FlixChatter Review: SPECTRE (2015)


I wonder if the way I feel about the Bond song somehow impacts how I feel about the film itself. Some of my least favorite Bond songs are The Man with the Golden Gun, Die Another Day, and Quantum of Solace, and those are also my least favorite Bond films. I already mentioned in this post how much I abhorred Sam Smith’s latest, Writing’s on the Wall which sounds more like fingernails on a chalk board. Unfortunately for me, during the press screening, I had to endure that song not once but twice as they played Sam Smith’s music video before the movie, so I had to suffer through THAT song once again during the opening title [sigh]

Of course it’s ludicrous to judge a Bond movie from the song, so I was prepared for an awesome Bond film. To be fair, the melody of the song itself is actually not bad, with Thomas Newman back scoring this again after Skyfall. Well, the first 15 minutes is certainly promising. It’s tradition that Bond films open with a bang and this one is no different, starting with a foot chase through a throng of huge crowd during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. It’s followed by a spectacular fight scene aboard a helicopter flying above the main square. If we’re to judge a movie by cinematography alone, Spectre is excellent, thanks to Hoyte van Hoytema whose done amazing work in Her and Interstellar recently.


Plot-wise, Spectre has a lot going for it, at least on paper. The parallel conflicts that Bond and M are facing in the film also promises an extra layer of intrigue, in addition to the personal vendetta that runs through the vein of Daniel Craig‘s Bond films. A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization and somehow he ends up going rogue. Meanwhile, his boss M (Ralph Fiennes) is dealing with a crisis of his own as the head of Joint Intelligence Service (which merged MI5 and MI6) threatened to shut down the double-O section. It’s an intriguing set up and as a massive Bond fan, I expect once again to be bowled over.


Alas, after that spectacular opening, the film seems to lose momentum and never quite claim it back. All the high-octane action didn’t have quite the adrenaline rush I expected from a Bond movie. Even the car chase through the streets of Rome feels rather stale, it’s like I’ve seen a far more exciting car chase scene in previous Bond movies and recently in its rival franchise, Mission Impossible 5. Then there’s the unintentional humor that makes it hard to take the film seriously. The two times Bond wooed two of the beautiful Bond girls, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux, the scenes elicit laughter from the audience. It feels so obligatory and cringe-worthy, a far cry from the intriguing AND sexy love affair between Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale. Vesper was a complex character with a compelling story arc, but here the two Bond girls aren’t given the same courtesy. It’s sad to see an actress of Bellucci’s stature be utterly wasted here.

The film also promises a massive super villain, the mother lode of all villains Bond has encountered in his past, “I’m the source of all your pain,” Oberhauser tells him once Bond gets to his lair. So it’s quite a let down that this supposedly fearsome, ultra-powerful mastermind turns out to be not so menacing at all. Remember how sinister Christoph Waltz was in Inglourious Basterds? Well, here he’s nothing more than a clichéd psychopath throwing tantrums at Bond because of… a childhood feud. Huh? No less than FOUR screenwriters credited here, three of whom also worked on Skyfall, and all they could come up with is THIS half-baked story? [spoiler alert] I find it hard to believe that Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chifre, who was effortlessly menacing AND intriguing in Casino Royale, actually worked for this lame, petulant nutjob.


Sam Mendes and his team of writers seems to have recycled a lot of what’s been done in previous Bond films with nothing new to add to the franchise. In fact, in terms of the treatment of the Bond girls, it’s a step backward. The film seems to aim for a darker story but the execution feels light and even unintentionally comical. I realize that Bond films aren’t expected to be too deep or poignant, but even the fun, escapism factor seems to be missing in this one as Mendes can’t decide what kind of Bond movie he wants this to be. At times it harkens back to the Roger Moore era, which is a jarring contrast to the more pensive and grittier tone established in Craig’s films.

The returning characters from Skyfall are still good in their roles. I do like Ralph Fiennes as M but yet he still can’t hold a candle to how fantastic Judi Dench was in the role. Moneypenny and Q (Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw) have bit more to do in supporting 007, though not so much that would make any real impact in the movie. Andrew Scott, who’s excellent in the Sherlock series, is just serviceable here, but Dave Bautista certainly lives up to other big, burly but taciturn henchmen of Bond’s past. The fight scene on the train is certainly an homage to From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me with my favorite henchman, Jaws.


As for the titular hero, I still like Craig as Bond, but more often than not he looks bored in this movie. It’s as if he’s weary of the same old types of shenanigans and hollow sexual escapades in various exotic locations. Yes I know Bond’s supposed to have this devil-may-care attitude but I think there’s a sense of fatigue that the actor can’t quite conceal. Perhaps it’s telling when Craig said in an interview recently how he’d rather slash his wrist than play James Bond again. It’s tacky to bite the hand that feeds you, but I can’t say I blame him for feeling that way.

It’s a pity because this could’ve been a truly great swan song for Craig if he were to retire as Bond (though I think he’d be back for at least one more). I like the fact that four of his films are connected in some way, though the constant throwback to his previous films also invites the inevitable comparison. If I were to rank Craig’s Bond films now, Spectre is just slightly more watchable than Quantum of Solace, but falls far short of the greatness of Casino Royale and Skyfall.


Spectre might’ve topped the box office, but it’s nowhere near the top of the best Bond films for me. So I guess that awful theme song is sort of a warning about the movie. Bond’s most personal mission barely evoke any emotional response as the protagonist himself didn’t even seem to care. There’s just no compelling human drama here in this largely soulless affair. Overall the payoff just doesn’t live up to all that build-up and frankly, the film is just forgettable. I saw it four days ago yet I barely remember anything about it. It’s such a bummer really, this movie even made this loyal Bond fan think that perhaps I’ve outgrown this franchise a bit.


Well, what did you think of Spectre? Did you like it more or less than I did?

