[Slow] Weekend Roundup, X-Men 2 & Musings on Expendables 3

It’s been a slow weekend for me in terms of movie watching but a hectic one otherwise. My hubby & I hosted a potluck Saturday night which was a ton of fun. There was a ton of food as well, three different kinds of curry dishes, a Kim-chee dish, coconut rice, tofu w/ peanut sauce, etc. and I haven’t even talked about desert yet :D

Sunday afternoon I went to the second staff meeting for the fifth annual Twin Cities Film Fest! It’s coming up in less than two months (October 16!) and I’m waiting with bated breath which movies we’ll be getting this year! Film fans who live in the area, please consider supporting this amazing event tailored for cinephiles like you. We’ve got a special Member Drive where you can catch a sneak preview into films premiering at TCFF, see info below or click the graphic for more info.

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So this weekend I didn’t go to the cinema at all. In fact I only saw one movie and that’s a rewatch of X-Men 2. I was inspired by this Superhero Blog Relay last week, and the fact that it’s perhaps my favorite from the franchise before X-Men: Days of Future Past came along. I still loved it as much as I did before, perhaps one day I might do a full review of it.

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My favorite scenes are the Magneto prison escape, anything with Brian Cox as the villain William Stryker, and that awesome finale with Jean Grey turning into Phoenix. After seeing this, my hubby said how much he hated Brett Ratner for ruining her character in X-Men 3, especially after such a breathtaking cliffhanger!  There’s so much potential for her character arc that wasn’t explored well at all by that hack director. Heh, I sure hope he won’t ever be back working on another X-Men movie ever again… or any good franchise for that matter.

Quick notes on this weekend’s box office. WOW, the power of Bayhem is really something! Those Ninja Turtles won again, practically beating every new movies opening this week. Even those Geriatric action heroes in Expendables 3 can’t overpower those ninja turtles?! Only the Guardians of the Galaxy in its third week was a close match!

1. Ninja Turtles $28,400,000
2. Guardians of the Galaxy $24,735,000
3. Let’s Be Cops $17,700,000

Earlier this year, I asked if people still love geriatric movie stars blowing stuff up in action flicks. Majority of the commenters said yes, they still do love ‘em aging stars, but maybe not enough to see ‘em on the big screen?

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Expendables 3 made only $16 mil, which was only about half of what the second movie made two years ago. Hmmm, so maybe this franchise is on its last leg eh? Same could be said about most of the cast anyway. Really, Sly should stop now anyway, I mean stretching this bombastic shoot-em-up party to a trilogy is already well, quite a stretch as it is. But what I didn’t know until an hour ago was that apparently the entire movie got leaked online three weeks before its release. According to Variety, as of July 27, there’s been 1.13 million illegal downloads of Expendables 3 worldwide!!

Though I hated the first movie, and I’ve only seen the Chuck Norris part of the 2nd movie, part of me actually still curious to check this one. So *maybe* I’ll go to a matinee showing ;) After all Wesley Snipes is back! I’m curious to see this just for him, plus we’ve got Harrison Ford & Mel Gibson!

This week I’ll be going to Sin City 2: Dame to Kill For screening on Tuesday. Boy it’s been almost a decade since the first movie was released. I barely remember what it’s all about but I do remember liking the visual style.


So that’s it for the roundup. What did YOU see? Anything good?

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Everybody’s Chattin’ + Question of the Week on Tom Hiddleston as Ben Hur

Happy Friday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone again today in combining two post *series* in one.

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Ok, so let’s start with some of my favorite posts from the past week:

  • RIP_RobinWilliamsIt’s been quite a very sad week for film fans… we lost two beloved actors within days of each other. I’m still reeling from Robin Williams‘ sudden passing, which is very tragic indeed. It’s nice to see people’s outpouring of tributes to the comic genius whose lives have been touched by a certain role he did throughout his illustrious career:
    Alex did an In Character post, Andrew and Steven paid tribute listing their favorite roles, Kristin highlights a wonderful scene from his Oscar-winning role Good Will Hunting, and Mark took a break from blogging hiatus to dedicate a Trivia Tribute filled with interesting tidbits. Lastly, Dan posted Top 10 Films of the late actor, whilst Nostra made a Many Faces Of post which illustrates his amazing versatility.
  • RIPLaurenBacallThis week we also lost a beloved classic actress Lauren Bacall. I wish I had seen more of her work, so far I have only seen her in Designing Woman. Well, Keith wrote a lovely tribute filled with beautiful photos and lots of recommendations on her work.
  • On a more cheerful note, Lady Sati shone a spotlight on rising star Chris Pratt, whilst Terrence posted a bunch of new trailers to get excited about some upcoming releases.
  • Michael highlighted a favorite scene from one of my favorite sci-fi movies The Abyss, Mark reviewed a neo noir crime drama Cold in July, whilst Tom ventured out of his comfort zone by watching the period drama Belle, bravo Tom! :D
  • Tyson‘s been back blogging again and posted some of the Desert Island Classic posts. This time it’s Abbi‘s turn to pick which movies she’d take when she’s stranded.
  • Josh posted his 1971 CinSpec Awards, apparently a great year for movies and I like how The French Connection got plenty of mentions. Meanwhile, Rodney reviewed Transcendence which I still hasn’t got time to check out, and Eric reviewed Sideways, the 2004 dark comedy by Alexander Payne as part of his annual 50 Movie Project.
  • Last but not least, my pal Raul wrote a piece on the Film Inquiry site about Steve McQueen’s Trifecta. Of course we’re talking about the British director, not the classic actor :D

Now for Question of the Week!

