Everybody’s Chattin + Casting News w/ Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain & Jake Gyllenhaal

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Happy Thursday, everyone! The nice thing about going to a work conference on Monday & Tuesday is the week feels shorter than it is, so tomorrow is Friday already, yay!

I got to see Jason Bourne press screening last Tuesday. I enjoyed it quite a bit though I think it falls short of the excellent trilogy. I’ll review it next week but I’m still a bit giddy for THIS scene in Vegas, whoah!

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Ok how about those links!

I’ll be seeing Suicide Squad next Tuesday, and Harley Quinn is likely going to steal every scene. Check out Margaret‘s tribute for Margot Robbie‘s character.

Jordan reviewed a new Aussie Western Goldstone

Boy I had no idea this movie even existed! Allie talks about Star Wars Holiday Special as part of Christmas-In-July blogathon

Mark and Getter‘s reviewed Independence Day: Resurgence. Not surprisingly, neither was impressed with this movie though I was surprised to learn Getter actually think Liam Hemsworth was good in it

Having just seen Jason Bourne, I totally agree with Nick that the Bourne movies are equally defined by the obligatory government antagonist. Check out the five actors he’d like to see in the role.

Steven reviewed Richard Linklater’s latest Everybody Want Some!

Let’s top it off with two awesome list posts! Alex posted his top 10 films of 2016 so far, whilst Dan posted his picks of 10 favorite French rom-coms of the 21st century.


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Life must be good to be Jessica Chastain. I love her, she’s gorgeous, talented and a bit underrated. Glad to see her continue getting roles and man does she have the best male co-stars or what! Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston, James McAvoy, Oscar Isaac… just to name a few, and now Idris!!! [yes clearly I’m green w/ envy] I’d LOVE to see her co-star with my crush du jour Sam Riley one day😛

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Per The Playlist, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is going to have his directorial debut and he’ll also write the screenplay. His film is titled Molly’s Game and Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba have been cast as the leads!

Molly’s Game is the true story of Molly Bloom (Chastain), a beautiful, young, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally is her criminal defense lawyer (Elba), who learns that there’s much more to Molly than the tabloids lead us to believe.

I really like the sound of this! Chastain and Elba such talented actors and it’s a role that would suit them both. No talks of romance between the two but that’s actually refreshing! Though the idea of a love scene between the two sounds pretty scorching ;) I just hope they won’t ever hide that gorgeous face of his under a ton of makeup like they did in Thor or Star Trek Beyond.

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Now this one doesn’t seem exciting on paper as I don’t really care for video game movies. But with this cast it just could be watchable. Per Variety, Jake Gyllenhaal is producing a video game adaptation based on Ubisoft’s The Division.

Set in a dystopian New York City in the aftermath of a smallpox pandemic, the player is an agent of the Strategic Homeland Division. That agent is tasked with helping to rebuild the Division’s operations in Manhattan, investigating the nature of the outbreak and combating criminal activity in its wake.

Not sure which roles Jessica Chastain will be playing. Of course it’d be neat if Jessica is the agent and Jake plays her ally, or villain? Speaking of video game movies, we have Assassin’s Creed starring Michael Fassbender out in December and Tom Hardy’s Splinter Cell out next year. It remains to be seen if any of those would actually be worth watching.


What are your thoughts about the projects and/or casting news?

FlixChatter Double Reviews: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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Ted’s Review

I don’t consider myself a Trekkie, I’ve seen all of the Star Trek films but never got into any of the TV shows. I enjoyed the first two films by JJ Abrams, even the much-maligned Into Darkness. When Abrams decided to jump ship and take over the other space adventure franchise, Justin Lin was hired to direct this third sequel. Lin made his name by retooling the Fast & Furious franchise and those films made millions. Personally I thought he’s an odd choice to take over a sci-fi franchise but thankfully he delivered one of the most enjoyable Summer films I’ve seen so far.

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Three years into their five-year mission, the enterprise crew is feeling the grind of their routine space work. As the film opens, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is giving back an artifact to a group of alien creatures but it didn’t turn out well as he’d hoped. Later the crews are heading to a new advance space station to get some R & R. While stationing at the new space station, Kirk received a new job offer and contemplating leaving the Enterprise. Before he can decide to accept the new job offer though, there was a stress call from a lone survivor who needs help. Kirk and his crew set out to rescue more lives from danger but as they approach their destination, it turns out to be a trap. In a pretty spectacular sequence, a group of aliens with advance spaceships attacked the Enterprise and broke the ship into pieces. The ship crashed landed on an isolated planet and the crew got separated. Kirk must find his friends and also figure out who these aliens are and their purpose for attacking the Enterprise.
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The script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung is pretty simple, maybe too simple for my liking. The premise is basically search and rescue and lots and lots of action. But they were able to throw in a lot of funny dialogs and lighten up the mood of the film quite a bit. Speaking of action, Lin definitely delivered on that front. The space battles were well-staged and very exciting to watch. If there’s a theater near you that has Dolby Atmos surround sound, I highly recommend you see it there. Lin also was able to move the film along at a brisk pace, never linger on any subplots that might slow the story down.