Five for the Fifth: Special James Bond Edition


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

Well, since SPECTRE is released this weekend here in the US, I’m dedicating this month’s edition to be ALL THINGS James Bond!

007chatter1. As I grew up watching Bond movies, I have a special fondness for the franchise. Even though I haven’t always loved all the movies, I always look forward to seeing a new one whenever it comes along. If you’ve read my blog long enough, surely you’ve noticed that this is a pretty frequent topic here, I even have a special category for it… 007 Chatter.

My twin brothers and I would watch Bond movies on VHS (yes I’m that old) over and over, and we’d always watch ’em when they’re on TV.  I actually don’t remember which Bond film I saw for the very first time, I just know it was a Roger Moore film.  Now, he’s not my favorite Bond (some loyal readers know it’s THIS guy), but I always have a fondness for some of his movies, especially For Your Eyes Only.

So tell me, how did you first discover the Bond franchise?

2. One of the things I LOVE about the franchise is that it’s pure escapist entertainment. Yes, we’ve got the guns, gadgets and girls, but for me, it’s location, location, location. You can always count on Bond movies to be shot on location in the most exotic places in the world.

There are SO many places in Bond movies I’d love to visit, but you’d have to be a billionaire to have THAT kind of bucket list. So I were to pick only six Bond locations to travel to in my lifetime, I’d choose these from each of the six Bond actor’s film:

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So what’s your favorite Bond film setting?


3.  As the saying goes, “a hero is only as good as their villain”. It’s true for most great stories, but it’s extremely crucial when it comes to the Bond franchise. The worst Bond movies is often as a result of a weak villain, whether it’s in the writing or in the casting, but I think the latter plays an even crucial role.

The topic of Bond villains have been covered several times here. We’ve talked about the best and worst villains, as well as who I’d like to see as a Bond villain a while back. In regards to that last one, I still stand by these choices as none of them have ever been cast yet (what a shame!)


L-R: Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen and Timothy Dalton

Oh man, it’d be a dream to see Timothy Dalton be cast as the next Bond villain. I mean he’s contracted to do three Bond films before the MGM legal woes basically caused Dalton to walk out, so casting him as a Bond villain would just be the perfect *atonement.* If you’ve seen him in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, you’ll see he’s still got the chops, not to mention he still looks pretty damn good in his 70s! If only Penny Dreadful‘s creator John Logan, who’s also one of the writers of Skyfall and Spectre would agree with me, he could pitch that to the Broccolis! :)

Which actors/actresses are on your wish list as a Bond villain?

I’m not going to talk about who should replace Daniel Craig as Bond at this point. There’s just been way too much talk on that topic and Craig is supposedly under contract for at least another Bond movie anyway. I already talked about who I think would be great to play 007, but what I haven’t ever really discussed is Craig himself… apart from his role as Bond.


I’ve only seen Craig in a handful of non-Bond roles, the first one being Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Yep, he was Lara’s um, boy toy before Gerard Butler got the *honor* in the sequel. I haven’t seen any of the Dragon Tattoo movies nor Layer Cake, but I did see him in supporting roles in The Road to Perdition and Munich. That’s about it. So I really don’t know how good an actor he is apart from the Bond films, which doesn’t exactly show his range.

I’m curious, what’s your favorite Daniel Craig role apart from 007? 

This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is a longtime friend and fellow Bond fan Dan from Top 10 Films site! Dan’s posted a myriad of Bond-related top 10s, including top 10 Bond gadgets from contributor Rodney aka Fernby Films, so it’s no surprise that his question would be gadget-related. Check out this awesome infographic on this very topic!


So what’s your favorite James Bond gadgets? Is there a memorable moment(s) when Bond uses one of his gadgets to get out of a sticky situation?

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

Trailer Spotlight: SPECTRE first teaser is here!


I normally hate the adverts for a trailer, but at least it’s not an actual trailer for a trailer. But when I saw a tweet from @007, I gotta say I couldn’t wait to see it!

As a longtime Bond fan, I’m always excited when a new Bond movie came out, well except for the last two Brosnan movies as they look as dumb even in the trailers. Daniel Craig‘s Bond films not only brought back the grit and fortitude lost in Brosnan era, it’s also got that real sense of mystery and mystique, which is what one would expect in an espionage genre.

This teaser captured that sensibility perfectly:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

With Bond 24, I love that the filmmakers brought back the enigmatic nefarious organization we’ve seen in the earlier Sean Connery movies. Yet there’s still that continuity of storyline from Casino Royale, the fact that we see Mr. White once again, still as cryptic and ominous as ever despite looking like he might’ve lost his eyesight.

“You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane Mr. Bond.”

Then of course we’ve got Christoph Waltz there towards the end. I’ve mentioned in my Spectre post here that he’s not playing Blofeld, but he’s obviously a powerful figure that might’ve had a key tie to Bond’s past as well. Can’t wait to see him going toe to toe w/ Bond.


Glad to see Sam Mendes back for directing duties. He shared on 007 official site a bit more about the plot of SPECTRE:

“The reasons I’m doing the second Bond movie are the reasons I would do any movie, really, which is all to do with the story. And in this movie, SPECTRE, what you have is a movie entirely driven by Bond. He is on a mission from the very beginning,” he says. “It’s about whether or not to pursue the life he’s always pursued, whether he matters and is he going to continue or not. And you’re going to have to come to see the movie to find out whether he does.”

Even from this teaser, we can expect to see an amazing cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema whose impressive work you can see in Her and Interstellar. Nice to see Thomas Newman scoring this too. Wish we didn’t have to wait until November to see it!

Well, what do you think of this teaser so far? Are you excited for SPECTRE?

Five for the Fifth: DECEMBER 2014 Edition


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

Since this is the last FFTF of the year and award season has kicked into high gear, the questions will revolve around film awards and your choices of ‘best of’ or favorite in both films and TV. So let’s get started, shall we?

