Weekend Roundup & Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Valentine’s Weekend is awesome this year as it’s a company holiday on Monday for President’s Day, who doesn’t love a three-day weekend right? Hope you had a lovely V-day wherever you are. It was super cold Saturday night so we opted for some scrumptious Thai take-out and watched Nightcrawler, that’s the kind of perfect *night in* for us. I’ll have my full review of the Jake Gyllenhaal film but suffice to say it lives up to all the great reviews I’ve been reading.

It’s not surprising that the Fifty Shades movie shatters box office record, though it’s kind of sad such a movie is so wildly popular. There is no way I’d ever subject myself to what Aussie anchor Lisa Wilkinson calls ‘domestic violence dressed up as erotica’ and I’m convinced her review is far more entertaining that the film:


I re-watched two of my favorite period dramas, Belle and Pride & Prejudice, and my love for both films just keep growing. I did go to the cinema Friday night to see Kingsman: The Secret Service and here’s my review:

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I have to admit that the first time I knew about this movie was from this cool poster I saw at a local cinema. It has no info of the director nor the cast but the visual of an elegant closet is so Bond-like and ever so British. But by the time the trailer came out I thought it looked a wee bit silly, and so it wasn’t until the positive reviews coming out that I was excited to see it.

Well, the movie is VERY British indeed, both an homage AND a spoof to the 007 movies, and as a fan of the genre, that definitely appeals to me. Refined British gent Colin Firth plays as one of the Kingsman agents, Harry Hart, who’s as proper as he is bad ass. The first act was basically him recruiting a replacement for his fellow agent who died on a mission in the Middle East. Harry (aka Galahad) owed his life to Lancelot (another code name inspired by British Knights) and thus he felt compelled to recruit his friend’s teenage son, Eggsy (Taron Egerton). The film moved along swiftly and director Matthew Vaughn infused it with tongue-in-cheek humor and a huge dose of riotous fun from start to finish. The whole sequence at a ski resort is very Bond-like, but think Roger Moore instead of Daniel Craig in tone, complete with a gorgeous female assassin wearing razor-sharp blades as prosthetic legs.

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Apparently this was based on a comic-book written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (the two also collaborated on Wanted). The story itself is actually pretty solid and not all about silly good fun. There’s a bit of a father/son bond between Harry and Eggsy, and a bit of a coming-of-age story in regards to Eggsy. During one of the intense Kingsman training, Mark Strong‘s character told him to ‘get rid of the chip on his shoulder,’ and Eggsy’s slowly coming into his own as the film progresses.

As the film’s master villain is Samuel L. Jackson, as internet billionaire Richmond Valentine that’s a heck of a lot more entertaining than Tomorrow Never Dies‘ lame media mogul Elliot Carver. He even has his very own henchwoman deadlier than Jaws & Oddjob combined, in the form of dark-haired beauty Sofia Boutella. Jackson is obviously having a good time playing Valentine. He speaks with an amusing lisp (which the actor apparently had in real life) and can’t stand the sight of blood. Of course he has to be some kind of a psychopath hellbent on *saving the planet* as it were, but in his own twisted way. It’s an interesting social commentary on how our addiction to our handphones just might lead us to our own demise. Apparently, the broadcast signal sent by Valentine to those hand phones cause people to become extremely violent.

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It’s yet another fun collaboration between Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class). This could very well be Vaughn’s version of a Bond flick, that is if the Bond producers would allow him to make a hyper violent R-rated film. I knew this would be violent but I didn’t know it’d be THIS violent, I mean there are some intense and extremely bloody fight sequences that made even John Wick seems tame. One sequence inside a church reminds me of this scene in 300 when Leonidas single-handedly fought all those Persians, but without the stylized slo-mo. I do think the foul language & violence are excessive, gratuitous and more graphic than it needs to be, even if the fight sequences are well-styled. There’s one crazy head-explosions scene that’s absolutely bonkers, set to the Pomp and Circumstance Marches no less! You can’t help but laugh in its absurdity and the fact that the filmmakers had the balls to do it. SPOILER ALERT: We’ve seen plenty of scenes of the White House exploding on screen, but never the Commander in Chief himself, especially one who is still in power!

I think what makes Kingsman works is its self-awareness and that it doesn’t to be a heavy movie. It’s ‘boys just wanna have fun’ type of flick, packed with wit, dry humor and of guns & gadgetry. The set pieces are great to look at, especially the Kingsman headquarter that resembles Drax’ mansion in Moonraker. And of course, those sleek, sharp suits that’s practically a character in itself. I saw Sam Jackson in a talk show the other day wearing one of the Kingsman menswear line that’s crafted especially for the film, dang that is some exquisite tailoring. It was fun seeing Mr. Darcy being so ridiculously bad ass here. I read that Colin Firth did most of his own stunts, which is quite impressive and somehow he still looked quite elegant doing it. “Manners maketh man” is his motto after all. I quite like newcomer Taron Egerton here as well, I actually think he might fit the role better than Kick-Ass’ star Aaron Johnson who was offered the role initially. It’s always nice seeing the always-reliable Mark Strong having a bit of fun here and there are also some amusing cameo from Mark Hamill and Michael Caine.

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Overall it’s definitely a fun spy flick that works in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Kingsman is gleefully over-the-top, relentlessly boisterous and unapologetically un-PC. If you’re a fan of Vaughn’s or Guy Ritchie movies, you should enjoy this entertaining twist of the spy genre. Though the ultra violence and some offensive content is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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So what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen Kingsman, what did YOU think?

