Weekend Roundup: Solomon Kane, Dancing on the Edge miniseries + Casting By doc

Happy Monday everyone!

Hope you had a nice weekend. It was a nice, mellow one for me, just enjoying the last few weeks of the fleeting Minnesota Summer. We had yummy Lebanese food for dinner and took a stroll by Mississippi River just before sunset… it was a warm night with a slight breeze. PERFECT.

My hubby took this on our stroll in St. Paul at dusk

My hubby took this on our stroll in St. Paul at dusk

I did fit in a few movies, one of them I’ve been wanting to see for some time…

SOLOMON KANE

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A ruthless mercenary renounces violence after learning his soul is bound for hell. When a young girl is kidnapped and her family slain by a sorcerer’s murderous cult, he is forced to fight and seek his redemption slaying evil.

I’m not going to review it again as my pal Becky has done a comprehensive review/tribute to the massively underrated sword & sandal film. She had the dvd so I saw it on Friday night at her place, and boy am I glad I finally did. I’ve been a fan of James Purefoy since his fearless performance in HBO’s ROME, and I’m constantly astounded why he’s not more famous than he is now. The man has the looks, talent, charisma, but maybe he lacks the one thing most stars have to have that they have no control over: luck.

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Director Michael J. Bassett and the producers had planned Solomon Kane to be a trilogy. It’s a bummer that it didn’t happen as it was a darn good film, it probably just wasn’t marketed very well. It’s got the swashbuckling action that looks gritty and raw with little CGI, and the supernatural elements of the story work for the adventure fantasy story. I find the story to be emotional engaging as well, especially between Solomon and the Puritan family led by the late character actor Pete Postlethwaite. English actress Rachel Hurd-Wood is quite good in a key role in the story, and it’s also got Max Von Sydow in a brief supporting role.

If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s definitely worth a rent.


DANCING ON THE EDGE miniseries (2013)

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A black jazz band becomes entangled in the aristocratic world of 1930s London as they seek fame and fortune.

I’m glad Netflix added this recently. I think I heard about it when Jacqueline Bisset won a Golden Globe for her performance, but I kind of forgot about it. But really, with a cast of Chiwetel Ejiofor AND Matthew Goode, I knew I had to see it.

I’ve only seen two out of the six episodes and I love it so far. The 30s jazz music is fantastic, but I like the glamor of the British aristocracy of that era and the mystery aspect of it that really sucks you in. There’s also the obvious racial issues given the Louis Lester Band is perhaps the first black band to ever perform for the British royal family. John Goodman has a key supporting role as an enigmatic American businessman, I can’t wait to see what he’s all about but he’s quite sinister.

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The set design and 30s costumes are beautiful to look at. It’s definitely an ear & eye candy + a gripping, historically-tinged story. Can’t wait to finish ’em all. If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix streaming, can’t go wrong with this one.


CastingBy

This documentary focuses on the role of the casting director in movie making and particularly on Marion Dougherty. She began work in the late 1940s sending up and coming young actors to be cast in the then new medium of television. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the contribution on casting directors was recognized in film credits and even today there is no Oscar awarded for that role in filmmaking.

If you know me at all, you’ll know how much I’d love to be a casting manager. So naturally I find this documentary utterly fascinating. I talked about this briefly here, but somehow I just haven’t got around to seeing it. Casting is so crucial and can make & break a film, so people like Marion Dougherty is really an unsung hero in Hollywood.

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Anyone who loves movies should check out this HBO documentary, as it shows how some of Hollywood legends like James Dean, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, etc. get their start. There are also stories about actors getting second chances after a not-so-memorable first start, most notably from Jon Voight and Jeff Bridges. Some of the people interviewed include directors the likes of Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovich. It also proves that Michael Eisner is a jerk, I mean he’d rather have Suzanne Sommers over Meryl Streep??! Mel Gibson was ready to drop out of Hollywood and raise organic vegetables and beef cattle before Dougherty suggested him to Richard Donner for Lethal Weapon. She also told Donner about Danny Glover… “He’s black, so what?” – Y’see, the part wasn’t written for a black actor, so obviously miss Dougherty was far more progressive than most Hollywood folks.

There’s no Academy Award category for casting director, and so in 1991, there was a campaign started by a bunch of actors to get her an honorary Oscar. Well, the fact that women mostly make up the job of casting, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re overlooked in this male-dominated industry.

Thanks to filmmaker Tom Donahue for shining a light on this under-appreciated profession that’s so crucial in the filmmaking process. This documentary is available on Netflix Streaming, so definitely worth checking out!


