Double Feature: Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021) & Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021)

Director (and writer): Johannes Roberts

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, Neal McDonough, Lily Gao, Chad Rook, Marina Mazepa, Nathan Dales

Set in 1998, this origin story explores the secrets of the mysterious Spencer Mansion and the ill-fated Raccoon City. – IMDB

*Originally reviewed for Friday Film Club*

Adapted from the first and second game of the Capcom video game series of the same name, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City sets itself on a parallel storyline which sets itself in 1998 when the zombie outbreak starts in the small town of Raccoon City and the group of survivors try to make it out where the events take place both in the Raccoon City Police Department but also at the Spencer mansion where the outbreak was suspected to have started.

Being undeniably avid fans of Resident Evil here at Movies and Tea as we covered all the Resident Evil movies by Paul W.S. Anderson being one of our biggest episodes to work on, and an upcoming episode in the works for its animated films, Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City is a film that was announced with rather mixed sentiments, some didn’t like the casting feeling like it didn’t do the actual character design justice to its original game design however the film also did finally bring in all the favorite characters and created a story adapted from the actual games. However, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a pretty decent alignment for a video game adaptation. Taking away the lesser role for their favorite character Leon Kennedy and dropping him to his rookie status who genuinely grows throughout the film as he encounters more, the fan faves are also all here with Claire and Chris Redfield holding down the fort on each of the locations as they move closer to each other. At the same time, the film also manages to bring in some other key characters like the well-known Albert Wesker and Jill Valentine, giving them an origin of where they come from.

This new reboot of Resident Evil, under the direction of Johannes Roberts does give it a lot more link to the story that the games are telling and the world building also deserves a lot of credit. Some scenes are almost identical to its game counterpart making it quite the treat for lovers of this gaming franchise, especially with its recent game remakes. At the same time, it still adds in a lot of eerie scenes whether being the zombie design to the mutations caused by the virus and looks into the connection of Claire and Chris Redfield’s story both when they were kids and their encounters to the present day, centering the story around them. Sure, in terms of story direction, Leon Kennedy being one of the bigger characters of the games does fall into the backseat a little and becomes more of a goofy rookie who is trying to catch up with the situation with better and more experienced cops but perhaps its a nice change to see the focus remain on one part of the story and if it does have sequel, it gives it more space to expand on the other characters’ storylines.

Overall, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a pretty decent reboot. Its one that stays much more true to its source material and still manages to recreate these eerie atmospheres using its two key locations as their focal points. It has a little something for both fans of the games and new viewers trying to follow the story. Its pretty well-balanced film in terms of action and horror.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Director: Cathy Yan

Cast: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, Ali Wong

After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroines Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord. – IMDB

Superhero and comic book films have really been a bit overwhelming and not exactly on my radar regardless of Marvel or DC at this point. However, as Birds of Prey is leaving Netflix Canada and I do really like Margot Robbie, it felt like a decent film to catch up on. Surprisingly, the film was a pretty fun ride and also brought another femme fatale role for Mary Elizabeth Winstead as The Huntress which was also nice little surprise. The film overall is about these different female characters who team up against a vicious crime lord for their own personal reasons despite focusing on a post break-up with Joker Harley Quinn who ends up making some ridiculous decisions like blowing up the chemical plant and buying a hyena as her pet.

While superhero films all seem to entail the same thing and it all feels rather cookie cutter in terms of plot, making the whole situation fairly predictable, Birds of Prey is pretty fun. Perhaps its the over the top element which makes everyone from Harley Quinn to its villain feel rather cartoony and comic-like or its the fact that this film is about superheroines who find themselves teaming together for their own purpose and having their own style when it came to the big final showdown, these things all add color to the film and makes it entertaining. All the odd elements come together especially all these different ladies to make it a fun team-up.

With that said, the casting is pretty good, not only for its main ladies from Margot Robbie as the titular lady but also Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez as the cop Renee Montoya who is fed up with not being fully recognized in her efforts and Jurnee Smollett as a talented singer with a killer voice as Black Canary plus a little pickpocket girl Cassandra Cain played by Ella Jay Basco, but it also includes a rather over the top villain playing Black Mask with Ewan McGregor who was pretty decent and almost channelling the rich boy begging for recognition type of character so lashes out in extreme ways to get what he wants but also a supporting roles by Ali Wong.

Birds of Prey is a pretty fun movie overall. There’s not a whole lot to say about it but the stylistic approach and the wonderful kick-ass femme fatale casting does make for some entertaining moments. Its refreshing to see a group of superheroines band together against the villain and this film delivered the whole package pretty well.

Uncharted (2022)

Uncharted (2022)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Steven Waddington

Street-smart Nathan Drake is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan, and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada. – IMDB

Based on the Uncharted video game franchise developed by Naughty Dog, the film is set with a young Nathan Drake on his first recruit with Sully for some treasure hunting action as they try to use their wits and Drake’s know-how to finish up what his brother Sam started before his disappearance while outrunning a Moncada heir and his highly paid team. There are two ways to look at this film: the first would be in the accuracy and efficacy of its adaptation to the games itself and the other way would be for the normal movie-goer who doesn’t have any or little knowledge of the game and treats this as a straight-forward action adventure treasure hunt film. Luckily, I fall a little in between these as the game follows one of the later games which I am not as familiar with but also have a decent knowledge of these main characters, Nathan Drake and Sully so I will try to touch on both of these angles.