A whole bunch of tweets and casting news have been circulating lately that Tom Hiddleston is wanted for the leading role in the upcoming Ben-Hur adaptation. Now, as a fan of the 1959 film with Charlton Heston, which is actually a remake of a silent 1925 film, I wasn’t immediately keen on this project. Now, I LOVE Biblical epics but it seems that the trend in Hollywood is to forgo the source material and only use the character/story as a base to launch something else entirely *cough* Noah *cough.* You can read my thoughts about Biblical screen adaptations here.

But you know what, the casting of Hiddleston did pique my interest. It’s not final yet but I really hope he’d do it. I think the classically-trained actor would be wonderful in the role. We all know he’s got screen charisma and surely he could play a hero as well as he did a villain.

Hiddles as Coriolanus at Donmar Warehouse, London

Hiddles as Coriolanus at Donmar Warehouse, London

I’m slightly more hopeful about this project as according to Collider, this film will heavily incorporate the story of Jesus Christ from the book (Lew Wallace’s novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ), which runs parallel to the actions of Judah Ben-Hur throughout the film. What I LOVE about the 1959 film is the spirituality aspect, and the portrayal of Christ is subtle but powerful. In fact, it’s far more affecting than the entire film of Son of God, which brings me to the interesting group of behind-the-scene talents.

We’ve got Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) set as director, with Keith Clarke (The Way Back) and John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) penning the script, AND Mark Burnett & Roma Downey, the pair behind The Bible miniseries & Son of God as producers. Heh I really don’t know what to make of this group. Bekmambetov isn’t the first name on my wish list for a project such as this, and Burnett & Downey’s Son Of God, despite their best intentions, lack a sense of mystique and grandeur that Christ’ story so deserved. So I guess I’m cautiously optimistic with this one. I’d think it’s still tough to top William Wyler Roman epic, even that chariot scene alone with incredible set pieces, thousands of extras and no CGI whatsoever was still one of the most amazing scenes ever filmed.

In any case, if Hiddles accepts this role, it’s already a plus on the casting front. Hopefully we’ll know in a few weeks if he says yay or nay to this. The film’s been scheduled for release on February 26th 2016.


So my question to you is:

What do you think of Tom Hiddleston as Ben-Hur? Thoughts on this project in general?

The 10 Best Superhero Movies of All Time Blog Relay

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Yet another Blog Relay is circulating on the blogosphere! When I first saw this awesome relay idea on Bubbawheat’s Flights, Tights and Movie Nights Blog, I thought boy that’s something I’d love to participate. Well, waddayaknow, the fantabulous Andrew from A Fistful of Films passed the baton to me, hurray! :D

The rule here is slightly different than a typical blog relay you might’ve seen in the past, so I’ll let Bubbawheat explain it in his own words:

Now the first thing you might be asking is “why are there 12 movies in this top 10 list?” Well there are a couple changes that I’m making to the typical blog relay. Here are the rules for my relay.

1. The list of movies will be passed to another blogger who will post their list within a week.
2. The blogger will take their list, remove 3 movies – with explanations, and replace with 3 new movies – with explanations.
3. If a movie lasts five rounds without being removed, it is locked into place.
4. If a movie is removed three different times, it is locked out and can no longer be chosen by someone else.
5. Once four movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 2 movies.
6. Once eight movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 1 movie.
7. Once all ten movies are locked into place, the relay will be complete.

I will keep the current status of the relay here and you can also follow the steps of the relay as it goes along.

Check out the original relay post to see which initial 12 films made the list.
Andrew removed Hellboy 2, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and X-Men.
He then added Chronicle, Mystery Men and The Rocketeer.

So here’s the list as it currently stands:

The Avengers
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The Dark Knight
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Superman
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Spider-Man 2
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The Incredibles
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Iron Man
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Blade 2
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Batman Returns
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Unbreakable
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Chronicle
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Mystery Men
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The Rocketeer
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The three I’m removing:Chronicle_Blade2_MysteryMen Chronicle | Blade 2 | Mystery Men

Sorry Drew for removing two of the ones you added, no hard feelings? ;) As I often say in other blog relays, I’m not so much removing them as I’m just moving them down the list if this were a top 2.

