Double Feature: An Affair To Die For (2019) & Tears of Steel (2012)

Next double feature is here with two movies that were relatively spontaneous choices. The first being a thriller called An Affair to Die For and the second is a short film called Tears of Steel. Let’s check it out!

An Affair To Die For (2019)

Director: Victor Garcia

Cast: Claire Forlani, Jake Abel, Titus Welliver, Nathan Cooper, Melina Matthews

A secret rendezvous. A man cheats on his wife. A woman cheats on her husband. And then everything goes bad, quickly. – IMDB

It seems like January is the peak time when I successfully hunt down some really lackluster movies in the Netflix list. Honestly, I don’t even rememeber putting this movie on the list as this genre of film generally hasn’t bode well. With that said, An Affair to Die For was a fairly below average experience.

The deal with An Affair to Die For isn’t so much the plot. In fact, after some thought, it does land on that twist element to a certain extent but the execution and timing left the pacing feeling a little unbalanced to the ending. At a certain point, the body count really dies narrow down who else is left for the big “mastermind” at the end who pulls a Saw-like ending. The other part is the dialogue and the characters themselves. In this case, I do have to say that while I do think there’s some overacting, its how the main female actress Claire Forlani delivers her dialogue that bothers me. It feels almost like the combination of a flawed script and oddly constructed characters pulls this film down as well.

An Affair To Die For is really quite a lackluster experience overall. The movie starts off feeling like an erotic thriller and takes a turn into a much more focused thriller element is not a bad idea, its just that anything like that also takes some careful pacing and this one lacked in that department.

Tears of Steel (short 2012)

Director (and writer): Ian Hubert

Cast: Derek de Lint, Sergio Hasselbaink, Rogier Schippers, Vanja Rukavina, Denise Rebergen

He just wanted to be awesome in space. – IMDB

Running as a swift 12 minutes short, Tears of Steel is rather interesting in concept. It plays a little with time travel or time manipulation. The world is a future where its being dominated by robots because of what leads back to one interaction in the past between a boy and girl. The whole concept is done rather well especially with the world building. Even in the little bit of the time, the destruction and the state of the world is shown really well. The effects in particular definitely look polished.

For a short film, this one does stand out a lot and really has a great concept and world building and it would be interesting to see perhaps a full story on this world. Whether its the technology or the ability to change the past that is used or even how the world came to be seems like such a good angle to dive further into the content.

What does make me wonder a little more is that this short film on Netflix is set as a season where there’s the original movie and then a 2 hour loop and an 8 hour loop of the movie. I’m just thinking about who is sitting around looping this short film and where this desire to do this came from. Its just something I wouldn’t do so I find it rather curious.

Double Feature: Shanghai Fortress (2019) & S Storm (2016)

Time for the next double feature! Its a pairing of a Netflix Chinese Sci-fi film Shanghai Fortress with the sequel of Hong Kong crime thriller Z Storm called S Storm. Let’s check it out!

Shanghai Fortress (2019)

Director: Hua-Tao Teng

Cast: Han Lu, Qi Shu, Godfrey Gao, Liang Shi, Sen Wang, Vincent Matile, Jialing Sun, Yu Cheng

In 2035, aliens have wiped out mega cities around the globe to get their main source of energy, Xianteng. Will Shanghai be able to defend itself and maybe even launch a counterattack? – IMDB

Looking solely at the premise, Shanghai Fortress has a great setting. Think a little like the Chinese version of Independence Day with elements of Ender’s Game and hints of Pacific Rim. The whole setting in the future and the world being destroyed where Shanghai wants to counterattack and the world coming together to try to eliminate the alien invasion is a good premise to say the very least. Where Shanghai Fortress has more issues is in its execution and some of the CGI effects especially when it comes to the aliens which looks like toy action figures in some scenes (a lot of it when its attacking from the sky).

