FlixChatter Review – INFINITE (2021)

Infinite-movie-bnr

The last time Mark Wahlberg and director Antoine Fuqua teamed up was for underwhelmed action thriller SHOOTER back in 2007. Now they’re back together and hoping to start a new sci-fi/action adventure for Paramount Pictures.

Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) has been living a tough life, he couldn’t hold a steady job because of his illness. He keeps seeing visions of people in the past that he doesn’t know and was told by doctors that he’s suffer from schizophrenic. Needing medications to calm down his visions, he decided to build a samurai sword for a local drug dealer in exchange for the meds. Unfortunately, the deal went south and Evan was arrested by the cops. While waiting in an interrogation room, a man named Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) came in and starts questioning Evan about his past lives. Not knowing what’s going on and suddenly his life is in danger, came to his rescue is Mora (Sophie Cookson).

Infinite-movie-cast

After evading Bathurst and his men, Mora took Evan to a hidden place called The Hub. This is where Evan learns about his past lives and the ongoing war between the two rival groups of reincarnated, the Believers and Nihilists. The Believers wants to preserve lives on earth, while the Nihilists, along with its leader Bathurst, wants to destroy every living thing on this planet. Bathurst wants a dooms day device called The Egg and he believes Evan knows where that device is located. Once Evan learned about his past lives and self-defense skills, he must save the world and take down the baddies.

Infinite-movie-mark-wahlberg

The script is written by Ian Shorr and Todd Stein and it is loosely based on a book named The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz. I’ve never heard of the book before, so I don’t know how faithful the script is to the book. Reincarnation has been explored in other films, but I don’t think it’s been incorporated into a big budget action picture until now. While the story is kind of interesting and silly at times, it never tried to be original. The structure of the script is very similar to The Matrix, basically Evan and Mora are Neo and Trinity. Tasked with bringing the script to the screen is director Antoine Fuqua. The film has a sleek production design and globe-trotting locations thanks to its big budget. Although, I thought some of the visual effects looked a bit amateurish. Just like the script, Fuqua didn’t do much to elevate the visual side, for the action scenes, he borrowed a lot of elements from The Matrix, Fast & Furious series and the big showdown between Evan and Bathurst looks very similar to the climactic scene from James Bond: Die Another Day.

Infinite-movie-still

When it comes to performances, Wahlberg was a total miscast here as the lead. His character was supposed to be this fish out of the water type but it’s kind of strange watching a man in his 50s just learning about his “purpose”. Chris Evans was originally cast as the hero but had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Evans probably would’ve been a better choice here. Cookson didn’t do much either as the second lead, I thought her acting was sort of strange, she always had this smirking look on her face in every scene. Dylan O’Brien also has a small supporting role and was featured in the big opening action scene. The only main cast member that looked to have a good time was Ejiofor, whose villainous role was the only best thing in the film. He stole every scene he’s in and outshone the hero Wahlberg.

Infinite-movie-ejiofor

Despite the flaws in this film, I did enjoy it for what it was. A silly action adventure that has some cool and thrilling action scenes. It didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes this type of genre ,but if you have Paramount + then I think it’s worth a watch. I probably would’ve been mad had I paid like $20 to see it in theater though. 

3Reels

TedS_post


So have you seen INFINITE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: IN THE HEIGHTS (2021)

intheHeights-poster

I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie musical on the big screen, as somehow I missed the two recent musicals that I thoroughly enjoyed when they hit cinemas – The Greatest Showman and Mamma Mia 2. In the Heights was supposed to come out exactly a year ago, June 2020, but like a bunch of other movies, it got delayed because of the pandemic.

To be perfectly honest, I actually am not too familiar with the subject matter as I didn’t know much about the original 2005 stage musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who a decade later found massive success with Hamilton). The story is based on a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes who also wrote the screenplay. Since I haven’t seen the play, I’m not sure just how different this adaptation is, but I’m aware they’ve made some changes.

intheHeights-bodega

The movie is set in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in the uppermost part Manhattan that’s predominantly Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans. The movie opens in a sunny morning where we get to see a day in the life of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a Dominican native who owns a small grocery store on a corner street that he runs with his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). We soon find out that Usnavi has been longing to return home reopen the beachside bar his late father used to own that was destroyed by a hurricane, and he’s close to realizing his sueñito (as in little dream) from all the years of saving up.  

