January 12, 2020
I’ll be honest, the only reason I watched Exit was because I knew about it beforehand. And the only reason I knew about it was that it starred YoonA from Girls Generation. Exit is about a useless Millennial son whose hobby is climbing. Coincidentally, there is a disaster and his skill saves him. His friend from his climbing group also ends up at the same place that he is in when disaster strikes so they get to work together.
This movie is pretty bad. I guess it is either a comedy or a frank look at Korean families and their culture. Either way, there is a lot of cringe worthy moments. Both leads were also bad at portraying their roles. The only thing that saves the movie from being turned off were the climbing scenes. Even though you knew the outcome would be OK, you were still hanging on by your fingertips to see what would happen. I guess this is like the award winning Free Solo except told through a fictional story.
I would skip this one, two out of five stars.
January 10, 2020
I think The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a show from the 70s or 80s that I was never familiar with. Nevertheless, it held the most interest to me from the other movies that were available on my flight.
The story is about a US spy who ends up working together with a Russian spy in order to save the world. Naturally, this happened during the cold war (JFK was president) and it was a case of your enemy’s enemy being your friend. Surprisingly, that concept was still fresh. I felt the movie was pretty stylish. It didn’t have any fancy gadgets like Bond. It wasn’t cheesy like Austin Powers. And each culture played up their stereotypes (US superpower was apparently charisma and Russian was brute force). Like the newish Kingsmen series, this movie had its own special style that was entertaining.
Henry Cavil played the US agent, a similar role to what he did in Mission Impossible: Fallout. Except this time he was the shorter guy. Still can’t stop thinking of Superman when I see him. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel but this movie was released in 2015 so that seems unlikely now. Three out of five stars.
January 7, 2020
I remember wanting to watch V for Vendetta when it came out, but somehow missed it. This was in 2006, and way before kids, so that couldn’t be an excuse. In any case, the movie’s message is still true and relevant today.
I liked how the the plot is a mix of current day Britain, a nod to 1984, and Shakespearean – I believe the source material was this way already. Even though I liked the movie, it is just an entertaining movie and didn’t really change my world outlook (I guess too much 1984 and Fahrenheit 451). What did surprise me is that Natalie Portman is ageless. She looks the same in this as she does in Vox Lux – 13 year difference! The movie though is only 3 out of 5 stars.
October 31, 2019
Another Godzilla movie, I thought I had seen the previous ones, but a quick read on Wikipedia indicated I hadn’t. Anyways, no prior knowledge was needed. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is about big giant monsters fighting (kind of like the Pacific Rim series).
In this one, all of the old Titans are awakened but it turns out their leader is an alien. It is up to Godzilla to fix the problem. Humans are confused, but eventually they realize Godzilla is on their side. For once, the bad guy story is interesting and complex; although ultimately the true villain is Godzilla’s nemesis rather than humans.
Like the previous movie I saw, the ending of this seemed to be setting up for continuation of the series, seemingly King Kong vs Godzilla. Unfortunately only a three out of five stars film.
October 29, 2019
Kingdom is a movie about historic China, but the strange thing is that it is a Japanese movie. They speak Japanese thoughout the movie, and all the actors are Japanese. I’m used to historical films from China so I was curious what the Japanese take will be like , and also why they would make a movie about Chinese history without mentioning Japan at all.
The story is set in the Qin dynasty, and is about two slave boys who dream of being the greatest general in the world. They spend their time swordfighting after they’ve done their chores, and eventually become quite proficient. A chance encounter causes (only) one of them to enter the royal court, but his death causes the other to go on the journey that this movie is about.
Apparently, the story is from a manga, so a lot of the fighting and rhythm of the action feels like it came out of a comic (e.g., it is not real at all). And I had a real feeling that this movie was a setup for a video game/movie series. Each of the generals and other main characters felt like they were being introduced; and each had a single, unique ultimate move. There are factions, each with different attributes, and a grand quest to set out on. I’ve never read about the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” series, and I’ll do that later when I have more time; but I can’t help but wonder whether this is the first chapter of that.
There was a distinct non-Chinese flavour about the movie, but it was enjoyable and I want to see more in this style, within the same universe. Four out of five stars.
October 11, 2019
Last Spider-Man movie in the MCU! Well, we shall see. Far From Home happens after Endgame and it starts off with some reflection on the events (no real spoilers though, I think this movie may have come out before Endgame?). In any case, there are no more Avengers and Spider-man is one of the higher profile heroes left.
