A Cure For Wellness (2017)

Greetings Loved ones! Liu is The Name, And Views Are My game.

When his superiors catch him stealing, ambitious banker William Lockhart is blackmailed into retrieving a colleague from a wellness center in Switzerland. The big shots explain that if the colleague in question, Mr. Pembroek, fails to take responsibility for the irregularities in their books, then not only will they be unable to perform a major merger, but they’ll all be up for criminal charges. So with no other options, Lockhart sets off for the Alps, eager to get back as soon as possible. But when he arrives at the wellness center, and begins interacting with the patients, he realizes that there’s something sinister going on, and that he might not be able to leave.

A Cure For Wellness is one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen. I can’t say that I love it, or even that I like it. But I do think that this movie is well-made, and that there is something very special about it. See, there are some films out there that, even if they aren’t critically or commercially successful, have unique qualities that make them ideal for cult status. These are movies like Demolition Man, Idiocracy, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Heathers. Maybe its their visual style, or unconventional narratives. Maybe its just how strange they are. Whatever the case, they stay in people’s minds, and are given life, long after they’ve left theaters. I truly believe that A Cure For Wellness is destined to be a cult film. Because even though its very long, even though it gets very surreal and disturbing towards the end, there is something hypnotic about it. This movie is 2 and a half hours long, and yet, for the entire runtime, I was never bored once. Something about it, and I couldn’t tell you what that thing was, kept me engaged. Maybe it was the gorgeous shots and camera movement. Maybe it was the exquisite costume and set design. Maybe it was the damn near perfect sound mixing, and eerie musical score. Whatever the case, that thing kept me hooked, and kind of makes me want to recommend this movie to you all. Kind of.

See, as fascinating as I think A Cure For Wellness is, there’s also a lot of things working against it. It’s very long, the main character is kind of a jerk, and there are several scenes in it that are extremely gross. At no less than three points in this movie, Lockhart is strapped down and tortured, and I honestly had to look away during those scenes. In addition to this, some of the film’s subject matter is highly disturbing. If you read my review for Mother, you know that I liked the movie, but was put off by its implications of incest and pedophilia. Well, in Mother they were just implications. In A Cure For Wellness, they are openly discussed facts,and they are two of the flick’s major themes. If that sort of thing bothers you, avoid this film like the plague.

And yet, in spite of all that, A Cure For Wellness’s exquisite production design, and odd-ball charm make it stand out. So, in a way, I would recommend it. If you want to watch something original, and off-kilter, give this flick a look. But go in knowing that what you’re watching is weird and messed up.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is the Name, And Views Are My Game.

After avenging his dog’s murder, and recovering his stolen car, retired hit man John Wick stumbles home, hoping to finally mourn the loss of his wife. But before he even has the chance to breathe, an old associate appears on his doorstep, asking him to perform one last hit. John refuses, saying he’s out of the game, but ultimately agrees when the associate in question reminds him that John owes him a favor. So, with a heavy heart, John sets off for Rome, hoping to finish this last job quickly, only to learn, once it’s far too late, that he’s in way over his head. What follows is a high octane, hard hitting action extravaganza, with amazing fight choreography, incredible stunt work, and the ever-present charisma of Keanu Reeves.

The first John Wick was a huge surprise, not simply for its astounding action sequences, and deliberate avoidance of shaky cam and quick cutting, but also for the unique world and mythology it set up. Audiences were fascinated by things like The Continental hotel, where assassins use special currency, and are not permitted to “conduct business.” Fans everywhere demanded a sequel with more breathtaking action, and more explorations of this mysterious underground society. And in John Wick: Chapter 2, you get both of those things, because not only does this movie have some of the best, most brutal action sequences I’ve seen in a long time, but it really expands upon the world that was set up in the first film. You learn more about the rules of this assassins universe, are shown some really cool places where hit men hang out and get their weapons, and you even see how “accounts” are put out on people. If you’ve read my reviews for films like The Chaser or Man From Nowhere, you know I’ll happily take a well-crafted thriller over an “artistic”, “Oscar-worthy” picture any day. John Wick Chapter 2 is precisely the kind of film I’m talking about when I say that. It’s a good time from start to finish, and avoids insulting your intelligence by having a smart script, good acting, and high production values.

Now, of course, no film ever made was entirely free of flaws, and John Wick: Chapter 2 does have a few. For starters, as amazing as the action is, there are times where it gets both excessive and unrealistic. John gets run over at least four times in this movie, and he somehow manages to survive each crash. There are also several scenes where he kills people in excruciatingly brutal fashion, and even I cringed when I was watching them. If you don’t have a high tolerance for violence, you probably won’t like this film. They also introduce a TON of new characters in this movie, who I honestly had trouble keeping track of after a while. But, in the end, those are the only problems I had with the film, and those are pretty minor when you think about it. So, really, there’s not much wrong with John Wick: Chapter 2. It’s fun, fast-paced, beautiful to look at, and expands upon the world of assassins established in the first film. Give it a look when you’ve got the time.

Sense8

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game!

