Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) + SULLY (2016)

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How was your weekend everyone? It’s been a busy one for me, but a productive one. I actually did go to the movies, which is rare actually for me as I usually go to press screenings on week nights. But after dinner my hubby and I felt like checking out the new AMC theaters with the new reclining seats, which are indeed awesome! SULLY was the only one we’re interested in that is less than 2 hrs long, though it felt a bit eerie watching a plane crash scene in NYC on the weekend of 9/11.

In any case, on Friday night, we also rented a movie we’ve been curious about for some time…

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

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The story of the life and academic career of the pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy.

I have to say that being terrible at math, I’m not that familiar w/ the subject of this biopic. But Of course, just checking on Wikipedia, he’s an extraordinary man whose math theories are still being used today.

Stories about geniuses are popular biopic subjects in Hollywood, i.e. A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game, etc. The film traced his humble beginning in Madras, India and how he ended up at Trinity College, Cambridge in the 1910s. Dev Patel bears no resemblance to the real Ramanujan, but he seems to be the only actor of Indian descent working the British film industry could think of to cast. He’s a likable actor, and I think he’s quite believable in the role.

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Jeremy Irons plays G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan’s mentor who invited him to Cambridge to the first place. The film began with Hardy’s voice over saying how much he owed Ramanujan, which suggests there’s a deep friendship between the two. The rapport between the two characters is a bit of a slow built. The main friction between the two is that Hardy refuses to publish Ramanujan’s theories without proofs, whilst Ramanujan’s convinced all his theories add up. There’s also the fact that Hardy didn’t seem sensitive enough to the challenges Ramanujan faces at Cambridge, including his sense of alienation the fact that he’s an Indian studying amongst British intellectual elites.

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As far as biopics go, this one is pretty straight forward. Though the subject matter deals with theorems and formulas, I wish the film is less um, formulaic. The film could’ve been really engrossing under a skilled/experienced filmmaker, but this is director Matt Brown‘s sophomore work, so overall it’s pretty dry. It’s an intriguing journey about a brilliant person, but yet I just wasn’t as involved or moved by his story as I expected. The performances are pretty good, though I’ve seen more impressive work from everyone involved, including Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood, one of Ramanujan’s advisers. Stephen Fry barely made a dent though as he only appeared briefly in the film.

I do appreciate the spirituality aspect of the protagonist who’s a devout Hindu. Contrast that with Hardy who’s a professed atheist, there’s a few interesting banters between them. Ramanujan said at one point that “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” He still prayed regularly when he’s at Cambridge, so faith certainly played a big part in his life. The film also showed his selfless nature that he hid his illness from his friend. The fact that the university was being used as a hospital during World War I, he also felt that his condition just wasn’t bad enough as the soldiers that he deserved care.

I suppose the film is still worth a look if you’re curious about Ramanujan’s story. Though it wasn’t a great film, I’m still glad I saw it and the protagonist no doubt has a story worth telling.

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SULLY (2016)

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The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.

The last Clint Eastwood-directed film I saw was Invictus which was back in 2009. It also happens to be the shortest film he has directed at 96 minutes, which is the reason we picked this one when my hubby and I was deciding on which new release movie to see on Saturday night.

It really is quite a feat that a film where the ending is well-known, given that it happened only seven years ago, still manages to be quite riveting. Of course Eastwood got the best man for the job, there’s practically no other actor of his stature who’s as skilled AND as likable as Tom Hanks. He’s the perfect actor to play the quiet hero whose selfless and humble traits are something to aspire to. I also think Aaron Eckhart is pretty good here, though I wish Eastwood had given someone as talented as Anna Gunn more to do.

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I didn’t see this movie in IMAX but it was filmed with IMAX cameras so I bet it looked even more spectacular on screen. The plane landing scene on the Hudson river is as suspenseful as it is stunning to watch. Kudos to Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki for keeping SULLY afloat when it could’ve easily been a tedious based-on-a-true-event types of movie. Just remember this is a film, not a documentary. There’s likely a great deal of creative license taken in the way the NTSB investigations played out.

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So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

A trio of brand new trailers: FREE FIRE, LIVE BY NIGHT and THE PROMISE

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Yaaaaaaaaaaaaassss!!!

Sorry ehm, now that I got my giddy enthusiasm out of the way… [well just enough so I can actually do a post, ahah]

Well if you’ve visited my blog long enough you’ll know how much I’ve been crushing madly on Sam Riley… and he deserves every bit of my love… and then some. Anyway, today we’ve got three trailers, two of which has two Batmans AND a Scarecrow too😀

FREE FIRE

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.

I’ve been waiting for this trailer since the day I heard Sam was cast in it… so that was about a year ago! I mentioned it here, can’t believe it’s been four months since we got its first official photo!

Well, today we didn’t just get ONE but TWO Free Fire trailers… the top one is the official UK trailer and below is the RED BAND trailer… more blood

Some lucky folks got to see this at TIFF Midnight Madness last night w/ the cast and crew… yes including my Sam!!


Well, early reviews have been mostly positive!

