Captive State (2019)

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Nine years after an alien invasion, humanity has been “unified” under a new order of “Legislators.” Crime is low. Employment is high. War is all but nonexistent. And, you know, every human being has a tracker implanted in their throat so that the Legislators can monitor their activities at all times. But, shockingly enough, not everyone is satisfied with this new arrangement. There is a small resistance group, The Phoenix, operating out of Chicago, who hope to spark a revolt. Over a 24-hour period, several stories, including The Phoenix’s plot to assassinate a group of Legislators, a Chicago PD Officer’s efforts to hunt the group down, and the brother of one of the Phoenix members’ attempts to get out, converge. Do any of them succeed? Watch the movie and find out. Continue reading

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Bodyguard (Season 1, 2018)

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One night, while riding the train home with his kids, David Budd, an Afghan war Vet, and Bodyguard, discovers a bomber in the bathroom. After an extremely tense standoff, David manages to talk her down, and save everyone onboard. This leads to him being labeled a hero, and getting a new assignment; protecting Julia Montague, the Home Secretary. Julia’s a very unpopular politician, with plans to introduce a highly controversial, Patriot Act style bill into law, which would basically give Parliament access to everyone’s personal information. As a result, she needs protection from just about everyone, terrorists, organized crime, etc. David doesn’t initially like her, seeing as she’s pro War, and he knows, from first-hand experience, how brutal, and, in some ways, pointless, the conflict is. But after someone tries to assassinate her, they inexplicably start having an affair, and he starts doing some digging of his own, uncovering an elaborate, albeit very silly, conspiracy. Continue reading

The Foreigner (2017)

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

When his daughter is killed in a terror attack, Chinese immigrant Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan) sets out to find the culprits. His search leads him to the doorstep of Liam Hennesey (Pierce Brosnan), a British politician and former IRA member. Quan asks Hennesey to tell him the names of the bombers, but Hennesey claims not to know who’s behind the attack. Quan, correctly, assumes that this is bullshit, and begins tormenting Hennesey, blowing up his bathroom, attacking his staff, and more or less making his life a living hell. This, naturally, places a great deal of stress on the former terrorist, who decides to do some research on Quan, and discovers some disturbing facts about him. What are those facts? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

Guys, I’m not lying when I say that The Foreigner was one of my most anticipated movies of this year; right up there with Logan and Wonder Woman. I’ve loved Jackie Chan literally my whole life, and the idea of seeing him in a darker, more dramatic role was beyond appealing. I also thought it’d be fun to finally hear Pierce Brosnan, an Irishman from County Louth, use his native accent in a film. So i’m not lying when I say that, when I sat down in the theater last night, I was pumped. I was ready to be blown away. And now, having seen the movie, I can safely say, it’s not as good as I thought it would be, but it’s still a damn fine film.

Starting off with the positives; the performances are all superb. Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan are both given the chance to play against type here, with Brosnan playing a smarmy, cowardly weasel, and Chan playing a subdued, slightly unhinged man, and both of them really deliver. But I would be remiss if I overlooked the supporting cast, all of whom do terrific jobs. Even people who are only in one or two scenes, like Chan’s daughter, played by Cho Chang herself, Katie Leung, really shine here. So if you’re looking for one reason to see this movie, you’ve got the performances. Another reason to watch this film is the action. It’s brutal, visceral, and beautifully shot. There’s one sequence in the woods, where Chan is attacking Brosnan’s guards, that had the audience in my theater wincing, and going “ooh!” It’s really impressive that, even now, in his 60s, Chan can still punch, kick, and flip with the best of them. Another thing I liked about the movie were the characters. They were well-rounded, believable, and, for the most part, I could understand where they were coming from. I didn’t necessarily condone their actions, but I could understand. Each of them, even those characters who, in other movies, would just be throwaway victims or henchmen, like Brosnan’s wife and nephew, were given a bit more depth and backstory. And I really appreciated that, since it made the whole thing feel more realistic. So, from a technical standpoint–the acting, the cinematography, the sound design–the film is expertly crafted. Why then am I not totally in love with it?

Well, it all comes down┬áto the fact that, for a movie that advertises itself as a Jackie Chan revenge flick, The Foreigner doesn’t actually have that much Jackie Chan. Oh, he’s in it, and he does do a fair bit of stuff. But a great deal more screen time is devoted to Pierce Brosnan’s love life, and IRA infighting. I’m not joking when I say that there’s a good 20 minutes, about halfway through, where Chan just disappears. Which is disappointing. Jackie Chan is the main reason I went to go see this movie, and I’m certain it’s why most other people will as well. Now, granted, when we do see Jackie kicking ass and blowing stuff up, it’s very satisfying. But, the truth is, we have to wade through a ton of baggage to get there. This movie has an extremely convoluted storyline, with so many subplots, from Pierce Brosnan’s affair with a younger woman, to his wife’s affair with his nephew, to how and why the IRA did this attack,that it gets a little boring at times. Now, as I said before, whenever the film does get boring, something usually happens to get you invested again, like Jackie Chan strapping on a bomb, or digging a bullet out of his chest with a knife. But still. A film with this basic of a premise shouldn’t be so complicated. We don’t need to see all this backdoor stuff with the IRA. We don’t care who masterminded the attack. What we do care about is whether or not Jackie Chan will get revenge for his daughter’s death. That’s it. I honestly think that if Martin Campbell, the director, had cut out all the political stuff, and just made this a straight forward revenge film, the movie would have been tighter, cleaner, and considerably more enjoyable. But, then again, Campbell got his big break directing Edge Of Darkness, a 6-hour-long BBC Miniseries about political corruption and conspiracy, so, what do you expect?

