Movies

The Yin Yang Master: Dream of Eternity

Mild Spoilers Throughout

To preface my review: I understand the philosophical waxing and poetry of the notion of love portrayed in the movie but be that as it may, it is a convoluted mess. The story in its infancy is about an evil immortal serpent that is born out of the desires of humans, namely that of greed. Every few decades it returns to attempt to feed on the world, and 4 masters of various magical arts must come together to defeat the serpent’s physical body. The main character is the one of the title, the Yin Yang master, Qing Ming (Mark Chao). His fellow acquaintance and eventual friend is Bo Ya (Allen Deng). At first, these two are at odds with each other due to their differing viewpoints on demons but they gain a sense of camaraderie during this adventure. Their companionship is one of the philosophical points on love; that is, love for your fellow man and friends – a bromance if you will.

The second point of love, is that of eternal love. In that aspect, it is the love the empress holds. However her body is the vessel for the evil snake spirit and since desires feed that entity, she must be without love. Yet in the end, it is that love which frees the snake because she could not let it go. The way I saw it, was that her love was a toxic kind that only ruins herself and those around her.

This movie was directed and written by Jingming Guo, and while there was some good direction, it is painful to see that there is blatant copying of another movie. Dr. Strange from Marvel was clearly taken for inspiration from, and given the director’s previous problems with plagiarism, it kind of feels like that happened here. The use of hands to create eerily similar portals, down to the orange color and effects is a little bit too on the nose. That aside, the CGI was very well done despite adding little to the story and often had it feel like I was watching a live action anime rather than an original story based on a novel. The acting of the two main characters was good, and everyone else felt bland or fell flat. One character, central to the love plot, He Shouyue, felt like nothing but a pretty face and body. At 132 mins long, I was bored. Some moments did captivate me due to the sheer spectacle and fantastical nature of it all. What really excelled though was the score. Absolutely loved it! Oriental music with traditional instruments and hints of electric guitar. Got the blood pumping during certain action scenes.

Overall, it’s worth a watch but you’d be terribly bored upon a re-watch with friends. You’ll find yourself going “huh?” a lot but in the latter half and ending, it clears it all up. Though I can’t say I recommend watching it despite just saying it’s worth a watch. Up to you.

Final note: one scene straight had an angel with a fiery sword battling a snake. Oh hey, creation myth much, Uriel anyone? Cherub angel with a flame sword, nice inspiration.

Movies

Space Sweepers

A South Korean science fiction epic about humanity in the distant future where the Earth has been ravaged by acidic soil turning the planet into a hazardous, poisonous wasteland. The elites of humanity live in orbit around the planet in habitation stations that are protected by domes which allow for artificial gravity and the possibility for air, water, and plants. 95% of the human population is trapped on the dying earth, while a corporation known as UTS controls who lives in orbit and for the eventual colonization of Mars which has been turned into a tropical utopia via a genetically enhanced super tree known as the Tree of Life. The founder and creator of these inventions is James Sullivan (Richard Armitage), a 152 year old megalomaniac, who has his own misguided views on what it means to be a good human being.

The rest of humanity that lives in orbit but not as a part of the habitation stations, live in squalor and are subject to ridicule and being poor. They find jobs as space sweepers; that is, they have their own ships acquired through loans (debt on debt), and collect space debris for recycling to earn what little money they can. The story focuses on one such crew, on a ship called The Victory, with Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), pilot Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), mechanic and engineer Tiger Park (Seon-kyu Jin), and a robot called Bubs (Hae-Jin Yoo). Each one of these characters has their own little story that is revealed through the 136 minute adventure, some being tragic and some not, but overall, human stories. The crew comes across a 7 year old child (Ye-Rin Park) who is a wanted bounty by the UTS corporation. Hoping to score some money by ransoming her back, the crew of the Victory find themselves in a fight for the future of humanity.

I really enjoyed the philosophical debates and pandering found throughout the movie, especially when the main villain, Sullivan, would preach about greed yet failing to acknowledge how he himself is just as fallible. The use of mass media to disillusion and manipulate the population to further the whims of the UTS corporation hits a little too close to home and current events. The divide between the rich and the poor, and the visual representation of dirty folks versus clean, or having broken down shoes, is also quite relevant. Despite being set in the not too distant future, the idea that these issues would still remain has been long engrained in the minds of many writers and helps ground the story. Some of the events and technology that exists in the movie is straight up fantasy and the story gets around that by stating that it can’t be explained by anyone and that it just is. At its basic core, the movie is about different people coming together, of all nations, and working to achieve unity and peace while being beset by those that wish to covet power all to themselves. It’s about a family of misfits putting aside their differences to save the life of a child, and in turn, save themselves from their past misdeeds.

