Spotlight on FIVE Highly-Anticipated Fall Movies (Sept – Oct)

Happy Labor Day weekend, folks!

Can you believe it there is just one more day until September… which means Fall is looming around the corner. Weather-wise, I do love Autumn, though I’m not ready to give up Summer just yet. But in terms of movies, Fall is jam packed with a ton of intriguing movies leading up to award season. Now, there are simply too many to include in a single post, so I’m only going to narrow things down to just movies released theatrically in the US in September & October only. So here we go in order of release:

Downton Abbey (Sept 20)

The continuing story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century.

Ok so I’m not a diehard Downton fan, heck I didn’t even watch the last two seasons. But I did watch enough of season 1-2 to know who everyone is, and seeing the trailer did make me want to see it! The visuals look sumptuous and having the royals visit Downton would surely bring an extra dose of drama, not that the Crawleys are ever lacking of that. I’m most excited to see Dame Maggie Smith, let’s see what sort of quotable remarks she’ll make this time around. There are new cast members added as well, Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton, both I’m familiar with from various British movies.

JUDY (Sept 27)

Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.

I’m always intrigued by biopic about tortured artists, be it a painter, actor, singer, what have you. The trailer really moved me, despite me not having seen The Wizard of Oz in its entirety (yeah I know, I know) and not knowing much about Judy Gardland. I almost didn’t recognize Renee Zellweger the first time I saw her in the trailer, sounds like a role that might nab her some kudos come award season.

The Laundromat (Sept 27)

A widow investigates an insurance fraud, chasing leads to a pair of Panama City law partners exploiting the world’s financial system.

Oh man, this is one of those movies you watch for the cast!! Yes the premise definitely sounds intriguing and it looks like a fun movie despite its serious subject matter. But man, seeing Gary Oldman (what’s with his hilarious accent!) + Antonio Banderas behaving badly w/ Meryl Streep hellbent on exposing them, yeah I’m down for this!

Plus there are a ton of great actors in supporting roles, too: Jeffrey Wright, Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, Will Forte, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Cromwell and Sharon Stone. I didn’t know Scott Z. Burns wrote this too, which I shouldn’t be surprised as he frequently collaborates with Steven Soderbergh. I hope to catch this in the theaters before it’s released on Netflix!

JOKER (Oct 4)

An original standalone origin story of the iconic villain not seen before on the big screen, it’s a gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, and a broader cautionary tale.

I have blogged about this film before when the first trailer hit, but I’m including it here as the second trailer just came out yesterday which got me even more excited!! It’s been revealed that this film will be R-rated, and from everything I’ve seen it certainly looks genuinely ominous and dark, promising us a thrilling, suspenseful, emotional crime drama.

Per Indiewire, apparently director Todd Philips ‘spent a full year trying to convince the studio to allow him to make the violent and edgy comic book movie. He referenced 70s R-rated adult dramas Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The King of Comedy as his inspirations. Apparently it took months for the director to convince Joaquin Phoenix to do the role. Apparently he signed on after he’d play the Joker as “a complex flesh-and-blood character in shades of gray rather than a black-and-white cartoon villain.”

Parasite (Oct 11)

Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.

I first heard of this movie when it won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the first Korean film to ever win it. I’ve only seen Snowpiercer from director Bong Joon Ho, which I think is an excellent film. There have been plenty of films about the haves and the have-nots, but this dark comedy looks like something out of the beaten path and looks visually ravishing as well.

Apparently it got a 10 mins standing ovation at Cannes, which in and of itself isn’t a guaranteed that the general public will love it, but certainly made one curious nonetheless. An original story is always a welcome respite in a sea of reboots, sequels and franchises. The trailer promises us something unique that offers plenty of mysteries to keep us guessing.


I have blogged about Jojo Rabbit in this post, which is definitely one of my most-anticipated movies coming out in October!


So any of these on YOUR list of anticipated Fall movies? Let me know which ones that you can’t wait to see!

 

FlixChatter Review: Blinded By The Light (2019)

When American rock star Bruce Springsteen wrote the lyrics to his song Blinded by the Light, as a part of his 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Springsteen probably didn’t think that his lyrics would be inspiration for a British teenager of Pakistani descent, growing up as an immigrant in 1987 Britain controlled by Margaret Thatcher’ ruling Conservative Party. Yet, this is precisely what happens to Javed (Viveik Kalra) as he is growing up in Luton, England, amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the later 198o’s Britain. Javed has a very traditional family, with his strict, blue collar father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), his stay-at-home-but-working mother Noor (Meera Ganatra), and his two older sisters Shazia and Yasmeen (Nikita Mehta and Tara Divina).

Directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and co-written by Sarfraz Manzoor, who’s critically acclaimed personal memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll details Javed’s struggles of writing poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father. But Javed feels too ashamed to share his poetry with anyone, including his amiable teacher Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell), until his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) introduces him to the music of The Boss – the one and only Bruce Springsteen! The lyrics have a profound effect on Javed, as he consistently quotes Bruce’s lyrics, with his other friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) who is not quite as impressed with Springsteen’s music as Javed. He doesn’t only find solitude and release from the stresses of daily life listening to The Boss, but also the confidence to fight for the things he previously didn’t believe were worth fighting for. Example: Javed has a fight with his activist girlfriend Eliza (Nell Williams) but learning to control his own emotions so he doesn’t let it be a justification to become selfish, Javed wins back Eliza, who’s always been in his corner.

Viveik Kalra does a wonderful job making you believe that Javed is hearing Bruce Springsteen’s music for the first time, and you feel immediately drawn to his character. He then masterfully articulates just how it is affecting him and his trajectory in life. His tearfully delivered speech towards the end of the film, with his parents watching with tears of their own, is one of highest points of emotion for Javed, his family and the viewing audience alike. He embodies a person who is very easy to root for, despite his faults, sometimes minor, other times much larger (i.e. running away from home and disrespecting his father).

Blinded by the Light is also very true to the way people in 1987 Britain were living under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. There were very few jobs to be had and some naturally born Brits were less than welcoming to other minorities who had immigrated to Britain, especially those who were of Muslim faith and came from Pakistan. Javed’s father loses his job at a car factory in Luton, and this mother is left to do double to in home work, just to support the family. There is also tension between Javed and his father when he tells Javed that he must get a job (and stop listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen, whom he believes to be Jewish (probably because of the last name).

Overall, Blinded by the Light takes the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen to a whole new country and it’s embraced by the next generation of young people who can resonate with it. Especially for Javed and Roops, who pops Javed’s “Bruce cherry”, they feel empowered by the music and lyrics enough to confront a group of white nationalist teenagers at a restaurant by quoting one of Springsteen’s words (in this case it was lyrics from the song Badlands). The culmination of Javed’s efforts come to be when he delivers that speech (referenced earlier) to his classmates and his family. He tells them; “My hope is to build a bridge to my ambitions but not a wall between me and my family.” We also get the pleasure of seeing Javed and Roops take a trip to America – specifically to Asbury Park, Long Branch and other part of New Jersey. The pleasure seen in their eyes is clear and the joy the experience during this trip makes everything that they’ve fought to overcome worth it in the end.


Have you seen Blinded by the Light? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – Ready Or Not (2019)

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Written by: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy

Whenever I finally tie the knot, there are a few things I know I absolutely want in my wedding: a tea-length dress, lilacs and lilies of the valley in my bouquet, my little sister as maid of honor. And there are things I absolutely do not want: a veil, people clinking their glasses to get my husband and me to kiss every other minute during dinner, and a game of hide and seek where my in-laws try to murder me as part of a ritual sacrifice. That last one should probably go without saying, but the bride in Ready or Not might have appreciated it being brought up during the wedding planning process.

Ready or Not follows a new bride, Grace (Samara Weaving), as she tries to fit in with her husband Alex’s (Mark O’Brien) rich and eccentric family by participating in a post-wedding tradition of playing a game. Unfortunately, the game chosen is a version of hide and seek where, if Grace is found, she’s sacrificially killed as part of a dark and mysterious pact the family made long ago.

This is one of the most fun movies I’ve seen this year. It’s a great balance of horror and comedy; the suspense is high all the way through, keeping you guessing the whole time, and the performances had me cracking up, thanks to a stellar cast. Samara Weaving, who’s already made a name for herself in horror through the Showtime series Ash Vs Evil Dead and the Netflix movie The Babysitter, is a great final girl, and she shows some fantastic emotional range in this role. Melanie Scrofano as Alex’s sister Emilie and Kristian Brunn as her husband are especially hilarious (no surprise for anyone who’s watched him in Orphan Black). John Ralston as the butler, Stevens, is simultaneously funny and terrifying. And Nicky Guadagni as the cartoonishly villainous Aunt Helene is an absolute delight.