Now, I like Chronicle a lot (I gave it a 4/5 in my review) and if I only need to take out two instead of three movies, I might’ve let that in. I do think that even though it’s inventive, there are plot holes abound and the finale might’ve been a bit too bombastic that it felt like an abrupt shift in tone. As for Blade 2, I LOVE Wesley Snipes in the role but I just don’t know if any of the Blade movies deserve to make the top 10. I hardly remember much about them, so they didn’t leave a lasting impression to me other than Snipes look cool as a bad ass ninja vampire. Lastly, I took out Mystery Men because I haven’t seen it yet. Sorry again Drew, but I really tried to see if there’s another movie on the list I could take out but  in the end I had to let this one go. But since you included it, I might give it a rent :D

The three I’m adding:

BatmanBeginsWinterSoldierX2Batman BeginsCaptain America: The Winter SoldierX-Men 2

I’m a huge fan of Nolan’s first entry to the Batman trilogy. In fact, I dare say that Batman Begins is as good as The Dark Knight and sets the bar high for a superhero film. I like that it focuses on the hero instead of the villain, and Christian Bale makes for a caped crusader who’s truly worth rooting for. I love it so much I’d even be willing to forgive the Katie Holmes casting! Now The Winter Soldier is still quite fresh in my mind and I do believe it deserves to be in the final top 10 because it has everything you’d want in an entertaining superhero flick and then some. It’s a successful genre-mashup, mixing the traditional superhero genre with a Cold-War espionage story, that expands the characters’ arc and takes the story forward in a thrilling way. As for X-2, well I think at least ONE X-Men film deserved to be on the list and I agree with Drew’s rationale that X-Men 2: X-Men United is a better film than the first film. The opening scene at the White House is fantastic and Brian Cox is one of my fave superhero movie villains as covert government operative Stryker. The multi-layered story combined with great performances gave the film a dramatic weight that transcend beyond fun entertainment. Not to mention the most indelible and emotional finale involving one of my favorite X-Men characters Jean Grey, as mutant vs. human struggle continues… ever closer to the brink of war. Powerful stuff!


Well I hope that at least one of my three pics would stay to the end ;)

I’m passing the baton to my pal & fellow superhero movie fan Terrence of The Focus Filmographer! I’m pretty sure he’s seen all or most of these movies so I’m VERY curious to see how he’d shake up the list.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on my picks. Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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For anyone who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, you probably heard of the Ninja Turtles even if you were not a fan. As a young boy back in those days, I was a huge fan of the turtles, my brother and I used to watch the morning cartoon show every day and I’ve watched the original film countless times on VHS. The first film released back in 1990 was a huge hit but unfortunately the two sequels that followed were quite awful and the franchise went on hiatus for a few years. The studio tried to restart the film franchise with a CG animation and released an animated movie simply called TMNT back in 2007. Even with voices by well known actors such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans and Patrick Stewart, the movie never caught on with the public. For a while many thought the franchise was dead, at one time John Woo was attached to produce and direct another film version but of course that never happened. The franchise ended up in the hands of Michael Bay and now we’re finally got to see another live action movie version.

With a comic book style introduction, this new movie takes us right into the chaos. Apparently Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his foot clan army have been terrorizing the citizens of NYC for a while and it seems to no one can stop or find him. Young reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is eager to become a real reporter and wants to find out who these foot clan are and what they’re planning to do next. One night she ran into the clan’s illegal activity and then witnessed the clan being took out by some mysterious figures. This scene was basically a rip-off of scene from Nolan’s Batman Begins when Batman was introduced, in fact the whole “plot” of this turtle movie was a rip-off of Nolan’s first Batman flick. Of course those mysterious figures turned out to be our heroes the Ninja Turtles. O’Neil wants to break the story about how someone is fighting back against Shredder and his army but without any proof her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) refuse to run the story. In fact she fired O’Neil because she’s becoming an annoyance. Now jobless and still wants to prove that the Turtles do exist, she decided to confide in her late father’s co-worker Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) and told him about the Turtles. Well wouldn’t you know it, Sacks happens to be the minion of Shredder and of course this leads to O’Neil being in danger and our heroes in the half shell came to her rescue.

I went into this movie with very low expectations since it’s directed by journeyman Jonathan Liebesman, the same man who directed some awful flicks including Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Battle: Los Angeles. Also, any movie with Michael Bay‘s name attached to it, I just don’t think it will be any good. Surprisingly I thought Liebesman did a pretty decent job with this movie, he remember to hold the cameras steady for most of the action scenes and staged one pretty awesome action sequence. A chase scene with our heroes being pursued by the foot clan army down a snowy mountain, seeing that sequence in 3D was quite great. Unfortunately though, the script by Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty was quite dreadful. As mentioned earlier the whole plot of this movie was a rip-off of Batman Begins but it’s also full of amateurish humor that only teenage boys will enjoy. One thing I really hated about the script was how they decided to change the origins of the turtles and their master Splinter. It’s so idiotic that I almost laughed out loud when that scene appeared.

