Movies

The Tomorrow War

With a title such as it is, you’d think it based off a book. It’s an original story, and for that I was thoroughly happy. A couple things were tossed out here and there that led nowhere. Simply pieces of lore or red herring, which I enjoyed because it misled me from my immediately assuming correct conclusions. I still foresaw aspects here and there but that was because the execution of the story still had to follow set tropes in certain instances. This is an American military science fiction action extravaganza. It is an epic in the sense of the scale of action and scope, while still containing enough emotional points of impact to not dull the brain. It maintains its heart by focusing on making the story integral to one man and his family, specifically the bond between father and daughter. And in a rare twist, also maintaining the bond between husband and wife. Too often these stories mention divorce, so it was nice to see a family stay strong even during the lowest points.

The special effects were excellently done, and mighty tasteful. Often I felt wanting to screenshot certain scenes or shots because of how they simply looked. Works of digital art. The monsters, aliens rather, are well done. Truly terrifying and horrific. I feel like someone watched that Alien vs Predator movie based in the arctic and wanted to make something similar but much better. The movie felt like a complete story, and thankfully, didn’t end on a cliffhanger that could be stretched into a trilogy. Chris Pratt did an excellent job, because he can make that change between comedy, action, and serious emotional feels in an instant. He’s very likeable and his character did feel like a father first, before being a hero. The supporting cast were just as powerful and emotion inducing, with Yvonne Strahovski as Colonel Forester, and J.K Simmons as James Forester. Sam Richardson was a nice piece of relatable comic relief. His character had a natural response to the insanity of it all.

The music was emotionally swelling, and pretty much toyed with every emotion possible to manipulate you into feeling a certain way. Like the sense of rising heroism, or sacrifice. The grief of a loss. The tension and fear of an otherworldly foe that is essentially a better predator. Top of the food chain. And how it had that sense of epic scale during scenes that were something out of a science fiction book.

Overall, I loved this movie. I want to watch it again with friends. It had everything I’ve wanted with a monster movie, and it was long enough, while being a complete story. There was no cliffhanger, or what if. There was a definitive end. I highly recommend it. Amazon Studios is slowly churning out winners.

Movies

Space Sweepers

A South Korean science fiction epic about humanity in the distant future where the Earth has been ravaged by acidic soil turning the planet into a hazardous, poisonous wasteland. The elites of humanity live in orbit around the planet in habitation stations that are protected by domes which allow for artificial gravity and the possibility for air, water, and plants. 95% of the human population is trapped on the dying earth, while a corporation known as UTS controls who lives in orbit and for the eventual colonization of Mars which has been turned into a tropical utopia via a genetically enhanced super tree known as the Tree of Life. The founder and creator of these inventions is James Sullivan (Richard Armitage), a 152 year old megalomaniac, who has his own misguided views on what it means to be a good human being.

The rest of humanity that lives in orbit but not as a part of the habitation stations, live in squalor and are subject to ridicule and being poor. They find jobs as space sweepers; that is, they have their own ships acquired through loans (debt on debt), and collect space debris for recycling to earn what little money they can. The story focuses on one such crew, on a ship called The Victory, with Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), pilot Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), mechanic and engineer Tiger Park (Seon-kyu Jin), and a robot called Bubs (Hae-Jin Yoo). Each one of these characters has their own little story that is revealed through the 136 minute adventure, some being tragic and some not, but overall, human stories. The crew comes across a 7 year old child (Ye-Rin Park) who is a wanted bounty by the UTS corporation. Hoping to score some money by ransoming her back, the crew of the Victory find themselves in a fight for the future of humanity.

I really enjoyed the philosophical debates and pandering found throughout the movie, especially when the main villain, Sullivan, would preach about greed yet failing to acknowledge how he himself is just as fallible. The use of mass media to disillusion and manipulate the population to further the whims of the UTS corporation hits a little too close to home and current events. The divide between the rich and the poor, and the visual representation of dirty folks versus clean, or having broken down shoes, is also quite relevant. Despite being set in the not too distant future, the idea that these issues would still remain has been long engrained in the minds of many writers and helps ground the story. Some of the events and technology that exists in the movie is straight up fantasy and the story gets around that by stating that it can’t be explained by anyone and that it just is. At its basic core, the movie is about different people coming together, of all nations, and working to achieve unity and peace while being beset by those that wish to covet power all to themselves. It’s about a family of misfits putting aside their differences to save the life of a child, and in turn, save themselves from their past misdeeds.

