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Review The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion a.k.a. Manyeo (2018)

genre: action, mystery







The Witch might give you the idea that it's a horror film. But in hindsight it's more like a superhero film a la X-Men with a sniff of The Long Kiss Goodnight featuring some John Wick type of action. Before you get all excited there are some caveats. 

One being the pacing of the film. I get that they were trying to cram a lof of story in this first part but that distracts too much from the main plot and is not necessary at all. I liked that they took the time to set up certain characters. Since what happens to them will affect you. And I do have to say that I liked some of the plot twists. These definitely make things more darker and compelling. However I do feel that a lot of the first part could have been trimmed down and made the viewing experience more enjoyable. The slow pace was a real test of my patience. 

It almost takes the film an hour and a half to give you the kick ass action shown in the trailer. Even if you are a trooper and don't mind waiting for good action the action sequences can disappoint a little. And by that I mean they don't last as long as I wanted them them to last. Because of the drawn out exposition and plot the action isn't as impactful as it could have been. The choreography is decent but pales in comparison to John Wick or Man from Nowhere for example. 

The villains in this film are laughably and predictably bad. It's like these villains are straight from an old cartoon where there are no redeeming elements to them at all. You can predict their every move and that just makes them annoying and boring. The kid from Monstrum and Parasite fails to depict a deeper character like he did in those films. I am pretty sure that the makers from this film were heavily inspired by the X-Men. However they failed to grasp what made most of the characters in the comics so interesting. A lot of them have more sides to them and aren't inherently evil or inherently good. They are more in the middle. In this film almost all villains are evil who all deserve to die. 

That being said, despite these flaws I am looking forward to the second part and hope that it will feauture more kickass action and better villains. 









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Quick reviews of The Lovebirds (2020), Becky (2020), Force of Nature (2020) and You Should Have Left (2020)





In my opinion the following titles don't deserve proper reviews. Although one could be fooled or tricked to watch them anyway. And my goal is to advise you against it by sharing my thoughts about them.




The Lovebirds (2020)


When The Lovebirds was announced it looked like a film that was going to be comedy gold. I mean the premise seemed absurd but ideal for a fun chase film. Kumail Nanjiani did very well in a similar film called Stuber. So naturally I was psyched. But then I got to warch it and honestly I didn't laugh a single time. All the gags  amd jokes were horrible. Worst of all, almost every character acted like buffoons including the criminals. It also doesn't help that Kumail has very little or no chemistry with Issa Rae. I just didn't buy them as a couple. They were supposed to play a couple who had grown a little apart from each other and were mostly fighting. Now I think that is something most people could relate to and I would have liked to see them bicker and fight convincingly. Surely they could have drawn from their own past love affairs. It would have been hilarious. But somehow the delivery of both just wasn't there. 

Never ever watch this. A giant waste of your time!



Becky (2020)


Becky marks the debut of Kevin James as a villain. In the still images and the start of the film he sure looks the part. But did he convince? Not in the slightest. He just didn't bring what it takes to give you chills. I also think they should not have him be a leader of gang. He should have been on his own. Since at one point it feels like a more adult version of Home Alone. Or perhaps Kevin James just doesn't have the acting chops to play a cold blooded villain. Surprisingly Lulu Wilson as Becky outacted him in every way. Her character was unpredictable and ferocious. If you ask me they should have reversed their roles and the film would have been a hit. 

Becky is not that bad but it's not that good either. The sole reason to watch this is because of Lulu Wilson. 



Force of Nature (2020)


Now I was fully prepared for this to be a B film. But Mel Gibson rarely is in super bad films so I was encouraged. But oh boy! You have no idea how bad this film is. At first it looked like it was going to be Die Hard in a hurricane. That is totally something I would appreciate. 

Then very quickly it turned into Sharknado. There is this one scene which I can assure you, you won't see coming, but will make you burst into laughter. And if that was the intention then I could have appreciated that as well. Except it wasn't. Most of the cast have no clue what kind of film they are in and play their roles as if they are in some Shakespearean play. Ir was at this point I knew the film was never ever going to be able to redeem itself. 

The ninety minute film has some real pacing issues and after an hour or so I lost my patience. I just didn't care anymore. The only thing I wanted to know was finding out who the mystery guest was. I still haven't been able to figure that one out. I paused several times but even then it was hard to make out what it was supposed to be. So I fastforwarded to hopefully good parts but with none present I called it quits.