The main reason I’ve super excited for FREE FIRE is because Sam Riley‘s in it… but of course the cast is amazing! Besides Sam we’ve got Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor, and Noah Taylor.


I know Sam isn’t in the movie much, heck he’s not even mentioned in the trailer (what a travesty), but he’s been mentioned quite a bit in the early reactions of the movie on Twitter!! I have a feeling he isn’t gonna survive in this movie, and neither is many of the cast, but from the reviews sounds like director Ben Wheatley isn’t killing people off so soon. It’s a game of survival so I guess it wouldn’t be fun if everyone dies in the first act, ahah.

People are saying it’s as violent as the promos made it out to be, but also a lot of fun. Nothing like a good sense of humor to break all the tension of a group of trigger-happy gangsters stuck in a warehouse full of guns! There’ll be gunfire alright!


I’ve actually met Jack Reynor once… now if only I could meet Sam one day!!! [I believe I will!]😉


I hope we get this one on the big screen, no US release date yet but the lucky UK folks will get this in March 2017.


Live By Night

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A story set in the Prohibition Era and centered around a group of individuals and their dealings in the world of organized crime.

Now this one I’m actually surprised to see a trailer so soon! But hey, I love pretty much everything Ben Affleck‘s directed, especially Gone Baby Gone, so I’m excited on that front. Now that he’s Batfleck, I do keep thinking that his gangster character Joe Coughlin looks as if Bruce Wayne’s dark past prior to him finding a conscience and becoming Batman to save his city from gangsters, ahah. It looks intriguing, though I’m not crazy about Scott Eastwood’s casting. I mean everyone else is great… Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, etc. I only wish his screen time is small [I didn’t see him in the trailer but that could be my selective perception, ahah]


The Promise

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Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.

Seriously there’s barely ANY buzz on this movie! Aside from that super boring generic title, it’s got Christian Bale AND Oscar Isaac?? Bale is sporting a similar beard as in The Dark Knight Rises for some reason, and Isaac is doing a Turkish accent? Y’know what, I don’t know what to make of this trailer… it’s a love triangle set in the Ottoman Empire… sounds really juicy but somehow the trailer is just… okay. What was the promise in the title? I must’ve missed it in the trailer. Y’know generally I’m always wary of love triangles, it’s prone to clichès and schmaltziness, which is what I detect here too despite those two great actors. Montréal-based actress Charlotte Le Bon plays the woman in the center of the triangle, I’ve just seen her in Anthropoid. I’m not as impressed w/ her there as I was in The Hundred-Foot Journey. Well, I might go to the press screening if there’s one, otherwise more like a rental.


What are your thoughts on any one of these new trailers?

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FlixChatter Review: Don’t Breathe (2016)

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The home invasion thriller genre has been around a long time and while some were good, most were average to mediocre. Late summer usually is the time when studios release their crappy action or horror films but thankfully Don’t Breathe doesn’t fall in that category. In fact, it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in a long time.

Set in the slums of Detroit, three thieves decided they’re going to break into a blind man’s house and steal his money in order to leave their crappy life and city. One of the thieves is Rocky (Jane Levy), she wants to move out of her home and take her young sister to LA to get away from her drunken mom and her creepy boyfriend. The other two members are Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto). Dylan’s father runs a security company in the city so he’s able to have access to all of the homes they’ve robbed and Money is Rocky’s boyfriend and the muscle of the group.

After a not-so-profitable robbery, Money found out that a blind man (Stephen Lang) received a huge sum of cash from a car accident settlement and this could be their big payday that they all need. The blind man lives in a deserted part of the city and they all agreed it’s going to be an easy score. What they don’t know is that the blind man is an ex military man who was part of Special Forces and he’s good with weapons and hand to hand combat. Once the thieves broke into the blind man’s house, they realized it’s basically a trap and for the rest of the movie, the young thieves had to fight for their lives in order to escape the creepy house.

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The young actors were good in their respective roles, since it’s a horror/thriller, the hero has to be the pretty young lady and Levy fit that description. The film didn’t require a lot of dialog, so Levy had to use her face and body to make her performance believable. There’s a really cool sequence early in the film where both Rocky and Alex got stuck in a darken room and both of the actors had to act basically in the dark and both did quite well. Stephen Lang who’s been type cast throughout his career as the bad guy and here he delivered another good performance as the not-so-innocent blind man.

In most of the home invasion films, the story has always been from the perspective of the homeowners so it’s quite refreshing to see this film told from the perspective of the invaders. Written by Fede Alvarez (who also directed the film) and Rodo Sayagues, these two didn’t come up with anything new but somehow made the genre felt fresh. The story has enough suspense and scares that will satisfy those who craves a good thriller. They did throw in a little twist halfway through the story that will make some audiences squirm in their seats. Of course this being referred to as a “horror” movie, some of the actions by the characters will have people scratching their heads or just downright angry.