The CGI was phenomenal, and I really enjoyed the action scenes in space. In one particular battle scene, near the end, my mind went to the recent season of the Expanse and I couldn’t help but think how that show failed miserably to convey any sense of action or ship battles – and Amazon supposedly supplied it with a larger budget, ha! Anyways, Space Sweepers, is a thoroughly enjoyable ride and for being the first Korean space blockbuster, it is quite a good start. Some minor nitpicks here and there, like some of the actors or actresses felt like they were plucked from the street, but it’s all good. I recommend watching it, and I hope to see more science fiction movies like this from South Korea.

Movies

Outside the Wire

Major spoilers ahead

This is one of those movies immediately off the bat you can tell it’s gonna be a propaganda puff piece for the US military. And off the bat, a movie about how the Balkans are a volatile mix of nations that breed violence. To that end, it starts the movie off about how war has broken loose in the Ukraine and that a violent warlord controls an army intend on establishing new relations with Russia and that the US is sent in as peacekeepers. The irony of that word is incredibly rich, “peacekeepers” as if bombing nations and homes, families and friends, is a way to keep peace. The movie starts off with our lead character, Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris), a drone pilot that disobeys chain of command to bomb a vehicle involved in a firefight with US soldiers that results in the loss of life for two men. He is disciplined for his actions and sent to the frontline to see the results of his work first-hand. There he is paired up with Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie) to complete a mission past the demilitarized zone, starting with delivering vaccines in exchange for intel. Their real mission is stop former Russian nukes from falling into the hands of the warlord and his men.

This movie takes place in 2036, and with it being science fiction, the US military also employs the use of robots called gumps to help establish order. Our dear Captain Leo is shown to be an android himself on a top secret mission. The ending of the movie happens so abruptly and it completely throws every message the movie was trying to portray and be critical of, into the trash. There were some good topics discussed and some real attempts at trying to be outside the box, however despite its namesake, Outside the Wire fails to do that. The message it was trying to state is that all lives matter, and that we should have compassion for humanity and those trying to survive even if they might be our enemy. It says that the US is stuck in a never-ending cycle of war that it itself perpetuates and that the only way to stop the cycle is to show there are real consequences to the actions of the military.

Here follow major spoilers

To that end of the above, the android known as Captain Leo wishes to use the nukes and bomb the mainland US to show the military that creating a fully autonomous AI and android only continues the cycle of war. When you create machines to fight machines, there is no humanity left in it. This is where I say in regards to the ending, that those involved with this movie, the director and producers, they took the cowardly way out. The movie should have ended with the nukes launched and on their way to the US mainland. Harp would have been arrested for insubordination again, and before the military realized he was doing so for the right reason, that it would be too late. Instead, he miraculously shows up to the command center for the nukes in time despite having a severe time disadvantage and despite being choked out by Captain Leo, manages to stop him, and destroy the nukes. Then he drives back to the base and starts walking back when the credits roll.

Some additional problems with the story are that drone operators are shown to be cold, and heartless at what they do. So when Harp sees first-hand the devastation that is wrought by the bombs dropped by drones, he is heartbroken at such chaos. Yet, what saves the day, is a drone dropping another bomb. Talk about a conflicting message. There is a scene near the middle where Harp is being interrogated by a resistance leader, and she reveals that she knows what Captain Leo is up to and that the US military deserves to know that their lives can be collateral as well. That their bombs injure far more than the target they aim for. Yet, again, the ending dismisses that notion and firmly shows that all that matters are US lives, that American lives are worth more than other life. Like I said at the start, this is a puff piece for American propaganda.