1. First off, I’m going to talk about A Most Violent Year, which was recently voted Best Picture by The National Board of Review. The NBR president Annie Schulhof was quoted as saying “‘A Most Violent Year’ is an exhilarating crime drama with a compelling story, outstanding performances and an elegant cinematic style,” per LA Times. I posted the trailer in the last Five for the Fifth post and it certainly does look VERY good, but also very intense. NBR also awarded its stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in Best Actor and Actress category respectively, two extremely talented actors who are fellow Juilliard graduates.


I was quite surprised by this pick, but at the same time, not really. I mean, sure it hasn’t gained as much traction as other films such as Birdman, Boyhood or The Imitation Game, but writer/director J.C. Chandor was an Oscar nominee for Margin Call so this could very well be Oscar’s dark horse. I read somewhere that this film is like Wall Street meets Scarface, hmmm I probably just rent this later as it might be way too violent for me.

So what’s your thought on MBR’s pick of Best Picture? Do you predict it’ll be nominated for Oscar too?


2. You might not know who she is yet, but I’ve mentioned Gugu Mbatha-Raw quite a few times in my blog based on her two excellent performances I saw this year in Belle and Beyond the Lights. In fact, I’d be sorely disappointed if she didn’t get at least a nomination for BAFTA’s Orange Rising Star Award next year, I mean she should have won one already by now.

I have only heard of her prior to this year from the JJ Abrams’ show Undercover that was canceled pretty quickly. I haven’t seen a single episode but I’d have watched it for Gugu! In fact, she makes my Honorable Mention on my list of 10 Actresses I’d Watch in Practically Anything.

So which actor/actress you’ve never seen prior to 2014 who left a huge impression on you this year?

3. Ok so the ‘Best of’ lists have started to pop up and though I’m still not sure what my Top 10 would look like, there is at least a few that I know WILL make the list: Belle, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men Days of Future Past.

Say what you will about Wolverine but Xavier + Magneto are what the X-Men prequels are all about for me

Xavier + Magneto are what the X-Men prequels are all about for me

Now my Top 10 is a personal one as it’s usually comprised of films that I both admire AND enjoy watching that I’d buy the Blu-ray, not something I appreciate but won’t ever want to see again. So it’s not always the most critically-acclaimed films out there, though these three are actually on Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 so far.

So I’m curious, tell me at least ONE film that surely will end up on your Top 10 of the year?

4. Now switching gears to those that won’t make your Top 10 list, unless it’s the WORST or Most Disappointing list of the year. I was actually making a list of ‘movies everyone seem to love that leave me cold’ from classic to contemporary movies. I’m excluding 2014 films as the one film that disappointed me most hasn’t even opened yet in most cities. But if I were to include it, WILD would make the list as it just bored me to tears.

WildMovieI was flabbergasted how high the rating is for that one and the fact that it’s been taunted as an Oscar contender just boggles my mind.

Now I’m curious which critically-acclaimed 2014 movie you didn’t enjoy or disappointed you most?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Mark from Three Rows Back!


Inspired by yesterday’s announcement of SPECTRE, Mark has Bond on his mind. Now this topic has been discussed before even though Daniel Craig is still under contract to do one more Bond film after Spectre. I’ve listed some of my – and my pal Ted’s – choices of who we’d like to say play 007, but hey, there’s no reason why we can’t talk about it again. Here’s what Mark’s idea of who he thinks should be considered:

I would rule out a Yank to play the part; Bond is quintessentially British.

Much as I liked him, I would have discounted Tom Hardy until I saw him in ‘Locke;’ an underrated performance full of range in my book, so he would be right up there for me. I’ve always loved Idris Elba too; that guy hasn’t found his true calling yet and Bond could well be it.


Tom & Idris in Rocknrolla!

I LOVE both Hardy and Elba (hey both are Rocknrolla alums!), but I give Elba the edge as he’s tall. I dunno, I kind of prefer Bond to be at least 6 feet tall. Nothing against Craig as he does a great job in the role, but I wish the next Bond actor would be tower above most people. Heck I don’t care what race, I mean I think the world is ready for a Black Bond (I wanted Colin Salmon as Bond at one point), heck even Asian Bond, someone like British/Korean actor Daniel Henney who’s 6’2″ and is a decent actor. As for the argument that Bond actor should be British, I can see that and I have no problem with that though for me, if another non-Brit can pull off a British accent convincingly, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I did put Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on my wish list.

So, Mark [and I] would like to know … who would you like to see replace Craig after he hangs up his Walter PPK?

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

007 Chatter: BOND 24 is now called SPECTRE

Boy it’s been a while since I posted anything about Bond and this morning a press release came to my email that I simply had to do a post! “Welcome back commander!” 


[you can see the motion poster over on 007 Facebook]

LONDON, UK, December 4, 2014 – 007 Soundstage, Pinewood Studios, London. James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the title of the 24th James Bond adventure, SPECTRE. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is directed by Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fourth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. SPECTRE begins principal photography on Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.

The launch of SPECTRE was streamed live on 007.com and Facebook.com/JamesBond007, and here’s the video if you missed it:

Along with Daniel Craig, Mendes presented the returning cast, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott. Mendes also revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, created exclusively for the movie.


Click to enlarge

Official synopsis:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Bond’s going back to the classic Aston Martin too, which is by far one of my favorite of all Bond’s fantastic rides. Man, the DB10 is going to be specifically built for the film and it’s absolutely drool-worthy!! Heck, I’d rather take his car home than Bond himself, ahah.


click to enlarge

The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

Commenting on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “We’re excited to announce Daniel’s fourth installment in the series and thrilled that Sam has taken on the challenge of following on the success of SKYFALL with SPECTRE.”.

