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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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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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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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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A Whisker Away (2020) Review

A Whisker Away (2020) Review

Directed by: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama

Written by: Mari Okada

Starring: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi

Rated: TV-PG

Run-Time: 1h 44m

Genre: Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Available on Netflix

A peculiar girl transforms into a cat to catch her crushes attention. But before she realizes it, the line between humans and animal starts to blur. (Netflix)

The trailer for A Whisker Away immediately brings you in with the visuals of a cute animated cat, but if you’re like me and only saw it in passing when browsing through Netflix. The movie is about a cute animated cat, but it’s a little more complicated than that. 

A Whisker Away takes you into a whimsical world that’s softly developed in a very Ghibli-eque manner. What you find is that in this world there is a cat merchant, who, in exchange for your human face, will give you a mask that allows you to become a cat (your face is then in turn provided to a cat who is then able to take your place). Of course, you are given a trial period, so see whether you really want to be a cat. To an extent the film is reminiscent of Ghibli’s The Cat Returns, but doesn’t manage to quite hit the mark. 

The film seems to be an attempt to capture the whimsy such a story told through animation can have, but falls short. It’s not easy to say where because there’s nothing blaringly wrong with the film. It’s unique, but not so unique that you can say you’ve never seen anything like it before, because you probably have. It’s beautifully animated, but doesn’t do anything special in regards to it’s animation. The characters aren’t memorable, even after watching the movie twice I can only remember two characters’ names, primarily because of how often the names were said. Otherwise, there isn’t much to say about them. The motivations for what they did was relatable, but the way they handled it wasn’t which made it hard to truly relate to them. The film wasn’t engrossing as films should be, rather than being transported to another magical world, the film feels like nothing more than… well a film. In the end, I can’t say I regret watching it, but it’s not a movie you’d be excited to watch more than once.

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I’m Not an Easy Man (Je ne suis pas un homme facile) (2018) Review

I’m Not an Easy Man (Je ne suis pas un homme facile) (2018) Review

I Am Not an Easy Man is a humor film with an obvious feminist agenda that manages to be more hilarious than preachy. Though at times the way the aspects of the story are presented is ridiculous it manages to paint an interesting alternate universe where society is matriarchal. As a women, this sounds like a blessed idea, but the film does a good job of showing the importance for equality, that even in a truly matriarchal world has its own flaws. The characters are well written and the presentation of this world is done well, with both obvious and subtle differences. It does a very good job of raising topics of discussion, regarding topics of toxic masculinity to the effect of a gender dominated society. 

The only true downsides I could find in the film is some of the cultural differences in the matriarchal society that were hard to believe and therefore brought me out of my suspension of belief. The film features a number of scenes with shirtless women, a parallel to how our society has no problem with partial nudity of men but think differently when it comes to women. This simple fact doesn’t bother me, but when a short scene included a shirtless women going on a job my immediate thoughts were “God that must hurt!” Because, even in a society where it is totally okay for a women to be out shirtless its hard for me to believe someone would be content running while shirtless. For those who don’t have breasts, let me tell you, it is not comfortable to run without some sort of support. Scenes with similar minor grievances are littered throughout the film and while they do not detract from the basic storyline i am going to consider them a negative of this film because they still managed to pull me out of this world. Even in a good film, little things like this can affect the experience greatly.

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I Am Mother (2019) Review

I Am Mother (2019) Review

Directed by Grant Sputore

Written by Micheal Lloyd Green, Grant Sputore

Staring Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank

Rated: TV-14

Run-time: 1h53m

Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-fi 

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

The film is available on Netflix.

I watched the trailer for this film almost as soon as it came out, as I do with most films. The title and thumbnail did little to reveal the true nature of the film and I wasn’t particularly interested in it until I actually watched the video. The trailer does a good job of showing the viewer that this film definitely has a mysterious aspect to it. The only downside I might add is that it also manages to present the film as a classic AI-takes-over sort of film. The concept itself is not cliche, but at this point it becoming so due to the over-saturation of stories regarding the techpocalypse. As a result I’ve watched many movies that fall under this sub-genre but this film is an interesting presentation of these concepts. 

This film presents expository information in a very interesting way that at face value seem more simple and unimportant; to later reveal it really is very important to the plot as it unfolds. Things such as time is measured in days, rather than years, this proves to be a key in what is considered the big reveal. This decision is ingenious because when you see that it’s been 13,867 days since the infamous “extinction event” you are not immediately aware of exactly how long that is because we’re used to being presented this information in a more understandable year-based timeframe.

There are a lot of admirable aspects of this film. The acting is good, the visual storytelling is very good and the use of practical effects is present (which itself is amazing). Times like this I find myself a little disappointed that Netflix originals generally don’t include behind-the-scenes featurettes because God! I would love to see how they implemented the practical effects in the production to achieve such smooth yet robotic movements. (From what I currently understand the character of “Mother” was an actor in a suit, but I still like to know the process of learning how to move in the suit and imitate mechanical movements in such a believable manner.)

I also very much enjoyed the story this film is trying to tell. There is a level of moral greyness and ambiguity at times that makes the actions of the characters more unnerving. In the end, some details are left open, but not to the detriment of the film. In the end you leave with more questions that you started with, but in a good way.

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