Saturday, April 22, 2017

With 'Get Out', Jordan Peele Makes a Splash

After watching Keanu last year, which I had enjoyed, I had been looking forward to what Key and Peele could bring next to the big screen.  I didn’t expect that that would be – at least, coming from half of them – an original, well-written horror film.

The movie, titled Get Out, is about a black man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who gets invited by his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to go on a weekend trip to her home and meet her family.  Christ is wary at first since Rose has failed to mention to her family that she’s dating a black man.  But she reassures him that her family isn’t going to be prejudiced against their interracial relationship.  And it seems to be indeed like that when he gets to meet them, as they treat him very cordially.  But as the weekend passes, Chris begins to notice that some things are off, which eventually leads him to a very sinister discovery.

Friday, April 21, 2017

'A Dog's Purpose' Is Sappy and Manipulative; Still Manages to Charm

In A Dog’s Purpose, a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) is reincarnated as various canine breeds across a couple of decades in the quest to discover what’s, well, a dog’s purpose.  Bryce Gheisar, KJ Apa (Riverdale’s Archie), Dennis Quaid, John Ortiz, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste play the dog’s different owners through the years.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

'13 Reasons Why' Is an Intense, Engrossing Drama Series About Teen Angst and Suicide

Suicide is a sensitive subject matter.  “High school is hell” is basically a cliché.  But from these foundations, 13 Reasons Why builds one of the freshest and most worthwhile teen dramas I’ve ever seen.

I first got wind of this series through a skippable Youtube ad.  It did a great way in laying down its premise in an intriguing manner that I was compelled to check it out.  And it turned out being as engrossing as I hoped.

'Personal Shopper' Is Perplexing, Frustrating, and Strenuous; Ironically Entrancing

Kristen Stewart became popular for being the dumb-faced star of the atrocious Twilight movie series.  As a result, she had been a butt of jokes, and had been dismissed to the same category of bland actors like Jai Courtney (who was likable for the first time in Suicide Squad), Sam Worthington (who surprising delivered a great performance in Hacksaw Ridge), and Katherine Heigl (who I haven’t seen be notably good yet).  However, in recent years, she has been supposedly thriving in arthouse, indie style movies, shedding her “bad actor” status in the process.  And Personal Shopper was my first chance to see this new Kristen Stewart.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

'Railroad Tigers' Has Fun Set Pieces and Laughs, but Is Still a Mess

After watching a pair of Korean movies set during Japanese occupation, the next movie I got to watch is incidentally a Chinese movie set during Japanese occupation.  Titled Railroad Tigers, it’s about a railroad worker named Ma Yuan (Jackie Chan) who leads a small band of ragtag, train-raiding freedom fighters.  Unarmed and outnumbered, they rely on their wits, use makeshift weapons like hammers and tobacco pipes, and employ the element of surprise.  One day, a dying Chinese soldier entrusts to them a daring and dangerous mission that is critical to the war effort, a mission that they are unlikely to come out alive from.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

'The Age of Shadows' and 'The Handmaiden' Are Intense, Gripping, Stylish Thrillers Set in Japanese-Occupied Korea

The Age of Shadows and The Handmaiden are two Korean films that had some significant buzz last awards and film festivals season.  They were released in South Korea last year, but it’s now in 2017 in which most international audiences have the chance of watching them and both had received critical acclaim.

Both movies are intense thrillers that I found to be challenging to watch but intellectually engaging.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Top 10 Moments in 'Planet Earth II'

Planet Earth II is a nature documentary mini-series from BBC, and serves as sequel to 2006’s Planet Earth.  It was originally released in the UK in 2016, but was widely released to international audiences this year.  And I recently had the pleasure of watching it.  As a kid, I had watched and enjoyed tons of this stuff, particularly in Discovery Channel.  Hence, I’ve always loved nature documentaries (I’m currently looking forward to Disneynature’s latest film, Born in China).  So I had a blast with Planet Earth II.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

'The Fate of the Furious' Is Another Fun, Utterly Ridiculous, High-Octane Installment

