FlixChatter Review: SABOTAGE

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Just like his pal Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzegger is trying to reclaim his glory days as the box office king of the 80s and 90s by starring in action films again in the 21st century. So far though, both them have had more duds than hits and I’m afraid this trend will continue with Arnold’s latest action thriller.

The movie opens with a group of elite DEA agents being lead by John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnie) raiding on some drug dealers’ fancy mansion. They found at least $100mil cash stashed away in the lower level of the mansion and the team decided to steal $10mil of that money and burn the rest so no one at the DEA will know they took the cash. Of course things didn’t turn out as planned, when they tried to retrieve the cash later, it’s nowhere to be found. Things got worse when the DEA found out that the $10mil is missing and they accuse Breacher and his team of stealing the money. All of them were under investigation and Breacher lost his team. About six months later, the DEA couldn’t find enough evidence to build a case against Breacher and his team, so the case will be close.

After the good news, Breacher tracked down his old teammates and try to get them back to doing what they do best, kill lots of bad guys. Unfortunately things didn’t come back to normal for the team, three of them were killed and this lead to the involvement of a homicide detective Caroline (Olivia Williams). Caroline suspects the drug cartel is behind the killings but Breacher and his team aren’t willing to help her with the investigation. The trailers let us to believe that this was a non-stop action adventure but it’s really a procedural thriller with some shootouts and a car chase. Not the usual Arnold’s flicks from the past.

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The script by Skip Woods and David Ayer was pretty good, nothing too deep or over the top. Instead of giving us one liners after another, some of the dialogs were quite witty and Arnold delivered them perfectly. The script might think it’s smarter than it’s actually is but I went along with the plot. Ayer made a name for himself by writing Training Day and the first Fast & Furious film, so don’t expect anything new or original from this movie. I’m not the biggest fan of his directing style though, he basically incorporated the look and feel of his last movie (End of Watch) into this one. I’m sort of getting annoyed by some directors who think that by shooting their movie digitally, they think it will look more “realistic”. I don’t get why they couldn’t add some effects in post production and make the movie look more cinematic, I can’t stand watching a movie that looks like it’s shot with a home camcorder. Despite the flat and uninspired cinematography, Ayer did shoot some good action scenes, particularly the climatic car chase and shootout.

Performance wise, I thought Arnold did a pretty good job, again it’s Arnold we’re talking about here so don’t expect an Oscar caliber acting. Olivia Williams pretty much played the second lead and I thought she’s good in the role, I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her in a movie. The rest of the cast including Sam Worthington (I guess he’s already lost his leading man status now), Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello and Josh Holloway did a serviceable job in their respective roles.

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For a movie like this, I think most people expect to see lots of shootouts and explosions, so it’s a nice surprise that it does have some sort of a plot and kept my attention without something blowing up every 10 minutes. I think I might give it a higher rating had Ayer and his team made the movie look more like a real movie instead of home video. But I’m glad they didn’t scale back the blood and violence, I think this is a good rental.

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What do you think of Sabotage?

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Question of the Week: Are you looking forward to AVATAR sequels?

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It just dawned on me that it’s been over four years since AVATAR was released. I remember it was quite a big deal back in 2009. I remember getting advanced screenings (this was before I was on the press list, mind you) and I was soooooo excited! I even had a countdown post like I did before Man of Steel came out. I had barely any blog followers back then either, so most of you probably never read my review of the movie. Yes, I actually loved it. Yes I know it’s basically the story of Pocahontas with blue people, but I couldn’t help being caught up in the spectacle of it all. Visually, it was a thrill that at the time, I hadn’t experienced before. My hubby and I even went to the Avatar exhibit at EMP Museum in Seattle, so yeah, I was obviously a fan :D

But it seems ages ago now. I haven’t even rewatched it in a couple of years though we did get the Blu-ray. It’s not as exhilarating visually when you didn’t see it on 3D or IMAX, and this is one of those movies where the visual does matter. In any case, I sort of have forgotten about this movie, but yesterday I saw a bunch of tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger possibly joining Avatar 2 as a villain.

I’d think Arnie’s probably playing a general/leader role similar to Stephen Lang. It’s been a while since he collaborated with Cameron in those Terminator movies and True Lies (which I’ve been wanting to rewatch for some time!), though at this point I don’t really care. Heck, I used to actually like Sam Worthington, he was even on my list of 10 Notable Foreign Actors to Watch, but apart from maybe The Debt, I don’t really care for him as an actor anymore. Yeah, blame it on the abominable Clash of the Titans!

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The Abyss

What I am curious about is if Avatar 2 would actually take place underwater as was reported early this year. This is what Cameron said to LA Times Hero Complex about what the setting of the sequel,

Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment – a different setting within Pandora. And I’m going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won’t be a rain forest. I’m not saying we won’t see what we’ve already seen; we’ll see more of that as well.

Of course they’d use the latest technology for the motion capture and stuff, that’d be interesting to see how that’d work underwater. The Abyss is one of my favorite sci-fi, which was filmed underwater. Surely the technology has improved tremendously since 1989 that we should expect something even more breathtaking.


So what do you guys think about AVATAR sequels, are you a fan of the first film? 

TEN Notable Foreign Actors to Watch – Where Are They Now?

I first published this list back in November 2009, and I’ve been wanting to do an update in a while, thanks to the suggestion from Iba @ ILuvCinema.

As I said back then, this kind of list is a matter of opinion/preference, and it’s impossible to please everyone. This one in particular is not meant to be a prediction of ‘the next big thing,’ whatever the heck that means, but more of an indication that these non-American actors have been generating some buzz for current or upcoming flicks, or accolades for their performances as of 2009.

FlixChatter's Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch

FlixChatter’s Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch

The criteria was that at the time, these actors were virtually unknown to the average movie-going public (even if they had seen their movies), but are definitely on the radar of cinephiles and movie bloggers alike. To help narrow things down, I kept the age range between 20-40 years old (as of the time I made the list).