Dream is an overarching theme here as everyone in Usnavi’s circle has their own, as well as their own set of struggles. Usnavi’s love interest Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) longs to be a fashion designer, his good friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) wants to start his own business, and there’s Nina (Leslie Grace), the apple of the neighborhood who just returns from Stanford to almost a hero’s (well heroine in this case) welcome. Nina’s dad Kevin (Jimmy Smits) happens to be Benny’s boss who runs a taxi business, and he believes in her daughter’s education so much he’s willing to sacrifice his own company.  Let’s not forget the matriarch of this tight-knit community, Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the matriarch of the neighborhood who helps raise Usnavi. Apparently Merediz also played the role on the Broadway version for which she earned a Tony nomination.

intheHeights-AnthonyRamos

There’s an infectious sense of joy that envelops you right from the start. Ramos is quite charismatic and instantly likable, which I think is as important as his ability to sing and dance. I’d say Usnavi is the heart of the movie, while Abuela is the soul, and I connect with their stories the most. Director Jon M. Chu has proven his robust visual flair and can deal with large sets and a bunch of cast members, as he displayed in the Step Up franchise and Crazy Rich Asians. He seems to up the ante even more here which made me go ‘how did they do that?!’ a few times while watching the scenes. The pool scene in the 96,000 musical number is one of those, which apparently took 600 extras and 3 days to film which he accomplished despite bad weather conditions that include thunder and lightning! That’s incredible as it looks as if that scene was supposed to depict one swelteringly-hot summer day!

One of my faves is actually the gravity-defying dancing scene on walls featuring Benny and Nina with the George Washington Bridge looming in the background during sunset. There are a bunch of amazing camera work by DP Alice Brooks, which captures the rapturous energy of the dance sequences with the large group of dancers, but also make it feel intimate and personal, such as when she zooms in to Usnavi’s face peering out of his window and you see the reflection of the dancers. The other standout, and perhaps the most emotionally-charged musical number to me is the one featuring Abuela as she reflects on her own past with her mama, coming to the States from Cuba.  The song Paciencia Y Fe (Patience and Faith) made me tear up and the sequence involving a subway is beautifully done. I heard an interview with Chu on MPR yesterday where he said each song had to ‘earn its way’ into the movie, and I’m glad THAT song made it. 

intheHeights-Abuela

Most of the songs are pretty fun though I honestly can’t remember any of them afterwards, but that’s more of my own personal taste in music. I think I remember the scenes more than the actual song depending on how much it resonates with me emotionally. Choreographer Christopher Scott sure has his work cut out for him creating ALL those riveting dance sequences, especially having to do some of the big ones on the streets of the Heights neighborhood itself where they had to close off from traffic. I appreciate the inventiveness of some of the numbers too, such as the awesome nail scene inside the hair salon.

Now, amidst the exuberant musical numbers and well-choreographed dance sequences, I have to admit it took me a bit of time to connect with most of the characters. As an immigrant myself, I do love that the movie is a celebration of Latinx culture and highlighting the uniquely-American experience through the eyes of immigrants. That said, I still expect a good, strong story I can hold on to. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the story isn’t good mind you, it’s just that I find it hard to focus on one storyline before another one steals my attention. For one, Usnavi’s story and his tentative relationship with Vanessa seems a bit shortchanged and overshadowed by SO many subplots, some more interesting than others. 

intheHeights-LinMiranda

Though Chu said all the songs had to earn its way into the movie, I feel that it’s not always the case. For one, the sequences involving Miranda as the Piragua seller, whose appearance is already pretty distracting enough given how hugely famous he is now, seems a bit indulgent. In particular, the the rivalry scene of him with an ice cream truck owner could’ve easily been cut out as it does not add anything to the story at all. There are a few other scenes I feel could be trimmed or removed completely. At 2h 23min, it felt really long by the end of the second act. It also doesn’t help that the third act drags a bit as the movie is overstuffed with themes ranging from racial issues to gentrification.

I’m baffled by the choice of framing the story through Usnavi telling the story to some kids on what appears to be a beachside bar, which made me think initially that he’s already in Dominican Republic. Perhaps they’re trying to convey the idea of teaching the next generation, but when it’s revealed at the end who those kids really are, it doesn’t really make sense.

