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Movie Marathon Weekend / Friday 6 juli 2018: Ready Player One (2018), The Domestics, Early Man (2018) and In Darkness (2018)

When do you actually get the time to watch several films in a row these days? And when you do find the time you are always plagued with the good old question: What to watch? This time it didn't take me that long to compile a list since I have a huge backlog on films I still have to watch or want to watch. Although there were some titles among them I did very little research on prior to watching. In the old days I had no choice but to take risks like that since back then we weren't flooded with titles left and right. Now you do have to be picky since there are too many bad films out there. Therefore going in blindly is not something I do often. In this case though I was in good company, the ever so lovely Mrs. P which helps soften the pain in case a film is torturous. In this article I will only give you some of my thoughts. When needed I will do full reviews of these titles in future. 

We started off our marathon with:

Ready Player One (2018)

To jump right in this was something I truly enjoyed a lot however I was a little underwhelmed with the way the pop culture referencing was handled. Since this element is vital to the story and something that adds to the viewing experience I had hoped I would get the chance and time to let some of them sink in. But most of the time you barely can process what is displayed on the screen. Too many characters and objects that pass you by without them having impact or significance. It does make it the ideal title to purchase and own since it will be a lot of fun to pause the film to look for the references you missed. I am not familiar with the book or what it's about and now after having watched it I obviously know a little more still I really would have liked it if there had been more world building. For a film with a duration of two hours and twenty minutes very little is explained about the world and the people who live in it. You get the gist of it and it's asked of you to fill in the blanks. The consequence is that while you understand that some events are significant they don't have the impact as intended. Mind you Steven Spielberg very masterfully disguises the lack of depth by overwhelming you with action and spectacle. Overall the film is a lot of fun.

Then it was time for a more serious film:

The Domestics (2018)

The Domestics is an apocalyptic film full of promise. It certainly started compelling only to repeat the same thing over and over again to a point it became tiresome. Like many of these films the approach to topic is dark and pessimistic. You are confronted with how awful humans are and can be. Sure there are some who are full of hope and optimistic like Mark West (Tyler Hoechlin). I haven't seen the actor in much but I do know him from Supergirl where he plays a damn good Superman. In The Domestics he is like Superman without the powers. Then there are people like Nina West (Kate Bosworth) who are in denial and are trying to hold on to something that simply is not there any more. You are going to hate her especially when you realize how delusional she is about her husband Mark. In the end The Domestics has very little to offer. It's not bad but not good either. 

After all this darkness and negativity I felt like something comedic and fun:

Early Man (2018)

I wished I could tell you more about this. If only for the fact that after ten minutes or so I fell asleep. To be honest that has nothing to do with the title but more with the exhaustion I was experiencing at the time. I will watch it properly as soon as possible and give you my thoughts. I do remember the visuals looking crisp and gorgeous.

After my unplanned nap I was rejuvenated and up for something more thrilling:

In Darkness (2018)

For some reason I thought this was going to be good since it looked like this had all the elements to make a surprising thriller. And it certainly started out as one. Unfortunately In Darkness is one predictable and boring mess. Natalie Dormer who has written and produced the film together with director and fiancé Anthony Byrne clearly is out of her depth since she confuses pretension for being clever. Something a lot of film makers seem to suffer from these days. I don't even know where to begin with this one since the way the story is told is unbelievably bad. Actually you could use this film as an example how how not to do a thriller. I don't mind the twenty twist and turns as long as they serve a purpose and fit together in the narrative you have spun. But here they are used just for the sake of having them. A good thriller doesn't always have to consist twist and turns. They often do make most thrillers interesting however there are many other ways you could make events suspenseful and compelling. These elements aren't present however. I don't know what Natalie Dormer was thinking but she clearly needs to learn more about the trade. 

In Darkness was such a downer that I needed a real break before I could resume the marathon. We decided to pick up the marathon the next day. Actually we intended to pick up after a half hour break but then my body intervened and made me go sleep for much longer than that. I do need to add the fact that I had worked from 8 to 17 and had been up for quite some time before you condemn me.

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Review Psychokinesis a.k.a.Yeom-lyeok (2018): One hell of a superhero movie!

genre: super hero, action, adventure, science fiction, comedy, drama

Psychokinesis for some reason is advertised as comedy on Netflix and while it has some comedic elements it's mostly a serious drama with action and adventure. This is only the second live action film from director Yeon Sang-ho of Train to Busan but he definitely shows you he is capable of more.