Valentine Special – A Dozen Cinematic Romances We LOVE

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

DozenRosesMy blog buddy Cindy Bruchman and I have been thinking about collaborating on a post and since V-day is around the corner, we decided on a topic about cinematic love stories that are dear to our hearts.

We’re talking about films that has a love story that we often revisit again and again because it touches us in a way that no other love stories did. It doesn’t even have to be a romantic film, as love stories can exist within a variety of genres.

So here are six picks from each of us… 

Cindy’s Picks:

The love stories in film which have lodged in my heart bear a similar theme. I have agonized with the characters and felt their pain. Yes, infatuation and adoration is quaint, but love is complicated. Dark. Painful. Unrequited. Denied. Disappointing. A conglomerate of emotions, it brings out the worst and best in you. I salute everyone who has experienced and survived love. It truly is all you need and what the world needs now.

Here are my favorite six films about love:

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel, The Age of Innocence, features Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer at their best.  For years, I contemplated why, oh why, didn’t Newland Archer claim Ellen Olenska for his own when he was finally free to do so? It took a couple of decades, but now I understand.

1. He was devoted to convention. Here the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” applies.

2. The beauty of her and their love was pure, avoiding time’s tarnishing power. In his mind, their love lived on in glorious perfection complete with reciprocating passion and submission. To resume would pop that vision he nurtured for decades. Oscar Wilde would have approved the ending.

The Painted Veil (2006)

Another satisfying adaptation, this W. Somerset Maugham’s tale of married couple, Kitty and Walter Fane, who travel great distances emotionally and physically, come together as companions and experience selfless love. It’s a film where feelings go backwards from discontent to liberation. The power of love and their “falling” is as beautiful as the film’s location in rural China.

West Side Story (1961)

This Romeo and Juliet version set in NYC is timeless. Jerome Robbins’s direction/choreography and Leonard Bernstein’s score have never been bested, and I doubt a picture will ever capture the energy and the dark side of love between ethnic rivals, the Jets and Sharks, as did the 1961 film version. Maria comes of age as the Puerto Rican sister whose brother is gang leader of the Sharks. By the film’s end, she is a woman who understands that the merging of two people with all its dimensions create a new entity. With the strength of two, life isn’t so scary anymore. God gives his glowing approval through the cross paneled window at the mock wedding. I love the simple harmony of this duet. And of course, the prophesy, “Only death can part us now.” Where’s my Kleenex?

Notorious (1946)

Oh, poor misunderstood, Frau Lieberman. Devlin, you idiot, taking so long to realize her love for you was true and you loved her back. This is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

I reckon it’s the musical score and the clifftop scene that makes me ache for Lizzie. Two lovers in denial eventually need a walk at dawn’s early light to come face to face and honor each other. Mr. Darcy is perfect. So is Keira Knightley. Did I mention the score?

The Notebook (2004)

Okay, I know it’s sentimental beyond belief, but it’s the James Garner and Gena Rowlands story that has me bawling, for at the end of your life, I predict all that matters is that your true love was there by your side. Even when dementia kicks in. I can’t imagine a more heartbreaking, yet fulfilling ending to a life than knowing one experienced that type of love. How proud one would feel knowing it!

My thanks to Ruth at Flixchatter for pairing up with me on Valentine’s Day. Love, love, love.


Ruth’s Picks

Romance at the movies are perhaps rosier than they are in real life. But the ones that often leave a lasting impression are the ones that love stories that aren’t the happy-ever-after variety. As Cindy said above, love is indeed complicated. But don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not worth it. The struggle these couples go through moved me to tears, more so than a lot of other movie romances I’ve seen over the years. Some stories have such an enduring quality, and will likely be my lifetime favorites. Some of them are my picks of unconventional love stories I posted five years ago, but I had to include two films I saw last year, two VERY different love stories that has to overcome various barriers.

Sense & Sensibility

It’s no surprise to people who read this blog how much I adore this movie. Many of the main characters suffer for love, but none more so than Col. Brandon and Elinor, both are so tormented for their feelings for Edward and Marianne respectively. If there’s a love story that exemplifies 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that’s often-quoted at weddings, it’d be THIS. Neither Brandon nor Elinor wallowed in self pity, and their love is patient, kind and not self-seeking. THIS scene is why Brandon is one of my favorite period drama heroes:

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There are many memorable quotes from the film but this one never fails to move me to tears whenever I watch that scene…

“…It is bewitching in the idea of one’s happiness entirely depending on one person”

A Walk in the Clouds

I know most of you probably scoff when you see Keanu Reeves as the lead but then you’d be missing out. Aside from all the bad ass sci-fi and action flicks, Reeves make for a pretty convincing romantic lead, too. Here he plays a soldier on the way home from war to be with his wife when he bumps (literally) into Victoria Aragorn on a bus, a woman who’s pregnant out of wedlock. Paul offers to pose as her husband after she tells him her traditional father would kill her if he knew her condition. There’s a warm chemistry between him and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, and there’s a palpable earnestness in Keanu that sweeps me off my feet. I doesn’t hurt that the film is set in the lush and romantic scenery of the Napa vineyards. Victoria aptly refers to it as ‘the clouds’ as it definitely gets you in head-in-the-clouds frame of mind.

