December 13, 2018
After watching Crazy Rich Asians, this felt like the opposite movement in film. Chinese films have been trying to break into Hollywood forever, but this movie felt like a different strategy. Instead of converting or accommodating a movie for Hollywood, The Adventurers is a film that is fluid and presents itself without explanation. The movie is set entirely in France, half of it is in English (all the “local” French people speak English instead of French) and Chinese people inexplicably are woven into the French population (winery owner, insurance agent, etc). The language goes back and forth – which is OK for me to understand, but could be disconcerting for someone who only understands one. Also, as you can expect, everyone has an accent. Andy Lau does ok, maybe he wants to follow Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat.
The story centers around a thief, his final heist and redemption in the eyes of his loved one. As with most Cantonese films, it’s not going to win any awards with its script (although has your typical HK humor). You watch this like a Bond film: car chases, gadgets and action sequences. It is pretty engaging until we get to the plot twist where it then makes no sense. The ending explains how it happens, but not the why – which is the big question and confusion for me when the plot twist happened.
Oh well, I enjoyed this HK cinema situated in some random place in the world. Three out of five stars.
December 11, 2018
I have been exposed to a lot of press about this movie and the underlying themes of what it represents for the Chinese dispora in North America. I don’t know if it is going to be a one-off or lead to a strong sub-culture of Chinese-American films. That’s a topic for someplace other than my blog. But I can tell you what I think about the movie without the pretense that this is a potential society-altering film.
How I see this film is that it takes a culture and brings it to a wider audience, much like the way a Marvel film might bring comics to the mainstream audience. I am versed in the Marvel universe and Chinese culture, and in Crazy Rich Asians I felt like I was beaten over the head about Asian family obligations vs American independence. I think some more subtlety or sophistication in this theme would have helped.
I also thought the film started out slow. When watching the parts with older Chinese folks, I wanted to hear it in Chinese. Also the gratuitous extravagance was grating and the comedy wasn’t funny. I thought that the movie would end up being a 2 out of 5 for me. Fortunately the movie got a lot better once they moved on to real human issues and began dealing with the relationship. That’s the kind of writing that I expect from a movie plot these days.
While cliche, the ending played out satisfying and didn’t feel cheesy. Crazy Rich Asians didn’t have to be stocked with Asian actors to be popular, it stands on its own as a decent movie. Three out of five stars.
November 12, 2018
After Dr Strange’s appearance in Infinity War, I wanted to see what the movie version of his origin story would be like. Although, I may have read his backstory in the past, I don’t really remember it so I didn’t have much to reference against. The movie version seemed relatively believable though.
I think Dr Strange is a little different than other Marvel films. While the other superheros have physical skills, Dr Strange’s powers are mystical so it’s not easy to predict what he can and can’t do. It’s like magic, but different than what Thor/Loki uses. That elevates the usual rote Marvel fare into unknown territory. Some of the fights are really intense because the world becomes an Escher playground when in the mirror dimension.
There was some Astral plane stuff too which was interesting to see how they would represent that in a movie setting. And of course, there was a big infinity stone preview – although I watched the movies in the wrong order so it wasn’t that surprising. The post credit scene was just a preview of Thor: Ragnarok. I guess this movie is a 3 out of 5 stars too.
November 9, 2018
It’s been many years since I watched The Incredibles, and I hardly remember the story. However the characters are relevant because of the marketing campaign for The Incredibles II (plus I was at Disney) as well as the fact that I have been playing a Disney game that includes the heroes.
That’s probably why I was surprised when Elastigirl had a Southern drawl to her character – I didn’t remember that at all! Violet also looked a lot droopier than I expected. I guess her cartoon in the game was photoshopped. Aside from that, I’m not too sure what to think of the movie. It didn’t feel like a kid film (except that no one died) and they certainly dealt with a lot of adult themes. I guess I can relate to the daddy daycare, but that just felt like comedic relief and killing time (it was great that Jack Jack had a variety of cool superpowers, but he didn’t do anything with it!)
I did like the retro, silver-age theme (although I don’t remember if the first was set in that time frame too). Overall, this just felt like a normal superhero movie wrapped in a Pixar skin. It didn’t feel special but I suppose it wasn’t bad. 3 out of 5 stars.
