Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor + Best Supporting Actress

ThursdayMoviePicksThe Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor + Best Supporting Actress.

It’s another Oscars edition! Well, prior to this year where the Academy got confused as to who’s actually the lead of the film (*cough* Judah and The Black Messiah *cough*) and nominated the leading man in the supporting category, for the most part it’s pretty clear which actor belongs in the supporting roles. Since I haven’t seen a bunch of classic films in which the actors won in the supporting category, I’m going to pick winners from movies released in 1980s – today.

In any case, here are my four picks:

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)- post-humous

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It’s rare that an actor’s performance in superhero movie would get the attention of the Academy, but Ledger’s Joker is simply iconic. He deservedly won a total of 32 Best Actor in a Supporting Role awards for his work on this movie, including the “quintuple”: Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and Critics’ Choice award (per IMDb). I really think he surpasses Jack Nicholson’s wicked-clown persona in the role, but created a psychopathic persona so scary yet mesmerizing.

As I said in this scene-spotlight post of the interrogation scene, the Joker had such power to get into anyone’s skin and he really pushed Batman to the point where he almost lost it. I’ve rewatched this movie a bunch of times and I’m always in awe of Ledger’s acting where the actor became the character… thanks to the extended research he did for the role, including secluding himself in a motel for six weeks, etc. It’s hard to watch that film and not think about how that role might’ve cost Ledger his own life. There were reports that the role took a toll on him mentally and physically, which might have contributed to his accidental drug overdose.


Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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I didn’t plan on including another villain who won Best Supporting Actor, but hey, bad guy roles are often juicier than the heroes, and good actors can elevate good roles and make them great. That’s certainly the case with Waltz’s performance which is indelible right from its intense opening sequence. He easily stole every scene he’s in, a perfect combination of being hilarious and terrifying. In less capable hands, Landa could’ve easily just be a sadistic caricature but Waltz made him so indelible. The Austrian actor also used his knack for languages to good use, speaking English, French, German, and Italian in the movie.

I remember reading IMDb trivia that Quentin Tarantino was considering abandoning the film during the casting period when they were searching for someone to play Colonel Hans Landa. He apparently thought he’d written a role that was unplayable, that is until they saw Waltz audition for the role. I think it’s safe to say this is my favorite QT’s film.


Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton (2007)

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This is a legal drama where George Clooney‘s played a ‘fixer’ to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company (U-North) that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit. It’s been ages since I saw this, but I remember it being quite gripping and that Tilda Swinton was amazing as Karen Crowder, U-North’s general counsel. Her intense performance stood out even in a star-studded ensemble that include Sydney Pollack and Tom Wilkinson. The Scottish actress is so versatile that she not only able to play virtually any role, but she can also disappear in them as well. I think her nervous breakdown performance in the bathroom alone deserves all the kudos. Karen is obviously an ambitious, ruthless character, but Swinton gave her depth and vulnerability that’s captivating to watch.

The film was screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut (known for The Devil’s Advocate and the Bourne trilogy). I just rewatched the trailer again, I should rewatch this one soon!

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave (2013)

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This is such a tremendous film with excellent performances all around, but it’s a film I could watch only once as it’s so harrowing.. At the center of the film is Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery, performed beautifully by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film is filled with big name actors, including Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, etc. but amongst the supporting cast, Lupita Nyong’o definitely stood out as  the brutally abused plantation worker. Clearly it was a physically and emotionally demanding role for any actor, let alone for a newcomer in her film debut!

I’ve always wondered how tough it must’ve been for her as well as her co-star Fassbender in filming those vicious scenes. Well, I read on IMDb that before filming their more brutal scenes together, Nyong’o and Fassbender performed a ritual of “making nice.” According to Nyong’o, “We wouldn’t say anything to each other, just a look in the eye and a grasping of hands. Our characters are in such opposition, but we as actors needed each other in order to be able to go the distance.” 

Nyong’o is no one-hit-wonder though, she’s continued to impress me in subsequent roles and proven her versatility as an actress.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

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FlixChatter Review – ENHANCED (2021)


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More than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, most film-loving moviegoers have turned to the multitude of premium video-on-demand (PVOD) offerings of various kinds. Even the large movie studios have turned to using their steaming platform, whether it’s HBO Max, Disney+, or Amazon Video. The others, such as Vertical Entertainment, have continued to roll out a diverse offering of PVOD titles, such as director James Mark’s film Enhanced. In his first feature film Kill Order, a martial arts action film​​ which was distributed by RLJE in 2016, James Mark worked with his younger brother Chris Mark to showcase his professional background in martial arts and gymnastics. Having a director who has made his career in film as a professional stuntman and fight choreographer is quite evident here.

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The plot of the movie is relatively basic and has been remade several times over. It has all the elements; there is a sinister government organization, a group of “enhanced” mutants, and a main character — a soldier who becomes disenfranchised. George Tchortov stars as a soldier also named George, tasked with bringing in alive the aforementioned group of “enhanced” mutants. In another part of town, we meet a young woman named Anna (Alanna Bale), who is homeless and living out of a van in an abandoned yard and works as a car mechanic. She gets involved in a precarious situation at the car shop after which she is forced to go on the run.