One minor complaint I have is the way he shot the climatic showdown between Kirk and the main villain. He moved the cameras way too much and I wasn’t sure what was going on. I thought Abrams did a much better job in a similar scene for Into Darkness when Spock and Kahn had their showdown.

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Performances by the actors were great, since this is their third outing, I thought all of the actors look comfortable in their respective roles. Since plot have them separated from each other, many of them got equal screen time. The best pairing to me has to be Spock and Bones, their bickering were fun to watch and the two actors have good chemistry. The weakest link here though is Idris Elba’s villain Krall. He’s yet another one -dimensional evil character whose purpose is vengeance against Starfleet. Elba didn’t have much to do except scream and spouting clichéd evil dialog.

It may not be the best film in the franchise but definitely an upgrade over the too serious Into Darkness. The film contains great action sequences and a touching tribute to the two deceased actors. I’m not a trekkie but I thought this one can be considered one of the best in the franchise.

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Ruth’s Review

I wasn’t going to review this one, but seeing that I have quite a different reaction than Ted, I thought I’d post my thoughts on it as well.

Like Ted, I’m not a Trekkie either, but JJ Abrams actually managed to make me interested in the Star Trek Universe with the first film. I also enjoyed the second installment Star Trek Into Darkness that Abrams also directed, and I really dug Benedict Cumberbatch’s villainous turn as Khan. I said in that post that it was a huge improvement over Eric Bana’s role in the first film. Well, unfortunately in this third installment we’re back to another clichéd, one-dimensional villain in Idris Elba‘s Krall, as Ted has pointed out above. It’s a travesty that when they hide incredibly good looking, massively talented actors under such heavy makeup and give them banal dialog on top of it.

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It’s no fault of the insanely-charismatic Elba that Krall is such a terrible villain. But he’s so terribly-written it made me cringe. But interestingly enough, the one person I thought would be cringe-worthy turns out to be quite okay. I’m referring to Sofia Boutella‘s Jaylah (who I initially thought was Rihanna), a scavenger who rescued Scotty (Simon Pegg) and took him to her home. Her house turns out to be an early generation Starfleet vessel USS Franklin, and she needs Scotty to help her fix it.

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The moments between Jaylah and Scotty are pretty fun. I quite like Jaylah, and she’s given a pretty decent character arc. The movie’s best moments to me are in the the dueling banters, whether it’s Scotty & Jaylah, or Bones & Spock. Karl Urban‘s grumpy-ness is so endearing and he’s got as good chemistry with Chris Pine as he does with Zachary Quinto. The film did boldly go where no previous Star Trek film has gone before in making Sulu (John Cho) gay, though it only amounts to barely a minute of screen time showing him with his husband and young daughter.

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Unlike Ted though, I’m not too crazy about the frenetic action sequences. I find it to be too dizzying and goes on far too long. It seems endless to me that my mind started to wander and it actually took me out of the movie. I don’t remember feeling this way in previous Star Trek films, but this one has so much combat scenes and explosions, even the USS Enterprise was blown to bits. There’s also a ton of chase sequences, so I guess I could see why they hire Justin Lin for this movie. During one of the many extended action sequences, I whispered to my husband that this is basically Fast & Furious in Space! The one part I did enjoy was towards the end when they used loud rock music as a countermeasure against the tiny ships ‘swarm’ controlled by Krall.

I guess this movie would satisfy action fans. But for me, I expect Star Trek to be a space adventure drama, more about Starfleet’s journey and the relationships of its crew members. The film touched upon that in Capt. Kirk’s opening monologue, but that’s pretty much it. I guess there’s not much room for characterization amidst the dizzying action, apart from a few fun banters here and there. Even the quiet moments of Spock mourning the passing of Ambassador Spock doesn’t elicit much emotion as it should’ve been. It did pain me every time I saw Chekov on screen though, I still can’t believe Anton Yelchin‘s gone.

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So despite some fun moments, overall it’s just hard for me to feel invested in Kirk & co.’s journey this time around. The faster the chase scene the more tedious it becomes for me. Perhaps the movie’s aimlessness has been hinted in the intro voice over of Captain Kirk… “As for me, things have started to feel a little episodic. The farther out we go, the more I find myself wondering what it is we are trying to accomplish” Yep, that’s how I feel as the audience too, Cap. The ending also feels a little too neat, resolved perfectly just in time for yet another episode (read: sequels) in a not too distant future. Not sure I’m too excited for future Star Trek movies after this one.

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So what did YOU think about ‘Star Trek Beyond’? 