October 12, 2018
I’m a fan of heist movies, it stimulates my how-things-work mentality. And I’ve always liked the style of the Ocean’s series of movies. This one is not set in a casino (and apparently Danny Ocean is dead so I must have missed a movie). It in fact follows his sister, who has recently been freed from her incarceration (for suprise, surprise, fraud). Upon getting out, she has a new plan for a masterful heist.
This time, there are only 8 people in the crew; and the twist is that they are all female. Some of the old friends show up, but they’re not pivotal in the heist. The casting is a little bit odd, with Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett as the stars, and a cast of cultural icons du jour (Rihanna as a hacker?? And Awkwafina as a thief with quick hands). No superstars, but I guess the draw was the plot itself.
A second thing that was different was that after showing the con (which, would you believe, was successful); they showed the aftermath – who took the fall and how they got away with it. That was interesting, but I wonder if it was just filler material. The movie was already short (finished in one leg of flight to NYC) so there wasn’t a lot of substance.
Overall, can’t complain – it was fun and what you expect from these types of movies. Ocean’s 8 gets a 3 out of 5.
September 19, 2018
When browsing the selection of World movies on the flight, I find that a lot of Japanese movies are relationship movies (not comedic like their Western counterparts). I suspected that The Lies She Loved might be too, but then it turned out to a couple of different things.
The movie starts by showing an “older” relationship. Usually movies are about teens or 20-somethings? This movie is about established people with stable jobs. Quickly though, the boyfriend suffers an accident and the girlfriend is left with a mystery. Apparently, the person she knew didn’t exist (in government records)! The movie then becomes a mystery film, trying to figure out who the boyfriend is.
I liked the mystery portion of the film as trying to figure out a person’s roots or history is something I am interested in. Trying to figure the boyfriend’s past also tied into a recent article I read about how DNA tests may tell you more than you want to know. Eventually they solve the mystery and ended the most interesting part of the movie.
There’s a lot of build up in this film and I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. How does the café girl tie into things? How are they going to wrap up the PI wife’s story line? Why did the boyfriend decide to hide his identity? Unfortunately, the director either doesn’t answer the questions or does it in a simplistic way. I guess I was fooled by the mystery part of the film and thought that there would be more surprises towards the end of the film. That would have earned this movie a four, but unfortunately the last 30 minutes bring it back to a 3 out of 5.
September 11, 2018
I heard that Solo didn’t do as well as expected at the box office, although I didn’t know if it was because it was bad, had tough competition, or people were just tired of Star Wars. I certainly came in with low expectations since it wasn’t a must watch movie for me. I was pleasantly surprised with it. It brought back the classic characters (Han, Chewbacca, Lando) and explained Han’s back story in an entertaining manner.
The characterizations of these classic characters were extremely well done. They felt like how we had always known them. Even the new characters (Kira) were likeable and seemed to fit their roles. However, throughout the movie, I kept wondering who were Force-active. I suppose all the heroes were since they could do amazing things. I guess that’s what happens in a movie with no Jedi.
Overall a fun film which elaborates on history we know. Three out of five stars.
September 7, 2018
With 10 years of movies to build up to this monumental event, there were a lot of expectations riding on this movie to provide closure, or at least a starting point for a new string of movies. Hold that thought, this event is a two-parter, so in actuality, we don’t get to conclude anything here.
However, this movie is still important to tell the story of this massive event. Assembling more than the Avengers, there are a lot of plotlines that have to come together, and many parts of the story to tell. In comics world, you can just have multiple books handling it (the TPB will still be scatterbrained though). In movie world, there is no good way to do it. Given the limited time, all team ups still felt forced. And then there is still the need to put in set pieces for comedic relief. All that ends up doing is make things feel disjointed and rushed. The premise of the story may have been grand but the execution sucks.
Sure, after seeing this movie, I know how Thanos assembled the Infinity Gauntlet, and what happened to the universe. It wasn’t enjoyable though and I could have just read a synopsis. Maybe we have just had enough of Marvel movies. 2 out of 5 stars.