Somewhere in Time

There’s a bit of the hopeless romantic in me and this fantastical time-travel love story gets me every time. It’s always best to have a box of tissue handy whenever I watch this film as it just moves me to my core. He’s most famous for playing Superman, and he shall always be my favorite in that role, but this one shows Christopher Reeve‘s also a capable romantic lead. Reeve’s a playwright who fell in love with a photo of a beautiful actress in the Grand Hotel gallery, he used a self-hypnosis method to transport himself to 1912. The way he looked at Jane Seymour always took my breath away, and you just ache for them to be together. John Barry’s sweeping score is as beautiful as it is haunting, practically woven into the plot that it’s impossible to separate the music from the movie. There’s not many film as unabashedly romantic as this one, its melancholic tone is part of its charm.

Belle

Oh how I love LOVE this film… it’s just sweepingly beautiful. One of the things I love about this film is the heartfelt love story that developed between Belle and her family’s vicar’s son, John Davinier. Gugu Mbatha-Raw‘s affecting performance is deeply moving that I long for her to find happiness she deserves. Both Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid have such a scorching chemistry that made for some breathless moments. The strict societal norm was made even more convoluted by the fact that Belle was a Black woman living in an upper class British society under Lord Mansfield’s care, so naturally that was a major hurdle for them.

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I love their passionate convictions and their longing for each other is heart-wrenching. That scene when John carefully touched Belle’s hand by the window… and that night when he suddenly pulled her close in the garden… oh be still my heart. At one point, John was so overcome with emotions that he yelled to Mansfield that he loves her, with every breath he breathes… it  I always feel a lump on my throat every time I watched it.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It’s too bad this film was barely marketed as it’s a beautiful and poignantly-moving look at love and loss. I don’t want to give anything away but what I can say is how the film is grounded in realism and excellently portrayed by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. I could almost feel their heartache. Their agonizing pain was so unbearable that one of them resorted to drastic measures. But it’s also an affecting depiction of not giving up on love and the belief that it could overcome even a seemingly insurmountable grief. There is a scene of McAvoy alone in a long-abandoned apartment that moved me to tears and later joined by Chastain. The way they conveyed such deep emotional heartbreak felt so real and it made me think how I’d react if I were in their shoes. I pictured how my own friends would be in such a situation, that’s how involving the story was.

Roman Holiday

One of the best classic rom-coms ever, Roman Holiday just never gets old. I posted my 59 reasons I love this movie already, I love how it manages to be fluffy & playful but also deep & heart-wrenching. True love is transformative and sacrificial… Joe Bradley went from the rogue-ish, self-serving reporter to the sincere, compassionate, love-stricken man who no longer had it in him to sell the Princess story for his own gain.

A recent Thursday Movie Pick series was on the topic of unrequited love – and this is one of them that sprang up to mind.

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Source: Pinterest

Oh this finale gets me every single time. It’s absolute perfection in its depiction of unrequited love… Perfect in its elegant simplicity… quiet yet packs such an emotional punch. I don’t think I’ve ever loved Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck more than in this very scene, followed by THAT walk of Peck’s character… alone as everyone else’s left the building, there’s sadness in his eyes but you [hope] there’s a hint of contentment that he’s done the right thing.

 


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Hope you enjoyed our picks of cinematic love stories! Now tell us which movie romances left you breathless ;)

Guest Post: Sundance review of Z for Zachariah

Special thanks to Iba from I Luv Cinema for her Sundance review!

ZforZachariah1Boy the things you learn when you decide to just hop in and catch a film. For instance, I did not know that there was a source material to this three-hander, post-apocalyptic drama. Z for Zachariah, directed by Sundance veteran Craig Zobel, is based on the same-named sci-fi novel written (and published posthumously) by young adult author Robert C. O’Brien. With a big screen adaptation penned by Nissar Modi, the film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie and Chris Pine. Yup, that is it. No one else. So you better like them, because for the duration of the film’s 95 minute running time, they (and a dog) are all we have to entertain us.

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From jump, we know something is horribly wrong, as the world (or at least this part) appears to have gone to waste. However, among these ruins, we also land in an ‘Eden” – a spot that seems untouched by the chaos. Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) is our guide through these landscapes. She is alone, that is until she comes across Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a scientist, who until fairly recently, has lived underground. Circumstances will necessitate that they work together to build a life; I mean, really it makes sense that when you find someone, they should become an ally. Or will they? Because just as we get comfortable with these two and the bond they are forming, in walks Caleb (Chris Pine) an enigmatic crasher to their party of two. Immediately tension enters our idyllic hideaway as the two men contend for Ann.

In a slight deviation from the source material, I find it interesting that the filmmakers decided to essentially split the Loomis character from the novel into two people. In doing so, it ratcheted up the tension, thus creating a post-apocalyptic love triangle. This definitely presents an interesting dilemma for her as she sees these two men essentially duking it out for her as the prize. They could not be any different in their approaches – there is the soft, slow burn of her relationship with Loomis starkly contrasting the raw urgency of her interactions with Caleb.

ZforZachariah2Aside from romantic complications, we also have before us a story with heavy biblical references; set in a paradise (lost) of sorts, there is a Cain versus Abel-like battle waging between the two men. Oh well, maybe it’s just me …

Overall, I would say Z for Zachariah was an interesting cinematic exercise. If you are a lover of a well-crafted love story set in the blight of an apocalyptic fallout, I suggest you take a look-see. It is indeed beautifully shot and well acted. In fact, the film did hold my attention until that very (ambiguous) end – which when you think about it, maybe was not so ambiguous after all …

It is ultimately up to us to decide.

