Netflix’s The Old Guard (2020)

I’ve been excited for this film since its trailer dropped last May… luckily, unlike theatrical releases that’s getting delayed indefinitely [even those as huge as Chris Nolan’s TENET], a Netflix release is a guarantee.

The Old Guard centers on a covert team of immortal mercenaries who’ve been living for centuries. First, we meet the group’s leader, Andromache of Scythia or Andy for short, played with her usual graceful-yet-badass self by Charlize Theron. She’s channeling her Mad Max: Fury Road‘s Furiosa here in her taciturn yet caring nature. Soon she’s reunited with three other members of the group, Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli).

They get hired by former CIA operative Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to rescue kidnapped children in South Suddan. Given that this tight-knit group’s been fighting to protect the mortal world for centuries, this sort of mission is definitely right in their wheelhouse. As it turns out, it wasn’t as much a mission as it is a trap which expose not only who they are, but what they’re capable of. While on the run, the group discovers through visions/dreams that there’s another immortal warrior out there in the world, and Andy promptly sets out to find her.

I particularly like the interaction between Theron and Kiki Layne (who was terrific in If Beale Street Could Talk) as US Marine Nile Freeman, who’s not exactly easy to convince to join the group. Nile has her own mind and naturally has a ton of questions about her own identity/ability and about this new group she’s being recruited into. There are plenty of fight scenes in this flick, but the one on the plane between Andy and Nile are pretty exciting to watch, which also serves to tell the story as Nile discovers just how powerful she is.

I like that The Old Guard isn’t so much an origin story… Greg Rucka, the author of the graphic novel who also penned the script, doesn’t reveal every backstory of the characters. In fact, Andy’s been living–and dying over and over again–for so long she could barely remember how old she is. There are moments when the characters reveal how they met. Andy and Booker met during the Crusades, while Joe and Nicky were one time enemies who actually [tried to] kill each other before they became lovers. It’s a fantastical, mythical story involving people with superhuman abilities, yet still feels grounded somehow.

The direction by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights) is thrilling but not bombastic. I mean, she’s not afraid to shoot some bloody, brutal fight scenes where Theron gets to hack multiple guys with her Medieval battle axe in a dance-like motion. But she also peppers the film with some quiet, introspective moments as the characters ponder on their immortality and how it’s not as easy as we mere mortals think it is. The nomadic lifestyle, the endless loss of loved ones they constantly have to say good bye to as they go on living… these are themes that are explored well here. Films dealing with characters living forever have addressed this before, but yet here it feels really personal and organic. The scene between Booker and Nile is quite heartfelt, with Schoenaerts giving his all, is a testament to how committed all the actors were in their roles. Joe’s declaration of love to Nicky is perhaps a first for a LGBT character in a superhero film of this scale.

Relative newcomer Kiki Layne, who hasn’t done a big action flick before, is quite believable here in her role. Nile is the one with the conscience, as she struggles to kill people the way the group’s done effortlessly for hundreds of years. It’s consistent with her faith in God that she’s shared briefly on the plane with Andy… even when it’s time for her to save the day, i.e. the scene of her in the elevator before the big showdown, she doesn’t lose her humanity despite her super-heroic ability.

Now, the film isn’t flawless however. While the immortal superheroes have intriguing character arc, their nemesis Merrick is your typical greedy pharma exec with a Mark Zuckerberg complex (complete w/ his hoodie-wearing wardrobe). I’ve never seen Harry Melling before but I think he’s miscast as he looks about as threatening as a meerkat. Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s Copley is morally ambivalent, he’s a man driven by a tragic past which leads to a misguided ‘solution.’ I’ve always liked seeing him in films, though he doesn’t get to do very much here.

Speaking of Ejiofor, I read an article earlier this week where he’s quoted as saying that he’s ‘…envious of Charlize Theron’s ability to tell narrative through physicality’ I have to say that it truly a gift not many actors possesses, but the South African native certainly does and she uses it well! There’s a scene in the beginning where the camera followed Andy simply walking in the streets, through a corridor, etc. All we see is the back of her head but yet we’re transfixed by her graceful yet confident style.

The big showdown at the end is kind of a mixed bag. I think the fight scenes are good, albeit with the use of contemporary songs doesn’t always work well. I didn’t completely hate it, but I wish they’d just stick to a dynamic score instead. The finale is left open-ended for a sequel, which involves a pretty important character shown in one of the longer backstory of the lead. I’m actually down to see more of this action fantasy, especially if they can retain the same director and cast. Hopefully they’d improve the music choices the next time around and find a more formidable foe worthy of these bad-ass immortal warriors.

