FlixChatter Review: WORTH (2021)

worth-movie

I can’t believe that this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attack. There’s no other major disaster that’s etched in my memory like 9/11… I still remember exactly what I did when I first heard of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. I was driving to work and while sitting in traffic I heard the morning radio DJs talking about what they thought was an accident, but of course once the second plane hit the second tower, everyone knew it was a deliberate attack.

This film started with the protagonist, Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) on a train en route to his Manhattan law firm office… at first he was oblivious with his noise-canceling headphones on, as fellow passengers were in a frenzy as they saw huge smoke coming out of the twin towers. It’s hard not to feel emotional watching the characters stare out of the train window in horror… which I think is an effective opening for a film about the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The film is based on Feinberg’s book titled What is Life Worth?, in which the renowned mediation attorney described the eight-part plan in figuring out who gets what from the fund.

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I kept thinking what a thankless and impossible job it is for anyone, I mean, as the title implies… how does one measure a human being life’s worth? Is there even such thing as ‘fair’ compensation when it comes to a loss of a human life? Not to mention the ethical issue of compensating victims/their families in exchange for their agreement not to sue the airlines. You would think Congress would have an arduous time finding a special master for the fund, but in this film, Feinberg himself volunteers to do it pro-bono. Feinberg works with his law firm’s head of operations Camille (Amy Ryan) and a team of young attorneys for the months to allocate the right ‘number’ for each victim. At first Feinberg approach things in pragmatic, logical manner… which in most business circumstances is the right way to go about it. But he soon realizes one can’t exactly apply the same economics rationale when it comes to human tragedy.

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On the side of the victims, we’ve got a community organizer Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) who lost his wife in the tower attacks. At first it appears as if Wolf was ‘rescuing’ Feinberg when a few victims berated him during the Compensation Fund meeting, but Wolf later introduced himself as his biggest nemesis. Wolf actually started a protest website called Fix The Fund as he has serious issues about it, which proved to be far more popular than the Compensation Fund website. Both Keaton and Tucci were in another biographical drama dealing with a heavy subject matter, Spotlight, but they didn’t share screen time together then. The interactions of these two very different people is one of the main highlights of the film and I can’t help but sympathize with both sides throughout the film. Given that both are such terrific character actors, their roles could’ve been flipped and it would’ve worked just as well.

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Sara Colangelo, directing from a screenplay by Max Borenstein, approaches this highly-emotional subject matter with sensitivity but yet not in a heavy-handed way. There’s an appropriate amount of levity that keeps the movie from being too gloomy. In fact, I find the film quite engaging from start to finish, which is quite a feat considering the movie consist of mostly people talking in a room and not much else happening. The pace is just right in that it doesn’t rush in explaining things and allow time for mere mortals like me to process and weigh in on this complex situation. There is a lot of numbers thrown around in this movie that in a lesser film I could’ve easily been completely lost. I honestly didn’t remember much about this Victim Compensation Fund, and there are still things I’m not entirely clear about, but that’s not really the point.

I had just seen Keaton in The Protegé recently and though he is a highly versatile actor, I think he’s more effective in this role where he can emote even without saying a word. Ryan is always first rate in any film, and she believably portrays an empathetic attorney who’s deeply affected by the stories she hears from various victims. Shunori Ramanathan as Priya, one of the new hires at the firm, is quite memorable here as well as she’s the one who reaches out to Wolf during one of his community meetings.

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If I have one quibble it would be the way the film focused a bit too much on a particular victim (played by Laura Benanti), a widow of one of the firefighters who perished in the tower. As it involves the dead husband’s brother and past affairs, the film descends into melodrama a bit. I suppose the filmmakers are trying to show Feinberg’s emotional transformation, but I think the interactions between him and Wolf are more compelling without resorting to over-sentimentality. 

Overall though, I think Worth is a solid, poignant drama that’s carefully handled and wonderfully-acted. Now, without researching the real Feinberg, I’m not sure if he’s as likable as he’s being portrayed here. Of course he’s still to be commended for carrying out such an intricate task, facing pressure from all sides–the government/corporate bureaucracy that’s all about number-crunching and the victims who are stricken with grief. The ending tells the audience that by the end of the deadline set for the fund, $7 billion was awarded to 97% of the families. That makes Feinberg a hero for the government and especially the airlines as the families couldn’t sue them. As for the victims, well the film itself says it properly… there are no winners here.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen WORTH? I’d love to hear what you think!