Per EMPIRE, the evil organization has not had a presence in the Bond universe thanks to a long-running copyright battle between MGM and the estate of Kevin McClory, the producer of Thunderball and the unofficial Connery Bond, Never Say Never Again. That, however, was resolved in 2013, paving the way for SPECTRE to return to the Bond movies. People have been speculating that Christoph Waltz will be playing Spectre’s leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but according to the UK mag, his character’s name is Oberhauser [??]

Man, I’m super excited for this!! What a cast, too, woo hoo!!! I LOVE Christophe Waltz, the Austrian thespian really impressed me in Inglourious Basterds and he has been working steadily in Hollywood ever since. He’d be great as the villain, with Bautista as his henchmen I presume. Not sure who Andrew Scott is playing, but he’s playing another baddie named Denbigh. They’re playing it *safe* this time in casting actors who’ve won accolades playing bad guys previously, as Scott won BAFTA for portraying Sherlock‘s nemesis Moriarty in the BBC series.


I’m loving the female cast, too! I have always been a big fan of Naomie Harris as Money Penny, but now we’ve got gorgeous Italian and French beauties Monica Bellucci & Léa Seydoux. I’m actually surprised they haven’t cast Monica in previous Bond films, but she still looks stunning at 50 so it’s cool to see they don’t just cast young actresses as Bond girls!

SPECTRE is set for a October 23, 2015 release in the UK and a November 6, 2015 release in the US. Can’t friggin’ wait for this!!

So, what do you think of this announcement? Would love to hear your thoughts, folks!

Counting Down to Gone Girl – Ranking David Fincher’s Films

As part of countdown to Gone Girl that’s out on October 3, and part Birthday tribute to David Fincher (he turned 52 in Sept. 28), I asked my pal Ted S. who’s a longtime admirer of the director to rank nine of his films since Alien in 1992. 



David Fincher is one of the few elite A-list directors working in Hollywood today and he’s one of my favorites too. What’s so amazing was that he almost never became the filmmaker we know today. After the disastrous Alien 3, he got blacklisted by most if not all of the major studios at that time. If you own a Blu-ray set of the Alien movies, I highly recommend you watch the making of Alien 3, it’s one of the best behind scenes documentaries ever made. Long story short, everyone blamed Fincher for that film’s failure, even though it wasn’t his fault. But like he said, he’s young and stupid and he’s disowned the film ever since. I’ve decided to ranked all of the films that he directed (I’m excluding his music videos and TV work) from my least favorite to the best one.

9. Alien 3 (1992)


I think many people will agree with me that this was his worse film. But you know what? Even if it’s a lame film in the franchise, it’s miles better than the awful Alien: Resurrection, heck I’ll even admit that I really enjoyed this one. Mostly because of Fincher’s visual style, Elliot Godenthal‘s excellent score and very good performances by the actors. The film should’ve never been made in the first place but everyone involved did their best to make it watchable. I think had it been made by another director, the film would’ve been unwatchable.

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)


It’s a bit too long and reminded me way too much of Forrest Gump. But it’s a still a very good film and of course it looks great. It’s one of Fincher’s films that I don’t feel the need to see it again anytime soon.

7. Panic Room (2002)


I think this film might be his most underrated work and sort of forgotten by many people. Personally I thought it’s an excellent thriller with great performance by Jodie Foster and of course Fincher’s direction was top notch. You might not recognize the very young and boyish looking Kristen Stewart who played Foster’s daughter. This film also include one of the best opening credits I’ve ever seen, see it here:

6. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (2011)


I’ll probably get a lot of flak for saying this but I prefer Fincher’s version to the original Swedish one. Don’t get me wrong the original was good but I just prefer Fincher’s style and of course with bigger budget, the film looked spectacular. I guess after making a couple of light PG13 films, Fincher was itching to make another violent and dark flick and this one didn’t disappoint. The only complaint I have was the strange choice he made of letting his actors speaking either with weird accent or no accent at all. Daniel Craig spoke with his normal British accent while everyone else spoke with some kind weird Swedish accent, that’s just weird to me. This one also comes with a cool opening credits, very similar to the Bond flicks. Maybe since he cast James Bond in the film, he decided to include an opening credit like a Bond film. See it here:

5. The Game (1997)


After the huge success of Se7en, there were big expectations for his third film. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver as many has hoped but personally I enjoyed the film very much. In fact, if not for the cop-out ending, I would’ve put this one up higher on my list. I was actually quite ticked off with the ending the first time I saw it. But after watching it a few more times, I learned to appreciate what Fincher was trying to do but I still can’t forgive him for including that lame ending. Michael Douglas was pretty great in the film though and even Sean Penn was quite effective in a small supporting role. If you have some extra cash and really like the film, do get the Criterion Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer.

4. Zodiac (2007)


Fincher’s first film to have been shot mostly on digital and it looked spectacular! This was my second favorite film of 2007 behind No Country For Old Men, I can’t recommend it enough to people. Excellent performances by the actors, great writing and of course tight direction by Fincher. It’s one of the films that actually creeps me out, there were couple of scenes in the film that gave me goose bumps. One of the best films of the decade.

3. Fight Club (1999)


So basically this was the film that catapulted Fincher into fame. Surprisingly though, the film tanked at the box office but became quite popular when it hits home video. It’s a little nostalgic but this film was the first DVD I ordered through Amazon and around that time, it’s the best DVD when it comes to picture, sound and special features. I must’ve played the disc on my first DVD player many many times. Of course when it came out on Bluray, I snatched it up fast. It’s a film that needs to be seen by all film buffs.

A little fun fact about the film, originally it was scheduled to come out in summer season. Fox executives thought it’s going to be an action picture and Brad Pitt has just became a big star, so they figured it would be a good summer flick. Well after Fincher showed them the early cut, they freaked out and released it in slow fall season.

