FlixChatter Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Let me preface this review by saying that I haven’t seen any of the classic Apes movies in the 60s. I did see the 2001 reboot but I can barely remember any of it. But the 2011 version won me over that I’m intrigued to see what’s going to happen next.

The story takes place about a decade after the first film. The opening sequence swiftly tells us a Simian flu and incessant civil wars have wiped out most of humanity. On the brink of extinction, the remaining survivors in pockets all over the world is now living back in a *primal* state. It’s the search of power that connects the two species, as the dam the humans need to restore power resides so dangerously close to the Apes village.

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I love that the film takes its time in the character development of the apes, which are actually more crucial than the human characters. We get a glimpse of the apes’ community that Caesar & his fellow lab objects has built in the hills outside San Francisco.  The little apes go to *school* taught by a big, gentle orangutan, the female apes take care of the household, whilst the males hunt to provide food and protect the community. It’s akin to a tribal village where all the apes live peacefully under the leadership of the strong and wise Caesar. Not long after a small group of humans encounter some of the apes in the woods, thanks to a moron with an itchy trigger-finger, the fragile peace between the humans and the apes is about to be shattered.

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) creates a suspenseful and atmospheric piece here that immediately sucks you in. At times it’s so sinister and eerie that I felt like I was watching a horror film. Aided by Michael Giacchino‘s haunting score, it’s a truly immersive experience. There is genuine terror when one of the human group leaders Malcolm tries to reason with Caesar, having witnessed that he’s clearly more than just a regular ape. Jason Clarke is solid here as Malcolm, he’s not overly charismatic but he’s effortlessly sympathetic and likable. To be fair, none of the human characters are nearly as charismatic as Caesar whose screen presence is undeniable. He commands your attention and even your allegiance, as I find myself rooting for him more than for the humans.

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Right from the start, this story keeps me engrossed whilst I marvel at the amazing CGI that looks and feels realistic. Mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis never ceases to amaze me with his motion-capture performance as Caesar. I really think his performance deserves an acting award as he truly embodies the role in the same way as a live-action actor would. The craftsmanship in the digital recreation of the apes is nothing short of amazing. Every detail and all the subtle nuances of the apes’ expression are so seamless and organic, you’d think these are actual apes who’ve been amazingly-trained! The apes all have distinct facial characteristics, just like the humans do. The production design is absolutely mesmerizing. The ape village, as well as the human compound in a rundown tower looks realistically gritty and bleak. There is a very cool scene in a wrecked gas station that sticks in the mind, not just visually but emotionally as well.

The emotional gratification is what makes a big impact here. Whilst all the special effects are incredible (what with $170 production cost), it’s the characters and their conflicts that make all the difference. And we certainly get that here with Caesar and Malcolm, both of them are essentially on the same page. Both have a family and a community they care about, yet they have to contend with those in their circle who simply don’t see things as they do. In Caesar’s camp, we’ve got Koba (Toby Kebell), his right hand man ape whose hatred for humans stems from being tortured in the lab and he’s got the ugly scars to prove it. “Koba only sees the bad side of humans,” Caesar says at one point, and honestly, at times I do feel sorry for Koba. Malcolms’ cohorts are more one-dimensional. You’ve got the hot-headed jerk Carver (Kirk Acevedo) and the paranoid group leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) who doesn’t really have much to do here than scream and shout. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Keri Russell fare better as Clarke’s son and girlfriend, respectively, though again, most of the human characters are simply not as memorable as the apes.

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I know it’s only July, but I have a strong feeling this would end up in my Top 10 of 2014 list. I also don’t think I’m exaggerating that this stands as perhaps one of the best sequels of all time, whilst at the same time it’d work fine as a standalone film. There’s a scene that allude to Caesar’s past in the first film, a poignant moment that truly tugs my heartstrings. I don’t think people need to see the 2011 film in order to get this film, but of course it makes you appreciate Caesar’s journey more. Kudos to Matt Reeves and his team of writers (five of them to be exact) for making this film a Caesar-focused story, it’s a taut thriller that’s as gripping as it is emotionally-gratifying. Now, the narrative is actually quite predictable, but this is not the kind of film that relies on twists so it doesn’t dampen my enjoyment for the film. Given the present conflicts all over the world, the bloodshed and social discord depicted here resonate even more.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best offerings of the Summer, but of the entire year. It succeeds because the special effects punctuates and supports the story/character instead of the other way around. The technical achievements never overshadow the story, even during the action-heavy battle scenes in the third act, it doesn’t become so bombastic that we lose sight of what’s really at stake. The 3D is just okay, which is consistent with my sentiment that 2D format is always sufficient. The powerful last shot lends itself nicely to another sequel, and you know what, I for one can’t wait to see more the continuation of Caesar’s journey.

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What do you think of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

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Guest Post – Jersey Boys: The musical or the movie?

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly contributes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

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I love it when books or musicals I like become movies because it allows me to enjoy the same story again and pick up subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences in different mediums. “Jersey Boys,” the new movie directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It is based on the phenomenally successful Broadway musical which won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical. I have seen and enjoyed both the musical and movie for the same reason – everyone has heard the famous songs (“Big Girls Don’t Cry, “Oh What a Night,” “Sherry”) but the story behind the music is so well-told by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who did both the book for the musical and the screenplay for the movie, that it was just a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

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The main difference between the musical and the movie is the beginning – about the first 20 minutes of the movie are devoted to Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) dragging Frankie Castelluccio (later Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young) along to get into trouble in their blue collar Jersey neighborhood. In this way I felt like the musical was stronger because it introduces Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) earlier and that’s when their story really begins. For people who have seen the musical, the rest of the movie is the same as the musical and includes all of the famous lines that I found myself looking forward to in the movie. I don’t want to give too many of them away if you haven’t seen either version but there is one when a young Bob Gaudio meets flamboyant producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) and he says, “I remember thinking there was something a little off about this guy. But this was 1959, back when people thought Liberace was just…theatrical.” Both iterations also feature actors breaking the “fourth wall” to talk to the audience.