That being said this (distributed) Netflix original is far from perfect. It doesn't go as deep as it could have gone. At the core this film is about the relationship between estranged father Seok-heon (Ryu Seung-ryong and daughter Shin Roo-mi (Shim Eun-kyung) who is embroiled in a feud or fight with a corporation hell-bent to build a big shopping mall. In one of the actions against the local shop and building owners Shin Roo-mi's mother gets killed. It's at this point that low life security guard Seo-heon gets blessed with telekinetic powers. When he discovers them he has some idea what to do with them but he needs to be confronted with his daughter and other truths to use them appropriately.. The film doesn't waste time to show the action and spectacle. While relatively small scaled most of the action looks spectacular. It doesn't take long for Seok-heon to get a grasp of his powers and yet he lacks conviction. It makes sense since the character basically went through life as an underachiever. But once he realizes what he is capable of he doesn't hold back.

I thoroughly enjoyed the action but was a little underwhelmed with the social commentary and minimalistic and subtle approach to the father and daughter relationship. Especially since director Yeon Sang-ho did much better regarding this aspect in Train to Busan. All we get to see is that Seok-heon tries to make up for having abandoned his wife and child. Daughter Shin Roo-mi who is very brave and capable needs all the help she can get. She is very desperate but afraid to admit she needs help. Then when Seok-heon shows up after being invited by his daughter she can't handle it him trying to be the parent he never was. I had hoped to see more confrontations and conflicts between them. Shin Roo-mi has every right to be angry with her father. It would have been nice to see them go at each other. Instead the focus is on his powers against the evil corporation.

Certainly worth your time but if I have to compare to Train to Busan it's far lighter and less impactlul. Still it's one hell of a superhero movie.

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Review Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018): It's one of those films you watch late at night or on quiet Sundays.

genre: action, thriller, science fiction

When I saw that Escape Plan 2: Hades already had been released I was surprised. I thought for sure that after the succes of the original it would at least get the same big blockbuster treatment or better. But no, for some reason this is a direct to video production with a second sequel already in the works. So what are my thoughts on this film?

First of all I loved the original. It was a proper throwback to old school action films Stallone and Schwarzenegger are famous for. And I am all for a continuation or return of those types of films. Although I do want them to be good and entertaining. Escape Plan 2: Hades is a significant step back from the original action and spectacle wise. As a concept however it holds up. Will it satisfy the crowds? Not by a long shot. Like I said this is a direct to video production aimed at a specific audience. People like me who used to consume everything action flick whether it was an A, B or C title. This doesn't mean I agree with all the decisions made in this film. It's incredibly flawed. There are some boring scenes that have very little to no purpose. Director Steven C. Miller is to blame for that. He should have focused on the characters and the bonds between the characters a little more. Stallone and Schwarzenegger had real nice dynamics that made everything so much more fun. Those interactions are completely gone. As a matter of fact there is very little Stallone in this sequel.

Come again? Very little Stallone? Wasn't this supposed to be a Stallone flick? Yep, I also was under that impression. Unfortunately Stallone, as Ray Breslin, while still important is not the main character. Huang Xiaoming is. He plays Shu, a pupil of Breslin who gets kidnapped and put into an improved version of the Tomb (prison in original). This requires some adjustment since chances are you aren't familiar with him. The other big name Dave Bautista also is nothing more than a glorified cameo. Both Stallone and Bautista have been used to draw an audience who will get duped by having to deal with lesser names. Huang certainly is leading man material and does what he can to make you root for him. However he is let down by a weak plot and poor direction. This I can live with as long as the action is decent and entertaining. And that it is but I personally was hoping for a little more of it. Action scenes are over before you know it. That being said I managed to sit through the film and apart from a few scenes wasn't bored. 

Could and should the film have been better? Of course. I mean Stallone is one of those names you can count on when it comes to good action. However the guy is 71 years old. You can't expect him to do action like he used to do. So it makes sense for him to be more in the background leaving the action bits for the younger cast members. Still, good action is what we want and that should have been delivered more. Overall Escape Plan 2: Hades is entertaining enough while it lasts. It certainly is not the worst film ever made. People claiming this obviously have not seen the films I have seen. But it is one you appreciate more late at night or on quiet Sundays. 

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Review Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017): A pleasant surprise!

genre: adventure, fantasy, comedy, action

Once Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle was announced I had very mixed feelings about it. While I don't think the original is a classic by any means I do get tired of reboots and remakes that simply rehash the old stories without adding anything fresh or creative. Well, Jumanji is nor a reboot nor a remake. It's actually a sequel that changes up things considerably but does give enough nods to the original to ensure you are watching a rebooted sequel. And believe it or not I was pleasantly surprised.

Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle is vastly different from the original. It's no longer about a board game causing havoc. The game understood it needed to adapt to current times and transformed itself into a videogame. To be more specific a role playing game. In short: RPG. The main characters of the film are injected into this videogame and it's where the adventure starts. How, why and what happens I will leave for you to discover since that is very much part of the fun. But I can assure you that it's going to be compelling and funny. Although you have to keep in mind that this film is focused on the adventure and action parts and has very little story.

Dwayne Johnson as always is very dependable and seems to work quite well with others especially Kevin Hart. Even he is funny. Like The Rock has the ability to bring out the best in him and the others. The rest of the main cast do a good job as well. How can they not? They are none other than Jack Black and Karen Gillan. Gillan already had demonstrated with Doctor Who to have comedic delivery. Jack Black is a no brainer of course. The comedy is one of the main reasons why this Jumanji works. BTW Nick Jonas was a revelation to me, I don't think I have seen him in other films and if I did I must have overlooked him. But in here he actually managed to convey sympathy with very little although that could be due to his charm and charisma.
Spectacle wise it's not as grand or over the top as the film promises to be but that is me nitpicking. But it makes sense since this is supposed to be a kid friendly film where one can't go too far violence and action wise. Even though there are some horrific events implied. I do think this is a crowd pleaser but only if you don't have the highest of expectations. 

Overall a very pleasant and entertaining viewing experience! 

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Review Boyka: Undisputed IV (2016): Best of all the sequels in the franchise!

genre: martial arts, action, drama

Boyka continues his path of redemption he started in the previous film where he is all about doing good and bettering himself. Then a priest has to ruin it for him by saying that God wouldn't approve of his lifestyle. The same priest who has no problems accepting the donations Boyka is earning with fighting.

After accidentally killing an opponent in the ring Boyka's conscience ways on him heavily. So much so that he feels forced to make amends to the widow of the fighter he killed. There is more to her and her late husband of course and I will let you find out about that for yourself. Pretty predictable B movie fare but entertaining. It moves along in quite the fast pace and has very little boring moments. I do have some issues with some elements in the ending although I do understand it why they did it. Even if I don't agree with it. It's the thread used to give us to exquisite fight scenes. And they truly are a real feast for the eyes. Scott Adkins kicks and flips around like it's nothing. I know that purists frown up the flashy moves and to that I say, humbug. It looks extremely good and spectacular. We all know these fights aren't real so why not make them entertaining. Adkins looks like he is in the best shape of his life and far from finished considering his age (born: June 17, 1976). Boyka has improved considerably. Not only as a fighter but also as a human being. It's nice to see such character development. However don't get fooled by this fact since he is still as dangerous as he ever was. Only this time he does it to do good.

Director Todor Chapkanov clearly knows what the fans want and has stripped out all the annoying and boring parts from the previous films. Yet has managed to honour the story lines of previous films to strengthen Boyka's character. We still have no clue where Boyka comes from or what he actually the crimes were he has committed. It doesn't really matter. Once again he shows that he is the most complete fighter. A must watch for sure.

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Review Molly's Game (2017): A pleasant surprise!

genre: drama, crime, thriller

Suddenly there was a lot of fuzz about Molly's game but to me it wasn't entirely clear why that was. It seemed to be a film about poker and I am not really a fan of those types of films. My interest peaked when it was stated that Molly's game was a crime film and that poker is just an element of many.

To be clear, while poker is featured it's only vital to bring the plot forward. You aren't required to know or like the game. Crime is a bigger element but just as poker only essential to to keep things going. The most rewarding element is the relationship between Molly and her father played by Kevin Costner. I am not going into how and why but it's the thread that sticks events together in ways you probably won't even be aware of. However it is asked of you to accept the slow pace and not entirely original plot points. You need to be very patient. But it's not torturous by any means since the acting is incredibly good. Jessica Chastain completely carries the movie and adds complexity to her character in very subtle ways which is very hard to do and quite impressive. Costner like always is top notch. Same could be said about Idris Elba. He too very subtly downplays his role not to take the limelight away from Jessica. That kind of generosity suits an actor of his caliber. Like the title suggests it's all about Molly. And Molly is a character your are going to root for. She has the kind of mentality and drive one can only aspire to have. It is unclear to me why Chastain wasn't nominated for Best actress at the Oscars since she certainly deserved the spot. She would have given Frances McDormand a run for her money if the Oscars would have been just and fair that is. And if no politics were involved. Speaking of politics. What was up with McDomand's request for women to stand up? That made me dislike her. Also it contradicts what Molly stands for. She doesn't want to be helped. She wants to achieve things on her own. Who can't relate to that? 

