Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 2016 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. I’ve been excited about Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK for some time and the teaser couldn’t have arrived at a better time… that is as I’m prepping my FFTF post:)

DunkirkTeaser

I think most of you already knows what this is about. Now, I’m not always into war movies, mostly because it tends to be way too violent. But man, this looks so darn epic and with Nolan at the helm filming this on 70mm, I’m SO THERE!

Behold its epicness…

The cast is pretty amazing, some of which have been in Nolan’s previous movies… Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh… AND my new Welsh crush Aneurin Barnard!! One thing I wish Nolan hadn’t done is hire that kid from One Direction as I guarantee there’s gonna be a bunch of teenybopers swarming this just to get a glimpse of him. I mean I can’t even google this movie without seeing his face! In any case, we still have a year to wait for this as Dunkirk isn’t released until July 2017!

LovingVincent

Now, this one apparently has been released for some time but I had just seen it for the first time thanks to my daily lunch-hour reading of BBC news, I found it in the culture section. It’s the world’s first feature-length painted animation!

Per its official site, Loving Vincent features over one hundred and twenty of Vincent Van Gogh’s greatest paintings. The plot, drawn from the 800 letters written by the painter himself, lead us to the significant people and events in the time leading up to his unexpected death. Every frame in the Loving Vincent movie is an oil painting on canvas, using the very same technique in which Vincent himself painted. Check out the amazing trailer, I sure hope it’ll get a decent release worldwide.

Thoughts on either one of these projects? 

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2. This week we also got a first look at romance war drama ALLIED. I didn’t even know is in the works but hey, anything with miss Cottilard gets my attention!
allied-first-look
The synopsis per IMDb:

Allied takes place in 1942. Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) are undercover allies who begin to fall for each other. Max is a British intelligence officer sent to Casablanca to plan an assassination attempt. He works with Marianne, a French Resistance fighter who goes undercover as his wife.

I kind of like the pairing of Cotillard and Pitt, and Pitt actually looks decent without all the weird facial hair he’s been supporting for a while. This film seems so under the radar despite the cast though, I mean I haven’t heard a peep and no trailer yet even though the release date is November of this year.

The rest of the cast include Matthew Goode (yay!), Lizzy Caplan, and Jared Harris. The director is Robert Zemeckis whose last two features, Flight and The Walk, I haven’t seen yet.

Are you excited for this one?

3. Speaking of trailers… ahhh what we’d do for our movie crushes [sigh] I followed this twitter account for trailer updates and it says there’s supposed to be a trailer for Ben Wheatley’s FREE FIRE attached to Star Trek Beyond. So naturally I was super excited and while initially I was fine waiting a week or two to see it, I immediately booked Friday night showing. As you know, my dahling Sam Riley is in Free Fire, though he’s probably only gonna be in the trailer for all but 5 seconds. But no matter, that’s enough to persuade me to actually see a movie on the big screen. Alas, the trailer was NOT shown at STB :( There were more than a half dozen trailers in front of it but none of it was Free Fire! Suffice to say I’m no longer following that trailer account. Heh, I wish I lived in London!!!

I’m curious, have you ever been compelled to see a movie on the big screen because a certain trailer is attached to it? 
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4. Ok this question is inspired by this weekend’s release of Suicide Squad. I’ll be writing the review this weekend but for now I can say that I enjoyed it, definitely not as bad as what the critics made it out to be.

It’s no surprise DC fans are up in arms about the negative reviews. Heh, every day there’s always news about people getting angry about the most trivial things. This time the subject of DC fans’ wrath is the Rotten Tomatoes site:

Actually, last time I checked the petition‘s got 18,495 supporters. The guy who started the Change.org petition wrote: “We need this site to be shut down because critics always give The DC Extended Universe movies unjust, bad reviews. And that affects people’s opinion even if it’s a really great movie,”

SuicideSquadRT

RT score as of 10pm US Central Time

Now, I don’t really trust these critics aggregator sites anyway, because their algorithm is just baffling to me. Sometimes I’d click a rotten review that actually gives a movie 3/5, now I wouldn’t exactly categorize that as rotten. I’d think 3/5 is average and even 2.5/5 is below average, so not exactly in the horrible category. But to think that they’re biased against a certain film company is just absurd. Ok so I was left scratching my head that Age of Ultron got 75% fresh rating. I think that bloated movie is a big fat meh, not to mention the cringe-inducing Hulk/Black Widow *romance.* But I think it was still better than Batman V Superman, which got 27%, the exact RT score of Suicide Squad right now. If that’s the final score I think people are gonna think it’s a giant conspiracy, ahah.