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Review by Iba
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What do you think of this film? Are you keen on seeing it when it’s released near you?

Birthday List Update: Favorite Films from Each Decade I Live Through

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Today I’m moving up the age bracket. I’m taking the day off because well, it’s my ME DAY and sleeping in is one of life’s greatest joys ;) Well, four years ago I did this list of favorite movies from the past three [full] decades I’ve lived through, so basically from the 1980s to 2000s. Looking at the list, not much has changed from the 80s and 90s, but I did update my 2000s list, swapping out about 5 or so movies from my list as I’ve seen more films since 2011.

Again these are a personal FAVORITE list, not a Best Of list necessarily though I’d argue that some of these are excellent classics.

1980s (in order of release)

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  1. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
  2. Somewhere in Time (1980)
  3. Superman II (1981)
  4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  5. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
  6. The Living Daylights (1987)
  7. The Untouchables (1987)
  8. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
  9. Licence To Kill (1989)
  10. The Little Mermaid (1989)

 


1990s (in order of release)


  1. Beauty and The Beast (1991)
  2. Jurassic Park (1993)
  3. The Age of Innocence (1993)
  4. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
  5. Speed (1994)
  6. Heat (1995)
  7. Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  8. L.A. Confidential (1997)
  9. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  10. The Matrix (1999)

 


2000s (in order of release) 

This decade is when I REALLY started watching more and more movies and saw them with different eyes, even though I didn’t start blogging until 2009. It’s agonizing to narrow them down to 25, let alone just 10, so I decided to just make it a Top 25. It’s interesting how my love for animated movies is quite persistent, as well as my taste in actors. There are three films starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale (including one with both of them together) and hey, two Gerard Butler movies still made my favorite list ;) We’ll see if he’d ever do a worthy film to be included in my future list. I own 15 out of the 25 films listed below, most of them have been re-watched repeatedly.

Here they are in order of release:

  1. Chicken Run (2000)
  2. Gladiator (2000)
  3. Moulin Rouge (2001)
  4. Minority Report (2002)
  5. Finding Nemo (2003)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  7. Love, Actually (2003)
  8. Master & Commander (2003)
  9. X-2: X-Men United (2003)
  10. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  11. Phantom of the Opera (2004)
  12. Unbreakable (2004)
  13. Batman Begins (2005)
  14. Dear Frankie (2005)
  15. Casino Royale (2006)
  16. Children of Men (2006)
  17. The Painted Veil (2006)
  18. The Prestige (2006)
  19. Stranger than Fiction (2006)
  20. Atonement (2007)
  21. Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  22. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  23. The Dark Knight (2008)
  24. Wall•E (2008)
  25. District 9 (2009)

2010 and beyond…

Now, we’re only about halfway through the decade, so I’m only comprising half of my top 20. I’m curious which of these will make my final 2010s list five years from now :D

  1. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
  2. Inception (2010)
  3. X-Men: First Class (2011)
  4. Midnight in Paris (2011)
  5. Brave (2012)
  6. Skyfall (2012)
  7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  8. Gravity (2013)
  9. Her (2013)
  10. Birdman (2014)
  11. Belle (2014)
  12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  13. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

 


So folks, what do you think of my picks? What are some of your favorite movies in the past four decades?

FlixChatter Review: JUPITER ASCENDING (2015)

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This film was supposed to open in the Summer of 2014, but Warner Bros’ delayed it to give more time for post-production work. Heh, clearly they’re far more concerned with all the CGI extravaganza as what the film needed more is a script rewrite. I already had a bad feeling about this even from the unintentionally hilarious trailers. They included the dialog where Channing Tatum said he had more in common with dogs than humans, especially a supposed royalty, to which Mila Kunis replied, “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs.” Well, at least they’re consistent as the movie is as dreadful as the promos.

The entire film is a discombobulating and farcical mess, but what’s more baffling is the claim by The Lana Wachowski – as well as several bloggers on Twitter – that this is an *original* sci-fi. Huh?? What originality? The ‘chosen one’ type of plot is rehashed from stuff the Wachowskis themselves have done better with The Matrix, as well as a bunch of other sci-fis. Self-plagiarism isn’t uncommon among filmmakers and I’m fine with it if it actually improves on their previous work.

JupiterAscending_MilaChanningIn any case, the movie opened with the protagonist, Jupiter Jones’ narration about her life story and how she ended up being a cleaning lady in Chicago. Her late dad was an astronomer, hence the name, and a tragic event prompted her family to migrate to America. A lowly beginning to be sure, and she claimed repeatedly how she hated her life. But of course we know that’s not really her *destiny* as in a planet far, far away, three royalty siblings with a name that sounds like some household cleaning product, Abrasax, talk about claiming earth as their own now that their mother’s died. So apparently, their planet consumes earth’s resources in a process called planetary harvest, which basically is an extensive form of genocide in order for the aliens to live forever.

The first act is a long exposition telling us why Jupiter is special and why there are intergalactic bounty hunters as well as an army of weird-looking aliens are after her. But no fret, we’ve got an eyeliner-wearing man-wolf hybrid Caine Wise (Tatum, sporting a goatie & elven ears) with his anti-gravity boots to save the damsel in distress. The action sequences are cool for the first five minutes at best, but it long overstayed its welcome that it became aggravating. Cool visuals can only entertain you for so long when we barely care about the characters and their journey. So apparently Jupiter shares the same DNA sequence as the Abrasax’s late mother and that makes her special as she’s also heir to the throne and could potentially rule earth.

