Guest Review: Bleed For This (2016)

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I was a little nervous to write this review. My first two posts for FlixChatter (Ouija and The Eyes Of My Mother) were for horror movies-a genre I enjoy and feel comfortable writing about- so being assigned a movie outside of my wheelhouse was a little daunting, especially considering this one is a boxing movie. I am not remotely a sports person. When I voiced my concerns to my sister, she pointed out that regardless of the subject, a good movie should make me empathize with the main character. I should be able to relate to their struggle and their eagerness to achieve their goals. Was I able to do that in Bleed for This? No. Not really. And for a movie like this, that is really a problem.

Bleed for This tells the true story of Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), a world champion boxer who suffers a near-fatal car crash, breaking his neck and being told he may never walk again, let alone fight. Despite this major injury, concern from his parents (Katey Sagal and Ciaran Hinds), and lack of support from his manager (Ted Levine), he works relentlessly to not only heal, but return to his former strength and fight again.

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A story like this should be tense and emotional, but it was surprisingly underwhelming. This mostly has to do with poor pacing. A substantial amount of the first half of the movie was dedicated to introducing Vinny and establishing his identity as a boxer, but the events following his car crash-specifically, his journey to recovery- were rushed, showing very little of his physical challenges or his emotional turmoil over potentially never boxing again. We see him struggle to lift a barbell in his parents’ basement which created a moment of suspense (would he be able to even move it? Would he injure himself further?), but the subsequent training montage with trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) is brief and shows virtually no extreme effort, so when he finally enters the ring again, it doesn’t feel like as enormous of an achievement as it should.

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Vinny’s feelings about his boxing career possibly ending could have been addressed better as well. Before the accident, his manager suggests he consider retiring, infuriating Vinny; he can’t imagine ever not being a boxer, but when he’s presented with that very real possibility after the car crash, we don’t really see him explore his feelings about it, which seems strange after making such a big deal about his commitment to boxing in the first act.

That’s not to say the movie didn’t have its good points. It had a strong cast, and the chemistry between Teller and Eckhart was especially impressive. There were a few moments of genuine tension toward the end of the film- but not enough to save it from being boring overall.

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I’m sure the real Vinny Pazienza’s recovery was incredibly difficult. I’m sure the training was exhausting and painful and required unbelievable self-discipline, and the idea that he might not reach his goal was probably terrifying. But if none of that is conveyed, what’s the point of making a movie about it at all?


laurasLaura Schaubschlager is a Winona State University graduate with a B.A. in English, which is seldom put to use in my health insurance career (outside of cringing at the grammatical errors my superiors make in their emails). I’m an avid horror fan (movies, novels, video games- anything that makes me hesitate when I go to turn off the light at night), and I’m always looking for writing opportunities, although my current portfolio is made up of partially-completed short stories and an occasionally-updated blog: schaublahblah.wordpress.com.


Have you seen ‘Bleed For This’? Well, what did you think? 

Week in Review: Shaun the Sheep Movie & London Has Fallen

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Happy Monday folks! Boy, in terms of weather, this is gonna be a darn near perfect week for us here in the Twin Cities! Highs in the 50s and 60s every day and it’s only the beginning of March! Well, I ain’t complaining, in fact I’m wearing short sleeves already today.

Well, usually I do a weekend roundup but I figure I should just make it a Week in Review instead so I can include some reviews from the past week. Well, it seems that I saw the BEST new-to-me film of the year, as well as the absolute WORST one. But hey, I hit a TV milestone in that I finally finished Jessica Jones! I’m REALLY s-l-o-w when it comes to tv watching, obviously. I should have my review of season 1 later this month.

So here’s my reviews of the two I saw last week:

ShauntheSheep

I’m a huge fan of Chicken Run, which was created by animators Nick Park & Peter Lord. I hadn’t seen the tv series version of Shaun the Sheep however, but when I saw the trailer for the movie version I knew I had to see it.

Just like Chicken Run‘s female protagonist Ginger, Shaun is a clever sheep who’s the leader of the pack. I LOVE the set up of the movie, how they just wanted a day off from the routine and have some fun… cooking, making juice, watch TV, etc. whilst they let their farmer master sleep in a caravan. Well, things didn’t go according to plan when somehow the van accidentally rolls away and leads the farmer to the Big City with amnesia. So it’s up to Shaun and the gang to rescue him and of course, as soon as they get to the city, hilarity ensues. The stop-motion animation alone is worth a watch, the shape of the sheep makes me laugh instantly and when they all dress up as humans I was on the floor laughing. The restaurant scene had me in stitches, I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time. I’m glad I didn’t see this on the big screen with a room full of strangers.