Well, that’s my viewing recap. So what did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

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FlixChatter Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)

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I saw this at a very early press screening three weeks ago but there was an embargo to even tweet about it. By now I could barely remember much about Guy Ritchie’s movie, but if I were to describe it in one word, it’d be frothy. Just like Mission Impossible, this movie is based on a 1960s TV series of the same name. I actually never watched it, but basically U.N.C.L.E. is an international counter espionage agency, and the acronym stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.

Ritchie certainly got the retro look right for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., just as he did with Sherlock Holmes‘ Victorian London in the 1800s. In fact, the style is the only thing going for this movie – from the exotic Mediterranian locales to the extremely good looking actors wearing those stunning 60s clothing. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer play enemies-cum-partners, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, respectively. They reluctantly have to work together on a mission against a mysterious criminal organization. It’s set during the Cold War so naturally the [clichéd] plot has to involve nuclear weapons proliferation. It only seems alarming on paper but given the humorous tone of the movie, you’re not supposed to take any of it seriously. The movie has a deliberate Bond vibe but perhaps more in line with the mischievous spirit of Roger Moore’s era.

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Ritchie has experience with bromances, pretty much every film he’s done from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Rocknrolla to his latest Sherlock Holmes with Jude Law & Robert Downey Jr. has bromance elements. I think Hammer and Cavill have a decent chemistry, though not as effortless as Law and RDJ, and neither has quite the star power. As much as the two male mannequins are gorgeous to look at, unfortunately they’re as bland as a Minnesota hot dish. [Actually, it’d be an insult to my home state’s cuisine as I actually think tater tot hot dish is pretty tasty!]. I suppose there’s not much the actors can do when their characters are only as deep as a cardboard cutout. They give each of them a backstory of sort, i.e. Solo was a criminal before he was a spy, but still the characters are pretty much one dimensional.

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Ritchie assembled an International cast for this movie which results in an amusing hodgepodge of accents. We’ve got a Brit playing American (Cavill), an American playing Russian (Hammer), a Swede playing German (Alicia Vikander) and an Aussie playing Italian (Elizabeth Debicki). Not to mention Irish actor Jared Harris (son of the late Richard Harris) doing his best Texan drawl as Cavill’s CIA boss. Overall the actors did okay with the accents, though Hammer’s Russian accent is quite hilarious and rather distracting. I guess I find Russian accent even coming from Russian actors as amusing because it always sounds so exaggerated. Thankfully Hugh Grant as the leader of U.N.C.L.E. sticks with his own British accent.

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I really want to love this movie and I have to admit there are some fun moments and the setting and costumes are fun to look at. But overall, no matter how pretty the package is, it can’t really fix a hollow story. I think Ritchie aims for cool escapism from the dreaded Summer heat, but really, it wouldn’t hurt to inject just a teeny bit of substance into the whole glamorous affair. It feels like watching a two-hour retro fashion commercial, with ocassional gadgetry and gun play that never feels even the least bit threatening. The quota of beautiful people is off the charts, even David Beckham has a cameo and we’ve got Italian model Luca Calvani as Debicki’s sidekick.

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I was impressed with Debicki in The Great Gatsby but she’s barely given anything to do here, I think Vikander’s character fares a bit better but barely scratching the surface of her talent considering what she could do in Ex Machina. I have to mention that even though Cavill is a beautiful man built like a Greek god [I mean he IS Superman], I find him lacking in virility on screen. He doesn’t quite have that sparkle in his eye that make him belieavable as a ladiesman, to me anyway, I have a feeling a lot of ladies would disagree.

One thing I find distracting is the music that’s overused or used in an overblown way that it becomes a sensory overload with all the frenetic CGI action. There is one particularly funny scene when Solo nonchallantly watches Kuryakin fights for his life in a speedboat chase whilst he snack on a sandwich he found on a parked truck. But for the most part, all the action is forgettable as you could barely invest in the story. I’m not saying The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a bad movie, but it’s the quintessential style over substance. There’s a not-so-subtle hint of a sequel at the end but I don’t think there’s enough going for it even for a single movie.

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Have you seen Man from U.N.C.L.E? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter [Guest] Review: Dark Places (2015)

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After a tragedy occurs, what happens next? When a child loses their whole family to darkness and death, where do they go from there? When a teenager is accused of an atrocity they didn’t commit and is sentenced to life in a prison cell, what kind of person will they become? When a stranger knocks on the door with the idea to set the story straight, what kind of truth will they demand be acknowledged?

