Movies

Extraction

This is how you make a movie about rival drug dealers kidnapping children and the attempt to save them without appearing that you have an agenda against them. Not Rambo Last Blood, a racist fueled exploitation flick. One should take notes on how to make violence tasteful without appearing, as I said, racist. Enough about Rambo Last Blood, this movie is called Extraction and it stars Chris Hemsworth as a mercenary with nothing left to lose. Who takes up a suicide mission to save a drug crime lord’s son from a rival drug lord. Story takes place in Mumbai and Dhaka. Scenery is chewed through by the explosive, frenetic yet easily followed action and set pieces. All the close combat action is well shot and easy to follow. And never did I feel that it was over the top, or that our hero had an extreme hatred for his enemies (ok last time I mention Rambo).

It was a well crafted story that managed to bring some layers to our otherwise static hero vs villain tale. All the characters in such a story are never given enough time to flesh them out and make them feel real. At most, we can identify with our main and see the layers unfold for them. Here we saw that not just our hero is layered, but that his enemies and allies are as well. They managed to make them human, like “somebody’s father” and that is what makes them more compelling to watch. I like knowing my hero’s story, knowing whether they’re tortured by their past, or that they love their son very much but cannot be there for them. I like knowing my villain is a true piece of work, who has no qualms about killing children to achieve his goals. These moments of humanizing the characters to be more than pieces on a chess board, is what helps elevate this movie beyond a simple action tale. There is a message here to be found, even if it may be masked slightly. And what I took away, is that a child’s life is worth saving even if the parents might not be. That although we may run away to escape our problems, eventually those problems will return to haunt us in another shape until we finally face it head on. Until we are free of our demons, and have learned to accept them, we cannot find peace.

Beneath the violence and action that encompasses this movie, there is a surprising humanity and soul to it all. I’d definitely recommend this movie for a watch. If nothing else, you’ll be left entertained. It reminded me of Tears of the Sun. Another movie well worth the watch.

Movies

The Platform

I was repeatedly sought to see this movie for it had a message akin to Joker or so I was so told. Joker was subtle and insidious. This movie beat you over the head every 10 minutes, and not kindly too. I would equate it to torture porn. Wholeheartedly unneeded, and left a bitter viewing experience. I had to mute and block much of the screen, reading only the subtitles at times.

The worst part is you could see the disgusting violence that was about to happen long before it did, therefore why would the movie continue to actually show it for such an extent? It can’t be to reiterate its message that the world is currently run in a such a manner that those who are wealthier leave naught but scraps for those that are poorer while both sets are led astray by the owners of such a system. To show extreme violence with the sole purpose of violence is unsavory. If you can heavily imply the violence, there is no need to explicitly show it. Unless you’re going for shock value; at which point, you’re devaluing your external message. This isn’t John Wick or some other revenge fantasy. This is one of those attempted allegorical art house films. Be tasteful with the gore and violence.

It felt like they were trying to make it feel like Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now with our main character’s descent from a moral and good man into madness and then a moment of redemption. Perhaps that was the purpose they sought with the movie, but I digress. It did not feel that way at all. It felt cheap. Somebody’s idea of prison torture porn.

I’d skip this movie. The amount of symbolism and beating you over the head repeatedly is off-putting, having the main bring the book Don Quixote with him is just… Why don’t you defecate in a character’s mouth while climbing to freedom to further iterate that everything is shit? You wait, you do. I feel bad having Joker even mentioned in this review, it doesn’t deserve such disrespect.

Movies

Code 8

This is a story about superpowers but nobody is a hero. Just regular downtrodden folks albeit powered with abilities trying to etch by an existence. The protagonist is not a hero, he’s a boy trying to eek out a living so he can provide for his ailing, sick mother. The antagonist is your run of the mill gangster trying to sell drugs except he’s got mind reading powers and his bodyguard who can withstand bullets. This gangster is ill and employs a young girl who can heal him because she’s got healing powers.

The opening sequence establishes that New York and America was built by powered folks who are now a minority and are replaced by automation. The powered individuals go to the corner store and wait for a truck to come by who will ask for types of powered folks to help with construction. The similarity here to Mexicans and other minorities is obvious. If the powered individuals can’t find work then they turn to crime to provide for their families. Laws are put into place to further persecute them. The cops treat them as less than human, and are distasteful and outright cruel to them.

The story kicks off when the boy accepts a job from a crew of criminals led by a man who has telekinetic powers, and they themselves run under the leadership of the aforementioned mind reading gangster. The story is dark and depressing and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no happy ending. All the characters are flawed. And for their actions, they have to repent. Either by death or prison. It’s a very sobering view of a potential world. This isn’t Marvel or DC, this is reality and it is unrelenting. While I enjoy some stories not having a happy ending, I feel this is one such tale that would have benefited from such an ending. The powered folks should have revolted back against their oppressive governments and taken a land for themselves. I would have preferred that story.

As for the acting itself, I found that everyone did a good job with what they had to work with except for the lead actor, Robbie Amell. He comes across as feeling like he’s dead in the eyes and kinda lackluster. Whereas his cousin, Stephen Amell – as the telekinetic criminal – is more believable in his emotions. His anger is felt. His charisma shines through. Greg Bryk as the gangster comes off as a slimeball and real prick of a man. These actors become the characters they are trying to play except for Robbie Amell; he feels misplaced. Oh well, he’s got time to improve.