Where the movie does its best story bits is with its sci-fi elements as it talks about the war and the reality that the world now dwells in. The source of energy that is being fought for and the reality that the world now dwells in while still a bit lacking in detail still works for the most part and even with the technology that the world now has and the team that they put together to try to fight them as well as their secret weapon. With that said, where the story falls apart is putting in the romantic arc of the main lead trying to win the heart of a superior. It almost felt unnecessary as it was put there to give them a dramatic element but then, they already had the whole team and friendship that was done in a more natural way.

Despite the story, the cast is fairly alright. With the material they had, the main cast does deliver well enough. Qi Shu brings in the role of the captain and is the crush of the main male lead played by Han Lu, who is the leader of the little “task force” (not sure if that’s how you call it) that got brought up after they come together to help an attack. Godfrey Gao also takes part in this film as one of the last few movies in his career before his unfortunate death in 2019. There are some more familiar faces that work out including the rest of the “task force” and friends that I’ve seen appear and are relatively well in their roles.

Overall, its quite disappointing that Shanghai Fortress had such a good premise but just couldn’t deliver a better script and execution, which made a little harder to get into it completely whether it was the war or the human relationships.

S Storm (2016)

Director: David Lam

Cast: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Ada Choi, Vic Chou, Bowie Lam, Dada Chan, Janelle Sing, Sau Sek, Hoi Pang Lo, Jacky Cai

No sooner is a team at ICAC set up to investigate irregularities in soccer official betting in Hong Kong before a suspect is assassinated. – IMDB

The sequel to 2014’s Z Storm (review) takes on another corruption story and this time its within the Jockey Club with the soccer betting system. The ICAC end up following the clues from one lead to the next to realize that each of the suspects are being killed before they get there. S Storm is a fairly decent thriller. The only issue is that it adds too much to the equation that it almost feels like there’s too many characters to go through. It does keep it fairly engaging since there’s always a next step and in the beginning, its a race between the ICAC and a disrespected homicide detective’s team for the trail.

S Storm excels because of its talented cast. The ICAC being lead by Louis Koo’s character who is a staple in many Hong Kong thrillers in the past decade (if not 2). The homicide team lead by Julian Cheung, a singer and actor that I personally like quite a bit as well. The assassin is played by Vic Chou and the former F4 member and had his debut in the original Taiwanese version of Meteor Garden as Hua Ze Lei, the 2nd male lead. Its been a while since I’ve seen him in anything so this role does feel small and very quiet but his character is missing some depth perhaps. Other roles like Ada Choi, Bowie Lam, Sau Sek are all familiar faces in TV mostly but have dabbled in film before and all give fairly decent supporting roles.

While there are some issues with S Storm, its a series that I do enjoy for the corruption case angle. Its more about the clever dealings and inner network of people and such. This one does have a decent amount of action as well considering its about gambling so the triad and such gets involved. The audience gets the story step by step in bits and sees the danger before the ICAC and homicide gets there even if it doesn’t always reveal the culprit, leaving that in the dark for a while. Some good elements and some not so good ones but its an alright thriller overall.

As a side note, it would be interesting to check out what other stories will come in the other movies in the series and how it links to the letters they use really does make me wonder sometimes.

BITS 2020: Come True (2020)

Come True (2020)

Come True

Director (and screenplay): Anthony Scott Burns

Cast: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron, Tedra Rogers, Chantal Perron, Carlee Ryski, Christopher Heatherington

A teenage runaway takes part in a sleep study that becomes a nightmarish descent into the depths of her mind and a frightening examination of the power of dreams. – IMDB

Dreams, nightmares, science fiction and fantasy all come into play when talking about Come True. It starts off on a premise that may feel familiar as its about a teenage runaway who ends up joining a sleep study in order to find a place to stay while making money but at the same time, it helps her look further into her dreams and nightmares. As the study comes to play and it starts to see what the study is about, she starts to get closer to the unknown figure that appears in her sleep. What is reality and nightmare and where does it all draw the line?

