FlixChatter Review: VENOM (2018)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The next Marvel Comics superhero action movie released by Sony Pictures in 2018 is Venom. The movie is the first film in Sony’s Marvel Universe, which is auxiliary to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Think The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming, etc.) This means that the studio intended to start a new shared universe of Marvel characters featuring those which Sony possesses film rights to and they also intend for the film to share the world of Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, alongside Michelle Williams as Anne Weying, and Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake/Riot.

Venom basically centers on the story of Eddie Brock (Hardy), an investigative journalist who is dating Anne Weying (Williams), a District Attorney in San Francisco. Brock scores an interview with Carlton Drake (Ahmed) who is the CEO of The Life Foundation, and their research facility in San Francisco has been hit a lawsuit regarding Drake’s use of human trials to conduct research. When The Life Foundation discovers a comet covered in symbiotic lifeforms, they bring four samples back to Earth, but one escapes and causes the ship to crash. They recover three symbiots and transport them to their research facility, but the fourth escapes and takes human hosts as it makes it way to San Francisco. Brock is approached by Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), one of Drake’s scientists who wants to help Brock expose him because she disagrees with his use of human trails. Skirth helps Brock break into the research facility to search for evidence, but a symbiote escapes from the body of woman used for human trials and transfers itself into Brock’s body. When Drake discovers Skirth’s betrayal, he kills her and sends a team to retrieve the symbiote from Brock. The symbiote takes over Brock’s body and transforms him into a monstrous creature that fights off the attackers.

The symbiote makes contact with Brock, and tells him that it is called Venom. It explains that the comet that The Life Foundation discovered is actually an invasion force that is searching for new worlds where the symbiotes can possess and devour their inhabitants. Venom offers to spare Brock if Brock helps the symbiotes achieve their goal, and he gets to possess the superhuman attributes that the symbiote gives him. Brock soon learns that the symbiote has two weaknesses: high-pitched noises and fire. Weying dumps Brock after she gets fired for helping Brock sneak into The Life Foundation but later she helps Brock when he struggles to cope with Venom’s strengths and weaknesses. Although Venom claims the Brock’s organ damage is a fixable part of their symbiosis, Weying uses an MRI machine to weaken the symbiote long enough for Brock to separate from it. Brock is then captured by Drake’s men. As the fourth symbiote Riot makes its way to San Francisco, it overpowers Drake and makes him take Riot in a Life Foundation space vessel to collect the rest of the symbiotes and bring them to Earth.

Weying reluctantly lets Venom take over her body so that they can free Brock from Drake’s capture. When Venom regains control of Brock’s body, it tells Brock that it has been convinced to help protect the Earth from other symbiotes through his understanding/connection with Brock and the human race, and they attempt to stop Riot (in Drake’s body) with Weying’s help. SPOILERS (highlight to read): Venom damages Riot’s space vessel as it takes off, causing it to explode and kill Riot (and Drake’s body). Weying also believes that Venom died in the explosion and that Brock is no longer taken over by Venom after this. However, Venom did not die and it secretly remains inside Brock and they set out to protect the city from dangerous criminals.

At the end, Brock goes back to investigative journalism and a future plot point is discussed in a mid-credit scene, featuring serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). This is probably the most interesting part of the movie, as the other parts seem like they’ve been used before in Iron Man, Thor or Captain America. I am intrigued to what Woody Harrelson’s character will bring in future installments of this comic universe. Sadly, Venom was not a very strong movie in my opinion. What made it watchable was Tom Hardy, and the crazy voice he used as Venom.

Overall, this was a fun and intriguing movie with a very long and scattered plot line. While Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams tried to make their characters seem interesting and warm, they were not very successful in doing so. Hardy should take a page out of Deadpool and write some of him own lines for Venom 2, just as Ryan Reynolds did for Deadpool 2. Perhaps Hardy’s humor could benefit him more when he is in charge of what he says. Here’s to hoping the inevitable sequel is better than the first Venom.


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

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FlixChatter Review: THE PREDATOR (2018)

John McTiernan’s Predator came out 31 years ago, it spawned 2 sequels and 2 spinoffs. The original film felt fresh when it’s released back in the late 80s and I think it’s one of the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films. The two sequels weren’t as good, both has its moments but quite forgettable to me. The spinoffs Alien vs. Predator were just awful. Yet somehow the studio folks at Fox never gave up the idea that it can turn into some profitable franchise for them. So, when Shane Black’s career got a new life after the success of Iron Man 3, he was offered a chance to write and direct a new solo Predator film.

