JUNE 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

June recap

Wow, it’s Fourth of July weekend already! Which, if you live in the northern hemisphere, that means we’re halfway through Summer already. I’ll be driving up northeast with my hubby this weekend to a town called Bayfield, Wisconsin and spend a day at Madeline Island on Lake Superior. Given all July 4th festivities were canceled last year, I actually look forward to seeing fireworks this weekend, yay!

I actually didn’t get to watch too many movies this month as I was away for a few days visiting family in New Hampshire in mid June, but I did watch quite a bit of TV series. In any event, here’s what I watched in June:

NEW TO ME MOVIES

Movies indicated with * (asterisk) indicates those directed by women – and I watched a total of 3 films by women this month. I’m hoping to complete the 52 Films By Women challenge by end of the year.

In The Heights (2021)
(full review)

intheHeights-AnthonyRamos

Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard (2021)
(full review)

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LUCA (2021)
(full review)

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Petra: Secrets of the Ancient Builders (documentary)

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I saw this stunning National Geographic doc on Disney+ on how three magnificent ancient structures in Jordan were engineered. It’s pretty insightful and educational, combining expert interviews with motion graphics as visual aid.

3.5/5 Reels

Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead (documentary)

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After watching Petra, I ended up continuing to watch Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead which is quite eerie as about a decade ago my hubby and I did visit Pompeii, though we missed going to the museum where they had the preserved skeletons of the people trying to escape the disaster. Using state-of-the-art technology, experts were able debunk some of the most persistent myths about these victims in these final moments.

4/5

The Assistant* (2019)

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I saw this on the plane and though I’ve been wanting to see it for a while, I picked it partly because it’s only 1.5 hour long (which is all I had time for as it was a short flight). It’s not an enjoyable movie per se, but an effective and also frustrating one, featuring a terrific performance by Julia Garner

3.5/5 Reels

F9 (2021)
(full review)

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Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It* (2020)

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I was hesitant to watch this because I hadn’t seen West Side Story (yes I know, I know, I’ll do that soon, before the remake comes out!), but thanks to fellow blogger Peggy I was convinced to um go for it, ha! Well I’m SO glad I did! It’s such a fascinating doc narrated by Rita herself who’s as charming, fun and charismatic as ever, though her story had some really harrowing, dark moments. She truly is a one of a kind artist, an EGOT winner no less, and at 89 years of age, she is still as sprightly and vivacious as ever!

4/5

The Ice Road (2021)
(full review)

IceRoad-cast

In The Fade (2017)

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I’ve been wanting to see this for ages, I’m glad I finally did. It’s a slo-burn vengeance drama, though billed as a thriller. It features Diane Kruger’s best performance in the lead role as a German woman whose life collapses after the death of her husband and son in a bomb attack. Her time of mourning is hugely emotional and harrowing to watch, but people expecting an all-action vengeance thriller a la Atomic Blonde will be disappointed as this is more of a character study than action movie.

3.5/5 Reels

Black Widow*

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This ends up being the last feature film I saw this month and I’m glad I saw it on the big screen. I’m going to save my commentary for the full review, but let’s just say I highly enjoyed this highly-anticipated movie and after such a long wait, it didn’t disappoint!


TV SERIES

I said last month I really need to blog just for my TV watches, but I failed to do that, ahah. Well, I didn’t watch as much TV as May, but I did manage to finish an entire season of two very different series: Gold Digger and Sweet Tooth

Gold Digger – Sundance Channel

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Ok so I have to admit I watched this as I was crushing on Ben Barnes after Shadow + Bone (Gen Kirrigan… be still my heart). It’s about a wealthy older woman (Julia Ormond) falling in love with a younger man (Barnes, natch!) whose kids suspect is only after her money.

Sweet Tooth – Netflix

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Sweet Tooth is based on a comic book of the same name. It follows a 9-year-old boy with antlers traveling across a post-apocalyptic world, trying to reach his mother in Colorado. I really enjoyed this one, especially the relationship between the half deer/half human title character (a charismatic Christian Convery) and a man named Tommy Jepperd (Nonso Anozie)I’m REALLY hoping they’d renew this one soon as I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

Loki – Disney+

Loki-series

I’ve reviewed the first two episodes here, and though I was mostly confused by ep. 3, the fourth episode is full of WHOA! moments that shake up the TVA. It’s also packed with MCU and comics references which makes me wish there are more than just 6 episodes of this!

Lupin (Part 2) – Netflix

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I’ve listed 10 things why you should watch LUPIN, so if you haven’t seen part 1 yet, what are you waiting for? The 2nd part is just as exciting, if not more so, than the first one as Assane Diop finally get his chance to avenge his father and also wins back the trust of his family. The final episode set in Opéra Garnier (made famous by Phantom of The Opera) is absolutely astounding, I don’t mind re-watching this series again one day!


REWATCHES

Thanks to Pixar’s LUCA, it made me re-watch some of my old favorites. I rewatched Finding Nemo on the plane and though I’ve seen it a few times before, it’s still as wonderful as the first time I saw it, absolute classic!

Finding Nemo

Toy Story

Toy Story 2


MAY MOVIE OF THE MONTH

Black Widow

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I’ve started to put my thoughts down for this and I definitely love this more than Captain Marvel, but doesn’t exactly top Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Stay tuned for my full review next week!


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in JUNE?