A few other issues also prevent me from truly falling for this movie. Despite the initial chemistry between Usnavi and Vanessa, their romance lacks the sparks I expect from a movie like this. There’s also a lack of real conflicts in the story, the strives between the characters are pretty much resolved quickly just after the next song is done. The father/daughter issue of Kevin and Nina is a prime example, with the topical issue of DACA somehow inserted to help with the swift resolution. No matter how topical/aspirational, it feels tacked on.

intheHeights-romance

Despite those narrative issues, I think it’s a well-crafted movie brimming with vibrancy and pulsing with sweet energy. I’m glad I saw the movie and given that I saw this during a prolonged heatwave, I was glad to be inside an air-conditioned theater! If you’re on the fence, I urge you to give this movie a shot on the big screen. Like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, it’s still a rarity to see movies starring actors of underrepresented groups, though of course it doesn’t mean this movie did everything right in terms of representation. As we walked to our cars after the movie, I commented to my friend who’s half Black Jamaican that most of the main actors have such fair skin, an issue that I see being raised on social media about the movie not being inclusive enough when it comes to dark-skinned Afro-Latinx. Chu recently also apologized for relegating darker-skinned South Asian people to background extras in Crazy Rich Asians.

So yeah, Hollywood still has a long way to go about proper representation, which is all the more reasons we need to see more films with diverse cast. In The Heights is definitely a fitting movie to celebrate Summer and welcome the movie-going experience after a pandemic.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen IN THE HEIGHTS? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: DREAM HORSE (2021)

dream-horse-bnr

There are no shortage of based-on-true-story movies out there, but I’m always up for uplifting stories, especially those that also offer escapism to a distant land on my bucket list!

Dream Horse offers just the thing… starring the always reliable Toni Collette as Jan Vokes, a small-town supermarket cashier by day and bartender by night in Wales. Who can’t relate to a small-town gal (or guy for that matter) with big dreams? I mean, who hasn’t dreamed to live a different life or even live a slightly bigger life that offers more than a mundane existence. I immediately relate to Jan as the film shows her working day in and day out and obviously bored out of her wits. Her domestic life with her husband Brian (Owen Tease) is becoming ho-hum as well. He seems to have lost as much zest for life as he does his teeth, who spends his days sitting by the telly watching reality TV. 

DreamHorse-horsebreeding

That is until one day, Jan overhears a few people talking about horse racing at a bar, led by Howard Davies (Damian Lewis). Davies is an accountant who leads a syndicate, that is a group of people who purchase ownership of a promising race horse. He has had mishaps in the past where he nearly lost it all, but he hasn’t given up on his dreams. At first he was reluctant to join Jan on this adventure, after all she has never done such a thing before. Yet her tenacity and quick learning finally got Davies to come around to join her in the syndication. Now, the hardest part is convincing the townsfolk, with their meager earning and barely any knowledge in horse-breeding/racing, to also join in on the venture!

DreamHorse-DamianLewis

Welsh filmmaker Euros Lyn and screenwriter Neil McKay seems to have a personal kinship with this story, and it shows. There is something so earnest and sweet about how the whole thing comes together, and the camaraderie of the group is just lovely to watch. I also love horses despite only having ridden one years ago as a kid, so it’s wonderful watching Jan and Brian breed Dream Alliance, that is the name of their race horse. Australian thespian Collette can pretty much play anything believably, so even sporting a Welsh accent is NOT outside her wheelhouse. Even surrounded by mostly Welsh cast (Damian Lewis is half Welsh), she fits right in and always brings something extra to every role she does. She’s also convincing as a horse breeder in the way she interacts with Dream Alliance in the movie.

Though for the most part the film is quite predictable, there are some suspenseful moments during an important horse race, and a conflict brewing within the group as Dream Alliance proves to be a champion horse. The group may see opportunities to profit, but Jan remains steadfast as this dream of hers was never about the money. The film’s predictability doesn’t dampen the film’s enjoyment however, as there are so much to enjoy here and one can’t help but be caught up in the joy of it all. It’s the quintessential feel-good movie and the filmmakers/cast make no qualms about it. I especially love the moments where the townsfolk takes the racing elites down a peg or two. They actually threw names such as Andrew Llyod Webber as the owner of a hot British thoroughbred racehorse named, get this, Too Darn Hot! I was expecting Sir Webber would make a cameo, but it was not to be.