While on a mission somewhere in in the jungle of Mexico, army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) has an encounter with the Predator when its ship crash landed near his vicinity. McKenna decided to take a closer look at the alien spaceship but quickly realized he’s in danger when the occupant turns out to be hostile and killed all of his sniper teammates. But before he escaped, he’s able to grab some of the Predator’s equipment and sent them back to his house. After he escaped, McKenna was taken into questioning by a secret government agency lead by Traeder (Sterling K. Brown). Knowing he’s in danger with his own government, McKenna decided to keep his mouth shut and said he doesn’t know anything about what he saw but Traeder didn’t believe him and put him on a bus to take him to a more secure location for more questioning. While on the bus, McKenna got to know some weird characters ex-military men prisoners. Back at his home, the Predator’s items ended up at the hands of this autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who studies them intently and accidentally sending a signal to another Predator who comes to earth for blood.

Traeder’s team was able to capture the predator and decided to call up a scientist named Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to help with figuring out why the alien is back on earth. Of course, things didn’t turn out well and the Predator was able to free himself and killed a lot of people. It’s now up to Mckenna and his team of ex-military misfits to stop not one but two Predators from destroying the world.

Co-written by Black and his best bud Fred Dekker, the story is kind of mess. There’s no real focus on the plot, there are plenty of ideas being thrown around but Black and Dekker are only interested in delivering funny dialogs and on-screen violence. Also, by giving us more information about the Predator’s intention, it just took out the mysteries surrounding these creatures and made them less scary. To me, what worked in the first film was the lack of information about the Predator, it’s here to hunt people for sports and it kills for fun; that to me made the first film kind of scary.

Speaking of violence, Black intended to make this film as hard R rated as he could, so if you have weak stomach, you might not like the over the top violence being shown on screen. The most disappointing thing to me about this film was the lack of any signature action scenes. Sure, there are plenty of action in the film but most of them were badly-shot or ended way too quickly. Black is known for writing some of the best action films ever made, but as a director, he just doesn’t know how to execute his written words for the screen.

Performance wise, I think the supporting cast were pretty good. But I was never a fan of Holbrook and he’s not a strong leading man material. He’s the kind of actor who tends overacts and I never believe the character he’s portraying. Sterling K. Brown seemed to have a lot of fun, his character is combination of Carl Weather’s character from the first film and Gary Busey’s from the second. He overacts in a lot of his scenes, but I didn’t mind it too much. Just like other Predator films, Munn’s the only female character in the story and I thought she carried herself pretty well. I’m just glad they didn’t make her into another damsel-in-distress type.

I think this is a film that could’ve been a lot better with fresh eyes, but with Black having full control, he really wants to take the audience back into the old style of action films from bygone years. I personally don’t mind that at all if it’s well made but this latest sequel was just too messy and didn’t have a real focus. While I enjoyed some parts of it, I kind of wish they got a new crew to work on this one.

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So have you seen The Predator? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: A Star Is Born (2018)

Once in a while, a film came along that you couldn’t stop thinking and talking about for days, maybe weeks. I may be one of the last few people in the universe who have never seen any of the three prior adaptation of A Star Is Born. Somehow I managed to avoid reading about the whole story, which adds a bit of mystery to it all. But even if you have seen all three and very familiar with this epic love drama, you still should see Bradley Cooper’s version simply because well, it’s an amazing film.

The contrast between two musicians at two opposite spectrum, one shooting up the stratosphere and the other on a downward spiral sure makes for a great cinematic adaptation.  Right from the moment the film opens, with Cooper’s Jackson Maine going up to the stage, popping pills before he performed to an audience of thousands. You can see the dread and sadness in his eyes… despite all his fame and money and success. I was immediately blown away by Cooper’s gravely voice, apparently he trained so much that he lowered his voice down one octave! The whole scene was so beautifully-filmed and the angle from the stage makes you feel like you’re actually there.

