Rental Pick: Time Lapse (2014)

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I saw this back in October when the film was screened at Twin Cities Film Festival. This film is yet another proof one does not need a big budget to create a compelling film, and a tight script certainly goes a long way. Time Lapse isn’t a time travel per se, not in the traditional sense anyway. The time aspect refers to the mysterious camera machine that takes pictures 24 hours into the future.

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The film is basically an ensemble piece of three characters living in the same apartment,  Callie (Danielle Panabaker), Finn (Matt O’Leary), and Jasper (George Finn). When one of them inadvertently stumbled into the machine during a routine property maintenance, things quickly unravel. The machine resides in the unit right across from theirs and somehow they’re the ones who end up in the pictures… only a day ahead.

I love the mystery aspect and the filmmaker creates a noir-ish ambience with the lighting and dramatic shadows. Given the low budget, the setting is constrained into this apartment and its courtyard, but that actually gives you a sense of claustrophobia that enhances the tension. The camera machine itself looks rather ominous and it made you wonder just what that thing is really capable of. What makes this sci-fi thriller intriguing is the psychology aspect of how the discovery affects each character and slowly transforms them before they realize what hits them. It amplifies the worst trait of each of them… whether it’s greed, desire or paranoia. It’s quite fun to watch how this discovery changes them and in turn their relationship with each other.

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All three actors fit the roles nicely. I’m especially drawn to Finn’s character Jasper, I suppose the bad boys always have more fun. O’Leary is perhaps a bit too reserved and melancholy as Finn, though he does present a nice contrast to Jasper’s more impulsive nature. There’s a bit of love triangle going on between the three, as Callie & Finn are an item whilst Jasper isn’t quite subtle about his [lustful] feelings for Callie. As the only girl in the group, Callie is a bit of a mystery to me, but in a way it works for the story.

The script by Bradley King and BP Cooper is pretty tightly-focused whilst somehow still maintain a level of quirks and humor throughout. Jasper sure does some dumb things as his greed overtakes him. As he tries to use the machine for monetary gain, he ended up getting involved with some shady characters and you know things won’t end well. But yet the film still manages to surprise you in one violent scene. Even that scene isn’t devoid of humor, making you wince as well as laugh at the same time.

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As with a lot time travel movies, the logic doesn’t always compute but the story is engaging and keeps you guessing right until the end. I have to admit that I didn’t see the twist coming, but once it’s revealed it made me think about some of the events that happened that lead to that point. It’s certainly in keeping with how the machine basically messes with the characters’ head, and how even they themselves were caught off guard by it in the end.

There are very few special effects in this movie, but the filmmaker did invest in creating this retro-looking camera machine that has that steam-punk quality to it. During the Q&A after the screening, King shared that he worked with a concept artist named Howard Schechtman and he made it clear I didn’t want any LEDs or lasers or computer chips, etc. They ended up using parts from an airplane junkyard, hardware stores, even those from the abandoned apartment complex itself. I thought that was pretty darn cool.

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There’s a Hitchcock-ian vibe to this film, the minimalist setting is enhanced by an atmospheric score by Andrew Kaiser. This film won Indie Vision: Breakthrough Film award at last year’s Twin Cities Film Fest. It’s a well-deserved win as I’m VERY impressed by King’s feature film debut and would keep an eye out for what he’s going to do next.

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This movie is now available on available on iTunes & Amazon.

Check out my interview with Bradley King and George Finn at 2014 TCFF


Have you seen Time Lapse? Well, what do you think?

May 2015 Blindspot: Breathless – À bout de souffle (1960)

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One of the fun things about participating in this Blindspot series is to familiarize myself with certain genre or film movement. I actually picked this one rather randomly, not realizing this was part of the French New Wave, which happens to be the renowned French auteur Jean-Luc Godard‘s first feature film.

Films set in the City of Lights are always welcome in my book, and this one looks absolutely spectacular in black and white. I find myself paying more attention to the gorgeous city than reading the subtitles, but it seems the filmmaker seems deliberately more concerned more about the presentation than its narrative. Breathless is unabashedly stylish and cool – chock full of gorgeous scenery, good looking people and chic Parisian fashion.

Jean Seberg is simply adorable in her pixie cut and cat-like eyeliner whilst Jean-Paul Belmondo is all rebellious swagger. As the film’s antihero Michel Poiccard, he’s unscrupulous through and through, but definitely not without charm.

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A small time thief who nonchalantly kills a cop who pursues him, he just as casually hits a man and hides him in a bathroom stall without blinking an eyelid. Michel is one smooth bastard, yet somehow she gains the affection of Patricia Franchini, an American journalism student he’d met up in Nice a few weeks earlier. Their first meeting as she’s selling newspaper is infused with so much style. C’est magnifique!