Weekend Roundup: FlixChatter on BTR radio & Trailer highlights from SDCC – Wonder Woman, King Arthur & Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

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Happy Sunday everybody!

How’s your weekend? Mine is quite a busy one. I went to see Star Trek Beyond Friday night (review coming soon) and spent most of the day at the grand opening of the new Vikings stadium (US BANK stadium) in downtown Minneapolis.

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Hey I’m on the radio!😀

Earlier this month I had a chat with BreakThrough (BTR) Radio host Taia Handlin who runs the Biology of the Blog podcast. It was an honor & privilege to talk about the origins of my blog and my passion for movies in general. So hope you take a listen…


comiccon_logoOk, I thought I’d post about a few highlights from San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. I can’t believe it’s been five years since I was at SDCC! I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get tickets to go there, nor do I have the energy to wait in line for hours again. Well I’ll always have the fun memory of being in Hall H!

I was pretty much blissfully ignorant to all the updates most of the weekend until late Saturday night when I watched some of the trailers.

Well, the two I posted here are two of the movies I most look forward to in 2017. I actually saw the Justice League trailer first but honestly it doesn’t change my mind from my ‘meh’ sentiment about it. It looks humorous but given Zack Snyder directing, can’t say I’m optimistic.

THIS trailer however, still gets me excited!

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Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman is one of the few best thing about Batman V Superman, and goodness it’s about time we see a feature film showcasing a bad-ass female superhero!!

Yes I realize that despite having a female director Patty Jenkins at the helm, we’ve got four male writers (including Zack Snyder, yikes!) But I’m hoping they’d do the Amazon princess’ story justice. I LOVE that the film is a period piece set in 1920s, and this is an origin story I don’t mind seeing. We’ve got a glimpse of Themyscria, home of the Amazons. Oh and Chris Pine as the human boyfriend… interesting that the trailer debuts the same weekend as Star Trek Beyond.


Nice to see Connie Nielsen as Diana’s mother, been too long since she had a prominent role since Gladiator. Oh and speaking of bad ass women, Robin Wright as an Amazonian army general, yes please! The trailer ends in a comedic note, which I take it as a good thing as superhero movies ought to have a sense of humor.


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I know it’s all about superhero and comic-book movies at SDCC, but I’ve been looking forward to Guy Ritchie‘s take on the often-told King Arthur adaptation. Well, this medieval king is more ‘street’ than any other ones we’ve seen before and y’know what, I think it looks like fun! This is a mythological figure that’s been done to death on screen, so I welcome an unconventional, edgier version. I gotta say I like the casting of Charlie Hunnam in the lead role, too.


One of the biggest announcements out of #MarvelSDCC has got to be THIS:

I have no clue who Captain Marvel is, but another female superhero? That’s always a good thing in my book and I think the lovely Brie is a fine choice! It seems Marvel is a bit behind in making a female heroine movie this time as DC’s already got Wonder Woman ready for battle next Summer. I thought that they’d spun-off Black Widow by now, alas…

The lovely Lupita Nyong’O tweeted this from SDCC… so much awesomeness in a single photo!

 


Well that’s my weekend recap folks. Thoughts on SDCC or anything you watched this weekend?

Music Break: Favorite songs from Garry Marshall’s classic ‘Pretty Woman’

I was still in high school when Pretty Woman came out and it was a pretty huge hit back then. I haven’t seen this movie in over twenty years, but the passing of director Garry Marshall this past week made me re-watch some of the clips. This and Beaches are my two favorite films from the late filmmaker, and no doubt this movie is one he’ll be most remembered for.

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It’s the 90s version of the classic Cinderella tale, as the protagonist’s BFF (played by the awesome Laura San Giacomo) puts it… Cinde-f*king*rella. The pairing of America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts as a Hollywood Blvd prostitute with former American Gigolo Richard Gere as the to-die-for billionaire is just perfect. They have amazing chemistry that you’re dying for them to be together. And who doesn’t love Vivian, Julia’s huge grin and infectious laugh are so adorable!

I might rewatch it again one of these days. I remember it being a funny, heart-warming and of course dreamy feel-good movie with so many iconic scenes!

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The soundtrack was a staple in the early 90s for me. Now, normally I’d be listening to a movie’s score more than the songs featured in the soundtrack, but for some reason I can’t remember the score from James Newton Howard. But the song compilation album is awesome. It must’ve been one of the CDs I actually brought to college and you know what, these songs are still fun to listen to today. It’s been great walking down memory lane listening to these songs this past week.

So here are some of my favorites… 

I’m not much into sappy love songs, but I did have a thing for the Swedish pop rock duo Roxette😉

My brother Paul was such a huge fan of Peter Cetera, both when he was still part of the Chicago band and his solo effort. I have to admit I was a bit of a sucker for his love ballads:)


Last but not least, the Kiss song isn’t technically in the soundtrack, but hey don’t you just love Prince!