It doesn’t take long before Jackson meets the woman he soon falls in love with that would change his life forever. Lady Gaga’s Ally singing La Vie En Rose in that drag club will surely thrill her Little Monsters but as more of a casual fan of hers, I too was captivated by her. Gaga’s star quality is indisputable, but it’s after she takes her makeup off is when she truly shines. That’s another directorial decision that works perfectly in the film, that Cooper insisted Gaga strips down to her au naturel look and shows her true beauty.

The romance itself is more of a slow burn… and boy is it ever mesmerizing. I love that Cooper take the time for us to get to know both of them and actually witness two strangers fall in love. That scene in a convenience store is both funny and touching, Jackson using a frozen veggie bag as an ice pack is the stuff of rom-com meet-cute. But their romance is not cutesy, it’s intense and heartfelt. The moment Ally belted her own song in an empty parking lot was truly a memorable one. That was memorable moment to be sure, but the moment Ally got up on stage and sang a duet of The Shallow with Jackson gave me chills! This film has a phenomenal soundtrack that lives up to the fact that it’s about artists in the music industry. Every song is beautiful and emotionally-resonant, perhaps even more so because in the context of this beautifully-realized story. You feel for both Jackson and Ally. The roller coaster ride of their whirlwind relationship swells you up to cloud nine level, only to crash it down that you literally feels a pang in your heart. I packed SO many tissues going in but I still almost ran out. I was even thinking if anyone didn’t shed a tear or at least choked up watching this, one should check their pulse.

The chemistry between Gaga and Cooper has been all over the news and truly it’s something to behold on screen. It’s one of those magical cinematic pairing that’ll be talked about for ages. Obviously Gaga is already an iconic music star, but this film proves she’s got what it takes to be a movie star as well. She’s got this magnetic presence and yet somehow relatable in the way she portrays Ally who’s vulnerable and insecure. So when Jackson tells her she’s beautiful, her aghast reaction is believable, just like many of us women feel that way as well. I also appreciate the message about having an authentic voice and something real to say in an industry where artists are often dictated by producers, the media, even fans, to be something they’re not.

As for Cooper, much has been talked about his phenomenal directing debut and rightly so. I’d be rooting for him in the Best Director (and even Best Picture) category come award season, but I’d also be rooting for him to at least nab a Best Actor category. His Jackson Maine is classic leading man material… there’s a particular moment halfway in the film that’s both funny but also cringe-worthy and heart-wrenching. I don’t want to spoil it for you but the expression in Jackson’s eyes didn’t just tug my heart strings, it ripped it to shreds. Pardon the melodrama here but I feel it’s appropriate for this review.

The supporting cast is great all around. Sam Elliot definitely stood out as Jackson’s older brother. It’s quite amusing how Cooper trained to match Elliot’s trademark super-deep voice and it worked to make the casting even more believable. Dave Chapelle is fun to watch as Jackson’s bestie, wish he had more screen time though. One thing I notice though, is that aside from Gaga, there’s not a single memorable female performer in this film. It’s not really a criticism, more of an observation, but I couldn’t help but wish there’s at least one or two female supporting cast here.

Overall though, this is one sublime motion picture that defies the theory that ‘all remakes are automatically bad.’ Largely thanks to Cooper’s masterful direction and casting choice (that is casting himself and believing in Gaga as Ally), as well the sharp script by Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters. The cinematography by Matthew Libatique is gorgeous and has that immersive quality. As I mentioned before, some of the concert scenes (partly filmed at Coachella Festival) makes you feel like you’re there on stage with the performers. Cooper’s vocal training paid off, but more importantly, I think his clear vision of what he wants this film to look, feel and sound proves that he’s an artist to be reckoned with. I sometimes giggle when I think he’s also the same actor voicing Racoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Now that’s range, folks!

This is a love story for the ages… that’s actually more than just epic romance. I’m glad I finally get to see A Star Is Born that feels as timeless as ever.


Have you seen the latest ‘A Star Is Born’? I’d love to hear what you think!

INDIE FILM REVIEW: Better Off Zed (2018)

DIRECTOR: Travis Stevens
STARRING: Christine Woods and Graham Sibley

What if the apocalypse came… and you were happy about it?

Better Off Zed focuses on a married couple, Paige (Christine Woods) and Guy (Graham Sibley), who have barricaded themselves in their suburban California home to survive the zombie apocalypse. While Paige eagerly listens to the radio for evacuation information and tries to flag down rescue helicopters, Guy is less concerned with escaping and sees their predicament as an opportunity for an easier life with no responsibilities.