Given that other female-directed/female-led action flicks like Wonder Woman and Black Widow are delayed this year, The Old Guard fills the void quite nicely. It’s got a heart as big as the big action pieces, and I’m sure glad to see a group of bad-ass superheroes with such a diverse cast.


Have you seen The Old Guard? Well, what did you think?

Guest Post: 5 TV Shows to Continue Your Child’s Education Over Summer

Just because school has ended and your child is on break, it doesn’t mean they can’t still continue learning over summer. While everyone is on quarantine due to COVID-19, it can be hard to engage your kids with new and exciting ways to read or do homework every day. Luckily, we’ve gathered a list of television programs focused on kids and teens to be entertaining and educational.

1. She-Ra and the Princess of Power

She-Ra is a reboot of the 80’s character of the same name. In this version, a teenage girl named Adora happens across a sword when she gets lost in the woods. When she touches the sword, a blinding flash of light warns her about the responsibilities of what it means to wield the weapon. Upon agreeing to fight for justice, Adora is transformed into the 8-foot princess with superhuman strength, reflexes, invulnerability and communication with all creatures. 

Though she was raised by the Horde, Adora quickly learns that the evil militarized society has been trying to take over the world. When Adora joins the opposition, a group of princesses fighting for freedom, her best friend and Horde cadet Catra is enveloped by abandonment and assumes the role of She-Ra’s mortal enemy. As the events of the war unfold, the two on their differing ideologies in regard to their relationship in the past.   

The animated series is packed with imaginative action, humor, and deep character arcs that focus on relationships.

What it Teaches Teens:

She-Ra portrays a range of well-developed relationship between young adults throughout the series. Highlighting important emotions such as admiration and support, jealousy, self-doubt, romance, and hatred, this show teaches teens how to manage their emotions while transitioning into adulthood.

In She-Ra, the creators primarily examine the pitfalls and potential solutions to address abusive relationships. The close nature of Adora and Catra’s bond, now divided by their political differences, is a perfect example of how friends and family members can deal with intimate relationships facing turmoil.

Conversely, the Princess Alliance demonstrates to teens how they can practice mutual aid and support for one another. As teens begin to enter the adult world of competition and varying degrees of social status, She-Ra is a good source of entertainment to teach teens how to be supportive of one another through thick and thin.

2. Scooby-Doo: Mystery incorporated

The Scooby gang is back … in high school. This version of Scooby-Doo branches off from the classic telling of the mystery series in two ways: 1) The gang are more involved with each other through romantic teen relationships and 2) There’s an overarching story that keeps Mystery Inc. guessing throughout season as they continue to solve crimes in each episode.

Set in their hometown of Crystal Cove, the gang must deal with locals who are invested in the continued criminal streak as a source of tourism and revenue for the city. Chief among them are Mayor Fred Jones Sr. and Sheriff Bronson Stone. Each adversary feels the need to maintain the town’s spooky atmosphere in order to bring in visitors, regardless of constant fear that citizens endure. Despite these challenges, the gang are set on solving every mystery that comes their way. 

What it Teaches Teens:

Because the show is set in high school, the characters are portrayed as more relatable to today’s teens than past iterations. The Scooby-gang largely explore teen technology use, social dynamics, and common problems that teens face while transitioning into adulthood. For instance, both Fred and Daphne are confronted by their parents in the show about picking a “real” career for the future. Their parents point out that the children’s escapade as crime-fighters isn’t a long-term career. Consequently, the gang talk about what the future will look like and what kind of planning comes with being an adult. 

3. Teen Titans

Based in Jump City, the Titans are made up of Robin, Batman’s sidekick; Cyborg, an athlete who required body part replacement after a violent accident; Starfire, an enthusiastic space princess with the ability to fly and throw energy blasts; Beast Boy, a literally green vegan who can turn into any animal at will; and Raven, a demon’s daughter who must keep her emotions in check to use magic and sorcery. As the defenders of their town, it’s up to this team of mismatched teens to get along, stop villains from antagonizing the citizens, and do their laundry from time to time.

