Double Feature: Star Trek: Beyond (2016) & Baby Driver (2017)

double feature

We are nearing the end of the year which means I’m going to try to get a lot of these backlogged movies reviewed. While I did write a review over on Weibo for Baby Driver already, I haven’t done one here and I’m not going to lie that Star Trek Beyond was a few months ago so its starting to get a little blurry.

Star Trek: Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond

Director: Justin Lin

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim

The crew of the USS Enterprise explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy, who puts them, and everything the Federation stands for, to the test. –IMDB

After the last Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness (review), I had my reservations about this one. For one, the first and the second had this conflict in tone and humor. There was this narrative that worked but the villains felt underused or not quite as effective. Thinking back now, it felt like a fairly unsatisfying and forgettable movie experience save for some of the returning cast who had roles which were quite fun to watch. Star Trek Beyond however takes a different approach. It may have to do with the fact that Simon Pegg doesn’t only appear in the film but also does the writing for this one. It also helps that Justin Lin, a director that I like a lot in the Fast and Furious franchise takes the helms of this sequel. A lot of the factors makes this one such a fun and entertaining movie experience that reminds me a lot of the fun I had in the first Star Trek film.

Star Trek Beyond resumes the familiar roles. Its a good thing because for those who have been following the franchise, its a nice little team that we know the personality of. There is this well-oiled machine dynamic despite the issues they encounter. Everyone delivers it very well. I completely had forgotten that John Cho was in this as well especially since I had just seen him in Searching (when I saw this movie in August or something..Searching review here). Then of course, we have Anton Yelchin that is still such a huge loss in my heart because he is so incredibly talented. However, I think what deserves a mention here are the new additions. The first is the girl on the planet they land on called Jayla, played by Sofia Boutella who has such a fantastic character design appearance wise and her weapons and Sofia Boutella does a great job. On top of that, mostly unrecognizable except for his voice is Idris Elba who plays the villain, Krall. He still feels a little underused but the presence is very much there.

Baby Driver (2017)

baby driver

Director (and writer): Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez, Kevin Spacey

After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. – IMDB

Every once in a while we get a new gimmick and it works for some and doesn’t work for others. Baby Driver utilizes the constant soundtrack in Baby’s life to  work around it. It starts off fairly fun and charming, if a little odd especially when he turns on the wipers for no reason but to match the lyrics or sounds or something. There is a charm to it all. However, Baby Driver reminds us how sometimes soundtracks are used sparingly for a reason because it accentuates a scenes. As clever as the idea itself and how the execution works in some parts, it doesn’t translate to everything. There is no doubt that the soundtrack is really good, except I would have liked to not be overloaded with music so much.

Baby Driver

As charmed as I was with the use of music and soundtracks and how that was executed well enough, the story here is fairly basic. Its actually not even very fleshed out for any of the characters. Its almost like the gimmick is the reason for the whole thing. The action sequences are done pretty good though and the bombastic characters played by Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez and Jamie Foxx all are quite memorable. When things get dicey though, the characters are really just shells and the story is pretty much on rails following everything as expected and predicted.

Is it as awesome as it seems to be for a lot of people? For myself, I don’t really think its that well-rounded. There are aspects that stand out and as much as I like the music and cars and this one delivers two things I love, it somehow outlived its hype. Its not a bad idea and its a fun little experience but somehow it just lost its charm in the second half.

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Double Feature: F*&% the Prom (2017) & Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Back full power into the alphabetical train, the next two films in the double feature

F*&% the Prom (2017)

F The Prom

Director (and co-writer): Benny Fine

Cast: Danielle Campbell, Joel Courtney, Cameron Palatas, Meg DeLacy, Aidan Alexander, Michael Chey, Brendan Calton, Nicholle Tom, Jill Cimorelli, Madelaine Petsch

Maddy and Cole were inseparable friends until high school started and Maddy became the most popular girl on campus. When she starts feeling lonely and heartbroken, she reconnects with Cole and the duo conspire to destroy the ultimate teen popularity contest – the Prom. – IMDB

If it wasn’t for the sporadic releases of movies like The Edge of Seventeen (review), Easy A (review) and even The Duff (review), I’d have written off teen comedies in general. Netflix Originals in general have been fairly cool but when it comes to teen comedies, it seems they are not really finding the unique angle to take quite yet. I can’t remember the title of the last one I saw that was a disappointment..gimme a sec..#RealityHigh (review).

