Question of the Week: Which films with great ensemble cast that fail to deliver?

It really pains me that the movie that *inspired* me for this edition of Question of the Week is one I’ve actually been looking forward to for some time. When I first blogged about it in January 2013, I was super duper excited about the cast. The movie is called The Deadly Game in the UK, complete with an even cheesier poster. I much prefer the Paul Shipper version on below right, if only the film itself is even half as intriguing.

AllThingsToAllMen_TheDeadlyGame

I never thought a British thriller starring Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell AND Toby Stephens be so insufferably dreary. Even the actors look bored here, only Rufus seems to be having a bit more fun than the rest. My hubby actually fell asleep halfway through and I didn’t bother waking him up. If it weren’t for these three of my favorite Brits, well four if you count London which is practically a character in itself, I would’ve turned it off within 10 minutes. I don’t really feel like reviewing it, but I agree with these reviewers:

All Things to All Men is the latest attempt to make a British Michael Mann-style crime epic based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what Michael Mann actually does as a filmmaker. – The Scotsman

“Despite Sewell’s laconic ruthlessness, Stephens’s steely taciturnity and Byrne’s world-weary arrogance, there’s an all-round lack of conviction.”Radio Times

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Now this one sums my feelings exactly:

“[George Isaac's] dizzying array of double-dealing gangsters, cops, hoodlums and hit men seem to be weirdly obsessed with taking in the sights. Issac describes his film as “a love letter to London”. Seriously, they should just get a room.”

So the only *character* that’s not wasted is London, but even so, the setting seems has no purpose. There’s a great shot of Stephens inside the London Eye but all he does is take a phone call! There is really no reason to have that scene shot there other than for pure visual spectacle. It’s a shame really, this could’ve been so much better and more gripping when you’ve got THIS kind of talents involved. It made me think of other movies that didn’t deliver despite the great cast, in fact you could say the cast is completely wasted. And I’m talking terrible films here, not just middling. Just from the past couple of years alone, we’ve got Gangster Squad, Now You See Me, The Monuments Men. Fortunately I skipped some of those Love, Actually copycats like Valentine’s Day or New York, I Love You (which I turned off after about 5 minutes). Oh and I avoided Movie 43 like the plague, I mean I don’t think ANY actor could’ve possibly saved such a movie.


So now your turn… what’s the worst movie(s) you saw with a great ensemble cast?

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Easter Special – ‘God is in the Movies’ Blogathon

GodIsInTheMovies

Today is Maundy Thursday, a few days before Easter Sunday. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for such a blogathon. Well, Andrew has planned this since mid March but he was gracious enough to extend the deadline, bless his heart!

I was actually planning to do a similar post for Easter anyway so I just had to participate!

The concept is simple. I want you to rack your brains for the film that, to you, defines how the Bible (and all of its facets) should be presented in film. Do you like your scripture presented in a grand, sweeping epic like 1956’s The Ten Commandments? Do you like your scriptures tampered with, as in Scorsese’s polarizing The Last Temptation of Christ? Do you want to see an artistic approach to God’s book, like with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?  Or, do you prefer your faith handled in a more provocative and less direct way, as in the many works by Ingmar Bergman?

So Andrew’s assignment is to pick a movie (or style) and write a post explaining WHY it is your preferred dip into the Bible.

It’s a simple question but I’m going to expand on that topic a bit. as I was planning to do a post on that before I saw Andrew’s blogathon, I’m including my commentary about how Biblical movies as well as Christ’ portrayal in the movies.

I was actually re-watching Ben-Hur (1959) as I started this post… and I always rewound the Jesus scene as the enslaved Judah was bound and chained en route to the Roman galleys. He was dying of thirst when he fell to the ground and whispered, ‘God, help me…’ Almost instantly, someone came to him and gave him water.

BenHur_JesusWaterScene2

That scene alone is wonderful, but the BEST part is when one of the Roman soldiers scolds the stranger for giving Judah water and is about to whip him. The man stands up and simply looks at him.

BenHur_JesusWaterScene

The soldier’s thunderstruck expression is priceless. It’s as if he knew that the stranger could see through his entire being, and that makes him uneasy. He then starts backing away. Later Judah too looks up at the stranger and is rendered speechless. The end of the scene shows Judah looking so revitalized and full of hope that he barely noticed being whipped. He can’t take his eyes off his Savior as he’s led away, still in chains but somehow free.

So by mentioning that scene, I guess you could say that is my preferred way of God being depicted in Hollywood movies. It’s subtle but powerful and undoubtedly moving. I’d think that people who have no idea about God nor Christianity would be intrigued by the long-haired man in ragged clothing and why people react to him the way they did. Even without his face being shown, his presence is certainly felt and that’s truly one of the most memorable scenes in the entire 4-hour film. In fact, Ben-Hur is my Easter film of choice, yes even over Charlton Heston’s equally epic adventure The Ten Commandments. 

Truth be told, I felt that even with the sparse appearance of Christ in Ben-Hur, I was far more moved by those scenes than the entire film of Son of God. Now, as a Christ-follower, obviously I love films that glorify God and speak of His love for humanity. But even with the best intention of bringing the story to Jesus to mass audiences, the acting and dialog of the Mark Burnett’s film leave much to be desired and overall it just wasn’t as emotionally engaging as I had hoped. Cut from the TV-miniseries version of The Bible, the film was more of a Cliff-Notes chronicle of Jesus’ life. It also lacks any sense of mystique and grandeur, barely scratching the surface of His life on earth as uniquely extraordinary figure who’s both man AND divine. One of the main issue I had is with the portrayal of Jesus himself, which brings me to …

Christ Portrayal on Film

When we’re talking about how Christ is being depicted on film, it seems that Hollywood always subscribes to THIS classic drawing of Jesus that I often saw growing up in a Catholic household. Having seen Jesus of Nazareth and The Greatest Story Ever Told as a kid, Christ was always portrayed as tall and blue-eyed European figure. Slowly though, seems like Hollywood’s starting to concern themselves with authenticity, at least how the studio honchos see as authentic anyway. The latter portrayals of Christ is starting to look more Jewish, even Jim Caviezel wore prosthetic nose in The Passion of the Christ and had to wear brown contact lenses for the role.

