Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020): The Things I Liked…

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), Kristen Wiig, Warner Bros. Pictures
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), Kristen Wiig, Warner Bros. Pictures

The trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t fill me with as much confidence about the movie as the trailer for the first Wonder Woman film in 2017. Having now seen both films, unsurprisingly, the first one is better.

Key highlights of director Pattie Jenkins’s sequel include most of the time Gal Gadot is on screen, simply because the lady is quite magnetic. Secondly, there’s the final fight sequence between Wonder Woman and Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah. There’s also the cleverly executed moment towards the end when Wonder Woman addresses the people.

If you haven’t watched the movie yet but plan to, be sure to wait for what happens after the end credits start to roll; something tells me it may just lift your spirits. Last but in no way least, we have the musical score by Hans Zimmer. The only unfortunate thing about it is that the worst scenes had me thinking of Zimmer’s talents as wasted on this project.

I had hopes of loving Wonder Woman 1984. The problem is I kept noticing more and more things that increased my level of disappointment. Additional examples include the dreamstone element of the story which came across as silly and somewhat nonsensical. I’m also not a fan of a fair amount of the aerial work, including when Wonder Woman is ‘flying’.

Furthermore, why, oh, why wasn’t the father/son reunion dialogue more tightly edited? It was so unnecessarily long-winded. There’s also the fact that I still remain unsure about how Kristoffer Polaha’s character came to be Steve (Chris Pine). And I’m mad that this movie/story did not make Pedro Pascal look great in the villain role. As for Wiig, I liked her best once she went to the dark side. I still think that the Cheetah look is too much like Cats (2019). I haven’t seen Cats but I hear that such a comparison is not a compliment.

What good or bad things stood out most for you in Wonder Woman 1984? I really could go on about the things wrong with this movie but I have other tasks to complete today. Watch Wonder Woman 1984 if you’re curious enough.

Happy Film Loving 

G

WANDAVISION (2021): Episodes 3 & 4 – The Things I Liked…

WandaVision (2020), Paul Bettany, Marvel Studios
WandaVision (2020), Paul Bettany, Marvel Studios

Following my disappointment with episodes one and two of Marvel’s WandaVision, I decided to wait for the release of episode four before diving back in to see how much more engaging it gets.

Even though episode three was not great, for me, until the last few minutes, I’m glad to report that the fourth episode is much better and more reflective of what I’d hoped for with one and two.

The cast is fantastic; from Teyonah Parris, to Paul Bettany, Katheryn Hahn, Kat Dennings and of course, Elizabeth Olsen; who emits pain through her eyes so very well.

Am I still mad that the first two episodes and most of the third felt like a waste of my time? Only a little; especially since, unlike myself, many readers of the comic books like them.

My hope now is that with the episodes yet to come, things can only get better.

Happy Film Loving

G

LOCKED DOWN (2021): The Things I Liked…

Locked Down (2021), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway, Warner Brothers
Locked Down (2021), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway, Warner Brothers

Locked Down has some memorable moments. Yet, overall, director Doug Limans romance/comedy about a couple’s attempt at a high-risk, high-stakes jewellery heist during the Coronavirus pandemic isn’t great.

Starring Anne Hathaway, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ben Kingsley; the most memorable scenes for me feature Kingsley and Ben Stiller. There’s also the scene that has my favourite line of dialogue in the whole movie: ‘Live wild or die, Linda.’ My love of this line is more to do Chiwetel Ejiofor’s delivery of it, more than anything thing else.

As for what’s seriously wrong with Locked Down, it doesn’t help that I found the chemistry between Hathaway and Ejiofor lacking. This lack then fed into their relationship feeling underdeveloped. It’s then no surprise that I didn’t buy the evolution of the characters; including the decisions they made.

To put it another way, both the film’s central relationship and the story needed more time. Because it had an overall silly and unbelievable quality which I doubt was intentional. The issue isn’t the performances, but near enough all else, especially the story.

I can understand that Locked Down exists in part, because of a desire to take advantage of a locked-down London. It’s therefore unfortunate that the thoughts running through my mind while watching the movie include:

I wonder if the actors regret saying yes to this script?

This kind of feels like a literal dream, but a bad one. A bad script for an actual dream that could have been very exciting.

How on earth did Harrods allow themselves to be used for this? That is assuming the Harrods scenes were shot in the famous luxury department store.

Should you watch this movie? I mean, if you’re extraordinarily curious, do. Otherwise, I say wait for a quality lockdown film. One that’s taking its sweet time to be developed and developed right.

