May 3, 2019
For once, I watched a movie when I wasn’t on a plane. Well X-Men: Days of Future Past was actually available on my recent flights, but I knew that I had it in my digital library so saved it for later. Also, it made sense to watch it after I watched First Class, as it was a sequel to it.
This movie built upon the interesting cast of the previous film, featured Wolverine as a protagonist in a non-traditional role (he hardly fought in this film – wow character development), pulled in an ensemble cast that included the “original X-Men films” portrayals (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry) and had time travel. That was a lot of things going for it. The script was also not bad and thoughtful, especially how it maintained continuity between the different time periods of the X-Men movie universe. I guess my only criticism is that the flashback generation of actors for Professor X/Magneto don’t look like the older set. I’m also curious whether the portrayal of Mystique from the very first X-Men movie fit the character that was created by these two films.
The post-credits scene also foreshadowed Apocalypse, which reminded me that I had already watched it (after I re-read the synopsis)! The only scene I remember from that one is the one with Quicksilver running through the X-Mansion. I also learned that the next movie is coming out in a few months (Phoenix) and that it will be the last one as X-Men are being absorbed into the MCU. Too bad!
In any case, Days Of Future Past is an enjoyable view – three out of five stars.
April 29, 2019
I really didn’t want to watch Deadpool 2 and have been avoiding it for several months. But I’ve been travelling on a few longer flights and have watched everything else that I wanted to (save for long epics like The Hobbit and Oscar-nominated dramas that I’m not in the mood for), so Deadpool 2 it was.
I just plain do not like the style of Deadpool. The wise cracking, breaking the fourth wall, potty jokes, sound of Ryan Reynold’s voice etc. There was a lot of it at the start of the film, but thankfully it died down as they had to get through the plot in a reasonable amount of time. Cable showed up – the character is cool and it looked relatively like how you would expect him to. However, I didn’t like his portrayal (to grim and depressing) although he makes a good foil to Deadpool. There were a bunch of other supporting characters – most are forgettable except Domino.
The movie wasn’t boring (so does it really deserve a two?), yet it is as meaningless as Ant Man or some of the Thor movies. I think it’s a two out of five for being just a time filler.
April 27, 2019
When I started watching this movie, I thought I had seen it before because it started with the scene of Magneto being taken from his parents at a Nazi death camp. However, it turned out to be a replay of, I suppose the very first X-Men film, but leads to a completely different story arch rather than a re-telling of the origin story.
X-Men: First Class focuses on the first group of mutants. However, it is not the Cyclops/Jean Grey group but X-Force (Havok, Banshee) vs Hellfire Club (Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw) with Magneto and Professor X mixed in. Those characters are actually pretty interesting and more compelling to me than a big Avengers team-up. Maybe I just like mutants more.
Mystique and the rest of the younger mutants could help make this a kids/teenager movie, but the portrayal of Professor X and Magneto were so great that I didn’t care. While it’s still your typical blockbuster comic movie, I had a lot of fun with this one. Three out of five stars.
April 23, 2019
This movie takes place at the turn of the 20th century in Hong Kong as Dr Sun Yat Sen is meeting with several important individuals from inner China to plan the uprising that overthrows the Qing dynasty. Since I don’t know my Chinese history, I will just have to assume that those are real events at the right time. The movie tells about China’s attempt to assassinate him (hence the assassins, although it’s more like an army) and a local organization of rag-tag individuals that end up being his bodyguard. In the end, the powerful and resourceful arm of the Emperor kills all the rebels, so this plays out a lot like Rogue One.
Bodyguards and Assassins is very over the top. Gratuitous blood and over embellished fighting. It kept my interest because of the how the movie portrays turn-of-the-century Hong Kong, as the East meets the West. Again, who knows whether it is accurate or not. If you expect a cliché HK movie with two-line character sketches then it is a run-of-the-mill three out of five stars movie.
April 18, 2019
Unlike Bumblebee, Wreck-It-Ralph 2 actually succeeds at being a (pre-)teen movie without being boring. While, the theme of the movie is pretty kiddy (friendship), the gags and cameos, as well as seeing the brands from the real Internet being represented in the movie keeps the movie interesting (the retro aspect of the game characters is pretty much the same as the first movie). I also liked how they represented online behavior too (like popups and popup blockers). There was enough random stuff but not too much of it – kinda of like how Ready Player One had just enough cameos.
The whole sub-plot with Disney princesses was fun, although the song sucked (perhaps on purpose). But really, as an adult, you’re not going to get a lot out of this movie aside from a few quick laughs. Three out of five stars.