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Jim Caviezel, Henry Ian Cusick, Diogo Morgado

But to me, it’s not just about what Christ look like that matters. There’s a delicate sensitivity combined with screen charisma required of any actor portraying Jesus. Out the three most recent feature film about Jesus: The Passion of the Christ, The Gospel of John and Son of God, Jim Caviezel‘s portrayal is my favorite. He has the right mix of otherworldly compassion, eternal wisdom and commanding gravitas as a leader. I often wish we got to see more of his portrayal in an extended look into Christ’ ministry instead of just the last 12 hours of his life. The brutal violence made it tough for me to revisit that film again, I was literally in agony watching it, it shook me to the core. But that was the point, Mel Gibson wanted to illustrate the extreme passion that Christ had for humanity, the length He went through to atone for the world’s sin, which was in line with what the Bible said about how Christ became horribly disfigured that he was barely recognizable as a human being.

GospelOfJohnDVDcoverAs for Henry Ian Cusick in The Gospel of John, I was skeptical about his casting at first as he seems too tough for the role. But he’s certainly got the charisma and screen presence, and portrays a more virile but also more relatable and approachable version of Christ. The adaptation itself was unique in that the dialog follows the Good News Bible, word for word, in sequential order from beginning to end. The excellent production quality + Cusick’s engaging portrayal made The Gospel of John my favorite Jesus feature film biopic so far.

In Son of God, we got a former Portuguese model Diogo Morgado, who despite his best effort is the least convincing of the three. He may look the part and has a serene and kind look about him but to me he lacks the gravitas and that effortless magnetism to make me believe he could inspire so many people to drop everything and follow him. His beatific smile seems more superficial and proved to be distracting rather than inviting.

So to answer Andrew’s question of

What movie/style is your preferred dip into the Bible?

I’ve already partly answered my question with Ben-Hur and the reason is the subtle way Christ is depicted actually made a greater impact as we saw how an encounter with Him changed a person life. At the start of the film, Judah Ben-Hur was not a believer and he became consumed with hate for Mesala after what he did to him and his family. Here we have a flawed man, just like the rest of us, being touched by God in the most unexpected way. Through a direct act of kindness (Jesus giving him water in his desperate hour), as well as seeing Him set an example of practicing what He preaches (forgiveness and loving one’s enemy) as Judah witness him being crucified, Judah’s heart is softened.

Judah Ben-Hur: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Esther: Even then.

Judah Ben-Hur: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.

We later see his mother and sister were also miraculously healed the day Jesus died on the cross. But even before that, Judah has already let go of his hatred, which is a miracle in itself. The film never overtly displays Judah’s conversion but his transformed heart is palpable and that is deeply inspiring. We’ve all struggled with faith at one point or another, and that to me makes Judah so relatable and his story made a lasting impression to me.

Bale_Moses_ExodusI think more than the style of how God is being depicted is the intent or the essence of the film in question. It’s not just about Christianity, it applies to other Deity being depicted on screen. I feel that a filmmaker ought to at least treat a story about God or faith with care even if they don’t believe in that viewpoint. That’s why I choose NOT to watch films that I feel is deliberately blasphemous (The Last Temptation of Christ, The Da Vinci Code) or show obvious contempt for the subject matter (Religulous).

So naturally I have mixed feelings about Biblical movies that are on the rise again in Hollywood. Creative license being taken is one thing, but taking something from the source material and turn it into something else entirely (i.e. Noah) is another matter. Just in time for Christmas, we’ll have Ridley Scott’s retelling of Moses leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt in Exodus: Gods & King. Well, according to this article, [Scott] has chosen an unconventional depiction of God in the film,” and in Total Film April issue, it’s said that Christian Bale as Noah is more Maximus type warrior than the Charlton Heston’s deliver in The Ten Commandments. So it seems God is to be overlooked once again in His own story [sigh]

So pardon the elaborate essay, but some of these topics have been on my mind for some time. So back to the burning question, my favorite depiction of God in cinema is the kind that presents Him in a respectful and authentic way. I don’t think the [borrowing Josh' statement here] ‘hit me over the head with your belief’ approach appeals to me and I don’t think it rarely inspire people anyway. Subtlety paired with firm conviction can work wonders and as with the case of Ben-Hur, it proves to be quite powerful. The genre itself doesn’t really matter to me, whether it’s a grand, sweeping epic or a small indie about someone struggling with their faith, what I’d like to see is a stimulating and thought-provoking story of how God relates to man that makes me pause and reflect on our own belief, whatever that may be.


So there you have it folks. I welcome any comment you may have, and feel free to give your own answer to Josh’s question on your preference of God being depicted in cinema.

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2014 Edition

FiveForTheFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. April Fools was just four days ago, man it seems like it was ages ago for Unbreakable_Postersome reason. Some of you caught the prank I pulled that day, and surely the interweb was full of fake news. One of them I read was this article listing three fake news stories we wish were real. One of those fake headlines says that M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable 2 Confirmed for 2015.