This movie has a lot going for it visually as well. There’s this yellow-ish gold filter that gives the film this gorgeous vintage vibe. The hair, makeup, and costumes are beautiful overall, but the standouts are Grace’s romantic, lacy wedding gown and simple braided updo, Alex’s cold and cunning sister-in-law Charity’s (Elyse Levesque) glittery evening gown, and Aunt Helene’s deep purple blazer, short, spiky, white hair, and dark makeup. Still, this is a horror movie, and despite all the pretty bits, there is plenty of blood–not gratuitously so, but definitely enough to satisfy fans of the genre, so if you’re squeamish, be prepared for that–especially toward the end.

My one gripe with this movie is that the relationship between Grace and Alex isn’t very well-developed. I can partially understand this, because it’s established early on that they’ve only been together for a year and a half, but showing a little more interaction between the newlyweds throughout the movie would have made a particular important moment toward the end either make a little more sense or be a more interesting twist.

Despite that one complaint, I genuinely enjoyed this movie and would love to watch it again. Maybe I’ll suggest it to my boyfriend for our next date night. Then again, if I hope for him to eventually to pop the question, this might not be the best movie to show him.

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Have you seen READY OR NOT? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: ANGEL HAS FALLEN (2019)

I’m not the biggest fan of the FALLEN franchise. In fact, I hated the first one and I thought the second was tolerable but still not very good. Both weren’t huge box office hits yet somehow Gerard Butler was able to convince a studio to produce another adventure of his mean-spirited hero character Mike Bannon.

After a battle simulation at his old army pal Wade Jennings’ (Danny Huston) private military facility, Mike Bannon (Gerard Butler) starts having migraine and almost passed out. As it turns out, his heroic antics from saving the President and the world have consequences. He’s constantly popping pain killer pills because of the migraines and has aches all over his body. Yet he’s still thinks he can be a field agent and was hesitant to accept the role of Director of Secret Services when President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) offered him the job.

When Bannon and his team took the President on a fishing trip, they were attacked with drones equipped with explosives. The ambush killed everyone on Bannon’s team except him and the President. Now in the hospital and being handcuffed, Bannon is being accused of attempting to assassinate the President and he’s being interviewed by FBI agent Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith). Thompson wants to know why he’s the only survivor during the attack and why his bank account now contains $10mil. Of course, Bannon denies being involved in the attack but since Trumbull is in a coma, no one can back up his innocence plea. When the FBI decided to move Bannon to jail, they were attacked by the people who’s behind the assassination attempt and Bannon was able to escape during the chaos.

Now on the run, Bannon needs to use not only his physical skills but also his wits in order to save the President and prove his innocent. He can’t do it alone, so he decided to visit his long-lost father Clay (Nick Nolte) who’s been living in the forest to avoid being monitored by the government. While back in DC, Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) is being sworn in as a temporary President and wants to avenge Trumbull’s assassination attempt by starting a war with Russia. Kirby believes the Russians is behind the attack and that Bannon is their secret agent.

The screenplay is credited to three writers, Matt Cook, Robert Mark Kamen and Ric Roman Waugh who’s also the film’s director. Their story is pretty simple and has been seen in other films before like THE FUGITIVE & AIR FORCE ONE. The audience can pretty much figure out what’s going on before the hero does. I mentioned earlier that Bannon is mean spirited in the previous films but I’m glad the writers tone down his love of violence and he seemed to not enjoy killing the bad guys so much in this film. Maybe because of our current political climate, they decided to make him more likable and not some jerk who loves killing people.

With a reported budget of $80mil, the highest in the series, the film looked like it’s super low budget. I’m not sure what sort of look cinematographer Jules O’Loughlin was going for, but the film looks like it’s a 90s direct-to-video movie. It’s inexcusable for any film to look this cheap from a major studio in today’s world of filmmaking. It’s full of bad compositions and I don’t think they even give much thoughts to color corrections during post production. I’ve seen films that looked great with half the budget. Director Waugh didn’t do much better, the action scenes were underwhelmed and very generic. Compared to the first two films, this one lacks the big action set pieces. With a bigger budget, I would assume it’s going be non-stop action, but the biggest action took place in the film’s climax at a hospital.