2. The Social Network (2010)


I have to admit that when they first announced a movie about Facebook was happening, I didn’t have much interest in it at all. Even after Fincher signed up to direct, I still wasn’t interest in seeing it. You see around that time, I was sick of Facebook, it seemed everyone and their grandmother was using it and I just didn’t care to see a movie about it. But at the urging of my friend, I’ve decided to give it a shot and boy I’m glad I went to see it. I was mesmerized by what Fincher has done with the story about the biggest social media site on earth. Instead of just showing how Facebook was built, he focused on the relationships between the people who were involved in building the site. Of course being that it’s a movie, many of the events happened were mostly made up or changed to make it more cinematic. Also, since I’ve been involved with many start-ups throughout my career, I appreciate how Fincher dabbled into the field that many people might not know or care about. Heck currently there’s a good drama involving the founders of a popular dating app called Tinder. Google Tinder and its founders and you’ll find some good reads.

Of course after the movie came out, many people who were involved in building Facebook said everything that happened in the movie never took place. Even Fincher said he wasn’t interest in telling the history of Facebook, he just wanted to tell a good story about friendship, greed and the eventual backstabbing.

1. Se7en (1995)


After almost 20 years, it’s still one of the best thrillers ever made in my opinion. Heck, I’d rank this one higher than Silence of the Lambs. This dark and creepy tale of a serial killer who kills people base on their sin is a masterpiece. I can go on and on about why I love this film so much but if you’ve never seen it, then please see it as soon as you can! Some consider it a violent film but most of the violence happened off screen. And that ending, wow what an ending!

You can buy it cheap on Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer and I highly recommend it.


So those are my favorite Fincher’s films in order, are you a fan of his too and do you agree with my ranking? Do share your favorites in the comment section.

Weekend Viewing Roundup & 28 Days (2000) mini review

Happy Sunday everyone! It finally felt like Spring is actually around the corner here in my neck of the woods. The good news is we can forgo the long johns and parka, but we now have to put up with dirty cars as the roads and slushy roads from melting mountains of snow.

Well, no cinema trip this weekend but it’s been a great week as a film fan as I got to see Divergent two weeks early and also got to interview author Veronica Roth and cast member Ansel Elgort (who’d be starring with Shailene Woodley again in the upcoming drama The Fault in our Stars). I’m still transcribing the Q&A so stay tuned for it next week!

Here’s what I saw this weekend:

28 Days (2000)

A big-city newspaper columnist is forced to enter a drug and alcohol rehab center after ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a stolen limousine.

I’m not exactly sure why we rented this movie but if you haven’t seen this yet and was curious to see Viggo Mortensen here a year before he became Aragorn, note that the actor’s billing on IMDb is misleading as his character’s screen time is so small it’s more of a cameo! Dominic West had more screen time than him as the obnoxious & drunk boyfriend of Sandra Bullock‘s character. Now I like Sandy and that’s one of the reasons I saw this, but even she couldn’t save the movie.


I felt like the story could’ve been told so much better and have more depth to make it memorable. I’d say you’d like to see a movie about characters in a mental institution, I think you’d be better off renting Girl, Interrupted. I think making this subject matter and make it a comedy seems ill-advised. It’s not THAT funny to begin with and the serious moments just didn’t make any real impact. I think the one saving grace is perhaps Alan Tudyk as a gay German rehab patient. I wish he had more screen time as he’s hilarious and the movie seems to pick up every time he appears. Oh, there’s also Steve Buscemi who’s always watchable, but it’s a bit odd to see him playing it completely straight as the former-alcoholic-turned-counselor, it kind of seems like a missed opportunity, ahah. Oh, as for Mortensen, well he is practically wasted as a supposedly famous baseball player who has a knack for watching soap operas. Yes it sounds funny but it’s really not that hilarious as it’s being played in the movie as his character didn’t even appear in the soap re-enactment scene towards the end.

I can’t say I recommend this one unless you’re a die hard Sandra Bullock fan. But I wish I had rewatched While You’re Sleeping instead.

2 out of 5 reels

I also re-watched a couple of old favorites this weekend …


I LOVE this romance drama by Mexican director Alfonso Arau. Yes Keanu Reeves seemed an unlikely romantic lead but I think he’s lovely in this movie and has a nice chemistry with Italian/Spanish actress Aitana Sánchez Gijón. I’ve always admired the gorgeous cinematography, it turns out it was the work of recent Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki! I still love this movie, it’s one of my fave unconventionally-romantic movies!


Daniel Craig‘s fantastic intro to the Bond franchise has become one of my all time favorites. It’s still the one to beat out of the three he’s done so far IMO. The action, the scenery and the music are all superb, plus it features my fave Bond girl Vesper Lynd. I’d rather see Eva Green here than in the 300 sequel, and based on Ted’s review, good thing I skipped the movie.

… and a new-to-me Wes Anderson movie released seven years ago:


I’ve been curious to see this one for some time, but after seeing Keith’s review on Friday I thought I’d rent it this weekend. As I was writing my review of Grand Budapest Hotel, it gives more perspective into Wes Anderson’s filmography. Stay tuned for my review of both of his movies later this week!

So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on the movies I mentioned above?

FlixChatter Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)


Greetings, all and sundry!

Having enjoyed a brief respite from double features and the career and filmography of Walter Matthau. I return refreshed and relaxed from a rather intriguing sojourn around The Sundance Channel. Indulging in their wares and finding their menu to be of very high and discerning quality. Providing all three delectable courses of the original, much written about and critiqued “Millennium Trilogy“of films.

Centering around a disgraced journalist. Mikael Blomkvist. Desperate to get his and his magazine’s reputation back after a three month sentence and large fine for losing a libel case in 1992 against financier and billionaire, Hans-Erik Wennerström. Taking on a job of historic research in the case of a girl who has been missing since 1966. And in need of someone who is better at over turning ancient rocks and investigating than he is. Someone with mad skills, who has already hacked into his laptop.