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Director Fede Alvarez did a great job of moving the story along at brisk pace. Since the film didn’t have a lot of dialogs, he used cameras and sounds to engage the audience. Clearly he must’ve studied the look and feel of the film from David Fincher’s underrated thriller Panic Room. A lot of shots and camera work reminded me of that film and I didn’t mind Alvarez copied Fincher’s style, heck it worked in that film and it worked here. Even though some are referring this film as horror, it hardly contains any gore or extreme violent scenes. It’s pretty tame for this kind of genre; in fact if you’re going into this film expecting to see blood and gore, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you want to see a good thriller with some few jump scare moments, then you’ll dig this film.

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So have you seen Don’t Breathe? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Das Finstere Tal (The Dark Valley, 2014)

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I have to admit I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon this Austrian Western if it weren’t for my affinity for English actor Sam Riley. And for that I’m grateful to him, and he’s an unlikely-but-perfect choice in the role of a German-speaking, Texas cowboy protagonist.

It’s always a good sign when a film starts off in a captivating way that made you want to know more. In the opening scene, we see a terrified couple hiding in a basement of a lodge. We don’t know who they are except they’re on the run, but soon they’re captured and the man is severely beaten as the woman is dragged away screaming.

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The film takes place years after that incident in the opening scene. A lone rider on a horse saunters into the secluded town. It’s one of my all time favorite opening credits ever. Exquisitely shot somewhere in Austrian Alps, set to the song Sinnerman by Clara Luzia that complement the setting beautifully. It sets the tone of the film that this is a slow-burn revenge thriller, as the action doesn’t really start until about a half hour into the film. But this is the kind of films that rewards your patience.

The mysterious stranger goes by the name of Greider (Riley). He’s got a cold welcome from the chieftains of the town, that is the six sons of Old Brenner. The Brenner clan has dominated the town for generations and for some reason the townsfolk are compliant to their rule. Despite the rude welcome, the Brenners let Greider stay, and even let him take photos of the family with his daguerreotype camera. Greider is placed in the home of a woman and her daughter Luzi, whom we later learn is the narrator of the story.

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The film takes its time before Greider exact his revenge, but the moment leading up to it in the woods is brimming with suspense. One freak logging accident happens after another, and of course Greider is immediately suspected. One particular accident is quite gruesome for my feeble nerves, but it’s nothing compared to the brutal scene that happens later in flashback. The film’s plot concerns a medieval practice jus primae noctis (the right of the first night) harshly enforced by the Brenner patriarch on the young woman in the town. The third act reveals who and what happens in the opening scene, it should be obvious by then which makes Luzi’s VO explaining it seems overkill.

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The strength of Das Finstere Tal is in its eerie quietness… the seemingly serene vista and the taciturn demeanor of its hero. Greider seems a passive man, not willing to fight back when he was beaten by one of the Brenner brothers during a shopping errand with Luzi. The fact that Riley isn’t who you’d picture as a cowboy actually makes him an effective actor for the role and he more than acquits himself well here. There’s a piercing intensity in Greider’s eyes, and a suppressed restlessness. He made you believe he’s filled with rage and absolute contempt for those who’ve wronged him, but he’s not a monster devoid of humanity. There’s a particularly memorable ‘gold coins’ scene between him and a female innkeeper. He’s so consumed with anger but backs away the instant he realizes he’s stooped to the level of the Brenners. I also love that scene in the end between him and Old Brenner, it’s so emotionally-charged with barely any words spoken.

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Austrian actor Tobias Moretti as the eldest Brenner son Hans and Paula Beer as Luzi are two of the most memorable supporting cast in the film. Hans is just a vile human being, appropriately brutal and cocky in his treatment of the hapless townsfolk. There’s a moment during a wedding where he orders the bride to dance that just makes me shudder with fear and loathing. The final shootout in the woods was perhaps a bit over the top with its use of slow-motion, but it’s still fascinating to watch. Greider’s bad-assery isn’t just that he’s a great shooter, but the fact that he’s planned his revenge meticulously, down to the Winchester rifle he brought just for the occasion.

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It’s a pity this film wasn’t chosen in the Best Foreign Language category in 2015, but it was nominated for nine German Oscars (the Lolas). I also wish Sam Riley had gotten some recognition because he truly displays such masterful acting here. He conveys so much with his eyes, he can be menacing and vulnerable at the same time.

I’m not well-versed in classic westerns, but I read that Austrian filmmaker Andreas Prochaska was largely influenced by Clint Eastwood’s westerns and some even compare it to Eastwood’s Pale Rider as it’s also about a lone hero taking on a village. But the setting and style in which the film is constructed certainly sets this one apart in this genre. The cinematography and music are particularly striking that I’ve made an appreciation post for that.

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The Dark Valley is one of the most beautifully-shot films I’ve ever seen. It made me wish I had seen it on the big screen. Cinematographer Thomas W. Kiennast seems to have that David Lean touch in capturing those amazing wide shots. Filmed in the mountainous region of Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, every shot is good enough to frame. The use of anachronistic music can be very effective when used well, and I think that’s the case here. 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.

I can’t recommend this enough. It might be too slow or bleak for some but it’s certainly worth a look if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path genre film that’s as exquisite as it is haunting.

