Unforgettable (2017)

Its been since September and Queen of Katwe (review here) but finally, we got selected for the advanced screening for the next movie. Its funny because I didn’t even know about this movie until we went to the theatres for Ghost in the Shell (review here) a few weeks ago. Unforgettable snuck in without really a lot of previews or trailers and totally under the radar. Since Grey’s Anatomy, I had my eye on Katherine Heigl but it seems that she has vanished the last few years and well, Rosario Dawson is quite the opposite especially with her involvement in the whole Daredevil and such Netflix Original series. With that said, not sure what to expect with this one.

This is the first time we had the advanced screening at a Cineplex VIP lounge and at the theatre near us so it was quite a unique experience. Not only did we get the advanced screening but it also came with some appetizers (buffet-style) and a ticket for beer or a glass of wine. Pretty classy and enjoyable. I actually didn’t expect the whole nine yards so it was pretty awesome.

Now for the main feature, let’s check it out!

Unforgettable (2017)

Unforgettable

Director: Denise Di Novi

Cast: Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, Cheryl Ladd, Isabella Kai Rice, Whitney Cummings, Simon Kassianides

A woman sets out to make life hell for her ex-husband’s new wife. – IMDB

If you haven’t been to these free advanced screening before, when you leave the theatre, there’s these people running these events that ask you what you thought about it. I had a lot of thoughts that had solidified during the film already. Its a pretty rare occurance to be so clear about where I stood with the pros and cons. I’ll dive deeper into it later but I could stand there for 10 minutes talking about the film if I had to but I just gave a score of 6 out of 10. Honestly, I could be convinced to bump it to a 7 out of 10 but various reasons did drop it down a point and we’ll talk about it. I’m not one to do a rating system (unless I’m writing for That Moment In), so that is just a guideline of what to expect.

Unforgettable

Let’s start with the pros. Unforgettable has a solid cast. The majority of the cast delivered on their performances. Rosario Dawson was fantastic as the new woman with a secret past trying to just live her life in this new reality with the love of her life and learning to be a mom. She is plays Julia and probably has the most depth and character development. Playing across her is Katherine Heigl, as Tessa, the ex-wife who just can’t let go, channeled her crazy and did a pretty good job. They were really the focal points of the film so it was important that they delivered. Her character also did have some depth. On the side, we have the husband David, played by Geoff Stults. While he was here quite a bit, the script didn’t write his role to be too much and that is okay. For what he needed to do, he did his part pretty well. The little girl who was the daughter Lily is played by Isabella Kai Rice and she wasn’t annoying at all, in fact, she did alright. My fave does go out to the most uplifting part as Rosario Dawson’s Julie’s friend, played by Whitney Cummings. It was a supporting role and yet her character brought a nice contrast. Please note the emphasis here is on performances. I will elaborate further on it later on because the nitty gritty con is about the other part of the equation.

The next pro goes to capturing the suspense with camera work. There are a few shots in this film that really do a good job of using a first person perspective with the camera to create suspense. Now, I say this as various shots and a lot of them are in the first act, because things start falling apart really quickly and it doesn’t have much to do with the camera work or the potential for suspense but rather the downfalls of Unforgettable.

Unforgettable

The downfall of Unforgettable is that it is quite forgettable. A movie can have fancy performances and a solid cast that delivers everything but a good script, intriguing dialogue and even more than that, executing it well is a must. What makes it hard to swallow is that there was such great potential especially with this cast and some scenes showed it off so well, like I said, in the first act, then things just fell apart. Act 2 was supposed to hit a climax. It was supposed to give character development and meaning and yet, it was just a contrived and predictable sequence after sequence. There was no subtlety in it. It was like they were scared the audience was too stupid to link one thing to the next to there was an over focus on certain movements. It made the next scenes incredibly easy to figure out taking away all the thrills it had as it reached closer and closer to the end. Not to mention, the dialogue sometimes just couldn’t hit the right note and gave off a rather awkward feeling. Its not a “I’m talking to a crazy person” awkward, but a more forced sort of awkward. As it closed to Act 3 and we stepped near the finale, it started hitting the right notes for a second before falling even farther apart with some nonsensical conversation between these ladies which made the entire movie want to hit something deeper that felt like it was really just trying to find a way to end this with a little twist or something extra and yet, somehow it didn’t work that well.