It’s really devastating that Prince and Mr. Marshall are gone the same year!😦


Hope you enjoy this week’s music break! What’s your favorite ‘Pretty Woman’ song(s)?

Guest Post: Musings on the casting for the upcoming ‘Wicked’ The Movie

Hello everyone! Today we’ve got a guest post from across the pond. Simon Harding is a blogger w/ Theatre Breaks website who writes about London’s Theatreland. As FlixChatter is primarily a film blog, today’s post relates to an upcoming musical adaptation.


‘Wicked The Movie’ On Its Way!

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We can hardly contain our excitement at the thought that one of the most popular musicals ever, Wicked, will soon be making the transition from stage show to the silver screen. The project was given the go-ahead by producer Marc Platt back in November last year, although he was definitely a bit cagey about when the movie would get the great Hollywood treatment… but no matter. It’s enough to know right now that the film will get here eventually, even if it’s in a few years’ time.

[According to IMDb, the movie’s to be directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) – ed.]

But who’s going to bag the main parts? Who are we most likely to see claiming the roles of Glinda and Elphaba?

Names like Samantha Barks, Kristen Bell, Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick have all been bandied about for the main parts in the film, and now the original Glinda – actress Kirstin Chenoweth – has chimed in with who she thinks would be ideal for some of the roles.

According to Movie Pilot, Kirsten would like to see young actress Dove Cameron take on the part of Glinda and Lea Michele tackle Elphaba if the cast is going to be on the young side. If the producers decide to cast people in their 30s instead, Kirstin would be happy to see Beth Behrs be Glinda and Zooey Deschanel come on board as Elphaba.

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Emily Blunt & Reese Witherspoon

Here at Theatre Breaks, we’d happily see Emily Blunt claim the part of Elphaba for her very own, and Reese Witherspoon as Glinda. Did you catch her turn in Walk the Line? The girl can sing!

Anyhoo, it’s a long way off yet until December 2019, so we’re sure more rumours will abound as to who will take the main parts.


If you’d like to book tickets to a Wicked theatre show in the UK, check out the prices and seat availability on the Theatre Breaks website.


Who would you like to see take on the roles of Elphaba and Glinda? Let us know who your picks would be in the comments below.

FlixChatter Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

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It’s been ages since I saw the first Ghostbusters movie, which was released three decades ago in 1984. I decided to re-watch the original this weekend, but I barely remembered much of it by the time I saw this reboot. I pretty much chose to stay away from all the controversy over its all-female casting, chugging it to whiny fanboys who have too much time on their hands. I mean to say that a reboot ‘ruins your childhood’ and goes on a sexist/racist tirade over a movie, then perhaps you need to find more some meaning with your life.

In any case, I approach this movie with neutral expectations, as I usually do. Now, is it necessary to reboot this? Probably not, but seeing that all the cast members are so hilarious and talented in their own right, I expect to have a good time w/ the movie. Well, for the most part I did.

The movie starts out with a ghost sighting in a haunted mansion. That incident leads to the mansion owner seeking out Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), who vehemently denies writing a book about the existence of paranormal phenomenon as it threatens her reputation as a legit science professor. Soon Gilbert is reunited with her estranged friend and co-writer of the book, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who’s still as passionate as ever in her ghost-hunting vocation at a tech college. Her partner in crime is ab eccentric engineer Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) reported a ghost sighting at a subway tunnel, the Ghostbusters quartet is complete. Each was given a chance to shine here and I honestly can’t pick a favorite as I like ’em all.

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This is definitely an origin story from writer/director Paul Feig (who co-wrote it with Katie Dippold), not only told the story of how the team came together, but also how the Ghostbusters logo came about. I think they’ve assembled a great cast, as the four actresses have a great chemistry together and they work well as a team. It’s awesome to see regular girls, some are nerdy and prone to fan-girling (whether it’s ghost or hot-but-dumb male secretary), get to kick ass on the big screen. We’ve seen more of supermodel look-alike heroines like Lara Croft, Wonder Woman, etc. saving the world, so it’s always refreshing to see women we can relate to have their moment this time around.

Speaking of that hot-but-dumb secretary, Chris Hemsworth is definitely game in poking fun at himself as Kevin. He’s obviously aware of his more-brawn-than-brain image and goes all out with it, though at times it feels a bit too much. He’s not quite the scene stealer here, but certainly memorable. As for the cameos of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, well they’re amusing to see but the scenes they’re in are not as funny as I expected.
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The comedic style of this new movie is quite different from the original, for one I find that the new one has more wisecrackin’ one liners. I love the fact that the movie pokes fun at the haters…

‘It’s really easy sit there and be the naysayer when you don’t actually do anything.’ – Abby Yates

… but one of the funniest moments for me was when Leslie Jones’ character jumps into the mosh pit, but falls to the ground when the crowd moves away.