Dark Places (available on demand now via DirecTV, and in theaters on 8/7) is the second film to be made based on a bestselling novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Charlize Theron plays Libby Day, a woman who has locked herself away from the world after the majority of her family was brutally murdered one night when she was very young. Her testimony helped put her brother behind bars, and since then she’s lived off the monetary kindness of others and by selling her story to the highest bidder. But now the money has run out and her only financial assistance is coming from a group of would-be detectives who think there is more to the murder of her mother and two older sisters than was previously known. Libby agrees to work with the group, at first hesitantly and later because of her own desire to know the truth. What really happened that night long ago when she lost everyone she loved?

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Like Gone Girl before it, Dark Places is a twisty thriller that showcases multiple sides to the story. Libby was just a little girl when she witnessed the murder of her family and her memory of that night is spotty at best. She knows she had a mother and sisters and a brother and that in the middle of the night she woke to find most of them dead and what appeared to be her brother responsible. But she was not the only one in the house that night. Her brother remembers his own side of the story, which involves sex and drugs and Satan and a desperate need to do the right thing for the girl he was in love with. And the film also shows, through flashbacks, the side of Libby Day’s mother – a woman with four children and no money to support them, a farm that was worthless, and a town demanding blood after her son was accused of a terrible crime. To solve the great mystery of the film, Libby has to follow the trail of all three stories and see the truth where they converge.

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Unfortunately, unlike Gone Girl, Dark Places fails to truly take viewers along for the emotional ride it wants them to experience. Though Charlize Theron is an extremely talented actress and plays prickly, angry, closed-off Libby Day to the best of her ability, there is very little to like or relate to in the main character. She’s a beautiful woman leading an ugly life who gets dragged into a mystery for selfish reasons and stays because she can’t seem to help herself. She is surrounded by two-dimensional characters (including Lyle, played by Nicholas Hoult who recently starred alongside Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road) who do little to enrich the story and who really seem superfluous the plot most times. And the ending, while surprising in some elements, feels forced and contrived in others.

Overall this film leaves you feeling like there should be MORE. More story, more character development, more time figuring things out and revealing the truth of the central mystery. Which is surprising considering how much voice-over and exposition there is to deal with. Every moment of explanation feels forced, as if filmmaker Gilles Paquet-Brenner is desperate to cram as much back story as possible down your throat. But without likable characters or a proper build-up to suspenseful moments and the big murder mystery reveal, Dark Places falls short of taking viewers on the dark journey it intends.

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Brittni Williams is a freelance writer and blogger from the Midwest. After finishing up school in Arizona, she picked up and moved to Chicago where she currently resides with her cat, Pockets. She primarily covers entertainment topics and the occasional DIY piece. Her interests include playing tennis, traveling, and scouring the city for the best tacos. Find her on Twitter @brittni303


Have you seen Dark Places? Let us know what you think!

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Everybody’s Chattin + Trailer Spotlight: Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

Happy Midweek everyone! Two more days until Friday :D How’s your week so far? It’s kind of a s-l-o-w week for me and there’s been no Instagram updates from my dahling French crush so I’m missing him so much I could barely concentrate on anything today. Yes I live for Stanley Weber these days [sigh]… he is EVERYTHING!!!!

ehm, now that I get that out of the way…

… about those links…

Cindy posted a heartfelt tribute to the late author David Foster Wallace a while back, the subject of the recent film I saw, The End of the Tour

Mark wrote a retrospective piece on Top Gun that got me all nostalgic

In response to the recent box office bomb Fantastic Four, we’ve got a review from Keith that confirmed my dread, whilst Eddie offers up some suggestions on how to fix the franchise.

Two directorial debuts from excellent Aussie actors: Josh wrote about Russell Crowe’s debut The Water Diviner, while Tom wrote about Joel Edgerton’s The Gift

Meanwhile, Natalie reviewed this New Zealand horror comedy Housebound

Last but not least, Chris lists his picks of Best Songs of the Decade so far.


Time for question of the week

The Hateful Eight almost didn’t happen due to a script leak in 2014 by Gawker. If you follow this news, you’d likely know that QT ended up withdrawing the lawsuit against Gawker. At Comic-con last July, Tarantino said that “…it was the first draft that leaked online and he expected to write two more to get to a point where he was ready to shoot” (per THR).

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In post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Will they survive?