What do you think about this supposed Marvel vs. DC *bias* and/or your thoughts about film critics site in general?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Ian from Ian the Cool Blog! He actually left a comment on my review of The Secret Life of Pets and it’s a great question that I asked him if it’s ok that I included it here. Here it is in his own words:

You confirm a lot of what I’m hearing, that [the movie] is really unoriginal and we’ve seen it all before. I guess the question is, does that matter for a kids movie? Kids won’t know its being unoriginal, because they don’t have the same film background we do. They will care about having funny characters they care about. Then again, should family movies have the bar set lower? When there are movies like Inside Out raising that bar, is the family argument an excuse anymore?

Well, what do you think? Should kids movies have the bar set lower compared to movies for adults?


Well, that’s it for the AUGUST edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

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

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Happy Sunday everybody!

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

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Hey I’m on the radio!😀

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


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

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

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

THIS trailer however, still gets me excited!

WonderWomanGalGadot

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

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


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


CharlieH_KingArthur

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


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

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

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

 


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

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

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

Ok, about those links…

Keith posted his Blindspot review on A Man Escaped

Dell posted his thoughts on Steve Jobs movie

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

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

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

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


Trailers Spotlight

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

LOVING

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

LovingPoster

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

Check out the brand new trailer:

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

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

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

RULES DON’T APPLY

Release: November 23, 2016
Produced and Directed by: Warren Beatty
Screenplay by Warren Beatty; Story by Warren Beatty and Bo Goldman
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Haley Bennett, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Lily Collins, Steve Coogan, Alden Ehrenreich, Taissa Farmiga, Ed Harris, Megan Hilty, Oliver Platt and Martin Sheen
RulesDontApply

An aspiring young actress (Lily Collins) and her ambitious young driver (Alden Ehrenreich) struggle hopefully with the absurd eccentricities of the wildly unpredictable billionaire (Warren Beatty), who they work for.

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

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

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


What do you think of either of these trailers?

Five for the Fifth: JULY 2016 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Happy Tuesday everyone! To my American friends, how was your Fourth? Hope you had an awesome three-day weekend! For some of us, Fourth of July weekend means family time, whether it’s at a state park, beach, lake, or at the movies!

FindingDory

So apparently Pixar’s latest Finding Dory threepeats this weekend, as Box Office Mojo called it, landing at #1 again at the box office for its third weekend. The Legend of Tarzan brought in about $45 million, followed by The Purge: Election Year at around $34 million and The BFG ends in fourth place with $22 million. Hmmm, I think we all know the major winner is The Purge 3 as its budget is merely $10 million, wow!

Did you see any new release movie on the big screen this weekend? 

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2. Now, in relation to this weekend’s box office. Well, The BFG turns out to be a bust, earning a paltry $22 mil in its first weekend when the budget is $140 mil!

I haven’t got a chance to review it yet as I was out and about all weekend, but I wasn’t that impressed with it. I barely remember any of it when I saw it over a week ago, but I found it a bit tedious as it took forever to get going. Variety wrote this piece wondering if Steven Spielberg has lost his blockbuster touch.

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Spielberg w/ BFG star Ruby Barnhill – image courtesy of Vox.com

I did like Spielberg’s last film Bridge of Spies, though I haven’t seen Lincoln yet. War Horse was overly sentimental despite a few moment of greatness, and I enjoyed The Adventures of Tintin mostly because I adore the Belgian comics. All the way to 2000s, Spielberg’s films were still relatively successful,from A.I. (2001), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Minority Report (2002), and War of the Worlds (2005), and of course the abominable Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) still raked up over $300mil! As he gets older though, his films seem to make less money. Bridge of Spies only made $72mil (on a $40mil budget).

What are your thoughts on Spielberg? Is his box office mojo behind him now?

3. Ok, time for a few new trailers that caught my eye. I always like to mix things up so these two couldn’t be more different from each other.

