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

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

The Old Guard

Based on the 5-part graphic novel series of the same name, this movie is a faithful adaptation. In no small part due to the fact that the screenplay is by the same author/creator of the graphic novel series. It is about a group of humans, mercenaries and fighters, that happen to be immortal. They get hired for a mission and everything goes sideways. To say more, would be to spoil what little hidden secrets the movie contains beyond the incredible action sequences.

I was looking forward to this movie for some time after having been made aware of it several months ago. After reading an interview with the lead actor, Charlize Theron, about how reading the source graphic novels resonated with her about her character, I took to reading them too. It’s a world shown without being overtly told how it works. Which is why I enjoyed the movie more; Greg Rucka took his story and added more, explained away some of the mystery and managed to add in a sequel. The source did not, it ended nicely. This added touch allows for the possibility of a franchise. And I, for one, welcome it.

Getting down to the gritty of it, the acting was superb and I especially enjoyed the deliverance of that speech lifted directly from source, by Marwan Kenzari. You’ll know it when you see it. The chemistry between his character and that of Luca Marinelli’s character comes through elegantly and beautifully. Everyone did an amazing job with their characters, breathing life into them. Making them feel real, and a bit more than some of their 2D aspects; they feel fleshed out.

Overall, I loved this movie. I loved the scenery and cinematography, Morocco was used as different locations around the world. And filmed in the UK as well. It was fun to watch, I didn’t really have to think too hard about it. “That way leads to madness” as a character says. The action was clear, and concise. An appropriate level of brutality, and thankfully not as sadistic as parts of the source graphic novel were. I definitely recommend this movie on a Friday night. Hits all the right notes and comes in just around the 2-hour mark in length.

Movies

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

What a lovely family adventure movie! It was so refreshing to watch after many movies filled with profanity, violence and sexuality. I had a smile on my face the entire time, from start to finish. It made you feel good. It made you laugh, a lot. It was just a thoroughly enjoyable movie. That’s rare these days. Even rarer was that the puzzles in the movie were actually well done. Even better than Tomb Raider and that’s saying something.

I’ve never seen Dora, the cartoons, only heard of them. Though I now know what they look like because of a scene in the movie that briefly shows off the animation. Our titular character is played with poise and grace and just phenomenally acted by Isabela Merced (former stage name Moner). She was immediately likeable and you can’t help but smile at her presence on screen. She’s definitely a star. Her costars also deserve praise even if their characters were caricatures. Two of the animals are voiced by well known actors and they’re just great little surprises.

The plot itself is more like magical realism. Yes it takes place in the real world but at the same time, there’s a mysticism to it all. From her companion Boots, to the talking fox named Swiper, and even to the fantastical city of gold that they’re searching for. It’s like the writers were inspired by Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull but they wanted to make a good movie instead. So they nitpicked all the best elements and applied Dora to it.

Several scenes were quite entertaining and sometimes had me in stitches. It was just so funny. The jokes all nail their target audience but there’s also jokes for adults in there. Like the ending with her parents, that was incredibly funny. Speaking of her parents, they were played by Eva Longoria and Michael Peña and both did a good job for the roles they had to play.

I definitely recommend this movie to all ages, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I’d love to watch it again with friends and family.