The CGI was phenomenal, and I really enjoyed the action scenes in space. In one particular battle scene, near the end, my mind went to the recent season of the Expanse and I couldn’t help but think how that show failed miserably to convey any sense of action or ship battles – and Amazon supposedly supplied it with a larger budget, ha! Anyways, Space Sweepers, is a thoroughly enjoyable ride and for being the first Korean space blockbuster, it is quite a good start. Some minor nitpicks here and there, like some of the actors or actresses felt like they were plucked from the street, but it’s all good. I recommend watching it, and I hope to see more science fiction movies like this from South Korea.

Movies

Chick Fight

What a colossal waste of time! An absolute steaming pile of garbage writing; it’s like the writer decided to take a look at all the tropes he (Joseph Downey) could find, put in them in a hat and then pulled them out at random and wrote around that. You’ve got your morbidly obese, sassy black woman that is also a lesbian (Dulce Sloan), you got your down on her luck and severe money issues main character (Malin Akerman), a stereotypically and overtly flamboyant gay man (Alec Mapa) with his just out of the closet partner (Kevin Nash), and a villain that’s mean for the sake of being mean but secretly applauds the main character for their attained skills (Bella Thorne). We also have the love interest who happens to be a sibling of one of the other characters and is a doctor (Kevin Connolly), and we have the coach that trains the main character with unorthodox methods (Alec Baldwin).

The plot is also very simple, main character is on the brink of bankruptcy and discovers a fight club run by her sassy, fat black friend who also happens to be a cop. She joins said fight club which is revealed to have been founded by her mom who was a therapist and all the members of said club are her patients. Legality aside, how very silly. Colorful language aplenty with sexual jokes that fall flat and are cringeworthy, are sprinkled numerously throughout. The so-called unorthodox training methods employed by her coach are downright stupid and harmful to the idea of boxing and MMA in general. It’s like zero research was done into how actual boxing works, and how people actually fight. The writer wrote it off the top of his head based upon movies that have long since deteriorated in his imagination.

The acting is the only thing its got going for it, nothing was particularly horrible except for Bella Thorne. She was a disaster, and very obvious that this was nothing more than a paycheck with zero acting required – walk in, say your lines, step out when the stuntwoman is doing her thing and come back. Also Malin Akerman has fallen so low, a long way from Watchmen and it’s like she’s trying to stay relevant even if it means that people are lamenting how bad this movie is. Alec Baldwin has entered the realm of Bruce Willis and friends, he’s clearly here cause the pay was enticing enough to spend a couple weeks in Puerto Rico. Dulce Sloan wasn’t even funny, every single one of her jokes was like nails on a chalkboard. She was just agonizing to watch. I don’t even know why Kevin Nash was in this movie.

I do have to say that I applaud the stuntwomen and stunt work in this movie, they clearly tried the hardest out of everyone here. They outdid all the actors and actresses, the director, and soundtrack and even the cinematography, and especially the writer – it’s like the man had no experience with girls in his entire life. I don’t even understand who greenlit this movie, even less so who decided to throw money on it. Is it so hard to invest or spend money on, I don’t know… a good idea maybe? Just a thought for next time.

Do not pass go. Do not waste your time on this movie. Just kindly avoid it as best as possible. Show Amazon or whoever has it that it doesn’t deserve any effort or time spent on it. I would rather recommend you play some solitaire and then go to sleep early than this. Hard pass.

Movies

We can be Heroes

Robert Rodriguez is back with another story set within the universe he created with Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and it is definitely not a movie for adults or teens. It is made for children and it shows. I, myself, was bored to tears but I could see how a child would thoroughly enjoy the spectacle. The only high quality that was to be found here was the casting of Priyanka Chopra and Pedro Pascal, both of whom helped elevate what little there was to feel like something more than a Saturday morning cartoon. A lot of the movie was referencing the Avengers, down to the giant ‘H’ on the hero’s headquarters’ building instead of a giant ‘A’ and the fact that alien invaders came to destroy earth. Even the disharmony amongst the adult heroes was reminiscent of the recent marvel movies.

The good part was the moral message repeated throughout, that only by teamwork and working together with the people alongside you can you succeed. Also that by believing in yourself and others believing in you, can you succeed in whatever you excel at. The ending was particularly nice and an enjoyable twist on an otherwise formulaic story. The powers of the parents and of the children was zany to say the least, and a couple of them had some original powers but for the most part, the powers are what viewers have been conditioned to enjoy by various comic book industries. The acting itself was good overall, the children were fine in their respective roles with the exception of the child that played the character known as facemaker. He was lacking but I imagine it was more to do with the simplicity of the script and the writing.