Looking at this from its adaptation angle, perhaps the biggest discussion amongst gamers would be whether Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg are suitably as Nathan Drake and Sully respectively. In that sense, its the biggest issue with the film perhaps as this element works better on the star power for the normal movie goer than them feeling like these two characters from the video game. Whether from the idea of appearance, even if they put Drake in the game’s outfit, or the idea that their personalities match with that of the game, some dialogue does match up but it still lacks a little something that these characters’ bring in the game, giving them a very different feeling. If there was a character that felt very similar to its video game version, that would be Chloe Frazer portrayed by Sophia Ali and still, it lacks a bit of sass. However, the film does work with a very straight-forward plot, while this might be a let-down for something expecting more, it is pretty entertaining overall and adds in certain cinematic cues and cameo that links back to the game whether its the Naughty Dog sticker on the suitcase or a Nolan North cameo appearance along with the CGI camera pan through certain puzzle elements which bring in those game parallel.

With that said, looking at this from purely an action adventure film, there is no doubt that this feels generic from a plot angle but then the point remains on how much expectation was put into it based on the trailer versus the normal context of these types of films. Uncharted is an entertaining movie experience. It has some over the top CGI which is almost reminiscent of the Fast and Furious movies (and you probably already know what scene I’m referring to) but also has the element of the banter between Drake and Sully which can be fun at times even if it revolves mostly around how much trust they can put into each other. The villain here is a bit two fold as you have Antonio Banderas as Moncada but also Tati Gabrielle as Jo Braddock who is more dangerous as she is more than just a rich man with a bunch of minions. The action pieces are pretty fun and the adventure and puzzle element is done rather well also especially when you get into the big finale with a change in setting from the big city to the vast open seas.

Overall, Uncharted might not be quite the video game adaptation that people want especially from the angle of its main characters Drake and Sully mostly since they are missing a bit of the pizzazz these video game characters however if talking about the plot itself, while generic for an action-adventure film but it actually does match up to the game well enough. Movies like these truly depend on what you expect out of them. For myself, there are some flaws in terms of casting choices from the video gamer side however as a popcorn flick, the entertainment level is still a good time.

*Uncharted is currently available on digital on April 26th and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on May 10th*

*Screener provided by TARO PR*

The Sadness (哭悲, 2021)

The Sadness (2021)

Director (and writer): Rob Jabbaz

Cast: Berant Zhu, Regina Lei, Ying-Ru Chen, Tzu-Chiang Wang, Emerson Tsai, Wei-Hua Lan, Ralf Chiu

A young couple trying to reunite amid a city ravaged by a plague that turns its victims into deranged, bloodthirsty sadists. – IMDB

The feature film directorial debut for Canadian filmmaker Rob Jabbaz is a Taiwanese horror gorefest. Heavily inspired by the Cross comic book series, The Sadness sets in a viral pandemic called Alvin Virus that infects its victims making them fulfill their homicidal desires from extreme violence to rape. Basically just think about the most maniacal, bloodthirsty and wrongest things that could happen that The Sadness manages to get it in, probably even some of it being unthinkably horrible. While horror isn’t normally a go-to for Taiwanese films, Rob Jabbaz makes this one completely out of control. The gore element delivers to a disturbing level and this film is definitely not for the weak stomached and is full of all kinds of trigger warnings. For those who love this sort of film, this one goes for both a visual gore fest but also keeps some more disturbing elements off camera for your own imagination to fill in the blanks.

The Sadness builds its story around two perspectives which are from the two characters who are a couple called Cat (Regina Lei) and Jim (Berant Zhu) trying to reunite amidst the craziness that is surrounding them. Cat and Jim has a pretty thin back story from the start but does craft them through the little disagreement at the beginning in their fairly mundane life of two youths trying to make a career with Kat heading off to work while Jim takes her to work but is between jobs. When the viral outbreak starts, the two set off on different paths which gives way for an array of different scenarios to occur from the mountainous secluded areas to the tight spaced subway car and station tunnels to its big finale at the hospital. This viral outbreak crafts different groups of infected and the film touches on all of it even if its not as extensive as the homicidal elements especially focused on one older man (Tzu-Chiang Wang) who can be considered as the main villain of the film. And oh boy, does the script take his character far into the depths of the worst impulses triggered by this virus.

As I consider whether this film is just about presenting something very on the surface with its extremity and using a viral outbreak to craft a scenario suitable for it, the story does reflect a bit on society and its doubts and ignorance but also the virus itself does have a little moment at the beginning and the final acts when its basically outwardly discussed. However, as much as its not really talked about, there are little signs here and there that help paint a picture of what it is and makes you think a little more about what it does and why the film itself is titled The Sadness. There’s still a small part in my mind that thinks the actual nature of the virus should have more explanation but there is a power in not explaining too much since it brings in a different element of unknown as to when the trigger point of the virus attacks the infected.