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This is a space opera at its most bloated and risible. It’s full of weird-looking space creatures which are humans cross-bred with elephants, alligators, etc. but they all seem to speak with British accent of course. All of them report to Balem (Eddie Redmayne), who should win a Razzie for the most annoyingly over-the-top performance, as an androgynous looking *royalty* could only whisper or scream and nothing in between. Redmayne seems to take this role way too seriously, but all the theatrical antics prompts grimace and laughter every time he’s on screen.

The protagonists fare slightly better, thought that’s not saying much really. I have to hand it to Mila Kunis, she’s not a particularly strong performer but she always comes across genial and earthy. She’s effortlessly likable though she appears mystified for much of the movie. Channing Tatum is pretty much hired for his physical prowess, as he appears shirtless for a good chunk of the time. He has zero chemistry with Kunis and he kind of has this constipated look throughout, perhaps thanks to the mouthpiece he had to wear during filming (per IMDb trivia) Heh, why they put an actor through that if it had absolutely zero purpose for his character arc nor the story as a whole??

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Poor Sean Bean as Tatum’s friend from his military days didn’t have much to do here other than offering more exposition and saying lines like ‘Bees don’t lie.’  Oh brother! I think this tweet pretty much sums up how I feel about his involvement:

It also pains me to see Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a half human/deer mutation who serves as Balem’s aide. I sure wish Hollywood would recognize talent when they see them. Douglas Booth looks like he could be Redmayne’s prettier younger brother, but both he and Tuppence Middleton who formed the three Abrasax siblings are pretty much fillers. But then again, what can you expect from the supporting characters if the main protagonist doesn’t even have an arc? It may seem like there’s theme of female empowerment here but Jupiter mostly plays a passive role in her own *destiny* [yawn], as she’s whisked away from one strange place to another.

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This movie would’ve probably been slightly more palatable if it had a sense of humor. There are several attempts at it, like Jupiter using a sanitary pad to patch Caine’s wound, ewww gross!! The only true comical moment is the whole bureaucracy process Jupiter has to go through, kind of like an administrative immigration procedure if you will, with Terry Gilliam‘s cameo. I didn’t realize it was him until later and I read that it was an homage to his fantasy satire of bureaucratic society, Brazil.

This is the Wachowskis’ third under-performing film in a row after Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas (which I actually quite like). I doubt they could easily get the kind of astronomical budget like this one ($176 mil), as they’d likely struggle to make half of that given the mere $19 mil opening weekend. Heh, no amount of money and crazy CGI-fest can camouflage a terrible story.

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Final Thoughts: Yet another style-over-substance sci-fi in the vein of Elysium which also boast some arresting space imagery. The costumes, especially Mila’s dresses, are gorgeous and the design of the planetary universe and spaceships are imaginative, if only they’d invest the same care to the story and characters. It amounts to one big dumb flick, not really a step up from those Transformers movie. Now, some dumb action flicks can still be entertaining but to add insult to injury, this movie is also quite boring, and the bombastic action/chase scenes just dragged on for far too long. I guess this one *lives up* to the reputation of being released in Hollywood’s dump month of February. Suffice to say it’ll likely end up in my worst list of the year.

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Well, what are YOUR thoughts about Jupiter Ascending?

Weekend Roundup: Quick thoughts on BAFTA 2015 + review of Predestination

Happy Monday everyone! Well it’s quite a busy weekend for me but I got to see two new-to-me movies, yay. I also got two reviews done on Sunday, so expect to see a review of Jupiter Ascending tomorrow.

BAFTA

Here are my top five things I’m happy about from 2015 BAFTA Awards:

  • Emmanuel Lubezki winning Best Cinematography for Birdman
  • The LEGO Movie winning Best Animated Film
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel winning Best Original Screenplay
  • Citizenfour winning Best Documentary
  • Alexandre Desplat winning Best Original Music for The Grand Budapest Hotel

But really, who cares about the winners, check out these dreamy guys at the BAFTAS ;)

Ehm, okay so Boyhood wins big at the BAFTAS including Richard Linklater winning Best Director. But hey, Alejandro González Iñárritu won Best Director at Directors Guild Award so there’s still a chance Birdman comes out on top come Oscar. Boy the race is REALLY neck and neck between the two movies. Both has the same one-word title with exactly six letters too, that’s gotta be a first. The THE EE RISING STAR AWARD went to Jack O’Connell whose work I still need to see. It’s a bummer that Gugu Mbatha-Raw didn’t win but I hope one day she’d win an actual BAFTA!



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The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

I was intrigued to see Predestination as I was impressed by the Spierig Brothers’ previous film Daybreakers. It offers a novelty twist to the popular vampire genre and this time, they tackled another popular Hollywood theme, time travel. This is my impression after I saw it:

I’m not going to say much about the plot as the less you know about it the better the experience. All I’m going to say is that it’s based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies. I thought at first there’s some similarities to Minority Report about the preventing-a-future-crime from-happening plot, but the story is completely different. In fact, it makes that Spielberg film seems more straight-forward if you can believe that. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey.

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Hawke is solid here once again, as he was in Daybreakers. I always think he’s an underrated actor as though he’s not the most charismatic actor but he’s always reliable. There’s something soulful about his performance and he’s not afraid to show his vulnerable side. But it’s Snook who’s quite a revelation here. I’ve never seen the Aussie actress before but she is absolutely astounding. It also helps when she’s given a strong character arc here, and she tackled her role as The Unmarried Mother, which is the name of her magazine column she writes for. It’s quite a complex role with multiple layers but it’s so rewarding to see how she tackles each one convincingly and with so much heart.

