Author: elenasquareeyes

REVIEW: Peninsula (2020)

Four years after a zombie virus has spread across the country, South Korea has been quarantined from the rest of the world. A small team led by former soldier Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) come back to the peninsula in order to retrieve a truck containing $20 million in cash.

Peninsula is a sequel to Train to Busan, but as it has new characters and is set after the events of the first film it can stand on its own. It’s a similar scenario to 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later really.

I think the best way to go into Peninsula is to not think too much of its predecessor. Train to Busan was like lightning in a bottle in terms of a zombie movie with a lot of heart. Peninsula tries to capture the same emotions with familial relationships, but it doesn’t reach the same heights of Train to Busan.

Gang Dong-won gives a great performance as the tortured but capable Jung-seok. He’s guilt-ridden over what happened to his family as they were fleeing South Korea four years earlier so to go back there and meet other survivors gives him a lot to think about. On the peninsula he meets Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun) and her young daughters Joon (Lee Re) and Yu-jin (Lee Ye-won), and their grandfather Elder Kim (Kwon Hae-hyo). This little family is very likable and easy to root for but due to there being more characters outside this family unit and the heist/survival plot, they don’t get as much development to make you truly care about them.

As well as the zombie hoards Jung-seok and his comrades also have to deal with the soldiers of a unit who were abandoned by their government in South Korea. These men are mostly sadistic and greedy, looking out for themselves and subjecting any one they find to their cruel games.

The car chases as people try to either get away with the money, avoid the zombies or both are fun though a large part of them are done with easily noticeable special effects. Likewise, while scenes with a handful of zombies are actors in makeup (the zombies still move in an unsettling way and the makeup is very good), often when there’s a lot of them it’s CGI.

One could describe Peninsula as a zombie heist film with hints of Fast and Furious thanks to all the innovative car chases. The way people use lights, sounds and flares to attract or distract the zombies is really interesting and fun. All in all, while it doesn’t really hold a candle to its predecessor, Peninsula is a decent zombie film. 3/5.

J is for Johnny Lawrence

I have not fallen so hard and fast for a character as I did with Johnny Lawrence for a long, long time.

I never watched the Karate Kid films growing up. In fact, I watched the Jackie Chan/Jaden Smith remake long before seeing any of the originals. Because I’m a completist, when there was a lot of talk on my Twitter feed about Cobra Kai after it arrived on Netflix last autumn, I went and watched all the films (even the Hilary Swank one), before starting the series – a series that immediately became one of my favourites and a lot of that was to do with one Johnny Lawrence.

Johnny Lawrence is not typically a character I’d love due to his drinking and often self-destructive behaviour but because of the writing and William Zabka’s performance I couldn’t help but root for him. He’s a disaster but he tries. He’s caught up in his past a lot – his teenage glory days – and doesn’t know how to be a father to his son, but what he does find is that he can be a good sensei.

I love his relationship with Miguel and how it’s so unfortunate that he can be such an unusual but good father figure to him but not to his own son as there’s no history between them or expectations.

I love how Johnny appears to be an insensitive caveman when it comes to things like equality but with the help of Miguel and Aisha, he soon realises that in his dojo it doesn’t matter if you’re small, nerdy, a loser, or even *gasp* a girl – as long as you’re badass. He’s a surprisingly great teacher. He has to unlearn some of the bad things he was taught as a teen but as he does that, he becomes a better person and a better teacher. He wants his kids to be strong and capable, but he also wants them to fight with honour and not become bullies like he used to be.

Johnny is such a complex character and one that definitely needs a lot of therapy because there’s definitely a load of trauma tied to his father figures there. He’s blunt and tough and is useless with modern technology, but he’s also caring and he becomes so soft around his old school friends like Bobby. Sure, he has a bit of a short temper whenever he’s around Daniel LaRusso (they sure know how to push each other’s buttons and they’re both as bad as each other) but Johnny tries to do better. He often makes a load of mistakes or goes about it completely the wrong way, but most of the time his heart is in the right place.

I just love Johnny Lawrence a lot and will always be rotting for him – even when I want to smack him over the head for how he forgets about his son.