DreamHorse-toni-collette

I actually enjoy watching race horse scenes in movies (I should make a list of memorable ones soon!), and there are plenty to enjoy here. They filmed the major horse races on location, in Welsh Grand National and Newbury Racecourse. DP Erik Wilson (who shot both Paddington films) did a wonderful job making us feel like we were right there at the race, and the way he shot the horses definitely set your heart races! I also enjoy the music by relative newcomer composer Benjamin Woodgates which complements the tone and horse-action scenes perfectly.

It’s amazing what a dream can do… not just to a person but to an entire community. It’s also heart-warming to see that Jan’s relationship with Brian also improves with this new venture, as Jan’s dream AND her dream horse literally injects a new life in everyone. In the case of Davies, it also brings a sense of closure in regards to his own late father’s aspiration to be a jockey.

DreamHorse-hwyl-welsh

This film is so gorgeous, filled with stunning, lush images of Welsh countryside that I can’t wait to finally visit Wales one day. As customary with movies based on true events, before the end credits rolled, we get the facts + photos of the real people depicted in the film and how much they actually earned from winning all those races. I was flabbergasted by it, but then again, it goes to show that for the Vokes (and also Davies), it never was about monetary gain. It’s cool to see the Vokes are still in the racehorse-breeding business, though Dream Alliance has long retired. There’s a Welsh expression ‘hwyl’ which is pronounced ‘hoo-eel’ to express a great deal of energy, fervor and enthusiasm. Well, this film certainly captures that spirit and then some!

4/5 stars


DREAM HORSE is playing in theaters and
will be available for PVOD on June 11th


Have you seen DREAM HORSE? I’d love to hear what you think!

Musings on the first 2 eps of LOKI series

When the first THOR movie came out in 2011, I instantly fell for Tom Hiddleston‘s LOKI and like many Hiddlestoners out there, I kept wishing there’ll be a spin-off movie. Well, that day never came, but thankfully a decade later, we got something even better! Why settle for a 2-hour LOKI movie when you can get 6 hours of the god of mischief shenanigans!

The series, directed by Kate Herron and written by Michael Waldron (who’s also penning the script of Doctor Strange‘s sequel) is Marvel Studios’ first villain-centric project. The timing is quite interesting as Disney just released its latest villain-centric movie Cruella, which some critics have called it The Joker Wears Prada, ahah. It seems that Marvel honcho Kevin Feige and its show-runner is confident that most people who watch the series are likely familiar with the MCU and have kept up with all 4 phases. If not, well they probably aren’t going to care that there are spoilers galore, especially pertaining to the Infinity Saga. 

Loki-Avengers-tesseract

Even in the opening sequence we’re shown a clip of the 2012 The Avengers when Loki was reprimanded in chains. But chaos on the Stark Industries building lobby causes the all-important Tesseract to break loose and into the hand of LOKI, which of course seizes the opportunity to escape and transport himself out of Midgard, aka earth. Somehow Loki ends up falling on the Gobi desert of Mongolia, surrounded by pieces of what looks like metals and other pieces. It certainly reminds me of the scene in Iron Man when Tony Stark crash lands his first prototype of the Iron Man suit. Before Loki even figures out his bearing, a group of military force in a gray, black and orange body armor seizes Loki and takes him away through a time-travel portal.

Loki-Gobi-desert

There are a ton of exposition in the first episode which I won’t get into here, it’s best that you experience it for yourself when you watch it. I can say that what Loki did with escaping using the Tesseract is that he creates a branch in time, which is grounds for arrest by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) for crimes against the Sacred Timeline. Honestly, I’m still not clear about that whole timeline and who actually leads the TVA, who apparently even the agents have never met. TVA is a bureaucratic organization that exists outside of time and space and monitors the timeline. This is where things get interesting, that is when Loki is brought by a no-nonsense high-ranking officer Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) to a judge called Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to determine his fate. But then a TVA agent called Mobius M. Mobius – don’t you just love these wacky names!! – intervenes and convinces the judge that he could use Loki’s help to catch a more dangerous, divergent Loki Variant, the one he deems smarter and more evil than the Loki they have in possession. As you’ve seen in the trailers, Mobius is played by the reliably amusing Owen Wilson.

Loki-Mobius-bromance

Now, Tom and Owen have worked together in Midnight in Paris, and I’ve seen countless times the clip of Hiddles impersonating Owen in the Graham Norton Show. The two must’ve stayed in touch as I have a feeling perhaps Tom’s had a hand in Owen’s casting, and Owen himself has said in interviews he became familiar w/ the world of the MCU thanks to what he calls the Loki Lectures! Oh man, I’d LOVE to sign up for those!

