FlixChatter Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

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The first Fast and Furious film came out 18 years ago and no one would have predicted that it would became one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood. Heck, when I saw the third sequel The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the worst in the series, I thought for sure we won’t be seeing anymore Fast and Furious films. Boy was I wrong, the later sequels somehow became more financially successful than the previous ones.

The eighth film in the series begins with Dom (Vin Diesel) and his now wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) honeymooning in Cuba. While there Dom ran into a mysterious woman who turns out to be a super cyber terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher wants Dom to help her steal some super powerful weapons from the US, Russian and German government so she can start World War 3. Of course Dom being Dom, he refused but Cipher is holding someone closes to him hostage and if he won’t do as she says, that person will be killed. That’s pretty much the basic storyline for this entry, Dom has to betray his team/family and throughout the film, there are tons of car chases, explosions, shoot outs and of course good looking people running around in skimpy clothes.

The script by franchise’s regular Chris Morgan is pretty simple, he knows his audience and fans of the series won’t be disappointed. I do have some issues with the script, I won’t spoil it here but he tried to wrap everything up from the last two films that kind of made the previous pictures irrelevant. Apparently, they’re planning to make two more films after this one. Stepping into the director’s chair this time is F. Gary Gray. I’ve enjoyed some of his previous work and it’s obvious he was chosen because he’d worked with most of the actors in this film in the past. With a reported budget of $250mil, Gray staged some pretty crazy action sequences, including a pretty fun big car chase through the streets of NYC. But compare to the previous films, especially the ones directed by Justin Lin, his action sequences lacked energy and kind of boring. A climatic chase that involves a submarine could’ve been a lot of fun but he decided to inter cut it with some silly flashback sequence that explained a “twist” that most viewers could’ve seen miles away. I think he and his editor should’ve done a better job with what I assume was the most expensive sequence to shoot for the film.

As for performances, Diesel is again took his role way too seriously and he even shed tears in one scene! I think he needs to simmer down with his performance in the next one and have a good time. On the other hand, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham knows the kind of film they’re in and having a great time with it. Their bantering gets the most laughs and of course they look good kicking butts. I don’t remember when The Rock’s character Hobbs became superhuman but he’s somehow fights like Superman in this film. Theron is moving to more action related films in this phase of her career and she’s great as the Bondish supervillain. Heck I think the Bond producers should cast her as the main villain in the next Bond film. The rest of cast were fine as usual and they even introduced a new pretty boy to replace Paul Walker. Clint Eastwood’s son Scott is now the new team member and I’m sure we’ll see more of him in the future films. Also returning is Kurt Russell as a super secret government agent who provides Hobbs and his team with everything they need to stop WW3 from happening. Last but certainly not least is Helen Mirren who seemed to have a great time in her small a cameo role.

I have some issues with the script, mostly of the “twist” towards the end but otherwise, I had a fun time with this latest sequel. Fans of the series should be pleased with it since it delivered what they wanted to see. Big car chases, shoot outs and of course explosions. So if you’re planning to see it, go to the biggest screen you can find and hopefully it’s equipped with Dolby Atmos.

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Have you seen The Fate of the Furious? Well, what did you think?

Finally… Hearts Want Short Film shoot begins!

It says ONE MORE DAY above but as I’m writing this post, it’s actually less than NINE hours until cameras are rolling!! 😬

As you can imagine, my hubby Ivan Maramis and I likely won’t get much sleep much tonight. We’ve been making a ton of lists… and checking ’em twice (or more) to make sure we don’t miss anything. From props, snacks, call sheets to contracts for all cast/crew… there are SO many little details to go over my head’s spinning! Being this is my first time in making a film, naturally I’m super nervous but extremely excited at the same time. But I’m confident in my cast/crew, that they will BRING IT and do a stellar job! In fact, I KNOW they will!

The fact that today is EASTER sure keeps things in perspective. I feel ever so blessed to be given this opportunity of a lifetime to make our first film… I firmly believe we wouldn’t have gotten here without the Lord’s blessings.

For updates on the film, check out Hearts Want FB page… I’ve been updating the page with photos from our blocking rehearsal…

… as well as a video snippet of my two phenomenal leads practicing a scene.

I’ve also been meaning to post this a while back, but check out the trailer from the amazing short film Sad Clown, directed by Jason P. Schumacher, a seasoned Minnesota filmmaker who’s directing Hearts Want!

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Besides my two talented (and gorgeous) leads Sam SimmonsPeter Christian Hansen, I’m also blessed with a seasoned, hard-working 18-people crew! Most of them have been making quite a few of films, in fact some have won some awards from film festivals. But aside from that, they’re also the nicest, fun-loving and gracious bunch of people that I know it’ll be a joy working with them! So yeah, I fully believe my project is in good & capable hands.


