Movies and Tea #9 – Pompeii

And we’re here at the final episode of Season 1 of Movies and Tea Podcast as we take a look at the final movie in the selection from Paul W. S. Anderson’s filmography, Pompeii. Head over to Movies and Tea Podcast to check it out for our thoughts and how it is as a Paul W. S. Anderson directorial effort and give us your thoughts on this movie that blends a Gladiator-esque story with a disaster film.

Movies and Tea

Our season one re-evaulation of the Paul W.S. Anderson filmography comes to a close with a film that sees him taking a note from James Cameron, Anderson’s “Pompeii” sees him deliving a sword and sandel / disaster flick the end result being a film which disappeared off the radar of most movie goers as quickly as it appeared.

We also reveal our favourite, worst and hidden gems of his filmography.

Come join us in the booth!!

Further Viewing

Gladiator
Kingdom of Heaven
Conan The Barbarian
Volcano
Dante’s Peak
San Andreas
Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Clinton Shorter – The Mountain

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Fantasia Festival 2018: A Rough Draft (2018)

A Rough Draft (2018)

A Rough Draft

Director: Sergey Mokritskiy

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

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

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

A Rough Draft

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

A Rough Draft

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

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

The Final Act of Joey Jumbler (Short 2018)

The Final Act of Joey Jumbler (Short 2018)

the final act of joey jumbler

Director (and writer): Harley Chamandy

A party clown must fight to keep his smile on. – IMDB

Have you ever wondered about the facades of the people you meet every single day? From the random passerby to the bus driver that you see everyday. Everyone greets and has all their polite moments, but the stories behind those smiles are sometimes the ones that we never expect. Its why we shouldn’t judge someone by what they do or who they are because everyone has hidden struggles that others do not know about. The Final Act of Joey Jumbler is exactly that. This short film takes us on a day in the life of Joey Jumbler as we see him start his day, go for his job as a clown/entertainer at a party and then back to his personal life, which is him trying to be happy and strong for his little girl.

There is a lot to love in The Final Act of Joey Jumbler. It runs at about 10 minutes and gives us appropriate pacing in telling this story. It hits some moments but never dwells on it for too long. In just a few locations and a few acts, we get the idea of the life and feelings that Joey Jumbler has. Part of this is for the main character, Alain Boucher as Joey Jumbler who delivers a great role. “In Memory Of” at the beginning of the credits also reveals that the story is inspired by Boucher’s real life story, who Chamandy previously worked with in his debut short, Mirage.  At the same time, the credit goes to this 18 year old young filmmaker, Harley Chamandy who directed and wrote this short film, as well as cinematographer, Stephanie Weber Biron, in their collaboration and knowing when to use close ups and frame the shots. Its delivers the emotions and struggles in a heartfelt way.

Everyone has their own story and no matter their profession, deserves their respect. That is one of the messages here. There are a variety of messages that Harley Chamandy’s short film is telling. Be it the difference of social ranking from the scene with Joey Jumbler ridiculed for doing his job but seemingly offending the rich adults of the party or the idea that having money doesn’t make you a better person as both the spoiled kids and the adults were obnoxious. If you look at Making Of this film, it talks about this scene relating to the divisive feelings and conflicts reflecting the Quebec Anglophone and Francophone community and the Quebec. While I do live in the community, perhaps I saw it more of a generalized view of the differences between just wealth and disrespect being the central issue. While that angle will give it more of a personal angle, it also creates a box for the audience it can reach because this is a more regional issue. Touchy issues are good to use however, in this case, Quebec Sovereignty and the obnoxious wealthy Anglophone only makes this movie pin a judgemental view of the two groups represented by only a few individuals. Living in Quebec personally, its one that is deeply rooted and deserves more than a simple one scene to reflect on, perhaps if this issue is one that holds so close to Chamandy’s heart, it is a potential next project but one to be treaded very carefully as with most political films.

At eighteen years old, Harley Chamandy shows a lot of promise in the storytelling depth. It will be interesting to see where this filmmaker will take his voice into a full-length film and what he will deliver next.

The Final Act of Joey Jumbler is currently available to view on Vimeo. Check it out HERE.