Move over Falcon + The Winter Soldier, we’ve got a new fun bromance in the MCU! I actually laugh more watching Loki and Mobius’ constant bantering. I know lots of people might find all the talky scenes boring but I actually enjoy their tête-à-tête, discussing what the TVA actually does, time travel theories, even philosophical stuff like free will, etc. As a theater actor, Tom clearly he enjoys the heavy dialogue and he’s got a such gorgeous voice to boot! I’ve said it before in this post, Tom can just be reading a vacuum cleaner manual to me and I’d be sitting there batting my eyelashes.

Loki-Mobius-lunchroom

For the most part, the banters are droll and hilarious, especially when Loki hijacks Mobius’ lunch to demonstrate his time variant theory in the lunch room! But there are a few emotional moments, such as when Mobius shares what happens in his future, including the destruction of Asgard we saw in Thor: Ragnarok and what Thanos did to him in Endgame. For his part, Owen is perfect casting as well as the Texas-born actor is effortlessly comical and charming as Mobius. His exasperated mannerism dealing with Loki, even mocking the Asgardian’s inability to shut up, is one of the series’ highlights. The two complements each other so well I think they’re now my favorite MCU duo!

I’ve mentioned Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku above and they’re both great addition to the cast. I’ve been a huge fan of Gugu ever since BELLE movie, and seeing her joining the MCU just made me so happy!! I’m glad she’s not just a damsel in distress or some throwaway character, I mean her role as a judge is a pretty powerful one and I hope to see more of her in the series. I haven’t seen her in Lovecraft Country but I love seeing what Wunmi bring to this show so far.

Aside from the talented cast, I also love the production design of the series. I love the retro look of the TVA headquarter in yet another interesting and wacky universe as Marvel keeps upping the ante in its world-building ability. The cinematography, colors, set pieces, etc. has that 50s/60s sensibilities, though not quite in the same way as WandaVision did which shows the characters evolving decade after decade.

Now, of course the series just wouldn’t work without Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as LOKI. I know that everyone always have such high praises for Taika Waititi for reviving the Thor franchise, but I for one think Kenneth Branagh deserves a ton of kudos for not just casting the perfect Thor in Chris Hemsworth, but the perfect Loki as well. It’s crazy to think Tom auditioned for Thor, but clearly he’s more brain than brawn and what I love about Loki is his sharp wit, undeniable charm and sheer unpredictability!

Loki-Hiddleston

Tom is one of the best actors working today, so it’s no surprise he easily switches from mischief to melancholy in no time flat, and manages to make those playful and poignant scenes believable. He relishes in being an anti-hero, and this role gives him a chance to show the many sides of Loki in such a fun way. We’ve seen Loki’s not-so-nefarious side before in various movies, but the possibilities are endless given the multiverse. I love the moment he gets to be be charming + flirtatious in a dapper suit (which might re-start those Bond rumors once again). I look forward to seeing more of what Hiddleston can do with the role in this series.

Loki-sunglasses-wink

Now, there are a few quibbles I have about the series however. Some of the Jetson-style cartoon of the TVA seems a bit out of place. The bouncy clock Miss Minutes was amusing for a few seconds, but the novelty kinda wears off fast. I think we get that time travel is par the course for the series, and the thing with time travel, alternate timeline, multiverse, etc. is that the more you talk about it, the more convoluted it becomes and it’s hard at times to stick the the ‘rules’ the show-runners themselves have created. But I suppose this is just the first two episodes, so hopefully there won’t be any more exposition in future episodes and just give us what Loki does best, that is being his mischievous self!

Loki-MissMinutes

Overall though, I thoroughly enjoy the LOKI series! It’s delightfully kooky which definitely helps averts the superhero fatigue. The ending of episode two is infused with all kinds of mystery and it fuses sci-fi and detective elements that I enjoy. I’m really curious just how big of an impact this series will have to the MCU as a whole, as Feige has teased in many articles such as this one, reportedly saying that “[LOKI] is tremendously important. It perhaps will have more impact on the MCU than any of the shows thus far,” I also look forward to the character’s evolution, which we have seen in Wanda becoming Scarlet Witch, as well as Sam Wilson becoming Captain America. “You want to see, after six hours or so, characters change and evolve,” Feige was quoted as saying, “We don’t make these shows to not be radical, right?”

