Movies

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

This is the rare example of a near perfect video game adaptation. It is full of references or Easter eggs to the games, while staying faithful to the lore already established. Any deviations add to the story rather than take away. At its core, it’s a kids movie through and through. With plenty of toilet humor, and lots of strong family values. Yes, the final act was a CGI extravaganza like most Marvel movies but Sega and Paramount spared no expenses. There were no moments of extremely dubious graphics; everything was gorgeously rendered.

The story, this time around, is that Dr. Robotnik (played masterfully by Jim Carrey) has returned to earth with the help of an echidna named Knuckles to seek a powerful artifact capable of turning thought into reality. Sonic teams up with newcomer Tails, a gadget tinkering fox to stop them. Along the way, we see many adorable references to the games themselves, jokes rife with current popular actors and media, and some good ole fashioned family values. Sonic, himself, grows as both a character and a burgeoning hero and in a rare twist, shows that absolute power doesn’t have to corrupt.

Jim Carrey delightfully steals the show as the egotistical megalomaniac Dr. Robotnik. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be watching. He is an absolute treat to behold, and watching his performance I felt a nostalgia for him to return. To see his old characters again, to re-watch his performances. I hope he returns for the third movie despite his wish to retire from acting. It just wouldn’t be the same without him. Ben Schwartz as Sonic was okay, same with Idris Elba as Knuckles. As voice actors, there’s not much those two could do. Idris Elba especially felt wasted here, and I feel like they should have gone with actual voice actors instead. Like they did with Tails using the game’s voice actress, Colleen O’Shaughnessey. James Marsden did a great job again playing Tom, Sonic’s friend and parental figure. There was a nice comedic turn from Shemar Moore, wasn’t expecting him in the movie so that was a nice delight.

Overall, I highly recommend this movie to kids and adults that have grown up on the Sonic games. It’ll scratch your itch for a proper video game adaptation, and there’s plenty of re-watching available to try and catch all the Easter Eggs/references with your kids.

Movies

Otherlife

This movie is truly about the helplessness, and hopelessness that comes with fighting against a corporation that’s stolen your life’s work. How you’re driven mad, and gaslit in every corner. It’s about the pitfalls of technology, specifically about virtual reality. Black Mirror had an episode that was similar to this. This is the story of a young woman trying to save her brother’s mind – he’s trapped in a coma caused by drowning during an excursion with the two of them together. Expanding upon her father’s technology, she tries to devise a way that’ll work but she needs funding. So she partners up, but fails to consider that power corrupts absolutely. She ends up imprisoned by the very system she created to help save lives.

For an indie budget film, this movie has a better sense of scale and production value than most high budget Hollywood films. It has crafted a terrifying world where you can’t even trust your own reality. Not much different than today’s world, I suppose. The twists and turns keep you on your feet, and even my own above description of events betrays the reality of the movie. The only constant that is true is the danger of virtual reality that modifies time. The ending was satisfying, and provided emotional release from the suffocating feeling that the movie encapsulated.

Jessica De Gouw was excellent in the lead role, and very easily carried the movie. T.J. Power was equally as good as the partner seduced by the wealth and power that comes from owning a company on the forefront of new technology. His smarmy portrayal provided just the right touch between someone that seems trusting and simultaneously an asshole. The music added to the overall feeling of constant uneasiness and worry.

Overall, it was quite a good science fiction thriller. I’m loving these Australian films, and I look forward to more. I recommend this movie.

Movies

Bubble

This Japanese animated film caught my eye due to the vibrant color scheme of the animations itself. I felt drawn in, and I knew I had to watch it. Produced by Wit Studio, and directed by TetsurĊ Araki (known for the Death Note series, and seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan), it is a beautifully written story about love. In an alternative world, where gravity defying bubbles have rained down across the earth. One day in Tokyo, some sort of explosion happens which leaves the city enclosed in a giant bubble – cut off from the world. The city ends up abandoned, and children and teens move in to live because they don’t want to live in the outside world. Here they come up with a series of games that utilizes parkour which basically establishes order in the decaying city.

Our protagonist, Hibiki, is a young man who was present at the site of the initial explosion and competes with his team, blue blaze, in the parkour tournaments. A chance of fate, or a predestined outcome has him come face to face with a girl with mysterious powers. Together they embark on a journey into the human condition. It was simply beautiful to watch it all unfold. Loosely based upon “The Little Mermaid”, it has clear moments of genuine soul. The mysterious girl, Uta, changes his life for the better but like in ‘The Little Mermaid’, we can expect some sort of heartbreak. Yet, it isn’t ugly. It is an understandable loss, but with it comes an understanding for life. The cycle of it. Death and rebirth.

The story had hints of philosophical musings, and it was pleasant to finally see some sort of alien life that was truly unique. The animation was gorgeous, and I never felt like it was bad or unnerving (unlike Attack on Titan). The soundtrack was excellent, and I loved the singing from Uta and how it incorporated itself into the music.

Overall, I highly recommend this Japanese animated film. It is worth the watch, even if there won’t be repeated views. It’s one of those stories that you watch once, and it leaves you pondering the human condition; the human heart. What does it mean to feel loss? What does it mean to love?

Movies

Russian Raid

This is one of those action movies where the story is not the focal point, just an element to carry the action from one scene to the next. Given that, there is a message to be found buried underneath the superbly executed fight sequences and action choreography. About honor, soldiering, and the deep corruption that can be found in both military and police. That the only answer to such crime is to take it out by the root, killing it at its core.

I loved the frenetic combat, both close quarters hand to hand and gun action. Everything carried weight, and felt almost real. Like Ong-Bak, I wouldn’t put it past these Russian stuntmen that some got too into it. Some of those hits didn’t look like they were pulled. It was glorious. The inclusion of the track suit gangsters was great, and they provided mild comedic relief at the absurdity of some of the situations. And in the end, there is even a sense of honor and loyalty amongst hoodlums. The soundtrack fit in perfectly with the fast paced nature of the fights. The camerawork was top notch, every fight was easy to follow and to see the outcome. No shaky cam here with a thousand rapid cuts. Acting was pretty good all around except for the blond actress, she felt sorely out of place.

Overall, I recommend this action movie. The fights are great to behold, and a good watch for a Saturday night type with the boys.

Movies

The Card Counter

An excellent movie. Goes to show when the material is good, the actor can be good. When the writing is great, everything falls into place. Oscar Isaac was simply gripping in every scene. His performance mesmerizing. He plays a highly controlled man, one of structure and regiment while underneath you can feel a boiling rage. It is a character study into man’s moral responsibilities. Of going down the right paths, and finding redemption wherever it lies. Of the reprehensible acts committed by the American military in the pursuit of “safety”. And it’s all told while playing cards and gambling.

The direction and camerawork was very meaningful, purposeful. Each scene carried a weight to it. The soundtrack was fantastic, and drastically enhanced or added to the mood of the movie. Tiffany Haddish did a good job from her usual comedy routines, and a good job playing it straight. Willem Dafoe is always excellent playing smarmy bad-guys/assholes. And Tye Sheridan is also always on point with his acting. I really felt for his character, trapped in the cycle that abuse brought down on him.

Overall, it was highly enjoyable. A taut tale expertly handled by writer and director Paul Schrader. I’d recommend it.