Friday 24 April 2020

Extraction (Movie Review)

We're officially in the summer movie season. But with movie theaters still on lockdown, film fans are forced to look elsewhere for their blockbuster fix. And by elsewhere, I am of course referring to the offerings on video-on-demand and streaming giants like Netflix. Which is where Extraction comes in, their latest ultra-violent action thriller that owes a lot to B-movies of days past and the stellar stunts of more modern action movies like John Wick.

Written by Joe Russo and serving as the directorial debut of frequent collaborator and stunt coordinator, Sam Hargrave, the film stars Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake, a black market mercenary who is hired to extract the son of a powerful drug baron, after the boy, Ovi, is kidnapped by members of a rival gang. But of course, things don't go according to plan, and what follows are a series of double crosses and increasingly-audacious action set-pieces.

And speaking of action, Extraction has some of the most impressive stunt work I have seen since The Raid. There was this one scene in its first half in particular, which had everything from tightly-choreographed hand-to-hand combat to some truly insane camera work and editing. But incredible action and a slick presentation does not a great movie make, which is kinda where Extraction falters as a whole.

The movie can't quite shake off that "been there, done that" feeling it gives you, right from its opening shot which has Chris Hemsworth making a last stand on a bridge strewn with smouldering cars. And while he does what he can with the material he is given, none of that helps to hide what is effectively a film that relies a little too much on style over substance.

There appears to be this gulf between Netflix Originals. On the one hand, they've produced high-caliber awards movies like The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes. On the other hand, we have low-brow action movies like Bright and 6 Underground. Extraction clearly belongs in the latter category, but considering just how slim the pickings are right now, I'll say it is still definitely worth the watch.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Celebrating milestones and the little things

A little over eight years ago, I had decided I wanted to start a blog. This very one you are reading right now as a matter of fact. It was right around the time I had just started to take my writing seriously, and I saw a blog as a way to not only hone my skills, but also create some exposure for some of my work.

Over the years, the blog has evolved to become more of an outlet for sharing my thoughts. But one thing I had always neglected to do was to celebrate the little milestones I'd reached along the way. I'll give you an example. Just a few weeks ago, I had written my 100th movie review. I'd meant to put up a post to mark the milestone, but life got in the way and that never happened.

Well, as it turns out, I am just about to cross another milestone. In fact, by the time you read this post, I would have already crossed it. And that milestone, my friends and casual surfer of the interwebs alike, is 2,000,000 pageviews across my posts.

Let me just wrap my head around that figure for a second. This is a number that seemed impossibly far away when I started this blog in 2011, back when my daily pageviews were barely in the double digits. My 2011 self would probably never had imagined that my words would have been read (or at least crawled by search bots) that many times, but here we are today.

I know there are other bloggers out there that do 2,000,000 pageviews monthly (or even daily), but considering where I started from, and how long it has taken to get here, I think it is worth taking a moment to savor the achievement, for what its worth.

So how exactly am I celebrating this milestone? By continuing to write the kind of content that led to hitting the milestone of course. So watch this space, and here's to another eight years of blogging about movies and celebrating the little things.

Friday 10 April 2020

Trolls World Tour (Movie Review)

With most of the world's theaters still on lockdown due to the coronavirus, more movie studios are looking to streaming services for distribution of their movies. The latest one to be given that treatment is Trolls World Tour, the sequel to the 2016 animated musical, Trolls. The movie lands on video-on-demand platforms today, although this is coming after Universal had already tested the waters by releasing both The Invisible Man and The Hunt, after their truncated theatrical runs. But unlike those movies, this one is receiving what it is calling a day-and-date release with theaters.

The new movie finds Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick reprising their voice over roles as Branch and Queen Poppy respectively, two trolls that share a love for pop music and have grown to become best of friends. But as it turns out, Branch is seeking to be more than friends with Poppy, but can't seem to find the right words or time to express his feelings. All of that is put on the backburner though after they receive an unexpected letter from a neighboring troll kingdom.

As it turns out, the trolls once lived under the harmony of a six-stringed harp. But over time, they started to fight amongst themselves over what type of music should be played with those strings. This eventually led to the harp being destroyed and its six strings being used to form six troll kingdoms, each based on a different style of music: Classical, Country, Funk, Rock, Techno and Pop. Now, Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Kingdom is seeking to aggressively reunite all six troll kingdoms as "one nation under rock," and it is up to Branch and Poppy to stop her.

I was never really a big fan of the first Trolls movie and I had quite frankly forgotten it existed until Universal had announced its sequel would be going straight to VOD. The one thing I remembered enjoying from the first movie though was its music, which included the Academy Award nominated song by Justin Timberlake, "Cant Stop the Feeling." The new movie might not have the benefit of any such instant standouts, but it does benefit from incorporating so many different musical styles into its song catalogue.

The story itself is fairly predictable, but heartwarming nonetheless. It is a story about embracing our differences as individuals, and one that I found particularly poignant in this day and age of social distancing we find ourselves in. Perhaps this is why Universal had pushed to have it released on VOD rather than delay it till theaters reopened, because of the timeliness of its message.

The theater owners were not too pleased by their decision to forgo a theatrical release though, and have in fact promised not to forget this particular incident, although it remains to be seen what form their retaliation might take.

Trolls World Tour is definitely worth the watch while you're at home and in need of something to entertain yourself or the entire family. It is filled with so many sing-along tunes that you'll be hard pressed to sit still as you resist the temptation to join in or dance. I really hope it recoups a good portion of its production budget on VOD and streaming, so that we can continue to get more movies dropped directly on those platforms while everyone is stuck at home.