Anna is eventually tracked down by George and a group of soldiers working for the government/military leader Captain Williams (Adrian Holmes). The Captain wants George and the other soldiers to capture Anna using their high tech watch/energy tracking devices and their blue-tipped, energy-zapping sticks. They also try to use a tranquilizer to subdue her before bringing her in to the facility where they’re keeping other “enhanced” mutants, but Anna does not oblige and uses her “enhanced” mutant power to escape. She does receive unexpected assistance from a mysterious “enhanced” mutant named David (Chris Mark), who hunts down and kills all (except one) of the other soldiers and takes George as a hostage. A scene of red blood on white snow ensues.

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It becomes clear that David is stronger than any of the previously encountered “enhanced” mutants of “beta” or “gamma” strength, making him a “super enhanced” mutant, or an “alpha.” David claims vengeance against the government, and he gains power by eliminating his enhanced allies, getting stronger each time he kills others like him. He demands that George tell him where Captain Williams and the government is keeping the other “enhanced” mutants. Anna quickly learns of David’s actions and wants to help George and help him not get killed by David. Anna and George fight David in a well-choreographed martial arts sequence between the three actors, and eventually Anna and George escape on snow mobiles and get driven to another location by a mysterious ally named Eli (Michael Joseph Delaney).

EnhancedMovie-soldiers

Director and screenwriter James Mark also took on the responsibility of being the film’s stunt coordinator, working closely with his brother Chris Mark to pack as much action and martial arts in the fights sequences as possible. It was a visual feast watching Chris fight using his extensive knowledge of martial arts and being a stunt performer. His character reminded me of the way actor Robert Patrick played the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. While David is not meant to be a shapeshifting android assassin like the T-1000, David has the fighting ability and displays skills that make him almost unstoppable.

With James Mark having worked on big titles such as Pacific Rim and Scott Pilgrim VS the World, it is evident that his love for fighting sequences, visual effects and using the natural elements that are visually impactful to the movie and bring us outdoor natural light scenes in the snowy woods of Canada. Director of Photography Russ De Jong uses the Canadian wilderness and the uninhabited area around Toronto to his advantage. Whether it’s on a snowmobile ride through the woods or a several long landscape shots, I am reminded of the beautiful snow-covered woods in Minnesota during the winter.

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While this movie doesn’t employ any new and different storytelling, it does make for a fun-filled movie night at home for those looking for the unusual combination of mutants, martial arts and mysterious strangers living in storage facilities while trying to escape a sinister government/military organization. I especially enjoyed Chris Mark and his ability to create an indestructible character. At times, I felt sorry for David, even though he was the antagonist in the film and is a killing machine. George Tchortov and Alanna Bale’s chemistry was quite strong on screen, most likely due to both actors having acted in various film and television roles such as Tchortov’s work in the film Honor Code and Bales’ role in the popular Hulu series Cardinal.

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For those sci-fi junkies looking for a good action film that employs the director’s love for “…films {that} inspired us, resonated with us and left us wanting to join a dojo or play with a broom stick in the backyard,” they won’t leave the comfort of their couch disappointed. If this movie’s sole purpose is to motivate its audience to sign up for the dojo and learn how to kick butt with a broom stick, then go right ahead and sign me up!

– Review by Vitali Gueron

3 out 5 reels


Have you seen ENHANCED? Well, what did you think? 

Interview with CRISIS film’s writer/director Nicholas Jarecki

Hello all! Welcome to another interview edition featuring the award-winning writer/director of the critically acclaimed Arbitrage Nicholas Jarecki. His sophomore film CRISIS has just been released in select theaters and VOD. Check out my review of the film if you haven’t already. It stars Gary Oldman, Greg Kinnear, Evangeline Lilly, Armie Hammer, Luke Evans and Michelle Rodriguez.

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Synopsis: A drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation. An architect recovering from an oxycodone addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s disappearance. A university professor battles unexpected revelations about his employer, a pharmaceutical company bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.

Set against the backdrop of the opioid epidemic, their stories collide in this dramatic thriller from writer/director Nicholas Jarecki.

In his acclaimed feature debut, Arbitrage (starring Richard Gere, which I gave a high rating in my review), the NYU graduate Jarecki set a suspense-thriller about love and loyalty against a backdrop of fraud and murder in the world of high finance. With Crisis, the writer-director now turns his attention to the opioid epidemic.

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I had the pleasure of chatting with Nicholas (Nick) Jarecki over Zoom to talk about his film, from the process of making CRISIS, casting, acting in his own film, and the personal crisis of Armie Hammer and how it affected his film’s release. Read on:

Q: Why did it take you so long from making Arbitrage (released in 2012) to this one? It’s almost a decade long.

A: Yeah, it was two years ago now. Because of the pandemic. We had to wait to bring it out. Yeah. I suppose, you know, making these films, these kinds of serious drama type films that ask questions, provocative questions, there isn’t as much support for that as you might expect.

But you know, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. So you’ve got to get it done. But it just requires a lot of tenacity.

Q: I learned that you had lost some people who are important to you, to this epidemic, to this opioid crisis. So is that the driving factor for you to make this, or was there any other inspiration for you to make this film?