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What are your thoughts of ‘The Dark Valley?’

Five for the Fifth: SEPTEMBER 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. Still can’t believe it’s Labor Day weekend already! For some reason I haven’t asked this before in the previous September editions. Most Americans will get a day off today in the first Monday of September to celebrate the creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

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It made me think of films that’s filmed in a workplace, whether it’s a factory, restaurant, 9-5 office job, etc. Having just rewatched Working Girl a couple of months ago, as well as Equity just last week, there are definitely a ton of films made about Wall Street. But there are a lot of memorable films about less glamorous jobs, i.e. Waitress, High Fidelity, Extract, Office Space, The Good Girl, Up in the Air, just to name a few. I’d also include Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. that takes place inside a scream factory.

So which workplace movie(s) is your all time favorite? 

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2. Ok, for this month FFTF, I want to feature two trailers from films by female directors. The first one stars Marion Cotillard, whose film Allied I actually featured last month. Well, as I said before, anything with miss Cotillard gets my attention!

From The Land of the Moon (Mal de pierres) trailer doesn’t have a subtitle yet but here’s the synopsis per IMDb:

Adaptation of Milena Agus’ novel, set after WWII following Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard), a passionate, free-spirited woman who is in a loveless marriage and falls for another man.

The film is directed by French actress/filmmaker Nicole Garcia also stars Louis Garrel and Alex Brendemühl. I love WWII romances, so I’m automatically intrigued by this. Apparently Sundance Selects has picked up the U.S. rights to the film back in March, and the film opens in France in mid October, but the US release date hasn’t been announced yet.

Here’s a clip that does have English subtitles:

Now this one takes place closer to home for me in the US.

Certain Women focuses on the lives of three women intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.

I love the casting of the three main actresses: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart. I’m not familiar with filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, but I did remember her film Meek’s Cutoff (also starring Michelle Williams) was quite acclaimed. Certain Women is set for release on October 14th.

Thoughts about either one of these films? 

3. Well, now that the dust has sort of settled on the Summer blockbuster season, a bunch of articles are lamenting that 2016 is one of the worst Summer seasons. The New York Times lists over a dozen movies as financial disappointment (including The BFG, ID4 sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Warcraft, etc. and perhaps the biggest dud of all, the Ben-Hur remake.

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But it seems that we’re only looking at big, tentpole movies. Seems that quite a few smaller movies like Lights Out, Bad Moms, The Purge: Election Year, Sausage Party, and this weekend’s box office winner for a second week in a row, Don’t Breathe have beaten industry expectations. Most of those movies’ budget are well below $20 mil, but have grossed at least twice its budget.

Which of the Summer sleeper hits are your favorite?
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4. It just dawned on me after I started watching Netflix’s Stranger Things that I’ve been watching two big 80s/90s stars making a comeback on TV. Winona Ryder is one of the stars of Stranger Things, and of course you all know Christian Slater has won acclaims for his performance in Mr. Robot.

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I don’t remember either one of those working steadily, apart from some small roles here and there. But there are some 80s/90s actors who have been working pretty steadily up until now, the likes of Robert Downey Jr. (since his comeback in Iron Man), Rob Lowe, Arnie, Sly, etc. It made me think of their peers a couple of decades ago who I haven’t seen in ages… Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Sherilyn Fenn, Molly Ringwald, and pretty much everyone in The Breakfast Club, boy those were big names when I was in high school!

So which of your favorite 80s/90s star would you like to see make a comeback on TV?

5. This month Five for the Fifth‘s guest is Mark from Marked Movies! I’ve talked about it a few times the topic here but it’s always a fun one to discuss.

What actors people take a disliking to? Not that they’re bad actors but there’s something about their style, or even appearance, that you just don’t take to.
Or alternatively, what actors people have previously disliked but over time began to appreciate them?

Well, I’m sure you have an answer for either one of Mark’s question. Let’s hear it!


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

FlixChatter Review: Kubo And The Two Strings (2016)

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Directed by Travis Knight | Written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler

Featuring the voices of: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Brenda Vaccaro and George Takei.

This latest film from Laika is a 3D stop-motion animated film. It tells the story of Kubo, a boy who comes across the ocean as a baby, adrift with his mother, fleeing some sort of great danger – one that has left him with only one eye. In hiding, he grows into a young boy and demonstrates a magical affinity for storytelling and origami. He uses this gift to mesmerize the townsfolk with tales of great warriors and monsters for a bit of money. Meanwhile, his mother, also possessing magical powers, is slipping away in a deep melancholia and fading memories. She forbids him to stay out after dark for they are being hunted by those responsible for taking his eye. As the story progresses, this inevitability comes to pass and those forces catch up to him.

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Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous film. Laika, which builds on its resume of Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls, has slowly and meticulously been perfecting it’s craft in the genre. 4.3 seconds of animation was produced in a day – the film taking 5 years to complete. Its look is stylish and impressive, fooling this reviewer’s eye into thinking it was done completely in the CGI domain.