Check out the brand new trailer:

Image Source: The Playlist' Tumblr

Image Source: The Playlist’ Tumblr

I’m not a big fan of Westerns, but this one looks intriguing. QT sure knows how to cut a trailer, and the visuals look fantastic, as to be expected. The only thing is, I don’t know if I want to see Wintry scenes right smack dab in the middle of Winter when this movie’s released.

The cast is astounding… We’ve got QT’s perennial favorite Samuel L. Jackson, plus Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Amber Tamblyn, Walton Goggins, etc. Channing Tatum gets top billing on IMDb but I barely see him in the trailer (?) I’m bummed that Viggo Mortensen didn’t end up joining the cast because of scheduling conflict.

Fans of 70mm format rejoice! [I’m looking at you Ted ;)] as the film will be shown in its Ultra Panavision 70 presentation. Per IMDb, the film will be released on December 25 of this year as a roadshow presentation in 70mm format theaters only before being released in digital theaters on January 8, 2016.

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So are you excited for The Hateful Eight?

The Film Emotion Blogathon: 5 films to represent the 5 emotions in Pixar’s Inside Out

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I just heard about this blogathon on Drew’s blog, but it was spearheaded by the Con Man blog, inspired by the Pixar hit Inside Out (which I adore). I love this idea and naturally I had to take part!

Here are the rules for the Blogathon:

  • Pick five films to represent the five emotions in Inside Out. The criteria for choosing these films is listed below. I would be willing to allow a tie, if you couldn’t decide between two films to best represent one of the emotions.
  • What I’m looking for are five movies that make YOU feel a certain emotion. Here’s what to look for:

    JOY: First of all, you want to pick a movie that makes you happy. The kind of movie that you put on whenever you’re in a bad mood that never fails to lighten your spirits. It can be a family film, a romance, a comedy – as long as there’s a smile on your face by the end credits, it should be fair game.


    SADNESS: Now for the movie that made you cry the most. From Bambi to Titanic, there are plenty of tear-jerker movies out there. These are movies where you gravitate towards the main characters and really don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. Maybe a character dies, maybe the guy doesn’t get the girl, but your eyes should be pretty watery by the film’s end.

    FEAR:  This is the movie that gave you the most nightmares. Pretty self explanatory. There are plenty of classic horror movies to choose from, but it doesn’t have to be an out-and-out horror film. If the movie’s about a more subtle kind of fear, or if the movie just has a creepy atmosphere, that should work. Whether blunt or subtle, this is the movie that scares the **** out of you.

    ANGER: This is a movie that you flat out hated. Not a movie that was dull or boring, but a movie that just fills you up with rage just thinking about it. Maybe it’s a movie made by a certain director that had so much potential, maybe it’s an adaptation or a sequel that just didn’t do the original justice. It could also be a movie where your anger isn’t directed at the movie, but at the characters. Ever wanted to scream at movie characters for making such incredibly stupid decisions.

    DISGUST: This last one is a bit tricky, I’ll let you interpret it the way you want. It could be a horror film with a lot of really awful imagery that you don’t want to look at, it could be a comedy with a bunch of gross-out humor that you can barely listen to. It could even be a movie that you like, but your disgust comes towards the basic premise in a grander sense, like being disgusted by what you see in 12 Years A Slave or Schindler’s List. Either way, this film should make you cringe.
  • Write out five paragraphs, (one for each film) talking about the movies and why you chose them.

So here are my picks:

JOY

The Gods Must Be Crazy

As the criteria is a movie that never fails to lift my spirits and puts a smile on my face. It’s got to be my childhood favorite that still holds up to this day. Right from the witty & sarcastic opening monologue that’s poking fun at modern civilization… “For instance, if it’s Monday and 7:30 comes up, you have to dis-adapt from your domestic surroundings and re-adapt yourself to an entirely different environment. 8:00 means everybody has to look busy. 10:30 means you can stop looking busy for 15 minutes. And then you have to look busy again…”

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There are sooo many hilarious situations that never fails to get me in stitches. The main character Xi the traveling Bushman & his Coca Cola bottle + the clumsy research scientist Mr Steyn w/ his decrepitude jeep are simply hysterical!! The movie is also very quotable. To this day I still find myself quoting from this movie: “It’s really an interesting psychological phenomenon…” or my personal favorite “ayayayayay” :D

I picked this movie for a ‘A Movie That Always Make Me Laugh‘ Meme a few years ago and I still think so today. I think What We Do in the Shadows will become a perennial favorite comedy of mine, too!