Sex, philosophy, and high octane thrills–these are the first things that come to mind when I think of Sense8, the latest Netflix original series to hit the small screen. Written and directed by the Wachowskis–most famous for their work on The Matrix Trilogy, V For Vendetta, and more recently, Cloud AtlasSense8 follows a group of eight strangers from various parts of the world who, one day, become psychically linked, and find themselves able to see, hear, smell, touch and taste what the others do. The eight in question are Will, a Chicago police officer, Riley, an Icelandic DJ, Nomi, a transgender hacker from LA, Lito, a closeted gay Mexican actor, Kala, a Mumbai pharmacist, Capheus, a Kenyan bus-driver, Wolfgang, a German locksmith, and finally, Sun, a South Korean businesswoman. Each of them quickly becomes aware of the others’ existence, acquiring skills and habits that they originally did not possess, and even learning how to communicate with one another, despite all speaking different languages. Things only get worse when a mysterious man named Jonas appears and tells them that they are all being hunted by an unknown organization that wants to kill them. And, well, the story just gets crazier from there on in.

Now, before I go any further, I just want to make a few things clear. First, I actually really like this show–it’s one of the few series that I couldn’t stop watching. And second, I would seriously recommend that most people give it a look–if forced to assign a fractional score, I’d probably give Sense8 a 7.5 out of 10. That said, I do have problems with the series, and would like to bring them up in this review, but only with the hopes that, if the filmmakers do get the chance to produce a second season, they can learn from their mistakes and make an even more awesome show. But, I digress. Back to the review!

I did some research, and found that Sense8 actually started off as a desire the Wachowski’s had to use sci-fi to comment on current events. With hindsight, this seems kind of obvious, seeing as the show touches upon a number of prominent social issues, such as gender, sexuality, identity, and even AIDS. And while I admire the series for that, and for its international setting and cast, I do still have some problems with it.

First of all, when you watch the show, it becomes very clear that certain story lines–specifically, the ones that address the issues I just listed–were given a lot more thought and care than others. You spend a whole lot more time with Nomi and Lito than anyone else. Hell, there are whole episodes where you don’t even see Capheus, Kala, or Sun. Now, on the one hand, I can understand why the Wachowskis would choose to do this. One of them, Lana, is a transgender woman, and I can totally see why she would want to talk about her own experiences and hardships through art. That’s all well and good, but if your primary goal was to discuss gender and sexuality, why include all these other characters? Why not have the show just be about Nomi and Lito? It would give you more time to develop them, and wouldn’t distract the audience from the series’ main objective.

The second issue I have with the show is the fact that, just as certain story lines are given more thought and care than others, so too are some narratives given little to no thought at all. Riley, for instance, is featured in every episode, and yet she does absolutely nothing. I’m serious! 90% of the time she’s on screen, she just sits there, listens to music, and looks sad. She barely talks, and she never initiates anything. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that interesting at all. So why are we spending so much time with her? This just goes to show you how poorly thought-out certain narratives in this series are.

The third problem I have with Sense8 is a problem I have with a lot of American films and TV shows set in other countries–that being that the depiction of those countries and their people is pretty stereotypical. Nairobi, for instance, is shown as a never-ending slum, overflowing with drugs, hookers, and warlords. Similarly, Berlin is portrayed as a grey, dreary, over-cast puddle where no one smiles. And as if the environments in which you see these characters interacting isn’t cliche enough, the characters themselves are more or less archetypes. Kala, for instance, is a “modern Indian woman” who doesn’t want to marry a man she doesn’t love. Sun, likewise, is an amalgamation of every stereotype Westerners have about East Asian Females–she stoic, knows martial arts, and is regularly abused by men. All I’m saying is, if you want to have your story be set in all different parts of the world, do your best to represent those parts accurately.

But, if you ask me, the biggest error that the creators of Sense8 made was having their characters be kind of stupid. What I mean by that is there are numerous points in the series where the characters wind up in unpleasant circumstances, and these circumstances are ones that the protagonists could easily have avoided. Kala, for instance, doesn’t want to marry a man named Rajan, but goes along with the wedding anyway. Why? It’s not like this is an arranged marriage. The series goes out of its way to explain how this is a consensual union, and how both her and Rajan’s families are super modern and progressive-minded. So, if Kala really didn’t want to marry him, she could just have easily said no, and then there’d be no problem. Similarly, Sun’s predicament is one that she could easily have gotten out of. See, she and her brother are executives in their father’s company, and after a while, you find out that her brother’s been embezzling money. So, Sun, being the gracious and loving older sister, takes the blame for all his crimes, and goes to prison. Just one small problem with this–in absolutely no way does she have to! The series shows numerous instances of her father and brother treating her like shit, and of her hating their guts in equal measure, so why would she go to prison for them? It just doesn’t seem logical. All I can think is that the creators were trying to ride the coat-tails of Orange Is The New Black’s success, which, as most of you probably know, is all about women in the prison system. But, either way, the choices that the characters in this series make are ridiculous, and when they get into trouble for making them, I don’t really feel much sympathy. Let’s just hope the writers come up with some better ideas next season.

But, all these criticisms aside, I do still think there’s a lot to admire with this show. It’s well acted, the premise is interesting, and there are a lot of touching and profound moments in it. All I can say is that, if the creators learn from their mistakes next season, they just might have themselves a perfect show. Don’t hesitate to give it a look.