The Hurricane Heist (Blu-ray release 2018-6-5) manages to make a disaster movie even more unbelievable than the average ones, by combining an unbelievable heist – the stealing of huge piles of cash before they are shredded by the treasury. At one point a good guy critically injures one of the two bad guys nearby. Normally we expect the other bad guy to fight back, but this does not happen. A few scenes later, the healthy bad guy helps save the good guy. That’s not all. At one point a good guys tries to save innocent people who are locked up but he failed. Eventually those innocent people are forgotten are are left to die.
Individual action sequences in the Tomb Raider (Blu-ray release 2018-6-12) reboot look passable if not totally original. However, there are multiple aspects I don’t like about this new version. The introduction of the protagonist takes too long, and the first several action sequences are irrelevant to tomb raiding. Considering the initial reason that led the heroine on to her adventure, it is immediately obviously she will do more harm than good. I also find the collapse of mysticism to be a letdown.
Black Hollow Cage is a slow-paced movie in which the protagonist receives a warning note from a time machine she discovered in the forest, about the strangers who will soon appear at her home. The deliberate decision to withhold background information about the main characters hurts the movie more than what the weak payoff provides. The only thing that is good in this movie is the unique perspective of showing different people move around the house. While certain ideas are slightly interesting, most of them are done much better in the masterpiece Triangle (2009).
Anon (Netflix) shows a sci-fi world in which what people see with their eyes are recorded into a database, and authorities can check everyone’s records to solve crimes. People also have augmented reality vision that automatically shows the names and jobs of other people they see. However, there are hackers who successfully hide their identities from everyone else. A detective sees a beautiful hacker on the street, and soon suspects her to be involved in a series of strange murder cases where the recorded memories of the victims are manipulated to hide the murderer.
I think the setting in this story is sound and its allegory of privacy invasion is worthy. However, the screenplay needs work. It is bad enough that people make stupid decisions in horror movies. In a movie in which some level of intelligence is required, when the protagonist repeatedly makes stupid decisions, and is more interested in having sex with the suspect than solving the crimes, it falls apart. With this fixed, and more drama and tension added to the middle part of the movie, it has the potential to be turned into a good movie.
Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the backstory of Han Solo, 10 years before Episode IV (1977). I think it is a solid and competent action adventure, while providing answers to questions fans had. However, the action sequences cannot elevate above similar stuff seen in various Star Wars and other movies before. So although it is quite good, it is not truly exciting enough. The answers and the dramatic twist(s) make it worthwhile to fans, but not so much for casual viewers. Comparatively, Rouge One (2016) was truly great. Unfortunately, the box office reflects these aspects too.
血觀音 (The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful) (Blu-ray release 2018-4-3) is a Taiwan crime drama related to a family of three women. At the beginning we see the matriarch meets with various officials and their families. Corruption is involved among several parties. The elder daughter seems to help with setting things up. The younger daughter also starts to understand the role of their family. Mysterious deaths start to take place.
This it the type of movie where it’s much easier to read subtitles than listen to the dialogue. It involves three kinds of Chinese dialects, and a few lines in Japanese as well. To make it even harder to understand, a few parts of the story are sung by storytellers, or using Buddhist text. Since the system of corruption involves different officials, it may also be confusing initially.
Audience who get past the above challenges will be rewarded with the award-winning screenplay and acting performances. The deaths, corruption, and the schemes are intertwined with the relationship of the three women. The relationship part has even more depth than the corruption system – initially it seems that the matriarch favours the young, pure and innocent daughter, and is upset with the elder one’s smoking of weed. However, this is not the truth. Likewise, the relationship between the young daughter and her only friend, who is in a coma after an incident, is anything but straightforward. This movie ends in a really appropriate way that reflects its Buddhist view.
Psychic Kusuo (Blu-ray release 2018-5-2) is a live action adaptation of the comedy manga The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. The protagonist is born with all sorts of superpowers. He hides them in order to live a normal high school life. However, he is surrounded by really weird classmates, especially a really beautiful and cute girl, who attempts to present herself as a perfect girl, and make every boy fall for her.
The original material is a series of disjointed short stories. The movie manages to make a reasonably cohesive combination of the jokes. I agree with other reviews that the overacting of the girl is too repetitive. However, I don’t think this is a disastrous adaptation. I think it is a very acceptable portrayal of the comedic themes of its source material.
西遊記 女兒國 (The Monkey King 3) (Blu-ray release 2018-5-18) continues the very loose adaption of the Chinese literature Journey to the West. This time, it becomes a love story between the monk and the ruler of a country where there is only women and no men. It even removed the seduction part of the original literature, making it an innocent love story that does not work. To prevent the audience from becoming too bored from the unconvincing love story, it starts and ends with fake CG battles.
The literature is a fantasy adventure, so people do not expect a movie to be mostly a love story. When the main theme fell apart, the other action scenes (which are not noteworthy anyway) and jokes cannot rescue it. So its box office is weak.
The Gateway (2017) is an Australia sci-movie movie about parallel worlds. The protagonist developed a device for teleportation, but discovered that it teleports stuff to a parallel world instead. Her husband has just died in a car accident, so she goes to a parallel world and bring the alter ego of her husband alive in that world back to her own world. This reunited family does not stay happy for long, however. The new husband starts to act weird.
There have not been that many movies about parallel universes without time travel. The story in this one is surprisingly good. I even like the ending twist, it reminds me of Back to the Future (1985). Just as good time travel movies often have multiple timelines, this movie does not only have two parallel worlds – it really has multiple universes and they fit into the plot. One minor thing is that the teleportation device looks really cheap, it compares badly to the one in The Fly (1986).
I’m attracted to the poster of I Kill Giants (Blu-ray release 2018-5-22). I made the same mistake as I did for A Monster Calls. This is the same kind of movie that I should not watch, but this one is even worse for me because it is filled with very unlikable children, dysfunctional family that I don’t care, and bullying. The protagonist is a nerd, believes giants are real, and she is determined to protect the town and kill the giants by using traps and her ultimate weapon. In the same way I absolutely do not appreciate those Chinese ghost movies which claim there are no ghosts, I do not consider this to be an actual fantasy movie.