Even more impressive are the themes the film tackles: love, life, death, rebirth, grief, the idea of memory as sacred and divine, and the power of storytelling. In this sense, “Kubo” strives for Studio Ghibli territory and is much closer to Miyazaki than any Dreamworks/Pixar/Disney offerings of late. It is appropriate to describe “Kubo” as a Samurai film as it has elements reminiscent of Kurosawa especially in its depiction of evil and the supernatural, as well as the hero’s journey.


While the film doesn’t completely succeed in its efforts to address all of these themes, it doesn’t fail either. Kubo should be lauded for not dumbing down its ideas to cater to the lowest common denominator. There is a darkness and melancholia added on to the film’s optimism and humor – and this seems fitting to its execution: simple with a dash of complexity. I also found its un-sentimentality refreshing in the era dominated by the Frozens and the Finding Dorys.

Kubo and the Two Strings is not perfect but it makes a valiant effort in a mature way. The filmmakers should be commended for that.

Note: the film has some scary images and sequences and not recommended for kids under 10.

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So what do you think of Kubo and The Two Strings? Let us know what you think!

AUGUST 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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Well, that’s it folks… Summer days are definitely numbered now that we’re entering the ‘brrr’ months. Ok so I’m being a tad dramatic. September is actually still quite warm here in the upper Midwest, and in fact Autumn is my all time favorite season, it’s just the season that followed that I’m not looking forward to.

2016 Summer blockbuster season has been seriously lackluster, with mostly duds than gems. I don’t think there’s a single film I absolutely love, except maybe Pete’s Dragon, but it remains to be seen if that would be a classic down the road. Well, I always look forward to smaller Fall films.

September screenings include Queen of Katwe, Sully, Blair Witch, Bridget Jones Baby and The Dressmaker. None of them are on my must-see list, but I’d think they’d be pretty entertaining. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for Bridget Jones Baby (and she’s in it as well), so that’s the main draw for me in seeing it. Still hoping there’d be a screening for The Magnificent Seven and American Honey!

So anyway, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

SuicideSquad

Suicide Squad

FlorenceFJ

Florence Foster Jenkins

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Pete’s Dragon

BenHur

Ben-Hur

Anthropoid

Anthropoid

IANASK

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Equity

Equity

HologramForKing

A Hologram For the King

LightBetweenOceans

The Light Between Oceans

CliniqueDrBlanche

La Clinique du Docteur Blanche (2014)


That last one is a French TV movie starring Stanley Weber that’s now available on Amazon Prime!


As you can see, I didn’t really see that many movies this past month. I’m so behind on my reviews, too, but I’m hoping to do my write-up of Florence Foster Jenkins, Ben-Hur, The Light Between Oceans and Equity sometime in the next couple of weeks.


I’ve also posted my top 10 list of the year so far…
are any of your favorites on the list?


 TV Series

WineShow

The Wine Show

MrRobot

Mr. Robot (Season 1)


 Rewatches


Starz’s The White QueenBBC North & South
The Age of Adaline | Not Another Happy Ending

I didn’t rewatch many movies this month. I did watch about an hour worth of the 1959 Ben-Hur, especially some of the key moments that are so indelible to this day. It’s incredible how in the age of pre-CGI, the epic chariot race still got my blood pumping, and the rowing/ship battle scenes are simply incredible. It made me miss Quintus Arius’ presence in the 2016 all the more.


MOVIE OF THE MONTH


EQUITY
 might not be the first Women-on-Wall-Street film, but it certainly is an important one that paints a realistic portrayal of real women on the male-dominated financial industry… strong, driven, ruthless, conflicted… This film isn’t afraid to show powerful women who are flawed. It’s a warts-and-all approach that I find refreshing. A far cry from the rosy, fantasy world of Mike Nichols’ Working Girl.

Produced, written, directed by women featuring a female-driven cast, this is a film I wish Hollywood would make more of! It’s not perfect, but the story’s well-crafted and Anna Gunn is excellent in the lead role.


Well that’s my viewing recap of August. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

FlixChatter Review: Hell or High Water (2016)

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When I first saw the trailer of Hell or High Water a couple of months ago, I thought for sure it’s going to be one of those late summer action films that would be shown at theaters one weekend and disappeared the next. Well as it turns out, it is one of the best reviewed films of the year, maybe the best so far. According to Rottentomatoes.com, out 134 critics who reviewed it, only 2 gave it a negative review. As of this writing, it’s currently sitting at an unbelievable 99% fresh rating on the site.

Set in West Texas, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are bank robbers and as the film opens, we see their acts right away. They’re amateurs but desperate for money, especially Toby who wants to keep his family land from being foreclosed on by the evil banks. Texas Ranger Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the hunt to stop these two brothers from committing any more robberies. These four characters are the center of the picture and it’s the chess match between the brothers and Rangers that’s fun to watch. This film can be described as buddy/western/road/action/thriller, it’s quite a lot to describe a film but that’s best way to explain it to anyone.