Performances wise, you can’t really judge the actors who voiced the turtles so I’ll just focus on the human characters. As we all know Megan Fox can’t act and it’s quite painful watching her “act” in this movie, she’s asked to carry the movie for the first 40 minutes or so and it wasn’t fun watching her trying to act. William Fichtner and Tohoru Masamune didn’t have much to do except playing the straight one dimensional evil characters. Will Arnett showed up as the sidekick to April O’Neil and unfortunately his comedic role was just that, a comedic sidekick. I thought they might make him into Casey Jones by the end but I’m glad that never happened.

The movie wasn’t as bad I expected but it’s still not something adults will enjoy but I’m pretty sure most teenagers will have a great time with this one. I enjoyed some parts of the movie but in the end, it’s just another loud action/adventure movie from Mr. Bayhem.

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Have you seen this one? Well, what did you think?

RIP Robin Williams… oh how you will be sorely missed.

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I can’t believe I had to do another in memoriam posts when the sting of the last one hasn’t quite left me yet. I was just about to get on the elliptical machine at my gym when I saw my friend texted me: “Robin William died. OMG.”

Then I looked up at the rows of TV sets above the gym equipments, and sure enough… his face was splashed on the telly, along with the indescribable and incomprehensible caption: Robin Williams Dead at 63 in apparent suicide.

My heart sank.

In fact, it’s now four and a half hours after I learned of his passing… and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet. How could a man who brought up so much joy and laughter to so many people… could not find anything in his heart to be cheerful about? This was after all the same man who made his best friend and former Julliard School roommate Christopher Reeve laughed for the first time after his horse-riding accident that left him paralyzed. It was he who inspired Reeve to embrace life during the darkest moments of his life. Williams too was the go-to comic relief that even Steven Spielberg relied on to cheer up his cast during filming of Schindler’s List [per IMDb]

But I don’t pretend to know anything about depression and how it could overpower even the unlikeliest person, those we THINK didn’t have a care in the world, those with a seemingly la di da attitude… As someone who grew up with a mother who suffered from mental illness, I knew that the outside world never thought she was depressed or had a mental imbalance of any kind. She was a vivacious, cheerful, life-of-the-party type who seemed to have it all together. The fact is, nobody knows just what goes on inside a person. No one. At times not even the person in question… The fact that Mr Williams lived his life in the public eye must have made it all the more difficult.

I just want to take a brief moment to reminisce on what an amazingly gifted performer he is… truly one of a kind in every sense of the word. My first intro to the ferociously funny man wasn’t actually a full-on comedic role, though of course his comic timing was still on display. It was his role in Dead Poets Society as English teacher John Keating, a warm and passionate mentor who inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day. Carpe Diem! I knew what that word represent before I fully knew what it meant. It’s eerie to think that he’s succumbed to the same fate as one of his students in that film.

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As I mull over his sudden passing this evening… I watched a bunch of clips of him in various movies and interviews, often with tears in my eyes… tears of sadness mixed with tears of laughter as I watched him being his crazy, zany self. I can’t count how many of his roles have become my favorites: Mrs Doubtfire, Nine Months, What Dreams May Come, The Birdcage, Good Will Hunting, and so on… he’s a lovable comedian to be sure, yet his villainous roles also made an impression, i.e. Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia.

Spanning over a hundred projects he’s completed, including voice work for TV & movies, he never seemed to run out of steam. Even as he underwent heart surgery and multiple rehabs, whenever he’s back on screen, he’s always in ‘firing all cylinders’ mode, never missing a beat. Oh how he will be missed. One thing for sure, I will treasure the wonderful performances Mr. Williams had blessed everyone, ardent movie fans and casual movie goers alike.

My heart goes out to his wife and three children. I will keep them in my prayers.


Thank you Mr. Williams for all the gifts of laughter and joys you’ve bestowed upon us. Your life was truly extraordinary… if only it weren’t gone too soon.

[Eclectic] Weekend Roundup: Private Lives play, Starz OUTLANDER, Into The Storm & Zodiac

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How’s your weekend everyone? Did any of you see any new releases this weekend? I skipped the cinema again this weekend, but looks like Michael Bay wins again as his Ninja Turtles movie made $65 mil, ah geez! Well I guess it didn’t have much competition this weekend other than a couple of smaller budget films like Into The Storm  [mini review below].

On Friday I had a fabulous Movie Nite w/ two of my friends and FC contributors Becky & Ashley! We saw Toby Stephens‘ in Noël Coward’s Private Lives via Digital Theatre, which was as wonderful as I had thought it would be.

Check out the Digital Theatre trailer:

OMG, just when I thought I couldn’t love Toby more, his incredible performance here just prove how versatile and chameleon-like he is as an actor. He does this play the same time he’s filming his role as Captain Flint in Black Sails! I mean Noël Coward and pirates couldn’t be more different from each other, yet Toby inhabited both roles so perfectly that it was like watching two completely different actors!