REVIEW: The Wolverine (2013)

When Logan (Hugh Jackman) travels to Japan to meet Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), an old friend whose life he saved in World War Two, he becomes entangled in his family’s politics and a conspiracy involving the yakuza – all the while seeming to lose his power to heal.

The Wolverine chronologically takes place after all the previous X-Men film, including X-Men: The Last Stand. That means we have a Logan that’s alone, hurting and has had to deal with the death of so many people he knew and cared about. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) haunts his dreams as he shuts himself off from the rest of the world.

The Wolverine is perhaps one of the more serious and character-driven X-Men films so far. There’s always been discussions of mutants and the hatred and fear they face (they can be used as a stand in for any minority group) but this film really digs deep in Logan’s psyche and what it means to him to be immortal. He’s always seen it as a curse and while Logan may be ambivalent towards his death, it’s still not something he’d want to pass on to anyone else, even Yashida.

When Logan appears to start becoming mortal, healing a lot slower than normal and some wounds not healing at all without medical help, it shows another side to this character. Logan has always been almost reckless with his life due to his accelerated healing, so for him to now feel pain and even getting tired it’s a whole new experience for him. Jackman really gets the character and how he shows both Logan’s surprise at this new situation and his stoicism in dealing with it is great. There are bad people to stop and an heiress to save, Logan doesn’t have time wallow and as he says, at his hear he’s always been a soldier.

Having The Wolverine set in Japan naturally brings in a lot of Japanese culture and references to samurais and ninjas. Logan is referred to as a Ronin, a samurai with no master, multiple times. Harada (Will Yun Lee) leads the Black Clan who are sworn to protect the Yashida family for hundreds of years and his fighting style is an interesting juxtaposition to Logan’s. A lot of the men Logan fights in this film are highly trained and skilful compared to Logan who uses his brute force and rage, meaning the fights are different to what we’ve seen in previous X-Men films. Logan going up against people with swords and bows and arrows instead of just guns makes a much more interesting and entertaining fight.

The final act does let the film down a little bit. Compared to the more grounded action sequences and character moments before it, it does come across quite cartoonish as Logan must fight what’s basically a giant robot samurai. It’s not necessarily terrible but it doesn’t really fit the film it’s in. The sequence before it of Logan verses dozens of ninjas was a lot more visually interesting and impressive.

The Wolverine is an excellent character study of Logan, morality and duty. For a 12A film the fights are suitably brutal and bloody and it’s clear to see the foundations being laid here for Logan – in terms of character, themes and action. 4/5.

I is for Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood

I’ve already talked about one Lightwood sibling in this A-Z in April Challenge and now it’s time for another one!

Izzy is a character that I always liked but as the show progressed and you got to see different sides to her, she became one of my favourites. She’s comfortable in her own skin and is more than happy to wear tight and revealing clothes (in part to annoy her parents) and to use her looks to get what she wants – whether that’s acting as bait for a demon or charming someone for information.

Like her brother, Izzy is very loyal to her friends and will fight for what she believes in. she’s not afraid to stand up to authority, even if it’ll get her in trouble. That being said, she’s often the more level-headed one out of her friends and siblings. She works through a problem and keeps calm under pressure.

I love how compassionate and caring Izzy is. She has a big heart and is always ready to make new friends. She doesn’t differentiate between Shadowhunters and Downworlders and she can see both friends and foes in all of them. She’s supportive and protective of her friends too, and always encourages her brothers to go after what will make them happy. That protectiveness can get a little much for her baby brother Max as she worries about whether he’s ready to fight, even though she was the one to train him.

Izzy balances out her friends and family so well. She’s smart, a brilliant fighter and teacher, and she’s a great person to go to for advice. She goes through a lot over the course of the show but even though she may falter at times, Izzy shows everyone, and herself, how strong she truly is.

H is for Holland March

The Nice Guys is one of my favourite action/comedies – it is just so good! That is mostly down to the trio of main characters, Holland March, his daughter Holly, and his unlikely co-worker Jackson Healy. My favourite of the three is Holland.

Holland March is a disaster and I love that about him. He drinks too much, is self-destructive, self-loathing, and isn’t always a great dad though it’s clear he loves his daughter a lot. He’s also incredibly clumsy and, for all intents and purposes, a classic screw up.