Well, so how are they doing now, almost three years later? Take a look below on how each of the talent’s career has taken them:

Tom Hardy, 34

Thanks to Christopher Nolan’s final Batman movie, Tom Hardy’s name has perhaps become a household name by now. Since I made the list, I’ve seen him in three additional films: Inception, Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises. As I said before, I quite like his comic skills in Rocknrolla, but since his roles have showcased his dramatic chops and a penchant for the theatrics for his role of Bane. No, I haven’t seen him in This Means War yet, though I have not ruled that out yet.

What’s Next? He’s currently starring in the prohibition-era thriller Lawless. I look forward to seeing him in the new Mad Max action adventure Fury Road with Charlize Theron.
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Sam Worthington, 36

Now this is quite unfortunate. Though I was initially keen on the Kiwi actor after Terminator Salvation and Avatar, now I’m actually not as fond of him. Blame the awful Clash of the Titans for that, I guess, and also some dismal reviews for Man On Ledge, which didn’t sound too promising from the start. But no doubt Worthington’s career continues to be on the rise. I mean, heck, he’s now got another franchise besides Avatar as the sequel to ‘Clash‘ was released this past Summer.

What’s Next? He’s signed on for several movies out next year, but the one I’m most curious about is Thunder Run that’s reportedly on pre-production. The Iraq-war thriller about the surprise assault on Baghdad also stars Gerry Butler and Matthew McConaughey.
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Carey Mulligan, 27

After seeing her fabulous performance in An Education, she wowed me again in Never Let Me Go. I haven’t seen Drive and Shame, but those two movie caught a lot of buzz with critics and moviegoers alike. Seems like the talented Londoner (one of my faves born in the UK capital) is perfectly suited for both indies and more mainstream fares like Wall Street: Money Never Sleep.

What’s Next? Too bad The Great Gatsby‘s been pushed back to next year from this Christmas. I think she’d make a compelling Daisy Buchanan in the tale of tragic romance amidst the lavish world of Jay Gatsby. On a personal front, Carey has also now been married Marcus Mumford, the lead singer of Mumford & Sons band last April.
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Tobey Kebbell, 30

As I said before, it’s pure coincidence that three actors on this list have been in Rocknrolla! I guess Guy Ritchie’s pretty good at spotting real talents. I’ve since only seen Kebbell in one other film, War Horse, but his scene was easily one of the most memorable. Unlike Hardy though, Kebbell’s career hasn’t really quite taken off. Perhaps because his two films following Rocknrolla (The Conspirator and Prince of Persia) weren’t really well-received nor become box office hits.

What’s Next? His upcoming film The East with Alexander Skarsgård and Brit Marling sounds interesting, but I doubt it’ll be his big break as it’s a low-budget movie. Kebbell is still young though, so there’s still time for his career to hit it off.
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Chiwetel Ejiofor, 39

Since I just saw a movie with him in the lead role in Endgame, I’m so glad I put him on my list! He had a memorable role in Children of Men and also American Gangster. Even in brief screen time as Keira Knightley’s groom in Love, Actually, it’s hard not to notice the handsome London-born actor (born of Nigerian parents). I wish he had been as prolific as fellow British/African Idris Elba, as both are charismatic and talented actors. As displayed in Endgame, I am convinced Ejiofor can carry a movie as a leading man. He’s obviously very easy on the eyes, but also got that intellectual, sophisticated vibe that’d make him suitable for a variety of roles.

What’s Next? He’s starring with Thandie Newton in a film set around Nigeria’s independence, Half of a Yellow Sun. And hopefully starring in the Steve McQueen’s historical drama Twelve Years A Slave would also boost his career even more.
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Michael Fassbender, 35

Well I think this Irish-German actor’s career has been on a meteoric rise in the past three years, wouldn’t you say? He nabbed nominations left and right for his performance in Shame, though he was egregiously snubbed by the Academy Award. Since 300, I’ve loved his performance in Centurion, Inglourious Basterds, X-Men: First Class and Prometheus. I think it’s safe to say Fassbender has ‘arrived’ in Hollywood, and I’m glad to see him getting more prominent roles.

What’s Next? Fassbender will be collaborating with London-born director Steve McQueen for the third time in Twelve Years A Slave that I’ve mentioned above. He’s also co-starring with Brad Pitt in the Ridley Scott’s drug-trafficking thriller The Counselor set for next year.
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Abbie Cornish, 28

I have to admit I haven’t seen Cornish in anything new since Bright Star, apart from watching her in A Good Year with Russell Crowe. She’s obviously VERY talented, and she could perhaps have the career of fellow Aussie actresses like Naomi Watts or Mia Waskikowska, but yet she’s not as well-known. She’s quite in demand though, she’s starring in five new films in the next couple of years.

What’s Next? She’s been cast in the much-beleaguered RoboCop reboot alongside Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) and Gary Oldman. This seems to be the most high profile she’s involved in as the others seem to be small-budget fares.
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Sharlto Copley, 38

I LOVE his performance in District 9, that’s why he’s on this list. But it seems to be a slow-burn rise for the South African actor, as he hasn’t starred in anything since the A-Team reboot a few years ago. Not sure why that is but perhaps he’s busy working on the District 9 follow-up Elysium with Neill Blomkamp, even though it seems that it’s Matt Damon who’s got the starring role in that movie.

What’s Next? He’s listed on IMDb as having five upcoming projects, including the Sleeping Beauty spin-off Maleficent with Angelina Jolie and the Korean cult favorite Oldboy remake with Spike Lee. Not sure how big his role is in those two films. I do hope he gets another starring role in a sci-fi movie, he certainly has the chops to carry a film.

Gemma Arterton, 26

Now, out of the ten actors I put on the list, Gemma is the only one I wish I hadn’t. I guess I’m just too fond of her. I probably would rather put fellow Brit Hayley Atwell in her place. It’s interesting that she was Sam Worthington’s co-star in Clash of the Titans, whom I initially liked but now I’ve grown cold on. Like Worthington, Arterton is also in quite a high demand, she even played a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace and balancing smaller-budget fares (Tamara Drewe) and blockbusters (Prince of Persia).