SADNESS

Legends of the Fall

I struggle with this one as I initially thought of Schindler’s List and the two Disney movies Bambi and The Lion King because those films made me cry buckets. Heck even just listening a few notes of Itzhak Perlman’s violin music of Schindler’s List on the radio gets me teared up. But at least those films end in a hopeful note. So for this category, I have to go with Legends of the Fall because it’s one of the biggest tear-jerkers I’ve ever seen.

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The story itself is just sad and tragic – families torn apart by love and war, everyone ends up losing the one they love. The romance is as devastating as can be given most characters didn’t get the love of their lives. I just listened to the beautiful, aptly melancholic score by James Horner recently and watched some clips of the film, and it still gets me sobbing all over again.

FEAR

The Exorcist

This is an easy one as I don’t watch hardly any horror films but I did see this one in college and to this day, it still scares the **** out of me. I remember after I saw it, my then boyfriend who’s now my hubby actually slept in the living room of my apartment as I was too scared to spend the night by myself. Even just looking at a photo of Linda Blair in full demonic makeup as Regan still gives me the creeps. I couldn’t even google Regan’s photo to include here, so I just typed in ‘Exorcist poster’ instead.

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There was a Chinese horror flick I saw as a kid that I didn’t know the name of that I found pretty chilling, but I think Regan is probably the most horrifying character I’ve ever seen. I think what makes it even scarier is the fact that it’s inspired by a true story and people do get possessed in real life.

ANGER

Transformers: Age of Extinction

For a movie I absolutely loathe with a passion, it’s hard to top this one. I’ve only seen the first one and the only reason was because we were at a friend’s house. And I saw this one as I interviewed the two young actors, and thought, well how bad could it be? Well, I wanted to punch Michael Bay and whoever financed this stinker, an abominable of gargantuan proportion. It fills me up with rage how movies like this continues to get made… I mean one movie is one thing, but five??! It’s even more aggravating as there seems to be no end in sight as this franchise continues to make money :(

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It’s as if appalling dialog, stupid characters who continually make idiotic decisions weren’t enough to insult us, there’s the gross female objectification and obtuse gender/racial stereotyping. Don’t get me started about the overwhelming CGI, I mentioned in my review that I actually took my 3D glasses off a few times just to give my tired eyes a break. It’s really a sensory overload in the worst possible way. If only this franchise would go extinct!!

DISGUST

The Whistleblower

I raked my brain for this one as I could technically put down The Exorcist again for this category as Regan is just a disgusting creature and the vomit stuff & a bunch of other demonic scenes are so stomach-churning. I choose to include this little-seen film because it also deals with deplorable crimes against humanity issues like Schindler’s List and 12 Years A Slave. Human trafficking is a disgusting crime that has no part in any society, and it’s even more heart-wrenching that this film shows nobody’s willing to stand up for the victims.

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Rachel Weisz played the title role, a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia who outed the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal. As if the living condition these girls are subjected to isn’t appalling enough, they also had to endure some truly brutal stuff. There’s one particularly barbaric scene that’s absolutely painful to watch, I literally felt sick in my stomach that I had to look away. What’s most depressing is that these atrocities are still allowed to continue as the perpetrators are not persecuted due to diplomatic immunity. Check out my full review.


What do you think of my picks? Which films would YOU select for each of the five emotions?

Weekend Roundup + The End of the Tour review

Happy Sunday all! Summer in Minnesota is fleeting so we try to do outdoor stuff as much as we can. Suffice to say we barely had time to watch any movie, we were too tired for home cinema but y’know what, we’ll have plenty of time for home movies later in the Fall & Winter.

I did get a lot of script writing done this week, which is always a GOOD thing. The highlight of my weekend was attending the MN Irish Fair at Harriet Island. MNIrishFest2015

We purposely got there a bit later in the day but managed to catch a couple of great Irish bands: Young Dubliners and Wild Colonial Bhoys. We even saw a booth selling some Outlander merchandise, complete with a poster of Jamie & Claire :D

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Last Thursday I went to a press screening of The End of the Tour at Mall of America, with actor Jason Segel in attendance for the Q&A afterwards. He was cordial and really fun to listen to. I didn’t know much about him but let’s just say I have a new respect for the actor.

He shared some tidbits about filming in Mall of America, and it’s interesting that the exact theater we were in is also the same one they filmed one of the scenes in the movie!

Here’s my review:

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I have to say I’m not familiar with the subject matter. I haven’t read anything by David Foster Wallace, nor did I know about David Lipsky’s book based on his interview with the famed author. The film opens with news of Wallace’s death, a suicide, which prompted Rolling Stone’s reporter David Lipsky to listen to the interview tapes and reminisce on the five-days they shared at the end of Wallace’s book tour.

