The Wedding Party Movie Review

The-Wedding-Party-posterI was immediately taken by how extravagant The Wedding Party looked on its poster. As a visual person, I respond favourably to pretty things and this movie poster was no exception. Plus, when  I heard that this movie was the highest grossing movie in Nollywood, my interest was further piqued. So one fine evening, my sister and I sat down to watch them movie. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Basically, The Wedding Party, is about that — a wedding party. The action all happens within a day and most of it is contained to the wedding party of the main characters, Dunni and Dozie (played by Adesua Etomi and Banky Wellington, respectively). Both leads are descended from rich families (although Dozie’s family is richer), hence the extravagance.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what to talk about because there’s a lot of stuff that happens. During the whole wedding day, we’re shown how the two mothers don’t really like each other. How one mother is so extra all the time (LOL). How an ex comes to try and sabotage the wedding. How a friend ends up almost ruining the wedding. How the wedding planner struggles throughout the day. And how the fathers try to keep calm on the wedding day. In other words, it completely lives up to its title.

And that’s actually something I did not expect. I’m finding it difficult to put into words (I’ve tried to write this over five times and each attempt refuses to stick), but basically, in romantic comedies in which leads are often faced with hurdles in their love, the movie generally contains its focus to the leads and their love. Usually in such movies, we’re shown how the leads persevere through the depth of their love. Yet surprisingly, in this movie, the focus doesn’t really remain on the two leads and their love story isn’t very fleshed out. We know Dunni and Dozie love each other, but we’re really only given hints to their love story (we’re never told how it started, their dates, what they have in common, etc.) and a lot of screen time is actually given to other stuff. We get many scenes devoted to various family members, friends, situations, etc. I mean, the two leads are *technically* front and centre, but rather than being the nucleus of the film, I felt as if they existed as supporting characters in their own film, vs. the main characters.

Similarly, despite each hurdle that cropped out, their resolutions weren’t necessarily very deep. In other words, the problem was handled and that was that. Again, in romantic comedies with hurdles, often times, the resolution of problems preaches a deeper underlying message (ex. getting through problems together, or how differences don’t matter, etc.). Yet, again in this movie, this doesn’t happen. Instead, the problems just get resolved and the movie doesn’t spend much time making any sort of statement.

So like I said, not what I expected at all. In fact, it was almost the opposite of my expectations. However, that doesn’t mean the film was bad. In fact, it was actually a pretty entertaining film and enjoyable to watch. And actually, I think that’s probably a highlight of the film — its just pure enjoyment. It doesn’t attempt to preach to the audience or show an epic romance. It literally just shows a couple’s wedding party and the shenanigans that happen during it. And I think it worked for the film. It was enjoyable to watch. If anything, I think my expectations for the movie’s genre are wrong. Rather than being a romantic comedy, I think it’s more of a pure comedy.

On a more technical note, supporting the movie, was the acting and directing. The leads were pretty solid actors and quite good looking too, especially Banky Wellington. The supporting cast was also good. The mother of the bride, played by Sola Sobowale actually stood out quite a bit. She was a little bit annoying, but always a scene stealer. Fantastic acting. Directing was also really solid, having been done by Kemi Adetiba. I enjoyed the way shots were framed. All in all, a decent entertaining movie.

My rating: watch it if you’re looking for an uncomplicated good time or if you’re a fan of the actors.

Phillauri Movie Review

phillauri-movie-1I’m a HUGE fan of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. In fact, I’d have to say that it ranks up among some of my favourite movies ever. So when I heard that a Bollywood film, Phillauri appeared to be a live-action Corpse Bride inspired movie, I was quite excited. For those of you unaware, Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animated movie. It’s about a man, Victor, who accidentally marries a corpse, Emily. The marriage in fact, sort of “revives” Emily from a deep sleep. Unfortunately, Victor is in love with the very-much-alive Victoria and in order to be “married” to Emily properly, he’d have to die. The rest of the film deals with the conflict.

Phillauri begins with a similar story. Kanan (played by Suraj Sharma) has recently returned from Canada and immediately, his parents set up his marriage with his childhood love, Anu (played by Mehreen Pirzada). Kanan has cold feet and due to his horoscope, must first marry a tree to ensure that he has a happy married life (?). As he marries the tree, in turns out, that he ends up marrying a ghost named Shashi (played by Anushka Sharma). While dealing with being married to a ghost and his cold feet, the movie also flashes back to Shashi’s past. Shashi was a young woman in an Indian village named Phillaur. During her youth, she used to write poetry and was in love with a singer named Roop Lal (played by Diljeet Dosanjh).

The movie actually played quite similarly to Corpse Bride, beginning from the male leads having cold feet, to the corpse/spirit bride having unfulfilled love stories preventing them from passing onto the next world. However, despite the unique premise, I felt that Phillauri fails to bring forth the heart and emotional depth that Corpse Bride did. There seemed to be a number of things off about Phillauri, for me at least, that prevented me from loving the film.

