FlixChatter Review: Self/less (2015)

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You know when you watch a trailer and you sigh because not only does the trailer practically gives away the entire movie, you also wish that the supporting actor played the lead role. Well, Self/less is such a movie and the actor I wish had played the lead is Matthew Goode. More on that later.

A couple of people pointed out to me on Twitter that the premise of this movie is practically identical to the John Frankenheimer-directed Seconds. I haven’t seen it once I checked it on IMDb, it’s indeed the same story! I don’t know if the screenwriting brothers David and Alex Pastor acknowledged that, but I have a feeling the 1966 film is far more compelling than this one.

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So the gist of the story is that Damian (Ben Kingsley), a wealthy magnate who’s dying from cancer undergoes a radical medical procedure that transfers his consciousness into the body of a healthy young man. He’s just ‘an empty vessel,’ Doctor Albright (Goode) assured Damian as he gave him a tour around his highly-secret lab. The reason why Damian would want to go through such an extreme procedure isn’t explored well here but then again if you’re expecting a deep and thought-provoking film, well you won’t find it here.

The machine for such a radical procedure looks nothing more than modified medical CT scanners. It’s rather preposterous premise but it’s a fantasy sci-fi so you’re just expected to just suspend your disbelief and go along with it. It reminds me a bit of the procedure of John Woo’s Face/Off, alas the movie itself isn’t half as entertaining. When Damian wakes up, poof there goes Sir Kingsley from the movie, never to be seen again. In his place we’ve got the tall and buff Ryan Reynolds. It’s interesting that though the older Damian is British, his new self now speaks with an American accent. Now, you’d think that language is stored in the brain/consciousness, so wouldn’t you think that’d be transferred to his new body??

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In any case, no time to be concerned with that because the movie moves along at breakneck pace to get to the part where Damian 2.0 is enjoying life to the fullest. Placed in this huge house in New Orleans set up by the secret organization, Damian fills his new days partying and shagging every hot girl he fancies, powered by the red pills that block the hallucinations that plague him. These scenes are set in a series of montages set to some fast-paced music that are neither entertaining nor particularly memorable.

Of course Damian can’t live the good live forever, and a procedure this radical surely has extreme consequences. Damian soon finds out just how bad things get and *immortality* comes with a high cost… for him and the new body he now occupies. The more he discovers about the truth, the more he’s ravaged by guilt and our hero goes on a quest to set things right, as it were. There’s really no suspense as you can pretty much guess what’s going to happen next. When Damian missed just one dose of that red pill, the hallucination became so vivid he simply couldn’t just dismiss it. By the time he ends up in St. Louis, the movie quickly descends into an action thriller.

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I kept waiting for some really fascinating stuff happening but that moment never came. Now, I said that I had wanted Matthew Goode in Reynolds’ role and I bet he could easily pull it off. But come to think of it, I can’t imagine the opposite. I just don’t see Reynolds possessing the elegant countenance nor the sheer intellect of Goode’s character. But what Reynolds is capable of is kicking ass, I mean he’s played several superheroes in his career after all. The filmmaker constantly zooms in on his massive biceps and athletic physique, as if we need to be more sold on that front. Yet what I’d like to see in this protagonist [well any protagonist for that matter] is charisma and wits, none of which is on display here. Therein lies the main issue I have with this movie.

Now, the script is hardly original nor imaginative, but the movie could still be more watchable if we have a charismatic lead. Alas, on top of having to witness two talented British actors being completely wasted, I was stuck watching an insipid *hero* for two hours. I’d also mention Natalie Martinez and Victor Garber but they’re not really given much to do here, either. To add insult to injury, this movie is devoid of style director that usually comes from director Tarsem Singh. I LOVE The Fall, which had style AND heart, and even the rather vapid Immortals has the self-described ‘Caravaggio meets Fight Club’ style to make up for it. But this movie is just bland in substance AND style.

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I’d say unless you’re a huge fan of Ryan Reynolds, I’d say skip this one. Instead of focusing on the cerebral aspect of the concept, Self/less is nothing more than just a standard shoot-em-up – predictable, laden with clichés and anchored by a totally dull lead. I read a review somewhere that said the slash in the film’s title is perhaps the most inventive part of the movie and that about sums it up.

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Have you seen this movie? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: LUCY (2014)

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A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Luc Besson is a hit and miss director for me. Of his recent works, The Family was abhorrent, but The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec has its charm, so I proceeded this one with caution. The premise of this action sci-fi is rather preposterous, but that goes with the territory with Besson.