This movie is such a refreshing take on the zombie genre. It’s interesting seeing the focus on what life during a zombie apocalypse could mean past just not being eaten and the surprising perks of it (zombie apocalypse=no more student loan payments!) while establishing a great message about how playing it safe can end up being dangerous. The bright, cheerful set design contrasting with the dark subject matter reflects that message so well; Paige and Guy live in a sunny yellow house surrounded by lush greenery and colorful flowers, but just outside their fence is a slowly growing crowd of the flesh-hungry undead.

The acting in this movie is also fantastic. It could be hard to keep a movie interesting and engaging with only two actors with speaking roles, but Better Off Zed delivers. Christine Woods and Graham Sibley have excellent chemistry, from their touching romantic moments to their growing tension and marital conflict. Graham does a wonderful job playing Guy as both infuriating and sympathetic, but Christine stands out as Paige with some strong comedic skills; she has this great moment where she cries over a pair of boots that she’ll never get to buy and her performance is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

My only complaint about this movie has to do with the pacing, as it does feel a bit slow after a while. There’s a lot of focus on the monotony of being stuck in the house forever, which I understand is important since so much of the focus is on feeling trapped and limited, but it’s established well enough that the movie doesn’t need to be as long as it is; it goes past building tension to being kind of boring. That said, the last fifteen minutes ago is an emotional rollercoaster, so that somewhat makes up for it.

Overall, Better Off Zed is absolutely worth checking out. While it will definitely appeal to zombie/horror fans, it’s not overly bloody or gory, so non-horror fans will be able to enjoy it too, thanks to the excellent writing and acting.



Better Off Zed is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Googleplay, and DirecTv.
Also available at retailers such as Target, Walmart and Best Buy.

FlixChatter Review: Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

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Review by Vitali Gueron

Fahrenheit 11/9 might be Michael Moore’s best movie since he made and released Fahrenheit 9/11 back in 2004. What Fahrenheit 9/11 did for millions of frustrated liberals living a Bush-era world where their democracy is threatened by a failed and dangerous presidency, this film plays on similar fears and frustrations of liberals living in the scarier and even more dangerous presidency of Donald J. Trump.

Michael Moore starts of by recounting the 2016 election, the nomination of Hillary Clinton who became the first woman to accept a major U.S. political party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the rise of reality television star and read estate tycoon Donald Trump. Moore was never a fan of Clinton, and made no attempt to hide his contempt for her in this movie.

Moore showed Clinton’s rise through the Democratic Party’s nomination process, the challenge for the nomination made by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and the seemingly undemocratic use of “superdelegates” by the Democratic National Committee help Clinton ascend to the nomination. He made sure to mention the case of West Virginia’s 2016 Democratic Primary, where Clinton lost every county in the state to Bernie Sanders.

A political analysis done by NBC News showed that Sanders victory was partially a rejection of the Obama administration’s own coal policies, but he was also helped by large numbers of Republican cross-over voters. Their own polling showed that thirty-nine percent of Sanders voters stated that they actually planned to vote for Donald Trump over Sanders in the November general election. Yet, Moore decided to leave out these facts, but rather conclude that while Clinton lost West Virginia’s pledged delegates 11-18 in favor of Sanders, all eight un-pledged delegates voted for Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, meaning the West Virginia delegation voted for Clinton over Sanders by one. There was an outright rejection of Bernie Sanders by the Democratic National Committee and not by the pledged delegates, according to Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 11/9 which can be seen as Moore’s attempt to advocate for his own preferred candidate — Bernie Sanders.

Once Clinton won the Democratic Party’s nomination and Donald Trump was able to knock of all of his Republican challengers to win the Republican Party’s nominator, Moore argues that Clinton made use of tiny bumper stickers and card board cutout of her to send across the country while Trump used the national media to televise all of his rallies, having them wait for him sometimes for hours upon end, with wall-to-wall coverage of the candidate, who bullied them for not showing his large crowd sizes or dismissing him as not a serious candidate. The local Minnesota connection in the movie comes when Moore shows an interview of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison in 2015 saying on ABC’s “This Week” that Donald Trump could be leading the Republican ticket in 2016, to which the other guests laugh him off and host George Stephanopoulos saying “I know you don’t believe that.” Well, Keith Ellison was correct in his prediction and even Michael Moore himself predicted on Bill Maher’s show, four months before the 2016 election that Donald Trump would win in 2016.