Musings on The Matrix Resurrections trailer

Matrix-Resurrections

I have to admit I’m not one of those people who have been hugely anticipating this movie. Heck, I had not watched the two sequels after the first movie The Matrix. I might have seen clips of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, but I could hardly remember anything about either of them. Well, 22 years after the original 1999 movie, we’ve got The Matrix Resurrections.

Behold the trailer with all its neon-lights glory:

Here are 21 thoughts after watching this trailer:

  1. So Neo’s actual name is Thomas?? Somehow I’ve completely forgotten about that … Speaking of forgetting, does Neo have amnesia or something?
  2. Doogie Howser has now graduated to become Neo’s shrink??
  3. Always nice seeing Keanu Reeves on screen… I find it amusing that he looks like John Wick with his scruff and long hair, it’s as if I’m watching John Wick in a sci-fi thriller.

    Matrix-Resurrections-Keanu
  4. Awwww… he’s got rubber ducky on his head when he’s relaxing in the bath! [swoon]

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  5. First question that entered my mind… Where is Laurence Fishburne??! I absolutely loved him as Morpheus in the original. This article seems to have a theory as to why he’s absent in this sequel (something to do with an online game??) but whatever it is, I’m bummed that we won’t be seeing him in this movie.
  6. Now, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (a talented actor whose star continues to rise) is seen dressed like Morpheus with his trademark round glasses holding the red pill. He’s also seen doing the martial arts moves with Neo… but is his character young Morpheus??

    Matrix-Resurrections-Yahya-Morpheus
  7. Which brings me to another question about the timeline of this movie… is this a sequel, prequel or some kind of reboot?? I barely remember anything about The Matrix Revolutions, but apparently Neo and Trinity died in that 3rd movie, so how are they alive and well here?
  8. Is there time travel involved or some kind of multi-verse? Neo seems confused as to what’s happening to him, and he’s throwing away all the blue pills?? So is this the same Neo from the original?
  9. In the scene where Neo meets up with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss seems to be drinking from the same fountain of youth as her co-star), they don’t remember each other but have a déjà vu moment. It kind of looks like a rom-com meet-cute!

    Matrix-Resurrections-CarrieAnneMoss
  10. I had a giggle seeing this scene of Neo in an elevator full of young people and they’re all looking at their phones! He looks up and see even more people doing the same.

    Matrix-Resurrections-Neo-elevator
  11. Who is that man reflected in the mirror when Neo is looking at it?

    Matrix-Resurrections-Neo-mirror
  12. So it looks like Lana Wachowski directs this one without his sibling Lilly, though she is still credited as the writer. I wonder why that is…
  13. This has got to be the only franchise in Hollywood (or even the world) where the directors of the original franchise returns to direct as a new gender.
  14. Well, it won’t be The Matrix without some Kung-Fu involved… Yahya’s character hints that they had known each other in the past, though here Neo seems to have the upper hand.

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  15. Looks like Neo’s got a new guide, this time in the form of Jessica Henwick (who I first saw in The Defenders series) as she’s got the white rabbit tattoo on her arm.

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  16. Tons of robots and machinery in this new world, which is to be expected, but THIS reminds me of Spider-man’s Doc Ock’s tentacles.

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  17. Regardless of when or where this is set, the important thing Neo’s still able to dodge bullets…
  18. Are Neo and Trinity able to fly now??

    Matrix-Resurrections-flying
  19. The shape-shifting agents in black suits are back, but man I’m going to miss Hugo Weaving. His line delivery is so iconic!

    Matrix-Resurrections-agent
  20. Who is Jonathan Groff playing? I only knew him as Kristoff’s voice from Frozen, ahah. Well the character is wearing a sharp suit which immediately makes me think he could be Agent Smith’s ally or boss? It doesn’t seem like a friendly meeting and Neo has a skeptical/worried look on his face.

    Matrix-Resurrections-Groff
  21. There is SO much action going on in this trailer it was dizzying! But one thing for sure the visuals look amazing! It’s interesting to see TWO cinematographers credited, Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll, both of them had worked with the Wachowskis in Cloud Atlas.Even now with more sci-fi films starting to look the same with the vivid colors and neon lights, The Matrix was the first franchise that revolutionized cinema’s visual effects. I mean the ‘bullet-time’ technique alone has been copied a bunch of times by other films/video games.

    Matrix-Resurrections-neon-streets

I sure hope the story will be as compelling as the visual spectacle… at least makes it something worth revisiting again after two decades!

The Matrix Resurrections will be released in theaters and on HBO Max December 22.


What do you think of The Matrix Resurrections trailer? 