Back in 2001, no one expected that a Point Break-esque action film about illegal street racing – arguably a faddish subculture at that time – would have spawned a franchise that would remain active and huge fifteen years and seven sequels later, becoming one of the biggest movie franchises of all time.  It’s really amazing.  It’s because its filmmakers have recognized what works, retaining them, while continuously figuring out new ways of infusing fresh, over-the-top fun into each new installment.  Thus, unlike other cash-grabbing, refusing-to-die-because-money franchises (e.g. Resident Evil, Ice Age), movie fans never groan about having “another one” when it comes to The Fast and the Furious.  Ever since Fast Five (I didn’t strongly like the previous four), it never feels tiresome, but remains a constant source of enjoyable popcorn entertainment.   I’ve grown to love this series; along with Mission: Impossible, it’s a non-Disney-owned franchise that I would love to get to its 15th installment without undergoing a reboot.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

'Leap!' (a.k.a. 'Ballerina') Is an Okay Girl-Pursuing-Her-Dream Animated Film

Leap!, originally titled as Ballerina, is an animated film about a poor, orphan girl named Félicie (Elle Fanning) who is passionate of dancing despite having no formal training.  After escaping from the orphanage with her best friend Victor (originally voiced by Dane DeHaan, to be voiced by Nat Wolff in the American release), an aspiring inventor, she roams Paris until she stumbles upon a mysterious cleaning woman with a limp named Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who eventually becomes her mentor.  In order to pursue her dreams, she pretends to be the child of a wealthy family in order to get into the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet.

'Heaven, How I Got Here' Is a Gripping One-Man Play That Has More Theological and Artistic Substance Than Most Christian Films

Like many pastors during Easter, Colin S. Smith delivered a sermon series about the seven last words of Jesus.  A part of it centered on the thief on the cross, whose story he felt was the clearest and simplest story for explaining the heart of the Gospel.  After hearing this story, a dying nominal Christian comprehended the concept and value of grace for the first time.  Witnessing how the power of storytelling could help drive the point of the Gospel home, Smith then wrote Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross to deliver the Gospel to a wider audience in a fresh manner.  Less than a hundred pages long, the book tells the crucifixion story through the first-person perspective of the thief on the cross.

The book proved to be an effective evangelism tool – selling at least 50,000 copies – so Smith and his team decided to bring it to the next level: producing a one-man play adaptation of the book.  They offered the role to the youngest of the famed Baldwin brothers, Stephen (the only Christian among them).  He loved the character, but he was wary of accepting at first because he didn’t think he had the live theater chops for it.  In the end, he took it.  He asked God to give him what he needed to give justice to the premise and role.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

'Kong: Skull Island' Is No Epic, but Still a Decent Monster Romp

Kong: Skull Island is the latest reboot of the King Kong franchise and the second installment in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse” shared cinematic universe (the first of which was 2014’s Godzilla reboot).  The movie follows an expedition – composed of tracker/adventurer ex-British SAS Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), U.S government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), U.S. Army helicopter squadron leader Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), and other scientists and soldiers – into an unexplored, fabled island in the Pacific called “Skull Island”, which they soon discover is the dominion of a gargantuan ape named “Kong” (probably the largest incarnation of the iconic film monster yet.  The same thing was done with Godzilla in Godzilla Resurgence.  I guess the trend is “bigger is better”).  As their undertaking unceremoniously becomes a struggle for survival, they meet World War II pilot Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded in the island for nearly three decades, and encounter various strange, deadly creatures never before seen by men – chief of which are Kong’s mortal foes, the reptilian subterranean monsters called “Skullcrawlers.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

'Legion' Is Delightfully Insane

When I first learned that a TV series spin-off of the X-Men film franchise was on the way, I was excited, of course.  But I admit that I was bummed a bit when it turned out being a show about an obscure character like Legion.  In addition, when the trailer for it came out, I wasn’t impressed.  I felt it looked messy and disjointed.

