Wonder Woman Movie Review


I’m baaaack! Well temporarily for now, but back nonetheless. To kickoff my return, let’s dive straight into a review. Today I’ll be discussing the 2017 Wonder Woman movie. Here’s the thing, I know it came out a few months ago. But I’ve already reviewed even older things on this blog, so why not this movie.

With that said, for those unaware, Wonder Woman is a movie about the comic book hero Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince. If you’ve been on this blog before, then you probably know that growing up, I was a big comic book fan. So I was already familiar with Wonder Woman. While she wasn’t my favourite superhero, I did always have a soft spot for her. It always felt really nice to be able to look up at a girl comic book hero who actually had powers of her own accord. There’s nearly not enough representation of strong women with powers in media. But I digress, let’s get into the movie.

I was actually really excited to see this movie because it was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. However, at the same time, my expectations weren’t that high. Wonder Woman often had the tendency to be sexualized and as a young girl, it wasn’t something I was super fond of. I mean her outfit itself speaks to this. But I figured that since a woman was directing it, this element wouldn’t be as noticeable. And to my great delight, I was right!

Basically, the movie sort of functions as an origin series/ introduction to Wonder Woman. The daughter of Greek God Zeus and Hippolyta (played by Connie Neilsen), young Diana (wonder woman), grows up on the all-women island of Themyscira with the Amazons. The Amazons, it is explained, were originally created to protect man-kind. When one of Zeus’s children, Ares, the God of War, got jealous of humankind, he tried to destroy them. The Greek Gods and Amazons all fought back against Ares. Ares managed to kill all of them, except Zeus, who managed in his dying moments to defeat him and gave the Amazons their island and a secret ‘God-Killer.” The idea was that Ares would return to destroy mankind against one day and only the “God-killer” could destroy him. Diana sees this “God-killer” sword and hears of this story and becomes determined to train, to be able to defeat Ares when he returns. Although her mother objects at first, she is eventually won over by her sister, Antiope (played by Robin Wright) and Diana commences her training.

Meanwhile, on the run from Nazi’s, UK WWII spy Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), manages to somehow break into Themyscira. Diana, now an adult (played by Gal Gadot), rescues him. However, Steve also inadvertently leads the Nazi’s to Themyscira and a battle between begins between them and the Amazons.  Of course the Amazon’s end up winning, but at the cost of Antiope and other Amazon’s deaths. After the battle ends, Steve fills in Diana and the others of WWII. Diana is incredibly surprised at this (the Amazons were isolated from the rest of the world) and convinced that Ares is behind it. Hence, she grabs the “God-Killer,” determined to defeat Ares and end WWII and escapes with Steve to meet the rest of mankind.

The rest of the film deals with her adventures in meeting and discovering the rest of man-kind and her journey to deal with Ares.

There were a number of things I liked about this film. First off, the costumes for the Amazons. One of my biggest issues with Wonder Woman has always been her costume — it reveals far too much skin and seems so impractical to move in. In other words, it’s incredibly unrealistic. However, the movie sort of rectifies this. While the costumes still show skin, they also seemed a lot more sturdy. Plus the costumes didn’t really function as the main point of scenes. In other words, when the Amazon’s did their stunts, the costumes didn’t distract the viewer from seeing their amazing fighting abilities. A thing I’m sure had to do with the fact that a woman directed the movie.

Secondly, I really liked how it was so obvious that Diana was the hero in this film. She had the cool powers, she did the amazing stunts and she ended up saving the world. I don’t know, I just thought it was so cool how it was so in-your-face that Diana was the hero. She was the main star and main lead. Maybe I’ve been watching too many male-oriented films or I need to watch different movies, but I’ve become so used to seeing men as the heros of films with the women relegated to being the side characters. But in this movie, Wonder Woman was front and centre with Steve being her supporting side character. It was a nice change and felt good to see.

Which brings me to the acting. When Gal Gadot was initially announced as Wonder Woman, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I had only seen her in the previous Fast and Furious movies and her small cameo in Batman vs. Superman. She was pretty enough but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about her as Wonder Woman. However, she completely won me over. Gal was so incredibly charming. She imbued within Wonder Woman the right amount of innocence and determination. It was just so easy to root for her and like her. Same with Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. However, that was to be expected. For some reason, I always end up adoring Chris Pine in whatever character he does, even if I don’t want to. I remember hating the idea of his character in Princess Diaries 2 (because I was a devout lover of those books) but then being completely on-board with him later on. The exact same thing happened with him as as James Kirk in Star Trek. Even in The Finest Hours, while I found his character a little annoying, I couldn’t help but be charmed by him. There’s just something about him that gets me every time and this time was no exception. However, I was surprised by how much I liked Robin Wright. I generally have tended to not like her —  I think it’s a side effect of being introduced to her in The Princess Bride where her character was unlikeable. However, I really enjoyed her as Antiope. Plus her fighting scenes were incredible!

Which on that note, is another thumbs up. The fighting scenes in this movie were incredible — especially the ones with the Amazons. There was no random focusing on the women’s bodies as they fought or anything. It was just pure fighting without any sort of sexual element and it was fantastic! I loved watching those scenes so much!