A: Well, you know, I mean, look, you always want to make a good film that’s entertaining. First and foremost, it’s my job to entertain you. Write me your seven dollars and you want to have a good time to see something interesting, most dramatically interesting. But you know, what I would say is with this film, I had lost a friend many years ago to opioid abuse, gotten into pain pills and then went to heroin.

And we didn’t understand anything because he was such a nice, bright young man. Good family and all that. So I filed it away in the back of my mind. And then about five years ago, I think there were some reporters from the Los Angeles Times I teamed up with. And and they started to look into the role of opioid manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies in this issue.

What did they know or what didn’t they know? You know, was the product perhaps more dangerous? People had been led to believe, because now you see we’ve had this terrible epidemic in the country. You have these regular, normal people who are getting addicted in record numbers, hundreds of thousands dead. You know, they took a pain pill that was prescribed to them. But the way their body reacted, the way they developed independence, those are things I thought that was worth exploring.

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Q: The way these big pharmaceutical companies were being portrayed in the film, it’s as if there’s so much at stake in terms of profit that they even didn’t care when they’re told their product were not ready to hit market. All they cared about was the bottom line. Is that based on your research?

A: I mean, I think we wanted to look at that. You know, this film is very based on real events, real and very heavily-researched. So that is how drugs are developed and tested on mice. And, you know, it’s a fascinating world. And obviously, you know, I don’t think anyone set out to make a harmful product. So that’s not the issue here. The issue is, you know, were these pills overprescribed? Were they over-marketed? Were questions about their safety ignored? And so I wanted to put that into a thriller context, really see what Gary Oldman’s [character] eventually did, Armie Hammer’s and the rest of the great supporting cast… Michelle Rodriguez, you know, all these people. How do these drugs interact with our society? And, you know, looking at it from these different perspectives of the user, the criminal criminal smuggler, and the manufacturer inside.

Q: So it was originally called Dreamland, is that correct? And then it was re titled to to Crisis. What was the significance of that first title?

A: It was a working title. There was another film called Dreamland, so we couldn’t use that one. But, you know, we don’t want it to be confusing. But I might I just kind of like the idea that, you know, we were all sort of living in a fantasy. I think that’s a very American thing. I actually like that title, but I do love CRISIS. I think it’s very strong. And I like these one word titles like. I believe there hasn’t been a film with that same title since Cary Grant’s crime thriller in 1950.

Q: Now, in terms of timeline… how long did it take from, when you were writing the script, like, how long did it take you to work on this film, as there was a lot of research that you had to do. So how long is that process?

A: I wrote this pretty quickly. I wrote it over the course of about six months in 2017. So about a little over three and a half years ago. And then, you know, I had met Gary Oldman and I took him the script and and he liked it right away. He said, OK, let me let me come on as a producer and help you put the film together.

And then the film came together pretty quickly and took, you know, maybe six months to to get the other actors together, and then we started shooting in 2019.

Crisis-On-Set-GaryOldman

Q: And then so that was kind of that’s a good segue to talk about casting. Since you met Gary Oldman when you already finished with the script, are you one of those writers who have somebody in mind when you were writing the script? Because I feel like he’s so perfect in the role of Tyrone. So did you have someone in mind when you were writing this?

A: So I met Gary and then I was writing the script at the same time. This is kind of how this happened with Arbitrage. And so the character started to take shape a little bit in my mind. When I’m writing, it’s sort of like you only just see shapes, black, black box, you know, kind of shadow figures because you need the actors to bring it to life. So it’s kind of you know, it’s a strange process.

It’s a bit of an alchemical process, I would say. And but then, you know, once I have finished the draft and I gave it to him, then I really could see only him. And we worked together on this quite a bit, to tailor it. And I like to do that with all the actors. I like to rehearse for a few weeks, really get their perspectives on the character, get kind of deep into the research with them, go to labs, you know, with Veronica Ferres playing the [Pharma company] CEO, Armie and I also went with the undercover cop to go look at these pill mills, etc.

Crisis-Set-Lily-Jarecki

Q: OK, so how did the Evangeline Lily came about? Did you you know her before making this film?

A: No, I didn’t know her. I sent her the script. I had been a fan of hers since I had watched all of Lost. I was obsessed, just like everyone else, with that show. And what I saw in her was she was an actress with a great range. She had really showed so many different sides of the persona, and I think she gives a tremendous performance in this film though she hadn’t really done dramatic work in a while.

You know, she had done she had a little part in The Hurt Locker, but she then kind of got into this Marvel world. Yeah. And I think she said that she really wanted to stretch her dramatic muscles again. She really came came hard on the film, and she went very deep into the characters, kind of method and, you know, she had to go to some very dark places to give you that performance.

Q: I didn’t even know that was you who played Stanley the DEA agent (Armie Hammer’s partner) until I looked up my IMDb. So what makes you want to be involved in front of the camera? Because I’m not sure that’s hard to be directing and acting at the same time.

A: Well, you know, it’s all you have to blame. Lenny Kravitz, the musician. Four years ago, he was making a music video in California and he wanted to cast a director, a real life director, to play a director directing him and going crazy. Yeah. So he cast me and and then we did it. And I had such a great time. People were saying to me, like, hey, you were really good.

