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Breakout Brothers | NYAFF 2021 Review

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A still from Breakout Brothers [Mandarin Motion Pictures].

Films based on jailbreaks are nothing new – who can forget The Great Escape (1963) or indeed the television show Prison Break – but Breakout Brothers (2020), the second film from Hong Kong director Ho Pong Mak, is quite a refreshing change.

Focusing on three inmates in particular the film interweaves themes of loyalty, filial piety and altruism.

Chan Ho-Ching (Louis Cheung), the lead protagonist and small time crook, views his stint in prison as a ‘vacation’, arguing that he has it easier than people on the outside as he has three meals a day, a bed to sleep on and doesn’t have to pay rent.

However, after finding out that his mother is unwell and in urgent need of a kidney transplant from a direct relative, he drives the escape attempt and quickly recruits Mak (Adam Tin-Nam Pak), the newest inmate, who was set up by one of his colleagues and framed for accepting bribes. Mak has become a target for Big Roller (Patrick Tam) and Scar (Justin Cheung), the two most powerful inmates, and fears for his life if he remains incarcerated.

The duo are soon joined by Big Roller through necessity: Big Roller’s den is the vital to their escape route. As chance would have it, Chan knows that Big Roller’s long-thought dead daughter is actually alive, and Big Roller agrees to Chan’s plan if he can join them in order to reunite with his daughter before her wedding.


A still from Breakout Brothers [Mandarin Motion Pictures].

Breakout Brothers [Mandarin Motion Pictures]

Motivated by three just causes – saving a relative, righting a wrongful imprisonment and reuniting with an estranged child – you find yourself rooting for Chan, Mak and Big Roller.

This is testament to the leads’ performances, as well as a tight script from writer Edmond Wong. The characters are all suitably likeable or unlikeable, and Louis Cheung in particular impresses as the charismatic Chan.

What lets the film down is the lack of intensity. There are a handful of moments that leave you grimacing, particularly when Mak finds himself facing Scar, including a stomach-churning moment involving a homemade shiv and a fingernail, but overall it is very tame.

Warden Tang (Tak-Bun Wong) – dubbed by Chan as the most powerful man in the prison – doesn’t come across as particularly threating or menacing. Indeed his officers appear to let the inmates manage themselves, standing aside during disagreements and thanking them for their cooperation after imploring: “Bosses, please calm down.”

This could be skewed due to my perspective as a British viewer, but I would have appreciated it more if the Warden had a more vicious streak, in the manner of the malicious Piscatella from television show Orange is the New Black. The poptastic soundtrack and elements of comic book styling further add to the mildness of the film.

That said, Breakout Brothers is an enjoyable film and short at only 88 minutes. While it won’t leave you blown away if you’re a fan of prison-based dramas, it will certainly leave you smiling.

Breakout Brothers was reviewed as part of the New York Asian Film Festival 2021 where it had its North American premiere.

FILM RATING

UK-based movie blogger with a passion for The Lord of the Rings, international films and Cary Grant’s filmography.

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Peacemaker Delivers Brutal Violence While Being Incredibly Funny And Goofy At The Same Time

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Note: This review is based on the first seven episodes (of eight)

Following on hot off the heels of 2021’s The Suicide Squad James Gunn strikes again with more hilariously entertaining superhero shenanigans. Originally Peacemaker would seem like an interesting choice of the squad to be getting his own series, especially after the final act of The Suicide Squad revealing him to be a complete asshole, but very quickly the show establishes itself and manages to make Peacemaker, AKA Christopher Smith, just a little bit more likeable.

The show opens with John Cena’s Peacemaker busting out of prison and he unites with some new teammates to defeat a bunch of alien creatures known as butterflies. On the team are leader Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), John Economos (Steve Agee) and Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) two characters that we briefly met working for Amanda Waller in The Suicide Squad, rookie Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) who’s by far the most interesting of the team behind the Peacemaker, as well as Peacemaker’s wisecracking friend Vigilante (Freddie Stroma). It’s a completely different sort of team to who we last saw Peacemaker with in The Suicide Squad but it allows for a much greater exploration of the eponymous Peacemaker.

HBO Max

John Cena is absolutely perfect for the character and James Gunn’s sharp writing and direction makes the show stand out. Right from Peacemaker’s ridiculous pitch-perfect opening titles up until the end of each episode it’s filled to the brim with stupidity and the sort of gags we come to expect from Gunn. It’s remarkable that the cast can perform it all with a straight face. Everything about the show has this air of stupidity to it, whether that’s in the dialogue, Peacemaker’s bald eagle pet named Eagly, or even just Peacemaker’s costume. But the show somehow perfectly balances this stupidity with seriousness as it provides a great look at Peacemaker’s character and actually gives a reason as to why he’s getting this show.