However, there were also things I didn’t like about the movie, namely the 3rd part of it. Prior to watching, I had read a lot of reviews that said that the 3rd act of the movie brought it down. However, I figured that those comments were just by non-fans or people who love to criticize popular things and/or subject to a bandwagon effect. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The 3rd act was really weird and did bring down the whole movie. While I can sort of forgive the Ares cop-out, the entire battle between Ares and Diana was so weird. Just stuff flying around? And some hand to hand combat? But more flying? I don’t know what I expected, but it really wasn’t that. Plus, Steve’s sacrifice at the end was so horrible! It basically ruined my mood. In general, there was just so much happening in the 3rd act that it got a little hard to focus. It definitely ended up bringing down the movie a lot.

My rating: Watch it to enjoy another comic book hero origin stories, or to see Chris Pine charm the socks off you but don’t expect to be completely thrilled.


The Last King Movie Review

last_king_dvd_2d.jpgI put on The Last King/ Birkebeinerne on a whim. I just needed some background noise. However, when the film opened up with the allegation that it was in fact based upon some real life events, I knew that it would no longer just be background noise. I’m a huge history fan so my interest was fully piqued.

Basically, the background history is this: from around 1130-1240, Norway underwent a series of civil wars. Prior to this, Norway had often been ruled under a power-sharing agreement wherein 2 kings or so would agree to govern together. This was done so because Norway had vague kingship laws. As long as a pretender had a claim to the throne (regardless of his legitimate/ illegitimate status), they could partake in the sharing of power. However, over time, some kings broke their oaths (i.e. to not claim the throne until someone’s reign was over) or attempted to usurp all power. Inciting these power struggles, were the neighbouring kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark, who would periodically pledge their support to various leaders. As such, various civil wars began. It is important to note that the civil wars weren’t always between the same two groups, as agreements and alliances shifted. However, by 1177, a faction known as Birkebeiner (birchbark leggers), gained power and elected Sverre Sigurdsson (Sverre of Norway) as King in 1184. However, Sverre’s kingship wasn’t peaceful as a number of pretenders challenged his throne. By 1197, the Norwegian Catholic Church also fell into conflict with Sverre, and as a result, backed another faction: the Baglers. Unlike the Birkebeiner who were mostly made up of poorer peasants (hence their name – they could only afford birckbark to wrap their shoes), the Baglers consisted of the richer merchants, noblemen, and clergymen. Eventually, the Baglers and Birkebeiner emerged as the two main factions. Yet, despite the challenges, Sverre managed to hold onto power, until he died in 1202. His son Haakon Sverresson was made king after his death, but Haakon died in 1204, after less than 2 years on the throne. Desperate for a leader, the Birkebeiner put Inge Bardsson, a nobleman, on the throne. On the other hand, the Baglers saw this as the perfect opportunity to strengthen their claim to the throne and began fighting intensely. Amidst this struggle, it became known that Haakon Sverresson had actually fathered a son – thereby strengthening the claim of the Birkebeiner. However, the son, Haakon Haakonsson, was born within Bagler territory, thereby putting his life in danger as the Baglers were determined to kill him to strengthen their claim.

This is where the movie begins (1205/1206). Two Birkebeiner, Torstein (played by Kristofer Hivju) and Skjervald (played by Jakob Oftebro), manage to sneak into Bagler territory and pick up the infant Haakon Haakonsson and his mother. While enroute to a safehouse, they are spotted by Bagler troops. Hence, Torstein and Skjervald take the baby and flee, promising to deliver the child to safety. After a couple of cool skiing sequences (the birkebeiner carried the child while skiing in order to escape), they manage to find shelter for the night and deliver the child to the safehouse. Skjervald then decides to go home to his wife and child. Unfortunately, the Baglers get to his house and kill both his wife and child in their pursuit to find baby Haakon. Skjervald manages to escape and skis to the safehouse to warn Torstein and other Birkebeiner that the Baglers are still on their tail.

Meanwhile, back at the Birkebeiner stronghold, Nidaros, one of Haakon Sverresson’s loyal men, Inge (played by Thorbjorn Harr), is framed for his murder. Behind this conspiracy, is his younger brother, Gisle (played by Pal Sverre Hagen), who wants the throne for himself. It is shown that he indulged in an affair with Queen Margaret of Sweden, the widow of King Sverre, and convinced her to poison Haakon Sverresson. After administering the poison, she flees to Sweden, with the promise that Gisle will become king and then power will be theirs. However, Gisle betrays her and instead attempts to marry her daughter, Christina Sverresdatter (played by Thea Sofie Loch Naess), in order to secure his claim to the throne and gain the backing of the Birkebeiner. However, Christina is loyal to the throne (Birkebeiner) and Inge, so she attempts to betray Gisle and free Inge from jail. Unfortunately, she does not succeed.

Concurrently, the Birkebeiner ready themselves for battle to protect baby Haakon from the Baglers. Again, Torstein and Skjervald ski with the baby. The rest of the film deals with the two conflicts. Spoiler alert: Inge gets freed and reigns as regent for the young Haakon, who manages to reach Nidaros safely.