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Jarecki as a DEA agent with Director of Photography Nicolas Bolduc

And and I thought, oh, my God, it’s like maybe that could be something fun to do. So we’re doing this film and I didn’t have anyone for that part. It’s kind of a comic relief type part. And so then somebody said like, well, how are we doing with that casting? And I said, you know what? And I thought, here’s my big moment. And, you know, I said, well, maybe I would do it. Well, there’s one less person to cast anyway, so you save some money. And then they were like, okay, great.

Q: I have to kind of bring up this elephant in the room. Surely you know about the personal crisis in regards to Armie Hammer. Did his involvement affect the reception of your film? How do you feel about the whole issue?

A: The thing is, you know, in terms of the audience, I think the film has been extremely well received. We’ve been number one rented movie in America when it was iTunes for two weeks. We opened up in 216 theaters. We were the number one independent film, the country, the number two per screen, second to Tom and Jerry. The number one film in limited release on less than a thousand screens. So audiences really sought out the film and continue to seek out the film that were opening around the world. We were doing, I think 900 theaters in the Middle East, we do a couple hundred in Australia this week, Canada. So, and audiences have rated the film very highly, we’ve had some very nice reviews, but we did take some heat from a lot of critics.

And it was, it was frustrating because I think you can look at something through lenses and you can say, okay, well, I appreciate where this is coming from. And you know, no film is perfect, it’s got its issues, whatever, but you can also really rip into something. And I think, unfortunately the timing of Armie’s personal problems, which I really know nothing about, I mean, he’s not my brother, he’s an actor that I hired to do a role and he did a great job. But you know, I think that [his involvement] may be colored some of the media. It’s frustrating, but I think, you know, all things have their moment. But I think people are starting to discover the film audiences are discovering the film and film writers are discovering the film and have been reacting more positively to the film.

That’s really the goal with this film. We just, we wanted to make an entertaining movie, uh, thrilling movie that you feel and captivate to with some great performances. And I think we did that, but then secondly, we really wanted to get this issue out to the public and get people talking about what are the responsibilities of these pharmaceutical manufacturers? How should law enforcement be done? How do we treat addicts? Do we treat addicts as the enemy, or do we treat them as our brother and sister our, you know, and understand that this is crossing all walks of life. It’s like a category five hurricane. And what we really need to do is to have some understanding, put some money towards treatment and to de-stigmatize and take away the, ‘oh, they’re bad people’ mindset.

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Q: Now, in regards to the multiple narratives. I feel like all these different three different distinct story, but yet related could be its own film. What was the biggest challenge for you to try to tell their stories in just two hours and make sure the story is coherent?

A: And it was, uh, it was a very interesting question that, I mean, I asked myself all these questions, you know, two of the stories, me, one story doesn’t mean, but in a way it does, because you understand that Gary’s up here, you know, it’s like almost like he’s fighting with the gods on Mount Olympus and whatever decisions are made in that room, in that board room or in the lab, then they come down and they touch these other lives. So for me, you know, it was, it was valid to have a metaphorical connection or an allegorical connection as opposed to ‘Oh, they’re students in his class or whatever, something that would have felt totally unrealistic.’

I liked the idea, you know, that the characters are struggling and then they can all help each other in some way. Gary helped them by the fight that he gets into, they help each other. So, certainly editorially putting all that together, a lot of time and effort went into that because you need to see, well, how do these stories inform each other, how do they touch each other? You know, how do we make a connection? That’s both for image based, story-based, you know, we move scenes around and, you know, take the script and I take some scenes and montage them and use these kinds of pre-lab dialogue. Like Robert Altman used to do or later Steven Soderbergh, they’re kind of the masters. So, some of it is trial and error, some of it is your instinct… it’s a kind of dance. And then also what is the footage and what are the actors, what are they giving you? Sometimes they can do things you don’t expect that are very beautiful.

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Gary Oldman, Luke Evans on set with Nicholas Jarecki

Q: My last question relates to the theme in your films. It seems your previous film deals with the wealthy, powerful people, and that’s also the case here both in the Pharma company and also the privileged school trying to maintain their place in society. I notice that power is kind of a running theme in your stories, so is that something that you like to explore more in your films? I was wondering maybe there is a third film that you’re doing, that its almost like a trilogy with these kind of similar theme going on.

A: Well, I think you pick up on that very well. Um, I mean, I think I’m interested in looking at, you know, there’s, there’s certain moral questions in here, right? And then there’s also like a balance of hearts. So Greg Kinnear, who’s been a friend of mine for many years, I asked him to play this role and he plays the dean of the university. And he’s obviously in conflict with Gary Oldman’s character, because he has discovered what he thinks is damaging information about this product and he wants to go public with it. But then he’s agreed not to do that. And this could really hurt the university because the pharmaceutical company provides the university endowment. So you can really see his point of view… and I said, we got to have Kinnear because he’s such a sympathetic person.