Happy Film Loving

G

THE WHITE TIGER (2020): The Things I Liked…

The White Tiger (2021), Priyanka Chopra, Netflix
The White Tiger (2021), Priyanka Chopra, Netflix

The White Tiger, though not perfect, it’s a good movie with flawless performances.

Starring Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao and Adarsh Gourav; director Ramin Bahrani’s crime/drama tells the story of a poor Indian driver named Balram. Particularly his use of wit and cunning to break free from servitude to his rich masters.

I found several things to enjoy about The White Tiger. From the generally well-paced, compelling story, to its commentary on India’s socio-economic ills, and the broken systems that maintain them. It was interesting to see the different paths the characters of The White Tiger took to survive. And where possible, drastically change their fate within said system. No wonder then, that none of the people in the story are angels.

Another thing to appreciate is how none of the main female characters in The White Tiger are stereotypically ‘helpless.’

After seeing the trailer several weeks earlier, I’d been looking forward to a story of epic proportions. I can now say that epic is not too far from the truth. However, there are things I wish were different about director Bahrani’s movie. For example, the way the story seemed to slow down at approximately three-quarters of the way. Secondly, the ending felt a tad abrupt and not as thoroughly satisfying. I was therefore left wanting, and reminded that the start of the movie was also awkward.

I’ve never read Aravind Adiga’s  bestselling book that inspired this movie. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that everyone who has read the book loves it more than the film.

Watch The White Tiger because it is a good story overall.

Happy Film Loving

G

BLING EMPIRE (2021): The Things I Liked…

Bling Empire (2021): Cherie Chan, Netflix
Bling Empire (2021): Cherie Chan, Netflix

I quit watching reality TV shows a long time ago. Especially the ones where manufactured conflict always seemed to be the order of the day. The way the shows get edited is another factor that forced me to quit. You know, the kind of editing where only a morsel of information gets divulged per episode. And by ‘divulged,’ I mean ‘teased and drip-fed.’

Soon enough, I eventually realised that if you play the first few introductory minutes of an episode, the part that starts with ‘previously on (insert show name),’ and then watch the last few minutes of the same episode, you won’t miss a single thing. But, what you’ll get back is at least twenty two minutes of your life. Fast forward to a few days ago when I decided to watch Netflix’s latest Reality TV show Bling Empire

Undoubtedly inspired by the success of the 2018 movie, Crazy Rich Asians (2018); Bling Empire follows some pf LA’s wildly wealthy Asian and Asian American fun-seekers. We get to watch as they live their lives and attend fabulous parties while showing up in their finest jewels and attire. The reason I decided to watch Bling Empire include my love of Crazy Rich Asians, my desire to be back in LA without actually going back to LA, and just wanting to see a version of the LA-based rich life, but distinctly Asian, of course.

Bling Empire (2021): Christine Chiu, Netflix
Bling Empire (2021): Christine Chiu, Netflix

There are aspects of the show that borrow from the most well known and successful reality shows. For example, from the dramatic drink hurling to other scenes that seemed so contrived, that you could almost see the producer speaking to the cast via earpieces and telling them to do something outrageous and disrespectful for ratings. 

The reason I kept watching even after all the annoyances is an emotional investment in the character stories. Mainly entrepreneur Kelly Mi Li, unmarried young mother Cherie Chan, and Christine Chiu a ‘socialite’ whose real story I couldn’t wait to figure out. If you stick with Bling Empire long enough (beyond episodes two and three), you may find that it’s quite engaging, however imperfect.

The good news for me is that as the show continued, it seemed to move away from applying the most recognisable reality TV tropes, and instead turned into stories of the lives of some of LA’s most privileged Asians. Stories that still weren’t the full reality. However, I was glad to see that overall, Bling Empire is not edited in the irksome fashion mentioned earlier.

Would I say that Bling Empire is a show ‘you don’t want to miss?’ The quick answer is no. What I will say is this, give it a chance if you’re curious enough. And especially if you’re a fan of the movie that inspired it and are open to learning more about a version of the Asian experience.

Happy Film Loving

G

WANDAVISION (2021): EPISODES 1 AND 2 – The Thing I Liked…

WandaVision (2021), Paul Bettany, Marvel Studios
WandaVision (2021), Paul Bettany, Marvel Studios

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes of WandaVision; the new TV series spinoff focused on the Avengers movie characters, Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff and The Vision

Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany; WandaVision got on my wrong side very soon after it began. And part of the reason is the application of a generally overused comedy bit. The one where two people think they’re talking about the same topic when they’re speaking of two completely different things. This particular comedy writing trope has failed to be funny, for me, ever since I binge-watched Arrested Developed (2003-2019) and realised how heavily the writers relied on it.