But this movie feels like a teenage movie. It follows Peter Parker on a high school trip to Europe. In practice, it is a lot better written and appropriate for adults than Detective Pikachu. I am not even biased towards Spider-Man like I am the X-Men. The first half of the movie was pretty good and fun. In fact, it felt like it was parodying itself. Nick Fury was delivering canned lines and everyone was riffing off that. The circumstances around the school trip was ridiculous. But I thought all of this was in good taste.
It started getting a bit slow after the plot twist but still enjoyable. Strangely, I think the biggest appeal of this movie is the development of the characters and relationships; the action is just eye candy. Also, I felt it was a bit forced to visit so many European cities. But nonetheless I think this was a quality movie, four out of five stars.
October 6, 2019
I don’t have a strong desire to see Detective Pikachu but I thought it would be interesting to leverage all the knowledge I learned from my kids in understanding this movie. Even from the previews, it was amazing to see Pokemon in the real world! Also, unlike Dark Phoenix, the CG was done well and made it feel like the Pokemon belonged in the world (maybe we’re just used to what they look like).
Much like Zootopia, the best thing about this movie is how they created the world. I like the idea where all the animals have been replaced by pokemon (although the balance is wrong as you don’t see that many animals in the city normally). And this idea isn’t a stretch because we live in the world of Pokemon Go where pokemon coexist in the world as long as you look through a screen.
The story itself is not that great. I had a little bit of struggle trying to decide whether the film is for kids, or adults who were kids when pokemon came out. I guess the right audience is a young teen. I hope this movie spawns a series where we can explore the world more, but hope that future movies are written for older audiences. Four out of five stars due to establishing the world and the promise of seeing more pokemon in movies
October 4, 2019
Well it’s been a long time since MIB was in theaters. I guess they brought it back for the retro crowd. The original was an action comedy with Will Smith’s banter and Tommy Lee Jones being the straight man. MIB International doesn’t fall very far from the original. It has the same setup but updated to the new century – Tessa Thompson plays the straight woman to Chris Hemsworth. Side note: I can’t picture him as anyone but Thor, so it felt like Thor joined the MIB.
The same futuristic view of the world and aliens blending in is still there. Kind of how all Star Wars movies feel like the same movie with different characters and setup, this is how this movie felt like. Not a terrible thing since I haven’t seen MIB in many, many years. A fun three out of five movie.
September 30, 2019
This movie was supposed to be a clunker based on reviews, but I didn’t think Dark Phoenix was that bad. The film delivered a lot of fan service where you got to see a lot of the characters do their trademark talents. And really, that’s all I expected out of this movie. I saw past all the stuff that doesn’t make sense, like how they can run around in space (and I think they were self aware, including a scene where they duct tape a helmet on). There was also a lot of CG which could’ve been a reason why reviewers disliked it. Hard to film a phoenix in real life though.
I did have a little problem because I saw the films out of order. When Jean and the team appeared for the first time, I thought back to my recent viewings and didn’t remember how they got together. They definitely were not the First Class. Jean was also familiar (not Famke Janssen) and I guess I remember from her cameo in Days of Future Past or Age of Apocalypse.
The story was a little different from the Dark Phoenix origin that I remembered so that was a little fresh. But I think my X-Men bias pushes this to a three star out of five.
August 29, 2019
As a child, I was not interested in Shazam and I’m still not. The Shazam! movie didn’t actually interest me that much either but I ran out of things to watch. I guess it may pay off to keep up to date on DC universe movies.
Like many DC movies, it wasn’t very good. The script just wasn’t refined enough. It tried a little too hard to be funny, had cardboard cutout villains, and tried to make it novel to discover super powers. But I think everyone has seen enough comic book-based stories to know what that is like now. I also didn’t like that it was a story targeted to kids, where the lead characters act like how you would expect kids to be of they learned that they had powers. That went on for like 20 minutes, who actually finds that funny??
Only two redeeming factors in this movie: 1) It is shot in Toronto and 2) Shazam can now participate in the DC universe. Maybe they will take on infinite crisis as a crossover? But by itself, this is a two out of five stars movie.
August 27, 2019
The Second Winter is a short Korean film (only an hour long, and could be even shorter as there was a lot of silence used for dramatic effect) about the millennial struggle between doing something you’re passionate about versus a job to survive. The story focuses on two newlyweds that are 30 (Millennials, or is it asians? Marry late) who can’t hold down a steady job. The man wants to be an actor (historically a job that is notoriously difficult to get started in) and is auditioning for Don Quixote. The woman can’t get a full time job because she has no children and companies don’t want to hire her in case she goes on maternity. The struggle is characterized through a search for a new place to live. They identify a larger apartment that is nicely decorated but seems out of their league (there’s a running joke that you have to live like “North Europeans” there) and think about what it would be like to be someone that can live there.