Thrillers are hard to do. I get that. The effort here was solid. In fact, the director here may have produced a long list of movies in her filmography but this is the debut full-length and in that regards, does a decent job at it. The main issue here is the script and the execution of the story. The thrills just aren’t consistent. The scenes are predictable. While the performances were great and everyone did what they could with what they had, it just wasn’t enough to pull it all together which is a complete shame because the potential was there. However, this isn’t the bottom of the barrel, in fact, its probably a good choice for a rainy day or a lazy Sunday afternoon because the performances here are pretty impressive.

Netflix Double Feature: The Avenging Fist (2001) & N.Y.C. Underground (2013)

I’m in a bit of a pickle these days as I run out of space to add more movies to my queue list on Netflix so that means, I need to get cracking on some of those movies that I added in without thinking much about it and has overflowed. I wish that Netflix had a way to organize movies that have been added in there for too long. Anyways, maybe one day, right? Seeing as we no longer rank movies by stars but by the familiar system of thumbs up and down. Regardless, the mission to get through the mountains of movies is here. I almost wanted to name this Burning Through My List but then it doesn’t highlight the double feature aspect or triple feature. I’m a complete post on the movie if say, I actually hit a winner. Expect a few more of these to pop up. Also, if you do want to see what movies I’m watching lately, you can always find me on Letterboxd as tranquildreams where I’m using to track movies to easily follow how many movies I’ve watched this year.

Today’s double feature is 2001 Hong Kong action fantasy flick heavily influenced by video game Tekken, The Avenging Fist and 2013’s direct to video N.Y.C Underground also called Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Let’s check it out!

The Avenging Fist (2001)

The Avenging Fist

Director: Andrew Lau

Cast: Leehom Wang, Stephen Fung, Gigi Leung, Biao Yuen, Kristy Yang, Sammo Hung, Kar Lok Chin, Roy Cheung, Cecilia Yip, Ekin Cheng

Special gloves [Power Gloves] that yield an unimaginable power [the ability to tap into unused mental power] are stolen by an agent who subsequently disappears. Decades later, he reemerges to rule the world – Netflix

The Avenging Fist was Hong Kong’s first Dolby Digital Surround Film. It is supposed to be a big deal. Forget about the really bad graphics for a while and forgive it because this movie is 15 years old and we’ve been pampered with better, there is no reason for this film to be as disappointing as it is. Andrew Lau is the director. Remember the guy who brought us the Infernal Affairs trilogy, which did happen after this one. Still, he has a lot of memorable movies under his belt including the Young and Dangerous which is probably why he uses Kar Lok Chin and Ekin Cheng in here. What makes this film disappointing is also the fact that it is trying to tell Tekken but then it seems they don’t have the license so they can’t and have to add in the end credits about how it has nothing to do with the famous video game franchise. You don’t ever want to be the first of something but become a movie that reminds you of something else and this one did that, despite its cast which back in the early 2000s was a big deal. Future Cops launched back in 1993 and put live action and humor and a ton of charm with a great cast bringing to life Street Fighter. While it is incredibly underrated and not a lot of people remember it, there is something there that grabs the audience. Not to mention, Roy Cheung and Ekin Cheng were also part of that movie. You can see my review of it HERE.

Possibly the worse part of this which probably won’t bother non-Chinese speaking audience was the fact that Leehom Wang’s Cantonese dub was okay but yet so awkward with how he reacted at times. Leehom Wang is a great singer and the fact that he is jumping into movies is exciting and the best part of this movie is the fact that there’s some great songs he’s done that’s put on the soundtrack. However, there isn’t much here. The fight scenes are a tad ridiculous and that’s coming from myself who likes a lot of over the top action. The cast was what made me continue like Kristy Yang (who hasn’t been around for a while), Gigi Leung, Stephen Fung (who does some behind the scenes stuff now, I believe). There’s of course Sammo Hung who still proves that age is only a number when it comes to martial arts and acting and to not get fooled by his physical appearance and the fantastic Biao Yuen.