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There’s also Noah Taylor as the enigmatic Mr Robertson but for the most part, the story revolves around Hawke and Snook’s characters. This film will leave you scratching your head, as most stories dealing with time travel paradox often do. But how the plot unravels is captivating, keeping you guessing whilst you try to grasp just what you’re actually witnessing.

If you like sci-fi AND time travel movies, this one is a must-see. The cinematography and art direction is wonderful, featuring unique camera angles and excellent production design. It’s impressive considering the relatively tiny budget (about $5 mil according to Deadline, as it’s part of a three-picture deal worth $17 mil). It’s another proof that one doesn’t need an astronomical budget to tell a good story. I’m curious to see what the Spierig brothers will tackle next!

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So what did YOU see this weekend? Anything good?

In with the New BLOGATHON: 4 remakes we think are better than the original films

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Happy Weekend everyone! Today I’m participating in Wendell’s In With the New Blogathon, and here’s the gist of it from Dell himself:

In movies, we tend to look upon the new version of things with disdain or, at best, cautious optimism. By new version, I am of course talking about remakes and re-imaginings. Let’s be honest, we have good reason to be skeptical of these movies. They often pale in comparison to the original. Every once in a while, though, one comes along that blows its predecessor out of the water.

I think remakes that are better than the originals are still uncommon, but here are four films my pal Ted S. and I think are on par or better than the original. Anyway, the two films that Ted picks are taken from this previous post that compares remakes from their originals.

Ted’s Picks:

Man on Fire

1987 Original: Speaking of Tony Scott, he was actually set to direct this film way back in the 80s but at the time he was still new in the industry, so the studio didn’t want him to take over the project. They let some French director named Elie Chouraqui do the film instead. The original starred Scott Glen as Creasy and Joe Pesci as David, his character is that of Christopher Walken’s in the remake. I saw this version years ago at the recommendation of Quentin Tarantino, he loves the film and can’t stop talking about it while he was promoting Pulp Fiction. To be honest with you, the film wasn’t that good. The first 30 minutes or so was hard to sit through, but the rest of the film was pretty decent. The film was badly directed and acted, especially Joe Pesci, he was quite awful in the film. Also it was a very low budget film so it looked very cheap.

2004 Remake: So 17 years later, Tony Scott was finally able to make the film he wanted to do years back. He has more prominent stars with Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken, and a bigger budget. The remake is pretty much the same as the original, except this one took place in Mexico while the original was set in Italy. Also the remake was much more violent and since it cost $70mil to make, so the action scenes were bigger and louder than the original.

 

Infernal Affairs/The Departed

2002 Original: The original version from Hong Kong was a very slick and cool thriller, and I knew Hollywood would do a remake of it right after I saw it back in early 2000s. In fact, Brad Pitt bought the rights to the film after he saw it and was going to star in it himself but he decided to just be the producer. The film was very fast paced with great cinematography and a cool soundtrack. To me though, the film didn’t spend enough time on character development, so we didn’t really know about them all that much. The women in the film were simply there just for eye candy purposes and the main gangster (Nicholson’s character in the remake) was played by a very weak actor.

2006 Remake: So the remake is pretty much the same as the original plot wise with the exception of the ending, I wouldn’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen either the original or the remake. In my opinion, the remake did a better job when it comes to developing the main characters, we know more about them and their motivations as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. Of course it helps a lot when it was directed by the master Martin Scorsese and the fact that Jack Nicholson played the Irish gangster.

 


Ruth’s Picks:

The Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail

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1940 Original: I saw this movie a year ago or so, and given that I like Jimmy Stewart, I was prepared to be wowed by it. Well, it didn’t quite make an impression to me as much as had hoped. I find it odd that the film was set in Hungary and Stewart playing Hungarian, and that fact didn’t really add much to the story. The beginning the story was more about the various human relationships of the store in that gift shop. Stewart was okay here, but I personally prefer him in other films. There’s not much chemistry between him and Margaret Sullavan either, and so when they ended up together, it wasn’t emotionally involving. It’s not a bad movie per se, and I’m glad I saw it, just not something I’d ever see again.

1998 Remake: It’s loosely based on the same story, with some technological changes of course, it’s email vs letters, and in the remake, the characters are more of a business rival. I really think that the pairing of Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan (the queen of rom-coms back then) made the movie for me, and Ephron infused the story with such wit and irony that it’s such a delight to watch this one repeatedly. Of course the technology is so dated, it’s hilarious to hear that modem sound and that cutesy ‘you’ve got mail’ icon, but I think the story still holds up. I also love the two supporting cast here: Parker Posey and Greg Kinnear as Hanks’ girlfriend and Ryan’s boyfriend, respectively. It also boasts one of the loveliest New York City scenery in a movie.

Sabrina

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1954 original: I also saw this film years after I saw the remake. Now people might say that usually we prefer films that we saw first and be that as it may, the original has one of my favorite classic actresses of all time: Audrey Hepburn. So she was really the main draw for me here, yet I didn’t really like her in this role as much as I had hoped. Similar to how I felt about Stewart, I prefer her in other films of similar genres, i.e. Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady. Well for one, Hepburn never really looked that shy or awkward to me nor did she come across as being desperate despite the attempted suicide scene. Now, suicide is obviously a dark subject matter but here it comes across rather silly and Sabrina seems like a petulant girl who’s upset things don’t go her way instead of someone who’s deeply brokenhearted. I also feel that Humphrey Bogart, who was three decades older than Hepburn, looked old enough to be her dad so their scenes are kind of creepy. William Holden was fun to watch as the rich playboy David but I too feel there’s not much chemistry between him and Hepburn. I still enjoyed the movie, but I expected more from Billy Wilder.