I’m not sure what the title refers to, nor the recurring theme of a broken heater in their current apartment. Maybe it is a plot device that justifies their apartment search. Beyond that, it is pretty clear what the movie is about. Not a great movie but not a big time investment either. Three out of five stars.
August 25, 2019
I saw this on inflight entertainment, and thought they just added the original Hellboy to their catalogue (as they do from time to time with older movies). But turns out there was a 3rd movie/reboot of the franchise.
I’m not sure if Hellboy #3 is a serious film. It felt like I was watching a satire of the horror film genre – but maybe that was the point. And there was so much blood. I kind of kept watching to try and understand why I thought the first Hellboy movie was worth watching.
Beyond the grotesque monsters and the overuse of blood, the movie gets a little better. It weaves in a lot of historical mythology which I am not clear whether it was made up for this movie or part of his back story. The movie also serves to build up a supporting cast of “heroes” for Hellboy in case it becomes a series. I’m not sure I want to watch anymore though as the blood is just too much. Two out of five stars.
August 23, 2019
This was a movie I never expected to see. I had heard about how The Wandering Earth broke Chinese box office records, and was supposed to usher a new age for China sci-fi. I read about how the Chinese author toured the US and explained how a movie like this would never work in the US/be understood by a western audience. But still, I was surprised that this movie made it to the World selection in the inflight entertainment.
The Wandering Earth tells the tale of a near future where the sun will supernova in 30 years. Earth decides that the best way to save itself is to move itself (the physical planet, not the civilization) out of the solar system. That’s a ludicrous proposition if you think about it. Gravity won’t work properly for one, the Earth would freeze being so far away and well you can find a lot of thing that don’t make sense if you start thinking too hard.
The story focuses on one family, the father who works on board a space station, and the son/daughter who lives on Earth. The story is driven by the family on Earth as the planet undergoes tectonic disturbances as it approaches Jupiter’s gravimetric field. Jupiter is the main protagonist in this story as it threatens to swallow up our planet.
Through a lot of struggles, we see how the strong Chinese spirit and ingenuity prevails while all sorts of other nations turn their tails and run. There are a lot of cliched scenes that stresses family and sacrifice for the greater good. In a way, this movie is a heavy China propaganda piece, but it is also interesting to see how a China-first blockbuster would work. Great for the insight, four out of five stars.
August 20, 2019
Finally! After how many movies? the finale of this epoch in the Marvel Universe is finally complete. I think I also accomplished the monumental task of seeing all the relevant movies before this one came out – thanks to a lot of flights. No surprise, I saw Avengers: Engame on a flight as well.
There was a lot to like about this movie and it was a deserved ending to this epoch. While time travel is an overused mechanic, I liked how they visited their previous movies and expanded on the stories around them. I also liked how they brought basically everyone who has been involved in the universe back, even if the cameos are pretty short. The humor was light although some bits got long in the tooth (e.g., Thor’s beer belly). I liked how it paved the way for the next generation, and I did not fail to notice the one scene where all the women characters showed up at once.
This movie felt worthy, and was four out of five stars in my book. Now to see what is next for MCU.
August 11, 2019
I received Gravity as a promo from Movies Anywhere at some point and so saw it at home on my TV. I also recall there was a VR version of this movie, and it make sense because there are amazing visuals that you want to see as large as possible (e.g., IMAX).
The movie is set in space, and about astronauts who get stranded after an international incident. Unlike the Apollo movies, the astronauts are truly alone, and do not have a team to support them. The cast is essentially George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and the view of the earth. It is an interesting take that really shows the loneliness of space.
I’d imagine that space exploration in our day and age would be similar to sailing in the olden days. Your boat (and crew) was your lifeline and if you went overboard and ended up adrift, you were in for a lonely death.
While space is the unknown and thus exciting, Gravity is a story about perseverance through adversity and human survival. That story + the amazing visuals make this a four out of five stars movie.
July 20, 2019
The Leakers is the name of a group of journalists who want to expose the truth about nefarious corporations. Their first leak is the obvious-to-the-watcher news that a pharmaceutical corporation has both created an outbreak and its cure. But their attempt to actually share this information and the evidence is convoluted and ends up involving a bunch of people in both Malaysia and Hong Kong. This is like the bad guys spending too much time explaining their scheme, causing them to get caught. If the Leakers just uploaded their leak to the internet, they would have saved a movie!