That’s a big promise, but I for one trust Marvel that they WILL deliver! Can’t wait for more of LOKI, wish I could binge them all in a single weekend!

4/5 stars


Are you excited for LOKI series?

FlixChatter Review: The Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

Conjuring-devil-made-me-do-it

After watching movies at home for about a year and a half, it was so nice to make my return to the movie theater to see the latest in what is probably my favorite modern horror franchise (with the exception of a couple of the spinoffs). I love The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, and while the third installment’s subtitle is a little silly, it’s probably my favorite one of the series. 

In The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) find themselves entangled in a satanic curse conspiracy as they attempt to prove that a young man accused of murder, Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’ Connor), was under demonic possession at the time of the crime. The more they dig, the more they realize this isn’t an isolated incident; this particular entity has claimed other victims, and the Warrens may be next. 

Conjuring3-Ruari

The reason I like paranormal/supernatural horror movies more than other sub-genres is because the danger isn’t something physical; you can’t just double tap a ghost or demon or run and hide from them, and this movie does an especially good job making it feel like there is no escape from the evil terrorizing the protagonists; nowhere feels safe, and nearly every scene is filled with tension. It immediately starts with the violent exorcism of 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), and that intense, frenetic scene sets the tone for the rest of the film; my heart rate was instantly up and stayed there for the next two hours. While there are obviously several jump scares, they mostly all feel earned; the build up to some of the particularly scary moments is exquisite. 

Conjuring3-Vera-Patrick

Like the previous films, one of this movie’s biggest strengths is its stellar cast. As usual, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have excellent chemistry. Other standouts include John Noble as Father Kastner, who gives a wonderfully eerie performance, and Eugenie Bondurant as the mysterious occultist, who, despite not having a lot of screen time, is memorably spooky in her role. 

I only have a couple complaints about this movie, directed Michael Chaves. The first is that there’s a good amount of sappy, saccharine dialogue that made me roll my eyes more than once and made several of my fellow audience members groan. The other is that there are a couple moments where characters who are otherwise intelligent and level-headed make absurdly stupid decisions that put them in danger, which feels like such lazy writing choice; the same outcome could have easily been reached through other actions. It might seem nit-picky, but it’s a big pet peeve of mine in horror movies.

Conjuring3-hauntedhouse

Overall, though, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is an excellent addition to the series, and I’m already looking forward to watching it again, along with the first two, as a triple feature once it’s available for streaming.

4/5 stars

laura_review


Have you seen the latest from THE CONJURING franchise? Well, what did you think?

///

MSPIFF40 Review: Undine (2021)

mspiff-undine

I was really drawn to see this because I’ve enjoyed two of Christian Petzold‘s previous work, Phoenix and Transit. The latter actually stars the same German actors: Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski. The underwater fantasy theme reminds me a bit of The Shape of Water, though this one doesn’t exactly involve a literal underwater creature. Apparently the story is loosely based on a German fairytale novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which Undine, a water spirit, marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. 

The film is set in Berlin where Beer’s character Undine works as a guide for the city’s Urban Development project, which happens to be inside a museum. There’s actually a long scene where she gives historical narration about the city’s past and how it’s actually built on water. Just before that, Undine is in a café with her boyfriend Johannes who tells her he’s leaving her, at which point she tells him nonchalantly that she’d kill him if he does. But on the same day, she runs into a man named Christoph in the same café and the two embarks in a whirlwind romance. 

undine-movie-romance

Sometimes you watch a movie where you’re absolutely baffled by what’s going on, but it’s captivating enough you’re willing to go on a ride. Undine is such a movie, and up until the end, I still can’t quite figure out what it’s all about. Both leads are charismatic in an otherworldly way, which are such perfect casting for this movie. The scene where an aquarium tank explodes is both bizarre yet romantic. Undine and Christoph lie together on the floor, drenched in a pool of water amidst broken glass and dead fish. There’s a little diver figurine from that said aquarium that she takes with her, which has a mysterious connection to Christoph who works as an underwater welder who fix damaged underwater turbines. A lot of the dream-like fantasy elements happen when Christoph works underwater, such as when encounter a giant catfish nicknamed Big Günther, seeing Undine’s name written in concrete, and at times Undine herself swimming about as a mermaid-like creature.