If you’re wary about watching this film without knowing about Norway’s history, I’d tell you to not worry. You actually don’t need to know the history behind the film in order to enjoy it. From a thematic point of view, the movie itself is very well made. Although it is historical in nature, the writers managed to adapt it to the big screen well as the story is (relatively) easy to follow onscreen. Of course you don’t get the nitty gritty details, such as who exactly the Baglers are, why the two (Baglers and Birkebeiner) are fighting, etc. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to know every single detail in order to enjoy the movie. Visually, it’s pretty cool to watch, especially the skiing action scenes (I’d probably call them the highlight of the movie). Plus, there are some nice emotional cute scenes with the baby. If anything, I’d say a prior knowledge of Norway’s history would probably allow you to appreciate the movie more, but again, I don’t think it’s necessary to know to enjoy.

The only big negative for the film, in my point of view, is that the film is not completely historically accurate. First off, from what I’ve been able to gather, Inge and other Birkebeiner actually did not know about Haakon Haakonsson’s existence until after Inge had been chosen to be the next king. So movie-Inge declaring himself to be regent until Haakon came of age is wrong. Secondly, Inge is never really framed for Haakon Sverresson’s murder. Suspicion falls upon Margaret of Sweden who actually does fail a trial and flees to Sweden. Inge is chosen to become the next Birkebeiner King. So movie-Inge being jailed is wrong. Thirdly, the character of Gisle doesn’t really exist in history. Inge did have a younger brother, but his name was Skule and he actually was the ruler of Norway, but after Inge’s death and he technically functioned as Haakon’s regent rather than Inge. So the whole plot of Gisle attempting to usurp power by framing Inge – no idea where that came from. On top of that, Gisle is implied to be a secret Bagler and is semi-supported by the Bagler’s as well. Given that information, it seems like Gisle’s character was partially inspired by the real life Bagler king, Philip Simonssen. Which is interesting, because the real life Christina Sverresdatter actually married Philip Simonssen. All of which implies that Gisle is a made up character, representing Skule and Philip together? I mean, if I squint, I can see why the writers chose to do that. However, as a history lover, I’m not impressed with it. Nonetheless, it’s a decent enough movie.

My rating: watch it if you’re a history lover, knowledgeable of Norwegian history, and/or if you want to watch cool skiing sequences.


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.

Jupiter Ascending Movie Review

jupiter-ascending-main-quadOkay so I have a confession to make: I have never seen the Matrix films trilogy. I just, I wasn’t too into them when they came out and the whole God-story comparison just put me off it further. When they became a big phenomenon, I just tended to ignore discussions on it or distract people. So when Jupiter Ascending came out, with the promotion that it was created and directed by those who created The Matrix, I decided it was high time I sat down and took part (well an indirect part) in the whole Matrix event. However, when the movie came out, I heard some pretty scathing reviews and hence decided that there was no need for me to get involved (LOL). I finally ended up getting over my reluctance and sat down to watch it. And now that I have, I figured a review was due.

In general terms, Jupiter Ascending is about a woman named Jupiter, played by Mila Kunis. Before her birth, her astronomy-loving father died in a robbery attempt gone wrong. Her mother, desolate in her grief, moved to Chicago and raises Jupiter as a single mother while living with some relatives. Quite poor, Jupiter, her mother and aunt work as cleaning ladies for rich people. Jupiter always expects the worst from people, so she hates her life and work. Her days pass by in monotony. However, she’s also incredibly interested in her father and desperately wants to buy a telescope (he was killed in a robbery over a dispute about a telescope). Desperate to gain funds, her cousin convinces her to donate her eggs to earn some extra cash.

Meanwhile, far off into space, it turns out that the universe is ruled by elite alien families. We’re introduced to the powerful House of Abrasax who own and harvest planets, effectively destroying all of its inhabitants. The three Abrasax siblings, Balem played by Eddie Redmayne, Kalique played by Tuppence Middleton, and Titus played by Douglas Booth, are the main characters in this plot. After the death of their mother, Balem inherits a large portion of planets, including the fruitful Earth. Titus does not inherit much but also desires Earth, wanting to end the harvest practises. Kalique remains in the middle. Alongside these aliens, there’s also hybrid humans and robotic-human/ machine people living in space.

Anyways, it turns out that the Abrasax mother had been reincarnated as Jupiter. As a result, if she claimed herself, then Jupiter would own all of the Abrasax’s mother’s inheritance. So when it came to the question of Earth, Jupiter could own it. Realizing this, all three Abrasax siblings send soldiers to Earth to figure out who the mother was reincarnated as (Jupiter) and capture that reincarnation. During Jupiter’s egg donation procedure, it is revealed that the doctors are actually aliens in disguise and sent by Balem to murder her. However, Caine, a human-dog soldier sent by Titus, and played by Channing Tatum, manages to rescue her. Before he can deliver her to Titus, the two are attacked by more of Balem’s men. Caine manages to escape with her and they end up at his friend’s house, Stinger, a human-bee mix, played by Sean Bean.