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So to see the dean in this conflicted situation, you know, I like those moral gray areas. It’s a balance of and saying, okay, are you sure you’re right about this thing? You know, maybe it’s science who knows, maybe you’re not right. Uh, you know, maybe it’s that experiment translates here on the, on the animals, but it doesn’t work for the humans. I mean, these are all complicated questions, but what you are going to do is you’re going to endanger the university and the university is serving its community of students. And it’s got tens of thousands of students that I’m looking out for. And I have responsibility to those people. So in the balance of harms, this may not be the one to do. And by the way, I don’t think you can win. And then, you know, whether or not (Gary’s character) Tyrone does win or not in the end, we have to leave for, for your viewers.

I like exploring the corrupting role that capitalism plays in the American society because it has, it’s so great and it encourages innovation and all that, but you know, when we go too far away, when we get to free market and we do whatever you want, well sometimes that encourages bad behavior, you know, safeguards. It’s like, you know, you have a runaway train, right? You’re supposed to have some circuit breakers, make sure the train doesn’t go off the tracks. And I think that’s the role of us, the public. So that’s part of why we make the film is to say, Hey, take a look at what’s going on. You know, maybe you don’t want to do anything about it, but at least you should be aware of it.


Check out the trailer:


CRISIS is now available on Video On Demand.
It’ll be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the USA on Tuesday April 20th


Thanks Nicholas Jarecki for chatting with me!

….

Thursday Movie Picks – Television Edition: Opening Title Sequence

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… TMP Television Edition: Opening Title Sequence.

Clearly I’ve been blogging a long time, I’ve actually posted about my favorite TV opening credits back in 2016 as part of my Music Break series. I’ve listed 5 favorites + 3 honorable mentions which are likely going to be in many people’s list. Now, for this TMP, I’m going to include two from that list that I love the most, and for the other two I’m walking down memory lane. The first two are stylistically similar, so I picked the other two that are so different in terms of tone, visuals and music, but they’re terrific and even iconic in their own right.

In any case, here are my picks:

Netflix’s DAREDEVIL

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I absolutely LOVE this opening credits! You know it’s good when you don’t hit the SKIP button and just watch it every time you watch an episode. Having Daredevil drenched in blood speaks to the fact that the character deals with a lot of personal demons, as well as fighting the external demons on the show. The spiritual elements also go with the fact that Matt Murdock is a relapsed Catholic.

The beautiful but eerie visuals, combined with the ominous score by composer John Paesano is just spectacular and provocative. Per this article, Paesano said he worked with season 1 show-runner Steven DeKnight, and the one thing that he, Steven and Marvel agreed was that they wanted to do something that was not your typical superhero sound. Well they certainly accomplished that!


HBO’s WESTWORLD

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This is another opening credits I could watch over and over. It’s just so meticulously-crafted and well thought-out just like the series itself. Provocative, sexy, mesmerizing and ominous… both the visuals and the haunting score by Ramin Djawadi creates a perfect tease of what to expect from the crazy adventures in Westworld.

If you love opening title sequences, then you must visit The Art of the Title and check out the interview with the creative director behind this title sequence and other great ones like The Night Manager and Luke Cage. I so agree with what he said that Westworld is such a great sci-fi/western that ‘…digs into the core of what it means to be human and asks really uncomfortable questions.’


WINGS

Ok, now allow me to walk down memory lane with one of my all time favorite American sitcoms that ran on NBC in the 90s. I love the theme song that I still hum it to this day! Starring Tim Daly and Steven Weber as brothers Joe and Brian Hackett who operate Sandpiper Air. The series was created by the same team behind Cheers and Frasier, both also have their own memorable opening credits and catchy theme songs!

I love that it shows an airplane (presumably Sandpiper Air) flying over Nantucket and landing in the fictitious Nantucket airport. It really made me want to visit Nantucket every time I watched it. It’s such a funny show filled with terrific characters who I still know by name. I love the rivalry between Sandpiper and Roy Biggins’ Aeromass Air, and who could forget Thomas Haden Church as the daft-but-lovable Lowell the mechanic, and Tony Shalhoub as the Italian cab driver who’s frequently bullied by Roy. Many of the cast members have gone on to bigger things but I always remember their hilarious parts in this sitcom!


The Golden Girls

Now, the Golden Girls and the Thank You For Being A Friend theme song has become a meme for Millennials, but I’m old enough to have watched this when it originally aired from mid 1980s – early 90s, spanning seven seasons!

Betty White is the only living member of the show, bless her, let’s hope she lives forever! The Golden Girls is such a hilarious but heartwarming story of friendship, and I love that it feature four older women instead of the usual teens/young people. Just because it has characters over 50 doesn’t mean the show is traditional. In fact, it dealt with some controversial issues of its day, i.e. interracial marriage, HIV/Aids, sexual harassment, gay marriage, etc.

Per Wiki, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother apparently was a huge fan that the cast were invited to perform several skits as their characters in front of her and other members of the Royal Family at the 1988 Royal Variety Performance in London.


So which are YOUR favorite TV opening sequences?

Trailer Spotlight: HBO’s THE NEVERS (2021)

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I LOVE period dramas and the superhero/fantasy genre, so The Nevers seems to have been made for me! I saw the teaser a few weeks ago and was like, WHOA!! It’s like Jane Austen meets Marvel… ok that’s an oversimplification as Jane Austen stories are set in Regency, not Victorian era… but in any event, you get the point.