This film was met with some controversy since people believed it mocked the real life tragedy that was Hurricane Maria. Now it might be bad taste to have this be situated in Puerto Rico. Then again disasters like these happen all over the world and often. By that logic you would never ever be able to make a movie. Also I can't remember them mocking the tragic deaths of people. It was just used as a plot device to have a bunch of people confined to a certain place. Sure they could have chosen any other country where hurricanes or common. Still people really need to chill a little. But yes there are people getting mocked. And that is it's cast and the audience. 

You are lead to believe you are getting a solid B action film instead you get a slow, boring mess of a C film that never delivers.



You Should Have Left (2020)


From all the films reviewed here You Should Have Left is the best one. It does have some pacing issues. Although it is decent enough for what it is trying to do. Some say this one is predictable. But as someone who has watched a lot of thrillers and horrors I can say that this statement is ridiculous. The film keeps you guessing until the last twenty minutes. 

Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried give solid performances. Avery Tiiu Essex wasn't bad either. However her character kept calling Kevin Bacon's character baba which is an honorific term, of Persian origin, used in India and several West Asian and South Asian cultures. Baba is also the familiar word for "father" in many languages. If Theo (Kevin Bacon) and the girl were supposed to be from parts in the world where this is common then maybe it would not have annoyed me. But there is no explanation or indication why she keeps calling him baba. She does keep saying it ad nauseum which bothered me somewhat. I mean what is wrong with dad or daddy? 

While the film is compelling and mysterious it's not really scary. The weird house, some weird local characters and the atmosphere do add to the mystery elements but I personally would have liked it had it been more full on horror. I think the message at the end of the film would have had a much bigger impact. 

Like I said from all the films reviews this was the best and actually worth your time. That being said it's very forgettable. I wish we get past this corona crisis soon since I can't wait to see a good new film again.



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Review The Fatal Raid (2019): Bullet ballet with hot women!

genre: girls with guns, action, crime





The Fatal Raid is the unofficial sequel to Special Female Force. Both films nobody asked for but in my opinion is a trend that should be continued. I can't get enough of the girls with guns genre especially if it delivers the top notch action the genre is famous for,

And The Fatal Raid certainly delivers on the action and beautiful asskicking women. But it's everything else that is a bit messy. The little bit of plot is all over the place which could have been remedied by better dialogue and better characterization. Instead it takes director Jacky Lee far too long to get to the point. Essentially he never does. Of course it is clear to me that this film tries real hard to evoke sympathy for the police officers and the impact their jobs can have on them. That they deserve to be respected and rewarded properly. But they rarely do. They also don't get the help they need after a very traumatic event has happened to them. How many times does an officer of the law have to plead for more coverage for his brethren and their families who are left behind? I got all that. However this film also then pleads to forgive and forget their criminal actions where a lot of innocents get hurt and killed. 


Madam Fong (Jade Leung) seems to be a pivotal character but only when the plot demands it. A few other actresses from Special Female Force also return. Thing is that it's not clear to me whether they are the same characters from that film or whether they are new ones. My guess is that they are complete different characters. And unlike in Special Female Force they aren't the ones the plot is revolving around. Most attention goes to Patrick Tam as a heavily traumatized and disgruntled police officer who is unable to move on. Still don't let that discourage you since it is the women who get to prominently show off their gun fu skills. 


Although it does feel a tad weird. But that is because apart from one or two wacky moments the film takes itself far too seriously. There are many times the film is begging for some comedic relief. Instead you get one overly dramatic scene after another. If these combined would have given you more insight and depth I would not have been bothered by this. But like I said there is only one message that gets repeared and repeared until you get fed up with it. 


Does it really matter? To be honest it doesn't. The beautiful women and the solid action is all I wanted and that is exactly what I got. While this was tonally different from Special Female Force, I do hope more films like this are made. I can't get enough of them.* 

One does have to wonder how practical these shorts are during police raids?

*It does look like there are some plans to carry on with this franchise. For example after the film ends there are two scenes. One to give us closure and what seems like to have Jade Leung be full of spirit to kick ass one more time. And then there is the reference to the Black Cat films featuring Jade Leung. While this time it's another girl who gets approached it was laid on so think for it to be just fan service. 




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Review Special Female Force a.k.a. Lat ging ba wong fa (2016): Beautiful women kicking ass! What's not to like?

genre: girls with guns, action, comedy, crime






Apparently Special Female Force is an unofficial remake of The Inspector Wears Skirts (1988). The similarities are obvious. But to be able to give you an in depth comparison I will have to watch the original again. It's been too long ago. That being said I do think that this remake starts out quite brutal and compelling.