Overall, The Sadness is a crazy ride: gory, blood-soaked, gut-wrenching, disgusting, sitting on a ton of trigger warning. Its definitely not for everyone. For myself, its really does get a little extreme at certain points and one scene in particular really did bother me quite a bit. However, there’s a lot to appreciate about The Sadness and its mostly the ability to push the content and go all the way. There are some low budget practical effects and then some contrasts in music selection to what’s happening on scene and a myriad of ways that people are killing each other and yet somehow, it all does work together, even if the main characters Cat and Jim are not exactly well-constructed but they do feel relatively realistic and human.

* The Sadness will premiere theatrically across Canada on April 29th and 30th in selected theatres. Starting May 12th, it will then be available as VOD on iTunes (preorder on April 26), Cineplex on Demand, Shaw VOD, Vimeo on Demand as well as landing on Shudder Canada. The Sadness will also be available on May 12th on Shudder USA, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.*

*Screener received by GatPR*

Double Feature: The Invisible Man (2020) & The Crazies (2010)

The Invisible Man (2020)

Director (and screeenplay): Leigh Whannell

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman

When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see. – IMDB

*Originally published on Friday Film Club*

Inspired by H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, directed and written by Leigh Whannell, mostly known for the co-creator of the Saw franchise as the writer, he modernizes a story using the invisible man science fiction concept and puts it into a domestic abuse story between a scientist and his ex-girlfriend. The Invisible Man tells the story of Cecilia who decides to escape her rich optics scientist boyfriend’s home because of his controlling nature to find out that shortly after, she can stop living in fear when he is reported to be dead. However, she starts experiencing some odd events that makes her believe that he is stalking her with some invisibility technology, trying to isolate her from the world she knows however no one believes her and thinks she is mentally unstable.

The Invisible Man is a pretty competent horror thriller. It takes the source material its inspired by and puts together a tense and thrilling environment from start to finish. It doesn’t actually give you the feeling that all is well, mostly because not being able to see the threat means that it can be constantly anticipated and gives the sense of insecurity to its audience. Leigh Whannell doesn’t only put together a well-crafted story but also uses the cinematography with both the light and the camera work to build up the tense atmosphere, playing with what could happen and what might be in the empty space as it follows an increasingly suspecting female lead played by Elisabeth Moss. The great part about a story is like this is that there is no hiding the threat’s existence and the reveal that there is someone lurking in the emptiness is very quickly revealed and Cecilia’s sense of security doesn’t last too long. However, what is the goal and who is behind the whole thing is still the big question as the threat doesn’t talk and just acts abruptly.

While there are other character’s in the whole story, a lot of the acting credit does go to Elisabeth Moss who mostly feels like she’s in this film by herself and interacting with thin air. For the most part, its very believable as the invisible man does make her life fall apart. While there are some mechanics of this threat that feel a little off as it plays with the invisible, the saving grace is that the film is always building on the tension in different scenarios but also keeps the threat mostly invisible for the most part, letting the audience’s imagination fill in the blanks which in this case proves to be very effective.

While Leigh Whannell is mostly credited for writing, The Invisible Man proves that he has quite the eye for directing as well especially when crafting a tense environment for a horror film. Whether its the theme, the writing, the execution and pacing or the horror thriller element, The Invisible Man is one well worth a watch.

The Crazies (2010)

Director: Breck Eisner

Cast: Radha Mitchell, Timothy Olyphant, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey, John Aylward, Joe Reegan

After a strange and insecure plane crash, an unusual toxic virus enters a quaint farming town. A young couple are quarantined, but they fight for survival along with help from a couple of people. – IMDB

Being a remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 film of the same name, The Crazies sets itself in a viral outbreak that overtakes a small farm town as it follows four people who are luckily not infected and join together to find a way to escape town before either the turn called The Crazies get them or the military who is trying to contain this outbreak.

Lets put it out there right now that I haven’t seen the original. For myself, this is a fresh story and movie. Its interesting that infected humans are mostly regarded as zombies and yet, the root of this is very similar to Resident Evil where the whole issue is rooted from an accidental viral outbreak with a group of military trying to contain it by all means. While there is that parallel, the viral outbreak concept is still pretty well structured as The Crazies do have a rather solid cast and the story starts off on a creepy note which ends up turning into a mystery as the Sheriff and Deputy hunt down why this is happening and much like other horror films, the mayor doesn’t take their suggestion and yet, despite their rebellious efforts, its just a little too late.

The horror of the film is much more toned down than other viral outbreaks which do focus more on the bloody and gory element. This one has more violent moments and the infected appearance makes for creepier moments as the group encounters infected previously introduced before their infection, reinforcing the core issue with this bioweapon that is trying to be contained. As each side of the spectrum reveals itself, the situation clarifies quickly. Its a film about the survival as the government’s extreme stance makes them out to be villainous which is as dangerous as the infected around these four survivors.