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John Lloyd Young (second from left) in the Broadway version of ‘Jersey Boys’

The cast is led by the superb John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in the Broadway version. After seeing the movie, I know why. I don’t know if I can objectively assess Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio since I am still infatuated with Andrew Rannells’ portrayal of Bob Gaudio when I saw the musical at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in 2008. I thought Michael Lomenda gave an unexpectedly strong performance as Nick Massi, the group’s bass and self-proclaimed “Ringo” of the quartet. When he is stopped by local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (played by Christopher Walken being…Christopher Walken) while trying to leave the group amid money issues and personal tensions, he proclaims, “With all due respect Mr. DeCarlo, I’d like to see you sell 100 million records by the time you’re 30 and see how you handle it.” Neither the movie nor the musical gloss over the price these guys paid for fame. Frankie Valli was an absentee father whose golden voice couldn’t stop the fact that his daughter died of a drug overdose in 1980. And neither version is a show for kids – there is a large amount of foul language throughout the show.

Both the movie and the musical end on a high note with a montage of the group’s famous songs. Although Frankie Valli is now in his 80’s, he was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis as recently as 2012. (At the end of the movie in his turn to address the audience, he says “I’m like the Energizer bunny, I just keep going and going and going…”) One thing to note about this show is that while Broadway musicals generally aren’t known for being a “guy thing,” this is a notable exception. Both my dad and uncle have seen the stage version and still talk about how enjoyable it was. There are several live versions on the road now (including one coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in April 2015) to compliment the movie, allowing anyone to enjoy this nostalgic, tune-filled story.

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What do you think of Jersey Boys? Have you seen both the film and/or the Broadway play?

Wordless Wednesday: 7 Favorite Scenes of the Roman Epic GLADIATOR (2000)

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This past weekend, I rewatched an old favorite. Well it’s not just an oldie-but-goodie, it’s perhaps one of my top 10 favorite of all time: GLADIATOR. It’s the one cinematic masterpiece Ridley Scott’s been trying to replicate ever since, to no avail. After seeing the trailer for Exodus: Gods and King, well it seems that Mr Scott’s glory days is behind him. Ah well, we’ll always have Gladiator. Amazing that even fourteen years later, this film still holds up extremely well, everything about it is perfect, absolutely perfect.

I’ve written an extensive appreciation post on it a few years back, as part of a ‘Movies that made going to the movies suck‘ blogathon. Yes I think that blogathon name is a hoot, but once you read people’s posts on it, it totally make sense. Anyhoo, it’s supposed to be a wordless post so I’ve said enough already. Here are some of my favorite scenes from the Roman epic:

First Battle in Germania

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius


“The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end…”


Commodus Enters Rome

“Are you not entertained?!”

…..

Ending scene – w/ Now We Are Free score

Gracchus on the Gladiatorial Games

I couldn’t find the exact scene for this but I LOVE Derek Jacobi‘s scene here. His lines is one of my favorite movie quote ever, but most importantly, it’s how he delivered it.

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[SCENE: Gaius and Gracchus at a restaurant, discussing the games which Commodus revived to lure the mob. Outside can be seen a juggler, merchants calling out their wares (wine), and the crowd visiting and moving about.]

GAIUS: Games! 150 days of games!
GRACCHUS: He’s cleverer than I thought.
GAIUS: Clever. The whole of Rome would be laughing at him if they weren’t in fear of his Praetorian.
GRACCHUS: Fear and wonder. A powerful combination.
GAIUS: Will the people really be seduced by that?
GRACCHUS: I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. He will conjure magic for them and they will be distracted. He will take away their freedom, and still they will roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble floor of the Senate, it is the sand of the Colosseum. He will give them death, and they will love him for it.


These are just a sampling of my favorite scenes from GLADIATOR. What do you think? Feel free to share yours.

Superior British Fare: ‘The Bletchley Circle’ Miniseries (2012-2013)

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Greetings all and sundry!
Having taken some time from change in the weather cleaning and rearranging of furniture and minor yard improvements. My evenings have been taken up sporadically easing aching muscles while in search of worthwhile or better enterta8inment.

With IFC (Independent Film Channel) and The Sundance Channel being tied up in summer fare. I’ve fallen back on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). Which often excels in finding, importing and disseminating superior series and specials from the United Kingdom.

Doctor Who, Danger: UXB, Brideshead Revisted, The Sandbaggers, Foley’s War and recently, Sherlock and Downton Abbey have been staples of exceptional quality. All have stood well the test of time. No matter their initial longevity. Due to the UK’s innate ability to find an unfamiliar, obscure or forgotten idea or topic. Research the heck out of it. And present it to higher ups for polish, luster and presentation.

With that said. Allow me a few moments of your time to discern and perhaps relish a bit of what the Brits do best.

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Superior British Fare: The Bletchley Circle (2012-2013)

Cracking a Killer’s Code.