There’s such a relaxed, leisurely tone to the movie that fits the message that celebrates freedom and independence. It’s apparent in their conversation and action of the leads how much they value their liberty. Some people might find this movie boring, especially the scene in Patricia’s flat where they spend 20+ minutes simply talking, and Michel trying to get under her skirt, but not much happens. Yet I’m quite enthralled by it all, there’s a certain charm in the forthright conversation between them despite its unabashed crudeness. Michel’s vulgarity and persistence in getting her to bed is contrasted by Patricia’s almost childlike innocence. She somehow remains unaffected by his mercurial mood and she has such a sweet way of rebuffing his advances.

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I find Michel’s utter ignorance and lack of culture quite hilarious.

Patricia: Do you know William Faulkner?
Michel: No. Who’s he? Have you slept with him?

I read later how this film became the quintessential film of the French New Wave, which is described in Wiki as having a documentary-style format, feature existential theme laden with irony and sarcasm. It’s clearly a risky move back then to create a film like this. Per IMDb trivia, its star “[Belmondo] was very surprised by the warm reception the film received. Immediately after production he was convinced it was so bad that he thought the film would never be released.” I don’t think even Godard or Truffaut would be so well-received, nor would they predict the film would become such a pop culture icon. I’ve been reading some articles on this that cite how influential Godard’s debut is even to this day.

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Visually the film is truly a work of art. Nearly every frame is like a postcard of Paris. It’s an amazing feat given the low budget. Apparently Godard couldn’t afford a dolly at the time, so he pushed cinematographer Raoul Coutard around in a wheelchair through many scenes of the film. I love how in many scenes I felt like I’m viewing the city through the eyes of the characters, strolling pass Paris landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées and café terraces. I especially love the scenes as they’re driving, whether with the top down in a Cabriolet or inside a Taxi like this scene below:

I found this photo of Coutard filming on a rooftop and clearly that’s how we get the sweeping view of the magnificent city. There are also the intriguing hand-held shots roaming a room, street, elevator, etc. that gives us a sense of realism.

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I really enjoyed this one and even re-watched parts of it just before I published this review, the scene of the two leads in bed and the finale. Yes it’s perhaps simplistic narratively but Godard more than made up for it in style. This is one of those films I can see myself revisiting again later in the future and it’ll always make me reminisce about Paris. The jazzy music by Martial Solal complements it perfectly, sometimes the music even takes center stage, some scenes play out like a fashionable music video. It’s no surprise this movie’s been remade and Hollywoodized in 1983. I have no desire in seeing that one however, surely it could barely hold a candle to this original version.

Well, it’s been over a half a century since the film’s release and it’s only just my first intro into Godard’s work. I suppose better late than never, right? I’m curious to check out his other films, so if you have recommendations as to which ones I should watch next, do let me know!

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The Blind Spot series was originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and I was also inspired by Dan’s list at Public Transportation Snob.

2015BlindSpotCheck out my list of 2015 Blind Spot Films


Have you seen Breathless? Well, what did YOU think?

Weekend Roundup: Quick thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road + Cannes 2015

Memorial Weekend came a bit early this year, but hey, a three-day weekend is ALWAYS welcome. It’s been a nice, mellow weekend for me, giving me a chance to catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in a while.

I also got a chance to finally see Mad Max: Fury Road and well, here’s my initial reaction:

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So yeah I totally agree with Ted’s review and I personally would’ve given it a 4.5/5 reels. My hubby and I have decided we’ll see this again in a bigger screen with Dolby Atmos as the visuals are simply astounding!! What surprised me most was how emotionally-gratifying the film was… the visual spectacle did NOT smother the story that it became more style over substance [I’m looking at you Tomorrowland!]

Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy are simply superb here, both bringing their A-game in terms of physical and emotional performance. This film is more about Furiosa’s story than it is about Max, but that’s not to say that Max was just tagging along. I think the story of a partnership between the two lost souls is beautifully realized… nobody needed *saving* but their shared journey ended up bringing redemption to both of them. The supporting characters are wonderful as well.

I found this Tumblr post and I agree wholeheartedly with what’s being said below on the relationship between Capable (Riley Keough) & Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

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I’ve been following Cannes 2015 the past week and now that it’s wrapped, so in case you haven’t been reading about it, here are some of the big winners…

The Palme d’Or winner: Dheepan by Jacques Audiard A Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who flees to France and ends up working as a caretaker outside Paris

Grand Prize runner up: Son of Saul by László Nemes – In the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son.

Jury Prize: The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos – In a dystopian near future, single people are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days or are transformed into animals and released into the woods.

Best Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin – Based on a short story written during Tang dynasty, “Nie Ying Niang” is a story about assassin Nie’s mission to assassinate a political rival

Best Actor: Vincent Lindon for The Measure of a Man (La loi du marché)

Best Actress (tie): Rooney Mara for Carol and Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon Roi.

I can’t wait to see all of these movies, I sure hope all of them will get a decent release here. I’m surprised Macbeth or even Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t get any award, especially the latter. The reviews I’ve glanced through so far for Macbeth have been positive so I really can’t wait for that! Of course it’s never too early to talk about Oscar and this HitFix article talks about which movies are ready for Oscar close-ups.