They Remain (2018)

*Screener*

They Remain (2018)

They Remain

Director: Philip Gelatt

Cast: William Jackson Harper, Rebecca Henderson

Based on the 2010 short story, 30- by award-winning author Laird Barron, They Remain follows two scientists, Keith (William Jackson Harper) and Jessica (Rebecca Henderson) who are sent out by a huge corporation  to investigate abnormal animal behaviors occurring in a previous remote area that had some horrible killings happen in the past. Their mission has a month in duration and they are offered high tech surveillance material and a lab to research initial findings. With Keith as their boy scout who goes on according to schedule every day in different districts they’ve established to observe and Jessica to stay back at the camp to do any analysis, the dynamic and relationship of these two people start to evolve over the next days we follow their progress.

they remain

They Remain starts off the story on the right foot. All the right elements are placed into action, just like Keith’s surveillance system and schedule. Things work well in the “no news is good news” sort of deal. We literally watch a lot of walking around and checking surveillance cameras and replacing some gadget in it and Jessica moving around in the lab working on this and that and they talk about trust and human relationships and leak information about what happened in this area years ago and what this mission means for each of them. Quite like a normal indie film, the scale is small so we get to learn about Keith and Jessica as they are primarily the only two people in this film with a small cameo by one other person. There is nothing wrong with this angle actually it is a smart move. William Jackson Harper and Rebecca Henderson both do a great job in  delivering a very good performance with what they are given here.

Much like any recent indie films, They Remain is a slow paced film which starts off with the very mysterious location with a history set in the vast and mysterious open nature. It gives us time to know their two leads and their relationship while sprinkling some findings throughout related to animal behavior such as a dog which seems made a reference to a wolf at one point and abnormal wasps and ant activities. They make great use of this material and setting and have visually appealing shots and cinematography. All of the beautiful visuals are paired up with an off putting and creepy background score that creates an eerie and mysterious atmosphere. There are horror imagery such as red skies and expected jumpscares that always deliver and a mystery cloaked man. These all help build the suspense and atmosphere.

they remain

There is a lot of potential to be a fantastic horror thriller here but where it falls apart is in its script or perhaps the execution of the script. Many adaptations have the same issue of not correctly interpreting what the source material wants to portray well enough. I haven’t read the source material so there is no comparison so I can only give it the benefit of the doubt. They Remain does a lot of atmosphere building but essentially always delivers on its jumpscares rendering it predictable. The first few times the score gives it a boost and some scare factor but as the film goes on, the slow paced paired with predictable jumpscares and an expected development for Keith and Jessica’s relationship all make for a fairly flat experience. What does try to make it more suspenseful is the distortion of reality and illusion that lies in the central question of what is going on here. Keith will keep seeing these different sequences that amp up in intensity and then get cut back to what we would expect is reality and it brings in the question of whether it is actually real or are they merely nightmares. The suspense is present but sadly, there never seems to be a great payoff for all this build-up but rather a not so surprising twist for the ending.

Overall, They Remain delivers on many of the aspects, whether its characters, visuals, setting and music and does it very well but matched up with the pacing and the execution of the script, it just seems to be lacking and not worth all the build-up in the grand finale.

Available On Demand and Special Edition Blu-ray Tuesday, May 29 (US & CANADA)

On all major VOD platforms including: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Xbox/ Microsoft Store, PlayStation, Vimeo, Vudu, Fandango Now, Kanopy. Also on Movies onDemand via Comcast, Spectrum, Cox and other cable operators

Double Feature: Honey 2 (2011) & Perfect Girl (2014)

This Double Feature is a bit of a mix and mash although I guess you could say they are both fairly VOD features. I wanted some easy to pass the time while I was editing videos so I put on these two films. I watched Honey a really long time ago and it is hard to imagine that it took quite a few years for a sequel to come out which worked kind of like Step Up where it used the background of the first movie but with an entirely different cast. More on that in the review portion. As for Perfect Girl, I believe this is a Singapore film. Its pretty much a romantic comedy. I don’t watch a lot of rom-coms of late so let’s see how this one is going to be.