The story begins in 1952 London.World War II is seven years in the past. Though the economic boom and prosperity enjoyed by the U.S. are distinctly absent along its narrow, cobbled streets and shops doing their best to survive and perhaps, thrive. A weak economy keps rationing in place. Families are pinching shillings and trading them in shops and businesses showing a marked preponderance of women in the workforce, due to lost husbands, lovers and sons during the war.

A war that shortened by between two to five years. Due to the work of many unsung men and women assigned under The Official Secrets Act. To find patterns and create procedures and algorithms feed into captured and manufactured German Enigma machines at Bletchley Park. Breaking their coded messages. And staying one step ahead of the Germans.

Mathematicians. statisticians, geniuses savants and those who have a knack with anagrams and written words. Seeking advantages whenever possible to help discover what’s going on across the Channel in Festung Europa. A tremendous advantage whose secrecy Churchill took extremely seriously. To the point of his not evacuating the city of Coventry and letting the Luftwaffe bomb it than tip his hand. And having an armed Royal Marine with orders to kill any one not authorized to enter the office where Enigma intelligent was collated, read and discussed.

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A tremendous responsibility during a time of war. Where the ladies in attendance worked and shared space in one of myriad outbuildings and Nissen huts at Bletchley. Led by Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin). Scots woman, administrator, librarian and den mother by popular demand to Millie (Rachael Stirling). Fluent in German, written and spoken and able to find patterns easily. Jean (Julie Graham), a wizard at organization and delegating tasks. And Lucy (Sophie Rundle), who possesses a photographic memory.

Four women of unique talents who are trying to make the best of life after the war. Unable to talk about their pasts while trying to have or carry on a relationship. About the only one who pull this off is Susan. Who has married. Has a young son and daughter. And a rather boring, slowly rising, lower tier position in the Foreign Office husband, Timothy (Mark Dexter).

Into this day to day. Women are being found brutally defiled and murdered. Sending newspaper sales soaring and frightening the fairer sex throughout London, the Thames and towns near and far. Worried for her children, Susan starts asking around and finds the papers only slightly more useful than the local flying squads and constabulary. Holding whatever “viable” information dear while basically going through the numbers.

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Susan takes time from her day to reconnect with Jean. Then Millie. And through several lunch breaks, the women get together under the premise of forming a “Book Club” to keep Timothy in the dark. What few facts have been gathered and laid bare as a spare nursery room is lines with black boards, cork boards and slowly, what seems miles of different colored yard connecting pieces of data, news articles and the like.as clues and a common denominator is sought. Covertly applying what was learned and done years earlier to help find a distinctly bad man.

Body locations are noted and backtracked. Questions are asked of their work and a commonality arises. All rode the Paddington train! A tour of the station is called for and departures and arrivals are noted. Schedules are gathered and late nights are spent crunching numbers to establish time lines. Enough for Susan to go to the local police department to present her collected data.

Only to be ignored up and down the line. Until finding an opening and not taking “no” for an answer. Laying maps and charts out while the Bobbies and Inspectors go through various shades of embarrassment. Taking Susan’s prediction of where to find the next victim with a few grains of damaged ego salts. While only being off by a few hundred yards days later. Though, the ante has been upped. With the woman having been tortured badly before sexual assault.

Sending Susan and the Circle back to comb through the data in search of a mistake. Something overlooked or missing. Shifting the paradigm from the possibility of the perpetrator from a passenger. To an employee!

I’ll close right now to avoid violating the Prime Directive Regarding Spoilers.

Overall Consensus:

Though my narrative may be a bit long. Cracking a Killer’s Code encompasses three near hour long episodes. There is a lot of territory to cover. And this mini-series does it exceptionally well. In set design and dressing. Wardrobe, period surrounding and accessories. Visually, things appear cramped and just a bit shabby indoors. While outdoors discussions, get togethers and picnics appear to occur on those few non rainy days across the isles.

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High marks go to an exceptional use of budget inside the Paddington station. In using its maple enclosed bank of schedules and clocks. Digitally altering the outside of the cars of its still operating steam engine train. Though leaving their interiors alone. And for dressing a section of the Bletchley Park museum to fit the WWII 1940s and post war 1950s. Creating feasts for the eyes that enhance sharp, smart dialogue.

The women delivering that dialogue are all at the top of their games. Whether it’s exchanging a ration card for half kilos of butter or meat. Paring down the number of irrelevants in tightening a victim’s timeline. Or trying to get the staid and stuck in the mud local police to listen and accept a new and very different approach to crime solving.

And that is part of the well executed hook. Seeing the very first glimmers of data collection, sifting and collating in establishing time lines and hints of possible “profiles”. Though, without the flash and panache of NUMB3RS. And more of a bare bones approach with paper, pencils, chalk boards and trial and error.

In the hands of women. Not girls. With a bit of wear and tear and ingrained cynicism. With a chain of command already set in place. Led by Susan, who knows all the others weaknesses and strengths. Leading the charge. While wondering what to fix for dinner. And Jean plying her executive and organizational skills in guiding where Millie and Lucy should look.

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Yet allowing some flexibility should a new piece of information arise. Since Lucy is meticulous with her memory. And Millie has a knack for finding flaws and subtleties in written data.

All wrapped in nipped in, fashionable attire of that time. Creating an intriguing introduction to a continuing story that deals with the sloppy cover up of Chemical Warfare testing on Britain’s own troops. Susan, her husband and family being sent to India through Timothy’s promotion within the Foreign Office. And Millie dabbles in the Black Market to help make ends meet. Then stumbles into hints of higher priced merchandise, white slavery and human trafficking to close the series out.