Of course my weekend wouldn’t be complete without some Stanley Weber viewing ;) Friday night was Movie Nite with my girlfriends and we watched Not Another Happy Ending… I lost count how many times I’ve seen it but I still love it!

I also watched The Hollow Crown: Henry V, which is the last of the four-part BBC miniseries I’ve mentioned here. I can’t believe I still haven’t seen this given how many amazing British actors are involved. I will watch all four miniseries at some point, but I couldn’t help watching this one because Stanley has a small role as the Duke of Orléans.

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He barely got any screen time in this series, which is a pity. I wish one day I’d see him be the star of his own Shakespearean production! Judging from a dozen roles I’ve seen Stanley played so far, he’s definitely a versatile and dedicated actor who’s ready for his very own closeup any day now.

Well, since I’m currently obsessed with anything Parisian, it’s easy to decide what my May Blindspot movie pick would be:

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À bout de souffle (Breathless) – by Jean-Luc Godard

Can you believe it I’ve never seen a Godard film before? It’s also written by François Truffaut too, another French filmmaker whose work I’m not familiar with… yet. Review shall be up sometime Tuesday!


Well that’s my weekend roundup. How ’bout you, seen anything good?

FlixChatter Review: Tomorrowland (2015)

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I hadn’t heard much about this film until I saw the trailer a couple of months ago. Apparently it was based on a section at Disney theme parks, featuring attractions that depict views of the future. The movie opens in the mid 60s with a young boy Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) who made his way to a New York World Fair, feverishly excited to show off his flying jetpack invention that reminds me of something out of Disney’s The Rocketeer. It’s not working properly yet and so a renowned inventor David Nix (Hugh Laurie) rejected it.

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Despite his failure, Frank’s enthusiasm caught the attention of a mysterious young girl named Athena, and that’s how he ended up in this amazing futuristic city that seem to exist in a parallel dimension. I was caught up in that sense of wonder as the buildup promises something that would totally blow me away. The movie seems to have a lot going for it – an intriguing sci-fi mystery concept, a talented director and big name star. It also boasts some spectacular and imaginative visuals, which is to be expected from a budget of nearly $200 mil. Alas, I kept waiting to be completely in awe of the movie right up until the end, but that moment never came.

The only times where the movie REALLY tickle my curiosity is in that first 10 minutes with the young Frank when he first saw the futuristic city. There’s also the first few minutes after a young teen named Casey (Britt Robertson) found the mystifying pin that upon touching it transports her into the spectacular universe filled with futuristic skyscrapers, connected by a sleek-looking monorail. According to this article, ILM spent 2.5 years to produce over a thousand effects shots, employing 200 employees to create that futuristic world. Was the result something that would knock your socks off? Visually, yes. But if only Disney would invest in a script that is equally awe-inspiring.

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Even though the movie has a lot to say about invention and creativity, the script from Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird is largely uninspiring. It’s really a huge letdown as the build-up was so promising and I was really hoping to be wowed by it all. The uneven tone throughout the movie proved to be rather distracting and the movie never quite find its footing. Midway through the movie, when Casey entered an antique shop looking for answers about the pin, the film descend into a slapstick farce. The casting of comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn just seem out of place here, but then so is country artist Tim McGraw. By that point though, I was still keen on figuring out just what the heck is going on, and so I went along for the ride.

But the more the plot is unraveled, the more underwhelming the movie becomes. The finale is formulaic, even borderline absurd, and worst of all, preachy. I appreciate the message of optimism and the attempt to inspire youth’s imagination, but I really could do without the preachy-ness of taking better care of our world, etc. Suddenly I was given an environmental lecture from a rather lame villain who barely has any character development in the movie. I really don’t know what to make of Laurie‘s character but one thing for sure, the talented actor was wasted in this role.

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George Clooney adds star power in the role of the older Frank, though he spends most of the movie being curmudgeon rather than his charming self. I was more impressed by the young actors, especially Robertson who infused the role with her buoyancy and genuine optimism. English actress Raffey Cassidy is absolutely adorable as Athena who’s perhaps the heart of the movie. Together with Robertson, the two young actresses also provide some unexpected comic relief. There are fun moments scattered throughout, like the scene involving the Eiffel Tower, but overall the movie just feels haphazard and irritatingly heavy-handed. It’s disappointing given the talents involved, especially Brad Bird who’s a creative visionary behind The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. I suppose I should’ve been worried when I saw Lindelof’s name attached to the script, given what he did with Prometheus, among other things.

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Similar to another big-budget sci-fi Elysium, this movie feels like a poorly-executed ambitious concept. I wouldn’t say Tomorrowland is a terrible film or that it’s completely without merit. I think kids might still enjoy it and there are plenty of cool, shiny things to wow them. But for me, all the visual gadgetry and bombastic action involving giant robots and weird cyborgs ring hollow. At 130 minutes, there are numerous fillers that feel pointless by the end of it. It’s like an exhilarating ride that was fun for a while, then runs out juice halfway through but yet kept going on for far too long.