“I don’t know if it was a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell!”

Comedy is so subjective, so you either love or hate ’em, but having enjoyed Spy (also written and directed by Paul Feig and stars Melissa McCarthy), this one seems to be in a similar vein. The funniest bits are when the cast are bantering with each other, even the slapstick stuff involving the myriad ghostbustin’ weaponry made me laugh. But I find the last act to be the weakest and I find myself wandering a bit as the CGI-fest is happening on screen.

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As with many recent big-budget action flicks like Batman V Superman, there seems to be an obsession with blowing up a city. It’s as if all these filmmakers are infected w/ Michael Bay syndrome or something. The fight scene at the end is once again filled with a city being blown to bits and the colossal CGI smash went on for way too long. I mentioned it in the Dawn of Justice review, it’s a sensory overload that feels like an endurance contest for the audience. Yes I know the original also has a big action scene at the end, but it didn’t feel as bloated as this new one. It also didn’t help that this movie also has a very weak and totally uninteresting villain. I can’t even remember what the guy’s name was who summons all the ghosts to wreck havoc among the living.

That said, I’m glad I saw this and I’m happy to say I enjoyed it overall. I’d say it’s a pretty good Summer escapist fun that pays homage to the original. I wonder at times whether they should’ve made this into a spin-off instead of a reboot, which would perhaps give the filmmakers more wiggle room to make it a different story that’s still about ghost hunting. Whether or not that’d be a better movie remains to be seen of course, but it’d be interesting to see that.

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Having seen both the original and the reboot within a week, I’m more convinced of how absurd the controversy is over the all-female cast. Just like the original, the talented main cast are the best thing about the movie. I personally think humor knows no gender. I suppose haters are gonna hate, I just can’t fathom the idiocy of it all.

So if you’re on the fence, give it a shot and make up your own mind. It’s not the best reboots out there, but it’s definitely NOT the worst. I wish this were a better movie but one thing for sure, the main cast made for a winning foursome.

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So have you seen the new ‘Ghostbusters’ movie? I’d love to hear what you think!

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Weekend Viewing Roundup: Ghostbusters (1984) & Superman Returns (2006) rewatch + The Adventurer: Curse Of The Midas Box (2013)

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Well this weekend’s viewing turns out to be pretty eclectic. Given that I saw the screening of the new Ghostbuster movie (review up later this week), I was inspired to re-watch the original. I honestly can’t remember when I saw that one, probably when I was a teen years ago, so my memory of it is hazy.

Well, just like the reboot, the cast of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver is truly the best thing about the movie. I enjoy the camaraderie of the ghostbustin’ team, which is the main strength of the new one as well. So yeah, I’d say the original movie still holds up very well, though I actually find Rick Moranis‘ character a bit irritating. The movie is obviously funny, but the comedic style is pretty different from the new one, which isn’t a good or bad thing. Having seen both movies last week, I’m more convinced of how absurd the controversy is over the all-female cast. I suppose haters are gonna hate, I just can’t fathom the idiocy of it all.

Speaking of Bill Murray…

Sunday is often reserved for indulgent viewing for me, which is the time I usually watch my fave period dramas. But for some reason I was in the mood to watch Superman Returns. I can’t believe that movie is 10 years old! It’s funny how remakes/reboots often made you reflect on the older movies. Now, I never hated this Bryan Singer version apart from the whole Superman kid absurdity, which I think is the weakest link of the movie. But rewatching it this time around made me like it a bit more. I like how geeky Brandon Routh‘s Superman is as Clark Kent, and that rousing airplane rescue scene is still awesome. Yeah it’s definitely more of a rom-com at times (which Singer himself admits), but you know what, I enjoyed that whole flying scene of Supes & Lois. Oh and Parker Posey is a hoot to watch here, esp. the scene where she’s fan-girling over Supes!


Lastly, I watched this UK adventure flick The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box. Heh, that is one clunky title and the movie itself isn’t that much better. Honestly, I only watched it because of the awesome Welsh actors in it: Aneurin Barnard (in the lead role), the always watchable Michael Sheen and Ioan Gruffud. Sam Neill and Lena Heady played the villains, so even though it’s still fun to watch these talented actors, they all deserve a much better movie!


It’s supposed to be Indiana Jones meets Hugo (as Aneurin played a teenager here), but it’s nowhere near as good as either. I concur with Rodney’s review and rating of it here, which is too bad given the talented cast and promising plot. I agree that the score by Fernando Velázquez is the best thing in it, he happens to also score the great soundtrack of Pride + Prejudice + Zombies.