Having created and executed a sadly cancelled diversion more than worth the time and effort of seeking out in re-runs, DVD or Blu-Ray.

Check out the PBS trailer below:


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Have you seen this series? The floor is now open for discussion.

FlixChatter Double Review: Snowpiercer (2014)

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Ted’s Review

After last summer’s mediocre Elysium, I wasn’t that interested in seeing another sci-fi/action picture about the poor vs. the rich set in the future. Heck even after I saw the trailer, I sort of didn’t really want to see this new film from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong at all. But thanks to so many great reviews from critics, I’ve decided to check it out and I’m so glad I did. I think it’s my favorite film of 2014 so far.

The film opens with a prologue explaining what has happened to earth. A failed global-warming experiment has killed off pretty much all living things on the planet and only the few survivors are now living in a train that can travel all over the globe. In this train, there are two classes of people, the rich and the poor. The rich gets to live in the fancy front side of the train and all of the poor folks have to stay in the back. Of course the living conditions on the back of the train is horrendous. We’re introduced to two friends Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell), right away we know they’re planning to attack their oppressors and get to the front side so they can have control of the train. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the film, Curtis and his followers battles their way into each car of the train to get to the front side. The message about our current economics system gets a little heavy handed at times but I wasn’t bothered by it as much. Yeah I know the 1% is living large while the rest of us have to suffer and so on. Basically everything that Elysium did wrong, this film got it right.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Chris Evans has starred in two of my favorite movies of the year, the other one being Captain America: Winter Soldier. I was never a fan of his before and now I think he’s grown as actor. As the lead in another action picture, he did a good job of commanding the screen, we don’t know much about Curtis until the film’s climax and the payoff worked for me. I don’t think I’ve seen Jamie Bell in anything since the dreadful Jumper, here he’s the sidekick/comic relief and I think he did alright. Tilda Swinton looked like she had a blast playing another villainous role, I would’ve liked to see more of her character in the movie though. John Hurt played a minor role as the old mentor to Curtis and the rest of the poor folks and he’s your typical father figure type. I think I’ve seen him played this kind of role so many times that I knew what to expect from his performance. Scenes stealer belongs to South Korea actor Song Kang-ho, he was recruited by Curtis and his team because he invented the train’s door security system and he’s their key to their success. For those who’ve seen Bong’s previous work, you know that Song is his go to actor and here he didn’t disappoint. Another well known actor showed up as the train inventor and main villain, I thought he was quite effective. I don’t want to mention his name since I think most people don’t know he’s in the movie and I think it’s better for people to find out for themselves.

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To me the main reason this film worked was because of Joon-ho Bong‘s direction. He was able to elevate a silly concept and made into something that kind of original and fun to watch. The film’s actually based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige. Bong co-wrote the script with Kelly Masterson (she wrote Sidney Lumet’s last film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead), the story had me on the edge of my seat throughout and I like the fact that they didn’t chicken out and end the film in a Hollywood fashion. Bong staged some cool action set pieces, including a brawl between Curtis’ gang and the rich folks’ army and unusual shootout between Curtis and one of the villains. For anyone who’s never seen Bong’s other films, you might find his style a little weird and un-Hollywood like. I also think he pay homage to Sam Peckinpah for this film, in fact I thought had Peckinpah ever made a sci-fi picture, it would be like this one. For a film that cost less than $40mil, the visual effects looked pretty great. I can only imagine what his next film will look like if Bong gets a budget of $150-200mil.

After witnessing the atrocious Transformers 4 a couple of weeks ago, I was glad to have seen this excellent film. It’s smart, exciting and well paced. It surely will be on my top favorite films of the year, this one comes highly recommended.

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Ruth’s Review

Science fiction thriller set in post-apocalyptic world is a dime a dozen. Seems that Hollywood is quite obsessed with this sub-genre, even young adult fares are set in this dystopian future, often with a hero/heroine who’s destined to change the world. Thankfully, Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer manages to set itself apart from the pack. This is my intro into Bong’s work, and it’s also his first Hollywood film. I’ve blogged about the furor over Harvey’s Weinsteins constant meddling with the film’s cut last year, so finally, after waiting for over two years, I got to see this on the big screen.

What strikes me right away about this film is how bleak it is. Bong’s imagined future has that gritty, soiled and grimy look as we’re shown how the poor, unfortunate souls have been living the past 17 years in the tail section of a rackety train, Snowpiercer. Given that earth is now inhabitable due to a cataclysmic accident that renders everything frozen, the train has to keep running nonstop with what’s left of humanity on board. Having been oppressed for nearly two decades with no chance to escape, it’s no wonder the lower class is hellbent on revolt. It’s futuristic Les Misérables set on a train. It’s an intriguing concept surely, but that alone doesn’t always translate to an intriguing film (Ted’s mentioned Elysium and I’d also add In Time  which are more action/adventure than a true sci-fi). Snowpiercer on the other hand, has a nice balance of action and character-driven sequences, and it’s not reliant on special effects to thrill the audience.

