FlixChatter Review – ANNIHILATION (2018)

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Directed By: Alex Garland
Written By: Alex Garland
Runtime: 1h 55min

Annihilation, based on the book trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, follows biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) join a group made up of an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a linguist to investigate mysterious environment after her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) returns from an unexplained year-long disappearance. Lena, along with Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny), and Josie (Tessa Thompson) soon learn that the laws of nature don’t apply in this strange and dangerous location.

This movie made me want to read the books immediately, because the screenplay is so well-written, and I can only imagine how fantastic the source material must be. It’s such an imaginative and suspenseful story. It’s tense and unpredictable without feeling messy. I especially like that it’s a female-led sci-fi movie, which is rare. It’s not the focus; it’s commented on once toward the beginning of the film, but otherwise the characters are interesting and well-developed without being defined by their gender. The fact that they’re portrayed by phenomenal actors makes it even better. The group has amazing chemistry, and they all give strong performances, although Gina Rodriguez as Anya is definitely the stand-out; she goes from likable to terrifying to heartbreaking seamlessly.

This film is visually stunning as well. The CGI is incredibly detailed, but not overused to the point of being over-the-top. The designs are beautiful, unsettling, and in some cases, horrifying. Even the more mundane scenes are beautifully shot; there’s a moment with a close-up of Lena holding Kain’s hand, filmed through a glass of water distorting the image, that is so subtle but so effective.

That said, it’s not a perfect film. There’s a subplot about Lena cheating on Kane with her colleague, Daniel (David Gyasi) that doesn’t really have any effect on the overall plot and doesn’t fit the movie’s tone. Maybe it’s more important in the books, but it doesn’t feel necessary in the movie, and the time wasted on it could have been better used developing the alien nature the group is exploring.

I was also a little distracted by how many times different characters exclaimed over how impossible everything in this alien area is. I understand expressing surprise and initial disbelief, but they are so adamant about things being impossible that it’s kind of ridiculous. I wanted to yell “You just saw a mutant crocodile attack your friend in a fairy garden swamp, all surrounded by a shiny bubble of science fiction! Maybe accept that everything you’ve learned until this point doesn’t apply anymore!” Maybe I’m being nitpicky, though.

Overall, though, Annihilation is excellent. It’s beautiful, it’s frightening, it’s brilliantly acted, and if the two-hour movie is that good, I can only imagine how amazing the story is when it’s fleshed out over three books. Definitely check this out.

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Have you seen ‘Annihilation’? Well, what did you think? 

Casting News Roundup: Gugu Mbatha-Raw + David Oyelowo, Natalie Portman + Oscar Isaac, & Daisy Ridley

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It’s been ages since I posted a roundup of casting news, but I have a trio of intriguing ones to share w/ you today, folks.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw + David Oyelowo to star in JJ Abrams-produced sci-fi thriller

I don’t even have to know what the premise is, I’m already sold on this casting and genre!! So Abrams won’t be directing, but he and his Bad Robot partner Bryan Burk will produce God Particle, to be directed by Nigerian-born filmmaker Julius Onah.

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Here’s the premise per The Wrap:

God Particle follows an American space station crew who, believing they have destroyed Earth via a Hadron accelerator, allow the crew of hostile nations to board their ship, with disastrous results.

I LOVE a good sci-fi and this sounds REALLY intriguing, esp. with THIS cast. Glad to see Oleyowo AND Mbatha-Raw as leads too, esp the latter. She’s been relegated to supporting roles too many times and based on Belle & Beyond the Lights alone, we know she’s leading lady material. It was Abrams who discovered her in Undercovers. So yeah, I can’t wait to hear more about this one but I’m already sold on it.

Gugu_Gina_UntamedStateSpeaking of Beyond The Lights, its director Gina Prince-Bythewood will be reteaming with miss Gugu again on Untamed State, based on a novel by Michael De Luca.