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But what’s so delightful is the story has so much heart. The relationship between the sheep and the farmer and his dog Bitzer is well-developed that I actually teared up when they’re reunited. I love the plot involving the farmer at a hair salon, it’s just so clever and makes for some really amusing scenes. There’s a pretty funny villain in the form of a ruthless animal control worker and the prison-like shelter have some hilarious throwbacks to some classic films like Cape Fear, Silence of the Lambs, etc. It was unexpected but brilliant!

If you hadn’t seen this, I can’t recommend it enough. The animation style is a lot of fun to watch but it’s the heartwarming story and brilliant humor is one you’ll always remember. Glad that this was one of Oscar’s Best Animated Feature nominees, it’s certainly well-deserved.

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LondonHasFallen

Well, if Shaun the Sheep will likely end up in my best list of the year, London Has Fallen will undoubtedly be in my worst. It is the most idiotic movie ridden with action clichés and cringe-worthy moments. Seriously, it might as well be an episode out of BBC’s Spooks (MI-5) but without the clever writing and the gravitas of Peter Firth & the talented British cast.

There’s really no plot to speak of other than the reason POTUS Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is in London is because he’s attending the British PM’s funeral who died suddenly. So the supposedly ‘most protected event’ on earth is going down with a bunch of world leaders gathering in one spot. It doesn’t take long before all hell break loose, as police and even the members of the royal guards suddenly open fire at people in the middle of the changing guard pageantry at Buckingham Palace. But of course his loyal henchman secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is always there to save the president the only way he can.

It should tell you something when the only positive reaction I had after seeing the movie is this:

In any case, if you get a kick out of seeing London engulfed in flames and Londoners shot to bits, this is a movie for you. The fact that it’s set in London doesn’t really have any bearing on the plot, it could’ve been set in other big European city like Paris or Berlin [oh boy let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend w/ this franchise w/ Paris Has Fallen and so on].

I have to say the SFX is slightly better than in its predecessor Olympus Has Fallen, which is odd as it actually has slightly smaller budget than the first one. It doesn’t matter though clearly there’s no spare left for the writers. I really can’t recommend this even to action fans as even though there are endless shootouts and car chases, none of it is really memorable as it’s been done better (and in a more meaningful way) in other action movies. It’s relentlessly violent and bloody, and the movie somehow made Banning appears even more bloodthirsty than even the Middle Eastern terrorists.

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Some critics have said that this is the perfect movie for Trump’s America and y’know what, I couldn’t help thinking that as I was watching it. There’s a xenophobia vibe in the way Banning cruelly dismantles his enemies. I mean, what else are you supposed to make of lines like “Go back to Fuckheadistan, or wherever the hell you’re from!” At one point, president Asher remarked ‘Is that really necessary?’ after witnessing the brutal way Banning executed one of the terrorists, to which he casually replied, ‘no.’  Is sadistic behavior supposed to be funny? It’s really tough to even sympathize with a character like that. There’s not much we know about the protagonist to begin with, other than the fact that he’s about to be a dad but even the scene of him with his expectant wife has no emotional resonance whatsoever. That whole bit about him wanting to retire from his job and stuff is so corny and irritating because of course he won’t retire because Butler wants to keep this franchise going.

I wish I could say the movie has some redeeming qualities, but really there’s none. Even as good actors like Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett showed up, I kept thinking how much they got paid to keep doing this kind of rubbish. There’s no memorable catchphrases or anything resembling wit or good humor. In fact, the better title for this movie should be ‘Gerard Butler Has Fallen: How Low Can You Go’ [face palm] Suffice to say this will end up in my Worst of the Year list.

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So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think. 

FlixChatter Review: Olympus Has Fallen

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I was wondering the other day if it’s possible to find a review of this movie that does not mention the words Die Hard. Seems that the comparison is inevitable and it seems that Olympus Has Fallen is begging for a comparison. In fact, perhaps it’s an homage to that action franchise, as it’s more akin to the spirit of the original Die hard movie than its official sequel (and if the latest one is any indication, much less banal)! Surely this movie will make you nostalgic about 90s bombastic action extravaganza (whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you).