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The film mostly takes place in flashback, which took place in 1996 after Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel Infinite Jest. The 1000+ page book takes place in North America dystopia, and deals with themes of addiction, recovery, entertainment and film theory, among others. It was Lipsky idea to interview Wallace and it certainly has become one of his most important reporting work in his career.

I must give kudos to director James Ponsoldt and screenwriter Donald Margulies for tackling such a challenging project such as this one. There’s not much happening in this film, mostly it’s just two people talking and so if you’re not engrossed in the characters’ journey from the start, most likely you won’t enjoy this film at all. Thankfully that’s not the case here and both Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg practically lost themselves in the role. Most especially Segel, who gained about 40 pounds to portray Wallace and he’s almost unrecognizable under that unflattering bandana.

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The film consist mostly of conversations between these two men, it certainly helps that there’s a convincing chemistry between the two actors. They seem to get along well and there’s a mutual admiration, but there’s also inevitable tension. Humor also plays a part in making the exchange fun to watch, especially the parts in Mall of America, one of which involves them watching the action movie Broken Arrow in the exact same theater I was sitting in.

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There’s something so natural in the way the dialog and scenes play out, as if the two actors have known each other for ages. It also feels as if we’re eavesdropping on their conversation at times, there’s a bit of a documentary feel to the way it’s filmed. For a film about a writer, and getting into the psyche of his writing process, I think the film did a wonderful job in inviting even non Wallace fan like I am to appreciate him for who he is. The existential quality of the conversation also offers interesting insights into what Wallace thinks about the entertainment world and fame.

I’m glad I got to see this film. As an aspiring writer myself, it’s always fascinating to get a glimpse of the life of a successful writer, and more importantly, what he thinks about such a success. If you’re slightly more familiar with David Foster Wallace than I am, then it’s a must-see. If not, it’s worth seeing to see comedic actor Jason Segel in a serious role, no doubt a career high for him that might even garner him some nominations come award season.

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So what did you see this weekend? Anything good?

Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

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I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

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I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’ :D I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

PacRim

All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

……


What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 2015 Edition

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.

1. Thank you thank you Netflix for adding more Stanley Weber‘s movies available to stream [happy dance] So this first question is inspired by my recent watch of  Sword of Vengeance over the weekend, which is a sword-and-sandals movie is set in 11th century England.
SOV

Here’s the trailer:

Though it’s not really my genre, I actually enjoyed it more than I thought. Yes of course having the charismatic French actor in the lead naturally adds the enjoyment factor for me, but the cinematography is quite beautiful to look at despite the small budget. I’m also diggin’ the music, I liken it to John Wick if it were set in the Middle Ages. It’s a no-frill plot and not much dialog but for a violent vengeance flick, it’s pretty effective. This THR review states that the filmmaker’s influenced by Japanese samurai epics and the Italian spaghetti westerns, hence the protagonist is suitably taciturn.

So what’s your favorite vengeance movie?
….

2. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Relativity Media, which up until recently was the third largest mini-major film studio in the world (per Wiki). It was founded in 2004 by Ryan Kanavaugh and was quite prolific for the past decade or so, co-financing movies like Pinneaple Express, Fast & Furious, The Social Network, The Bourne Legacy, Les Misérables, Oblivion, etc. Well, reportedly it’s filed chapter 11 bankruptcy, which THR said as one of the biggest bankruptcies in Hollywood history.

RelativityStudios

Now, whilst two films from its slate are still on schedule to be released, a heist comedy Masterminds starring Zach Galifianakis and Owen Wilson, and the thriller Kidnap starring Halle Berry, there are quite a few movies that are now on limbo. Some of those are …

  • Jane Got a Gun, a Western starring Natalie Portman
  • Collide, the action-thriller starring Felicity Jones, Nicholas Hoult and Anthony Hopkins
  • The Tribes of Palos Verdes, the YA adaptation starring Jennifer Garner and Tye Sheridan

And it seems that The Crow reboot probably isn’t meant to be as it’s also one of films caught in Relativity’s fallout. They should just pull the plug on that once and for all!

I’m curious if any of you’ve been following the news about Relativity, and if so, what are your thoughts?

….

3. No new trailer piqued my interest in the past few days. I couldn’t care less about Deadpool‘s trailer, I have no interest in watching that movie anyway.