So here’s the full trailer:

So apparently the original show-runner is Joss Whedon who left back in November 2020. Per Variety, he cited that he couldn’t meet the physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic. Well, can’t say I’ll miss him. He’s been replaced by Philippa Goslett, British screenwriter who’s developed shows for networks such as FX, BBC and Channel 4, but this marks her first time as a show-runner.

Thanks to HBO’s official show page, here’s the full synopsis:

August, 1896. Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event which gives certain people — mostly women — abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But no matter their particular “turns,” all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger. It falls to mysterious, quick-fisted widow Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and brilliant young inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) to protect and shelter these gifted “orphans.” To do so, they will have to face the brutal forces determined to annihilate their kind.

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Judging from the trailer, looks like it’ll be an action-packed series with [hopefully] some thought-provoking commentary about the societal issues of the time. Despite having a woman reigning as monarch, that is Queen Victoria women did not have the right to vote, sue, or own property… women are basically property of their husbands. So seeing them take charge and even banding together to save the world is surely revolutionary. The trailer show these women being persecuted, well, naturally the men would be threatened by powerful women and they’d do whatever it takes to maintain status quo (what else is new?)

The cast looks amazing!! I recognize a bunch of them from previous British series/movies: Olivia Williams, Nick Frost, James Norton, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ben Chaplin, and Tom Riley. (see below for the complete list). I also noticed Jodie Comer from Killing Eve, but her name is not on the list in Part 1 of IMDb. Now the reason for that is that this is a two-part series, which is similar to Netflix’s LUPIN.

Part One of the first season debuts on April 11, 2021 with six-episodes on HBO Max. Part Two’s six episodes will follow at a later date, to be announced.

There are SO many things to look forward to in this fantasy series! A terrific ensemble cast with a diverse set of women, beautiful costumes + set pieces, striking cinematography… and gadgetry? Well one of the main character is an inventor, so she might’ve invented this steampunk vehicle which would be handy to outrun all those nefarious guys trying to imprison them!

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So here’s the full list of cast + who they’re playing:

Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer) as Lavinia Bidlow, the wealthy benefactress funding the orphanage for Amalia’s outcasts, who are also known as the Touched.

Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) as feared criminal overlord Declan “Beggar King” Orrun.

James Norton (Little Women) as Hugo Swann, the rich and irreverent proprietor of a den of iniquity.

Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s Demons) as Augustus “Augie” Bidlow, Lavinia’s sweet, awkward, younger brother with a secret of his own.

Pip Torrens (The Crown) as Lord Gilbert Massen, a high-ranking government official leading the crusade against our heroines.

Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line) as Inspector Frank Mundi, who’s torn between his police duties and moral compass.

Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) as Edmund Hague, a deranged doctor searching for the source of the powers.

Amy Manson (Once Upon a Time) as the tortured, murderous Maladie, who derives power from pain.

Rochelle Neil (Terminator: Dark Fate) as the fire-wielding Annie “Bonfire” Carby, one of Maladie’s motley gang.

Zackary Momoh (Seven Seconds) as orphanage doctor Horatio Cousens, whose turn equips him with healing powers.

Eleanor Tomlinson (The Illusionist) as Mary Brighton, a broken and resilient performer pursuing her dream of singing on stage.

Elizabeth Berrington (In Bruges) as Lucy Best, adaptive and streetwise, her quick-wit and high spirits mask the pain of a tragic past.

Anna Devlin (All the Money in the World) as Primrose Chattoway who, at ten feet tall and a dreamy demeanor, wishes to be an ordinary girl not taking up too much space.

Kiran Sonia Sawar (HBO Max’s Pure) as Harriet Kaur, a young Scottish Sikh and aspiring lawyer, determined to live her life as she planned.

Viola Prettejohn (The Witcher) as Myrtle Haplisch, a middle-class girl rescued from a family who cannot understand her – literally, as she can no longer speak any form of language they understand.

Ella Smith (Ray & Liz) as Désireé Blodgett, a prostitute with a power that gets her in trouble and a six-year old son who never speaks.

Vinnie Heaven as Nimble Jack, a rakish and charming young thief and an expert at breaking and entering.

So yeah, I know what I’ll be watching in April!! Perfect timing as I need something to fill the void of LUPIN and Ted Lasso, two of my new favorite shows.


Are you excited for THE NEVERS?

FlixChatter Review: CRISIS (2021)

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I have to admit that though I’ve heard news about the opioid crisis, I’m not really that familiar with the subject. In fact, prior to watching this film I didn’t even know what Fentanyl was, which is apparently a powerful synthetic pain killers that’s similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It’s certainly an important subject matter, and even a timely one had our attention been completely absorbed by the Covid pandemic as this epidemic also kills people at an alarming rate.

The film features three main storylines that’s seemingly random at first, but you know they’d converge in the end. There’s Jake (Armie Hammer), an undercover DEA officer working to broker deal involving the lucrative Fentanyl between a Canadian supplier (code-named Mother) and some Armenian drug lords. This operation is a personal one for Jake as his own sister (Lily Rose-Depp) is addicted to OxyContin. Claire, an architect (Evangeline Lily) who’s a former addict tries to figure out the truth about what happened to her lost teenage son. Lastly, there’s Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) in a David vs Goliath story battling a pharmaceutical giant Northlight when his research of their new “non-addictive” painkiller finds that the drug is even more dangerous than its predecessor.