The cast is pretty decent as well. The Sheriff is played by Timothy Olyphant. Along with him as the core group of survivors is his wife, a doctor in the small town played by Radha Mitchell (most probably know her for Silent Hill films). There is also the Deputy played by Joe Anderson who is the MVP of the whole survival operation. His character has the rarely seen accuracy as the sharpshooter as he saves everyone in a tight situation more than once but also wavers the most in personality. Also part of the group is a young Danielle Panabaker which isn’t really contributing much but worth a mention.

Overall, The Crazies is a pretty good viral outbreak romp. While it lacks in the gore department, it does do well in building up the story and laying out how the whole situation went down and how the bioweapon virus works and has some decent reveals. Its well worth a watch.

Double Feature: The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021) & Knives Out (2020)

The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (2021)

Directors (and co-writers): Michael Rianda & Jeff Rowe

Voice Cast: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Eric André, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Charlyne Yi

A quirky, dysfunctional family’s road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity’s unlikeliest last hope. – IMDB

*Originally written for Friday Film Club*

Most known for his work on Gravity Falls as creative director and writer, Mike Rianda’s debut directorial feature film is one that combines his personal family experiences with his childhood love for robots. The Mitchells vs. The Machines, which was once titled Connected but retitled back to its original name upon its shift to a Netflix distribution due to the pandemic, tells the story of the dysfunctional family The Mitchells who are all a bit odd in their own ways who embrace their quirky daughter Katie’s departure to university by going on a family road trip to take her there however, they collide with a robot takeover as the leading tech company PAL Labs loses control over his virtual assistant who ends up exacting revenge by using the newly designed robots to capture all humans. The Mitchells try to escape together and with their odd ideas and surprisingly lucky twists and turns try to save the world together.

The Mitchells vs the Machines is pretty balanced in all its elements. Its comedy is one of the standouts especially since it features a dysfunctional family on a road trip during a robot apocalypse especially when it includes their silly dog Monchi. Driving in an old car and each of them wielding their gifted tool, the Mitchells bond together in the oddest way and yet embraces their oddities while learning about each other a little more. The story never rests on the drama too long and remembers constantly that its a dangerous robot takeover and that they are on the run. The constant moving keeps the film quick-paced and entertaining as it throws in different obstacles, solutions and things going wrong constantly which adds to the entertainment level.

That’s not to mention that the voice cast also is pretty decent. Maya Rudolph voices Linda, the mother character who is a wild ride while Danny McBride voices Rick, the father character. Katie is the main character and the focus of the show as her relationship with her family is the biggest element here along with her knowledge of technology and social media along with her imagination and creativity. She is voiced by Abbi Jacobson. Her younger brother Aaron is voiced by director Mike Rianda himself. The villain is a virtual assistant voiced by Olivia Colman who also captures a nice villain for an animated film which is has this comedic villain sort of feeling, still a little threatening but very entertaining as the whole thing unfolds. The voice cast also includes these cameo characters of a perfect family that Linda envies secretly The Poseys where the parents are voiced by Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.

The Mitchells vs the Machine is a fun little animated film which plays well with its premise. While the story layout itself isn’t completely unique as most comedic family adventures, animated or not, usually include some type of dysfunctional family but the whole film is constructed really well from the voice cast, comedy and pacing while tackling the themes pretty well.

Knives Out (2019)

Director (and writer): Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson

A detective investigates the death of the patriarch of an eccentric, combative family. – IMDB

Inspired by the early murder mystery from Agatha Christie and feeling like bringing to life another character similar to Hercule Poirot, Rian Johnson directs and writes Knives Out, a film that sets itself in a modern world but has the little twist and turns of the classic murder mystery style. Packed with a star-studded cast of great actors and actresses and a wonderful set piece for its main location along with some great cinematography and screenplay, there’s a lot to love about Knives Out. Plus, its a great time to catch up to it seeing as there are two sequels scheduled for Netflix with the first one expected to show up some time in 2022.

While I am personally unfamiliar with Rian Johnson’s work, Knives Out is a brilliant murder mystery. He structures his story in a few acts which moves through the initial setting of what happened which leads to the interrogation which introduces each of the characters and their own statements along with their own truth and lies as they each recount the situation. Everyone is included from the dysfunctional family members who all seem suspicious as they each have their own reasons and conflict. At the same time, it introduces the sleuth hired by an unknown party, Benoit Blanc. The second act focuses a lot around him trying to get more out of those unrelated to the family like the caretaker to get a good idea of what is actually going on. Until the big will announcement turns the tables and the story unfolds further as the schemes, misdirection and twist reveal comes alight. The execution of these events from one to the next is well-measured and keeps it engaging to watch.