Here we learn that Caine served under Stinger in some sort of army/ police force but was discharged after he attacked some royalty. Jupiter also discovers that she is a part of the galactic elite. However, the two are again attacked by some soldiers and then transported to Kalique’s residence somewhere in space. Kalique explains to Jupiter than she is her mother’s reincarnation and hence owns Earth. She also reveals how the galactic elite possess a type of youth serum that Jupiter would be entitled to, should she claim her position. However, before things can go any further, the inter-galactic police force (?), Aegis, arrive and grab Jupiter and Caine. At some intergalactic place (?), Jupiter and Caine go through various bureaucratic challenges in order to have her claimed. Just as she finishes, Jupiter and Caine are again intercepted by Titus, after a betrayal by Stinger.

Titus explains to Jupiter how the youth serum is actually derived from the harvest of people on planets. In other words, real humans from other planets are harvested to create the youth serum. Jupiter is understandable disgusted. Titus also reveals how once Jupiter’s reincarnation, his mother, changed her mind and started trying to end the harvest trade instead of profiting from it, she was murdered. Using manipulation, he admits that he plans to stop the harvest trade and proposes to Jupiter in the guise that if anything happens to him, she can continue their work. Jupiter is visibly confused and wants to talk to Caine to discuss things over before she can agree. However, Titus again manipulates her and she ends up agreeing to the wedding. Meanwhile, we see that Titus had Caine captured and reveals his plan to marry Jupiter, kill her, and then inherit her inheritance. Caine is unable to do anything and as Titus expels Caine into the void of space.

On the other hand, the Aegis and Stinger do their best to go after Titus’s ship and save Caine. After Caine is conscious, we learn that Stinger betrayed them in exchange for money to finance his daughter’s sickness. Anyways, Jupiter and Titus’s wedding is arranged quickly and Caine and Stinger attempt to reach the ship to stop it. Just seconds before the wedding is complete, Caine manages to crash the wedding and stop it, revealing Titus’s ultimate plan to Jupiter. Jupiter is understandably shaken and demands to go back home to Earth. When she arrives home, she also discovers that Balem has kidnapped her family and in-exchange for their safety, she must sign over her inheritance to him. The rest of the film deals with that conflict.

All in all, I’m a bit confused as to what I feel for this movie. On one hand, I do like that there is finally a female sci-fi action hero. But on the other hand, she does play the role of damsel-in-distress for a large portion of the film. On one hand, the script is just all over the place with random cuts to scenes and no real exposition in between. But on the other hand, it’s still enjoyable to watch and the visuals are pretty cool. On one hand, some of the acting is really great (Channing Tatum), but on the other hand, some of the acting is just really campy (Eddie Redmayne). I mean, the movie definitely does have its positives but it also has its fair amount of negatives. At this point, in order to get through the haze and form a definitive decision about the film, the best course of option would be to apply a value ranking to the movie’s characteristics. But, I’m having difficult with that as well just because while I don’t think any of the movie’s faults are that incredibly bad, I also don’t think that the movie’s positives are amazingly wonderful. I just, I think I’m just stuck in the middle. It was fun enough to watch, with cheesiness and cliche tropes, but also not firmly in ‘good movie’ category with the disjointing flow.

If anything, I think the movie could’ve benefitted from more editing. Some scenes could’ve been cut, others could’ve been longer, some could’ve been added, etc. I mean, the movie plays off like any sort of generic sci-fi space action flick. But it’s also really ambitious in its scope and that ambitious feelings comes through quite easily while watching. You think and  feel like the movie is going to be really good. I mean while watching, I felt like the harvesting plot might go somewhere and raise questions about morality/immortality, but it just got left behind. I thought maybe the whole idea that humans actually aren’t alone in the world or that we aren’t the biggest hot-shots in the universe was going to be explored and take on the theme of hubris vs dissonance. I thought the whole half human-half animal mix might lead somewhere interesting. I thought maybe Jupiter might be a more nuanced and interesting character than originally perceived to be. Actually, to be fair, I was interested in her pre-alien life, especially with the telescope. Yet, even with these failed opportunities, it doesn’t quite crash and burn for me. It ends up okay and still remains fun- to a point.

My rating: watch it if you’re bored and want a typical sci-fi movie, but you won’t miss anything by skipping it.

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

mpw-115634Last week, I raved about how much I enjoyed the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Not only did the movie live up to my expectations, but it also led me to fall deeper in love with the series. So when the 2011 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness came out, I was so excited. However, my excitement soon faded into disappointment and anger once it was revealed that Khan, a prominent person-of-colour, was to be played by a white man, Benedict Cumberbatch. As you probably know by now, diversity is an issue close to my heart and hence having one of my favourite series end up white-washing such an iconic character was a pretty big blow. My disappointment furthered when I watched the movie and Khan’s character was kinda butchered (he’s supposed to be this insanely scary sort of fellow who poses a real threat, but Cumberbatch’s character was a mystery midway and then ends up being evil but with no real threat so you’re kinda just watching the movie bored). As a result, I kinda grew disillusioned with the series reboot. So when the 2016 sequel, Star Trek Beyond, was released, I actually didn’t care that much. I watched a trailer or two, and that was it. However, my friend convinced me to come along and watch the movie with her, and ladies and gentlemen, my love affair with Star Trek has rekindled.

