Push (2009) Review

Push (2009) Review

Directed by: Paul McGuigan

Written by: David Bourla

Starring: Camilla Belle, Dakota Fanning, Chris Evans

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 1h 51m

Genre: Science-Fiction Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%

Availability: Hulu

Two young Americans with special abilities must race to find a girl in Hong Kong before a shadowy government organization called the Division does. (IMDb)

While idly searching through Hulu I came across this film and almost immediately remembered watching it many times over when I was younger. It has been many years since I’ve seen, but I remembered it fondly. After re-watching it recently I had one of those moments where I look back at younger me and wonder what the heck was going on?

This film definitely takes a stylistic approach to its cinematography that works in its favour. Through camera work and editing, the tone of the film is established early on, and the intention of the film is evident. You can see what they were trying to do, which is part of what makes it so sad that they struggle to follow through. For me, this was the primary aspect of the film that allowed me to sit through it in its entirety. With lacklustre acting and poor writing, this film heavily relies on its cinematography. 

The writing in this film is not entirely horrendous but is nowhere near good. The film is a mish-mash of ideas that are related enough that they could be done together but only with the right writers up to the task. The concept is great, but heartbreakingly poorly executed. 

The thing that really tanks this film for me is the fact that it doesn’t feel done. And it doesn’t feel done because it isn’t. You can blatantly tell there were intentions on making a sequel that never came into fruition. Sadly, the creators relied too heavily on the thought that this film would be a success; this choice actually playing a huge roll in the film failing. At the end of the film, you’re left with so many loose ends that you can’t even say the film has a proper ending. At best, we just got the first half of a painstakingly long film. 

While this film is watchable I think there are better ways to spend your time. If you are a fan of the comics from which it is based, I would probably stick to the reading.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

The Perfect Date (2019) Review

The Perfect Date (2019) Review

Directed by Chris Nelson

Starring: Noah Centineo, Laura Marano, Camila Mendes

Rating: TV-14

Run-Time: 1h 30m

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%

Availability: Netflix

Need a last-minute knight in shining armor? A plus-one Prince Charming? To make his dream come true, he’ll be anyone– except himself. (Netflix)

This is a fun film. I really do enjoy it at its face value. It’s definately a good movie to watch when you don’t want to think too hard, which though some people consider this a bad thing I think it’s a good thing because that’s the whole purpose of movies in the first place. Isn’t it?

My main issues with the movie have to do with the tertiary characters. There were definately moments where you could tell that the actor was reciting lines, or maybe even reading lines shown to them from off screen. Some background actors blessed with lines obviously didn’t know what they were doing becuase you could tell they were trying to act a certain way. Technically-wise this was the films only true downfall. Its cinematography was okay and got the point across. You honestly can’t expect anything groundbreaking from a teen rom-com.

My second main issue was the predictability of the story. Of course, the main love interest would be your not-so-average girl who rather goes to a cafe-bookstore than a shool dance (which, same to be honest). Of course, the main guy would fall into insta-love with a random girl he doesn’t know. And, of course, the rando-rich-girl will be stuck up and break up with him for some petty bullshit. 

This is a mediocre film at best, and it’s definitely a fun friday-night movie to watch or put on in the background as you eat, but it’s not going to become a classic.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Flavors of Youth (2018) Review

Flavors of Youth (2018) Review

Directed by: Haoling Li, Yoshitaka Takeuch, Xiaoxing Yi

Written by: Tyler Rhoads (English translation)

Starring: George Ackles, Taito Ban, Dorothy Elias-Fahn (English Dub)

Rated: TV-PG

Run-Time: 1h 14min

Genre: Amination, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Availability: Netflix

Three different stories of youth set in different cities of China. (IMDb)

This one of those films that regularly finds itself in my Netflix recommendations. I know that I would eventually breakdown and watch it… and I was surprised when I finally did. Sadly, not in a good way. 

This film is a collection of short films, three to be exact. All follow themes relating to growing up/ The stories themselves are the true highlight as they are relatable and heartwarming. The first, “The Rice Noodles” is probably the best overall with its tearjerking storyline. “A Little Fashion Show” falls short as a result of a lack of nuance. Conflict in this particular story felt forced and characters reacted unnaturally. “Love in Shanghai,” the final story, manages to land somewhere in the middle with a common story of young love that unfolds just as you’d expect it to. There is an end credit scene as well, but it does little more than show the geographic relationship of the stories. 

With such lacklustre storytelling, you would hope it would at least be paired with stunning animation. Sadly, this film fails to deliver yet again.. The animation is disappointingly average, honestly barely so at times. The only noteworthy scene is at the beginning of “The Rice Noodles” depicting the titular noodles being prepared. Otherwise, there isn’t anything that sets this film apart from those like it. 

In the end, this film just felt like a waste of time. So little about it is memorable, I’m sure there are similar pieces that achieve what this film set out to but with much more… elegance.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Await Further Instructions (2018) Review

Await Further Instructions (2018) Review

Directed by: Johnny Kerorkian

Written by: Gavin Williams

Starring: Sam Gittens, Grant Masters, Neerja Niak

Rated: NR

Run-Time: 1h 31min

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Availability: Netflix

A family’s Christmas takes a strange turn when they awake to find themselves trapped inside and begin receiving mysterious instructions through the television. (IMDb)

Originally published on my personal website crystinaluna.com .