Moore criticizes Trump for talking about extending his presidency beyond the eight-year limit. Moore argues that Trump loves the dictators such as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and says of China’s President Xi Jinping that “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great.” Fascism, Moore and Maher agree, “happens in little increments.”

While Fahrenheit 11/9 is a very somber and thoughtful movie, it lacks some important factual context. For example, Moore does little to mention that Russian meddling in our elections and their hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaigns in 2016. He doesn’t bring up the Russian’s government’s use of Facebook and other social media to spread fake news stories to make Hillary Clinton look bad and Donald Trump look good. He also doesn’t talk about the ramifications of disgruntled Bernie Sanders voters not voting in 2016 or Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s attempts to corral these voters for her own benefit. To Moore, these two figures had little or no impact on Clinton’s loss and Moore squarely places the blame for Trump’s win on a “rigged system.” Most surprisingly, Moore talks about Trumps’ win in the Electoral College but doesn’t provide the raw, startling numbers: 65,853,514 million people voted for Hillary Clinton while only 62,984,828 voted for Donald Trump. This is a net difference of over 2.8 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

The most touching moment in the documentary comes when Parkland, Florida High School student Emma Gonzalez reads off the names of the students who perished in the mass shooting at her school during the March For Our Lives rally. Emma says that no-one could comprehend the aftermath of the shooting or how far it’s devastating effects would reach. For those who still can’t comprehend the gravity of the effects because they refuse to, Emma tells them that their six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15 went straight into the ground six feet deep. After she reads off the names of her lost classmates and what they would never do again, she pauses and stares straight into the camera, as if she were looking inside your soul for any humanity you had left.


Have you seen Fahrenheit 11/9? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Peppermint (2018)

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Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Chad St. John
Running Time: 1h 42min

Review by: Vitali Gueron

Jennifer Garner makes her return to the action genre with the movie Peppermint, directed by Taken director Pierre Morel. After many years of male stars exacting revenge on criminals (think Liam Neeson in the Taken franchise), it now became Garner’s turn to just that, but unfortunately the whole setup by now has become tired and overused. Despite a well-acted and very committed performance by the lead actress, Peppermint unfortunately is a very forgettable and rather bland action movie that leaves almost no impressions with the audience.

Garner plays wife and mother Riley North, who we find out early on is a very committed mother and isn’t afraid to take on other parents who try to come between her and her daughter. When Riley and her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) turn to plan B after their daughter’s birthday party doesn’t go as planned, they decide to cheer up their daughter Carly’s (Cailey Fleming) spirits with a spontaneous trip to a Christmas Fair for some fun and ice cream.

When asked what ice cream flavor young Carly wanted, she asked for – you guessed it – Peppermint. Before leaving the fair, husband Chris called up his friend Mickey (Chris Johnson) to inform him that he was pulling out of a proposed robbery job that would see him make a lot of money but potentially risking his family’s well-being. Unfortunately, the drug kingpin they wanted to steal from, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) learns about their plans and decides to move first.

Already having taken care of Mickey, Diego sends his gang thugs to follow the family at the fair, and shockingly gun down both Chris and Carly in front of Riley. Due to massive corruption in the criminal justice system, Chris and Carly’s killers are allowed to walk free, while the judge forces Riley to be institutionalized in a psychological care ward. Riley escapes and for the next five years she falls off the grid, only to return when she’s ready to bring the murderers to justice on her terms.

This is where the movie goes off the deep end, with Riley taking out everyone from Chris and Carly’s killers (leaving them hanging with their feet tied up off a Farris wheel) to the judge who freed their killers and tried to institutionalize her (by blowing up his house with him inside). Meanwhile LAPD detectives Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and Moises Beltran (Ray Ortiz) are on Riley’s trail and unsurprisingly to the viewers, one of the detectives is good while the other is bad and is working with drug kingpin Diego Garcia and his gang members. Neither one of the supporting actors are memorable or given any substantial material to work with. The rest of the villains are faceless cartel and gang members who are trying to track down Riley before she causes any more problems for their operation and neutralize drug kingpin Diego Garcia.