Come True is one of the best offerings of BITS 2020 and that has to do with a good combination of everything: visuals, characters, the story and wrapping all that up with a mindblowing ending. The atmosphere creates a building tension. Its a deep question about what is going on with this character and her dreams and how does it all connect which makes it stand out all the more as it creates this looming question. Perhaps what makes it stand out is using one unique situation to build on, giving shape to a more fleshed out situation from it being in the dreams to how dreams a converted into visible elements on screen and then further into how this translates into reality or not. The unknown is the main element of horror and its done fairly well.

These characters and cast are pretty well done also. The character that is the most fleshed out is the main character Sarah, played by Julia Sarah Stone, who experiences this whole situation where is everyone else seems like they just cross by her. However, it never forgets that the main character may be going through her issues but she is still a runaway teenager and she can still have fun with her best friend and find ways to fix her situation on her own even if its an unsettling choice to join an sleep study off some ad for money. She has suffice back story to make the audience care about what she’s going through. On the other side is the researchers who are observing these subjects, including Jeremy, played by Landon Liboiron who seems to be popping up on my radar quite a bit since he was in Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (review) who is a pretty decent actor and this role is works well for him. Jeremy is also a relatively well-written character. He plays a character that has some unknown motive and creates this connection with Sarah. To be fair, the story focuses on Sarah’s character the most, which is a good direction to not create too many tangents and makes it more complex.

Unlike Anthony Scott Burns debut feature film (review), Come True is definitely a hidden gem. One that carries an intriguing story and a well-crafted atmosphere. Its a mixed genre sci-fi horror that dives into the world of nightmares, dreams and reality, blurring the lines between them. If dreams could be mapped out, wouldn’t that be something, right?

BITS 2020: The Return (2020)

The Return (2020)

The Return

Director (and co-writer): BJ Verot

Cast: Richard Harmon, Sara Thompson, Echo Andersson, Marina Stephenson Kerr, Erik Athavale, Gwendolyn Collins, Zoe Fish, Kristen Sawatzky

After the death of his father, a brilliant college student returns to his family home where he learns that the horrors from his childhood aren’t as dead and gone as he once thought. – IMDB

There’s no doubt that based on the synopsis above that The Return sounds like a unique horror experience. However, The Return isn’t quite as generic as it makes it out to be. In fact, its one that starts off with a general horror tropes seen in ghost stories. Creepy dolls, jumpscares, slamming doors: the basic elements of a haunted house, right? Its all wrapped up a college student going back to his childhood home after his father passes away in a questionable manner. With his girlfriend and best friend in tow, they go to the funeral and sort through the house when his long return dredges up something else and eventually bringing him to dig up some things in the past that he has forgotten.

The Return’s first part although fairly predictable in its scares actually manages to build a decent atmosphere. However, the first part is also the weaker part of the film. Not only are the scares fairly familiar haunted house tropes but its really the pacing of revealing this “ghost/monster” (whatever you want to call it) to quickly that messes up a little of the turning point/twist. With that said, it also tries to pack in too many scares in a short amount of time that decreases the scare element. At one point, the “monster” revealed itself over and over again in quick frequency and anything in frequent amounts tends to dull the effective of what its trying to achieve. With anything lurking in the background, the mystery of how its executed is incredibly important and somehow that seems lose a bit of that in the first half, even though the set up was done well enough story-wise.

The second half is much stronger as it consists of a clever twist and at the same time, it has a lot more action of the characters actually being in some kind of peril. The threat is in action a little more. While some reactions were a little silly, the search for what happened to the main character and his lost memory along with connecting all the dots to why his childhood home is haunted does add a lot to making it much more unique and adding in some of the mixed genre elements, in this case a bit of science fiction and time travel.

The Return is one of those movies that might not be really at first glance or even the beginning segment as the setup does feel a little been there done that in horror films however, once the past of the main character becomes more clear and and the things start to build up along with a clever twist, it does add a lot of charms to it. Its not exactly a pure horror film however, its unique because of this and adds a lot of extra points when those other elements come into play.

Double Feature: The Platform (2019) & The Predator (2018)

As I took a few days off to get my mind back on track and figure out what needs to be written (because I basically forgot after Fantasia Festival), we’re back on the double feature! As we gear into October’s Halloween Horror month, I’m leaving some horror on Shudder for next month so we’re focusing on the rest of the alphabet with only Netflix choices and maybe some shortcuts along the way.