All that doesn’t sound like a pretty likeable or great protagonist but there’s something endearing about Holland and how useless he is. Maybe it’s because he and everyone around him expects him to fail that when he doesn’t it’s such a surprise – to him and everyone else! Holland’s a private detective and it’s not always clear whether he’s a good one. But sometimes his ability to think outside the box (whether due to his intelligence or the copious amount of alcohol in his system) means he sees things other people don’t.

Holland March is easily agitated and is not one to keep calm in a crisis but somehow he still manages to make things turn out OK for himself. How he doesn’t die over the course of the film is truly a miracle. Also, just how he/Ryan Gosling screams in this film always makes me laugh.

READ THE WORLD – Malta: In the Name of the Father (and of the Son) by Immanuel Mifsud

Translated by Albert Gatt.

After the funeral, a grieving son starts reading the diary his dead father had kept during the Second World War. As he turns each page, searching for a trace of the man he remembers, a portrait of an individual unfolds; a figure made both strange and familiar through the handwritten observations, the yearnings and the confessions.

At under 70 pages this novella manages to be impactful and almost whimsical at the same time. It can be a little hard to follow at times as the unnamed narrator tends to jump back and forth in his memories of his father. Sometimes he’s recounting a story of when he was a young child, and what he felt in that moment, while in others he’s then looking back on an event with through the eyes of his adult self, offering a different perspective to the one he had as a child.

The first chapter was the most interesting to me as that contained extracts from the father’s diary from when he joined the British army, in the King’s Own Malta Regiment in December 1939 at age nineteen. A lot of it was just the everyday goings on of life in the army but the diary is the springboard for the son’s thoughts about his father’s time in the military and how that shaped him as a man.

What it means to be a man and how soldiers and men don’t cry is a big factor. How the father’s attitude towards his son for any perceived weakness, how the son likes the feeling of tears running down his face, and how he only ever saw his father cry twice and both times his father had tried to hide it from everyone. It’s clear to see how this strict masculinity has affected the son and caused him to rethink certain elements of himself. It’s something he also muses about, masculinity and the role of a father, when he has his own son.

One thing that was a bit unusual, was how the narrator would bring in quotes or ideas from different writers and theorists and then relate them to his father and his memories of him. This little novella had footnotes with references to textbooks and it made the reading experience a real mix of things.

With the theory stuff it sometimes seemed academic, then there was the historical aspect, giving a brief rundown of the political landscape in Malta and how his father interacted with it, and then there’s the family and relationship history making it a condensed memoir. All these elements means that when reading it, there’s a distance to In the Name of the Father (and of the Son). It’s like the narrator is looking through the fog of memory, trying to work through his grief and thoughts. It’s an interesting and thoughtful reading experience and one that cant help but leave you feeling a little melancholy. 4/5.

G is for Garrett McNeill

Superstore is a show that I only started watching this year after five seasons were added to Netflix. I’ve only just started season five and hope to get through it soon as the sixth and final season is coming to UK TV later this month, so I want to be all caught up.

There are a lot of great characters on this show that I really like, and a lot of them grew on me as I made my way through the seasons, but one that I liked very quickly was Garrett.

Garrett is sarcastic and brutally honest and sometimes it’s a little hard to tell if he actually likes his co-workers because of how often he plays pranks on them but when there’s that moment where he does admit he considers someone his friend, it’s all the more impactful because of what came before it.

I think Garrett is one of the most truthful representations of a shop worker out of the whole cast of characters. He does the bare minimum of what needs to be done in order to not be fired. He doesn’t love his job, it is just a job, something to pay the bills and while he mostly likes his co-workers, he’s not overkeen on spending a load of time with them outside of the store. All of which is very relatable in my opinion – I worked in a shop when I was a teenager and dealing with customers is often a thankless task.

One of my favourite things about Superstore is how a lot of the characters do develop but still keep their core personality. Garrett can be a horrible person who lies and puts blame on other people for his mistakes, but then he can also do things for others when he sees something truly matters to them. He’s funny and honest and will tell people what they need to hear, even when they don’t like it. Garrett’s quite charismatic though so it doesn’t always sound as awful as it could.