I have to admit it’s not the most entertaining film I’ve seen, and at times it’s too violent for my taste. It’s not as graphic as I feared it would be but I still think it’s not for the faint of heart. But I appreciate Bong’s bold vision and the way that Snowpiercer doesn’t glamorize the post-apocalyptic world, which enhances its sense of realism. Despite the fantastical concept, at times it made me think how this bleak reality might not be so far-fetched after all. The geopolitical and socio-economic allegory can be in-your-face at times so I could see why some critics have called it heavy-handed. But overall the pace of the film is good and the slow moments are a welcome relief from all the brutality. I especially like Chris Evans‘ emotionally-charged monologue towards the end which gives us a glimpse into what’s really at stake for the rebels. The confined space of a train gives a heightened sense of claustrophobia that makes everything even more suspenseful. The more we learn about the world within Snowpiercer, the more we realize that nothing is what it seems. There are genuine surprises as well that keeps you on your toes. Just when you think things are calming down, Bong would suddenly pulls the rug from under us! Unlike lot of action films that are loud, bombastic but lacking genuine tension (basically what Bayhem is all about), this one gives me a real adrenaline rush.

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The international cast is full of inspired casting. Interesting to see Chris Evans in the role of the protagonist. He’s a flawed, reluctant hero, the polar opposite of Captain America, though Evans retains that sympathetic guy-next-door persona even bloody and covered in dirt the entire film. Having seen him in Puncture, I knew he’s got dramatic chops, so I hope he makes wiser role choices from now on so we can see more of what he can deliver. Tilda Swinton once again delivers her chameleonic turn as Minister Mason, a role that’s originally written as a mild-mannered man. The most memorable characters to me are the South Korean father/daughter duo played by Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, both have worked with Bong before in The Host. It’s nice to see Ed Harris in a key role, he definitely makes an impact despite his brief appearance. Jamie Bell, John Hurt, and Octavia Spencer round up the solid supporting cast.

So overall Snowpiercer is definitely worth the wait, though I wouldn’t call it flawless. There’s a certain chaotic madness in Bong’s direction that’s discombobulating, and the emotional involvement with the characters just isn’t as strong as it could be. In the end they’re all still a mystery to me that keep them at a distance from the audience. But what the film does well is that it really makes us ponder on the fascinating, though-provoking ideas whilst we marvel in the visually-arresting cinematography. The contrast between the vast and bright frozen landscape outside the train window and the cramped, crowded and dark interior is striking. The music by Marco Beltrami is also pleasing to the ear and enhances the mood.

The finale is truly something to behold, and the CGI is actually used to a tremendous effect because we’re not so worn-out by it. The lack of a glorified happy-ending is also refreshing, something that would linger long after the end credits roll and inspire countless conversations afterward. If you’re a big sci-fi fan, this one is not to be missed. It’s truly a visceral experience that manages to feel original despite the tried-and-true premise we’ve seen time and again. I’m curious to see what Bong does next, hopefully this won’t be his last collaboration with Hollywood.

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What do you think of Snowpiercer? 

Five for the Fifth: JULY 2014 Edition

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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. Well, since yesterday is Fourth of July, aka Independence Day for good ‘ol USA, for some reason I always think of Roland Emmerich’s 1996 alien disaster flick: Independence Day. It is after all the quintessential Hollywood Summer tentpole flick: big, bombastic and unabashedly patriotic. Regardless how you feel about America, it’s hard not to cheer when Wil Smith punches the slimy, ugly alien or when Bill Pullman made his rousing speech (no doubt one of the most memorable movie presidents/speeches ever).

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I bet there are folks who watch this annually on July 4th, just like it’s tradition to watch The Tenth Commandments at Easter and Miracle on 34th Street on Christmas day. And why not? It’s an absolute blast in every sense of the word, massively entertaining so long as you don’t mind suspending your disbelief for 2 hours and just go along for the ride.

So do you have a go-to Summer movie you like to watch every year? ….

2. Speaking of July 4th, check out this new thematic-trailer of the one Summer movie I can’t wait to see! Fortunately I won’t have to wait too long as I’ll be seeing it next Tuesday. So far the marketing for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has me REALLY anticipating this one, it looks even more sinister than the excellent first film. JFK’s independence day speech from 1962 makes it even more eerie, especially when one of the apes climbed over that American flag!


The early buzz I’ve read so far has been unanimously positive. Could it be one of the best movies of the year? I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case. With the amazing Andy Serkis back in mo-cap performance as Caesar, the rest of the cast is pretty solid: Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Toby Kebell.

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.

I also found some cool posters, both official and fan-made. Click each image to see a larger version:

Are you as excited as I am for this movie?

3. Oh man, here’s another reason why I wish I lived in London!! I just read yesterday that one of my favorite composers Hans Zimmer is planning a concert at Hammersmith Apollo in London. The concert series is titled Hans Zimmer Revealed which will include music from his vast film soundtrack collections. I LOVE a lot of his work, as I’ve highlighted in this Music Break post. Apparently Zimmer’s no stranger to performing on stage. He’s been known to perform during film premieres, such as during Inception premiere in L.A. in 2010. Here he was performing with guitarist Johnny Marr:

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Photo courtesy of Variety.com

Per Collider, the concert will be in two parts: the first being some of Zimmer’s classic movie scores including Gladiator, The Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean, and the second featuring re-imagined versions of some classic scores such as The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception with special guests from the rock and pop world. It’d be sooo cool to hear LIVE orchestra of some of my all time favorite scores, especially Gladiator which I just rewatched last night. I think that could be considered Zimmer’s masterpiece. It’d be even more awesome if he brings his protege John Powell to perform together as well. I hope he’d consider doing concerts in the US as well, though most likely in the major cities like L.A. or New York City anyway.

What do you think of Hans Zimmer concert? Which other composer would you pay to see live on stage?
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4. Now this question is inspired by my friend Dave’s awesomely-long comment on my Transformers 4 rant post. He mentioned that he’s been binge-ing on lots of TV series lately and he’s not missing movies much at all.