One of my favourite things about the Star Trek series, alongside its space focus (I adoreeee anything to do with space, it’s so fascinating!), has always been the teamwork. Each member of the Enterprise works in tandem with the others. No one is the one, main star player, not even Captain Kirk. Before some of your Trekkies come at me with pitchforks, lemme explain. Captain Kirk functions as the leader of the Enterprise. He makes most executive decisions and the team relies on him to direct them. However, despite Kirk’s starring role, he’s not the only one who ‘fixes’ every situation. Kirk comes up with the plans, but their execution and even the planning stage, requires action and input from the other members. Their missions always end up being full-on group work; each Enterprise member plays a key role. Take the 2009 reboot movie, Kirk actually gets kicked off the ship and marooned on some distant planet. If it wasn’t for Scotty (and Spock), then Kirk would’ve never made it onto the ship again. Similarly, when Kirk and Sulu destroy the Romulan beam, it’s Chekov who manages to save them from certain death and beams them back to the ship. And even in the very beginning of the movie, its Uhura’s extra-credit work that spots the future Romulan ship in the first place! If any one of these members had missed their jobs/ hadn’t done them, then the entire outcome of the adventure would’ve ended up differently. That’s what I mean by it being a group effort. And my point was further illustrated in the recent film. Hence, onto the review:

The movie begins where the last one left off, with the Enterprise crew on their 5 year mission in space. Getting tired of the monotony and feeling disillusioned, Kirk contemplates quitting being Captain and instead becoming Admiral. However, a situation arises in which he and his team get attacked. It takes the entire teamwork of the team to escape the situation and save the day (much like the 2009 film). Without Uhura’s bravery in detaching the ship’s disc (no idea what it’s called) from the other part of the ship, Kirk probably wouldn’t have had time to escape Krall and escape the crashing ship. Without Spock to distract the aliens, McCoy probably wouldn’t have taken control of the alien ship and learnt how to control it. Without McCoy’s medical knowledge, Spock probably wouldn’t have survived long with his wound. Without Sulu and Uhura’s leadership capabilities, the team would’ve never discovered that Krall was tracking them or what his end plan was. Without Chekov, Kirk probably wouldn’t have been able to trap Kalara or get Krall’s location. Without Scotty, Jaylah wouldn’t (or perhaps would’ve taken a much longer time that needed) agree to give up her home and help the crew escape. Hell, without Jaylah and her knowledge and gadgets, the Enterprise crew would’ve had a much more difficult time rescuing everyone. Without Sulu’s determination, the ship probably would not have flown into space (everyone doubted that they’d reach terminal velocity except him!). Without Uhura’s linguistic skills, no one would’ve discovered that Krall was actually Balthazar Edison. And without McCoy and Spock, Kirk probably would’ve died.

Yet, unlike the 2009 film in which the sense of adventure was present but still subtle, this movie all but exclaims that it’s your run-of-the-mill adventure heist film (although they aren’t really the criminals here). It literally follows the sequential system that heist films operate upon. There’s a planning stage, the actual heist, and then a denouement. Although, this heist appears midway through the film, I think it still counts.

On that note, as you can probably guess (if you’re particularly good at reading between the lines!) that this film isn’t really about the general Star Trek universe. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a lot of discussion about the starfleet and the role played by the federation. However, there’s also a lot of focus upon the characters themselves and the heist plot doesn’t really explicitly need the Star Trek universe. In other words, you could totally imagine the heist happening in some other science-y movie.

That said, I still really enjoyed the film, just for the sheer amount of teamwork in the film and the little looks into each individual Enterprise team member and their personal life. Spock and Uhura are still in love with each other, with Spock still struggling between following his passion and doing his alleged duty. Uhura is still a badass who will do anything to save her crew. Sulu is married and has a daughter and remains a true dependable leader. Bones still dislikes Spock but comes to understand him better. Spock does the same with Bones and comes to express his respect for him (LOL). Chekov remains smart but has also begun thinking about leadership roles. Scotty develops a mentor bond with a young woman and delves into what being in a team means to him. And Kirk comes to grips with combating space weariness and being older than his dad ever was.

I also quite liked the character of Jaylah introduced in this film. Played by the wonderful Sofia Boutella, Jaylah is a young alien woman who had survived the hardship Kirk and his crew were going through. It is through her help and ingenuity that the team is able to reunite and save the day. I just thought it was quite nice to have another female character in the film who played a prominent role and was so smart and quick on her feet. I also enjoyed the villain Krall, played by Idris Elba. Although I think his story could’ve been more impactful, I still enjoyed what he represented, i.e. the other side of the federation and how not everyone could be a fan of it. And of course, as this film was directed by a different director, I think it’s also worth to address that. If you’ve read by 2009 reboot movie review, then you probably know that I was pretty annoyed with the constant lens flares. Thankfully, this movie doesn’t have those! The movie was directed by Justin Lin. I’m already pretty familiar with his work (through the Fast and Furious franchise and Community), so I kinda already knew that I would enjoy his work. Lin, in my opinion, is particularly good at doing action scenes (although he does have the tendency to do too many), and it definitely showed in this movie. But I think it also kind of played up the entire adventure heist element of the film, so it worked out. My only criticism, would perhaps be that sometimes, things fell into place too conveniently. Some intense suspense or thrill was lacking in certain scenes because you already knew what would happen. Nonetheless, I think this film was a solid entry into the franchise and is still a pretty enjoyable movie.