This quick review is turning to be way too long already. Point is, while there is a decent cast, the execution of this movie is rather flawed and just not very good. It reinforces why I don’t watch movies for the cast anymore.

NYC Underground (2013)

nyc underground

Director: Jessy Terrero

Cast: Clayne Crawford, Arielle Kebbel, Sean Faris, Dania Ramirez, Rob Mayes, Evan Ross, Craig Walker, Matt Servitto

Four people run for their lives in the Brooklyn subway tunnels after a botched drug deal.- IMDB

Oh, boy. *shakes head* You know, its hard to not shake your head when you know that some of this cast can be good. It feels a little like Cloverfield, without the found footage angle, you know before things went down the drain. Its funny because Sean Faris has done some decent movies and he was alright in Pretty Little Liars. Arielle Kebbel has proved that she’s decent as well in various TV properties and even the main bad dude played by Clayne Crawford was alright. Deal is, this one wasn’t appealing in the execution. There wasn’t any tense build-up. It was really silly in many parts and there was lot of overacting and whining and screaming. When a movie tries to sell stupid lack of common sense like yelping in an echoing subway tunnel and creating some pretty unappealing chracters that you can’t cheer for, its hard. Plus, it added on the assaulting my eardrums factor and I’m not particularly a happy camper. The fact that I finished this one is already a miracle.

However, its easy to hate on a movie. And I don’t want to do it. If there was one good thing in this movie and that is two of the characters, despite at that point being too far to care too much about them. really lifted the movie up by their growth and finding the courage to move on in a smarter although riskier way. To be honest, those two characters were the stronger characters and that is Sean Faris’s character who plays the older brother dragged into this situation and the supporting girl played by Dania Ramirez.

Overall…

I think I gave both of these movies 2 stars (out of 5). They both weren’t good. Both had their own faults and very little that pushed me to finish and honestly, at this point, I remember The Avenging Fist just a tad more than NYC Underground. The Hong Kong films was going through an odd change in action and humor in that timeframe and I remember not being a huge fan of it so I had stopped watching a lot of Chinese movies at that point which is probably why I didn’t see The Avenging Fist earlier despite being a die-hard fan of Ekin Cheng and he only had a very small role.

Backcountry (2014)

Backcountry (aka Blackfoot Trail) has been a movie on my radar for quite some time. Something about the wilderness being our enemy seems always so intriguing. Think about Frozen, not the Disney animated film but this one here. Maybe not intriguing but the unpredictability is threatening at times because we can’t quite anticipate what to do, except try to prepare the best possible for it. Plus, I love to support Canadian films.

Let’s check this out!

Backcountry (2014)

backcountry

Director (and writer): Adam MacDonald

Cast: Missy Peregrym,  Jeff Roop, Eric Balfour, Nicholas Campbell

An urban couple go camping in the woods and find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear. – IMDB

Backcountry is a story about survival based on a true story. A couple goes out to the woods lead by boyfriend, Alex who wants to take his busy girlfriend, Jenn to Blackfoot Trail to not only get away from the urban life but to a specific spot he remembered was really pretty when he was younger. Except to finally realize that they were not only lost but with a bear following their tracks. So much thrill can come from this concept and don’t get me wrong, it does because the story takes its time to let us know our characters before putting them into danger and while the thrill of outsmarting nature is great, it is hard to ignore the basic common sense. Please do note that I do not know the true story and never read up on any details so this write up is just from a standalone.

Backcountry

For people who are beginner hikers, or beginner anything really, we all know to go in prepared. This is where we already know where the story will go because Alex, upon being offered a map to the trail and against all caution, decides to go without taking the map. This is about as spoiler as I will get, I promise. How do you cheer for someone who doesn’t even know to protect themselves and have all odds on their side? Now, Jenn doesn’t even pay attention on anything else or listen in on what the ranger says so she just walks in trusting it is all good. I’m all about trust but like I said, you can never be prepared. However, the first part (or half) of the film is really about character development and letting us learn about who these two people are. The decisions they make define who they are and probably what will happen to them. Perhaps also take their story as a cautionary tale.