If you’ve seen the trailer, or even a poster, then you’ll know the plot. The White House is being attacked by a group of North Korean terrorists and hold the president hostage. As is with a lot of 90s action flicks, there is only one person who could save the day and that man is Leonidas Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). The first ten minutes or so of exposition reveals a tragic event during his day as a Presidential guard. Again, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know exactly what happened, but in case you haven’t I’m not going to mention it here. In any case, Banning is now confined to a desk job and even as time passes he’s still consumed with regret that he let his boss and friend, that is President Asher, down. So naturally, he’s more than eager to redeem himself when the chance presented itself one sunny Summer day. The attack comes hard, fast and vicious. The first attack came from above, but instead of a space ship, practically the entire Washington DC is sprayed with bullets from an air carrier, and within 13 minutes (yes the terrorist leader was counting), the supposedly most secure building in the entire free world is reduced to rubble with dead bodies piling up on its grounds.

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The words fresh and original aren’t likely to be associated with this film, but it certainly stays completely true to its title. Olympus indeed has fallen, and Antoine Fuqua doesn’t pull any punches with the brutality of how it goes down. It’s rated R for a reason, it’s violent and bloody. I lost count how many people getting shot in the head at close range, not to mention all the severe stabbings. Both the good and bad guys deliver all kinds of ways to send people to their Maker. Banning himself has no qualms in *taking care* of the enemies. He seems to subscribe to the same “No mercy! No surrender!” motto as his most famous role in 300, but with a bit more humor thrown in. Some of the one-liners did deliver some laughs, especially his defiant quips at the Pentagon folks, though Butler’s character not quite as charismatic as Bruce Willis’ John McClane as the script lacks some serious wit.

Unfortunately it’s lacking in common sense as well. I mean, granted the believability factor depends on whether you’d believe a group of extreme terrorists could deliver such a blow to the United States. The thing is, I don’t know how such a big aircraft could enter our airspace, passing through Andrew Air force Base, without being shot down?? The security forces are so quickly rendered powerless by the enemy, it’s as if they’ve never been trained to respond to emergency attack whatsoever. But the biggest plot blunder of all to me is how Banning is still able to get security clearance once he’s inside the President’s compound as he’s technically no longer part of the Service. Yet could still use his thumb print to gain access, has the right code to open a safe, etc. as if he’s never left!! I mean, they didn’t change authorization codes every time there’s a shift in the security personnel? WOW, some *security* huh?

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Now, I can’t possibly write this review and not mention the cheesy special effects. I get that this is a throwback to 90s action blockbuster, but do they have to throw in 90s SFX as well?? It gets distracting at times, especially during the ambush scene in broad daylight. Fortunately things get better and grittier as the day progresses, and the action gets more up-close with more hand-to-hand combat between Butler and whoever is unlucky enough to get in his way. Butler is utterly believable as a bad ass special forces (is there any other kind in the movies?), he’s definitely credible in action flicks and as a one-man army. Yet he’s not wooden or vacant like many action stars, he still brings a touch of humanity to the role as the mission is a personal one for his character. There’s some emotional resonance in his scenes with Aaron Eckhart as the beleaguered POTUS, and also with his young son.

The supporting cast are stellar but not really given much to do. We’ve seen Eckhart and Morgan Freeman in far better roles, but their presence are more than welcome and add gravitas to the project. Melissa Leo got more screen time than I thought, though it’s curious what made the Oscar winner sign on to do THIS particular role. I’m disappointed that Angela Bassett — who still look beautiful and athletic — didn’t get to do any butt-kicking in this movie! I was sure she would get to do some of that when she was cast as the head of Secret Service. Rick Yune pretty much rehashed his role as Bond villain in Die Another Day as the villainous mastermind Kang who’s hellbent to get his hands on US nuclear missiles. I guess he’s serviceable but nothing more, a far cry from the iconic performance of say, Hans Gruber, as Kang is neither menacing nor entertaining. I’d say the characters of Dylan McDermott and Radha Mitchell could’ve been left in the cutting room floor and they won’t make a dent.

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Well, this movie doesn’t exactly put Butler back in my good graces just yet. He still needs to be much more selective in his role choices and most importantly, seek out decent scripts! A lot of his projects have potential but suffer from poor writing. I do think he’d be better off doing more action thrillers than rom-coms, though I do wish he balance things out with dramatic roles, too.

The spirit of patriotism is so high in this movie, there’s absolutely no room for subtlety. But seems like in the screening I was in, the audience ate it up, I could tell people were rooting for Butler as the lone hero. A torn down American flag being thrown by the bad guys from rooftops falls in slow-motion as a patriotic score comes on, there are plenty of moments like this and I can’t help but feel a bit emotional despite its inherent corny-ness. Btw, Lincoln also makes an appearance here, and you’d cheer when he [sort of] shows up on screen.