undine-movie-underwater

The fact that this Berlin fairy tale is set in contemporary times and that the mythical water nymph looks like a typical female human and seemingly function like normal people adds to the decidedly discombobulating experience of this movie. Undine is shown interacting with her co-workers, preparing for work and dealing with relatable life/work issues, etc. but yet there is something that’s obviously ‘off’ about her. For the most part Undine is sweet, playful and even loving, but a scene towards the end certainly shows the darker side of this mysterious being. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say it seems jarring that a violent act is done in such a nonchalant way.

undine-movie-pool-scene

Are everything that happens real or are they in someone’s head? Petzold doesn’t exactly provide conclusive answers and that’s by design. There are parts that reminds me of Neil Jordan’s Ondine, which is more brooding and atmospheric, but shares a primary strength in the strong chemistry between the two romantic leads. I think the less concerned I was with trying to ‘get’ the movie, the more I was able to enjoy Undine for what it is. For one, I enjoy watching the almost innocent, playful nature of the romance, such as the goodbye scene on the train station. It’s always lovely to see on-screen couples being absolutely lovestruck in a genuine, non-cheesy way. I think it’s interesting too that Petzold uses music by Johann Sebastian Bach instead of hiring a contemporary composer, which gives that timelessness quality that fits with the central theme of past/present co-existing. While Bach is a Christian who have written plenty of sacred works, this film is devoid of spirituality or even the concept of God as a guiding principle.

In any case, I appreciate this movie but not swept away by it. Still, you could do so much worse than watching a Christian Petzold film with these two wonderful leads. Petzold remains a filmmaker I admire and I look forward to what he’ll tackle next.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen UNDINE? I’d love to hear what you think!

This Just In! REMINISCENCE poster + trailer starring Hugh Jackman

Woo wee!! I hadn’t even heard of this project before but that poster came across my email from WB and I just had to post about this. I’m a big fan of pretty much everyone involved, and thrilled to see writer/director/producer Lisa Joy, one of the co-creators of WESTWORLD as the writer/director of this film. This marks her feature directorial debut and it certainly looks promising!

Full synopsis:

Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed when he takes on a new client, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). A simple matter of lost and found becomes a dangerous obsession. As Bannister fights to find the truth about Mae’s disappearance, he uncovers a violent conspiracy, and must ultimately answer the question: how far would you go to hold on to the ones you love?

I’m SO here for this!! I like what I’m seeing so far! I love the concept of a sci-fi mystery romance and the trailer certainly has that Westworld-y vibe with Inception, The Prestige, Blade Runner mixed in. As most of you likely know, Lisa Joy is Christopher Nolan’s sister in-law and her husband Jonathan Nolan is her longtime collaborator (as they created Westworld together) and one of the film’s producer.

I love Hugh Jackman and he’s such a versatile actor, but seeing him in the trailer I was like ‘YOWZA!!’ I forget sometimes just how incredibly hunky and sexy he is. His look reminds me of his role in Australia, though hopefully this would be a much better movie! Some of the scenes of him jumping out of a water-filled tub/tank also gives me that Wolverine vibe, he’s got to be one of the fittest 52-year-old on the planet!

I also love the alluring Rebecca Ferguson and they have quite a palpable chemistry in The Greatest Showman, so I’m looking forward to seeing some steamy scenes between those two [fan self]. Nice to see Westworld’s alum Thandiwe Netwon (great seeing she’s switched back to the original spelling of her first name) here as well as Jackman’s colleague. When I first saw the cast list, I thought Rebecca and Thandiwe would make a love triangle with Hugh (how scorching would that be!). I like the rest of the diverse supporting cast as well: Cliff Curtis, Angela Sarafyan (who was also in Westworld) and Daniel Wu are all actors I want to see more on screen.

The visuals look beautiful with stunning night photography. The DP is Paul Cameron (Collateral, De Ja Vu, 21 Bridges) and composer Ramin Djawadi is back collaborating with the Westworld creator once again scoring this. I’m a huge fan of Ramin’s music so that’s another thing I look forward to!!

The film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is set for release nationwide in theaters on August 20, 2021 and will be available on HBO Max.* I definitely want to see this on the big screen, though nice that I can potentially re-watch it again on streaming.

Reminiscence is rated PG-13 for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language

*Only available on the Ad-Free plan, streaming in the US only for 31 days from its theatrical release


What do you think of the trailer? Are you as excited for this as I am?