In any case, an interesting set of characters show up to try and solve the puzzle. Maybe it was the couple of previous movies that I saw, but I felt this movie had potential – and I wanted to see how the players would develop. The plot didn’t give them a lot of opportunity to do that though. But at least, it was able to earn The Leakers a three out of five stars.
July 18, 2019
I find that all the Japanese films I end up watching have some sort of philosophical and existential question that they are trying to answer or shed light on, and that is the same way with Colors of the Wind. The question is, what is this movie about?
It starts off with a theory that everyone in the world has a doppleganger, but if one half finds out about the other, then they will be driven to depression and suicide. Then it goes off on a bender about magic. Not real magic, but just show magic. Except that the film creates a situation where it looks like magic has created two dopplegangers. Then it is up to the film to figure out who is real (or not) and what happened to create two sets of intertwined but lost identities.
It’s not as confusing as it sounds. There’s an almost logical explanation for this. But once the mystery building ends and the explanation starts, the premise starts to be ludicrous and all credibility this film has built to ponder an existential question is gone.
I happened to split this film right at that break, so it felt so promising that I wanted to finish the movie. But then I watched the remainder and just thought that it was dumb. So I’ll give Colors Of The Wind an average of 2 stars.
July 14, 2019
This is a Spanish film set in Mexico during the financial crisis they had in the early 80s (?). Instead of focusing on the government though, it followed a group of socialites and specifically one family who started on top, but could no longer sustain their position. What drew me to Las Niñas Bien was that it was supposed to be how the family tried to maintain appearances (social status) under this stress, but the lengths that she went too weren’t as outlandished as I would thought. Given that this movie was classified as a comedy, I thought there would be a lot of hijinks. I think it was misclassified and is more of a drama that gave me a look into how upper class Mexicans lived. Not something I can connect too, so two out of five stars.
July 13, 2019
I watched this cantomovie because I was curious about how it would meld the old historical Chinese era with modern day HK. But apparently, the Iceman in the title referred to the first movie in the series where they “travelled” through time by being frozen solid. Luckily, the beginning of the film played a quick “Last time on Iceman” segment to get me caught up.
This movie is a snooze. The time travel mechanics didn’t make any sense, fighting wasn’t great, and used a last minute Japanese villain to be the final boss in a battle that travelled through a CGI time tunnel. I guess this should be a one star movie even though I never thought about turning it off in the middle. I guess it is “good enough” for TV.
July 9, 2019
It is strange when some random comic that I read in my younger days becomes a blockbuster, especially when it is not a prominent title from an established universe. In fact, I don’t remember why I even read this series. I don’t think it’s by a prominent writer so maybe I just read it because I had access to it! Curious as to the reasons why they made a movie about this, I watched Alita.
From the beginning, I felt this was not a movie that I would enjoy. The world had an anime feel with the Utopia/normal world divide (or maybe just because I knew of its origins). And I didn’t like the coming of age story for Alita. It made it feel like I was watching a kid movie complete with a budding teen romance. Then the fighting started and it was clearly not a kid movie – the bad guys are the basis of nightmares! So, why make the beginning of the movie so juvenile? Alita also looks like a CG creation which is jarring (especially when she is being played by a real actress).
However, once the plot (fighting) started, it ended up being ok. Stylistically, the idea of the battle angel, mechs, and sword fighting is fun. So this movie claws its way back to three stars. In the credits, I was surprised with all the big names tied to this film (James Cameron et al)
June 25, 2019
I’ve watched the pivotal opening scene in Burning a couple of times now, the part that foreshadows and describes the entire movie; and I think I finally figured it out.
First, there is a scene about miming the act of eating a tangerine, but the important tidbit is that in order to be successful; you don’t have to believe that there is a physical tangerine, just that it tastes yummy. I think this describes the relationship that the girl has with the poor guy. She believes that she can rely on him/he is her BF (even if he doesn’t think of it like this), so it makes his later words to her even more hurtful.
Then the discussion quickly changes to little and great hunger. Little hunger is the hunger you feel when you if you haven’t eaten, but great hunger is hunger for life. I think this describes the rich guy and his quest to find meaning in his life when all the basics are taken care of.
Finally, as a bonus, the girl asks the poor guy to take care of her cat, saying a cat shouldn’t be moved from their home. I think this is meant to describe the poor guy who just isn’t able to comprehend the changes that are about to happen around him.
Even with this theory, still a great movie!