Firstly, the focus of the story. Phillauri focuses on two love stories simultaneously, those of Anu and Kanan and Shashi and Roop. However, the former story lacks any sort of warmth whereas the latter one is left too long. In other words, Kanan and Anu’s love story never really went anywhere. Anu was shattered with Kanan’s cold feet, but was willing to go through with the marriage anyway. Whereas Kanan’s cold feet never really got resolved, nor did the movie really divulge why he had them in the first place. It just felt so unresolved and void of emotions. On the other hand, Shashi and Roop’s story was definitely sweet. Theirs had a lot more emotion, despite the stereotypical aspect of it. And yet, the stretched-out scenes kept their story from fully impacting the audience. Instead of being enthralled in their romance, viewers just got bored and kept on waiting for one scene to end and another to begin.

Secondly, the acting was a little uninspiring as well. Suraj Sharma started out well. However, his scared act and high pitched squeal started getting grating about halfway through. I especially hated the high pitches squeals whenever he was caught unaware/ scared. Mehreen Pirzada, on the other hand, had nothing to do except look weepy. She was so boring onscreen. The only time where I liked her a little bit, was when she finally saw/ talked to Shashi; but other than that, I didn’t care for her. Diljit Dosanjh was also okay. He gave a respectable performance for sure, but again, it was nothing new or to talk home about. The only person who stood out for me, surprisingly, was Anushka Sharma and the actor who played her brother, Manav Vij. I had initially found Anushka’s looks to be a little too modern and urban for her to play a village belle, but she ended up winning me over. She acted really well. Manav Vij was also spectacular, probably the star of the movie for me. Not for a second did I doubt that he was an actor and not Shashi’s brother; again, fantastic acting.

Thirdly, directing was decent. From what I’ve been able to gather online, this was the directorial debut of Anshai Lal and I think he did okay. Nothing too amazing or standout, but okay enough. If anything, I think what killed this movie (at least for me), was the lack of editing. Some scenes just went on way too long (especially the end scenes), other scenes were just too stereotypical, and some necessary explanation scenes never appeared. A little bit of firm editing could’ve gone a long way. It could’ve saved the movie and move it into “decent” category vs. the just “okay” category.

My ratingwatch it if you’re a fan of any of the actors, but you wouldn’t miss much if you don’t.

Quote of the Week

I was looking through my blog and realized that the last time I shared a quote, was over two months ago! That’s a long time to go without a quote and quite ironic considering that one of my apprehensions over having a “Quote of the Week” was that my blog would eventually just consist of various quotes rather than reviews (LOL). In order to remedy this shortfall, I figured that I’d share a quote that relates quite deeply to my own experience. I’ve always been a night owl and one of my favourite things to do at night, was to read. I cannot count the number of nights I spent just staying up late (on school nights no less!) just reading books! For some reason, I always found it difficult to put them down and get some sleep. This quote speaks to that experience.

To read for an hour or so at night is to enter a magic realm in which people are more interesting, informed, amusing and intelligent than anyone you encounter in everyday life.”   —- The Torchlight List, Jim Flynn

The Covenant Movie Review

onesheetIf you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a whole ‘so bad, it’s good” movie marathon for a while (LOL). While The Covenant doesn’t quite manage to make the list for me, I figured it’s still close enough to talk about.

The Covenant is about four teenage boys with superpowers aka “The Sons of Ipswich” as the movie refers to them. The premise of the movie is this: during the 16th and 17th century American witch hunts, the Ipswich colony (located in Massachusetts I think?) managed to survive by forming a covenant. The five families agreed to keep silent about their powers. Unfortunately, one of the five families was still lost, so only four managed to remain by the time the movie rolls around. The four boys (descendants of the four families) possess the power to do anything, including telekinesis, super strength, super speed, invisibility, etc. (except not mind control or reading). They reach the full potential of their power on their 18th birthday, also known as “ascending.” However, the catch is, the more power they use, the more rapidly they age. So if one were to continually use (abuse) the power, their mortal body would age, thereby allowing (for example) one to be only 44 years old, but look over 100 yrs old. Although the movie is about the four boys, the focus is mainly on Caleb (played by Steven Strait) as he is the closest to ascending.

The premise itself, in my opinion, is SUPER cool and interesting. I’m always down for fantasy stuff like vampires, zombies or witches. Plus the inbuilt mythology set up for the film sounded really unique and full of potential. However, despite this strong start and having all the elements for a “so bad, it’s good” film (good looking leads, wooden dialogue and acting, teenage drama), the movie still never manages to reach its potential.

For me, the biggest let down of the movie, is the disparity between the level of special effects. The thing is, some of the effects are fabulous; like literally amazing. For example, in the beginning of the movie, all four boys use their powers to drive a car off a cliff and then back onto the road. Similarly, there’s a scene where Caleb gets into an accident that smashes his entire car but using his powers, he’s able to repair the entire car (including himself) to be as good as new. I’m not describing it that well, but they are definitely pretty good. But then as the movie continues, the level of the effects goes down. This is especially evident in the main fight scene that happens at the end of the movie. All the characters do, are some kicking and punching moves and balls of “power” are released or evaded (LOL). I’m not against bad effects or anything, but I’m definitely very big on consistency. If you want to have bad effects, make them consistent. Similarly, if you start off with good effects, ensure that they remain good. The final battle scene was just such a let down, it really dampened the mood.