Tomorrow night I’ll be watching these two wacky-but-fabulous London ladies wrecking havoc in style…

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So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

FlixChatter Review: The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

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The moment I saw the trailer for this months ago I was immediately sold. Anyone who’s ever owned a pet would likely be drawn to this as well, and given the popularity of cat (and dog) videos on social media, this is no doubt a winning concept for an animated movie. The movie started off well enough on the premise of pets shenanigans whilst the owner is away, seen from the life of the movie’s protagonist, a terrier dog named Max (Louis C.K.). The opening scene, set to Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York, with Max propped on a bike as his owner Katie strolls through Central Park with the city’s metropolitan backdrop is fun and vibrant. Life seems perfect for Max, that is until Katie arrives one day with a huge, hairy dog from the pound. Max takes an instant dislike to Duke (Eric Stonestreet), and it’s easy to see why.

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At first the story seems to revolve around the households of Max as well as his NYC neighbors. There’s the obese gray cat Chloe (Lake Bell), bulldog Mel (Bobby Moynihan), dachshund Buddy (Hannibal Buress), parakeet Sweet Pea (Tara Strong) and a white Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate) who has a crush on Max. I enjoy the intro to each of these fun characters, some of which has been revealed in the trailer. I still laughed when we see Chloe resisting temptation of eating all the food on the fridge and fail miserably, and when Buddy enjoying a delightful massage courtesy of an electric mixer. But the plot then takes us into more of a riotous adventure involving pets being taken in by Animal Control, and ends up being kind of a rescue and ‘great escape’ type of plot that is neither inventive or original. I feel like I’ve seen this type of plot before in other animal movies, most recently Shaun the Sheep.


The whole bit in the sewer with an anti-human gang Flushed Pets, led by a militant white bunny Snowball (the petite firecracker Kevin Hart) has some hilarious moments, but it feels too mean-spirited for a kids movie. Unlike the far superior talking-animal animated feature Zootopia, there’s not much emotional resonance nor depth in The Secret Life of Pets, which is a bummer as I think the concept has so much potential. The moment Duke finds out about what happens to his owner provides one of the very few emotional moments in the movie, but for the most part we get one slapstick gag after another. It also includes a rather silly musical number involving dancing sausages that seems rather pointless.

The movie is directed by Chris Renaud & Yarrow Chenney who have worked on previous Illumination animated movies in the past. I quite like the score too, which I realize from the credits is by Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat. The funniest bits to me are in the simpler moments. There’s one when Max is trying to channel his inner wolf instinct but then concludes that perhaps the ‘myth’ comes from a dog mistaking its parent saying ‘woof’ with ‘wolf.’ You have to watch it to get the full impact of the joke. I also find the aloof & sarcastic Chloe hilarious, she’s what you’d imagine a cat would be and the moment she gets her head in a tube is absolutely hysterical. I wish there were more moments like this, that is the simple shenanigans these pets get into in a normal day, instead of the grandiose escape-from-peril plan that is too busy for its own good. The simple day-to-day stuff is more of what I expect from a movie titled ‘the secret life of pets.’

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That said, I think the fun personality of the pets, thanks to a talented ensemble of voice cast, makes this movie enjoyable despite the flaws. Louis C.K. is perfect as Max, a good ol’ loyal dog who’s self-deprecating and cynical. The standout for me is Lake Bell‘s Chloe, Albert Brooks‘ hawk Tiberius and of course Hart’s hysterically-psychotic white bunny. I find the massively popular comedian hilarious in real life, his high-pitched voice, ultra-confident persona and antics are a hoot. But I can see how he might irritate some people, as comedy is so subjective. Jenny Slate‘s raspy voice as Gidget is funny too, though her Pomeranian’s character transformation is just downright preposterous. I get it that we can’t complain about things being nonsensical about a cartoon of talking animals, but I feel that the plot could’ve been much more engaging. Comparing this to other works by Illumination Entertainment, this is more akin to Minions than Despicable Me in terms of substance. There are touches of Toy Story as well, though it obviously doesn’t hold a candle to the Pixar masterpiece trilogy.

If you’re on the fence though, I think this is still well worth a watch. I don’t think it’s worth the 3D price however and I think it’d be ok to just wait for rental. I saw one reviewer say this is more humor than heart and I guess that is perfectly adequate for a kids movie. As an adult though, I kind of expect more given what Pixar, Disney and even Dreamworks have delivered lately.

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What do you think of ‘The Secret Life of Pets’?

Everybody’s Chattin + Trailers Spotlight: Jeff Nichols’ LOVING + Warren Beatty’s ‘Rules Don’t Apply’

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Happy almost Friday everyone! It’s been quite a busy week for me, in and out of work, so I’m glad the weekend is just around the corner!! I’m going to see Captain Fantastic tonight so very excited for that.

Ok, about those links…

Keith posted his Blindspot review on A Man Escaped

Dell posted his thoughts on Steve Jobs movie

Meanwhile, Courtney argued that Swiss Army Man might be the most uplifting movie yet

I love birthday tributes and Margaret just posted a massive one on the legendary Harrison Ford

Steven posted a review one of my brothers’ favorites, Smokey and the Bandit

Well, we can’t agree on everything but that’s what makes blogging fun, right? Eddie reviewed Midnight Special and Jordan reviewed Sing Street, they feel quite differently than I did about each movie.


