Extinction (2018) Review

Extinction (2018) Review

Directed by: Ben Young

Written by: Spencer Cohen, Brad Kane

Starring: Michael Pena, Lizza Caplan, Amelia Crouch

Rated: TV-MA

Run-Time: 1h 35min

Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%

Availability: Netflix

A father has a recurring dream of losing his family. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm. (IMDb)

This movie, at best, is hard to quantify for a number of reasons. 

At this point, I’ve seen this film twice. And both times I found myself struggling to maintain interest. This film has an exceptionally unique concept but falls short in execution. It doesn’t quite follow the beats of a proper thriller and takes a long time to gets where it wants to go. This film is definitely philosophical because it does not necessarily end with your common film resolution. It ends with a question: can people and AI live together in harmony?

The best part of this movie is the concept, followed by Pena’s performance. We are used to seeing Pena in comedic secondary roles, but with being at the forefront of this film we find that he has a great range of emotion. After a point, he might as well be carrying the whole film on his shoulders, as he makes lacklustre reveals have more weight than they would have with a bad performance. If anything, this film shows that Pena has the potential to take on more serious roles, as well as play more major roles in future films. 

In a way, I want to call this movie a hidden gem of Netflix, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem quite good enough to call it that. It’s a surprising film, but not one I’d willingly watch more than once.

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Hanna (2011) Review

Hanna (2011) Review

Directed by: Joe Wright

Written by: Seth Lochhead, David Farr

Starring: Saoirse Ronan Care Blanchett, Eric Bana

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 1h 51m

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

Availability: HBO Max

A sixteen-year-old girl who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives. (IMDb)

I recently became interested in rewatching Hanna after learning about the show. I’m quite tempted to watch– the show– but would feel wrong in doing so without first rewatching the original film. The film is very much how I remembered it. 

The film is very well faceted, especially by Saoirse Ronan, with an interesting story and well-choreographed action. At the time of its release, I feel it was much more original that it comes across as now, a sad downfall for many older films. If there is one thing to truly highlight in this film it would be Ronan’s performance. Ronan is one of the best things about this film, which is not surprising considering her current Hollywood status. I do believe Ms Ronan has what it takes to be the next Streep or Andrews. 

My main criticisms come from the fact the film hasn’t aged well, even for it barely being ten years old. The audio is very pre-2010 cinema and the film utilizes certain stylistic editing techniques long retired. 

If you haven’t seen the movie but are currently watching, or considering watching, the show please consider giving the film a chance. You won’t regret it.

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Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019) Review

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019) Review

Directed by: Rob Letterman

Written by: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit

Starring: Justice Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Kathryn Newton

Rated: PG

Run-Time: 1h44m

Genre: Action, Comedy

Rotten Tomatoes:  65%

Availability: HBO Max

In a world where people collect Pokemon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective. (IMDb)

This review was originally published on my personal website crystinaluna.com.

Now, I am a pokemon baby. I grew up during the height of pokemon popularity, and therefore I have an unwavering appreciation and affection for the fictional creatures. And because I am definitely not the only one, I can’t realistically review this as a “children’s movie.” Because most of the children in the theatre were probably dragged there by there parents, who are my age. This is an adult movie, made for those who were around when Ash first started training to be a pokemon trainer. You can not argue with me, because we all know I’m right. 

Subjectively, I utterly enjoyed this movie. With every live-action pokemon came the overwhelming jealousy of living in a pokemon-less world where my dog is the closest thing I’ll ever get to a real Eevee. The still-alive child in me was excited at the sight of classics, such as the titular Pikachu, Charizard, Bulbasaur, and the all-powerful Mewtwo. Little nods to the OG fans, like the Jigglypuff in the diner made me smile ear-to-ear; and the all-too-familiar“pika-pika” melted my fragile heart. If you are like me, born of the Pokemon generation, stop reading this review and just go see the damn movie. You won’t regret it. 

Like, most people, I was taken aback my Pikachu talking with the overly-familiar vernacular of Deadpool, but once I was actually in the theatre I understood the pure genius behind it. After all, this isn’t a kid’s movie, it’s an adult movie (I will fight you if you still disagree). And for those who are likely going to force their children into the theatre with them, no worries. Pikachu just sounds like Deadpool with none of the colourful language. Additionally, the film does a good job of world-building without boring us poke-gen kids out of our minds. 