Barring that, I think everything else about the movie was spot on — especially in terms of how bad it was. It had everything, from a snail’s pace tone, to random shots, to cheesy groan-inducing dialogue, to a fairly predictable plotline, and some very good looking leads. For reference’s sake, the main four boys were played by Steven Strait, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway, and Chace Crawford. The secondary characters were played by Laura Ramsey, Jessica Lucas and Sebastian Stan. Although they all looked way too old to be playing high school students, I didn’t mind it too much. I’m shallow enough to appreciate pretty scenery (LOL).

Had the graphics been consistent enough, this movie would’ve been firmly cemented in the ‘so bad, it’s good’ category, rather than being on the cusp.

My rating: if you’re in the need for some pretty scenery but nothing else, then check out this movie; but it’s definitely skippable otherwise.

 

Battleship Movie Review

battleship_ver15Last week I reviewed Priest and mentioned that there were better “so bad, it’s good” movies out there. An example of such a movie, in my opinion, is Battleship; based upon the literal ‘battleship’ game, wherein players attempt to attack each other’s ships. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed playing ‘battleship’ and so I suppose I was a little biased when it comes to this movie.

Battleship, while about the game ‘battleship’ at its core, also attempts to have larger over-arching plots. Firstly, it’s a maturing story for the main character, naval officer Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch). Secondly, it’s an aliens vs. humans for planet Earth scenario. The two plot-lines intersect (obviously) and are peppered with a multitude of characters. And that’s really it for the plot-line. There are various scenes devoted to both stories. For Hopper’s maturation, we get the typical — bad-boy with an attitude problem who undergoes a major trauma and has great responsibility thrust upon him — story. While for the aliens vs. humans plot line, we get the predictable “Aliens want to destroy Earth for its resources” trope. Although, I think the latter plot is a slight variation on most stereotypical Alien invasion plots. Much like other alien stories, the aliens in Battleship are concerned with communicating with their larger fleet in space. However, the aliens in this movie also aren’t extremely ruthless. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they do kill a fair amount of people and destroy large parts of the world, but they don’t attack defenseless humans. As we’re shown, they do a sort of value judgement and only attack if their value judgement indicated that the object is hostile to them and needs to be attacked (ex. industrial buildings and people shooting at them). I think its an interesting change.

I’ve read a few reviews for this movie online and most of them basically pan the movie. Saying that it has no real plot-line, the acting is bad, that it only has action scenes and nothing else, it takes itself too seriously, etc. And if I really meditate upon it, I suppose I can understand where these reviewers are coming from. Yet, I still really enjoy this movie. This silliness mixed with the overly serious tone just works for me somehow. To give you an example of the two, in one scene of the movie, the main characters are at a stand-still on a dock in Hawaii. Their naval ships have been destroyed by the aliens and the threat still remains. In the background of this angst, we see random patriotic shots of older veteran soldiers standing upon an older American battleship that was presumably used in a war, and now functions as a museum. Seeing them, Hopper gets the idea to use the old battleship museum as a real ship to attack the aliens, with the randomly standing around veterans acting as crew members (LOL). The next scene is a montage where Hopper salutes them, asks them for their help, and they help get the old battleship ready to fight the aliens. It’s literally ridiculous LOL. What type of old museum still has working old ammunitions and when do random veterans ever stand around on old museums in full uniform? Instead of touching upon this absurdity, the movie actually plays these moments for serious patriotic value. And I LOVE it. It’s just so stupidly cheesy that I cannot help but smile.

And that basically sums up how I feel about the movie. It’s definitely cliche, predictable and cheesy, but also so earnest (at least during some parts).

What I also like about the film, is the casting choices. First off, I like how there’s definitely some people of colour in the film. Although Hopper, seaman Ordy (played by Jesse Plemons), and Hoppy’s girlfriend Sam (played by Brooklyn Decker) are shown to be white, the other supporting characters are generally people of colour. The petty officer who convinces Hopper off his self-destructive path with the aliens is played by John Tui. The weapons officer is played by songstress Rihanna. The Japanese captain who actually theorizes and executes the ‘battleship’ game is played by Tadanobu Asano. And retired Lietantant Colonel Mick is played by Gregory D. Gadson. That actually relates to another point I like: some of the extras/ actor were real-life military men. Gregory D. Gadson is actually a retired decorated Colonel. Plus the World War II veterans shown earlier in the film, were also played by real-life retired army men. I just thought it was so cool of the director to include that.

That said, of course as a bad film, it also has its flaws (slight undercurrent of racism in one or two scenes), as mentioned earlier. But on the whole, I still enjoy it for what it is: a movie based upon the game battleship (LOL).

My rating: watch it if you’re in the mood for an enjoyable, dumb, action movie and are not too concerned with depth (or realistic-ness).

Ultraviolet Movie Review

28d093d29d886a1444bf7dd2d96a547aFor the past few weeks, Netflix kept recommending Ultraviolet to me. I wasn’t particularly into the plot of the movie, but I decided to take the plunge anyway. Long story short: it was a bad idea. That said, I could definitely see why Netflix thought I would like it. It falls into the sci-fi action genre, which I love. It deals with the idea of ‘vampires,’ which again I’m generally a fan of. And the lead is a woman, which is something I’m always down with. Unfortunately, none of these things could salvage the movie for me. And to be perfectly honest, I’m a little annoyed I actually sat through the entire thing.