Per Deadline, the novel tells the powerful, unflinching story of a Haitian-American woman kidnapped for ransom in front of her husband and child. The novel explores the privilege that made her a target and the strength she must draw on to survive and reclaim her life. This sounds very intriguing indeed and I’m thrilled to see Mbatha-Raw getting a leading role again in this one. Of course, having a talented female director like Prince-Bythewood on board is always a welcome thing in my book!

Oscar Isaac joins Natalie Portman & the mostly-female cast of Alex Garland’s sci-fi ‘Annihilation’

So it’s Poe & Padme as married couple? Star Wars fans must be having a field day 😀 But to me, I’m super excited to see Isaac re-teaming with Garland again after the phenomenal little film Ex Machina. The premise per Tracking Board:

The story centers around a biologist (Portman) who, in seeking answers to her husband’s tragic disappearance volunteers for a government expedition into an area sealed off as an environmental disaster zone. What she discovers, however, is pristine wilderness, and a mysterious dark force within it.

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The rest of the ensemble cast include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez. Garland is set to direct his own script, adapted from the first novel of the ‘Southern Reach’ trilogy by science fiction author Jeff VanderMeer.

Based on what I’ve seen so far that’s written by Garland (including Never Let Me Go and 28 Days Later), I can’t wait for this. Glad to see him venture into directing again after his fantastic debut with Ex Machina, I’m sure he’ll do a good job in his sophomore effort.

Daisy Ridley in Talks to Star in ‘Tomb Raider’ reboot

Per THR, Daisy Ridley told the publication at the Empire Awards that there “have been conversations” about her picking up the Lara Croft reins left by Angelina Jolie, but that she hadn’t yet been offered the role. She won the Best Female Newcomer Award at the event. It’s no surprise that her Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ co-star John Boyega, who won the male version of the Empire Newcomer Award, really wants her to get the role.

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“I played Tomb Raider the game; it’s a new take and I think the movies are going to be based on that version,” Boyega told THR. “But I texted Daisy [and] was like, ‘This is you!’ and ‘You need to get on that because you could be Lara Croft.’ She should be.”

I’ve actually seen that game when my hubby was playing it briefly a few weeks ago and I think Boyega’s right, Ridley does seem to fit the look of the new Lara Croft. I’m not entirely sure I want to see another movie adaptation of it though, but I suppose if they must reboot it, I wouldn’t mind seeing Ridley in the role.


Ok what’s YOUR thoughts on these trio casting news? Any particular one you feel strongly about?

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Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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… 

Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

It’s interesting that the requirement for this sci-fi genre is no space/aliens as a lot of my favorites in this genre aren’t the ones with aliens in them. In fact, I love sci-fis that don’t look or feel science fiction-y, in fact, intriguing sci-fis are those with rich layers of human drama that remind us what it means to be humans.

I immediately thought of including Ex Machina here, but I decided not to include something from this year. Instead, I’m selecting three from the past few years that have a small/modest budget (under $25 mil) that have made a big impression on me:

Predestination (2014)

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

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As I mentioned in my review, the less you know about the plot the better the experience. Since I was just talking about directing duos, I have to mention the Spierig Brothers who also made this vampire sci-fi Daybreakers. The premise is rather bizarre and definitely not an easy one to grasp, but it’s well worth a watch. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey. Snook is quite a revelation here and I kept hoping to see her getting prominent roles.

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HER (2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

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Once in a while, a film you hadn’t heard much about suddenly sneaked in and took your breath away. In 2013, that film for me was HER. That’s what I wrote in my review over a year ago, and there’s still very few films that affected me emotionally the way this one did.

There are many robot/human *love* stories that’s been done time and again but what Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) experienced with Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) is quite unlike any other. For one, there’s no physical presence of Samantha in the film but yet her presence is felt so viscerally. I’m going to borrow my from my own review… This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction story that I wish Hollywood would make more of. Sci-fi is not always about aliens or cool-looking futuristic equipments or cars or what have you, but a good sci-fi should actually makes us ponder about our own humanity. I realize this film isn’t for everyone as there are a few people I recommended this to that aren’t wowed by it. That said, I think you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a shot.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

A love triangle develops between three friends who came of age at a mysterious, secluded boarding school and are destined to lead brief lives.