Guys, all I can say about The Foreigner is this. If you’re looking for a darker, more serious Jackie Chan, you will get that in this movie. And you’ll probably enjoy the film as a whole. But go in knowing that there’s a lot of added baggage. And sometimes the pacing can get a bit slow.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Book Review)

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

How are you all this fine May morning? Really? That’s wonderful! As for me, I’m feeling a wee bit uneasy. Why? Well, I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I just finished reading Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. What? You’ve never heard of it before? Well, I personally found it to be one of the most entertaining and profound pieces of literature ever published. If you’d like, I could tell you about it. You would? Oh capital! Well now, let’s see. Where to begin?

I suppose what I found most charming about the novel was its ambiguity. I can’t even begin to describe to you how frustrating it is to open up a book and know within the first five pages the kind of plot, characters, and settings you’re going to encounter. The best stories are , in my opinion, the ones that aren’t obvious, that leave room for individual interpretations as to the meaning of their content. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if we knew which of the narrator’s accounts was true. Lois Lowry’s The Giver was made far more powerful by the fact that we didn’t know for certain if the protagonists got away, or if they simply died in their attempt. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a study in ambiguous characters and story-telling, even if it doesn’t look like that on the surface. When I first started reading it, I thought I was going to get a predictable, “don’t discriminate against people because of where they come from or what they look like” books. And I won’t deny, there were several points in the story where I felt like that was what I was reading. I mean really, what else are you supposed to think when the opening line of the novel is “Do not be frightened by my beard; I am a lover of America.” And yet, as I read further, I became less and less certain of the direction which the novel would take, and let me tell you, I was seriously grateful for that unexpected turn of events.

The whole story is basically just one long conversation between two men–one Pakistani, one American–in a restaurant in Lahore. The Pakistani, a man named Changez, tells the American about his time in the States, studying at Princeton, working for a consultancy firm as an analyst, and dating a beautiful, brilliant, but broken young novelist named Erica. The American, for his part, never reveals who he is, what he does for a living or why he’s in Pakistan. The author drops hints here and there as to his true identity–he’s extremely fit, he’s a former soldier, he has a gun-shaped bulge under his shirt–but you’re never told outright, “he’s a CIA operative who’s been sent to kill Changez.” Actually, come to think of it, you’re never really led to believe that he’s been sent to kill Changez. If anything, you get more of a feeling that Changez is the one whose been sent to kill him. How? Well, as the story progresses, the pleasant Lahore marketplace where the two are sharing their meal becomes darker and more foreboding. The lights dim, the other guests leave, and all that we are left with is Changez telling an increasingly morbid and hate-filled tale. See, after 9-11, he felt more and more unwelcome in the States, partly because of increased police and Homeland Security scrutiny, but mostly because of Erica’s apparent suicide and his own sense of guilt at serving a nation that subjugates and exploits people in the Third World. He likens himself to a Janissary–a Christian youth taken in by the Sultan to serve the Ottoman Empire–and discusses how, after losing his job and working visa, he returned to Lahore, where he taught economics, and anti-American rhetoric, to University students. (I personally find it kind of ironic that he would use the Janissaries as the metaphor for how he feels. After all, being a Janissary was considered a great honor among Ottoman Christians. Boys who were taken in by the Sultan would often go on to become Generals or Politicians; people with wealth and influence. Many Muslim families would actually lie about their children’s’ faith in the hopes that they too might be granted this lofty position. Not all that different, if you think about it, than white parents these days claiming that their kids are part latino or Native American in order to get them into good schools.)

Anyway, I don’t want to say too much else, for fear of spoiling the story, but I will say this, the way the book ends left me positively drowning in questions. What happens to Changez? What happens to the AMerican? Who was Changez, really? Who was the American? Was any of what Changez said actually true? And so on. Yes, the novel came off as preachy at times, but the totally ambiguous cliff-hanger of an ending more than made up for it. And you know what, I feel like that was actually the perfect way to write a book about terrorism. I mean, after all, we live in a dangerous, ambiguous world. Anybody can be a terrorist; a prince or a pauper; a pet-walker or a PhD. You can never be certain who would like to help you and who would like to see you dead. The Reluctant Fundamentalist captures that uncertainty perfectly, and carries it through the story until the last, tension-filled page.

So, to sum it all up, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is highly enjoyable, easy to read, thought-provoking about the causes and catalysts for terrorism and, best of all, isn’t too long. A solid 8.5 out of 10, if you ask me. Check it out if you’ve got the time.