Spoilers done

As for the acting itself, it was okay. Anthony Mackie shows that he still can’t be taken seriously as an action star, that he lacks charisma and that intimidation factor. I used to think that it was the script, due to his previous works, but I can see I was mistaken. It’s him, he does not have that spark. Damson Idris was alright at being an idealist soldier, a drone pilot that knows little at how an actual battlefield is like compared to his cushy life behind a screen. The supporting cast were mere caricatures of a Colonel or a Sergeant, of a resistance leader, an arms dealer, and a warlord. The action itself was very well done and were the only interesting parts that kept the story moving forwards. It’s clear that John Wick has had quite the effect on action movies and their stunt work with combat.

I’m on the fence with this movie. On the one hand, the science fiction part of it is a bit intriguing and the action itself is very good and satisfying. On the other hand, it’s quite clearly nothing more than your usual Netflix American propaganda. I can’t recommend it but if you got nothing better to do, and want to see some action, leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride. You’ll not remember it in a few days.

TV Shows

The King: Eternal Monarch

If evil men didn’t try to corrupt the world for their own selfish greed, then all the world would turn out to be a beautiful place of love, happiness and joy. Everyone has their own fate, their own destiny, and sometimes you haven’t yet reached the destination. This South Korean melodrama of fantasy, science fiction, romance and thriller is a wonderous tale of the aforementioned above. It starts with a humble beginning that spreads to become so much more, so much weaving of the tapestry of life, of people bound in ways they do not yet know and we, the audience, are along for the discovery and journey.

Mild Spoilers ahead

Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) is the modern day King of the Kingdom of Corea who in his youth was injured by his half-uncle, Lee Lim (Lee Jung-jin), when the former assassinated his father and attempted to usurp the throne. Lee Lim wanted a magical flute for himself that was said to hold mystical powers that allowed one to travel between worlds. One day the King discovers two obelisks that allow travel to another reality, a parallel world. There he meets the woman he was destined to be with, and what unfolds is an epic romantic story. But, it’s not without its darker undertones, as Lee Lim, who survived the night of the assassination and has been in hiding in the parallel world, strives to take back what he believes should have rightfully been his – the magical flute. It was cut in two that fateful night, and the two halves are what allow both Lee Lim and Lee Gon to travel to a parallel world.

With each episode 70 minutes in length, as viewers, we are treated to a fully expanded world. Completely fleshed out characters that feel alive, and not caricatures of heroes or villains. Lee Lim, the evil half-uncle, is a greedy man who wishes to control time and space and be a ruler of all. While Lee Gon wishes to find his love and be with her forever as time will allow. He is just, fair, and has mercy for those that cross his path but for his enemies, he is ruthless and merciless as a King should be. There is no second chance for traitors, only a swift punishment. Detective Jung Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun) is Lee Gon’s destiny, and she is feisty and fierce, and brave when she has to be. She is kind, and beautiful, and Kim Go-eun’s performance deserves praise. I wept with her, and for her character, and I wished she’d succeed in her destiny; in both hers and Lee Gon’s fate, and I can happily say this story has a happy ending despite being fraught with danger, twists and turns.

The other characters in this story are equally human and flawed, and so full of life. The writer, Kim Eun-sook, did a great job with this series in creating these characters and their life’s events. The direction and editing did have some problems in that some scenes didn’t make sense or purpose despite the explanations towards the latter half of the show. But overall, it worked well. The music was fantastic and I’ve noticed in Korean shows that they often repeat the same songs in each episode during key moments. At first, it was a little odd but then it grew on you and touched your heart when you heard the music swell because then you’d be expecting what’s to come. The actors were all very convincing in each of their characters, some playing two due to doppelgangers with it being two parallel worlds, and nobody felt like a weak link. There was only the characters and not the men or women underneath.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire season of 16 episodes. I wholeheartedly recommend watching it if you’re in the mood for a sweeping tale of romance and fantasy. I hope you too will fall in love with the story of Lee Gon and Jung Tae-eul, and come out on the end feeling satisfied for experiencing this endearing and beautiful journey.