Review: Mission Milano (偷天特務)

偷天特務 Mission Milano (Blu-ray release 2017-1-12) is yet another Hong Kong / Chinese movie made up of scenes of comedy, close combat fights, along with a few cleavages, joined together by some kind of senseless and forgettable plot.

This time it’s about a scientist having invented a “seed of god” which can grow into a fake CG fruit tree on sand or sofa in no time.  For reasons I fail to comprehend, this is something that threatens the world.  The bad guys steal it, and our protagonists try to get it back and thereby saving the world.  We even get a Resident Evil (2002) style laser hallway.  Although the plot and the action sequences are nothing to write home about, at least there are a few jokes that work.

Review: Death Race 2050

Death Race 2050 (Blu-ray release 2017-1-17) is reportedly more similar to the Death Race 2000 (1975) than the Death Race (2008) remake.  Not having watched the 1975 original, I found the 2008 remake and its sequels to be reasonably entertaining.  I was wrong to expect this movie to be similar.

This movie is a political satire, and reintroduces the rule of killing pedestrians to gain points – an idea dropped from the the remake.  In terms of fun, car designs, plot, excitement and characters I find this movie to be generally unsatisfactory.  Its production quality is very low – it seems to me that swimming goggles are used as VR device in 2050.  The AI car is incredibly dumb.  Someone compared this to Hunger Games, I think that’s an insult to the latter.

Review: Corpse Party: Book of Shadows Movie

The Corpse Party: Book of Shadows (Blu-ray release 2017-1-11) follows directly from the original movie.  One of the survivors has a sister, who happen to know many secrets about the school in the alternate dimension, happen to be able open an inter-dimensional hole to go there, happen to be able to incant something that drive monsters away, and happen to have an actual bone of the little girl who created the whole curse.

The survivors decide to use the bone to go back to the school and travel back in time in the hope of saving everyone.  Since this is a slasher horror movie, it would not be a spoiler to say that all this means is that we get to watch the people die again, at slightly different times and in slightly different and less interesting manners.  If this sounds dull, yes it is.  So the movie adds two new antagonists – the major one is far less fearsome than those in the previous movie, the other one should be more powerful but have little screen time.

In spite of the Book of Shadows being in the title of the movie, its subplot does not begin until near the end of the movie.  I can only say this subplot is as much a disappointment as the rest of the movie is.  Although the previous movie had a relatively rich story, the new elements introduced in the sequel are just senseless.  The movie also inserts shots of fake gore that have no relation to the plot.

Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls (Blu-ray release 2017-3-28) look like a fantasy fairy tale but it really is not.  It is about a poor boy who has to face his mother’s terminal illness, and has constant nightmares about his mother dying.  To make things worse, he’s lonely, has no friends, is bullied in school, his father only sees him occasionally after divorce, and his grandmother does not seem to be nice.

For those who appreciate this subject, this movie may be good in its lesson about facing terminal illness.  However, I don’t.  This is exactly the kind of movies I avoid – I watched it only because there is a monster in the poster.  I cannot understand how this subject can be a children’s book.

Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

As far as mindless action movies go, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter does a fine job in providing plenty of action from start to finish, with different types of zombies and monsters, and jump scares.  There are some supporting characters whose only purpose is to show up and die quickly, without having their faces or names being remembered by anyone, but that’s to be expected.

If I treat this as a standalone movie, I actually like its story – it is almost reasonable as far as a mindless movie can be.  I also love its final twist.  Unfortunately, for this story to work, this movie retconned the history, the creator of the T-Virus and most importantly, the daughter of him.  This is especially unfortunate because this part of history was told in Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), which was widely regarded as one of the best movies in the series.  Even more unfortunate is that even with this retcon, this movie contradicts its prior entries in many ways.

Note: I didn’t stay till the end of the credits, but supposedly if we do that we’d hear the Red Queen says something.  She is played by Ever Gabo Anderson, the real-life daughter of Milla Jovovich.

Review: The Top Secret: Murder in Mind

The Top Secret: Murder in Mind (Blu-ray release 2017-1-6) is a Japanese detective movie with a sci-fi premise: the police already have the technology to scan the brains of victims to obtain their visual memory before death.  This sounds like there’s not much criminal investigation to be done with the use of this technology.  So the story adds some constraints: the obtained visual memory is not acceptable as evidence in court due to political bureaucracy; the detectives who go through the procedure to obtain the memory from the dead tend to go crazy and commit suicide.

This sounds like a great idea to make an unconventional movie.  However, the story is made unnecessarily convoluted with multiple cases, along with some secrets behind the protagonists and the villains.  Unfortunately, after going through this long movie, it is still not entirely clear why certain events occurred, and what their significance is.  Worse yet, an important case remains unresolved.  It could have been a better movie if these flaws are fixed.

Review: Nessun Dorma (兇手還未睡) (2016)

兇手還未睡 (Nessun Dorma) (Blu-ray release 2016-12-23) is a Hong Kong thriller.  Just before the protagonist gets married, she meets her secret lover, seduces him but is rejected.  She leaves, is captured and raped by someone in a mask.  Then she is released mysteriously.  This occurs soon enough, but there’s nothing thrilling in the rest of the movie.  The only thing I personally find noteworthy about this movie is its mentioning of the mathematical Monty Hall problem.  Although I would not call this movie a waste of time as some reviewers do, the ending and the screenplay is unsatisfying.

Review: McDull – Rise of the Rice Cooker (麥兜.飯寶奇兵)

麥兜.飯寶奇兵 (McDull – Rise of the Rice Cooker) (Blu-ray release 2016-12-2) is a new entry in the McDull series of animated movie from Hong Kong.  This series sometimes contained themes of sad adult issues.  However, this time I don’t feel any trace of that.  I used to wonder whether kids actually understood the previous McDull movies (and I’m not sure I understood them completely).  There is no such worry for this movie.

In this new movie, a Godzilla-like monster comes to Earth and causes destruction.  An Ultraman-like superhero comes to attack it but fails and retreats.  Earth calls for designs of robots to combat the monster, and McDull submits a design based on a rice cooker.  Even with characters that originated from Japanese shows, this movie is totally unlike any Japanese anime.  It is filled up parodies, laughs, innocence, and distinct features of Hong Kong society.  Although not every joke works, the sheer creativity that went into this is awesome.

Review: Arrival (2016)

For a movie with aliens but almost no action and no villain, Arrival manages to be engaging – this alone is no small feat.  Stories that invent their own languages with a certain level of complexity tend to be exceptionally good, such as The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, Arrival is no exception.  The alien language in Arrival even forms a visual representation of the alien perspective of something important with no start and end.  This brilliant idea, together with the emotional core and the emotional payoff at the end makes this movie successful.  It will go down in history as one of the most important sci-fi dramas.

Review: The Accountant (2016)

The Accountant (Blu-ray release 2017-1-10) begins with a boy putting a jigsaw puzzle together.  Unfortunately he has autism, so his father trains him to be a killing machine.  He grows up to be an accountant and works for bad guys.  He has a supernatural ability to find missing money from 15 years of accounting records in one night.

The movie is structured like a jigsaw puzzle – for a long time individual, disjointed sequences and flashbacks are shown, and their significance, relationships, and order cannot be realized until the end, when everything comes together to complete the picture.  I don’t think this movie is as bad as most reviewers’ assessment of it, but it’s true that it’s not thrilling.  The climax is also odd, and I can understand why people think it’s ridiculous.