F the Prom

F the Prom is absolutely better than that one. It has hints of some of the older teen comedies but unfortunately, does fall flat and gets rather generic. You can’t shame it for at least doing like a Carrie style scene or having a ragtag team of bullied kids. The film is okay for what it is. There are some funny parts and I think Madeleine Petsch fits into the mean girl character (just like she is in Riverdale). I’m guessing this movie is more for this generation as it fits in a lot of social media and lets just say, I’ve been out of high school for almost 15 years now so to be honest, I laugh at some of the overexaggeration of say selfie-taking (since I always feel weird about it) and the emojis and whatnot. Either way, point is, F the Prom might have something and might have its demographic but its not for me and other than some little chuckle moments, I thought it was fairly generic.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

guardians of the galaxy vol.2

Director (and co-writer): James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel(voice), Bradley Cooper(voice),  Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Sean Gunn, Sylvestor Stallone

The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. – IMDB

Its really hard to not love the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 even when there are some of the normal downfalls I feel about MCU movies. For one, their soundtrack is fantastic and it remains that way in the sequel. On top of that, the ragtag team’s follow-up is one that shows them both bickering but also in the depths sees them forgiving towards each other in their stubbornest or dumbest moments. In fact, its because of their mishaps and their differences that give each of this team so much character and uniqueness and makes them both lovable and fun to watch. With that said, I don’t think in my limited film knowledge would I find so much joy in watching a little baby tree stump who only says three words over and over again. And not to sh*t talk Bradley Cooper but every time Rocket Raccoon talks, I forget that its Bradley Cooper and wonder who does such a great dynamic voice.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Aside from the strength in the key characters, The Guardians along with some of the new additions to their team, we do also meet some cool characters and cameos. Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn, playing Yondu and his right hand man Kraglin, get a bigger role here and we learn more about The Ravagers. Alongside that arc, we also see a cameo from the awesome Sylvester Stallone. We love Stallone over here, so its always great to see him in all kinds of projects. He only had two scenes but its still really great. The Ravagers is something of a side arc while the main arc really goes to both the Guardians being chased down by the Sovereign, lead by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and Peter Quill’s father, Ego (Kurt Russell) showing up. I recently saw Elizabeth Debicki in Cloverfield Paradox (review) who was fairly decent. She’s alright in this one although to be fair, in terms of villains, Guardians still is quite lackluster as always, maybe its because we know our heroes are always going to be victorious. With that said, the Sovereign is an interesting galactic race to see especially when they battle like going to the arcades. On the other hand, Ego is a decent turn of events and introduces also the pretty funny Mantis (Pom Klementieff). The planet is beautiful and they have their own mystery as to what happens with it all.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a fun ride through the galaxy as we see the Guardians save the galaxy another time. This time, there are fun characters, Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone with some new funny additions like Pom Klementieff as Mantis. On top of it all, the best moments is absolutely with Rocket and Baby Groot who have some adorable moments especially when Baby Groot does a great dance around as the Guardians fight a interdimensional monster. Just from that first scene, it already sets a tone for what to expect in the rest of this action adventure.

P.S. I Still Love You (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #2) by Jenny Han

If you missed the review of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, check it out here.

Rarely do I have back to back book reviews of the same series but To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was so awesome that I couldn’t resist to finish up the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You. And here we are with the review.