Per the article, ‘the studio indicated that the sequel will be set well after the events of the original film, and will follow Willis’ character as he learns more about his powers and the responsibility that comes with them.’ Oh man, if only that were true!! I’ve long been awaiting to see Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles, Unbreakable is my favorite M. Night’s film and one I’d wish to see a follow-up on. It’s been 14 years since its release and I still think it’d be worth revisiting the first truly *dark* superhero film.

Did you read any April Fools fake news you wish were real?
….

2. Switching gear to a superhero follow-up that’s been breaking box office record [pardon the pun]. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is poised to be the biggest movie of 2014 so far. According to Box Office Mojo, the Friday take of $37 mil would likely wind up to about $110 -$120 mil final weekend tally. I’m glad it’s doing well as I’ve said in my review it’s my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie yet, though I still have a special fondness for the first film.

MarvelStudiosFilms

Surely everyone’s going to have a different opinion on this. So, just for the heck of it, how about we rank 10 Marvel Studios movies from 2000, but only those involving character that appear in The Avengers. That means we’re NOT counting the X-Men movies, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, etc. Here they are alphabetically:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Hulk
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Iron Man
  6. Iron Man 2
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor
  9. Thor: The Dark World
  10. The Avengers

So how would you rank these 10 Marvel movies?

……
3. Right now I’ll be watching a bunch of indie films at MSPIFF  2014. One of them I sadly have to miss because of a scheduling conflict is Tom Hardy‘s LOCKE.

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A successful construction manager’s life is drastically changed by a series of phone calls while he drives.

Now this film that puts one actor in a confined location, more of a one-man-show for the entire film if we’re to judge from the trailer that I posted here. We’re only seeing Hardy as Ivan Locke as he takes a series of phone calls as he’s driving in a car, but boy is it gripping! I really think that the casting is what make or break this types of films, as that actor would have to be charismatic enough to hold our attention whilst seemingly not much is happening. As I’m a big fan of Hardy, naturally I’m intrigued.

My question is two fold: What do you think of Locke? And which actor would you like to watch in a similar confined setting like this one? 


4. Any casting news involving Chiwetel Ejiofor always makes me smile as I’ve been championing him for some time. Last time he was rumored in Star Wars also made a Five for the Fifth subject, if only that were true! Now as a massive Bond fan, of course this casting news piqued my interest!

ChiwetelEjioforBONDvillain

Seems that lately, or at least since Sam Mendes was on board, the new plan seems to be only to hire Oscar winners/nominees as Bond villain, ahah. In Skyfall we’ve got Oscar winner Javier Bardem, and now, Ejiofor is reportedly the top choice for Bond 24 which is currently in production. I’m definitely stoked if he were cast, though my initial thought was that fellow Black Brit Idris Elba would also make a great choice, given he’s got that devilish charm about him. I’ve never seen Ejiofor’s sinister side on screen before but I’m sure the massively talented actor is more than up for the task! With Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Harris returning, boy this is going to be one heck of a Bond cast. This might be the case where I’d love the villain more than the hero, ahah.

Thoughts on this casting rumor? Who would YOU like to see cast as Bond villain?

5. What a perfect segue to the last topic as we’ve got a former Bond villain in this one. I just backed this Kickstarter project ENEMY OF MAN, starring Sean Bean, Rupert Grint, James D’Arcy, Jason Flemyng and Charles Dance.

EnemyOfManMovie

Enemy of Man is an ambitious feature length retelling of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Macbeth.

This will be the feature directorial debut of actor Vincent Regan. I really like him in TROY and 300, I thought he gave one of the best performances in 300, as well as the most heart-wrenching. Regan is no stranger to Shakespeare, he’s a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare and National theaters. Sean Bean apparently played Macbeth on London West End and this gave him a chance to revisit the character for a larger audience.

All money raised from this campaign will go towards taking the film into pre-production. You can read the details on the Kickstarter link above as well as a preview to the teaser trailer. Below is Sean Bean talking about his involvement in this project:

This looks pretty promising and the talented British actors involved are quite underrated. I hope they’ll meet their goal and get this film made! As of right now, there is only 15 hours left and they still need about $33K to meet their goal.

Whether or not you choose to back it, what do you think of this project and the cast involved?


Well, that’s it for the APRIL 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Question of the Week: Which conspiracy movies would you recommend?

My hubby and I opted for home cinema this weekend. Specifically we’re catching up on 70s conspiracy thrillers in anticipation for The Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Huh? Well, if you’ve been reading articles about the sequel to the First Avenger, you might’ve read that the filmmakers have said that The Winter Soldier is essentially a conspiracy thriller. I’ve read here and other sites that directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo were influenced by the likes of Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View (check out our contributor’s Jack Deth’s in-depth review here) and Marathon Man. This article suggested 5 things to watch before watching The Winter Soldier and The Parallax View (1974) made an appearance again, as well as All The President’s Men (1976).

ParallaxView_AllPresidentsMen

Well, so we ended up watching both of those movies. All The President’s Men is on my Blind Spot list anyway, so it’s like catching two birds with one stone. I’ll have my review of that in the last Tuesday of this month. Both of these are directed by Alan J. Pakula within two years of each other. While both are excellent & thought-provoking conspiracy thrillers, I enjoyed All The President’s Men more as the pacing is a bit better. I’m just not as impressed with Warren Beaty (and his distractingly big hair) than w/ Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman, but both films are certainly worth seeing.

Now, I’ve always been a big fan of conspiracy thriller movies. On the top of my head, apart from the ones I’ve mentioned above, these are some of the best ones I’ve seen so far: The Conversation, State of Play (the 2009 movie), The Insider, The International, Michael Clayton, The Constant Gardener, No Way Out. I got some nice recommendations from this blog, and that’s just from the 70s!