April 16, 2019
In contrast to the other two stellar movies I just saw (Into The Spider-Verse and Burning), the story of Bumblebee felt dumbed down. Even from the first scene where they were fighting on Cybertron, I already had a ton of questions around how things would work (how did Optimus Prime get off the planet, and why was Bumblebee a Corvette already?). The characters and “comedy” didn’t help, nor did the unrealistic transformation of robots (although not any different than previous movies). In today’s media world, where there are such a better quality of scripts, I just expect higher quality.
The credits showed that Spielberg had a hand in this movie. That explained why the movie was so “kid” focused (well actually more teen oriented). I’m not sure kids these days would go out of their way to see a Transformers movie when there are so many other brands available for them to consume. And there were definitely attempts to target older viewers with a ton of 80s throwbacks (fashion, music).
This film just felt lost. While watching it, I was left wondering why I decided to watch a movie about awkward teen moments. And if I wanted to watch robots fighting, I should have just watched Pacific Rim again. Two out of five for yet another forgettable Transformers film.
April 11, 2019
Burning is a Korean film that I actually heard about reading thru the 2018 end of year lists. I guess it is a thriller or a drama and centers around a relationship between 2 guys and a girl. From reading the reviews, I had thought this movie happens mostly in Africa, but turns out it is based on Korea.
I don’t remember why it was rated highly but to me it is a psychological film where you are trying to figure out what the director is actually trying to do. The scenes seem random but I think you are supposed to think of them in an abstract sense (and so the intention is vague a lot of the time). For example, in the second scene in the film, two of the leads are in a typical Korean restaurant and the girl describes how she is learning pantomime by eating an imaginary tangerine. She states, something to the effect of, that the trick to pantomime is to avoid thinking that the tangerine is not there, but rather what you would be doing if it was there. Ultimately, I think this scene describes the entire movie (or at least one way to look at it).
I spent the majority of the film trying to figure out what is really going on, although felt it lost some steam in the second half. Four out of five stars.
April 9, 2019
This new version of Spider-Man had a lot of hype and I think it lived up to it. Essentially it is a yet-another-reboot of Spider-Man, but still in the Sony universe. For once, the long-lost cousin who owns a bit of the Marvel movie rights have a good comic movie on their hands.
Into the Spider-verse is a weird movie. The whole concept is wack and I think a bit too complex for the casual movie fan (collision of multiple dimensions). Not that they won’t understand it but it just seems too far-fetched unless you read comics where it happens all the time. Then it’s a “cartoon”, but not for little kids like Teen Titans Go To The Movies. I guess they made it a cartoon because some of the scenes couldn’t be visualized in a realistic way. The art style and constant breaking of the fourth way/dropping into comic book style is a huge risk and could have turned out incredibly bad. It didn’t though, although at times it felt a little too much.
What is amazing though, that the movie turned out to be great. Even though the premise was wack, the story kept the key themes of a Spider-Man story intact, but refreshed to be relevant to today’s youth. You have the geeky guy who accidentally gets bitten, learns to use their powers, and the a-ha moment of when he finally controls them. The plot follows the typical superhero/supervillain arch and they try to make it up to date for the pubescent crowd (with some laughs as well). But the real gem is how they were able to weave everything into something that works instead of flopping. Four out of five stars.
March 13, 2019
Never heard about this in theatres but found it in the sci-fi section of the inflight movies. It started Tom Cruise so it couldn’t be that bad right?
Edge of Tomorrow tells a story where an alien invasion via asteroid happens. The asteroid lands in Germany and begins taking over Europe. The world unites to fit these Brood-like figures, as well a development of an exoskeleton to help soldiers. Tom Cruise plays a former advertiser who ends up in media relations for the army. He is told to go to the front lines to film a concentrated human push, deserts, and ends up on the front lines. Somehow, he ends up in a time loop and can reply the day until he realizes what’s at stake and finishes his mission.
There are a lot of cliché and dumb things in this movie, but there are also a lot of awesome things. Exoskeleton/mechs are cool. Time loops are actually pretty fun. Tom Cruise’s role has the perfect background for him (although it could have been any male star). Watching this movie makes me want to read the book it’s based on and so this is a highly rated action film from me! Four out of five stars.
March 11, 2019
This was a movie I wanted to watch, but had shy’d away from in the past because it was too serious. It’s about a CIA agent who sneaks 6 US Foreign State workers out of Iran when that state has cut of relations with the US. Ben Affleck directed and starred in it and I kind of feel it was a twin to Syrianna. In any case, I typically want to have fun when watching movies so didn’t end up watching it till recently.