What’s Next? You might’ve seen her in the recently-released trailer of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (if not, you can see it here), just one of the four projects she’s got in 2013. None of them I’m really interested in however, that Hansel and Gretel one looks like crap.
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Ben Whishaw, 31

The UK actor has since been on my radar since his leading role as John Keats in Bright Star and a small role in The International. I’ve been meaning to rent the ensemble-cast Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There in which he portrayed Arthur Rimbaud, but haven’t got around to it. Needless to say, I haven’t seen him in anything since but I’m hoping to see him in two films before year’s end: Cloud Atlas and Bond 23 Skyfall as the new, young and hip Q!

What’s Next? There’s nothing else listed for him in IMDb after Skyfall, but he’s also starring in a BBC four-part miniseries The Hollow Crown (you can read all about it here on Dezzy’s blog) Hopefully this massively talented actor gets a leading role sometime soon!


Honorable mentions:

  • Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, 21, Fifty Dead Men Walking)
  • Rupert Friend (Cheri, The Young Victoria)
  • Idris Elba (Rocknrolla, The Losers, Prometheus)
  • Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, Dorian Gray)
  • Ben Barnes (Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Dorian Gray)

Again, I made this original list three years ago. Now, with hindsight, I would’ve probably swapped a couple from the main list, such as Idris Elba and Rebecca Hall. Especially for Idris, I’m psyched that his career continues to rise now, he deserved it!!


Well, that’s it for the updates folks. Thoughts on any of these actors and/or their projects?

In light of news that Gerard Butler & Sam Worthington in talks for Hunter Killer – Top Five Fave Brit/Aussie Actors Combo

Thanks to a tweet from my friend Ted, I learned that my long-time crush Gerry Butler is in negotiation to star in a submarine thriller Hunter Killer. Per LatinoReview, the movie is based on the novel, Firing Point from authors George Wallace and Don Keith, here’s the plot:

An untested submarine captain must work with a Navy SEAL team to rescue Russia’s president, who’s taken prisoner during a military coup. The two sides team to stop a rogue Russian general from igniting World War III.

Butler is in talks to play the submarine captain Joe Glass of the USS Toledo, whilst Avatar and The Debt star Sam Worthington is being pursued to take on the role of the leader of the Navy SEAL unit, Bill Beaman. Director of Training Day and Brooklyn’s Finest, Antoine Fuqua is set to direct.

Now, truth be told I’m not a huge fan of submarine thrillers. Interestingly enough, the only submarine movie I like was The Hunt for Red October which also stars another famous Scot, Sean Connery. I personally would rather see Butler in a non-military-related drama — how ’bout that Robert Burns biopic eh Gerry? — where there are more emotional eruptions than those involving weapons of any kind. But I suppose I shouldn’t complain as Butler continues to mix things up. He balances the bad-ass roles in Machine Gun Preacher and Coriolanus with a soccer comedy Playing the Field and a surfing drama Of Men and Mavericks for L.A. Confidential‘s director Curtis Hanson.

So yeah, I do like this casting combo and both are suitable for tough guy military roles. I’ve liked Worthington ever since Terminator Salvation, and though I’ve complained that he’s not expressive enough, he was rather good in The Debt and no doubt neither one of these two actors is lacking any on screen charisma. But as my friend Dezzy @ HollywoodSpy said, this better be eons better than whatever the hell Battleship is supposed to be, starring Liam Neeson and… Rihanna?? [shakes head]

Anyhoo, the news made me think of other Brit/Aussie actor combos I like in the past. I haven’t seen Warrior yet starring London-born Tom Hardy and Aussie Joel Edgerton, but I reckon that’d perhaps make my list. I think a great combo happens when both actors are able to hold their own but creates a wonderful dynamic together on-screen. Here are five that come to mind:

  • Christian Bale & Russell Crowe – 3:10 to Yuma
    I’m not even a fan of Westerns but with these two, I ended up loving this film. Crowe practically steals every scene as charming villain Ben Wade.
  • Christian Bale & Hugh Jackman – The Prestige
    I didn’t love this film the first time around, but upon second viewing I appreciated it a whole lot more. Both actors exemplify what showmanship is supposed to look like, and the twist and turns are classic Nolan.
  • Christian Bale & Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
    Yet another film where Bale is sort of upstaged by the villain, but Ledger’s The Joker pretty much outshone everyone else in this Nolan’s Batman saga. But whenever this duo face off each other on-screen, the intensity of this already thrilling film moves up a few notches!
  • Geoffrey Rush & Colin Firth – The King Speech
    This Oscar winner should also be crowned best on-screen duo of the year as their ‘royal bromance’ is just delightful to watch! If it weren’t for Bale’s tour de force performance in The Fighter (and the fact that his win was overdue), Rush deserves to take home the statue along with Firth!
  • Russell Crowe & Paul Bettany – Master & Commander
    Yes, yes, another familiar name, but really, Crowe is easily the best Aussie imports in the biz. This isn’t exactly a ‘duo’ per se, but I feel that the compelling friendship between the captain and the doctor is what gives the movie its ‘heart.’

I realize that this list might as well be called Christian Bale and his Aussie co-stars, ahah. I think Bale is always memorable even in ‘second banana‘ roles. I’m sure there are other Brit/Aussie combos in classic movies but I’m not as familiar with that genre so folks, you’d have to help me out on that one.


Well, any thoughts on this Hunter Killer project? Please also share other Brit/Aussie duo you think deserve a mention.

FlixChatter Review: Clash of the Titans

Critics be darned once again! Clash of the Titans defied the dismal review (31% Tomatometer) to soar past $60 million to capture the number 1 box office spot (it’s already earned over 100 mil worldwide). WOW, it surely is kraken-ka-ching for honchos at Warner Bros, as it’ll make up its $125 million production cost quicker than you can say “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!”

My buddies and I saw this in 2D on Saturday afternoon, and glad we only paid 6 bucks for it as it definitely wasn’t worth even a penny more! This is quite disappointing as I’ve been pretty excited about this flick for about a year now, frequently blogging about it, even put it on my Top Ten Most Anticipated 2010 Flicks. Of course I wasn’t expecting an Oscar-caliber flick and knew full well this was going to be a lightweight flick with plenty of action, but still, I was hoping it won’t be THAT vapid and humdrum.