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Lisbeth Salander, by name. (Marvelously subtle and underplayed, Noomi Rapace!) Possessing a more than tragic past. Institutionalized and judged mentally incompetent since childhood for trying to immolate her abusive, wife beating father. Lisbeth has inner demons writ indelibly large. An ultimate Outsider with very few social skills, because she has never had time to develop them. Living hand to mouth from a monthly, miserly stipend provided by a sadistic sick puppy of a guardian and lawyer, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson. As fat and ugly on the outside as in!). Lisbeth seeks to be free. And is not above using means fair, foul or underhanded to achieve it.

Though to aid in achieving it, Lisbeth needs a better paying gig than her present one of providing Cyber Security, cameras and the like for people and businesses above her social standing. One that can utilize her voracious appetite for knowledge, histories, research, all things digital. And her photographic memory.


Her meeting with Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist. Brooding, hungry and oddly ruggedly handsome) and those proposing the “Historic Whodunnit?!” involving a missing girl from the 60s goes about as well as expected. With Lisbeth unearthing and presenting tidbits about the secretive, well do do Vanger family in question. As well as some naughty bits of gossip about the company footing the bill. Not exactly a match made in Heaven. But one that intrigues and pleases Blomkvist.

Lisbeth dives deep into research. When not arranging another assignation with Bjurman for dwindling funds from a recently purchased and secreted digital camera. Which is used to great value as the lawyer goes a bit Medieval in regards to his sexual proclivities.

Meanwhile, Mikael travels far outside Stockholm to the Vanger estate .About ten minutes away from the small island town of Hedestad, which hasn’t seemed to have evolved into the 21st century. All rustic as hell and lovely to look at. But basically, the dark side of the Moon in regard to technology, tower signals and anything else a investigative reporter may need. Oh, there are people to interview. The Vanger family. The missing girl, Harriet’s Anti Semite brother, Martin (Played to creepy, arrogant perfection by Peter Haber). And older, even more vile cousin Cecilia (Marika Langercrantz, who should be adorned in National Socialist gray or black). Who has no time for people in general. And even less for Mikael. Speaking in roundabout riddles and non answers as journals and photo albums and other documentary grist are offered up for Blomkvist to digest.


Lisbeth has been equally busy dissecting Harriet’s diary. Where she finds a loose thread to tug. That opens up a skein of other missing and murdered girls dating back to the 1950s. All with Jewish names. That fits with pronounced and underlined verses from Leviticus. And allows some time for Lisbeth to get some substantial payback on her guardian, Bjurman. Arranging a meet that finds Bjurman tasered, seriously restrained and at the mercy of his and the state’s vengeful ward. Lisbeth lays down the new ground rules while tattooing Bjurman’s chest with the message” “I am a sadistic pig and a rapist”.

Bjurman is to open up all access to Lisbeth’s collected trust. And only glowing reports about her “progress” are to be made to his higher ups. Period. No negotiation. And Bjurman will be monitored to make sure his new tattoo is NOT removed. Or she will be back!!!

Satisfied for the moment, Lisbeth travels to the Vanger estate to fill in Mikael on her progress regarding Harriet and the earlier missing girls. Mikael talks to the town’s retired police detective and learns about “Children’s Day” in 1966. The last time Harriet was seen alive. Mikael rents a flat from which a group of photos conating Harriet and other girls were taken that day. And Lisbeth sets up video security on their estate digs. When not backtracking Wennerström’s finances, diversifications and slowly revealed, many off shore accounts. With that information put aside, Lisbeth gains access to the archives of the Vanger family businesses. While Mikael focuses on Martin’s reclusive brother, Harald. Who, along with Martin shared an unsavory reputation around Hedestad. Deeper investigation reveals a time line that not only includes Martin, but his long deceased father, Gottfried.


Harald is looking more and more like the guilty party. And Mikael breaks rather clumsily into his home. Harald intervenes and Martin arrives like the cavalry to save Mikael’s bacon. On the way back to Mikael’s digs. Mikael talks a bit too much and his words come a bit too close to home. Martin drugs Mikael. Drags him back to his well equipped basement to indulge in his own murderous form(s) of adult entertainment. While Lisbeth returns back to the estate. Finds Mikael missing. Checks the video feed and sees Martin carrying something large and body like into the night’s shadows a short time earlier.

While Lisbeth hurries to Martin’s house. Mikael finds himself bound. Suspended and choked from the basements low ceiling. Listening to Martin detail the number of young girls killed by at first, his father’s. And later, his hand. Martin waxes so poetic and nostalgic about the people in numbers he can’t remember. Lisbeth slinks downstairs and catches Martin between the shoulder blades with a seven iron. Gets a few licks and kicks of her own in before Martin runs away.

Lisbeth frees Mikael and gives chase on her motorcycle after Martin’s disappearing Land Rover. Weaves in and out of traffic until Martin catches the corner of a semi trailer full of lumber. That sends the Land Rover careening and tumbling. And leaves Martin pinned upside down and helpless behind the wheel as gasoline drips onto licking, flickering flames as Lisbeth draws close and watches…

As with all decent films and long running evening soap operas. All is revealed in the last fifteen minutes. Yes. Harriet went missing after the Children’s Day celebration. Though the photo of so much attention is of Cecilia’s younger sister, Anita. Also young, blonde and beautiful. Who helped Harriet escape the sexually abusive hands of her recently murdered (Boat oar upside the head. Drowning) and disgusting father, Gottfried. And the lecherous habits of young Martin. Who had witnessed the event.

Blomkvist tracks Harriet down in the wild open Outback of Australia. Having lived for years under Anita’s name. Harriet fills in the details of the rapes and abuse of her at familial hands while flying back to Stockholm. And a reunion with the only decent Vanger on the planet. Her uncle, Henrick.


While Blomkvist is tying up loose ends. So is Lisbeth. Traveling to banks far and wide in a blonde wig and high fashion. And raiding them more than enough for a full blown, no holds barred investigation of Wennerström’s corporate graft and corruption. All duly noted by the little seen (In this film. Much more in later tales) staff of Millennium magazine. Capitalizing on details and sensation and putting themselves in a higher strata than before.