1995 Remake: I absolutely adore this movie the first time I saw it years ago, and I’ve seen it countless times since. I really connected with Sabrina Fairchild right from the start and Julia Ormond might not have the movie star charisma as Audrey Hepburn, but she more than made up for that in earnestness. I like how Sydney Pollack made her look plain, almost like an ugly duckling in the beginning, as she watched David with googley eyes from a tree. There is something so beguiling about Sabrina’s vulnerability here that I didn’t find in the original, and her narration really helps me get into her character’s head. Harrison Ford might seem like unlikely casting here but I actually really like him in the role of Linus, he’s such a contrast to the charming rascal younger brother David, played with such wonderful comic timing by Greg Kinnear. Ford was actually two decades older than Ormond but somehow it didn’t feel creepy as Ormond looked far more mature than Hepburn. I love everything about this movie, the look, the setting, the supporting cast (especially all the servants in the Larrabee’s mansion) and the absolutely gorgeous music by John Williams.

 


What do you think of our picks? Let us know in the comments!

Five for the Fifth: FEBRUARY 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary 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.

I don’t know if any of you noticed, but I missed posting Five for the Fifth last month due to all the holiday and year-end recap craziness :\ But now it’s baaack!

1. First off, I want to highlight one of my favorite character actors who’s as constantly prolific as he is proficient: Tom Wilkinson. The English-born actor turns 67 today.

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He appeared in three films that end up in my top 10 of the year: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Belle and Selma. I honestly don’t know when I first spotted Mr. Wilkinson, it might’ve been his brief appearance as Mr. Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility (1995) but he’s been churning out excellent performances since, always impressive even in the smallest roles. It’s interesting that he’s played a lot of prominent American historical characters, i.e. Benjamin Franklin in John Adams, Joe Kennedy Sr in The Kennedys— both are TV miniseries — as well as  Lyndon Johnson in Selma. If I had to pick three of my favorite Tom Wilkinson’s performances, I’d say it’s Michael Clayton, The Patriot and Belle.

So what’s your favorite Tom Wilkinson’s role?

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2. I just saw this on Twitter Tuesday night as I was working on this post and I had no idea there’s even a Star Wars Spin-off in the works! Well, per THR, this year’s Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Jones is reportedly up for the lead role.

FelicityJonesStarWarsSpinOff

Apparently some actresses were reading/testing for the role last week in LA, including Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany and Rooney Mara. This is a highly secretive project obviously, as nobody even knows what the heck the plot is about or which character the film will focus on. The only known info so far is Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) will be directing & Chris Weitz (About A Boy) penning the script.

Well I’m glad that the main protagonist is a woman and Jones is a solid actress. I saw her for the first time in Like Crazy back at TCFF 2011 when director Drake Doremus talked about her sending a tape for the audition. She was excellent in it as well as in Breathe-In, so I’m sure she deserved her nomination in The Theory of Everything. Those are all dramatic parts so it’s cool that her major big break in mainstream cinema will be a sci-fi movie.

What do you think about this casting news?

3. I think most of you already know how I feel about Ryan Gosling, but I’m always curious whenever actors try their hands at directing. A year ago I posted about Chris Evans’ directorial aspiration but I’m still awaiting its trailer to drop. Well, just this week Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River, which was apparently booed at Cannes last May, just released a trailer and poster:

LostRiverPoster

The critics weren’t exactly kind on this film, you can read some of the reviews here. Variety’s Justin Chang actually summed up my initial thought of the trailer “Had Terrence Malick and David Lynch somehow conceived an artistic love-child together, only to see it get kidnapped, strangled and repeatedly kicked in the face by Nicolas Winding Refn…” Oy!

I kind of think the trailer is bizarre and cryptic, the first thing that came to my mind is it’s a tad pretentious in its artsy ambition. A good story doesn’t need overly-stylized visuals to get across, and no amount of style can camouflage a weak story. I’m quite intrigued by the cast though, esp. Saoirse Ronan and Matt Smith here, with Christina Hendricks in the lead and Gosling’s own girlfriend Eva Mendes in a supporting role.

What do you think of the ‘Lost River’ Trailer? Are you gonna see this one?

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4. Ok now I just came across this photo this morning and I had just to include it here. Have you heard about this comedy called Elvis & Nixon? Well, it stars Michael Shannon as the King of Rock ‘n Roll and Kevin Spacey back in the oval office again as Richard Nixon. Check out the first look here courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter:

ElvisNixonMoviePer THR, the film is currently shooting in New Orleans and recreates the infamous, intimate Dec. 21, 1970 meeting between Nixon and Presley where Presley asked to be named a special FBI operative. It’s directed by Liza Johnson (Hateship/Loveship) and the supporting cast includes Colin Hanks, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville, and Tracy Letts.