Surely there are a bazillion out there I’ve missed out on, so in the spirit of recommendations between us movie fans, I ask you this:

What conspiracy movies have you seen that you’d highly recommend?

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2014 Edition

FiveForTheFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

VeronicaMarsPoster1. With March here, it’s the start of Spring movie season. Well, one of the eagerly-anticipated movie this month is Veronica Mars. I never watched a single episode of the show nor do I know how massively popular it was until I read their record-breaking Kickstarter campaign! Per IMDb trivia, it was the fastest project to reach $1 million and then the fastest to reach $2 million! It also got the most project backers (91,585) of any project in Kickstarter history!

The film itself was shot in 23 days, exactly 11 months later after the Kickstarter campaign was launched. Apparently the Kickstarter idea came from the meeting between Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas, who was the executive producer of the series and now directed the film, and Warner Bros. WB gave their blessing to the project and agreed to help distribute the movie, apparently they said, “if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board.” Well, they certainly did with $5,702,153 pledged of the $2,000,000 goal!

I’m curious which TV show’s Kickstarter project would you happily donate to?

……
2.  My hubby and I was catching up with trailers on our Apple TV and came across this indie thriller The Retrieval.

TheRetrievalPoster

On the outskirts of the Civil War, a boy (Ashton Sanders) is sent by a bounty hunter gang to retrieve a wanted freedman (Tishuan Scott) and bring him back to the South, but as they begin to form an unexpected bond, the boy must face a gut-wrenching decision.

The trailer looked quite gripping, but I like that it’s not just an action film with shootouts and chase scenes, but there seems to be an emotional story between the boy and the man he’s supposed to retrieve. The film by Chris Eska has won several film festival awards (including the White Sands International Film Festival), and Tishuan Scott won Breakthrough Performance Award at SXSW Film Festival last year. Looks like the young boy also turned in a good performance. Check out Terrence’s review from WSIFF last year.

So what do you think folks, intrigued?

3. I’t been quite a while since I’ve posted anything on Batman vs Superman. To be honest, I kind of tuned it out after Ben Affleck was cast, seems like it was ages ago. The casting sparks one controversy after another. It almost seemed that poor Henry Cavill‘s been all but forgotten in his own project, I mean when was the last time the news actually involved him?? So the latest casting news was Jeremy Irons is cast as Alfred [though I'd have been thrilled to see Timothy Dalton in the role], and we’ve got The Fast & Furious Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and The Social Network‘s Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. I read this article that Kevin Spacey, who played Lex in Superman Returns, endorsed Eisenberg’s casting, “I think [Jesse Eisenberg] is a remarkable actor. He’s just going to f**king own it. I think it’s a great idea and I wish him the best with it.” Check out these fan art of the two of them in the role:

WonderWoman_LexLuthor

Now of course we don’t even know if Luthor would actually be bald in this movie, given that Zack Snyder‘s been quoted as saying this movie’s “…not as tied to the mythology” in this recent LA Times interview. In the beginning of the interview, he went all geeky about the Batsuit and the Superman suit, and really who wouldn’t be considering the historical significance that for the first time, Superman and Batman would actually exist in the same frame together in the movies. I know there’ll be a plethora of fan art/posters of this flick, probably more than any other comic-book adaptations out there. This is one of my favorites of the ones I’ve seen:

BatmanVsSupermanFanPoster1

Back to the interview, this is how Snyder responded to the whole casting uproar: “… We know the material. Unfortunately, the fans don’t know the material. So, we’re casting according to what’s happening in the script … I understand the canon. I’m not crazy. I know what these characters need from a mythological standpoint.” 

Ok fine, the casting just might work fine, but this next quote is what really worries me: “[The movie] literally takes the “Man of Steel” and “Batman” universes and explodes them. You’re not as tied to the mythology.”

Heh, I sure hope he really does know what he’s talking about as right now, even as a huge Superman fan, I’m far less interested in seeing this flick as I ever was. I sure hope he doesn’t literally mean *exploding universes* the way he destroyed Metropolis to shreds in Man of Steel [face palm]. Apparently filming is supposed to start next month for this, so they’ve got about a year to shoot the film until it opens on May 6, 2016.

So what do you think about Zack’s latest quotes, are you still excited for this project?

4. Now what award season is over, I’ve got just one more *award* to talk about, but no worries this is a fun one that surely EVERYONE would have an opinion on. The 34th RAZZIE “Winners” have been unveiled!

RazzieAward

Fortunately I haven’t seen a single movie from the Worst Picture nominees: After Earth, Grown Ups 2, The Lone Ranger, A Madea Christmas and Movie 43. But still I was aghast to learn that Adam Sandler didn’t *win* a single Razzie, what what??! I’m saddened to see Naomi Watts was one of the nominees for Diana AND Movie 43, oh no!! But y’know what, even without seeing the movie, I’m super glad that Will and Jaden Smith won multiple awards.

AfterEarthPosterJaden was named Worst Lead Actor, and the combination of father & son, described in the ceremony as being “stranded on Planet Nepotism”, took the award for Worst Screen Combo! [per Razzie Press Release]

Are you happy with the Razzie *winners*? Who do you think should have been nominated?

VeronicaRothDivergent5. Now last but not least. Tomorrow I’ll be interviewing Divergent‘s author Veronica Roth, as well as cast member Ansel Elgort, as part of their press tour to promote the film. I’ve never interviewed an author before so I’m very excited.