The Flix List: List of Misfires from big-name stars/filmmakers that I enjoyed

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Many film fans get excited when a film with big named stars or director or both are attached to a project. We assume that the film will be great and studio executives thinks it will be a box office gold and/or Oscar contender during the awards season. Unfortunately, most films with an all-starred cast or famed directors tends to disappoint and forgotten once it hits theaters. Below are some of the misfire films that included big named stars and/or directors and I really enjoyed all of them. By no means that I think these are great films, I do think they’re above average that has potential to be great films.

1. The Counselor (2013)

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When this film was announced, it was met with excitement by many film fans (including yours truly) since it’s the first script written by famed author Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott quickly signed on to direct it. The news got even better when the all-star cast was announced. How can a film that stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem and a talented director like Ridley Scott fail? The studio thought this was going to be an Oscar contender, so they opened the film in the prime award season in the fall of 2013, but it was met with dismal reviews and failed at the box office.



So, what went wrong with this film? I think the script is the main problem here. McCarthy is a great novel writer but his screenplay for this film needed a lot of revisions. The dialogs were spoken like something from his novels and while it worked in the printed form, it needed some revisions to make it work as a screenplay. I’m quite surprised that Ridley Scott shot the film with this script. I don’t think it’s a bad movie but with a refined script, it could’ve been something special. I still enjoyed the heck out of this film though.

2. ALIEN 3 (1992)

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I was hesitant to include this one since David Fincher was still a young and upcoming director when he made this film. And because of this film’s failure, it almost destroys his career in Hollywood. But he bounced back a few years later with SE7EN and he’s been an A-list director ever since, so I think it’s fair to include it here. This film has a long development history, there were many versions of the scripts that were pitched, and a lot of directors were considered to take on the project.

Fox scheduled the film to open in the summer of 1992 and put a pressure on the film’s producers to get the film made or risk it being cancelled. The producers needed someone to come in and just make the approved script comes to life and decided to hire a young no-name director. Fincher at the time has been directing popular music videos for famous singers such as Madonna and George Michael. You can read more about behind the scenes making of this film here. While this film didn’t come close to the first two films, it’s still a visual feast that would’ve been great had Fincher was able to make it the way he envisioned it.

3. Meet Joe Black (1998)

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Brad Pitt became a super star in the 1990s thanks to hits like Se7en, The Legends of the Falls, Interview with the Vampire and 12 Monkeys. Hoping to cash in on his minted super star status, Universal Studios decided to cast him in a big budget romantic drama (reportedly this film cost around $90mil), alongside another big star at the time, Anthony Hopkins. The studio even believed it’s going to be an Oscar contender by opening it in the prime awards month of November. It was directed by Martin Brest, whose previous films including Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman were box office hits and well received by critics.

Unfortunately, the film was met with terrible reviews, and it became one of the biggest bombs of that year. I took my then girlfriend to see it since she’s a big Brad Pitt fan, she fell asleep halfway through, but I totally dug the film. I still think it’s one of the best romantic dramas that I’ve ever seen. I do think that it’s way too long and the ending was kind of weak. But I enjoyed the performances by the actors, the score by Thomas Newman and the beautiful production design.

4. The Bonfire of Vanities (1990)

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Based on a popular book and starring 3 of the biggest movie stars at the time and a hot director behind the cameras. This film was supposed to be slam dunk hit for the studio. Tom Hanks was on a roll with hits like Big and Turner & Hooch. Bruce Willis just came off of the Die Hard hits and Melanie Griffith struck gold with Working Girl. I was too young to remember much about this film when it came out, but I do remember seeing tons and tons of commercials promoting it. Warner Bros. thought that it was going to be a box office gold and Oscar contender by opening it on Christmas week. Just like every other film on this list, it was met with terrible reviews and became one of the biggest box bombs of the 90s.

Because of its reputation, I didn’t see this film until I was in college and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

The film has some issues of course, mainly Willis. He’s total miscast here, and you can tell he’s way out of his elements in that role. Hanks and Griffith on the hand, I thought they were great in their respective roles. Hanks and Willis were able to recover their career after this film’s failure. Even director Brian De Palma bounced back a few years later with Mission: Impossible. The only career casualty here is Melanie Griffith. While she headlined a lot of films in the 90s, she never regains her box office star status after this film.

5. The Last Action Hero (1993)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger was on top of the world in the late 80s and early 90s. With four box office hits in a row, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop and T2: Judgement Day, everyone predicted that his next film will be a massive hit. It was announced that his next big film will be called Last Action Hero and John McTiernan, director of Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, has signed on to direct the picture. Since T2 was still in everyone’s mind, many of us were excited for this film and with McTiernan behind the cameras, what could go wrong right?