All those visual thrills, loud and bombastic action sequences left me empty, aching for someone, something to actually give a hoot about, but all we get is a reluctant – lackluster is more like it – hero with only two expressions to choose from: anger and despondent, practically nothing in between. Sam Worthington’s performance as Perseus made his Jake Sully character in Avatar look like a worthy Oscar contender! The biggest problem of the movie is definitely the script, so perhaps it’s the fault of the screenwriter to paint such an unsympathetic hero. I mean, if he didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about fighting the gods (nor saving mankind) in the first place, then why should we?? The only sequence I thought was pretty cool was the Medusa chase and how seamless the special effects was in creating the beautiful but hair-raising (literally!) monster.

If anything though, it certainly sparked a good discussion with my hubby afterwards, we even watched some of the clips of the original on Youtube. So the full review below is courtesy of Ivan, a.k.a Mr. Maramis! :)

When it comes to a movie remake – which happens a lot these days with Hollywood’s lack of creativity – you can become a harsher critic, especially when you were quite fond of the original version, no matter how cheesy that movie is (or was). That’s what I experienced when I watched the 2010 Clash of the Titans this past weekend.

I’m not going to elaborate the plot here (that’s what Google is for), but essentially the story centers around Perseus, half man, half god–son of Zeus. The gods have conflict among themselves (that’s what happen when you have more than 1 God), meanwhile human rebels against the gods. Zeus got antsy and eventually decided to RELEASE THE KRAKEN (essentially a humongous godzilla from underwater). Human have the option to either sacrifice Andromeda (a beautiful princess), or kill the Kraken. That’s when Perseus comes in (to kill the Kraken, not to sacrifice Andromeda… just to be clear).

I remember watching the original version as a kid, in awe of the visual effects of all the creatures, Perseus adventure, the occasional humor, and all the action that kept you at the edge of your seat throughout the movie (kid doesn’t really understand storyline, so…). Keep in mind this was all created before CGI era (1981).

Fast forward to 2010. When I saw the trailer, I was so excited. I really had high expectation. After all, with all the technology we have today, fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings can actually be considered as high quality production with excellent story line. Right? And then I saw the movie. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes later… meh. An hour later, I’m getting even antsier than Zeus is. From there on, I was just staring at the screen hoping for some occasional cool CGI, which is not that spectacular anyway.

So by now you know I’m not too crazy about this remake. And maybe I would’ve had a different experience if I had not ever watched the original version. But even when you compare movie like this to the Lord of the Rings series, Chronicles of Narnia or Gladiator, I still feel this movie falls short. I never got attached to any of the characters and the acting were just flat and even felt lazy. Maybe the only character who I could feel empathy for is Perseus’ earth father. And he was only there for 5 minutes (sorry, spoiler).

Zeus to Perseus: I’m your father!

I mean, c’mon… when Perseus finally found out that he was the son of Zeus, he looked somewhat surprised for like 2 seconds. But then after that, he just looks the same, expressionless throughout the movie. There was this scene before he entered the lair of Medusa (a creature whose hair is made up of snakes, and can turn you into stone if you stare at her eyes), where he supposedly gives a speech of encouragement to a half dozen people who’ve been following him faithfully. And the pep talk didn’t really make you want to root for to good guys even more. Maybe because I didn’t believe the characters relationships are that genuine.

Using Lord of the Rings again as a benchmark: I believed Frodo & Sam friendship is genuine, but not on this one. I believed that the willpower of Sam, Aragorn, and all the people who stand behind Frodo to make sure he fulfills his mission is genuine–but in Clash of the Titans, I feel like the majority of the good guys are just there, waiting for their time to die.

The gods convene in Olympus

Now switching focus to the superior beings–the gods: Heck the clearly-CGI-ed lion in Narnia looks much more charismatic and omnipotent than Liam Neeson’s Zeus, who looks just like a really confused guy w/ bad makeup and botox, wearing something made out of aluminum paper in high-school science project. Again, in the LOTR, when you first see Rivendell (where the superior race Elves live), you believe that superior beings live there. But Olympus, where Zeus and the other gods hang out, looks like a cheap white gazebo with lots of reflective materials, and a really bad miniature of earth in the middle of it. Seriously, Zeus lives here?

Perseus then and now

The story of the remake is quite different than that of the original version. Which is fine by me. Obviously the technology used is much better today than the stop-motion technique used back then. When I watch back the original version in YouTube today, I laugh & cringe because of the production quality, Harry Hamlin’s big 80s hairdo, and the inferior editing technology of the old days. But at least I was still curious enough to sit through and follow Perseus’ perilous journey and the dialog – as cheesy as it was  – actually had a plot. It was still entertaining to watch, more than ‘just for old time’s sake’. As for the 2010 version? Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t pay for the 3D admission fee. I would’ve been even happier if I just waited until it came out in DVD… maybe even in YouTube one day.

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Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Clash of the Titans Featurette & The Bounty Hunter Set Photos

A couple of updates on two upcoming movies I’ll be seeing this Spring.

First, we’ve got the Clash of the Titans‘ new behind-the-scene featurette. I saw the TV spot during Chuck last night and boy, I’m really psyched to see this! Don’t know about you, but every time I see Perseus riding his horse into the sunset with the camp 80s rock music blazing just gets me going! :) It’s the kind of movie I just want to enjoy for the special effects and the story/acting is icing on the cake, you know, it’s not a ‘historical project’ by any means as Sam Worthington points out, and that’s totally fine by me. Like Zeus… er, Liam Neeson says, “it’s going to be incredible entertainment!”

Directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk), the Greek mythology tale centers on Perseus, a man born of a god and raised as a man who is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth.

You can see the first featurette I posted a while back and the full trailer on my top ten list. The lineup in this flix is impressive as well. Worthington, Neeson and Fiennes are joined by the largely European cast of  Danny Huston, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Flemyng, Alexa Davalos, Izabella Miko, Nicholas Hoult, and Pete Postlethwaite. It’s set to arrive on April 2nd, a week later than its original release date as it’ll be distributed in 3D. Not sure that one week is enough time to do the digital conversion, but perhaps it just doesn’t want to compete with Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon animated feature (also in 3D) out on March 26. In any case, release the Kraken already, I’m ready for some rollicking good time with this fun action adventure flick!