Basically, the plotline of the movie is this: humanity was somehow infected (it isn’t explained how) with this disease that could turn ordinary people into ‘vampires.’ However, these vampires were really just people with fangs, super speed, and greater intelligence (no blood lust or blood sucking here). Anyways, the human population ended up getting intimidated by these ‘vampires’ and hence started a war to exterminate the ‘hemophages’ (as they’re referred to in the movie). In the process, an Archministry took over the country (?) and basically wiped out most of the hemophages. In order to deal with the remaining few, a new weapon was created.

The protagonist of the film, Violet (played by Milla Jovovich), a hemophage, manages to usurp the weapon from the Archministry. She plans to take it to the remaining hemophages who plan to destroy it to ensure that they aren’t wiped out. However, when she sneaks a peak at the weapon, it turns out that it’s a little boy. Apparently, the boy’s blood contained some sort of antigen that could destroy all hemophages. Having lost her own child in a tragic miscarriage and feeling motherly towards the idea of a little boy (although she remains in denial of the latter for a long time), Violet decides to save the boy from the hemophages. She justifies her actions by claiming that she could use his blood to create a counter-antigen that could reverse the effect of turning into a hemophage and make her into a normal human being again. Of course her kidnap not only gets the other hemophages to turn on her, but the Archministry also goes after her to reclaim the boy weapon. The rest of the film deals with this conflict.

For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that this was a good film. That only if I watched long enough, I’d enjoy it. That it would turn into those ‘so bad, it’s good’ films. I couldn’t have been more wronger. The film did NOT get better, in any way.

First off, the effects for this film are ridiculously bad. And I mean ridiculously bad. It was made 2006 so I knew that it wouldn’t have the most realistic visual effects. But my god, were they terrible, even for 2006 standards! Everything was so obviously fake, it hurt my eyes! That’s another thing actually. Maybe its just my eyes, but the colour tone for this movie was insane. Everything was just so bright and colourful, I felt like my eyes were being assaulted! The closest graphics that compare to the movie, in my opinion, are video games. In fact, in the beginning of the film, I actually though that I was indeed watching a video game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t, the entire film itself was shot like that. It was an eye sore.

Secondly, regardless of the VFX, even the action stunts seemed so unrealistic. I mean, Violet would literally just do these random stretches and movements and magically she’d dodge every bullet and sword and end up the victor. Like WTF? There comes a point where instead of being funny and ironic, super unrealistic scenes end up becoming annoying. And this movie remained at the latter point the entire time. It was not fun to watch.

Thirdly, the entire plot of the movie is just so weird. I had so many questions while watching and not one of them was ever explicitly answered. For example, how did Violet manage to hide the fact that she was a hemophage from the facility? What was the injection exactly? How was she revived? How did Six survive?  How were the hemophages able to live undetected in a freaking hotel in the middle of the city for so long? Who were the Blood Chinois and why did they even feature into the film? What was Violet’s backstory exactly and why was it so relevant? What even was the ending about? Like ????

And finally, the acting itself was also a big WTF. I actually haven’t really seen any of Milla Jovovich’s movies before. So I don’t really know about her acting skills. But she was so weird as Violet. I don’t even have the words to explain it. Plus I found Six to be so creepy. Everything was weird and made no sense.

The only positive for the entire film, (and I’m sorry if this is super shallow) is that Milla Jovovich looks pretty good. Her body was on-point, and really that’s it. There’s nothing else good about the film.

My rating: miss it, do not watch it. If your friend suggests it, unfriend them immediately (LOL jokes, but seriously).

Priest Movie Review

priest_ver9Y’all probably know by now that I’m super partial to sci-fi action films. I generally tend to gravitate toward them and think of them highly, despite some of their more obvious flaws. Similarly, I also tend to enjoy really bad movies. You know, the ones with cringeworthy dialogue, wooden acting, obviously fake stunts, weak plot points, etc. So when I heard of Priest, with numerous reviews panning it, I figured it was something I’d enjoy (LOL). When I finally got around to watching it, turns out, I didn’t enjoy it as much I’d hoped I would’ve. *insert sad face* That said, I’m gonna review it anyway and discuss some of the things I liked and disliked.

Simplistically, Priest is about holy supernatural warriors called ‘priests,’ battling vampires for control in an alternative reality. According to the movie, human kind and vampires had been vying for dominance. The vampires initially ruled, as their fast senses and movements made it easy for them to kill the humans quickly. Eventually, the humans began prevailing once the ‘priests’ stepped in. Trained with special powers (?) the priests were able to battle the vampires and wipe them out. The few remaining ones were put into reservations. As the vampires disappeared, so did the need for the priests. Fearing their power, the leaders of the church and cities (btw the church ended up taking control and people began living in walled cities under church rule), disbanded the priests and attempted to reintegrate them into society. As expected, it didn’t work and instead the priests became pariahs and struggled to find jobs.