This year TV has surpassed the movies for me. What with series like House Of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire, Veep, Orphan Black, Sherlock, True Detective, Fargo, Downton Abbey… and even going back to the end of last year with Broadchurch, Top of the Lake and The Returned… I can’t say I’m really missing the movies so much. I haven’t even delved into Game of Thrones, Hannibal, or Sundance’s Rectify yet.

He also mentioned upcoming shows he’s anticipating, one of which is Cinemax’s The Knick from Steven Soderbergh, starring Clive Owen. Set in downtown New York in 1900, The Knick centers on Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff who push the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. Check out the trailer:

Heh, hat looks pretty darn scary but definitely intriguing. Well, having finished all 8-episodes of STARZ’s Black Sails (Season 1) last night, I totally get why people are so into TV these days and indeed, the golden age of television is going on again now. The quality of actors and script, not to mention the huge budget studios invest on these shows are astounding.

My question for you is two-fold:
Have you been watching more TV than movies lately? Which shows are you addicted to right now and/or highly-anticipating?
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5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Andrew from A Fistful of Films Blog. It’s funny how a decade of film can carry with it a certain quality.  When you think about the 80’s, you may call to mind that melodramatic, almost palpable soap opera veneer that found it’s way into so many films.

80sFilmDecade When you think of the 30’s, you may think of the countless screwball comedies and the prat falls that laced them.  Whatever the case, we tend to lump things in groups of ten, and deservedly so.

With that in mind, which decade of film have you found the most rewarding to explore, and which ‘quality’ makes it so rich??


Well, that’s it for the JULY 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Music Break: Five Favorite JOHN POWELL Scores

John Powell is one of the most versatile composers working today. Just looking at his filmography, his work spans multiple genres: animation, romantic dramas, action/adventure, thrillers, etc.

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I’ve been a fan of his work for some time, but for some reason I don’t always recognize that it’s him behind the great music I enjoy. So for that reason, and because I’m such a fan of his work, he’s the perfect subject for my Music Break! According to this Spitfire Q&A, early in his career Powell worked with Hans Zimmer at Media Ventures. His music influence also came from his dad, a tuba player with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the 50s and 60s, who performed on a lot of film scores.

Powell has been nominated for various major awards, including one Academy Award nomination (for How To Train Your Dragon) and three BAFTAs. I’ve said it before that composers are instrumental (pardon the pun) in the filmmaking process. A great score adds so much to the experience as a whole, and at times it could be the best thing about the movie itself.

So for this music break, here are my five favorites  from the talented British composer:

Bourne Ultimatum

Powell did all the Bourne films’ soundtrack except Bourne Legacy, and this one from Bourne Ultimatum is my favorite. He also worked with Moby on the Extreme Ways track that I’ve featured here.


P.S. I Love You

It’s interesting how he could go from an action theme like Bourne to something tender and sweet like this one. But I LOVE this music, I actually have the soundtrack in my car and I always replay this last theme on the CD.


Face/Off

One of my fave soundtracks from the 90s and it’s still awesome to listen to today. I love both the slower theme as well as the action-packed version. This is Powell’s big film project and at times it sounds a bit like something Hans Zimmer would’ve done. Of course over the years Powell’s created his own unique style in his music.


How To Train Your Dragon

This score won a bunch of awards, including an Oscar nomination. It’s perhaps one of my favorite scores of all time! The entire soundtrack is excellent but my all time favorite is this one that I’ve highlighted in this post. It literally makes my heart soar!


The Italian Job

Some of Powell’s music has that tribal sounding and this is one of them. Yet it sounds very cool, modern and exciting. I like this boat chase one a bit more than the mini cooper chase through the tunnel. Fun stuff overall.


Hope you enjoy today’s music break, folks.
So which John Powell’s score is YOUR favorite?

Trailer Spotlight: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It’s been a while since I featured a trailer spotlight on my blog, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has a pretty unusual concept that I just had to share.

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Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

I first heard about this project last year when I heard about James McAvoy casting. At the time I thought that it was more of a mystery thriller or something. Then I saw some photos of McAvoy and Jessica Chastain all over Twitter when it premiered at Cannes. Well apparently there are there versions of this film, told from two different perspectives and also a combined version. Say what?

Well, the concept is quite unusual in that first-time director Ned Benson told the story of a young NYC couple from each character’s point of view. Conor (McAvoy) and Eleanor (Chastain) each get a 95-minute movie told from his/her perspective. Naturally it’s tricky to market two films that’s essentially the same story (especially when the Weinsteins are involved), so Benson’s created a third version (Them) which features footage from both His/Her versions and has a conventional running time of 2 hours. So this new trailer is the unified version of Benson’s ambitious directorial debut, check it out:


I LOVE romantic dramas, not the typical rom-coms but something that isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the nitty gritty of a relationship and the ‘warts and all’ approach to a love story. Seems that they have cast two excellent actors in the lead, I believe both McAvoy and Chastain have the chops to pull off the complexity and depth their roles require. I haven’t seen Chastain in anything this year though I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of her work in the past two years. McAvoy is definitely one of the brightest actors of his generation. He’s also one of my favorite Scots, I kind of think of him as the more talented & versatile version of Gerry Butler who looks like his older brother. If only Butler would pick the kind of roles McAvoy’s signed up for.

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The supporting cast is not too shabby at all: William HurtIsabelle HuppertViola Davis, and Bill Hader. So would we be able to see all three versions in the theater? Well, according to Deadline, “Benson said the plan will be to release the new two-hour cut around September 26. A month or six weeks later, the first two films, Him and Her, will play in limited release in art house theaters.”