Based on the extraordinary true story of Operation Anthropoid, the WWII mission to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution and the Reich’s third in command after Hitler and Himmler.

I always love a good WWII thrillers, and Cillian Murphy is always solid in everything he’s in. Not really a fan of pretty boy Jamie Dornan but glad to see him doing something serious instead that Fifty Shades crap.
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A suburban couple becomes embroiled in an international espionage plot when they discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.

I hadn’t even heard of this movie before, but when I saw the trailer it made me laugh! It’s obviously inspired by Mr & Mrs Smith, with two absolutely beautiful couple Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm (who’d make the perfect match for a Wonder Woman + Superman flick!). Zach Galifianakis & Isla Fisher look pretty funny here, it looks like it’ll be a hoot like Melissa McCarthy’s SPY.

I was hoping Ben Wheatley’s upcoming movie Free Fire (starring a great ensemble cast including my beloved Sam Riley) will have its trailer out by now (it’s shown with A24’s Swiss Army Man, so I’ll add it here once it hits.

What do you think of these trailers?
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4. I’ve talked about my excitement for Idris Elba’s casting as the Gunslinger on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower adaptation. Well, I just saw some pics on Just Jared from the NYC set and I just had to share!

Idris_Gunslinger1


Oh my, he certainly looks the part doesn’t he? I certainly wouldn’t mind roaming the Old West with THIS Roland Deschain😉 I guess it’ll be a while before we’ll see a trailer, as the film won’t be released until February 17th next year. But for sure I look forward to seeing Idris in the role and Matthew McConaughey as Roland’s adversary Man in Black.

What’s your initial thoughts on ‘The Dark Tower’? 

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Zoë from Sporadic Chronicle of a Beginner’s Blogger! I LOVE that her question is in keeping what I’ve been obsessing lately, that is historical series (as I’m still nuts over The White Queen and finally finished BBC’s War & Peace this weekend).

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Here’s Zoë in her own words:

I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey and Vikings lately and I’ve been loving both shows (as always). There are many shows under this genre, whether fictitious or factual, or a blend of both.

Which historical/period series are you currently watching and loving? 


Well, that’s it for the JULY edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

Music Break + Cinematography Appreciation: The Dark Valley (2014)

MusicBreak_DarkValley

Boy it’s been over a month since I made a Music Break post. I’ve just recently re-watched this schnitzel western, a grossly underrated gem of a movie, and since been obsessing over its soundtrack. I never would’ve seen this if it weren’t for Sam Riley, but having a crush actually helps broadens my cinematic horizon😉 He’s the only non-German actor in the role, though his character is a Texas Cowboy!

The first time around I saw it, I found the modern music for a film set in the 19th century to be a bit odd, but y’know what, the anachronism actually grows on me. I mean, I actually like what Baz Luhrmann does with his period films such as Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby, sometimes to great effect. German composer Matthias Weber did a fine job in creating an ominous, haunting tone to his score that fits the eerie, atmospheric feel of the film. This site describe it well “[Weber] blends classical music elements with ambient, electronic textures and rhythms…” The score won one of the nine German Academy Awards (Lola) nominations.

These two are my favorite instrumental tracks:


How Dare You
by Streaming Satellites and Sinnerman by Clara Luzia are two of the modern songs featured in the film.


I love how Sinnerman is played in the opening sequence as the protagonist Greider (Sam Riley) saunters into the secluded town in the Austrian Alps. It sets the tone of the film that this is a slow-burn revenge thriller, the action didn’t really start until about a half hour into the film. But I feel that this is the kind of films that rewards your patience.

Here’s the awesome intro of the mysterious lone ranger entering the small Austrian town on horseback. I could watch this scene over and over, it’s just so stunning!


The same song Sinnerman is played again at the end, but this time played by German band One Two Three Cheers And A Tiger.


How Dare You was played during one of the main shootouts in the snowy forest as the brutal, bloody scenes played out in slow motion.


This is one of the most beautifully-shot films I’ve seen in a while. It made me wish I had seen it on the big screen! Austrian filmmaker Andreas Prochaska, working with cinematographer Thomas W. Kiennast, certainly has that David Lean touch in capturing those amazing wide shots. Set in the Austrian Alps (though filming actually took place in the mountainous region of Val Senales, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy), every shot is good enough to frame.