The more objective film-reviewer in me still can’t really criticize this film, because in general films marketed toward children are hard to criticise heavily. Most of the negative aspects of the film can be brought down to the fact that it’s meant for “children” and therefore the same level of writing is not needed when it comes to plot and characters. Because, to be entirely honest, I can’t remember the name of the protagonist without looking it up. And this maybe because I was too preoccupied looking at all the pokemon, but still. The plot is nothing to write home about, a pretty cliche storyline with a twist that can be seen from a mile away, and none of the actors are going to win an Oscar for this film. The main redeemable quality is the CGI, which is well done throughout the film. Though the designers took some creative liberties to make the pokemon come to life in this live-action world, they are still recognizable as exactly what they are. Textures, such as fur and skin, are rendered beautifully, and the film’s lighting allows the CGI to really shine. It’s a respectable adaption of a beloved franchise, that makes up for what it lacks in writing with its sheer entertainment value.

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Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Review

Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Review

Directed by: Kimberly Peirce

Written by: Kimberly Peirce

Starring: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 58m

Genre: Biography, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

A young man named Brandon Teena navigates love, life, and being transgender in rural Nebraska. (IMDb)

Boys Don’t Cry is one of those fantastic films that you can only watch once. It’s also one of those fantastic films, that while they are great, they don’t hold up to modern ideals and would likely suffer in the modern market for one reason or another.

Hilary Swank plays a transgender man trying to live his life in Nebraska. Swank really shines in this role, portraying the struggle a struggle to fit in as well as real terror in the horribly true* events that unfold. Her dedication to the character only elevating the film. If the film were released today, I’m not entirely sure Swank could have maintained her role as Teena, being a cis-gendered woman. But when taking into the consideration the events of this film and the story of its production– and my self being cis-gendered– I do not feel it is my place to discuss the representation in this film at length. All I feel comfortable saying that the presentation of a transgendered individual and the depiction of their often horrific struggles this film may have been ahead of its time; and puts forth the violent and heartwrenching truth that still burdens us today. 

For many, this film may be an impossible watch. Its thrusts it’s viewers into the harsh reality of this world and how it treats members of the LBGT+ community. You know something is going to go horribly wrong, foreshadowing shown in things as simple as the lighting. 

I’m hesitant to recommend this film even though I’ve described it as “fantastic” and “great.” As I said, for some this movie will be impossible to sit all the way through; for others, it will be a hard ride. It truly is one of those films you watch once, and it stays with you forever. If you decided to watch this film do so at your own discretion, as trigger warning include, violence, a depiction of sexual assault, and death. 

The violence depicted in Boys Don’t Cry continues today, and the only way to stop it is through action. I have provided likes below for three organizations that work to provide protection and support for the transgender community. Additionally, I have included an article discussing violence against the transgender and gender non-conforming community, which includes names of victims of said violence. Shall we mourn the loss of these individuals, educate ourselves on their struggles, and work to end this violence. 

National Center for Transgender Equality

Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)

Trans Lifeline

Violence Against the Transgender and the Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020 (article)

*There is debate regarding the accuracy of the film in relation to real-life events. Regardless, the events depicted are very much real possibilities many face on a daily basis.

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Due Date (2010) Review

Due Date (2010) Review

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan 

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 35m

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 40%

High-strung father-to-be Peter Highman is forced to hitch a ride with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on time. (IMDb)

Why did I watch this movie? What compelled me to sit through this?

Can you tell what I think about this movie yet? Yeah, I didn’t like it.

I think what got me to watch was the movie was the star power of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, but no amount of star power can help this horribly derivative wannabe comedy. I can’t think of any part of this film that I actually enjoyed, actually, I was thoroughly annoyed the majority of the time. 

The premise has been done to death and honestly doesn’t need to be done for a long time. What made is so annoying is how insufferable Zach Galifianakis’s character is throughout the film. While he tends to play the lovable oaf type there was nothing loveable about this oaf. If I was RDJ’s character I would have left him on the side of the road as soon as I had the chance with no remorse whatsoever. As a result, I couldn’t take RDJ’s protagonist seriously after he put with literal hell and came out friends with Galifianakis’s character. It seemed like this was an attempt to make him out as a good guy and Galifianakis’s character as endearing, and neither of those characters qualifies for those descriptors. Galifianakis was unbearably un-funny and RDJ’s character was just a plain idiot for putting up with him. 