Scarlett Johansson portrays both sides of Lucy convincingly, before and after the *transformation.* She started out as a typical wild & fun-loving college student who inadvertently got involved in some serious mess when one of his party buddies forced her to deliver a suitcase to a Korean mafioso at a hotel. Naturally she’s scared witless and utterly confused as to what the heck’s going on and you truly felt for Lucy in this scenario. When she was brutally assaulted by her captors, the powerful drug that’s sewn into her abdomen was accidentally released into her system. Well, all hell break lose as Lucy then sets out to avenge her captors.

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Despite the preposterous action sequences, I was quite engrossed in Lucy’s journey even as she quickly transform into some kind of a super-heroine with off-the-chart cerebral and physical prowess. If you’re familiar w/ Besson’s work, you can expect over-the-top bloody shoot-outs and of course, exhilarating car chases. It’s odd though that even though the setting is mostly in Taiwan, the villains all speak Korean.

Morgan Freeman is playing yet another wise-guy of sort, something he could do in his sleep practically but he’s still watchable even when he spent most of his time here looking perplexed. He plays Professor Norman, a well-known scientist whose research happens to be on brain’s cerebral capacity and he ends up being Lucy’s ally. Choi Min-sik is effortlessly sinister as the sadistic Korean drug kingpin. Amr Waked, whom I really liked in Salmon Fishing in The Yemen, has a small but memorable supporting role as a Parisian police captain. The star here is definitely Scarlett, she’s definitely has the charisma and star power as the protagonist. A lesser actress would’ve turned Lucy into a cyborg-like creature, but she’s still able to display a sense of vulnerability. There is an emotional moment when she calls her mother, knowing that the power of the drug will soon consume her. There’s a rumor that the role was initially offered to Besson’s ex Milla Jovovich, I doubt I’d even be interested in this if she had been in the lead.

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Now, the movie attempts to be philosophical and it doesn’t quite work. I just don’t think Besson has it in him to really explore the depth of such a question about ‘the meaning of life’ and such, he’s more interested in the action. The *science* presented here is absurd, but hey, it’s science fiction after all, the logic-defying thing is sort of expected. At the same time, it’s actually not as vapid as it may seem, in fact, it’s engrossing enough that I was willing to go along for the ride. And that’s a pretty thrilling ride down to its wacky and bombastic conclusion.

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Have you seen Lucy? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Double Review –Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Ted’s Review

After a three year absent, the Transformers are back on the big screen. They still have to deal with annoying human characters, fight the bad Transformers and destroy every big city as much as they could.

The movie picked up about 5 years after the last one, we’re introduced to some new human characters Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Yeager is a failed inventor and he’s close to being broke and lose his farm. One day he found an old truck which happens to be Optimus Prime, he’s hiding from the government. Apparently after the events of the last movie, all of the Autobots are being hunted down by the CIA. The mission is being spearheaded by a high level CIA executive Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). When Attinger finds out that Optimus Prime is hiding out at Yeager’s farm, he sends his operatives including its leader James Savoy (Titus Welliver) to bring Prime in. Of course things didn’t turn out well as they’d hoped and Yeager, his daughter and Optimus were able to get away from the agents. I was going to write more about the “plot” of the movie but let’s face it, no one go to see this movie for its plot, which by the way didn’t make a lick of sense. If you’re a fan of the previous three movies and enjoy all the explosions and robots fighting then you’re going to love this one. For anyone who can’t stand this franchise, I’d advise you to stay far away from it!

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Wahlberg stepped in as the new leading man this time and I didn’t think he was as annoying as Shia LaBeouf but he didn’t really add anything much to the movie. Since he’s done many action movies prior, the writers did write in scenes where he’s part of the action instead of just running and screaming like LaBeouf did in the previous movies. Young actress Nicola Peltz became the new eye candy in this one, when I say eye candy, I meant it literally. Bay pretty much focused the cameras on every part of her body, just like he did with the other pretty girls in the previous movies. Another young actor (Jack Reynor) showed up as her boyfriend and I think he’s supposed to play LaBeouf’s part because I found him quite annoying. Then later in the movie, Stanley Tucci showed up as this Steve Jobs type of a character. Grammer was pretty much your typical one dimensional villain, he’s bad, he’s greedy and he doesn’t about anyone but himself.