This FIRST LOOK however, did caught my eye and I hadn’t even heard of it before. TRUTH is a political drama starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett. Well, the casting alone is awesome.
Truth_FirstLook

Per Variety, the film is based on the Mary Mapes book Truth and Duty, and Blanchett plays Mapes, a CBS News journalist and Rather’s producer. It follows Mapes and Rather as they uncover allegations that George W. Bush may have been AWOL from the U.S. National Guard for over a year during the Vietnam War. Four documents were presented as authentic in a “60 Minutes” broadcast aired by CBS on Sept. 8, 2004, less than two months before the 2004 election, but it was later determined that CBS had failed to authenticate the documents. The ensuing scandal ruined Rather’s career — he stepped down six months later — and caused profound changes at CBS News. The network fired Mapes, several senior news executives were asked to resign, and CBS apologized to viewers.

It’s to be writer James Vanderbilt’s directorial debut also stars Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss and Dennis Quaid. Well, the only good film Vanderbilt’s written is Zodiac, so hopefully his directorial debut is a good one.

What’s your initial thoughts of this one?

4. Just saw this yesterday and I have to say I was geeking out so much even though I’m not even a Trekkie. But come on, who wouldn’t want to win this thing!!  Check out this Star Trek Beyond Walk-On Role Contest video…

I’ve watched the video repeatedly just for Idris Elba breaking into a dance (breakdance?) at the end… [swoooon]. Man, I’m drooling over this so much, I mean I don’t really care about the walk-on role, I just want to hang out with THIS cast on set all day!

StarTrekWalkOnRoleContest

So did you/would you enter this contest? 

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Adam from Consumed by Film:

I’ve recently been reading Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film as well as Mark Kermode’s Hatchet Job, the former about the history of cinema and the latter Kermode’s take on the future of film criticism.

StoryOfFilm_HatchetJob

Do you have any favourite non-fiction movie-related books that you’ve spent countless hours peering over?


Well, that’s it for the August 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

FlixChatter Review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

MIRogueNation

I’ve been a fan of this long-standing franchise even from the first one by Brian De Palma. Looking back, it certainly was a more cerebral, somber affair as it took itself way too seriously. It might’ve been the fourth movie when the film took a decidedly lighter tone, but amped up the action to be even crazier. It’s akin to a cinematic roller coaster, a huge adrenaline rush from start to finish. You know when want to go for another round the moment you’re done with a REALLY fun amusement park ride? Well, that’s how I felt the minute the end credits roll.
MIRogueNation_PlaneScene

It’s to be expected that the stake of Mission Impossible movies get more and more well, impossible. But really, they’re not called the Impossible Missions Force for nothin’. This time Ethan and team take their craziest mission yet, and a personal one. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you know about the mysterious International organization the Syndicate, which is as skilled as the IMF and commited to destroy Ethan & co.

Right from the opening sequence with the highly-publicized plane sequence where Tom Cruise was hanging out on the side of the plane, a stunt the superstar himself performed no less than 8 times, you’ll know what you’re in for. But you’ve got to have a lot more tricks up your sleeve if you show THAT scene early in the movie. Thankfully that is the case here. If you love chases of any kind, whether it be on foot, car, motorbikes, etc. you’ll find them here. It’s as if each action scene tries to one-up the other and I have to say each one is as exhilarathing as the last.

MIRogueNation_MotorbikeChase

MIRogueNation_CarChase

My favorite scene is the one within the Vienna Opera House, with stunning camera work in the narrow, shadowy corners. The fight scenes are jaw-droppingly spectacular, even more so against the classic aria of Nessun dorma. It’s truly the spectacle to watch going into a movie like this and it looks amazing on the big screen.

Early in the film, we’re introduced to a new character Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), but THIS is her moment to shine. She’s my favorite female character in ALL of the Mission Impossible movies so far. I’d vote to have Ilsa replace Ethan Hunt in future MI movies or have her star in a MI spinoff movies. She’s THAT great. I love the fact that she’s a formidable character who’s no bimbo, and on top of being Ethan’s equal in the action scenes, Ilsa actually has a compelling character arc.

MIRogueNation_RebeccaFerguson

The relentless logic-defying stunts are electrifying, but I like the fact that director Christopher McQuarrie actually includes one scene that show Ethan is human after all. I won’t mention the scene as to not spoil it for you, but I actually feared for his life for once, even for a moment. There is also an emotional connection between the characters, especially when it comes the dynamic of Ethan’s core group: Benji (Simon Pegg), William (Jeremy Renner), and Luther (Ving Rhames). The camaraderie works well and it’s easy to root for this group.