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I love Anna Chancellor in this as well, both of them are fantastic in delivering the witty lines as well as performing the physical comedy required for the roles. They have an amazing chemistry as well, definitely one of the most fun plays I’ve seen so far, so bravo director Jonathan Kent! If only I had been able to see this LIVE on stage!

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After the play, we caught one episode of Starz’s new show OUTLANDER. Ashley’s already a big fan of the show and I’d be keen on watching more of this if I had cable! I mean the lush Scotland scenery is gorgeous, not to mention the hot men in kilts, he-llo Sam Heughan! ;)

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You already know I have a penchant for the Scots, and this kind of historical fantasy is so right up my alley. I’m also intrigued by the fact that Battlestar Galactica‘s producer Ron Moore is behind this. I LOVE BSG but instead of a space opera, we’ve got adventure + romance with time travel thrown in. The voice over narration is a bit excessive tho, but I’m still keen on watching the rest of the season when it becomes available.

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As for Into The Storm, aka Twister 2.0. I have to admit that initially I was intrigued to see this because of Richard Armitage in the lead role. Though you can’t really call it a lead role as all the human characters are dwarfed by [pardon the pun Thorin!] by the humongous monster tornado, or I should say tornadoes as there are a bunch of them popping up at a given time, and some of them are on fire [yikes!]

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Seeing this with Dolby Atmos sound [but sans 3D thank goodness!], it really felt like you’re in the eye of the storm and there’s this one scene where one character inside this Batman Tumblr-like vehicle called Titus is swept up into the biggest tornado ever. The brief floating moment felt as if he were flying inside that Titus, which actually looked pretty cool, but of course you know what happens next. What goes up, must come down, ouch! Aside from some exhilarating special effects though, there’s little to recommend it. Cliched script laden with clunky dialog, one-dimensional characters and cheesy human drama fit more for a Lifetime TV movie all play second fiddle to the storm scenes. Apparently screenwriter John Swetnam also wrote Step Up All In which also opened this weekend.

Sorry Armitage fans, I wish I could say that his presence saved this movie. Alas, I doubt ANY actor could elevate a role so poorly written. I’d say if you want to see his acting prowess, I’d rather watch his BBC shows like Spooks, North & South, Strike Back, etc. or if you’re lucky enough to see him live on the London stage in The Crucible, surely you’d see what he’s truly capable of.

Director Steven Quayle was the second unit director for Titanic and Avatar and clearly the visual effects stuff is his forte. For those who are curious about the SFX, it might be worth renting, or you could just rewatch Twister again. That 1996 movie might not be perfect either but at least the human drama was a little more engaging AND it had a sense of humor. Instead of flying cows, here we’ve got flying… airplanes?? Hmmm, it just didn’t have the same impact for some reason, no matter how realistic they made those storms to be.

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Now, I finally caught this David Fincher’s ZODIAC. I’ve heard great things about it but I just never got around to it for some reason. Well I’m glad I finally did. It’s billed as a crime thriller but it’s more of a slo-burn drama that focus on the lives of the detectives and newspaper folks who cover the serial killings instead of a straight whodunnit type film. It’s even more sinister the fact that this film was based on real events in the San Francisco Bay area, as the script was adapted from Robert Graysmith’s non-fiction book of the same name. Graysmith is played by Jake Gyllenhaal in the film.

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At 157 min, I was a bit worried it would drag a bit but fortunately, under Fincher’s deft hands, even the slower moments are brimming with suspense. I like the psychological aspect of how the newspaper cartoonist became so obsessed with the case that affect his relationship with his family and co-workers. There are some gruesome violence in the first act but it’s thankfully not as terrifying as SE7EN, in fact, most of the film is more of a character study filled with a lot of dialog. I like this type of thrillers so it definitely kept my attention. Great acting from the tremendous cast too, particularly Gyllenhaal, Anthony Edwards and Mark Ruffalo as the cartoonist and two detectives, respectively. Gyllenhaal is one of those actors who’s growing on me as he seems to pick more interesting roles now after taking daft roles like Prince of Persia.

It’s too bad that this film apparently tanked at the box office. Heh, clearly people are more inclined to watch thrillers with a lot more action than an intelligent and immersive version like this one. Zodiac was thoroughly gripping — a superb direction from Fincher and aided by intriguing camera work and an eerie score.

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Well, that was my weekend folks! So what did you see, anything good?

FlixChatter [Guest] Review: HERCULES (2014) & Spotlight on Rufus Sewell as Autolycus

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I love going to a movie when I’m really not going there to see the movie. This can only mean one thing – Rufus Sewell is once more on the big screen. He played one of Hercules’ band of mercenaries, Autolyclus, and wow, did he ever buff up for this role. He also got to shed his typecast “bad guy” role that he’s keen to be rid of. You gotta love men’s Grecian/Roman wardrobe, Ruf wears them well. Too bad I missed out on bidding for his costume on ebay. The winning bid only $1,090? I would have easily coughed up more than that  ;-D.