Picking up where we left off, its time for the P selection. The first is a Netflix movie called The Platform and paired with the fourth movie in the Predator franchise called The Predator. Let’s check it out!

The Platform (2019)

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Cast: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale, Alexandra Masangkay, Zihara Llana

A vertical prison with one cell per level. Two people per cell. One only food platform and two minutes per day to feed from up to down. An endless nightmare trapped in The Hole. – IMDB

The Platform is a Netflix Original Spanish sci-fi horror film which works a lot like Snowpiercer where its moving horizontal through a train, this one moves in a vertical structure via a platform that passes from the top levels to the lowest levels. As a man gets trapped there, his conversation with his cellmate becomes one where he starts to notice the patterns and the system and wants to fight for a change to actually survive this ordeal. The backstory and mystery of why these people are there and how do they get out is all a key part to the story. Sure, the platform itself plays a big part as the people shift every while from one level to another so that they can experience the upper and lower levels and the ugly and selfish side of humans in the face of survival.

Netflix automatically started the movie in its dubbed English version for myself which was a decent experience. It would be interesting to watch it again in its original audio. Overall, The Platform is a pretty good film. It builds up on the mystery and the intensity of the situation pretty well and has a decent pacing and execution throughout.

The Predator (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Shane Black

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey

When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled scientist can prevent the end of the human race. – IMDB

There are days I wonder why we just keep going back to making more and more of a franchise when it should’ve been left at the first movie. It sometimes feels like Predator is one of those situation, maybe because I’m also not a huge fan of this franchise in comparison to Alien franchise, I guess. Although, credit where its due, Predators (review) was a pretty fun one even though I think some people wasn’t a big fan. Back on track to this one, the story here is far-fetched and it runs rather off track the further it goes. The only thing that worked for it was the ragtag team and the twist of the concept of the predators end-game although the whole “twist” of what they wanted wasn’t exactly a twist but fairly obvious.

I don’t hate on this completely since I thought Olivia Munn’s character was fairly resourceful and there’s some familiar faces with Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key, two people that I rather enjoy in movies. Then there’s the little boy played by Jacob Tremblay who right away is different but intelligent for his age. The characters do work rather well. Its a pity that the story gets a little odd especially when the Predator world starts showing up with alien pups which was supposed to add some humor which it kind of did at times especially with whatever it would fetch back.

Its a fairly flat experience. Its not good but not horrible either. There are some glaring issues with it for sure but then, the director definitely has a special place for this movie as it puts in some references to the original film (or at least a very obvious one).

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

Blog Tour: Crackle and Fire by Russ Colchamiro (Review/Giveaway)

Check out the upcoming release from Russ Colchamiro! Crackle and Fire is the first installment of a brand new genre-blurring series!

Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery (Book One)
By: Russ Colchamiro

Expected Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery/ Fantasy

Angela Hardwicke isn’t just any private eye.

She’s a PI from Eternity, the cosmic realm responsible for the design, creation, and maintenance of the Universe.

When accountant Gil Haberseau hires her to find an intern with stolen corporate files, Hardwicke soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he wants.

In Russ Colchamiro’s thrilling Sci-Fi mystery Crackle and Fire, Angela Hardwicke learns once and for all that when it comes to being an intergalactic private eye, there’s no telling what threats she may face on-realm and off… including the demons that lurk deep within her soul.

“Crackle and Fire elegantly combines PI noir with science fiction and fantasy.” — John L. French, author of The Magic of Simon Tombs

“Angela Hardwicke is one of the most memorable characters in detective fiction.” — Sawney Hatton, author of Everyone is a Moon

BONUS STORY INCLUDED! The AI-themed Angela Hardwicke murder mystery, “The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure”

Add to Goodreads

REVIEW

Crackle and Fire is the first book in an upcoming series featuring a female private investigator called Angela Hardwicke. Set in a sci-fi galactic universe, the world itself is very intriguing to discover. The first book gives a good vibe of both the character of Angela Hardwicke as well as her network of friends and helpers that assist her in solving her cases. At the same time, this mystery and first case that she takes gives a foundation to the status of the world that it takes place in. There’s a lot of focus on style, the noir-esque crime and the underworld, the connection of this galactic settting and its connection to Earth.