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Have you seen Tomorrowland? Well what do YOU think?

My entry to the Movie Roulette Blogathon

movie-roulette-posterWhen I saw this blogathon that Getter over at Mettel Ray Blog is hosting, I simply had to participate! What an awesome idea, and original one at that. It must’ve taken her ages to made five of those gifs.

Here are the rules:
1. There are 25 facts, you have to pick 5 or more and for each, you drag out a movie as an answer! *Click on the gif, hold it and drag out a single movie*
2. You can only drag out one movie for each statement, no do overs,
3. Write down your answers and feel free to comment whether they make sense or not.
4. Link back to this announcement, and link to the Movie Roulette Ultimate Gif Set as well!
5. Last but not least, have fun!

This proves to be quite fun to do, though I have to admit sometimes I pick the movie first then look at the facts [hope that’s ok Getter!] :D Ok, here goes:

1. This movie describes my mood in the mornings the best

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You’ve Got Mail

Every morning, first thing I check is my iPad for email/twitter/tumblr, etc. In a way, my online connection is what fuels my day :P

2. I hate the main [male] characters of this movie, but I think they [are] still very hot

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This Means War

I abhor the daft idea of this movie but I still watched it [on the plane] for these two guys. I mean Tom Hardy AND Chris Pine looking every bit as gorgeous in every scene? Heck yeah!

3. I would make love to this movie’s plot, it’s amazing

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Casablanca

Glad I saw this on the big screen, thanks to TCM Rerelease! One of the best stories about unrequited love… beautifully done all around.

4. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night thinking about this movie… it’s so good!

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The Dark Knight

As I just happened to see this interrogation scene during Christopher Nolan’s lecture earlier this month, I remember thinking about how good this scene is. It’s so well-constructed and the two actors are absolutely perfect. It was mesmerizing and it really riled me up.

5. When I think of my childhood, I think of this movie

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Superman: The Movie

Well naturally. I saw this when I was a wee girl, probably 4-5, and even at that age, I immediately fell for Christopher Reeve. Yep, he set the bar VERY high for my future crushes.

6. Every time this movie is on TV, I turn it off and sit in complete silence instead

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Friends with Benefits

This movie actually never came on TV as I barely watch any TV. But if it were, I’d rather sit in silence or watch paint dry than watch this.

7. This movie makes me so emotional I even cried while watching it

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HER

I saw this in a nearly empty cinema and I’m glad there was nobody sitting near me as I was bailing my eyes out in some scenes. It struck me hard emotionally… it was a beautiful experience.

8. If I ever made a movie, it would be something similar to this movie

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Notting Hill

I’m referring to the basic idea of this film, and I’ve been toying w/ the idea for some time. In fact, this inspires me to resurrect the Fantasy Movie Pitch blogathon that a now-defunct blog used to do a few years ago.

10. I always wanted to punch this movie’s main character(s) in the face

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Twilight

I don’t usually get such a violent reaction whilst seeing a movie but can you blame me? I actually watched some clips of this as it’s now on Netflix Streaming [not sure why since I hated it the first time]. I had such a strong reaction wanting to punch these two silly that I simply turned it off.

10. I’m going to recommend this movie to the next person who asks me to recommend them a movie! (Challenge accepted!)

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Nightcrawler

I’ve actually been recommending this to people who haven’t seen it, and will continue to do so!


Well that’s been tricky but fun! What do you think of my picks?

FlixChatter Review: Far from the Madding Crowd

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I have to admit the first time I heard about this novel was a few years ago when Richard Armitage’s character in the Christmas edition of Vicars of Dibley mentioned this Thomas Hardy’s novel as his favorite. Well, I remember reaching about what that novel was about and was immediately hooked. So a headstrong woman in Victorian England attracts three very different suitors, I definitely like the sound of that.

In stories like this, casting is crucial and that’s why I approach this review more from that angle. Let me start with the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene.

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I love the fact that Bathsheba is played by Carey Mulligan who’s appropriately free spirited and convincing as an independent young woman. A woman living in 19th-century England would not straddle her horse like she does when she rides, and she works the farm just as hard as any man.

When she first encountered Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer, he’s immediately smitten and it’s easy to see why. Matthias Schoenaerts, who somehow reminds me of Viggo Mortensen in this role, portrays Gabriel with deep vulnerability. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him.

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Their two lives somehow turned out drastically different — Bathsheba became wealthy when she suddenly inherited her uncle’s estate, whilst Gabriel came to a misfortune in one tragic night. The interesting dynamic of their circumstances only adds to the intrigue of their relationship, especially given how a female boss was quite a rare occurrence back in the day. I like how the film shows how Bathsheba tried to defy convention the best way she could, to make in a man’s world and be taken seriously as a farm owner.