Rufus himself on his character, Autolycus

I promised Flixy this review would be short, but when I found this excerpt from the film’s production notes on The Rooftop where Rufus talks more about his role, that promise just went out the window:

Autolycus might lack for Hercules’ astonishing strength, but he has more than made up for it with the sharp blade of his wit, ultimately becoming Hercules’ master strategist. Rufus Sewell, the English actor recently seen in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” takes on the role of Hercules’ wisecracking friend.

“Autolycus and Hercules go way back, and they’ve got each other’s backs,” Sewell explains. “They have a kind of communication that goes beyond words. They’ve always worked together, and that’s a source of great pride to Autolycus, that he knows Hercules better than anyone else.” At the same time,

Autolycus has a cheeky side Sewell found a lot of fun. “He’s a bit of a wheeler dealer,” Sewell confesses. “He’s got a sarcastic tongue and a real sense of humor with Hercules. He not only is the brains of the operation but he’s also the one who is always thinking about the gold coinage. He does have a good heart, but he often keeps it hidden.”

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In battle, Autolycus utilizes a series of blades to his advantage – which for Sewell, meant he knew he had to start training the minute he accepted the role. “You know there’s going to be a lot of training when you have to stand next to Dwayne Johnson, and be even remotely believable as the same species,” jokes Sewell. “I did fight training, weight training and weapons training. Since we’re mercenaries, the fighting in the film is very much to the point. There isn’t a lot of fancy footwork. At the same time, what I love about the film is that it has so much humor and humanity.”
“Every set was like something out of Cecil B. DeMille, with that kind of scope,” recalls Rufus. “It makes a big difference to actors because you’re reacting to a real environment.”

More on Autolycus

Oh, and what about his acting, you say? His character is not a cliche, but one with strong emotions: sincerity to rage, matter-of-fact to tongue-in-cheek. He likes playing well-rounded characters, so I imagine this one fit the bill for him perfectly. Rufus, along with Ian McShane, provide comic relief. He does love his gold, which causes him to almost abandon the cause, but in the end he stays loyal. Favorite line from Autolyclus: “Don’t just stand there… kill someone!”

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On the Movie

And just in case you think I’m writing this only to talk up Rufus, you’re almost correct, but here’s what I actually thought about it. Since I didn’t go in with ANY expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. The plot is perfectly uncomplicated but never boring, the battle scenes weren’t “shaky” and included battle strategies that were quite unique to me, and the wide-shot aerial cinematography was sweeping and scenic and CGI didn’t seem to be overused. Hercules’ superhuman strength is illustrated by a horse and rider being tossed into the air, not by any mythical creatures.

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I don’t really go out of my way to see Dwayne Johnson flicks, but he really was perfect for this role. And boy, do I ever like his look when he’s got beard and hair. The rest of the cast fill their roles well. To hear more about the them, check out this video feature with director Brett Ratner and Dwayne:

Bottom Line

I don’t go to many summer PG13 action adventure films so Hercules may be lacking for some more jaded and sophisticated movie goers (Yes, Ted S., I know who you are… you’re at the very top of this list!), but Hercules gets a solid 3.5 reels from me. And even though Flixchatter ratings only go up to five, Rufus, of course, as usual, gets a perfect 10.

3.5 reels

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Now, what do you think of Hercules?

Music Break: Top 10 Favorite Bond Songs

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This Music Break is so long overdue! I listen to basically two music genres regularly: classical and soundtrack. And growing up the James Bond soundtrack got a lot of play in my house as my two brothers love ‘em too and my penchant for them continue to this day. Over the years I don’t know how many Bond CDs I’ve bought as they keep updating their collections [just like they do with their box-sets, heh]. From the classically-tinged ones to the more contemporary sounds, I love most of the Bond songs from the 23 films, with only a few exceptions (i.e. Die Another Day by Madonna, ugh). This list consist of the Bond songs, not themes by John Barry, David Arnold, etc. So far, my absolute favorite Bond theme is City of Lovers from Casino Royale that I featured a while back.