THANKS to all of you blog readers who have been following my passion project. Please pray and send well wishes our way as we’ll be filming 10-14+ hour days both Monday & Tuesday!

I shall have more guest reviews in the coming weeks, including The Fate of The Furious, The Promise as well as a review from 2017 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF) that begins last week!

 

Guest Review: GIFTED (2017)

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Directed By: Marc Webb
Written By: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan
Runtime: 1 hr 41 minutes

I walked out of Gifted loudly bemoaning Chris Evans’ lack of acting skills when I heard a man behind me say something even more controversial: that Gifted suffers from a “simple plot”.

No, sweet idiot, it did not have a simple plot.

I mean, if you fell asleep for part of the movie, you could be forgiven for thinking such a thing. But if you were paying even a moderate amount of attention, you should know better. Superficially, Gifted is about a young man who is the sole custodian of his sister’s daughter until it becomes apparent that the little girl might be a genius and his mother sues for custody. That’s just the logline, though. The meat of the story is in the grandmother’s zeal for her daughter’s success and then her granddaughter’s promise. The story is partly a painful parable about living vicariously through one’s children and partly a nod to the long-lived, ever-changing battle women have fought for their place in STEM fields.

That said, I might be giving Tom Flynn too much credit. He makes a few stereotypically male slip ups in his storytelling: calling a strong female character “bossy”, making off-color comments about mistresses, and taking a mildly unsavory stance on consent. He also does everything that he can to make a story that is very obviously about two women and a girl instead about the one man they all share.
Of course, that one male character is a doozy. Frank Adler, played oh so stoically by Chris Evans, is hard-working, funny, intelligent, empathetic, and possesses an enviable moral compass. His character should have been left there, as the perfect single-father, but it is Chris Evans, so he’s also suave, gorgeous, and handily achieves a Love Interest. This was presumably to give the movie its PG-13 rating, which is one of the largest mistake that the movie makes.

I know it’s cute when kids swear and I get that Hollywood thinks that attractive people making out will always make them more money, but the consequential PG-13 rating was a poor trade off. Parents who probably would have otherwise brought their children to see the movie, which is an inspirational story featuring Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) a relatable little girl who is the full package: she’s a genius, a hero, and obsessed with her cat. Why the studios didn’t fight for a PG rating is completely beyond me. Kids would love her.

Chris Evans was really the only weak member of the cast: he is a beautiful human, but he struggles to emote, and a lot of his dialogue felt wooden and unnatural. Luckily, he is always acting opposite incredibly gifted performers. Mckenna Grace can cry like nobody’s business, Jenny Slate (you might recognize her as “Mona Lisa” from Parks and Rec) is surprisingly good as the first grade teacher all of us wanted, Octavia Spencer is unsurprisingly flawless, and Lindsay Duncan wrangles a supporting role so handily that she makes the entire movie about her. In a good way.

There are some weird racial undertones throughout the film. The Adler’s neighbor Roberta Taylor (Octavia Spencer) is yet another iteration of the mammy trope, which needs to be retired. Taylor criticizes Adler for hiring a black lawyer, a comment that is jarring, super racist, and was a very successful laugh line in the theater where I saw the film. Out of any other character’s mouth it would have been unacceptable, but because no one had to think about how white the screenwriter was when Spencer spoke, the joke worked. I’m disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that the line made it past a first draft. Ditto to people laughing at it.

Despite having many flaws, I still think that Gifted is worth seeing. The cinematography is beautiful, if sometimes a little self-indulgent. One scene, in which Mary climbs her uncle’s body and peppers him with questions about God, is told completely in silhouette, set against an orange sunset. It’s a beautiful film, with a magnificent cast, and a mostly empowering storyline.

And it’s not simple if you’re paying attention.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘Gifted’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)

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Written/Directed By: Ang Lee
Cast: Joe Alwyn, Mackenzie Leigh, Steve Martin, Garrett Hedlund
Runtime: 1 hr 53 minutes

It is frustrating when a film has all the ingredients to be brilliant but ends up just a good movie. The story of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016) is an original and painfully satirical study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is also a film limited by all-too-obvious visual messages and clichéd one-liners that reduce a possible artwork to an emotionally tame and uneven film.