Who hasn’t dreamed of having their literary work not just published, but being adapted into a movie! It made me think of which other authors I’d love to have the chance to interview about their work. Right of the bat I think of Jane Austen as she’s the one author whose work I’m most familiar with. As far as living authors, perhaps J.K. Rowling or Stephen King just to find out what makes them tick.

Now, my last question is, which author (living or dead) do you wish to interview, and what would your question be?


Well, that’s it for the MARCH 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Question of the Week: 80s/90s aging movie stars still in action – Love ‘em or Hate ‘em?

Tonight I’m going to a screening of 3 Days to Kill. Yes the trailer looks ridiculous and the director is McG so the likelihood of this being good is pretty slim. But y’know what, I’m still going to see it for the nostalgia factor as I quite like Kevin Costner as an action hero, whom I first saw in a spy thriller No Way Out in the late 80s. I’m dating myself here, but those who grew up in the 80s like I did likely remember these stars in their prime. Costner’s getting a career resurgence since winning a Golden Globe for his performance in the TV miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Interestingly, he’s only one of a slew of 80s/90s movie stars who’re still in demand in today’s movies.

3DaysToKill_NonStop

In fact, within a week of each other, 59-year-old Costner and 61-year-old Liam Neeson have a new movie coming out with each of them getting top billing. Both are action movies, which seem to be the genre these old, err seasoned movie stars get hired for, strangely enough. I just came across this NY Post article last night where I read about Neeson’s reaction why he took those action roles: “Because they’re dumb enough to offer them to me … It’s like, I’m 61 years of age. I mean, come on. It’s a joke. It’s like [mimes talking into phone], ‘How much? OK, I’ll be there.’” Ahah, you gotta love his honesty!

But hey, there are economic reasons why Hollywood would rather offer action roles to familiar names. That NY Post article also talked about how foreign audiences actually love ‘stars of immediate past’ and the universal appeal of an action adventure is easier to market than a decidedly more culturally-relevant comedy or drama. The Expendables 2 only grossed $85 mil domestically but made well over $200 mil in foreign markets total. Even the relative dud like Escape Plan with Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger which only earned a paltry $25 mil here in the US made over $100 mil in foreign markets. So they may be old but certainly not flat-lined yet at the box office.

There’s practically a new sub-genre of *aging stars in action* movies with a cast that pride themselves of being older, wiser and still very much bad ass. It has spun several successful franchises like Taken (Neeson’s vehicle), RED aka Retired Extremely Dangerous (Bruce Willis’ vehicle) and The Expendables, kick-started by Sly himself, easily one of THE biggest action heroes of all time, and starring the who’s who of 80s & 90s action.

Expendables3

The Expendables‘ strong point is truly in the cast [I've seen the first film, it's definitely NOT the script] and the possibilities seem endless. If you’re somewhat famous in the 90s and can still walk properly without a cane, there’s a chance Sly’d offer you a role [that is if you didn't demand $1 mil/per day pay check like Bruce Willis]. It turns out he IS expendable after all ahah, though he’s not exactly running out of work. This Summer he’s reprising his role as detective in Sin City 2, which guess what, opens just a week after Expendables 3 :D

So long as the demand is there, I think we can expect relative *young’uns* like Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp, who are in the early 50s or will hit it this year, would be around for at least another decade or so.


So what do you think folks? Do you wish these aging stars would retire already or are you loving the perpetual trend of aging stars in action?

Our casting picks for Robert Ludlum’s ‘The Parsifal Mosaic’ Film Adaptation

TedSaydalavongBanner

The recent news that one of Robert Ludlum‘s novels is getting a big screen treatment got me curious and excited. Ludlum is best known by movie goers for his Bourne series, which was one of the most successful spy franchise in Hollywood.

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It’s one of Ludlum’s better books and also with big name talents behind the scenes, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are producing while Chinese film director Yimou Zhang will be in charge of bringing the book to life; I do hope we get to see a great spy/action thriller without the names James Bond or Jason Bourne attached to it. Also, this will be Zhang’s first American-produced film, I wonder if he can handle the pressure of producing a tent pole type of picture without losing his artistic integrity. I know many foreign born film directors just couldn’t handle the work environment in the Hollywood system.

For this post I’m just going to gloss over the plot of the book, pretty sure it won’t be a direct adaption since the book came out in the early 80s and dealt with the current political climate at the time. I’ll also give my thoughts on who should be cast the main leads and how they can make the story more relevant to our current events. I read the book in college so it’s been a while, I’ll just go over the main storyline since I don’t remember much of it and don’t worry I won’t give out any spoilers, the book has lots plot twists.

The book starts out with an intelligence officer named Michael Havelock witnessing the execution of his partner and lover Jenna Karas in Costa Brava, Spain. Havelock works for the US black ops division called “Consular Ops”, think of the group as the IMF from the Mission: Impossible films or MI:6 in the James Bond flicks. Karas has been marked for execution because she’s apparently a KGB double spy. After witnessing this tragic event, he left the intelligence world and trying to find her killers and seek revenge. He traveled all over Europe and while in Rome, he met up with a top director of the KGB named Pyotr Rostov. Havelock wanted to know why the KGB decided to execute Karas but Rostov denied that she’s even an agent of the KGB. Later he saw Karas at a train station alive and well, but when she saw him, she looks frighten and flees before he can get close to her. He pursues her but she’s nowhere to be found. Now confused and angry, he decided to reach out to his intelligence colleagues so he can find her. While on this search for his lover, he got involved in some political conspiracies, which involves assassinations, shoot outs and everything you’d expect from a spy novel.