Final Thoughts: Despite all the flaws, I still think this one is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s actually quite entertaining and action fans should be pleased to see the relentless combat scenes and countless shootouts. Apart from the rather sluggish start, there’s not a boring moment as the action never stops. There’s also a decent level of suspense overall, and I definitely feel a pang in my gut seeing our leaders being violated in such a way. The subject matter of terrorism is sadly still relevant to this day, and at times it really hit close to home. Fuqua said in an interview that he sought to show America’s post-9/11 vulnerability and he certainly achieved that.


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Those who’ve seen this one, what did you think? And for those who haven’t, are you going to check this one out?

Small Roles Big Performances: Stephen Graham & Stacy Edwards

Thanks to Dave Whiddon aka Daveackackattack for his excellent contribution to the blogathon. Visit the main blogathon post to see the full list of participants by clicking the banner above.


Stephen Graham in This Is England

Stephen Graham’s big break came in Guy Ritchie’s gritty, gangster movie Snatch. The British actor’s tough guy exterior landed him supporting roles in Public Enemies as Baby Face Nelson and on Boardwalk Empire as Al Capone but nowhere was he better than as Combo in Shane Meadows’s semi-autobiographical This Is England.

It’s the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a shy, 12 year old boy, growing up in England under Margaret Thatcher’s rule in ’84. His father having been killed in the Falklands War he is raised by his doting mother Cynthia. Bullied at school Shaun feels alienated from the other kids. He soon befriends a group of skinheads who initiate him into their group.

(These skinheads aren’t the neo-Nazi, white power skinheads that you know today. See the Skinhead wiki page.) His mother is not too sure about the group at first. They dress him up in typical skinhead garb (shaved head, Dr. Martens, suspenders, button-down shirt, rolled up jeans) much to her dismay but they do protect him from some bullies at school so his she is grateful for that. Everything is going good until Combo, an older skin from the group, comes home from prison. He enters the screen with the ferocity of a rabid pit bull.

Charismatic but volatile … he’s the kind of dangerous guy who you just never know when he might turn on you. Combo soon makes a derogatory remark about the Falklands War and young Shaun takes a swing at him defending his father who died for that war. Impressed at Shaun’s fearlessness Combo takes him under his wing. Unfortunately Combo introduces Shaun to his racist side which leads Shaun to take part in what is known as Paki bashing. A bit later.

Combo feels it’s time to introduce Shaun to his friends aligned with the white-only nationalist National Front party. In reality Combo’s a lonely and insecure man covered by his tough guy exterior. Later on in an intimate scene we see Combo as he breaks down in front of a girl, whom he has misplaced feelings for, who rejects him coldly. Scorned by the girl he felt for he lets loose his rage on a friend of the group. Shaun, a witness to Combo’s actions, must decide for himself if this is the path he wants to go down. Stephen Graham skillfully shows a sympathetic side to what would normally be a one dimensional character. His explosive performance is electric, tense and oddly touching. Artfully directed, perfectly scored and realistically acted this small film about a boy growing up in Thatcher’s England struck a chord with me even though I myself grew up in America in the 80’s. This is one of my very favorite films.

I highly recommend anyone who is planning on seeing the movie skipping the fan made montage clip below. Ludovico Einaudi’s “Fuori Dal Mondo” from the film plays over the montage. Enjoy.

Stacy Edwards in In The Company of Men

You might remember Stacy Edwards as Michael Cera’s big breasted mom in one of the opening scenes in Superbad. Sadly she probably was seen by more people for that than for her role in Neil Labute’s film adaptation of his scathing take on white, male dominated, corporate America in In the Company of Men. In the film Stacy plays a deaf woman who’s just another worker in a secretarial pool in some nameless, average, everyday company.

The story starts when two middle management types, Chad (Aaron Eckhart in a breakout role) and Howard (Matt Malloy), are temporarily assigned to her branch office for six weeks. Chad devises a ploy with Howard to get back at all the women who have ever wronged them while they are there. Chad decides to pick out an average woman whom they will simultaneously ask out, date, shower with attention and then dump unceremoniously when their business there is over. Howard reluctantly goes along after some convincing by Chad. Chad soon picks out Christine after learning she is deaf thinking she’ll more than welcome the attention from the two men. As the plan progresses things fall apart when one of the men falls for the genuinely sweet Christine.

What happens from here I won’t say but it’s devastatingly heart wrenching to watch. Chad is a clearly a sociopath and Howard is just another schlep following the herd so it’s Stacy’s performance (she’s not deaf in real life) that gives the film its weight and real emotional punch. It’s hard enough to pull off a character with a hearing impairment let alone making you really feel like you know what she’s going through.