Backcountry

Early in the film, we start realizing that there a presence of a bear in the area. However Alex chooses to ignore it even when a few more things happen. If I was them, I wouldn’t have continued. No matter how beautiful the scenery is mostly because its more disappointing to die than to wait to come back and enjoy it when its safer, something our two characters really are quite naive about. However, here is where I will stop talking about the main characters but about the introduction of danger. The creepy feeling of camping and having something outside and how sometimes we can’t predict or even know they are there actually creates the fear in the audience before our characters do because we know more than they do at that current point in time. Definitely one of the finer aspects of Backcountry is creating the gruelling and threatening atmosphere and giving it time to slowly build up.

Backcountry

There are a few other characters in this film. The ranger plays a cameo role with just one short scene. The other is an Irish hiking expert (forgot the actual term) Brad who poses as a intimidating person. What is the meaning of his character? That is the question we should ask ourselves if not to simply inject a slightly bigger name because it is played by Eric Balfour. This character is deep and hard to grasp and it makes his short appearance so much more powerful when we see how Alex and Jenn reacts and the strength in our mains. I honestly believe that was the purpose because it shouldn’t be to divert our attention since most do know, especially with the posters, what this movie is about, I’m guessing (which I could be wrong). In many ways, his character managed to intrigue and create mystery.

 Overall, Backcountry is a slow-burn wilderness survival cautionary tale based on a true story. The main characters are given time to develop and for us to know them better while letting the dangers slowly approach. While the atmosphere and intrigue and urgency of the situation is done very well, there is a part of me that can rationalize bits that escape common sense however, still wonder if its just my way of wanting the characters’ decision to make sense. There are some quite brutal sequences and the second half is much more engaging than the first which is mostly about building up our characters before breaking them down.

Have you seen Backcountry?

A Good Marriage & 1922 by Stephen King

The original plan for Stephen King readings was to read his books or short stories in chronological order of release. Seeing as I read Carrie first. I even have Salem’s Lot sitting on my shelf. However, that other day that I forgot my Kindle at home and remembered that I picked up this one on sale during the holidays drove me to read it. For those who didn’t read my review, you can find it here.

This book includes two novellas. It starts with A Good Marriage and follows up with 1922. Let’s check it out!

A Good Marriage

A Good Marriage

A Good Marriage is an absolute page turner. The writing and suspense and thrills carries and builds at a great pace. We pretty much follow the voice of a wife that finds out a horrible secret of her husband. She has to choose to survive and make choices that can get her through it. The agony and conflict she feels along with the eventual disgust and all those feelings are captivated so well to make us feel what she is feeling. Her husband although is the source of the issue here also has chilling moments where we truly can feel why. Spontaneous coincidences are the unexpected factors in life and sometimes it leads to the events in A Good Marriage.

This novella excels in being able to communicate the inner feelings of our characters. For the first bit of the novella, we are only reading Darcy and the feelings she gets as she discovers that there’s something her husband is hiding. However, curiosity in the end does kill the cat. We learn a little about the marriage that how Darcy and Bob get together and their 25 years of marriage. We are acquainted with these characters quickly. The reveal of the secret is slower as well as we are deceived into a little secret that when Darcy chooses to let go momentarily results in consequent actions dealing with something much more unforgivable.

Its a little twisted and puts morals on the table as to how far you’d go to protect yourself. When does doing what everyone perceives as a bad thing become a good thing for the right reasons? So many layers and such brilliant character development, A Good Marriage is a great read.

1922

Very opposite of A Good Marriage, it is hard to pinpoint what makes 1922 feel much lesser in the Stephen King collection. I guess I can’t quite say that seeing as this is just the third work that I’ve ever read. However, it was a somewhat painful experience that seemed to only come to fruition at its finale. There is a lot of detail and skill in putting together this character Wilfred as we see his slow descent into madness and obsession probably driven by the metaphorical skeletons on his closet.