I definitely want to see this just for Shannon & Spacey! It’s not lost on me that they both have played Superman villains (as Zod and Lex Luthor respectively). Shannon looks unrecognizable as Elvis though Spacey pretty much looks like his Frank Underwood persona in House of Cards. The fact that it’s billed as comedy intrigues me even more, the last movie I saw that has Nixon in it was the hilarious Dick w/ Michelle Williams & Kirsten Dunst, and with Knoxville in the cast, we can expect something a bit off the wall here.

What are your thoughts on this project?

5. The first 2015 Five for the Fifth’s guest is Irene from Mysterious Bibliophile blog!

MysteriousBibliophile

Recently, I’ve been blogging about movies adapted from novels and short stories. I mentioned the movie Ordinary People, which I related to as a teen. “Something about the movie and book spoke to me … That’s one of the things I love most about literature and film. That quiet but powerful voice that says ‘You are not alone.’ “

So, what movie characters do you identify with or have you identified with during crucial periods in your life?


Well, that’s it for the February 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Black Sails Season 2 Pictorial Appreciation

EverybodysChattinWinterHappy Wednesday everybody! I have a super special post coming tomorrow… y’know I love the fifth ;) But before that I just want to highlight some great posts from my fellow bloggers, there are tons terrific reviews of films I can’t wait to see. So well done, my friends!

Let’s start off with some TV-related posts…

Sati has been anticipating Season 5 of Game of Thrones and boy nobody made a trailer post quite like her! Meanwhile, Kristin lists her picks of Best TV Shows of 2014.

Josh is the most prolific movie viewer I know, and his viewing list in January alone puts most of us to shame. I’d be lucky if I even saw half of that in six months!

Wendell is currently hosting In with the New Blogathon where we pick a remake that’s actually better than the original. He picked 300 over 300 Spartans, and I concur! ;)

The year-end recaps still continues. Zoë just posted the first part of her Top 20 Movies of 2014.

Now on to reviews!

Stu reviewed Ex-Machina | Natalie reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service | Keith reviewed A Most Violent Year– these are some of my anticipated list from this year. I’ve got my press screening for Kingsman next Tuesday, can’t wait!

Meanwhile, these are some movies that’s available to rent either now or very soon: Irene reviewed Calvary | Mark reviewed Birdman | Andrew reviewed The Double


Now time for some drool-worthy Black Sails 2 pics!

I’ve only seen one episode so far as I don’t have cable, so I literally has to go to my pal Prairiegirl’s house to see it. I’m gonna binge watch later March but I can’t help watching every clips out there on Youtube! I’ve got the photo of Captain Flint on his regal Captain chair as my desktop photo, and really, seeing those gorgeous blue ocean is just what I need when it’s a snowy 13˚F outside.

I’ll do a proper Black Sails appreciation once Season 2 is done, but really the main reason for me to see this show is Toby Stephens!! I LOVE LOVE all the flashbacks to his life 15 years prior when he’s still a British Naval Officer. Awesome to see him reunited with his Cambridge Spies’ co-star Rupert Penry-Jones, aka Captain Wentworth in BBC’s Persuasion.

If you haven’t caught up with this show yet, well what are you waiting for? ;)


Hope you enjoyed today’s post… stay tuned for the return of Five for the Fifth tomorrow! ;)

Rental Pick: The Guest (2014)

TheGuestPoster

I always enjoy seeing actors reinvent themselves and one of such actors who did a pretty phenomenal job recently is Dan Stevens. Most of you probably knew him from as Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey, but I first saw the British actor in another period drama, BBC’s Sense & Sensibility. Well, gone is his chubby cheeks and floppy hair. Here he’s sporting a lean, sinewy bod with slicked-back hair AND a Southern drawl. He’s still got those dreamy baby blues though, which he uses to great effect to portray one of the creepiest characters ever.

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The story is a simple one. A mysterious stranger, David, suddenly shows up at the door saying that he’s a good friend of the the family’s deceased soldier son. Without bothering to check for his ID, the lady of the house just lets him inside AND invites him to stay the night. Despite initial hesitation (well, barely) the entire family pretty much just welcomes him with open arms and of course things slowly unravels until it completely gets off the rails.

Just like most horror/thriller movies, The Guest is filled with obtuse characters who make a series of glaring mistakes, but that’s sort of part of the fun. The movie isn’t exactly unpredictable as you’d know from the start there is something really off about *David* and that he is not who he says he is. But yet you’re in for the ride to discover just who the heck he is, and the film moves at a swiftly pace that it never overstays his welcome.

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Director Adam Wingard has mostly done horror films (V/H/S, You’re Next) and this one certainly has that campy horror feel to it. The style and sound is a throwback to 80s/90s action thrillers, nicely mixed with suspense and humor. Stevens seems to be having a blast being a bad ass action antihero here, and he’s proven to be versatile enough to display affable charm one minute to psychotic menace the next. Maika Monroe is quite good as the daughter in the family who’s much more shrewd than meets the eye.

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The finale in a school’s Halloween maze makeshift is cleverly executed and stylishly shot, complete with a chase through a hall of mirrors. The synth (or goth electronica as they’d like to describe it) music by Steve Moore is pure 80s nostalgia that adds a dose of excitement and amusement to the action-packed scene. I’ve featured it on a Music Break here, it’s a great example where the music sets the tone of the movie brilliantly. Glad I finally saw this one, and it lives up to the great reviews this movie’s been getting and it’s surely destined to be a cult classic. Despite some decidedly-cheesy and predictable moments, it’s definitely one of the most entertaining offerings of 2014 and I definitely want to see more of this naughty side of Dan Stevens ;)

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What do you think of The Guest?