Hmmm, I doubt my city would get all three versions, we’d be lucky if we even get this unified version. But hopefully all three would be released on iTunes or DVD/Bluray at some point.


What do you think of this film and/or unusual concept?

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Movie of June 2014

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Man, where has June go??! It’s nuts that this weekend is Fourth of July already which means we’re already halfway done with Summer :(

I feel that this month is a blur already, I actually have a hard time just what in the heck I’ve been watching this past month. Well, one thing for sure, I’ve been doing more Toby Stephens marathon since May. When I say an actor is versatile, I truly mean it with Toby. The man can play virtually ANY role brilliantly and no matter what genre he tackles, the British thespian effortlessly fits right in. It pains me how underrated he is as immense talent + chameleonic ability is quite a rare combination in an actor, the fact that he’s SO easy on the eyes is of course icing on the cake.

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Clockwise from top left: Toby in Black Sails (2014), BBC Jane Eyre (2006), BBC Wired (2008),  and The Machine (2013)

So thanks to my pal Becky (aka Prairiegirl), I got to catch up on Black Sails! I’ve only got half of the 8-episodes of Season 1 and it’s pretty good! Of course I’m not going to lie that Toby’s the main reason I watched it and he’s definitely the BEST thing about it. I LOVE what The Guardian said about Toby’s role as Captain Flint: “Stephens’s Flint is every inch the modern anti-hero that those accustomed to the moral greys of Tony Soprano or Walter White will appreciate.” I’m impressed by the quality of the series though, it’s definitely not the clichéd pirate stuff that’s often depicted by Hollywood. Can’t wait to see more from Season 1 and Season 2 can’t come soon enough!! I’ll definitely be doing a review of it once I’m done with the first season. In case you have no idea what the show is all about, here’s an inside look video of season 1:

Ok, on to the monthly recap!

Posts you might’ve missed:

New-to-me Movies/TV/Miniseries:

Rewatches:

I just realized I watched quite a lot of period dramas this past month! I wasn’t planning on it, but hey, it’s one of my favorite genres :D

  • Belle (2013)
  • BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006 miniseries)
  • Ever After – A Cinderella Story (1998)
  • Love, Actually (2003)
  • Mansfield Park (1999)
  • The Machine (2013)
  • Pacific Rim (2013)
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Favorite Movie Seen in June 2014:

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I think Edge of Tomorrow is pretty darn good but I have such a soft spot for Hiccup, Toothless & co and this second installment definitely lives up to the fantastic original! Plus the soundtrack by John Powell is simply astounding. Stay tuned for a John Powell Music Break coming soon!


So, what movies did you get to see in June and which one is your favorite?

FlixChatter Double Review –Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Ted’s Review

After a three year absent, the Transformers are back on the big screen. They still have to deal with annoying human characters, fight the bad Transformers and destroy every big city as much as they could.

The movie picked up about 5 years after the last one, we’re introduced to some new human characters Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Yeager is a failed inventor and he’s close to being broke and lose his farm. One day he found an old truck which happens to be Optimus Prime, he’s hiding from the government. Apparently after the events of the last movie, all of the Autobots are being hunted down by the CIA. The mission is being spearheaded by a high level CIA executive Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). When Attinger finds out that Optimus Prime is hiding out at Yeager’s farm, he sends his operatives including its leader James Savoy (Titus Welliver) to bring Prime in. Of course things didn’t turn out well as they’d hoped and Yeager, his daughter and Optimus were able to get away from the agents. I was going to write more about the “plot” of the movie but let’s face it, no one go to see this movie for its plot, which by the way didn’t make a lick of sense. If you’re a fan of the previous three movies and enjoy all the explosions and robots fighting then you’re going to love this one. For anyone who can’t stand this franchise, I’d advise you to stay far away from it!

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Wahlberg stepped in as the new leading man this time and I didn’t think he was as annoying as Shia LaBeouf but he didn’t really add anything much to the movie. Since he’s done many action movies prior, the writers did write in scenes where he’s part of the action instead of just running and screaming like LaBeouf did in the previous movies. Young actress Nicola Peltz became the new eye candy in this one, when I say eye candy, I meant it literally. Bay pretty much focused the cameras on every part of her body, just like he did with the other pretty girls in the previous movies. Another young actor (Jack Reynor) showed up as her boyfriend and I think he’s supposed to play LaBeouf’s part because I found him quite annoying. Then later in the movie, Stanley Tucci showed up as this Steve Jobs type of a character. Grammer was pretty much your typical one dimensional villain, he’s bad, he’s greedy and he doesn’t about anyone but himself.

Now let’s talk about Michael Bay and his Bayhem. I don’t know if it’s possible but this movie might have had more climatic action scenes than any other movies I’ve ever seen. Bay kept blowing things up and robots smashing into one another for close to 3 hours! The man has no restrain and as long as people keeps paying to see this franchise, he’ll never stop. I remember a while back he said he’s done with the franchise but I guess the studio probably offered him money more than any average person would ever see in their lifetime.

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Now I do have a couple of good things to say about this movie. First, it’s the first movie to have been shot with the new IMAX 3D cameras and since I’m a big fan of IMAX, it’s nice to have seen it on the biggest screen. If you’re going to see it on IMAX, know that it will have aspect ratio switching. Second, the 3D effects were quite impressive, maybe one of the best I’ve seen. There were scenes where I felt like I was in the movie, Bay did a good job there with the 3D. Of course the 3D supposed to enhance the story and not be the story, so it gets tiresome about an hour into the movie.