The least said about this film the better since it will allow you to go on a journey together with Molly which is going to be very rewarding and in my opinion very beautiful. So do check this one out!

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Review Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018): I was surprised to find out that it was real entertaining!

genre: kaiju, science fiction, action, adventure

Pacific Rim: Uprising was met with a lot of hate since original director Guillermo del Toro wasn't at the helm any more although he still is attached as producer. And I am curious how much he was involved. But if I had to guess not that much as some would like to. The tone is different for example. Less dark and threatening. However that is substituted with more twist and turns and thrilling action. Not as grand and epic as in the original but still spectacular. One complaint though that there is not that much monster action. I know what  you are thinking. Isn't that supposed to be the main draw? You are right. It should have been. Still there is plenty of robot action and that is fun also.

There are no real big names apart from John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. Then there are some characters from the original who return even when their roles are a little diminished. That could be an issue if you have problems with the younger cast members. To their credit though they were very adequate and likeable. Most of the film are put on the shoulders of Boyega and he handles it like a champ. He demonstrates what he is capable of when given the space and opportunity. I wished Lucasfilm and DIsney would acknowledge that also. I mean it's ridiculous how he was treated in The Last JediHe easily was one of the main draws in Force Awakens and then to see him being diminished to basically a glorified extra is absurd. People bitch about Jar Jar Binks but even he, a CGI character got more respect from Lucas than Boyega got from Rian Johnson. To make matters worse he is not even allowed to have the screen all for himself. He is forced to share it with a new character who adds absolutely nothing to this film and the Star Wars Universe. (It's really bothersome that he himself thought to defend Lucasfilm and troll fans in order to follow the narrative they spun blaming the fans of the failure of Disney Star Wars.)  Any ways sorry for my little rant there. At least in this film Boyega is a true main character who you will like and root for.

There is not a boring moment in this film. In fact, they rushed through events like there was no tomorrow. It would have been very welcome if they stopped from time to time to spend some time on the characters and background of the events. I mean a little more world building would not have hurt.  

As far as I am concerned this is a good follow up to the original and was surprisingly entertaining. I also expected this to be terrible. And it's not. So those people claiming that this is a terrible movie are far too uptight and demanding. It's a light blockbuster film where monster action is replaced with robot action. Is that enough for the outrage? No, because the film does explain why it's happening and what it's going towards. There's even a hint of a third part. Too ambitious and too confident? Perhaps. But I am all game. Let's hope that they made enough so that the third part is coming. 

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Review Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018): This is how you do it!

genre: animation, comic book adaptation, super hero

Batman: Assault on Arkham was the first animated film to do the Suicide Squad justice and this is the second one that shows how it's done. The live action one that came out two years ago was a travesty. Not only failed it to demonstrate why the Suicide Squad wasn't to be messed with it also put too much focus on Harley Quinn. While she can be very deadly and unpredictable she is more like the goofy side kick and nothing else. And Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay reminds us that of that fact.

Of course I understand from a marketing perspective that Harley Quinn sells. However even The Joker doesn't think too much of her so why should we? Especially since she is hardly useful. The other members tough are far more dangerous. They are cold blooded, relentless and very skilled assassins. But not psychotic as Harley is. In the introductory scene you get a good demonstration of what the Suicide Squad is really about. Very bloody and gory. This definitely is not one for young kids since Hell to Pay is quite violent. And it makes sense since these squad members don't operate under the same code as Batman has for example. They are villains for a reason. They might not be completely evil and perhaps do have a code of their own they certainly aren't motivated by doing the right thing. The explosive devices controlled by Amanda Waller is the real incentive. The second they don't do as she instructs she will press the button. Still it is made clear that Waller is infinitely more ruthless and evil to the extent that even the assassins are shocked when they are confronted with it. 

Amanda Waller puts the squad on a mission that isn't entirely sanctioned. It's a personal one. Or should I say selfish one since she doesn't give a damn about what happens to others for her sake. There were many times where I truly thought she went overboard. It's one thing to do what it takes to save lives. But to be like this to save your own? 

It's fun to see the several team members work together and do what they are supposed to do. And unlike the live action version this Suicide Squad are actually very competent. Only Deadshot gets briefly sidetracked but it's one of those things that will make you root for him. Hell to Pay doesn't have the most original story but it has enough surprises to make the viewing experience compelling. So definitely a must watch if you are craving for a decent film about the Suicide Squad.

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