1922 is shown as a letter of confession, many years after he’s actually gotten away. Wilfred recounts the story in detail from his sentiments to telling about what happens to lead up to his decision to kill his wife. The characters here are not likeable. Wilfred is a little off-putting. Henry has a rather odd turnout and his wife particularly doesn’t exactly encourage or make us feel like she deserved a lot better although for her husband to kill her is also an extreme. However, the star here is Wilfred and in the incredible detail of what happened in 1922, the entire year of 1922 literally, it gets a little long and slow and unrewarding in many ways. The ending does pull everything together if the readers haven’t gathered already that Wilfred is greatly affected by murdering his wife and the consequent events. His obsession over believing that she was still alive after she was absolutely dead physically had a cloud over him (which is pretty understandable). In many ways, we can question whether Wilfred was as bad as he seems, perhaps the events of 1922 and the fact that he realized the obvious that if he didn’t do anything, things might not have been so extreme caused him incredible regret also. There are a ton of reasons and what-ifs.

While descriptively and character building wise, there is a haunting and disturbing feeling every once in a while, the story is very slow and feels not too engaging. However, if you do stick through it, the ending does have a resolution, that was surprisingly worth it (at least to me).

A Good Marriage and 1922 both are novellas focused on a psychological change in its main character and honestly focuses on the one voice and a particular situation.
A Good Marriage was definitely the superior one. Have you read either of these before? Thoughts?

The Shallows (2016)

2016 release reviews have been far and few here. Especially the bigger ones. Nothing just seemed to peak my interest enough to get me to go to the theatres other than the whole Fantasia phase in late July. Regardless, I rented The Shallows a few weeks ago and gave it a go. The Shallows crept up on me. I had no idea that it was coming out until it was released and mixed reviews showed up (although a lot of them were on the favorable side, I believe).

Let’s check it out!

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills. –IMDB

 I love shark movies. To actual bits. Sure, there are a few really fluky ones but whether its the “so bad its good” Sharknado or the 90s Deep Blue Sea or the Australian horror thriller The Reef and of course, the classic Jaws, they are packed with so much awesomeness. The Shallows looks like it has that grasped well and it does deliver for the most part. Sure, there are always things of circumstance like we learn that our protagonist Nancy (played by Blake Lively) is studying to be a nurse. What better than a nurse with some medical skills to be attacked by a shark, right? Except while The Shallows is about Nancy and her fight to survive back to shore, its also a character study and development. Jaume Collet-Serra has directed a good portion of thrillers in his filmography, half of them are action thrillers with Liam Neeson but there are some standout titles like Orphan which is the first time I’ve seen his work and love that one quite a bit. Its nice to see him jumping back into a horror thriller like this one. While I do have to say it packs more thrills than horror, there is a lot about how he makes The Shallows and not revealing the shark so much but rather the water perspectives that make the movie a much more thrilling and engaging experience. When you bond with a seagull, you know that the protagonist and the plot has had some effect.

The Shallows

While there are a few scenes with other characters, like the opening bits mostly, a good part of this movie is really just spending time with Nancy alone in the middle of The Shallows with the beach only a little ways away. What makes Nancy great is that she is smart and resourceful. While there are some convenient situations, there are always changing factors to keep the pacing intriguing to see what else she can do and what other options her character thinks of. Especially because Nancy is not only trapped and hunted, but she is hurt. It is a race with time for her especially the changing tides. The Shallows is a thrilling race to safety and survival against a shark but we slowly realize that Nancy isn’t just a hot body, she also has some issues she needs to work out. It is why she surfs and why she hasn’t decided to settle down and stop surfing and travelling around the world and pursuing her career. Blake Lively has gone a long way. I’ve always enjoyed her as an actress, whether it was in her younger roles in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or later on in Gossip Girl and this role shows how much she has grown as an actress.

The Shallows

It is a little funny how I’m writing this coming off of discussing another thriller called “Blood in the Water” over at That Moment In which you can find here. What we criticized in that one as making it even more lackluster was what I liked a lot about this one. Essentially the finale of the movie is somewhat shown in the beginning and then it backtracks to the days as we hit that moment we started with. Another thing that is pretty nice about The Shallows is that while it takes great joy in being a serious thriller, there are still taunting moments that are fun, even if a little predictable of the outcome. They fit together to piece together what we do see in the opening scene as well.