Trailers Spotlight

This week I’m highlighting two movies that deal with forbidden romance, relationships that break the rules of sort, though both are set in very different circumstances. Whether it’s society’s rules of the time or rules mandated by strict employers, the couples in these films face challenges to stay together. Both films are released in November.

LOVING

Release: November 4, 2016
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton

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Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.

Check out the brand new trailer:

“I know we have some enemies. But we have some friends too.”
– Mildred Loving

This beautifully-shot film is poised to be a real tearjerker. I love Nichols’ work, as well as Joel Edgerton and Nichols’ muse Michael Shannon. But it’s Ruth Negga‘s performance I’m most looking forward to seeing. I cried just watching this trailer, it’s certainly a timely film, especially in light of recent events in my state as well as in Texas. As a non-White person who have many friends who married people outside of their own race, this is certainly a topic I’m intrigued by. In fact, before I met my hubby who shares my Southeast Asian heritage, back in college I’ve gone on dates with a Latino, as well as Caucasian guys. I remember feeling a bit uneasy walking or dining with my White boyfriend in the small town I lived in, as some older people would stare. I don’t think they meant any harm though, so I can’t imagine what the Loving couple had to go through endure living in 1950s America!

Director Jeff Nichols was able to tell the story of the Loving family as accurately as possible by relying on Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story (2011), which captured many details of their private lives: “We had this beautiful documentary footage unearthed from the mid-’60s where we got to go into their home and see them and watch them,” Nichols said. “It’s an unusual thing to have access to.” (per IMDb)

RULES DON’T APPLY

Release: November 23, 2016
Produced and Directed by: Warren Beatty
Screenplay by Warren Beatty; Story by Warren Beatty and Bo Goldman
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Haley Bennett, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Lily Collins, Steve Coogan, Alden Ehrenreich, Taissa Farmiga, Ed Harris, Megan Hilty, Oliver Platt and Martin Sheen
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An aspiring young actress (Lily Collins) and her ambitious young driver (Alden Ehrenreich) struggle hopefully with the absurd eccentricities of the wildly unpredictable billionaire (Warren Beatty), who they work for.

It’s Hollywood, 1958. Small town beauty queen and devout Baptist virgin Marla Mabrey (Collins), under contract to the infamous Howard Hughes (Beatty), arrives in Los Angeles. At the airport, she meets her driver Frank Forbes (Ehrenreich), who is engaged to be married to his 7th grade sweetheart and is a deeply religious Methodist. Their instant attraction not only puts their religious convictions to the test, but also defies Hughes’ #1 rule: no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress.

This one seems to have a similar comedic vibe as Hail, Caesar!, and hey, the new Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich is in this, too. Hopefully this one will be a better movie though. It’s also got has an amazing cast, interesting to see Bening & Beatty working together again (after Bugsy & Love Affair in the 90s), haven’t seen either one of them in ages. I haven’t seen Matthew Broderick in a long time either, he looks pretty funny here.

Apparently Warren Beatty first pitched a Howard Hughes biopic as early as 1973. He continually tried to get a film involving Hughes off the ground every year or two since then. One can say it’s a film 40 years in the making. (per IMDb)


What do you think of either of these trailers?

Indie Film Spotlight: ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ + Q&A with screenwriter David Solomons

I have mentioned this delightful Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending on my blog a few times. I first saw it a little over a year ago on Netflix, April 2015 to be exact, and have watched it a half dozen times since. I’ve posted a Deleted Scene from the movie, as well as dedicated a Music Break post, and I still listen to the awesome soundtrack regularly.

Well, it so happen that today is Stanley Weber‘s birthday, the French actor whom I discovered from this movie. Last year I posted a Birthday Tribute in his honor, and this year I’m delighted to have a Q&A with the movie’s screenwriter David Solomons!


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When a struggling publisher discovers his only successful author is blocked he knows he has to unblock her or he’s finished. With her newfound success, she’s become too damn happy and she can’t write when she’s happy.The only trouble is, the worse he makes her feel, the more he realizes he’s in love with her.

I’m not always a huge fan of rom-coms, but many of my favorites are usually British rom-coms. Not Another Happy Ending is so darn charming with an effortlessly funny, likable cast. The Scottish aspect, the witty dialog, cast and Glasgow scenery, is really what makes this a fun movie to watch repeatedly.

 

NAHE_davidQuick bio on David per NosyCrow.com:

David Solomons has been writing screenplays for many years. His first feature film was an adaptation of Five Children and It (starring Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Izzard, with gala screenings at the Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals). My Brother is a Superhero is his first novel for children. He was born in Glasgow and now lives in Dorset with his wife, the novelist Natasha Solomons, and their son, Luke.