Courtesy of Chris Gampat

And thanks to GBGals via Twitter, I found this photographer’s blog who shared his photos of Gerard Butler on the set of The Bounty Hunter. Here’s what he has to say about the actor:

I admire Gerard though. Not only because he’s a confident, talented and respectable young man in the industry. But Gerard gave me perhaps my first pleasant experience shooting a celebrity. He didn’t have loads of guards blocking him and he acted, well, like a normal human being. He was very down to earth and even talked to some of the on-lookers. It seemed that he even tried to pose for the camera at times. You can see those in the compilation shots of him in the opening photo.

He didn’t seem like the diva-types that require you to not even walk on the same side of the curb as them. That was nice to know.

You can read more about his experience as a celebrity photographer on Chris Gampat’s blogThanks for letting me post it here, Chris!

As for the movie itself, I’ll probably still see it because of Butler. It looks like fun at least, it’ll get me my Butler ‘fix’ until Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus comes out hopefully later this year. Besides, surely this can’t be much worse than The Ugly Truth, that one’s barely worth a rental! Check out the trailer here, the movie’s set for wide release on March 19.

Weekend Roundup: The Edge of Love, The Young Victoria and Avatar

Two indie flicks and a giant blockbuster, that’s the three movies I watched this weekend. It may seem absurd to you but I just finally signed up with Netflix again after 2+ yrs of terminating its membership. Vanessa wondered how I filled my time before that, and the answer is, well, the old-fashioned way. I’m probably the only movie blogger in the blogosphere who still go to the local Blockbuster to rent a flick. But now I’m gonna find out what’s the fuss about this ‘watch instantly’ feature Rockerdad kept raving about.

  • FRIDAY – The Edge of Love
    The first movie on my Netflix queue is the indie WW II period drama. I thought the movie was okay, its first hour was quite promising but overall it just felt neither cohesive nor memorable. Keira Knightley proves she not only has acting chops to go with her gorgeous face, she’s a pretty good singer, too. She played a torch singer Vera Phillips with uncommonly bright white British teeth, deep red lips and melancholy eyes, shot in almost surreal-like theatrics. Though billed as a movie about poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys), the movie is essentially about the unlikely friendship between the two women who loved him. Vera is his first love who happens to cross-path with him one fateful night, and Caitlin (Sienna Miller) is Thomas’ fiery wife. Knightley and Miller play off each other well and their bond amidst bouts of jealousy and adversity is convincing. The three of them formed a peculiar threesome (not in a sexual way, mind you), but as soon as trigger-happy soldier William Killick (the soulful Cillian Murphy) enters the picture, it’s apparent four is a crowd. The movie seemed to have a lot going for it, but the script (written by Keira’s own mother Sharman Macdonald) simply can’t decide what he wants to focus the story on, so it aimlessly shifts back and forth between the four characters. Not bad I guess for a Friday night, and at the very least least I get to enjoy the Welsh countryside scenery, Keira’s singing and the elegant 1940s costumes … oh, and Cillian’s mesmerizing blue eyes!
    sdffds….
  • SATURDAY afternoon – The Young Victoria (read my full review)
    I’ve been wanting to see this film for months, so I’m glad my friend Corinne and I finally find the time to catch this one. It’s late January and it’s pouring rain outside, few things on earth is as unpredictable as Minnesota weather. But at least it makes for a good time to go to the movies. For the first time in a long time, I actually see TWO movies at the theater in a single day, The Young Victoria at 2:00 and Avatar at 6:30. Set three centuries apart, the two movies can’t be even more different from each other, but hey, in a way the Na’vi is a monarchy, too. How about that for stretch :)
  • SATURDAY evening – Avatar IMAX 3D
    I don’t think there is any doubt by now that this movie will shatter James Cameron’s own box office record of Titanic. As of Sunday 1/24, THR reported that in its sixth week, Avatar‘s overseas box office has surpassed the shipwreck epic’s international cume by $46 million. But domestically, it’s got several hundred million to go to beat the Titanic‘s $600.8 million gross, which I don’t think they’ll have a problem with. I guess the Canadian über director has achieved his goal of bringing people back to the cinemas. We almost went to see The Book of Eli on Friday night when it was sold out, and Saturday, we got to the theater half an hour before it started and the place was packed! We had to sit all the way in the back by the handicapped section with the black railing right blocking part of my view!

    Thankfully, the movie itself is still impressive the second time around. Blogger Katie said in her Theory of Second Viewing post that she is of the belief that one cannot form a proper opinion about a movie until you’ve seen it twice. Well, I already loved this movie on first viewing but the second time confirmed my feelings about it. I was still in awe of the spectacular world of Pandora, and the plot, however simplistic, was still engaging. And the fact that I’m already familiar with the story kind of helps me pay more attention to things I missed. It’s interesting that I still marveled and laughed at the same scenes as I did before, i.e. when the phosphorous flying jellyfish landed on Jake, and the first time Jake had a wedgie in the Na’vi’s skimpy wardrobe. Sam Worthington’s endearing portrayal of Jake’s child-like naiveté really wins me over this time that I’m willing to overlook his strong Aussie accent.

    I know I sound like a broken record but even if this isn’t your kind of movie (I’m looking at you Prairiegirl :) ), Avatar simply has to be seen on the IMAX 3D theater. Even if you just see if for the special effects alone, it’s still worth your money. Btw, Yahoo! Movies released a 22-minute making-of featurette that shows what the techie mumbo-jumbo like ‘simul-cam’ and ‘motion capture’ really means. It’s cool to see that the actors still have to physically prepare for their role and the length Cameron went to create a ‘real’ environment and something tactile for them to react to. The motion-capture technology doesn’t replace the actor’s work, but I can see that makeup artists might be a bit worried if this becomes a trend in the near future. Anyway, I wish they had shown how they made Jake’s paralyzed leg so realistically skinny though, given that it’s been the subject of people’s curiosity all over the net.
    ….