September 3, 2018
I never ended up reading this monumental book while in school, so I figured I should watch the movie to catch up. I knew the gist of Fahrenheit 451 (firemen burn books instead of putting out fires), but didn’t know the story. The movie modernizes the idea and, although it never states it, frames it in a world of fake news, online 24/7, and emojis.
The unfortunate thing about this movie is that the script is not very good. The character development is not believable. The dystopian world is hard to believe because it’s ingrained in our current society (maybe that’s what it is trying to say?). I did notice that the movie was filmed in Toronto – there are several scenes from Finch subway station which are unmistakable.
After the movie, I guess I know the general plot of Farenheit 451. However, I would say it is just a 2 out of 5 movie.
August 30, 2018
Ready Player One happens in 2045, which is a near enough future to be interesting. While not a focus of the film, I did like seeing glimpses of how things will look like then. This movie felt like a movie I saw when I was younger, where a kid enters a video game tournament and has to play Super Mario Bros in the championship game.
Ready Player One is an adult version of that film, with themes that resonant with now and recent history. You could imagine that in an alternate history, Second Life kept going and became OASIS. Although, I don’t think users would actually zero out – no matter how tied to our daily lives and finances an online account is (e.g. Google account), if there is a chance you will die and lose everything, you would just use a second account for any death-defying stuff (like raid against major corporations).
The story itself is kid-friendly, although with plenty of fan-service cameos to make the Otaku happy. It has a polished story, although I am not sure how believable it actually is that an Easter egg didn’t get solved after 5 years. Given the Spielberg connection, I could see this movie being this generation’s ET. Although I am not sure how old you should be to see this movie (I saw ET when I was young and remember being scared of it – not of the alien but his behaviour). Ready Player One is a solid 4 out of 5 for its portrayal of future society.
August 27, 2018
Rampage was one of the earliest video games I played, I think I actually played it first on an arcade machine. But beyond that little memory, I have no attachment to the franchise. When I saw that there was a movie about it, first thing I thought was surprise as it has been a long time since the game was popular (although it makes sense as it is about the same time frame as Voltron and He-Man).
Second, I saw The Rock was in it and he seems perfect for this type of role. Honestly, I expected this movie to be just like Pacific Rim with a mix of Jumanji – that was pretty close, although it skewed more on the Pacific Rim side. The script is what you would expect of a b-movie, although I feel as though big budget scripts in general are a lot better these days. Also, The Rock can say any cheesy line and make it sound real.
Like most summer blockbusters, it is a light affair that has a bunch of destruction. They do climb and bust down a building like in the game, but I wouldn’t say they level a building. Unlike all the troops, the hero has supreme luck and a supernatural ability to stay alive against caricature villains and the beasts.
At the end of the day, Rampage didn’t need its source material, I think it is an interesting story on its own (reminiscent of The Host). I would give it 3 out of 5 but wouldn’t expect a sequel.
August 3, 2018
Atomic Blonde was an interesting film based off of original source material (still a comic, but not one that I was familiar with). I liked it for several reasons: 1) it was set in 1989, but a 1989 that had been updated with a modern touch of style (even though it was in Cold War Berlin), 2) It had a great soundtrack, and 3) Charlize Theron was the star. For me, they worked well together, although other people might not enjoy the same aesthetic.
The movie is a spy-vs-spy one, with a lot of fighting and blood (probably a Rated R movie). In retrospect, the story and reasoning for the actions are a muddle, but it made sense and was entertaining while watching it. The movie wasn’t good just because of the music and the style, but its take on the Cold War. It’s also a nice break to get away from Marvel/DC films, or other big blockbusters.
I enjoyed this one – 3 out of 5 stars.
July 29, 2018
I’m not sure why they chose to remake Tomb Raider. I think the Angelina Jolie version was pretty faithful to the video game, and the last one I saw came out in 2003 (15 years ago isn’t that long). I guess the reason was to capture and cash in on GenX nostalgia – is the game even relevant anymore?
Yet I watched it. I think the Tomb Raider games of yesteryear have been replaced with infinite runners, and there was a little of both in this movie. The premise is the same, rich English girl running around in exotic places (Asia – to make money on that side of the world, instead of South America or Africa), looking for stuff based on legendary rumors; but somehow with fewer guns and more fist fighting.