With this background, the brother of one of the priests ended up getting attacked by vampires and his daughter (played by Lily Collins) taken. The priest (played by Paul Bettany) hears of this and goes to the leaders to ask permission to rescue the daughter/ his niece. The leaders refuse to believe that vampires are back and deny him permission, stating that if the priest attempted a rescue, they would disbar him from the religious order. The priest doesn’t listen and goes to save his niece anyway. Joining him on this mission, is the niece’s boyfriend, the sheriff of the wastelands (played by Cam Gigandet) and the priestess (played by Maggie Q), initially sent after him by the city leaders. The rest of the movie basically deals with the rescue with some other background characters and stories thrown in.

What I liked, is the following:

  • The action scenes were decent. There were a few slo-mo scenes that were nice and some quick action scenes. That said, they definitely could’ve been improved upon (I felt timing of some of them was a little off and the camera angles could’ve been better, along with lightening being a tad too dark), but it was decent enough.
  • I also enjoyed the new take on vampires presented in this movie. Most current vampire lore has them characterized as these human-like creatures who possess super-strength, speed, beauty and immortality. However, in this movie, they were literally beasts. They were weird creatures with human-ish bodies, but with no eyes and grey skin. In fact, this take was also twisted around to address the idea of current human-like vampires. The villain (played by Karl Urban), was actually the first human vampire as he had fed from the blood of the Vampire Queen. He possessed stereotypical vampire abilities, like super strength, never-aging, blood lust, and also new things like an ability to withstand sunlight. I just thought it was interesting to introduce different types of vampire characterizations in the same movie.
  • The idea of warrior priests was also kinda interesting. Although, the underlying religious tones were slightly too much for me at times. I think they were added to heighten the drama, but it was just weird. I would’ve much preferred a more consistent theme, rather than have the movie introduce religious tones once in a while.
  • I didn’t mind the little hints of romance between the priest and priestess. It was relatively subtle, especially compared to other things in the movie. I mean, could the movie have gone without it? Yeah, most definitely. It might’ve even made the movie better? But, I didn’t mind it. There was only a few hints of it shown so I thought it was fine.
  • And finally, I liked the whole broad vampire plot-line, with the niece being bait for the priest and the idea of a vampire train. I thought it was interesting. Not the best, but interesting enough.

Reading back on my list, even the positives are littered with critiques (LOL). Surprisingly, even with these critiques, my list of what I didn’t enjoy is still longer. For the sake of length, I won’t make a bullet list, but I’ll just list a few things in a simple paragraph (or two).

Firstly, I HATED the reveal that the niece was actually the daughter of the priest. It was too cliche for me and I much preferred it earlier when it seemed like the priest was just going after a niece. On that note, I really disliked how the priest’s backstory played out. I would’ve much rather had him be a childhood love of Shannon who was recruited as a child vs. the adult recruit. I just felt like it cheapened his character, rather than elevate it as the movie hoped to. I also was not a fan of Cam Gigandet’s acting, or maybe it was the character. I just found most of his scenes so grating and with nothing really important to add. He was a typical side-kick character, but the attempt to make him more interesting by threatening the priest was annoying and backfired for me.

Similarly, I hated how the movie tried to add in so many different things. Instead of focusing on a singular, over-arching theme, it attempted to patch together different themes. The result was a mis-matched thematic tone with insufficient attention paid to the cohesiveness of the movie. For example, the whole battle between the priest and the vampires took on the themes of: a) a man realizing that his power comes from God and not the Church b) a man struggling with forgetting his love and attempting to get back his daughter c) a man trying to find his place in the world. Not the mention the fact that the movie also seemingly touches on the concept of blind obedience vs. true devotion to God. There’s just so much going on at once and nothing ever really reaches the point of completion or even gets fleshed out slightly. Additionally, the pace of the movie also varies. Sometimes its a slick action flick, while at other times, it drags on. Literally, the characters just sit and talk in a desert wasteland a couple of times. It just gets annoying to watch and attempt to focus upon. In fact, on that note, I also thought the movie, while it did have an interesting over-arching plot-line (the niece bait +  vampire train), doesn’t really go anywhere or do it justice. It kinda just gets forgotten. I mean, to be clear, the plot *does* get resolved near the end. But the way it resolves is so unsatisfying that it felt like it didn’t really amount to much (i.e. reach its potential). Plus, I didn’t find the directing to be that amazing or great. It just felt so standard and typical to me — with nothing new to add or talk about. On the whole, I felt like the whole movie needed to be revamped and edited better.

My rating: you can skip it, there’s other better “so bad, it’s good” movies out there.

Train to Busan Movie Review

busanhaengI’m not exactly sure when and where I first heard of Train to Busan. Regardless, I knew I it was well appreciated by people and I knew I wanted to watch it. I’m a pretty big fan of zombie movies (waddup World War Z) and so I was reasonably sure that I’d like this film. On a similar note actually, I had heard that Train to Busan  was a lot like World War Z, in terms of the presentation of zombies (not dumb, slow moving zombies, but terrifying, fast moving ones). I quite enjoyed World War Z, hence I also had high hopes for this movie. If you can’t tell, I was already beginning to psych myself out with just how high my expectations for this movie was. Surprisingly, the movie actually managed to reach and even exceed my expectations. Colour me shocked!