It introduces you to some characters, quite cool and attractive ones. I mean real heartbreakers. But then the film does something really surprising which you will have to see for your self. Many years later we are introduced to other characters who want to join the police force. Most of them are quite juvenile and at first glance don't really seem to be suited for the job. Like in the original you will have to be prepared and endure comedic antics you either like or not. But honestly these moments were servicable and helped you get invested in the characters. For the most part though Special Female Force is a serious affair where the team of women have to fight and proof they have what it takes. There is one big dramatic scene that asks a lot of patience of the viewer. Still it's one that does help to make you root for these characters. And the film isn't afraid to show you what the dangers and risks are of the job. 

Now I do have to mention the fact that almost every scene involving the women could be perceived as voyeuristic and sexual. I mean most women are highly attractive and put into situations you would expect in softcore porn productions. Do I have a problem with this? Nope, not in the slightest. Actually I think it's one of the elements that makes this film enjoyable. Next to the action that is. Most of the action sequences are solid to good. In hindsight I think the opening scene is the most hardhitting and exciting but in the finale you also have a few good moments. What is problematic though is that there is a lack of coherent plot. I mean there is no real sense of urgency or tension. Except when the film demands it. With some scenes cut off and tighter direction Special Female Force could have been a classic.

Do you really expect me to say that this film is awful? Come on! Let's be real here. Not every film can be perfect or a masterpiece. Sometimes a film just has to entertain as long as it lasts. And in this case there is more to enjoy than to dislike. Actually there was very little I disliked. Besides beautiful women kicking ass the way they do here never gets tiring. So yes definitely worth your time if you are a fan of the girls with guns genre.





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Review Cook up a Storm a.k.a. Jue zhan shi shen (2017): This makes Hell's Kitchen look like amateur hour!

genre: food porn, drama, feel good





Cook up a Storm is a little feel good film where the food and mostly preparing the food is the key to everything.

If you have seen the trailer then this might come across as one big cook contest between modern style cuisine which features molecular gastronomy and old school street cooking heavily featured in Hong Kong cuisine. But this might be a tad misleading. 

It's more about the main characters and their life goals. Both of them have their own issues to deal with and are put to the ultimate test when they are confronted with each other. Now that being said it never goes deep enough since it gets heavily distracted by the food porn. 

But my god it's a very welcome distraction. The way the food is presented in this film is magnificent. I almost could smell and taste the deliciousness that is displayed on the screen. Now some might say that there have been more films who did the same. That might be true. 

I do think that Cook up a Storm takes things to the next level. Apart from resonating with me in the traditional sense. Namely that food and in particular cooking food is an expression of love. It also manages to make everything more appealing to a broader audience with it's spectacle.

This film definitely is a must watch for foodies. It might be a little too light for everyone else. However if this film won't make you appreciate food then nothing will!









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Review Monstrum a.k.a. Mulgoe (2018): Solid monster film!

genre action, fantasy, horror







At this point I do wonder how it is possible that there are three productions who are set around the same time period (The Joseon Dynasty) who almost have a similar vibe, came out in the same year and yet I only heard about the big Netflix production called Kingdom?And what exactly made this time period so special? It does motivate me to dig into this period and do some research. One day. For now I will stick to reviewing Monstrum.

Like Kingdom and Rampant this one goes the horror route. It tries hard to build up tension and suspense. And for a large part this works fine. However it never really gets creepy or scary. I think the biggest problem is the fact that unlike Kingdom and Rampant, the film has a more comedic approach. Don't get me wrong there is a serious tone throughout but it never truly feels like main characters are in any real trouble. Still, I was along for the ride due the cast and their acting. They made me root for them. Unfortunately they get a little obstructed by the overly predictable plot. I wished they truly had me surprised with a twist or two I didn't see coming. However there is one plot element that showed another angle that made me look differently at the monster.  They should have done more of those and Monstrum would have been a bigger movie. Spectacle wise it clearly is a smaller film compared to Rampant. But I must say that visually speaking the film looks good and the action is decent enough. If only it had been more ambitious. More drama, more political intrigue. More wacky characters. More blood and gore. Although the latter might have been a budget issue.

While I had fun from start to finish I can't help but feel so much more could have been done with the concept. I perhaps should commend the film for attempting to be philosophical. But like many themes explored in the film it's done far too briefly to have any real impact. If like me you can't wait for the third season of Kingdom to happen this will give you a small fix.