The Shallows

Thrilling shark movies are rather hard to find. The Shallows is one that I truly enjoyed a lot. It had tense and intriguing moments. It tries to be thoughtful and aims for a deeper character study of than just human vs. shark and Blake Lively pulls off a great performance as Nancy, a smart and competent character. There is a lot to love in shark movies in a genre that is generally full of tropes and predictable moments, this one pulls off a few fun surprises and a thrilling movie experience.

Have you seen The Shallows? What is your favorite shark movie?

Money Monster (2016)

On the return flight to Montreal, I watched Money Monster. I’ve been wanting to watch this one since it was in theatres but never got the chance. One, the previews looked good. Second, I love Julia Roberts. Three, I’m a pretty big fan of Jodie Foster and want to see how she does in the director’s chair.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Money Monster (2016)

Money Monster

Director: Jodie Foster

Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Christopher Denham, Aaron Yoo, Chris Bauer

Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes over their studio.-IMDB

Money Monster is a thrilling ride and most of it is due to the outstanding cast and their portrayal of these compelling characters. It does sometimes step into the predictable corridors and sometimes even makes us question if someone could do some of the things these characters did. This is where the characters are written really well to create a balance in personality. I will go further into detail about that later. One of the other redeeming features is the theme on the emphasis on the lack of transparency in the financial markets and the lack of concern for the people who get caught in the crossfire. Jodie Foster being the director of Money Monster works perfectly because she is always so fantastic in everything especially her thrillers. She has a good grip on how the story should be paced and done.

Money Monster

As mentioned before, Money Monster’s most redeeming feature goes to its strong cast. In the lead, we have George Clooney who plays a financial TV host, Lee Gates. To be honest, Lee is pretty full of himself. At the beginning, we can see he is caught up with the glamour and craze this job has brought him. His character grows quite a bit when he digs a little deeper and finds his conscience to help this guy who has strapped a bomb on him to analyze what actually happened to cause a corporation to lose all that money overnight. This is where we bring in our female lead here, Julia Roberts who plays Patty. She steals the show here completely because in many ways, you can view her as Lee’s conscience. She reminds him to not just think about himself and what to not go overboard and downright when to shut up to not provoke the situation further and protect everyone. Man, does she do a great job! But, we can’t take away that Jack O’Connell playing the bomber Kyle was also really good. I haven’t seen this actor before but he makes us believe in his character and in many ways, we will start to sympathize with him. In this situation, we start to realize that Kyle is also a victim in a much greater scheme. Trust me, this probably isn’t a spoiler because it kind of stares you down on what this whole fiasco is about.

Money Monster

Other than the characters, Money Monster has very good pacing. Its why I usually like movies that come in at around 90 minutes. Sure, its a little predictable at certain spots. And if you were strapped to a bomb and the guy who is holding you as hostage has like a mini breakdown and leaves his gun lying there, it sure is tempting to pick it up, right? Just one example. The atmosphere is properly gripping and the context of the crisis they are in is not lost. In many ways, its not only a wake up call for the transparency of the financial markets and for investors when Kyle holds Lee hostage but there’s also a one for Lee when he realizes how little his reputation and life counts for or maybe how humanity isn’t a strong point to anyone watching his show or just how his word or life doesn’t really mean that much to anyone when it comes to money.  Whatever it is, there is something to ponder on in Money Monster.

Money Monster

Money Monster has its pros and cons. For some, there may be a lot more to pick apart in this one but I properly thought it was a really good thriller. I’m not one for financial things but this one had me at the edge of my seat anticipating the next thing to happen regardless of how predictable it may all seem. The characters just naturally draws us into the story. Its one to check out for sure. The ending is a little lackluster perhaps but the film in entirety has its charm.

Have you seen Money Monster?

That Moment In Podcast: Reviews The Thing (1982)

That Moment In Podcast crew is all back from vacation now!

This week’s episode is a chat about The Thing (1982). As usual, Mel and David kick off the show with their summaries. We take a look at the characters and the actors portraying the role and then jump into the 5 by 5 questions. After that, it is David’s time to share the moment of The Thing and our discussion on what makes it a turning point. Before we end the show, we talk about other moments that we liked also. Before we end, David challenges me to finding the moment for the next film!

We are in both Soundcloud and YouTube now!

Hope you enjoyed it! Remember to subscribe or follow us to not miss out on future episodes! 🙂