Argo is a good story and movie, but I couldn’t help but wonder about the parts that Hollywood added in vs the real event (time for some Wikipedia reading when I get of the plane). There was a lot of unnecessary running and just-in-time heroics which I suspect never took place. If nothing, it helped me get a long look at the style that was the few years before my birth. What I didn’t get out of the movie though is a real understanding of the Iranian issues or what happened to end the hostage crisis (end credits said it took 444 days for everyone to be released). Three out of five stars for Argo.
March 7, 2019
Kingsman was another movie that got truncated due to an end of the flight. I figure I got 2/3rds of the way through it and then the next time I took a flight, the movie selection had changed. At least 6 months later, I finally found The Golden Circle again on a SF flight. Kinda strange really as it wasn’t part of any special event (there was a new and improved entertainment system).
Anyways, I can’t remember why I picked this movie but I had seen the original and didn’t hate it. Watching this follows the MI discussion of what makes this franchise unique in the world of spy thrillers and I think this takes the “British” part of Bond (the gentleman), puts in a Millennial lead, and makes it more fun. The scriptwriters know that whatever villain they write will not be relatable, so they just use some scenario that would come out of a Dairy Queen commercial. It doesn’t really matter though because we all know how the spy thrillers scripts end.
The Golden Circle also had a double agent much like MI: Fallout did. Funny how movies around the same time frame use the same mechanic. But it’s not all copycat material, the villain’s plan was to taint the international drug supply so that all recreational drug users die unless the government pays up. Turns out that’s a lot of everyday people. It was a bit cheesy, but the fighting was good and the style is like an optimized Bond film. Three out of five stars.
February 26, 2019
Resurrected Victims is a Korean movie where the mother of a prosecutor comes back to life and tries to get revenge on the people that killed her. All signs point to the son who did it and the movie tells what happens as they unravel this mysterious incidence. The movie says that there have been 89 victims who have come back to life in order to kill their murderers before disappearing in a burst of flames.
The movie spends the rest of the time investigating why the mom came back through a variety of flashbacks before finally explaining what happened. The story-telling was pretty poor – I’m not sure whether they did that for suspense or if it was just a bad script, because it’s easy to explain what happened once you know the entire story. The movie also tacks on a moral message as part of its ending, which is a bit lame.
I don’t think this movie was that great, only a two out of five stars from me.
February 24, 2019
I think I’ve seen portions of the Teen Titans TV show while vacationing with the kids, but I haven’t watched enough to know what their mannerisms and songs are. So going into this movie blind, it felt like there were a lot of in-jokes that missed. That’s ok though because this is a kids movie (like a real one, not a Pixar one) so you can just jump in and out of it.
I guess the best way to put this is that they took the “Teen” Titans and made them 6 years old, complete with the potty jokes. The plot revolves around the other DC heroes having movies made about them, while Robin desperately wants one (as he sees that as legitimizing him as a superhero). So he does whatever he has to do to get a movie, involves the villain Deathstroke (except they can’t call him that so they just use his normal name Slade), and then learns a life lesson.
There are a lot of DC heroes in Teen Titans Go To The Movies, the Justice League act like adults and behave as you would expect kids to see adults. The action is crazy and nonsensical (even though it is a cartoon, it’s not a Into The Spiderverse level of movie). However, it was fun even for adults. Three out of five.
February 20, 2019
I watched the first Fantastic Four movie (with Jessica Alba), and even the second one; and given the critical reception of them, I’m not sure why they decided to remake it. The group is not popular or well known either. However, it is one of the last Marvel films I haven’t seen so I took a try on it. I didn’t know that this version was a teen movie though (and I don’t recognize the cast except for Michael B. Jordan).
The movie is pretty short (around 90mins) which doesn’t give a lot of time to do anything after explaining how the crew got their powers. Dr Doom shows up, they have a quick battle to save the day, and the movie is done. If I wasn’t familiar with the characters, I would have thought that there wasn’t much substance to the movie. However, since I know the FF, it was a fun romp in expected territory. This movie gets three out of five stars from me (not any worse or any better than the first run through).
February 17, 2019
I used to follow a blog about an English call girl which was named this, and I wonder if this old movie was the source of the name. This movie is about a young wife in the 60s (movie was made in 1967) who moonlights (daylights?) as a call girl. It’s not really raunchy but more of a look at what French society was like back then – gender stereotypes and retro cars abound.
The movie also reminded me of how slow movies were back then. Unlike The Godfather though, Belle De Jour wasn’t able to set the mood to make the slow scenes feel immersive. The plot was also a bit weird as it pushed character development by introducing different Johns, before events force the final scene. While it made sense, the way that it was told felt disjointed. Interesting to watch but not fun, two out of five stars.
February 15, 2019
Another movie that has been hanging on my “to watch on a flight” list, and survived until I actually had time to watch it; given its longevity, I thought that Bleeding Steel must be a masterpiece with a lot of views amongst flyers. I mean, it has to be good if the synopsis is that Jackie Chan fights a bunch of bionic bad guys, right?
