Movies

The Gray Man

I’ve been looking forwards to this one for some time, since the movie’s promotional team shared pictures on Reddit. Ryan Gosling as our titular character, a man that’s 007, Jason Bourne, and John Wick all rolled into one. The unstoppable action hero. I love these kinds of movies because you hold no fear for the main character, and you just wanna see the level of carnage that they’re capable of in their quest. And the action sequences do not disappoint.

Ana De Armas was equally capable and badass in her role, as CIA agent Miranda, helping our lead to achieve his goals. In fact, the star studded cast helped elevate this movie especially when it came to our villain. Played excellently as a sociopath, Chris Evans, in a stark contrast to the goody two shoes we know him from in Marvel, was a delight. I enjoyed seeing him playing a bad guy. Hope he tries it out more. The weakest link for me was the agency chief, played by Rege-Jean Page. At no point did he come across as menacing, or coldly intelligent, or anything remotely to a serious villain. He felt like a joke amongst all the rest of them, a complete miscast. I kept waiting for the zinger which never arrived.

Oh, a special shoutout to the character of Lone Wolf played by Dhanush. It’s always fun to see a character that has honor, and scruples. I could see them making a movie outta his character.

The plot itself lends itself a few twists and turns to keep things interesting, and inventive action sequences – at times. Like the tram sequence, I particularly enjoyed when our lead used the reflections of the building to aim his shot. Plenty of scenes can be seen in a humorous light, especially with the quips coming from both hero and villain. The music wasn’t anything special, except for the usage of the song ‘Silver Bird’ in two action sequences. That was nice.

My only major gripe is showing the one torture scene with a bit of explicit detail. That had no reason to be there other than to showcase gore. You can heavily imply what is being done without actually showing the damage through the creative use of angles. Honestly, I just closed my eyes while exclaiming “ah fuck off, Russo bros”. That scene was purely for shock value. Added nothing that you didn’t learn immediately in the next scene. “Oh, why are the bad guys showing up here? Ah, yes, clearly the torture worked. So why the fuck did I have to be witness to that?” Oh and, Joe Russo once again putting himself into his movies, as a small role, don’t think I didn’t notice ya buddy.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie except for that one gripe. I loved the charisma that Ryan Gosling always brings to the table. The fierceness of Ana De Armas. The quips of Chris Evans. It is an enjoyable Friday night movie for me. Netflix has finally put out an action movie that has a pulse. I didn’t think it possible, yet here we are.

TV Shows

Stranger Things Season 4

Having just finished the 7th episode, I like how everything came together before we get the last two episodes by July 1st. There was emotional satisfaction and payoffs, and we can see where the show will go next. Each episode felt like a movie in its own right, especially that seventh one coming in 1hr40mins long. The production value was top-notch, and it was clear to see that the Duffer Brothers had put long hours of thought into it. The level of care and detail, and overlapping themes while bringing attention to the earlier seasons was nothing short of a masterstroke.

This season parallels the themes and plot of the first, with Eleven having to come into being her own person. And acquiring super powers. The big bad was well established early on, with clues being feed dripped slowly to uncover its true identity. The horror was on point, with both the supernatural and that of a mob mentality – especially that of narrow-minded, religious small towns. It didn’t shy away from showing the brutality of it all; of dead children, traitors in both US and Russia – the torture that accompanies both sides, and the grotesque nature of the monsters.

The acting was excellent as usual from these group of kids… well now, teens or young adults. Some seem to have grown up faster than the rest, like Lucas. Though that’s probably due to him being older than the others playing his friends. I enjoyed David Harbour’s performance the best, as the grizzled American prisoner in a Russian gulag. And I liked the actor playing the guard turned friend, Tom Wlaschiha as Antonov.

The electronic synth soundtrack was a joy to my ears, being a fan of that genre. It added well to the immersion factor of the 80s we’ve come to know for Stranger Things. Costume design was on point as well.

Overall, I quite liked this season. They tuned down the Russians from being the bad guys to merely being the opposition that happens to exist in their world. The bad guys are established this time around as some evil entity from the Upside Down dimension, and the US general hunting down Eleven and the scientists helping her. There is a lot of various political messages I could probably get into, but I’d rather not. I turned off my brain mostly, and enjoyed this fantasy sci-fi horror show. I’m excited for the end.