P.S. I Still Love You
(To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before)
by: Jenny Han

p.s. i still love you

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once? – Goodreads

Let’s just get this straight that P.S. I Still Love You is still quite the page turner. I finished it almost in one sitting and that is something that I haven’t done in quite a long time. However, as a sequel, this one does fall flat every once in a while. A few things going on here was fairly generic and I wasn’t particularly in agreement with some of the choices that Lara Jean made. But, one thing is for certain, Jenny Han writes and crafts some fantastic characters.

The Song sisters each are fun to read in their own way along with their dad in the little moments that they have. Lara Jean in particular is our girl here as the main character and she is very believable. 31 year old me may not agree with her choices but I still think back that 19 year old me in my first relationship when I had my first love and how I felt a lot of similar feelings. What is love, right? What is the right way to fall in love? Everyone approaches it differently and so does Lara Jean and Peter. Everyone also has their own burdens and baggage that they don’t want to share or just can’t.  It brings in the question of trust and loyalty. And its these traits that make them realistic and believable. Be it Lara Jean or Peter or the new addition, John. Its hard to wipe away the fact that they all are great to read and its even more apparent how well the characters are crafted and easy to connect to when their decisions evoke different feelings as I read it.

P.S. I Still Love You puts Lara Jean into a dilemma as she approaches her first real relationship. Its essentially the emotions of how much space to give and what type of girlfriend she wants to be and really how many barriers can you set or even how many rules can you make to prevent heartbreak? All these questions come together to craft up this first love and first relationship experience. Add in another love interest and neglect and lack of self-confidence and there you go. I mentioned before that this story has its faults of being generic but it delivers on being realistic although there are some aspects here that I don’t quite agree with. With that said, its more of a personal preference that I nitpick upon. It doesn’t wipe away the fact that this is a very fun novel to read.

Overall, P.S. I Still Love You is a worthy sequel. It lacks a little bit of the quirk and individuality that stood out in the first book, however its realistic and engaging characters definitely made this one a page turner.

 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Recently, The Random Chat show did a podcast on Cloverfield.  It was pretty much well-timed with the release of the 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer.  The trailers were obscure to say the least.  We get the idea of a girl in an accident, saved by a man that claims the world is toxic outside and the bunker he stashes them in is the only place that they can survive. Right away, John Goodman is plays the man and its hard to not love anything he does.  Part of it has to be that he brings me some pretty nostalgic feelings about watching Roseanne with my dad when I was young. But then, he’s been doing supporting roles in various movies, the one I remember the most has to be Argo and to me, he’s a competent actor, so this movie looks intriguing to say the least.

Let’s check out 10 Cloverfield Lane!

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10 Cloverfield Lane

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.-IMDB

10 Cloverfield Lane was a whole level of unexpected to me.  2016 so far has been full of surprises.  10  Cloverfield Lane kind of crept up on my radar in the last month or so.  Its hard to know what to expect when the trailers are obscure.  Its also refreshing to go into a movie with only the basics. For the most part, the movie focuses highly on the level of mystery, making sure to use that to thrill the audience, keep them guessing. I love movies like that. On top of that, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not overly long and keeps things well paced.

10 Cloverfield Lane

One of the best experiences of 10 Cloverfield Lane is truly in who you want to believe. Howard (played by John Goodman) is controlling and off-putting.  Is he good? Is he crazy? Is his theory about chemical attack and contamination believable? Should Michelle (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) try to escape? Is that a better chance? Those questions really just scratch the surface of the myriad of question marks that float and accumulate throughout the movie. Howard is a great character.  There’s never a clear line where he lies and what are his secrets and he definitely has secrets. In many ways, the fear is embedded in the interactions with him from his lack of reaction to his full-on reactions. Who is this person? At the core, isn’t it the most psychologically fearful aspect when you can’t figure out who someone is even when your living space is restricted to the same area as they are. This is 10 Cloverfield Lane and that is the fear of it.  It doesn’t even matter if outside is dangerous or contaminated or whether its survivable. That’s just an additional factor to why the decision to stay down there makes more sense.