The film was considered controversial because of the absolute brutality of the misogynistic dialogue and plot. In the Company of Men was even named to Premiere Magazine’s “The 25 Most Dangerous Movies Ever Made”. It’s one of those films that, if you can get past the low budget indie feel of it, you won’t shake easily thanks in part to Stacy Edwards’ heartbreaking performance. Highly recommended but not for the faint of heart. You may not like it but you won’t be able to ignore it.


Small Roles … Big Performances Blogathon


Thoughts on either one of these performances? Well let’s hear it!

Gerard Butler Special: What’s next for my favorite Scot

Taking cues from my fellow Indonesian blogger Novia who’s done a great job keeping us updated on what her #1 crush Cillian Murphy is up to, I decided to keep you abreast on what’s going on with MY #1 crush 😉 I will be doing another follow-up posts that list the projects for the other four actors that round up my top five crush list (that I listed on Novia’s 5-men to drool on post) 😀

Seems like the last few months he’s been constantly rumored to be cast in all kinds of movies. I counted seven projects listed under pre-productions in his IMDb page.

  • Manhunt (pre-production)
  • Olympus Has Fallen (pre-production)
  • Crossface (pre-production)
  • Thunder Run (pre-production)
  • Motor City (pre-production)
  • Brilliant (pre-production)
  • Hunter Killer (pre-production)

None of them seems to have any real confirmation, that is until last week there’s news about Olympus Has Fallen, a.k.a. the other Die Hard in the White house movie that Millennium Films are developing (more on that later). The only other possible project out of that list that seems legit is Albert Hughes’ Motor City. I was really psyched about that one when Gary Oldman was involved [even GB himself was very excited about the possibility of working with his acting hero] but now Oldman has exited the project, bummer! I do hope they’ve got another excellent actor in Oldman’s place.

Before I get to his upcoming projects, here’s the rundown of the films he’s wrapped and will be out later this year:

Chasing Mavericks

I just read on this site that the title has now been changed from Of Men and Mavericks (though it’s not reflected yet on the poster below), I prefer the former but I suppose the simpler title is easier to remember.

Director: Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential)

Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Scott Eastwood, Jonny Weston

Butler made the news back in December during filming and almost lost his life! He was getting ready to film action scenes when he was thrown off his surfboard and pummeled by breakers at least 12 feet high, then held underwater for two consecutive waves before being hit on the head by four or five more when he managed to swim to the surface. (per Daily Mail). He described the surfing incident during this Graham Norton interview and said he was under for almost a minute!

I am VERY excited about this one because of Hanson’s involvement and the fact that Gerry is learning how to surf for this film. Mavericks tells the true story of a courageous young surfer who trains with an old school master of the sport to reach heights that few men ever dare. Frosty, (Butler) a quiet, reclusive surfing guru, struggles to balance his addiction for the rush of riding waves with the responsibilities of raising a family (per letitcast.com).

Check out the gorgeous and majestic-looking poster [thanks to my pal Terrence], man look at that wave!

Release Date: October 26, 2012

Playing the Field

Director: Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness)

Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid, Judy Greer

I have talked about that movie here as well as posted some on-set photos. The premise seems tailor-made for Gerry. He plays a former professional soccer player with a wild past who tries to redeem himself by coaching his son’s soccer team, only to find himself tempted by the kids’ restless and gorgeous moms. Two of those moms are Zeta-Jones and Thurman, I think Biel is playing his ex-wife. Not a bad female cast at all, well, apart from Biel that is.

I sincerely hope they have a different poster than this one, but what I REALLY want to see is a trailer!

Release Date: December 7, 2012

Now, here’s one he’ll be filming soon that I’m quite excited about:

Olympus Has Fallen

Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott

THR reported that this movie — which was marketed at Cannes as White House Taken —that Butler plays a Secret Service agent who has fallen from grace — until the White House is attacked and taken over by a team of North Koreans armed with extraordinary technology. Everything the Pentagon throws at the problem fails and it falls on Butler’s character, who knows the famous building like nobody else, to save the president and the country. Heh, I don’t like either one of the title, but hopefully this is just temporary and they’ll come up with something better. This is that other ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie that’s probably going to be out of the same time next year. Kind of like the battle of the Snow Whites this year.

Eckhart reportedly will play the U.S. President and Bassett has signed on to play the role of the head of the Secret Service. Now just yesterday, news came in that Dylan McDermott will also play one of the secret service agents, presumably under Bassett’s command? Well, well, well, how many hunks could one movie have? 😉 I initially wasn’t keen on this one but I’m quite excited about this project now. I mean I LOVE the cast, just Butler and Bassett alone is enough to sell the movie, and now we’ve got Eckhart on top of the bargain. Plus Fuqua’s gritty style should make this intriguing and he’s certainly has a way with actors.