Going back to the World War Z comparison, I actually didn’t find the two movies to be that similar. I mean yes, they dealt with a very similar situation (escaping from fast-moving, flesh-eating zombies) and the effects of the zombies themselves were also markedly alike. Yet, I found that the two movies differed quite extensively in terms of the mood of the movie and the feeling of threat. I’ll expand on this in my review. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

Train to Busan actually begins with an introduction to the main characters. There’s the closed off, aloof and workaholic single father, Seok-Woo, played by Gong Yoo. He’s a successful hedge fund manager (?) but struggles to be an emotionally and physically avaliable dad to his daughter Soo-An, played by Kim Su-an. Missing her mother and upset with her father’s unavailability (due to his workaholic nature), she wants to go to Busan to visit her mother for her birthday. Seok-Woo grudgingly agrees to bring her to his ex-wife and so the two board the train to Busan.

Also aboard the train are an adorable couple expecting a child. The outwardly tough and inwardly sweet husband Sang-hwa is played by Ma Dong-Seok and the heavily pregnant wife Seong-Kyeong, is played by Jung Yu-Mi. The two also sort of figure as guardian figures for Soo-An, on more than one occassion, due to her tendency to wander off and Seok-Woo’s workaholic tendencies that cause him to lose track of her.

Joining them are a group of school-going baseball players, with the star athlete Yong-Guk played by Choi Woo-Shik and his biggest fangirl, Jin Hee, played by Ahn So-Hee;  arrogant, selfish, and rude businessman Yon-Su, played by Kim Eui-Sung; elderly sisters Jong-Gil and In-Gil, played by Park Myung-Sin and Ye Soo-jung respectively; the train driver played by Jung Suk-Yong; and a homeless man played by Choi Gwi-hwa.

The plot of the movie itself is quite simple. Due to some sort of gas leak/ explosion that happened at a resort, people in Korea began turning into zombie (through animal bites initially, it is implied). However, at the beginning of the movie, this predicament is not widespread or popularly reported. As such, all the characters board the train easily and without fuss, expecting a normal ride. All, except for the homeless man. As we’re shown, he’s presumably seen the zombies in action and is perhaps the only one who knows what is going doing in various parts of Korea. Hoping to escape from the terror, he boards the train and keeps quiet – scared by what he’s seen. Just before the train departs, an infected woman manages to sneak aboard. She’s obviously in pain and has been bitten. As the train begins its journey, a train attendant happens to come across the infected woman. She is concerned and tries to help her, only for the infected woman to complete her transformation into a zombie and bite her instead. Of course, this begins a rampage of sorts where the zombies start attacking people and people try desperately to get away from them — all while the train is still moving!

As the epidemic on the train spreads, we’re also given background information showing how the zombie virus has spread to various parts of South Korea and how some cities have been completely over-taken. The rest of the film deals with the characters various attempts to get away from the zombies. A journey that includes stopping in different places,  fighting with zombies, catching new trains, etc. I’ll refrain from giving out a scene-by-scene review of the movie (as I’ve been trying to do so) and instead focus on some of my observations.

I mentioned earlier that I felt that Train to Busan had a different mood and feeling of threat than World War Z. Basically, in World War Z, there was the threat of zombies of course, but the threat itself wasn’t too overpowering. For example, right after Jerry is almost attacked by one of the zombies, he and his family are taken onto an airplane where the situation is explained. After every “scare” scene, there’s a calm scene because the characters were either a) away from the zombies or b) the threat had been neutralized/ was under control. As such, the mood of the film was also quite different. World War Z, along with playing like a typical survival flick, also played as investigative thriller. Jerry’s mission throughout the film was to figure out how the epidemic started and attempt to find a virus for it, the zombie attacks were just added perks.

Train to Busan, on the other hand, is completely different. First off, the threat of the zombies is ever-present. As all the action happens aboard a moving train, with normal people travelling alongside the zombies, there is no escape from the zombies. A single wrong move could cost the people their lives. I mean, yes sure, there were some “calm” scenes where the characters weren’t explicitly dealing with zombies. Yet, even then, the presence of danger was still felt as the characters were in fact trapped with them. In more than a few scenes, there’s literally just a single door separating the normal people from the zombies. Again, the threat of danger was imminent throughout the entire movie.

Similarly, Train to Busan played entirely like a survival movie. The characters in the movie had no other motive besides escaping alive from the zombies. No one was even thinking about finding a vaccine or how the epidemic spread. Survival was the first and only focus. And there’s a few extremely well done scenes that show just how laser focused all the passengers were on this goal. One that comes to mind, is when the train makes a stop at Daejeon station in an attempt to escape the zombies, only to be confronted with more zombies on the platform. In an effort to save themselves, all the passengers make a mad dash back onto the train. However, in their panic, some of passengers forget that some of the train carriages had zombies within them. So in their worry of getting away from the zombies at the train station, they opened up a random train carriage to board, only to be confronted by the zombies already in the train.