Honey 2 (2011)

honey 2

Director: Billie Woodruff

Cast: Kat Graham, Randy Wayne, Christophe Shazar, Gerry Bednob, Seychelle Gabriel

Recently released from juvenile detention, talented dancer Maria Bennett finds an outlet for her passion with a new dance crew. – IMDB

I watched Honey a long time ago. The only thing I remember from it was that Jessica Alba was in it and it had a lot of dancing. It wasn’t half bad but then these dance films always are a little generic. But then I like the Step Up franchise so who am I to talk, right? Anyways, I was roaming around Netflix and found Honey 2 starring Kat Graham. Being an avid fan of The Vampire Diaries (well, used to since I need to watch 2 or 3 seasons), Kat Graham being in this peaked my interest. I didn’t have much hopes for it being good or unique but it could have surprised me, right? Point is, it didn’t. In fact, it was packed with very predictable dialogue. The dancing in some parts and the soundtrack was okay but then, it still hits a lot of the generic bits and there wasn’t much to love about the characters since they felt so empty. Maybe its because Kat Graham is such a good girl that its hard to imagine her pulling her serious tough face and then I’m thinking that it looks a little forced.

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this. I watched it and it was okay. The contingency of this being okay is the fact that I tolerate a lot of dancing films. I like it for the energy and the generic inspiration story of following your dreams no matter the challenges. Its really as basic as that.

Perfect Girl (2014)

perfect girl

Director (and writer): Jason Chan

Cast: Jason Chan, Kahleila Hisham, Christian Lee

Stan and Jenny have been each other’s secret crush since high school. When they meet again years later, the fantasy of first love may keep them apart. – Netflix

Lets just get this out of the way before we begin. I love films with small cast and focus on characters and certain scenarios. With that Perfect Girl was a pretty quirky romance experience. It had a lot of inner monologues of the two characters, Stan and Jenny and their outlook on relationships and the fantasies they had of each other from high school and their fears and doubts of being together now. In fact, it actually is what makes the film more genuine. Think Flipped but a grown up version of it on a much smaller scale.

Both Stan and Jenny standout quite a bit. In fact, they feel very much in their element of wanting to be together. I do have to say that sometimes, the monologue feels like it has a bit of clunkiness to it but overall, the characters build a depth as we know them more. It tells us their back story from both of their point of views and their past crush intermittent to the reality now when they meet again. There’s some odd slides or whatnot that comes in talking about what a Perfect Girl is and that sort of thing which I didn’t particularly think it was necessary but it made it more of a chapter experience from one phase to the next which cut the film down. I love learning about how different people view love and this definitely fit the bill for me. Do I think that it’ll be for everyone? Probably not. There is a ton of finesse to it. There is a lot of inner monologue that could get on some people’s nerves. Honestly, this romantic comedy is about as indie as indie can get and yet the story reminds me of so many people in my life and even myself, not that I had such a memorable first love but the elements of the relationships made me connect to them.

With that said, Perfect Girl had its definite flaws but the story flowed well and it was a genuine experience with characters that I could connect with and it also made me laugh a few times so I’d say it did its job pretty well.

That’s it for this double feature!
A bit of the choices from inner world preferences of Kim right here.
Those choices always can be really good or really bad and I’m usually aware of it before the movie begins.

Have you seen Honey 2 and/or Perfect Girl? 

Double Feature: Submerged (2016) & Eden Lake (2008)

Welcome to today’s double feature!

I’m trying out to have these themed double features every once in a while when I can. This time, we’re pairing two indie horror thrillers. The first I had never really heard anything of before and honestly watched it as a filler one night when I was working on other things and Eden Lake was one I had both recommendations and dislikes of it which has me intrigued as to how I would feel about it.

