music and it turns so great especially since he has a pretty good voice as well. Impressive! Kris Wu is on my radar now!

Lover 情人 – 蔡徐坤组 KUN & Youth With You 2 Trainees
(Collab Stage performance)

A lot of performance videos this time around. Deal is, Love from Kun Cai hasn’t been released yet but its a new song that he decided to use for the collab stage with the trainees of Youth With You 2 and its one of my favorite songs from KUN and also one of my fave performance in Youth With You 2. Really sexy and stylish!

Not Spring, Love or Cherry  Blossoms – High4, IU

I don’t share a lot of Korean music here but after hearing the Chinese version of it in one of the shows, I went to look for the original and this song is so cute and romantic. It actually makes me super happy to listen to it.

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
June is here and while the world is not too great right now with everything going on, consider this my slice of safe haven!

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

valerian and the city of a thousand planets

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Dan DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Sam Spruell, Kris Wu, John Goodman, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna

A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe. – IMDB

Adapted from a French comic series titled Valerian and Laureline, Luc Besson’s latest piece takes us on a sci-fi adventure to Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets where we follow the adventures of two young agents and partners, Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline. Luc Besson heading back to a sci-fi premise and seemingly calling back to The Fifth Element days is an endearing thought. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a visually stunning adventure full of new aliens and characters to discover, perhaps more so for those that have not read the source material. While filled with great performances what does let  down the overall experience is the story itself being adventurous and fun but slightly predictable.

The performances here focus mostly on Cara Delevingne’s Laureline and Dan DeHaan’s Valerian. As a team, they work together well and while on missions, there is a friction and conflict they have as Laureline fights for her recognition and importance. While some of their dialogue feels cheesy and oddly out of place, they have a certain chemistry that helps in certain ways. It adds in some laughs here and there and their bickering while overused in movies does help ease in some relaxing moments between the action. There are some bigger names here as well such as Clive Owen as the Commander who gets taken by an alien race that was deemed to have been destroyed. While not a huge role, he excelled at commanding his scene. What is also a nice face to see here is Kris Wu, a young actor that appeared earlier this year in XXX:The Return of Xander Cage, who gives a good performance while in a supporting role as well. Aside from that, Ethan Hawke has a cameo role that draws similarities to Jack Sparrow’s free spirit and this leads to Rihanna who is really showing off as a performer more than she is an actress as she dazzles us with a beautiful on-stage transformational dance which is followed shortly after with an emotional scene that falls short from its intentions.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets does lack depth in its story. Perhaps the length of over two hours did more harm than good, as there was a certain level of suspense in the beginning however, the ending became increasingly predictable. What does make this flick worth your time is how Luc Besson brings this world to life in every single way. The City of a Thousand Planets is fascinating to discover at every corner and the effects are done incredibly well. While some may complain about the drawback of having too much CGI, this is a strength in creating this fictional fantasy world. The action and technology here makes those moments feel like we are immersed in great adventures as Valerian and Laureline go on their own mission. It almost feels like we are in a video game. The best example is when Valerian’s gun can shoot platforms as he vaults through a gap with all these fantastical creatures that are both beautiful and dangerous simultaneously.

Overall, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has its flaws. It is meant to be a popcorn flick that will dazzle its audience visually with its beautiful and mesmerizing world along with its action-packed sequences. There is no doubt that this one has decent cast that delivers even with a story that lacks depth however it is a fun and entertaining flick.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017)

If you have seen my Top 10 Anticipated Movies  of 2017 here, you will realize that I don’t have a lot of popular choices but at least the beginning of the year is mostly fun sequels. Does that mean they are bad? I actually embrace movies that are in the cheesy and so bad its awesome category, embrace fun and action filled movies and from what I remember of xXx. That is exactlt what I would expect from this third one especially since Vin Diesel reprises his role as Xander Cage and his on screen presence is just simply awesome. Full transparency, I have seen xXx two times. The review is HERE. However, I have not seen the sequel with Ice Cube. Whether you call it a reboot or a sequel, I’m just excited to see Vin Diesel jump back into this role. I’m going to lie if after fifteen years, Xander Cage can still be revived without any disappointments but with the cast they have, its hard to not be impressed and excited.

Let’s check it out!