June 22, 2019
Well Aquaman started really slow, in the way of many other DC movies (bad plot, dialogue and corny scenarios). In the comics, Aquaman was always a cheesy hero whose powers aren’t that helpful (how many times do heroes fight on water??). So the premise didn’t have a lot of things to make it good. The fact that they portrayed Atlanteans as a futuristic civilization hidden underwater, with amazing submarine craft is just crazy. The only thing holding the film together was Jason Momoa’s stoic charisma.
Secondly, I was confused about the timeline. This movie seemingly happens after Justice League (they mention Steppenwolf), but I thought Aquaman went to Atlantis to protect the Mother Box (wasn’t Mera there too?). The movie also seemed to channel Tomb Raider a bit when they went to the desert.
Things started to get better once they entered the “final dungeon”. Seeing Aquaman in his costume, even though it is corny, was great. I just can’t get behind the idea that the Atlanteans were hidden or can stay hidden for so long even with huge armies amassing and fighting. Two out of five stars
June 19, 2019
I was looking forward to this film since it was part of the X-Men universe, even though the comic series “Logan” wasn’t that good (it was too far fetched). I remember the movie version received good reviews so it didn’t seem like they used the comic book as source material.
Logan is well deserving of its R rating (very bloody) and it is also very dark. It is one of those stories that comic books writers go to when they run out of present day stories to tell (a What-If from the future). However, this one is only 10 years down the road with a Wolverine that is incognito, with a limo, and a limp (which was what I was trying to type before autocorrect took over), as well as literally carrying around a 90-year old Professor X wherever he has to go. This is not a dystopia (society seems OK with self driving tractor trailers), but it is pretty grim for good guys. It’s not a movie where the heroes get beat up, then miraculously climb off the floor, find their cosmic second wind, and take over; in this one, they just get beat up more and more. If anything, this is a realistic comic book film.
Like most future Wolverine films, it is a character study of him and how he behaves when he’s not killing. However, unlike Days of Future Past; he’s not being a hero. He’s just a guy who wants to mind his own business but gets pulled into being a caretaker, driver, babysitter, and finally a hero.
The pacing in the film is great. Being a dark film, there isn’t really comedy. Instead the scenes of despair, dementia and death are contrasted with plain normal life. I’m not sure if the film itself is great, or if it’s because they’ve taken the characters that we know through many X-Men films and truly given them a new angle. In any case, I thought this movie deserved a four out of five star rating.
June 17, 2019
If Captain Marvel came out in any other year, it might have been considered a B-list Marvel movie. Maybe not at the level of Ant Man, but not as hyped as Guardians of the Galaxy. But because everyone knew she would play a pivotal role in Avengers: Endgame, this ended up being a must see movie.
Maybe the producers saw it that way too because I think it is a quality and balanced film. It didn’t try too hard to be funny (compared to Guardians of the Galaxy, where I remember that the “comedy” from Rocket was just annoying), and brought in the retro early 90s without beating us up about it (better than Bumblebee). It fit the times (many women in key roles) and was almost a film about the real international man of mystery, Nick Fury. There was a lot of thing going for it even if the source material wasn’t the most famous.
I liked the focus on the Kree/Skrull war. I don’t remember all the facts, but portraying the Skrulls as the good guys doesn’t seem right (why about the FF’s beef with Super Skrull?). I liked how there were cameos from Guardians of the Galaxy, although I don’t remember what those characters did in those movies anymore (the Kree, Korath). I’m also not sure that Captain Marvel had cosmic powers either? In any case, these didn’t detract from the story. Captain Marvel is a solid three out of five stars, and the Marvel version of Wonder Woman.
June 10, 2019
What attracted me to Vox Lux was the cast (Jude Law, Natalie Portman), given their track record and the non-blockbuster nature of this film; I thought there was a decent chance that this would be good even if the description didn’t sound like something I would enjoy much.
The film was broken into 2 parts. The first tells the story of how “Celeste” went from a 14 y/o high school student to a pop star via a school shooting. That was moderately interesting because it showed how the music entertainment process worked (most likely sanitized already). The second part jumped 15 years later when Celeste is now in her 30s (still a pop star) and honestly the movie got lost there. In the first half, there was a direction to the film, but the second half follows Celeste around for an afternoon. Was the point to see her reaction (or non-reaction) to a shooting much like the one that launched her career? Was it a social commentary on how stardom can change an individual? Was it a behind-the-scenes look at what super stardom is like? I couldn’t tell because whatever it was trying to do wasn’t conveyed.
Even the final little nugget of narration doesn’t really explain why or what is happening. Because the movie left its rails, this only gets two out of five stars.