As you can expect, it was a bit weird. It wasn’t a serious movie but whatever attempt at incorporating HK cinema humor got lost in translation somewhere. Instead, what they did bring was the B-level villains from Chinese period films into a production that was like The Adventurers – a Chinese film set in the Western world. The majority of the film takes place in Australia and the language was fluid – I didn’t keep track of how often they switched between Mandarin and English, but I did notice the accented English from the Chinese actors.
I’m not sure that this movie would play well with theatre-goers as the only thing it has going for it is Jackie Chan (and isn’t his brand of comedic Kung Fu fighting getting tiresome?) Two out of five stars for me
February 13, 2019
Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Mission Impossible, or a Tom Cruise movie. This movie has been sitting in the inflight entertainment for awhile and there was always something a little better to watch. Finally, I ran out of movies and ended up watching Mission: Impossible – Fallout (how are you even supposed to write the name as it has two modifiers).
While there haven’t been as many MI movies, I would guess that this is the American version of the Bond movies. Where Bond has his gadgets, MI seems more gritty and athletic – the most memorable scene I have from all MI movies is the second one where Cruise is climbing a cliff. But, that difference has never made the MI movies that much more fun to me.
I was pleasantly surprised by how this film turned out. It started off pretty clichéd and I thought it was going to be a snore (give up and try another movie). And then Superman (Henry Cavil but it felt like the same characterization) showed up. But as we got into it, the story improved a lot. I forgot that one key element of the MI series is the espionage and double crosses – it’s like mini Ocean’s 11 throughout. I’m sure the scenarios don’t make sense under scrutiny but when you’re watching the movie, it’s fun. Even though it ran significantly over 2 hours, the plot felt pretty tight.
This MI also drew elements from previous movies. Seems like that is something that it shares with the Bond series. At least with Bond, there have been 10s of movies to refer to, so this is a little premature for MI. But then maybe this is the movie version of the greatest hits album, and if they don’t make a retrospective movie now, the actors will get too old.
All in all, a surprisingly good action film from a movie franchise that I’ve long forgotten. Three out of five stars.
December 22, 2018
I had to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp because it looks like these characters and their environment will be very important in Avengers: Endgame. Before seeing that trailer, I wasn’t really interested in this movie because I always thought that Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Wasp were dumb heroes (definitely B or C-List). In fact, I totally forgot that there was an Ant-Man movie and this was a sequel!
I thought the casting was interesting – I hadn’t seen Michelle Pfeiffer in any movies for awhile. She’s still quite recognizable (on the other hand Evangeline Lilly hasn’t aged well). The rest of the movie and story are forgettable – for some reason, I found the comedy and comedic set pieces to be pretty lame (maybe they reflect how the Scott Lang character is more lame than other cooler superheroes). I just wanted to learn more about the quantum zone and know all the characters/tech when they appear later.
If not for the Avengers connection, this movie could be a straight-to-video release. Two out of five stars, partly because the movie sucks, partly because the hero sucks.
December 19, 2018
Will You Be There? is a Korean time paradox movie where an older man travels 30 years into the past to visit his younger self and a regret in his life. As you can expect, there are butterfly effects of his actions that change the outcome, and that leads to subsequent visits in order to shape his present so that he has his desired outcome without changing other things that are important to him.
I enjoy experience this type of concept because there are always things in life that you wish you did better or differently. While we don’t have any mystical way to travel back and retcon out past, it’s therapeutic to imagine. The movie version is a fairy tale and you can just as well create a horror film from the concept. But I believe the director wanted to tell a satisfying story without pushing the boundaries of thought. That leaves this idea as a three out of five film.
December 17, 2018
I came into this movie thinking that this was the reboot of the Jurassic Park that I had watched when I was a kid. I remember seeing a lot of Jurassic World toys this summer, which I supposed tied-in with this update. So I was surprised when I was watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that this was actually a sequel of another movie. Oops. Nevertheless, I hadn’t seen dinosaurs hunting humans for awhile so this was new to me.
Steven Spielberg is tied to this project, but I was pretty disappointed with the result. The pacing and dialogue was cheesy – not in a way that dumbs it down for little kids watching (why would they want to watching scary dino hunt scenes I’m not sure) but just not well written. Honestly, you’re watching this movie for dinosaurs and not the cast or story. There’s a dino-trainer aspect in this movie, and for a minute I thought I would be watching Rampage again, unfortunately without The Rock, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. Also, I can’t stop wondering why Star Lord is chasing dinosaurs.
With this, I’ve had my dino fix for awhile. I would give this movie two out of five stars.
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.