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017)

xxx the return of xander cage

Director: DJ Caruso

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping, Samuel L Jackson

The third explosive chapter of the blockbuster franchise that redefined the spy thriller finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora’s Box. – Rotten Tomatoes

For those who haven’t seen the first xXx, you honestly don’t really  need to know much about it. The Return of Xander Cage, other than Xander Cage and the one appearance of his fluffy coat that shows up and super little tidbits on Samuel L. Jackson recruiting another agent in a restaurant (when he recruited Xander Cage from a diner), there really isn’t much crossover. That in itself, is good. One thing to remember going into xXx is that you don’t go into this for a strong storyline. I will talk about the storyline and what criticisms a serious movie goer may have with it (because I am fully aware of its flaws). With all that said, I had a great time watching xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. As much as it sounds like this movie is right up my alley, I like xXx but I’m not a die hard fan. However, this one was fun and thrilling (and probably my fave of the franchise thus far). The stunts were great because Xander Cage is a daredevil who loves risky and daring stunts. It has an amazing cast which gave it so much personality and charm and of course, action. Not to mention, despite having an unpopular sequel without Vin Diesel but replaced by Ice Cube as Darius Stone, they never forget that he was also part of the franchise.

xXx The Return of Xander Cage

Right from the opening scenes, I already knew this is my sort of movie because its fun. The style of introducing its characters and fun facts was humorous to give us an idea who this person is and fills in on people who didn’t watch the two movie before that was over ten years ago. There was a lot of upbeat music that meshed with the scene especially giving it more reason when the dj of the group, Nicks (Kris Wu) joins in the xXx team. They also go through a lot of locations and its really beautiful. All this is aside from the fun dialogue we get which reflects who these characters are. Before we jump into the characters, I said I would talk about storyline and its flaws. Much like you could point out all the flaws in the last few Fast and Furious franchise, they probably also apply here. Be it a storyline that is pretty linear or plot twists that are rather predictable or even over the top things like submerging a motorcycle underwater and it still works after it resurfaces. The storyline is only a means of everything they can pull off, be it stunts or guns or encounters.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

xXx characters aren’t exactly deep, but calling them shallow makes me feel kind of bad also. However, they aren’t meant to be wildly constructed, just like its storyline. It really isn’t the point. These are agents and it wasn’t meant to have unnecessary drama (which might be one of the criticisms I remember having for one of The Expendable films, maybe the second one). We know the basics of their competency and the witty, quirky or completely eccentric personalities. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is the man here who has a lot of personality and he has built a great team. Donnie Yen plays Xiang, who has a fantastic entrance showing off his great martial arts skills and what starts off as a rickety role turns out to be a really fun time as we learn more about who he is. Toni Collette pulls off a stern vibe in the high leader or government somebody perhaps. Her role is a little odd at times but it is to offset or at least is there for Xander to be recruited and challenge the authority. Xander Cage’s team is the more highlighted factor here and aside from him and Donnie Yen, breathe an incredible amount of life, character and charm.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

Ruby Rose plays Adele Wolff, a sharp shooter who has masters her sniper skills with a lot of calm and fun attitude. Nina Dobrev plays Becky, the tech support and pretty much the brains of the operations who is scared of pretty much everything outside and she has a massive fan girl moments with Xander that is hilarious and says really awkward and random things. Its also nice to see that there’s more to her career than The Vampire Diaries (especially because I do like TVD). We’ve already talked about the casual fun-time Nicks who is the showstopper or perhaps the person who causes the distraction but he is well-matched with Tennyson, played by Rory McCann, who is a stunt driver always looking for his next crash. They make a hilarious duo. On the other hand, Xiang’s team consists of some competent players as well although they don’t get as much of attention. The pretty lady with lots of combat skills is Serena, played by Deepika Padukone. Along with her and Xiang are Talon, played by Tony Jaa, an odd character that does weird things to say the least (which I like his fighting skills but not so much the character or maybe the limited acting) and Hawk, played by Michael Bisping, who I assumed was some sort of MMA/UFC fighter in real life and turns out he is (because I don’t follow these things so I had to look it up). The deal with having lots of characters in not a long runtime is that not everyone gets the screen time they need but it also gives the audience a good idea, if there was a sequel who might be the returning team.

Overall, you don’t go to xXx for an award-winning life-changing movie experience, you go into this movie to just have fun and be entertained and maybe shut off your brain for a little while. Have a few laughs, watch some great stunts and awesome fight sequences, listen to some cheesy one-liners and bask in the badassery that these characters and Xander Cage’s team is all about. Sure, it might seem a little Fast and the Furious franchise with the bad ass team and over the top sequences or maybe its a little The Expendables, with the whole “retired” agent coming back to action or whatever you’d like to call it just with a younger cast, but The Return of Xander Cage has its own personality. Whether the revival of this franchise works or not, this is an awesome addition to the franchise and captures the right tone and adds lots of style to it. It delivered everything I expected and more. Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose was enough for me to love it so much. Everyone else meshing well with the movie just made it even better.

Have you seen xXx: The Return of Xander Cage?