Looking at the cast, its quite a packed one: Christopher Plummer as the deceased father and famous mystery author, Jamie Lee Curtis as the eldest daughter and Rian Johnson as her husband and Chris Evans as their son followed by Michael Shannon as the son with his family, his son played by Jaeden Martell (known for his role in IT) and finally, the daughter in law of the second son played by Toni Collette. While all these stars together would seem like quite the crowd, they actually all do their part, no matter how big or small and the spotlight is mostly cast on Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc packed with a Southern accent and the caretaker played by Ana de Armas. There’s also LaKeith Stanfield who is one of the main detectives.

Its hard to talk about these types of murder mysteries without giving away the whodunnit element so lets say that, for a 2+ hours film, this has very good pacing and execution and a lot of it has to be credited to Rian Johnson’s writing. His directing also can’t be dismissed as he starts and ends the film with a very basic item: a quirky mug, giving it a full circle sort of feeling whole also making use of the space especially bringing in the Knives element with the Game of Thrones-esque throne of knives. There’s so much to appreciate and have fun with with this film as a whole.

Double Feature: Time (殺出個黃昏, 2021) & American Girl (美國女孩, 2021)

Time (殺出個黃昏, 2021)

Director: Ricky Ko

Cast: Patrick Tse, Petrina Fung, Suet Lam, Suet-ying Chung, Sam Lee, J.J. Jia, Belinda Yan, Zeno Koo

Once famous for his quick blade, a retired assassin can no longer earn a living with his cut-throat skills. Summoned again, he partners with his chauffeur to carry out special missions – fullfilling the wishes of old people looking to kill themselves. When commissioned by a young girl who has been deserted by her parents and lover, the “Elderly’s Angel” squad finds an arresting way to complete its task. – IMDB

Having missed this one during last year’s Fantasia Festival, its great to see this one creep into Netflix very quietly. Co-written by Ka-Tung Lam and the directorial debut of Ricky Ko (mostly credited with the camerawork for making of and assistant director in other projects prior), Time tells the story of a retired assassin team that now struggles with their own lives as they become elderly: being phased out of work, loneliness, neglect, loss of health, etc. They find new purpose when they use their skills as the Elderly’s Angels performing euthanasia for the lonely and sick elderly. That is until their services are requested by a teenage girl Tsz-Ying who wants to die by all means and slowly gets acquainted with Chau, the lead assassin of the crew now in his 80s.

There is no doubt that Time’s main draw is its stacked cast of main leads who are acting veterans in all regards dating back to their hey-days back in the 60s. Patrick Tse was once the heartthrob of films and a main leading man in Hong Kong TV while Petrina Fung was known as the “Shirley Temple of Hong Kong” in the 60s. It also adds in the consistent supporting man of Suet Lam who seems to find himself in a lot of Hong Kong films in so many different roles and in this one scores himself a main role as the driver for this assassin team. However, this roles takes a much more dramatic turn of events.

Aging is a theme that matches to this leading cast and gives them a platform share their acting skills especially for Patrick Tse who is already in his 80s when filming this one and gives him a chance to reunite briefly with Chow Chung (currently 90 years old) in his cameo role as one of the elderly seeking the help from the Elderly’s Angels. The film executes the topic of aging and the elderly in the form of a dramedy. The drama and the humor does keep a decent balance. The drama is in these three characters lives as they deal with all the struggles that aging has brought for them, at the same, it also reflects bigger societal issues and the modern day values or lack thereof. Between all this, there are some bits that do come across in its dark humor or even a little silly at times that makes for some decent laughs.

Time is not your typical Hong Kong film filled with action and crime. However, this one shows off a wonderful talented cast when the basic Hong Kong acting pool is honestly growing a little thin. The story itself is relevant to the current society towards the elderly (and even dabbles into the topic of teen pregnancy). The film does give it a heartwarming overall feeling as old friends and unlikely acquaintances open up a whole new world for each other as life deals each of these elderly assassins a serious negative dose of aging.

American Girl (2021)

Director (and co-writer): Feng-I Fiona Roan

Cast: Karena Lam, Caitlin Fang, Kaiser Chuang, Audrey Lin, Teng-Hui Huang, Kimi Hsia

During the SARS outbreak of 2003, 13-year-old Fen returns to Taiwan. – IMDB

American Girl is the directorial feature debut for Feng-I Fiona Roan who tells a semi-autobiographical story of Lily Wang, a mother who returns to Taiwan from USA with her two daughters after she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Between adjusting to her life back in Taiwan which proves especially hard for her two daughters especially her eldest with her school work and making friends, the 2003 SARS outbreak also hits causing their alert to be high.

American Girl focuses mostly on the mother Li-li (Karena Lam) and the eldest daughter, Fen (Caitlin Fang) as they navigate through this new life. Li-li struggles with her illness and feeling herself again as she fears the breast cancer getting worse and death causing her to become a rather depressing sort of character which transfers over to her family. Fen in turn doesn’t quite understand all this but despises the negative energy causing her to fight with her mother constantly especially being stuck in Taiwan where its hard to be accepted by friends or the lack of understanding at her school when she falls behind. She also struggles with identity as well when she constantly is referred to as “American Girl”. While both Li-li, Fen or even her father (Kaiser Chuang), they each are flawed characters. Its easy to understand their position but also feel a little frustrated that they each lack the communication to fully portray their feelings properly in this time of adjustment after years of living apart.