10 Cloverfield Lane

No matter how good John Goodman is, the other two characters are really well-balanced to make it all work out.  Michelle is a strong girl.  We get a good idea of who she is by the pieces she drops in conversation.  The same goes for Emmett, played by John Gallagher Jr. Both of these characters feel real and relatable.  Emmett is the balance of humor that breaks up the tension that John Goodman’s Howard creates many times.  His randomness comes off as goofy at times and it helps the environment a lot, especially because Michelle is mostly a tense character that regardless of the chemistry and normalcy that builds throughout the story, she still has a tad of suspicion.  She’s strong and smart.  With a movie in confined/single settings, the good ones  portray well the character development and 10 Cloverfield Lane definitely excelled in this aspect.

10 Cloverfield Lane

The last question to ask here is whether 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sequel? In reality, its hard to say.  As empty as the trailer is, there are some snippets and other footage and does suggest that it is related to the Cloverfield events in one way or another.  However, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a much different movie.  Many times, you will forget about its connection because not until the final act will you get the answer.  However, I will refrain from talking about the ending because its for you to discover.  Lets just say that it takes a turn in a very different pacing and tone from the other 80% of the movie before it. While there were some tidbits that I wasn’t a fan of, it worked well enough.  If anything, maybe we’ll see Michelle in the next installment if it happens.

Overall, 10 Cloverfield is a good movie.  The best part is its building of tension and characters.  The cast did a great job and the story was well-paced.  The finale is a no-talk zone for the moment to keep this review spoiler-free, however, any points lost for this might be on the little bits that I wasn’t sure about.  I do wonder how they’d approach it if they were to make another sequel. It would probably creep up under the radar exactly like this one did. 😉

Have you seen 10 Cloverfield Lane? Did you like it? If you haven’t, do you plan on seeing it?

Predators (2010)

I can’t remember when I had this comments discussion with Java Girl but somehow in that conversation in one of the posts, I ended promising that I’d watch Predators.  Her blog is Java Girl’s Life and she runs a lovely little blog, with her most recent addition of weekly comics on her life and movie reviews, etc.  Its really fun and you should check it out if you haven’t already.

I’m one of those late bloomers.  My boyfriend introduced me to a lot of these movies like the Alien movies and then shortly after the Predator movies in the last few years.  Its kind of a running joke between me and my boyfriend that I refer to the Predator movie as Arnold versus the moving leaf.  Obviously that had to do with the lack of effects back then and the whole not so effective camouflage along with the not so high quality TV that I have.  Either way, point being, I did like the movie Predator (not so much the sequels) so I was hesitant for this one.  But I said I’d do it so better late than never, right? Let’s check it out!

predators 2010 posterDirector: Nimrod Antal

Cast: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien

A group of fighters/misfits: doctor, military, mercenary, criminal, yakuza, drug lord, etc, all wake up in free fall and manage to open their parachute in time to land safely in the middle of an unknown jungle.  They soon realize that they are on another planet and that they are being hunted by an unknown group of species.  They must find a way to survive and escape together before the creatures, and especially the alien predators, catch and kill them.

predators group

Its kind of weird but I feel slightly the same towards this sequel as I did for the 300: Rise of the Empire one that I reviewed a few days ago HERE! After so many, Predator 2 and AVP, Predators was probably not really  a necessity and actually its not even really a sequel as it does a lot that pays tribute to the first one.  However, it is a sequel as it makes a point to show that its set later on and talks about the original’s end results. This time around, its not just ONE predator but its multiple.  Maybe they were taking a lesson from the success of Aliens, who knows, right?

predators adrien brody alice braga

Still, thinking back to the meh-ness of Predator 2 and the disastrous AVP, I really had a decently at times intense and thrilling time with Predators.  I’m not exactly sure of the casting choices here.  There is no doubt that Adrien Brody is a fantastic actor but somehow I have this issue with tough guys have low, raspy voices.  I don’t even know how to describe it anymore.  Of course, that voices probably is more macho than using his original voice.  It also comes with the face that I can’t actually view him as a mercenary.  Still, he proves that he’s put in a lot of physical work to get a muscular body and tough guy act down.  Plus, the group itself is an odd mix but somehow works well enough off of each other.  Although, no one can quite replace Arnold’s one liners, this one does have some silly dialogue. The character’s also build a rather tense environment but crack a few sarcastic comments (that made me laugh at least).