What it Teaches Teens:

Without adults around, this group of heroes must engage in serious conversations about what it means to be responsible and self-sustaining. Robin, the team’s leader, is often at odds with the rest of the group because of his strict upbringing under Batman’s tutelage. He’s constantly pushing the others to live a well-composed lifestyle of balancing work and playing. As teens in real life pursue higher education or job opportunities for themselves, it’s important to realize self-agency. As the Titans’ willpower is constantly tested throughout the show by supervillains, the more intimate tests of strength come from taking personal responsibility over their lives.

4. Parks and Recreation

Probably the most direct way to continue your child’s education over summer out of all these shows is Parks and Recreation. This mockumentary follows the golden-hearted exploits of Leslie Knope, a dedicated and energetic civil servant looking to provide the best public services she can through the local parks program. Standing in her way is her boss and close mentor, Ron Swanson. Ron’s no-Government, no-nonsense, no-people outlook on life make for a comedic foil to Leslie and a tender look at the larger political spectrum in Pawnee, Indiana.

If the premise of a show about municipal government work sounds boring, just remember that The Office was specifically made to derive humor from a boring situation with lively characters and an earnest heart-warming plot. (The folks who made The Office also created Parks and Rec, The Good Place, and Brooklyn 99). Parks and Rec is also the show where stars like Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, and Aziz Ansari made their big break alongside performances by comedy alums including Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Megan Mullally. 

What it Teaches Teens:

Parks and Recreation teaches teens just how important local government is. As Leslie makes the climb through the stages of government, we see her take on positions like City Councilwoman, and Regional Director of National Park Services in the Midwest Region, and Deputy Director of Operations at United States Department of Interior. Other characters fill positions such as the city Manager, city Mayor, and interns for the Parks Department. This show might teach your teen about local, state, and federal government more than a high school government class.

Teens can even get a look at how they might be able to participate in creating change in their communities through April, Aubrey Plaza’s seemingly detached intern who is dragged into caring about her work because of how infectious Leslie’s enthusiasm is for helping others. This show makes local government entertaining and interesting enough to pique your child’s interest in a potential summer job as well.

5. Avatar: The Last Airbender

12-year-old Aang is the Avatar, the only person in the world who can control all four elements -water, air, earth, fire. In a world that is divided into four nations based on the element their citizens can “bend,” it is the Avatar’s job to unite the world and usher in peace where there is political and spiritual discord. However, when Aang first learned of his responsibilities, he fled into the ice where he remained frozen for 100 years. In that time, the Fire Nation has largely succeeded in achieving world domination. After completely eradicating the Air Nations from which Aang was raised, the Firelord has closed in on the remaining two elemental populations.

The show takes place as Aang is woken up by two Water Tribe kids, the waterbender Katara and her non-bending brother Sokka. Along their travels to undo the harm that has been done, they pick up new friends, including the blind earthbender, Toph. Together, the gang visit small villages and large cities across the globe that have been damaged by the Fire Nation’s imperialism and conquest.

Avatar is wildly creative, action-packed, and includes some of the most widely praised and well-developed character arcs in the history of television.

What it Teaches Teens:

Because the show is set in a fictional world facing an imperialist army, this children’s animation is primed for teaching kids about lessons that parallel real-life issues. Many of the main storylines throughout the show explore the experiences of refugees, people from different social classes in different nations, and emotions like grief, loss, and acceptance.

The main antagonist, Zuko, is actually the son of the Firelord who has been banished until he captures the Avatar for his father. Throughout his journey, he changes perspectives about the violence of his actions while exploring his personal motivations, wants, and needs. Widely praised as one of, if not, the best redemption arks in a series, Zuko’s journey teaches audiences that there is nuance to disagreement and that soul-searching is a long and drawn out process.


Learning from Home Made Easy

Ranging from topics like how to deal with grief and acceptance to the importance of local government and addressing political differences, these five TV shows are guaranteed to teach your teen valuable lessons for the future. We hope these programs will spark a discussion between friends and family about the themes and lessons you encounter.


Author Bios

Brian Grant is the Director of Content for Talking to Teens. His creative work includes screenwriting, ghostwriting, copywriting and more.

Eric M. Earle is the founder of Tutor Portland and Tutor San Francisco. He focuses on improving students’ math grades to better their college acceptance rates.

FlixChatter Review – Netflix’s EXTRACTION (2020)

Netflix is trying to take on the big Hollywood studios by producing quite a bit of pricey original films within the last couple of years. While their more prestigious films such ROMA and THE IRISHMAN received rave reviews and decent amount of views. Most of their original action/adventure films didn’t do quite well, for example last year’s very expensive TRIPLE FRONTIER was a dud. EXTRACTION is their latest action film that became their biggest hit to date, viewership wise anyway.