The mystery itself also is executed rather well. There are layers to the story as it unfolds where this case feels a little like a case in a case as Angela Hardwicke starts connecting the dots. In a case that can easily step on some sensitive toes, there is a whole world that unveils in the process. There’s enough intrigue to want to know more and figure out those many questions and mysteries set out in the beginning and enough answers to unlock a few more elements. Adding in the science fiction elements to expand the location a little more and the technology also gives it a lot of character.

Overall, as a first book, Crackle and First is a good debut for the series. Its sets up a good foundation. There is enough set up for Angela Hardwicke’s character, giving her enough backstory to understand her more while seeing her true abilities. At the same time, she is a flawed character with a little mysterious vibe behind her that lingers in the background. There were some vibes of the Ava Lee series by Ian Hamilton that I’m a big fan of with how the mystery is constructed as well as the general concept of the female character design (although they do have their differences and has its own respective setting and expertise). To be comparable to that series is a compliment on my part. It’ll be interesting to see where this story takes Angela Hardwicke in the future books of the series. We already get a little idea as this book ended with a little bonus story.

Score: 4/5

Pre-Order Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.

He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

Website
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GIVEAWAY

(International) digital copy of Crackle and Fire & a $5 Amazon
Enter HERE

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

August 24th
Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com
Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

August 25th
Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
Rajiv’s Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/
Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com

August 26th
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/
Meli’s Book Reviews (Review) https://melisbokreviews.wordpress.com/

August 27th
Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/
I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://imintobooks.com
PoptheButterfly Reads (Spotlight) https://popthebutterfly.wordpress.com

August 28th
Mind of Luxe (Review) http://mindofluxe.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Review)
Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Blog Tour Organized by:

R&R Book Tours

Double Feature: Crawl (2019) & Bumblebee (2018)

Welcome back to another double feature! Today, we are looking at an interesting pairing to say the least. One is a creature feature with alligators and the other is another Transformers movie but more of a spin-off of how Bumblebee ended up on Earth. Its a pretty fun double feature

Crawl (2019)

Crawl

Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, George Somner

A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators. – IMDB

*Originally posted as Friday Film Club on Movies and Tea HERE*

While sharks are primarily the star of creature features, Crawl takes on a lesser used monster as it takes a disaster film and pairs it with a horror film where a father, daughter and their dog gets trapped in their basement crawl space and hunted down by alligators during a Category 5 hurricane. As in any of these films, it is about survival. Directed by Alexandre Aja who is no stranger to directing horror films, Crawl takes on a decent form from the atmosphere and how the whole story goes as it builds gripping tension with these characters and this quiet predator.

Starring Kaya Scodelario as a rising swimming athlete in university called Haley who goes to check on her father Dave played by Barry Pepper, she ends up finding him in a crawl space unconscious and their own salvation is behind these pipes that the alligators hunting them can’t get through. As the crawl space fills up with water, they need to find a way to escape without being noticed by these alligators. Just looking at the character designs, it definitely feels like a rather contrived way to put a swimmer as a central character in a flood and yet, if you can get past that (and you should), Crawl manages to create some gripping moments and build up a decent  bit of tension while also making the whole crawl space experience to play well in the claustrophobic and time-sensitive situation.

There’s a lot to love about Crawl. For one, it uses a lesser used “monster” which definitely needs to be used more as quiet predators create some good surprise attack moments. At the same time, the characters are pretty good. While there is still some family drama to sort out between the father and daughter, the focus on survival is the priority. At the same time, the script makes an effort to give reasoning for why these alligators have gathered in this crawl space and it all does come together in the end. Plus, the director manages to not only use the crawl space and the claustrophobia of that setting to its potential but when it migrates out of there, it still manages to use its environment and the hurricane to its advantage as well. Crawl definitely delivers a great creature feature film that’s well worth a watch.