Additional cast info:

A few hours after I posted this, THR reported that Oscar winner Melissa Leo is in negotiation to portray ‘a tough secretary of Defense who cracks when tortured,’ and Rick Yune is confirmed to play the villain of the movie, ‘a North Korean posing as a South Korean ministerial aide who is described as a sociopath monster.’ Cole Hauser (as one of the FBI agents) and Radha Mitchell (as Butler’s wife) have also joined the cast. Ashley Judd has also been cast as the First Lady and Robert Forster as a US general.

Filming has started in Shreveport, Louisiana and one lucky fan posted this photo on the right with Butler who’s now clean-shaven and sporting a new cropped hair [swoon] 😀

Click to view a larger version

Btw, the other White House action flick is helmed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) and starring the beefcake Channing Tatum as the secret agent who’ll save the day. Makes it a pretty easy choice which one I’ll go see, ahah.

Release Date: June 13, 2013

Thunder Run

Director: Simon West

Cast: Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey

According to THR, this movie has received funding at Cannes. Reportedly, the script is adapted by Robert Port and Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) from Thunder Run — The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad by Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent David Zucchino. Principal photography is to start this Summer.

Butler told EMPIRE what the movie is about: “It’s about the initial attack on Baghdad, as US troops went in with a column of tanks called the Thunder Run — and it’s going to be done like Avatar,” Butler says. “My face and body will be recorded with little cameras and everything else will be CGI, painted in in the background. I’ve never read a script with more action, more explosions, more violence. If you didn’t do it like this, it would cost $300 million. I saw a three-minute test-piece and it blew my balls off.”

A little trivia: McConaughey has worked w/ Butler before in Reign of Fire, yep with our favorite Batman Christian Bale, no less. Butler played Bale’s BFF in a dragon-infested dystopian Britain.

I don’t know about this one, I’m going to wait and see as the subject matter doesn’t appeal to me. I’m far more psyched about How To Train Your Dragon 2, GB’s first ever sequel project and I’m glad it’s something I’ll definitely enjoy!

The role that got away

I’ve got to talk about that casting news on Highlander that’s been swirling around lately. Well, a couple of weeks ago, it’s apparently confirmed that Ryan Reynolds is going to reprise the role of the immortal Scottish warrior Connor MacLeod. So it seems that role authenticity has gone by the wayside again. As you know, the original MacLeod in the 1986 movie was played by a French guy Christopher Lambert with Sean Connery playing a Spaniard (good grief!), and now we’ve got a Canadian native in the role. So maybe this time Ramirez might be played by… Brian Cox? Or might as well just get Billy Connolly there, hot off the success of Pixar’s Brave [shrug]

Well, it’s no surprise WHO my pick would be for MacLeod…

Despite being perhaps a bit too old for the role, I think Butler would’ve ROCKED it. A real Scotsman who has done a plethora of heroic roles in the past. He can swing a mean sword better than anyone and he wouldn’t have to fake a Scottish accent. I was having some Twitter discussion with my Glaswegian friend Mark of MarkedMovies and his pick for the role is Robert Carlyle.

If not Butler, I personally would rather see an unknown who’s the right age and ethnicity than Reynolds any day. Ah well, I’ve said my rant so I guess I’ll just try to let this go.

Roles I’d LOVE to see him do

Well of course I’d love to see him do a British romantic thriller like Hearts Want that I pitched a couple of years ago. I think a role that requires him to be a ‘tough guy with a heart’ suits him well and I’d love to see him opposite a sultry actress like Eva Green. Seems like all of the movies Butler’s signed on are all action-packed, I do hope he’d have some dramatic roles he’ll be signing on in the future as he’s got the chops for them. I’ve said so many times since I’ve seen what he’s capable of in the BBC miniseries The Jury, and most recently his soulful performance in Machine Gun Preacher. You can read my full review here and if you think I’m biased, then check out my pal Mark’s take on it here.

I’m still holding on to hope that he’ll do the Robert Burns biopic that I mentioned several times, here and here. I know Butler was interested to do it at one point so hopefully it’s still on his radar. There were reports that he had met with the potential director Vadim Jean and it’s to be written by Alan Sharp (Rob Roy – check out my friend Michael’s in-depth review of the film). Even the Scottish Government was supposedly going to provide financial backing for the film. Not sure what happened since, but by golly, if he can’t do MacLeod, here’s another role where he can actually play a Scotsman!!