As the story begins, we’re introduced to Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), he’s the son of a ruthless drug lord named Mahajan (Pankaj Tripathi). Mahajan is in prison but still very powerful within the crime syndicate of India. While out partying with his friends at a night club, Ovi is kidnapped by men working for Amir (Priyanshu Painyuli), Ovi’s father rival. Upon learning the news that his son has been kidnapped by his rival, Mahajan orders his right-hand man Saju (Randeep Hooda) to do whatever it takes to get his son back alive. Saju hires a mercenary team whose leader is Nik (Golshifteh Farahani), she recruits her old teammate Tyler (Chris Hemsworth) to join the team in rescuing Ovi from danger.

At first Tyler wasn’t interested because he’s still grieving the death of his son. But when Nik told him that the fee is very high, Tyler decided to join her. They traveled to Dhaka to get Ovi and once Tyler found the boy, things went south real fast. He realized that his team has been double crossed and he will need to use all of his skills to keep Ovi and himself alive from the local police and henchmen who’re all chase after them.

Based on a graphic novel named Ciudad written by Ande Parks and The Russo Brothers. The screenplay is credited to only Joe Russo and it’s decent script for an action film. The story is pretty simple and quite predictable. It did try to get too serious for its own good about half way through the story but thankfully it didn’t linger on that too much.

The biggest draw for this film of course is the action and first-time director Sam Hargrave delivered the goods. Being that Hargrave was a stunt coordinator for many of the big Hollywood blockbusters, he knows how to shoot action scenes properly. There’s a “one shot” action sequence that will blow you away, one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in recent years.

Hemsworth hasn’t had much luck in films outside of the MCU but he seems to be a good fit in this role. His 6’2″ muscular frame makes him more believable that he can take on several foes at the same time than say someone like 5’5″ Tom Cruise. There’s not much that was asked of him for the role but Hemsworth did try to give a more personal performance. Being that his character lost a son and now he’s being a father figure to a kid he doesn’t know but trying to save his life. Unfortunately, none of the supporting actors really stood out for me, they were okay in their respective roles but pretty forgettable to me.

It appears Netflix has found a franchise and a sequel has already been moved into pre-production. If you’re a fan of the John Wick franchise, then you’ll enjoy this film.

3/5 stars

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

FlixChatter Review: SERGIO (2020)


Directed By: Greg Barker
Written By: Craig Borten
Starring: Wagner Moura, Ana de Armas, Bradley Whitford, Brían F. O’Byrne

Sergio, is a biographical drama chronicling the life and work of United Nations diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello. Directed by Greg Barker, a man known for his career in television and documentary films such as Sergio (2009) and The Final Year (2017), it marks his first attempt at a narrative feature.

A decade after premiering his doc, Barker returned to Sundance with this adaptation. Making a film about a subject one has already explored so deeply could seem like beating a dead horse. Greg slows the pace, and injects this new film with a sense of poetic romanticism. Given the creative license Barker focuses on on the inner-emotions and Don Quixote like qualities of Sergio. He was a larger than life personality who believed that one could live in and create the future one wanted for tomorrow, today. And that by nations coming together we could bring about a better, brighter, freer global future. He believed the U.N. would be instrumental in achieving this dream and that he could help birth it.

Recounting the days, months, and years leading up to his death, this film’s emphasis on de Mello’s romantic life (with Ana de Armas playing the woman he loved), provides fresh insight into the life of a man many have already heard much about. After making a documentary I can understand the wish to focus on developing the personality of who Sergio was.

While it creates an engrossing story for general audiences who know next to nothing about its titular character, it conversely makes the film a bit drawn-out and lacking focus. This is disappointing for a film that is about a man who led his life with decisiveness and a singular focus.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen SERGIO? Well, what did you think? 

Thursday Movie Picks: TELEVISION EDITION – BOOK TO TV ADAPTATIONS

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… TELEVISION EDITION: BOOK TO TV ADAPTATIONS.

It’s been a month or so since I participated in TMP, but when I saw this week’s topic I decided to do a post since I’ve actually been reading books about the MEDICI family, as I’ve just finished season 2 and 3 of Medici The Magnificent on Netflix.

I’m not including it here as I don’t think the show is based on a certain books/novels, most of it is based/inspired by historical events. I LOVE the last two season and will be sure to blog about them at some point.

In any case, here are three of my fave books-to-tv adaptations in the past few years:

WESTWORLD

Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite can be indulged without consequence.