MIRogueNation_Still

Humor is another recipe for success in this franchise. The high-octane stunts are matched with crackin’ wit, mostly from the resident comedian Pegg, but Renner also made the franchise’s oft-used line “I can neither confirm nor deny any details without the secretary’s approval” to hilarious effect. There’s also a particularly humorous scene involving the British PM towards the end. Nice to see Alec Baldwin as another CIA officer, 25 years after playing Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October.

If I have one quibble though, it’d be the villain (Sean Harris). I don’t know why the filmmakers think a weird & creepy bad guy is more effective than a normal-looking one. I’d think that a perfectly normal character with a ruthless agenda can be just as menacing, so long as they cast the right actor. Harris just seems more of a damaged, eccentric psychopath than a really scary villain worthy of a super spy like Ethan.

MIRogueNation_SeanHarris

Thankfully, the rest of the cast delivered and the movie is as fantastically entertaining as ever. Just like the unstoppable franchise, Cruise clearly still has plenty of energy to make us believe he IS Ethan Hunt, he made even James Bond seems rather tame. He’s starting to look older but young enough to pull off the relentless action and even the shirtless scenes. Still I’m thankful there’s no unnecessary romance that’d make me cringe.

I enjoyed the heck out of MI: Ghost Protocol and I remember thinking, boy how’d they top that Burj Khalifa scene?? Well, not only does Rogue Nation manage to top THAT scene, but the movie as a whole. This one now stands as my favorite of the franchise. I rarely say this about any movie, but I hope they continue to make more Mission Impossible movies and hopefully McQuarrie will be back for at least the next one. This is only his third film, and I actually quite like his previous film with Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher. He also wrote the screenplay for Edge of Tomorrow, so it seems that his collaboration with Cruise has been a rewarding one. Joe Kraemer who worked on the score for Jack Reacher also did a great job scoring this one.

I can’t wait to see this again, next time at IMAX. It’s an escapism sort of movie and Rogue Nation delivers on that front, and more.

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So have you seen MI: Rogue Nation? Well, what did YOU think?

JULY Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

July2015Recap

How in the world is July over already?!?! Seriously, this past month has been a total blur to me. I feel like I haven’t done anything worth writing about the entire Summer! I mean we’re finally gonna go for a bike ride outside of town with some friends, something we’ve been meaning to do since the beginning of Summer but just never got around to it, heh.

Well, the one thing I love about July was writing my birthday tribute to my beloved Stanley Weber and getting a thank you tweet! Yes I’m still giddy just thinking about it ;) On a related note, I finally got around to writing my first ever script. It’s going well so far, I just hope I can keep the momentum and actually FINISH it.

Posts You Might’ve Missed

Supporting cast you wish got the leading role

Musings on the Han Solo spinoff &
who we’d like to see as young Solo

The Dream Vacation Blogathon

Favorite directing duos & their film(s)

Thursday Movie Picks: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

Music Break: Top 5 Fave Soundtracks from Henry Jackman

Thursday Movie Picks: Sequels

Musings on Clueless – random observations on the
iconic 90s movie 20 years later

TIFF 2015 Picks

Reviews

Ant-Man (2015)

Cartel Land (2015)

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

ONCE (2006)

Self/less (2014)

Song of the Sea (2015)

New-to-me Movies I haven’t reviewed yet:

Ondine (2009)

A Promise (2014)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Minions (2015)

What We Did on Our Holiday (2014)

Rewatches:

Sabrina (1995)

Clueless (1995)

Notting Hill (1999)

Not Another Happy Ending (2013)
I pretty much watch this one every other week, sometimes I just
have it running in the background whilst I’m working on
my laptop just to have Stanley to keep me company ;)

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

TV Shows:

Saw one episode of BBC’s Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express

I’m currently juggling a few British series:
Downton Abbey | The Fall | Any Human Heart

Movie of the Month

MIRogueNationIt’s an easy pick this month. I absolutely LOVE this latest Mission Impossible movie, even more than the fourth one which was my fave until this one. I LOVE Rebecca Ferguson here, I’d love to see her replace Tom Cruise‘s Ethan Hunt for future MI movies! I mean if they can’t have a female Bond, why not have the protagonist of MI movies be a female spy?

I’ll be reviewing it this weekend, but for now, I’ll just say that ROGUE NATION is one of the most entertaining movie I saw all Summer and would likely end up on my top 10 of the year. There’s apparently plenty of juice left in the franchise!


So that’s my July recap. What’s YOUR fave movie(s) you saw this month?