While I watched this movie on a Friday, I wasn’t quite confident enough to write a review for it until the following Monday. Not because I found this film so intellectual or amazing in some other way that I needed time to understand it; but because I needed time to figure out what exactly the film was trying to. It is evident from the beginning the intentions of the film, but it simply falls short of actually doing achieving what it wants to. 

When the ominous message “stay indoors and await further instructions” appears in the television of an already torn family, tensions rise as no one can agree on what to do next. As the promised instructions start to appear, the (already horrible) family dynamic is thrown out the window as what little bit of familial trust that may have existed is quickly dissolved. As characters trust each other less and less it becomes evident to the protagonist that an there is something potentially otherworldly going on. 

Now, first of all, it was so refreshing to see practical effects! Though at times this seems to be occasionally augmented with some minor bits of CGI, the fact that the film uses this now archaic technique is quite a breath of fresh air. For many horror film purists, practical effects might as well be the modern-day holy grail with the power to save otherwise dull movies. Which, when it comes to horror films, this film did, in fact, feel quite dull. Aiming for more nuanced psychological horror the film definitely fell short, succumbing to its overdone themes and failing to present a truly unique story. 

With themes of corruption and cult-like devotion, the feel doesn’t do a very good job at presenting these in what should have a character-driven plot. From the very beginning, the characters were unpleasant and in their own ways corrupt. Noone truly changed, for better or for worse, everyone was just insufferable (with the exclusion of maybe the protagonist’s girlfriend).

For this film to have worked it would have likely needed to present a family dynamic much more healthy than the one in the film. Allowing for otherwise good characters to surrender to their inner demons and not-so-perfect beliefs. Even though the antagonist in the film is an omnipotent alien, it may have been in the interest of the filmmakers to research the dynamics of real-life cults, where the corruption of vulnerable individuals is common. 

Honestly, I can’t think of very many people I would recommend this film to. Though on paper the concept seems interesting it simply isn’t well executed. I had to take a break while watching the film simply because I was bored out of my mind.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Knives Out Review

Knives Out Review

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 2h 10min

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Availability: Amazon Prime

A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family. (IMDb)

For the month of December, I decided to choose books and films that seem to be relevant to this time of year. And what better film to watch with your family that Knives Out. A scarily accurate depiction of the modern family dynamic. 

I had high expectations going into this film after reading The Inheritance Games and seeing many fellow reviewers compare it to this film. Taking a look at the cast only confirms that this film was set up to succeed. We don’t get many cat-and-mouse type mysteries anymore, nor do we get such satisfactory plot twists. This film calls back to an era of noir films that have struggled to be revived in the modern era focused on hyper-energetic action flicks. This film finds a balance between the older methods of storytelling and the newer aesthetic of cinema. 

Daniel Craig appears as a Sherlock-eque private investigator trying to figure out the true circumstances of the unexpected suicide of an eccentric, and grossly-wealthy author. It goes without saying that this is one of those films you watch more than once. Not just because its a thrilling story, but because it will likely require multiple viewings to catch all the minute details strewn throughout. With a keen eye, like Craig’s Blanc, you can see the whole scenario come together with electric clarity. 

If you love a good whodunnit story, Knives Out is one of the best to come out in recent years. Boasting a talented cast with great chemistry. The film will make you think of your own families eccentricities, especially if they were put under similar circumstances.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Impossible (2012) Review

The Impossible (2012) Review

Directed by: J.A. Bayona

Written by: Sergio G. Sanchez, Maria Belon

Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 1h 54min

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

Availability: Netflix

The story of a tourist family in Thailand caught in the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. (IMDb)

This movie came out quite a long time ago and it wasn’t until around 2018 that I got the chance to watch it for the first time. I’ve watched it at least four times since. When I found myself browning Netflix for something to watch one evening I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Impossible was streaming; and not only was it streaming, but it was in Netflix’s top ten. If I recall correctly it was number two! It’s a really exciting thing to see more people watching what is otherwise a hidden gem. And did I mention an absolutely adorable baby Tom Holland is in this film?

The Impossible is one of those truly terrifying thrillers that doesn’t have to work hard to get you on the edge of your seat. In addition to being based on true events, the amazing acting of the cast doesn’t struggle to make you forget you’re just watching a movie. The film is practically held solely on the back of Naomi Watts and a young Tom Holland. Together they set the tone of the film, that is later carried on by and enhanced by McGregor. 

The film is well executed with a handful of shots near iconic. Additionally, the anxiety and horror of the sudden destructive power of tsunami are depicted in the shots just as well as through the actors’ performances. You see just how quickly a natural disaster can come and turn your life upside down.