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Review The Bravest a.k.a. Lie huo ying xiong (2019): Hugely flawed disaster epic but worth watching nonetheless!

genre: action, drama






Backdraft is one of my most favourite films of all time. So when I come along another film that is pretty similar of course I will compare to that masterpiece. Yes, you read it correctly Backdraft is a masterpiece. Can the same be said about The Bravest?

Unfortunately not. There are some moments that do come close but there are too many flaws that bog down the overall film experience. First of all the narrative. It's clear they are trying to enhance the heroism of the firefighters. And that is fine by me. But it's done so poorly I had trouble getting invested. One of the main characters, Jiang Liwei, for example right after he has done something heroic gets blamed for the death of a rookie under his supervision. Now, sure one could argue that he shouldn't have let this rookie out of his sight. Still, even if he would be near and watching this rookie closely, there is nothing he could have done to prevent the event. Of course it's horrible and tragic. But unless this guy had pushed him into the building or had forced the rookie who reluctant. Then maybe I would have agreed with the haters. However this never happens. The only thing you could fault him for is that he let the rookie do clean up after allegedly the fire had been put out completely. Even his own family didn't have his back. There are other dynamics and forced drama that just lack coherence and depth. The best way to overcome this huge flaw is to accept the narrative and go with it. 

I understand that an oil refinery catching fire is a huge disaster. The film does point how dangerous it can be. Perhaps a bit too much since some of the impact seems too fantastical and over the top. Pretty, but kind of takes away from the realism. The film also doesn't point out the safety and security measures. I mean I am aware that certain corporate entities skip these in order to safe money. But in this case wouldn't it be in their interest to have the refinery in tact? I am sure they must have several precautions and measures in place that prevent the worst from happening. I think if they had pointed these out but despite those events still happened would have increased the tension considerably.

That being said I still was able to find enjoyment due to the sheer spectacle and short but heart wrenching dramatic moments. Is the film nationalistic and the highest order of propaganda? No doubt. Is it of a level that it completely gets into the way of the enjoyment? Well, maybe with the shame and disappointment concerning Jiang Liwei. But isn't that actually a true depiction of how China works? In any case it's of the same level of Hollywood propaganda and if we are able to enjoy those I don't see why we can't enjoy Chinese films who do the exact same. It's an element you have to take with a grain of salt. 

Viewed as a disaster epic this is as good as it gets. A lot of spectacular action and spectacle with some over the top melodrama to intensify that spectacle. Certainly worth watching at least once.








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Review The First Purge (2018): Not as bad people make it out to be!

genre: action, horror







On a whim I decided to watch this. And while it doesn't differ that much from previous entries it certainly isn't the worst in the franchise. 

Somehow I think a lot of politics concerning these movies have gotten into the mix and have left people judging the politics behind the film instead of the film itself. The First Purge is basically more of the same compared to the previous sequels that is smaller in scale. Compared to the original this is superior. So how is it that a lot of film fans seem to dislike or even hate this film? Most of them even claim to love all of the previous ones except this one. Well, I could dive right into that but I can assure you that it has nothing to do with the film itself but more with someone's world views and let's leave it at that. More interesting is the fact that the film failed to deliver on what most fans of the franchise have been waiting for since the original. And that is to go deeper into the conception and mechanism of the purge.

The First Purge only rehashes what already has been established in previous films. I myself would have liked to have seen the debates and discussions on the experiment before it happened. Why did we not get to see how they were able to pass this experiement? Even totalitarian leaders and regimes had to come up with solid excuses to implement certain laws and rules for the people to accept them. Here we are talking about the US in the near future that still is somewhat democratic. So there was no resistance at all? No outrage, no discussion? Come on! People went nuts about Superman's moustache. Then again a lot of people are strangely passive when it comes to politics. Still there are always enough people who do care and who would stand up. Where were they? I would have liked to have seen this. The only one who kind of does is  The Architect - Dr. Updale played by Marisa Tomei. She came with the idea. Then realizes that her experiement doesn't give her the results she expected. By her reaction she is pleasantly surprised and about to admit that she had been wrong. She was staying true to herself of this not being political for her. Of course for the government this is very much political and aren't happy with the initial results. 

Overall the film is entertaining enough but should be faulted for again not giving the viewers what they want which is a deeper exploration how the mechanism of the purge and the process behind it. Why not show how the rest of the world views upon this? Do they like the idea? Have they implemented this themselves? There are so many ways to approach this topic and yet the film never goes beyond the fact that the purge needs to happen and the purge itself. While I haven't seen the show I read that it also neglects to do this. A real shame!