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This is another film where the less you know about the plot the better. If you just look at still photos or even the poster (which you can see on my review post), you’d never thought this is a sci-fi. It looks more like a mystery drama, and I think that’s the vibe director Mark Romanek was going for. Working from Alex Garland’s script, who later made his directorial debut in Ex Machina, the pace is decidedly slow and graceful in the way things unfold. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. I really need to watch this again, but I remember being really absorbed by this film. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are excellent here, it’s still one of my favorite performance from both of them even after seeing more of their work. It’s also exquisitely-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film.

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What do you think of my sci-fi picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

FlixChatter Review: Ex Machina

ExMachinaPosterThere have been a plethora of films about man and machine or man vs machine in Hollywood. From cult classics like Blade Runner, Terminator to most recent ones like Robot & Frank, Chappie, etc., clearly not all are created equal. I’d say that this Alex Garland‘s original story has some striking similarities to the 2013 tiny-budgeted British indie The Machine, given that the creator and the machine are the main key players of the film. However, Ex Machina explored the eternally-fascinating topic of ‘what it means to be human’ in a much deeper and more immersive way.

The film started out with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) being dropped by a chopper into this secluded estate of a billionaire scientist in the side of a Norwegian mountain. He’s supposed to spend a week with the CEO of a large internet search engine company, but other than that Caleb has no idea what’s in store for him. As it turns out, he’s invited to participate in a breakthrough experiment in testing artificial intelligence. After meeting the mysterious tech baron Nathan (Oscar Isaac), things just seem to be even more cryptic. I love the initial interaction between the two actors and the unpredictability and suspense of it all. First time director Alex Garland infused the scenes with a sense of appropriate eeriness, as well as a dose of humor that prevents the film from being too heavy handed or frigid.

ExMachina_Still3It’s when we meet the subject of the Turing test, a luminous female A.I. named Eva (Alicia Vikander), that things starts to get REALLY interesting. Even though Eva’s robotic parts are visible, unlike some other films where the droid looks fully human on the outside, she is as fetching as ever. It sparks intriguing questions about why Nathan created her with sensuality, with the ability to flirt and emote. The unhurried pace allows for a lot of reflective moments, thanks to the sharp and focused script by Alex Garland himself.

“One day the AIs are gonna look back on us the same way we look at fossils and skeletons in the plains of Africa” Are the arrival of droids and drones mean we’re on the verge of extinction? That seems far-fetched perhaps, but the way Garland made this film, this scenario seems almost entirely plausible. His idea of the future is ‘ten minutes from now’ and companies like Google or Apple are certainly capable of creating the future we see in this film even today.

The spirituality aspect, whether intended or not, is one of most thought-provoking aspect I’ve seen in a sci-fi film in a long time. Humans may think they can replicate ourselves and build something with *consciousness,* but is a soul something we can create? What these sci-fi films prove is the always-present and increasing desire of humans to become God.

ExMachina_Still1I’ve been a fan of Garland’s work as a screenwriter (especially 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go), so we know he’s a master storyteller. But I think he has a gift behind the camera as well, and perhaps because of his writer background, he’s more concerned about letting the story flow and immerse people into a certain realms, instead of bludgeoning us with action, action, action. Plus he’s got an International cast formed by three accomplished young actors to tell his story.

Guatemalan-American Oscar Isaac has been churning out one fantastic performance after another. He’s truly one of the most fascinating actors working today and it’s such a joy watching him mature even more as a performer. The best scene of the film, and one of my favorite scenes of the year, is the dance scene that’s both unsettling but hilarious. Isaac certainly has screen presence to match his acting chops.