Bumblebee (2018)

Bumblebee

Director: Travis Knight

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Ricardo Hoyos, John Ortiz

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach town. On the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, Charlie Watson discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. – IMDB

While I don’t have any major qualms with Transformers to this certain point but knowing that its really just mindless entertainment, Bumblebee is a whole different level. I guess nothing looks so bad until you find something better that comes along. Bumblebee is a fun movie and brings so much to the table because its so goofy and really about the unlikely friendship between Bumblebee and Charlie as she learns gradually about what he is, maybe not fully as this movie also shows how he loses his voice and ends up finding it again with the help of Charlie and her mechanic skills.

Hailee Steinfeld has gone a long way in her acting career. She’s had some misses, mostly due to the overall movie and not her. Bumblebee sees her in a blockbuster role that she really does take on very well. Her character is a tad bitter about her life with her own burdens in her current life situation while at the same time, her sarcasm adds to the humor especially when playing off of Bumblebee who also is discovering Earth and just how it all works despite his amnesia. Its a bit of a fish out of water story in a Transformer point of view and its executed so well.

If there was anything that I disliked about Transformers, it would have to be the annoying John Cena character which plays a little like Samuel L. Jackson’s role in Kong: Skull Island who pursues Bumblebee like he is a threat and the army gets manipulated by the Decepticons (because you know, who wouldn’t believe anyone called Decepticons, right?).

Overall, Bumblebee is a fun time. It definitely has much more substance and gives an origin story angle for Bumblebee which works very well. It balances between the comedy, drama and action a lot and also manages to get in a lot of  screen time for the Autobots and Depcepticons instead of the humans. Really good job here!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon: Inception (2010) by Drew’s Movie Review

After 2 weeks of blogathon guests, Ultimate 2010s Blogathon is at its conclusion with me and Drew’s concluding movie reviews to wrap-up the blogathon. Drew starts off with a review of 2010’s Inception. You can’t go wrong with this Christopher Nolan directed psychological science fiction thriller.


InceptionSynopsis
Dream extractors Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and their team are hired by Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform inception, or plant an idea in someone’s mind, on Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor.

Review
Christopher Nolan is a writer and director who is known for films that are bold, that go big, and that are completely original. One of his boldest and biggest films came between the latter two films in his influential The Dark Knight trilogy. Inception has all of Nolan’s trademark elements and, most importantly, the cast to make it work. And it works. It works in a spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story, often using an overbearing amount of exposition. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology or concept to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the notion of dreams within dreams, which becomes an important aspect of the story later on, and also simply give an idea of what it the technology does. The movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology so it can start with a bang. However, later in the film we do get the exposition needed to explain such a high concept technology. This information is given to us through Ariadne (Ellen Page), who acts as the bridge between the movie and the audience. But again, it is done in a way that is neither pandering nor dull, somehow making exposition exciting and entertaining.

Although there is a large ensemble, almost everyone gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. They play off each other humorously and you can feel that their characters are close friends. I haven’t seen many of Cillian Murphy’s films but I’m impressed with his performance here, playing well opposite, and later along side, DiCaprio. Ellen Page is the newcomer to the team and acts a great surrogate for the audience. She offers an innocence and a bit of naivete to the group. However, I would have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one of my favorite characters in cinema. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and wants nothing more than to return to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. Cobb, on the other hand, is truly not a bad person and is only leveraging his skills in a way he believes will allow him to return to his family the quickest, even though it is not a way he would prefer.

I have mentioned many times in other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music beautifully complements what is happening on screen. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There are some amazing visuals, too. Working inside a dream allows the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest is an early scene when Ariadne is learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and makes the city fold on itself, among bending the streets and architecture in other ways. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! On top of that, many of the effects are done practically rather than with computer animation. Even though this film takes place in the dreamscape, it adds a bit of realism in a world that is anything but real. The effects department truly outdid themselves.