Now. What Makes This Film Good?

A director, Neils Arden Oplev whose pedigree is nearly solidly television. Taking on a rather large and sweeping story of an original novel by Steig Larsson (Whose original title was: Men Who Hate Women). And giving it the maturity and attention to detail and often graphic and off putting topic like this demands. And yes, this is “Adult Material”. And may not be everyone’s cup of tea as deeply buried stones are unearthed, turned over and their brutal, vile histories revealed.

GirlWithTheDragonTattooLisbethInto this morass steps Noomi Rapace‘s Lisbeth Salander. Her arms tucked in close in defensive solitude. Her head down, often under a baseball cap and hoodie when plying crafts better made anonymous and near invisible in a crowd. Sometimes maintaining a forward leaning posture when reading her notes and half expecting a challenge. Keeping her inner demons in check through body language subtle and pronounced. Lest those demons escape through her appendages and fingertips. Ms. Rapace is an absolute wonder to watch. As she holds the camera’s attention and allows you to glimpse those demons.

Michael Nyqvist is no slouch either. Far less worldly and much more blue collar than Daniel Craig in the later, David Fincher directed, American version. Looking more like a failed, former boxer or rugby player than a investigator and newshound. Who makes mistakes. Sometimes says too much when he shouldn’t. And not enough when he should. Helping cinematographer Eric Kress keep an even strain and tension in the slow excavation of viable names, locations and dates from the obfuscations of those he’s interviewing.

Attention must be paid to the dialogue and its subtitles as well as the full pallet of less than friendly, desirable and arrogantly untouchable Vanger family. And the pompously smug bureaucrats who briefly interface and believe they hold sway over Lisbeth. Their day of reckoning occurs later in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.

What Makes This Film Great?

A story worthy of a top budget and A-list director told on a smaller, more manageable scale. With the deft and liberal use of darkness, shadows and cramped cityscape in and around Stockholm. With an added layer of isolation when trekking out to the island city of Hedestad. Where the Vanger family lords over all and prefers that their secrets remain secret.

The film also plunges deep and sloshes around with the patent patriarchy instilled in a culture separated from most. And never being called on their behavior and never been told “no!”. And even with a running time of 152 minutes. One might think patience is a requirement. Though with superior editing by Anne Osterud, time flows smoothly, seamlessly and only a minimum of lost time and over long scenes. All moved briskly along with original music by Jacob Groth.

Extremely high marks to Tusse Lande, Jenny Fred and Cilla Rorby for casting so many well made up evil and dressed people. And, as with any origin story in a series of stories. Those mentioned here will also figure prominently in The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.

Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews

Thoughts on this film? Let it be known in the comments.

007 Chatter: (Ian) Fleming’s Bond – The James Bond of the original novels compared to the 007 movies Part 2

Welcome to another edition of 007Chatter!
Just because Skyfall has been released in the US now, doesn’t mean we can’t continue talking about Bond. So this is the second part of Marcus’ post where he compared the Ian Fleming’s Novels to the Bond Films. In this post, Marcus takes a closer look at what is going on inside Bond — his relationships to the two important women in his life provide a great contrast to his movie image.

Check out PART I if you haven’t already.

Thanks again to Marcus Clearspring for these two-part posts!
Check out his movie blog Cinesprit and his writing blog.


My introduction to Bond movies were double features at our small town cinema. Two Bonds on the big screen for half the price of one blockbuster ticket in London. Once I discovered that deal, I was eagerly opening the weekly listings to see when the next double feature was showing. Like most people who were happy with the movies, I wasn’t really aware of the books. Then I discovered several Bond books on the family bookshelves which changed my view of the Bond character completely.

Only five of the movies really follow Fleming’s novels closely. Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. All the first movies made, with the exception of You Only Live Twice, which mixes in so much new stuff that it greatly differs from the novel.

The novel would be difficult to adapt to the screen. The first one hundred pages consist largely of Bond and Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service, talking about cultural differences between British/Western ways and Japanese/Asian perspectives. The final showdown does not take place in a hollowed-out volcano as in the movie. You Only Live Twice is an exception, a very strange novel in many ways. The final showdown is quite literally fantastic. Definitely to be recommended if you are open to a different kind of 007 narrative.

In general, the movies liberally mix and match individual scenes and characters from the novels. The best example is Live and Let Die. The movie has very little to do with the novel except for Bond chasing Mr. Big’s drug ring and visiting Harlem. However, some of the most memorable action scenes from Live and Let Die are mixed into other movies. For example, the scene in For Your Eyes Only with Bond and Melina, the woman  with the crossbow, being dragged as shark bait behind a boat.

Then two scenes in Licence to Kill. The one where Felix Leiter has been fed to sharks and has a classic Fleming line attached to him saying “He disagreed with something that ate him“. The other is when Bond breaks into the warehouse belonging to Crest. The scene is much longer in the novel and has far more suspense. As I said in my first post, its surprising that many action scenes are more engaging in the novels.

I’d like to focus on two topics which generally put Bond’s character in a negative light. His relationship to women and the perception from the movies that he’s merely a blunt instrument, an assassin with no introspection. Both topics are different in the novels.

There is a common perception that Bond is a misogynist and only sees women as “disposable pleasures.” Particularly for the movies of the 1970s that is often true. The phrase, I believe, is from Fleming’s Casino Royale and quoted in the movie. However, in the novels, I would argue that’s only a setup by the author to get Bond more emotionally involved.

It’s like in romantic comedies and dramas. In the beginning, the male or female lead declare to their best friend how they are totally finished with serious relationships because men/women are so awful. We all know that’s a setup, that they will hook up at the end with the person they disliked the most in the beginning. The greater the distance created, the greater they can fall in love later on. I think Fleming does this too. Only, it’s not served as a fluffy romance, so many people don’t seem to recognize it behind the rough and tumble macho disguise. Why else would Fleming have Bond literally call  himself a misogynist, then have him fall in love? Bond gives a simple explanation. It’s because he has never met a woman he could have an interesting conversation with. Surprising insight, if you only know the movies.