 The scenes in the film that were added with the intent of being funny were far from it. Some of which were downright disgusting and entirely humourless. The scenes that had a chance at being funny went on too long, effectively ruining the scene. So many times I found myself so annoyed that I wanted to just stop watching the film altogether. If there was something more original about the film, maybe I wouldn’t be as bad, but there was nothing new this film brought to the table.

Don’t watch this film. Just don’t waste your time. I wish I didn’t.

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What Happened to Monday (2017) Review

What Happened to Monday (2017) Review

Directed by: Tommy Wirkola

Written by: Max Botkin, Kerry Williamson

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close, Willen Dafoe

Rated: TV-MA

Run-Time: 2h 3m

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%

Availability: Netflix

In a future with a strict one-child policy, six septuplets must avoid government detection while searching for their missing sister. (Netflix)

Like many Netflix originals, I found myself immediately interested in this film solely based off of the title and I doubt I’m the only one. When you move past the title and thumbnail you find that the overall premise of this film is fascinating.

At this point, the concept of a one-child-policy is not only common in science-fiction but real life. What Happens to Monday takes this trope and takes it to the extreme, presenting it in a unique way. The film is well-acted with a truly talented cast, but the majority of the praise falls onto the films lead actor Noomi Rapace who manages to play seven different characters and she does so exceptionally well. Additionally, the visuals of the film are breath-taking; and it’s a true shame that this film often takes the easy way out when it comes to story-telling, often relying on dialogue to carry the story. 

This is definitely one of those films you watch once, enjoy, but then simply move on. It’s interesting, don’t get me wrong, and raises many important questions but doesn’t have the impact that some similar titles have regardless of the impressive effects. Some aspects of the story are a little hard to believe, but it’s not too hard to suspend one’s belief. The film’s main twist falls short, with it not really being much of a surprise. If you haven’t seen this film, go ahead, watch it, but trust me one time is enough.

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In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) Review

Directed by Jim Mickle

Written by Gregory Weidman, Geoff Tock

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Micheal C. Hall

Rating: TV-MA

Run-Time: 1h 55m

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 59%

Currently streaming on Netflix.

He’s tracked her for decades. Every nine years, she kills again. His obsession could destroy him– and everything he loves. (Netflix)

If the title doesn’t draw you in, then Netflix’s thumbnail will. The description doesn’t do it justice. At least, it doesn’t do the concept justice; because not even the film managed to do that. 

For the most part the film isn’t bad. The only issue with it is that it’s not well paced, at all.  The film begins on a high note, introducing use to the stakes of the film. It’s pleasantly paced, but this doesn’t last very long. It doesn’t seem like the editing team knew what they were trying to do most of the time because the film can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a quick action-flick or a satisfying slow-burn sort of story. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if it weren’t for the fact it makes it unnecessarily hard to maintain focus when watching the film and detracts from it’s most important scenes, including the big reveal. 

The concept of the film, when you ignore the execution, is extremely interesting and promising. With that said, it is also a bit of a headache, but in a good way. It’s one of those films that you have to think while watching, and a background understanding of topics tackled is definitely helpful.

In the end, I’m not sure if I can say I recommend this film or not. Maybe if you have nothing else to watch? Or if you’re a hardcore sci-fi fan? Whether you decide to watch it or not I think it’s over agreeable that this is a one-time watch deal.

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Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Written by James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 2h 2m

Genre: Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

Available on Hulu and HBO Max

A cyborg uses her prodigious fighting skills to take on corrupt authorities in a future dystopia. (Hulu)

It’s not every day that a film introduces its titular character in what may very well be their lowest of lows. When we are introduced to the cyborg Alita she is, for all intents and purposes, long discarded trash. Regardless of this her brain, as well as her core power source, are still in prime condition. It takes the work of one Dr. Ido to restore her into working order. With a new body and new life, Alita, who remembers nothing, is forced to adjust to her new surroundings while trying to remember her obscure past. Dr. Ido, who becomes a father figure to Alita, and a young man named Hugo, her love interest, help her along the way. 