The movie is expected to be the summer’s biggest hit and I have no doubt that it will be a big hit. If you’re a fan of the franchise then you’ll love it, but for me it’s another bloated piece of turd from a director who only cares about making money and not quality films.

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Ruth’s Review

Ok so this is not so much a straight-on review as my rant reaction to this movie [if you can even call it that]. I’ve only seen the first movie [only because I was at a friend's party and everyone wanted to watch the Transformers movie], and frankly I had no interest in seeing any more from this franchise. The only reason I went to this press screening is because it was at the IMAX theater and this was supposedly the first film shot with IMAX 3D Digital Camera. Silly reason really, and definitely NOT a worthy one to waste three whole hours on (more if you include the bazillion trailers before the movie starts).

Pretty much the only thing one needs to know about the Transformers universe is this: the Autobots are the good alien robots and the Decepticons are the evil ones. The humans are disposable creatures, as interchangeable as the parts in a kid’s toolbox. So supposedly an epic battle had happened in the previous film that left the world in pieces, though you wouldn’t know that from looking at the shots of Chicago and Beijing as they look pretty much unscathed with all of the skyscrapers intact. For some reasons, the Autobots are now being hunted down by the CIA, whilst the top level CIA agent (Kelsey Grammer) happily makes deals with another group of alien robots as they agree to leave earth. Meanwhile, a lowly farmer inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) inadvertently discovered that a beat-up old truck is actually the leader of the Autobots, called Optimus Prime. So of course soon enough Yeager and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) become fugitives themselves as they want to keep Optimus from getting caught. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

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As if the obtuse storyline wasn’t enough, Michael Bay‘s execution and directing style makes this fourth installment so unbearable in every sense of the word. At 165-min long, it’s overstuffed yet hollow, loud and verbose with nothing to say. As the end credit rolled, my hubby and I just shook our head. Yes I know it’s not the first time Hollywood studios spent a mind-boggling $180 mil budget on such a stinker, but this one is especially horrid with barely any redeeming quality whatsoever. Now, I’m not saying I can’t enjoy a movie about monstrous alien robots. After all, I LOVE Pacific Rim, which I’ve rewatched several times and still entertained by it. Funny that the lead character’s name is Yeager sounds just like Pac Rim‘s robotic weapon Jaeger. If only this movie is even half as entertaining!

Bay’s Transformers franchise should go down in film history as the quintessential piece of garbage, as it represents the worst thing that one dreads from a Summer blockbuster… vapid, trite, overindulgent, overwrought, plus a dose of self-satisfied smug-ness. After all, Bay remains defiant, here’s his response to those who are critical of his *masterpiece*: “They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate … They’re still going to see the movie! [per mtv.com]. Wish he were wrong but he’s not. As I’m writing this, the movie has made over $40 mil in one DAY, on track for a $100+ mil weekend [sigh] It’s ironic that the title tagline is ‘age of extinction.’ Well, it seems that creativity in Hollywood is on the verge of extinction [if it isn't already]. The best line of the movie comes early in the movie, inside a ruined vintage cinema, when an older man lamented how all movies these days are sequels and remakes. Was Bay poking fun at himself and what he represents? Highly unlikely, considering his comment above.

You know something is out of whack when during watching a movie, you’re thinking about why so many good actors sign on to this and wonder how much money they made for it. That is if you’re not busy counting how many product placements are scattered during the action scenes [hint: it's too many to count]. Every actor here is utterly wasted, Wahlberg is not immune to bad movies [The Happening, anyone?] but I’m still baffled as to why he signed on to do this. You would think he’s got enough cash that he never need to do a project only for monetary reason. Talented young actors like Sophia Myles and Jack Reynor probably just want the exposure one could get from mainstream blockbusters, but it’s still painful to see them in something THIS bad. Let’s hope they pick better roles in the future. As for Peltz, she is an exact embodiment of a damsel-in-distress, yet another eye candy type for the purpose of Bay’s unabashed female objectifications. As Wahlberg’s character complained about her daughter’s skimpy outfit, Bay set up a shot from between her thighs as she stood with her short shorts that barely covered her behind. Peltz was only 18 during filming, Bay’s nearing 50. It’s really a new low even for Bay.

I don’t know what’s worse, the wooden acting or the clichéd dialog coming out of their mouths. Even Stanley Tucci who’s always watchable even in a bad movie made me cringe here. His character is a multi-billionaire Tony Stark-type inventor who has been making man-made robots from the remains of the evil alien robots Decepticons. For someone who’s supposedly a brilliant scientist, his character does the most idiotic things throughout. In the third act, the main characters resort to dragging an alien *seed* that can turn organic material into metal. You’d think they’d be more careful with something THAT lethal, but it’s as if they’re dragging a body bag. It’s like watching a slapstick comedy except that it’s neither funny nor entertaining.

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I better end my rant now as I’m running out of adjectives to describe this movie. This FilmInk reviewer sums up my sentiment perfectly: “Transformers: Age of Extinction has appalling dialogue, deplorable representations of women, un-self-aware action sequences, very little humour and racial stereotyping. In other words, it’s a Michael Bay movie.” Suffice to say, this is by far the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time, rivaled only by Die Hard 5 but even that one is still more watchable as it’s only about half as long. I actually had to make a new rating graphic for this one as I’ve never given a rating this low before. I don’t care what state-of-the-art equipment is used to make this or even how good the visual quality is. 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.

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Well, what do you think of the latest Transformers movie?