That scene itself I think also played really well into another positive for the film: the sense of reality. Even though the plausibility of a scenario like Train to Busan isn’t that high, the movie felt real. There was a real sense of loss. People died and turned into zombies. Passengers and characters sacrificed themselves. Some even sacrificed others in their quest for survival. Which brings me to another point: how well etched out the various characters were. Although the movie was largely focused on Seok-Woo and Su-An, the other supporting characters also had screen time. Yet, as the supporting cast was so large, not all the characters had an equal amount of screen time. However, even then, the characters still felt real. You could understand their motivations and imagine how they were in normal life (aka when not attacked by zombies). I think this is a testament to not only the writing of the film, but also the actors as they managed to imbue depth in them with only a few minutes of screen time.

Supporting the writing and acting, was the directing and cinamatography. I’m not familiar with Yeon Sang-Ho (the director) or his work. However, I quite enjoyed his filming. He let the story and action take centre, instead of trying to show off various camera angles and/or be extremely creative. I enjoyed it because it allowed the viewer to enjoy the movie without getting distracted. The violence scenes were also directed quite well. Well actually, they were standard, nothing new. But again, it’s not a bad thing because it allowed the story and actors to take centre stage. And finally, cinamatography was fantastic. There were a few scenes wherein the train passed through tunnels, thereby darkening the train compartments. If you’ve been a long time reader, you probably know just how much I hate badly lit/ too dark films. To my happiness, the darkness scenes were lit just enough for viewers to see what was going on. In other words, it was top notch in terms of technical production as well.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a survival flick with the feeling of real danger and loss and be prepared to be blown away.

Friends TV Show Review

159799           I feel like Friends is one of those tv shows that transcends its era. You know, the ones that are relatable and/or funny years later, despite looking and being dated. Kinda like the X-files. And the fact that some of its actors have become big Hollywood stars (wassap Jennifer Aniston), definitely helps keep it more relevant than it would be otherwise. As a result, despite having run for and over 10 years ago, it still remains in current pop-culture (or at least for my generation it does). Hence, I’ve decided to talk about it today.

Friends, for those of you unaware (seriously tho, is there anyone really unaware about this series?), is about a group of friends living in New York, New York USA during the 90s. The core group consisted of bossy cleanliness freak and mother-hen Monica Geller, played by Courtney Cox, her nerdy goofy and unlucky-in-love older brother Ross Geller, played by David Schwimmer, the fantastically ridiculous Phoebe Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow, the sarcastic everyman Chandler Bing, played by Matthew Perry, the out-of-touch fashionista Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, and the ditzy but loveable Joey Tribbiani, played by Matt LeBlanc. All episodes revolve around the situations the characters find themselves in, and/or about their lives and their general direction and how the characters adapt/ navigate. Nothing ground-breaking per se, but definitely enjoyable.

For me, the biggest plus point among this series, is the friendship shown between the main characters. They all just get along so well and the interactions among them are fantastic. Each character is so different and has a different viewpoint. But they all respect each other and listen to each other and just hang out. Honestly, Friends has one of the best descriptions of friendship shown on television (living up to its name I suppose LOL). It’s super fun to watch. Adding to the entertainment, is the comedy in this show. Some of the dialogue in this show is hilarious. Like laugh out loud hilarious. And a huge credit to that, not only goes to the writing, but also to the actors. I strongly believe that this show is a testament to the fact that good writing and good actors can create an absolutely great pair (both elevate each other).

And coming to the actors, David Schwimmer in particular comes to mind. I’ve yet to see someone with as hilarious physical comedy as him as Ross. Ross’s physical comedy is absolutely top notch. Whether it be the “unagi” or the leather-pants-with-lotion scenes, he just kills it and always brings the laugh. Another really reliably funny “friend,” was Chandler. His sarcastic one-liners and general wittiness really livened up the show. In fact, each character had stand-out lines and scenes that still remain iconic. Whether it be Joey’s “How you doin?” or “Joey doesn’t share food,” or even Pheobe’s “Smelly Cat” song or “phalanges,” they’re all super entertaining. However, what was also great, was the way how the show could also be so relatable. I mean, we’ve all probably suffered through crappy jobs, heartbreaks, unexpected situations, etc. And the shows funny take on them was great (that said, not all of the situations are relatable or even realistic LOL).

That said, there are definitely a few things about the show that definitely make me side-eye it and are not so flattering. One that immediately comes to mind, is the flanderization of Joey’s character. When Joey initially started out in the show, he was ditzy, there’s no doubt about that. But even with his ditziness, he had some knowledge. It was believable that someone like Joey could exist: ditzy but with some understanding of how the world/ things work. However, as the show went on, the writers end up really dumbing down Joey, to the point where it just became unbelievable, and I mean that literally. He became so dumb. While I found his dumbness enjoyable at some times, it was often annoying because of how unrealistic it was (and what a drastic change it was from the earlier seasons).

The second thing that I really dislike, is the lack of any people of colour. The show features a predominantly white cast. Which, I guess while not ideal, is ok. Yet, even then, there are literally no POC characters. It was so rare to see any POC, not just in side character roles, but even as bystanders (extras). I mean, NYC is not just filled with white people you know. There’s people of all different races and yet Friends made it seem like NYC was just populated with white people. It was kinda jarring to realize and definitely made me side eye the show.