As annoying as I quickly found WandaVision to be, I was determined to get over it, as long as what was happening soon proved interesting enough to hold my full attention. Sadly, I hoped in vain because both episodes one and two, which are 99.9% in black and white, hinted at potentially sinister and entertaining things to come. But no matter how much I wanted the show to get to the point faster, it didn’t.

Matters were made worse by the completely unfunny sitcom scenario, in which Wanda and Vision appear to be trapped. Even if this predicament is the perfect set up for everything else fun that will follow, sitting through comedy I consider terrible isn’t how I generally like to spend my time.

Having never read the comic books that inspired these stories is something that has probably contributed, in part, to my level of dissatisfaction. Either way, what I know for sure is this, I’m going to be beyond disappointed if the following episodes of this, so far, hardly engaging Marvel Studios production continues the same way. Just get to the fun parts already! The parts when both Wanda and Vision get to use their powers, frequently and in ways that matter.

I need to know what’s going on with them and soon because this colourless town with the random, mysterious event and even stranger neighbours is causing me to reach for my phone out of boredom. And far more frequently than I want to.

Happy Film Loving

G

OUTSIDE THE WIRE (2021): The Things I Liked…

Outside The Wire (2021), Damson Idris, Netflix
Outside The Wire (2021), Damson Idris, Netflix

The best things about Outside the Wire, an action/sci-fi movie about a drone pilot and android officer’s mission to a deadly militarised zone are the two lead performances. Young Damson Idris (Harp) is a talent indeed, and Anthony Mackie is convincing as android officer Captain Leo.

The action sequences were generally well choreographed. Still, that’s not to say that there aren’t moments when I’d have preferred different camera angles so I could enjoy better views of Captain Leo’s physical movements during the fight sequences.

As fun as the action/combat scenes are, including scenes that featured the robot army, most of the fun action doesn’t happen until we’re well into the second half of the movie.

Even though overall, Outside the Wire isn’t as well-written or exciting as hoped, I enjoyed the dynamic between young Harp and Captain Leo. I wanted to see Harp’s growth, especially following his rookie mistake at the start of the movie. I needed to know if he’d get out alive and how he’d do it.

For me, its a shame that the movie’s focus wasn’t purely about Harp’s journey. Firstly, because Idris is very watchable, but also because the turn that Captain Leo’s story took around the one hour, twenty-minute mark proved the most disappointing. Mainly because it’s so very cliché; while not being written cleverly enough to make the lack of originality less of an issue.

Even with all its issues, I mostly had a good time with Outside the Wire. As such, if you’re especially curious, give director Mikael Håfström’s movie a chance. It’s nowhere near Netflix’s best action/sci-fi movie; to be honest, I can’t think of any good ones right now. But, at the very least I’m glad I didn’t find it as infuriatingly disastrous as Extinction (2018).

Happy Film Loving

G

PRETEND IT’S A CITY (2021): The Things I Liked…

Pretend it’s a City (2021): Fran Lebowitz, Netflix

What to say about Pretend it’s a City; the new Martin Scorsese presented series about humorist and raconteur Fran Lebowitz.

First of all, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. And by ‘it’ I mean the first episode of a seven-part series. I wish I could have watched more than five minutes of episode two, but I had to stop because I couldn’t get into it.

The use of cinematic music to set the tone as the camera focused on Lebowitz walking through New York City was charming, at first. The charm quickly disappeared for me when I started noticing things that made me enjoy the show less.

I had a specific interview structure in mind for how the show would go and had hoped for a more thorough introduction of Lebowitz at the start. I thought that by the end of episode one, I’d at least have learned about who Lebowitz truly is; besides being known for her humorous observations of life in New York City.

I cannot deny that the way Lebowitz’s mind works is interesting. Yet, unfortunately, the structure of Pretend it’s a City didn’t result in an engaging enough result to keep me watching. I may also have tired of the ‘complaining’ – something Lebowitz is perhaps best known for doing – and doing well.

Even though the show’s focus is Lebowitz, I wanted to see presenter/ interviewer, Scorsese’s face more than once. I mean, it’s been three days since my viewing experience and I’m not even sure that I saw his face at all.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the details I feel are missing from episode one will come in the episodes that follow; in which case, perhaps I’ll give Pretend it’s a City another try. It is presented by the one and only Scorsese, after all. Give it a chance if you’re curious.

Happy Film Loving

G