The situation feels realistic and the film chooses to set itself during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia which is something fairly relatable in our reality. The fear of infection and a mother’s own situation as her own health issues creates a sense of hopelessness when something happens to her younger daughter. There’s a lot of mixed feelings going on but each of these situations and how these characters deal with them help build up these characters and make them realistic. In fact, some of these things are happening as other things are, just like in real life.

Don’t get me wrong though, American Girl isn’t just a depressing slow-burn film. In fact, it is rather heartfelt in many ways. It might not be a film for everyone in terms of pacing or sentiments. There are certain elements that feel like it happens a little late in the story but it does however gives these characters the moment they need to reflect. There’s no big moments in this film and everything is fairly everyday life from conversations at the dining table between the family or arguments in the bedroom or classroom interactions however, it reflects the differences between certain cultures in Taiwan (an East versus West mentality, especially in the school setting) and the film does have some good moments when they do little things together as simple as it all feels.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Director: David Blue Garcia

Cast: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Jessica Allain, Nell Hudson, Alice Krige, William Hope

After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorize a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town. – IMDB

Before we get into the review, I figured I should put it out there that my knowledge of Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is far and few. I haven’t seen the original in the 70s which gets a mentioned in this film and I’ve seen very little of the 2003 mostly because it was one of the first horror films that I saw and I didn’t have quite the stomach or courage to watch it. The only films I’ve seen in the franchise is Texas Chainsaw 3D (review) and Leatherface (review). I keep thinking that I’ve seen the 2006 film as well but I can’t seem to find any evidence of it anywhere and the trailer doesn’t seem to remind me of anything so either I’ve seen and its wiped clean out of my mind or I just haven’t. Looking back at my whole Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise experience to date, it does feel like I’ve watched some rather lackluster films and it probably has to do with the ones I’ve watched in entirety being some pretty subpar films. I can only imagine that it starts off much stronger to have the following it has today.

And yet, with that experience and the convenience of it being a Netflix film, here we are again with 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre which picks up 50 years after the first film when a bunch of young adults head out to revitalize the ghost town of Harlow and making an inconsiderate decision that ends up causing their demise and waking up the chainsaw-wielding slasher that we all know, Leatherface. Suffice to say that I got into this film with fairly low expectations and probably because of that, the film turned out to be slightly better than my expectations. Of course, that’s not saying a whole lot since they do have some rather predictable characters and situations and the whole story with the survivor from the 70s story Sally coming back for her revenge was so very weak especially in terms of the dialogue. However, there are some decent jumpscare moments and slasher moments.

Other than some thin characters and some odd dialogue here and there, the story itself isn’t all that bad and the execution is pretty decent as well since it takes into account the modern day trends with the whole social media and cancel culture and giving the whole story a decent amount of body counts to make it all bloody. Not exactly very gory but still an expected amount of blood is spilled. While the idea of reviving a ghost town with a younger vibe despite its past seems like a rather stupid idea considering the history, they do go ahead with it in a quick manner. This applies to the film in general as the execution is incredibly fast: story moves fast, bodies drop fast and the whole situation shifts quickly.

The use of the link to the ’74 film’s character Sally Hardesty (Alice Krige) is one that lacks some finesse especially since she only shows up as more of a subplot and seems to want to try to bank on what Halloween has done with their last 2 films, giving the film the same type of plot line. However, it never quite works considering that the dialogue is quite laughable but does end up giving the main characters a guide and courage to face Leatherface in the final showdown. Talking about the two sisters as the main character, which is a pretty decent base, it follows older sister Melody (Sarah Yarkin) who is one half of the brains behind the revival of the town and takes her younger sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) who has experienced a near death experience in a school shooting prior to this experience, making her back story most interesting. However, their stories never quite get the depth (as expected with a lot of these slasher type films) and it doesn’t help that some of these events feel a tad disjointed. However, the sisterly connection does come into play here and it does make these two more worthy of wanting them to survive these whole situation.

Looking at Leatherface (and you can all judge my inexperience with this part as its more based on my own limited knowledge of the character), the slasher element is probably the stronger part here. Leatherface is revived in this character when he loses his adoptive mother which sends him on this vengeful path. The issue here really starts in this character feeling like he is going back to his origins regardless of his age. It also dials down to whether you think the face reveal of Leatherface is good as well (although I might be wrong but I feel like in one of the origin stories, can’t remember which film it was, it had the younger version of him unmasked). The mask gives his character fear as well as the iconic chainsaw as his weapon of choice so seeing him as the older man that he is loses a bit of the impact at the start, even if it never does have a complete face reveal but an eye here and a glimpse there. It all depends on how you feel about this angle. It does fade away as the film goes along as Leatherface does go into attack mode very quickly with some quick and shocking slasher moments.