Now let’s talk about Michael Bay and his Bayhem. I don’t know if it’s possible but this movie might have had more climatic action scenes than any other movies I’ve ever seen. Bay kept blowing things up and robots smashing into one another for close to 3 hours! The man has no restrain and as long as people keeps paying to see this franchise, he’ll never stop. I remember a while back he said he’s done with the franchise but I guess the studio probably offered him money more than any average person would ever see in their lifetime.

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Now I do have a couple of good things to say about this movie. First, it’s the first movie to have been shot with the new IMAX 3D cameras and since I’m a big fan of IMAX, it’s nice to have seen it on the biggest screen. If you’re going to see it on IMAX, know that it will have aspect ratio switching. Second, the 3D effects were quite impressive, maybe one of the best I’ve seen. There were scenes where I felt like I was in the movie, Bay did a good job there with the 3D. Of course the 3D supposed to enhance the story and not be the story, so it gets tiresome about an hour into the movie.

The movie is expected to be the summer’s biggest hit and I have no doubt that it will be a big hit. If you’re a fan of the franchise then you’ll love it, but for me it’s another bloated piece of turd from a director who only cares about making money and not quality films.

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Ruth’s Review

Ok so this is not so much a straight-on review as my rant reaction to this movie [if you can even call it that]. I’ve only seen the first movie [only because I was at a friend’s party and everyone wanted to watch the Transformers movie], and frankly I had no interest in seeing any more from this franchise. The only reason I went to this press screening is because it was at the IMAX theater and this was supposedly the first film shot with IMAX 3D Digital Camera. Silly reason really, and definitely NOT a worthy one to waste three whole hours on (more if you include the bazillion trailers before the movie starts).

Pretty much the only thing one needs to know about the Transformers universe is this: the Autobots are the good alien robots and the Decepticons are the evil ones. The humans are disposable creatures, as interchangeable as the parts in a kid’s toolbox. So supposedly an epic battle had happened in the previous film that left the world in pieces, though you wouldn’t know that from looking at the shots of Chicago and Beijing as they look pretty much unscathed with all of the skyscrapers intact. For some reasons, the Autobots are now being hunted down by the CIA, whilst the top level CIA agent (Kelsey Grammer) happily makes deals with another group of alien robots as they agree to leave earth. Meanwhile, a lowly farmer inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) inadvertently discovered that a beat-up old truck is actually the leader of the Autobots, called Optimus Prime. So of course soon enough Yeager and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) become fugitives themselves as they want to keep Optimus from getting caught. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

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As if the obtuse storyline wasn’t enough, Michael Bay‘s execution and directing style makes this fourth installment so unbearable in every sense of the word. At 165-min long, it’s overstuffed yet hollow, loud and verbose with nothing to say. As the end credit rolled, my hubby and I just shook our head. Yes I know it’s not the first time Hollywood studios spent a mind-boggling $180 mil budget on such a stinker, but this one is especially horrid with barely any redeeming quality whatsoever. Now, I’m not saying I can’t enjoy a movie about monstrous alien robots. After all, I LOVE Pacific Rim, which I’ve rewatched several times and still entertained by it. Funny that the lead character’s name is Yeager sounds just like Pac Rim‘s robotic weapon Jaeger. If only this movie is even half as entertaining!

Bay’s Transformers franchise should go down in film history as the quintessential piece of garbage, as it represents the worst thing that one dreads from a Summer blockbuster… vapid, trite, overindulgent, overwrought, plus a dose of self-satisfied smug-ness. After all, Bay remains defiant, here’s his response to those who are critical of his *masterpiece*: “They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate … They’re still going to see the movie! [per mtv.com]. Wish he were wrong but he’s not. As I’m writing this, the movie has made over $40 mil in one DAY, on track for a $100+ mil weekend [sigh] It’s ironic that the title tagline is ‘age of extinction.’ Well, it seems that creativity in Hollywood is on the verge of extinction [if it isn’t already]. The best line of the movie comes early in the movie, inside a ruined vintage cinema, when an older man lamented how all movies these days are sequels and remakes. Was Bay poking fun at himself and what he represents? Highly unlikely, considering his comment above.