ZhangYimou_ParsifalMosaicThe book’s storyline is obviously out of date since it dealt with the cold war of the early 80s. So I’m curious to know how they’re going adapt it into a film that would fit into our current world events. Comparing to other of Ludlum’s books, this one was more a of suspense/romance/thriller than the other books he wrote, most of them were straight up action/adventure. As mentioned earlier, this will probably be Zhang’s first Hollywood film and I think he can incorporate his talents into this movie. He’s done a lot of dramas but also he can do action scenes. Although I don’t recall the book contains any huge action scenes like the Bourne series, but I’m sure the screenwriter will come up with something. After all I’m assuming this will be a $100 mil+ action summer flick. I do hope they make into something different than another James Bond or Jason Bourne rip off, like I said the book was more of a romance and suspense than straight up action thriller.

Casting wise, I would love to see they cast Richard Armitage as Haverlock, if you’ve seen the show MI: 5 or Spooks then you know he’ll be a perfect fit as a spy. But since this is a big budget production, I don’t know if his name is well known enough to get him an audition.

Ruth’s note:

It’s at times like this that I wish I were a casting director! I absolutely concur with Ted’s pick here (natch!) and we both agree that Armitage would make a fine Bond, the ultimate super spy.

I’m re-posting this badge I made for that Bond casting article [he's now 42]:

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I think the fact that he’s played Thorin in The Hobbit makes him a bit more well-known to mainstream US audiences (he’s pretty famous in the UK for his various BBC/Sky TV roles). Besides, I actually think that casting a non mega-star would work better for the role as there’s less *baggage* associated with a movie star.

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Richard as Lucas North in ‘Spooks’

It’s not just his brooding good looks that make me a fan, but Richard’s got an undeniable screen presence, versatility and that *tough guy with a heart* persona that would suit the romance angle here. I’m absolutely convinced Richard is more than capable to carry the role of Havelock, described per Wiki as “…an exhausted and embittered veteran operative … Brought over to the United States, he proved an invaluable operative for US intelligence.” So he’s basically a brilliant spy, not just an action guy, with a chip on his shoulder.

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Richard in ‘Spooks’ and as SAS soldier in ‘Strike Back’

Here’s a couple of clips from Spooks that prove he’s got the versatility for action as well as dramatic scenes.


Now, if they’re going to cast someone with more fame, then I think Hugh Jackman can play Haverlock. I just hope they don’t go with someone like Tom Cruise, I love Cruise but he’s already Ethan Hunt and Jack Reacher, so there’s no need for him to be consider for this role.

The book has a strong female lead and I would love if Rachel Weisz gets the role of Jenna Karas. If not her then maybe my current actress crush, Rachel McAdams.

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The main villain in the book is Arthur Pierce, described in Wiki as Ludlum’s most fearsome villains. I think Gary Oldman would be perfect. Oldman’s been playing too many good guys lately, I would love to see him as a villain again.

I’m a sucker for spy thrillers so I’m looking forward to seeing this book comes to the big screen. Of course a spy movie without the names James Bond or Jason Bourne is a hard sell, for example the latest Jack Ryan movie was a massive failure, so hopefully this one won’t suffer the same faith. Now since project is still in early stages, I don’t know if we’ll get to see it on the big screen anytime soon. I mean two other projects that are based on Ludlum’s books has been announced before and they’re still stuck in development hell. One of them is The Matarese Circle which MGM hired David Cronerberg to write and direct while Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise were attached as the leads. The other project is The Chancellor Manuscript which director Marc Forster acquired the rights to direct it and Leo Di Caprio was attached to star in it. Those are two good books that I would love to see the movie version but again they’re still stuck in limbo and I don’t know when we’ll get to see The Parsifal Mosaic. Hopefully sooner than later.


Have you read The Parsifal Mosaic? Whether you have or not, based on the info above, what do you think of our casting choice?

Five for the Fifth: February 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Whether you like it or not folks, movie franchise is a trend that’s here to stay in Hollywood, especially when it comes to the young adult demographic. As soon as a YA novel hits it big, you can bet a movie, no franchise is in the works.

So, let’s start this month’s edition with a trailer of another young adult franchise hopeful. In case you’ve never heard of this before, DIVERGENT is the first of a trilogy of books by a New York author Veronica Roth. Here’s the premise:

Beatrice Prior, a teenager with a special mind, finds her life threatened when an authoritarian leader seeks to exterminate her kind in her effort to seize control of their divided society.

Check out the new trailer just released yesterday:


Now, I barely remember what being a young adult feels like, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy this genre, i.e. The Hunger Games. I must say I’m more intrigued the more I hear about this dystopian actioner, looks like it has potential and I think that has a lot to do with the actress playing the young protagonist.

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I’ve only seen Shailene Woodley as George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants, in which she impressed me. I’ve also been reading rave reviews of her performance in The Spectacular Now, and she also has another indie drama in the works called The Fault of Our Stars. The 22-year-old seems to be *groomed* to be one of Hollywood’s next leading lady, and I think she has the chops. But what this film will attest is whether she can be a box-office draw. Kate Winslet lends some sophisticated menace as the film’s antagonist, whilst Theo James (another Brit who’s easy on the eyes) plays Woodley’s mentor/love interest.

Thoughts on DIVERGENT and/or Shailene Woodley as a leading actress?

……
2.  Switching gears to one of cinema’s biggest leading man Russell Crowe who’s trying his hand at directing his first feature.

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Per Variety, we’ve got the first look of The Water Diviner, which is filming in Australia and later in Turkey. Here’s the premise:

The film is set four years after the devastating battle of Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. Australian farmer Connor (Crowe) travels to Istanbul to discover the fate of his sons, reported missing in action, where he forges a relationship with the beautiful Turkish woman (Olga Kurylenko) who owns the hotel in which he stays. Holding on to hope, and with the help of a Turkish officer, Connor embarks on a journey across the country to find the truth about the fate of his sons.