While Peppermint does have some strong action sequences, there isn’t one single sequence that stands above the rest as the sequence everyone will be talking about after the end. If you’re a die-hard Jennifer Garner fan, you may enjoy this movie more than I did, but I will only remember this movie as a failed attempt to bring back the revenge thriller genre with the hopes that miss Garner can do what many before her could not. It won’t be long before this revenge thriller is also forgotten.


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

FlixChatter Review – The Nun (2018)

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While I’m a fan of horror in general, I prefer the supernatural/paranormal sub-genre, and The Conjuring film series is easily one of my favorites out of the more recent paranormal horror movies. I always try to go into screenings with an open mind, but I couldn’t help having high expectations with The Nun.

The Nun follows Father Burke (Demian Bichir), a priest who specializes in paranormal investigation, and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a novitiate about to take her final vows, to an isolated convent in Romania to look into the death of a nun. Joined by Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), the French-Canadian expatriate who discovered the corpse, the investigators discover an ancient and dangerous force of evil that manifests itself in the form of a demonic nun.

While The Nun is certainly a lot of fun, it’s hardly the best out of The Conjuring series. The biggest problem with it is its heavy reliance on CGI. While all the films in the series use CGI to an extent, they mostly achieve their scares through strategically shadowy shots and tense pacing. While they still utilize that method here, they place more focus on special effects to the point where it packs less of a punch. The demonic nun’s CGI face is especially silly.

The Nun also makes the mistake of beginning and ending with scenes from the first Conjuring movie, which just feels clumsy. Despite the films being connected, the scenes don’t blend well with the overall movie, and it’s confusing for people who haven’t seen the first film; the friend I attended the screening with had never seen the other movies and had to ask me what the scenes were about afterward. People who have seen the first movie would have still been able to appreciate the connection between the movies without having the scenes included, so there really is no good reason for having them there.

All that said, The Nun is still an enjoyable horror movie. A crumbling convent in the middle of a Romanian forest is the perfect setting for a story like this, providing a rich, dark atmosphere. Despite the cheesy CGI, there are still plenty of well-done and unpredictable jump scares. Lastly, the cast is excellent. Taissa Farmiga (sister of The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 lead Vera Farmiga) is no horror novice herself, and she shines in the role of Sister Irene, giving a likable and compelling performance. Jonas Bloquet is entertaining as Frenchie, providing enough levity without being just comedic relief, managing to portray a genuine, sympathetic character. Demian Bichir is fine as Father Burke; he’s not bad, but he’s not exactly memorable either, besides an unintentionally hilarious entrance in a flashback scene that cracked up my friend and me.

While The Nun isn’t necessarily going to be a horror classic, it’s still a decent addition to The Conjuring series, and seeing it is a nice way of kicking off the Halloween season.

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Have you seen ‘THE NUN’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


When this movie came across my screen as I fired up Netflix, I knew this is the kind of movie I’d enjoy. Billed as a ‘celebration of literature, love, and the power of the human spirit,’ it’s a charming film set in an English island during WWII. It certainly helps that I’m an Anglophile and British period dramas are my cup of tea, plus this is based on a historical novel written by two women, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

I adore Lily James since Cinderella, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. She’s an instantly-likable actress and it’s easy to warm up to her character, Juliet Ashton a young London writer living in the shadow of the war. Despite the fact that she’s pretty successful, lives in a gorgeous Chelsea flat, her dashing publisher Sidney (Matthew Goode) is also her bestie, and she’s courted by a handsome American soldier (Glen Powell), Juliet doesn’t seem to be as happy as one would think. But her life is about to take a different turn when she gets a letter from Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), a member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Yep, the mouthful title is a book club that inadvertently got started on a fateful night involving Nazi soldiers in the occupied island of Guernsey. As the correspondence goes on, Juliet is set on writing a book about the book club, and so off she goes to an island in the English channel off the coast of Normandy.

I love the idea of a young woman setting of on an adventure, especially in a time when it wasn’t as free for women to do so. And I also love the fact that Juliet isn’t too eager to marry a seemingly too-good-to-be-true prince charming. Naturally, Juliet was treated like a celebrity once they meet the members of the Society, and that first meet-up where she was presented with the potato peel dish is a group meet-cute. I adore every single member of the Society, Amelia (Penelope Wilton), Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), Dawsey, Isola (Katherine Parkinson) and Eben (Tom Courtenay), the cast is a bit of a Downton Abbey mini-reunion with Goode, Findlay, Wilton and James herself were all part of the popular period drama cast. But despite their warm welcome, the group (especially Amelia) is vehemently opposed to the idea of Juliet writing an article about them for the Times.

