Weekend Roundup: Jack Reacher and Muriel’s Wedding

Happy Tuesday all!

It’s quite a memorable weekend for me as my hubby and I celebrated our 10th anniversary on Friday. We had a wonderful dinner Friday night and went shopping for a new ring on Sunday afternoon as my anniversary present :D

Since we’ve already seen The Great Gatsby early in the week (check out my review), it’s home cinema time. Looks like a lot of you did go see Baz Luhrmann’s literary adaptation as it managed to make about $50 mil (which is about half of its production budget), but not great enough to top Iron Man 3 which made $72 mil to top box office for its second week.

Anyway, I’m only going to do a mini review of both of these films. So here goes:

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Jack Reacher (2012)

I’ve been wanting to check out Jack Reacher for a while and it’s finally available to rent this weekend. I’m not going to review it here as Ted already written one here. Here’s an excerpt:

In the end I thought it was a well made action thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously and I like the fact it has that old school 70s thriller feel to it. I would definitely love to see more of Jack Reacher films in the future.

I think I’d agree with Ted’s 4/5 rating. I thought it was an engaging thriller that’s more focused on the who-dun-it story instead of just some overly fast-paced but vapid shoot-em-ups. I agree that the action scenes were well-directed and that you could actually SEE the action as director Christopher McQuarrie  didn’t employ the overused fast-cuts with dizzying blurry effect. I think Cruise’s performance here is much stronger than in Oblivion, but then again, there’s more focus on character development here than simply showing pretty visuals.

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Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo and Werner Herzog

It’s interesting casting to see two Brits playing American in this movie: David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, who are both pretty good here. I’d say Oyelowo even upstaged Richard Jenkins but can’t really fault Jenkins as his role is actually pretty boring. But the scene-stealer is Werner Herzog, simply because he just lends such as sinister portrayal of the main villain who was a former POW at a Soviet Gulag. He’s menacing but more in an amusing kind of way.

Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

We didn’t plan on watching a wedding-themed movie for our anniversary, but we ended up seeing an Australian coming-of-age comedy Muriel’s Wedding. I’ve been wanting to see this for a while as I quite like Toni Collette as an actress. She’s so talented but quite underrated IMO, as you probably could attest if you’ve seen her performance in Emma, The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine, etc. This is the first of her earlier roles that I saw, which not only displayed her versatility but also her dedication to her craft as she had to gain 40 pounds to play Muriel!

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Set in Australia, the protagonist is a misfit girl named Muriel who always wants to escape her miserable life in a fictitious town called Porpoise Spit. The title of the movie refers to Muriel’s obsession with getting married, even to the point of snapping photos of herself in wedding gowns. Collette owns her role as Muriel, featuring a bravura, no–holds–barred type of performance from start to finish. Despite some cheesy and even cringe-worthy moments, overall this movie is an amusing journey about self-acceptance and also a celebration of friendship. Rachel Griffiths is wonderfully spunky as Muriel’s BFF Rhonda, who endured a pretty drastic sudden change that’s heart-wrenching to watch.

One of the major highlights is of course, the wedding scene. If I had seen it before I made my top 10 movie wedding list, I’d have included the one here. I’ve always wondered why the groom has that befuddled look on his face in all the photos from this scene, and now I know why!! If you’re a fan of 70s music, particularly the Swedish band ABBA, then you’ve got to rent this movie. I find myself humming Dancing Queen and Fernando a lot the past couple of days, ahah.

I’d readily recommend both of these movies so give it a go next time you’re looking for something to rent!


Well, that’s my weekend roundup folks. What did you see this weekend? Anything good?

New Releases Double Reviews: Jack Reacher & Django Unchained

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Thanks to Ted for these reviews as I was on vacation when the screenings took place.

Jack Reacher

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Tom Cruise continues his “comeback” on the big screen with another action thriller after the success of last year’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, this time he’s playing another super-spy type in Jack Reacher. It’s based on one of Lee Child’s popular series of novels, One Shot. The film starts out with a mysterious person who randomly shot and killed five people in a public place with a sniper rifle. With the recent tragedies in real life, this opening sequence was a bit eerie, so just a warning if you’re still too upset about what happened in Connecticut, I don’t recommend you go see this movie. Now the scene was well shot and staged and to me it didn’t glamorize the violence but I can definitely understand if someone can get upset when they see it. Later an ex-marine sniper named Barr (Joseph Sikora) was arrested for the crime and during an interrogation he asked the detective on the case Emerson (David Oyelowo) and district attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) to get him Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise).

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Director Werner Herzog as the Russian mobster known as ‘The Zec’

Emerson and Rodin decided to look up Reacher but couldn’t find anything on him. A few moments later Reacher showed up at their office and asked to see Barr. But Barr is in a coma because he got beat up badly by some other inmates while in custody. So Reacher met with Barr’s lawyer Helen (the gorgeous ex-Bond girl Rosamund Pike). Reacher told her that he’s there just to make sure Barr is behind bars because he believed Barr did the shooting, he and Barr had a history together back when they were in the army. But Helen convinced Reacher to help her investigate what really happened and as both of them dig deeper into the case, they got in trouble with some local thugs, Charlie (Jai Courtney aka John McClane Jr.) and his mysterious boss known as The Zec (the great director Werner Herzog).