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The multiple narratives naturally reminds you of Steven Soderbergh’s highly-acclaimed war-on-drugs drama Traffic, but I don’t think it’s fair to immediately brush this one off as this one is a pretty solid film in its own right. The opening chase sequence of a boy with a backpack full of pills in a wintry Canadian landscape is a good way to propels the story. It immediately intrigues me to find out what’s at stake for the characters we’re about to meet. Jake, Claire and Tyrone may be fighting against different types of people, but essentially they’re in the same battle, that is the war on opioids. The script is written by Nicholas Jarecki whose 2012 debut feature Arbitrage is an excellent film that also deals with power and corruption. Jarecki ups the ante here by not only adding multiple-layers to the story, but also by acting in it as Jake’s partner at the DEA.

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Out of the three narratives, I find Oldman’s scenario between the professor + big Pharma (with Luke Evans & Veronica Ferres as the faces representing the corporate giant) to be the most intriguing. Obviously the stake is high for each character, but Tyrone is fighting the big guns who puts this dangerous drugs on the market in the first place at the risk of not only his job but his reputation. Of course the university dean (Greg Kinnear) wants Tyrone to just look the other way as big Pharma is the school’s big donor. There’s a tense exchange between the two actors where Oldman yells that this is the worst medical crisis since tobacco. Some of the dialog like this one might be too on the nose, even clichéd, but the actors’ committed performances still able to make them work. I also appreciate that Jarecki don’t paint the protagonists as saints… they’re all flawed people who have made errors in the past but want to do the right thing and find the truth.

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Performance-wise, Oldman is excellent in a layered performance that allows him to be both intense and vulnerable. While he’s a well-respected professor, he’s also a husband and would-be father who fears he won’t be able to provide for his wife (Indira Varma) and family if his reputation is tarnished. His inner struggle feels believable and real and his charismatic screen presence always elevates any film. It’s interesting to see his character against drug addiction here, given the first role I remember him play is a pill-popping detective in Léon: The Professional.

I think Evangeline Lily is quite strong here despite some of the overly-melodramatic moments. I think I’d be fine with the extended scenes of her mourning her son, but it provides such a stark contrast when she suddenly becomes a vigilante. Her storyline stretches incredulity in parts, especially as she crosses paths with Jake as they suddenly have a common enemy. At the same time, the short interactions between them help ground her character.

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As for Armie Hammer, who at the time of this film’s release was undergoing a personal crisis on his own, plays a pretty run-of-the-mill cop here. Whether or not his involvement in this film impacts its reception is debatable, but it certainly seem to have taken over the discussion. Most of the commentaries on social media about this movie usually centered on his fall from grace. I think Hammer is generally a decent but not overly charismatic actor. Despite his good looks, somehow he never really lights up the screen, and that’s the case here. He’s either morose or angry for the entire film, where more capable actors could’ve added more nuance to this integral role. There are so many familiar faces in this film, Michelle Rodriguez and Kid Cudi also made a brief, but memorable appearance.

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Overall CRISIS is an engaging thriller that’s pretty easy to follow. The script might seem overstuffed with strings being pulled in several directions, but it didn’t become a tangled mess when they all converge. There are parts that are predictable that I saw a mile away, but there are still moments that surprise me as well. This one isn’t as stellar as Arbitrage but still a worthy sophomore effort from the talented writer/director. I’d be interested to see what else Jarecki will tackle next, hopefully it wouldn’t take him nearly a decade to come up with his next project.


Have you seen CRISIS? Well, what did you think?

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 1 Review

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It’s a great week for superhero fans. I know that today DC fans are rejoicing for the #SnyderCut of Justice League. Well, even though I have enjoyed some DC superhero movies in the past, I’m not clamoring to see the 4-hour slog elongated version of what I think I saw back in 2017 that I could barely remember, ahah. I did rejoice when I saw an email from Disney saying I had a screener of episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TFATWS) earlier this week! Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite film of the MCU, and also the best of my favorite MCU trilogy. The Captain America movies are all solid but I dare say The Winter Soldier, where Falcon (Sam Wilson) and Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes) first met, is more than a fantastic superhero movie, it’s a phenomenal movie period.

Ever since Disney+ launched in November 2019 in the US (boy that seemed like lightyears ago!), THIS is the series I couldn’t wait to see. Of course the pandemic delayed everything, including this one. Well, let’s just say it’s so worth the wait!! I rewatched Captain America: Civil War in anticipation for this miniseries, and even THIS scene alone made me wish there’s a movie dedicated to these two. So getting an equivalent of 3 movies but on TV is awesome!!

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This is only one of six episodes where, like WandaVision, will not have a follow-up season. I think it’s brilliant that Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige set up these miniseries so filmmakers can dive more deeper into intriguing MCU characters that don’t have their own dedicated movies. And when you’ve got terrific actors like Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, there’s plenty of opportunities to see them flex their dramatic muscles. It’s also cool to see a female director at the helm. Kari Skogland is no stranger to directing high-profile series, such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Punisher, Walking Dead, The Americans, etc. though TFATWS’s $150 mil budget (for just 6 episodes!!) is no doubt the highest she’s been involved in.