But – as I thought about it after a while – that was probably the whole point all along.  In the comics, David Haller a.k.a. Legion is Charles Xavier’s son with Gabrielle Haller.  David inherits his father’s vast telepathic powers, but is born with other various abilities as well.  He’s one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe, but the most interesting aspect of the character is the fact that he has severe DID (dissociative identity disorder).  Hence, this results to multiple personalities, in which each personality manifests a unique superpower.  So if the character is known for being bonkers, then the show is probably just reflecting the condition of its eponymous character.  That appeased my dislike of its “messy” look.  The overwhelming critical praise it received also helped in drawing me as well as the fact that it only has an easy-to-binge debut season (only has eight episodes).

So I gave it a try.  And, oh boy, I’m glad I did.

Friday, April 07, 2017

'Teen Titans: The Judas Contract' Doesn't Need Batman to Become the Best Film in the DC Animated Movie Universe So Far

It has been a long time since we had a film from DC Universe Animate Original Movies (DCAOM) that doesn’t have Batman in it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Batman.  Thus, I always enjoy his presence in a movie.  But it’s also now time for DCUAOM to trust their non-Batman properties.  It has been four years since Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’s ending established this new, New 52-inspired DC Animated Movie Universe, and three years since it had its first feature with Justice League: War, and all movies set in this universe all have had Batman in it.  Even in Justice League Dark, which is about a team that doesn’t have Batman as a member in the comics, the character is shoehorned in with a prominent role (which I didn’t mind much because I thought it was brilliant).

The latest DCAOM movie, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, is the first time in the DC Animated Movie Universe in which Batman doesn’t make an appearance (though Batman protégés Dick Grayson [ex-Robin and current Nightwing] and Damien Wayne [a.k.a. Robin] are among the central characters).  This could be a sign that DCAOM is going to do more non-Batman projects now (I would love to see a few Superman movies).  Or maybe not, since the next DCAOM feature is a Batman and Harley Quinn movie (note: not all DCAOM movies are set in the DC Animated Movie Universe).

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

'The Discovery' Explores a World Where the Afterlife Has Been Recently Verified by Science

In The Discovery, the existence of life after death has been scientifically proven by Dr. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford).   After its announcement, suicides have become radically widespread, as millions choose to end their lives in order to move to another plane of existence.  In the second year anniversary of the discovery, Dr. Harbon’s estranged son, Will (Jason Segel), visits his father’s isolated compound where he is conducting the next stage of his research on the afterlife with the help of his other son, Toby (Jesse Plemons), and a cult-like group of assistants – all of whom had attempted suicide before.  Along with Isla (Rooney Mara), a woman he has stopped from committing suicide, Will Harbor seeks the meaning of life and turns to Dr. Harbor’s latest experiment for answers.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

That Time When Tracy McGrady Became the Greatest Basketballer Ever for 35 Seconds

Kobe Bryant is my most favorite player that ever played in the NBA.  Haters gonna hate, but he was the greatest in the league for many years.  That means that at their primes, he was superior to Tracy McGrady.  Sure, when they battled, there were some times that T-Mac outplayed him.  But, overall, Kobe came up on top.  At the defensive end, one-on-one, he made T-Mac work hard for his points, even utterly shutting him down in a couple of notable moments.  On the other hand, T-Mac at his prime might have been as amazing (though not as dominating) as Kobe at offense, but he had never been the dogged, lockdown perimeter defender that Kobe was.  Kobe was simply in a different level.  This is an objective fact.  Even T-Mac acknowledged this in some interviews.

That said, at the 2013 “Kobe Up Close” TV special, Kobe referred to Tracy McGrady as the toughest player he had ever played against – tougher than Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Allen Iverson (whom he also mentioned were notably tough opponents for him).  Indeed, T-Mac was a beast.  He was an incredible, versatile scorer who could have probably had a much better legacy than what he eventually ended up with if he hadn’t been hindered by problematic back injuries.  As far as talents are concerned, T-Mac was the closest player I’ve ever seen to a Kobe Bryant clone.

But a basketball god Kobe may be, there’s at least one legendary feat that he hasn’t accomplished in his career but T-Mac was able to do.