Bond only falls in love twice in the novels. That is with Vesper in Casino Royale and Tracy in On her Majesty’s Secret Service. Vesper, the sphinx, is the first woman he can talk to with ease. Tracy, a woman with “issues”, becomes Mrs Bond.

These are some of the most fascinating parts in any of the Bond novels. It’s this very tough character, an assassin, being caring and tender, able to relate to another person. Mixed with action and imminent danger this delivers a great result. It goes far deeper than the stock “hero getting the girl” because Fleming adds so much interior to Bond’s character.

Bond’s introspection is what sets him apart from many other action heroes. He will question what he needs to do and what he has done. He will ponder the moral and ethical sides of his actions, question the service he works for. There is an entire short chapter in Casino Royale, where, while recuperating in the clinic, Bond speaks to Mathis about his job, pondering whether he should quit. He questions whether his actions are any better than those of the villains he hunts. Some interesting thoughts and answers from Mathis which are worth reading and thinking about.

One thing to keep in mind is that the novels were written in the 1950s and obviously do not reflect what’s considered politically correct today (see note below on Live and Let Die). It’s a post World War II era. The onset of the Cold War.

Here’s a brief personal ranking of the novels.


  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • From Russia with Love
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Dr No
  • Thunderball
  • Goldfinger


  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Live and Let Die*

* Caution: “Live and Let Die” contains many racial references considered highly offensive today.


  • Diamonds are Forever

Special mention:

The Spy Who Loved Me is an exception in the series, written entirely from the perspective of a woman. James Bond only has a short appearance. You can’t really count it as part of the normal Bond novels. It is interesting though and I plan on re-reading it.

There would be lots more to say. I can only encourage anyone interested in Bond, to check out the novels and discover a depth of character not present in any of the movies to date.

So that concludes the two-part post on how the Ian Fleming’s Bond books compare to the Bond movies. 

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Weekend Roundup and The Whistleblower Review

Happy Tuesday, folks! Well, Minnesota weather is all but predictable and this weekend alone we seem to have gone through two seasons within a matter of 48 hours! On Saturday it was a balmy 69 degrees — people out driving their convertibles and walking in shorts ‘n sandals. There’s even a tornado touch down in a town next to mine, which is unheard of in November! But by the time Sunday rolls around, cool cold wind sets in and by Monday morning, wind chill factor is in the single digit, plus there’s a coating of snow on my way to work [sigh]

Photo courtesy of Startribune.com

I count myself blessed that I didn’t live anywhere near a hill like this one in Ramsey Street in St. Paul! There were a ton of accidents this morning as people were slippin’ and slidin’ down the icy road.

As for movie watching, well it ended up being the weekend of Mr and Mrs Daniel Craig. I saw Skyfall on Friday night and on Saturday I saw a movie starring Craig’s wife Rachel Weisz called The Whistleblower. The two played husband and wife in the the thriller Dream House and got married soon after. I think Weisz is gorgeous enough to actually play a Bond girl, I wonder if she’d ever considering it though. I mean that’d be something we’ve never seen before in the history of Bond movies, seeing a husband and wife playing Bond and Bond girl!! Anyway, thanks to Amanda who told me in the comment section of my rant post that this film has now become available to rent.

Now on to the review…

The Whistleblower (2010)

A drama based on the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and outed the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal.

Despite the stellar cast, for some reason this movie is rather obscure. I don’t even know if it ever got a theatrical release, seems like it went straight to dvd after it premiered in various film festivals. It’s too bad as it’s a decent film that deals with an important subject matter most people don’t know about. It’s heart-breaking to learn about the human trafficking and forced prostitution happening in Bosnia, especially when it’s done by the security people contracted to protect those people.

This film is deliberately done like an investigative journalism without much flair. The ‘raw’ quality is likely due to its shoe-string budget, but I find it fitting given the subject matter. In fact, I feel that the lack of ‘beauty’ in this film makes us focus on the story more, there’s not pretty scenery or manipulative music to distract us, it was just the characters and what’s happening to them. The living condition these girls are subjected to is appalling and heart-wrenching, but nobody is willing to stand up for them. In a way it’s a David vs. Goliath story told in a matter-of-fact manner.

Rachel Weisz is excellent as the sympathetic police officer who’s in over her head trying to do the right thing. She could be too strikingly beautiful for this role, but somehow they manage to make her look quite plain here. I’m glad she took on an important role despite this being a low profile project. The film doesn’t portray Bolkovac as a flawless saint, but she’s certainly heroic in risking her job and her own well-being going after such a protected organization. The supporting cast is top notch, we’ve got Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, David Strathrain, and Benedict Cumberbatch who sadly wasn’t given much to do.

Despite the powerful, ripped-from-the-headlines story, the slow pacing and some unnecessary subplots such as Bolkovach’s romance with a colleague drag the film down. It could be due to director Larysa Kondracki’s lack of experience, as I feel that it could’ve been a much more intriguing film than what it was. Overall, it’s truly a difficult film to watch, the tone is staggeringly bleak which makes it even more depressing. The violent scenes are pretty brutal, there’s one particular scene that is so barbaric that it’s painful to watch. Yet the violence is not meant to be ‘entertainment,’ but to show just the kind of extreme brutality and injustice happening in our world.

What’s most depressing is that these atrocities are still allowed to continue as the perpetrators are not persecuted due to diplomatic immunity. That said, I’m glad they brought this story to light and it’s always inspiring to see regular people standing up to those who can’t defend themselves. Despite its flaws, I’d recommend this film, it’s really quite eye-opening.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels

Well, that’s my weekend roundup. How ’bout you, seen anything good?