TFATWS opens with a bang! A high-octane action in the vein of the opening sequence of Winter Soldier, but focusing on Falcon instead. The fight choreography is just as good as what you saw in the opening sequence, plus we see a familiar face of the antagonist Falcon is fighting against. If you love Falcon’s flying sequences (and who doesn’t?), well you’re gonna enjoy the spectacular high-flying action scene, the best Falcon flying-action I’ve seen so far! So glad to hear composer Henry Jackman back composing his kinetic score, which perfectly complements the dynamic action Even from the trailers, you can tell the production values is top notch. There’s a cinematic feel to it, which means Marvel isn’t treating these streaming-version content like a step-child amongst the MCU.

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But what I also appreciate is the slower, reflective moments for each character. Per Disney’s production brief, Skogland promises “…an epic, character-driven story. We get to go inside these characters and their world in a much more intimate way.” Timeline-wise, this one takes place six months since the events of Avengers: Endgame known as the Blip, where half of all life across the universe returned after the 5-year period where Thanos snapped them out of existence. So obviously things aren’t exactly back to normal yet for everyone, including these two Avengers. After five years in oblivion, they’re trying to find their place in a world that is no longer the same. The miniseries addresses some of those Blip ramifications in a personal way, displaying their personal baggage and inner struggles.

In terms of his home life, we get to meet Sam’s sister Sarah Wilson (Adepero Oduye) and his nephews who runs the Wilson Family Seafood business Louisiana. It’s a real and relatable moment seeing Sam trying to help Sarah save the struggling family business, even so far as helping her secure a loan from a bank. It humanizes the hero and show that they’re not perfect humans who are immune from ‘ordinary’ problems many of us face.

Meanwhile, Bucky’s struggles is more rooted in his identity. I mean, he’s the only Avenger who has done really heinous things such as murdering a fellow Avenger’s parents. Even though he wasn’t really himself when he did it, that is still an impossibly hard thing for anyone to reconcile with. We saw him being ravaged with guilt in Civil War even when Steve still stood by him, here we see his struggles haven’t gone away for the hero-turned-baddie-turned-hero-again. No wonder he’s in therapy, he’s been through SO much trauma! This episode explores Bucky trying to atone for his past sins, with flashback scenes of him on a mission when he was still brainwashed as the assassin Winter Soldier.

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Though Steve Rogers is no longer around in this MCU timeline, Captain America’s spirit permeates through the entire episode. There is a solemn moment where Sam paid homage to his personal friend and fellow Avenger, and we get to reflect on that memorable passing-of-the-shield moment scene in Endgame and what it means to Sam personally. Obviously it’s a huge responsibility to take on that mantle… and this interview with the miniseries’ creator Malcolm Spellman talks about how he “…saw the show as an opportunity to be frank about race in America” In regards to the shield with the American flag symbol, “…being as a Black man, is it even appropriate to have that symbol? That symbol means something very different in Sam’s hands than it does in Steve’s.” It’s certainly timely to have this conversation and I’m glad they didn’t shy away from it.

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Though the tone of trailers are more comedic filled with witty, even silly banters between the two, the start of the miniseries is more serious before Sam and Bucky meet up. I actually don’t mind it as the story is still engaging and it makes me anticipate the action-packed adventure in store for these two! I’m also curious to see how the journey of some familiar characters in this miniseries, particularly Daniel Brühl‘s Zemo, the Sokovian special forces whose vengeful tactic was to get the Avengers to fight each other. Unlike Red Skull, Zemo isn’t one of those sociopath villain hellbent on controlling the world, his evil scheme was motivated by grief when he lost his family in Sokovia. Last we saw him in Civil War, he’s confined in a German prison, so I wonder what the story is with him and why/how he’s out in the world again.

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There’s also Emily VanCamp as Agent Sharon Carter returning, and the one major new character is John Walker played by Wyatt Russell (yep, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn’s son). In the comics, Walker a.k.a. U.S. Agent is actually a baddie called Super-Patriot. But in this miniseries, he supposedly will partner with Sam and Bucky to protect the world from a new threat. There are scenes of Falcon with a mysterious character who’s a US soldier, played by Danny Ramirez (who’s curiously missing from the IMDb page). He seems to play a prominent role but we’ll see what his story arc will be.

So yeah, so far so good! I think this episode is a strong start that ticks all the boxes for MCU fans and get us even more excited for Phase Four. I certainly appreciate that it’s not all action + explosions, it’s got a nice blend of drama, suspense and action that allow these two characters to shine. I’m also curious to see which Avenger cameo(s) we will see. The cinematography is fantastic, which I expect given the huge budget. I only wish they’d go easy on the extreme close-ups though, it’s fine if used sparingly but I really don’t need to see every strand of Bucky’s eyelash for an uncomfortably long period of time.

In any case, I won’t be reviewing every single episode, but might do a recap once the entire miniseries wraps.

4/5 stars

Here’s a sneak peek that just dropped today at the Virtual Launch:


Anyone else excited for this series? If you have seen ep. 1, well what did YOU think?