Submerged (2016)

Submerged

Director: Steven C. Miller

Cast: Jonathan Bennett, Talulah Riley, Rosa Salazar, Samuel Hunt, Cody Christian, Giles Matthey, Denzel Whitaker, Willa Ford, Mario Van Peebles

A young woman and her friends, who’ve been targeted by kidnappers, must do everything they can to survive after their limo is forced off the road and plunged into a canal. – IMDB

*sigh* I honestly don’t know how to write up this review right now. There is no extent of how indifferent I feel about Submerged. Its clear to say that at some point,  particularly the male lead of Mean Girls that Jonathan Bennett had a lovely peak in his career. Then he did some odd roles in other teen comedies like Love Wrecked (review) with Amanda Bynes for example, then he ended up with some Hallmark films like A Christmas Kiss II (review) & A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale (review). Its been a staple of my last two years of Christmas marathon, however as generic as those two were, they were never disappointing. Finally, we see Jonathan Bennett in a thriller so I was down to give it a chance and well, guess what, this one was disappointing. I can’t say that his character was disappointing but rather the thriller itself was not incredibly standout. The ending itself felt like it was out of nowhere a little and didn’t quite fit into the story as it was really to give the twist. Maybe there were hints along the way, but then it doesn’t give me that particular motivation to go rewatch it either.

Submerged

The story sets up itself in the trapped in the car concept, which is a good premise since we don’t seem to have a lot of substance to those parts. And then it alternates between the past to what leads to it. Fact is, the characters here doesn’t quite give us anyone to cheer for. Jonathan Bennett’s character has a little bit of development and back story however, at some point, it seems to want the viewers to believe in who is involved and then turn it around at the ending. As I mentioned, the twist is out of nowhere but then, somehow the lack of interest from the start to that point just wasn’t engaging enough to care about it.

Overall, Submerged is yet another disappointing thriller that takes a rather formulaic approach for a not too frequently used premise and yet never gives us engaging characters to make the out of nowhere final twist feel worth it.

Eden Lake (2008)

 

eden lake

Director (and writer): James Watkins

Cast: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O’Connell, Jumayn Hunter, Thomas Turgoose, James Burrows

Refusing to let anything spoil their romantic weekend break, a young couple confront a gang of loutish youths with terrifyingly brutal consequences. – IMDB

Eden Lake is one of those films that are a little harder to review. Its one of the earlier Michael Fassbender films before he has the fame nowadays. In this horror thriller, it takes a slow beginning but ends up picking up the pace quite a bit as the story takes a turn for the worse with menacing kids lead by a kid who craves the violence. Him and his crew of other teens start chasing this couple down who first starts off with stealing their car and ends up chasing them and causing his dog to die, turning into something vengeful. The story does take many turns from bad to worse to completely intense. To be fair, Michael Fassbender’s character does play more of a supporting character role as Kelly Reilly takes on something of a stronger woman here as she tries to make her escape. In one way, I didn’t feel quite as immersed in the beginning however as the disturbing characters and events starting happening in quicker frequency, it definitely had me on the edge of my seat hoping that Kelly Reilly’s character would get out.

eden lake

On the other hand, while I do agree that the villainous teen leader, Brett definitely was convincing in his extremities that started out quite vengeful, it is also quite a terrifying thought as the days went by after I saw Eden Lake. Perhaps that is the terror here is that a vacation going array can be in this sort of everyday sort of situation. Kids are meant to be portrayed in horror/thrillers as innocent, defenseless or even annoying in some cases, however, these kids are out of the ordinary and we never quite get a reason why Brett acts that way throughout but we do see that the idea of peer pressure and wanting to belong in this alpha group makes these other kids who are doing things they don’t particularly want to out of fear. Its one of those movies that do have quite a lot of thought behind a normal survival horror story set in the middle of nowhere on vacation. And as I think about it more, the more I feel that it worked very well.

Overall, Eden Lake is a rather slow burn tension building horror thriller. For both the setting and the increasing extreme moments here, it sets a very psychological survival and escape experience that might start off feeling like not so much but definitely ends up being more than that in leaps and bounds. As an ending note, I’m not too sure how I feel about the ending but its one those things where you either like it or you don’t.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Submerged and/or Eden Lake? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Minions (2015) & Monster Trucks (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature!

I feels like a while since I’ve actually done one of these. If you’ve seen my What’s Up, I’ve actually seen quite a few films just never seemed to get time to write one up. Either way, I needed something light and fluffy so I went to the Family and Children part of Netflix and chose these two on two separate days. Maybe the stress and brain deadness helped me enjoy them more than I would normally would which puts it in a class of their own.

Either way, Minions and Monster Trucks were both movies on my list that I wanted to check out and I did. Let’s go!