My rating: watch it to enjoy some cool space action and awesome team work!

Star Trek (2009) Movie Review


So I feel like I’ve been lacking when it comes to movie reviews. To be honest, I’m not much of a movie person. Or rather, I do watch movies, but just don’t watch them that often or watch them right when they release. Hence, when it comes to doing movie reviews, sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse because by the time my reviews come out, the movies have lost publicity and faded into the deep interior of people’s minds. But, I really do enjoy watching and writing about movies, so I continue to do it anyway.  Anywho, today’s topic is the 2009 reboot movie Star Trek.

Firstly, I’m not the biggest trekkie, but I do have a soft spot for this particular series. The original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation were shows that my grandfather really enjoyed watching. As a kid, I would sometimes join him and watch them. Now most of the stuff went over my head (I was quite young!) but I do have some good memories of the series. However, my affinity for the series mostly comes from the fact that it was something my grandfather and I did together and something that he enjoyed. So I always associate Star Trek with my grandfather and good memories. Hence when I heard about the 2009 reboot, I was fully on board. And to my absolute delight, when I saw the movie, I fell further in love with the series.

The movie plot, for those of you who’d like some refreshers, basically serves as a prequel/ origin to the eventual Star Trek series. However, it also isn’t quite a *prequel* to the actual series, as the movie sets up an alternate timeline. So while the characters remain quite similar and some plot-lines are recycled, the character origins and development are actually different. So for example, in this film, Captain Kirk actually grew up fatherless and his motivation for joining starfleet was to win a bet, vs. in the original series where he grew up with his father and joined because he was genuinely interested. Similarly Kirk and Spock don’t start out as good friends, but have a rather antagonistic beginning.

Which brings us the the general story in the movie. Since it’s been some time since the movie released, I’m not going to write out a detailed, scene-for-scene description. I’ll basically just summarize the gist. In essence, the origin stories for both Kirk and Spock are laid out (Kirk being a fatherless rebel needing direction and Spock dealing with bullying over his human mother), with the two beginning an antagonistic relationship. It’s through a dangerous situation (rogue Romulan ship from an alternative-timeline future bent on destroying the planets Vulcan and Earth), with a little help from the alternative-timeline Spock (who reveals the backstory of the dangerous situation and the subsequent alternative-timeline that has been created), that the two become friends. Their friendship, and relationship with what would become the original Star Trek crew, is what finally defeats the dangerous situation (pretty cool, climactic scene wherein everyone participates). The movie ends with their formation and Spock’s famous dialogue to venture into space “where no one has gone before.”

As you can tell (hopefully LOL), it’s a super fun movie to watch. It’s basically an adventure film in which the good guys go through some tense and bonding moments before eventually winning over the bad guys. Pretty typical in its plot-line. And yet, the cast, character development, script, and humour elevate it. It actually reminds me a bit of the later Marvel movies, where the fun quotient adds another layer to the movie. And I think this also relates back to the original essence of the Star Trek movies/ shows. From what I’ve been able to glean from observing my grandfather, watching parts of the series, and reading online, one of the biggest draws to Star Trek, has been the sense of discovery the series promotes (along with the science). In each episode, Captain Kirk and his crew discover something new and experience new adventures. It’s fun. Things are always happening. And the film does exactly that. The crew experiences a new situation/ adventure and bond over it. I think this film functioned really well as a starting point for the series. Not only could new fans get into the series, but older fans were also serviced with the idea of an alternative-timeline (giving the writers some leeway with situations, which also serve to conciliate head-strong fans who demand 100% accuracy).

On another note, I think the casting was also really great. I was initially a little hesitant over Chris Pine’s  selection, because prior to this movie, I had only seen him in The Princess Diaries 2. I wasn’t too sure as to how he’d take to Kirk. However, I was also a little scared that he would try to emulate William Shatner’s extremely over-exaggerated acting in an effort to pay homage. Shatner is a good actor (I’m guessing b/c I’ve only ever seen him in Star Trek), but my god, his Captain Kirk, while smooth with the ladies, was also ridiculously zealous in his reactions. To my thankfulness, Pine declined to follow Shatner’s acting style for Kirk and instead did his own thing, which translated wonderfully onscreen. I really enjoyed Pine’s take on Kirk, as being this rebellious kid who needed direction. He really shined in this role and captained the movie wonderfully. All the other characters were great as well, Zachary Quinto as Spock, John Cho as Hikaru Sulu, Karl Urban as Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura, Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov, and even Eric Bana as Nero.