Well sadly, a lot of things went wrong with this film.

It was advertised as a straight up action/adventure but when people saw it, the film turned out to be an action/comedy. Worst was that McTiernan just don’t have the chops to do comedy. The action scenes were great but when it comes comedic tone, everything fell flat. I still enjoyed the film, but I was let down when I saw in theater. Apparently, the screenplay was written for Steven Spielberg, and he was interested in directing it. But then he read a script for another film that came out in same summer of 1993, Jurassic Park and took that job instead. Maybe the film would’ve worked better with Spielberg at the helms. Sadly, we will never know. Along with Waterworld, this film became one of the biggest box office disasters of the 1990s.

6. The Devil’s Own (1997)

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Brad Pitt has starred in a lot of misfires in his career, and I have three of them on my list here. This project started out as a mid-size budget production, but its budget ballooned up to over $100mil by the time the production wrapped. According to many reports, Pitt loved the script so much that he personally pitched it to the studio, and they agreed to put it into production. Then Harrison Ford got a hold of the script and wants to be in it. Apparently, his role in the script was a secondary character but the studio demanded a rewrite so Ford can be the lead. Of course, this made Brad Pitt very angry, he assumes he’s going to be the only big star in the film. 

Around this time, Ford was still a major box office draw, and his star power outshines the younger Pitt. Pitt apparently was so pissed that he wanted to leave the film during the shoot but was threatened with a lawsuit by the studio, so he stayed.

Originally the film was supposed to open in the awards season of 1996 but got push to spring of 1997. Once it finally opened, it was dead on arrival. The bad press surrounding the production of the film were all over the internet and the film itself wasn’t that great. The main problem with the film is that it couldn’t decide if it’s supposed to be drama or action and they tried to have it both ways. I still think it’s a decent thriller and I’ve enjoyed it even more when I watched it again in later years.

7. The Midnight Sky (2020)

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The most recent film on the list and my personal disappointment of last year. I reviewed the film back in the winter, you can read here. Based on an excellent novel called Good Morning, Midnight. When the film version was announced, I was very excited, although I was skeptical when George Clooney was going to direct it along with being the lead. But he did direct some good movies in the past so I thought it could work. Even Netflix put a lot of trust in Clooney but giving him over $100mil to make the film and scheduled it to come out during the awards season last year.

Unfortunately, they miss an opportunity on making a great space adventure with this one. I’ve said many times, a more well-seasoned and talented director should’ve been hired to helm this picture. There are enough ingredients for this one to be a special picture, but Clooney just couldn’t deliver.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


Those are some of the misfires that I enjoyed; do you have any other films that you would add to this list? 

FlixChatter Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Phase Four of the MCU started off with Black Widow, which ends up being of my favorites of the entire MCU. While that one is a long-overdue female representation, Shang-Chi is even more so in terms of Asian representation, both in front and behind the camera, so naturally there’s a lot riding on this film. I had been on vacation when the movie came out, so as soon as I came back, my hubby and I immediately booked tickets to see it at a local cinema. We managed to find a theater with an UltraScreen DLX and I’m so glad we did, the visuals is as stunning as one would expect from Marvel.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton didn’t waste much time to immerse us into the world of Shang-Chi, and having the legendary Hong Kong star Tony Leung as Wenwu didn’t hurt as he absolutely commands your attention as soon as you see him on screen. I’m glad the film skipped the opening credits and went straight into the origin story… chronicling Wenwu’s journey after he obtained the magical ten rings and his unquenchable thirst for power. We’re treated to some stunning fight choreography right from the start, and Mr. Leung is no stranger to martial art movies so it’s so great to see him perform those moves and the 59 year old actor is still as sprightly as ever.

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I’m especially glad that they didn’t strip him off his romantic charm as well. Having just seen In The Mood For Love recently, Mr. Leung is just as charismatic in dramas as he is in action flicks, and here we get to see him fall in love with a beautiful woman named Li (a luminous Fala Chen). A voice over narration explains that Wenwu’s conquered pretty much the entire earthly universe, but it was not enough for him he tried to conquer those outside earth and that’s when he met Li who guards the ethereal world of Ta-Lo. The fight sequences amidst a bamboo forest evokes scenes from Zhang Yimou’s House of Flying Daggers.

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For a while, it seemed love conquered all as Wenwu didn’t use the ten rings and seemingly content living a peaceful life as a family life with his wife and two kids. But all hell break loose when Li dies and Wenwu is now consumed with vengeance, which leads to Shang-Chi running away and starting a new life in San Francisco. Simu Liu has that instant likability about him that works for the role… Shaun (as he now calls himself) works as a valet attendant with his bestie Katy (Awkwafina). They make for quite a dynamic duo who constantly poke fun at each other, their rapport feels natural and effortless.