You know something is out of whack when during watching a movie, you’re thinking about why so many good actors sign on to this and wonder how much money they made for it. That is if you’re not busy counting how many product placements are scattered during the action scenes [hint: it’s too many to count]. Every actor here is utterly wasted, Wahlberg is not immune to bad movies [The Happening, anyone?] but I’m still baffled as to why he signed on to do this. You would think he’s got enough cash that he never need to do a project only for monetary reason. Talented young actors like Sophia Myles and Jack Reynor probably just want the exposure one could get from mainstream blockbusters, but it’s still painful to see them in something THIS bad. Let’s hope they pick better roles in the future. As for Peltz, she is an exact embodiment of a damsel-in-distress, yet another eye candy type for the purpose of Bay’s unabashed female objectifications. As Wahlberg’s character complained about her daughter’s skimpy outfit, Bay set up a shot from between her thighs as she stood with her short shorts that barely covered her behind. Peltz was only 18 during filming, Bay’s nearing 50. It’s really a new low even for Bay.

I don’t know what’s worse, the wooden acting or the clichéd dialog coming out of their mouths. Even Stanley Tucci who’s always watchable even in a bad movie made me cringe here. His character is a multi-billionaire Tony Stark-type inventor who has been making man-made robots from the remains of the evil alien robots Decepticons. For someone who’s supposedly a brilliant scientist, his character does the most idiotic things throughout. In the third act, the main characters resort to dragging an alien *seed* that can turn organic material into metal. You’d think they’d be more careful with something THAT lethal, but it’s as if they’re dragging a body bag. It’s like watching a slapstick comedy except that it’s neither funny nor entertaining.

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I better end my rant now as I’m running out of adjectives to describe this movie. This FilmInk reviewer sums up my sentiment perfectly: “Transformers: Age of Extinction has appalling dialogue, deplorable representations of women, un-self-aware action sequences, very little humour and racial stereotyping. In other words, it’s a Michael Bay movie.” Suffice to say, this is by far the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time, rivaled only by Die Hard 5 but even that one is still more watchable as it’s only about half as long. I actually had to make a new rating graphic for this one as I’ve never given a rating this low before. I don’t care what state-of-the-art equipment is used to make this or even how good the visual quality is. I actually took my 3D glasses off a few times just to give my tired eyes a break. It’s really a sensory overload in the worst possible way.

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Well, what do you think of the latest Transformers movie? 

FlixChatter Double Review: Edge of Tomorrow

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This weekend I finally saw my first movie on the big-screen after my holiday. Ted has seen it earlier in the week, here’s what we think on Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster.

Ted’s Review

For the last 10 years or so, Tom Cruise has starred in so many big-budgeted action pictures that I lost count. I think he’s decided not to pursue the golden statue anymore and why not keep making big movies while studios are still willing to foot the bills right? His latest is another spectacle and I was surprised that I enjoyed as much as I did, after seeing the trailers and heard about the concept, I wasn’t that interest in it at all.

Set in the not too distant future, the world has been invaded by an alien race called “Mimics” and most of the western Europe has been overtaken by these aliens. After several defeats, humankind have developed new battle suits called “Jackets” and were able to fight back. As the film opens, the military are planning a surprise attack on the beaches of France and we were introduced to General Brigham (the always great Brendan Gleeson). He orders Major William Cage (Cruise) to be sent to the battlefield with a camera crew, the military is expecting a victory and want to show the world that we’re winning the war against the aliens. Since Cage’s background is in advertising, he’s never been to battle and sort of a coward. He tried to weasel his way out by trying to blackmail the General. Brigham responds by put him under arrest and knock him out. Cage was then dumped at a Heathrow base and here he meets Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton), again he tries to weasel his way out of a combat. 

Unfortunately for him, Farrell was told that Cage is deserter and a con man, so he’s forced to join J-Squad. The next day the soldiers arrived at the beach and were ambushed by the “Mimics”. Apparently they knew about the surprise attack and were waiting for the humans to arrive. Cage was able to escape unscathed when the helicopter clashed. Since he’s never been in a battle, he had no clue what he was doing. While running around in the battlefield, he saw another soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). He witness her being killed right in front of him. Then later he was killed by a Mimic but somehow he inherits the alien’s power and woke up a day earlier back at the Heathrow base. If you seen the trailers, then you pretty much know how the story will unfold, Cage will have live the same day over and over again and learn how to defeat the alien.

Three screenwriters (Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth) were credited for this film, it’s based on a Japanese graphic novel called “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Considering that the concept has been done several times before, I thought they did a good job of coming up something “new” to keep audiences interested. Personally, I don’t like this kind of concept, the idea of a character relieving the same event over and over again just doesn’t excites me. But here the writers kept me interested and threw in a couple of surprises here and there.