F is for Jessica Fletcher

There is something so calm and soothing about Murder, She Wrote, even if dead bodies seem to appear wherever Jessica Fletcher goes. It’s a show I remember watching as a young child and is probably the thing that first introduced me to the murder mystery/crime genre. I’ve recently discovered that there’s a TV channel that often shows Murder, She Wrote nearly all day so it’s been fun having it back again as an easy watch kind of show.

Jessica Fletcher is a widow, former teacher, and a mystery novelist but probably most importantly she’s the best amateur detective the costal town of Cabot Cove has ever had. She’s smart, capable but also endearing and kind. The fact that she’s an older woman means she can talk to people and be more approachable than some of the actual detectives or police officers. She’s often unassuming so takes potential witnesses or perpetrators by surprise with her quick thinking.

I especially like it when she ends up in a big city and there’s a murder because how city cops often push her thoughts and insight aside often comes back to bite them. There’s just something almost therapeutic about an older woman outsmarting young men who think they know everything.

In true crime show fashion I love how it’s the smallest details or previous unconsidered conversation that sparks Jessica’s understanding of how a murder was committed and who did it. The way she pieces things together and then reveals all to the murderer and the police is always satisfying.

E is for Elizabeth Sloane

Miss Sloane is one of my favourite films of recent years and that’s mainly down to the titular character, Elizabeth Sloane, and Jessica Chastain’s performance as her.

Elizabeth Sloane is a cutthroat lobbyist and isn’t a particularly nice person a lot of the time. She will use and manipulate people in order to get the results she wants. She’s not afraid to bend or break the law either. There are moments where it seems like she is making genuine connections with people but you’re never really sure of her motives or how genuine she actually is.

Elizabeth Sloane is one of my favourite types of character. She is incredibly smart and forward-thinking. She’s the kind of person who treats her job and her goals as a game of chess, always looking three moves ahead and setting out plans to counter her oppositions possible actions in anticipation of whatever they might to next. She can predict peoples reactions so well that a lot of the time she’s in complete control, or if she’s not she soon will be. She has plans and backup plans and hardly ever lets anyone in on her schemes because the less people know, the more likely she can herd them in the direction she wants.

On a more superficial note, I absolutely adore the costuming in this film and every single one of Elizabeth’s outfits is incredible. They are the perfect example of office chic and the way she is dressed just exudes power and competence.

D is for Poe Dameron

I know there’s a lot of debates about Star Wars on the internet but for me, it wasn’t something I grew up watching. I didn’t watch the original trilogy, and then the prequel trilogy, until I was at university and in my early 20s so The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars film I saw in the cinema and it is the one and only Star Wars film I fell wholeheartedly in love with.

A big part of that was the new trio of heroes and the first one of the three that I fell for was Poe Dameron. It helps that I really like Oscar Isaac as an actor and he’s not bad to look at, but Poe is such a cool character. He just oozes charm and charisma but he’s also pretty smart and competent, and he’s an amazing pilot.

Something I’ve realised over the course of writing these A-Z posts (I’m trying to get ahead with the scheduling) is that something that makes me like a character more is if they have interesting or likeable dynamics with other characters – even ones I don’t like. Characters, like people, should be well-rounded and while their personality could be something I’m drawn to, I feel I get to know a character better by seeing how they treat others or how they interact with other characters – especially if they only show certain parts of themselves to certain people.

With Poe I really love the dynamic he has with various characters in the Star Wars film and the comics. I’ve read a couple of volumes of the Poe Dameron comic and I love the art and think they’re a good place to get some of Poe’s backstory and context for his actions that probably should’ve been in the films. In the comics his relationship with his squadron is explored, and you see the dilemmas he has at being a leader but also someone who’s a bit reckless. In both the comics and the films, I really like his dynamic with Leia. It’s a great commanding officer/subordinate dynamic while also having hints of her also being an almost mother figure for him and the respect they have for one another, even when he does something stupid is clear to see. My absolute favourite dynamic is between Poe and Finn. It’s probably an obvious one but it’s great. In the few scenes they have together in The Force Awakens you see how Poe can be calm and caring (how he asks Finn if he’s OK with Poe calling him that name is one of my favourite small moments in that film) and also supportive and pragmatic.

I think Poe Dameron is just great. He’s charming and brave and loyal, even if he is a bit impulsive and reckless. He’s flawed but he tries and he learns and he’s a great friend and someone that you’d easily follow into battle.