I love the small touches of Asian-American life when Shaun picks up Katy at her apartment home and her multi-generational family are having breakfast together. It’s common for Asian parents to constantly berate their kids for not applying themselves fully, and the fact that Katy has a degree from a good school and now working as a valet doesn’t exactly spell success for her parents. 

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There’s a fun mix of humor and action, starting with the first big fight scene inside a moving bus where we see Shaun’s extraordinary ability. Katy’s stunned expression as he witness his best friend tackle a bunch of bad guys is all of us… as it’s the first time we get to see Simu Liu emerges as a formidable action hero. The fight sequences are phenomenal, especially the one between Simu and Razor Fist, the leader of the Ten Rings organization started by Wenwu back in the Middle Ages. Fist is played by Florian Munteanu (who was in Creed II opposite Michael B. Jordan), an enormous guy with a fiery sword for an arm. Some of the bus driving scenes reminds me of Speed, which could be intentional given Keanu Reeves is the most famous actor of mixed Chinese descent. 

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Though he survives the fight, Shang-Chi realizes his jade pendant got stolen in the process. Realizing his father is going after the other pendant his mom had given to his sister, he decides to track her down in Macau. Another impressive action scene ensues at an underground fight club where we get to see Wong fight Abomination in the ring. It’s always fun to see Benedict Wong on screen, in and out of the MCU.

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Shang-Chi’s opponent turns out to be her own sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) who had also ran away from home and had become a force to be reckoned with, not just physically but in terms of business as well as she actually owns the club. I really appreciate the female representation in addition to the racial one as the movie is filled with strong, powerful women who forge their own path to success. “If my father won’t let me into his empire, I will build my own” You go girl! I now count Zhang as one of my favorite MCU heroines and that post-credit scene promises something more with her character. It would be so great to see a MCU spin-off with Xialing. 

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The night action scenes that follow is quite breathtaking as well .The building fight scene with lit by neon billboards reminds me a bit of the one in Skyfall, but this movie made it their own with some thrilling Kung Fu moves. This long action scene shows not just Shang-Chi’s incredible abilities but Xialing’s as well who is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

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Speaking of powerful women, you can’t go wrong with casting another Asian veteran actor Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan, Shang-Chi’s aunt. After Shang-Chi, Katy and Xialing were captured by the Ten Rings army, they learn that Wenwu is planning to go back to Ta-Lo to destroy it. Somehow he’s haunted by a voice he thought were of his wife asking him to rescue him.

The journey as they escape the Ten Rings compound is actually pretty hilarious, thanks to SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] the appearance of Trevor Slattery aka The Mandarin, the washed-up actor played by Sir Ben Kingsley. He is so funny in this movie, along with his sidekick pet Morris, a furry dog with sparkly wings, one of the mythical creatures from Ta-Lo. With Trevor/Morris’ help, they were able to reach Ta-Lo without being eaten by the bamboo forest. Once there, they’re trained by Ying Nan as they prepare to fight Wenwu.

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I have to say the third act is a bit too bombastic for my taste, which is my quibble with a lot of superhero movies out there. The final battle is a loud, CGI-fest scenario which I suppose is unavoidable when it involves a large dragon and other flying mythical creatures. Thankfully it doesn’t descend to the absurd level of Man of Steel where the last 15-20 minute or so is absolutely aggravating instead of thrilling.

It’s wise that writers Dave Callaham, Andrew Lanham and Destin Daniel Cretton pepper the big action spectacle with smaller, more character-driven scenes such as giving Katy a chance to make her mark amongst those with extraordinary abilities. I love the final scenes between Shang-Chi and Wenwu, displaying a complex, emotional father-son dynamic that humanizes the fantastical narrative. I also commend Cretton that he incorporates the flashback scenes in such a way that move the story forward instead of making it feel tedious or repetitive.

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There are a lot to love and appreciate in this movie, and I really can’t say enough about the fantastic casting of Tony Leung. Can’t believe this is his first ever role in an American film and his first English-speaking role, but he brings such dignity and humanity to the role, his emotional performance made Wenwu so much more than just a one-dimensional villain. In fact, he’s more of a tragic character than an all-out evil person hellbent on destroying the world. He and Michelle Yeoh automatically add immense gravitas just by being present in this film.