Overall, it’s a great movie for kids to watch and enjoy with their parents though they might not be as entertained as their children would be. The special effects were nothing good or particularly flashy, but served enough to establish the events that unfolded. As an adult, I’ll be honest, Priyanka Chopra was all that kept me going in watching. She’s undeniably beautiful and was a treat to watch.

Movies

Outside the Wire

Major spoilers ahead

This is one of those movies immediately off the bat you can tell it’s gonna be a propaganda puff piece for the US military. And off the bat, a movie about how the Balkans are a volatile mix of nations that breed violence. To that end, it starts the movie off about how war has broken loose in the Ukraine and that a violent warlord controls an army intend on establishing new relations with Russia and that the US is sent in as peacekeepers. The irony of that word is incredibly rich, “peacekeepers” as if bombing nations and homes, families and friends, is a way to keep peace. The movie starts off with our lead character, Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris), a drone pilot that disobeys chain of command to bomb a vehicle involved in a firefight with US soldiers that results in the loss of life for two men. He is disciplined for his actions and sent to the frontline to see the results of his work first-hand. There he is paired up with Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie) to complete a mission past the demilitarized zone, starting with delivering vaccines in exchange for intel. Their real mission is stop former Russian nukes from falling into the hands of the warlord and his men.

This movie takes place in 2036, and with it being science fiction, the US military also employs the use of robots called gumps to help establish order. Our dear Captain Leo is shown to be an android himself on a top secret mission. The ending of the movie happens so abruptly and it completely throws every message the movie was trying to portray and be critical of, into the trash. There were some good topics discussed and some real attempts at trying to be outside the box, however despite its namesake, Outside the Wire fails to do that. The message it was trying to state is that all lives matter, and that we should have compassion for humanity and those trying to survive even if they might be our enemy. It says that the US is stuck in a never-ending cycle of war that it itself perpetuates and that the only way to stop the cycle is to show there are real consequences to the actions of the military.

Here follow major spoilers

To that end of the above, the android known as Captain Leo wishes to use the nukes and bomb the mainland US to show the military that creating a fully autonomous AI and android only continues the cycle of war. When you create machines to fight machines, there is no humanity left in it. This is where I say in regards to the ending, that those involved with this movie, the director and producers, they took the cowardly way out. The movie should have ended with the nukes launched and on their way to the US mainland. Harp would have been arrested for insubordination again, and before the military realized he was doing so for the right reason, that it would be too late. Instead, he miraculously shows up to the command center for the nukes in time despite having a severe time disadvantage and despite being choked out by Captain Leo, manages to stop him, and destroy the nukes. Then he drives back to the base and starts walking back when the credits roll.

Some additional problems with the story are that drone operators are shown to be cold, and heartless at what they do. So when Harp sees first-hand the devastation that is wrought by the bombs dropped by drones, he is heartbroken at such chaos. Yet, what saves the day, is a drone dropping another bomb. Talk about a conflicting message. There is a scene near the middle where Harp is being interrogated by a resistance leader, and she reveals that she knows what Captain Leo is up to and that the US military deserves to know that their lives can be collateral as well. That their bombs injure far more than the target they aim for. Yet, again, the ending dismisses that notion and firmly shows that all that matters are US lives, that American lives are worth more than other life. Like I said at the start, this is a puff piece for American propaganda.

Spoilers done

As for the acting itself, it was okay. Anthony Mackie shows that he still can’t be taken seriously as an action star, that he lacks charisma and that intimidation factor. I used to think that it was the script, due to his previous works, but I can see I was mistaken. It’s him, he does not have that spark. Damson Idris was alright at being an idealist soldier, a drone pilot that knows little at how an actual battlefield is like compared to his cushy life behind a screen. The supporting cast were mere caricatures of a Colonel or a Sergeant, of a resistance leader, an arms dealer, and a warlord. The action itself was very well done and were the only interesting parts that kept the story moving forwards. It’s clear that John Wick has had quite the effect on action movies and their stunt work with combat.

I’m on the fence with this movie. On the one hand, the science fiction part of it is a bit intriguing and the action itself is very good and satisfying. On the other hand, it’s quite clearly nothing more than your usual Netflix American propaganda. I can’t recommend it but if you got nothing better to do, and want to see some action, leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride. You’ll not remember it in a few days.