The setback didn’t send Juliet immediately back to London. Instead she’s set on doing research about the German occupation on the island. As the group opens up to her more, she soon finds out about what has happened to Elizabeth. The less said about Juliet’s discovery the better, but it’s safe to say she has fallen in love with the town and the people in it. There’s a lovely tentative romance between Juliet and Dawsey (Huisman is sort of been type cast as romantic lead in period romances and he does well in these roles), but the bonding scenes between Juliet and the female members of the book club is equally delightful to watch. I have to say that Penelope Wilton is particularly memorable as the grieving mother. She’s a terrific character actress who can balance drama and comedy seamlessly.

Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings & A Funeral, 2012 Great Expectations) kept the tone pretty light despite some of the serious war-related scenes, he puts the focus more on the relationship between Juliet and the people she encounters. It sometimes feels like a rom-com, but with more at stakes given the time it’s set in. But it doesn’t quite escape the trappings of the genre in that the romance is completely predictable. Fortunately, there’s enough of a surprise surrounding the lives of the people involved and the poignant history they’ve been through that I’m still swept up and moved by it.

Visually and thematically, it feels something out of Jane Austen movies. It’s even more enchanting for me personally as the movie make some references Austen, as well as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. The set pieces are gorgeous, there’s something so immensely charming about the small, coastal English town. It wasn’t filmed in Guernsey however, but instead the coastal exterior was shot in various UK locations such as Cornwall, Bristol, etc.  I also love the 40s period clothing that makes everyone so vintage chic.

This is definitely ‘comfort food’ for fans of period dramas like me, but fortunately a nutritious one. Interestingly, this was supposed to be a Kenneth Branagh production with Kate Winslet in the title. As much as I’m intrigued by that prospect, I have to say I like Lily James as Juliet and I appreciate Newell’s old-school, unabashedly-sweet approach. I would have liked to have seen more of [bespectacled, Clark-Kent like] Matthew Goode, but I enjoyed seeing every bit of him every time he’s on screen.

I’m glad this movie is on Netflix as I’d readily watch it again. As a writer, one of the biggest appeal for me is how the movie is practically a wonderful love letter to the written word.


Have you seen The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review – AHOCKALYPSE (2018)

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Directed By: Wayne Harry Johnson Jr.
Written By: Wayne Harry Johnson Jr., Craig Patrick (story by)
Runtime: 1 hour 19 minutes

Comedy isn’t an easy film genre to get right, and horror comedy is even more difficult. Striking a balance can be challenging, and there’s a fine line between poking fun at horror tropes and being mean-spirited about them. Fortunately, Ahockalypse manages to knock it out of the park…er, hit it out of the rink.
The film follows hockey teammates Jonesy (Jesse Rennicke), BJ (Squall Charlson), Wave (Alex Galick), their host mom, Mrs. Johnson (Gabrielle Arrowsmith), and a mysterious girl (Lindsey Kuehl) as they try to make their way to the safety of the hockey rink after the town is overrun by zombies. In addition to fighting the undead, the group must contend with a pair of idiotic bullies from the opposing team (Matthew Ford and Paulo Martins), a menacing strip club owner (Kelly Wendlandt), and Jonesy’s frighteningly controlling girlfriend, Jenny (Kaylee Williams).

I do have to start out by saying the production quality is pretty low. It’s not quite as obvious in the exterior shots, but most of the film quality is rough. The special effects aren’t awful-the zombie makeup is great-but there’s a bit of computer-animated blood splatter that looks a little cheesy. The sound mixing is an issue too; there are several moments where the score, as fun and wonderfully campy as it is, drowns out the dialogue. That said, this is an independent film with an independent film budget, and Ahockalypse proves that if a movie has strong enough acting and and entertaining enough writing, certain technical shortcomings can be overlooked.