I’m happy to say I’m impressed with Simu Liu as an action hero and I think he shines in the more dramatic moments as well. I was slightly worried Awkwafina might be too much in the best-friend role but she’s actually delightful to watch here. She works well together with Simu instead of outshining him with her larger-than-life personality. 

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Overall, I’m so glad I get to see Shang-Chi on the big screen in its opening weekend. It’s massively entertaining with dazzling action sequences + fight choreography, shot beautifully by Bill Pope. The fact that Stan Lee modeled Shang-Chi character after Bruce Lee, of course we expect stunning fight scenes and this movie delivered! There are plenty of outstanding scenes that will stand as one of the most memorable of the MCU, the bus fight is definitely one of them. For me, as a critic of Southeast Asian descent, it’s obviously thrilling to see the success of a movie with mostly Asian cast and an Asian director at the helm. I’m happy to say Shang-Chi is top tier MCU and glad to read the box office numbers looks good, which is a huge win for Asian representation in Hollywood. Hopefully it has longer legs the fact that it’s playing exclusively in theaters. One thing for sure, this one deserves to be seen in as big a screen as possible.

4/5 stars


Have you seen SHANG-CHI? I’d love to hear what you think!

The Wheel of Time – New teaser trailer is here!!

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I’m technically still on vacation until Labor Day, but when my friend Laura told me the Wheel of Time trailer has dropped, I just had to post this!! If you’re not familiar with this subject matter, the Amazon Prime series is based on Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time book series.

Laura, who’s a massive WOT fan, has posted five things to know about this series in this post, so head over there if you’d like to know more about it. Well, without further ado, here’s the teaser trailer:

Woo wee! I really like the look of this trailer… it certainly gives me a The Lord of the Rings vibe which is definitely a good thing. It feels less Game of Thrones as many media outlets have compared it to. Per Laura’s post… “I don’t think it’s accurate to compare them. Firstly, Wheel of Time is a lot more straightforward fantasy than Game of Thrones was. Yes, Game of Thrones has dragons and ice zombies, but most of the focus was on the politics. Wheel of Time leans a lot more heavily into the magical aspect of the world. Secondly, the tone is a lot different. Obviously I can’t say what the show’s tone will be like, but the books at least aren’t nearly as dark and gritty as Game of Thrones, and I doubt the show will be either.”

I’m happy to see plenty of powerful female roles here, played by really strong actors of diverse backgrounds, most notably Rosamund Pike and Sophie Okonedo, who are both British. I’m also excited to see American/Korean actor Daniel Henney in a prominent role as well, yay!!

The visuals also look amazing, which is to be expected for a big budget series like this one. Well, hopefully we get to see the full trailer before the series drops on Amazon Prime on November 19 here in the US. I know what I’ll be watching this Fall!


So what do you think of the teaser? Are you excited for WHEEL OF TIME?

August 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Hello, hello!! I’m posting my end-of-the-month recap a bit early this month as I’m taking a week-long hiatus. My hubby and I flying to L.A. tomorrow until Labor Day, woot! We got tickets to see John Williams conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic – Maestro of the Movies at the Hollywood Bowl. I could hardly contain my excitement as I absolutely LOVE his scores. I’m giddy just thinking of seeing the orchestra play some of my favorites, which I’ve listed in this post… plus I’ve never been to this historic outdoor amphitheater, so it’ll be a fun Friday night!

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Ok, now on to the movie report… I’ve actually seen more films that I thought I would, so I’m quite happy about that!

NEW TO ME MOVIES

As I haven’t finished packing, I’m not going to rate those I haven’t reviewed, but I’m just going to link those that I have written about.

Hampstead (2017)

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I have to admit I was curious to check this out largely because of the UK setting (didn’t I tell you I’m an Anglophile?) and that I like Brendan Gleeson… plus it’s got James Norton who I wish had more screen time. To be honest, I’m not too fond of watching Diane Keaton for some reason and this movie did not change my mind. I think it’s ok, a bit too predictable and their romance lacks serious spark.

Free Guy (2021)

Annette (2021)

The Suicide Squad (2021)

CODA* (2021)

Green Lantern (2011)

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After watching Free Guy and seeing interviews of Ryan Reynolds, I realized I haven’t watched his first superhero movie. Well, it is as terrible as what people have said, no wonder Reynolds himself continue to make fun of it, ahah. Hey at least he got to meet the love of his life Blake Lively who’s just so gorgeous in, well anything. The movie is not only dumb but also really ugly to look at, those garish green is really the color of neon vomit, blech!