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For a film that doesn’t have a complex plot, the actors need to carry the picture and the performances by the main leads were pretty great. Jeff Bridges gets my vote for best performance of the year so far; no doubt he’ll get nominated again comes awards season for his performance here. He pretty much reprised his role from True Grit and it’s quite fun to watch. His character is on the verge of retirement and he wants to catch these thieves so he can ride out into the sunset as a hero. His constant insults on his partner Parker is hilarious and we audience know he didn’t mean what he said.

Birmingham also stood out as the partner who has to endured Hamilton’s insults but he give as much insults back to Hamilton as well. Watching these two rangers bickers gave the picture more comedic tone than you’d expect in a film like this. Pine, who probably realized he can’t rely on the Star Trek pictures to keep him relevant in Hollywood, wisely accepts this role in a smaller film. He’s very good here as a desperate man who wants his kids to have a better life than his. He also worries about his reckless brother who only decided to rob the banks just for fun. I was never a fan of Foster but he’s effective here as the reckless brother who enjoys violence and knows that his life is over once they’re done with the robberies.

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The script by actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is pretty great. Even though it’s a simple story, he was able inject some dark humor, great dialogs and some surprises here and there. I do wish he’d toned down some of the hate directed at the evil banks; yeah we get it, many people suffered because of these greedy bankers. Some of the dialogs tend to get a bit too preachy for my liking, especially when Toby and Hamilton had their confrontation.

Director David Mackenzie also did a good job of setting moving the film along as a brisk pace. It’s obvious that he took inspirations from films of Sam Peckinpah and The Coen Brothers. Some even compare this film to No Country For Old Men. While I agree there are similarities, I still think the Coen Brothers’ picture is superior to this.

Even though it sounds like I love this film, I only liked it. I thought Mackenzie did a good job of bringing a great script to the big screen, I think had it been directed by a more polished directors like David Fincher or Alfonso Cuaron, this would’ve been a near perfect film. I didn’t see any originality from Mackenzie so I can’t call a great film, just a very good one. But it does have a great script and fine performances.

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So have you seen Hell or High Water? Well, what did you think?

Top 10 Favorite Movies of the FIRST HALF of 2016

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This list is long overdue. I should’ve posted it sometime in July, but oh well, better late than never. This list only consist of films released between January – June 30, 2016. Some of these might’ve opened internationally prior to 2016, but I’m using the USA release dates or the fact that they opened at a local film festival.

I consider this list a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is a big factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types, but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (full review)

PPZ

As this is a list of favorites, there is no way I wouldn’t include this one on the list. I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen work, but at the same time I’m not a purist and so I thought this movie was a lot of fun! This is the film that made me fall for Sam Riley, whose portrayal of badass Colonel Darcy is wildly entertaining, and he’s the only Darcy I ever hyperventilate over. The epic first proposal fight scene alone warrants a place on my top 10 list! I also love Lily James as Lizzie Bennet as well as all the Bennet sisters. This currently stands as my most-watched 2016 movies so far. Oh, I’d also list the soundtrack as one of my faves from this year, too.

9. A Bigger Splash (full review)

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I hadn’t heard much about this film but was drawn by the amazing cast, especially the pairing of Tilda Swinton & Ralph Fiennes as former lovers. Well the two are definitely the highlights here, and Matthias Schoenaerts also delivered a strong performance. It’s a slo-burn, absorbing psychological drama weaving a tale of jealousy, frustrated passion that escalates to a boiling point. Amazingly-shot in the picturesque island of Pantelleria, Italy, but definitely not a case of style over substance.

8. Midnight Special (full review)

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This the kind of science-fiction that’s more concerned about the emotional impact of the characters than dazzling us with sleek special effects. Though we’re dealing with a character from another world, Midnight Special is in essence is a father/son story. It’s not a flashy film, but it grabbed me right from its rather cryptic opening scene and never let up. I’m impressed once again by Jeff Nichols’ talent as a storyteller, and his frequent collaborator Michael Shannon delivered once again. Nichols’ new *muse* Joel Edgerton is also excellent here, and neither one of these actors have disappointed me in anything just yet.

7. Captain America: Civil War (full review)

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It’s a testament to the prowess of Captain America franchise that once again I’ve got yet another one of its film on my top 10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of my favorites of 2014! Civil War is an excellent film that ties all three Captain American movies superbly well and would rank amongst the best film trilogies of all time. After this, I’m even more confident in the Russo brothers’ directing talent and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is definitely in capable hands if they continue to make Marvel movies.

6. The Jungle Book (full review)

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Disney’s done it again! This, as well as Pete’s Dragon are two of Disney’s major remakes that I hadn’t anticipated at all until the time the film marketing was put into high gear. The CGI effects alone is a wonder, I was literally in awe of how realistic the animals were. But thankfully director Jon Favreau didn’t just make something that’s style-over-substance. He made the classic tale come alive again and feels new. I find Mowgli’s journey quite moving and I really do love all the characters, and Idris Elba‘s voice is wonderfully mesmerizing as the villainous tiger Shere Khan.