I thought Inception was GREAT 😀 Like most of Christopher Nolan’s films, it features a grand and unique concept. Even though the concept is big, it is never dumbed-down or spoon-fed to the audience. The film assumes that they can figure things out for themselves and moves on accordingly, offering marvelous and extraordinary action pieces and character moments. Each character is complex yet relatable and all the actors and actresses play well off each other. Nolan has proven time and again his place as one of the biggest and best storytellers in Hollywood today, and Inception just might be his crown jewel. So far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash


You can find all the blogathon entries updated daily HERE.

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Kick-Off: The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

Welcome to the official kick-off of this year’s ultimate decades blogathon hosted by myself and Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews, Ultimate 2010s Blogathon! As we wave goodbye to the 2010s, its the best time to talk about the movies that defined it. Whether its a favorite or one that shows off  an element that represented the decade, both movie choices are good. With a lot of movies to choose from between 2010 to 2019, there are endless possibility.

Kicking off the first two days is myself and my fantastic co-host, Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Starting this off on day 1 as I take a look at one of the biggest trends and changes in the movie landscape is the power of the rise of streaming services opening up a variety of movies, giving a platform for distribution and creation of independent and international titles that may otherwise have remained unknown or less accessible.

The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

The Wandering Earth

Director (and co-writer): Frant Gwo

Cast: Jing Wu, Chuxiao Qu, Guangjie Li, Man-Tat Ng, Jin Mai Jaho, Mike Kai Sui, Hongchen Li, Jingjing Qu, Yichi Zhang

As the sun is dying out, people all around the world build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail Earth to a new star system. Yet the 2500-year journey comes with unexpected dangers, and in order to save humanity, a group of young people in this age of a wandering Earth fight hard for the survival of humankind. – IMDB

Loosely adapted from a novella of the same name by Li Cixin, The Wandering Earth is not only China’s third highest grossing film of all time but also the third highest non-English film of all time. Taking a change in landscape from the normal Chinese New Year movie release, The Wandering Earth is set on Chinese New Year but isn’t the normal happy movie but rather a high budget science fiction film.

wandering earth 2

Set in a future where the sun has become a threat to Earth, the world has united into the United Earth Government and collectively has initiated The Wandering Earth Project, installing Earth Engines across the surface of the planet to propel Earth out of the Solar System 4.2 light years away to the Alpha Centauri to preserve human civilization. However, as they cross Jupiter, the gravitational pull of the bigger planet takes control of Earth and causes a possible collision while causing other side effects. As teams travel with their Lighter Cores to reignite the failed Earth Engines, the dangers that await them are numerous with the unexpected changes in the environment.

wandering earth

This premise alone of creating a future where Earth is being pushed in movement out of the solar system is unique to say the least and one that has so much room for exploration. The story uses its environment to its full potential as it shows off right from the get-go how the world has changed from its inhabitants living in various underground cities that have everything that you’d have when the world lived above ground to the current frozen above ground and its operations. The visuals of these are done with grandeur, showing off the technological advances in both this film but also in showing off slick cinematography and CGI used in the current Chinese filmmaking landscape which is pretty much  on par with the Hollywood blockbuster films at least delivers the same feeling, especially as the film’s story starts stepping into the dangerous elements.

wandering earth

The story is two-fold. On one hand, it takes place with the father and Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu) who left at the initiation of the Wandering Earth Project 17 years ago and now is on the last day before retiring back to Earth but now is stuck on the space station. On the ground, his son, now a young man Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu), decides to take his grandfather’s driving access card to show his sister, DuoDuo (Jin Miao Jaho) the world above ground, unknowing getting caught up in the mess as they get caught along with their grandfather (Man-Tat Ng) in the midst of the Earth crumbling as the side effects of crossing through Jupiter and as they try to escape, get commissioned to help transport the rescue mission lead by Wang Lei (Guangjie Li).