The next suitor is more of Bathsheba’s equal in terms of economic status though he’s considerably older in age. Michael Sheen gives a dignified presence to William Boldwood, but also the appropriate sensitivity of someone who’s financially successful but one who’s been unlucky in love. The relationships between Bathsheba and these two men are especially engaging, it’s made a bit trickier by the fact that Boldwood likes Gabriel and appreciate his fervent loyalty.

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I’ve mentioned in this post that the casting of the third suitor is disappointing. Sergeant Frank Troy is described as a handsome, irresponsible and impulsive young man… so I imagine an actor with devilish charisma and undeniable sex appeal for the role. Well, no offense Tom Sturridge but you ain’t that person and you certainly did NOT convince me as someone Bathsheba would risk everything for. Thus, her abrupt decision seems so out of character and doesn’t feel true.

Yes, the much-talked-about swordsmanship scene in the woods was beautifully-filmed but that’s more of a testament of Thomas Vinterberg‘s directing and his ability to create such an ethereal ambiance. I wanted to THAT scene to take my breath away, to be rendered speechless and all tingly from the sheer passion of the two characters, but it just wasn’t to be. The love scene that follows also lacks any kind of eroticism, which made the entire relationship lackluster. It also didn’t help that Sturridge just doesn’t look like a soldier or someone with a hint of danger that could tame or intimidate a woman like Bathsheba. I believe that charisma, especially of a sexual nature, is not something an actor can train for.

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The way the story unfolds is rather predictable. Yes it’s based on a novel so people who’ve read it would’ve known how things turns out, but for those who haven’t, Vinterberg didn’t create any suspense that’d make us guess who Bathsheba will end up with. But Vinterberg’s strength behind the camera is creating a lush and atmospheric look that serves the story well, thanks largely to his frequent collaborator Charlotte Bruus Christensen who also did the cinematography for The Hunt.

There’s a certain melancholy in the film to be expected but it doesn’t feel corny or contrived. Mulligan and Schoenaerts who share the most screen time have a lovely chemistry… the way they steal glances every chance they get is the kind of stuff romantic dramas are made of. Apart from that, I was kind of expecting something a bit more unconventional from Vinterberg. I was so impressed by The Hunt and this one seems like a lesser film by comparison, though it’s not exactly an apples and oranges kind of comparison, but in general sense. This feels more Hollywood, safer and less edgy, but thankfully there are still things I like about it.

I have to say that the fact that sound went out for about 3-4 minutes during the final scene between Bathsheba and Gabriel! It was excruciating because it’s supposed to be a key emotional scene. The sound came back 2 minutes before the ending but still, that was awful that it happened. I’m not going to fault this film for that snafu of course, but the miscasting of Sgt. Troy is a big one for me. It did not derail the film but it prevents the film from being a truly compelling and fiery romantic drama that I had expected.

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Have you seen this film? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

MadMaxFuryRoadIt took over ten years for Mad Max to return to the big screen, originally set to hit theaters back in summer of 2004 and Mel Gibson was set to reprise his iconic role. Unfortunately, the filmmakers ran into some troubles securing locations and budget and the film was put on hold. 11 years later, the new film is ready for prime time with a new cast and bigger budget.

It never really implied but Fury Road picks up right around the time when Beyond Thunderdome ended. Max (Tom Hardy) still has his long hair from the last film and wandering in the wasteland. Suddenly he’s being chase by some awful looking men and then gets captured. He’s brought to another strange city called the Citadel, here it’s being ruled by a mad man named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, same actor who played the main villain in the original film) and his War Boys.

MadMaxFuryRoad_ImmortanJoeMax is being use as a blood transferor to these War Boys and one of them named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) takes advantage of that right away. Joe rules the city by giving water to its citizens only few drops and false hope. Then we were introduced to Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who decided to betray Joe by stealing his wives to take them to a safer place called the “green place”. When Joe finds out, he and his War Boys sets out to bring the wives back and kill Furiosa. During the chase, Max got caught in the middle and has no choice but to become a hero again. Anyone who have seen the previous films will know that this franchise isn’t about deep plot, it’s about action and lots of car/truck chases.

MadMaxFuryRoad_Theron_HoultIf you want to see action, this is the movie to see. Just like last year’s John Wick, this film never tried to be anything but a non-stop wall to wall action. George Miller staged some of the craziest and most brutal action sequences I’ve ever seen. Some of the stunts he shot were just mind-blowing and best of all, he kept the cameras still and we the audience can see all the spectacular action sequences. But amidst all the chaos, he’s still able to give each of the characters some screen time and we got to know their motivations. Kudos also go to the film’s cinematographer John Seale, he shot the movie in digital and the picture looks amazing. I didn’t see it in 3D but clearly he and Miller shot the film with 3D in mind. The film’s soundtrack by Junkie XL was quite amazing; the thundering sound definitely enhances the action scenes.