This was the big winner at the German’s version of the Oscars (winning 8 LOLAs), but sadly no nomination for the excellent Sam Riley😦 But no matter, he’s already a winner in my book. His strong, silent type antihero has that quiet menace. The fact that he’s not a physically ripped actor makes Greider more brain than brawn, relying on his keen instinct and intellect to go after the ruthless Brenner clan. The unpredictability of his character serves the revenge tale well, as we don’t know just how far he’d carry out his vengeance. So it’s still tense and suspenseful despite the plot being unnecessarily laid out for you in the form of voice over. Tobias Moretti is also excellent as the ringleader of the Brenner clan.

The Dark Valley (Das Finstere Tal) is a gem of a film that I wish more people would watch. Thank God for Netflix, I can rewatch this repeatedly and having seen it three times, I love it more every time.


Hope you enjoy the Music Break. I’d love to hear what you think of ‘The Dark Valley!’

Everybody’s Chattin’ + First Look of ‘Queen of Katwe’ + ‘Free Fire’

EverybodysChattin_Movies

Happy Wednesday everybody! I’m still high from seeing the first look of my dahling Sam Riley in Ben Wheatley’s new movie (more of that below). It’s been ages since I see anything new with him on social media… ah the peril of loving an underrated actor. But y’know what they say, you can’t choose who you love.

So about those links…

Jordan reviewed a terrific film Mia Madre, that’s perfect for Mother’s Day [or any day]

Everyone’s fave series Game of Thrones is back, and so is Margaret‘s awesome episodic reviews!

Steven lamented on Brian de Palma’s Bonfire of the Vanities

Speaking of lamenting, Mariah posted her thoughts on the whitewashing in Hollywood, most recently the casting of Ghost in the Shell

Thursday Movie Picks are still going & going… Dell just posted on his three fave droids/cyborgs

Eddie‘s entry to the Rob’s Genre Grandeur series talks about how Fast Five holds up 5 years later

Now here’s a real head scratcher, Paul asks which body of work you prefer Michelle Pfeiffer vs Meg Ryan

Mickey reviewed one of my fave films out TCFF last year – Room

Last but not least, don’t forget to stop by Mark’s blog on Monday for his Decades Blogathon!


Time for a couple of First Looks…

qok_poster

Ok so I’m a sucker for inspirational true stories. This one is based on a book of the same name by Tim Crothers. Though there have been films made about chess champions before, I actually haven’t seen any of them. The fact that this one tells a non-American story makes me more interested in it. The film, shot in Uganda and South Africa is directed by Mira Nair (a female director is always a plus in my book!) I had only seen Vanity Fair and The Reluctant Fundamentalist from Nair, but most people are probably more familiar with her famous film Monsoon Wedding.

Here’s the synopsis per Screenrant:

The film tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a chess prodigy from Uganda who earned Woman Candidate Master status in 2012, following the deaths of her father and brother.

I love both David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o, so that’s another big plus. It’s one of those stories you likely can predict how it’ll turn out, but still intriguing nonetheless. I’m already tearing up watching the trailer so I’ve got to bring tissues when I do watch the movie.


FreeFire_teaserposter

I’m still so very giddy just from seeing the first photo of this gangster flick, I don’t know what I’ll be when the trailer comes out!

I had already heard of this when Sam mentioned it in a couple of Pride + Prejudice + Zombies interviews. He called it a 1.5 hour gang shootout, which sounds epic cool! The filmmaker du jour Ben Wheatley, fresh from all the buzz of High Rise is directing this, AND it’s executive produced by Martin Scorsese!

The synopsis per EMPIRE:

Free Fire is set in Boston in 1978. The story, which Wheatley is pitching as a muscular crime flick in the spirit of Melville, Hawks, Scorsese himself and Walter Hill, charts the fallout from a gun-running hook-up orchestrated by Larson in a deserted warehouse. At its centre are two Irishmen (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley), on a connect with a pair of arms traffickers, Ord (Armie Hammer) and Vernon (Sharlto Copley), but soon wishing they’d given the whole enterprise a wide berth when the bullets start flying.

The film also stars new Oscar winner Brie Larson, Noah Taylor and of course, my darling Sam Riley!