Overall, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was alright. In the slasher department, it does what you’d expect however in the narrative and writing, it feels a weaker at times . The concept overall is decent since it does try to link to the original film and give it both a modern day feeling and bring it back to the nostalgia even if both of these motives seem a little silly. The younger cast has its good and bad moments and while the pacing is very quick and bodies all dropping incredibly quickly, boosting up the slasher blood and gore element, it also might be the reason why no one seems to matter too much since they never have enough time on screen to just be a little pawn meant to be an obstacle before they get taken out. On a personal level, this one is better than expected but then, I seem to have skipped out on all the better films of the franchise from the beginning so expectations are fairly low to start with.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 Finale: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

Welcome back to Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022. After almost 2 weeks, we are winding down with our finale posts over today and tomorrow. The first of the two posts is from my awesome co-host Drew with his pick of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Drew is diving into Steven Spielberg’s films over the course of 2022 so you should definitely make sure to keep checking his blog out to make sure you don’t miss any of those reviews (and all his other reviews and weekly trailer round-ups).

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Synopsis 
When E.T., an alien visiting Earth, gets left behind when his ship quickly leaves, Elliott (Henry Thomas) helps him contact his home world.

Review 
When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial released 40 years ago in 1982, no one, not even Steven Spielberg, predicted that it would be the phenomenon that it has become. After finally viewing it myself, I can see why this film has become a beloved classic. The movie tells a story about a boy befriending an alien while also examining the affect of divorce on children. It’s a very unique story combination that few filmmakers without Spielberg’s expertise could pull off. All of the relationships, Elliot’s relationship with E.T., Elliott’s relationship with his siblings, and Elliott’s and his siblings’ relationship with their mother, are all thoroughly developed and fleshed out. The score, created by Spielberg’s regular composer John Williams, excels at elevating the emotional undertones of every scene. One particular moment that stands out is the iconic moment when Elliott, with assistance from E.T., flies his bike in the air with the moon behind them. It’s already a fantastic scene but Williams’ score makes it even better. Even without the score, the script does a wonderful job of building emotion. By the end, you’ll no doubt have become attached to the characters, particularly the lovable E.T. himself, culminating in an emotional ending.

I thought E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was GOOD 🙂 Filled with heart and relatable characters, Steven Spielberg crafts an epic tale that everyone can enjoy and hold dear.

Trivia
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial holds the record for the longest ever theatrical run, staying in theaters for over one year after it’s release on June 11, 1982. (via IMDb)

Trailer 

Cast & Crew 
Steven Spielberg – Director
Melissa Mathison – Writer
John Williams – Composer

Henry Thomas – Elliott
Robert MacNaughton – Michael
Drew Barrymore – Gertie
Dee Wallace – Mary
Peter Coyote – Keys
KC Martel – Greg
Sean Frye – Steve
Tom Howell – Tyler
Pat Welsh – E.T. (voice)

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Check out the full list of blogathon entries for this year’s Ultimate Decades Blogathon HERE!

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews tomorrow to check out my blogathon final pick!

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022: The Secret World of Arrietty (2012) by Starry Traveler’s Road

Welcome back to Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 as we continue with the second week of entries. Today’s guest is one of my own childhood friends who has slowed down on her blogging recently but always drops by with a review for the blogathon every year. Her blog, Starry Traveler’s Road now focuses on her every day things from opinions on certain societal things in Montreal to her crafts and other mom adventures and even shared some of her jewelry making progress.

This year she shares a review on The Secret World of Arrietty, a Studio Ghibli film. Remember to head over to check our her blog!

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Review: The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)

Despite all the chaos going through our lives, Bun Bun and I are back with a movie review! It was refreshing to just spend time together to reconnect. It is also fun to continue our yearly tradition especially she is now in first grade and understand the world a bit more. HUGE thank you to Kim and Drew for hosting us for the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022!

The summary as written on IMDb (https://m.imdb.com/title/tt1568921/

Fourteen-year-old Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler, Saoirse Ronan, and Mirai Shida) and the rest of the Clock family live in peaceful anonymity as they make their own home from items that they borrow from the house’s human inhabitants. However, life changes for the Clocks when a human boy discovers Arrietty.

Let me start by saying this movie is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers which is still on my book list. We watched the original Japanese movie (2010) with English caption. I took the time to read every line as we go since none of us understand Japanese and Bun Bun can only recognize sight words. We watched it over two evenings as we started on a Sunday and she had school the next day. It was a bit difficult to determine where is the best place to stop if you cannot sit through the whole movie. On Monday night, we watched the rest of the movie.

I am very proud to say that this is the FIRST movie that Bun and I saw without her running away to hide when things got scary (she did not like the housekeeper). She cried a bit when the characters had to say goodbye. From what she told me, she really liked Arrietty due to her personality and flowery bedroom along with the cat whose appearance reminded her of the cat bus in My Neighbor Totoro. Bun Bun did say that she would like to watch it again someday which tells me she did enjoy it as not many movies get on her “let’s rewatch” list.