There’s far more to Cena’s character beneath the surface and beneath what we’ve seen of him previously and there’s something that deserves exploration and that’s what the series does. He’s willing to get peace at all costs no matter how many men, women, and children he has to kill to get it. The main plot line of the show about tackling the alien species of butterflies that take over a host body seems a little similar to Project Starfish from The Suicide Squad -and in fact the show even jokes about this similarity- but the show also delves into deeper issues as we experience the relationship between Peacemaker and his white supremacist dad Auggie played by Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick. There’s so much more to Peacemaker as a person and what he’s been through that The Suicide Squad just doesn’t touch on at all so this show is a good chance to really connect with him on a deeper level and it provides us with reasons to actually sympathise with this character.

We’re inundated with superhero content at the minute and Peacemaker feels distinct enough from much of what Marvel are doing, even Gunn’s own Marvel projects, however there is an easy comparison to be made between this and Amazon’s The Boys. Peacemaker isn’t quite as sharp or as smart as The Boys is, nor are any of the other characters in Peacemaker anywhere near the high quality of Amazon’s show but nonetheless it’s a delight to watch and a break from the many Marvel series we had in 2021.

HBO Max

As the show runs on a lot of the humour starts to drip away with Gunn’s juvenile style of comedy getting a bit repetitive. In particular the novelty of Stroma’s quippy Vigilante, who initially seems like DC’s version of Deadpool starts to wear off. Very quickly his stupidity and lack of awareness gets boring.

Peacemaker delivers with its heavy and brutal violence along with being incredibly funny and goofy at the same time. James Gunn shows us once again that he can make something fun and vibrant that feels like it’s been ripped straight out the pages of a comic book. It’s entertaining as hell and a great start to the year for DC.

The first three episodes of Peacemaker premiere on HBO MAX on January 13th with new episodes releasing each week.

FILM RATING
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Mother/Android Review | This Terminator Meets The Walking Dead Hybrid Sure Is Dull

Chloë Grace Moretz gives an impactful performance in Mattson Tomlin’s “Mother/Android”, but the rest of this sci-fi hybrid picture is quite dull.

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Whether you like it or not, 2022 is off to a start (it’s too early to tell whether or not it’s a good or bad start, give it about a week or two), and I won’t wait until theatres reopen (yeah…) to write about film and TV. Kicking off my adventures in moviegoing for the year is Mattson Tomlin’s Mother/Android, a movie that came out on December 17th in the United States on Hulu but is gearing up for an International release on Netflix this week. Chloë Grace Moretz leads this sci-fi movie as Georgia Olsen, who finds out she is pregnant to Sam (Algee Smith)’s child on Christmas Eve, sometime in the near future where Androids are now part of human life.

During a party, a technical glitch causes the Androids, who are, in this world, acting as servants for humans, to become erratic and violent, causing death to anyone that comes in contact with them. Nine months have passed (for some odd reason). Georgia’s water can break at any moment, while Sam is looking for a path to Boston, where they can seek refuge in Korea, escape the post-apocalyptic hell doom of the United States and start a new life there. We’ve all seen this movie before. A survival sci-fi/horror film where characters have a plan to leave a dystopia to a promised utopia, and nothing goes according to plan.

Mother/Android follows that plot trope in the most unengaging way possible. Tomlin tries to visually explain, to the best of his ability, how the Androids were created and became part of everyday life, but the visual exposition is so minimal it becomes a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moment. We have no idea how to what purpose the Androids were created, but we do recognize their visual inspirations from The Walking Dead and Terminator. When they don’t get shot in the face and have their face peeled like a T-800, they sure do run like brainless Zombies with the intent to kill people.

We never know what drives them to kill humans, or why they suddenly become violent. Sure, a blackout, but what caused the blackout and why did the blackout suddenly transform calm Androids into Zombie-like killing machines? These are important questions the movie never takes time to answer and instead spends most of its time with Grace Moretz’s Georgia on the cusp of giving birth inside cyclical and boring situations. Georgia and Sam go to a military base, potentially to help Olsen give birth. For the most bewildering reason, they get kicked off the base and must learn to fend for themselves. The same situation happens with their next objective. Every individual they meet, or place they visit has the same structure.