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So how about you folks? Catch any good movie this past weekend?

Ten Hottest Aussie Actors/Actresses

Well, by now most of you have probably seen Avatar, and judging from the search terms people used to find my — and others’ — blog, one could deduce that Sam Worthington’s celebrity has pretty much ‘arrived.’ Ever since that flick came out, roughly 99% of the search terms listed on my blog dashboard is about the Aussie actor. It’s quite amusing that a lot of them revolves around his skinny paralyzed legs and whether that’s the actual condition the actor suffers. Seriously, Avatar is a movie where out-of-this world special effects abounds to create a make-believe world and all they’re curious about is an actor’s legs?? That’s got to be the easiest SFX to create out of the whole thing.

At any rate, what I’m getting at is that Worthington is now joining a slew of great Australian actors in Hollywood. From the moment he showed up on my radar in the from of a trailer — Terminator Salvation‘s to be exact — I immediately took notice and been championing for him ever since. I guess I always have a penchant for the Brits and Aussies for as long as I can remember. Anyway, as with any list, this is simply my pick of the ten hottest actors working today from the land down under.

  1. Russell Crowe
    He’s not just the best among fellow Aussie actors, but the whole lot of them in the movie biz today. Very few actors can really disappear into any role. Even when his personal shenanigans make him a tabloid fodder, once Crowe is on screen, we watch the character he’s portraying, not the actor. Gladiator remains one of my all-time faves mostly on account of Crowe’s brilliant performance.
    ……
  2. Cate Blanchett
    Crowe’s co-star in next year’s Robin Hood is pretty much his female counterpart when it comes to acting prowess. I’ve watched Cate in the tiniest indie flicks all the way to giant blockbusters like The Lord of the Rings and she always wows me. Whether playing a passionate journalist (Charlotte Grey), English queen (Elizabeth), or a Hollywood screen queen (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), she consistently delivers a believable performance. She will remain my favorite actress for years to come.
    ….
  3. Sam Worthington
    Though he’s considered a newbie to American moviegoers, the actor has made a name for himself back in his native land. Per IMDb, his film with Abbie Cornish, Somersault, won a record of 13 Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards, including Best Male Actor. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m sure that accolades will continue to pour in for him in the future.
    …..
  4. Hugh Jackman
    I’m in the camp that thinks Jackman is more than the Mr. Wolverine, as Elisabeth Rappe over at Cinematical pointed out just as I’m writing this. If anything, this guy is ever so versatile, being able to pull off such a macho, bad-ass role whilst singing and dancing away on Broadway AND host the Oscar. I agree though he hasn’t been in a decent flick of late, but I definitely won’t write off this talented actor quite yet. Not even close.
    ….
  5. Naomi Watts
    She might not be as well known as her BFF Nicole Kidman, but some might say she’s the better actress. Already rated as the ‘most bankable’ by Forbes magazine (for every $1 Watts was paid, her films earned an average of $44), she’s also earned a plethora of accolades, including a Best Actress Oscar nomination. She constantly impresses me in a variety of roles, most notably in 21 Grams, King Kong and The Painted Veil.
    …..
  6. Eric Bana
    The first time I laid eyes on Mr. Bana was in the Greek swords & sandal flick Troy. As the honorable Hector, he’s definitely the saving grace of that movie, in spite of the bronzed drag that was Brad Pitt’s Achilles. He’s also the best thing in Ang Lee’s Hulk and his soulful performance totally won me over in Spielberg’s Munich. It doesn’t hurt that this guy is sooo easy on the eye. At 6’3″ he’s the quintessential talk, dark and handsome image that could very well be the inspiration of those Harlequin romance book covers.
    …..
  7. Hugo Weaving
    Known for his trade-mark deep voice (“Hello, Mr. Anderson”), the 49-year-old actor has been in two massively successful trilogy: The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. The two movies couldn’t be more different from each other, but Weaving shone in both, a testament to his amazing versatility. Before the major Hollywood stuff, Weaving truly impressed me in this tiny indie Proof playing a blind photographer alongside a very young Russell Crowe. He also delivered an Oscar-worthy performance as a Cate Blanchett’s drug-addicted father in Little Fish.
    ……
  8. Toni Collette
    At first I thought Collette was English when I saw her in Emma (in which she practically outshone Gwyneth Paltrow), but then she managed to pull off a myriad of American roles (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine, among others). I guess the Sydney native has a knack for pulling off all kinds of accents. Not only that, she’s also quite the shape shifter by gaining 40 pounds for her role in Muriel’s Wedding and currently puts her chameleon-like performances to good use as a woman with multiple personalities in Showtimes’ The United States of Tara.
    …..
  9. Abbie Cornish
    The blond beauty proves to be more than a pretty face. Her performance in this year’s Bright Star is gaining rave reviews and she will be seen next in the fantasy action thriller Sucker Punch — billed as Alice in Wonderland with machine guns — by visionary director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). Looks like she and former Somersault co-star Worthington are the hottest Aussie imports right now and perhaps for years to come.
    …..
  10. Guy Pearce
    I first saw Pearce in L.A. Confidential, going toe-to-toe against Russell Crowe. But it’s his performance in Christoper Nolan’s Memento that blew me away. The low-profile actor is also known for taking acting risk with his eccentric role as Andy Warhol in Factory Girl and the cannibalism-themed Ravenous.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Mel Gibson
  • Geoffrey Rush
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Simon Baker
  • Alex O’Loughlin

What do you think folks? Any one on this list that particularly stands out to you?