FreeFire_firstlook

Look at the mustaches + 70s outfits on these guys!

Per EMPIRE article: “The idea for Free Fire came from my love of hard-boiled crime movies,” Wheatley tells Variety. “The Asphalt Jungle, The Big Sleep,The Killing and The Big Combo through The Driver, Le Samourai andThe French Connection, to the modern cycle of GoodFellas, Casino,Hard Boiled and Reservoir Dogs.”

“It will take you and stick you in the middle of the action,” he elaborates. “I want the film to have the stylish, no-nonsense feel that you get in [Sam] Peckinpah’s The Getaway. It’s a modern ‘70s movie. Muscular, tough and spare.”

Hmmm, I actually didn’t care for The Getaway, but maybe because I didn’t really like Steve McQueen who’s just so damn smug, but I do like the cast here and it looks more of an ensemble piece than just centered on a single hero. And of course seeing Sam Riley (with 70s ‘tache AND glasses? Oh my!) on the big screen again is a major plus! A24 has acquired the US rights, so I can’t wait to see a trailer soon.

Both of these films are scheduled to be released later in the Fall.


So what do you think of either one of these new films?

Musings on the first trailer of the new Ben-Hur (2016)

BenHur2016poster

Most of you who’ve read my blog for a while knows I’m a huge fan of the 1959 Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. I’ve listed it as one of the films that have defined me and one of my three favorite Oscar-winning films of all time. That epic masterpiece that won the most awards in its time (11 wins out of 12 noms) was actually a remake of the 1925 silent film. I always think that like Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, etc., Ben-Hur is one of those classics that ought not get remade. Alas, nothing is sacred anymore these days so we shouldn’t be surprised that nearly 60 years later, we get yet another cinematic adaptation based on Lew Wallace’s timeless novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Behold the trailer…

 

BEN-HUR is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army.  Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery.  After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.

Initial impressions

The way the trailer’s cut now didn’t exactly scream epic in terms of compelling narrative and emotional gratification. Given the pedigree of the director, whose Hollywood films so far seem to be more effects-driven than anything else, this trailer certainly showcase that. Yes so at the time, the 1959 Ben-Hur was marketed as an epic that offered a spectacle like no other, and that chariot race scene alone is a reason to see it on the biggest screen possible. Even as I saw it decades later, when special effects had improved significantly, that chariot scene still left me breathless and it remained one of the most incredible scene to pull off even by today’s standard. But yet, the film was far more than just the spectacle and what stays with me more is the story, it’s the protagonist’s journey and transformation (more of that later). I suppose with 3.5 hours running time, the 1959 version could go into more depth with the story and there are richer, more complex narrative that involve more than just Ben-Hur vs Messala.

So far my impression is meh, in fact someone remarked on Twitter that this is ‘Fast and Furious: Jerusalem Drift‘ and I don’t blame them for thinking that. I mean the blaring music is so generic and has no majestic vibe at all, and way too much screaming and laden with banal dialog. But y’know what, instead of just brushing it off, I thought I’d offer some of my thoughts about some of the elements of the movie.

The cast

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Heston was so 50-years ago, we now have Huston as the new Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur. Ok I have to admit I was inspired by this great opening line from EW.com. Jack Huston sure has quite a Hollywood pedigree – grandson of acclaimed filmmaker John Huston and nephew of Anjelica Huston, but whether or not he could step into Charlton Heston’s shoes, er sandals remains to be seen. Now, though I think Heston was great in the role that won him an Oscar for Best Actor, he’s not exactly the most expressive actor. What Heston did have in abundance is screen presence, and I’m curious to see how Huston fares in that regard in his first leading role in a big-budget film. Huston is not a household name yet but I’ve seen him in three films so far, American Hustle, Night Train to Lisbon, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which showed he’s a pretty versatile actor. He certainly looked more Jewish-looking, for a lack of a better word, with dark hair and dark eyes, than Heston was, though one could argue blond, blue-eyed Jews do exist.

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Morgan Freeman is the most recognizable face here as Sheik Ilderim and he naturally adds gravitas to the production. I do have a soft spot for British actor Hugh Griffith in the 1959 version though, as he didn’t take himself so seriously. He’s more of an ally than a mentor too, so it seems they’re more of equal footing in their relationship. Plus Freeman’s dreadlocks is distracting, it’s like something out of Battlefield Earth, did they just have their discarded wig or something?? It’ll be hard not to burst out laughing every time he’s on screen now, come on man, you’re supposed to add dignity not comic relief!