Which also brings me to another issue: diversity. Growing up in an extremely multicultural country, diversity (and to another extent representation), has always been important to me. And one of my favourite things about this movie and of Star Trek in general, was how diverse it was. You had people of different races all playing an important role. As a woman of colour, this is a message that brings me great joy. Your talents aren’t determined by your skin colour or anything; it’s who you are. And Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov really represented that for me. It doesn’t matter that you’re a person of colour, or a woman, or have an accent; as long as you can get the job done, you’re good to go. In today’s climate, as much as we’d like to celebrate our diversity and sing kumbaya while sitting in a multicultural circle, the truth is, racism is still quite rampant in our society. I mean, in the United States alone, Black Lives Matter is a glaring example. Even in other parts of the world, Islamophobia is widespread. And these issues are also represented on-screen, wherein people of colour significantly feature less in films and if they do, they are often reduced to being caricatures or reinforcing stereotypes. Yet, Star Trek goes against the grain and represents a more hopeful future/ reality. Not only are people of colour/ minorities represented on-screen, but their roles are significant, regardless of race. Of course, the diversity ratio can be improved, but considering how the series was created way back in the 1960’s and still managed to be so diverse is incredible. Especially when you compare to how we face issues with diversity today.

However, with all my positives for the film, I will say that it is not perfect. The one thing that really annoyed me, was the constant use of lens flare to make scenes dramatic (?). I mean, cinamatography on the whole was decent. The movie was lit brightly which, in my opinion, added to the light, fun feel of the movie. However, there were also constant lens flare. At some point, it just became too much. This may in fact be a critique of the director because apparently he has done it often? And from previous movie watching experiences, I know that you do not always need lens flare to display dramatic moments. There are different ways to shoot scenes, angle your camera, etc. to achieve a dramatic flare. Yet, in this film, I counted over twenty different lens flare scenes, before I stopped counting. I mean, come on. And I was also a little peeved at Uhura’s costume. I mean, not only does the mini skirt uniform she wears look uncomfortable, but it also begs the question of practicality. From prior skirt-wearing experience, I can tell you with 100% guarantee, that pants are much more versatile and facilitate movement in an easier fashion than skirts. I just, I found it ridiculous that everyone was wearing pants except her. I also wasn’t quite a big fan of the gratuitous semi-nude shot of Uhura undressing. I just, it felt so unnecessary and almost like it was servicing fan-boys. Ick. But on the whole, it was definitely an enjoyable movie and a great starting point for new fans to get sucked into!

My rating: watch it to be sucked into an awesome space-y and science-y adventure!

American Ultra Movie Review

Although I’ve been doing book reviews for the majority of this blog, I think it’s time to switch it up and put out some movie reviews. As such, let’s talk about a movie I watched recently, American Ultra. To be completely honest, I’ve never really been the biggest fan of Kristen Stewart or Jesse Eisenberg. I remember first seeing Kristen Stewart in Zathura and finding her annoying. This annoyance grew and morphed into dislike after I watched her in the Twilight movies. I just found her so incredibly awkward and lifeless and her acting came across as so one dimensional and flat. With Jesse Eisenberg, on the other hand, I initially really enjoyed his acting, but over time, I began to grow bored of his roles. It seemed like that he always played some awkward, neurotic person, although that may just be because I haven’t seen much of his filmography, only a few select films. Hence, when I first saw my Netflix suggesting American Ultra, I found it really amusing. Netflix would suggest a movie that contained two actors I didn’t really like. However, with nothing else to do and no inclination to spend more time choosing a movie, my sister and I decided to take the plunge and watch American Ultra. So imagine my surprise as I wound up enjoying the movie and actually improving my view on the two actors. Therefore, I decided this movie was worth a review, spoiler-filled of course (as is my style LOL).

The movie begins with an introduction to Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart’s character’s, Mike and Phoebe. Mike is a seemingly low-functioning stoner who has major travel issue, i.e. he finds it incredibly difficult to leave his small hometown and travel anywhere else. Phoebe is his supportive and loving girlfriend who understands his struggles. The movie actually begins with Mike and Phoebe attempting to travel to Hawaii, only to miss their flight after Mike begins experiencing intense panic attacks at the thought of leaving. Phoebe is understandably upset but tries to cope. The next day, the two continue on with their life together as normal; Mike goes to work in a convenience store and Phoebe goes to work at a travel agency. It’s quite apparent from this initial introduction that while the two do share a really loving relationship, their lifestyle is also incredibly mundane with no real prospects of improving.

The movie then switches to Connie Britton’s character, Lasseter, a CIA agent. She gets a call informing her that her last surviving ‘super-soldier’ will be killed. This super-soldier, it is revealed, is Mike (go figure LOL). Feeling a duty to protect him, she goes awol to try and protect him. The person in charge of killing Mike, is her rival CIA agent, Yates (played by the hilarious Topher Grace — I think he excels at playing asshole-who-gets-his-butt-kicked roles). Yates, it turns out, has created a successful super-soldier program (Lasseter’s program had failed and Mike was the sole surviver) and believes that killing off any remnants of Lasseter’s program is necessary for his success. Anyways, Lasseter goes off to find Mike and tries to warn him and activate him, using a bunch of words. Unfortunately for her, it doesn’t seem to work and she leaves.