Performance wise, I thought everyone did a good job. Especially Cruise who was in the command of the role. I’ve never read any of the books but I know some fans weren’t too thrilled that he was cast as Reacher. But I think many of them will find out that Cruise did well here.

The film is a straightforward procedural thriller; there aren’t any major surprises that will wow you. The humors are well-placed and they didn’t feel forced into each scene. The action sequences were pretty great, I’m so glad that the filmmakers decided to shoot action scenes where we can actually see them. Some directors tends to forget that when we go see action films, we want to SEE the action, not trying to figure what’s going on during a scene or get dizzy from it. Christopher McQuarrie who wrote and directed this film, did a tremendous job with his sharp dialogues and action sequences.

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The climatic shoot out was probably one of the most meticulous action scenes I’ve ever seen. The way he laid out each sequence and edited were quite astonishing to me. Then the mano-a-mano showdown between Reacher and Charlie was well staged and looked like a “real” fight between two grown men. Of course this being an action film, it needs a car chase scene and it was well done too. It reminded me of the chase scene from Bullit but I kind of wish it ended similar to that film, if you saw the trailer then you know how the chase ended. I thought it’s too cheesy and didn’t really make sense.

In the end I thought it was a well made action thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously and I like the fact it has that old school 70s thriller feel to it. I would definitely love to see more of Jack Reacher films in the future.

4 out of 5 reels

Django Unchained

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Having read the script last year and loved it, I was very excited to see this film. (Read my script review here.) Surprisingly the film is very close to the script, only a few scenes didn’t make it to the screen. Quentin Tarantino is obsessed with spaghetti westerns and he tends to pay homage to that genre in some of his films, particularly Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. Well now he’s finally made a film that truly pays homage the genre but he also mix in another genre, blax-ploitation, mostly the slave related subject that were popular back in the 70s, the most popular film from the genre was called Mandingo. Anyone who likes 70s films as much as I do will probably have seen some of these films; even though they were considered “trashy” by most critics, I somehow enjoyed them. It also burrowed a lot of elements from Sergio Corbucci’s films, especially Django and The Great Silence; if you’ve seen either of those films, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The film opens with a “dentist” named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) looking for a slave who can identify three fugitives for him. We then meet Django (Jamie Foxx) who said he knows these three fugitives, so Schultz decided to buy Django from his owners but they refused. Well, Schultz being an educated man tried to reason with these clowns but they still won’t budge. So he used his skills with a pistol to convince them. Django is freed and both of them set out to find the three fugitives. After they hunt down the fugitives, Schultz was quite impressed with Django skills so he asked if Django would like to be a bounty hunter like him and join him in the hunt. In return Shultz will help Django with anything he wants. Django agreed and said he wants to find his wife who’s been taken away from him. The first half of the films was about Schultz teaching Django how to become a good bounty hunter and sharp with a pistol.

A few months later, Schultz found out where Django’s wife is being kept. She’s at a plantation known as Candieland which owns by Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio). So in order to rescue her, Schultz came up with a plan by pretending to be a rich German who’s interested in purchasing a Mandingo fighter and Django is his Mandingo expert. The rest of film took place at Calvin’s Candieland plantation.

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I thought the performances by the lead actors were great, especially Waltz and DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx surprised me, I was skeptical when he was cast in the title role but he did a good job. Apparently QT wrote the part specially for Will Smith but Smith turned him down, I was hoping QT would cast someone like Anthony Mackie or Idris Elba. Also, the cinematography by Robert Richardson was excellent, from the snowy landscape of Montana to the muddy streets of Mississippi, every shots looked spectacular. The action sequences were great, there’s a shootout scene that’s similar to the carnage scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 where the Bride took down the Crazy 88s.

Now I’m going to talk about why I was very disappointed with this film. As mentioned earlier, I read the script (which I reviewed here) and loved it, but somehow the actual film just didn’t deliver in my opinion. It’s clear that QT really needed his long time editor the late Sally Menke to work on this film with him. I thought the first half of the film was sloppily-edited and just wasn’t coherent. The music selection was kind of odd too. I always love the music QT used in his films but when you hear a Tupac song during a shootout scene in this one, it sort of take you out of the film. Now I understand why QT cast a not so well known actress in the role of Broomhilda, Django’s wife, she hardly spoke in the film. She either screams, cries or look scare in each scene she appeared in.

This was one of the films I most looking forward to see this year and unfortunately it was a major disappointment to me. Now I plan to see it again soon since I saw it almost a month ago, so I might change my mind when I see it again. I’m not saying it’s a bad film, it just didn’t lived up to my expectations. I know that I might be in the minority since after the private screening, many people in the theater thought it was great. If you’re a huge QT fan, you might enjoy it. Just a warning though, the film is violent and very bloody. The N-word were uttered constantly by pretty much everyone in the film, so if you’re easily offended, I don’t recommend you go see this film.

In an interview, QT mentioned that he might release a longer extended cut of the film down the road. At one point his producer Harvey Weinstein tried to convince him to split the film into two parts like they did with Kill Bill but QT vetoed that idea. I assume he shot many scenes that were in the script but decided cut them out. I don’t know if a longer version will improve the movie, I mean most of the scenes left in the cutting room floor were probably just violent and rape scenes. I’m assuming here of course because those sequences were in the script.

2.5 out of 5 reels

– reviews by Ted S.


What are your thoughts on these films? Did they live up to your expectations?