Random Thoughts: Sam Worthington’s Five Fave Flicks

My go-to review site RottenTomatoes.com has a regular feature where random movie actors/directors list their five favorite movies and why. Earlier this month, it featured AVATAR’s star Sam Worthington’s Five Favorite Films. Please note these are his favorites, not his ‘best films’ list:

  • Lethal Weapon 2 (1989, 82% Tomatometer)
    Lethal Weapon 2
    — because that’s the movie where I thought, ‘If those guys are doing that and getting paid for it, I want in.’ [laughs]
  • Mad Max 2, aka The Road Warrior (1981, 100% Tomatometer)
    Mad Max 2
    , along with The Year of Living Dangerously. As far as I’m concerned that was a time of filmmaking in Australia when we were excelling. And I can watch Mad Max 2 over and over again.
  • The Year of Living Dangerously (1983, 96% Tomatometer)
    And The Year of Living Dangerously, I love it because it’s an Australian movie not set in Australia.
  • Beverly Hills Cop (1984, 83% Tomatometer)
    Beverly Hills Cop
    , ’cause I think it’s Eddie Murphy at his finest. You know, we think of Norbit and things like that nowadays… but go watch Beverly Hills Cop to see the man in top form.
  • Die Hard (1988, 94% Tomatometer)
    Die Hard
    is the best action movie ever. [laughs] Nailed them out, didn’t I?

He’s obviously got a thing for action flicks… and Mel Gibson! Granted it’s quite a personal list, with three out of five being Aussie-related, but I guess now we know why he can rock out those action-hero roles, as that’s what he seems to gravitate towards.

It’s cool that he mentioned The Year of Living Dangerously. The title is a quote which refers to a famous Italian phrase used by former Indonesian President Sukarno; vivere pericoloso, meaning “living dangerously” that he borrowed for the country’s Independence Day speech in 1964. I sheepishly admit I haven’t seen the entire movie, but having grown up in Jakarta during the Suharto era, this movie hits close to home for me. Per Wikipedia, the story is about a love affair set in Indonesia during the overthrow of President Sukarno in 1965. It follows a group of foreign correspondents (including Gibson’s character, Aussie journalist Guy Hamilton) in the nation’s capital Jakarta on the eve of an attempted coup by the so-called 30 September Movement by military-led vigilante groups that killed hundreds of thousands. It wasn’t shot on location however, as the Indonesian (read: dictatorial Suharto’s) government wouldn’t allow it, so filming took place in Manila, Philippines. Not surprisingly, the movie was banned in Indonesia until 1999, and at last screened in the country during the Jakarta International Film Festival in 2000. This Peter Weir’s movie featured young Mel Gibson at his best (not to mention hottest), and interestingly enough his love interest was Sigourney Weaver (as Jill Bryant, a British Embassy officer), who later became Worthington’s co-star in Avatar. Linda Hunt won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Billy Kwan, Gibson’s character’s best friend, becoming the first person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex (according to Wikipedia).

Back to Worthington, well, based on this list, and the projects he’s got going so far, I’m hopeful this guy won’t do any insipid rom-com any time soon! It’d be cool to see him in an action comedy a la Beverly Hills Cop or the Lethal Weapon franchise. He looks like someone versatile enough to be both bad-ass AND funny, something even talented actor like Christian Bale couldn’t quite master. I mean, you could say American Psycho was a dark (VERY dark) satire and some scenes are quite funny (albeit in a deranged kind of way), but I’ve never seen Bale do a light-hearted comedy, action or otherwise. People have labeled Sam the next action star, but I’d say he could be more than that. Perhaps he’s looking to mimic his favorite actor’s career, as Mel Gibson can balance both intense thrillers/action-pack roles with dramatic and comedic ones, not to mention his achievements as a director.

Just an additional trivia: Worthington came thisclose to becoming James Bond as he was a runner-up for Daniel Craig. He revealed to CommanderBond.net that “[The Bond people] had seen my tapes and wanted to make Bond younger, like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.” I’d say he’d make a smashing Bond, but I’m glad he didn’t get the role as I’d rather not see him get typecast.

I have high hopes for this Aussie. Now that I think about it, lots of my fave actors are Aussies… hmmm, I feel a list of hottest Aussie actors coming on. Stay tuned for that, folks! :)

FlixChatter’s AVATAR review


To say Avatar is like nothing you’ve seen before is a quite an understatement.

Back in June, I list Avatar as one of five must-see flix of the rest of 2009 and ever since then, the hype promised it to be something of an epic thrill ride. Well, I can confidently say that fifteen years after his still-unmatched blockbuster Titanic, James Cameron delivers on that promise. Really folks, it’s like NOTHING I’ve ever seen in my 30+ years of movie-going experience. I felt like a kid again being whisked to a cinematic ‘ride’ on a jaw-dropping-ly beautiful planet that is Pandora, a journey that never cease to amaze me for the full 2.5 hours of the movie running time. The movie doesn’t feel long at all, in fact, there wasn’t a dull moment from the time we put our 3D glasses on.

No wonder it took Cameron more than a decade to bring this project to light as according to Wikipedia, filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Titanic, and the film would have been released in 1999, but according to Cameron, “technology needed to catch up” with his vision of the film. That span of time also allowed the ambitious director to invent a new language (like Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings) with the help of a linguistic expert. All that hard work and a whole lot of moolah (all $300+ million of ‘em) paid off. The first time a couple of the Avatar program participants’ took a tour of that distant planet, the female pilot (played by the fiery Michelle Rodriguez) snickered at their wide-eyed wonder, ‘you should see your faces.’  The same could be said for much of the moviegoers, as for much of the time, I too was blown away by the spectacular visuals. The world that is Pandora is so spellbinding words cannot do justice, you simply have to see and experience it for yourself. One critic said it’s as if Cameron took a trip to an real island somewhere and took his video camera out, they’re that lifelike. If it’s beyond gorgeous during daytime, it’s pure magical at night. The Pandora jungles are filled with luminous phosphorescent plants and creatures, the ethereal airborne jellyfish especially, they’re ever so graceful and downright mesmerizing. Then there’s the alien creatures themselves. Five years ago, The Polar Express used a similar motion-capture technology — where live actors’ motions are digitally recorded and then applied to 3D models — but the result was a cold, inhuman, even creepy computer-generated characters with inexpressive ‘dead’ eyes. In Avatar however, the cat-like eyes of these blue aliens actually have realistic, even emotive expressions, and their movements are seamless and graceful.