And finally, some story-lines were not enjoyable. In my opinion, to the point where they actually brought down the quality of the show. Case in point: the Ross-Rachel will-they-or-won’t-they relationship. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am generally a fan of will-they-or-will-they-not relationships. I reviewed Bones a while ago, and in its earlier seasons, Bones was exactly that! Especially when it came to the relationship between the main leads. But in Friends, this plot was stretched way beyond the limit. To the point where I honestly did not care and just wanted it to end. Plus, it didn’t help that the two characters also behaved in some pretty unlikeable ways (Ross accidentally said Rachel’s name during his wedding vows to another woman…yikes!). And coming to Rachel, there was also an absolutely ludicrous “relationship” between her and Joey that made no sense whatsoever. Seriously. I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t see that storyline as ridiculous.

However, despite its fault, Friends still remains pretty watchable. It reminds of me comfort food in some ways. Its certainly not the best show around. And there’s definitely been better shows made. Yet, even then, there’s just something so welcoming and comforting about it. If you’re sad, it makes you happy. If you’re bored, it gives you something to do. If you need to escape from life, it lets you. It’s just so consistently reliable, that you cannot help but get drawn into it.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a funny and likeable show, despite the fact that it has some faults and is quite dated

Ultimate Beastmaster TV Show Review

lB2bdrWiI have a confession to make: I’m a sucker for reality tv. Literally, put any sort of reality tv show on, and I will be game. And trashy reality tv in particular, is my ultimate guilty pleasure. In fact, back in the day, Jersey Shore was the first show I followed religiously. And I mean religiously! I’d watch each episode twice, often during my school free-periods, and even had a dedicated group of fellow show devotees with whom I’d discuss each episode. That said, I’m also into other, non-trashy reality tv shows (yes, they exist!). And Ultimate Beastmaster, is one of those.

Much like other competitive reality tv shows, Ultimate Beastmaster has competitors competing difficult obstacles in an effort to win a prize. The name of the show, actually comes from the fact that the obstacles are constructed within a gigantic man-made “beast,” so to speak. At the bottom of each obstacle is also a large pool of water, referred to as “beast blood,” in which if a competitor falls, they’re out of the competition. There are 4 levels that contestants must go through, to advance. Each level has its own timed obstacles, all with varied amounts of points that can be earned. Those with the most points, no falls into ‘beast blood,’ and least amount of time advance, and and one winner is declared at the end of level 4. And then during the penultimate episode, the winners of previous episodes compete for a shot at $10 000 USD and the title of “Ultimate Beastmaster.”

As far as competitive reality tv shows go, the format is pretty standard. It actually reminds me a bit of Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle. However, unlike those shows, where the focus was largely on not only completing the course but also on humiliating challengers, Ultimate Beastmaster focuses solely on the athletic abilities of its contestants. Hence, each contestant for Ultimate Beastmaster is also insanely talented and athletic. Competitors range from crossfit trainers, to military men, to rock-climbers, to parkour fanatics, etc. Fittingly then, the competitors are also ‘beasts’ in their abilities (aka the title of the show).

It’s also worth noting that competitors come from six specific places: America, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea. Each country has two competitors in each episode (except for the final episode which only has the winners of the previous episodes). Each country also has its own set of hosts. For America, its Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson, for Brazil its Rafinha Bastos and Anderson Silva, for Germany its Luke Mockridge and Hans Sarpei, for Japan its Yuji Kondo and Sayaka Akimoto, for Mexico its Luis Ernesto Franco and Ines Sainz, and for South Korea its Seo Kyung Suk and Park Keong Rim. The hosts provide commentary for each of their competitors, and even other competitors, often in their native language. Subtitles are provided for the non-English words (of if you use Netflix, you can have subtitles for all of the hosts!).

Personally, the hosts are actually one of my favourite things about this show. Not only do they add a fun factor to the show with their commentary and reactions, but I also enjoyed the sense of camaraderie they shared with the others. Terry Crews in particular was quite fun to watch as he interacted with others quite often (sometimes even going into their hosting stations LOL). Rafinha Bastos was also absolutely hilarious. In one episode, the Brazilian hosts thought that their competitor beat a German competitor, so they went into the German host’s booth to mock them and dance. But, what they didn’t realize, was that their candidate actually lost and the German advanced (LOL)! It was super funny to watch them stop mid-dancing after the German hosts let them know they lost.  Another time that stood out to me, was when a South Korean competitor was advancing and the South Korean hosts decided that it was too sad to see him fail, so they turned their backs to the screen (where he was performing), only for the competitor to succeed (LOL)! Both instances were played light-heartedly and for laughs and I quite enjoyed it!

The athletic aspect of the show is also incredibly awe-inspiring, especially the way some of the competitors competed. There’s just something about watching athletes in (or even out) of their zone, doing various challenging activities. One of my favourite things, was watching Brazilian climber Felipe Camargo climb during an obstacle. He performed with such finesse, it felt like I was watching a climbing documentary! I highly enjoyed the show!

My rating: Watch it to enjoy incredible feats of athleticism by incredibly talented competitors!