Plus Scotland’s favorite son is supposedly quite the ladies man, so a role tailor-made for Butler, right? 😉

Producing Gigs

Butler and his long-time manager Alan Siegel formed a production company Evil Twins back in 2008. Apparently his company was being sued by another production company called Evil Twins Prods [per THR], so I believe now they go by Alan Siegel Entertainment.

In any case, Butler’s been wearing the producer’s hat for a while, in fact he’s producing three of his upcoming films I’ve mentioned above: Of Men and Mavericks, Playing the Field and Olympus Has Fallen.

Well, I read in LA Times that he’s now going to produce Septembers of Shiraz, which centers on a young Jewish girl in Iran whose life is thrown into disarray shortly after the 1979 revolution, when her wealthy jeweler father is brutally jailed. The story is based on Dalia Sofer’s debut novel.

The NY Times  review says, “Sofer writes beautifully… she tells her characters’ stories with deceptive simplicity. Every member of the Amin family attains a moving, and memorable, depth and reality.

I’ll keep an eye on this project, seems like an intriguing story that has a lot of dramatic potential.


Well, those are what Butler’s been up to. Which of his projects are you interested in?

Guest Reviews: Battle L.A. and Cowboys & Aliens

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Battle: Los Angeles

If there’s ever a competition for most clichés piled up in one movie, Battle Los Angeles is the clear winner.

The film is about a group of soldiers battle against the faceless, I mean that literally, alien invaders who are destroying every major city in the world. Marine Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), who was about to retire, got reassigned to a new platoon which mission is to go rescue some civilians trapped at a police station within the alien territory. They have three hours to complete the mission before the area is blown to pieces by the Air Force. It’s part Black Hawk Down, part Independence Day (ID4). But the main difference is, Black Hawk Down was a very good film and ID4 was a lot of fun. Battle: LA on the other hand was neither… it’s actually painful to sit through. It’s full of laughable dialogue and took itself way too seriously.

When the film opened in theater back in March of this year, it received tons of bad reviews and I thought maybe the critics were expecting too much out of it. I decided the rent it and thought I’d probably enjoy the non-stop action sequences and that’s all I was hoping for. Boy was I wrong. Not only was the film so badly-written, but it’s chock full of clichés from other films that I could accurately predict what would happen next. For example, there’s a scene in the film where a soldier thought he killed an alien and decided to walk towards it and a second later, the alien jumped back alive. I thought to myself, ‘seriously, the filmmakers thought THAT was clever?’ It’s been done so many times in other films with far better results. In every alien invasion films, there must be a scene where the human gets to dissect the alien to find out how to kill it. What do you know, we see that exact scene in this film. Of course they need to have some sort of a doctor who can assist our soldiers on how to dissect the alien. As it turns out, one of the civilians happens to be a veterinarian and offered her professional opinion on how to kill the damn aliens.

Believe it or not, the clichés are not the only awful thing in this film. It’s also badly-directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who was responsible for the awful remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Liebesman and his cinematographer decided to make the audience dizzy by not holding the camera steady for more than two seconds long. Seriously, I almost turn off the movie after 30 minutes in because I felt nauseous from the constant hand-held shaky cam! I understand he wanted the audience to be part of the action. But if that technique is making the viewers sick, how’s that supposed to be a good thing?

The main reason I wanted to see this film was for the big action set pieces but unfortunately, Liebesman failed on that front, too. I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on during the battle sequences. Again, if he and his cinematographer would hold the camera still for like ONE minute, it would have been at least cool to see the action.

As you can tell, I despise this movie, the only good thing about it is the Blu-ray disc is quite stunning visually and the lossless surround sound is top notch. If you want to show off your home theater system, this is one of the movies to do so. Otherwise, it’s a waste of your time and money. Only give it a rent if want to see how good the disc look and sound.

1 out of 5 reels


Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens was my most anticipated film this summer. Unfortunately, it turns out to be quite a letdown when I finally saw it a week ago. The film got a lot of negative reviews when it opened back in July 29th but I didn’t read any of them since I really wanted to see it. Well, after I saw it and then I read the reviews, I realize most of the critics were right. It’s definitely one of the most disappointing summer flicks I’ve ever seen since X-Men Origins: Wolverine back in 2009.

The film opened with a man (Daniel Craig) waking up in a desert. He has no memory of who he is or where he came from. He also has mysterious metal bracelet around his left arm. Then he met three bounty hunters whom he dispatched with no problems whatsoever. With introduction like this, we know this stranger is a dangerous man.