As for me, I enjoyed the movie and hope to eventually find time to read the book soon (Bun is not huge on bedtime stories. Or else, I would read to her and use it as an opportunity to discuss the difference between movie and book). It was interesting for me to finally notice a pattern on how some male characters and female villains are portrayed in movies from Ghibli Studio.

I liked the dynamic between Arrietty and Shawn (Sho in Japanese), the male character, especially how they cared for one another. The graphics and music are great by Ghibli standards too!

This is it for Bun Bun and my movie review! We hope you enjoyed it!

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A huge thanks to Phoebe for dropping by with a review of The Secret World of Arrietty!

Head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews for the last guest entry for the blogathon!

See the full list of the blogathon updated daily HERE.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022: The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972) by Film Miasma

Welcome to the next guest entry wrapping up the first week of Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022. Let’s all give a warm welcome to my old blogging friend coming to us from his new(er) blog Eric from Film Miasma. If you don’t know Eric from before, basically he used to run the extremely fun and legendary Shitfest which in some ways does make sense that he now runs Film Miasma where he goes and watches bad horror movies and gives entertaining reviews about them. Eric has a unique writing style in the blogging world that is an all around fun time whether you like the same movies as him or just want to use his reviews as a guide to avoid the crappy B-horror films. Remember to head over and check out his blog and give him a follow!

Film Miasma comes to us with the 1972 Italian giallo film, The Case of the Bloody Iris!

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what are those strange drops of blood doing on jennifer’s body? (1972)

I think, when you think, or the curious film thinker thinks about Giallo, the first thing that probably comes to mind is: a very strange title and probably naked Italians. Of course, that would also mean that you’ve probably seen one or two to get you to that impression in the first place. I’ve seen quite a few of them and, in general, I like them a lot and most of them fit this mold: a strange movie title!, a murder!, more murders!, naked Italians!, inept police!, a dozen or so suspects!,  a mystery that probably won’t be solved until the very last second!. A lot of them also feature some nasty kills which could turn a lot of people away. Most of them also feature pretty creative camera work and some of that cool 70s chic that I loved growing up (and still do).For better or worse, if you were looking to look this up, it will probably be found under The Case of The Bloody Iris and it’s actually pretty tame as far as Giallo goes but it’s also one of the good ones.

The basic plot is this: someone killed a call girl, then a stripper who will wrestle you for money, followed by the leader of a Group Sex Astrology Cult and, naturally, some more characters along the way. Instead of the graphic nature of the murders, this one is more interested in leading you in (maybe!) misdirection on who could be pulling these off. Is it the terrified-of-blood building architect who has drawings for all of the rooms in his office? Is it the flamboyant photographer who takes photos of nude women to sell motorcycle ads? Is it Edwidge Fenech’s character’s ex-husband who used to shoot her up with heroin for group orgies? Is it the mysterious, retired, violin playing Professor next door? Is it his aggressive daughter Sheila? Is it the deformed son of the decrepit lady down the hall? Is it the police investigator who steals envelopes from crime scenes for their stamps?

Well – it could be any of them, really. Maybe someone just has bad headaches. Maybe this one guy just likes detective magazines. Maybe someone was in a bad car crash when he or she was a kid and got — strange drops of blood all over his or her body… Maybe!

The cleverness to these things, I believe, comes in the direction or at least the work of the DP. You don’t really see things like this that often any more (or maybe not in the things I like to watch) but I always enjoy the slow movement of the camera instead of just the traditionally stick it on a tripod method. And especially not gimmicky shaky cam trying to signify you’re someone watching things unfold, right there, in the scene. Take this an an example:

A man is looking in a file cabinet, he’s mumbling about how the criminals are getting smarter than the police. We pan right as he’s now complaining about his partner who is so stupid he should get demoted to the fire department. The camera stops on a ringing phone (rotary even!). Someone picks it up. Panning right further, we stop on a new character sitting in an office chair, a bottle of dark scotch in the forefront. He’s smoking! Offscreen, someone hangs up the phone. The camera pans right, to the door, someone opens it and advertises there’s been another murder. Someone’s been stabbed in the street! She had an armful of groceries! The two characters from the left of the room scramble out, putting out their cigarettes and putting on their hats. The door slams shut and the camera makes its way back to the telephone. Was that what we were supposed to be paying attention to the entire time? Who called what in? Was it the ex-wife? Was it the roommate? Was it the maître d’ at the wrestling club? What’s the significance??

One last thing I’d like to mention – we’ve all seen a shot somewhere of a body being thrown down the middle of a stairwell, hitting everything on the way down, right? Sure – of course, probably. Well, here – not only do we get that but, just to make things clear, they do it again for good measure! And not the same body! Score!

All in all, I don’t know if this is because it came around in the early 70s before everything started getting really weird but, for Giallo, while strange, this one is tamer than the later ones. Still R Rated no doubt, but not as grisly as some of the others.

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A huge thanks to Eric for joining us with this very fun review of The Case of the Bloody Iris and sharing some outlook on Giallo films!

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews on Monday to check out Week 2 of the blogathon and the next guest entry!

You can check out the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 page in case you missed any entries which I update daily.