From the view of someone who was never deeply into the series, it seems like an OK movie (I would have missed most references). But the key question for me is, does this movie even need the Tomb Raider brand? It could have been the same adventure story without it. Anyways, 3 out of 5 stars on this enjoyable but meaningless romp.
July 25, 2018
Now that Infinity War is out, I guess it’s a little late but better than never to catch up on the Marvel/Avengers universe. The saving grace is that I still haven’t seen Infinity War yet (it hasn’t shown up on inflight entertainment yet). I missed Age of Ultron and have seen several movies after this in the timeline (Civil War, Spider-Man, Thor and Black Panther) which made reference to it. So I was interested to see what I missed.
I’m not sure if it’s because I knew what was going to happen in the future, or if I’m tired of Marvel movies, or if this one just wasn’t that great; but Age of Ultron felt very plain to me. It had the usual Marvel Movie Formula (comedic sidecracks, fights, Stan Lee cameo, etc) so if you like that stuff, you can’t complain; but it just wasn’t overly interesting. The Ultron character was also off-putting – I’m not sure if his personality is like that in the comics or they just wrote him to be so annoying for the movie.
In the end, it’s a necessary watch to move along in the universe (since it introduces Vision and Scarlet Witch), but it wasn’t that fun. Barely manages a 3 out of 5 stars.
July 22, 2018
Dunkirk is an atmospheric film about 300,000 English soldiers in WWII, trying to retreat from Europe, to save their manpower to protect the U.K. They are marooned on the beaches of Dunkirk while the Germans continue pressing toward them (they don’t actually make much of an appearance but the threat is real).
Instead of focusing on all the troops, the story follows a few individuals. One soldier on the ground, trying to escape; an airmen, protecting the ships from German bombers; and a civilian whose boat has been commandeered by the Navy to assist rescue efforts. They each have their own perspective and their fates interwine as the plot advances.
This film is special because it paints the scene of desperation through sound and minimal dialogue. The English are sitting ducks on the beach and in their boats, and the effort to leave is slow. It doesn’t go into the why, but you know that there is urgency. Like many of his previous films; Christopher Nolan does a great job with the material.
After watching this, I read up about Dunkirk. The Hollywood version may be glorified but it is still a good look at history. This movie is 4 out of 5 stars.
July 15, 2018
There were a bunch of other interesting movies on this flight but I chose to watch Pacific Rim first because I was able to combo this with Pacific Rim Uprising (the sequel). I remember when this movie came out and they said it was basically robots vs monsters. Well that is pretty much right!
Like all action movies, they tried to put some story, comedic and relationship fluff around it. It is admirable, but obviously not very good. What you come to watch is fighting mechs. And truthfully, mechs fight pretty slowly. You can’t do any Kung Fu hijinks so it is mostly clutching and punching. Yet, it is strangely fulfilling to watch giants beat down on each other while our society looks like ants. I guess this movie just lives out all those adventures we had as a kid.
Pacific Rim Uprising is a little better, I guess the first was a success so there was more money. Even from the start, the script and dialogue were noticeably better (although still cliche). Instead of focusing merely on mech vs creature, they mixed it up a bit and did some mech vs mech! How creative. The fighting was still pretty lame, no matter how much the pilots were jostled in their cockpits. They also had various other little Easter eggs for Otaku (Gundam statue, mega-boss).
These movies are ones that I think you only need to see once. I give the original a 2 out of 5 and Uprising a 3 out of 5.
June 4, 2018
This was a movie with no expectations that I watched while the kids were beside me. I picked it because I had seen most of the movies on the flight and I was always interested in the
world planet where the apes ruled – although not so interested that I saw all the movies in this franchise (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at least one of the remakes, but I can’t find a blog for it).
Reading the title and preview, I expected War for the Planet of the Apes to be a full-out war between the apes and mankind. The movie started off with a guerilla campaign by the humans against the apes (although the humans were subsequently slaughtered). That seemed like the movie I chose to watch. But then, it started going on a different, and surprising track.