Minions (2015)

Minions

Director: Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin

Voice cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carrell, Pierre Coffin

Minions Stuart, Kevin, and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a supervillain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world. – IMDB

Minions have definitely made a name for themselves as the silly sidekicks in the Despicable Me movies. The biggest question when this movie was announced was whether they were able to carry a movie by themselves with their random gibberish talk and unknown past. Of course, Minions focuses on this point and gives them an origin story. Why not, right? Everyone is doing it and it seems that they are well-deserved especially since Penguins from Madagascar also got their own film just before (I think..don’t quote me on timeline of movie releases). With that said, while the origin story of Minions does feel a little odd and generic, they are still them. They offer a kind of entertainment that comes with the family entertainment category and works in the world of villains as they represent their group to find a worthy villain to follow and end up at Villain Con.

Minions

Its hard to not like Minions. To be honest, I started the movie without a lot of expectations. However, it did offer the entertainment I wanted but with a few surprises along the way such as the excellent voice cast they had for the other characters from Sandra Bullock’s Scarlet Overkill to her husband, Herb voiced by Jon Hamm. While I believe I had learned about those before the movie and I only remembered it when they appeared as they are the main villainous roles here, the big surprise for me was the voices of the Nelsons, a family of robbers that give them a lift to Villain Con where it was voiced by Allison Janney and Michael Keaton. They have such distinctive voices, especially Allison Janney that I knew right away it was her and just loved it. Since we’re on the topic of voice acting, Minions having their own film does highlight their mesh of languages from moments of French to Spanish and probably other ones that we personally don’t know.

Overall, Minions was an entertaining movie to say the least. Was it necessary? Probably not. I still like them more as the Despicable Me sidekicks characters. However, this movie did have a great voice cast for its other characters which gave it a fun touch which worked in its favor a whole bunch. But then, it could be because I like Sandra Bullock and Allison Janney a ton.

Monster Trucks (2016)

Monster Trucks

Director: Chris Wedge

Cast: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Amy Ryan, Holt McCallany

A young man working at a small town junkyard discovers and befriends a creature which feeds on oil being sought by a fracking company. – IMDB

Cheesy family entertainment is really what Monster Trucks is. Its pretty dumb when I think about it now but somehow, it still was a pretty fun little flick. Perhaps its because Jane Levy is pretty cool and I’ve enjoyed her films from Evil Dead (review) to Don’t Breathe (review) and its nice to see her not in something horrifying. The story in Monster Trucks is very simple and basic so great for some brain shut off time while keeping very much to the family entertainment as there isn’t any vulgar language or even a lot of romance for that part. The main focus was really on the creature here, simply named Creech by Lucas Till’s character, Tripp. Creech is something of an odd creature that flew out of a fracking operation as they discovered some oil-feeding creatures. There are your normal set of cast of characters as the big bad corporation sends out their meanest hencemen to hunt down Creech so to keep their operations going. There’s the scientist who has had enough of the crappy ways and wants to do good for these creatures. And of course, a little bit of teen romance as Jane Levy’s smart nerdy girl role, Meredith bonds with Tripp over the many adventures with Creech as they hide him out in the broken truck and he runs it with his many tentacles.

Monster Trucks

Among the action and chase sequences and over the top moments, the true treasure that I loved the best was definitely Creech. It was dorky and hilarious. While it couldn’t talk, it had so many expressions. It reminded me a lot of something like Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. The toothy smile and the fascination for doing adrenaline rush things along with its crazy stunts and having so much enjoyment out of it while scaring the heck out of Tripp. The movie was never in the control of Tripp or Meredith, it was all Creech’s show and its that unpredictability that makes this rather generic film have a little heart and quite a few laughs. Its always fun to learn about new creatures and their designs and that is what gives Monster Trucks its uniqueness.

Overall, no, Monster Trucks is not a masterpiece or maybe not even good in many aspects especially in its generic storyline. However, its creature Creech is the star of the show and along with some cute and clueless moments between some of the characters, it makes some harmless family entertainment with some laughs and simplicity.

That’s it for this week’s family themed double feature!
Have you seen Minions or Monster Trucks? Thoughts?