Movies

The Father Who Moves Mountains

This was an excellent movie, and most of all, not “Americanized”; by which I mean, there was no musclebound steroid hero doing all he can to conquer the mountain. It was a father grieving when his child went missing, in the Carpathians, who used all the resources he could muster, called in every favor owed to him, spent nearly all his wealth in an attempt to locate him. The scenery was breathtaking, and the scale of the mountains humbling. The score conveying a sense of futility, haunting the viewer, always present in the background and coming to the forefront in pivotal scenes.

The main character, the hero so to speak, is a flawed man. He’s no Stallone on the mountain. He left his wife for a younger woman, abandoning his son in the process to start a new life. He seemingly cares little for others, only concerned in getting his son back. There’s a bit of corruption at play with the military favors he’s called in. As time passes, and his resources dwindle, we can see that he starts to go through the five stages of grief. We, the viewers, experience this emotional gauntlet alongside him. He vehemently denies when the experts tell him to wait for spring. He gets angry at those that helped, even when they nearly lost their lives to the mountain. He bargains with anyone that will listen, offering money. When those close to him start to leave, and he sees others mourning his son, sadness hits him. And at the end, we start to see a glimpse of his acceptance and the movie ends.

The acting was well done, and every character was believable, and very human. This is how things would go in a similar situation. Naturally not everyone is well off enough to use the same means he did, but if you had the means, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to see your child returned?

I recommend this movie. It’s a powerful tale of the lengths parents would go for their children. In that sense, a very human story. Glad that Netflix added it.

Movies

Kate

Yet another John Wick attempt at mimicry that fails in its execution and delivery. Kate stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the titular character, who is an assassin for an organization led by Woody Harrelson. When she botches her latest job, she quickly realizes she’d been poisoned and has roughly 24 hours left to live. What follows is her rampage across Tokyo looking for the party responsible, and along the way, she earns redemption for a previous job that left a young girl fatherless.

The action is great in one sequence, at a geisha residence, with frankly, gory scenes of knife play. Everything beyond that scene is boring at best. John Wick’s gunfu worked because it was established that this is an entire universe of assassins, so in Kate, to have the bad guys try and do it, is hilarious. Sure, it’s fine for her to do it. She’s been trained since a young age. Everyone else should employ some sort of tactical sense, hide behind cover, shoot from cover. Not let’s have everyone stand in a line, while smoke comes, and there’s lasers on our guns to give off a stylish vibe. Most scenes are like this. Should we have proper gunplay? Nah, let’s go with style over function every single time. Hey, I’m a visual effects artist, I know what I’m doing as director (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan).

Despite Mary Elizabeth Winstead giving it her best – and her acting was the best part of the movie – the horrendous screenplay and direction could not save it this from being trash. The writer is one Umair Aleem, responsible for the other hot garbage movie called Extraction (Bruce Willis one). So much needless swearing, in both English and Japanese. The fight sequences lacking any knowledge of tactics, and just silly posing with guns all around. I skipped ahead using Netflix’s 10 seconds feature many times because it was simply a bore.

I don’t recommend this. Show Netflix they have got to stop dropping money on trash. Just skip it.

Movies

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

To preface my criticisms of the movie, I thoroughly enjoyed the big action set pieces and the fight/stunt choreography is well deserving of an Oscar or some other big name award. The martial art sequences are clear and easy to follow, and it just gives you a sense of “wow!” The acting itself is well done, and especially Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as Xu Wenwu. His eyes had more emotion conveyed than most of the rest of the cast. Awkwafina also deserves a shoutout for finally being in a movie and not being totally annoying. And our main star, Simu Liu, bridging that gap between martial arts and acting, reminds me of Donnie Yen, I look forward to seeing more of him in the coming years.

Here’s my faults with it. Story is incredibly simple and follows the marvel formula to a T. Kevin Feige clearly has these screenwriters follow a guideline/stylebook. There’s like no deviation from the path. Must have a bad guy which isn’t the main bad guy, who is being manipulated by the real baddie. Must have the solo movie of a hero end in a giant CGI fest of a fight. Need a quirky yet comedic best friend to be the character lens for the audience to slowly understand what’s going on. There’s probably a few more, but that’s off the top of my head based on recent movies (Thor, Black Panther, Spiderman, Doctor Strange) – to name a few. Imagine an original storyline without the need to have these checkmark plot points for a marvel movie. That would be the future.

Those minor grievances aside in regards to plot, this is one hell of a September movie and deserves all the praise coming its way. I wish nothing but the best of luck to all responsible in the creation of this majestic martial arts comic book movie. If there’s one movie you want to watch in theaters, that would benefit immensely from a large screen and booming sound, it’s this one. I recommend it!

Movies

The Dead Don’t Die

Aka let me beat you over the head repeatedly, starting with the very first scene, about my social commentary on how people are mindless, soulless consumers. Which is severely ironic given that the movie itself is as soulless, and mindless as it gets. There isn’t a single redeeming quality to this movie other than casting several well known actors/actresses. Director and writer Jim Jarmusch has lost his touch. His last good movie that I enjoyed was back in 1999 with Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, and his obsession with samurai swords (katanas) makes a resurgence in this movie.

The jokes fall flat, the social and environmental commentary is so hammered in, it starts to get contrived. The fourth wall scenes are uninspired and that ending is just atrocious. Everyone in the movie felt like they were simply there for a quick paycheck, just going through the motions. If you think to yourself, “Oh, Adam Driver and Bill Murray, this looks fun.” Don’t. Full stop. Back out and watch anything else.

Overall, I simply don’t have anything nice to say about this movie. Too bad you can’t burn it after viewing. I want nearly 2 hours of my life back. Hard pass, do not recommend it at all.

Movies

The Old Ways

I’m always wary of supernatural horror involving exorcism and demons because such a subject matter is not be taken lightly. There is magic involved in invoking such things. Most people might not believe in such superstitions but for those that do, this movie does an excellent job at treating such ways with respect. The story unfolds in the midst of things, without a huge exposition dump, and lets the viewer try and piece things together. It’s about a woman, an American reporter, who comes to Veracruz to explore a lost culture. She ends up in the care of a bruja, a witch, who sees in her something that others do not. A demonic entity.

I liked this movie because it did not rely on jump scares, like most cheaply made horrors do. It uses imagery of tribal ways, of an older culture, to invoke a sense of mystery. The fear is a slow build up, and once things get under way, you are no longer scared but empowered against it. My hands were pools of sweat watching, but it wasn’t an outright fear, it was insidious. The character goes through a transformation, both physical and mental. She becomes a better person by the end. The acting was well done, maybe a little bit of a cheesy line here and there but nothing serious to detract from the story. I loved the camerawork, the out of focus shots to hide things in the background and to bring things to the forefront. With action primarily taking place in one location, the movie relied on the strength of the actors. Brigitte Kali Canales in the lead role was believable, and I enjoyed watching her go through denial before finally accepting that things are this way. This is how they’ve always been. Julia Vera as the bruja had an aura around her, you felt safe whenever she was on screen. Sal Lopez as the son of the bruja gave that feeling of a fatherly character, another to feel safe with. And Andrea Cortez as the cousin of the reporter did a good enough job, though a couple times, there was a little bit of a continuation error with her character but ultimately nothing too distracting.

Overall, I enjoyed it and I do recommend it if you’re in the market for some exorcism, demons, and confronting old wounds and healing them.