FlixChatter Review: F9 – The Fast Saga (2021)

F9 banner

When The Fast Saga first opened in June 2001 with The Fast and the Furious, I’m not sure many people predicted it would be a mega franchise spanning 20 years. Well, now the ninth movie once again tops box office, having already grossed $300M overseas ahead of domestic bow, so obviously it doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

Having followed the lead character Dom Torreto (Vin Diesel) for two decades, this movie finally gives him his origin story. In numerous flashback scenes, the movie took us to a particularly dark moment in Dom’s life involving his dad Jack and brother Jakob. Naturally, Jack Toretto is a race car driver and the events that happen that day creates a rift between the two young brothers and they go separate ways. I gotta say Vinnie Bennett who played the young Dom is pretty charismatic and can run circles around Vin Diesel in the acting department.

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This franchise always emphasizes that ‘it’s all about family’… I suppose for better and for worse, so it’s to be expected that Jakob will eventually appear in Dom’s life again. At the start of the movie, Dom is enjoying retirement with his toddler son Brian (named after the late Paul Walker‘s character) with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But of course, soon Dom is pulled back to his old life once again when his former team mates Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) inform him news about his old nemesis Cipher (Charlize Theron, swapping her dreadlocks for a bowl cut). If you saw the previous movie, you’ll likely remember Cipher is a cyberterrorist mastermind who blackmailed Dom in her quest to start nuclear war, even went so far as killing his wife (Elsa Pataky). Well, this time she once again enlists another member of Dom’s family, his long lost brother (John Cena).

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You don’t go to see a Fast & Furious movie for its strong narrative (or even just a sensible one), so it’s best not to dwell too much in the story. In fact, I find that when one approaches bombastic action movies like this one as an action comedy, I tend to enjoy it more and just go along for the ride. The plot is pretty much the same as the previous movies, it involves the villain trying to obtain a powerful device, called Ares (which interestingly is the name of the the God of War in Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot who was once part of the Fast family). The resident computer hacktivist Ramsey explains that Ares can hack into any computer weapons system so obviously it’s extremely dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. I find Emmanuel’s character quite boring generally, but here she at least gets to actually do some driving for once.

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Justin Lin is back in the director’s seat after taking a break with the previous two and he’s got some really out of this world action sequences this time around, literally! I know Tom Cruise has been wanting to set the next Mission Impossible movie in space, well the Fast Saga got him beat! Now, the earth-bound action sequences are equally preposterous and ludicrous, which I guess is what one expects from this movie. I’m pretty sure the writers were all tasked to come up with the most grandiose and outlandish idea that would be absolutely improbable to pull off in real life. Whether it’s jumping off from one mountain to another, battling land mines, or strapping the car to rocket and shoot it in space, NOTHING is off limits! I mean they’re even still trying to DRIVE the car in outer space!! One of the eye-roll inducing plot involves an electromagnet in the wild car/truck chase through Edinburgh, Scotland that set off a reckless, destructive carnage in its wake. The amount of car wreckage is through the roof that in a completely different movie, Dom + team would be considered mindless villains.

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Now, Lin and the writers team seem fully aware of the absurdity of it all and it’s as if this movie is spoofing its own franchise. Gibson’s character Roman constantly asks existential questions about WHY the team has always come out unscathed despite all the ridiculously dangerous missions they’ve been on. Roman is definitely the comic relief and the dynamic between Gibson + Ludacris is always fun to watch. I always find it hysterical that every time someone gets thrown from something, whether a motorbike or truck or whatever, Dom somehow always able to maneuver in such a way that the falling person can land ‘safely’ on his car hood!! That’s become the trademark of the franchise which makes me laugh every time!

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The more serious stuff such as the tension between the two brothers Dom and Jakob are cheesy and predictable as they take themselves way too seriously. The supposedly epic mano-a-mano is kind of ho-hum, I had more fun watching Dame Helen Mirren driving (or pretending to drive) a fast car through London and you can tell she’s gleefully happy to be a part of this brainless franchise and not have to act in a movie. As the ultimate betrayal, Jakob is working with Cipher along with a Danish aristocrat Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), but given the theme is always about ‘family,’ you can see from miles away that the two brothers won’t be enemies for too long.

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I have to say I had a pretty good time watching this and was laughing a lot watching the logic-defying action sequences. There’s also the escapism factor with the various filming locations that got me drooling to travel overseas again. This is easily the most outrageous movie in a franchise already chock-full of insane action scenes. Somehow Lin managed to keep the endless car chases to still be mostly exciting despite the 2h 25min running time, though I wish they’d trim down the repetitive flashback scenes.

Martin Scorsese compares the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise to theme parks, which I don’t think is fair as they still have compelling and cohesive narrative across multiple films. I think the F&F franchise is way more akin to a thrill ride as it’s as if you’re riding a roller coaster for 2+ hours. Speaking of mega-franchises, Star Wars fans might find it amusing (or annoying) to hear the banter between Cipher and Otto, though of course it’s not the only SW reference in this franchise. Its own Han (Sung Kang) also has its own resurrection in this movie, after having been killed in Tokyo Drift. I actually have not seen that movie, as I came to this franchise quite late.

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Now, though I was entertained, I do wish it’d behoove the filmmakers and producers (including Diesel) to actually make an effort with at least a somewhat sensible story with the behemoth budget they’re given. I’m not expecting high art or anything, just a decent plot that offers more than incessant risible action set pieces. Alas, they seem to be satisfied for simply being a dumb, loud action flick running at the speed of bats out of hell. Diesel said they’ve got two more movies left before they hit the brakes on the franchise, let’s see if they’d even try to end on a high note.

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Have you seen F9? I’d love to hear what you think!