In fact, this movie was not about an all-out-war. The apes’ numbers weren’t huge (they had a healthy number, but it was more like a refugee camp than an army) and the humans was a single battalion under a leader that was more cult than colonel. The movie actually spent a lot of time showing scenes of family – I don’t know if the scenes were more believable because they were trying to humanize the chimps (if it were real humans acting the scenes, they may be corny), or if they were actually effective. The movie also introduced an idea that a mutated Simian Flu virus was changing humans into primates – a role reversal of what the apes have become.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that this movie was not simply a slaughter fest. It’s not good enough to get four stars, but I thought it was better than 3 out of 5 stars.
May 27, 2018
I saw Black Panther with high expectations, after hearing rave reviews about how it had a narrative that reflected and discussed world issues. While that was somewhat true, because there was an overarching theme about leveling the playing field for oppressed cultures (whether the right way to do this is by arming them, is a sub point), that was the only world issue that was prominently discussed.
In fact, I would say that Black Panther is your typical action hero movie. The cast is almost all black (makes sense for a movie situated in Africa), but of course the American roles are played by whites. There is a jaunt to Asia to make the film more exotic (how many films feature Africa as the locale?), and the fight involves two superheros in similar suits (otherwise how would it be a fair fight?). Women have empowering roles, but they also hang around as eye candy.
I just don’t see Black Panther as a progressive film, or one the is remarkable beyond the seasonal Marvel fare. It’s not bad – I enjoyed it as much as Man Of Steel, but it’s only a 3 out of 5 movie.
May 10, 2018
The promise of this Chinese movie was good, lifelong gambler and escort need a big night to pay off debts. However, the story and acting are just bad. I felt like turning this off 10 mins in, but stuck with it out of laziness. There is a contrived story that explains why the pair were thrown together but that doesn’t redeem the film. One Night Only is a 1 out of 5 movie.
May 3, 2018
This is a remake and modernization of the movie with the same name that I saw way back in 1995. At that time, it was a toss-up between going to watch Toy Story or Jumanji. We ended up deciding to watch Jumanji since it was less cartoon-y (not a kids movie). That one had Robin Williams and a young Kirsten Dunst as part of the 2 adult/2 kids pair that was trying to escape Jumanji.
The original was not the best movie and the thing that I remember the most about it was that it was original material (not a franchise that I was aware of). I was curious to see the remake to see what has changed. Well, the big thing is that it has been modernized into a video game! Instead of being sucked into the board, the players are digitized as avatars. As part of this, there are a bunch of role reversals, like the geeks now become the jocks.
It’s stuff like this that make it a movie targeted for teens – the role reversals serve as opportunity for character development and to learn life lessons. I must say that the avatar actors (e.g. The Rock) played believable teenagers. The action and plot in the movie are forgettable and serve as a vehicle for these discussions and presenting the world like a game.
This movie may have substance if you’re growing up but now, aside from some entertainment and time-killing value, is missable. 3 out of 5 stars.
April 29, 2018
With almost as many remakes and reboots as Batman, and a less interesting catalogue of stories, I wondered if Man Of Steel was going to be good. Even the name is weird, imagine going to see a movie called Web Slinger.
Anyways, the movie focused on some lesser seen aspects of the backstory – an extended sequence of what it was like on Krypton and how the new “fortress of solitude” was discovered. I liked that because we had seen the rest of his childhood many times before. I felt the “superhero discovery moment” (when they discover or use their powers for the first time) was weak. Superman learning to fly is just not as fun to watch as Spider-man’s excitement when web slinging.
The arrival of General Zod and ensuing battles were not that interesting. It was actually unbelievable because, as Zod himself said, a farm boy was fighting a team of trained combat veterans that had the same powers he did. Furthermore, they basically levelled Metropolis (which is a precursor to Batman v Superman), but I think those buildings need to be stronger against human-sized bullets.
I didn’t think it was a terrible movie, which I was afraid of based on how press and reviews shun DC movies. It’s not a movie I’m interested in seeing again though, so that gives it a 3 out of 5.
April 25, 2018
Another Chinese movie, but unfortunately not a Cantonese one. Coincidently though, it features 2 of the same supporting actors as the previous Cantonese one I saw. Cook Up A Storm is not a direct sequel, but I guess it is somewhat related to the God of Cookery series. Which meant, a lot of food shots and probably a bad idea to watch when the time zones are messed up and you’re on a plane where they are not serving food yet.