He then makes his way to a town called Absolution, where we’re introduced to a few more characters, including Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), local bar owner Doc (Sam Rockwell), the sheriff (Keith Carradine), a mysterious woman name Ella (Olivia Wilde) and Dolarhyde’s son Percy (Paul Dano). Just few minutes after the stranger arrived in town, we found out that he’s wanted man and his name is Jake Lonergan. That’s the basic set up of the film. But before long, alien space ships started showing up, blowing up the town and snatching people up into their ships. So Lonergan and Dolarhyde decided to team up and rescue the town’s people. In the meantime, Jake keeps having flashbacks of what happened to him, very similar to the Jason Bourne films. The film has no plot and for the rest of the run time.

I actually enjoyed the first half hour of this film, but after the aliens showed up, it went downhill from there. I didn’t really care for any of the characters and while the action sequences were well-done, it’s something we’ve all seen before in other sci-fi action flicks. For a film that cost $160mil to make, I thought the production design looked cheap and the scope of the film were quite small. I expected to see more alien space ships flying around attacking the cowboys but it never happened. I was also surprised how many cliché scenes were in the film, whatever you think will happen in the next scene, it happened. There were 8 writers, I say again, eight writers credited in this film. Obviously the script went through several revisions before they started shooting but I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, eight writers and this is the best they could come up with?

Director Jon Favreau did a good job paying homage to some of the great westerns from the past including The Man with No Name Trilogy, Once Upon the Time in the West, The Searchers and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Unfortunately, with a weak script, there’s not much he could do except adding one clichéd scenes after another. Performance wise, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are pretty good in their respective roles. It’s too bad Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde don’t have much to do but being part of the gang. Rockwell is the comic relief and Wilde is the love interest of Craig’s character.

Now, I don’t hate this film as much as the other alien invasion film that came out earlier this year, Battle: LA (as you can see in my review above). But this one sure is a big disappointment to me. With a great cast like this and a decent director, I thought for sure the film would’ve been a fun Summer ride, not one that’s full of boring dialogue and by-the-number action set pieces. One critic pointed out that had the film been more of a comedy in the vein of Men In Black, it would’ve worked better. I tend to agree with that sentiment. Maybe a straight up western/sci-fi just doesn’t work, especially with a weak script like this one.

Perhaps another reason why I didn’t like this film as much was because I saw it at a AMC digital theater where they didn’t remove the 3D lens. The picture looked dim and flat, during the night scenes I couldn’t make out what the heck was going on. So be warned, if you’re going to see this movie at your local AMC, make sure you see it in the non digital theater. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please read this article. It’s another reason why I hate 3D, it’s ruining our movie going experience.

2 out of 5 reels


Well have you seen either one of these movies, yet? If so, did you like ’em or were you disappointed as much as I was?

Johnny Depp on the set of The Rum Diary

Photos courtesy of David Ische/Caitlin Weber

Photos courtesy of David Ische/Caitlin Weber

Special thanks for Caitlin & David for letting me post their pictures. They were lucky enough to get a glimpse of Aaron Eckhart and Johnny Depp shooting a scene at El Yunque National Rainforest near San Juan, Puerto Rico this past March. After playing opposite Christian Bale, a.k.a Batman in Public Enemies, Depp is co-starring with another Gotham resident ‘Harvey Dent.’ (Sorry I couldn’t resist!)

Based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson with the same name, Depp plays an American journalist named Paul Kemp, which is loosely based on the author’s own life journey. Kemp moves from New York to the Caribbean with the hope of finding adventure, but instead finds himself tangled in love, jealousy, and violence, amongst his alcoholic American peers who staff the run-down newspaper. Lots of alcohol (rum) involved I’m assuming, hence the title.

Set in the 1950s, this is the second Thompson’s book-to-film adaptation for Depp. The first one was Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas in 1998, where he also played a journalist desperately seeking for the ‘American dream’ with the help of drugs and alcohol hidden in their convertible. Looks like this is a fitting vehicle for Depp who’s known to gravitate towards ‘lost soul’ kind of characters. Eckhart, hot off the massively popular Batman sequel, is a also a great actor with skills and charisma. This is a much more promising cast than the previously rumored Benicio del Toro + Josh Hartnett duo. Nothing against del Toro, but Hartnett just isn’t in Depp’s league.

In any case, Depp is definitely one of the busiest actors working today. He just wrapped Alice in Wonderland as The Mad Hatter (which would mark the seventh time he works with director Tim Burton), and is slated to do The Man Who Killed Don Quixote next. Awesome!