5. The Fencer (full review

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Out of all the films from MSPIFF that I saw this year, this is one that made the most impression to me. It’s the first Estonian film (that’s also filmed in Estonia) I’ve ever seen. It’s such a moving drama loosely based on an Estonian Fencer Endel Nelis who fled from the Russian secret police and became a physical education teacher at a small-town school. It’s a mix of mystery war drama and a sports underdog story that blends seamlessly. I hope you get a chance to check this out when you can, it’s a little movie with a huge heart that deserves an audience.

4. The Lobster (full review)

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It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say this is one of the weirdest films I’ve seen in a while. I think the last film I saw that was as bizarre as this one was Holy Motors, but I rate this one much higher due to its emotional resonance. This film gets top marks for originality and thought-provoking concept, you’d be hard pressed not to think about it for days afterwards. It’s a great film to see with someone else so you can discuss it endlessly afterwards. It featured one of the best performances from Colin Farrell I’ve seen to date, and it introduced me to Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, definitely a striking talent to watch for.

3. Zootopia (full review)

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I didn’t see this movie until it’s out on VOD and I must say I was gutted I didn’t see it on the big screen. I was blown away by how good this movie was and how compelling the story was, which proves that animated films have *matured* so much over the years. The plot is more of an action mystery thriller that is as clever and quick-witted as the movie’s protagonist. I love how the story keeps playing with my expectations throughout, cleverly weaving the themes of widely-held stereotypes and discrimination without taking away the fun of an animated adventure. I have bought the Bluray as I know this will be a fun one to watch over and over.

2. Sing Street (full review)

SingStreet

John Carney‘s done it again. This is the second movie of 2016 (after PPZ) which soundtrack has become one of my all time favorites! It’s Carney’s third film (after Once and Begin Again) that I absolutely love. There’s no other filmmaker working today who integrates music into the storyline as shrewdly as Carney does. I love 80s music and this is the perfect love letter to the music of that era. Featuring a gifted young Irish singer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (who was just 15 when he was cast), it’s such a fun celebration of the power of music. I was swept away by the infectious optimism of this movie, and I can’t wait to watch this again.

1. Love & Friendship (full review)

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Another Austen film made my top 10… though it’s based on Austen’s lesser-known work. In fact, this was based on her short epistolary novel Lady Susan that was published posthumously in 1871. This is nothing short of a masterpiece from writer/director Whit Stillman, featuring a masterful performance by Kate Beckinsale in the title role and a delightfully-hilarious turn by Tom Bennett. You’ve never seen an Austen female protagonist like this before, the beautiful Lady Susan is as deviously-cunning as she is impeccably dressed. I enjoyed this movie immensely and I think the fact that it’s more of a satire than a romance drama, it’d be as enjoyable for those who are normally not into this genre. Funny, witty, and so gorgeous to look at, this is another Austen movie I could watch over and over for years to come.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Now, I think all of these are terrific films and well worth your time. In fact, I liked Deadpool So much so that I made a top 10 list why it won me over, so it was definitely the biggest pleasant surprise for me this year. I like Beeba Boys a lot, and had the pleasure of interviewing its filmmaker Deepa Mehta at MSPIFF in April.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

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Let’s see which of these films would end up in my FINAL top 10 of 2016. There are quite a few films released in the latter half that I loved… Pete’s Dragon, The Light Between Oceans, Captain Fantastic, Anthropoid, etc. that might end up on my final top 10. Plus there are others that haven’t even been released yet, such as these that I’m anticipating: Loving, American Honey, The Accountant, Queen of Katwe, The Girl on the Train, A United Kingdom, Rogue One, among others.


So that’s my Best list of 2016 so far. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you😀

Sunshine Blogger Award

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Nothing like getting an award to bring a ray of sunshine to my day. I had just gotten back from my trip and was really exhausted when I got pinged on Twitter, so big THANK YOU Getter and Margaret for nominating me😀

As given, every award has a set of tiny rules for accepting it, here are the ones for Sunshine:

Post the award on your blog
Thank the person who nominated you
Answer the 11 questions they sent you
Pick another 11 bloggers (and let them know they are nominated!)
Send them 11 questions

I’m going to combine the two set of questions from the two ladies, so here we go…

Questions from Getter:

1. What was the last movie you saw and loved?

Well, I just saw The Light Between Oceans last night. It’s not a fun movie given the subject matter, but I love the poignant love story and of course it made me cry buckets. It’s wonderfully-directed, gorgeously-shot and expertly-acted… and the heartbreaking story lingered with me long after I saw it.

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2. Name an actor, an actress and a director you would pair in a movie and what genre would it be?

Sam Riley + Naomie Harris in a romantic noir by Michael Mann.

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3. Last song you listened to.

Great song by a Welsh band, and the video stars my current fave Welshman Aneurin Barnard!

4. Book to movie adaptation you would like to see happening in the near future?

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I just finished this a couple of months ago. I’d LOVE to see The Daughter of Time adapted as a feature (or TV miniseries). The idea of Richard Armitage as the bed-ridden (ehm) inspector Grant sounds delish… and I soooo want Aneurin Barnard reprising his The White Queen role as Richard III in the flashback scenes.