Tomlin begins by giving the audience a glimmer of hope, either through the movie’s decent-looking cinematography from Patrick Scola or through its minimalist, but emotionally-driven music from Kevin Henthorn and Michelle Birsky. Then, some lines of dialogue begin to swell hopium, until this “hope” is constantly crushed by:

a) The character’s own idiocy of not realizing the most obvious and/or never making the right decisions.

b) Androids show up. When in doubt, android it up.

c) The reality of the situation. Tomlin sets up Mother/Android‘s world as pessimistic by design. Therefore, the characters’ expectations of the promised utopia will be undoubtedly crushed. This isn’t a spoiler, but the reality of ANY post-apocalyptic sci-fi or horror film. It’s always the same, without exception.

Because of this, audience investment is at its minimum. Even if the movie does contain a few cool action sequences, including a rather exciting motorcycle chase filled with high-speed drones and, dare I say, scary-looking androids, Tomlin never gives us a reason to care about any character we spend time with, let alone care about the world they inhabit. Post-apocalyptic films are always enjoyable if the writer/filmmaker establishes the world first, before thwarting the characters in the action. Of course, they can thwart the characters first, to then establish the world, but that’s a riskier bet than the former. Tomlin decides to do the latter, but he never wants to establish the world further than “Androids evil. Georgia and Sam need to leave the USA.” Cool. But neat-looking action sequences and pretty images aren’t enough to hook people in.

Chloë Grace Moretz in Mother/Android.

Thankfully, Chloë Grace Moretz’s performance is impassioned enough that she carries the entire movie for herself. The final scene between her, Sam, and Korean officials is an absolute heartbreaker to watch, solely due to Moretz’s performance. Tomlin consistently relies on her for raw emotion, because he knows his script can’t carry the entire movie for itself. Sure, she does get trapped in a few “damsel in distress” situations, but when the movie needs her to shine, she always comes through and likely gives the best performance of her career. Her filmography isn’t filled with some of the best movies ever made, but her performance in Mother/Android almost puts hers in Suspiria and Clouds of Sills Maria to shame. She’s that good.

It’s an absolute disappointment that virtually anyone (or anything) else doesn’t work as hard as Moretz does here. She seems to have a deep affection for the material, and so does Tomlin, who infused some of his personal life in the script. But an affection for the material doesn’t necessarily equate to good material. If you’re not giving any reason to care about anything that’s going on in the movie, then the audience will check out quicker than the movie will ultimately “get going.” The truth of the matter is, this movie never gets going and gives a chance for us to care. If you want a great post-apocalyptic movie, 28 Days Later is the quintessential example of how it’s done.

FILM RATING

Mother/Android is now streaming exclusively on Hulu and will release on January 7th for International audiences on Netflix.

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The Matrix Resurrections | A Mind-Bending Sci-fi Romance

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The Matrix Resurrections is such a self-aware, meta-driven, awe-exhilarating, mind-bending sci-fi romance that features stunning visuals and absolutely insane action sequences. It’s innovative and engaging and after twenty years we finally get plugged back into The Matrix in a sequel that honours the legacy of the iconic Trilogy. 

From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes the long-awaited next chapter in the groundbreaking franchise that truly redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity. 

In “The Matrix Resurrections”, we return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. And if Thomas…Neo… has learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of-or into-the Matrix. Of course, Neo already knows what he has to do. But what he doesn’t know yet is the Matrix is stronger, more secure and more dangerous than ever before. Déjà vu.

©Warner Brothers

The Matrix has truly evolved since Revolutions as it’s now difficult to spot reality from fiction, especially with code. The Matrix code is treated like a story and Jonathan Groff’s Smith quotes to Thomas “That’s the thing about stories. They never really end, do they? we’re still telling the same stories we’ve always told, just with different names, different faces. Reeves reprises the dual roles of Thomas Anderson/Neo, the man once saved from the Matrix to become the saviour of humankind, will once have to choose which path to follow. 

Moss portrays the iconic warrior Trinity, well not anymore, she’s Tiffany. A suburban wife and mother of three with a penchant for superpowered motorcycles. Things aren’t certainly the way they were before.

Every studio is after a profitable IP and as sequels come and go franchises evolve. The Matrix Trilogy has always remained in our conscience as a pop culture impact that changed the sci-fi game in 1999 with the first instalment about Thomas “Neo” Anderson a computer programmer by day and hacker at night whose life is forever changed when he swallows the red pill that disconnects him from a carefully simulated world of enslaved humans. The premise of machines rebelling against their makers was a unique concept and the utilising of people as an electrical system to fuel a dystopian world truly put an interesting twist on the potential fate of humanity. 