The story unfolds over a single day in America with flashbacks to a live combat incident in Iraq. A news clip goes viral when young army specialist Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is filmed trying to save the life of his sergeant.  His Bravo squad are celebrated as heroes and given a two-week promotional tour across America to boost dwindling support for the war. The tour highlight is an appearance in a glitzy halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys game. They are ushered around like a troupe of performing monkeys with little regard for what they have been through or how glaring theatrics might affect soldiers coming straight out of battle. Meanwhile, their tour guide is trying to stitch up a film deal with the tightwad team owner (played by Steve Martin) as virgin Billy falls for a cheerleader (Mackenzie Leigh) who loves war heroes.

The storyline bears little resemblance to the typical war genre film, but this one is not about guns, bombs and bodies. Filmed in ultra-high definition with extensive shallow depth of field, Billy and the squad are often in pin-sharp focus against soft backgrounds, a technique that keeps them in a separate plane of existence to the crassly insensitive stage onto which they have been thrust. The surreal stadium scenes are a spectacular but clichéd message about commodity wars for a public wanting to ‘make America great again’. It is hard not to empathise with Billy or feel his disorientation as he watches prancing cheerleaders and hears musical fireworks exploding all around him while he struggles with flashbacks of hand-to-hand combat in the midst of a mortar firestorm.

There is much to commend in this film. Young Joe Alwyn plays a complex role with nuance beyond his experience. The cinematography is vivid (almost to the point of distraction), and the pace and casting is strong (although comic Steve Martin seems out of place). A lighter directorial hand may have produced a more naturally flowing story without the corny melodrama and trite one-liners like “that day no longer belongs to you…its America’s story now” or “we’re a nation of children who fight in other countries to grow up”. But you will long remember that stadium extravaganza as an echo-chamber for the horrors of PTSD. For that alone, this film is worth seeing.

cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’? Well, what did you think? 

Week In Review… and quick update on my short film

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you had a great weekend. Spring has finally sprung here in the Upper Midwest… it actually felt nice enough I could forgo my jacket for part of the day Friday! Speaking of Friday, it was also one of the busiest day I’ve ever had… which I’ve shared on my FB below…

Well, it shouldn’t be surprising to most of you that my hours, days and weeks have been consumed by my short film project. I did see three films this past weekend however… including a rewatch of Captain America Civil War as it’s now on Netflix!

I rented SING earlier in the week and really enjoyed it! I really loved the trailer, but fortunately it lived up to it (unlike The Secret Life of Pets). So many fun characters, especially the Rosita the pig (and her brood of kids!) and Johnny the gorilla. The cover songs were great too and I thought the story was pretty moving and engaging throughout, and the ending managed to surprise me in a lovely way. I highly recommend it if you enjoy animated films that’s much more than just a visual treat.

I also finally saw Beauty & The Beast! Boy I had been SO excited about it for like a year but when it’s finally here three weeks ago I was so swamped I could barely got excited for any movie. But I needed a break after such a hectic and quite stressful week, and this movie did just the trick!

Now I will say that it still doesn’t beat the Disney animated classic, but I already knew that before I even saw it. With that in mind, I still found it to be pretty entertaining. I think Emma Watson did well as Belle, which is key in me liking the movie. I especially love the relationship between Belle and her dad, played by the venerable Kevin Kline.

Oh and the song… the songs!! Alan Menken is a musical genius who’ve made a bunch of my all time fave Disney songs, here he teamed up with Howard Ashman and added some new favorites!

I’ll do a music break of the movie at some point, but man, the three new songs How Does a Moment Last Forever (Montmartre), Days in the Sun and Evermore are absolutely lovely!! I initially cringed when I heard the Beast singing, but the emotional song literally made me sob. Yes I’m such a sap 😛


Ok so it’s just 15 days until my filming!

Things are changing rapidly every single day. The short script is officially ‘done’ and sent to my actors, though of course it’s not really final until filming wraps. After losing a director nearly month before filming, we’ve now pretty much got a full crew!

I knew indie filmmaking is fast and furious but it seems our pre-prod process is at lightning speed even by that standard! I gotta say though it’s been a ton of fun even with the stress… I’ve been running on adrenaline these days that I know I will miss the crazy rush of it all once the film is done.

Thankfully I’ve got a super talented & supportive hubby Ivan who did the photoshoot with my two stunning lead actors Sam Simmons & Peter Christian Hansen on Saturday 3/25. They’ll be used for various promos and even props for the film. Below are just a few of the shots he took over the course of just 3 hours!

Well, there’s still much to be done between now and April 17… it’s been quite a thrill ride for me and I’m learning so much every single day.

We’re now on Facebook!!

Check out BTS photos & videos from our pre-prod photoshoot, as well as other updates on the film. Please LIKE, comment & share. Thank you!


Well that’s the scoop on my life so far folks… hope you’ll support my project when the time comes 😉