Val (2021)

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar (2021)

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I don’t know what came over me that I decided to watch this head-scratcher of a movie! Yikes!! File this under ‘what in the world did I just watch?’ It is as bizarre as everyone has made it out to be, and not exactly in a good way… I was either confused or cringing the entire time. Jamie Dornan must have a predilection for weird movies as he did this practically back to back after Wild Mountain Thyme

Hungry Hearts

HungryHearts-Driver

I was hoping to watch this during the Adam Driver marathon last month but the movie didn’t arrive in time. My friend who still has a Netflix DVD subscription lent it to me and despite this movie not being pleasant to watch, I’m glad I finally watched it. It’s quite amusing too that there’s a baby involved here as I had just seen Annette last month… but this time it’s an actual baby instead of a puppet, ahah. Driver is as immensely watchable as ever even being mostly in sad/forlorn/angry state, but I don’t think I’d ever want to watch it again.

The Protégé

Reminiscence* (2021)

The Girl In The Book* (2015)

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I was looking for films directed by women and came across this one on Prime Video. I only knew Emily VanCamp from MCU, but she’s quite good here as an aspiring writer who’s haunted by her past when a famous author appeared in her life again. The late Swedish actor Mikael Nyqvist played the author… there were some disturbing scenes but fortunately it was shot with the female gaze that it didn’t feel sexually exploitative.

The Souvenir* (2019)

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I had been wanting to see this for ages, so it’s disappointing that it turns out pretty dull. I think the coming-of-age premise is intriguing, but the too-slow pace feels tedious and self-indulgent. Plus I just can’t connect with the central character (played by Honor Swinton Byrne) at all. I did like Tom Burke here and am amused to see Honor’s mom Tilda Swinton as her mother, but overall it’s a total bore.

Love & Basketball* (2000)

LoveandBasketball

Ahhh… finally I got to see this terrific rom-com written & directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood! Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps have such a lovely chemistry AND they look believable as basketball players! I love that it’s more than just romance as both characters pursue their passion and shows that women can play ball just as good as men! There’s so much to appreciate here that I just might write a full review on it one day. So yeah, I enjoyed this one immensely, in fact I’m still kicking myself why it took me so long to finally see this.

The Lost Leonardo documentary (2021)

Out Kind Of Traitor* (2016)

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I’m always up for seeing a spy thriller based on John le Carré’s novel, especially one directed by a woman. Susanna White directed my favorite Jane Eyre adaptation (2006) and she did an excellent job here as well. Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris play a couple who somehow got involved in a Russian oligarch’s defection plans, played by Stellan Skarsgård. It’s a pretty solid thriller with some genuine mystery and suspense, so I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of le Carré’s work.

Worth* (2021)

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The last film I watched this month ends up being quite an emotional one. Can’t believe 9/11 happened nearly 20 years ago… and watching some of the scenes unfold still took my breath away. Sara Colangelo directed this with a sensitive but deft touch, which tells the story of attorney Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) who’s appointed by Congress to lead the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. It’s definitely one of Keaton’s best, most controlled performance, with Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan lending some memorable turns as well. The title is perfect for this thought-provoking film which might be tough to watch for some who are personally affected by the tragedy.


52 films by womenMovies indicated with * (asterisk) indicates those directed by women. I’m  happy to report that I managed to see SEVEN female-directed films, woo hoo!! I’m hopeful I can actually complete the 52 Films By Women challenge by the end of the year.


TV SERIES

The Pursuit of Love* (2021)

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I love period dramas and especially those set in England! I like the cast (Lily James, Emily Beecham, Dominic West) and it’s directed by Emily Mortimer. A romantic comedy-drama about love and friendship set in Europe before WWII, it’s well-acted and pretty entertaining overall, but I find it uneven and not as emotional as I had hoped. The set pieces are nice to look at, but I don’t think it’ll stick in my mind for too long.

Ted Lasso 2 (2021)

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Movies that Made Us: Pretty Woman(2021)
Movies that Made Us: Forrest Gump (2021)

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Charlie’s Angels – Fallen Angel ep (1979)

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Bless you TUBI! They actually have the entire Charlie’s Angels series on there. I had been wanting to watch the Fallen Angel episode with my eternal crush Timothy Dalton! The series is SO dated and kind of silly, but I LOVE seeing Dalton as a millionaire playboy/jewel thief Damian Roth who’s romancing Farrah Fawcett. They even referred Damian as James-Bondian, which is interesting given that Cubby Broccoli had wanted him to play Bond for years before Dalton finally agreed.