ExMachina_DanceScene Irish Domhnall Gleeson is perfectly captures the naive curiosity of Caleb, as well as the young man’s intelligence and vulnerability. He’s effortlessly likable and you immediately projects yourself into his character as he navigates into this new environment he’s thrown into. Isaac and Gleeson have a good rapport together, and the human relationships are just as intriguing as that between man & machine. In the key role of Eva, Swedish actress Alicia Vikander couldn’t be more perfect in the role. There’s a certain innocence and fragility about her, but yet you know she’s far more sly than you think.

The film is appropriately R-rated for the graphic nudity. Now, I’d be the first to tell you that most of the time, nudity in movies is unnecessary and gratuitous. But I have to say that it’s not the case here, it feels integral to the plot. For the most part, Ex Machina is a quiet, reflective film. It did veers into mystery thriller territory towards the end but it’s a natural progression of the story instead of a forced divergence. It’s definitely a great film to see on the big screen and be fully immersed in the story and the characters’ journey.

Despite the relatively low budget (under $15 mil), the production values are fantastic. From Nathan’s state-of-the-art estate and his lab where he builds these machines, as well as the mountain scenery, it’s a good looking film. I also love how atmospheric the film is, thanks to the cool, ethereal-sounding soundtrack and resplendent cinematography. But the most striking of all is the robotic look of Eva, which is both mechanical as well as organic, you simply can’t take your eyes off her. We’re as drawn to her as Caleb was in the film.

ExMachina_Still2But as evident in films like Elysium, visual flair alone does NOT make a movie. Ultimately what you remember is the story and how it affects you as you watch it, and this film certainly offers plenty for the senses. There are so many scenes that linger long after the end credits role, such as one where one of the characters has a moment of doubts about himself as a human. It’s got such a haunting quality about it that adds another layer of intrigue on the human/machine exploration. It’s further proof that one doesn’t need an astronomical budget or big stars to tell a compelling and memorable story. Dazzling, provocative and haunting… everything you’d expect from a futuristic sci-fi film. An outstanding directorial debut from Alex Garland, I’m curious what he’d tackle next, both as a writer AND as a director.

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Have you seen Ex Machina? Well, what do you think?

Weekend Roundup: Ex Machina, more Daredevil, BORGIA (2011) & a new obsession

I thought I’d take a bit of a break from MSPIFF to give you a bit of a rundown of how last week’s been going so far, which is perhaps one of my favorite weeks so far in terms of movie-viewing.

In case you’re wondering what those three movies are… well, I’ve reviewed two of them: Clouds of Sils Maria, Girlhood and the third one is Ex Machina, which turned out to be even better than I expected.

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It’s also cool to have Ex Machina‘s director Alex Garland actually answered my question hours before I saw the screening, thanks to IMDb’s Twitter Q@A using the hashtag #ExMachinaChat.

This is Garland’s directorial debut and it’s certainly one of the best sci-fis dealing with the ‘what does it mean to be human’ theme. Visually it looks cool and the story is genuinely thought-provoking. I’ll review that when MSPIFF is over, but if you haven’t seen it yet, l can’t recommend it enough!


I also saw more episodes of Netflix’s Daredevil, we only have two more episodes to go and the waiting for second season will be agonizing! Man, episode 10 and 11 were especially phenomenal. I love the Nelson vs Murdock one as it showed the back story of how they’ve become friends since becoming room mates in law school. It’s an emotionally-gratifying and revelatory episode whilst the action scene continues to be as phenomenal as ever.