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 Tetsurō 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

Black Crab

I went blind into this movie because I saw Noomi Rapace. I’ve always enjoyed her performances of a stoic tough warrior with a softer side, sometimes motherly. This fit the bill. She stars as Caroline Edh, a young mother turned soldier in a future war that sees prolonged conflict. The enemy’s nationality unknown. She’s recruited for a mission along with several others to deliver a cargo to friendlies deep behind enemy lines with the special premise of having to skate under cover of darkness across an icy archipelago.

The tension was taut throughout the movie, as the party navigated the dangers of their journey. And the story seemed to run its natural course when I noticed there was still 35 mins left in the movie. I wondered what it could do, where it could take us and I was happily surprised in the direction it did take. In today’s political times, it was rather refreshing (more on that in the spoilers blurb). The action had me on the edge of my seat because it felt like the characters were fighting against the rising tide. Sounds of gunfire, and ice cracking with the wind whistling about, the sense of cold desolation came across well.

Noomi Rapace did an excellent job, and during an emotional scene in the later half, she pulled me right in. I couldn’t help but tear up alongside her. Jakob Oftebro followed her lead in that regard. With the portrayal of his character, of a soldier haunted with leadership and the knowledge that comes with it. The rest of the party played to their roles well, as the sniper, the medic, and the inevitable ‘not an idiot on purpose’ soldier.

Overall, I loved the movie. The soundtrack had a futuristic vibe to it, tense when needed, played with your heart, and pumped it up when necessary. I recommend it!

Spoilers

I knew as soon as I finished watching this movie that other reviews will call it poor timing, bland, and a tasteless depiction of war. Some might draw a direct comparison to the recent war in the western media’s eyes, like the refugee camps near the start of the film. They might consider that because the enemy is nameless that it makes the whole conflict not have any impact. They’re missing the point. The bad guys in the movie, the antagonists, were not the invading force but the defending nation. They were going to use biological weapons regardless of the cost on human life. And having a defending nation be the bad guys in a movie was very refreshing. Too often the aggressor is depicted as evil, and rumor and propaganda run rampant. The movie also depicted the defending military using backhanded methods such as lying about a child’s location to a mother to motivate her, or lying to their soldiers that locations have been bombed. They need soldiers focused for their war, properly motivated through manipulation. That is a very brave outlook to show in a movie with the recent turmoil in the political climate.

TV Shows

All of Us Are Dead

Another fresh entry in the South Korean zombie genre, ALL OF US ARE DEAD, is an interesting ride into the eyes and perspectives of a group of teenagers trapped at ground zero of a zombie incursion. I would say it’s a clever take on the zombie virus but 28 days later already came up with such an idea, and executed it much better. This was a deceptive coming of age tale hidden inside a zombie apocalypse, a primary reason being that it was created to stop bullying inside the school system. One of the evil zombies is a bully, and harassed the main party over and over until finally meeting their demise. Then there’s the clichés and clique, jocks and nerds, rich vs poor, all the fun stuff of school life in South Korea.

It was twelve episodes long and I felt it was just enough, it was starting to teeter on exhausting. There’s only so much snarling, screaming, chewing, and all around horrible sounds one can take. And in so many inventive ways before it all starts to numb and blur together. The acting was fun because not all of the actors were recognizable, some I knew from before but for the most part, they were new to me. And everyone did a fantastic job, especially the actress that played the evil rich bitch, that was a particularly fine performance – actress Lee Yoo-mi, recognizable from Squid Game. The special effects team and stunts deserve a callout when making zombie shows, they did a great job making the gore avert my eyes from the screen.

Not much I have to say about this, nothing really morally beautiful, or hidden here. No deeper meanings, even though it did try hard to create some. To be better and kind to each other in dark times. But I mean, that should be a given. Characters in the show asked, who would make such a crazy world? Well, how about the author designs a zombie show where the enemy is the zombies, and they don’t empower the bullies with even more capabilities to spread harm. Because it was really neat to see a show embrace having to establish a dedicated spot to relieve themselves, so a show focused on survival would have had more impact than sprinkling it in lightly over the plot. And yes, so many character deaths were obvious, and served the sole purpose to push the plot action forward, while taking cheap shots of emotional manipulation at the audience. Yes, let’s connect the paternal figure with child that’s been longing after them just long enough to develop a bond in the viewer’s eyes. To let them identify with a very human emotion before we kill him off violently, and incredibly needlessly, coupled with stupidity. If you’re gonna T-Rex some zombies with a flare, you have plenty of time to escape a closed space and run away while tossing them.

Overall, if you like zombies, you’ll like this.