5. From all the Chris’, which one do you prefer: Evans, Pine, Hemsworth or Pratt?

Though they’re all nice to look at, I don’t fancy any of them in terms of looks. But Chris Pratt has the best personality so I definitely pick him.

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6. Name your 3 movie pet peeves.

  • Rude people who uses their phone during a movie in a theater
  • Predictable, cheesy plot you can spot a mile away
  • Amazing actors being underutilized in movies [or not getting enough work!]

7. If you had to choose, what season would you live in forever?

Autumn. Especially in Minnesota with the gorgeous Fall colors!

8. Imagine your pet (or an imaginary pet) had an inner voice, which actors/actress’ voice would he/she have?

Sam Riley’s… in his native Yorkshire accent.

9. You had a really bad day, what book or movie will make you feel better?

Sense & Sensibility. Both the 1995 Ang Lee version and the 2008 BBC version.

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10. If they were handing out superpowers based on your personality, what superpower would you want and what would you probably end up with?

Oh boy, that’d be a tough one! Well I have an obsessive streak in me & I’m an aspiring screenwriter, so I’d love to have a superpower where I have all the talent, clout & money in the world to make the films I want with the actors/filmmakers I want. What I’d end up with? Utter, massive disappointment that I’ll never get to do any of that😦

11. Sleep, Marry, Kill:

This is a tough one as I actually don’t fancy ANY of these people (except perhaps Hardy circa Inception), nor do I have strong negative feelings for.

Round 1: Joel Kinnaman, Ryan Reynolds, Dave Franco

Sleep: Reynolds | Marry: Kinnaman | Kill: Franco

Round 2: Jared Leto, Chris Evans, Orlando Bloom

Sleep: Leto | Marry: Evans | Kill: Bloom

Round 3: Paul Rudd, Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender

Sleep: Fassbender | Marry: Hardy | Kill: none (I mean who could possibly kill Paul Rudd??)

Round 4: Choose between three guys you picked to marry from previous rounds

Marry: Chris Evans (he seems like the most *normal* one I can imagine living with)


Questions from Margaret:

1. Who would play you in a movie based on your life?

Hmmm, I’ve been asked this once before. There’s no Asian actress currently who looks even remotely like me, but hey, you always want someone 100 times prettier, smarter and wittier to play you in a movie right? In that case I picked Rashida Jones… [she’s also got a similar skin tone, height and age as me]😀

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2. What is your favorite movie ending of all time?

The Dark Knight – Gordon’s speech narrating the scene + the music = absolutely perfect.

3. Who is your favorite cinematic Batman?

Wow, I hadn’t seen this question when I answered #2. So naturally… Christian Bale.

4. What is the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?

I’ll go with a recent one that’ll stand to be a comedy classic: What We Do in The Shadows

5. Your sexiest movie character ever choice?

Even 65 years later, still tough to top Brando in Streetcar Named Desire [fanself]

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6. What do you like most about our movie blogosphere?

The movie discussions & fangirl/boy-ing😀

7. What is your favorite movie blog?

Oh man, too many to mention…

8. Will Sati survive Blade Runner 2?

Ahah, that’s VERY questionable. I’ve advised her to take someone who knows CPR to the movie!

9. What is your most anticipated movie at the moment?

Not a movie, but BBC mini-series SS-GB!

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10. What is the most under-seen movie you love?

Ahah, pretty much everything Sam Riley‘s been in is under-seen. But if I have to pick one, it’d be the Austrian western Das Finstere Tal (The Dark Valley) – review coming next week!

11.What movie character do you identify with?

Sense & Sensibility‘s Elinor Dashwood.


The 11 bloggers I’m nominating:

1. MichaelIt Rains, You Get Wet

2. CindyCindy Bruchman’s Blog

3. VinnieVinnieh Blog

4. Steven – Surrender To The Void

5. Khalid – Blazing Reel

6. Eddie – Jaccendo

7. Anna – Movie Nut

8. The VernVideo Vortex

9. ZöeSporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger

10. PaulPfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies

11. TiffanyPresents of the Past

Wish I could nominate more but hey fellow bloggers, if this meme strikes your fancy, feel free to take part!

My 11 questions to them:

  1. Who’s your favorite female filmmaker?
  2. Which actor/actress would you be willing to wait in line for say, 5 hours, to meet?
  3. If you could write ANY screenplay, what genre would it be? [Feel free to elaborate if you have a specific idea in mind already]
  4. Who’s your favorite male AND female film characters in the past decade?
  5. Same as above but for TV series/mini-series.
  6. What film genre you wish studios (Hollywood or otherwise) would make more of?
  7. Inspired by Dell’s recent Against the Crowd Blogathon, what critically-panned film you’d defend with a passion in the past decade?
  8. What movie you saw this year that surprised you in a big way [whether good or bad]?
  9. If you could have a single piece of clothing from any film, which one would you pick?
  10. If you could be James Corden for a day for one episode of Carpool Karaoke, which one musical artist (or actor if he/she is also a singer) would you invite?
  11. What’s your most reliable guilty pleasure movie?

Well that was fun! Hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about moi🙂

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