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Toby Kebbell seems type cast as a villain now. He’s just played Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Doctor Doom in the um, doomed Fantastic Four movie, and now Messala. Again, I LOVE Stephen Boyd who had a great chemistry with Heston as both friend and foe. I can’t say I’m feelin’ it with these two, but then again they’ve got mundane dialog like ‘Are we having fun now brother?‘ which seems to be inspired by another sword ‘n sandal epic Gladiator‘s famous line ‘Are you not entertained?‘ but folks, it’s all in the delivery and Kebbell ain’t no Russell Crowe. That said, I also think he’s a good actor from some movies I’ve seen him in, most notably Rocknrolla, War Horse and Control.

The director

So I think the cast might turn out to be ok, but what worries me most is the director, Russian filmmaker w/ the unpronounceable name, Timur Bekmambetov. Now, I’ve seen two of his previous movies, Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I’ve enjoyed both in varying degrees, but he’s not exactly the name who’d be in my wish list if I were asked who I’d want to direct an epic sword & sandals masterpiece. For one thing, his films seems to be very CGI-laden, and from this trailer it looks pretty effects-heavy. Heh, I was hoping what Jack said at the IGN comic-con interview (promoting PPZ movie) were true, as he said there’ll be more practical effects and he had spent four months ‘doing everything for real’ which sounds really promising.

The core theme of the story

Now there’s the treatment of the Christ story, which is pivotal in the book, I mean the tagline IS ‘a tale of the Christ’ after all. Apparently Rodrigo Santoro is playing Jesus Christ here, as there’s a snippet of the crucifixion scene. I read that Jesus is given a bigger character arc this time around, and whilst that is a wonderful thing in my book it also worries me a little. What I love about the William Wyler version is the subtle-yet-powerful depiction of Christ whose face was never shown on film. The impact of his being was conveyed through the characters who encounter him in the film, i.e. the Roman soldier who wanted to reprimand him for giving water to Judah.

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It’s mysterious and mystical, and the faceless character had such gravitas that it’s unforgettable, especially the moment he gave Ben-Hur water when he’s chained as a slave. That scene is one of my all time favorite cinematic scenes that I could watch over and over. What the 1959 version did beautifully was that it showed how Judah’s and Jesus’ lives intersect, and the parallel of how the two men were charged and punished for a crime they didn’t commit. But in the end it was more of a story of redemption than a tale of vengeance, a theme that perhaps isn’t as cool or even marketable, but for me it leaves a much more lasting impression.

Interestingly, Bekmambetov actually said in an interview (per IMDb trivia) that he thought the 1959 version was more about revenge. Huh? Did he not stay until the end of the film?? Judah’s last line was not at all subtle about his own redemption.

Judah Ben-Hur: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Esther: Even then.

Judah Ben-Hur: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.

He went on to say that wanted to focus more on the forgiveness aspect of the story, he said ‘…humanity has to learn how to love and forgive.’ Well, I sure hope what he aspired to do w/ the story will actually transpire in the final film, as I’m not seeing that in this trailer. At the very least I’m hoping that the Jesus’ story be handled respectfully and that the themes of love and compassion in Lew Wallace’s novel isn’t love amidst the CGI-fest spectacle.

One last thing, I find it odd to see Judah falling from his chariot and held on to his horses, how’s he going to get back up to the chariot and win the race?? I guess we’ll find out when the movie is out on August 12, 2016.


Well, that’s my thoughts. Now, what do YOU think about the first Ben-Hur trailer?

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Counting down to Netflix’s Daredevil season 2!

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It’s just three days away until Daredevil Season 2!! All 13 episodes will be out on Netflix on Friday, March 18 at 12:01 PST. It’s actually two weeks earlier than the air date of the first season which was released on April 10, 2015. It wasn’t until about a month later that my hubby and I finished all 13 episodes but once we’re done, we couldn’t wait for more!

Well, after nearly a year, that day is just around the corner! The latest trailer just dropped and it wets my appetite even more!