Daredevil_ep10_11The spirituality aspect of Matt Murdock’s story is intriguing as it’s perhaps the first superhero who’s faith is integral in his role and the show doesn’t shy away from it. I find the dialog between Matt and his priest/personal confidant and their discussion about whether the devil truly walks amongst earth fascinating and insightful in terms of the protagonist’s motivations. Nice to see Claire (Rosario Dawson) making an appearance again in episode 11: The Path of the Righteous. I’ve always found Charlie Cox to be a gorgeous Brit but he looks REALLY good on this show, and he’s clearly worked out a lot for this role, ehm. I LOVE Claire’s comment about seeing Matt shirtless again. Amen to that, sista 😉


Speaking of REALLY gorgeous man… I have a new obsession… some of you on Twitter might’ve noticed it 😉 It happened almost instantly when I saw Not Another Happy Ending precisely two weeks ago and ever since then I have watched that Scottish rom-com over a dozen times, I think that’s a record!

NotAnotherHappyEnding_CafeNotAnotherHappyEnding_finaleI will have to do a Stanley Weber appreciation post at some point, he’s the first French actor I’ve ever had a massive crush on … as you know I almost always go for the Brits. But the second I beheld his c’est magnifique physique (and THAT irresistible wavy hair!) and heard him speak, I was a goner [le sigh] My penchant for the criminally-underrated AND the unjustifiably-obscure actors continues… why hasn’t Hollywood discover him yet? Come on!!!

Ehm, now that I got that out of the way …. inspired by Margaret’s awesome list post of cinematic/TV gems she saw because of her actor’s crushes, I just might have to do one of my own. One of those gems is definitely this Canal+ production of BORGIA, not to be confused with Showtime’s The Borgias that’s also about the notorious Italian family in the 15th and 16th century. This is the one created by Tom Fontana (Homicide, HBO’s Oz) with John Doman as Rodrigo Borgia.

BORGIA_Canal+BORGIA_JuanBorgiaStanley plays one of Rodrigo’s son, Juan. I’ve only seen four episodes so far and oh boy, Juan Borgia is one naughty, naughty boy. Basically his character is a psychopath and a sexual predator, which is completely different role from what I’ve seen him in Not Another Happy Ending. The entire BORGIA clan is morally bankrupt all around, and the actors portray them VERY well. The most infamous chapter of the history of the Catholic church certainly made for some fascinating historical drama.


What I’m looking forward to this week:

WaterDivinerScreeningBeen waiting to see Russell Crowe’s directorial debut for ages.
I first posted the trailer here over a year ago!


So that’s what I’ve been watching & obsessing about. What about you?

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Five for the Fifth: NOVEMBER 2014 Edition

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

1. Can’t believe this is already the second to last Five for the Fifth of the year! First off, I want to highlight one of my favorite character actor who’s definitely got the leading-man charisma: Sam Rockwell. The California-born actor turns 46 today.

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I honestly don’t know when I first spotted Rockwell, as I’ve missed out on a lot of his earlier roles in the 90s. But he’s the kind of actor whose presence is always welcomed as he’s so fun to watch. He certainly lives up to his name as he pretty much rocks well in any role.

There’s a chameleonic ability about him that he can effortlessly portray a repulsive killer in The Green Mile and a goofy & paranoid third-rate actor in Galaxy Quest in the same year. I also love his brief performance as a wrongly-convicted felon in Conviction, a flamboyant, surfer-dude type alien in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as well as a carefree man-child with a heart of gold in The Way Way Back. He’s memorable even in smaller roles in Iron Man 2 as Tony Stark’s rival weapons manufacturer, that’s as equally charming, sarcastic and witty. In fact, his weapons demo is my fave scene of the whole movie! In fact, someone on youtube actually pitches a spinoff of his character Justin Hammer, and you know what, if they make it, I’d watch it! I’m bummed that I missed Laggies last month at TCFF, and I have yet to see Moon as someone spoiled it for me, but I’d still see it at some point just to see his performance.

So what’s your favorite Sam Rockwell role?

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2. I saw a couple of trailers this weekend that piqued my interest. I didn’t realize it until today that both of them have Oscar Isaac in it. I think he’s one talented actor so I’m glad he continues to get a variety of roles that highlight his versatility. Now, first one is A Most Violent Year.

In New York City 1981, an ambitious immigrant fights to protect his business and family during the most dangerous year in the city’s history.