All in all, it’s a good movie and a great story if not a little bit too depressing. The special effects are solid and the forced perspective they used to create drones and robots sometimes suffers from being obvious. I recommend watching this movie, and perhaps they’ll do a sequel to this world they’ve created.

Movies

Rambo: Last Blood

I went into watching this movie expecting violence. What I didn’t expect were the levels of extremity that were shown. It is downright brutal; it is relentless. This is a bleak movie, with no redemption or satisfying end. It is a movie about loss. And frankly, a movie about the blackest of hearts; a movie about pure evil. The villains are the Mexican drug cartels/traffickers. A wretched hive of villainy, completely deplorable scum who, in this movie, deserve everything that happens to them. As John Milius said, “We need to go down there, kill them all, flatten the place with bulldozers so when you wake up in the morning, there’s nothing there. I do believe if you have a military, you use it.”

Rambo: Last Blood takes this idea to heart in its execution. Our titular hero ends up bringing the full weight of one cartel down upon his head, and summarily kills every last one of them. Though this was not without reason or cause: these villains kidnapped, raped, drugged and inevitably killed Rambo’s niece. It is a story about a man who has absolutely nothing left to lose and we are to be witness to his wrath and vengeance. His brutal killings are almost an artform at this point. And his final kill was actually, while gory and nasty, well deserving for its villain. Personally it was over too quick. But I can’t complain. Our protagonist lost his soul, and our antagonist lost his heart. Who really won? Nobody.

My other gripes are several characters are pointless and they only serve to further Rambo’s story. They have no ending or point to their own selves. Such as Paz Vega, a journalist who saves Rambo and provides him with the intel needed to complete his mission of wanton death and destruction. She herself gets no closure or even writes an article. She’s a journalist in name only. The other gripe I have is 70% of the movie is in Spanish. I thought only 20% of Arizona speaks Spanish, yet there’s a disproportionate amount here. Yea, I understand when they’re in Mexico. But why the need to do it in Rambo’s home. Even he, himself, has a look on his face at times that says “please stop speaking in Spanish”.

The start of the movie has Rambo attempting to save lost hikers from a sudden deluge that leads, somehow, to a river flow down a mountain. It’s supposed to serve as a way to illustrate that Rambo still has PTSD from not being able to save lives but just comes across as corny and laughable.

In short, I don’t recommend this movie at all. Take a hard pass. This is a twisted revenge fantasy that should have remained that, a fantasy.

Movies

The Knight Before Christmas

This movie put a smile on my face. The story has been done before: a knight from the past is brought to the future to fulfil his quest, but it manages to capture the spirit of Christmas and about true love. It’s a story about being kind to others, being charitable, and caring. About putting others before yourself. Helping those in need and just being an exemplary human being.

Vanessa Hudgens plays the lead love interest opposite Josh Whitehouse who plays the titular knight. Vanessa did a really good job here with the material and came across as very likeable, and her character felt very real. I connected with her easily and established an emotional response in regards to her character’s journey. Josh did a fine job as well portraying a man lost in time, a man trying to acquaint himself in the time period he now finds himself in. They had very enjoyable chemistry together. I was very happy when they finally kissed. That was another thing I liked: their relationship didn’t feel forced. It felt organic. It blossomed naturally and didn’t feel forced by bad writing.

The side characters were also well done and although they lacked characterization, they did serve to further the character growth of the leads while still feeling like they were their own people. They felt real and not caricatures.

So if you’re looking for a feel-good movie with your significant other, or even by yourself, I’d definitely recommend watching this movie. It was really refreshing to see a movie portray a small town where people care for each other and there was nothing seriously bad or horrible or profanity/violence. I loved it.

Movies

The Wolfman (2010)

The first time I watched this movie was when it was released in theaters. I decided to rewatch it on Netflix, and I can’t believe I went and saw this in theaters. It’s just a mess. There’s good ideas in there but the execution is muddled and just bad. It’s a remake of an older movie of the same name but it takes its plot and butchers it in an attempt to make something new. It starts off so rocky and badly acted, you wonder if it’s a joke. It slowly improves though not by much. You’d think such famous actors would be doing a better job but the fault isn’t theirs alone, the writing is such a letdown.

The plot is standard for a werewolf movie. Man arrives to former home looking for lost brother. Man gets bit investigating supposed werewolf. Man turns into werewolf. Now he’s the one getting investigated. Shenanigans ensue, death happens. The man in question is Lawrence Talbot, son of John Talbot. Lawrence is played by Benicio Del Toro, John is played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, and the widow of the brother is played by Emily Blunt. Both Benicio and Anthony phone it in, they act like they don’t wanna be there, that this is a paycheck and isn’t worth the effort. Emily Blunt, on the other hand, actually tries and her character is the only one to create an emotional response.

The good part of the movie is that the transformation into a werewolf is very well done. The effects were done by Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) and those transformation scenes are about the only true horror in the movie. Every single other bit of horror is a jump scare and after the umpteenth time, it’s just boring and downright lazy. The final “boss fight” was thankfully over quick and the werewolves were easily dispatched.

I’d recommend watching the transformation scenes on YouTube and avoiding this mess of a film. It’s not worth your time.

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.