Lovebirds Neytiri and Jake Sully

Now, how about the plot? Well, I made this comment in response to ‘the five reasons to see Avatar’ posted on an unofficial movie fan site: “How about the story? All those special effects without a compelling story we can root for would be meaningless. Would I care for the Na’vi people? Empathize with Jake Sully’s journey and the predicament he finds himself in? I’m pumped to see this movie but am hopeful that there is a ‘heart’ underneath all the techie mumbo-jumbo to balance things out.” Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.

The story takes place some 145 years into the future. The term ‘avatar’ in our computer lingo is used to describe an icon that represents a person in virtual reality or cyberspace. But in the movie, it refers to a manufactured body which is remotely controlled through brain waves generated by a human being. Because the air in the alien planet is toxic to human body, a group of scientists led by Dr. Grace (the fabulous Sigourney Weaver) develops a procedure that allows humans to ‘drive’ their avatar whilst they’re asleep, as they’re being transported to Pandora as a 10-foot-tall, blue indigenous people. Their job is to ‘study’ the Na’vi, not simply for cultural research sake however, but because this planet is ripe with a precious mineral called unobtanium (is that short for unobtainable plutonium?), that according to the corporate honcho Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is worth twenty million a kilo. The goal is to figure out how to get these ‘savages’ to surrender their land peacefully before they do it the ‘hard way.’ Initially, it’s an appealing mission to the paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully, who was initially on board as a replacement for his deceased scientist twin-brother. Instead of being wheelchair-bound, he gets to freely run around, jump, fly about, and perhaps find that ’single thing worth fighting for.’ Oh, did he ever.

It’s quite evident from the trailer that it’s not exactly cinematic groundbreaking. The similarities to Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai are palpable, but it’s not a bad thing necessarily as Cameron chose to go the ‘safe’ route of the tried-and-true tale of a soldier going ‘rogue’ as he falls in love with the people he was sent to conquer. It’s no surprise that he does, as the Na’vi’s harmonious existence and deep, sacred connection with their planet is such a contrast with the world he lives in. It reminds me of the indigenous bush people from The Gods Must be Crazy, who live such a simplistic life yet they’re far more fulfilled and happy compared to those living in the modern world. Like Jake said in his video log, there’s nothing in our world that the Na’vis want, so there’s really no ‘carrot’ to entice them to leave their beloved home. It’s a familiar but still compelling story that doesn’t take away from the state-of-the-art way it’s delivered.

The love story between Jake and Neytiri might not be as feverishly passionate as Titanic‘s Jack and Rose, but their slow-burn romance felt genuine and moving. Jake was drawn to the graceful and alluring Na’vi princess (Zoë Saldana) almost instantly, but Neytiri takes her time before she finally trusts him. It’s a worthwhile journey and makes for a rewarding pivotal scene towards the end involving the princess and the ‘real’ Jake. Another key scene is when Jake learned how to ride a banshee, this colorful flying dragon-like creature (visible in the film poster) that could very well cost him his life. That’s pure movie magic that makes you go ooh and aah with wonder, as well as an emotionally gratifying one as it was a turning point for Jake to be ‘accepted’ by the Na’vi people. Both Sam Worthington and Saldana are convincing as leads, especially the first, as he’s in almost every scene as both human and Na’vi. If I have to nitpick though, it’s the inconsistency of Neytiri’s English. Sometimes she speaks in simplistic ESL English, other times she’s quite sophisticated. The same with Worthington’s on-and-off Aussie accent. But despite that, he’s definitely got that leading man confidence. He’s a strong and manly guy but with a certain earthy quality about him that’s relatable and endearing. No doubt he’ll have a fruitful career here in Hollywood.

One thing for sure, the movie boast one of the best villain we’ve seen since perhaps The Joker. Stephen Lang as Col. Quatrich is evil through and through, there’s not a shred of compassion in that massive body-builder-ish physique. During a heart-wrenching scene involving a destruction of something sacred to the Na’vi, some people in the corporation were shown lamenting the situation, except for Quatrich who praised the pilot for achieving his task. He has no regard for the Na’vi, or their home turf. In one of the most memorable quotes from the movie, he quipped, “If there’s a hell you might want to go there for some R ‘n R after a tour of Pandora.”

The central message of the movie is obviously aimed at corporate greed, though some people will make this out to be a political statement against a certain administration. Again, this flick was conceived back in the mid 90s just to give you some perspective. At the London premiere, Cameron said, “We have this tendency to just take what we want. And that’s how we treat the natural world as well. There’s this sense of we’re here, we’re big, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the technology, therefore we’re entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That’s not how it works, and we’re going to find out the hard way if we don’t wise up and start seeking a life that’s in balance with the natural life on Earth.” It seems that the Na’vi is the poster child for the ‘green’ alien (as in environmental, not in skin color, natch). They’re also very spiritual people. So even if I find all the new-age-y and unknown-deity worship stuff unsettling, I consider it part of the fantasy and imaginary world created by the filmmaker, instead of an agenda they’re trying to promote.

I can say a whole lot more about this movie, but I feel that the less you know about what happens the better. I’d say even if you don’t normally like sci-fi, give this one a chance just to experience it and simply to find out what the fuss is about. When you do, I’d urge you to see it in the glory of 3D as it’s meant to be (trust me, you wouldn’t want it any other way). As this one reviewer puts it, “Immersion is, I think, the new standard being set here. Very few films so completely allow you to block out the rest of the world and mentally live in a fantasyland for several hours. I’d be hard-pressed to recall another movie, outside of ‘Star Wars,’ that so fully transported me to a world that doesn’t exist.” I’m not discounting George Lucas’ work, but I have to admit Avatar did that for me much more so than the last Star Wars film I saw in the theater. I feel that Avatar brought a whole new movie-watching sensation unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and for that reason Cameron has elevated the history of cinema up a notch. In fact, all my friends who went with me said that after watching everything ‘pop’ in 3D, watching stuff in 2D just wouldn’t cut it anymore. We’ve already made plans to see it again (and again) in an IMAX theater instead of the conventional 3D-enhanced theater. This is one of those movies that warrant repeated viewings just on the visual spectacle alone.

4 out of 5 reels

Well, what are your thoughts of AVATAR?