I’m just in the process writing my review of Jessica Jones‘ season 1 and I don’t think it’d be a huge spoiler to say there’s a connection between these two Netflix superhero series. I was literally screaming at my tv when I saw one of Daredevil‘s characters made an appearance!

Season 2 synopsis:
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Just when Matt (Charlie Cox) thinks he is bringing order back to the city, new forces are rising in Hell’s Kitchen. Now the Man Without Fear must take on a new adversary in Frank Castle and face an old flame – Elektra Natchios. Bigger problems emerge when Frank Castle, a man looking for vengeance, is reborn as The Punisher, a man who takes justice into his own hands in Matt’s neighborhood. Meanwhile, Matt must balance his duty to his community as a lawyer and his dangerous life as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, facing a life-altering choice that forces him to truly understand what it means to be a hero.

Where season 1 left off

It ended on an optimistic note but still left plenty of uncertainties for resident of Hell’s Kitchen. The scary big dude Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) managed to escape custody in the finale but thankfully Daredevil was able to corner him and so he’s now in prison.

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I thought that white wall thing in his cell for him to stare at is quite hilarious. Murdock and his BFF/law partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) put up a new sign outside their law office, and now Foggy is fully aware of his best friend’s nightly activities as a crime fighter.

New adversaries for Matt Murdock…

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I thought that Wilson Fisk was a pretty scary adversary but sounds like we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Jon Bernthal has joined the cast as Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher, who’ll come to Hell’s Kitchen to deliver his own brand of justice. Whilst Matt typically incapacitate the criminals but left them alive, Frank didn’t seem to have any qualms finishing them off any way he could. And Bernthal sure have the physicality and grit that made him truly menacing. I actually haven’t seen any film version of The Punisher, there just hasn’t been any worth checking out to be honest. But THIS version looks pretty darn cool and I’d welcome a spinoff of his character which is currently in the works. Just like Batman vs Superman though, I think these foes will eventually join forces against a common enemy, not sure who that’ll be.

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Here’s a featurette of Frank Castle, a man looking for vengeance descend into Hell’s Kitchen. He is reborn as The Punisher, a man who takes justice into his own hands in Matt’s neighborhood.

Elektra

I’ve also got the good fortune of not having seen the Daredevil movie w/ Batfleck aka Ben Affleck, nor the spinoff Elektra starring his current ex Jennifer Garner. I only know that Elektra has a romantic history w/ Matt Murdock, which naturally sex things up a lot. Daredevil’s former flame is now played by a French actress Elodie Yung whose exotic looks goes well with her dangerous martial arts badassery.

 

… but the old gang are back again

I LOVE all of the supporting cast of Daredevil and they all have interesting character arc that serve the overall narrative.

I love both female characters in season 1, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). I’m especially excited for Claire and hope that there’ll be more scenes between him and Matt. They certainly have a pretty scorching chemistry but most of the action involves nurse Claire stitching up Matt after a bloody fight. Hopefully there’ll be more interactions between her and Foggy & Karen, too as they’re the only ones who know about Matt’s secret identity.

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Karen’s an intriguing character in her own right, as she’s more than just a legal help in Nelson & Murdock law firm. I’d love to see a bit more of her backstory in season 2, hopefully it isn’t lost in the battle between Matt and his two new formidable foes.

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The scene where she shot Fisk’s right-hand man Wesley was unexpected but a welcome story arc for her. There was a hint of romance between him and Matt in the first season, so maybe there’ll be more of that in season 2? I just hope there’s no love triangle (or even quadruple??) nonsense and it’s rarely handled well and it almost always comes out corny. Must be nice being Charlie Cox though, having not one or two but three potential love interests in a single show, wow!

Well, I’m gonna end it with this photo of Nelson & Murdock legal team, now this is a law firm I can totally get behind. Friday can’t come soon enough. For sure I know what I’ll be watching this entire weekend!

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So are you anticipating Daredevil Season 2? 

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Everybody’s Chattin’ & SPECTRE Honest Trailer

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It’s almost Friday everybody!! Woot woot! It’s only a four-day work week for me but it felt like time was ticking so s-l-o-w-l-y I felt like I had worked a 6-day week already!

What’s happening in your world? Well for me, it’s just two words: SAM. RILEY. I’m falling even deeper under his spell after seeing the rock biopic Control.