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Overall, Predators takes a few ideas from the first one and wraps it into a sequel where they are trapped and become prey to predators when this group has predator instincts as well from their own training.  There’s some silly dialogue and a really oddball group but somehow sometime works alright for me.  There’s some decent tension built despite the obvious overload of people in the group calling for a lack of character development and connection.  Still, it works and thats what counts! 🙂  Maybe it was just because it took me by surprise that they finally got a sequel right.  Sometimes, its good to go into a movie blind, right?

Have you seen Predators? What do you think of this sequel? Is it worthy or necessary? Are you a fan of the Predator series? 

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

After some debate, I decided that this is the first sequel recommendation to appear here mostly because a week or two ago, I reviewed Romancing the Stone (review HERE) and Smash from Smashing from Life told me that The Jewel of the Nile was a great sequel to check out 🙂 Smash is an awesome girl who lives in Toronto.  Honestly, I’m new to her blog but I love everything she posts up and she definitely should get some support to bring her smiles so head on over and show her some love.  I know she did an amazing job when she blogged about a potential location for my upcoming visit to Toronto  HERE 🙂

the jewel of the nile posterDirector: Lewis Teague

Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Spiros Focas, Avner Eisenberg, Paul David Magid

Picking up six months after the first one ends, Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) has sailed around the world with her boyfriend and adventurer Jack Colton (Michael Douglas).  All the romance starts being a bit too much and she wants to go back to New York and try to get her career back as she still can’t find the reality in her books now.  Because of that, she is also struggling to finish up her latest book.  Its at this time, Omar (Spiros Focas), a soon- to-be emperor of the Nile hopes to have her write his biography about how he unites the tribes in the Nile.  She agrees however Jack doesn’t and decides to sail the Mediterranean instead.  At this time, Tarak (Paul David Magid), a man from a tribe in Nile comes to him and asks him and coincidentally Ralph (Danny DeVito)  to get back the Jewel of the Nile.  He agrees and as Joan also sees through the plans of Omar, she finds a way to escape and eventually joins up and together they try to make everything right again in a whole new adventure.

MSDJEOF FE002

The Jewel of the Nile was definitely a fun sequel.  For the most part, I actually enjoyed it more than the first one.  The only deal was that Michael Douglas was not as wild and adventurous in his jungle suit.  He was actually in a suit through most of it, but still I still found his performance quite awesome and with Kathleen Turner, they are quite a great on-screen couple.  This one was entertaining even though I found some scenes showing their age a lot more than the previous one.

the jewel of the nile jack

I mentioned it a bit on the previous paragraph but the characters in this one actually had more room to shine. For one, Kathleen Turner’s Joan Wilder proved that even though she fell into the over thinking relationships in the beginning, she was still able to bring out that daring and taking chances abilities that she learned from Jack in the previous movie and take care of herself when in danger.  Michael Douglas’s  Jack also had the character development to getting into the whole commitment and facing the expressing his feelings that it seems he was scared of before (or is it settling down that he’s scared of). Still, the romance between them and little quarrels always makes it entertaining.In this one, we still have Danny DeVito with a bigger role this time around and he is definitely the additional comic relief.

jewel of the nile ralph

The Jewel of the Nile was a fun adventure through the desert with lots of laughs.  There was a lot of action also with out of control planes, fist fights, chases through the desert and fires, shooting and explosions.  What else can I say? Its just crazy entertaining.  I really enjoyed it and its like I said, I might actually have liked it better than the first 🙂 Maybe you disagree but lets just agree to disagree.  I definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the first one and happened to not have caught this one yet.