After she leaves, two of Yates men come into the store to kill Mike, but his training kicks in (the words did activate him!) and he kills them. Mike, who has no idea about his past as a super-soldier, is horrified and quickly calls Phoebe. She comes to the store to try and figure out what to do, only for the two of them to be arrested by the local police. Thinking that jail would be an easy place to complete a kill, Yates sends in two of his super-soldiers to kill Mike. But of course he and Phoebe escape from the soldier, although one soldier does die and so does everyone else at the station. The two then run to the house of Mike’s supplier, in order to hide and evade capture. Yates becomes annoyed at his soldier’s failure and decides to place the city under quarantine, using the excuse of a virus and places Mike and Phoebe’s pictures on the news as wanted fugitives. Mike’s supplier watches this and freaks out and locks Mike and Phoebe in his trippy basement. Yates quickly tracks them down and tries to kill them by incapacitating the two with a gas while his men kills Mike’s dealer and his friends. Instead of Mike coming to the rescue, this time, it’s Phoebe who comes to the rescue and gets them both out of the gas and injects Mike to remove the gas from his system. And the truth comes out.

Turns out, Mike was a delinquent kid with not much going for him. Lasseter found him and made him a deal, in which she’d turn him into a super-soldier and his previous charges would be dropped. The program, called Ultra, functioned as a sort of mind control program wherein subjects would basically become mindless, trained, soldiers who could be relied upon to finish jobs. This is the reason why when Mike’s training kicks in to rescue him from the killers, he’s able to evade, overpower, and kill them in a manner of minutes. It’s all like second nature to him. But after the program failed (the other subjects killed themselves I think), Mike’s memory was erased. This is the reason why he is slow-functioning, because the mind erasing drugs dulled his brain. Phoebe, it turns out, was a CIA agent assigned as Mike’s handler. Mike is crushed by this revelation, allowing one of Yates soldier’s enough time to kidnap Phoebe.

Lasseter meets up with Mike again, saving him after one of Yates men tries killing him and Mike decides he wants to go home. Lasseter also reveals to Mike that while Phoebe was initially assigned as Mike’s handler, she fell in love with him and left her job with the CIA to come and live with him. Mike feels a bit better and after a fight out with some of Yates men, he communicates with Yates to get Phoebe back. Meanwhile, on the other side, Yates attempts to get a drone to completely wipe out Mike and Lasseter, but Lasseter’s former assistant at the CIA reports Yates actions to the Director of the CIA. The drone doesn’t work out and thus begins a huge fighting scene wherein Mike takes on many super-soldiers in order to get Phoebe back. The movie ends [SPOILER ALERT] with Mike and Phoebe living happily as CIA agents/ operatives. Some other stuff happens too before this ending, but I think it’s important to leave at least some things for movie-goers to watch, instead of me spoiling LOL.

Anyways, while the movie isn’t a great masterpiece or anything, it’s definitely quite fun to watch. Director Nima Nourizadeh actually had some great shots and I really enjoyed some of the trippy sequences. I especially thought the fight sequences were interesting, as Mike literally just fights with whatever he can find, i.e. using a spoon as a knife. And while the script wasn’t award-winning, it definitely had quite a few lines that I just found hilarious. For example, when Mike is talking to Yates in order to get Phoebe back, Yates demands that Mike surrender and Mike agrees. He then wonders how he’s supposed to surrender and proceeds to ask Yates if he has to wave a white flag (he actually does wave a white tissue paper in one fight LOL) or if he has to sign something to make it official (LOL). Of course I realize that not everyone would find such humour appealing, but my sister and I quite enjoyed it. However, I think it’s also worth while to point out that the movie did have some drawbacks. Some of the fight sequences were gory to the core, and kind of disgusting at times. And while there were definitely some really, really funny lines, there were also some lackluster moments in the movie. The script wasn’t necessarily buzzing with laughs. And the plot-line of the movie is fairly predictable. So I caution against watching this movie with high expectations. My sister and I watched it without any expectations. Actually, if anything, we watched it with extremely low, perhaps even into negative territory, expectations. And maybe perhaps that’s why we enjoyed the movie so much; we found it to be much better than expected. Which brings me to the actors.

The best thing about this movie, in my opinion, was probably the acting, especially Kristen Stewart. She was really great in this movie. She presented a wide array of emotions and emoted so well. There was none of that awkward, lifeless performance I expected of her, which it a bit surprising since her character was definitely presented as a little bored and tired. I found her so engaging on screen and despite the small-ish role Phoebe occupied, I always enjoyed seeing her on screen. My view of her as an actor has definitely improved after seeing this movie, she’s quite good at comedy (and personally, I think comedy is one of the hardest genre’s to master acting in). Even Jesse Eisenberg was pretty good. The stoner, anxious parts of his character were enacted well by him, but that’s to be expected. He also did surprising well in the action sequences. And the rest of the supporting cast was good as well. Connie Britton and Topher Grace were great, as was Walton Goggins who played one of the super-soldiers. If it wasn’t for them, the movie probably would’ve bombed harder than it did.

My ratingWatch it with no expectations in order to have a decent time and to discover that Kristen Stewart has legit acting chops.