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Review I See You (2019): Try not to get distracted by the way Helen Hunt looks and give this film a chance.

genre: crime, drama, horror, thriller, mystery







I See You is a title that flew under the radar. But it's one that needs to be watched since it's real good.

Before you get all excited while the film is truly filled with suspense and thrills it's not one of dread. It's dark but not unrelenting. The real horror comes from something you wouldn't expect. And that is Helen Hunt. Or actually her face. It's obvious she has work done. Whoever has done it should be sued or at least fired. I am not a huge fan of plastic surgery. I do see that certain people benefit from it like burn victims or any other similar conditions. But the ones who try to hide wrinkles or any other signs of aging need to stop. Aging is natural and will come back with a vengeance if you mess with it too much. Clearly in her case it went horribly wrong. How wrong? I was constantly distracted by the way she looked. Helen Hunt is 56 but now resembles a woman who is in her seventies. At first I thought it was an essential part of the film. Then a plot element revealed we were supposed to find her attractive. Sorry, but that is asking too much. In almost every scene it looks like her face is melting. It was distracting as hell. 

Anyway what I liked about I See You that it plays around with convention. You get to see an event played out like you normally do and then get to see it from a different point of view which changes everything. Now it is asked of you to suspend disbelief somewhat. But once you find out what is going on the film does become super creepy. But it has more surprises for you in store proving that it is very possible to be original and creative enough within the horror mystery genre. Biggest key is misdirection or the so called red herrings. In most recent thrillers or suspense films this is something that is skipped on and replaced by more blood, gore, jump scares and atmosphere. Naturally these are important too. However I believe that misdirection often is far more effective than these elements. Since often they make you invest in something or someone you perhaps shouldn't be invested in. It then affects you personally. Manipulation of this kind is far more terrifying than blood and gore. When done right of course which is the case here.

A must watch for sure. Try not to get distracted by the way Helen Hunt looks and give this film a chance. It's easily top tier that for some reason didn't get the recognition it deserves.










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Review The Lodge (2019): Doesn't quite meet it's potential but worth a watch!

genre: horror, thriller, drama






The Lodge is one of those films that is filled with potential. But perhaps out of fear to be conventional tries real hard to avoid horror cliches. In my opinion this is a mistake.

The setting and the premise right from the bet is an infuriating one. But it's one with impact and intrigue. The most ridiculous thing is the fact that Richard (played by Richard Armitage) must be among the most ignorant of fathers put on screen. Not only does he fail to be there for his two kids. He also fails to be a good partner to his mistress / girlfriend, Grace (played by Riley Keough). First of all, you should never ever force your new girlfirend upon your kids. Not even if they like her which definitely is not the case here. That in itself is pretty traumatic. Second, there is a special circumstance concerning Grace that makes it clear she is not up for the task of motherhood. Especially when the kids aren't ready for her in the slightest. Acting on part of these kids and Riley is real good. They do a perfect job of selling you the terror. You also never quite know who to root for. One minute it's the kids, the second Grace and then the kids again. Now it's not an elaborate cat and mouse play. Yet it adds to the tension and suspense.

The Lodge takes it's time to set you up for what is to come. Even if you could predict some events I doubt you will be able to predict the main one. It's bold and clever. Mind you in hindsight they could have taken it a lot further. If only to amp up the creepiness factor to a maximum. And yes, let's be clear. The Lodge is very dark and creepy. But doesn't have to resort using cheap tricks to achieve it. Most of the darkness comes from the setting, the characters and the atmosphere. Still there are some flaws. We never get to see the kids or Grace in a normal situation. It's incredibly vital for their development to be shown in a different light. Plus I think the impact of key events would have been bigger. I do have to add the fact that The Lodge does have some pacing issues. I get why the build up is slow. Only certain key moments pass you by so quickly you run the risk of missing them. Missing such moments are a detriment to the whole viewing experience. It's here where the film should have asked for your attention by sound cues. The Lodge is pretty quiet and to it's credit it's what makes it effective. Still, if certain events slow down so much that I lose attention you aren't doing a good job. 

While I acknowledge that The Lodge definitely can be disturbing in some ways it only scratches the surface. For whatever reason they didn't want to take it further like with Hereditary. But I was invested in the film to the last second. So yes, it is worth watching for sure!









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