I recommend this film, but be aware that it’s probably not for the faint of heart. This film holds little back in its depiction of a natural disaster, making it a hard film to watch for some. If you feel you can handle it, I highly recommend it.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Alien (1979) Review

Alien (1979) Review

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Written by: Dan O’Bannon

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 57 min

Genre: Horror, Science-Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Availability: HBO Max

After a space merchant vessel receives an unknown transmission as a distress call, one of the crew is attacked by a mysterious life form and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun. (IMDb)

When you really take the time to think about it, there aren’t that many films that stand the tests of time, especially when it comes to science-fiction. Alien is one of the few that thoroughly holds up and does not suffer from details that come across as dated. Of course, viewers may not spend to much time considering the few aspects that are due to the ongoing thrills of this film. 

Whether you view this movie as your standard alien horror or slasher flick, Alien is a terrifying movie. The titular alien is a literal killing machine who kills for sport more than anything else. It’s invincible, quiet, and very good at hiding. One could be in the same room as you, and you may not notice until its too late. 

If you don’t have anxiety, this film may give it to you. All the while you’ll be rooting for the original horror-movie badass Ripley, who almost single-handedly takes badassery to another level. 
Alien is a near-perfect film that’s hard to pick apart without turning into a nitpicky asshole. Its an overall well-rounded film with great acting, special effects, and direction. After 40 years it remains untouchable, even with the more recent attempts to reboot the series. Alien is a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Invisible Man (2020) Review

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Written by: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer

Rated: R

Run-Time: 2h 4min

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Availability: HBO Max

When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see. (IMDb)

Over the past couple of years, there has beem a renaissance of horror with many films going back to the roots of the genre. Films such as Get Out and A Quiet Place break the monotony of jump-scare heavy horror and revitalise techniques long underutilised. 

The Invisible Man does what 2017’s The Mummy tried to and with a much lower budget. For a while now, Universal has been trying to bring back the classic horror icons with the hopes of creating a creature-verse comparable to Disney’s MCU. The Invisible Man is their second and successful attempt at doing so. 

Despite not having the best trailer, The Invisible Man is hands down one of the best films of 2020 with utterly exceptional acting and atmosphere. The film shows considerable restraint, taking its time to build up to real terror. The audience is forced to experience the film in the protagonist’s, Cecilia’s, point-of-view; sympathising with her while being kept partially in the dark about what’s really happening. Even then we’re told what is happening, you can’t be entirely sure. 

This film wears many masks as well. Not only is it a revival of a classic of the same name, but it’s also an examination of domestic violence. At one point, the film becomes less of a psychological horror movie and more of a revenge flick. All the while, it is a prime example of how the legal system can neglect the victims of domestic abuse. 

This is a must-watch film, really, don’t argue with me. Of course, as with most horror, beware the potentially triggering content.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) Review

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) Review

Directed by: Colm McCarthy

Written by: Mike Carey

Starring: Sennia Nanua, Fisayo Akinade, Dominique Tipper

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 51 min

Genre: Action, Drama, Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

Availability: Netflix

A scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie. (IMDb)

Much like the previously reviewed Cargo, The Girl with All the Gifts is a unique zombie film that plays with the overdone sub-genre and creates something new. 

Based off a book of the same, The Girl with All the Gifts delivers a truly philosophical look on zombies with the addition of the second-generation zombie. Something rarely seen in related films. It takes the concept of a dystopian future, and rather as seeing it solely as the end this film depicts the end of the world as the start of a new era. It paints the character who would traditionally be the hero into the villain and forces the audience to sympathize with the “other.” 

None of this wouldn’t have been possible without the exceptional preforming of the cast, who do well to present realistic characters. The star of this film is film is Sennia Nanua, who as a young actor manages to make the traditionally horrifying zombie into a sympathetic creature. She manages to show both the humanity and inhumanity of zombies, making them into a new iteration of humanity. Her youth allows her to have an unbiased view of the situation before her, as she is fond of the humans caring for her but also wants to help her fellow second-generation zombie children. 

This film is beautiful and raises a lot of questions that may make you rethink what you would do in a zombie apocalypse. For those who enjoy the action of your standard zombie movie, this has that for you, but those who enjoy the more intellectual horror of the current renaissance will find this film an excellent and thought-provoking watch.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Jaws (1975) Review

Jaws (1975) Review

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Rated: PG

Run-Time: 2h 4min

Genre: Adventure, Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Availability: HBO Max

When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down. (IMDb)

So, yeah, I’m reviewing the classic Jaws. Not because it needs to be reviewed, it’s a masterwork of film that could only be achieved by the incomparable Spielberg, but I recently realized than many people of my generation and younger haven’t seen this film. How is that possible you ask? I have no clue. 

If you’re not aware of this piece of film history you need to go check it out, and if you’re aware of it and haven’t watched it recently I recommend doing so. This film is 40 years old and holds up better than many films from the ’70s and truly revolutionized the film release schedule with its status as the first blockbuster flick. It is practically ageless, with the aspects that age it is minimal. The thrills, all achieved through practical effects still managed to strike fear in viewers. Because there isn’t much scarier than the real-life terror of great white sharks. 

I could go on and on, essentially rehashing everything every reviewer, film professor, avid-film watcher has every said; but I’m going to make it easy on you: JUST WATCH THE DAMN MOVIE.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.