I had the privilege to get a bit of insights from David about this film, how he came up with the idea, and how he handled the casting switch of the male lead. Check out the Q&A below:

1. ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ was your third feature film. What was your background before you got into screenwriting?

I was working as an advertising copywriter in my home-town of Glasgow. I’d say that working to a screaming deadline for highly demanding clients who want to squeeze every last drop from the budget is excellent preparation for entering the film business as a writer.

John with Karen on set

Director John McKay with Karen on set

2. What inspired you to write this story? In the behind-the-scenes video, I thought you said you came up with the idea during a blind date? Would you elaborate on that?

Ah yes, the blind date. Not only did I acquire an idea for a film from that evening, I also met my future wife, Natasha. At that time she was studying for a Masters in English Literature at Glasgow University and bounded into the restaurant and my life. She was doing some work that touched on the relationship between creativity and depression, and, as you would when hearing about the miserable lives of poets, I immediately thought what a great idea for a romantic comedy.

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3. You also wrote a novel version of this film, what’s been the biggest challenge of writing the same story in both formats?

The challenge is accepting that what works in one medium sometimes doesn’t in another. For instance, it had always been my intention to start the film with Jane and Tom getting together and splitting up within the first five minutes. I thought it would be funny to subvert the rom-com trope of keeping the boy and girl apart until the end, and I like stories in which characters have history together. And that’s how we shot it, but no matter how much we recut the sequence it didn’t play. So we ditched it and now there’s a more conventional beginning. However, in the novel it works a treat. I suspect it has something to do with the novelist’s ability to depict his characters’ thoughts. We get more of a sense of these two people than we can in the crash-bang first five of the film.

4. I’ve always been intrigued by stories about writers and I love the character Jane as the protagonist. Are you happy with how Jane is portrayed in the movie by Karen Gillan?

I love Karen in the film. I think she is a really special actress. She is whip-smart, endlessly enthusiastic, treats her craft with utter professionalism. She’s got terrific comedy timing and has that indefinable movie star glow.

NAHE_JaneLockhart

5. In the ‘We Are Colony’ bundle, there are a lot of deleted scenes that involve the male lead Tom Duval. I feel that his character is a bit under-developed and now I realize why because so many of his scenes were cut. How do you feel about that?

I put all the deleted scenes into the novel!

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Stanley & Karen in one of the Deleted Scenes

6. I read that Tom was going to be played by a Scottish actor, but as Stanley Weber is French, was it difficult to rewrite his role to accommodate the casting switch?

I seem to remember that when we cast Stanley we did a draft that explained how he had come to Scotland to run his own publishing company. I have a feeling that one of the deleted scenes you mention above was an expositional moment that was ultimately cut. In the end it was decided that the exposition wasn’t necessary or got in the way. As for changing dialogue to accommodate Stanley, I don’t recall making any substantial alterations, apart from that he lapses into French in moments of high anxiety.

7. As a screenwriter, how much did you collaborate with the director (and actors) during filming? 

Sometimes as a screenwriter you feel (or you’re made to feel!) as if you’re intruding on the business of filmmaking. However, making Not Another Happy Ending was a very happy experience. John (McKay), the director, was hugely welcoming, including me in everything from early rehearsals with the actors to costume fittings, etc. In fact I would have been on set throughout the entire production except that I had to leave because my blind date (remember her?) was due to give birth to our first child smack bang in the middle of the shoot.

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David on set of NAHE

8. Lastly, what tips would you have for aspiring screenwriters?

Going back to your question about collaboration, I’d say that it can come as a bit of a shock. I’m not sure that as a debut writer you can be prepared for the process. What I mean is that the one thing you want above all, i.e. getting your screenplay into production, necessarily entails losing control over it. And that’s a good thing! Seeing a talented director and cast bring your characters to life is an amazing experience. Once pre-production begins your role changes. It’s now all about serving the good of the film. You have to be adaptable, fleet of foot (in the writing sense) and sometimes that means making compromises. That scene you love with the camels on the Orient Express? Can we make it one guinea-pig and a model train?

Of course, if reading that make you uncomfortable, then there is a solution: become a writer-director. But you’ll still have to lose the camels.

And one last piece of advice. Stay healthy. Not Another Happy Ending was picked to close the Edinburgh Film Festival that year. It was the highest accolade and promised to be a fabulous night – a chance for all of us to celebrate the culmination of what had been a long journey. I gather it was an amazing night, but I wouldn’t know. Instead of walking the red carpet I was lying in a hospital bed at the other end of the country. So, y’know, take long walks, breathe fresh air, eat five-a-day, and don’t miss out on your world premiere.

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Hope you enjoy the interview! Have you seen ‘Not Another Happy Ending’? I’d love to hear what you think.