Acting-wise, the entire cast is strong. The camraderie between the teammates and Mrs. Johnson feels genuine, and they all work off of each other really well. That said, there are a few stand-out performances. Lindsay Kuehl as Girl #3, the mysterious young woman who tags along with the group for most of the movie, barely has any lines, but she still manages to get a lot of laughs without being over-the-top. She revealed in a Q&A following the movie that she originally went to the casting call to be a background zombie and ended up landing a bigger role, and the movie is definitely better for it.

Alex Galick as Wave

Kaylee Williams as Jenny is fantastic, striking a perfect balance between irritating and menacing; she especially shines in the “engagement party” scene with Jonesy and her zombie father (Chris Charais). The scene stealer, though, is Alex Galick as Wave. His comedic timing is incredible, his line delivery is hilarious, and his facial expressions are priceless. While the whole cast is excellent, he easily made me laugh the hardest.

Writing-wise, the plot is as straightforward as the synopsis makes it sound-hockey players fight zombies-but you can tell the script is a labor of love for both horror fans and hockey fans. It both pokes fun at zombie movie tropes and embraces them, which can be hard to do in a horror comedy without coming across as lazy or hypocritical.

There are a ton of hockey references in the movie as well; I couldn’t tell you a single one, because I am the least sports-y person you will ever meet, but the filmmakers mentioned in the Q&A that there were a lot of hockey references throughout the film, and the fact that they managed to include so many without alienating the non-hockey fans in the audience is a credit to the writers.

Ahockalypse is definitely worth checking out. It’s a genuinely funny, enjoyable zombie flick.

The film is now available for purchase now on DVD or
on VOD through iTunes and Amazon.

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

FlixChatter Review: MILE 22 (2018)

When an action film is released late in the summer season, it’s usually a lower budget fare that studios doesn’t want to spend too much money promoting it and the movie itself is not that good. This latest team up between BFFs Marky Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg definitely falls into those categories.

James Silva (Wahlberg) is a leader of a special elite military force called Overwatch, think of this group as the ‘Impossible Mission Force’ but works with the military instead of intelligence agency. After completing a mission that didn’t go smoothly in the States, he and his team are now working in an unnamed Southeast Asian country trying to find missing deadly chemicals.

His second in command agent Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) has an asset within the local government named Li Noor (Iko Uwais), who has a disc containing information on where to find the missing chemicals. Noor will unlock the disc when he’s out of the country and on his way to the States. With no time to waste, Silver and his team has no choice but to escort Noor to an airport and keep him alive from assassins working for the local government. With the help from Overwatch’s technical team and its leader Bishop (John Malkovich, wearing a ridiculous wig), Silver and his team must navigate through the city and avoid being killed.

There’s not much of a plot here, it’s a pretty simple story and I don’t think screenwriter Lea Carpenter really care to expand much beyond it’s simple storyline. Carpenter did include tons of F-bombs in the dialog and not much else. For a movie with not much of a plot, director Peter Berg decided to ramp up the violence and made sure this movie earns its R rating. Unfortunately, Berg didn’t get the memo that it’s 2018 and not 2008. The action scenes in this movie reminded me of last decade’s unwatchable fast editing, up-close shots and shaky cam style that ruined most of action films from the 2000s. By trying to make action scenes look exciting, Berg used several camera angles and most the frantic sequences were either incoherence or just plain ugly to watch. I think directors who’s going to direct an action film should watch the last couple of Mission: Impossible films and take notes on how to shoot action scenes correctly.

As for the performances, Wahlberg is basically playing the same type of roles just like his other flicks. His character in this movie supposed to have some sort of bi-polar condition so all he did in the movie was either yelling at people or being a smart ass. I like Lauren Cohan in The Walking Dead but here she seems to be out of her elements. They did try to give her character some background, but it just didn’t work for me. Iko Uwais didn’t have a lot of dialog, he was mostly used for the hand-to-hand combat scenes. Malkovich wasn’t on the screen that much but he does appear, I tried not to laugh because his haircut just looks ridiculous.

Mile 22 could’ve been a good action thriller if they had gotten a better crew to work on it. Berg tried to make a cool espionage picture, but he also tried to make it more realistic and the results was just silly. The movie also lacks any true villains and since we’re in the era of franchise building, this one ended with a cliffhanger and twist that I think most people will see it coming way before it ended. Apparently, it’s supposed to be a trilogy and I don’t think I’d care to see anymore adventures of the Overwatch team.

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So have you seen MILE 22? Well, what did you think?