This HBO science-fiction series is based on a novel by Michael Crichton. Per IMDb Trivia, apparently Warner Brothers had been trying to remake the 1973 Westworld movie since the 90s, Crichton even wen to J.J. Abrams who later in 2013 pitched the idea of a TV series to creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Well, I think the show runners did a terrific job and making it a series certainly is a wise move given how complex the story is and the number of opportunities to explore the world-within-world and various characters, from the robots (er, hosts) to humans.


A Discovery Of Witches

Diana Bishop, historian and witch, accesses Ashmole 782 and knows she must solve its mysteries. She is offered help by the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, but he’s a vampire and witches should never trust vampires.

This series is based on All Souls Trilogy, a three-book series written by Deborah Harkness. I was immediately hooked because of the lead cast Matthew Goode and Theresa Palmer. I know the forbidden romance storyline’s been done to death (no pun intended), but the setting in England and Venice are pure escapism stuff. The series’ pacing can be much improved and some parts can be quite cheesy. The two leads were still able to keep me engaged however, and having Lindsay Duncan as mother vampire (Goode’s mother) is inspired casting! I do enjoy vampire movies/shows so long as they’re not too gory. I’m glad there’s season 2 that’s reportedly going to be set in Elizabethan times!


KILLING EVE

Eve is a bored, whip-smart security services operative whose desk-bound job doesn’t fulfill her fantasies of being a spy. Villanelle is a talented killer, who clings to the luxuries her violent job affords her. These two fierce women, equally obsessed with each other, will go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse, toppling the typical spy-action thriller.

The BBC America/AMC show was adapted from Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle novellas. I got to this series a bit late, but hey better late than never! I love the London setting, perfect for any spy thrillers, and the two lead actresses are amazing! Sandra Oh is such inspired casting and she immediately hooked me. The chemistry between Eve and Jodie Comer as Villanelle is truly what makes the show works so well. I also love Fiona Shaw as Eve’s mysterious boss. It’s definitely the best cat-and-mouse thriller out there, with a healthy dose of humor thanks to show-creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s witty writing!


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Music Break: 5 Scores To Celebrate JUNETEENTH 2020

Happy Freedom Day! Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day. Per the National Registry, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.

What has began as a Texas holiday in 1980, is now recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia as a state holiday or observance and is marking its 155th anniversary this year.

So to commemorate this significant day in history, I thought I’d post five scores from films that deals with slavery, the fight against racial inequality and savagery… and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit.

“God’s time [Emancipation] is always near. He set the North Star in the heavens; He gave me the strength in my limbs; He meant I should be free.” — Harriet Tubman


“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” — Maya Angelou


Hope you enjoy today’s Music Break. Which of these scores are your favorite(s)?

FlixChatter Review – THE WRETCHED (2020)

Written and Directed by: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce

In The Wretched, 17-year-old Ben (John-Paul Howard) goes to stay with his father (Jamison Jones) in the small summer vacation town where he works. He notices their neighbor, Abbie (Zara Mahler), acting strangely, and soon discovers that she has been inhabited by a witch who preys on children. Along with his new friend Mallory (Piper Curda), Ben fights to defeat this ancient evil being.

Like many teen horror movies, The Wretched is pretty underwhelming. There’s nothing particularly inspired about the cinematography or direction, the characters feel like cliches, and melodramatic music nearly always plays right before the unimpressive jump scares (although there was one really good jump scare involving a baby toy that actually got me). The dialogue feels like most teen horror movie dialogue written between 1999 and now, although the actors mostly make it work.

That said, it’s not a bad movie. The special effects are pretty good, mostly practical and not over-reliant on CGI, and I really liked the creepy, saggy skin makeup for the witch. It was refreshing watching a movie with a unique antagonist (not that there aren’t other horror movies with witches, obviously, but this movie has its own interesting interpretation). As I mentioned before, the acting is pretty good, and there are some surprisingly talented kid actors in the cast. And the twist near the end genuinely surprised me without feeling like it was unearned; there’s some decent foreshadowing leading up to it.

While The Wretched isn’t an amazing horror film, it’s still entertaining enough, and at a little over an hour and a half run time, it’s a relatively quick, easy watch. If you like horror, are easily scared, and this happens to be on a streaming service you have, you might enjoy this movie.

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Now playing at select Drive-In Theaters and Digital Platforms everywhere


Have you seen THE WRETCHED? Let us know what you think!