However their freedom came at a cost as Neo becomes “The One” a mythical figure of power and enlightenment prophecies to bring about the end of affairs and establish peace with the machines, allowing them to live in co-exisitence with the humans in the city of Zion. 

He did so, thanks to his and Trinity’s sacrifice at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, in which he was able to defat a self-replicating virus known as Smith (Hugo Weaving). Neo’s transformation from a curious worker to an actualised human being capable of changing the world felt like it holds significant relevance to Wachowski’s own life story. The Matrix was all about the desire for transformation all coming from a closeted point of view according Lilly Wachowski. 

If you talk about transformation in the world of science fiction, its about imagination and world-building and the ultimate idea of the seemingly impossible becoming the possible. 

Helming Resurrections as a solo effort makes you feel Lana’s vision. Along with her co-writers, the novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and screenwriter Aleksandar Hemon embrace the heavy self-referential themes that exist in this day and age, specifically the opening as it takes a nostalgic approach as the writers being to poke fun at sequels, prequels and reboots. The film also begins with a satire on corporate greed and conniving marketers as the company revs up for a new sequel that doesn’t want to be made. 

The Matrix Resurrections, more so than any other instalment in the franchise is to me a film of love and about finding the ONE you believe in. It’s a story centred on the relationship between Neo and Trinity, the leather-coated, mirror shades-wearing resistance fighters introduced in the original Matrix Trilogy. Nearly two decades have passed since the release of The Matrix Revoutions and that sixty years have elapsed between the events at the end of that film and the beginning of Resurrections. Their relationship gets the films plot moving and the payoff is spectacular. Lana’s approach guides us through the reveals as there is tons to unpack when it comes to the lore of the Matrix and its implications. 

©Warner Brothers

Resurrections gives such awe-inspiring additions to the Matrix world and Mega City. It’s more modernised and showcases the nature of past and present simulations and programs especially how they reign over themselves this is particularly seen in The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) and Smith (Jonathan Groff). The film also updates some of the ideology and technology as phone booths and mobile phones see an absence and is now replaced with mirrors that work as doors to the physical word. 

The unbreakable Bond as mentioned above between Neo and Trinity, is an iconic romance that transcends dimensions and time, it’s the human element that propels this dystopian/futuristic vehicle. Wachowski creates great epic filmmaking that feels human and in this entry despite what the Oracle told Neo in Revolutions, every beginning does not have an end. Love never dies. It’s about the power of self-love and what’s happening in the world with regard to gender identity and relations. 

Trinity was a character in the original trilogy and a woman with such power, agency and ability. The matrix set a standard for female action heroes and Resurrections certainly lives up to that whilst also taking into account the passage of time. Trinity’s arc in The Matrix Resurrections is a reaction to the past 20 years of cultural evolution. 

©Warner Brothers

Keeping Neo on the path is a group of incredible hackers who have come to see Neo as a legend. They have studied the past and keep archives of data dedicated to his exploits which certainly come in handy utilising footage from the trilogy to help jog his memory. Bugs (Jessica Henwick) is the proverbial white rabbit on a mission to discover the one who sacrificed himself for humankind and she’s willing to take any risk necessary in search of the legend she idolises. Henwick truly pops off the screen with an infectious attitude, she’s smart and suave and has Incredible style especially her sunglasses which were designed by British eyewear designer Tom Davies. 

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays a new version of the wise and worldly Morpheus who, as always, serves as a guide to Neo whilst also fulfilling his own greater purpose on a very singular journey of self-discovery. 

The return of Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) the fierce general who once fought for the survival of Zion now sees to the welfare of her people with a familiar fire on her eyes, despite a sense of disbelief and suspicion upon Neo’s return. 

wrapping up the cast are Jonathan Groff who plays Thomas Anderson’s business partner Smith, a slick, confident corporate type with insouciant charm, a disarming smile and an eye on the bottom line. Neil Patrick Harris plays the Analyst, Thomas’ therapist who works closely with his patient to understand the meaning behind his dreams and to distinguish them from reality. 

And Priyanka Chopra Jonas plays Sati, a young woman with a wisdom that belies her years and ability to see the truth, no matter how murky the waters. 

©Warner Brothers

What follows is a journey with twists and swarms of explosive action but with the glowing sunset. The film also features a comedic tone which was surprisingly meta and hilarious. It stems from what the film utterly renders is love’s true power, showcasing Neo and Trinity’s powerful romance with sincerity. The Matrix Resurrections is about becoming whole with yourself and belief as Neo puts it “I never believed I was the one. But she believed. It’s my turn to believe in her. 

FILM RATING
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