I didn’t know what to expect from a movie based off of a manga, let alone a film based on such an extensive and well-written manga. When the trailer first came out, I must admit I was concerned; especially since it follows the disappointing 2017 Ghost in Shell adaption. Like most viewers, I was taken aback by Miss Salazar’s exaggerated eyes. When first exposed to the imagery, I admit that the effects of the uncanny valley were strong. This detail can be somewhat ignored after you take into consideration that the manga makes a point to give Alita exaggerated features, though, if I recall it was originally her “large” lips. This detail would prove to be the only character design decision I found myself continuously questioning. 

My main qualm with the film is that there were often times the CGI was poorly executed. As a result, there were scenes in which I found myself being pulled out of the film, solely due to the poor integration of computer-generated backgrounds with the live-action actors. Additionally, the digital augmentation of Alita’s face often came off as awkward, most notably in the scene in which she tries chocolate for the first time. Otherwise, the film was beautiful and fully embraced the cyberpunk aesthetic.

For the most part, I have minimal complaints with the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the character development as well as the overall execution. I wouldn’t call the film your run-of-the-mill origin story. For what it’s trying to achieve in regards to its source material, I would call it successful. Many may say there isn’t really a plot, but as a introductory film to a potential franchise, the film gets the job done. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was not what I expected.

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The Half of It (2020) Review

The Half of It (2020) Review

Directed by: Alice Wu

Written by: Alice Wu

Starring: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 1h 45m

Genre: LGBTQ, Comedy, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Availability: Netflix

She’s a gifted introvert. He’s a sweet jock. Both are smitten with the same girl. Friendships– and first loves– can be complicated. (Netflix)

In my opinion there hasn’t been a teen movie that falls among the ranks of the classics for quite a while, but The Half of It might just fit the bill. Not only does the film include relatable romance, but it has an emphasis on friendship and platonic love, something we honestly need more of in both film and books. 

The film is a heartwarming examination of friendship and young love, as well as the struggles of immigrants, their children, and LGBT youth (especially in the midwest). It vividly illustrates the growth of romantic and platonic love on a number of levels, something we don’t often see in teen films. The film avoids the cliche of the relationships in the film becoming diluted by an overdone love-triangle. Rather we watch the blooming romance between two people, and the growth of a close friendship. Romance takes the back seat to the emphasis on friendship, which is exceptionally refreshing. And with the addition of including the struggles of the film’s protagonist as an immigrant only adds a realistic depth to the film. For viewers who immigrated to the States at a young age, as well as viewers whose parents are immigrants, the main character is exceptionally relatable.

This is one of those films everyone needs to watch and it’s one of those films you can watch more than once. Be warned though, you’ll probably be crying by the time the credits roll.

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Hush (2016) Review

Hush (2016) Review

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Written by Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel

Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegel, Michael Trucco

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 21m

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Available of Netflix

A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears in her window. (Netflix)

This film has been in my suggestions on Netflix pretty much since it became available on there, and for whatever reason I never got around to watching it. It follows a storyline quite common in thrillers and as a result my first impression of it wasn’t the best. It’s a storyline that I actually enjoy, but as of late have been enjoying less because these films tend to be predictable. The characters aren’t always the smartest and the villain is sometimes so smart they barely come off as actual humans. 

To first address the predictability of this film, I must say that while it was at times quite predictable it was predictable in a good way. Now how can a film be predictable in a good way? For me it has to heavily to with the fact that, in the case of this film, the fact that I was able to predict the next moves of the characters didn’t detract from the event actually happening. Rather it added to the suspense of when will it happen. 

A surprising positive for the film was the production. I found that the film was shot well, and very easy to understand visually. The use of sound added to the general ambience of the story, making it more immersive and, for lack of a better word, stressful. 

The acting was better than I expected, especially from the antagonist played by John Gallagher Jr.. The few scenes in the beginning in which he is wearing a mask are a particularly good example of his acting ability, considering that even though most of his face was obscured by the mask it was still evident to the audience what was going on inside his head. They say true acting is having the ability to not only act the story out on the grand scale, but to be able to act with one’s eyes. This film is a good example of this. 
Ultimately I enjoyed the film. It actually had me at the edge of my seat, cursing under my breath in shock and practically bouncing in my seat in anticipation. Nowadays it’s hard to find a thriller that can evoke such a response.

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