REWATCHES

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) + The Living Daylights (1987)

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I was feeling rather indulgent that I decided to rewatch movies starring my new and old crush, ahah. I guess I have a thing for tall, dark, handsome actors who can make anger/sadness look sexy 😉

I actually find Adam Driver hilarious as Kylo Ren initially, but he’s such a charismatic actor and immensely watchable in pretty much anything. 

As for The Living Daylights, well it remains one of my all time favorite Bond films, though it’s a bit eerie to watch those scenes in Afghanistan, and seeing the Mujahideen as his ally. In any case, I still think Timothy Dalton is my favorite 007 who I wish had done a 3rd or even 4th Bond film!


AUGUST MOVIE OF THE MONTH

CODA (2021)

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I’ve posted my full review of this powerful and deeply moving film that feature actual deaf actors in prominent roles. I can’t recommend this enough and it’s available to stream on AppleTV.


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in AUGUST?

FlixChatter Review: The Lost Leonardo (2021)

LostLeonardo

I vaguely remember reading about a painting being sold for a record-breaking $400+ million a few years ago, but I didn’t remember exactly which painting it was. Well, this documentary by Danish filmmaker Andreas Koefoed traced the 12-year journey of the Salvator Mundi (Latin for Savior of the World) that was originally discovered at a New Orleans auction house. It went from $1175 in 2005 prior to its restoration by renowned conservator/restorer Dianne Modestini, all the way to $450 million by the time it was sold at Christie’s in 2017. If you pay attention to the opening sequence graphics, it shows the exponential growth of its value over the years… which goes to show that art world isn’t so much about the love of art, it’s all about money… it’s another avenue to store money for the rich.

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One of the talking heads said that “After drugs n prostitution, the art market is the most unregulated market in the world… you don’t know who owns something, how much it’s worth, who’s buying or selling it…” Despite the fact that it’s not 100% certain that the painting is done by Leonardo Da Vinci himself, the elite art collectors and general public alike were in awe of the Salvator Mundi. After being shown at the The National Gallery in London (at the Da Vinci exhibition), the painting gained immense celebrity status that it even dubbed the male Mona Lisa. 

I’m always fascinated by the art world, but the film also touched upon art commerce, history, even international politics, such as the feud between a Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev and Le Freeport owner Yves Bouvier. Even CIA operatives were interviewed and one of them talked about how money can be moved in different ways thru the Free Port system, which exists as a tax free haven from the ultra rich so they can keep expensive purchases secret from tax authorities. It’s so sad to see art simply existing in a vacuum, amazing paintings and other art work are sitting in the dark in these big warehouses instead of being seen and appreciated by people.

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The film itself is brilliantly-directed. I’ve seen so many documentaries that are so dull to watch despite its intriguing subject matter. It even played like a thriller at times, as the mystery of the painting’s authenticity and where it would go next continues to pique my curiosity. Koefoed keeps the standard talking head interviews from being tedious like in many documentaries. I also like how the news quotes shown like clippings that fade in and out the screen. From art scholars, art critic, investigators, even Yves Bouvier himself talking about his legal battle with Rybolovlev, everyone has something interesting to say about the Salvator Mundi. Art critic Jerry Saltz in particular is the most animated talker and he happens the be the only one who staunchly doubt the painting is an authentic Leonardo. 

LostLeonardo_Christie

The film certainly has the ingredients of a good thriller–money, power, greed, treachery–as art is nothing more than collateral or power showcase. The third act plays like a detective story, and I’m glad I didn’t remember the news on it as I was kept in suspense as to who ends up buying the painting for $450 million! Let me just leave you with the acronym MBS… which is just so creepy considering the kind of man he is and the criminal stuff he continues to get away with. One of the talking heads suggest that the reason he bought the painting is that ‘he might have seen himself as the savior of the world’ [shudder]

At the end of the film, I feel the most for Modestini who’s affected greatly by her assessment that the painting is a Leonardo. As someone who truly cares about art and thinks the painting belongs in a museum, it must pain her to see where Salvator Mundi ends up at the hands of people who have no regard for it, or any art form for that matter. I for one can’t imagine a piece of art could be worth SO much, but I suppose it is naive of me to think that people who buy such a painting do it because they appreciate its beauty or that it has some profound meaning to them, and this documentary definitely serves as a chilling eye-opener. 

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The Lost Leonardo is proof just how riveting a good documentary can be. The production values is top notch as well, with beautiful cinematography by Adam Jandrup and evocative Italian-tinged music by Sveinung Nygaard. Definitely one of the best documentaries I’ve seen so far, and one that just might end up on my best film list of the year.

4/5 stars

Have you seen The Lost Leonardo? I’d love to hear what you think!