Even though he only had a few lines of dialogs, Tom Hardy was very convincing as the brutal action hero. He shoots, punches and kicks his enemies without hesitation. Clearly he’s trying to differentiate his Max from that of Gibson’s. Here Max is more of a brute while Gibson’s version was more laid back and not as cold as Hardy. Theron on the other was marvelous as Furiousa, she’s the best female action hero since Ripley in the Alien films. In fact, I think they should have named the movie Mad Max and Furiosa. She’s as tough as Max and kick some serious ass. There’s a fight scene between her and Max that was quite fun to watch and she could definitely handle herself.

MadMaxFuryRoad_TomHardyMadMaxFuryRoad_Max_FuriosaI actually think the movie was really about Furiosa since Max was just there to help out. Nicholas Hoult’s character started out as a foe but then became part of the team and I liked his character. We also got to know each of Joe’s wives; they’re not there to just be eye candy. As for Immortan Joe, well he’s just another one-note villain that’s similar to Lord Humungus in the second film.

Fans of the series will get a kick out this one new film and maybe new comers will enjoy it as well. I do recommend that you watch one of the previous films before going into this one if you’ve never seen the previous films, particularly Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. You need to familiarize yourself with the weird and crazy world that Miller has created. As a fan of the series and action films, I truly enjoy this tremendous action picture. If there’s a theater in your area that has Dolby Atmos, I highly recommend you see it there. I plan to see it again in 3D and hopefully it’s as good as the first time I saw it.

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Have you seen this movie? Well, what did YOU think? 

FlixChatter Double Reviews – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Ted’s Review

I have a confession to make, I’m not a big fan of the first Avengers film, I enjoyed it for the most part but when I watched it again on Bluray, I found it kind of dragging. So going into this gigantic sequel, I had no high expectations for it. Well color surprise because I think Age of Ultron might be my favorite Marvel film to date, I’ll know for sure when I see it again in a few days.

Things kick off right away when the movie opens; our superheroes are in the middle of a battle with the bad guys. The sequence was quite impressive; director Whedon decided to reintroduce each of the heroes by showing skill set and that they’re now working as a team. They successfully retrieved Loki’s scepter from Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and before it returns to Thor’s world, Stark and Banner decided to create an AI called Ultron without telling the rest of the team. After the events of the first film, Stark wanted to protect humans from another alien invasion. Of course every time when some geniuses create a super intelligent machine, it will take over its masters and that’s what happened here. I think most people have already seen the trailers and clips of the movie so I’m not going to discuss its plot. For this review I’ll go over the goods, there are plenty of them and not so good about this sequel.

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The goods: Whedon really improved the action sequences in this one, along with the opening sequence; there are three other set pieces that I thought were quite excellent. The fight between Hulk and Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor was spectacular. The midway action sequence where Capt. America was fighting with Ultron and Black Widow on the motorcycle chasing them was eye-popping. Finally the entire climatic battle with Ultron’s minions was just fun to watch. I didn’t care for the 3D effects in the first movie but here all the 3D worked, clearly Whedon shot each sequence with 3D in mind.

Instead of focusing on one character, Whedon was able to give each of the heroes equal screen time and they’re bantering are still amusing to me. All the actors appears to be quite comfortable in their respectively role. I wasn’t sure if the addition of Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch would work in the story but they turned out well.

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I also have to mention the sound design, the movie was recorded in Dolby Atmos and it’s my favorite surround sound right behind GRAVITY. If there’s a theater that has Dolby Atmos near your time, please see it there. I don’t tend to recommend seeing movies in 3D but I was quite impressed with 3D effects in this movie. So see it in 3D and Dolby Atmos if possible.

The not so good: I didn’t care for the romance with between Hulk and Black Widow, it kind of dragged on too long and just didn’t work for me. I expected Ultron to be this super menacing villain but he kind of turned out to be bland, just the usual AI villain that we’ve seen many times before.

Despite my quibbles I still think this is a perfect summer movie that delivers everything you’d expect to see in a tent pole picture. I can’t wait to see it again.

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Ruth’s Review

It seems that Ted and I have the opposite reaction in regards to the two Avengers movies. I actually loved the first film, I even made posted 10 Reasons why I think The Avengers rocks and gave it a 4.5/5 rating. I remember being massively anticipating it, following all the buildup from Iron Man 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, there’s still a sense of novelty of seeing ALL of the Avengers assembling on screen fighting a menacing villain Loki hellbent to rule earth and beyond.

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This time, I have to admit I wasn’t terribly excited for Age of Ultron. Despite all the hype, I just couldn’t muster the excitement I once had for the last Avengers movie.  That said, I figure I’d still have fun with it and maybe I’d end up loving it. Well, I wouldn’t say the movie wasn’t devoid of fun. It actually started off with a thrilling action sequence and there are some funny moments peppered throughout, but overall it’s just not a movie I’d remember in a week or so, and certainly not something I’m eager to watch again.

Ok let’s start with the good. I still have to commend director Joss Whedon for somehow not making a huge mess out of having sooo many characters in a film (11 characters total) and having to somehow give each of them adequate screen time as well as making them work as a cohesive team. All things considered, I think he did a smashing job. The scenes of the team working or playing together are the main highlights for me. I feel like they care about each other and look after each other when one of them get hurt. It genuinely feel like a team whose loyalty is tested by a new deranged enemy.