Performances by the actors were pretty decent. Butler decided to give a more “realistic” take on his character. He’s worn down and actually didn’t look like a super-agent killer like the previous films. Nolte’s character somehow became the comedic sidekick, which is a welcome in this series that takes itself too seriously. I’ve always like Danny Huston but his antagonist role here is pretty one dimensional and his motivation towards the end of the film is kind of moronic; that’s not his fault of course since it’s written that way. Jada Pinkett Smith’s FBI agent role could’ve been played by an unknown actor, not sure why she even accepted this role since she didn’t have much to do and hardly has any screen time. I can only assume her role was bigger in the script but was trimmed down during the editing process.

Despite my not-so-great review, I still think this one is the “best” in the series. But then again, the first two films set a pretty low bar and I actually enjoyed this one and the story kept my attention. While the last two films, I only wanted to see the shootouts and explosions. If you’re a fan of the series, then you might enjoy it, or you might be turned off by the lighter tone and less violence on Mike Bannon’s latest adventure.

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So have you seen ANGEL HAS FALLEN? Well, what did you think?

BOND 25 NEWS – New Title, Synopsis & Release Date

Well, well, well, it’s been a while since last April since we saw the Live Reveal of the cast/crew at Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s legendary Jamaican villa. Earlier today a tweet came announcing the title AND when we’ll see the movie!

Here it is again in the 16:9 format:

My first reactions is, ‘Hmmm, I thought they’re gonna have another one word title like Skyfall and Spectre, but No Time To Die isn’t terrible, though the word ‘die’ has been kinda overused in this franchise. In any case, I quite like the retro font here and the title plays on the fact that Bond has left service. Well, temporarily anyway, the synopsis tells us he’ll take up the spy mantle when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Despite rumors of numerous set problems, the 25th Bond film continues production in Jamaica and Pinewood Studios, UK. I follow director Cary Fukunaga on Instagram and he posts stuff pretty regularly. Last June, they even released a set video featuring Daniel Craig with Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Lashana Lynch (Nomi) on set. I for one can’t wait to see miss Lynch being introduced as a female 007 (as I mentioned in this post).

No sign of Rami Malek just yet though, who I think is an inspired choice as a Bond villain. Apparently Malek signed on to do the role on one condition, and it totally make sense given his background.

Per EW, “It’s a great character and I’m very excited,” Rami, who is of Egyptian descent, is quoted as saying. “But that was one thing that I discussed with Cary. I said, ‘We cannot identify him with any act of terrorism reflecting an ideology or a religion. That’s not ­something I would entertain, so if that is why I am your choice then you can count me out.’ But that was clearly not his vision. So he’s a very different kind of terrorist.” 

I’m curious to see how Malek fares as a young Bond villain, let’s hope he’ll do much better than poor Toby Stephens in Die Another Day (which basically the same meaning as No Time To Die?). I guess we’ll find out when the movie opens on Wednesday, 8 April 2020.


Well, what do YOU think about the new title?

Interview with Avengers: Endgame’s co-director Anthony Russo – ‘We Love You 3,000’ Tour

Marvel Studios celebrated the in-home release of Avengers: Endgame with the ‘WE LOVE YOU 3000’ tour. Those who have seen that movie knows the significance of that line, uttered by Iron Man‘s cutie-patootie daughter.

Nine cities and 3,000 giveaways, it’s Marvel’s way to thank fans who’ve invested 11 years in the MCU! Beginning in San Diego at Comic-Con International on July 20 and ending in Anaheim at D23 Expo 2019 the weekend of Aug. 23-25, special guests from Marvel Studios and the MCU greeted fans at various cities.

So, last Wednesday August 14, Best Buy hosted director Anthony Russo for fan meet-n-greet and signing. Thanks to Allied Global Marketing, I and three other MN film bloggers got a chance to interview Mr. Russo on the red carpet prior to the fan event.


On Display at Best Buy were a few props from Endgame, including the broken Captain America’s shield at the hands of Thanos’ mighty sword.


So I was part of the red carpet interview with fellow Twin Cities film bloggers, Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip To The Movies, Jared Huizenga from Man Versus Movie, and Mark McPherson from TwinCitiesGeek.com. Each of us took turns asking Anthony Russo a question, but because of time constraints, we only got to ask 1-2 questions each.

Listen below for the Q&A with Anthony Russo:

Paul: I have to ask what your first thoughts were when Kevin Feige told you and your brother Joe that you’d be directing the last two Avengers movies?