I’m going to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies again this weekend before it’s yanked from theaters and I can’t freakin’ wait!!!! I’ve been collecting all kinds of stuff for my Sam Riley tribute but now I’ve waaaay too many articles I have no idea where to start!

In any case, let’s get to those fine links now shall we?

Margaret has been making fabulous top 10 lists this week, check out this one on 15 Best shots of 2015 

Wendell just put together The Acting Black Blogathon to coincide w/ Black History Month of February. Check out the latest links from Day 3

Chris is continuing his list of Best 80s songs, all the way to Part 12! Speaking of great music, Andrew continues his Tuesday Tunes Tastings series by reviewing a set of four new albums w/ an awesomely creative rating system!

Steven reviewed Cabaret (1972), Nostra reviewed Season 1 of Jessica Jones, and Top 10 Films UK posted a review of Anton Corbijn’s Life.

Last but not least, my dear friend Paula is hosting 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon again this year. I’m unable to take part but check out the links from a bunch of fine bloggers!

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SPECTRE’s Honest Trailer

Boy, the Screen Junkies folks absolutely nailed everything I hated about Spectre. Heh, now that I think about it, my 2.5/5 rating seems far too generous for this poorly-written and lazily-acted movie.


It’s really embarrassing that in a year where there are at least four good spy-themed movies, the granddaddy of this genre is the worst one of the lot. I LOVE that bit about re-watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier instead. I didn’t realize their plots are pretty much identical, but The Winter Soldier actually has genuine character arc AND a compelling story. I for one am ready for a new Bond so I hope this rumor that he’s quitting 007 is true!

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So what are you gonna be watching this weekend, folks?

Super Bowl 50 Trailers Roundup – Which ones are you most excited to see?

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So all you football fans, have you recovered yet? My hubby watched it next to me but I barely even watched the game. I thought the commercials were mostly lame, apart from the memorable PSA on drunk drinking featuring Helen Mirren and the one with Liam Neeson (though after it’s done I had no idea what he was selling!)

Here’s the advert if you missed it, I thought I’d post it here as apparently the young man featured in the commercial is Liam’s own 20-year-old son Micheál Neeson (per The Wrap)

No wonder they look alike, and there’s a family connection with the director of the spot too. It’s directed by Jake Scott, son of Sir Ridley who made the famous Apple commercial 1984. This one is nowhere near as memorable though.

Now, the trailers!

This post could pretty much double as my most-anticipated big-budget movies of 2016:) Well, it seems that every comic-book characters are at war with each other. It’ll start with the BIGGEST superhero battle ever, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which opens just a little over a month away on March 25. It’s perhaps the most bizarre partnership ever… Turkish Airlines?? They even made two versions, Gotham vs Metropolis:

At this point I’m going into BVS with tepid expectations, I’m more curious than excited. I REALLY hope it’ll be good!

Now, the one I most look forward to is Captain America: Civil War, which pits Capt against Iron Man. It’s gonna be EPIC!! Which side am I on?

Capt and Iron Man aren’t the only dueling Marvel characters. The mutants in X-Men: Apocalypse set aside their hatred for humanity to fight against their own extinction. I’ve been excited for most X-Men movies, but I’m not sure about this one. Even with Oscar Isaac as the villain, I kind of get a bad vibe about it. I’m hoping to be proven wrong though.

Hey, the new Bourne movie is apparently out this Summer! Heh, they couldn’t find writers who could come up with a better title than Jason Bourne?? Apart from that, I’m excited to see Matt Damon back kicking everyone’s butt under Paul Greengrass‘ kinetic direction. I was hoping to see Alicia Vikander but we only hear her narrating the trailer, perhaps they haven’t even completed the shoot yet?

I’m slightly more intrigued by The Jungle Book adaptation, I mean the voice cast is fantastic: Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, just to name a few. It sure looks better than the live-action Tarzan movie.

Now tonight I’ll be seeing Deadpool after a botched screening last week due to technical difficulty, ugh. This isn’t a movie I was even looking forward to, esp since I’m not even fond of Ryan Reynolds. But the rave reviews got me intrigued so I hope it’s as witty as the critics made it out to be.

 


So which of these movies are you most excited to see?