There are many things that piqued my interest. Firstly, I love the pairing of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, both Juilliard grads who’ve made good in Hollywood. It’s also cool to see David Oyelowo and Alessandro Nivola here, two underrated actors I wish would get more roles. Secondly, the director is J.C. Chandor, it’s his third film that he wrote as well as directed. I was quite impressed by his debut Margin Call, and his sophomore effort was All Is Lost, a one-man show starring Robert Redford. Let’s hope the film is as gripping as the trailer.

The other one is a sci-fi thriller with yet another man-and-machine theme Ex-Machina.

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

This is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later and Sunshine, two of the best sci-fi films that happen to be directed by his frequent collaborator Danny Boyle. Garland also wrote Never Let Me Go which I found really heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. So naturally I’m intrigued by this one and the trailer certainly looks promising. Interesting to see Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander pairing up again after Anna Karenina two years ago.

Does either one of these trailers pique your interest?

3. Happy Movember! The annual mustache-growing event to raise awareness about men’s health issues starts on November 1st. I know there are some folks in my company who does this annually, and as the weather’s turning chillier, I suppose facial hair is like a ‘fur coat for one’s face’ 😀

Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of men with mustaches, but some do look good with ’em and I can’t imagine some actors without their mustache (i.e. Tom Selleck, Nick Offerman, just to name a few). So I thought just for the fun of it, I’d highlight some memorable Movie/TV Mustaches, including several of my own personal favorites.

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So who’s your pick(s) of favorite movie/tv mustaches?
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4. I literally just spotted this as I’m working on the post last night. According to SlashFilm, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has revealed the 20 animated films that have been submitted and will be eligible for up to five nominations for Best Animated Feature Film at next year’s Oscar! Here’s the list:

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Book of Life
  • The Boxtrolls
  • Cheatin
  • Giovanni’s Island
  • Henry and Me
  • The Hero of Color City
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
  • Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
  • The Lego Movie
  • Minuscule – Valley of the Lost Ants
  • Mr. Peabody and Sherman
  • Penguins of Madagascar
  • The Pirate Fairy
  • Planes: Fire and Rescue
  • Rio 2
  • Rocks in My Pockets
  • Song of the Sea
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Boy there are SO many I haven’t seen yet but my top 3 are easily The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 in that order. Actually, The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6 are pretty much neck and neck for me, as both are REALLY fun, heartwarming and simply a fantastic piece of entertainment.

Top3FaveAnimatedFeatures2014

I talked about Song of the Sea back in June, but sadly I haven’t seen it yet. I’m also curious about The Book of Life which has been getting some good reviews. As for the rest, some of them I’ve never even heard of and some I simply have no interest in seeing [I’m looking at you Planes: Fire & Rescue].

So which three of these 20 animated features are you rooting for?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle blog!

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The topic is on ensemble-cast movies from the past year. I know I’ve brought up this topic back in April in this discussion about which ensemble cast that fail to deliver. It was inspired by my viewing of All Things To All Men which totally waste talents the likes of Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell and my personal fave Toby Stephens! Of course there are many other ensemble cast movies released in 2014, i.e. Monuments Men, This is Where I Leave You, Grand Budapest Hotel, Expendables 3, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, FURY, Men Women and Children, just to name a few. It’s an eclectic list and some obviously work better than others. But perhaps, some films are still worth seeing just for the cast alone, and sometimes a particular ensemble can actually elevate a so-so film.

So, Josh would like to know … what are your favorite ensemble casts of 2014? 


Well, that’s it for the November 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Action/Comedy Weekend – The Living Daylights, The IT Crowd & Dredd

MLKdayHappy Martin Luther King Jr Day!

It’s cool that it also happens to be Obama’s second presidential inauguration day. I posted two MLK-related movie posts [here and here] two years in a row to celebrate our hero of the civil rights movement. I don’t know if any of those films are going to be made anytime soon. I certainly hope so, I’d love to see a proper biopic made on Mr. King.