The other day I was thinking how it’s been ages since I made a Bond-related post. Well, inspired by last Monday’s birthday of the jazz great Louis Armstrong, as well as my pal Michael’s Songs on My iPod series, post #6 specifically, it’s time to reveal my top 10 favorites! I actually made a top 5 back in 2010, but I decided to expand my list to 10. So here goes (in order of release):

1. From Russia with Love (Matt Monro) – From Russia with Love 1963

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2. We Have All the Time in the World (Louis Armstrong) – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969

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3. Moonraker (Shirley Bassey) – Moonraker 1979

4. For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton) – For Your Eyes Only 1981

5. All Time High (Rita Coolidge) – Octopussy 1983

6. The Living Daylights (A-Ha) –The Living Daylights 1987

7. Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crowe) – Tomorrow Never Dies 1997

8. The World Is Not Enough (Garbage) – The World Is Not Enough 1999

9. You Know My Name (Chris Cornell) – Casino Royale (2006)

10. Skyfall (Adele) – Skyfall (2012)


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey) – Goldfinger (1964)
  • Nobody Does It Better (Carly Simon) – The Spy Who Loved Me 1977
  • Goldeneye (Tina Turner) – Goldeneye 1995
  • License to Kill (Gladys Knight) – License to Kill 1989

So are you a fan of any of these Bond songs? Which one(s) are YOUR favorite?

The Flix List: Five Movies Suffering From Identity Crisis

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Many filmmakers tried to mix several genres in one film, sometime it works nicely, i.e. Captain America: The Winter Soldier which is a superhero movie mixed with Cold War-era espionage intrigue. But most of the time, it turns out to be a disaster. Just look at Cowboys & Aliens, mixing Sci-fi with Westerns sounds like a crazy idea, but maybe it’s crazy enough that it could work. Alas, it turned out to be a bomb for Universal, as it barely made close to its $163 mil budget domestically.

So Ted comes up with five other films suffering from identity crisis which are also box office duds:

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The Lone Ranger

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This box office dud tried to be too many things and in the end it just didn’t work. The film sort of reminded me of some of Buster Keator or Charlie Chaplin films from the 30s but then it also tried to be this serious western action/adventure of the 60s and 70s. I understand what Johnny Depp and the filmmakers were trying to do, but I think they should’ve picked a genre and stuck with it. Despite so many bad reviews it received last summer, I still thought it was an entertaining flick (check out my review) and I think it might have a cult following the years to come.

Tears of the Sun

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Antione Fuqua tends to mix genres in his films and this one was a good example of how NOT to do it. Originally the script was written as a Die Hard sequel but then things didn’t work out and Willis decided he wanted to make it a separate film. He even persuaded the studio executives to hire Fuqua to direct the film. Well, Willis ended up regretting that decision. When Fuqua took over the project, he decided to make it more into political drama instead of just straight up action/adventure. Apparently both Willis and Fuqua argued with one another during the entire shoot and vowed to never work with each other again. By combining real life tragedies and over-the-top action sequences, the film just didn’t work and when it opened in March of 2003, it failed miserably. The film only earned about $40mil at the box office and it cost around $70-90mil to produce, ouch!

The Devil’s Own

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This big budgeted action/drama was plagued with behind-the-scenes drama. It seems Brad Pitt loves to be involved with films that has troubled production, (the infamous World War Z behind the scene issues and the ongoing arguments on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith), in this film the dramas involved Pitt and Harrison Ford. Both stars wanted the film to focus on their character, apparently Pitt was pissed when studio hired Ford to be in the film.

In the original script, Pitt’s character was the main focus and Ford’s character was just a supporting role. But when Ford read the script and demanded that he gets the cop part, the studio executives were more than happy to hire him, this was when Ford was still a box office champ, he had just starred in The Fugitive, Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games, all were box office hits. There were reports that Pitt wanted to leave the production of the film because he thought the film was going downhill fast after several rewrites. He even bad mouthed the film in an interview with Newsweek magazine, calling it “the most irresponsible bit of film-making.” He was unhappy with how the script has changed so much from the one he fell in love with, it was originally a dark and brutal drama thriller but then it switched into more of an action/thriller. And that was the problem with the film, it couldn’t decide if it wants to be drama or action, and it failed by combining both. The film reportedly cost $90-100mil to make and it only made about $40mil back.

Hancock

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Well this film actually was a huge hit when it came out but I thought it didn’t work at all, I actually named it one of the worst films from 2008. The original script was a much darker story about a superhero who hates saving the world and Michael Mann was attached to direct it in early 2000s. But with several rewrites and delays, Mann gave the job to his protégé Peter Berg. Berg wanted to make it close to the original script but pressures from studio heads forced him to make it into a mixed of light comedy and action/adventure but also with some dark moments. Seriously the tone of this film was so uneven, I wanted to walk out of the theater. I think this was a huge missed opportunity to make a film about a “real” superhero living in our society and sick of saving idiotic people but again it’s all about making money for studios so what they made was a crappy wannabe film.

Random Hearts

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This film maybe the prime example of how not to mix several genres into one film, was this film supposed to be police drama thriller, mystery suspense or romantic drama? What’s so surprising was that the film was directed by Sydney Pollack, who was considered one of the good directors at the time. The behind-the-scene drama was more well known than the actual film, apparently Pollack and his leading man Harrison Ford constantly argued during the production of the film. It got so bad that they stopped talking to one another and vowed to never work with each other again. It’s kind of funny because while making Sabrina together a few years prior, they were good buddies. The film opened in the fall of 1999 with little fanfare and the studio hardly promoted it, probably because they saw it and decided it was a turkey and didn’t want to spend any money on promotions.