Ruth: In regards to your time working in the MCU, what makes you the proudest?

I’m proud that we put our best work in and I’m also grateful that it ended up working for others.

Jared: Now that we’ve come to the end of the Infinity Saga and there are 21 films. Which one is your favorite?

Mark: There’s a lot of elements you juggled on Endgame. Was there any one key aspect that you wanted to maintain throughout Endgame as things were changing?

The important things for us is in regards to the character who’s going to die in the film. We made sure we give Tony Stark a proper arc, to give them the most we could do with that arc…

Paul: How has the technology changed now since The Winter Soldier. Was there anything that you could do in Endgame that maybe you could not have done in The Winter Soldier?

Ruth: How’s your working relationship is w/ the two writers, Christopher Markus + Stephen McFeely whom they’ve worked together for 4 movies. Was there ever any friction between all four of you, and if so how did you resolve that?

“Why my brother and I like to work as a team is because we have opposing points of views… it’s like point, counterpoint, point, counterpoint, it’s like a socratic dialogue we have all day long. We love that. So not disagreeing is actually a part of why the creative relationship has value, because it helps you heat up your ideas and pushes out of your comfort zone…”


Thank you Mr. Russo for chatting with us!
Your fans love you 3000 🙂


Have you seen Avengers:Endgame? Feel free to share your thoughts about the film and/or the interviews.

FlixChatter Review – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Like so many 80’s and 90’s kids, my sister and I grew up loving the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy. While the short stories written by Alvin Schwartz are mostly variations of standard urban legends and folk tales, the original illustrations by Stephen Gammell are what really haunted us; the black and white nightmare imagery is enough to spook anyone at any age. So when it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would be producing a movie based on the series, I was ecstatic; who better to adapt these iconic books to film than the modern-day master of monster movies? But when I heard it would be a PG-13 teen horror, I deflated a bit. Would the tamer rating diminish the unsettling tone of the books and dull Del Toro’s beautifully-dark style?

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark begins on Halloween night in 1968 in a small Pennsylvania town, when a group of teens (Stella, played by Zoe Margaret Colletti; Ramón, played by Michael Garza; Auggie, played by Gabriel Rush; and Chuck, played by Austin Zajur) sneak into an abandoned house rumored to be haunted and find a mysterious old book belonging to the even more mysterious previous tenant, Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard). Soon after taking the book, the group is horrified to discover stories about them being written in it by an unseen hand in a suspiciously blood-like ink, and as the stories appear on the pages, they come to life in the real world.

Right away, I have to say the writing is messy. Using the overarching story of the kids finding this haunted book and having to solve Sarah Bellows’s mystery in order to incorporate the stories from the books into the movie leads to convoluted plot points, unrealistic character decisions that are too stupid to even suspend disbelief, and some truly cringe-worthy dialogue (“You don’t read the book-the book reads you” made my sister and me audibly groan). I really wish they had made it into an anthology-style movie so they could have fit in a few more stories from the books; there could have still been some connective tissue tying them together, a la 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat. It would have been a more succinct style of storytelling and felt less like a Goosebumps plot.

Despite the problems I have with the script, I was very pleased with the actual “scary story” bits. They were all excruciatingly and exquisitely suspenseful (“The Big Toe” scene had me clutching my sister’s sleeve and whispering “Oh no oh no oh no”), the creatures were terrifyingly designed in true Del Toro fashion while still retaining the look of Gammell’s illustrations, and they managed to make some stories I thought were pretty silly in the books (specifically “Me Tie Doughty Walker”) genuinely scary.

Acting-wise, the cast did well. Despite the lame jokes they were given, Gabriel Rush and Austin Zajur’s line delivery made me laugh out loud a few times, and Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza had some nice chemistry as Stella and Ramón. I also really enjoyed the score; the eerie melody to The Hearse Song is used effectively throughout the movie, and it sticks with you after you leave the theater.

Despite the story being underwhelming, I’d still recommend checking out Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark if you were a fan of the books, just for nostalgia’s sake. It’s a fun enough Halloween movie with some solid jump scares, and it’s probably a good intro to the genre for young, budding horror fans. [SPOILER ALERT – highlight to read] Is it good enough to warrant the sequel-baiting sting at the end? I don’t think so. But if you see it, let me know what you think!

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Have you seen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Well, what did you think?