Well, this weekend I didn’t go to the movies, apart from The Last Stand screening I went to last week. Too bad that it bombed, I thought it was a fun action flick. I wasn’t expecting it to win the box office, but at the very least it’d make it to the top 5. In any case, it’s a big weekend for Jessica Chastain with TWO of her movies at number 1 and 2 at the box office. I don’t think I’ll be seeing Mama but nice to see Zero Dark Thirty is still gaining momentum.

Well, it’s been quite an action/comedy-filled week for me. Here’s a breakdown of what I saw:

The Living Daylights (1987)

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[Poster courtesy of DeviantArt – LOVE it!]

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie but I love it more every single time… and Timothy Dalton is the main reason for it. Every time I watch his Bond movie it’s a bittersweet moment as I miss that third outing I wish he had done… I often imagine what it’d be like to have a Skyfall-quality production with him in the role. Oh be still my heart! I’ve already posted a review of this movie a couple of years ago but I plan on doing a proper appreciation post for The Living Daylights to celebrate its Blu-ray Amazon release next month! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy 😀
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The IT Crowd (BBC sitcom, 2006-2010)

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Thanks to all who recommended this sit-com to me when I mentioned Chris O’Dowd on this ‘discovery’ post! O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson are so hilarious! The show is about a ragtag group of tech support workers who works at the basement at a large corporation. It’s classic, off-the-wall British humor which I love and everyone is just hysterically funny, even the supporting cast: the CEO Denholm (Christopher Morris) and Richmond (Noel Fielding whom I’ve just found out from Novia from the Mighty Boosh show). I’ve watched about six episodes so far on Season 1, so a lot of catching up to do as there are four years worth of stuff to watch. I’ll never get tired of Roy [or his recording] answer the phone with:

Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?


Dredd (2012)

DreddPoster

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

I LOVE Karl Urban but I knew I can’t handle this movie on the big screen, let alone watch in 3D! Seriously, this movie is so gory I’d probably pass out. It’s one of the most violent movies I have ever seen, I think I had my eyes closed a couple dozen times, at least. My hubby actually cued me when the really gruesome stuff was on as he knew it’ll give me nightmares. The movie is only 95 minutes long, though with all that slo-mo [no, I don’t mean the drug but the film-making style], it’s probably only an hour long ahah. Boy, but was it intense. Right from the opening sequence when Dredd was tailing a gang of criminals using the banned substance, the action rarely let up.

DreddPics

This is quite a different movie I expected from English director Pete Travis, whose credit include Endgame and BBC miniseries The Jury [which featured one of my favorite Gerry Butler roles]. Dredd is super violent, bloody and gruesome, but yet the style & sfx is quite distinctive. I question whether it’s necessary for it to be so gory though, some of it could’ve been toned down a bit and perhaps still achieve the desired effect. I mean, I get that they’re trying to portray this tarnished, grim dystopian world, but at times the violence seems to have be done as pure shock value.

That said, I thought the script by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) is pretty good, it’s not unnecessarily convoluted, plus the self-satirical humor actually works. Yeah, I wish I could see more of Karl Urban’s gorgeous face, but y’know what, he’s VERY good in this role. He’s able to somehow act with his voice and mouth alone, and partnering him with a rookie psychic Anderson (a blond Olivia Thirlby) is brilliant as it brings a level of humanity to his robot-like persona. Stunning Lena Heady as the drug lord Ma-Ma is even more bad ass than 300‘s Queen Gorgo, sporting a huge scar on her cheek, she looks like a sadistic mutant.

The movie’s definitely not for the squeamish [and I’m one of them], but I’m glad I gave it a shot. It’s a decidedly simple story but the execution [pun intended] hits the bulls eye. I never read the comics but I read some reviews that this pleased die-hard comic fans. Well, it might’ve won over new ones, too!

4 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend viewings. Did you see anything good?