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Have you seen any of these? If so what do you think? Feel free to list of other films you think suffer from an identity crisis.

Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 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. As customary with Five for the Fifth, I’d like to highlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday today. Well, it so happens that two talented-yet-underrated British actors have a birthday today: Mark Strong and Janet McTeer. They turn 50 and 52 respectively.

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You might not know these two actors by name but surely you have seen them in a film or TV show. I can’t remember where I first saw Mark Strong but he’s been in so many films and he’s always memorable even in small supporting roles. My favorite of his roles would be Rocknrolla, Robin Hood, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Zero Dark Thirty. He’s quite a versatile actor and he has a rather chameleon face where you can’t tell what ethnicity he belongs to. I mean he could play a Jordanian prince as effortlessly as an English lord.

As for Janet McTeer, I really should see more of her work. I’ve only seen the two-time Oscar nominees in the BBC Sense & Sensibility as Mrs. Dashwood. I know my pal Ashley loves her as she’s her favorite actress. The statuesque actress (she’s 6’1″) is a graduate of RADA and can effortlessly juggle TV and film work. She’s starring in The Honourable Woman BBC miniseries with Maggie Gyllenhaal and a Victorian-era thriller Angelica with Jena Malone and Ed Stoppard.

So what’s your favorite from both of these fine actors?
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2. My hubby and I were watching a bunch of new trailers on iTunes on Friday and we came across Into The Woods. For some reason I hadn’t heard of this movie before, either that or I just forgot about it.

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Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel — all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.


As someone who grew up watching Disney fairy tale movies, this immediately intrigues me. The cast is awesome too, boy is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? Never mind, clearly there is none. I like the Emily Blunt and James Corden pairing, and Anna Kendrick is inspired choice as Cinderella. Though I’m usually not enamored by Chris Pine, I must say he looks mighty dashing as Cinderella’s Prince, yowza!! Ask my hubby, I actually rewound the trailer and paused it a few times when he appeared ;) Can’t wait to hear Chris’ singing voice, as he’s displayed on Jimmy Kimmel a while back, he actually has a great set of pipes!

I had no idea there’s actually a musical on Broadway featuring music by Stephen Sondheim. Now, Rob Marshall directing is a bit worrisome however, considering what a mess NINE was despite the stellar cast, but hey hopefully this will be good. It’s set to open on Christmas day, competing with Unbroken and Exodus. But considering the subject matter, this should be a hit with the kiddies at least.

Does this one interest you, folks?

3.Ok so this weekend I finally saw the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, thanks to my pal Ted who kindly lends me a bunch of Blu-rays. It’s been ages since I saw this film, I honestly can’t remember a lot of it, so I can’t really say what’s different from the theatrical version.

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Boy I forgot how amazing the cast was, well everyone except for the lead Orlando Bloom. To be fair, I think he’s not as horrible as I thought he was but still the movie would’ve been a heck of a lot better with a stronger lead actor IMO. I mean he looks good here but he barely his face is so expressionless and he barely has any gravitas required for the role. The supporting cast is spectacular though: Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Eva Green, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, and Edward Norton whose face is hidden behind a mask the entire time. Oh I’m quite impressed by Alexander Siddiq who really should be in more films! Did you know his real-life uncle is Malcolm McDowell? Sorry I digress. Watching this makes me think of other Director’s Cut versions out there and how many of them are superior to the theatrical version.

So my question to you is, do you watch Director’s Cuts of a movie if they’re available? If so, which one(s) are your favorite?

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4. Director Colin Trevorrow sure knows how to get fans’ attention and capitalize on the success of The Guardians of the Galaxy. Last week he tweeted a photo of Chris Pratt looking hunky and very Indiana-Jones-y in Jurassic World.

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Now I have completely forgotten about this movie, which apparently is not a reboot [thank goodness] but set about 20 years after the events in the original Jurassic Park. Pratt’s sure to be a bonafide star after this weekend, so I think the movie surely would benefit from having him in the lead. I’m mostly curious as I LOVE the original Steven Spielberg film, but the cast they’ve assembled is pretty good so far. In addition to Pratt, we’ve got Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, Nick Robinson (whom I liked in The Kings of Summer), Irrfan Khan, and Vincent D’Onofrio. The film is set to open next Summer, June 12, 2015 to be exact. I hope it’ll live up to the original, but I suppose we’ll have a better idea about it once we see a trailer.

Have you been anticipating Jurassic World?.

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Fernando from Committed to Celluloid Blog. So here it is in his own words:

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One of my favorite things in the last few months has been following Netflix’s House of Cards and watching Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) being absolutely ruthless and expertly manipulative, so my question is:

What’s your favorite villainous couple (they don’t have to be married to each other) in TV or film?


Well, that’s it for the AUGUST 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