I especially enjoyed that whole Mjölnir-lifting-attempt scene where each Avenger tried to see if they could lift Thor’s mighty hammer. The look on Thor’s face when Chris Rogers tried his luck is perhaps the funniest of all. That’s absolutely hilarious and one I’m sure I’d watch over and over again when someone has posted it on Youtube. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of a moment where I actually cheered or having any kind of strong emotion towards what’s happening on screen.

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Gif Source: MTV.com

I have to say that the villain Ultron himself was okay, despite the run-of-the-mill storyline of human-created AI that ended up wanting to destroy humanity. We’ve seen that plot in a plethora of sci-fi movies and explored in a much deeper way in films with a tiny fraction of Age of Ultron‘s budget, yet somehow James Spader’s able to inject some wit and humor into that mechanical character. At least he’s more interesting than a Transformer robot, even if he’s nowhere as fun to watch as Loki was.

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As for the bad, well it’s simply an overloaded and overstuffed movie from the get go. It’s as if they didn’t have too many characters already, they added even more! I suppose Marvel have to pave the way for Phase 3 and beyond, so perhaps they’re planning a standalone movie for Vision (Paul Bettany), who looks like something out of the Body Worlds exhibit with a red cape. There are also the Maximoff twins, who were experimented on by of one of Hydra cohorts Strucker in an Eastern European country of Sokovia. Out of the two, Elizabeth Olsen fared better than Aaron Taylor-Johnson who came across so weird and awkward. Their *Russian* accent are laughable but they’re just so underwritten, though to be fair I think every character here suffers the same treatment. The Quicksilver character in X-Men: Days of Future Past was far more fun and memorable.

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I’d say that the biggest misstep of them all is the tacked-on romance between Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow). I didn’t care for that cheesy and entirely-unnecessary subplot and their scenes are so cringe-worthy that it took me out of the movie. Natasha was sharing some of the backstory of her dark childhood, and it would have been a rather emotional moment but I just couldn’t get into it as the corny romance thing was distracting me. I like both Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson, but they seem to have a more effortless chemistry off-screen during interviews than in the movie.

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I think people expecting a bunch of action in a big tentpole movie won’t be disappointed. For me, it’s more fun if I actually care about the characters and the universe presented here. As it is now, it’s just one huge bombastic film, in fact the whole fight sequence of Hulkbuster vs Hulk was so loud and verbose it reminded me of the final battle in Man of Steel. With so many characters all fighting for relevancy, the movie feels disjointed and abridged at times. The backstory of some of the characters also didn’t gel with me and felt forced and extraneous. Even the most adept filmmaker like Whedon surely was overwhelmed so I don’t blame him that he’s not going to do the final Avengers film. The Russo brothers certainly have a challenging task ahead of them to direct Avengers: Infinity War, and because Hollywood is all about the bottom line, of course it will be another two-part movie.

Oh, I have to mention that I saw this in 2D and the theater I was in had a pretty terrible surround sound. I wish I had seen it in a theater with Dolby Atmos as I still love the soundtrack, this time done by Brian Tyler & Danny Elfman. I doubt that seeing it in a better-equipped cinema would fix the weak script however. It also pains me to see Andy Serkis practically wasted here.

You could say the superhero fatigue is getting to me, so that certainly plays a factor in my enjoyment of this film. I can’t say I’m excited for more Marvel movies, except for Captain America: Civil War because I actually care about the Capt and his relationship with his friend-turned-foe Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier. Compared to the second Captain America movie, this one just felt bland and forgettable. It’s amazing how all that star power and an astronomical budget ($250 mil) only amounts to this, but then again, more is often just more, not better.

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Well, if you’ve seen this movie, what did YOU think? 

Wordless Wednesday: the unrequited love of ‘The Age of Innocence’

WordlessWednesdayIn honor of the double birthday of Michelle Pfeiffer (57) and Daniel Day-Lewis (58), I thought I’d highlight their work (and scorching chemistry) in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. It remains one of my all time favorite period dramas (and one of my faves of the 90s), and that unrequited love story never fails to move me to my core.

Words fail me to describe the beauty of this story… so I’m going to borrow the words of Roger Ebert: “It was the spirit of it — the spirit of the exquisite romantic pain. The idea that the mere touching of a woman’s hand would suffice. The idea that seeing her across the room would keep him alive for another year.”
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Newland Archer: You gave me my first glimpse of a real life. Then you asked me to go on with the false one. No one can endure that.

Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it.

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Ellen: I think we should look at reality, not dreams.

Newland: I just want us to be together!

Ellen: I can’t be your wife, Newland! Is it your idea that I should live with you as your mistress?

Newland: I want… Somehow, I want to get away with you… and… and find a world where words like that don’t exist!

ageofinnocence_still2This may not be a violent film from Scorsese in physical term, but it’s certainly a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. Certainly one of the most painfully-exquisite portrayal of unrequited love.