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I’ve always been a fan of Doug Liman, I mean here’s a man who pretty much introduced Jason Bourne to the world, well to those who’ve never read the books anyway. Sure his last couple of films weren’t that great but I still think he’s a good director. Here he crafted a good thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously, I’m getting tire of big movies the last few years trying to be too serious (I’m looking at you Godzilla and Man of Steel). In a way this film reminds me of some of the good 90s summer flicks, it’s fun and didn’t try to insult the audiences’ intelligence. With a budget of around $180mil, you can expect to see some great visual effects and action set pieces; I was particularly impressed with climatic shootout/chase.

The performances by the two leads were pretty good, Cruise was quite amusing the cowardly character at the beginning of the film. Of course as the film progresses, he becomes the tough action hero like his other roles. Blunt was quite effective as the love interest/mentor to Cruise’s character. I’m just glad they didn’t make her out to be another damsel in distress like most big action pictures of the summer.

What’s holding this film down from being great, for me at least, is that it just reminded me too much of Groundhog Day. Yes it’s not the same genre but everything that happened in this film, we’ve seen them before. Also, I was a bit disappointed with the design of the “Mimics”, they’re sort of cross between the bugs from Starship Troopers and aliens from all those Alien films.

But I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed this film and I think if you’re in the mood for a good sci-fi/action, this one is recommended. Heck if you hate Tom Cruise, you might enjoy seeing him die over and over again.

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Ruth’s Review

I have to admit that when I first saw this trailer, I thought ‘meh, this is just another Tom Cruise action flick.’ In fact, until reviews started popping up, I was set on just renting this one on a slow night. Well, I’m glad I gave it a shot.

I’m not going to rehash the plot again as Ted’s done that in his review. What I did like about this movie is the amount of humor, which I didn’t expect. I’m glad they did though, I mean this movie worked as it didn’t take itself so darn seriously (*cough* Godzilla *cough*). Also, we see a slightly different version of Tom Cruise than what I’m used to seeing in his action flicks, at least in the beginning of the film. His character looks bewildered pretty much the entire first act as he’s a self-described wimp who’s never been on any combat “I can’t stand the sight of blood. Not even a paper cut.” Ha! The always-fun-to-watch Brendan Gleeson‘s expression in this scene is such a hoot. Nice to see Cruise play a character who’s not always in control all the time, though of course by the end, he’s back to ‘savior of the world’ mode.

I really enjoyed the first act, which could be described as action comedy at times. The comparison to Groundhog Day is inevitable and actually quite fitting, as the main character had to relive the same day over and over. The sci-fi element isn’t introduced until midway through the film, which I thought is a pretty interesting, albeit not entirely original, concept. Yet the writers manage to surprise me in that the story kept me engaged throughout. I did get a bit battle fatigue after a while, especially in the third act.

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Fortunately Cruise and Emily Blunt were fun to watch. I’ve always been a fan of miss Blunt and she shines once again here. I don’t normally associate her with bad-ass heroine roles, but I guess she did show her action chops in Looper in 2012. She looked extremely fit as the super soldier, surely guys don’t mind the repeated scenes of her doing her mighty push-ups. Yet there’s still a vulnerability about her that makes her human. She’s not a Lara Croft type character who’s practically indestructible. She has a pretty decent chemistry with Cruise, at least better than in the last few female pairings he’s had lately. Speaking of Lara Croft, interesting to see Noah Taylor who was Lara’s equivalent of Bond’s Q made an appearance here playing Rita’s scientist friend.

Edge of Tomorrow is definitely a great sci-fi action, it’s funny, entertaining and definitely offers you a couple of hours of fun escapism. I wouldn’t say it’s the best movie of the year as some are saying on Twitter though. For me, a movie would have to hit the emotional high points and be really invested in the characters in order to be truly leave a mark. I would say that this one is much better than Elysium and something I’d actually recommend, but that’s it. I have to give props to Doug Liman for pulling off the ‘repetitive’ aspect of the story that is far from boring, and to Cruise for still being capable enough to carry a tentpole Summer movie with the same intensity he’s shown in nearly 40 films. Whether or not he’s still as bankable is a different story though.

In terms of special effects, I personally don’t see anything ground breaking. It serves the story but it’s not so visually-arresting that made me go ‘wow.’ I’m glad we saw the movie in 2D with Dolby Atmos sound though, that is the perfect combo as the Atmos sound definitely enhances the experience whilst most 3D offerings are so unnecessary. If you’re looking for something fun to do at the movies, you could do a lot worse than seeing this one.

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What do you think of Edge of Tomorrow?