This movie is a little different than the usual God of Cookery series in that instead of focusing on the final competition (there still is one), it’s positioned as multiple battles between different styles. West vs East, gastronomy vs tradition, Michelin vs street, New civilization vs the village, etc. There is also the unique element of having a Korean actor play the antagonist (which is why the movie is in Mandarin). Also, there’s the concept of growing up in the shadow of their father. Man, this film just barfed out themes.
But overall, it’s a fun an entertaining film. There’s no magic and all the cooking is “real”, but boy does thinking and watching this movie make me hungry – although not in a 4 star sense. This movie is just a 3 out of 5 star.
April 20, 2018
Taking an international flight is my chance to catch up on Cantonese or HK movies that I otherwise don’t have an opportunity to watch. The first one I saw was 77 Heartbreaks, which is about a female divorce lawyer who endures 77 lies/wrongs by her BF before she finally decides to break up with him. The breakup happens early on in the film, and the rest of the time is spent on a choice selection of vignettes of those 77 moments of heartbreaks.
This is a cultural-focused millennial film. The boyfriend is clearly someone trying to “find their path”. He graduated with a law degree but has floated around and is now a kickboxing teacher. Parts of the story are told using Facebook, with the through-the-Facebook-screen filter technique. And of course, being a romantic drama, there are the clichés – including the grandiose gesture by the BF near the end of the film.
This type of movie is not what I am used to watching, but it was interesting to see how HK millennials live their life. The movie wasn’t bad and was enjoyable to watch so it gets a 3 out of 5 from me.
April 17, 2018
I watched Mad Max because I remembered that Charlize Theron was supposed to play a villainess in this film. However, after watching the movie, I think I might have gotten a little confused between her movies. She is bad in the sense that she is a rebel against the established leader but she is actually one of the protagonists of the movie.
Her goal is to try and free a couple of “breeders” (woman slaves) from the grasp of the same evil leader. He is joined, by who I assume is Mad Max. I’ve never consumed any other media about Mad Max so I’m not sure of any of his (or the universe’s) backstory. However, it all seems crazy and non-sensical. Like, how do the people survive if there is no or so little water? What do they eat? How are they so impulsive and carefree about death (especially the leaders)? I suppose the universe is a caricature but this feels off now that there have been so many comic book movies that are grounded in reality.
Overall, I didn’t enjoy my introduction to the Mad Max universe, I didn’t get it and it just wasn’t an interesting universe to watch. Sure if you like car crashes, explosions, and scantily-clad woman in the desert/mud, there might be some appeal, but for me this is a 2 out of 5 star movie.
April 7, 2018
The Last Jedi seemed to pick up immediately where The Force Awakens ends, although my memory is a bit hazy since Rogue One happened in the middle of the two movies. David is still running from the Goliath and Luke Skywalker has some part to play in the whole thing. While I felt a need to watch this movie, I guess I wasn’t excited about knowing more about the universe. Thinking back, this was probably my feeling when I watched the prequel movies (guess who’s not a Star Wars nut).
The one thing I was interested in seeing resolved in this movie was how they would write Carrie Fisher out, or what parts did they use CG to film/post-process after she died. I never found out the answer to that question. What I did realize though, was that these Star Wars movie are the opposite of Pixar movies – I felt like an adult watching a kid movie. There were so many scenes where I felt I was being bludgeoned by plot explanations (Dameron learned his lesson). I can only explain it as being a movie being targeted towards young adults, as I thought the movie industry was moving to plots that required the audience to make inferences.
The one thing that I liked about this movie is that it seemed to move away from the light vs dark cliche, and the formulaic good vs bad story arch that seemed to govern the entire series. The loose ends weren’t tied up when the movie finished (there is still one more movie of course), but I do wonder if it’s going to return to light vs dark or end up a different way.
The Last Jedi had all the visual cues of a Star Wars movie (weird aliens and worlds), but it just wasn’t inspiring. It wasn’t bad though so I can’t give it less than a 3 out of 5 stars.