What’s your thoughts on The Age of Innocence?

April 2015 Blind Spot – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001_bannerAs far as film blind spot goes, this is perhaps one of the most glaring for me given its iconic status. Well, better late than never right? Forty seven years after its release, I finally get what the fuss is about. Now, I’m not saying I *get* the movie, mind you. In fact, it’s the kind of movie that is fun to read about afterwards. According to IMDb trivia, the film apparently prompted a large number of people to walk out from its premiere, including star Rock Hudson who said “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?” Ahah, I can totally relate. Per IMDb, the film’s co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke once said, “If you understand ‘2001’ completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered.” So I guess I don’t have to feel bad that the movie left me scratching my head.

SPOILER ALERT! Just in case some of you still hasn’t seen this yet, be mindful that I’ll be talking about some major plots in this post.

I guess I’m lucky that I was able to keep spoilers at bay in regards to this movie, as I had no idea there’s actually apes involved in this movie, and the Dawn of Man sequence was almost a half an hour long! I knew that the movie would be slow and there’d be long sequences with no dialog, so I’d imagine it’d be something like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, so I was prepared for that. In fact, I quite enjoyed watching the gorgeous imagery set to sweeping classical music (more on that later) and boy, what a visual treat it was.

2001_Apes_monolithI have to admit that I nearly fell asleep a few times as I was already so tired when I started watching it, so I had to stop after about an hour or so, and continued the next night. I don’t usually do this but I figured the film deserved to be seen with fresh eyes.

When the film’s over, my first reaction was ‘well I could see why this film was so beloved even four decades later.’ It’s not the most emotionally-gratifying film as I there’s really no character development, but visually speaking, the film truly set the bar for sci-fi and no wonder it’s been an inspiration for so many filmmakers since. Even other iconic sci-fi works like Blade Runner, Star Wars, Star Trek, all the way to recent ones like Interstellar have been inspired by Kubrick’s magnum opus. I mean, the ‘Star Gate’ sequence alone is so similar to the wormhole scenes in Interstellar. I read afterwards that that extended sequence of that funkadelic sequence was popular among young adults who love watching ’em when they’re high. Ahah, I bet that’s still true today.

2001_Hal9000There’s something so timeless about the production design, especially the HAL 9000 computer with its omnipresent red eye. Kubrick and Clarke made the right decision making it so simple, instead of going with a mobile robot they initially set out to do. I think it’d have looked more dated than the simple but ominous red eye. Despite its simplicity, it manages to be quite terrifying at times, especially during the time when Dave (Keir Dullea) was trying to get back into the main ship. The film isn’t an *acting* film per se, as the actors aren’t exactly given much to do, but I think Dullea did a good job nonetheless, and the scene of him trying to dismantle HAL is quite memorable. It’s a pretty suspenseful scene and Dullea conveyed the dread and terror very well.

It’s a testament that creating a certain atmosphere is crucial to depict genuine suspense and there’s certainly a horror-like vibe during the entire scene. I literally gasped when the LIFE FUNCTIONS CRITICAL lights came on… then followed by LIFE FUNCTIONS TERMINATED in the scene where HAL systematically killed the rest of the ship’s crew in hibernation. It’s just one of the many minimalistic scenes that made such a huge impact in the film.

2001_Dave2001_Dave_disablingHalThe cryptic nature of the film, with its various metaphors and allegories, certainly sparked all kinds of theories. My hubby and I watched a two-part Youtube videos on the meaning of the monolith, which argues that the monolith is basically “an advanced television teaching machine.” It’s quite a fascinating argument and I’m sure there are others, but I really don’t want to go into that rabbit hole.

I have to mention the music here, which is crucial given there’s such few dialog in the film. I’ve heard that opening theme Thus Spoke Zarathustra soooo many times, as it’s so overused in popular culture that it’s become a cliché. But hearing it in the context of the opening sequence made me appreciate just how iconic it is. Johann Strauss II’s The Blue Danube (composed in mid 1800s) is also one of my favorite classical piece, which somehow fits the tone and feel of this film it’s as if it was made especially for this project.

2001_spaceshipSo what’s the verdict?

Well, I’m glad I finally saw this film. I didn’t fall in love with the film, I think it falls under the category of ‘films I appreciate but doesn’t quite love.’ I was bowled over by what Kubrick achieved in 1968 – he is a true visual artist with an exquisite eye for details. Nearly every frame is like a work of art and it still looks modern even by today’s standards. Yet it’s not an emotionally-engaging film, which to be fair is probably not what Kubrick intended it to be anyway, so it’s not something I’m eager to watch again. That said, I still give it a high rating because I do think it deserves its classic status and it’s a film that every film fan should see. It took me a while to get here, but I’m glad I finally did!

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The Blind Spot series was originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and I was also inspired by Dan’s list at Public Transportation Snob.

2015BlindSpotCheck out my list of 2015 Blind Spot Films


What are your thoughts on 2001: A Space Odyssey?