Some of the supporting casts include Turkish actors and some relatively well-known Aussie actors like Jai Courtney (A Good Day To Die Hard) and Isabel Lucas (Immortals), hmmm not exactly screaming quality ensemble at this point, plus the executive producer is… Brett Ratner?? But y’know, I’d be willing to give Crowe the benefit of the doubt. If his directing skills is even half as good as his acting, it’d still be a decent film, ahah.

So what do you think of Crowe’s debut?

3. A pair of actor and director named Michael is having a birthday today.

Director Michael Mann turns 70 & British actor Michael Sheen turns 44.

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Some of you might know Michael Mann is one of my favorite living directors. He may not be the most prolific, having only done less than a dozen feature films, but he’s certainly one of the best. Heat, The Insider, The Last of the Mohicans and Collateral are some of my absolute favorite films. I’m looking forward to his mystery thriller Cyber starring Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis about what else, computer hacking. Apparently some of the filming locations include my native hometown Jakarta, according to this Indonesian article. Can’t wait to see that!

As for Michael Sheen, it’s interesting but two of the roles I remember him most are Tony Blair in The Queen and as a vampire breed Lucian in the Underworld franchise with his former wife Kate Beckinsale. He’s also memorable even in supporting roles like in TRON Legacy and Midnight in Paris. I still need to see Frost/Nixon, but I’ve heard he’s excellent in that one. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Far from the Madding Crowd, a drama directed by The Hunt‘s director Thomas Vinterberg.

What’s your favorite film[s] from each birthday fellow?

NicCage_pondering4. Good ol’ Nic Cage is always making the rounds in casting news. Hopefully his mountains of debts is getting shorter that he can finally make some decent films again. He’s reportedly in talks to do a heist thriller called Men with No Fear [per Deadline] Well it sounds right up his alley as Nic seems like the kind of *fearless* actor in that he doesn’t seem to care what people think, ahah. Here’s what it’s about:

The movie centers on Marty ‘The Mule,’ newly released from prison after being set up by his former boss Frank, a small-time neighborhood crook. While Mule was locked up, Frank went big time and became a ruthless drug kingpin. But Frank also took Mule’s most precious item — his son, raising him like his own. But now Mule is back on the streets and ready for revenge.

Bryan Singer is apparently producing this through his production company Bad Hat Harry. It doesn’t strike me as a challenging or career-making kind of role for Nic, but at this point, we can only hope anything is better than Stolen [facepalm]

What do you think of this casting news… or better yet, what role would YOU suggest Nic Cage to take on?


5. Now lastly, since Oscar is less than a month away… Morgan compiled a whole bunch of interesting Oscarama stats about what kinds of films get nominated by the Academy.

  • OSCARBestPictureEnvelopeComedy only makes 7% of the nominees
  • Romantic dramas really do seem to be popular with the Academy
  • Only eight foreign films have been nominated for Best Picture [Wish this year's one of them as The Hunt deserves to be in the main Best Picture category]
  • Once in a while, sequels do make it to the Oscars. These are the eight movie sequels that were nominated for Best Picture:
    Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
    The Bells of St. Mary’s
    The Godfather Part II
    The Godfather Part III
    The Silence of the Lambs
    The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    Toy Story 3
  • This is quite startling to me… 60 (or 11 %) of Best Picture nominees have been remakes.

Morgan came to an astute conclusion… The Academy doesn’t just like to keep nominating the same type of film, it likes to keep nominating versions of the same film.

Now, my last question to you are two-fold: Do you think Oscar should nominate more comedic films? If so, which ones do you think deserve to be nominated for Best Picture?


Well, that’s it for the FEBRUARY 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Guest Post: Fixed fee – Unlimited movies. The future of movies?

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today we’ve got a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Nostra from My Film Views. It’s a fascinating topic surely us moviegoers and film fans have an opinion about, so read on …

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The internet has changed our lives, not only in regards to being able to connect with people instantly or being able to shop online, but it has also changed the world around us. Some physical stores have seen the number of customers drop and were forced to close down. Two big examples are music stores and video rental places. It is possible to get your music and movie fixes without leaving your home and even on the move it is easy to get a couple of songs on the go through your phone. It has forced record labels into changing their model and the pricing for songs has changed. Although the movie industry was also forced to change I started wondering about pricing. In the past I already wrote about the death of DVD and Blu-Ray where I mentioned fixed fee services. For movies the obvious service to mention is of course Netflix where you can watch as many movies and TV shows you want for a price which normally might buy you one “new release” on DVD/Blu Ray.
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Some cinema chains have been paying attention as well. The biggest one in the Netherlands, Pathé, has an online offering of movies (still with individually priced movies though) but also has been doing a lot to make sure people keep visiting the cinema by organising special nights (for example one for women where they will have a small market where clothes and jewelry are sold) to make it more of an experience. It is not the only thing they do however. A couple of years ago they started offering Unlimited passes. Basically they work the same as Netflix does. They cost around 20 euros a month (depending which option you take) and what that allows you to do is visit the cinema as much as you’d like. So you could just go to the cinema in the morning and stay there all day seeing the movies you like. There is no limit and the cards even allow you to buy concessions for reduced prices (10 to 25% off the normal prices). It’s a great deal for both moviegoer, who can watch all the movies he/she wants and for the cinema as well as they have a fixed income and know when people come they will probably still buy some food or drinks.
The consumer wants to be able to choose what they watch. This is already possible with on demand services and there are also initiatives to introduce that for the cinema. I bet there are a ton of older movies you wish you could see at the cinema. “We Want Cinema” is a dutch platform which does just that. On their website they have a big selection of titles to choose from. You select one of the participating cinemas you would like to see the movie and then you will have to make sure enough other people also want to see that movie. If enough tickets are sold the movie will be programmed and you can enjoy the film on the big screen again.
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I’d like to imagine about a possible future of movies. What if you would combine these things where a cinema chain or something like Netflix would have a subscription form where you have an unlimited selection of films on demand and could also head to the cinema with that same subscription? It would be an awesome offer for movie lovers (for about 30 euros/40 dollar per month). The movie companies would be able to negotiate with the provider of the service about the pricing. Since both the online service and the cinema would be run by the same company this would also open up the possibility of simultaneous releases of new movies in the cinema and on demand. It would not matter where people watched their movies. An added extra for the movie companies would be that pirating of movies could decrease because people would be able to watch the latest movies immediately.