Wandering Earth

The story here, while isn’t quite as fresh as its premise, managing to add some little comedic moments through some goofy elements and characters and adding in the expected Chinese drama, in this case, mostly within the family drama with the main characters as well as the hardships and loss of hope through the rescue mission and its possibility of failure. However, where the film shines is in its emphasis on keeping on track with the action and giving this movie in its science fiction a certain level of disaster film quality as well that keeps the film propelling forward. The movie runs for over 2 hours and while some of the slower dramatic moments might drag out a little, the film does focus heavily on the concept of being united and keeps itself focused on these everyday realistic characters but never let them be heroes but rather to let them fight for mankind’s survival together. There’s something so precious and touching about this story as it works up to its endgame and reveals a little more about the state of the United Earth Government and adds in the internationalism with the different languages and authorities working together that makes this future feel hopeful and even utopic.

wandering earth 5

The Wandering Earth might not be the best film of the decade (although it definitely is pretty close to at least the Top 20 for myself), but it does achieve a lot and defines a lot of the 2010s. While I would have loved to pick a movie that was also created by Netflix (or some other studio), the global distribution rights for Netflix shows off the change in landscape and how international films are more visible especially as they manage to reach platforms globally and become more accessible especially in the Chinese film market which has its many restrictions and is less openly advertised than other Asian films. As the world moves closer together, these channels give a chance to have access to more international films and especially, those that are as significant as The Wandering Earth with all the success its had in its own country. Its definitely worth a watch to see how far and competent Chinese film are especially great with one that is pretty much a sci-fi blockbuster.


You can check out the full archive of Ultimate 2010s blogathon posts as they go up, updated daily HERE.

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews to check out my co-host’s kick-off movie review!

Blog Tour Spotlight: Subject A36 by Teri Polen (Excerpt/Giveaway)

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Welcome to the blog tour for Teri Polen’s upcoming release, Subject A36, the first book in a brand new series called The Colony!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a signed or digital copy of the book!

SUBJECT A36 (THE COLONY #1)
BY: TERI POLEN

Subject A36

Genre: YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Expected Publication Date: February 13, 2020

SYNOPSIS

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

ADD TO GOODREADS

EXCERPT

“Asher!” Mom gripped the porch railing and called for me. Her voice cracked and was laced with tears. Dad vaulted over the porch railing, landed solidly on the grass, and frantically scanned our expansive yard.

My stomach clenched. Something was very wrong. “Over here!”

Dad’s gaze locked on mine. “Code Exodus! Now, Asher. Run!”

Was this another drill? We’d practiced twice a week, the times always unexpected, without fail for as long as I could remember. Drills were a regular part of our life, like eating, sleeping, and homework. Protocol was pounded into our brains. There could be no hesitation.

But this felt different. Dad’s expression was tight and urgent. Tears streamed down Mom’s face, and I knew. This was no drill. It was real this time. We’d been found. Code Tribe—we leave together. Code Exodus—we leave without our parents.

Code Exodus rules.

Grab the backpack.

Leave immediately.

Don’t stop for anything or anyone.

Run to the Wallaces.

When my sisters could no longer keep up, hide them and keep running.

Pre-order Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teri Polen

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Her first novel, Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, was a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit her online at http://www.teripolen.com

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GIVEAWAY

You can either win a signed copy of the book (US only) or a digital copy (International)! Click the link below to enter!

Enter here

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

February 10th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com
Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com
My Bookish Blitz (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

February 11th

Lunarian Press (Spotlight) https://www.lunarianpress.com/
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Spotlight) https://klling.wordpress.com/
James J. Cudney (Review) https://thisismytruthnow.com/

February 12th

The Bookworm Drinketh (Spotlight) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/
Didi Oviatt (Spotlights) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
Life’s a Novelty (Review) https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/

February 13th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1 Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
Rea’s Reads (Review) https://reasreads.wordpress.com/
On the Shelf Reviews (Spotlight) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

February 14th

Reads & Reels (Review) http://readsandreels.com
Port Jerricho (Spotlight) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com
Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Spotlight) https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales
Jaunts & Haunts (Review) https://jonathanpongratz.com/
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

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