Add to that a special section in the online service to pick movies to see at the cinema, which makes promoting events like that and it easily something to get excited about. Unlimited movies for a fixed fee has already been partly-realised, but the future could be even brighter.

Well movie lovers, what do you think of this idea? 

Guest Post: Elysium, Her & The Nature of Science Fiction

Special thanks to Conor Holt for this post. Stay tuned for my full review of Spike Jonze’s her coming this weekend!


Well, this is awkward. Science Fiction is my favorite film genre, but in 2013 one of my favorite films of the year and my least favorite film of the year…are both Science-Fiction. How could this happen?

Well, let’s go back to the Science Fiction Genre. The Science-Fiction genre is one of the more difficult genres to define, since it lacks the same visual iconography & story structure of more concrete genres, like the Western or the Gangster film (if I can remember my Science-Fiction film genre class from college correctly). The Western features cowboys, saloons, shootouts – constant, common visual cues that you’re watching a Western. A Sci-Fi film, however, could feature a time machine, or take place on a space ship, or feature a robot – any and all visuals are possible. A Gangster film almost always features the tragic rise and fall of a criminal in the urban jungle, while a Sci-Fi film could be about changing the past, or fighting aliens, or about a robot learning to be human. Science-Fiction is defined by its very diversity – any time period, any technology, any idea is possible. The only requirement is that the story address and think about that possibility.  The “what if?” of the story isn’t just a jumping off point, but the actual crux of the story.

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So, back to 2013, and two very different films. Just a few weeks ago, I saw Spike Jonze’s her, and loved it. Absolutely loved it. A tender, beautiful love story between a man and his Artificially Intelligent computer program, and the complications that arise from that. But this Summer, I saw Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium …and there’s really nothing good I can say about it. Matt Damon does his best, but even he can’t save a severely underwritten, poorly-told, simplistic, heavy-handed action film with some robots and space ships thrown in.

Both of these films are technically Science Fiction, yet I had vastly different reactions to them. Why? Well, of course, no one is going to like every film in a single genre. Hell, not every film in a genre is even going to be good – there are probably thousands of terrible direct-to-DVD sci-fi films cluttering Redboxes across the country right now. But I think an important distinction can be made between her and Elysium that address the nature of science-fiction.  “her” is about how a man could love an AI, how an AI could love a human, and the challenges they face as a couple that cannot touch each other (as well as looking at an overall world immersed in virtual activity and communication). Elysium features a floating space station for the rich, brain chips, and fancy new weapons, but it’s about a man trying to break in to a restricted area to get healed by a magical healing machine (the film never tries to explain how it works). While her makes the technology and the “science-fiction” part of the story, Elysium uses the science-fiction setting and props to dress up an action film, and a pretty silly action film at that.

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Elysium Space Station

Maybe that’s it – the fact that Elysium pretends that it’s a Science-Fiction film, but is really an action film in Sci-Fi clothing is why I hated it so much, that and the fact that it’s a poorly written, hammy over-the-top failure (such a disappointment after the terrific District 9). Good Science-Fiction takes interesting questions about technology, human nature, outer space, and seeks to explore possible answers. They can be action-packed (The Terminator) or comedic (Wall-E) or head spinning (Primer), but they have to explore possibilities in a way only Science Fiction can.

Perhaps the solution to the broadness of the Science Fiction genre is being a little bit more selective about what gets to be called “Science Fiction”. The Action-Adventure genre can have Elysium – we don’t want it. In fact, they can have Gravity too. Gravity is a tremendous film, and one of the best of the year, but nothing about it is scientifically fictitious – everything in it is real, and it takes place today. It’s not Science Fiction – it’s a survival story on a space station.

Science Fiction is a special thing – a creative space for exploring new ideas, possible technologies, unpredicted futures. If other genres want to play around in this sandbox and borrow bits and pieces, that’s fine – but the distinction of “Science Fiction” should be held only by those who truly care about and are defined by their exploration of scientific possibility.

Thoughts about the Sci-fi genre and/or the films mentioned? We’d love to hear what you think!


Conor Holt is the writer, director, and producer of multiple short films. His most recent film, A Better Life, a science-fiction drama about marriage & control, which he directed & co-wrote, played at the 2013 Fargo Film Festival and the Twin Cities Film Fest, and recently won Best Editing & Visual Effects at the St. Cloud Film Festival. He is a graduate of the Minnesota State University Moorhead Film Studies program, and currently lives in Los Angeles, working odd jobs in the film industry and volunteering at film festivals.

For more information on A Better Life, check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/ABetterLifeShortFilm. Follow Conor on Twitter.